Race Report: 2015 Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon

(Originally posted November 23, 2015.)

(This is it, the report from my first marathon. I still wonder if I could have run better, especially late in the race. Even worse, I feel like my struggles were more mental than physical. I’m really starting to believe that there’s nothing I could have done, and nothing anybody else could have told me, that would have fully prepared me for the last 6 or so miles of my first marathon. Even so, I still feel like I could have handled it better, especially mentally. If my body breaks down, it sucks, but I’ll get over it. If my mind isn’t strong enough, though, that really bothers me. Still, I finished it, the full 26.2 miles, and I shouldn’t downplay that. I set a really big goal to run a marathon, and I accomplished that goal. And as much as I struggled mentally late in the race, I never once considered not finishing.

I still wish I was a better storyteller, though, because I do think there’s a great story here, even though I can’t quite do it justice. I’m happy with my original introduction, though, so there’s that.

Regardless of my questions about my performance, I stand by what I wrote just after the race: It was absolutely worth it.

OK, enough hand-wringing, here’s the report.)

I’ve often heard a saying, and I have no idea what the original source was, but it goes something like this: “I’m not saying it will be easy, I’m saying it will be worth it.” I’ve thought about that many times over the last 16 months. I knew that training for and then running a marathon wouldn’t be easy. (I was right about that.) I kept going in part because I didn’t know for sure, but I hoped that it would all be worth it.

It was. It was absolutely worth it.

It was also tough. Tougher than I’d ever imagined. Still worth it.

This is a long one, but it’s a good story, even if I’m probably not up to the task of telling it well. So much for my theory that writing about my running for over a year would help me write a better recap. I probably waited too long to write it, and forgot about a few details. But this is what I’ve got, so here we go.

I’ll start with the easy part, the Expo. I finally have another expo to compare Thunder Road with. City of Oaks is a smaller race, so therefore, the expo was smaller. It was at the McKimmon Center on the outskirts of the N.C. State campus. The expo went from 4-7 on Friday and 10-6 on Saturday. I decided to come in to town early Saturday, and got to the expo around 11:30.

The race organizers had sent out an e-mail with everyone’s bib numbers Friday morning. That’s because at the expo, the bibs were organized by number rather than name. So instead of going to the S-Z volunteer, I went to the 1 to three hundred something volunteer.


Like I said on Facebook and Instagram, it just got real.

My packet included a t-shirt and a hat. Another blue t-shirt. Well, I didn’t have a long sleeved tech tee in blue, so there’s that. Nice logo, though.


I had seen on Facebook that they were giving hats to all the runners. Unfortunately, I have a really big head, and it’s pretty common that I prove that, when it comes to hats, “one size fits all” is a lie. My fears were confirmed when I tried on the hat and it didn’t fit. I ended up giving it to my sister. I forgot to take a picture of it, but here’s a picture I grabbed from the City of Oaks Facebook page with all 3 available colors. I chose the white hat.


The race also had a virtual event bag, which had some fairly decent deals at some Raleigh area businesses, but they’re all about 3 hours away from home, so the deals about as useful for me as the hat that won’t fit. Still, for the locals, it seemed pretty good.

Raleigh Running Outfitters is the local running store for this expo, and they brought some merchandise. I saw that they had Adrenaline 15s for only $90, which told me that the 16s are out. Alas, they didn’t have a pair of 15s in my size, so I had to wait until I got back to Charlotte to get a pair for cheap.

I checked their selection of Gu, and they didn’t have my flavor, Strawberry Banana. Well, I had brought 5 packets of my own, so I’d be OK, but it was a good reminder to keep buying the Gu I want in advance.

The rest of the day Saturday, I took it easy, drank a lot of water, hung out with my nephew (He’s the best, he’s 19 months old, and he dressed as a puppy for Halloween), had pasta for dinner, and got to bed around 10. We had the time change Sunday morning, which meant everybody else got an extra hour of sleep, and I got an extra hour to toss and turn.

I don’t think you could say I got a good night of sleep by any objective measure, but compared to some of my other races, and considering that this was the night before my first marathon, I actually slept better than I expected.

I didn’t take any chances. I brought my own peanut butter (Jif creamy) and bread with me. I ate my usual two pieces of bread with peanut butter, a Clif bar, and a few handfuls of Goldfish. I washed it all down with water. I also took a pre-emptive Imodium AD.

The weather forecast had finally settled on mid 50s, overcast, light rain arriving around 10 or 11 AM. Because of the threat of rain, instead of riding with my brother-in-law (he ran the half), I ended up driving over separately, since my sister wouldn’t want to stick around with my nephew if it started raining. I was fully prepared to bring my car key with me, even if I didn’t drive, because I have to have it for my post race picture.

Two of my brother-in-law’s friends were also running the half. One of his friends lives along the course, and just a few blocks away from the start, so we drove over there and parked.

I walked past the starting line to get to the bag check. I got this picture along the way.


Yes, the banner says “You Can Do It!” I also took a picture of the N.C. State Belltower, because it’s the symbol of my alma mater. (Go Wolfpack!)


As I walked back to the starting area, I realized I’d need to hit the Port-a-Potties. No, the Imodium hadn’t failed, I had hydrated a little too well. I was waiting in line and I heard them sing the National Anthem. Right after that was done, I got in and did my business. I then hurried back to the starting area and got there just in time. They had signs along the side indicating paces. I found my brother-in-law just behind the 11:00/mile sign. I also saw the 5:00 pace group, slightly ahead of us. I tried to get a picture of the crowd in front of me before the start, but the picture got screwed up. Good thing I got that earlier shot of the starting line.

The next thing I knew, the race had started. My race would have to wait, though. Remember that picture of the starting line? Yeah, everybody had to go through that. It’s the width of 2 lanes of traffic. It took over 6 minutes for me to get to the starting line. I looked at the Belltower as I ran past it, and got a little emotional.

Miles 1 to 5

Splits: 10:53, 11:23, 11:23, 11:21, 11:50.

For this stretch, I ran with my brother-in-law. My plan had been to try to take the first two miles slower. That’s pretty much impossible when those miles are almost completely downhill.

Early on, we passed a church with a minister outside holding up a sign saying, “You’re beautiful.” I told my brother-in-law, “Everybody’s beautiful after .17 miles.”

The first aid station was just after 2 miles. I took Gatorade. Mile 3 took us uphill a bit, Mile 4 was generally flat, and Mile 5 had some small hills.

Just after the four mile mark, there was an aid station. I took my first Gu, and washed it down with water. I had to walk while eating my Gu, which is while Mile 5 was slower. My brother-in-law told me to go on ahead, and I didn’t see him again until after the race. It was good to have some company for a few miles, though.

Miles 6 to 11

Splits: 11:20, 11:11, 11:14, 10:56, 11:15, 11:09

Mile 6 had a few more hills, Mile 7 flattened out a bit, Mile 8 was mainly uphill, Mile 9 mostly downhill, and Miles 10 and 11 were slightly uphill.

At some point in this stretch, I felt around my flipbelt, and counted 3 Gu packets. One was missing. I thought I might have accidentally left it in the bag that I had checked. Crap. I knew there would be snacks at the aid station at mile 16.5/18.5 (it was during the out and back), so I figured I could replace my scheduled Gu with some kind of snack, and I’d still have a Gu left at 22.5 miles.

I understand the spacing of the aid stations during the out and back part of the race, but in this stretch, it was kind of odd. Aid stations were at 7, 8, and 9.5 miles. I took Gu with water at 8, and Gatorade at the others.

There was something that happened during Mile 8, but I’ll save that for the end.

Early in Mile 10, I checked my watch and found that, around .2 in, my pace for that mile was 10:20. Even though I was on a flat stretch and not really tired, I walked just to slow down my pace, since I knew 10:20 was way too fast.

During Mile 11, we got on the greenway and started the out and back portion of the race.

I was still feeling pretty good at this point.

Mile 12

This is where the course broke me.

My time was 11:19, and that included an aid station. (More on that in a minute.) The rest was downhill. A really, really steep downhill. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve seen a steeper hill during a run.

There were two problems with this. From a mental standpoint, I knew I’d have to go up this hill at around Mile 21. That made me pretty nervous. From a physical standpoint, going down a much steeper hill than I’m used to did a number on my legs. I didn’t feel it right away, but it ended up slowing me down.

At the aid station, someone was giving out Gu. I decided to grab one to replace the missing Gu. Vanilla Bean was the flavor I chose. I had never had it, but it seemed like the least likely to disagree with me. I ate a Strawberry Banana Gu (the flavor I had brought) and took some water.

Miles 13-16

Splits: 11:11, 11:35, 11:14, 11:34.

Mile 13 continued the downhill, so more mental torture, more pounding on my legs. Mile 14 had a mix of uphill and down, but nothing major. Mile 15 was mainly downhill, and Mile 16 was pretty flat.

At 13.1, my time was 2:28. Theoretically, that time could get me under 5:00, but I’d need to do the second half in 2:32. I was hoping to finish under 5 hours, but starting to think I might not quite get there.

There were aid stations just before 14, 15, and 16.5. I took water and the Vanilla Bean Gu at 16.5, and water and Gatorade at 14 and 15.

At some point during this stretch, I started to notice my right knee didn’t feel right. It wasn’t necessarily hurting, but it was a little stiff, and just felt off. It felt a little better when I stopped to walk, so I tried to take a few walk breaks. I’m fairly certain that the steep downhill in Mile 12 caused my knee problem.

Mile 17-20

Splits: 12:50, 12:26, 12:59, 12:57.

Yeah, I realized 5 hours was just not happening. I took more walk breaks, hoping that somehow my knee would get better. It didn’t actually hurt, which was good, but it still worried me.

The turnaround was at 17.41 miles according to my watch. All of these miles were relatively flat.

At 18.5, I got to the aid station with the snacks for a second time. I remember seeing bananas, orange slices, and some Halloween candy. (Yes, this was the day after Halloween.) This time, since I wasn’t scheduled for a Gu, I grabbed some Gatorade, some water, and an orange slice. I also saw a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in the mix of candy. I knew I wasn’t hitting 5:00, so I just said the hell with it and grabbed a peanut butter cup. A volunteer actually had to help me open it. It was delicious. If it upset my stomach, so be it. (As it turns out, I had zero stomach issues all day, even with the unfamiliar Vanilla Bean Gu in the mix.)

Then I got to Mile 19, and I was clearly struggling, but the universe decided that wasn’t enough, and it started raining.

Before City of Oaks, I had completed 17 races. Two races were on the same day, so that’s 16 race days. All of those race days had one thing in common: no rain.

First marathon, first time getting rained on during a race. Sigh. Luckily, it was pretty light rain, and the course had been completely dry before then.

There was another aid station at 20. I got water and Gatorade.

Mile 21-23

Splits: 14:45, 15:13, 15:07

Three miles. According to my Garmin, 237 feet of elevation gain. Egads. I didn’t even try to run up any of the uphill parts.

Aid stations at 21.5 and 22.5. I had my last Gu at 22.5 with some water. Water and Gatorade at 21.5.

I should probably point out here that I don’t think I ever really hit The Wall, at least not how I interpret what The Wall would feel like. I felt more like I just hit a pool of quicksand around Mile 17 or so, and things got gradually more difficult from there.

Mile 24 to the Finish

Splits: 15:21, 15:15, 13:30. (Last .34 at 10:04/mile pace.)

The rest of the way was fairly flat. There were some small hills, but after that last climb, they were like anthills.

Right at Mile 24, we turned on to Hillsborough Street. Except instead of turning left, towards the finish line, we turned right, ran about a half mile, then turned around to head toward the finish. That’s just mean. Mentally, I wasn’t doing so well. I was still walking a lot, even though the course had flattened out. It was raining, and I was exhausted.

