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 weather.com 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