City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half Marathon – Race Recap

I had the most incredible day yesterday at one of our local races.  The Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and Rex Healthcare Half Marathon is an extremely popular and well attended race here in central North Carolina.  The Old Reliable 10k is also run, and is just as popular.

Huge medal with a spinning acorn in the center.

Huge medal with a spinning acorn in the center.

I ran the Half with both of my sons.  For me, this race was my 24th Half Marathon.  For my 18 year old son, his 3rd Half.  For my 16 year old son, his FIRST!  So, yeah, it was a pretty big day for all of us.  I had been looking forward to this race for months and months.  I actually signed up when registration opened many months ago.  Back then, February, my older son had just run his first Half.  Due to sibling rivalry, my younger son who was 15 at the time went out a few days after that race and ran 13.1 miles.  Why?  His brother had just done it, and he wanted to prove that he could do it, too.  I asked him if he would ever want to run a race at the distance, to which he responded, of course.  I signed him up just before his Birthday in April.  He would have over six months to wait, and train.  My older son decided a few months later that he wanted to run it, as well.

With varying degrees of training, as the race neared we were all excited.  I am a very lucky man.  To run a Half Marathon with both of my sons was going to be epic!  I wasn’t able to even attend the race expo this year because I worked both days.  My oldest, who is a student at NC State, location of the race expo, picked up all of our race bags.

So, with all of our stuff laid out for race morning we hit the hay on Saturday night.  Colton and I woke up early on Sunday, but the drive to the race is not really that far.  Just 20 miles to a parking lot at nearby Cameron Village.  We were to meet up with my son Dylan at 6:30am at the NC State Belltower.  The weather here in NC had just taken a turn this week.  With a cold front coming out of Canada, our race morning was extremely chilly.  And windy!  Race morning temps in the mid 30’s, rising to near 50 for a high.  The wind made it feel bone chilling at times, but it really was to be great conditions overall for a race.

We met up at 6:30, for the 7am start.

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All three of us warmed up, stretched and talked about our goals for the race.  I was aiming for a sub 1:45, Dylan and Colton both wanted to go sub 2.  I knew Dylan could do it, as both of his previous Halves were sub 2, but Colton would be the wildcard.  He is a dedicated sportsman, and stubborn like myself, I trusted that he would finish.  Due to his soccer season at school though, he just didn’t properly train, and because of that I just didn’t know what to expect from him.  As any runners knows, proper training is key, and race day can bring a wide range of results.  I was excited for all of us.

At about 6:45 the three of us made up way into the starting chute.  We decided that we would start together near the 1:45:00 pacer, and just see what happened once the race began.  Part of me was calm and content.  The part of me that was just going to enjoy the experience of running with my kids.  The Dad in me was nervous though, for both of them.  The starting line is quite the sight to see.  Right next to the Bell Tower on Hillsborough Rd., runners filled the street, and spectators were everywhere.  As all three races line up together the crowd was a big one.

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As the gun went off we made our way down Hillsborough.  The three of us stuck pretty close to one another for the first half mile.  Dylan went out in front as we traversed Ashe Ave., and Colton just just behind me heading up and then down the first hill of the course.  Not sure why I don’t have a crick in my neck today, because I kept turned to see where Colton was, while straining my neck to keep my eyes on Dylan up ahead.  A straightaway down Western Blvd., I overtook Dylan when I finally caught a good pace groove.  We were running at a pace of about 7:30 at the time.  Heading into the center of the city for a quick loop, I knew that the first really big hill test was coming up at mile 4.  At this point Dylan and Colton were behind me, and I couldn’t find them in the sea of runners anymore.

Boylan Rd. is a tough uphill section of the course. Up until mile four my right foot (which I have had trouble with lately) felt fine.  Going up this hill that all changed.  All of the sudden the pain was back.  The top of my right foot.  It almost feels like I have a stress fracture in one of my metatarsals.  It really annoyed me, and slowed me down.  As I crested the hill, my overall pace was 7:42.  I made it my goal to try to get through the next four mile section through the city, and not let that pace slip any more.  I knew that rolling hills from miles 8 to 11 would find me losing time, and knowing I wanted to finish under 1:45:00, I couldn’t afford to lose precious time during the relatively flat section through the city.  Winding through the city is always fun, but with each change in direction the wind would come at you from different directions.  Down Morgan, then Martin and finally north on Wilmington St. toward the Capitol Building.  The drumline is always a motivator!!

