Sunday, December 19, 2010

The sun rises over the frozen North Pole as the Elves awaken

Oh, wait, we're in North Carolina, it just FEELS like the North Pole.  After doing my 19 on Friday, I wasn't sure about what I was going to do Saturday.  I knew I'd want to take it easy and go short.  After seeing that a bunch of DART-ers were going to be at the Mt Mourne VFD Elf 5K, I figured I'd head over there at least to cheer, plus Jo decided that she'd run.
This must be the place-photo courtesy of Chad Randolph

I wasn't sure if I was planning on running, but I put my gear on.  Jo and I had done the race 2 years ago and it was fun, but last year she had pneumonia and I had the flu, so that was a no go.  Once I got there, I decided that I had to do the distance anyways, so signing up would be the best motivation.  On line, I ran into Tony Read, and we talked for a while, he told us about his triathlons training, and it's hard not to want to go out and run.  Went out to the car and ran into Rodney Alan Graham, who was there to run with his son.

After picking up my shirt (love the elf shirts) I headed out back to the port-a-johns (I promise not to rant about the 2 outdoors toilets, really)  and ran into Chad Randolph, Jim Crotts, Jeremy Alsop and Tommy Wagoner talking to Kara Pettie from Run For Your Life - University, who I see at least once a week.  Most of the Charlotte running people I know in one place - cool!  Chad was on his crutches and was there to cheer everyone on, Kara was working the RFYL table and the rest of us were running.

After some chit-chat, we all gathered in front of the firehouse for the start.  This race definitely has a small town feeling as the start is basically just the parking lot in front of the firehouse and everyone just stands together until the start.  Chad was on his crutches and was there to cheer everyone on, which was pretty cool.

The course heads out from the firehouse, up Langtree Road, past the (ever-growing) Lowes world headquarters, does a turn around out on Transco road and comes back, finishing up behind the firehouse.
The start - photo courtesy of Chad Randolph

At the go sign, we all took off up the road.  My objective was just to take it easy.  After the 19 the day before, I just didn't want to pull anything, but I found that for first mile I was just gliding along.  I realized how much more fun the 5K distance is than the marathon.  Just cruising along.  My objective was to pass more people than passed me.  And that proved to be no problem at all.  In fact, no one passed me at all, I just passed them.  I've never had that feeling before.  As I neared the halfway point, I started looking for people I knew, which is a cool feature of this race.

Up ahead, I got to see Jim, Jeremy, Tommy, Tony, and saw Jo heading my way.  Everyone gave each other the little head nod, and kept going.

The second half was a little bit tougher than the first, with more uphill, but I kept chugging along.  Got across the street from the fire station and saw Jo and Chad standing there to bring folks into the finish.

Me and my heel strike coming in to the finish line - Photo courtesy Chad Randolph

Jo and Chad bringing the runners home.

I put on a little burst of speed and made it to the finish line at 28:30.  Not my best time by far, but all things considered, I'll take it.    Met up with everyone in side and got to see the awards ceremony.

Jo got 2nd in her age group
Jeremy Alsop 2nd Male 25-29
Jim Crotts - 1st Male 30-34
Bobby Aswell Jr - 1st Male 45-49
Tony Read - 3rd Male 50-54

Congrats to Marshall Graham for finishing a 5K at the age of 9.

Overall, a good time and a great race.

Partial DART team photo
Jo and I post race

A girl and her trophy

Monday, December 13, 2010

NEWS FLASH! Charlotte is still hilly.

I know I haven't posted in a while, but it's just been the usual marathon training slog, and I'm tired and worn out, same as always.

But, this past weekend was the big running weekend in Charlotte with the Thunder Road marathon and half marathon being run (along with a 5K, which I confess, I have done before)

Every person I knew in Charlotte that runs was going to be there, and the emails were flying with messages of where to meet up and team pictures, etc.  I decided to try and meet the davidson area running team.  We were supposed to meet up at the front door at 7:15, but conveniently I passed Dave Munger, Chad Randolph, and Rodney Alan Graham on the way to the bathroom (truthfully it would be hard to miss Chad's fluorescent orange hat).

