Having not raced since the Turkey Trot (in costume), the past 2 months have been nothing but getting dialed in. By that I mean testing every aspect of my body, training, my surroundings, everything that Advent made clearer, and just focusing in on the 2013 year as I enter my 40th birthday come April. I was able to make slight changes in how I approached each day, got the right nutrition protocol into a habit, learned to feel how intense workout affected recovery through PPT and Polar, and get to read some books while finalizing my own. With the ever careful eye of the Ironsherpa, made practical our approach to things in general, how we operate, who we operate with. FTH is our code, yo.

So count on the weather to finally start feeling consistently more like winter as my first race approaches. We are getting temps in the low 20′s and a gradual warming into the mid 40′s. The days are getting longer, yes, but I am longing to race now in nice good warm hot weather. Yes, I was hoping we were able to skip winter. But, I got the gear, so all is good. As the week approached for the Charlotte UltraRun 50K, I found myself scheduling training sessions that actually were pretty tough and off some charts in targeting the needed recovery time. So I looked at it as a way to see how to race on tired legs, in practice for triathlon season where I have a few half-ironmans and an ironman on the schedule. My intent wasn’t to HAVE to race the 50K, just run hard. But since I won last year, there was an inner duty to perform well and at least try and repeat.

It’s a great race and all for a great cause. Finian and Patrick, along with a great crew of volunteers at Montessori School in the University Area, section off a 10K loop on the greenway and have created a great race for fast runners with a 10K, but the Ultra crowd by adding 4 more loops with a 50K (31.1 miles). My running partner Brad Mintz got me to run it last year with him and I won. It was low 50′s misty rain weather, but having access to the school gym, a world class outdoor port-o-john, and a camaraderie only an ultra crowd can bring, it was fun. This year we were looking at temps in the low 20′s with no hint of getting past 35.

I was able to ask our NUUN rep – Daniel Matena – to donate some coolers and NUUN for the event through the store, and Finian locked in a great sponsor cast, headlined by Oh Yeah! Nutrition which has an office in Charlotte. He had increased runners in the 10K, and the 50K brought out a crowd close to 100. This event can only grow, with the only hiccup probably being that it was on a day where there were 4 other races happening in the Charlotte area that day. Brad was in for another run but since he hadn’t trained specifically for it, was using it to just run long. The week was rough as I felt fatigued enough from training and work to wear my 110% knickers to sleep for a few hours several nights prior. I planned what I was going to wear with precision to allow for peeling off layers if I got warm, but also not to cramp of hurt anything.

Saturday morning we awoke to 25 degree temps. I donned my Firewall gear, layered heavy in Aquaphor, 2Toms roll-on, my parka, Firewall pants, and 110% socks. Gina bundled up as well and made use of the hand/body warmers we leave in the X. We got there and checked in and the gym was buzzing with energy. They had a great DJ, java for the Ironsherpa!!, and we caught up with Brad. He was all set up but suddenly noticed he was missing his headphones. No panic brother, Ironsherpa had an extra set and was able to settle the issue quickly. Each 50K runner gets to set up shop at the turnaround water station with their own stuff, like a transition area. Gina had my gear complete with just a water bottle of my “mix”, 2 gels and an EFS gel. That’s all I expected to utilize. I had hand warmers in my mittens for 30 minutes so once I put them on 10 minutes before race time, they were toasty. After the national anthem, everyone headed to the start. I had my AA tri top under my Firewall jacket, CRC beanie, shades, mittens, tri tights, baggy shorts, and 110% socks. Throw some hot pink Mizuno’s and my race kit was assembled. I gave Gina a big hug and kiss, high-fived Brad, and got ready. Ok, focus, 3 deep breaths.

Off we go, both 10K and 50K runners, and I quickly latch on to the lead 2 guys – one I know, Hollywood is his nickname. I knew he was doing the 10K, so I just let him create space and this allowed me to get into a good race pace that I felt would be needed to at least beat my time from last year. My RS800CX beeped every 4 minutes per kilometer, since that was how the course was marked – 5k out, 5 back. I took splits per 5K to average everything out for myself. Sure enough that first lap was gathering the course particulars again, and seeing how warm I could stay. I was a bit faster than my timers, heart rate was nice, and I saw Hollywood was able to win the 10K. Actually I came in third if I was doing the 10K as I looped the first lap, got a drink on the fly from Gina, and now had a lead biker for the remaining laps. I felt good and noting turnaround times, the second place guy was already 5 minutes back. Now the race for me began.

Having the bike in front of me was nice, and he sure kept his distance which was even better. He cheered on the runners and was quite jovial. Other than when I hit the turnaround points did he come within a foot of me, asking if I needed anything and was ok. The 2nd lap went fine, still cold and just stayed on pace, getting mostly into the mindset of what lied ahead. Constant body-checking is essential. I grabbed a gel from Gina and onto the 3rd lap I went. This one was tough. My lead grew to 8 minutes and I took the chance to slow down out of necessity. I had dropped the baggy pants as my legs were warm, but the ground was still cold and hard. My left hamstring started to ache as the week’s effort certainly led to fatigue. But I knew if I slowed and made this lap a systems check, I should be fine. I was well hydrated and now with only 50K runners on the course, the positive cheers we gave each other were welcoming. The course was fresh in the head and now my mind started to just zone in. I was comfortable just feeling it.

Lap 3 comes to a close, and I get more aid from Gina and the clock registers a nice split where I am confident to at least tie my time from last year. But it isn’t getting warmer and running in the Firewall doesn’t lend well for going fast. I know if I complete this lap, I will have enough to negative split and finish strong. I have peice-mealed the course in chunks and my splits are just over 4 minutes per kilometer. My lead was steady at 10 minutes and everyone seemed to be comfortable at the pace they designated for themselves. I had passed Brad several times and he was going fine, running now with 2 others he was company with and enjoying the time. At this point,  I was putting it on cruise control. I was flooded with feedback and the occasional mental ipod would play me a song. The sun shone, the scenery of trees, streams, allowed for some great reflective moments. The turn points had awesome volunteers cheering you on. I came into the final turnaround check and took off my Firewall, got a last gel gulp from Gina and told Finian “one to go bro!”

You never think of doing a marathon +5 more miles (if so I would have came through in 2:53). Here at a 50K, its just go, pace, finish. I was never really losing time on my lead, only gaining and on this lap, it was all just one final soak up and thanking all the volunteers out there. I saw Megan Hovis had her win in the bg too as she was a few k’s back, but had plenty a running partner pacing her along. My bike buddy stayed near me on the final lap, but sped up and let me enjoy the final K by myself. My head felt stiff and was the only thing bothering me at this point. Coming down the final stretch was just elation and cheers - I knew I didn’t run faster than last year, but in conditions today, will take it. I crossed the line in 3:31+ and immediately walked some more with Finian by my side, giving him feedback and just trying to keep moving (yes I know that seems ironic). I gave Gina a big huge hug and kiss and celebrated our win. That was what gets me most to the finish line. Being in her arms and just knowing another race is complete. I took some photos from the media and then just made my way to where Gina had a great setup at the aid station - picnic chair, blanket, yo! I stayed warm, stretched, refueled and tried to stay mobile. I only consumed some 400 calories at most during the event. I used the mobile port-o-john just because it was there and I had to go finally, then we made sure to see Brad heading out for his 4th lap – but making sure he was fine and he changed out of his shirt to stay cool. We then headed into the gym where we both drank an Oh Yeah! recovery drink (its great if you add java to it, which was still hot and I had 2 cups of), and were able to chat it up with a few friends from the CRC Running Club. Finian and Patrick then had the award ceremony which was awesome and big thanks again to the crew at Oh Yeah! All the top 3 Men and Women got a hat and shirt. Megan and I got our awards which were named after us last year and look great with a little hologram winged foot within it. A great time, a great race for a great cause, great medical/volunteers/sponsors, and a great win to start the year off. Do consider it for a season opener next year, even if it’s just the 10K –

Now it was close to 1pm and we were both getting tired. My legs felt sore as expected, but I never “cooled” down. My body temp was so warm the rest of the day. A quick drive home and we made some pancakes and java. Do some chores, BioFreeze the legs and try to rest up a little. Only when you rest do you feel the lactic acid spitting from the muscles and realize the importance to flush out. Brad called us about 3pm to say he was done and ok. He enjoyed the company he ran with and was pleased to get it done. We were happy he made it uninjured period. Guy loves his long run. We made it to Mass that evening and then did a take out night of pizza. To celebrate the day, we opened the Mangria that Brad had got us for Christmas and I have to admit – WHOA!!!!!!! We BOTH were blitzed after ONE glass – WITH ice cubes!! Easy to say it was easy for us both to be crashed and done by 10pm. Big thanks to 110% compression, Team AAA Carolinas, Oh Yeah! crew, NUUN, and PocketFuel for the digestable “eats”.

This morning was good as I didn’t have any serious residual soreness. I did the UBE I normally do on Sundays and a light spin. Rode the bike into work before it opened just to clean up stuff from a busy Saturday and then rode home. All good. The PPT Training Load for the race was again off the charts in the 860 range (avg heart rate was 148 for the 50K) and having done a 700+ day on Monday was still high up in the red zone. Gina and I both have dentists appointments tomorrow (me having not seen one in over 20 years!) and I plan to ease back into training this week. Next up is the Charlotte 10 miler on February 26th but – as the Karhu Bear!!!!!! Lent starts up next week too so a prefect timing spiritually to segway into the spring season!

Here are the 5K splits from the race: 19:25 / 19:27 / 20:13 / 20:36 / 20:50 / 21:38 / 22:05 / 22:38 / 22:48 / 22:23

Here are the 10K splits from Lee Timing:

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