2015- My Racing Recap

I finally have a day off, with some time to actually sit down and compile a look back on another really awesome year in running.  It’s truly hard to believe that it just takes some dedication and good health to push out the kind of results that I have been able to achieve in just five years.

What truly began as a quest to help my son when he joined his High School Cross Country team, has become a passion of mine that would be hard to give up.  I don’t want to give it up, in fact, I am still striving for more.  Getting that BQ is really the only thing that I didn’t achieve in 2015, but that’s ok.  I had so much fun on the pavement, so let’s have a look back.

Hilton Head Marathon- 2/7/15. My first ever AG placement in a marathon!  2nd place!  Was thrilled with my performance in my first race of 2015.  Finish time 3:46:53

Asheville Half Marathon- 3/15/15. I paced the 1:50:00 finish group, on a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina.  The race is so challenging, yet running here evokes so much respect and history that even the hills are welcome.  Finish time 1:49:17

All American Marathon- 3/22/15. My second year in a row racing from Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg.  I had a really hard fall and got pretty banged up right before the race, so just finishing in one piece was a big accomplishment on the day.  Finish time 3:50:51

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon- 4/12/15. The intense marathon course here in 2014 prompted me to only take on the Half this time around, and then they changed the course, and left me wanting to run the Full.  Feeling a bit of a let down, a good race almost turned sour with leg cramps toward the end.  I pushed through it with the help of cheering supporters.  Finish time 1:47:46

New River Marathon- 5/2/15. A fist time running way up in the northwest corner of my state, the course was absolutely breathtaking!  Very challenging in parts, but a quiet, small event with so much to offer.  This race was one of the highlights of my year.  Finish time 3:50:13

Run the Quay 10k- 6/6/16. So much fun running my hometown event, and then watching my younger son run the 5k right after me.  Sub 8 minute mile pace on this undulating downtown course with about 35 turns.  Finish time 48:48

Aspen Valley Half Marathon- 7/18/15. Adding a new state in a 50 state quest that will probably never be completed, I paced the 2:15:00 finish group high up in the Rockies.  I felt privileged to be running such an awesome event, and the salad during the post race festival was amazing!  Finish time 2:14:41

Revel Rockies Marathon- 7/19/15. Taking full advantage of my weekend in Colorado, this challenge was a first for me.  A Half on Saturday, then this Full on Sunday.  Back to back.  The elevation and a lack of proper hydration killed my BQ attempt, but with ten miles of intermittent killer calf cramps, still managed to finish.  Finish time 3:46:46

Carowinds Run & Ride Half Marathon- 9/13/15. Pacing again for Beast Pacing, a weekend riding roller coasters with my son was reason enough to run this race.  Although the course was mega short, I made sure to get as many runners to the finish line in under 1:50 as I could.  Finish time 1:49:18

Marine Corps Half Marathon- 9/19/15. Ran this Half for the first time, and with my older son.  Been wanting to fit it into my schedule for a few years, and glad we finally ran it.  Race day’s weather was really tough, with temps way to hot and humid for a half marathon, but we both managed to win age group medals, so it was a father/son double.  Finish time 1:48:08

Chicago Marathon- 10/11/15. So happy to return to such an amazing marathon in one of my favorite cities ever!  I absolutely love this race, and would do it yearly if I was lucky enough to get in and had the travel funds.  Not my best race of the year, but certainly a blast with millions of spectators cheering me on by name!  Finish time 3:49:38

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon- 10/18/15. Amazing event in downtown Durham, my son and I paced a race for the first time together in the same group.  An epic experience that we both really enjoyed.  We paced the 8:30 per mile group and came in just under goal time in 8:29.  We rocked it!  Finish time 1:51:14

TCS New York City Marathon- 11/1/15. What can I say?  The NYC Marathon was the crowning achievement of 2015 and my last race of the year.  One of the Big 6, this race has it all.  Big city, big production, millions of spectators, and too many bridges!  Having my Dad and Brother there cheering me on was the highlight of my year.  Finishing in the top 15% was more than I could hope for.  It was also my fastest marathon finish of 2015.  Finish time 3:45:23

 

All in all, just an amazing year of running and racing.  Six Fulls, six Halves, and a 10k sprinkled in for good measure.  Happy New Year to you all, and hope that your running takes you places in heart and sole, that you never thought possible.  Here’s to 2016!  Make it EPIC!

Hilton Head Island Marathon 2015- Race Recap

An absolute whirlwind the past few days have been.  I am still pretty exhausted, but hope to catch up with myself over the course of today and tomorrow.  With the race being on Saturday, I have now had a bit of time to soak it in, so here goes with the story of marathon #17…….

