Let’s get the easy part over with first. Only two marathons are offered in Maine. So sit down, get out your credit card out and register. Absolutely no way the other one is better than Bay of Fundy Marathon. Is the course difficult HARD? HELL YES! But do you sign up for races because they are easy or flat? No sane person would be doing the 50 states or a marathon, so welcome to the crazy club. I will sit here and wait while you go register, just let me know when you are done and I will continue with the course report.

https://bayoffundymarathon.com

Oh hey, you’re back! Fun, right? You are registered and you don’t even know what the course looks like? That is usually the way we feel after registering for a race. So welcome to the FRE family of running crazy people. Now that you are signed up, here is the elevation chart. Enjoy! Those two spikes take a little bit out of your soul during the race. 🙂

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Here is a little history on the Bay of Fundy race before we jump right into the race logistics. The race was formed in 2013 making this the fourth running of the full marathon distance. The half marathon was only approved in 2014, making it the second running. Lubec and more specifically the West Quoddy Lighthouse (the starting line of the marathon) is a peninsula and is the eastern most point in the United States. The Lubec population is a whopping 1359 people! This means race day significantly increases the number of people in the small town. Lubec is 37 square miles, only 32 miles of state maintained road and roughly 97miles of coastline. Uniquely enough, residents of Lubec refer to themselves as Downeast. I’m guessing this is because they are down and east in the state of Maine, but maybe a Manienaic (I saw that on a t-shirt) that is reading the blog could fill us in.

Enough of the history lesson. The race report starts here!

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Pre-Race dinner. You had two choices, lobster or spaghetti. I would say what you choose would be dependent on your race goal. I am glad this was a fun run for us. Twenty-two bucks got you an entire lobster that was said to be plucked from the sea only 3 hours earlier! Some manual labor and instruction was needed to make the most out of this lobster. This is not your lovely fine dining experience where the tail comes out butterflied and deveined. You have to get in there and get it done. I will suggest hurrying through that process because the longer it takes the less enticing the tail becomes to eat, and I will leave that description right there. Best part of the meal, we met Rob and Ashleigh, two very positive and happy individuals. They were up from New Hampshire because 5 of Rob’s friends had qualified for Boston at previous races this year. I am sure Rob’s friends hazed him into submission to get the job done and meet them in Boston. Peer pressure will make you do some healthy things. I never asked his actual age, but going by the time of 3:05 that he would need to qualify, I can assume he is younger than me. Rob’s build was of an obvious fast runner. I learned later that he was a collegiate runner at a D3 school. I knew he had what it took. Rob apparently likes challenges, so instead of staying in a hotel, he decided to stay in the Sunrise campground in a tent, blow up mattress style. I like suspense so the last line of the report will be for Rob. If you scroll down to see right now, then you must not like surprises and you must share this blog with 25 of your closest friends 🙂

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Packet pickup was an experience like no other, unless of course you do an international marathon. Once given your swag, including a long sleeve tech shirt (won’t need that for a couple months), you could place it all in your gear bag which was an unused bait bag for lobstering. Coolest race bag ever! For your race bib, you would have to travel across the bridge into Canada so that border protection could clear you and check you off a master list. After that, you go into the Canadian visitor center where they check you off another list and hand you your race bib. Then, you head back across to the US so they could check you off their master list. All of this means you now don’t have to carry your passport on race day to clear the border! Side note: If you happen to do this race, look for Roxanne Redding, a customs officer at the US border. Tell her the “Achy Breaky Heart” crew from 2016 says hello! She was super cool. By the end of the weekend and 10+ trips through customs, she smiled ear to ear when we would pull up. I wish we would have went back for a post race photo with her. Nevertheless, you are now ready to run! Let us all head to the starting line.

 

The starting line is at Quoddy State Park just beyond the lighthouse parking lot. The backdrop is the West Quoddy lighthouse and is boasted as the eastern most continental town in the US. The race is small and obviously well supported by the locals both in the US and Canada. They sang both national anthems prior to the start, both of which were stuck  in my head for the entire race. After just typing that sentence, I am singing the Canadian anthem. Why is it so catchy?! They started the race on time with the firing of a cannon that seemed to be loaded with C4 explosives. I think I peed a little when it went off. CRAP that was loud! Maybe it was to warn the Canadians we were on the way?

Heading out of the parking lot, we traveled almost 5 miles on South Lubec Road. This road is rolling hills and newly paved. Two aid station dotted the road, both of which were festive and themed which is very cool but unusual for a smaller race. That is a great thing! The race is not totally an out and back because these first 5 miles of the course are never repeated. Back out to Main St., we took a right heading for downtown Lubec and the bridge that connects Lubec and Canada. The road was lined with people cheering you on and it made me smile to ask a few if I was headed towards Canada, just humorous to be able to ask that in a race. US border patrol were all supporting the race and standing out cheering you on which was great! The bridge itself would be a great deterrent for anyone wanting to make a break for either side. It is shaped in a cresent which felt nice a smooth at the 6ish mile mark on the way over. At the 25.5 mile marker, however, it felt like more like the shape of the St. Louis arch.

