Ragnar Trail Angel Fire – leg #1 – Angel Fire, NM (2015)

The Charlotte crew of our team flew into New Mexico on Wednesday night to give us plenty of time to pick up the cars, get organized and settle in before the rest of our teammates flew in the next morning. We made our obligatory stop at REI the next morning to pick up a couple of camp chairs and other essentials before heading to a local Walmart to stock up on food for our condo. The Angel Fire race is apparently one of the two trail races where you can actually stay in a hotel / condo / house and still be within walking distance of the village, so we got a condo for the 8 of us so that we could eat real meals between our running. Plus, a warm place to sleep and a shower are never bad things to have during a race in the mountains. We stopped outside of Santa Fe for lunch and found some dinosaurs!

We actually saw the dinosaurs from the highway and as soon as we decided to stop for lunch, we knew we had to go find them. They’re outside of what looked like a mechanic’s shop, so we just parked beside some other vehicles and wandered around for awhile, until it started to rain on us (a preview of things to come!). 

It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Angel Fire, but the check-in process was super easy and we were on our way to the condo to unpack and get our last full night’s sleep before the race. The one thing we didn’t realize about the condo was that it was four floors! The shared shower was down on the second floor and there were four of us sharing the top floor, with the living room and kitchen on the third floor – just walking up the steps with our suitcases was a challenge now that we were at 8,500′ elevation. We all came from just a couple hundred feet elevation, so we knew this was going to be a challenge for us throughout the race weekend.

I was our lead runner and we were set to start at 1:00pm. I was down at the village early to volunteer for our team, so I was there in plenty of time to see the first teams start off at 11 and the second group start at 12 and before long, it was just about time for me to get started… and then there was lightning! We ended up with a 2-hour delay for our start, but we were allowed to just start late and didn’t have to skip any runners (the teams that had already started had to skip the next two runners). So, I used the extra time to eat some more food and we all put on our Ragnar tattoos. Then, at 3:00, I was in a large group of runners and away we went!

I started off on the Green loop, which was the shortest loop at only 3.6 miles. All of the loops had hills to them, but the Green loop started out with a significant downhill portion. That partnered with the fact that there were so many other people on the course meant that I was flying for the first mile.

  • Mile 1: 8:56
  • Mile 2: 11:00
  • Mile 3: 15:11
  • Last .6: 8:32
I knew after the first mile that I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace, but I also knew I had some hills coming, so I figured I could bank some time for when I had to walk, which didn’t take too long. There were a lot of people walking the uphill to mile 3 and we commented that this wasn’t a good sign of things to come on the Red loop. 
I don’t think anyone on our team got any pictures of the Green loop, but we wandered down a dirt road, along a smaller bike trail, then off-trail onto a patch of mowed grass before heading to run on the road against traffic and then back off road and up, up, uphill. The Yellow loop merges with the Green loop somewhere on the uphill and stays together through the rest of the course, eventually joining with the Red loop on the steep downhill section. I passed 12 people on the Green loop, but I was almost caught at the very end. I had a really good pace going down the hill, but there was a section where we had to go up and down steps as we went through the Angel Fire Resort where I slowed down before we ended up back on the sidewalk that lead back to the transition tent. I was going as fast as I could down the sidewalk and I could hear one of the guys I had passed on the downhill coming up from behind me.
We gave each other high-fives after we finished, him just a few seconds behind me. I told him I could hear him catching up to me and I wasn’t going to let him pass me. It’s great to get pushed at the end of the race and still have the energy to make yourself go faster! After we got our second runner onto the course, my teammates met me and asked me how I thought it went – the picture sums it up best!
 Up next: leg 2, my overnight run on the Red loop.

The Bear – Linville, NC (2015)

This was my forth year running the Bear and this time around, I didn’t really do any training for it. I spent most of my spring working on hiking with a couple of half marathons thrown in, but no hill work or focus on this race at all. This is always a tough race but apparently I forget how bad it is every year, because I keep coming back. The race starts out at 3,654′ and raises to 5,292′ for an elevation gain of 1,762′! 

