Run & Ride Carowinds 2016

Ran there, Rode that!

Another fun year down visiting Carowinds amusement park.  Half Marathon and roller coasters, what could be better than that?

My time goal was hard to achieve because it was like a million degrees on race morning.  Plus two million percent humidity.  Just rough.  Not enough water on the course, and although the course was still not measured correctly, it was better than last years fiasco.

The real kicker this year?  The timing chips were all defective.  For all races.  The 5k, 10k and Half.  They had to rely on runner help for times, and some shotty backup camera.  Hilarious.

My time was 1:53:50, or so they say.  Who knows.  My garmin came in lower, the course was about a quarter of a mile long.  Short?  What ever.  It was fun.  I’m over obsessing about my times most days, so at least it was fun.  And look at the medal!

Charlie Brown riding a roller coaster?  Oh, hell yes!

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New York City Marathon – Race Recap

The much anticipated, and probably the longest wait for a recap.  Honestly, just so busy, and tired that I just haven’t had the time to do a recap justice.  Hopefully this will sum up not only the race, but also my busy New York trip.

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It all began with a 630 mile road trip to upstate NY on October 28th.  I haven’t driven to NY in over ten years, so it was a really long day.  Destination, my Fathers house in Binghamton.  My roots are still so deeply embedded in update NY, although if my Dad still didn’t live there I probably wouldn’t ever go back.  My family (Dad and Brother) are the reasons why this trip was even happening.  I’ve written about it previously, but I entered the lottery to run NYC because my brother did.  It was my chance to run with him, in another marathon, but this time in our home state.  The fateful day came when they drew lottery spots….  my brother announced on Facebook early in the day that he was IN!  I waited all day for notification.  I checked my email at least a hundred times, nothing, nothing, nothing.  Finally at around 6:30pm it arrived.  “We’re sorry….blah, blah, blah”.  My dreams were dashed in that one instant.  That shitty email.  It took me all of about a day to figure out that I HAD to race.  I had to find a way.  I turned to looking into charity teams, and vowed to raise money.  I think it was within a week that I was accepted onto the charity team for the James Blake Foundation.  I pledged a $3,000 donation to the charity, and paid my way into the race.  Done!  Fundraising began later that day once my fundraising page was set up.  I thought to myself, “how hard will it be to raise $3,000 over the course of seven months?”  I antied up $100 to start my campaign, and I was off and running.  Well, as it turns out, it is not easy raising that kind of money.  **Flash forward to race day**… I didn’t meet my goal, but came awfully close.  Through the help of family, friends and complete strangers, and awesome people like you, I managed to raise $2,590.  I have until the end of the year to hit the goal, but my personal goal was to hit my pledge by race day.  So, before I get back into the real gist of this post, here is a link to my fundraising page, because I can still use your help.

Armed with the knowledge that I was in the race, I spent the next several months planning, and planning.  I knew I wanted my Dad at the race.  He was so excited!!  To get to watch both of his sons running the New York City Marathon?  Who wouldn’t want to see that?  Not long before the race however, came bad news.  My brother was going to have to cancel his entry due to medical issues.  I was heartbroken for him, and it made the entire trip bittersweet.  How in the world was I supposed to be excited for this, knowing that he was equally agonizing over it?

Dad and I - Binghamton in the background

Dad and I – Binghamton in the background

Ok, I am getting off track a bit.  I knew this recap wasn’t going to be easy to write.  So, after 10 hours on the road in mostly raining conditions, I finally was pulling into the driveway at my fathers house.  Exhausted and road crazed, my Dad and I caught up for a few hours before I had to hit the hay.  With a decent nights sleep behind me, we took it easy most of Thursday.  We went out for a late breakfast, drove around town and hit a few “hot spots” I didn’t want to miss while I was there.

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The Cider Mill, in Endicott, NY.  To me this place means Fall in NY.  Fresh pressed apple cider, delicious donuts, and candy apples.  Of course we had to buy all of it.  We also stopped for some true Italian Bread from DiRenzo’s Bakery.  Later that evening, we hit the road for another three hour road trip to my brothers house in New Jersey.

A very relaxing few days ahead with family.  I did manage to get in one final shake out run on Friday.  Four miles on the towpath in Bound Brook, NJ.  I hadn’t run in a week!  Had to get loose and find my running legs.  Thankfully the weather was so nice the entire trip.  The last thing I wanted was a rainy, miserable marathon, but it turned out to be near perfect. Although a tad on the warm side.

