Bull City Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran Bull City Race Fest again!  Third time in the four years the race has been running.  The only time I didn’t run it was a few years ago when I ran the Greensboro Marathon the day before.  Yes, I hated to miss it that year but I just couldn’t get myself out of bed at 4am after a marathon the day before.  My legs and energy were shot.  This year was another story.

Everything about this race is just awesome.  Tons of runners, nearly 6,000 every year running the Half, Five miler and 1 miler combined.  I was asked to be on the pace team again this year, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Since I’ve been struggling a bit with my feet I decided to pace the 9:00 mile group.

I paced with with a great runner, Drew, who I hadn’t met at previous pace experiences at this race.  He was an awesome pace partner.  In 2013 I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, in 2015 I paced the 8:30 per mile group with my son, and now 2016 the 9:00 mile group.

Race morning was near perfection weather wise.  52 degrees, and just beautiful.  This race has always been ultra lucky with fantastic weather.  We lined up with our pace sign about 20 minutes prior to the gun.  As you can imagine, this group was loaded with folks wanting to beat the 2:00:00 Half finish.  I love a huge group of runners, especially on a hilly course.  Runners ebb and flow, and you get a chance to meet and talk with so many new faces along the way!

Our race was filled with ups and downs, as you would expect on the hills of Durham.  Such a great course though, giving runners a chance to see many parts of the city.  We kept a great consistent pace.  Constantly checking our progress, Drew and I maintained a pace of about 8:57 through the first half of the course.  As with most races, our timing devices were a little off from each other, and also the mile markers on course, but doing the extrapolations each mile, we were confident our pace was on target especially knowing how difficult and hilly the final miles are.

We ended up bringing tons of folks across the line with new PR’s, and many more just so happy to finish that tough race.  Pacing is always tough work.  My goals are different depending on each races expectations of how close to the target each pacer should be, and much to my surprise I came across the line with a perfect 1:58:00, 9:00 minute mile pace.  So difficult to nailed it perfectly, in fact I’ve never done it.  Most races expect a finish within a minute under goal time, but not over.  This one may go down in the books as the only perfect finish I’ll ever have.

It was a great day!  Finish festival with food trucks is always a bonus, especially when you can spread out and bask in the sun and also the glow of an awesome finish!  Thanks Bull City, and big thanks to Drew for pacing with me!  I shall return!

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2015- My Racing Recap

I finally have a day off, with some time to actually sit down and compile a look back on another really awesome year in running.  It’s truly hard to believe that it just takes some dedication and good health to push out the kind of results that I have been able to achieve in just five years.

What truly began as a quest to help my son when he joined his High School Cross Country team, has become a passion of mine that would be hard to give up.  I don’t want to give it up, in fact, I am still striving for more.  Getting that BQ is really the only thing that I didn’t achieve in 2015, but that’s ok.  I had so much fun on the pavement, so let’s have a look back.

Hilton Head Marathon- 2/7/15. My first ever AG placement in a marathon!  2nd place!  Was thrilled with my performance in my first race of 2015.  Finish time 3:46:53

Asheville Half Marathon- 3/15/15. I paced the 1:50:00 finish group, on a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina.  The race is so challenging, yet running here evokes so much respect and history that even the hills are welcome.  Finish time 1:49:17

All American Marathon- 3/22/15. My second year in a row racing from Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg.  I had a really hard fall and got pretty banged up right before the race, so just finishing in one piece was a big accomplishment on the day.  Finish time 3:50:51

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Half Marathon- 4/12/15. The intense marathon course here in 2014 prompted me to only take on the Half this time around, and then they changed the course, and left me wanting to run the Full.  Feeling a bit of a let down, a good race almost turned sour with leg cramps toward the end.  I pushed through it with the help of cheering supporters.  Finish time 1:47:46

New River Marathon- 5/2/15. A fist time running way up in the northwest corner of my state, the course was absolutely breathtaking!  Very challenging in parts, but a quiet, small event with so much to offer.  This race was one of the highlights of my year.  Finish time 3:50:13

