Bull City Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran Bull City Race Fest again!  Third time in the four years the race has been running.  The only time I didn’t run it was a few years ago when I ran the Greensboro Marathon the day before.  Yes, I hated to miss it that year but I just couldn’t get myself out of bed at 4am after a marathon the day before.  My legs and energy were shot.  This year was another story.

Everything about this race is just awesome.  Tons of runners, nearly 6,000 every year running the Half, Five miler and 1 miler combined.  I was asked to be on the pace team again this year, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Since I’ve been struggling a bit with my feet I decided to pace the 9:00 mile group.

I paced with with a great runner, Drew, who I hadn’t met at previous pace experiences at this race.  He was an awesome pace partner.  In 2013 I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, in 2015 I paced the 8:30 per mile group with my son, and now 2016 the 9:00 mile group.

Race morning was near perfection weather wise.  52 degrees, and just beautiful.  This race has always been ultra lucky with fantastic weather.  We lined up with our pace sign about 20 minutes prior to the gun.  As you can imagine, this group was loaded with folks wanting to beat the 2:00:00 Half finish.  I love a huge group of runners, especially on a hilly course.  Runners ebb and flow, and you get a chance to meet and talk with so many new faces along the way!

Our race was filled with ups and downs, as you would expect on the hills of Durham.  Such a great course though, giving runners a chance to see many parts of the city.  We kept a great consistent pace.  Constantly checking our progress, Drew and I maintained a pace of about 8:57 through the first half of the course.  As with most races, our timing devices were a little off from each other, and also the mile markers on course, but doing the extrapolations each mile, we were confident our pace was on target especially knowing how difficult and hilly the final miles are.

We ended up bringing tons of folks across the line with new PR’s, and many more just so happy to finish that tough race.  Pacing is always tough work.  My goals are different depending on each races expectations of how close to the target each pacer should be, and much to my surprise I came across the line with a perfect 1:58:00, 9:00 minute mile pace.  So difficult to nailed it perfectly, in fact I’ve never done it.  Most races expect a finish within a minute under goal time, but not over.  This one may go down in the books as the only perfect finish I’ll ever have.

It was a great day!  Finish festival with food trucks is always a bonus, especially when you can spread out and bask in the sun and also the glow of an awesome finish!  Thanks Bull City, and big thanks to Drew for pacing with me!  I shall return!

image

Garmin Vivoactive Ready

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

image

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

My old Garmin has been retired.

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

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

Happy running!

2016 Pace Gigs

Looking ahead to my 2016 racing season, so many things are still up in the air.  I usually have a pretty solid plan by now, and am typically already training for my next race.  Why is this not true this year?  I guess there are many reasons.

Ending the year with the one two punch of Chicago and New York, my body has felt a bit depleted.  When you have no energy, and a lack of desire, it leads me to a oh hum attitude when it comes to getting signed right up for my next race.  I just couldn’t find one that worked for my schedule and budget.  Then I got sick, and have still not fully recovered.  Still having problems and not feeling quite right going on three weeks now.  It has led me to quite the laissez faire attitude.  This is not good when it comes to having a rock solid plan for 2016.

I’m going to just roll with the punches.  I do know this however.  After spending the last five years running various races, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself and my running goals.  Sometimes my goal is to run fast, set a PR, or even try for a Boston Qualifier.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes it’s about the experience.  The race itself.  Getting out there, testing myself, enjoying myself on the run.  It’s not always about how fast you can go, or how far.  I’ve learned I like certain races, and others not so much.  I don’t just sign up for a race because I am a glutton.  I’ve learned to be smart about where I spend my racing dollars.

I’ve also learned through the past couple of years that one of my favorite things to do is be a pacer.  If not Boston material, I am certainly still a pretty fast runner.  What most folks would consider fast anyway.  What I do best I think is have a very consistent pace.  Fast or slow, consistency is key when pacing.  I can offer you that!  Helping others reach a goal before my own goals is something I just never saw coming, but has been a welcome addition to my charitable life.  Giving a bit of myself to others on the race course.  I love it!

