26 Glorious 26.2’s

For those of you who have been keeping track (and this probably includes only me), the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon on April 10th was my 26th full marathon.  I’ve considered myself a bit OCD when it comes to numbers, so this one was a big deal!  Don’t you have a favorite number?  A lucky number?  Numbers that y don’t care for or feel odd about?  Back several years ago my phone number included my birth date, my age and my sons age.  Of course that only lasted a year or so, but funny stuff with numbers is kinda cool to me.  They call an affection for numbers like this arithmomania.  I definitely have that when it comes to my most recent marathon!

Twenty-six twenty-six point twos.  Yep, most runners will never hit that mark.  I mean, if you consider that less than 1% of the worlds population has ever completed one marathon, what must the percentage be for someone running 26 of them?  A numerologist would have all sorts of fun figuring the statistics on people who run say more than 1, or more than 5.  More than 10, more than 25, or even higher.  It’s a crazy number that I hope will only continue upward for me.  Let’s hope the body continues to hold up!

So yeah, my “double weekend”, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5k, which was my last blog post almost three weeks ago, was followed up by the marathon the next day.  This was another race that I’m proud to have been running with my son.  He ran the Half, to a blistering new PR, and although the course was extremely difficult, I managed a sub 4 finish.

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Weather was pure perfection that day.  Unusually cold at the start, followed by tons and tons of sunshine and a gradual warm up.  A course that winds its way all over Raleigh up and down hills past historic cemeteries, buildings and monuments.  Past several colleges, and local landmarks, this race is really a feast for your eyes.  My first half was really good considering the hills.  I went out at a pace just over 8:00 minutes per mile, and maintained a sub 8:35 pace until a tough spot at mile 10.

Considering the fact that I had just run a marathon a week prior, I was feeling pretty good.  As the marathon and half courses split, that section through Meredith College was a big challenge.  Not for the faint of heart.  Or legs for that matter.  It’s a true test, but also rewarded with a downhill as runners head back toward NC State.  Even though my son is a student at State, there were parts of the course on the campus that I had never seen, and it was truly beautiful.  Centennial campus was just a really great part of the course!

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Now, what follows on Avent Ferry Road was another true test of grit!  I believe for me, this was the beginning of the end for my speed.  I eeked it out, but man was it tough.  I didn’t have a ton of expectations for a finish time that day, I pretty much just wanted to finish in one piece.  My legs were already tired from a disastrous marathon seven days prior at All American.  You remember, my worst marathon finish ever.  I really only wanted to go sub 4 in Raleigh.

My pace and legs were wrecked by the time I hit Lake Johnson in Raleigh, but the views and quiet of running around the lake for the first time gave me some positive enregy for the final six miles of the race.  Just look at this picture I took.  Pure running serenity!

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Time to head back northwest to the city, the course was pretty unforgiving.  With the exception of mile 22, where I had a burst of energy, and managed an 8:51 pace, each of my last six miles were over 10 minutes per mile.  I was beat!  I was looking forward to seeing my family at the finish.  Once I finally crested the ridiculous Boylan Avenue hill, I turned east and on into the city for the finish.  My younger son was waiting for me about 3/10 of a mile before the finish.  He surprised me, and I asked he join me and run me in to the finish.  He gladly accepted, although he wasn’t dressed for it at all. 🙂

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Thanks to that final bit of energy he gave me, I gave it all I had and crossed the line in 3:59:05.  Two marathons in seven days, I’ve barely run since.  I was rewarded however with a nice marathon medal, and finish jacket.  I also received the “Remix” medal for completing both races during the weekend of events.  Although this marathon course will never be listed or described as flat, or easy, it’s always a joy to run the streets of Raleigh, my states Capitol.

I finished 30th in my AG, and 246th overall out of nearly a thousand finishers.  Top 25 percent, I’ll take it.  I hope to return to this race next year and give it another go.  I surely recommend it!

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Krispy Kreme Challenge – Race Recap

Race day was today, 2/6/16.  A local event sponsored and run by students of NC State, benefitting North Carolina Children’s Hospital.  This event has transformed over the course of a decade from a small event among ten friends, to a nationally recognized charity race.  Here are the details….

