Is It The Shoes?

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Back in college (and in middle school and high school as well), we played an insane amount of NBA Jam.  Is was not the most realistic basketball game on the market, but it was a lot of fun.  You would play two on two and there were tons of crazy catch phrases like “BOOMSHAKALAKA!!!”, “He’s building himself a house, one brick at a time!”, and “He’s on fire!”  Our personal favorite was “Is it the shoes?”, which was a reference to the Spike Lee Nike commercials from the 1980′s.

Is it the shoes?

Is it the shoes?

Anyway, history lesson aside, I have been thinking about my shoes for this weekend’s Country Music Half Marathon.  I have been dealing with some toe issues for quite a bit now.  Susan is just waiting for my big toe nail to fall off (I will spare you the pictures), and I am just hoping that the toe pain from the WDW Marathon does not come back with any regularity.  All of these issues have one thing in common, my shoes.  Specifically, my Asics Nimbus 14′s are the culprits.  The shoes are very comfortable, but they run small when compared to Brooks and some other shoe manufacturers.  I have run three half marathons and a full marathon in these shoes, but there is still plenty of life left in them.  I am thinking that I will transition them to my everyday shoe and go back to my Brooks Glycerin 11′s for the Country Music Marathon this weekend.  I need a new pair of shoes to wear around normally anyway, and as long as I am not running in them, they fit well.

Brooks Glycerin 11

Brooks Glycerin 11

My Brooks Glycerin 11′s were the shoes that I wore during my fastest two half marathons, and they are showing some wear and tear.  I ran in them last night to gauge how my feet felt in them and it went well.  Ever since my injury last year, I have been quite gun-shy with my shoes and that is one reason that I had transitioned away from my Brooks.

I will probably get a new pair of the Brooks Glycerin 11′s or 12′s for the Disneyland Half.  And I am not ruling out the Asics Nimbus 14′s in the future, I am just going to try a larger pair.

While I was writing this post, I came across an interesting article about Skechers sponsoring Meb Keflezighi, the winner of the Boston Marathon and American running hero.  You can read it here.

Doc Rock Half Recap

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Saturday was the Doc Rock Half Marathon and Run in Jonesboro, AR, and it was my second half marathon for the month of April.  This was the first time that I attempted to run half marathons in consecutive weeks, but I felt confident that it would go well.  Boy, how wrong was I!  I think my training and recovery are not fully to blame, but I still finished, so there is that.

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I showed up early for the event, which I am prone to do, and picked up my race packet without incident.  The race and health expo was held at the Convocation Center at Arkansas State University, and appears to be quite a big deal for the community.  Since the expo was not open, I just returned to my truck to wait for more people to show up and the race to start.

The race started promptly at 7:30 am and with under 300 half marathon runners, it was the smallest half marathon that I have been associated with thus far.  With the small number of runners, and wide course, there actually were no issues with crowding on the course, even at the start.  Of course, with an open course, you have to fight the urge to run up front with the faster runners.  As the race began, I noticed two things.  One, it was a little warmer than I was expecting.  In fact, Saturday turned out to be the warmest day of 2014 thus far.  And two, there were more hills than I anticipated.  The website for the race did show some hills, but after Whiskey Hill last week, I did not think this week would be any worse.  Wrong!

The constant up and down of the hills along with temperatures over 20 degrees warmer than any of my 2014 runs led to a very poor run by myself.  I was pouring sweat from mile 1 and there never seemed to be a reprieve from the sun.  I have run in warmer conditions than this several times before, but it kicked my ass on Saturday.  And as I climbed each hill, and sweated even more heavily, my mental resolve began to dip.  I was not in the best of places by mile 10, but I eventually fought through this to finish the race.  The only problem is when the race was supposed to be finished, it was not.  My GPS usually differs slightly from the course, usually for passing people, water stops, and the such.  By the end of a race, I have seen variations up to .14 over the posted mileage.  No big deal, I anticipate these variations.  Except on Saturday, my variation was .48 and the finish line was still not in plain sight!