Saturday we were up and at ’em early for a trip to the NYC Marathon Expo in the city.  Bob was running, and my brother at least wanted to pick up his race shirt.  A drive, a walk and 45 minute train ride later we exited Penn Station in Manhattan.

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That was my view as I hit the streets of NYC for the first time since 1996.  Long before the World Trade Center disaster.  It had been so long!  We walked a few blocks and within ten minutes were entering the famed expo.  It was crawling with runners!  The biggest marathon in the world on the last day of the expo, it was bound to be busy.

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We quickly picked up our bibs and shirts, stopped for a few photo ops, and shopped the 50% off Asics gear racks before studying the course map.  I bought a few pairs of logo’d shorts and a shirt!  Cheaper than I could get them online, so I was happy.

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After the expo, we headed back to Jersey.  A busy day all around.  The Mets in the World Series, Halloween, and the night before the biggest marathon in the world.  We needed some rest and relaxation with only a few hours left until race day.

A typical night before a race, I got all of my gear ready.  This time however was a bit more detailed.  NY is not a simple race morning process.  You don’t just drive yourself to the start.  It’s a long affair.  Patience is needed, and you need to be prepared for anything.  Packing for race morning is very important, so as not to leave anything to chance.

Donor names on the back of my charity shirt.

Donor names on the back of my charity shirt.

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That picture doesn’t show the last several donation names I got in the days leading up to the race, but you get the idea.  I was ready for bed, anticipating a 3am wake up call.

Race day!  All went off without a hitch.  I was feeling good, the weather was looking promising and I started my mental preparation for the race.  The long process of race morning began as my brother drove us approximately 50 minutes to The Meadowlands parking lot in NJ.  It was there that Bob and I would catch a race bus to Staten Island.  We arrived at about 5:30am, my brother snapping a few pictures as we got ready to board the bus.

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Armed with our gear we boarded a bus, and then made the hour long trip to Staten Island.  While we entered the Green Starting Village I was so impressed by all of the food and drink options available to us. We had about a three hour wait until the gun went off, so it was really nice to have.  As luck would have it, Bob and I grabbed a coffee and a hat from DD, and then I spotted a Bus Stop shelter right at the back entrance to the village, which we promptly called ours!  A bench, and shelter from any wind or rain.  Perfect!   It was the find of the morning!  Here are some photos from the village.  Yep, right next to the Verazzano Bridge that is, the start of the race!

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Home sweet home!  A random bus stop on Staten Island.  Love it!  That’s Bob in his DD hat, and throwaway gear.  We passed the time telling stories, talking about the course, numerous stops at the potties, etc…  It was a long wait.  We were comfortable though!

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Eventually the time came that we needed to abandon our shelter, and head to the starting corrals.  It was well organized, as you would expect.  The corrals were super tight, and I barely made it in.  My nerves starting to play some games, but I did manage to try to take in the entire experience.  We moved forward  after about a half hour, and things really started to get real.  I shed my hat, gloves, top layer shirt, and got ready for the business at hand.  The fanfare was electric as we entered the loop heading onto the bridge.  In place now, I could actually see the start.  My corral was on the bottom bridge.  Helicopters televising the event were flying overhead, clothes were flying to the sides, and before you knew it, Frank Sinatra, the National Anthem, the boom of the howitzer cannons, and the race WAS ON!  NYC here I come!

At the start!

At the start!

Behind me

Behind me

The first few miles were tight!  Heading up the bridge I didn’t even notice the incline, but was more concerned with not tripping over anyone.  I stayed to the left so I could take in the views of Manhattan, the water, the Statue of Liberty.  It truly was magnificent!  What a way to spend the first few miles!  The downside of the bridge meant picking up the pace a bit.  I knew my first mile was slow based on runner traffic, so I tried to find a better more consistent rhythm on the downside heading into Brooklyn.  It worked.  My goals for this race were pretty simple.  Enjoy the City, enjoy the crowds, and keep my eyes out for family along the way.  My cousin Brad was to be at mile 11 at the corner of Bedford and N. Third St.  I checked for texts occasionally to make sure exactly where he would be.  After that, I would be on the lookout for my brother, dad, Melissa, Chloe and Connor just beyond mile 17, and then again in Central Park around mile 24.5.   As far as time goes, I just wanted a solid race.  My A goal was sub 3:50:00, and B goal was sub 3:40:00.  Time would tell.  Traffic was tight!

