Monday, August 31, 2009

Got a hankering for a hilly half?

If so, you might be interested in this quick reminder/announcement about a distance race in Stanly County:

Cost of registration for the Run the Valley 1/2 Marathon in Badin on Sept. 19 increases from $35 to $45 on Tuesday. (There'll also be 5K and 10K races.) The half -- limited to 100 runners -- goes from the post office in Badin to the top of Morrow Mountain and back, with about 50 percent of the course winding through Morrow Mountain State Park. Badin is on the far side of Albemarle, a little less than 50 miles from center city Charlotte.

Says Peter Asciutto of Vac & Dash in Albemarle: "It's a beautiful, yet challenging course. Very well-organized race."

To register, click here.

A 30K in Winston-Salem. For $20.

I know not everyone is up for impulse buys in the form of distance races that aren't local, but just thought I'd give you guys a heads up about the Salem Lake Trail Runs, set for Saturday, Sept. 26, in Winston-Salem.

According the the Web site, "the 30K course is a flat and scenic course beginning and ending at Salem Lake -- five-plus miles on asphalt Greenway, 13.5 miles on hard packed dirt around Salem Lake. There are four water stops that you pass twice (roughly every 1.75 to 2 miles).

"The 10K course is point-to-point on a hard-packed dirt trail around Salem Lake. Nearly all 6.21 miles are on hard-packed trails. There are two water stops."

A running buddy, Allen, recommended the 30K to me when while we were running the Blue Points 5K course earlier in the month, and at the time, it sounded interesting but unlikely to make my list -- especially because I've been eyeing the Hit the Brixx 10K/5K, a big Run For Your Life race set for the same morning.

But then I mentioned it during a 16-mile training run Sunday with another friend, Tim, and he lit up, saying he'd heard great things and would love to do it someday (he's passing this year because he's committed to RFYL's Grand Prix Series, and Hit the Brixx's 10K is a GPx race).

So I circulated an e-mail about Salem Lake to a bunch of runners, and the positive feedback now really has me considering a short road trip next month.

One response: "I have done this one. Great race, awesome shirts! No ads on the back and always a creative design. It is a challenging course … not too hilly or anything, but running on dirt, rocks and roots is a bit harder because it requires more concentration."

Another: "Probably my favorite race around here. If I wasn't running the Grand Prix, I would definitely run Salem Lake again."

Also: "It is a fantastic trail run. It is mostly shaded with a portion of the run on asphalt greenway. There is one STEEP, short hill on the course."

Lastly: "The Salem Lakes 30K [ed. note: this is just shy of 19 miles] is a classic pre-marathon training run; I know of a number of people who have done it and loved it."

Oh, the best part? If you register by the end of the day, it's only $20. For a 30K race. (Same price for the 10K.) It's an amazing bargain, in a reportedly great setting. And as it turns out, my NYC marathon training plan has me down for 20 miles that day...

Cost goes up to $25 Tuesday; on race day, you'll pay $30. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the trails and facilities at Salem Lake. Registration is limited to 1,000 entrants, so it is possible this will fill up.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So, did ya PR at Greek Fest?

Unless you're Jay Holder or Caitlin Chrisman or Danielle Walther or Bill Shires -- i.e., unless you're among the fastest runners in Charlotte -- most of us aren't racing 5Ks because we think we have a shot at a piece of shiny hardware or a gift certificate to some nice restaurant.

Most of us are racing 5Ks because we think we have a shot at beating ourselves. At breaking some time/pace barrier we've been fantasizing about breaking. At setting a personal standard that ... well, that we'll want to bust up at the next 5K.

And at 7:30 a.m. today, on a humid but not-too-hot morning, about 1,300 runners were lined up in front of Dilworth's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K, the majority with their eyes on the same two-letter prize: a PR.

The main reason many participants probably felt personal bests were so attainable they could taste them? Because when runners talk about the Greek Fest race around these parts, they can't seem to focus on anything but how flat it is.

Of course, when you're in Charlotte, you know that "flat" is a relative term. The Yiasou route would certainly not be considered flat by someone from, say, Indiana. (For a pancake-flat 5K, consider the Runway 5K set for Oct. 31 out at the airport; I've run it, and it's a faster course.) There's even a bonafide climb: At least a couple of people mentioned, afterward, their surprise about the third-of-a-mile-long riser on Kingston Avenue in the middle of Mile 2.

So ... while there were a lot of PRs out there today (the only word I heard tossed around more than "PR" after the race was "free beer"), there were some near-misses for a number of folks, too.

I think in some cases, overanxiousness or overconfidence could have been a factor. I mean, for days, even weeks, it kept getting drilled into our heads how flat and fast the course is. Those things get in there and stick, and by the time you get to the line, it's easy to either psych yourself out or to think it's gonna be easier than it actually will be.

Then the horn sounds and you take off like a rocket. Too fast, in a lot of cases. Plus, what you might not have expected was the size of the field; the number of turns (10 in all), or the bunching on those turns; the amount of parked cars on certain stretches, which occasionally made passing a challenge; that riser on Kingston; or the loooooong homestretch on East Boulevard (just shy of a half-mile).

It's enough to make you panic a little bit mid-race -- like, "Omigod, is this maybe not happening? After all this?"

That feeling hit me as I charged up East Blvd., as the numbers on the clock came into focus ahead: 21:21, 21:22, 21:23, 21:24. My PR (from China Grove in June) was 21:39, and of course, with all the "flat" talk, I was seriously thinking I could make a run at breaking 21. So seeing the timer tick off 21:25, 21:26, 21:27, 21:28 snapped me back to reality.

Sorry. Maybe I'm being a little overdramatic here. I'll just tell ya: Most of us know there's gun time, then there's chip time, and while the gun-time clock had me worried a little bit, my chip time ultimately wound up being 21:26. So I claimed my PR by a relatively healthy margin.

Yet the experience reminded me that while beating Jay or Caitlin or Danielle or Bill is impossible for most us, beating yourself ain't no walk in the park either. And the thing about setting a new PR? Means the next time out, it'll be even tougher.

Congrats to those who PR'd today. To those who didn't, remember the immortal words of John "The Penguin" Bingham: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

* * *

A few completely random observations before checking out:

1. Though the course (designed by Run For Your Life owner Tim Rhodes) is rather turn-heavy and repeats itself in parts, I liked that spectators could easily drift a block or two each way and catch their favorite runners multiple times over the course of a short race.

2. Were there porta-potties out there anywhere? Being able to use the church's indoor facilities was nice, but it seemed like an awfully small number of toilets for an awfully large number of runners.

3. Could those of you who use the water stations and who drop your cups straight down on the ground (you know who you are) at least try to toss them to the side?

* * *

BTW, Caitlin Chrisman was the top overall female finisher in 17:18 (a post-college PR for her). Alana Hadley placed second in 18:03. Danielle Walther rocked an 18:20 to finish third. Among the men, Ryan Bender won the overall title in 15:41; Jonathon Sunde and Greg Isaacs placed two-three in 16:01 and 16:12, respectively. (Jay Holder was fourth in 16:18.)

Also, Bill Shires smoked the course in 16:58 to claim the No. 2 masters spot (David Dye beat him by 18 seconds). Complete results are here.

How'd it go for you??

Friday, August 28, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Although many of us are focused at the moment on tearing up Dilworth Saturday morning at the flat 'n' fast Greek Fest 5K, just wanted to give runners a heads-up on a few attractive races that are two weeks out (oh, and read to the end for some important info on two big upcoming events):

Hog Jog 5K

What: 5K through Center City Charlotte.

Where: Start and finish is on Tryon Street (near Wachovia Plaza) and the finish is on Fourth Street between Church and Tryon.

When: 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

Cost: $22 until Tuesday (Sept. 1); $25 thereafter; $30 on race day.

Of note: The race is held in conjunction with Blues, Brews & BBQ, scheduled for Sept. 11-12. ... In its inaugural running last year, 583 participants finished with official times. ... The course will wind through SouthEnd, Third Ward and uptown. ... The post-race party, from 8 to 10:30 a.m., will include a free kids' fun run at 9; live music; free beer and food; and a bloody Mary and screwdriver contest. The Childress YMCA will be open for participants to take showers.

More race info: Click here. To register: Click here.

Historic Mooresville 5K

What: 5K race and Kids' Fun Run held annually on the second Saturday in September.

Where: Start and finish is at the Mooresville Public Library (304 S. Main St.).

When: 5K is at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Fun Run is at 8:30.

Cost: $20 in advance; $25 on race day.

Of note: Last year's event hosted more than 250 runners. ... The course, according to the Web site: "a rolling, certified course through historic Downtown Mooresville and Mooresville Mill Village, past Mooresville High School and historic Willow Valley Cemetery." ... All participants will be eligible for post-race door prizes. ... Proceeds will support children's literacy programs in the area (the YMCA's Starfish program and the Mooresville Public Library).

More race info: Click here. To register: Click here.

Birkdale Triathlon & Kids Aquathlon

What: Triathlon (ages 18 and up) is a 250-yard pool swim, a 6.5-mile bike, and a 2-mile run. Aquathlon (ages 6 to 17) is a 150-yard swim and a 1-mile run.

Where: Start and finish is at the Birkdale Residents' Club, 8915 Devonshire Drive, Huntersville.

When: Triathlon is at 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Aquathlon is at 8:30.

Cost: Tri is $20 per individual, $45 for a relay team. Aqua is $10.

Of note: Tri swim is in the Birkdale pool, run is an out-and-back through the community; Aqua run is on "grassy fields" at the Residents' Club. ... Hosted by UpGrade Lifestyle, a local wellness company, and the Birkdale HOA. ... A portion of the proceeds will benefit Leukemia Research Foundation.

More race info: Click here. To register: Click here.

* * *

Oh, and a couple of key deadlines to be aware of:
  • Registration fees for Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon go up Tuesday (Sept. 1). Through Monday, it's $75 for the full, $50 for the half, and $25 for the Jingle Jog 5K (all races Saturday, Dec. 12). On Tuesday, prices go up to $85/$55/$30. Official site: Click here.
  • Registration fees for the 2009 Charlotte Affiliate Race for the Cure go up Wednesday (Sept. 2). Through Tuesday, it's $28 for the noncompetitive 5K and $33 for the competitive 5K (race date is Saturday, Oct. 3). Prices only go up $2 on Wednesday, but if you register before then, your race packet (including T-shirt) will be mailed to you at no charge. Registration page: Click here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Running Fool? Try 'Marathon Maniac'

It's late summer, and -- it being late summer -- many of us are deep into training for a fall marathon. A fall marathon. As in one. Singular.

And then there's HAZEL TAPP, a 44-year-old medical researcher by day who in the next three and a half months plans to run
two. They'll be her fourth and fifth marathons of 2009. Oh, she's also doing 18 miles over three legs for her Blue Ridge Relay Race team a little more than two weeks from now. And before her two upcoming marathons, she'll run the 40-mile Triple Lakes Trail Race.

I know what you're thinking. Is she nuts?? The answer is easy: Yes. I mean, do you see the shirt she's wearing?

(Full disclosure: Hazel is another member of my running group -- the University City Road Runners. I compiled this last month after becoming unsure that the Jonathan Savage profile was going to happen in time for me to meet my deadline. After he came through, I shelved Hazel but have chosen to publish her story now.)

When and why did you start running? At age 20, I started run/walking to try to stay in shape -- despite my conviction that my body type was all wrong for running.

What makes you a good runner? I'm not a good runner, I'm just an obsessed runner. The only merit I have is consistency.

What would make you a better runner? The usual: shedding a few pounds.

Marathon PR?

Is there a story behind that? [I did it] at the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February this year. [I'll never forget] realizing that I had finally broken four hours for the marathon. I had set this goal for myself after a 4:16 first marathon at Disney in 1998. Subsequently, I was always a little too slow, and felt like the endless bridesmaid who couldn't quite hold it together after 23 miles. It took eight marathons, 11 years, and the collective willpower of my whole running club, friends and family to get those planets aligned. I qualified for Boston to boot and had about 10 of my dearest friends right there to celebrate at the finish. PRs and great times abounded for them, too, and we were so busy celebrating we had to be politely told to stop blocking the finish line.

So you're on quite a marathon binge this year, huh? [Yes.] This year -- with my kids older and more independent -- I felt free enough to sign up for six, including one ultra. Three down, three to go. [So far], I have run Myrtle Beach, the Twisted Ankle [in Summerville, Ga.] and Grandfather Mountain. I will run Triple Lakes Oct. 3, Marine Corps Oct. 25, and Kiawah Dec 12. I have a 32-mile training run this Friday. We are also running the Blue Ridge trail 209-mile relay Sept. 11-12.

Of the three marathons you've run this year, which was most satisfying? Least satisfying? It would be hard to pigeonhole them into most and least, as they were all three very amazing and very different experiences. Myrtle Beach was the worst for me [because I was only] focused on time and my own physical effort, even though the outcome was the best. Probably Twisted Ankle was the best for sheer fun on the trails. [It was definitely the most challenging marathon I've run.] This was my first big departure from the classic "run-as-fast-as-you-can" marathons, into exploring mental toughness and stamina from an approach other than speed -- yet still with that race goal included. This mentality comes from conquering heat and hills, and also the sense of being out there alone during large parts of the experience. Trails involve getting dirty, risking falling, grabbing on trees, talking at aid stops, laughing a lot, enjoying great scenery, encouraging others, looking at wildlife and conquering demons -- all while still being driven to go forward.

How did you become an official "Marathon Maniac"? About a year ago, I inadvertently challenged myself in my quest for a sub-4:00 time by signing up for two marathons two weeks apart. The first was the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in New York, a downhill fast course that I hoped to PR on -- I didn't, but still had a blast -- and the second was Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., more of a social [event]. In the run-up, even though I was sure this was very doable for me, I got a certain amount of amazed comments from friends about my sanity -- and I felt a little embarrassed and different. Then I read about the "Marathon Maniacs," who had come together in this very spirit to share the love of running marathon distances frequently, sometimes for time, sometimes not. This struck a chord with me involving relief at finding people who think this way, and I was delighted to qualify for membership in the Marathon Maniac group with my two October races. The Web site is amazing by the way, with many, many races listed on their calendar. The Maniacs wear the T-shirts and indulge in much camaraderie at every marathon.

How do you combat boredom during longer races? I never, ever feel bored. Races are a joy from beginning to end. Running truly allows you to live in the moment, and be a kid again. This maybe gets to the essence of the marathon [obsession]. I am engrossed in many things: my sense of purpose, i.e. the finish; my thoughts; the surroundings; conversations with fellow runners; how my body is doing; the road ahead. There is so much to do, and it's all fun.

What have you learned about yourself through running? Running has taught me that you cannot sit in a shell, be a quitter or be afraid. You run in all weather, dark or light, when you are tired, energetic, sad or happy. If you want to solve a problem, I've learned that you can go for a run, sleep on it, and then go with what the road tells you. I've learned that you will always be in a different mood at the end of a long race to the one you started in. I have learned that despite thinking of myself as an average person, running has proved to me that I have the ability to be goal-oriented, driven, and demanding of every day. I have learned that running is one of my best opportunities to help other people. By using my running stories and encouragement, I have been told that they have served to help others believe in their own potential for change and achievement. I've learned that we are all athletes, only not all in-training. I have learned to never allow the comment "Oh, I could never run a marathon" to pass without turning around, looking that person in the eye, and saying, "Oh, yes you could."

Current running shoes: Asics 2030s, with orthotics for plantar fasciitis.

What would you consider the most beautiful place to run in Charlotte? Gosh, that's a tough one. I guess the Mallard Creek Greenway by the bridges as I spend so many happy hours and miles there.

Do you have any running-related pet peeves? Not really. I'm not a big fan of breathing car exhausts.

If you could pass on just one piece of advice to novice runners, what would it be? The hardest step in running is the first step out the door.

* * *

Know of another running fool? Tell me about him or her in an e-mail to

Get psyched for an amazing race

Republishing this entry, which originally appeared here May 14. I'm just curious: Did any of you wind up registering?

Today's blog entry doesn't really have a whole lot to do with running ... but the name of the event I'm about to plug has the word "race" in it, so what the heck, right?

Next month's Great Urban Race is like "The Amazing Race" for extroverted guys and girls who a) don't like to fly, b) wish the CBS reality competition started and ended in one day, or c) want to do a trial run with a prospective partner before applying for the TV show, to make sure they won't kill each other.

It also, of course, could just be for anyone who wants to have a really freakin' fun time getting to know their city with a close friend or family member. Whatever the case may be, I have a feeling the GUR could be the sleeper hit of the year on your race calendar.

The Charlotte event, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12, is one of 20 GURs being held in cities throughout the U.S. in 2009. The idea behind the race is simple: Teams of two work together to solve a series of 12 clues. One sample clue on the Web site reads "Return to the finish with a real $2 bill," while other challenges might require players to, for example, unscramble letters to spell a landmark then go have their photo taken in front of it. So yeah, the Great Urban Race is basically a scavenger hunt, and the playing field is the city of Charlotte.

According to the rules, teams are permitted to carry and use GPS devices, cellphones and laptops. Use of public transportation is allowed; but taxis or rides from friends are not.

And there's a special incentive: If you finish in the top 25, you're invited to November's national championship in New Orleans, where teams will compete for a $10,000 grand prize. The top three teams from the Charlotte race get their championship entry fees paid for, and the top two local finishers win cash prizes of $300 and $150, respectively.

Registration is $60 per person through Sept. 11, and $70 per person on race day. Start time on Sept. 12 is "High Noon," and the start and finish is at Fox and Hound at 330 N. Tryon St. in uptown.

It's worth noting that the field is limited to 500 teams. I'd tell you to sign up soon to ensure your spot, however, be aware that none of the 14 races that have already been held this year were sellouts. (L.A. came the closest, with 470 registered duos.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ready to 'Rumble' on LKN's trails?

If you were up in Lake Norman over the weekend for the triathlon, you may have returned to your car to find a flyer tucked under one of your windshield wipers trumpeting a new series of trail races with the exciting-sounding moniker "Rumble in the Woods."

Seemed appealing (a 12.6-mile trail run in Lake Norman State Park? Ya don't see those every day). But I've gotta admit that I tossed it into my backseat and didn't think of it again ... until I got a press release from Sue Mitchell of Team Triumph.

Here's the info, with some quotes from Mitchell to follow:

Tie up your trail running shoes. It is time to start training for a new long-distance race series coming to the Lake Norman State Park this fall.

Rumble in the Woods is scheduled for Nov. 14. The new series adds some depth to the fall race calendar by offering three runs on the trails. The feature run is a 12.6-mile event. For those who aren’t ready to tackle the long distance yet, the race also offers a 6.6-mile run and a 5K run.

The new event is sponsored by Team Triumph, a group of Lake Norman area women who participate in triathlons and other endurance sports.

As for the difficulty, all trails are primarily made up of rolling hills. The 5K course follows the Hawk Loop. The longer races follow the Monbo Loop. The 12.6-mile route includes two loops on the Monbo trail. The registration fees are $20, $25 and $30 for the 5K, 6.6-mile race and 12.6-mile race, respectively.

Race registration is open at

Team Triumph will provide refreshments, raffles and awards following the races. Awards will be given for the top three places overall in each age/gender group: under 19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60 and older.

Proceeds from the event will go to Women’s Auxiliary of Motorsports Charities (W.A.M.). Team Triumph’s mission is to empower women of all abilities to train, race and socialize around the triathlon and other endurance sports. For more information on Team Triumph, visit our Web site:
Mitchell tells me the race has a cap of 100 athletes, but that there are still plenty of open slots: "[The race director] says right now, registration is light. But we're hoping by continuing to pass out flyers at events like the Open Water Swims, Run for Green, Ramblin' Rose and Nomad Tri. We'll hit our cap. The park ranger did not want more than 100 runners on the trail, or he would have been forced to cut it off to non-race traffic, so that's why the [cap]."

As for Team Triumph, Mitchell says: "Some of us a seasoned triers, some have done Olympic and other distance tris; others are marathoners; some are novices. The purpose of the group is to support each other in these endeavors, get the experienced women to work out with the less-experienced and pass along their knowledge, and watch everyone grow in their skills." For details on how to become a member, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This weekend: Charlotte's flattest 5K

I don't know about you, but I could really use a PR right about now -- especially after flaming out at the BluePoints 5K earlier this month.

As luck would have it, a great opportunity for a personal best is presenting itself this weekend in Dilworth: It's the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K, and its reputation precedes itself. For all the details, let's dish off a buncha questions to our friend Ashleigh Lawrence, who's coordinating the event for Run For Your Life.

Q. I don't think I've had a single conversation with someone about the Greek Fest race in which the word "flat" or "flattest" has not come up. Was the course designed specifically with flatness in mind, or did it just work out that way?

Ashleigh: It more or less worked out that way. Our partnership with the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the Yiasou Greek Festival is what brought us to that location, but then as [Run For Your Life owner] Tim Rhodes was designing the course, he found that he had options that could make this course one of the "flattest" routes we could offer in Charlotte. So he ran with it and it has become a participant favorite.

Q. Flat often translates to PR opportunity. I'm sure this is helping to drive up registration, right? Where are you guys at right now in terms of numbers for the 5K?

Ashleigh: That does translate to PR – and this race is known for being a PR course, for sure. Interestingly enough, all of our races, both Grand Prix and non-Grand Prix, have seen great growth so far in 2009, so PR course or not, we are expecting awesome growth. Last year, we had just over 1,000 runners for this event, and we are expecting 1,300 this year. To date, registration is up to 750 runners, so we are right on target for 1,300.

Q. Why is the race held two weeks before the actual Yiasou Greek Festival, as opposed to the same weekend?

A: Actually, years ago these two events were on the same weekend, but then the Yiasou Greek Festival has become such a large and well-attended event, as has the 5K, that I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it would be to host both events at the same time. It was either select different dates or select different locations. Of course, we opted for a different date – it was the best option to keep a strong connection with the Festival and the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Q. Cool bonus to get two free tickets to the Festival for registering. They're good for any day of the Festival?

A: Yes, they are! Any day, any time! You can get information on the festival and what’s going on when at

Q. How's the T-shirt?

The T-shirt is cardinal red with the race logo on the front in cream and white colors. Of course, we use the back to thank our title sponsor Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital, as well as the Grand Prix and event sponsors.

Q. Will any of the post-race snacks or activities, or the awards, go with the Greek theme?

The prizes – including the kids' prizes - we actually ordered through the same company that provides merchandise for Greek Festivals all over the country, including this festival. So yes, the prizes are true to the Greek Festival theme, for sure – but I can’t tell you what they are! The food, although it does not reflect the Greek theme, is still great! Just Fresh will be there along with Great Harvest Bread Company, Diamond Springs with Water, Powerade, Michelob Ultra, and Coca-Cola will have some soda for those that want the caffeine kick! Everyone will have plenty to drink and to eat!

Q. Who's the beneficiary of the race proceeds?

The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, our host and coordinators of the Yiasou Greek Festival, will receive the race proceeds.

Q. Got parking recommendations?

The Cathedral parking lot will be open, however, it is not large so it will probably fill up quickly. Our best recommendations are to park on the surrounding streets, but stay clear of fire hydrants, residents' lawns and driveways. Keep in mind some of the residential streets behind and around the Cathedral are part of the course. So it would be wise not to clog up those roads too much with vehicles because it will affect the path for the runners in an event as large as this one. And remember where you park your car! People that are not familiar with the neighborhoods can easily get confused when trying to back track to their car after the race – it happens every year at this event!

* * *

The 2009 Yiasou Greek Festival 5K starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 600 East Blvd. ($20 for the 5K through Friday, $30 on race day; K-12 registration is $15/$20). For more details, or to sign up, click here. To jump straight to the course map, click here.

My PR is 21:39 (and I'm actually kinda hoping to break 21:00 after rocking a 23:09 in the 5K at the tail end of Sunday's Lake Norman tri -- see next-most-recent blog entry). Wish me luck, and I'll do the same for you! As usual, say "hi" if you see me out there Saturday...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Second tri, in a nutshell

I know none of you were losing any sleep over this, but a short follow-up to my personal quest for redemption, which began back in June after my first attempt at a triathlon fell, well, flat:

Today, in the novice race at the Lake Norman YMCA sprint triathlon -- 750m open-water swim, 13.3-mile bike, 5K run -- I finished 69th overall out of 225 male participants. (Full men's results here; women's here. For Saturday's open race results, go here.)

My goal was 1:30 ... my official finish time was 1:28:50. Boom. I was a mid-packer on both the swim and bike, but was the 39th-fastest on the run course with a 23:09. Another highlight: Forty-five second bike-to-run transition -- fastest of all 225 athletes. (I don't have bike shoes or clipless pedals, so I biked in my running shoes with cages. SPRINTED out of the transition area. Would have been even faster, but I momentarily forgot I still had my helmet on!!)

At one point, my chain came off the crankset on a hill as I was trying to go from the bigger to the smaller ring (lost maybe 15 seconds getting it back on). And I had a flash of panic about halfway through the bike course, when I hit a bumpy patch and I thought for an instant my front tire had gone flat.

But this was a huge success overall, and when I crossed the finish line just before 8:30 this morning, that big ol' monkey finally climbed off my back. Even better than sweet redemption? I had a BLAST.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What does an angry runner look like?

Nobody enjoys confrontation. (Well, at least, most of us don't, Rocky.)

But you run long enough, you have a moment -- sometimes many of them, depending on where you run -- when an idiot driver turns into the crosswalk and almost flattens you, or is busy texting and almost flattens you, or doesn't go wide to give you room on the shoulder and almost flattens you.

In times like these, if the mood is right, some of us feel we have only one option. Or one finger, that is.

Anyway, I bring this up because I asked some friends on Facebook recently whether they'd ever flipped off a motorist. I got some interesting, scary, funny, and surprising responses, so now I'm sharing a few to try to help get you through the end of this miserably muggy week. Oh, and if you've got a runner-rage story of your own, feel free to comment!

B: "Many times. Most of the times at intersections [when] I have the walk sign but the person turning right is in a hurry and tries to turn anyway. Also doesn't happen as much anymore but after 'Forrest Gump' came out I would get 'Run Forrest Run' for a good six years. That got old."

L: "Yes, almost got hit by a stupid van at [a trailhead where it meets the road] ... not only did I yell at him, but cyclists joined in and yelled at him with me. It was fantastic."

D: "The only day I don't flip off a motorist is a day I don't run on the roads. ... I seem to have trouble with drivers who are too busy drinking coffee/talking on their cell phones/putting on makeup all while running so late they feel the need to try and hit me when I have the right of way. Drives me crazy!"

M: "One morning a few of us were heading out, talking and having a great time, when all of a sudden, [a friend] PUSHED me toward the grass and proceeded to slam both of his hands on the top of this lady's car. Seems I was 'gabbing' so, that I did notice that she was about to run into me! I was glad he was there ... she was pissed. They exchanged words, but thankfully she kept going."

H: "One time these guys shouted at me really loudly through some kind of microphone. I literally jumped in the air I was so scared, then they laughed really loudly as they drove away because they were so proud and happy to have scared me so much. I think that happened in 1990, but I still remember it!!"

D: "Last year in my neighborhood, a police car ran a stop sign and almost killed me. As he sped off doing about 45 in a 25 zone, I flipped him off and yelled, but he just kept going. I don't run in my neighborhood much anymore."

And the winner is:

S: "I once tore the side mirror off an SUV, after the driver screamed at me for laughs. He got caught at the red light, so I exacted revenge. It was on Highway 51 right next to McMullen Greenway. It was stupid on my part. I was lucky that the dude was not able to find me after that. I regret my actions. But I bet he wishes he hadn't started it."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Final Miles of Mooresville event of '09

Meant to alert you guys about this earlier in the week, but ... better late than never, right?

The next -- and last -- Miles of Mooresville of the season is set for Friday night starting at 7. Registration again opens at 5:45 p.m. at the Charles Mack Citizen Center on Main Street in downtown Mooresville.

Race director Vince Pastore said the July event saw an increase in participation to just shy of 200 runners: "We are anticipating another increase for the August race. All of our participants have been enjoying themselves and the next race will promise more running, fun and beer."

What: 1-, 2- and 3-mile races.
Where: All races start at Main and Center streets.
When: One-mile race starts at 7; the two- and three-mile events will follow, with breaks between each race.
Cost: For $18, runners can participate in any or all of these races.
Why: Proceeds will be donated to local charities in the Mooresville area, including the Humane Society of Iredell County.
Swag: Each runner will receive a technical T-shirt and two free beers (ID required).

Miles of Mooresville is a Queen City Timing race series. Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hey look! It's another runnin' fool!

This is the eighth in an ongoing series of profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: BILL SHIRES, 44, a software architect by day who appears to be the most dominant masters runner in the Charlotte area.

For proof of that, look no further than Run For Your Life's Grand Prix Series results for this year: Bill has placed atop the overall masters leade
rboard in four of the six events held so far. In the other two? He was the over-40 runner-up by just one second in both races.

Coincidentally, I ran with a guy this morning who brought up Bill's name out of the blue, and he paid him a compliment in a roundabout sort of way: "I can't wait till he turns 45 and gets out of my age group!!"

For the record, Bill turns 45 on Dec. 10.

When and why did you start running? I started running in '83 to get in shape for basketball, and started running every day in Oct '86 to see how much I could improve. I have been running every day -- ever since.

How has your outlook on running and racing changed since you moved into the masters division four years ago? Pretty much, it has remained the same. I do train a little differently now than I did when I was younger. I added more trail running and biking, and I avoid concrete when I can.

What's a personal running moment you'll never forget? Winning my first race. It was easy, but I was running scared the whole time. I had never led a race before and had no idea what to do when I was out front.

What's a personal running moment you wish you could forget? Climbing to the top of a bridge and attempting to run across it. I was running with some guys on the Marshall cross-country team. And someone had the bright idea to run across the bridge that separates Ohio from West Virginia. There is perfectly good sidewalk to cross the bridge. But then, where is the fun in running on the sidewalk? :)

So you were literally running ON TOP of a bridge. Like on the girders above the road. Yep. It is a car bridge and quite high over the road -- and definitely high over the river. As we were running across on the girders, you could look down at the people driving underneath. If I had fallen off onto the road, I would probably have gotten run over. If I had fallen into the river, I would have probably drowned. I could have fallen into the Ohio River and drowned. It was the dumbest thing that I did running.

What's harder for you to get motivated for, a speed workout or a long run? Both. The pain is the same. It is just a question of do I want quick and over, or do I want it to last for a while?

If you asked my running friends to describe me, they'd probably say ... ? Addicted.

Where is your favorite place to run in Charlotte? Mallard Creek Greenway.

Favorite distance? 5K.

PR for that distance? 16:02.

Music or no music when you run? No music. I don't like wires bouncing off me while I am running, and I can't afford those sunglasses with the earbuds for playing music. :)

We heard you've taken up biking. Why'd you start, and how does it compare to running? Yeah, I took up bike to augment my running. I find bike much easier than running from the standpoint that it doesn’t beat up your body as bad.

If you could give novice runners one piece of advice, what would it be and why? "Be patient with your running." I have seen to many runners jump into running, try to do too much to quickly, and get injured. They end up quiting running.

What's next on your race calendar? The Yiasou Greek Festival 5K on Aug. 29.

* * *

Know of another running fool? Tell me about him or her in an e-mail to

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Race the trails at the Whitewater Center

If you haven't been to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in West Mecklenburg County since the recreation venue opened almost three years ago, you've been missing out on something special.

It is, unquestionably, one of our region's most unique assets: a place where you can -- among other things -- navigate rafts with friends on whitewater courses, mountain bike alongside or kayak on the Catawba River, scale an elaborate climbing wall, drink beer while enjoying live music, or (now, for the first time ever) run a race.

This Saturday, the gorgeous Whitewater Center will host the inaugural Trail Run Challenge, which offers both a 5K and a 10K on two unique courses that traverse challenging terrain and finish alongside the rapids.

I traded e-mails last night with race director Ryan Gililland, who graciously answered several questions about this intriguing addition to the Charlotte-area race calendar:

Q. OK, pretend I'm someone who's done a bunch of 5Ks on roads, but is either skeptical or intimidated by the thought of a trail race. Convince me I might just like this.

The trails at the U.S. National Whitewater Center provide road runners a refreshing alternative to the noisy, car polluted, concrete surfaces they experience each weekend. Further, running on the trails' softer surface under a canopy of trees alongside the Catawba River is mentally refreshing. The courses will travel around small lakes, the Catawba River and the rapids of the USNWC.

Q. Give me an idea of what the course is like. Hilly? Narrow? Curvy? What kind of surfaces?

The 5K and 10K courses are run on seperate trails. This will reduce congestion, as well as provide unique challenges for runners in each race. The 5K will take place on the "Green" trail, while the 10K will take place on a combination of the "North" and "South" trails. The 5K is a smoother, gently rolling course when compared to the 10K course. The 10k course is a more challenging environment with longer, steeper inclines and declines.

Q. Do proceeds support the Center, or is some of the money going toward a particular cause?

The event is focused on benefiting two groups. A portion of proceeds do go to the Whitewater Center. CMS benefits from the back to school supplies. I am the son of a school teacher so I know that many students need assistance with getting properly prepared for the school year. So partnering with CMS to collect back-to-school supplies at this time of year was a no-brainer.

Q. Logistics? Anything runners should know?

Due to the terrain there are no strollers or push joggers allowed. The parking fee [normally $5] is covered in the registration fee. Participants need to show their race bib at the Guard House. We will have a volunteer at the Guard House to make this process as smooth as possible for participants.

Q. Are there race-day amenities worth bragging about (e.g. postrace food, beer, etc.)?

OOOOH YEAH! There will be post-race food and fun from a variety of partners such as Earth Fare, Clif Bar, Dasani, Powerade, Great Harvest Bread Co., and Miller Coors. We have cool medals for all the Age Group and Overall Race winners. We also have over 50 raffle items for the recreational runner to possible win. These include gift cards to Jesse Brown's Outdoors, Asana Activewear, Earth Fare, Dinners at Outback Steakhouse, some of the latest running watches from Timex and more. Finally, all volunteers and race participants receive a 10 percent discount coupon on an All Day Pass to the USNWC. The pass is good for Saturday only, so participants need to bring a change of clothes to celebrate their accomplishments in the refreshing rapids.

Q. How many runners are you expecting this Saturday?

300 to 350.

Q. 10Ks are rather rare in these parts. Are the numbers looking better for the longer race than for the 5K at this point?

Right now we have a 50/50 split between the 5K and 10K races.

* * *

Both races start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday ($35 for the 5K, or $39 for the 10K; $37-$41 on race day). For more details, or to sign up, click here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm back, and I hope to get better

As my vacation winds to an end, I'm feeling a little bit jetlagged, a little bit sunburned, and -- unfortunately -- more than a little congested.

The jet lag comes from 21 hours of traveling Sunday, on a return trip from Barcelona that included: a dishonest Spanish cabbie, a needlessly nerve-fraying escape from Estacio de Franca railway station, an eight-hour flight to NYC, a six-hour layover at JFK, and a disgustingly-high-calorie "dinner" at Burger King.

The sunburn comes from 27 miles of marathon training on the boardwalks, bike paths and streets lining the Mediterranean Sea, over which I saw the sun rise two out of the four times I ran during my stay in the city.

The congestion? Can't pin it down. But let's put it this way: There were about 200,000 other tourists in Barcelona last week. About 100,000 of them smoked. Way too many of them touched the same escalator handrails or tapas bar counters that I did. And I'm guessing Saturday's 13-mile long run -- after doing about 130 miles of walking between Tuesday and Friday -- could have been the nail in the coffin.

Still, I think a moderate head cold is a small price to pay for the experience of running along that coast. I crossed paths with literally hundreds of other runners over the course of four hours pounding the ground. Though only a few greeted me with an "Hola" (runners aren't nearly as friendly there), I saw a little bit of everything -- from a guy knocking out sub-seven-minute miles like they were nothing while wearing a polo shirt to a group of young Spaniard men wrapping up a long night of cerveza-swilling by heckling runners with mock-inspirational cheers.

Anyway, I'm glad my fears that I wouldn't be able to stay on pace with my NYC Marathon training were unfounded. Now I just need to keep on pace despite this stupid cold. Did seven miles easy in a jet lagged haze this morning; Tuesday a.m. I'm planning to do maybe a 45-minute bike ride plus a brief run of less than two miles. If I survive that, I'll hit the hills hard for eight on Wednesday. Until then, the jury's out on whether the whole training-while-nursing-a-cold thing is a good idea. (Thoughts? Share 'em.)

Up this week on the blog: Another installment of the "Runnin' Fool" series of profiles, plus (hopefully) a preview of this Saturday's Trail Run Challenge out at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Also, I'm taking another shot at a triathlon Sunday -- Lake Norman will be my first tri attempt since the Flat Tire Fiasco back in May at Latta. Oh, and then the Greek Fest 5K is Saturday, Aug. 29. Looking to PR at that one. Still need to sign up, though.

Missed you guys. See y'all back out on the roads, at the races, or -- at the very least -- around the blog.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

BluePoints in reverse: Hillier still

Sometimes, races don't work out the way you want them to. And when that happens, you just do what you've gotta do to try and make the best of things.

That's what the Carolina Panthers and Run For Your Life did Saturday morning at the BluePoints 5K in uptown Charlotte, after they decided at the 11th hour to have runners do the 3.1-mile course in reverse to offset the effects of heavy construction on Stonewall Street.

Beforehand, I heard some chatter as runners learned of the change that they were relieved to see the big climb up Morehead Street eradicated. If only they -- and the nearly 1,300 others who ran today -- had known then what they know now about Mile 3 of the revised course.

According to my Garmin, there were 250 feet of climbing between the halfway point (right before Midtown Square, where the Target is) and the top of Stonewall in front of the Observer building. A couple dozen stories of climbing. Over a stretch of just 1.3 miles. In 75-degree heat.

Posts on my Facebook profile afterward seemed to confirm it. "Was the race completely uphill? Dang it felt like it," said one runner. Another: "No lie! That was a tough course... it felt like the last mile and a half was straight UP!" And: "I was also wondering how we ended up at the same place when I felt like I went uphill at least 2/3rds of the race."

The last comment came from a guy who was a full minute-30 off his time in a 5K two weeks ago. Anyway, like I said: Sometimes, races just don't work out the way you want them to.

Myself, I missed PRing by almost a minute-30. I actually decided before the race to try to pace my friend to a PR (hers is 22:31) -- which seemed like a good idea at the time. Problem is, I'm not even very good at pacing myself. So I think I gave her some bad mojo by going out too fast, a not-uncommon mistake I tend to make.

The start was CROWDED. As usual, too many slower runners lined up too far toward the front, and the left turn off Mint Street onto Morehead comes so quickly that there was a lot of bunching and a little bottlenecking toward the inside of the turn. So there I am trying to blaze a path for her, but really I'm just wasting energy of mine and hers (energy I should have been storing up for Mile 3) by bobbing and weaving through the crowd.

The jockeying ended toward the top of the first hill, about 2,000 feet in, right by the intersection of College Street. After cresting on the bridge over the Light Rail tracks, we barreled down Morehead, and when we clicked off the first mile around Dilworth Road in 6:47 (target was 6:58), I realized I needed to ease off the gas.

Less than half a mile later, at a more moderate pace, we were on Kenilworth Avenue. By the way, an interesting thing happens shortly after you make that left turn onto Kenilworth: And that is, you come out from under the canopy of trees that line Morehead nearly from top to bottom and start seeing less and less green very quickly as you approach the ramps for I-277 -- where there's virtually no green. So at the same time you're hitting the hills, you're also getting hit by the sun. This is where pouring it on too early began to take its toll on my friend.

We've trained for hills like these (worse than these, in fact), but in hindsight, the smart thing to do would've been to go out in about 7:05, try to nail right around 7:00 in Mile 2, then throw everything on the table after crossing under the Belk Freeway and leaving the PR up to a sprint on Mint.

Instead, the combination of the fast start and the staircase climb on Stonewall beat my friend up a little and we ticked off Mile 3 at 7:53 -- way off pace. Yet I still got her to sprint out the last 0.10 on Mint at a 6:15 clip, which means she did have something left in the tank. ... Anyway, official time for both of us: 23:06. Off her PR by 35 seconds, off mine by 1:27.

But hey, stuff happens. Sometimes, things go your way. They certainly did for a couple of other FB friends of mine, including Bo Jordan, who PR'd with an 18:24; Alex Gunter, who turned in his best time ever (22:47); and Danielle Walther, who was the overall female winner in 18:46.

Other times, things just don't go your way. The Panthers and RFYL probably didn't appreciate the fact that the construction screwed with their game plan, but they did what they could to make the best of it. And while my friend and I probably could have run a better race, it gets chalked up as a learning experience for both of us.

Besides, there's always GreekFest. I hear that's flat. Right about now, I like the sound of that.

Top BluePoints 5K finishers

Bert Rodriguez, 29, of Arlington, was the overall male winner in 15:41 (he also won the Run For Your Life 4-Miler last month). Thirty-five-year-old Robert Marchinko of Salisbury finished second in 15:58, and Rock Hill's Matthew Elliott, 23, took third with a 16:17.

On the women's side, after winner Walther -- who I profiled earlier this summer -- there was a near-photo finish for the two and three spots: Teenagers Olivia Jacobs (19, China Grove) and Sarah Williamson (18, Charlotte) crossed the mat in 19:39 and 19:40, respectively.

For complete BluePoints 5K results, click here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Going on hiatus ... but back soon

A heads-up: Sadly, I've gotta take some time away from blogging -- my unpaid weeklong furlough (stupid recession) starts at 12 a.m. Sunday and runs through the following Saturday (Aug. 15); during that time, I can't do any work for the Observer or a trap door opens underneath me and I'm never seen or heard from again.

So ... I'll be back in action Sunday, Aug. 16.

Not quite done yet, though. I hope to get a blog entry up after the BluePoints 5K tomorrow morning. And I leave you on this Friday afternoon with two tidbits:

1. You can save a few bucks at your favorite running store during the Sales Tax Holiday that runs all weekend. Most shoes and clothing items under $100 qualify, and some running-related items (gear, accessories, i.e. stuff you wouldn't wear to the grocery store) less than $50 also is tax-free.

2. If you're looking for a small-town race next weekend (Saturday, Aug. 15), one option is the second annual Tomato Trot, heading out from Unity Presbyterian Church in Woodleaf (near Salisbury) at 8 a.m. The run takes place "out in the country, and runners will be running past tomato fields, cows and a farm," says race director Mallory Hodge. There will also be a Fun Run after the 5K. The run kicks off the all-day Tomato Festival, which features entertainment, food (including tomato sandwiches), a kids zone, a yard sale, a silent auction, a parade, and a "Tomato Queen" contest. Cost is $20 before race day and $25 on race day. Runners will receive a red dri-fit shirt and a coupon for a free lunch if they decide to stay for the festival. Click here to register. For questions or more info, e-mail Hodge at

Happy running this weekend.

Running BluePoints? Read this NOW

From Ashleigh Lawrence of Run For Your Life:

"With the development of the construction on Mint Street throughout this week, [RFYL], [the Panthers], and the police did a final evaluation of the area today -- and after discussing some options, they decided the best option would be to run the course backwards and not change the actual route.

"This option allows minimal course change for runners that have run the course before and those that have trained on it and are therefore familiar with the streets. It will also decrease the bottleneck effect that would have occurred if the course was run in the original direction."

This is a very, very good call on the part of the organizers, because at present, it looks like a bomb went off at Church and Stonewall overnight. Here's a photo I snapped with my iPhone while pausing at that intersection on my way into the Observer around 8:30:

How does a reversal of the course affect things? Well, there's now a decent climb in the first half-mile, but then it's downhill for the next mile on Morehead. Then you've got about 1.4 miles of slow ascent, with some flats mixed in. Final 0.2 or so includes a fairly swift dropoff after crossing Church before leveling off around the left turn back onto Mint.

See ya out there. Good luck with that PR. And keep an eye out for potholes and other surprises in the final half-mile near that construction.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Run BluePoints 5K just for the hill of it

If you're running the Carolina Panthers' BluePoints 5K uptown this Saturday morning, a piece of advice: Don't go out too fast.

I ran the course last Friday. After a little riser on Stonewall in the first 400 meters, it's all downhill for the next mile and a half or so. Then you turn right onto Morehead ... and for about nine-tenths of a mile, you'll be climbing. The "best" part: Right before you crest (on the bridge-crossing over South Boulevard), you'll hit a final steep patch that I heard a friend refer to earlier today as "the wall."

Fortunately, the last half-mile is mostly flat or downhill. But the point is, don't burn too hot too fast -- or you'll be sucking oxygen alongside others who are crashing on the march up Morehead Street in Mile 3.

Current forecast shows that it'll be about 72 degrees and mostly cloudy when the gun goes off in front of Bank of America Stadium at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. In other words, warm and muggy.

Anyway, here are a few other tidbits about the event worth passing along, thanks to Dana Thomas of the Panthers:

  • Typically, the BluePoints 5K draws about 1,200 to 1,300 runners.
  • The start and finish is on Mint Street by the East Gate. All race activities take place outside the stadium, but the venue does open to the public at 9:30 a.m. for FanFest. The event includes contests, entertainment and a team practice from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Despite what Stonewall between Church and Tryon looks like at the moment (that is, a complete mess -- thanks to the Duke Tower water main project), Thomas assured me that "at least two lanes" will be open for runners and the course will not need to be altered.
  • Runners and their families are likely to see official Panthers mascot Sir Purr and members of the TopCat cheerleading squad out and about; the awards ceremony will be hosted by Mick Mixon (a.k.a. "The Voice of the Panthers").
  • Race sponsors are Blue Cross and Blue Shield of N.C., the Dairy Association, Aquafina, Gatorade, Carolinas Medical Center, Russell Athletic, Wendy’s, 107.9 the LINK, and WBT Radio. Each will either contribute to the goody bag or provide something at the finish.
  • All participants are advised to park in the Mint Street Parking Deck for $5.
You can register for $20 online (here) through Thursday or at a Run For Your Life store through Friday; on race day, the cost for the 5K is $30. (Further race details can be found here.)

I'll be out there trying to PR. That's sub-21:39, for those keeping score at home. The key for me will be -- wait a minute, the key for me is the same as the key for you! Say it with me now: Don't go out too fast.

See y'all there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Run For's the name, motivation's the game

The name of the company, at first, can seem a little awkward.

Run For.

Yet there it is, emblazoned on the front of blue shirts, grey shirts, white shirts, pink, green, indigo and red shirts: Run For. Oh, and it's on hats, too.

The question, of course, is "Run For" ... what, exactly? But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Since founding the company in January, Tara Setzer, 33, has been selling men's and women's "Run For" gear, which includes an extensive line of moisture-wicking performance shirts and American Apparel tri-blend tees.

The Charlotte native (who now lives in the Lake Norman area) also moderates online forums and blogs at, described as a "global social networking community" where "runners can share their story, race photos, ask questions, answer questions, connect with other runners, read inspirational stories, profiles."