Running back toward Hillsborough I crossed the timing mat at the 10k split.  48:32.  Not bad!  I had lost a bit of pace in the city, but with an aching foot, I wasn’t complaining.  Out toward Glenwood Ave. S the real fun begins.  Down, the up, then down and back up for the next four miles.  Really an undulating section of the course, it will really bite you in the ass if you aren’t prepared.  I was hanging in there.  I stopped for water near mile 9.  The only time during the race that I took any hydration at all.

My mind was all over the place during this race.  A bunch of times I looked over my shoulder to see if I could locate my kids, but never could.  I found myself hoping they were having good races.  Part of me wanted to stop on the side of the course and let them catch up.  I had thoughts of my younger son getting a calf cramp on a hill and having to drop out of the race.  I had thoughts of Dylan doubled over throwing up in the bushes.  It was nerves.  Fatherly nerves.  I remained optimistic that they weren’t far behind me, and several times thought at some point during the later sections of the race that one or both would tap me on the shoulder, say hello, and then run on past me.  I knew that just beyond mile 11 would be and out and back section, when I would get a look at who was behind me for about a half mile.  As it approached, it gave me energy, knowing that I may see them.

My pacing was still good.  If I could keep it up, I would hit my goal.  I hit mile 11 at 7:55 pace overall.  I knew I could maintain it over the final two miles.  I made the turn at mile 11.6 and quickly affixed my eyes on the runners on the other side of the road.  My eyes were peeled!  A few minutes after the turn, A huge smile on my face as I spotted Colton!  I cheered him along.  Gave him two thumbs up!  I calmed down a bit.  He looked strong.  Then a few more minutes passed, and I spotted Dylan.  He saw me as well, and was pointing at his back, and shaking his head back and forth as if to say “my back is hurting, this isn’t my best but I’m doing it”.  There we all were, within five minutes if each other, making our way down the final stretch of the course back to the finish at the Bell Tower.

I was ecstatic!  What a fun way to end a race.  Lots of spectators, cheering and the finish line was approaching.  I knew that I would have to wait in the finishers chute to see both of them finish.  I crossed the line, hitting my goal.  I quickly had the race medal placed around my neck, caught my breath, and tried to find a spot on the side where I could have a view of finishers behind me.  Just a few minutes later I could see Colton approaching the finish of his first Half Marathon.  It was pure joy to watch him cross the line.  As he walked toward me a volunteer laced his medal around his neck and a big smile emerged on his face.  I gave him a huge tight hug!  He had done it.  In record time, I thought.  I was so proud.

It was now time to move out of the way of other runners.  We found a good spot, and cheered Dylan on as he then finished a few minutes later.  All of us done, all of us under two hours.  I couldn’t have been prouder.  Giving Dylan a huge hug and fist bump, we all gathered our finishers shirts, and found a place to relax on the hill.  We were all immediately freezing.  The wind was whipping around, and because we were all wet from sweat, every time the sun went behind a wispy cloud, the shivering began.

We gathered for photos, ate some food and tried to warm up in the sun.  Priceless moments in time that I will always remember.  I am so happy that I can share this wonderful sport with my sons.  It truly is a gift.  This one was all about family, and I was in my glory.

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Many, many thanks to all of the race volunteers.  Our hometown race is spectacular year after year.  Yes, the race is not easy or flat, but it’s ours.  Last year I ran the Full, and to this day it’s still my PR.  The Half this year, was my fastest half of 2014.  Not a PR, but a personal best for 2014.  Here are our official results.

There were 2,132 runners in the Half.  Overall I placed 233, Colton 329, and Dylan 414.

Our finish times:

Dad: 1:43:58.    Colton:  1:47:27.    Dylan:  1:51:01.

I finished 27th out of 160 in my Age Group.  Colton finished 20th and Dylan 23rd in their AG’s.

Pretty amazing!  Very proud!  Quite satisfied.  It was another amazing year at the City of Oaks.

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Family Affair – Half Marathon with my sons

November 2nd will be a special day.  A really special day for me and my two sons.  Why you ask?  We will be toeing the line as Dad and sons at Raleigh’s City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half Marathon.  I couldn’t be more happy about it.

