California International Marathon

Introduction

Training for Chicago with Andrea, Carrie, Russell and Julianne was an amazing experience. Working towards a shared goal with friends with a fun vacation weekend in addition to the race was the perfect way to cap off months of hard work.

I was looking forward to repeating the experience in New York, with what remained of my fitness from Chicago, I signed up for Richmond and ran the time qualifier (beating my previous half PR by 10 minutes) but was disappointed to find out my qualification was declined. Meanwhile the training group dissolved as Julianne and Russell had new additions to their families, Carrie set her focus on Houston and likewise Andrea’s focus on Boston.

Around the same time I met Erin and she introduced me to several of her friends including a Catherine and Tyler. Catherine entered California International Marathon as a beginning to a week vacation in Northern California. Motivated by my Chicago experience, I signed up shortly afterwards. Unable to get entry into Chicago, Erin followed.

Erin shared her training plan for Marine Corps Marathon. Catherine’s husband, Chris, offered to modify some of the workouts to keep the plan from becoming monotonous. The four of us met over coffee and discussed goals. Much like Chicago, with two much stronger training partners, I felt completely in over my head!

I took most of July off to allow a tendinitis in my foot to heal and started back up after a 3 week work trip to Honolulu. Luckily, if you avoid the Loco Moco, Hawaiian food is fairly healthy and I avoided putting a lot of weight from eating restaurant food every meal.

Chris wanted us up to 50 miles by the beginning of September. Starting at 0, I had my work cut out for me! August weeks went like 17, 33, 43, and 47 when the first week of plan arrived.

The first two weeks were a struggle as the mileage pushed into the 60s. If it wasn’t for Kari Smith with Run Raleigh, I would have broke down quickly. A few weeks of mileage building gave way to track and tempo workouts with long runs and pace miles in the final third of the plan. Somehow, I was able to hold on for most of the workouts, in part reminding myself, “if there is a sub-3 in me, this is your best chance of finding it!”  Even more unbelievable, towards the end, the 6:40 target pace for the marathon started to feel easy. What?!

Sadly, Erin struggled with injury and decided not to race, however she and Cameron sent us off with care packages loaded with goodies for during and after the race!

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Race day

CIM is a point to point race from Fulsom to Sacramento, mostly through a few neighborhoods then urban streets. We boarded the bus to the start at 4:45am, and the convoy of school buses left for the start at 5am. It didn’t feel as early because we were still on east coast time but the drunken Saturday night revelry on the street outside the hotel made for a somewhat sleepless night.

When we arrived at the start, a race representative stepped abort the bus and gave directions to everything, no wandering around confused like other big races. This level of organization held true for the entire event. The race advertises “the best portajohn to runner ratio of any major race” and to their word, the lines were very quick. We didn’t take advantage of it, but the buses stayed parked if anyone wanted to go back to stay warm.

The starting area was on both sides of a median-divided road. In the pre-race fog of confusion, most of the runners lined up on the right side of the road behind the male elites on the right side of the road. After we did a short mile jog to warm up (a first time for me before running a marathon!), we were able to easily walk to the front on the left side of the road to the barrier behind the female elites.

Miles 1-12

The race starts off on a gradual downhill, which made it easy to come up to pace. The course generally followed the American River to the Sacramento River, but far enough inland that you ran in and out of valleys. There were a few groups out cheering and music which provided a boost but the crowds were generally small early in the race.

The 3 hour pace group was directly behind us for the first few miles. I was hoping to lose them to avoid getting swallowed up in the chaos but held to our pacing plan. Fortunately they were gone by the 10k point.

The Bull City Track Club singlet proved to be a great conversion starter and we ended up in a group of 6-7 runners with Triangle connections. Most of the discussion was about restaurants, which made me realize that I don’t get out nearly enough to take advantage of the great food in the area!

Miles 12-16

We passed through the small town of Fair Oaks and had a few quick turns and the steepest uphill of the course, mile 13 began the “middle miles” section of the course with many large groups out cheering and bands playing. The energy of the crowd provided an antidote from the sense of endlessness that sets in (at least for me) during that part of the race.

Mile 15 was the mental low point in the race for me as we passed through long rows of strip malls. Flat started to feel like uphill. Thoughts of dropping back crept into my head. The theme of mile 15 was “you owe it to your training partner, you owe it to yourself, you’ve worked hard for this day, KEEP GOING!” Luckily that soon passed and a little downhill restored my legs. We caught up with Rita whose race strategy was to start much harder in anticipation of fading later.

Mile 20-26

Catherine’s plan was to start accelerating at mile 20. Given my problems late in the race, I decided to wait to mile 22 after the bridge over the American river. Catherine edged away as I held steady. Mile 22 brought the bridge and a spin class lined up cheering runners over the bridge! After the bridge the numbered streets and countdown to 8th st began.

Throughout the race we encountered a many visually impaired athletes running with guides, which is not unusual, but I was surprised to see so any this far in front. Some of them were very fast, Mike Wardian was at the race pacing a paraolympian Chaz Davis to a 2:31 finish!

During this part of the race, there was a guy behind me announcing the pace. Like every 15 seconds. 6:30. 6:40. 6:45. 6:25. In part it was annoying in the way that everything becomes annoying when you’re tired. In part it was helpful knowing that I was still on pace without looking at my watch. I (mentally) forgave the nuisance believing that he was pacing a blind runner.

Mile 23-24 brought the first cramps in my right calf along with the blisters on my right foot. I knew I had to just keep moving. I locked up my foot and sped up my turnover, still unable to push off, my pace gradually dropped to 7:15. I spent the last hour hoping to lose him, but not this way! It turns out he was not a visual guide after all. He was just announcing the pace out loud. over and over and over for his friend.

Passing the Capital, the cheering was incredible! It was almost sensory overload but propelled me to the finish! I crossed the line at 2:56:32, a 10 minute improvement over my PR in Chicago!

Lessons Learned

What worked:

  • Hydration, drank every time I got up at night (admittedly twice), no further liquids 3hrs before start time
  • Stop at goodwill before the race for throwaway clothing. XL was large enough to stretch over my legs waiting for the race to start
  • Huma gels about every 6 mi
  • Stryd footpod kept fairly accurate pace calibrated at 0.98. Don’t use the averaging app, it always reads from the GPS even when set for use footpod for pace.
  • Disable auto-lap and click off the miles manually for accurate pace.

What didn’t work:

  • Still calf cramping problems. I did a few plyometric drills during training but not regularly, maybe more exercises for strengthening? Maybe the easy runs were too easy if my gait changes and not exercising my calves enough? I had no cramping problems in Chicago where the easy runs were in the 7:40-7:50s
  • Residence Inn was a great hotel for the race, next time request an inside (odd numbered) room because of traffic noise)
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Army Ten Miler

Last Spring, my friends and I decided on racing California International Marathon and a series of tune-up races leading up to it. The first was Army 10-Miler on October 8th. I was late in the game on registration for this race which usually fills very quickly, but luckily I was able to get in just before registration closed.

The Wednesday before the race, we had a solid 10×1000 workout that set high expectations for the race. These expectations were soon tempered by weather forecast which crept warmer as the week progressed.

I arrived in DC around 4 in the afternoon for the race expo. In hindsight, I should have arrive much earlier after encountering heavy traffic from Quantico to the expo parking lot. The race expo was at the DC armory and shared a parking lot with RFK stadium and spectators were starting to arrive for a Redskins game.

Outside the expo, a transport helicopter, a Bradley vehicle and missile launcher were on display for the crowd. The expo itself filled the entire floor of the armory building and was very busy. Although the race expo lasted until 6, most of the Army 10 miler branded items were nearly packed up by the time I got there. The rest of the expo was pretty typical race vendor fare, so I was disappointed to see this section packed up early.

My trouble hydrating for a hot race is anything I drink beforehand results in many, many trips to the restroom. I tried to mitigate this by drinking one gatorade before going to sleep and another at 5am, 3 hours before race time hoping that would give enough time for the morning potty dance.

I arrived at the Pentagon at 7am with plenty of time to check my bags, go through security, and one last trip to the portajohns. I lined up in Corral A about 7 rows back finding some runners with similar race numbers, as ATM assigns numbers based on your predicted finish time. My original race plan was 6:15 pace but I couldn’t remember what I submitted. At any rate, I was pretty close to the front.

The race began with great pageantry including motivational speeches from the acting Secretary of the Army, the Sargent Major of the Army, a presentation of colors, a convocation prayer, the National Anthem and a flyover of Apache helicopters. All of the speakers bragged it was the third largest 10 mile race in the world. At 35,000 runners there are bigger races?

