Friday, November 30, 2012

Seeing Running Works in action

We are leaving what I will term the back way out of the Urban Ministries and following Tryon Street in a westerly direction. Meredith, Justin, and several of the neighbors are leading the way. This was how I was introduced into the phenomenon lead by Meredith and Kelly and known across Charlotte as "Running Works"

Meredith and Kelly have given so much of the time and energy to take Running Works from a start up charitable organization earlier this year to something that by all accounts is a wildly successful program. The Running Works program helps return confidence to individuals that for one reason or another have hit a difficult time in their lives.

Until now, my perspective of Running Works had been from a distance. Meredith and Kelly are my teammates on our TrySports Ambassador team, so I have been around when they talked about their efforts, then, through our Charlotte Running Club, our 8k race committee chose Running Works as their race charity for '13 race. Maybe my closest opportunity was during the lead up and running of Meredith and Kelly's Monster Dash 5k. A hugely successful event the last of October held at Rural Hill Farm.

But today was a real and up close opportunity for me to observe what Meredith and Kelly do when they are active on site at the Urban Ministries.

The first thing that jumps out when I walked in the door is how friendly everyone is. I have gone to parties and left without knowing anyone's name. Here, it is pretty much impossible to do so.

The second thing that jumps out to me is the smiles, the laughter, and the general spirit of happiness that seems to permeate the room.

The other thing that jumps out to me is their desire to run. They are eager for us to head out the door and take us on one of their regular routes.

We follow a route along Tryon to Trade – basically we are making a huge box shaped route. We cut through by Target and tackled this huge flight of stairs. A mile later, we are taking the steps near Time Warner Arena two steps at a time.

We cruised easily back into the Urban Ministries parking

lot and having covered just about 4 miles on the dot.

We all slowed to a walk and Meredith began herding us back inside for their post run discussion session. This is really where I got an eye opening experience while listening to what they have to endure during their normal daily lives. There are days when I really feel like my life has hit rock bottom. But listening to their stories just reminds me that I am nowhere near rock bottom. And, I really shouldn't be complaining about my minuscule struggles.

Each of their runs is always followed by one of these discussion sessions. Setting in a circle of chairs, the talking is not limited to just the neighbors but Meredith, Justin, Justin's mom, and Kelly each shared personal stores from their lives to bring relevance to the group discussion. For my part, I remained a quiet but an attentive observer.

My goal for the day was to experience what Meredith and Kelly were working so hard to achieve. Listening, watching, and learning was that best way that I saw of doing it and then sharing my perspective here.

Meredith and Kelly hold their Running Works group runs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 AM starting from the Urban Ministries Bldg. After each run, Meredith and Kelly lead a group discussion.

Most of us live our lives and stay well within our comfort zones. But sometimes, it is good to step outside and explore the world from a different perspective. Opening our eyes to a different view can help redefine who we really are.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pain Relief & Wellness Center

Alright, I feel the time had come to do a little extra sharing.

On my blog, I have talked more than once about the effects of my hamstring injury in the fall of '11. Well, months and months passed and the healing process was slow. Truth be told, the healing was painfully slow – no pun intended.

But after Disney, my hamstring seemed to be improving. My running was seemingly on the uptick. At least, this is what I wanted to share publically.

Behind closed doors, I was setting on an ice bag after every hard run or every long run. Days would pass until the painfulness would subside.

This was basically how my spring, summer, and start of my fall went. Only a few people knew about it and they keep pushing me to do something about it. Being stubborn, I felt this was something that I could handle myself. That I didn't need help from anyone.

With about 5 weeks left until OBX I finally gave in to their efforts. I made an appointment with the Pain Relief & Wellness Center. They setup my visit to see Dr. Markel.

During this first visit, I explained my problem and he went to work on it. My first visit must have lasted 50 to 60 minutes. Then, he gave me some homework exercises to do on my own.

Before leaving, I scheduled a follow-up visit for later in that week.

Walking out the door, my hamstring did feel better but over the next few days, it seemed to be getting worse.

In the next visit we talked about what was happening and the pain that I was experiencing after the first visit. I guess he convinced me enough in his process, because I decided to stick with it.

Helping his cause was when I was racing, my hamstring actually felt pretty well. After all, during this time I ran a sub 17 5k and sub 1 hours 10 miler with tender hamstrings.

But with each visit, I also noticed that my hamstring tended to feel better and better and the soreness that came after the first few visits wasn't lasting nearly as long.

On Tuesday before my Turkey Trot 8k, I got my last treatment and then my hamstrings felt great on Thursday. I ran my fastest 8k in several years.

I am happy to say that I am also no longer needing an ice bag post any of my hard or long runs.

I have to give credit where credit is due. First, I give it to those that kept pestering me to seek help. And then, I have to give major credit to Dr. Markel for his efforts. After, that first visit I was seriously thinking it was wrong decision, but now, seeing the results, I am very happy that I did seek help and that I did stick with the program.

Runners are a stubborn breed and sometimes we think that we can do it all ourselves. I am here to say that it is okay to ask for help. Running tears our bodies down. We need people like Dr. Markel to put us back together again.

