The past few weeks I had the pleasure of adopting my persona of Karhu Bear thanks to the folks at Karhu. The unexpected part was adjusting to the 90-100 degree temps that now have hit Charlotte since the official day of summer. I have been running with the Thursday night crew in the 4.5 mile hill route as the Bear in the 95 degree weather and thanks to the Ironsherpa, made modifications by applying an ice wrap to the small of my back to keep cool. Then afterwards, hydrating with the right stuff – H2Overdrive and NUUN. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it is great strength training and acclimation training for the summer heat. But trust, I modified pacing and was indeed careful. I got to do this twice and was suppose to test race in the SummerBreeze 5K, but even after officially entering, was banned from the race by the owner of RFYL, who claimed since their store didn’t sell Karhu’s, I couldn’t run. Say what?????? Lame, but I took the high road to avoid an issue (he was very adamant) and was a spectator for the crew in our CRC run groups that ran. But it created a great stir on Twitter @teammc1!!
Alas!! The Bear was able to be granted a number 595 to the Firecracker 5K –  thanks to the wonderful folks at Start2Finish and of course Charlotte Running Co.
It was 98 degrees at the 7pm start, but as I’ve been practicing the last 2 weeks, this was nice and warm. We got there an hour early and just stayed in the shade, greeting people we knew, before suiting up about 30 minutes before the start. With a few ice packs ace-wrapped to me, I took on a stacked field of 600+ runners on a tough hilly 5K course. Its an intimidation tool, but jovial as I made my way to the start greeting runners, curious kids, and answering the question if I was nuts. My running mate Dave was doing the race and he helped me position myself in a safe spot off to the right. He ran on the left for protection against my lack of peripheral vision until the first turn. With 3 deep breaths and a quick body scan (it was heating up in there), I was good to go. Sure enough, once the first turn was made and I had my FLOWS smooth under me (and my wobble big head ), I realized this was a course to be dealt with. It had short climbs and windy roads throughout a small neighborhood. I couldn’t run the tangents since I was just making sure I stayed upright and didn’t knock anyone over – or worse, someone blind-siding me. A few kids almost got Bear-ed-over, but I managed to keep ground after the first mile. I had no idea what pace I was doing, since there were no clocks and I didn’t record anything given the weather. As long as I regulated my body temp and feel, I was good. Unfortunately, my ice pack came loose and was somewhere in my suit. The water stops were a relief thanks to the crew at Charlotte Running Club (who threw plenty of cups at the Bear), and refreshed enough for me to start picking runners off. Many were having issues with the heat, as mile 2 and on started to see runners approach a hill and walk. It was great and mile 3 couldn’t have come soon enough. I cranked it as I could as I passed a guy with a flag as a cape and 2 inch running shorts, so with a final surge, and salute to the crowd, finished in 22:50!!!!!!!
Immediately grabbing some ice and chewing on blocks of it and stuffing them inside (one of my internal ice packs fell in my tail after mile 1),  I hugged Gina, got some water, and then  high-fives all of the runners coming in and to the disbelief of many, made plenty of friends out of those who lost to the Bear. I had enough water in my tank thanks to the constant ice cube chomp, to jog over to the start of the kids fun run and encourage them on their .4 mile trek. Once they were off, the Ironsherpa told the Bear to start taking it easy as it was indeed time to chill. I was soaked. My FLOWS were sloshed. I took off the head and got some fresh air. Overall feel though, I was fine. I got to cheer the final runners in, one who parked next to us and was also in disbelief, but so happy we stayed to see her finish. It’s moments like this that I felt blessed to be able to be a part of this, not only as Da Bear, but also this event which helped raise money for the elementary school that hosted it. It makes running fun, and it does indeed give other runners something else to remember about an event, especially in tough conditions that everyone ran in. With a pool to jump in and beer to drink, it made it a great time to sweat it out and cool it off.
Walking back to the car in my soaking wet purple FLOWS, the Bear continued to make friends and enjoy the fun of the evening with quotes of : “You ran in that?” -”I can’t believe I lost to a Bear, you’re awesome.” - “You’re the man, Bear!” – “You are CRAZY.”
Still hydrating on the drive home, we had some daylight still and our pool was empty so I got to soak a bit and really address some residual soreness. A big bowl of cereal and a quick Rita’s ice and I was done. Good times.  The 12 hour cool down was in effect.
I want to personally thank the crew at Karhu for lending me the Bear – Meagan, Jordan, and Nora. The opportunity to have some fun (and controversy) and lend some levity to the running community here in Charlotte was an honor. I want to also thank Scott and Dana at Charlotte Running Co. for their vigilant concern for my safety during these hot weeks of training as the Bear, the Thursday Night Crew for running WITH the Bear in training,  and to Donny/Jen Forsyth and the crew at S2F for welcoming the Bear in the Firecracker 5K and hosting a superb family run event. It was indeed a fun evening despite the conditions. And of course, to my wife Gina, the Ironsherpa, for having to put up with the Bear and all its persona the past 2 weeks – she made sure he had a cool head.
Enjoy some of these pictures in the photos section – under the Karhu 5K section - but there is a finish line video of him crossing the line (and listen for the little kid cheering him as he finishes!) on the race website:
Next up: TriBallantyne Sprint Triathlon on July 14th
Happy 4th!!!


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