Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'15 Year in review

Running is like a rolling hill course. There are going to be ups and downs along the way. One just has to understand it and keep moving.

Such was my ’15 year.

My ’15 racing season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. I headed down to Disney World for the Dopey Challenge. Through my many races I have run numerous times on the same day and over a couple of days, but never had I attempted racing 4 races in 4 days – ending it with a marathon.  My Disney’s Dopey Challenge was going to be a truly epic event.

First up was the Pluto 5k, it was cold, windy, and my legs were feeling the effects of the long drive to Disney. When I finished, I headed straight for the buses and straight back to the hotel.

Friday morning, the weather was a bit better, and my legs now recovered from the drive felt great. So with the Minnie Mouse 10k on the agenda, I could only hope that I was ready. We ran much of the 5k course again, and then we dipped out for a run long the EpCot Resort Boardwalk before returning to EpCot park and heading to the finish.

Along the entire way, I kept telling myself to run within myself. There are 2 more days of racing and each day gets progressively harder. Still, I was quite happy finishing 13th overall and 1st in my age group.

Saturday morning, things shifted to the roads around EpCot for the Donald Duck ½ marathon. Of all the races, I might consider this one my personal favorite. We make a quick trip over to the Magic Kingdom and back.

I finished 23rd overall and 2nd in my age group with a 1:19:34. Although, I wasn’t quite pleased with how it all went down.

The guy that beat me in my age group apparently started in a later wave. So while I was running solo, he had the benefit of running with other people. I would like to think if we had been running head to head, then the outcome might have been different. Of course, we will never know now.

Sunday morning is the big day – the Mickey Mouse Marathon. After three days of racing, I had no idea how my legs might respond. I could only hope they didn’t crash and burn too early in the race. My goal was a realistic one at sub 3 hours.

The race started and I got in with good bunch of runners. The pace was a little faster than I wanted but it didn’t feel hard. Helping the fact, they were laying down pretty even splits.

 We started to separate after leaving Animal Kingdom. Being on my own was nothing new to me. I made my way through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There are way too many turns in this section of the course which included a loop around their track.

The Sergeant Green army man was yelling at me to charge the hill behind Holly Wood Studios. I guess the green coverage over his face didn’t let him see my Dopey Bib very well. There was pretty much no charging left in my legs.

The loop through the EpCot resorts board walk and theme park is a nice one because here you get to see some different stuff, but also because you know you are nearing the end of the race.

The EpCot ball comes in to view and the finish line isn’t far away.

I can see the clock and it finally set in how special this day was. Heck, it was a special 4 days. I count my lucky stars at how well that I ran.

Five weeks later, I was lining up for the 13.1 Half Marathon in Wrightsville Beach. This would be my attempt at breaking the ½ marathon USAT&F record for 50-54 men. I knew what pace that I wanted to run and hoped that I would have some help.

A couple of hundred yards into the race I settled in to second place. Within the next 2 miles, I found myself leading the race.

Ok, the only help now would be from me, myself, and I. And, they weren’t much help.

We ran over the greenway and through the UNC-W campus. Actually, this would be a pretty nice place to run if I hadn’t had other objectives for the day.

I crossed the finish line and savored the moment. I had broken the USAT&F - NC State age group record by several minutes with a 1:18:54.

The ride back from the beach that day was better than usual.

Three weeks later I made my way to Salisbury for the St. Patrick’s Day 5k. As I remember it, the rain was pouring. The runners were soaked standing at the starting line.

My legs felt heavy right from the start and the feeling never went away. I finished 2nd overall with a time of 18:06. On the bright side, this scored me the RRCA Masters – NC 5k Championship.

Then my running took a turn for the worse. During my final speed session before the Emerald Isle Marathon, I pulled my hamstring. At first it didn’t feel too bad that day, but with each day it grew steadily worse.

By the morning of the marathon, I couldn’t even do a stride without it hurting. Runners are stubborn creatures, and I am no exception. I toed the line and headed off to run a marathon where every stride hurt. I made it through 15+ miles before my left leg finally gave out completely. I literally dragged it back to my car and drove home. I had abused it so badly that it hurt even when I wasn’t moving.

The next several days I struggled to run 2 miles.

Another 4 months passed before strapped on my racing flats. The results were not pretty. On the 4th of July, I ran a painful Fire Cracker at the Huntersville Aquatic Center. A week later, I ran the Street Light 5k in Concord. I won this race but the race become less about speed and more about who could withstand the heat. Race time temperatures were pushing 100 degrees.

Two weeks later, I tried my hand the Beat the Heat 5k in Winston Salem. The heat beat me more than I beat it.

Moving into August, I ran the Myers Park Cross Country race put on by Start 2 Finish, and then a week later the Sundae run 5k. The Myers Park Cross Country Course is no joke. It is but kicker. At the Sundae run, Donny kicked my but going up this long hill in the last mile. I just didn’t have it to go with him.

In September, I went back to one of my favor races. The Charleston Distance Run, and I paid dearly for it. By 10 miles, I was slowing down. At 12 miles, the monkey jumped on my back. By 14 miles, I just wanted to be finished.

Nearly 4 weeks later, I ran the 13.1 race here in Charlotte. It was muggy and rainy. At about 12 miles, I folded my tent and nursed my way back to the finish line.

Finally, the cold air arrived in Charlotte, and I started feeling better. I got some revenge on Donny for kicking my "but" at the Sundae Run by returning favor at the Big South 5k.

A week later, I ran the Marshall Marathon in 2:55:14. Not all that bad for barely training, and other than racing, I didn’t do any hard workouts.

The Marshall course was my first marathon attempt on a double loop course. The more that I think about it the more liked it. On the second loop, there was no need to think. I knew where every turn was located.

I hadn’t planned to run any more races in '15. Rather I had hoped to train hard through December and come out strong in January.

But Stan messaged me about the Drop Zone Trail Marathon. The more that I thought about it the more I felt like I needed to do it.

The Magnum Track Club guys always put on some of the more interesting races.

Dodging the piled high pine needles and the land mines of pine cones to go along with the soft sandy course, I guess running the ½ the race in the evening darkness only made sense.

Stan and I ran the first lap together so I had a sense of the course. From there, I ran the next 24 miles solo. I really enjoyed it and just might consider returning to this one next year.

Who knows what lays ahead in ’16?

Definitely, '15 throw some good road blocks in to my path. However, I believe that the good Lord throws these obstacles in our path to help keep us well grounded in reality and to never get to full of ourselves.
Feeling well grounded now.

The Cool Down Runner





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