Whirlwind Marathon Trip

The last few days are such a blur.  As I sit here on the couch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I only have a short few hours before heading to work.  Most people I know are on the tail end/final day of an either three day or four day weekend.  Me?  Not so much….

I worked last week on Thursday night, getting home about 10:30pm.  I did have Friday off, so I packed in the morning and did various other chores before hitting the road for a 250 mile drive to Charleston, SC.  I drove south through pounding rain for about four hours before it finally quit and turned partly sunny as I was arriving.  The drive sucked!

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The reason for my trip was to run/pace a marathon the following morning.  So, my first stop was the race expo, which was easy to find and navigate through.  Since I arrived fairly late I couldn’t spend a lot of time there because I still had to find my hotel, grab dinner at a decent hour, and get some relaxation in before an early bedtime.  My stomach felt a little off all day, so I wanted something fairly benign for dinner.  So, after finding my hotel I did a search on my phone for something nearby.  I found a sub shop just two minutes away, and I ordered a plain turkey sub.

Me, in for the night back at the hotel with turkey sub in hand, I relaxed the rest of the evening before a 10pm turn in.  Maybe it was the bed, or the pillows, or the warm room.  Something just wouldn’t allow me to relax and fade away to sleep like usual.  It was a struggle.

I woke up early feeling good though on Saturday morning.  Off to the race site for early meetup with the other pacers.  It was a pleasure meeting everyone.  I felt good, and confident.  A full race recap will follow in the coming days, this is more of a weekend recap, so many of the details are going to wait for that.  As the race began, it was warm, and windy.  All went well for miles and miles.  Right on pace.  As a pace leader you can’t really let on when things start to go wrong.  It happens though.  Luckily I wasn’t alone pacing the 4:00 group.  My pacing partner Eric was awesome!

In a nutshell, the race was good, but I wasn’t, starting about 18 miles in.  I fell off the pace by a few seconds when I started feeling dizzy.  Race day temps were warm, so I took some extra time at an aid station to try to offset what felt like some dehydration issues.  My stomach wasn’t feeling right again.  I did catch up to the group shortly thereafter, but my race was never the same after another mile or two.  My stomach and GI issues continued.  I felt such utter disappointment as my group finally started pulling away from me.  I needed a bathroom, and needed one quickly.  My stomach was my downfall in this race.  I finished off pace, and truly was embarrassed.  I tried to shake it off, as we all know anything can happen on race day.  Truth is, I hadn’t had a finish in a marathon over four hours in almost three years.  I still haven’t gotten over it, but I will.

After the race, I drove the 250 miles home, where my son was waiting for me.  I spent what was left of the evening on the couch resting my aching legs and stomach.  I had to be up early on Sunday to work, and have to work again today.  Yes, talk about a whirlwind four days.  500 miles in the car, 26.2 miles of running, and all the while with stomach issues.  Not sure what went wrong, but my stomach is still not back to normal.  I’ve spent more time in the bathroom the past few days than I have in the past two weeks combined.  It’s really been tough.  But….  This too shall pass.

Onward and upward.  I am blessed that most of my marathons have gone my way.  Most without issue.  When you run as many marathons as I have over the past few years, I guess a bad one is bound to happen every now and then.  I’m just embarrassed that a bad one occurred at a race I was pacing.  I will say, I wasn’t far off my goal pace, even considering my GI issues, but I failed at my pace goal.  I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do, but as with anything else, time will heal my wounds.

Race recap coming soon…..  not all was bad!  I enjoyed most of it, met some great folks, and will return one day to Charleston to do it all over again.  Well, without the stomach issues, I hope!  🙂

2016 Charleston Marathon

Less than two weeks to go until we ring in the New Year!  Yes, 2016 is waiting in the wings, and I hope it’s one of the best years yet!  I feel very fortunate to have had such a great year but I am ready to don my party hat and grab my noise maker.  Lets toast to another fun year of running!

Sort of a late entry into the game, I finally have a plan for January.  I am returning to a race I ran in 2014.  The charming city filled with southern hospitality that is Charleston, SC.  After scoring a coveted pacing slot, you’re will find me running the streets of Charleston in just 27 days.  I will be pacing the marathon finish time of 4 hours flat!  Of course, knowing this is a very important goal for so many runners, the main objective will be to cross the line in 3:59:59.  Break that 4 hour mark, right?  Big goal of so many!

