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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Winter Blues

The time has come.  Seems as though it gets earlier and earlier every year.  I have had it with Winter.  Dread it getting here, dread it even more in the midst of it, and eventually fed up completely with the cold and bitterness.  Jesus, and I don’t even live in the north.  My blood has completely thinned out in the years that I have lived in the south.  Winters here have been a walk in the park compared to those when I lived in NY.  That day is here though, I am ready for Spring!

So many of my usual things get hampered by the lack of daylight, the lack of sunshine, the lack of warmth.  My energy levels suck this time of year.  Why do I find this time of year is best spent on the couch or in bed?  The weather just lends to lack of motivation for me.  I have to force myself to bundle up and get outside for a run.  Does this happen to you?

My training miles really suffer at this time of year.  Looking back on my running calendar I realize just how unmotivated I am at this time of year.  60 something miles in January?  How pathetic is that?  What’s even more pathetic is that of those 60 miles, 26.2 of them were during a marathon.  I didn’t even take my running shoes on vacation.  Didn’t run once.

I can only hope Spring gets here soon.  I have a bunch of racing to do in the coming months, and that means training if I want to perform well.  I have Asheville Half and Full in four weeks!  Then All American Full three weeks later.  Then Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Full the week after that.  I need training miles to feel ready.  What do you do to motivate yourself to get those training miles in for the races ahead?  Dreaming of Spring, warmer temps and sunshine doesn’t seem to be cutting it for me these days.  I need something more! Bring on 101 degrees!

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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.

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.

 

Marathon Mental #RnRRAL

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The big day….just two short days away now.  You know the game.  As you move through the final week leading up to a marathon, preparation all becomes mental.  You’ve done the work physically, the body is now resting.  Now you have to deal with the emotions, the mental aspect of being ready to run.

How do you find your calm?  I guess the more marathons you run, the more prepared you become in finding that happy place.  I don’t get over nervous like I used to.  A certain amount of nerves is good.  Good to pump up the adrenaline, and get the blood flowing.  Once you know the process, once you have your preparations practiced so many times it becomes more old hat, than stressful.

As far as the legs are concerned, I will ask them for another, and final 5k this morning.  One final stretch out run.  I really like taking the last day before a marathon off completely.  No running.  Tomorrow, I will sleep in.  I will head to the race expo late in the morning.  I’ve looked at the expo floor plan, and exhibitor locations already.  I have to visit GU Energy.  I need a few packets for the race.  I am anxious to visit Generation UCan.  I have never tried this product, but need to learn about it.  Generation UCan is the official race hydration at my upcoming All American Marathon on May 4th.  I need to figure out if this product works for me, so will try it out next week on recovery runs.  Several race event directors will also be there promoting upcoming races.  I will, of course, have to visit to see if they are offering nice race registration discounts.

Here is a sampling of exhibitors at this expo….

Milk Refuel, SportHooks, Sweaty Bands, Tuna Run 200, BaySix, Anthem Richmond Marathon, Charleston Marathon, CEP, Garmin, Gatorade, Geico, Marine Corps Half Marathon.

The expo starts today, but I have to work.  It would have been great to get in before the crowds, but I think if I head there tomorrow prior to noon, it will be easy going.  Following the expo tomorrow, I have a day of relaxation planned.  Essential time with me feet up.  Planning on a veggie packed omelet for dinner, maybe a croissant, a little Nutella.  Then TV, and early to bed.

I have to be in the city, and parked prior to 6am Sunday, for the 7am start.  A big part of having a stress free race, is being prepared.  I’ve planned out my 20 mile trip into the city.  I’ve looked at road closures, and mapped out what parking lot I am going to use.  I am ready.  I’ve mapped out a plan for my family to get into the city and to the finish line before I finish.  It will be nice to see them as I finish.  I mean, it is my birthday, after all, they can’t miss this marathon finish.  I am looking forward to getting that “Happy Birthday” shouted out to me as I cross the finish line.

So, I am ready.  I am ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Ready to Rock in the city I call home.  Ready to run marathon #12.

Marathon Countdown – 2 weeks to go

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Fan or not of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series by Competitor Group, the inaugural event in Raleigh, NC is just two short weeks away.  Sold out with 12,000 runners, the event is sure to bring some big money into the city of Raleigh and surrounding Triangle area.  Hotel bookings, restaurants anxiously awaiting the arrival of participants.  What could be so wrong with that?  Many folks have scoffed at the idea of the marathon series coming to town.  I say, let’s just wait and see.  Let local businesses decide if runners come to town with money and boost the local economy.  I’m sure the economic impact will be reviewed and scrutinized ad nausium.

For me, I am glad that the event will soon be here.  Yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roll events are typically more expensive than the average half or full marathon, but you gotta try it, right?  At least once.  I’m excited.  Should be a great day.  I love running in Raleigh, and I am hoping for cooperative weather on race day.

So, two weeks until we take to the line downtown.  Let’s see just how well this inaugural event is run.  There will be a lot of critical eyes watching this event, so I hope it turns out to be epic.   I know my 26.2 mile journey on my birthday will be epic for me, but I also hope it’s epic for the local economy.