Wrapping up June

With only one more day in the month I’m left wondering what happened.  Where did it go?  With the a Summer Solstice already passed, the days now are already getting shorter.  It feels wonderful though at this time of year to still have daylight at 9pm, and to have the sun rising so early.

I started the month with a 10k race, but have just been training since.  Dealing with pure heat exhaustion almost every run, summertime here will certainly add an extra level of effort needed to crank out the miles.  I’m fresh off of four days of runs in a row, which is my best effort for the whole month.  I haven’t logged nearly enough miles considering I have a Half and Full marathon back to back in under three weeks, but I think I am giving it the most I have.

Work has been absolutely grueling, but at least I’ve been getting really good sleep because of it.  Add a four or five mile run to a 9-10 hour day working on your feet, and you will truly appreciate how I’ve felt the past six weeks.  I’m in much need of a break.  A vacation!

I do get a mini break in mid July, as I fly out to Denver for a weekend of racing.  I can’t wait to see Denver, and Aspen!  The Rockies!

image

I recently joined the Beast Pacing team, and will be pacing the Aspen Valley Half Marathon.  I have paced a bunch of races in the past, but this will be my first as part of an official pace team that paces races all over the country.  I love to travel, so I will be pacing more events for them in the near future.

image

The next day is Revel Rockies, where my goal is a Boston Qualifier at this beautiful marathon.  I cannot wait for the challenge.  Last year I ran 5 marathons in the first five months of the year.  I’ve only run two so far this year, and I have to say, I miss it.  My last marathon, New River, was almost row months ago, and I am missing the marathon high!

Just a few weeks after my trip to Denver, I finally get a vacation.  Yes, I love Las Vegas.  I’ve been there once already this year, but by the time this trip comes, it will be six months since I’ve been there.  I cannot wait!  I repeat, I cannot wait!  A full 10 days off.  I need it!

How is your Summer going so far?  Any big plans for races, or trips coming up?  June is almost over, so don’t wait too long, or the Summer will pass you by quickly.

Revel Rockies Marathon & Half

Revel Race series is currently a group of three incredibly beautiful, downhill races in western U.S..  Big Cottonwood, in Utah (which I ran this year), Revel Rockies in Colorado, and Canyon City just outside of Los Angeles, California.  The inaugural event at Canyon City is this weekend, so good luck to those of you lucky enough to be running there!

A huge fan of this race series, I have to check them off my race to-do list.  Why?  I can think of many reasons.  Traveling to race?  Yes!  Up until my race in Utah in September, I hadn’t been to any of the three locations they offer races.  A great reason to run.  Visiting Salt Lake City was a load of fun.  Getting to see a beautiful area on foot while running a marathon was just amazing!  Downhill races equal faster races.  Better chance for a PR or BQ, or both?  Another huge factor for wanting to run these races.  They have a naturally higher percentage of Boston Qualifiers than most races in the States.  Beautiful vistas, mountains, canyons, nature.  Courses designed for beauty and speed, amazing!  They also have great bling, swag and offer a very generous cancellation policy.  You don’t see that in many races at all.  So many reasons to run a Revel event.

image

I have decided to run the Rockies event in 2015.  Race day is July 19th.  I haven’t booked any travel yet, as one of my favorite airlines, Southwest, hasn’t opened up their flight schedule that far out yet.  Travel details will work themselves out in the months to come.  For now though, I have created a team, and would welcome anyone who wants to join in.  You only run together if you want to, but joining a team allows you to get a discount on registration in addition to liking them on Facebook (which gets you another $5 off).  My team name is “Running Down A Dream”.  You can click on the following link and be taken to the registration page.  https://www.brooksee.com/rdv/register?team=146952.   Let’s Revel Rockies.

Take a look at the great finisher medal from the inaugural event this year.  It’s huge!

image

The Rockies event promises a beautiful downhill course.  Just look at the elevation chart.  I can tell you from experience, you must train differently for a downhill race.  Do some research, and find yourself a good training plan so that your legs aren’t wrecked post race.

image

If you are anything like me, you base many decisions on what events you sign up for on the overall runner experience. You look at race recaps, online forums, and race websites.  Based on my experience at Big Cottonwood this year, I know the folks at Revel Races do races right.