We chit-chatted for a while, and then headed outside to see if we could find other DART-ers for our pictures, and for everyone but me to fire up their Garmin GPS units.  It seems that everyone takes quite a while to get signal, so I have the below series of photos of people standing waiting for signal.
Jo with no signal yet
Dave with no signal

Chad with no signal

No one with signal

Getting ready to run
After the pics, I set off for the bathroom, and said my goodbyes to everyone, and asked Chad to please not lap me out on the course.

This year's race didn't start on College Street which is right in front of the convention center, but up the block on Tryon street.  I think Tryon is bigger and is more "central" so i guess that's why they did it.  However, it was quite difficult to get up to Tryon street, since there were a ton of people heading up that way.

Consequently, as the race started, I (and a lot of other people) where trying to get onto Tryon street.  I don't think I've ever seen even a fraction of this number of people in Charlotte before, outside of a Panthers game

The start line - and I'm on the wrong side!
For a few minutes there it felt like a big city marathon (until we left downtown (yes, I call it downtown) and there were about 100 spectators the whole rest of the way).

Once the race started, it was a bit crowded, but kind of fun to run through downtown as a massive pack.  I took the opportunity to stop for a few seconds to take a couple of pictures of the crowd and just kept rolling.

the most people I've ever seen in Charlotte at a single time....ever

About to get run over

Now those of you that read this blog (the 2 or 3 of you) know one of my pet peeves is the way race organizers skimp on the porta-johns.  Unfortunately, Thunder Road was no exception. Recently, this has been a problem, as I find that both here and at the Dowd half I had to go shortly after the race started, and in the middle of the race.  The problem was solved here by some strategically placed bushes right on 4th street that others were using.  But guys, really?  Get some porta-johns.  More on that later.  So getting that out of the way, it was up 4th, which in true Charlotte style changes names for no apparent reason to Randolph road.  The funny part for me is that last year Jo and I used to bike into Charlotte when Julia was in Hebrew school on Sunday morning, and the course up to this point was pretty much our old course.  So it was interesting seeing the roads from a slightly different perspective.  We headed off Randolph onto Colville (another of our biking roads) and then onto my old nemesis, Providence road.  Now, don't get me wrong, Providence is a lovely road, and has nice houses and is interesting.  However, I've been training on this road pretty much every weekend since August, and the Dowd Half was on the exact same hilly part.  So I'm pretty tired of this road.  In fact, most of my Sunday long run preparation these days revolves around finding routes that have nothing to do with either Providence Road or Morehead Street, which again in true Charlotte fashion are really the same road, and Queens Road, whether it be West, East or any other variation of such.

The one bright spot to this road was the sign outside the Providence Sundries place, which I thought was pretty clever.
I laughed out loud at this one

The other bright spot was that the distance on Providence was mercifully short, though hilly.  We turned up on Sharon Lane and kind of did a few interesting twists and turns through some residential neighborhoods.  A highlight here was the guy that was juggling all kinds of stuff.  I talked to a friend of mine later, and he told me the guy was juggling bowling pins when he went by earlier.

Some entertainment

Hit one of the water stops to refill my bottles.  As an experiment this time around, I took 2 bottles with me on my belt, and filled up at water stops when empty.  This let me not have to worry about water was coming from, and I got to skip most of the water stops.  This one was a bit crazy.

No, that's not a riot, just a water stop
The other thing that happened here was the call of nature.  I kept looking for porta-johns, but every place there were any there were 2 and it looked like at least a 15 minute wait at each one.  I wasn't going for that.  As we were heading through one of these neighborhoods, I spied a portasomeone's front lawn.  I guess they were doing home renovations and there it was.  I went around the corner and hit it.  I ran an extra 2/10 of a mile and it was surely worth it.  No line, no wait.  Nice.

Please don't tip over on me
Shortly after this I got a picture of the woman on stilts.  I have no idea how ling she was doing this, but it was pretty cool.

After coming out of the neighborhoods, we got to the ever-present Queens Road (west this time).  Queens road is another really nice road.  It has tons of multimillion dollar homes, and has an amazing awning of huge old trees overhead, that reminds me of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston (though much hillier).  But again, I've been on this road about 100 times this year, and I need a break.

