POEM: 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


Alastair Vance, March 23rd, 2018

Race Recap: 2019 Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allscripts Tobacco Road 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!

It’s kind of like a midlife crisis kind of thing. When you turn 40, you have to run the marathon, while all the parts still work properly.

Joe Bastianich

Oh MRC! We trained together, and we raced together. Even though we knew we’d trained for this, and were familiar with the course, there was still a collective nervousness. We all knew that anything could happen on race day, anything.

But just look at those smiles from everyone at mile 25! We knew we had it in the bag! We were going to finish and we were going to be marathoners!

It was such an amazing experience! I’ve shared before that Tobacco Road was my first ever half marathon, and now it’s my first ever full marathon! This race will always have a special place in my heart.

The Early Start

There were a few grumbles about aiming to arrive in the parking lot by 5:15am. We had a parking pass, but it was still recommended that you arrived by 5:30am (for a 7am race start). It’s nice to get parked so close and convenient to the start/finish line, so I personally did not mind the early start.

We sat in the car for a while before venturing out to use porta-potties and take a few photos. I took the opportunity to meet up with my fellow BibRave Pros for a pre-race catch-up and obligatory photo!

BibRave Pros (left to right): Stacia, Kim, Lissa, TK, Ben, Alastair

The Starting Line

We found our space in the starting line around 6:45am. The half marathon and full marathon start at the same time and share the same route for the first 2.5 miles. So we squeezed into a crowd of 3,060 runners, 818 of those were running the full marathon.

There were ample pacers interspersed from the front to the back. They were all wearing bright yellow shirts for easy visibility. They carried signs which indicated the planned pace they would be running.

The morning started off a little chilly, but I knew it wouldn’t take long to warm up, so I only wore t-shirt and shorts, hat and gloves. This worked out perfect as after 20-30 minutes I was just right. It was totally worth the time standing around freezing before we started running.

With Zach and Jen at the starting line.

The Course

The course started in Thomas E Brooks park in Cary. From there it run along on the road for 2.5 miles until it hit the trail. At that point the half marathon runners turned left, and the full marathon runners turned right.

We ran for around 6 miles down the American Tobacco Trail, an old railway line that has been converted to a trail. At around mile 8 we turned and came back. At mile 14 we crossed back over and ran the half marathon section of the trail. At mile 19 we turned and ran back again to the road which led back again to Thomas E Brooks park.

The entire American Tobacco Trail is tree-lined, and the trail itself is not wide. With runners coming both ways, you probably have room only for 2-3 abreast in each direction.

Most of the race was on hard-packed gravel (pictured above), but some of the trail (maybe 3-4 miles) was paved.

Since there is not a lot of access for spectators, I quite like passing the other runners and encouraging each other. Most of my group were ahead so I had a couple of sections on the course where I got to high-five everyone on their way past.

The Race

The race started off well. With my foot/ankle injury a few weeks back, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the team. So I just relaxed and enjoyed the run. My ankle started to give the first signs of trouble around mile 6.

I was able to ignore it until around mile 14-15 when it became a little harder to keep going at the pace I was running at. I slowed down and took a few walk breaks to give my foot some rest. By this stage I was getting a sharp pain every so often when my foot struck the ground.

Marathon running, for me, was the most controlled test of mettle that I could ever think of. It’s you against Darwin.

Ryan Reynolds

Mile 20 felt just like it did in Ireland. It was exhausting. At mile 23 I started to get some calf cramps, but nothing too major and they didn’t stay too long.

At this stage of the race, the field had thinned out and you were running with people now around the same level. We’d take turns passing each other.

At one time I realized that I was going to complete this thing. It nearly brought me to tears — it wouldn’t be the only time.

Around mile 24 I was back on the road back to the park — to the finish line. This helped me pick up the pace a little, knowing I was definitely going to make it.

When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.

Haile Gebrselassie

At mile 25, my friends Purvi and Thelma (who had ran and completed the half already that morning) where on the last hill on the way back cheering our team. Purvi’s husband took the photos at the top of this post. I love all the expressions of joy in the midst of pain. 😉

The Fuel Plan

The plan was to alternate between Water and Gatorade at each aid station. The Tobacco Road Marathon had plenty of aid stations – every 2-3 miles. The volunteers were super helpful and encouraging.

