Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Virginia Creeper Trail.

On Sunday 7/26, my daughters and I headed up to Damascus, Va. We hit several rain showers along the way so we were hoping the rain would hold off for our ride along ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. It turns out that the weather was awesome in Damascus.

Damascus, VA is just under a 3 hour drive from Charlotte if you are making the trip up through Blowing Rock and Boone. Something that I didn’t realize, by driving up through Boone we would actually drive through Tennessee before going back in Virginia.

The drive is pretty interesting but then, any drive through the mountains is pretty interesting for me.

We rented 4 mountain bikes from one the local bike shops in Damascus, and then shuttled us to White Mt. Station. This is where most of the rides began. From White Mt. Station to Damascus is roughly a 17 mile ride.

The ride is pretty easy. There is a nice net elevation drop between White Mt. and Damascus. We did a lot more coasting then actual pedaling. The trail has a speed limit of 15 mph, but there seemed to be a lot people rocketing down the mountain.

The temperature on top was a little over 70 degrees. I didn't feel cold just standing around but once we headed down the trail and went under the canopy of the trees, the chill really started to settle in. I could probably have used a coat. This lasted for about 7 or 8 miles and then the temperature started to even out and by the time that we were in Damascus, it was easily in the mid 80s.

There were a lot places along the way to stop and look around. We stopped once for a snack and then later for a late lunch. We also stopped several places along the trail to take pictures.

The trail is combination of gravel and dirt. Most of the trail is at least car width wide, but there are some tight places. Some of the bridges are quite narrow.

There a few places where ride crosses private land and through at least one person’s front yard.

Now that I have ridden it, I really want to run it. Actually, I would like to do an end to end run of the trail which is about 34 miles starting from White Mt. Station and running all the way to Abington, Va.

I don’t think it will be this fall but there is a good likelihood that it will be next year.

I think we can should it the Virginia Creeper Ultra. 

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

24 x 200

This past Friday, I visited Bradley Middle School Track for a speed session. This time the session would be something a little different than my usual norm for intervals.

I would be doing a 24 x 200 with a 200 recovery.  For those that might be math challenged. This workout involved a rolling hard 200 every quarter mile for six miles.

Let me just say; the first couple miles didn’t feel that bad.  The middle miles were tough. But the last 2 miles were hard but easier at the same time.

I averaged 5:20 pace for the entire workout and finished off the last interval in 39 seconds. What is ironic about it? By running 200 meters, I was pushing my heart rate, but only for a short period of time. 200 meter is just long enough to get in some good work, but not long enough to really trigger any time of hard breathing to kick-in.

This is the first time that I ever tried a workout like this one.

But with my sluggish race performances, I am trying to kick start my leg turnover and I am hoping workouts like this one will lead me down the right path.

We will just have to see. The payoff is still a few months away.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tempo Run – Take II

Two weeks ago, I ran my first tempo run of this marathon cycle. During the run, I focused on keeping my heart rate between 160 and 170 for the entire effort.

What I found was that toward the end of that run, I was pushing up and over 7 minutes per mile just to keep my heart rate with in my expected range.

Flash forward to this past Tuesday. My early miles were slower as I worked to follow the same pattern and keep my heart rate in the same 10 beat range. Strangely, the weather was just as hot and just as humid, but after the slower opening miles, the reminder of the miles was faster.

Two weeks ago, my total running time for the 10 miles – 8 mile tempo was 69 minutes. This time around, it was 67 minutes.

Maybe I was just having a good day or maybe I am adjusting to the heat and humidity. I hope that it is the latter of the two.

My marathon training is just ramping up. I need some positive vibes to help keep me motivated throughout the entire training cycle.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beat the Heat 5k

Saturday night I was in Winston-Salem, NC for the “Beat the Heat” 5k. This is a race where you can count upon four things: heat, humidity, a tough course, and a good field. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Even with a light, easy warm up, I was soaked. They were using the exact same course as last year. This is the USAT&F-NC 5k State Championship so it always tracts a strong field of runners.

This was my third running of this race in the last four years. I have never run particular well in this race, but I keep coming back. Each time I hold out hope to have one of those magical days where everything clicks.

Before the race I chatted with a few people. I saw Mark Hadley and asked how things were going.

But soon it was time to race.

Like I said, the course was the same as last year. The first mile is decently hard. The second mile is nearly all up hill. The third has a combination of uphill, flat, and downhill. Although, I have to say that I have never had the opportunity to take advantage of the downhill. I am usually pretty gassed at this point in the race.

They fire the gun and we launch off the line. Runners are sprinting passed me. I quickly settle into a nice pace. Last year, I think I hit the first mile in around 5:12. This time I still went through faster than I expected 5:25. I am racing with this other guy and he is breathing pretty hard. We make the loop around the baseball stadium, and we run up behind a runner that looks familiar to me. I don’t realize it at the time but it is Matt Jaskot.