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This is my hometown marathon, half and 10k.  The race that is currently my PR at the marathon distance.  A mark that I set in 2013.  This year however, I chose to run the Half Marathon with my 16 and 18 year old sons.  I am not going to try to better my time from last year in the marathon.  In fact, I just didn’t come close at all this year in achieving that new marathon PR.  My best marathon this year was about nine minutes shy of a PR.  My goal this year is to run with my kids.

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I am not really sure what to expect come race day.  My older son has run two Half marathons to date.  This will be his third.  He has run his other two half marathons this year.  His first in Hilton Head, SC,  back in February, finishing in 1:43:10.  Then his second, the Mike to Mike Half Marathon, in Fayetteville, NC.,  in 1:51:50.  He is now a freshman in college, and has been trying to train, but hasn’t gotten in the necessary miles.  Not sure what to expect from him come race day, but knowing him, since the start and finish are at NC State (where he goes to college) he will give it 110%.

This photo is over two years old.  They are both taller than me now!

This photo is over two years old. They are both taller than me now!

My younger son (16yrs.) has yet to run a Half.  This will be his first.  He has been so busy playing on his varsity soccer team in high school this Summer and Fall, that he has barely had any time to train.  He will be the wildcard on race day.  He has certainly had his fair share of workouts, just not all distance running related.  He is hardheaded like me, and I know will give it all he has on race day.

Based on our varied training, I doubt that we will all run together.  I wish we could, but that is probably unrealistic.  If we all plan to give it our all, we will probably all run at different paces.  It will be interesting, to say the least.

How do you think it will turn out?  It will certainly be a first.  We’ve competed in shorter distances together, but never a 13.1.  All I know is that the City of Oaks is about to get a handful of us.  Will it be dear old Dad that arrives first at the tape?  Will it be the college freshman with a PR better than my last two Halves?  Will it be the High School Junior with something to prove?  Surely it will be a blast!

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!

A running surprise

Image He doesn’t know it yet, but I have a big surprise for my 15, soon to be 16 year old son.  Yep, either reluctantly or by choice, he became a runner right beside me.  He would have to tell you the answer to that one.  Both of my sons have enjoyed the journey from newbie runners to pretty fast experienced runners.  I have a surprise… My younger son Colton I think feels that he has always tried to play catch up.  He is two years younger than my older son.  In the beginning, a few years ago, he would constantly finish a couple of minutes behind his older brother.  The last 5k the two competed in, Colton finally won the match up.  He then took that victory, and ran a huge PR in his last 5k.  During that race however, his older brother ran a Half Marathon.  Hum…  Time to play catch up.  If you can do it, I can do it, is I’m sure what he was thinking.  Time to step up his game.  Immediately following that event, and his brothers remarkable finish in the Half Marathon, Colton ran a 13.1 mile training run just for fun.  To prove to himself that he could do it, as well.  Since then, he has told me that he wants to run a Half Marathon sometime. We have decided to run a 10k together.  Yes, he hasn’t even competed in a 10k distant event yet.  So we will do that in June, here in our hometown.  What he doesn’t know, is that I have just signed him up for that first Half.  Since it will be his first, I will run it, too. I want to be able to run by his side, and enjoy the experience with him. image I have

signed him up for the City of Oaks Half Marathon, here in Raleigh.  I haven’t decided yet when I will tell him.  I am leaning toward giving him the entry as a birthday gift.  So, next month he will know.  As my older son finishes high school in June, and heads off to college, Colton will not have to compete with his older brother anymore.  He will get to run this race, and only compete against his own expectations.  I am really looking forward to running this race with him.

Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon – Race Recap

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What at can I say about my first attempt at this hometown race?  So much to say, so many thoughts, so much fun to remember.  I gave myself a couple of days to digest this experience before recapping so that it would all sink in.  Let me just say that first and foremost, it was just an incredible day!  Let me start from the beginning…..

Several months ago, when I started mapping out my year, I put this race on the “maybe” list.  As we all know, unless we shell out a lot of money at the first part of the year, a racing schedule typically ebbs and flows, and options are weighed throughout the course of the year.  As my plan was coming together for the Fall, I ended up signing up for the Asheville City Marathon.  It was a deal I couldn’t pass up on, because on National Running Day back in June, for one day only, the race was 50% off.  At that point, I just wasn’t sure if I could, or should, run another marathon in the Fall.  So, I listed this race on my finalized list, even though I hadn’t entered it yet.  I was offered an entry from a friend of mine, so this was an easy decision.  Done!  Signed up for my local marathon.  Cost?  $0.  Hard to beat that.  No overnight stay in a hotel, and a quick 20 mile drive to the start.