If you are experiencing issues like I was, I strongly recommend checking with the guys at "Pain Relief & Wellness Center". See if you can get on Dr. Markel's schedule. He put me back together and I am betting that he can do the same for you.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is the “right” decision to make?

Here's the scenario, you are late in a race. You have been battling back and forth with another racer. You have been exchanging moves and trying to gauge what to do next.

Finally, you make a decision. You go all out. Inhaling of oxygen becomes secondary to your effort. You are pumping your arms and driving quads into the air. Each step is made with a single solitary goal of getting you to the finish line before your opponent. Finally, the line is within reach. The bulging of your eyes, the puffing of your checks, and the display of the veins in your neck all go into telling spectators how much you want it.

Bang, you cross the line. So was it the right decision?

Let's be honest with ourselves and say it this way. During a race there is no way to know if a decision is a good one or bad one. All, any runner can do is make a decision and live with the results. Then, after the race if you were successful, your move was probably a good one. If you lost or didn't do as well as you had hoped, then maybe this wasn't the best course of action to take.

Remember, you should not be too hard on yourself when it comes to judging your race results. Just because you lose to someone doesn't mean your decision wasn't a good one. Your decision might have caused both of you to run much faster than you expected or it might have kept you ahead of someone else that was closing on the two of you.

Racing involves many, many factors. Of all these factors, you have control of exactly one of them – yourself.

Perspective is an important part when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance to running, racing, and life.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nighttime racing

Recently, I was reading an article about nocturnal racing, and I found my head nodding at the author's comments.

Racing at night removes the distractions that otherwise sidetrack the runner's mind from their effort.

Take my Disney Marathon race earlier this year. We started at 5:30 AM and for the hour and half, I basically ran in a cocoon of darkness. I was only aware of the runners sharing my personal bubble of running space. The darkness shielded my vision of the long straight roads, the uphill grades, and the enormity of the task at hand. The lack of ambient light made me more focused. My concentration centered on where to safely allow each foot to impact the pavement. All other sounds and distractions seemed to drift away. Instead of the miles seemingly passing at a snail's pace, each split give the impression of flowing by like swiftly moving river. A quick nod was given to acknowledge that it occurred before moving forward.

Try it.


Sharing on thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beat the Turkey Award

The Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k listed a special category which many runners where probably not aware. Runners who beat the Charlotte Running Company Turkey during running the 8k race would receive a special prize.

When I read the online info at the race website, I didn't really think too much about it.

Thursday morning, I was still breathing heavily and walking around the finish corral when I see this runner dressed as Turkey come striding across the finish line. Wow, they were not only serious about this special category but one glance at the finish line clock to me they were serious about not giving away too many prizes for this special category.

Check out the race results. The CRC Turkey finished 23rd overall. See the label in the results "23 3/290 296 Crc Big Turkey 39 M Charlotte NC 28:36 28:39 5:46". Later I learned that the Turkey was supposedly Mark Carbone at 1:15 ½ marathoner.

The prize for beating the CRC Turkey was a pair of "Wool-E-Ator" socks from DeFeet. The socks were colored brown and orange with the image of a steaming turkey on the ankle. Sounds appropriate for this time of year don't you think.

Here's hoping they bring back the award for next but maybe find someone slower to be the Turkey. By the way, big shout out to the Charlotte Running Company for thinking outside the box and giving the runners a fun goal for the race.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Master’s Foot Locker 5k Recap

The stinging of the cold dry air entered my mouth and nose and burned as it passes down my throat and into my lungs. The sensation leaves me wondering do I really need to be racing this morning. Whole heartedly, yes, I do. This is one of those defining moments.

Having raced at McAlpine many times, but never in the Foot Locker 5k, my mind knows what to expect. The first half mile needs to be speedy and my legs are spinning as fast as they can. I know this, because I abandoned any attempt of normal breathing at the quarter mile mark. The term "hard labor" means something totally different to runners.

We round the first turn and start back. The pack of runners slowly thins out. I am still passing a few people but not as many as during the first half mile. We pass the mile mark. More heavy breathing and the legs are trending toward being numb. We wind our way along and coming to hill. I am determined to not let it slow me down. I hit it hard. Mentally and physically, my body responds as if I have slammed head first into a cement wall. The quads ache from being pushed to run so hard and then we reach the top where I am notorious for being a slow descender.

The last few strides I try to shift into a higher gear but I am going nowhere fast. We hit the last tiny hill and start around the lake. With a mile left to run, I know my goose is cooked and probably a little brunt.

A couple of guys go passed me.

We enter the back mile and I already looking forward to the finish line sprint. Beside the soccer fields, my quads are turning to butter. My legs feel shaky. The best sight of the race is the lake coming into view.

One last corner to go and then I sprint for the finish. Urging my legs to go faster and faster. My Garmin rings up the 3 mile split but it doesn't matter. People are cheering and I want to finish strong for them. I hear someone call my name. Where's that extra gear that I need now. Oh, no, I used it up during the first half mile.

The finish is in sight and so is the finish line clock. I cross it and finish with a time of 18:11. Not necessarily my best time, but then I don't usually bury myself with such a fast opening half mile.

Overall, the last 12 days have been awesome. I scored a 2:46 marathon at OBX, a 17:03 and 3 OA and 1MM at Santa Scramble 5k, a 28:03 and 1st 45-59 across 9000+ runners at the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k, and finished it off with a 13 place finish in the Master's Foot Locker 5k and brought home the medal to prove it.

