Run & Ride Carowinds Half Marathon- Race Recap

Everything about this event screams FUN!  Unless you aren’t an amusement park fan, this event has awesome written all over it.


My son and I got up bright and early on Saturday morning to make the three hour road trip to just outside of Charlotte, NC., to Carowinds Amusement Park.  The plan was this…  Get down there close to the opening of the park that day, and head straight to packet pick up.  Once packets picked up, we would have the full day to enjoy the park, and take in as many roller coasters as possible.  The car ride down was easy, and with gas prices at $2.00/gal., a cheap trip at that!

I haven’t been to Carowinds in easily 10 years, so when the opportunity presented itself to pace this event with Beast Pacing, I jumped on it.  Pacing meant a comped entry, and free admission to the park for the entire weekend.  My son just wanted coasters, not running.  His soccer season at school is a few weeks into the season and he has a game tonight, so he didn’t want his legs to be wrecked from running.  I don’t blame him.  His decision not to run meant he got to sleep in on race morning, too!  Score for him!

The weekends weather forecast was a little iffy leading up to Saturday, and in fact we had some rain on the way there.  Once at the park though, the clouds threatened all day, but it never rained.  We had an amazing time riding Afterburn, Carolina Cobra, Carolina Cyclone, Fury 325, Intimidator, and Nighthawk.  I have to admit, even at my age, I am like a kid when it comes to coasters.  Love them!  We rode several of the rides multiple times!  Fury 325 was just amazing!  Over and over and over and over again!  Couldn’t get enough of it.

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We had an absolute blast!!  If you’ve never been to Carowinds, you have to go.  They have the best coasters in the Southeast!

We left the park, early in the evening, and checked into our hotel, which was a whopping 1/4 of a mile from the entrance to the park.  I knew this meant race morning would be a breeze, which is why I chose it.  After relaxing for a few we went out to dinner for fajitas, chips and salsa.  It was delish!  After dinner settled in our bellies, we made our way over to the park again for a few more rides before calling it a day. I had a race to run in the morning!

Race morning was such a breeze.  Being so close meant that I didn’t have to get up mega early.  I got some coffee in me and went outside to check the weather.  It was about 60 degrees, which seemed quite cool.  I was pumped about that!  I had to meet up with the other pacers at 6:45, with the race starting at 7:30am.  Since Beast Pacing is pacing all of the Run & Ride events this season, I had a really nice pacing shirt to wear.  I met my fellow pacers right on schedule, and we were ready to race.

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The sunrise was beautiful that morning.  Absolutely the best weather for a race, and I was ready.  I was pacing the 1:50:00 group, and met a bunch of runners who were aiming for my goal time.  We chatted at length, swapping stories, and talking strategy.  My goal was to aim for an 8:20 per mile pace in the beginning, knowing that would put us at a 1:49:00 finish time.  I typically build in a few seconds in case the course is a bit short or long, so that there is time to adjust nearing the finish if necessary.

The race course on the map was very confusing, but we were told by the RD that the course was well marked by cones and directional markers, as well as volunteers at each critical juncture.  It was a looping course in and around the amusement park, and because there was also a 10k going on at the same time, we would have to pay close attention to the route markers.  We had no trouble finding our way.

The one thing that I had feared going into this race started coming to fruition very quickly.  Because of all of the turns and twists and loops in the course, I had really worried about my Garmin matching up with the race route markers.  It was painfully obvious that just after the first mile, we were off, and not by just a little.  Have you ever run a race where your timing device didn’t match up to the mile markers on the course?  I tried to dismiss it, hoping that over the course of the run my mileage would match back up with the course, but it never did.

By the end of the first mile on my Garmin we were sitting at an overall pace of 8:18, but mile marker 1 was .2 miles behind us.  I figured, just keep even pace and go.  The run felt so easy to me.  Maybe it was the nice cool temperature and low humidity that I was enjoying.  That in combination with the conversation with my group really made the miles tick by ever so effortlessly.  I felt good.  My group consisted of a girl running her first Half, a woman who had recently lost 100+ pounds, a gentleman from China here on business, a couple from the area that had run the race the year prior, and plenty of other folks that drifted forward and back as the race wore on.  From time to time I would ask the others where the mileage was on their devices, and we were all over the place.  By the mid point of the race, my mileage was a full 1/2 mile behind the course signs.  I just couldn’t understand how we could all be so off from the route markers, but we were.  I plodded along, keeping our pace though.

We ran around, looping back through the course for a second pass.  This time the loop was a little different, with a different finish of course.  The young girl running her first Half had left us in the dust at some point about four miles into the race, but curiously appeared about four miles later behind me.  Hum, I wondered.  She must have had to stop to use the bathroom or something, because I know we never caught up to her.  But there she was, by my side again.  I said ” where did you come from?”  She told me she had made a wrong turn, following the 10k route a few miles back, and didn’t realize it.  She had to backtrack to the Half route, and then catch back up to us.  I felt bad, but knew it was a typical rookie mistake.  It’s happened to me before, I know that!

Nearing the final 5k, the race was going perfectly for me.  Even pace still, sitting at 8:22 per mile overall.  We neared another sign.  The sign was mile marker 11.  My Garmin ticked 10 miles on the dot when we hit that sign.  A FULL MILE OFF!!!  OMG!  What to do?  Do I slow down, or keep my pace?  I started thinking at this point that I was going to get to the finish way early.  When I pace for Beast Pacing, I have to be within a minute of my projected finish time, but never over.  I thought to myself, well, I can always walk the last mile if I have to, but there were never any clocks on the course to really get a feel for if my timing was off, or if the course was just short.  I carried on knowing I could always walk, or even stop if necessary to hit my goal time.

The time came, the final mile.  My overall time was like 1:30:00?  What do I do with this?  A mile to go, and 20 minutes to burn.  I was flabbergasted.  So I slowed way down, and I mean way down.  So not my nature to slow down at the end of a race, mind you.  It irked me to the core!  But there I was, finally within view of the finish line clock, and it read 1:41:00.  So, I implemented my Plan B.  I turned around and began doing laps of the final two tenths of the course, cheering on runners as they caught up to me, and then running them to the finish.  I would double back again, and run another group in to the finish area.  Then again.  I just was trying to burn time on the clock, helping as many people as I could.  Eventually I could see 1:49:00 on the clock, so I decided it was my turn to finally finish.

The clock read 1:49:21 as I hit the mat.  After hearing my name announced, I grabbed a water, and found pacers that were ahead of me on the course.  I asked them about the mileage they had on their Garmins.  They were all off, too.  So, in the end, after checking with about six other people, we knew the course was short.  Really short.  I think the general consensus was about 3/4 of a mile short.  It was really too bad.  If I had been racing this course not pacing, I would have had a huge PR.  But then again it really wouldn’t have been since the course was short.

Looking at the final results, I’m sure that most folks got “PR’s” since the course was short, but other than that it was a fabulous race.  Well supported by volunteers, perfect weather and a great atmosphere.  I would run it again for sure, but hope the course would be measured more accurately next time.  🙂

image image imageGreat bling!  Great weekend of coasters!  After chatting up some of the folks in my group, I went back to the hotel to change clothes.  My son was just waking up when I got there.  Ah! the life of a teenager.  We checked out of the hotel, and headed right back to the park for four consecutive rides on Fury 325 before heading home.  It was a great weekend!  Half Marathon #28 in the books!


A Roller Coaster Week of Running

I have had so many ups and downs during this training cycle that I sometimes feel that this roller coaster isn’t going to stop any time soon.  Heat, humidity, rain, sore feet, new running shoes and even lack of desire have really hampered my training for the last month.  I have one thing on my side though as I head into Fall racing season.  Experience.

If I was a newbie runner right now, I would be really worried about what lies ahead over the next two months out there on the race course.  Thankfully I have many races under my belt, and plenty of good and bad runs to glean information from.  I’ve had lulls before, times when I just didn’t enjoy the run.  Times when my pace was just sort of blah.  Times when one day is good, the next is really bad.  This bumpy ride has to end soon, and I know it will.  Experience tells me this.

This past training week I did manage to get in a 10k training run in between the rain, work schedule and heat.  In addition to that run, which wasn’t terrible, I managed several other shorter runs.  I don’t feel completely ready for my Half Marathon this Sunday, but I know it will come together.


My 17 year old son and I will be heading to Charlotte this weekend to enjoy some time together.  I brief trip away to enjoy some roller coasters in the park, and a race.  My first race this Fall season, I am pacing the 1:50:00 finish group at this Sundays Run & Ride Half Marathon at Carowinds.  Will I be ready?  Of course I will!  I’ve received all of the pre race emails, and info on packet pick up.  I’ve gotten the low down on when and where us pacers will meet up prior to the race.  All that’s really left are a few short pace runs before the weekend, and driving down there on Saturday morning.  My son has actually chosen to sleep in on Sunday morning and not run at all.  He will be missing out on a fun race, I’m sure, but looking back on my own childhood, I probably would have chosen to sleep in too when I was 17.


So, here’s to a very literal trip to roller coaster land this weekend.  I truly feel like my training has given me a very good start at being ready to ride some coasters this weekend.  It has been nearly two months since my last race, so I am ready to get back to it!  Feet don’t fail me now!  Chicago and New York are getting ever so close now and I want to have great marathons.  This weekend kicks off what I hope will be an amazing Fall 2015 race season.

Running Fury 325

Why, oh why must vacations end?  I am on serious depression mode today, fueled by my first day back to work.  Ugh!  I’d rather be running!  As soon as I finish this post, that is exactly what I will be doing!

Fall plans are coming together in a serious way now that Summer is starting to wind down.  Well, we still have a ton of Summer left, but now that the kids are due back to school on two weeks, it will start feeling more like Fall.  You know, back to school season.  With one in college, and the other entering his senior year in high school, my days “with child” are numbered.  As they enjoy their last two weeks off, my focus has turned to Fall running season.

I have two marathons this Fall.  Chicago and New York.  Both epic, both meaningful in different ways.  The past few weeks I have been trying to figure out my best game plan for ramping back up my mileage to get me into marathon readiness mode.  I typically like to run some Half Marathons in the Fall, and this season is shaping up to be no different.

I have been debating a race down at the coast this September.  My older son wants to run a few Halves, so I have been busy at work trying to find a few.  I found us the Marine Corps Half, down at Camp LeJeune, in Jacksonville, NC the third week in September.  It works out well for him, and I kinda promised him we would do that one together.  Then, this past week something very interesting fell in my lap.  Another pacing gig.  So, without further ado, I will be pacing the 1:50:00 Half on September 13th, down in the Charlotte area.


It’s actually the Run & Ride Half Marathon at Carowinds.  This will be my first time running one of their events.  Normally they are pretty pricey, even when you sign up early.  They have events at a half dozen amusement parks around the east.  Price of the run includes a weekend pass to the park, so you can enjoy the thrills and chills of rides and coasters before and after the actual race.  Kinda cool!


A flat course winding in and around the park, going behind the scenes, and under huge coasters.  How much fun will that be?  This year, Fury 325, the parks newest roller coaster opened.  It’s the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster.  I can’t wait to try it!

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Just have to figure out which one of my sons will accompany me on this weekend amusement/running trip.  Should be a good time.

On into October, plans are coming together nicely for a back to back Half weekend the weekend after Chicago.  I’ll be pacing the Greensboro Half, and then running the Bull City Half the following day.  Of course, New York is two weeks later, so these two races will be my last training runs.  Last October I packed it in, as well.  October is such a great month around here for finding all sorts of distance events.

So, what about you?  Has your Fall running schedule come into a clearer picture now that Summer is fading?  Now is the time to firm up racing plans, and get those race fees paid early, while you still have time.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Can’t wait to hear what you have scheduled!

Happy running!