Garmin Vivoactive Ready

You might have guessed that on my Christmas list this year, among a few other things, was a new sport watch.  My son actually did some homework on this watch, by Garmin, and asked for one for Christmas.  I got him one!  When it was delivered (about three weeks before Christmas) I got all excited like I had bought it for myself.  After reading up on it, I decided to put it on my list, too.

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Low and behold, Santa left me one under the tree, as well.  So, after much ado, as I have been given the label “TC”, or “Technology Challenged”, I finally have it figured out.  It took some time for me to get it all programmed the way I want it, but I really like it.  A lot!  I haven’t worn a “regular” watch in years, so it has been difficult to get used to, but I am finally adjusted to wearing it all the time.

My old Garmin has been retired.

I have now been running with it on about ten times, and it works like a charm.  It syncs up with an app on my phone, so I can look at maps of where I’ve run, overall pace, elevation changes, best pace, cadence, and the list goes on.  It’s really cool!  I’ve also enjoyed the step counter (I’d been using a different app for that on my phone the past year, but it didn’t track overall mileage from my steps) and the Garmin does, so it’s very nice.  I’ve figured out that an average work day, I cover about 7-9 miles, which is just ridiculous when you think about it.  The sleep feature is the only other feature I’ve tested out so far, and it does a decent job of showing me my sleep patterns.  Bonus!

So, my Vivoactive will be making its debut on the racing scene in two days.  I am heading down to Charleston, South Carolina tomorrow evening for the marathon on Saturday.  It’s going to be an awesome race!  I am pacing the 4:00:00 marathon, so it will be a true test of how well this new device tracks mileage.  Fingers crossed, I will let you know how it goes.

Happy running!

We ALL start at ZERO

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We all start somewhere.  That somewhere is at mile zero.

Over the past 24 hours I’ve read a bunch of posts about running.  Big surprise.  What really struck me though about these posts is the elation of runners who are just starting out.  Runners completing his/her first 5k race, to runners completing a marathon for the first time.  True inspiration, truly happy stories from folks who have completed a mission.  The mission is different for all of us, but equally important.

These stories always remind me of where it all began for me.  When a need for improving my fitness became a passion.  Running didn’t become a passion for me overnight, but slowly over time.  I decided to pull out my running log, and peruse the pages.  I found some very interesting things, and they serve as a reminder for all new runners.  Keep at it, progress will come, fun will ensue.

Note to new runners- track your progress.  Buy a notebook, diary, etc.  make it a habit to record your runs, you will appreciate it later on.

Pulling out my running log, I found a few things very interesting.  The commitment began in late Summer, 2010.  I ran pretty frequently.  An excerpt from October 2010, a few things…  I ran almost daily.  Distances from two to three miles.  Over the first few months my main focus was building up endurance.  Wow, I didn’t start running distances longer than 5k until I had run almost 50 5k training runs.

Track mileage, track finish times.  Use a Garmin, or Runkeeper App., something to track your progress.  Back in my log, I tracked time only.  But I tracked my monthly totals, when I replaced shoes, etc.

In early 2011, I started running a few longer runs.  I ran a four miler, and then mixed in a few 8k’s by the end of that month.  I took it slow. Gaining confidence along the way.  All was going well.  I ran a few 10K’s the following month.  I mixed in 3,4,5 milers.  I hiked a volcano while on vacation.  I was active, and staying committed.  By the end of March, I had run 225 miles for the year.  I decided to run a 5k race.  Nine months after starting my running commitment.

I guess the points I am trying to get across are this….

-Start slow

-Build a base

-Enjoy yourself

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I see all types of runners at races.  I see all types of fitness levels, and can appreciate everyone’s own journey.  The important thing is that you are out there.  Progress is different for everyone.  Looking back in my log book proves it to me that no matter where I am in my running journey, that it began slow and small.  That guy that just passed me started slow, too.  The guy that just won the marathon laced up for the first time one day, too.  That guy that looks like he has no business being out there on that marathon course, has just as much right to be there as I do.

We are all different, BUT we are ALL runners.

I can look back and appreciate my beginnings in this sport.  Appreciate your journey.  Revel in your accomplishments, no matter how big or small.

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Happy running!  Appreciate your roots in the pavement!

