Monday, December 14, 2009

Thunder Road Racing Team

Jennifer trying on warm headgear at expo

This past weekend Jennifer and I traveled north to Charlotte, NC, for the Thunder Road races. Jennifer has a current goal of doing a half marathon a month and I tagged along for the 5k. As she liked to say with some animation afterward: "I did the THUNDER ROAD HALF MARATHON while you did the jingle jog 5k." It's her sense of humor that I hope I have properly conveyed. :-)

Earlier in the week the race forecast was rather bleak, temps at or below freezing with some sort of wet or frozen precipitation. As the days marched on the forecast improved with a rain chance of around 20% and temps in the 30s. I was mainly concerned about running in the rain with this current prosthesis and the running gods allowed me a reprieve.

Jennifer's race started a half hour before mine...under better conditions I would have seen her off, but since it was so cold I stayed behind until about 15 minutes before my 5k. I wore some compression tights under running shorts, and then a light singlet with two long sleeve technical tops, gloves, and an ear warmer headband. Since I am running slower I don't generate as much heat as I normally would, and the layers worked out perfectly with only my right fingers getting a little numb from the cold.

There was a good size crowd for the 5k, I read they had 1465 finishers, and since there was a marathon, marathon relay, and half marathon, this was a respectable field. Also wheelchair athletes can compete in any of the races, but there is no specific amputee category. Given the hilly course, I was still hoping to run a little better than my Turkey Day 5k, but was prepared to know if I ran the same or slower it would still be a better effort due to the tougher route. Hey, I will look under any rock for a victory. Or grubs.

I have a hot spot on my leg above where I had my original blisters on my tibial crest, kind of odd in the it was about an inch long and at an angle to the tibia instead of on top of/parallel to it. I had a blister block bandage on it and as long as I manage a good prosthetic sock fit it doesn't bother me.

The race is run in downtown Charlotte, quite clean and well manned by volunteers to help us on our way. While waiting for the start, I look around for any other disabled athletes and see none, and then make sure my watch is set for manual mile splits. This time it would have been better to have done automatic splits, but who could forecast that? Also I watch my heart rate and try to calm myself as it is a bit high for standing around and doing nuffin'.

"Runners Start Your Engines" is the call to arms - and legs - and off we go for a mostly downhill first mile although it still rolls some. I seem to pass about as many people who pass me, so I think my starting position was about right. We come up to the first mile and I hit the lap button on my watch: 9:20 something. Yikes! By far my fastest amp mile split and I don't feel bad about doing it on this first mile since I wanted to take advantage of what gravity was offering. Thankfully it wasn't frozen apples this day.

Shortly after mile one I notice my right fingers are feeling numb from the cold...I am thinking it is good that I am only doing the 5k because otherwise I'd be in trouble. I had forgotten how my fingers tended to be more cold sensitive as I aged, another side affect from my long running layoff.

Mile 2 rolls a bit and I look for the mile marker but never see it. During this mile I am aware of another runner on my right side who seems to be keeping pace with me. I don't look directly at him as I am concentrating on my own pace and effort. It doesn't really bother me except to be a little distracting because I feel like I have a shadow. As I wrote on Twitter, he was "a wordless friend but what needs to be said? We were doing."

Somewhere around 2 1/2 miles a kid runs along my left side and offers some encouragement. Later when I was back at the hotel the thought came to mind that he was about my age when I was run over, and not unlike the boy who spoke to me at the Turkey Day 5k. It made me smile and wonder if I would have been as sympathetic at that age. I would like to think I was that boy and the answer was yes.

From 2.5 to the finish was mostly uphill, not a difficult grade but certainly noticeable as my breathing and effort increased without any perceived quickness in pace. My shadow fell behind and I could see the finish line, also NASCAR themed. Finally I could see the race clock and realized I might be able to break 30:00 I bore down I knew I would not quite make it, and went under the banner at 30:02. BUT we have chips and my race time was 29:42, a significant improvement from my last 5k a little over two weeks ago! This was good for 5th place in my AG of 22 runners. (Note: Since been revised to 6th place on the website, 23 runners.)

Soon afterward I can feel an unusual amount of sweat in the upper part of my prosthesis so I head back to our digs to shower and change. Most races I would return to watch Jennifer's finish, but by the time I was fully recharged it was close to her expected time, so I wimped out and stayed in our room.

When Jennifer does arrive at our room she seems more energetic than her Conway finish even though this is a more demanding course. No doubt she is getting in better shape as well, running a half marathon a month. For the rest of the day we lounge at the motel, not wanting to go out in the freezing conditions that would degrade to the nastiness we had hoped to avoid for our races.


When we came home on Sunday, we unpacked and after a short rest I did a 7 miler. I was rather tired after this run, struggling a little at the end. Even though the race the day before was 5k, it was hilly and I used muscles a bit differently than here in the lowcountry. Also driving for 3 1/2 hours with my residual propped on the console I was less than rested for my long run. Times like this makes me think how one feels come mile 20 in a marathon.

Time to stop thinking and keep moving.


  1. Great run!!! Congrats! You and your wife are fantastic!

  2. Thanks Suann. Glad to meet you on Twitter. Jennifer and I need to visit Texas someday, I never met a Texan that I didn't like!

  3. Congrats on another great race Richard and Jennifer. You keep on getting faster!

  4. Thanks Rick, the course was challenging so I was very happy with my time. Now if I can keep improving like this for another 10 years or so I will almost be as fast as you. = :-)

    I want to do it next year if we can just to compare times, should be fun.

    - Richard

  5. Way to go RB! Seems like you're getting the hang of this running thing!

  6. Hi Joan,

    Yes, sometimes my gait seems very good, I often feel like running faster but know my fitness isn't quite there yet. I imagine it's what a horse feels in the starting gate....lemme outta here!