After the turnaround, we were headed in the right direction. I was still pretty slow. Still tired (both physically and mentally), still wet from the rain.

There was one last aid station around 24.5. I got water and Gatorade.

At Mile 25, we got to the N.C. State campus. Seeing the campus buildings brought back memories, and that helped me through the last mile. I found the energy for a final kick, and I crossed the finish line.


Yes, I’m a sucker and I bought an official photo. (The only other race photo I’ve bought was after my first half marathon.) The banner was changed after the start, from “You can do it!” to “You did it!” I’m looking to my left because a friend of mine from college was there at the finish line to cheer for me. I can’t put in to words how much that meant to me.

I got my medal and a bottle of water. I was completely drained, but just incredibly happy. My friend got a great picture just after the finish that really captures it.


Next up: Post. Race. Beer. One of the selling points of this race (for me, anyway) was the official beer sponsor. Lonerider is a Raleigh brewery (Local, unlike Michelob Ultra) that distributes their beer across North Carolina, so I’ve had some of it before, and it’s pretty good (unlike Michelob Ultra). I walked over to the beer garden, and I went with Shotgun Betty, one of my favorite hefeweizens. It was excellent.

Food, on the other hand, was a problem. Because I finished relatively late, and I went to the beer garden first, and couldn’t leave the beer garden until I finished my beer, by the time I made it over to the food area, they were closing up. (Also, I think they probably closed a little early because of the rain.) I know they had some bread, and some Krispy Kreme donuts, but I missed that. The Papa John’s truck was still open, and because things were winding down, they gave me a whole pizza. I ate half of it. Under those circumstances, it was delicious. In retrospect, I should have gotten food first, because it was OK to bring food in to the beer garden, but it wasn’t OK to take beer out.

I have to give a shout out to the race volunteers. In spite of the food area closing up a little early, I thought the volunteers did a fantastic job throughout the race. They were always encouraging, always helpful (one helped me open the wrapper for my peanut butter cup), and were still cheerful even after it started raining.

Let’s talk about the medal. Holy crap, this thing is huge! It’s really nice, though.


I used a Gu for scale in the first photo. The second photo is the back, and it’s tough to read, but it says “Esse quam videri – To be rather than to seem.” It’s the state motto of North Carolina. Also, the acorn spins. Definitely the best medal I’ve gotten so far.

As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the race. (It took me an extra week to get it posted.) My initial disappointment over my time has faded, and more than anything else, I’m really happy that I finished, that I set a really big goal, I worked hard towards that goal, and I achieved it. Like I said at the beginning, it was absolutely worth it.

My official time was 5:24:37. Definitely slower than I had hoped, but the course was a lot tougher than I expected. I’ve had races where I felt like the course beat me (OrthoCarolina 10K, Charlotte RaceFest). In this case, I felt like the course pounded me into a bloody pulp, chewed me up, and spit me out. It’s probably not a good course for a first marathon. Oh well, it’s done, and I don’t regret it.

One more thing, though. I’ve got to go back to Mile 8. My brother-in-law’s friend who ran the race lives on Mile 8, and I mentioned earlier that’s where I parked. Well, my sister drove over there with my nephew so they could cheer us on. (Side note, my nephew had a little bit of a meltdown later on, and that’s why they weren’t at the finish. It just means I need to run faster next time.)

As I approached, I heard my sister yelling my name. I looked over and saw her and my nephew. My nephew pointed at me and had a big smile on his face. OK, that was pretty cool. Right after I passed them, I heard him yell out, “B.B.! B.B.!” He can’t say P.J. yet, so that’s what he calls me. I laughed and kept going. As I was running along, I could still hear him, and I thought, “Man, that kid is loud!” I found out afterwards from my sister that he started running after me.

He’s on his way to being a runner, just like his uncle. I’m so proud of him.

And to close it out, here’s the obligatory post-race photo with my car key.


Race Report: 2014 Thunder Road Half Marathon

(Originally posted November 16, 2014.)

(I normally try not to comment much before these old race reports, but I need to write an introduction for this one, since I have a lot of perspective since this race. I know I’ve run 3 half marathons and counting since this one that were faster, but I always go back to this race. I think it was a breakthrough for me. I see a big difference between the races I ran before this race, and the ones I’ve run since. This was the first race where I went in with a plan, and executed it pretty much flawlessly. I can’t say it’s the race I’m most proud of, because it’s not 26.2, but in the non-marathon category, it’s absolutely my proudest moment so far.

I noticed I made a reference below to a calf blowtorch exercise. Once I’m finally done re-posting race reports, I’ll post a full explanation, but the short answer is that it’s a stretching exercise that has helped me deal with shin splints, and if I do it right, it feels like someone is using a blowtorch on my calves. It works, though, and that’s all that matters.

Also, putting the finish time right at the beginning? Way to kill the suspense. Eh, other than that it’s not a bad report.)


Well, that was unexpected. A pleasant surprise for sure, but unexpected.

Let’s start with the Expo.

Thunder Road is the only race I’ve ever done that has an expo, so I have no idea how it compares to other races. It was at the Charlotte Convention Center, which was nice because I could take the light rail and not have to worry about parking. It ran from 10 AM to 9 PM. I took the day off work so I could just pop over there whenever, but if I hadn’t been able to get the day off, I still could have made it over there in the evening.

Run For Your Life had a section with a lot of merchandise. They had shoes on sale for 10% off, so I figured I’d check them out. I’ve got two pairs of shoes, and the older pair is up to 357 miles, so I’ll probably need to replace them soon. I’ve always worn Brooks Adrenaline GTS. They’ve worked well for me. I saw that the newest model, the 15, is out, which seems a little early. Unfortunately, I have wide feet, and they didn’t have any wide ones.

Then I went over to the closeout section, and found the old model, the Adrenaline 14, size 10.5 wide, $80. Good running shoes are expensive (although I’d argue that a good pair is worth every penny), and $80 is a great deal. Sold.

After getting a sweet shoe deal, I picked up my packet. After last year, when we got a short sleeve non-tech tee, I was relieved to see that this year, they gave us a long sleeve tech tee. Not only that, but the t-shirt for the half is red, and I don’t have any red running shirts. Excellent.


The goody bag included a race sticker, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a packet of Mixed Berry flavor RAP Protein Gummies. I didn’t eat them during the race, of course, because eating something new during a race is a very bad idea, but I tried them Saturday afternoon. Meh. Some people like chewable stuff during a race, I prefer Gu.

My bib number was 3014. Last year, I was 3114. Go figure.

Friday night, I ate my usual pasta. I got to bed just before 10. I slept great…until 2AM. I think I got a little bit of sleep between then and 4:50 AM when my alarm went off, but not much.

I showered and put on my clothes. I really debated about whether to just wear a long sleeved tee (not the race shirt I got on Friday, of course), or to go with a tee underneath a pullover. I also debated between long pants and shorts. I went with the long sleeved tee and long pants. I grabbed a hooded sweatshirt to wear before the race (and after) that I could put in a bag and check the bag.

I ate whole grain toast with peanut butter. Normally, I don’t toast the bread, but I figured every little bit of warmth would help. I also ate a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar. Originally, I had hoped to save the Clif Bar for closer to race time, but with the weather, I decided conditions in my kitchen were much more conducive to eating a Clif Bar.

I brushed my teeth, went to the bathroom, gathered my stuff…and then realized I’d need to go to the bathroom again. I grabbed some store brand Imodium AD first, and hoped like hell it would kick in soon.

I was running a few minutes late, but I still made it to the train station on time. One thing I learned the hard way last year, if you’re parking at the I-485/South Boulevard station, park on the top floor of the parking deck, because going down the stairs to the 1st level after running 13.1 miles is not fun. So I parked on Level 3.

I put a $5 bill in the ticket machine for a round trip ticket, which costs $4.40. I got my ticket, then 2 quarters, then what looked like another ticket. It was a 10 cent voucher. The machine was out of dimes. I would have needed to go to the Charlotte Transportation Center to get my dime. For 10 cents? They can keep it. I don’t mind paying $4.50 for my train ride.

I got on the 6:30 train, and got off at 3rd Street at around 6:50. When I got there, it was right around 26 degrees according to my phone. I walked with the crowd down 3rd Street, and made a beeline for the Porta-Jons. Nope, store-brand Imodium hadn’t kicked in yet.

I wandered around for a bit, trying to stay warm. They did set up a few heat lamps, but they were already pretty well surrounded. And then I realized I’d need one more trip to the Porta-Jon. Thankfully, that would be my last stop.

I put on some sunscreen. Fortunately, because of the long sleeves and long pants, I only had to worry about my neck and my face. Then I took a look at the bag check line, and decided I needed to get in line, since it was 7:30. I was frantically trying to take off my hooded sweatshirt without holding up the line, but I got it.

Wow, it was cold without my hoodie. Luckily, once I headed over towards the starting line, there were enough people around that it didn’t feel too terrible.

Here’s the obligatory crowd shot before the start.


You can’t quite see it, but the banner above the starting line says “Start Your Engines.”

The starting gun went off, and they played…Thunderstruck by AC/DC. Um, OK. I still prefer 2011 and 2013, which started with Born To Run, but I suppose you could do a lot worse than AC/DC. It took me a little over 2 minutes to get to the starting line. Officially, I started at 7:47:16 AM.

Here’s how each mile went. I’m going with the times from my Garmin. I ended up running 13.23 miles according to my watch, so it doesn’t match the course exactly. Oh, and the official starting temperature was 28 degrees.

One other note, there were some changes to the course this year.

Mile 1: 11:02

Unlike last year, where we started on Tryon, turned on to 4th Street almost immediately, and then went downhill for almost a full mile, we started over by the baseball stadium, then ran towards Tryon. So part of it was actually slightly uphill. I’m OK with that. Anything (within reason) that helps me limit my speed in the first mile is good.

Mile 2: 10:34

Mile 2 is the new Mile 1. (Almost literally.) It started just after we turned on to 4th, so the long downhill on 4th now covers most of Mile 2. Yeah, this was probably faster than I should have gone, but really, if I get a downhill like that, I’m going to take advantage of it. Considering the final result, it didn’t hurt me too much.

Also, the first water stop was actually around the 1.6 mile mark. I was running into the sun (and forgot my sunglasses), and almost missed the water stop because I didn’t see it until it was almost too late. I had planned to walk through each of the water stops, but in this case, I think I stopped running about half a second before I grabbed the water cup.

Mile 3: 11:10

OK, back to earth. Pretty much the entire mile was uphill. Luckily, I’ve got some experience with hills, so it wasn’t too terrible.

Mile 4: 10:56
Mile 5: 10:56
Mile 6: 10:52
Mile 7: 10:56

Apparently I screwed up Mile 6. Seriously, I don’t think that I could do that again if I tried.

Mile 4 is where I had my first Gu, right before the water stop. Apparently it was mostly downhill, but eating the Gu and walking through the water stop slowed me down a little. Miles 5, 6, and 7 were a mix of uphills and downhills. Mile 6 had a water stop, so I’m a little surprised that it was the fastest of the bunch.

Mile 8: 10:47.

This was a little faster. Late in the mile, there were a couple of spectators handing out bananas and orange slices. Unfortunately, I was about a tenth of a mile away from my 2nd Gu, so I declined.

Mile 9: 11:22

So I had my 2nd and last Gu right before the water stop. I’ve never experienced this firsthand, but I’ve been told that mixing Gu and Gatorade is a pretty good way to induce vomiting. So even though each water stop (except for the first, which was water only) offered water and Gatorade, I always chose the water.

At every other water stop that offered Gatorade, the water was on the first set of tables, then the Gatorade. But for some reason, at this water stop, they alternated, water at one table, Gatorade at the next, then back to water, and so on. And the guy at the first table was having trouble with the cups, so he didn’t have a cup of water ready. So I had to keep walking until I got to a table with water. It was kind of annoying.

This ended up being my slowest mile, and the water stop definitely slowed me down, but the rest of the mile was mostly uphill.

Mile 10: 11:16

This mile was entirely uphill. Also, the next water stop was a little early.

At the end of Mile 10, I looked at my time, and I was at around 1:50. I knew I basically had a 5K left. I thought back to my worst race, the Come See Me 5K, which was over 37 minutes. I realized that even if I ran a Come See Me 5K the rest of the way, I would still get a PR. This is where I started to realize this could be a really good run.

Mile 11: 10:38
Mile 12: 10:24

Well, I decided I didn’t want a repeat of the Come See Me 5K. Mile 12 ended up being my fastest mile. It was mainly downhill, but it also had the last water stop. So I was moving pretty well here.

Mile 13: 10:36

My legs were starting to feel a little tired, which makes sense, since my longest training run was 12 miles. Still, I pushed through, and towards the finish, I took off. I passed several people along the way. The last .23 miles on my Garmin took 2:05, for a pace of 8:58/mile.

I got my medal, then got in line for the food. They had bananas, fruit cups, bottles of water and Gatorade, granola bars (chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip), protein bars, and these little mini-muffins in several different flavors, the ones I got were apple cinnamon and something with orange. I didn’t get any of the fruit cups, but I got one of everything else. I know what I said earlier about mixing Gu and Gatorade, but I figured it had been about 5 miles since I had Gu, and I figured I’d wait until I had eaten everything else and finished the water before cracking open the Gatorade. If all of that food didn’t make me sick, I figured Gatorade probably wouldn’t push me over the edge. (I didn’t get sick after all.)

I usually like to mention what beer (if any) is available after a race. Sadly (for me), all they had was Michelob Ultra. Now, I know that my (low) opinion of this beer is entirely subjective, but there is one objective fact: it is not a local beer. Thunder Road is Charlotte’s major running event, so I think they should offer Charlotte beer at the finish. I mean, the half and full marathon courses pass Unknown Brewing, and the full passes NoDa Brewing, Birdsong Brewery, and Heist Brewery (although Heist is more of a brewpub and doesn’t usually distribute). If one of the other breweries in town that isn’t on the course wants to participate, I’m good with that, too. Just offer us something local. OK, rant over.

Yes, my car key made it to the finish line with me.


You can’t tell in this picture (I took it in the shade, because I figured the sun would overwhelm everything), but the outer blue part of the medal is sparkly. Ooh. Aah. Hey, it’s the 10th anniversary of the race, they can do whatever they want to celebrate.

I went over to the bag check, and while I was waiting in line, I looked at my phone. I had signed up to get a text with my results. I knew I did well, but I didn’t know my official time until I looked at my phone.

That’s when I saw it: 2:23:29. I did some quick math, and figured out it was about 15 minutes faster than my old PR. I have to admit, when I realized that, I got a little emotional. I didn’t burst into tears, but I definitely got a lump in my throat. I was just so happy that all the work that I had put in, all the crappy runs when it was way too hot and way too humid, the calf blowtorch exercises, the runs in the dark, all of it finally paid off.

Before I started, I knew I had a good chance of getting my C goal, a PR. I knew that I had a decent chance at my B goal, 2:30. I really wasn’t sure if I could hit my A goal of 2:26. And I beat it by 2 and a half minutes.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been watching my pace as it’s been improving. And part of me saw that and realized that I had a chance to make this race really special. But part of me was scared to even think that, let alone say it out loud, or even write it here. I thought of all the things that can go wrong. I worried that if I got overconfident, I’d try to run the first mile at an 8 minute pace and crash and burn before the end.

I’ve never been a very confident person. That’s why I think I doubted myself so much. But in spite of all of the doubts, I really did it. I’d say an almost 15 minute PR on a half marathon qualifies as something special. I’ve found myself checking the results to make sure I really finished in 2:23:29. So far, they haven’t fixed the glitch.

I did want to add a couple of other things. With the exception of the Mile 8 water stop, which really wasn’t that bad, the race ran pretty smoothly. I have no complaints. Although the chances that any of them will see this are pretty small, I have to give a lot of credit to the spectators. It was really cold out there, and I can’t imagine standing around for a few hours to watch maybe 1 or 2 friends or family members and several thousand strangers run by. There were probably fewer spectators this year, which I understand, but the ones who were there did a great job cheering everyone on.

This year, the course was changed. Ultimately, I don’t think the course as a whole was more difficult or less difficult than last year. However, I do think the last mile or so was slightly flatter, and felt easier. Of course, I was definitely better trained this year, so maybe that’s the difference. It’s still a tough course, though, and I do wonder what I could do with a flat 13.1, but for now, I’m happy with what I’ve done on this course.

I did want to mention that my plan going in was to walk the water stops, and try to run everything else. I succeeded.

So to sum it all up, I went out there and ran pretty much exactly the race I wanted to run. I’m not sure if I’ve ever managed to do that for a race before.

I don’t know yet what’s next. I’d like to do another half sometime in the spring. I may squeeze in a few shorter races here and there. I’d love to get my revenge on the Come See Me 5K if I can fit it into my schedule. And yes, next fall I’m going to run a marathon. It may end up being Thunder Road, but I’m still looking at other options.

Race Report: 2016 Tobacco Road Half Marathon

(Originally posted March 18, 2016)

I guess I can finally say it, but starting with the Road to Boston 5K on March 1, 2014, I had a streak of 12 straight races with a PR. Four of those (OrthoCarolina 10K, LungStrong 15K, 2015 Charlotte 10 Miler, and Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon) were my first race at that distance, so they were guaranteed PRs. But there were still 8 legitimate PRs, and even with the cheap ones, I think I still ran well at LungStrong and the Charlotte 10 Miler. OrthoCarolina was a difficult course with horrible weather conditions, and City of Oaks was a brutal course, and my first 26.2, and I’ve reached the conclusion that nothing that anybody can say that will prepare you for the last 6 miles of your first marathon.

So, yeah, my PR streak is over.

I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t had a major injury except when I hurt my foot in early 2014. I also never had any major issues during a race. (Foreshadowing.)

Let’s start with the expo.

They had a two day expo, Friday and Saturday, which was nice. I didn’t get to town until around noon on Saturday, and stopped by there first. It was in a hotel ballroom, and I’d call it a medium-sized expo. Bigger than City of Oaks, smaller than Thunder Road, pretty close in size to Charleston. I got my bib number e-mailed to me a few days earlier, contributing to my theory that everybody outside the Charlotte area does it that way.

I picked up my bib (I brought my own safety pins with me, but they had plenty available), a water bottle, and a t-shirt. It’s…blue, just like my t-shirts for the Road to Boston 5K, 2015 Charlotte 10 Miler, Yiassou Greek Festival 5K, and Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon.


I looked at some of the merchandise on sale, and saw some shoes on clearance. I didn’t expect to see any Adrenaline 15s in size 10.5 wide, and I didn’t, although I was amused to see a pair of Adrenaline 14s(!) in size 7(!!) for $60. They stopped making Adrenaline 14s around October 2014, so they were close to a year and a half old. Also, there are adult men who run who wear size 7s? Anyway, nothing else really caught my eye, so I left.

Since I was staying with my sister in Raleigh, I decided I would eat dinner at her place (She’s a good cook), and move my now traditional pre-race Burger King dinner to lunch instead.

The race started at 8 AM. However, there was limited parking near the starting line. You could buy parking passes if you signed up early, but they were sold out before I even signed up for the race, so I had to take a shuttle bus. And they advised runners to get to the shuttles by 6 AM. Two hours of waiting. Ugh.

My sister cooked some delicious pasta for dinner, and I drank plenty of water with it. I managed to go to bed around 9 so I could get up at 4:50 AM, which, with the time change (stupid DST), felt like 3:50 AM. I showered, attached my bib, put some water in my water bottle, used the bathroom, and headed out. It was about a half hour drive from my sister’s house. I got to the parking lot right around 6. My shuttle left at 6:15, and I arrived at the starting area at 6:30. I had apparently hydrated very well, because once I got off the bus, I made a beeline to the port-a-potties. I got there before the lines formed, so that was good.

I sat down on a curb and ate two Chocolate Chip Clif Bars that I had brought with me, and used my water bottle to wash them down. (Later, I noticed they did have some water coolers available before the race. If I had known that, I could have left my water bottle at home.)

I bumped into two of my friends who I didn’t realize were also running the half. This gave me something to do while waiting for the race to start. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures together, then they went off to the port-a-potties and I walked closer to the starting line.

I found the 2:10 pacer, and stood just in front of her. The Mayor of Cary said a few words, someone sang the National Anthem, there was a countdown, and we were off. (It took 1:48 for me to get to the starting line.) I remembered to take a picture of the starting line, and yes, that is a large American flag hanging from a crane.


Two notes before I start. First, even though it was only March 13, it was 63 degrees and humid at the start of the race, and with the exception of a run on Friday when it was 61 degrees, all of my training runs were in considerably cooler weather. Second, the course was an out and back, 2.5 miles of roads to a trail, 4.05 miles on the trail, then the turn around. The roads at the beginning and end had some small hills, but it was mainly uphill at the beginning and downhill at the end. The trail was pretty flat.

Miles 1-3: 9:52, 9:40, 10:11.

Not a bad start. The 2:10 pacer passed me sometime during Mile 2, which meant she was actually a little fast at that point. I tried to stay steady and not let it bother me.

The first aid station was at 2.41 miles. The aid stations were unusually spaced because there were only certain places on the trail where they could set up. I slowed down to take some Gatorade.

The second aid station was right at 3 miles. (I told you they were unusually spaced.) I slowed down before so I could take my first Gu. I wouldn’t normally take it this early, but I knew the next aid station wasn’t going to be until close to 6, and I need water to wash down the Gu.

Miles 4-6: 9:55, 10:00, 10:18.

During this stretch, I was looking at my watch, and considering my overall pace, it seemed like I was putting an awful lot of effort for this pace. I guess the heat was affecting me. I also lost sight of the 2:10 pacer, but I was still hopeful that I could rally, since I’d had negative splits at my last few races.

The next aid station was at 5.75. I took water and Gatorade, but walked as I drank them, which is why my Mile 6 time was a little slower.

Miles 7-9: 10:04, 10:00, 10:14.

At 6.55 miles, we turned around. My time was 1:05:12.5. I hung in there. It was hot, my legs were tired, but I kept going.

There was another aid station at 7.3 miles. I slowed down and took my second Gu. Again, earlier than I would have liked, but again, spacing of the aid stations.

Miles 10-11: 11:06, 11:19.

And this is where things went south. My legs were pretty worn out, so I took an unscheduled walk break. (I had planned to only walk through the aid stations.) When I started back up, that’s when my left ankle started hurting. I kept running, but my ankle was really slowing me down.

There was another aid station at 10.1. I drank water and Gatorade and wondered how I’d get through the last 3 miles.

Mile 12: 12:29.

I walked a good bit through here. It didn’t help my ankle though. After the last aid station right before the end of Mile 12, I started running again. It hurt like hell to start back up, and I decided that since the walking wasn’t helping, and going from walking to running was so painful, the path of least resistance was to just keep running.

Mile 13: 11:44.

