This is ya big boy. North Carolina’s biggest racing event of the year. This year a total of over 10,000 runners ran in one of the three races (marathon, half marathon, and 5k), about a 30% increase over last year. I ran the half marathon again, as I did last year in Race #14, thinking that I would like to do better than I did in the 2008 Thunder Road Half, which was my first, and I’m happy to report that things went really well. Last year I finished 16th in my age group with a time of 2:01:05; not terrible, but of course one always wants to improve next time around. This year I finished in first place in the 55-59 age group with a time of 1:35:34, which is a new half marathon PR for me.
I should also probably mention that it was the first time I finished ahead of Bob Nelson, who time after time throughout 2009 has managed to polish me off pretty good in every race. It was the first time I finished 1st in the 55-59 group and he finished 2nd, but I won’t gloat lest he goes home, trains harder than ever, and comes back and hands me my butt next time around, which I’m pretty sure he might do anyway.
No doubt I can run somewhat faster than I could last year, but maybe even more than getting faster I’ve learned a lot of things over the past year that have helped me in the races. Last year I drank too much before the race and had to use the porta-potty at about the 8th mile; this year I’m a lot more mindful about what I drink before a half marathon. Last year I started probably halfway back in the pack, which turned it into an obstacle course for the whole race; this year I started near the front and stayed far enough ahead of the huge pack behind that there was very little in the way of obstacles (i.e. slow people to pass). Last year I dressed like I was going to an Eskimo convention; this year I dressed a lot lighter, wearing an old sweatshirt that I tossed along the side of the road when I warmed up at about the third mile. Last year I was in run-walk mode a la Jeff Galloway, walking about 1 minute for every 4 minutes I ran, which I still think is a good idea for many people, but this year I seem to have reached a better level of fitness and now do very little walking in races. That’s just a few examples of doing things differently this year that have helped me shave nearly 30 minutes off of my half marathon time.
One of the great things about Thunder Road is that it’s centered around the Charlotte Convention Center. It’s possible to stay inside in the warmth of the Convention Center and leave just a couple minutes before the race begins, then when you’re finished you can go right back inside where it’s warm. It was also the setting for the race expo, which was held all day on Friday and until after the race on Saturday, and was also the setting for the awards ceremony.
Speaking of the awards ceremony, the 5k awards were handed out at 10:00, followed by the half marathon awards at 11:00, then the marathon awards sometime later (I was gone by then). The half marathon age group awards were kind of cool: a black and white checkered flag with the Thunder Road logo. Mine was embroidered at the bottom with “2009 1st Place Age.” I like it and it would be kind of nice to hang it next to the medal and a good photo of me from the race if a miracle occurs and a good photo actually shows up. There were plenty of photographers along the course so maybe it’s a possibility.
I didn’t see the finisher medals for the full marathon but the medals for half marathon finishers were identical to last year’s except last year they had the year (2008) at the top; this year it was just empty space and the year was printed on the ribbon the medal was attached to. Nice medal though, definitely the best half marathon medal I’ve received in the 7 or 8 half marathons I’ve done.
The food was a little iffy. I didn’t really hang around to see what was available since it was so cold outside, but nothing looked exciting enough to keep me outdoors so Linda and I ended up at the Starbucks in the Convention Center.
The T-shirts were really nice. The half marathon shirt was a short-sleeved black Zorrel Dri-Balance tech shirt with the Thunder Road logo over the words “Amica Insurance Half Marathon” followed in big letters with the words, “FEEL THE THUNDER!” Linda’s 5k shirt was cotton but long-sleeved. I didn’t see the full marathon shirts but I’m thinking they were probably long-sleeved tech shirts.
10 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
6 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
6 - 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
4 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 - 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
3 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) (We paid 8 bucks to park nearby)
9 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
6 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities