Marine Corps Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Saturday, 9/19/15, my oldest son and I ran an amazing race together.  A new Half Marathon to us, but a tried and true tradition for years about a two and a half hour drive from home.  This race has been on my radar for a few years now, but timing and obligations always seemed to get in the way.  Not this year!  Back at the beginning of the Summer my son called me and said “let’s sign up for a race”.  You know me, I love running races with my boys, so I searched and searched to find us a race.  Because I didn’t have a September marathon planned this year, this Half Marathon at Camp LeJeune was the perfect choice.

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This race would be my sons 5th Half, and my 29th!  The weather the week prior to the race was finally cooling off a bit.  For a few weeks I had been able to get in some training runs in more moderately warm conditions versus down right hot ones.  My son was taking this race very seriously.  He has recently gotten a lot fitter, and had really taken training for this race to a new level for him.  Based on the runs he had in the month leading up to the race, I knew if he had a good day that he would leave Dad in the dust right at the start.  Time would tell.

This race location is an interesting one for us.  Being about 150 miles away from home, it seemed too close to commit to an overnight in a hotel, but meant getting up mega early on race morning to drive there.  I chose to drive on race morning since they offered race day packet pick up.  It was way more difficult to do this than I had ever imagined.  We had to leave the house by 3am!!  Yes, 3:00am.  Ugh!  It wasn’t a big deal to my son, who threw on some headphones, and curled up in the passenger seat.  To me?  Not fun!  Because of added security measures at Camp LeJeune, they suggested we get there 90 minutes before the race.  We had to submit personal info prior to the race like drivers license info, make and model of the car I would be driving, etc..  Getting there early would mean I would have the needed time to get my parking pass, find parking on base, pick up our packets, and get prepared to race.  It all worked out just fine, it was just a very long morning.

Our race preparations went as planned.  I was a bit disappointed that the cooler morning temperatures of the prior week had decided to end abruptly that day.  When I had gotten up at 1:30am, the temperature was 70 degrees.  By the time the race started it was 72, and humid.  We hydrated the best we could before the race began, and I hoped for the best.

This race also includes a 5k, and 10k so there were plenty of runners everywhere.  A very nice large holding area/finish area, it never felt too crowded but I knew that based on previous runnings of this event that there was over 1,000 runners there ready to race.  We lined up at 6:45, and promptly at 7am, the race began.  I told my son to race smart, and to hydrate and be sure to take his gels.  Within the first 30 seconds he was well out in front of me.  I hoped he hadn’t gone out too fast, only to lose it on the second half.  United States Marines manned intersections and kept traffic under control.  Since this entire race course was taking place in their home it was only fitting.

The race course was quiet and mostly flat.  I was clocking mile paces in the 7:30 range at the beginning. This would change, and all too soon.  It was incredibly sticky outside, and by mile three began to feel more like I was running through a swamp and not running on the road.  It was tough.  The condition were not ripe for a brilliantly fast race for me, and considering I had run another Half Marathon six days prior, I wasn’t trying to set any records.  I just knew it wouldn’t happen, especially with the heat of the morning.  The race course was beautiful though.  Several signs along the way, families in their driveways cheering us on.  It felt cozy and warm.  The section of the race course along the water was very scenic and tranquil.

My race shirt usually gets soaked with sweat during a race, but this was extreme.  My shirt was soaked by mile five, and my shorts were already getting that way.  I had a guy pass me around mile five that was literally dripping from head to toe.  He was drenched!  I think he was almost leaving wet footprints as he ran by me.  It was humid!  I was enjoying myself though, and found myself hoping that I would never catch another glimpse of my son until the finish line.  I wanted him to have a great race.  He trained hard for it, and I wanted him to succeed.

My race felt dauntingly slow.  As my pace crept upward I made a goal to come in faster than 1:49:00, a mark I was using to pace myself the prior week at the Carowinds Half.  I felt this goal was achievable, even in the heat.  Beyond the midway point in the race the pack was very thin.  I raced in and around the same group of guys for quite some time.  We traded positions at every aid station.  Water was every two miles on the course up to mile 8, and then every mile until the finish.  I knew based on how much I was sweating that I had better take advantage of each one until the end.  I would skip the last one.