This leads me to a few races which are set in stone for next year.  A couple of my favorite races, and races I will be pacing in 2016.  Drum roll please……

image

In March I will be heading to Asheville, North Carolina to pace two events.  Actually same event, two different races.  The Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate is a full on runners challenge this coming year.  You can run the Half on Saturday, the Full on Sunday, or both!  I am running both, and pacing both!  I will be pacing the 2:00 Half, and 4:00 Full.  How much fun does that sound?  Tons!

image

In April, I will be heading back to one of my favorites to pace for the first time.  The All American Marathon has been a trusted, awesome race experience for me the past two years.  I’ve run the Full both years the race has been in existence, so on its third anniversary, I will be pacing the 4:00 Full.  This will be my first marathon three-peat.

image

 

I’m sure I will do some more pacing in 2016, but those gigs are what I have lined up so far.  I’m not sure I will even attempt a BQ this coming year.  Right now just not feeling the need to put that kind of pressure on myself.  2016 is going to be about having fun, running consistent, and getting back to basics.  Finding more joy out there on the road.  Listening to my body, and smiling.  If giving back to others through pacing is what gives me joy, I’m going to do even more of it.

What gives you joy this holiday season?

Bull City Race Fest 2015- Race Recap

The Bull City Race Fest is an amazing event, and was held for the third time in Durham, NC, on October 18, 2015.  The event includes a 1 mile, 5 mile, and signature Half marathon distance race.  It is truly an amazing event, that has gained popularity each year.

image

This race has it all!  It is very family friendly, and one that I would recommend to any runner looking for a world class running experience.  Everything from the ease of packet pick up and expo, to the post race food truck rodeo and relaxing finisher village.  The highlight though in my eyes, is the race itself.  The course, with all of its hilly challenges, is both scenic and exciting.

This race was both a recovery run from my Chicago Marathon a week ago, and my final longish training run for the New York City Marathon just 12 days away.  The perfect way to run this race for me was to be a pacer!  The opportunity to pace it didn’t come until just a few days before the race itself.  I quickly jumped on it, and signed up my son to pace, as well.  This would be his first time pacing, and probably around my 10th time pacing a Half.  The best part?  Pacing together as Dad and Son.  In the same pace group, pacing the 8:30 (or finish time of 1:51:25).  Two years ago I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, so I knew the challenge of the course, and knew that we could both easily handle the job.

image image

Race morning went off without a hitch.  Parking was easy and we made it to the starting line for some pre-race photos with the pace team members at 6:50am.  The race was to begin at 7:30, so we had a chance to stretch and use the bathroom and get lined up with our fellow 8:30 pacers in plenty of time.  A cold front had come through our area overnight, and we had unusually cold temperatures for race morning.  It was like 36 degrees, so we tried to stay warm until the start.  It had been so long since running in temperatures like this it was kind of exciting.  When the sun rose, the sky was cloudless and blue.  It was going to be fun!

image image

The Half Marathon had over 2,200 people running and it was obvious when we all began lining up.  It was a sea of runners both in front of us and behind us.  I think we had 6 pacers in our group alone.  We talked some strategy on how we would pace the group right up until the gun went off.  With a challenging course like this one with all of its hills, I knew I wanted to be a few seconds ahead of target pace.  The final few hills can be PR killers, so staying one or two second ahead throughout the race would leave us in good standing for the final mile.

The first few miles are crowded, and run through downtown Durham.  You get a taste of the hills right from the start.  We nailed our target pace though right from the start.  We talked a lot with the group, but it was also obvious right from the start that we would be pacing about 40-50 people and we were all spread out.  I think the most exciting thing for me was how into it my son was.  He has a few trepidations about pacing when we first talked about it, but after I convinced him that he had everything it took to be a fantastic pacer, he really warmed up to it.  He was very excited!  I told him to stick as close to me as possible, but the excitement of the race had him out in front of me a ways quite often.

The course continues on trough Trinity Park, and Duke Campus, hills abound.  With every uphill though comes downhills, and it’s a really nicely varying race.  Occasionally there were neat signs along the course, and chalk drawings and encouragements on the road.  Our group waxed and waned, but our pace was right on the mark.  It was such an enjoyable run.  Offering words of encouragement to runners as they passed me, or encouraging every runner up the numerous hills.  The weather was so cooperative that I never felt like I needed to stop for hydration along the course.  I did, however use my GU’s at miles 5 and 10.

As the final mile approached and we were nearing the finish I started turning and running backwards to encourage runners behind me to push hard and pass me.  My son and I met up side by side with about a half mile remaining.  I wanted to be as close to the target of 8:30 as possible without going over so I ran backwards for pretty much the majority of the final tenth of a mile.  I have so much fun getting those racers to the finish!  Pacing is a truly awesome way to pay it forward.

