Monday, December 28, 2009

Part 3 of My Trip Out West

So to continue my backwards recap of my trip, I'll end where it began with Zion/Springdale, UT. When I arrived in Vegas, Will picked me up at the airport and we drove down the strip to head out of town. We stopped to walk through the Wynn and Encore hotel/casinos as we had heard they are the newest and we wanted to see them. (The Aria opened the last day of our trip.) We stopped and had lunch at a great little restaurant in The Wynn. It had 'terrace' in the name, but I don't remember the whole name. It was warm enough to sit outside so we enjoyed a nice view of the hotel pool and ate salads among the many birds on the terrace.
We left Vegas and headed East to Utah. There really isn't much in the 2.5 hour drive between Vegas and Springdale. We did drive through St. George, but couldn't see much from the road. It was mostly flat. Mostly desert. Mostly deserted.

We arrived at the Desert Pearl Inn, just off the road while it was still daylight. The hotel was nice and the town was very quaint. It was off season so there were very few tourists in town, but the locals were out and about.














After we settled into the hotel, we went for a short run through Zion National Park, which was about 3 miles from our hotel. I wore shorts, two shirts, a hat, gloves and my trail running shoes. We were in the shade most of the time so it was still pretty cold. We got in a decent run and just took in the sights. It was so beautiful! In Zion you start in the canyon and hike or run up.















Will had to work some while we were there so I had some time to myself to run, take pictures, read and relax. The first morning we were in Springdale, I got up and went for a run. I wore some running pants, two shirts, a hat and gloves. It was 27* or less. I had planned to run for an hour, but after 33 minutes, I headed back to the hotel for a warm shower and hot coffee. I relaxed on a sofa in the gift shop with my coffee and read Nelson DeMille's 'The Gatehouse.'


In the afternoon, we hiked Angel's Landing and the West Rim Trail. Angel's Landing is the most popular attraction at Zion. If you make it to the top (pictured left) you can see the entire canyon.










Will had been telling me about his previous hike up Angel's Landing. He told me that there's two spots where it's really, really scary. He also told me about a conversation with his uncle where he learned that a week before we were there, a woman died in a fall off of Angel's Landing. The second such death this year.









Angel's Landing













Walter's Wiggles - along the path to Angel's Landing



We walked the paths up Angel's Landing and then got to the technical section. We started climbing using the chains available. We didn't get far. I started getting a little dizzy and decided it wasn't a good day for me to go all the way to the top of Angel's Landing. I wasn't 100% and was feeling shaky already. We hadn't even gotten to the scariest part. I have to admit that the stories of the women dying this year got to me. It was humiliating seeing people coming down walking upright past us. But I still feel that day wasn't a good day for me to attempt it. I will have to go back and attempt this again!



We went left and hiked the West Rim Trail from the landing. It was still very gorgeous and a great hike.














The second day we hiked the East Rim Trail. Below are images from that hike:

This hike was gorgeous and longer though not as strenuous. We found a few arches along the way.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Now Here's Something I Hope You'll Really Like!

The holidays are hectic! This one is even more so because I've been spending time with Adam's family as well as mine. So it's taken me a couple of weeks to get back and post about my favorite part of my trip out West!

We left Springdale, UT (where we stayed when we hiked in Zion (more on that later)) on Friday evening and headed to Bryce Canyon. I think the drive was about 2 hours and as we went we saw more and more snow. I wish our car had had an outside temperature gauge so I could have taken pictures of the temperature dropping. It was so cold!

The drive went through a lot of very small towns that sprouted up between vast areas of nothing. In the South, where I spend most of my time traveling, you see pine forests along the interstates and even the back roads are lined with houses, pine forests and the occasional corn field. But in Utah, it was bare mountains, bare fields and the occasional cow pasture. A small amount of snow was on the ground, though, and it made everything look so beautiful. We finally arrived at Ruby's Inn near Bryce Canyon where we stayed the night. It was pretty dark when we arrived and a good 20* colder than where we'd left. The area where Ruby's is, is not very populated. There were about 3 hotels, a gas station...and that's about it. It was also not tourist season so most places had closed for the season. It reminded me a little of the movie 'The Shining.'

After dinner, we spent some time warming up in the hot tub. The Inn had an indoor pool and hot tub. Unfortunately a loud, rowdy group of boys had taken over this area and made it less than relaxing. So we got out and turned in early. We decided to go to Bryce Canyon very early so we could see the sunrise over the Canyon. I'd seen pictures of the sunrise and I was excited to see it for myself. I had a roommate 11 years ago who had been to Bryce and showed me pictures. I'd wanted to go since then and I was almost too excited to sleep!

The alarm went off around 5am so that we could get ready for a 7:20am sunrise. I got right out of bed without hitting snooze. That has likely never happened before. The night before we heard it would be a very, very cold morning so I'd mentally prepared my outfit for it. I turned on the TV while Will started getting ready. It was 8*. Officially the coldest temperature I've ever experienced! But it's a dry cold, right? I was most shocked to see on the Weather Channel that it was snowing in Houston, TX!

I put on a pair of running pants that I'd brought for lounging around in. Then I put on my hiking pants over it and was excited to see that I could fasten them over the other pants. This was looking good! Then I put on my UnderArmor shirt, then the thin shirt I'd been hiking in, then the shirt I'd brought to run the race in and then the warmest sweater I own which really isn't for hiking. Then my jacket. Luckily it all fit. I put on my hat and gloves and then noticed Will had taken everything out of his suitcase and had flipped the case over and was shaking it.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"My other glove." He replied.

Will had either lost or left his other glove at home. After checking the suitcase and the car, the other glove was not found. We grabbed coffee and hot chocolate from the restaurant downstairs and headed towards the park. It was cold and dark and we were the only people in the park that early. The only fools!

We parked and walked up to 'Sunrise Point.' There was some snow and ice on the paths so you had to be careful where you stepped.
I began passing the time by snapping some pictures of sights I found interesting. It was so incredible even in the low light before dawn. Will spent the time trying to get warm. He ran around and did jumping jacks, keeping one ungloved hand in his pocket the whole time.









Unfortunately, and as is my luck, it was cloudy this morning and a clear view a picture of the sunrise over Bryce Canyon was not to be. It was still gorgeous and still worth seeing. There is nothing else like Bryce Canyon in the world. After we gave up on the sunrise, we did a short hike through the Canyon. It was about 3 miles and it took us through "Wall Street."






















The hike was gorgeous and I did end up warming up by the end of it. I'm happy to report that Will didn't lose any digits as a result of his one-gloved hike!









Monday, December 14, 2009

Vegas Baby!

Yeah, I hate my title too.

I had a wonderful time out West! But I'll start with my least favorite part. The half marathon in Vegas.

The race started at 6:15am in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. I stayed at the Wynn. When I looked at the map provided by the marathon, my hotel looked like it was roughly 2 - 2.5 miles from the start. "Cool, nice warm up, I thought." I left my hotel at 5:30am to head to the race. I had a little trouble getting out of the hotel and onto the strip. They make it so confusing so you'll just stay and gamble at the casino! Anyway, I ran into a line of people waiting to take a shuttle to the race. I thought about taking the shuttle, but I was too antsy to stand there in the freezing cold (it was 30* at the start) and I thought "It's only two miles." So I started running down the strip towards the Mandalay Bay. The street had been closed to traffic and me and one other person were the only crazy people running in the street to the start. It was actually pretty cool. While I hate getting out of bed early in the morning, there is nothing like being outside when people and places are waking up.
But of course this is Vegas which is open 24 hours a day. I wasn't surprised to see people stumbling out of casinos at 5:45am, I was surprised at HOW MANY people were stumbling out of casinos at 5:45am. I passed one group of five or six drunk people who asked me "Has the marathon started already?" so I replied "Yeah, I'm winning!" They cheered for me. After I'd run about half a mile, I still couldn't see the Mandalay Bay. I asked a cop blocking a side street if the Mandalay Bay was in the direction I was heading and he said "Yeah, a long way that way." I laughed thinking "Not if you run marathons."

Turns out the cop had the last laugh. By the time I got to my corral, I'd run at least 3.5 miles. I had 2 minutes to spare and had to stand in line to get into my corral. I saw a guy climbing over the fence to get in to the same corral. I recognized him as the guy standing in the back of the line to get onto the shuttle at the hotel. I felt that I'd made the right decision to run to the start. I would have gone mad standing in line and cutting it that close. As it was I felt pretty good and really ready to run a good race.

The race started and being in corral 4, I was 3 minutes off the line. I felt really strong and ready to run. I ran the first mile at an 8:42 pace. It was really cold. I wore shorts, an Under Armor shirt with another dry fit shirt over that. A hat and gloves. I should have worn tights.

