Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Must Be Crazy! Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon

Back in January, when I began planning for my 2013 races and as the calendar quickly filled up with bookings and travel plans, I wasn't sure I could do it all.  Looking at it, scrolling through the months on my Google Calendar, it did seem like an awful lot of "stuff" crammed into those little boxes, the brightly color-coded entries dancing across the screen in a confetti-like riot.  I concluded that I must be crazy!

18 months' worth of half marathon medals
But here we are, in the second half of November, year nearly over, and with the last scheduled race of 2013 now behind me.  I'm thinking to myself:  Wow!  I actually did it!  I ran every single race that I set out to do and completed all of the travel that was needed to get me to those races. 

Let's see....that's 17 half marathons in 11 months.  That works out to be 221 miles, run along the streets of our nation's cities and towns.  Add to this, all of the training miles run in between the races.  And then there's another 14,000 miles in the car and over 11,000 miles by airplane. 

The last race of the year was in Charlotte, NC.  It wasn't until this race that the enormity of what I'd accomplished this year finally hit me.  I had been so busy taking it one race at a time, keeping my head down and working my way through the calendar of scheduled races, that I hadn't taken the time to look up and see the fruits of all of this work.  17 Half Marathons in 11 Months!


Last Thursday I was in Charlotte NC after spending a relaxing few days at Marriott's OceanWatch resort in Myrtle Beach.  It was just a half-day's drive to get to Charlotte, so I had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast before checking out and getting on the road.  I checked into the Hyatt House right downtown and within easy walking distance of both the fitness expo at the Sheraton and the start line for the race at Tryon and 1st Streets. 

Living area in my suite
Living area and kitchen in my suite
The Hyatt House was stunning!  I would absolutely stay here again if I ever come back to this city.  I got an unbelievably good rate for the room and when I got off the elevator on the 7th floor, I thought there might be a mistake.  there were conference rooms and the fitness center and a large central seating area.  It didn't look like a floor with ordinary rooms.  There was also a beautiful outdoor pool tucked in next to the building in a little alcove between the hotel towers that rose above it.

And when I opened the door to my room....oh my!!  this was a serious upgrade from what I'd booked.  For $109 a night I had a large suite with enormous living area, kitchen, bedroom, and outdoor patio. 

It was clearly designed to be a hospitality suite, with that outdoor patio and its proximity to the meeting rooms.  It was deliciously luxurious and comfortable and very quiet.  No hall traffic; no doors slamming.
private patio balcony off my suite


Friday I walked over to the Sheraton to pick up my race packet and to browse the vendors.  It was a good-sized fitness expo with a great selection of race logo wear.  I talked myself out of buying a long-sleeve shirt, as cute as it was, convincing myself that I would rarely wear it given how short our winters are here in south Texas.  Lots of other vendors to browse and chat with, and a few races represented, so I chatted with the folks working the booths for a bit.  Then it was off to find some lunch - a Quiznos sandwich - and back to the room for the afternoon to get off my feet. 

Several months ago, when I was having a post-race lunch with a big group of friends at Farm Boys BBQ near Columbia, SC, one of the group who lives near Charlotte mentioned that he'd like to host a BBQ at his house after I run the Charlotte Thunder Road marathon in November.  I didn't forget his offer, knowing that his reputation reaches far and wide for good smoked pork and his secret vinegar-based sauce.  He regularly hauls his big smoker to various church and other organization cook-outs.

So as the Charlotte race drew near, we firmed up the plan and he got the word out to our group of friends.  A few days before the race he sent me an email, offering to pick me up and take me for a pasta feed the night before the race.  I had a better idea:  come into town and we'll have dinner at Villa Francesca, a great little Italian restaurant within walking distance of my hotel.  He spread the word and before long there were six of us enjoying some really great food!  It was the perfect way to spend the evening before race day.

And before I knew it...it was 5:00 AM race day morning!! 

The race organizers were offering a 30 minute earlier start for folks who weren't sure they could complete the course in the allotted time.  Normally I won't register for a race that has a less than 3.5 hour time limit.  But this race is so popular and so well-done, I couldn't resist.  I was a little concerned about my time, though, given the hilliness of this course and the fact that I'd just be coming off another half marathon 6 days earlier.  But I felt I could just squeak in under the course time limit.  Then, much to my delight, they added the 30 minute extension a couple of months ago. 

It was an easy, stress-free start.  About 200 folks were lined up for the early start for both the full and the half marathons and the announcer sent us off with a "one, two, GO!"  And then we were off running.  The rest of the pack - all 4,000 or so - would start 30 minutes later with the lead pack catching up with us in just 3 or 4 miles.

The course was beautiful if hilly, taking us south out of downtown and through the oldest and richest neighborhoods.  Beautiful mansions, manicured and landscaped lawns, large mature trees lining the streets.  Nearly every mile was spent in these beautiful neighborhoods.   Some of the corners were lined with cheering spectators, and a few live bands were scattered along the course, stationing themselves in the occasional short commercial sections of the course.

Data from my Garmin GPS watch

Somewhere along the course near mile 6.5

Crossing the finish line

The finish line experience was one of the best!  Excellent layout of the chute and Publix put on an excellent post-race spread of fresh fruit, bagels, fruit cups, assortment of snack bars, Gatorade, chips and other salty snacks, and the much-coveted chocolate milk.  And a great little fabric "nosh bag" to hold it all.  Well done, Publix!!

The medal:

Now on to that down-home BBQ at Mike's house!  I showered, dressed and checked out of the hotel and headed toward the food.  He had a great turn-out.  Folks came from as far away as central PA to the north, central TN to the west, and southern GA to the south!  His pork butt is every bit as good as I'd heard it was.  I love the thin vinegar-based sauce too.  Reminded me of the vinegar-based mop sauce recipe my late husband used whenever he had meat on the smoker.  I still make that recipe today when I smoke brisket or ribs. 

Some great food and a great visit with good friends and then I got on the road toward home.


What the map looks like now:

Now to rest up for a couple of months.  Next race is Las Cruces NM in late January, but lots happening before then.  Thanksgiving.  Taking the family to Disneyworld.  Christmas.


  1. Wow, so many good things in one post.

    First, I must say congrats on completing those 17 runs. You should be very proud.

    Second - good score with Hyatt House, sounds wonderful; and

    Last - such good friends to organize the BBQ and go out to dinner with you the night before.

    Just a feel good weekend for you.

  2. Quite impressive....they say if you break a huge goal into to bit size pieces you will look back and say wow that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be...Sounds like your year..
    C O N G R A D U L A T I O N S !!!!!!!!

  3. Congrats Barb! You are amazing!!!