At least partway through we came past Queens University and I got to take a picture with the mascot.
No, I'm not putting my head in your mouth!
Jo on Queens Road West

Then it was the loop around Queens and down to Kings Road again.  Off Kings it was up Morehead.  I have some kind of psychological issue with Morehead.  As I'm coming around the corner, I just know it's there and I start to get tense.  The funny part is, yes it's hilly and tough, but in both the Dowd half and Thunder Road half, i pretty much just cruised up it.  Jo told me later that she gets tense at that exaact same corner too.  weird.  At least at the start of the hill there were a bunch of people with dance music blasting and they were cheering quite a bit which made it easier. It was then up the hill and then just like Dowd, we jigged over to the left and into Dilworth.

The full and half split, thank god i was following other people

I didn't realize it until later, when someone told me but this was where the full and half marathon's split.  If I hadn't been with Jo, and following other people I might've wound up in Noda on the full course!

So it was a couple of turns around the course, and back into town.  As we got towards the finish line, i got to put on a decent kick and got to actually pass a few people.

In the finish corral I saw my friend Ron cheering and I got to take a picture with him.

Got a pic with Jo, and then headed to the Dowd Y tent, where we got to pic up our "extra" medals.  If you did both the Dowd Y half and Thunder Road half you got a 26.2 extra medal.  Pretty cool.

Separated by about 40 minutes

We're done!
Double medal

As usual, I wasn't happy with my time, but what can you do.  For the most part, the DART-ers, Charlotte Running Club folks plus my friend Ron, had a pretty good day.

And Chad Randolph turned in a truly gutty run.  After straining his achillies and getting plantar fascitis halfway through the race, Chad walked the last 12 miles and still managed to come in ahead of where I would've come in.  Pretty amazing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

mmmmm......shiny medal

What motivates a distance runner?  Is it the accomplishment?  Is it the competition? Is it something in their makeup that pushes them onward?  What keeps them going through mile after mile as their bodies scream out "stop, you're killing me here"?  What makes them get up on a cold Saturday morning when most people are sleeping comfortably in bed to go out and run 13, 26, 50, 100 miles?

Motivation has always been my friend and enemy.  Sometimes I'll think about a marathon and just want to go do 1 or 2 or even 3 in a row, just to do it.  Sometimes, the thought of finishing and getting a medal has driven me onwards.  At least once when training for a NY marathon, the fact that I had raised $2,500 for the Sloan Kettering Children's Cancer center pushed me on, knowing that people had given me money to go out and do it, and I couldn't let them down.  During the Steamtown marathon, seeing all the people who had dropped out and were sitting on the side of the road waiting for the sag wagon pushed me on, just thinking about how horrible it would be to sit there for 2 hours to wait until the roads opened to be brought back to the finish line.  I realized i could get there faster even if I had to walk some of it.

On the other hand, sometimes motivation is fickle.  I can think of tons of times doing a training run of 18, when i got to 15 and just couldn't go on anymore.  I'll never forget running the Queens half marathon in the early 2000's and myself and a friend of mine talked each other into dropping out halfway through.  I've never forgotten doing that, and it's honestly haunted me ever since.  It actually placed the idea in my head forever after that it would be OK to drop out.  There's that little voice in your head that says it's no big deal.

Every time I train for a marathon, I find the actual training to be the worst part.  I get worn down and as the time goes on the aches and pains start to add up, and don't go away.  The real marathon is the training, staying healthy with no prolonged sicknesses, avoiding major injuries and keeping the minor injuries minor.

As usual, I injured myself this training season.  I fell about a week ago and hurt my ribs.  In addition to the fact that it hurts to run, and breathe heavily, it's really hard to sleep since every turn makes it hurt.  So I'm worn down.  But I can't stop now, there's a marathon in January with a Mickey Mouse medal at the finish line.

I took Tuesday off, but was back at it Wednesday.  Due to the pain, and not knowing how I'd react, I skipped my weekly run with the Davidson Area Running Team and hit the treadmill at work.  I managed 6.5 slow and painful miles, but I did it.  I got in another 4 Thursday.