Perhaps my most prized award is the medal from Foot Locker. Competition is a premium at these events and is the very reason that I always look forward to doing them. Cross Country races are not for the faint at heart. Every event brings out a great field of guys who still enjoy the feeling that comes with racing on a cool crisp November morning.

Now for some "shout outs" – Matt – for keeping me entertained during my warm up and who put in a solid 18:33 time during the 5k, Brian – who I saw after the race – safe travels back to DC, Stan and John who passed by me during the girls race and didn't even notice, Caleb, Pezz – who I have seen quite few times running at McAlpine but officially met today, Todd and Mike B. for the warm down miles, and Mark – who was scurrying around watching Alana's race.

One last thought before signing off. Events like Foot Locker are exciting for me to do because growing up, I never raced cross country. I find the feeling of elation in the air something to behold. Runners of all ages come together and test themselves in the spirit of good healthy competition. No other sport on this earth matches running because only runners can follow in the footsteps of a best.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 23, 2012

Breaking out the Spikes

I have been setting here this morning and cleaning up my racing spikes. Why would I be cleaning spikes on the day after Thanksgiving? Well, just about 2 years have passed since I last wore them. That's was in a 10k cross country race. Since then, they have been setting on my shelf waiting to see action again.

Tomorrow morning, they will get their chance.

For I don't know how long, I have ventured down to watch the Foot Locker races at McAlpine. Not one time have I entered the open/masters race.

A couple weeks ago, I decided that this year I wanted to run it so I signed up. This seemed like a good time to check this off my bucket list.

Tomorrow morning at 8AM, I will be heading to the starting line and take my chances on appears to be a cool crisp November morning. The best type that a runner wants for racing.

Come out and watch us run.

Remember, the extra walking will help burn off the Thanksgiving calories.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 22, 2012

South Park Turkey Trot 8k Recap

Gathering on the north side of the South Park Mall was the biggest crowd of runners that has assembled in Charlotte this year. Standing on the front line, my gaze turned to look over the crowd and the sea of runners extended all the way to Sharon Rd and covered both sides of the street. Like me, they were out for some exercise before heading to various ports of call and enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.

Surveying the runners around there were some familiar faces, Steve, Jason, Carroll, Kent, Dan, Richard, Tom, and Lana. Who I didn't see was Spada and who missed seeing was Donny. We are given our final commands and then we are launched on our way.

The opening ½ mile is mainly downhill beside the mall. My eyes are darting back and forth both to avoid running into someone and looking to see what other masters might be running. To my left, I spotted the distinctive singlet worn by Donny.

We make the first left turn and I am running a few yards behind him. Climbing the hill beside the mall, I feel a twinge in my glut, but that then nothing. We top the first hill and I am running just behind Donny and checking out the runners in front of me.

Just a short run on Fairview and we make another right. There is a long line of orange cones to keep the runners to the right. Stilling running off Donny's shoulder, I realize he is moving over next the cones. Literally, he is squeezing me into the cones so I cannot run beside him. Thinking to myself at that moment "did he just squeeze me in the cones". No, we cannot have that.

There is a break in the cones and I used the opportunity to accelerate around him. Let him chase me for a while. I knew he was coming off the Thunder Road ½ marathon last Saturday so his legs might not be fully recovered.

Thinking about it after the fact, Donny probably didn't even realize that I was right on his shoulder. Really, it was no harm, no foul.

We make the left and I hear people cheering: Billy and Jason. I don't know who else.

The pace quickens and my breathing becomes more labored.

We make a right turn and start climbing. My legs don't like the climbing. I feel like I am really slowing down.

We make another right on Colony. This is the new neighborhood section of the course. The course isn't steep but is a long climb. Well, it is a long climb when you are in oxygen debt. I felt like we never would get to the top of it. And I didn't want to push too hard for fear of running out gas over the last mile and ½.

Back on Sharon, I catch a couple of guys and a couple of guys pass me. I make the absolute worst mistake and look at my watch at the mile split: 5:54. Now, racing, I wasn't really taken into account that the last mile had been mostly up hill and I didn't think to look at the elapse time. The only thought resonating was "you have blown your race". With nothing lose, we turn right on Colony and I charge after the guys in front of me.

The course ends differently that previous years and we finish in front of Dicks.

I round the final corner and can see the clock in the distance. Wait, doesn't it say 27:44. Okay, maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me. No, it does say 27:47 and I realize I might be able to slip in under 28 minutes. I launch into a sprint. I am trying to cover more ground than my body is ready to cover. The clock ticks forward: 51, 52, 53. I am getting closer but not close enough. Maybe 20 yards from the finish it clicks over to 28 minutes. The air goes totally out of my balloon. I flash across the line; my Garmin records 28:03 for my finish time. By the far the fastest time that I have run in several years for an 8k race. Donny comes in some 20 seconds later.

After we catch our breath, we talk for a few minutes. Some simple kidding – "that my singlet was the wrong shade of orange". Funning that he should say something about it, I thought his singlet was the wrong shaded of orange. LOL.

