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.

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

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

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

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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!

Go Big! 50 Marathons

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Go Big!  In Utah.

I’ve done it.  I’ve jumped in before a price increase, and signed up for an epic and fast marathon just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’ve never been to Utah, and look forward to using a marathon as an excuse to take a trip into the unknown.  Well, maybe the very lofty goal of running a marathon in all 50 states is the excuse.

Have you heard of the 50 Staters club?  Running a marathon in all 50 states in our country.  Crazy?  Yes.  Expensive?  Oh, yeah.  This is a goal of many crazy runners out there.  I may have started running too late to accomplish this goal, but slowly but surely, I may be able to make a dent in this goal.  I think that most that have accomplished this goal are either independently wealthy, or are in debt up to their ears.  I will not max out my credit cards to achieve this goal.  If I continue to work toward 50 states, it will be slow and as money allows.

I currently have run 11 marathons, but most of them have been fairly local, or I should say, within driving distance.  Here is a look…

North Carolina- Asheville City Marathon, Tobacco Road Marathon, Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate, City of Oaks Marathon, Wrightsville Beach Marathon, Outer Banks Marathon (6)

South Carolina- Myrtle Beach Marathon, Charleston Marathon, Hilton Head Marathon (3)

Virginia- Blue Ridge Marathon (1)

Nevada- Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon (1)

So, currently I have 4 states under my belt.  I have not repeated any marathons, and still have multiple marathons in both North and South Carolina.  Funny thing is, and right in line with all the news you hear about the number of marathons across the world increasing, as people interested in running them increases, my next two marathons are new to me as well, and both local events.  So by May 4th, my NC number will increase to 8, and to 9 in the Fall.

Utah will be state #5.  Wow, that’s 45 states shy of a fifty states goal.  I can only hope to stay healthy and able to run long enough for my bank account and body to both cooperate.  Maybe my goal should be to run 50 different marathons, and not necessarily in all 50 states.  That would be a more achievable goal.

So, I am saying it here.  I will run 50 different marathons.

Currently at 11, my next four will bring my total to 15 by the end of 2014.  They are…..  Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, All American Marathon, Big Cottonwood, and The Greensboro Marathon.

Setting goals is very common for runners.  I am already a Half Fanatic, and Marathon Maniac.  Go Big, right?  That’s what folks say.  Go big or go home.  I plan on taking my marathon running BIG!

Big Cottonwood Marathon and Fall Race Planning

Image I’ve done my research.  I’ve looked at the pictures, and runner comments, and course.  This race looks absolutely incredible!  I must sign up, and fast! This race, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, is mainly a downhill course.  I have never been to Utah, and this seems like a pretty great opportunity to check out the area and its beauty. Looking at Fall races, and trying to put together a good schedule, a few things have occurred.  First off, I really enjoyed the Asheville City Marathon I ran last September.  I planned on going back, spending race weekend in the mountains and enjoying the Fall foliage.  A few months ago, even though they had already started the registration process for this coming year, they cancelled the event completely, and gave refunds to all that had registered.  This left me with a hole in my Fall schedule.  I also decided (since it’s free to enter) to put my name in the hat for the Chicago Marathon, in October. Distance race planning can be tough.  Making sure you have to funds, travel, new races versus old races, rest time, etc., a lot goes in to the planning schedule.  Summer here is too hot for racing, so I generally get a lot of training miles in.  These training miles in the tough summer heat always leave me well prepared for a great Fall racing season. So…. Options….   Big Cottonwood Full in Utah, mid September. image A week later the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon in Tennessee put on by Vacation Races.  These two races, on back to back weekends lead me to think of just taking the entire 12 day stretch off as vacation time from work. October…. Rock ‘n’ Rebellion Half on the 5th, here in Raleigh. Depending on the lottery, maybe Chicago mid month.  Not sure I could afford a trip to both Utah and Chicago in the Fall.  Fun to think about though. Greensboro Marathon on the 18th, followed by the Bull City Race Fest Half on the 19th. ( both of which I am already registered for) November… City of Oaks Half Marathon on the 2nd, with my son.  (Registered already) Not sure if the season will continue after that race.  I have the opportunity to head to Spacecoast Marathon in December, or have always wanted to run Kiawah Marathon, which is also in December.  We’ll have to see how it all pans out.  Race planning is fun, isn’t it?

Do you have any big plans for the Fall this year?

Success! Marathon Success!

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I know I have been out of pocket for a few days, but wanted to at least post my finish time for this past Saturdays Asheville City Marathon.

I had an incredible race!  I finished in 3:45:12.  Good enough for 56th overall, and 7th in my Age Group.  I am very pleased, and will recap my great weekend in Asheville in the coming days.  Tough course, plentiful volunteers, and happy runners.  A wonderful race.

More to come soon!

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Marathon #6 just 4 days away!

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Where has all of the time gone?  Just a few short days from now, the Asheville City Marathon will be here.