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We left home on Friday, February 6th just before 1pm.  Heading down to Hilton Head from here takes about five hours.  The weather was a bit chilly, but really nice for a drive.  Sunshine and thankfully traffic on Interstate 95 was not all that bad.  The drive down was uneventful.  My son had his headphones on for most of it, so I got to switch my XM channels back and forth between 70’s and 80’s music and CNN.  It was a very relaxing drive.

We got to Hilton Head right on schedule, and drove straight to packet pick up at the Westin Resort in Port Royal Plantation.  This being the first time I have ever run a marathon a second time, I knew that the packet pick up would only take minutes.  I was right!  No muss no fuss.  Into the line, and had my bib, shirt and various freebies in less than two minutes.  My son Colton, got into his line for the 5K, and had his stuff in moments, as well.  There really isn’t much to see at this expo.  A very few vendors, and the only thing I needed was five packets of GU, so thankfully the Palmetto Running Company could fulfill my one and only purchasing need.  We double checked our bib chips to make sure they worked, and we headed out.  The drive from the Westin to my Mother’s house is less than five minutes, so before we knew it we were pulling into the driveway.

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A nice reunion with Mom was followed by a relaxing evening at the house.  We settled in, and had a few snacks as she prepared a dinner of chicken marinara and pasta.  A great pre-race home cooked meal, complete with a salad and garlic bread.  Perfect!  Race morning would come fairly early, so I wasn’t long for the world that evening.  We mapped out our plan for the morning, and we headed off to bed.

I don’t now about you, but it’s especially sweet to be at a destination race, and be able to stay with family.  This doesn’t happen often, but enjoying the comforts of a home while away at a race is very nice.  Thanks Mom!

My alarm went off at 5am.  I had been fairly nervous leading up to this race being my first race in over three months.  I was actually fairly calm when I woke up after a really good sleep.  I made coffee and sat on the deck while it brewed.  The forecast had been perfect.  It was about 38 degrees when I got up, but it was supposed to warm up to about 40 by 8am when the race was to start.  The eventual high for the day was to be about 63.  No clouds, only sunshine.  Couldn’t ask for better.  As I sat with my coffee I was remembering last year at the race.  My performance had been sort of lackluster.  The weather was lackluster with rain, clouds and wind.  This year would be different I kept telling myself.

Mom lives very close to where the race starts, so we didn’t leave the house until 7:15.  Such a huge bonus, this really makes this race worthwhile for me.  There have been times for other races where I have had to leave the house three hours before the start.  45 minutes for this one.  Unheard of!  Before we knew it we were at Jarvis Creek Park, and getting ready to line up.

We have our jackets to Mom who would be there to watch the finish of Colton’s 5k before they headed back to the house for a while before coming back to watch my finish.  The morning was perfect!  Not a cloud in the sky.

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Such a beautiful setting for a race!

After snapping a few selfies, we spotted this woman wearing a shirt I had not seen before.  Hum…  Interesting choice.  Not sure if her butt ran fast or not.

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Promptly at 8am, the air horn sounded and we were off.  I remembered going out a bit too fast last year, so I didn’t want to make the same mistake this year.  We purposely started back a ways but found it annoying to have to weave around slow pokes that had no business being lined up where they were.  It never fails.  I need to publish a runner courtesy handbook so that everyone that races understands proper etiquette.  I encourage all types of runners to race but please, if you walk, or have a pace of 10, 11, 12 or more minutes per mile, you have no business lining up with a 8 or 9 minutes per mile pacer.  You just don’t.

The 5k, Half and Full courses are identical for the first two miles or so, so I knew I would at least be able to see my son for the first bit of the race.  He was in front of me for about a mile and a half before I caught up to him.  I didn’t feel like I was running too fast, but from behind him, he looked like he was just running too casually.  He looked slow.  When I finally caught him, I urged him to speed up.  He pulled off his headphones and told me that he had turned his ankle on a curb trying to get around someone, and that he was in pain.  Knowing he only had about a mile to go, I told him to just give it his best, and ice it after the finish.  I knew my Mom was at the finish and could tend to him if he needed help, so as confidently as I could I passed him.  We had agreed that he would text me his finish time once they got back to the house.  I had to wait.

The marathon course is mostly flat, but has four passes over a fairly substantial bridge over Broad Creek.  Heading into mile 5 is the first crossing.  I felt good going up and over the bridge the first time.  The course changed a bit this year, and the next two miles seemed a bit different to me.  There was actually one spot where we were on a wooded trail.  They had done a nice job of highlighting tree roots on the path with white spray paint.  Otherwise this could have been a very tricky part of the race with proper footing.

