Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon -Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon Thoughts

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I have the day off today, and more than enough time to recap this event, but I don’t think it’s all soaked in quite yet.  With that said, a full recap will follow soon.  I did want to post today with some of the amazing high points, and some of the sad news as well.  This will probably appear to be a bit scattered, as my thoughts are still are over the place when it comes to the day, please stay with me.  😉

The weather- a help or a hindrance?  Temps at the start of 60 degrees.  A breeze.  A clear, sunny and beautiful day lay ahead as we toed the line at 7am.  Temperatures maxed out at 80 degrees yesterday later in the afternoon, so the longer you were on the course, the tougher the weather was to deal with.  Spring is here, and the pollen count (a pure cloud) hampered many, but I took a Claritin before the race, and did just fine.

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Race – They did an amazing job!  Amazingly organized and planned for a first time event.  Yes, there can be improvements, as with any race, but for a first time event, it was so well coordinated.

The course – Not sure there are enough descriptive words to do this course justice, but I will try.  Both city and countryside views, this course had it all.  Many points of interest including the Raleigh Convention Center, both Nash and Moore Squares, Shaw University, Chavis Park, Historic Oakwood Cemetery, William Peace University, Cameron Village, PNC Arena, NC State and the Dorthea Dix campus.  Raleigh is full of hills, and this course took advantage of most of them.  Scenic, difficult, rolling, inspiring.

12,500 runners had registered for the event.  Looks like the normal 10% either didn’t show up, or didn’t finish.  The marathon was won by a first time marathoner, and the women’s winner ran a PR, and finished 3rd overall.  Congrats to both of them!  Amazing feats for a difficult course.  There were 1,615 finishers in the Full.  8,593 finished the Half.

Making the news all over the country, and certainly much more so in the running community was some sad news.  Two men both in their 30’s, collapsed and died while running the Half Marathon.  One man collapsed between miles 10 and 11.  The other collapsed and died a couple of hundred yards from the finish line.  The names have not been released as of right now, but both died of apparent pre-existing, undiagnosed heart conditions.  My family arrived at the finish line area as the younger man, was receiving chest compressions from paramedics.  Both men were transported to local hospitals, but were pronounced dead upon arrival.  My family told me that it was quite a scene.  I’ve read that one woman passed both runners down on the course, and it was very hard to handle emotionally.  My heart goes out to the runners’ families.  I hope both of these men passed away doing something they loved.  The running community is here to help, if you need to reach out to us.

Race day was also my Birthday, as well as my younger son.  Running a marathon was a great way to start my birthday.  Unique.  My son had a soccer game in the afternoon, so he got to do what he loves as well, on his special day.  We capped off the day with a great meal, and carrot cake and ice cream, presents and cards from family and friends.  It was a great day all around.  I collapsed on the couch and was dozing off before 10pm.

Not to ruin the surprise, but I did finish the marathon.  Rock ‘n’ Roll gave me a special Birthday present.  My bib # incorporated the age I turned yesterday on race day.  44!  My 12th marathon, Top 13% finish, on 4/13.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Expo

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Expo Day always means one thing.  The race is almost here!

Drove into the city earlier today to attend the marathon expo.  Full of vendors, and packed with runners from all over.  Just the way you would expect from a Rock ‘n’ Roll event.  The city was crawling with race bags, and bibs, and folks enjoying the beautiful weather.  Yes, about 78 degrees, and mostly sunny.

Visited with a bunch of great folks working at the expo today.  The Generation UCAN folks were awesome.  I have a few samples to try during my recovery from the race tomorrow.  Brooks had some great gear, official race merchandise.  I had to buy myself a shirt, an early Birthday present to myself.

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Oops, wrong photo….. But look what Rock n Roll did for me!  They incorporated my age tomorrow (44 years old) into my bib number.  Well, I am not sure if that was intentional or not, but it sure is cool.

Here are photos of the official race shirt, and the shirt I bought as a keepsake.

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I really enjoyed my time at the expo, just walking around and enjoying the crowd and vendors.  The Charleston Marathon was there, as well as the Bull City Race Fest, and City of Oaks Marathon.  All races I have raced in the past and enjoyed.  Rock n Roll was offering a discount for next year’s Raleigh event, but I chose to wait.  Gotta see how tomorrow goes first.  The Ambassadors of Rock were very helpful.  Shalama was very cool.  Super great to meet her.  She sent me a race promo shirt a few months back, so I had to meet her and say thanks in person.  We chatted for quite some time.  I hope she has a great Half tomorrow.

Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater is ready for the post race concert, too.  New Politics will be headlining.  Looking forward to meeting up with my family and hitting the food trucks and post race concert.

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So far so good Raleigh!  Looking forward to getting out there on the course tomorrow morning.  The rest of the day I am concentrating on relaxing.  Oh, and I have to get a birthday cake in the oven for my son.  Great weekend so far.  Race report to follow after the marathon tomorrow!  Get outside and run, it’s a beautiful day.

 

The excitement is building

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Now just four short days away, Raleigh is all a buzz.  The talk of the town is Rock ‘n’ Roll.  The talk of the town is the marathon.  I kinda like when we runners get some attention.

Road closure signs, and no parking signs have been being set in place over the past few days, and since tomorrow is the final day before the Expo kicks off, I guess they are right on schedule.  I work downtown, and have seen road signs on both Hillsborough Rd. and 401 heading north before the city.  I’ve been asked countless times by people in the city this past week how to find information on parking.  How to find out what road will be closed.  Just Google Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, or their title sponsor WRAL, and you will be directed to links with all of the race day information.

Temperatures this week have been on the rise.  I do believe that a Spring is finally here in Raleigh.  Well, I don’t think we are in for any more frost, or freezing temps, and that’s good, because trees are budding out, and flowering shrubs and trees are nearing full bloom.  The azaleas are even starting to open up.  With the nice daily temperatures over the next few days, the run this Sunday should be just beautiful and full of color.  Race day temps are supposed to reach as high as 78 degrees, with overnight lows in the mid 50’s.  Dress appropriately, hydrate and make sure your Body Glide is applied liberally when you head to the race on Sunday.

i’m really looking forward to it.  Now, time to get in another taper run.  Good luck to all those running this weekend, be it the race event here in Raleigh, or the other countless races across the globe.  Run smart, and run happy!

Marathon this Spring? Rock on!

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Now that Spring is finally upon us, so is marathon season.  I’m curious to know who is running a marathon, and where.

Marathons are plentiful at this time of year.  You’ve got them in probably every state in the U.S. in April alone.  With April starting tomorrow, will we be ready?  I’ve already run three marathons this year, but realize that most people only run one or two per year.  Coming off Winter training season, a lot of us are tapering for a big race right now.  I have the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh marathon on the 13th, followed by the All American Marathon on May 4th.  A bunch of great runners will descend on Boston in April.  Where is your big race?

What I have figured out after a few years of running now, is that I train better in the heat than I do in the cold.  Winter training for me is difficult. It’s dark early, and I find it harder to motivate myself to get out in the cold, often times blustery weather.  My marathon finish times have proved it to me.  Fall marathon finish times this past year were better than the last few winter marathons I’ve run.  So, now that Spring is here, I’m wondering if the weather will help or hinder.  My last two races both had periods of rain, which I do not like.  Spring weather can often times mean rain.  Here in NC, it can also mean a really varying range in temperatures.  Looking at the forecast for the next ten days, most mornings are in the mid to upper 40’s, even 50’s.  I am ok with that for sure, for a race morning.  We are looking at high temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s.  Let’s just say, I hope that marathon morning is cool, around 50, and temps will not rise to near 70 until my race is long over with.

As I meet runners at races, we all have a common goal.  To enjoy the run.  We sometimes have goals, pace or otherwise, but our common goal is to finish and have fun.  Isn’t that why we race?  What are your goals when you toe the line this Spring at your next race? Are you trying to qualify for Boston?  Are you shooting for the 50 staters club?  Trying to become a Marathon Maniac or Half Fanatic?  Maybe your goal is all about your health, and improving your fitness?  Maybe your goal is not to fall down or throw up at the finish?  Just enjoy it!  Running should be fun, so my ‘A’ goal is just that.  My ‘B’ goal is to BQ, my ‘C’ goal is a marathon PR.

I look forward to hearing your stories!  Rock on my running friends!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon SOLD OUT!!!

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I cannot believe it, but the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon and Half has sold out.  Nearly three months before race day, the event is full.  As my readers will remember from previous posts, this marathon takes place on my birthday in April.  What is most curious to me however about the quick sell out, are a couple of recent posts the races Facebook page posted over the weekend.

I signed up about a month ago, when they offered a $20 discount prior to the holidays.  I was really hoping that I could get a few friends and family members to join, but that will not be with the lightning fast sell out.

Here is what was posted over the past few days online, leading me to believe that there was still plenty of time to get my fellow runners registered.

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This picture was posted on Facebook this past Friday at 1pm.  Ok, it was a good reminder that the race was getting closer to capacity, but I saw no urgency with this post.  “Less than 1,000 spots left”, doesn’t invoke registration panic, does it?  I didn’t think so.

Then came another post last night on the Facebook page.  This one left me saying “what? It was just at 1,000 two days ago, surely that many people didn’t just sign up in less than 48 hours”.

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So from 1,000 to 200.  Is Raleigh really that popular?  Surely this cannot be a huge destination race for runners, or is it?  I figured this race would end up being 80% local runners.  It will be interesting to see the final statistics when it comes to runners, and where they come from.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Raleigh, but 800 registrations in less than 48 hours?  I really don’t believe it.

Then at about 10am this morning, this post on Facebook left me stunned.  Literally my jaw dropped.

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Something seems fishy here.  I thought the world was watching the Grammy’s last night.  I didn’t think they would be signing up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh while same sex couples were getting married during Macklemore’s “Same Love”.  I mean, Madonna, Queen Latifah, Keith Urban in tears, wasn’t enough of a distraction to keep the last 200 spots from filling up?

I read a post yesterday stating that the capacity for sell out here for the Raleigh race was 12,000 entrants.  This is another number I can barely wrap my thoughts around.

This race, and the popularity of it, I was clearly underestimating.  My gross miscalculations of how much time was left for people to sign up, is leaving a bunch of runners without a golden ticket to this event.

If it’s a true statistic that close to 10% of registrants in any road race never show up due to injury, etc., then this April 13th, I will be toeing the line in downtown Raleigh with 10,999 other runners.

I cannot believe this news…..but bring it on!

This is going to be the biggest Birthday party I’ve ever had.  By Far!