Friday, July 31, 2009

These folks party as hard as they run

I took up running a little less than 11 months ago. But it wasn't until after I joined a running group, in January, that I really developed the passion for running that I have today.

You start hanging around with a lot of other runners, it changes you. You begin to feed off their energy and enthusiasm, so you begin to spend progressively more time out there pounding the pavement with your new friends -- the miles just fly by faster that way. And you begin to set loftier goals, like training for (gasp!) triathlons and (GASP!) marathons.

Eventually, you also begin doing things other than running with them. Such as grabbing a beer. Or two beers. Or, in the case of the Charlotte Runners Meetup Group, many, many, many beers.

I haven't been out with these fun-loving folks before, but after getting tipped off about the group by member Jaclyn Shell (who's currently training for the Chicago Marathon), I hooked up with co-organizer Audra Hausser to get the lowdown.

Q. So what is this thing, and how does it work?

Audra Hausser:
The Charlotte Runners Meetup Group is a diverse running group that is as serious about running as it is about having fun. We have 20 organizers that keep it fresh and fun for our almost 800 members.

Q. Complete this sentence: The ideal Charlotte Runners Meetup Group member is … ?

Hausser: Someone who is open-minded and easy-going. Being creative is a plus! We have members who are trying to improve their race times, increase their distance or who just don't want to run alone.

Q. So skill levels, they vary?

Absolutely! We have fast runners, runners who are still in the walk/run stage and every pace in between. We have members who've been running for years and been in many running clubs. We have members who joined to get back into running after a long hiatus or injury. We have runners who are new to the area. We have runners who are new to running. If you’re new to the sport, don’t be shy about coming out -- we love sharing our passion for running with new runners. There's no need to "work up" to running with a group, just come out and run!

Q. When/where/how often do you have group runs?

We have scheduled runs every day except Sunday. We have morning runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We have evening runs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We run in Uptown, Dilworth, Plaza Midwood, McMullen Creek Greenway and the White Water Center trails, as well as the Renaissance Park trails. Details for all runs are posted on the Calendar on the web site. We also have a Message Board where members can post to find runners to run at alternative times and locations.

Q. What do you guys do more of, running or partying??

Too tough to call, though most of our partying is preceded by a run or some sort of exercise. Tuesday evenings, Thursday evenings and Saturdays mornings are the most social of our runs. Tuesday evening's run is a trail run and the group usually goes to a close bar for dinner and drinks after the run. Thursday nights tend to go on pretty late as we pack the Common Market on Commonwealth and enjoy post run refreshments. A smaller group may later move over to Thomas Street Tavern or Penguin. On at least two occasions, a small group, known as the Common Market Midnight Runners (C.M.M.R), ran the regular Thursday night run, then after hanging out at the Common Market until midnight went back out and ran the 4-mile course again. Saturday mornings the group recovers after the run with coffee from Starbucks.

The CRMG blankets the Common Market's parking lot in Plaza Midwood.

Q. Tell me about some of the "themed runs" you guys do on Thursdays…

Our themed runs generally involve running in costume. This is where we call on you to be creative and open minded! Our last themed run was a tribute to Michael Jackson where we asked runners to come dressed as the King of Pop or anyone related to him or his music. There are prizes for the best costumes which encourages participation and creativity. We also had a theme run to support a member who was diagnosed with cancer (he's cancer-free now). That run involved running with a ball as a show of support for his fight.

Q. And you do crazy stuff around certain holidays, too?

Though we've had many themed runs, our biggest have been our Halloween run, Valentine’s Day run, St. Patty’s Day Beer Mile and Cinco de Mayo run. The Halloween runs have yielded the best costumes of course. We had a girl who ran as a geisha in full makeup and a guy who came as Michael Phelps who ran in a Speedo and swim cap. For the Valentine’s Day run we tied members together in pairs at their wrists and had them race a 4-mile course. It was a great way to meet new people and run with someone who you wouldn’t normally pace with. For our St. Patty's Day Beer Mile, participants had to drink a full 12-ounce beer every quarter of a mile until they'd drank four beers and run one mile. We allowed participants to substitute root beer so that all could participate. Our themed runs draw the most people and almost everyone participates.

Q. OK! So how can someone join?

Check out our site on (click here) and sign up. It’s free and fun! New members can contact me through the site with any questions.

* * *

Oh, I also asked Jaclyn Shell to sum up her feelings about the group. Here's what she had to say: "Everybody is really cool, and I have made some really fun friends. It was a great way to meet people with similar interests. If you want a super-serious group for running, this is not the place. We are more laid-back -- but still push ourselves to do better."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Run the trails with America's best

Got some info to pass along from the race directors for the Continental Divide Trail Race, which is serving as the USATF 10K trail championship and taking place on Aug. 29 in Laurel Springs (a little more than 100 miles north of Charlotte). Here's the full text from the flier they sent to me:

Just 4 weeks to the 2009 USA 10 km Trail Championships which will take place on August 29 in Laurel Springs, N.C. The Trail Championship has USATF age group and team divisions in addition to the Overall, Masters, and North Carolina Championship categories. The early entry deadline is July 31st with an entry fee of $35. After July 31st the entry fee goes up to $45, so get in early.

The championships are being hosted by the FootRx Continental Divide Trail Run. The race site, 75 miles northeast of Winston-Salem, is on the brim of the Blue Ridge Mountains and provides a magnificent setting for a championship race. The Blue Ridge presents wonderful views into the foothills below on one side and views into the heart of the mountains on the other.

The race course is a mixture of open grass fields, fireroads, wide trails and about half tight singletrack. Add in some rocks, roots, and big climbs and the course will provide a tough, trail running challenge. Those racing for places in age groups or overall can test themselves on a tough course or the casual runner can just enjoy a run on mountain trails. The multiple loop course is great for spectators to see elite racers as well as friends and family.

So come join us and be part of the National Championship experience! Please check out our race website,, for more information.
Adds race director Jason Bryant: "It is very exciting for us to be bringing a national championship race to the southeast, as most of the trail championships are out West. However, this race is not only for elite runners, it is open to runners of all abilities. We are hoping to get runners from all over the southeast to come for the race and perhaps stay for the weekend in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. We already have entrants from Georgia, Pennsylvania, and as far as Colorado."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

9 BIG upcoming races to plan for

Do you like to plan ahead? Actually, more important question: Do you like crowds? Big ones?

Here are details on three upcoming races that I expect will attract more than 3,000 runners each in the last five months of 2009 -- followed by a list of half a dozen that should draw at least 1,000.