Running from the Belltower on the campus of North Carolina State (where my oldest son is a student), runners run 2.5 miles through Raleigh to the Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop on the corner of Peace and Person streets.  This is where the real fun begins!  Runners in the challenge then have to eat a dozen doughnuts before taking off and running another 2.5 miles back to campus.  Sounds like a real treat, doesn’t it?  Well, the glazed treats don’t feel like a treat when you’re trying to stuff your face with them.  This challenge all has to be completed in under an hour.

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This was my first time running this event, the 11th installment of the race, which has grown and grown over the years.  Believe it or not, there were almost 3,000 runners in the challenge, and over 3,500 in the casual division (which doesn’t include having to finish the 12 doughnuts).

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I met my son at the Belltower about a half hour before the race began.  The temperature was like 30 degees, so I decided since the race was only 5 miles long, I would wear running pants.  There were runners in every direction as we got ready.  The costume contest was a riot, and many runners took on the challenge.  I saw Dancing Bears, donut costumes of all kinds, Little Red Riding Hoods being chased by two guys wearing a Wolfpack costume, guys in speedos, you name it!

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Take a look at this unique costume!

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We lined up in a sea of nearly 7,000 runners.  We got fairly close to the front so the crowding wouldn’t be too bad.  It was a blast!  I hadn’t run in nearly a week, but I went out at a fairly good clip.  Mile 1 was done before I knew it.  You know, I’m so used to running long distance that I rarely run at the pace I was running today.  I zoomed through mile 1 at a pace of 7:16.  Some ups and down in mile 2, I ran that mile in 7:19.  As I got closer and closer to the half way point, I started fearing the doughnuts.  Pretty soon the doughnut shop came into view, and table after table were piled high with doughnut boxes.  Each runner was to grab a box, and consume the 12 doughnuts before getting back on the course.

I grabbed a box, and found my son in the parking lot to start eating.  He had already finished two doughnuts by the time I found him.  I found getting that first one down was a real struggle.  I mean, when was the last time you ran a fast paced mile or two, and then immediately tried to eat something?  I never have!  It was tough!  I was breathing so hard, my dry mouth I’m sure didn’t help.  I can’t tell you how difficult it is to try to eat those things at such a fast pace.  It wouldn’t be as bad if the doughnuts were nice a warm and melty like they are when you get them hot from the conveyor belt in the shop.  These doughnuts were cold from sitting outside in 30 degree weather, and were probably at least several hours old.  They were glazed stickiness but quite dry.

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That was just the beginning!  I had eleven more to go…..  A few doughnuts later, I started hating them.  It was so not easy!

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Half way there!  OMG!  It sucked!  I hated doughnuts so much now!  How would I ever be able to complete them?  I looked at my watch, I was already trying to choke these things down for almost 10 minutes.  I had to turn up the heat!  Get it done!  Eventually I was eating my last one, tossing the box in the trash and heading to the timing mat marking my completion of the eating portion of the race.  I hit the split at 30:45.  That meant I spent about 15 minutes eating.  It was awful.  I didn’t see a single person vomit though, which was a real surprise to me.

I knew that with a belly full of doughnuts, the run back would not be as fast, or as fun.  It felt like I was carrying a bowling ball in my stomach.  I felt so bloated and very uncomfortable.  Needless to say, my mile 3 which included the doughnut stop was damn near 20 minutes.  I ticked off mile 4 at 8:12 pace, and came to the finish without puking with a mile split of 8:13.  I had done it!  Survived the KK Challenge without barfing, even though I probably could have just after finishing.

Look how the timing clock has “Krispy” on it!  Hilarious!  My son finished well in front of me, but my official time was 49:43.  I beat the hour challenge!  I finished 337/2560 finishers in the Challenge.  Average pace (including doughnut stop) was 9:56.  Not bad!

It’s a very unique race, tons of fun, and thousands of people.  A great way to spend a Saturday morning, especially since the proceeds go to charity.  Since I cherish every small amount of time I get to spend with my college student son now, I really most enjoyed seeing him and spending the morning with him.  I don’t think I’ve seen him since Christmas, so it was a treat.  I am so lucky to be able to run a few races a year with him.  Thankfully his fondness for racing hasn’t diminished at all in the past few years.

