Runcation Commences NOW!

I don’t go back to work for another 176 hours.  That’s a full week off!

I needed it desperately!  It’s been damn six months since I could say that I am on vacation. This kind of vacation is the best kind, too.  It includes not one, but two races.  It includes air travel, a rental car, and all the fun I can have packed into a few days.

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I am officially on RUNCATION!  I actually don’t leave until Friday early in the evening, but I am officially on break.

First order of business is a short run this evening when the suns brilliant rays duck down behind the trees.  I need a shaded 90 degree run, since it’s going to be hot regardless.  After that?  Not much.  No plans the rest of the night.  Unless you call laying on the couch with my two chihuahuas date night.

I have had a serious lack of sleep the past three nights, and I plan on remedying that tonight and tomorrow night.  You see, I need to catch up.  This weekends trip to Colorado won’t offer me much down time, or sleep, so I need to catch up with myself and bank a few hours before I leave.

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I actually won’t arrive in Denver until about 8pm on Friday evening.  Then I have a four hour drive to Aspen before settling in for the night.  I won’t get much sleep, as it’s an early wake up call to pace the Aspen Valley Half Marathon on Saturday morning.

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After running through some absolutely picturesque scenery, it’s a drive back to Golden, Colorado.  Marathon #20 on Sunday morning before traveling home that evening.

I just can’t believe this runcation is finally here.  Seems like it’s been in the works for years.  I’ll try to keep my blog updated the best I can over the next week, since I have two races to recap afterward.  Luckily I was smart enough to not return to work next Monday morning.  I will have two days to rest and recover from an epic running weekend.  Plenty of time to rest my feet after 39.3 miles of racing in the Colorado Rockies.

I think it best, now that I am really starting to soak it in, that I plan a runcation every year.  One that’s not just a weekend getaway.  Don’t get me wrong, I love those, too.  It just really feels amazing that I have this time off, and get to do what I love (running) at the same time.  Yes, a week long runcation is necessary for my mental health.  How about you?  How often do you take vacations?  Have you ever taken a vacation just because you wanted to run?

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Wrapping up June

With only one more day in the month I’m left wondering what happened.  Where did it go?  With the a Summer Solstice already passed, the days now are already getting shorter.  It feels wonderful though at this time of year to still have daylight at 9pm, and to have the sun rising so early.

I started the month with a 10k race, but have just been training since.  Dealing with pure heat exhaustion almost every run, summertime here will certainly add an extra level of effort needed to crank out the miles.  I’m fresh off of four days of runs in a row, which is my best effort for the whole month.  I haven’t logged nearly enough miles considering I have a Half and Full marathon back to back in under three weeks, but I think I am giving it the most I have.

Work has been absolutely grueling, but at least I’ve been getting really good sleep because of it.  Add a four or five mile run to a 9-10 hour day working on your feet, and you will truly appreciate how I’ve felt the past six weeks.  I’m in much need of a break.  A vacation!

I do get a mini break in mid July, as I fly out to Denver for a weekend of racing.  I can’t wait to see Denver, and Aspen!  The Rockies!

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I recently joined the Beast Pacing team, and will be pacing the Aspen Valley Half Marathon.  I have paced a bunch of races in the past, but this will be my first as part of an official pace team that paces races all over the country.  I love to travel, so I will be pacing more events for them in the near future.

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The next day is Revel Rockies, where my goal is a Boston Qualifier at this beautiful marathon.  I cannot wait for the challenge.  Last year I ran 5 marathons in the first five months of the year.  I’ve only run two so far this year, and I have to say, I miss it.  My last marathon, New River, was almost row months ago, and I am missing the marathon high!

Just a few weeks after my trip to Denver, I finally get a vacation.  Yes, I love Las Vegas.  I’ve been there once already this year, but by the time this trip comes, it will be six months since I’ve been there.  I cannot wait!  I repeat, I cannot wait!  A full 10 days off.  I need it!

How is your Summer going so far?  Any big plans for races, or trips coming up?  June is almost over, so don’t wait too long, or the Summer will pass you by quickly.

It’s been an Awful week! Just awful!

It’s been quite a break from blogging this past week, and not in a good way.  It has been an awful week.

Starting a week ago today, I have worked every day.  Knowing that I have a vacation coming up this Saturday, it is fairly normal that I end up working 7, 8, 9, sometimes 10 days in a row.  That alone sucks. It is tiring, and makes that vacation so needed by the time the work is done.  Add to that the fact that the first day of the stretch at work I hurt my back.  Not even sure how it happened.  I just realized that my lower back was hurting toward the end of the workday.  At first I didn’t think much of it, figured it was just tweaked a bit and would work itself out.  Unfortunately, seven days later, this pain has been fierce and unaffected by heavy helpings of ibuprofen.

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So, I am at a place this morning where I just really can’t deal with the pain anymore.  I need to find a solution!  I haven’t been to a chiropractor in nearly twenty years, mainly because I haven’t needed one.  I threw my back out in a big way long ago, and I had much success with a chiropractor visit.  Put me right back on track and finally relieved my pain and allowed me to get back to life.  I really think this is my only solution right now.  I am worried that I won’t be able to find a good one prior to leaving on vacation Saturday morning.  That is my mission this morning!

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In addition to my back pain, I have been dealing with this damned Octavia winter storm.  We did get hit here pretty hard in North Carolina.  Any kind of winter weather here is always a big deal, and awful to deal with.  Nearly every school system in our entire state was closed yesterday.  That is hard to imagine, but it’s true.  But, yes, I had to work.  So I had to deal with ridding my vehicle of ice, and driving through pure treachery about half of my twenty mile journey to work.  Luckily we closed early, and it allowed me to get back home before the refreezing of the roads.  Another dose of winter weather today potentially, and then a polar plunge down to temperatures that are rarely seen here ever.  Another obnoxious day!

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Please, please, please……  I need Saturday morning to get here so that I can head to the airport and get the hell out of here!  And there better not be any flight issues due to this weather!  If my flight is cancelled, the fits of rage will be heard clear across the Triangle.  Heaven help me, it truly has been an awful week.  I haven’t even been able to run because of my back, so stress relief will only come in the form of an on-time departure Saturday morning, and a perfect touch down in Sin City.

Sunshine, Warmth and Hogwarts

I am a southerner at heart.  I had no choice at being born in the north, and had to endure long, cold and white winters.  As a child I didn’t mind, as snow meant FUN!  Snowball fights, snow forts, skiing.  As an adult though, and the older I get, the more and more I hate cold weather.  Living in the south now for over 15 years, my blood has thinned.

My mood, especially after hitting Daylight Savings Time, really dips with winter temperatures and fewer hours of daylight.  This year I am even finding running in the cold weather much less enjoyable than in the past.  I just need more warmth.  Luckily I have something to look forward to.  Even as I turn on the television this morning and see our first winter storm advisory splashed across the screen, my thoughts are more on sunshine and warmth than the potential for a quarter of an inch of ice we are supposed to get this evening and overnight.

Thursday after work we are loading up the old Suburban, and heading south.  Finally a break to the winter, and a much needed getaway after a long and arduous holiday season at work.  Thursday night will put us in northern Georgia before hitting the road again early Friday morning to Orlando.

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A four day vacation in Florida is just what I need.  Not having been to Univeral Orlando in over ten years, I am really looking forward to a warm weather holiday.  Staying at Disney, but playing at Universal.  We’ve been to Disney three times in the last seven years, so this will be a nice change up.

With the Walt Disney World Marathon and other races down there this past weekend, the numerous posts I’ve seen regarding the races and everyone’s time in Florida has really gotten me anxious for this break.  Not sure if I will even get out for a run while there, I will surely be visiting Harry Potter and the famous Hogwarts!  Can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to ride some roller coasters!

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Here’s to vacations!  Here’s to warmer weather!  Here’s to sunshine and palm trees!

2014 – Race Statistics

Looking back on my running year today because I don’t have any more races upcoming, and needed a bit of perspective.  I always get a bit depressed during time off, or during recovery.  During this time of year, when all it seems like I am doing is working, shorter daylight hours, holidays looming, I need a pick me up.  I decided to review my year to give myself a bit of an umph.

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My goals for the 2014 were pretty broad.  I wanted to run five marathons (one a month for the first five months of the year).  I wanted to qualify for Boston.  First goal met, second goal unachieved.  Charleston, Hilton Head, Wrightsville Beach, Rock n Roll Raleigh and All American Marathons running January through May hurled me to goal #1. Each of those marathons were new to me, all unique.  All were sub 4 hour marathons, as well.  I pushed my limits, I met that goal. In the back of my mind I was gunning for Boston at a few of those races, but knew that running five in five months was a goal enough unto itself.  I turned my Boston goal into a Fall goal.

Before the mid point in the year, in addition to the five marathons, I also ran one 5k, one 10k and one 10 mile race.  My only PR this year was set at the 10 mile race.  Why?  Because that was my one and only 10 mile race ever.  I didn’t PR or even come close at any other distance race this year.  A little bummed about that, but hey, you can’t win them all.

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Over the Summer I turned my attention to Boston, and hill training.  All in preparation for my BQ goal race in September at Big Cottonwood.  I had a great Summer of training, and felt prepared for a good go at it.  In the end it didn’t work out.  I missed my BQ time by 16 minutes.  Big Cottonwood ended up being my second fastest marathon of the year.  Second to Chicago.

