26 Glorious 26.2’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh 5k Recap

April 9th I participated in the inaugural 5k for Rock ‘n’ Roll’s visit to Raleigh.  A great way to reach out to more runners is to include an additional distance, and boy did it work!  Running two events during the weekend also awarded each runner with an additional medal.  The Remix medal.  Since I was running the marathon on Sunday, I went into this race really as just a final tune up run.  I wasn’t giving it my all, in other words.  It was a fun event.

Since becoming a distance runner, I haven’t competed in many 5k’s in the past few years.  In fact, this would be my first 5k in almost two years.  I was seeded in corral 1, on the beautiful Dorthea Dix campus.  A rolling course taking us through paths, trails and roads around campus.  I can honestly say that it felt like it ended about two minutes after it started.  Much fanfare set us off on the course on a beautifully cool morning full of sunshine.  I felt pretty loose from the get go, and went out at a decent pace, but nothing too strenuous.  Since they were releasing corrals every minute, it was never congested at all.  I was running freely, but not overdoing it.  It actually felt a bit slow, but knowing I was running under an 8 minute mile pace, I was good with that.  Quite honestly, it felt a little weird to be holding back some, as this is not how I usually race.  Especially short distances.  I didn’t want to risk hurting myself or over exerting the day before a marathon, so I just went with the flow.

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Up the hills, down the hills… soon enough the finish line came into view.  I clocked a 24:01.  I was good with that all things considered.  Not nearly my best on a 5k course, which is 20:44, but good on the day.  I walked away feeling good and warmed up for the marathon the following day.  I was actually quite surprised later that evening when the results were posted.

85/1697 Overall

7/73 Age Group

70/591 Males

That’s a top 5% finish, and I wasn’t even trying.  Ok, not trying to brag.  Enough said.  It was fun to race a 5k again, it had been too long.  Next post, marathon day.

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2016 Spring Racing Schedule

With a glimmer of Spring these past few days, all I can say is I am ready!  Today being Leap Day, we have to wait an extra day until Spring this year, but the weather lately has me thinking positively.  I went out on a five plus miler yesterday afternoon on a beautiful 65 degree sunny afternoon.  It was even 60 degrees way up in the northeast.  A good sign that Spring is just around the corner.

Will all of those miles logged over the past few cold, long dreary months pay off?  Wel’ll see.  In general, I’ve felt pretty lazy, as usual for this time of year.  But, I for one, am ready to get off the couch and race!  I have a busy few months ahead, so I am hopeful for some really fun events.

My “Spring racing season” begins in less than two weeks up in the mountains of North Carolina.  I will be heading to Asheville for a few races back to back.  I ran the inaugural Marathon at the Biltmore Estate back in 2013, returned last year to pace the Half Marathon, and this year will be pacing BOTH, on back to back days.

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I am excited to return, and conquer the beastly hills on that lovely estate!  Just thinking about them has me a bit nervous, but my experience should help.  I’ve run them before.  I can, I will, get over those hills again!

After Asheville, I have a few weeks break.  Of course it will be good to take several days off to let my legs and feet recover.  I’ll need it.  With Easter during that time, we should be getting into Spring quite nicely by then.

The first weekend in April I will be pacing another event.  The All American Marathon which is run on a point to point course from Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg, NC, will be my first time running the same marathon three times.  Actually this year is the third anniversary of the event, so I will have run it all three times.  The All American Marathon will be my 25th marathon overall, so it should be full of meaning for me!  I am pacing the 4:00:00 Full, and couldn’t be happier to have reached the “Quarter Century” mark at this event!  I’ve already spoken with the team there to try to get bib #25!

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll Series first came to Raleigh back in 2014.  The first event was on my 44th Birthday.  The folks at RnR helped me celebrate with a 44 on my bib.  Because of the heat and pollen and tough marathon course that year, I decided to run the Half in 2015, only to regret that decision when the made changes to the marathon course a few months prior to the event.  The offered an incredible deal last year at the race expo, to run either race this year for $50.  I signed up for the marathon this year, and I plan to just have fun with this one since it will only be a week after All American.  I also signed up to run the inaugural 5k the day before.  It’s been a few years since I’ve run a 5k, so I figured it would be a good shake out run.

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What an awesome medal!  Rock n Roll originally signed a three year deal with this Raleigh location, with an option to add two more years.  So, depending on numbers, this may very well be the last event here.  Time will tell.

It is surely going to be an exciting Spring for me.  How about you?  What epic races do you have planned for the coming season?  I think that next year I am going to try to break out of my comfort zone, and do a destination marathon for Spring 2017.  The three races I have coming up I have already raced twice each, and will likely choose a change of venue next year.  Any thoughts?  Suggestions?  Where should I race next Spring?

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.

It’s Birthday Weekend!

What’s better than a weekend?  More often than not, not much is better than a few days off in a row.  I seldom get two days off in a row unless I request it.  My work doesn’t allow for many weekends off.  In the case of this weekend, starting right now, I am off until Tuesday.

This weekend will be great in so many ways.

Saturday-  chilling with my feet up most of the day.  A Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo to attend, as well.

Sunday- running a Half/Full Marathon (as yet, still undecided which one).

Monday- celebrating 45 awesome years on this Earth, and 17 amazing years with my youngest son. (Yes, our birthdays are the same day)

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So, I will ask again.  What is better than a weekend?  For me it is a birthday weekend with my family, good food, some birthday cake and probably too many candles to light before some burn out, and a Rock ‘n Roll race here in Raleigh, and celebrating all the things I love.

Cheers to you all, and hope you have as great a weekend as I am going to have!

Ps..  and it’s Spring, the weather this weekend is supposed to be a perfect 73 degrees and sunny.  Oh, and did I mention Birthday cake?  Lol

Rock and Roll in Raleigh

Six days to go!  The second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll event in Raleigh is almost upon us.  Word around town is that participation levels for the second running of this event are down.  No surprise to me, since an inaugural event will always bring in more folks.  Regardless, event numbers are looking to be around 8,000 runners between the Half and Full, and that’s a lot.

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My preparations this last week were good.  I got in three quality runs, all while breaking in new running shoes.  Somehow I let my last pair go a little beyond their useful comfortable life, and I could tell.  This new pair has a surprisingly springy feel, but probably just because my last pair was flat.  The weather has been very cooperative too, for really nice springtime running.  We are finally out of the cold, and into delightful temperatures that are so prime for running.

Looking at my race recap post from last years race, I think it got warmer quicker in the season last year.  The pollen cloud that typically envelopes us during the Spring is not yet here.  We have some, but the worst of it has yet to begin.  I remember almost seeing it in clouds during last years race.  It made breathing, especially during the harder sections of the course, very difficult.  Maybe the worst of the pollen will stay at bay until after race weekend.  Fingers crossed!

If you read my post from the race last year, you know I ran the Full.  It was also my birthday marathon, taking place on my 44th birthday.  It was certainly a unique way to spend a birthday, pounding pavement for 26.2 miles.  So, this will be the second time I run this event at 44 years old.  My birthday this year isn’t until the day after the race.  Because of this fact, the Rock ‘n’ Roll race will be my last race in the 40-44 Age Group.  Yes, a week from today I will officially be in the 45-49 AG.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that I will be the oldest runner in the AG this weekend, on my last official day at 44 years old.  Hey, that’s a built in excuse to run the slowest.

So, as the final days before the race come and go, I am still undecided as to which race I will be running on Sunday.  Registered for the Half, but still considering the Full.  As of right now, however, I am leaning probably 70% toward sticking to the Half.  A lot of that decision will be based on the weather.  As of right now, The Weather Channel forecasts a race day low of 54 and a high of 78.  A partly sunny day, with very little chance of rain.  May be a tad too warm for the Full, but it seems like an identical forecast to last years race.

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This RnR event will either be my 26th Half or 19th Full, but regardless of which it will be, everyday I say my thanks for the opportunity to run.  It doesn’t matter which race it will be on Sunday.  The only thing that matters is the fact that I am healthy and able to run.  For that, I am so grateful.