The later miles were tough.  I just wanted to finish.  The effort I expended during this race was far more than my previous race, and it was all because of the heat and humidity.  It really zonked my energy.  Nearing the end, I couldn’t wait to see my son.  I wanted to know how he did.  I never caught up to him, but found myself doing a double take at mile 13 when I ran up next to an ambulance and medics loading a runner onto a stretcher.  Luckily it wasn’t him, but felt badly for that guy.  Been there, done that.  Not fun.  Racing in these conditions can land you in the hospital if not properly prepared.

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The finish line finally in view, I managed to hold my pace under my goal.  I crossed the line in 1:48:08.  Receiving my medal from a U.S. marine in uniform was very nice!  My son was there to congratulate me and tell me all about his run.  We swapped war stories of the heat and how we managed to push through to the finish.  He beat me by about four minutes.  He did start out too fast, and really slowed down the last few miles.  He was pleased though with his race.

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We gathered some water and Gatorade, and tried to cool down.  Once we did, we walked right over to the car to change clothes.  It was nice to be able to do that so easily.  The car was right there!  I guess that was a benefit to getting there early that morning.  We made our way over to the large lawn that was filled with runners, family and friends.  They had quite the spread.  Tons of food, everything from funnel cakes to hotdogs, and everything inbetween.  Fruit, sweets, beer, the list goes on and on.  It was very nice.  My calves started cramping up the minute I sat down.  Even though I tried my best to stay hydrated, the heat, sun and humidity of the morning left me a bit dehydrated.

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We hung around for the award ceremony, you know, just in case one of us won something.  Plus it was just a really nice atmosphere, and much needed recuperation time before driving back home.  I’m glad we stuck around!  As they began announcing the Half Marathon awards they started with teams, then masters, then age groups.  Low and behold, my name was announced!  Second place!  Then, as they progressed to the younger age groups, my sons name was announced, too.  He had won second place in his age group!

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We were both thrilled!  The medals are beautiful, too!  We couldn’t have asked for a better way to cap off this event than with an extra medal each!  Father and son had succeeded the best we could that day given the conditions.  I’m so glad we finally ran this race, and I have to say, may become a tradition for us.  A cooler day would have been more optimal, but we had a great time together.

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My son finished in 65th place out of 975 runners!  Just amazing!  His time was 1:44:39

I finished 94th with a 1:48:08.

This Crazy Running Journey I’m On

I guess when a past time turns into a habit, turns into an obsession, turns into a passion, it’s a really good thing.  My running journey has afforded me so many great things!  Better health, both physically and mentally, focus, intent, goals, and so much more.

It started so innocently back in 2010 when my main goal was to get out on the pavement to support my oldest son when he joined the cross country team at school.  I gave him advice, I motivated him.  I signed us up for races.  We had fun running both together and separately.  We love the competition, and being out there supporting one another.

I started running more and more and more.  I wanted to tackle more distance.  Once I had run a few Half Marathons, I think it motivated him to at least think about running a Half one day.  I started running marathons.  He started running Halves.  We love racing together.  He is in college now, and doesn’t live at home.  A few weeks ago I got the greatest text ever from him.  It simply said ” Dad, when is our next Half Marathon?”  Awe!  He was basically saying, find us some races, and sign us up.

So that is exactly what I did.  I found us a few to run this Fall, since there aren’t any races with any distance here during the Summer.  It’s just too hot to race 13.1 or 26.2.  So, we will be running the Marine Corps Half Marathon in September, and the Bull City Race Fest Half in October.  I couldn’t be more excited about it, and how his running originally influenced me to run, and how now my marathon running is keeping him interested in distance running.  He’ll run a marathon one day, I’m sure of it.

Running has given me such great satisfaction over the past few years.  I started this blog, really as a diary for myself.  A place to record my memories, my achievements, my day to day running stuff.  It has become so much more than that though.  It has led to some pretty amazing friendships both virtually and in real life.  I really enjoy reading about the running journeys of people from all over the globe, we really are a family.  A running family.

