Tuesday, June 30, 2009

He sure is a runnin' fool ...

This is the third in an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: MARK CARBONE, store manager at both of our city's Charlotte Running Co. locations. He moved to the area from Brooklyn, N.Y., two years ago.

Age: 36.
How long I've been running: Running-running? Heck, all my life.
What I love about running: The solitude.
What I hate about running: Not having multiple surfaces to choose from. I'm not the type to drive somewhere to go for a run, so I don't like not being able to run on any surface -- one day trails, one day concrete, one day beach ... that kind of thing.
Current running shoes: Four different shoes in the rotation: Mizuno Inspire, Saucony Triumph, Mizuno Wave Creation, New Balance 1063s -- all women's models in size 9.5.
Women's models? Women's models are narrower, provide a softer feel, and just feel more comfortable. I also make it a point to defuse the idea people have about the color of a shoe -- they shouldn't care what it looks like. Function over looks. I'm writing a book about all this.
Do you have a standard running route in Charlotte? Countless routes right out the front door. Never a standard.
Do you prefer to run alone or with a group? Alone for specific training, but love running with my Charlotte Running Co. group.
Favorite annual Charlotte race: GBS/CIDP 5K (last held May 9).
Favorite distances: Half Ironman/Ironman/marathon/half marathon.
PR for those distances: 4:37/10:08/2:40/1:13.
Are you a morning or an evening runner? A.M., brother!
Advice for novice runners? Go to a specialty running store and ask a hundred questions -- you need to be well-informed. Learn to ice yourself, too.
What's next on my race calendar: World Championships 70.3 in Clearwater, Fla., on Nov. 14. (Mark qualified by posting a time of 4:56 at the Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman in Lubbock, Texas, last weekend.)

* * *

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

I'll be looking to bust 47 minutes this Saturday in my first 10K since Cooper River ... but I'll be doing it 1,000 miles away, in Lenexa, Kan. (Visiting family for the Fourth.)

What races will I miss around here, while I'm gone? Let's find out.

Miles for Marines
What: 15K "motivational" run/walk.
When: 8 a.m. Friday.
Cost: $15.
Where: Westminster Park, 4000 India Hook Road in Rock Hill.
Why: All proceeds will benefit the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund.
Of note: The "challenging and scenic" course is run entirely on trails, and winds along the banks of the Catawba River. There'll be a digital clock at the finish line so you can note your time as you cross, but this is not otherwise a competitive race. The event is being held in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps; the Web site asks participants to think while running/walking about "the discipline, self-sacrifice and rigorous training that Marines endure in effort to better serve our nation and keep us safe." Afterward, participants can enjoy food and demonstrations from the Charlotte Reserves and the local Marine Corps Recruiting Staff.
To register: Click here. Info on the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund: Click here.

Firecracker 5K
What: 5K and kids' Fun Run.
When: 5K is at 8 a.m. Saturday; Fun Run follows at 9.
Cost: $20 for the 5K, $10 for the Fun Run ($30 and $15 on race day).
Where: Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, 11725 Verhoeff Drive in Huntersville.
Why: Proceeds will benefit the Lakeside Scholarship Fund.
Of note: Start line for both races is on the other side of Verhoeff Drive, at CPCC. Last year, 253 runners finished this July 4 race. The 5K course is a trapezoid: Right off of Verhoeff onto Statesville, right onto Mt. Holly-Huntersville, right onto Old Statesville, right onto Verhoeff. The Fun Run course is a little shy of a quarter-mile.
Race brochure: Click here. To register: Click here.

Recon Off-Road Triathlon and Relay
What: Sprint triathlon, with distances of 400 meters (in Lake Haigler), 12 miles on a mountain bike, and a 3-mile run.
When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Cost: $60 ($70 on race day). Add $10 if you're not a USAT member.
Where: Anne Springs Close Greenway, Highway 21 Bypass in Fort Mill.
Of note: This is the first time a triathlon has been held on the greenway, and it's all off-road -- so don't show up with your road bike. All registered athletes get both a T-shirt and a nylon backpack in their swag bag. Relay teams are welcome; registration is $140 per team ($170 on race day).
Race site: Click here. To register: Click here.

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

'Why do I have knee pain?' Take 2

This is the second in an ongoing series of advice columns featuring your questions about common running ailments, with answers from certified chiropractic sports physician Scott Greenapple of Greenapple Chiropractic Sports & Wellness on Park Road (full bio here).

If you have aches, pains or anything else you're wondering about injury prevention, send me an e-mail and I'll work with him to provide you with some guidance. Meanwhile, let's get to today's question ...

Q. I had arthroscopic knee surgery when I was 15; I am now 34. My knee does not hurt when I run (I just started about two months ago). However, in doing other cardio/strength training work -- specifically squats and lunges -- it will hurt. Should I be wearing some type of knee brace or doing some specific type of stretching beforehand? --Christy

Dr. Greenapple says: Interesting question. I have one for you. I understand it was arthroscopic, but what did they clean out? (Knowing) what they did will give us some guidance as to what should be done for your discomfort. Doing lunges and squats cause a shearing force on some parts of the knee, and can irritate it. Make sure your lunge is in good form, and you may want to only do a partial squat. But this all depends on what is going on with the knee now. You may have developed some arthritis in the knee, or you have not rehabbed your knee properly and left the quads somewhat weak. As with any question over the Internet, you can see it is hard to give advice without proper evaluation. Best suggestion is to have the knee evaluated by someone who has experience with sports injuries and then decide on a treatment plan or exercise advice.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How I plan to get to NYC

Though this was keeping no one up at night -- except maybe me -- some of you might be interested to know I've officially decided to train for the ING New York City Marathon using the 16-week Bart Yasso program that appears in the July issue of Runner's World magazine.

The plan includes two rest days a week (I'll probably swim on those days), three easy days a week, one day of hard work (hills or speed), and one weekly long run. Longest long run is 22 miles, in Week 13; that's also the highest-mileage week (48).

(Wish I could pass along a link to the Yasso/RW plan, but for some reason, I can't seem to find it on the Runner's World Web site. If someone's located it, please let me know!)

I'm switching my long-run day from Sunday to Saturday, which means I have to do some minor tinkering toward the end since "Race Day" no longer matches up. I'll also face an interesting challenge later this summer when I'll be needing to log a 30-plus-mile week ... while on vacation in Spain.

Over the past five weeks, I've averaged a little over 25 miles a week. Week 1 of the Yasso plan calls for 25 miles total. This is an "intermediate" program recommended for someone who's run at least one marathon. (And NYC will be my first, as you may know -- I just started running last September, have run four half-marathons, and have never run longer than about 15 miles. Feel free to criticize my judgment.)

NYC is Sunday, Nov. 1, which means I'll start on the plan the week of July 12. The competitive side of me is shooting for a 3:30 marathon. The practical side of me will be happy to break four hours. Wish me luck.

Running a marathon this fall? What plan are you following?

Friday, June 26, 2009

GPS watches: Good ... or evil?