The race corrals were on one side of VA-110 and the other side was clear for warmups if you jumped the median. I felt thirsty at the starting line and elected not to run a warmup and further dehydrate.

After the hand cart athletes left, we advanced forward and suddenly I was maybe 20-25 rows back, maybe a little further than I wanted, the elite starters must have joined in front.

The race went past Arlington Cemetery then over the Arlington bridge. We crossed into the city and north towards the Watergate hotel then followed the river south under the Kennedy Center. Around mile 3 the rain started, but just a light drizzle for most of the race.

Around mile 4, I grabbed water then immediately had to use the portajohn, losing a minute-ugh!

We ran through a park, past the Tidal Basin and Holocaust museum and down Independence past the Smithsonian museums. The race looped around and back Independence then followed the 14th street bridge back to Arlington, we agreed this was the longest bridge ever.

There was a hand cart athlete behind us heading on to the bridge. All of the hand carts had a runner escort. We had a short downhill and the escort yelled at us to get out of the way as the cart coasted downhill.

The cart never ended up passing before I hit the next uphill. I heard the escort yell CURB. The course was not very wheelchair friendly, the athlete went over a curb. This one was just a big (maybe 4″) drop, however there were other places before the finish where we had to jump up and over a median.

Earlier in the race, around mile 4, I passed a blind runner with an escort. Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t go fast! That gives some perspective to the times that I’m timid doing tempo runs before dawn on the greenway. This guy is charging hard and fast through the darkness relying only on the cues from his pacer!

In the middle of the bridge was the first runner I saw who was laying the road with medics because of the heat. The race was stopped at 10:08 and the course was shortened for the remaining runners because of the heat and official times were not recorded.

The race dropped off the freeway around mile 8 and went by a band and a crowd taking shelter under the overpass. Crowd support was great throughout the race and definitely helped push me to the finish!

The race curves around the Pentagon and finally the finish line. The finish area was in one of the enormous Pentagon parking lots. We didn’t stay long and ventured back gear check, thankful for the first time for the warm weather. The mile walk would have been horrible in the cold!

Emerald Isle 2017

Emerald Isle began with our friends Ken & Laura’s New Year’s resolution to run a 5k. To sweeten the goal they decided on the Emerals Isle race weekend to combine it with a trip to the beach. Race weekend has a half and full marathon as well.

The word “aimless” doesn’t begin to describe my winter training. I spent two months scratching my head over the half or full (which did nothing for my hair loss) before deciding that I didn’t have the training for a full and opting for the half.

Inspired by Ellen’s training plan for the NYC half, which included several 20 mile runs, I signed up to pace the 3:40 group with Mark at Tobacco Road Marathon. True to character I didn’t look at the calendar, or else I would have noticed it was a week before my goal race! We successfully brought our group in at 3:38 but not without some foot problems on my part. A 5 mile depletion run and 3 hours in the car left my 2nd toe throbbing by the end of the day Friday.

Last year’s winners finished the half in 1:17. Two weeks earlier, Erin and I ran the Sola 5k at about 6:00/mile pace and had enough breath to joke around. My race plan was to hold on to the 1:17 people as long as I could and try for a HM personal record.

I stayed at the Islander Hotel which adjoins the start/finish area and afforded the luxury to warm up in my room and walk to the start line. The front of the correl looked very casual. Me. A really fit looking guy in a tshirt. A shirtless guy with a lot of artwork.

A local woman sang the National Anthem, there was one hand cart racer that left at 8:30 and we were off by 8:35.

1-4 6:17 6:19 6:21 6:39

We were off and I established myself in the front. There was a lead bicyclist who provided some motivation and pacing. By mile 2 we started passing slower marathon people. Effort seemed in the right place as I tried to say something encouraging as I went by people. The lead bike saw one of her friends and dropped back to ride with them instead (umm…nevermind). At mile 3-4 we caught the hand bike rider and probably the most rolling part of the course.

5-8 6:20 6:20 6:21 6:22

This part of the course follows the oceanfront road. It looks like a through street on the course map but is actually short roads separated by bike path. The fit tshirt guy was in earshot behind me. We got to the half turnaround at mile 7-8 and saw he was about 200ft back closely followed by the shirtless guy.