I started out in the middle of the pack again this year and it seemed a lot more crowded than I remember – there were people everywhere! I’m not sure if I started up farther in the group this time or if the number of runners who were trying to run around the same pace as I was increased, but it seemed to take a lot longer for the crowd to thin out this time around. 

I always know that miles 3-5 are going to be pretty terrible because that’s the steepest part of the race, but I figured I would just run as fast as I could until that point and then walk when I had to. I’m not sure if it was my lack of focused preparation this year or if I finally paid attention, but those first 2 miles aren’t very easy either! I didn’t even make it a mile into the race before I was questioning why I kept doing this race – I was having to walk, I was too hot and it was just overall tough! 

As I got around the 2.5 mile mark, I remembered why I did the race – around this point, you come up to McRae Meadow where the Highland Games are held and all of the Scottish clans are out cheering everyone on, there’s always 1-2 bagpipe players and it’s a great atmosphere as you round the track and head up to the steepest section of the race. Coming through this area was just what I needed to get pumped for the rest of the race – my fastest mile came in this section, and not only because it was a quarter of a mile on a flat track. I walked a lot of the last two miles, running on the straight sections where I could, but mentally it was a lot better than those first two miles.

3 miles in, getting ready to run to the top of that mountain
  • Mile 1 – 12:53
  • Mile 2 – 12:32
  • Mile 3 – 11:46
  • Mile 4 – 15:11
  • Mile 5 – 11:11 (this was only clocked as .72 miles on my Garmin, which would really make that around 14:54)

Official time: 1:03:42

Registration for the 2016 race goes on sale in February but I’ve already decided I’ll be back again next year!

Yellowstone Half Marathon – West Yellowstone, MT (2015)

Since the race started at 8:00, I got to sleep in for a bit and headed out of the hotel around 7:15. It was really easy to get to the start, though there was a bit of a traffic backup to get into the parking lot. It didn’t take terribly long to get into the grass lot and then I headed to the start line to put my ticket in for the giveaways before the race. It was warmer for the Yellowstone start than the Grand Teton start, which was good because there wasn’t a tent to hide under this time.

The race seemed to be bigger than the Grand Teton race, but it could have just been the fact that we had to back into the finish line corral since the start and finish were only a few hundred yards apart. The race was listed as a trail run, so I actually went out and bought new trail shoes for this race. I needed to get some anyway since I’ve got the Ragnar Angel Fire race at the end of August, but since I only found out this was a trail race about two weeks before I left (not sure how I missed that communication!), I didn’t have much time to break in the shoes. I ended up getting them in time to do a short (1.5 mile) trail run around Charlotte before I left and I went up an extra half size from what was initially recommended just to make sure I would have enough room in the toe box.

The run started out on the road near the airport in West Yellowstone and after about a mile, we moved onto an actual trail. This section of the course was definitely too small for how many people were running. It didn’t help that there had been rain throughout the previous week, so there were some really big puddles and mud that everyone ran around. While I was glad to finally get on the trail, it was disappointing to see everyone destroying the plants and surrounding trail.

Eventually, it did start to space out a bit, especially during the brutal uphill starting at mile 5.

During this section, all I could think of is “the ants go marching two by two” – needless to say, there was a lot of walking during this part of the race!

The good news is that since there was such a big uphill, eventually we got to come back down that hill and I was able to pick up some time in mile 8. Unfortunately, the hills along with the uneven terrain killed my legs. The most scenic part of the race came in the last 5 miles or so when we ended up wandering around a road above the river.

