Folks this is a very special blog. Perhaps my favorite blog to date. On October 5th, 2014 I joined CA, JC, DNice, Doc Watson, and Alicia (all first time half marathoners), for the first ever half marathon at Carolina beach. The race was on Sunday. My wife (CA) and I arrived on Friday and others followed later Friday and Saturday afternoon. The time before the race at Carolina beach was stupid cool. The bonds made during training runs were priceless. Even with all that, I wasn’t able to appreciate how incredible the entire experience was until after it was all said and done. Even though I was the last person to finish in this group of first time half marathoners (this was my 4th), there is no doubt in my mind that I was still a winner. Take a few moments (ok maybe more than a few because this is a long one but you don’t want to miss the kicker at the end) to soak in these race reflections and you will understand why I was proud to be the Last Place Winner in this group.
– How after I checked into my hotel following the ride down to Carolina Beach from Raleigh, I decided to take a walk on the beach to stretch my legs. I walked down the way a bit and turned back to return. On the way back I saw Sarah, Diana, and Alicia camped out next to the dunes. Diana shared an apple with me; Alicia shared a spot on her beach towel; And Sarah shared that offbeat sense of humor that only Sarah has.
– What an unassuming host Joel is, and what an awesome motivator (e.g., “People’s Champ”)
– What a lovely wife Joel has…inside and out. I told him afterwards that Constance is a jewel.
– How the smell of bacon wafting from a beach town diner can wake you up in the morning, even if you’re me, and you’re walking a mile and a half in the cold to run 13.1 miles.
– The little kids standing on the side of the road at Carolina Beach State Park that I swooped past and slapped hands with.
– The delicious spaghetti with sausage and penne pasta the ladies prepared for dinner on the eve of race day. They cut the basil fresh for Sarah at The Veggie Wagon road side market.
– The young guy barfing on the side of the road half way up Settlers Ln. Me: “Are you OK, man?” Guy: “Yeah, but I missed my pace.” The exact wrong way to enjoy a race. How about “I’m good, man. Thanks for asking.”
– The twenty-something girl I saw near the last mile to whom I said, “You are a strong runner.” Although I passed her and finished ahead of her. She saw me at the finish line and said, “When I saw you take off, I knew it was time for me to go, too.” She received a placement medal during the ceremony, BTW. Jennine was her name.
– The pride I felt seeing DNice, Alicia, Sarah, Joel and Constance coming into the Finish.
– That “OMG?!!” feeling I got when Joel caught me off guard and passed me the basketball just before he crossed the Finish.
– The “Rev Dance” I did when Alicia told me I would be receiving an award.
– How family and friends having faith in you can give you a seemingly limitless supply of energy.
– The hugs before leaving.
– How a camera can’t quite capture these feelings.
– JP, you can skip this line, but I sort of enjoyed having an excuse to eat some delicious carbs, knowing that the next day I will look at the number of calories burned and it would be above 1,000
– I really enjoy running, but I didn’t realize how much dedication it requires to go through with a 12 week program in which you run 3 times a week, and I am so proud of all of us, for sticking to it, through the good days and the yucky days, and even the rainy days sometimes, and especially the lazy days
– I will never forget that 8 mile run at Umstead, where I kinda felt buried in those hills, they were just coming one after another, not giving us a break, but it turned out pretty great in the end, just like any run does. You want to give up so many times along the way, but you keep going, cause you know how great you will feel at the end of it
– Very happy I got to meet some of you better and very thankful for your support and inspiration, even when you weren’t providing it on purpose
– I really liked my ride to the beach with Sarah, even if initially it looked like we had packed for a week in the wilderness and not 2 days in a nice beach house
– I really liked also how our crazy house party actually turned into a ‘Walmart-party’ at 2 am
– Even if Sarah doesn’t believe me, I enjoyed going three times to each of her favorite places in Carolina Beach ; those were nice places
– I am really happy we got to hang out with Constance and JP for dinner and a good/interesting/creepy movie – you guys are so sweet and great!
– My favorite part was the dinner too, even if I could notice Johnny’s nervousness. I liked cooking with y’all and laying out strategies for the next day. Also finding out some runner’s tips and tricks, like ‘the spare bagel’
– I was really impressed with Alicia’s discipline and was happy she was there with us, not only for the fact that we got to prove JP that she actually exists
– I really enjoyed our morning walk to the start line, even through the cold, it made me feel like we’re a team and all of my nervousness for the race kinda dissipated, cause I was there with all of you
– The emails that started pouring a few days before the race, with advice and encouragements, really made my day, and made me feel like I was part of a family that cares about us succeeding in what we have planned for
– I really liked running that first stretch with Sarah and taking in the energy from everyone around and enjoying every step of the way, because the hard part had past – all that training – and now we were there to collect the fruits of our effort
– The race was not very challenging overall, because it was such a flat course, and the weather was just perfect, but it was nice that we had all those points in which we met with everyone else and got to scream encouragements and pass on the bball
– That stretch between mile 6 and mile 8 felt way longer than 2 miles, since road-kill became such an attraction for my mind
– This race, and especially the training, and our weekend at the beach together, is one of the highlights of my existence so far. It’s not like I didn’t think I can run 13.1 miles, I think almost anyone can, when they set their mind to it. But going through with the plan, and getting to know some amazing people along the way, that’s something that doesn’t come by easily or as often as one might think, and I find myself lucky for having that
– Overcoming my own thoughts that there was no way I could run that far, and train that long. The 12 week plan and having an awesome group to make sure I stick to it is what changed that!
– All those many “short” and long runs with Johnny, Diana, JP, and guest appearances. Some days were rough, some days were awesome… but you knew you were being held accountable and we encouraged each other along the way. So blessed to have such a great group!
– Cherishing all the run conversations throughout training, one of my favorites being a four mile run where Johnny and I basically talked about rum and the Caribbean the whole time. Really gives you a chance to get to know someone, and helps the run fly by!
– Learning about running injuries, on our 7 mile run Johnny and I thought I ran in mud but turns out it was blood all over the my shoe… Johnny probably thought I was nuts 🙂 We had some funny moments!
– Actually looking forward to running at 7:30am knowing who I got to run with.
– Learning how awesome the Tobacco Trail is, and getting phunky monkeys at Bean Traders after 9 and 10 mile runs.
– Driving down to the beach with Diana, walking on the beach and eating at the Tiki Bar. Telling her I wanted to take her to that Tiki Bar then going 3 times over the 2.5 days we were there 🙂 Going with JP and Constance to see Gone Girl and a midnight Walmart run, then relaxing the next day on the beach. Meeting up with Alicia and and Johnny on the beach and just chilling.
– Favorite time was making dinner together the night before, laughing and talking about the next day. Such a great Hype4Life Fam!
– Diana and I running and then passing the 5K turn around thinking “wow already??”
– Doing the first out and back and being able to pass by Johnny, Alicia, JP and Constance. JP passed me the bball 🙂
– Diana slowly speeding up and saying she thinks we are going 10:30 pace when we are way ahead of the 10:18 pace group. I decide to wave her ahead and she says “I’ll just run fast for mile 4-5 and probably catch back up with you”. I said ok but I knew I wouldn’t see her till the end 🙂 She flew!!
– About mile 4-6 was the next out and back and I have never been so grateful for a row of high-fives from a bunch of kids! They were so cute and were on the other side of the road coming back. Got to pass by everyone again and saw Johnny pass THEN the 8 minute pace group. I was like WOW!! Johnny is killing it!!
– After that mile 7-13 are basically a blur, was a lot of fighting personal demons and thinking I gotta stick with these ladies all dressed in yellow… don’t fall behind.
– Around mile 10.5 a lady was passing out orange slices and I was feeling pretty slow so I thought what the heck… turns out they were half frozen and basically the best things on the planet in that moment.
– Finally hit the lake for the last .5 miles and tell myself not to stop and it feels so good to see the finish line and Diana, Alicia, and Johnny! What a race.
– Ending thought… 13.1 miles is really really far :-/
– The roller coaster I seemed to be on during the race – feeling great… then not so great… 2nd wind… 3rd wind…- How happy I was to be part of a team during the race. We all ended up doing our own thing, but it was great having friends to look for and exchange encouraging words in passing.
– My surprise/relief/elation to have Diana run up next to me at the time when I needed encouragement the most. EXACTLY what I needed. AND, how proud I was of her for such a fantastic pace, you go girl!
– The mental game I was going through the entire race. “I MUST have hit 9 miles by now, where was the sign!? Oh right, my watch doesn’t say 9 miles, chill out Alicia ….… only a 5k left, a 5k is a piece of cake, you can do it!” etc.
– How proud I was to have one of our team members win an award! GO JOHNNY! So awesome.
– Spending time at Sarah’s favorite beach and favorite tiki bar, so now I can relate when she talks about it!
– How nice it was to be made part of the hype4life family when I was an outsider. Such a fun and friendly group
Now for the kicker! I don’t think any of my Carolina beach half marathon fam know this, but I was scared to death starting the race! My body was banged up and I wasn’t sure who I was going to run with or if I was going to be able to finish! My wife kept trying to tell me (and herself) she was only going to run 9 miles, because she was planning to use this half as her 9 mile training run for her half in Wilmington a few weeks later. I considered running with Doc Watson and DNice but didn’t want to slow them down. I thought about trying to start with JC but knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I had no idea what Alicia’as pace would be so wasn’t sure who she was running with. So when the gun fired and everyone took off, I surveyed the scene. Took off about midway between DNice/Doc Watson/Alicia and CA. After a couple minutes, I could tell DNice and crew were going to be fine so I dropped back to run with CA. I wasn’t sure if she wanted me and my basketball to keep her company but it turns out she didn’t mind and may have even appreciated it. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it had we not been together. My feet were killing me but seeing her grind was just what I needed to endure the pain. She ran her race, her pace, and didn’t stop! It was awesome! See my dudes and dude-ets, we were all going through some thangz during the race and we all go through some thangz in life. When the race got tough, we focused on each other for a boost. So perhaps when our lives get tough, we should focus on the other incredible people in our lives to give us a boost. Perhaps fam. Perhaps that will be just what we need.