Check out this great race series online.  You can read all about their mission, read runner reviews, check out the race course maps, and much more.  www.runrevel.com.

Chicago Marathon – Race Recap Part 1

So, as best I can, I will sum up the weekend in Chicago.  Knowing full well that I will forget details, I will throw together another quick recap once the race results are finalized and official, and the official race photos are made available.

October 10th- A 6:30am flight out of RDU meant a very early start that day.  Alarm went off at 3am.  Luckily I was feeling good, and had packed the evening before after my sons soccer game.  Everything went off without a hitch that morning.  It was a little tricky packing for this trip.  For example, it is still quite warm daily here in NC.  The high temps in Chicago were supposed to hover around the upper 50’s and lower 60’s all weekend.  I took shorts, and never wore them.  I did take jeans, and two jackets, which I wore all weekend.  I also took two pairs of running shoes since the forecast had a chance of rain.

Our flight was non-eventful.  Made it to Chicago in just under two hours.  We had decided to take the train into town.  Due to our arrival time in Chicago 7:30am, there was a pretty high chance that we wouldn’t be able to get into our hotel room until later in the day but still opted to go to the hotel first and drop off our bags.  The train went from fairly empty to completely overpacked in just a few short stops.  I hadn’t considered the fact that it was basically rush hour for the workday there, and that many folks take the train to work.  As our stop at State/Lake arrived we exited the train and made our way down from the platform to step foot in the city streets of Chicago for the first time.

image

Just a few blocks away was our hotel.  The Langham Chicago, sits on the north side of the river next to the Trump Building.  First thoughts on the city?  Awesome.  Lots of people, beautiful buildings.  A bustling city.  Much to our surprise, upon arrival at the hotel front desk, our room was ready for check in. It was 9am, and I was so grateful that we could unpack, relax for a few moments, and put together a game plan without being in limbo waiting on a room.

image

Let’s go eat!  Starving, and ready to explore this great city we headed out on foot.  TripAdvisor is a great way to find restaurants that people love.  When in a new city I find this is the best way to find highly rated places to eat, and we ate at several.  We headed to Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe about four blocks away.  The wait was about 30 minutes, but they had the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  Two thumbs up for Wildberry!  The perfect start to our time in Chicago.  Without going into too much detail, because this post is primarily about the race, not the food, also check out Lou Malnadi’s, Garrett’s Popcorn, and the Doughnut Vault.  Can’t miss eats at all three of places.  Deep dish pizza, Chicago mix freshly made popcorn and OMG delish doughnuts.

image

Later on Friday, I knew I wanted to get to the race expo that opened that day.  Going early would allow me to miss most of the crowds, and leave my Saturday open for exploring without restrictions.  Being in Chicago without a car was absolutely the best decision I made for this trip.  The city is easily navigated on foot.  Make sure you have comfortable shoes though because over the course of the three days in the city, I put in over 30 miles walking.  Yes, that is without my miles put in on the marathon course!  I walked from my hotel to a shuttle stop for the expo, and soon enough was walking into McCormick Place for a huge expo.  Lots of runners were already there, but it was easy to move around and see the things I wanted to see.  I ended up purchasing two shirts, mostly because the official race shirt was pretty lackluster.  Dark gray with white logo and script.  Yep, boring.

image image image image

After about an hour and a half meandering around and chatting with fellow runners, I was ready to get back to the hotel and start exploring the city.  The shuttle bus back to the Sheraton Hotel was a bit of a cluster.  A long wait, and then other buses boxing us in, it was a wonder we ever made it out of there.  The bus driver was just coming on shift, and she didn’t know where she was going either.  She had to ask for her route back, and then still got lost.  Go figure.

image image

With the expo behind me there was nothing left to do but explore Chicago.  We headed out to Navy Pier later that afternoon and snapped a bunch of pictures of the city.  It was windy and cool, but felt so good.  I was totally in awe of just how beautiful the city was.  The skyline was great.  As the afternoon wore on, I was starting to get tired out.  It has already been a long day.  We called ahead and ordered a deep dish pizza, and brought it back to our hotel so we wouldn’t have to wait an hour for a table.  After that pure deliciousness, a relaxing evening with my feet up and an early bed time of 9pm.