Run the Quay 10k- 6/6/16. So much fun running my hometown event, and then watching my younger son run the 5k right after me.  Sub 8 minute mile pace on this undulating downtown course with about 35 turns.  Finish time 48:48

Aspen Valley Half Marathon- 7/18/15. Adding a new state in a 50 state quest that will probably never be completed, I paced the 2:15:00 finish group high up in the Rockies.  I felt privileged to be running such an awesome event, and the salad during the post race festival was amazing!  Finish time 2:14:41

Revel Rockies Marathon- 7/19/15. Taking full advantage of my weekend in Colorado, this challenge was a first for me.  A Half on Saturday, then this Full on Sunday.  Back to back.  The elevation and a lack of proper hydration killed my BQ attempt, but with ten miles of intermittent killer calf cramps, still managed to finish.  Finish time 3:46:46

Carowinds Run & Ride Half Marathon- 9/13/15. Pacing again for Beast Pacing, a weekend riding roller coasters with my son was reason enough to run this race.  Although the course was mega short, I made sure to get as many runners to the finish line in under 1:50 as I could.  Finish time 1:49:18

Marine Corps Half Marathon- 9/19/15. Ran this Half for the first time, and with my older son.  Been wanting to fit it into my schedule for a few years, and glad we finally ran it.  Race day’s weather was really tough, with temps way to hot and humid for a half marathon, but we both managed to win age group medals, so it was a father/son double.  Finish time 1:48:08

Chicago Marathon- 10/11/15. So happy to return to such an amazing marathon in one of my favorite cities ever!  I absolutely love this race, and would do it yearly if I was lucky enough to get in and had the travel funds.  Not my best race of the year, but certainly a blast with millions of spectators cheering me on by name!  Finish time 3:49:38

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon- 10/18/15. Amazing event in downtown Durham, my son and I paced a race for the first time together in the same group.  An epic experience that we both really enjoyed.  We paced the 8:30 per mile group and came in just under goal time in 8:29.  We rocked it!  Finish time 1:51:14

TCS New York City Marathon- 11/1/15. What can I say?  The NYC Marathon was the crowning achievement of 2015 and my last race of the year.  One of the Big 6, this race has it all.  Big city, big production, millions of spectators, and too many bridges!  Having my Dad and Brother there cheering me on was the highlight of my year.  Finishing in the top 15% was more than I could hope for.  It was also my fastest marathon finish of 2015.  Finish time 3:45:23

 

All in all, just an amazing year of running and racing.  Six Fulls, six Halves, and a 10k sprinkled in for good measure.  Happy New Year to you all, and hope that your running takes you places in heart and sole, that you never thought possible.  Here’s to 2016!  Make it EPIC!

2016 Charleston Marathon

Less than two weeks to go until we ring in the New Year!  Yes, 2016 is waiting in the wings, and I hope it’s one of the best years yet!  I feel very fortunate to have had such a great year but I am ready to don my party hat and grab my noise maker.  Lets toast to another fun year of running!

Sort of a late entry into the game, I finally have a plan for January.  I am returning to a race I ran in 2014.  The charming city filled with southern hospitality that is Charleston, SC.  After scoring a coveted pacing slot, you’re will find me running the streets of Charleston in just 27 days.  I will be pacing the marathon finish time of 4 hours flat!  Of course, knowing this is a very important goal for so many runners, the main objective will be to cross the line in 3:59:59.  Break that 4 hour mark, right?  Big goal of so many!

So, if you happen to be running this race, stop by and say hello!  This is how I will be starting my 2016 racing season, and I am really looking forward to it.

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Greensboro Marathon & Half 2015

As the sport of running grows and grows, so do the number of races.  I’ve read a couple of really interesting articles lately about the growth of our sport, which has led to gluttony of races when it comes to peak marathon season.

Of course there are big city marathons with big expos, lots of spectators and a big price tag that comes right along with it.  Marathons can cost upwards of $250-$300 depending on the race.  Most folks choose races very carefully, and cost can be a huge factor.  For runners like me that run more than just a couple of races a year, careful consideration must be used when deciding where your race budget will be spent.