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My “diary” contains a lot of personal achievements, and when coupled with race medals, really tells a story of my journey.  A journey I love to share with you.  What started so small and really just for me, this blog has had far reaching impact on others in the community, and I love that about blogging.  I am nearing 10,000 visitors on my blog, and well over 500 followers, and I want to thank each of you for providing me inspiration to be my best.  To set goals, and to achieve them.  So many of your stories have been huge inspiration on my running journey, and I hope my musings do the same for you!

Run on……

Vacation Request

I made a really big mistake this Summer.  All good intentions behind it, but it ended up being an error.  Back in the early Spring, as my kids were winding down their school years, I imagined a nice Summer trip to the beach for us.  Maybe the Outer Banks, Wrightsville Beach, Myrtle or Hilton Head.  A great idea that went up in smoke.

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Due to a busy work schedule, and an even busier social schedule for my sons, our vacation never happened.  As Summer approached we had graduations, a few races, parties, yada, yada yada.  You know how that goes.  All of the sudden my oldest now is in college, and my youngest is starting 11th grade on Monday of next week.  We didn’t make the time, or make it a priority.  Something happened.  

So, as a result, I have not been on vacation since March.  Far too long!  I am in crazy need of some time off. Luckily, that time is soon to be here.  Without the kids, finally vacation looms just around the corner.

Officially just 9 days away now, I am chomping at the bit to get the hell out of here.  I have spent the Summer working hard, and training hard.  It’s time for a well deserved break from the madness.

Thankfully Fall will be filled with some much needed time off, play time, relaxing time, and races galore.  First up is a trip to Vegas.  I like to go at least twice a year.  Looking forward, let me tell you.  Once back from Vegas, a few days of work, then my trip to Utah for Big Cottonwood Marathon.  From there, the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend.  A local race at the start of October, then a monumental trip to Chicago for a little thing called a marathon.  It will certainly be a whirlwind six weeks ahead, and I SO need it!

Did you get to enjoy a Summer vacation this year?  Where did you go and what did you see?  Maybe your stories will tide me over during my lengthy nine day stretch at work I am starting today.  You see, my next day off is vacation on August 30th.

…I Need A Vacation

What I am in serious need of is decompression time.  Time to sit, time to ponder and not have any obligations.  Time to do things for myself, and enjoy the things that mean the most to me.  That means family, that means running…. and cooking, hiking and breathing in the clean air.

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I haven’t been on vacation since March.  Contrary to popular belief, even though I was at the beach last week, I worked about 46 hours, and barely had time to even see the ocean.  

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What I need is some serious time in the mountains.  Time away from the terrible, oppressive heat and humidity.  It makes me think of the many times I have been to the mountains, and had the most relaxing vacations.  I’ve rented cabins or homes mostly, because we like to have the space to spread out, and also be able to cook.  A fully equipped kitchen is a must while on vacation.  I know, some of you may be saying, “there is no way I am cooking on vacation”.  I love to cook though, so I find it a necessity while on vacation in the mountains.  I would much rather cook than go out to eat constantly.

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What I look forward to are the crisp, cool mornings.  A nice run, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.  A good hike with family.  Taking pictures.  

Yeah, now I’ve got myself all worked up, yearning for the day this a Fall where I will be able to get away and enjoy “me time”.  Family time.

Luckily for me, I have time away planned for September.  A few months back I signed up for a Half Marathon in the Great Smoky Mountains.  This will be the weekend following the Big Cottonwood Marathon (another mountain getaway, yeah!) so extending my vacation to a full week and a half, and including two runs will be just amazing.  Vacation Races has several great National Park Half marathons on their event list, so check them out.  I am really excited about it.  I am now in the process of finding the perfect cabin to rent for a few days so that I have time to relax while in Tennessee, as well.

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While I am enduring long, tedious training runs in the North Carolina heat of Summer, I guess I just have to dream about my upcoming vacations, and hold tight, knowing that they will be here before I know it.  

Do you run while on vacation?  Maybe you plan your vacations around a race?  I like to be able to do it all while on vacation.  Relax and run.  How about you?