The Langham Chicago was the perfect choice for our trip.  The location was great, and made getting around the city very easy.  The room was well appointed, and extremely comfortable.  We had a view of the river, which was a bonus, as well.

image

A great nine hours of sleep, I woke up feeling rejuvenated.  The day before the race, excitement was building.  We went shopping, we walked on River Walk, went to see the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.  We put over 13 miles on our shoes Saturday.  It was all worth it!  I worried that I over did it, especially the day before a marathon, but I had to see Chicago.  Here are some photos from the days travel.

image image image image image image

Pasta at Giordano’s was my evening meal, and perfect for pre-race. Once settling back in the hotel for the night I began getting my gear ready for the morning.  All of the sudden while getting ready my stomach started hurting.  I felt lightheaded, and really thought I was going to be sick.  I never feel this way.  Not sure what was going on.  I really wasn’t nervous about the race, as I’ve done this many, many times.  It must have been that the pasta meal just didn’t agree with me.  I went to bed early that night, fingers crossed that my stomach would settle down.  I had the Chicago Marathon to run in the morning, I certainly didn’t want my run to be affected by illness.

Stay tuned for race day… I thought I could get this post completed before work today, but just didn’t have enough time.  Race day events, photos and full details coming soon…..

Marathon #15

One week away from another Racecation.  My trip to Chicago!  A big marathon called the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, a World Marathon Major, and fittingly a major achievement for me, as well.  Chicago will be my 15th marathon.

image

Yes, in just a week’s time I will be headed here….. Chicago’s Midway Airport.

image

….and then a ride here…McCormick’s Place.  The site of the BOA Chicago Marathon Expo.

image

…..and then here…  The Langham Chicago.  The #1 rated hotel in Chicago on TripAdvisor.

image

As I enjoy my coffee on a beautiful 60 degree morning, I can’t help but to reflect on what a positive impact running has had on my life.  It helps me stay in shape in my mid 40’s, it keeps me calm, and gives me time to myself.  It grounds me.  It gives me goals, and things to aspire to.  It gives me reason to be out in nature and enjoy our amazing world.  It gives me reason to travel, and experience places I never would have seen otherwise.  It makes me happy!

On the cusp of running my 15th marathon, I look back on the first 14.  My first in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Wow, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  I ran an amazing race, mostly because I was a virgin and just gave it everything I had.  That 3:33:24 proved to be a hard PR to beat.  I had no idea then just how good that finish was.  My next marathon was a disaster, and had the most negative impact on me.  A 4:11:27 at Tobacco Road, scarred by injuries and extremely painful for the final 19 miles on the most boring marathon course ever.  I think it was here that I learned the most marathon lessons.

After a car accident, a broken metatarsal and much agony, my next marathon in the Outer Banks of NC proved to be, and still is, my worst marathon finish in 4:13:58.  I struggled with PF for almost 8 months.  I ran thought it, smart or not.  It sucked.  It was after that race that I figured out how to take care of my body.  How to listen to my body.  I took a month off.  No running at all from Thanksgiving through Christmas.  I began anew the start of the next year.

I ventured off to Asheville, NC and ran the exclusive inaugural marathon at the Biltmore Estate.  It snowed, windchill in the single digits.  It was beautiful, but I found it difficult to run that far while my toes were frozen, and I had icicles in my hair.  Another 4 hour marathon.  I won a contest, and got to travel to Virginia for what is touted to be “America’s Toughest Road Marathon”, the Blue Ridge Marathon.  With over 7,000 ft. of elevation change over the course of three mountains, I almost loved every moment still. A true test of grit and determination, my marathon focus turned positive again that day.  Although I finished in 4:04:59, I felt like the King of the world after conquering that course.  I was reborn.