A slight rally. I was helped a little by the fact that it was mostly downhill. I had just enough at the end for one final kick, and I somehow ran the last .13 at a pace of 8:33.

My official time was 2:17:58.4. My Garmin had me at 2:18:00, and at 13.13 miles, which is pretty good.

One thing that they have at Tobacco Road that I’ve never seen for any other race is a bell at the finish line. If you qualify for Boston (which will probably never happen for me) or get a PR, you’re supposed to ring the bell. After 12 straight PRs, this is the race that I miss a PR. The Running Gods can be very cruel sometimes.

I got my medal and some water. In spite of everything, my car key made it to the finish line, and here’s proof.


Once I stopped running, my ankle really started hurting. I hobbled around the post-race area, ate pizza, and got some beer from Natty Greene’s. (Odd, since they’re over an hour away in Greensboro, and there are several better breweries in nearby Raleigh, but it still beats the hell out of Michelob Ultra.).

Eventually, a race volunteer saw me limping around and suggested I go to the medical tent. I went over there, and it was full of people getting IVs. Somebody checked out my ankle, and said that since I could put weight on it, it wasn’t broken, it was possibly sprained, and that the Red Cross had all the ice and ibuprofen on the course, so there wasn’t much else they could do. Oh well. I don’t blame them, because the heat related stuff is way more life-threatening than a bum ankle.

Getting on the shuttle bus to leave was really tough, though. Getting off of it was worse.

Once I got back to my sister’s house, some combination of ice, elevation, ibuprofen, and a hot shower got me to the point where I could walk without pain. Over the next few days, my legs felt pretty beat up, but my left ankle didn’t really feel any worse than anywhere else. Still, I took a few days off from running to give it some rest, as it had been giving me some trouble for a few weeks before the race. (As of March 18, 5 days after the race, I haven’t tried to run.)

Overall, I’m not as disappointed as I’d expect. I guess I’ve accepted that it’s something beyond my control. It happens. I didn’t go out and get hammered the night before the race, I didn’t blow off any training runs, and I didn’t do anything stupid.

Maybe I’m still in a good mood because I got in to the New York City marathon less than a week before the race. Also, the medal has a train on it, which is really cool.

The biggest thing for me, though, is that I’ve realized how far I’ve come as a runner. Last April, I ran the Charlotte RaceFest Half. I got what was then a PR, by 6 minutes, but I wasn’t happy with my performance. The weather was about 5 degrees cooler, and I had no injuries. Still, I felt like I should have done better.

Well, at Tobacco Road, with much worse weather conditions, and running on a bum ankle for the last three or so miles, I finished 10 seconds faster than at RaceFest. Progress.

(One thing I didn’t mention in my race report when I first wrote it is that the thought of not finishing the race never entered my mind. I was determined to cross the finish line if I had to crawl to do it. I guess I didn’t realize that until after I had published the original report. I’m either really dedicated, really stubborn, or both.)

Weekly Wrap-Up: September 19-25

I’m heartbroken over what’s been happening in Charlotte this week. I don’t live anywhere near the protests, so I’m OK. For now, all I can do is keep going, and hope that people can come together (myself included) and work to make things better.

I did go to my high school reunion last night. (I still can’t believe it’s been 25 years.) I was worried about Charlotte dominating the conversation (or, alternately, my employer, who I’m not going to mention by name, but they’ve been in the news lately for some bad reasons), but it went better than I expected, and I enjoyed myself. And yeah, being able to say that I’m running the New York City Marathon was pretty cool.

I did find a lot of people thought you have to qualify for New York City. You can, although you have to be pretty close to an elite runner to do it, so most people get in through the lottery like I did. The Boston Marathon is the one where, except for charity runners, everybody has to qualify. With my time at the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon last year, 5:24:37, I wouldn’t even be able to qualify for Boston as an 80 year old.

Weight Check: Friday morning, before my run, I did my official weigh-in for the week, and it was 162.6, down 1.3 pounds. That’s better. I do think I was a little hard on myself last week. Without a long run, I basically had no margin for error. As for this week, between weigh-ins, I was pretty good, with no soda or junk food, and only one beer. (This weekend is another story, but I’ll cover that after next week’s weigh-in.)

As a side note, the last high school reunion I went to was my 10 year reunion, which would be 15 years ago. I don’t remember exactly how much I weighed in 2001, but my guess is somewhere in the low 160s. So there’s roughly a 50/50 chance that I weighed less at my 25 year reunion than my 10 year reunion. Either way, I’m in much better shape at 43 years old than I was at 28.

This Week’s Runs
Day Scheduled Total Miles
Monday 14 miles LSD 14.06
Tuesday Easy 4 4.01
Thursday Easy 4 4.01
Friday 15 miles LSD 15.01
Saturday Easy 4 4.01

Total: 41.1 miles

Monday was the long run that I was supposed to run on Saturday but rescheduled because I was on call. Had I run it Saturday, it would have been 66 degrees. On Monday, it was 73. Bloody hell, it was hot and humid out there. I survived.

My 2nd fastest mile was Mile 13. My fastest mile was Mile 14. I guess I finished strong, so there’s that. I sometimes forget how pretty the McMullen Creek and Four Mile Creek Greenways are. I just wish they had more water fountains. This was my 3rd 14 miler during this training cycle. I was faster than the 1st 14 miler, and slightly slower than the 2nd, but the 2nd 14 miler was the one where it was only 63 degrees, a temperature I haven’t seen since. So my performance was decent.

In case you’re wondering about the odd mileage, last week my longest run was 7.02 miles, so I wanted to have a run that was more than twice as long as that, but wouldn’t be my longest run for this week, so I went with 14.06 miles.

Tuesday was uneventful. I guess it was a recovery run.

Thursday was supposed to be the first day of fall. It was not fall weather, except for the wind. My legs felt pretty beat up, but that’s pretty much going to be the new normal for me until at least my taper, and possibly until after I’ve recovered from the race.

Friday I did my long run a day early, and once again, a rescheduled long run gives me much worse weather. In this case, I rescheduled it so I could be with my family, so I don’t regret it. I still didn’t enjoy the run, though. It was definitely not fall weather, 72, overcast and humid, with no wind and occasional mist. I ended up with a better time than my previous 15 miler, but I felt worse afterward. Part of it was the lack of water fountains – I went back to McMullen Creek/Four Mile Creek – and I can’t help but feel like my 14 miler earlier in the week made a difference. I feel like I did a better job of pacing on the previous run, because even though I rallied a little bit on the last mile of this run, it wasn’t my fastest mile, and in general, I felt much more drained. I got through it though, and I really hope this is my last long run in really miserable conditions.

Saturday I ran in my parents’ neighborhood, and it was only 65 degrees. That’s not really fall weather, but after the past few days, it felt great. Even with the 15 miles on Friday, my legs held up decently. I still don’t like running in my parents’ neighborhood for some reason. I think it just has a lot of rolling hills that are hard to avoid, unlike my neighborhood, which has a couple of hills that are much worse, but if I need to, I can avoid them.

Next Week:
Monday: Easy 7
Tuesday: 1.5 mile warm up, 3 miles at Threshold (10:30/mile) with 3:00 recovery, 3 x 1 mile at Theshold with 1:00 recovery, 1.5 mile cool down
Thursday: Easy 7
Saturday: 17 miles LSD
Sunday: Easy 5

Back to normal, I guess, if running 17 miles can be considered normal.

I’ve got 3 race reports left to re-post: the 2016 Tobacco Road Half Marathon, where my ankle blew up, the 2014 Thunder Road Half Marathon, which is probably my favorite race performance, and the 2015 Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon, my first marathon. It’s funny, I want save the “best” for last, and I’ve gone back and forth on which race report to post last, even though it doesn’t really matter much in the long run. Ultimately, I think I have to go with the full marathon, because it’s 26.2, but even though it’s dropped to my 4th fastest half, I still look back fondly on the 2014 Thunder Road Half. Regardless of the order, I should get them all posted this week.

Race Report: 2015 Joe Davis Memorial Resolution Run 10K and 5K

(Originally posted January 11, 2015.)

(I didn’t run the 2016 edition of this race, but apparently they didn’t offer the option of running both the 10K and 5K, you had to pick one since they started 5 minutes apart. They also moved to a new location, so they managed to fix the insane number of turns on the 5K course.)

My overall impression: I’m pleased. (Also, I’m still cold.)

I definitely have a new 10K PR. 5K? I’m going to say yes, although it’s a little complicated.

You can read the story of Joe Davis on the race web site.

First, packet pickup. They did offer Thursday packet pickup at the Y in Fort Mill (which is also where both races started and ended), but it was only until 6 PM. Even if I didn’t have class on Thursday night, getting down to Fort Mill by 6 would have been a stretch. Still, I always like to give races credit for offering packet pickup two days before the race.

I went to Charlotte Running Company off of Providence Friday evening. The packet had my shirt (I was too late registering, so my shirt was 100% cotton, but my understanding is that the early birds got tech tees), some Yaktrax hand warmers (I decided not to mess with them for the first time on a race(s) day, even though I could have used them), and coupons for the Fort Mill location of Fleet Feet, a Fort Mill chiropractor, and Road ID. (The Road ID one has the best chance of me using it, obviously.) Oh, and it had my bibs. Plural. One for each race, and each with its own timing chip. And that’s when I found out about the Plot Twist: Don’t cross the timing chips. In other words, when crossing the finish line for the 10K, if I wanted my time to officially register, I couldn’t have the 5K timing chip on me, nor could I have the 10K chip at the end of the 5K. (Both races had the same finish line, by the way.) Normally I prefer it when the timing chip is attached to the bib (one less thing to worry about on race day). Here, that made things a little more interesting.

By the way, here’s a picture of the t-shirt. I really like the logo. I’m not sure how useful a 100% cotton t-shirt will be when running, but I’ll give them credit, it looks nice.


I forgot to even look if they offered any safety pins. They didn’t put any in my bag. Luckily, I save the bibs from all of my races, and I found two bibs that still had pins.

I considered several possibilities for the bib swap. I could take off the 10K bib and put on the 5K bib between races, but I have enough trouble putting a bib on straight without poking holes in my chest when I’m looking in the mirror in my bathroom and it’s warm. 20 something degrees and no mirror? With a possible time constraint? That wouldn’t work. So I decided to pick out two different pullovers, and attached the 10K bib to one, and the 5K bib to the other. I’d leave the shirt with the 5K bib in my car, then between races I’d go back to my car and change shirts. That sounded like a plan.

So, Saturday morning, I got up and showered. Used the bathroom. Ate 2 pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter and drank some water. I put on my long running pants, a long sleeved tech tee underneath what I will now call my 10K pullover, and a hat. I also put on a hoodie and some non-running gloves, since my car was going to be cold. I brought a pair of gloves I could run in. I also brought along a packet of Gu. I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to eat it between races, but I figured I’d rather bring it and not eat it than not bring it and wish I had it.

I headed down the road to Fort Mill. It’s about 20 minutes from my house, so it’s not too bad.

Parking was kind of interesting, since the races kind of go through the parking lots at the Y, but I found a spot on a nearby street that looked like it would be close enough that I could get to it between races.

I stayed in my car for a little while to stay warm. I did put on some sunscreen while I was waiting, and gathered up my stuff. I took off the hoodie, and changed gloves. Around 7:30, I got out and walked toward the Y.

The Y very graciously let runners stand around in their nice warm lobby before the race. So I warmed up a bit before making my way to the starting line.

I noticed as I was waiting to start that the temperature was sitting at 20 degrees. So, the two 10Ks I’ve completed were 76 degrees and 20 degrees at the start. Someday I’ll do a 10K in reasonable weather. (For the record, I’ll gladly take 20 over 76.)

Here’s my pre-race starting line picture.


Before the race, someone said a prayer (possibly my first pre-race prayer, but I’ve also been in some races where the sound system was really bad and I couldn’t hear a word), then a young girl sang the National Anthem.

I checked my phone after the National Anthem, and saw that it was already 8:04. This made me nervous. I was already going to be cutting it close for the 5K if they started it at 9:15.

And then we were off.

I started out a little too fast. In this case, I think it was partially nerves, worrying about the 5K, and partially just me trying to get warm. Still, I managed to slow down a bit and settled in to a decent pace.

At around the .8 mile mark, we ran down to a greenway and through a tunnel underneath Highway 49. I thought that was pretty cool. We came back through the tunnel around the 3.3 mile mark.

There were water stops around 2.2 and 4.2 miles. I did take walk breaks at the water stops, because I figured it would be best to slow down a little.

Other than the tunnel, most of the rest of the race was through the neighborhoods around Baxter Village. After a while, the houses started to blend together. There were some hills here and there, but as I expected, nothing as bad as my neighborhood. I wouldn’t call it an easy course, but it wasn’t all that difficult.

Here are my times for the first 6 miles from my Garmin:

Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 10:26
Mile 3: 10:25
Mile 4: 10:15
Mile 5: 9:56.3
Mile 6: 9:54.8

I noticed at the first mile marker, my Garmin said I had gone 1.07 miles. That had me worried that it was going to take me an extra .1 or more to finish, which meant even less time between races. But at each mile marker, the overage went down, which I thought was odd.

At 5.8 miles, we turned off of a road on to a path that went past a pond and then into some woods. The path through the woods was uphill, which is uncool at the very end. It was a change in scenery from all the freaking houses, though, so that’s a plus. Right at the end, we turned off the path, went into a field next to the Y parking lot, and crossed the finish line.

When I stopped my Garmin, I was surprised to see it said 6.19 miles. Huh. .01 miles short. I’ve never had that happen in a race, I’ve always gone over. (According to my Garmin, I ran the last .19 at a pace of 9:56/mile.) My watch said I finished in 1:02:54. So yes, I had the least surprising PR in my racing history.

Well, I didn’t have much time to think about the mileage shortage. Someone handed me a bottle of water shortly after the finish, and I drank some of it as I began the race between the races.

As I was alternating between walking really fast and actual running, I paused for a moment before I took off my bib (and shirt) from the 10K, so I could take the traditional post-race picture with my car key.


I did notice as I walked that it was 9:09 according to my watch. So I had a few minutes, but I still needed to be quick. At some point, I decided to skip the Gu. I left the water bottle in my car. I took off my glasses and hat, changed from the 10K pullover into what I will now call the 5K pullover, put my glasses and hat back on, and started running towards the 5K starting line.

(I’m sure anybody who’s ever done a triathlon is laughing right now at my complaints about having to do a between-race swap.)

I got there just after the start of the National Anthem. I had just enough time between that and the start for a starting line picture.


I moved up closer to the front after that. In spite of taking two pictures with my phone, I never bothered to check the temperature. The reporting station that my Garmin used said it was 28, but it also said it was 25 at the start of the 10K when my phone said 20. I’m going to split the difference and say it was 25. I’m about 95% sure it was under 28, which would mean both races were colder than any other race I’ve ever done.

After a countdown, we were off.

It was a slightly flatter course than the 10K, but there were still a few hills. It was still mostly through the neighborhoods, many that I had already run through. As I expected, my legs were pretty tired, but I managed. My pace was good compared to my usual pace, and even compared to my 10K pace, but it seemed like it wouldn’t be enough for a PR. I kept pushing, and I even skipped the water stop, which I don’t think I’ve ever done in a race.

My Garmin reported Mile 1 at 9:39, and Mile 2 at 9:41. I remember seeing a marker for Mile 1, but I can’t remember how close it was to where my Garmin said I had completed 1 mile. I don’t remember seeing a marker for Mile 2, although it’s possible I might have missed it.

Then things got interesting.

The ending was the same as the 10K, we turned off of a road, on to a path around a pond, up a hill through some trees, off the path onto the field, and ran across the field to the finish line. I stopped my Garmin at the finish line and looked at the total.

2.92 miles.

Wait, what?

I knew my official time was under 29 minutes, which would qualify as a PR. But…that’s .18 miles less than a 5K. Of course I PRed it. (For the record, according to my Garmin, I ran the last .92 miles at a 9:46/mile pace.)

I asked around, and found a few other people who reported getting a shorter distance. So it wasn’t just my watch. But still, I have to admit, I felt a little disappointed.

One thing that did not disappoint me is that I still had my car key, and here’s the obligatory picture to prove it.


They did hand me another bottle of water after I crossed the finish. (They must not have recognized me after I changed into my 5K pullover.)  The post-race food (which I assume was similar after the 10K, but I didn’t have time to look) included orange slices, bananas, blueberry muffins, assorted granola bars, and bagels. Also, they had something that looked like Irish Soda Bread. I skipped that, because it’s got raisins, and I firmly believe a raisin is a waste of a perfectly good grape. Still, coming from an Irish family, seeing the Irish Soda Bread brought back memories. (My grandmother used to make it a lot, and pretty much everybody agreed that hers was the best.)

Once again, like the Charlotte Checkers 5K, they had tablets set up where you could look up your time. Officially, I finished the 10K in 1:02:58.1, and the 5K in 28:25.8.

So once I got home, I wanted to look at the route that my Garmin recorded to see what the deal was with the 5K course, since my watch said I only ran 2.92. I looked at the course, and saw many places where it looked like I cut the corner, and even a couple of spots where it looks like I ran through someone’s living room. Well, I didn’t cut any corners, and if I could walk through walls, I’d pick something cooler to do with my power than run through people’s living rooms. I counted how many times we turned at an intersection, and got 28. For comparison, I went back to the course for the Thunder Road Half, and I got 23. So, I believe the course really was 3.1 miles (or very close to it), and I understand why my watch showed the course being short. After some deliberation, I’m going to call it a PR.

I have to say, 28 turns in a 5K (and that doesn’t count times when a road made a 90 degree or so turn, or when we went off the road to get on the trail near the end) does seem a little high, and it’s definitely going to throw off any GPS. Although this was the 3rd year for the race, apparently they outgrew the old location, plus they decided to add the 10K this year, so both courses were brand new.

A day later, I feel a lot better about my performance in the 5K. It’s a shame that I couldn’t celebrate at the finish line after breaking 29 minutes for the first time, but I’ll take it.

I couldn’t find any numbers for how many people ran both races like I did (I did notice that the same guy finished first in both races), but there were 238 finishers in the 10K, and 399 in the 5K.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty well organized race. The turns may have been a bit excessive, but every one of them was either well marked, or had a volunteer to guide us. Speaking of the volunteers, they really, really, really liked cowbell. Mississippi State fans? Christopher Walken fans? Both? Anyway, they did provide plenty of encouragement in some really freaking cold weather, so kudos. I wish there was a better way to do both races than doing the bib swap, but I don’t know enough about timing to know if there even is a better way. Maybe a bag check would have helped. Also, it would have been nice to have something for anybody who completed both races. But those are nitpicks. Really, other than the 5 minute delay on the 10K, I have no complaints. (And if it hadn’t been for the 2nd race, I wouldn’t have really cared about the delay.)

I’m very pleased with my performance in the 10K. I mean, it’s almost an 11 minute PR, so yeah, that’s nice. Granted, it was a much easier course, and while the conditions weren’t exactly pleasant, I’ll gladly take 20 degrees over 76.

The more I think about it, the more pleased I am with my 5K performance. The one thing I noticed, though, is that, according to my Garmin, I actually slowed down a little on each mile. I don’t know how much of that was due to the routing issues, though. Even so, this wasn’t miles 1, 2, and 3 for me, it was (roughly) miles 7, 8, and 9. Also, the biggest hill of the 5K was the trail near the end, so that slowed me down. Overall, I ran 9.3 miles in 1:31:24, at an average pace of 9:50 per mile, which is pretty amazing. (It’s 14 minutes faster than the Lungstrong 15K, although with the break in the middle, that may not be a fair comparison.) I’m most proud of the fact that I took no walk breaks other than the two water stops during the 10K.

My goals were 1:06 for the 10K and 30:00 for the 5K, and I beat both of them.

So, overall, it was a good challenge, and I’m happy with the result. I have no idea if I’ll try it again next year, but I’ll consider it.

Race Report: 2016 Teal Diva 5K

(Originally posted May 9, 2016.)

Well, I ran well, and helped raise a bunch of money to fight ovarian cancer, so that’s good. The weather was pretty nice. And I had fun.

I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t actually a 5K though. I only ran 2.85 miles, so it was a full .25 short.

The race was in Mooresville, which is a haul for me, about a 50 minute drive. There was no Thursday packet pickup, only Friday, but it was all day Friday. Really, I can’t criticize too much because I would have had to get to Mooresville on a Friday afternoon to pick up my packet, and with traffic, it would have easily taken me about an hour an a half each way.

Since the event was a run/walk, and it was really a fundraiser first and a race second, there were a lot of walkers, including my parents. (Had my injury recovery not gone well, I would have been a walker, too.) They stayed with me for the weekend, arriving Friday afternoon. We ate pizza for dinner Friday night.

Saturday morning, I got up and showered, ate two chocolate chip Clif bars, brushed my teeth, used the bathroom, and drove up to Mooresville with my parents. I actually drove my Dad’s car (basically it was more convenient that way), so I could have left my car key in the car during the race, but of course I had to bring it with me for the post-race picture.

We got there a few minutes before 8. They had separate lines for packet pickup for the runners and walkers, since the walkers didn’t get bibs with timing chips, just t-shirts. The race t-shirt (which everybody got) was sadly not a tech tee.


It really is teal, even though the light makes it look more blue.

I got my bib. They had safety pins available, but I brought my own because I have too many already.

At this point, if I had been alone, I would have started doing a warm-up run. We were at a high school, and the end of the race involved doing a lap around the track, so I had a place where I could run around and not have to worry about missing the start. However, I was part of a fundraising team. (I didn’t do any actual fundraising, I just paid the race entry fee and made a separate donation.) And we had a team picture scheduled for 8:15, 15 minutes before the race was scheduled to begin.

I waited around for everybody to get there. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew got there, which was cool. My sister was walking, but my brother-in-law was going to race while pushing my nephew in a stroller. Of course, my nephew would be strapped in so he wouldn’t try to chase after me again like he did during the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon. (My nephew is the best, by the way.)

It was after 8:20 before we finally got the team picture taken. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to do a formal warm-up, but I still ran around a little bit. Eventually, I made it over to the starting line. I noticed that there was no timing mat, so I figured it was gun time only.

Apparently, there were still people in line for registration and/or packet pick-up as we approached 8:30, so they delayed the start by a few minutes. I got this picture while I was waiting.


I moved up pretty close to the starting line after I took that picture.

At 8:38, after a really short countdown from 3, we were off.

Mile 1: 8:56

I started out pretty fast. There was a gradual downhill early that helped. My legs didn’t feel great, though. My pace started out somewhere around 8:30 and slowly crept up.

Mile 2: 9:47

Garmin says there was 23 feet of climb on this part, but it felt like more than that. My legs didn’t have much, but it’s still a decent time.

There was a water stop was around the 1.3 mile mark, but I skipped it because I was holding out slim hopes for a PR, and didn’t feel like water would help.

Last .85: 7:56 (9:20/mile pace)

Again, legs didn’t feel all that great, but I tried to hang on.

The course ended with a lap around the track. As I started my lap, my Garmin said…2.60 miles? OK, I guess this is gonna be a little short. I crossed the finish line, and got a medal, a water, and a banana. My official time was 26:41.

The medal makes it more difficult to take my post-race car key picture. After a few tries, I got it.


I got to see my brother-in-law and nephew finish. (33:38, which I’m not convinced I could do while pushing a stroller, even with the short course.) They gave my nephew a medal, too, which I thought was cool. (Even my parents, who finished about an hour after the start, got medals.)

There was no post-race beer. I won’t fault a race if they don’t have beer. (Since it was at a high school, they may have some rules about that.) I’ll only criticize a race if they have crappy non-local beer like Michelob Ultra.

Considering everything, I really can’t complain about my performance. I missed 20 days of running due to injury, and have had to seriously cut back on my mileage since then, so I wasn’t at my peak. And yet, it was the 4th fastest average pace I’ve ever had on a run, behind my two fastest 5Ks (2015 Joe Davis Memorial 5K, 2015 Yiassou Greek Festival 5K) and one time when the Y was strictly enforcing their 30 minute time limit on the treadmills, so I went all out and made those 30 minutes count.

I guess I’m on my way back.

Race Report: 2015 Charlotte RaceFest Half Marathon

(Originally posted April 12, 2015.)

The quick summary: I didn’t run as well as I’d hoped, but the course was a whole lot more difficult than I expected.

First, let’s go back to the packet pickup. There was no Thursday packet pickup, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it over there Thursday anyway, and they did have Friday packet pickup from noon until 7, plus on race morning, so I can’t complain too much. It was at Dick’s Sporting Goods near SouthPark Mall. (For those of you reading who aren’t from the Charlotte area, yes, we have a SouthPark Mall, it was built before the TV show came along, and it’s fairly upscale, so it’s probably the mall in Charlotte where you’re least likely to find a Cartman figurine.)

My packet consisted of a bib and a t-shirt. They had a stack of coupons for Dick’s Sporting Goods available for the taking (I passed. If I can’t find it in one of the local running stores, I’m going online to get it.), and they had safety pins as well, but I decided I’d reuse some from one of my older bibs.

I registered early enough to get a tech t-shirt. I now have a purple running shirt.


That was with flash, but when I tried without flash, the light of the room made the colors look off. It’s not quite that dark, but you get the idea. I’m not any better at photography than I am at running.

Anyway, I took it easy the rest of the day yesterday, ate a big plate of pasta for dinner, got to bed at a decent hour, and somehow managed to get a decent night’s sleep for a change.

I got up, took a shower, used the bathroom a couple of times, took some store-brand Imodium AD, ate some wheat bread with peanut butter, grabbed my stuff, and drove up to the race.

Parking was plentiful, of course, since there’s a mall.

It was overcast, which is good, because I forgot my sunscreen. Officially, it got down to 61 degrees by the start. It was a couple of degrees warmer than I expected (and about 10 degrees warmer than ideal conditions), but it wasn’t humid, and there was an occasional cool breeze. Weather was a non-factor.

I waited around for the race to start. It got pretty crowded, because they had a half, a 10K, and a 5K, and all 3 races started at the same time. Here’s a picture from just before the start.


The half and 5K runners went through the right side, the 10K runners went through the left side. You can’t see it in this picture, but there was a small median between the two.

The sound was pretty crappy, so if they performed the National Anthem or said anything before the race, I didn’t hear it.

At around 7:31, the gun sounded, and we were off.

Mile 1: 10:03

The first mile had a slight incline early, then a downhill stretch. I was OK with 10:03. Not too fast, and still respectable.

Mile 2: 10:09
Mile 3: 10:43

According to my watch, both miles were mainly uphill, but they didn’t seem too bad.

At around 1.15 miles, I was surprised to see a water/Gatorade stop. The Gatorade was first, and because of all the runners at this point, I didn’t see any water, so I grabbed a cup of Gatorade. I’ll give the organizers credit, throughout the race, Gatorade was in green cups with a logo, and water was in white cups, and after this stop, it was pretty easy to see both the water and Gatorade. (Although they swapped the order at some point, so the people with water came before the people with Gatorade.) I went with water the rest of the way.

I thought this was kind of early for a water stop (from here on, I’m just going to call them water stops, but they had Gatorade available at every stop), but I found out quickly that the 5K turnoff was at around 1.2 miles. OK, that makes sense, one stop for everybody.

I experienced this moment, somewhere in Mile 2 I think, where nobody was talking, nobody was playing really loud music, and there were no cars going by in the other direction. All I could hear was birds in the trees, and feet hitting the pavement. It was pretty cool.

Right before the 3 mile mark, we got another water stop, and again I thought it seemed a little early. This time, it was because the 10K runners were about to split off. The water stop slowed down my time a bit for Mile 3.

Mile 4: 10:02
Mile 5: 10:14
Mile 6: 10:13
Mile 7: 10:01

Things were going pretty well. Late in Mile 6, we finally got another water stop. We ended up having to go about 3 miles without one, but apparently it didn’t have much impact on my pace. I did take my first Gu at 6. I had planned on taking it somewhere around 4, but the stop before Mile 3 seemed too early. This stretch was a mix of some slight uphill stretches and slight downhill stretches.

Mile 8: 11:12

Yeah, this is where things started getting bad. First, this mile was almost completely uphill. Second, it was clearly the worst uphill stretch so far, and finally, the water stop was before the end of the mile. Throw in the fact that I had trouble getting my Gu out of my FlipBelt (It was user error, don’t worry, I still love my FlipBelt), and I hit the water stop right at the end of a large group of runners and I had to wait for the volunteers to get more water ready (That was just bad luck, I don’t blame the volunteers), and that’s how you get to 11:12.

Mile 9: 10:19

It may not look like it, but this is where the wheels came off. There was a slight downhill early in the mile, then we went off the road, down a bike path, and got to the tunnel. Apparently, the police asked the organizers if there was any way to not cross Fairview Road twice, since it’s a busy road, and having to stop traffic in two different places is tough. So they sent us underneath Fairview in this tunnel that I was not aware of. I’ll give them credit, there was a guy dressed up as Mario giving high fives before the tunnel, and they put colored paper over the lights in the tunnel, and had some guy playing techno music, and that was pretty cool. But really, it would have been more fitting if they had been playing a funeral march.

Once we got out of the tunnel, we had to run up this bike path. It was narrow, bumpy due to tree roots growing underneath, and, oh yeah, uphill. Most of the people around me stopped to walk at this point. Not me. I chose…poorly. What made it worse was that because the path was narrow, whenever I would pass somebody, I’d speed up more than usual, since I didn’t have as much space, and often ended up running on the grass.

Mile 10: 10:33

This is a bad trend. More climbing, and I kept running. I was running much more slowly than before, but I kept running.

Mile 11: 11:31
Mile 12: 11:32

I’ve been kind to the organizers so far, but here I’m pretty sure they screwed up. Up until the end of Mile 10, my watch was really close to each of the mile markers. Most were within .01 miles. I think the worst may have been .03. That’s pretty good.

My watch said 10.1 when I got to the 10 mile marker. A full tenth of a mile. Seeing that after one of the toughest stretches of the course was just totally demoralizing. I figured I had screwed up and run an extra tenth of a mile, although I was a little surprised that it happened in just one mile.

Then I got to the 11 mile marker, and it was almost exactly 11.0 on my watch.

I didn’t take any shortcuts (at least not knowingly) on Mile 11. I don’t think there’s any way I could have covered it in .9 miles. (Mile markers 12 and 13 seemed pretty close to my watch readings as well.) So that’s why I think the Mile 10 marker was off.

It really was the worst possible spot for that to happen. I know that carried over into my performance on Mile 11. At 10.24 miles, I got to the water station, and I walked through it, like I had done at every other water station, but even after I was past it, I walked for a few extra seconds.

In Mile 12, I finally gave up and took a walk break. Three, in fact, plus the final water stop just before the end of the mile.

Mile 13: 10:03

After I passed the Mile 12 marker, I knew I was almost at the end, and I really pushed it. It wasn’t an easy mile, but I got through it.

The last stretch before the finish line was uphill. That’s just mean.

According to my watch, I crossed the finish line at 2:18:07, and went 13.16 miles. For the last .16 miles, I got my pace down to 9:17, so I somehow managed to finish strong. My official chip time turned out to be 2:18:09, so I was pretty close.

I got my medal, and started walking towards the post-race area, then I saw one of my co-workers. He’s running the Boston Marathon in just over a week, so he didn’t run the race, but he did stop by to cheer some people on. I’m trying to keep this clean, so I won’t repeat the first thing I said to him. (I didn’t say fudge.)

I skipped the free beer. It was Michelob Ultra, which isn’t good (opinion) and isn’t local (fact). They had orange slices, bananas, cups of Gatorade, and cups of water. I didn’t see any bagels or any other kind of bread, or granola bars, which I thought was odd, but I was a fairly late finisher, plus there were two shorter races, so it’s possible they ran out.

After all of that, I took the obligatory post race car key picture.


Now, I had heard people say that the RaceFest course was easier than the Thunder Road Half course. When I got to the end of RaceFest, I reached the opposite conclusion. I posted about the race on Facebook and initially lashed out at the opinion that the RaceFest Half course was easier than the Thunder Road Half course. I said that anyone who says that was, and I quote, “a dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking liar.” I didn’t find out about the change to the course with the tunnel until afterwards. So people were comparing Thunder Road to last year’s RaceFest course. Now that I know about the course change, I retract my statement. They’re not liars after all. (I still like the phrase, though.)

One other thing I wasn’t happy with was right before the finish. This may be the result of me being too slow, but I noticed near the end, the crowd had spilled out onto the sides of the course. The course should have taken up two whole lanes on Morrison Boulevard, but with people on both sides, the actual space available to runners was the equivalent of maybe one lane. Even worse, there was a woman in front of me, and about 100 feet before the end, some guy (her husband or boyfriend, I assume) came out and ran beside her to the finish. Now, I probably would not have been able to pass her before the finish line, but there was a chance. The combination of the spectators on the side and the spectator who joined in eliminated that chance.

I totally whiffed on my A Goal (2:14), and missed my B goal by 9 freaking seconds. But I did manage to PR by 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

I’ve got very mixed feelings on this race. I’ve had some time to think about it. I look at the first seven miles or so, and I was running a good race. Even the Mile 8 hill wasn’t terrible, and given a semi-reasonable last 4.1 mile course, I think I could have recovered. And I still managed 10:03 on a Mile 13 that was mostly uphill.

The thing is that I know I wasn’t at my peak going in to the race, but I also know the course was much tougher than I was expecting. It’s hard to tell how much of my performance was my shortcomings, and how much of it was course difficulty. I’ll never know.

Some of my frustration is that I can’t pinpoint what caused me to slow down the last few weeks of training. I wasn’t blowing off workouts, or going out and getting drunk. I don’t think I had over-trained. But for some reason, I just didn’t have the energy in my legs that I had around a month ago.

Still, it’s a PR, and not a cheap PR where it’s my first race at a given distance. It’s 20 minutes faster than the 2013 Thunder Road Half, and 30 minutes faster than my first half marathon.

I guess I’m feeling a little better about it now. I just have to stop beating myself up, get some rest, and get back out there and keep running.

Weekly Running Report: September 12-18

As I write this, I’m on call for work. I won’t make any comments on my workload until I’m done at 5:00 PM, but I will say that my Saturday morning run was uninterrupted, and for that I’m thankful.

I signed up for my next race after New York City, the Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot 8K on Thanksgiving Day, November 24. It’s my first 8K race, so it’s a guaranteed PR. I should be able to run 4.97 miles 18 days after my marathon, and if I can’t, well, from what I’ve heard a lot of people walk the course.

This week, I’ll be posting 3 more old race reports. First, the 2015 Charlotte RaceFest Half, where I was disappointed in my performance. Next, the 2016 Teal Diva 5K, where I was disappointed that the course was only 2.85 miles. And finally, the 2015 Joe Davis Memorial Resolution Run 10K and 5K, which makes a good palate cleanser because it went better than I expected.

Weight Check: 163.9, up 0.8 from last week. My mileage was way down this week, so that didn’t help, but that was due to circumstances beyond my control (work schedule). The part I can control, diet, wasn’t good. All 3 days that I went into the office, I had a Mountain Dew, and I did a little more snacking than usual. Next week is a new week, I guess.

I’ll be traveling next weekend (more on that later), so I have no idea when my next weigh-in will be.

This Week’s Runs
Day Scheduled Total Miles
Monday Easy 7 7.01
Tuesday 4 mile warm up, 10×20 second hill sprints with 90 second recovery, 1.5 mile cool down 7.01
Thursday Easy 7 7.02
Friday Easy 7 7.01
Saturday Easy 4 4.21

Total: 32.26 miles

Monday went pretty well despite (what I thought at the time) was not great weather.

Tuesday, the weather was worse, and I did hill sprints. I’ve made the comment before that hill sprints suck at any temperature, so I might as well do them when the weather is miserable. The problem with that is that for this workout, I still had a 4 mile warm up, and that was pretty rough. It wasn’t a great workout, but I still managed to make my last interval my fastest interval, so there’s that.

I’ve realized that when my Garmin tells me my elevation gain, I need to take it with quite a few grains of salt. For my 10 hill sprints, my total elevation gain was 0. No, that’s not a typo. Trust me, there was plenty of elevation gain.

After I saw that my Tuesday workout came in at 7.01 miles, and I had runs of 7, 7, and 4 miles left for the week, I figured I needed to add an extra .01 to one of my runs just so I could say one of them was my long run for the week. I went with Thursday. Other than that, it was unremarkable.

Friday was the hottest run of the week. I also had to make a pit stop after 1.2 miles. All things considered, I did all right.

It was weird running in my neighborhood on Saturday. The only reason I planned a 4 mile run was because I was on call, so when I got to the 4 mile mark a little bit away from my house, I kept going and got a little extra mileage. I figured that as low as my total mileage was going to be, every little bit would help. The weather was less miserable, so that was nice.

Next Week:
Monday: 14 miles LSD
Tuesday: Easy 4
Thursday: Easy 4
Friday: 15 miles LSD
Saturday: Easy 4

Yeah, this is a little unconventional. I had already planned on moving my Saturday long run for this week to Monday next week after I was done with being on call. I wasn’t planning on leaving town on Friday afternoon, but apparently Friday night is the best night to get together to celebrate my Dad’s birthday (which was back on the 9th), and I was already going up to Greensboro for my 25th High School Reunion next Saturday night. I didn’t want to try to find a place in Greensboro to run 15 miles on Saturday morning, so I figured I’d move my long run to Friday while I’m still here, and then throw in a 4 miler Saturday morning in my parents’ neighborhood.

So, yeah, 25 years since I graduated from high school. I don’t know that I would have been the least likely person from my high school class to run the New York City Marathon (or any marathon), but if you ranked all of us from most to least likely, I’d be pretty low on the list. In high school, I was scrawny and definitely not athletic. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve worked hard and run a marathon, something I once thought was impossible. Now I get to show up at my reunion and tell people I’m running the New York City Marathon this year. That’s pretty cool.

Race Report: 2016 Charlotte 10 Miler

(Originally posted March 4, 2016.)

(I should add that, due to a variety of reasons, I haven’t had another race since this one with the same pre-race dinner. Maybe I’ll try it again someday, if I don’t find something that’s healthier and just as effective.)

I remembered to bring my watch, and now I really wish I had it in 2015.

Also, I think I found my new pre-race dinner, although I feel like I should add a “Don’t try this at home” disclaimer.

Oh, and I totally crushed the race. 1:35:17.7, over 3 minutes faster than last year.

My biggest complaint last year was no Thursday packet pick-up, just Friday from 4-7 at Charlotte Running Company in Ballantyne (featuring the World’s Worst Parking Lot), and then on the morning of the race. This year, they changed it…to 3-6 on Friday. Unlike last year, when I was able to take the day off Friday and get there semi-early, I was on call, so I had to work until around 5. I seriously considered waiting until the morning of the race, but at the last minute, I headed over there.

Driving over there, I was reminded of why I work from home on Fridays: to avoid Friday afternoon rush hour. Traffic was insane, but luckily I didn’t have too far to go. I managed to get there around 5:45. Like last year, there was a long line of people waiting to get their packets. (Side note, looking at the results, there were around 700 finishers last year, and over 1,000 this year. It’s a growing race. Thursday packet pick-up. Get on it, race organizers.)

I got my bib and a hoodie. They had safety pins, I didn’t take any because I’ve still got a surplus at home. Unlike last year, this year’s hoodie is a polyester/cotton blend, which is a bummer, but I do like this year’s logo better.


When I left Charlotte Running Company, I was ready for dinner. Let’s flash back to the night before the Charleston Half Marathon. I got done with the expo, I was tired, hungry, and didn’t know where exactly to find any good restaurants, so I went with the Burger King next door to my hotel. On Friday afternoon the day before this race, just after picking up my packet, I wasn’t particularly tired, I certainly could have waited until I got home to eat, and at home, I had pasta I could cook. But I kept thinking about how well I ran in Charleston, and figured, what the hell, let’s try it again. So I went to Burger King. The #8 Combo (Chicken Sandwich), small, with a Sprite. (A Coke would have kept me up all night.) Yeah, I can’t say that I recommend this meal the night before a race to anybody else, but it seems to be working for me.

One odd thing I noticed about the bib, there was a piece of foam on the back for the timing chip. I’ve never seen anything like it, and took a (slightly blurry) picture, with my thumb for scale.


I have to say, I was a little worried that the foam might rub against my chest, and I used a little extra Body Glide around there just in case, but I had no issues, and didn’t really notice it. (Obviously it wasn’t an issue, considering my time.)

I got to bed around 10, slept relatively well for the night before a race, and got up at 5:30. I checked the weather, and it was 46 degrees and overcast. Holy crap. For me, that is absolutely perfect weather for running. I showered, used the bathroom, ate 2 Chocolate Chip Clif bars (Somewhat more conventional than Burger King the night before, but it’s another choice modeled after Charleston), attached my bib, put on my watch (I remembered it this year!), grabbed some sunscreen (just in case) and a Strawberry Banana Gu, and headed out. It’s about 10 minutes from my house, and I got there at around 6:45. I parked in the parking deck behind Earth Fare, just like last year, so it was easy to get in and out of.

46 and overcast is fantastic running weather, but it’s less than ideal standing-around-waiting-for-the-race-to-start weather. I survived.

One thing I should mention, I complained last year that there was no indication on the race website where the water stops would be, or if they’d have anything beside water. This year, they didn’t put it on their website, but they did mention it in an e-mail, and it was the same as last year, around 2, 4, 6, and 8 miles, with Gu at 8, but otherwise water only.

The 4 mile race started first, at 7:30. I got a picture just before their start.


Last year, I was amused that the 4 milers got a giant inflatable thing over their starting line, while the 10 milers got something more like this year’s 4 mile start. It was reversed this year, and we got the giant inflatable thing. Of course, you’re going to have to trust me on what the starting line of the 10 miler looked like, because for some reason, I completely forgot to take a picture right before the race started.

Anyway, after a countdown (which I could barely hear because the speakers weren’t very loud but the people near me were), we started at 7:45.

Mile 1: 10:02

This mile seemed a lot more crowded this year (maybe it was the 300 extra runners). I don’t think it slowed me down too much. It was also primarily uphill, but it was a slow, steady climb, unlike a certain other hill that we’ll get to in Mile 9.

This was the only mile last year where I knew my time, 10:03. So, I was 1 second faster. Progress.

Mile 2: 9:18

Oops. That was way faster than I had planned. In my defense, it was mostly downhill.

We turned in to the greenway parking lot at 1.75 miles, and just after the start of the greenway was the first water station. A little before 2, but it was a lot easier to set it up there than at the actual 2 mile mark. The cups were really small this year, like roughly shot glass sized. Based on my finish, I don’t think my mid-race hydration was an issue. I walked through this water stop, as well as the others.

I saw the sign for 2 miles, and looked at my watch, and it said…1.90? That’s odd. Mile 1 had been just about right. As it turns out, the mile markers seemed to be kind of random the rest of the way. 5 miles (which was good since they had a timing mat so you could get a halfway split) and 7 miles were right on the dot. Others seemed to be anywhere from .03 to a full .1 off. Of course, that helped prepare me for the end, but we’ll get to that later.

Miles 3-5: 9:57, 9:48, 9:33

I made a conscious effort to pull back a bit on Mile 3, and it worked. Maybe I didn’t need to slow down quite that much, but I wanted to make sure I was still strong at the end.

Right around the 5K mark, we turned off the greenway and into a neighborhood. The neighborhood was slightly more hilly than I remember. Also, I remembered running on the bridge over I-485 last year and holding on to my hat. This year, since it was 15 degrees warmer, I didn’t need a hat.

There was a water stop right before the 4 mile mark. Right before 5 miles, we turned back on to the greenway.

Miles 6-8: 9:33, 9:48, 9:55

I tried to take it easy during this stretch, but it was all on the greenway and pretty flat. The next water stop was around 6.3 miles. I ate my Gu right before this stop. I remember last year they put this stop right where the McMullen Creek Greenway ends and the Four Mile Creek Greenway begins, but they had the trash right next to the water stop, so I had to stop and drink my water before throwing my cup away. This year, they moved the trash so there was a little bit of space. (It was actually on a bridge.) It worked out much better.

For the most part, it was pretty uneventful through here. (I’m not complaining.) However, at one point, I noticed there were a whole bunch of deer watching us go by. There had to be at least 5 of them. I’ve seen deer before on this stretch of greenway, but never more than 3 together. Also, I think individual runners are more likely to spook them, but here, I guess they figured if there’s that many runners, might as well stick around and watch. Crowd support.

The last water stop was around 7.75 miles. They gave out Vanilla Bean Gu. (This year, the volunteers actually said the flavor of Gu so you knew what you were getting. Also, it’s possible they had other flavors, but Vanilla Bean is the one I heard.) I took one, since it’s free, but stuck it in my pocket. I still prefer Strawberry Banana, but I did have the Vanilla Bean during City of Oaks. It tasted OK then, and more importantly, didn’t give me any stomach trouble, so I kept it to use during a future run.

Right after the water stop, we left the greenway and finished Mile 8.

Mile 9: 9:25

So, Mile 9. I remember Mile 9 from last year. There’s a hill in Mile 9. A very, very, very steep hill. Like 112 feet in .51 miles. To put that in perspective, the entire Charleston Half Marathon, 13.1 miles, had 72 feet of elevation gain.

Luckily, I knew it was coming, and I was ready for it. Those (relatively) slow miles on the greenway paid off. I passed people left and right, and when I got to the end of Mile 9, after we had reached the peak and hit a flat stretch, I really took off for the last mile.

Last 0.95: 7:53 (8:22/mile pace)

Wait, what?

Well, considering the seemingly random placement of the mile markers, I had an idea this race wouldn’t be exactly 10 miles. And, as it turns out, it was 9.95 miles according to my watch.

For the record, this stretch was either flat or slightly downhill, mostly straight, and with the hill behind me, I flew through it.

I crossed the finish line, and they called out my name, always a nice touch.

I stopped my watch, and my watch time was 1:35:19, a little over a second longer than my actual time, so that was good. And apparently, for the last full mile that I ran, I set a new one mile record, 8:25.3, barely beating my old record of 8:25.4 from the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K last year. Also, I have a new 10K record, 58:54, which, holy crap, first time under an hour, with a minute to spare, and it included the hill in Mile 9. (I really really really want to race a 10K right now.)

This is where I wish I had my watch last year, so I could compare the distances. As far as I can tell, there were no changes to the course this year, so I really wonder if my Garmin would have shown a short course last year as well.

Anyway, after the race, there was water and Nuun. (Tried Nuun last year, it was weird, not interested unless I feel like I’m really hurting for electrolytes.) Good Bottle Company brought some beers. I tried (I think) a blonde ale from Appalachian Brewing Company, which is actually in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t bad. They also had an IPA from Southern Tier Brewing from Lakewood, New York. (Not an IPA fan, sorry.) So, the beer wasn’t exactly local, but Good Bottle Company is a local bottle shop. And an OK blonde ale from Pennsylvania is still way better than Michelob Ultra.

Big View Restaurant and Bar brought the pancakes and sausage back again this year. Aww, yeah. There were also some bananas, and some company was giving out organic juices. (The orange juice tasted fine but was a bit more pulpy than I’d like.)

I waited until after the food and drink before I took my traditional car key picture. The medal makes it tougher to get a good picture (I needed like 5 tries), and you can’t see my bib number (869), but here it is.


I’m still not 100% convinced a 10 mile race deserves a medal, but I gotta say, I really like this one. I think it’s nicer than last year’s (and honestly looks nicer than most of my half marathon medals).

On the Wednesday before the race, my left ankle started bothering me during a run, enough to slow me down. I didn’t have any issues when I ran that Thursday, and I planned a rest day on that Friday, so I was curious to see how it would hold up during the race. (Considering that I haven’t mentioned it so far, and considering my time, you’ve probably figured out the answer.) Well, there were a couple of spots where I felt a little something, kind of a “Hey, this is your left ankle, I’m here, and I don’t like this.” But it never affected my pace, so that’s good.

So, 9.95 miles. Normally, I’d have some problems calling this a 10 Mile PR, but there are two reasons I don’t have any problem calling this a PR. First, my old PR came on the same course. Second, even if somehow I missed something and they shortened the course this year, I still PRed by over 3 minutes.

Hey, if Han Solo can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, I can do the Charlotte 10 Miler in 9.95 miles.

Race Report: 2015 Charlotte 10 Miler

(Originally posted March 6, 2015.)

I never thought I’d run a race where I was thankful that it was 29 degrees, but when you get down into single digits a day before a race, 29 sounds great. The 2014 Thunder Road Half was colder, as were both races in the Joe Davis Memorial 10K and 5K. (Although Thunder Road warmed up into the mid 30’s by the end of the race, while the Charlotte 10 Miler only got up to 31.) I also never thought I’d be thankful for the hills in my neighborhood. (?!?)

I’d love to give you a detailed breakdown of my pace for each mile, and the elevation gain/loss, and the exact mileage of each water stop. All I’ve got is my time for the first mile (10:03), and my average pace for the whole race (9:50/mile.) More on why my statistical analysis is weak later.

First, let’s go back to packet pickup. There was no Thursday packet pickup. (Boo!) Friday, from 4-7, there was packet pickup at the Charlotte Running Company store at Promenade on Providence. I got there around 4:45 (I took Friday off of work, mainly because I needed to use up a carryover PTO day from last year), and I was surprised to see a pretty long line for packet pickup. It only took about 5 minutes to get through the line, but still, I don’t remember ever seeing a line like that for a packet pickup any time other than race day.

The packet was just a bib and a shirt, but when the shirt is a tech hoodie, I can’t complain.


I did see safety pins available, but I have plenty from previous bibs, so I decided to reuse some.

As usual, I had a terrible night of sleep. I got up, took a shower, and got dressed. I went with a short sleeved tech tee under a pullover, long running pants, a hat, and gloves. I also wore my FlipBelt, mainly because I planned to bring a Strawberry Banana Gu for a little boost during the race.

One thing that I noticed is that I couldn’t find anything on the race website about water stops. I mean, I assumed that they would have them, because even the smallest 5K I’ve done still had a water stop, but there was no indication of where, or how many, or if any of them would offer anything other than water. (As it turns out, 4 stops, at roughly 2, 4, 6, and 8, although 2 was a little early and 6 was a little late just due to the course layout. Also, water only, no Gatorade or any other drink, but they did give out Gu at Mile 8.) It would have been nice to have this info in advance.

I ate two slices of toasted whole grain bread with peanut butter, and drank some water. I gathered all of my stuff (or so I thought) and headed over there. I’m pretty sure this was the shortest distance I’ve ever had to travel to a race. I got there in less than 10 minutes. There was plenty of parking in the Earth Fare shopping center, and also in the parking deck behind the shopping center. I went with the parking deck, which was a longer walk, but easier to get into (and later, easier to get out of).

I sat in my car for a few minutes, because it was still pretty cold out there, and then I realized that I forgot my Garmin watch. Crap. I thought for a second about running with no tracking, then I remembered my old pal Runkeeper, which was still installed on my phone. OK, it’s not as easy or as detailed as my Garmin, but it’ll do.

I walked over towards the starting line, and tried to keep warm.

There was a 4 mile race in addition to the 10 miler. The 4 miler was scheduled to start at 7:30, and the 10 miler at 7:40. The races had slightly different starting lines. I was amused by the difference between the two. Here’s the 4 Miler starting line.


And here’s the 10 Miler starting line.


The 4 milers get the fancier starting line. Go figure.

Anyway, at around 7:42 AM according to Runkeeper, we were off. I hadn’t used Runkeeper in a while, but I thought it was odd when I started it that it showed me a stopwatch. And then I realized, too late, that a few months earlier, they had added a stopwatch mode, and I had played around with it a little bit, in the hopes of using it for my treadmill runs, but then I forgot about it, and never put it back in to regular mode. So basically, all Runkeeper could tell me was my current time. I would have to rely on the course to tell me distance. To the organizers’ credit, each mile was well marked, as were all of the turns.

The first mile was slightly uphill, along Johnston Road. I’ve run this stretch before, and it’s not a terrible hill, but considering the hills in my neighborhood, you have to take my judgment with a grain of salt. Like I mentioned earlier, I did see my time for the first mile, and it was 10:03, which is pretty good, not too fast.

We stayed on Johnston until we got to Highway 51, then ran along it until we got to the McMullen Creek Greenway entrance. Yes, a good chunk of this race followed a greenway that I’m familiar with. I still like Little Sugar Creek Greenway up near Freedom Park better, but McMullen Creek is still pretty nice, and it’s also pretty flat.

The first water stop was right at the beginning of the Greenway, which was a little bit before the 2 Mile mark.

This stretch probably had the most ice on the course, left over from the storm on Tuesday. Also, because it was still early in the race, there were a lot more other people around trying to get around the ice, but I and everyone around me made it through without slipping.

Right after the 3 mile mark, we turned off the Greenway and went through a neighborhood. There were a few hills, but nothing major. We also got to the 4 mile mark, with a water stop literally right in front of the sign that said 4 miles. I decided to take my Gu there, since I wasn’t sure when the next stop would be.

Just after the 5 mile mark, we got back on the Greenway. The next water stop was a little later, around 6.2 miles, since they wanted to put it in a more easily accessible location, right before McMullen Creek Greenway ends and Four Mile Creek Greenway begins. Unfortunately, they put it right before a bridge, and so I had to stop to drink my water so I could put my cup in the trash can, otherwise I would have needed to hold on to it for a while. In retrospect, I probably would have picked this stop to have my Gu. Ultimately, whether I ate it at 4 miles or 6 (or even not at all), I don’t think it made any difference in my final time.

Anyway, Four Mile Creek Greenway took us all the way to Mile 8 before we got off at Elm Lane, and had our final water stop. I was surprised to see they were giving out Gu. I didn’t see which flavor. I like to know in advance if it’s a flavor that agrees with me. I didn’t take it, although afterwards, I kind of wish I had taken it and put it in my pocket to try some other time.

This is where the course got tough. We got spoiled by the nice flat stretches on the greenways. There was a slight climb up Elm until we got to a neighborhood. And in that neighborhood was Ridgemore Drive. Now that was a hill. If I think it was a big hill, and I deal with a pretty big hill in my neighborhood pretty much every morning, it must have been pretty bad. (This is the point where I was thankful for my neighborhood hills.) The majority of the people around me stopped to walk up that hill, but I managed to keep going. Since I hadn’t been able to run as much as I normally would have during the previous week, my legs were pretty fresh (I guess I had an unintentional taper), and while I probably slowed down a bit, I ran the whole way up the hill. I’m probably most proud of that part.

Right around Mile 9, we reached the top of the hill. After that, it was flat the rest of the way, and I really took off. I have no idea what my pace was for the last mile, but I think it was pretty fast, and I passed several people along the way. I crossed the finish line, saw that the clock said 1:38 something, and was really happy with my time. Since it was the same timing company as my last few races, they had the terminals where you could look up your time, and my official time was 1:38:22.5, for an average pace of 9:50/mile. Not only is that a better pace (and overall time, even though this was .7 miles longer) than my 15K PR (which I expected, since I’ve made a lot of progress since September), but it’s a better pace than my 10K PR, which was last month. (To be fair, at that 10K, I had a 5K right afterward, so I didn’t want to go all out.) And yes, since it’s my first official 10 mile race, it’s also a PR.

Here’s proof that my car key made it to the finish line with me, and also a nice shot of the medal.


I found out later when I checked the finish line video that the race used chip time instead of gun time. I don’t see my gun time posted anywhere, but in the video, I crossed the finish line when the clock said 1:38:39. I started a little bit behind the starting line, and 17 seconds to get to the starting line sounds about right.

Afterwards, they had water and Nuun. I’ve never had Nuun before, and…it’s weird. It’s slightly carbonated, and mostly water with just a little bit of flavor. (I had the Fruit Punch flavor.) If I need electrolytes, my first choice would be Gatorade or something similar, but if my only options are Nuun or water, I guess I’d go with Nuun. However, when it’s 29 degrees, and I had a Gu along the course, I didn’t feel like I was hurting for electrolytes, so I stuck with water.

Oh, and they also had breakfast from the Big View Diner. Pancakes and sausage patties. Awww yeah. Best. Post race food. Ever. There were some bananas too, so I grabbed half of one for good measure.

Overall, I was pleased with the race. My biggest complaints were no Thursday packet pickup, and nothing on the race website indicating where the water stops would be. (The 4 milers getting a fancier starting line is not a legitimate complaint.) Otherwise, it was well-organized, a challenging but fair course, and between the tech hoodie and Big View Diner breakfast, it had some pretty awesome perks.

As far as my performance, like I said, I’m happy with it. I never did set a goal for this race, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I would have set it for at least 1:40, if not higher, and I would have blown it away. It was interesting running without knowing my pace. Since I’m in the neighborhood of 10:00/mile, it did make it easier for me to check my overall time at each mile marker to see if I was under 10:00/mile. Other than mile 1 (10:03), I think I stayed under 10. I do wish I had my pace for the last mile. (Lesson learned: don’t forget my watch.)