Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why runners stop racing

Why do older runners stop racing. This is a topic that has been touched on several times in our monthly club news letter. After reading about it again and again, I felt I wanted to offer my opinion on the topic and in sight into where I see my self going.

When I started running in 1983, I gave little thought to quiting. In fact I only ran in a local race at the urging of my high school basketball coach. And I would have stopped shortly there after if he had not kept dragging us to races.

Then, some where along the way, I transitioned from someone not planning to run another step to someone that has been running every day since Oct 0f 1986.

Through all those years I have made many friends through running. I greeted them during the first attempts at racing. I watched them as progressed into very good runners. Then, sadly, I missed them as they faded away - not racing and sometimes not even running.

Part of the reason, I think starts with our life choices. As we grow older, we start to settle down and have families. A lot of these family activities take place on Saturday morning - soccer, baskeball, and/or swimming. These activities tend to consume the excess free time that we once used for running.

When I was in my twenties, running, getting another pair of running shoes, and money for races were my only concerns.

Once I got married and had children, I found that were was more to life than just running and races. I found that I enjoyed my daughter's soccer matches as much as I did racing my buddies. Which lead me to take an even deeper plunge, I coached one of my daughter's soccer teams on Saturday morning. Honestly, I didn't miss going to races and I have to say it was the best time of my life.

But there are other reasons why runners stop racing. As we grow older, we tend to slow down. Some runners have more difficulty dealing with ageing than others. Knowing that once they had ran 15, 16, 17 minute 5Ks and now they are running 20 minute 5Ks is too much for them to handle. Rather than face the prospect of running slower, they mostly avoid the situation by staying away from races. I can understand this mindset. Old "PR"s are like ghost of Christmas past, they haunt us in our endeavor to best them.

The last point that I want to make is in regard to "hurt". Perhaps this is what is happening to me. Running by no means is an easy sport. Each stride yields a pounding of 3 times our body weight on our bones and muscles. Pushing our bodies hard leaves us sore and tired. Over the years, it tends to wear on us.

Then, at some point we stop racing because we stop training so hard. Certainly, it is easier to run 8 miles at a comfortable pace than to run an 8 mile tempo run or interval run. Growing older and wiser, all of us at some point ask if it is really worth it.

Maybe we all reach a point where it is easier to just hang the racing flats in the corner. I like running, and I don't see a reason for quiting but I am not so sure about racing. Life is so rich with things to do, I hope I don't spend my entire life pounding out fartlek workouts and long runs.

-BTW I have always had this dream of life on a small Caribbean Island - just fishing, watching the waves roll in, and clouds passing over head. Maybe, just maybe, I will still want to run on those sandy beaches.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mizuno's Body Warming Technology

With my RFYL gift certificate, I picked up the new Mizuno hat and gloves. These two items were made with Mizuno's body warming technology.

Don't ask me to explain it because I have no idea how they do it.

But given that is 43 degrees a couple of mornings back, I decided to try them. Maybe it was not the best day for a test drive but then when you have a new toy, no one wants to wait very long to see how it works.

For my official report, both my head and hands were quite warm and dry for the entire run. Even after taking a tumble in the dirt, both gloves and hat continued to function.

After the run, I noticed that mositure had collected on the outside of the hat but the inside was still dry.

I want to reserve another test day which is much colder. Being that it is December, I should get a new test in very soon and when I do, I will post another update.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life in Slow Motion

They say that right before your die that you life flashes before your eyes. I don't know if this is true or not. Crossing that bridge is not something that I am ready to try.

But I am convinced that just before any accident happens to you every thing goes into the slow motion.

Back in Oct, an SUV and I collided and I took the rougher half of it. Then, today, I took a roll in dirt while running on the trails North Meck. Park.

Both times, when I realized what was going to happen, everything just seemed to slow down. It was like I could see it happening frame by frame - picture by picture.

In both instance, the same thought raced through my head, this is going to hurt.

And then, it happens and it is over.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Made My Day

I got a Christmas Card from Bob M. and family in the mail yesterday and today I set down to open and read it.

If you remember back a few posts, Bob was looking for help getting shoes for his athletes. I wrote about stepping up to help.

In Bob's Christmas Card, he thanked me again and also enclosed notes from the 2 athletes that got the shoes. I read their notes several times and was extremely gratified to know that the shoes had helped.

Knowing that I made a difference, it made my day.

Christmas comes early for me

This year Christmas came early for me. Back in November I had finished 4th in the Run For Your Life GP series. For my efforts, I got this nice little gift card. It was not a huge amount but these days every little bit helps.

Well, yesterday I made it by the Run For Your Life Store to redeem it.

First, I went shoe shopping and picked out a nice pair of NB 1224. These are newest the line and if they are anything like the 1223 shoe, I know that I will love them. I picked up a pair of 1223 for my marathon training last spring. Every time that I put on these shoes, I just felt like running fast. So, I can wait to start my marathon training in '09.

After settling on the 1224, it was time for some clothes shopping. Now, if you asked me to pick matching pants, shirts, and sweaters, I would not have a clue. But ask me to pick matching tights, tops, and shorts and suddenly I am mister color coordinated. But then, running clothes are much easier to match up when the base color is black. :)

After going through the tops and tights, I settled on 2 pair of NB running tights - solid black with only a NB logo on one leg. I am pretty sure it will match with anything in my running wardrobe. :)

I had heard Cody talking about these new Mizuno gloves and hats. The materials are able to extract heat from the moisture coming from the body and use it to keep the skin warm. They are little on the expensive side, but I decided it was worth splurging. I picked up 1 pair of gloves and 1 hat. I will let you know if the actually work.

With everything hand, I headed for the register. I ended up being just a few dollars over but I reasoned that it was okay. After all Christmas only comes once per year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Stuck in Mud

Before I tell the story, yes, it did happen. And no, I didn't think to take any pictures, but yes, I do have witnesses. Megan and Ben saw me.

Ok, now for the story.

Yesterday, I met Ben and Megan for a run on the trails at Ann Springs. I have run at Ann Springs several times but in all honesty, I still don't know my way around. And Ben isn't helping by taking me on a different portion of the trail each time. But this is a different story.

Well, about 3/4 of the way through our run, we hit a patch of the trail that was basically mud and water. I was doing pretty good job of steering through both.

Until, we hit this one really bad and long patch. I was following behind Megan and Ben but for some reason I veered off course and through the deeper sections of the mud.

Did I mention that we were moving a good clip at the time.

About half way through this section, I took about 2 steps and then about 3 or 4 more steps. However, the last 3 or 4 steps, I took without my shoe. Ugh. My Thorlo sock was soaked and had turned dark from the mud.

To make matter worse, I had to walk back through the mud and water to retrieve my shoe. There is nothing worse than feeling mud and very cold water soaking through your sock.

I pulled once, twice, three times before pulling the shoe clear of the mud. Not stuck, it was more like glued into the mud. Staring into my shoe and just realizing then, I now had to stick my wet and muddy sock into a clean inside of my shoe. Mentally, I believe this hurt the worst.

For the next 3 or 4 miles, I felt like I was running with one heavy foot and one light foot.

Events like this just make life all the more interesting and is basically why I like hitting the trails.

I would never have had this experience just running on these asphalt covered trails that we like to call roads.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Over Saturation of Road Races

The Running Journal arrives at my doorstep once per month and I quickly devour the contents. Specifically, I enjoy reading the articles from the contributing writers. One of the contributing writers for the Running Journal is Cedric Jaggers. Unlike my writings, Cedric's columns are always well thought out.

In the December issue of the RJ, Cedric touched on a topic of which I have been following at a distance. In Cedric's article, he noted that he had seen the softening of race times in many races. And that many of those times were slower than he and his wife's PRs. From this point, Cedric took the rest of his column to explain how inducing some speedwork into our workouts might just improve some of these slow race times.

While I agree with Cedric comments. Adding speedwork would be the right step to improve any one's race times and ultimately, the winning times in road races.

However, as I look as this issue, I took a different perspective on it.

Well, let me back up for a second. When I took my first pass at exploring the topic on slowing race times, I took this to mean there are too many road races. And to some extent this is still a true statement. It seems that every organization in America is looking to raise money for their efforts and they see having a 5k road race as the fastest and easiest way to do it. Or at least that is the way that it seems.

But the great thing about being a lonely long distance runner is that it gives you plenty of time to focus one topic and totally explore that topic while on the run.

This morning I went for an 18 mile run so I had ample opportunity to mull over this topic. Mulling it over indeed, I reasoned that it was not so much that the market was over saturated with road races, but that certain weekends were over saturated with races.

During the past year, I know of multiple weekend here in Charlotte where there were 2,3, or 4 races. And I believe at least a few weekends where there were as many as 5 races.

5 races with in the Charlotte area on the same day. Should anyone expect anything other than there to be a softening of race times. With this many race, Charlotte's running scene is just not big enough to adqueately support all of them.

What really puzzles me, is why do these organizations insist on holding their race on the same date when they are competing against so many other races. I mean, they several things they can do to avoid these overlaps. The least of which is to check with Run For Your Life or Queen City Timing. Either of the entities could direct the organization to a better race date.

I guess maybe the race organization thinks or believes they know better than anyone who will show up for their race. But if they would just listen and take some sound advice, they might find the turnout for their race improves which benefits everyone.

But what can you do. It goes back to that old adage "you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink". From a runner's perspective, we can make our selves available and provide input to these organizations. I know Tim R. does because I have asked him about it. But then they have to listen. In the end, their failure to take good advice only ends up hurting the funding for their organization and probably the ending of the race as well. I guess on the positive side, there will be 5 new races to replace those that go under.

(subject to further editing)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Raining in Charlotte

The weatherman was right on with his forecast. The rain started yesterday and has continued into today. I hate starting in the rain, but if I get caught in the rain, I don't really mind. Getting caught in the rain is just runner's luck. Starting in the rain is just plain hard because you go from dry to soaked in minutes. :)

After nummerous looks out the door making my neck sore the rain slowed down to a light sprinkle around 10:30 AM. I took this as my queue that I need to run now.

I did some quick stretching, found some older running shoes, and some rain repellant clothes all before heading out the door in about 15 minutes.

Everything was going quite well until I hit 6 miles. Then, the skys seem to just open up. I would say that I was then totally soaked but that would not be entirely accurate. I was soaked long beforehand.

With the temps in the 60s my body wasn't accustom to - how should I say it - the warmth. Which means, I was dripping wet with sweat.

After finishing, I actually felt cold. I did a quick change out of the wet clothes and took a hot shower. For some reason a hot shower always makes me feel better. I cannot explain nor do I want to. Explaining it my cause the allure to wain.

Anyway, another run is in the books and it was a pretty good day. I guess turning 44 yesterday didn't end my running after all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Looking Both Ways before Crossing Over

As I get ready to close out the old year of '08 and start the new year of '09, there is one last thing on my running list to do.

Before closing out the old log book, I like to look back at the things that worked and didn't work during my '08 training. Also I want to look at the good and bad races as well. Taking this information in a whole listic perspective gives me an opportunity to over look any one bad period of training or racing and see the grand view. Too often when we look at a situation, we take a myopic view of the situation which leads us down the road an inaccurate conclusion. So by considering the entire year we have a view to analyze our running and draw better/ more appropriate conclusions.

What I will do is jot down a list of the things that worked and didn't work. From this list, I will start to plan my goals for '09. Once, I have my goals in place, I will start think about my training and how I need to structure it to meet those goals.

Coming out of '08 I know I want to run more marathons and see if I can lower my times. Working from the baseline assumption, I think I can run 2 and possibly 3 marathons in '09.

One thing that I learned in '08 is that I don't want two really long races too near each other. Because I ran that 50k then 4 weeks later I tried to run a marathon, it didn't give me time to recover. So with this mind, maybe I should look to run a mid spring marathon and early summer marathon. Then, take short break in June and July and maybe running a few shorter races. Later in either mid or late August begin training for a fall marathon.

Now taking this a step further, I need some target races to run. The Uwharrie Trail is in early Feb and I already signed up, but I will not look at this as much as a race but as a good strength building workout. My spring marathon will most likely be the Shamrock marathon in March. After Shamrock, I am eye balling a couple of late May/early June Marathons. I don't have anything definite at this point. If I run something, it will have to be a race in the northern states. Marathoning in the south during summer is just unrealistic to do. Because it is too hot. Then, later I would like to go back to OBX in the fall, but that is still an open question mark. I hope to have it locked down by mid Aug.

Around the marathons, I will probably in a few RFYL races. I know the 15k in Oct. will be on list but how many others, we will have to see.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Run the Rock 14 Trail Race Recap 12.5.08

Saturday dawned cold and clear as I stepped out of my car just after 7 am. I had driven just about 2 hours to run a trail race in Burlington, NC called Run the Rock. I had never done this race but from other runner's comments Run the Rock was pretty tough.

Racing in December is difficult for me because I usually like to slow things down and spend some quality family time. However, I was forced to change things up due to the fact that I am planning to run the Uwharrie 20 miler in Feb. If you are familiar with the Uwharrie runs, you will know the race is tough to get into and even tougher to run. And knowing that my trail skills really stink, I felt I needed a little extra trail work. Plus, from talking with other runners, Run the Rock would be a nice lead in to Uwharrie.

The race crew did a good job with the race. As I said, I arrived just after 7 am. The sun hadn't come up but these individuals were out there braving the cold and handing the race packets to the runners. Not many times due you see a fully enclosed tents, but that was what they had and it was decently warm inside. The warmth almost matched the warmth in my car, but not quite.

Every race has their most interesting apects and this race is no different. Most races have the out door pota potties. Run the Rock has porta potty trails complete with lighting and heaters. I give them major bonus points for this race attribute.

Because of the cold, I have very slow getting out my car. And, I swaped out my shoes and extra clothes for the stuff that I thought that I would wear during race while still in the car.

I pulled on my garmin and did almost 2 miles just before the race. The legs felt good and I thought this could be a good race for me.

Everyone gathered at the starting and we were offically started my the firing of a cannon. Yes, that is right. They started this race with the firing of a cannon. I had seen them pulling in the cannon while I was warming up and had made a mental note to my self - check out the cannon later. That is just not something that you see every day.

With the cannon shot, we were off. There is some pavement during the first 1/2 mile then it turns in to a field. This is followed by the trail section.

By the time that I hit the trail section, I knew that I was in trouble. I wasn't feeling it in my legs and people were passing me on both sides. Oh, happy days.

Next, came the mud and manure . This was followed by a stream crossing which soaked my shoes. At this point, I was only about 3 miles into the trail. There was some nice open sections to run but most of the trail was true single track. With some sections being so steep, they had steps. I could have literially just crawled up the hill. There was one other section where the they had steps which later turned in to roots that I still treated them as steps.

After just on lap, I could feel the buzzards cycling over head and they had pretty much picked my bones clean by the time that I came around for the 2nd and final loop. Then somewhere along 12 to 14 miles, I forgot to pick up my feet and just kind of rolled forward through the dirt. I didn't injure anything other than my pride. But it just goes to show the kind of race that I had.

Overall, I would give the guys organizing the Run the Rock race a thumbs up.

For my performance, I give my self a thumbs down.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How far can a pair of shoes take you

The Holiday season is now upon us. That means, it is the time of year to be thankful for the things that we have and the family that we have around us.

But sometimes not everyone is so fortunate.

During some of the down time while we were at the OBX marathon, Bob was telling us about some of the runners on his cross country team.

Because family financial situations, some of the runners were running in used running shoes. I am not too old yet, that I cannot remember back to high school and running in the same shoes every day. The shock absorption was long gone before I would stop wearing them.

Going above and beyond, Bob was doing what any good coach would do. He does his best to get the best shoes possible into the hands or in this case on the feet of his runners.

His story seemed to really hit home for me when he told us about this one particular kid that saw running as his chance at getting an education. This kid would do whatever Bob asked in order to improve.

In the week after the marathon, Bob's story kept rolling over in the back of my mind. I enjoy running and felt that I needed to step up to the plate and do something. So, I sent Bob an email asking if I could help and what size shoe did he need most and where could I ship them.

Bob responded pretty quickly and accepted my offer. In his email he provided the shoe size and his address. A few mouse clicks later, I had bought 2 pair of shoes and had them shipped directly to Bob. He emailed my a few days later that the shoes had arrived and were quickly put into use.

I don't think anything could have made me feel any better than knowing these kids were off and running in new shoes.

Now, I am not sharing this story to promote my self, but because I want to encourage other runners help as well. Buying two pairs is not a lot but if those shoes help give those kids an opportunity to improve their lives, then the investment will have been worth.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What is on my mind today

The legs and body are starting to feel much better these days. That being the case, now begins the training and racing.

I am heading to the Shamrock Marathon in March to try for another sub 2:40. But in the meantime, I will be passing the time by running a couple of local races.

Near Burlington, NC is the Run the Rock 14 mile Trail race. I have never done this race so it is should be a lot of fun. That's this weekend.

In late Janurary, Peter @ Vac & Dash pulls a group together to run what he affectionly calls the Idiot Run. This is a run to the top of Morrow Mt and back to the Albermarle Y. Last year, I measured the course to be about 19.6. The run started at 5 am and I was finished by 7:30 AM.

Note, to anyone doing this you. You should wear reflective clothing and take a head lamp. Morrow Mt. is dark at 6 AM on a January morning.

Then, in Feburary I am running in the Uwharrie 20 miler. I thought about opting for the 8 miler, but I needed a long run for the weekend so picking up a tough 20 miler sounded right. And I am going to pass on the Ultras for a while so running the 40 miler never entered my mind.

Depending on the weekend, I may do the Shamrock 4 miler here in Charlotte. I really hoping to make the marathon my first road race of the new year. But as you can probably tell, I am flip floping. Then there is the RFYL GP series. Running the entire GP series was really tiring this year, so I am not sure that I am up for running it two years in a row.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Running IQ - II

After writing my previous blog on Running IQ, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And as I did so, I begin to wonder if I had taken a too strict approach to what it means to have a high Running IQ.

So in this blog, I would like to take a step back.

In the simplist explanation possible what does it mean to have a high Running IQ.

If I take into context of how others describe sports related IQs, here's what I now think is a demostration of a high Running IQ.

A person who has a natural high Running IQ is probably relatively new to running but is able to listen to and understand their own body's feedback while training and possibly racing. By listening to this feedback, they are able to sucessfully reach their goals.

Not perfect, I think is says what I want.