My life changed when I got the Garmin Forerunner 305 last Christmas. But did it change for the better?

A quick synopsis of the GPS watch for the uninitiated: It straps onto your wrist; locks onto orbiting satellites; tracks data including pace, time, distance and heart rate; and allows runners to customize workouts in a variety of ways.

There's no question my Garmin has made me more aware of my ability, and that it's made tracking progress ridiculously easy. (Playing connect-the-dots with Google Maps' distance measurement tool is fun the first few times, but eventually the thrill wears off.)

I like how it gives you your mile splits in real-time, so you know if you're falling off the pace during a tempo workout or if you're maybe pushing a little too hard on an easy run. I like how it coaches you through intervals, which can be harder to manage if you don't have a high school track handy. And I really like it during races, when I can set up the Virtual Partner feature -- to explain, I can program it so my "partner" (i.e. the watch) will run 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 47 minutes at an even pace ... then throughout my half-marathon, a glance at my watch will tell me precisely how far ahead or behind my "partner" is. I've set many a PR this way.

I recently asked a bunch of fellow runners using my Facebook profile, and the consensus seems to be that a Garmin is a must-have gadget.

David: "I would never leave for a run without the 405 [the latest Garmin model]. I like the Virtual Partner on long runs so I don't have to do the math in my head."

Mike: "The Garmin is a terrific tool for those in all levels of fitness. The measurement of distance, elevation, location and heart rate are priceless. I have a 305 and a 405. I sincerely hate to run without it." Then, in the next breath: "Can't live without it."

Cathy: "Most favorite of all my toys!"

Which leads me to what I really don't like about my Garmin: the fact that I would never leave for a run without mine, that I hate to run without it/can't live without it, that it's my most favorite toy, too. I mean, I really hate being addicted to anything. And I'm addicted to this gadget. In a sense, I'm kind of like a 5-year-old who can't get to sleep without their favorite blanket. And if you're a parent, you know that someday, you'd like to break them of that crutch.

Interestingly, the Facebook discussion -- which included so many raves -- ended with a diss.

Aaron: "Soooooooo not needed. Why does such a pure sport that requires virtually nothing become inundated with equipment? Part of the freedom of running is just doing it, with no constraints. Who cares if you run 6.5 miles vs. 6.7? Run on feel, not by what a computer tells you. Running is sadly going the way of biking. Folks spent more time tinkering with the equipment rather than doing the actual sport."

And this may surprise you: Aaron is probably the fastest runner of all who contributed thoughts, a guy who can run a three-hour marathon and a sub-17-minute 5K.

Are his comments on target? Perhaps. But I'd need my Garmin and a strong signal from those satellites to be sure.

Do you have thoughts on GPS watches? Are they the greatest fitness invention ever? Or will they ruin running?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two more Saturday 5Ks to consider

Couple races that got overlooked when I posted the weekend schedule Monday.

First one is the inaugural Mill Grove United Methodist Church Cancer Awareness 3K & 5K in Matthews at 8 a.m. Saturday. (Plug 6803 Stevens Mill Road into your GPS device to find it; or click here for a map.) Race organizer Maria Doby says more than 200 runners are registered, which is a surprisingly strong turnout for a new event.

According to the site, the race starts at the Divide Golf Course and runs through "soft hills and flat areas" in the Shannamara neighborhood. Cost is $15 for the 3K or $20 for the 5K, and the beneficiary is CureSearch and the Elam N8 Cancer Foundation. Online registration is closed, but runners can sign up from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Mill Grove UMC (7311 Mill Grove Road) or from 7:15 to 7:40 a.m. Saturday at Lifeline Community Church (6800 Stevens Mill Road). Race T-shirts are no longer guaranteed; they'll be given out till they're gone.

The other race I missed is the third annual Freedom Run 5K in downtown Oakboro at 8 a.m. Saturday. According to the registration page, the course is "pretty flat" and takes runners through Oakboro District Park.

Online registration (here) is $15 and closes at 11:59 tonight, but you can also sign up on race day behind the Post Office on Main Street, beginning at 7 a.m. Runners who donate a canned food or non-perishable food item (to benefit the West Stanly Christian Ministries) will be entered to win a free pair of shoes from Vac & Dash of Albemarle.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Am I resting easy? Not exactly.

I took a day off from work today. I also took a day off from working out. No running. No biking. No swimming. No core exercises. (OK, I mowed the lawn late this afternoon, but I don't think that qualifies as cross-training in most fitness freaks' books.)

Funny thing is, I didn't plan it this way.

I woke up a little after 6 dying to go for a run, but my wife had already left the house and I decided to spend some time with our 8-year-old instead of leaving her staring like a zombie at Nickelodeon for 45 minutes to an hour.

Anyway, I thought maybe I'd squeeze in some core work after I dropped her off at summer camp and before a 10 o'clock tour of Levine Children's Hospital (led by the good folks behind the Hopebuilders 5K). But I opted to vacuum the house -- since it needed to be done at some point before I had to go to the airport to grab my mother-in-law, who's in town till Sunday.

So next I set my sights on trying to do an hourlong ride/run combo after the tour and before the airport pickup.

Well, that didn't happen because 1) the conversation with the Levine people was interesting enough that I wound up staying half an hour longer than I'd planned, and 2) I remembered I needed to swing over and buy some swim shorts at REI for a pool workout Thursday morning.

I could go on, but basically, once I picked up my wife's mom at 1:30 ... any practical opportunity to get in a workout of any kind went out the window.

So this turned out to be an involuntary day of rest, a day on which I was held from running against my will.

Like so many other athletes I've met since I started running last September, I've become incredibly driven to push myself, to go faster, to be stronger, to run further. And like so many other athletes I know, I find it difficult to take a day off -- to take a true day of rest.

I've read all the books. I know that recovery is an important part of training plans. I know that muscle needs to rebuild itself to become stronger. I know, I know, I know. But that doesn't mean it's not killing me to be sitting here and blogging right now instead of pounding the asphalt on an after-dark run.

What's your philosophy on rest days? A crucial and welcome part of your regimen? An agonizing formality? Or do you sometimes/usually skip them -- because, well, you just not very good at sitting still -- ?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

She sure is a runnin' fool ...

This is the second in an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: LANA TORKILDSEN of Charlotte, current president of the Charlotte Track and Triathlon Club, which sponsors the extraordinarily enjoyable Trenton Guy Sr. Summer Track Series at Myers Park High School. (If you go to tonight's meet, you'll see her there at the timing station!)

Age: Between 20 and 70.
How long I've been running: Since 1984.
What I love about running: It relieves the stress.
What I hate about running: Hmmmmm... can't complain.
Current running shoes: Asics Gel Kayunos.
Most beautiful place to run in the Charlotte area: Dilworth/Myers Park. Specifically, Dilworth Road.
Do you prefer to run alone or with a group? Group, I do more chatting than running.
Favorite annual N.C. race: Any race that has beer at the end.
Favorite distance: 26.2.
PR for that distance: 3:38, at Kiawah Island, S.C., in 2004.
Got a running disaster story? Learned the hard way not to eat sushi and Thai food before an evening race.
How do you feel about running skirts? A woman can look athletic and feminine at the same time.
Advice for novice runners? Don't worry about the other runners. Just have fun!
What's next on my race calendar: The Huntersville Firecracker 5K on the 4th of July.
Details on the above photo: Lana with her husband Tom, taken after they finished the 2008 Disney World half-marathon in Orlando.

* * *

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Unfortunately, the most interesting race happening this weekend 1) is in Winston-Salem and 2) has reached registration capacity. It's called Ultimate Runner and challenges all 108 participants to complete 1-mile, 400-meter, 800-meter, 100-meter and 5-kilometer races -- in that order; lowest combined time for the five events is named "The Ultimate Runner."

It's otherwise a fairly quiet weekend for racing in the Charlotte area as we prepare to cross the halfway point for the year 2009. (Wasn't it just Christmas like a month ago??)

Anyway, let's get to it.

Run for Hunger
What: 5K and 1-mile kids' Fun Run (for children up to age 12).
When: 5K is at 8 a.m. Saturday; Fun Run follows at 9.
Cost: $25 for the 5K, $10 for the Fun Run.
Where: 8590 Park Drive in Mount Pleasant. Both races start at Town Hall, behind the Mount Pleasant Fire Department.
Why: Proceeds will go to the Mount Pleasant Food Ministry, which serves needy families in the community.
Of note: Runners will traverse a "scenic," "country" course that goes through the town's historic district. The event kicks off the Mount Pleasant Independence Day Celebration (a parade and carnival will follow the race).
To register: Click here. Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Del Monte 5K and Fun Run
What: 5K run and fun run.
When: 5K start is at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fun run is at 8:45 (for children up to age 12).
Cost: 5K is $20 if paid by Wednesday, $25 on race day; fun run is $10.
Where: Start and finish is at Marvin Elementary School, 9700 Marvin-Weddington Road in Waxhaw.
Why: Proceeds benefit the Siskey YMCA's community outreach programs.
Of note: The Fun Run course is about half a mile. Says Jennifer Dodson, senior fitness director for the Siskey Y in Matthews: "There is no track at the school, so we have the kids do two laps around the perimeter of a small soccer field the school has."
Race brochure: Click here. To register: Click here.

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

'Why do I have pain in my knee?'

Another occasional series of features I'm starting up: an advice column featuring your questions about common running ailments, with answers from a local expert.

In this case, that local expert is certified chiropractic sports physician Scott Greenapple of Greenapple Chiropractic Sports & Wellness on Park Road (full bio here). I met Dr. Greenapple through the Trenton Guy Sr. Summer Track Series going on this month at Myers Park High School; he's a board member for the Charlotte Track and Triathlon Club, which runs the series.

If you have aches, pains or anything else you're wondering about injury prevention, send me an e-mail and I'll work with him to provide you with some guidance. Meanwhile, let's get to the first question ...

Q. I love running but have been having a problem on the outside of my right knee, maybe an inch down from the knee joint. I've tried different stretches before running but it always seems I get a nasty pain in a very specific spot. It's really put the brakes on my ability to go running. What am I suffering from?

Dr. Greenapple says: Typically, the pain runners get on the outside of the knee is from a condition called Iliotibial Band Syndrome or ITBS. The causes are many. Most people focus on treating the symptom, which is pain on the outside of the knee. They try and stretch it out or take anti-inflammatories. This usually does not work.

The pain is caused by the muscle (where it attaches at the hip) called the Tensor Fascia Latta (TFL) being either too weak or too tight or both, which puts pressure on the insertion at the outside of the knee. Furthermore, another muscle -- the Gluteus Medius -- is typically weak, and the TFL has to work harder, causing an imbalance that leads you to dysfunctional running and then pain.

The ITB is a thick band that really does not stretch (despite what the Internet will tell you); the other muscles can be stretched and worked on if needed to try and help resolve the problem.

There are many other causes of outside knee pain, but this is the most common. The best advice is to have it evaluated by a sports physician who understands the biomechanics of running, and can give you a diagnosis as well as treatment and proper stretches and exercises. Feel free to contact my office for stretching sheets and information on ITB.

For contact info, click here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

When and why go topless?

Good discussion earlier this week on my Facebook page about guys who run shirtless.

I raised the issue since it cracked 90 degrees Thursday and soared to near triple-digits today. The questions were simple: Guys, do you run shirtless when it's this hot out? Girls, how do you feel about guys who run shirtless?

Some of the answers were predictable -- from a female, "If they look good (not just think they look good), it's fine" -- and some weren't -- from a male, "I used to run shirtless down to 40 degrees." But it was all interesting, so I bring the discussion over to the blog. And I ask you:

Fellas: Are you a shirt taker-offer? Is there a threshold, temperature-wise? Or places that you'll go topless, and places that you won't?

Ladies: Does it bother you when guys go sans shirt? Are you envious that you can't go topless? And do you ever run wearing just a sports bra?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pray for a breeze at Summer Breeze

If you're planning to run the Summer Breeze 5K in Charlotte's Freedom Park on Saturday morning, get ready for a hot one.

According to the National Weather Service, temperature at the start is expected to be in the mid-70s ... and since the women run first, at 7:30 a.m., followed by the men at 8, the Fahrenheit may eclipse 80 degrees by the time middle-of-the-pack guys cross the finish line.

It could be worse, though: If the race had remained a Saturday evening event -- which it has been every year up till now -- female runners would have been hitting the pavement at 7 p.m. At 7 p.m. Saturday, the hourly weather graph says it'll be 91.

The Summer Breeze race, sponsored by Run For Your Life, is held annually during the weekend of the summer solstice, which results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year.

The switch from P.M. to A.M. probably comes as a disappointment to some. But at least the race is still being run at all: Run for Your Life agreed in April to step in and produce the race after lack of sponsorship threatened to cancel this year's event. (For the full press release, click here.)

As for why the event is closer to sunrise than sunset, Run for Your Life owner Tim Rhodes says:

"A lot of runners don’t like the evening time because it messes up their day as far as what they can do and what they can eat. We’ll see what the reaction is when it comes time to register. I haven’t really heard much one way or the other as far as the time of day is concerned. I guess that could be good news.

"Also, the (Charlotte Track & Triathlon Club) decided to move it to the morning and that is what the parade permit with the city was approved for, so really, the decision was already made for us. We have decided to keep the Male and Female starts separate as is tradition with this event."

Once again: Women's start is at 7:30 a.m.; men's is at 8. You can register online (here) through midnight tonight for $20, or $12 for children K-12. There's also a kids' "fun run" at 8:45 (cost is $10). On race day, fees go up to $30/$20, though the fun run remains $10.

For full Summer Breeze details, click here.

Oh, and if you want to take a break from racing, organizers are looking for volunteers, too. Find out how you can help by e-mailing Charlotte Track and Triathlon Club volunteer coordinator Lana Torkildsen at PiggyTork@carolina.rr.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Trail Series starts tonight

Last-minute news flash (better late than never right?):

The Summer Trail Series, presented by Charlotte Health and Fitness, launches at 7 tonight at Colonel Francis Beatty Park with the first of three monthly 5K trail races. The park is at 4330 Weddington Road in Matthews. Race-day registration is $25 (kids are $7 with a paid adult).

The next two events in the series are Tuesday, July 28, at McAlpine Creek Park and Tuesday, Aug. 18, at Reedy Creek Park. They're also evening races. Pre-registration for each of those is $20 -- or, if you sign up ahead of time for both, it's $37.

More info: Click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good, clean, cheap fun -- served up FAST

I will never come closer to feeling like a high school track star than I did on Tuesday.

Well, "star" may be an overstatement -- but it was hard not to feel like a hotshot while hurtling full throttle around Myers Park High School's outdoor oval at the extraordinarily enjoyable Trenton Guy Sr. Summer Track Series.

Believe it or not, I'd never run on a track before Tuesday evening. Many of you probably have, and if so, you know what I learned: The rubber in the track puts a spring in your step, and the flat surface really does allow you to hold an alarmingly fast pace for longer than usual.

I'd also never been timed running a single mile flat-out. So I was eager to see if I could break six minutes, having covered the first miles of multiple 5Ks at a pace right around 6:45.

After some minimal warmup jogging, I found myself at the starting line with 18 or so other runners who'd paid a buck apiece to sprint around the track four times. (This, by the way, was a heat for "slower" runners.) The gun went off, and I just bolted. It's already kind of a blur, but the long and short of it is: I tried to keep pace with a couple of fast middle schoolers at the front of the pack for two laps, fought to stay ahead of one of them for the third lap, then had to dig down deep and block out the pain on the last lap as I got passed on the backstretch by one of the kids and two middle-aged men.

Place: Fifth. Time: 6:10. I didn't break 6, but it was close enough that I was not dissatisfied.

A half-hour or so later, I lined up for the 400-meter sprint (one time around). This was an even more foreign experience for me, since the pace is so blistering compared with what I'm used to. I was in Lane 2, and a good runner I met recently, Stan, was in Lane 3. (Stan's pretty fast -- he ran an 18:32 at the China Grove 5K last Friday, to my 21:39; I was sure he'd kick my butt.) The gun went off, and though I gained on him around the first turn, I knew being in an inside lane was contributing. But I kept about two paces behind him on the backstretch, and was surprised when I overtook him coming out of the last turn, then held on for a mini-victory.

(I don't know what the point of that anecdote was other than it was motivating to know the guy in the next lane was a particularly fast guy, and it reinforced how various distances can produce various results for different runners. For the record, I'd rather have Stan's 18:32 at China Grove than my 1:07 in the 400 meters.)

Anyway, so for $2, I had two unique, cool, very-fun experiences that amounted to the purest form of speedwork I've ever done. It's exhilarating to run in a gear I literally never use (even when doing speedwork, I'm piling on enough intervals that my energy bursts don't put me at my top speed). I'm telling you, if you like to run fast, if you like to take on new challenges, if you like to see what you're made of as a runner, you should check this thing out.

Here's how this summer series, sponsored by the Charlotte Track & Triathlon Club and held every Tuesday in June, works:

The order of the events is as follows: 50m, 100m, 1 mile, 4x100 relay, 400m, 800m, 200m, 2 mile. There are several heats of the 50 and 100 meters for the kids, which take up a half-hour to 40 minutes and gives 9-to-5ers time to get over to the field after work. In other words, although registration starts at 5 p.m., "registration" can happen anytime before a race is run -- all you have to do is write down your name and the number of races you'd like to run, then fork over a buck per event. Theoretically, you could participate in every single one.

Heats for the shorter distances are populated based on age; for instance, the first 100m race was for 5 and under girls, then 5 and under boys went next, then 6 and under girls, and so on. Heats for the longer distances are populated based on the time you expect to finish in; for instance, the first heat of the 1-miler was 6:00 and under, the second was 6:00 and over.

The CTTC uses official timekeeping equipment -- upon crossing the line, you're handed an index card marked with a number corresponding to your finish (1 for first, 2 for second, etc.). You give that card to a timekeeper, and within a few minutes, you can pick up your official time.

Competition was fairly fierce. A few of the high schoolers who ran the short-distance races looked swift enough to be state champions, and the young man who won the miler finished in close to 4:30. In total, more than 200 runners participated Tuesday night, ranging in age from under 5 to over 70. (This is a great diversion for kids, by the way; my 8-year-old daughter did the 100m, the 400m and the 800m and had a blast.)

One thing I'd like to see out there next time I go: more women. Although everyone out there was friendly, it had a bit of a boys' club feel -- lots of very good male runners, and I had this sense that many were out there just to add something to their brag book, so to speak (hey, I can relate -- I went home and crowed about my mile time on Facebook!). Meanwhile, I could count the number of women runners on one hand. Because the adult events don't separate males and females, I can see how women might feel intimidated, but I say if you're a relatively strong runner, please get out there and take a shot at beating some of the guys!

If you're free Tuesday evening (the 23rd), and have just a couple bucks to spare, you really, really, really should make plans to get down to Myers Park HS (2400 Colony Road). As I said at the top, it's good, clean, cheap fun -- served up FAST.

Oh, and a final note: On June 30, the series features a "Championship Mile" event -- with the field consisting of the finishers boasting the top 10 times in the mile events from the previous four weeks (10 male, 10 female) -- and concludes for 2009 with a special 5,000-meter (5K) race. CTTC president Lana Torkildsen says the plan is to do all the regular events before the 5K event, although "there is a possibility that we will remove an event or two so we can finish the 5K event in time."

Interested runners are being asked to pre-register for the 5K (cost: $5), since it's expected to be popular and participation will have to be limited. You can pre-register at the track Tuesday evening (the 23rd), or -- if you can't make it -- send your name and phone number to Torkildsen at PiggyTork@carolina.rr.com to be added to the list.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

He sure is a runnin' fool ...

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Kicking it off: SEAN MULLEN, 39, of Mount Holly, who is attempting to complete 40 races during the 40th year of his life to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team in Training.

How long he's been running: 25 years. "Seriously" (i.e. training for races) for 16.
What he loves about running: I met my wife running the Boston Marathon. Also, what a great way to explore new cities, places, distances -- and new shoes.
What he hates about running: The first few steps.
Current running shoes: Mizuno.
Favorite place to run in the Charlotte area: Uptown Charlotte on the weekends. I have found and made up several routes -- usually starting from the Childress Klein Y.
Favorite annual N.C. race: Charlotte Racefest (10K and half marathon); Tri-Latta triathlon.
Favorite running gadget: Garmin 305.
Favorite distance: Anything past the first few steps (see above). Or the half-marathon.
PR for that distance: 1:35 -- but that was several years ago.
Favorite post-race treat: Pizza, peanut M&Ms.
What's next on his race calendar: As part of my "40 in 40" campaign [Sean's trying to raise $40,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society]: Ada Jenkins 5K, Kure Beach Double Sprint Tri, then several more in August, September, October ... you get the point.

If you're interested, Mullen's blog is here and his Web site is here.

* * *

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Several hundred runners will probably turn out for the Summer Breeze 5K on the edge of Dilworth Saturday, but anyone looking for some short-distance action north of town this weekend has a couple of unique options to choose from.

Both Friday night and Saturday morning are likely to be very hot (94 is the predicted high for both days), so remember to drink plenty of fluids!

Anyway, let's get to it.

Miles of Mooresville
What: 1-, 2- and 3-mile races.
When: Friday night. One-mile race starts at 7, two-miler starts at 7:20, 3-miler starts at 8 p.m.
Cost: For $18, runners can participate in any or all of these races.
Where: 116 S. Main St. in downtown Mooresville. All races start at Main and Center streets.
Why: Proceeds will be donated to local charities in the Mooresville area, including the Humane Society of Iredell County.
Of note: This is the first event in the Queen City Timing race series that features identical races on the third Friday of July (the 17th) and the third Friday of August (the 21st). Each runner will receive a technical T-shirt and two free beers provided by Carolina Blonde (ID required). There will be live music and kids activities.
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

Ada Jenkins Fire 5K
What: 5K run and 1-mile fun run/walk.
When: 5K start is at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fun run/walk is at 8:45.
Cost: 5K is $25 in advance, $35 on race day; fun run/walk is $15 (kids under 5 are free).
Where: Start and finish is at the Ada Jenkins Center, 212 Gamble St. in Davidson.
Why: Proceeds support the Ada Jenkins Center, which provides assistance to residents in northern Mecklenburg and southern Iredell counties (including free medical and dental clinics, groceries from Loaves & Fishes, after-school programs and more).
Of note: Race committee member Sue Mitchell says the 5K course has "only one big incline, at the end" -- and adds that the 1-mile course is "very flat" and "stroller-friendly." All runners will get a ticket for a barbecue (11 a.m.-2 p.m.). Non-runners can buy BBQ tickets for $10 (here).
Race brochure: Click here. To register: Click here.

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I didn't succeed, but I'll tri, tri again

I felt like I was prepared for almost everything heading into my first triathlon -- Sunday morning's Tri Latta race for Novices.

Granted, I'd put in the bare minimum on the bike (one 17ish-mile ride per week) and in the pool (one 1,000ish-meter swim per week)... but as a somewhat serious runner (25-30 miles per week), I was sure I possessed the base of training to get me through the sprint tri in about 1 hour and 45 minutes or so.

Turns out that the one thing I didn't prepare for would be my undoing.

The morning started out great. Though I got to bed later than I had intended to, I slept soundly (which was a surprise), and I literally woke up about 15 seconds before my alarm was set to go off (at 4:20 a.m.).

An hour later, I was arriving at Latta along with the other 500 participants. An hour after that, I was moseying down to the swim start corral. And at 6:30 a.m., with 4,000 mosquitos buzzing around us and a watersnake slithering along the shore within a few feet of competitors, I was off with the first wave of swimmers.

The 750-meter swim went as well as could be expected, given that I knew going in that it would be my weakest leg. I felt mostly strong; the hardest part (as anyone who's been on open water knows) was simply making sure I was headed in the right direction and not swimming in circles.

Swim-to-bike transition seemed fast for me -- I have pedals with cages and not bike shoes with clipless pedals, so I was headed up and out of the chute with my Trek 1000 wearing my running shoes. And through the first half of the 17-mile bike course, I was cruising along nicely. Got left in the dust by several guys on $2,500 bikes, but did my share of passing as well.

Then, about nine and a half miles in, as I was coming out of Huntersville Business Park, something didn't feel right.

It seemed like I'd lost some shock absorption on the back end. My first thought was, do I have a flat? I tried to look but at the same time was attempting to keep my speed up; turns out it's harder to see your back tire while moving at 20 miles per hour than you might think. I just couldn't tell.

You know when your car starts shimmying or making a funny noise, but the vehicle still seems to be driving fine, so you just ignore it? This was kind of like that. I kept hoping the tire was still fine, almost believing the tire was still fine. Because, while the good news was that I had all the tools and supplies to change a tire, the bad news was that I had no idea how to actually do it.

I kept pedaling along for about another couple miles, but instead of the ride smoothing out, it was getting even bumpier. So I pulled off the shoulder and took a look.

There's a pivotal scene in "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie loses control of the lugnuts as his dad is changing a tire on the side of a busy, snowy highway, and utters "Oh fudge" -- but what he's actually saying is much more offensive. So when I say I said "Oh fudge" upon seeing the flat... well, you should know what I really said.

I took one more stab at riding another mile or so, but less than five miles short of the bike finish, I was starting to slide around a lot and was convinced I was wrecking my rim. So when I came upon a volunteer at Mount Holly-Huntersville and Beatties Ford roads, I asked him to call for assistance. I have no idea how long it took for the "sag wagon" to come along, but it didn't come quickly. Each of the dozens of bikers who passed as I stood on the side of the road, it was like a knife in the heart.

Nice kid in a truck finally arrived and ferried me back to the park entrance, but since the access road was closed for the race, I had to run my bike the final two miles back to the transition area. And, having accepted the ride, my race was officially over. I never even set foot on the 5K run course.

I wasn't the only one who had issues Sunday. My friend Holly, who did the MAP Triathlon earlier in the spring and the bike and run legs of the Over the Mountain tri a few weeks ago, took a wrong turn and ended up riding eight extra miles on the bike. Another friend, Melanie, would have scored a top-four women's finish... but was assessed an unusual two-minute "positioning" penalty for crossing the double-yellow line while making a sharp turn and finished eighth. Medals go to the top five.

So anyway, that's how my first triathlon went. It's hard to even explain the crushing disappointment.

But two things got me through: One was the support of strangers, who coaxed me along as I jogged my bike along Sample Road with cheers of "Good job, man" and "That's the way to bring it in!"... they had no idea what my circumstances were, they just knew I was someone whose race hadn't gone as planned.

The other thing that got me through, of course, was the support of several friends and family members -- who were worried that something much worse had happened when they didn't see me come back in a timely fashion, who gave hugs, and who reminded me that there'll be other races on other days.

And there will be, there will be. I just signed up for the Lake Norman tri in August... which gives me a little more than two months to learn how to change a tire.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fast times at China Grove 5K

Despite the fact that visibility was sketchy during the China Grove 5K -- no surprise, as the starting gun went off after sundown -- it seemed like runners were finding PRs left and right along the small town's darkened Main Street on Friday night.

Bob Heck was one of them; he set a personal best with a 19:06 to win the men's 40-44 division. Billy Shue, 25, nailed a PR with an 18:24 good for third in his age group. And Scott Helms, a newer runner, was beaming after breaking 26 minutes for the first time (25:15).

Oh, and if you were wondering: I did indeed finally come in under 22 minutes with a 21:39, good for 62nd out of 390 runners who finished the Main Street Challenge in China Grove, which is about 40 minutes from uptown Charlotte.

The gun went off at 9 p.m., a few minutes after sundown, and the throng headed southeast through the downtown area. Within a few more minutes, it was dark. And I think the darkness contributed to many of those fast times. When it's light out, there's visual stimulation all around; something may catch your eye, you may wave to volunteer or police officer, etc. In the dark, it's like running through a tunnel. You lock into a zone, and just go.

There was nothing terribly remarkable about the out-and-back course -- but that also helped speed runners along, I think. Relatively flat (save for a gradual climb as you approached the turnaround) and relatively straight, you just found a speed and cruised.

One cool thing, though: Because it was an out-and-back, this was the first time I'd ever gotten a glimpse at the front of the pack sailing along in its highest gear. It was fascinating watching these guys fly at you out of the darkness and whoosh by at their sub-five-minute-per-mile paces.

And by the way, this was not like running down a major street in Charlotte. It was, as I may have mentioned, DARK. There were barely any streetlights. The road had been entirely closed to traffic, and I saw very few cops or volunteers. So on the way back into town, as everyone was hitting that third-mile mini-wall, I think we were all doing the same thing: dying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the lit-up finish line finally, mercifully came into view, that was the sign to start your finishing kick -- if you had anything left!

As with most small races I've run, the atmosphere afterward was extremely friendly. Everyone seemed to be smiling (as well as sweating buckets -- yes, it's still hot and humid even at 9:15 p.m.) and generally in a good mood.

Spread was yummy and eclectic, including warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts dipped in chocolate right before your eyes, cookies and cold sodas from Subway, fresh watermelon, and Monster energy drinks and bottled water. The Subway Sprint for kids (41 of them) was handled nicely, race T-shirts were technical fabric and not cotton (always a plus), and despite the heat, there was no wind and (of course) no sun to contend with.

Only two minor complaints:

1. The police cruiser pacing the leader on the return trip, as we neared the turnaround, came at us in the dark on the right-hand side of the road -- forcing us over to the left and slightly into the oncoming front-of-the-pack runners. It worked itself out from where I stood without incident, but to do that during a nighttime race on an out-and-back course seemed slightly dangerous.

2. I thought the layout was mildly confusing. Registration was inside the education building of the St. Mark's Lutheran Church on one side of Main Street, and the food and drink tables were set up in a parking lot across the street. When we arrived, it took a minute to find the registration area, and I didn't realize until after the race that there were porta-potties behind that parking lot. (Wish I'd seen them earlier, because before the race, I waited in a slow-moving line inside the Y for a single toilet.)

But these are minor quibbles. As smaller races go, it was exceptionally well-run by the Rowan County Y and the Salisbury Rowan Runners (led by David Freeze). I definitely plan to run it next year -- and you should, too. Unless, well, you're afraid of the dark.

Friday, June 12, 2009

5K PR: I think I can, I think I can

In my last two 5Ks, I've used my Garmin 305's "Virtual Partner" feature to run reasonably consistent splits -- basically, to keep me from going out too fast in the first mile and dying at the end.

But a couple of veteran-racer buddies have advised me to do just that in my attempt to break 22 minutes for the first time: Go out as fast as you can, they say, and then just hold on for dear life.

I'm scared of how the third mile -- even the second, for that matter -- will feel, but I'm gonna give it a shot tonight at the China Grove 5K. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me: What's your preferred 5K strategy?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New 4-miler's name is a mouthful

Run For Your Life's annual July race? It just got longer.

Not in terms of distance -- it's still a 4-mile event. The name of the race is what's been extended. In the past, it was simply called the Run For Your Life 4 Miler. But take a deep breath and say the new name with me: the Run For Your Life Run For Your Cause 4 Miler.

The inaugural running of this race is set to take place at the Dilworth location of Run For Your Life on Saturday, July 11. And along with the new name comes a bit of a philosophical makeover.

Ashleigh Lawrence of Run For Your Life explains the difference: "Rather than proceeds going towards only one beneficiary, we wanted to partner with multiple non-profits and open the door for them to collect donations through the event.

"We have selected two non-profit organizations, the Dore Academy and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Western North Carolina, but we have high hopes that in the coming years, the event will grow to three, five, or more non-profit beneficiaries!"

(FYI, the Dore Academy is a K-12, college preparatory school on Providence Road "devoted to the education of students with learning disabilities and ADHD." Make-A-Wish's mission is "to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.")

The 4-mile race will be extra-special for Run For Your Life because it comes during a month in which RFYL will celebrate its 20th anniversary. As one of its Grand Prix Series events, amenities will include "free food, free music, inflatables for the kids to play on, etc.," but Lawrence says "both the event awards and the event T-shirts (technical tees!) will have a special 20th anniversary kick to them."

Additionally, there'll be a "Tent Sale" on Race Day featuring 15 to 50 percent off apparel, "deep discounts" on older-model shoes, and 15 percent off regular-priced shoes.

For more information about the Run For Your Life Run For Your Cause 4 Miler, click here.

Oh, and if you want to be a supporter of this event, there are several ways you can help:
  1. Register to run/walk online by clicking here. You will have the opportunity to make an additional charitable donation during registration.
  2. Create an individual or team page, then recruit friends and family to make donations. To create a fundraising page, click here (for Make-A-Wish) or here (for Dore Academy) and then click on "Become a Fundraiser" at the top of the page; you will need to create an active.com account.
  3. Make a donation in person at the event.
  4. Be an event volunteer (6-11 a.m.). Find out how by contacting Lauren Barker at lbarker@ncwish.org or Kathy Sedon at ksedon@doreacademy.org.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

$175 running shoes: Reviewed!

Although not by me.

Charlotte runner/reader Bo Jordan, who recently ran a 2:56 marathon in the Poconos, has posted this amateur (but nicely written) review of the Newton Gravity training shoes on his blog. Click here to read it.

These are the shoes:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lake Wylie 5K/10K this weekend

Thanks to the anonymous tipster who pointed out that I overlooked a nearby race set for this weekend: The Lake Wylie Splash Dash -- which features a 5K and 10K run and walk -- will be held Saturday morning at Camp Thunderbird in River Hills Plantation in Lake Wylie.

All events start at 8 a.m., and the hilly course winds through Lake Wylie neighborhoods. A reader, Chad, tells me this will be his second time running the 10K. "If you like hills and want a challenge, this is the race for you. If you are looking for a real fast time or PR, this might not be the race for you," he wrote today on my Facebook page.

Another reader, A.J., pointed out that there were less than 100 runners in last year's 5K, and just over 100 in the 2008 10K. As he says: "It's a great opportunity for someone who normally places in their age group to grab an overall #1."

Not much info of interest in this story about the race on the Lake Wylie Pilot's Web site, but it did mention a few items of interest: Dilworth Coffee House will provide free ice cream to runners; Jim N Nick's Bar-B-Q of Steele Creek will have cheese biscuits and sweet tea; and pre-registered runners will receive kelly green T-shirts, while the first 100 registered walkers get purple tees that feature Lake Wylie's "LKW" logo.

Registration is $20 in advance or $25 on race day. Cost for walkers is $5, with proceeds going to the Camp Thunderbird Scholarship Fund.

Online registration is no longer available for the Splash Dash, so print this out and take the completed form to the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce (264 Latitude Lane in Clover, S.C.) -- or just show up on Saturday morning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Where I'll be in the days ahead

On Friday night, I'm making the 35-minute drive from our house in University City up to China Grove so I can run the 5K Main Street Challenge. Won't need my sunglasses for this one -- the starting gun goes off at 9 p.m. Registration remains open, so sign up if you're interested in what I expect will be a pretty unique race.

Then on Sunday morning, I'll set out on my first triathlon ever: Tri-Latta's novice race (the "open" -- i.e. more-competitive -- event is Saturday). It's sold out, but if you're among the 500 athletes signed up, say "hi" if you see me. I want to meet as many people as I can beforehand so I know who to yell for if I start drowning in the lake.

A week from tonight, I'm tentatively planning to check out the Trenton Guy Sr. Summer Track Series (at Myers Park High School) that I wrote about earlier this month. Determined to run a sub-6-minute mile...

Looking a little further ahead, I'm hoping to take Amy Peacock's ChiRunning workshop on Saturday, June 20. (Click here for details.) That's the same morning as the Summer Breeze 5K at Freedom Park, but I've promised my body I'd give it some time off from racing.

Need other race options for this weekend? Unfortunately, there are only a few, and they're somewhat far afield. One is Saturday's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Raleigh, which is N.C.'s largest 5K (events begin at 7 a.m.; info here). If you missed out on Latta and are up for an overnight, there's the Enka Triathlon at Biltmore Lake in Asheville; it's also a sprint, and distances are about the same (8 a.m. start; info here). Finally, if you happen to have Thursday off and are free for a middle-distance race, head east to Fort Bragg for the Army Birthday 10-Miler, which is held on the base (5:30 p.m. start; info here).

And if none of that does it for you, you can always spend this weekend starting your training for the World Joggling Championships, which will be held in Winston-Salem on July 14. It takes balls to enter this one. I'm serious. Click here and you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Favorite song for that final mile?

I don't use my iPod while I run, but I definitely know that the right music can give you a psychological boost in clutch situations -- whether you're in the final mile of a tempo run or have the finish line in your sights during a 10K.

I still remember feeling pumped up at the ING Georgia Half-Marathon in March by Survivor's triumphant anthem "Eye of the Tiger," which was blaring out of a sound system as we pounded the pavement in Little Five Points. And then there was the looping steel pan riff of Soulja Boy's "Crank That," which greeted us as we entered downtown Charleston after crossing the Cooper River at April's Bridge Run. Without question, it helped me pick up the pace.

And those aren't even songs I really like that much!

Anyway, I recently posed this question to a bunch of runner friends: What's the best song for getting you through that final mile? In addition to some general answers -- "most anything by Tool," "Linkin Park does it for me" -- there were votes for a wide variety of tunes:

  1. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" ("listen to the lyrics and tell me you can't finish that last mile!")
  2. Pearl Jam's "Rearviewmirror" ("if you time it just right")
  3. Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music"
  4. Green Day's "American Idiot" ("it's got that nice burst at that beginning")
  5. Airborne Toxic Avengers' "Sometime Around Midnight"
  6. The Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
  7. The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow"
  8. The Roots' "The Seed 2.0" ("my feet hitting the pavement matches the beat so I can shut my brain off and ignore the pain")
  9. Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
  10. The All-American Rejects' "Move Along" ("got me through ankle rehab")
  11. And finally, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" ("no joke")
Got your own favorites? By all means, share!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Union County 5K this weekend

I've already blogged about several races up north set for this weekend, including the King Tiger 5K at University City. Thanks to reader Emily, I can now point runners who live southeast of Charlotte to a little Saturday race of their own.

The Torch Run, a 5K, is set to go off in downtown Monroe at 8:15 a.m., preceded by a Fun Run at 8. The race beneficiary is the Special Olympics of North Carolina.

There is no online registration, but forms are available at the Monroe Police Department (218 E. Franklin St.) or online -- click here and find the Torch Run link under "Community Involvement." You can also register on race day beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Entry fee is $20, and includes a T-shirt or hat (spend $10 extra and get both). The Fun Run is open to all ages and is free of charge. Awards will be given to the overall male and female winners.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Last weekend, almost all the action was down south. This weekend, all the racing seems to be taking place up north.

Not much variety here distance-wise (it's getting hot enough in Charlotte now, I think, that most runners aren't interested in races longer than 3.1 miles) ... but the ones beyond King Tiger are all small affairs -- meaning they're good opportunities for faster runners to win some hardware.

Anyway, let's get to it.

What: 5K and 1-mile fun run.
When: 5K start is at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fun run to follow.
Cost: $20; $50 for a family of four. Fun run is $10.
Where: Harris Road Middle School, 1251 Patriot Plantation Blvd in Concord.
Why: Proceeds will be used in the fight against juvenile Batten disease, which causes blindness, seizures and learning difficulties in affected children. Eventually, sufferers lose the ability to walk, talk and even swallow.
Of note: Race hosts are Chris and Wendy Hawkins, whose two children both are affected by the disease. For more on Batten Disease, visit www.bdsra.org. For more on the Hawkins family, visit www.ourboysjourney.com. It's a small, no-frills race -- just over 150 runners participated last year -- but for a very worthy cause. The Observer ran a nice column about the Hawkins' efforts recently, which can be read here.
To register: Click here.

RE/MAX at the Lake Run for Miracles
What: 5K run/walk.
When: 8 a.m. Saturday.
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 on race day.
Where: Mount Mourne Volunteer Fire Department, 1577 Mecklenburg Highway in Mooresville.
Why: Proceeds benefit the Children's Miracle Network, which raises funds for more than 170 children's hospitals.
Of note: It's reportedly a level, fast course. Top overall runner and top overall youth runner each will get a $50 Dick's Sporting Goods gift certificate. Another small race: Last year, there were 175 finishers.
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

June Bug Road Races
What: Mile walk/fun run; 2-mile cross-country run; 5K.
When: Friday. 6:30 p.m. start for the mile, 6:45 for the 2-miler, 7 p.m. for the 5K.
Cost: $21 for the 5K, $10 for either of the other two events.
Where: Frank Liske Park, 4001 Stough Road in Concord.
Don't know much about this one, though it sounds good for families, anyone who prefers evening races, or people like me who have a prior commitment Saturday morning and therefore can't run any of the races listed above...
More info: Call Perry Gabriel at 704-920-2701. To register: Click here.

Running one of these races this weekend? Which one, and why?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Start spreadin' the news ...

Well, I was about to post a blog entry about a New York Times article that multiple people have forwarded to me this week: "Better Running Through Walking," by Tara Parker-Pope, who plans to run the 2009 ING New York City Marathon in November using the "run/walk" method popularized by famed distance coach Jeff Galloway.

But then I noticed, in the top right-hand corner of the page, another headline that caught my eye: "Dropping Out of the Big Race." Click.

Took me to a story by the Times' Andrew W. Lehren about an exclusive group of runners -- those who start the New York Marathon but do not reach the finish line. Five paragraphs in, this sentence: "The lottery for the race will be held Wednesday, as about 6,500 runners from more than 40,000 domestic applicants will be selected to participate in this year’s event, scheduled for Nov. 1."

And I'm thinking, Hmm... I thought I read that applicants would find out in "mid-June"? So I ditched the story and surfed over to the NYC Marathon's site. There, on the home page, it currently reads: "Lottery results for U.S. residents will be available on Thursday, June 4, at noon."

Logged into the site just for kicks, and there was the magic word: "Congratulations! You have been accepted into the ING New York City Marathon 2009. We are thrilled that you will be joining us on Sunday, November 1. Be sure to bookmark our site and visit it often for the latest news. Good luck with your training."

A fit of euphoria grabbed me. I quickly flashed back to all the times over the last three months that friends have said, "I have a good feeling you're going to get in" -- to which I replied, "I'm not getting my hopes up. The odds really aren't great." I thought of my running bud, Brian, who's been rejected twice and will be in automatically in 2010 if he gets denied again this year. I thought of another running partner, Diane, who ran NYC as her first marathon two years ago.

I also felt a slight twinge of disappointment, knowing this all means I won't get to run the Philadelphia Marathon, which is taking place Nov. 15 in the city where both my sisters live.

But that feeling left as rapidly as it arrived. I mean, we're talking about THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON. It's a dream for so many, realized by so few. It's like an amateur golfer getting to play at Pebble Beach. A Red Sox fan given the opportunity to take batting practice at Fenway Park.

The lottery victory marks the first time I've ever won anything of significance in my life. And the NYC Marathon will mark the first time I've ever run a 26.2-mile race in my life. So needless to say, a very exciting night.

Anyway, beginning in a few weeks, I'll start blogging regularly about my training (while continuing to keep you up to date on everything else I've been keeping you up to date with). I'll see if I can get tips from readers who've run marathons before. I'll see if I can pass along advice of my own, for others who are also training for their first-ever marathons in the fall.

And if you were lucky enough to also be accepted into the big NYC race ... I'll see you there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Go celebrate National Running Day

Wednesday's the day!

The easiest way to observe it is to follow the advice of the initiative's Web site: Just go for a run. There's no minimum distance required. Running shoes are ideal, but walking shoes or cross-training shoes will be fine if you aren't going very far.

The biggest way to observe it: Be at Run For Your Life's Dilworth location (2422 Park Road) at 5:45 Wednesday afternoon for a group run with the store's three coaches. The groups set out at 6 p.m. There is a beginner coach who will run two miles as a run/walk; an intermediate coach who will run three miles; and an advanced coach who will lead a four-plus mile run. The first 100 runners who show up will receive a free Run For Your Life T-shirt, and refreshments will be available.

Says RFYL event coordinator Jessica Douglas: "The group run is meant to be fun and non-intimidating. We would like both runners and walkers to join us!"

I also just called the University location (at West Mallard Creek Church Road and Senator Royall Drive), and was told "there will be a few people running here" Wednesday -- so that's an option for northside dwellers. The Stonecrest store says that if anything happens there, it'll be informal and impromptu.

Throughout the day, all three RFYL locations will be giving away a free T-shirt with the purchase of any pair of running shoes, while supplies last.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Your King Tiger 5K questions answered

The University City 5K -- now in its second year with taekwondo school King Tiger as the title sponsor -- has steadily grown into one of the precious few mid-sized races in the UCity area, having nearly doubled in size from 2006 to 2008.

What's in store for 2009? I traded e-mails with race director Chris Elkins earlier today, and he graciously answered several questions about Saturday's event:

Q. How many runners are you expecting this year?
650 to 700 total, between the walkers, runners and kids fun run.

Q. The race site says the course is "new and improved" -- what's new, and how has it been improved?
The police forced us to change the course from last year, so it's new because it has to be. Improved might be a stretch; sometimes a nice way of saying that there are a few more hills. Last year was a straight down and back. This year, it's 1/2 long and straight and 1/2 rolling through neighborhoods.

Q. A friend who ran the course recently said there's a big hill in the final mile, and that none of the course is shaded from the sun -- both of which could present challenges for unprepared runners. How tough would you rate this course on a scale of 1 to 10, given those factors?
3/4 of the final mile should be flat to downhill. But there is an uphill towards the end of Mile 2. True, not much shade, but that is what this area provides us (without going down into the research park, which we tried four years ago and people complained because it was very hilly). We start the race as early as we can to avoid the hottest part of the day. But very few parts of Charlotte are flat, so I'd say most runners will be prepared as long as they didn't train on a treadmill. If last year's flat course was a 1 on a tough scale, I'd say it's up to a 5.

Q. So this is the fourth of nine races in Run For Your Life's Grand Prix series, right? Explain how the series works, and tell me: Could someone theoretically enter this as their first GP series race and still wind up with some hardware and/or prize money by the end of the season in October?
Each Grand Prix race rewards the finisher with points. The better you place, the more points you get. You are allowed to drop your two lowest points from any of the nine races. Awards are passed out at the end of the season in all the typical race categories and age groups. Someone could enter this race as their first and still place at the end of the season, based on the rules. But because so many of the runners do at least seven to eight of these races, it would be hard to imagine that happening.

Q. Any cool amenities slated to be on-site Saturday that you want to tell runners about?
We will have food from Trader Joe's, treats from Rita's Italian Ice, music, a massage therapist and a physical therapist, all out to provide products and services for the runner. And we're waiting to hear from a few more restaurants, so there might be more food. King Tiger will be doing demos of their (martial arts) routines. Very cool. They did this last year and it drew a big crowd.

Q. Anything unique about the T-shirts or the awards? Doing any door prizes?
The shirts are NOT boring white. They are a nice royal blue. And the awards are Taekwondo belts.

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Under almost any other circumstances, I'd be out there Saturday. Unfortunately, our neighborhood has scheduled its annual yard sale for that morning, and, well, duty calls. (So does the need to drum up additional funds for our trip to Spain this summer.)

It kills me to miss it. The King Tiger is less than four miles from my house, and several friends and acquaintances will be volunteering and/or running Saturday. But we can't run 'em all, right? If you're doing this race -- or any of the others happening this weekend -- have fun, and be safe.

Race site: Click here. To register: Click here.