1. The Thunder Road Marathon, Saturday, Dec. 12. Starts and finishes uptown. This year's event will be the fifth iteration of Charlotte's new marathon, and it has grown significantly every year; in 2008, nearly 5,000 marathoners, half-marathoners and 5Kers crossed the finish line. D.C. Lucchesi of Run For Your Life says "about half of all the marathon and half-marathon participants are from out of town. That means they're sleeping, eating and shopping here, pouring a couple mil into the local economy in the weeks right before Christmas. Plus, the event has turned tens of thousands of dollars back into local charities." Link to the official site is here. Early-bird registration (through Aug. 31) is just $75 for the marathon, $50 for the half, and $25 for the 5K.

2. Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot 8K, Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26. Traverses Southpark neighborhoods. If you're looking to burn about 500 calories before wolfing down your turkey and stuffing, this is the place to be. Just make sure to register early -- last year, more than 3,000 runners help sell out the event, while another 252 people ran the 1-miler. There's also a 5K walk. Click here to see the registration page. It's $25 for the 8K, $20 for the walk or the 1-mile run.

3. Komen Race for the Cure, Saturday, Oct. 3. In uptown Charlotte. This fundraiser for breast cancer research features a 5K competitive race, a 5K noncompetitive run/walk, and a 1-mile route. It is "a celebration of life where runners and walkers of all ages gather to honor survivors who are winning the battle against breast cancer and to remember those who have lost their lives to this devastating disease." In 2008, 1,500 people affixed chip timers to their shoes, and several thousand more ran or walked simply for the cause. Details are here. Register by Sept. 1 for $33 (competitive) or $28 (noncompetitive). Thereafter, it's $35 or $30.

Other biggies

4. Hit the Brixx 10K/5K, Saturday, Sept. 26. In uptown Charlotte. The 10K is the eighth race of the 2009 Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series. # of 2008 finishers: 10K, 678; 5K, 413; total: 1,091. Official site: Click here.

5. Dowd YMCA Run, Saturday, Nov. 7. Traverses Dilworth neighborhoods. There's a 5K, but Charlotteans flock to this event because it offers one of the city's precious-few annual half-marathons. Almost 700 completed it last year. Official site: Click here.

6. Blue Points 5K, Saturday, Aug. 8. Starts and finishes at Bank of America Stadium, where -- of course -- the Carolina Panthers play. This unique setting is what brought almost 1,000 runners uptown for it in 2008. Official site: Click here.

7. Lungstrong 15K/5K, Saturday, Oct. 17. Traverses the Lake Norman area. Another case in which an uncommon distance is the draw -- more than 400 runners did the 5K last year ... more than 500 ran the 15K. Official site: Click here.

8. Yiasou Greek Festival 5K, Saturday, Aug. 29. Traverses Dilworth neighborhoods. Four words often get tossed around when Yiasou comes up: Charlotte's. Flattest. Annual. 5K. About 850 people crossed the finish line in '08. Official site: Click here.

9. Hopebuilders 5K, Saturday, Oct. 10. Traverses Myers Park area. Why this one? Worthy beneficiary (Levine Children's Hospital) and a peek at some of the city's most beautiful residential neighborhoods. # of 2008 finishers: 820.

Want to chime in about any of these? Or add your own favorites? The floor is now yours.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another week, another runnin' fool!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Monday, July 27, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

For runners in areas to the extreme east or south-southeast of Charlotte (or for those of you who are willing to drive a little), I've got info on a few events that should satisfy your racing jones Saturday morning. Plus, there's one option out in Belmont that'll leave you feeling very dirty ...

Anyway, read on to find out what's happening this weekend.

Go for Blood!

What: Bike tours, 5K race.

Where: Cane Creek Park, 5213 Harkey Road in Waxhaw (Union County).

When: Saturday. 63-mile and 35-mile rides depart at 7:15 and 7:30 a.m., respectively. Road race starts at 8 a.m. Race-day registration begins at 6:30 a.m.

Cost: Register by Tuesday for $25. After Tuesday and on race day, it's $35 to participate. Just $10 for ages 16 and younger. T-shirts guaranteed for first 300 entrants.

Of note: This annual fund-raising event supports the American Red Cross. ... The two "cycling adventures" go through "the rolling hills" of southern Union County, and will include rest stops. ... The 5K racers will be treated to "wooded scenery," with awards given to the top three males and females. ... All participants are invited to a post-event cookout (10 a.m.-1 p.m.).

Official site: Click here.

Last year's Go For Blood! 5K.

YMCA Strong Communities 8K

What: 8K (5-mile) road race.

Where: Stanly County Family YMCA, 427 N. First St. in Albemarle.

When: 8 a.m. Saturday.

Cost: $15.

Of note: Peter Asciutto, owner of Vac & Dash in Albemarle, says "it's a challenging yet fair 5-mile course" through residential and downtown areas of the city. ... The top three male and female finishers get Brooks drawstring bags; the top 10 men and women get Vac & Dash "Top Finisher" towels. ... Donate canned goods and you'll be entered for a chance to win a pair of $100 running shoes courtesy of Vac & Dash.

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

To Shed Light on Her Darkness 5K

What: 5K road race.

Where: Dickerson Park off of Icemorlee Street in Monroe.

When: 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Race-day registration starts at 7:30.

Cost: $15 in advance, $20 on race day.

Of note: A very small race last year, but with a worthy beneficiary: the Turning Point of Union County domestic violence shelter clients, and their children. ... The Monroe Police Department kicks off its "National Night Out" celebration at 9:30 a.m. at the same site, so runners can stick around for food, drinks and activities.

More race info: E-mail Krystin Jacobs at or call her at 704-283-9150. You also can just e-mail me and I can forward you the brochure.

* * *

I also have an e-mail out to the director of this Saturday's cool-sounding Marine Mud Challenge in Belmont. While we await his answers to my questions, here's a taste, courtesy of a recent Associated Press report:
Registration is open for the 3rd Annual Marine Mud Challenge. The race is scheduled for Aug. 1 at Belmont Abbey College. Proceeds will go to the families of wounded sailors and Marines at Camp Lejeune. The race features a 5-mile course with a variety of obstacles, including mud pits, a low crawl through a pipe and a 5-foot wall. The race is open to the public. Last year, more than 600 runners took part.
Unfortunately, the race Web site (at was down this morning. Stay tuned. ...

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My marathon training: Week 2

Week 2: Rest on Sunday; 4 easy miles on Monday; 6 miles of hills on Tuesday; rest on Wednesday; 5 easy miles on Thursday; 5 easy miles on Friday; 9-mile long run on Saturday. Total: 29 miles.

For the second week in a row, I hit all my marks on all my designated days, on the nose. I slightly kicked up the pace of my "easy" runs to about 8:41-8:42, did the hills at 8:04, and the long run at an 8:27 average clip.

Since I've got the Lake Norman Triathlon coming up, I also threw in a 26-mile ride Wednesday evening (the route included most of the LKN bike course) and 1,600 meters at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center on Thursday morning.

I was up in the Philadelphia area over the weekend, and going into it, I wasn't looking forward to Saturday's long run -- mainly because I had to do it solo, and I hate running alone when I've gotta be out there for more than an hour.

But it turned out to be the highlight of the training week. I felt better than I have in weeks (very little knee pain!), it was a challenging run (with plenty of rolling hills), and the completely-new-to-me route -- which traversed the Philly suburbs of Lansdowne, Drexel Hill, Springfield and Clifton Heights -- kept boredom at bay as I passed through interesting neighborhoods, both richer and poorer. Would have been better with friends, but it was still far more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined it would be; makes me want to see as many cities as I can this way.

Now, as for my strict adherence thus far to the Yasso training plan I'm following: While I do think some of my OCD tendencies are playing into how I'm approaching it, I don't plan to keep this up forever.

I expect to modify it soon, in fact, as I have several conflicts (vacations, races, etc.) that will cause shakeups. Plus, I'm aware that ITB issues can flare up for me at any time, so I have to be ready to hold back if I'm having pain. I guess the reason I'm trying to follow it so closely now is because the first few weeks of the plan are so (relatively) easy. Plus, I'd like to say I at least stuck with it for a little while; next month, it'll be rejiggered thanks to a trip overseas and a late tri-training push (LKN is Aug. 23).

I'm not saying it's gonna be easy to divert from the guidelines. But as a new running buddy, Allen, wisely reminded me last week: "Everybody responds to training differently, and to perform at your best, you have to find what really works for you. ... Don't fall into the 'I-must-follow-this-plan-exactly-no-matter-what' -- I made that mistake last marathon and got hurt (was very sore on my long day and felt like I had to complete the full 16 miles on that day because that's what my plan said to do). Be flexible."

I'll be trying my best to do so. Hope you will, too.

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

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Run 5.5+ miles in a Marine's shoes

If you and three tough friends are up for a little punishment and a whole lotta mud this weekend, you might be interested in a different kind of race going next Saturday morning out at Belmont Abbey College.

It's the third annual Marine Mud Challenge, and it's ... well, let's just let event director Aaron Harper explain.

Q. What is this thing, Aaron, in a nutshell?

5.5-plus miles of on- and off-road running with 30-plus obstacles and physical challenges -- and, of course, a 700-foot-long mud pit. The event is open to the public for teams of four to compete; teams can also participate in a noncompetitive "fun run." [Note: No single runners can participate; you must have a team of four.]

Q. Tell me about all the obstacles. What's the toughest one to get over/under/around?

The obstacles are different types of walls that the runners will have to get over -- the highest being the A-Frame wall, which is about eight feet tall, and we have a ladder wall that is about the same height, except it's in the mud pit. The physical challenges range from push-ups to mountain climbers to duck walks.

Q. What do you recommend participants wear?

Whatever they know can be trashed as soon as the race is over. Some of the back woods trails are one person wide and there are a lot of pricker bushes back there. And, of course, the mud pit isn't 100 percent mud and water. There are small rocks that make their way into the mud, which can tear clothing. We've had plenty of teams run in shorts and shirts, and we've had military and law enforcement teams run in cammies and boots.

Q. How muddy could someone potentially wind up?

Completely -- and thoroughly -- muddy. Red clay mud, at that.

Q. What's a respectable finishing time?

It's hard to say. Each year we've held the event -- this being our third -- we've made the course longer and tougher. If I had to guess, maybe 45 minutes to an hour.

Q. Can you give me a little history? Who came up with the idea for this race?

Marines have been doing mud runs since there were Marines. The idea of this event and our other events is to educate the public about what it takes to physically be a Marine. What most people don't understand is that an event like this is similar to what Marines do several times a week. A number of years ago, some Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., decided to organize a mud run that was open to the public. ... They sell out every year for two weekends in a row. There are really that many people out there who want to see what it takes to train like Marines. How it came here: About three years ago, we -- retired, former, reserve and active Marines -- decided to form a coordinating council, Carolina Marines, that would organize events like mud runs, buddy challenges, and ultimate team challenges as a way of raising funds and awareness for combat-injured Marines. Our first mud run was in 2007. [Note: Last year, more than 600 runners took part.] Most of the participants signed up this year are previous runners -- they want to be yelled at and get muddy. There are a number of Marine Mud Runs across the country, including a great one in Columbia, S.C., and another in Roanoke, Va. Next year, there will be a Marine mud run in Winston-Salem. We have a blast putting them together and the runners have a great time -- all for a great cause of course.

Q. What makes Belmont Abbey a good place to host the race?

Belmont Abbey has an incredibly beautiful campus, but they also have a good amount of wooded areas between Exits 26 and 27 off I-85. The college also doesn't have a problem with us digging a mud pit on their property, which most people do since it's kind of messy. The campus staff and the Monks have been very supportive of our endeavors there, and it gives them some great exposure as well.

Q. How exactly will the proceeds from the race be used?

100 percent of funds raised -- meaning no staff get paid -- are used to help the families of Marines and Sailors injured in the line of duty. We also use some of the funds to help the families of local Marines through their family services coordinator.

Q. Will there be Marines out there participating and volunteering?

We will have Marines running in the race, but most will be volunteering to yell at -- a.k.a. motivate -- the participants.

* * *

Interested? Many, many more details are available on the Web site: Click here to check it out. Cost is $25 per team member or $100 total, although if you're military, in public service, in college, or on a youth team, it's $20 each or $80 total. Registration closes at 8 p.m. Thursday. The registration page can be accessed here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What if you've gotta go ... while on the go?

Yesterday, I asked a random sampling of friends whether they'd pee during a race (without stopping) if it meant -- for example -- achieving a Boston qualifying time or a significant PR.

Some would. Chad: "If it meant the difference between qualifying for Boston or not qualifying, then yes, I would -- without hesitation." Natalie: "Absolutely. Been there, done that, got the PR."

Some wouldn't. Cathy: "Sorry, I would have to hold it." Jonathan: "Never done that, never seriously considered it. My marathon PR includes stopping for that purpose."

Some wondered whether it's even doable. Stacey: "Now that would be a bit difficult ... !!" Bo: "Would take practice to do."

Another friend mentioned the same thing. "Seems like that would take some practice." And after reading their responses, I couldn't get the image of some guy practicing wetting his pants while doing a 7-minute-per-mile pace along the Greenway. I mean, is that something you'd want to practice?

Anyway, I know this isn't the most pleasant of subjects. But ... thoughts on this? Would you? Could you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

3 hard workouts for the price of a T-shirt

Another tip from one of my favorite tipsters -- Aaron Linz, chairman of the Charlotte Running Club:

"Typically, mid- to late July is a bit slow for races. If folks are looking for something a little different to do, I recommend they try the Summer Bootcamp Series" put on by Asana Activewear, located at 3920 Sharon Road in the SouthPark area.

The new program -- which has offered two sessions already and continues this Saturday, followed by sessions on Aug. 8 and Aug. 22 -- is described on the Asana Web site as "an opportunity to sample some of Charlotte’s finest personal training and fitness gyms, each of which will be leading a 'bootcamp' style workout, which includes a variety of strength, agility and conditioning drills." (Velocity Sports is leading this Saturday's session.)

"Basically, each session is instructed by trainers from some of the top personal-training gyms in Charlotte," says Asana Activewear owner Gary Schwake, a former triathlete. "Although each session will reflect the unique style of each gym/trainer, all of the sessions will involve 'functional' strength-training movements, with jumps, lunges, pushups, medicine balls, dumbells/kettle bells, bands, etc. Because the majority of the movements are based on body weight or light weights, they can be scaled to any fitness level and/or ability."

Schwake says more than 30 people attended each of the first two sessions. Here's a pic from one of them:

Adds Linz: "I assure you it will give any runner a terrific workout. For $10, you get a water bottle, technical T-shirt, and a [drawstring backpack] bag, plus an hourlong workout. ... Heck, that stuff alone is worth more than that."

The $10 (plus a $2 PayPal fee if you register online) will cover as many of the sessions you want to attend. Event-day registration is $15 and opens at 8:30 a.m.; the workouts begin at 9 a.m. and will take place outdoors, in a shaded area.

Get more info by clicking here. Or call Asana Activewear at 704-366-8020.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Still living in the fast lane at 63

This is the sixth in an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: 63-year-old KATHY SEAVERS, an oncology nurse who has posted age-group wins at several recent local races, including the Firecracker 5K (24:25), the King Tiger 5K (24:32), and the Great Harvest Bread Co. 5K (24:25).

I met Kathy at the Great Harvest Bread race on May 2, when she finished 92nd overall out of 413 total runners. Only one other woman over the age of 60 completed the 3.1-mile race that day -- and Kathy beat her by more than 18 minutes.

When and why did you start running: I quit smoking in the early '80s, and running helped me get through it.

How long had you been a smoker? I started smoking in nursing school at about 18 years old, and I quit after about 17 years in 1980. I started running soon after and became hooked on running. It helped me avoid the pitfall of weight gain after smoking. Running gave me the willpower to stay away from tobacco.

What makes you a good runner? I have fun with it, and I am competitive and determined.

What would make you a better runner? Move me back 10 years.

Favorite annual N.C. race: Turkey Trot 8K [annual Thanksgiving race in SouthPark].

Favorite distance: Half-marathon.

PR for that distance: About 1:44.

Running moment you'll never forget: My best Boston Marathon: April 15, 2002 in 3:59:03 [chip time]. This was my first Boston Marathon [not her first marathon, though]. I just wanted to finish. ... I felt really good at mile 10; I was wearing down at 20, and the last six were a struggle. By the way, after the race, I was told that Charlotte runners would meet at the Rattlesnake Bar [on Boylston Street]. When I walked in, still in running clothes, and with my medal around my neck, I saw that I was the only runner in the bar -- others probably came earlier. I got a standing ovation and several drinks.

Running moment you'd like to forget: In 2006, when I tripped at McAlpine Creek Park and broke my right shoulder and left elbow.

Are you disappointed/surprised that there's not more competition in your age group? I just try to compete as best I can with younger runners.

Any interesting reactions from younger runners when they find out that you're faster than them? I was first overall female in a race in Cherryville a few years ago. (My husband) Larry and I walked by a group of young girls and women, and we overheard one ask the others if they saw the age of the female winner.

What advice would you give to other runners your age who are struggling with, well, their age? Ignore the age. Never give up.

Do you ever see yourself "retiring" from running? No way, Jose!

What's next on your race calendar? The Bele Chere 5K Run in Asheville on Saturday.

* * *

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Monday, July 20, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

In an article on's Web site, noted running coach Jeff Galloway outlines six reasons why 5K races are so popular: ease, convenience, exhilaration, improvement, change and motivation. It'll take you less than 60 seconds to read -- click here to do so, then come on back ... we've got details on two 5Ks to consider this weekend.

Back already? Cool. Let's get to 'em:

James K. Polk 5K

Where: Belle Johnston Park, 1000 Johnston Drive in Pineville.

When: 5K is at 8 a.m. Saturday, 1-mile walk starts at 8:05, and the "Tot Trot" goes off at 8:45 a.m. Race-day registration begins at 7 a.m.

Cost: $20 for the 5K, $12 for the mile, $7 for the "Tot Trot"; race-day fees are $30/$15/$10.

Of note: Race director Jessica Douglas of Run For Your Life expects 500 participants; last year, 243 runners crossed the finish line. ... "The course winds through a quaint little neighborhood without too many hills," Douglas says, so not "too strenuous." ... Great Harvest Bread Co. and adidas will be hosting giveaways, and Dr. Brandon Lee of Family Healing Chiropractic will be offering free health screenings. ... Also, Run For Your Life -- in an effort to "go green" -- is creating virtual goody bags, so special offers and other promotional material will be delivered via e-mail instead of in paper form. ... And finally, this year's race has a new beneficiary: Charlotte Children's Choir.

Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

Run/Walk for the Greenway

Where: Knox Middle School, 625 Park Road West in Salisbury.

When: 5K run/walk is at 8 a.m. Saturday; the half-mile fun run starts at 8:45 a.m. Race-day registration runs from 7-7:45 a.m.

Cost: $15 for the 5K if registered before Wednesday, $20 on race day. Fun run is $5 in advance, $10 on race day.

Of note: Organizers are expecting about 250 participants. ... David Freeze, president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners, says of the course: "There is only one hill, and it is a short city block long. ... Otherwise it is the flattest, and fastest course in our area. It crosses a covered bridge too." Also, "it is almost a closed course. Very likely the race will be run without seeing a moving vehicle." ... Post-race food: Krispy Kreme, Chick-Fil-A, Biscuitville breakfast biscuits, Cheerwine, and lots of fruit and bagels. ... Runners who bring canned goods or old running shoes to donate to Rowan Helping Ministries will qualify to win a free pair of shoes from Vac & Dash. ... Proceeds will benefit the Salisbury Greenway.

Race brochure: Click here. To register: Click here.

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My marathon training: Week 1

Close-up of the cool tech tee that arrived on my doorstep Saturday!

Week 1: Rest on Sunday; 4 easy miles on Monday; 6 miles of hills on Tuesday; rest on Wednesday; 4 easy miles on Thursday; 4 easy miles on Friday; 7-mile long run on Saturday. Total: 25 miles.

Last week, I followed my Bart Yasso intermediate plan very closely. The easy runs were done at an average pace of 9:06 per mile, the long run a little quicker, at 8:44. I programmed my Garmin to help me hold back the pace on the easy runs, because I knew I'd be more susceptible to picking it up otherwise.

I also did a brick Thursday morning, driving to the Aquatic Center uptown and doing the 4-miler from there, then jumping into the pool for a 1,500-meter swim. Typically, I try to do a 17- to 30-plus-mile bike ride on Sundays or Wednesdays, but it didn't come together for me last week.

The only cheating I did at all during Week 1 was throwing in half a dozen hill repeats in the middle of Tuesday's hilly run -- the plan says not to start the repeats until Week 8. (But for what it's worth, I didn't run them too terribly hard, and this particular hill -- though steep -- is only about 0.2 miles long.)

In some ways, it didn't even feel like I'd started a marathon training plan. Not including the week of July 5, when I logged only 15 miles because I was resting a minor injury, my recent weekly totals have been 26.3, 28.7 and 29.6 miles. So 25 miles didn't feel like anything special, and a long run of 7 miles seemed kind of embarrassing (my usual is 10-12), especially as friends on Facebook post status updates announcing long runs of twice that distance.

The other thing is that in recent months, I'd started to do fairly regular speedwork -- often in the form of hill repeats. So it was a little troubling to me that I'm not scheduled to do any type of fast workout till the end of Week 6, when I'm supposed to do a 5K race (that weekend I'll actually be subbing in the Lake Norman triathlon, which ends with one). Speedwork doesn't really start, on my plan, till Week 8.

My fear is that so much easy running will cause me to get slower. But according to Mr. Yasso: "There are only so many times you can really lay it on the line. If you do it week after week, you're going to dread it."

This quote appears in the July issue of Runner's World, which is where and when this plan I'm using was published. And -- frustrating as easy running may be -- I'm going to assume Bart Yasso knows what he's talking about since, well, he's trained more people for marathons than I have.

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

Saturday, July 18, 2009

'Why do I have knee pain?' Take 3

This is the fourth 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've had recurring pain in my left knee. I can walk fine. I can even run. But it hurts when I bend it and then stretch it out. The cartilage in the middle burns for about five minutes and then stops. It's the worst at night when I curl on my side for a long time, then try to stretch out my leg. The burning is horrible. I am not very athletic and never had an injury. What could this be? --Karen

Dr. Greenapple says: There can be many reasons for your knee pain, but a few come to mind based on your symptoms. When the knee remains bent it pulls on the patellar tendon. This is a tendon that comes from your quadriceps muscles (thigh muscle) and attaches to the kneecap. If the Quads are tight or have scar tissue preventing them from stretching properly, they shorten -- which puts a pressure and pulling on the patellar tendon called patellar tendonitis. You may also have a tear in the cartilage (possibly the meniscus) that gets "caught up" when the knee goes from bending to straight. Does it click, pop, or lock up? These can be signs of cartilage issues. The best and most definitive answer would be to have the knee properly evaluated by a sports physician. Most knee pain without trauma can usually be dealt with and "fixed" with proper therapy, and rehab exercises. The knee is a joint between the hip and the foot, and the entire kinetic chain should be looked at for biotechnical faults and proper muscle balancing and strengthening techniques.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The 'hottest name in American running'

Few if any professional runners ever become household names, but Kara Goucher comes close.

That's why I thought some of you might be interested in this story, which appeared on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Web site yesterday:

A live webcast will follow every stride of Kara Goucher, the Duluth native who came just seconds away this spring from winning the Boston Marathon, as she runs next month's Chicago Half Marathon.

The 31-year-old, who is now based in Oregon and has risen to the top of women's distance running in the United States, can be followed on Aug. 2 at on what is being called the "Kara Cam."

The website touts Duluth East High School graduate as "the hottest name in American running today."

Goucher grabbed a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships, won the 5,000 meters in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and won this year's USA Outdoor Championships in the same event. In the Boston Marathon in April, Goucher held a lead late only to finish third, 9 seconds behind the winner.

Her entry in the Chicago race is a tuneup for the World Championships Marathon in Berlin later next month.

The "Kara Cam" goes live at 6:30 a.m. CDT. Goucher will be interviewed live immediately after the race.
More Kara:

Click here to read a solid Q&A with Kara -- in which she shares advice for everyday runners preparing for their first marathon -- on Tara Parker-Pope's excellent Well blog for the New York Times.

If you missed her valiant effort in Boston, you can watch it here:

And to find out what happened back in junior high school that set her on the path to greatness, watch this:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What does it feel like to 'hit the wall'?

There's a scene in the 2007 romantic comedy "Run Fatboy Run" in which the main character, Dennis (played by "Star Trek's" Simon Pegg), hits the dreaded "wall" while running his first marathon.

He's out of energy yet miles from the finish line, and a hallucinatory fog quite literally places a brick wall directly in his path. Dennis proceeds to repeatedly throw himself into it, harder and harder, until finally, mercifully, he smashes through and continues on.

The term "hit the wall" is used to describe the condition of an athlete who has depleted his or her stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles, and results in a dramatic loss of energy. It's so brutal, some even think calling it a "wall" is putting it lightly. Paul Scott of Runner's World wrote a couple years back: "Marathoners used to call bonking 'hitting the wall,' but it's actually a bodily form of sedition. In some form or another, it becomes a collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul."

As someone who's training for his first marathon, the threat of bonking seems very real ... and very intimidating -- although hitting the wall is not necessarily inevitable; as a very seasoned runner friend told me recently, "it doesn't happen to everyone."

Unfortunately, if it does happen to me, I suspect I'll know instantly that nothing could have been done to prepare for it. Still, in the interest of getting at least some vague idea, I recently asked real runners (i.e. friends on Facebook) to describe the sensation.

Siobhan: "It feels like your legs can't support you and they turn to jelly ... the only thing that keeps you going is the cheering crowd and knowing that the finish line is just a few miles away."

OK, so basically: It hurts. But keep moving -- it's almost over. It'll all be worth it in the end.

Brian: "It's not that you can't catch your breath, it's that you feel like you can't move. The brain is mush, the body is mush, it's the single-mindedness of the finish line and stopping the suffering that keeps you going."

So basically: It hurts. But keep moving -- it's almost over. It'll all be worth it in the end.

Laurena: "All I remember is at Mile 23 the cheering started to piss me off, there was a nasty smell of beer in the air and I started yelling at the poor friend of mine who jumped on the course to run a mile with me. Seriously, when I'm trying to finish a marathon don't ask me, 'So ... New York next?' Then I had a rush of adrenaline and got back on the ball to finish strong."

Basically: It hurts. But keep moving -- it's almost over. It'll all be worth it in the end.

Stacey: "The only time I've ever hit the wall was on the bike at the Over the Mountain tri. I felt like I couldn't move, I was talking myself out of even finishing the bike. My head was nodding and I felt very foggy. Carrying the bike on my back sounded like more fun than riding it if I had to climb one more mountain. I told myself that I was just going to give up, be done, not even do the run. This feeling lasted about 20 minutes (a lifetime at the moment it was happening) and once I was over the last hardest hill, I regained composure and got the excitement back again and couldn't wait for the run and to see that finish line. I fell to the ground after I crossed the finish line and cried -- because I beat my target goal."

It hurts. But keep moving -- it's almost over. It'll all be worth it in the end.

Anyway, what I took away from these responses is this: I might be able to crudely replicate the feeling of hitting the wall, perhaps by throwing myself against the nearest brick rowhouse over and over and over again. But the truth is, it's probably best just not to let the wall worry me, to not obsess about it.

If it happens, it happens. It'll hurt, without a doubt. But if I keep moving? It'll all be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another good excuse to visit Charleston

Thanks to Aaron Linz, chairman of the Charlotte Running Club, for passing along this announcement -- which went out yesterday to anyone signed up to receive updates from the Charleston Marathon committee. Here's the full text:

Registration is Open

The Charleston Marathon is proud to present the first annual Riverfront Race Festival on January 16th 2010, featuring half marathon, 10K and 5K road races. The event will benefit the R. Keith and Deborah C. Summey Youth Endowment for the Arts and is the first step towards the production of a full marathon in the Charleston area in 2011.

The race courses are flat and scenic, winding through the historic Charleston Naval Shipyard, now the Navy Yard at Noisette, and the revitalized downtown North Charleston and Park Circle Areas.

Festivities include a running and fitness expo, pre-race pasta dinner and a post-race celebration at Riverfront Park. We hope to establish the Guinness World Record for serving the most shrimp and grits at the finish line. Capping off the weekend activities will be a 30- and 62- mile bike ride on Sunday, January 17th, organized by Charleston Moves.

Take advantage of early bird pricing through August 15th.

Register Now

Thank you for your interest in the Riverfront Race Festival presented by Charleston Marathon. We will continue to provide you updates as they become available.

--The Charleston Marathon Committee

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who can run a 100-mile race? This guy.

This is the fifth in an ongoing series of short profiles highlighting an ardent local running enthusiast. Up today: Ultrarunner JONATHAN SAVAGE, a software architect who was born in England, has been in Charlotte for 10 years, and became a U.S. citizen last September.

Full disclosure: Jonathan belongs to the same running group as me -- the University City Road Runners. But although we're in the same club, we're not in the same league. (Sometimes I wonder if we're even playing the same SPORT.)

For an idea of how big a "Runnin' Fool" he is, consider this: Jonathan celebrated his 43rd birthday last Saturday by running 43 miles beginning Friday night and ending on Saturday morning.

When and why did you start running: I started in 1996, when I was overweight (205 pounds) and sedentary. While on vacation, I had a serious migraine that affected my speech and vision; the symptoms were similar to those of a stroke. It was really scary, and even after it was diagnosed as a migraine not a stroke, it acted as a wake-up call. Not being able to speak or read was horrific, a feeling of being trapped inside a mind that does not work. [Today, Jonathan weighs 130 pounds.]

What makes you a good runner? I enjoy the spiritual side of running. To go out before dawn, and run as the sun comes up; letting the mind wander freely, while the body settles into a gentle rhythm, is wonderful. I do all of my best thinking when I run -- planning, musing, creating, evaluating. It can also be a time of mental quiet and respite.

What would make you a better runner? More hills! There are few good hills in the University area, and some of my races have long, hard descents. (Going up is easy, going down is hard.)

Current running shoes: Nike Free 3.0 and Vibram FiveFingers. I believe that we are designed to run barefoot, and many of our running problems start with shoes that interfere with our biomechanics.

Do you have a standard running route in Charlotte? I mostly run on Mallard Creek Greenway. I love the greenways and hate being near cars.

What is your typical training week? I run four times a week. I do three hours Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then four-plus hours on Saturday. Wednesday is also hill training day. I often run on Tuesday and Thursday, but normally just enough to warm-up.

Favorite annual N.C. race: Mount Mitchell Challenge.

Favorite distance: I love 50 miles, but 100 is as seductive as it is brutal.

PR for that distance: With ultra-marathons, the concept of PR does not really apply. Different courses have huge differences. I've done a 50K in 4:15 and felt I should have done better, and done the same distance in 5:40 and felt I did great. Weather can make a lot of difference on the same course -- I’ve had races where you can get heat stroke and hypothermia on the same day.

Running moment you'll never forget: Doing a double crossing of the Grand Canyon (south rim to north rim and back). It's not far (less than 50 miles), but you are on your own. That makes for great solitude but also a sense of vulnerability.

Running moment you'd like to forget: Finding blisters at mile 25 of the Massanutten 100. That was a bad sign, though I did not realize at the time just how bad.

What's the longest run you've ever gone on? 100 miles, which I've done three times. I'm hoping to go further at the Hinson Lake 24 hour race in September.

Do you listen to music while you run? Yes; at times it motivates me; at times it helps me meditate.

If you could pass on just one piece of advice to novice runners, what would it be? It would be to focus on their cadence (how often their feet touch the ground). You need to have a turnover of 180 steps/minute. Jack Daniels (the coach) found that the slower the turnover, the longer you are in the air and the harder you land. Slow turn over means more impact, which causes more injury. (More info here.)

What's next on your race calendar? The next big race will be Hinson Lake 24 hour, though I have Laurel Valley 35 and Triple Lakes 40 before, but they are not the focus of my training. My rather ambitious goal for Hinson Lake is to do 111 miles.

What is your running ambition? I would love to complete Western States 100 or Hardrock 100. These are difficult to train for when you live in Charlotte as they are both at altitude.

* * *

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

Monday, July 13, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Things appear to be pretty quiet around town on Saturday, with zero running events that I know of. But if you're looking to stretch your legs on Friday night, there are several unique opportunities -- all happening north of Center City Charlotte.

Anyway, let's get to 'em.

Streetlight 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run
Where: Academy Recreation Center, 147 Academy Ave. NW in Concord.
When: Fun Run is at 8 p.m. Friday, 5K follows at 8:30. Race-day registration begins at 7 p.m.
Cost: $25 for the 5K. There's no charge for the Fun Run, but registration is still required.
Of note: This is the first time the City of Concord Parks and Recreation has offered a nighttime race. The 5K traverses historic downtown Concord; race director Ryan Jones says the course is flat, with a small hill at the beginning and the end -- "perfect for first-time runners." The Fun Run will be held on the Village Greenway. Smoothie King will be providing free samples of Smoothies and Phidippides will be selling race apparel.
Race brochure: Click here. To register: Click here.

Miles of Mooresville
What: 1-, 2- and 3-mile races.
Where: 116 S. Main St. in downtown Mooresville. All races start at Main and Center streets.
When: Friday night. 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.
Of note: This is the second event in the Queen City Timing race series that will conclude with a third and final event on Aug. 21. Each runner will receive a technical T-shirt and two free beers (ID required). A Pearl Izumi rep will be on site allowing runners to test running shoes for free.
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

summer track series
What: A variety of track and field events, open to all ages from youth to masters.
Where: Irwin Belk Track and Field Center on the campus of UNC Charlotte.
When: Friday. Registration begins at 4:45 p.m. First running event is at 6.
Cost: $3.
Of note: Scheduled order of events is: 50 meters (6 p.m.), 100m (6:20), 800m (6:45), the high hurdles (7 p.m.), 400m (7:20), 1,600m (7:40), 200m (8 p.m.) and 3,200m (8:20). The last event -- the 4x400m relay -- is expected to start at 8:30. Field events include hammer, discus, shot put, long jump and pole vault. There also will be similar meets on July 24 and 31. Sponsored by the UNCC Charlotte track team coaching staff and the Carolinas Track & Field Club.
Information: Click here.

Know of any other races happening this weekend?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And on the first day, I rested.

I officially began training for the ING New York City Marathon today, and was extremely relieved to find that the instructions for Day One were, simply: "Rest."

So I did my regular core conditioning workout, which includes a mix of exercises like ab crunches, planks, side hovers, bridges, and some dumbbell lifting. Usually, I do this routine once a week. In the past five days, I've done it three times.

That's because I haven't been running very much. My concern: iliotibial band syndrome. I've had a couple of bouts with it since I started running last September, but none that have lasted quite this long -- it's been about five weeks now, if I'm remembering correctly.

At first, I figured it was flaring up because I desperately needed new shoes. (I ran on my Asics 2140s until they had more than 480 miles on them.) But the cushiony Saucony Omni 8s I picked up a few weeks ago don't seem to have eased the pain.

Anyway, after feeling significant discomfort while running six miles worth of hills last Tuesday (I was in pain, but not limping), I decided to take four full days off from running. Surprisingly, I didn't miss it much -- thanks to a good hard bike ride Wednesday night, a decent swim workout Thursday morning, and the core routines.

By Saturday morning, the ITB was feeling good, and I went into the Run For Your Life 4-Miler cautiously optimistic about the injury. Unfortunately, less than halfway through, I could feel a dull ache coming on. And later in the day, I was rather sore. So I started an icing and elevating regimen; even did some ITB stretches like the one at left.

How will it hold up under pressure? We'll see. Like I said: I've had two other bouts with iliotibial band syndrome, and both other times, I ran through the pain and it eventually went completely away. (I should stress that it was never bad enough that I ran with a limp.) I'm concerned that it's lingered so long this time around, so I'm planning to pick up a Cho Pat ITB strap this week. I also just rediscovered some orthotics I purchased at Charlotte Running Co. awhile back -- they were in some cheap New Balance shoes I bought when I first started running but didn't use for long. The orthotics seem to be in relatively good shape, so I just transferred them to my Sauconys. And I may eventually invest in a foam roller, which a running buddy has highly recommended.

I'm fully prepared to back off of the training in the event the situation gets worse. It's a long road to New York, and I'm determined to find success, not failure, on Nov. 1.

As mentioned previously, I'm using the 16-week Bart Yasso intermediate program that appeared in the July issue of Runner's World magazine. I don't want to bore you guys with too many details, but I do plan to blog every Sunday about how the training is going. Hopefully, more often than not, I'll be able to tell you that it's going well!

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fast times at RFYL's 4-Miler

UPDATE at 9:48 a.m. Monday: Looks like results have been adjusted, and that Lauren Tomory, 22, of Greenville, has been I.D.'d as the top female finisher with a time of 24:27. Val Matena, Danielle Walther, and Rebecca Thomason are now 2-3-4.

On the day Run For Your Life celebrated its 20th anniversary, hundreds of runners were celebrating PRs at the running store's annual summer 4-miler. Well, when I say "hundreds," I'm speculating. But given there are so few races at this distance in the Charlotte area, I think it's a fairly safe bet.

In all, nearly 700 men and women covered a rolling course in Dilworth on a mild, muggy Saturday morning at Run For Your Life's "Run For Your Cause 4-Miler."

I arrived about 45 minutes before the 7:30 a.m. start, parking a couple blocks further up Park Road in the lot that used to service the now-closed Bi-Lo supermarket. I noticed a solitary porta-potty by a lightpole, and briefly considered hitting that to avoid the lines in RFYL's lot. But as I was lacing up my Sauconys, I heard two cars drive over beer bottles and thought, You know, maybe I don't want to see what's inside a porta-potty that's sitting in a vacant lot.

Anyway, a few minutes later I was in front of RFYL, stopping to chat briefly with Charlotte Running Club chairman Aaron Linz, then Dave Harris from my running group. Grabbed the chip (10-second wait), hit the potty line (five-minute wait), and set off for a warmup.

Had hoped to get in 2 miles, since I hadn't run in four days (was resting a nagging IT band injury), but ran into Dave and three others from my group on the way up McDonald Avenue, so I U-turned to join them and wound up only getting in one. Stretched a little (not enough -- never enough), then stood around for 20 minutes shooting the breeze with various folks.

At about 7:25, lined up toward the front (probably too far toward the front, about 10-or-15-people-deep back) next to Kara Pettie. Kara's a Run For Your Life sales associate and my new arch-rival -- we ran the course together Monday; in May, I finished just four seconds ahead of her at the Great Harvest Bread 5K.

After Run For Your Life owner Tim Rhodes gave a nice welcome/"thank you for your support" speech to runners over a megaphone, the gun went off.

OK, as I said earlier in the week, this was my first four-mile race. (I'm not including the Krispy Kreme Challenge I ran in February. It was a four-miler, but it was split in two, with all. those. doughnuts. in between.) I vowed -- as I always do -- not to go out too fast ... and I didn't.

Well, I didn't ... but I maybe kinda did at the same time. See, I was shooting for a 7:10 overall pace. My first mile was 7:07. BUT the first eight-tenths of a mile were all uphill on McDonald. Nothing steep, yet I probably was pushing a little too hard, since exertion for a 7:07 on a climb is probably equal to ... well, less, on a flat stretch.

About halfway up McDonald, another running-group pal, Chris Sammons, came up from behind and said "hey." He's a big guy -- I don't mean he's tubby, rather that he's tallish and sturdily built. So after it became clear in the first mile that I might be able to hang with him, I settled in just a couple steps behind him in the hopes that he'd cut down some of my wind resistance. :)

I stayed with him for awhile, through the quick drop and quick steep climb on Euclid Avenue, then through Mile 2, the long, gradual downhill along East Boulevard. We took a right and headed back into the neighborhoods at Charlotte Drive, and my Garmin ticked off a 7:10 split for Mile 2.

Now, for some reason, Mile 3 kicked my butt. There were some minor rollers, but nothing bad. But this is where Chris started pulling away a little. I just felt suddenly gassed. (No, not gassy.) You've run enough races, you probably know the feeling: This is the point at which you start wondering whether you should have eaten a tiny bit more, or whether you should have grabbed a cup of water at the last stop (I hadn't). It's the point where you have the overwhelming urge to Get It Over With. I kept expecting Kara to pass me, but ... she didn't, and I trucked on.

Finally the gassed (no, not gassy) feeling passed, and I started mentally prepping for the climb on Lyndhurst in the early part of Mile 4. It's steep, but it's short, and after clearing it I got a second wind as I turned back onto McDonald for the last seven-tenths of a mile. I picked up the pace -- maybe a little too much -- backed off right before the final drop (where Chris pulled away for good), then started the kick as soon as the finish line popped into view on the final bend.

I crossed in 29:11 -- 13 seconds behind Chris and 32 ahead of Kara.

My Garmin actually had the distance at slightly longer than 4 miles, so my splits don't quite add up, but here they are (off the watch): 7:07, 7:10, 7:28, 7:09. That darn third mile...

At least I wasn't alone. Later in the morning, as the Facebook statuses started popping up, others were relaying similar experiences. (Butch, who ran a 35:23: "My 3rd mile I was feeling tired and it was my slowest mile. I think the last mile was my fastest." Brandon, who ran a 28:11: "Got a little lazy at mile 3 but ran a solid 4th mile." Jason, who ran a 32:21: "mile 3 jumped me as well. Not sure what the deal was with that. I think I was trying to save too much trying to pace for 4 miles instead of a 5K.")

The Fahrenheit was about 70 at the start, with the humidity hovering around 80 percent. It was mostly overcast, which helped ward off the feeling of being overheated -- but the humidity still had whole lotta runners crossing the finish line in sopping-wet shirts.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to soak up much of the post-race atmosphere -- or drink up any of the free post-race beer -- because I had to take some friends to the airport. :( ... So please post if you have anything to say about the post-race goings-on!

But I can tell you that the race T-shirt is indeed great: 100 percent breathable polyester, Asics-branded, with "Run For Your Life: 20 Years Running" on the front and the race logo on the back. No other advertising. Men's is white, women's is pink (and actually cut for women's figures). I'm pretty sure RFYL would charge $20 or so for something like this; I paid $17 to register for the race. Very cool.

Anyway, I had a great time PRing out there, and hope you did, too!

Me, at right, with University City Road Runners members (from left to right) Melissa Lewellyn (running for two!), Stacey Hien, Dave Harris, Eric Reiner and Brian Sammons.

Top 4-Miler finishers

Bert Rodriguez, 29, of Arlington, was the overall male winner in 20:38. There was a near-photo finish for the two and three spots: Jay Holder, a nice guy and a killer runner (obviously), finished in 21:30; Alejandro Arreola finished just one second behind him.

On the women's side, Val Matena, 23, of Charlotte, was the overall winner with a time of 24:37. Danielle Walther, who I profiled earlier this week, finished second in 24:55. And a new Facebook buddy of mine, Rebecca Thomason placed third in 25:21.

For complete Run For Your Life Run For Your Cause 4 Miler results, click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How fast can you run 4.4 miles?

If you're on the Charlotte Running Co.'s e-mail newsletter blast list, you may have seen this item toward the top of its most recent message:

"We are pleased to bring back the Thursday Night 4.4 Mile Time Trial that was so popular a couple of years ago. The first TT is scheduled for Thursday July 23rd, 2009 at 7:00pm. We will have a Finish Clock, special prizes and giveaways each night. The Thursday Speed Night will run until the end of August. Individuals who run all of the events will receive a Technical T-shirt at the end of the series. Results will be posted weekly on the Charlotte Running Co. website.

For more information please contact Mark Carbone at or call 704-377-8786."
Unclear? Nah, not if you've done it before. Then again, most of you probably haven't done it before. But you need not necessarily go looking for more info from Mark (who was our featured runner last week). We've been in touch with him, and have several details to pass along about this series.

First up, here's how he recently described the Thursday Night 4.4 Mile Time Trial in a nutshell: "It was done last year and we had a clock that basically just kept time, while sending off people in small intervals. People would come each week and see if they could 'beat' their time. We will try to give some prizes each week, with the major intention of making it fun and social."

But today, we asked Mark to go a bit deeper.

Q. How many years have you been doing this?
This was done last year by the Sharksbite run group.

Q. How many runners typically came out last year?
15-30 depending on weather.

Q. The 7 p.m. start time is new, right? I heard that in previous years it began at 6:30...
The run used to be managed by Tim Long before he moved to Colorado. I, along with Dana Pettice, decided we wanted to start it up again and really try to make it fun for all, so it's best if we don't have to worry about covering the store at the same time.

Q. Can you give us a sneak preview of the route? Start and finish at the store? Will traffic be an issue for runners?
The start/finish is in back of the store. It's 4.4 miles if you run the tangents along the streets. (Click here to see the course.) Hilly, but with an equal share of flat stretches in the middle of the route. Traffic shouldn't be an issue at that time, but use your senses.

Q. In general, are the runners who show up pretty experienced (i.e. fast)?
We don't care how fast you go. It's not a race -- just a time trial. Our goal is to allow people to see how fast THEY can go. We'd be happy to give a prize to the slowest person. That being said, it's for all.

Q. What kinds of prizes and giveaways?
It will vary each week -- socks, CRC gear, hats, and some samples from my sponsors BioFreeze and Aquaphor. We may give a prize to whoever comes up with the best smack-talk line of the day.

Q. Anything else you want people to know about the event?
We just wanted to try and create a race environment without the race. Our goal is for people to come on by, let it rip, and be able to have fun while shooting the breeze with others in the end.

Oh, and one other point well worth mentioning: There is no cost whatsoever to participate. Can't beat that.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Speaking of bridge runs...

When I left Charleston after my first go at the big Cooper River 10K this past April, I swore I'd be back in '10 -- and that I'd get a hotel room closer to the action next time.

On our visit, we stayed at the Charleston Marriott on Lockwood, which is about two miles from the finish line. It was also about two miles from the most interesting parts of the city: the historic districts and the university area. So whenever we wanted to go over there, we had to wait for a shuttle, ride the shuttle (sometimes through horrible traffic), and do it all over again to get back. After the race, it took 45 minutes to return to the hotel.

Anyway, this week, I e-mailed the race team down there to find out what the closest hotels to the finish line are. The answers are:

  • The Holiday Inn Charleston Historic District Hotel at 125 Calhoun St. Click here and you'll find standard rooms for $323.10/night.
  • The Francis Marion Hotel at 387 King St. Click here for the Web site. Online reservations are not being accepted yet, but you can call the hotel; they quoted me $299/night for a standard room and $329/night for deluxe rooms.
These prices aren't necessarily for the faint of heart, but they're also not out of line for Charleston. The room I got at that somewhat-out-of-the-way Marriott this past year cost me $269/night.

Hope this tip helps runners who like to plan way ahead ... especially since these two places are likely to fill up fastest.