My 5k split was 23:46.  My feet and legs felt ok.  It was a tad on the warm side,  Proper hydration would be key, especially if I wanted to avoid cramping.  With the bridges on the course, I knew I wanted to keep my electrolytes in balance.  I thoroughly enjoyed the views of Brooklyn, the brownstones on both sides of the street.  The numerous bands, the cheering crowds.  A non-native to the city, this was my first time traveling these streets and it was so cool to be able to do it on foot.  I’ll say it again, runner traffic was tight, and very annoying at times.  I cleared the 10k mark in 47:31, so I was still managing to stay the course with my intended speed.  Brooklyn was long.  Knowing I would see Brad at almost the halfway mark was keeping me positive.  Around mile 9 all corrals merged onto the course and it became very unnerving.  It was just so crowded in my area.  At that moment I wanted to be running in a small marathon, and have some space to myself, but that was not meant to be on this day.  This is the biggest marathon in the world, stay calm and adjust to it.  I told myself to relax so many times.  I wondered though, as I heard so many people cheering names of runners why I hadn’t heard my name called out.  I knew my name was on my shirt, so why no “Go Paul’s” or “Keep going Paul’s”!  It was then I looked down and noticed that my name (which I wrote in blue marker) was completely gone, and now in a pool of sweat and blue ink on the bottom seam of my shirt.  That’s why!

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Brooklyn was long, but awesome crowd support.  Brad texted me to listen for drums and he would be in his designated spot.  In a hot pink shirt, with a sign.  I counted down the streets, and was getting close.  Soon enough I could hear those drums, and moved to the right hand side of the street.  There he was, smiling ear to ear, cheering.  I stopped to give him a quick hug, to which he responded, ok, go, go, go.  I took off.  I found out later he actually took a video of my arrival at that moment, which is so funny to see now.  Thanks Brad for being there to support me!  It was you that got me through Brooklyn.

The halfway point sent us over the bridge into Queens.  My half split was 1:45:00 on the nose!  On track, but feeling my legs getting heavy.  I needed a boost.  Knowing the infamous Queensboro Bridge was looming in the not so distant miles, I Gu’d up, hydrated and kept the faith that I would gain some energy before that long quiet bridge.  I had been warned that it was the loneliest, most difficult part of the race.  Now that I’ve lived through it, I can say that it clearly is!  It was pure hell. I felt so defeated crossing that bridge.  Loathe is a great word to describe it.  Dark, fierce, it will get you if you don’t stay ahead of it.  Like a knarly hairy monster.  Just pure dread is what I tell like on that bridge.  The only thing keeping you going is knowing at the end is Manhattan, and crowds galore.  I did not walk, I did not walk one bit.

Coming off the bridge I still felt very depleted.  I was off my game.  I think I slipped into a dark cavernous place in my head.  After that initial burst of energy from the crowd, I drew nothing from them.  I was in my head, and fighting demons.  The fact that I had just run Chicago three weeks prior might have something to do with it, but I was exhausted.  The only way I could force myself out of that head space was to think of my next cheering station.  I would see my Dad!  I would see David!  Thinking of them got me though.  The miles ticked by.  14, 15, 16…..  I knew they would be at mile 17.  On the left.  I steered to the left of the road well early in anticipation.  I had it so deeply embedded in my brain (Mile 17).  This finally brought me tons of energy.  I was running much better, felt better and was in positive spirits.  I counted the tenths of a mile as I approached mile 17.  Then finally I was there.  Where was my family?  I waited for my name to be yelled.  I scanned the crowds, I cranked my neck back and forth.  Nothing… I actually stopped and thought about running back.  How could I miss them?  That was not going to happen!  They were there to see me, and I needed them.  BADLY!  Finally about two tenths of a mile beyond the mile marker I heard my name.  There they were!  My cheering section.  Smiling ear to ear, I gave them all a big sweaty hug, and then left them behind.  I got emotional right afterward.  Pure joy, tears streamed down my cheeks.  That family energy lasted about two miles.  Then?  Back into my dark space.  I was clearly struggling physically, but I would not let it ruin my day.

Crossing over into the Bronx gave me a much needed boost.  Not the bridge, which sucked, but knowing that mile 20 was nearing.  You don’t spend a lot of time in the Bronx, and I had been told it’s sort of a drab, unsupported part of the course.  I found it amazing.  Maybe I had caught a second wind after coming off the bridge, but I found the crowds really supportive.  The bands were awesome, too.  Plus knowing that the final 10k and trip back into Manhattan was approaching was energizing to me.