The first part of the race heads from the Mandalay Bay towards the airport then you turn 360* and head back up the strip. When I made that turn, I was running directly into the wind and the sun was barely up. Brr! The course, however, was completely flat and for that I was grateful. At mile 2 I was still running sub-9 miles. At this point we were running past where we'd started and I could see a significant number of runners still waiting to start. There were 27,000 total runners in 30 corrals starting both races. I wondered why they'd hurried to get into their corrals.
I ran sub-9 miles until roughly mile 5 or 6. Into mile 7, which was really mile 10.5 for me, my foot started to hurt and I was tired. I began slowing down at that point. Luckily, there was no surprise hill at the end, like Chicago! I managed to finish at 2:09. I was happy with that, all things considered. It was really the 3.5 mile walk back that killed me!

There were a few things I liked about this course in addition to the flat course. The hotels broadcasted race coverage on the screens on their signs along the strip. It was pretty neat to see where the leaders were on the course. There were plenty of water stops along the course. The crowd support was adequate given the time the race started and the temperature. The start and the finish line seemed to be well organized. There were lots of great goodies in the race packet and at the finish line.

Things I didn't like include the lack of bands. It was a Rock 'n' Roll series race and I remember 3 bands on the course for the half. The organizers claim there were 35, but I don't think they know what they're talking about. The packet pickup parking was disorganized and we spent 15 minutes looking for a spot in the parking deck. We finally gave up and parked across the street. Some direction would have been nice. Additionally, finding the packet pickup area was difficult. We had to walk probably a mile through the Mandalay Bay to find the small room we needed. The place was packed with people and there were no signs directing you. The expo was small and pretty crappy.

There were a number of interesting sights on the course, as you can imagine. There was a small temporary wedding chapel set up at mile 3 or 4 and 50 couples were married during the race in a 3 minute wedding ceremony. I counted 7 Elvi (the plural form of 'Elvis'), 3 Amigos running together, 3 Santa Clauses, 1 Superman (there's always a superman!), one cheesehead, and one Captain America. The Captain America was a first!

Overall it wasn't bad, but I don't plan to do this race again. I'm glad I did it, but Vegas just isn't me. Too cheesy, too sad, really.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Las Vegas here I come!

I leave very, very early tomorrow for Vegas. 6am flights should be outlawed. I'm looking forward to being out West, but not getting there. I have a layover in Cincinnati. I met Adam in the airport in Cincinnati8) Still a layover by yourself is no fun. I'm bringing Nelson DeMille's latest book 'The Gatehouse.' Heard it isn't one of his bests, but I still love the way he tells a story.

I'm looking forward to hiking in Utah's Zion National Park. I've never been to Utah, but I've heard it's "by far the most beautiful state." I'm bringing my camera and hope to get some good shots.

As for the race, I really don't know how it's going to go. I'm on my second round of antibiotics for a sinus infection and it doesn't seem to be going away. I'm hoping between now and Sunday I make a remarkable recovery!

Pics and more to come!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Second Half of TR Preview '09

This year I was able to run both Thunder Road Preview runs. In previous years I only made it to one. The second half started at 7am on Saturday and is a lot less hilly than the first half.

The night before the run, I attended a party for the Charlotte Running Club with Adam, Jody and Molly. Adam and Jody are members of this running club. It was a nice, small affair at Dilworth Neighborhood Bar & Grill. They had appetizers that included salad, meatballs, chips & spinach dip and little spiral ham sandwiches. Being a vegetarian, I could eat only the salad and spinach dip. It was tasty but hardly enough to eat before a long run. Jody, Molly and I only stayed for about an hour and a half and then headed to the Evening Muse for a concert.

We weren't out terribly late, but I somehow managed to sleep through my alarm. Molly's early text woke me up at about 10 minutes after my alarm went off and I pulled myself out of bed. Luckily I still had plenty of time to get ready, do my foot exercises and get out the door to the Dowd Y. I found Molly and our friend Christi and spent a few minutes talking with them before we took off at about 7am. Unfortunately, I didn't know anyone there who ran my pace.

This part of the race starts on the flatter section of Morehead and heads west towards a not so great section of Charlotte. We took a left onto South Tryon and headed towards Southend. This area is growing and becoming more residential as the Linx's light rail drives right through it. Though there are a lot of new apartment and condo buildings, the area still remains pretty industrial looking. While it's not pretty, it is flat and that is a nice thing to be at miles 13-18 in a marathon. We wound around Southend on Tremont, Camden, West Blvd and into downtown via Mint St., 4th St., Cedar St. and Trade St. I was trying to keep Christi, Molly and the ladies they were running with in my sight. At about mile 5, along Caldwell, they had stopped at a port-a-potty and Christi told me I was probably keeping a 9 minute pace. My body felt like I was pushing it.

When we started out again, I continued trying to keep up the pace. However about 2 miles later, I knew I needed to slow it down. This section of the course heads towards the North Davidson area, or NoDa. It's the original artsy neighborhood in Charlotte. While it's the most interesting area in Charlotte, it's not pretty getting there. From Caldwell we took a left onto Parkwood, which is a wide four laned street that isn't heavily populated. We passed some new condos that looked a lot like the condos downtown. Charlotte really should branch out architecturally speaking. At N. Davidson, we hung a right and headed towards the art galleries, bars and music venues that define NoDa. The course begins reintroducing hills at this point. There's a large, long hill just past Madison Ave. on N. Davidson that had everyone groaning. This hill would be a nightmare during a marathon coming at mile 19, but at mile 6 or 7 of the preview, it really wasn't bad.

Unfortunately the course turns of N. Davidson at 35th St., just before you get to the heart of NoDa. However, 35th St. has some of the cutest houses in the NoDa area. They aren't new, large houses, they're older with a lot of character. Most have porches. All have very cute front yards with great flowers and shrubs. Some of the houses are hidden by the flowers and greenery in the front yard, but it adds to the character of the place. It's obvious there is no home owner's association sucking the creativity from the street and squashing a sense of community. Also this road is flat, so I really loved it. I caught up to a fellow CRMG club member who was walking due to a calf injury. I walked and talked with him as I was not in a hurry to turn onto The Plaza. He assured me he could make it to the end and I started running again.

We turn right on The Plaza and start heading towards the Plaza-Midwood area. The Plaza is a long street that changes socio-economic conditions twice. The part we start on, reminds me of Pensacola. I didn't live in Pensacola long enough to remember living there, but we traveled back to visit family 3-4 times a year. This section of The Plaza contains a lot of concrete, some run-down stores, some discount stores and a discount grocery store. There are a lot of people walking or waiting at the bus stops and old cars parked in the parking lots. It's not scary during the daytime.

We turn left at a funky intersection that takes us onto the nicer part of The Plaza. This stretch is residential and contains old Victorian houses mixed with small homes that were probably built in the 60s. They're very cute with well landscaped yards and nice sidewalks. It's an extreme contrast from where we had just run. This section is flat and Kristie and Jaclyn from CRMG have caught up to me. I speak with them a little and they stay close enough behind me that I can hear their conversation without trying. From here we loop around a part of Plaza-Midwood I don't usually run through. It's a really cute area with great little houses that are well kept. I stopped and check an information sheet for one that was for sale. There wasn't a price listed, but I'm sure it's out of my range. This section has some small hills, but for the most part is pretty flat. From this section we continue down Central Ave. and back into downtown, hitting one major hill on the way. I'm surprised that I have enough energy to get up it. I took one GU with me and I'm starting to fade as the 'dinner' the night before was not enough to sustain a long run. By the time we get to Morehead, about a mile from the finish at the Dowd Y, I had to walk about a block.

At the finish I'd run about 14 miles. Time to party! We had a larger than normal group at Bruegger's for celebratory bagels and coffee. It was Christi's birthday and she brought a few friends with her. Some other CRMG members joined us and people filtered in and out. It was such a fun way to start the weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TR '09 Preview

Last weekend I ran the first half of the Thunder Road Marathon Preview run with Cantey. My longest run since the Salem Lake 30K had been eight miles so I really didn't know how this run was going to go. The run started at 7am and the temperature was in the 50s. It was actually a tad warm for a long run.

I got to the parking lot at the Y early, signed in and got my shirt. RFYL, who organizes the TR Marathon and it's preview runs, supplied water and Powerade along the route and you got a very nice technical shirt for signing up. I found Cantey in line after I signed in and waited with her. There must have been close to 300 people waiting to run the course.

Cantey and I started out a little after 7am and the rest of the runners caught up to us about a quarter of a mile into the run. By the time we reached the first mile, all the fast runners had passed us and we were at a somewhat comfortable pace somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The preview course is a little different from the real course as we start at the Dowd Y on Morehead and not the start line on College. So the start was a nice downhill to flat. After the first mile we started climbing out of downtown and up 4th St./Randolph Rd. Then we turned onto Colville, which I've run many times. It's about 3/4 of a mile of large rolling hills, but it's very beautiful. It's in one of the older Charlotte neighborhoods with huge, beautiful houses priced $1.5M and up. I love this neighborhood. It has character and most importantly it has three drinking fountains and nice wide streets. At the end of Colville is a short, but steep hill that I often avoid on my runs. For whatever reason, probably all the company and the fact that I wasn't exhausted yet, the hill wasn't that bad and I scooted right up it.

