City Running Guide: Roanoke

This weekend Bride and I visited Roanoke, VA to attend the annual Capital District Kiwanis convention.  While the weekend is packed with workshops (one of which Bride presented), meals, elections and late nights we knew that we still had to squeeze in our runs.  We made sure to plan our schedule out ahead of time and were forced to miss some of the extra activities one afternoon to get in a few miles before our big run after the closing session on Sunday. Despite that full schedule we were able to get in nearly a half marathon around the city and we really got to see the best of the city and why it should be considered one of the best running cities in VA!

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 ROANOKE RIVER GREENWAY:

As I searched for a spot for Bride and I to run on Saturday I saw this nice path below a bridge near one of the new hospitals.  I looked up the path and found that not only was this a nice path along the Roanoke River, but that it was actually a 26 mile long path that had very few street crossings.

We pulled up and I was first impressed with the park around the path that included baseball fields, a play ground and other public land.  You could tell that the city had seen how great this path was and how to best use it to better the whole city.  After finding parking (there were ample spaces available) we headed out on the trail.  As we ran I realized how much attention had been given to the trail by the city, the non profits and the citizens.  Each 1/10 of a mile had a sign (like in the picture) that not only tracked distance but showed the non-profits that partnered with the trail to keep it in great condition.  (I am happy to say that most of the miles that we ran were sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke!)

I have had the privilege of running on some great paths around the Washington DC.  Many of these trails show the time, energy and money that the communities have put into them and the Roanoke River Greenway showed the same characteristics.  This path can stand up to any path in the DC area or against any other path around America.

 MILL MOUNTAIN TRAIL: Top of Mill Mountain

On Saturday after the last session of Convention Bride and I headed out on her first long run of her Half Marathon training plan.  The run was scheduled to be 8 miles and as we set out from downtown Roanoke we were not sure where we would end up.  I knew where the trails were and the plan was to head back to the Roanoke River Greenway and head the other direction that we did not run yesterday but as we ran our plans changed.  The previous day we drove up to the top of Mill Mountain to see the famous Roanoke Star and today Bride made the comment that maybe we should run to the top.  I knew it would be hard for her but she was excited so we headed up the mountain on another great trail. The trail ran up the mountain and despite it being very steep at times Bride made it and we had a much easier run down following the road.

This trail was well kept and you could tell that was used often by many runners in the area.  There were multiple paths including some that were paved, some unpaved, some leading directly to the top while other led to the monument further down.  Mill Mountain is a prominent part of Blue Ridge Marathon that is said to be “America’s Toughest Road Race” and it deserves to be, but the view of the valley and the city below is worth the climb.

ROANOKE REVIEW:  

Virginia is a great running state.  Richmond is home to “America’s Friendliest Marathon” showing how much its citizens embrace the race.  Arlington hosts the Marine Corp Marathon, known as “The People’s Marathon” where many people come out every year to cheer.  Even Virginia Beach took the time to make its boardwalk friendly to runners and other endurance athletes.  Roanoke should be seen as one of the best running areas as well.  Within a few miles you can run on a serene path along a river, or climb to the top of a mountain or two.  This combination is a runner’s dream that is hard to find in many other cities. I am very impressed with Roanoke and will look forward to coming back someday for another run.

Strike Out ALS!

Today I’m sharing my memories from CKI at the College of William & Mary. This is in honor of the upcoming 10th anniversary of Strike Out ALS (SOALS). This weekend Runner and I will be traveling to Plumeri Park in Williamsburg, VA to watch the Tribe baseball team take on JMU.

During my Sophomore year of college, I served on the CKI Board of Directors. I remember we were looking for a signature fundraising project when Mary Ogburn shared with us a great cause and idea. Mary Ogburn’s grandfather passed away from ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The tie in with baseball made a fundraiser at a college baseball game the perfect fit. However, convincing the athletic director was no easy task (we’re talking about you Pete Kresky!). The perseverance from CKI with the help of Kiwanis made the project happen and 10 years later, the event is still going strong!

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SOALS has built a special legacy over the years. This remains the only fundraiser coordinated in conjunction with the W&M Athletic Department. In addition, W&M Tribe baseball has not lost a game on SOALS day since the fundraiser started. And most importantly, the fundraiser had raised nearly $10,000 for ALS to date!

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I am proud to have participated in the first 6 years of it’s existence – and I have the t-shirts to prove it! I can’t wait to return to campus for the 10th anniversary and tailgate with CKI members, alumni and Kiwanians.

I’m Half Way There!

Cue the Bon Jovi music…

On Monday I started my 11th week of training for my next great endurance adventure, the Ironman 70.3 Eagleman on June 14.  Monday also signaled the beginning of the second half of my 20 week training plan.  When I started training for this race I was an avid runner who thought he would like to swim and bike, but in 10 weeks I have learned to love the two new legs of this adventure.  Some of the most relaxing times I have had during the training have taken place on the bike during my long rides and the most growth has occurred during my pool exercises.  Each “A” race that I look at I view as a challenge.  Sometimes that challenge is to get faster, or go longer, or for the Ironman the challenges are numerous and different.  With this race I have to challenge myself to commit, more than ever, to train and learn technique as well as to push my endurance levels and concentration beyond that for any road race.

SWIMMING:
This was by far the part that I felt most uncomfortable with.  Ever since I broke my nose in High School I have had trouble with it when I would go swimming.  I knew going  into the training that this is where I needed to spend a lot of time initially to get comfortable and to build up my confidence.  Luckily starting in the winter allowed me plenty of time to focus on this skill without the temptation, or even the ability, to get outside and train for the other two legs.  I spent many mornings before work and on the weekends swimming laps at my local rec center and I can say that after 10 weeks I feel comfortable in the pool and confident in my ability to complete the distance. My form is not perfect and my speed won’t win any races, but my only goal at the race will be to get out of the water and onto the bike.

CYCLING:
I must admit that I haven’t cycled outside as much as I should have.  Starting in February, plus having one of the snowiest winters ever have limited how frequently I could get outside and hit the roads.  With that said, the next 10 weeks will see many longer rides before work, after work, and even longer on the weekends.  I know that my there is only so much improvement the next 10 weeks can bring to my run and even my swim, but I plan on seeing a lot of improvement in my bike.  56 of the 70 miles on June 14th will be on my bike and I plan on training like it until the race.

RUNNING:
Although I have learned to love all three legs of the triathlon individually, running is still my true passion. Through all my training I have always remember that my fall goal is the improve on my marathon PR that I set last October. (That PR seems a lot more reachable now with my recent sub 1:45 half in Virginia Beach.)  I have found that even with me not running not nearly as much as I have previously all my other training has allowed my running to continue to improve.  I have done a lot of strength training focusing on power and leg turnover.  Many of my runs have been done on tired legs after bike rides to simulate the race conditions which also helps build my endurance for my longer runs in the fall.

I know that if my race experience is anything like my training, I know I will do another triathlon in the future. I love the challenge, knowing that all your hard work paid off, and knowing that your determination is making you better. This training shown me all of those and I am sure will continue to surprise me for the next 10 weeks!

-Runner

Best of Charleston

Last month Runner and I headed south to Charleston, SC for a quick visit. Runner’s parents drove from Illinois out to the East Coast for their Spring Break. We were grateful to meet them down south for some warmer weather! This was our second visit to the Holy City. We visited for the first time Christmas 2013. The city is hailed as the #1 US City to visit and the #2 best city in the WORLD (#1 is Florence) according to Conde Nast.

While Runner and I are just not that impressed*, there are some sites that are worth visiting for:

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Fort Sumpter – The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots that started the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Make sure you plan carefully for this trip because you travel to the Fort by ferry which only leaves at certain times of the day. Fun fact: When we were on the ferry, Runner’s Mom noticed a strange cookie for sale called a Benne Wafer. Being the total foodie that I am, I immediately looked it up. They are super sweet sesame cookies. They sell for $4 for a bag (cheaper than at a gift shop) – try them!

Rainbow Row – The historic row of old townhouses, painted pretty colors. You could take a carriage ride to view these, or like us, just drive by.

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Pineapple Fountain – I have a thing for pineapples, I love em! Visiting this fountain in Waterfront Park was right up my alley. Also, along the waterfront are porch swings looking out onto the river.

Charleston Tea Plantation – I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, unless you really hate tea or something. For a small admission fee you get to ride a trolley through the fields, taste several kinds of hot and iced tea, and walk through the factory. After taking the tour, you will truly appreciate the process of making tea and be amazed that the tea plantation is the only one in America. Plus, the gift shop also has a lot of good stuff.

Sesame Burgers and Beer – Runner found this place based on it’s good reviews on Trip Advisor. We went to the Mt. Pleasant location. Two words: Adult milkshakes! Actually, we went there looking to have the BEST onion rings as voted by the Charleston City Paper, however, they were way too thick for our liking. We split the South Carolina burger which stole the show with it’s homemade pimento cheese.

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Angel Oak – The oldest tree on the East Coast. We found out about this at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which had a little handout with the direction to get to it. Only a short drive and totally worth it. This tree makes you want to hug a tree. Avoid the gift shop – too pricey – but it’s their only way of raising money so what are you gonna do?

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Firefly Vodka Distillery – Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit Firefly Vodka Distillery during this trip because they are closed on Sundays. But they have little tasting room with large shots, lets just say its a potent tasting.

*We are aware this may be considered controversial, but really, New Orleans, New York City, etc are much more exciting cities not to mention all the international destinations.

My Second 10K

Back when I started this whole training for a half marathon thing, I hadn’t planned on running any formal races until the big day. Ha! Turns out running a timed race instead of doing a long training on your own is way more fun. Which was how I put a second 10K race under my belt, with a PR of 5 minutes. Yes, probably one of the only perks of being a newbie runner is seeing gains of that magnitude. The decision to run in the inaugural Alum Run did not come easily. Runner and I waited until the last chance to register because the weather forecast was looking bleak. Ultimately, we decided to do it. Here’s why:

  • Since we already ran in February, the freezing temps we practically the same conditions. At least they would be no worse. (Plus I could wear my snazzy Mona Lisa scarf.)
  • The run had been promoted heavily by the William & Mary Alumni Chapter because the founder of the race went there. I’ve still got that Tribe Pride! (Class of ’08)
  • Our friend Jarrod, who coordinates the SIU Alumni Chapter in DC, was also running! Runner is a Saluki and we’ll both be back in school there soon.

As you can see from the list, a big selling point was the college theme. Despite the low participation, the race did deliver the college spirit. Naturally, W&M had the biggest participation, with over 50 runners. I am sure the turn-out for next year will be even greater among all schools.

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The race had both a 5K and a 10K. Unfortunately, the 10K runners started 30 minutes after the 5K runners at 9am. Normally I would appreciate the later start time, but since we carpooled with Jarrod who ran the 5K, we were stuck waiting in the cold for 30 extra minutes!

The course was a 5K loop that we went around twice (math!). I was absolutely dominated by the winner of the 10K who lapped me with his 6min/mile pace… but at least I got to see him finish!  I also got to see Runner twice as we passed by each other on opposite sides of the course.The race took us from Freedom Plaza to the National Mall to the Air & Space Museum and then Back to the Old Post Office. By my second lap, many more tourists were out, awkwardly trying to cross the street (just a little annoying).

At the end of the race, Runner was there waiting to take my picture. There was the standard bagel and banana available for the finishers. We also got medal in the shape of the number 1 with a bottle opener at the bottom. If it had been warmer, I would have been tempted to stay and watch the performance of The Gentlemen of the College, an acappella group from W&M, but at that point we were all ready to get warm! Since we registered late, we are still waiting on our t-shirts. I hope they will be mailed to us. I loved the concept of the race, and would recommend it to alumni from all schools to participate in next year.