Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chinese fortune cookies – Real or Not

I wanted to write about this topic for the last couple of weeks but I just could seem to find the time or the energy.

The first weekend in May I took my middle daughter to a Chinese restaurant. She just loves Chinese food.

As with most Chinese restaurants, they give you a fortune cookie after the meal. I pretty think of fortune cookies like horoscopes. Interpretation is pretty much up to the reader.

Well, my fortune cookie said.

“Traveling to the east will bring you a great reward”

At the time, I had no idea what it meant.

Now three weeks later, I can say that there is some truth in those fortune cookies.

On the 8th, I narrowly escaped Steve at Twilight. Technically, this race was more south than east of my house, but hey, I am still counting it. Then, on the 9th I ran and won the Beach Blast 5k in Albemarle, NC and with it earned the RRCA NC State 5k Championship. 7 days later, I was in Stroudsburg, PA for a marathon and ran a 2:39 on a cold and windy day.

So after running 3 races in 2 weeks all brought nice rewards in one way or another. Maybe now I will be a believer in Chinese fortune cookies. And maybe I will try Chinese again this week to see what the next 3 weeks hold.

Monday, May 25, 2009

LA Marathon – Battle of the Sexes

The LA Marathon offers a unique race with in a race where men and women have an equal opportunity to win extra prize money. Hopefully, other races will pick up on this and offer their own version.

In the LA Marathon, the women start with a specific time gap in front of the men. If they reach the finish line before the men, they win an extra hundred thousand dollars. If the men catch and stay in front of the women to the finish, then the first male finisher gets an extra hundred thousand dollars.

In the race today, the women went out with a conservative pace while the men rocketed out from the start. The men were picking up time fast during the 1st 15 miles and then the women started picking up the pace. The battle continued through 23+ miles before the 1st male run caught the 1st female runner.

The time gap between the male and female runners is determined by taking into account the men's and women's fastest times. The difference between the two fast times is the amount of a head start given the women.

Personally, I like this unique type of race, but to some extent it still gives the men an unfair advantage because the men are doing the chasing. Chasing someone and seeing them get closer is highly motivational to the runners doing the chasing.

And we all like to be motivated.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Post Marathon Reflections

Okay, after 4 days my body is just starting to recovery. Beginning with my Monday morning run, my quads were killing me and my hamstrings were not much better. By Tuesday afternoon, my calves were also just as tight.

Normally, I shy away from pain medication, but I kept a bottle of Motrin handing. Although, it didn’t feel like it helped.

Walking was difficult and if I had to set for long periods of time, getting up from a chair was difficult.

Running was little better yesterday morning and was slightly better this morning. But hey, sometimes you bounce back faster and sometime you don’t.

As for the race, thinking back I don’t believe there is anything that I would do differently. Given the weather conditions and the course layout, I probably ran as well as possible.

Over the last 3 marathons, I have come to realize that I need to work on my stretching – especially with the hamstrings. Also I probably need to strengthen my hamstring by getting back in the weight room. Late in the race when I need to push for the finish, I need to have something left in those hamstrings. Thus far, my hamstrings have not had it.

So it looks like I have some work to do before tackling a fall marathon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Run the Red Marathon - Stroudsburg PA

After running up and down more hills than I care to count, I reached finish line at the Run the Red Marathon in Stroudsburg PA with a time of 2:39:44.

The trip started out with a 10 hour drive to Stroudsburg, PA on Friday. It is not a bad drive if you like watching the odometer clicking off the miles.

After touring the course on Saturday, I thought I had a pretty good game plan for running the course. Then thunderstorms and lightening rolled in Saturday night. The next morning came with temperatures at the finish in the upper 40s with a light breeze. Not too cold, but okay.

However, when we stepped off the buses at the starting line everything changed. The temperature was around 42 degrees and the wind was blowing about 40 miles per hour.

I was so cold that I didn’t even warm up for the race. I waited until 5 minutes before the start and headed from inside the school to the starting line. In less than 5 minutes my teeth were chattering. And I was wearing extra clothing – a blue shirt that I intended to toss off after mile and a trash bag on top of calf and arm sleeves and my TrySports uniform. Incidentally, somehow I lost one of my arm sleeves after the race. I had no idea how it happened.

I did ditch the trash bag at the start and I gave my hand warmers to a woman standing at the starting who looked even colder than I felt. The blue shirt I never did take off. I wore it all the way to the finish line.

With the bad racing conditions, I pretty much scraped any chance of running a good time and throw out my game plan.

I adopted the strategy of just run hard where I could and endure the rest. To that end, I didn’t check my watch until the very end.

From the start we went single file. I only moved up to find a bigger person with whom I could hide from the wind. But I didn’t have that many options. Runners are just too skinny.
And I felt like I couldn’t get my breath.

I had pretty much resign myself to a bad race. It happens sometimes.

From driving the course, I knew the last ½ of the race was the toughest. In the 1st half the hills are long gradual up and long gradual down. In the 2nd have they are still long up hills but the down hills are short and steep. They are the kind of hills that really pound on your quads.

After 20 miles, I could really feel the effects on my quads and still had 5 tough hills to run.

When I passed the 26 mile point, I check my watch. I was hurting pretty bad at this point. But with just over 2 minutes under 2:40, I suddenly I thought I might be able to still do it. That last 2 tenths of a mile really hurt, but I just did as I done along the course, I pushed all of the pain aside and focused on getting to the finish.

At the finish I looked bad and felt the same but I achieved my top goal that I had set for myself. I had run a sub 2:40 and on a tough day and rough course. Adding to the effort, I had moved up to 5th overall by the finish.

Oh, during the awards the guy asked if I was driving back to Charlotte that night. “Yep” and 10 hours later I was setting at home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Race Morning

Only a couple of hours until the race starts. The butterflies are starting to churn in my stomach.

Usually, I don’t sleep well the night before a race which is probably a good thing. The ladies whom I assume were runners by their very loud conversations were partying in the room next door until well into the morning. Good luck with them actually having a good race.

Last night rain rolled into the area with a huge thunderstorm. I fell asleep to lightning and thunder like you would not believe. I don’t know how long it lasted, but it seemed to go on forever. There is no rain at the hotel right now, but weatherman is forecasting it again with temps no higher than 50 degrees.

This makes selecting the right clothes an absolute must. Wear too much clothing and roast. Wear to little clothing and freeze.

I think I will stick with the arm sleeves, shorts, and singlet. Maybe I will wear my gloves. I will make that decision once we arrive at the starting area. There is about 8 miles to run on top Mt. Pocono. Most likely, those miles will much colder and much more windy than the miles that we run as we get closer to Stroudsburg.

It is now 4:47 AM. At 5:30, I will head to the finish line area which is about a 5 minute drive away. Yeah, I am not walking. Around 6:30, we board the buses for the ride to the starting line.

From there I don’t know, but I figure it out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Taking My Final Exam

As today draws to a close, I am looking out the window of my hotel and pondering what tomorrow will bring

Probably everyone has experienced last minute jitters before tackling anything major. I am no exception. Hours of riding the bike and miles building my endurance I just hope it was all enough.

Tomorrow morning at 8 AM I will launch myself on yet another 26 mile trek. This time my race will start from the top of Mt. Pocono, runs through some rolling but tough hills, and down a steep down grade before hitting some more hills and finishing in the Stadium at Stroudsburg High School.

While the course has an overall net elevation, it has many challenging hills. Two of those hills come between 20 and 23 miles. After the OBX marathon over the bridge experience last fall put me in a tough spot, I wanted to find a race which challenged me over those same miles. The Run the Read Marathon met that goal. In addition, the timing was perfect for me. The race fell one week after a Grand Prix race and three weeks before the next. Providing me with adequate time to recover, I should be able to continue with the GP schedule.

Oh well, I will put my jitters aside. I am as prepared as I can be. My training has gone well although maybe I was heavy on the throttle in the final weeks. I have recon the course. I run over the last three miles and the first few miles of the course. I have tried to rest, hydrate, and fuel.

I will just keep my fingers crossed that my legs feel it tomorrow.

Good Run: 2:50
Great Run: 2:45
Super Run: 2:40
Rocked the course: sub 2:40

Mental Toughness – The Taper

I have written several times on my blog about mental toughness but today I thought of a new tangent that I hadn’t covered.

We all know about the mental toughness in training and in racing. In training you have to push through workout after a long day on the job or when you are so tired from the long runs that even the thought of going out the door hurts.

And we are all aware of the mental aspect on race day. Whether, it is having the right mind set on race morning or keeping the faith during the race.

No, I am talking about something different. I am talking about the mental aspect of the taper before the big race.

The time between the last of the hard training and before race day arrives we have to give our bodies an opportunity to rest and rebound. This means backing down on the heavy mileage and/or reducing the frequency of the hard efforts or both.

For runners, this is indeed one of the toughest mental periods. We don’t like to slow down because if we slow down we feel like we are losing something. No, we think we need to push hard right up to race day and then race hard on race day.

This period of time is made harder because our bodies began to rebound from the heavy training and without the longer-harder workouts we have more free time for other things. Worst of all it gives us time to think.

No, as I said, maybe the toughest mental period for a runner is not the training for the race or the race itself but during the taper period. When we know we can do more but need to be doing less and mentally making sure that we do less.

Just remember – taper means taper and not pushing harder.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twilight Team Picture

Ok, the RFYL guys are still working on the team results from Twilight. But according to my calculations we had both the top men's and women's team. They promised to have the updated results out there either yesterday or today. Keep your fingers crossed they can get them posted soon.

Next year, maybe can take the open men's, women's and mixed team awards.

BTW - Thanks Jinnie for sharing the photo.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How long does it take for the body to adapt to warm weather running?

The short answer is - it takes roughly 14 days (according to most sources) of continuous exposure to warm temperatures before the body completely adapts.

For those of you reading this note there is good news. As Charlotte moves toward the middle of May and the temperatures are rising, our bodies are already in the middle of the adaption process. Therefore, by end of May our bodies should be mostly through this process.

Just remember, drink lots of water and find a shady trail for your runs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beach Blast 5K 17:15 1 OA - RRCA State 5K Champion

After getting home late from Twilight, I was back up early the next morning and headed to Albemarle NC for the Beach Blast 5k.

Peter A. from Vac and Dash helps organized this event year and it is one the biggest races in Stanley country.

The course is a tough little 5k but the last ½ mile is downhill and flat. If you can suffer through the 1st 2 miles then you can usually run a decent time.

This year, Peter and Uwharrie Running Club who direct the event had gained the rights to hold the Road Runners Club of America NC State 5K Championship. I had seen this on the entry and suspected it would pull in some top racers.

I always like to run the Beach Blast race. They do a good job with the race and each year it continues to grow in size. From ’07 there were 150 runners. In ’08 they had 200+ runners. This year, they had 300+ runners. It just goes to show that with a little hard work small towns can have good races and great turn out.

I had won the race in ’07 but could not go back in ’08 due to a scheduling conflict. So when the registration form came out this year, I penciled it in early.

My goal going into the race was to win another gord. They give away these uniquely engraved gords to the top 3 overall male and female racers.

Being that this was an RRCA championship race and knowing that last year’s winner was back, I wasn’t sure about my chances.

From the start 6 guys took out the pace pretty hard. I settled in behind and played catch up during the 1st mile. Then before the mile point, either they slowed or I was feeling good on the hills because I caught them. I don’t think any of these guys were more 20 years old.

At this point, I had a decision to make either ride here and take my chances with a sprint finish or push the pace and hope they fell back.

I am not the best sprinter so pushing the pace was the only good decision.

By 2 miles, I was running alone. From there, I only pushed on the down hills and just rode out the up hills. Not knowing the other runners well, I didn’t know if someone might come back on me if I slowed.

It was good enough for me to win the RRCA NC State Championship for ’09 and get another gord. So now I have a matching pair.

It was a tough weekend of racing. However, I was still able to follow my usually pattern by running faster during the 2nd race of the weekend than the 1st.

Twilight 5K 5.8.08 9th OA 17:26

Friday evening came and I headed into uptown Charlotte for the Twilight 5k. I parked under the Wachovia Building and dropped my stuff at the Y before heading over to pick up my packet.

Strangely, I arrived about an hour early for the race but there was already a long line preregistered runners. Somehow, this always seems to be the slowest line.

Did some chatting (always need to do some chatting – it is part of my warm up routine), headed back to the Y to change, and then over to the starting line area to warm up. I posted on the TrySports Message Board that I would be heading out for my 3mile warm up at 6:10. 6:10 came and I headed off running the course clockwise.

Well, about 2 ½ miles into the run, I met them running the opposite direction. They had arrived about 6:11. Hey, 6:10 means 6:10 and don’t be late. :)

Got a chance to me Chris B. He was running with our Team for this Twilight event.

Also I got to meet Alex who I had met through my blog.

After my warm up, it was back to the Y and a change into my racing flats and then back to the starting for some pre race striders.

Warming up, I saw Steve S. He was looking smooth and fast as usual. I suspected he was still riding the high from dropping me in the last tenth at Skyline .

One a side note, the guys from the Fire Dept. pulled out this ladder truck and hoisted the largest American flag that I have ever seen. It was a wonderful site.

But back to the race, first the baby joggers were off and then we went roughly a minute later. The first mile down Tryon is always windy and I was looking for a nice place to tuck in. For some reason, I was not feeling it. Maybe it was the Atlanta hills or maybe the 4 hour drive the previous evening.

I hit the first mile in 5:27 and then the 2nd mile in 5:20. The 2nd mile is mostly downhill so most people record their fastest split on it. The last mile rolls back up by the Panther’s Stadium and finishes in front of the Wachovia Atrium. Between the wind and uphill running, I felt like I was crawling during the 3rd mile. Greg and Alejandro flashed by me. Greg was looking extremely strong as he passed me. Alejandro was looking equally strong. I thought both had a chance to catch the runners in front of me.

It seems to take forever before I reached the final tenth of mile. It was the only part of the race where I started to feel better. I crossed the finish line in 9th place and ran 17:26. And, I barely managed to nip Steve at the finish line by 3 seconds.

They passed out finisher medals to everyone which was a nice touch. Usually, finisher medals are only passed out for marathons.

I finished off my warm down of 3 miles and headed back to the Y for a shower.

I stayed around for the awards but it looked like I was one of the few that did. It appeared that most of the awards went unclaimed.

Our ladies TrySports team won the Open Women’s division and our Men’s team finished 2nd in the Open Men’s division.

Apparently, they didn’t get the men’s team setup correctly. Neither Chris B nor I were listed on the team.

I forwarded my original email that listed our TrySports team members to RFYL and recalculated the team results for them. Our TrySports team should have won by about 40 seconds.

Hey, don’t think badly of me for pointing out errors. I am just part of the checks and balances the keep the system running smoothly.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Twilight tonight

Ok, it is finally friday and I am looking forward to racing tonight. I hope my legs don't have any ill effects from the Atlanta trip. Some times riding is a car for long hours drags you down.

I put on my compression shorts and calf sleeves this morning so I could wear them through out the day. The thought being, they would keep my legs from feeling sluggish.

When I ran the Waxhaw 5k, my legs felt really sluggish. I cannot afford them being sluggish tonight or I will be watching Steve S. run off in the sun set.

On another note, I got the TrySports teams setup for tonights races. We are having both a mens and womens team. Hopefully, at least one of the teams can win it if not both teams.

If you are coming out to the race tonight, we are doing a pre run of the course starting about 6pm - heading out from the starting line.

Anyone is welcome to join us.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Running when traveling on Business

Traveling presents some special challenges for us runners such as where to run and how far we have run.

Just a few years ago when I traveled I would measure everything based on time and always had a stop watch on my wrist and usually just wondered around until I ran for predetermined time period. Most times, I crossed my fingers that I didn’t wonder into a rough neighborhood.

Then with the expanse of the internet and especially the extras from Google things have become much easier.

Now, I use Google to look up the street address of the hotel. Google then gives me a nice aerial view of the surrounding area. Then, if they have completed the street view in the city where I am visiting, I can literally preview the neighborhood before ever taking a step through them. Putting these two tools together I can plan out a nice running route with some certainty that I can find my way and be rest assured that it should be safe.

So now that I have mapped out a nice running route, I once again lean on technology to help me out. This time I swap out my reliable stop watch for a Garmin.

A couple of years ago I picked up my Garmin at TrySports in south Charlotte and have loved it ever since.

During my most recent trip to Atlanta, I used it for both measuring my runs and for the interval workouts. Because the Garmin provides both distance and splits, I can run my mile repeats or dip down and do quarter mile repeats. So I no longer have any excuses for missing a workout no matter where I am in the world.

Another perk of the Garm is that later at work, I plug up my Garmin to my PC for recharging and to upload the stats from my latest run.

If you have to travel out of town, definitely you should consider using Google checkout the area and a Garmin to keep track the workouts. Both will keep you running just like at home and with relative safety.

Dilworth Criterium

Last weekend was very busy for me but I still found some time to drop by and watch part of the Dilworth Criterium. Watching these guys play a fast paced game of chess on bikes was most interesting. There are moves and counter moves. Guys would drop back while others would sprint head. There were open, age groups and classifications. I didn’t understand everything that was going on but I found myself interested and trying to get a handle on it.

Reading through the results, they have a Masters race so if I can stay injury free and find enough time to ride, I am going to put my name down for the race next year. Who cares if I get dropped, just opportunity to try something new and different is the exciting part.

Now, I just need to get that bike and have fun.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chiptime vs. Guntime

Cedric J. who writes for Running Journal Southern Running Newspaper and is the Editor for the SC Runner Gazette sent me this month’s Runner Gazette. Being my usual self, I popped up the email and started reading. By the way, I can forward you Cedric’s email address if you are interested in getting the SC Runner Gazette. It doesn’t cost anything and Cedric distributes it via email.

But back to the purpose of my blog today, one of the topics that Cedric put into this month’s paper was should races be using Chip time vs. Gun time to determine awards.

This is not a topic that I had given most thought as it doesn’t affect me during most races. But in larger races it could have effect.

Maybe you are asking yourself what is the difference between the Guntime and Chiptime. Well, Guntime is the time between the start of the race and you crossing the finish line. Whereas, the Chiptime is the elapse time between you crossing the starting line and then crossing the finishline.

In most races these two values only vary by a second or two because these races are just not big enough that you have a huge difference.

However, if you look at larger races such as Cooper River 10k or Peachtree 10k, it can be anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes before you cross the starting line. In some races, the number of people entered in the race is so large that the lead runners maybe finished before the last person is actually across the starting line.

For most of us Guntime vs. Chiptime doesn’t make that much of a difference. Most of us are just looking to enjoy the race and to finish. But there are a few of us that are very competitive and want to run our best race during these big races.

So how do you handle the fact that based on Guntime one guy finishes ahead of another but based on Chiptime he was actually slower. Then you throw in the awards factor (and if there is money involved) and all bets are off. Some people seem to just go ballistic because they didn’t get an award when they actually ran faster based on the chip time than the guy getting the award.

In my opinion, there is no clear solution to this issue. When you have so many people entered in a race, there is no possible way to give everyone the same opportunity to run a fast race. I am sure there are a number of people that can argue this point both ways and I can certainly see both sides of the issue.

My suggestion is if you feel that you may be put into this situation contact the race director ahead of time and ask for clarification on the race rules. Then at least if you decided to enter the race anyway, you know going in that you maybe handicapped by not being right on the starting line.