After Colville we turned left onto Providence Rd. Every long race in this town goes up Providence Rd. The only explanation for this fact that I have is that it is one of the few long roads in Charlotte and race directors like to avoid turns as much as possible on a race route. Providence Rd is all uphill. Both ways. OK, not both ways, but it's uphill the only way we ever race it. Slow inclines, short inclines and some nice rolling hills make up Providence Rd. When I drive Providence Rd., I notice the quaint homes that line it with their long, well landscaped, front lawns. When I run it, I don't see any of that crap, just the asphalt. When we turned onto Sharon Rd. from Providence, I think we were at about four miles. I felt pretty good at this point. My body didn't hurt and I didn't feel tired. Cantey and I were catching up and the miles were flying by.

From Sharon we turned into the Arborway neighborhood. This is another nice neighborhood in Charlotte, though the houses aren't nearly as large. It's full of rolling hills, but on this course there are no big hills in this neighborhood. When we exited the neighborhood back onto Sharon Rd. we were right around seven miles. I decided to eat my Pure Bar for energy. I discovered I was out of GU at 8pm the night before and there are no running stores open after 7pm. So I brought a Pure Bar instead because I can't make it through a long run without some energy boost. We walked while I ate and that brought us really close to the turn onto Sharon Ln. where we started running again.

On Sharon Ln. we ran passed what are probably the most expensive houses in Charlotte. This is in the Southpark area and there are some very large houses on this street. About a handful of them actually have a lot of acreage around them. While there's nothing spectacular about these houses, I would say they're a "must see" for visitors to this area because they are a tribute to what Charlotte looked like before the Banks moved here.

Another great thing about Sharon Ln. is that it is a downward slope to a much appreciated downhill before turning onto Chilton Pl. Chilton Pl. has some nice rolling hills leading you to Queens Rd. West which takes you along the backside of the Booty Loop and into the heart of Myers Park. It was along the Booty Loop that I started feeling the long run. My calves and hamstrings started getting sore and tight and I started thinking about walking some of the hills. Luckily Cantey, who had run the Dowd Y Half Marathon the weekend before, remembered this street from that race and told me that these hills weren't as bad as they looked. She was right, but my legs were still unhappy with me.

We stopped at the water/Powerade station just before the turn from Kings onto Morehead. I ran into a guy from high school named Tim at this stop. I hadn't seen him in quite a few years and was surprised to hear that he is planning to run the full Thunder Road Marathon in December. After chatting briefly we wished him luck and started running up Morehead. Luckily the race course ducks into the Dilworth neighborhood and doesn't go all the way up Morehead. I was doing pretty good on the somewhat flat Berkeley Pl. but when we turned to run up Romany I gave up and walked. Cantey ran ahead and waited for me at the top. It's not a big hill. Romany is actually a very small hill. Tiny really. I've run Romany many times and so I now have a mental block about it. It was the last time that I walked, though. We ran the rest of the route that included taking Euclid (nice rolling hills) back to the Dowd Y.

Towards the end of the run I did feel some pain in my left arch, which tells me that I'm not fully healed yet. Which is really too bad because I am itching to get back into marathon training. I'm actually dreaming about doing speed work and running up hills and long runs. I don't want to chance a relapse, so I'll stick with half marathons for now.

This Saturday is the second half of the Thunder Road Marathon Preview run. It's not nearly as pretty or interesting as the first half. It is a tad flatter. I'll be out there. I may time this half.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

4.NinerK and Other Lifebits

So forgot to recap the 4.NinerK I did at the end of October. It was the inaugural event and the race was really great. The weather was crappy. It started off overcast, but then poured a minute before the race started. There was intermittent rain during the race and another downpour after I finished. But it really didn't ruin the event.

I got to UNCC early and was able to find the free parking deck next to the Student Union building, both of which were not there when I attended UNCC. The whole start area was completely new to me. It was very nice and the outside fit with the style of the older buildings. I got my packet which contained M&Ms (nice!), a UNCC koozie (awesome!) and a great race t-shirt (awesomer!). It was a pale yellow and had the green Charlotte 49ers symbol on it. The usual glut of sponsor logos on the back, but it was still a nice shirt. The race packet was given to us in paper Trader Joe's bags. It was great because I love TJ's and it's recyclable. It was not great that it was raining and that tends to disintegrate paper.

I decided to run most of the course as a warm up. UNCC is a hilly, hilly campus. I wasn't a runner when I attended college and that's probably a good thing! My feet hurt during the warm up. I had had my first Graston appointment two days before and they were still pretty tender. The loop I ran was probably 2 1/2 miles and it went by some of the older buildings that I remembered. It was good to see they haven't updated Smurf Village. I can't remember the real name of these on-campus apartments, but since they were painted blue we called them Smurf Village. They were really crappy, too, and they still are. It was interesting to see that they added a Greek Village for Sororities and Fraternities. Something I was opposed to as it tends to segregate the students. It was good to see that even though there has been a lot of construction on campus, there is still a lot of green space left.

I ended up with a lot of time between my warm up and the race so I was able to walk around the Student Union center some. When I was there, they had just gotten some fast food restaurants on campus; Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell. That was it. In the new Student Center there was a Wendy's, a convenience store, a Mrs. Fields, and of course a Starbucks. I started thinking that maybe going back to school wasn't such a bad idea. But then I saw some students walk by on their way to class, on a Saturday, and got that familiar pit in my stomach thinking about studying and deadlines, exams, presentations and I thought better of it.

They lined the roughly 300 of us runners up for an 8:49 start (we're the 49ers, get it?). Bobby Lutz, the men's basketball coach gave a short thank you/inspirational speech. I don't remember it, I never listen to these things. It's usually at this point when I wonder why I pay money to come run when I could run on my own and start whenever I get there. But, as I said before, a minute after a downpour started we were released on the course. The race started with a somewhat steep downhill with a turn to the right. Then a long uphill and a turnaround about 1/4 of a mile up. The next 1/4 of a mile was downhill, then a long ascent towards the front of the campus. The next mile and a half was gentle rolling hills and then a short steep downhill then a tad longer steep uphill, but then there was about 3/4 of a mile of gradual downhill. Very nice! However, then we had to go back up the hill where we started! The ending was brutal. I managed a 29:10 which isn't great, but considering my feet hurt the whole time, I'll take it.

I did see a few interesting things along the course. The first was a lady who carried her packet with her on her hip during the race. She would transfer it from hip to hip as her arm got tired. Sadly I couldn't pass this woman! As I mentioned, the race packets were in a paper bag, so the rain caused a hole in the bottom and at one point she lost a package of M&Ms, which she didn't stop to pick up. I'm assuming she didn't have a car to leave her packet. I would have just taken the shirt and left the rest, but I guess she really needed a koozie.

There were several young (late teens/early20s maybe) guys running the race who would stop and walk and then start running again. I couldn't believe they couldn't run 3 miles, but had signed up for a race. Then it occurred to me that they were probably out partying the night before and hadn't slept all night.

Since this was a college campus event, there were a lot of students or younger runners. There were only 12 women in my age group running the race. Lucky for me, this helped me come in second in my age group and I got a lovely medal. It was an unexpected surprise as I really didn't feel like I'd done my best. It does make me want to run this again next year and try to take first.

So I've been really busy these days. All that time when I wanted a boyfriend, I'd forgotten how much time they take! But it's really nice to have someone to share time with. I've done a few more projects on the condo. I painted the fireplace and replaced the over-the-range microwave. Next up is to paint the bathroom cabinets, hire a landscaper and a real estate agent. I bought some new bedroom furniture from a store that is going out of business. I've been wanting a sleigh bed and bedside tables and I found some I really, really like. It's going to be a few weeks before they get here and I have to get the old stuff out. Just in time for the holidays!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keeping Busy

The Graston technique I've been subjected to twice now really, really does work! My foot feels worlds better than it did! I ran 8 miles last night and had only a small amount of pain. I'm confident that after only a few more treatments I'll be able to run without pain at all.





So feeling like superwoman, I started looking at distance races. Nevermind that I'm signed up for the Vegas half and haven't run more than 8 miles in months and it's only 4 weeks away. I'm looking at the Minneapolis Marathon June 6th. It's far enough away for training purposes and it gives me another state. I also read about a 50K that sounds like something I'd like to do. It's in January, so I won't make it this year. But I'm putting it on the list for 2011.





Other than running, life has been pretty busy. My best friend had her baby. She's perfect! I typically think all babies look alike and can't see how one could be more beautiful than the other, but this baby really is! She has a perfect little round head and the sweetest face.





