First race of the new year: Rock n’ Roll DC 5k

The gun goes off and as we move closer to the start line, the first obstacle of the race presents itself. One of my big sisters (who also ran the race) described this obstacle as a “lake of a puddle” and that’s exactly what it was. This lake of a puddle, which we seemed to need a canoe to cross, caused a major traffic jam. Runners crashed into the back of each other, because we all were hesitant about getting our feet wet. It was already raining cats and dogs, and our clothes were getting pretty wet anyway… but running a race with soggy feet makes things much more interesting, if not tougher.

There was no way to get around it and we had no other choice, but to commit. As each runner worked up the nerve to commit to running this 5k with soaked shoes and socks, traffic started moving again. I, like everyone else weighed my options and came to the same decision everyone else did. As my right foot landed in the puddle, the cold water rushed through the mesh of my tennis shoes and saturated my sock. I tried to miss the remaining portion of the puddle, but with no success, my left foot endured the same punishment my right foot had experienced in the previous step.

After this obstacle, my race could finally begin. We started in the parking lot of legendary RFK stadium. This stadium is a historic landmark to me and native Washingtonians. If you’re a Washington Redskins fan, this stadium is representative of the glory years of our beloved football team.

A few of my running buddies ran this 5k with me. We started out together, but as the race went on, each of us settled into our own paces and eventually our group separated. In the weeks leading upto the race, one of my running buddies claimed he would beat me in this race. I don’t normally back down from a challenge, let alone one in which I think I can win.

So, there was no choice but to take him up on the offer. This challenge was for bragging rights. Now, that may not seem big to you, but bragging rights are huge within our group. One way or another, we’re always taking shots at each other or joking about what one of us did or did not do.

As the race began, this challenge was in my mind. Now, this particular friend is smaller than I am and somewhat quicker. I knew he’d come out of the gates flying (which he did), but I had experience. I thought sure he would become gassed by the time we got in the middle of it.

I was cruising, feeling really good. I had no way of measuring my time and distance because I lost my Garmin and I forgot to start the Map My Run app on my phone. So, I was subject to the mile markers provided and the clock at the finish line.

As I was running, I remember thinking that the mile 1 marker was taking a long time to make itself known. I even thought that one of 2 things happened or would happen… I either missed the marker or there were none. I figured the latter made sense, since it was such a short race. And then mile marker 1 decides to show up. When I saw it, I was a little annoyed because I felt like I was running too long for it to only be one mile. But after thinking about it, it was raining and it’s possible that things were slightly distorted. Inclimate weather tends to change the perception of time and distance in my opinion.

Anyway, I came through mile marker 1 and was getting close to the turnaround. I saw one of my running buddies and he was cruising his way back to the finish. But, I didn’t see my challenger… So, I just kept on moving.

I got around the turnaround and was on my way to finishing mile 2. I still couldn’t find my challenger. All of a sudden, as I clear mile 2, he comes up behind me and says “I almost didn’t see you pass me.” Apparently I had blown past him without even knowing.

He wanted to chat a bit, but I wasn’t in a chatty mood. All I thought about while he was talking was, how bad I wanted to crush him. I wanted the bragging rights!! So after I didn’t say anything, he chose to push ahead.

We were coming up to the bridge right before the final bend. I spotted him again and this time I wanted to make sure he couldn’t see me. As we cruised the bridge, I passed him on the inside and turned my head the opposite direction so he couldn’t see my face. I was able to get back in front of him, but before I could really put some distance between us, he got me again.

He pulled in front and kept pushing around the final bend into the finishers shoot. I came around the bend and tried to gain on him, but it was too little too late.

As I came through the finish, I graciously accepted my medal and all the snacks they were offering. :-)


I couldn’t wait to see the times, because my only chance to beat him at this point, was to hope that his chip time was worse than mine. It wasn’t… he got me by a few seconds. Smh…

So now I’ve gotta hear his mouth until we race again…

This was my first Rock n Roll race. I really enjoyed the experience and next year, I plan to run the half.

Thanks for reading!!!

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Baltimore Half Marathon 2014 Recap

Respect is earned… never given.  That’s the thought that kept flashing through my mind as I slowly labored through the course this year and as I crossed the finish line with a disappointing net time of 3 hours 23 minutes.  I’ll explain this a little later in my post.

In the weeks leading up to this year’s half, I expected to be in a lot of discomfort to say the least.  My training for this race was inconsistent and I was dealing with some type of hip pain, that after researching a bit, I thought may have been bursitis… I’m still not sure of what it was exactly, but I know it was painful.  I hadn’t done any strength training, I had only gotten up to a long run of 8 miles and my focus hadn’t been there throughout this training period.  So, my confidence for putting together a strong performance was at an all time low.

So instead of putting unnecessary pressure on myself, I decided to just run the race for the fun of it.  After watching the 5kers start, Mike and I walked to the half marathon start line and got into our wave.  The marathoners had started before the 5k and we were soon able to see the wheelchair athletes and top marathoners running past.  I expected to see Dave Berdan, last year’s winner, in the front but he was not there.  After a short while, we saw him coming down Light Street, but he didn’t look too good.  I offered my encouragement by shouting, “Come on Dave!!”, as he was my favorite to win.  But, he looked like he may have been dealing with some type of injury.  Later, we found out on the news that he did have an injury.

It was getting closer to 8:45, which was our scheduled start time.  It was time for us to begin our race and as we walked towards the start line, I saw my godparents who came out to support us.  It’s always good seeing a familiar face at a race… It can be extremely encouraging.  After the waves ahead of us crossed the starting line, we were coming up to where the music was playing and the party was going.  Confetti filled the air as we crossed the starting line, which was a nice touch.  I didn’t remember confetti last year.

Anyway, I started my race… I ran the first mile and a half and that’s when my hip started bothering me.  I walked a bit until I got to mile 2.  I ran a bit more.  I kept this routine up for about 6 miles.  As we got to Lake Montebello, the pain in my hip was becoming too much to bear.  I made sure to bring the store brand pain reliever, that I purchased the night before, with me on the course… I knew I’d need it.  At the next water station, I took the pain reliever and by the time I got around the lake, the pain had dulled.  I felt like I’d be able to make it the rest of the way… I mean, I had less than 5 miles to go, right?

I slowly trekked through the 9th mile.  By this time, I was beginning to cramp up.  I stayed within myself.  I pulled to the side and stretched a bit.  The stretching helped and I kept moving.  Walking and running was how I was gonna get to the finish.  There was no time that I was trying to achieve at this point.  It was just a matter of finishing.

Every half mile seemed to trigger a potential cramp.  I stopped, stretched and kept going.  By the time I got to mile 12, my hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs were so fatigued and if I attempted to change anything, they would all seize up like pretzels.

Finally, the finish line was visible. I made it. I… made… it. I was happy that this one was over. Another half marathon down, another medal added.

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What have I been up to? Where have I been?

What have I been up to?  Outside of working daily at my normal duties as a husband, a father and a man, I’ve been fundraising for cancer and doing my best to prepare for the 550 Relay.  But, outside of that not much else.

Where have I been?  I’ve been around, just not around the blog and inconsistently around running.  But that’s part of what this post is about.

It’s been a while.  I haven’t written a blog post in some time.  I have no elaborate reason as to why.  Frankly, life has been… well, life.  You never know what twists and turns will present themselves to you.  Not to mention, there’s just been a significant lack of motivation with my running and writing.  For what it’s worth, the two are actually like therapies for me.  But over the last few months, that hasn’t been the case.

Could I be in a funk?  Possibly.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Could I just be tired?  I could.  I was talking to Mike about it and I realized that over the past 16 months there was always some type of race to prepare for.  I haven’t done as many races as some, but I’ve done quite a few within this last year.  There hasn’t been much downtime where I can just run for the joy of it.  This is something that I’ll have to improve upon in the future.  It could be good ol’ burnout.

Could I have hit a plateau?  This is possible.  Weight loss has slowed down and I’ve even gained a few pounds.  The focus I used to have on my diet, is no longer as tenacious as it once was.  Is stress a factor?  Could be.  There are some things that have come into my life that have definitely increased the stress levels from what they were.  But, it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Could it be because I turned 30?  Ha!!  It sounds silly and I seriously doubt it.  But ironically things are different than what they have been over the last couple of years.  I recently had an injury that I’ve never experienced before.  The pains I tend to wake up with now, nag more than they have before, if I even noticed them before.  Nahhh… this reason is out.  Next???

Could my love of running have diminished?  It’s possible.  There’s no longer a newness in achieving high miles.  There’s a desire to improve my times on those distances, but reaching a new distance is no longer, as appealing.  I’ve crossed the finish line of a marathon and have completed races and distances below 26.2 miles.  I do have a desire to do an ultra marathon (a race over 26.2 miles), but I’m not in the right mindset to do that at this time.  Let’s not even mention my fitness level.  Maybe the newness of running has worn off.Could it be a lack of structure?  To this point, I’ve never used a training plan to prepare for a race.  I will seriously consider using one for the fall season.  But, not having a structured plan to guide me could have an affect on my running as well.  Maybe not… It’s a thought though.

As you can see, this post is about my running… or the lack thereof.  But, I’m trying to figure out the mental side of why my running has been different in a negative way, compared to this time last year.  I believe working through the mental side of running goes along with the race recaps and joys of faster times and new experiences.  Running, like a lot of things is mental anyway.  You’re attempting to overcome and subject your body to something your mind believes it can achieve.  It’s all part of being a runner…  Being able to understand and work through all of the aspects of running.

Have you ever felt lost about something you enjoy?  Did time away from it, do some good?  I’m thinking it may.  Maybe switching my training will help.  For example, instead of focusing so much on distance, work more at speed.  That’s what one of my buddies told me.  I’ll definitely figure it out, but I needed to get some of this stuff out of my head.

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What’s been missing in my races?

I’ve been reflecting on the few longer distance races that I’ve completed to this point and I’ve noted that I’ve had problems with cramps in the majority of them. The race before this last one in Ocean City, the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon, was probably the worst.  Between miles 11 – 13, my lower leg muscles threatened to constrict and cause major pain and discomfort.  Just as I crossed the finish line, they no longer threatened, they flared up and made it difficult to run or walk any further.  I was almost to the point where I couldn’t even stand up.

I remember having the same problems, although not as severe, in my very first half marathon, my second half marathon and my first full marathon.

So what was going on?  Why couldn’t I get through a race without cramps?

A couple of things came to mind: Hydration and potassium, or the lack thereof.  Frankly, I don’t hydrate enough.  Drinking 96 ounces of water a day may seem like a lot, but apparently, it isn’t enough for me.  And bananas, which are a major source of potassium, have not been included in my diet for over 10 years.  Why, you ask?  I’ve always thought that I was allergic to them. My mouth used to itch, hurt and swell up after eating a banana our even an apple!

The truth is, I used to eat bananas. The interesting thing about the BB&T Corporate Cup Half was, that I was so desperate for relief from the cramps that had taken over my legs, I ate a banana and had no problems!!

Shortly after fully digesting a whole banana and re-hydrating with the necessary fluids, my muscles relaxed and I was able to walk under my own power, again.  This experience started turning the wheels in my head about the important things that I’ve been neglecting during training and before participating in a race.  This experience could be the key to more efficient race performances and improved race times.

This past race, the Ocean City Island 2 Island Half Marathon, I tried a few different things. I hydrated much better by purchasing a gallon of water every two days and knocking them back. Sure, that may be a little extreme, but I was desperate for answers! I then purchased a cluster of bananas and ate them… one every other day, a week before the race. I ate one before the race along with a sports drink and my protein shake and had no problems at all during the race!!

I even PR’d!! I shaved off 5 minutes from Charlotte’s race time and still could’ve done better than that, if I didn’t lose time waiting on a bathroom!!

Finally, I found some success as I was able to finish this half marathon with no cramps and PR the distance!!

I’ll definitely be tweaking things and finding out what works best, but I think I’ve found a good pre race routine. I’ll keep doing it unless things change, negatively!!

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It’s becoming more mental, than physical… My experience at the OC Island 2 Island Half Marathon

OC Island 2 Island Half 10th AnnivesaryIt’s 2:21am, Sunday morning… I should be asleep, considering I’ve gotta hit the road in a few hours.  But, I can’t go back to sleep and frankly, I’m not tired.

So, here’s my race recap from yesterday’s event…

I had two goals in this one, which were: 1) Improve my time from Charlotte and 2) finish the race with no cramps.  I’m happy to report that I achieved both goals!!!

It was the 10th anniversary of this event.  All previous years, the half marathon would start from the main island, at the inlet on the boardwalk and go to Assateague Island.  When runners crossed the finish line at Assateague Island, they would then get transported by bus, back to the main island.  This year it was the opposite and it seemed to work out very well.

Mike and I arrived at the inlet parking lot around 5:30.  I parked Black Thunder (my car) and runners were forming a line to get on the ‘cheese’ buses to be transported to the start line.  What is a ‘cheese’ bus, you ask?  It is the yellow school bus used to transport students back and forth to school.  I don’t know how the name originated, but I’ve been calling them that since elementary school and I believe their still known as such.

Anyway, I digress…

We got on the bus and rode to the starting line.  The race was supposed to begin at 7:00 am, but, due to the last of the runners being transported to the start line late, the race didn’t begin until 7:30.

The first thing Mike and I did when we arrived was hit the bathroom line.  Once I finished, we walked to where some other runners were, to warm-up and stretch.  We then went to baggage check to check our bags and then waited.  It was getting close to the initial start time, so we made our way towards the starting area.

While waiting to hear instructions and prepare to start, I met a thinly built, older gentleman named George.  He was really cool.  We talked about how awesome the running community is and how long each of us had been running.  He stated that he’d done around 15 half marathons and 1 full.  I shared that I had been running for close to 3 years, I completed my first full this year and talked about my upcoming marathon, the 550 Relay.  I explained the set up, how the event was organized and that it’s focus was raising money for cancer awareness.

We then talked about how running made us feel and why we started running.  I told him that I started running for my health and that my weight when I started was 287 lbs.  He stopped me and said, “We’re brothers!!”  I chuckled a bit and he explained further… He stated that he started running when he was 60 and at the time he was 277 lbs!!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!!  This guy was amazingly fit, but I would’ve never in a million years guessed that his frame could’ve carried that much weight!!

Our conversation went on to family and other things concerning running.  By this time, the announcer was updating us that the race would begin shortly and we ended the conversation by introducing ourselves and offering good lucks to one another.

Fast forwarding a little bit…

“… and the home of the braaaave.”  The national anthem had finished being sung beautifully and we got ready to go.

This time I started my Garmin satellite location early on my watch, so it wouldn’t take long to find me when I tried for a signal shortly thereafter…  I must say, the more races I participate in, the easier my pre-race routine gets.  Things are getting done more efficiently.

“Runners ready… Runners set… Runners go!!”

The race had begun…  Mike and I said our goodbyes and we were off.  I only had two goals and I felt good about my chances of achieving them.  I was ready.

Shortly after we came through the start, there was a bridge with an incline.  Ocean City, MD is mostly flat, so the course was a faster one than the Baltimore Running Festival, for example.  The incline for this bridge wasn’t anything to cry about and after reaching the top, coming down was easy and there was nothing else to really worry about with regard to hills.

I felt good.  Mile markers were coming pretty steadily and I was moving at a pretty good pace.  Around mile 3, I had to hit a restroom… Again!!  I kept seeing people peel off to go into the woods, and I was tempted.  But, I kept trekking.  After reaching the port-o-potties around mile 4.5, I stopped to get in line.  I was moving pretty good and could’ve reached my 5 mile mark within an hour to stay on pace, but that didn’t happen.

1 minute passed, 2 minutes, then 3.  I was losing precious time, waiting in line.  This is when I said to myself, I should’ve went in the woods, like everybody else.  I lost close to 6 minutes waiting on the bathroom.

By this time, the 2:50 pacer had passed me and I was behind schedule.  I had to catch up, because I was shooting for a 2:40 -2:45 finish.  But if I tried to gain ground too fast, I would’ve blown myself up really quickly and would’ve been done early.  So, I had to manage my pace even more now.

I kept moving steadily… I saw Mike around mile 5.  I remember thinking that to be pretty odd.  But he told me he had to wait in a line too, so he just waited for me.  He knew that my goal was to PR on this one, so we ran together.  Mike’s faster than me and we train together, so he was able to push the pace just enough, so that I could get some quality mile times.

We knocked down miles 6, 7 and 8 pretty smoothly.  We saw the 2:50 pacer about a .25 mile ahead of us…  I was encouraged.  Around mile 8.5, Mike started having some issues and didn’t feel too good.  I asked him if he would be alright, he said he would be ok and told me to go on.  I kept pressing, as I was feeling really good…

Mile 9 came.  Mile 9 went.  And so did mile 10.  Things were looking good and if I kept going like I was, I could’ve probably caught up to the 2:50 pacer by mile 12 or so.

This is where the mental battle began for me.  Every half marathon I’ve completed before, miles 11 – 13 are the toughest.  Not because of breathing issues or anything like that, but those miles are the miles that begin to cramp up.  It never fails.  I was cautious.

The most recent image I have in my mind of me crossing a half marathon finish line, is that of my legs cramping so bad, that I almost fell across the finish line.  I couldn’t stand flat-footed on my own two feet, the cramping was so bad.

I didn’t want that to happen again, so I had been hydrating and increasing my potassium intake over the last 2 weeks… All in the name of crossing the finish line, as close to normal as possible.

I slowed my pace a bit.  I still needed to get to 13.1.  I still had a little over 2 miles to go.  I still needed to get across the finish line… without cramping.

I got through mile 11.  I started negotiating in my mind about whether to walk or whether to pick it up a bit.  I had run the entire course, without stopping to walk, up to this point and had every intention of running through the finish.

The final aid station was around mile 11.5 and this is where the rubber met the road.  I looked at my watch and thought, I can definitely get sub-3 on this one.  We were in downtown Ocean City and getting close to the boardwalk, which is where the finish line was.

I kept pushing…  Officers were directing the traffic, I could see runners walking proudly with their medals around their necks, encouraging us to finish!!  I was getting close!! Mile 12 was complete according to my Garmin and we were on the home stretch.  The final mile was an out and back, up and down the boardwalk.  There was a runners lane labeled with arrows and signs, that was corded off with flags to separate us from the public.  This was it.  I was ready for it to be over.

As I was coming down the second half of the final mile, I saw runners go around a building and disappear.  The finish line was on the other side, but I couldn’t see it.  Disappointment set in for a split moment.  I knew the finish line was inevitably coming soon.  It was unavoidable.  But because I couldn’t see it, I became unfocused for that short period of time.

With each step I was getting closer and I decided not to focus on the petty disappointment, but just focus on getting around that building.  As I got there, I saw the finish line.  I had made it!!  I cruised down the last stretch, across the finish line and into the finisher’s chute.

I did it!! Both of my goals were reached!! The clock had several minutes to spare before the 3 hour mark!!  I PR’d and I didn’t have any cramps!!

My official time was 2:55:02!!! That’s a 5 minute PR compared to Charlotte!!  I was so excited to see it on Monday!!  Now it’s time to focus on my 2nd big race of the year.  This half was the last half marathon of this season for me, so I’m going to continue training for the 550 Relay Marathon in June.

What I learned and applied…

Increasing my hydration and potassium intake will greatly reduce cramping.

It’s becoming more mental than physical now… I already know the pain of running 13.1 miles, it’s no longer a surprise.  So, I can focus on the mental toughness needed to push, when my body doesn’t want to.  Also, the more races I do, the more comfortable I get with my routine.


Thanks for reading this post… Hopefully this blog inspires you or someone you know, to cross a finish line too!!

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Just a few thoughts… Re-committing for 2014.

It’s been tough… Getting back into a training routine has been tough.    Ever since the marathon in Miami, things have not gone as expected.  I figured that I would take a few days off and get back into a groove.  I wanted to go into my first race of the new year, the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon, feeling pretty confident and ready to rock that 13.1 miles.  I mean, I had just come off of running a marathon… So, why wouldn’t I feel awesome in a half marathon, right?  There was only 45 days in between the two races.  Instead, I went into that race experimenting to see where my fitness level was, with no real training… That wasn’t the approach I was aiming for at the beginning of the year.  I made it through, the finish, with a PR, but barely… Maybe I’ll show the footage of my finish in the future (it wasn’t pretty… lol)

I also figured by this time I’d be cranking out long runs, with no problems, in preparation for my 2nd race of the year, the Ocean City Island to Island Half Marathon.  That race is in 3 weeks!!  Well, that hasn’t been the case either.

My DailyMile shows that after the marathon on February 2 to the day of the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon, I had run a total of only 17 miles.  If I were really looking for an explanation, it might’ve been explained as still recovering from my 1st marathon, I guess.  But, for the month of March I still had less than 33 miles total… For the entire month!!  Seeing that was really disappointing.  Now, in my defense, I could say that this was partly due to the crazy winter weather we’ve had on the east coast this season.  The truth is… I’m not looking for excuses or explanations.

I heard in a recent Runner Girls Podcast, that man plans and God laughs.  I believe this to be true and that has definitely been the case for me.  I planned so much for my training and I thought that I would be much further along than where I am now.  But I’m not.  I’m not where I think I should’ve been in my training… and that’s ok.  It’s just a matter of ‘getting back on the horse’ and not only desiring to be consistent, but actually being consistent.  No one else is going to train for me and no one else is going to run the races that I’ve committed to running, for me.  Frankly, no one can achieve the goals I’ve set for myself, except for me.  So, I have to put in the time and I have to do the work.

Now, I am happy to say that the last 1 1/2 weeks of March to this day April 5, 2014 has been my best training stretch of the new year.  I’ve run more than 20 miles in the last week and a half.  I realize that isn’t saying much, but I’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

I’m pretty excited that I’m coming off of an awesome run yesterday on the trails… 6.55 miles at an 11:22 pace.  My splits were as follows:

Mile 1: 12:06, Mile 2: 11:27, Mile 3: 11:44, Mile 4: 11:28, Mile 5: 11:00, Mile 6: 10:52

I was actually pretty surprised at how well this run went and I may not be as far off as I thought.  But, I only want to improve from this point forward.

I’m really looking forward to my training in the coming weeks and really hope to get another PR for Ocean City.  I’m shooting for under 3 hours…  We’ll see what happens, but I think I’m back!!  So let’s re-commit to our training and let’s have a great running season for 2014, huh?

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BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon Race Recap

This race anchored a weekend of male bonding…  This was JR’s first half marathon, Damian’s first official race and it was an opportunity to get out of town for a short while.  Mike, Damian and I traveled to Charlotte, NC to run in the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon and 5k.

I hadn’t trained the way I would’ve liked for this race, but I went into it looking to find out where my fitness level was… and I was pleasantly surprised.  I had run in my first marathon a little over a month ago and according to my stats, I ran less than 20 miles from February 2nd, the day of the full marathon, to March 8th, the day of this half marathon.  So, I was pretty interested in finding out what I could do with so little training.  I guess you can say this was an experimental race.

After leaving work and arriving home around 1:30pm on Friday, Damian showed up and we waited for Mike.  We had plans to leave around 2:30.  Mike arrived, Damian and I said goodbye to our wives and hopped in the car.  We were ready to roll!!  We were ready to get this weekend started!!

We got caught in traffic early, which seems to always be the case when leaving out of the DC, MD and VA area (the DMV) on a Friday afternoon.  But, we had safe travels and arrived in Charlotte around 10 pm.  We stopped at TGI Friday’s for something to eat, waited for our food and got to our room at the Embassy Suites Charlotte.

Embassy Suites Hotel

Embassy Suites Hotel

Our room was pretty cool and was large enough for us four men.  I didn’t have any complaints about the accommodations.  Noah drove down and met us in Charlotte after he got off work.  He didn’t run with us this time, but he said he would on the next one.  I’m definitely holding him to it.