Which brings me to Saturday.  Weeks ago, thinking (perhaps foolishly) that I'd be healthy, I signed up for the Dowd 1/2 Marathon.  And yes, part of the reason (besides the fact that it fits into my training program, and it's easier to run with other people) is that there is a medal.  In fact there's sort of 3 medals.  There's 1 for the Dowd 1/2, another 1 for the Thunder Road Half, and a special 3rd medal if you finish both.

Also, Jo had signed up for the race so we could do it together.  So I didn't see so much that I had a choice.  Plus I convinced myself that it would be like at least 2 of the marathons that i ran injured.  Just go out and see what happens.  

We woke up early, to quite a chilly morning in Charlotte-30 degrees.  My comment:   "If I wanted to be this cold I could've stayed in NY."  We headed down to the Dowd in downtown.  Luckily, it was a Saturday and the Y opened at 7, so we got to sit inside and stay warm and stretch (and hit the bathroom repeatedly).  Right  before the race started we headed outside with all the other folks.  Based on the turnout I'd say this is one of the big distance runs in Charlotte.  Quite a few people. We were all jammed into a side road next to the Y, until the go signal, and off we went.  

Jo and I brought our full water bottles with us, since it's easier to get water on a long run when you need it as opposed to when it's available.  So we had our water, gu, and in my case, sports beans, which rattled the entire way as I ran.

I tried to keep it a little bit slower than my normal pace, since I knew there was a long road ahead.  I seem to be able to slow down OK, but Jo was having a hard time governing her speed a bit, and was trying not to race ahead.  It's hard at the start of a race not to get pulled along with all the other people, but I just kept saying that we'd wind up passing a lot of these folks as long as we took it easy.

Considering how cold I was at the start, I warmed up pretty quickly.  By halfway through the second mile, I was already starting to be warm.  I was a bit concerned that I was overdressed, but as the race went along, the wind picked up and we cooled back off.

Bingham signs about 5 times during the run.  I guess they cut through.  As we got to the last mile, I was expecting to go right up the hill and finish at the Y, but there was one last surprise.  Right before the Y, we made a left and went rambling a little bit before coming back to the Y.

About 1/2 mile from the finish, a pair of women who had been going back and forth with us, tried to pass us, to finish ahead of us.  I was having none of that, and put it on to finish.  Jo's comment was "now you're going to speed up?", but I was motivated by the fact that I ran the whole way, while these women ran fast ahead, then walked to fall behind all day.  I wanted the medal and childishly wanted to finish ahead of them, which we did.

Slow and steady followed by....more of the same...until the end

We got our shiny medals, which now just motivates me for the Thunder road and my 2 more medals. 

The rib was painful at first, but loosened up, but towards the last 2 miles, really started to tighten up and hurt.  Had to go home and take some pain meds, and woke up pretty sore Sunday.  Still managed to run 6 on Sunday though, even though it was quite painful.

On to the next goal.

Got my shiny medal

Thursday, November 4, 2010

8K, 5K, 10K...Ouch!

The town of Mooresville had it's annual Halloween 8K (what is it with 8k as a distance anyways?  it's.....weird) this weekend an due to the fact that I actually read the Mooresville newspaper a few weeks ago I was fired up and ready to go.  However, a week ago a co-worker gave me the link to the NODAween 5K happening in NODA, Saturday night.  Faced with the choice of these 2 races, I decided both!  My training program had a step back week for this week, and I only had to do 6 on Saturday and 8 on Sunday.  I decided to switch up the days and do the 8 on Saturday with the 8K + 5K making a almost perfect 8 miles.

The Mooresville race is decidedly lower tech than most races.  There was no online entry form so I had to show up extra early and sign up.  The other funny thing was, that in this age of technology, there were no chips.  When you crossed the finish line you had to rip off the bottom of your bib and that was your finish tag. Haven't had that experience in quite some time.

