My Fall 2015 Race Calendar

This Summer has been a mixed bag.  Some great runs, some not so great.  I guess that happens a lot in the summertime, at least it does for me.   I can never make any wild predictions on how my training runs will go, and it’s all based on the weather.  Hot and muggy, Steamy and boiling.  Sunny and humid.  They all sound equally tough, but typically make me stronger for the Fall race season.

I have six races planned between now and the end of 2015.  Two major races, both marathons.  Four, run for fun, pace for others Half Marathons.  This is how it will play out.

1st up…  9/13, and the Run & Ride Half Marathon at Carowinds Amusement Park.

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This is a new pacing gig for me.  Pacing once again for Beast Pacing.  Target time of 1:50:00. My goal is to come to the finish within 45 seconds under my goal.  Just put a hotel room on hold last night, hoping to take my 17 year old son with me to ride some coasters after the race!

Next up, just six short days later on 9/19, is the Marine Corps Half Marathon.  This time I will be taking my 19 year old son with me, leaving bright and early on a Saturday morning for a 2+ hour car ride to the race location.  This race is run on the Marine Corps base Camp LeJeune.  It’s the first time I’ve had to provide my drivers license number, make and model, tag #, and insurance info for my car during registration.  They need all that info to expedite parking on base.  This should be a fun race, very military pride-filled, and inspiring.  Last year about 1,000 runners signed up, so it should be a good size field of runners.

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Taper time!  After a few Halves in mid September, I will concentrate on my next race.  Chicago!  Running the Chicago Marathon for the second year in a row!  I couldn’t be more excited.  My only goals are to equal or better my time from last year, and enjoy the crowds!  This year I will be wearing my name on my shirt!

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Six days after Chicago, I am pacing another Half Marathon.  This time closer to home.  I will be pacing the 1:55:00 Half at Greensboro.  Loved the tough course last year when I ran the marathon!  This time around only half the distance.

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Ok, so I do have a few challenges this Fall.  The day after Greensboro, on hopefully not too tired legs, I am running a Half again.  This time in Durham.  The Bull City Race Fast.  No time goals other than to beat 1:55:00.  Should be a piece of cake.  And maybe a piece of cake after the race from one of the food trucks!  This is a great event that I had to skip last year because of running Chicago and Greensboro marathons six days apart.  I was actually signed up to run it last year, but just didn’t have the legs left to even attempt it.

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All racing done now for the year?  Nope!  Insert another taper here.  The next two weeks after 10/19 will be total relaxation.  Letting my legs recover, and heal.  All for the epic event known as…..

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Yes, I will cap off my 2015 racing year with an epic run through the five boroughs of New York City on November 1st.  This really is the race of the year for me.  This is the race that I have been fundraising for for months now.  It’s getting to be crunch time, and I still need help.  I really had hoped to have raised all of the $3,000 that I pledged to the James Blake Foundation before the end of the Summer.

As of today, I have raised over $1,600, but need for every one of my readers to dig deep into their pockets.  Will you please help my charity?  $10, $20, $50?  $100?  All monies go toward advancing cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City.  Surely someone you know has been either directly or indirectly impacted by cancer.  Let’s honor those that have lost the fight to this disease, and to help those that are currently battling cancer.  Please give today.

You can click on the following link that will take you directly to my fundraising page on Crowdrise where you can make your charitable contribution now.

Thank you for you help, and I hope you have a fantastic Fall racing season.  I hope you have as much run running as I plan on having.

Revel Rockies Race Discount

With just a little over a month to go before race day on 7/19/15, I wanted to once again share a way to save money for those of you out there on the fence about running this race.

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My team “Running Down a Dream” as of today is 20 runners strong!  We had 20 signed up about two weeks ago when one member had to defer her race entry until 2016.  With that, we had 19.  Today, we had another runner sign up on the team, so we are back to 20.  BUT….. There is room for more!

If you still would like to race either the Half or a Full Marathon consider joining my team.  You will save $5 for joining, and also save another $5 if you “like” Revel Races on Facebook when you checkout.  So, with a savings of $10, why not join us?

I will be running the marathon with a BQ in mind, but every kind of runner is accepted and welcomed on the team.  So far we have about 6 running the Half and the remainder running the Full.  We don’t have to run together, as being on the same team doesn’t mean it’s a relay.  Being on a team just means you save money when you register, and we can, if you want, get together for a group photo at the start or finish, or both!  It’s a fun way to meet new runners, and I am really looking forward to it.

I have teams created for the other two Revel races this year as well.  You can join team “Chasing Boston” if you want to run a Big Cottonwood, and/or Canyon City.

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For Rockies in July though, search for team “Running Down a Dream” when you are signing up, to save $$.

If you have any questions before or after registration, please don’t hesitate to give me a shout.  See you in Colorado!

Heckuva Hodgepodge

Finally with a day off, my post today is all about randomness.  So many things to discuss, but not enough time.  You see, I have pretty much been working nonstop the last three weeks, so today this is me!

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I usually don’t watch a whole lot of TV, especially during the mornings and afternoon.  Lucky for me though, I have something awesome to watch on TV as I rest my weary feet.  The French Open!  You see, I am a diehard tennis player/fan, so spending time watching a Major on television is pure joy for me today.  Roger Federer just lost, but one of my favorite women won today and is on to the Semifinals.

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Yep, Ana Ivanovic from Serbia.  She won the whole thing back in 2008, and I was instantly a fan.  So much fun to watch her play, especially when she is playing well!

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In between folding loads of laundry and cleaning up the kitchen, I have been working on fundraising efforts for the James Blake Foundation.  I currently have three dirt bikes listed on Craigslist and all proceeds from the sale of these bikes will be donated to this charity.  You can make a donation to this awesome charity fighting the good fight against cancer with amazing research.  I am currently working with Angie from https://marathang.wordpress.com.   Promoting her headband business, we came up with a few styles currently for sale on her website.  She is donating half of the proceeds from the sale of these headbands to my fundraiser, so any donation $10 and up will score you a headband.

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Check them out on her blog, or click on the following link to my fundraiser.

In addition to relaxing today, and getting a few chores done, I got a neat email a little while ago.  I’ve been selected to return for a second year as an ambassador for the All American Marathon!  A race that is a ton of fun to run and represent, this military event is taking place April 2, 2016 and runs from Fayetteville, NC into Ft. Bragg.

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So proud to be a part of this amazing race!

So, what kind of hodgepodge of things have you gotten yourself into today?  Don’t forget that tomorrow is National Running Day, and quite often you can score some great deals on running shoes, apparel and even discounted race entries.  I know that Rock n Roll is offering a discount on many of its races tomorrow.  Have you seen any others?  Please share here if you have!

OBX Racing Challenge- What is that?

After my last post about running challenge events, I started to think.  The 10k, 5k back to back I raced last June was not the only time I’ve taken on a challenge.  I had an eppiphany!  Ok, spell check didn’t highlight that word I’ve probably never written, so maybe I spelled eppiphany correctly?  Anyway, here’s another challenge story leading up to my biggest challenge this Summer when I run a Half Marathon on Saturday, followed by a Full the next day.

What is OBX, you ask?  Maybe you’ve seen the oval stickers on the bumpers of numerous vehicles for years and always wondered what it meant.  Well, it refers to one of the most beautiful places here in my home state of North Carolina.  The Outer Banks!

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About a four hour drive from home, the Outer Banks of NC, are incredibly beautiful.  A vacation spot for thousands and thousands of people from all over the States and abroad.  It’s a place to slow down, enjoy the views, play in the sand and enjoy the ocean, sunrises and sunsets.  You only need to speed up in the OBX if you happen to be there to run one of the several awesome races they host over the course of each year.

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A few years ago I had the opportunity to run a race there!  The Outer Banks Marathon is a weekend full of events and takes place each year in November,  The weekend includes fun runs for both kids, and adults, the Buccaneer 5k, the Outer Banks 8k, a 5k and Half Marathon Challenge, the 8k and Half Challenge, the 8k and Full Marathon Challenge, Southern 6, the TowneBank Outer Banks Half Marathon, and the TowneBank Outer Banks Marathon.  Wow!  Tons of events, and a bunch of challenges to choose from.  Back when I ran these races the title sponsor was Gateway Bank.

In 2012, I chose to run the Blackbeard Challenge!  It entailed the 8k on Saturday morning, followed by the Full Marathon on Sunday morning. See?  How did I forget about this challenge when I wrote my last post?  At the time, I had never tried anything even close to this kind of challenge.  In fact, this Marathon was only the third marathon I had ever run.

Outer Banks Sporting Events has several great races throughout the year.  The Flying Pirate Half Marathon in April each year, Storm the Beach, and Saga Outerbanks Triathlon are other events they host.  This race company is known for great swag, medals and overall fun experiences.  The year that I ran this challenge, they even offered custom race shirts, and of course I had to get one since this was a big challenge to me, and I wanted to commemorate it with more than just “the race shirt”.  It’s from a company called WearYourNumber.com. Check it out!

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Isn’t it cool?  I got to customize it with my own photo (a beach photo because of where the race was located) and with verbiage/script of my choice.  It looks like a bib, but it’s actually printed on the shirt!  It was my actual race number, too!

We had the best weekend in the Outer Banks!  Family, food, fun and racing.  At the time I was suffering (and had been for months) with Plantar Fascitis.  It was excruciating, and added an extra challenge for me that weekend.  Looking back on it, I was pretty miserable for both races, and didn’t have great races at all.  But, I did it!  I ran and conquered both.

8k medal.  Completed in 38:21. 37th place overall!

8k medal. Completed in 38:21. 37th place overall!

There was a race shirt and medal for both races I ran, and an additional medal for completing the challenge.

Race shirt.  I absolutely love the logo!

Race shirt. I absolutely love the logo!

Next up, after much unsuccessful foam rolling was the marathon.  I started well, enjoying views from Kitty Hawk to Manteo, but failed miserably with cramping and of course my PF was killing me.  My worst marathon finish to date at a pace of 9:41 for an overall finish time of 4:13:58.  Yeah, I was happy to finish, but felt a bit deflated with my time.  I guess considering my physical struggles, finishing was probably all I should have hoped for.  Here is a look at the medal.

A beautiful medal, even if it is a little small compared to most races I've run.  Still love it!

A beautiful medal, even if it is a little small compared to most races I’ve run. Still love it!

To top off the weekend, I received this medal for completing the challenge.

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So there you have it.  I didn’t start blogging until six months after this race, so a recap full of detailed memories from my races isn’t included.  I really can’t go back in my mind and try to review it.  I do know though, that if you are looking for a great weekend at the beach in November, this is a great option.

On to the next challenge.  Back to back Half and Full.  This July!  Aspen Valley Half and Rockies Marathon.

No PR, No BQ, No Big Deal. Run Happy!

Could this old guy be slowing down?  Well, lately I’ve felt like my fastest running days are over.  Does it have to do with age, or does it have to do with guts and determination?

I turned my focus this past week on speed work.  Running distance in this heat (91 degrees right now), can be very daunting.  So, a nice change to my training has been shorter distances, and speed work.  I’m testing myself, to see if this aging guy still has what it takes to pull a PR at any distance.

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My immediate attention is on a 10k in a few weeks.  I am not gunning for a PR because it’s just not that important to me right now.  I haven’t PR’d the distance in a few years, but I don’t run 10k’s often at all.  But the distant focus is on a pair of races this Summer.  I’ll still go all out like I want a PR, that’s just my nature.

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I have decided that even though I am going to give it my best shot at the Rockies Marathon on July 19th and go for a PR, with high hopes for a BQ, that I will also run the day before.  A Half.

Too crazy not to try something I have never done.  Only once have I run back to back races.  Last Summer I ran a 10k and then a 5k 45 minutes later the same morning.  It was a 15k challenge which I gladly signed up for.  So, I’ve done that sort of race double, but nothing close to what I will attempt in July.

So, I am signed up for the Aspen Valley Half Marathon on July 18th.  I will be a pacer, and hopefully get in a nice much slower than normal pace for me type of warm up.  The warm up is for the next day, running the Full Marathon.  Going for my BQ.  Will I achieve that BQ?  Who knows, but I don’t think I really want to skip the challenge of back to back distance events like this opportunity presents.

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There will be so many opportunities to get my BQ, that I think I am loosening the reigns on the BQ wagon this Summer.  I would rather have a fun challenge of back to back races in two beautiful locations, than pinning all my hopes on one BQ race.  Sure, I am still going to give it my all, but if it doesn’t happen at least I won’t regret passing up on the second race to solely focus on the BQ.  Boston is not everything.  Sure, would I love to go and run Boston one day?  Absolutely!  But at least for now, it’s not the end all be all goal.

I had to do some soul searching of late, and figured out that I run because it makes me happy, makes me feel good.  I run for the health benefits, and for the mind and soul cleansing it provides me.  I run for the beauty around me.  I think if I run solely with a BQ in mind, that I lose many of the reasons why I run in the first place.  I don’t need all the pressure, running is supposed to relieve that.  If I happen to have the race of my life and qualify, then of course I will be thrilled.  If it doesn’t, I don’t want to be heart broken and full of regret.  If I run a 3:24:59 I will be ecstatic, but if I run a 3:50:00, I want to be happy for the experience of it all.

So that’s it!  I’m running a Half, then a a Full the next day.  I will give it my all, I will enjoy and revel in both.  It’s a pretty big challenge, but one I am happy about.  Have you ever tried a crazy running challenge?  Back to back races?  Back to back to back races?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Please share!

The Fast & Furious 10K

Early on in my racing career I only ran short distance races.  I became a real sucker for the feeling of going all out, and competing.  As I grew in the sport of running I began a quest for more distance.  Those numerous 5k races were becoming a bit boring, so I searched out the next level.  The elusive 10k.

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I’m not sure about you, but the 10k distance is hard to come by.  A 10k race around here is few and far between.  Funny thing is, that back a few years ago when I was learning to run further, I would seek out 10k races.  If you can believe it, I even would travel to 10k’s.  Twice making a mini weekend at the beach (a two and a half hour drive away) to run a 10k race.  Another time I drove 4.5 hours down into South Carolina to run one.  Crazy!  I wouldn’t do that now.  Those 10k’s are still hard to find though.

My next race is local, and one of the few 10k’s in the area.  I haven’t run a race shorter than a Half Marathon in almost a year.  In fact, the 10k I have coming up is that same race.  With that being said, my training focus over the next few week turns to speed versus distance.  I’m so used to running 26.2 miles, that subtracting twenty miles out of that distance seems kinda cool.  Yes, 6.2 miles will be considerably easier than running a marathon, but I haven’t been running sub 8 minute miles in quite some time.  Focusing on speed is sort of foreign to me right now.

My last 10k in June of 2014 was run at a pace of 7:47 per mile.  A finish time of 48:25.  Pretty good, but far from my best.  See, I was also running a 5k race about 45 minutes after that 10k, so I wasn’t going full throttle.  This time I can.  My PR at the 10k distance goes way back to October of 2011.  I ran a 43:09 at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Run.  A speedy 6:56 pace!  Man, how did I do that?  Would love that result again in a few weeks, but I will settle for anything that beats my time from last year.

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My plan of attack…  Run three, four and five mile training runs focusing on speed.  It has been fun.  I have a few more weeks of training runs, so I should be ready.  My last 3.1 mile training run was a 7:58 pace, so I know come race day that I can pull in a better result.

How do you feel about the 10k distance?  Do you run them frequently?  Are they a hard to find race distance where you live?  Is it easy for you to switch gears, and race different distances?  I’m finding it tougher and tougher to find my old speed because I usually race longer distances now.  Any training tips you think might help me find that fast and furious speed?

Unplugged in Ashe County – A New River Marathon Recap

The New River Marathon has been on my radar for a few years, and finally I was able to run it!  Tucked into the northwestern corner of North Carolina in Ashe County, the New River Marathon is a small, yet wonderful event.

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I packed up the car and drove up into the mountains on Friday afternoon.  I decided to stay in a nearby town about a twenty five minute drive away.  In the small town of Jefferson there really isn’t a whole lot to see, except for the views.  I have never been north of Boone, so this was a nice treat.  It’s about a three and a half hour drive from home.

I spent a few hours just relaxing before studying the map, and figuring out my drive down to the town of Todd where the packet pick up, and race location is.  Because this area is unfamiliar to me, I decided that even though they offered race morning packet pick up, I wanted to know where I was going.  Plus, I was in the mountains on a beautiful day, and I wanted to see the sights.

The drive was beautiful.  Mt. Jefferson towers above the first portion of the trip.  Standing about 1,600 feet above my car, I knew that on the way back I wanted to check out this mountain from the top!  Making the turn onto route 194, the road becomes very twisty and turny.  Fantastic views abound!  First up about four miles through beautiful landscapes, there were farmhouses, horses and cows at every turn.  Beautiful long range views, I even stopped on the road to take a few photos.  (Luckily no one was behind me)

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Once at the top, it’s about a three to four mile descent into the historic town of Todd.  I did some reading about this little town, and it really is fascinating.  The community was originally called Elk Cross Roads and was settled in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a rural outpost in the Blue Ridge Mountains that was populated mostly by farmers.  The community was first noted on North Carolina maps in the 1850’s.  There were several dry goods stores operating there before the Civil War.  It’s hard to believe that in the 1890’s Todd was larger than Boone.

The Virginia-Carolina railroad came to Todd because of the vast tracts of timber in the area, but by 1934 most of the mountains in the valley had been stripped of trees, and during the Great Depression the the railroad tracks were pulled up, the Bank of Todd was liquidated and the town’s commerce all but vanished in just a few short years.  A devastating flood in 1940 washed away most of the town.  By WWII there were only a handful of businesses remaining in the town.  I took a picture of the Todd General Store (which is for sale), as its’ one of the oldest continuously operating general stores in the state of North Carolina.  Someone needs to buy it and keep it going!

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Just a quick history of the town, as it will pack in some interesting thoughts of its history as you run this race.  In such a small crevice tucked into the valley, they had quite a nice setup for us runners.  There’s a church, the general store, a post office, a rafting business, a mercantile and bakery, and just a few other buildings tucked in there.  The park where the race starts and finishes is small, but boasts green grass, a bandstand and enough room to camp out the night before the race if that’s your thing.

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A quick 20 minutes to park, pick up my shirt and bib, snap a few photos, and I was on my way.  I was so excited to have the chance to run this race in the morning.  Now that I was confident with how to get there in the morning I could relax, take in some sights and kick my feet up at the hotel.

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On my return trip to the hotel, I stopped off at the Mount Jefferson Natural Area for a few photos.  Not surprising to me was that at the top, there were still no leaves on the trees at all.  I live in Wake county, where Spring is much further along than in the mountains.  Dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom up there, whereas that season here has already passed.  You see where this race is located in Ashe County, right on the border of Watauga County.  From atop Mt. Jefferson, you get views of North Carolina, Tennessee to the west, and Virginia to the north.

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It was such a beautiful day, I just couldn’t get over the views!

I called it an early night, got my race day gear together and hit the hay about 10pm.  I slept horribly, fearful of oversleeping.  Marathon morning went off without a hitch though, and soon enough I was back in the car heading down to Todd.

I passed a beautiful sunrise over the mountains while driving there!  This time I couldn’t stop in the middle of the road to snap a picture because there was race morning traffic on the undulating country roads.  I arrived in Todd to a very well coordinated parking effort by volunteers.  It was a chilly morning at 43 degrees, but I knew it was going to be just perfect.  Highs for the day were supposed to be around 63.

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I packed a quick drop bag in the car before heading to the start line about a quarter mile away.  You can see from this picture that the race location is tucked into this valley.  I just knew that the views on this race course were going to be amazingly beautiful.

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This big guy was wandering around greeting runners as we made our way into the park!  That kid was fascinated!  So was I!  Not something I will probably ever see again as I get ready to run a marathon.

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I guess by now you can probably get a really good feel for the atmosphere of this race.  The New River Marathon has a very small town, country feel.  Lots of super nice people everywhere.  It is a great break from a large city event, or big race in general.

The race began promptly at 7:45am, a 15 minute delay, making sure that everyone got to the line in time.  The race course winds out of the town of Todd, and along the banks of the New River.  I was fairly close to the front of the pack over the first mile or so.  I knew with a few extremely difficult hills on this course, that I didn’t want to overdo it in the beginning.  The marathon had less than 200 participants, I figured I was somewhere in the top 50 heading out.

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Let me tell you something.  This is not the easiest course you will ever find, heck, it’s in the mountains of North Carolina, but you will be hard pressed to find one that outmatches its beauty!  There are amazing views of the mountains, the river, horse farms, old barns, wildlife, Christmas tree farms and so much more.  Because the race is small, you won’t hear much of anything other than the sound of your breathing, or the steps from other runners if one happens to be nearby.  There were times when I had no one in front of me, and no one behind me.

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The whole time I was running I feared that my Garmin would lose GPS because of the location of this race.  It actually never happened.  What I found unique about this race for me was the way that I really wasn’t hardly ever looking at it.  I was just content to run and enjoy the scenery.  The only other race I’ve run that can compete with the beauty of this one is Big Cottonwood in Utah.  This race is all kinds of eye candy, and it was so good for my soul!  The quiet serenity of this marathon course will almost lull you into thinking that you aren’t even running a marathon.  It was that special!

Water stops were just about perfect on this course, I never once was yearning for water.  Each stop was staffed with smiling faces, and some stops even had gels, bananas, chocolate candies, etc..  They did a great job.  Even after a couple of the tougher steep-grade hills, there were nice downhills to give you a break.  It really was the perfect course to challenge the runner, and yet give an awesome sense of nature and beautiful surroundings.

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I knew I was having a good race.  Like I said before, I wasn’t trying to set any land speed records, but I did want to perform well.  I few times I felt calf cramps coming on, but nothing major.  I did see plenty of folks in the later miles of the run having issues though.  I just plodded along, enjoying the views.  Every now and then I would pick off a runner who was starting to lag a bit, and we would exchange kind words of encouragement.  It was just that kind of race.

This is a race for anyone who loves nature.  Anyone who loves small town races, and is best run “unplugged”.  Enjoy the sights and sounds.  Leave that IPod at home.  The sounds of the flowing New River, and occasional mooing cow and chirping bird are all you need.

Nearing the end of my race I just couldn’t believe that I had just covered that many miles without really realizing it.  I made the final push back into the town of Todd, where family members and runners alike were cheering.  Then the final quarter mile, with a turn onto the grass into the park to finish.  My race was over.

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A finish time of 3:50:13, placed me 32nd overall.  With a unique medallion placed around my neck, I just basked in the glow of what I had just achieved.  It was a run for the record books, and I’m not referring to anything close to a personal best.  Record books meaning one of the best races I’ve run.  Best places, best atmosphere.  It truly was a devine experience for my soul.

It was an incredible, unique, beautiful, quiet, serene, cozy type of event.  Not a lot of fanfare, or bells and whistles.  If you choose to run this event one day, it will truly be you and nature only, running together in perfect harmony.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon 2015- Race Recap

The most beautiful of Spring days ushered in and welcomed thousands of runners to Raleigh for the second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half yesterday.  A bit of a chill and breeze in the air as I easily found a parking spot downtown.  The day had much promise!

I had made the decision to run the Half this time around, and I really was happy with my choice.  I arrived downtown about a hour and fifteen minutes before the race was to begin at 7am.  Stretching and hydrating, I felt pretty good.  I hadn’t gotten much sleep, but surprisingly felt some good energy.  I knew I wanted to take some photos of the starting area, so I made my way over to the start just before 6:30.

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The crew was furiously setting up the finisher village as I passed by the finish line.  Like a well oiled machine, the volunteers and folks with Rock n Roll had it under control.  Corrals, main stage, signs everywhere.  It was pretty impressive.  I didn’t use bag drop, but that was going in full swing.  Runners starting to gather in big crowds, they started filing into the corrals.  I was in Corral 1, so had a great view of the main stage where they were making announcements.  The National Anthem was sung by a guy who was there running something like his 65th marathon.  He did a fine job!

As the countdown clock was nearing zero, I snapped a few photos.

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Unlike my last race three weeks ago, I didn’t trip and fall prior to this run.  I wasn’t battered and bruised at the start, although my leg still isn’t fully healed.  All I really had to do was down my GU fifteen minutes prior, and tighten my shoe laces one last time.  I had decided to wear my RnR Las Vegas marathon shirt for this race, and snapped a picture right before the start.

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Promptly at 7am, the race began.  Unlike most races, this time I used both my Garmin and Runkeeper on my phone to track my run.  I wanted to track my splits at this race because of the unending hills.  Because this event is not homegrown, and draws in folks from all around the country, the course incorporates many of the iconic sights around the city.  Due to the nature of trying to include all of these sights, runners get the best of Raleigh’s hills right alone with it.  Local races typically try not to include every difficult hill in the city, as a course will draw more runners the flatter it is.  So, with that said, if you are looking for a flat Half or Full marathon, Raleigh is not the city to scout out for races.  It’s a perfect place though if you like to train on hills!  And I do!

The course this year was more well supported with aid stations than last year.  I never felt the least bit dehydrated, as water/Gatorade stops were aplenty.  I cruised along through the first few miles downtown.  I felt pretty good.  The first five miles, full of ups and downs, I maintained a pace under 8:00 per mile.  It wasn’t until mile 6 when my pace hit 8:20 that I knew the hills were taking a bit of a toll on me.  I felt good though, and really enjoyed all of the music and entertainment along the course.  I really think that there were a lot more spectators all along the course route this year.  The constant cheers were so appreciated, especially along some of the tougher uphill stretches.

Traversing Peace St. toward Cameron Village is certainly one of the toughest parts of this course.  I ran mile 7 in 8:26, and mile 8 in 8:57.  Yes, the hills played a big roll in those times.  My overall pace was now over 8:00 per mile, and that was my goal for this race.  I was shooting for a 1:45:00 finish, so if I wanted to achieve that, I would have to now make up some time.  Mile 9 brought us to the Bell Tower at N.C. State.  I had sort of pre-arranged seeing my older son here at the Bell Tower.  He wasn’t sure if he would be on campus that night since a couple of his buddies were in town for the weekend, and sure enough he wasn’t there.  Bummer!  We made the turn onto campus and down Pullen Rd.  I had found a bit more of a boost in energy here, but knew my miles running sub 8 were gone.  I was just trying to keep focused on running smoothly.  After that nearly 9 minute mile 8, mile 9 was 8:21, followed by an 8:06 mile 10.

The beauty of Spring in North Carolina was everywhere.  Azaleas are in bloom, dogwood trees full of whispy white and pink flowers.  Spring brings pollen, but the weather this year wasn’t as warm during the race, so it didn’t feel as bad this year.  Temperatures were probably about 55 to 58 degrees, and felt a bit warmer in the sunshine.  Heading toward the stretch on Dorthea Dix campus, I knew that the “Wear Blue to Remember” dedication was upcoming.  I looked forward to seeing it, and being inspired.  Right as I approached the flags, photos and inspiring folks on the side of the road, my race nearly ended.  It has never happened to me before, but my right knee completely gave out.  Out of nowhere!  It completely buckled and I almost fell.  I staggered over to the side of the road completely bewildered.  What was going on?  I didn’t know what to do, but to try to run again.  So, I did.  A few steps later it buckled again.  Almost fell again.  I tried to massage it, stretch it.  It wasn’t muscular though.  How do I fix this, I thought to myself.  All I could do was keep trying and see if it would stop.  Finally, after a few attempts, and some encouragement from the spectators I slowly began running again, careful, not wanting to fall.  I guess it worked, because it didn’t happen again.  Thinking back on it today, my only guess as to what the hell that was all about is that maybe it had something to do with my fall on that knee and leg a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I was finally running again.  Pretty confident that my knee wasn’t going to buckle again, I tried to pick up the pace.  My knee issue wrecked my pace though on mile 11 and 12.  9:02 and 9:21, despite the starts and stops.  I was determined to finish strong.  Boylan Ave. was approaching, a tough uphill run before dipping back down into the center of the city for the finish.  I managed a good showing on Boylan.  Ran it strong.  I really just tried to enjoy the last mile.  Clapping for spectators, saying thank you.  Winding my way to the finish mile 13 was completed in 8:32.  With the finish line in view, I gave it one final push.  I practically sprinted to the finish, not knowing if my knee would give out and send me flying through the finish line.

I managed to stay on my feet, passing about 8 runners in the final few hundred feet.  With a medal around my neck, my 26th Half marathon was over.  I came close to my goal, even with my knee hampering the later part of my race.  Finish time 1:47:46.  Overall pace 8:14.  Pretty happy with that!

Water, Gatorade, bananas, pretzels, chocolate milk, I took my time walking though the finisher chute.  Stopping now and then to rest in sunny spots.  A guy from Jersey Mike’s handed me a mini turkey sub sandwich that really hit the spot.  As I sat on the curb, I turned to snap a picture of the finish area looking back at the finish line.

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I decided to return to my car and grab a jacket before heading over to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the post race concert.  It was a good time.  It was nice to relax and take in some music before heading home.  “Hey now, you’re a Rock Star!”  Smash Mouth was the post race headliner.

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Results were posted last night.  5,599 finished the Half, and 952 finished the Full.

My results-  502/5599 overall, 378/2213 gender, and 62/359 on my last day in the 40-44 Age Group.

Pretty happy with my results!  Now that today is my birthday, and I am officially 45, let’s see what kind of impact I can have in my new AG.  Thanks again, Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Raleigh event is amazing!  Such a challenge, but so much fun!  Great swag, too!  Love the Cree Shimmer Wall on the medal.

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The Half it is…

I headed to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh expo this afternoon.  The expo was pretty much as expected, although it did seem like there were less vendors there this second go around.   A couple of things became abundantly clear while I was at the expo.

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Sporting a shirt I bought at the expo last year, I picked up my bib.

From there I decided to check out the “Solutions” table, and at least see how much it would cost me to switch from the Half to the Full.  I had kinda figured it out in my head how much more it would be, but I wanted to see if I would really feel the urge to transfer to the Full once at the desk.  Yeah, after being told it would cost me an extra $70 to make the change (just a wee bit less than what I had already paid to run the Half) I wholeheartedly decided to stick with what I had already paid for.  No extra $$ out of pocket.  At least not yet.

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With my guardian Sir Walter Raleigh at the front entrance, Rock ‘n’ Roll does know how to put on a good show, I proceeded around the expo center in search of any good samples, etc..  Pretty much the same from big expo to big expo, I didn’t drop any money until I made a donation at the Jimmy V booth.  From there I popped over to the Rock ‘n’ Roll info area where you can register for races, etc…  You know, check out and get enticed into signing up for more races.  I didn’t sign up for anything last year, but the deal they were running today was hard to pass up on.  Signing up on the spot, you could pay just $50 to run next years Half or Full.  Done deal!  I filled out my registration, and now for only $50, have my first marathon of 2016 secured and paid for.

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So yes, I could have paid $70 to switch from the Half to the Full for tomorrow’s race, but instead decided to pay twenty dollars less than that to run next years Full.  I am super stoked about my decision.  Tomorrow I run the Half, and even if I am running in a cloud of pollen from all of the azaleas in bloom, I will only be running for half the time.  I will survive!  I’ll take my inhaler just in case.

Marathon #17

Keep calm, they say.

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With less than two weeks to go, I think I am everything but calm.  You would think that I have this whole marathon gig down pat.  I mean, having run eight marathons last year, I should be raring to go.  In fact, I do have race withdrawal.  An affliction I’ve endured for the last two months or so.  I haven’t raced since November 2nd.  This may, in fact, be the longest break between races I have ever endured.  Normally I start have race withdrawal about two weeks after a race.  This stretch by race day, will be over three months.  No wonder I am anything but calm.

I really did need the break, however.  My body was just tired after a full racing season in 2014.  I had some great races, and some not so great.  I needed the time off.  I needed to recover, and get that desire back.  It really took longer than I thought it would.  Even my long training runs haven’t been that fun leading up to marathon 17.  I really haven’t enjoyed many runs at all.  I think the combination of tired legs, lackluster cold weather running and the general malaise that this time of year brings me have left me feeling quite unprepared for this marathon.  Race day has really snuck up on me.  I mean, it really, really has.  I know my mind knows how to conquer the 26.2 miles that await me on February 7th, I just don’t know at this point how my legs will react on race day.

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No, this twelve day stretch doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas, Paul.  These twelve days have everything to do with a marathon.  The only present involved will be a medal at the finish line.  If I make it to the finish.  Can you believe that I am even afraid of not finishing?  I guess the nerves are starting to kick in.  Stay calm!  I can do this!  I have to keep reminding myself.

My goals for this race are just to finish, and try to let my body relax through the process and take it all in. Of course, no two marathons are quite the same.  I’m not talking about the course either.  Marathon race day can being all sorts of different results, even for elite athletes.  One never knows how the body will react on race day.  To have the most consistent results, one needs proper training.  This training cycle has been anything but consistent for me, so I need to rely more this time on tenure.  I’ve done this sixteen times in the past, so I have to rely on knowledge I’ve gained along the way.

Hopefully this knowledge will get me to the finish!

No matter how many races you’ve done, have you ever felt underprepared come race day?  How have you overcome?