Saturday, December 31, 2011

Closing out the year

Friday was a ten miler with friends at Mcalpine, today was a 16 miler with friends at McMullen. Feeling very spoilt as Monday I'll be solo doing lots and lots of quarters. The temperatures are just about to plunge too. Joy.

Still, heading into 2012 I can't complain. I'm feeling as fit as I've been in a long time and am excited to hopefully see what a few months of consistent and sensible training may bring.

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 recap

I always like to reflect at the end of the year on how the past twelve months have played out. It helps me identify things I did well, things I need to improve on and helps me set my goals for the coming year. With that in mind, here’s a brief month by month recap of a year of the Captain’s Log!

January

Miles- 256

Races

CRC Hangover Run 5k XC (16:33- 2nd)
Winter Flight 8k (26:54- 4th)

Injuries- None of note

The year started off with me eschewing the marathon focus of most of my friends and training to run a fast 5k and 10k in the Spring. I had gotten in about 5 weeks of solid work after recovering from my November 2010 Marathon and was ready to hit the road running on January 1st. I opened up with a solid showing at the CRC hangover run with John Compton showing me a clean set of heels. This was to be the start of a regular pattern for the year ahead! Winter Flight was another solid enough effort (and another thrashing at the hands of John ha ha!)

February

Miles- 278

Races- None

Injuries- None of note

February was my highest mileage month of the year in spite of its brevity. I avoided racing and got some good training in before the important races in March and April that were going to kick in

March

Miles- 235

Races

Get Your Rear in Gear 5k (16:14- 1st)
49er Classic 5k (track) (15:31- 4th)
Shamrock 4 Miler (21:19- 3rd)

Injuries- Strained calf after 4 Miler

March was a bittersweet month in many ways. Sweet in that I was able to set a new 5k PR at age 36 and prove that Winter training had gone well and that I was all set to roll at the Richmond 10k in April, bitter in that I followed that Friday evening race with a hard race effort at the first GP race of the Season literally the next morning and paid the price with a slightly strained calf that set me back a few days and ultimately proved costly at Richmond. In hindsight I could have just ‘jogged’ the 4 Miler to get the bonus points for the GP series with minimum effort but at the time that wasn’t really an option with it being the first race of the Series and me having no idea of how the rest of the year was going to pan out. So no real regrets.

April

Miles- 251

Races

Ukrops 10k (33:02- 20th)
Run For The Money 5k (16:55- 1st)
Museum Mile (4:42- 7th)
Skyline 5k (15:53- 2nd)

Injuries- None of note

This was a month that started pretty badly but finished strongly. I was disappointed with my race in Richmond but it was another awesome race experience there and I will be back in 2012! I was on course to meet my goal time half way through the race but an inexplicable side stitch hampered my run and the week I had been forced to take off in March came back to haunt me. The Run For The Money race was my yearly good running deed of raising $1,000 for the Catawba Lands Conservancy (they may well need to find a replacement winner next year if this race clashes as it typically does with the Racefest 10k which I plan on running this year. The Museum Mile was a fun and novel event that I hope they are able to put on again next year and Skyline was a race where I reaped the benefits of racing aggressively, nearly beating long term nemesis and king of the roads Bob Marchinko for the first ever time in the process. We would meet again later in the year.

May

Miles- 257

Races

Falafel 5k (16:13- 1st)
Twilight 5k (16:09- 2nd)
Great Harvest Bread (16:20- 2nd)
Run For Peace At Home (16:31- 1st)

Injuries- None of note

Now it was time to start focusing on my next race which was decided to be the USATF Masters 10k track race in July. It was a busy month racing, with a couple of local races that I was able to jog to the start line, pick up the wins and jog home and two more GP races where John Compton again destroyed me. However, safe in the knowledge that he was unlikely to complete enough of the races in order to be a factor in the end of year standings, I was finishing far ahead enough of my other rivals to already start thinking of getting that elusive overall GP victory that I was after.

June

Miles- 271

Races

Summer Track Series
King Tiger 5k (16:08- 1st)
Summer Breeze 5k (16:06- 1st)

Injuries- None of note

With training focussing towards the track 10k in July, the Summer Track series gave me the opportunity to get plenty of track work in. The highlight a 9:50 2 miler, the low point a horrible 5:01 in the Championship Mile, most of these races were done as part of a larger workout. 2 more solid wins in the Grand Prix Series and overall victory was closer. The second of these also saw me crowned as 'Fastest Male in Mecklenburg' ha ha!

July

Miles- 265

Races

RFYL 4 Miler (20:51- 2nd)
USATF 10k (33:28- 1st)

Injuries- None of note

A good month! Two weeks out from my goal race I was able to take advantage of a sudden cool down in temps to set my second PR of the year and also beat Robert Marchinko for the first ever time. Then it was on to a hot and humid Cleveland where I became National Masters Track 10k Champion after a good tactical race. Robert was second to make it a CRC 1-2 and I spent three hours immediately after the race trying to produce a sample for a random drugs test!

August

Miles- 229

Races

Blue Points 5k (16:31- 5th)
Rock N' Run 5k (16:14- 1st)
OrthoCarolina 10k (34:14- 3rd)
Greek Fest 5k (16:24- 2nd)

Injuries- Sick the week before Greek Fest (only illness of year)

With my goal race out of the way and the Carolina temps continuing to rise and rise, I took this time as a chance to chill out a bit, cherry pick some races and generally just ease off a bit. To be fair, my relaxed approach led to some pretty average racing this month but at least my batteries were getting recharged and I could focus on finishing the year strong. Blue Ridge relay loomed...

September

Miles- 262

Races

Blue Ridge Relay (2nd Team)
Hit The Brixx 10k (33:52- 1st)

Injuries- none of note

Blue Ridge Relay was my favorite race of the year and one of the best running experiences of my life. CRC's epic adventure is recapped here. A week later I was able to recover sufficiently to lead the 10k from gun to tape and virtually seal the Grand Prix. As September came to a close I had my sights set on a final training push for the year towards the Thunder Road Half.

October

Miles- 65

The mileage says it all. Hopes for the Half were shot as my knee finally gave up on me and I pulled the plug on the year. I jogged around the final Grand Prix race of the Season to clinch victory but otherwise took a few weeks off to get my knee fixed and renew my appetite and start thinking of goals for 2012.

November

Miles- 214

Races

Fix4TheDay 5k (16:55- 1st)

Injuries- none of note

I gradually upped my mileage through November and reintroduced some speedwork, including the race which I was able to jog from my house to and pick up some shoes in the process :-) The next goal race was selected- Myrtle Beach Half in February 2012.

December

Miles- 280

Races- none

Injuries- none of note

With 2 runs left in 2011 this month should actually end up being my heaviest mileage month of the year! Concentrating on building my mileage and gradually increasing the intensity of my workouts at the expense of any racing at all, I am hoping I can stay injury free through this training block and be in a good position to attempt a PR at Myrtle in February. My tune up races will be the CRC Winter Classic 8k and Cupids Cup 5k. The post Myrtle plan is to return to Richmond for unfinished business in the 10k and also run the Race Fest 10k before getting ready over the summer for a 4th stab at the Marathon in the Fall. I'm looking forward to representing the 'TrySports' racing team after RFYL chose to discontinue their sponsorship program and also to many runs and workouts with my mates in the Charlotte Running Club!

Happy New Year all!!

More hay in the barn

After a much appreciated lie in on Wednesday morning, it was time to hit the track again after work. I headed down to Community Middle School track where I was to meet Anna and Greg for some company at what was a new running location for me. The track was decent (especially for a public middle school!) although I had to wear a headlamp as the lighting was minimal down the back straight. On tap was 4 sets of a mile plus 400, with 30 seconds between the mile and the 400 and a lap jog between each set,. Tim had set me the goal of sub 5:25s for the miles and sub 75s for the quarters and I averaged around 5:21/74 for the workout without ever feeling I was going to the well. I returned home to my empty house and fuelled up and got as ready as I could for my next run which was to be the Thursday morning Dowd run. After an expectedly sore and tired run the following morning it was good to reflect while showering before work that I had got another good 20 miles of work in since leaving my desk the night before.

For the rest of the week I am planning on getting another 10 or so in tomorrow including my weekly strides and drills and then 16 for my long run on Saturday, in so doing reaching my 65 mile goal a day early leaving Sunday as a no run day, which the fam will appreciate seeing as they get back from VA on Saturday. Next week will be challenging as I will have my busiest work week of the year and need to get 70 miles in. However if I can get 65 in on 6 runs as I plan to this week then that gives me hope that I shouldn’t need to run any more than 7 or 8 times next week. Onwards…..

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All the small things

We all say we are going to change and improve things in our training but rarely do we actually do anything about it for one reason or another. Usually I fall in to that category. I say I’m going to do something, start doing it, but then slowly fall off again. Usually because your improved fitness gives you a sense of invincibility- I’m getting fitter so I must be doing alright, why bother with all the other stuff, let’s just carry on as I am doing.