Just over the border make sure to look left and take in the Mulholland Lighthouse (where you can catch beautiful sunsets) and wave at the caretaker, Dennis, who greeted us with pleasantries and offered a brief history on the lighthouse’s significance just one day prior. You will be heading up hill now and it is a long gradual climb.  To the left, the first body of water you see is Snug Cove. During the times we were running,it was low tide. The area sees huge tidal swings of ~25FEET! As you pass the Roosevelt Campground on the left, check out the sign across the road, funny to see “USA –>”. As you continue to run up hill contemplating why you picked this race, you will pass Josie’s Porch Cafe on the right, where we sat and had a coffee under more relaxing conditions, and Frair’s Bay on the left. In the bay you will see large circular structures. Those are commercial salmon hatcheries, hope I said that the right way.

At the top of the hill you make the right onto Hwy 774 and the lonely section starts to sink in. The race is small and the field spreads out quickly, so unless you have a predetermined running buddy, you are going to be alone for a while. The hills just keep coming and you keep thinking this will be good on the return trip. However, these are not the long gradual hills that pay dividends. These are small, steep on both sides hills, so it does not get better. Around mile 13, you run past Pollock Cove on the left. The day before the race, friends of James and LaRee had so graciously taken us on a tour of Campobello Island. One of our favorite stops was seaglass hunting at this very Pollock Cove. If you get the chance the day before, spend a couple hours at low tide searching the beach. We were told white glass is the most common, brown #2, green #3, Blue #4 and Red #5 being the most rare. Those same friends are residents of Campobello and actually live on the course. It was great to see friendly, smiling faces so far from home and feel like you were running through a community of support. I could be a little biased by the warmth Tim and Janet showed us, but you get the real sense of a close community in this area. Most of the homes on the street had owners out in full force supporting the race.

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Ken and Tina – Day before Race

You continue your oscillating run as it joins lighthouse road. A local was sitting at the entrance announcing 3/4 mile or ___ km (I can’t remember the number he said) to the turn around. On the way out, he would announce 9miles or 15km to the bridge! Lighthouse road takes you all the way to the end of the island. Literally, concrete barricades prevent you from running into the ocean. At high and low tide you would be running into your certain death from the 30ft fall onto the rocks. At the turn around, I ran into Ken and Tina, also from North Carolina, who Nicole and I met on the airplane from PHL-BGR. Lovely, amazing couple that were also completing the 50 States and much further along. I think if I remember correctly it was the 32nd state for them. They were such warm people and you could tell they just loved doing this together. At the turn, one of the volunteers snapped a picture of us 3 together. Nicole hated she missed the photo op but she was trying to keep me from catching her since she was running the half. I will tell you, I am an introvert by nature and one goal I am using the 50 state marathons to help me with is talking to people. I love meeting people who are motivated, positive and smiling because it helps me interact more easily. Those of us that can relate to the struggles of starting conversation with a complete stranger know that smiling people are easier to talk to and Ken and Tina were that couple. Thank you both! If you found us and read the blog, please share your photos with us.

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Back to running. As mentioned earlier, this is not a complete out and back so the turn around is not at mile 13, but more like 15.5-16. Although from here it is all familiar territory since you are just back tracking your steps. I do have 2 spots left to mention for the run back to the bridge. First, the left turn (the only turn) seems like it takes forever to come. Your mind is playing course length games with you because your watch is saying 22-23 miles and you feel like you are countries away from the finish line. Once I made the left, it was a dark spot for me. My legs were cramping from all the hills and I was still unsure of the location of the finish line. Being a Boston Qualifier though, I knew it had to be on the mark with the distance.

Spot number 2 is the last hill before the international bridge. That last hill blocks your entire view of how the race will finish and how close you actually are to being done. Just know that when you come up to that hill, the visitor center sits to the left and the Mulholland lighthouse is now on your right. When you crest that hill, you are home. Down the hill I said “Bye” to the Canadian border patrol. The bridge now felt like I was climbing the arch in St. Louis but I kept running. US border patrol was waiting and flagged you through. With an immediate right turn, you are in the downtown of Lubec and the finish line is in sight. For a small race, they had all the amenities for including timing chips and timing mats so they could announce your name and accurate time. One of the things that I find very special at these smaller races and one reason we seek out these races are the finisher medals. Bay of Fundy did not disappoint! A local artist handcrafted each of the finisher medals making it extra special. If I would have gone a little faster, I could have gotten one of the hand made pottery awards that were absolutely beautiful and reflective of the area.

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After the race, locals had a street market just beyond the finish line so you could sample the hand prepared community fare. Also, the race supplied fruit, bagels, donuts, meatless soup (delicious) and yogurt with blueberries. It was one of the more challenging courses hands down for a road marathon that I have completed. The heat was also unseasonably warm for the area, but I can not seem to escape the heat at any race. Last year the race was 40-50’s with fog and spotty rain from what was reported by other participants. This year was high 70’s into 80’s. The sun is different in Maine compared to North Carolina and seems to be more intense. Could be the lack of haze or me being a wimp? This course is also mostly unprotected from the sun offering none to limited seconds of sparse shade from a tree that may just be over the road surface.

Bay of Fundy International Marathon was an amazing race. A couple of the race directors through coincidence introduced themselves and you got the sense they had a personal mission to make sure this race was great for both the racers and the community it supported. If you are questioning this race then DO IT! It is a hard race but so what? It will be special. I am sure of it. Thank you Lubec and Campobello for your spectacular people and race! It was a blast…. Now go RUN!!!!

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Oh, are you still wondering about Rob? What was your guess? That’s right! He qualified with a 2:57! Congrats from us, Rob! You and Ashleigh were a pleasure to meet and I hope we get to meet up in Boston.

