LENT – PART 3 – EARTHFARE TOMATO MAN & CLT 10 MILER

When I got back from Houston earlier than expected, I saw that the Charlotte 10/4miler (which I did last year as the Karhu Bear) was rescheduled due to a rainstorm from February’s original date to this Sunday. Sean and Donny from S2Finish had asked me to run this year as the Earthfare Tomato, which I couldn’t in February since we went to NY to surprise Gina’s Dad, but now with its new date, I was game. Also best was the shoe sponsor was HOKA ONE ONE, which I had been training in this year thanks to rep Al Tunstall who asked me to test their new Conquest model for the HITS Ironman. It would be a great tune up too a week before the race as I could shore up my running that weekend and let loose in a race environment. But mostly cause it would be fun to race the crowd in a tomato suit mascot!! (And support the race sponsors – www.earthfare.com / all HOKA models available at www.charlotterunning.com stores)

I am in the final week of taper, and with some treatment on Friday from Jessica at Sports Massage Therapy, was loose and had any kinks adjusted and addressed. Time mainly to get the mind razor sharp for what lies ahead. Now halfway through Lent, as Gina and I attended Stations of the Cross again, a reminder to feel deep within, give, trust in Big G, be humble, and sacrifice willingly are the main themes. I am fit, though failed a few weigh ins, and sound. I will pack for the race in a few days to best get weather updates, etc. as it continues to be a see-saw of sorts. We are looking forward to getting away together and giving it a great TEAMMC effort.

On Friday, we went to pick up the suit at TrySports and got to talk to Sean a bit. The suit was surprisingly manageable and other than adjusting the cap with one of my other hats pinned inside, that was all that needed to be done. Was going to be easy to run in other than a wide wind absorbing midsection. Which, well, could be tough. I paired it with my lime green 2XU socks and arm sleeves and was a red/green Tomato Man ready to race!

I had started to sleep each night in my 110% compression knickers during this taper to make sure the legs were lovingly squeezed by morning. We woke up early and the weather was nice and mild, cool just at 50, but not windy or rainy like last year. They had a great crowd come out and S2Finish puts a family fun event on with super accessories to make it a very recommendable race on their calendar. We saw Ashley Widis who had just gotten back from Florida where she adopted her first child. She was doing the 4 miler (where she finished 2nd in her age group!) and was great to see her in new-mom spirits. We made our way over to the start and with about 10 minutes to start – the 4 miler racers started earlier – I got into Tomato Man. The curious onlookers began to enjoy it and I felt comfortable mingling with the crowd. My red/yellow Conquests topped off a great color coordinated outfit for sure. After a kiss with Gina, time to have fun, so I made my way up to the front!!

My first race of 2014! The past 4 months of training and now finally on a starting line. I take 3 deep breaths and we’re off!!

A few guys took off but I opted to settle in with a pack of ladies which included Megan Hovis. I know her mainly from our 50K wins at UltraRun but since that race didn’t occur this year, simply said hello and wished her congrats on her new baby. They were running at a good pace, around 6:15 for the first mile, and I opted to let this pace flow. Hollywood (Brad Belfiore) passed us, but I waited until we turned onto the greenway to decide whether to stay or move up. Quick body check and I was moving pretty good in the suit, so once we hit the greenway, I ran up and caught Hollywood. We talked a bit and were now close to 6:00 pace so I mentioned to him how we can catch the 3 guys in our sights in due time. He let me go and from there I dialed in to my pacman game. Some of the green tomato leaves on the top of the suit would flap up and be over my mouth, but that was the only hindrance the suit gave me. I was able to lock in my pace and sure caught all 3 guys in front of me by mile 6, one of which said loudly “can’t believe I got beat by a tomato,” The course was a bit tougher this year as we went off the greenway midway for a hilly section in a neighborhood at miles 4-6, which worked to my advantage as I churned up each hill. I tossed my gloves at an aide station since I was warmed up and got plenty of “Go Tomato!” cheers (though some thought I was a strawberry) along the course for extra motivation.
Knowing the big hill was at mile 8-9, I eyed one guy who was within sight and from one spectator mention he was 4th place. Perfect! At the mile 8 aide stop, Jim Bertrand was there and provided a good roar to churn and catch the dude, who I saw now easily at the turn around off the greenway – and he sure saw me. As I approached the big hill, I pumped the arms and ran the tangent as the guy opted to stay to the side. It was an easy pass and one I just took. No looking back, no motion, no acknowledgement. It was on from here to get up and over. Once done, it was a long straight road slightly downhill to the end. The 3rd place guy was at least 30-45 seconds ahead and I just kept a strong finish – a 5:54 mile to be precise. Coming into the finish I had a pack of 10 bikers give me a shoutout, and then the crowd and announcer as I made my way across the finish line. Small dance, little hop,a nod the Tomato man finished the 10 miler in 1:01! Good enough for 4th overall and 1st masters division!! Big hug and kiss from Gina at the finish and now, it was really fun time! I got to greet fellow runners coming in, meet and thank the race sponsors, getting pictures with the Earthfare rep and Al from HOKA of course – so big-time THANKS to TapSnap (www.tapsnap.net and full photos here:http://tapsnap1045.smugmug.com/Races-and-Walks/Charlotte-10-Miler)  for being out there with finish photo ops for the crowd and BIG THANKS to Big View Diner- http://xeniahospitality.com/big-view/ -  for the spread of coffee, pancakes, and sausage for all. That was special and added to the allure of this great race. Finish line video here: wait for the Tomato!! www.charlotte10miler.racesonline.com
It started to get cold and I was still in the suit, even walking into Earthfare hanging around. Once the award ceremony was over, I returned the Tomato Man and donned my warm Wheaties gear.  Grey skies drew some rain and we headed home with the heat on, getting a late jump on our Sunday deal. We enjoyed the event’s pancakes and made some hot java as it rained most of the day. A nap was on call for the afternoon, some reading, and cooking. Perfect for a damp Sunday and much needed recovery.

Giving. Sacrifice. Humility. Right on path this Lent. Now I spend the next few days dialing in some final workouts, but mostly importantly, sharpening the mind for what it and my physical self will go through next week – a shedding of myself journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven – personified for me in an Ironman. Yo.

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