Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Triathlon Charities

So by now everyone has paid their taxes for the year.  And you're thinking "Why do I have to pay so much in taxes?"  Or maybe you're not thinking that and you wish to pay more.  Well, you could do that, but instead, I prefer to decide where more of my dollars are going.  I like to direct some of my monies to charities instead of the Federal and State governments.  Its a win/win.  Give money to whom I choose, give less to Uncle Sam, and feel good about it in the process.  (Maybe that's a win/win/win?)  Anyways I digress . . .

There are thousands of charities out there, but since this is a triathlon blog, I'll keep these triathlon related.  There are probably thousands of triathlon charities as well.  But for this blog I'm going to keep it to my top 5.  These are just 5 of my favorites, and ones that I have personally contributed to.

Bubbles for Bears Link
I found out about this charity because of my fellow Big Sexy Racing teammate Brad.  He is the owner of OSC Wines.  You know them: the distributors of Big Sexy Cabernet and Sparkling wines.  Anyways, he started Bubbles for Bears because of a friend's loss and his daughters love of her teddy bear.  You can read the whole story at the link above.  One great thing about this charity is that you get a bottle of wine!  Hard to beat that.

Miles for Melanoma  (Melanoma Research Foundation) Link
This is another charity that I learned about through a friend.  You can read Nathan's personal story at the link above.  Melanoma is a huge issue that has largely flown under the radar.  As triathletes, we are out in the sun for hours upon hours.  It is important to make sure you are protected.

Team Challenge (Crohn's and Colitis Foundation) Link
Yet another charity because of a friend (well more of an acquaintance, but we're friends now). Most triathletes have seen the Team Challenge kit around big races.  Many people get into races by doing fundraising.  Last year, I got involved by supporting someone who was doing their first Ironman at Chattanooga.  It was a lot of fun to follow their progress.

Multisport Ministries Link
I first found out about Multisport Ministries at the (now defunct) Rev3 South Carolina Half race that I did in 2013.  They organized a prayer before the race.  They do a great job of outreach and talking to people about God.  They post inspirational things on Facebook as well that I follow.

Movember Link
By now I think that everyone is aware of the Movember movement to raise awareness for prostate cancer.  I got involved last year when Big Sexy himself, Chris McDonald, was raising money for the charity and was featured in the Men of Triathlon calendar.

So there are just a few ideas on how you can spend your hard earned cash.  I'm not saying you should, but I'm just trying to be an 'enabler', as they say.   Personally I find it fun and fulfilling to support charities.  I think the key is to find one that strikes a cord with you.  Hopefully one of these fine groups above does that. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Charlotte Racefest Half Marathon Race Report

As I mentioned before, I wanted my 2015 race schedule to replicate my 2014 schedule as much as possible.  So this meant a half marathon in April.  I didn't really want to do the same one again, so I opted for this race in Southpark Charlotte.  This race starts and ends basically in the same place as the Turkey Trot we did last Thanksgiving. Even though this course was somewhat hilly, I had hoped to go faster than my open half time last year.
Nice Shirt

I stopped by on the way home from work on Friday night and picked up my packet (and the packet of a friend).  It was right at Dick's Sporting Goods in Southpark Mall.  It didn't take long to pick up the packet, as it really wasn't a packet, just the race number and the t-shirt.  Traffic coming back on Fairview/Tyvola to I-77 was pretty backed up though.  Saturday morning I headed out about 6:30am and leisurely parked at the Southpark mall.  Now when I do a running race, they seem so logistically simplistic, I feel like I must be forgetting something.
Loop Course

I basically just parked and walked over to the start.  I was a little chilly since I was in my singlet.  I was sans sherpa in the race so I couldn't take a shirt with me.  I ran for about 10 minutes to warm up and did some striders. 
Yup, my Garmin started

The nice thing was that nobody seemed to want to line up right at the start so it was easy to toe the line.  Eventually the gun sounded and I took off.  Like, too fast.
Yeah, a 5:33 first mile is not exactly what I had in the gameplan, but I just got excited and went with it. I actually felt pretty good coming through 5 miles under 30 minutes.  The next mile was slightly downhill and I went sub 6 on that.  

But by then the leader was way gone. In fact he was so far ahead, that I actually had my own pace vehicle after the 10K runners split off.  It felt like I was in the lead, so that was fun.  Except for the times I would catch up to the vehicle and have to start to pass off to the side, and then it would speed up and I would catch a mouthful of CO2. Not as much fun, then.

Then the mile 7 hill came.  It was pretty butal.  I struggled a little up but struggled even more after it.  Just couldn't get legs back churning again for a 6 min pace.  That 6:29 miles was a bit demoralizing.  I recovered some and was able to cruise a 6:04 into mile 9 in 54:21 (6:02 avg).

Then we had to turn onto this "trail".  It was basically an old paved trail in desperate need of repair.
The Dreaded Trail Section
I just couldn't ge any rhythm going.  One turn wasn't marked at all (no volunteers and nothing on the trail).  The trail went straight and I took 3 steps past the turn before I realized I needed to turn.  I guess this was foreboding.  So those next 2 miles killed me, a 6:36 and a 6:31.  There went any hope of a good time.  

Once I got out of the trail I just tried to churn, but couldn't really get it going again and hit mile 12 in 6:12.  The pace vehicle had kinda pulled off as I was passing walkers from the 10K race.

Shoulda taken that Left turn in Albuquerque
So after that I made one more turn and tried to push.  Then after a minute or so the pace vehicle came up and goes "I think you made a wrong turn!".  I'm like what? Crap! What?  I did a U turn and headed back.  I turned right instead of left onto Barclay downs and then got all the way onto Runnymede before turning around.  I must have missed the markings on the road.  There were no signs and no volunteers directing runners.  I looked to the right and saw the police shutting down the street, so I went that way.  Problem was that they were there from the beginning of the race, as this was the first mile of the course.
So I got back onto Barclay and onto the course just as another Half guy was coming to make the turn.  He looks at my yellow bib and is like "Did you take a wrong turn?".  I said yup, how old are you?  Since he wasn't a masters, I felt better.  From my Garmin data, I lost 1 minute and 49 seconds in my wrong way debacle.
So I try to hang with guy, not knowing if he was now in 2nd or 3rd or what.  I made a bit of a push with a half mile to go, but he turned and saw me and just took off.  Stinking young bucks and their leg speed.

So I came though the finish and saw the 1:23 on the clock and it finally sunk it just how much time it had cost me.
So I was officially 1:23:15, for 4th Overall and First Masters.  Full Results Here. So without my 1:49, I could have possibly come home in 2nd place with a 1:21:04.

Oh well, I still would not have broken 1:20 as I had originally dreamed of.  Ironically, I thought that 4th or 5th overall and first masters was attainable.  So I achieved my goal there.
Post Race Refreshments and Awards

I got some bananas at the post race tent and too 1 of my 2 alotted Mich Ultra beers.  Then did a 1 mile cooldown run.   I hung around for the awards and got my money for first masters: $50 check and $50 to Dick's sporting goods.
Overall, I'm not a real big fan of the course (even sans the wrong turn).  I will probably never do this race again.  Although, it is a good time of year and the start, finish, and post race venue is nice.

Bonus Training Mileage
For the most part, on this course, I was happy with the 6:09 Garmin average.  I think I'm in decent shape.  Not the shape for a good Half Iron Triathlon, but we're getting there.  One week of rest and recovery and then we start the next training block before Challenge Knoxville.  The calendar is starting to move more quickly now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Sherpa World Championships

Up until recently I haven't really been a sherpa for someone during their race.  I have been to races and not participated.  I've hung out while waiting for someone to finish.  But I hadn't truly been a Sherpa until last fall at the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon.

Some of the Signs I made

My wife, sister, and a friend were all doing the Half.  I drove them around and ran around the course cheering them on.  It was a pretty fun morning.  The race goes by pretty fast when you are running around all over the place trying to cheer on 3 people running different paces.  But many good lessons were learned.

Some More of the Signs I made

So going into the Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Marathon, I felt pretty confident about the sherpa task at hand.  This was no half marathon, however.  This was the Full Monty.  My sister, Marcie, was running her 10th Marathon.  Yes, 10th.  As an aside, she's got this thing about that.  I ran a marathon first.  So then she did 7 of them.  Then I started doing them again, and closed the gap to 7-4.  Then she has to zip all the way up to 10 to secure her lead. It's a bit immature, but I digress . . .

The Girls before the Trip

Then there is my wife, Laura, and our friend Kary.  This was their very first marathon.  They had not even done any half marathons until the fall of 2013.  But now with 5 half's under their belt, they were ready to mix it up with the big girls.  Then, from the girls' running group was one other girl doing the full, three other girls doing the half, and a couple doing the marathon relay.  So I had some peeps out on the course as they say.

On Friday before the race, I offered a bit of FB encouragement:

The race was on Sunday, so we drove down Saturday morning.  I led the caravan of 4 cars. My parents and Laura's mom came for the weekend as well.  So he headed down with 13 people.  We didn't stop on the way, and had lunch at Which Wich when we got there.  We headed over to the expo.  The girls got their packets and checked out the stuff for sale.  Not a real big expo, so not a lot of stuff to go through.

We headed over to the hotel around 2pm and checked in.  I went for a run, just out to the ocean and back for 8 miles.  We headed over to Longhorns and ate around 5pm.  So a pretty quiet evening as Laura got all her stuff together.  I had her check and recheck to make sure she had everything.

I also put together my sherpa bag.  I use my Ironman Chattanooga backpack.  The straps on the outside work really well to hold rolled up signs.  It has plenty of room to hold whatever clothes, hats and gloves the girls may throw at me.  Since I had 4 girls running the full, 3 girls running the half, and a husband wife team doing the relay, there was the potential for me to have to carry a lot of clothes.
Pre Race Finish Line Pic

I packed my sherpa essentials: Maps, Pace Charts, Camera, food, phone charger battery pack, sunglasses, hat and my signs.  The phone battery charger is my sherpa secret weapon.  Though not as long as an Ironman, I knew I was gonna be out there a while, and that I would be working my phone overtime.

Race Morning
I got up with Laura at 4:30 and walked down to the lobby with her.  They had some coffee made, so I grabbed a cup.  We met up with almost everyone and eventually walked over to the shuttle buses.  It's about a 1/4 mile walk. Unfortunately, the buses were for spectators only.  There was no line, so they didn't have to wait.  I gave my sister, and Laura, and our friend Kay a hug and they hopped on the bus. I waved my sign I made just for the sendoff and I headed back to the hotel.

Shuttle Buses

I hung out in the lobby and had some more coffee.  I grabbed some bananas and stuffed them in my pack.  Soon it was time to head out to the 4 mile mark on Military Cutoff Road.  I had brought one of our old mountain bikes to help me get around the course faster.  It really paid off as I got everywhere quicker and easier than walking or running and really didn't get tired during the race. They start this race early at 6:40am, but there is an early start option, which Laura and Kary took.  They started at 6:15 am.  So it's still kinda dark when they came through the 4 mile mark a little after 7am.  First was Kary, then Laura came.  They all looked pretty good.  Marcie started at 6:40 so she came through after them.
Mile 4

Then I headed back to the hotel.  My youngest son was up, so I went down and ate some breakfast with him.  The rest of the crew met down for breakfast around 8am.  I saw them for a few minutes, but then headed off to the 11 mile mark.
Mile 11

I had originally planned to see them right at 11.  Unfortunately that was in the Landfall neighborhood.  They have a guard at each gate and he wouldn't let me in.  At first he asked me if I was a participant.  At first I thought, well I'm on a bike, so that would make running a marathon easier.  I just said no, and didn't follow up with "you idiot".  So I did say thanks for nothing and headed out around the shopping center to Highway 74 where they were coming out of the neighborhood. 

Mile 11

Marcie came through first around 8:15.  Then Laura and Kary came through together.  I swapped out nutrition bags with Laura. All 3 of them looked really good.  After they passed I headed back to the hotel.  I had a little bit more breakfast as well.  I sat there for a little bit and then realized that Marcie was coming up  on 18, on Military Cutoff Road in front of the hotel.
Mile 18

So I hopped on my bike, and I came out to the main road.  I actually spotted her ahead of me.  So I took off as fast as I could to get ahead of her.  I found my parents about a half mile down and came over and stopped by them.  I told them she was coming up quick.  She said she felt pretty good, and she looked it.  I then headed back to the hotel to get the kids and Laura's Mom.  I roused them out into the car.  My oldest was still asleep, but Kary's son and my youngest all went with me.  We brought some chairs and I got the old folks all setup to see Laura as she came by.
Mile 18

Mile 18

Laura and Kary had the look of 18 miles into their first marathon.  I offered words of encouragement and they seemed to be in good spirits all things considered.  I then took the boys and Laura's Mom to the finish line and set them up on the final stretch to the finish so she could wait there.  Soon Marcie was coming into the finish.
The Final Stretch
She blazed through ahead of her goal pace and finished in 3:46:04! Pretty impressive.  I congratulated here in the finish chute, telling her what a great time she had.  She seemed pretty pleased.  I then headed back to the hotel to get my oldest who was finally up.  I took him to the finish and then hopped back on my bike and headed out to mile 24.
Mile 24
Again I was at the Landfall Gate and couldn't go inside.  As I'm checking my pace chart I see that they are not on pace.  5 minutes go by, then 10, then 15.  I started getting quite worried.  This race has a bunch of time cutoffs throughout the course.  They try and open up different sections of road and clear the draw bridge.  So they have cutoffs at miles 4, 11, 19, 24, and the finish (yes even 24).

Mile 24

So a wave of relief came over me when I finally saw Laura come out of the neighborhood.  She was in a full walk, But she was determined.  She had made all the cutoffs and now she just had to get to the finish.  She had been in a lot of pain, but she wasn't gonna quit.  Kary came through a few minutes after.  She didn't seem to be in such good spirits so I did what I could to cheer her on.
Coming to the Final Stretch

After seeing them go through 24, I texted my sister and headed off toward the finish.  I told everyone they were in the last 2 miles and we got ready to see them.  My son texted me when they came through the 26 mile mark, so I got the camera ready.  They both seemed pretty happy at this point.  They got spurred on the run in the last 100 yards even though they were hurting so much.
The Big Finish

Laura came across first and she just had permagrin across her face.  Kary got kind of emotional when she saw her son.

It really was an amazing moment.  Laura grew up in a very sedentary lifestyle.  For so many years she thought I was crazy for all the running I did.  "How can you like it?" was a common phrase.  I think that at that moment, when she crossed the finish line, and completed a marathon, she was able to open her eyes to a whole new world. I have read that only 0.5% of the US Population has run a marathon.  It is an exclusive club indeed.  There is a feeling you get when you accomplish something that at one time, you thought was impossible.  It is hard to describe, but it is an incredible feeling.
Eventually we got back to the hotel.  Everyone took showers and we headed over to On the Border for a post race celebration and had a really good time.  I watched the kids at the pool again, so we all had a relaxing afternoon before heading back home the next morning.

It is the job of the sherpa to look after their athlete's every want and need.  To double and triple check the race details.  To be a chaeuffer, water boy, and clothes handler.  To report back and update anyone who is interested in their progress.  The Athlete is the rock star.  The sherpa is the stage hand.  The idea is to try and take all the stress and worry out of everything else so they can focus on their race.
Sherpa Mapping
I wore my Garmin watch during the whole race (yeah I'm geeky like that).  I put in 17 miles on foot, bike, and a little bit in the car.  I caught everyone I wanted to see at miles 4, 11, 18, 24, and the finish.  I got pictures on my phone for constant facebook updates all morning long for all 3 girls.  If there was a Kona for sherpas, I'm pretty sure I would have qualified.  But, alas, there is not. This was my "A" sherpa race, and I nailed my World Championships.