So, if you happen to be running this race, stop by and say hello!  This is how I will be starting my 2016 racing season, and I am really looking forward to it.

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Marathon #10 – One week to go!

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At this moment, one week from today……

I will be about 16 miles into my 26.2 mile quest at my tenth marathon.  It’s really hard to believe.  My 9th down in Charleston was two weeks ago today, and wow has the last two weeks just flown by.  The moment I finished that race I started thinking about the one coming up in Hilton Head.  I thought, some recovery runs, some short burst running, and pace practice would be all I would do.  Throw in the snow this past week, and the bitter cold temperatures the past two weeks overall, and I just haven’t gotten in the runs I wanted to.

I ended up with about 75 miles total for the month of January.  Not as many as I wanted.  I’m really trying to cut myself some slack, because I really had a longer recovery period from Charleston than I wanted.  That race really tired out my body.  The struggle against the wind at that race really did me in.  It took several more days than normal after a marathon for my body to get back to feeling good.

Last Fall, I ran two marathons in two weeks.  Looking back on that, I felt really good after the first.  I worked hard in that race, conquering the hills of Raleigh, and setting a new marathon PR.  I came off that race with high hopes, and recovered very quickly.  Two weeks later I was running another marathon in Las Vegas.  I wasn’t trying to set any records at that race, but it proved to me that my body could handle two marathons pretty close together.  The difference this time is that my body didn’t feel as good coming off of the a Charleston a Marathon.  Plus the weather has really been a deterrent to my training and recovery.

So, a week from today, my goal in Hilton Head is to not shoot for a BQ, but to work on the mental part of my running.  I want to reach the half way point in that race feeling very positive.  I want to push myself, and maintain a more positive attitude than I had in Charleston.  I am hoping for better weather conditions.  The seven day forecast shows a good chance of rain for race day, which I am not thrilled about at all.  Hopefully as race day nears, this forecast will change.  The low is supposed to be 40, high of 60.  I am ok with this, but no rain, please!!!  Isn’t it amazing how much the weather and conditions on race day can affect your run?

I am excited, and nervous.  This always happens, but I really revel in race week anxiousness.  It just proves to me that I love running, and the excitement of pushing myself in a race.  My only competition is me out there, and I really hope to have a great run next Saturday.  Just one week to go!

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Hilton Head Island Marathon is my 10th, so it will be one for my record book.  I can’t wait!

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Charleston Marathon -Race Recap

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As I sit here, and begin typing out this recap, I am trying to find the perfect word to summarize this event.  What comes to mind immediately is (WINDY).  Let’s see if that changes as I begin rehashing the events of this past weekends race from start to finish.

**I am going to try not be overly redundant, as I posted about this race a few times over the past few weeks, leading right up to an extremely brief recap the evening of the race.

First off, I just have to say that Charleston, South Carolina is fantastic!  I’ve only been there a few times in the past, and have never really gotten the chance to explore.  Although I became familiar with Charleston on foot during the race, I cannot wait to go back for a long weekend sometime to really absorb some of Charleston’s history and charm.  My friend Paula and I drove down on Friday.  The trip took us less than four hours.  We drove straight to our hotel, the La Quinta, right across the Ashley River from the peninsula of Charleston.  Our rooms were available for check in when we arrived, so we chilled for about a half hour before heading out to the race expo.

The expo was just a very short drive from our hotel.  Ten minutes, maybe, by car.  Maybe it’s just me, but when you have a race where tons and tons of folks are coming in from out of town, out of state, etc… please have signs posted outside pointing us where to go.  There were absolutely no road signs, and no signs on the building itself, nor inside, pointing runners in the right direction.  Luckily I saw a woman with what looked like a swag bag, walking on the side of the road, and asked her where to go.  She also offered to let us park in her spot as she was leaving.  Parking was not marked either.  Not a great start, but I’m easy, and didn’t let it bother me.