I rounded the end of the lower parking lot and start the uphill climbing. It isn’t bad at first. I don’t push the pace but I am picking off a few people. My second mile is covered in 5:41 and I still have another quarter mile or so uphill to run. There are a couple people pushing the last part of the hill hard and pass me. I finally turn on the downhill section.  Mentally, I want to push but my legs feel spent. I hit the third mile mark in 5:43.

The last .16 miles took a whopping 55 seconds for a finish time of 17:46. Even thou I ran nearly 10 seconds faster than last year, I was disappointed. Like any competitor, I was feel like I should have run faster and wonder why I couldn’t.

Post race activities were awesome. There was plenty of music, food, and drinks. The awards started with the USAT&F-NC awards and then the race awards. In previous years, Beat the Heat used age graded awards, but this year, they actually did two different races in one. Those of us that ran for USAT&F-NC awards were scored in one race and everyone else was scored in the other race.

While I didn’t run the kind of time that I wanted, I did score a second place in the USAT&F-NC Masters. This moves me up the rankings for the USAT&F-NC Long Distance Champion. With half and full marathon events still to happen later this year, I like my chances.
Now, I am off for more marathon training. Wine Glass gets closer every day.


Sharing on thought at time,


The Cool Down Runner  


Monday, July 22, 2013


Usually once and sometimes twice each marathon training cycle, I will “Bonk” during a long run. For those individuals not familiar with the term: “Bonking”, I describe it simply as running out of energy and basically wanting to walk home. Any remaining miles are made agonizing slow as one foot is barely raised and put in front of the other.

I wish I could put my finger on the exact cause. My cases seem to happen regardless of my preparation.

Take for example my long run yesterday, I was running along just fine for about 14 miles. Then, just as if someone flipped a switch I went from feeling good to barely being able to pick up my feet. My last 4 miles were hot, humid, and not fun.

I had raced the night before, and after the race I made a point to rehydrate and to eat. Then, during my long run I was drinking from my hand held water bottles and eating from my pack of “Cliff Blocks” which I was taking every 30 minutes.

I thought I had my bases covered pretty well but it still happened.

Such is the life of a runner. I push my body hard all the time and expect it to respond all of the time. I have to realize everyone needs a day off once in a while – my body included. LOL.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Half and Half – plus Model Rockets

I am not sure why Tuesdays always seem to get the hard running days but they do. My guess 6 x 1 mile with half recovery qualifies as a hard day at the “Running” office.

I started things off with a mile or so warm up and then 6 x 150 on grass to get the legs moving. I followed this up by moving to the track for my mile repeats.

The first thing that I noticed – a dad and his four sons were shooting off model rockets, and they had setup in the first lane on the track. I guess it was ideal for them but not for me. But I just moved on and made the best of it.

Okay, I knocked down a 5:48, 5:48, and 5:51. Each lap I was swinging out to pass their rocket layout and miss the firing of their rockets. On the last mile, I nearly ran into one of the boys because he just walked right into my path without looking.

Needless to say, I was a little frustrated. Rather than continue, I opted for a change. I would do that last three repeats as road miles so hence the title of my post “half and half”.

I ran these miles in 6:12. The combination of the changing terrain, the heat, and simply getting tired pretty kept me from doing any better.

In my last few post, I talked about using my heart monitor again. The big eye opener is the change in my max heart rate. A few years ago, my heart rate was capping out around 180. This was the point where my legs started to feel heavy and wobbly. Now, I am finding that my heart rate seems to be maximizing out 170 because this is the point where I get this same feeling. I guess this seems to be just another sign that I am getting older.

Such is life.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bailey Middle School Track - for a workout

So last Friday evening, I headed up to Bailey Middle School track for some 400 repeats. It’s been maybe two years since I last did intervals here. However, for some reason, I have certainly enjoyed getting back on the track again. I feel like I am going through a cycle.

Some training periods I prefer road workouts and others I seem to be drawn to the confines and security of the paper clip shaped oval.

My workout started with a nice warm up on the nearby soccer fields. Running off the roads is nice. Running on manicured grass is even better. Three laps around the soccer fields totals to a little more than a mile.

Time was nearly upon me for moving to the track but before leaving the awesome grassy surface, I wanted to get my legs turning over. To do this, I ran 6 x 150 yards of hard striders. Maybe it is just that I hadn’t done this in a while, but my legs felt good doing it.

With my striders complete, the time had arrived to get in to my workout: 12 x 400.

My first one was a bit sluggish:  84 seconds. The next one was in 82 seconds. Then, I started to get the feel and settle into the workout. Repeats 3 through 10 went down in either 80 or 81. The final two repeats, I knocked off in 79 and then 78.

