Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bunny Run 5k Recap – Concord NC


As a late week call, I put the Bunny Run 5k in Concord NC on my race calendar. Just two weeks removed from my goal race, I felt like I needed to get back on the roads again and put some racing under my belt.

The Bunny Run 5k is pretty late start for April. In the case of this April, it was. Race time temperature had to be pushing mid 70s by the time we rolled off the starting line.

Since the Bunny Run and the Street Light 5k share the same course, I was well aware of what lay in store for me. Mile one is super fast with a long downhill section. Mile two is relatively flat. And, mile three is – well mile three is pretty much all uphill with some nasty switchback thrown just to make our lives more interesting or possibly more miserable.

The starting line is packed with kids and adults.

With a quick countdown, we were sent on our way.

Running a 5k feels fast and different. My legs hate the need to turn over so much faster. Watching everyone else, they bound along effortlessly heading to the greenway entrance. What looks effortlessly for them doesn’t feel the same way for me.

Switching from the road to the greenway the course levels out. Each of those young runners now feels the true weight of running. Funny how life is equalizes us all.

My patience’s during the opening mile pays off.  Shortly after the mile, I match strides with the race leader. At the turn around, I gain a slight advantage but he roars back so we can run side by side. We switch back and forth wanting to take the lead but the outgoing racers force us to return to a single file running order. We cross under the road and see the 2 mile point just ahead. My pace carries me in to the lead. Passing the two mile mark, I grab a cup of water and dump it over my head. The cold water feels awesome and revives me from the sluggishness of the heat that I am enduring.

Now comes the hard part of climbing back up to downtown Concord. Not as much as seeing but feeling I know he drops off the pace. The terrain steepens – slowly at first but growing more and more every 100 yards.

Reaching the switchbacks my legs feel the strain of the hills but with only two options – push those thoughts aside or slow down, I opt for the former.

Topping last switchback leaves me with weary legs but one more hill still looms ahead. This last hill hurts badly.

 Now, I am free to run to the finish.

Three more corners are in the books. I dig it all the way to the finish.

At 52 years old, I claimed the overall Bunny Run 5k title in 18:14.  

The Concord Park and Rec Department deserve a big “pat” on the back for job well done. They consistently organize well run races at a reasonable cost. My race day registration was $20, and I got a shirt to boot. The course was well marked and had plenty of course monitors. This included a police presence and blocked off roads.

Races everywhere could take a lesson from these guys. Could well be the reason they always have a large turnout for their races. Kudos to them on their efforts.

 

Cool Down Runner

  

 

 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington KY – Recap


 

Sorry, I am little late in getting this one published. Work has been super busy lately, and this has caused my 2nd job/hobby running to get pushed in to the background.

Anyway, let’s move on to the talking about the race.

On Friday, I drove up to Lexington, KY for a couple of reasons. The primary one was to visit with my daughter who attends UK. Family time is always important to me, and seeing a friendly face always helps. Besides, she doesn’t mind that I take her and friends out to dinner either.

Then my secondary reason was running the Bluegrass Half Marathon which starts and finishes Keeneland Horse Race Park. Friday evening, I went by to check out the Expo and pick up my bib number. Surprisingly, they have a rather nice Expo. Way more vendors than I expected. Also good was the opportunity to check the race start and find a good place to park for race morning.

In my preparation for the race, I spent quite some time reading about the race. When I am unfamiliar with a race course, reading several people’s reviews give me a lot insight to what the course is really like. Based on my experience, runners will describe a course as it pertains to the strengths. So if they are hill runners, they tend to play down the hills. If they are flat landers, the course is pretty much considered by Everest standards. Most reviews said this was Everest type of course.

Race morning arrived with a drizzling rain, gusting wind, and a 40 degree temperate. With the wind chill, my body told me it must be in the 30s. My arms and hands were shaking at the start.

The Yearling race heads off at 8:55 and the 7 miler and ½ head off at 9 AM.

But before we can start, they play the Star Spangle Banner. Okay, I am up for this one. Then, they play “My Old Kentucky Home”. Alright, I am cold, and I am from North Carolina, let’s get this show on the road.

Within a quarter mile of the start, the course kicks up into a monster hill, and my legs have nothing for it. I’d been sick up until Thursday so may be this took something out of me. Or possibly, it was the 6 and half drive. Or maybe, I just wasn’t ready for the hills. Whatever it was; I was struggling.

And, this course has a lot of hills. Over the 13.1 miles, there are approximate 43 hills. Some hills were short but most were a long and steep climb. Still others are rollers. They busted your lungs going up, and then, beat the crap out of your quads going down.

For first 5 miles, I tucked in to a small group of about 5 runners. The wind was stinging at times, and pushed back with each step forward.

By 6 miles, they were putting a gap on me. I didn’t have anything in the tank. My legs felt totally dead.

Between miles 6 and 8 the hills were beating me up. At 9 miles, my climbing was reduced to the lowest gear above walking.

We merged with the 7 miler around 9.5, and this helped. They yelled in encouragement as I ran past. I needed it.

10, 11, and 12 miles hurt. Mile 13 was on along steady climb. This happens when the course is a loop course.

Pretty much the only flat on the course was the last tenth into the finish.

The Hickory Half Marathon in June is tough race but mainly because it hilly and hot. The Badin ½ Marathon in September has tough climb to the top of Morrow Mt. but still neither of these courses can hold a candle to this Bluegrass Half Marathon. I can vouch for all 43 hills on the course and “but” kicking that it gave me.

However, this wasn’t the only “but” kicking that I took. As tough as the course was, I still finished 10th overall in 1:25:20. In the Master’s division, I finished 6th. There were 3 Masters’ runners between 40 and 49, and 2 faster than me in the 50-54 age group. So out of the top 10, 3 were Masters, and 3 were Grand Master. Not something that is seen too often.

My award for the race was 6’in bourbon barrel. I have to say this was rather nice and unique race award.

My overall assessment for the race – they did a nice job. The course while tough was well marked with plenty of course monitors and water stops. A nice little spread of food and beer were provided after the race. The Expo was up and running on Thursday and Friday as well as on Saturday before and after the race. Overall awards were given on the stage while the age group awards could be picked up at a side tent. The race shirt was a thin hoodie.

So Two Thumbs up.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Garmin 15


Ok, let me start off by saying that my life has been forever altered by my Garmin experience. Every run, well nearly ever run is captured by my Garmin as proof that I went out my front door.

So recently, when the last of my long standing Garmins died the horrible death that happens when batteries no longer have the “will” to hold a charge, I was left Garminless if there is suggest a word.

Doing without is hard. Racing without is even harder now a days. Long gone are the days where if I ran fast, it was a good day and not a short course. And slow time meant that I was not feeling well or was tied rather than course being 3 tenths long.

These days, I need to know these things. For no other reason than I need to rationalize my own effort whether good or bad.

The time came that I needed to find a replacement.

After looking at the various brands and modals, I found myself leaning toward buying another Garmin. But which one should I buy.

These days, a Garmin comes with more bells and whistles than a BMW car. Did I really need all of those whistles?

After all, I wanted to GPS watch to capture my runs and that’s pretty much it.

After some consideration and really not a lot, after all, I am buying a watch not a house,  I dropped $70 on a Garmin 15.

Have I been happy it? Well, the answer is a bit complicated.

The short answer is both “Yes” and “No”. Yes, in that it does what I need. It provides me with a GPS watch, captures my overall time, records my splits using the auto lap feature, and allows me to see the history on it.  
But on the “no” side, the interface is a bit on the crud side. And the directions for it are lacking in the way of real usage instructions. Most if it I figured out just by pressing buttons and seeing what happens.

Two of my biggest complaints are the display and the battery life.

The display only goes to 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Once it reaches this point, it rolls over 00:00 again. Granted it still tracks your over all time and splits, but you have to mentally add the 1 or 2 or 3 depending who long you been out on your run.  I haven’t found a way to change it.

Then, there is the battery life. I am getting roughly 5 hours before it shuts down. For me, this means about every 3 runs, I need to recharge it. Or for those marathoners in the 4 to 6 hours range, they will like run out battery life before the run out of race. For ultra marathoner, it isn’t even worth the effort.

For anyone considering the Garmin 15, this is very much a entry level GPS watch. Yes, for the most part, I feel it does what it advertises, but like your first home, you will quickly grow out of it.

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kings Mt Gateway Trail 10 Miler Recap


Over the last two months, I have slowly ramped up my training to the highest level this spring. Today, this 10 miler was my last big effort before my spring ½ marathon in April. Every training plan needs a hurt me race several weeks out to prepare both the mind and body for the coming effort.

I chose the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail 10 miler for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it gave me a decent test race at nearly the full goal race distance before my half. I can train as hard as I want but nothing test my resolve as a race does. Second, it was the cost. At $25 for a 10 miler, this is hard to beat.

Plus, the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail has gotten lots good press. So I definitely wanted to check it out.

Their 10 mile course is out and back along the Foote path. The first 3 miles are rolling hills with some really tough accents and descents. How tough? Well, anytime they have to put rail road ties on the hills (they put these in to control erosion), it has to be pretty steep. Miles 4 and 5 are relatively flat with only a couple small inclines.

A couple of minutes after 9 AM, we were off and running. The race quickly stretched out. I wore my Hoka Clayton because of the rocks on the course. There is nothing worse than stepping on a sharp rock. My Hoka's took good care of my feet.

About a mile and half in to the race, I was running along when I heard what sounded like the leaves rustling behind me. My first thought was another runner was coming up behind me, but when I turned back to look, it wasn’t a runner. A Pit Bull Terrier was tearing down the trail toward me. I could not see this ending well for me. But he/she don’t know, came up and started running beside me. We ran together to the next water stop. He started after me again, but “sh” him back. I am the first to admit; seeing a Pit Bull tearing at me is an unsettling feeling. My heart rate if it wasn’t spiking it was then.

It took a couple of miles to settle back down after this experience.

Then, after rocketing up and down (mostly down) the hills, I crossed the foot bridge over I-85. Miles 4, 5, 6, and 7 were uneventful. As I passed the turnaround, I snatched a peek at my Garmin, and then again when the second place runner and I passed each other. I had roughly a minute and half lead.

Back down the hill, and up the steep side, my legs were feeling it. Miles 8 and 9 were my slowest of the entire race. Miles 2 and 3 had been tough, but going on in the opposite direction, miles 8 and 9 were even tougher.

But I bounced back with a nice 10th mile – finishing in 69 minutes and 13 seconds for 10.25 miles.

They gave the race winners a rail road spike which was shaped like a runner. It was real unique award and one that I will display proudly.

Overall, these guys did a nice job with this race (Pit Bull incident aside). Not knowing the course, it was well marked which I greatly appreciated. They had 3 water stops. They had nice awards and a small sampling of bananas, bagels, and water at the end. The shirt was actually a rather nice. Given, they only charged $25 for this race; they had to be just breaking even.

For those who are headed out the Gastonia way stop by the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail. It is a good place to get in a nice 10 mile run.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

    

  

 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

March Forth 15K Race Recap


March Forth 15k Recap

A couple of weeks ago, in my Valentine’s Day 5k Goodie bag, they gave out flyers to this March Forth 5k/15k race in Denver, NC.  The moment that I saw it, the idea of running a 15k race intrigued me.  A couple of the days later, I put through my race registration.

This brings me to this morning. Standing at the starting line at 7:30 AM with a temperature of 26 degrees, maybe this wasn’t as good of an idea as I had thought. Unfortunately or fortunately, once committed, backing out is never an option for me.  

Off went both the 5k and 15k races at the same time.  A couple of guys settled into lead with me and another guy following behind. By Lake Shore Road, they had slipped out of sight, and I was putting some distance on the 4th place runner.

With no mile marks, gauging how well that I was running was really tough. And as luck would have it, the course had an abundance of rolling hills. Some of them were rather steep. The kind that makes my legs burn and my breathing labored.

Toward the end, we did a little out and back on this side road. This gave us an opportunity to check our competition and gauge how harder that we needed to run to the finish.

The two leaders were still together and looking strong. There no catching the. And, unless I fell completely a part, 3rd place was pretty much a lock for me.

 So keep digging was all that I could do.

My goal going into the race had been 60 minutes given my level of training. The 58:09 displayed on the clock was a huge surprised to me. Given how difficult the course was I was half expecting it to be either 62 or 63 minutes.

But I will take it. I walked away with a 1st in my age award which as a nice gift certificate to use at you guessed it – Charlotte Running Company Northlake. By the way, it was nice to see them out in the community to support local events such as this in Denver. It really shows what Charlotte Running Company is all about. Kudos to them.

Before I wrap up, a strange sequence of events happened to me during the middle miles of the race that I wanted to share.
So as I said, early in the race I had settled in to 3rd place overall. So back along Lake Shore Rd, I caught a glimpse of runner in the distance. My first thought was that one of the two leaders had crashed and burned. Over the next mile or so I reeled him. Then, just as we were approaching a water stop and with me right on his heels, he moves over and stops at the water stop. Glancing over as I passed him, I noticed that he was wearing one of the race bibs.

However, something was off. He didn’t look like either of the two runners ahead of me from earlier. They were both much younger. This guy was older late 30s or 40s. My brain is turning this over and over wondering how he got in front of me. I was pretty sure they were only two runners ahead me which later I was confirmed same two during our little out and back section.

Setting here now, I could kick myself because I didn’t think look at his bib number.  I would have liked to ask him how he had gotten front me. I guess it is one of those questions that will never be answered.

 

The Cool Down Runner