The expo was held in a high school gym, which was way too small for a race this size.  The layout of the expo was also an epic fail.  As this was the fourth installment of this race in Charleston, I was surprised by this.  I hope the race director improves this expo for future runners.  I knew two race directors for other races there, and they felt the same way.  The swag was minimal.  Just a shirt, and a very cheap swag bag to double as a bag check bag.  This was a pretty expensive race, for very little swag.  The shirt featured artwork by a local artist.image

The bib itself needs to be changed, as well.  I’ve read comments on this race from previous years, and it seems like no improvements have been made in this area.  In the photo above, I have the chip portion of the bib tucked under so you can’t see it, but the chip was attached to a tearaway strip on the bottom of the bib.  This was so flimsy, that I thought it would fall off before I even left the expo, and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving it as is, while running 26.2 miles.  I ended up grabbing extra pins, and pinning the chip to the upper bib.  No way I was going to run a marathon, and lose that chip due to flimsy bib design.  Flash forward, I made it over the finish line with my chip.  Others were not so lucky.  Note to future runners… If the bib and chip are flimsy, find a way to make it more sturdy.

Aside from a few other races being at the expo to spread the word about their races, there really wasn’t much else to see.  The Wrightsville Beach Marathon was there, as was Hilton Head Marathon, the Greensboro Marathon and the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate.  The race director for the Asheville race actually opened up 50 more spots for the previously sold out half at the Biltmore, just so that attendees of the Charleston Expo had a chance to sign up.  Very cool.  The Greensboro marathon was offering a $30 discount for a week, to sign up for their Marathon this Fall.  I plan on taking advantage of that, for sure.  *note to self! don’t forget to sign up before this weekend*.

We then took advantage of about an hour of free time before our dinner reservations to drive around Charleston and take a few pictures.  I was floored by the architectural beauty, and really enjoyed our sightseeing adventure. I will return for more details, and would actually like to walk around Charleston quite a bit, and take a food tour, as well.  Here are some photos of the area.

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We then made a quick trip back across the river to an Italian restaurant that came highly recommended.  Al Di La Tratoria was awesome.  We sat in the wine bar (no we didn’t have wine).  We sat down at 6pm, and by 6:30 the place was packed.  No wonder I could only get us a table in the bar area.  We didn’t mind at all, and proceeded to have an amazing meal.  I even capped off my meal with some white chocolate mousse with berries for dessert.  Yum!  Everything was so fresh, and tasted as good as it looked.

Back at the hotel, we were in for the night.  We agreed to meet up in the lobby at 6:30am, to head over to find parking at the starting line.  We thought it may be a bit of a cluster, so we gave ourselves ample time to get there, and be ready.  The rest of Friday evening I just relaxed, and tried to keep me feet up.  I got everything together for race morning, so that I could have a peaceful sleep.  Three alarms set for 4:30am, I actually slept fairly well.

Race day Saturday.  Everything went off without a hitch in the morning.  Oh, the one negative to staying at this hotel was that they offered no late check outs for runners.  Give me a break!  Come on La Quinta, get with the program.  I would love to shower before heading home.  Anyway, that was not going to happen, so I checked out, and met my friend in the lobby.  The quick trip to the race start was actually quicker at 6am, than the day before, and when we arrived, there was plentiful parking.  We had over an hour until the start of the race, so since the weather was cold (38), and the winds were blowing heftily at 20 mph, we sat in the warm truck and relaxed.

Promptly at 7:50am, I exited the truck, and headed over to the starting line.  Just a minutes walk away from where we parked.  Simple.  I didn’t have to shiver long, although I think I was the only person I could see in my immediate surroundings that didn’t have gloves on. The one thing I forgot at home.  Throwaway gloves!  Here is my view of the starting line just moments before the start of the race.

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See all of those hats?  It was cold!  Felt like 26-28 with the windchill.  The conditions would certainly end up wearing me down in the end, but I felt pretty good at the start.

The start near Burke High School would send thousands of half and full marathoners barreling down the first few miles along Fishburne/Lakewood Dr.  The crowd really didn’t start to thin until about a mile in.  There was a lot of foot dodging, and concentrating on not tripping yourself or another runner.  There were random pools of water on the sides of the street due to a quick moving thunderstorm the night before, which added to the madness.  We were moving though, the race had begun.

