Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another week, another runnin' fool!

This is the seventh in an ongoing series of profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: AARON LINZ, 36, whose name has popped up on the blog several times in the past few months (including here, here, here and here).

Aaron, a software manager for Transamerica Reinsurance by day, is already known by many in our circles as the driving force behind the
Charlotte Running Club, an "independent competitive" organization with a membership base that includes several of the area's top runners -- although it welcomes all abilities.

When and why did you start running? My father took me out to a 10K when I was 10 years old. I was waiting for him at the finish. My idea of "training" for a race back then was to run two miles a couple days before a race. I played lots of soccer and football every day after school so I was just a kid in good shape. In high school, I realized I could letter as a freshman (in cross country and track) and travel on the weekends to fun places, which sure beat sitting on the bench in soccer or football. Also, at the time I was 5-3 and 105 pounds ... not good for football.

What do you love about running? It requires virtually no equipment, no team and no field to participate. Nike's old slogan, "Just Do It," pretty much says it all! You can be anywhere in the world and still get a run in. You just need shorts and shoes. I am one of those strange folks who gets more exercise on vacation than when I am at home! I love to wake up on vacation and find a local place to run. You get to see the local sights and plan what you want to do for the rest of the day before most of the world even wakes up. Running is my mental health. I get a chance to reflect, think about my day, family, what I can do better. It is also the best way for me to release energy and push myself physically as far as I can. I am competitive and love to see just how much my body is capable of doing.

What do you hate about running? Injuries. It was a LONG time ago but I had a compound fracture to my right leg when I was a kid. My right leg tends to have shin splints and stress fractures as my mileage creeps over 60 miles a week so I am constantly stretching, icing, looking for cross training to strengthen my leg. About a year ago, an orthopedic doctor I visited told me I was just lucky to be able to run. He is right.

Current running shoes? Asics 2140. Love my Asics. Durable and comfortable.

Where is your favorite place to run in Charlotte? There is nothing more special than a Saturday morning summer run out of McAlpine (Creek Park, off of Monroe Road). High school cross country teams getting ready for the season, college runners training, marathoners logging miles, joggers out trying to lose weight, families walking and riding bikes. McAlpine has a soft surface, which is terrific for your legs.

Favorite annual N.C. race? (He has several.) Favorite half: Dowd Y Half Marathon probably is the best half marathon course in town and at a great time of year (early November). Great for beginners to experienced runners. Favorite 10K: Between Hit The Brixx in September or the RaceFest 10K. Both tougher courses, but good competition. Favorite 5K: Greekfest 5K -- great course, great time of year, big turnout, great competition. Favorite marathon: Thunder Road, of course! Tough course, but I love that we have a marathon right here in our own back yard! Great way to end your fall season.

Favorite distance? Mile without question. The mile and the marathon are the premier events in distance running. The best run one or the other unless you are Kara Goucher and can do both very well. ... I (also) really like the half marathon because there is time to relax and drift off some in the half. I ran it for the first time about two years ago. You don't have to put in as many training miles as the marathon and if you run a bad half, you can bounce back in a week or two to do another. ... Marathon training is different than anything I have ever done in my life. I ran cross-country and track in high school, competed for UNC-Chapel Hill in the steeplechase, but the marathon is a different beast. There are several ladies in town who I can crush at 5K and 10K but they absolutely kick my tail at the marathon! The marathon is about more than just miles of running. You have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together to run a good one ... good base mileage, hydration, nutrition, pacing, etc. If you run a bad one, you can't take a shot at another one for at least a month. Your body just won't allow it. ... I have run a 2:52, but have not broken three hours in the last two attempts despite being well on pace to break three.

PR for the mile? 4:12 (16 years ago ... about 4:34 these days!). PR for a half-marathon? 1:18:20 (this year, as a 36-year-old, at RaceFest in SouthPark ... a beautiful course but hilly, so I am confident I can do better).

What's the funniest or strangest thing that's happened to you during a race or run? Hmmm, most of my really good stories are not clean for the paper. ... Clean story: Getting lost on an out and back run. How is that possible? Yeah, has happened more than once, when you think you totally know where you are going and then on the way back, your brain must get tired too as everything seems different! I often use the force (standard guy who doesn't read directions) when I am in a new location. Every run can be a loop right?

Are you a morning or an evening runner? Ughh, definitely evening but trying REALLY hard to be morning. It is great to be done with the run before work and it guarantees you get it done. I have shared with the Charlotte Running Club that 6 a.m. is where I draw the line. I know some groups head out at 5:30 a.m. and 5:45 a.m., which is barely earlier, but mentally, pre-6 a.m. is REALLY, REALLY early for me! 6 a.m. is tough enough.

Fueling strategy during Charlotte's summers? GU Gel, lime flavor, is about the only one I can tolerate -- if I am going more than an hour; otherwise not needed. Water during the day and lots of water and Gatorade after a run. If I am running more than an hour, I try to stage water and/or Gatorade somewhere on the route. Bananas are my friend after runs, too, to help keep leg cramps away. Also, chocolate milk is great after a hard run.

Do you listen to music while you run? Nope -- just never have. I mostly run with Charlotte Running Club. The conversation of the group is what I enjoy so music is not necessary. On the days I run by myself, just taking in the scenery that I run by and reflecting on my day/week is plenty good for me.

What's next on your race calendar? The Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Labor Day weekend. I will be at the Greekfest 5K as that is a terrific local race with lots of local competition, but I am really shooting for a good time in a half marathon so my body won't be properly prepared for the speed of a 5K.

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Know of another running fool? Tell me about him or her in an e-mail to tjanes@charlotteobserver.com.