Saturday, May 31, 2014


Wow, we've made it to 90 counties!  We've really covered a lot of ground now, from the coast to the mountains, from the north border to the south border, and everywhere in between -- multiple times!  Between the two of us, we've run in 90% of North Carolina's counties!

The last ten counties we've visited took just over a year to collect.  Now we're down to the last 10, and we're pretty much at the mercy of the race schedules for those counties.  Hopefully when we can find a race in one of them, we will be able to work our calendar around it -- otherwise we'll keep dragging the finish of the countdown further into the future.  Given some good knees and budgets, hopefully we'll make it to our finish line in about a year!  Keep those cards and letters coming in, and watch out for us coming through your town real soon!

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

Still to go: Alexander, Alleghany, Camden, Caswell, Cleveland, Currituck, Henderson, Madison,  Mitchell, Transylvania

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pamlico County - The Don Lee Creature Crawl 5k - May 18, 2014

Not only is Pamlico County home to some of North Carolina's best sailing spots, it's also home to Don Lee Camp and Retreat Center, affiliated with the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is home each May to a camp-wide open house and the Creature Crawl 5k.  Brad grew up going to Methodist camps in the mountains, so it was nice to see what the ocean version of camp would be!  With the open house going on, there were all kinds of exhibits, demonstrations and exploring going on, so we got a nice view of all the camp activities and possibilities while waiting for the race to start.

Although this was only the 2nd annual running of the Creature Crawl 5k, the staff had the check-in process down.  We received some nice red Camp Don Lee shirts (with a different date) in our goodie bag, along with more camp info.  The race itself was going to start out in front of one of the cabins close to the river, so we eventually all made our way over there, where a friendly guy with a bullhorn thanked everyone for coming out, encouraged us all to enjoy the camp and have fun while we were there, and then sent us off on the run!

The route led quickly out of the camp along the main entrance road, and there were plenty of cheers and honks from folks who were taking part in the open house festivities and drivers still coming in and out.  We passed the dining hall and the medical center and several other cabins and meeting areas, then we went by the front Don Lee Camp sign and out.  A brief run along the entrance road took us to a water station about the 1-mile mark, where we turned towards the Neuse River and ran along River Road, where there were both some run-down houses that showed their age and some newer structures that were more polished.  It was also not clear exactly whether a storm was rolling in; we definitely had some sprinkles of rain, but what we originally thought was thunder actually turned out later to be booms from the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point across the river.  (I ran the MCAS Cherry Point half-marathon to get Craven County years earlier.)

It was a bit of a surprise when we turned off River Road and onto a grass path around the perimeter of a large, grassy field.  It's always nice to get off the road for races when possible, so the break from asphalt was very welcome.  It remained nice and flat, but the rain picked up a little bit, so I was ready to make the turn back towards camp and start the return trip.  We returned the way we came, back down River Road, making the turn back towards camp at the water station, and then back into camp by the main sign and the camp buildings.  The rain had pretty much ended by the time we got back to the start/finish area, so everyone was in a very good mood and happy to dig into the post-race refreshments.  We waited a while to see if the evening open house dinner was going to be ready soon, but with that meal still a couple of hours away, we decided to get back on the road home.  But we enjoyed our time in Pamlico County and we look forward to our next flat run there!

Bladen County - White Lake Water Festival 10k - May 18, 2014

Bladen County's beautiful White Lake is home to many triathlons during the year -- my wife Kathy loves the White Lake as a triathlon setting because the spring water is so clear that you can see all the way to the sandy bottom, even at its deepest points -- but we were only able to find two pure running events there, the 10k and 1-mile that are held each May as part of the White Lake Water Festival (2014 was the 36th annual festival).  This had been a bigger race in previous years, but we hear attendance has been down the last couple of years.  The Sunday morning start time could be a hindrance, but Saturday is chock full with other festival events.  At any rate, it's usually a date that conflicts with the NCRC's Classic Half-Marathon and 10k back home, so I had to take a year away from volunteering for that event in order to finally get down to Bladen County.

It couldn't have been a prettier May morning to be driving past the lakes and blueberry fields of Bladen County on our way down to the race.  Unfortunately, we arrived very close to race time, had to jump through registration in a hurry, and then hustle the quarter-mile or so from the main staging area (parking lot for the amusement park) to the starting line.  Although it wasn't an overwhelming crowd, there were several groups of serious runners that had showed up to take advantage of the great morning and the flat, fast course.  The 10k route can best be described as almost a full counterclockwise lap around White Lake.  (The 1-mile is an out-and-back.)  It's amazingly flat -- later my Garmin would show only 15 feet of elevation gain over the six miles.  I wasn't nearly in good running form yet after some time off for injury recovery, wedding, and honeymoon, but it could be a nice, easy flat run.

We didn't have much of a chance to size up the crowd before we got started, and then we were focused on circling the lake.  The first mile-plus was along White Lake Drive, so we were running past residential areas and businesses that are part of the White Lake neighborhood.  Shortly into the second mile, we moved out onto NC highway 701, which was much more open to the sun, had more traffic, and was more industrial.  There was very good support from local law enforcement to manage the traffic and keep the runners safe, plus some excellent volunteers manned the much-needed water stations to help keep us cool.  Unfortunately, as we neared the halfway point of the race, I was suffering some digestive stress and had to make a short trip into a gas station just off the road to take care of the problem.  (You can see a sudden change of direction in my Garmin map.)

The second half of the race was much better on my stomach, even if we never really got any speed going.  The "back side" of the lake on highway 53 had much more shade, and we were back into residential and camping areas.  Kathy pointed out the North Carolina Future Farmers of America White Lake Center, which had been the home base for some of the triathlons she had done at White Lake (we visited there later to check out the lake vistas).  The last couple of miles, we encountered the Great White White Lake Wall, a looooong white picket fence that separates one of the White Lake neighborhoods from highway 53.  The fence was about six feet tall and over a mile long -- probably one of the walls visible from space -- and that was our view of the lake the last mile or so.  But finally we did round the last corner back onto White Lake Drive, and soon the finish line came into view.  It couldn't have been flatter.

Post-race, there was a small selection of food and drink to refresh the runners, and then the awards ceremony -- with very, very nice trophies and awards -- took place in the parking lot of one of the municipal buildings.  We thought one of us might be in the running for an age group award, but it was unfortunately not to be.  But even though we only took home memories and not hardware from White Lake, we will always appreciate the lake vistas and this wonderfully flat run!