That marathon, my fifth, was my last 4 hour plus finish.  I’ve run nine more since all sub-4.  That day was a turning point.  I adopted a catchphrase from the race, “You run Hills, I run Mountains”.  After that race I turned in times of 3:45 in Asheville, and then my current PR of 3:32:24 at Raleigh’s City of Oaks Marathon.  Too tough courses about six weeks apart, my mojo was certainly back!

Since then, I have traveled to Las Vegas, Charleston, Hilton Head and Wrightsville Beach, four flat courses (well mostly) in search of a new PR.  Hasn’t happened yet, but all solid races for the most part.  My Birthday marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, now that one was unique.  I just wanted to finish sub 4, and did.  My family at the finish.  Priceless birthday present.  Then the All American, a run with the military.  Amazing!  Meeting Meb!  Wow, I have had some great runs.  My last was Big Cottonwood, in Utah.  Talk about breathtaking beauty.

They have all led me and my marathon journey to Chicago for #15.  Grateful for my health, and happiness.  Anxious for another epic run.

I love marathoning!

Chicago Marathon Preview

It’s time to get down to business, because the Chicago Marathon is just 19 days away.  I’ve had a couple of awesome weekends, back to back in Utah and Tennessee, but now I have to shift my focus to my next challenge.

Chicago!  A city that will be completely new to me.  I’ve only ever been in the airports there on layovers, and have never stepped foot in the city.  I am so excited for this trip.  A few weeks ago I got an email with my corral assignment, I will be starting in corral ‘D’.  Then last night an email came with a link to the participant guidebook, which will also be mailed to me.  Wow, this is getting serious.

image

Since I made my travel arrangements and booked my hotel many months ago, it’s time to really get my homework done.

I’ve been mapping out the area.  Extensively checking out maps.  I have figured out the ‘L’, and which train I need to take and to where upon arrival. I’ve got my bases covered on a late check out for Sunday, and how to get to Grant Park on foot from my hotel on race morning.  I am trying to study all of the little details so that race weekend I will be as prepared as I can be.

My next focus will be on getting to and from the expo.  I arrive very early on Friday morning, so it might make the most sense to just go directly to the expo when it opens.  Gotta figure that one out.

Where to eat?  I’ve even been looking at the best places to go to get authentic Chicago food.  Deep dish pizza, etc..  I have to get a feel for the city before I get there, so studying city maps is critical.

I am enjoying the preparations.  Have you ever run the Chicago marathon, or have a good knowledge of the city?  I welcome any and all comments related to what might make my weekend there smoother, more fun or just all around more eventful. Please feel free to share your experiences.

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon – Race Recap

Another weekend has come and gone, and another race was run. This one however, was unique and special in so many ways.  An inaugural event put on by Vacation Races (@VacationRaces), the Great Smoky event on September 20, 2014 was a pure joy to run in.

image

My weekend in the mountains began fairly early this past Friday morning.  Living in central North Carolina, I had a long drive in front of me.  About a 360 mile drive across the state, and into Tennessee.  If you’ve never been in the mountains of NC, or the Great Smoky Mountains, the drive through them is really beautiful.  Luckily the weather was absolutely perfect for a drive, and the mountain views along the way did not disappoint.

image

I had actually signed up for same day packet pickup for this race because I wasn’t sure if I could get out there with enough time left on Friday before the expo closed.  A good plan, and easy (but long) drive, got me into Townsend, Tennessee in about six and a half hours.  Plenty of time to head to the cabin I rented first, unload my bags and freshen up, and still make it to the expo with about an hour and a half to spare.  The expo was only about a four minute drive from my cabin!  Townsend is a small mountain town, with only one stop light.  I loved it.

image

The expo was quite small, but very well organized.  This race wins the GRAND PRIZE for the most beautiful expo views.  Outdoor expo?  Yes, and huge bonus points because of it.  Just visiting the small expo got the juices flowing for a beautiful run the following day.  A beautiful setting, super friendly race staff and volunteers, happy runners all around.

