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,


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