All in all, this was my best Turkey Trot 8k that I have run in many years, yet, it didn't garner me a 1st MM Turkey Trot trophy. John Moss from CA ran away with the title. He ran 27:18. I have to give him major props. He is fast on Thanksgiving day.

Now for some rest and eating large amounts of Turkey.


Happy Holidays to everyone.

The Cool Down Runner



Monday, November 19, 2012

Santa Scramble 5k

Once again the holiday season is upon us and every year, I just cannot help myself. The time of year leaves me shivering with excitement. People are hustling and bustling as they jump from place to place meeting up with their friends and buying gifts. And along the way there is so much great food to enjoy.

But for us runners, there are races to run. I cannot keep count of the number of Turkey Trot races in the surrounding Charlotte area and sometimes before and after the Santa runs.

When my schedule permits, the Santa Scramble 5k in Concord is always on my must do list. This race is put on by the Concord Park and Rec. Dept. and is run as the first float in the Concord Christmas Parade. Meaning that contrary to must races that you will run around Charlotte, this one has people lining the streets for 75% of the race. Not to mention, the course is one of the fastest around. Thus, the combination of these two features, brings a ton of people to the starting line and regularly produces fast times.

Not surprising, I found myself standing at the starting line on Saturday afternoon. My mouth was watering in anticipation of the expected run. The race typically can start anywhere between 2 and 2:30. The parade director gives the park and rec guys a thumbs-up that we can start.

Runners are spilling on the street. The race director motions for us to back up. Then back up again. In fact, we back up nearly to highway 29. I have run this Santa Scramble numerous times and this is the fartherest back that we have ever started.

As everyone is moving back, I spend a few minutes talking to the guy directing us to the starting line. It is a good conversation and then, we hear 4 minutes until the start.

I say my goodbyes and head off to do a couple of more strides.

Then, finding my place on the starting line, I set myself for the task head. Every start, I make a mental note to see who else is in the field. What I see is a lot of guys who are not old enough to shave yet standing on the starting line.

The thought is interrupted by someone yelling 10, 9, 8,…3, 2,1 "Go". There's a surge of people across the starting line. Those that don't know much about razors take it out hard.

The first ¾ of mile have a slight hint of an uphill to it before the fun of the downhill begins. My legs are moving but I realize they are not moving nearly as fast as everyone else. Mentally, I am still set on marathon pace and my legs do not want to go any faster.

I put in all of the urging that I can muster. Slowly, my legs begin to move. We near the mile point and I pass a few of these guys. Mile 1 was in 5:31. There are still 4 people in front of me. I realize that I am probably not going to run any faster. My breathing tells me that this is the max; I am able to go.

Mile and half, I pass another one and move into 4th overall. This part of the course is slightly downhill and I pull even with the 3rd place guy. Through two miles, we go back and forth. Mile 2 was in 5:30. Turning off the parade route and heading for the finish, I start to pull ahead of him. I don't know how much and I don't look back. There is no time.

I cross Rt. 3 and hear my Garmin announce the mile split: 5:29. I start my sprint for the finish and cross the finish line gasping for breath in 17:03.

6 days removed from running a marathon, my legs were not ready for this effort. They complained but they did their best and brought me home in 3rd overall and 1s male master.

After the race, I hung out with Richard, Linda, and Steve while we waited on the awards. There is nothing like the post race story telling that goes on.

Wrapping up this post, might I suggest if you have never run the Concord Santa Scramble, put it on your race list for next year. I promise you will not be disappointed.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner







Friday, November 16, 2012

Using 800s to determine your expected marathon time

A couple of years ago, I was reading an article about "Yasso 800s" and how this workout could help predict your marathon time. It seems that Bart Yasso was training a number of individuals for a marathon and as one their last workouts before the marathon, he had them do some 800 repeats. He meticulously tracked each of their splits in his log book. Then, after they had run their marathon, he just happened to be looking back at his log book. What jumped out was that the splits they ran for the 800s seemed to correlate to the hours and minutes of their marathon time.

For example, a 2 minute and 45 second 800 split would indicate potentially that the person could run a 2 hour and 45 minute marathon.

After reading the article at the time, I posted something here on my blog about it but never followed up to test the theory.

During my 6 hour solo drive back from OBX, there was plenty of time to think and one of the thoughts that kept getting turned over in my mind was this "Yasso 800" theory.

On Tuesday before OBX, I went to the track and ran 6 x 800. 5 of those 6 800s were run in the 2:45 to 2:46 range. Then, on Sunday, I ran a 2 hour and 46 minute marathon.

Pretty hard to shake the idea that the "Yasso 800" concept doesn't have at least some merit.

Of course, I am a single person and this was a single test.

Maybe during my next marathon training cycle, I will try it again. We just have to wait and see what happens.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 15, 2012

OBX Marathon Recap

For the last 3 months, I have dedicated my running to a single goal. OBX would be my main race in the fall of '12. Sunday morning, standing at the starting line, the butterflies in my stomach told me that I was about to find out how well that I had prepared.

However, before recounting my race adventure, I want to back up a little. The weekend was more than a little interesting even before the race.

For nearly 4 ½ hours, my drive was anything but eventful. The last hour or so of the drive to the Outer Banks is along mostly a two lane road. Mind you, I have run OBX four other times and never had anything like what I am about to describe happen to me.

