Thursday, April 25, 2013


The last ten counties have taken almost a year to collect.  Now that we're down to the last counties remaining in the countdown, we're really at the mercy of the calendar.  Early on, when we had a free weekend, we could just look at the schedule and pick any of several counties that might have a race, but now we have to find out when the remaining races are and plan around those.  Still, it's been a lot of fun getting to the 80% mark, and we have had some good luck getting to some of those hard counties recently, and hopefully we'll get more good chances as the year rolls on.  Can we get to 90 before the end of the year?  It's possible, given good schedules and good knees.  Keep up with us as we might be coming through your town soon!

Complete: Alamance, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cherokee, Chowan, Clay, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Dare, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Graham, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Haywood, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Iredell, Jackson, Johnston, Lee, Lenoir, Macon, Martin, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, Lincoln, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Orange, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Polk, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Tyrrell, Union, Vance, Wake, Warren, Wayne, Wilkes, Yadkin, Yancey

Still to go: Alexander, Alleghany, Bladen, Caldwell, Camden, Caswell, Cleveland, Currituck, Gates, Henderson, Jones, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Northampton, Pamlico, Transylvania, Washington, Watauga, Wilson

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wayne County - Greater Goldsboro Road Run 10k - April 13, 2013

A couple of friends mentioned surprise to find out we were just making it to Wayne County this late in the countdown, given that it's an easy 45-minute drive from home and that they have a couple of well-established races, but sometimes the calendar just works out that way.  Plus, it would have been a shame not to have included one of the longest-running road races in the area as part of the countdown, so it was nice that the calendar worked out very well to be a part of the Greater Goldsboro Road Run 10k.

This was the 35th running of the annual race; it's a pedigree that goes back many years.  According to our friend Val Price, who is an unofficial historian of many Down East races and was taking part in the 5k event today, the GGRR used to be one of the biggest draws in the eastern half of the state and drew fields in the hundreds with nice prize money back in the day.  Now, with a much more crowded race schedule and smaller prizes, the fields may not be as big, but the organizers still work to put on an excellent race for all the participants. 

The main race organizing area was right in the middle of historic downtown Goldsboro, right along Center Street, the main drag through town.  Packet pickup was set up in First Baptist Church, and a large team from Run for God was organizing to take part in the morning's activities.  The race shirts were very nice and original; a very distinctive shade of green with custom artwork showing a runner with Goldsboro in the background.  That was a nice touch, seeing something different and out of the ordinary in the race shirts.  Also, a large number of volunteers were already setting up in the volunteer area, so it was clear we were going to be very well taken care of in the morning's races.  (Maybe Kanye's "Golddigger" wasn't the best choice to include in the morning's music selections.)

Sure enough, it was easy to catch up with Val at the race, and I also got to meet Dexter Johnson from the Mangum Track Club; some other runners from Raleigh had also made the trip out to Goldsboro to take advantage of the area's flat, fast race course.  There wasn't going to be a whole lot of elevation change in the race, and with long straightaways and only a few turns, it was going to be a speedy run.  A couple of crankchairs were also taking part and got a head-start on the runners.  Both the 10k and 5k events (there was also a mile run) started at the same time several blocks apart on Center Street; the 10k course was in effect twice around the 5k course.  It did mean that once the 10k runners caught up to the 5k runners, we had to work our way through the walkers, strollers and joggers at the back of the 5k pack until we worked our way into the 5k runners that were hitting about the same pace.  That might be one thing to improve for future races; maybe they could cone off that initial quarter-mile or so, with 5k runners on one side of the street and 10k runners on the other side to avoid the crush of runners until we had more or less settled into our running paces.

Once we did get off Center Street and into the surrounding neighborhoods, we really were treated to some pretty spring scenery.  The Goldsboro area was running a little bit ahead of Raleigh in terms of spring blooms, so we got to see dogwoods, azaleas and wisteria that were already in full color and just a few days ahead of the blooms back home.  Lots of homes were already in full spring color and the owners had their properties looking very spiffy for all the runners.  At a few homes, there were families out on the porches to watch the runners go by and to cheer for them as they shuffled past.  There was a brief downhill as we made the return to Center Street, and of course there was a corresponding uphill following that turned out to be the only real hill on the course.  The 5k runners continued on to the finish line, and the 10k runners made the turn to head back out for another loop.

At least on the second loop, I knew where the mile markers were going to be and where the turns and aid stations were, and I had a pace I was comfortable with, so it was fun just to keep cruising, talking to the runners around me, and tick the miles off.  It was a great morning to be running; the temperatures were nice and cool, and there was a good breeze blowing to keep us cool.  The miles felt nice and easy.  Finally we made the last left-hand turn and we were back on Center Street with the finish line arch in sight.  It was great to pick up the pace for the homestretch and hit the finish line as hard as I could, and to my delight I had run my first sub-57:00 10k since my college days!  I ended up in a very competitive age group, so there was no award for me, but the finish time was fantastic enough to make the whole morning run a celebration!

Post-run, there was a great supply of food and drink for all the runners, and lots of conversation among all the morning's runners.   The Run for God team appeared to have met all their participation goals.  There was a large stack of door prizes for all the runners.  It was a great morning overall, and the organizers in Goldsboro are still putting on a great race!  It's well worth the quick trip out to Wayne County to be a part of this flat, fast spring race!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Anson County - Five-Alarm 5k - April 6, 2013

Hey, folks!  Yep, we're still here, even though there hasn't been a lot of posting going on since our last outing in September.  We didn't travel as much the rest of the fall, and a couple of races we were planning for fell through, and then we had to wait for the calendar to bring some new county opportunities to us -- but we are looking forward to hitting some new parts of the state this year and getting further into the countdown!

Anson County was the first new stop of the year.  I had been worried about us getting to Anson County because a couple of races I knew about there had fallen through, so it was a great delight to read about the new Five-Alarm 5k being planned at the fire department in Ansonville; they hope to have it be an annual event, plus it gives us a great destination to a county we haven't visited before! 

The idea for the Five-Alarm 5k came about as part of a fundraiser to help raise money that will allow the Ansonville Fire and Rescue Department to purchase fitness equipment for the firefighters to use in keeping in shape to handle emergenies in the Anson County area.  In addition, the firefighters were encouraged to take part themselves and use the race as a target event for their own fitness training.  Courtney Sikes, one of the firefighters on staff, was heading up the effort and definitely the person in charge on race day.  She was ably assisted by Peter Ascuitto, Stanly County commissioner, owner of Vac n' Dash (the best combination vacuum store, running store, and UPS shipping location in North Carolina) and the creator behind some great running events in the area.  Upon arriving and parking at the nearby Ansonville Elementary School (home of the Panthers), we had no trouble getting through packet pickup in the spacious fire hall assembly room.  Lots of helpful volunteers got us our packets, numbers and t-shirts, and there was a very good crowd assembling as the morning's weather was really nice and encouraged a good walk-up registration. 

It was still kind of cool the first Saturday of April, so I still had my gloves and good toboggan on when they pulled a fire engine out to block US highway 52 and had us line up in the street ready to start.  There was an excellent crowd of about 100 runners and walkers, including two firemen wearing full gear including boots, helmets (with liners) and oxygen tanks.  They pulled the engine horn to start us, and soon we were headed south on highway 52 past some surprised drivers and truckers who had stopped for the race start.  After about a half-mile on 52 we made a right turn onto a more country road that we had to ourselves and navigated a bunch of turns with the help of excellent course monitors that made sure we didn't get lost.  A few folks were out in the morning air, and some of them were kind of surprised to see a bunch of runners and walkers coming through this Saturday morning.

The course was laid out like a big figure eight, so about the halfway point we passed behind the fire station and onto the north loop of the course.  Some volunteers had a nice water stop set up for us, and the course monitors knew some of the local runners and would encourage them along or joke with them like they were going to send them off-course rather than pointing out a turn.  The morning air felt great and I was running pretty well, although the last hill we traversed on the way back to highway 52 slowed me down a good bit; obviously I haven't broken my habit of taking off too quickly in the start of a race. 

We had one more hill to crest on highway 52, but then we could see all the way to the finish line area.  We made a left turn onto an access road and completed a quick loop around the Ansonville Church of God and then across the big chalked "FINISH" line in the parking lot.  That loop was blessedly downhill, and there was a good crowd of spectators lined up to cheer each runner as they came into view and passed by them to the finish line.  It felt like a very fast, very welcoming finish, and I'm sure most of the runners, like me, picked up the pace thanks to the encouragement and downhill.  The race timers from Vac n' Dash got us our finish cards which we handed in to the timing team, and the results were ready to go just about the time the final runners and walkers crossed the finish line. 

The firemen in full gear did a great job completing the course and received the biggest ovation from the spectators.  A team from Run for God was present and had a good number of participants in the crowd, too.  They set up a nice display about the fire station with giveaways for the kids, and one volunteer was ready with lots of post-race bottled water, fruit, and granola bars for some famished 5Kers.  The overall mens and womens winners took home kettlebells with the race logo -- a very creative alternative trophy for a nice race.  Surprisingly, I ran well enough to get a second-place finish in my age group and a very nice silver medal embossed with the race logo!

They got the inaugural Five-Alarm 5k off to a great start, and hopefully more folks will come from around the area to help fund the fitness improvements to the Ansonville Fire and Rescue Department.  I certainly had a great time with my morning in Anson County, and hopefully it will become a bigger event when it returns next year.  Thanks for adding another running event to the area, and thanks for having us!