 

 

Hey everyone go over to Fly Run Eat Repeat on YouTube and subscribe to our channel to catch all the action and my attempts at vlogging… I think that is how they spell it. If it is not instructional I promise it will be entertaining and funny. Come on you know want a good laugh watching me try to figure this stuff out!

 

Race week is here and I have to say more than usual I am excited to do this race. Any race that you are required to have a passport check prior to the race is going to be cool. I just think it is COOL to be able to cross into another country during a race. We are still shallow into the work week but are making our preparations for departure on Friday. I will try and post as we go along in the week so I can bring everyone along.

*** Side question: To any of you runners/bloggers/vloggers, if you have found a good way to document on video the actual race course that does not totally inhibit your experience on race day please comment. I am trying new ways because I really want to bring you guys along on this course and I feel photos won’t do this course justice. ***

This race is another “experience” for us and not a race per say. Although the race director has mentioned very cool pottery to the age group and overall place holders with the marathon only being 200 strong I may get an itch on Sunday to run fast. The weather is being reported as a heat wave on Sunday for the race with a high of 63°. REALLY a heat wave at 63°, you should come to North Carolina in the summer! 63° I may wear arm warmers 🙂

Hope everyone is having a great week and stay close for updates and maybe even our first vlog this week.

Happy Running!

Nashville, Tennessee

As promised here comes Nashville…..

This will be short and simple as I think you can find better races with smaller venues and less people. Also check out the bling for Memphis (BAM for sure).

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This past week Nicole, LaRee, James and I traveled to Tennessee for the Nashville Rock n’ Roll Marathon. We had plans to fly 73SD for the 3 hour flight but strong storms moving across the eastern half of the US prevented that and forced us to book regular commercial travel.

As a side note if you have not done Global Entry or TSA pre-check then start the process today with TSA. We had zero wait, kept our shoes on and no latex gloves violated any orifice.

Any who, moving along. We have only done one other Rock n’ Roll race and to say we were not impressed would be an understatement. As reported in our Savannah write-up, the aid stations were extremely far apart and only had the bare minimum of supplies. That was not the case in Tennessee. The aid stations were appropriately placed about every 1-2miles and well stocked. All had Gatorade, Water, Gu, and some fruit (which always kinda weirds me out a little to take peeled fruit from someones hand).

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The race start was close to Bridgestone Arena, affectionately known as Smashville. Home to the Nashville Predators hockey team. This race was crazy big, 36,000 people big. James and I were in corral 3 of 40, Nicole and Laree were behind us in corral 12. They estimated 1.5 hours for all corrals to pass the start line! Holy CRAP! That is too long to wait and your race nutrition is blown.

The course was great and you could tell actual thought was placed on how they traversed you through the city. You passed multiple bands of all types, beautiful parks, multiple old home communities. My favorite though was a trip around the baseball stadium. On the field, there was a camera set up so you could see the runners pass on the guitar shaped jumbo-torn.

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Granted I have not been running big mileage since Tobacco Road about 5 weeks earlier, so I knew this would be a slow run. That gave us plenty of time to take in the sites of the course and speak to many people along the way, which I really like to do on these races that our main goal is to have fun.

I told you it would be short. Like I said, I think if you are looking to check off a state this race was fine. If you are looking to see interesting things and places or maybe even a unique course, then I would look to another race.

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****Important NOTE!! This race is a point to point, NOT A LOOP. Plan on after you cross the finish line having to walk almost a mile back to your car, hotel, taxi etc. The crew after the race took in many of the sites of Nashville. Opry Land, Escape Experience and coffee shops galore. Great food, great company and live music everywhere. I give the race a solid B+ and the weekend as a whole an A+.

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You may be asking yourself, where have flyruneatrepeat been lately? Why have they not posted on the blog? Wait, do I even follow the blog anymore?

Well the answer is not short nor without an explanation. Hang on to your shirt tails because I am going to try to make this as short as possible but get everyone up to speed. Ok here goes….

You will remember that during the last post, we had just completed Hartford, Connecticut and were on course to reach our year end goal of racing hard in Kiawah, South Carolina. Within a few short days of coming home and writing that post, I unknowingly had an injury brewing that would be bad, very bad. I will explain and try to keep it light and comical as much as possible.

On the trip back from a London vacation, I did something stupid. Being the journal writer I am, I spent 6 hours writing on the plane without leaving my seat or changing position very much. I thought nothing about it. We arrived home and I was none the wiser to the storm brewing. I continued to train and prepare for Hartford. Over the training cycle, I had a small pain in my buttocks area but it was small and localized. As a runner and general athlete, you understand that discomfort is just part of training and you learn to embrace it. As posted, the actual race in Connecticut went without a hitch. I followed Coach Beth’s plan to the T and never deviated. The stage had been set and the storm was in bound  without my knowledge.

Monday morning, around 4am, it woke me up from a peaceful slumber. Pain like I have never felt. I am not a wussy, or at least I don’t think I am. This pain took me to my feet and then directly to the floor. I was profusely sweating, nauseous, and unable to move my right leg without it feeling like someone was LITERALLY slicing my leg with a sharp hot knife. Here comes the funny part and I still chuckle giving Nicole a hard time. I sleep very free without any confinement of modern stitched fabric. So imagine (no pictures will be posted) I am lying in the floor on the cold tile, sweating, green, shivering, and almost crying from the pain. I do the only thing I know to do since I can not get up. I yell the loudest I can. Ok, this process is not quick and takes many attempts as waking Nicole could best be described as CPR because you are literally bringing someone back from the dead.

