THUNDER ROAD

The big season ending race around here is the Thunder Road Half Marathon / Marathon / 5K event that in its third year has somewhat been ressurected from a race that was near extinction due to a corruption scandal. I was excited to be a part of a big race in Charlotte, but also to use it as a closeout for my 2007 season. I was excited and eager to let it rip. Curtis was gunning for a big time – maybe even a win, so my job was to make sure he “didn’t do anything stupid” that week and help him focus on the race. I also planned to make sure he stayed on pace by keeping him withinin sight in front of me. He has trained very well and I knew he had a good shot.

Being at the store, its the same scene before a major event - the last minute runners (some first time racers) who are unsure of what to wear, eat, prepare, etc. Its reassuring to know that my experience has helped calm plenty of folks and set them straight on their preparations. And its funny too.

The weather was going to be perfect – in the 40′s by sun up, then into the 70′s. That’s right! Knowing that it was 20-30 degress colder up north with snow just made it feel better. But I have to admit, it was in the low 30′s during the week where my hands and feet got a bit numb riding the bike into work. (Duh,m wear mittens!).

Gina was a bit tired by week’s end since she was preparing for a weekend of food prep for the Health Ministry Healing Mass on Sunday at St Gabe’s and dinner on Monday night. We also got a jump and completed our Christmas to-do list. We agreed to put nothing on the schedule the next 2 weeks unless we both agreed to do so, Next year, sorry to say – Ya’ll are just getting cards!

   

Saturday morning was in the 40′s, no wind, sunshine into the 70′s predicted. Sweet. I still donned my Polar baggy shorts, long sleeve tech top and visor, with my CRC running jersey on top. It would be cool enough for me to wear my Zyflex gloves which are pretty thin. I finally wore racing flats too – albeit women’s size 9 with new zlockz lacing. We parked several blocks from the start and as we walked to the Convention Center, joked that its been 2 months since we were in uptown. Usual pre-race crowd hangind around, I met several customers and gave them the usual pre-race mantras. People were having fun. After a final bathroom check – which even though the lines were long they moved extremely fast – I kissed Gina and moved to the front. I caught Curtis’ eye since he was right on the line and gave him a thumbs up letting him know I was there. Let’s get this party started!!

Off we went and sure enough the front stretched thin real quick. After going through the first mile in 5:33 I said WHOA!!! In a good way, but also knew I had to ease it back. I could hardly see the front pack and with Curtis in that group I only hoped he held on or played it smart as well. Honestly, by mile 3 there was a 30-45 second gap between the 2 guys in front of me and judging from the biker who was in between us, a good gap behind me (I never look back in a race). By now I had been going 5:50 pace and since it was a hilly course just made sure I kept form and held my heartrate in the upper zones. No crowds to speak of. We went through some nice hoods and only those living in the area were out there checking the race out. Volunteers were scare, but enough, and I made sure to thank them at each turn/water stop. I just kept playing Metallica’s Master of Puppets in my head to keep pace. Feelin good.

At the halfway point I decided it was time catch someone. Wouldn’t be a race without playing PacMan. So when I saw one guy make ground on the other in front, I knew someone was slowing down. MMMmmmmmmmm. Time to run the tangents too. Each mile I got closer, each hill I gained ground. With mile 12 approaching and a big hill coming up, who better than Julie Gayheart to be hanging out by a tree with her shades on to root people on. After a high five I pounded it out and caught the guy at the top of the hill. Whenever you pass someone and they say “good job” or “looking good”, it’s a sure sign they are not going to speed up. Right throught the finish in 1:16 and placing 5th overall!!! Curtis finished in 1:13 and placed 3rd! What a day for the CRC Crew. He played it smart and knew he couldn’t hold the leaders pace. There was at least a 2-3 minute gap between everyone up front. I was happy for him. Dude is only going to get faster and race well next year. A great training partner.

Gina and I then took the long walk back to the car in the sunshine and then it was off to work. I was still jacked thanks to some coffee and some Monster but sure enough by 6 pm I was out. Ahhhhhh all I could think of was my off-season (and so could Gina). It was still a busy weekend, but with nothing really planned after this week, we’re going to chill out. The weather has been so warm that we even were back to wearing shorts again!

Now I am going to use the next 3 weeks to do easy stay-in-shape- training and let my mind wander. A long year indeed but was worth it. Great results and the best race has been the one Gina and I did moving down here. We surely will look back and remind ourselves how blessed we are. In this Advent season, I use the time to also prepare for what lies ahead – in every aspect of my life. This time of year is a special time for me, where I can wrap up my year as a gift and like a present at Christmas, unwrap and truely enjoy in all its meaning and worth.

2008? Well if Gina wants to go to Boston, I’m in. The only other race so far with my eye on is the US National Half-Ironman Championships in Missouri. But I won’t bother with details until we finish 2007.

Thanks to all and Happy Holidays TEAMMC!!!    

MC

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