Across the bridge into Harlem, and down 5th Avenue.  The end was near.   Hit the 35k mark in 3:03:01.  I knew I had to keep calm and run.  No more demons.  My thoughts turned to seeing Central Park for the first time.  Seeing my family again before huffing it to the finish line.  Trying to stay on pace, I knew I was slowing down.  I didn’t walk.  I didn’t even walk through water stations.  I actually became a little better at drinking while running without drowning myself.  I needed those moments to hit my goal.

Central Park!  It was finally here.  The cheering crowds became louder, the fall foliage on the trees.  Such a beautiful way to end this epic race.  I once again yearned for my family, and the strength they would give me to push through those last two miles.  I saw them again, and again was moved to tears.  I knew how much it meant to my Father to be there.  To witness such an event.  To see his son almost at the finish of the biggest marathon in the world.  As I paced to the finish, dying to actually see the finish line come into view, I thought about my charity, my donors and all the support I’ve received through my running career.  The end of my 22nd marathon was quickly approaching.  I threw up my hands in exultation as I crossed the line.  Immediately overwhelmed, completely debilitated as if the walking dead had entered my body.

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A long walk ahead, I could barely move after crossing the line.  An incredibly long wait for a bottle of water that I needed the moment I crossed the line.  The medal draped over my neck was worth the agonizing slog through the finisher village.  Mylar blanket donned, more water please.  Maybe a pretzel?  A banana?  Yes, they helped when I finally had them in hand.  As I exited Central Park in search of my family I realized that my cell phone was finally dead.  With the help of strangers, I finally connected with them about an hour after I finished.  I finished!  I ran the New York City Marathon!

Wish I could have snapped some more pictures along the way.  The memory of this race though will linger in my head as one of giant crowds, epic challenges and support galore.  Family.  In the end, it was really about family.  Thank you New York.  Not sure I will ever race the city again, but what an epic adventure through your five boroughs,  thanks for having me and treating me so well.

Official results:  3:45:23 finish time.  Goal A achieved!  My best marathon finish in 2015.

Overall:  7472/49365. Top 15%

Top 20% in age group. Top 21% in gender.

No complaints here!  I take it!

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Reflecting on an amazing running year – 2014

As the final days of 2014 are winding down, and the year comes to a close it leads me on a reflection trip.  What all did I accomplish this glorious year, and where will it lead me in 2015?

The year started with a fun trip to Charleston, SC with my friend Paula.  My first marathon of the year completed in the cold and windy weather off the Atlantic Ocean.  3:47:58 final time.

A few weeks later a trip to see Mom, and run the Hilton Head Marathon.  My finish time of 3:54:00 was disappointing to me that day.  Not sure why, just not a great race for me.  I do believe I will return in 2015 for revenge.

In March, I again took a trek to the beach.  This time Wrightsville Beach, in North Carolina.  First time running there, and again, bored with the flat course, I put up a time of 3:51:08.  Not my best, and not a fun day.

April, my birthday marathon.  Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, here at home.  Majorly difficult course, hills and lack of hydration on the course during a warm day led me to a 3:55:40 finish, my slowest marathon of the year.  It was my birthday though, so it was incredible.  I also ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler two weeks later.  That was a great race, with a stadium finish.  Finish time of 1:18:01.

May took me to the inaugural All American Marathon about an hour from home.  An inspiring, amazing race which I will return to run again in 2015.  Finish time of 3:52:25 for my fifth marathon of the year.  No complaints, plus I got to meet Meb at the finish.  What a great day!

In June, I ran a double.  The 15 Quay Challenge.  First a 10k race, followed by a 5k race a half hour later.  I ran the 10k at 7:47 pace, followed by the 5k at 7:38 pace.  Quite satisfying, and run with my son.  That was it for racing until September.

The Summer was filled with training for Fall.  Heat filled training, lots of miles.  It was a great Summer.

A week long stretch in September included two amazing trips.  First to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Big Cottonwood Marathon.  Finish time of 3:41:59, my second fastest in 2014.  A week later I got in the car and drove to Tennessee for the inaugural Great a Smoky Mountains Half Marathon.  A beautiful, awesome event, with a lackluster finish of 1:51:48.  One of my worst performances in a half, but very enjoyable getaway.