I crossed the finish line in 1:51:14.  Eleven seconds under our pace goal.  Perfect!  My son finished about 45 seconds under the goal, so we were both within a minute under.  After the finish we were stopped numerous times and thanked for our pacing efforts.  I know several runners even had personal bests on that tough course, so it’s super satisfying to me.

image image image image image image image

The post race village is amazing, and absolutely packed with runners and families.  Food trucks all over, lots of refreshments and food.  It was the perfect day for relaxing and relishing in a victory of the course.  Durham is such a fun happening city.  Relaxing on the lawn in front of the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) was so much easier after we ran back to the car to change out of wet shirts and grab a jacket.  It was chilly!  Well, it felt down right cold to me.  A few more photos on the lawn to commemorate our accomplishment, and a visit to the Baguettaboutit Food Truck before we called it a day and headed home.  Don’t ask me how, but I knew about ten people racing that day and managed to not bump into any of them after the race.  A bit of a disappointment, but there will be other races to meet up.  I had the best time with my son pacing that day.  I only hope the opportunity comes up again sometime.

A Unique Opportunity

Every now and then something really special happens.  Something that just doesn’t happen every day.  This coming weekend one of those moments in time will occur for me.

Most of you know that I love to pace races.  I will be pacing a marathon for the first time in 2016.  I’ve had opportunities to do this in the past, but have just not jumped at it.  Half marathons though are another story.  I think I’ve paced somewhere around 10 Halves over the past few years.  It’s such a fun way to give back to my fellow runners and the running community in general.

image

The unique opportunity that I am talking about is kinda cool.  This Sunday, at the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon, site of my first pacing experience a few years ago, my son and I will BOTH be pacing.  We are pacing together!  Father and son.  We are pacing the 8:30 per mile pace group.

This will be my sons first pacing job.  I cannot wait, it is going to be so much fun.  Pacing together will give us the unique opportunity to run side by side for the entire 13.1 miles.  Normally he is out in front of me, or he is running a Half and I am running a Full.  This time we get to run together, be vocal, and help our fellow runners get to the finish line.  Talk about a unique opportunity!  Thanks to Bull City!  These race photos should be really great!

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about a recap for the Chicago Marathon.  I have been gathering my thoughts for a few days, and as soon as I have enough time to write them all out I will.  Just a small teaser though, it was another fantastic time in Chicago.  An amazing race of epic proportions.  If you haven’t, you’ve got to put Chicago on your race calendar!

Run the Quay 2015- Race Recap

The are a ton of “local” races in the triangle region where I live.  I mean a ton!  Huge, fun races like the City of Oaks Marathon, Tobacco Road Marathon and Half, Race 13.1 has a Summer and Fall Half, Bull City Race Fest, The Tarheel Ten Miler, Rock n Roll Raleigh, among so many others.

image

This past Saturday however, me and the kids laced up for the ultimate in “local” races.  The 11th Annual Run the Quay 5k, 10k and 15 Quay Challenge.  It’s about as close to my house as any race could be without living on the race course itself.  A short three mile drive (if that) from the house, this twisty, turny and hilly race is almost in our back yard.

One of my sons and I are both in the promo picture above from the race last year.  I am wearing the purple shirt, and he is to the left of me in the red shirt. This year it was a family affair again.  We made the quick trip and picked up our shirts and bibs on Friday evening before heading home for pizza.  We relaxed that evening watching TV.  My older son worked both of his jobs that day, so he didn’t arrive back home until about 10:30 pm.

Last year I ran the 15 Quay Challenge (10k and 5k), and my younger son ran his first 10k.  This year I ran the 10k along with my older son, and my younger son ran the 5k.  You really can pick whatever distance you feel up to, and if you sign up early, like I did, it is a very cheap race to run.  I think I paid $28 for the 10k, and early sign up for the 5k was only $20.

image

I really had not been looking forward to the race that much because the early forecast called for hot and humid conditions.  The past three weeks I have been training for pace, so I wanted a cool morning so that I could give last years finish time a run for the money.  With a mega challenging course, this 10k can give you fits.  I wanted to do well and beat my time from last year.  The photo above shows the course from last year.  This year the course was rerouted a bit, throwing in even more hills.  I couldn’t find a course map to post here, but believe me, it had just as many turns and ups and downs as last year if not more.

image image

The 10k started at 7am, and being so close to the house we didn’t even leave home until 6:25.  We lined up at 6:50 and were off right on time.  My son was instantly behind me within 20 seconds, and I would never see him again until the finish.  I clocked an impressive for me 6:58 first mile.  This meant gunning for my 48:25 finish time from last year was doable.