Run the Quay 10k & 5k – Race Recap

My hometown event.  Run local they say, and that is just what my 16 year old son and I did on Saturday morning.  After celebrating my older sons graduation from High School on Friday morning, it was a jam packed weekend.  We have only run this event one other time.  Three years ago we ran the 5k, which was the only distance offered for the first nine runnings of this race.  This being the 10 year anniversary of the event, they added both a 10k, and the 15 Quay Challenge (running both the 10k and 5k).

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I do love a challenge, so I signed up for the 15, and my son signed up for his first 10k.  Saturday morning came early, but I dropped by the Chamber of Commerce on Friday afternoon during packet pickup, so we were ready to roll.  We arrived about a half hour before the race start, such an easy 5 minute drive from the house.

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We both felt pretty good that morning.  Albeit a little tired, especially my son.  I actually ran the full “new” 10k course once in training just to familiarize myself with the course.  They described this course as hilly, challenging and full of turns.  30+ turns on the course exclusively run in historic downtown.  I wondered how many folks would miss turns and get lost on the course come race day.  I have to say, they did a great job keeping us on the right track. They color coded the miles, and had signs denoting turns as well as volunteers.  It was a great course, but tough.

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The gun went off.  The start is downhill which is part of the reason why my 5k PR of 20:45 in 2011 still stands today.  Going out strong, my son and I clocked the first mile in 6:56.  I didn’t want to tell him that so I kept quiet.  Right then though comes the first hills, and my son dropped back a bit.  He never caught back up to me, but was never that far behind.  We wound around the hilly and twisty turny course at a good clip.  Volunteers and signage made it easy to stay on course.  I concentrated on just enjoying the run.  I wasn’t trying to set any records, but did want to not have a personal worst.  I was shooting for sub 50 minutes, but knew I had the 5k directly afterward so wanted to leave a little gas in the tank for that.

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Me in purple shirt, son next to me in red.

There was a big crowd, and quite a few spectators all along the route.  The miles ticked by quickly.  Mile 3 then 4 then 5.  I knew the finish was uphill but tried to stay strong for the final push. I haven’t run a 10k race in almost two years, so of course I was surprised by how quickly it was over compared to a Half or Full marathon, which is pretty much all I’ve run the past two years.  I crossed the line in 48:25.  By far not my best, but also not my worst.  I was actually surprised that I finished as high in the standings as I did.  I finished 32/205 overall, and placed 8/32 in my age group.  This event is the only one I’ve ever run where the age groups are 10 years instead of 5.  As I’ve said before, and will continue to say, the 40-50 year old male age group is extremely competitive.  I would have placed higher in both the 20-30 and 30-40 age brackets.  Oh well.

I moved to the side of the street to start watching for my son.  Not long afterward, I saw my sons red shirt off in the distance.  He was chugging along nicely.  As he made his way up to the finish, the hill was taking its toll.  As he neared the finish, we cheered him on.  One guy, probably in his 40’s overtook him just before the finish, and I yelled out to my son “strong, finish strong”.  He turned up the heat, and passed that man and finished just in front of him.  Huffing and puffing, he was proud of his finish and so was I.  His first 10k, and he turned in a fantastic time on this difficult course.  Overall he finished 43/205, and WON his age group!!!  His time was 51:16.  Quite the honorable debut!

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My son with his first medal, and first running trophy for first place in Age Group!

As we celebrated his age group win, I had to remind myself that I had to run again.  The 10k started at 7am, and based on my finish time, I had about 40 minutes rest before the 5k began at 8:30am.  I drank an entire bottle of water without even really realizing it, and also ate a banana.  I hoped I wouldn’t cramp up during my second race.  My son stayed with family while I lined up for the 5k.  A lot more people in this event, the crowd was deep for a local event.  I wished I had brought a second race shirt, because I was still soaking wet from the 10k, but the gun went off and here we go.

Making my way on the 5k course I was familiar with, I felt good.  I wasn’t overdoing it though.  I wanted a respectable time.  The course is hilly like the other, but has a different route.  Ups and downs and some turns, I was hoping for a pace quicker than the first race.  That was my one and only goal.  Did I have enough left in the tank?  Turns out I did.  No cramping, either.  Legs were ok.  My son and friends were at the finish cheering me on as I ascended the finishing hill.  Chip time was 23:45.  Not great, but my goal was met.  A pace quicker than the 10k.  I finished 36/430 overall, and 7/41 in the 40-49 age group.