The fist few miles are mostly run along the water.  Very pretty start to this race.  I really enjoyed the sights, as I got into my rhythm for the run.  Miles 2.5 to 3 were beautiful, enjoying the sunshine on the water and faraway views of the area.  Just after mile three, the course turns left onto King St., the main north/south thoroughfare in Charleston.  This six mile stretch was tough.  Lots of wind, but also lots of crowd support.  All I kept thinking at this point in the race was that the crowd had just gotten up and came out to support us with a cup of coffee.  Many of these folks were still not showered, some out walking dogs, etc..  It was just about that moment that I found myself getting very jealous.  There I was still in the very early stages of a 26.2 mile race, and I began to smell bacon.  A very strong scent of bacon from a restaurant, just beginning a country breakfast feast for visitors and locals.  I became very distracted, and found myself wishing I was sitting down in that restaurant ordering my own big breakfast with a hefty side of bacon. Wow!  Then as soon as the bacon scent disappeared, I passed another restaurant, and more smells of, you guessed it, bacon.  Ok, I had to run faster to get away from those distractions.

Keeping up a decent pace, I was holding on to a 7:30 pace as mile 9 passed.  Just a short ways away, the half and full marathoners split, and the crowd lessened quickly. Circling back and under an overpass, we started heading southeast.  For a few minutes the intense wind wasn’t in our faces.  The wind was just daunting!  It was nice to have a bit of a break from it being right in my face.  This part of the course takes you back down toward the water, and eventually onto a pier for a quick out and back surrounded by the water on either side.  That was cool, but the wind was back, and turning back in a northerly direction to repeat that part of the course back to the race splitting point was where I started to lose some steam.  I remember it well.  I just kept thinking to myself to keep pushing.  My legs weren’t working as well, and I was really fighting the wind.  It was taking a lot out of me, and my pace.

I managed to make it to about the half way point in the race before my Garmin started to tick closer and closer to that magical BQ pace.  I was slowing down.  I couldn’t help it.  That 7:30 pace faded, now 7:40, 7:45, and eventually past 7:49.  I would have to maintain that pace the entire second half of the race if I wanted that BQ, but mentally I gave up right then.  This wasn’t my target race for the BQ, but in my mind I wanted to be able to last longer then just 14 miles sub 7:49 pace.  Today wasn’t the day, it was just too cold, and my body was starting to break down fighting that headwind.

Miles 16 though 24 were not as fun, as the course wasn’t as interesting.  More importantly though, I started feeling my lower body aching.  At first I felt it in my knees.  I have rarely been stricken with IT band issues, but started feeling my right knee aching terribly.  I haven’t had pain like that in a long time.  Then I started feeling pain in the back of both knees.  Then my hips.  I never cramped at all, as I hydrated well, and ate a half banana twice to keep going.  I had the hardest time.  My feet felt fine, which was good news.  My main focus now was to push through this pain, and keep moving forward.

I watched countless runners pass me, as we headed into an area of the course where there are a lot of out and backs, doubling back, seeing a lot of the same runners behind you countless times.  I struggled mentally and physically.  It was really tough pushing through the pain.  I wanted to tote along an IV drip with pain killers.  I was hurting.  With each passing mile, I found myself counting down to the finish.

The last several miles of the race are all run in North Charleston.  The wind was just as intense, but it was a tad warmer.  I knew I could still have a respectable finish if I could just keep moving.  Slowly but surely I was nearing the finish.  Have you ever run a race where you concentrated so much on your Garmin, and the miles just didn’t match with the course mileage signs?  My Garmin matched perfectly for most of the race until the very end.  When it matters most.  All of the sudden the last .2 on a marathon course becomes very important.  When you are ready to finish, and I was ready to be done, believe me, my Garmin said 26, but that sign was not there.  More and more spectators started coming into view, cheering.  Ok, so now here is the 26 mile sign, my Garmin says 26.2.  Wait, this should be the finish line, but it wasn’t.  Man, I was sore, and wanted to cross that line.

Finally the finish line came into view.  Finally!  I had to tell myself to enjoy the finish.  Normally I have a burst of energy at this point.  Sometimes I am able to really kick in one good last fight to the finish.  Not today.  I tried to force a smile, to thank those cheering on the sidelines.  I had a hard time even doing this.  It felt like a slow crawl across the finish.  Of course it wasn’t, but it felt that way.  My hips and knees were killing me.  I was never so happy to finish a race, and to have that medal placed around my neck.

I almost felt like I was in another world.  Not a happy world, but one where I was kind of out of my body, looking at myself.  I had done it, finished my 9th marathon.  A tough day overall.  The wind and cold had beaten me down.  It really sent my body into a tailspin that day.  I made my way through the finishers chute.  I grabbed some water, a flat soda, muffin and moved forward.  The finisher village was huge, and filled with vendors, and food.  I just couldn’t move through and see everything.  I grabbed a bowl of shrimp and grits (a brilliant idea) and made my way to the side of a building.  Wrapped in a Mylar blanket, a sat down in the sun.  It felt so good to sit.  I rested my legs for 15 minutes or so, relaxing.  That shrimp and grits were just what I needed.  That soda tasted so good!

As soon as I felt like I could get up without falling back down, we walked to the truck.  My friend had finished her race, the half, went back to our hotel, showered, checked out, and had returned to the finish line just moments before I crossed the finish.  It was time to head home.  So once at the truck, I quickly changed clothes, and we were on our way.

Results for the race are still currently preliminary, but here is a look at what I know at this point.

Gun Time: 3:48:38

Chip Time: 3:47:58

Overall: 231/1180

Age Group: 33/90

Gender: 182/618

Overall, considering the weather conditions, I am happy with my finish.  I wanted to be faster that day, but it wasn’t meant to be.  How can I not be happy though with finishing another marathon, just nine weeks shy of my last one.  The Charleston Marathon was my first race of 2014, and overall it was such a great race.  Every race is different, some harder than others.  The tough part for me that day was fighting against the wind, which ended up making me fight against a body.  My legs got me to the finish, and for that, I am grateful.

On to marathon #10.  As I recover over the coming days, the pain in my legs will disappear, leaving me with great memories of Charleston.  What a beautiful city, and an amazing marathon.  I certainly recommend it highly.  There are things they can improve upon, and I am confident that as this race grows, they will change those things to make the race even better.

Charleston Marathon Eve

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Tucked away here in a Charleston hotel, I feel good.

Made the 3 hour 45 minute drive down today.  Had great conversation with my friend Paula on the trip down.  The topic?  Running, well 90% running.  We hit the expo this afternoon around 4pm.  Nothing spectacular at all about this expo.  Stopped in however, to say hello and get info from the Greensboro Marathon booth, Hilton Head Island Marathon booth, and to spend a few minutes chatting with my Asheville Marathon buddy Daphne.

We drove around Charleston, which is just gorgeous.  I really need to come back here sometime soon and explore.  What a beautiful city!

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Dinner at 6pm at local favorite Al Di La.  Awesome food, great vibe!  Did I say awesome food?  Yep, it was awesome!

Now back here in the room, logistics planned for tomorrow.  Relaxing and getting sleepy.

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!

Race day details and recap coming soon….  I gotta run the race first.

10 days til Marathon #9

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Here we go again.  As temperatures have been in the single digits overnight the past two days, tomorrow, the Charleston Marathon will be just single digits away.  Marathon #9 is 10 days away today.  Normally, I am more prepared, both physically and mentally for a marathon this close.  What has happened this time?  I actually started the pre race nerves this morning.  This race has truly snuck up on me.  I guess the reason for that is that I have not run a race in January before.  Normally I am base building right now.  It is amazing to me how much the holidays and work commitments have distracted me so much from this race.  Now is the time to get my head in the game!

It has been so difficult to get my training miles in.  I have been running, but I feel like it hasn’t been enough.  This is really uncharted territory for me.  The past two years, my first marathon each time has been in March.  This allowed for a slower progression toward my goal.  Due to the overwhelming cold weather recently, I have found it very challenging to just get out there and run.  This is no excuse normally, but temps have just been very extreme.  Today, I have a four miler planned, and I will run it at the height of the day, when the temperature is supposed to hit 42 degrees.