image

After the expo I set out to find a grocery store in town.  About a half mile away, I found a small store, and grabbed a few necessary items and headed back to my cabin.  Let me just say that I looked for quite sometime online for a nice place to stay, and I found the perfect spot.  I love spending time in the mountains, and have rented homes and cabins many times.  Due to the short nature of this trip I thought about getting a hotel room to keep the trip super cheap, but decided against it.  I found a very affordable cabin right in Townsend, so it was nice and quiet, and felt like a little slice of heaven with most of the comforts of home.  I think the bed was probably one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in.

image

A nice quiet evening to myself, I went to bed around 10pm.  This allowed me a nice rest, even with my early race day wake up call.  This race is a point to point race, starting in Maryville, Tennessee.  Because of this, I needed to be at the race finish area (about three miles from my cabin) at 5:30am, to board a bus to Maryville.  Race morning went off without a hitch.  So easy.  Parking was plentiful at the race finish, and a huge line of school buses came rolling down the street right on schedule.  After boarding the bus, we made the 20 minute trip to the race starting area.

It was still dark when we arrived, but amenities and runner facilities were perfect for the number of runners that day.  There was music going, raffle give aways every 5-10 minutes, tables set up with hot coffee and hot chocolate, and plenty of port o potties.  I found that most runners spent the hour before the race chilling out, stretching and snapping pictures of the sunrise over the beautiful Smokies in distance.  For an inaugural event, everything was going very well.  About fifteen minutes before the start of the race, the National Anthem was played while a flag was flown.  Right after that, pacers got into place, the chute was prepared and at 7:30 sharp we were off.

image

image image

When looking at the course elevation chart online, I noticed that this race is mainly uphill.  The net elevation gain is 364 feet, but is seemingly spread out over the distance very evenly.  I do have to say that some of the uphills really surprised me.  The whole time running I kept thinking “I don’t remember this hill on the elevation chart”.  So, needless to say, I found the course much more of a challenge than the chart displayed.  I just don’t think I was ready for how tough it was.  After my calves took a huge beating at my marathon one week prior, they gave me fits on this course.  Luckily I never cramped, but was on the verge almost the entire race.  As a result, I never really felt like I could just go for it.  I was always holding back even the slightest bit, to avoid locking up.

Vacation Races, began in 2012 with the Zion Half Marathon.  Since then, they have added 5-6 races that are all centered around our National Parks here in the U.S..  This was my first, as this is the only event within driving distance from my house.  Because this race series revolves around nature and our National Park system, they practice a unique and innovative cup-less race policy.  You either bring your own hydration system, carry a water bottle or partake in their system.  Runners are given the option.  I chose to participate in their plan, as I don’t like carrying a water bottle.  They are dead set against unnecessary waste and trash at their events, which is a great thing.  I was given a hydrapouch at the expo, and had a quick demo on how to use their self-serve water stations.  The pouch is practically weightless, clips to a race belt, and you just fill and go at stations.  Nuun hydration was also available in large spigoted coolers so you had a choice.  I found it to be very easy, and wish more races would do this.  Think Green!  I had to point this out, as I never once saw not even one cup, bottle or Gu packet on the race course that had been thrown to the ground.  It definitely added to the beauty of the race.

My race was tough, I’m not going to lie.  I started ok, but just never really got into a good groove because of my calves.  Plus I think I was just so focused on the breathtaking surroundings that my focus was never on running a spectacularly fast race. I find that the older I get, my speed has become less of a focus.  This race was more about the location, sights and sounds for me.  And that’s ok.  Much of the race was run parallel to the Little River, including many ups and downs and just spectacular countryside views.  There were not a lot of spectators along the course, so if you run this one day, please just be in it for yourself.  You have to be your own cheering section.  Again, not an issue for me, it just added to the quiet and serenity of race morning.