9-13 6:21 6:28 6:23 6:34 6:20

One of the volunteers runs next to me to tell me the marathon leader is about a mile behind. The remainder of the race was bike path that paralleled the main island road. My original plan was to refocus my effort at each street crossing, which turned into how much can I back off to avoid blowing up, while remembering My friend Andrea’s advice, “don’t be a pussy!” Am I really still in front? I managed to find a little more the last mile thinking I would be outkicked to the finish.

Final time 1:23:58.


 

Richmond Half 2016


Chicago Marathon woke me up to what a terrific experience a major marathon could be. I was briefly excited about London, my finish time put me solidly in the “good for age” guaranteed entry category until Carrie corrected me, “that’s only for UK residents”.

My Chicago time was 3:06:29, putting me 90 seconds away from the 3:05 I needed entry into New York. Plugging my Chicago finish time into McMillan and Daniels calculators, I got 1:29 and 1:28:30, It seemed I was close and could hit the half qualifying time of 1:28 with a little more training.  In 2015, I ran Paula’s Rock and Rebellion half finishing in a few seconds over 1:28 which was my unofficial Half PR. My best official time was 1:34 at Outer Banks 2015.

I looked around for Half Marathons in December and reluctantly settled on Kiawah Island because it would give me 8 weeks to train, it is flat and that weekend was the only one I had open.

Two weeks before Richmond, I joined Andrea for a run around Briar Creek. After about a mile of conversation, the pace soon became 6:30s. 8 miles went by quickly and I felt like I could continue at that pace. Later in the week, the three of us met for 3mi at 6:15. That didn’t feel like a hard effort either. Emboldened, I decided to sign up for Richmond, it was closer, friends were going and I felt like I was ready!

Carrie cautioned that New York qualifying times give first preference to NYRR races then everyone else vies over the remaining entries. It is unclear whether it is first come, first serve or there is a cut line like Boston. She advised aiming for 1:26 just in case.

With that in mind, my race plan was to try to stay in the 6:30-6:35 range until we got out of Bryan park hills and turn into a tailwind around mile 8 and try to drop to 6:15. The last time I looked at the forecast, we had 20mph winds out of the north. Luckily that front came through overnight and race day was relatively calm.

Miles 1-4: 6:30-6:23-6:29-6:21

I got to the race later than I wanted after a parking fiasco, so I squeezed into the front of Corral A and said hello to Andrea who was standing in front. Probably a big faux pas but after I let the race advance around me after the hand-wheel racers left, I was a couple rows back. Still maybe too far back because I spent the first mile weaving through runners. Around mile .5 I saw Brad and Erica (but didn’t recognize them immediately).  The race goes up Broad street to North. There is a short hill over railroad before the race turns into neighborhoods for a short out and back on Brookland Pkwy. I ran a short ways with someone named “Laura” whom the whole town seemed to recognize.

Miles 5-8: 6:23-6:26-6:23-6:33

The race continues up Hermitage road for a loop around the Bryan park. The elevation chart showed this as the hilliest part of the course. I tried to take advantage of the downhills and run the uphills conservatively.  There was a party station in the middle of the park that was playing Macarena and that stuck in my head for the next two miles. Nooo! Its back!

Miles 9-13: 6:17-6:15-6:10-6:15-6:03

The next section goes through Northside Richmond on Fauquier ave. The whole neighborhood comes out to party. There was one guy handing out cups of beer (next time, maybe!). I saw a Bull City banner that gave me a little boost, however I felt like I was flailing more than running. I dreaded looking at my watch and focused on reeling in other runners instead.

A few more turns and we were back on Grace street for the race’s famous downhill finish, the last half mile or so has roughly a 75 foot drop to the finish line. I tried to remember Ellen’s advice about race pictures but suddenly I was in a group of people and about to get out-kicked to the finish. Back into race mode and push it across the line!  That proved to be a prescient choice, number 2 in my age group was 4 seconds behind me!

Official time: 1:23:09, 5min PR, 1st M45-49.

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Lessons on the Road: Chicago Marathon 2016

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This was my second entry into Chicago. 2015 was not in the cards. After a very strong Spring the injuries piled up. First patella tendinitis from running down mountains in Hawaii. Then waking up with a mysterious strained calf. Thinking yoga would help prevent injuries, I tried my first Bikram class and earned a fabulous 2 night/3 day stay at WakeMed, tracking my friends on the phone.

