Tobacco Road Marathon Race Review

Its been six weeks since the Tobacco Road Marathon but I still want to review the race for those who might be interested in putting this on their future calendar. 

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The Tobacco Road Marathon was on March 18, 2018 in Cary, NC.  Close to Durham & Chapel Hill.  The race venue is the Thomas Brooks Park & USA Baseball Fields.  Race is  traditionally held on a Sunday and requires travel to the area on Friday or Saturday to pick up race packets.  Small expo at a local hotel.  Easy & fast, in and out.  A few vendors, like my favorite girl, Gypsy Runner

If your traveling with the family, there isn’t a lot to do in this area (or maybe we just didn’t know where to look?).  Beautiful area though.  New neighborhoods.  Nice homes.  Cute boutique like shopping areas.  Nice.

Race day started bright and early like always.  Getting to the race site required some planning.  There was a local pick up area in Cary called NetApp, where people could park & get shuttled to/from the race site.  There were a few onsite parking spots that required pre-purchased parking passes.  Then there was runner drop off at the venue.  Fortunately, my daughter now has her license.  GASP!  She was able to drop me off, then drive back to the hotel with her little brother, then return to pick me up.  This race would have been challenging, logistics wise (as a mom with kids & no other adult to supervise), had she not been able to drive.  I’ve taken them to a lot of races & I usually pick a hotel on the race course or close to the start/finish so they can sleep in at the hotel, then come to the race when they are ready.  This race started at the park, then ran to the American Tobacco Trail, stayed on the American Tobacco Trail, then ran back to the park for the finish.  You need access to a car to get to packet pick up and to/from the race.  No shuttles for local hotels.  No way to spectate without access to a car.

On to the race!  The important part, right?  Please note that the majority of these photos are courtesy of Amy at Gypsy Runner.  I wanted to ring the PR bell, so knew I couldn’t waste time with photos.  Thanks, Amy for always helping me out!  I love seeing your smiling face at expos and out on the marathon courses! 

We got to the race early.  The race started at 7am but the parking areas shut down at a certain time.  I think they wanted everyone in the parking area by 5:30 so that the shuttle buses could come/go without issue.  It was cool.  Probably upper 40s at the start and while we were waiting.  I rarely take throw away clothes but did this time because I wasn’t planning to check a bag.  The plan was to run the race, finds the kids, leave.  We were headed to Disney World for Spring Break & this was just a pit stop for momma to grab another state! 

The race started promptly at 7am.  Start/Finish area was easy to find, just down from the row of port-o-potties.  It was still dark when we started the race but the area was well lit around the bathrooms & the start/finish area.  Photo courtesy of the Tobacco Road Marathon Facebook page:

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We left Thomas Park with an incline to get out of the park and onto the road.  Key to remember because that’s a downhill to the finish line!  Couple other rolling hills in the 2.5 miles from the park to the American Tobacco Trail.  Then the marathoners had 21 miles on the ATT.  Very few turns.  If you are ever afraid of getting lost, this is the type of race for you.  There was never any question as to where to go or where to turn.  It was very well ran, volunteers were great.  All road crossings were patrolled. 

The race was advertised as fast & flat.  As a Midwest gal, I know flat.  Any race that claims to be flat, will probably have more hills than I can get when I make an effort to FIND hills to run.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race.  I will say that it was pretty flat.  There were a few rollers to/from the ATT.  Once on the ATT (where we ran 21 of the 26.2 miles), it was pretty flat.  This was an old rail trail.  So the inclines/declines were not visible, you’d just feel it in your legs.  On a slight decline, you could feel the load lighten and the pace got easier.  On the incline, you couldn’t really “see” it but you could tell you were going up because it took more effort to hold the pace.  But honestly, I heard some people complain post race about the elevation, Garmin showed 735 ft of gain, Strava showed 819 ft for the entire race.  Small gains & losses over time.

