Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Charleston Distance Run

Most runners avoid three things whenever possible: heat, humidity, and hills. I was lucky enough to have plenty of all three during my race on Saturday.

I have run the Charleston 15 mile Distance run multiple times during my running career starting in my early 20s including the last three years in a row.

When I remember back to those early runs, I remember being cold at the start. The last 3 years have been anything but cold. Labor Day seems to bring a wave of heat and humidity to Charleston area. Combine this with some hills and it is just an ugly combination.

Although, I felt like I prepared well for this year’s run. I had spent a great deal of time working out on hills and doing extra sets box steps. I had planned many of my runs to hit the hottest and most humid parts of the day. It is a miserable way to train but I had hopes that it would better prepare me for this race.

Come race morning, I checked the weather report – 100% humidity. My CRV told me the temperature outside was 72 degree so there wasn’t much need of a jacket.

The race starts near the Capital Building on Kanawha Street by the river. They ignite the wick on the cannon, and a hush falls over the field while we await the firing of the cannon.

My two miles of warm up noted that I was sweating a lot, and I only felt better when the wind hit me in the face. Unfortunately, we were running in the opposite direction.  

We made the city loop and started across the bridge. Bryan Harvey, another masters runner, and I are running together. We pick up another guy along the way. Just before 4 miles, we hit the infamous “Capital Punishment Hill”. I quickly grind through my gears. I am looking for something comfortable to climb this darn thing. We pass the 4 mile mark. This hill seems to go on forever. It isn’t exactly straight. It bends to the right so I think I am at the top but really I am not. I still have quarter mile or so to run.

I guess someone thought it would be humorous to put a sign at the top that says “Capital Punishment Hill Ends”. Really, it does not end. It turns left and heads into what is probably the toughest part. The hills are not as long but they are steep. The kind of hills that make me put just one foot in front of the other. Bryan and I were still running together but he was starting to gap me. I keep thinking that I would keep it close and catch back up on the downhill.

The course has an ugly decent for about a mile before heading back into downtown Charleston. 

In the previous two years, I had used my Brooks T7 and Nike Free shoes during this race and each time, my quads felt like butter by the time that I reached the flats of the down town portion of the course.  I have often thought that the uphills tenderized my quads and the downhills cooked them right into a “well-done” state. This year, I opted for my Brooks ST races.  My hope was to save my quads with the extra “shoe support” so I would have something for later.

I hit the flats and had nothing. My quads felt pretty much the same way. I was ready to be done.

And up to this point, we had pretty decent cloud cover. At about 9 miles the clouds cracked open and the sun burnt down on skin.

We run on a street over from the river so the nice little wind off the river was blocked.

Usually during races, I drink very little. Right from the start, I was drinking. I was even a little concerned that I would get that “slooshy” feeling in my stomach. I guess I lucked out on this one. It never happened.

I did use one trick that I read from one of Mark Hadley’s post. I grabbed some ice and held it in my hands while I ran.  I am not sure how much it was helping, but at least the thought of something cool made me feel better.

I passed 10 miles, rounded the block, and headed north again on Kanawha street. The breeze was still there but it was at my back and not enough to help. It was just enough to make me feel like I was in a sweat box.

I go from aid station to station drinking water and grabbing ice. The sun goes way and in the distance I can see dark clouds rolling in. Somewhere around 12 suddenly, the wind switches and suddenly, I am getting this massive head wind. Isn’t it enough that I am hot, sweaty, and tired? This is like kicking dirt in my face.

I make the right and pass the 13 mile mark. These are my least favorite miles of the course. Not because they are the last two miles but because it runs through the warehouse district. There is nothing to see but boring buildings.

My Garmin flashes up another split. I do some quick calculation and realize that I can break 1:40. I guess I just need something small to focus on. This goal seems to work.

This guy catches me and then gaps me by 10 yards. We run on a side road next to the interstate, and then make a right and then the left toward the stadium. Here a police officer directs the guy in front of me to keep going straight. That’s strange. The blue arrows that we have been following say to turn left. I ignore what he told the other guy and make the left.

Yep, this is the right street, but it takes me a second and I slow just to make sure. With some renewed confidence that I am headed in the right direction, I make my way to the finish.

Entering the track may be the best part of the race. I hear my name being called over the PA system. I know I am going to complete another 15 mile race.

I finish in 1:39:17, 18th overall, and first in my age group. Each year, I seem to be getting slower. This was the slowest time of the last 3 years.

I crossed the finish line and was handed two cold towels. I put one around my neck and draped the other head. I then walked over and lean against the stadium. I was tired. This lady comes over and asked me if I am all right and if I want some place to set down. I thank her but say “no”. This isn’t my first hot race. I know that I need to keep walking and keep drinking so this is what I do.

First, I down 3 cups of water and 1 cup of Gatorade. I walk around the stadium and pick up a couple more bottles of water. I quickly soak both of them down.

I swing by my car for some clothes and head off to the showers.

There is nothing like a shower to make me feel better.

The storm starts to roll in with a lot of thundering and lightening. Rather than hang out for the awards, I head to my car and home.

The race started at 7:35. By 9:45 I was finished, showered, and headed home.

As I drove back down 77, I wondered if I would return next year. Honestly, I think I am ready for a Labor Day break from this 15 miler. Maybe I will go someplace else next year or just maybe, I will not do anything.

If I don’t go back, I will miss it. Having grown up in West Virginia, I like going back. There is always an old face or two that I enjoy seeing again along with the new friends that I make along the way.

For now, I have some 360 days to think about it.


Sharing one thought at time

The Cool Down Runner





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