First, I am going through one the small towns along 64 to the Outer Banks. When I say small town, I am talking about maybe one grocery store, gas station, and maybe a few other businesses.

Just leaving the interstate, I have driven maybe 10 minutes and I am coming into the first town. I see what looks like a tractor and trailer attempting to cross through an intersection. Wait no, it isn't crossing through the intersection, it is setting in the intersection. As I get closer, I follow the flow of cars first slowing and then, turning right into the gas station parking lot and going around the back of the gas station. Then, they were merging back on to the road. As I passed by the tractor trailer, I could see that a car had crashed into the mid section of the trailer. Police, Ambulance, and Fire Rescue workers were attempting to extricate the driver. How awful I thought; I hope everyone is alright.

The rest of the driving remained peaceful for the rest of the long road to the beach.

Darkness had set-in as I headed for the expo. Parking some distance from the expo, I made my way into the building, picked up my number and goodie bag, and then proceeded to make the circuit of the expo.
I am just in the process of purchasing an item when suddenly the lights go out. Inside the building it is completely dark. Then, like something out of a commercial, lights begin to come on. No, these were not emergency lights. The light was coming from people's phones. Every person seemed to be carrying a Smart Phone and was using their flashlight app.

Luckily for me, the vender where I was making my purchase was using an iPad with a Square. I had no problem getting my stuff. From there, I decided to skip the rest of the expo and head out. I needed to look for some dinner. Walking out the expo, I suddenly realized that it wasn't just the expo that lost power, it was the entire island. It was dark everywhere.

My stomaching was beginning to ache and I wondered where I was going to find dinner. With no electricity, restaurants would not be able to serve any food. Well, I thought, let's get to the hotel. They should have generator for power.

But as I am driving along, like a beacon in the night, I see the Harris Teeter sign. Yes, Harris Teeter must have generators because they have power. No effort needed on this decision, I ducked into the parking lot and headed into the store. At least, I thought, I can resolve the issue with my growling tummy.

I figured a sub might be good so I headed for the deli counter. I asked the lady making sandwiches for a grilled chicken sub on white bread. She proceeds to tell me that they are all out of bread and they only have flat bread. Hummm, a grilled chicken sub on flat bread, well, I do have to eat so I agree.

I pick up a few other things for the rest of the weekend and headed for the hotel. All of the traffic lights are out so the only lights on the island come from the car head lights. But people are being extremely nice and letting others turn and pull out. Everyone seems to be in a good mood this evening.

Following the navigation system on my phone, I proceed to drive by the hotel not once but twice. It takes me this long to realize that the hotel doesn't have generators so it is completely in the dark. My mind then begins to wonder what this is going to be like.

Heading inside the hotel, they are doing everything with flashlights. They check me in by taking an etching of my credit card with a crayon. Thankfully, they have already assigned me a room so I gather my stuff. One of the workers with a flashlight leads me up to the room and opens the door with a master key.

So there I was setting in a dark cold room. Things could be worse, I guess.

I pop out my notebook and turn it on. It gives me at least a little light in the room. Then, I remember that I brought my head lamp. What seemed like a dumb idea at the time? I know felt like a genius now. So by light from my head lamp, I enjoyed my flat bread grilled chicken sub and two bananas. I crawled into bed to get warm and tried to pass the time by surfing the internet on my Smart phone.

The lights did come back on later in the evening. And, I was most thankful. That room was starting to feel pretty cold.

Fast forward to race morning, Michelle and I were hanging out waiting for the start after Thomas dropped her off early. He was running the ½ marathon. Jason M. comes by our van and joins us so we all hang out together until it is time to head to the starting line.

We all talk about our goals for the race. Michelle wants to run 2:56 to 2:57. Jason wants to break 3 hours and well, I want something like 2:45 to 2:47. We finish our prep for the race and headed for the starting line. Jason notices that I have a breath right strip on my nose and he ask me about it. Then, he asked if I have any more. Thus, he is breaking the first rule of racing – "try nothing new". Of course, I give him one. He puts it on this nose and asked me if he has it own right. I try to hide my smile and say "well, you have it on a little high". He really has it a lot high. It needs to be lower toward his nostrils and not between his eyes. But we get him fixed up and the three of us jog toward the starting line.

The start is 10 minutes away so I am doing some very easy strides on a side street. I flash by this guy and he looks familiar. I realize it is Martin. He and I ran together during the mid 90s. I hadn't seen him since that time. I also see Heather from the TrySports store in Raleigh. We met last year when she ran OBX.

We gathered at the starting line and they started giving us the final countdown.

I wish Michelle, Jason, and Martin luck and then turn my attention to mentally setting myself for the task ahead.

I took several long deep breathes because I knew it was be the last time for next several hours that my breathing wouldn't be labored.

Finally, we are off. The first few miles are slightly uphill at OBX. The first thing I notice isn't my breathing but my hamstrings. Both of them feel extremely tight. I can only hope that they loosen up after a few miles.

My first mile is 6:15 and my second mile is 6:05. I fall into this group of 3 guys and then Martin joins us. I look over at Martin and he says "I want to stay with you through the half way point". I nod "okay, that I understand", but I begin to listen to Martin's breathing pattern. We are two miles into a marathon and sounds like he is running a 5k. Not long afterward, I no longer hear Martin's breathing off my shoulder.

