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.