Well this time I have made some little tweaks to my schedule and habits and I really do feel it is benefitting me so far in this training block. I’m trying to eat a bit better and get more sleep and I’ve been taking my multivitamins. I’ve been doing yoga classes twice a week at work and keeping on top of my core exercises and strengthening the leg muscles that need to fire when you are running but can’t be targeted by running alone. I’ve been doing my drills and strides once a week after one of my easy runs and finally, and perhaps most significantly, I’ve been making sure to refuel immediately after my hard workouts and long runs with a good recovery drink. First time I’ve really used these products and I really feel I’m reaping the benefits. My recovery from workouts is seeming much better than before!

Whether it is down to one of the above measures in particular or just a mix of doing all of them, I can definitely say I’m feeling happy with how training is going and how I’m feeling on a day to day basis. Long may it continue….

Post Christmas training

After my long run on Saturday I took Christmas Day completely off. In fact I didn't even leave the house at all, just enjoyed the day with Lisa and a couple of very excited girls and their new toys.

By Monday morning I was itching to get back out there and had a workout on the plan- 6 miles tempo, plus a fast mile at the track. With John and Brad for company on a beautiful crisp Carolina winter morning, I was able to put in a solid effort running just over 34 minutes for the 6 miles and then a mile in 5:13.

Tuesday was the usual Miners Run fare and 4 of us hardy souls hit the trails at 5:30 am in pouring, cold rain, splashing through the puddles and mud at Mcalpine. A fun run in miserable conditions!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Longest run of 2011

This morning I headed out at 6am through the back of my neighborhood and down 51 towards McMullen. Ben, who was going to be doing a workout there, met me for a couple of miles before we met up with a large crew of CRC runners who were doing their own long run. I ran with them for a couple of miles before heading home the way I had come on my own again. By the time I was done I had been running for just over 2 hours and covered 18 miles, my longest run of 2011- that's what a marathon free year will do to you! I felt pretty decent throughout and with a day off tomorrow I'm looking forward to working out on Monday morning and burning off some of tomorrow's inevitable excesses.

Home by just after 8 I was able to tell the girls they would have my undivided attention for the next 48 hours with no runs planned! Later in the morning someone in our neighborhood posted on FB that they had 3 free tickets for the Panthers game so two hours later I was at the Bank of America stadium with Emily and Sophie, leaving Mom at home to cook up some treats! It was the first time the girls had been to a game and they seemed to enjoy the experience, helped enormously by the fact that the Panthers were up against a woeful Buccs Defense who Cam, De Angelo and Stewart took apart with ease! Then it was back to the house to finish off preparations for tomorrow's big day. The kids are so excited, it's going to be a great day

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Miners Run

For those that don't know, the Miners run originated and is still held every Tuesday from 5am onwards, so called because of the need for headlamps as we negotiate the trails of Mcalpine. This morning Anna and Greg joined me for a Friday version. It was in the 60s and I barely needed the t shirt I was sporting.I'm on a 'down week' so only needed 5 miles or so today. I followed this with my weekly session of strides and drills that I am trying to incorporate into my routine. My legs felt good and ready for some hard work tomorrow when I have 18 on the schedule- my longest run in months.

(Recapping my daily run is an attempt at starting to update this more frequently)

I finished work at 2 today and am looking forward to the next few days at home with the family!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Training is the goal right now

Well it looks like I only update this on a monthly basis now so I guess this can be considered December's entry. I actually have quite a lot to say so it may be a long one. I also plan to update this more frequently in 2012 (you've heard that before).

So what has the Captain been up to I hear you ask? "Not much" he replies using one of his 'Americanisms' that he has picked up. In other words nothing much of note is happening, life and running following a satisfactory course. Busy but motivated and happy at work, enjoying my daughters growing up faster than imaginable at home, getting lots of nice runs in with friends at ungodly hours in between. Life is good as they say.

So, running.... I'm in the fourth week of my Myrtle Beach HM training block and progressing nicely. I've got my mileage up into the 60s (and will soon be in the 70s) and have been completing my designated workouts and long runs satisfactorily. My knee issues seem to be a thing of the past and I am trying to take better care of myself between runs, eating and sleeping better, doing some yoga classes (!) and trying to incorporate some strengthening exercises into my routine.

It's funny, I love racing and for one reason or another I haven't actually 'raced' in three months now. In fact, before Myrtle in February I only have two 'warm up' races on the schedule, too- the inaugural CRC 8k race at the end of January and then a 5k the week before the Half. I mentioned this to Coach and he expressed his happiness with this situation and is excited to see how this turns out. In his words "training is the goal right now". I'll keep you posted with how this all progresses the next few weeks as I head towards Myrtle....

In the mean time I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Cheers!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RFYL GP Awards Night


Tuesday night saw the end of season Grand Prix banquet where I picked up my award for winning the Series for the first time. It was a great evening and nice to meet and talk to my friends, rivals and training partners in a different environment and in different clothes than usual!

After several years of running the Series in the same format it was discussed that there may be a change next year at last with two separate and shortened Series, one ending with the Greek Fest 5k in August (which would mean an almost exclusively 5k race line up) and one starting with that race and progressing through a 10k, 15k, Half and finishing at Thunder Road Full. This seems a very good idea to me and could reinvigorate interest into the Series and also get more people running at Thunder Road. I would certainly be interested in taking part in the second series, even though that may mean that my 2012 Marathon ends up being Charlotte rather than a faster and bigger marathon which was my original aim. We'll see, lots of water to pass under the bridge before then anyway!

On the training front, things continue to progress. After a few weeks of gradually increasing my mileage, the legs and body are eventually starting to come round and I feel ready to take on some additional work as I start to focus on training for the Half in February. Coach Tim should have my new schedules to me shortly so I'm looking forward to a Winter of hard work!

The 5k rust buster on Saturday turned out okay. I was pushed a bit harder than I would have liked for the victory and resultant pair of shoes but got it done. 16:55 was an ugly return on the effort I had to put in but hopefully will prove a good benchmark as I get fitter over the next few weeks. If nothing else the race made my mind up not to jump in the Turkey Trot today so I am looking forward to running there to watch and then doing a workout with Aaron (who is racing) afterwards.

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Back at it

I haven’t updated this in over 6 weeks so I thought it was about time I got my loyal reader up to speed with what’s been going on with the Captain recently. Last time we spoke I had just returned from a great trip to New York and I was suffering from a season ending knee injury.

The following Saturday, after a week of no running, I ventured up to Lake Norman to run the last race in the GP series to confirm my victory. I got round the 15k with an achy knee in the middle of the pack. As it happened John Compton raced and won by a big enough distance that I could have stayed at home and still won the series but I needed to be up there and make sure all my bases were covered. 48 minutes after the gun went off, Lisa called me on my cell that I was carrying while I was running and confirmed John had won the race and I knew overall victory was mine.

I took another week completely off then attempted a jog the following Saturday. The knee was still sore so I took another week completely off and also got myself a sports massage that seemed to help enormously. The following weekend I managed a couple of 4 milers and since then I have been very gradually increasing the mileage and intensity back to the point now where I am no longer too concerned about the knee and am back in a regular routine.

I ran 40 miles my first week back, then 45 and am on course this week for 50. I’ve done a couple of 10 mile runs, a couple of short tempo runs and even headed to the track this week for a low key workout. Tomorrow I’ve signed up for a 5k in my local park that I plan to run pretty hard so that I can blow the cobwebs out a little bit more. I’m a happy Captain!

Which brings me on to goals for the next few dark and cold Winter months. Well obviously the main one will be to keep healthy and get consistency back into my training. There is a Half Marathon in Myrtle Beach in February that I am definitely considering using as a goal race to train towards, figuring that the strength I gain training for this will set me up for some fast races over shorter distances in the Spring. I haven’t run a Half in quite a while so it would be good to shoot for a PR on what will be a flat and fast course with some of the faster guys in Charlotte heading down for me to chase. The kids are off school for two days following that race so the plan is to make a long weekend family trip out of it. Coach Budic is lined up to get me some new training schedules shortly!

So I’m happy to be back at it and hoping to finish off the year fit and healthy and ready to launch into 2012 with gusto! And if I needed any more inspiration to get myself out there and training hard again then I didn’t have to look any further than some of the performances of my friends and rivals over the past few weeks. Marathon season has been in full swing and there have been some memorable and inspiring performances around the country, from new PRs to Boston qualifiers, gutsy finishes and solid debuts. Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Knee screwed, plug pulled......

One of the problems of only sporadically updating this blog is that lots can happen between posts and news is fed to you in chunks rather than through a more ‘organic’ process. So having said all I said in my last post about rediscovering some mojo and setting out on a new training plan for the Thunder Road Half I can abruptly announce in this post that I am now no longer doing the Half and am indeed starting to take some long needed down time!