Setzer, who started running after college to get in shape and is now an avid runner, created Run For out of love and dedication to her father, a sufferer of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Running really helped me ... deal with my Dad’s illness. I was so happy to challenge myself and dedicate my runs to him," she recalls in a press release. "I literally wanted to write it across my chest ... . That’s when I realized that many others do the same thing every day: They use running as a way to gain strength physically and mentally."

What Setzer wants her company and its brand to do, she says, is challenge runners to recognize and celebrate what they run for. "I've created that through the shirts and my online community -- where runners can share, celebrate and inspire others -- supports the shirts."

Eventually, the stay-at-home mom of two young children plans to give a portion of profits to Alzheimer's research, and hopes to organize a Run For race that benefits and creates awareness of the disease.

The shirts ($20-$23 apiece for most) themselves are remarkably comfy. The cotton blends are lightweight and ultrasoft, and -- if the one I have is indicative of the whole collection -- they have a much more tailored fit than your typical blocky, cheapie 5K freebie. (She also sells 100% polyester tech tees.)

On the back of each shirt is the slogan "What Do You Run For," along with the URL for the site. On the front? Simply, Run For. But like I suggested at the top, the obvious question is "Run For" ... what, exactly?

If you want to spell it out, you can special-order custom shirts with a name printed underneath the Run For logo. But Setzer says there are two reasons for the simple two-word moniker:

"1. Everyone runs for a reason, and everyone's reason is valuable. The fact we all run for a reason is what ties the running community together and makes us extraordinary. We have a passion and motivation to put our body through an enduring challenge that not all people have or can understand.

"2. Running is a lifelong sport, and what you run for can change. Why I started running 13 years ago is not what I run for today. For me, it started as a form of exercise, but most days it ends up being my support system and what I lean on to get me through the day. Run For is a celebration of what you run for and the motivation that moves you."

Adds Setzer: "Half the fun of the Run For shirts is it can intrigue people and become the topic of conversation."

To join the Run For community and browse Setzer's line of running gear, click over to

Monday, August 3, 2009

Crowders' 10K takes the scenic route

While I wait to hear back from the race director of the BluePoints 5K -- the big race set for uptown this weekend -- here's some info on the more-rugged (and far-less-crowded) Assault on Crowders Mountain 10K Trail Race, courtesy of

What: The rare opportunity to run a Crowders Mountain trail race, and it's limited to the first 75 registrants. Crowders Mountain State Park -- with its rock outcroppings and magnificent scenery -- provides the perfect setting for a challenging inaugural event. This challenging trail course is an out-and-back with rolling changes in topography.

When: 8 a.m. Saturday.

Where: Crowders Mountain State Park, 522 Park Office Lane. Start and finish is at the Linwood Road access. The gate will not be open until 7 a.m., so please plan accordingly. Parking at the Crowders Mountain Linwood Access lot is limited, so carpool if possible.

Course details: Participants will start near the parking area and run the Backside Trail to the Crowders Trail, where they will cross Sparrow Springs Road/Freedom Mill Road and continue on Crowders Trail to the Visitors Center. At that point, runners will turn around and head back to the start.

How much: $55 until 9 a.m. Friday. There will be no race-day registration.

Swag: Event-branded, Dry-fit, full-color, short-sleeved T-shirts.

Beneficiary: A percentage of proceeds will be donated to the Friends of Crowders Mountain for direct support of conservation, preservation, and improvement of Crowders Mountain State Park resources.

Details: Click here. Registration page: Click here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My marathon training: Week 3

Week 3: Rest on Sunday; 3 easy miles on Monday; 6 miles of hills on Tuesday; rest on Wednesday; 5 miles with a handful of pickups on Thursday; 5.25 easy miles on Friday; 2.75 very easy miles on Saturday. Total: 22 miles.

So, I finally deviated from the plan! Yup, the OCD streak has ended.

I did the prescribed work on Monday (at an 8:53 pace) and Tuesday (8:39 pace), then spiced things up a bit on Thursday: Instead of a straightforward "easy" run, I added some short pickups and wound up averaging 8:21 -- including a sprint at the end that put Mile 5 at 7:57.

Got back on track Friday, as I met a friend uptown to run a little more than 5 miles, including the Blue Points 5K course. (More on that race, scheduled for this Saturday, to come later this week.) We were right around 8:45 for the workout.

But this weekend I focused on what I wanted to do and not on what the plan had me down for.

I usually do my long runs on Saturday morning; instead, I woke up before 6 a.m. (UGH) to meet some friends at the Lake Norman YMCA for its second-to-last open water swim of the triathlon season. (Click here for details on Saturday's finale.) While we were waiting for our wave's scheduled start, we ran just short of 3 miles at a gotta-love-it 9:24 pace.

That pushed my long run to Sunday morning (which'll get credited to next week's mileage total, meaning this week's looks unusually low and next week's will seem awfully high). And for the second weekend-day in a row, I was up before 6 a.m. Double ugh.

Now, as a morning runner, I've been rising and trying to shine for a while now. I'm not gonna lie and say it's necessarily always fun or easy to get out of bed before dawn to pound pavement, particularly on a Saturday or a Sunday morning. But I'm used to it. So used to it that more often than not, I'm up before my alarm goes off. Saturday morning: My alarm was set for 5:40; I was stirring by 5:30. Sunday morning: Alarm was set for 5:20; I got up at 5:15.

This kind of extreme wake-up call is going to start becoming more and more common as I get deeper into my training, as longer midweek runs force me out of bed earlier so I can get them in before work.

Problem is, I'm not really going to bed any earlier. And I need to. I know it. Six hours of sleep a night, over the long haul ... it just isn't enough. Now, I'm not an elite athlete, but this quote -- from a column on the Runner's World Web site earlier this year -- could apply to any of us:

"Traditionally, elite athletes dedicate numerous hours to daily practice, strength training, and conditioning as well as work closely with nutritionists in hopes of optimizing their athletic performance. However, very little, if any, attention is focused on an athlete's sleeping patterns and habits," said Cheri Mah, a Stanford researcher who authored a study that found getting extra sleep over an extended period of time boosts athletic performance.

According to various experts, we need at least seven -- and preferably more than eight -- hours of sleep a night to be at our best. This isn't outlined in the Bart Yasso 16-week marathon-training program I'm following right now. But maybe it should be.

Thoughts or advice regarding my training? Want to share stories about how your own plan is going? Fire away!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Help me help my readers!

Weekend race report going up later today (hopefully). In the meantime, please post comments if you can help either of these guys:

I was wondering if you know of any "over 50" running clubs in the Charlotte area. I live in south Charlotte (Ballantyne area) and enjoy running at McMullen Creek. I'd be interested in joining up with other runners, preferably in my general age category (I'm 54). I'd appreciate any tips you may have on this. --L.C.

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I'm looking for hills to run hill repeats on in Charlotte. Anyone have some good ones? Preferably 200 to 800 meters long and on grass or trail surfaces would be ideal. --A.L.