Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

On Wednesday night, I took a two hour flight from Charlotte to St. Louis, Missouri. I'm not actually from Missouri, but this is the closest airport to my hometown of Carbondale, located in the heart of Southern Illinois. My sister flew in from LAX around the same time, so my parents picked us both up around 930pm. Of course, we still had another two hours to drive from St. Louis to my house, so by the time we arrived at my childhood home, it was 1am North Carolina time.

Typically, coming home can be characterized with eating too much really good vegan food, running solo or with my high school coach, and playing scrabble. This year, all of the listed above did occur, but with the addition of my cousin Michelle, who I hadn't seen since our family vacation to Hawaii in 2007.

On Friday, Michelle and I went on an investigative walk to see if a new neighbor was building a house in the field across the way, she played the guitar in the living room, and we went to the Sunset Concert to see southern Illinoisans in all their drunken glory. My mom got us all tickets to a really good comedy at SIUC Theater called Unnecessary Farce, which was absolutely hilarious! I must have laughed the entire time from the way my abs ached this morning. I was also impressed with the acting skills of the students in the play.
This is fortunately a down week for me in terms of running, which is great because I've gotten so spoiled running with people from the Charlotte Running Club, that I find it more and more difficult to run solo. Luckily, I pulled my high school coach out for a run with me on Friday morning, but he needs to get into better shape. Here's a picture of my driveway:
I'll be back in NC on Sunday night, but it will be sad to leave my family. I'll also miss the quiet that is typical of living in the country...I slept like a baby with the sound of the crickets and toads to put me to sleep.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better late than never...

My dad received his joint father's day/birthday present from my sister and I today in the mail. He received all of his favorite fruits (both dried and fresh) in a nice little package today unexpectedly! I get there tomorrow night, so I'm crossing my fingers that he'll let his two favorite daughters try a bite of the California Mission Figs that were in that tightly packed box! Although he received this two weeks after his birthday and two days after Father's Day, it's better late than never...and let's be honest, his best present of all will be a visit from three of his children this weekend! I'm looking forward to the food that my mom is going to be feeding us!

In anticipation of my weekend in Carbondale, the heart of SO ILL, I worked out this morning by myself. It was rather peaceful and also happened to be the first time that I had worked out on my own in quite some time. I did a simple little fartlek of sorts - 5-5-4-3-2-1 - with half rest of what you just ran. Indeed, it went quite well most likely because I wasn't timing it. I wanted to just get out there and enjoy the workout in the humid morning air. I'm in the middle of a down week, making it actually very important since it helps keep my mind and body fresh, ready to peak in October. If I don't find time to work out this weekend while I'm at home, it will probably be for the give my legs a fresh start for next week.

Tomorrow the high is supposed to be 96...the hottest temperature this summer. I'm hypothesizing that this summer is going to be a brutal one. By the time fall comes around, we'll all be tough as nails.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Starting the Summer Off Right!

This weekend featured the first official day of summer - June 21. Understandably enough, my half birthday went by unnoticed until my mom mentioned it me in excitement today...Needless to say my summer started off right not because I was celebrating a silly half birthday but because lots of people passed through Charlotte this weekend - seven to be exact.

Things started to get exciting on Thursday night when Garrett, being the typical guy, did not think to tell me earlier than 930pm that night that four - not one - guys were staying at my uptown condo the next night. I have a small condo. I somehow had to find a way to fit four minor league baseball players ranging anywhere from 190-250 pounds in my living room, which is approximately 372 square feet of wood floor. Fortunately enough, Danielle came to my rescue and let me borrow her blow up mattress, so I had beds for all the guys to sleep in, including my pull out mattress in my couch.

Garrett and I arranged for the entourage to meet me immediately at Hawthorne's pizza. Between five guys and me, they ate three huge 18" pizzas. Garrett pretty much ate our entire pizza, minus the slice that I nibbled at. The conversation was great because we had such an eclectic mix of people: Angel, a Dominican who could barely speak English; Andrea, a 20 year old Italian who taught himself both English and Spanish in a couple of months' time so that he could communicate with his teammates; Travis Smink, a Steelers fan from PA who also happens to be Garrett's roommate and who I think rocks; Phil, a south Florida resident and UNF grad who is trying Garrett's healthy diet for a week to see if he can do it.

After pizza, we went back to my place to play some baseball on the Wii. Since Andrea had decided he loved Charlotte, we all wanted to go out so he could experience the city. There is only one 18 and up bar in Charlotte that I know of, so we walked the .75 mile to BAR Charlotte in the ninety degree heat at 1030pm...I purposely did not tell these guys that this bar is not frequented by any friends of mine for the very reason that it showcases 18 year olds and a mechanical bull. Once we got there, the bouncer would not accept Andrea's license from Italy, so we had to turn around and walk right back home. I don't think any of us were really too disappointed because the guys had just driven for nine hours straight, and I had just run 11 miles that morning. Of course, we had to take a picture of the hostess with her guests:
I also needed a picture to capture the bromance between Garrett and Travis since they are roommates and have that whole male bonding thing going on after living in a hotel room together for four months...
Once we got back to the house, I got all the beds ready and everyone slept pretty decent. I just had to take them to Zada Jane's,which is one of the best breakfast joints in Charlotte that happens to be a mile from my house. While we waited for a table we played corn hole and shuffle board where Angel dominated over all the Americans. The food was delicious and all of us got the special - strawberry pancakes. Those pancakes and the biscuits sure did hit the spot for all of us!

Just as quickly as the boys got to my house, they were gone. Very grateful, they said their thanks to me, and hopped back into the two different cars to make their way to Greeneville, Tennessee, where Travis Smink was featured on their website:
Less than 20 minutes later, Garrett's sister and cousin, Elyse and Barbara, arrived so that we could go to Carowinds with our free tickets that my good friend Jay gave me. We rode the newest coaster - the intimidator - which was great! However, we made the mistake of riding a horrible old ride that probably knocked our brains around a little too much. We felt pretty sick after that and rode about three more roller coasters. After two bottles of water, four mullet sightings, three hours in the 95 degree heat, and a ride on a wooden roller coaster, we waved farewell to Carowinds and said hello to the air conditioning in my car. I guess when you get a free ticket, you don't feel the pressure to make the most of the trip to an amusement park.

The rest of their visit can be summarized with a lot of girl talk, a trip to IKEA, and bad run-in with a HORRIBLE waiter at a delicious restaurant in Charlotte . When we asked him for a water, he said "Ughhhh"...when I ordered three sides, he said "So you just mixed all the sides together...?"....When he asked how everything was, I responded "It's great...can I get some salsa?" and the waiter responded exasperated "Besides the SALSA"...Needless to say, you can tell that we got a horrible waiter, but it didn't matter because we still got our food.

On Sunday, I woke up at 6am to run over 16 miles with a great group of guys - Bill Shires, Stephen Spada, and Jason Martin. It was nice and easy in the humidity and heat, but thoroughly enjoyable considering the company.

Overall, I can say that I welcomed the first day of summer with open arms and it rewarded me in turn with a great weekend spent with people who mean a lot to me. In just three days time I get to go back home to Carbondale, where I'll be with my family!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Running of the Bulls 8k Race Recap

This weekend felt like the hottest weekend of 2010 in North Carolina. On Saturday, the temperatures were already above 85 degrees around 8am, with the humidity levels equivalent to those in a steam bath in an upscale spa. Despite these conditions, 700 people still came out to participate in the Running of the Bulls 8k in Durham, NC.

Since the race was in Durham, I decided that it would be most fun to drive up the night before and spend the night with my old teammate/roommate from Wake Forest, Erin. It was so great catching up with her on Friday night. I was most grateful to sleep the extra 2 hours that I would have missed had I driven up from Charlotte that morning. Unfortunately, my sore throat made it very difficult for me to sleep soundly, and I woke up about every hour and finally woke up 15 minutes before my alarm at 5:30.

After completing the tasks of eating my oatmeal, putting on my race gear, and braiding my hair, I suddenly was hit with a wave of panic. I was worried that my sore throat would make it difficult for me to breathe, or that my lack of sleep would make me feel lethargic and slow. I immediately shoved these thoughts aside and reminded myself of my goal: have fun competing!

