Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006: The Year in Running

Completing my first marathon (and going on to run two more), setting a handful of personal bests, finishing races with both my parents and achieving my goal to log at least 1,000 total miles were among the highlights that made 2006 my most memorable and productive running year to date.

I confess to being a bit of a numbers and stats geek, so I've put together a brief "By the Numbers" summary of my 2006 running below.
  • 1,209: Total miles run in 2006.
  • 1 week, 1 day, 12 hours, 54 minutes, 4 seconds: Cumulative time spent running in 2006.
  • 10:10: Average pace per mile in 2006.
  • 10: Total races completed in 2006 (three marathons, three half marathons, two 5Ks, one 8K, one triathlon).
  • 4: Number of personal best race times set in 2006 (Country Music Marathon; Run the Quay 5K; Gallop and Gorge 8K; Victory Junction Half Marathon)
Honestly, I don't know how 2007 can top this year, but I already have plans to get the New Year off to an early running start. And I do mean early. Check back Jan. 1 for a summary.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ice Water in my Veins

This morning had to be one of the coldest mornings I've ever had to endure during one of my long marathon training runs. The temperature was 17 degrees when I started my 19-mile run at 5 a.m. By the time I finished roughtly three-and-a-half hours later, the temperature was still below freezing, climbing to 25 degrees. The below-freezing temperatures caused the water in my water bottles to freeze, so I had ice water on the run. I've never had that happen before.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Victory Junction Run Race Report

"They probably don't have an opportunity to run, but you're running for them."

Pattie Petty, wife of NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, used those words in welcoming a gym full of runners to the inaugural Victory Junction Run this morning in Randleman, N.C. The "they" she was referring to are the campers who get to visit the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

The Victory Junction Gang Camp is a designed for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illness. The goal is to give those children a fun-filled experience at a NASCAR themed summer camp, just like able-bodied children enjoy. The inaugural Victory Junction Run half-marathon and 4.5K was planned by Kyle Petty, himself an avid runner, to raise money for the camp. I participated in the half-marathon and my mom participated in the 4.5K.

Pattie Petty's words, along with a message on abiding in Christ by NASCAR chaplian and life coach Kenny Crosswhite at a pre-race worship service, inspired me to a personal best performance in the half marathon. Coming into the race, I certainly hadn't intended to try to run for a personal best, but as I ran the words and the message made me realize how blessed I am, and how God gives me the strength to run and do something that I enjoy when there are many, many people who can't, due to physical ailments.

The race started with the national anthem, a word of prayer by Kyle Petty and the dropping of the green flag by Richard Petty. (The green flag was a subtle touch to the start of the race, and there were many other subtle references adapted from auto racing and applied to this road race. But what else would you expect from a road race sponsored by the son of stock car racing legend?)

The half marathon started at Randleman High School and traversed the rolling, rural countryside through Randleman and Randolph County. My mom and other paricipants in the 4.5K were bussed to the Victory Junction Gang camp, where the their race would begin and the half marathon would end. It didn't take me long to realize that this would be a challenging course with plenty of hills. There were plenty of uphills, but there never seemed to be any downhills.

I settled into a comfortable pace at the start of the race, and soon left Nextel Cup driver Michael Waltrip, a marathoner and supporter of the Victory Junction Gang camp, in my rearview mirror. Waltrip, I'm sure, was used to being passed, however, because this happens just about every Sunday at the NASCAR tracks.

Shortly thereafter, I saw another sight that is common on Sundays -- Kyle Petty pulled off on the side of the road. He and his wife were high-fiving runners in the early stages of the race. Actually I don't mean to poke fun at Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty, but their collective auto racing success has been limited of late, but they are two of most personable and friendly drivers on the NASCAR circuit. And I do admire the work they've put into making the Victory Junction Gang Camp a reality.

There were no designated mile markers at the beggining of the course, so I couldn't keep my mile split times. But when I reached the seven-mile marker in 1 hour, 1 minute and 23 seconds, I began to think that maybe, just mabye, that I might be able to eclipse my personal best time in the half marathon, which was 1 hour, 57, minutes, 47 seconds, set at the 2004 Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn. I began reflecting on the message about abiding in Christ, praying through and meditating on Philippians 4:13 ("I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"), and thinking about Pattie Petty's words, "
They probably don't have an opportunity to run, but you're running for them." At mile eight I told myself "You're going to get a PR."

I felt a renewed sense of strength and drive with a potential personal best within reach. My split times over the final six miles were the fastest I've recorded at the end of an endurance race. Normally as fatigue sets in and the miles get slower, today I seemed to get faster. I ran mile eight in 8 minutes, 11 seconds. Mile nine in 8:34. Mile 10 in 8:10. Mile 11 in 8:32. Mile 12 in 8:09. Mile 13 (plus the extra "tenth" that makes up the 13.1 miles in a half mararathon) in 9:08. I crossed the line in 1 hour, 52 minutes, and 32 seconds, a new personal half marathon best by 5 minutes, 15 seconds.

The finish was not only special to me because of my personal best, but it was also significant because I finished in time to join my mom back on the course for the conclusion of her race. As I entered the camp for the final stretch of the half marathon, I ran past many of the particpants walking in the 4.5K. I passed a woman and did a was my mom. I said, "Hey, momma," waved to her and run on, knowing that I could finish and rejoin her for the finish.

After crossing the finish line, picking up my finisher's medal and some water and a Powerade, I found my mom and joined her for the homestretch of her race. Three weeks ago, I had the privilege of crossing the finish line a road race with my dad. Now, here I was getting to do the same with my mom, which was truly a blessing based the time I thought I would run and the time I thought it would take mom to do her walk, I figured she would be finished before I crossed the finish line. Instead, we got to put our arms around each other and cross together.

Kyle and Pattie Petty were at the finish line, personally thanking each and every runner and walker as they completed their respective race. I'm still beaming because of everything that transpired at today's Victory Junction Run. Personally, it will always be a memorable race for an worthy cause. I'm already looking forward to next year's race.