Sunday, July 31, 2011

Salem Lake 30k Recon Run

Early this morning I met up with Aaron, Ben, Mike, Megan, Adam, and Justin for a run over the Salem Lake 30k course.

While I have been to Winston-Salem several times and raced there a few times, I have never run the Salem Lake 30k. So I was excited about checking out the course and seeing what people have talked about for many years. If you must know, I have wanted to do this race for a long time but there was always conflicted with the Brixx 10k which meant, I couldn't do it.

This year, the Salem Lake 30k was on my race list early so I would not waiver in my commitment to doing it.

What did I learn about the course today?

Well, I learned a few things.

  • The course is not completely flat. There are some rolling hills in the first few miles and again about 6 miles into the race. Since the course is out and back, the hills get tackled from both sides. The 2nd set of hills around 6 miles I consider the hardest because of the requirement to run the switch backs to get to the top.
  • The trail section bounces back and forth from a smooth dirt road to a rocky road. Just rocky enough, racing flats might not be doable.
  • On the far side of the lake there is a 100 yard section that is paved and quite narrow.
  • Once you leave the trail and hit the greenway, the course is mainly pavement with a few sections of concert.
  • The turnaround is a next to a soccer field on the greenway. We saw the markings on the pavement. Looks like runners need to make a complete stop turn around, and head back.
  • With about 5 miles left, runners can see back where the finish is located, but they still have to circumvent the lake first.
  • As far as roots are concerned, there course does have roots sticking up through the road but there is nothing that runners cannot run around or over.
  • The course is marked every mile so runners have a good idea of the distance run.

There is some construction going on at the lake and we heard they may be reversing the direction of the race. I have not seen this confirmed anywhere else, but pay attention to the web site. I am sure they will let us know.

While we were running today, I dropped off after about 10 miles. My week had been heavy with running and riding which left the legs heavy. I wasn't too concerned with dropping the pace down to 7:50 a mile. Running slower and alone, I got a chance to take-in the course and makes some mental notes for the race in September.

But all in all, the trail and greenway make a nice place for training. And with it being just over an hour's drive to Winston-Salem, the drive up and back is relatively easy.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poker Ride and more

My cards were a seven, six, three, Jack, and a nine. Needless to say, I didn't have a winning but this is how it goes sometimes.

This morning, I either purposely or by accident put way too much on my schedule. Funny, how easy something sounds when I think about it, but when I actually do it; the difficulty really starts to sink in.

At 4:31 AM, the alarm goes off. By 5:15 I have everything loaded in the car that I will need for one really hard brick workout.

6 AM, I met Megan and Mike for 10 miles with 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 taking half recovery between each hard interval. Not much really to say about this workout other than, I am getting old and slow. I thought I could at least stay close, but my legs just would not cooperate. I was dragging up the rear on every interval.

To honest, I was actually glad to get back to car.

But then, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 7:25. I had 25 minutes to make it over to TrySports, register for the Poker Ride, and put on my bike clothes.

Not sure how I did it, but I rolled in to the parking at 7:45. Ran into the store registered, and ran back to my car to get ready.

7:55 I rolled to the front of the store, cycling clothes on – check, bike – check , Garmin – check, and water bottles – check. I was ready to go.

If you are not familiar with a Poker ride, basically, we go to 5 locations. At each location, we were given a playing card. The cyclist with the best Poker hand once we get back to TrySports is declared the winner. This was my first Poker Ride, so it added something new to the over ride.

Since TrySports is off of Rea Road, we hit 5 locations on the south side of the city: Sports Connection, downtown Waxhaw, Harris Teeter over by Providence Road, Rush Espresso, and the Ballantyne YMCA.

TrySports was expecting about 60 cyclists to show up but ended up having 107 riders. Proceeds from the ride went to the Y children outreach program.

So with 107 riders, they broke us up into two groups. One group rode about 17-18 while another group rode 15-17.

I was in the first group and doing well, until we got the Rush Espresso. My legs were finally started to balk from fatigue. Luckily, we only had about 10 miles left in the ride.

Overall, I wish I had more kick in my legs but I muddle through.

There was some food and drinks at the store and I met some new people. Saw Glen, Kent, Billy, Jerry, Rob, Rob, Andre, Stan, Jinnie, Coy among others at the store.

I wish I could have hung out longer, but I still had stuff to do and more places to go today.