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Reminder!  Just 10 days away…..  Ok, so I need to get myself ready mentally, too.  I woke up this morning, my first day off from work in a week, thinking about the race.  Thinking about the plan.  The logistics.  The four hour ride to Charleston, the hotel, food options.  I have started looking for a restaurant, for my pre race dinner.  I’m thinking Italian.  Pasta, chicken.  My go to foods the night before a race.  Planning out the trip, the details, helps get my head in the game.  It helps to calm my nerves, having a plan in place.  Racing at home is so much easier on the nerves.  When you have to travel, stay in a hotel, and get around a city you are not familiar with it is just more unnerving. Planning these things now, will help me to stay calm.

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This is my first time running in Charleston.  I am so excited to see the city, and just experience the southern charm.  I am looking forward to the hospitality, and hope it abounds in the way of crowd support along the marathon route.  I am always so thankful, and show my appreciation to those cheering on us runners.

This being my ninth marathon, I feel pretty confident about getting through the miles.  My goal though for the first part of 2014, is to make progress toward Boston.  By the time the race comes, it will be almost exactly two months since my last marathon in Las Vegas.  So, even though I have only run one double digit mileage training run (10 miles) since Vegas, I feel like I can rely on my legs and feet to get me there.  Not sure if I’ve done enough to hit my goal of a 3:25:00 finish, however.  My goal is what has me nervous for this marathon.  Maybe those nerves will help me fight harder, run harder.

For today, and for the remaining days leading up to this race, I feel my best plan is to get in several more shorter runs.  Focusing mentally on the race will happen naturally while I run, and during my down time.  I feel like my body will be ready, so the mental game, the goal will be the focus.  Zeroing in on mental calm over the coming days is what is most important now.

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The starting line is 10 days away, but the final focus begins today.

Charleston Marathon Quest

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I’ve decided!  After careful consideration, and much posturing, my 2014 racing season will begin in just 43 days.  I am going to run the 4th Annual Charleston Marathon, in Charleston, South Carolina.  I am very excited!

The drive from home will be just over four hours to get me to this southern city that is rich in history.  I’ve only spent time in Charleston on one occasion in my life.  I haven’t been to Charleston in nearly 15 years.  Back then, my kids were tiny.  My youngest was just months old, and traveled close to my chest in a baby sling, as we toured the historic town by horse drawn carriage.  Many years have passed, and this trip will be a whole lot different.  Back then I was in my 20’s, and now in my 40’s, I will tour the city by foot on a 26.2 mile journey.  I couldn’t be happier about my choice to register for this event.

I have a local friend that I am planning on traveling down with.  We both have different objectives and goals for this race.  I will be testing my new pace regime, working my way toward a Boston Qualifier finish.  My ultimate goal for this race will be to run sub 3:30:00.  This would be a PR for me, and get me closer to that magical race in Boston.  This course is mainly flat, so my chances are good, provided I keep working on sprints and endurance training over the next month plus.  Here is a look at the course map for the Full.

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My friend will be running the Half, which follows the Full Marathon route for most of the distance of the race.  She will be gunning for a sub 1:46:00 finish, as she prepares to set a record in her age group later in 2014 at a race in San Diego, California.  We have never traveled to a race together, so it should be a fun and new experience. She will be waiting at the finish line for me.  We’ve booked a hotel about 2 miles from the start, and because this is a point to point race, we will catch a shuttle back to the start after relaxing and enjoying music and shrimp and grits at the finish.  What a great idea for post race food!  Local music, and a southern seafood treat.

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A city of true southern charm, and hospitality, I am already looking forward to seeing Charleston from a whole new angle.  To be able to see a place on a marathon journey is truly unique.  I am also looking forward to seeing many other cities in my running shoes in 2014.  I really spent a lot of my 2013 running season conquering the hills and mountains.  Roanoke, Asheville, Raleigh.  What is unique so far about my plans for 2014 is that I already have plans for three marathons on the coast.  Flat courses at the beach.  Wilmington, Charleston, Hilton Head.  I am excited to try flatter courses, which are truly few and far between where I live in North Carolina.

So it all begins in Charleston next year for me.  I already have my plan in place for training, and look forward to putting in the miles with a new goal in mind for 2014.  To qualify, or at least get myself closer to qualifying for Boston.

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