Last fall before OBX, I ran a set of 400s in a workout and I wasn’t anywhere close to what I achieved during this workout.

I know there is some speed still left in these legs. Nurturing the turnover to the surface is hard and requires a lot of time working on it.

I just have to remember “All good results are based in hard work”.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, July 12, 2013

Riding the bike and more

On Wednesday evening, I headed over for the TrySports group ride.  The skies had been threatening all day but I was holding out hope that we would make it this week.

Our ride was pretty uneventful. There were a few spots where the road was wet from the passing showers, but we remained dry for the entire ride.

My first couple of rides, I had hung toward the end of the group. I really didn’t want to get in anyone’s way. This week, I made myself get a spot up near the front.

When I ride near the back of the pack, I have always thought it to be so much harder. When the group surges or a gap opens, being in the back I am near the last to respond. Then, I have to work twice as hard to regain contact. Riding near the front, the surges are much quicker to see and gaps don’t open as often. To this runner’s mind set, I am not making all of these micro surges during my ride. Therefore, I feel like the ride is easier.

I did struggle a few places during the ride, but luckily for me, we had some stop lights that helped with the regrouping.

That’s pretty much it for the ride. However, there was one other interesting topic that I share with everyone.

Arriving a few minutes early, I was hanging out with Robbe and some of the other store employees. We were just killing time talking about whatever came to mind: The Tour, local races, training, etc.

As we were talking, this young man walked into the store. He couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 years old. What immediately caught my and everyone else’s attention was this race car driving suit. Politely, he asked to speak to the store manager i.e. Robbe.

He then handed Robbe a flyer and went into his sponsorship pitch. He drives go-karts and is running for a championship. He has been competing at several area races tracks and but wants to expand it.

What impressed me most was his demeanor. When I was 12 or 13, I am not sure that I would have had the confidence to make the same kind of sale's pitch. For that matter, I don’t know if I would have even tried it.

Robbe asked him a number of questions and he gave Robbe some good answers.

I hear too many people describe what’s wrong with the youth of America today, but then, a kid like this comes along. This reminds me that people focus on the negative far too often. I am not saying this is wrong, but what I am trying to say is that we should spend at least equal time talking about the positive contributions our children make as well.

The next time your son or daughter does some good, let them know. Those few words of praise can be far more effective than a thousand words of criticism.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Where’s the shade?

A few days have passed, and I thought the time had come for a new post.

What’s going in my world now?

Well, with the passing from June into July, I am now starting my training buildup for the Wine Glass Marathon in Corning, NY.

Training for a marathon means extra time on the roads, longer workouts, and harder workouts. Making those workouts doubly tough is the southern summer heat and humidity. Mark Hadley has been known to say “the heat and humidity in the south is the poor man’s altitude training” or something close to it. I may have paraphrased just a little.

Today, my workout today fell right in the middle of Mark’s comment. My SPF 100 sun screen feels like a second layer to skin, but it did little to keep away the cooking feeling that I experience during my run. Cars in the summer time can often over heat and when they do, the steam rolls out of their radiators. Sweat was running down my arms and legs before even left my drive way.

My workout today was an 8 mile tempo but with a catch, I wanted to keep my heart rate between 160 and 169. I started with a 1 mile warm up (like a warm up was really needed and then a 1 mile cool. As if such a thing was really possible today).

Here are a few observations from my workout today.

·         In the first mile of my tempo, my heart rate averaged 144.

·         The second and third miles, it averaged 155 and 156.

·         Miles 4-8, it pushed into the 165 to 166 range.

·         Climbing hills pushed up heart rate as expected.

·         Flat roads were better for controlling my heart rate.

·         Pushing over 170 beats per minute, my legs suddenly felt weak and I no longer felt in control.

·         During the last 3 miles, I went 6:41, 6:59, and 7:07. I was not even breathing hard.

·         My max heart rate was 196 which occurred when I was just starting.

·         My max heart rate while running my tempo was 172.

Tip of the day:

“Running during the heat of the day should be done in the shade if at all possible.”

Several sections of my course today were shaded. Upon just transitioning from the direct sunlight to the shade made me feel better. But it was not just my perception that I was feeling better. I could see the difference directly in my heart rate. If I were in the shade for more than 100 meters, my heart would drop 5 or 6 beats per minute. This was with no change in effort or terrain. I just went from direct sunlight to the shade.

Charlotte summers are brutal on runners. The best advice that I can offer is to pick the shadiest course possible when running during the heat of the day and make sure to hydrate.

And be wise about your running.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, July 5, 2013

Nothing like a nice summertime rain

I remember a couple of summers ago that Charlotte was under drought conditions. We were being asked to conserve water. Definitely watering my lawn was out of the question.  Charlotte was about a brown as it gets. I could not even seek any relief by heading to the pool. Even there, the water temperature was approaching bath water.  