My Fall season consisted of 7 races.  Four were Halves, three were Full’s.  That’s a lot of running, and they were all within a 50 day span.  That’s a pretty awesome achievement in itself.  I really didn’t plan it that way, it just happened.  The last of the races I ran my best Half of the year, so I ended on a high note.

So looking at 2014, I have to say that even though I didn’t get that BQ, I wouldn’t trade my running year for anything.  I ran 8 marathons (all new races), out of the 15 races I did in total for the year.  I participated in my first Ironman relay, (I did the running portion), so that Half actually puts my yearly total at 16 races.  So half were marathons.  Nice!

As my racing season is over, my career racing totals really ratcheted up in numbers.

My marathon total is: 16

My half marathon total is : 24

Sometimes you just need to review to feel better about yourself.  True I don’t haven’t any races in the near future, but I can revel in the fact that I really had an amazing running year.  Running has taken me places I have never been before, both physically and on the map.  Trips to Salt Lake City, and Chicago for the first times ever, all due to running.  Lots of fun events this year.

I pushed my limits this year, and will continue to hone my running skills on into next year.  What awaits?  I don’t have a lot of clarity yet in my race schedule for next year, but as it comes together I know I will continue to push toward a BQ, and have a lot of fun racing along the way.

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Here’s to another awesome racing year, 2015!

Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon – Race Recap

Another weekend has come and gone, and another race was run. This one however, was unique and special in so many ways.  An inaugural event put on by Vacation Races (@VacationRaces), the Great Smoky event on September 20, 2014 was a pure joy to run in.

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My weekend in the mountains began fairly early this past Friday morning.  Living in central North Carolina, I had a long drive in front of me.  About a 360 mile drive across the state, and into Tennessee.  If you’ve never been in the mountains of NC, or the Great Smoky Mountains, the drive through them is really beautiful.  Luckily the weather was absolutely perfect for a drive, and the mountain views along the way did not disappoint.

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I had actually signed up for same day packet pickup for this race because I wasn’t sure if I could get out there with enough time left on Friday before the expo closed.  A good plan, and easy (but long) drive, got me into Townsend, Tennessee in about six and a half hours.  Plenty of time to head to the cabin I rented first, unload my bags and freshen up, and still make it to the expo with about an hour and a half to spare.  The expo was only about a four minute drive from my cabin!  Townsend is a small mountain town, with only one stop light.  I loved it.

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The expo was quite small, but very well organized.  This race wins the GRAND PRIZE for the most beautiful expo views.  Outdoor expo?  Yes, and huge bonus points because of it.  Just visiting the small expo got the juices flowing for a beautiful run the following day.  A beautiful setting, super friendly race staff and volunteers, happy runners all around.

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After the expo I set out to find a grocery store in town.  About a half mile away, I found a small store, and grabbed a few necessary items and headed back to my cabin.  Let me just say that I looked for quite sometime online for a nice place to stay, and I found the perfect spot.  I love spending time in the mountains, and have rented homes and cabins many times.  Due to the short nature of this trip I thought about getting a hotel room to keep the trip super cheap, but decided against it.  I found a very affordable cabin right in Townsend, so it was nice and quiet, and felt like a little slice of heaven with most of the comforts of home.  I think the bed was probably one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in.

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A nice quiet evening to myself, I went to bed around 10pm.  This allowed me a nice rest, even with my early race day wake up call.  This race is a point to point race, starting in Maryville, Tennessee.  Because of this, I needed to be at the race finish area (about three miles from my cabin) at 5:30am, to board a bus to Maryville.  Race morning went off without a hitch.  So easy.  Parking was plentiful at the race finish, and a huge line of school buses came rolling down the street right on schedule.  After boarding the bus, we made the 20 minute trip to the race starting area.

It was still dark when we arrived, but amenities and runner facilities were perfect for the number of runners that day.  There was music going, raffle give aways every 5-10 minutes, tables set up with hot coffee and hot chocolate, and plenty of port o potties.  I found that most runners spent the hour before the race chilling out, stretching and snapping pictures of the sunrise over the beautiful Smokies in distance.  For an inaugural event, everything was going very well.  About fifteen minutes before the start of the race, the National Anthem was played while a flag was flown.  Right after that, pacers got into place, the chute was prepared and at 7:30 sharp we were off.

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When looking at the course elevation chart online, I noticed that this race is mainly uphill.  The net elevation gain is 364 feet, but is seemingly spread out over the distance very evenly.  I do have to say that some of the uphills really surprised me.  The whole time running I kept thinking “I don’t remember this hill on the elevation chart”.  So, needless to say, I found the course much more of a challenge than the chart displayed.  I just don’t think I was ready for how tough it was.  After my calves took a huge beating at my marathon one week prior, they gave me fits on this course.  Luckily I never cramped, but was on the verge almost the entire race.  As a result, I never really felt like I could just go for it.  I was always holding back even the slightest bit, to avoid locking up.

Vacation Races, began in 2012 with the Zion Half Marathon.  Since then, they have added 5-6 races that are all centered around our National Parks here in the U.S..  This was my first, as this is the only event within driving distance from my house.  Because this race series revolves around nature and our National Park system, they practice a unique and innovative cup-less race policy.  You either bring your own hydration system, carry a water bottle or partake in their system.  Runners are given the option.  I chose to participate in their plan, as I don’t like carrying a water bottle.  They are dead set against unnecessary waste and trash at their events, which is a great thing.  I was given a hydrapouch at the expo, and had a quick demo on how to use their self-serve water stations.  The pouch is practically weightless, clips to a race belt, and you just fill and go at stations.  Nuun hydration was also available in large spigoted coolers so you had a choice.  I found it to be very easy, and wish more races would do this.  Think Green!  I had to point this out, as I never once saw not even one cup, bottle or Gu packet on the race course that had been thrown to the ground.  It definitely added to the beauty of the race.

My race was tough, I’m not going to lie.  I started ok, but just never really got into a good groove because of my calves.  Plus I think I was just so focused on the breathtaking surroundings that my focus was never on running a spectacularly fast race. I find that the older I get, my speed has become less of a focus.  This race was more about the location, sights and sounds for me.  And that’s ok.  Much of the race was run parallel to the Little River, including many ups and downs and just spectacular countryside views.  There were not a lot of spectators along the course, so if you run this one day, please just be in it for yourself.  You have to be your own cheering section.  Again, not an issue for me, it just added to the quiet and serenity of race morning.

My pace was all over the place on race day.  Up and down with the hills.  I made my way.  Because the marathon distance has been my focus this year (six Full’s so far in 2014), this race was only my second Half of the year.  Another reason my pace was all over the place.  The race did go by much quicker.  :). I had almost forgotten what it was like to run just 13.1 miles.  Did I just say that?  By no means do I mean anything negative about the distance, as last year it was my race distance of choice.  In 2013 I ran nine halves, and loved every minute.  It was so nice to be able to just run for the fun of it, and enjoy the environment, without worrying about time pressures like last week in Utah.

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As I neared the finish, it was very obvious by the time ticking away on my Garmin that this was not a race for my record books.  Hey, no problem, that was not why I was there.  I was there for a much needed mountain getaway, and a beautiful run.  The finish line in view, spectators now everywhere to push you to the finish line.  I crossed the line in 1:51:48, for an overall pace of 8:32.  Pleased, given my calf issues.  We were in the mountains after all, so there were a few issues with timing and chips, which I didn’t know until after the race was over.  Results were not easy to get, I suppose a result of GPS or cell coverage.  Whatever the issue was, complete results are still not posted as the race is making sure all runner times are correct before Spring final results.  At this point the best I can figure is that I came in 6th out of 28 in my age group, and about 68th out of 643 overall.

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As I made my way through the finisher area, runners were treated to bananas, snack boxes and chocolate milk.  The weather was perfect for just relaxing on the hillside and enjoying watching other runners finish.  As I sat on the ground stretching, I could see my calf muscles twitching uncontrollably.  I almost took a video of it, as it was quite entertaining.  The young woman sitting next to me was intrigued by it, too.  So my calves were part of the post race entertainment!  Lol.

The town of Townsend opened its arms to welcome us.  We had a beautiful day to run, and the rest of the weekend to enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains.  I have to say it was the perfect getaway.  After milling around a bit after I finished, it was a quick ride back to my cabin where I showered and changed.  I relaxed a bit on the deck, ate a sandwich and then decided to go out for a drive.  Two minutes later I was in the Park, driving on a long and winding road toward Gatlinburg.  I stopped many times for pictures.  Driving through Gatlinburg on the main drag is not easy.  Bumper to bumper traffic.  Not something I was in the mood for, so I never even stopped to look around.  Once I got through town I drove on to Pigeon Forge (Dolly Parton’s stomping ground) and stopped to eat again.  Yep, post race hunger pangs.  Then I drove back to the cabin, to enjoy the rest of the day in quiet, just listening to the Little River flow by down below the deck.  I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep around 9pm.

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It was a great trip to the Smokies!  If you’ve never been at this National Park, I urge you to go.  It is beautiful.  Rent a cabin, go alone or take family and friends.  Sign up for next years race, and enjoy a scenic run.  I, for one, am going to try to figure out how to get myself to one of their other races in the coming year.  The Vacation Races motto is “Run where you play”, and I have to agree.  Other races they put on in our National Parks are all Half Marathons, and include Zion, Grand Canyon, a Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Lake Powell.  If I was retired, I think I’d hop in the car and attend each event next year.  Now doesn’t that sound like fun?  Road trip!

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