My pace was all over the place on race day.  Up and down with the hills.  I made my way.  Because the marathon distance has been my focus this year (six Full’s so far in 2014), this race was only my second Half of the year.  Another reason my pace was all over the place.  The race did go by much quicker.  :). I had almost forgotten what it was like to run just 13.1 miles.  Did I just say that?  By no means do I mean anything negative about the distance, as last year it was my race distance of choice.  In 2013 I ran nine halves, and loved every minute.  It was so nice to be able to just run for the fun of it, and enjoy the environment, without worrying about time pressures like last week in Utah.

image image image

As I neared the finish, it was very obvious by the time ticking away on my Garmin that this was not a race for my record books.  Hey, no problem, that was not why I was there.  I was there for a much needed mountain getaway, and a beautiful run.  The finish line in view, spectators now everywhere to push you to the finish line.  I crossed the line in 1:51:48, for an overall pace of 8:32.  Pleased, given my calf issues.  We were in the mountains after all, so there were a few issues with timing and chips, which I didn’t know until after the race was over.  Results were not easy to get, I suppose a result of GPS or cell coverage.  Whatever the issue was, complete results are still not posted as the race is making sure all runner times are correct before Spring final results.  At this point the best I can figure is that I came in 6th out of 28 in my age group, and about 68th out of 643 overall.

image

As I made my way through the finisher area, runners were treated to bananas, snack boxes and chocolate milk.  The weather was perfect for just relaxing on the hillside and enjoying watching other runners finish.  As I sat on the ground stretching, I could see my calf muscles twitching uncontrollably.  I almost took a video of it, as it was quite entertaining.  The young woman sitting next to me was intrigued by it, too.  So my calves were part of the post race entertainment!  Lol.

The town of Townsend opened its arms to welcome us.  We had a beautiful day to run, and the rest of the weekend to enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains.  I have to say it was the perfect getaway.  After milling around a bit after I finished, it was a quick ride back to my cabin where I showered and changed.  I relaxed a bit on the deck, ate a sandwich and then decided to go out for a drive.  Two minutes later I was in the Park, driving on a long and winding road toward Gatlinburg.  I stopped many times for pictures.  Driving through Gatlinburg on the main drag is not easy.  Bumper to bumper traffic.  Not something I was in the mood for, so I never even stopped to look around.  Once I got through town I drove on to Pigeon Forge (Dolly Parton’s stomping ground) and stopped to eat again.  Yep, post race hunger pangs.  Then I drove back to the cabin, to enjoy the rest of the day in quiet, just listening to the Little River flow by down below the deck.  I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep around 9pm.

image image image image image

It was a great trip to the Smokies!  If you’ve never been at this National Park, I urge you to go.  It is beautiful.  Rent a cabin, go alone or take family and friends.  Sign up for next years race, and enjoy a scenic run.  I, for one, am going to try to figure out how to get myself to one of their other races in the coming year.  The Vacation Races motto is “Run where you play”, and I have to agree.  Other races they put on in our National Parks are all Half Marathons, and include Zion, Grand Canyon, a Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Lake Powell.  If I was retired, I think I’d hop in the car and attend each event next year.  Now doesn’t that sound like fun?  Road trip!

image

Smokies Half Marathon teaser

Yes, I survived.  I could barely walk at the beginning of this week, but I knocked out my 21st Half marathon today in beautiful Tennessee.

image

If you’ve never been to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you are really missing out.  There is just something so majestic and beautiful about this area.  Sure, towns like Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are very touristy and I would rather steer clear of both of them, perhaps it’s best to just drive through on your way to what they call “the quiet side of the Smokies”.  I am staying in a small town named Townsend, the host of today’s race.  I have been very impressed with this small, quiet town.

Vacation Races put on this inaugural race today, their first venture east of the Mississippi.  It turned out great.  As with any race, improvements can be made, but kudos to the race team and volunteers for putting on a top notch event.

I mean, come on, look at the setting for the outdoor race expo on Friday.  I mean, wow!

image

Do I pick up my bib here, or get married?

I have many, many photos to share, it’s just too early to wrap up my experience just yet.  My six hour car ride home tomorrow will be a good time to process my race, the entire experience, and I will share a full recap with you by Monday.

Today was a huge race day around our country,  Did you race today?