Race Recap: Bull City Race Fest, October 21st, 2018

On a cold, crisp October morning, a few friends and I headed into Durham, NC for the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon.

Me, Arun, Niles, Zach, AJ and Ashita at the start line

It was my fourth half marathon (1-Tobacco Road; 2-Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh; 3-Umstead Half) this year and to be honest, I wasn’t feeling in good shape for it — not compared to my fitness levels back in March. Training through the summer in North Carolina was not easy with the constant humidity.

My running buddy, Zach, had ran the course a couple of years back, his first half marathon in fact, and confirmed all the reports I’d been hearing of its hills. I’d only ran the 5 mile course before and was looking forward to the half.

I’ve never really been deterred from entering a race because of hills. I simply adjust my expectations based on it. 

Zach had yet to run a half marathon in under two hours, so my plan was to run a steady pace together and push him to a PR. After our hilly half marathon at Umstead, back in June, I knew this may not be easy (for me!).

Me and Zach ready to go!

The race started according to our plan. For the first mile we hovered in around 9:00/mi. If we kept this up and we’ll rock in just under the goal time.

I checked my watch at Mile 2 — 8:40/mi. We probably need to slow down a little bit, we thought. Nope, miles 3-6 flew by easy at the same pace. Yikes! We were going too fast! We were too concerned about catching up with AJ, who shot off like a rocket at the start.

At mile 6 we eventually caught up with AJ. That’s when the first of the hills started rolling in. Mile 7, while not the toughest hill-wise, was our slowest at 9:04/mi, but all was still good. Runners are always doing the math in their heads. We had time to spare.

My fueling plan was the usual, Gatorade Endurance gel pack every 45 mins, and a drink of water at every other aid station. This didn’t go exactly to plan.

I waited a little too long for the first gel pack which maybe explains mile 7. There were some hills during the last third of the course, so I took another one around mile 9.

Mile 9 is when I usually start to suffer in a half marathon, but this time I didn’t feel that. I felt much stronger than normal. The last third of the course hardly slowed our efforts at all. Maybe all that training in North Carolina’s humidity prepared me for this after all?

Again, doing the math, we rocked into mile 10 with big grins on our faces. We knew we had this race in the bag. It would take a really bad 5K now to miss our goal time.

In a final what the heck moment, I consumed an additional gel at mile 12 for the last stretch!

The course kept throwing hills at us in the last couple of miles, but my last two miles were my fastest on the course. I kept my eyes on the prize — the cold beverages at the end.

A lot of our team walked away with HUGE PRs — #breaking2 baby! 😉 Did Zach and I smash our goal? Of course we did! We came in well under the 2 hour goal. Turned out to be my 2nd fastest half marathon after Tobacco Road.

Me, AJ, Ashita, Niles, Zach, Shravan

I’m so happy about that. It definitely helped me overcome my summer training slump and restored some confidence as I reach for bigger goals next year.

We’ll be back again, Bull City Race Fest.

Go Blazingly Fast with UA HOVR Sonics

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Under Armour HOVR Soncis to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

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My last five or six pairs of running shoes have been the same brand. When I’m shopping for new shoes I don’t even look at alternatives. Fortunately I had the opportunity to test new shoes from Under Armour which have opened my eyes a little.

The Under Armour HOVR Sonics come in two forms. Connected and Non-connected. The Connected shoes ($110) come with a built in sensor that feeds data back about your run to Map My Run (Under Armour’s running app).

For the review,  I was sent the Non-connected version ($100) as the Connected shoes have been flying off the shelves. While the geek in me would have loved to try the Connected version and see what stats it’s able to produce, it’s probably not something I’d use in the long term as I’m already heavily invested into other platforms.

First Impressions

I requested a light-grey pair of shoes, the first pair of running shoes I’ve owned in this color. In our house it seems to be the “in” color in shoes, at least with my kids. When they saw the HOVR Sonics for the first time, they were very impressed.

I was too. I loved how they have integrated the tongue with the shoe upper, and how comfortable that feels on your feet. The shoes feel snug, but not tight. The upper is made from a thin soft knit mesh and hugs nicely around my heel.

When I was ordering them, the sizing worried me a little. I ordered the same size as my regular running shoes and it was perfect. Very happy indeed.

First Run

For some reason, I had it in my head that these shoes were “zero drop” – as they did feel like I was running in flatter shoes. When I looked it up online later, I found out they are not and have an 8mm offset.

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What surprised me the most about my first outing was how fast they carried me. I ran two miles in 7:39/mi. I wasn’t trying to beat any records on this particular run, but if I’d continued at the same pace I would have ended up with a 5K PR.

A Good Hosing

Next I took the shoes out for a series of longer runs. On one of these runs we came back through an unfinished trail. It had been raining fiercely here in North Carolina, but it didn’t occur to me the trail might be muddy until it was too late.

My lovely light-gray shoes got caked in thick soggy mud.

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When I got back to my house I gave the shoes a good hosing with water. I was so relieved, they came up like new. Normally if I get my running shoes drenched it can take 2-3 days to dry. Thanks to the light soft knit upper, these shoes were dry in a day!

Long Runs, Hills and Energy Return

Probably because I’ve worn the same brand of shoes forever, the impact of the run feels different in the UA HOVR Sonics. I definitely feel my calf muscles a little more tender afterward, and I suspect it’s just a transition to slightly different running dynamics that the HOVR Sonics bring.

Because of this I was a bit apprehensive to using the shoes on a really long run, but today I decided to anyway. I knew I was writing this review today and wanted to know how the shoes felt over a longer distance.

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We ran 11 miles today, on a mixture of road, greenway and trail, with plenty of rolling hills. The shoes performed great the whole way, but especially on hills. This “energy return” Under Armour talk about on their website is freaking real! Seriously! Even when fatigued I felt the shoes propelling me up the hills.

Conclusion

I’m so happy to have a different pair of shoes now to add into my rotation. I’ve been reading recently about why it’s a good idea to throw a mix of shoes into your regular running routine. The UA HOVR Sonics are definitely here to stay.

 

 

Race Recap: 2018 Running Of The Bulls 8K

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One of my favorite races of the year, is the Running Of The Bulls 8K in Durham, NC. It’s a really great course with a few challenging hills and a finish on the track at the old Durham Bulls stadium. It always coincides with the Food Truck Rodeo in Durham which is a fun reason to hang out after the race and enjoy some food!

I knew this year would be a bit slower for me. We have been experiencing very humid weather and higher temperatures than normal for this time of year, so that was bound to affect my performance.

In the end it didn’t turn out too bad when the official results came back. In 2017, I completed the course in 39:56. This year I officially completed the course in 40:40 (although Strava has 41:46!).

You may remember I ran this race last year with my son, Noah. He was also signed up to run this year but came down sick and wasn’t well enough to run. Fortunately my friend Niles was there and we ended up running the majority of the race together.

The medal this year was a functioning cowbell again. I’m only going to have so much room on my medal rack for these things. 😉

There is one thing I’ve noticed about Bull City Running Co. races. They like to take you close to finish line when you still have 1-2 miles to run. It one way it’s great to see all the runners coming back toward you to finish, in another way it’s just plain agonizing to know you still have 15-20 minutes left. Race Across Durham also employed this feature.

Immediately after the race there was plenty of Nuun, Fullsteam beer, fruit, granola bars, etc. but it can get a little crowded in there. Niles and I stayed for a little while before leaving for home. She said she’d run it again. I know I will.

Race Recap: NCRC Classic Half Marathon

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This was not a race I’d been planning to run or was preparing for. A friend of mine had registered and unfortunately she was unable to run it. Thankfully the race directors allowed her to transfer the bib to me at short notice.

This was my third half marathon, and the most challenging to date. I knew it was going to be difficult as I had ran sections of the course before. However, now it was a race. Knowing how hilly the out and back course was, I had accepted it was not going to be a PR run for me, and I was fine with that.

I convinced Zach (and he convinced his training buddy, Courtney) to sign up on the morning of the race. It’s much more fun racing with friends.