I am working the next three nights in a row, and during my mornings off, I will be getting everything in order for the long weekend in the mountains.   Looks to be absolutely perfect weather as it stands right now in the forecast.  Low to mid 70’s for highs all weekend, and low 50’s during the morning hours each day.  Perfect for running a marathon!  I need to start thinking about a top layer to toss, since standing outside for an hour or more in that temperature will be chilly before the start.

I am getting very excited for my 6th marathon.  Asheville is a great city, and I can’t wait to experience it on foot.  All of it!  This marathon will be challenging, with hills, peaks and valleys, but should be much easier from an overall elevation change standpoint from my last marathon in Roanoke, Virginia in April.  I look forward to this challenge, and will be ready!  Runners of all shapes and sizes will be descending on Asheville this Friday to attend the expo.  There is a 5k on Friday night, followed by the Half and Full marathons commencing at 6am on Saturday morning.  The half and full start together and break off from each other at about the 7.5 mile mark.  Here is a map of the Full marathon that I will be running.

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This past week I ran just over 25 miles total.  That included my last long training run on Saturday, the Johnson Lexus Half marathon. I finished in 1:43:43, just about where I wanted that run to be.  Overall pace was 7:50 per mile, so somewhat faster than I expect to run this Saturday.  I felt a bit of a tweak in my left groin yesterday, and was a little sore the day after the race, but today I think I am back to normal.  Last evening I ran a 5k tune up, recovery run.  Whatever you want to call it, it was basically a “I need to run, I want to run, I need to see how my legs feel” sort of run.  That nervous energy sort of run.  Not wanting to overdo it, but really needing to test the body and reassure oneself for the 26.2 mile adventure ahead.  I am sure you can relate.  I am going to run an easy four miles this morning, followed by a pace run of 4 to 5 miles tomorrow.  I think that will be it for me prior to the race.  I may rest completely on Thursday and Friday.  We’ll see, but that is the plan right now.

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This race starts at 6am, so it will be dark for about an hour at the start.  These few photos are taken during previous Asheville races, and I am looking forward to all of the views.  Bring it on, Asheville!

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The Full Marathon is capped at 2,500 runners, and the Half is capped at 4,000.  I don’t think that either race has reached capacity, as I have not seen a notice on the races being sold out.  These numbers are big though.  There will be a lot of runners toeing the line on Saturday morning.  The feeling will be electric!  Here is a list of my other marathons and number of finishers.  If this race is anywhere near the cap, it will be the largest marathon field that I have competed in.

Myrtle Beach Marathon 2/18/12.    1797 finishers

Tobacco Road Marathon 3/18/12.     975 finishers

Outer Banks Marathon 11/11/12.    1190 finishers

Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate 3/3/13.    962 finishers

Blue Ridge Marathon 4/20/13.    424 finishers

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Yes, I only started marathoning last year, and ran three total in 2012.  This marathon will be my third for 2013.  I am looking forward to every bit of it.  Hopefully the body will hold up, and I am able to have a fantastic race.  I really want to do well.  I have many more races planned before the end of the year, and much to look forward to.  The Asheville City Marathon is the only focus though for right now, and it’s just a few short days away.  Open your arms Asheville, I am ready for my hug!

Forecasting the Race

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I think that Fall is possibly the best time of year to run in North Carolina.  Over the past week we have certainly started feeling the effects of cooler days.  The Sun is setting earlier, making running in the early to late evening much more enjoyable.  The mornings are even better yet.  With the cool downs overnight, the mornings have just been fantastic this past week.  It’s actually begun a little early for my area, but I am not complaining.

I stepped out of my normal comfort zone yesterday and actually got up early to run before work.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually run most days, but normally do not set an alarm, and get out as early as I did yesterday.  With temperatures in the low to mid 50’s when I got up, it was just the perfect run.  As I head into the final days leading up to the next three weekends of racing, my mileage is down for taper.  I ran 4 miles yesterday.  I ran on a nice hilly loop around the area that I live.  My lungs thoroughly enjoyed the crisp morning.  I was able to push out an 8:28 pace.  Not bad considering the hills I run on.  In fact, several runs I have taken lately have been a lot speedier than my run over the Summer.  In addition to not feeling as drained post-run, it is just such a refreshing change.

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In this part of NC, the leaves will not be changing anytime soon, but the temps are approaching runner perfection!  My paces over the past two weeks range anywhere from a low of 8:21 for a 5k hill run, up to a 9:04 for my 18 miler, on a very hot and humid day.  Looking at the forecast for the next week, I have a pretty good idea what I will be up against for this Saturday’s Half Marathon.  The low overnight before the race is supposed to be 62.  Ok, not low 50’s, but we can’t have it all, right?  The high that day 83.  We will be finished racing long before the temps get too warm.

The weather in the mountains, approximately a four hour drive west of where I live, is often times much cooler than it is here.  The 10 day forecast in the Asheville area only stretches until the day I arrive there on the 27th.  The race is the 28th, but as it looks right now, the low is 53 that day, and the high is 73.  Plenty of sunshine, too!  I can handle that forecast, for sure.  It looks like it will be a nice chilly race start, and a gradual warm up.  My last Marathon in April was a perfect day weather wise.  The start was very cold, with not a cloud in the sky.  After a mile however, I never felt too cold, or too hot during the race.  That is the kind of weather you want.  Hoping for the same in Asheville.