I felt good after running both races.  Not overly tired, but still have it a good effort.  My efforts that day led to an overall finish of 6th place in the 15 Quay Challenge.  There were only 28 people that opted to take the challenge of running both races.  So I guess sixth place isn’t too bad for this old timer.

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The Run the Quay Race Events is a great locally run event.  Plenty of food and water at the finish, they even had photographers there this year.  Will wait to see how those photos turn out.  More than likely horrible like most others.  We had a great time at the race, and will surely return to run it again next year.  The next race my son and I will run together will again be a new distance for him.  We are already signed up to race the City of Oaks Half Marathon in November.  Can’t wait, it’s always great to run with my kids.

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.

Hilton Head Island Running

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In just a few short days we will be hitting the road for a fantastic trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  There are a few very good reasons for this trip.  My parents retired there back in 1996.  My family has been vacationing there however, since I was in Junior High school in the early 80’s.  First my family had a time share there, which later turned into owning a condo, and then eventually the folks bought a home there to retire and live full time.  I have a lot of history there.

We vacationed there twice a year back in the early days.  Usually for Easter week, and then again right before the school year started every year around Labor Day.  I was a big tennis player when I was young, golfer, too.  Back when I was in high school I met Steffi Graf, one of the best female tennis players ever.  I played on a tennis court right next to her while she was practicing for Wimbledon.  I also met Martina Navratilova and her partner Judy in the elevator at our condo complex as she trained for Wimbledon one year while I was in college.  You see, after high school, I took the opportunity to live in Hilton Head twice.  I worked there the Summer after my freshman year in college, and then again during a co-op work experience after my second year in college.  I met a lot of other college students from around the country during that work experience, but have since lost touch with all of them.  We had a lot of fun while not working.  We partied, played tennis, and golf, hung out on the beach, etc..

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I spent the millennium New Year’s Eve there at a yacht club with my family, back when my kids were very small.  Back then, trips so see my folks were all about spending time at the pool and beach with the kids.  We always have great food, as my mom is a great cook.  It’s always been a relaxing getaway.  My stepdad passed away a few years ago, so now, my mom is getting ready to sell the house.  This will be our last trip there before the house is sold.  It’s very sad to me, and kind of the end of an era.  Mom plans to continue to live there, but it just won’t be the same.

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So the trip is about family, and enjoying most of all.  I need a few days off from work to rejuvenate my spirit.  Running will help that!  So, on Saturday, running the inaugural Hilton Head Marathon is just what I need to celebrate and enjoy the island.  My whole family is running.  My oldest son is running his first Half marathon there.  Lance, Tanner, and Colton are running the 5k.  A family affair.  Mom will be waiting at the finish during the numerous finish times, ranging from 20 plus minutes, to under four hours.  We better pack her a lunch.

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Hilton Head is a beautiful island.  A great vacation spot.  It’s really a big part of my families history.  I have a ton a great, great memories from my time in Hilton Head.  I’ve run a few races there over the past few years, but this will be my first marathon there.  I am really looking forward to it.  Fingers crossed for weather that cooperates, and making more great memories with my family.

Special reunion in NY

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The reason for the trip to NY is pictured above.  We haven’t seen my Dad in way too long, so this reunion is special.  My boys haven’t seen Grandpa in years.  Too much distance, too few visitation chances.  So this picture speaks a thousand words to me!  A cherished photo.

So far we’ve eaten Spiedies, and had some delicious ice cream, and traveled all around the area that I grew up in.  You see, I haven’t lived here for 25 years, so I am slowly getting familiar with my surroundings again.  My first job was in the Mall right across the street from the hotel we are staying at.  So many memories here, lots of good memories.  If it weren’t for my Dad still living here we probably wouldn’t have ever come back.  Our life in the South has been such a nice change to where I grew up.  I’ve lived in NC now for 14 years, and love it.

This evening we are racing.  Tromptown Run, about an hours drive from here.  Kids are running the 5k, I am running the Half.  Hope the weather holds.  Will post a recap soon on how we do.

Just a happy family reunion in the mean time, and for the next few days.  Catching up, and enjoying time together.