Jumping ahead a bit (we won’t talk about the minute details).  I will start with the Expo.

I planned on helping a friend of mine, if I didn’t have to work, at the Expo, which was located at the McKimmon Center on the campus of NC State.  As it turns out, I had Friday off from work so I volunteered to help.

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I drove up to the Expo on Friday, and helped out at the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate booth from 4-7pm.  It was so much fun talking to runners about this event that I ran earlier this year.  I had to pick up my packet for the race anyway, so it made perfect sense to lend a hand.  If you are looking for an absolutely beautiful marathon to do in early 2014, think about this race.  It is truly a one-of-a-kind, bucket list race.  The booth was so well put together, very inviting and professional.  Kudos to Daphne, the Race Director!   We had a great time talking shop, and all things running, Biltmore Estate, and Asheville with runners from all over that evening.  Here is a shot of Daphne and the booth.

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I had to work on Saturday, so I spent most of the day on my feet.  Not really what I wanted to be doing, but because the City of Oaks is local, I could actually work, and not take vacation time during a marathon weekend.  Bonus to running local!  Work ended at 4pm, but instead of spending the rest of the evening on the couch with my feet up, I ended up being out until 10pm.  My eldest son had a soccer playoff game, which I had to attend and support.  Then a late carb loading dinner of pasta and garlic bread.  Once home, I did finally put my feet up for some much needed relaxation.  That is, of course, after getting my race morning gear ready, and the Garmin charging.  I got to bed around 11:30, and with Daylight Savings Time, got an extra hour of sleep, even though it didn’t feel like it when the alarm when off at 3:50am.

Race morning was here.  It was a dark, chilly morning, but very promising from a marathon standpoint.  The temperature was about 48 degrees when I got up, and was supposed to be around 50 degrees and sunny at the 7am start time.  I had my coffee, and stretched, and loosened up.  The morning went off without a hitch.  I was parking my car right at 6am, an hour before the start.  Some more stretching, and trying to stay warm, I finally made the half mile walk to the starting area at NC State.  I didn’t have to use the bag check, and it was just warm enough that I was only shivering for a short while before the start.

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The race starts on Hillsborough St., right in front of the Bell Tower.  Unfortunately I dropped my bag of Sport Beans somewhere during the half mile hike to the start.  Probably because I was trying to keep my hands warm.  I didn’t realize this until 15 minutes prior to the gun when I went to grab them from my fuel belt.  Gone.  There went my pre-race jolt.  I sucked it up, and made my way into the starting area.  I managed to get into a fairly open space, behind the group going out for a 3:30:00 finish.  There were tons of people there.  One of the biggest race starts I have been in without a staggered start.  The City of Oaks race also has a Half Marathon and 10k option.  So people were wearing different colored bibs, but we were all starting together.  The Half had 2,245 runners, and the 10k had 1,038 runners.  A big crowd!  As we all sang our National Anthem, while respecting our flag at the Bell Tower, I readied myself for the 26.2 miles ahead.  I was at peace, and thankful to be there, on a beautiful morning, in my State’s capital.

Having not run this race before, I had to do a bit of homework about the course.  The first part of the course, run in and around the city of Raleigh was fairly familiar to me.  I work downtown, so many of the streets that the course is run on I am familiar with.  I usually don’t run on them, so this was going to be a treat.  The later parts of the race are run on a greenway that I was completely unfamiliar with, but had been warned about the difficulty of.

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I wish there was a map that was a little clearer to see, but this is all I can find.

The gun went off after a 10 second countdown, and the race was on!  The sun was out, the sky was blue, and runners were everywhere.  I took off at a fairly decent clip, moving in and around tons of runners.  Heading toward downtown for a few different loops, one decent sized hill is tackled early on, then a good bit of flat for the next two miles.  I kept my breathing and strides in good harmony.  I felt good.  Coming off from my really good finish last weekend in the Half marathon, I knew I wanted to try to keep my pace around 7:30 in the beginning part of the race in the city.  This worked only for a few miles.  Closer and closer to the Capital Building, I started to hear snare drums.  As we made our way right up to the center of the city, there was a great drumline giving us a beat to run to.  They were awesome!

As I approached the 5 mile point I took my first GU, and continued on.  I made a turn, and encountered a really strong cold wind.  My nose began to run a bit, and I think I lost my pace focus here.  I was paying more attention to the sights of downtown, the wind, and my nose, and not focusing enough on maintaining my pace.  I crossed the 10k mark in 47:35, a 7:40 pace.  I wasn’t off by too much, but knew I couldn’t afford to let this slip a lot lot more on this portion of the course if I wanted to PR.  The downtown portion of the course was cool because there was plenty of crowd support for the early hour.  When we turned onto Glenwood Ave., there were even folks outside riding stationary bikes at a health club.  They moved the bikes outside to the sidewalk so that folks could get their workouts in while cheering us on.  How cool was that?  I loved it!  Turning onto Peace St., we headed down toward Cameron Village.  This area is very spectator friendly, and there were tons of people.  This is also where the 10k finish is, and the first of the marathon relay exchange points is.  It was crowded, and also uphill.  I lost a bit of focus here as well, but had to enjoy the crowd.

As we headed out toward mile 9, racers were finally starting to spread out a bit more.  I had to take a leak for about three miles, but the only portopotties I saw in the city was a set of two, and there was a line to get in them.  Ducking into the woods wasn’t an option, so I had to bide my time until the opportunity presented itself.  I guess it was at about mile 10 that I finally found a spot in a residential area that I could relieve myself.  I am not shy when it comes time to take care of business during a long race, but either spectators, course monitors or my respect for privacy got in the way.  I’m sure I lost about a minute when I finally stopped.  This didn’t matter, because it had to be done.  I was at the point of discomfort by then, and felt so much better afterward.

The Half and Full split comes just before mile 11.  At this point we turn onto the greenway portion of the course.  Once again, the crowd now thinned a lot.  Runners were fewer and further between.  I kept my focus at this point on a few runners up ahead of me, and just maintaining a good overall pace.  My Garmin had me at about a 7:50 pace at this point, and I was going into the tougher section of the course.  It was about a mile onto the greenway portion that I fist felt a twinge of a cramp forming in my right calf.  I started to freak out a bit because I haven’t had any cramps lately, so I knew my electrolytes must have been off a bit, or my water consumption wasn’t enough.  I took note of this, and promptly added an extra GU into the plan, and drank more water at each aid station.  I never got a full on cramp, but it was enough of a worry that I thought about it a lot over the next several miles.  The twinges would come and go, but I think I managed them well.  I hit the 13.1 timing mat at 1:43:27, for an overall pace of 7:53.  Not bad at all, but slower than what my goal was.

The greenway was great, but also the most challenging portion of this race for me.  The out and back section was about 13 miles.  Rolling hills, beautiful Fall colors on the trees, overpasses, tunnels, sharp turns galore.  It was tough.  Many runners were reduced to walking in some sections that were tough, but plenty of top finishers still were in tip top shape when they ran past me already heading back in the other direction.  It is at about mile 17.5 that you u-turn on the greenway and head back toward the city and the finish line.  I was extremely happy to be half way done with the greenway, but knowing that the glorious downhill section was going to be a fierce uphill section at about mile 20-23.  This I was not looking forward to.  The intermittent cramping kept rearing it’s ugly head, and proved to be especially irritating the closer and closer I got to the end.  I hit mile 20 at 2:37:57, overall pace at that point of 7:53.  Nice to know that even with my struggles, and fueling tweaks, I managed not to lose any pace for seven miles on the greenway.  That was just as I arrived at the toughest section though.

I really think that this part of the course is what really could have killed my energy and focus, but instead I stayed positive, and kept going. I refused to give up, I kept my focus on trying to PR.  I knew that if I could manage to run even if I wanted to walk, that I could be successful.  I did.  I was still under PR pace after the tough section, and finally began to see the end of the greenway.  I had done it.  I was about to hit mile 24, and back onto Hillsborough St., with only a few short miles to go.  Folks were really beat up at this point, but I kept running.  I kept going, I kept running.  My Garmin clicked above 8:00 pace, slowly but surely I was losing my battle for that PR.  I knew though that I could do it.  I found that energy, that inner spirit.  I managed to pick up pace over the last mile.  The crowd support was back.  Full force, people were lined up along the streets, cheering.  They would call out my bib number.  “keep going 462, you’re almost there”.  3:30:00 slipped by, but I knew I had done it.  Those last tenths of a mile were hard fought, and so worth it.  Seeing the finish line, and the clock coming into view was so special.  I hadn’t PR’d the marathon distance in over a year and a half. I was about to do it.  I was elated to cross the finish, cheered on by the crowd.  The clock read 3:32:39.  I beat Myrtle Beach!!!  A new PR.

I had a beautiful medal placed around my neck, grabbed a few bottles of water and made my way over to the grass beneath the Bell tower to sit.  To absorb the moment.  I felt good, no limping, no cramping.  As I watched other runners coming across the line I got emotional. I actually teared up, I was so happy, and felt so accomplished.  I had set a new personal record.  I really could not believe it.  This truly was lucky #7.  I have worked so hard, and felt so incredible to have the self imposed PR monkey off my back.

So now it’s onward and upward and most importantly, forward.  I have renewed energy that my training is paying off, and my enjoyment of the run is stronger now than it ever has been.  I know I have more in me, and that if I continue to set new goals for myself, that I can conquer them.  It will never be overnight successes, but earned successes.  That is what is most important to me.

As I continue to relish in my new PR, I will share with you a few stats……

I finished 76/770 overall.  (Top 10%) (in a marathon that is huge for me!)

I finished 7/89 in my Age Group.  (Thrilled with this, too)

Chip Time: 3:32:24 (a PR by a full minute)

Overall placement at the splits:

10k split: 85th.    Half split: 91st.    20 mile split: 83rd.    Finish: 76th

What these splits mean to me is that I hung tough, on a tough course!  I was consistent throughout, and finished strong!  I can only hope to do this in every race.

Thank you Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon for a wonderful experience.  The day was rounded out with a terrific finisher village.  Fantastic post race food choices, band, beer garden and lots of happy runners.  My post race hot chicken noodle soup, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and pepperoni pizza was just what I needed and craved after a 26.2 mile epic journey.  It was truly a fantastic day, and one that I will remember forever.  For now, City of Oaks is the new time standard I have to beat.  I am racing 26.2 miles again 12 days.  Maybe too early to set another PR, but I surely will be gunning for it in Las Vegas.

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I am already looking forward to returning next year!

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November Goals

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My my goals for this month are pretty simple….

Successful completion of two marathons in 14 days, and then relax through the end of the month, enjoying the holiday with family.  I will start ramping back up a bit on December for next year, but that’s another post altogether.

Full on taper mode has been a little tough, but I have to remind myself that the rest is good for me.  Coming off of my 5th month in a row with running at least 100 miles, the focus is now just on two races.

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My next marathon is on Sunday.  Just two short days away.  I am heading out to the expo in a few hours.  Bib #462 for my 7th marathon.  I will also be volunteering my time at the Expo at the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate booth.  I am heading there to meet with the event director, and help spread the word locally about this one of a kind boutique marathon.  As an Ambassador for that event, it will be great to talk about the race with folks coming in to pick up their packets for the race this weekend.

Marathon #2, in Las Vegas is on November 17th, just two weeks from this Sunday.  I am looking forward to that race for a bunch of different reasons.  The challenge of two marathons in two weeks especially.  How will my body hold up?  I know I’ve put in the work, now it’s time for the payoff.

November – a month of new experiences, two new races, and one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced.  I am embracing November!

4 days til GO time! #COO #CityofOaksMarathon

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My hometown marathon will be my 7th.

The Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon is just four short days away.  This will be my first time running this event, and I am very excited about it.  Let’s look at the preparations….

Training has been ongoing since the beginning of the Summer.  This race was not originally on my plan for 13 in 2013, when I first started mapping it out at the beginning of the year.  What a wonderful surprise when I was offered a comped entry recently.  Because of my ongoing training, I felt fairly confident that I could include this race without disruption.  I didn’t plan on running the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon either, but now that I am doing these two marathons 14 days apart, what a great way to wrap up 2013.

I feel ready and the body is holding up just fine.  I have done a lot of racing this Fall, including the Asheville City Marathon just over a month ago.  A friend of mine recently told me how her training works.  She runs dozens of marathons a year.  If you’re not injured in any way, the marathons themselves are the training.  If you continually run distance events, the events themselves are the long runs.  The training may be the short runs, the hill work, the pace and tempo runs.  The training then becomes more about increasing speed, versus getting the body able and prepared to do the distance.  This is where I truly feel I am at right now.  I am confident that I can go the distance, both body and mind.  When you are smack dab in the middle of several Halves and Full’s, there is really no need for long runs other than on race day.  Training becomes more about the rest and recovery, and speed work.  I am ready!