At this point in the race I really felt pretty comfortable.  My breathing was good, I wasn’t cold and I felt like I was maintaining a very consistent pace.  Most of the time when I race I switch my Garmin screen view to “pace view” right after the start.  This time I left my Garmin on “overall time”, or elapsed time the entire race except for once.  I toggled over to see my pace at about mile 7 to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it too early in the race.  I was on track.  Under 8 minutes per mile, I don’t remember exactly, but pace felt comfortable.  With a few turns, we were back on the Cross Island Parkway and about to make a second pass over the bridge.

Another successful pass up and over the bridge between miles seven and eight brought us to the point in the course where turned off the parkway and headed out toward Spanish Wells.  I remembered that last year between miles 9 and 10 that it started raining my mood dropped as well as my pace.  I vowed to myself that this wouldn’t happen again.  I felt strong.  I enjoyed the scenery, the live oak trees, the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  Beautiful, huge homes.  Occasionally island residents would be out in their driveways cheering on runners, but mostly they were still in bed, I think.  It was quiet.  Peaceful.  A beautiful morning for a run, and I was enjoying it.

I passed the first timing mat at mile 11.  Crossing at 1:27:54, for an overall pace of 7:59.  I was right on track.  As nervous as I was heading into this race about not feeling prepared, my body was holding up.  Just a few miles later though I started to feel some pain in the top of my right foot.  A familiar pain.  A few years ago I fractured a metatarsal in a car accident, and the pain was just like it.  Maybe I tied my shoe too tight.  Maybe the tongue of the shoe twisted somehow.  I wasn’t sure, but it was very annoying.  I stopped quickly at a water station to adjust it, but it just didn’t work.  The pain was there, and would stay with me the rest of the race.  I just had to try to forget about it and run through the pain.  I knew it was not something that I would have to quit the race over, but it was concerning.

The half way point came and went.  Aside from my right foot all was going well.  I checked my Garmin at 13.1.  My time was 1:43-ish.  I thought to myself “this is going too well”.  Right on track.  My spirits were still in good shape, and I chatted with almost every runner that I past.  I remember thinking somewhere in here that I was surprised I hadn’t heard from my son yet.  Why hadn’t he texted me yet?  I started thinking things like is he really hurt?  Maybe he is in the medical tent having his ankle wrapped.  I was worrying.  Then a few minutes later a “ding” on my phone.  This is what I saw as I drew my phone up to my eyes.  “2nd place age group”.  Wow!  Now I know why it took so long to hear from him.  He placed in his age group and had to wait around for the medal ceremony.  Worth the wait, I’d say!  I wrote “awesome!”, to which he replied “got a medal”.  Then he wrote that he was about to ice his ankle.  He asked me where I was, to which I responded, “mile 14”.

Knowing that all was good with him, I got back to focusing on my race.  Oh, by the way, for those of you who haven’t tried it, it’s really quite amusing to try to text back and forth while running a marathon.  We had agreed before the race that I would let him know via text when I hit mile 20, so that he and my Mom could head back to the park to watch me finish.  My focus was now on the next five miles.  Another trail-type section came up at mile 15.5 as we made our way through a field in Honey Horn.  Another new part of the course with some uneven footing, you really had to concentrate on foot strikes here.  It was a cool change from last year.

The next few miles put us back on the Cross Island Parkway.  Miles 16-18 were tough for me last year, so I knew I had a battle in front of me.  It is a boring straight section.  No spectators, straight into the sun, knowing the third pass over the bridge was looming in the distance.  I tried very hard to focus, but knew my pace was dropping off some.  I was tired.  I was not hot, but I needed some water and had two miles to go before another water stop.  My attitude could have really sucked here, but I repeated my race mantra in my head, “the heat is on”, and started to think of a friend of mine.  The night before the race I read a post on Facebook from a friend of mine in my childhood.  We haven’t had any contact whatsoever since Junior High School, but became friends on Facebook a few years ago because we are both runners.  He posted on Friday night that he had some terrible injuries to his knee through years of playing soccer, running and competing as a triathlete.  I had known this prior and he had some pretty major surgeries to try to fix his knee so that he could once again do what he loved.  He stated in his post that he would never win a marathon, or triathlon but at least wanted to get back to the sports that made his life complete.  That he endured the harsh surgeries and recovery so that he could once again play soccer with his young son, to run around the yard with his daughter, to race again one day.  He had gotten news from his Doctor and physical therapist that day that he was cleared to start running again.  I could sense his relief and joy in his post.  At this darker moment in the race I began to think of him, and to run, not walk for him.  To use his words as encouragement.  To dedicate these next two tough miles to him and his recovery.  It helped me through.  Tim, those tough miles were for you, my friend!  And thank you for inspiring me!