Body felt good, but the hills were relentless.  I know, I know, I should be used to it, but it’s easier said than done.  It was challenging.  Mile 2 was 7:19, followed by an 8 minute mile 3.  I was doing well, but not super like I wanted.  I kept at it though, and pounded the pavement happily.  It’s fun to race my towns event.  Mile 4 came and went at 8:04, a bit of a rebound on mile 5 with a 7:53.  Because of the numerous turns and crossovers along this route, I managed to see my younger son walking from the car to the start for his race four times. It was cool!  Nearing the finish, I knew that I was close to my goal.  It wasn’t meant to be though, as the final 3/4 mile is all uphill and just sucked the last bits of energy out of me.  Mile 6 was 8:05.  Pretty consistent all along the way, my final time was 48:48.  Missing last years time by 23 seconds.

After receiving my medal, I grabbed a water and waited for my older son to finish.  Younger son by my side, we watched him come into view.  I ran with him about 10 seconds up the hill nearing the finish to try to give him a boost.  He didn’t need me, as I faded quickly in his dust up the final .2.  Now we were done, and it was time for my youngest to get ready for the 5k which started at 8:30.

My official result was 28/211 overall and 7/28 in the 40-49 age group.  Not bad!

Colton took off right at 8:30, and knowing we could see him at least three times on the course we rushed down the road to see him at mile 1.3, back up to the next block to see him at mile 2.2 and then further up to see him at mile 3 and cheer him on to the finish.  Here are a couple of shots I took of him on his run.

image image image image

He finished in the top 10%, and was pretty pleased.  The 5k had over 650 finishers, which is pretty impressive for a small town race!  This is such a fun event, and continues to grow year after year.  I love running with my boys, it truly makes this event special to have them running along with me.

image image

Pacing to BQ

So the days of Spring are long gone, and so are the days of being lazy, cooped up and on the couch by 7:30pm.  Summer is here, and a new strategy for fitness and speed has hatched.

Summer is always an interesting season for me running wise.  It’s usually too hot for distance training, but the abundant daylight offers so many more chances for the runs I like to do.  Runs during the evening!  Typically I hate running in the dark, as it is very unmotivating to me.  This time of year I can afford to come home from work, relax for a few hours, and then head out for a run.  It makes me happy to be able to do that.  I hate feeling rushed, and feeling like I need to get in my runs when I am not mentally or physically prepared for them.

Almost four weeks have passed since my last marathon, and I have been busy preparing for what’s next.  I took a week off first of all, and really let my muscles recharge.  I intentionally signed up for a local 10k in the beginning of June so that I would have to start doing some shorter, faster runs to prepare for it.  If you’re anything like me, distance training can become monotonous.  I get into ruts, and feel like I can’t improve my speed. It’s always a given that I race faster than I train, but this idea I had is twofold, and hatched almost three weeks ago.

image

I was going to train for speed.  Focus on pace, and improving my focus.  My eighth run is today, and the seven runs at the beginning of this plan are leading me in the right direction.  I am trying to mix speed work, with endurance to try to achieve a BQ.  I have been shooting for 8 minute miles, and for me, it has been fun, but not easy.  You see, my normal training runs are on some hills, and I usually end up with an overall pace of somewhere in the 8:40 range.  For this plan I tried to choose the flattest route (it’s not flat) that I could to work on speed.  The first mile is always my slowest, no matter how hard I try.  But my results are becoming more what I need to see to possibly make my dream of a BQ come to fruition.

On 5/13 I paced 7:59 for a 5k.  On 5/15 I paced 7:59 at 3.25 miles.  I slipped a bit on 5/17 with am 8:12 for 3.25 miles, but I had worked all day on my feet and was tired.  On 5/18 I yearned for hills, so mixed those in and ended up at an 8:43 pace for 3.5 miles.  Then, super speedy day on 5/20 with 3.5 miles at 7:51 pace.  Two more runs of 4 and 3.5 miles right near 8:00, and I am pleased with how I am doing.  I will push myself hard on 6/6 during the 10k.  I want to see what’s possible, but with like 20+ turns on a challenging course, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Until then, I will keep pushing the pace envelope.  After the race, my focus will be pushing the pace during training runs down to 7:45. I need a pace of 7:49 over the full course of a marathon to BQ, so training for it will be crucial .  The best I’ve done in a marathon thus far is 8:06 pace.  I’ve got work to do!

I will have six weeks after the 10k to be ready for my marathon.  Like I said, I have my work cut out for me, but without a challenge I become complacent, and I do not want that!  I’ve got to see what I am capable of.  Wish me luck!

What are your favorite training go-to’s for increasing speed?  Pleas share!  Happy training yawl!