October was packed with racing!  I mean packed!  Chock full.  A Half in 10/5 in which I paced the 2 hour group to strong finishes.  1:58:45 finish time.  Then on to Chicago a week later, and one of the best weekends of the year, and probably one of the most fun weekends of my life!  It was incredible.  It was also my best marathon of the year, finishing in 3:41:04.  I want to go back every year from here on out!  Let’s hope the lottery works for me again in 2015.  Six days later was marathon #8 for the year in Greensboro, NC.  Fantastically difficult just six days after Chicago.  Hilly, tough course and a finish time of 3:53:42.  The following week another Half for Halloween.  1:47:01 and spooky good fun.

Then on to November and my final race of the year.  The City of Oaks Half with my kids.  A 1:43:58 crossing the line with a big smile on my face, and turning to watch my two sons finish.  Amazing day!

Amazing racing year!  I can only hope that 2015 brings me the same happiness and success on the road.  The only thing that could make it better would be to BQ.  All in good time though.

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Wishing all of you a Happy New Running Year!  Give it your all!

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It’s all about the BLING…. Or is it?

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I’ve seen a lot of posts lately about race medals.  Bling!  The question I have for my readers is, do you run for the bling?  Do you pick races and run them with that medal in mind?

Some races have gotten really creative with medal design, while others have not.  I, for one, can say that I have never chosen a race based on what I think I will get as a reward at the finish line.  Sure, it’s nice to get a great medal placed around my neck at the finish, but that is not the reason I run, or race.  Medals with bottle openers, medals that spin or glow in the dark, medals that open or rotate.  Do you have a favorite?  How about the material it’s made out of, or the ribbon?

As a frequent racer, I have amassed a small fortune of medals, and am proud to receive each one.  I don’t even have an official medal rack to hang them on.  They just all kind of hang randomly from books on a bookshelf.  There is not rhyme or reason to how they are hung, but they certainly inspire.

Here are some photos of various medals I have earned.

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Now I want to see some of your favorites!  Show me the one’s that mean the most to you.

Show me your medals! #Bling

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Marathon medals in order. Myrtle Beach, Tobacco Road, Outer Banks, Asheville/Biltmore, Blue Ridge, Asheville City, City of Oaks

Race medals are a great reward for completing a race.  Who doesn’t love some bling?  To have a medal placed around your neck after completing a tough race is very cool.  These days medals are getting fancier and fancier.  Bigger and bigger.  The photo above shows my 7 marathon medals.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.  What makes a medal special to you?

– the overall design?

– the size?

– the race itself?

– uniqueness?

– colors?

Let me know.  I my favorite is, ah, I can’t decide.  They are all special for different reasons.  The first, the last, the hardest course, it’s hard for me to peg just one reason.

Show me your most prized medal, and tell me why.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh

RunRaleigh Racing is local, and also a favorite.  The race director, Paula, puts on great events.  The highlight is this Half Marathon which has been run the last two years in mid April.  It is a great event, supported locally by over 1,000 runners.  Due to Competitor Group, bringing a brand new Rock n Roll event to Raleigh in 2014, this race is being displaced until Fall because the City of Raleigh granted this non-local event first dibs on the same date for the next five years.  I feel this is quite a dilemma, and it has caused quite a stir in the local running community.  I will be running the Rock n Roll Marathon next April, as it lands exactly on my birthday, and figure how can I pass up the chance to run a marathon on my big day.  Others are trying to find a common ground, make decisions on if they can or should support the Rock n Roll event.  I will also continue to support the local Half in the Fall, on its new date.  

What do you think?  I don’t think boycotting Rock n Roll is in order, but maybe you have a different perspective?  Please share your thoughts on local versus big name events.

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Wood vs. Metal

You be the judge….let me know what you think!

So often I come across the debate between runners about the kind of finisher medals they like to receive.  I recently read some posts from the New River Marathon, both positive and negative about this years award.  A magnet.  Previous years had been wooden medals.  Then you read the positives and negatives about a wooden medal.  Which do you prefer?  Do you mind?

I recently had an amazing experience running in the inaugural Asheville Marathon on the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  I just had to sign up for this race!  The chance to run on this glorious estate?  A no brainer.  When I crossed the finish line in the frigid sub freezing temperature, I was wrapped in a logo’d blanket, and had a carved wooden medal placed around my neck.  I love it!  Perfectly appropriate for this race, the location in the mountains, and the rustic nature of the surroundings.

What do you think?

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