Before I knew it, I hydrated up, and hit the bridge at mile 19.  Here is the one and only photo I took during the race.

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That was my view from the bridge.

I texted that picture to my son along with the words “I Hate Bridge”.  Makes me laugh to read that now, and it perfectly describes how I felt at the time.  Coming off the bridge, miles 19-22 were and out and back through Point Comfort.  Another beautiful area on the island.  More importantly it meant that my final pass over the bridge at mile 22 was coming up.  I crossed the 20 mile timing mat at 2:47:09, again texting my son so they could head toward the finish.  I knew it would take me about an hour from the twenty mile mat to get to the finish.  My overall pace now was standing at 8:21.  Not bad, I thought.

I had to walk a bit up the bridge that last time at mile 22.  Losing time, of course, but it couldn’t be helped.  I just couldn’t manage to run it faster than I could walk it.  So I chose my spots on the uphill, and speed walked twice for about 20 seconds.  I told myself this was the only break I would allow myself to secure a strong finish.

I hit mile 23, done with that bridge for the final time.  It should be smooth, flat and comfortable until the end.  Then it happened!  Out of nowhere, my right foot big toe locked into the straight position.  It cramped up completely.  I had to stop to stretch it out.  I had to get it bending again so that I could run.  It was amazingly uncomfortable and very disheartening.  I had so few miles left to go and now this.  I was discouraged.  I got it going again, and started running although I was not confident at all that it wouldn’t cramp up again.  About a half mile later it happened again.  I stopped, stretched, and started running again.  What a pain, literally!  Must have been my hydration, no other way to explain it.  I thought I managed well, but I must have been a bit dehydrated.  Damn it!  Well, I got that toe to move one last time and made my way to the finish.  I didn’t have to stop again, and just before the mile 26 mark, we veered off the road onto the path around the pond at the park.  The final quarter mile was quiet, no one in front of me, and no one behind me.  Just a serene view of the water, and the finish line on the opposite side.  I knew my son and mother would be there to greet me.

Making the final approach to the finish, a few cheers here and there sprinkled in I saw them.  There they were, waiting for me!  Crossing the line in 3:46:53.  They both had two cups of water for me, which I downed immediately.  The medal draped around my neck, we walked gingerly away from the finisher chute.  I did it!  The last few miles weren’t altogether pretty, but I managed yet another marathon finish.

I really was happy with how I did overall.  We all talked, and caught up.  We walked over to the timing tent to enter my bib number, and this totally shocked me!

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What?  I placed second in my age group?  At a marathon?  OMG!!!  I finished 38th overall, too!  Wow!  I was shocked!

Instead of just grabbing a slice of pizza and heading to the car, winning an additional award meant we had to stay awhile for the ceremony.  So, we walked back to the car to change clothes before heading back to the park.  We found a nice sunny spot and relaxed.  We listened to some music, ate some food and just soaked in the experience.  What a great day!  My son and I both own age group medals, so we couldn’t have asked for a much better day.

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Hilton Head is not only the first marathon I have now run twice, but I may now have to go back for a threepeat.

An interesting factoid about this race….  Hilton Head is a vacation destination mainly, even though my mom lives there.  People vacation there to enjoy the beaches, the golf, the tennis.  The weather!  A lot of residents do participate in races there, but looking at the finisher list in the marathon, one thing is quite clear.  The Hilton Head Marathon is truly a destination race.  The top 10 finishers in the marathon all came from different states.  In order, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Maryland and California.  How cool is that?

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And how cool is it that I walk away from Hilton Head in 2015 with two medals, not just one?

Island Marathon

Well, my seven day stretch at work is finally over.  Maybe now I can rest my feet up for the marathon this Saturday.

A, eh, yep, only two days away from Marathon #17.  God, that’s sounds frightening!  It does, and it doesn’t.  Helps that I have some experience.  I’ve been sublimating my stress with dark chocolate.  It doesn’t help that Valentine Candy is more than readily available everywhere you look.

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So tomorrow I am hitting the road for the drive to southern South Carolina.  Hilton Head Island is the destination.  Having run 16 all unique and different marathons all over, this will be the first time I will be running the same marathon a second time.

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I got the pre-race email this afternoon.  My bib # is 1103.  Trying to find some meaning in that number, but I haven’t come up with anything yet.