As we lined up in front of the Mooresville Recreation department (which I only found because my daughter had swim team there this past year), I ran into people I knew.  The first person was someone I knew from taking spin class at the YMCA.  The second, Wendy, I knew from daily mile.  I knew she'd be there and I recognized her from her picture.  It was interesting actually meeting someone that you know only from online. 

Overall the race was great.  Not too hilly. Temps were good.  I went into the race planning on just taking it easy since I had a 5K later in the day.  Went out pretty good, kept it going, and just had fun.  It was a beautiful fall day.  I was running down a road with the leaves falling and the smell of fireplaces in the air and wished I had a camera with me to take a picture.  Overall just a good time.  I finished in just over 47 minutes, which wasn't bad considering I was taking it easy.  And the fact that I had the neighbors Halloween party the night before and was exhausted. As a bonus I got a $15 gift card to Road ID, which I used as soon as I got home to get Jo a new Road ID for her new shoes.

The only picture I have from the Mooresville 8K

I went home, hung out for a few hours, made some cookies and treats for the kids Halloween party and headed back out to go to NODA.

For those of you that don't know, NODA is an area of Charlotte a few miles away from downtown.  It used to be where the textile mills and mill workers homes were.  It has been turned into an arts center with funky shops and cool restaurants.  It reminds me a bit of a much smaller Woodstock, NY.  If you're in the Charlotte area check it out at

Old textile mill re purposed into homes and a great restaurant.

Yes, I'm not wearing a costume

Making my way to the theater to pick up my number and shirt, I got to walk past a lot of interesting buildings and people dressed up.  I was really beginning to feel like I was grievously under dressed.

The pumpkin-mobile

The....batmobile?  Not the one I remember!

Once I got my number and shirt I was given my chip along with the type of band that usually goes around your wrist for a bar.  I had to ask what it was for.  Apparently, the plan was to tie the chips around your ankle with the strap.  Um, ok.  So i did that.  That was a new one on me!
OK, what?  The chip ties around your ankle?

While waiting for the race to start, I got to go into the historic theater, where they were having a pumpkin auction featuring pumpkins made by local artists.  It was pretty interesting

Somebody's angry

The pumpkin totem pole

Funky pumpkins

Yes, that is a Peter Criss pumpkin

About 15 minutes before the race I headed outside to check out the costumes.  Again, quite an interesting experience (see below). 

Running with scissors and the skeleton

Yes, she says she's a badger.  


Please don't let me finish after the woopie cushion

She ran with the dog too

So many comments, so little time

As we lined up to start, I saw a lot of cool costumes, and was hoping that I didn't finish behind some of them, as they looked pretty big and bulky, and that would mean I was really slow.

The race start

Yes, I passed them in the third mile!

The race started and we were off.  Once again I was surprised at how hilly Charlotte is.  The race consisted of a up and downs  (so it felt) around the Noda area.  Since I hadn't seen too much of the area outside of the main part of town, it was nice to see some of the other areas.  I felt that I was struggling a bit throughout the race, which seems to be the way my evening runs go these days.  Interestingly, there were no mile markers, which made it hard to get a feel for how fast I was going.  I tried to keep passing people and not have them pass me.  There were a couple of water stops during the race, and it seemed like the folks from the neighborhood were manning them.  Thank you!  I went back and forth for a while with the Jelly Belly's before finally passing them for good in mile 3.  I guess my runs with the Davidson Area Running Team are paying off, as I stayed strong throughout the race.  I finished in a shade under 27 minutes at 26:58, which is somewhere around a 8:41 pace.  Not bad.  PS the woopie cushion was way behind me.  Sweet!

After the race was over, my car happened to be in front of Cabo Fish Taco, so I went in and got the BBQ mahi taco's to go.  Awesome, though the guy dressed as Borat that insisted on talking to me was first.

Sunday morning Jo had to do 9, so I figured I'd go the first 6 with her.  And 2.5 miles in I tripped on a raised sidewalk and went down hard on my ribs.  I was down for a good 5 minutes, but got up and finished.  However, it's safe to say that the ribs still are not feeling too great.

Got the Dowd YMCA 1/2 marathon coming up saturday, and I'm a bit concerned.  We'll see how it goes.