I feel a let down coming on….

I am four days away from my final race of 2014.  This Sunday I will be completing my race year in one final Half Marathon.  The City of Oaks Rex Healthcare Half Marathon with my sons.  Although I have really been looking forward to running this event with them, I am already starting to feel the pangs of disappointment that after the race my calendar will be empty.

I don’t know about you, but I would be willing to bet there are a bunch of you out there that like having a race on the calendar.  Something in the future to strive for.  Something to give you good reason to continue training.  I love having a race to look forward to.  It is my motivation, after all.  I just love pushing myself, and feel my best (or worst) comes out on race day.

I’ve had an astounding year, and I don’t want it to end.

I ran eight marathons this year.  After last year’s five, I never thought this possible, but I did it.  I ran all of them sub 4, and two of them are among my top 4 since becoming a marathoner a three years ago.  I’ve now run 16 marathons, and each one holds a special place in my heart.  Here is a look at the first four marathon medals this year.

Charleston, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach, Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh

Charleston, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach, Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh

…..and here is a look at the final 4 of the year.

All American, Big Cottonwood, Chicago, Greensboro

All American, Big Cottonwood, Chicago, Greensboro

Quite the collection, right?  I am very proud of each of them.  I know I will never be able to top that accomplishment, but I still have Boston to strive for.

As I start looking at races to fill my 2015 calendar, it makes me sort of uneasy that I have nothing lined up yet.  I guess I will take a month or two off from racing, and use that time to rest, recover and then gear up again for another fun year.  What races will make the cut?

Do you get that uneasy feeling when your closest race is months and months away?  Is your race calendar ever completely void?  How do you deal with it?  I would love some insights.

Big Cottonwood Marathon – Race Recap

A whirlwind of a trip, I got home from Utah late last night.  I had the most amazing time not only traveling to Salt Lake City for the first time, but participating in the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon as well.  I have so many images and memories fresh in my mind, that I think it’s time to share them.


Saturday morning, September 13th, 2014.  The day that would find me competing in my 14th marathon, and 6th this year.  I had everything I needed for race day laid out for my wake up call at 3am.  I have been struggling with a bad case of bronchitis, so upon wake up, I was happy that I felt fairly good.  I worried a lot however, about how my lungs would react to running a downhill course starting above 9,000 ft. In elevation.  My sea level training runs certainly wouldn’t help, so the nerves of coughing attacks had me a bit on edge.

Staying at a host hotel, the Crystal Inn (a mile from the finish) has its advantages.  Three charter buses pulled right up to the street outside of the hotel at 5am sharp for those of us staying at the hotel to board, and immediately ride right up to the start at Brighton Ski Resort high in the mountains.  Equipped with my race bag, a long sleeve shirt and throw away gloves, I was on my way.  The buses left about 5:25am.  It took about 40 minutes to make it to the start, in the utter darkness of an early morning.

We piled out of the bus, greeted by 36 degree temperatures.  Glad I had the extra layer, and race provided Mylar blanket for the wait.  The starting village was well equipped with port o potties, had plenty of space to walk around, and even had a tables set up with cups of water and Gatorade.  At over 60 races, I have never seen pre-race drinks available.  Certainly a nice touch.  As I looked at the stars in the clear dark sky, I prepared my mind and stretched my legs.  I threw my drop bag into a large truck at 6:45 to make my final preparations.  About a minute later an announcement was made that the race would be delayed 15 minutes so that several late buses had enough time to get to the start.  With that news, I was irritated that I had just gotten rid of my long sleeve shirt.  The race was delayed again about 10 minutes later, the eventual starting time being 7:25.  Certainly the longest delay for a race I have ever been in.  I tried to take it in stride, and just enjoy the rising of the sun and the illumination of the surrounding area.

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Lined up with over 1,500 runners, the gun went off.  Knowing that I was hoping for a BQ at this event, I started just behind the 3:25:00 pace group leader.  My plan was to wait until the crowd thinned a bit, and then increase my speed and catch up to the 3:20:00 pacer.  We started actually uphill, running through a little village of ski chalets that surrounded the base of the ski resort.

As the course turned downhill, I thought ok, here we go.  The views were amazing.  More beautiful than I had ever imagined.  So much eye candy to keep focused on.  My neck still hurts today from straining and enjoying all of the views along the way.  No lie!

One of the biggest treats ever during a race came up just a mile and a half into the race.  A moose!  Right on the side of the road.  Seriously, I thought, am it really seeing a moose in its natural environment?  Wow!


See?  It was unreal.  Photo credit to this woman’s friend.  I knew that stopping for picture taking wouldn’t bode well for a Boston attempt.  The first few miles I just tried to find a good rhythm, taking advantage of the downhill grade.  I felt like I was flying, and yet there were tons of runners ahead of me, flying even faster.  It truly was a unique running experience, and I knew that I had 15 miles through the canyon to enjoy.

I made my way.  I passed that 3:25 pacer, and then passed the 3:20 pacer.  I was clipping along.  In  looking and mapping out my race a few weeks back, I figured that I wanted to be coming out of the canyon, 15 miles into the race at an overall pace of 7:30.  I figured that pace would give me enough cushion to hit my BQ goal over the remaining miles which included about 6 miles of rolling hills.

Hitting the timing mat 5.3 miles into the race at 37:50, my pace was 7:08.  Happy, for sure.  Can I keep it up though?  That was my question.  My lungs were holding up ok a few coughing attacks, but tried hard to keep them under control.  A few tenths of a mile later was moose sighting #2.  This moose was further back from the road, standing in a clearing and just watching the running spectacle in from of him/her.  I was amazed how many runners around me completely missed seeing both of those majestic animals.  So many runners has ear phones in, and just were focusing on the road ahead.  I didn’t understand.  Weren’t we there to enjoy the views?  To enjoy the sounds of the rushing waterfalls, babbling brooks and streams?  For me, the views and sounds will last in my memory longer than the run itself.

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Moving right along I hydrated when needed, and tried so hard to keep focused on my breathing.  The combination of my illness, the elevation and running at a pace I don’t often run at, has left me with a very sore chest today.  Nearing the bottom of the canyon, I crossed over the half way point in 1:38:05.  Overall pace 13.1 miles in was 7:29.  I was right on track with where I wanted to be coming out of the canyon.  Turning onto Wasatch Blvd., the race became a whole new beast.  Coming out of the canyon, no longer shaded from the sun, my pace began to decline.  Having just run 15 miles downhill, a change of elevation from near 9,000 ft. to just under 5,000 ft., heading out onto a 7 mile out and back stretch with rolling hills completely in the sun was a massive challenge.  This challenge greatly affected my pace.

I watched my overall pace on my Garmin tick further and further upwards.  I was disappointed, but trying to stay positive.  I was losing speed at an alarming pace, and was not thrilled about it.  Even though there were beautiful views of downtown Salt Lake City in the distance, I found it harder to concentrate on my surroundings.  I was laboring more and more.  My lungs were killing me.  Right around the turnaround point on Wasatch was the 18.75 mile mark timing mat.  I crossed in 2:27:01.  Still ok overall, even with my struggles, but with twinges of calf cramping and aching Achilles on both sides, I knew this overall pace wouldn’t hold up.  At this point my overall pace was 7:50.  Totally thrilled with that on most days, going for a BQ meant it had to be better than that.

Trying hard to keep hydrated to stave off cramping, I spent too much time at the next two aid stations.  I also had to take my one and only potty break.  Paying a lot of attention to my Garmin, my pace was dropping.  Between miles 19 and 23 my Boston dream at this race went up in smoke.  I knew it, but couldn’t do anything about it.  I couldn’t push myself any harder.  I wasn’t giving up, but I felt the pangs of disappointment.  Looking back at my pace during this section, I am actually a bit disgusted.  Why couldn’t I have been healthier?  Why couldn’t I have felt 100%?  During this four mile rolling section heading back toward Cottonwood Heights my pace was 10:21.  Ugh!  Goodbye Boston.  This wasn’t the day.

I still had a great race going, and I wanted to finish as strongly as possible.  With the out and back section behind me, I turned onto Fort Union Boulevard for the final 5k, the race finish in the distance.  23.1 miles in, at 3:12:04, and overall pace of 8:19.  Time to push, and finish this race.  Because of the unique nature of this race course, it doesn’t lend itself to much spectator support.  I missed it.  This last section though, running through Cottonwood Heights, the support was tremendous.  People in passing cars on the other side of the road yelled out words of encouragement.  Family and friends and residents gathered all along the road to support us.  Many thanks to you all!  It’s always just what I need at the finish.

Getting closer and closer, I could see the finish approaching.  I ran as fast as it could.  Finally running through the finish at 3:41:59.  Greeted by smiling faces of a crowd of awesome volunteers, an amazingly huge, beautiful medal was placed around my neck.  No matter what, I was still proud, I was happy.  I then was given a freezing cold towel, which was a blessing.  I draped it around my neck while I grabbed a water and a few cups of diet coke.  I stopped for a moment, leaned on a table and washed my salt covered face with that refreshing towel, washed my hands and neck.  It was a moment of refreshment that I truly needed.  Looking back toward the finish line I snapped the picture below.


I can’t imagine a more gorgeous finisher area.  I ran right down that canyon in the background.  Hobbling a bit, as my legs started stiffening up, I walked further into the finisher village.  Lots of great food choices, but I only grabbed one slice of pizza, and gnawed on that as I proceeded down toward drop bag pick up.  Because of the late start of the race, I had very little time to recover and rest before I had to head out and back to the hotel.  As I searched for my bag, I was greeted by Jared Rohatinsky, who so graciously offered to find my bag so I wouldn’t have to bend down to pick it up.  Yep, it’s the little things sometimes that can make a race.  Was great to meet Jared finally.  Barely able to walk with any pace now, I had to summon up some final energy to walk back to my hotel.  I had 45 minutes to walk that mile, shower, pack, checkout and board the shuttle by 12:15 back to the airport.  I made it though.  A couple of flights later, I landed in Raleigh and drove home.  I arrived at midnight, and couldn’t have been happier to lay down in my bed.

My take aways and final thoughts about this race?  I’m sure there are few around that compete.  This race was amazingly organized from start to finish, had great volunteers, course and swag.  The weather was perfection.  A nice chilly start, and a mild finish.  Finally, let me just say that from every direction, the entire time I was in Salt Lake, Murray, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights, every person I met was super friendly and polite.  What a great first impression of Utah.

Big Cottonwood Marathon finish:

Chip time: 3:41:59.  Pace: 8:28. Overall finisher 379/1487. Age Group: 56/124

To Revel Races and Brooksee Events, thanks for the memories!  Big Cottonwood was incredible, and I cannot wait to participate in more of your events.  I’ve got Revel Rockies and Canyon City on my list already for next year.


Revel Big Cottonwood is tomorrow!

My trip so far has been smooth as silk.

I arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday evening about 5pm.  Uneventful flights, smooth sailing.  I am staying at a host hotel, the Crystal Inn, about a mile from the finish in Murray, Utah.  The staff couldn’t be more helpful.  They have all been so kind.  They sent a free shuttle for me to the airport to pick me up and drive me here.  They offer a breakfast and light dinner right here in the lobby, so it is very convenient.

Upon my arrival yesterday, I was immediately blown away by the beauty of the mountainous area that is Salt Lake.  I’ve just been in awe of the Wasatch mountains.

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I did not rent a car for this trip to try to save some money.  Turns out, at least staying at this hotel, that you really don’t need a car.  When it came time to go to the expo today (about 8 miles from the hotel), they offered to drive me over to the train station nearby.  The train ride is like 10 minutes, and only cost me $5.00 for a round trip ticket.  The Expo was at Sandy Civic Center, and was very well done.  Lots of space, more vendors than I expected, and a great race shirt, throw away gloves and Mylar blanket in the race bag for the chilly start tomorrow.  What a nice touch!

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I met the race director Josh, who seemed to be taking the enormity of the day and overnight ahead of him all in stride.  I’m sure the race will go off without a hitch.

So, my race prep.  I’ve continued to struggle with my bronchitis, especially here at an elevation much higher than I am used to.  I had a great nights sleep last night, and felt a little better.  Still struggling with intermittent coughing and hacking.  I really hope I survive the 9,000 ft. Elevation at the start tomorrow without hacking up a lung.  I managed to go out for a 4.25 mile shake out run late this morning in beautiful sunshine.  Temperatures here, with a cold front that dipped down from Canada last night, were in the 40’s when I woke up today.  It was about 50 when I went out for my run.  Perfection!


Dinner tonight, and turning in early.  I need all the rest I can get before this epic race tomorrow.  I have dreamed about this race for a long time now, and tomorrow is the day.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my trip so far.  Tomorrow is a wake up call at 3am.  Buses are loading here at the hotel at 5am, and we will begin the journey up Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton Ski Resort where the marathon begins.  A 7am start time, the temperatures will indeed be chilly.  Probably in the 30’s.

I’m pretty excited.  Can’t wait to share my race experience with you.  Stay tuned.


Big Cottonwood Marathon and Fall Race Planning

Image I’ve done my research.  I’ve looked at the pictures, and runner comments, and course.  This race looks absolutely incredible!  I must sign up, and fast! This race, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, is mainly a downhill course.  I have never been to Utah, and this seems like a pretty great opportunity to check out the area and its beauty. Looking at Fall races, and trying to put together a good schedule, a few things have occurred.  First off, I really enjoyed the Asheville City Marathon I ran last September.  I planned on going back, spending race weekend in the mountains and enjoying the Fall foliage.  A few months ago, even though they had already started the registration process for this coming year, they cancelled the event completely, and gave refunds to all that had registered.  This left me with a hole in my Fall schedule.  I also decided (since it’s free to enter) to put my name in the hat for the Chicago Marathon, in October. Distance race planning can be tough.  Making sure you have to funds, travel, new races versus old races, rest time, etc., a lot goes in to the planning schedule.  Summer here is too hot for racing, so I generally get a lot of training miles in.  These training miles in the tough summer heat always leave me well prepared for a great Fall racing season. So…. Options….   Big Cottonwood Full in Utah, mid September. image A week later the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon in Tennessee put on by Vacation Races.  These two races, on back to back weekends lead me to think of just taking the entire 12 day stretch off as vacation time from work. October…. Rock ‘n’ Rebellion Half on the 5th, here in Raleigh. Depending on the lottery, maybe Chicago mid month.  Not sure I could afford a trip to both Utah and Chicago in the Fall.  Fun to think about though. Greensboro Marathon on the 18th, followed by the Bull City Race Fest Half on the 19th. ( both of which I am already registered for) November… City of Oaks Half Marathon on the 2nd, with my son.  (Registered already) Not sure if the season will continue after that race.  I have the opportunity to head to Spacecoast Marathon in December, or have always wanted to run Kiawah Marathon, which is also in December.  We’ll have to see how it all pans out.  Race planning is fun, isn’t it?

Do you have any big plans for the Fall this year?

Marathon #10 – One week to go!


At this moment, one week from today……

I will be about 16 miles into my 26.2 mile quest at my tenth marathon.  It’s really hard to believe.  My 9th down in Charleston was two weeks ago today, and wow has the last two weeks just flown by.  The moment I finished that race I started thinking about the one coming up in Hilton Head.  I thought, some recovery runs, some short burst running, and pace practice would be all I would do.  Throw in the snow this past week, and the bitter cold temperatures the past two weeks overall, and I just haven’t gotten in the runs I wanted to.

I ended up with about 75 miles total for the month of January.  Not as many as I wanted.  I’m really trying to cut myself some slack, because I really had a longer recovery period from Charleston than I wanted.  That race really tired out my body.  The struggle against the wind at that race really did me in.  It took several more days than normal after a marathon for my body to get back to feeling good.

Last Fall, I ran two marathons in two weeks.  Looking back on that, I felt really good after the first.  I worked hard in that race, conquering the hills of Raleigh, and setting a new marathon PR.  I came off that race with high hopes, and recovered very quickly.  Two weeks later I was running another marathon in Las Vegas.  I wasn’t trying to set any records at that race, but it proved to me that my body could handle two marathons pretty close together.  The difference this time is that my body didn’t feel as good coming off of the a Charleston a Marathon.  Plus the weather has really been a deterrent to my training and recovery.

So, a week from today, my goal in Hilton Head is to not shoot for a BQ, but to work on the mental part of my running.  I want to reach the half way point in that race feeling very positive.  I want to push myself, and maintain a more positive attitude than I had in Charleston.  I am hoping for better weather conditions.  The seven day forecast shows a good chance of rain for race day, which I am not thrilled about at all.  Hopefully as race day nears, this forecast will change.  The low is supposed to be 40, high of 60.  I am ok with this, but no rain, please!!!  Isn’t it amazing how much the weather and conditions on race day can affect your run?

I am excited, and nervous.  This always happens, but I really revel in race week anxiousness.  It just proves to me that I love running, and the excitement of pushing myself in a race.  My only competition is me out there, and I really hope to have a great run next Saturday.  Just one week to go!


Hilton Head Island Marathon is my 10th, so it will be one for my record book.  I can’t wait!


Pushing your Limits


2013 is over.  I really didn’t have a mileage goal for the year, but ended up putting in 1,134 miles.  This included 16 races.  Racing miles totaled 255.1.  That’s 5 marathons, 9 halves and 2 5k’s.  Almost a quarter of my overall miles were put in during races.  That is an interesting stat to me.  Really just goes to show that I enjoy competing and pushing my limits.  My goal for 2014 will be to reach the same.

My main goal for last year was to remain injury free.  Check!  Secondary goal was to run a combination of 13 half and full marathons throughout the 2013 season.  Check!  Where does that leave me for 2014?  I would like to log 1,200 miles this year, and qualify for Boston.  Of course, all the while remain injury free again.

When setting goals, do you go for broke?  Really push the envelope?  I like to set goals that are achievable, yet lofty.  Boston is a lofty goal for me.  Can I do it?  I’d like to think I can.  Will I qualify?  That is yet to be seen.  A runner friend of mine recently said that he plans on running less, but getting faster In the new year.  That running a five hour marathon just isn’t fun enough anymore.  I guess as we begin our running journeys, it’s great to pass milestones.  To run that first 5k, to work up to distance racing, if that’s what one chooses.  Running a first Half or Full is a huge accomplishment.  Finishing is usually the only goal for a first timer.  Once having run a few to several distance races, just finishing isn’t good enough anymore.  I like to get better, to push my limits.  At this point, running a marathon over four hours would be a disappointment.  For me, this would mean that my body didn’t react and do what I have trained it to do.  I enjoy running distance, and after setting a new marathon PR at the end of 2013, I would be lying if I told you that setting another PR at the marathon distance this year wasn’t important to me.  Is it.  So is qualifying for Boston.

I will push my limits, and go for it.  I have to keep telling myself to run harder, run faster.  That is the only way I will get to Boston.  I will be disappointed if I don’t qualify this year, but as long as I am making progress toward that goal, I will be ok with it.

How are you going to push your limits in 2014?


All American Marathon (May 4, 2014)


I literally just heard about this race for the first time yesterday, and just have to talk about it.  I will do my part from a social media standpoint to get the word out because just from reading about it, I think this race has great potential.  So, May 4, 2014, will be the inaugural race.  The All*American Marathon, Mike-to-Mike Half Marathon, and Marathon relay registration just opened recently, and I plan on signing up for the marathon.

The race begins at 6:30am, in downtown Fayetteville, NC.  From the start at Festival Park, runners will race up Ray Ave. to Hay St., running right through historic downtown Fayetteville.  From there, runners will pass Veteran’s Park and the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.  This is the home of the historic Iron Mike Statue.  Continuing on Morganton through yet another historic district in Fayetteville.  The Haymount District.  Runners will traverse gently rolling hills until reaching the All-American Freeway.  After about four miles, the Full Marathoners will enter Ft. Bragg.  Runners will run past the home of the 82nd Airborne Division and past Pope Airfield.



The final 16 miles on the marathon course are run on Ft. Bragg, so this is a great opportunity for non-servicemen and women to see this Army base.  Race organizers are expecting a field of 5,000 runners combined for the three races.  I would expect that there will be many servicemen and women from around the US taking part in the races that day.  What a great way to pay tribute to them, support them, and run side by side with them.

I hope it will be a fantastic turn out.  I will surely be there.  I live about 45 minutes away, so it will be an easy drive for me.  I am already looking forward to this inaugural event!

Be sure to follow the race on Twitter.  @AAMarathon

The current price for the marathon is $75, $60 for the Half.  Rates are good through December 31st.  There is a discount for service members.


Destination Marathons USA


The January 2014 Runner’s World came out this week, and I just had to check out the Top 10 list they published on fun filled, recently launched marathons across the US.  I have only been running the marathon distance for two years, so I haven’t really delved into big time destination racing.  Yet!

Looking at their picks, a few really stand out, and already have been on a wish list of mine for race travel.  I have a top 3 based on the list of top 10.

#1. Utah Valley Marathon. –  I have never been to Utah, so this would be a great reason to visit.  The Provo Canyon Scenic Byway is supposed to be beautiful, and it’s always nice to have scenery on a long 26.2 mile journey.  The main attraction though?  The course is mostly a gentle descent.  A net elevation change of 1,700 feet down from the start.  What a great way to try for a BQ time!


#2.  Vancouver USA Marathon. –  Any trip to the pacific northwest is ok in my book, and even better if running a marathon.  I spent a fair amount of time vacationing to Washington State mostly, when I was younger.  I have spent some time along the Columbia River, and Portland, with a trip or two to Mt. Hood.  The area is just beautiful, so for that reason alone I want to run this marathon one day.  The course is flat and scenic, two more good reasons to run it.


#3.  Santa Barbara Marathon. –  Ah… A trip to California to run a marathon?  Yes, please.  I have had my eye on this one the past two years, and have even looked into flights.  Hasn’t worked out the past two years, but this one will be on my calendar soon.  A November race, great temperatures, and running along the Pacific Coastline.  All sounds great to me.


If only my wallet were bigger, or I were to come across a small fortune!  So many wonderful races across America that I want to run someday.  Not to mention those abroad.  I would love to travel to Australia for a marathon.  Paris perhaps…  How about the Athens Marathon, or a marathon in South Africa.  Would love to do them all one day.

For now I will remain focused on getting to some interesting and highly rated races closer to home.

I have run one marathon that did make the Runner’s World top 10 already.  In 2012, I ran the Tobacco Road Marathon, which is in Cary, NC.  It’s about 20 miles from my home.  Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the race at all.  It is mostly flat, but extremely boring.

Have you run any of the races that made the top 10 list?  Here is a full listing…

The Louisiana Marathon

Tobacco Road

Illinois Marathon

Pittsburgh Marathon

Minneapolis Marathon

Utah Valley

Vancouver USA Marathon

Rockfest Marathon

Indianapolis Monumental

Santa Barbara Marathon

If you’ve run any of these marathons, please comment and let me know what you thought about your experience.

Happy running!

2014 Race Season planning

I just cant help myself….

Thoughts of my next racing season have already started to occupy my brain.  Like a junkie, I’m ready for my next fix.  So I wanted to share a few ideas for Winter/Spring racing options.  Some I am already committed to, and others are on the “to-do” list.

If you have run any of these races, and have comments on them, please share.






Heading out on my first run today, on Thanksgiving, since my Marathon a week ago Sunday.  Already looking forward to it, and next year as well!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Show me your medals! #Bling


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

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

– the overall design?

– the size?

– the race itself?

– uniqueness?

– colors?

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

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