In the end, the course ran a full half a mile long according to every person I spoke with.  Even worse was that this half a mile was unnecessary since the finish took runners around the entire Convocation Center to finish at the north entrance.  If the race would have eliminated the trip around the building, the mileage would have been closer to 13.1, and one last hill would have been avoided.  The girl who finished when I did was much angrier about this course issue than I was, but that half a mile discrepancy led to my slowest half marathon by over 6:00!  If the course would have been correct, I would have been close to my slowest race, but not that slow.  But I finished, and that is always the goal.

Course: C: Lots of hills, not much scenery, and half a mile too long.  The volunteers and support staff were wonderful and they could not control the heat.  Every mile had a water stop, which came in handy as the race progressed.  One of the race timers told me after the race that they had people switch from the half to the 5K due to the unexpected heat wave.

Soft hoodie and a solid medal

Soft hoodie and a solid medal

Swag: B+: The race shirt for this event was a hooded sweatshirt, which is different from any race that I have participated in thus far.  From my talks with some of the race officials, the shirt was decided upon because this event is often very cool, like last year.  It is funny that I was given a hoodie for a race held on the hottest day of the year.  Of course, it was 32 degrees this morning, so the hoodie would be perfect today!  All finishers received a good-looking medal.  The medal is fine, it just happens to follow two great medals, so it cannot compare to the Germantown Half or Oak Barrel Half medals.  The medal was the same as last year’s event, just with an updated event date.

This medal is good, can't compete with Germantown or Oak Barrel

This medal is good, can’t compete with Germantown or Oak Barrel

Overall: C+: I wanted to like this event more than I actually did.  It is for a great cause and has some amazing volunteers and support staff.  I may revisit this post in a couple of months and see if this score is reflective of the actual event and not the way the heat zapped me on race day.  All of the activities associated with the event attract the community, so it was odd that the half marathon is not better attended than it was.  Of course, the hills and long course may contribute to this.  And I am certain that the warmer than expected temperatures deterred some of the usual race day registrations for an event like this.  Also, the Youth Villages 10 Miler was held in Memphis on Saturday, so that event certainly took runners away from Doc Rock.

One major silver lining from this event is that I am now a little bit better prepared for the Country Music Half Marathon at the end of the month.  I know that it will be hot and hilly at that event, so getting in a run just that a couple weeks prior should be beneficial.

Another Half Marathon This Weekend

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DOC-Rock_1040x800-620x400Originally, I was not going to run in another event until the Country Music Half Marathon at the end of the month, but an opportunity for another one presented itself this week.  Therefore, Saturday morning, I shall be running in the Doc Rock and Run Half Marathon in Jonesboro, AR.  It is for a good cause.  It is described on the website as follows:

The Doc Rock ‘N Run is hosted by the physicians of St. Bernards Medical Group and the physician band Doc Rock. The Race benefits the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Bernards, the only Level III NICU in northeast Arkansas caring for premature infants as young as 32 weeks. Come make a big difference in a little life by running in the 1/2 marathon or 5K race on Saturday, and encourage your child to participate in the 1/2 marathon challenge with the 1 mile race on Sunday.

This will be the quickest turnaround for a race of this distance for me.  It will be interesting to see how my body reacts to a second half marathon in a week.  I feel confident that I will do just fine, and I am excited to try something new.

Oak Barrel Half Marathon Race Recap

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Saturday was the Oak Barrel Half Marathon, which was my 7th half marathon overall.  The race is held on the first Saturday of April each year in Lynchburg, TN.  For those of you that don’t know, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is distilled in Lynchburg, and this fact definitely has an influence over the event.

Post race on the square

Post race on the square. And since it is opening week, I had to rep my Braves gear!

I did a course preview last week, so I will not get into that too deeply again.  I will say, however, that after running the course for myself, they were not over-hyping Whiskey Hill.  That hill was intense and definitely a challenge!  But, it was great to experience a different type of course than I am accustomed to.

The day started off cold and early.  Temps were around 37 degrees when I pulled up to Lynchburg an hour and a half before the race start.  I got there so early to secure parking and because Lynchburg is not a large town, and the only way to get there is via two lane, winding roads.  The race is limited to roughly 1,500 participants due to the road situation as well as a scarcity of parking.  I had time to kill, so I talked to Susan on my phone.  This was the first race that she did not attend with me, so at least we talked a bit beforehand.

I picked up my race packet the night before, and honestly, when I do this race again, I will just wait until the morning of the event.  Packet pickup was well-organized, both the day of the race and the day prior.  The Friday packet pickup was held at the distillery, and all runners there before 4:30 pm could take in the sights of the distillery in addition to picking up their packet.  On Saturday morning, the race organizers had a key drop off for runners.  It was set up just like a bag check, but instead of trying to wrangle someone’s post race wardrobes, toiletries, and such, Zip Lock bags with corresponding bib tags were used to store car keys.

The race started just off the town square, and runners were separated by self-projected pace.  Honestly, this race was one of the better ones in runners accurately lining themselves up.  I did pass some walkers that lined up in the elite corrals, but not nearly as bad as previous races.

The hill is so famous that it has a name and Facebook page!

The hill is so famous that it has a name and Facebook page!

The first four miles, I ran at a consistent pace, conserving energy and sticking close to what my typical half marathon pace is.  There was just one small, but steep hill, but that really is nothing our of the ordinary.  Then came mile four and Whiskey Hill!  It was steeper than I anticipated, and definitely every bit the challenge that is was billed as.  I started running up the hill, but quickly realized that I would use too much energy with this approach and walked up the last half of the biggest incline of the hill.  At mile five, I started running once again, and my legs were very grateful for my caution on the incline.  Miles six through nine were at the higher elevation, but there was not much climbing or descending.  Mile nine through twelve were steadily downhill and the last mile was flat.  I owned the last five miles, earning negative splits in the four of the five miles, including my fastest three miles!  The one mile in the last five that was not a negative split missed it be a few seconds, and these were directly attributed to my last water stop.

The finish was on the town square, where there was a band and several post race refreshment stands set up.  After getting my bottle of water and awesome medal at the finish line, I retrieved my keys, grabbed a chocolate milk and waited in line to get my race socks and hat.  After getting the extra swag, I tried some homemade scones that were given out and sampled the other food items.  I did not have a pair of shoes to switch into from my running shoes and I am dealing with some toe discomfort, so I did not stay in the festival as long as I would like.  It was well-organized and worth checking out.

They hook you up with swag!

They hook you up with swag!

Swag: A+: Awesome “medal” which is made to resemble an oak barrel.  Fitting, huh? It is big, has plenty of character, and as I told Susan, it is my best smelling medal since it is made of wood with the design burned into it.  I have run in fours races this year in which I received a medal, and three of them knocked it out of the park, including this one.  Runners also got an awesome 1/4 zip pullover before the race and a pair of Swiftwick socks and a race hat upon finishing the course.

My awesome race medal!

My awesome race medal!

Course: A+:  Yes, Whiskey Hill sucked, but that is a part of the charm of the race.  They make no bones about the fact that there is a gigantic hill in the middle of the course that will challenge you.  If it were easy, everyone would run it!  Beyond that, the course was very scenic, and the few instances where cars had to come through, it was handled great.  There were also plenty of water and Gatorade stations and if you needed to shed a layer of clothing, you could drop it off with race volunteers and get it back after the race.  The course and support were top-notch and well thought out.

Overall: A+: This was one of the best events that I have been a part of.  Keeping the event to around 1,500 participants is a necessity, but certainly helps the race organizers do this.  If I lived closer, this would be a no-brainer, every year event.  As it stands now, when I can work it in, I will, and I will certainly return for the seven-year anniversary in two years.  Anyone that is familiar with Jack Daniel’s knows that the number seven is a big deal, so I imagine that it will be for the race as well.

Oak Barrel Half Marathon Course Preview

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Saturday I will be running in the Oak Barrel Half Marathon for the first time.  The race takes place in Lynchburg, TN, which is in Middle Tennessee and has a much more hilly terrain than here in Memphis.  Lynchburg is also the home of Jack Daniels Whiskey, even though it is in a dry county.  Jack Daniels is a title sponsor of the event and my trip there this weekend will include a tour of their facility after packet pickup on Friday.  I will do my usual post race recap about the event, but the more I read about this race, the more anxious I get about the course.  It should  be challenging, beautiful, and fun.  For those of you unfamiliar with the terrain, I thought I would share what I will be facing on Saturday.

The hill is so famous that it has a name and Facebook page!

The hill is so famous that it has a name and Facebook page!

The major obstacle is dubbed Whiskey Hill, which is appropriate for Lynchburg.  Whiskey Hill even has its own Facebook page and is the feature of the course that separates the race from others in Middle Tennessee.  The Oak Barrel website says the following about the course:

  • This is NOT a flat course.

  • There is one character building hill (Whiskey Hill) that starts at about mile 4.

  • Whiskey Hill is a gradual climb for about a mile.  The last little bit of it however gets very steep.  The steep part is very short.

  • There is one other hill that is very short.

  • There is a gradual downhill section that runs from about mile 9 to 12.

  • The last mile is flat.

They do not mince words there, now do they?  They also warn runners that this is not a PR course, but rather enjoy the challenge and the beauty of the course.  That is my plan.  I have no specific time goals, but rather  I want to enjoy the run and experience.  This course will definitely help me mentally prepare for the Country Music Half Marathon at the end of the month.

The advertised course with elevation.

The advertised course with elevation.

As you can tell for the photo of the course, Whiskey Hill dominates the course.  You are basically running up a ridge, and then back down.  So as that steep climb begins, I will be certain to remind myself that what goes up, must come down.  This will not be like your grandparents’ stories of walking to school uphill both ways.  Also my current PR is on the hilliest course that I have ever run, so I will be reminding myself of that as well.

The race medals have not been advertised yet, but they are made of oak, resembling oak barrels.  Apparently you can have the Jack Daniels Master Distiller sign your race medal, which if this is the case, I will certainly do that because it is different from other races.

It’s Braves Opening Day!

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Back to my regularly scheduled running blog later, but today is Opening Day in baseball and that takes top priority.  As you can probably tell from my random posts, I am an avid fan of the Atlanta Braves.  This has left me disappointed most seasons, especially in the playoffs, but they are still my team.  And on the first day of the year, everyone is in first place!  Unless you are in the NL West where the Dodgers have already played three games.

Hoping for a successful year!

Hoping for a successful year!

The spring was a roller coaster for the Braves this year.  It started with Braves fans despondent because the team made no off-season moves of note while losing Tim Hudson and Brian McCann to free agency.  But then, during the first couple of weeks of spring training, the Braves started locking up much of their young core of players to long-term deals, which has been unheard of in the past few years, and things began to look up!  Then Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy hurt their arms, needing their second Tommy John surgery, which does not have a good track record for a return to success.  The Braves have the dubious honor of leading the majors in Tommy John surgeries and they added three more (two for sure) to that total this spring.  That is why the Braves opening day rotation is not quite what us fans had expected.  Well, that and another pitcher having his urethra operated on in the off-season.  So the Aaron Harang era is about to begin in Atlanta!  These injuries also led the Braves to sign the best available free agent pitcher, Ervin Santana, blowing up the projected budget in the process. Of course, blowing up the budget is different for Atlanta than say the Yankees, because at the projected Opening Day budget around $111 million, the Braves are still ranked 14th in baseball in payroll.

Not a chart you want to be leading

Not a chart you want to be leading

But today is Opening Day, a day for optimism and excitement.  We finally get to see our favorite teams on the field again and at least for one day, they all have a chance to make it special.  162 games is a long time, and many things can and will happen.  Last year, the Braves were given zero chance of winning the division and by the end of April, they had already buried the rest of the division, so it can happen.  If the young core of Heyward, Freeman, Kimbrel, Teheran, Simmons, and Justin Upton continue their growth, a long with Gattis replacing McCann and Uggla and BJ Upton remember how to play baseball, even at a replacement level, this year still can be special.

Julio Teheran is the 2014 Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

Julio Teheran is the 2014 Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

I spent more time yesterday watching Braves highlights from years past than I care to admit.  I watched Brooks Conrad’s walk off grand slam from 2010, both of Chipper’s walk off home runs against the Phillies in 2012, Bream’s slide in the 1992 NLCS, David Justice’s solo shot in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series to give the Braves their only World Series championship in Atlanta.  In fact, while watching Justice’s home run, I noticed the one and only Bill F’n Murray in the stands with Ted Turner.  Murray is a Chicago guy and I believe a Cubs fan, but it was still cool seeing him there when then only celebrity I remember from the 1990′s Braves was Jeff Foxworthy.

Turner and Murray, 1995 World Series (photo from Sports Illustrated)

Turner and Murray, 1995 World Series (photo from Sports Illustrated)

So I think that the Braves should bring back Murray to throw out the first pitch of a game and maybe channel some Groundhog Day (yes, I went there, and yes, I am sorry) magic into the organization because October 28, 1995, would be a mighty fine day to relive.  Well, expect for one minor detail.  This is the only Braves post season game that I have missed in my entire life!  Yep, the biggest game in Atlanta Braves history and I missed it because my parents made me go to a Tim McGraw concert!  This was before the age of smartphones and I sat there, in my Chipper Jones jersey, nervously waiting for score updates anywhere that I could get them.  I was even interviewed by a local radio station that was doing a remote from the concert.  They could not believe that I was there instead of watching the game.  But I was 13, and did not have much say in the matter.  This night will haunt me for the rest of my life!  And of course, there is no Tim McGraw song presently on my iPhone.

Pic from MLB's Facebook page (2013)

Pic from MLB’s Facebook page (2013)

Sadly, I am at work today, so I cannot watch the game, but I will be following along on my phone and hopefully my 1 o’clock clients will leave quickly so I can return to my office and listen to the game.  Despite the injuries, I still have high hopes for this season.  I still feel that the Braves will win over 90 games and make the playoffs.  Maybe a year full of doubters and pundits claiming that the Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Nationals, Giants, Red Sox, and Tigers are obviously better teams will help the Braves come out of no where (as much as a defending division winner can) like the Red Sox did last year.  Who knows, but it is baseball season once again, and that is always a good thing.

Race For Recovery 5K Recap

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Today was the Race for Recovery 5K at Overton Park here in Memphis and it was my first of two 5K’s for the day.  The event was hosted by the Shelby County Drug Court Foundation.  The weatherman missed the mark a little bit for this one.  As of yesterday afternoon, the forecast called for 66 degrees and sunshine.  It actuality, it was 45 degrees, overcast, and windy.  It also followed a record-setting amount of rainfall, so it was not exactly the picture perfect day for a race.  You gotta love the March weather in Memphis!

raceforrecovery2014flyerThis was the first running of the event and all of the proceeds went directly to the Shelby County Drug Court.  The vast majority of the participants had some sort of connection to the drug court, whether it be employees, clients, providers, attorneys, or family members.  And considering the fact of the limited participant pool, I think that the race was a big success with 225 people running or walking today.

Course: The course was two loops on the paved running track in Overton Park.  It was an easy course to follow for the limited number of runners.  The only problem with the course is that since the course was two loops, several people just completed one loop, including several of the drug court clients.  It was not a huge deal except for the 17-25 female age group.  All three of the award winners in that group walked one loop and quit.  But since there were not many participants in this group, they still placed.  And unfortunately, they did not admit to it.  Honesty is a major component of the program and it is disheartening that they did not feel that it applied to this situation.

Race for Recovery Swag

Race for Recovery Swag

Swag: All runners received a t-shirt, tote bag, and coupons for local businesses.  A 5K with anything other than a white shirt is a plus.  Apples, coffee, bottle of water, and granola bars were available after the race.

I ran at my usual 5K pace and felt great after the race.  I was the 16th person to cross the finish line and was finally warm when I did finish.  I think that there was plenty that the race director learned from this year’s event and I hope that drug court hosts the event again next year.  And maybe then one of the local running shops will support the race like they pledged to do this year.