Here is a look at my race shirt and medal.  (They don’t give medals to finishers)  you can actually buy a medal, with the proceeds going to charity.  Dylan and I raised $100 that went straight to the charity, so we actually earned a medal through our fundraising efforts.  The Krispy Kreme Challenge is a race to try at least once.  For me?  It’s a one and done type race.  It is a very unique race experience that everyone should try, but many probably do it just once.

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Krispy Kreme Challenge for Charity

A while back I announced that my son and I would be running/eating our way through a local event that draws thousands of participants.  It will be his second time participating in the Krispy Kreme Challenge, and my first time.  There’s something about gorging on a dozen day old doughnuts in the middle of a five mile race that’s just a bit daunting to me, and probably the reason I haven’t signed up prior to this year.

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This race is a charity event, with proceeds going to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, so I figured I must finally give it a go.  Hey, it’s all in the name of charity, right?  So, why not?  On February 6th, on what I hope will be a crisp cool morning (no snow/ice), we are running in the name of charity, and trying not to vomit during the second half of the race.  🙂

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Since I found it extremely gratifying to raise money for the James Blake Foundation last year for the New York City Marathon, I figured why not try to raise some money for the kids in need of medical help here locally.  So, without further ado, I created a fundraising page on crowdrise.  This platform is so user friendly, all you do is click on the link below, and it will take you directly to our fundraising page.  I am trying to raise $200 for the kids, so in essence, that’s 20 $10 donations, so it should be a cinch, right?  So, help us get our fundraiser off the ground by donating today.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

I really hope you will consider a donation to this worthy charity.  Thank you!

Krispy Kreme Challenge

Since 2004 a local race challenge has been gaining popularity.  Put on by the students of North Carolina State University (where my oldest is a student) this race draws thousands of fun seekers every year.

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The premise?  Who hasn’t heard of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts?  They are a light, fluffy decadence to be enjoyed HOT!  Hot Doughnuts Now, a red neon sign reads in the window when the conveyor belt is cranking out the warm glazed treats.  They are delectable, I can assure you!

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8,000 runners take on the challenge of running two miles to the KK shop in downtown Raleigh from NC State, grabbing a box of a dozen doughnuts, downing them anyway possible, and then trekking another two miles back to the finish.  Sound easy?  Yes, the doughnuts are ooey, gooey delicious and easy to inhale when fresh, but the tough part of this race isn’t only trying to run right after consuming 12 of these, but 12 of these DAY OLD.  Yes, not warm, not light and airy.  Cold, dense and dry!!

This race is really quite something to behold.  2016 will be my first time running/eating it, so I am more than a tad bit excited to take on this challenge.  Should be a blast!

Have you ever taken on a racing challenge like this?  Ever had a Krispy Kreme?

Bittersweet weekend – College is beckoning

It’s really hard to believe that I became a father for the first time over 18 years ago.  How is it that my oldest son has grown up so quickly, yet I seem to not have aged a bit?  Lol, not really.  Definitely more gray, and surely wiser, as well.  Life teaches us so many lessons, and I can only hope I taught my son great lessons along his path, as well.

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This weekend is move in weekend at North Carolina State University.  A huge step in his life, and really a life changing step for me, as well.  I am losing one of my best friends this weekend to college life.  My only wish is that he be successful, and really soak up the college experience.  It really is a privilege to go to college, and the learning he is embarking on will hopefully sustain him later in life in a career that brings him much joy.

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From today forward, I will not get to spend nearly as much time with him.  Instead, he will be making new friends, studying way more than he ever needed to in Highschool, attending college games, and becoming an adult more and more everyday.  I wish him a world of success, and hope he remembers that Dad can still be a mentor, and that I will always be here for him.  I hope we become even closer as he ages and becomes a successful man himself.

The nest is a little quieter this weekend, a little less cluttered, but a whole lot prouder.

Dylan, remember that Dad loves you, and I am here for you always.

……sigh……

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon -Race Recap

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So many thoughts about race day and the lead up to it.  This race was many things, and meant the world to me.  Looking back on it, although it was tough like any marathon is, and far from my best finish, it happened on my birthday so I will remember this one more than most.

The days prior to the event were fairly normal.  I worked seven strength days in a row to get the weekend off, so I spent a lot of time on my feet.  I ran several fairly short runs the two weeks leading up to the 13th.  I guess you could say I was as prepared as I could be, given that I had already run three other marathons this year.  Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, and inaugural event here at home was one I could not miss out on.  It landed on my 44th Birthday, which Rock ‘n’ Roll was kind enough to commemorate with ’44’ incorporated into my Bib number.  I really love it, and it is a great keepsake.

Pre race emails and information was plentiful, as with other RnR events I’ve run.  A fine tuned machine, I guess I would say.  They know how to keep you informed.  First up, was the race expo, on Friday and Saturday at the Raleigh Convention Center downtown.  I had to work Friday night, so I made my way to the expo on Saturday.

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Parking was easy, and close.  The expo was buzzing with excited runners.  A really well set up event.  Easy to find everything and it flowed very well.  Quite a bit easier to get around than the expos I’ve attended in Las Vegas.  Another thumbs up to RnR, especially since this was a first time event.  Later that day, I got all of my pre race rituals taken care of, and had my bag and supplies all ready to go.  I mapped which way I would get into the city, and which parking lots I would scope out in the morning.  I was ready.  Sleep was nearing, although I wouldn’t get much.  RnR instructions clearly stated numerous times that they wanted runners to be in the city and parked by 6am, for the 7am start.

I woke up on my Birthday, normally I would have slept in on a special day like this.  This day however was even more special.  Being able to run my 12th marathon on my Birthday was just incredible.  I didn’t mind getting up early.  ;).  Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to me, you see, I received this race entry as a Christmas gift.  The day was finally here.  The morning went off without a hitch.  I left the house at 5:10 am, for the twenty mile drive to Raleigh.  I built in some extra time, not sure of what kind of traffic I would be up against once I got to the city.  Let’s face it, 12,000 runners being dropped off or having to park in the city may cause a few snarls, with all of the road closures.  To my surprise, it was smooth sailing.  I was parked by about 5:45am.  This meant I had plenty of time to relax in the car, hydrate and get ready.

I was parked about two blocks from the start line, so I didn’t plan on leaving the car until about 6:30ish.  I began hearing of traffic problems, and runners being stuck in traffic on Interstate 40 just after 6am.  I had no sympathy.  RnR clearly reminded runners over and over to be parked by 6am.  Arrive early people!  I suspect that some of those runners that wanted to push their arrival until the last possible moment were the reason why the race had to start 10 minutes late.  I don’t appreciate your need to get those extra zzzzz’s or not having your race stuff ready the night before.  It was rude, and caused most of the runners to have to wait an extra ten minutes to start.  Again, no sympathy for you getting stuck in traffic.

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The starting line was very well set up, and the 20 something corrals set up clearly.  I was in the 1st corral, so I had great views of the stage, and opening remarks, National Anthem, etc..  Right at 7:10 am the gun went off.  I was running my birthday marathon.  I felt pretty good.  The temperature was 60 degrees.  A little warm for my liking, but there was a cool, dry breeze to make it feel a little more comfortable.  We made our way through the city.  What I loved seeing were tons of spectators lining the course all throughout the city, at the start.  It seemed that Raleigh really embraced the race, and folks cheering on the runners were out in force.  This made me really happy to see.  Because of the late start, I already had to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t even a mile into the race.  As I made my way down Blount Street, I saw a line of port o potties, and decided to make myself more comfortable.  A quick trip in and out, I was back on the course.  Feeling better now, but already off track pace wise.