I try to settle in with these guys. The mile splits are faster than I really want to run, but on the other hand, my only other option would be to drop back and run solo. I go with running in the group even if it is too fast for me.

We proceed to click off the miles. By 10 miles, I realize that I have just run faster for these 10 miles than I did 2 weeks ago at the ATT 10 miler.

We hit the Nags Head Trail. After a couple of miles one of the guys bolts ahead of us and starts pulling away. The other two pick it up a little so we are starting to string out.

By the time we exit the trail section, I have perhaps 40 meters behind the two. Knowing the open roads during the 2nd half can be windy, I make an attempt to close the distance.

But after a couple of miles, I am not closing. If anything, I am losing some distance. Mentally, I think I am starting to fall apart.

But my Garmin flashes up that I had just ran a 6:04 mile. No, it isn't that I am falling apart; they are running faster. We make a right turn and I take the opportunity to check behind me. There is no one insight.

I have 10 miles left to run and it doesn't look like I am going to catch any of these guys. It is time to focus on nursing this one home.

Now that I am running solo, I notice every little pain. Mainly, it is my fore foot. They both hurt and I suspect they have blisters forming.

My splits are staying consist until I hit the bridge. I feel like I literally "hit the bridge". This mile is 6:43 and my quads hate me as I push them to climb up this steep long incline at 23 miles.

I cross the top and look to my right. I can see downtown Mateo and know that I have a little more than 5k to run.

Heading on the downhill side of the bridge, I feel like I can pick up the pace a little so I try. Oops, this was a bad idea. Suddenly my hamstrings are starting to balk. The downhill side of the bridge might have been worse than the uphill side.

Mile 24 was 6:58. Mile 25 was 7:02 and mile 26 was 7:15.

Mentally, I realize 7:15 isn't exactly slow so but after running so hard for so long, it feels like I am crawling. Add on top of it, my body is beginning to stiffen up from this effort.

I make the last two right turns and head for the finish line. I want to pick it up but my legs are having none of it. I cross the finish line in 2:46:05.

This was pretty much right in my target range. I wanted to run something between 2:45 and 2:49. I finished 8 overall and was the 2nd Master runner to finish so I finished 2nd in the USAT&F-NC and RRCA-NC Master's Marathon Championship.

Walking away from this race, there are some good takeaways for me to remember. The temperature was between 52 and 54 degrees at the start with 87% humidity. By 5 miles, I'd say the temperature had hit 60 degrees. We came over one hill and it felt a dryer was blowing heat in our faces. We followed the shade of the course as much as possible. I suspect it was well into the 60s by the end of the race. I felt little like I was baking during the 2nd half of the course. If you look at my race pictures, you will see that I had my jersey unzip the entire way.

The other observation is that I ran with a group of guys that were obviously faster than me. After the race, I was chatting with them and they were mostly 1:12 half marathoners. In hind sight, it is always about gut feel. Running with a group even if they are running faster can be a huge advantage over trekking the miles solo. Where the rubber meets the road is how much faster. In this case, I was running probably 20 seconds faster per mile than I really need to be running. The tough part to stomach is that once you commit to this race strategy, you cannot really pull back from it. On that day, you have already burned that energy and that effort has went into your body. The reality is that I lost a lot more time over the last 3 miles than I gained by running the early miles 20 seconds faster.

No race is perfect and you have to make split second decisions about who, where, and how to run the race. If you are not willing to take some risk, you will never see any of the reward.

One last bit about the race, I was running somewhere around I think 15 to 17 miles when I see Thomas coming toward me. He had run the ½ as I told you earlier and was running back to check on Michelle. He tells me that I am looking good and to keep going. Then, after the race, he tells me the truth. I looked bad and didn't know how that I held it together. I had to smile on the inside because what Thomas told me was exactly how I felt. But also makes me feel good that even thou my body was not performing at its best, I still mustered a decent effort from it.

Also, I need to give a big shout out to Michelle. Not only did she PR at 2:55 but she also won the race and picked up the USAT&F-NC and RRCA Women's Marathon Championship. Big congratulations to Michelle on her awesome effort.

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Biometric Screening

With the recent round health care cost on the rise, companies are looking at ways to cut cost. Our health plan provider offered us the option of getting a Biometric Screening and if we accepted it, they would give us $50 off the cost of the plan per month.

Essentially, my only task involved driving over to my health care provider and giving a little blood.

Last week, I got back my results.

The results were

  • Cholesterol level was 166 – goal less than 200
  • HDL (Good Cholesterol) was 58 – goal is greater than 40
  • CALC - LDL (Bad Cholesterol) was 99 – goal is less than 100
  • NON HDL Cholesterol was 108
  • Triglycerides was 47 – goal is less than 150
  • Glucose level was 92 – goal is less than 100

Honestly, I knew only enough to be dangerous while talking about these results so I took to Google and tried to learn what these numbers actually meant. Below, is a little of what I found out.

Cholesterol is a wax substance produced by the liver and found in certain foods. It is needed to make vitamin D and some hormones, builds cell walls, helps with digestion of fat. From what I read, our livers produce 1000 mg of cholesterol per day so we don't really need to ingest any.

