2 vans, 12 runners, 28 hours, 208 miles, and lived to….

16 09 2009

What a great running weekend.  For the second year in a row, I got to participate in the Blue Ridge Relay this past Friday & Saturday.  The race is a unique relay that starts in the Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and ends in Downtown Asheville, NC.  Teams range from 6 people to 12 and it usually takes 24 – 34 hours.  This year, I was a member of Triple M.A.D Punch for the second year in a row and had so much fun!

Blue Ridge Relay 2009 052

At the end of my first leg, with sunscreen in my eyes. ouch.

Ours is a 12-person team.  We’re split into two teams and have two vans that get us from leg to leg of the race.  I drove van 2 this year so we started on Friday around lunch.  I was running leg 10.  My first leg was an 8.2 mile leg that covered about a 2600 ft. elevation gain.  I’d spent the last 6 weeks or so doing some pretty gnarly hill training with Eric, a friend and fellow member of the team, so I felt pretty good about the run.  But dude, it was hot and about half way into it, the heat got to me.  The scenery is always awesome on this run and I really enjoy it.  As usual, a couple of dogs ran along with me for part of the leg.   I passed on to my partner and finished the leg in 1:10.39 at an 8:24 average pace.  Whew.

We finished our first set of legs and got to have dinner in Blowing Rock, which is a cool town.  I recommend it to anyone who’s ever in the NC Mountains.  It was cool and the food at the restaurant was good.  Glidewell’s has great sweet potato fries and the servers were really accommodating.

We got to our next exchange point and expected to get a few hours nap before Van 1 arrived to hand back off to us.  We knew we were running a bit ahead of our expected pace, but we weren’t sure if the evening would bring a slow down.  I got about a half hour nap before we were being woken up.  Van 1 had smoked it!

Eric prepping for his night leg.  Yes - it is that cool.

Eric prepping for his night leg. Yes - it is that cool.

My leg two was scheduled to be run at about 1 am.  Yep – 1 am.  There is nothing in the world like strapping a headlamp on, attaching blinking LEDs to your body and barreling off into the darkness in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. Frankly, the beginning of the night leg is always quite creepy, but once I settle in, there’s not many experiences like it. Every sound is amplified, both external and internal. You feel your breathe more succinctly and even in the perfect darkness, your vision sharpens. Leg two was a 6-miler that I finished at a 7:53 pace.

After we finished our second leg, we turned it back over to Van 1 and headed to the final exchange zone to try to catch more than 1/2 of sleep.  It took about 45 minutes to get to the church where we would camp, but I was so glad to find it.  We got there around 2:30 am and we actually got to sleep for about 4 hours.  Most everyone camped out under the stars.  I slept in the van.

Jess crushing it on her first leg - and that's with almost no training!

Jess crushing it on her first leg - and that's with almost no training!

My last leg was a short one, 4.2 miles, fairly flat till the end, with a little uphill, but it kicked my butt!  I guess being cramped in a van for 24 hours before, eating mostly all snacks (lots of peanut butter, power bars, gummy bears and almonds) plus two longer runs in the previous time had its affect on me.  Finished it in 33 minutes, 7:53 pace.

This event is so much fun, but there is no feeling like finishing your last leg and handing the bracelet off to your partner for the last time.  That is a GREAT feeling.  Eric brought it home, running down the mountain and into Asheville just before noon.  All-in-all, we finished in 27 hours, 54 minutes, 24th out of about 100 teams, over an hour faster than last year, which is awesome – except that it sets us up for higher expectations in 2010.

Triple M.A.D. Punch - Postrace and happy, 27 hours later!

Triple M.A.D. Punch - Postrace and happy, 27 hours later!

The celebratory lunch at the Mellow Mushroom was awesome and everyone was in great spirits, which is more than I can say at some points in the run, especially during those big climbs.  For my money, this is a great run.  It’s well organized for the most part, the volunteers are super-friendly, and the churches and fire departments that host the exchange zones are so hard-working and nice.  If you’re looking for something different, something fun and a new challenge, check out the Blue Ridge Relay.


It’s like slowly focusing the lens until it all becomes clear

24 08 2009

So four weeks back into running after yet another stress fracture and the miles are coming back, and i’m finding new challenges in my runs, and most importantly, i’m beginning to discover the joy in each run again.  Now that’s despite the hottest temperatures of the summer over the past two weeks and some seriously crazy runs leading up to the blue ridge relay in just under 3 weeks.  For the last two Saturdays, Eric and I have gone out and done some ridiculous hill training runs, averaging around 10 miles and a total cumulative elevation gain of a few thousand feet.  oof.

I’m fascinated by how important actual events have become in my running life, and in turn, in the focus i’m available to maintain in other aspects of my life.  I suppose this goes back to my belief that the process is as important, if not more important, than the race is to me.  For so long, I’ve never considered myself a very disciplined person.  I have a tendency to bounce from project to project, to switch topics several times in conversation, pick up three to four books at a time…you get the picture.

My mind is almost always racing.  It’s often that I feel like I wake up, everything is a blur, then it’s time to go to bed.  Now the last race I was in was the Philosopher’s Way Trail Run in May.  No wonder it’s been a blur of a summer.

As I get back on the road, and begin to train again, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to begin to feel more focused overall again.  It’s as if I’m looking at life through a camera lens – like slowly focusing the lens until it all becomes clear.  I really look forward to the days to come, the renewed spirit that running brings and the added benefits of training for the next 26.2.  I’m sure there’ll be so much more to share.

Top 10 Things I DO NOT Miss about living in O-Town

26 07 2009

Totally Late, no excuses, but here they are, my Top 10 Things I DO NOT miss about Orlando.

#10 – I4. Seriously. Who in the hell came up with this plan? First of all, the road runs North and South, so why is it marked East & West. Stupid. Second, for like 30 years now, there have been a gazillion people a day in that town, so why is the road still designed to hold like a dozen at best? I can clearly remember parking my car on I4 in traffic and reading a book while sitting on the hood. And it doesn’t seem to have changed much.

#9 – Timeshare sales people. These people are telemarketers who can’t get work. Ugh. They are the worst. If you think you are fooling anyone by standing behind a “Welcome Center” desk, I have a bridge to sell you. If you think you are fooling anyone by changing your name to “Vacation Ownership,” you’ve lost your mind. Personally I’d rather have my fingernails yanked out than to have to listen to your spew. Stay Away From Me.

#8 – Ridiculously large spoilers on piece of crap cars – There isn’t much more to say about this, except that they’re stupid. What are they for? It’s a Dodge Neon for Christ’s sake. It tops out at like 70 mph. You are in no way getting fast enough to get any lift. You made the spoiler yourself in your garage. And by the way, it’s a Dodge Neon.



#7 – People who lock up their brakes on the interstate to pull over (on the interstate!) to take a photo of the Sea World sign. Seriously dude. Do you do this in your hometown? What would possess you to just stop in the middle of a 4-Lane to take a photo of a gaudy digital sign with me trying to get home behind you? Get off the damn exit. Look in the rearview before you lock the brakes up. Just think man. Damn.

#6 – AM Heat, PM Rain, Followed by PM Heat, Then do it again. – Every freakin day, count on rain at 3 pm. Only it’s not a cool, refreshing rain. It’s a hot, steamy, the ground is like a sponge full of sweltering dishwater rain, that leaves you heaving to breath in the thick afternoon haze. And it’s every day. And it’s even in the winter. And before you say it would be great to have heat through the winter instead of snow, you should try to get the Christmas spirit when it’s 85, 97% humidity and by the way, it’ll be raining at 3.

#5 – Lovebugs. – You may not know the name but if you’ve been to Central Florida you’ve experienced love bugs. These tiny critters appear to be small black flies or gnats but are actually TWO bugs attached in a seemingly permanent lustful dance. It’s magical really. Especially the way they cluster in the thousands and once they make impact with your car they become a permanent reminder that Florida is subtropical and there are some really weird animals down here. So you get to spend the next few hours scrubbing double bug guts off of your car. Thinking you’ll be lazy and let it slide for the day? The bonus is that If you don’t clean it off in time, whatever makes up the innards of these little shits will actually EAT THE PAINT RIGHT OFF OF YOUR CAR.

#4 Tour Groups – Now in an earlier post I talked about how great it was to have such easy access to tons of outlet shopping and the like in Orlando. It’s true. The same can be said of the entertainment options and dining. But there’s one thing that can always put the brakes on any fun being had by you. Tour Groups. As with many of these items, if you’ve lived in Orlando, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, they you have no idea. I distinctly remember exactly how I felt every time I was in a public setting and saw that familiar sight. Around the corner came a tour leader, dressed in flourescent green, fannypack strapped on and carring a tiny green flag on a dowel. No doubt to keep the group together, the flag may as well been the flag of a miniature army who’s mission it was to destroy any hope you had of accomplishing your errands at any point this week. From out of nowhere comes an army of bright green clad, short-shorts and knee-high socks wearing, portugese speaking footsoldiers. In an instant they’ve spread to every corner of the store/restaurant/attraction you’re at and just like that, it’s over. You’re waving your grocery list like a white flag and looking for somewhere to huddle and cry.

#3 – Come & Go.  Of all the places I’ve lived, Orlando is by far the most transient town I’ve been in.  It seems to me that it’s the type of town that for many goes like this:  You finish college (or don’t) or you come down to spend a semester in the Disney College Program and have so much fun meeting people from all over the world, going out with friends, partying and having a good time, that you decide to stay for a while.  There are plenty of jobs in resorts or at restaurants or bars, plus you can get a roommate and things are fine.  Things are fine for a couple of years, but the “new/fun” begins to wear off and you realize that even though it’s fun, you probably need to finish school/get on back home/find a real job in your major/be closer to family so you decide it’s time to head on home.  The tough part about it is that, save for a few, I always found it hard to connect to people and really make friends, because I never knew how long they’d be around.

2 – PlasticTown USA- This became my pet name for Orlando after living there for a few years.  I think I’d gone on vacation somewhere else and upon arriving back and surveying the town, I realized that Orlando has ZERO cultural or historical facets.  Everything is shiny, bigger-than-life, new, better than before and fake.  Now for sheer tourist dollars, this still seems to work, even after all this time.  But for me, once you peel back the layers of “stuff” that brings someone down for a visit, there’s got to be some substance there for people to live.  I never found that.  In New Orleans, it’s the French Quarter on a Sunday morning after the party, exploring old antique stores and discovering Jackson Square.  On the NC beaches, it’s taking a walk around Fort Macon after a day on the sand and discovering how it played a part in the Civil War.  As for Orlando, I’m still looking for that part, and I’ve yet to find it.  It’s too bad too, because it could be a key to making Orlando so much more interesting.

#1 – Did I mention the heat?

This is so typical.

18 06 2009

Right now, I have a receipt from Food Lion in my right front pocket.  It’s for sodas and cups for a meeting we had yesterday.  In addition, I’m carrying probably 8 Yogurt Pump receipts in my wallet so that once I get to 10, I’ll get my free yogurt.  Last but not least, I’m still carrying the receipt from paying a speeding ticket in 2007.  The point is, although I’m not the most organized person in the world, I keep receipts.  Except it seems, when it really counts.

I love our HDTV, all 40 beautiful LCD inches of it.  Well about a week ago, both(!) HDMI ports went out on it.  So I had to resort, at least temporarily, to S-video, which doesn’t support Hi-Def.  The good news is that we bought the set on June 24 of 2008, which left about a week of warranty on it.  All I had to do was send in a copy of the purchase receipt to the manufacturer and they’d take care of it.  You guessed it.  I have the receipt for the Skittles and Red Bull I bought at Sheetz, but I can’t find the receipt for the TV.  Perfect.  So now I’ve got this great, fairly new TV with two busted HDMI ports. Do you know any good TV repair businesses in the Triangle?  This is so typical.

Good News – co-workers husband works for the cable company and came by with full composite cables, which deliver full HD signal, so we’re back up and running.  It’s a start.

Top 10 Things I Miss About Living in O-Town

14 05 2009

Heading back to Orlando with Cindy to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this weekend got me thinking about what I liked about that town and what I miss most.  When we left, I really was pretty much done with the place.  It had left a young Greg broke, tired, out-of-shape and uninterested in any line of work that included me having to pretend to be nice to people who refused to be nice back to me.

So as I sit here in the eve of the return visit, I present my top 10 things I miss most about living in Orlando:

#10 – Never a shortage of cheap shopping with outlet malls close by.  If there was a nice pair of sneaks to be had, you could get them in Orlando.  With multiple Nike®, Adidas® and other name brand sports shops around, your feet would always look great.

#9 – 1 hour to the beach. I’ve never been a huge beach person, but I could get there quickly in a pinch when I needed to.  Daytona, Melbourne, and the like were a quick 50 minute drive and I could be in the water or on the sand in just over an hour.

#8 – Plenty of young single fun people – Orlando, unlike South Florida, is a young town.  It’s a place where men and women just out of college, or of college age, come to spend a few years having fun, working in average jobs and spending nights out partying and meeting other people their age.  There’s never a shortage of opportunity to meet people in Orlando.  It’s a great time when you’re a young man.

#7  – No State Income Tax – Thanks to the generosity of the millions of bright pink, fannypack wearing tourists who flood into the state annually, Florida has not state income tax.  That makes things much simpler on payday and around tax time.

#6 – The Orlando Sport & Social Club – This is the place where I met the people who became my closest friends in Orlando.  Whether you were a well-oiled volleyball machine, or a drinker with a volleyball problem, the club, at the time I participated was a great organization where people could meet, have fun and, as I said before, drink beer.

#5 – Calling my friends in January to talk about the weather. High of 88-95.  Low of about 70.  Mostly clear skies.  Showers at 3 pm.  Every day.  365 days a year.  Some call it boring.  It sure makes it easier to plan a wardrobe.  Or a party.  Or whatever.  Plus it pisses off anyone north of Atlanta when you call em in the middle of the winter.  “Dude – it is cold here today.  Only got up to like 62.”  Click.  “Hello?  Are you there?”

#4 – Pleasure Island – This place is closed down now, but in it’s day, it was a great place to be.  8 to 10 bars, one cover charge, a different club and music genre in each place.  Mannequin’s.  8-Trax.  Rock n Roll Beach Club.  The Adventurer’s Club.  BET Soundstage.  Comedy Warehouse.  Motion.  Wildhorse Saloon.  This place, whether you thought it was cool or not, was fun.

#3 – The Orlando Ale House – Nothing personal against the Carolina Ale House, but the Orlando Ale House was, for a long time, my favorite place to meet friends and watch a game.  The Ale House on Kirkman Road was HUGE, had about a thousand TVs and their chicken nachos could feed a small family reunion.

#2 – Publix Subs – If you’ve never had one, I can’t explain it to you.  If you have, then you know what I’m talking about.

#1 – Universal Halloween Horror Nights – I understand that the Mouse made Orlando what it is.  I realize that they run the town.  I actually worked there and I get it.  But for my money, there is no more uniquely Orlando event than Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights.  When I think of that town, it’s always one of the first things I think of.  I love being scared and being chased through a haunted house by characters with movie studio quality make-up is first class.  The whole park – the WHOLE park – becomes a huge creepy funhouse.  The Bill & Ted Show is legen (wait for it) dary.  If you ever get to Orlando in the fall, it would be the one thing I’d suggest you put at the top of your list.

There it is.  My top ten things I miss about living in Orlando.  There are others that didn’t quite make the list – Seeing Space Shuttle Launches (and hearing the landing) live.  Christmas at MGM Studios.  Bass Pro Shops.  The Daytona International Speedway.  Have you been there?  Have you lived there?  Share your favorites.

Next up – Top 10 Things I Hated about Living in O-Town.

3:49.43…and i lived to tell about it

27 03 2009

It’s friday, march 27 – 5 days after completion of my first ever full marathon.  I still catch myself recalling certain points in the race.  it helps that everyone who knows i ran it wants to know all about it.  i’m thankful to say that i really was able to focus on taking in the whole experience while running it.  i remember the walk from the hotel and how it was much less crowded than i’d thought it would be.  i remember getting to the end of atlantic ave. on the first trip out and the guy blasting contemporary Christian music and cheering us on.  i remember a lot of stuff, but most specifically, i remember it was hard.

tweeting prerace

tweeting prerace

i got to the start line and decided i’d start between the 3:40 & 3:50 pacer.  now i really didn’t think i’d finish in 3:40, but there was a good spot for me there, and the goal was under 4, so i knew i could cruise along somewhere in there.  i rolled out at the start and really cruised through the first 7 miles, actually a bit fast.  my 7 split was 59:50.  My 13.1 split was 1:52.50.  I felt great at that point and had really settled in to a pace I was happy with, although it was still faster than I had planned.  Coming back through atlantic ave. was nice as there were people all along the road cheering us on.  Shamrock prints your name on your race bib, which i thought was a nice touch.  i realized once the race started that it gave spectators the ability to call you out by name.  which is a bit strange.  and then it just gets old.

so the north loop of the race gets lonely.  it moves up past the atlantic ave. then loops up through a military base.  I felt completely awesome right on up to mile 17.   that is when i started to get a bit tired, and it happened to be at the furthest point out, and the most lonely.  i could tell that the runners around me were starting to fade a bit too, as there was less chat, less positive vibe in general.

it was at mile 22 that i was beginning to think i was ready to be done.  the good news was, by then i could see that i was certainly going to come in under 4 hours, which was the goal.  the entire race, i’d been peaking back to see if i could see the 3:50 pacer, and not until this point did i see him creeping back up behind me.  he was beginning to hoot and holler and had started his kick.  i’ll admit i had these visions at a couple of points of finishing with the 3:40 pacer and owning it.  i really wanted to keep him behind me, but at about 24 miles, i fell behind the 3:50 pacer.  i was able to keep them in my sights though, and crossed the line within about 20 seconds of him.

i can see the finish line from here

i can see the finish line from here

immediately, at the finish line, the first thing i thought of was how much my back and legs hurt.  the second thing i thought of was how awesome it was that i had just finished.  once i made it down onto the beach to the after party, it all hit me and i did get a bit emotional, and shed a few tears.   it was an amazing experience. yes it was hard.  yes, i’ll do it again.

i’ve never thought of a bucket list for myself.  but as i thought of it the other day, if i did have one, it would have “run a marathon” checked off.  if you’ve ever considered it, do it.  you can.  there were thousands of stories at the race last weekend.  mine was just one.  yours could be there too.


12 03 2009

I’m 9 days away from my first full marathon.  I’ve moved into my taper and it’s given me lots of time to begin a reflection of what the last 17 weeks have been like for me.  What a great experience, and although I’m sure the experience of running and finishing the Shamrock Marathon will be amazing, I can’t discount what I’ve learned about myself through the training.

For me, maybe the most eye-opening bonus of distance running is the ability to think more clearly than I ever recall thinking.  The clarity I have during and after a long run is so refreshing and often I look forward to that experience as much or more than the physical act of running.


Haruki Murakami really describes what goes on in a runners mind (at least from my experience) in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  He talks about the idea that he runs in a void, or rather that he runs to acquire a void.  Though occasionally thoughts sip into this void, they are more like clouds in the sky.  The sky remains the same, but the clouds come and go, leaving only the sky behind.  I really like that description and it works for me to, doing a good job of describing where I go when I run.  If that alone is what I have gained through this journey, it will have been worth it.

About 2/3 of the way through my training, I developed what would later be diagnosed as a calf tear.  About half way through a 6-mile run, I started experiencing intense pain in my left calf.  Knowing I couldn’t simply wait it out, I contacted the experts at Balanced Physical Therapy.  Chad Flickinger was assigned as my therapist and without his great direction and advice I could not have recovered so quickly or changed and improved my running form to help prevent future injuries.  Shortly after that, I contacted Sage Rountree and began attending her Yoga for Athletes Class at Carrboro Yoga Company in hopes of improving my running as well as finding more new places inside my spirit to explore.  I have really enjoyed her teaching and Yoga has been an interesting adventure so far, so we’ll see.  All along, one of my most treasured guides along the way, Heather Wuthrich, has helped me to see the trail more clearly, and understand why some of the obstacles have been there.  So another important thing that I have learned is that although I am strong enough to accomplish much through the spirit that I am, part of the journey is discovering what others have to teach me and finding the courage to ask for help.

All along the way, I have had a partner with me.  Anyone who has taken a similar journey knows what a time commitment it can be.  There are also commitments to diet, scheduling and finances.  In most situations, we all have people who share our lives and when I embarked on this adventure, that was true for me.  It still is, and Cindy has been the perfect partner, supporter, coach, counselor and friend.  She has never waivered or done anything but support and love me, and seeing that the love she had for me was an important part of the whole journey has been an incredibly important learning experience.

There have been other things I have learned along the way.  Patience.  Perspective.  How to find the Stillness inside me.  But perhaps, no clearly, the most profound thing I have discovered, is a new understanding of thankfulness.  For the ability to run.  For the opportunity to do what I have grown to love.  For the sights I have seen as my feet have moved me along the road.  For the other spirits I’ve met and continue to meet along this journey.  For the clarity that has always been there, but that I can now have.  For moving closer to a clear picture of who I am.  For the journey itself.

The race is 9 days away, and it should be fun.  And I hope to report back on it then.