Rock ‘n’ Roll was able to get the city to agree to a beautiful course.  I’ve run many parts of this course in several other races downtown, like Run for the Oaks, RunRaleigh Half Marathon and Raleigh Rocks Half, but this course was touted as the postcard course, offering the best of the best of the city of Raleigh.  I ran through parts of Raleigh on this course that I have never even driven through in the fifteen years that I have lived here.  There were I believe, about 26 bands scattered throughout the race course.  One of the first we encountered was a drumline from Shaw University.  Powerful, loud and full of energy.  Pumping up the runners as we passed them performing on a bridge over the race route.  We soon turned onto Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and headed east.  Making a turn onto Chavis Way and heading north, we passed Chavis Park.  A beautiful area that I had never been in.  I tried to soak in all the views.  I was already sweating, a lot.  I knew at this point, that as the time ticked away during this run, that the temperatures would rise, and I would really have to focus on good hydration.  I made the most of every aid station.  Thank you to all of the great volunteers that showed up in droves to maintain the aid stations and make sure us runners had what we needed.

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We headed north on Bloodworth St., and made our way over to Historic Oakwood Cemetery.  Again, a beautiful spot.  I had to remind myself from time to time that this was my birthday run.  Soak it in, enjoy it.  It truly was unique.  The course was tough.  Rolling, challenging.  For those of you that made your way to Raleigh form 48 other states, I’m sure your body right now agrees that Raleigh is not a flat city.  The hills can fool you.  Sometimes the rolling nature of Raleigh is unnoticeable while driving, but lace up and walk or run it, because it is a different story altogether.  I was already feeling tired five miles in.  We made a turn on Glascock St., and headed west.  We ran right past William Peace University and turned onto Peace St..  This area is up and down, and that is exactly how I felt.  For some reason my mind was wandering too much.  I wasn’t focused on the running like I usually do.  I think it just really had to do with the undulating course.  It was difficult.  We weren’t that far in, and I was already tired and my shirt was pretty soaked with sweat.  I got a little down on myself.  I was thinking to myself, “how in the world will I ever keep running for another 20 miles?”

I pressed on.  Miles 6 to 8 were all along Peace Street.  Lots of spectators, lots of hills, restaurants, Cameron Village.  I was feeling tired, but knew I was in it for the long haul.  I felt lifted by some of the bands, and the countless spectators along this section of the course.  When we finally hit Hillsborough Street, the Half and a Full marathoners split.  Running the Full, I headed west, and it was right then it became painfully clear just how many of us were crazy enough to run the Full.  Up until after the race was finished and the results were posted, I had no idea how many people were running each race.  1,615 runners completed the Full.  Over 8,000 finished the Half.  It was clear as we headed out for a long, shadeless journey toward the State Fairgrounds that runners were more sparse.

Miles 11-13 took us out to and looping around the PNC Arena.  Before that however, we passed NC States Carter-Finley Stadium on Trinity Road.  All along this section I knew that I would be heading back after the turn around, so all I kept thinking was that every downhill I encountered now was going to turn into an uphill heading back.  It was quiet, it was breezy, it was getting hot.  I figured the temperature had to be at least 68 to 70 degrees by the time I hit the half way point on the course.  I was holding steady, but feeling every mile in my legs.  The next five miles was an out and back on Edwards Mill Road and Reedy Creek Road.  This part of the course proved to be the toughest for me, both mentally and physically.  At mile marker 14, on a tough uphill section the marathon’s eventual winner whizzed by me heading back in the other direction.  He looked like he was floating.  I wished I was him!  Heading down Reedy Creek was nice.  What I found myself thinking though was how tough this hill was going to be coming back up it after the turn around.  I now felt hot, and there was no shade.  Full on sun, lots of pollen in the air.  It was difficult.  I was thirsty.  I found myself counting my steps, looking for that turn around to finally come into view.  I knew, I just knew that there would be an aid station there.  I needed some water, I needed to hydrate before that long uphill mile on the return.  I got to the turn around.  No aid station.  Really?  I had to do this uphill now without fueling up?  Ugh!  I will list this on the runner survey, as an aid station there is critical for this tough part of the course.

The long ascent on Reedy Creek Road was mentally draining.  Physically it was awful.  Next time I will be more prepared for this section. Coming back down Edwards Mill after finally getting to hydrate again, I got a second wind.  I have to thank someone I’ve never met for that.  I have to thank Pharrell Williams!  Yes, you heard that right.  As I passed mile 17, the song “Happy”, was blaring from a sound system along the route.  I couldn’t help myself.  I sung out loud.  My mood was uplifted, and I glided myself, just like the leader was in that same section when I passed him an hour prior.  I really needed that Pharrell!  Thanks for that song.  I was happy.