The three main factors in high cholesterol are weight, diet, and age. The forth is heredity. Apparently, we can affect at least two of the four areas: weight and diet. Additionally with physical activity heart disease is lowered.

Running must be making a difference in me because I watch my weight and diet. Along with it, I get plenty of exercise. I may even be getting too much. LOL.

HDL a.k.a high-density lipid "Good Cholesterol", the old saying that we are at war with our self has never been truer. Our bodies are always battling the "Good" vs. the "Bad" Cholesterol. HDL works to remove the "bad" cholesterol from our bodies. We want a high HDL number because by removing the LDL lipids, we are reducing our chances of heart disease.

Based on my research, having a HDL number above 40 is good, but having one above 60 is better. I guess I have some work to do here.

CALC LDL Cholesterol, this one appears to be nothing more than a calculation. My LDL number is my total cholesterol number minus my HDL number minus my Triglycerides divided by 5. When I do this calculation based on the numbers above, I get 98.6. I am guessing they rounded it off to the nearest whole number.

Based on their ranges, I think I am good.

NON HDL Cholesterol, I was not familiar with this number so this required some extra digging and here's what I found out.

Non-HDL Cholesterol is my total cholesterol minus my HDL "good cholesterol" level. They say it is good to know this number because it may be a better indicator of heart disease. The non-HDL number tells me all of the bad cholesterol traveling around in my blood. And it appears that not only is there LDL traveling in my blood but VLDL. Both are "bad" lipids. The recommend levels should be no more than 120 for prevention.

I'm no doctor but at 108, again I think I am good.

With the Triglyceride test, they were checking for a type of fat in my blood stream and the fat tissue. Too much of these Triglycerides can lead to hardening and narrowing of my arteries.

As a runner, I don't want any obstructions in my arteries. I want that blood going as fast as possible to my muscles. I think B+ here. I have been slowing down in recent years and I think it is all do to my blood. LOL.

The blood glucose test measured the amount of a type of sugar, called glucose, in my blood. Glucose comes from carbs and is the main form of energy in our bodies. They tested this level to check for prediabetes and diabetes. It can only be done after fasting for at least 8 hours. I had fasted for about 18 hours.

Aside from the fact that I was extremely hungry while preparing for this test, it appears as a runner my body is shoving as many carbs as normal to my muscles. A+ on this one.

Well, after all my research, I am a little wiser and I hope you are too if you are reading this blog.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

6 x 800 repeats

OBX is just a few days away and I have this nervous feeling in my gut that I hadn't had in a while. When I returned to marathoning a few years ago, I would get these butterflies in the days and hours leading up to the race. But in the last few marathons, the butterflies seemed to have been a thing of the past.

Meaning, I am not sure why I have them this time around.

Anyway, on to my workout today – after exchanging some txt messages, Megan and I settled on heading to the track for our workout early this morning. She had 8 x 2 minutes while I was doing 6 x 800. This is my usual last premarathon workout. And, per the usual pattern, I am doing it on Tuesday before the big day.

But first, let me give a little back story.

On Friday, I got some work done on my hamstrings and last Tuesday, I had my Biometric screening where they withdrew some blood. For whatever the reason, I have had this dragging feeling ever since. It's like mentally, I know there is another gear there but I cannot get my hands around it to use it.

This morning, I clicked off repeats of 2:46, 2:47, 2:46, 2:46, 2:45, and 2:41. Granted, this was a solo workout. Even thou, Megan were doing similar workouts, we were doing them separately. We just happened to be on the track together doing them. Therefore, I was gauging my effort all internally, and I just was not able to settle down and feel comfortable during the workout.

Granted, the workout went decently well, but I felt like it could have gone better. Maybe I am just expecting too much. I mean – really – it was still a decent set of splits. And, honestly, I harbor no expectations that I will be running 5:22 miles at OBX.

On the brightside, this was my last hard up tempo effort before OBX. Now, my runs are shorter and easier. I can do nothing but damage my chances at a good time by running another hard effort.


Sharing one thought at a time,

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 5, 2012

Season of Hope 5k Recap

Most of last week, I went about back and forth about racing over the weekend. During any taper, the miles are getting reduced which makes the legs eager to race. And, running hard keeps me sharp.

Thus, on Friday, I was searching the internet looking for a local race. There were a number of races in the area, but I selected the Season of Hope 5k Run at Knights Stadium. The better part of 15 years have passed since I last ran a race at Knights stadium so going back seemed like a good idea.

The last time that I ran there, I won so what better reason to go back.

Checking out the race web site, I made note of the usual logistics. But mainly, I was looking at the cost and the start time. The cost was $30 which isn't bad, I guess, for race day registration. But the start time was 8 AM.

As I thought more about it, the sun would not even be over the horizon before the race started.

Sure enough, I ran my warm up in the dark. Well, I sort of ran it in the dark. Knights Stadium has plenty of lights.

A few miles into my warm up, I was running along what I believed to be the course and I noticed that they put out the mile marker signs and then they came back to move them.

I got the full story when we lined up. The grounds crew at the stadium expected it to frost over night so they flooded the field with water.