By the way, here are some pictures from the ride. I took my cell phone along and uploaded them as we rode. It is kind of like in race reporting.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Thursday, July 28, 2011

75 oz. of H20 per day

Monday night I met a few other runners for dinner. Not long into the dinner, the topic turned to the heat smothering Charlotte and to staying hydrated.

Honestly, I wouldn't call myself an expert. Even to point, I am probably a novice considering my most recent exploits.

Anyway, the conversation continued and the main theme followed that the average person needed at least 75 ounces of water per day.

Many of them knew the miles that I put in daily so the question came to me – "how much do you drink?". Honestly, I don't track how much water that I drink on a daily basis.

But later that night, it did start me thinking about how much water I drink per day.

So I tried to come up with a total for an average day.

Take last Saturday for example, at 5:30 AM, Mike and I ran 10 miles in 75 minutes. Okay, maybe it was a little more than 75 minutes, but you get the picture.

I was home in about 15 minutes for a quick breakfast and probably drank about 50 ounces of water. Then, I loaded up my 2 x 24 oz. water bottles and rode back to Huntersville for the Spirited Group ride. During the ride, I consumed both bottles of water.

At this point, I have nearly 100 ounces of water and it wasn't even noon. Returning home, I drank probably another 48 ounces and then mowed the yard and basically did a lot of stuff around the house. I don't know how much I drank during the afternoon but I remember drinking a lot of water.

Later in the evening, I went to see a movie, the 8th Harry Potter movie, and had a 20 oz. bottle of water.

For dinner, I had probably had another 30 oz.

Best guesstimate, I drank in excess 250 oz of water in one day.

Is that too much? Is it too little?

At no point did I ever feel thirsty.

Although, it takes me back to something Megan told me. As we get older our ability to sense thirst is decreased. At 46, maybe I should drink more water even if I don't think I needed it.



Just some thoughts to ponder from the Cool Down Runner


Thursday, July 21, 2011

When to DNF?

After this weekend's race, the topic of "DNF" reared its ugly head for some runners. A "DNF" means that a runner "Did not finish". There is any number of reasons for having a "DNF" in a race and to be honest, they are all valid for the runner who is not able to finish.

But my question is "how do you know when enough is enough?" vs. pushing through the difficult times to reach the finish.

Personally, I find this is a hard question to get my hands around.

But I do have some personal experiences at both ends of the spectrum.

Throughout the many years that I have raced, I only "DNF" one race. This was a ½ marathon and I was sick going into the race. If I remember right, I had a temperature of something like 102 and felt awful. A normal person would have never even started the race. But runners are not normal. About 8 miles into the race, I just totally came unglued. Nothing was working and I started walking. I could have probably walked the last 5 miles, but I was figuratively and literally done. I took a short cut to the finish area. I got into my car and drove home – never more dejected in my life.

But the drive wasn't for not. By the time, I pulled into my driveway; I had made myself a promise. I would return again. I would not let any course defeat me. Several years later, I did return and put right the distaste from that day.

On the other end of the spectrum, I endured the affects Hatfield and McCoy Marathon this year. This was a perfect storm for a runner – hilly, hot, humid, and 26.2 miles. By 10 miles, I knew I had been running too hard. By the ½ point, I was struggling. The last half of the marathon there was a lot of hot intense sunshine which made me feel like I was on the inside of a pressure cooker.

My body was limping along. For all practical purposes, I should have ended my efforts and took a ride back to the finish.

Why I pushed on; I don't know. Maybe it was because this was a point to point course and I still had to get back to the finish. Maybe I was just so out of it that I didn't realize that I needed to stop.

Only after an IV and 2 bags of solution after finishing did I really snap out of it.

Talking about this topic takes me back to the video of Julie Moss in the 1982 Ironman. Coming to the finish in the lead, she is extremely fatigued and dehydrated. She stumbles, falls, gets up staggers, and crawls to get to the finish. She is passed by Kathleen McCartney for the win in the last few yards.

She could have just as easily given up to the dreaded "DNF", but her mental tenacity overcame her body's willingness stop.

So when should a runner "DNF"?

The best answer is there are lots of answers and no answers.

When I step the starting line, I expect, no, I know there will be some level of discomfort from racing. How much discomfort am I willing ignore before giving in to the pain is the true question? And, it is a question that each athlete must answer for themselves.



Thought from the Cool Down Runner



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are Downhill courses faster?

When someone tells me that they ran a downhill course, I immediately picture a course flowing gently downhill on wide paved roads. Too bad, no course ever measures up to exactly how we imagine it. Just think about the difference between driving from Charlotte and Statesville. We can take 77 north and be in Statesville in roughly 35 to 40 minutes or we could take 115. Going to the same destination long roughly the same path but under different conditions means the same trip takes an hour and half – maybe more.

So should downhill courses be judged differently than flat courses?

Every course has its own unique characteristics be it flat, uphill, or downhill.

Flat courses tend to offer runners an opportunity to hold an even pace the entire way. There is no concept of banking time or having a particular section that is faster than another. Granted I am casting a broad net across courses by disregarding such things as wind, temperature, running surfaces etc. But you get the idea.

Downhill courses push the runner in different ways. Rarely are downhill course smooth gentle sloping roads. Most of the time, downhill courses tend to have steep slopes along with a plethora of switch backs. This is because they are built for cars to go up and down and not for runners to run PRs.

Let's not forget hills. Flat courses may have a slight change in slope but usually the slope is gentle and unnoticeable. Whereas runners may find that downhill courses will have at least a few hills somewhere along the way.

Going back to "The Scream" for example, many sections along course actually had me leaning back instead of forward due to the grade and trying to run the tangents around switchback after switchback. As well, "The Scream" threw in some hills: 2 miles at the beginning, a couple of hills in the middle miles, and a couple of hills in the final mile. Boston is considered a downhill course by many but there are some nasty little climbs in the middle. And more than one person has seen their race go down the tubes before cresting those hills.

Are downhill course faster than flat courses? The answer doesn't lay in the course but in the runner and how well they are able to handle the course. I will share this everyone. Of all of my PRs only one of them came on a downhill course. And, no it wasn't a marathon or half marathon it was a 5k, but only by 19 seconds.



Thoughts from a Cool Down Runner






Saturday, July 16, 2011

2000 ft drop was a Scream – Race Recap 7-16-2011

Two plus miles into the "The Scream" half marathon, Mike, Rick Stewart, and I were passing the first water stop and beginning our decent down the mountain. No longer able to contain myself, I let out a scream that seemed to carry me all the way to the finish line in 1:16:32 and 3rd Overall.

"The Scream" half marathon is a point to point course starting at Jonas Ridge and running along forest roads for 13.21 miles – at least as measured by my Garmin.

With no real local places to stay, runners had basically three options to choose. Ben, Mike, and I stayed in Morganton and drove the last 45 minutes race morning. I heard that Theoden and a few others choose the camping option that had runners staying near the finish. Then, of course there is Bobby Aswell option. He drove up this morning.

Since this was a point to point course, runners had the option of riding a shuttle or pairing up so there was a car at the start and finish. We used the car at the start and finish option.

Mike knew the way so I was following him this morning. We drove and drove and drove. It was still dark and all I could see was a dirt road and tons of trees on both sides. I begin to wonder if he was lost. But I took comfort in the fact that I had a full tank of gas because the nearest gas station was miles and miles away.

Fortunately, Mike did know where he was going and we found the finish line area. Within a few minutes, I found a good place to park and we were on our way to the start by driving along the course.

The winding gravel road made the 13 mile drive seemed to take forever. But I was trying to take in as much of the course as I could. I carefully listen to Mike and Ben as the pointed out the uphills and the steep downhill sections.

Finally around 7 am, we reached the starting area and people were already arriving. Actually, people were arriving before David Lee and team arrived with the packets. Once they did, a line quickly formed. However, we were lucky. Many of the runners were staying at our hotel and David was kind enough to drop off our packets the night before. Kudos to him and his team for this personalize service to the runners. I don't know of another race that would do this for their runners.

Mike, Ben, and I headed out for a quick little 3 mile warm up. Ben seemed bounce along excitedly. I think he was ready to race. Mike had injured his foot earlier in the week so I think he was taking it slow. As for myself, my legs felt heavy and sluggish which had been a contrast to how they felt all week.

Back at the car, who should show but Peter A. from Vac & Dash, Sharon, and Richard H. Peter was kind enough to shuttle Sharon and Richard to the start line before heading off. Honestly, I think Peter is always smiling. I can never remember a time that he wasn't.