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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Johnson Lexus Half Marathon – Race Recap

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Well, this morning was the first running of the Johnson Lexus Half Marathon, in Raleigh’s North Hills area.  I signed up for this race several months ago, knowing that it should be a good challenge based on the hills in the area, and the beautiful greenways that portions of the race were being run on.  I was right!  It was definitely a challenge.

The weather this morning was overcast, but dry.  Temperature was about 65 degrees at the start of the race.  It rained a good bit overnight, and yesterday, and the chances for rain during the race was 30%.  First off, it did not rain, but the recent rains certainly made running the greenways challenging.  There were many areas on the trails that were pooled with water, with a few spots being impassable unless you ran through the water.  Other spots were partially covered in big pools of water, but you could get around them by dodging off to the side of the trail, and thus, get nice and muddy.  It was a mess.  I was a mess.  The raised portions (wooden walkways) were almost treacherous at times, and very slippery.  Being in the woods, the water does not easily evaporate with the humidity we get, so parts were very slick.  I watched several runners almost wipe out from slips.  Thankfully I witnessed no one crash and fall.

Knowing that this was a “B” race for me, my final tune up, and long run for the Asheville Marathon next Saturday, I kept telling myself this morning, to run hard, but not overdo it.  I started the race pretty fast.  My first mile split was sub 7.  About a half mile at the beginning was all downhill, so it makes it tough to not go out fast.  All I could think about though while running down it, was the fact that I had to run back up it to the finish after 12.5 miles.  Less than a mile in to the race, we made a turn off onto the Greenway. It was very nice, but as I explained before, you really had to keep a close eye on the path.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like having to watch every foot strike, and be on the lookout for potential hazards while racing.  The extra stress this puts on you is unnecessary.  Plus it slows you down.  I think I really would have been able to take more advantage of the downhill portions of this race if I didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling.  Or jumping over puddles, or slipping on mud.  Just me, but I could have been faster today If the course was in better shape.  You can’t argue with Mother Nature though, and it was what it was.

A few miles in, I managed to get into a nice pace, and breathing pattern.  Things felt good.  I couldn’t keep up the sub 7 pace, but certainly didn’t expect to.  Slowly over the next several miles, my pace dropped back to levels that I am used to while racing.  7:05, then 7:17, and slowly eeked toward 7:30.  Once again, my pace today, was something that I was not stressing over.  I just wanted to enjoy the race, and get in that one last hard fought training run for next weekend.  I accomplished that, for sure.  Even though today’s race was fairly cool, the humidity was at or near 100%.  I didn’t stop for water until about mile 5-6.  I stopped at each of the remaining aid stations minus one, until the finish, but still had some cramping during that last uphill climb.  First the toes on my right foot, which made me stop and walk them out.  Then my calves started up the last quarter of a mile.  Note to self: better hydration next time.  Keep an eye on humidity levels in the days prior to racing over the next few weeks.  Crucial hydration will be key.

Here are a few photos of the race.  Not sure who took these, but were posted on the race webpage on Facebook.

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These pictures are all taken on road portions of the race.  Quite a bit of the race was on the greenways, however.  Always nice to run in areas that you never gave before.  It gives runners a unique perspective, and breaks up the monotony of a strictly asphalt road race.  Here is a picture of greenway traversing through a pond.

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As you can see, the day was overcast.  I was glad that it never rained.

This course is really nice, I enjoyed it.  I contains a few loops, so that you can see where your competition is.  I am not one to turn around and check out where the folks are behind me, so a loop here and there is nice.  You get to see where you stand, without being obvious about it.  Coming up on the 10 mile mark, the 1:45 pacer was gaining on me.  The next few miles we jockeyed back and forth.  I would forge ahead, then she would.  According to my Garmin, she was actually ahead of her assigned pace.   I think she was running with a friend, and trying to pace her to a new PR.  Anyway, I ended up beating them to the finish my seconds, after that massively tough uphill climb to the finish.  No race should finish with a 1/2 mile uphill portion, IMO.  It’s a little demoralizing after putting in so much effort, and being so close to the finish.  Downhill finishes are much preferred by this runner!

This race is put on by the Midtown Race Series.  It is well organized, and well staffed.  This time around they did take the advice from previous race participants and offered same day race packet pickup, which was very much appreciated.  I live about 45 minutes from where his race is held, so making a second trip just to pick up my bib is foolish.  Great race directors listen to runners, and this one sure did!  Thank you!

So, all in all, it was a great experience today.  Results were posted at the finish, but the most recent online update shows the following stats for my race.