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At mile 20, I yelled out to a woman on a stage who was announcing runner numbers and giving encouragement.  I yelled out, “it’s my Birthday, cheer me on”.  She did.  She wished me a happy birthday, and helped me move my aging legs a little further down Hillsborough.  I knew that near mile 21, a friend of mine was going to meet me.  I looked forward to that.  She is a runner.  Used to be a great runner, and offered to jump into the race and help pace me to the finish.  As I hit the intersection at Faircloth St., at Meredith College, there she was.  Pony tail, running clothes, and wishing me a happy birthday.  She was pumped, and ready to lend a hand.  I really needed the boost.  By this point my pace was shot from all of the hills and heat, and I just wanted to finish strong and enjoy myself.

We plodded along, passing NC State, and turning just after the Bell Tower.  The heat was now unforgiving.  Pullen Road to Western Blvd., Kathleen kept me going.  She would yell out to spectators that it was my birthday.  “Happy Birthday Paul”, pointing at me.  Those on the side of the street would realize what she was doing, and then I would hear a bunch of birthday wishes.  This happened many times, and it was much appreciated.  Another part of Raleigh that I had never been was the Dorthea Dix area that we were heading into around the 24 mile point.  Very pretty in there, and of course difficult, too.  There was a beautiful tribute to fallen soldiers along a section of the course in here, and I was just blown away by how inspiring it was.  Countless people holding posters of faces, wearing blue shirts.

We headed back toward the center of the city.  The final mile was tough, but worth it.  Another friend gave me a high five as I passed over the Morgan Street bridge that I drive over each work day.  Families, friends and strangers were lined up everywhere along the final stretch.  As I made the final turn onto Fayetteville St., I said goodbye to Kathleen, as she peeled off.  She had done her job.  I am so grateful to her, and will get her a thank you card for her efforts.  I didn’t know until afterward that she had already run over a mile to get to where she met me on the course, and then she had to run over two miles back to her car after she left me.  Thank you Kathleen!

I gave the last two blocks in the city my best.  Focused on the finish line, I turned up the heat, and used up any juice that was left in my legs.  In fact, I don’t think any runners passed me over the last three miles.  I finished in a sprint, which put me at a clock time of 3:55:47. Official gun time was 3:55:40.  I met up with my family, and gave everyone a stinky hug.  I got to finally say Happy Birthday to my son, who turned 16 the same day.

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I wandered through the finisher village, grabbing water, bananas and chocolate milk.  A slice of pizza.  I always need something salty at the finish.  I had made it.  My body held up, I pushed through the pain, the hills, the heat.  Another 26.2 to my credit.  Beating that course was very satisfying.  We walked over to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the post race concert, which was in full swing.  New Politics was playing as we arrived.  We grabbed some food from the food trucks there, and basked in the sun.  It was a wonderful experience.  A great inaugural race, and a day to celebrate Raleigh, and my running.  It was an epic birthday this year.  One I will never forget.

 

Tarheel 10 Miler – A North Carolina Classic

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Hard to to believe, but I have never run this race before.  As April draws near, and the race numbers go through the roof, the talk of the town is the Tarheel Ten Miler.

This race, which has an extremely tough uphill finish, and finish line in the Tarheel stadium, is a must around these parts.  I’ve never done it, but this year will be different.  Having earned an entry as a result of pacing at an event last Fall, I finally have the chance to run this epic race.

Thousands of runners will line up to run this April.  It will be my first ever attempt at a ten mile race.  Guess what?  Instant PR!

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This race isn’t only for Carolina fans though.  You can chose to crash the party, and wear your own college colors, as I’m sure many, many runners will be doing.  I think that since my son will be going to State in the Fall for his freshman year, that I should wear Wolfpack red.  I’ll have to ask him for some help to show off his school colors.

Check out the awesome bling for running this race!

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Even though I’m not a Carolina fan, I will treasure this medal.  It’s just so unique and different.  Looking forward to this race, another great local event.