Monday, April 27, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh Half Marathon

As per usual, I was running to my gate at the airport for my flight to Raleigh.  I had to wake up super early for my flight, as I was leaving on a Saturday morning from Newark airport - not exactly very easy to get to from Queens.  The bus from Port Authority took forever to get to the terminal, and when it finally did, there was a HUGE line even to get through Pre-Check, but luckily, I was through in less than 10 minutes, and managed to reach my gate with lots of time to spare.

At the expo with Amy!
I landed in Raleigh and proceeded to get my rental car for the weekend, and went to my friend Amy's in Durham, where I was staying for the weekend.  Amy and I are college friends who sang in different a cappella groups while at Michigan, but were super close.  It was great getting to hang out with her and catch up, as it had probably been about two years since we last met up.  I dropped off my stuff with her, and she came with me to the expo in Raleigh to pick up my bib and check out her first runner's expo.

It was a decent sized expo, but some of the "staples" were missing - there were only a couple shoe brands represented, but no New Balance, no Saucony... I hung out with Ryan and Amy V, my CGI friends, at the Rock 'n' Roll booth, and also signed my friend Amy and I up for the free Dublin trip/race entry raffle!  While there, we ran into some friends from the "Black Sheep Run" Facebook page that I participate in, and posed for some photos.

The startline
We started to get a bit hungry, so we headed back to Durham for some lunch and also to check out the local Fleet Feet in Southpoint, to get Amy fitted for some proper running shoes.  Amy's been working her way through about a half hour of running a few times a week in her neighborhood, so it was fitting for me to be with her to have her try out a good pair of real running shoes.  Helping us with our purchase was George, who was actually was pacing the 3:15 MARATHON for Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh the next day... a blistering 7:26 average mile pace.  While there, I ended up purchasing a brand new pair of shoes that I hopefully will get to test out at a future race - a pair of Karhu Fluid3 Fulcrums, a solid lightweight neutral shoe, made by a nearly 100-year old Finnish sports brand.

Black Sheep Run, pre-race
After a little nap back at Amy's apartment, I headed back out to meet up for dinner with some new running friends from Black Sheep Run, and then later a little dessert with my cousin Alex.  Unfortunately, during this evening, I got the news that my uncle Deo had passed away.  I had just visited him a few weeks before while in Texas, when he had first been admitted to the hospital.  The prognosis was not great at the time, and our family was just hoping for the best.  The news rocked me, but gave me a new perspective to just run the race the next morning with him in my mind.

With the Marinos, most attractive
racing couple at RnR races

And that's exactly what happened.  I woke up very early on race morning to get myself into Raleigh before the streets would close and before traffic would be a nightmare getting to the parking deck.  It was a nearly 30 minute drive to Raleigh from Durham, and I got there early enough that I was able to take a quick nap while in the car before getting myself through my immediate pre-race rituals. I slipped into the Sheraton around the corner from the startline to get out of the breeze that still made the morning a little chillier than expected, and ended up meeting with a few friends from Black Sheep Run, Fifty States, and Half Fanatics while there.  6:40 came along, and I headed out to the startline for a photo with friends and then caught up with my racing buddy Dave Grudzien, before we headed out.

With Dave Grudzien at the start
The course starts off on Salisbury Street and loops around toward Capital Boulevard, heading north and passing the Convention Center and North Carolina State Capitol on the right before turning on West Jones Street, past the North Carolina Museums of Natural Science and History, then finally hitting the one mile mark. It then loops around again for a 1.5 mile trot down Blount Street before heading out of the downtown area.  The elevation change is minimal until approaching the mile 3 mark, around a turn at the John Chavis Memorial Park.  Right at the turn, there was a selfie station which, I of course stopped for!  The route began to preview for us the abrupt hills we would begin to encounter on the route.  We hurried northward along Bloodworth Street, then curved eastward toward a road alongside the Historic Oakwood Cemetery.


The Shaw University Band playing for us along Blount St

SELFIE OR BUST.

I am such a 12 year old boy.
Just after mile 5, we took a turn west onto Glascock Street, which of course, my twelve-year-old-like mind found quite hilarious.   This area was a much more residential area, and we approached the mile 6 mark alongside William Peace University.  A turn onto Peace Street led to a stretch of two miles, much of which I zoned out for... well, roughly until about the 7.5 mile mark, when a brunch place in Cameron Village, right along the route, had the smell of bacon wafting into the air... At mile 8, we finally made a turn onto Pogue Street, which turned into Everett Avenue.  Right along this curve was an area where members of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team In Training were cheering on their participants and photos of runners'  friends and family members' who had passed from these illnesses lined the curb.  I started to get choked up, thinking about my uncle again.

I saw these guys three times along
the course! Dedication!
We continued along and hit Hillsborough Street, and the north part of NCSU's campus.  This part of the course was very pretty, and reminded me of where I went to college in Michigan!  We curved around the eastern end of the campus, hitting mile 9 around a roundabout, and then onto the hilliest parts of the course on Pullen Road.  We turned onto Western Boulevard, where we were led to a park-like area at mile 10. Then, for about a mile and half, were led through an area with a thin two-lane road within this park. In between mile 11 and 12, we were treated to another section of photos alongside the curb of the brave men and women who died serving our country, as well as flag bearers.   As we exited onto Saunders Street, we started to go downhill, and then turned left onto Lenoir, where we were forced to ascend another sizable hill.  It seemed to not end!  One more hill at the 12 mile mark on Boylan Avenue, and then we turned onto Morgan for a quick zigzag back toward downtown and the finish line on Fayetteville Street.

Medal haul: DOS!
When all was said and done, I finished the hilly Raleigh course in 2:13:43.  I met up with friends Wesley and Martin, as well as Amy and Ainsley at the gear check area, and then with several members of Black Sheep Run in the post-finish festival area at the Red Hat Amphitheatre, where I got to pick up my "Roadie" for completing five RnR events!  I even got to do my headstand with my guest star from the First Light race in Alabama back in January, Sophie!  At the beer tents, I met up with De Moe and Dave, and by chance ran into fellow Front Runner NY member/Mark Fisher Fitness ninja Kenny!  Turns out - he's doing a bunch of RnR's too!  It was awesome getting to see so many running friends in one place, with incredible weather, and after an awesome race!  Next up.... New Jersey!

De Moe and I... repping Team Fireball!

Ran into Kenny, and had him partake in the Team Fireball madness!

#victoryheadstand with the Raleigh Convention
Center Shimmer Wall in the background

#victoryheadstand guest star, Sophie!

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