Lesson 1: Nothing new before a race, especially hot yoga!

While trying to decide on a Fall race, Julie reminded me that my qualifying time from Richmond was still usable for Chicago 2016. I entered a week later.

Just like cycling, the easiest way to get better running is to join faster people that challenge you. I joined Carrie and Andrea on their easy days for several weeks before working up the courage to come out for a fast day. Their workouts became the basis for my tempo and intervals.

While Carrie’s workouts were designed for her sub-3 marathon, she advised finding paces appropriate for my goal. My Goal??? I don’t know! Maybe 3:15? 3:20? 4? I decided to follow along until I could figure it out.

During our first tempo run, my watch said I ran my first sub-20 5k. I signed up for a race the next weekend and placed first overall with 19:30, a 1 min improvement on my PR!

Meanwhile, I met Julianne through Runnerpeeps and Russell through a mutual friend. Russell kept me going on the crazy fast tempo runs. Ellen with Bull City Track Club kept me company for many of the long runs in addition to coming up with “exotic intervals” to keep it interesting.

The week leading up to the race was full of excitement. I had an early Saturday flight and friends were coming in later in the afternoon. On Tuesday the weather forecast predicted Hurricane Matthew coming ashore in Wilmington NC at the same time my flight was due to leave. In a panic, I called the airline to an earlier flight, but unfortunately the change would be over $1000 so I sat tight and fortunately the forecast changed with the storm slowing down and veering off to sea.

Erika, Russell and I arrived Saturday morning and took the train into downtown Chicago. Russell continued on the subway to his hotel and Erika and I emerged on the street completely disoriented. There was considerable walking to get to the hotel after going a couple blocks in the wrong direction trying to find my bearings.

Lesson 2: Google Transit Directions are a lifesaver. How did we get along before?

We checked into the hotel and took the train to the expo. While I didn’t get lost this time, it was over a mile walk. By the time I got my bib and T-Shirt, I was feeling a hot spot forming on my right foot from the hiking shoes I was wearing. Really? Did I just mess up my feet the day before the race??

Lesson 3: it’s ok to wear your running shoes before the race.

Erika and I were tired and hungry when we caught the shuttle bus back to the hotel. We had to sit separately but I had an enjoyable conversation with the athlete next to me. He was from California but grew up about 30 miles away from me in Ohio.

After lunch at Miller’s pub I went back to the room and put my feet up hoping they would magically heal before the race.

Race morning I got dressed and headed to the start. Miraculously, my feet were feeling ok! There was big screening process to get to the starting area. Bag check was a hike but very efficient. I walked back to Corral B which was starting to fill up. I found Andrea in front of the 3:10 pacers (being able to see above the crowd has advantages) and we talked a little waiting for the start.

Lesson 4: Fear of getting trampled is good pacing motivation.

Still with no real race plan or goal, but with 35000 runners behind me, it was good motivation to settle into a quick pace. I got jostled back as people darted around me.

Around mile 4, nature called and I had to stop in a porta-John. I made it as quick as possible and headed back out into the race. Now with the crowd thinned out and time to make up I started steadily passing people.

The aid stations at Chicago are enormous, usually two blocks long. Even with such a large field it was never a problem getting water. This was the first race where I didn’t break pace going through the aid stations. It was a little struggle getting the fluids down.

Lesson 5: Drinking Gatorade through your nose can be done if you’re careful!

I kept moving through the crowd and saw Andrea around mile 10. I passed and kept going, not wanting to slow her down when I invariably start to fade.

Nearly the entire length of the course is lined with people. The enthusiasm of the spectators really kept me going!

Around mile 18 I was waiting for the calf cramps that usually shut me down late in the race. Again, miraculously my legs were enduring. Only an hour or so of this abuse to go!

Around mile 24 I saw Andrea come by me-on a mission! I did my best to hold on resulting in a first half/second half negative split for the race. I saw Russell at mile 25. After all summer training together we finished within minutes of each other!

The race was a new PR for me, 3:06:29, shaving 8 minutes off my previous best at Richmond.

Lesson 6: Never know how much longer I’ll be able to defy age but in the meantime I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.

Thank you, Carrie, Kari, Andrea, Russell, Julianne & Ellen!