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Trivium Racing, out of Greensboro, North Carolina puts on really quality events.  Located in the center of our state, runners from all over can convene in the city park this Fall for the third running of an great event.  Current pricing is under $100, and gets you an amazing race course, high quality bling, post race food, music and more.  Convenient free parking, included!

The inaugural year of this event, I learned about it too late in the season to run it.  I didn’t make that mistake last year, signed up early, and ran the marathon six days after running the Chicago Marathon.  The course winds in and around the city of Greensboro, through neighborhoods, and city streets, but also through beautiful countryside.  Yes, there are hills.  The course is challenging, yet so much fun!

This year I will be pacing the Half Marathon at this event.  I hope to take one of my sons along with me to experience this great race.  Running Chicago again this year, I figured I better run the half this time around, since I am running the New York City Marathon a few weeks later.  Gotta leave some steam in my legs for the Big Apple!

This years race is on Saturday, October 17th.  Pease join me!

RUN LOCAL!!!  Support the fine efforts of quality race directors like Richard and Libby.  When races are done right, we need to support them!

No PR, No BQ, No Big Deal. Run Happy!

Could this old guy be slowing down?  Well, lately I’ve felt like my fastest running days are over.  Does it have to do with age, or does it have to do with guts and determination?

I turned my focus this past week on speed work.  Running distance in this heat (91 degrees right now), can be very daunting.  So, a nice change to my training has been shorter distances, and speed work.  I’m testing myself, to see if this aging guy still has what it takes to pull a PR at any distance.

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My immediate attention is on a 10k in a few weeks.  I am not gunning for a PR because it’s just not that important to me right now.  I haven’t PR’d the distance in a few years, but I don’t run 10k’s often at all.  But the distant focus is on a pair of races this Summer.  I’ll still go all out like I want a PR, that’s just my nature.

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I have decided that even though I am going to give it my best shot at the Rockies Marathon on July 19th and go for a PR, with high hopes for a BQ, that I will also run the day before.  A Half.

Too crazy not to try something I have never done.  Only once have I run back to back races.  Last Summer I ran a 10k and then a 5k 45 minutes later the same morning.  It was a 15k challenge which I gladly signed up for.  So, I’ve done that sort of race double, but nothing close to what I will attempt in July.

So, I am signed up for the Aspen Valley Half Marathon on July 18th.  I will be a pacer, and hopefully get in a nice much slower than normal pace for me type of warm up.  The warm up is for the next day, running the Full Marathon.  Going for my BQ.  Will I achieve that BQ?  Who knows, but I don’t think I really want to skip the challenge of back to back distance events like this opportunity presents.

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There will be so many opportunities to get my BQ, that I think I am loosening the reigns on the BQ wagon this Summer.  I would rather have a fun challenge of back to back races in two beautiful locations, than pinning all my hopes on one BQ race.  Sure, I am still going to give it my all, but if it doesn’t happen at least I won’t regret passing up on the second race to solely focus on the BQ.  Boston is not everything.  Sure, would I love to go and run Boston one day?  Absolutely!  But at least for now, it’s not the end all be all goal.

I had to do some soul searching of late, and figured out that I run because it makes me happy, makes me feel good.  I run for the health benefits, and for the mind and soul cleansing it provides me.  I run for the beauty around me.  I think if I run solely with a BQ in mind, that I lose many of the reasons why I run in the first place.  I don’t need all the pressure, running is supposed to relieve that.  If I happen to have the race of my life and qualify, then of course I will be thrilled.  If it doesn’t, I don’t want to be heart broken and full of regret.  If I run a 3:24:59 I will be ecstatic, but if I run a 3:50:00, I want to be happy for the experience of it all.

So that’s it!  I’m running a Half, then a a Full the next day.  I will give it my all, I will enjoy and revel in both.  It’s a pretty big challenge, but one I am happy about.  Have you ever tried a crazy running challenge?  Back to back races?  Back to back to back races?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Please share!

Unplugged in Ashe County – A New River Marathon Recap

The New River Marathon has been on my radar for a few years, and finally I was able to run it!  Tucked into the northwestern corner of North Carolina in Ashe County, the New River Marathon is a small, yet wonderful event.