Thinking back on the weekend, it was kinda funny… We’re much older now, some of us are bald and have gray hairs in our beards (well to be frank, I’m the youngest of us all and I’ve only got one gray hair in my beard… but who’s keeping count?! LOL) This trip actually took me back to the days of being on various sports teams in school.  A band of brothers getting ready for a big game… there’s nothing like it!!

Anyway, we got a good night’s rest so we could be ready for the big race.

Race Day

The race started at 8 am in the heart of downtown Charlotte.  JR met us at the hotel so that we could travel down to the start line together.  Our hotel wasn’t too far from Two Wells Fargo, which is where all the runners met and where you could pick up your race packet before 7:45.  JR had already picked up our bibs and shirts, since he lives there.  So, that was one less thing we needed to worry about.

Christy, Mike’s sister, was participating in the 5k as well…  Mike’s parents and JR’s family came to support us, which was also really cool.  It was truly a family affair!!

Well, it was getting close to race time… We all stretched and got ready.  I had made a couple of mistakes which would come back to haunt me later during the race.

An announcement was made for all runners to make their way to the starting line.  We walked out of the Atrium and towards the start line.  Temps started out pretty chilly at 37 degrees, but I knew that I would warm up after a mile or two.  Actually, it was supposed to warm up to 66 degrees, which was perfect… so the temporary chill wasn’t overwhelming.

I didn’t hear a gun, but I believe the race started on time.  I began to see the runners in front of me walking forward and then gradually running forward.  The race had begun and there was no turning back now.

BB&T Race Course

BB&T Race Course

I felt pretty good.  My goals for this race were to finish, to have a better finishing time than my previous two half marathons and to see where my fitness level was.  It wasn’t pretty, but I was able to accomplish each of my goals.

Miles one through three went pretty smooth… I noticed from the beginning that this was going to be a hilly course.  I think that I was fine with that.  I just decided that I would run the inclines really easy and work harder on the flats and declines.  I kept thinking of a motto I’d heard before, “Run the hard parts easy and the easy parts hard.”  So that’s exactly what I did.

We had our own personal tour guide as we ran through Charlotte.  We passed the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which was so cool.  I wish we had time to visit, but that will be something to do for next year.

Plaza of the NASCAR HOF - Courtesy of NASCAR HOF

NASCAR Hall of Fame

JR was telling us about the new Minor League Baseball stadium that was just built as we ran past it.  It was beautiful!!  There was a line of people waiting to get in for tickets or a tour already.  It wasn’t officially open yet, I don’t think, but it was breathtaking!!

The New Charlotte Knights Stadium

The New Charlotte Knights Stadium

We split from the 5k route and this is where our race began.  It’s always interesting how sparse the crowd gets when there are multiple distances in a race.  The shorter distance always seems to have more people running towards that finish line, than the longer distance.  That’s what happened in Miami and that’s what happened here in Charlotte.

I was still moving pretty well and I was feeling good!!  The sun was shining, the temperature was just right and the scenery was fantastic.  Charlotte is a beautiful city!!  They say the best way to tour a city is by running through it and I found that to be very true here.  I had never been in the heart of Charlotte or the inner city and I was able to see more than I’ve ever seen before in this race.

Things were going great and here comes the first real challenge.  We had been experiencing rolling hills throughout the course, but then I was introduced to East 3rd Street.  It felt like the never ending incline!!  It wasn’t steep, but it climbed for what seemed to be 1.5 – 2 miles!!!  Are you kidding me?!?!

Well, I took it easy on East 3rd Street and made it up to the top.  I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel too bad after getting up there.  It will be a hill that I’ll always remember questioning whether it will ever end.

I was coming up on mile 6 and I still felt pretty good.  At this point, I had been running at about 12 min/mile.  According to my chip time, I reached the 10k mark at 1:15:28… I was cruising nicely and hadn’t felt any pain.

As I got closer to miles 8 and 9, I began to feel a burning sensation.  My mind went back to the beginning of the race, when I realized that I hadn’t put on any body glide or lubrication.  I had every intention of doing so, but totally forgot and this was where my first mistake came back to haunt me.  If you’ve run long distance runs without a lubricant of some sort, you know exactly what I’m talking about!!  It wasn’t bad around mile 8, but it began to get worse the closer we got to 10.

I had been in a good mental state up until this point and my race was going well.  I even thought for a moment that I’d be able to have a quicker PR, I was feeling so good.  But upon the first twinge of my tights chafing me in places that weren’t pleasant, things took a turn.

I was able to make it to mile 10, with no problems.  But around mile 10.5 is where the wheels fell off.  A cramp would threaten my calf here and there and I felt that if I tried to dig a little deeper, it was gonna take me out!  So, I  just stayed within myself and stayed steady.

We ran through some beautiful neighborhoods!! I mean we saw estates, not just homes!! But I couldn’t enjoy them because of the feeling of a thousand razor blades cutting me and leg cramps threatening me like bullies on a playground.

I kept looking back to see who was behind me… I really didn’t want to come in last!!  I would walk, then shuffle a bit.  I was no longer monitoring my mile times, I was monitoring my quarter mile times.  LOL

I was only trying to move through a quarter mile as quickly as possible with the dilemma I was working with.

We got to mile 12 and we only had one more mile to go.  This was it.  We were back in downtown Charlotte and we had gone further than the distance we still had to go.  It was now just a matter of making it across the finish line.

A few people passed me, but I didn’t care.  (Well maybe I did, which is why I tried to shuffle the rest of the way)  We saw other runners walking the opposite direction with their medals and they cheered us on… Such nice folks.

As we came down to 12.8 there was a volunteer standing at the corner.  I remembered her clapping and showing so much energy, telling us that the finish was right around the corner.  JR said, “I need some of your energy!!”  She responded with a chuckle and said, “I haven’t been running…”, which she implied was the reason for her having so much energy.  The exchange was enough to put another smile on my face.

As we turned the corner, Mike was there waiting for us!!  I didn’t see him with a medal and I was a little concerned.  I asked him where his medal was and he said that he hadn’t crossed yet.  I said “WHAT?!?!”  He waited so that we could all cross the finish line together!!  I tell ya, that brother is a cool dude.

See, Mike’s a faster runner than JR and myself.  Earlier on in the race, we had told him to go on, since he looked really strong.  I figured he would finish around 2 1/2 hours…  But, he waited for us until we came around the last corner and we all crossed together!!  That’s a cool brother.

Now, another mistake I made before the race came back to haunt me as I literally crossed the finish line…

All of a sudden, both of my legs seized up with cramps.  I had one under my calf on my left leg and a ‘charlie horse’ type of cramp in my right leg, that was so bad, it (the cramp) pulled my right foot up and stiffened.  In essence, I had to walk on the side of my shoe.  It wouldn’t go away!!

I can laugh at it now, especially after seeing the video.  In fact, my I showed my wife and we died laughing at me.  I was to the point of tears, it was soooo funny.  In the video, I see my brother Noah smiling as I came across… He told me that he thought I was trying to do a dance as I crossed the finish line.  LOLOLOL!!!  That was definitely NOT the case.

As my right leg crossed the blue and red mat of the finish line, this devilish cramp got me.  I would’ve tipped over if my brothers weren’t there to help me.

The mistake was this… I don’t eat bananas.  I’ve had bananas many years ago and I believe that I’m allergic to them.  They caused my mouth to itch, my tongue and throat to swell.

Well, someone gave me a banana and I didn’t care.  I ate it and didn’t have any problems.  I don’t know what it was about this banana, but after eating it and drinking a red Powerade, the cramp subsided.

I will now be eating bananas more often.  I don’t know whether this miracle banana was organic or not, but it was exactly what I needed.

After looking back on the long distance races that I’ve done, cramps have always been a part of them.  Bananas have been a missing ingredient in my life for years, which may speak to a lack of potassium being a major part of the problem.

Overall, this race was awesome and I respect the course.  I still PR’d my half marathon time by 4 minutes, which is a win.  But knowing what I know now, Ocean City next month, should be even better.

Thanks for reading my experience at the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon.  If you liked this post and want to get updates, feel free to subscribe via email.  If you think someone else can benefit from my experience, please forward this and any other posts to them.

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