Clock Time:  1:43:46

Chip time:  1:43:43

Overall Finish:  46/417

Gender Finish:  38/183

Age Group:  5/31

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Overall, I am very pleased with my race today.  My finish time was just slightly under my Half Marathon average finish time.  This was my 16th Half marathon, 6th this year.  I am feeling fit and ready to conquer the Asheville Marathon a week from today.  Recovery time this afternoon and evening, and I should be good to go.  If you have been following along on posts leading up to this race, then you know that I could have had the chance to win a Lexus today.  Title sponsor being a local dealership.  Well, they were not announcing awards until 10:30 this morning, followed by the chance to win the car.  My race finished at 8:43 this morning.  I was not going to stick around there for almost two hours to see if I would win it.  So I am Lexusless this afternoon.  My Volt will hold me just fine.

Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate – race recap

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This past March 3rd, I ran the inaugural Asheville Marathon on Biltmore Estate, and had the time of my life!  You have to give this beautiful marathon a shot on its’ new date two weeks later in 2014.  It’s run entirely on the beautiful grounds of the Biltmore Estate.

First of all, if you decide to run this event, please spend a few days in the host city of Asheville, NC.  You will not be disappointed.  Asheville is a hip and happening place, nestled in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.  The food scene is insane, delicious food is everywhere, just tempting your palate at every turn.  It is truly a foodie delight!  Be sure to check out the Burritos Favoritos at Salsa Mexican Caribbean Restaurant.  Funky, small restaurant right in the heart of downtown.  Check them out online at http://www.salsas-Asheville.com.   Ok, enough about the food, on to the race!

Buy commemorative Biltmore Estate wine here!

Buy commemorative Biltmore Estate wine here!

The expo was very easy to get to from the Residence Inn by Marriott, the hotel I was staying at.  Just minutes from downtown.  The expo had a good number of vendors, for a first year event.  There was a raffle, and tons of happy volunteers all over the host hotel.  They were all very excited to be a part of this event.  Information was easy to find, and I made my way quickly through, stopping to buy a bottle of wine pictured below, and to pick up my Mizuno race shirt, Balega race socks, and throw away gloves.  The swag was pretty nice.

Limited Edition Biltmore Marathon wine

Limited Edition Biltmore Marathon wine

Nice swag!

Nice swag!

We headed back to the hotel for a restful evening.  It was that evening that I really started to fear the weather, and potential race day effects.  The entire two days we had been in Asheville were bitter cold.  Unseasonably bitter.  The light to heavy winds made it even colder.  I had tracked the weather for a week, and was prepared with clothes, layers that could be tossed along the course.  I even went out and bought a Buff, for my neck/head, whatever I might need it for.  What will be, will be, and I will deal with it.

Race morning came very early.  I think I was up at 3:30am, which of course meant very little peaceful, hard sleep.  Coffee, coffee, more coffee.  I stepped outside to check the weather, and low and behold, it was about 10 degrees with the wind chill, and there were flurries all over.  Certainly not the weather I was hoping for.  I soon gathered all my gear, and was dropped off at the host hotel, to grab a shuttle into the Biltmore Estate.  I was on the first bus, and this was a very easy option for anyone staying at one of the race sponsored hotels.  Those of us on the first bus made it easily to the race start.  We had a ways to walk almost total darkness had us slipping on black ice.  Not what a racer wants to worry about on marathon morning.  They had set up a few warming tents, which I have to say we’re almost completely useless.  They hadn’t even gotten the heaters going by the time we arrived.  Here is a photo of the swirling snow around one of the tents.

This is what frigid looks like.

This is what frigid looks like.

The race was delayed for about 15 minutes, as the last of the shuttle buses hadn’t arrived yet.  So we all did our best to stay warm, and get a few stretches and jogs in.  Finally, the gun went off, and we began.  The first 6 miles were cold, but it was nice to get some body heat going through exercise. This part of the course was on well traveled roads on the Estate.  The surroundings were beautiful, lush with trees, pines and shrubs.  The road was undulating, but I began to catch my groove and felt like I was warming up.  I knew that about any moment, we were about to be hit head on by a view of the House.  And here is what I saw, stopping for a second to snap this priceless picture on my cell phone.

Totally amazing!!!

Totally amazing!!!

Me in front of the House, still in all my layers.

Me in front of the House, still in all my layers.

