Seven Cold Miles in April

After running  in some pretty balmy temperatures earlier in the week, we got sucker punched with another blast of winter. (Short lived, I hope.)

I proceeded with my mid-week run, breaking out the winter gear once more. Sigh.

Luckily it is starting to get lighter and I can enjoy glimpses of the sun rise, where a month before, I was finishing in the dark (due to DST).

Here’s a glimpse of the sunrise early in the run:

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Another glimpse of the sun towards the end of the run:

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I also got a nice view of a fairly full moon, setting in the west:

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I had planned for 6, but decided to stir-in an extra mile at the end.

7 miles and I was glad to be done.

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Star City Half Marathon

I ran the Star City Half Marathon for the 2nd time on November 23rd. It was the 28th year of this local race and they had record numbers of people turn out this year.

Christine and I have been training for this race since late August. We had put in loads of miles and lots of long runs to get to this race.  We were blessed with no injuries and were able to go out and just run it.

Believe it or not, I had no concrete goal for this race, other than I wanted to have fun and enjoy it, and I wanted to beat my time from last year.  I calculated that if I did at least a 10:30 pace throughout the race, I’d beat my time.  That seemed pretty doable, so I wasn’t too worried.

At the last minute, I decided to carry a camera with me, so was able to capture some of the race course.

Here is Christine and I at the starting line.

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We decided to run our own race, so this was the last time I saw her during the race.

Once the gun went of, we said our good byes and headed out on the first of 3 legs.

The race is separated into 3 stages:

The first stage is a 6 mile loop that takes you through downtown Roanoke…

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…and past the Transportation museum. Then back toward the start.

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During this loop, I caught one of the official race photographers taking photos.

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Here’s the photo he caught:

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At mile 6, I was at 1:01:57.

The second stage was a 4(ish) mile loop that pulls a loong hill up Franklin Avenue, and through an old Southwest neighborhood.  This is the serious hill portion of the race.

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I held back during the first part of the race, so that I could have enough to make it up to the top of the hill and then push on the back side of the course.

Mile 8 signified the peak of the long hill, and then it was (mostly) down hill on the backside, through several neighborhoods.

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The final leg of the race is a fairly flat 3(ish) mile loop on the greenway.  Both years I’ve run this, it has been the toughest section of the race, mainly because near mile 11, they take you past the finish line.  You still have 2 more miles to go, and yet you see people finishing the race.  There are lots of people cheering and celebrating…but not for you.  For me, I just had to put my head down and keep running.

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At this point, I was pushing hard, trying to maintain and increase my pace and just keep going to the end. Once I reached the far end of the loop, I tried pushing even faster toward the end. I passed a bunch of people in the last mile, which turned out to be my fastest mile at a 9:24 pace.

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I ended up shaving 6 minutes off of last years time, coming in at 2:14:31.7.

Christine was only minutes behind me and I barely had enough time to get some water before she crossed the finish line, blowing her time away by 20 minutes.  Astounding!

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We really had fun on this race, but glad that half marathon season is over!

Twenty One

So last year my wife, Christine, and I signed up for a half marathon in Amish country, PA but never got to run it. USRA (who sponsored the event) offered to transfer our registration to this year’s race for free.  After the fiasco last year, we were on the fence on whether or not we wanted to run the race, but decided to go ahead and run it as a training run for another local half marathon that we’re racing on November 23.

The race, the Amish Country Half Marathon, was again set the weekend before our 21st anniversary, so we used the opportunity to celebrate twenty one years as a married couple, as well as run the race.

Absent this year were the weather issues (i.e. tornado and hurricane) and the physical injuries (back problems for me, knee injury for my wife) that plagued the race from last year.

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The weather was beautiful for the race. In the upper 40s with hardly any wind, and there were hot-air balloons taking off just as the sun was coming up.

We decided to run this race together and not worry about time or anything like that. This was just a fun, easy race for us to enjoy and hang out together. 2013_11Nov_020802_ 0449

There were a few nerves before the race started, but once the gun* went off, we settled in and had a good time.

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* Who am I kidding?! There was no gun, no whistle, no indication that the race started–the people in front of us just started running, so we started running.2013_11Nov_020802_ 0451

The first few miles gave us a chance to find our rhythm and enjoy the beautiful scenery…

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…and watch the sun rise over the Pennsylvania farmland.

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It was nice just to run somewhere different. As we’re training for races and just doing our normal runs during the week, we’ve develop a few well-worn running routes in our neighborhood that we typically run over and over again.  The same scenery gets a little boring after a while. 

It was fun for a change to have a lot of visual interest during this race.

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We found a group of people that we naturally fell in with during the first part of the race. They were running about our pace and so we naturally just hung with them for a while.

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We had nicknames for the different runners.  There were a couple of loud ladies that we called "Greenie" and "Blondie" that kept things "interesting" for a while. We were kind of stuck in this group and thought that we’d just keep jockeying with them for the entire race.

Then the magic started happening around mile 6.

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We came to this hill that, at least for us, wasn’t much to talk about.  (Living in South west Virginia, we can find a mountain to run up just by stepping out the front door. Hill workouts are regular fare and are those workouts that we love to hate.)

So we just kept going, but it seemed like the whole rest of the group around us slowed down, so we left Greenie and Blondie and the rest behind us and didn’t see them again until after the race.

Another thing started happening as well, we would see a runner waaay far in the distance, and then they’d get closer and closer and finally we’d be on top of them and pass them.  We picked off 6 or 7 people this way.  This is not a normal occurrence for us.  Usually we’re the ones getting passed during the race.  So it was fun to get to pass other people for a change.

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It was also really fun to run together. We passed the time talking, encouraging one another, mooing at the cows, and throwing bible verses at one another.  The miles kept ticking by.

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At about mile 9, we had completed a circuit and were heading back toward the finish line.  I was running low on water in my water bottle and had planned to refill at a water stop that was coming up. But when we got there, they were out of water.  Both of us were running low on water and were starting to get a little concerned–hoping that there would be 1 more water stop before the finish.

Fortunately at mile 11, there was another (unmanned) water stop with several jugs of water.  We refilled and headed the last 2 miles toward the finish line.

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With the finish line looming ahead, we picked up the pace even more and almost picked off one more runner before the end. She crossed the finish line seconds before we did.  At that point we could’ve passed her, but it would have been obnoxious and rude, so we didn’t.

As far as races go, it was a pretty bare bones affair.  They didn’t have chip timing and barely any volunteers to help with water stops and such. I’m glad we ran it, but don’t really feel the need to do it again.

Finally, a few items of interest from the race:

  • We saw a group of Amish kids with a little wagon being pulled by a miniature horse.
  • We met a lady that was doing 13 half-marathons in 2013.
  • We passed a girl in purple wearing those minimalist toe shoes.
  • I saw an Amish guy helping at one of the water stops that I had seen when I went on a run last year.
  • They played "Eye of the Tiger" as we were lining up at the starting line. It was incredibly cheesy, but also surprisingly inspiring.

It was the most fun half marathon that I’ve run and really enjoyed running it with Christine.  I’m glad that running is a gift that we can share.  I’m looking forward to many more years of running together! Happy Anniversary!

Twenty (Part 2)

Read Twenty (Part 1) for the background. (I know, it is a year late, but whatever…)

Summary: My wife and I trained since summer 2012 to run a half-marathon in Amish country, PA for our 20th wedding anniversary.  The wheels came off this plan when the event was cancelled due to a tornado and Hurricane Sandy.

Additionally, we both suffered injuries only a few days before the event.  Our 20th anniversary wasn’t (quite) what we planned it to be.

Since we still had lodging reservations, we headed up to PA with our running gear and a plan to make the best of our time together.

After driving up Thursday, we got up Friday and drove to the Community center.

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There didn’t appear to be any damage, but a guy walking his dog pointed out the remains of a pavilion that no longer existed.2012_11Nov_021131_05502012_11Nov_021138_0556

There did appear to be some damage from high winds.  We also talked to Dennis Groth, the "road master" of Paradise who confirmed the cancellation of the race.

Putting the disappointment of the cancelled race behind us, Saturday morning we got up and decided to go ahead and do a run along the race course.  However my wife’s knee was causing her too much pain, so she stayed at the house.  I ran a 9 mile route along the race course, which included a bridge that was closed.  Surely they would’ve had to reroute the race.

 Bridge closed aheadCan I get through?  You bet!Man! These roads seem long!

Sunday morning we got up again and my wife felt like we needed to pray for her knee. We did and God healed it right then.  We even got out and ran a 5k route in Amish country.  It was cool seeing God work and completely heal her knee.

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We ended up having a good time in PA, even with the disappointments, it was a great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

Lamb Farm

Last week, I took ~A~ on a field trip with his pre-school class. They went to a lamb farm that was surprisingly close by—within 10 minutes from our suburban home.

Who knew that “Old McDonald” lived so close by.

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In the barn, all the mother sheep and their lambs were pinned up, and the farmer let out a number of the lambs into the throng of preschoolers.  He also handed out bottles of milk to a number of the children so that they could feed the lambs.

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It was apparent the lambs hadn’t been fed yet, by the way they swarmed around those bottles of milk.

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The lambs and sheep had numbers painted on them so that the farmer could keep them paired together.

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~A~ really got into the whole thing and decided he wanted to bring one home.

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