DDP

I haven’t posted that much recently, but as I’m watching the Final Four, I’m invoking the “Dead Dad Pass” and writing a bit of nostalgia on this Saturday night.

I can’t speak for anyone else in Connecticut, but I didn’t really have a choice regarding who I rooted for growing up. We were UConn fans. My father did his undergrad there, and our town was right next door to the Storrs campus. The Huskies were our team. When I was younger, that really just meant watching Geno and the women’s team. Diana, Sue, Svetlana, Rebecca, Jennifer, Nykesha, Kara, Swin, Carla, Shea, the list goes on and on. Back when we had an antenna atop the house and we’d often struggle to get signal during winter storms. I think 1080 AM was the radio station that we’d turn to when we couldn’t watch the game.

Not that the men’s team was necessarily bad. Chris Smith, Ray Allen, Tate, Doron, Kevin, Donny and Donnell and then the magic years with the likes of Rip, Jake, Khalid, Rudy, Caron, Hasheem, Charlie, Kemba, Emeka and Shabazz. I can still recall the ’99 Championship Game against Duke when Khalid El-Amin snagged the ball with a few seconds remaining and ran around the court like a madman celebrating. It also stands out because I got to stay up late on a school night, which was a big deal for my high school freshman self.

And I’ll always remember my father’s love for UConn. I’m pretty sure a majority of his casualwear had a UConn logo on it. Even as a moody teen/20-something, when we had nothing else to talk about, we could still talk about the Huskies. Our high school band was able to raise money by selling programs at games, so we got to attend a lot of games between 1997 and 2002. And even some football games, before UConn had a D1-A program. This was my first exposure to a marching band, watching UConn’s band march to “Duel of the Fates” over and over again.

And even now, I feel like I’m watching UConn with Dad. I know he would have loved to watch UConn’s run as a 7-seed making it all the way to the Final Four, and leading the overall #1 seed with 17 minutes remaining. I wish I could call him up tonight and talk about the game. And I can’t wait to introduce my children to UConn, looks like we’ll start with the 2014-15 preseason ;-)

Never Finished

His favorite UConn sweatshirt

We miss you Dad.

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Snow Day!

When I was a child, I’d venture through the woods behind our house after a snowfall, tracking the deer that lived back there. Eventually I’d return home after ranging across hill and dell, through swamps and over fallen trees, and my parents would make me hot chocolate, usually in a large Penn State mug.

I no longer have woods behind my house, but I still enjoy taking jaunts through the snow when possible.

Before Snow Run

And so it was that after we shut the store early today, I laced up my Kinvara TR’s and hit the sidewalk for a nice snowy run. The weather wasn’t the best, and running down Lawndale resulted in lots of wind and snow in my face (glad I bought a balaclava), but once I turned into Country Park the wind died down. The unseen road passed beneath my feet, blanketed by a thick layer of snow. I stuck to the middle to avoid slipping off the edges, thinking about nothing other than my next step.

There were footprints in the snow as I headed into the Military Park, reminding me that I wasn’t alone out there. The snow mutes all noise, especially when all I can hear is the pounding from my heart and ragged breathing from my lungs, struggling up a hill that normally doesn’t bother me. Faint animal tracks occasionally crossed the road, even the rabbits and squirrels were absent from this run. But it wasn’t until I passed another runner, heading into the park as I was nearing the end, that I truly appreciated the beauty of the run.

She was bundled up like me, and I don’t know where she came from or how far she had to go, but at that moment we were comrades. Brothers in shoes. Siblings from another ribling (I’m trying out a new phrase, bear with me). And it was at that moment that I thought about just how great my life was.

She reminded me of the fantastic community of runners that I am surrounded by. People like Andrew C., Adrienne A., Wendy N. and Rob D. (the first names that come to mind, mostly due to snow run posts from Tuesday), who don’t let snow stop them from enjoying their passion for running, and who truly revel in it. People who focus on the positive, rather than letting negativity get them down. People who rejoice when others do well, and encourage their friends and competitors, rather than thinking only of themselves.

It’s days like this that can be truly special (unless you’re stuck in traffic on 85, I pity those poor souls). We should never forget how much of a blessing it is to run, and how we should never forget that running is inherently fun. It isn’t a chore, although it can feel that way. It isn’t an obligation, we can quit any time we want. We get to run, we have the privilege of running, and we should never take it for granted.

Blood makes the snow red

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr

And always take the time to go for a run in the snow.

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James Joseph Vance

How do you measure a year in the life?

As usual, in times of tragedy I revert to song lyrics.

My father was 65 years old when he died. Specifically, 65 years, 8 months and 17 days. Or 24,003 days. Or 34,563,625 minutes. Or 2,073,817,500 seconds (starting from midnight on the day he was born, as I don’t know the hour). Those are a lot of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. And most importantly, a lot of life, love, and memories.

Jim Vance was a great man. He was a fantastic father, husband, brother and son. He met Sara McQuay on August 20, 1977 and they married on June 1, 1979. My brother Chris was born in 1981, and I followed in 1984. Dad was great about always being involved in our activities.  He coached us through a bunch of seasons of basketball and baseball, always encouraging and motivating us to our best, even if our athletic abilities were lacking. He also passed down a love of golf, and many weekends featured walking the fairways of Skungamaug River Golf Course. In many ways, I suspect that I always wanted to be like my father and brother. This is why I chose to be born on my brother’s birthday, and why I golfed right-handed like the both of them (or maybe lefty golf clubs for children weren’t easy to find in the early 90′s).

My father took me on my first tour of colleges when I was a junior in high school, a tour which included Cornell University. From the first moment that I stood there, far above Cayuga’s waters, I felt like I was home. My time at Cornell left me with a lot of great friendships and memories, and led me to where I am today (I’ve got a flowchart if you’d like to see it).

While I lived in Myrtle Beach, my father’s golf group visited the area for their annual golf trip. That was probably the first time that I truly saw him as a human being, and not just a parent. It was interesting to see how everyone in the group interacted together, laughing and heckling and acting in a way that I’d never truly seen from them before. It was “boys being boys”, a relaxed, fun environment that I will forever remember, along with the trip that I joined them on to Charlotte while I lived in Georgia.

Our family traveled a lot together. One of my first vacation memories is to the Four Corners/Grand Canyon. Lotaburger/Rafting/Horseback Riding, there are some great pictures and even better memories. We visited Gettysburg, as Dad and I both had a passion for American History. Dad and I visited Russia when I was in the 8th grade as part of an exchange program, where we saw Red  Square, the Bolshoi, St. Petersburg and Khimki. Our entire family went to Europe in the late 90′s, seeing Paris, Chamonix, Switzerland, various cities in Italy including Venice, a beautiful countryside in Austria with a wonderful B&B, Germany, and then back to Paris.

Mind the gap

Driving to the clubhouse

My favorite trip was our 2008 journey to Scotland, just the two of us. My father and I were able to play at Carnoustie, Crail and the Old Course at St. Andrews. The weather was typical Scotland, fog lasted till mid-afternoon and we wore long sleeves in July. We both had our struggles during the rounds, but nothing will ever match reaching the final holes at the Old Course. Teeing off on the Road Hole and crossing the Swilcain Bridge will forever stick out in my mind for the emotional impact.

As my father’s health declined, it became harder for him to do the things that he loved. We still got in a few rounds of golf, though his touch had deserted him. He never complained or blamed the CBD, he just kept on living his life. My mother was always a positive force, taking him for his appointments, watching over him and keeping us updated. Their winter trips to the South were fantastic, as I never managed to get back home as much as I should have.

And in some ways, our wedding was truly the race to the altar that our Save The Date advertised. We were facing an opponent with endless stamina and a lack of mercy. As Dad’s health continued to decline, we made plans for how he would be at the wedding, and it was truly a special occasion with his presence. Millie Holloman, a fantastic photographer that I would recommend to anyone looking for a wedding photographer, took my favorite picture of us after the ceremony, before the reception.

We danced, we laughed, we celebrated, what more could anyone want? Thanks to Skype, we had several more chances to talk face-to-face, including one conversation from our honeymoon in St. Lucia. And then, all too suddenly, he was gone.

As cliche as it is, I wish there had been more time. I wish I could have learned more about him and his life. I’m sure there are more stories that hear, more lessons to learn. Marriage has shown me a lot of what I’m sure my parents were like before we came along. And I’ve also seen lots of great pictures in the past 24 hours of my parents without Chris and me around. In matching Halloween costumes or with friends, happy, relaxed, enjoying life. Sometimes we can forget that our parents, the people that we idolize and influence our lives in so many ways, are people like everyone else. I intend to make sure that my children see us this way as well, as two people who love each other and love life. I can only hope to be a shadow of the role models that my parents and Lauren’s parents have been in our lives.

Thank you for all the memories and lessons, Jim, we’ll miss you.

 

If you’d like to make a donation in James Vance’s honor, we suggest The First Tee of Connecticut, 55 Golf Club Road, Cromwell, CT 06416, or online at TheFirstTeeConnecticut.org

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Looking Foward or Looking Back

I was in the midst of writing a “2013 Review” post, when I decided it might be better to look ahead than look behind. Not that I’m trying to ignore the past, and I certainly hope to learn from it, but I’d like to focus on what’s to come, and how I can improve, than on what has already happened, and how I failed.

My primary goal for 2014 is to continue finding joy and strength in running. I am looking to return to the trails and marathon scenes, and hope to learn and grow in the process. My current calendar looks quite ambitious (some would argue that “foolhardy” is a better term). I’m running Uwharrie once again, with less of a distance base than 2012, but hopefully a smarter strategy and better planning will make up for that issue. And there is still a month to prepare, though one week will be spent on my honeymoon, where I will try to push through the heat and run when I can.

After Uwharrie, I will return to the roads and attempt to lower my road marathon PR by 40 minutes, qualifying for Boston in the process. My last road attempt was also on the heels of Uwharrie, though there was less recovery time and a Black Mountain Marathon in the middle of those two.

2013 was a great experience in working with the local running community and I can’t wait to keep this going in 2014, aided by our new partnerships and resources.

Most of all, I look forward to continuing to work with my wonderful wife, enriching ourselves and learning more professionally and personally. We’ll be starting the year off with a bang, I can’t wait to see where we are in 370 days.

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Dr. Strangeglove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pain or: An Ode To Racing Shoes


 

Much like Macklemore’s story, mine also begins with a pair of Nikes.

They were my first “running” shoes. I was 20, living in Myrtle Beach, and the Nike Outlet was just down the road, so I picked up a pair one day during training for the Manchester Road Race. I don’t recall the actual model name, but they definitely weren’t running shoes. They were gray and had some sort of Air piece in the heel, the sort of shoes that cause Nike to get a bad rap in the running community, since most of their “run” line isn’t suitable for the activity. For my beginning self, they sufficed, although looking back, they could have caused the shin splints that I fought for a long time . . .

Luckily, my local running group convinced me to go down to Charleston (Myrtle Beach didn’t have a running store at the time) and get actually fitted for a pair of shoes. I wish I could tell you what that entailed, but I honestly don’t remember. They may have videotaped me running, or just watched me (my navicular drop is pretty noticeable). Either way, I left the store with moldable inserts and a stability shoe. These got me through the Manchester Road Race, Myrtle Beach Half Marathon, National Half Marathon and Cooper River Bridge Run.

And so there I was. A “runner”. I’d run off-and-on for the next few years, switching between the Saucony Guide, the Brooks Adrenaline and the Mizuno Inspire, never really having injury problems, just motivation problems. I never actually wore any of these shoes out, though I did finally destroy those original Nikes during a hash, when the entire Air unit in the left heel fell off. (Hey look, it’s zero drop now!) I would run occasionally in Georgia, completing a few 5ks, and dreaming of one day trying the Labor Day 10k.

Fast forward several years, and I was now running in lighter shoes, along with changing jobs, postal codes and foot-strikes. Firmly in the New Balance camp, I’d rotate between the 790, 100 and 101, depending on the terrain. I even managed to run a few marathons in the 100 and 101′s. And I was definitely a “runner” at that point. I was more consistent in my running. I would try to stick to a schedule, and actually schedule my life around running, on occasion. Not everyone in my life understood this concept, or agreed with it, and so some circumstances were altered. And I kept on running.

And then it all changed.

 

Well, kinda changed.

 

Well, not really changed, in the short term, but down the line, it totally did.

 

Promise.

 

Scout’s Honor.

 

 

 

If you’re still reading, I guess I should keep writing.

You see, Merrell was blowing up the niche-market with the Glove-line of running shoes. Being a shoenerd, I picked up a pair of the Trail Gloves. (I also had a pair of the New Balance Minimus Trail 10 shoes at the time, but I was never satisfied with them). This was my lightest pair of shoes to date, and I loved them. Not for trails, mind you. I think they’re horrible for that. No rock protection, no lugs to grip in muddles (aka mud puddles, I’m hoping “muddles” will catch on), I still don’t understand why they’re called the “Trail Glove”. But for roads and greenways, they were amazing! I would wear my NB Minimus Road 10 for training runs, but when I wanted to go fast, the Trail Glove was the shoe to wear.

And so it was that I started “racing”. And I touched the net! Mama, I touched the net!

. . .  so to speak

I started learning about myself, and just what my limits were. With these shoes, I was suddenly dropping paces that I’d never dreamed of before. My 5k PR had over 3 minutes shaved off it in less than 16 months! I was running faster and faster, and every new pair was guaranteed to get me closer to the Olympics! Watch out, Meb! On your left, Galen! Hold my bag, Ryan! I was the next big thing!

To The Fallen shirt

Reel Big Fish

I think the pain-management aspect of “racing” is what fascinates me most of all. How do these people, from elite professionals to local age-group winners, find the strength to push their bodies through so much? For a great analysis of what can motivate endurance athletes, and where it can take them, check out “Iron War”, Matt Fitzgerald’s gripping story of the 1989 Ironman World Championships, and the battle between Mark Allen and Dave Scott. If you’re more interested in a mediocre blog post that briefly touches on some of the same points, continue reading here.

I hated running as a child/teen. Or physical exertion in general, when I felt any pressure or unwanted effort. I had asthma growing up, usually induced by exercise, or allergies, and I can remember using that as a crutch when I just flat out didn’t want to try. I’d also use rolled ankles as an excuse, for while I did have some nasty injuries from coming down from a rebound onto someone’s foot, that wasn’t always real. Looking back, I’m incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of how I just did not want to try. My parents are absolutely amazing, and always stood by me, I hope to one day mirror their example when I have children of my own.

I now wonder what would have happened if I had actually taken to running in middle school and high school. Not necessarily in the “would I have been good enough to run in college” sense, but would I still be running today? Would I have burned out, or irreparably injured myself? Or would I be further along than I am today? Obviously, we’ll never know, and it doesn’t do any good to live in the past like that.

It took me a while to realize that what had changed wasn’t the shoes (they had, but not enough to truly make a difference), it was my mentality. I was learning to “race”, and not just run. Not like JLG, trying to compete at every group run, but when the gun when off, I was trying to find my red line and hold it. To learn what exactly I could maintain or pick up from at a set distance. I’m not implying that you have to run a certain pace or distance, it’s more a reflection on my finally, truly devoting time, energy, sweat and blood to running, and to having a purpose while doing it.

This didn’t always work out. My Rock’n'Roll Savannah collapse was one for the ages. In my quest to find my limits, I found my 2 mile limit during a half marathon. But I learned from that, and continued to try to test myself as a runner. I finally ran a road marathon, and once again collapsed. But learned more about training and pacing. And to find some strength and peace in the search for that elusive limit. During his best man’s toast at our welcome dinner, my brother referenced my searching for and pursuing my passions. I had never really thought about it that way before, that I was looking for what inspired me, and that drove me.

And this was how I spent 2011/2012. Racing and reaching for the stars. In some ways, I reached too high and it all fell down. 2013 was spent mostly trying to learn to love running again. And to learn to run without the help of a community of rabbits, without constantly being able to find a partner for whatever distance at whatever pace and whatever time of day or night. And to work on developing my own running community, and all that it entails. And to remind myself that running can be fun at any pace. That 10 mile tempo runs are just as much fun as 3 mile recovery runs. And that a mile is a mile, regardless of pace.

And so here I sit, plotting out another year. Are my eyes once again bigger than my mouth? Are my feet bigger than my shoes? Is that an apt metaphor? Looking ahead, I’ve got a road 8k, trail 14 miler, trail 40 miler and road marathon between today and the end of April. I fully intend to “race” at least 3 of those, but more than that, I intend to enjoy all of them. Every step of the way. Even the painful steps. Especially the painful steps. To run without inhibition or preconception, to find my limits, to surpass them, and then go out for a cooldown ;-)

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What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You . . . Smarter?

Saturday marked another running of the Run For Green triumvirate. While this was my third year running it, I still have never run the 5k (although the other courses cover it, so it’s basically like I’ve run it). The 10k in 2011 was my PR race (although I still maintain it was short, only way I could have come so close to breaking 40), and the half in 2012 was great, albeit a death march. I was hoping for a better result this year, including planning out my opening mile paces and packing Gu for the return trip energy.

But as they say, the best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley. Look it up.

This year turned in to another death march, and I think I’ve finally figured out my troubles with this half. Too much downhill in the beginning! You essentially run downhill for 6.8 miles, then turn around and run uphill for 6.3 miles. Yes, there are ups and downs in both of those sections, but the lowest point on the course is at the turnaround, and you finish 160′ higher than that low point.

I’m not using that as an excuse, plenty of people run great times on this course each year, and Lamperski’s sub 1:19 is an obvious example of that. But the race course always lures me into a start that isn’t sustainable, and I’m not smart enough to slow down and save my legs for the second half.

Additionally, I think my side-stitch at 7 was due to not running my own race. I spent a while encouraging everyone that I passed on the out-and-back, and developed the stitch after a half mile of that. It could certainly be unrelated, but darnit, I’m blaming everyone else!

Bottom line, I went out too fast. The 6:25 mile is okay with me, it really is difficult to run that opening at a slower pace, and I made an effort to let Brian and Alyson pull away, otherwise it would have been 6:19 or so. But after that, I should have found a way to drop back to 7:20′s or so, instead of keeping in the sub-7 range. I spent a little while chatting with a runner from Wilmington, Drew, and I forced myself to run his pace. My fear of not having anyone to run with later in the race resulted in my not having any gas to run with anyone later in the race.

Eventually I’ll figure out how to run a half marathon properly. Savannah is 7 weeks away, which is actually plenty of time to train (if we ignore how training takes a back seat to wedding prep in 5 weeks) and maybe I’ll have a better outing. My only saving grace is that my position throughout the race was relatively constant, I was 20th at best, finished as 28, passed by 3 guys in the last two miles, and had no gas to catch them. Let’s get back to passing others at the end of a race, mmkay?

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Sometime Around Midnight

It all starts with Nashville. And Nashville starts with the day I underestimated Sue Falco. Michelle called my store looking for Dan, sounding distraught, and she told me that Sue had just been diagnosed with cancer, again. The details weren’t clear yet, but I remember thinking “it’s a bummer that she won’t be able to run Nashville.”

 

So that’s when I first decided to run the Country Music Marathon in Nashville twice, because Sue wouldn’t be able to take part in the race . . .

 

Oops

 

After she announced that she was still going to run, and her medical team was supporting her, we were all quite psyched. Dan and I talked about how it was too bad that I wouldn’t be able to see her finish, especially after she announced my run to the world. I was in good shape, and didn’t think the mileage would be a problem, but I’d glad sacrifice a marathon finish for a chance to watch Sue dominate her half marathon.

Shortly before the race, Sue asked me if I wanted to run with her crew of Dan, Dawn and Jenny. We rationalized that since I had originally planned to do 52.4 miles since Sue couldn’t do any, my doing 39.3 and her doing 13.1 was the same total, and much more meaningful. Plus, if I got tired, I could just hop on her back!

Hopalong Sue

“Wait, what did he just say?”

The actual race began at 7 am, so I decided to budget 7 hours for completion of my first attempt, plus returning to the start and fueling. With that said, I’m not sure if anyone actually expected me to start my run at midnight. Obviously, I had my doubts, but after my donations passed $1000 and didn’t stop, I knew that I really had no other choice. Dan and Sue both attempted to dissuade me from my run, both earlier on Friday, and then when I woke Dan up at 11:30 pm to give me a ride to the start. Sadly, as my parents can attest, I rarely listen to good advice.

528556_10100524152994995_651279191_n

“We may never know why young Michael Vance set out on that road at midnight . . . “

So there I was, standing in the middle of downtown Nashville at 12:01 am on Saturday, April 28. I had my hydration pack, phone and camera, and I was ready to go. The run started easily enough, temperatures in the low-60’s, fresh legs, plenty of energy. I had a turn-by-turn in my pocket, so I didn’t think I would have any problem with directions. But this only works if you actually pay attention to distances and street signs. I got off-course on my second turn, when I was racing a drunk girl and didn’t realize I needed to go right, until over a half mile later. Turn around, back track, find turn, resume run, what better way to spend a Friday night?

I also had another inebriated young woman tell me that my headlamp was cool, and could she have it? while heading toward Music Row. This section was confusing due to streets changing direction without warning. This was when I was most thankful for my phone’s GPS, as I just stopped about scanned the directions/map until I knew which way was correct. It’s so much easier when they block off the streets for you!

You can't get there from here

This guy was no help, he wouldn’t even talk to me :-(

After this it was fairly easy. And interesting. Random sights and sounds across a darkened cityscape, filtered through the lens of two hours sleep. A kid skateboarding in a gas station parking lot at 1:30 am. A police car that tailed me for a quarter-mile. Running through a NoDa-style neighborhood at 2 am, passing closed restaurants and bars. Seeing the stages getting prepped 7 hours before the first runners would arrive. An actual pack (5-10) of seemingly wild dogs crossing the street ~100 yards in front of me, and calculating if I could make it to the Food Lion before they took me down. A poorly lit, winding, narrow road that made me assess how quickly I could jump away in the event of an oncoming car. Matchbox 20 jokes, at the requisite 3 am. Passing the finish line with a few hours left to go, and knowing that I couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop.. My six police officer motorcycle escort, though they’d probably claim they were marking cars on the race route for towing. Getting lost again in the park, and questioning why exactly there was a hill at this point in the race. Seeing everyone start waking up on Facebook. Finally finishing around 5:30 am, dodging the lines of people waiting for the shuttles to the start, and then running back to the start.

Country and Western

One Night Only, The ‘Good Ole Boys’!
Am I The Winner?

Where Is Everybody?

 

To keep myself fueled, I picked up a bottle of chocolate milk and another of Mountain Dew, and found the Omega Nation crew. In the interest of my personal safety and avoiding police detainment, we had all agreed that I shouldn’t wear the tutu for my overnight run, instead donning it with the group, because that totally looks normal.

ParaNorman

Not Normal

Next To Normal

Normal!

The race was an amazing experience. Sue and Jenny did amazing in their first half marathon, especially on a warm day and a hilly course. We all had our low points, but the crowd support was absolutely incredible, and definitely helped. We ran, we laughed, we walked, we sang, we danced, we high-fived strangers and drank a few beers.

Sorry Dan!

Ironically, at Bobby’s Idle Hour

It's lite beer, does that count as water?

That ain’t water

And 13.1 miles later, we were done. There’s far too much awesomeness from this race to truly document it all, but I would not have traded this race for any experience in the world. To me, this was less about the distance, and more about the journey. Although watching Sue cross the finish line was pretty epic.

Freshly back from Mount Doom

Stand up!

There is no group that I would rather have shared that road with. Their spirit, courage and perseverance made the miles pass with bittersweet ease, because I desperately tried to cling to every second along the way. The race showed me a lot about what the body can endure, and how much of our limitations are merely mental blocks. Plus, it’s just a great way to check out a new city!

And there's beer!

And there’s bling

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The Art Of Racing Undertrained

First of all, I am fully aware of how strange this title is. And by no means am I advocating the habit of “racing” events that you aren’t fully ready for. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enter races if you aren’t in peak form, just that if you have a racing-mentality, and expect your best effort at a race that you aren’t trained for, you’ll usually end up disappointed.

Also, I’ve never read “The Art Of Racing In The Rain”, though I think we have it somewhere on the bookshelf.

With that said, I’ve run 3 races in the past 3 weekends, and it’s been a great experience.

Somewhere out there, lost in the Draft Archives of RoadLabeledAmazing, is my write-up for Downhill @ Dawn. My main point, since I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually publish that piece, was that it was the first time that I truly felt like I was “racing”. Late in the race, for about the last 5 miles or so, I was running alone. I’d occasionally spot one or two guys in front of me, but they were over a minute ahead, and really not close enough to play rabbits for me. Instead, I just had to find motivation from within myself, something that I’ve lacked in the past. Somehow, I managed to keep my pace steady, without overdoing or slacking. I avoided the temptation to look back, afraid that I’d start running scared, and I sought to truly run my race, and get to the finish line as efficiently as I could.

I really felt like I found my “sweet spot/edge/groove/redline/cliche-of-choice” during D@D, where I ran to the best of my abilities that day, without either going out too fast or finishing with a ton left in my tank. But since then, I’ve slacked a lot, and I definitely don’t have that edge-specific-knowledge right now.  That doesn’t stop me from trying to get it back.

I entered the Run 4 Roo on a whim. I joined the Downtown Dashers for a run on a Thursday morning, 2 days before the race, the route we ran was the Run 4 Roo course, I didn’t find it particularly difficult, but it still seemed fun, and so I signed up. The end of the preview run crept up on me, with a steep climb dumping you out basically at the finish, so I filed that knowledge away for race day, and decided to see what I could do. My race started off cautious, since I had absolutely no idea what to expect from my body. A pair of 7:27 miles sandwiched by 6:5x miles, and my final sprint really was a sprint, to pick off two guys on the hill and take second in my age group. 12th overall, 7:01 pace, but I could have done better.

Next up was the Trail Run Challenge. I ran this back in 2009, and was hoping to blow my previous time away. For this race, I was joined by Andrew and Jeremy, two of our local High Point runners, who are both outstanding road runners, but relatively new to trails (sorry Corbin, I’m the old man here). As this race was on my home turf of the USNWC, I tried to give them tips on the trails and when to push, but I knew that ultimately they would just have to discover what their bodies could handle out on the trails. I once again started off too cautious, allowing myself to fall into a pace that in retrospect was too easy for a race, but at the time felt perfect, since I didn’t know how much deeper I could dig. Shortly before we hit the South trails, Andrew dropped back and I lost contact with Jeremy. From this point on, my race really began, as I drew Chris Smith back in, and passed him in the pines, before setting my sights on another target. Over the next 20 minutes, I would gradually gain on him, before passing him in the parking lot, 20 seconds from the finish. Jeremy would follow shortly thereafter, and Andrew was just a tad behind him. Two races in two Saturdays, and I once again found myself passing runners at the finish, with plenty left in my tank. This was a vastly more difficult race, and required some strategy, but ultimately I still just didn’t have that racing instinct.

And finally, we come to my new home course, the Kirkwood 5k. It literally runs past our house, and I’ve logged a good number of miles on these roads in the past few months. The race course markings are spray painted on the asphalt, and I often use them as guides for morning workouts. This was my first actual 5k race since the Resolution Run on January 1, 2013, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than a decent performance, based on my past two weekends. I took Wednesday and Thursday off to let my legs recover, and felt pretty good on Saturday morning. I knew that I wasn’t as fast as Jeremy and Andrew, so I held back at the start, doing my best to keep them in sight without actively pursuing them. But then my boss, John Dewey, passed me on an uphill, while pushing a stroller that contained his 3-and 5-year-old children. And so I started to run a bit harder, without hitting a red-line push. The race was an out-and-back, and I spent a lot of the second mile cheering people on as we passed them, rather than focusing on my speed. It wasn’t until Kristi blew past me with .75 left that I remember it was a race. Strava estimates that had I maintained my current speed at that point, I would have finished in another 5.5 minutes. Instead, it took me 4.5 minutes, so it’s safe to say that I dropped the hammer a bit. My local knowledge helped to pull me down the hill and past a few runners, before attacking the new section hard and passing Kristi on the outside as we hit the final straightaway. She beat me by just over 2 minutes at Run 4 Roo, and I knew that she was a strong runner, but somehow I managed to hold her off and break 20 for the second time ever, officially.

3 races, all with times that I would have killed for 2 years ago, and I find myself wondering how much more I could have done. And it’s that question of “what if” that keeps me coming back. What if I actually follow a full training schedule? What if I commit to more tempo and track runs? What if I finally recognize the value of long weekend runs? What if God was one of us?

Racing undertrained has reminded me of how far I’ve come, and how far I could go, now it’s time to actually go out there and just do it.

 

 

It’s all about the possibilities

 

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24 Minutes Of Booty

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and in an effort to force myself to get back in to it, I’m giving myself no more than 24 minutes to write this post about 24 Hours of Booty.

First of all, I want to thank everyone involved in this event, my teammates, friends and donors. And especially all of those who inspire me, like Sue Falco, Mike Mitchell, John Rubinich, Susan Campagna, Amy Jones and Matt Hurlock.

This was the second year that I’ve been involved in 24HOB. Last year, Lauren’s parents couldn’t take part, so we got their spots with a month to go, and didn’t really train at all. It was a hot day, I really hadn’t spent much time on my bike, and we logged around 40 miles.

But the overall experience was still great. The Booty Loop is a fantastic feature in Charlotte, and I think it spoiled me in many ways. There’s just something great about having a loop already set up for running or riding, with parking and water along the way, that you can head to at any time (except Sunday mornings, church parking makes it tough).

We were excited to come back to join Bootyville again this year, especially since we had our own team (team jerseys are still in the design phase), and would be joined by a group of friends. We still didn’t train for it, and our fundraising was woefully neglected for a while, but I was still looking forward to a fantastic weekend in Charlotte.

Lauren had a dress fitting in Raleigh on Friday morning, so I packed up Su-bee with my bike, Millie and all sorts of camping gear, and drove down to Charlotte solo. Due to an early morning workout and planning session with Andrew, I hit the road later than I had hoped. Luckily, Gray stepped up and reserved some space for us right as Bootyville Camping opened up, so we had a prime spot with plenty of space for our tents.

Setup was easy, and I visually inspected our bikes to make sure there weren’t any major issues, before nervous tension set in and I started bouncing around, waiting for the start.

You see, I’m not a cyclist. My bike, which is ~1.5 years old, has less than 400 miles on it. Other than my previous Booty experience, I’ve had one group cycling experience, when Lauren, her parents and I did a few laps around Booty last year. So I’m still not comfortable in groups.

My one saving grace is my running experience. Apparently, that helps my legs stay in cycling-shape, so that I can last longer than most newbie cyclists (TWSS). BTW, 13 minutes left and I’m sweating (maybe it’s the window and sun by my face). So I had no idea what I could do at Booty, or what I would do. Last year, it was just too hot, and we weren’t very motivated to keep pushing. This year, Lauren had promised her donors at least 100k (62 miles (~20 laps)), which was a great goal for her, but I didn’t have any plans to do more than 45 miles, just to surpass last year.

When we started, it was slow, as usual. There was a big group on Hopedale, possibly all due to Team Reeb, that bottlenecked everyone, due to the kids in the street looking for high 5′s. I have nothing against kids, or celebratory hand slaps, but I’m not a fan of those two forces combining near the top of a climb, since it forces everyone else to slow down while still trying to stay up on their bikes.

But then we were back on Queens, and I was feeling good. So good, in fact, that while everyone else had agreed to stop after one lap, I ended up doing five before stopping for dinner. And, that last lap was apparently my fastest Booty lap ever, thanks to the pace lines I had hooked up with, covering the ~2.9 miles in 9 minutes even.

After dinner, we hung out for a bit, and then everyone got ready for more riding. Dominique was aiming for 100 miles, without stopping, and some of her friends were joining her. That was far too intense for me, so Lauren and I simply went out and logged some miles. Unfortunately, a bump during the 2012 24HOB had left her seat a bit messed up, so Lauren’s back started hurting within a few laps, and she pulled in for the night. I kept going, while still aware of my own painful back and butt and arms and hips, so I stopped at around 11 pm or so. I had covered around 35 miles that evening, and was quite happy with my performance so far.

Midnight brought Midnight Pizza in Bootyville, which featured ~150 pizza pies, and a long line waiting for them. Props to Fuel Pizza for supplying them, it was a delicious boost at the end of the day, especially when combined with Sue Falco’s birthday cake for Lauren, which tasted amazing at 12:15 am.

I woke up at 5:20 am to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and deserted roads, hitting the Loop before 6 am, and instantly hooking up with a fantastic pace line. Sadly, after around 2 laps, I got a bit squirrely in my attempt to take the lead spot for a lap, and they didn’t bother to catch up. However, my tail did join me, and we shared another 5 laps together. His name was Joe, he’s from Arizona, and he had promised to ride a mile for each person’s life affected by cancer that posted on his wall. He had to ride 144 miles, and was around 115 when I rode with him. His mother and aunt were the ones who stayed in front of Queens U all night with the cowbells. Fantastic guy, great story, and I loved sharing the miles with him.

Lauren joined us for 3 laps, and then we headed in for breakfast. I think this might be the biggest issue for me, fueling during cycling. Since I’m primarily used to 5k/10k/half racing, I don’t usually worry about eating. And even in my longer events, I’m pretty minimal, which works for me. But in cycling, I think I need to work on keeping my energy levels up, because I certainly scarfed down plenty of food during our breaks.

Post-breakfast brought the end of our laps, we knocked out a whole bunch more, and I ended up with just over 50 miles on the morning, for a grand total of 86 miles. Not bad for a base of 50 minutes on my bike this year, all of which was on the trainer. Lauren was easily going to meet her 100k goal, but major rain showers left us quite concerned about safety on the course, and so we called it a day. She managed 55 miles, and definitely would have hit her goal had her seat been right from the beginning, or if the storms had held off for another hour.

24HOB is a great event, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it. Our team raised nearly $7000, and the overall total was more than $1.3 million. The lead fundraiser brought in more than $84,000, and his page says it best. “They have no answers to cancer.  We need to change that today!!”

I can’t wait for next year, especially since I plan on training and fundraising more. Let’s kick cancer’s ass!

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THIS IS STRAVA!!!!!!!

Foreword: If you haven’t heard of Strava, it’s a website devoted to what they call “social fitness”. Runners and cyclists can upload their GPS data to the site, and compare themselves against other members, or their previous times, on segments. They’ve made a point of getting some bigger names in the cycling and running world to join, so that fans can track their training and see their insane performances. As I am primarily a runner, most of the cycling names mean nothing to me, but I enjoy following Sage Canaday, an ultra runner who attended Cornell (here is his Cayuga Trails 50 Mile performance, and I love how his final mile was 6:48 pace).

Is

This

 

There’s something inherently awesome about just running. Today I had no goal other than giving my best effort on the Palmetto Trail in Greensboro. Why this particular trail? Well, because it’s the one that Jason challenged me on. We were competing in an epic showdown for the Course Record on the Palmetto Trail, in each direction. 1.6 miles of roots, rocks, hills, and sweat. Lots and lots of sweat.

I had a brief warmup on the sidewalk leading to the trailhead, and then I was doing my best to keep up something resembling a “race-pace” as I navigated the winding, rolling hiking trail. I felt scared, and aggressive, and tired, and refreshed, and alive.

I’ve struggled to find motivation to run recently. But today, I had a new pair of shoes, and a goal. It was foggy, not on the trail, but on the lake, and I felt like I was completely alone out there. My breath came in ragged gasps, and the lactic acid crashed over my muscles as I stumbled up The Hill, but I kept my focus and soon came crashing out on the A&Y Greenway. Miraculously, I was intact, except for bruising on my shoulder when a tree objected to my attempting to run through the space which it occupied.

And despite the pounding my chest, I decided to push that hard again, after a brief walk-break. My legs began to feel like lead weights, and I swear I saw a snail blow past me while I dealt with The Hill. Yet I would not quit, or slack my pace (other than the slacking that happened around every turn).

I suppose you could say that I was running like an animal. I gave everything I had on the straightaways, and was often inches from catastrophe around the roots. The only thing that stopped me from dropping to the ground once I hit the final gate was the fact that I needed to clean the kitchen before work. So maybe that part isn’t exactly animalistic. But the rest still applies.

I know that it means nothing in the grand scheme, but Strava segments make it easy to compare yourself: to others, true; but more importantly to yourself. And that’s what I like the best, having occasional wakeup calls, when you’re starting to feel down about your running, to remind yourself that the condition of your running career is not as rundown as you may believe it. So I’ll keep charging up Panera Hill, and bombing down Wild Turkey, all the while shouting Andrew Corbin‘s ancient call to arms . . . “THIS . . . IS . . . SPARTA STRAVA

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