I've also been to several concerts: OAR, Blues Traveler, Pat McGee, Bryan Adams and Guster.
Pat McGee was awesome! He had a full band (6 members, I believe) and they sounded great. They played a lot of great songs and joked with each other. It was by far the best concert I've seen him do. It seemed like he was really excited to be there. Bryan Adams was great as well. It was an acoustic show and his first acoustic tour. He's such a talented song writer and had a lot of material to play. He told a few stories about the songs and why he wrote them, which is what you'd expect he to do at this particular type of performance. I was surprised to find out that the song 'Heaven' was actually written for a film about a love story involving a male stripper. He said he put that out of his mind and just wrote a beautiful love song. Guster was a bit disappointing. The first time I saw them in 2007, it was the best concert I'd ever seen. I loved how the audience got into the music and how you could hear them singing even over the music. This time, though the concert was completely sold out and the theatre packed, it just didn't have the same vibe. The band seemed a bit clumsy and not as in sync as the last concert. But I'm glad I went, I just hope they are better next time.

I missed Ari Hest at the Muse so that I could carve a pumpkin with Adam. I love

Halloween and I love pumpkins, but I'd never carved one. It's harder than it looks. But it turned out awesome! Which is good because it took two hours.

Halloween we went to a party in Davidson. It got pretty crazy. I went as 'I Dream of Jeannie's' Jeannie. So with my mid-drift out for the world to see, I drank very little beer and didn't eat any of the party food. So Sunday was a great day as I wasn't hung over! There were some great costumes at the party. There was a Kate from 'Kate Plus Eight', a Rainbow Bright, a shark attack, and a Mark Sanford and his mistress. Adam went as a stripper firefighter and his brother was Richard Simmons.

So with Halloween over we enter that part of the year that flies by. I have bought 3 gifts and have an idea for one other gift. The rest I'm clueless about.




Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Don't Have a Title

So still injured, but it is feeling a lot better. I've completely stopped wearing my Asics and it's making a huge difference. I have an appointment with a doctor tomorrow to try the Graston technique. I read and heard that it's painful. Oh joy.

I'm staying optimistic and part of that optimism is planning and running races. This weekend I'm running my first ever 4.9K. It's at my Alma Mater and I'm looking forward to seeing the campus again. It's been a couple of years since I've run a race there and seen it. After that I plan to run the Turkey Trot 8K on Thanksgiving, a half in Charleston in January and the Uwharrie 8 Miler in February. Sometime after February I'd like to find a marathon to do.

Other than running I have been staying pretty busy lately. I went to 3 concerts last week. OAR, Blues Traveler and Pat McGee. I had never seen OAR before and was impressed. We had fun even though we had to stand outside at the NC Music Factory Amphitheatre in the cold rain. It was in the 50s, which isn't bad if you're running, but not when you're standing in the rain. The concert was good and the crowd was really into it. The next night we saw Blues Traveler. This was inside at the new Fillmore theatre downtown. I love this place. It's an old warehouse that has been converted. The acoustics are great. The decor reminds me of clubs in Charlotte in the 80s. Red velvet drapes, chandeliers, etc. The next night was Pat McGee at the Visulite Theatre. This was my 5th timing seeing Pat and it was by far the best. He had a full band on stage and they cut up and seem to really enjoy playing. I ended up staying until close to 1 am.

I have a couple more concerts next week and a halloween run planned. It's going to be a great week! I'm already tired thinking about it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Still Injured

So my plantar issue is still there. However, I'm certain now that it is my Asics 2130s. So no more running in them! I'll now be running in my Mizuno Alchemy shoes which I purchased a month ago. When I run in them, the pain is not as bad. However, my casual cold weather shoes are a bit of an issue. The weather has turned a little cooler and I'm no longer wearing my flat flip flops. So my left foot has been in a great deal of pain lately. I've started a new treatment using witch hazel, which Adam swears by. I love holistic remedies so I'm on board with this one. I've started with soaking a wash cloth and then pinning it on my foot, but I plan to start soaking it in a bucket of the stuff soon. I'll keep you posted;)

I fear a reduction of miles is in my future. Thankfully I'll still have swimming and spin class, but they're just not the same. I guess a break every now and then is a good thing, but when it comes as the weather is perfect for running, it sucks. But maybe now I'll have time to learn the guitar! My first guitar lesson happened this weekend around a fire pit in my instructor's back yard. Some beer was involved so it can't really be called a success. I learned E Flat (I think it was flat, I know it was E). So I have that to practice this week. Yay!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life is Good

This past weekend I ran the Salem Lake 30K Trail Race. This is an awesome race! It's located at a greenway at Salem Lake in Winston Salem, NC. The course is wonderful. It's an out and back race where you run almost completely around the lake and then turn and run back. You can see the lake for most of the course. The terrain is mostly packed sand, but there are sections of asphalt in some of the trickier spots. I estimate there was 5 miles of asphalt and the rest was sand. No roots and very few ruts to avoid. It really should be called a Greenway race instead of trail. It was also mostly flat. There were a few hills (possibly 5) that were interspersed, making for a nice challenge just when you started getting bored. Only two hills were really noteworthy.

The first 10 miles were great. I felt strong and ran as hard as I can at the moment. The last 8.6, all I could think about was the .6. Sometimes something ridiculous like that gets in my head and I can't shake it. The last 8.6 were tougher than the first 10. I didn't realize I was running so much decline at the beginning until I was running so much incline at the end. But it was so nice to get off asphalt and do something different. The weather was cool but it was misting the entire time. Towards the end the trail was starting to puddle. Of course, I'm pretty out of shape as far as endurance and I was out there 3hrs 14mins. When I finished Adam was waiting for me and gave me a nice dry towel. It felt so awesome to wrap up in something warm and dry and clean! I'd like to do this race again next year, but will actually train for it!

I had a lot of friends running this race. Adam came in 12th overall and ran a 2:03, Todd P. ran a 2:14, his gf Shenna ran a 2:19, Shawn S. ran a 2:26, Jamie and Tara ran a 2:47 and Luci ran a 3:10.

So given my results, I've decided to up my long runs from 8-12 miles to 12-15 miles and instead of 20-25 miles per week, I'm aiming for 30-35. With the race last week I finished over 36 miles for the week. This week I'll finish with close to 30. This is probably not a great idea since my foot issue seems to come and go. It's currently 'come.'

In addition to running 4 times a week, spin class once a week, swimming 3 times a week, lifting 3 times a week and yoga once a week, I 've started walking twice a week with a friend from work. We walk in the morning twice a week for 3 miles each time. It's really nice. I may not think so in December and January, but I'll be out there!

Outside of fitness, things are going well. Poor Cleo ate a leaf over the weekend and spent all Monday throwing up. She seems to be doing well today. I was worried I was going to have to take her to the animal hospital at one point. She wouldn't let me pick her up (think it was too much pressure on her stomach) so I didn't know how I was going to get her there. I planned my trip to Zion/Vegas for December and I have several concerts coming up this month. So I'm staying busy and enjoying life a bit more these days.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Plantar Issue

I read that if you take 6 weeks off from running, you can heal your plantar fasciitis issue. If you continue to run on it, it will take 6 months. It's been 6 months of running and treating it with ice/heat, massage, new shoes, looser laces, etc. It worked!!! I have almost no pain in my arch or heal. I do feel some soreness in my leg, but I'm sure it's all related. But I'm pretty happy to have it going away. It's funny but it really started feeling better after the Asheville half. I expected it to be worse as hills are what you're supposed to avoid when suffering this particular injury. But two days after the race I ran my best four mile run in a long time. I felt great!

I'm really thinking about a Spring marathon...

Monday, September 14, 2009

A HARD Half

I think I mentioned before that they changed the course for the Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon. I was completely unprepared for this hilly, hilly, hilly course.

The morning started off well. I woke up in the very nice Renaissance Asheville Hotel on Woodfin. Highly recommend this hotel! I was pretty tired when the alarm went off at 6am, so I made a pot of the in room coffee, which was Starbucks. I drank a fairly large cup of coffee and ate my protein bar. The coffee was admittedly a HUGE mistake. I left the room at 7 am to walk to the start line. I was only half a mile from the start so I allowed plenty of time to get there, stretch and be ready for the start at 7:30am.

The start of the race was great. The field is limited to 1,000 and the 5K has a separate start time so there's plenty of room to get into a comfortable pace early. The first two miles were great. We ran through downtown Asheville and it was mostly small rolling hills. Very beautiful. Then just before mile marker two, they threw in a real hill. Short but steep. It caught many of us off guard. But it was followed by a nice long descent and it was a gorgeous neighborhood. Of course as soon as you finished the descent, they threw another steep hill at you. This one was longer. But again followed by another long descent. At this point we'd run three miles and there seemed to be more downhill than up. So far, I really like this course! Miles four through six presented more rolling hills similar with a couple of steep ones thrown in. Mile seven was my favorite mile. At this point we left the asphalt to run on a small dirt trail near the Grove Park Inn. It's fairly flat at this point and the break from the asphalt is really appreciated. It's at this point that you can pick up your pace a bit and pass a few people (if you can get around them!). However, just before the mile marker, you return to the asphalt and climb a long slow climb around the Grove Park Inn with no satisfying descent at the end. At this point I began running half of the hills and walking the other half. In years past it was this point where the course began to ease up on you. Not this year. Mile eight was more up and down and just when you needed a break from hills, mile 9 was a solid mile of uphill. It seemed to go on forever! Up the hill, turn left and up another hills, turn right and up another hill, for one mile! Miles ten through thirteen were brought more rolling hills with a nice long in mile 12 leading back into downtown Asheville and then approx. one half of a mile from the end is a nice short STEEP hill followed up a short incline then flat to the finish. Rough, very rough.

I've been resting my foot since the Flying Pig Marathon, which is doing much better. I've been somewhat avoiding running hills and long runs and really concentrated on more 5Ks this summer. So to say I wasn't prepared for this race is an understatement! I finished in two hours and fifteen minutes, which is eight minutes slower than my previous worst for this course. But if I didn't mention this before, it was a gorgeous course! Next year I plan to incorporate some hill repeats in my long run training, even though we don't have hills anywhere near the ones I ran on Saturday.

So as I've said before you can always find something interesting/funny in every race and this race had quite a few things! The first thing was a handmade, wooden sign on a fence near mile ten that read "Healthcare 4 Ever One" The '4' was backwards and yes, 'ever one' not 'everyone.' I bet they vote, too. The next thing was a man in his 70s or 80s who was running close to me and when a spectator yelled "You're doing great!" he replied in a grumpy, angry voice "No I'm not!" Awkward! Another thing was a woman yelling from the doorway of her house to a cheering volunteer at the street corner adjacent to her property "Can you move down a block?" and the volunteer replied that she couldn't. She was keeping the cars from driving onto the race course.

I noticed too that this year there was more crowd support than in past years. Not that there was an incredible amount of support, but compared to years past there was. There was also a great deal more advertising along the course. People had hung banners for other races, bike rides and various products. It was good to see people embrace this opportunity, even in a self-serving way. Support in any form is always welcome!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Annual Trek to Asheville

This evening I'm leaving for Asheville to compete in my 4th Asheville Half Marathon tomorrow. I love this race. It's beautiful and the temperature's usually pretty nice. This year will be the first year I don't run it with my friend Jody. So it won't be quite the same, but I'm excited anyway. This is the perfect time of year to go to Asheville. The weather is cooler, but not cold. The leaves are just starting to turn, so you're not fighting for views over the heads of tourists. It's still off-season so you can get a decent hotel room at a decent price.

Tomorrow the expected low is 54 and partly sunny, with an expected high of 79. So I won't be able to blame the weather for my poor performance! My left foot, though much better, is still not 100%. I'd give it more like 65%. And it's mostly my Achilles tendon. Which means the pain is moving, which is supposed to be a good sign. I hope so. I'm really tired of it. This year they're starting the race at 7:30 and they changed the course a little. But they didn't make it less hillier. They didn't even take out the big hill! My best for this race was in 2007, the second year I ran it, I ran a 2:04. The worst I did on this course was a 2:07 in 2006, but it was also the 3rd half that I did in 4 weeks. I'm hoping for anything in between these course records tomorrow!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Charlotte's Greek Myth

Saturday morning was the 'flat' Greek Fest 5K race. This race is flat by Charlotte's standards. The race is run around the Greek Church in the Dilworth neighborhood and draws runners who are hoping to set a new 5K Personal Record (PR). This year it drew almost 1,300 runners.

The course starts in front of the Greek Church on East Blvd and runs East on East Blvd (down) then turns right onto Dilworth Rd West, which is mostly flat, but there is a small hill or two. Then the course turns left onto Dilworth Rd East, then left onto East Blvd, which is flat to slightly up hill. You then take a quick right onto Park Rd and then a very quick left onto Kingston Ave, which is a long slow incline (about .34 miles). Then you turn left on Lyndhurst, which is flat, then left onto Worthington which is a nice long slight decline (about .43 miles). Then you repeat the Dilworth loop and finish by running another slight incline up East Blvd back to the church. The hardest part of this course is the ending. The incline is probably the same as the Kingston stretch, but you can see the finish line the entire time. And it appears to move out of your reach with every step!

Last year I managed a 24:47. This year I managed a 27:24. I did everything wrong. Didn't get enough sleep. Didn't get out of bed early enough. Didn't seed correctly (entirely too far back! I was 30 seconds off the start line!). I gave up at the 1 mile mark when it said I was running about 8:40. I don't think I was awake for any of it.

But I ran into several friends afterwards who had done very well. They were very happy with their time and most had run a personal record. I joked that next year when I look up my time, I'll know I can beat it. So basically, I set up a slam dunk for next year!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's Never Easy to Say Goodbye

Tonight I'll be saying goodbye to an old friend when I run the Wednesday night CRC course for the last time. I've run this course every Wednesday (that I was in town and not injured or resting) since 2004. It's been a great course with some good hills but there are a couple of confusing spots and we tend to lose new people. The new route will be longer, less confusing and with easier stopping points to accommodate runners needing shorter distances.

I'm a bit nostalgic about this course because it's been the one constant in my running life for the last 5 years. It's been my favorite for all that time, too. It never drew a large crowd and it never developed a consistent following. But it was always there and it was always a challenge. I have a lot of fond memories about this course, but some bad memories as well.

So I guess next week when I run the new course it will be like turning a page. Gaining a new friend with new challenges. I have a feeling, especially given the condition of my foot, my old friend will leave me with something to remember him by tonight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yeeoouuuchh!

So I ran the Miles of Mooresville on Friday night. I ran an 8:05 for the first race, the one mile and a 17:20 for the second race, the two mile. For the third race, I hung out, had a couple of beers and took pictures of my friends who actually ran the race. It was a tough night to push it. It was really hot. I don't know the official temperature, but I imagine it was somewhere near 90 and was hotter than the last Miles of Mooresville.

So Saturday when I woke up, in addition to being hungover, my left foot hurt so bad, I thought it should be removed! Luckily I had a massage scheduled and she worked that foot and leg the entire hour. I was able to ice it a couple of times and do some stretches later that day. I continued icing and stretching it Sunday and have iced it a couple of times today and the pain isn't as bad as it was. But I am still in pain.

I read on the internet that when you have plantar fasciitis, you shouldn't run for 6 weeks. OR, you can continue to run and treat the injury, but it will take 3 to 6 months to heal. I'm choosing the running option. I have 4 miles planned later today. I also have a 5K this weekend, a half marathon in mid-September and a 30K trail run at the end of September all planned. Should be interesting...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Healing, Vacay and a Car Review






So I haven't run since the Blue Points 5K, because I wanted to rest my feet. I got these huge calluses on my feet while training for the Flying Pig. I was hoping my doctor would cut them off at an appointment last week, but she suggested new shoes and said a podiatrist would have to cut them off. Um, what? I went to CVS and bought a tool that shaves them and they're doing much better. I think the one on my left foot was starting to cause plantar fasciitis. But after taking a break for a week and a half, my feet are doing much better and I'm considering running the full marathon in Nashville in April.

I spent last weekend on the Isle of Palms outside of Charleston, SC. I love this beach! It's not cheesy like most of them and is the perfect place to relax and party. This was my second trip this year. I went with four of my girlfriends to see the Pat McGee Band play at the Windjammer. We tried a new place called Acme Cantina on the island this time. It was ok. But I was pretty much just eating shrimp salads all weekend as I didn't have much of an appetite. It's interesting what not running does to my body. I'm not as hungry and I have no appetite. The concert was awesome. He really put on a great show. We'd been drinking all day and were pretty drunk by the concert. I remember laughing so hard, but I can't remember about what. Yes, it was a great night! I took a lot of pictures, but my friends won't allow me to share them. They're funny like that.


I love renting cars. It's a great way to test drive a car for an extended period. Not that I want to trade in my vehicle. I love not having a car payment and it's in pretty good shape. But if something should happen, I want to have an idea of what I'd like to get next. I've decided my next vehicle will be a compact with great gas mileage. I spend 99% of my time driving to the gym, to the run, to the store and to home, so luxury isn't a necessity. For this trip, I rented a hatchback and was given a Toyota Yaris to try out. It's possibly the world's smallest rental car! I think it's very cute, though. I'm sure I was just driving the base model so many options were missing. I'm not big on power doors, power windows so not having those wasn't a big deal. However, the radio, or speakers left something to be desired. I think this model only has speakers in the back and that really isn't sufficient. This model also didn't have cruise control. I know this feature costs extra and you rarely use it, but when you do, it pays for itself. Another thing I didn't like was that the speedometer is in the center of the console. I understand this is a European feature, but I didn't care for it. Not being a luxury vehicle, the ride was a bit bumpy and there was a lot of road noise on the interstate. It also lacked the pull out power you need in an around the town car. The gas mileage was great and it got us from point A to point B and back, but it's not my next car.


My next race is in two days when I'll do the last Miles of Mooresville for this summer. Friday night in the rockin' ville! This time we have a larger group going and plan to hit Brickhouse in Davidson afterwards. I plan to do what I did last time and run full speed for the one mile and two mile races and then run the three easy for the mileage. I'm really looking forward to getting back out and running!

This pic is of the sunset on the island from the restaurant Boathouse at the end of the island near Sullivan's Island.




Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh yeah...

This past weekend I ran the Blue Points 5K in downtown Charlotte. It started and ended at the Panthers stadium and the route was one big loop. One big hilly loop! The course had to be reversed due to construction limiting one street to one lane. The course was reversed so that the 1200-1300 people were more spread out when we had to merge into one lane.

Course:
This reversal meant that we would run from Mint Street (flat) and turn left onto Morehead, where we would run down for about half a mile and then enjoy rolling hills for another half mile. Then turn left onto Kenilworth where we enjoyed a slight downhill to flat for about a quarter of a mile. Then we turned left onto Stonewall. That's when it got interesting. There we climbed for about three quarters of a mile and then we ran rolling hills for another 3 quarters of a mile. Then we began a quarter mile climb and ran through the construction area. This was a little unnerving because the pavement was torn up and there was some dirt and some water. The ending was flat.

It was a tough course, but I felt oddly strong the whole run. I finished in 26:33 and was number 494 out of 1,273 finishers. Pretty decent finish for me.

Again, you see something interesting in every race. This race I got passed by a blind guy. He was running alone with his stick infront of him. I've seen a blind guy in a race before, but he was running while holding someone's arm. I don't know how this guy avoided potholes! We actually passed each other a few times and at one point he yelled out 'is this where we're in one lane?' Several of us yelled out 'no' and he said 'thanks' and then moved to the far right lane. I was amazed at how well he could run without being able to see. I never saw him bump into anyone one or trip or fall. At the two mile mark I yelled out the time and he said 'thanks' and seemed pleased with his time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Song Remembers

On my way to the gym, a radio station played Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam's song 'All Cried Out.' This song is 20 something years old and reminds me of when I moved to Charlotte with my parents and sisters. We lived in an apartment in East Charlotte (an area I now know to avoid) and a little girl at the apartment complex could sing this song better than Lisa Lisa. She had a beautiful voice and every time she was around we asked her to sing this song.

For some reason this memory led to another memory about another song that in 1992 was every other song on radio station Gorilla 95.1 (now known as Kiss 95.1, but still just as cheesy); 'Freak Me' by Silk. In the Spring of 1992, I was in my second semester of my freshman year at UNCC and all my close friends were at other colleges. So one weekend I drove to Greensboro to visit my friend Crystal at UNCG. Saturday night we went to a dance club called Daddy-Os, which was probably the only club in Greensboro at the time. We were having a great time, the DJ was playing great dance hits and then suddenly we were all asked to clear the dance floor. The dance floor was dark with a mirrored disco ball spinning star shaped light on the floor and the back wall. Three male figures walk onto the dance floor. Two guys are dressed in black pants, black button-down shirts and thin black ties (all ties were thin back then). One guy was dressed in a purple suit with a black button-down shirt and a thin, purple tie (if you can recall the outfits Color Me Badd wore circa 1991, he looked like that). When the music began to play 'Freak Me' the three figures began to dance slowly, smoothly and lip-sync (YES! LIP-SYNC!) the words "Freak Me Baby, ah yeah, Freak Me Baby..." The ladies in the club began shrieking in delight (yeah, DELIGHT?!). As I stood there with my eyes wide-open and my hand covering my gaping mouth, my friend excitedly said 'OH! I'm so glad he's doing this while you're here! It's so awesome!' I might not have blinked the entire time because the image of a guy with a long, curly mullet and his two skinny 'back up dancers' gyrating seductively while lip-syncing into fake microphones is still burned into my brain. At some point I think I overcame my shock and cracked up. Towards the end of the song I remember my friend saying something like 'Now, normally I wouldn't find him attractive, but when he does this I think he is so sexy!'

I remember thinking 'Ah, so that's why there's so many lesbians in Greensboro!'

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Strange Dream

If I have even one drink of alcohol, I will have strange dreams. Last night I hung out with some friends and had a few beers and all night I had strange dreams.

In the most notable one, I was invited to this house for a party. When I got to the house, I couldn't find parking for my Jeep, but then I remembered that in prior dreams in these situations, I can pull a plug and deflate the Jeep and fold it to fit in my pocket. (I wonder if GM has considered building a car that can do this?) I walked into this strange house and was greeted by a man. I asked him who's house it was and he said 'I don't know, but everyone will be here soon.' The house reminded me of one of the bungalows on East Blvd that's been converted into a boutique. It had hardwood floors and antique furniture in the very small rooms throughout. And there were French doors that led into the dining room. Then people started coming in dressed in Halloween costumes, but they were actually there for a wedding reception. Pretty soon the bride and groom came in and I knew the bride, but not well enough to be at her wedding reception. Then I realized that I was just wearing a t-shirt and shorts and everyone else was dressed really nice and I hadn't brought the couple a gift!

The dream changed when I found it ridiculous that the Jeep would deflate automatically, but not re-inflate automatically.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Hate the EpiCenter. It's Personal and it Knows What it Did!

The Charlotte EpiCenter (crapicenter) opened sometime last year and is an 'entertainment mecca' in downtown (yeah, I said it, DOWNtown) Charlotte. It's a mostly white stucco structure (hate white) that houses various bars and restaurants on 3 levels. Not interesting, unique bars and restaurants, but your average cheesy, cookie-cutter ones, i.e. a sports bar, a piano bar, a redneck bar (complete with mechanical bull). They've been having free concerts on Thursdays and Saturdays to attract people. The concerts are on temporary stages set up in the breezeways of the building. Bands like Who's Bad the Michael Jackson cover band, Vanilla Ice and Cowboy Mouth have played at the crapicenter.

I've gone twice. Once to the piano bar, which was packed with people I don't want to associate with and once to the sports bar which was packed with people who looked like the people I went to high school with that I don't want to associate with. It's too 90210 meets The Hills. A lot of plastic stuffed into short hoochie outfits.

So why can't I just leave it alone and be content to not go. It's because I feel like Charlotte missed a huge opportunity with this thing. Charlotte has no real stroll district and has lost all of it's southern charm. When I say southern charm, I don't mean small town feel or redneckness (btw Charlotte hasn't lost the redneck element!). I mean a charming stroll district like river street in Savannah. A strip with old brick warehouses that were converted into shops and bars. With cobblestone streets and kiosks full of handmade goods. Sidewalk cafes. No cars allowed on weekends. I wonder if this project had been started after the economy hit the skids if it would have been scaled down to something cool like a stroll district.

A friend of mine argued that Charlotte was going for more big city with this crapicenter and wanting something to lure big city people to it. (I'm sure it was just tax revenue they were going for) But when I've traveled to Chicago, New York, DC, Atlanta, I've never been to anything this cheesy. I've always hit more local, neighborhood pubs. That too me is the way to experience a big city.

The crapicenter is a very popular destination, but I think it's just because that's where everyone is and it's still new. I bet most people who go don't like it either, but like sheep they have to go with the flock. Ridiculous.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

36

Monday - swim & spin class, Tuesday - lift & run, Wednesday - swim & run, Thursday - lift & run, Friday - swim, Saturday - run & lift, Sunday - yoga. Every week. Every month. And then one morning you wake up and you're 36. 36? Really. So usually I'm excited and ready to celebrate. This year is different. This year I'm noticing that I can't do as much as I used to be able to do. Can't stay out as late. Can't run as many days. Can't drink as much. Can't eat as much salty food without swelling up and I swear I'm having hot flashes!

My times this year have also been off from last year. I ran the Polk 5K yesterday and finished in 26:04. Last year I ran a 25:41. I did manage to take 2nd in my age group this year. Yeah, there weren't too many in my age group there! It was a good race though. I always forget how many hills there are on this course. I ran into a guy from the running club, it was his first race. Before the race, I told him it was a great race with few hills. When I got into mile two, I knew he was cursing my name.

The race does start out flat. For the first mile it's flat and I ran about an 8:06 mile. In the second mile there's a large, long hill. It's probably in the top 5 highest I've seen. I managed to get to the 2 mile marker at 16:34. The third mile has a hill that's pretty close in steepness to the first hill, but not nearly as long. The last half mile is completely flat, but I had no energy left to kick it in.

The prize for 2nd in my age group was a nice aluminum water bottle. It's pretty cool and I'm glad they're finally giving out things we can actually use. Though I do love my little trophies!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Cried, Ran, Ached, Laughed

(cried) Yes, Mooresville is quite a haul from my place! And I hit traffic. I really, really hate traffic. I know everyone does, but I hate it more than them! I headed out around 5:20 to make the 43 mile trek up I-77. Bad move. Apparently back roads are faster. I hit a bad patch of traffic at the I-485 interchange where 3 lanes try to merge into 2 already crowded lanes. Love Charlotte DOT. Ugh! Then my gas light came on. So had to pull off at the next exit and fill up. Ha! It was crazy getting in and out and I had to pull a few 'Charlotte moves' and piss some people off to achieve my objective. Once I got back on I hit another bad patch before getting to my exit. I went through some somewhat scary sections of small town America and finally arrived at downtown Mooresville at about 6:30. It's cute and quaint and reminded me a little of Albemarle, NC but without the mountains. With only one bar open.

(ran) The races were great. Very informal, but with timing chips. The start felt more like an old Sharksbite timed run than a race. We started the one mile a little after 7pm and headed up main street. It was hot! The sun was still out and it was about 93 degrees. The course isn't completely flat. You start out going up a small incline, then it levels out, you get a small decline and then some leveling, then a nice downhill when you turn the corner at about the half mile mark. Then you get a small incline, a tiny hill, a little flat and then the ending is up a small incline. Tough to kick it in at the end. The one mile race I ran a 7:51. I was pretty happy as it was pretty tough. The two mile I ran a 17:07 which I was really happy about because it was pretty brutal. The three mile race I was pretty much wiped out at the start. It had gotten cooler and little breeze kicked up as some serious looking clouds rolled in. I decided to just jog this one out. It was a good call. I was dying after the first loop! After the second loop, I couldn't believe I had one more to go. You don't think three miles is long until you do the same one mile loop three times! I don't know what my time was but I know I was just shy of ten minute miles.

(ached) After the second race I felt a strange ache in my left hamstring. It felt like a knot in the middle towards the left side. Luckily I have a massage scheduled today and can get it rubbed out. This was my fourth day in a row of running which is not something I normally do. I was aching in my ankles and knees after the last race. It was tough to get to sleep later that night with out Advil.




(laughed) This was a very social event. There was time between the races to meet people or talk to people you know. I really enjoyed hanging out with my friends who came to run. I even ran into a guy I met on the way back from Cincinnati. He was there with his brother but only ran the 2 mile race. He came in second. Fast guy. I stayed and had dinner at a nice place called Soiree with a couple of friends from the running club.

You see something new at every race you run. This time I was surprised to see people take water on the course at the halfway mark of the ONE MILE race. Really? Couldn't go the whole mile without water? Maybe they just like free stuff?

I already signed up to run this next month. I'm hoping to carpool next time with someone who knows the back roads.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Night at the Races

Tonight I'm venturing to the exciting town of Mooresville, NC. Rock on! 40 miles north of where I live to NASCAR country. Downtown Mooresville will host 3 running races tonight. A one mile race, followed shortly by a 2 mile race followed shortly by a 3 mile race. For the low, low price of $18 you can run all 3 races (or one, or two, one price for all options). There's a nice technical shirt involved and a nice band.

I typically don't run on Fridays. I run Tues-Thurs so running tonight will be the 4th day in a row. I'm tired and my left foot really hurts so I don't see this going well. But I've heard great things about this event. This is the second in a series of 3. I've heard from different people that it's fun and exciting. The band is good and it's one big party...with running.

My plan is to run all 3 races. The one mile, I'm hoping to be some where around 8:30. It wouldn't be a record for me, but given how I feel and how little I've been training, it's realistic. The second race, I'm hoping for around 18 minutes. It's sad that I'm shooting to do 2 miles in the same time that some people do a 5K, but that's my goal. The third race, the 3 miler, I don't really have a goal for. There's a good chance I'm going to be wiped out after the first two.

I'm excited that an event like this exists and I really want to support it. But Mooresville? Ugh! I really make it a point not to go to north Charlotte or above. It's just a whole different world from Charlotte. The best way to describe it is that it's what you think of when you generalize the South. Yeah, should be interesting. I'll let you know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So...

So, so, the race. It went...ok. My plan was to run 2 before, the race, then 2 after. My friend was concerned that we wouldn't run the extra 2. Ok, she had a point. I mean a finish line means only one thing; you're finished. So we ran 4 before. I knew our goal was to do 8 miles total, but for some reason I didn't plan nutritionally to run 8 miles. So mile 2 of the race and I was starving! Stomach growling starving, not just "I could eat" hungry. By the last mile of the race, which is all down hill, I started thinking I might actually have to walk part of a 4 mile race! But I managed to calm my head down, recover my breathing and get to the end. 35:55 overall or an 8:59 pace. Not bad for me really, but not planned well at all.

Post race I went for coffee and bagels while my friend went to tend to her kids. I ran into other friends and enjoyed a lively conversation with a pretty large group. One girl in the group had run the race as her first race ever. It was interesting to get her perspective on the race. She liked it but she hadn't expected the hills. I remember running races with no idea what to expect. Not that I always do now, but if they're in Charlotte I usually have a good idea of what's coming and I at least think about it now.

After breakfast I ran by the farmer's market. I'd been wanting to check it out because a friend of mine has been going and raving about it. She was so right! I was able to get all the veggies I need for the week for about 6 bucks! (I'm a vegetarian, it was a lot of food!) In my excitement and high on 2 cups of coffee, I forgot fruit. I'll have to go back. But I was in a rush to get to the gym and lift and try to meet a friend at a local fundraiser.

The fundraiser was a bust, so after arriving around 3ish and surveying the...what's the opposite of crowd?...we decided to go somewhere else. We ended the evening at Dean & Deluca drinking too much wine and eating sushi. At the late hour of 9pm (lame, I know!) my friend decided to go hit the free Vanilla Ice concert downtown at Epicenter. As a rule I don't go to the Epicenter. It's just a bunch of 20 somethings in hoochie clothes. A whole generation who weren't taught to use their indoor voice. So I rolled home early and ended the evening flipping channels between "3 Men and a Baby" and "You've Got Mail." Yes, I know "3 Men" is far superior but the commercials!!! Between the ones for lotions that promise to remove years from my face (doesn't running do that?) and stripper dance move videos that promise great legs, butt and abs while having a great time ("you won't even know you're working out!") (again doesn't running do that?) I couldn't park on one channel.

So that's the exciting life a single girl. In bed by 10:30 and up mid-morning for yoga. Seriously, this is my life?

Friday, July 10, 2009

You're Dumber in Summer and Other Fun Facts

So earlier I mentioned that the heat was brutal. And it was. But now it's not. Normally the temperature is in the high 90s with the threat of hitting 100 everyday. This summer it's turned very mild. It's hit 90 a few times, but it's mostly in the 80s and it's staying in the 70s longer. It's odd, last summer the Republicans were in office and it was sweltering, this year the Democrats are in office and it's mild and pleasant. Coincidence?

The mild temperatures have helped me to run pretty strong. Not fast, but strong. I haven't been forced to walk due to the heat in at least 3 weeks. However, I'm running at the back of the pack! Not that I'm used to running in the front, but I was running in the middle. I haven't been timing my runs and I haven't been doing speedwork, so I really shouldn't expect to be improving, but shouldn't I be maintaining? Tomorrow I'm running the RFYL 4 Miler. I previewed the course last week and if I really try, I could PR tomorrow.

I ordered a book on Amazon about Chi running. I read an article and have been told about it or been asked about it for a while now. The article was intriguing. The idea is to use Tai Chi principles while running. The result is better form and less to no pain or injuries. After my recent bouts with foot and knee injuries I'm ready to try it! From the article I learned that you should lean forward slightly from your ankles (what? think I may need a diagram) and land in the middle of your foot. I'm thinking they mean the pad of your foot and that I already do. So yay! One less thing! Then you're supposed to focus on keeping your shoulders and upper body loose so that your arms swing freely. Ok, makes sense. Then you're supposed to use your core to lift your legs by tilting your pelvis and keeping your skeleton aligned. Sounds a little like yoga...

Though I've been enjoying my runs more lately, it will be nice to have something new to focus on. It will also be nice to have a book to read instead of watching so much freakin' tv! Even when there isn't anything good on, I find I'm just sitting in my new chair-and-a-half with ottoman every night. Not really how I want to spend my summer. But you just can't drink a Bloody Mary and read a book. Hmmm, maybe there's a couple of bad habits this book will cure!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is the heat on?

It is and it's BRUTAL! I ran 10 miles with two friends on Saturday and we just melted. In 10 miles I stopped 5 times for water and it didn't feel like enough. We started at 7:30am thinking we could beat the heat, but there wasn't a breeze and the humidity was so flippin' high. But that's Charlotte. It's Miami-style heat in the summer and Canada-style cold in the winter. I hate this place.