Nicole, after her heart regains a normal sinus rhythm and blood starting flowing around the circle of willis, slowly makes her squinting eyed way into the bathroom. She looks down upon my corpse-like body and ask in her sleepiest voice, “What’s going on?” This may seem like an appropriate question. However, by the non verbal cues she is giving off, one would think that seeing me in this state is a normal occurrence and she is trying to figure out why I woke her from the warm comfort of dreams.

Eventually, I made it to the ortho urgent care where they thought I may have slipped a disc, but I knew this was not the case. After some quick X-rays and prescription meds, they started working me up for an MRI that would take weeks to schedule. I never made it to the MRI because over the next few days, we were able to narrow down the real culprit of the pain and start treatment. Periformis syndrome was the diagnosis. On my trip home from London, sitting on my @$$ for so many hours injured my gluteus. It waited, however, until that Monday morning at 4am to spasm. Muscle spasms are bad enough, but then enter part two. Your sciatic nerve has several different options for how it runs down your leg. My anatomy is such that it travels through the gluteus and then down. So, when the muscle spasmed it picked up the sciatic nerve and trapped it under tension. I had trouble walking, could not sleep because I could not lay down, could not sit for a solid week. I was in a bad way and getting very depressed from lack of sleep. Each week got a little better and slowly I would return to running. It was a complete month with ZERO running and then another 2 weeks before my coach would allow me to get any distance. Needless to say, I did not race in Kiawah. Nicole did though and was able to check another state off the list and only missed besting her PR by mere seconds!

The whole injury process would take me well past any comfortable time frame to be back up to speed without risking a further injury. My coach was always positive and I give her a lot of kudos for keeping me sane. I was in a dark place in my running. Mentally I thought I would be starting all over.

Once running again, we took a hard look at the plan and I wanted to regroup and press on. I put 100% of my trust in Beth (TheRunFormula.com) and we started to kick butt. We choose a race close to home in February so that if the injury decided to show its head again I would not be out all the expense of planning an out of town race. Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC would be the race and the goal would be the same. Boston Qualifying. I will let the picture below speak for how the race went.

 

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3:08:23

What I learned from all this adversity.

  1. Trust Yourself
  2. Trust your Coach
  3. Trust your Training
  4. In order to get the results you have to do all the work

We are back up to full steam ahead and we completed Tennessee last week! That race report will be up in the next couple days so stay tuned. Follow us on instagram @flyruneatrepeat as I am trying to become more social media savvy.

Now go run…… 🙂

 

JFK Airport at 6000ft

JFK Airport at 6000ft

Connecticut was the state most recently placed on the completed list as of 10/10/15. We travel via 73SD up to Hartford, CT to show our love once again for the northeast states. As usual, we departed Louisburg, NC and made the 3.5 hour trip up the east coast with a stop in Maryland. In hindsight, the stop was unnecessary since the prevailing winds were pushing us at close to 200mph, making the trip seem even shorter. The weather was par for the course with partly cloudy skies until we made a right at JFK in New York. After making that right, we could see the weather was deteriorating and we were likely to get a little rain just prior to landing. Into instrument conditions, we made the brief approach into Hartford-Brainard Airport where we met up with our friends and fellow 50 state crazies, James and LaRee. The thing we enjoy most about the smaller airports is the service we get for the plane and the relative closeness to the city compared to their larger commercial brothers. We hopped in the car and were ready for the fun to begin. James and LaRee had secured the hotel so we went to the room for a quick superman-like change and then descended onto the city. First order of business, and what seems to be a revolving theme with all of our trips is the need for food. Nicole made a quick search and settled on the carb-rich local Italian restaurant Salute. Sorry, we have no photos of food as we were all starving and enjoying the company too much to break out the cell phones for some low quality photos. I can say the food was delicious and the portion was at least two servings (except James’s plate:) ). It was clearly one portion and man that guy can eat! Normally, I could have followed suit with James. However, my coach wanted to try the full meal plan that I will use leading into Kiawah and I don’t think I had been hungry for two straight days. The plan is pretty much carbs, carbs, carbs and did I mention carbs? After we had sufficiently set ourselves up for a carb coma, we waddled our way back to the hotel at about 7:30p and decided it was time for bed. We are all early to bed before a race kinda people! In our defense though, we are all early risers in our everyday lives also.

 

