Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter storm postpones Winter Flight 8K

From the 2010 Winter Flight committee and Salisbury Rowan Runners Club:
The 2010 Winter Flight RRCA State Championship 8K is being postponed till Sunday afternoon, Feb. 21st at 2 PM. Saturday’s race is being postponed based on the National Weather Service’s Hour by Hour forecast, the conditions for Saturday, and to allow those who have to travel long distances to still change their plans. We have had communications with many of those who plan to attend, and hope this will be the best decision for everyone who is planning on running or volunteering. All pre-registered runners will get an e-mail with this announcement. The Salisbury Rowan Runners Club, Rowan Helping Ministries, the RRCA, and all of our sponsors thank you for your participation and support of the event. Pre-registration will reopen. will accept registrations till noon on Feb. 19th. Mail in registrations will be accepted when postmarked by February 17th. Have a safe and warm weekend, and please join us on Sunday afternoon, February 21st. It will be a fun event!! This will be only the second time in the history of Winter Flight that the event will be postponed due to weather.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

This shoe and I are starting off on the right foot

I don’t really believe in magic. Not when it comes to running, and certainly not when it comes to running shoes. But so far, after more than three weeks of road-testing, I do believe in Somnios.

First off, let me make it clear that I’m no shoe authority. Heel, arch, toebox, midsole – I can point out where those things are on a sneaker. Put me in one and ask me how it feels, though, and I struggle to answer. “Good? I dunno. OK ... I guess?” What am I supposed to say? I mean, it feels like a shoe! I can determine whether it's too big or too small. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.

All I can tell you is this: Pre-Somnio, I was experiencing nagging IT band pain and battling an increasingly sore left calf. The first time I ran in them, none of those issues flared up. The second time, nothing. The third, zip. In fact, after more than 100 miles in the Somnio Exact Change stability shoe ($140), I’ve experienced pain a total of zero times.

And to be honest, I was pretty skeptical when I first heard from Somnio rep Chris Phillips. Using a combination of footbeds, wedges and cushioning inserts that I can’t even begin to understand, these are in exactly the category of shoe condemned by author Christopher McDougall in his bestseller “Born to Run,” which I finished a few days before my fitting at Run For Your Life in Dilworth. (The book was so convincing, I had been THIS close to buying a pair of Vibram FiveFingers in late December.)

According to the Somnio Web site, its shoes “were designed in the lab and on the road with the idea that we can improve individual’s biomechanics through adjustability of key components of the shoe.” They are, in fact, customizable in 648 different possible configurations.

The fitting process I went through with Phillips involves a tool that uses laser sighting to measure pronation and an "arch ball" to determine ideal arch height, among other things. (Click here for more info on the fitting process.) After putting me through some single-leg squats, Phillips then had me run on a treadmill several times, making adjustments based on a video gait analysis.

When I asked him how I ended up with what I did, he said (deep breath): "You are in our stability shoe with slightly more varus on one side, because you have a different gait pattern right to left. We are able to put you in two totally different shoes to fit each foot. You showed more pronation on one side. The '+++' footbeds give you the maximum amount of arch support for your arch height. The orange durometer in your heel was our way of softening the heel to allow you to control your pronation by making you stiffer in that forefoot and softer in the heel -- based on the way you looked on the RFYL video analysis -- to put you in a more neutral position."

If it sounds complicated, well, it is. So complicated that Run For Your Life last year sent employees from its Dilworth and University locations -- the only two stores in the Charlotte area that are carrying Somnio right now -- to the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado to be trained on this unique fitting process. (FYI: Vac & Dash in Albemarle also is an authorized retailer.)

I did notice on my first run, a 7-miler, that the shoes feel heavy. The feeling hasn't gone away. Weight estimates vary from about 12.5 ounces to a Wired review pegging them at 14, while the Mizuno Wave Riders I'd been wearing tipped the scales at just 11.3. On the one hand, the bulkiness hasn't stopped me from cranking out three good speed workouts in the Somnios; on the other, I really wish they had a lighter feel. They're also not among the more attractive-looking footwear I've worn.

Still, I can't help but think these shoes have had more than a little to do with my aches and pains completely vanishing. If Somnios aren't a magic running shoe, they're certainly something pretty darn close.

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The following are excerpts from a recent e-mail interview with Somnio rep Chris Phillips:

Q. Who exactly is this shoe for?

This is definitely for the masses. We don’t sponsor high-profile athletes for that reason. From walkers to beginning runners hoping to stay injury-free to marathoners, we are a good option.

Q. What’s the No. 1 reason runners are buying these shoes and what kind of feedback are you getting from customers?

Most are in need of a shoe that adapts to each foot, [or they come to us] because they have nagging injuries. Go to our Web site and see just a few of the testimonials about injuries, aches and pains that go away.

Q. What’s the No. 1 reason runners who get fitted for these shoes do not buy them?

The biggest complaint I get is that we only offer the red/black/silver color scheme!

Q. What can we expect from future Somnio models?

We have been asked to come out with a lighter-weight shoe, and in March Run For Your Life will have our new Pacemaker 9.5-ounce trainer in stock. We're also coming out with another stability shoe that’s lighter [the Self Control] and a trail shoe [The Westridge]. ... I’ve seen pics of the 2011 models and they look unbelievable! We’ve been 100 percent technical- and function-driven; now we’re looking to add some new styles for aesthetics as well.

Q. Will the number of authorized Somnio retailers grow significantly in 2010?

We certainly hope to bring more dealers nationally on board. ... We feel Run For Your Life will be a great partner for us in the Charlotte market. We also have great options across the country, with several physical therapy clinics either stocking our shoes or using our gait analysis software to fit people in our shoes. We have them all listed on our Web site.

Q. I’m sure you know of Christopher McDougall’s "Born to Run," which accuses modern running shoes of being over-engineered to the point where they’re doing us more harm than good. Where does Somnio stand on "minimalist footwear," and what’s its response to that accusation?

I do believe that running shoes have had many design elements that serve no real purpose other than just a justification for a higher price. The running shoe industry has had zero innovation in over 20 years, and it's the same brands all selling the same shoes -- which clearly don’t work for a large part of the running population. What Somnio is doing is bringing an entirely different approach to running shoes, and also to the fitting/assessment process. The response we have gotten and the response to the "Born to Run" book illustrates the desire by so many runners to find a better solution. I think the idea of barefoot or minimalist running makes sense, but as with anything, in the right amount -- which will vary from one runner to the next. ... ["Born to Run"] was a great book and story, and any best seller that gets people interested in running is a great thing in my opinion.

Q. Do you suspect other major shoe companies to follow suit in the future, by making models with a greater level of customization options?

Yes. Our founder, Sean Sullivan, says in five years this is how running shoes will be sold. Sean comes from Specialized, where custom fit is how you buy bikes. He says that innovation always comes from a leader outside the establishment. Look at who changed the music industry -- Apple, a computer company. We are a leader in this industry, and people are taking notice of this little shoe company!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Her rear is in gear. Now how about yours?

For Sue Falco, it started with bad news. The worst kind of bad news: On March 13, 2008, her doctor called to tell her she had cancer.

In the blink of an eye, she went from a suburban housewife and entrepreneur with two little kids to ... well, someone who might not live to see either of them grow up. But instead of getting busy dying, she got busy living.

"I woke the next morning with a choice," recalls the Matthews woman, who turns 41 next month. "I believed then that whatever path I chose would make or break the battle I was about to fight. Before getting out of bed, I decided three things: 1. To celebrate life; 2. To fight to win; and, 3. To give back. No matter what the outcome, I have lived every day since then with those three things in mind -- and I haven’t looked back since."

Falco went on to win her fight against colorectal cancer, and she's giving back with an event that will celebrate not only her life, but the lives of dozens of colorectal cancer survivors throughout the Charlotte area. The Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, which she co-founded with fellow survivor Mary-Karen Bierman, is scheduled for Saturday, March 13 -- the two-year anniversary of her original diagnosis.

About 100 runners are already signed up for the race, a solid start considering the fact that it's a first-year 5K and is still a month and a half away. Part of that has to do with the support Falco and Bierman (at left and right in the photo below) have gotten from the Colon Cancer Coalition, which has put Get Your Rear in Gear 5Ks in 21 U.S. cities to date. But most of it has to do with the women's passion for increasing awareness about the disease.

I talked to Sue Falco recently about this passion, their race, and how those two things have led to happiness, fulfillment and even a feature in Runner's World.

Q. You once told me you were "the worst track and field runner in the history of my New Jersey high school." And then you took 20 years off, only returning to the sport after recovering from your illness.

That's right. Six months after major surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota in November of 2008, I put on a pair of sneakers and never looked back. I started running with a few neighbors, and then the husbands and kids joined us. My first race was the Jingle Jog 5K in December '08. It doesn't sound hard, but for a cancer survivor, it was surreal. I choked up at the first mile marker and finished the race as if I had come in first place.

Q. What was the move for you that really got the ball rolling on this coming together?

There were a few milestones that really told me my dream would become reality. When Mary-Karen, the event co-director, joined my efforts; Presbyterian Cancer Center becoming presenting sponsor; hiring Paige Hauff, our Race Director; getting the permit for the course; and the news that Runner’s World would be running a story about us. Whenever just a little bit of doubt or fear creeps in, another amazing milestone is reached and those thoughts are gone!

Q. How did Runner's World come to be interested in your story?

Mary-Karen’s friend, Lauren Grossman [a Charlotte publicist], pitched our story to them a few months ago. We were so surprised and excited to have been selected because we were up against a lot of other stories.

Q. The photo shoot was earlier this month. What was that like?

We had a blast with the photographer. It was only 32 degrees that day, so two of my closest friends joined us at the shoot and held wool blankets for us during the shoot. We were in shorts and T-shirts. They told us to “think Spring!”

Q. How long did it take you to pick out your outfit for the shoot?

We still laugh about this. Let’s just say we’re not looking forward to this month’s credit card bill.

Q. Has working to organize the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K been more work than you thought it would be?

Yes and no. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was committed. I love what I’m doing, the people I’m meeting, and the cause. I guess I just don’t look at it as work. None of this would be possible without the support and hard work of our planning team, volunteers and especially our husbands. We have the most amazing group of supporters and survivors. We are all parents, so it’s not uncommon to have meetings with our children present or phone conversations interrupted multiple times, with requests for snacks or help with homework. It really is a family affair.

Q. Do you see this as a race first and a fundraiser second? Or the other way around?

Neither. Our goal is awareness. The more people learn about colorectal cancer, the more lives we will save. This is a preventable disease. That being said, it is also important that those people that are there to race enjoy the course and awards. We want them to come back year after year. Funds are also important. We need financial backing to put on a top-notch event that will generate funds to help create colorectal cancer screening programs and support groups for those in need.

Q. What's the message you and Mary-Karen are trying to convey to the average runner?

Most people affected by colorectal cancer are age 50 and over. However, colorectal cancer can affect anyone at any age. Mary-Karen [who is 44] and I are very young survivors, and we are finding more and more people like us in Charlotte every day. We want to “Change the Way People SEE Colorectal Cancer,” so that people understand that this disease does not discriminate based on age, sex or race. We want people to know the signs of colorectal cancer, and to seek medical help if they feel something is not quite right.

Q. In what ways, on race day, will survivors be honored?

For every survivor that wishes to be recognized, we will be announcing their names as they cross the finish line. In addition, they will be receiving a special gift from us to commemorate their finishing the race and surviving this cancer. We are also considering having a special “Survivors’ Row” somewhere along the course for fellow survivors and supporters to come out and cheer our runners and walkers along.

Q. I know you've also worked hard to add perks that will appeal to runners who are looking for a great race experience in addition to the "cause" component. What do you have lined up?

Omega Sports has been a great supporter of our event. The awards for Top Male and Top Female will be a free pair of running shoes and gait analysis, and the top Male and Female from each age group will receive a gift certificate from Omega Sports. Second and third place male and female from each age group will also receive an award. Dri-fit shirts and goody bags are guaranteed to the first 500 registered participants, and the kids will all get a “Get Your Little Rear in Gear” T-shirt -- along with a ribbon -- for finishing the 50 yard-dash. The Coca-Cola Discovery Vehicle with big-screen TV and Wii games will be at the event, and will be sampling some products. The list of exciting and creative prizes and activities grows every week.

Q. What's your ultimate vision for this event?

Of course I would like this to be one of the go-to events in Charlotte, but more than that I want this event to have the most impact of any race in the Queen City. We hope that over time the Charlotte community will be able to talk about colorectal cancer as we do breast cancer. We wholeheartedly thank the breast cancer supporters and survivors for paving the way for our cause.

For more information or to register for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, click here.

Odds + ends for my running friends

Several interesting nuggets to pass along on this soggy-but-otherwise-beautiful winter day:

David Klein
, former publisher of now-defunct Charlotte Health & Fitness magazine, has quietly launched Race Carolina -- which is dubbing itself "the place to come for local and regional running events." At the moment, though, only one is lined up: the Adam Faulk Tanksley 5K Run on Saturday, March 27, at McAlpine Creek Park (beneficiary is Levine Children's Hospital). The site also mentions that the Frosty 5K is "Coming Soon." As many readers will recall, CHF magazine used to sponsor the Frosty 5K Series and the Summer Trail Series, totaling six annual races. The new Web site's community race calendar has potential, and there's a pace calculator similar to Runner's World's; links to Race Carolina's Facebook page and Twitter account don't seem to be working properly at the moment. I have an e-mail in to Mr. Klein and hope to get more details on what's in store for us, but he's been reticent to share information with me in the past so I don't expect a response. We'll see, though. At any rate, Race Carolina is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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Nathan Stanford, a Huntersville runner coached by Mark Hadley (father of 13-year-old phenom Alana Hadley), overcame blustery conditions to finish second at the North Myrtle Beach Winter Run 15K Saturday. The 31-year-old ran a 54:13 -- average pace: 5:49 per mile. In an e-mail Sunday evening, he told me: "I'm still getting my legs back under me after taking a little downtime post-Richmond," where he ran a 2:43:46 (read his marathon recap here). "The wind was certainly a factor in the finishing times." As for why he drove four hours to run a tiny race, with just 111 other participants: "This is my third NMB 15K, and I chose it because (a) I believe it has great bang for your buck -- beautiful scenery, flat course, good pre- and post-race food/fun, easy registration, and plenty of hotels within walking distance of the start; and (b) because it gives my wife and me a chance to spend a quiet weekend at the beach. Selfishly I hope that this race stays small and maintains its 'hometown' feel." Meanwhile, race addict Bobby Aswell Jr. finished ninth in the same 8K, clocking a 1:01:43. But his result is a bit deceiving. On Facebook, I read that he put up this time while pushing his daughter in a jog-stroller: "Natalie was watching a movie, which stopped working about a half-mile into the race. Had to grab the PSP player from under the cover, set it on top of the baby jogger, and fix it while still trying to race!"

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The Salisbury Fire Department St. Patty's 5K will be held Saturday, March 13, at J.F. Hurley YMCA in Salisbury. All runners will receive short-sleeve technical T-shirts, and trophies will be awarded to the top three runners in each age group. Organizers plan to collect canned goods at the race for Rowan Helping Minstries, a local homeless shelter. Salisbury Rowan Runners (who are also hosting this weekend's Winter Flight 8K) are providing the timing. The run starts at 9 a.m.; walkers are welcome. Registration is $20 by March 9, $25 on race day. For more information, click here or here. (Last year's inaugural race was won by Alejandro Arreola in 17:25, followed by -- here he is again! -- Bobby Aswell Jr. [18:07].)

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some dirty thoughts about today's Trail Race

So there I am, skittering down a slope, sidestepping a pointy rock here, avoiding a nasty root there, then grabbing at a small tree to keep from slipping in the mud and breaking my tailbone.