And that brings me to another topic I hate, relationships. My Sociology Professor at UNCC once said that women at any given time are thinking about a relationship they're in or one they'd like to be in (he also said that men only think about a relationship if there's a problem in it, but that's a whole other discussion/argument/miscommunication/whatever!). I think to some extent that's true and for me right now that's really true. My goal after finishing the Flying Pig Marathon was to open up my schedule so that I'd have time to date and hopefully get into a good relationship. That hasn't happened, but I do have to admit it has been a half-hearted attempt. The only guy I'd consider a date with at the moment is the aforementioned Jarrett Bellini and he lives in Atlanta and doesn't know I exist. I'm thinking for my plan to work I should look around home a bit more, but home is Charlotte. Yuck!

But I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about other's relationships. This past weekend 4 of my FB friends broke up or admitted marital issues. Which reminded me of what a friend said after I cried to him about a recent break-up. "As much as I'd like to be in a relationship, I don't want to be where you are right now." Not exactly what I wanted to hear at the time, but after this weekend, I really got the meaning. I somewhat got the scoop on two of the four (they were dating each other) and it was just a classic case of a one-sided relationship. I've been on both sides of that and I definitely don't want to be there right now! Another friend got his heart ripped out by a girl that he was REALLY into. I'd feel bad for him, but I'm pretty sure he just went out and got laid right after. He's like that.

On the flip side two other friends celebrated 7 years of marriage this weekend. I would not want their relationship. It's totally not for me, but they are happy. My parents celebrated 40-something years of marriage last week. I have another friend who is getting married and another planning her 10th anniversary celebration. And another FB friend got engaged.

So my post-race goal hasn't quite worked out, but at least I'm not crying about a relationship that failed either. So I'm calling it a win! My next goal is to stop thinking about and looking at relationships.

Now what to do with my thoughts?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nothing, Working, Running, Cross Training...

"What's new?" It's such a common question. So common that I was asked it twice before noon today. I don't know why it always feels like it comes out of the blue or like I've been caught off-guard during an interview. I always feel I have to search my brain for something spectacular like "oh, I'm going to hike Manchu Picchu next week," or "I'm going kayaking in Costa Rica," or "I'm running for Congress, can I count on your vote?" But after searching my brain I usually come up with "Nothing, working, running, cross training..."

The truth is there is some new stuff going on in my life. For the past four years I've worked a job that changes often. There's always something new. We're currently working on upgrading a computer application to a new and improved version and I've been learning the ins and outs of it including the coding. It's exciting in a nerdy way. I've also been fixing up my condo to sell. Painting, new furniture, etc. A couple of weeks ago I placed in my age group in a 5K. I'm going to Zion National Park and then to Vegas in December. I'm going to the beach in August. I currently have a big crush on CNN's Jarrett Bellini. I'm going to see G. Love in July and Pat Mcgee Band in August.

It's a mental block. The idea that "what's new?", "NEW" means I have to come up with some so mind blowing that the person asking will go "Wow! That's unbelievable!" when all the requester really wants is for me to ask him "what's new." But that doesn't occur to me until after I've searched and come up with "Nothing, working, running, cross training..."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Run for Peace at Home

The Run for Peace at Home 5K was Saturday at McAlpine Park. This was my second year running this nice small race. It was also the second year I placed in my age group at the race. Yay! I ran the race in 26:43. Not bad, but it was more than a minute slower than last year. They split the field for this race and the women start 30 minutes after the men. Weatherwise, I would have preferred to go first. The temperature was somewhere around 70 degrees in the morning, but not a breath of air was moving. The breeze did kick up around 9:30am during the awards ceremony, but it really didn't do much at that point.






This is a great race to run for time. It's flat for about 90% of it. The first mile is completely flat on nice small gravel. There were a few soft spots, but given the amount of rain we've had lately, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was dry. When you get into mile 2 you leave the gravel and move onto dirt. But it's a well worn path with no roots and no ruts to speak of. Just when you get into a good running pace, they add a hill. A big one. It's somewhat steep and long. You even curve around and see that it continues to climb. But then it levels out (ah). Then they add another hill (oh.). Then you get a nice steep decline. At this point I just gallop down it. It may not be the best thing for the joints, but it helps me pass people! At this point you start to emerge from the woods and run around the pond.

This pic was taken by another blogger,

I'm the one in front.


At that point there are people watching and cheering you on. (And as you can see in the pic some people were just watching the geese in the pond.) After circling the pond, you head back out and circle soccer fields. This last mile of the race is again flat with one small, tiny really, hill. But it's only midly insulting and it's a very shady part of the course. You countinue back towards the pond which you circle again. The biggest challenge at this point is not stepping in the geese poop. Nasty little things!


At the end I was able to turn it on a tad for a fast finish and passed a couple of people. It felt great at the end! I knew I had worked really hard and my lungs were screaming at me. I quickly found a friend who had run it and we grabbed water and headed for the massage table. She signed up to get her calves massaged and we met several other ladies in line waiting. When results were posted I saw that I had placed 3rd in my age group and my friend had taken 2nd in hers.


I read some time ago that one of the things that can keep a race from succeeding is if it becomes 'too much about the cause.' This race was to help support victims of domestic violence and it is certainly bordering on becoming 'too much about the cause'! Prior to the awards ceremony a victim was asked to speak about her experience with domestic violence. I'll give you what this woman went through was terrible (the part I heard of it anyway) but it really was uncomfortable to hear about. I'm not saying that we should be sheltered from bad things, but I really don't feel that this was the time for these stories.


Finally, they got to the awards ceremony. My friend and I got really cool little trophies that look like little runner girls with bobbleheads. I call mine 'Bobblehead Aud.' Original, I know. They also gave out 'door prizes' and my bib number was drawn. I won a $50 gift certificate to Dilworth Bar & Grill. That more than makes up for my race entry fee!
After that we walked around and I showed my friend more of the trails in the park. She's new to Charlotte and it was her first time at the greenway. It's such a great park. I wonder why I don't go more often?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It Won't Stop Raining and I Won't Stop Eating!

Didn't do a trail run on Saturday. My friend backed out due to a work issue and I ended up sleeping late. Lately I'm tired and hungry. Its like I have a cold and I'm hitting the comfort food and wanting to sleep all the time. Its not a cold, its worse, its allergies! They don't go away no matter how much medicine you take, no matter how many shots you get and no matter how much you use the neti pot. It sucks!

When I did roll my growing butt out of bed, I found I had a text from a friend asking about my running plans. I told her that I was going for a run soon and she agreed to meet me for 6 miles. It was a good run even if we did linger at the drinking fountains a little long. But in general nothing hurt. Yay! I also ran all of the course, including the hills, so again, Yay!

Later during the day we did the only Memorial Day related activity that I did the whole weekend, volunteered at the Patriot Festival. Basically you gave a $5 donation to hear some ok bands/performers and there were kiddie rides. But you had to pay extra for the kiddie rides. We were originally assigned to the stage area, but there was nothing for us to do there, so we were told to go to 'cockpit.' Cockpit it turned out is a life sized fighter jet model. You could pay $2 to sit in it and marvel at all the buttons and switches. Oh and there was a helmet you could wear (but ewwww!). After about 5 minutes I was sent to work the VIP tent where I checked to make sure people had the proper tickets to enter. It was less than thrilling but gave me a front row seat to see the Black Daggers parachute into the festival. I won't go into details about who the Black Daggers are (yeah, wasn't paying attention to that) but they parachuted from a plane (2,500 feet? maybe?) with red smoke shooting from their feet and with great precision landed in the middle of the festival. Very cool.

It was a soggy weekend in Charlotte and the rain has continued off and on throughout today and the forecast is calling for rain all week. But don't worry, we're still in a drought. At least until they realize drought is the new norm. I'd planned to go to the group trail run tonight but currently it's storming. Rain I'll run in, thunder/lightning not so much. So I'm sitting here waiting out the storm listening to Pandora. I've developed a new interest in Folk music with blues and bluegrass influences. I started a station with The Wood Brothers and added G. Love to it with The Avett Brothers and Brett Dennen. It's not exactly running music, but it really is fun to listen to.

So lately the number of miles I've run has decreased to roughly 20 a week and the amount of junk food calories I've eaten has increased to way more than I can burn in 20 miles per week. This week (if we start it on Saturday) I've pigged out on Fish Tacos, Nutter Butters, Pepsi, an entire box of Chocolate Jo-Jos, and cheese. Lots of cheese.

Whoa!! WTF?! When did Pandora start adding commercials?! Just heard something about Wendy's. Not cool! Just read a little further and apparently you have to pay to upgrade to get away from ads. As if I need another bill.

Anyway, the storm has passed and I think I'll venture out for a 4.5mile run in my 'hood. Laters.