13.1 Blue 26.2 Green

13.1 Blue 26.2 Green

Race morning was very low humidity and 48 degrees with a forecasted high of 64. This is very different from the North Carolina high humidity upper 70’s and 80’s that we are still living through. The race hosted 3 levels of entry that included a 10K, half marathon, and marathon. All started at the same location, but after 1.5 miles would diverge to their own courses entirely. We all had different goals for this race so a couple minutes prior to the start we all said our good lucks and headed to our starting points. The starting line had a beautiful backdrop of the Capitol building and masses of the family and friends of racers. The race start had several beautiful views of the city sky line but quickly made its way out of town. The race traversed through a few areas of the riverside park but I did feel like it was mostly through rural communities and sleepy neighborhoods. I’m guessing to keep us off the crowded streets as much as possible and limit the need of road closures. On the course map, there were music notes about every 3-4 miles. These notes coincided with locals that volunteered their time and talent in the form of music. The music selection was eclectic ranging from funk band to DJ’s with beat boxes to 1970’s christoff gypsy band (I feel sorry for anyone that had to stand next to that one). The race organizers did a great job keeping us safe and had police at every possible intersection that we may encounter our sometimes less than friendly metal automobile counterparts. IMG_0907The race was supported with aid stations that seemed a little too spaced out but all were employed with excited and eager to assist volunteers who are the blood of any race. The aid stations were stocked with water, gatorade and assorted gels and I never ran across a station that was out of supplies. They even had random cyclists on the course passing out gels to anyone in need. The marathon course was largely an out and back while the half marathon was a loop. The finish line for both was a mum lined street that led under the Soldiers and Sailor Memorial Arch. This arch honors the 4,000 Hartford residents that fought in the American civil war and the 4oo that paid the ultimate price of war. It was a beautiful finish line! The Soldiers and Sailor arch was also the inspiration behind the finisher medal. It was my first visit to Hartford, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the city seemed rich with history. I am not sure, however, that the marathon really took you on a tour of that history versus a tour of the rural backdrop of the city. I would say that I would probably not do this race a second time. But, if you are needing CT for your 50 states, it is not a bad race and the medal is cool since it mimics the Soldiers and Sailor arch.

Base Salt... Yummy..

Base Salt… Yummy..

My goal for the day, as prescribed by my coach, was to run the first 20miles at Z1 which is a heart rate of 146-156 for me. Then, if I felt ok at mile 20, I could let my heart rate creep up into Z2 156-166. As a disclosure, these zones are different for everyone so don’t go out there and try to run my heart rates because they may be too slow or too fast for you. Also, like I said, we were trying out the race nutrition plan that I will use in Kiawah. Again, this is different for everyone. The ONE product that is new to me, and fairly new to the market, is a salt supplement called Base Salt. This may not seem like much, but usually by the end of a marathon, I am craving salt and looking for anything salty I can possibly get my hands on. When I finished this race, I felt normal with no cravings. This is HUGE! The Base Salt has sodium chloride (who are they kidding? that is salt!), calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The process you use to take it in, however, is a little different and I did end up showering myself with the Base Salt once like a bad Miley Cyrus video. Despite this, my overall nutrition plan worked flawlessly and I felt better than I ever have after a marathon. I crossed the line ready for a massage, a beer, and a day old bagel with a banana. Ok, maybe not the bagel but that seems like what most races have at the end. This race actually had some real food options, including homemade pumpkin bread, vegetarian 3 bean chili, and a corn muffin. I was not sure after 4 gels and a handful of shot blocks that 3 bean chili would be my friend or foe, so I decide to forgo the chili and stick with the banana (I feel like my own clique). Off to the massage tent I went for a free rub down and then back to the hotel for a much needed shower.

Ready for laughs

Ready for laughs

Nicole located us a little post-race entertainment in the form of a comedy club. The Brew HaHa club was in the basement of the City Steam Brewery Cafe and Restaurant. We enjoyed a post-race burger and laughs from the extremely politically incorrect comedians. After the show, we took a short walk to the arc for some night pictures and then back to the hotel to retire for the evening. Sunday morning, we headed to the airport around 10am for the trip back to North Carolina. The flight plan was filed and the winds were calm with clear skies and unlimited visibility. Our trip home gave us views of NYC, Jersey shore, Atlantic City and Roanoke.

 

This was our last marathon until we toe the line in December at Kiawah Marathon in South Carolina. Hopefully, after Kiawah, we can add Massachusetts to the 2017 list.

Thanks for reading. Now go run!

Virginia Race week has come and gone.

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Cheetos Race Numbers

Ahhhhhhh….my favorite week is over. Race week. This past weekend Nicole and I made the short 45min flight up to Ashland, VA in crystal clear skies for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon. This race was a tune up race for me but meant a state completed for Nicole. I had already completed Virginia with the Marine Corp Marathon so after the race Nicole got the honor of coloring a state while I just got the honor of rehydrating. I would love to tell you that this race was chosen for its picturesque views of the countryside or that it followed some historic journey that was made on horseback by Patrick Henry. NOPE. I picked this race and regretfully I am not as meticulous when it comes to picking races as Nicole. I usually look at only three factors. First, and most important, is it on the date I need to race? Second, is it the distance I need to race? And third, is it within reasonable flying distance for a weekend? If a race gets all 3 or at least (ah close enough) then I check the box and put it on the calendar. I know what you are thinking and you are wrong. I don’t usually even know the topographic layout of the course until the week before or sometimes I will toe the line without any knowledge of the course. I think it adds to the excitement of racing but some may call it laziness – tomato tomatoe. On the other end of the spectrum, if Nicole chose the race, thought out planning and attention to detail will be used. The town will be speckled with neat shops and cute eateries, all of which menus she will have read and already decided what to order. BUT equally as me would have no idea the course layout until getting to the race start.

Fountain of knowledge

Fountain of knowledge

The Patrick Henry Half start paralleled train tracks that were active with travel cars and cargo. Randolph-Macon college campus was the backdrop for the start and finish line and the location of packet pickup the day before. Don’t plan on arriving to a large expo with vendors and all the latest gadgets for running. Nah- our packet was handed to us by a college-aged girl who could not make the decision between her half filled bag of Cheetos and her volunteer duty of handing out packets. We got our t-shirt and orange finger printed numbers and headed out the door. We thought it might be nice to tour the campus. So, we stepped out the door, looked left and then looked right and decided that we just toured the campus. Instead, we crossed the street to sit at the student gathering spot complete with a fountain and adirondack chairs. After a few uncomfortable minutes in those wooden torture devices we headed back to the hotel to find options for an early dinner.

