So we are more than halfway through Lent and as people give up things as their ritual, I continue to practice the “giving up” of my service and seek opportunities to help out as much as possible in various activities/people. It’s been great weather as winter seems to have not even bothered this year. I’m ready to jump in the pool on some days. I love when a warmer than normal day turns dark and dreary with a good passing thunderstorm. We’ve had some of those swing by and when we’re home, our cat Holmes always gets antsy and clingy with Gina and I. I’ve had several follow up tests done on my blood work and even an ultrasound on my liver, but no evidence of damage, issues. Training has been HUGE in volume and mixed intensities the past 4 weeks and I am happy with where things are. I am ready to start racing and getting into tri mode for a while before switching my focus to the NYC Marathon, but that won’t be until August. I am going to start switching my heart rate monitors to the Polar RCX5 with the G5 and footpods come April, and rotate it out with my usual RS800cx and CS600. I’ve worked the past 6 weekends in a row so I was looking for a small tune up/test race in the area, but the schedule just never materialized. However, the run group is coming on strong in their preparation for April’s Racefest Half Marathon and we put together consecutive 10 mile run Saturdays. Gina and I completed our taxes, filing jointly for the first time, with big thanks to my man Brian Casatelli up in NY.  I’ve been a little more active on Twitter (@teammc1) which can be fun, but don’t see myself a daily contributor. I did apply for a new tri team sponsored by AAA Carolinas. That might alter my schedule a bit but could be a great opportunity. And yes you can be an AARP member even at my age!!!! Show your card at and Dunkin Donuts and get a free donut after you buy a large coffee!! Someone tell me why daylight savings even exists anymore. It now is dark until 7:30am!!! Granted it stays lighter until almost 8pm but dang! Yo, leave it alone! Makes no sense!

But the time change did give me a chance to start a few events earlier in the year. Our Thursday Night Time Trial is now open as we held a St. Patrick’s festivity theme on our first day. Thanks to everyone, mainly Eimear for helping promote it, each brought some snacks and drinks, plenty of green, and big props for the extra hydration from ProHealth’s H2Overdrive recovery drinks. A great crowd turnout and plenty of fun. This will continue at the store every Thursday night around 6pm. Pictures on the photo section on the website. I also had the chance to enter the store in Moving Comfort’s 35th Anniversary Window Display contest. I asked all of the running women we knew if they would be willing to pose in a Moving Comfort bra in our store’s window. I wind up offering to pose with them in a bra and with 7 other ladies, entered our photos. We get 2 posted as a finalist on their website and unfortunately didn’t win, but it made for a great evening of friendship, fun, and pizza. They were all great sports and even though we didn’t get enough “Likes” votes, we did have the most entertaining comments.

One day last week, a good customer of ours, Ron Horton, comes in to pick up his sneakers we had ordered for him. We get to talking and he mentions he knows a running club from Cary who was doing the pace groups for the Tobacco Road Marathon, and one of their guys got hurt and was in need of a pacer for the 3:45 group. I gave him my email and contacted them on my behalf, since I knew Brad was already going there to try and PR. Quickly I get a response from Ken Hamilton, director of the pacer group, and told me exactly that – their guy got hurt and had no one for that pace group. I considered it for a few days and since Brad was able to get a double bed room switch at his hotel, and Gina gave me the ok, I switched working weekends and volunteered. I didn’t alter my training since I was going to pace 8:35′s looked at it like a long run day, even though Sundays have been my chill day the past few months. I was looking forward to the challenge. Never was a pacer for a marathon before. Yo. Service!

The weather was to be great – slight overcast, humid, and in the 60-80 range.  I ran in the morning on Saturday (also using it as a big run weekend), packed for the day trip and Brad picked me up around 10am. We drove smoothly for the 2.5 hours catching up, sorting out his game plan, and talking guy stuff. We also enjoyed the 80′s Hair Band stations on his XM radio – Poison, Faster Pussycat, Dokken, Winger, etc etc crank it! We got there around 1 and quickly handled our check-ins. Ken was great and we got to meet Charles who was doing the 4:30 pace and an ultramarathoner. Brad concluded he might want to hang with this group in route to bust his 4:47 PR. The logistics of having to park in a designated area, then take planned buses to the start was a concern for Brad, but when we mapped it out, was only a 10 minute drive from his hotel. Though we would still have to wake up around 3:30am, with the race starting at 7am and bus boarding starting at 5am, it wouldn’t be the stressor he expected. We checked in and the place was empty. Had the hotel to ourselves practically. We chilled out in the room messing with the AC, watching bball, and reading the WSJ – all after making a brunch run at the Cracker Barrel!!!  Thanks to the services of the Hyatt, I got a razor and opted to shave down since it would be so humid. By 7pm, I was following Brad’s schedule and he wanted to eat early. We simply went downstairs and were the only ones dining at the hotel joint. A nice light dinner and small walk in the parking lot afterwards, a few homemade peanut butter cookies by the hotel chef, and we soon were in bed by 9:30pm. I didn’t sleep much as I was still awake and not able to get comfortable, and then the thunderstorm. Man, a few big lightning flashes (the ones you still see with your eyes closed) and then the pounding rain against the window. Holy Smokes! I was thinking to myself, ”pass quickly, c’mon, pass quickly.”

By 3am, it did and I managed a quick deep dream before the alarm charmed at 3:35. I was up and ready and Brad seemed set to race. We went over a few checks as they called for scattered showers, but it was 60 degrees and humid, no wind. We were at the start line by 5;10am and had plenty of time for Brad to find his java fix, use the pot-johns, and we chilled out as the masses started to pull in. By 6am, we started to move around and I checked in with the pace team. That’s when I found out I not only get to wear a neon green pace shirt (XL of course) but carry a 3 foot stick with 4 red balloons and my bib number attached – 3:45. I planned to wear a tri suit underneath my shirt and some baggy shorts but now carry a stick? Hohohooho! I was a running target now. I gave Brad a quick bro-hug and good running words as we set our positions at the start come 6:45. Talk about added pressure. No sooner did I set up shop did I get countless questions: “are you the 3:45 guy?” (really?) with some, “I plan to follow you as long as I can then maybe drop off.” to “You’ll be my best friend if I get a BQ qualifier!” and the “Are you really gonna keep a 8:35 pace?”  Hey yo peoples, this is what I was asked to do – go out and run a 3:45 or slightly better. You wanna hang, you better be trained to hang. I ain’t slowin down if you do. Word.

Off we go and I am only 15 seconds from the start – I got the Polar RS800 for heart rate splits and pacing on my left wrist, the Nike GPS Sportwatch on the other for a back up elapsed timer and pace, and the actual mile chart on the wooded stick. The first 3 miles were on the roads and by mile 3 I get to a good 8:25 type pace. I shun my gloves and arm warmers and as the split with the half marathoners and full gets away, I now can get into a rhythm. I start to average a good 8:20 for a few and gain some time on the 3:45. I am bombarded with questions still by runners, but it was all good now – I met a dude in the army about to go to Germany for 2 years, his first marathon. I met a dude originally from Centerreach who was trying to break 3:45 as a 50 yr old. I met a few ladies doing their first marathon running with some packs also hoping to break 4 hours. One guy planned to do his first Ironman in August. This is real mid-pack stuff. I was checking out peoples gear and sneakers. Most wore headphones. The Tobacco Road is a rail to trail now and was packed dirt with some asphalt and beautiful all around. So by mile 12, I am 2:30 up on the 3:45 and feeling a nice pace. Some of the mile markers may have been misplaced, but was easily correctable with heartrate checking (avg 120) and the pace splits was right on. Some runners moved ahead, others fell back. My plan was to gain a nice cushion because even though the race is advertised as a downhill finish, it is anything but as you went downhill the first 2 miles. By mile 16-17, I was just feeling my pace. Long run, focused on form, hydrated, had 2 gels and was all good. It was all overcast so nothing to worry about heat wise. I saw Brad about 40 seconds off the 4:30 group as I hit mile 22 and he hit the 17 mark. I yelled at him indicated his time and he looked good. Everytime I passed another pacer, we high-fived. There was a 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, 4:30 and 5:00 pacer. My red balloons were popping and I only had one left by mile 17. I switch hands each mile and it actually got lighter with each less balloon.

So now I start catching people who fell off the 3:30 group as I make my way back onto the road. I encourage every one of them to keep it up – many started to run with me for the next mile or more. I was 2:00 up by mile 23 and let the next 2 miles ease to 8:45 and even 9:00. That was the plan to allow for those who would hit their so called “wall” and still manage their time. I caught a customer of ours, Will, in his second attempt at this race and his second only marathon, who fell off the 3:30 pace but now he was in my hands and going to break his PR by 10+ minutes. This was fun. My mind was allowed to wander for maybe 6-7 miles of this thing and now with a mile to go, I had a minute cushion. I came up the final hill and finished in 3:44:07 – nothing official in the results since the pacers only got bib numbers with their designated times, but I did get the BIG PHAT medal! Man this is like Flava Flav clock medal. Serious. I got the chance to high five some finishers behind me and then just enjoy the whole finish line atmosphere as I got our bag, sipped by H2Overdrive, and stretched. My legs were sore, but good, typical of a long run. I thanked the other pacers the running club for the opportunity and they even allowed me to keep my pacer stick. I made my way now to the bottom of the hill to wait for Brad once the 4:30 mark hit. The race had awesome bands, plenty of volunteers and great organization and aid stations. But with the clock now hitting 4:40, I wondered where Brad was. The pacer for him came through in 4:32. I hoped he would have been in by now.

Now with the clock at 4:45, I knew he had maybe a minute or more from his official chip time, but where the ….. is he? Around the ben he comes, decked out in his CRC shirt and I just yell like mad. “Run the tangent! Get moving , you GOTTA MOVE NOW!!!” He is pushing it – he sees the clock and as soon as he passes me, he looks at his watch. I try to REALLY yell this time, but my voice is gone. But he does it! He crosses in 4:46, chip time of 4:43 and PR in hand. Bro hug again, with our phat medals we get a finish line photo (sure to be posted when available) and celebrate. I don the role of sherpa now, making sure his recovery shake is mixed, check to make sure he is all good, get him his towel, and just recap the race. It’s happy time and he is happy all is done. He hit all PR’s in 5K, half, full, and a 50K in a span of 6 months. Awesome.

We hit the bus taking us to the parking lot and then take our time making calls to the wives, quick mini change, dry off, and head out for home. I treat him to a Starbucks for a big java for the road and we walk in donning our medals looking like 2 White Bros. We then head back home sharing more stories from the weekend and rocking to good old hair band metal. I even write down some of the songs to download from itunes (“Lips and Hips”, and even “Shake and Tumble new to the MC ipod) We get home about 3:30 safe and sound. Now it’s all about recovery and eating good (peanut butter raisin bread and some SF Monster!) and unpacking. After a while, a “heat release” nap, more stretching, shower, and a evening of dinner with Gina – oh and a few glasses of sangria of course!!!! Service weekend. Give it up.

Body and mind check is sound and no problems continuing with training. Just have to easily absorb the weekend and be smart. Next up is the Cool Breeze Sprint Tri in Huntersville on April 1. Pace yourself now into Easter and with it, the rest of the season’s glory. Heck, you just had some serious practice with it. Hammer on.

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