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I packed up the car and drove up into the mountains on Friday afternoon.  I decided to stay in a nearby town about a twenty five minute drive away.  In the small town of Jefferson there really isn’t a whole lot to see, except for the views.  I have never been north of Boone, so this was a nice treat.  It’s about a three and a half hour drive from home.

I spent a few hours just relaxing before studying the map, and figuring out my drive down to the town of Todd where the packet pick up, and race location is.  Because this area is unfamiliar to me, I decided that even though they offered race morning packet pick up, I wanted to know where I was going.  Plus, I was in the mountains on a beautiful day, and I wanted to see the sights.

The drive was beautiful.  Mt. Jefferson towers above the first portion of the trip.  Standing about 1,600 feet above my car, I knew that on the way back I wanted to check out this mountain from the top!  Making the turn onto route 194, the road becomes very twisty and turny.  Fantastic views abound!  First up about four miles through beautiful landscapes, there were farmhouses, horses and cows at every turn.  Beautiful long range views, I even stopped on the road to take a few photos.  (Luckily no one was behind me)

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Once at the top, it’s about a three to four mile descent into the historic town of Todd.  I did some reading about this little town, and it really is fascinating.  The community was originally called Elk Cross Roads and was settled in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a rural outpost in the Blue Ridge Mountains that was populated mostly by farmers.  The community was first noted on North Carolina maps in the 1850’s.  There were several dry goods stores operating there before the Civil War.  It’s hard to believe that in the 1890’s Todd was larger than Boone.

The Virginia-Carolina railroad came to Todd because of the vast tracts of timber in the area, but by 1934 most of the mountains in the valley had been stripped of trees, and during the Great Depression the the railroad tracks were pulled up, the Bank of Todd was liquidated and the town’s commerce all but vanished in just a few short years.  A devastating flood in 1940 washed away most of the town.  By WWII there were only a handful of businesses remaining in the town.  I took a picture of the Todd General Store (which is for sale), as its’ one of the oldest continuously operating general stores in the state of North Carolina.  Someone needs to buy it and keep it going!

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Just a quick history of the town, as it will pack in some interesting thoughts of its history as you run this race.  In such a small crevice tucked into the valley, they had quite a nice setup for us runners.  There’s a church, the general store, a post office, a rafting business, a mercantile and bakery, and just a few other buildings tucked in there.  The park where the race starts and finishes is small, but boasts green grass, a bandstand and enough room to camp out the night before the race if that’s your thing.

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A quick 20 minutes to park, pick up my shirt and bib, snap a few photos, and I was on my way.  I was so excited to have the chance to run this race in the morning.  Now that I was confident with how to get there in the morning I could relax, take in some sights and kick my feet up at the hotel.

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On my return trip to the hotel, I stopped off at the Mount Jefferson Natural Area for a few photos.  Not surprising to me was that at the top, there were still no leaves on the trees at all.  I live in Wake county, where Spring is much further along than in the mountains.  Dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom up there, whereas that season here has already passed.  You see where this race is located in Ashe County, right on the border of Watauga County.  From atop Mt. Jefferson, you get views of North Carolina, Tennessee to the west, and Virginia to the north.

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It was such a beautiful day, I just couldn’t get over the views!

I called it an early night, got my race day gear together and hit the hay about 10pm.  I slept horribly, fearful of oversleeping.  Marathon morning went off without a hitch though, and soon enough I was back in the car heading down to Todd.

I passed a beautiful sunrise over the mountains while driving there!  This time I couldn’t stop in the middle of the road to snap a picture because there was race morning traffic on the undulating country roads.  I arrived in Todd to a very well coordinated parking effort by volunteers.  It was a chilly morning at 43 degrees, but I knew it was going to be just perfect.  Highs for the day were supposed to be around 63.

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I packed a quick drop bag in the car before heading to the start line about a quarter mile away.  You can see from this picture that the race location is tucked into this valley.  I just knew that the views on this race course were going to be amazingly beautiful.

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This big guy was wandering around greeting runners as we made our way into the park!  That kid was fascinated!  So was I!  Not something I will probably ever see again as I get ready to run a marathon.