As I type this I truly can’t believe that it is only two days away!  My 16 year old son is accompanying me on this trip.  He is running the 5k, as his next big race is a Half Marathon in March.  This will be a good test of his legs.  Wondering if he can beat his time from last year, which is his PR.

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In any event, I am looking forward to the trip, the race on Saturday, and the relaxation on the beach immediately following.

Preview- Hilton Head Marathon

Last year a this time I was preparing for a year full of marathons.  Eight, to be exact.  I had just run a final training run on 1/1/14 of 10 miles, and was preparing the downward turn in training, aka the taper, for my first of the year in Charleston.  This year is different for many reasons.

For those of you that frequent my blog, you know I like to run new races.  So focused on trying to get into Boston, I picked a few flat marathons last year, and really didn’t have any success taking advantage of those courses.  As I evaluated my year, I realized that although I really enjoyed the multiple marathons I ran last year, that it’s more about quality over quantity.  Even though races are close by, I will not repeat marathons that I just didn’t enjoy for one reason or another.  Take for instance the Tobacco Road Marathon.  I ran it in 2012, and haven’t been back.  It’s even right here in the area.  A short 25 minute drive from home. Even though Runner’s World magazine touts it as one of the ten best new marathons, I just don’t care for the boring nature of the course.  Just because it’s flat, does not mean it is an awesome race.

So, in understanding myself a bit better this year, and what is important to me when running a race, my goals have changed somewhat.  I will not run a race solely on the basis that it is considered “flat”.  I really could care less.  I enjoy hills, undulation, scenery.  Sure, I want to qualify for Boston eventually, but I will not run flat races solely on the hope of a faster time.  When I lace up to run 26.2 miles, I want to enjoy the course.

With all of that being said, I have carefully planned a few races for this year based on the enjoyment of the overall experience.  The Hilton Head Marathon is my first of the year.  This race, which I thought I would never run again based on my Mother’s potential move and selling her house last year, holds a special place in my heart.  Well, Hilton Head does.  My Mom never sold her house, which is a short 10 minute easy drive to the starting line.  Race day logistics are so easy because of that.  Race day is five weeks from tomorrow!

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Hilton Head is a beautiful place.  Tucked into the southeast corner of South Carolina on the coast, Hilton Head has been a family vacation spot since I was about 12 years old.  It holds many memories.  Playing in the surf there when I was young, working there in 1990 and 1991.  Spending the Millennium New Year’s Eve there at the Hilton Head Yacht Club.  My mother has lived there now for close to 20 years.  I will be driving down there for the weekend of February 6-8.

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The weather at last years race was less than perfect.  It was cold, it rained.  It didn’t perform the greatest at all, with a finish of 3:54:00, but it was challenging, and beautiful and memorable.  All things I look for in a race.  Sure, this course features two difficult over and back sections on a pretty big bridge over the intercostal waterway, but it adds character to the run.  Mentally I will be more prepared for that bridge this year.

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I am running Hilton Head again because of family, history, beauty and memories.  I am not running it in hopes of a Boston qualifying run.  Hilton Head is kicking off my 2015 race year, and I hope it’s even more memorable than last year.

2015- Marathon Calendar

As 2014 comes to a close in just a little over a month, the focus for many runners out there is picking which races will fill the calendar in the year to come.  How does one choose?  There are so many factors that go into the decision making process.

Do you choose races based on price?  How about location?  Do you look for races within driving distance, or is a destination race including airfare not out of the question?  Do you choose races based on the course?  Big races, small races, races for charity?  PR chances?  With so many options out there for racing at any distance, the possibilities are endless.

What have you chosen?

Here’s look at some of my choices….

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I chose this one based on proximity to family.

Asheville in March…. and All American a week later.  Yes please….  North Carolina races.  One about four hours away in the mountains, the other a military event about an hour from home.

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Looking forward to returning to both of these events.  Both tried and true.  Awesome races!

Up until this point in my “marathon career”, I’ve raced 16 marathons.  Each one of them has been different.  Looking at these three races, I have run each of them one time before.  It’s time for me to return and try to better my times.  Can you believe I haven’t repeated any marathons up until now?  Wow, it’s true.

I do however need a new race for 2015, and for that I am looking at the New River Marathon, in Todd, NC.  Another event in the mountains, the beautiful area near Boone.  A small race by comparison to many others, this race has a real small town feel.  At least that’s what I’ve heard.

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I am not 100% decided yet! but really want to run this one!

I need to jump on an airplane this Summer, and head to a Revel event.  This year was Big Cottonwood in Utah, next July I am planning on Revel Rockies in Denver.  Destination, and PR chance, to boot.

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This will be my attempt at Boston 2016.  Let’s see if I can make it happen.

Next Fall?  Gosh, I haven’t given it a ton of thought just yet.  Solidifying the next six months has been more critical right now.  Oh, how I would love to return to Chicago again.  Big Cottonwood?  Would absolutely love to run that one again, but does money grow on trees?  I have to remember that I can’t do it all.  I did enter a contest to get into the New York City Marathon next year, but that will probably never happen.  Can’t hurt thinking about it though, right?

Well, that’s where I’m at with my planning right now.  Have you decided on any big races for next year yet?  It’s such a great time for planning, and remember….  many races are offering Black Friday discounts not only tomorrow, but throughout the rest of the weekend.

Happy planning!  Let me know if you’ve found a can’t miss race that I need to try to squeeze into my schedule.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Have you said your thanks for the ability to run today?  I know I have.

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!

February running recap

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The miles weren’t easy, but they sure were fun.  I’ve found it very difficult to brave the cold winter we’ve had this year to get my training in.  Mix that together with recovery from the Hilton Head Marathon, and I just didn’t get a ton of miles in this past month.

Total miles just under 70 including said marathon, was all I could scrape together.  Ok, ok, I need to give myself a break, after all, February is the shortest month of the year.  The good news is, that I have been able to string together 6 runs in seven days, without much pain at all.  Things are looking up.  We’ve even had a few warmer days, and with Daylight Savings Time this weekend, it means more daylight for getting in my runs.  Less excuses.

As I look ahead at March, there are many things I would like to accomplish.  First and foremost is an increase in mileage.  Secondly, how about a nice BQ at the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon in 13 days.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Ok, if I hit that goal, I may just take a week off to celebrate.  After some recovery no matter how that race goes, I have to ramp back up for my next 26.2 in April.  My birthday race, mid month.

Oh, and I really need to start some race planning for Fall.  At this point I have one marathon and two half marathons planned.  I need to find a September Full, so if you have any ideas for a great marathon in September, let me know.

Onward and upward.  February ended well, so let’s push for an even better month of March!

Hilton Head Island Marathon – Race recap

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The inaugural Hilton Head Marathon is going to be a tough one to summarize for many reasons.  There were many, many highs, along with some lows.  I guess that may be true for a lot of races, but I think now that I have had a few days to digest the race this one was so much more in my head and heart, and not necessarily in my feet.  I will try to explain…..

As I began planning out my races for the first half of 2014, I realized that this race would be my 10th marathon.  What an amazing achievement, but also bittersweet.  I would be traveling to this race, to Hilton Head, but it would really be my last visit to my Mother’s house before she puts it on the market to sell.  Yes, bittersweet.  Not sure when I will be back again, probably never again to the house, the mix of emotions and memories really got to me over the long weekend.

We drove down Thursday evening after work.  It’s a five hour drive, and after working eight straight days, I was just exhausted even before we arrived.  Mom, of course, was thrilled to see us.  She had prepared, and was taking hot homemade pizza out of the oven as we pulled up.  We got in about 9:30pm.  A great start to the weekend, we relaxed a bit to wind down from the drive, and hit the hay.

Friday was a day of relaxation for me.  I planned on doing very little except for getting in a quick last minute two mile tune up run.  The kids really wanted to play some golf, so that is exactly what they did.  So while they golfed, I went on a few mile peaceful walk on the beach.  Just what the doctor ordered.  It was a beautiful day.

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My late afternoon run was just a final stretch out for me to prepare for Saturday.  I made my way down golf cart paths around the plantation.  As I crossed a bridge over a pond on the golf course, I watched a huge pelican fly over me.  It was very peaceful, and reflective.  I was alone with my thoughts, and my feet carried me lightly through the live oaks and Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  What a great place to run.

In the early evening we had to make our way to the race Expo.  As luck would have it, we could have walked there.  It was that close to mom’s house. She lives in Port Royal Plantation, on the private side.  The race expo was in Port Royal, too, but on the public side, at the Westin Resort Hotel.  It was a very small expo.  It was a quick in and out really.  Just a shirt and bib pick up, and a few vendors.  They did have a chip check, but that was really it.

So, all in all, I think this was the quickest trip to and back from an expo ever!  We were gone from the house for probably 25 minutes total.  Not too bad.  We had a delicious dinner that night.  Pasta, chicken and salad, all well prepared by my Mom.  Then, we capped off the day by watching the 2014 Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi.  Overall, a very relaxing day.  Time to get ready for race day, and get some rest.

This race is located only about a ten minute drive from the house, so we were lucky.  That meant a decent nights rest without worry about  a long commute to the race.  The race began at 8am, so we didn’t even leave the house until 7:15.  We all got up, and prepped.  Believe it or not, and I have talked many times previous to this post about the eventuality of a rainy race.  I was ready for it, thanks to a lot of great advice.  When I got up however, it was not raining.  It sprinkled for about 15 seconds, and that was it.  Looking at the local weather though, it looked like it would begin raining now sometime around 8am, just as the race was starting.

Easy parking across the street at a school, and a short walk to Jarvis Creek Park, we were at the start.  Right before the start we snapped a bunch of pictures.  It was about right then, that I realized that I was not alone in this race.  My whole family was running one event or another.  I started thinking more about their race, than mine.  Then things really got real.

The gun went off right at 8am.  I had lined up with my older son, who was running his first Half Marathon.  Further back were Lance, Colton and Tanner, all running the 5k.  We shot out pretty quickly for a mass start for all races.  The course for all three distances covered the first 2 miles together.  Just after about a half mile in, as my older son and I were dodging in and out of the crowd, trying to find room, my younger son shot right past us.  We was moving!  I was thrilled!  There was a turnaround just before the first mile marker.  I saw Colton on the other side as I approached it.  I made the turn, followed by Dylan.  It was then that I was trying to maintain pace, but fighting not going too fast.  When there is a mass start, it’s always more challenging for me not to go out to fast against those running shorter distances.  I found myself wanting to keep Colton in my view.  I knew he was running strong, and found myself wishing I could watch him finish.

The 5k turnaround came about 2.5 miles in.  So, Colton comes back in my direction with a big smile, and much determined look on his face.   I high fived him, and told him to finish strong.  Again, I found myself wishing I could watch him finish.  Alas, I had 24 more miles to go.  Most of this race is flat, but coming up just after the five mile mark was the first crossing over the bridge. Dylan was behind me somewhere, not sure where.  I was strong up the bridge, and glided down the other side. An extremely skinny tall guy, probably late 40’s whizzed past me on downhill.  He was booking.  About a half mile ahead, he was throwing up on the side of the road.  I never saw him again after that.

Wait, isn’t it supposed to be raining?  Oh yeah, it wasn’t.  I had worn a hat, something new to me, and had also left me phone in the car.  I usually run with my phone so that I can text out mile markers every now and then to those waiting at the finish for me.  I couldn’t do this for this race.  I wonder how Dylan is doing.  He has had stomach problems in other various races of shorter distances, I hope he is ok.  I hope he wasn’t back there puking alongside the other guy.  I tried to keep focused.  Focus, focus.  I was thinking more about my family, the rain, than on my race.

Mile 6.5 takes a turn onto a nice bike trail, for a loop down by Palmetto Bay Rd.  The south side of the island.  Promptly, at about mile 7, it started sprinkling.  By mile 8, it was a good light rain.  Ok, gear up, I told myself.  Wow!  In the midst of all of my mind wanderings, I had completely forgotten to take my first GU.  That would explain why my pace was dropping off.  What was once a pace of 7:30 was now at 7:43.  Right after I finished my gel, Dylan appears by my side.  What a relief, I thought.  We exchanged a few words, and he seemed really strong.  His longest training run was ten miles, and that was on a treadmill.  He was doing great!!  I told him to go, go, go.  He pulled away from me right after that.  He looked great.  Mile 9, a turn back toward the bridge for another crossing.  Give me strength.  I pounded up the bridge the best I could.  Dylan was moving further and further ahead.  I wanted to keep him within view for as long as possible.  He slowly faded away as we approached mile 10.  I was so happy for him.  He was matching his longest run ever, and had just 5k to go.  Me, on the other hand, had a long way to go.

At mile 10.5 the half marathoners and full marathoners split.  We turned out toward Spanish Wells Road, and they kept moving on the Cross Island Parkway back to Jarvis Creek Park.  At this point the runners became very sparse.  What a huge difference.  I knew that there were going to be several hundred more in the half marathon, but wow.  I now could only see about three to four runners ahead of me instead of a hundred.  I still felt pretty good, and I was dealing with the rain the best way I could.  I was trying to stay positive about it.  I was trying to stay away from puddles to keep my shoes as dry as possible.  Good thing that it wasn’t a downpour.  It was a light, steady rain.  Nothing too difficult, but I worried for me feet.  I worried about blisters, but other than that I felt good.  My legs were holding up.  The temperature was fine, upper 40’s.  I wasn’t cold.

