Sunday, February 28, 2010

Race Road Trips

Since helping found Charlotte Running Club, I have had the pleasure to participate in four running road trips for races. If you have never had the opportunity to do so, I highly encourage you to find some folks and make a trip this year. There are always folks looking to carpool to out of town races. To name just a few coming up this year (among lots of them), Tobacco Road Full and Half, Tarheel 10 miler, Army 10 miler, Cherry Blossom ten miler, Marine Corps marathon, Shamrock marathon, ING marathon.

Let me describe my experiences from all four to answer why.

1) Army 10 miler – myself, Caitlin Chrisman and Matt Jaskot made the trip from Charlotte to DC together. It is about a 6.5 hour drive so lots of time to talk and learn more about folks outside of a running. We arrived in DC and hit the expo the night before where we met the rest of our party, Dan and Val Matena and Matt’s brother. We got a great group shot of us in front of a army attack helicopter. Dan being from Australia had never been to DC and me having grown up there knows the town well so we darted off to the Lincoln memorial and I threw everyone out of the car to go take a peak and snap some pictures while I hunted around for parking.
That night, my folks had us all over to their house for a pasta dinner. My Mom is all about a full course meal every night so in addition to the homemade sauce and homemade meatballs, we had a couple vegetables, bread, salad and ice cream cake after. The group experience more talking, laughs and sharing of our goals for the race the next morning.

We met each other in the morning and warmed up together. We had some logistical challenges as the Army 10 miler has over 20,000 participants and we found ourselves on the wrong side of the pentagon face to face with soldiers with rifles telling us we were in a restricted area and had to go back around. The Pentagon is massive like over a mile back around it so banding together as a group on the jog helped to calm some nerves. Two of us took everyone’s gear for bag check in while the others attempted to make their way to the start line. We all got positioned in time and everyone ran pretty well. As each of us finished, we hugged the others, got some pixs together and anxiously awaited all of our group to finish. Once we had all crossed, we met up for a post race breakfast at a nearby restaurant before departing back to DC. On the drive back, we talked about everything and kept our tired bodies company on the long drive.

2) Marine Corps Marathon – Flew up this time on my own but met up with Jason Holder as he was staying with me at my folks house. We headed over to the expo and met up with Todd Patterson and Shenna Kevorkian. Adam Mayes met up with us as did Justin Breland and we pumped into several more Charlotte folks which is amazing considering the expo had several thousand people attending. More pasta dinner the night before, more meeting folks at the start line and wishing them well. More waiting for folks to finish and congratulating them on their performances. In addition, for this trip, we had organized a post race party at the Cowboy Café, a friendly little bar and grille in Arlington, VA that is owned by a high school buddy of mine that ran with me back in the day. We had a mix of 20+ folks from Charlotte and several of my friends from the DC area. Again, more talking about running but a lot of just learning about other folks and hearing their stories.

3) Frosty 50k – 6 months ago, I was convinced that all ultra folks were complete nut jobs. I still think that but sadly, I think I might be drifting that way as having experience one now, I see the attraction. For this road trip, we had to get up pretty darn early to make the drive over to Winston. We ended up arriving about 1.5 hours before the 8am start. Salem Lake is a fantastic place to run if you have not had the opportunity. The Salem Lake 30k is very popular and run in October of every year. Ultras are different. There is not the same type of mentality as a road race. Folks are way friendlier and most everyone is out there not necessarily to compete against each other but because they really, really love running and want to challenge their bodies to finish such enormous distances.

I had the pleasure to run with Michelle Hazelton for the first 18 miles and got to chat about all things in life. Meanwhile, ultra veteran Thomas Eggar was blasting away somewhere near the front and Matt Jaskot was trying to keep up with him as long as he could despite not having run much recently. Mo Campbell made the trip to cheer for us and soak in the experience. She ended up running 15+ miles with Thomas. In 20 degree temperatures, having company out there was awesome. Ultras have the best “Aid Stations”. They include not only Gatorade and water but cookies, donuts, bagels, M&M’s, pretzels and other types of junk food. I can tell you first hand that dreaming about a handful of M&M’s when you are at mile 16 and the stop is not for another 3 miles in route to a 31 mile race is really helpful. Your body definitely needs the calories and energy in the longer events but mentally to “reward” yourself with M&Ms is cool.

Like the others, when I crossed the finish, it was to the cheers of Thomas and Mo who had already finished and we waited for the rest of our crew to congratulate them on the performance. We decided that a huge breakfast was in order so we stopped in Salisbury for some IHOP action. I think we all tore through our omelets and then swung by Starbucks for a coffee to hold us over back to Charlotte.

Since my wife’s car is a bit pimped out, the back seat passengers got to watch Dogma on the DVD head rests while I laughed listening just to the volume of the movie (I have seen this flick way too many times). Another fantastic road trip where I got the chance to interact with runners (Mo and Michelle) that I previously did not know much about.

4) Columbia Half Marathon – driving back from this one is where I realize, gosh all these trips have really been fun! This time our transportation is super pimp (used pimp twice in this blog)! Nothing like an old school dodge van complete with solar panels (yes, matt powers the frig and interior lights with the solar panels), and comfy bench seats and captain chairs. Throw in some cool interior light, jam to a variety of tunes on the ipod and the 5.30am start from Carowinds down to Columbia blasted by in no time. We “used the force” a bit to find the starting line but ultimately found a terrific public lot right in front of a big bank of porta potties that was between the start and finish. The rest was a bit odd and had plenty of issues as an inaugural race but what I will remember most is the following.

Matt and Adam had the horribly unfortunate situation of getting lost on the course as it was full of a ridiculous amount of turns , poorly marked and lacked enough volunteers. As I was cruising to victory I heard large shouts of “Go Aaron”! I was shocked to look over and see Matt and Adam going bonkers cheering for me and immediately saddened because I knew their day must have been cut short for some reason.

I crossed the finish, got my finishers medal (I told the guy with the Puke shirt..aka Duke, on principle I couldn’t accept a medal from him as an UNC guy and he understood so I got it from the next person), did a quick interview with a local news station where I must have mentioned CRC 5 times….All of this took about 2 min or less and then the guys quickly informed me that Boriana would be finishing soon so we immediately set out in a jog back tracking on the course to find Boriana. We found her working her way up the a major hill on mile 12 and to our delight, she was the first female! We all fell in step with her and ran stride for stride with her to the finish shouting encouragement all the way. At the finish, we congratulated her on her victory and took another picture. Oh ya, we had a couple great pictures of our group before the race that were taken by a guy who turned out to be the bass player in the bad that played at the post race celebration before the awards.

The trip home did not get underway until almost 11.30am as the awards were late. We this time chose to treat ourselves to Bojangles and also discovered the most powerful hand dryer in the world at the gas station where the Bojangles was. It was my first chance to spend time with Adam Mayes and Boriana B….(I have given up on Boriana’s last name as it is way too complicated to spell or say so hence forth, she is B3). Both are smart young folks who have a wealth of knowledge not only about running but about life. I think it is safe to say that despite the DNF for Matt and Adam, they enjoyed the trip and certainly would do another one with us.

As a 36 year old father of a 7 year old and a wife who is not particularly fond of running, I don’t get too much opportunity to head out on trips nor should I as I have commitments on the weekends to my family that I want and should uphold. However, these trips have been an absolute blast for me! I get to combine my passion of running and my enjoyment of meeting folks into a day or two of non-stop fun. Knowing there are other folks at a race who are helping you prepare for a race and care about your performance really motivates you and puts you in a great comfort zone to do well. It also just makes the whole experience enjoyable.

I am not sure what my next running road trip will be this year with other folks from Charlotte but if any of you are looking to head out of town and need some company, let us know so we can help link you up with other runners. I assure you it will be an experience you will not forget.

- Aaron


  1. Dude,

    Did this end up as your blog instead of Uno Mas Runner? I stumbled upon that somewhere (Theoden's blog maybe) and have been waiting for an entry so I could put a link to it from mine.

    So are you running the Blue Ridge Relay? That was my blast of a running road trip from last year. To me, the way to really enjoy it is to run it with a bunch of buddies, but then have your significant other meet you at the finish on Sunday in Asheville. Spend the rest of the day with her in Asheville. It's the best of both worlds!


  2. Ya - I hear terrific things about Blue Ridge Relay andI need to give that a try. I just don't see how a whole day running or in a van is fun but folks who come back from it swear it is fantastic. I had a road trip planned to DC that weekend for the national tri but it since BRR changed dates, I can't use that as an excuse anymore. - Aaron