Since we are staying in the area for the long weekend, I am hoping to see a little bit of Fall color in the mountains.  Asheville, Boone, Blowing Rock areas are all just beautiful in the Fall.  It’s a great place to be, in the North Carolina mountains during the Fall season, and I hope it will be equally great to run there as well.

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Here’s hoping for some really pretty scenery on our trip, and on my 26.2 mile journey in Asheville.  I hope you enjoy getting out there during this great time of year to run, as much as I do.  Cheers!

Marathon Dreaming

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I don’t know about you, but once I get within a month of a marathon, it’s about all I can think about.  I think about everything from nutrition to fitness level to packing and details, and even stupid things like making sure I don’t stub my toe, or get careless on a set of stairs.  What will the weather be?  I guess it’s just normal to worry, to want everything to go smoothly leading up to the BIG day.  I think we all want the big day to arrive, and be in perfect shape, and perfect mental preparedness to get the job done.

In now just a short 23 days, I will be running 26.2 miles all over the beautiful city of Asheville pictured above.  I will get to see this city in ways I never have before.  With a runner point of view, I will see many things others that aren’t running that day will never see.  I get to soak in the race day atmosphere, and try to thoroughly enjoy marathon day.  I get to test myself yet again, (this being my 6th Full) and see what my body can conquer.  I just love the thought of testing myself to the limits.  It is a truly unique experience.

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How can you not fall in love with a place like Asheville.  It was the sight of my 4th marathon back in March.  The locations of these two marathons are completely different, but I find myself excited to see a different side of the city.  Come to think of it, all of my marathons have been run in such unique places.  From trail, to mountain, to beach.  This one should be so fun, and an experience all its own.

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At the end of the day, September 28th, I hope to be flying high, like the hot air balloon.  I will be exhausted, but content and filled with the joy of accomplishment.  See you soon Asheville!  I’m coming for ya!

Asheville or Bust!

Image With only five weeks left until the Marathon, things are looking good.  I finished almost a 40 mile week yesterday with a planned 15 mile long run.  I’ve now only got two long runs left before the big day.  I am planning a 17 miler, and then a 20 miler in the upcoming 3 weeks.  Then it will be taper time, and a Half Marathon warm up a week prior to the event. I am already starting to get those race day nerves starting to work themselves into my runs.  I am looking forward to running this one because I have a better plan, and have followed it really well.  Not having any injuries along the way helps tremendously!  So, my expectations are higher of myself, and thus, the nerves creep in. I’ve got plenty of time to get nervous, it should not be starting now.  Maybe I am just getting excited.  It’s been since April since toeing the line for a marathon, so maybe my body is just saying it’s time.  I like feeling strong, prepared, and mentally ready for the challenge again. Image This will be my first time running the Asheville City Marathon.  It will be my 3rd marathon of 2013, and my 6th marathon overall.  It should be an incredible weekend in the mountains of North Carolina, and I could not be more excited for the remainder of my training, and heading to Asheville on September 27th. Will you be running in Asheville?  Where is your next Marathon?

Upcoming Races

Here is a list (not solid yet) of upcoming races on my calendar.  My quest for 13 Half and Full Marathons for 2013 continues into the Summer and Fall.  There are a bunch of options, but spacing them out is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

Image  Taking a trip to South Carolina next month and will do this race with my kids.  This is one of the top 10 biggest races yearly in the state.

Image  On recommendation of folks that have run this race before, this Half Marathon is on my list during a road trip to NY this August.  This race will put my Half/Full count at 7 for the year.  That leaves 6 more for Fall.

9/21 –  Midtown Race Series Johnson Lexus Half Marathon in Raleigh

Image  I’ve already signed up for this Marathon in Asheville, NC.  I ran the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate earlier this year in March, and just fell in love with the City of Asheville, so I thought I would return in the Fall for the City Marathon.  Completely different course.  I took advantage of the discount they were offering on National Running Day!

Image  Running this race again, as it is a favorite, and I am friends with the race director Paula.

image  The Bull City Race Fest!  This event is on 10/20, and I am signed up for the Half Mary.  This will be my first time running this event.

I may run the Greensboro Marathon on 10/26.

Hallowed half  I ran this hilly Half last year.  It is a Halloween themed race that was really tough, but very enjoyable.  Not sure I can do a back to back Half and Full the same weekend.  Jury is still out on this weekend.

City of oaks  The City of Oaks is our local marathon in the Fall, and this will be my first year running it.  I work along the race route, and have worked the last two years on race day.  It makes me very jealous to watch the masses pass by, but this year will be a different story.

Depending on if I get all these races in, my goal will be complete at this Marathon on 11/3.  If I happen to miss one of the events listed above, I have a fall back on race, the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day.  I have run that race the last two years, and really want to reach my goal prior to that this year so that I can just eat on Turkey Day.

So, what do you think of this schedule?  It means either 4 or 5 marathons this year, and either 8 or 9 Halves.  Lofty goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the year, but I can make it, if I stay focused, trained and injury free.