The start was just a short distance from where we parked. A few minutes before 8 AM we all headed toward the starting line. Everything was delayed a few minutes to allow for runners to make the journey. This was just enough time for me to meet Josh Baker. I knew him by reputation but I hadn't had a chance to put a name with a face as yet.

David said a few words to us and the left us in the capable hands of the official starter. He told us that he would be using an air horn and give 2 short burst followed by a long burst which would start the race. Well, those short burst were really short and with the long burst we were off.

While this course boasts of a 2000 ft net drop, there are some hills along the course. The first 2 miles were basically a gentle climb. Then, we turn off on to the gravel road. This is where I grabbed my first water and let out my scream. The water stops were roughly every two miles through 12 miles.

Mike, Rick, and I covered the first two miles in 5:58 and 5:55. Josh and Ben were already out of sight at this point. I had chosen to skip wearing a shirt of any type. Temperatures hovered around 60 degrees with lots of fog and a steady drizzle which was perfect shirtless weather. Besides, my singlet was white and I knew it would be covered in mud by the finish.

I had half expected Mike to go out a little harder so when we turned onto the gravel and were still together, I began to wonder if his foot was bothering him. I didn't expect him to tell me, but if it was I thought why not see if I can make it hurt a little more. LOL. So for the next series of miles we knocked off splits in the 5:30s and then a 5:20 mile. Basically, any time I felt Mike slow down I would try to pass him. It was working too. He would pick it right back. Actually, my strategy was probably working a little too well. By 6 miles we were still flying down hill, but my legs were totally trashed. Never in my life have I run that hard that long downhill.

We were passing the 6 mile water stop and I went for the Gatorade. Half of it went all over me and the rest went into my tummy, but when I looked up, Mike had put 25 meters on me. Up to this point on the down hills, I would push him along but on the up hills he would gap me.

Now, those 25 meters couldn't be undone. My legs would not let me close the gap. And, Mike kept checking over his shoulder to make sure I wasn't gaining. We hit a couple of uphill sections and Mike's lead grew. I was not exactly slowing down. More so, he was getting faster. My legs were just shot from running downhill. I really needed to be running 5:30s but was running more like 5:50 miles.

In some of the longer straight sections of the course, I could still see him through the drizzle and fog.

Around 8 miles, I came over a rise and saw this figure stranding alongside the road. At first, I thought maybe Mike's foot had done him in but no, it was Ben. His calf had cramped up from the repeated downhill miles. So he was left waiting beside the road. (Yes, I drove back up, picked him up, and then drove back to the finish). He yelled something about come pick me up to which I responded "come on". To no avail, he was done and out of the race.

I felt bad for him but heck, I still had a race to run and I was now in 3rd OA. It was now time to take systems check. Body was totally beaten up but Rick had dropped back so no one was pressuring me to run any harder. All I had to do was hold it together for another 5 miles. Sounds easy right?

While there are some climbs in the middle of the course, the little climbs in the 13th mile felt the toughest to me. Partly, this was due to me starting to run out of gas. Okay, mostly, it was me actually running out gas.

I kept looking at my Garmin and wondering where the finish line was. Finally, I rounded this corner and in the distance, I could see Mike heading for the finish. Mental signals were sent from my brain to my legs; go now.

I crossed the finish line in 1:16:32. This was 42 seconds behind Mike and 3+ minutes behind Josh. Clearly, this was a decent effort for a 46 year dud who has not done a lick of speed work in months.

In retrospect, David and his team did a great job with the race. Other than a few extra porta potties needed at the start, I could not find anything wrong with the race. The miles were all marked. Water stops were every two miles. Results were out timely. The race shirt was awesome.

There are some runner beware notices. The course follows some quiet country roads both paved and gravel. Along the course there are a lot of blind corners where if the runner follows the tangent, they are right in the path of oncoming traffic so be careful. Also I do have to point out with all of the rain the gravel section was muddy which made running difficult, but it was difficult for everyone. So I am not complaining about it, but just wanted to point out the fact.

Is it a PR? It can be but a runner needs to handle the steep downhill sections well and should really work on their leg turnover beforehand. One of things that bothered me today was that I hadn't done any speed work so my legs were turning over a lot faster than usual. This wears them down much faster.