Access to, and parking at the race was great. There wasn’t much traffic and there was plenty of places to park (at surrounding businesses). From the parking lot, the race start was across the road, just outside of Umstead State Park.

The half marathon start time was 7.00am. There was also a 10K which started at 7.20am. I estimate maybe 300 runners for the half — so quite a small local race. It was an open course too, so there was no stopping other runners or cyclists from using the trails with us (and there were quite a few doing just that).

The whistle blew, and off we went. The aim was to stay slightly ahead of the 2:00 pacing group as we wanted to finish under 2. I arrived at this target scientifically of course.

Back in March, I completed my first half marathon in 1:49:00. In April I completed my second half marathon, with hills (h), and a stop to poop (p), in 1:57:00.  So it stands to reason that few extra hills (h) minus a poop (p) would result in 1:59:00.

Mathematically speaking: (h*2)-p = 1:59:00

The first few miles felt really good. We were easily keeping a nice gap between us and the pacing group. The hills were slowing us down a bit but we were still tracking at a decent pace.

It wasn’t long after the turnaround, maybe a mile or two, that I had to let the pacing group pass me and come to a realization that there was TOO MANY FREAKING HILLS on this course to complete it in under 2 hours.

2018-05-25 15_56_51-NCRC Classic Half Marathon _ Run _ Strava

At mile 9 (why is it always mile 9!?) I couldn’t keep going on long incline. Zach kept going strong but I had to stop running and walk and watch him disappear into the distance.

The humidity was getting to me. At every water station I was drinking at least 2 cups of water/Gatorade, which I’ve never had to do before. My clothes were drenched in sweat – even my socks were drenched.

It rocked my confidence a little to be honest. I couldn’t help thinking how unprepared I was for this race, and how unprepared I would be for a full marathon, and why would I ever want to run that distance!

After some one-on-one time with God, questioning life in general, the course started to flatten out around mile 10. I was now running again. The next mile and a half was downhill which helped, even though my legs felt like lead at this stage.

There was one more brutal hill at the 12.6 mile mark all the way to the finish. As I started the final ascent, I was surprised to see Zach ahead — not far at all. I made a valiant attempt to catch him, but ran out of steam quickly. He turned around and waved, and then put in a little extra effort to cross the line.

I found out later he considered waiting for me so we could cross the finish line together, but he feared I would run past him. And yes, I would have done exactly that. So he made the right call to run for the finish.

I crossed the line about 20 seconds after — happy to be done.

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There were plenty of snacks after the race, but no beer. I mean, come on. I could have murdered one or two cold beers after that race — easily. I did manage to pick up a nice race shirt though (which is modeled below) which somewhat makes up for it.

Someone asked me if I would run it again. Yes, probably. I wasn’t happy with that performance at all. It beat me, told me I sucked, so I want a chance at redemption. I’ll be back sometime, NCRC Classic Half Marathon. You wait and see.

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Review: Amphipod PureRun™ Minimalist Hydration Vest

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Disclaimer: I received an Amphipod PureRun™ Minimalist Hydration Vest to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

There’s few things more important than staying hydrated on a long run, but I think a lot of us struggle with the best way to carry the necessary fluids with us.

When it comes to carrying water on my long runs, I’ve experimented with a whole range of options and never really found a great solution.

Some methods I’ve already tried.

  • Carrying a water bottle in my hand – ended up with sore shoulder, continuously worrying about dropping the bottle (on another note: I don’t know how people run with their phone in their hand).
  • Using a hand bottle holder – this was a little better. It had a pocket as well for phone, keys, etc. Felt secure in my hand but still had issues with sore shoulder.
  • Hydration belt with two bottles – this was my go-to for most long distances. Water felt heavy on my waist and sloshed about a lot, but it was better than nothing.
  • Budget Vest with bladder on my back – was able to carry a lot of water, but man it was heavy! Vest was not super comfortable either and moved around. Bladders are a bit of a nuisance to clean and dry out.

I’ve seen the vests with the bottles at chest level for a long time and have considered getting one, but I had been growing tired of being disappointed each time, with each product I bought.

Thankfully, through Bibrave,  I got the opportunity to try out an Amphipod PureRun™ Minimalist Hydration Vest — and this thing really impressed.

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It comes in two sizes (I have size 2). It’s super lightweight, very adjustable and has loads of storage. You can see from the photo it has plenty of room for my phone (iPhone 7) and multiple packs of gels/gummies.

The vest comes with two bottles. One of the issues I had with my old hydration belt was that the bottles tended to leak a little when full. These bottles do not leak and stay secure in their pouches at all times.

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If you like bladders, it will support one in a section at the back. There is also additional pockets at the back — but I don’t think they’d be that accessible without having to take off the vest to reach them.

I love how the three front straps will slide up and down to where you need them — it’s the little things.

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I’ve taken the vest out for a number of long runs now and have really appreciated having it — as have my running buddies. Though they have teased me quite a bit for running with my “boobies” out, they have benefited from on-the-run fuel and water on a number of occasions!

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Now that the weather is getting warmer here in North Carolina, I tend to switch to running trails, under the cover of trees where it’s a bit cooler. I can’t wait to start using this vest for some long trail runs. YES!

There’s no going back now. It’s lightweight, cool (mesh) and comfortable, and will not move around. It will also not slow you down (I’ve tested this as well). And while your running crew may make fun of you, they all secretly want one. 😉

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Here are some other BibRave Pro reviews for you to check out:
Meredith Daniel // Andrea Heser // Barb Byrum // Brad Zinnecker // Renee Barr // Angie Maske-Berka // Mai Khuong // Kevin Wilson // Amy Penokie // Whitney Vestal

Review: Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon & Half Marathon

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Disclaimer: I’m promoting Tobacco Road Marathon & Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I had such a great time at this race, it just didn’t seem right to review it like every other race I’ve reviewed. So, I decided to write a little poem that covers my race experience from start to finish.

Tobacco Road Half Marathon 2018

I went to bed early
To get plenty of rest
My wife was so supportive
There’s no doubt that I’m blessed
(Love you Lizzie!)

The morning arrived in no time
Long before the promised sun awoke
It was freezing bloody cold outside
But I had no plans to wear a coat

After multiple trips to the toilet
It was time to lace up and go
If I still need to empty my bladder
I’ll make the trip to porta-potty row

With a van full of MRC runners
We traveled to the Tobacco Road race
I munched on my energy gummies
Hoping I could stick to my target pace

The participants all began to gather
Three-thousand, two-hundred and fifty two
Nine-hundred and seventy-five the full
I’d be running my first Half with my crew!

The gun give a blast and off we went
Passing under a huge American flag
I tried to keep up with the one-fifty pacer
But very soon I started to lag

As the road leveled out the crowd opened up
And I managed to catch my pacers
There up ahead was one of my friends
She’d passed me and I didn’t see her

After two and a half miles of pounding the road
The Half went left and Full went right
There were plenty of water and Gatorade drinks
If I partook every time, need the toilet I might

The trail was cozy for an out-and-back
The lead pack were returning at my mile five
As runners flew past they were followed by a breeze
The atmosphere was electric, I felt so alive

I was still feeling fresh at mile marker nine
By mile marker ten I was feeling half dead
The energy gels had lost their effect
My legs felt heavy, a battle ensued in my head

Was the last stretch and the finish was close
But again my pacers had gotten away
Determination kicked in and dragged me along
This race won’t beat me, not today, NOT today

Downhill to the end is a wonderful thing
I knew I had it in the bag
Crossing the line with my arms raised high
An eleven minute PR! I know, I brag

 

2017 in Running

In 2017, I logged a total of 1132.5 miles. That’s an average of 94 miles a month, or 22 miles a week, or a 5K every single day!

I ran a total of 226 times. This means every time I left for a run, I ran an average of 5 miles.

It’s weird now as a runner, that being sick is worse because I can’t get out to run. I was out sick and unable to run for 21 days in 2017.

All of that running took 184 hours and 7 mins, which means my average pace was around 9.45/mi — this includes road, trail, stroller runs etc.

Continue reading “2017 in Running”