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I guess by now you can probably get a really good feel for the atmosphere of this race.  The New River Marathon has a very small town, country feel.  Lots of super nice people everywhere.  It is a great break from a large city event, or big race in general.

The race began promptly at 7:45am, a 15 minute delay, making sure that everyone got to the line in time.  The race course winds out of the town of Todd, and along the banks of the New River.  I was fairly close to the front of the pack over the first mile or so.  I knew with a few extremely difficult hills on this course, that I didn’t want to overdo it in the beginning.  The marathon had less than 200 participants, I figured I was somewhere in the top 50 heading out.

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Let me tell you something.  This is not the easiest course you will ever find, heck, it’s in the mountains of North Carolina, but you will be hard pressed to find one that outmatches its beauty!  There are amazing views of the mountains, the river, horse farms, old barns, wildlife, Christmas tree farms and so much more.  Because the race is small, you won’t hear much of anything other than the sound of your breathing, or the steps from other runners if one happens to be nearby.  There were times when I had no one in front of me, and no one behind me.

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The whole time I was running I feared that my Garmin would lose GPS because of the location of this race.  It actually never happened.  What I found unique about this race for me was the way that I really wasn’t hardly ever looking at it.  I was just content to run and enjoy the scenery.  The only other race I’ve run that can compete with the beauty of this one is Big Cottonwood in Utah.  This race is all kinds of eye candy, and it was so good for my soul!  The quiet serenity of this marathon course will almost lull you into thinking that you aren’t even running a marathon.  It was that special!

Water stops were just about perfect on this course, I never once was yearning for water.  Each stop was staffed with smiling faces, and some stops even had gels, bananas, chocolate candies, etc..  They did a great job.  Even after a couple of the tougher steep-grade hills, there were nice downhills to give you a break.  It really was the perfect course to challenge the runner, and yet give an awesome sense of nature and beautiful surroundings.

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I knew I was having a good race.  Like I said before, I wasn’t trying to set any land speed records, but I did want to perform well.  I few times I felt calf cramps coming on, but nothing major.  I did see plenty of folks in the later miles of the run having issues though.  I just plodded along, enjoying the views.  Every now and then I would pick off a runner who was starting to lag a bit, and we would exchange kind words of encouragement.  It was just that kind of race.

This is a race for anyone who loves nature.  Anyone who loves small town races, and is best run “unplugged”.  Enjoy the sights and sounds.  Leave that IPod at home.  The sounds of the flowing New River, and occasional mooing cow and chirping bird are all you need.

Nearing the end of my race I just couldn’t believe that I had just covered that many miles without really realizing it.  I made the final push back into the town of Todd, where family members and runners alike were cheering.  Then the final quarter mile, with a turn onto the grass into the park to finish.  My race was over.

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A finish time of 3:50:13, placed me 32nd overall.  With a unique medallion placed around my neck, I just basked in the glow of what I had just achieved.  It was a run for the record books, and I’m not referring to anything close to a personal best.  Record books meaning one of the best races I’ve run.  Best places, best atmosphere.  It truly was a devine experience for my soul.

It was an incredible, unique, beautiful, quiet, serene, cozy type of event.  Not a lot of fanfare, or bells and whistles.  If you choose to run this event one day, it will truly be you and nature only, running together in perfect harmony.

So, Say Geronimo! A tale of my pre-race accident

March 22, 2015-

My race morning started like many others.  Up early to an alarm clock piercing in my head, verbally cursing words that no one should hear at that hour of the day.  Ok, ok, I’m up.

What was ahead for the morning was the usual.  My race gear had been laid out the night before, so all that was left before heading out the door was some relaxation, coffee and a shower.  My son and I jumped in the car at O Dark Thirty.  4:30 to be exact.  Meeting a friend by 5:45 who had picked up our packets at the expo, because alas, I had to work both days of the expo.

We met Todd right on schedule.  Then a ten minute drive over to downtown Fayetteville to find parking, which was an absolute breeze.  After getting a drop bag ready, and pinning our bibs on our shirts, we walked over to the park where the starting line is.  All was going too smoothly….

We walked into the park, and found the bag drop area.  Met a few friends there and snapped a few photos.  All was relaxed, stretching taking place to ease into race readiness.

For those of you who don’t have any background on this race, it is a point to point military themed marathon, half and 5k.  A truly inspiring race that I have now been proud to be a part of for the second straight year.  Starting at Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville, NC, runners wind through town, onto the All American Freeway and eventually into Ft. Bragg.  An army installation that is home to the US Army Airbourne forces, and Special Forces, as well as US Army Forces Command and the Reserve Command.  It is an inspiring run in every way.  Thank you to our military.

At this point, before heading to the start line, my son disappeared while I was stretching.  By the time I realized that he was gone, I started scanning the bathroom lines.  The lines were mega long, like most races, and I didn’t see him.  Then he appeared from behind me, stating he had gone to pee back behind the main stage in the park  where we were standing.  Ok, I said.  I will forego the long lines and do the same thing.  What happened next was a tad startling and almost ended my race before it began.

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Maybe I was channeling my inner paratrooper, or muttering the words from a current song by Sheppard. It kinda goes like this…..  Say Geronimo, say Geronimo, say Geronimo…. Bombs Away, Bombs Away….. Ok, I love that song, it’s very catchy.  But, yep, here is what happened….

I was not clumsy, just maybe careless.  I started to jog to the the back of the pavilion stage.  There were like 8-10 concrete stairs leading back behind the stage to the parking lot and then eventually to the woods on the perimeter of the park. It was pretty dark still.  It wasn’t a well lit area.  Any guesses as to what happened next?

At the bottom of the steps there was a curb, which I didn’t see.  Why is there a *bleeping* curb at the bottom of a set of stairs?  I guess the curb was there because it was protecting about a two foot drop down to the parking lot.  OMG….  Here comes the explanation to the earlier paratrooper metaphor.  Before I knew what was happening, my big toe on my right foot slammed into aforementioned concrete curb, and I launched into the air in relative darkness.  Without much time to think, flying through the air, I thought, this was not going to end well.  It didn’t.

Before I knew it, my left hand broke my fall partially (well it was the first body part to make contact with the parking lot).  I then sort of tried the tuck and roll to the best of my ability.  Next to make impact was my right elbow, and then my right knee and outer right leg.  I popped back up as quickly as possible, hoping that my flight and landing were kinda graceful.  There was one guy back there that saw it all happen, but remained quiet and probably happy that I got up on my own.  Like Santa Claus, he spoke not a word and went straight to his work.  Yes, he was back there to urinate, too.  Hurting all over from my fall, knowing that I was probably bleeding, I quickly peed and went back to find my son.

Time to see the damage, as I emerged back into the light of the stage.

Road rash on my hand, lots of skin peeled off, but very little blood.  Oops, I could feel blood running down my leg from my knee..  I check out my elbow next, as I was trying to avoid looking at my leg.  Again, plenty of scrapes, redness, some blood, but not too bad.  My knee and leg…  Another story.  Lots of pain.  I knew I had hit it pretty hard.  There was a good portion of the skin on the bottom part of my knee that was gone in the battle.  The leg hair at the site of impact was gone, the only thing left was road rash, and pounding pain.

Can you say Geronimo?  No time to find a medical tent, and probably still in shock, we walked over to the race start.  Ok, good news, I could still walk, and would race no matter what.  I wiped away blood with a paper towel I had stuffed in my race belt to use to blow my nose.  I picked off dangling skin that I knew would annoy me during the race, and I got ready to race.  There was no way I was going to allow this accident to deter me from the 26.2 mile task at hand.  Ten minutes to race time this song starts playing….  So Say Geronimo, say Geronimo…  No lie!  It was me!  They dedicated it to my pre-race launch.  Ok, no they didn’t, but that’s exactly what I thought.

My finger nails tingling, with pavement gauges in them, blood running down my leg, it was time to lose the focus on the blood and pain, and run.

And I did!

And I finished!

And I hurt like hell today!

True story, I couldn’t make this shit up.  I may not be a paratrooper, but I am a trooper.