After the house, we ran down toward the gardens, and eventually out by the horse runs.  The horses were very happy to see us, and began running along with us.  This was a huge treat, and a great distraction from the bitter cold.  What actually happened at this point was that we had started to run more out in the open.  We had been fairly protected from the winds during the first 1/3 of the race, but now I was even colder.  I had pulled the buff away from my nose and mouth, and had even taken my gloves off, but had to retreat back to wearing them.  At this point in the race, runners move from a paved surface, to mostly gravel and dirt surfaces as you cross the bridge over the French Broad River onto the west side of the estate.

This side of the Estate is generally off-limits to guests of the Biltmore property, so this year when I ran it, was a first time for the public seeing these trails.  The terrain here on this 1/3 of the course was tough.  Tough on my ankles.  The gravel surface was so rough at times, that I was afraid of turning my ankles.  Not good!  This coming year they promise that the gravel paths will be groomed, and much easier on runner feet.  This section of the marathon is run through very scenic terrain, through vineyards and very old farmhouses.  It was truly a unique setting, and I felt so privileged to be running there.  Pine top area and  Dam hill area, a tough section of the marathon with a short but extremely difficult hill that has to be traversed twice.  note: nothing will prepare your legs for Dam Hill!!  I remember one section here, looking across a pond for a beautiful, picture perfect view of the Biltmore House far in the distance. Mileage at this point is about 16-18, and after that Dam Hill twice, you will be ready for the relatively flat last 1/3 of the race, as you cross back over the Bridge onto the East side of the property.

8,000 acre- America's largest back yard.

8,000 acre- America’s largest back yard.

I’ve gotten caught up in the story of the course, but have to remind myself, that although this was a beautiful marathon, the course conditions were very tough.  The terrain, far from perfect, and the weather was relentless, and brutal.  I was never able to shed the first bit of clothing.  I was not used to running in pants, or a pull over for that long.  I was planning on being warm enough to toss these items aside a few miles in, but that never happened.  Lesson learned.  Be prepared for anything.  The last few miles of the race are flat, and run along side the French Broad River, out to the Equestrian Center again for a loop around the horses, ( this time they were quiet, not running, tired of visitors).  I was so done with the race at this point.  I was walking through the last few aid stations, trying to stay hydrated.  Being so cold, and wearing so many layers, it masked a lot of the sweating I was doing, and I wanted to make sure that I maintained enough liquids.  Oh yeah, another important thing to mention about this day, if it sheds more light on the conditions, every time I grabbed a drink cup, I had to poke my gloved finger through the ice disk that had formed on the surface, which added to the misery of my cold fingers.  It was almost laughable.

The finish was nearing, and going sub 4, I now knew, was out of reach.  I had about a mile to go as my Garmin showed 4:00:00.  I managed to find one last boost of energy to get me close to the finish at Antler Hill Village.

Coming in to the finish

Coming in to the finish

It was official!  The finish of my 4th marathon.  I finished in 4:08:47.  Good for 232nd place out of 962 runners.  I was 24th in my age group.  Not much to be disappointed in, considering the conditions.  I truly enjoyed the race, and although there were plenty of down moments, the scenery, and just the fact that I was running at Biltmore, pulled me through and kept my spirits pretty high.  This was a very challenging marathon, but I highly recommend it.  The cost was higher than I usually like to pay for a marathon.  I think I signed up fairly early on, and still paid $125.

After the finish, wrapped in a finish line blanket gift, with the marathon logo, and the words "relax & celebrate".

After the finish, wrapped in a finish line blanket gift, with the marathon logo, and the words “relax & celebrate”.

I wasn’t able to stick around long at all after finishing.  I just simply was starting to freeze.  Now that I wasn’t running, the intensity of the cold (8 degrees with wind chill) was just too much to take.  I needed to change out of my soaking wet clothes, and into a warm car.  I heard that most runners had to pretty much leave right after.  I missed the awards, and everything else.  The winner came in at 2:46:47, just amazing!  Then he was promptly loaded into an EMS vehicle and taken to the hospital for hypothermia.  I heard this happened to many, many runners.  I guess being dressed in layers did help me.  Believe it or not I saw a couple of guys show up that morning in singlets.  OMG!  Not me.

This race was absolutely one of a kind.  Such fun.  A frozen mix of running, scenery, and fortitude.  26.2 miles of heaven really.  I will never forget it.

 

Family & Independence Day Recap

ImageI hope that everyone had a great day of Independence today here in the USA!  America celebrates July 4th in a multitude of ways, with fireworks, with anthems and reenactments, with food, drink and family.  I consider myself very lucky to live and be free here in the United States of America.  Today I celebrated with my family ( at least a small portion of my family).  We live far and wide, and it’s always nice to spend a little time together.

We got up bright and early this morning to run the Hilton Head Firecracker 5000 here in South Carolina where my Mom lives.  This is the first time running this event.  My two sons, as well as my Mother, we joining in on the fun, and racing, too.  This race is in its 28th year!  Because of construction, however, the race was moved this year to Jarvis Creek Park.  This park is literally less than a ten minute drive from my Mom’s house, so getting there was super easy.  Parking across Rt. 278 was plentiful at the Hilton Head school campuses.  The park, and surrounding areas were a perfect setting for a beautiful morning race.

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Picture above is myself, my Mom, and my youngest son.

The race was using strictly gun timing, which I am not a huge fan of, but whatever.  The race started about a minute late, as it took forever for the group of over 1,600 runners to get into position.  No warning, no countdown….  then…..  Firecrackers snapped and popped loudly to start the race.  My older son and I started not far behind the line, and quickly set out on this 82 degree morning.  Sticky, sunny and hot, my least favorite three words on race morning.  It is what it is, and we had to deal with it.  After all, we are in South Carolina, and it is July.  Shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

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I quickly passed my son right out of the gate.  He was having some stomach issues, which I hated for him, but we’ve all been there.  I completely understood that this would not be his day.  I usually have him ahead of me, sort of pacing myself, keeping my eye on him out in front, but not this time.  The route took us through beautiful low country roads, in and around Jarvis Creek Park.  I quickly found a good rhythm and began a good breathing pattern.  Steady from the start the crowd thinned fairly well by a half mile in.  I reached mile 1 at 6:48.  Ok, right on plan, I said to myself.  Keep moving.  As we headed out toward Hatton Place, there were a few sections that went through roundabouts.  Coming back on the first I spotted my older son, he was shaking his head to say, “this is a nightmare”.  I felt bad, but had to push on.  Approaching mile marker two, my pace was slowing, but not terribly.  I hit the marker at 14:10.  7:05 pace, which I was ok with giving the fact that I was gunning for a sub 22.  At this point I knew that if I kept on pace I could do it with a good push at the end.

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Mom pictured above – heading toward the finish.

After looping around mile 2 marker, we headed back, and it gave me another opportunity to see my boys.  This time I got to see only my younger son, who was looking really strong.  We made the turn back onto Pembroke Drive, and headed back to the Park to the finish.  I tried looking for Mom, but never caught a glimpse of her on the run.  I hoped she was having a good run/walk.  Soon enough I was at only a half mile to go.  I felt strong.  I knew that I could just pump it a little harder, and make my goal.  Closer and closer, I maintained pace, and kicked it up a notch into the finish line.  Garmin time 21:45.  I made it!!

I grabbed a few waters, and headed back to watch everyone come in.  I wanted to cheer on my kids, and then Mom, as well.  Not a shocker, but a first in 7 races together, my younger son crossed the line ahead of my older son.  Based on his complaining about abdominal cramps, I was surprised that he even finished.  He did though, not with a pretty time at all for him, but he did not give up, and still finished.  I am very proud of both of my kids, and feel very fortunate that I can share racing experiences with them.  Mom eventually came into view, and we roared with excitement for her.  She was doing it!  Racing for the first time at age 71, I have to hand it to her.  Kudos galore!  I quickly started to jog next to her to coach her to the finish.  She was thrilled.

Official results are now posted.  There were 1,632 runners.

I finished 113th overall, and 13th in my AG, with an official firecracker/gun time of 21:50.  Almost a sub 7 pace.  I haven’t had a race that fast since March 10, 2012.

My younger son had his second best time, my older had his worst 5k finish, but my Mother was the star of the day, coming in at 46:39, just over 15 minutes per mile pace.  She finished ahead of almost 200 runners.  Fantastic in my book!  Truly a family affair.

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Then it was off to the beach!!!!

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Good food and home made ice cream topped off the night, after some swimming, biking and even a couple sets of tennis.  Total exhaustion now, but a truly wonderful day.  Happy 4th of July everyone, from our neck of the woods in Hilton Head!

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