We had not done extensive research on the town but we saw that they had a Bass Pro Shop and many of the Bass Pro Shops are partnered with a Islamorada Fish Company restaurant. They offered light choices that were suitable pre race and would not produce the bloated belly feeling that usually does not equate to a PR race.

Early to bed and early to rise was the plan for the evening. Race morning started earlier than my brain was able to function. I stumbled around the hotel with confused wonder somehow managing to take in my pre race breakfast and start hydrating. We stayed in a hotel very close to the race and that made the trip to the race start easy. On Friday we had scoped out parking and the ways of getting to that parking without driving through the highly populated race areas. Once parked, I did my pre race warmup and took in my Huma gel 20mins prior to the start.

Virginia for Nicole

Virginia for Nicole

The start line at these smaller community races is humorous. This race had 1106 runners, which for a community race is a pretty high number of runners. The announcements were short and concise with the usual “have fun, don’t kill yourself” kinda arrangement. This race was a little different from many half marathons because it had a 3 hour time limit with checkpoints that you had to be across or they would pull you from the course. I am sure all of which was due to city race permits. I have to say the race course itself was very nice. It quickly within the first mile got out of town and into the country side following rolling hills and vast farms complete with all the smells of nature and cow S@!T. Aid stations were placed every two miles although I usually carry my own bottle and just refill as needed. Coach Beth had a simple plan for me at the race. Run hard and run fast. I tried to accomplish all those goals and feel like I gave it the college try. (see what I did right there- setting of race college campus- college try- I guess you had to be there). Any-who, I raced at the prescribed heart rates and my paces fell into place. Although at times during the race, I was able to talk too easily to make Coach Beth happy. I am sure those are the points in the race that I should have been pushing harder and keeping the pressure in my legs. The course, as mentioned was rolling hills with the exception of mile 11. At mile 11, you start up hill and it last until mile 12 leaving your heart rate jacked and the ability to press on a little more difficult. At the top of the hill you know you are just a few minutes to the finish and hold back the raging war in your belly. The finish line was as eventful packet pick up minus the Cheetos and you were adorned with a new race medal and a bottle of water and sent on your way as all race award would be mailed and results were posted online. I felt like this race was a great community race. I am not sure I would seek this race out again due to the lack of extracurricular activities in the surrounding town but if you are looking for a race on that day and can’t find anything suitable then it is a good option.

Race shirt day for trip home

Trip home in race shirts

Great things about the day. Nicole finished the race feeling great with no issues that usually plague her in distance running (upset stomach, anxiety, etc). Anyone that has those same issues knows what a true success that can be. She was excited to now see where her running can go and knows with Coach Beth and Your262 that she should become even fitter and faster for her A race in December. I set a new PR for me on Saturday. I ran a 1:30:12 which was good enough for 36th place overall and 5th in my age group. I have come to the realization that I am just in a fast age group and no matter how fast I run there are going to be faster people. Although, I am excited and pumped to see where hard work and dedication, along with Coach Beth and Your262, will take me in December.

Thanks for reading – now go run!

Chicago

Chicago

This past weekend brought a much needed long weekend trip with friends Jeff and Liz to the windy city. I have never been to Chicago except to change planes for a layover. I have always loved flying into Chicago. You get a beautiful view of the city as you make the approach into Chicago O’hare with the obvious Hancock Building and Willis Tower (formally known as the Sears Tower) attempting to touch your plane with their white antenna tentacles at their summit. We had a few options to choose from in making our way downtown from the airport. We went with the GoExpress buses that run around the clock. They offer transport service at approximately 21.00 per person and pack you in with as many other travelers as possible. The buses were clean and the driver friendly. Our particular driver had an affection for the Rock’n Roll McDonald’s in downtown Chicago and we got the full story over the 40min drive about it’s history. I will not share my views on McDonald’s because I would not want to offend anyone but I am guessing that if you are reading a blog about running you probably don’t partake of the pink slime burgers very often or at all. Two other ways into the city are by taxi which will run you about 50.00 and by Metro or Rail. Both the Metro and Rail run you about 3.00 per person and yes that is correct 3 dollars. If we traveled back to Chicago that would probably be our choice of transportation since you can actually board the metro and rail inside the airport and it will drop you in downtown close to the Chicago Theatre. We chose that mode for our return trip to the airport, which was great because traffic we passed as we paralleled the highway out of town was backed up and we could have potentially missed our return flight home. One moment of caution, the metro smelled quite odoriferous, ok to put it bluntly it smelled like someone took a pee pretty much over the entire experience.

Chicago Theatre

Chicago Theatre

On to better thoughts. Once inside the city you are immediately struck by the beauty of the large buildings and the iconic symbols that are notorious with Chicago. After traveling up from North Carolina we thought “what the heck” we should get our Friday run out of the way since it was barely 9am when our Sheraton Hotel was gracious enough to let us check in early.

I would pray here.

I would pray here.