And all along, I'm thinking, now I know what it feels like to be an action hero.

Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans" maybe. Or Mel Gibson in "The Patriot." Hauling butt through through the woods with a crazed look on my face, bounding over fallen tree trunks, trying not to get taken out by enemy fire --

Oops, sorry, getting a little carried away. But seriously: Those of us who ran this morning's inaugural Charlotte Running Company Trail Race on the treacherous paths at the U.S. National Whitewater Center certainly risked limb out there ... and maybe even life, once or twice.

Almost two-thirds of an inch of rain fell in Charlotte Thursday; Friday was cool and damp; and at 7 a.m. Saturday -- an hour before the starting gun was to go off -- a light but steady mist was falling. These are good conditions if you're planning an outdoor mud-wrestling event, but are less attractive if you're about to run a 13-mile race on single-track trails in the middle of the woods on a cold day.

Nevertheless, it made things far more interesting for the 70 people who completed the 13-mile race with me, as well as for the 111 who finished the 8.2-mile run and the 166 who participated in the 3.8-miler.

As this was my first "real" trail race, I don't have a good feel for where this course ranks on the difficulty scale (hopefully some experienced trail runners will read this and provide some feedback along those lines).

But I can tell you that I rolled my ankle several times, I almost slid off a cliff into a lake, and there was one climb -- around Mile 5 -- for which I probably could have used a ladder. Some of the switchbacks were brutal, passing was sporadically a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best experience, and those of us who went the distance encountered a stretch during Mile 10 where there was no choice but to motor through ankle-deep mud puddles.

The inherent risks make the CRC Trail Race the craziest event I've ever done, with the exception of perhaps last year's Krispy Kreme Challenge up in Raleigh (which really was more imbecilic than crazy, to be honest). Plenty of runners who traverse trails regularly would not say the same thing, I suspect, but for a road racer like me, I make that statement with no qualms.

I mean, whereas in a typical half marathon I can often zone out for periods of time, my brain activity had to be off the charts this morning. Every misstep was a potential header into a riverbed, or a twisted ankle, or a tree branch to the temple. Especially when negotiating fast and steep downhills, my mind was racing to make snap judgments as to where the slickest mud wasn't.

I'm also unaccustomed to such erratic pacing. For the first several miles of the single-track sections, you're at the mercy of the people in front of you. It takes incredible bursts of speed to pass within the narrow windows of time and space there are to do so. Traffic can slow to a crawl on the more heartbreaking ascents. The Garmin plays tricks on you due to there being so many hairpin switchbacks: It gets confused, can't compute some of the distance, and spits out splits that seem too slow to be accurate. Only during the later going, after the 8.2ers had dropped off, could I set my own pace; but I was essentially all alone for the last five miles or so -- which can be another kind of mental challenge.

Still, as friends had been suggesting throughout the week, conquering the conditions really made finishing feel like a hard-core accomplishment. I'm satisfied with my time (1:50:34, 31st out of 70 -- there were some goood runners out there). I'm glad I didn't fall, and relieved I didn't get hurt. Plus, I got a little taste of what it's like to be an action hero.

But before I sign off and pop "Last of the Mohicans" into the DVD player, a few other quick items of note regarding the Charlotte Running Co. Trail Race:
  • The course was exceptionally well-marked. I imagine the trail system out at the Whitewater Center can be rather dizzying, but there was no point at which I felt lost. Kudos to race director Donny Forsythe and his team for their good work. Water support was also better than I was expecting, although the staggering of aid stations was slightly unpredictable.
  • The final mile was ... not a mile. After the Mile 12 marker, the race was essentially over but for a stretch run that couldn't have been much more than 800 meters long. My Garmin had the course at a little over 11.3, but Carolina Trail Run Series creator Marcus Barton told me afterward about how all the switchbacks lead to fuzzy GPS math, and I believe him. Strangely, though, while Marcus had the course short (at 12.5ish), Queen City Timing's Dennis Joffe estimated the distance at 13.5ish and told us our per-mile pace was actually a little faster than what's listed in the official results.
  • I think it's ridiculous that the Whitewater Center charged runners the $5 parking fee. This race was a free ad for the facility -- and the best kind of ad: a taste of its trails, which I'm sure many first-time visitors to the WWC would be excited to return for at a later date. Let me be clear that this is not Donny's fault. I would hope the center will reconsider its policy at future races.
  • Colleen Angstadt was the top overall female in the 13-mile race with a 1:42:13, while Lat Purser won in 1:23:25. 8.2 winners were Jocelyn Sikora (1:06:28) on the women's side and Keith Mrochek (1:03:08) on the men's. In the short race, Amy Fach and Derek Kaat had the best times: 29:51 and 26:41, respectively.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A few words about runner safety

At a race earlier this month, I bumped into a running friend who told me one of his New Year's resolutions was to work to improve runner safety. The following week, he sent me an e-mail addressing a specific concern:

"For many years, I have dreaded some of the streets that I consider dangerous to runners due primarily to the right on red light. I see runners running on busy intersections taking a green light as the only thing they watch and making no provisions to cars looking in the opposite direction from them, looking for an opening to take the right. Needless to say, it is still the responsibility of the driver to assure safety for all when quickly turning on a red, but should any runner bet their health, and possibly their life, on the whims of a driver in this situation?"
As a Runner's World subscriber, my thoughts of course drifted to Liz Robbins' terrific article about runner safety in the January 2010 issue, "Collision Course." In it, she also mentioned how such situations at intersections can be dangerous -- or deadly.
"The driver begins to turn right on red. As he accelerates, he looks to his left for oncoming cars -- but not to his right. The runner must anticipate that the driver is not looking out for him, and move to the sidewalk ASAP."
On Facebook, I asked how many runners had encountered this particular problem out on the roads. Among the responses:
  • "Has happened to me a few times. Now if there is a car getting ready to turn right, I will make sure that they acknowledge me to go in front of them. If not, then I will make sure and go behind them."
  • "Was hit last year by large SUV at stop light. He was pulling out to the right at the red light and was looking left. I came from his right and bounced off the hood."
  • "This has happened to me so many times. I know to wave my arms so the driver sees me and acknowledges that I'm going to cross."
  • "Most drivers making a right turn never look right. Almost got hit by a school bus once who didn't look."
  • "I was hit by a policeman as he was pulling out of a convenience store. He stopped way short of the sidewalk, so I thought he had seen me. As I passed in front of the car, I saw he was looking back to his left at traffic and then started to pull out. He never looked up until I jumped to try to clear his bumper/hood and he caught my back foot and spun me around. I am VERY antsy now at all intersections; doing the eye contact/arm-wave dance, and also waiting for an acknowledgment from the driver."
So then I expanded the discussion by asking runners which streets and intersections they feel are the most dangerous. Nominations included Providence Road/Queens Road, Carmel Road/Johnston Road, Johnston Road/Ballantyne Commons, Seventh Street/Pecan Avenue, Randolph Road/Laurel Avenue, Morehead Street/Kenilworth Avenue, East Boulevard, Park Road, Rea Road, Central Avenue, and any of the entrances to SouthPark Mall.

Of course, one woman pointed out that the first line of defense is leaving that iPod at home if you're running the roads. And a couple guys noted that careless drivers can be avoided altogether by running on a greenway or trail.

What do you think? How do you keep safe on our roads? Which ones do you avoid? Do you run with music? Do you try to run only on paths away from traffic?

Odds + ends for my running friends

Several interesting nuggets to pass along on this gloomy winter day:

The Tobacco Road Marathon, which has been boasting "the fastest marathon course in N.C.," is not sold out after all. Organizers decided Wednesday evening to reopen registration and expand the field from 800 to 900 for multiple reasons, explains race spokesperson Mark Dill: "Demand has been so great ... . I think people realize this may be their best chance -- with the ideal climate and flat course -- to achieve their personal best times or even qualify for the Boston Marathon. ... We also recognized this was a great opportunity to do something for Haiti. A full 50 percent of the registration proceeds of those 100 extra runners will go to the Red Cross for Haitian relief. That should be about $5,000." Dill said organizers also expect the half marathon to sell out all 2,500 available spots. As of Wednesday afternoon, fewer than 500 spots for the 13.1-miler remained. To track how many spots are left for both races, keep an eye on the Tobacco Road Marathon Facebook page.

It's shaping up to be a good year for fans of trail races: This month, two separate trail race series were announced. I was informed last week about the Carolina Trail Run Series, which is being developed by Marcus Barton and kicks off Saturday with the inaugural Charlotte Running Company Trail Race. It will be the first of at least four races in the series (a fifth may eventually be added), and runners can earn points based on their performance in each event. Each event offers multiple distances. For the full schedule and details on how the series works, click here. ... And then on Tuesday, Jamie Brown over at the U.S. National Whitewater Center told me about the River Bound Race Series, a joint production of the Whitewater Center and N.C. Outward Bound. The series will consist of a 5K on March 13, a 10K on May 22, a 15K on July 17 and a half marathon on Sept. 25; all races take place on the Whitewater Center's trails. Click here to register.

On Saturday, Vac & Dash in Albemarle is hosting another Fellowship of the Idiots Run. This is basically just a loong training run (19.7 miles), from the Stanly County YMCA in downtown to the top of Morrow Mountain and back. Start time is 5:30 a.m. There'll be water at Mile 6 and at Mile 13.7, and refreshments at the finish. Runners who complete the trek get a "Fellowship of the Idiots" T-shirt and a certificate, and their name will be engraved on a plaque at Vac & Dash. The best part? It's free. To sign up, e-mail or call 704-983-3274. More info here.

Amy Peacock is leading a ChiRunning workshop next Saturday (Jan. 30) at Carmel Country Club, 4735 Carmel Road. ChiRunning, created by Danny Dreyer of Asheville, professes to teach runners "how to heal and prevent injuries" using a running style based on "disciplines such as yoga, Pilates, and ... T'ai Chi." The session will run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and costs $125. E-mail for more information; to check out Amy's Web site, click here. (I attended one of Amy's workshops in December and blogged about it.)

Sisters Claudette Dahlberg and Shannon Steffler have founded a new Christian Runners chapter in Waxhaw. Members will typically run together at least every Saturday, and Dahlberg says: "We will have a group of walkers, a group for beginning runners who will mix some walking and running, and at least a couple of faster pace running groups depending on turnout. There are no requirements other than to show up!" For more information, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Regional stars come out for N.C.'s oldest 8K

As a Road Runners Club of America State Championship race, the annual Winter Flight 8K in Salisbury typically draws some top-notch competition.

Last year, Ryan Woods of Boone (a former All-American runner at N.C. State) won in 25:26, while Molly Nunn of Winston-Salem (a star for Wake Forest during the mid-2000s) was the top female in 29:30.

Who'll vie for top honors when the gun for the 2010 Winter Flight 8K goes off at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30? Well, Woods and Nunn are both returning to defend their titles ... but it appears Nunn could have her hands full: Challengers in the women's race include former Demon Decon teammate Caitlin Chrisman and speedy seventh-grader Alana Hadley (at right). Hadley won the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8K this past Thanksgiving, in 29:37; Chrisman and Hadley finished 1-2 last August at the Yiasou Greek Festival 5K.

But to be clear, this race is open to you and me, too; in fact, I'll be there to take part alongside several running friends. So if you've got an opening in your schedule a week from Saturday, you might want to consider the following info about this 27th annual event, which is the oldest 8K race in North Carolina.

THE COURSE -- certified by the USATF -- starts and finishes at Catawba College in Salisbury. Salisbury Rowan Runners president David Freeze says it is flat and fast for the first mile, then rolling for the next three miles, with a mostly downhill final mile. The finish is on the track inside Shuford Stadium.

PARTICIPATION usually is in the mid-200s to low 300s, so if you're a decent runner...

...AGE GROUP AWARDS are there for the taking (commemorative age group awards will go three deep in 13 age groups). There also will be cash awards given to the top male and female finishers, to the first male and female to the one mile mark, to the top male and female Rowan County finishers, and for new course records. In addition, special RRCA State Championship Awards will be presented to the top overall male and female, as well as to the Masters and Grandmasters winners.

ALL PROCEEDS will go to Rowan Helping Ministries, the local homeless shelter.
Canned goods will be collected for RHM and donations will be accepted. Freeze says a donation will also be made to "Kids Run the Nation," RRCA's children's running arm.

COST TO REGISTER for the 8K is $25 in advance and $30 on race day. There's also a half-mile fun run that starts at 9:30 a.m. and will be contained on the track around the Catawba Indian football field. Entry for the fun run is $10, whether you sign up beforehand or day-of. Race registration and awards will be inside Goodman Gymnasium.

a Dri-Fit long-sleeve shirt, and fun runners will get a cotton shirt. All 12-and-under fun run finishers will receive a medal. Freeze says there will be plenty of food and drink, and music will be provided by a DJ. Shoes and other running apparel will be on sale.

For more information, click here or call 704-239-5508.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do you like the rough stuff?

When the U.S. National Whitewater Center started offering races last year, lots of casual runners signed up -- and lots of casual runners came away frustrated.

Of last summer's 10K, one friend told me: "For someone who doesn't do trails, it was the hardest run I have ever done!" Said another, of the Run Like a Girl 8K: "Several people twisted ankles immediately upon entering the woods. The trails have a lot of roots [and] there was also a LOT of gravel on hills."

I'm not sharing this with you to scare you away from the inaugural Charlotte Running Company Trail Race, scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. (On the contrary, it's a beautiful facility, and if you haven't been out there yet, you should go.) Rather, I'm sharing this so those new to trail running have some idea what they're getting into when they sign up for either the 3.8-, the 8.2- or the 13-mile race.

But don't take it from me -- I'm still a novice myself when it comes to the trails. To get the full scoop on the races -- and the single-track trail system through covered woods that runners will traverse -- I talked this week to race director Donny Forsyth.

Q. So what exactly are these trails out there like?
The trail is approximately three feet wide, but sometimes wider in certain sections. The primary surface is dirt. There are some roots, rocks, leaves and pine needles throughout the trail.

Q. Is this race for advanced trail runners only?
Nope. The CRC Trail Race is for runners of ALL abilities who are looking for something different than a typical road race.

Q. What kind of shoes should people wear?
Both road and trail running shoes will work great.

Q. Got safety tips for people who are worried about spraining their ankle?
Some tips to help prevent a fall or ankle roll are: 1. Make sure you leave plenty of space between you and person ahead of you so you can see the ground in front of you. This will allow you to spot roots, rocks, stumps, ruts etc. and be able to avoid them. 2. Don't shuffle your feet. 3. Keep your eyes on the trail about 3-4 feet ahead of you to spot any obstacles. 4. Take it easy on the downhills.

Q. How exactly do people pass each other on the trail? What's the proper etiquette?
The best way to pass is to let the runner in front of you know that you would like to pass by saying "on your left," or "on your right," or "can I pass when you get a chance?"

Q. How much slower should the average runner expect to cover a mile as compared to their pace on roads?
This depends on the skill level of the runner and the difficulty of the course. I would guess at our race you would run about one minute per mile slower.

Q. Why the odd distances?
Unlike road races, there are less routes to take in a trail system, and at the U.S. Whitewater Center, there are only a few places to enter and exit the trails. We feel like the routes that we chose will give participants varying distances to choose from and allow them to experience many aspects of the great trail system at the USNWC.

Q. Can people walk the race?
Participants can walk but there is a cut off time of three hours for all racers.

Q. I noticed that people will still have to pay $5 to park at the Whitewater Center...
The $5 parking fee is charged by the USNWC, which I have no control over. ... Just as an FYI, the fee is per car, not per person, so maybe participants can carpool to save money. The parking fees at the USNWC help them maintain one of the best recreational facilities in our great state.

Q. What if it rains?
If it rains hard all weekend and the rain date of January 24th doesn't work, we'll push it back one week to Saturday, January 30th.

Registration for the Charlotte Running Company Trail Race is $25 (3.8-miler)/$35 (8.2-miler)/$45 (13-miler), and goes up after Jan. 20 by $5. This is the first event in the Carolina Trail Run Series. More details are on the race page: here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marathon dreams come true at Disney

Sunday was a good day for Charlotte-area runners named Michael at the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando. Michael Creason, 38, of Charlotte, clocked a 2:45:50 as our area's top finisher and placed 17th overall. Concord's Mike Beigay, 31, ran a PR of 2:46:51 to finish 20th. And 29-year-old Michael Knotts of Charlotte ran a 3:12:49 good for 169th place. And Michael MacIntyre of Cornelius finished in 5:38:47, capping a weekend in which he completed the 5K, the half-marathon, and the full marathon on back-to-back-to-back days (read his recap here).

But arguably the top performance at Disney was turned in by Amelia Slagle of Davidson, a former UNCC track and field star who finished sixth in the women's division with a 3:03:47. It was the 24-year-old's first marathon ever, and her time was the 81st fastest overall out of 16,883 finishers.

Amelia e-mailed me today to say she had "a blast" Sunday, and offered this brief recap of her race:

"I was super-nervous for about a week going into it because I was coming off a minor foot injury, and I heard a lot of stories from friends how they just die at Mile 20, or that there were points in the race where they just wanted to quit. But surprisingly, I felt really great the whole way.

"I was hoping to run a 3:10 and went out with the pace group, [but] they ran a 7:50 first mile, so I ended up leaving them after Mile 1 and trying to do my own thing. It was not until about Mile 4 or 5 that I started to get into a groove and was running 6:50 to 7:05 pace, and then I just kept it up. I ended up really dropping the pace at Mile 20 and averaging somewhere around 6:40 miles, which helped my overall finishing time."

Amelia would learn afterward that she ran an impressive negative split, rallying for a 1:29 second half after covering the first 13.1 in 1:34.

As for the overall experience, she said: "The course was fun when you run through the parks, but a little boring on the roads because there aren’t many people to cheer you on. But the parks make up for it because the Disney characters were pretty entertaining!"

Amelia competed for the Niners' cross country and track squads from 2003-2007. According to UNCC Web site, she currently holds the sixth-fastest outdoor 10,000m time (37:57.51) as well as the eighth-fastest indoor 5,000m (18:03.00).

Other area finishers at the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon:

Jody Dawson, 3:31:17
Dan Campo, 3:35:46
Sarah Schweppe, 3:36:42
Jessica Wagner, 3:44:03
Mackenzie Alpert, 3:50:45
Mike Crosby, 3:51:06
Dianne Allen, 4:00:32
Michael Barilla, 4:09:03
Toney Matthews, 4:12:57
Ben Wilhelm, 4:13:09
Jeffrey Brown, 4:14:21
Lauren Brown, 4:18:58
Andrew Baumgartner, 4:19:36
Kathy Lee, 4:24:35
Katherine Cutrer, 4:26:23
Bob Smolen, 4:29:50
Pat Lapekas, 4:29:51
Maggie Deller, 4:36:51
Wisdom Jzar, 4:37:16
David Bardsley, 4:45:40
Jack Cutrer III, 4:46:14
Amity Whalen, 4:50:51
Brad Morris, 4:51:42
Mandy Wiltzius, 4:52:09
Daniel Wixon, 4:54:00
Kevin Brown, 4:57:21
Melissa Brown, 4:57:21
Jessica Captain Hughey, 4:57:25
James Young, 4:58:59
Carl Richmond, 4:59:12
Marion Beason, 4:59:22
Suzanna Ruddock, 4:59:22
Melanie Mellone, 5:03:23
Kristen Bonghi, 5:03:23
Bridgit Kerger, 5:03:24
Jorge Herreria, 5:04:52
Deanna Pennetta, 5:06:27
Amy Jablonski, 5:08:06
Deborah Dawsey, 5:09:06
Cindy Lofton, 5:11:49
Donna Green, 5:17:22
Carly Green, 5:17:23
Jason Hooven, 5:19:43
Lauren Newton, 5:21:05
Linda Vaickus, 5:21:23
John Ellison, 5:21:31
Jean Herreria, 5:28:10
Curtis Phipps, 5:29:48
Arlene Auger, 5:29:51
Gina Baumgartner, 5:35:09
Susan Baumgartner, 5:35:09
Cherie Jzar, 5:37:19
Audrey Osinski, 5:38:39
Christine Bishofberger, 5:38:48
Joanna Ball, 5:39:48
Kevin Anderson, 5:45:33
Janice Moore, 6:03:31
Michelle Pfleeger, 6:03:31
Kevin Hoyle, 6:07:59
Teresa Peters, 6:11:31
Michelle Perno, 6:21:18
Angela Casertano, 6:36:19
Patty Siros, 6:42:48
Kelly Hill, 6:42:49
Scott King, 6:44:51
Christine Cipriano, 6:45:25
Michelle Olaya, 6:48:16
Erica Davis, 6:51:08
William Percival, 7:04:02
Marie Percival, 7:04:02
Jennifer Krupowicz, 7:13:50
Sarah Anne Horn, 7:18:51

Brian Cone, 3:40:39
Joseph Tierney, 3:52:26
Nancy Russo, 4:35:52
Carl Russo, 4:35:52
Toni Cruz, 4:56:11
Tom Jones, 5:19:34
Melissa Hardesty, 5:37:08
Nicholas Zerona, 5:42:38
Daniel Outen, 5:42:38
Patricia Blakely, 6:30:14

Scott Sharp, 3:51:59
Molly Gronski, 5:13:47

Robert Keller, 5:24:43

Jon Wright, 4:57:57
Kent Lupton, 5:45:34
Coretta Bone, 6:46:43
Kenneth Cotton Jr., 6:48:11

Darryl Strack, 4:48:30
Kathryn Strack, 4:48:30
Eric Anderson, 5:09:41
Adrian Beard, 5:33:41

John Taylor, 5:25:51
Robert Lauro, 5:55:02

Cara Musumeci, 3:51:49

Alfred Sergel, 3:43:15
Tom Torkildsen, 3:58:12
Lana Torkildsen, 4:14:01
Adrienne Bridges, 5:28:57
Donald Bridges, 5:28:58
Kevin Montgomery, 5:38:34
Evan Weiss, 5:38:52
Marcie Beard, 5:49:03
Bobbi Griffith, 6:17:36
Suzanne Glasgow, 6:34:20

Jose Santiago, 5:26:17
Russell Reed, 6:00:41
Richard Love, 6:09:46

Christopher Dunn, 4:18:58
Barbara Munksgard, 4:44:06
Ginger White, 5:49:59
Tony White, 6:14:00

Bill Moran, 3:26:46
Lori Dawson, 3:41:37
Richard Belcourt, 3:58:06
Kim Cooke, 4:05:09
Courtland Cooke, 4:11:06
Daniel Schumacher, 4:25:15
Richard Gordon, 4:27:11
John Heiskell, 4:30:25
Ed Liddic, 5:42:36
Nick Steffler, 6:28:17

Contemplating your first tri? Read this.

If it seems like just about anyone can complete a triathlon, that's because it's true.

Take last year's Ramblin' Rose Sprint Triathlon in Charlotte: Nearly 750 women swam the 250 yards, biked the nine miles, then ran two more miles to the finish line in times ranging from as blisteringly fast as 44 minutes all the way up to a just-gettin'-it-done two-plus hours.

Of course, if the prospect of training to complete a triathlon seems intimidating ... well, that's because it can be. But knowing what you're getting yourself into is half the battle.

So, aspiring triathletes, listen up as we run through a series of frequently asked questions with the help of Christopher Lamperski (pictured at right), head coach and founder of Personal Records Coaching. The 27-year-old Charlottean is a veteran of 20 triathlons who's won several overall and age group awards; he also competed in the Duathlon National Championships -- clocking the fastest overall 10K time in 31:41 -- and the 2009 ITU Duathlon World Championships at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Q. What level of fitness do I need to have before I even consider signing up for a sprint triathlon?
I think that most people who are new to the scene come into a triathlon with expectations of seeing elite athletes with washboard stomachs and stellar figures. In reality, the majority of people participating in triathlons are everyday folks. In my opinion, just about anyone can compete in a sprint triathlon -- but they must first set out with a plan.

Q. What gear do I need before I start training for my first?
One of the most important things that you'll need is a proper-fitting pair of running shoes. Go get them from an expert at a running specialty store. Also, you'll need to get a pair of tri-shorts -- compression shorts with a minimal pad. This is a pair of shorts that you'll wear throughout the entire event, not to mention while training. A good set of swim goggles is key; try to get goggles that fit your face without even using the straps. If you've got suction before using the straps, they are much less likely to leak while swimming. The last step would be to at least borrow a bike if you don’t have your own, and you'll need a safety helmet.

Q. How far out should I begin training?
First things first: Make sure your doctor says it's OK to start a training program. Then, start REALLY easy on your initial training cycle. One common trend I see with new triathletes is that they train too hard too soon and become injured, which can decrease motivation in a major way. Remember that it takes your bones longer to adapt than it does your muscles. So even if you feel fine, take it easy and slowly add training. Traditional programs would ideally start with three months of full training to work up to comfortably doing the distance as well as possible, while allowing you to learn every aspect of swimming, cycling and running.

Q. How many days a week should I plan to swim? Bike? Run?
This is primarily dependent upon time considerations. It's not critical to perform all three of these activities each day. Plus, some of us have jobs! Try to make it a rule to do each activity at least once a week during training -- over time you will see where your weaknesses and strengths lie. Many folks work up to three days per week or more with running since it’s more convenient than swimming and biking. Swimming and cycling are lower-impact activities, so it may suit people with a history of injuries to cycle and swim three to four times a week to work on their fitness level while remaining injury-free.

Q. What distance should I eventually work up to for my longest swim? Bike? Run?
Just look at the distances required by the event. Make sure you can successfully complete the distances in training for all three components of the triathlon. While it may not be necessary to simulate the entire triathlon start to finish in training, it would be nice to know that you've got the fitness to exercise for the duration of the triathlon. For instance, if you think it will take about one hour to complete a race, make sure you're able to train for a straight hour before going to the race. Most people start out with sprint triathlons, so just doing up to or slightly over the distances in training would be the most appropriate. As an example, one of the local triathlons is structured with a 250-meter pool swim, followed by a 10-mile bike and then a 5K run. You need to complete at least these distances in a workout by themselves. If you can go a little longer while feeling good it will only increase your fitness level.

Q. How important are "bricks," and how often should I do them?
A brick is a workout that consists of two or more different exercises back-to-back. Example: Bike for half an hour and then immediately run for 15 minutes. I tell my clients to do a minimum of one brick each week, usually on a weekend when they have more time. This prepares your body to withstand the demands of a triathlon race while being fatigued.

Q. Do I need to do weight training?
Keep the weight training to a minimum, as time can be better invested by working on the specific events -- swimming, biking, and running. But I do recommend some minimal core strengthening because it relates to all three sports and assist in keeping you healthy.

Q. What are the biggest rookie training mistakes, and how can I avoid them?
The No. 1 mistake I see is people not following a plan. “If you don't know where you're going, how are you going to know when you get there?” The other thing that I notice is that people have a hard time setting clear and attainable goals. So to those out there who are going to do a triathlon: Set clear goals, and then write a plan and post it on your refrigerator or office desk, so it will help hold you accountable. One other thing I see people struggle with is nutritional supplements before and after working out. Oftentimes people don’t fuel well enough beforehand to keep their energy levels up during training, and after the workout a good combination of protein and carbs will really help muscle recovery for training going forward. But many people ignore or don’t know about the effects of improper nutrition.

Q. What are some good local triathlons for first-timers?
I have been referring first-time triathletes to the TrySports Triathlon Development Series. It's a series of triathlons designed for beginners. Usually 90 percent of the people at these events are doing their first triathlon, so it has a "we're all in this together" attitude. One good local triathlon I recommend is the Cane Creek Triathlon in the late summer. It gives the participant all summer to get ready for it. Another triathlon would be the Cool Breeze Triathlon in March because it is the shortest distance and also involves a pool swim, which would be more comfortable for first-time triathletes.

Q. Any other tips?
Get a coach or a support group. It's worthwhile to make a financial investment in either of these because they will help hold you accountable and make you more likely to achieve your goals. Also, have someone develop a personalized plan for you. Just because a former world champ used to do a certain workout doesn't mean that you'll get the same results by doing it as well. Have a plan that takes into consideration the following things: your schedule, structural and physical limitations -- bad knees, etc. -- and your goals. Finally, remember that triathlons are there for you, not the other way around. Remember, who's the boss. Trust me, when you're finished, you'll be glad you did it and will be ready to rock your next one!

- - -

To talk to Christopher Lamperski about the range of training services available through his Personal Records Coaching, call him at 704-641-2254 or send an e-mail to

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

A few interesting nuggets to pass along on this beautiful winter afternoon:

Dowd YMCA Running Expo: Need some new ideas for training for the upcoming race season? This event -- scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. -- will be a great opportunity to get a few. Featured guest is Dr. Bill Pierce of Furman University, who will be presenting his "Run Less Run Faster" training program; other speakers will include Becky Mestas from Run For Your Life on shoe and gear selection; Siskey YMCA dietician Diane Lancaster on nutrition; Josh Kollman of Carolina Sports Clinic on injury prevention; and Mark Kane of Kane Personal Training on strength and conditioning. This training, designed for runners of all abilities, is free for Charlotte YMCA members. Non-members can attend if space permits. E-mail questions to or get more info here.

Run For Your Life-University: If you're looking for deals on running gear, check out the
winter sale going on Friday and Saturday at the store at 1816 E. Arbors Drive (in the Trader Joe's shopping center). Clearance shoes will be priced as low as $35, new shoes will be at least 10 percent off, and apparel will be marked down by as much as 50 percent.

The Palmetto200 Relay: The deadline is fast approaching to take advantage of the race's early registration special: Through Feb. 2, cost is $900 for regular teams and $450 for ultra teams; thereafter, it increases by 25 percent to $1,200/$600. The full course is here; organizers are still working on making the map more interactive, but runners can now peruse information on individual legs (distances, maps and turn-by-turn instructions). The race Web site also now features a "Runner's Forum" that allows runners to post questions and suggestions, and also can help individuals find a team in need of runners -- or vice versa. The Palmetto200 Relay, set for April 30-May 1, will take teams of four to 12 runners 200 miles from Columbia, S.C., to the edge of historic Charleston.

The Ragnar Relay New York: This is another cool-sounding relay, also designed for teams of 12 and also held in the spring -- although it's a little shorter (175 miles) and a bit further away. The 24-hour relay race, scheduled for May 14-15, follows a route from legendary Woodstock, N.Y., through the Catskill Mountains and charming country towns before ending in the Big Apple. Team registration is $1,080 before Jan. 31 (or $540 for an ultra team of six runners or less). On Feb. 1, cost goes up to $1,260 (or $630 for an ultra team). And if you register online with the promo code CLUB100, a $100 refund check will be issued; or, enter the code NY1ZGFBZ and get two free headlamps. Register online here. You can also get race updates by joining the event's Facebook group.

New York City Half Marathon: The lottery has already been held and registration is officially closed for the March 21 race -- but there's still a way to get in on the action. The Fresh Air Fund is looking for runners and sponsors to join its Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half. This is a great way to participate in New
York City's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children. (The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, provides free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities.) The minimum pledge for runners is $1,000, which can be obtained through third parties or otherwise. For details, click here.

Got other running-news tips to pass along? Or have ideas for future features? E-mail me at

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There's a new running store in town

When Davidson residents Kristin and Mark Harris got tired of driving into Charlotte to buy shoes from specialty running stores, they did what many entrepreneurial-minded hardcore runners have often dreamed of doing: The Harrises opened a running store of their own.

That store -- a Fleet Feet Sports franchise -- was quietly unveiled with a soft opening last Friday morning in Huntersville. (Kristin Harris says the official grand-opening date has yet to be determined.)

Fleet Feet Sports Huntersville (16620 Cranlyn Road, Suite 100) is tucked away next to haircolorxperts on the southeastern-most corner of Birkdale Village, about a block down from the movie theater and a stone's throw from Dick's Sporting Goods.

There are identical entrances, each flanked by two inviting-looking black rockers, at the front and rear of the space (which is considerably smaller than Run For Your Life-Dilworth but larger than RFYL-University, for comparison's sake). The look is clean and minimalist, with beautiful dark hardwood floors and very little clutter. Products by Brooks, Asics, Mizuno, Nike, Saucony, New Balance and more are displayed attractively along the walls, with just three tidy racks of clothing sharing the floor with the register/counter and a display featuring hats and Fleet Feet water bottles. There's also a treadmill for gait analysis, and a unisex restroom.

I recently caught up with Kristin Harris -- who has worked at a number of YMCAs in the Charlotte area and also has been a massage therapist -- to talk about the new Fleet Feet and what its got in store for the local running community.

Q. How'd opening day go?
Opening day went well! We didn't now what to expect but we actually had non-family member paying customers!

Q. I know Fleet Feet has a pretty good reputation, but as a newer runner, I've never set foot in one of its stores. I've seen the company's "Fitlosophy," but tell me in non-mission-statement-speak, if you will, what your store is all about.
Our store is about unparalleled customer service. Our goal is to treat every customer as an individual, no matter what their running, walking and fitness level is. This would include the evaluation of their footwear and apparel needs, advice and education. We want to enhance the fitness experience for each and every customer so that overall fitness and wellness becomes part of their every day lives.

Q. Aside from being a purveyor of shoes, apparel and accessories, how else will the store contribute to the area's running community?
We absolutely look forward to becoming an extension of the Lake Normal fitness community. We are planning on being involved with a number of races at various levels. Several Lake Norman running groups meet in the Birkdale area for their weekly runs and we look forward to partnering with them also. We are planning various "Fun Runs" starting up in the near future. Our first No Boundaries program, which is Fleet Feet's signature training program where we partner with New Balance to train participants for their first 5K, will start in the summer. Also, your readers may be interested to know that we are hosting the weekend Road Runners Club of America running coach certification workshop May 15-16. It will be held in Davidson at Community School of Davidson. Maybe one of your readers is intersted in becoming a coach! They can find more info at

Q. I've seen fittings done well and fittings done poorly, and I know building trust with customers hinges on how good staff is. I assume yours is full of runners, but what level of expertise are you demanding from employees?
Our employees come from various levels of running, which mirrors our anticipated customer base. While running experience certainly is an important prerequisite, being able to deliver the best customer service is equally important. Regarding the "FIT" process, understanding the biomechanics of the foot is a critical component in recommending the proper type of shoe to each individual. We will have extensive and ongoing training programs that educate employees about the biomechanics of the foot. We will also partner with our brand's reps to keep our employees up to date on the continuous changes that take place with their shoes.

Q. A lot of people in this area are already loyal to a particular running store. Do you see challenges in this regard, or do you think geography and "something new" play heavily to your advantage?
I do not see this as a challenge. The Lake Norman area is exploding with growth, and our plan is to build our own loyal customer base.

Q. How did opening this new franchise all come together for you guys? How did you go about choosing the location?
We recognized the need for a store in the Lake Norman area after years of having to travel to other stores in the Charlotte area to buy our shoes. My sister participated in a No Boundaries program at another Fleet Feet feet store, and we heard how great they were. Their philosophies and values on customer service, lifetime fitness, and community involvement matched ours, and one year later, here we are.

Fleet Feet Huntersville's regular store hours are: 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Phone number is 704-896-2202.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

A few interesting nuggets to pass along on this cold winter evening:

The local running-store landscape will begin changing ... Friday morning: Fleet Feet Sports, a national chain, will open its location at Birkdale Village in Huntersville for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday. Regular store hours (listed here) will be in effect beginning immediately. It will be the fifth Fleet Feet store in N.C. As recently as this morning, co-owner Kristin Harris was concerned they might have to delay the opening till next week, but everything was able to get signed off this afternoon. "It was so up in the air for a bit, but tomorrow we will hit the ground running!" she told me tonight. ... Meanwhile, Run For Your Life owner Tim Rhodes says the Charlotte chain's forthcoming location at Stonecrest at Piper Glen shopping center (in the Ballantyne area) will have a "soft opening" March 22. Dates for the public grand-opening week are to be determined. The store will replace the existing Stonecrest Run For Your Life, on Rea Road.

Nothing new to report, unfortunately, on what might be springing up in the place of the former Charlotte Health & Fitness Magazine's Frosty 5K and Summer Trail series in 2010. (I blogged last month about the situation.) David Klein, who sold CHF Magazine last year, reportedly has plans for new races, and I'm told is on the verge of putting out information through the URL At present, if you go to the site it just says "Coming Soon." Attempts to reach Klein directly have been unsuccessful. Stay tuned...

The Inaugural Charlotte Running Company Trail Races are set for Jan. 23 at the U.S. Whitewater Center in west Charlotte. Three distances to choose from -- 3.8, 8.2 and 13 miles -- and each starts at 8 a.m. on courses that are primarily part of "a single track trail system in covered woods adjacent to the Whitewater Center." Registration is $25/$35/$45 (goes up after Jan. 20 by $5), and all pre-registered participants are guaranteed a long-sleeved race T-shirt. There's also a $5 on-site parking fee. Post-race door prizes will be awarded, and refreshments will be served both beforehand and afterward. More details are on the race page: here.

Run For Your Life has released its tentative race schedule for 2010. Click here to check it out. For runners who care about the Grand Prix Series, the most notable change is that the GPx now has 10 races instead of nine -- the Great Harvest Bread Co. 5K is the new addition.

Finally, Tim Rhodes from Run For Your Life reports that the "Spread the Love" campaign he conceived for the Thunder Road Marathon was a huge success. Here's what happened: Leading up to the race expo on Dec. 11, the store's Facebook page dribbled out cryptic messages encouraging runners to "find Tim" at the convention center. Well, when they found him on the expo floor, he coughed up an envelope containing $200 cash, and instructions that informed recipients they couldn't keep the money but instead had to give it to someone in need. A total of 20 people won this opportunity; each was asked to share the story of what they did with the money on RFYL's Facebook "Wall." In an e-mail earlier this week, Rhodes told me: "We received several e-mails in lieu of the FB postings. A couple highlights: One couple matched the money and contributed to more than one charity. The winner of one of the races came up to me after the awards ceremony, and emotionally thanked us because her sister was going through a very rough time and the money would come in handy for her. Several other postings on FB show that the money seemed to go farther than the $200 it actually started out to be. ... For sure we will do it again next year, and maybe even encourage the recipients to match the giving in some way."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Confessions of a race-aholic

If you saw the reader New Year's resolutions I posted last Friday, one runner might have stood out to you: Bobby Aswell Jr., whose goals include "Run my 150th marathon ... I've completed 144 to date" and "Run 55-plus races for the year."

Anyone who knows him knows he'll nail this, no problem. Over the past 22 years or so, Aswell has run nearly 1,200 races, including 145 marathons (an average of 6-7 per year). He typically races every Saturday -- sometimes even more frequently.

Last weekend, in a span of less than 36 hours, the 47-year-old Cornelius man ran three races: the Running of the Lights 3.2-miler in Clemmons (19:22) to ring in the New Year; the Girls on the Run 5K in Denver (18:41) at 8 a.m. New Year's Day; and the Mt. Mourne VFD Elf 5K race (18:38) at 9 a.m. Jan. 2.

And that's not even a personal record.

"Three races in 33 hours is a lot, but about 15 years ago, [my friend] Ken Wong and I ran five races in 36 hours, driving a total of 1,200 miles across three states," says Aswell, a systems analyst/programmer at Wachovia. "After all that, we still made it back to Charlotte for our group run Sunday afternoon."

I talked to Aswell this week about his how his family deals with his addiction (er, obsession), his most memorable race experiences, and what he does with all those race T-shirts.

Q. You have no problem admitting you're addicted to races, right?
Addicted, who me? Obsessed, maybe!

Q. What is it, do you think, that drives your desire to race as much as you do?
Most of my friends are runners, so I enjoy going to races to see them. In addition, I love the competition as well as competing against myself. It's also a great way to stay in shape.

Q. Has your family ever tried to stage an intervention?
Actually, my wife (of almost 13 years) is a runner and knows this is what I do. Back when Jean raced a lot, she was one of the top female runners in the area. Her 5K PR is 17:35 and her marathon PR is 2:50:11. She still runs about four times a week, and races several times a year. As far as my daughters (Nicole, 8, and Natalie, 5), I’ve been taking them to races since they were babies, so they think that's what people do on Saturdays.

Q. OK, coolest race you've ever run. Go.
Hands down, coolest race has to be The Last Marathon in Antarctica I ran in 1997. The logistics were an adventure in themselves: flight to Miami; then to Buenos Aires, Argentina; then to Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego (also known as "the bottom of the world"); board a Russian research vessel; travel across the Drake Passage (home of the roughest water on earth); come to within yards of icebergs the size of buildings; and onward to King George Island in Antarctica. Race morning: board a zodiac raft to get to shore; run around Russian, Chinese, and other research bases; encounter penguins, seals, and skuas (giant seagull-like birds that dive-bomb runners); run up and down a mile-long glacier twice, thru snow, ice, and mud so thick it pulls your shoes off. It was a blast!

Q. Most disappointing race?
It has to be the race that wasn't! Ken Wong and I traveled to Denver, Colorado, in 2004 to run the Denver Marathon on Sunday and then watch the Carolina Panthers play the Denver Broncos. It was going to be an awesome weekend! We got to the race expo to pick up our packet only to find out that the race was canceled! Why? Because the race director didn't have a race permit! Amazing! However, luck was on our side when we went for a run Sunday morning near the football stadium and ended up on a 5K course for a race that hadn't started yet. We ran to the starting line, paid our entry fee, and ended up getting our "fix" after all. That afternoon, we went to the football game, where Denver came from behind to beat the Panthers.

Q. How about, what's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you during a race?
It has to be what happened in the Snickers Marathon in Albany, Georgia, in 2007. I was near the half-marathon split in the marathon when I was passed by a cyclist. I didn't think much of it at the time, but that cyclist ended up being the fourth-place finisher in the marathon! He had hidden a bike on the course, changed his clothes, got on his bike and rode most of the rest of the course before dumping his bike and disguise and running across the finish line. Using race photos and research from the Internet, the runner was later DQ'd by the race committee. It's amazing that someone would want to run Boston so bad as to come up with such a pre-meditated plan. However, he picked the wrong runner to pass!

Q. Do you have a favorite annual Charlotte-area race?
I really enjoy the Charlotte RaceFest half-marathon that's held in April. It's a challenging course run at the most beautiful time of year in Charlotte, when the weather is usually perfect.

Q. What constitutes a great race experience?
To me, a great race experience includes a fair entry fee, nice race T-shirt, good post-race refreshments, nice awards for the overall, masters, and three deep in five-year age groups, an accurate and well-marked course, and a race that starts on time.

Q. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to how races are organized?
I dislike it when races are advertised as a distance and then come up short or long, there aren't enough bathroom facilities, races start late, and courses aren't marked well, causing runners to run off course.

Q. How many different states have you raced in?
I've run in every state at least once. On June 22, 2002, Ken Wong and I completed running a marathon in the 50 states and D.C.

Q. Are you constantly trying to figure out how to work within a budget to afford races and race travel?
For the last 10 years, I've averaged almost 60 races a year, so racing does get expensive. To keep expenses down, I pre-register when possible. If traveling, I make travel arrangements at least 30 days in advance, check on last-minute deals, and buy staples such as bagels, Gatorade, water, etc., from a grocery store when I get to the location. For rental cars, and sometimes hotels, I use

Q. Let's go back to talking about those New Year's resolutions. You mentioned you want to work toward running a marathon on every continent, and that you want to do an ultra longer than 50 kilometers. Details?
Since running a marathon in Antarctica and completing the 50-state circuit, the natural next step is to run a marathon on every continent. I'd like to complete it before I turn 50, but most of the trips will be several thousand dollars, so we'll see how it goes. I was all set to run the Great Wall Marathon in China the year SARS reared its ugly head, but they cancelled the trip. I'm currently looking at the Berlin Marathon in September, or maybe the Amsterdam Marathon in October. Both are rated in the top-10 marathons in the world, and are very fast courses -- as well as being great places to visit. As far as ultras, I've run three 50Ks, so I'm looking forward to running something a little farther, maybe a 40-miler. I ran the Triple Lakes Trail Marathon last year, and they have an accompanying 40-miler, so that is a possibility.

Q. Do you save all the race shirts, bibs, medals, and trophies?
I used to save all of the T-shirts, but with our last move, I sold some at our garage sale and gave some to family. Since then, I've saved most of them. Need any? I always save a copy of the race brochure and my race number, and have since the beginning. As far as awards, I do save them but have given a bunch of them to the girls.

Q. Oh, one more thing: Are you nuts?
Aren't we all just a little nuts?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

A few interesting nuggets to pass along on this very cold winter evening:

Two small rescheduled 5Ks are set for this weekend: The Frostbite 5K in Kannapolis starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Kannapolis YMCA (101 YMCA Drive). I'm told that while the race used to be filled with serious hills, the course has been changed this year and is now fairly flat. Registration is $20 in advance, although online signup appears to be closed. Race day registration is $30. Drop by the Y or call 704-939-9622 to get registered in advance. The Lincoln County Family YMCA 3rd Annual Jingle Bell 5K Run starts at 9 a.m. at Gaston College's Lincoln Campus (511 S. Aspen St., Lincolnton). Cost is $22 for runners 11 years and older; $10 for kids 10 and younger. E-mail for a registration form or details. Both events -- rescheduled from Dec. 19 due to inclement weather -- also feature a one-mile fun run. Remember: Small races are fun.

Interested in giving back by becoming a Girls on the Run coach? GOTR Charlotte is hosting a volunteer informational meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. next Thursday, Jan. 14, at the organization's office at 120 Cottage Place. Program director Jessica Otto will conduct an informal presentation on GOTR and its volunteering opportunities, explain why volunteers are important, and answer questions. Also, program founder Molly Barker will hold training sessions for new coaches this Saturday and on Saturday, Jan. 23. For information on volunteering, click here. To register for one of the training sessions (which are required in order to coach), call 704-837-0088. GOTR coaches, by the way, have been known to become heroes. I'm attending the Jan. 14 meeting, so say "hi" if you see me.

Charlotte is getting a Get Your Rear in Gear race, thanks to in large part to Sue Falco, the colorectal cancer survivor I first wrote about back in May of 2009. Registration is open for the 5K, which is scheduled to take place Saturday, March 13 at Hawthorne Park on the edge of uptown Charlotte. Certain details are still being hammered out, but it's got a page on the national Get Your Rear in Gear site, and I'm told Sue will be featured in an upcoming issue of Runner's World. There are 20 similar events scheduled for cities all over the country in 2010; each race promotes awareness about cancer and raises funds for related programs. In the coming weeks, I'll be interviewing Sue Falco about her journey.

Other features to look forward to this month on the blog: An interview with one of Charlotte's best-known race-aholics; tips on how to get ready for your first 5K and/or sprint triathlon, courtesy of a local personal trainer; and a feature on Somnio Running Shoes (a company rep fitted me for a pair today at Run For Your Life-Dilworth, and I'll go for my first run in them tomorrow).

Got other running-news tips to pass along? Or have ideas for future features? E-mail me at