Oh, I don't want to forget. Sharon D. ran a great time 1:33:29 for the 3rd Female overall and Richard H ran 1:32:11 1st Age Group. Bobby finished in 1:22:16 and was the first Masters runner. Kudos to them for their efforts.

David already has the results posted here



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner.




Friday, July 15, 2011

The Scream – thoughts on it

The Scream half marathon goes off at 8 AM tomorrow morning. More than a few people have been eyeing this summer time half marathon as a chance to run a PR (Personal Record). Wondering why so many people think they can PR on this course? Well, these people might be thinking about how they can take advantage of the fact that the elevation drops 2000 ft between the start and finish. That's definitely a lot of downhill and more than one runner that I have talked to thinks they can run very fast on it.

I have never run the course so I cannot speak to the course personally. I have heard that it has a couple of miles of pavement followed by many miles of gravel road. The other interesting tidbit that I have heard is that there is a hill hidden somewhere in the middle of the course.

This is an interesting tidbit because there is no observable upraise in the elevation profile.

My game for plan for the race is to settle in for a few miles. Depending on how the legs feel, I may just try to hold that pace but if they are feeling good, I will try to pick it up and work the downhill.

My legs don't feel great very often so if I cruise in around 1:20, I will be very happy.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Changing things up a bit

With the temperatures pushing into the upper 90s, somehow it doesn't seem like time to again ramp up for a fall marathon but it is. But before I can jump into the training, my marathon plan needs to be made. But even before the plan can be made, a little introspection can be most helpful.

By introspection, I look at all aspects of my training and make the changes that I think will help me improve.

Too often, I feel like I fall into a rut. Day in day out, my body has performed the same routine so often that each tasks often become rote memory. When I find these things happening, changing things up is often the key to get my body rolling again.

So what I am changing up this time? There are two things: core work and resistance training.

My typical week follows doing small session core work and resistance training 5 days per week with 2 days off.

For the next round of training, I am shifting these around. My plan is to do longer sessions of core and resistance training, but split them up on different days. Right now, the plan is to do 3 days of core work per day with multiple sets. Then, do the resistance training 2 days per with multiple sets. I'd like to get these sessions to occur at the "Y" so I can do a lot machine work for both upper and lower body. Especially, I would like work my hamstring to make them stronger so during the last miles of my marathon, they still have some snap in them.


Keep reading throughout the fall to see how it progresses.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Calorie Counting

Last night for dinner was a nice salad and dessert. I wasn't consuming anything too out landaus. Dinner was just something small and simple, but as I was finishing up the last bite, I started thinking back to the time when I was counting calories.

Each day was spent trying to balance the calories in with the calories out. Or to put it another way, a runner's worst enemy beyond self doubt is weight. Every extra pound seems to add seconds or for a marathon minutes to my time.

Eating became more of chore than anything else.

I felt if I ate too much, the extra calories were something that I needed to burn off. Thus, this meant more miles running or cycling or doing something. At the end of the day the goal was always to be either even or under. The days when the calories were over seemed to weigh more on my mind than the weight that I actually added to my body.

Trying to maintain an even or under status is great in theory but easier said than done in practice. Far too many of my workouts were run at half throttle because I didn't have the energy physically which impacted me mentally to push through then.

Slowly over time, my philosophy began to change. I tried to learn from my mistakes and counting calories while still a good idea, the practice has to work in conjunction with my training.

I had always viewed that the calories that I put in my body directly influenced my training that day. And, yes, this is very much true. However, this is very much a myopic view of the situation.

Diet and training need to go hand in hand.

In reality, I need to look at the entire week and eat according to my coming workouts. To provide an excellent example, in the days before marathon, I load up on pasta to provide the energy reserves to handle a tough race.

Why this same concept didn't carry over into my training until now, I don't have an explanation.

This is why I think the holistic approach is much better. Calories numbers really need to be adjusted upward or downward with the volume and intensity of my training. Having a max raw number of calories at the end of the day limits the amount of energy heading into tomorrow. Without the appropriate energy reserves, I will not and most likely cannot train well enough to reach my goals.

I will leave you with the parting thought. Eat plenty of food and energy will be abundant during your workouts, but you may put on weight. Hold back the food and your workouts will always seem like you are running uphill, but you will be lean. Seems like a no win situation for running a fast time doesn't it.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

10 x 200 meters

As I get older, I find that I like to ease into things slowly. I get up at least an hour before I go run. I always try to arrive at least an hour before my race starts. All of my runs start slow and let me my body come up to speed before trying to run hard.

The same can be said for my training plans. I don't jump right into fast, hard intervals. Instead, I slowly work up the intensity.

This morning I was out doing 10 x 200 with 200 meter recoveries on the track. Using this 200 meter workout for a few weeks will help my legs adjust to greater workout with more intensity. Around the first of August, I start to throw in some hill workouts as the next step in the progress.

September, the long intervals will make their way into my workouts.

October will find a continuation of the long intervals but also a mixture of short intervals – 400 and 800.

My hope is that this will all culminate with another good effort at OBX.

As with anything, only time will tell.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bear – Race Recap 7/7/11

On Thursday night as Mike and I were warming up before "The Bear", our miles were in the mid 7 minute range. I casually mentioned to Mike that our pace was pretty much as fast as I expected to run for this race. Thinking back now, truer words have never been spoken by me.

Mike and I headed up to Linville Falls for "The Bear" 5 mile road race. The Bear Road race for those not familiar runs 5 miles from downtown Linville Falls to the top of Grand Father Mountain. The race starts at an elevation of 3640 ft and rises to 5181 which is just short of being a mile high. For those math challenged runners, this is 1541 ft of elevation gain over 5 miles so saying that the course is up hill, in my opinion is an understatement.

The rain was falling lightly when you arrived and they directed us to park in this large field a quarter mile from the start. Maybe it was an omen of the challenges ahead but there was Ford Explorer already stuck in the mud. They had hitched another truck to it and were attempting to pull it out.

The packet pick up was just beside the parking area so we tried to navigate around the mud and streaming water. The numbers listed the name of the race on it and long sleeve shirts were nice. There was a picture of the bear with the race logo printed in orange.

After few warm up miles, Mike and I switched over to our racing flats and headed for the start. A long the way, we encountered a nice contingent of runners from the Charlotte area. Chuck, Bobby, Stan, Jinnie, Butch, a group of the Crazy Legs guys just to name a few. And, before I forget, there were two Ambassadors from the Wilmington TrySports. Of all places to meet another TrySports Ambassador, I met two at The Bear.

Between the race director yelling through the blow horn and the State Trooper, we were told in no uncertain terms to stay out the road until the last possible moment. Finally 7 pm arrived we gathered at the start. Well, I assume it was the start. There was no line on the road just the race director standing on a ladder.

After a short speech about bandit runners threatening the event because they were uninsured running up Grand Father Mountain, we got a few simple directions and the gun was fired.

There was no getting around knowing that this was an uphill course. The starting line was right at the base of the hill so I just had to look up to see what I faced.

Once the gun was fired, everyone basically settled into a slow trot. We started running up a pretty steep grade, then turned right for a ways, and then turned off on to a gravel road. I didn't remember the race director saying whether they had mile marks so I looked at Garmin to get some idea of how far I had run. Ugh, ¾ of a mile showed on the display. Shortly thereafter, I passed a 1 mile sign. My legs were burning and my heart was pounding. My ears were feeling the pressure from the altitude change and popping. I had been running beside, Mike Moran but decided this was too fast and tried easing back just a bit.

The very ugly thought entered my head "You have just passed the first mile and the next 4 miles are all uphill". I tried not to think about it anymore and just run.

Miles 2 and 3 passed reaching mile 3 in just over 22 minutes. We ran through the Highland Games camping area and round the pseudo track. People were really screaming their lungs out which really helped from a motivational point of view. Once around the track, we headed cross country up a steep grass embankment to the road going up Grand Father Mountain.

I had been warned that the final two miles were absolutely brutal which was absolutely true. I didn't really feel like I was running. More so, I felt like I was walking up a steep hill while trying to use a running motion. When I stepped from the grass to the pavement, I was staring straight ahead which normally would allow me to see road further ahead. In this case, with the steep rise, all I could see was the pavement ahead.

Mile 4 passed and I was reached it in just over 30 minutes of running. Alright, time to take point check and see what I have left for the final mile. My legs felt numb – especially my quads. My heart was racing along at about 178 bpm.

I thought "I can do this. Just stay focused and keep moving. I can run the last mile under 9 minutes". I passed the two parking lots and looked to see what I had left to run. There was Mike running about 4 switch backs ahead of me.

At the start, I promised that I wouldn't walk, but on the 2nd switch back I finally cried "uncle". I walked part of one of the switchbacks. Yeah, it cost me some time, but my heart got a chance to settle down and my legs bounced back.

I rounded the set final of switch-backs and could hear the people cheering at the top. However, true to "The Bear"'s reputation, this may have been the steepest part of the course because it just went up. I was back to putting one foot in front of the other. There was no sprinting to the finish line this time. There was just me crossing the finish and glad that it was done.

My goals going into the race were to break 40 minutes – 38:31 so that goal achieved and top 100 which would get me a "Bear" mug. I finished 24th overall which I am still not sure about. I think some of the runners must have run off course or fell off the mountain because there certainly looked a couple of hundred runners ahead of me.

My secret goal of not walking didn't get achieved but what can I say "The Bear is tough".

Looking back on the run now, I recall 2 or 3 sections where the course actually flattened out and I use the term flatten loosely within the context of "The Bear". These were the only sections of the course where I actually felt like I was running.

Mike had a pretty good run and I attribute his fantastic effort to the Subway sandwich that he consumed 2 ½ hours before the race. If anyone might be interested, I am downing a Gel and ½ bottle of Gatorade. Maybe next time I'll try the Subway prerace energy boost. Anyway, Mike had a great night clocking a 36:54 for 12th overall. He easily picked up his mug. Bobby finished 64th overall in 42:35 while Stan finish in 40:36 for 43rd. Both finished in the "get a mug" window of time.

While I am on the topic of Mugs, giving runners mugs just as they cross the finish line isn't one of the better ideas. I understand why they do it, but still it is not a great idea. I know because I heard more than one mug hit pavement and break. I was very careful with my mug. Wrapping it in a shirt and placing it in my bag. For anyone that doesn't understand, there are earned awards and then are treasured hard earned awards. I consider "The Bear" a treasured hard earned award which will probably be bubble wrapped and put a way.

Before I wrap this up, I want to give a special shout out to Jinnie. She was kind enough to put our drop bags in her car and carry them to the top of the mountain. Having a drop bag is so important for "The Bear" because after this race hot sweaty runners quickly shift to cold and chilly runners bouncing from one foot to the other trying to stay warm. Most runners are stuck on top until the shuttle start down the mountain at 8:20 pm. That's about an hour after most of us finish.

Here's a breakdown of my splits and heart rates.

Mile 1: 7:04 - 168 Avg. Heart Rate 177 Max Heart Rate

Mile 2: 7:25 – 173 Avg. Heart Rate 177 Max Heart Rate

Mile 3: 7:23 – 175 Avg. Heart Rate 178 Max Heart Rate

Mile 4: 9:15 – 174 Avg. Heart Rate 178 Max Heart Rate

Mile 5: 7:24 – 174 Avg. Heart Rate 179 Max Heart Rate

Overall 38:31 – 173 Avg. Heart Rate 179 Max Heart Rate

Here's some of the in the "in-race" video that I shot. Honestly, the video doesn't do the course justice and I spent a lot of time looking at the asphalt.




Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner


Sunday, July 10, 2011

XTERRA Harbison Half Marathon - Long, Long Run

Megan asked if I was interested in checking out a trail half marathon in Columbia a few weeks ago.

I thought "sure, I needed to get started on my marathon long runs so getting in 18 miles on a new trail sounded perfect".

We left Charlotte at 4 AM this morning and arrived at the Harbison State Forest West of Columbia just before 6 AM. In fact, the race director was just arriving when we pulled in to the parking lot. Mind you, the race started at 7 am.

I should have realized that this would be a precursor of things to come.

Because stuff wasn't exactly going smoothly right from the start. We had to find our names in a list of stickers and the names weren't in alphabetical order. I must have gone through the list at least 5 times before I found my name.

Then, there was the restroom. I guess with the government cut backs they cannot longer provide lighting so we had provide our own illumination – think cell phone open. LOL

We all gathered at 7 am for the ½ marathon start. There was also a 5k race which was to start 10 minutes later. Our race directors went of the usual instructions such as course markings and chips. Of which, two guys went sprinting back to the registration area to obtain their chips. I am sure you can guess – we waited for them.

Finally, we were off. I told Megan up front to not wait on me. I wanted to take it out easy and be the "hunter" rather than the "hunted" today.

She quickly disappeared in to the forest ahead.

Once my legs felt warmed up, I started passing a few people. On the tough sections, I would slow down and follow then surge pass them when the trail opened up.

By 3 miles my legs were starting to find a good trail rhythm. And my strategy was working perfectly for me. I would chase someone down, follow them for a few minutes to recovery, pass, and then chase down the next guy.

Things were going smoothly until a detour occurred. For some reason, the race organizers decided to overlap the 5k and ½ marathon courses for a small section. Well, I was flying along through the woods chasing guys down when I see these fast looking guys turn right. There were XTERRIA ribbons and survey flags just as we were told so for all I knew I was on the right course.

For the next two miles, I passed a bunch of people them popped out into this field where they had the finish line. There must have been a puzzle look my face because the guy asked "are you running the ½ or 5k". I said "the ½" to which he replied "go over there". There were about 10 other guys standing around fuming about how the course was marked.

Their conversations were not where I wanted to go. I planned on running 18 miles for the day so I decided to just back track to where I messed up and continue along the course.

Getting a good overall place was out of the question, but I could at least get in my miles. Besides, why would I want to waste a perfectly good morning and unexplored trails?

Backing tracking along the trail I found a course worker who pointed me back to right trail.

Off and on, I would see a few other guys and would chat it up. Each aid station, I stopped and drank as much as I wanted, talked the aid workers, and then moved on.

After about 2+ hours of running, I cruised back up to the finish line. Oh, but this was not before a female runner came flying by me like she was just about to win the NY City marathon. She hurdled a log and sprinted for the finish. Kudos to her. I wish I had that much energy.

I heard them ask her if she ran the entire course. Her reply was "Yes, and more". At the time, the only thought that resonated through my head was "as did we all".

Was I disappointed in the run? In all honesty, not really. I enjoyed this race as much as any that I have ever run. In my 25+ years of running, I have never come up to a water stop and just hung out. Let alone found an aid station that serves "Sweet Ice Tea".

Thanks Megan for the Adventure Run today.

PS. As yet they have not posted the results for the race. LOL.



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A “Bear” of a run coming

With the "Bear Run" looming very near on my horizon, my thoughts have shifted from relaxing on the beach and running very flat bike pathways to how in the world am I going to climb to the top of Grand Father Mountain. In all honesty, my strategy is to follow the Nike slogan "Just Do It".

Hence, with no real preparation for this race and lots of miles on flat road, my expectations have to be realistic. Goalwise, maybe there could be a sub 40 minute time and top 100 would also be nice. The difficult part is the execution of a game plan. Luckily, with no major goals and thus no real pressure I can just go run.

Now, I know it is steep. I have previously been Grand Father Mountain and remembered how my car engine ached loudly during the climb to the top. My heart will most likely be doing the same thing over the entire 5 miles. One thing that I have learned, when it gets so steep, sometimes walking is faster than running.

I'll have my sunglasses with me so I will be documented the entire experience for everyone to see.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner



Running on Hilton Head Island

Many years had passed since my last visit but the Hilton Head Island beaches were still nice and the water warm. Even on vacation running still has to be done. This means that my days usually followed a schedule of a run, then breakfast, and then off to the beach for hours of boarding, castle building, cycling (think beach bikes – not road bikes), and swimming. Intermixed was time spent eating lunch and dinner. Usually breakfast and lunch were at the hotel while we always went out for dinner. In fact, I was spent so much time in the water that by Sunday afternoon my shoulders were sore. No, it wasn't the sun, but from the swimming and digging in the sand. Thankfully, each evening was spent in the hot tub watching the waves roll into the shore. Relaxing (down time) is something everyone needs from time to time.

Hilton Head Island provides miles and miles of paved bike pathway that I found great for exploring. Each morning I went out the hotel door and picked a new direction to run. The best part was that there were no hills in sight. Just miles and miles of flat pathways provide a way to recovery for extremely tired legs. My only regret was in not having enough time to explore all of the path ways.

Oh, the one thing that I missed doing was getting a massage. They have massage tables setup outside so you can see the beach and feel the breeze. Maybe next time, I will put this on my to-do list. Could anything be more relaxing than a massage on the beach?



Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner