My comeback to distance running in my hometown

Inaugural Rock n Roll Raleigh Half Marathon Recap

Backstory

Let me start by saying that it has been a while since I posted anything on here. There are a few reasons, but, honestly, I needed to return to running in private. I was afraid posting about how little I was running or how slow, or how hard it was, and how much it hurt, would only make it hurt more. About a year ago, I ran through an abdominal strain. In general, I didn’t think it was too bad. Eventually, it got to the point where I was in pain (or “high” on muscle relaxers) the majority of last summer. But, I have talked about that enough…

I first signed up for the RnR Raleigh as the full marathon about a year ago, when it was first announced RnR was coming to Raleigh. There was a lot of controversy about it. All of which I find stupid. Some people argued that we had too many races as it is (in my opinion, these people are the lazy people who do not understand or appreciate all the hard work that goes into planning/training or running a race). Others just felt that this particular “big” race would pull away from the smaller races in the area. From my experience, the RnR attracts a lot of beginners, and beginners usually catch the bug, and sign up for other races- even 5K or 10Ks. Also, it challenges race organizers to be inventive to get people out. Raleigh has 8 half marathons I believe- City of Oaks (the biggest), Raleigh Rocks (which has now been changed to the “Rockin Rebellion” to accommodate the #RnRhaters, and is in April AND October), a Turkey Gobbler (in Wake Forest), Midtown (which was so popular, they have one in June AND September), American Tobacco Trail, Inside Out Sports Classic. Also, 3 mid-size full marathons (City of Oaks, ATT, and Umstead) Anyway, the controversy makes me laugh. I just had to note it- because I think the out of towners had no idea their desire to come to Raleigh upset so many haters.

When I signed up I was also signed up for Richmond full last November. I ended up not even showing up for that. In November, I struggled to get through 5 miles. As of January, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to complete the half marathon in April. All of this isn’t to organize a pity party for me, but to point out how far I have come.

In training for RnR Ral, I gave myself a goal to get to 10 miles. Once I got to 10 miles, Dan and I went to Mandolin for dinner (sooooo freakin’ yummy!). That was February 9, 2014. I hadn’t ran that far since April, 2013, as part of a relay race.

I ran with a friend Sheryl, who was training for the full marathon. One day, I had agreed to 12 miles, but she was going 18-20 miles. I ended up clocking 14.5 miles that day (March 8, 2014).  I managed to max out at 20 miles per week two weeks in a row. So, Sheryl and I would meet up, and run a slow and steady 10-14 miles at a time. I almost always picked routes with hills, knowing that Raleigh has hills. There were weekends when our schedules didn’t match up, and we ran apart.

 

Pre-Race

I was so nervous the week before the race, that I just kept taking muscle relaxers to sleep, to make sure that my ab pain didn’t creep back in the slightest. I didn’t run at all last week, except for the race. People asked what my goal was, and it was mixed. Of course, every runner loves to PR. I would say, “I just want to finish”, and genuinely mean it, but I had an idea of 2:10-2:15 in my head. The more runs I did, the more confident I felt. My fastest half marathon on record is about 2:08, though I’d been running much faster when I got injured last year.

I went to the expo Friday afternoon (after work). It was your typical RnR expo- large with lots of sponsors and goodies. I didn’t really want to go through each exhibit- just get my packet, grab a Trophy pizza, and head home. But, it was nice. Brooks had RnR Raleigh shirts in my favorite style. I was tempted to get one, but didn’t even want to look at the price tag, as I figured the typical $25 shirt was closer to $50. To have a NC state outline, and “RnR” or something in it. Still, I wasn’t hatin on people who were wearing them… I was kind of jealous. haha.

I had a few friends running the full marathon. So, all last week, when I got nervous or scared, I made a sign for them. I ended up with 10 signs… 🙂 The full marathon happened to go just past my house, so Saturday night, Dan and I drove around, putting up signs for them by our neighborhood (miles 11-19 for them). I went to sleep around 10pm, setting my alarm for 4:45am.

Race Day

I tried to plan with Dan to account for traffic, and the road closures. We had planned to leave at 5:50am. I got up as soon as my alarm went off, went out to get some coffee (“out” into our kitchen), and started getting my clothes on, and a little SPF 35 CC cream for my face. The weather for the morning- 60 at 7am, 70 by 9am, and about 80 by 12pm. And sunny. I actually think I overdressed (In the second mile, I was tearing my sleeves off).

Flat Chandi RnRRal

I ate a slice of toast with peanut butter. I had stopped drinking the night before, because I had a feeling I was overly hydrated. So, no water Sunday morning. I waited for my coffee to do its thing. I woke Dan up around 540. He was ready to go by 550, as planned. I went to the bathroom one last time (success!), and we left our building by 555.

Some of the road closures took effect at 6am, but most of the “outer” sections were supposed to close at 630am. We met our first closure about 5 minutes into our drive, that was supposed to be closed at 630am. SHIT! Dan and I both panicked- trying to find an alternate route. He kept saying “I’ll take X road”, and I’d shut him down, “nope, that’s closed off”. The ONLY way in and out was from South Saunders. We finally got to S Saunders, and it was clear it was the “only” way, because EVERYONE (10,000 runners and spectators) were on it. It looked worse than a typical weekday rush hour… Hmmm… We looked at each other, and Dan was like, “nope”, made a couple turns (through a random gravel parking lot… mind you South Raleigh can be rough in parts), and got me about 3 blocks from the start. Not sure how that all worked out, but I was to the starting area (Salisbury St) by 625, and headed straight to the port-a-potty, as we all do the morning of a long race. I waited for 20 mins, and by the time I made my way to the corrals, it was 655, and the only corral open to runners was corral 12. I was supposed to be in corral 11, so this was fine. However, you could tell it was the only one open, because I saw people from as low as corral 4 to as high as corral 24. hmmmm… maybe this will be a clusterf*** the first few miles. As the race started, and we starting moseying ahead, I spotted a familiar teal mohawk, and scooted over to start with Darryl and a couple of his running buddies (Teryn and Rachel). They were all running the full, but shooting for a 4:30 time, so I figured it’d be perfect, and my 2:15 would be good, as I’d be with them for 8.5 miles of my 13.

A race photographer found me looking for a corral, and got this shot (I promise, I plan to buy a few, because they are actually pretty good, but wanted to get this post up before I forget)–

RnR beforeWe started off nice and slow and steady, allowing our legs to warm-up, careful not to pass people too quickly. Our first mile was 10:28, and that sounded perfect to me. We all cheered for how “on target” we were. I put my headphones in, and kept my motivation up. Teryn and Rachel slowly started to speed up, but it was downhill, so we went along with it. “9:17” Darryl and I both looked at each other, laughed, and suggested to the newbies that we slow down. Which we did. The next mile was “9:27”, and our first 5K was over, in about 30 minutes (but I missed hitting the pad for an official time). Then, I lost Darryl in the fourth mile. Rachel and Teryn pulled too far ahead, and I lost them too by the fifth mile. I was now on my own, and on target for a 2:10 with some big hills to come. I planned to run the race hans style (solo), so I didn’t mind. I just kept pluggin’ away, as I started to hit some of the first set of uphills.

Going through Oakwood and Mordecai reminded me of times in high school (I grew up in Raleigh), and it was great to see so many people out to support the runners. Raleigh was out in true form. I even saw a few people I hadn’t seen in years (clearly out to support someone else, but it still felt like home). The brightly-colored wave of runners made its way to Peace St, past the Krispy Kreme, and past Peace University, and down our last downhill. My garmin buzzed another mile, and I was still sub-10:00 pace by the 10K.

The fluorescent, sweaty herd struggled to get all the way up Peace/Clark. One man was sitting by the Black Lotus, who said we were done with this hill (at the first plateau, just before Glenwood Ave). I have ran this route before, so I laughed, and shook my head at him. I knew this hill would slowly roll for another mile or so. The wave of people slowed down, some people started to toss aside their goals, and decided to walk. I heard some people discussing their struggles with the hill. I knew I’d soon see Dan, and Sarah, and Will, and was amazed that there was not a foot of the sidewalk where my fellow Raleigh-ites were not out in full swing. Even those who were passively watching because they couldn’t leave their houses… Thank you!

I made it up the hill, with a 9:53, which left me astounded and proud. I came upon Cameron Village, and wanted so badly to see the Flying Biscuit (where Dan said he’d set up camp, before anyone else, as soon as he left me in South Raleigh). We spend a good amount of time in Cameron Village, and I thought of the Bloody Mary’s at Cameron Grill, and chugged on, until I saw Sarah. Dan was hiding behind a tree, Will sitting next to him in a camp chair. Sarah was cheering for everyone passing, and I yelled her name, as they all yelled and cheered me on. They all looked shocked (even though I was perfectly on time- at a 10:00-min pace, as I had estimated, and had even texted Dan when the corral before me left the start). It was a little boost to see them, and I half-pictured them hopping into the van (relay buddies), to meet me a mile or two down the road…

Oh well, onway and upward. The hill wasn’t completely over, though it had flattened a little. I wondered if the spectators knew how long of a hill we’d been going up, as they encouraged walkers to pick it up. I knew the turn-off was up ahead. It had to be, we were almost to 8 miles. I was tired. I was thirsty. Bad sign. You never want to be thirsty during a race. But, really I was exhausted. The thought occured to me that I hadn’t seen the GU station that was supposed to be around mile 5. I glanced down, and I had been running for about 90 minutes. Generally, I use something every 60 minutes. Ruh-roh!

[Also, just a note- they had Gatorade, but gatorade is too syrupy and makes me nauseous. I prefer Honey Stinger chews (or Sports Beans “bean me up”) and Nuun. But, when I am thrifty or running a lot, I will do every other with GU- they also take up less space.]

Finally, we turned on Hillsborough, and we started our return to downtown. Actually, it was kind of nice, because the majority of the time, you could see downtown in the background. And there was the glorious GU station. Gatorade first. Yuck. Water- yay! GU… yay! …Bleck! Gross! and more water… Just to wash it down, splash the rest on your face. That will totally hydrate you. Well, hell, at this rate, I’ll pour it on my head. It’s hot up in her’!

I appreciated the downhill slope of Hillsborough. I’ve ran this before at the end of a race- it’s a great ending- just enough slope to make you feel speedy effortlessly, but not so much that you feel like you are spinning out of control. We rounded the round-about, and turned on Pullen, and my garmin chimed for another mile “10:28”, and I felt great. I just let go on the downhill, through NC State’s campus, past Pullen Park, then turned onto Western.

And I started to feel it. I wondered when the next water stop was. I was feeling so tired. More than I should be, and I just hoped I had enough to get through another 4 miles. Okay, now is the time to ramp it up, right? So I tried to ramp it up, and felt queasy. You can do this I told myself, and then I vommed in my mouth. Gross. You can slow down now. It’s okay. Let the GU fully settle. And “10:03” chimed in, to agree that it’s okay. Okay, new plan- 2:12? I was at about that pace, and there was no shelter from the shade. I turned onto Dorothy Dix’s campus, and was waiting for the beauty to hit me. I love this campus. Instead, I felt numb to it all. Spectators? Didn’t matter. I just wanted to get to Mile 10.5. My dad said he’d be at mile 10.5. I passed by a thankful water station, which helped me feel better. I started to worry that I had missed him. I got over it, and just continued to chug along, running at a somewhat steady 10:30 pace. I had slowed down, but I still had my eye on 2:15, and was convinced I’d feel peppier when I got the downtown area.

Finally, I saw him! Right after the 11 mile, I waved at him on a small downhill from Dorothy Dix campus to Lake Wheeler, and turned into downtown. I feel a little pep, and tried to push it again, as I knew the Boylan hill was ahead of me, and a cushion of time would help. I tried to push it up Lenoir, but “push” was a 10:30 pace, and felt hard. I continued up Boylan, where they forced us onto the sidewalk, which I thought was asinine. This was at mile 11.5-12, and people were walking. And this sidewalk is only one person wide, broken, and has a steep hill on either side, lined with trees. But, every time we runners (sorry, there were a lot of walkers at this point) tried to jump down to the street to run, some volunteer would berate us like a bad dog peeing on the carpet. So I crushed a few people- sorry! Truly! And that was at a 12:00 pace…

Finally we got to the top of Boylan, and I knew we were past the 12 Mile point, whether the course said it or not (I hadn’t seen it, but I did see the Fleet Feet Raleigh love on Boylan Bridge). I felt inspired to run a little faster for the last mile. And vommed in my mouth again. Alright. I get it body. I can go slow, or I can vomit and go kinda faster. I chose to go slow. People were passing me left and right. Fans were cheering to pick it up into the home stretch. And, as I passed Nash Square, dodging to the right, in case I actually did puke, the 2:15 pacer triumphantly flew past me. And I didn’t even care. That’s how I know I was hurting. I am competitive, and anyone passing me in the last mile is bad news. I just didn’t want to walk down the final stretch on Fayetteville, so I kept plugging around, at my slowing pace. I managed to smile as much as I could for cameras. But, one guy got my true shot- as I stopped my watch, I really thought I was going to hurl. I didn’t see medical tent or staffers. I didn’t see a bucket or trash can. So I proceeded to get my medal, a dry towel, and searched for an ice bucket, grabbed some water (shove a Nuun tab in that. Yes, I hid a Nuun in my back pocket), got a banana and protein bar, and by the time I found a spot to sit, I no longer needed to puke. I texted Dan to let him know I was done, and final time of 2:17-something, and told him where I was.

He was there in minutes, and I told him how I had been doing so good, up until the last two or three miles….

The last few miles were a blur to me. I felt awful. I am not sure if it was dehydration, or overhydration, or lack of electrolytes, or if the GU just didn’t settle right on my stomach. I have never felt like that after a run. If I’m overheated, I usually get dizzy/light-headed, sometimes losing some vision (high blood pressure in my eyes), or see spots, once or twice swaying after finishing. But, never feeling 100% sure I would barf.

I have no regrets. I am proud of my 2:17. And once I felt fully hydrated again, I went back to Nash Square to cheer on my fellow runners. Dan grabbed us some coffee and more water, and I kept yelling for them, hoping I’d start seeing my full-ers soon.

Finally, I saw Beth, and yelled my butt off (4:10, oh yeah, and 8th in her age group- WHAT?! That girl is a beast). Then, Rachel, who I met just before the race with Darryl. Then, Teryn, Darryl’s other buddy. I anticipated Sheryl soon, so I walked along the course to the Boylan Bridge to meet her, and spotted Andrea. She was hurting, feeling just like I had. So, I ran her in, and we ran and walked a little, until I patted her on the back into the finisher shoot. And then, I finally got a text from Sheryl- she was on Lenoir. I texted back- I’m on the Boylan Bridge- see you soon! And I ran her in the last mile.

Here’s a few shots her friend got of us (I thought it was so cute, even though it’s pixely)

RnR with Sheryl 1

RnR with Sheryl 3

So, all in all, I ran about 15 miles on Sunday. Someone managed to snap a picture of Sheryl and me, and it makes me happy- a picture of me and my training buddy. Did I mention Sheryl sub-2’ed this spring? Yup! And that’s my next goal- for the fall. I was fast enough for that last year (was training for a sub-4:00 full marathon). Anyway, that’s next- in like 6 months.

That means, this summer will include a lot of sweat, sore muscles, blisters, probably less toenails, chafing, and probably lots of post-run beer 🙂

what is wrong with me?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Well, not yet.

Last week, I did something incredibly stupid- signed up for my third (full) marathon. I think if there was a race every month of the year in Raleigh, I’d sign up for more races, coasting on the “convenience” factor (and probably skimping on the training more often).

So, here I am.

Signed up for my second marathon (Richmond) in November, and the Rock and Roll Raleigh in April (2014).

On a slightly related note, there has been a lot of controversy about the Rock and Roll coming to Raleigh. Here are my scrambled thoughts.
First, I have done two Rock and Roll half marathons (my first- Vegas), and Nashville last year. I have also done a tiny (300 person) half marathon. I would prefer the middle ground- 1,000-5,000 person race. The 20,000+ person races are intimidating and crowded (regardless of how well they corral people). I will agree with that point. However, they put on a good show (including a good course, tons of food and energy gels/drinks and crowd support); this helps give me energy to last longer.
The main thing people keep saying is “race local”… We have two local full marathons in the Raleigh area (and several half marathons). I did one of these local races (a half), and hated it- I had to bring my own energy gels (which I was not told in advance, I realized at mile 8, when I hadn’t seen anything yet), there were maybe 4 water stations (I drink a lot over the course of 13 miles in MAY in Raleigh), there was next to no crowd support, and by the time I finished, there was no food. Like, no food. Or juice. Just water. Also, i finished in 2:29, not so ridiculously slow that i should miss out on those post-race goodies. Anyway, my point is- sometimes Walmart/Target has more options than the local country store, making it worth it to shop ‘non local’. It also makes me laugh that some of the people who are strongly anti-RnR are the same people who go to starbucks every day. Your coffee choice impacts your local economy much more than which race runners do. A little math lesson– $4/day for a week is $20/week, which is $80/month, or $1000/year. That affects the local economy on a much more significant scale than a few runners paying $60-120 once per year. Just sayin’! If you are going to make that argument, stand behind it with all your spending habits 🙂

The honest truth is I trained for City of Oaks in 2011, and got injured. Last year, I decided to train for Richmond, which is the following weekend. I then signed up for Richmond again this year. Maybe in 2014, I’ll run City of Oaks (which, by the way, is a great local race of about 5,000 runners in the full, I think, with great crowd support most if the way, including me at mile 25). I have wanted to pay tribute to my hometown (and current city) as well, with a good course, and RnR tends to do a good scenic course. And it was only $65, which for a marathon, is super cheap. So, I signed up.

And now I am left thinking When did I become a marathoner? Sure, one marathon is one thing, but THREE? And immediately following that (and a “calm the f*** down” beer), I decided this will be my last marathon… famous last words, right?

So, here goes nothing. Here’s to hoping next winter will be friendlier than this winter. My 15 miler in the snow was horrible, and I can’t imagine a 20-miler in those conditions (Andrea rocked a 27-miler that day, due to bad GPS signaling… go get ’em girl!).

Basically, here’s to early mornings from July to April; drinking water as if I’m storing it like a camel; here’s to foam rolling and yoga (both necessary); here’s to felling tired and hungry all the time. But mainly, to the feeling of accomplishment, to the joyful years at the finish line, the sense of comrade in training and in race day! To all of it! I raise my coffee mug (It’s 8am, I’m not drinking a beer before work silly!)
Raise your glasses (or mugs, or just Nuun pint glasses) with me for whatever goals you have coming. And in advance, for all the hard work you’re going to put in!