Instead of doing an official run / walk for this race, I just ran when I could and then walked when I had to (especially during that major hill). This seems to work pretty well for me in races that have a lot of hills, tough terrain or when I’m not trying to go for a specific finish time.
  • Mile 1 – 10:29
  • Mile 2 – 10:54
  • Mile 3 – 11:21
  • Mile 4 – 10:33
  • Mile 5 – 10:51
  • Mile 6 – 13:35
  • Mile 7 – 11:57
  • Mile 8 – 10:48
  • Mile 9 – 12:04
  • Mile 10 – 11:50
  • Mile 11 – 11:51
  • Mile 12 – 11:43
  • Last 1.1 – 10:56

Official time: 2:29:45

Apparently this worked well for me, because I finished this race 5 minutes faster than the Grand Teton half. I think the fact that I had been at elevation for over a week made a major impact, but I was still working with tired legs (from June 7-13 I did 83 miles, mostly hiking), so it was surprising to be able to finish this race faster.

The view from the finish line parking lot was still as good in the daylight, as it was the night before!

The race also provided free finish line photos again for this race.

After the views in the Grand Teton race, Yellowstone was a little bit of a letdown. I think I got a little spoiled with all the awesome mountain views in the tetons which made it easy to forget I was running along traffic and a dusty dirt road for most of that race. Other than the river near the end of the race, we were mostly on an overgrown road (it looked like an old road that 4-wheel drive vehicles occasionally drove over – big ruts for tires and then overgrown grass in the middle). 

I loved the combo of these two races – it gave me an excuse to get out west and check out  some awesome places that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to (at least not this year). Plus, although I didn’t initially sign up for the Grizzly Double (for half marathons in back-to-back weekends), I was able to add-on the extra shirt and medal.

Grand Tetons Half Marathon – Jackson, WY (2015)

Saturday morning was an early morning (5:30am) to get ready for the race and be outside in time to catch the shuttle to the start line. My roommate, Franci, and I went out to the main parking lot and waited, and waited, and found some other people to wait with, started chatting, wondering if we were in the right place to catch the buses, started to get a little worried that somehow we had all missed the buses and then 5 huge school buses pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way to the start line!

The starting line was a great setup for the weather and number of people at the race – there were a ton of porta-potties and a heated tent so that we could get out of the cold morning air. There were also drawings every 5-10 minutes for random prizes, most including a digital image package and the grand prize being a free entry to another Vacation Races event in the next year.

  • Mile 1 – 10:57
  • Mile 2 – 10:51
  • Mile 3 – 10:03
  • Mile 4 – 10:45
  • Mile 5 – 10:58
  • Mile 6 – 11:34
  • Mile 7 – 11:28
  • Mile 8 – 10:16
  • Mile 9 – 12:19
  • Mile 10 – 12:37
  • Mile 11 – 12:15
  • Mile 12 – 14:41
  • Last Mile – 11:56

Official time: 2:35:19

The scenery for this race was amazing! The race had an overall elevation gain of a little over 400′ but with the elevation change coming from the east coast, I felt winded pretty early in the race (I was told to expect this, but it’s still a little bit of a shock when it happens). I did a 4:1 run / walk ratio again, starting after the first mile and adjusting for the times when I stopped to take fun pictures – miles 9-12 were the most scenic part and I definitely stopped to take lots of pictures.

The finish line festival was at a local golf club and we got free pictures from the race photographer with our medals (above). The finish line festival was relatively small, but as you came across the finish line, there was an announcer who tried to get everyone’s name as they came in and after getting our medals, we went into another tent that had our boxes of goodies, bananas, water / Nuun and lots of folding chairs to sit down if you wanted to. Since this was a point-to-point race, this was also where we could pick up our drop bags. After grabbing some food, I headed back outside, got my free finisher picture and randomly saw some guys holding a “You’re in Steelers Country” sign and I immediately ran over and asked if I could photobomb their picture! They were happy enough to oblige and as soon as I got my picture, another woman came over and asked if she could get her picture too because she was blogging about her experience for UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). 

After the race, I caught back up with Franci and found out she had gotten 3rd place in her age group and beat me by about 5 minutes! The age group winners got a gold / silver / bronze version of the same medal that everyone received and they looked really awesome!

The only complaint I have about the race is the miles that we were on the dirt road, while they had sprayed to try to cut down on the dust, it wasn’t closed to traffic, so it made it hard to breathe when a vehicle would pass and kick up a bunch of dust. Plus, about a mile or less from the finish line, I had a bus do about a 15-point turn in the middle of the road in front of me which required me to stop until he got situated and facing the other direction. That part was really frustrating since the bus driver could clearly see that there were runners still coming down the road and because this was someone that the race organization had hired (the buses took us back to the start line / original pick-up location).

Overall, I would definitely do this race again, if nothing else to have another excuse to head back to the Tetons! 

Run! Ballantyne 8k – Charlotte, NC (2015)

This was my fifth time running this race, but the first time they were offering an 8k distance. Last year, I finally broke an hour doing the 10k, and, similar to last year, I haven’t been training for this distance. I did the Elizabeth 8k a little over a month ago and that one I just ran for fun with a friend for her birthday, so this time around, I wanted to see how fast I could go. I was hoping to get down around 45 minutes. The weather was good for the race, in the low 50’s with a bit of humidity (welcome to the south), and there were a lot of people from my company running both the 5k and 8k options, so I knew a lot of runners out on the course.

  • Mile 1 – 9:11
  • Mile 2 – 8:46
  • Mile 3 – 9:09
  • Mile 4 – 9:04
  • Mile 5 – 8:55
Average pace: 8:59
Official time: 45:19
Most of the first mile was uphill and then the second mile, we got to come back down those hills, so my second mile was easily faster than my first, even with a water stop. I had been debating before the race weather I wanted to wear my hydration belt or not and I decided to just take one GU before the race and use the water stops. Given my goal, I decided I wasn’t going to use the run / walk method and just see how fast I could go and then take a walk break as needed. It ended up working well for me because I was able to recover at the water stops and not use a full minute break which helped keep my time down. 
The course change this year was a much better solution than the 10k the previous two years. Last year, we had to do the 5k course twice (the turnaround was almost at the top of a hill) and for us middle-of-the-pack folks, we got to run through the walkers from the 5k which started after our race (not sure exactly how long after). This year, the only problem area was where the 10k doubled back on itself and the lead runners had to weave through the rest of us since there was no one directing people to stay to the outside around the turns. The lead female actually was yelling out asking where she was supposed to go because there were only a couple of guys in front of her and a whole throng of people coming towards her. By the time I ended up at that same corner, there were only a handful of people coming through, so it was much easier for my section of runners to navigate. 
The other part I was impressed with was the parking availability. This year, since the starting line had moved to a new location, we parked in a different section of the Ballantyne Corporate Park and they were all surface lots, so it was much easier to get in and out of than the parking garages we used the past few years. I will admit, I was skeptical that people would be able to get parked without having to wait in long lines because there was only really one entrance to each of the parking lots open. There was a bit of a back-up to get into the first parking lot, but because I knew where the second one was, I just went down the road a little bit and easily got into the second lot. 
Overall, this a good, family-friendly race and because the course is fairly looped, it’s a good course for spectators too.

Country Music Half Marathon – Nashville, TN (2015)

Apparently this race is not called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville race (even though it is a Rock ‘n’ Roll event held in Nashville), but regardless of the name, we got to wander through the streets of Nashville and go up (and up and up and up) all of the hills around town too! My Garmin actually had the elevation gain at 574′ while we lost 593′ so while it apparently felt like we went up forever and never came back down, that was not the actual case.

Thursday, I headed to the expo, and again I found it to be very well organized, and rather quiet, especially given the number of people who were wandering the downtown streets of Nashville. By Thursday, the weather had changed from rain to potential serious thunderstorms and the possibility of tornados and Friday didn’t bring much of a change to that, though we did start receiving updates from Rock ‘n’ Roll about when we would know more about the severe weather plans, with a final update planned for 5:00am Saturday morning. Friday night was a big hockey night, so I knew I might be staying up later than I normally would before a race, so I laid out all of my clothes, filled my water bottles & put them back in the fridge so they would be cold, realized that I didn’t have my bib belt (safety pins to the rescue!) and tried to figure out what to wear after the race, since it was likely going to be raining the entire time.

When my alarm went off around 4:45am Saturday, the weather report changed to rain around race start time (7:00am) followed by lots of clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Since I was on my own for this race, and because I was staying at a hotel near Opryland, I opted to take the shuttle down to the start line. It was an extra $20, but meant that I didn’t have to figure out parking at LP Field or how to get to the bag check / start line from there. There were 3 shuttle options and I decided to aim for the middle one just in case I got there a bit late, I would still have one more option. I ended up on the 5:15am shuttle and made it to the bag check line before 6:00. Since I still had an hour before the race was scheduled to start, I headed into the first hotel I saw and just killed some time, ate a peanut butter bar and used their indoor bathroom before gathering my stuff to head out to bag check and on to the start line. As I was breaking out my throwaway rain jacket (kept me warm at the start line, but mostly unnecessary), I realized that while I had packed my water belt, my water bottles that I had so meticulously prepared the night before, were still in the refrigerator in my hotel room… so much for planning ahead! The good news was that I still had my GU, so I could still fuel during the race, but I would just have to rely on the water stops instead of using my water bottles.

I found my corral pretty easily and had about 15 minutes to kill before the race would start, so I found a corral 19 volunteer and she graciously allowed me to take a picture of her sign in front of a beautiful church.

It took us about 30 minutes (maybe a little less) to get to the start line, but since we were standing on a hill, it made for an interesting picture of downtown Nashville as we moved toward the start – this is just one corral in front of me.

Soon enough, my corral was at the start line, and I was able to position myself right near the front of the corral, which is something I highly recommend trying at some point. It’s a little like being in the front row of a roller coaster – you get a whole different perspective than those who are in the middle!

After a short countdown, we were off! It was fairly flat in this section and we went down a few blocks, made a turn and then headed back up the hill we were all originally waiting on. When I was in the corral, I was on the far end of the road, so I couldn’t really see any of the leaders coming through, but it was fun to double-back on the starting corrals like that because you got an immediate boost from those who were still waiting to get to start their race.

  • Mile 1 – 11:19
  • Mile 2 – 10:31
  • Mile 3 – 10:19
  • Mile 4 – 10:37
  • Mile 5 – 10:15
  • Mile 6 – 10:13
  • Mile 7 – 12:14
  • Mile 8 – 10:32
  • Mile 9 – 10:40
  • Mile 10 – 10:56
  • Mile 11 – 10:08
  • Mile 12 – 12:01
  • Mile 13 – 10:45
  • Last .27 – 8:50

Average Pace: 10:47
Official Time: 2:22:42

I don’t have any particular reason that I can think of that mile 7 was so much slower than my other miles, but I do know that once during one of the water stops, I stopped to take in a full GU, so that could have been it. It was definitely more challenging to coordinate my GU intake with the available water stops. Instead of being able to do my 4:1 ratio and basically ignore the water stops, I had to plan ahead to start taking the GU as I approached a water stop. I did make the mistake of trying to take a GU without water early in the race, but that was quickly thrown out once I realized it was really hard to swallow without some water! Definitely not the end of the world, but I certainly prefer to have my water belt with me instead.

As we were cresting our last hill, we were treated by this guy giving high fives and encouraging runners to finish the last hill before we went across the bridge and headed into LP field. 

After crossing the final bridge, we made a quick turn down to LP Field. The biggest letdown of the day was that there was no “finish line” – there were two timing mats and then a bunch of people standing around, but nothing really to indicate that the race was now over. I feel really bad for the first-timers – there’s nothing like heading toward the finish line of your first race and this one was basically just run until there’s a wall of people and then you know you’re done.

The weather turned out to be great for the race! It was actually a little warm for me (mid-60’s) and I definitely didn’t pack any sunscreen in my drop bag, so after wandering around the festivities at LP Field, I had the medics give me some ice for my knee and then grabbed a shuttle back to the hotel. Most people who had hotel rooms in downtown opted to take the bridge back downtown and I did wander over that way a little bit and got a picture of the full stadium.