As I hit mile 11, I felt myself slowing down.  I really felt it.  My 7 something pace was quickly approaching an 8 something pace.  I was disappointed.  As I past mile 12, wow, really slowing down.  I kept thinking about my boys.  How did they finish?  I wanted to know.  If I had my phone, they would have texted me by now.  I didn’t.  Knowing how they finished would have to wait.  I made my way to the timing mat at 13.1, for a 1:46:04.  Pace 8:05.  Mentally, I wasn’t in it like I needed to be.  My thoughts were elsewhere, and not on my race.  I oddly was ok with it.  I wasn’t disappointed in being unfocused until after the race.  This was a momentous day for my sons.  I thought of them instead of myself.

I am not going to lie here, the next several miles were a complete struggle.  We got back onto the Parkway about mile 15.  This section was boring, and rainy, and tiresome.  I wanted to be done.  Plus I knew that as the next few miles ticked by, it meant that I had to traverse the bridge, yet again.  So, at mile 17.5, the bridge comes into view, and my attitude dips.  Just get over it.  Oh, here comes the leader, meaning he is five miles ahead of me.  I was jealous.  I enjoyed the downhill off the bridge.  I tried to glide, and pick up the pace, even for just a moment.  We turned out toward Point Comfort, again on the south end of the island.  Pretty houses, marsh views.  It stopped raining here, too.  Ok, so the bulk of the race was behind me, the rain had stopped.  Let’s finish.  Let’s find that energy to get it done.

Mile 20 turns, and we head back toward the finish.  Back to the bridge.  Omg, not again.  This time the wind had picked up a bit, and I felt extremely cold running over the bridge.  I had to walk a few times, and then just try to meander my way to the end.  My pace was shot at this point, so my main goal became staying strong enough to finish sub 4.   The finish was actually fun, if you can call the last mile of a marathon fun.  My family was waiting at the entrance to Jarvis Park, cheering me on.  As I made the turn, I had about a half mile run around the pond in the park to finish.  I was a quiet, tranquil run around the pond.  I could see the finish, and I was alone.  No one around me.  It was quiet.  The crowd was cheering as I hit the finish line.  Sub 4 accomplished.  Family waiting with stories of their own races.  My body was beat up, my hips and knees.  The underside of my right foot was burning.  I knew this meant a blister had formed in my wet shoe.  I was glad it was over.

My 10th marathon was complete.  I was happy, but happier for my kids, as they told me of their runs.  Wish I could have seen both of them finish.

Here is a look at my medal.

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Stats certainly not what I wanted, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Finished 48th overall, out of 160.

Chip time: 3:54:00

My 5th sub 4 hour marathon in a row, and just about 7 minutes slower than the Charleston Marathon three weeks ago.  I am proud of my 10th, but even more proud of my kids.  Dylan finished his first Half Marathon in 68th place out of 579 runners.  Just amazing.  He won a medal for 2nd place in the 19 and under AG.  His finish time was an amazing 1:43:10.  So incredibly proud of him!  Here he is coming to the finish line.

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Colton had a massive PR in the 5k.  He placed 19th overall, out of exactly 300 runners.  At 15 years old, I am in awe of his accomplishment.  Simply incredible!  He finished in 22:39, and just out of the medals in his AG, in 4th place.

It really was a fantastic weekend.  Lance and Tanner had great races, too, and they didn’t even train.  I love my family!  Time with family is so precious and sometimes limited, that I really will cherish the memories this weekend left me with.  Family is not always with me when I run a race, but I know they have rallied around my crazy addiction to long distance running.  Sometimes they put up with it, other times they participate or spectate.  For all of their support, I thank them.  I would never have been able to get to a tenth marathon without their support.

Expo Day – Hilton Head Marathon

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Well, race weekend has arrived.  Three weeks ago today, I was headed to Charleston, SC for my 9th marathon, and once again I am back here in South Carolina for marathon #10.  Hilton Head Island to be exact.

The race expo is today from 4-8pm.  I am planning a short two mile shake out run early this afternoon, and just some relaxation the rest of the day.  We drove down last night, through the dark and rain.  Not a fun drive, but we made it just fine.  Mom had made up some homemade pizza for our arrival, which we quickly gobbled down.  It was a peaceful evening once we got here.  The drive takes just under five hours.

Chicken and pasta tonight for our pre-race dinner is in order.  It’s so nice to have a destination race where family lives.  The comforts of home.  No hotel room, no early check out before heading to the race, etc.  I even brought my own pillow, which is very important for a good nights rest.

Tomorrow is the big race.  Forecast is still pretty dismal.  Right now it is sunny and almost 50 degrees.  Why can’t we have this weather for the race?  Well, I just need to come to terms with the fact that this will be a rainy race, and I have to enjoy it regardless.

Here’s to marathon #10, and making memories!