My knee pain that I alluded to in my last post was not going away and despite completing a great 2 hour run with Jay in New York on Saturday (great for the company and location (running around the reservoir in Central Park really is a Runners’ World ‘Rave Run’ moment!) not for the state of the knee) it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to carry on training at the intensity required to take a good stab at the Half in November so I discussed it with Tim and we decided it would be in my best interest to call it quits for this cycle (and year, essentially) and take my down time now instead of after the Half as originally planned.

So basically I will be doing nothing now until the knee feels better and I have had plenty of rest and recuperation. I haven’t gotten my knee checked out yet (no rush!) but if it continues to feel as sore as it currently does for much longer I will have to get it looked at get a scan if necessary. My immediate non-professional diagnosis was tendinitis but what do I know, if there is some sort of tear or other issue going on then my time off may end up being longer than currently planned!

That being said, such are the vagaries of the Grand Prix scoring system that in spite of completing all ten races to date and only losing to one of my overall rivals in one of those 10 races (Richard got me at Greek Fest by 3 seconds) I still have to complete the final race on Saturday in order to win overall. So in one shape or another I will be dragging myself around a hilly 15k course on Saturday just so I can record a finish and get the 250 points bonus you receive for competing in all 11 races. Without the 250 bonus I will likely drop some places in the standings and forego a not insignificant monetary prize for coming first overall, not to mention the chance to be crowned Grand Prix champion at last after several years of podium finishes! So call me stupid but I will be there on Saturday!

After Saturday I will just have to live my running life vicariously through the legs, workouts and races of others as in no particular order races in Chicago, Washington, Toronto, Morganton, Richmond, Savannah, New York and of course Charlotte are tackled by my close friends and training partners. Good luck all!

I can certainly look back on 2011 with a great amount of satisfaction. Not counting Blue Ridge or the Summer Track Series, I toed the line in 20 races, with 8 wins, 6 2nds, a 3rd, 2 4ths, a 5th, a 7th and a 20th (out of 40,000+ At Ukrops), the highlights being the US Masters track 10k championship victory, my 15:31 at the 49er track meet, three Grand Prix race victories, (hopefully) overall Grand Prix victory and being part of the valiant but ultimately beaten CRC team at Blue Ridge. There have also been disappointments including the Ukrops race and this knee injury that I have picked up but all in all I reckon I’ve just about earned a bit of a rest…..

In other news, our weekend in New York was fantastic! It was Lisa’s birthday present and she loved New York, never having been there before, so I am in the good books for a while!

Also farewell and good luck to running buddies and fellow bloggers Meagan and Jordan as they leave Charlotte for pastures new.

That's it for a while folks. I'm off to put my feet up and get fat.....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Post BRR update

Needless to say after the relay I was very sore and stiff for a few days. However, a glance at my post BRR training log from last year had given me hope as it just so happened that that particular week ended up being my biggest mileage week ever (85 miles for all the statisticians amongst you). They’d been slow miles and the only workout had been a 10k race but still I had proven before I could recover quite quickly from the race.

And indeed this year was pretty much the same story. I obviously didn’t hit anywhere near 85 miles (I’m not deep in training for a marathon this year and my mileage has been more in the 60-65 range the past few weeks anyway) but I still had a decent enough week. By Wednesday my legs were almost ‘back to normal’ and on the Saturday I felt good enough to take advantage of some very favorable temps to win the 10th race in the GP series, the Brixx 10k, with a decent enough 33:52 solo effort, my second fastest on this course over the years and 30 seconds faster than last year’s equivalent.

To be honest that race gave me a taste for having one last effort at training for a goal race this year, the Thunder Road Half which will be held here in November. I had started to feel a bit ambiguous about my running (as evidenced by me pulling the plug on the blog temporarily!) but the time I achieved and the circumstances in which I got that time led me to believe that I could indeed have a go at training for one more race this year

So coach was notified and we are working on getting at least somewhat ready for the Half. Strictly speaking, I really feel I need a break, but the timing of the November race is good as after that I can put my feet up for a while and not worry too much about not racing as we hit the comparatively barren Winter months.

So I’ll drag this weary body through the next few weeks and see what I can get out of it. My right knee has been acting a bit grumpy this week and today I wiped out on it during my run so it is feeling extra battered but I’m hoping this too will soon pass and I can run a solid enough race at the Grand Prix Finale next weekend. After all, it would be a shame to do my ‘lap of honor’ at walking pace (I need to at least finish the race to get the required Bonus points)!!

In other news, this weekend Lisa and I are headed to Mid Town New York City for a couple of days away from the kids. Lisa will be 40 in October so I decided to push the boat out this year and get her more than just the usual card! Visiting the Big Apple will also give me the opportunity to meet up with Jay for a run in Central Park!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Unabridged version

2011 saw a record breaking Blue Ridge Relay and the closest race in its history. The previous overall course record was smashed by both the winners and the runners up and the previous Womens' and Masters' records were also consigned to the history books. I was a member of the Charlotte Running Club/Try Sports team that took part in the race and was one of the two teams that broke the previous course record. SPOILER ALERT!! For those who don't the outcome yet, I'll refrain from saying where we finished until you find out at the end of the recap!

For a brief overview, the Blue Ridge Relay sees teams of up to 12 runners running 36 legs along a 208 mile route through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Charlotte Running Club was sending its strongest team ever up to the event in an attempt to bring the title back to the Queen City for the first time. At the same time, a team from Asheville had been created that would prove to be more than worthy adversaries. In the weeks leading up to the event, while the final running orders of both teams were being finalized after the usual inevitable late withdrawals and replacements, excitement was building as both camps expected a close fought, fast race. Little did they know about what was actually going to unfold....

To set the scene a little more I will introduce you to our team (in running order) and for some perspective include my estimation of what sort of 5k shape I personally feel each runner was in (I hope I don't offend anyone with this (!) but these are my best estimates and hope they add some perspective to the story)

Van 1

Richard Harris- BRR debutant, recent Greek Fest 5k winner in 16:21

John Compton- 2nd year BRR. Ran same legs last year. CRC's strongest runner and possibly the strongest runner in the race. 15:00

Ben Hovis- 2nd year BRR. Team Captain. Returning from injuries and short of fitness but healthy and ready to compete in his favorite event. 16:20

Billy Shue- 2nd year BRR. 16:30

Mike Beigay- 2nd year BRR. 16:25

Greg Isaacs- BRR debutant. 16:40

Van 2

Paul Mainwaring- 2nd year BRR. 16:10

Bob Marchinko- BRR debutant. One of two 'Masters' on team. 16:10

Chris Lamperski- BRR veteran. Returning from injury. 17:00

Aaron Linz- BRR debutant. Deep into Toronto Marathon training. 16:20

Josh Baker- BRR debutant. Only runner on team that regularly trains on the sort of hilly terrain the race would cover. 15:30

Rocky Falcone- BRR debutant. Oldest member of team but one of the fastest. 15:40


Left to right- Ben,John,Bob,Aaron,Mike,Richard,Billy,Me,Chris,Josh,Greg,Rocky

Race report

We were due to start racing at 1:30pm alongside the Asheville Running Collective. All the other teams in the race would already have started. We arranged to meet at the Dowd YMCA to get on the road in our vans by 8:30. The race taking place three hours away had already started....

Ben picked me up at 7 so we could go and pick up the vans in good time. The first thing I noticed was that each runner had been made a personalized goodie bag of edible treats to get us through the anticipated 20 hour race, thanks Carolyn, Megan, Meghan and Kelly! Jordan who had had to pull out at the last minute due to injury had provided a big supply of Nuun hydration tablets for the coolers of water we were taking. We certainly wouldn't be lacking for fuel and hydration!

One by one the team arrived at the Y and got into their vans. Most of us were meeting Josh for the first time. He looked skinny and fast and had a smile on his face, that will do! We would be picking Bob up en route. First little 'issue' of the race. One of the vans had the 'low tire pressure' gauge flashing and we found a screw lodged in one of the tires. Back to the rental company. No way we were taking the risk of having to change a tire during the race! No problem there was another van in the lot and we had plenty of time to get to the start. We picked up Bob at Walmart in Mooresville and purchased some pens to decorate the van with. Mike had put a folder in each van with the route for each leg printed off so everyone familiarized themselves with their legs and generally just chilled out getting ready for the task ahead.

We stopped for gas and then at a Subway for some sustenance. As we pulled off 77 and hit the country roads we were reminded about the hilly terrain we would soon be running over. We pulled into the start area about an hour before the race start. Amazingly, and in an ominous sign of things to come, Asheville's van pulled into the Park at exactly the same time, coming from completely the other direction. Both teams got out of their vans to sign in and pick up race numbers, etc. Two or three members of the two teams knew each other so both teams briefly mingled and exchanged pleasantries before finishing off van decoration, etc. The mood was relaxed and anticipatory of a good battle ahead. We wrote on one of our vans "This year we left the women at home" in reference to the fact that last year CRC had entered a mixed team (that had smashed the course mixed record and come third overall after a close battle with another Asheville team), in response Asheville wrote on theirs' "We'll tell your women you're on your way". The fiercely competitive but friendly and respectful mood was set.





I caught up with fellow Brit Stu Moran who, unfortunately for him and Asheville but fortunately for us, was no longer running due to injury but would be driving one of their vans and providing vital course information and support to his team. Stu had studied the two line ups and was expecting a nip and tuck battle to the end! I also spoke to Asheville's captain Frankie who I had ironically gone head to head with last year during the race and also Scott who I knew from a couple of runs in Charlotte and who would be running the same legs as me later in the day. A 2:39 marathoner and expert hill runner, I expected Scott to prove a tough competitor for me. Little did I know how right I was going to be!

All the talking was over, the action was about to begin.....

The battle commences



Richard and Trent get matters underway

Richard was getting ready to start off our journey. Quiet and unassuming but confident and in great form, Richard had joined the team after Jordan’s late withdrawal and was looking forward to stamping his mark on his first BRR. Ben had had a few quiet words with him, he was good to go and an ideal starter for the team. The first stage was literally all downhill for 4 miles. Many a competitor’s race at BRR has been scuppered by running too hard on this leg over the years. A solid, efficient effort was called for and achieved by both teams as they came in less than 20 minutes later separated by just a few seconds, Richard in the lead.

Over to John now. The Mixed Team’s star performer the year before, even more was expected off of him this year with the prior knowledge he had gained of his legs and the form he had shown all year to date. And he didn’t disappoint. The Asheville runner briefly caught up to John at the start of the leg but by the middle of the leg John was rolling and had pulled about a two minute lead out by the time he handed over to the captain. This wasn’t unexpected but it was good to know that our ‘star man’ was on form, we needed everyone to perform to their maximum if we were going to have any chance at all of winning the race.


John rolling on Leg 2- that gap soon became 2 minutes

Worth explaining at this point how the vans worked. Once a runner had completed his leg the ‘on’ van (in this case van 1) would drive straight ahead to the next exchange zone so that the next runner up could get a brief warm up in before his leg. The other van, whose occupants wouldn’t be running until later, would pick up the runner who had just finished and support the guy who had just started his leg. As we passed our runner we would give him plenty of encouragement and then find a suitable place along the route to stop and get out so we could watch and cheer from outside the van and also get a sense of what the distance was between him and the competition. It was during such a stop in the middle of leg 4 that the first real drama of the race unfolded. Ben was running solidly as we saw him pass. He didn’t look particularly happy with life but seemed to be in a good rhythm. Not unexpectedly, however, the Asheville guy Daniel was clearly gaining some time back. Then all of a sudden as we were just about to get back in the van Daniel pulled over to the side of the road to stretch his calf out. As we passed him he had gingerly started running again but things were not looking good for him.

I had mixed emotions at this point. The competitive side of me was happy as our rival was in trouble and we had a chance to really put the hammer down early in the race. On the other hand a wave of disappointment came over me as we had been looking forward to a hard race and didn’t want to win it early on because of someone getting hurt and having to pull out. As it was, Daniel recovered well to finish the leg and would go on to be able to complete the race. Unexpectedly though, our lead had increased slightly on leg 4. The definite early advantage had gone to CRC.


Ben and Billy negotiate an interesting handover

Over the next couple of hours it was pretty much status quo as Billy, Mike and Greg got their first legs out of the way. Greg was particularly impressive on his Blue Ridge debut putting some time into his opponent.


Greg enjoying his first BRR performance

Van 1 had done its job now it was Van 2’s turn to shine. First up in Van 2 was good old moi. Like John I had been given the same legs as last year (7, 19 and 31). I was happy with this as I knew I wouldn’t have any problems getting lost and could use last year’s experience to my advantage with regard to pacing and route management. There was no doubt that I was in better shape for last year’s race (deep into training for Richmond Marathon) but I was hoping my relative lack of fitness in the current year would be fully compensated by the advantage of having run here before.

Leg 7 is 2 miles downhill, 1 nasty mile of uphills, 1 more nice downhill with an absolute beast of a mile in mile 5 followed by a ‘sprint’ to the next exchange zone. You know when the course handbook describes a hill in this race as a ‘monster’ that it’s going to be bad and so it proved again for me. By the time I got to the top of the hill I had been cursing aloud and wishing I was somewhere else. However, I did manage to put an extra 40 seconds into Asheville on this leg and had run faster than last year. Pleasing.


The Captain gets going


I'm down there somewhere, cursing, loudly

Bob looked up for the fight as he put a little more time in the bank (we weren’t expecting anything else from definitely the fiercest competitor I have known since moving over here), Chris lost a little time to Asheville’s captain and then Aaron discovered he was up against one of their better runners as more time was taken away from our lead. Both had run great and in line with expectations but Asheville were definitely up for the battle and the strength of their second van was coming to light already. After 10 legs and with dusk approaching, less than 2 minutes separated the teams. With 4 of the fastest runners in the race set to run the next two legs the battle was well and truly on!

First rotation comes to an end


Up to this point it had felt like us and Asheville were the only two teams in the race! We had started an hour and a half after the previous starters and hours behind the other 100 plus teams that were competing. As we pulled into exchange zone 10/11, however, we came across the first few of all other vans that we would pass. I bumped into fellow blogger Dave and his team and we exchanged tales of the race so far. Their team seemed genuinely interested in how the race was panning out between us and Asheville and it appeared that word had got around that there was a highly competitive duel going on at the ‘back’ of the race. As it was just getting dark now it was time to get out the reflective vests and headlamps and start getting ready for the night ahead.

Legs 11 and 12 did not disappoint as the 4 speedsters got to work and laid their respective markers down. By the time Rocky Falcone handed over to Richard at the Tangier Outlet in Blowing Rock and Van 1 set off for its second shift, less than a minute separated the teams, CRC with the slight advantage. By now of course everyone had run and we could start to get a feel for how the race may develope further down the line. It was clear that both teams were definitely pretty evenly matched. Our Van 1 had edged Asheville’s but mainly due to the problems they had encountered on leg 3. If Daniel was sufficiently recovered for the rest of the race that would clearly make a significant difference to the outcome. With regard to Van 2, meanwhile, Asheville appeared to have the upper hand overall and their last four runners looked capable of doing significant damage given even a merest sniff of the lead.

A third of the race had been completed, honors even....


Josh finishing off Leg 11


Rocky sets off towards Blowing Rock. Jubbs, Asheville's potent closer, lurking menacingly in the background


The sun sets on rotation 1 of the competition

Night racing

It was now just after 8:15 on Friday evening and darkness had set in. Both teams had shown their cards and every runner had raced. After 71.6 miles and 6 hours and 47 minutes of racing (that’s an average of 5:41 pace per mile just to put it into perspective!), 29 seconds separated the two teams!! If the other teams’ runners saw a blur of a headlamp, blinky lights and reflective panels coming past them now it was likely a runner from one of these two protagonists!

Richard carried on where he had left off from his first leg, putting a further minute into his rival. Then it was over to John and Keith to duke it out on the longest and toughest stage of the race, the Grandfather Mountain ten miler. Rumor had it that John was going to have a crack at breaking the hour barrier on this leg, a feat rarely achieved in years past. Van 2 had the pleasure of stopping every 10 minutes or so to watch John’s relentless charge across the mountain. Road kill is the term used to describe overtaking another runner in this race. This was more like road genocide. 1 hour and 27 seconds after starting his leg John handed over to Billy. Credit where credit is due though. John’s Asheville counterpart Keith refused to buckle under his charge, himself clocking a remarkable 1:01:48.

John jumped in our van and we set off to see how Billy was doing on the shortest and fastest leg of the race, 2.4 miles downhill. As we approached him from behind we could see he was running well. He was weaving in and out of road kill, ticking them off one by one. We whooped and hollered as we passed him to pump him up even more. He clearly didn’t need much pumping as he shouted after us, a la Bruce Willis, “Yippie Ki Yay Mother F*ck*rs!!”. Not sure that was in keeping with the “Please talk in hushed voices between the hours of 7:30pm and 7:30am” rule, but we let him off as he was flying. Bearing in mind that Billy’s mile PR leading into this race was 5:09, his average pace of 4:34 for this leg was scarcely credible! Amazingly, though, CRC actually lost time on this leg as Kevin Lisska ran 10:06 for the 2.4 miles, an average pace of 4:23!!! The lead was now 2:30.

Over the next 4 legs that lead was whittled down to 46 seconds as Asheville chipped away leg by leg. At the halfway point, just over ten hours into the race, we were still no closer to discovering our victor

When things start to get a bit hazy

It was time for the Captain to pull on his racing flats again. In a remarkably similar situation to the one I found myself in at the same time of last year's race, I was just about to be handed the wristband very closely followed by our nearest rival. This leg was the easy one of my three, a slightly downhill 4.3 miler with few turns. And, just like last year, I ran a solid enough leg but felt I could have run faster. In fact I ran 1 whole second faster than last year! More importantly, it was 8 seconds faster than Scott. The overall lead was creeping back up to a minute and Bob was up next. He clearly had his counterpart's number and after a brute of a 7.5 mile leg at 1 o'clock in the morning, two more minutes were gained. Chris protected the lead, then things were about to get very interesting....

We were now nearly 12 hours into the race and everyone was starting to get a bit tired. The middle of the night hours were beginning to take hold and the in van banter was reduced as runners tried to grab the odd moment of shut eye. Aaron set off on his second leg. Shortly afterwards our van overtook him and called out the usual encouraging words as we passed. Soon we were approaching a key intersection but there were no signs indicating that the runners had to turn. Usually no sign meant carry straight on. We were confused, a van in front of us was clearly confused as well as it was crawling along at 10 mph. We followed that van across the intersection not entirely sure we were going the right way. Driving along we were looking out for the tell tale flashing lights of other runners. There were none....

We were trying to keep calm in the van but were now clearly lost and the maps weren't really much use. Our new worry was that we weren't going to get Josh to the next exchange zone in time to get the wrist band from Aaron. We did a u turn and headed back the way we had come, this time at about 70 mph! Other vans were around, it was clear that we weren't the only ones lost. After eventually getting back on the right route we still weren't sure whether Aaron had got lost himself. As we hadn't passed him again we presumed he had and as we approached the next exchange zone, the other van was finally able to get through to us on the phone. Aaron had indeed gone the wrong way but they had found him and pointed him back in the right direction. Apparently, Asheville's Aaron had also gone off course but he too was back on the right route. Two very pissed Aarons were heading towards exchange zone 23 having both run a couple of additional unwanted miles.

It soon transpired that Asheville had suffered more than CRC. When the dust settled CRC had expended their lead from 2:30 to just over 5 minutes. Based on how the two Aarons had matched up on their first leg, Asheville could probably have counted on their guy cutting the lead in half on this leg. Instead they found themselves further behind. How would they respond?

Asheville respond

As the dust settled on the leg number 22 that everyone wanted to forget about, it was time for the race to carry on in earnest. It was 2:30 in the morning, and 125 miles of the 208 miles had been covered. Charlotte were now just over 5 minutes ahead, the largest lead of the race so far and almost a mile for these speedsters! An angry Asheville team was in hot pursuit, adrenaline pumping, and Charlotte were going to have to respond if their lead wasn’t going to disappear quickly.

Status quo on the next leg but that was not unexpected. Josh and David, who ended up being two of the fastest runners in the race, were separated by just 2 seconds over their three legs when the race was over! David won their first head to head by 3 seconds, Josh this one by 2 seconds and David the 3rd leg later by 1 second. They ended up running 16.1 miles in 1:33:26 and 1:33:28 (5:48 pace). Unbelievable stuff.

Leg 24 saw the first stirrings of a comeback though. In spite of covering his 3.2 mile leg in 16:14, Rocky ended up losing a minute of the lead on this leg with Jubbs covering the same ground in an unbelievable 15:15 (this leg was longer than a 5k remember- at 3am!). Both vans had now run twice, 4 minutes was the gap.

With their second legs out of the way it was time for van 2 to think about grabbing some sleep while van 1 got back to work and finished off their races. As such we were unable to provide the support that we had previously been giving to van 1 while they ran. We drove ahead to exchange zone 30/31 where I would next be taking the wristband up the notorious mountain goat stage.

I navigated our van to the changeover spot, so had had literally no sleep since the start of the race. I didn't feel that tired anyway as I was buzzing off all the adrenaline from the race. It was 4:30 am and I was due to run at about 6 so I figured it would probably be a good idea to try and get some sleep. I headed into the hall that people were sleeping in, set my alarm for 5:30 and laid myself out on the floor. My legs were sore from the previous two stages and I generally just felt pretty crappy but it was nice to be able to stretch out on the floor and rest my eyes. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep at all, I just tossed and turned and stretched for an hour, constantly checking my watch to see what time it was.

At 5:30 I headed back to the van and rooted around in the dark for my third running outfit of the race and all the other required night time paraphenalia. Everyone else was still dozing. Behind me down the road I figured Mike was probably finishing off leg 29 and Greg would be getting ready to tackle leg 30. We had no idea at this stage what had been happening in the race the past couple of hours. I tried to jog up and down the street a few times to loosen up my legs and get ready for the task ahead but must admit I wasn't feeling great at this point. My legs were sore, my body was tired and I knew what lay in store, having tackled this leg the year before. The prospect of running 5 miles straight up a mountain was not exactly enticing. I was cursing to myself (and Ben!) thinking I never want to do this thing again! I had to get my shit together though. The team needed me to do a job and I couldn't let them down, everyone else was giving 110% and I needed to do the same.

Josh woke at this point and immediately tried to get in contact with Ben to get an update on proceedings. Well apparently we had missed out on some pretty exciting stuff! Richard had lost a bit of time, John had caught it back and added some to the lead (no surprises there) but on leg 27 Asheville had made their first significant move on the longest stage of the night, 9 miles. In spite of a great run from Billy who covered the leg in 57 minutes, Kevin Lisska had taken nearly 3 minutes out of the lead. As Billy handed over to the captain the lead was down to 2 minutes. Daniel set off after Ben in earnest and was soon cutting into the lead. Yet more drama though as his curse of the calf struck again to slow him downand Ben was able to regain the time that had been whittled away. The gap was still 2 minutes as the captain finished off his legs. A great effort indeed by Ben, who two weeks earlier wasn't even sure he was going to run!!

Then, it happened. After 28 legs, 159 miles and 15 hours of racing, Asheville grabbed the lead for the first time in the race. A relentless 7.5 mile charge at 5:39 pace (his third run in 15 hours remember!) from Seth had seen him pass Mike and hand over to Dave with just over a 1 minute lead. CRC weren't done yet though and with Greg up next against an opponent that he had just had the edge over so far, anything could happen!

So Josh communicated the news that Asheville had taken the lead and that the 2 guys were about 15 minutes away. I made my way over to the starting area and reacquainted myself with Scott. We both confessed that this was all getting far too stressful and nervously took it in turns to do some cursory strides while we waited. The latest news was that Greg had gained the time lost back and was running neck and neck with Dave. The Mountain Goat leg awaited....

Of Mountain Goats

Scott and I were bouncing up and down on the spot, trying to at least look as if we were excited about running the upcoming leg. We didn't even know whose headlamp was going to show up first as we looked back into the darkness. As it was it was Greg's voice we heard first. What a run from the debutante! Hold on though, there's another flashing light right behind. Yes, it's Dave and yes after 30 legs of racing the teams were almost neck and neck, one van rotation and some very tough stages to go!

I headed off into the darkness with the shouts of my teammates ringing in my ears. The first mile and a half of this leg is pancake flat as you run along the bottom of the valley. You feel how a Tour de France rider must feel as he rides along the valley floor in the Pyrenees preparing himself for the inevitable and relentless climb ahead. I knew Scott was just seconds behind so I just tried to relax into a good tempo and wait for him to inevitably pull alongside me. Misery loves company, right! We hit the base of the hill neck and neck. Two dogs scurried out of the undergrowth towards us and gave us brief pause for thought before they sensibly decided that they had no need to be running up a mountain at 6:30 in the morning. The climb started, Scott and I just focussing on the road ahead, the only sounds the patter of our shoes on the road and the gradually increasing breaths being exhaled. My Garmin beeped as we knocked off another mile. I looked down and it read 6:50 pace for the last mile. That was a pretty similar pace as I had run for the leg last year in breaking the previous course record. I was feeling pretty good but still couldn't imagine running 3 and a half more miles up this darned hill!!

Scott had got a step on me now but I focussed and dug in and clung to his tail. I figured that if I could keep close to him on this leg I would be handing over to Bob in a good position and we all knew what he was capable of. All 4 vans passed us and cheered us on. I heard Asheville shouting for Scott to show the Charlotte guy how Asheville got it done. I was determined to not let that happen. Halfway up the hill and we were still stride for stride. I would occasionally take the lead myself just to show Scott that I still had some gas and this is how almost the whole climb played out. The top of this beast is the worst part! The grade steepens and it becomes switchback after switchback. Still we were alongside each other, no quarter given or asked. About a quarter mile from the end of the stage Scott finally put some hurt on me and grabbed a 19 second lead but I was pleased with my effort. What a run from Scott who had beaten my leg record from last year by 6 seconds. I couldn't have given any more myself- I now have the second and third fastest times on ths notorious leg and had given Bob something to work with....

Of Legends and Melting Shoes


Captain passes on to Bob, a legend about to be born

After mutual congratulations between Scott and I and vows that we would make sure we wouldn't see each others faces in a race again any time soon, I hauled myself into van 1 and we set off to see how Bob was doing. Van 2 had already sped ahead to put Chris into position for leg 33. Van 1 was about to witness running of mythical proportions...

Barely 5 minutes had passed since I had handed the wristband to Bob but already he had retaken the lead for CRC. He was a mile into the 9.4 mile stage back down the mountain I had just run up and was simply flying. As we passed him we checked the speedometer of the van- 15 mph, his cadence a blur, dust swirling around his ankles. We were stopping the van periodically to witness the mayhem but soon having to jump back in as he was past us before we knew it. As the terrain flattened out and turned from dusty trail to tarmac the worry was that Bob's quads were just going to say "no more!" but if they were hurting, they didn't show it. 9.4 miles and 47:19 later (an average pace of 5:02) Bob had reopened the lead to two minutes for CRC. Chris headed off towards the infamous 'Nipple', Asheville waited for their man to come in, Bob collapsed in a heap by the side of the road....


Bob clearly hadn't tried hard enough....

Asheville's captain was up next and his intelligent grind up the simply ridiculous 13% grades of leg 33 cut back into CRC's lead again. Chris had done his utmost over his three legs and poured all his effort into this leg in particular. Over three legs he had ceded just 2 and a half minutes to Asheville's leader despite being self-confessedly out of his usual shape. There were three runners left and the lead was 41 seconds in CRC's favor. Having seen how gifted Asheville's closing threesome were over their previous legs, things looked ominous for Charlotte as both Aarons set off on leg 34.

On a side note it should be mentioned that the two teams now had company again! Having passed every other team in the race a good couple of hours back, one team had obstinately remained up ahead. The remarkable Carolina Godivas Masters team that had started 1.5 hours ahead of CRC and Asheville had held on until two legs from the finish to get passed. They were noticeably enthralled to be witness to the race that was about to unfold past them and themselves went on to smash the previous Masters team record. Great stuff!

Meanwhile we were waiting at exchange zone 34/35 for the two Aarons to come in. 'El Presidente' Linz was doing "uno mas" for the CRC team, Kolk was running a barnstormer. It was later revealed that the Asheville Aaron had torn a muscle during his first leg but battled through it. If that was the case then his run on this leg was remarkable. He handed over to David with a 41 second lead and Asheville looked like they were about to seal the deal. Credit where credit's due to both men who had brushed off their middle of the night misadventures and performed to the utmost for their teams.

Leg 35 started off at the base of yet another monster climb. CRC's hope was that their own mountain goat Josh could lay it all on the line for his team and cut back into Asheville's lead. As he sprung off in pursuit of David it certainly looked for a while that he might just be able to do that. He was bounding up the hill like a man possessed and as our van passed the Asheville runner his cadence and facial expression showed signs that he may be cracking. We drove on to the last exchange zone with hope in our hearts again. Rocky got out of the van and prepared himself for the final showdown, Jubbs was prowling around ready to get unleashed one final time. All of a sudden Asheville's voices rose. Their man was on his way in! Showing that our impressions as we had passed him had simply been wishful thinking, David bounded into the exchange zone having completed the ridiculousy hard stage at a 6:18 pace! The band was passed on to Jubbs and he was off like a greyhound after a rabbit. 41 seconds later and Josh came flying in too! He couldn't believe he hadn't got closer to his counterpart having run at 4:48 pace for the last mile of his leg but we were proud of him! If we hadn't known this guy before the race then we certainly did now!!


Rocky flying towards the finish

Rocky set off and CRC still clutched on to the hope of a miracle. The 4 vans headed off towards Asheville and bemused tourists and cyclists wondered what on earth was going on as two very fast guys were sprinting down the mountain on the wrong side of the busy road heading towards the town center! As we passed both Rocky and Jubbs it was clear that the Asheville man was running like a man possessed and looked unstoppable. We headed into Asheville resigned to defeat but oh so proud of our team. We parked up the vans and headed up to the finishing line. Sure enough Jubbs was soon in view and the Asheville Running Collective joined him in the traditional Blue Ridge Relay fashion of running over the finishing line with the last member of your team. It was later discovered that Jubbs' shoes had literally melted during his 5:02 pace final leg. That's what it had taken to hold CRC off but all the same, what a closer Asheville had had!

Just 2 minutes and 15 seconds later and in came Rocky and we proudly joined him in crossing the finishing line ourselves. The generous and respectful applause we had given the Asheville team as they had finished the race was replicated by the winning team as CRC finished. Mutual congratulations were given and Asheville were able to bask in the glow of victory safe in the knowledge that they had been given the most intense fight possible. Both teams had simply given their all and in the end the best team had won the most exciting and by far the fastest race in BRR history.



A proud CRC team cross the line with Rocky


The deserved victors


The gallant runners up


Mutual respect

As tales were told and legends began to be created as we scoffed down slice after slice of Mellow Mushroom pizza after the race, thoughts were already turning towards next year's race.....

Thanks for reading.....

And if the tale I have told is not enough to give you a sense of the race, here is the link to Asheville's own video take on the action....

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 8- Of Legends and Melting Shoes


Captain passes on to Bob, a legend about to be born

After mutual congratulations between Scott and I and vows that we would make sure we wouldn't see each others faces in a race again any time soon, I hauled myself into van 1 and we set off to see how Bob was doing. Van 2 had already sped ahead to put Chris into position for leg 33. Van 1 was about to witness running of mythical proportions...

Barely 5 minutes had passed since I had handed the wristband to Bob but already he had retaken the lead for CRC. He was a mile into the 9.4 mile stage back down the mountain I had just run up and was simply flying. As we passed him we checked the speedometer of the van- 15 mph, his cadence a blur, dust swirling around his ankles. We were stopping the van periodically to witness the mayhem but soon having to jump back in as he was past us before we knew it. As the terrain flattened out and turned from dusty trail to tarmac the worry was that Bob's quads were just going to say "no more!" but if they were hurting, they didn't show it. 9.4 miles and 47:19 later (an average pace of 5:02) Bob had reopened the lead to two minutes for CRC. Chris headed off towards the infamous 'Nipple', Asheville waited for their man to come in, Bob collapsed in a heap by the side of the road....


Bob clearly hadn't tried hard enough....

Asheville's captain was up next and his intelligent grind up the simply ridiculous 13% grades of leg 33 cut back into CRC's lead again. Chris had done his utmost over his three legs and poured all his effort into this leg in particular. Over three legs he had ceded just 2 and a half minutes to Asheville's leader despite being self-confessedly out of his usual shape. There were three runners left and the lead was 41 seconds in CRC's favor. Having seen how gifted Asheville's closing threesome were over their previous legs, things looked ominous for Charlotte as both Aarons set off on leg 34.

On a side note it should be mentioned that the two teams now had company again! Having passed every other team in the race a good couple of hours back, one team had obstinately remained up ahead. The remarkable Carolina Godivas Masters team that had started 1.5 hours ahead of CRC and Asheville had held on until two legs from the finish to get passed. They were noticeably enthralled to be witness to the race that was about to unfold past them and themselves went on to smash the previous Masters team record. Great stuff!

Meanwhile we were waiting at exchange zone 34/35 for the two Aarons to come in. 'El Presidente' Linz was doing "uno mas" for the CRC team, Kolk was running a barnstormer. It was later revealed that the Asheville Aaron had torn a muscle during his first leg but battled through it. If that was the case then his run on this leg was remarkable. He handed over to David with a 41 second lead and Asheville looked like they were about to seal the deal. Credit where credit's due to both men who had brushed off their middle of the night misadventures and performed to the utmost for their teams.

Leg 35 started off at the base of yet another monster climb. CRC's hope was that their own mountain goat Josh could lay it all on the line for his team and cut back into Asheville's lead. As he sprung off in pursuit of David it certainly looked for a while that he might just be able to do that. He was bounding up the hill like a man possessed and as our van passed the Asheville runner his cadence and facial expression showed signs that he may be cracking. We drove on to the last exchange zone with hope in our hearts again. Rocky got out of the van and prepared himself for the final showdown, Jubbs was prowling around ready to get unleashed one final time. All of a sudden Asheville's voices rose. Their man was on his way in! Showing that our impressions as we had passed him had simply been wishful thinking, David bounded into the exchange zone having completed the ridiculousy hard stage at a 6:18 pace! The band was passed on to Jubbs and he was off like a greyhound after a rabbit. 41 seconds later and Josh came flying in too! He couldn't believe he hadn't got closer to his counterpart having run at 4:48 pace for the last mile of his leg but we were proud of him! If we hadn't known this guy before the race then we certainly did now!!


Rocky flying towards the finish

Rocky set off and CRC still clutched on to the hope of a miracle. The 4 vans headed off towards Asheville and bemused tourists and cyclists wondered what on earth was going on as two very fast guys were sprinting down the mountain on the wrong side of the busy road heading towards the town center! As we passed both Rocky and Jubbs it was clear that the Asheville man was running like a man possessed and looked unstoppable. We headed into Asheville resigned to defeat but oh so proud of our team. We parked up the vans and headed up to the finishing line. Sure enough Jubbs was soon in view and the Asheville Running Collective joined him in the traditional Blue Ridge Relay fashion of running over the finishing line with the last member of your team. It was later discovered that Jubbs' shoes had literally melted during his 5:02 pace final leg. That's what it had taken to hold CRC off but all the same, what a closer Asheville had had!

Just 2 minutes and 15 seconds later and in came Rocky and we proudly joined him in crossing the finishing line ourselves. The generous and respectful applause we had given the Asheville team as they had finished the race was replicated by the winning team as CRC finished. Mutual congratulations were given and Asheville were able to bask in the glow of victory safe in the knowledge that they had been given the most intense fight possible. Both teams had simply given their all and in the end the best team had won the most exciting and by far the fastest race in BRR history.



A proud CRC team cross the line with Rocky


The deserved victors


The gallant runners up


Mutual respect

As tales were told and legends began to be created as we scoffed down slice after slice of Mellow Mushroom pizza after the race, thoughts were already turning towards next year's race.....

Thanks for reading.....

And if the tale I have told is not enough to give you a sense of the race, here is the link to Asheville's own video take on the action....

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 7- Of Mountain Goats

Scott and I were bouncing up and down on the spot, trying to at least look as if we were excited about running the upcoming leg. We didn't even know whose headlamp was going to show up first as we looked back into the darkness. As it was it was Greg's voice we heard first. What a run from the debutante! Hold on though, there's another flashing light right behind. Yes, it's Dave and yes after 30 legs of racing the teams were almost neck and neck, one van rotation and some very tough stages to go!

I headed off into the darkness with the shouts of my teammates ringing in my ears. The first mile and a half of this leg is pancake flat as you run along the bottom of the valley. You feel how a Tour de France rider must feel as he rides along the valley floor in the Pyrenees preparing himself for the inevitable and relentless climb ahead. I knew Scott was just seconds behind so I just tried to relax into a good tempo and wait for him to inevitably pull alongside me. Misery loves company, right! We hit the base of the hill neck and neck. Two dogs scurried out of the undergrowth towards us and gave us brief pause for thought before they sensibly decided that they had no need to be running up a mountain at 6:30 in the morning. The climb started, Scott and I just focussing on the road ahead, the only sounds the patter of our shoes on the road and the gradually increasing breaths being exhaled. My Garmin beeped as we knocked off another mile. I looked down and it read 6:50 pace for the last mile. That was a pretty similar pace as I had run for the leg last year in breaking the previous course record. I was feeling pretty good but still couldn't imagine running 3 and a half more miles up this darned hill!!

Scott had got a step on me now but I focussed and dug in and clung to his tail. I figured that if I could keep close to him on this leg I would be handing over to Bob in a good position and we all knew what he was capable of. All 4 vans passed us and cheered us on. I heard Asheville shouting for Scott to show the Charlotte guy how Asheville got it done. I was determined to not let that happen. Halfway up the hill and we were still stride for stride. I would occasionally take the lead myself just to show Scott that I still had some gas and this is how almost the whole climb played out. The top of this beast is the worst part! The grade steepens and it becomes switchback after switchback. Still we were alongside each other, no quarter given or asked. About a quarter mile from the end of the stage Scott finally put some hurt on me and grabbed a 19 second lead but I was pleased with my effort. What a run from Scott who had beaten my leg record from last year by 6 seconds. I couldn't have given any more myself- I now have the second and third fastest times on ths notorious leg and had given Bob something to work with....

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 6- Asheville respond

As the dust settled on the leg number 22 that everyone wanted to forget about, it was time for the race to carry on in earnest. It was 2:30 in the morning, and 125 miles of the 208 miles had been covered. Charlotte were now just over 5 minutes ahead, the largest lead of the race so far and almost a mile for these speedsters! An angry Asheville team was in hot pursuit, adrenaline pumping, and Charlotte were going to have to respond if their lead wasn’t going to disappear quickly.

Status quo on the next leg but that was not unexpected. Josh and David, who ended up being two of the fastest runners in the race, were separated by just 2 seconds over their three legs when the race was over! David won their first head to head by 3 seconds, Josh this one by 2 seconds and David the 3rd leg later by 1 second. They ended up running 16.1 miles in 1:33:26 and 1:33:28 (5:48 pace). Unbelievable stuff.

Leg 24 saw the first stirrings of a comeback though. In spite of covering his 3.2 mile leg in 16:14, Rocky ended up losing a minute of the lead on this leg with Jubbs covering the same ground in an unbelievable 15:15 (this leg was longer than a 5k remember- at 3am!). Both vans had now run twice, 4 minutes was the gap.

With their second legs out of the way it was time for van 2 to think about grabbing some sleep while van 1 got back to work and finished off their races. As such we were unable to provide the support that we had previously been giving to van 1 while they ran. We drove ahead to exchange zone 30/31 where I would next be taking the wristband up the notorious mountain goat stage.

I navigated our van to the changeover spot, so had had literally no sleep since the start of the race. I didn't feel that tired anyway as I was buzzing off all the adrenaline from the race. It was 4:30 am and I was due to run at about 6 so I figured it would probably be a good idea to try and get some sleep. I headed into the hall that people were sleeping in, set my alarm for 5:30 and laid myself out on the floor. My legs were sore from the previous two stages and I generally just felt pretty crappy but it was nice to be able to stretch out on the floor and rest my eyes. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep at all, I just tossed and turned and stretched for an hour, constantly checking my watch to see what time it was.

At 5:30 I headed back to the van and rooted around in the dark for my third running outfit of the race and all the other required night time paraphenalia. Everyone else was still dozing. Behind me down the road I figured Mike was probably finishing off leg 29 and Greg would be getting ready to tackle leg 30. We had no idea at this stage what had been happening in the race the past couple of hours. I tried to jog up and down the street a few times to loosen up my legs and get ready for the task ahead but must admit I wasn't feeling great at this point. My legs were sore, my body was tired and I knew what lay in store, having tackled this leg the year before. The prospect of running 5 miles straight up a mountain was not exactly enticing. I was cursing to myself (and Ben!) thinking I never want to do this thing again! I had to get my shit together though. The team needed me to do a job and I couldn't let them down, everyone else was giving 110% and I needed to do the same.

Josh woke at this point and immediately tried to get in contact with Ben to get an update on proceedings. Well apparently we had missed out on some pretty exciting stuff! Richard had lost a bit of time, John had caught it back and added some to the lead (no surprises there) but on leg 27 Asheville had made their first significant move on the longest stage of the night, 9 miles. In spite of a great run from Billy who covered the leg in 57 minutes, Kevin Lisska had taken nearly 3 minutes out of the lead. As Billy handed over to the captain the lead was down to 2 minutes. Daniel set off after Ben in earnest and was soon cutting into the lead. Yet more drama though as his curse of the calf struck again to slow him downand Ben was able to regain the time that had been whittled away. The gap was still 2 minutes as the captain finished off his legs. A great effort indeed by Ben, who two weeks earlier wasn't even sure he was going to run!!

Then, it happened. After 28 legs, 159 miles and 15 hours of racing, Asheville grabbed the lead for the first time in the race. A relentless 7.5 mile charge at 5:39 pace (his third run in 15 hours remember!) from Seth had seen him pass Mike and hand over to Dave with just over a 1 minute lead. CRC weren't done yet though and with Greg up next against an opponent that he had just had the edge over so far, anything could happen!

So Josh communicated the news that Asheville had taken the lead and that the 2 guys were about 15 minutes away. I made my way over to the starting area and reacquainted myself with Scott. We both confessed that this was all getting far too stressful and nervously took it in turns to do some cursory strides while we waited. The latest news was that Greg had gained the time lost back and was running neck and neck with Dave. The Mountain Goat leg awaited....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 5- when things start to get a bit hazy

It was time for the Captain to pull on his racing flats again. In a remarkably similar situation to the one I found myself in at the same time of last year's race, I was just about to be handed the wristband very closely followed by our nearest rival. This leg was the easy one of my three, a slightly downhill 4.3 miler with few turns. And, just like last year, I ran a solid enough leg but felt I could have run faster. In fact I ran 1 whole second faster than last year! More importantly, it was 8 seconds faster than Scott. The overall lead was creeping back up to a minute and Bob was up next. He clearly had his counterpart's number and after a brute of a 7.5 mile leg at 1 o'clock in the morning, two more minutes were gained. Chris protected the lead, then things were about to get very interesting....

We were now nearly 12 hours into the race and everyone was starting to get a bit tired. The middle of the night hours were beginning to take hold and the in van banter was reduced as runners tried to grab the odd moment of shut eye. Aaron set off on his second leg. Shortly afterwards our van overtook him and called out the usual encouraging words as we passed. Soon we were approaching a key intersection but there were no signs indicating that the runners had to turn. Usually no sign meant carry straight on. We were confused, a van in front of us was clearly confused as well as it was crawling along at 10 mph. We followed that van across the intersection not entirely sure we were going the right way. Driving along we were looking out for the tell tale flashing lights of other runners. There were none....

We were trying to keep calm in the van but were now clearly lost and the maps weren't really much use. Our new worry was that we weren't going to get Josh to the next exchange zone in time to get the wrist band from Aaron. We did a u turn and headed back the way we had come, this time at about 70 mph! Other vans were around, it was clear that we weren't the only ones lost. After eventually getting back on the right route we still weren't sure whether Aaron had got lost himself. As we hadn't passed him again we presumed he had and as we approached the next exchange zone, the other van was finally able to get through to us on the phone. Aaron had indeed gone the wrong way but they had found him and pointed him back in the right direction. Apparently, Asheville's Aaron had also gone off course but he too was back on the right route. Two very pissed Aarons were heading towards exchange zone 23 having both run a couple of additional unwanted miles.

It soon transpired that Asheville had suffered more than CRC. When the dust settled CRC had expended their lead from 2:30 to just over 5 minutes. Based on how the two Aarons had matched up on their first leg, Asheville could probably have counted on their guy cutting the lead in half on this leg. Instead they found themselves further behind. How would they respond?

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 4- Night racing

It was now just after 8:15 on Friday evening and darkness had set in. Both teams had shown their cards and every runner had raced. After 71.6 miles and 6 hours and 47 minutes of racing (that’s an average of 5:41 pace per mile just to put it into perspective!), 29 seconds separated the two teams!! If the other teams’ runners saw a blur of a headlamp, blinky lights and reflective panels coming past them now it was likely a runner from one of these two protagonists!

Richard carried on where he had left off from his first leg, putting a further minute into his rival. Then it was over to John and Keith to duke it out on the longest and toughest stage of the race, the Grandfather Mountain ten miler. Rumor had it that John was going to have a crack at breaking the hour barrier on this leg, a feat rarely achieved in years past. Van 2 had the pleasure of stopping every 10 minutes or so to watch John’s relentless charge across the mountain. Road kill is the term used to describe overtaking another runner in this race. This was more like road genocide. 1 hour and 27 seconds after starting his leg John handed over to Billy. Credit where credit is due though. John’s Asheville counterpart Keith refused to buckle under his charge, himself clocking a remarkable 1:01:48.

John jumped in our van and we set off to see how Billy was doing on the shortest and fastest leg of the race, 2.4 miles downhill. As we approached him from behind we could see he was running well. He was weaving in and out of road kill, ticking them off one by one. We whooped and hollered as we passed him to pump him up even more. He clearly didn’t need much pumping as he shouted after us, a la Bruce Willis, “Yippie Ki Yay Mother F*ck*rs!!”. Not sure that was in keeping with the “Please talk in hushed voices between the hours of 7:30pm and 7:30am” rule, but we let him off as he was flying. Bearing in mind that Billy’s mile PR leading into this race was 5:09, his average pace of 4:34 for this leg was scarcely credible! Amazingly, though, CRC actually lost time on this leg as Kevin Lisska ran 10:06 for the 2.4 miles, an average pace of 4:23!!! The lead was now 2:30.

Over the next 4 legs that lead was whittled down to 46 seconds as Asheville chipped away leg by leg. At the halfway point, just over ten hours into the race, we were still no closer to discovering our victor

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 3- First rotation comes to a close

Up to this point it had felt like us and Asheville were the only two teams in the race! We had started an hour and a half after the previous starters and hours behind the other 100 plus teams that were competing. As we pulled into exchange zone 10/11, however, we came across the first few of all other vans that we would pass. I bumped into fellow blogger Dave and his team and we exchanged tales of the race so far. Their team seemed genuinely interested in how the race was panning out between us and Asheville and it appeared that word had got around that there was a highly competitive duel going on at the ‘back’ of the race. As it was just getting dark now it was time to get out the reflective vests and headlamps and start getting ready for the night ahead.

Legs 11 and 12 did not disappoint as the 4 speedsters got to work and laid their respective markers down. By the time Rocky Falcone handed over to Richard at the Tangier Outlet in Blowing Rock and Van 1 set off for its second shift, less than a minute separated the teams, CRC with the slight advantage. By now of course everyone had run and we could start to get a feel for how the race may develope further down the line. It was clear that both teams were definitely pretty evenly matched. Our Van 1 had edged Asheville’s but mainly due to the problems they had encountered on leg 3. If Daniel was sufficiently recovered for the rest of the race that would clearly make a significant difference to the outcome. With regard to Van 2, meanwhile, Asheville appeared to have the upper hand overall and their last four runners looked capable of doing significant damage given even a merest sniff of the lead.

A third of the race had been completed, honors even....


Josh finishing off Leg 11


Rocky sets off towards Blowing Rock. Jubbs, Asheville's potent closer, lurking menacingly in the background


The sun sets on rotation 1 of the competition

Blue Ridge Relay Recap Part 2- The battle commences


Richard and Trent get matters underway

Richard was getting ready to start off our journey. Quiet and unassuming but confident and in great form, Richard had joined the team after Jordan’s late withdrawal and was looking forward to stamping his mark on his first BRR. Ben had had a few quiet words with him, he was good to go and an ideal starter for the team. The first stage was literally all downhill for 4 miles. Many a competitor’s race at BRR has been scuppered by running too hard on this leg over the years. A solid, efficient effort was called for and achieved by both teams as they came in less than 20 minutes later separated by just a few seconds, Richard in the lead.

Over to John now. The Mixed Team’s star performer the year before, even more was expected off of him this year with the prior knowledge he had gained of his legs and the form he had shown all year to date. And he didn’t disappoint. The Asheville runner briefly caught up to John at the start of the leg but by the middle of the leg John was rolling and had pulled about a two minute lead out by the time he handed over to the captain. This wasn’t unexpected but it was good to know that our ‘star man’ was on form, we needed everyone to perform to their maximum if we were going to have any chance at all of winning the race.


John rolling on Leg 2- that gap soon became 2 minutes

Worth explaining at this point how the vans worked. Once a runner had completed his leg the ‘on’ van (in this case van 1) would drive straight ahead to the next exchange zone so that the next runner up could get a brief warm up in before his leg. The other van, whose occupants wouldn’t be running until later, would pick up the runner who had just finished and support the guy who had just started his leg. As we passed our runner we would give him plenty of encouragement and then find a suitable place along the route to stop and get out so we could watch and cheer from outside the van and also get a sense of what the distance was between him and the competition. It was during such a stop in the middle of leg 4 that the first real drama of the race unfolded. Ben was running solidly as we saw him pass. He didn’t look particularly happy with life but seemed to be in a good rhythm. Not unexpectedly, however, the Asheville guy Daniel was clearly gaining some time back. Then all of a sudden as we were just about to get back in the van Daniel pulled over to the side of the road to stretch his calf out. As we passed him he had gingerly started running again but things were not looking good for him.

I had mixed emotions at this point. The competitive side of me was happy as our rival was in trouble and we had a chance to really put the hammer down early in the race. On the other hand a wave of disappointment came over me as we had been looking forward to a hard race and didn’t want to win it early on because of someone getting hurt and having to pull out. As it was, Daniel recovered well to finish the leg and would go on to be able to complete the race. Unexpectedly though, our lead had increased slightly on leg 4. The definite early advantage had gone to CRC.


Ben and Billy negotiate an interesting handover

Over the next couple of hours it was pretty much status quo as Billy, Mike and Greg got their first legs out of the way. Greg was particularly impressive on his Blue Ridge debut putting some time into his opponent.


Greg enjoying his first BRR performance

Van 1 had done its job now it was Van 2’s turn to shine. First up in Van 2 was good old moi. Like John I had been given the same legs as last year (7, 19 and 31). I was happy with this as I knew I wouldn’t have any problems getting lost and could use last year’s experience to my advantage with regard to pacing and route management. There was no doubt that I was in better shape for last year’s race (deep into training for Richmond Marathon) but I was hoping my relative lack of fitness in the current year would be fully compensated by the advantage of having run here before.

Leg 7 is 2 miles downhill, 1 nasty mile of uphills, 1 more nice downhill with an absolute beast of a mile in mile 5 followed by a ‘sprint’ to the next exchange zone. You know when the course handbook describes a hill in this race as a ‘monster’ that it’s going to be bad and so it proved again for me. By the time I got to the top of the hill I had been cursing aloud and wishing I was somewhere else. However, I did manage to put an extra 40 seconds into Asheville on this leg and had run faster than last year. Pleasing.


The Captain gets going


I'm down there somewhere, cursing, loudly

Bob looked up for the fight as he put a little more time in the bank (we weren’t expecting anything else from definitely the fiercest competitor I have known since moving over here), Chris lost a little time to Asheville’s captain and then Aaron discovered he was up against one of their better runners as more time was taken away from our lead. Both had run great and in line with expectations but Asheville were definitely up for the battle and the strength of their second van was coming to light already. After 10 legs and with dusk approaching, less than 2 minutes separated the teams. With 4 of the fastest runners in the race set to run the next two legs the battle was well and truly on!