The ATT was a mix of crushed limestone and asphalt. Mostly tree lined with giant pines which provided a break from the wind and the sun.  Temps started in the upper 40s but climbed to the 60s while we ran.  Humidity was low to non-existent.  I don’t do well in heat & humidity so while I did notice that it was getting warmer toward the end, it didn’t effect my performance.

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There were 9 aid stations on course, most of which we hit 2x since the trail was an out and back.  All stations were well stocked with fluids, food items & there were port-o-potties! 

On the ATT, we headed out to the north initially, then flipped between mile 8 & 9.  Then headed back south, past our point of entry until another turn around between mile 18 & 19.  As always, that last turn around always feels great.  I also am a huge fan of out and backs, particularly when I know people running.  Watching the other runners makes me happy. I like to encourage them, cheer for the fast people at the front & it distracts me from the task at hand. 

Not a ton of spectators.  Logistics put most spectators at a trail head that intersected with a road we were crossing.  Some dogs.  A few signs.  But everyone was enthusiastic & encouraging. 

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I really liked this race.  I picked it for a few reason.  Fast, flattish, few turns, smaller number of runners & the fact that most of it was on a rail trail which would feel a lot like my old training runs.  Some people run better on Saturday mornings with their friends than at big venues with long waits & a bazillion spectators.  I’m probably more of the Saturday morning girl than the “wait & shiver for 2 hours before the major marathon” girl. 

I knew I wanted to try to run faster since I’m not allowed many races this year.  I’m in the midst of training for Ironman Lake Placid.  When I run less races, I’m faster.  No brainer there.  And my back is feeling the best it has in several years.  I’m not 100% but to be honest, this is probably as good as its going to get.  Also, it was important to plan and execute a race strategy, just to know that I can do it.  After Lake Placid, I’m going to take a break and then see if I can qualify for Boston.  This race time was not anywhere what I need to run a BQ but it was all about planning & executing. 

I did have a snafu leading up to the race (pulled something in my foot) so went with Plan B vs Plan A, in the name of being smart & facing down a lot more training for Lake Placid in the next few months.  I started with the 4:10 pacers with the plan of running away from them before the finish.  I figured I could easily gain a couple minutes and drop into a 4:08 before I hit the line, if I was smart.  That’s really the hardest part, being smart.  And patient.  The first half of the race feels so easy, its hard not to just go with it and run faster.  Well, take my advice, going faster than the plan is a good way to blow up.  I used to run less races & try to go faster but I always blew up.  I would go out too fast!  Every time.  That’s really how I started running more races.  I decided that I worked too hard for ONE race, for it not to end in the result I wanted.  I decided I could run  A LOT of races and have a A LOT of fun, and  really my times weren’t any slower than going out too fast & blowing up. 

Anyhow, shout out to the 4:10 pacers.  They did a great job.  I even dropped back 2 different times to get something out of my FlipBelt.  The one pacer checked on me both times & basically “yelled at me” to close the gap & regain contact.  I will say that the added pressure that someone was waiting on me did help to make sure I didn’t fall off pace.  They even told the runners to start floating away from them as we got close to the finish, that a pacers job was to finish alone, on time, with all their runners ahead of them.  Smile  I had already started moving ahead after we got off the ATT in the last 2.5 miles.  That was the last thing I heard them say as I was pulling away.  And I was able to ring the PR Bell at the finish!  4:08:09 was my chip time.  Good day!

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Overall a great race.  There were 1088 full marathoners that started the day, 884 finishers.  The half started 2277 runners & 2202 finished.  Great race, if you are looking for a fast run.  Since most of the race is on the trail, the camber of the road is not as much of an issue as in other races.  Not too crowded. Just enough aid & support.  Low entry fee!  Definitely a good one. 

This was my 27th state, 49th marathon.  My 50th marathon will be at the end of Ironman Lake Placid.  Now that’s going to hurt.  LOL!

** Hope you are all healthy & running happy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon … Strip At Night … Race Review + RNR Discount Codes

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This weekend I was at the Rock N Roll Marathon Series Las Vegas event.  Otherwise known as “ The Strip At Night”.   This was my first time at Rock N Roll Las Vegas and I was pleasantly surprised.   I haven’t been to Vegas for a long time but its relatively easy to navigate by using the monorail, cabs/uber or walking.   The expo is just steps from the monorail at the Las Vegas Convention Center and was open from Thursday thru Saturday.  This is one of the largest RnR events with over 40,000 registered runners!  They offered several races throughout the weekend:  5K (8249 finishers), 10K (5498 finishers), Half (22,052 finishers) & Full marathon (2655 finishers). PLUS there were 230+ people who participated in the Run Thru Wedding during the half & full marathon.

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Packet pick up was quick & easy.  However, if you wanted to purchase race gear, the lines were long, unless you were a Tour Pass Holder or a VIP.  Medium sized expo that could definitely cover you for anything you needed or left behind.  I was in and out because I had hubby in tow and didn’t want to thoroughly bore him but the expo looked fun!

Las Vegas to hubby & I is all about the sights.  We spend a lot of time walking around the strip, downtown, various casinos & checking out exhibits.   So by race time on Sunday night, I already had 70+ miles of walking on my legs.  If you want fresh legs for your race, I’d recommend getting to Vegas right before the race, then staying afterward to see the sights.  The Vegas event has some additional obstacles too.  It’s  a “must do” race because the course features the legendary Las Vegas “Strip”, at night, when all the casinos are lit up.  They only shut the strip down to vehicular traffic 2x per year.  For New Years Eve & Rock N Roll Las Vegas.  Its something to see and a huge event for runners, visitors & locals alike.  But do be careful of what you eat & drink leading up to this late afternoon race so that you have fun running & not running to the potties!

The half & full marathon started at 4:30pm on Sunday night.  Four different wave starts.  Numerous corrals in each wave.  I started in the first wave since I was a marathon runner.  Each wave started with a burst of fireworks. 

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This event is definitely crowded off the start but thinned out quickly.  It seemed like everyone was very excited and many people wanted to run fast.  Like really fast.   The sun was just starting to set when we began to run & it was cooling off.  Kinda nice. The first thing to be seen on course was the Vegas sign.  Welcome to Las Vegas.

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After passing the Vegas sign we were headed toward the more well known parts of the strip with lots of casinos and flashing neon lights.  This is only about 1.5 miles into the race & you can see that I already have plenty of road to run.  I didn’t feel hindered by the crowds and could run the pace I wanted. 

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2 miles into the marathon & half, the Luxor & Excalibur.

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Mile 3 – Planet Hollywood & Paris

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Mile 4-5, Mirage & Treasurer Island

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There was definitely an excitement in the air.  I think this race was about so much more than running to many of the participants.  I heard a lot of chatter about this being the first time at a particular distance.  So many spectators.  So much energy.  It was dark.  It was cool without the sun beating down on us.  It was beautiful.  The night was lit up with all the beautiful lights of Vegas.  It was an experience like no other.  This was my 36th marathon and I must say, it will stand out in my memory for a long time to come.

At mile 6, near the Stratosphere, we were welcomed to Downtown Las Vegas. 

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Around mile 8, Meb passed me.  Fast.  I heard someone shouting that Meb was passing & to say “hey”.  And then he was gone.  No pic for me.  Boooo!  Mile 9-10 down Freemont Street for a peak at the lights. 

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And as the lights of Freemont Street faded behind me, I knew that the “fun” was almost over for the marathoners.  As the half runners were joyful & close to their finish, we turned off around mile 11 into the darkness.  Away from the lights.  Away from the crowds.  Away from the “fun”.  Some streets were lit with streetlights.  Some not lit at all.  Random bands were out on the marathon route and since we were weaving in and out of parallel streets, in a very close vicinity, I could hear a band multiple times at various places on the course.  We still had a clear path, no question as to where we were headed or where to run.  It looked really confusing on paper but the route was well marked and there was never a question as to the direction we were headed.  I was impressed with the volunteers & the volume of Las Vegas PD Officers who were out on course helping us.  I can’t imagine the number of people it took, all working together, to make this a successful event. 

Miles 13-18 were all in and around the World Market Center.  Getting in and out of this area is where you will find the only “hills” on the course.  It was kinda nice for some varied terrain.  I really loved this section.  Looking at it on paper looks insane & confusing.  I couldn’t picture it in my head at all.  But we ran around the World Market Center several times in roped off “pathways” created by organizers.   There were a lot of lights & music that could be heard throughout the complex.  Cool area. 

Miles 19 & 20 were non-eventful.  Then we hit the strip for a millisecond at mile 21 near the Stratosphere.  We were on the strip for maybe 3/10ths of a mile before being directed off, toward the back lots of Circus Circus.  I now understand that this was the 5K route.  So if you ran the 5K, then you know the route of which I speak.  There was loud music & a huge display of fireworks with lots of neon lights.  By this time, I was not having fun.  My stomach was upset & I had some abnormal aches & pains.  I was ready to be finished.  Headed out of the back lots & back to the strip for 3/4 of a mile, then we were once again directed off strip for our final detour before the finish.  Mile 25 & we were about to return to the Strip for our final 1.2 & what we were all awaiting:  the finish. 

And the finish was sweet.  I was so happy to see it.  #36 was in the DONE column. 

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We received a spinning, glow in the dark Finisher’s Medal!

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And a gender specific Finishers Jacket with reflective accents.  I used my New Orleans Finisher Jacket on the left (below) so you can see both the back & the front; however,  I only received one jacket for finishing the Las Vegas race.  The race tee is in the middle.  Gender specific.

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I really loved the first 18 miles of this race.  I’m sure the miles that I had logged walking around Vegas the days prior to the race didn’t help me get thru the last 8 miles swiftly.  But I ran conservatively and tried to enjoy it.   Just kept moving toward the finish.  It doesn’t matter how many marathons I run, it still all about patience & surviving whatever the day & conditions bring me.  And trying to enjoy it, no matter what.  Smile

This race had 14 aid stations on the marathon course, 18 music stations (many which you could hear from multiple locations), and 3 medical stations.   They also handed out Glukos gels & gummies 3-4x.  It was a well supported race.  Clear direction as to the race course.  Members of the community, even in less populated areas were out and cheering on runners.  Great race but if you came for the party, stick to the half marathon because you’ll see everything & maybe still get back to hubby before he breaks the bank. 

Sound fun?  They are doing a early pre-sale for 2017 RnR Las Vegas HERE.  You can register thru Sunday, 11/20/16 for $99 for either the half or the full. 

If you loved Vegas and/or are trying to squeeze in a couple more RNR events, feel free to use my $15 off discount code (TTF2016)  for these upcoming events:  RnR San Antonio (12/4 – I’ll be at this one!!), RnR DC (3/11/17), RnR Dallas (3/19/17) & RnR Nashville (4/29/17).

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** As always, Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Mississippi Blues Marathon Race Review – 2016

Last year at this time, I could hardly walk.  The Plantar Fasciitis Devil had a firm hold on both of my feet.  I could move once I got warmed up but if I tried to run, I would tighten up after a few miles and normally be stopped in my tracks.  If I tried to “push thru”, I would be rendered useless for days.  I would tighten up when I would sit down.  Or go to bed. Or drive in the car.  Walking was nothing but excruciating to the point that my non-runner (and generally unsympathetic) hubby would walk thru the house multiple times a day to clear the floor of toys, dog bones, debris or anything on which I could accidentally step because if I stepped on anything, I would crumple to the floor in pain.  I wish I were exaggerating but if anything, I couldn’t possibly give an idea of how badly I was hurting if you have never experienced the deep grips of Plantar Fasciitis. 

For all who witnessed my pain, or if you asked my hubby or the slew of Physical Therapists, Orthopedic/Sport Med docs and Chiros that I saw when I moved to Indiana, the idea of me running “much” in the future was slim to none.  I was scheduled to run the Back 2 Back Challenge 2015 which was the Mississippi Blues Marathon & First Light Marathon double, but I could not do it.  I mean, I couldn’t walk, I certainly couldn’t run 2 marathons in 2 days.  So, I deferred my entries to 2016 with a hope and a prayer that I could get the PF under control within a year.  And I did, thanks to some amazing Chiropractors at Optimum Performance in Ft Wayne, IN.  HUGE shout out of thanks to Dr. Russell & Dr. Goins for everything they have done for me over the last year.  And for not taking the easy way out by just saying, “stop running”.  For the record, as of today, I am pain free.  Like zero pain when I walk or run or get up out of bed.  Pain free.  And I am beyond grateful.

So, the Back to Back Challenge was a GO for 2016.  The Mississippi Blues Marathon was Saturday, January 9, 2016 in Jackson, MS.  The First Light Marathon was January 10, 2016 in Mobile, AL.  Let’s talk about MS Blues today! 

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MS Blues offered a small expo at the Jackson Convention Center and easy packet pick up before the race or even on race morning, if necessary.  Parking was easy and free.  Packet Pick up was fast and painless.  We even spotted and shopped with our favorite marathon runner and expo booth, Gypsy Runner.  Thanks for hooking us up with some cool stuff, Amy!

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This year’s race was all about honoring BB King who passed in 2015.  They put a BB King CD in each of our race packets.  We also each received a harmonica with the date/logo of the event & a cool unisex 1/4 zip with BB King on the back.  Great swag.

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If you’ve talked to anyone about the MS Blues Marathon, you’ve probably already heard about the hills.  So let’s just get that out of the way right now.  This race is hilly.  And I don’t mean maybe.  Very hilly.  I think Judy said that we climbed over 5500 feet in elevation over the course of the race.  And descended about the same.  So many ups and downs on this course.  Pretty much non-stop.  But it was beautiful.  Great course thru stunning neighborhoods, amazing homes, great volunteers and police who were actually smiling and thanking us for coming to run their city.  Small race, with approximately 755 marathon finishers,  1871 half finishers, 307 Quarter Note finishers & 28 relay teams.  We had a lot of fun, even with the rain.  We started in the rain and finished in the rain.  In fact, there was as much rain as there were hills, maybe more.  Smile  Steamy pic of Julie, Judy & I under the lights pre-race.

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Pic of some of the course below.  Hello hill (pic 1).

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Selfie.

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Course below. 

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MS Blues really does it right and we really enjoyed ourselves.  They focus on the Blues element of this historic area.  In fact a portion of the proceeds from the race go to the local Blues Foundation.  Generally this race has a 9 different spots for live performers on the course but the weather was bad this weekend.  There were a few spots where we heard music but nothing like there would have been had it not been down pouring rain most of the day. 

We finished.  It was very slow going in the beginning because the streets just could not accommodate the number of runners.  We were really packed in tightly for several miles. Not a problem for us but if you want to race this, then plan a slow start or head to the front!  We just took it super easy and walked a lot of the hills since we were headed to Mobile AL for another marathon on Sunday.  We finished in 5:10 (factoring in way too many potty stops and a lot of hill walking) and the sun had finally came back out, minutes before we crossed the finish line.  Yay for the sun.  Judy, Julie & I at the finish.  Very cool BB King medal with a hanging guitar pick.

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There was a finisher party with food & music but the music wasn’t playing and the food was gone when we got there.  Supposedly more food was the on the way but my tummy was already upset so we waited a half hour and then left to get cleaned up and back on the road for the trip to Mobile, AL.

If you can hang out in Jackson after the race, there is a very popular Blues Crawl that takes you to some of the local music venues in Jackson post race.  There is also a Blues Trolley that does the driving in case you want to have a beverage.  We missed the fun but I heard that it’s amazing. 

** Run MS Blues Marathon ** Amanda – TooTallFritz