Present day, I have heard nothing from the weather man this year about drought conditions. In fact, yesterday I coated myself in sun screen and headed for my run. The clouds rolled in and for two miles, I was wiping the rain from my eyes. I could hardly see the road. This was about the point I am suddenly struck with an idea. I should probably switch out my sun screen for Rain-X. Remember the substance that helps rain slide way on windshields. With the copious amounts of water being dumped on Charlotte, I need something to help shed it.

Oh, well, I guess I shouldn’t complain to much.

My grass has never been greener in July than this year.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer Track Series - Championship week.

Five weeks of summer track over six weeks just wrapped up on Tuesday night. We had runners ranging from the youngest just learning about running and track events to grizzly old veterans that come out and tested their abilities. They want to see if they still have it. Together this group of dedicated indivduals left behind a layer of sweat while they proved their metal. Everyone showed the heart that it takes to be a runner. New relationships were forged through the bonds of competition. Many walked away after setting PB and PR. Most runners walked away knowing that they would return next year more determined than ever.   

What a marvelous Summer Track Series it was. Watching Aaron knock out a fast time on the first week. Chris ran multiple weeks and always showed plenty of speed. Billy and John renewed their classic fight to the finish in the mile from a year ago. Matt ran several weeks and inched ever close to his elusive sub 5 minute barrier. “Fam”’s 1:53 800 and then a week or so later running a 4:08 mile.

The coolest race event was perhaps the store 4 x 400 relay challenge between Inside Out Sports, RFYL, TrySports, and Charlotte Running Company. With one lap to go, TrySports had the lead with Charlotte Running Company in second and RFYL in third. Going down the back stretch, TrySports was losing ground but ever so slightly. Coming off the last turn TrySports and Charlotte Running Company were neck and neck. Then, what seem like “out of nowhere” the RFYL runner hits the “NOS” and powers by Jason from TrySports and “Fam” from Charlotte Running Company. This was an amazing race and all should be congratulated on their efforts. Incidentally, RFYL’s victory allowed them to take home the jar of marbles. After all, doesn’t the winner usually take home “all of the marbles”?

I personally enjoyed this summer track season more than any in recent memory. My epic battles with Stan were awesome. It wasn’t about me winning or losing – although, I did most of the losing. It was about having someone there to make me run harder and pushing someone else to run harder than they believed possible. I cannot leave out a couple of other guys that jumped in with me: Clayton and Jeff. That’s what makes it special.

How did my final track night go? Well, the evening went well. However, I definitely didn’t have the evening that I wanted.

The clouds and rain throughout the day kept the temperature down but the humidity was actually worse. I am not sure exactly how to describe it other than to say – the air felt thick and heavy.  Each step felt like I had to work extra hard just to push through it.

I went into the mile race wanting to break 5:12. After the first lap, I was 74. On the second lap, I went through in 2:33/2:34. My third lap, I hit 3:52. As I passed by the clock, I thought that I can do this. I can run under 1:20 for the last quarter. 300 meter passed and the clock was ticking agonizingly close to my target while I watched. I ran another 5:12.

I guess because of the weather, the number of runners was down last night. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is limited number of people on the track. The curse is the limited number of people to chase and with fewer people there is less time between events. Meaning each event was happening so much faster.

I went almost immediately from the mile to the 400. I went hard from the start. I guess without Stan to battle, I lose my drive. I finished in 72 seconds.

I turned right around and ran the 800 next. I went through the first lap in 74, but then slowed battle on the second lap to finish in 2:34. Of all the events, this one was the most disappointing. I don’t know why, but I felt I was really struggling.

I skipped the 200. There was no sense getting crushed here.

They ran a combination 3200 and 5k last night. I opted for the 3200. As much as I like running 5000 on the track, I was not having a great night so why make it worse.

I really got off to a slow start. My first half mile was nearly 6 minutes. I felt tight and totally uncoordinated. Then, things slowed started to shift. My legs felt a little better, and I slowly moved up in to second place.

I finished in 11:38. This wasn’t my best time for the entire series but it was a solid effort and a good way to finish off my summer track series for ’13.

I picked up two medals for my efforts. I was third in the 800 and second in the 3200.

My best splits were 5:12 for the mile, 4:55 for the 1500, 71 seconds for the 400, 2:30 for the 800, 35 seconds for the 200, 16 seconds for the 100, 11:33 for the 3200, and 17:53 for the 5k.  

I couldn’t wrap thing us without giving Tim and Tom, and the entire RFYL crew as big “Thank You”. We all have to remember that it is because of their efforts, we have opportunities like Summer Track to experience and enjoy.

Here’s the link to a video that I put together of the Store 4x400 Relay. I hope you enjoy it.

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner