Thursday, September 29, 2016

Birthday Half Marathon

This past weekend as part of my birthday celebration, Kendra and I headed to Charlotte to run a trail half marathon and attend a wine festival. This would mark my first race since the terrible French Guiana marathon. I had mixed emotions about it. I was excited to race but nervous about how precipitiously my fitness had dropped since the Tobago scooter accident and subsequent laziness/South Carolina move/laziness.

We arrived Friday evening and after settling in to our nice AirBNB digs, headed downtown.

Side-Note: We stayed with a host that had THREE cats. And I don't like cats. Not one bit. Except these three cats were amazing. One acted like a dog and another looked like a cat straight from Andrew Lloyd Webber's casting. The third was misunderstood living 5 years of her life thought to be a male. Bottom line: I'm still never going to get a cat but it was actually nice having them there. 

Heading downtown was  amazing in its contrast to just two years earlier when I had last been to Charlotte. The place was dead. Which won’t come as too much of a surprise to many of you keeping up with the news, but still: I was surprised. Besides hundreds of armed national guard soldiers and a few preachers, the place was barren. It actually took us quite some time to even find a restaurant that was open.

All that changed about an hour later where the bartender came over to us and told us that they were locking the doors as the protesters went by. Protesters? Well, yes it seemed that that was where everyone was. Must have been in a different part of town but then walked through this part and it was filled with a swarm of people. The whole thing only lasted about 15 minutes and to what effect, I do not know. But I was glad that there wasn’t any rioting.

And since there was a curfew still in place, it forced us to have an early bedtime which was good for the race the next morning. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the US National Whitewater Center which was where the race was taking place. I had been there two years earlier, but Kenny hadn’t so we took a little time to look around. It will be a great day to go with her nephew as there are mountain biking and running trails, rock climbing, a high ropes course in addition to the whitewater park. We will definitely keep him and ourselves entertained.
Danny and Kenny pre-race
But we were there for a race and wine. Kenny wisely signed up for the 5k so she had a little more time to warm up (or maybe just overheat in the 90 degree weather), while I headed out for the half.
Despite all the races I’ve done, I don’t think I’ve ever done a trail half marathon. I’ve done  ten milers, marathons and ultras on trail but never 13.1. So pacing was an issue. I took it out conservatively, partly due to this and partly because I didn’t know what type of fitness I had left. After about a mile into the race, I had found myself in 6th place. 

Side-note:As I mentioned about these trails double as mountain biking trails and it soon became obvious that that was their primary use. The berms and kickers became quite a challenge to run in. But also made for a more interesting run.

After a few miles of 6th and feeling like I was being held back a bit more than I’d like, I passed the 5th place guy and about a mile later the 4th place one as well. I settled in to a comfortable pace, not wanting my wheels to come off(see French Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname Marathons for more on that). I stayed in 4th place until about mile 7 where I came upon a struggling runner who, after a bit of chit chat, noted that he was more of a triathlete and wasn’t used to running on trails. We talked for a while and I found out he was training for Ironman Louisville in a couple of weeks. I soon thereafter passed him and pulled away.

He had told me that the 2nd place guy was about a minute or so ahead so I made a conscious effort to just slightly increase my pace thinking that if I could go about 15 seconds per mile faster than him, I’d be able to catch him around mile 12. Which is exactly how it worked out. I started getting nervous that I stayed to conservative and the next turn there he was. Maybe 20 feet ahead. I reeled him in and was just thinking about best strategy to get ahead of him for the final kick when he stops for a cup of water at the last aid station. Really? With less than a mile to go, he basically just gave me second place. I looked back once and just cruised into the finish line.
Kenny, who had started 90 minutes after me, finished a few minutes later with a time good enough for 36th overall and 3rd in her age-group. Not a bad day in the podium department and also a nice confidence booster that I didn’t lose that much fitness.

After changing we headed over to the wine festival which ended up being pretty much just  a few tents with wine vendors serving Napa wines. In fact, there was only one North Carolina vineyard there at all! Which just made our decision to head back to Charlotte a bit easier. We spent the rest of the day walking around town and going to our new favorite Charlotte brewery, Birdsong, for rehydration and live music. A great way to end a nice birthday.

One more weekend away from Columbia this coming week as we head back north for my cousin Will’s wedding, but then we will finally get a chance to start exploring and will be sure to keep y’all posted.

Until next time,


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Transitioning Back

Well hello there! Sorry it's been a while since I've posted anything. Kenny and I have recently relocated to Columbia South Carolina and just settling in.

And, to be honest, I'm still settling back in to the US after my year in Guyana. Some things are easier to transition back to. Like eating meat, cheese and drinking good beer which has allowed me to promptly gain back all the weight I had lost. Maybe not a good thing but it tastes good. And it gets people off my back about looking to skinny. NOBODY is saying that any more.

Less easy is the waste that I see so prevalently here. After a year of running by burning trash and piles of waste on the beach, I came to appreciate the need to conserve and reuse. Coming back and being exposed to disposable waterbottles, individual sized servings of EVERYTHING and the overabundance of K-Cups everywhere made me worry about where all our trash is going. Obviously I cannot fix the problem, nor do I intend to preach about it, but I do my little part by brewing a pot of coffee(added bonus: definitely HYPED up each day), using my reusable water bottle and trying to buy things in bulk so there's less waste. Although admittedly, I have gone back to canned beans instead of dried ones-those just take soooo long to cook.

Another difficult transition is the ubiquity of cell phones. It has become somewhat of a third arm for many people. I know usage hasn't changed that much in a year, but my expectations have. I can certainly say that first time hanging out with Kenny and her phone (seemingly) constantly going off was not a pleasant return home. She's been kind enough to appease me and we both shut off our phones fairly in the evening to ensure we can actually spend time together. Which is nice. I'd recommend it if you haven't done it in a while. Like maybe instead of looking at this blog lift up your gaze and see what's going on right now. Maybe something really cool. Trust me, this will be here when you get back. Go out and enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying things, I've had a great first couple weeks in South Carolina. Due to the lack of sidewalks near where I live, I have been running almost every day at a local State Park which happens to be on my way home from work. It's been nice. I actually haven't yet had a full weekend to explore(I was back in NH last weekend for a bachelor party) and won't for another few weekends, but I can say for sure that there is plenty to do in Columbia. I'm  pretty excited to share it all with you.

Until next time,


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Life Is What Happens When Making Other Plans

Well hello!

This is likely to be my last blog posted from the lovely state of New Hampshire. I leave for South Carolina to meet Kenny tomorrow. This month home after Guyana was great as it allowed me to see my friends and family but also tough because it felt somewhat like a false start. Kind of like I was in a hovering pattern before starting back up with my life.

But an often over-quoted aphorism is fairly accurate here: life is what happens when you're making other plans.

It would have been easy to be so preoccupied with the move that I lost sight of all the good experiences that I was able to have this month while home. And I am sure that I did miss some opportunities and wasn't always able to remain present in the moment. But I was lucky enough  to be able to step back and see [at least some of] the forest through the trees.

For example, these past few days I've been staying with my parents and my nieces. Even when I was living full time in Concord, I didn't really ever spend the night over there and definitely not multiple nights. It was a nice and relaxing time and great to see my parents and fun to play with the girls. It is/was a time I will definitely look back upon fondly. Especially tomato picking with the girls, playing scrabble with my mom, and riding into work with my dad. The small things that happen are often the most meaningful.

I am excited about creating a bunch of new small things that make up life down in South Carolina and I invite you to join me on this next journey.

Until next time,


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Goodbye Concord!

September 1st, 2016

The bay window that attracted us to this apartment so many years ago
 After nine years living in the same apartment on South Main Street in Concord, NH. I have finally moved out of my apartment. That was the longest I had ever lived in one place before. It was definitely bittersweet. Some loved ones left my life too early but others came into it to fill that place in my heart. Even my roommate changed over the years. So many good (and some bad) memories, but all of them helping me become the person I am today. From that new-graduate with a still developing brain [male brains don't fully develop until 27-29 y/o(if at all)] to today seems to have happened in a blink of an eye. Yet with a lifetime of experiences.

Strange seeing it so empty

Last meal in the empty apartment

For all the people that have come into my life some to stay and some who left as abruptly as they entered, all the races, faces and places: thank you. It has been a wonderful time and I am grateful for every moment.

As I closed the apartment door of my now vacant apartment for the last time it felt like I was saying goodbye to a good friend. And like with a good friend, it really isn't so much a goodbye as a see you later.

Until next time,