Category Archives: running

Tar Heel 10 miler-thinking of Boston

4-15-13 was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon and the first 116 were about good monkey stampaccomplishment, determination, and celebration. This race added terror. I won’t go into the details which all of you know, but it was a tragedy that left scars. My wife has run this race three times and I have cheered for her in the bomb “ground zero” area so I, like every other runner or person in the country, took this cowardly act that targeted innocents very personally.

It’s the Saturday following the Monday marathon, 5am and the alarm is going off for the second or third time. As all runners know it is always a mental challenge to actually hop out of bed on a cool morning, fight traffic, navigate long bathroom lines, and shiver while waiting for the race start. But since I had promised my wife to run with her, paid an entry fee of $45, and needed a way to show my support for Boston, I rolled out of bed. My wife and I had signed up to do a challenging 10 mile race through our hometown streets of Chapel Hill, NC. I’m not really in shape to race, recovering from some common runner injuries and a lazy winter of running 15-20 miles/week, but after the events at Boston this was my small way of honoring the victims of the Boston terror. On Friday night we had picked up our race packets at the local mall and were thrilled to see available “BOSTON” stickers to adhere to your race number. I also noticed that my wife had mistakenly registered me on her neighborhood team “Downing Creek Divas” so my bib identified me as a supporter of Boston and the ugliest member of the previously all-female teammy race number

We arrived at Kenan Stadium, University of North Carolina’s iconic 60,000 seat football stadium, at 6:15 for the 7:30 race. Although thoughts of the Boston victims were present, fear of another Boston event never crossed my mind, I was just thinking about timing my pre-race bathroom visit and finishing the 10 miles to get home to a few Starbucks and read the paper. We took off our sweats and checked our bags. Everyone had some sort of bag, a necessity for all runners. You need to store your stuff during a race so you can quickly retrieve your bag, shed your wet, sweaty racing gear and get warm. This is the impossible security problem that Boston and all road races face. You can’t ban the bags and there are too many to check so this event like any other public gathering is and always be vulnerable unless we cancel everything-not an option!

As starting time approaches, 4000 runners are lining up on the track surrounding the football field. We squeeze through the crowd to try and get close to our assigned (by pace time) area for the start. This is a unique race with many hills and turns, a challenge for even the most seasoned runner, but since it’s a neighborhood race it attracts runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and running experience. Do they all know what they are getting into?-NO, but ignorance is bliss. With my limited training this is going to be a fun run with my wife and I’m even going to carry a camera to try and catch some action shots. It doesn’t take long to find my first shot of a barefoot runner lined up next to us who spontaneously defended the barefoot thing claiming to benefit from a more natural stride and showed us his road worn feet. Whatever works for him-but the thought of potentially 8000 other feet stepping on those unprotected babies or him stepping on something nasty commits me to my New Balance. The gun goes off to signal race time, but we are trapped in the sea of barefeetrunners and it takes us at least two minutes to cross the official start line which really doesn’t matter since each runner has a timing chip in each runner’s number bib to accurately track your actual time. We start/stop in the runners traffic jam and go in circles for the first mile but that lets us hear the live band serenading the runners with rock and roll a couple times, a geezers dream! On to the course and I’m running elbow to elbow with thousands of runners all determined to receive their cherished finishing medals. Many are novice runners who are over their heads but are a gutsy group who will run, walk, or crawl to finish, driven by their own personal reasons. Some push a little too hard and aren’t able to enjoy the course sites like the University of North Carolina’s Old Well. My wife and I were working hard but couldn’t help but enjoy the perfect 55 degreeold well and runners and the beyond beautiful streets of Chapel Hill. The cheering neighborhood crowds, some even shouting out our names, use every conceivable noisemaker, and blare music to motivate us-it works. The eighth mile is the most challenging uphill in the race that is timed by the race organizers to either show what a great hill runner you are or how pathetically tired you are-lots of walkers. I’m not really sure who really likes the hill timing thing? As the hill levels off a gentleman is playing what looks like a 20 foot long trumpet-very cool (wish I knew who he was and what it was). But this sight is missed as a photo op since I’ve just finished 8.5 miles, the last half mile uphill-a little brain dead. We crest the hill with less than a mile to go and run mostly downhill to finish by reentering the stadium like Olympic champions serenaded by that rock band playing songs by one of my favorite bands, Chicago, and are greeted by thousands of cheering spectators including runners whomy finishing medal have already finished. We sprint or at least speed up to cross the finish line and as in the runner tradition click our stop watches to record our time and savor the victorious moment of finishing. All finishers receive a finisher medal with ribbon draped around your neck. This one does feel “Boston” special.

Any runner knows that crossing the finish line in any race is reason to celebrate. You ignore the exhaustion, aches and pain, sweat and weather conditions to just savor the moment with friends and family. This is what the runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon missed, an important moment in time stolen. But runners and people in general are “Boston Strong” and resilient. No one will ever forget the senseless terror and people hurt and lost but we will never let it change our lives. Tomorrow brings more races, concerts, ball games, parades, and all sorts of events boston strong logothat are vulnerable but will not be lost because of the actions of a few. I think we honor the memories of all lost and hurt in Boston or anywhere else where there are innocent victims by returning to normalcy as soon as possible. Normalcy came back quickly to me as we were standing around after the race my wife informed me that my aged running attire was aromatic (not her words) beyond the point of being cleaned so I went shopping and spent $200 to replace those old, sweaty shorts and tops-maybe not a reason to celebrate, but will give me a fresh start for the next big race.

 

New running shoes-buy online or local?

Amazon was incorporated in July 1994, and the site went online as Amazon.com in 1995. Road Runner Sports was founded in September 1983 “with a simple goal to providegood_stuff_monkey sports-minded people with the opportunity to purchase running and walking shoes, gear and apparel at a great value” or in simpler terms to undercut local brick and mortar stores to make a buck. I give you this short history lesson for a little background on our purchasing practices and will use my running shoe shopping/buying history as an example of our journey to online purchasing.

My current stable of running shoes is pretty worn so I recently went to our local New Balance Store to look at a couple new models of running shoes. I’ve been running since 1981 and have logged well over 30,000 miles so I have gone through a lot of shoes. I started with New Balance since they were the only ones who offered a wide shoe. I became a dedicated New Balance guy and ran with most of the runners who staffed the running stores. Most were accomplished runners who knew their stuff and really took time to give you a perfect fit. After a while I started wearing the same model and didn’t even have to try them on. Here’s where the online factor appears. I started receiving catalogs for Roadrunner Sports offering discounted prices and a wide variety of shoes including my favorites. The wide variety was important because the local stores had limited sizes, especially wide. It became a real dilemma for me: support the local economy or save a lot of money and time.  Early on it wasn’t really internet sales but you’d receive a catalog and call in your order. This eventually morphed into internet ordering and a proliferation of online vendors with rock bottom prices that were hard to ignore. It became a real dilemma for me: support the local economy or save a lot of money and time. I am a fairly ethical person but buying shoes especially ones you don’t have to try on for as much as 50% of the local price is a no brainer. I also can order in front of the TV and have the exact product I needed in a couple days delivered to my front door. Most have free shipping and can compete with Jimmy John’s in speed of delivery.DELIVERY_CARTOON

Getting back to my current shoe replacement, I was interested in two new models, one an updated version of the one I’ve been wearing and another a fairly new model, both with specs that would work for me. I was close to just ordering the new model online that had a suck-you-in ad in Runner’s World but I wisely decided to hold off my purchase and visit the local New Balance store. With the global economy there is more worldwide outsourcing of manufacturing resulting in a crapshoot for sizing and quality. I tried on the new model and it felt awful with the heel lowered and not much cushioning. So I decided to default to my old faithful-the newer version of my last two pairs. I don’t know why but I decided to try them on too and much to my surprise (not really) the sizing had changed and I had to upsize for a good fit. “How much were these new beauties?” $130-Wow that shakes my loyalty to the locals a little! I slyly checked online with my iPhone to see if I could do better and I quickly saw that I could save at least $30 + the sales tax. But these guys really worked for my sale so they got it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all over the .com’s if: the price difference is huge or I feel the price is laughingly inflated or they don’t have my size available in-house or I’m dealing with a nitwit..

Our world is changing and internet buying is part of it. It’s hard to see all the locally owned stores closing, but there are sometimes a lot more reasons than price. I purchase locally when the prices are semi-reasonable, service is great and the salespeople seem like they know my sport and they don’t just try and put me in the shoe or product with the largest profit margin. I have to admit that I have been guilty of heading to the local store to see the shoe I’m going to order online. This often backfires because there’s no way I can wait to order after jogging around the store in a shoe that fits perfectly and really looks cool. Since I’ll be running in my new purchase for at least six months paying a little extra for a good fit is money well spent. So my purchasing pattern is now split. When I am replacing a shoe with the same model, I use the internet and when I have to try on a new model I stay local. It just feels good to support the local economy and the locals are the ones supporting our sport-I haven’t seen amazon on any of the local race sponsor lists or sponsor emblazoned Ts.

 

iPeaked-home for thanksgiving

Ran both Monday and Tuesday since Wednesday would be a travel day.  Not just any Wednesday‒the Wednesday before Thanksgiving which is documented as the worse travel day of the year especially for driving.  That’s why this nitwit chose this day for an 11 hour odyssey from Chapel Hill North Carolina to Albany NY up the I-95 corridor.  You just have to adjust your travel standards to the suck level and anything higher is gravy.  After pricing airline tickets to Albany, $1000, driving alongside the worse drivers in the world seemed doable.  I dusted off the Garmin and plugged it in the GPS site to update the 3 year old maps‒discontinued device, but will gladly update your maps for $89.  I’ve got a problem when the update costs more than I paid for the GPS‒no “reconfiguring” on this trip, paper MapQuest directions will work.  Note: My wife and I are very smart people, but direction challenged so a paper or electronic aid is needed for the journey since memory and roads have changed in the last 12 years.

Wednesday, 7am and with Starbucks and luggage on board we’re off.  Rocking with dusted off “oldie but goodie” CD’s we fly by our first exit and add 11 miles to our trip going in a bigphoto coffee mugs circle but it’s early in the trip so we just mildly blame each other for the screw-up and continue north.  We happily cruise with Elvis, Alan Jackson, Joe Cocker, and the Beatles up 85 to connect with the dreaded I-95 in Virginia‒ “this isn’t bad at all”.  The world changes as we hit Richmond, Virginia with gale force winds and every other car and truck in the world joining our trek north. My death grip on the wheel continues as we merge into 6 stopped lanes of traffic and crawl around Washington at between 10 and 20 miles/hour with frustrated morons weaving for position but getting nowhere, like watching Jackass 2.  Then the tolls for bridges, tunnels, and just for the hell of it‒$6, $4, $10…Home seems closer as we enter New Jersey and our roller coaster pace continues as traffic surges to 80 and back to 20 then to a stop and then surges again.  When traffic backs up I always picture a huge pileup or a vindictive flagman screwin up the works, but as we enter each surge to normal speed there is no apparent reason for the stops except for way too many vehicles and badder than bad drivers.  Think about your last visit to the mall and imagine all of them driving‒SCAREY.  All of the Wednesday before driving warnings have come to fruition, but home is closer. photo of traffic

Finally the New York State Thruway and we stop for our last Starbucks and to empty the gallon of Starbucks that got us here.  The 11 hour caffeine aided trip is approaching 14 hours, a bit late to wake my sister.  We google the Marriot on our iphone to try and reserve a room‒$204.  I don’t think so!  My wife calls and asks if they have a lot of vacancies-“Yeah, it’s pretty dead here lots of rooms!”  Bingo!  “We’re only going to be passing through.  Can you give us a better price?”  $99, sold!  A couple beers and burgers at the bar and we’re ready for a few hours of sleep.  The caffeine kept us alert during our trip and continues its affect as I stare at the ceiling tiles in our bargain room.  Up early and off to my sisters for love and a little abuse.  Finally home for T day!

So was it worth the hassle‒you bet.  Getting together with my family is an amazing experience with b-busting and love blended to a perfect mix.  They are all my heroes and anyone who experiences our get-together s hear a lot of jaw dropping life war stories that are a combination of fact and made-up crap.  Generations of family all in the same house full of beer, bullshit, and love‒iPeaked.  I’d do that Wednesday drive anytime to be part of this party.  The weekend passes too quick with lots of food and drink so now I better get back to serious biking and running with new fun memories to occupy my mind.