Since I haven’t been able to race yet at all this year due to work schedule unpredictability, I know I have been able to put in some great months of training this year in my lead up to the 70.3 Ironman in Texas come June. But I was itching to race. I knew that I had this weekend off from work per request as Gina had some birthday plans already set up and I was happy to oblige. I used the advance notice of not having work on the weekend to enter Charlotte Racefest Half-Marathon. Back to the tough run course that makes the race famous and it actually best replicates the one in Texas (minus the 98 degree heat). I didn’t adjust much in my training this particular week as I had some big workouts done, and since I turned 43 on the 13th – I had the birthday workout of 43 miles biking/43 minute run/ 4.3 minutes on the UBE completed mid week. When I got home from work that night, heck all I wanted for dinner was to eat (and drink) this:

Wasn’t an easy week for sure, but I wanted to play mentally too in this race. Practice the tunnel vision, mind games, tactics, and just the feel of race morning to crawl back into the system for a change. Woke up that morning ready to go and though it was cold (40′s and a nippy NE wind) just wanted to make sure I raced well enough to also enjoy the full slate Gina and I had planned for the rest of the day. We met some old friends while picking up the bib# (I had number 131 which is actually my birthday and Gina’s lumped into one) and got to hang with Brad and Ashley to catch up. They were doing it too as each has a good consecutive streak going for them here. It never actually got warm as I started to shiver despite having lathered up with my Aquaphor. Should have maybe worn arm warmers but felt it would be comfortable once the sun hit top. Nope. Never did. As I lined up to the start and gave Gina a nice hug and kiss, I channeled inward to begin my race. Took the 3 deep breaths. Set the Polar RC3 and was off at the horn. Race time. Race fast.

Since the event is also a 5K/10K there were 2 cutoffs for runners doing those races. I hit mile 1 at 6:00 and knew my legs weren’t ready for this speed with what I did this week, but also with it being cold. Adjust – ease it a bit, don’t pull anything (mainly inner thigh yells), get warm. As the first runners cutoff for the 5K, and then by mile 3 the 10K, things were desolate. I started to average a few 6:20′s and was fine with that. The air was cold and I couldn’t grasp the rhythm yet from my effort pace to match. I had a dude tailing me wearing his headphones (illegal) and he finally got in front of me (tailing another guy) around mile 5. Since there was no one in front of them within reach, I made sure my game plan was now keep them in front of me and play. I hung back maybe 20 yards and watched. As we hit the main hills at miles 6-8 I knew it took a bite out of them. Then we hit the bike trail where now I was right behind them. Headphone dude surged ahead and opened a nice enough gap where I just focused on the guy he was tailing. I was going to wait for the bike path to end before passing but he slowed down just enough for me to just surge ahead myself and knowing this pushed the next mile. Mike Begay, Bill Shires, and the Charlotte Running Club had a great aid station set up here at mile 9 and props to that crew. Once back on the roads, I simply now kept headphone dude in sight and played Evanescence in my mental ipod. I got to fully engage as I monitored my legs, ran tangents, and stayed in the sun to stay somewhat warm. It was comforting to be able to work it. Feel it again. Now you battle the course as the undulating hills of Southpark sap whatever you have left. As I made the turn to finish I saw the clock at around 1:24, finished strong and was happy with the result (I had 1:20 in mind). I came in 7th overall, and won my age group which was awesome! Nice hoodie shirt prize too. Have to admit, the race itself was well done by Scott, Danny White and crew and kept with tradition. I quickly found Gina and gave her a warm hug/kiss. A few. Was a nice start to our day and we walked a bit to get some warm clothes on and had time to see Ashley (PR) finish and then close to 3 hours later, Brad. Was good to cheer on and talk to few others we saw finish also in between. Good test race. Notes taken.

Gina and I then went to The Philadelphia Diner for breakfast. My Greek friends Alice and Dmitri (the family owns the place) cook up some serious pancakes and good food and they took care of us. Had to wear the finishers medal all day you know so shared the morning and some birthday cheer with them. I always did a take out order with them on my way to work on Saturdays, but this time, we sat and quietly ate and java’d up. Took our time. After an hour we headed home with plenty of leftovers, but………

She saw him coming. Guy was going around 15 mph, illegally missed his turn lane and fortunately Gina maneuvered the car enough where he hit us t-boned and Gina was able to control the car to a stop in a parking lot within feet of us. The impact was enough to rattle us and Gina was certainly shaken. I was ok as I only hit my elbow on the console, but we had our seat belts on, the impact wasn’t full blast, and were able to have no broken bones or blood. The guy who it us had his whole front end smashed and clearly he knew he made a mistake. From the looks of it, our dear X looks to be done for. It took a while for Gina to regain herself and man, this wasn’t an added stress she needed. I worked with my adrenaline to be able to get out after assessing her, and talk to the culprit, police, and 911. Fortunately it was near the hospital so the time frame for all parties to show up was minutes. In a span of an hour, we had AAA notified and toe truck at the scene, State Farm all notified, and the police reports done. We consoled one another by constantly checking on each other. Staying positive, we can get through this, let’s not let it ruin the day – after all, we were alive, unscathed, and well, alive is enough. This part of the story will continue.

I have to admit, AAA really came through. They loaded our X (guy was from the Bronx so that led some well needed humor during the ordeal) and we were even able to leave it at the AAA repair center we always go to within walking distance from our apartment. Guys there saw our car coming on the toe truck and it surely looked like a funeral in their eyes as well. Gina and I bagged up everything we could and looking like vagabonds (and one dangling finishers medal from my neck) made the mile walk home. Once unpacked and cleaned up we had a few moments, but then had a baseball game to get to. Yes, Gina had tickets to the 6pm game and my friends DJ and Frank the Chef got us tickets to the pregame buffet club level where out seats were. We walked the 2 miles taking the light rail and calmed down once again for the game. It was a chance for us to sit back and just soak in the days events. Holy holy. I clearly felt blessed and thankful for the day. I was able to experience the multitude of graces, blessings, and true gifts that come with a strong faith and a power of resolve. Together we both got through this and still managed to enjoy it. True love. We really enjoyed it cause by the time we got home, we opened up some wine and she surprised me with a Biscoff cake. We slept good. We slept good. TO-GET-HERe we have TOGETHER. Yo.

And today, though we walked to/from church and see ourselves without a car for a few weeks, we made the most of the weekend. Home breakfast, we got the garden all prepped, and rested before heading to see Alton Brown Roadshow, which she got ticets for back in December for my birthday. Rest assured another nightcap of cap and wine will serve as a tapout to end this weekend. But oh my dearest Gina, thank you, it was one lovingly heck of a birthday weekend not to be forgotten!!



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