Therefore, the race organizers had to adjust the finish back from home plate. Meaning, they added extra distance out on the course to supplement the shortage inside the stadium.

A short time later, we were lining up for the start. The thin gloves covering my hands were not doing the job. They were already cold.

Looking around at the start, I was trying to gauge who else was there. My goal for the race was a good hard effort to keep the engine tuned for OBX.

We take off. I make the turn at ¾ of a mile. We make two U-turns on the course. I don't see anyone behind me. I finally meet the runners coming out and sail through the mile in 5:31. I check over my shoulder and no one is insight.

Knowing that no one is close takes the edge off and I focus on running the tangents.

The 2nd mile comes and goes and finally the 3rd mile arrives. I head up to the stadium and down the gravel hill. Turning just inside the stadium, David Lee has his timing mats setup.

My fingers are beyond numb. I am trying to flex them but they are resisting the movement. Several minutes pass before the blood flowing so quickly up down my legs finally circulates up and down my arms and into my hands.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that the sun had yet to cross the horizon and the temps were in the mid 30s. I wasn't the only one that was cold.

About an hour later, they had the awards and I got a nice ceramic plaque for my efforts.

Before ending this write up, I wanted to share a little of the back story behind this race. Tyler is a little boy that has the dreaded disease Dystonia. During the awards ceremony, I met Jason Botko one of the sponsors of the "Season of Hope 5K Run". He filled me on what Dystonia does to kids. It's just an awful thing.

I hate all diseases, but especially, I hate diseases that target children. Every child has the right to grow up in this world happy and healthy. Something I fully support is that all of the money raised in the race goes toward the research being done to conquer this disease.

Driving home after the race, I felt better about my day because not only had I learned something but I was supporting research to make the world a better place for our children.

If you want to learn more about Tyler's Hope and Dystonia – click here


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner



Thursday, November 1, 2012

American Tobacco Trail 10 Mi. Recap

Last weekend was a busy one and it started with me being in Apex, NC for the American Tobacco Trail 10 miler on Saturday. This wasn't my first visit to the race. A couple of years ago, I ran it. That was in '10.

After having missed running the 50k, I felt like I needed something to test my "metal" going into OBX. This race was 2 weeks out and I thought "perfect". This would be an excellent test run and give me a good idea of where my running really is.

Megan and I drove over to the start – arriving about 7:50. From there, we picked up our timing chips. Back at the car, I went about changing for the race – socks, shoes, etc. Megan headed out for her warm up. The ATT 10 miler splits into 2 races: Men and Women. The women start at 8:50 while the men go off 10 minutes later at 9 AM.

Race conditions were not bad that morning. The temperature was a little warmer than I would have liked at 64 degrees but it was muggy – nearly 80%. I guess the only offsetting factor was the wind. There was a gusting wind.

8:50 came and I watched as Megan and Michelle H. headed off on their 10 miles. I did a few more strides as the 10 minutes passed and then settled in at the starting line.

The final countdown was uneventful as we headed off exactly 10 minutes after the women.

There were a few guys in the field from the Raleigh area that I had raced before. Seeing them gave me some idea of who I would be running around during the race.

The first ½ mile is on pavement and then we turn on to the trail. I am checking out the runners around me and trying to figure out who was going to be making a push and who was running over their head. Reading runners isn't easy and it usually takes about a mile to figure it out.

We pass by the first mile mark in 5:51. This mile is slight downhill so it makes sense. The next ¾ of mile continues on a slight downhill and we pass through it at 5:43. By this time, Paul Jones has established a nice lead on us and Brian and I are running together – maybe a 100 yards or so behind him.

The 3rd mile goes up hill and then the 4th mile goes a little downhill and then it flattens out. We make the turn and Brain, who has been running right behind me, makes a push and passes me.

His push is strong and the gap grows a little each mile coming back.

The course tends to be more uphill on the way back and especially the last 1 ¾ is uphill. Tim Pierce, who was close behind Brian and me at the turn, I expected to still be there. I didn't want to look back but I was listing for people to cheer as we passed and attempted to gauge the distance between us.

With the long uphill climb, I expected my legs to struggle and I was hoping it didn't come down to a final sprint.

Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. With less than a ½ mile to go, I looked back. Tim wasn't insight. I could not believe it. I was expecting him to be close behind me. As much as it was a blessing to know that I wasn't going to be pushed to the finish line, it also took something away. Mentally, I realized that I didn't need to push to the finish. I let up and my 10 mile split ended up being the slowest mile of the race.

My breathing slowed down and I was walking around at the finish and overall I was very happy with the effort. I had run 59:38 and finished 3rd overall. Being that 98% of the course is on dirt – running under an hour is a great time for me.

The added perk of the day was winning the "Road Runner's Club of American's Masters 10 Mile" award. My year hadn't been the greatest running wise. I have felt like it has been a struggle at times. This race made me feel like I am on my way back to running well again.

Before wrapping up this post, I want to give a "shout out" to Mike Kelly. Mike won the RRCA Grand Masters award for this event. He and I were talking after the race and Mikes happens to be a reader of my blog. Mike, I appreciate you being a reader of my blog and congratulations on your RRCA Award achievement. You ran an awesome 10 mile race.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner