2020 Krispy Kreme Challenge – Race Review

Who runs 2.5 miles, eats one dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and then runs another 2.5 miles to the finish — all within an hour? Not this guy…

You see, I already learnt my lesson. I just can’t eat that many doughnuts. I tried the challenge a few years ago and could only manage nine doughnuts before I’d had enough.

So this year I grabbed my box, ate two, then pushed through the crowds and ran on. In the same period, my daughter consumed five doughnuts. I’m saying nothing.

I run this race for the buzzing atmosphere, for the people in ridiculous costumes, and for the puddles-of-puke obstacle course. It’s also for a great cause, with the proceeds going to North Carolina Children’s hospital.

There was one guy, back on the course after the doughnut stop, still trying to swallow multiple doughnuts that he’d crammed in his mouth. He was running with a group of friends. I heard his friend encourage him, “Think about the kids!”, as he continued to gag.

There was two lads in a horse costume, the guy at the back running completely in the dark. I heard someone shout, “any chance of a ride?”. I bet they’d heard this a dozen times throughout the race, but they replied in good humor, “Sure, hop on! It can’t get any worse!”

One other memory is of a poor guy in a Care Bear suit. I was actually worried about him. His face was pained, red faced and he was breathing real loud and heavy. I had doubts he’d make it, but he survived. I saw him at the end.

Is really is an event for everyone!

Race Recap: 2019 Race Across Durham – 10 Miler

First off, Race Across Durham is one of my favorite races of the year, and it’s right here in Durham, minutes from where I work everyday.

Waiting for the race to start!

This was my third year running RAD, and was a much better race for me than 2018 — mainly because I felt ill on race day and struggled to enjoy the experience as I knew I would have otherwise.

2019 made it all better. Zach and I hadn’t done much trail running to get ready for this race, and were thankful to the course preview runs set-up by Bull City Running and Life Skills Foundation. I believe the second preview run may have been the first time on the Eno in 2019 for us.

Still, we’d decided our number one priority was to enjoy this race, so once the race had started we settled into a conversational pace and did just that.

You never remember the hills until you hit the bottom of it and then exclaim, “yeah I remember this hill now”. That happened multiple times along the course.

The route meanders through the trees, alongside the Eno River, gradually increasing in elevation as we head toward the Eno Rock Quarry.

Aid Stations were well stocked!

Around mile 4 we hit the first aid station and stopped for a snack, a drink and a photo. I’m not sure we’ve ever ran a race this relaxed before, and it felt good.

Even though it had rained the day before, the trail was in good shape, not really any muddy areas that I noticed.

At mile 5 a surprise awaited us. There was an unofficial aid station set up with a box of beer sitting on a table. Everyone was just running past. Crazy, I know. Not us — nope. We stopped for some “trail magic”. Thank you very much to whoever left those out.

Surprise find in the woods!

So we were half way there. The next aid station was not until mile 8.

In 2018 we were missing a bridge or two due to some flooding. This year the bridges were restored, although I kind of enjoyed running through the stream last year.

The last hill up toward the quarry is probably the toughest hill on the course, but it leads up to one of my favorite sections of the course — running over the stepping stones and then along a ridge between the quarry lake and the river.

We stopped and posed for the photographer before crossing the river, and were promised we’d “make the cover” — not even kidding. Maybe even modeling careers might be launched from this. Who knows?

However, it looks like the photo didn’t make the cut to the website, never mind the cover of anything! 🤣

The out-and-back section from 2017 was added back into the route this year, and while the section is not very technical we were beat by that stage and were glad to reach the turning point and run that last leg back to the finish.

We ran through the finish line together, my belly giving me a 1 millisecond advantage over Zach’s time. Lots of snacks and drinks available there while we waited for the shuttle bus back to the after-party. The oranges were amazing!

We didn’t have to wait long to get on a bus. I felt really bad for the driver though as she had to smell multiple bus loads of smelly trail runners all morning.

RAD 2020, we’re coming for you!

Race Recap: 2019 Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k – Charlotte, NC

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k race 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!

This was my second year running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte (read about first year here). What better way to kick off this review with a big picture of the hot chocolate bowl packed with goodies for dipping. It ain’t called the Hot Chocolate 15k for nothing!

Liz and I after the race

As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I couldn’t get out of work on time to reach the Expo, so I had Liz’s and my pack mailed out to us – this is such an excellent service. The packs arrived a couple of weeks before the race, and just like last year, the race shirts are amazing.

The post-race party venue was changed to First Ward Park this year, which also moved the start and finish lines. The new party location was much better. It was much more accessible, and better laid out.

Another improvement this year was the addition of some hot food. And it was so delicious. Liz and I grabbed some and stood under a toasty gas heater and chatted to some other runners for a while.

The race course changed this year. We ran outside the city (much like last year), except we used some greenway (paved trails) this time to move between neighborhoods. The Charlotte neighborhoods reminded very much of Durham, North Carolina.

I felt like the new course was also hillier than last year. When I compared the elevation gain to last years on Strava, it was indeed hillier, but not by a crazy amount.

There were plenty of aid stations on course, serving water, sports drink and chocolate! Thankfully there were porta-johns near each station, as I had to make a stop at mile 2 — and that is when I lost my 8:30/mi pacer. 😦

I came in around 3 minutes later than last year. I was hoping to see an improvement, but it wasn’t to be.

The medals were different this year. Previously every Hot Chocolate medal was the same, regardless of the city that hosted it. There was an additional “charm” added to the medal to identify the city. This year they incorporated the city name into the medal itself.

No, it’s not edible.

Race photos again this year were free — which is super! Who doesn’t love free race photos. I didn’t see many photographers on the course except near the finish. I don’t always look my best at the finish line. 😉

While it was free to download low-res versions of the photos, there was a $2.99 charge to download high-res copies. That is still good bang for your buck if you consider what other races charge for photos.

Liz and I stayed at the AC Hotel Charlotte City Center. It was a lovely hotel, with a fantastic rooftop bar and was only a couple of blocks from First Ward Park. I’d definitely stay there again, whether I’m racing Hot Chocolate, or just want a short city break.

There were a few other BibRave Pros racing Hot Chocolate Charlotte this year, so we all got together before the race to catch-up and take a group photo. Just look at all that Orange!

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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