8th Annual Great Pumpkin Run

(Tegan to my far right, Jeff and me in the center, Christine to my immediate left)

Date: October 17, 2009
Time: 18:38
Pace: 6:00
Place: 7th
Place Age Group 40-49: 1st

Jeff and my friends Tegan and Christine talked me into signing up for this race—even though it was 6 days post Chicago. I knew it wasn’t going to be one of my best races, as I was still quite sore, but it was for a good cause, and I would get to run in Jeff.

I wore 2XU compession shorts, Moeben compression sleeves, my BRC shirt, a skull cap, glove, Yaso compression socks, and—of course—Mizuno Ronin shoes.
It was a brisk and cloudy morning, and it rained on our way to the race start. We arrived, and Tegan, Christine, and their friends were already there. We picked up race packets, and I ran the course and an easy 7:30 pace. I’m glad I did, so I knew what to expect, and could also let everyone else know.
The first 1.4 miles are generally downhill, and that particular morning there was a nice tailwind. The next 1.5 miles are generally uphill, and there was indeed a headwind—a cold and damp headwind. I knew the best strategy was to go out fast, as I was going to slow down on the second half. And that’s exactly what happened!
There were 3 male and 3 female runners from the UNC track team. At the gun, all 6 took off. I managed to only be passed by 5 of them. Ha! I was also passed by the man who came in 4th place, who finished in a time that I could have typically easily finished, particularly given how easy the course was. Each race is different, though, and I was happy for all of the runners who finished ahead of and behind me. Including Jeff! Jeff let me know ahead of time that he wanted to finish under 30 minutes.
The course was a long, thin loop, with two sharp turns at about miles 1.4 and 2.9. Thus, we ran past the start on our way to the finish.
I ran the race, and kept running through the finish. I saw Christine, and then Jeff and Tegan running together. There were just past the 2-mile mark. I didn’t run to them, but instead ran ahead of them. I shouted what I hoped to be words of encouragement, such as, “You’re looking strong,” “I’m the rabbit, so try to catch me,” “Pick up the pace just a little,” etc. I didn’t know how long they had been running, as I stopped my watch at the finish. A runner ahead of them let me know that they were reaching 22 minutes.
With about a ½ mile left, Jeff asked me how far they had to run. “About a quarter of a mile.” I’m so mean! I was able to look at the finishing clock, and it read 25 minutes. I knew that if they pushed it they could run that last ¼ mile in under 4 minutes, so I pushed them. “You’re really close! If you want to finish in under 30, you’re going to have to pick it up. When I say ‘go,’ run as hard and as fast as you can!” With less than .1 mile left, I yelled “Go,” and go they both did! Jeff finished in 28:12, well below his goal time.
The UNC runners were not eligible for prizes. I wasn’t paying attention when they were announcing the winners. They announced the name of the 4th place finisher as 2nd place overall, and then announced yours truly as the winner! I tried to tell them that I wasn’t the winner, but to no avail. I did make sure to exchange awards, so that the true winner got the $25 gift certificate to TrySports. I got 2, $20 gift certificates, one for 2nd place and the other for 1st place male 40-49. There wasn’t a Masters category.
A fun run, and I enjoyed running with Jeff and friends!

Chicago Marathon

Date: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time: 2:54:42
Pace: 6:39
Place Overall: 512 of 33,419
Place Gender: 474 of 19,041
Place Age Group 45-49: 25 of 2,143

This was the most fun I’ve had at any race, regardless of distance. I also experienced more pain during this race than any race I’ve run, even the ultras. Perhaps most interesting to note is that, from start to finish, this was the most relaxed I’ve been at any race. I even managed to relax, i.e., disassociate, during the very painful last miles.
Jeff and I visited the expo on Saturday, and it was the best expo we’ve been to. Getting my bib and chip was a painless process, and took less than five minutes. The aisles were wide enough for the large crowds, and there were numerous exhibitors giving away lots of goodies. The official race tee is very nice, too (a Nike technical, and the small isn’t too, too big).

I watched Wanda Sykes “I’ma Be Me” on HBO the night before the race, and laughed myself to sleep. Her show was so memorable that during times of extreme pain (read on) I recalled certain things she said (stimulus package, can’t do their hair, etc.) to help me disassociate.
I had no trouble falling asleep, and slept soundly until the alarm went off at 4:30. I even pushed snooze once, and didn’t get out of bed until 4:39. I went through my typical morning routine, and even took some self photos, as to not wake up Jeff.

From head to toe, I was pleased with every piece of clothing: Sugoui skull cap, new sunglasses, Nike sleeveless tee (with Bull City Running logo), Moeben sleeves with (wait for it) pockets for gels, Brooks throw-away gloves (that I didn’t throw away), 2XU compression shorts, Yaso compression socks, and—of course!—Mizuno Ronin racing flats. I experienced no chafing or blisters.

I walked the 4 blocks to the start, and the crowd was already massive. It was also 30 degrees, and I was concerned that I would get too cold and not be able to warm up. I made my way to the bag check, and this, too was painless, as I was the only person in line at the time. I then made my way to the corrals. As I was assigned corral A, I had to show my bib to get through corrals D, C, B, and then finally to A. They had porta-potties just for us. Yeah! I used the porta-pottie one last time, as they announced that all runners had to be in starting corrals. It was 7:15. The Star Spangled Bangle was sung. (I always think of my father when I hear the National Anthem. I remember to take off my hat or cap, and to not applaud at the end.)

I was not the least bit nervous. For that matter, I wasn’t overly excited, either. I knew that, with my persistent injuries, I had not put in the necessary training for an exceptional race. If truth be told, I was somewhat dreading this race. I had almost talked myself out of running it at least a dozen times.

Nonethess, and as always, I set my goals in ascending order:

1. First and foremost, finish

2. Have fun

3. Finish sub 3:30

4. Finish sub 3:15

5. Finish sub 3. I honestly didn’t think this was possible.

The gun went off and we began. While there were many, many racers, I didn’t feel crowded or pushed around. The streets were wide, and the runners were all running at nearly the same pace.

My feet were frozen, and I could hardly feel them hit the ground. I certainly could not feel any toe-off. I didn’t get any feeling in my feet until about mile 6. For the first half of the race, my heart rate was relatively low, and my breathing was not at all labored. I felt very, very good.

Here’s where the fun began… At about mile 2, I kept hearing spectators say, “Minnie Mouse” and then laugh. At about mile 3, a man dressed as Minnie Mouse (I’ll upload pictures as soon as I purchase them) caught up with me. I could see why people were laughing! I would get a few paces ahead of him, only to find that he was once again running beside me, usually on my right shoulder. This happened for the next 2 or so miles. I finally gave up, and decided that I would reach my goal of having fun, so I didn’t try to drop him. We ran together at a nice steady pace for the next 6 or so miles. Seeing the smiles on the faces of all the spectators made me smile! I tried to strike up a conversation with him, but he didn’t speak English very well. I was content to merely run beside him, knowing that hundreds of spectators were taking his picture—and mine as well.

I did have to stop and pee at about mile 6. It was one of those long, seemingly never ending pees. I quickly caught up with Minnie though. He may have even waited for me.

Minnie slowed down close to the half, and by the finish I didn’t hear anyone mention his/her name. I hope he finished strong!

I also stopped briefly in Boy’s Town. Why? To dance with the drag queens, of course! It was much fun, and I got lots of applause.

I hit the half at just under 1:26. I was on pace, then, for a 2:52. Then the pain in my calf muscles began. It was searing, excruciating, mind-numbing pain. Every step sent sharp pain through my calves. I did slow down. Miles 14 through 16 were particularly painful, both physically and emotionally. I was convinced that I’d have to settle for one of my lesser goals.

I made a decision at mile 16. I would count down the miles from 16 until the finish, i.e., count down from 10 miles remaining. Not only did I count down the miles, but also I repeated the number at each inhalation, sometimes to myself, sometimes out loud. 10-step-step-step, 10-step-step-step. My pace had decreased from 6:25 to 6:45; thus, I spent just under 7 minutes counting down each mile. 9-step-step-step, 9-step-step-step. You get the picture.

I remember little of miles 16 through 23, other than my feet once again got cold, as did my hands. I was passing some runners, and runners were passing me.

I reached mile 23 and said to myself, “The faster you run, the faster you finish. If you finish in sub-3 hours, you will have reached your most difficult goal. If you finish in sub-3 hours, you can race a Winter marathon.” I suppose that was the motivation I needed! I put the hammer down.

I made it a point to count the number of runners who passed me as well as the number of runners I passed. I was passed by 5 and I passed well over 50, including about 5 during the last .2 miles. I felt painfully wonderful and wonderfully painful.

I was elated to finish, and shocked (and very pleased) with my time.

I walked through the finishing corrals, first to receive a Mylar blanket, which I needed as I had begun to shiver, and then to have the timing chip removed from my shoe. Next was the line for the medals. A young, attractive woman held out a medal for me, and I said, “I’d prefer to get my medal from that pretty young woman to your left.” To her left was a middle-aged woman, and I do believe I made her day! Her face lit up as she put the medal around my neck. I then thanked her and kissed her on both cheeks. I didn’t know it at the time, but Jeff was standing behind the fence watching the exchange. Ha!

Volunteers handed me a bottle of opened water, a partially peeled banana, a protein bar, and a cup of beer. I even took a few drinks.

Jeff met me at the baggage pick-up, and we walked the few blocks to the hotel. I took a nice, hot shower, and we went for lunch. Yup, I had breakfast for lunch!

All in all, a wonderful, memorable event. I am already planning on running it again next year.

Splits that I remembered or was successful capturing:
Mile and Time
3&4-6:24 avg.
5&6-6:41 avg.
11-6:22 (talk about even splits!)
12, 13 & 14-6:35 avg.
23-6:56 (I had really slowed down)
24, 25, & 26-6:46 avg.

It’s interesting to note that my Garmin Forerunner 405 usually under estimates mileage. This time it had total mileage at 26.67; thus, the splits are inaccurate.

2009 Fitness World 5K

Race: Fitness World 5K

Date: September 26, 2009

Time: 18:05

Pace: 5:49

Place: 1st

This is the second time I have run this event. As I’m still not feeling 100%, and I haven’t been racing much, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a very good race. Given that I won this race last year, I was that much more concenred.

The CGTC website stated that the race began at 8, so I arrived at 7, only to discover that the organizers have just arrived. I registered at the front desk, and discovered that the race didn’t begin until 9. I had two hours to kill. Knowing that Jason P. would be leading a group of runners from his store, Bull City Running, I drove there (just across the street from Fitness World). He was kind enough to give me a pair of Mizuno Ronins with the promise that I would pay for them after the race. I ran 2.5 miles with him and another runner, and then ran back to my truck for a total of 5 miles. I then went back to Fitness World, and there were now many runners, volunteers, and Carolina cheerleaders awaiting the start of the race.

The race course is somewhat unusual, as it did not start at Fitness World, but on a road in the middle of a neighborhood. As CGTC Thursday group runs travel through this neighborhood (and since I had run the race last year), I knew what to expect.

I also had the opportunity to talk with Christine, a friend and one of my yoga instructors. She was running the race with her friend, Jim.

It was almost 9, so we made our way to the starting line. A man on a bike, who was to lead the runners, said to me, “So, you’ll be the person I’m leading, right?” I said, “I hope so.” There were a good 20 or so boys and girls under the age of 12 at the starting line; thus I feared it would be a crowded start.

The gun went off. While there were a few runners who took off too quickly, I gained the lead within the first 100 meters. I lead the race to the finish.

I could, however, hear a runner close behind me. He had just about caught me at mile 1. I surged on the downhill, and he wasn’t able to catch me.

Jason and Kim P., owners of Bull City Running, were supervising a hydration station at mile 1.5. I heard Kim shout, “Run, Paul!”

I could still hear the eventual second place finisher, and he may have even been gaining on me. (His finishing time this year would have beat my time last year.) I sprinted to the finish, got a quick drink of water, and ran back to run in Christine and Jim, as I had promised.

I met this with about a ½ mile to go. I was their rabbit, and they both picked up the pace. They passed quite a few people. Jim had a very nice finishing kick.

It was a rather uneventful race. I did win a big-ass trophy and gift certificates to Bull City Running and X-pert Nutrition.