The shirt design for this race followed the themes of the others, featuring a country musician including cowboy hat, guitar and microphone and the finishers medal features cowboy boots and guitar strings. One unique benefit of this particular race was a concert by Martina McBride on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. I’m not really a country music fan, so I opted for other activities, but I saw some pictures from the concert and everyone who went seemed to have a good time.

Nashville was definitely a happening place while I was there. Broadway street was packed from the time I arrived Thursday afternoon well through our race Saturday night and even where I was up near Opryland, there were tour buses and people everywhere. You can definitely find things to do in Nashville! Tune in later this week for a recap of my tourist time in Nashville.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh half marathon – Raleigh, NC (2015)

Going into my second Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I had heard all about the hills. They were certainly consistent – lots of ups and downs on this course, but none like the one we had in DC which forced us into a walk to reach the top. 

But, let’s back it up a little bit and talk about the expo. I haven’t been to downtown Raleigh since the NHL All-Star Game in 2011, but I recognized a lot of the buildings as we were making our way to the Convention Center for the expo. Unfortunately  this time, there were no hockey player ads in the business’ windows, but Sir Walter Raleigh was dressed in a race bib, knee brace and guitar!

The expo was a little smaller than DC and there were a lot of similar vendors, but we had fun checking out all of the booths. We didn’t arrive at the expo until about an hour before they were closing and, again, it wasn’t very crowded. This race had about half of the runners of DC, so we were able to start in corral 13 this time, even with the same expected finish time.

There were three of us that took the trek to Raleigh and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend instead of having to rent a hotel room, but this meant we would need to make sure we got into the city before the roads started closing. Our instructions told us we needed to be parked by 5:30 since the roads would start closing at 6:00 for the 7:00 start time. Last year, there were a lot of issues with the parking in Raleigh, so some changes were made (including not paying until you exited the garage instead of on the way in) and we had no trouble getting into the first garage we went to and were able to park on the second level. Given the cooler morning temperature, we decided to stay in our car until we had to leave to drop off our stuff at gear check. 

Around 6:20, we gathered our stuff and headed out to find our way to gear check… and promptly got lost. We were in the right general vicinity of where we needed to be, but the signs weren’t as plentiful this time and we weren’t exactly sure where we were headed, so we took an extra block out of our way before heading the right direction. The gear check ended up being in its own parking lot (with its own set of porta-potties), very close to the finish line festival. Once we got everything dropped off, we headed back to the start and realized that we were going to be cutting it close to the start time, so we just walked against the crowd so that as the corrals were released, we wouldn’t miss ours. We easily found our corral, got someone to take our picture and then got ready to run!

  • Mile 1 – 10:01
  • Mile 2 – 10:35
  • Mile 3 – 10:31
  • Mile 4 – 10:53
  • Mile 5 – 10:43
  • Mile 6 – 11:04
  • Mile 7 – 11:20
  • Mile 8 – 11:51
  • Mile 9 – 11:18
  • Mile 10 – 11:09
  • Mile 11 – 11:58
  • Mile 12 – 11:55
  • Mile 13 – 11:23
  • Last .2 – 9:02
Average pace: 11:05
Official time: 2:27:30

After we finished, we gathered back together at the gear check area and eventually wandered toward the finish line festival where Smashmouth was the headliner. One of my friends was running the marathon, so I only heard the beginning of one of their songs before I headed back out to the course to cheer on the runners, but not before taking an obligatory post-race medal picture.

By the time I made my way to the street, we were approaching the 4-hour mark from the start of the race and the crowd had definitely thinned out a bit from the time I had finished. The good part about that was that the announcers were able to do a more personal “welcome” for all the runners who were coming to the finish line and at one point, I heard them say, “I hope those are tears of joy because you are officially a marathoner!” It was really inspiring to see all of the people coming in – the official “caboose” ladies who were walking with balloons bringing in the last of the half marathoners and the marathoners who were sometimes coming in groups of 3-5, but mostly coming in alone. (Keep in mind, all of these people were running at least 1.5-2 minutes faster per mile than I’m planning for my second marathon.) There was a woman in her 60’s who was kicking it at the end and definitely brought lots of loud cheers from the crowd as well as a woman who had clearly fallen at some point during the race because her knees and elbows were bleeding. At races like this, you’ll see all levels of people. When we were coming into the last mile or so of the half marathon, we got passed by the two lead male marathoners – the first place guy finished his marathon just 13 minutes slower than I finished the half marathon! I wasn’t sure which corral my friend started in, and I didn’t really know when he would be finishing, but he came in at the 4:22 mark, averaging a 10:01 pace which is a great accomplishment on a course as tough as this one – the hills may not have been super steep, but they were unrelenting. We were able to catch up a bit before going our separate ways and talk about all of the crazy races we have coming up (Nashville for me and an ultra relay for him).

Overall, I liked this race, but I could see it being a really tough course if it was any warmer (like it was last year) because there are sections that don’t have much, if any, shade. There was fairly good crowd support throughout the race, and while there still weren’t many bands (less than DC, but a few more boom boxes on the side of the road), I think it’s a good race. We’ll see if there are any more bands in the Nashville race, but as a whole, I think Pittsburgh had more bands than either of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races I’ve done so far. I think they’re a nice-to-have on the course, but I can see why some people get upset considering these races appear to be built upon the presence of music on the course. I’ve also heard a couple of complaints about the t-shirt design (it’s a squirrel holding a banjo, in case you can’t tell from the picture) – Raleigh is the “City of Oaks” so it does make some sense and I think it’s pretty funny, but clearly not everyone feels the same.

Have you done the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh race?

Elizabeth 8k (2015)

Rock ‘n’ Roll DC was a girls getaway weekend to celebrate two birthdays and the icing on the cake, so to speak, was an 8k race on March 21 which was my friend’s actual birthday, so of course we had to sign up for that too! As promised, I brought a balloon for her to wear during the race and we stuck together through the whole thing. It ended up being a lot hillier than I was expecting, but in Charlotte, sometimes it’s hard to get away from the hills!

  • Mile 1 – 9:50
  • Mile 2 – 10:24
  • Mile 3 – 10:08
  • Mile 4 – 11:25
  • Mile 5 – 10:47
Overall pace: 10:27
Official time: 53:16
Overall, I liked the race and I’d definitely consider doing it again next year – there was a finish line festival and while there were a lot of runners (620 finishers), the course never felt crowded and it still felt like a really intimate local race with easy access to parking and the post-race party was within walking distance of several restaurants. Plus, Elvis was there to get the party started and hand out the awards at the finish!

2015 Race #3: Rock ‘n’ Roll DC

Was it going to rain, was it going to just be cloudy or would we luck out and get a sunny spring day for the race? Those were the questions that my friends and I kept going over as we prepared to fly to Washington, DC last weekend. The good news is that the weather cooperated for 2 of our 3 days in DC… the bad news is that the day it didn’t cooperate was the day we were running! For 2 of us, it would be our first Rock ‘n’ Roll race, so we were excited to get to the city and see what all of the hype has been about. If you ask my friends, they will probably make fun of me for how I critique the races for their logistic planning (or lack thereof in some cases), so they were interested to see if Rock ‘n’ Roll could hold up to my standards – and they certainly didn’t disappoint! 

The race expo was held in the convention center and was very well laid out. We went early Friday afternoon, so we were a little concerned that it might be pretty crowded, and while there were a lot of people there, I never felt claustrophobic or that there wasn’t enough room to get into the booths I was interested in checking out. One of our friends was working the expo and directed us to register to win a free trip / entry to RnR Dublin (yes, please!). Overall, I think we all made it out of the expo without spending too much, other than picking up a few last-minute things for the race (yay cheap gloves!) – I picked up some St. Patrick’s day-themed half marathon temporary tattoos for race day and a couple new Bondi Bands. I also registered to win an entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon / Half Marathon for the second time (I originally tried at the Thunder Road expo) and I still didn’t win, but I think that’s okay. This race will definitely end up on my bucket list, but not running it this year won’t be the end of the world. Those of us who were running the half marathon also decided to move to the same corral so that we could all run together, so we decided to meet in the middle of our assigned corrals and start in #20 (out of 31).

The rest of Friday was spent getting organized, picking up ponchos for the race start and eating some Italian food. Race morning came, and of course, it was raining, but it did go from 100% chance of rain for the entire morning to lessening after an hour or so and while it was cold, it was only raining a little bit, so I did appreciate that it wasn’t a total downpour. Since the race start and finish lines were about 4 miles apart, there were UPS trucks for everyone to drop their stuff off in and luckily all of our names are in the first half of the alphabet, so we didn’t have far to go to get to our assigned trucks and then head over to the corrals. The race officially started at 7:30, but our corral started right around 8:00.

  • Mile 1 – 11:03
  • Mile 2 – 10:49
  • Mile 3 – 11:09
  • Mile 4 – 11:09
  • Mile 5 – 20:29 <– bathroom break
  • Mile 6 – 11:04
  • Mile 7 – 12:03
  • Mile 8 – 11:07
  • Mile 9 – 10:36
  • Mile 10 – 11:29
  • Mile 11 – 11:06
  • Mile 12 – 11:06
  • Mile 13 – 10:32
  • Last .43 – 13:08 <– probably not accurate… I don’t think I stopped my watch when I crossed the finish line

Overall pace: 11:58

Official time: 2:36:43

The course was fairly hilly, including a pretty steep one around mile 6 that luckily had a lot of crowd support as it was the designated Blue Mile that paid tribute to fallen service members with large poster boards with their pictures and information on them as well as volunteers holding flags for each person. 

As we came into the finish line, we started picking up the speed and as I did, I hit one of my water bottles and knocked it out of my water belt, so I’m now down one water bottle!. 🙁 After the race, we headed over to pick up our gear and then we made our way to the closest Metro station and had about a 30 minute wait until we were able to get on the train. That was definitely the worst part of the day and we were all pretty cold and miserable by the time we made it back to the hotel. The race swag was pretty good, with a nice tribute to the Lincoln Memorial on the front of the medal.

Tune in tomorrow for a picture tour of my trip to the DC mall and an unexpected St. Patrick’s Day parade! 

2015 Race #2: Super Bowl 4-miler

Who doesn’t love a themed race? This one was the day of the Super Bowl and during registration you could pick your favorite football team which would be the color of your race bib. I saw lots of Pittsburgh race bibs on Super Bowl Sunday and of course, lots of Carolina bibs as well. The race started and finished beside the Bank of America stadium and wandered around Charlotte’s downtown for 4 miles – because there’s 4 downs in a game, so clearly it should be a 4 mile race! 

I was running with one of my soccer friends and she kept me moving! Even though we started off going downhill, there were so many people around that our first mile ended up being our slowest of the day. Throughout the hills, we kept a pretty constant pace, only walking once for water and again near the very top of the last steep hill (hence the 9:24 for mile 3). During the last mile, we had a pretty long uphill, but we powered through that to finish with an 8:45 final mile! I still didn’t finish in a sprint, but I was able to lengthen my stride a bit as we came up to the Touchdown line. It was a hard race and I’m not sure the last time I ran that fast for that long – it’s definitely been a few months. 

After the race, we stuck around for a little while waiting for our other friends to finish the race, grabbed some of the free race grub and cheered on everyone else who was coming through the finish line. I had some knee pain after the race, so I iced it for awhile and headed to watch the finale of our winter indoor women’s soccer league. The championship game was a really good game and ended in an OT thriller! 

While it doesn’t quite fit into the category of holiday races, it was a fun way to start the Super Bowl Sunday. Have you ever done a sports-themed running event?