Now the great thing about this hotel was the location. Set along the riverside with easy access to the Lakefront trail and also one of the stops on the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus. So we put on our run gear and hit the trail. Friday’s run was short but it gave us a taste of what was in store for Saturday’s long run. After the run we showered and headed into the city. Nicole had scored us some tickets for the trolley on Groupon and like previously mentioned, one of the stops was right outside the hotel. This trolley was a double decker bus with the top deck having no roof so it was great for sightseeing and taking pictures. The bus was also employed with a guide that would talk about interesting facts on buildings and the general history of Chicago. The trolley went to all the normal and prominent tourist locations and it was a hop on hop off arrangement with buses running about every 20mins. It was actually a nice option for sight-seeing.

Portillo's

Portillo’s

However, f you are needing to get to a certain place in the city at a certain time then this is not the transportation for you unless you allot extra travel time. Also, there may still be walking involved to your final destination. The complete loop will take approximately 2 hours to complete from start to finish. One of the stops did bring us to local landmark and a great place to score a Chicago dog, Portillo’s. Chicago dog masterpieces are made with mustard, relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. Don’t ask for Ketchup because it has been rumored that they will make you dance for the condiment because it takes away from the flavor of the beef. Friday was a fairly early night since we had a long run the next day. After light appetizers and drinks with Jeff and Liz, we all made the call to retire for the evening with plans to run at 6am.

Lakefront Trail

Lakefront Trail

The alarm when you are on vacation is a cruel mistress. Like my favorite motivational video says “It’s 6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you …. (enter your own excuse here)” … I was excited to run this morning. It is not every morning I get to run with Nicole, Jeff and get the chance to meet new running friends, if not only for the moment in time we are all doing the same activity. I could look outside my hotel onto the trail and already see droves of runners hitting the trail in packs and I knew that had to be the Chicago Area Runners Association members. That got me pumped for the run. I had a 2 hour run on the docket, Nicole had 1:36mins and Jeff 2:10. Even at 6am there were a lot of runners and cyclists out on the trail. As Jeff and I would pass packs of runners, we would exchange pleasantries and with the simple “Good Morning” or “Good job runners” we would be our way. 30mins into the run, Jeff and I separated as I am training for a specific goal and he is training for a different goal (Ironman Florida) which requires an extremely different running pace. Nicole had her own pace she needed to keep to reach her goals so making much of her run alone time. Alone running did not stop me from chatting with runners as I passed by until it was more important to breath than to talk (we all know that feeling). This trail is spectacular. It is the site of the movie Spirit of the Marathon if I am not mistaken (and please someone correct me if I am wrong).  It runs north to south along the water and passes by many of the landmarks. Buckingham Fountain, Solider Field, the aquarium, and the science center are just a couple locations I passed in my 2 hour out and back run. It has many water fountains along the way, actual bathrooms, and if that wasn’t enough, Fleet Feet (running store) had a manned table along the trail handing out free water and gatorade to everyone running! I only carried a hand held bottle and huma gels which was a great setup. A 2 hour run at home would have required a camelbak and still the possibility of running out of fluids. The 2 hours passed by way to quickly and before you knew it the run was over, very sad and I can feel all of you crying with me. 🙂

Big Breakfast at Yolk

Big Breakfast at Yolk

After a shower, Nicole and Jeff, which happen to be our travel guides had scoped out a trendy breakfast location and we set a course for a big breakfast. Yolk was the name of the establishment but Goliath or Green Giant would have been more fitting because the plates were filled with deliciousness and the portion could have fed a small family or one runner. Strangely enough, after two eggs, two pancakes, sausage, bacon and a slice of orange I was full. Ok, ok I was more than full, I was hurting and it tasted so good. No time for the rested, weary or bloated. We hit the city with a passion. If you can pick a Chicago landmark then we had to see it.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

Jeff’s watch keeps track of steps and between the morning run and walking the city he almost hit 40,000 steps. According to a quick search on google, that is pretty close to 20miles! Afternoon or Beer ’30, whichever you prefer, brought us to a tour of the Lagunitas Brewery outside of town for a tasting of the local micro brew and a purchase of some for later consumption. That evening we hit a nice white table cloth dinner at Topolobampo, a restaurant known to the foodies out there like Nicole. The food was amazing and the service was top notch although the price was $$$$ in my opinion. Make reservations early if you know you are traveling to Chicago.

We were all exhausted from the day and were hopeful we could stay alive until the fireworks over Navy Pier that happen every Saturday night, but their was no chance. I think we were all asleep by 9:30p.

On the Ledge

On the Ledge

Sunday is always a sad day for our weekend getaways. This trip we stayed in town until a later flight in the afternoon. So we took our chances on the SkyDeck which is the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. It is just a normal trip up to the 103rd floor on the elevator. But once there you can see breath taking views of the city North, South, East and West. What made this tower different was the glass boxes jettisoning out from the wall known as The Ledge. That’s right, you are 103 stories up in a glass box over the side of the building. I think my over whelming desire for preservation of self took over and I was actually nervous at first to step out onto the glass. Heading back down the elevator you almost got the feeling that you just escaped death and pulled one over on the grim reaper.

Chicago Pizza

Chicago Pizza

What better way to celebrate that accomplishment than, you guessed it, deep dish Chicago pizza. Once the pizza was over, so was our weekend and we parted ways with our friends until November. Pee drenched metro ride to the airport and a quick flight home and you are immediately in the reality that you are not independently wealthy and you have to work tomorrow….. Thanks for coming along our trip….

IMG_1709Well, we are about 4 weeks into training and all is well. I have to say I love having a coach to help me understand the how and why of getting to my goal. The weekend of July 4th we had a little tune up 5k with the only goal of going fast. The course was a little long (3.14 vs 3.1) and hilly. Nicole gave the second mile the loving name of Hell Hill. I managed a 21:13 which you can extrapolate out was a 20:53 5k with the added distance. That time was good enough for 1st place 30-39 age group. Here’s something you might find funny that happened during the race. Nicole was also doing the 5K as they had two options, 5K and 1mile fun run. The 1 mile fun run started after the 5k was entirely finished. At about 1.5 miles into the race, she comes along this kid that looks to be 9ish years old. Picture this kid standing on the side of the road bent over at the waist with his hands on his knees panting for air. We have all been there, right? Nicole in her supportive way told the kid he was doing great just keep going. The kid looks up at her and asks “Is this the 1 mile or the 3 mile run?” Nicole says “The 3 mile run.” The kid then in disgust says “I was suppose to do the 1 mile run”. Poor little fella. Nicole just kept running…..

HOTANDHUMID

Weather Forecast in North Carolina

Here in the US and more exactly the South Eastern section of the US, marathon season is on hiatus during this extremely hot and humid time of year. Well that is unless you enjoy becoming dehydrated and hallucinating during long runs in 90+ degree weather. Most states have hung up the towel on marathons until the fall, except maybe a few of our northern states that still enjoy days in the mid 70’s. For me in past years, summers meant triathlon and shorter distance running. This year is different because I officially retired from the Ironman scene after my last race in 2013. Since that race, I have been focused on just running. I will usually run with anyone, anytime and for any distance (within reason). I want this year to be different, I want a goal race and a goal time. Often I race not with the intentions of running hard but merely to enjoy the day and the people in the race. So this year my goal is to make December 2015 special. We already have plans to compete in the Kiawah, South Carolina marathon which boasts a flat course and cool weather but usually absent from the snow and ice obstacles.

under a rockAsk any runner where is the place you eventually want to run. Most of the time you will get one answer unless that person lives under a rock. The only answer is Boston. Now fun facts. The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897 and was not 26.2 miles. Oh no, it was a mere 24.5 miles (slackers)! It was not until 1924 that the course was lengthened to 26 miles 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard and the starting line (originally in Ashland) was moved to Hopkinson. Excuse me while I take off my professor hat and put my running shorts back on.

As many of you that run, read this site, walk upright and breathe oxygen know, Boston requires a qualifying time from another marathon. That marathon must be certified as a Boston qualifier. The qualifying time is based on sex and age. (I wonder where Bruce Jenner, I mean CAITLYN, would fall in the qualifying times?) Sorry about that, I was getting a little cheeky. A male of my age needs a time of 3:10 and under, meaning a 3:10:01 is a no go to Boston. However, knowing what time you need and knowing how to get your body to that time are two different beasts. I have friends from my home town that could pop out a 3:10 on training days. I aspire to be that fast but I am not (yet). I have ran a lot of marathons and my times are usually 3:30 – 3:45ish depending on training and the day’s goals. I have said in the past I feel like I am in a rut with my running and need a push to get me out. So, I need help from a coach that knows all about running.

In 2012 when I was training for Ironman Texas, I thought long and hard about getting a coach through QT2. At the time, I was not sure that the cost was worth the coaching since I am not a professional and my next meal did not depend on me finishing on the podium. Gladly, because I would be a skinny racer. Recently, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a professional triathlete, who just so happens as fate would have it, races for QT2. Through conversation, I told her my goals and that I wished that QT2 had a marathon focused division. She said “you are in luck, we actually just started one last year”. I came home and researched the coaching that QT2 offered through their Your26.2 website and filled out the athlete questionnaire online. Now most of you know how this works. You first go to these websites and pick a goal distance, goal time and pick a coach that made the plan from a list. Then the website spits out this generic plan that may or may not work for your body and ability. Your26.2 was different. They do have options for free plans that work very similar to that, but if you keep doing the same thing then you can not expect different results. Your26.2 offers coaching from none other than ACTUAL coaches. Within a very short time a coach emailed me and said “Hi when is a good time to talk over the phone”. Coach Beth and I had a conversation that easily lasted 45mins about past races, goals, time span, basically my running resume. She then told me to expect some emails over the next couple days regarding tests she would need me to complete in order to get the most accurate heart rate zones. Using that information, she would then start formulating my plan. Now keep in mind that my race is a fair number of months away, so I choose their Mission Plan for 12 weeks to start. So, after all the information from the resume is gathered, she makes up the plan 3-4 weeks at a time and posts it in my online journal through QT2.

How I look running

How I look running

This journal is how we log our workout information, including the files from my watch and little notes about the run. You may be thinking this doesn’t sound much different than the free online plans. However, there is a very important difference in that you have access to coaches through a forum. On this forum, you can ask any question at any time and it is answered fully and promptly. I was sold! After the initial 12 weeks, I am planning on going to the one-on-one plan where you have full access to your coach through phone and email. The coach will then make on the fly adjustments to your workouts depending on previous data logs. I am not sure how long it will last but they are offering a discount on coaching if it is your first time with the site (Mission plans only).

So what does this all mean? It means I now have a running coach, I now have a goal, I now have a plan and it is now time to do WORK. The plan started yesterday and I am excited to see gains when they decide to show up. I will keep everyone posted on the progress and anything funny that happens during the process.