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This Sunday, at 7am. (Remind me to set my clock back an hour when before I go to bed on Saturday night), the race will begin at the N.C. State Belltower.  My parking plan is set, I know exactly where to go, and how long it will take me to get there.  Extra jitters avoided when you have a plan.  My race gear will be packed and ready to go for race morning.  The weather outlook still looks incredible.  Right now the forecast is for 0% chance of rain, sunny and a high of 60 degrees.  Perfect!  Now let’s just keep it that way.

I viewed a 12 minute video of the race course online yesterday and got very excited.  The Raleigh skyline will be awesome, as well as the greenways.  Hills abound, but what race around here is flat?  I don’t know of many.  Especially when you have to include 26.2 miles into the course around the greater Raleigh area.  Image

Part of the course will take me over that bridge on Sunday.  Am I ready?  Yes!  I am ready to enjoy this great city I live and work in.  When I first moved here from NY back in 1999, I never thought I would run a marathon here.  Never even crossed my mind.  I am just 4 days away, and can’t wait to toe the line.

Everlasting Memories

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My next marathon, and first time running my hometown event!

My favorite part of marathon running are the everlasting imprints, the memories that I am left with after the big day.  The sights and sounds, the way I ran, how my body felt, and that feeling of bliss.  Each marathon tells a story.  Every race day is unique, from the venue to the runners and spectators.  I love reading about runner experiences.  Every runner has a story, every runner has a history, and a reason for toeing the line.  The excitement that a marathon brings is different for all of us, and what we take away from it is truly life changing.

My next marathon, the City of Oaks Marathon is just 26 days away.  I am already mentally preparing for this challenge.  My body is trained and ready.  Having run a marathon just 10 days ago, I will be focusing on keeping a decent base, with a few longer runs mixed in.  I only plan on running two 13.1’s over the next few weeks in preparation for this event.  Otherwise, my training runs will be short bursts, pace training on hills.  3, 4, and 5 milers should keep me loose and not over trained.

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The race course is tough.  Touted to be easier than in past years, the course changed last year, but was still reviewed as hilly.  I’m sorry, but in this area, when you design a race course that is 26.2 miles long, it’s going to include a fair number of hills.  The Raleigh area is hilly.  I have run a ton of races around the area, and very few can make a claim that they are flat.  If you train on hills, this course should be no different than other marathons.  I haven’t run this one yet, but fully expect it to be easier than three marathons I have run previously.  The City of Oaks has to be easier than both Asheville marathons I’ve run, and certainly a walk in the park compared to the Blue Ridge Marathon in Virginia.  I guess time will tell.  I will be prepared for a tough race.

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I have quite the affection for distance running.  City of Oaks will be lucky #7.  Here’s to making more memories!

I can’t wait!!!

Two Marathons in 14 days!

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I’m training hard for my Fall racing season.  In fact, I am heading out on a 7 mile, hill run in just a little while.  Lots of things to consider while I am out on my run today.  I don’t listen to music when I run, so it’s always me time.  Time to think, contemplate, reflect.  I have a lot to think about today.

Things happened to work out for adding a race into the mix this Fall.  I recently posted that I have signed up for the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon, as I was able to get the time off from work, and everything worked out perfectly schedule wise.  So I am registered, with full details of the trip reserved and booked.  I am there!

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Here is the kicker, and the topic of debate for my inner thoughts today while running.  I have yet to sign up for, but planned on running The City of Oaks Marathon, here at home in Raleigh.  Our areas premier marathon event, one that I have yet to participate in.  Last year I opted to drive to the coast and spend the weekend at The Outer Banks, and run the OBX Marathon.  The year prior to that, I had to work on the day of the marathon.  Prior to that, I never thought I would run a marathon.  I told myself earlier this year, that I would run this event.

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So, now I have to decide.  Do I play it safe, and run the Half Marathon, as a warm up to the Full in Vegas, or do I go for broke and register for the Full, and possibly qualify to become a Marathon Maniac by completing these two marathons in 14 days?  Wow!

Questions I have to ask myself…..

1.  Can my legs, feet, body overall hold up to two marathons in two weeks?

2.  Am I crazy?

I guess that’s really all the questions I have for myself.  Do you have any thoughts?  Positives, negatives?  Let me know what you think….