Cary Du Classic: Where Did I Put My Bike?

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One of the best parts of having good runner friends is the inspiration to try new things and some healthy peer pressure to sign up for a race I wouldn’t have even considered. Five miles of running didn’t sound like much and neither did 30 on the bike. No swimming? Maybe I can do this!

Still recovering from a glute/proximal hamstring injury early this year, the focus of my training was time on the bicycle. After a disappointing Tobacco Road Marathon, my wife and I spent a week in Florida where I alternated days of running and riding. The flat roads and relentless headwinds taught me to stay in my handlebar drops, which paid off on race day. Meanwhile, Carrie and Andrea salvaged what was left of my running. Andrew with Runnerpeeps provided helpful guidance on transition planning.

The race released in three waves for long course men, long course women, then short course. Craig, Paul and I positioned ourselves at the end of men’s wave. Marathon Margo spotted us and said “what are you doing way in back??”

The race began with a gun start. Craig asked Paul, “where is the timing mat?” Paul replied, “oh, this is just a warmup. There will be a timing mat at the exit of the parking lot.” Realizing he had been tricked, Craig took off after about 1/2 mile. I settled into about a moderate 7:20 pace and passed a few people, but not many considering where we started!

The run was an out and back on the greenway down to Cary Park Lake and back up the hill to USA Baseball with aid stations at the short course turnaround (1.25mi,3.75mi) and long course turnaround (2.5mi). We started passing the slower short course runners on the way back.

I got back to the transition area and ran to the rack where I thought my bike was and horrors! where is it?!? Am I going to have to get a police report? That is really going to mess up my time?

Deep breath. There it is, one rack back. Shoes. Helmet. Oops-forgot to take off my running cap. Hat off. Helmet again. Gloves. I had that experience of trying to put gloves on a 3 year old where the fingers would NOT go into the right holes!

Headed out on the bike and felt a little wobbly after the run. The first couple miles were easy while I got my head together. The course was very crowded which made passing and keeping the requisite clear distance difficult!

Around mile 12 the long course turned off for the second loop and finally clear roads. At this point there were very few people around me. I encountered a couple others on triathlon bikes. They had the advantage on the flats and downhills and I was a stronger climber. I eventually put them completely behind me on a long enough uphill or let them go after a few minutes of frustrating racing.

I got back to the start and tried to sit down. Oops not enough room. Stand up, move the bucket. Stuff I didn’t need spills out from underneath. Scrape it out of the way. Sit back down. CRAMP!! CRAMP!!

I’ve had trouble with heel pain the last 6 weeks and have been fearing the second run. Five miles to get things nice and hurty. 30 miles on the bike for it to stiffen up. Then run on it again! Mercy!!

True to form, I wobbled out onto my second run. My left foot hurt. A lot. But less than I was expecting.

I saw Craig shortly after the turnaround, maybe 1/4 mile behind me and knew if I didn’t get my act together he’d pay me back for passing him on the bike!  Paul was about a mile behind and I saw Elena about 3 miles behind.

I got through the steep uphill and tried to concentrate more on getting more speed out of my form that was followed by the first few pangs of a hamstring cramp. Ok. Maybe not. Still manages to get back to a 7-ish pace for the last mile.

After the race, Craig started talking about a Half Ironman. I’ll be on the course cheering for you, buddy!

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Almost 22mph on the bike! How did that happen?

What worked:

  • Tempo rides were a great training tool
  • Box that Andrew gave me for the gels worked well, I could wear a running singlet instead of a heavier cycle jersey. The zipper was difficult to operate though
  • Leaving my shoes tied and wearing thin running socks made getting the running shoes on easy.

What didn’t:

  • Towel was not necessary and took up too much room anyway
  • Sunglasses. Didn’t wear them and spent T2 freaked out that I was going to bust them!
  • Need more practice getting through transition quickly

Tobacco Road: Just. Keep. Moving.

What I enjoy most about marathon training is the journey can be as rewarding as the destination. Circumstances made Tobacco Road one of toughest races I’ve finished but made a lot of great friends on the way to the starting line!

I found out about Breakfast Club Runners through my friend Todd from River Run Club after a lot of effort finding people who want to run my pace. I met Ocean, Elena and Craig through the weekly and Saturday runs. They provided extraordinary motivation both on the pavement and online during the week!