Once at the Downtown Durham YMCA, I picked up my race bib which was gigantic because it had the chip behind the bib. I was very happy that I had decided to wear my Nike Mid-Airborne top because it was large enough for me to pin it on. Had I worn my Charlotte Running Club sports bra, I would have had to wear a t-shirt because the bib was too large for it. Considering the amount that I sweat, a t-shirt would NOT have been a pleasant option.

Bill Shires and I warmed up about 20 minutes together and then I did some light strides and drills, both in my trainers and in my racers. At this point, my shorts were soaked through with enough sweat that I could have rung them out and filled up a small glass with my sweat. Perhaps a bit too descriptive, but it is a good way to illustrate just how hot it was at the start of the race.

The gun went off right after the race director explained that riders from the DurhamCares Race Across America team would be our race escorts on the course. That sounded pretty cool, but I didn't know just how cool/helpful that team would prove to be until I was well into the race.

The start of the race was similar to the CPCC Skyline start, with a hill in the first 400m. Once I crested that hill, I relaxed and settled into a rhythm, settling myself comfortably behind two of the best male masters runners in the state. I felt controlled, but was not sure of the pace until I hit the mile mark, coming through in a perfect 548.

The second mile was basically downhill, and I was still latched to the masters and a couple of other young guys. Bill Shires began to drop off and I offered some words of encouragement to him to get him to attach himself to me. He had just come back from a whole week at Disney World, so I'm sure his legs were screaming at him. I could feel all of the guys' sweat flying onto my legs and face, but it didn't matter. I was pretty sure my sweat was flying off onto another racer as well so I figured it all evened out. Mile 2 - 537

The third mile is when John Hinton and several other guys separated from me, and I was left with two other guys. There were several hills in this mile, and one of my running buddies dropped off in the bigger hill. It ended up just being a guy in a red shirt, myself, and a biker escort who proved to be extremely encouraging from this mile and on. I'm not sure if he was tasked to bike alongside the first woman, but he stuck with me and red shirt guy the rest of the way home. I found out later that the escort's name was Henry Kaestner. He leads the DurhamCares team. In this mile, he told me that the next girl was more than 300m back, which was encouraging because I was hurting now. Due to the sore throat, I was breathing heavier than normal as I felt like the passageway was much smaller than it should be. Red Shirt guy and I came through this mile in 559.

The fourth mile was almost the same as the one prior, with a good uphill that took us back into Downtown Durham. At this point, my racing buddy almost fell off of me, and I did not want to be in no-man's land, so I told him to "Let's go" and he latched on again. We pretty much ran side by side or I tucked in behind him for the remainder of the race. Again, Henry was offering lots of encouragement and telling us to work up the hill and use our arms. With a split of 6:01, you can tell that the hills and the heat took a toll on us.

The last mile was much better because it was flat/downhill and the finish was so close. Red shirt guy began to pull away with 800m to go, but Henry stuck with me and told me "You've definitely got the win, but pretend like you don't know that and push it girl!" It was so nice and motivating. I mumbled a "thanks" and promised myself that I would try to find him afterward to thank him for all of his help. I turned into the old Durham Bulls stadium and ran around to the finish, clocking a 534 last mile and a 28:59 finish time. All I could think about at that point was water, but it was another 200m away so I made a mad dash to get myself hydrated again.As I was stuffing my face with watermelon, a woman named Tiffany approached me and asked me to cool down with her. I graciously accepted! In the course of the cool down, we found about five more girls to join us including some Duke girls I used to compete against -Elle Pishny and Liz Wort - and Molly Nunn, Heather Magill. It was great to have such friendly companions on the run and to learn more about what they all do.

Right after the awards, my mystery escort approached me and I told him thanks. I asked about his trek across the USA and I told him that I was very much inspired. He told me that I had inspired him! It was really cool to see that we were both helping the other out and didn't even know it.

Although the course is hilly and the race is in the beginning of June, the Bull City Running Company did a great job managing the race, kept the course well-marked with large arrows to prevent getting lost, and provided delicious post race grub. It was also convenient to have access to the restrooms and showers in the YMCA. I would recommend this race to those from the Charlotte region!