CHARLOTTE RACEFEST

This week was certainly an emotional one. Yes, granted I did turn the ripe age of 38 and am loving every minute of it. Since I always considered every day a birthday, I was really looking forward to spending the evening with Gina at dinner and she made me a scrumptious creamy peanut butter pie!! Awe man I’m still eating it with ganache! Yo!! We’ve also been preparing also for our first trip away together since October – a return to Charlotte for the Racefest Half-Marathon. We were using it to enjoy several things – getting away for one thing (by hopping on a plane), spending time with good friends we still keep in touch with, throwing a race in there to test my current fitness on a hilly, tough course, meeting with Scott again at Charlotte Running Co., grabbing some Rita’s, and spending some time with our hostess – Eimear. Oh yes, indeed, we were also celebrating our 6 month wedding anniversary!!

It was to be an emotional trip for sure. We arose at 3:30am on Friday and prepared to depart for the airport. Our flight left at 6am, so getting to the airport and flying out wasn’t an issue. Other than some security lines, it was actually a breeze. Before we knew it, we were greeted with warm sunny skies and the ever smiling Eimear. By 9am, we were settling in at her place and sitting to a homemade breakfast listening to the sounds of birds and the sights of green trees as Eimear has a lovely house tucked away nicely in a corner section of her street in the University section of Charlotte. Not having cable tv and/or a radio constantly playing, we got to experience pure quiet and nature, which was great since it allowed for us to unwind and really relax. We took a nice long walk around her “hood” and prepared to venture into town to see the CRC store. The drive in brought us back to familiar grounds and we got to see how much things have changed. The store itself looks great since we wanted to actually get a good look at the place inside and out. Our good friend Dana was late to meet us, so we headed to Southpark to pick up our race packets. We parked a good distance away to enjoy another walk and soak up more of the sun. The weather was sweet, but word of a severe storm system was predicted to hit the area tomorrow morning, threatening to delay and/or shorten the half-maraton to a 10K due to safety concerns. There was already a 10K portion to be held, so everyone would be shuttered to doing the 10K if the weather got bad. I didn’t think it would get to that point, but people we talking so much about, it seemed that most were thinking of bailing or even not showing up! My goal for this event was on a “B” level. I planned to attack certain sections of this hilly course which I knew well having lived and raced here before. I had to cut back a few hours of training to put in a good effort, but more importantly, the 5 weeks of training started to beat me up and I needed this week to allow for a good easy “off” day today to help absorb it. My mind was dialed in and ready, so I could also allow time to have fun while we were here.

We ran into many people we knew and even got to see my man Brad, who with son in tow, was looking forward to a good race himself. We said hello to Scott and scheduled a meet up for after the race. Once we got everything done, I then had to take Eimear to Rita’s to not only hydrate myself pre-race (it was almost 70 degrees now), but also to introduce her to R-I-T-A-S!! Gina and I both had another choco-peanut butter gelati while Eimear found comfort in a mango one. We didn’t get to see the owner, John, but we were coming back here after the race anyway and knew we’d meet up then. By the time we got back to Eimear’s it was almost 5pm and we all were shot from a long day. We all joined forces and whipped up a delicious pasta meal with some greens from her garden. After double checking the weather radar, we saw it could still be a hit or miss. Not worrying about it, we headed to bed after 9:30 and with all lights out and nothing but peaceful quiet, we blacked out and enjoyed a restful deep sleep.

Up early again around 5:30, it at least was very tropical in the 60′s already, but the rain started to come down at a soft pace, nothing drastic. By the time we got to the parking lot, it had stopped and looked promising that we could get the race off and beat whatever was to come. I felt real good. I was comfortable with the weather, the rain made it refreshing, I got my port-o-john stuff done, and after taking a Clif Shot Turbo double espresso, damn son I was ready to rock and roll!  Eimear, who was doing the 10K, warmed up and headed to the start ahead of me. Both races were to go off at 7:30am so I was in no rush. Gina and I met a few more people, and as the drizzle started to return, we got to the start some 10 minutes before. A few kisses to Gina and I made my way some 6-7 rows deep from the start line. The rain was still a good drizzle, enough for me to go sans shades, but it was plenty warm and tolerable. I took 3 deep breaths, activated the rs800, and waited for the gun.

Off we go and with the runners in the 10K also starting, the beginning plan was for me to be conservative, get loose, and assess at the 4 mile mark when the 10K runners cut off course. I felt real comfortable and was ready to clikc come that 4 mile point. It got spread out quick as there were 2 runners ahead of me with 2 others way ahead of them. But the long stretch kept all this in view. I joined the 2 guys and soon one asked a traffic cop how many were up ahead. The cop told him “6″.  The guy almost collapsed. I seriously think he broke at that point cause he said, “That must be a pack way up ahead.” To which I replied, “Only one way to find out.”

With that I picked the pace apart and surged ahead, knowing of the huge Sharon hill at mile 7-8. With one guy ahead in sight, I swore to hammer and break the hill to which I did and soon reeled in number 5. Another was in sight from him. M goal was to catch him by mile 10. He kept looking back so with Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” in the mental ipod, mile 10 was indeed a passing point. It took a few 5;35 miles to do so, but it was fine. But wait… I could see another in front of him!!! Go for it!!! So the hammer got dropped big time at mile 11 and just before mile 12 I caught him! The last mile has 2-3 kill hills in them so I had to maintain this pace. Then, the thunder sounded and the rain came down hard. It felt good, but wanted to beat the last mile if it was to continue dumping rain like this and get worse. Charging hard I came to the finish and blew a kiss to Gina and saluted the Thursday Night ladies as I crossed the line in 1:16 and 3rd overall!!! The rain stopped back to a slight drizzle and it was party time!!

Drenched, I gave Gina and kiss and hug before going for a quick cool down. Everything felt fine and I was elated at the result despite the conditions. All good. Eimear even won the female Masters group in the 10k and with that 50 bucks! Turns out I won 100 bucks for my placing and we all looked forward to celebrating. Brad came through and almost PR’d and Ashley, whom I coached, despite a reduced training schedule and surgery, came in not far behind! I got to hang out with Brad for a while as I waited for Scott and we did plenty of walking around and cheered on other runners coming in. We then headed for some java and Gina and the ladies went out to breakfast. As Brad drove me back to CRC to meet Scott, it REALLY CAME DOWN!! It was a good half hour of soaking rain but by then the race was all cleaned up and done with. So fortunate. And of course, the sun then came out and baked us the rest of the day. Awesome.

I hung out at the store for about an hour hangin’ with Dana, shooting the breeze and catching up with each other, chewing on an Odwalla bar, and I even helped some customers. Dana was going to come out to dinner with us later, so I then met with Scott for another hour and got to catch up as well. It was only 3 pm and it felt great. It was all about meeting with everyone we could in such a short time. Gina and Eimear met me at the store and they had a great time at breakfast with Susie and Jeri. It was now off to Ritas for recovery hydration. John had called and was waiting for us and it was quiet at Ritas where the four of us just sat at a table and gelati-ed up again. Though he didn’t have the Peeps flavor, it was the butterscotch one that made up for it. But the choco peanut butter rules big time. We watched the Weather channel and saw how bad Raleigh got hit with the tornado and just shook our heads knowing how we were all fortunate that the race and everything went well without anything as severe. 

Off we were back to Eimears to finally stretch, shower, and get ready to go out to dinner. Eimear entertained us with music from the  Two Man Gentleman Band, one of which was “Dipping Sauce.” It has become my new trash talk song. A must listen. Refreshed and dried off, we couldn’t believe the contrast in days it has been. It was still warm and mild out and once Dana came by, we all walked to the family style restaurant she suggested. All in all a great dinner and Eimear wanted to really max out her ice cream quota for the year, and suggested a ice cream place next door. I have to admit, amaretto cherry ice cream is not bad. Good flavor. Good thing also we had to walk back. We said goodbye to Dana and rehashed the day once again around the couch with Eimear. Sure enough by 9:30 were in in bed, exhausted, listening to the sounds of the wind, the smell of BioFreeze on our sore spots, with smiling faces.

I got up to run early with Eimear and she took me on a nice hour run along the greenway by her house and the winding trails that surround the UNCC campus, of which she works for. It was a typical Sunday morning in the south – no traffic, quiet, get to see a few deer in the woods, and really set the tone for a refreshing morning to help clear out and feel any sore spots.  When we got back, Gina was up and about and we enjoyed another breakfast of homemade goodies. I have to admit, she didn’t have a coffee pot and brews her coffee through a hand press and it wasn’t bad at all. Eimear is all about the environment, growing her veggies, eating mostly good healthy stuff, composting everything, and buying from Trader Joe’s. She was a great host and we loved staying with her. She dropped us off at the airport and we were on our way home.

We both got to go through one of those scanners and it was nothing. Actually was fun. Though it was a bit disturbing seeing them pat down grandma and gradmpa in the wheelchair in another area. But one thing we do get a kick out of is why in the heck people wear so much crap they only have to take off to scan AND don’t get Gina started on the people who are forced to “valet” their carry-on bag cause they don’t want to check it and wind up having to wait in line AFTER the plane lands waiting for them to get it back. Slap. Charge them people!

We got to enjoy the rest of the afternoon doing chores and making some more creative dinners using Ramen noodles. Up next is the LI half Marathon in two weeks which will be my final run-specific type of tune up race before focusing mostly on triathlons the rest of the year. I plan to let that one rip. Easter is this week (got my dark chocolate Peeps already!) and it has been a very reflective Lent for both of us. Personally, all systems are go and I am very pleased with how my training and the test races have been. My base is complete both inward and outward. Soon it will be time to rejoice and surge ahead. We both are eager to the plans we have before us.

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