I had been reluctant to sign up for another race after a lung injury last year. I recovered fully but lost motivation to find another event. However, I would be joining this group for much of their training, why not also on race day?

Throughout January, each weekend was slightly faster. Laura joined in late in the month and 7:15 pace long runs were starting to feel almost easy. I started entertaining thoughts of a finish close to the 3 hour mark!

Me, Craig, Elena, and Laura beating the weekend ice storm: Did we really just run 18 miles on a Thursday before work?

Everything came to an abrupt end in February. A combination glute maximus, hip adductor and psoas injuries made even walking a challenge.

After 15 days of rest, I had 3 miles on 3/13, 5 on 3/15, 8 on 3/17. I took two days off and planned 13 miles with Craig and Ocean, meeting them midway through their 22 mile run. I got to the rendezvous spot early and started running towards the start to meet them. They got a late start and I met them after 2 miles. The 13 miler became 17 and the game was back on!

Two more rest days and tried a tempo run along falls of Neuse. The next week, I set out to finish my 22. The first 16 was with Craig, Ocean and Andrea, a newcomer to the group. I did 6 more miles after the main group finished. The last week of training ended with a good tempo run with Craig, then Andrea lured me out of the group for another fast run on Fairview.

My last day stated with a plan for 12 miles. My friend Kellie needed 15 so the four of us met a half hour early for a brisk 3 before meeting a group of about 20! I stumbled off slowly after the break and managed to work my way up to the main group.

Craig and Elena were gone! I was proud of how strong they’ve become, it was a harsh dose of reality on how much I’ve slipped! Ocean, Kellie, Ronnie, Whit, Joel and I ran most of the way together. With 3 miles left, Whit lured me out and we finished my last run fast.

I decided my best chance for the race was to take 8 days of rest and toe the start line healthy.

We all exchanged best wishes for the race, but it felt like I had a cloud of doom. There were too many similarities with Myrtle Beach 2015. Lingering injury. Low weekly mileage. Add Tobacco Road temperatures were forecast in the mid 60s.

The cloud of doom dissipated as the final aches and pains cleared up during resting taper. However I started making plans for the worst. I declined the carpool knowing I’d need some alone time after the race. A quick back of the envelope calculation on how long I’d have to stay with the group.

How long would I have to stay with the fast guys to still make 3:20? 18 Miles.

Me, Elena, Andrea and Craig all smiles before the race!


The Saturday morning crew!


Craig, Elena, Andrea, and I stuck together to the mile 8 turnaround. As I was grabbing water, I was swallowed up by the push and shove of the 3:15 pace group. Andrea and I worked our way to the front of the group.  Craig and Elena moved back to a safe distance. I ran alongside the pacer and my breathing gaged well against his, meanwhile I heard several people suffering and full of the group behind us.

We passed mile 13 and my legs were way too tired for this early in the race. I started feeling light-headed. The thought of more gu made me sick. I backed off the pace for 3 miles then stopped at a portajohn.

I looked down and my shirt was covered with blood from chafing. The Rivaroxaban makes minor chafing look like I’m the centerpiece of a crime scene. I took my shirt off and shoved it in my shorts.

At mile 18 the cramps started, flashback to the same mile at Myrtle Beach. I walked for 50 feet, run for a few minutes, repeat. Elena whisks by in her zone. Then Ocean a few minutes later.

The 3:30 pace group passed me, my goal was gone and it was time to change strategy. It’s a horrible day for a race but a beautiful day to be outside on the trail. Treat this like an ultramarathon. Run when you’re able. Walk when you can’t. Conserve energy. Eat. Drink. Just. Keep. Moving. Forward.

By mile 24 we were off the trail and I started to find my rhythm again on the pavement. The 3:55 guy passed me and galvanized my will to hold off the 4:00 group. My pace inched back up to 9 with the changing terrain adding some needed relief. Paul joined me at the entrance to the park and pulled me through to finish at exactly 4 hours.

Tobacco Road Marathon provides a fun after party with music and a beer garden, however I didn’t stay long. I change, sat down and enjoyed a chocolate milk for a few minutes. I got back up and looked for my friends to no avail. However I caught back up to them for a great time that evening at Raleigh Times. 

Enormous medal this year!

 

A well-earned dinner at Raleigh Times