Quite a few stations had GU gels, but I was carrying my own gels since I hadn’t trained with GU. There was also various snacks on offer, as well as pickle juice, and even Mimosas and bacon.

So, going into the race my fuel plan was:

  • Water/Gatorade every 2-3 miles
  • Salt Tablet every 3 miles
  • Gatorade Endurance Gel every 5 miles

I stuck to the plan as best I could. At times my stomach felt really sick and I was close to throwing up (too much gel?). After mile 20 I started to drink more at the aid stations, as before I was taking only a sip or two.

The Finish Line

I had a look at my race photos today, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked as happy to have finished a race before. The feeling was amazing. Then when I saw my wife and little boy come running up to me at the end I nearly started balling again.

I had pre-booked a massage at the expo, so after I had a couple of slices of pizza and a chocolate milk, I got myself over to the massage tent. It was $20 for 20 minutes and worth every penny (cent).

The Support Crew

These are the people who supported us through this. I’m really thankful to my wife and family for allowing me to chase this crazy goal, and half expects me to try it again some time. 🤣🤣🤣

But seriously, a marathon is something I’d never seen myself doing. Even when I signed up, it still scared me. We’ve come a long way. We trained together, we raced together and now we are marathoners.

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.

C.S. Lewis

Marathon Training March Update

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Allscripts Tobacco Road 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!

Well, our marathon training is complete, or (more appropriately) as complete as it’s going to be. I can’t believe it’s over a month since my last marathon update. So much has happened.

I spent three weeks in Ireland with my youngest son, catching up with family. I probably trained at around 75% of what I should have been. I did manage to run 20 miles solo which was a big achievement and something I’ll carry with me on race day.

I also ran a half marathon in Carlingford, Ireland which was just stunning. I wanted to pause along the route to take photos.

If you know me, or follow this blog, you’ll have heard of my vertigo episode a year or so ago which I believe was linked to a long flight and running too soon after landing (doh!). Thankfully, no reoccurrence of this. I made sure to rest a day or two after each flight.

It was nice to get back to North Carolina, because Xander and I missed his mommy and siblings, and it was nice to pick back up training with my running crew.

I wish I could tell you my leg/foot pain has gone away, but it hasn’t. It’s still there, and it’s reduced the total number of miles I should have been running over the last 7 weeks – without a doubt. I bought and have been wearing a tight compression sleeve on it while I run and that has been helping. After the race I may need to go and see a professional about it, as something is not right.

Due to this injury, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do this training cycle is adjust my expectations. I was hoping for a sub-4 finish, but it became increasingly obvious this was not achievable. I guess I will have to plan another marathon after all. 🤣

This will be my last marathon training update for Tobacco Road — the race is tomorrow.

Marathon Training February Update

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Allscripts Tobacco Road 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!

17 miles too long…

My friends and I are training for the Tobacco Road Marathon on 17th March 2019. For many of us, it’s our first full marathon. This post will bring you up to date on events since my last update.

Well, things have not gone as planned. Let me start way back where I believe my problems began…

I predominately run in the same brand of shoes — for the last 2 years or so. I’ve never had an issue until recently, when a new order of two pairs arrived at my house. I opened one of the boxes, tied up the laces and away I went.

I know how these shoes feel when they’re new and these seemed to be lacking that cushion I was accustomed to. My feet were making slapping noises on the pavement.

They were the same shoes as I always wear. It must be all in my head, right?

I kept on running in them, thinking I would break them in soon. After one of my recent long runs my right ankle felt a little sore, like I’d rolled it a couple of times.

I ignored the pain and continued to run through another week. At that week’s end I had 18 miles planned, with the potential of a couple more if I felt good. I was a little nervous going into it because the twinge in my ankle kept nagging at me.

I should have listened to my body. It was one of my worst runs on this training cycle. By mile 9 I had all sorts of new pains in that leg and by mile 14 buzzards (I may have been hallucinating) were circling above, waiting for me to collapse. I deviated from the planned route and arrived home with 17 miles.

The next couple of days my calf muscle was tight and sore, and the more I thought how unusual this was, the more I started to link my shoes to it. I decided to write to the shoe company and tell them of my experience. They immediately agreed to allow me to exchange them — even with 100+ miles logged.

Before I decided whether to return one or both pairs. I opened the second pair from the same order to try them out. I managed a short 3 mile run mid-week, and in my head, this pair felt more like they should have.

So good news — I don’t have to change shoe brands so late in my training! But I wish I hadn’t waited so long to sort it out.

Recovery Time

3 miles to try out the shoes was all I managed to run this week. I made the hard decision to not run this weekend and instead cross train on my bike. While it was fun to be still out there with my running buddies, I was wishing the whole time that I was running.

I cycled 6 miles on Friday and then 14 on Saturday. As well as trying to support the guys putting in the real work, I took the opportunity to record some video of everyone running on the Tobacco Trail.

The video was shot and edited completely on my iPhone.

Even in mid February, the Tobacco Trail is a lovely place to run. I keep looking at the new housing developments going up near the trail and thinking how nice and convenient it would be to live so close to it.

It’s not too late to sign up for the marathon!
Use code TRMRAVE19 to get $20 off.

I am hoping to get back out on my feet tomorrow for a short run and see how it goes from there. I am supposed to run 22 miles this coming weekend, but I’m not sure whether I just need to push that out a week and aim for the 14 I skipped this weekend.

The only (big) drawback with pushing out the 22 miler, is that weekend I’ll be in Ireland without my running crew to support me.

Marathon Training January Update

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Allscripts Tobacco Road 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 have only 7 weeks left until my first full marathon at Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC. I’m using the Nike Marathon plan and in short, training has been going well.

At this stage I have confidence that I’ll complete it. But will I walk away with a great result? Will I walk away at all?

I know a lot of runners aspire to quality for the Boston marathon. I’m not shooting for Boston — not this time.

But my heart is not set on running Boston. In fact, there’s many other marathons I’d love to run first — Big Sur! New York City! Missoula! Honolulu! Chicago! Check out the BibRave 100 for more ideas!

BTW if you do wish to qualify for Boston, the Tobacco Road Marathon is one of the best marathons to qualify with. It’s a fairly flat course and helps send many runners to Boston.

On race day I’m hoping for as close to 4:00 as possible, which would mean a pace of 9:05/mi or faster for 26.freaking2 miles. I’m not there yet. Not for that distance. I do have some encouraging news to share though.

Upon examination of my last few long runs, I’m seeing progress. Even though the runs are getting longer, I am running them faster! I just need to shave off another 15 seconds per mile, which I think is doable.

Long runs are scary.

Just writing this post is making me think about my next long run and freak out a little.

I’m still experimenting with fueling, not having gone this kind of distance before, and it’s been hard to get it right. At the moment I’m using a combination of gels and granola bars.

I do know that Chicken Biryani the night before is a bad idea.

So while I have 7 weeks left until the marathon, the hard work is nearly over. I have really only 2 super long runs left. 18 miles again this weekend, a drop to 14 the week after and then the big one — 22 miles! 😨

There’s still time to sign up. At the time of writing, both the half and the full marathon have slots available. Use code TRMRAVE19 to get $20 off registration.

Review: Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon & Half Marathon

IMG_9402

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

 

Last Long Run Before Tobacco Road

IMG_9018

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!

On Sunday past we completed our final long run (8 miles) before we run 13.1 miles on the American Tobacco Trail on Sunday, 18th March (which is also the day I can finally place a 13.1 magnet on my car — it’s the little things).

I have regained a lot of confidence that was lost during one of our recent long runs. This Sunday’s run covered a lot of the same route and terrain as before, plus it rained constantly, and it was still a much better experience overall!

This week, training will be lighter and my focus will be on hydrating and sleeping. I want to go into Sunday as fresh as possible. I’m only planning to run on Wednesday (6 miles) and Friday (3-4 miles).

Weather conditions look good for the race, around 50-60°F with a slight chance of rain. I’m not planning to carry any water – I will manage with the water/nuun at the aid stations. I will carry some Honey Stinger gummies though!

On my Athlinks profile I’ve listed 1:55 as my goal, which includes a little bit of buffer. If I’m being honest, the goal in my head is actually 1:50, which means a pace of 8:25/mi is required.

The Race Expo is on Friday and Saturday so we’re planning to visit it on Saturday afternoon to pick up our race bibs and shirts.

Check back for a race report next week!