Thursday, December 30, 2010

Easy Week

After pounding the roads for 3 weeks in December, my intentions were to pound out one last week. That was before Monday afternoon. I just finished working out during the morning and was cruising the mall with my oldest daughter.

Normally, walking around the mall is not a taxing event for me, and even thou, I hadn't run neither particularly hard nor long, I was struggling just to walk down a small set of steps. The quads were as sore as they have been in a while. Not only that but this general feeling of being lethargic seemed be engulfing me.

So rather than push on and do the workouts, I just back things down. After a year of pounding the pavement maybe it was time to take some easy days.

Thus, since Monday, I have only done 5 miles each day – no weights, no core, no stretching – no nothing except 5 simple easy miles. The first day didn't seem to help but since then it has seemed like a downright vacation.

I know January will be back to the grind, but for now, the rest feels really good.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Cool Down Runner’s YIR

Wow, 2010 was an awesome year for me. So much so that I am not sure that I can remember all of the things that I accomplished this year. But as always, the year is drawing to a close so doing a quick rewind is in order.

Chasing awards and Championships seems to be getting harder as I get older. After being the top Masters' Runner in the Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series, I wanted to step out and take on some different challenges. Run some bigger and different races. The culmination of those efforts resulted in my bringing home the RRCA of 8k Masters Championship, the USA T&F Masters 10 mile, ½ marathon, and Marathon Championships. In addition, I competed in the USA T&F Endurance Series which include USA T&F-NC Championship races from the mile to marathon. I feel both fortunate and lucky to have tied for the Masters Championship with John Hinton.

The year wasn't without challenges. I had to work my way through several injuries that could just have easily sidelined me on a permanent basis.

What I would like to do now is share some thoughts from 2010.

January, the year started off on a very high note. I went down to Florence, SC and picked up a win in their ½ marathon with a 1:17. Then I had planned to do the Winter Flight race in Salisbury but due to the snow the race got postponed until February.

February was a month of ups and downs. The Myrtle Beach Marathon only to have it canceled due to snow. Hey, they don't even have snow plows in South Carolina. It was during this adventure that I hurt my Achilles. The swelling and pain were bad but not bad enough to stop me from running the postponed Winter Flight race. Odd as it may seem, I was running in Myrtle Beach in the Snow one week. A week later I am in Salisbury running the Winter Flight 8k and the temperature is 60+ degrees. Definitely, the change in temperature was unexpected and the body wasn't handling it all that well. But I did close with a 28:12 and picked up the first award of the year. I want the Masters' RRCA – NC 8k Championship.

The churned by and I was out to the White Water Center doing my first Duathlon. Talk about having a deer in the head lights feeling. I came in for my first transition and it felt like I was there forever. Putting on cloths, gloves, and helmet seem to take an eternity. The feeling was only made worse because other athletes were zipping by me.

The bike ride was fun but getting passed by some many others was a little disheartening. I remember Tom T. passing and I thought he had some time jets on his bike. He was just gone.

I did get a little revenge. Some of the people passing me on the bike, I caught during the 2 mile run. The first time that I do anything it is always a learning experience.

March started off with a trip to Mocksville, NC for their 10k race. This race has been around for many years but for one reason or another I just never did it. It was a great morning to run. Caitlin saw me during my warm up and joined. It was also where I first met Molly and David – two great runners from the Winston Salem area.

The race started and Ryan was soon out sight. A few of us were working out way through the course when we missed a turn. We came up to the next "T" intersection. Looking both ways, we didn't see anyone insight. Ryan was fast but not that fast. About that time, some guy comes flying up in car saying that we missed the turn and need to run the ½ mile back. Ugh!!. By this time runners are streaming up the correct course.

So any runner would do I put the body into overdrive and run as fast as possible trying to catch everyone. Adrenaline will only carry me so far. About 4 miles, it was like coming down off a huge high. The breathing was labored and legs weighed a ton.

Upset was probably putting it mildly. I was having a good day and saw it go do the tubes.

Sometime, working off the frustration is the only way to handle it. I was solo for the weekend so I headed across to Cary, NC for a little recon on the Tobacco Road marathon course which was in 2 weeks.

Nearly 60 miles of riding and another 26 miles of running left my legs died tired.

Rest will be plentiful when I die. Two weeks later, Bobby, Jonathan, and I were at the starting line. This was also where I met Jordan for the first time. He had asked me to pick up his packet. In order to pick up a packet, I needed a copy of Jordan drivers license which I got. Then the next morning, I was trying to locate Jordan based on picture from his license. They looked like to totally different people. Ask to see his license sometime if you don't believe me. LOL

Tobacco Road Marathon was surreal. I never felt good the entire race. I just had this sluggish tired feeling. However, there is a bright side. I never went out that fast and stayed consistent the entire race. Coming home, I finished in 2:43.

April began with the April Fools 5k in Albemarle. Peter always knows how to make things exciting. There were people firing paint ball guns at us, squirting water and lobbing water balloons at us. We finished with a climb through the blow up obstacle course. Definitely, it will be a must do event for everyone in '11.

After a three week recovery period, actually it was only going to be 2 weeks but they canceled the Carboro Duathlon, it was the Tar Heel 10 miler followed by the Flying Pirate ½ marathon. In the Tar Heel 10 miler I picked up the USAT&F – NC Master Championship. In the Fly Pirate ½ marathon I picked up USA T&F –NC ½ marathon Masters' Championship. This was also the first time that I got to race John P. He is solid Masters' runner from the Richmond, Va. Area. We battle for nearly 10 miles before I slipped away on the Nags Head Trails to finish 3rd overall in 1:16.

I'd finish off April with a visit to Richmond, Va for the USAT Duathlon Nationals – finishing 18 than qualifying for worlds. This was huge surprise considering that this was on my 2nd Duathlon ever.

The month of May started with a busy weekend of racing: 5k in Waxhaw, the next morning ride the Masters' Criterium in Dilworth, on Sunday morning, do the Morganton Biathlon (run and bike only), a Carolina Time Trial Cycling on Wednesday, and then the Raleigh 10k USAT&F – NC Championship on the following Saturday. Looking back I don't know how I did all of those events. I wish I could have completed the 10k with the championship, but after 4 miles John H. just put on a surge that I couldn't match.

With all of the major running in the bag, it was time to focus on cycling.

June came and I was off on vacation so no Cycling Time Trial, but I returned just in time to do the Durham Running of the Bulls 8k. Biggest mistake of the year, I came back from spending a week at Disney. I was probably 3 or 5 pounds heavier and legs were in no shape for running. During the first mile, I ran 5:30 and I was done. I struggle home in 34 minutes. After the race, I made a mental note to never race the weekend after returning from vacation unless I am taking a running vacation.

The rest of June was filled with easy running and lots of group bike rides. This was only my 2nd year riding and the first time that I had ever ridden with a group. Riding is so much different than running. The rides are all out and then recovery which is followed all out again.

July started off with a bang or in my case a crack. During a group ride, several of us piled up when a car swerved at us. It didn't stop me from training but it did slow me down. I got a fast time in another cycling time trial at the speedway. Two weeks later, I suffered through the Beat the Head 5k in 17:56. This was probably the most painful race ever for me.

A week a later, I was down in the south Charlotte riding in my first 100 mile – actually 101 but whose counting. For the first 35 miles, we had a big group before things started to splitter apart. I hooked up with another rider and we rode together for the remainder of the race. I was happy with the result. We averaged nearly 20 mph and finished just over 5 hours. It was also the first time that I was really happy to come off the bike. Somewhere around 90 miles, I was feeling like I wanted to be finished.

I had wanted to start my training plan for Twin Cities in July, but mainly I just did the miles running with nothing really hard. The last of July, I started hooking up with Mike, Nathan, and few others for some marathon paced runs. In the first one, Mike and Nathan were just gone after the first few miles.

August was filled with Time Trial in Rock Hill, SC and at the speedway, 5k race and 100k ride in Albemarle, NC, and the USA T&F 10k Trail Championship. I got a 10 mile PR at the speedway. I struggle through the 5k in Albemarle and then rode a hard 100k the next morning. I was riding with a group when we got mixed up at a turn. I was never able to recover but I spent the race of the ride catching guys that dropped off their group.

The USA T&F Trail Championship 10k was the toughest 10k that I have run. There were times during the race where I was running, but it was intermixed with walking and climbing on all 4s. After the race, I told myself that I would never do another race like this one. I plan to honor this commitment.

September, I didn't run any races but I was finally able to get down to business with running. I had to slow the cycling down so my legs could recover. Don't tell anyone. I did slip in two individual and one team Carolina Cycling Time Trials. In '09 I watched the Carolina Cycling Team Time trial. This year I found 3 other guys willing to do it with me. We only worked out once beforehand and were riding more for fun than anything else. Several of the other riders told us that it goes by fast and it did. Every 45 seconds, I did my pull and before I knew it we were finished.

October kicked off with Twin Cities which was the USA T&F Masters' Marathon. Through 3 marathon paced runs Mike had kicked my "but". I was fully expecting him to have a great time. The first few miles of the race I spent trying to catch him. 7 miles in I finally gave up and let him go. He appeared to be running well and staying close to him was taking me out of my comfort zone.

Then about 14 miles, we closed back to gather. More out of surprise than anything I glanced out of the corner of my eye at him. 16 miles into a marathon is make or break time. If I jumped in a faster group and followed them until, I was the last one.

Climbing the last 10k to the finish at Twin Cities is hard. It starts out steep, and then transitions to something like the climb up East Blvd, in Charlotte. Crossing 25 miles, I thought I had a sub 2:40 for sure but there were a steep downhill. My hamstrings were balked at their usage and it cost me just enough time: 2:40:02.

Overall, the race was great experience. Mike ended up running fairly well. Caitlin rocked it with Olympic Trials qualifying Time. As for me, I went back to the room set in the bath tub of cold water for 30 miles. That's my reward for running hard.

Then, it was a week of recovery which was followed by two hard weeks of workouts and two races. First, the Tobacco Road 10 miler was hard on a still recovering body. I finished 5 OA and ran a 58:50. The following weekend, I ran the Mooresville Pumpkin 8k Run. My time wasn't impressive but it was my last major effort before OBX. I won the race with a time of 29:11

November, my running was finally starting hit high gear. For the 3rd year in a row I headed to the coast for the Outer Banks Marathon. Being that it was my 3rd time, it was also the charmed race. There wasn't any head wind and I had good competition to pull me along to a 2:41:33. This helped me take home the USA T&F - NC Master marathon championship for the 3rd year in a row.

My feet were not exactly happy with me. OBX had put a serious hurting on them, but a couple of Advil helped me chase Mike down the streets of Concord in the Santa Scramble to the tune of 16:41. I followed it some easy running before going to down to South Park for the Turkey Trot 8k.

I didn't run the Run For Your Life Grand Prix series this year so Steve and I hadn't been racing against one another. This would be the first time and I was looking forward to it. As luck would have it, he jumped out ahead and I closed up on his shoulder. We were literally stride for stride until Michael puts a big move on us at 3 miles. I was totally not expecting this him. I looked at Steve and half expected him to give chase. When it didn't happen, I took up the challenge. It was all that I could do to pull even with Michael. He puts on one bigger move heading to the finish which I cannot cover. I am now ready to settle in to the finish when I hear "Go Spada". A quick glance tells me that Steve is close fast. I don't know where I drew the energy from but I pull out a couple of more surges and barely escaped. Steve finished 1 second behind me. Honestly, I have always enjoyed race against Steve and am looking forward to many more year of it.

December arrives and I am putting trying to keep the wheels on the car. All year, I had been putting out feeler. I was trying to get together a Masters' team for the USA T&F Club Champion which was coming to Charlotte this year. There were definitely times when I thought it might not happen. Luckily, Rocky, David, Matt, and Chuck put aside their holiday season for one Saturday afternoon to join me.

Post high school and college running, team running is for the most part almost non-existent. Having attended the Club Championship in Lexington, KY last was what sent me down that path for having a team this year and I am glad that I did it. I wouldn't have trade the experience for any other running experience.

So the long year is now coming to an end.

As I look back on upon my accomplishments: 10 mi., ½ Marathon, and Full Marathon USAT&F Masters Champion, RRCA 8K Masters' Champion and finishing tied for lead in the USA T&F Masters Endurance Distance Series. Then there is the cycling: several PRs in the 10 mi. time trail and the 101 mile ride. There were 4 Duathlons including 1 win as well as qualifying for Worlds Duathlon Championships.

I have to say that '10 was one of my best years ever. I think I pour more blood and sweat into this year and than any previous year.


Happy New Year from the Cool Down Runner




Sunday, December 19, 2010

Running With a Watch - Splits

Stop watch, Garmin, or something else just pick your poison when it comes to tracking your splits during a race. I hear people all the time talk about wanting to hit this split or that split during a race. I listen and then just smile. In my opinion too many people put way too much effort into worrying about their splits.

Think about it, after 15 miles of a marathon have passed and you look at your watch. You are 1 minute and 30 seconds behind your pace. Are really going to be able to pick up it 10 second per a mile from there to the finish? Most of the time, I would say no. That is unless you have run so slowly the first half was under your ability.

When I run a race, I set my Garmin to auto track the splits and then forget about it. The next time that I look at it is when I have crossed the finish line.

The thing that I like to tell people is trust in yourself. If you are having a good day, you are going to know it. Knowing the splits isn't going to make you run any faster. And the contrast is just as true if you are have a bad race, the split will more than likely continue any downward spiral that you are on. Thus you are better off not knowing.

That's why I tell people to "just go out and run", and let your body tell you what it can do. By spending less time stressing over the splits, you will most have more energy and motivation to drive yourself harder to the finish. And, listen to what your body is telling you and especially monitor your breathing. Both can provide ton of internal feedback when it comes to modulating your race pace.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rolling along

This morning I headed across Charlotte to Mc Alpine for a run with Megan and Ann. We had all agreed upon meeting at 7:30 so no head lamps required for this run and the fact that I was taking the day off from work made if perfect.

It had been a while since Megan and I have went for a run and if memory serves me correctly, it was summer '09 since Ann and I have been on the same run. So with so much timing passing, I was sure there would be at least 2 hours of good conversation. That's just about right for a 16 mile run.

We started out at a rather a pedestrian pace. Megan has been injured for a while and is working herself back into shape. Well, we are starting to warm up pretty good and roll along when Megan tells us how we feels like she is not running all that fast during her runs these days.

About this time, we are rolling along the 5k course and my body starts sending signals to the brain "hey, we are getting fast here". Ugh, I am thinking that I am just having a bad day. Outwardly, I said nothing but sucked up. I mean, I could not let them dropped me. It's a "man" thing until it becomes an aerobic thing and I cannot do anything about it. LOL

The next hour and a half seemed to fly by and we were all standing back in the Old Bell parking lot. I was looking through my Garmin laps and realize it was not me feeling bad, we had run the 16 miles at 7:15 pace with several 6:45s thrown in for good measure. Just personal opinion, but maybe Megan needs to do more of the elliptical machine. Clearly the workouts on the elliptical are agreeing with her running LOL.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

USA T&F Club Championship – Recap 12/11/2010

I am sorry; this is a few of days late.

Saturday was a huge day for the Running Community in Charlotte and I wanted some time to let it all digest.

First, let me say that Saturday was simply amazing. I cannot remember seeing so much quality runners in the Charlotte – aside from maybe Foot Locker. There were 12 men in the open race under 30 minutes for the 10k. With nearly 400 entered in the open race, the slowest runner in the 10k was just over 45 minutes. I am giving a special shot out to Mike for running 35:31 against top caliper runners.

The Masters' Race had 400+ runners which was the largest field of any of races. The Masters' winning time was 32:36 and the guy was 49 years old so I guess there is still hope for me to run a PR.

The women's races were a little tougher to gauge since they were running the odd 6k distance. I have run with Kelly, Jocelyn, Meagan, and Caitlin from time to time. When they came through in 42nd and 60th place, there were definitely some fast women abound. As a team, they held their own by finishing 9 out of 29 teams.

Watching really good runners, there is one thing they all tend to have in common. They make the act of running look so fluid and effortless. I often wish I could some copy how they doing it and run the same way.

But to my race recap, I met up with Rocky, Matt, Chuck, and David before the race. I handed out numbers to everyone except David whom I had seen at the expo and had given him his number and shirt.

Then it was off to change and to get in some warm up miles. We ran along the first couple of miles of the course so we could watch the Women's Masters' race before heading back to the car and shedding the last of my warm our gear.

I headed back to the starting line and was just in time. Race officials were going down the row making sure everyone had on the same running jersey. If you don't understand, don't feel bad. It is a USAT&F thing. All team members must dress alike.

Then it was time for a hands-in morale booster and final instructions.

Honestly, I didn't really have a game plan for this race – short of not ending up in the lake when we were coming off the hill.

Bang! Suddenly, 400+ middle men with from joking and laughing to deadly serious. The one thing I have learned about cross country is personal space is a rarity. Suddenly, guys were elbowing and pushing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one guy go down. There was no time to look or stop – least I would go down as well.

If you are familiar with Mc Alpine 5k course, we started about 50 yards further down. This means we had lot less time before 400 guys merged on to a 6 foot wide path.

Since our team's starting position was in the middle, I was maintaining my line as we all converged on to the 6 ft path. At this point, I had a decision to make. I could go left toward the hard packed dirt or stay to the right and run a little further on the grass. I decided to move over to the dirt. It was probably the wrong decision because I almost immediately ran into a traffic jam.

It didn't really matter and was probably a good thing. My breathing was totally off. There didn't seem to be enough oxygen available. In addition, I was feeling that dryness in the back of my throat that I get when I run to hard a cold day.

By the time I made the first turn, we were so tightly bunched that I had nowhere to go. I was just trying to avoid clipping the two guys' directly in front of me.

As we approached the hill, some breathing room was actually starting to open up. I could see the 2 or 3 feet of dirt between me and the runners in front of me. It was the first time where I could see the ground to put my feet. Up to this point, I was putting them down without knowing where they were landing. Luckier for me I run at Mc Alpine regularly.

We did the back loop of the Mc Alpine course and I was starting feel a little better. My breathing wasn't under control but at least the legs felt okay. We came out by the lake and headed back down the long straight-a-way.

It was great having the CRC support along the course. Mike was screaming at me at several points along the course. I remember hearing Megan yelling and Ben yelling something about using that "Marathon strength". Ben, at the point where you saw I was already using that strength. There wasn't anything left.

Funny how cross country races work, I pass a few people and a few people pass me. They are not necessarily the same people.

The first time up the hill was tough, but decent.

The 2nd time up the hill, it hurt.

The 3rd time, well no one should have to run it a 3rd time. My legs were ready to cry "uncle" at this point and felt like "butter". I came down the hill and a few guys got away from me. I hit the 6 mile and I was ready to finish.

Mike was standing behind the finish area and asked me how it was. "Tough" would be the word that I will use here to describe it.

Our team finished in total time of 3:07:17.80 seconds for an average of 37:27. We were 18th out of 23 teams. Rocky finished in 7th place. I finished 105th and 43rd in my age group. David finished 120th. Matt finished in 124th. Chuck finished in 130.

Rocky was clearly showing is newly minted Masters' status. He led the race for while before coming home in 33:17. I finished in 37:24, David in 38:21, Matt in 38:39, and Chuck in 39:24.

In my personal opinion, we did all right.

Realistically, time and distance don't mean as much as it does for road race. It is all about how you and your team's placement.

Getting the opportunity to have such a national caliper race here in Charlotte and compete against other runners of this quality was absolutely incredible.

This is exactly why running is the most unique sport on the planet. I will never play football on the Panther's field or hit an infield grounder at Yankee Stadium, but I can cover the same dirt that these guys do. In the case of Saturday, I was also swallowing the same dust. LOL

Before ending, I wanted to take a moment and thank Rocky, David, Matt, and Chuck. There were several times when I thought I wouldn't be able to get a team together but these guys stuck it out and we had a great time racing Saturday. Thanks, I really appreciate you guys helping me make this goal of happen.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Club XC Championships just a few hours away

I am packing up my race bag and getting ready to head out the door. I thought I might catch a little of the Thunder Road Marathon before heading across town Mc Alpine for our XC races.

Our race is going to be a lot of fun today.

I went by the Expo yesterday and picked up our team's race packet. It was very interesting how the USA T&F guys were doing things. There packet distributions process was very much different from the way the process was handled in Kentucky last year.

But none the less, I picked up our packets and shirts which I have already distributed one to David and will be catching up with Rocky, Matt, and Rich later this morning. Being team captain, I guess has at least one perk.

I got to coordinate the meeting place to hand out bibs and shirts. Perks are where you find them.

Thoughts on the Expo, it seemed larger than last year. Although, I was in early; there were already a number of runners mingling into the convention center to pick up their stuff. I image having both the Marathon and XC championships in the same weekend really helped.

There were a lot of venders and almost all were working very hard to sell their wares. I bought one thing a reflective shirt and hat. I will be posting more on it later when I get a chance to test wear them.

Back to the packing, I am not sure about racing flats or spikes today. I think I will take both and decided at the park. I haven't been in spikes since the last XC race so my legs should have had plenty of time to recover from that rugged experience.

For now, I just need to make sure that I am wearing my Charlotte Running Club singlet so they don't kick us out of the race for not being dressed exactly alike.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Threshold Training

I picked up one my cycling magazines and was thumbing through it yesterday. I stopped on an article about threshold training. The main theme of the article as I understood it was to ready cyclist for surges during a race and the feeling that comes with the acceleration.

We all know that feeling. It is when you have pushed across the line. The red line as I like to call it because all sorts of bells and whistle starting going off in your brain. The resonating thought that you are about to blow up. This is usually followed by the thick and heavy feeling in both legs and consequently, your paces slows.

Mainly, as runners we usually like to avoid these scenarios because it is not conducive to fast races.

This thought process is reinforced through our training plans because we are often asked to stay with certain boundaries while running as fast as possible.

Again, I agree lifting this from cycling training plan so it is not exactly a one for one. For example, there is no ability to setup, coast, and recovery in running. This is unless you stop running, and typically once you are done; you are done.

The point of this article was to prepare the body and to some extent the mind to handle going into this red zone.

Here's my adaptation of the concept.

Basically, it goes something like this. For the first minute, you go all out. The second minute, you back it down to say 95%. The third through the fifth minute, you run at 90%. The fifth through the seventh minute, you run at 80%. This is followed by a "half" type recovery and repeated two to three times. Everyone's concept of 100%, 95%, 90%, and 80% are all different but you get the idea. Learn to get yourself back under control.

Extending on this idea we want to build up the heaviness in our legs and then to teach our self to run through it.

I seen a lot of training plans but usually, they have the concept inverted where you are going from 80% up to 100%. Even when most people do their intervals, the first interval is usually the slowest and the last few are the fast. Partly, this is due to an inadequate warm up but then this is a different post.

But think about how we run most races, the first mile is generally the fastest unless you are running a marathon. And I have seen some fast first miles there too. Generally, however, the later miles are usually slower.

The next time up are adjusting your training plan, you should try to throw in a workout like this one. This way, it reminds the body and the mind of what racing is truly like.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner


Charlotte Running Club goes clubbing at the USA T&F XC Club Championship

Remember those days when you ran on your high school and/or college cross country teams. Remember how it felt to compete for something more than just you. Rarely, once we graduation to the open road running scene do we get a chance to run on teams. I can think of only two races in the Charlotte area that have team races: Skyline 5k and Twilight 5k. Maybe you could add the Blue Ridge Relay, but then relay races work a little differently. So maybe they don't count.

Well, this weekend a few of us hearty souls are returning to our youths and running as a team. The USA T&F XC Club Championship is coming to Charlotte, NC and our beloved Charlotte Running Club has three teams entered: Open Males, Open Females, and Masters Males.

Now, I know this is a busy weekend with the Thunder Road Marathon also taking place, but if you are crafty, you can catch a little of both.

Thunder Road kicks off early in the morning while the XC races go off around mid-day.

The Masters' Race goes off at 11:30 to run a 10k. The Open Women start off at 12:45 for a 6k. The Open Males kick things off at 1:30 for the last 10k of the day.

All XC races are originating on the Mc Alpine Greenway from the Main entrance off of Monroe Rd.

Last year, Ben and I took part in the races held in Lexington, KY. I have to say that it was great experience. I grew up a road racer so running XC is kind of like a foreign language to me. But I have to say it was a lot of fun. And, it was enough fun that I convinced a few my fellow masters' runners to join me on a team this year.

If you are interested in whose running:

Open Male Team: Lat, Matt, Jay, Mike, Chase, and John

Open Female Team: Alice, Kelly, Megan, Jocelyn, Jenna, and Stephanie.

Masters' Team: Rocky, David, Chuck, Matt, and myself.


If you get a chance, drop by Mc Alpine and check out the races.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner






Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Season is the hardest time of year to train

I don't know about anyone else, but for me the holiday season is the hardest time of year to train. Among the abundance of food, holiday parties, and the scampering around gathering Christmas gifts life seems to be amidst with distractions.

If there is ever a time to year to slow things down, this is it. For the last 11 months sweat, blood, and tears were poured into the hundreds workouts that brought our bodies to the best condition that it has seen in years.

Honestly, I don't really mind. My body and mind both need the time to recharge and this is the perfect time of year to make it happen.

So everyone out there go enjoy your holiday season and remember to spend time with your family. Nothing, not even running is more important than family.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Charlotte Running Club USAT&F Master’s XC Team

Let me introduce you to this year's Charlotte Running Club USA T&F Club Master's XC Team: Rocky, David, Matt, Chuck, and me.

Last year while standing at the starting line of the USA T&F Cross country Club championship in Lexington, Kentucky, I made a vow to myself. Next year when the Club Championship comes to Charlotte, I want to be standing on the starting line at McAlpine with a team.

When I made that vow, I really had no idea what it meant. How hard could it be getting a team together?

The reality is that it has not as easy as it might seem. Injuries, family commitments, one thing and another, not mention the fact that Club XC Championship falls squarely in the middle of the Holiday season meant getting together a group of Master's runners harder than I ever thought.

I guess I could have given up on the idea and there were a few times when I thought we might not have a team. It just goes to show that persistence does pay off.

December 11, 2010 at 11 AM we will be at the starting line for the Master's XC 10k. I am looking forward to the race and will hopefully improve upon my race from last year.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Road to Boston

No, this is not a Cool Down Runner owned phrase. Actually, I took it from Allen's Road to Boston Blog. I liked it so much that I am creating my own road to Boston or actually, I am starting my "Road to Boston" tomorrow.

I will officially start my training for Boston on December first.

You might ask why I do not start on January first. Well, if I give myself the goal now, then I will most like do a much better job training throughout December and by having this goal now, I have a much better reason to keep the weight off over the holidays. This has always been hard task to achieve with so much good food always at hand.

Just random thoughts as we make our way through the holiday season.


Happy Holidays from the Cool Down Runner


Positive Press, No Press, vs. Negative Press

If your goal is to put on a race then, usually you want one of two things to happen. You want runners to walk away satisfied with your efforts or you want them to walk away saying good things about your race. Your worst nightmare is for runners to walk way and be unhappy with the quality of your race.

Now, no race is perfect. I believe most race directors will agree there are always little things that can be improved on from year to year.

But when the perfect storm of bad things hit your race what are you do to.

Here's my suggestion. "Man up, Cowboy up" or whatever your favorite express is. By just what these expressions mean - go before the runners and say hey, we royally screwed up. We will work to fix the issues and we hope you give us another chance next year. Most of us realize bad things do happen and after a cooling off period are often willing to give people a second change.

We just asked that accountability be accepted and blame not be redirected elsewhere.

-btw "hint" if you ever have one of the "epic" type of races.

Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 29, 2010

Certified Course – is so – is not

When is it a certified course and when it is not a certified course. Tonight, we had our monthly Charlotte Road Runners Club dinner and I the pleasure of setting next to Bobby and Cedric. Both men are veterans of the local running scene.

Well, with the GPS dialogue in full swing, it did take long before the discussion migrated over to certified courses. I guess this is the point where I opened my big month "no pun intended" about the South Park Turkey trot course.

My assertion was the course was long and I based this assertion on my observations while running the course during the race as well as from my review the certified map of the course. There were three separate intersections where were ran to the right of the corner. The certified course map made no mention of the need to run this far right of the turns. In fact, as I read the map, I should have been running right along the tangent.

Thus, I feel two assumptions can be made here. One, as I said above I felt the course was long. But I also feel a strong case can be made that we didn't run the certified course.

This is the point, where I differed from the Cedric and Bobby. My understanding of their agreement is that we still ran the certified course. Coning a course off so that runners no longer can run the course is well within the race director's right. And, I am not where to judge if and/or when he had the right to do so.

My point is if a race director cones a course such that it no longer follows the measured certified path, then the runners are no longer running the certified course. They are now running a variation of the certified course. And, if the race director wants to use this modified course for the reason of his own choosing, then, he should have the course certified with these modifications in mind.

The other point that Bobby made (I believe it was Bobby making it) is did the race director instruct people to run to the right of the cones. Honestly, I want to say no, but then there were 6000 people talking at the time. I could have easily missed him sharing this information with the runners.

And, I know I am making a mountain out of an ant hill and really have no idea why I am doing so.

Lastly, it cannot be said enough. I respect a person's right to their opinion regardless of whether I agree with it or not. I only ask they respect my right to express my opinion as well.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 26, 2010

The GPS Debate

My Charlotte Road Runners Club news letter arrived in the mail early this week and as usual, almost immediately I tore open the envelope to read it. Every month, Steve Staley writes an editorial on some topic. Sometimes, his topics are presented from a positive perspective other times he gives his in what I will call very "frank" opinion on a particular subject.

This month his column gave, a somewhat, terse commentary on the usage GPS devices with special focus on using them during races.

Before going sharing my response, I respect Steve and his right to his opinion and the right to share his opinion. I feel that I have to. Otherwise, it would be hypocritical of me to share only my opinion.

As I said before this all started with Steve's column in the monthly club news letter. To which, I followed with my thoughts in an email back to him. In my email, I provided counter points to many of his arguments.

Steve sent back a reply yesterday where he provided more of what I will term circumstantial evidences on the guilt (i.e. bad idea) of using GPS devices for measuring distance.

I will pull out a couple of points here from his new letter and from his email and provide my response.

Anyone interested in reading Steve column, I would be happy to scan and send it to you.

As I start, here are a couple of assumptions. Steve indicated that he either uses or has used a GPS device and is familiar with how GPS devices function. My experience comes from using both the Garmin 305 and 310 models for the last 3 years in nearly everyone of my runs and all of my races: running and cycling(minus one).

Example 1, Steve makes a comparison between the "clicks" that measure distance on a Jones Counter (if you are not familiar, the Jones Counter is a device that fits on a bike rim and is used by certification professionals to measure race courses) and the points captured by a GPS (for purpose of my discussion, I will assume a Garmin). In his comparison, he describes a runner doing a ½ marathon. By a Jones Counter, there would be 211,290 samples taken vs. a Garmin which assuming a 5 second gap between points or samples would yield 1,248 samples.

First, I don't think this is a truly fair comparison. The number Jones Counter "clicks" are determined by a distance moved by the wheel of a bike. Each interval is assumed to be exactly the same. Such things as speed bumps, pot holes, and curbs end up skewing the measurement. This is why course measurers have to be extremely careful when certifying a new course. On the other hand, the Garmin's measurement is based over an elapsed time period where the distance travel is the measurement between the two sampling points. Yes, both will measure a distance. But how the samples are taken is entirely different which is why I say this is not an apple to apple comparison. One other note on this particular example, Steve suggested a 5 second sampling, but my Garmin can be tweaked down to a 1 second interval. This makes an even more precise measurement.

Example 2, Steve describes using a GPS device on a track and seeing the points scattered. Fortunately, the TrySports guys held a 5k track race last year and I used my Garmin to measure it. When I went back to review my race, I found the points to be pretty much along the inside lane of the track and not scattered at all. Conversely, I will admit these points didn't exactly make a smooth track oval. I attributed this to weaving from side to side in the lane as I passed other runners during the race and my own inability to run right on the inside lane white line.

From Steve's email response, he shared that after the Santa Scramble; he found runners with GPS reading of 3.04, 3.05, 3.06, 3.09, and I had 3.1. From the South Park Turkey Trot 8k, he found samples from other runners with .03 to .07 over 5 miles. Personally, I had .07 or 315.03 ft or 105 yards which equated to 17 seconds.

In Steve's email, he wondered which one was actually correct. My response here is actually "all of them are correct". Without knowing the runners, their devices, or how they ran the tangents along the course, the only assumption that I can make is that they followed roughly race course from the start to the finish. They all covered a measured distance of just over 5 miles. Without more details from these runners, no prudent person could make assert a course being long .

After years of racing my running will almost instinctively take me along the tangent between 2 corners or cones depending on how a course is marked for the race. Yesterday, I probably ran 98% of the tangents along the Turkey Trot course. And, I admit I didn't run all of them due to weaving between the baby joggers. In addition, I noticed that we ran the course a little differently than the previous year. After reviewing the USAT&F certified map of the course, we or at least I and the runners around me ran 3 turns wide due to the place of the cones on the course. These turns were at the following locations: At the corner of Assembly and Carnegie, corner of Colony and Roxborough, and finally at the corner of Policy and Morrison. Based on the certified course map, we should have run corner to corner rather than corner to cone.

In conclusion, I admit the Garmin is not perfect. It measures everything based on a straight line and the sampling points even at a second can have an impact on the overall measure. Taking a "turn" means depending on where the last point was captured, the Garmin could have measured across a corner and not around it. Clearly running on trails is a prime example. Numerous switchbacks can leave the Garmin measuring well short of the actual distance run.

But with in this assertion is the basis for most every runner's objections about long courses. A Garmin never measures distance long. After 5k, if the Garmin reads 3.15, then the runner at the bare minimum ran 3.15 miles. In actuality, they will have most likely run more than 3.15 miles. If he or she ran the course as they should have and ran the course along the tangents, then they have an argument for a long course.


Just my $.02 for the on going GPS debate.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner





South Park Turkey Trot 8k Race Recap 11/25/2010

Yesterday morning, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the South Park Mall for the 8k Turkey Trot race. My hopes were to come away with one their unique Turkey shaped Trophy awards.

During the week, Steve and I exchanged some emails and there was at least one accusation of sand bagging. I will not mention any names to protect both the guilty and the innocent.

Thursday morning, Steve Spada, Billy Shue, and Michael Heafner headed out for a nice pre race warm up. Along the way we picked up Bert Rodriguez who would later go on to win the 8k race.

Just before 9 am, myself and 6000+ others gathered at the starting line. On my first stride to finish my warm up, I spotted Rocky. Ugh, Rocky had just turned 40 a few months ago and if you don't know him, Rocky is fast. He lots faster than I am. Oh, well, I guess the Turkey award is out the window again this year.

We all gathered at the starting line and then the rain started falling.

First, the baby joggers headed out and then came the firing of the gun.

I wasn't sure how the race would play out. Who really does know? I knew how I hoped it would play out.

Within the first few hundred yards, I was already scanning the crowd for Steve. It didn't take long before I found him and I quickly moved up behind him.

We started to overtake the baby joggers and Steve was weaving through them like a Nascar driver going 30 mph faster than his competition. My only problem was keeping up. A few times, I got squeezed off when the opening I was trying to pass through closed up once Steve passed through.

By the mile in 5:34, we had past most of the baby joggers and I was trying to settle down and get comfortable. Steve was setting the pace with Michael H. right there. I was right at my max so I really didn't have a reason to make things go any faster.

Mile 2 passed in 5:27, we caught a couple of runners and could see Billy Shue and Alejandro Arreola a short distance ahead of us. Mentally, I wanted to get up there with them. Physically, I knew I couldn't do it.

Just past 2 mile is where the major climbing on Runnymead Lane starts. Michael, Steve, and I were still running together and practically running as one.

For me, this was the toughest section. My legs were still dragging from OBX and not helped by my little speed session at Santa Scramble. I kept fighting to stay up beside Steve. On the uphill, I would slide back. Then, I would try to recover on the downhill.

Finally, I could see the red light where we turn right on Sharon Rd. I knew from past years that this was just about the 3 mile point. And, if I had anything in the tank this is where I needed to use it.

Less than 20 yards past the 3 mile point which we ran in 5:41, Michael H. puts in this monster surge on both Steve and me. I mean he goes around both of us and opens a 15 meter gap. In no way was I expecting this scenario. Michael later told me that he was feeling really good and wanted to make a big push here.

I felt like I was already at my rev limiter and was not really sure what I wanted to do. At first I waited to see if Steve was going to react and try to chase Michael down.

When this didn't look to be happening, I decided this had to be my moment. If I can get to Michael, I could set on him and use him to pull me away from Steve.

It took me nearly ¾ of mile to bridge over to Michael. This was ¾ of mile of real pain and suffering. And, let me tell, Michael wasn't giving anything back.

Michael and I passed 4 miles together in 5:42. I wasn't sure how far Steve was back but at the moment I was more concerned with keeping up with Michael.

About ¾ of the final mile is down hill, but the last stretch to the finish is an uphill grind. Two turns before the final grind Michael puts in another big surge and opens a gap on me that I cannot cover. I know it is going to be a fight all the way to the end and I was trying to keep the gap from opening any more than possible.

The legs were starting to grow very heavy as time really started to slow down and I could see the finish line. I glance at my Garmin 26:42 but the finish line seem like an entity away. The crowds are cheering on both sides of the road. The distance between Michael doesn't seem to be expanding but neither does it seem to be shrinking.

The finish banner is growing size and I am nearly there. Finally I will get some relief for these tightening legs.

Then, somewhere out of the crowd I hear the following "Go Spada! Go!" or something similar. The key word this sentence was "Spada". This was like being jolted awake. I had completely forgotten about Steve and that he might be closing on me. If there were any systems that were not on red alert in my body, they went to red alert now.

I did a quick peek over my right shoulder and I saw Steve closing and fast. At this point, things got a little blurry. I think I heard another "Spada" call from the crowd and I followed each with a surge that I didn't know that I had. Ducking across the line, Steve was right on my shoulder about 1 second back.

I guess someone must have been looking out for me because if I hadn't heard the calls from the crowd, Steve would have passed me and I wouldn't have had a chance to respond. And, just too double confirm my luck if Steve had tried to pass me on my left instead of my right, I would have been looking one way while he was passing on the other.

We covered this last mile in 5:33. I guess the old saying about it being better to be luckier than good is true. At least this is true in my case.

Steve and I hadn't raced each other since last year. During those 9 Grand Prix races our times were never separated by more than 10 seconds total across all of those races. We renewed our battle on this day and finished a second apart. Steve is a true competitor and I haven't enjoyed racing someone this much since Keith Hurley and I had our battles during the mid 90s.

After the race Steve and I grabbed a couple of more miles where we talked about the race. We saw Rocky and he told us that he finished 3rd overall.

My hope of a Turkey award rose a little. With Rocky finishing 3rd overall, there was still an unclaimed master's award. But Turkey Trot races are the hard to gauge because more out of town people race in these events.

When the results were posted, John Moss from Los Angeles age 41 took home the award. He ran 28:05 and had been just ahead of both Steve and me the entire race. My congratulations go to John.

That's the breaks. I did my best and there is always next year.

Before ending my post, I want to give a shout out to Steve's son Max. Max, a promising Lacrosse player, scored a 3rd place finish in the mile fun run. I guess the running genes run deep in the Spada family. Congratulations Max.

PS - I pulled down image of the Turkey Trott 8k course. At least 3 different intersections were coned differently than the map indicates below. I guess we did run long.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner




Sunday, November 21, 2010

Free Delivery when you buy "Eddie's Roller"

Some time ago I wrote about the stick massage tool that uses golf balls. I wanted to let everyone know that Eddie, who makes these tools, sent me an email. If anyone is interested in getting one of these sticks, drop Eddie an email. He will be coming to Foot Locker race at Mc Alpine next Saturday morning and he is willing to have your stick ready for you to pick up at the Foot Locker event. What a great idea. There is no shipping charge which is a good offer this time of year.

I have one and use it daily before and after my runs.

If there is still some indecision, at least drop by his booth and try one out.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Santa Scramble 5k Race Recap 11.20.2010

If someone had asked me early this week if I would run a 5k this afternoon, I would have told firmly no way. However, as the week continued to progress, I started to lean toward racing. With the Turkey Trot 8k looming next week, I thought that I needed to shock the system with a fast race.

Since Mike lives near the finish, we decided to meet and warm up by running to the starting line of the Santa Scramble race.

One of the best warm up that I have had in a while. Mike gave me a nice tour of the Concord Greenway.

When I was picking up my packet, I saw Milton, a fast Master's runner from Salisbury area. Milton won the race last year.

Mike and I arrived about 20 minutes before the race started so there was a little standing around waiting for the race to get underway.

Close 500+ people turned out this weekend for the race. The race director should give a big thanks to Theoden for this posting. I suspect it helped the numbers.

In addition there was a huge number of high school runners entered.

We got the countdown and then everyone exploded off the starting line. I had the strange feeling that I was standing in cement. People were flying by me on both sides. Definitely, the start of this 5k was much more difficult than the start of OBX marathon last Sunday.

During the first ¼ mile, I started looking around for Milton and eventually, spotted him about 40 meters in front of me.

The thought suddenly crossed my mind "this is going to hurt". For the next mile, I lost track of Mike and focused on trying to catch Milton.

About ½ mile in my legs started to really kick it in and feel better. I started working from one runner to the next. Using the leap frog method, this makes the job of closing the gap on Milton a little easier.

Around the time that I had it down to about 5 meters, I could see Milton was throwing in a surge. I couldn't let him get away at this point. With one more big push, I closed the final few meters between us.

I came through the first mile in 5:14 and was certain the wheels were going to fly off. But once I closed the gap, I started focusing on relaxing and trying to catch my breath.

Just ahead, we had a right turn, a short straight section and then a left turn. I slipped past Milton and after the next few turns a made a push on the next downhill.

The 2nd mile I covered in 5:33. If I remember correct, they called 10:28 at 2 miles.

After got off the parade route, we hit the final downhill of the course and I made one final big push. I didn't know how far Milton was behind and I didn't want to give up anything to him.

We hit the final climb to the finish. My legs were starting to wobble.

My final mile was 5:23 and I covered the last tenth in 29 seconds for a 16:41. According to my Garmin, I ran exactly 3.1 miles and no extra. This is just the way that I like it.

I have to give a quick shout out to Mike. He ran a PR 16:04 if I remember his time correctly and won the race.

Mike and I did a cool down run with some other CRC members. They were hilarious. I enjoy hearing other people tell their stories.

At the awards, they have out these huge Santa Trophies. My trophy must be 18 inches tall. It is setting my desk right now.

So now, this race is in the books and it is time to turn my attention to the Turkey Trot 8k. For the first time this year, Steve Spada and I will hook up in a race. I am not taking him lightly. Steve is in great shape. He an extra week of recovery on me and has been doing some really great workouts according to his running log. My goal for Turkey Trot 8k is to just keep Steve in sight for at least ½ of this race. I think he is going to take home the Turkey Trophy this year.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Thursday, November 18, 2010

In need of a new marathon racing shoe

Okay, the Brooks Silence racing flat for a marathon is going on the shelf at least as far as I am concerned. At the Tobacco Road marathon, there were a couple of small blisters on my feet. Then, after Twin Cities, my blisters were a little worse. OBX brought a whole new level of blisters to my feet in my opinion. They were bigger and uglier. One of them reached the point that it burst during the race. Actually, this may have been a good thing because it hurt less afterwards.

Honestly, I wish I knew why it happened? I mean I take all of the proper precautions. What is really strange, I used the same pair of Brook Silence for all 3 races.

After the first race, I chalked up the blisters to my failure to break them in properly.

But before Twin Cities, I did 3 different tempo runs in them. In none of these runs did I experience any issues. However, come race day the ugliness happened.

And, I ruled it out being socks or the glide. I have used the same race socks for the last 5 marathons. And, well, glide is glide. The only note worthy item is that in the first two marathons of the last 5, I had no issues, but I used a different pair of shoes.

I guess this also means that the new pair of Brooks Silence setting in my closet will get kicked down for short training tempo runs.

As a side note, I am going to miss people calling out from the sidelines that they like my shoes.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Liquid Bandages for Runners

Life takes us down some strange and mysterious paths that we never really think about until it actually happens to us. In this case, I hobbled away from the OBX marathon with some rather bad blisters on both feet.

Not running was never really an option. So the next best option is how I can continue to run. This is where the liquid bandage comes into the picture.

Normally, I would cover it was a normal bandage, but putting a bandage across the bottom my foot would only make my blisters worse and then pulling off the bandage would be very painful.

Liquid Bandages handles the problem quite nicely. I applied it to both feet and it seems to work well. The pain is still there but the at least I am not making the blisters worse.

The liquid bandage acts a lot like glue. Reminding me of when I was a child and used Model car glue. It smells similar and acts similar.

It takes a few minutes to dry so I cannot just put it on and then put on my socks. The bandage will stick to both my foot and my sock. Certainly, it is not the ideal situation.

Blisters are such a common occurrence for runners that I thought others would be interested in trying a liquid bandage option.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner






Recovery Time

48 hours have now passed since the OBX marathon. The pain and soreness are in full effect. The bends in my elbows sting from holding them in one position for far too long. My trapezoids are stiff. Then, pretty much everything from the waist down hurts. The Glutz are stiff. My quads don't really like it when I try to bend down. Both ankles and feet are sore and well, the blisters are the blisters. They hurt.

Basically, my body is pretty unhappy with my brain for what I put it through on Sunday morning.

I remember reading a quote from Lance Armstrong. It went something like this "you can only go deep into your reserves a few times during a year". I have a feeling that I have exceed all of my reserve capacity for this year.

This brings me to another saying "You are only as young as you feel". Mentally, I am pretty sure that I feel 25. However, my body is absolutely certain that it knows that I am 45.

I guess wishful thinking crossed with a healthy dose of reality creates the uniqueness that we all seek in life.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 15, 2010

OBX Marathon Race Recap 11.14.2010

Yesterday, I capped off a 6 week recovery, training, and taper period with the running of the OBX Marathon.

The weekend kicked off with my 6 drive to the Outer Banks. I arrived around noon and went directly Nags Head Woods for a run on the trail section of the OBX course.

Then, it was over to the Marathon Expo to pick up my packet and a chance to check out the booths at the Expo. They had changed things around a bit. And, the expo seemed smaller than in previous years. I was probably done with the expo in maybe an hour and half.

Before heading to the hotel, I stopped by a local pasta place that I have frequented the last couple of years. The pasta is good not great but good.

With a full tummy, it was time for the hotel check and getting cleaned up. I had promised to attend the VIP party for the race sponsors that night. The party was okay, I spent some hanging out, but I was not thrilled with their choices of food. Everything was heavy and deep fried. Definitely, it was not the ideal food for a marathon runner, but I half expected it. 99% of the attendees were race sponsors and they were clearly enjoying the open bar and free food.

I ended up picking something to eat on the drive back to the hotel.

Saturday morning, I tried to relax and sleep in a little. Knowing full well, I would be up early on Sunday morning.

With 4 miles complete through the Nags Head Woods and a little Tabata workout done, my final bale of hay was then stored safely in the barn.

I eat a banana and bagel that swiped from the hotel's continental breakfast on my way out.

I made one quick stop at the expo again before heading off for some lunch.

Later in the afternoon, I tried to take a walk on the beach but the wind was blowing so hard that I was getting sand blasted.

I finished the day off with dinner in the room and head off to sleep by 8pm.

Sunday, I was up by 3:50 AM and headed out the door to meet the shuttles at the K-mart parking by 5:30.

As usual, the marathon shuttle was very sparse just 6 men and no elite women.

The weather race morning was probably the best that I have seen in my 3 years at OBX. The temperature was about 50 degrees 80% humidity, and no wind. Personally, I was hoping for a tail wind, but if I have to have a choice between no wind and a head wind, I will take no wind every time.

I followed my typical race preparation and was at the starting line about 10 minutes prior to the start. I spotted John Crew and Ryan Wood. Also saw Ulf at the starting line and Tommy rode over with us in the Elite van.

After long pray and the singing of the national anthem, they started the race with the firing of a small cannon. Yes, it was actually tiny working cannon. Luckily, no one was in front of it when they fired it.

John jumped out immediately to the lead followed by several African runners and some tall white guy. Ulf and Ryan headed out in front of me as I was trying to determine how my legs felt. Tommy settled in beside me and Mark Render running off our shoulders.

Ulf and Ryan pulled out to about a 10 to 12 second lead on us by the mile. By the time, we reached mile 2 Ulf and Ryan had split up. Tommy dropped off the pace and Mark and I continued to churn along. Around mile 3, I asked Mark about this age; he was in 45-49 age group. Ut-O, this was bad news for me. Ryan was probably 30 seconds ahead and Ulf was about 15 seconds ahead of us. I told Mark that we needed to catch Ulf because he was in our age.

Mark didn't say anything so I wasn't sure if he was committed to the effort or not. So I made the decision that I was going to reel in Ulf if I could. Over the next 3 miles, I slowly cut the deficit until I was running right behind him.

That's when strangeness began. Ulf would slow down and the surge ahead. It took me a while to figure it out -his slowing and then looking at his watch before surging to the next mile mark. At first, I would try to match his surges, that is, until I figured him out. Then, I just settled in and waited until we passed the mile and waited on him to come back to me. Just before the Wright Brothers Park, Mark joined in our little group which worried me. Any times someone comes up after 7 miles, it raises a question if this is where they are making their push. Fortunately, Ulf put in one of his surges around the park and Mark dropped off.

Having run this course for the 3rd time, I knew what was coming and where. I started focusing on intermediate goals. First, I needed to stay with Ulf through 10 miles. Then, it was staying with him through the Nags Head Woods.

Coming off the Trail, we hit the roads running almost stride for stride. This type of racing is just like a Texas Poker. One runner makes a move and watches to see what the other does. Each runner gauges the other for a reaction before making his next move.

For me, every year when I come off the trail, I always try to focus on relaxing and getting my road rhythm back.

Passing 15 miles, I didn't feel that I was on the fence, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to go too much faster. Then, we made the first turn into a neighborhood. There was a water stop with people handing out water on both sides of the road. I went left the shortest distance and Ulf went right. By the time that we passed through I probably had a 15 to 20 meters gap on him.

This was an unexpected advantage and I wasn't sure if I wanted to press my advantage just yet. After a quick review of my options, I choose to hold the pace I was running. I didn't want to slow down and wait on Ulf. What I hoped would happen is that he would push closer to his red line to catch me. The water stop had been an unexpected opportunity to get an advantage while expending no additional energy.

I could hear his footsteps and him breathing but I didn't look back. I cleared through the neighborhood and he hadn't caught me.

We covered another long stretch on 158 before turning into the next neighborhood. As I made the turn, I could a glimpse of a runner maybe 50 yards back. My first thought, Ulf was hanging tough and we were going to battle right to the end.

I went about 100 yards before started this particular neighborhood looped. Suddenly, I started hearing footsteps again and heavy breathing again. Crap, Ulf had reeled me in less than ¼ mile. I thought maybe I had cracked and was slowing. I could feel him coming up on my shoulder.

All of a sudden, he was there. I looked over and it wasn't Ulf at all, it was Ryan. I had to do a double take. I thought that he was in front of us. I asked what happen and he said that he had to take a bathroom break at 13 miles.

Ryan slowly pulled in front and started to open a gap on me. At this point, we were passing by 19 miles and I had no idea how far Ulf was behind and didn't want to look.

I took stock of the situation. I had 7 miles to run. Yeah, I could cover this distance no problem but I didn't want to go into the red doing it.

With each passing mile, I evaluated how I felt and adjusted my effort to match. I didn't want to bonk and I wanted something left in the tank – just in case Ulf suddenly showed up. And, I knew it was better to give up 2, 3, 4, seconds per mile than cross red line and start losing major chunks of time.

Going up and over the bridge, this diesel truck was matching me stride for stride and sucking up all of my good oxygen. I just wanted him to go away.

Coming off the bridge, I made sure to lean forward and use my quads to take pounding. Thereby, I wasn't exposing my hamstrings to any strain – live and learn. I am never too old.

At this point, the ½ marathoners was spreading across the road and making it very difficult to pass them.

I made the first turn and headed toward Manteo. Coming up on the final 2 turns on the course, I took careful note of the ½ marathoners and when I made the turn, I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if there was anyone new following me. With the finish being slow close, I didn't want to be surprised.

Just past 26 miles, I took my final peek and didn't see anyone close. For the first time, 26 miles I could fully relax and enjoy the final .2 miles.

I crossed the finish line and stopped my Garmin at 2:41:33 having just run 26.45 miles. For the first time, I turned around and looked back. I didn't see another runner in sight.

Only later did I learn that the next runner was nearly a mile behind me.

We were met by one of the elite crew who escorted us to an area where we could change, rest, drink, and eat.

Setting down first the first time in nearly 3 hours, I needed to change clothes and shoes, but I didn't really want to. From about 10 miles on, I knew I was developing a bad blister on both feet. By 20 miles, I knew they were really bad (Oh, and painful). One blister is bad enough but a blister on both feet that there is nothing worse.

I pulled off my shoe and my sock and the bottom of my left foot was red. The blister had burst. The blister on my right hadn't burst but it looked bad and needed to be lanced. These were probably the worst blisters that I have ever had during a marathon – just part of life.

After changing, I hung out with Charlie, Ulf, Ryan, John, and Tommy for a while before heading out for the awards.

The women's awards went smoothly but the men's awards – not so much. Some guy had signed up for the marathon but decided to do just the ½ marathon. His ½ marathon time placed him 2nd place overall in the marathon. Essentially, he skewed all of the awards. Jim and the timing team had to redo everything.

But the wait was worth it, I finished 7th overall, 3rd USAT&F Open, 1st USAT&F – NC and RRCA Master's Champion. This was the 3rd year in a row that I have been lucky enough to capture all of these awards.

And, I couldn't have done it without all of the running buddies who keep me going when I was struggling to put one foot in front of another.

To all of you, I extend a heart thanks and appreciation for making the Charlotte Running Community one of the best around.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The hours are counting down one more time.

Setting here watching the sun start to settle over the Outer Banks, there are only a few hours left before I attempt my 9th marathon.

No. 9, by some accounts that is not a lot of marathons, but for me, I never expected to do another one after I finished my 2nd marathon and could barely walk.

I have my fingers crossed that I have at least adequately prepared for this one.

Ok, other news and notes, I was tracking Paul, Aaron, and Jay this morning. I don't know if the wind was blowing as hard in Richmond as it was here in Kill Devil Hills, but if it was, these guys had one ugly head wind.

I saw on facebook that Jay said that stomach was not cooperating. I know what he was saying I have been in those situations and it almost never leads to a good time.

But wind or not, these guys crushed it. They all ran fantastic times. Paul looked like he took it out easy and then closed strong with a 2:35. Jay crossed the line in 2:41 and Aaron crossed in 2:42. An interesting note on Aaron, he was shooting to run at least 1 second faster than I did at Twin Cities. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. He set the bar with a time just over 2:42 so I have to try and run 1 second faster.

My preparation is complete. This morning I was running a short 4 miler on the Nags Head Trail and followed it with a Tabata workout.

From there, I made another stop by Expo. There were a few last minute items that I needed to get. Then, I was off to grab some pasta for lunch, and finally a short walk along the beach before heading back to the room to rest. The temperature is in the 50s but with the wind blowing, body feels downright cold when I am standing outside.

But the positive, the wind is blowing out the North. Based on the weather man, the wind will be blowing out of the north tomorrow. So maybe for the first time in 3 years, I will finally get that tailwind.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Race Logistics

Last night an email popped into my inbox with the race weekend logistics. From the looks of it, I didn't see much has changed. We have an early wakeup call and the vans roll out at 5:45 for the start.

What interested me the most were the names on the "To:" line of the email. A few of the names were very familiar because I have raced them before. While some of the names that I recognized from other races but I hadn't seen on the OBX list before.

A couple of those guys are really tough Master's Runners with times in the mid 2:30. If I have any plans to be with them late in the race, I will really need to bring my "A" game this weekend. But it also puts me in the role of being the "underdog". The "underdog" role is a role that I relish. By being over matched, these guys are expected to be well ahead of me so when I still around late, my confidence starts to grow. And, we all know the racing doesn't really start until 20 miles of the marathon.

For now, I guess we will all have to wait until about 9:20. That will roughly be about the time that I pass through 20 miles on Sunday morning. Keep your fingers crossed.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

6 x 2 minutes is in the books

Wow, 6 weeks seems to have flown by and I am standing at the door steps ready to run another marathon. Often I wonder why other people sign up for such impossible tasks and what is it about these tasks that attract people to do them. Is it really necessary for us to take the most difficult road possible all of the time?

For me there is only answer to this question. Yes, it is.

I cannot seem to do anything that doesn't require a mountain of effort to overcome. My guess this is life's plan for me until I die.

Anyway, this morning my alarm went off at 5 am and I was headed out the door to meet Nathan at 6 am for my last hard effort before OBX.

My motivation has been running low. So I am blaming this on my diet. Normally, I try to reduce my carb consumption leading up to a marathon, but proteins just don't give me the energy either physically or mentally for hard workouts.

Logically, it makes sense to do this but it doesn't make it any easier. I want to feel good and hungry to race this weekend.

Sorry for the tangent. We headed back to this little quiet neighborhood for our usual hard workouts. From other post, I have shared that this little loop can be broken into 3 parts: Downhill, flat, and uphill.

We always start on the uphill portion so we can finish on the downhill and flat portion. Nathan has been great about doing the lead outs. Today, we hit the first one in a sluggish 6:10 pace. This was more of a wakeup call to my body.

We followed with some 5:50s, 5:40s, 5:30s, and 5:20s. All well below my goal marathon pace and the real reason that my breathing was so labored.

Before going into the warm down, I had to slow for a few minutes while my breathing caught up to my running. Pretty much after the first interval, my breathing was far, far behind me. At least that is my story and I am sticking with it.

We knocked out a couple more miles before splitting off. Nathan headed home and I headed back to my car.

After feeling like I was struggling throughout my workout, I didn't really feel tired once I got back to my car. I can honestly say that I don't feel this too often.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just 4 more days

OBX is just 4 more days away. 4 days before Twin Cities, I was worried if my legs would have the mojo. I felt like I was under trained entering that marathon.

Funny, now I find myself again worried about my legs having the race mojo, but the worry comes from the opposite side of the picture.

With only 6 weeks between marathons and a ton of work completed, my legs don't feel great but they don't feel bad. I have had some excellent workouts over the last 6 week which points to being in good shape.

But we all know that feeling good during the first 13 miles is important, but it is the 2nd 13 miles of back to back ½ marathons that dictates if your race is a success.

My gut tells me; I will not find out until I am actually somewhere between miles 15 and 22 on Sunday. I mean; doesn't it sound funny just to say that you have to run a little over an hour and half just to find out if you are having a good day. There is no other sport aside from maybe car racing where after hours of feeling good your entire day can just tank at a moment's notice.

Buy enough talk of tanking and lack of mojo. My game plan is exactly the same as the last three years. I want to survive the 5k nature section and get myself over the bridge.

Then, I can hang out in Manteo and enjoy the day before driving home.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 8, 2010

Marathon Taper – Intensity vs. Distance

As we are the midst of marathon season for runners, writing about intensity vs. distance during the marathon taper period should be something that I thought would interested everyone.

Marathon Tapering is a pretty standard concept. Most people understand that after months of training the body needs to recover to be ready for their big race day effort.

The true question becomes how much distance and how much intensity should be targeted during the taper. Too much of either or both will cause your race day to be something other than the effort that you want. Too little of either can leave you feeling sluggish and wondering if your feet are embedded in concrete.

Being that I am in the final week of my taper for OBX, I thought I would share what I have been doing.

My training plans typically drop the mileage by 10% off the peak week for the first week of a 3 week taper. 20% off the 2nd week of the taper and finish with 30% to 40% during week leading up to the marathon.

Where does the mileage come out of my schedule? Well, first I don't drop days or to say it another way, take very short, very easy days. After so many training days, the body usually gets into a rhythm. It expects certain workouts on certain days. In my opinion, this rhythm is something that needs to be continued.

My suggestion is to shave a few miles off of each workout. Just a few miles can make a world of difference. Dropping my miles from 16 to 12 or to 10 can leave my legs a lot fresher even for the very next day.

For long runs, I will do a 20 miler 2 weeks out and a 16 miler one week out. Some people prefer a shorter long run the week before the marathon. However, I have found that 16 usually will work well for me. Pacewise, these long run efforts will be at an easy pace. This is the time that I like to hook up with a few people and knock down the miles at conversational pace.

What about the other factor – Intensity? To me, the intensity aspect is the most difficult to get right. Tapering leaves the legs with an extra bounce. Therefore, body is more willing to push in harder. And, in its self this is a good think but it needs to be kept in perspective.

During the 1st week of my taper, I stay with a least 2 hard but consist efforts. The 2nd week, I will still have 2 hard efforts but I like to do them right around marathon pace or maybe just a little faster. The idea being that on race day the pace should feel easy to me. In the week leading up to the marathon, I will schedule my final speed session. Usually, I like to do this speed session at marathon pace for 2 to 3 miles of an overall workout. This workout should be at least 3 to (preferably) 4 days out from race day. This leaves me plenty of recovery time.

Now, for the word of caution, our tapers leave us with the desire to run harder. Sometime, this desire is very overwhelming. This can be especially during group workouts. Some one that you have been chasing is suddenly within reach so you decide to dig a little deeper and get them.

My advice to you is do not do it. Digging too far into your reserves could very well mean that you leave your best efforts on some unknown track, road, or trail rather than on the race course.

More than once, I have watched other runners put distance on me during workouts in my taper period. I wanted so badly to push on and stay with them. I wanted to test my limits, but I always had a plan and stuck to it. In nearly every case, this was the right decision because on race day I had the necessary mental and physical reserves needed to race well. And, I like to think my times show it.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner




From what direction is the wind blowing

I just love how the weather changes from one day to the next. Yesterday, on the wind was forecast to be blowing from the NNW next Sunday morning – a tail wind on the Outer Banks Marathon day. Upon checking the forecast again this morning, the direction has totally changed. Now, the wind is expected to be blowing from the SSW so thanks a lot for giving me a nice stiff head wind for 22 miles of the race. LOL


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Muddy Day at McAlpine

I got up at 5AM this morning and was exchanging emails with Nathan and Megan about running at Mc Alpine. Secretly, we were each most likely hoping the other wouldn't want to run in the chilly, cold, soaking rain this morning.

But as the emails arrived in my inbox, they all indicated our run was still on.

So a little after a 6am I headed out only to find a few bumps in my cross town travels. First, I guess because of the rain traffic was terrible. Next, I missed the turn off on 74 to head over to the Old Bell entrance. So the next thing I did was locked up my front wheels and slide trying to turn in to the next parking lot. I got past this one. Then, there were two big pot holes that I missed seeing during my parking lot cut through.

So after this little adventure, I still had time to make it but had one last speed bump to cross. If you are familiar with the area, one of the connecting roads which I take from 74 over to the Old Bell entrance has a rail road crossing. Low and behold, this morning, there was a very, very, very long and slow moving train crossing in front of us.

Shaking my head, I was starting to wonder if this was a sign to turn around and go home. But I was committed to running and if Megan and Nathan were willing to run in the rain, I was not going to skip out on them.

Luckily, the train passed and I made it to the entrance in the nick of time.

Nathan and Megan came out their cars ready to go but I always swap out clothes for my cooler weather gear. I suspect it must be my way of delaying the run for just a few more minutes.

However, once we got rolling, it was not actually that bad.

The rain was falling but not too hard. The Mc Alpine trail was wet and muddy but better than on some other occasions that I have run there. And, nothing was flooded which is always a plus.

After two miles, Nathan and I started our workout of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 with ½ recoveries. On the first two intervals we ran side by side. On the third interval, Nathan has a little more in the tank and I was chasing him. On the final two intervals, it was my turn to push the pace. The legs didn't feel exceptionally great but then they didn't feel bad. Other than just being a little too cold for my liking, it was really good workout. And, I was glad that I didn't turn around and head home and that I had some friends out for this run.

We all headed back to the Old Bell entrance on the warm down to finish off my 10 miles.

Now, I am ready to face the day now that I have the hardest part behind me.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking it to the roads

While circulating through my favorite blogs, I pulled up Mark Hadley's Blog. After just a few minute of reading, I quickly realized that Mark's suggested race week cut down workout looked very familiar. Well, except for the 400 meter loop, it was very similar.

Mark suggested a race week cut-down work-out where a runner goes through a set of intervals each one getting progressively shorter and faster. He goes into great detail describing the distance and the prescribed speed to execute these intervals. The link above will lead you to his post. Please take the opportunity to read it.

That being said, with just a few small twists, it is the same workout that I will be doing tomorrow morning.

My workout-out is based on time rather than distance. Tomorrow, I will be running 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 minute intervals with ½ recoveries. I prefer this method of training because it is more effort based. And I have become a big believer in effort based training. The ability to read how your body feels and to know that there is more in the tank is an important attribute that each runner needs to learn.

Also by taking intervals on to the road, I am better able to simulate the same conditions that I will encounter during a race. Races have flats, uphills, downhills, twist and turns in the road. Learning how to tackle these obstacles while running hard is just as important as teaching your body to run faster.

But the thought process behind the two different styles of workouts is exactly the same – to run each interval slightly faster but leave the body at a point where it wants to do more.

On side note, the other advantage, time and effort based workouts are that they can be plugged into just about anything from a general aerobic day, a tempo run, or a long run. On several occasions, I have added this particular workout that I am doing tomorrow during a 22 miler. Once I finished the workout, the training pace felt so much easier.

Before I wrap up, I want to add one more comment. I don't want to people take it that I am against track workouts. Indeed, they have their place. But just like every runner is unique, the style of training that works best for them is just as unique. For me, the roads work best.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 1, 2010

Race Tactics

While reading the The Running Times for this month, I came across an article on Race Tactics. The article delved a little into two common themes such as the "set and kick" approach or the "push hard to wear down your opponent" approach.

But to me race tactics are a lot more than just these two approaches. Race Tactics have to include self awareness. Meaning that as you are racing – you are well aware of everything going on inside on your own body: are the feet hurting, how do the calves feel, are the hamstrings tight, are the quads feeling heavy, how are the arms feeling, and what is my breathing like. All of these factors and many more body signals go into the decision making process before picking up the pace, trying to maintain my current pace, or even slowing the pace so that I can carry my existing effort to the end.

For many of us like me, this is plenty of information to handle during a race. But for the people who want to take it a step further, there is additional information about the guy or gal that you want to out run that needs to be factored into the equation. How do they look, are they straining, how is their breathing? Are they slowing heading up hill? Etc.

All of this stuff is real time information that must be process during the race itself, but then there is other information that can be gathered even before the race.

To be honest, with everyone that run I am always taking notes. And being that I live in Charlotte, the men and the women that I train with are the exact same ones that I race with on Saturday morning. So it would always be in my best interest to know their strengths and weakness. Do they like to surge up hills? Do they surge on the down hills? What is their kick like? Do they show the strain of a hard effort? Everything is a learning experience.

And having raced for years, I have tried my best to hide most of my "tics". This way most people will never get a good read on me during the race. As for training miles, I found that I struggle on the up hills and like going slowly down hills, and when it comes to sprinting, I only do it when I must. My strengths are fairly simple, I always try to wear people down because I am neither a great sprinter nor am I super fast. But the longer the race, the better I like my changes because speed and endurance tend to equalize as the distance grows.


Just some random thoughts from the Cool Down Runner


Mooresville Pumpkin 8k Run Race Recap 10.30.2010

Saturday morning, there were numerous races in and around the Charlotte area. Everything was from 5k to 8k to 10k races.

After kicking around several ideas, I settled on the Mooresville, NC Pumpkin 8k Run.

I have done this race a few times in the past but had not been able to run it in the last couple of years.

Couple that with the with the fact that I hadn't run much around Charlotte this year and the fact that I was looking for something along the 5 mile distance made this the perfect choice.

The race didn't start until 9 AM and when I drove by the race headquarters at 7:30, I thought maybe I had the wrong location. There parking lot was totally empty.

But rest assured, many people just taking a little extra sleep before heading out to burn some calories on this Saturday morning.

Being a little early also gave me another perk; I took the opportunity to drive over the course – for nothing more than to just refresh my memory to all of the turns.

Race Day registration was $25 which isn't too bad considering how race entry fees go and my bib number was 9. Made me wonder how many people were signed up. However, most of the numbers were used for the preregistered runners.

To test out the legs, I knocked out an easy 3 mile warm up and followed it with some nice strides. The sun was just making it over the horizon at race time which left us with a slightly chilly start.

We received a few last minute prerace instructions before being sent on our way.

There was one woman that took off sprinting and it would take a quarter mile before I would catch her.

My goal for this race was to focus on a tempo type of effort and try to run 5:50 miles.

The first few miles were under goal pace but then they were the fast miles. Miles 3 and 4 had a lot more climbing to which my pace slowed to 5:55 and 6:06. I wasn't too worried by the slower miles because I was continuing to put out the same effort that I had used for the 1st 2 miles.

Once past mile 4 I pushed smoothly toward the finish line – closing the last mile in a relaxed 5:42.

Running solo well other than the Police SUV was tough even when running a race. But the effort based run was what I needed most and I thought it went very well.

The Brooks shoes for winning were also an added Bonus. Actually, I won Mizuno shoes, but another guy won Brooks shoes and asked if I was interested in swapping awards.

Definitely, this wasn't a problem for me. I like Brooks.

Plenty of sports drinks and food were available after the race. In addition they had a lot of really nice door prizes.

It is a surprise that more people don't come out for this particular race, but then I guess it is hard to compete against a race that allows you to run on an airport runway.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Thursday, October 28, 2010

4 x 3 minutes

After spinning in the easy gears since last Saturday, this morning I was ready to shift into the big ring. At least mentally, I thought I was ready.

It seems like every run these days that I need to run a few miles before knowing if my legs are up for anything faster.

This morning Nathan and I headed back to the neighborhood where we did 6 x 2 minute last week. But today, I changed things up a bit by doing 4 x 3 minutes with 1/2 recovery.

Nathan has been great on these runs. With his rested legs, he runs just far enough in front of me that I have someone to chase. Honestly, it is like have the carrot out in front. I am struggling but I don't want to quit.

Definitely, it is a great way to start the day.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So So 16 miler

Going to bed Monday night, I had high hopes of what Tuesday would hold. Boy, did yesterday turn out just the opposite.

The morning started when my alarm went off at 4:01 am. But before I could roll out of bed, I heard the rain pounding against my roof.

My plan was to run with the Miner's Group but running at a wet, soaked, and possibly pouring Mc Alpine didn't seem like the best of ideas.

So I pushed the alarm to the off position and went back to sleep. I guess that is where my day started to go downhill.

I woke a few hours later and did a quick catch up on work email from the night before. This was followed by core workouts and weights before pulling myself atop my bike which was setting on my trainer for 1 ½ of riding.

Then, it was off to work where I was jumping from one task to another and from one meeting to another. I started to wonder if I would ever get finished.

Sometime after 5pm, I finally was able to push away and head out the door for 16 miles. Initially, I had plans for doing a 5 mile tempo, but in the first mile I realized that was not going to happen. But I thought I might be able to muster enough mental strength to do 10 x 1 minute after a solid warm up. Except that after 6 miles, neither my brain nor body seemed willing to pick up the pace.

So I just prodded along until I had finished all 16 miles and return home. I grabbed a quick bite and headed off to bed. Why prolong the day any longer. Hitting the bed early means that tomorrow I will most likely rise early, fresh, and ready to go.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner