Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Leg have some sluggishness

Yeah, I waited until it was snowing pretty well before I went for my run here in Charlotte. The wind was really nasty. I was running head first into it for the first 7 miles before I made the turn and had the wind at my back. Boy, this was a relief. Although, another 20 minutes elapsed before I had feeling back in my checks and nose.

This was my first hard effort of any kind since Charleston. My legs still have a sluggish feeling. However, getting them moving at an uptempo clip is a good thing. In theory, this will help get the sluggish feeling to go away sooner.

Oh well, be safe in the morning. The roads will be slick.

Sharing thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Using only 2 stressor workouts per week

Several posts ago, I mentioned that for this training cycle I limited my stressor workouts to two per week. One was a long run, and the other was a fourteen mile tempo run.

Going in to my Charleston Marathon I had no idea if this type of training cycle was going to work for me. A side from the two stressor workouts I was averaging about 80 miles per week, and during my taper, I eased the mileage back to 70 miles per week. This was it. There were no other hard workouts in my schedule.

Now, the report is in.

In my opinion, this was one of my best training cycles to date. I felt fresh standing at the starting line. Each passing mile, I continued to feel good. This was in stark contrast to my typical marathon experience. Usually, between 23 and 26 miles, my hamstrings will start to cramp. They have never cramped enough that I am forced to stop. They just feint enough of a cramp to tell me that they are very close to the end of their rope. Saturday, they gave me no issues what so ever. Even thou, I ran 28+ miles with my little off course excursion.  

With no more marathons on the horizon, I now plan to focus on shorter races. I would like to do a few ½ marathons this later spring. I have been turning over the training needed for them in my head, but one thing is for sure. I plan to keep this training model for the near future.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Final thoughts about the marathon

I thought that I would share a few parting thoughts from my Charleston Marathon before looking forward in ’14.

My overall impression of the Charlotte Marathon was a good one. As a runner there are a few key areas which I believe push race toward the top end of the measuring stick. Their organization and scheduling were excellent. Their expo was decent. Plenty of water and Gatorade was available along the course. There were lots of volunteers to help with the race. The fan support was sparse along the course, but it is hard to ding this race for it. After all it is January, and it was cold.  

The course as a “whole” I liked. There were no major hills along the course but there were several sections where course changed elevation just enough to give the quads or the hamstring a break. The first few miles were along the water which gave all of the runners a nice view of the bay. Once we turn inland, we faced a strong head wind coming out of the north to north west. The surrounding building and houses created a canyon like effect which put the wind right in our faces. From miles, 3 to about 10 miles, the only relief from the wind came when we hit a dead spot next to a car or house.

I have to say the “pier” section was probably my least favor part of the race. It has nothing to do with the view but rather after 12 miles, coming to a dead stop, making an immediate u-turn, and then hitting a stiff head wind is just not much fun.

The latter half had more turns that I care to count. Nearly all were well marked or had someone directing us.

The last few miles were through a park and most of the last mile through this industrial area.

I wanted to mention a couple of other things that stuck out in my mind. I will talk about these two items first and then tell you what I liked best of all about the race.

At numerous points along the course, there were these guys who had some type of sound system for calling out the elapse race time over a loud speaker. The idea about calling out the time I liked. It was their execution that I am calling in to question. They seemed to be position at less than ideal spots like 6ish miles or 8ishmiles or 15ish miles or 20ish miles. When I am running, I am not big on long division to figure out my current pace. LOL.

Then, there was the post race food. I grew up in the north so Shrimp and Grits are not on my list of things to eat normally and would never be on my list for a post marathon food choice. Yet, this was what they were serving after the race. To my surprise, I saw numerous people enjoying what I can only assume were a delicious bowl of shrimp and grits. I suspect they were chasing it with beer. LOL. I should add that this was not the only thing they were serving, but it appeared to be the main course.

As I draw this post to a close, I do want you to know what I found best about this race. With the temperature being 35 at the start and probably 40 by the finish along with the fact that I was facing a stiff freezing 15 mile per hour head wind most of the race, yes, I was shaking pretty good afterwards.

So the best part of the race for me, well you might not believe this but it was the post race hot shower. I think I stood under the water for at least 30 minutes. When I finally walked out, I felt the kind of warm that only a hot shower gives. This was the best part for me. LOL.

Now for the question, I suspect most of you are wondering. Would I ever go back? The answer is yes. Having run off course, I feel like I have unfinished business at this race and when I have unfinished business, it doesn’t get checked off my list until I feel satisfied with it. I’ll be back for “turn gate2”.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Charleston Marathon Recap

Saturday morning at 6:30 AM, I found myself setting in a high school parking lot in Charleston, SC waiting for time to pass until the marathon start at 8:00 AM.

As I waited, I kept turning over in my mind what should I wear. 37 degrees isn’t that could for running but the 15 mph wind that we would face made it feel 27 instead of 37.

My hope was that after the first mile or so, the race would get into the interior of the island and the wind would not be an issue.

At the last minute, I opted not to risk it and added an undershirt and arm sleeves. “Boy”, was I glad that I did.

Standing at the starting line, I could not stop shaking. Each gust of wind made my limbs and face feel numb.

Stan was leading the 3:30 pace group. I looked through the crowd but never stop him. I did see Jamie Dodge and Philip. Philip had opted for a singlet and I could see that he was shaking from the cold. I was never more ready for a race to start in my life.

Finally, we got a second by second count down to zero.

For the first mile, I felt like I was just in the way. There were so many people passing me. I kept checking my Garmin to make sure that I stayed on pace.

After about a mile, the runners passing started to level out.

I did notice that suddenly the wind was no longer in our faces but at backs. I felt like I was cruise mode and kept trying to hold back.

After 3 miles, we made the turn from the view over looking the bay and downtown Charleston before heading north. This is the point where I hoped “wind” would not be a factor. Much to my chagrin, the wind was blowing hard.   “Kings” street acted like a canyon and focused the wind right into our faces. There were tiny pockets where the wind was shielded from us and when I hit one of these pockets, I could instantly feel myself surge forward.

Miles 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 passed as we battled the head wind. I noticed that I was catching a lot of the ½ marathoners.  They were struggling against the wind. There was something else that I noticed. Even with the wind, my splits were right on target with my game plan.

Around 10 miles, we made the split with the ½ marathoners, and we headed south again and out to the pier. These would be some of my fastest miles the entire race. Pushed by a strong tail wind, I was clipping off 6 minute miles.

They sent us on to the pier. I knew what was coming. Coming to a dead stop and turning around, I ran head first in maybe the stiffest headwind of the entire race. It literally stood me straight up.

Off the pier and headed back, I spotted Stan with the 3:30 group. I also saw Paul G. running hard as well. With in another mile, I caught up to a couple guys who had been running far up in front of me. We quickly teamed up and worked through the headwind on the way back.

We merged back into the ½ marathoners again. As to be expected, this made navigation difficult. I had to pick and choose my spots to split between them. Fortunately, we turned out off the ½ marathon course after another mile.

The three was us were still working together and we picked off several guys. At 18 miles, I was feeling pretty good so I pushed the pace and gapped them.

From the course map, I knew the last 8 miles had more than twice as many twist and turns as the other 18 miles of the course.

I went through 20 miles in 2:07 and felt great. I was starting to think I might be able to run the last 10k in sub 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, this is the point where my struggles started. I was coming around one of the huge traffic circles and was completely confused. The road head presented two options. One was to the left and one was straight. There was no course monitor to direct us. Then, down the street, I spotted a sign which appeared to be pointing left. I made a late turn and went left. There was nobody out. Every cop was setting in his or her car with the engine running.

I just crossed my finger and ran. Then, I spotted the 21 mile sign and breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, I was going to right direction.

Then, I ran right into another traffic circle. I knew that I needed to turn off but I had no idea where to turn. I went around the circle merged on to the road off the other side. When I merged on to this other road, I realized that I was catching other runners on their way out. My gut was telling me to turn back but mentally, I still thought I was headed in the right direction. While this was taking place, two thought crossed my mind. One, I knew that I needed to turn left, and two I didn’t remember seeing any left turns off this street. In hindsight, I should have turned around and headed back. Instead, I made the loop and went by the 19 mile mark again. At this point, I realized that if I went left, I would be retracing my steps again for miles 19 and 20 so I turned right and back along the course where I had just ran the 21st mile.

This time, I came to the same traffic circle again. Here I met a guy walking back towards me cussing up a storm about not knowing where to turn off. I to was sharing his frustration but I just didn’t share it in the same matter. I passed 21 miles and headed around the traffic circle.

There was still no one telling us to turn but this time, I saw a sign down the street telling us to turn left. The first time around, there had been a huge group of people on this corner and hidden the sign.

Finally, I was off this endless loop.

Mile 22 came up and I knew was back on course. However, a glance at my Garmin told me that I had run 2 extra miles.

2 extra miles is roughly a 13 minute penalty for me. Any thoughts of being one of the top masters runner were out the window.

At this point, I could have easily said to myself “take it easy and jog it in”. For a moment, I considered taking this idea.

But strange as it may seem, I still felt good. My Garmin said that I was still averaging 6:18 per mile.

Besides, there were a line of runners in front of me so I just let my competitive nature take over. I lost count of how many runners that I passed over those the last 4 miles.

I finished in just over 3:01 and 20th overall which placed me 1st in my age group. My Garmin said that I run over 28 miles.

As l look back at this race, I am bummed by what happen. However, I can only blame myself. Every runner is responsible for knowing where to turn. I missed one.

For the race itself, I am extremely happy. This is the best that I have felt in nearly 2 years of marathoning and this is exciting to me as I consider my options for the future marathons.


Sharing one thought at time

The Cool Down Runner


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Post Long Run – Hot Bath

Several weeks ago, I came home from a 24 mile long run in the freezing rain, and I couldn't stop shivering. Bundling up just didn't help.

Usually, after a long run, I follow the common advice of a taking an ice bath. However, since I was already shivering, I was certainly could not see this happening.

Instead, I turned the bath tub facet to a nice warm temperature. I fumbled around and found this aroma therapy bath oil from Bath and Body Works that I had been meaning to try. I dumped in a few spoonfuls. I, then, settled in to warm up and relax.

When I finish a long run, the first thing, that happens as my body starts to cool, I start to stiffen up. Moving around becomes a lot more difficult. After all, running 24 miles puts a lot of stress on my body.

About 30 minutes later, I crawled out of the tub.

This is when I noticed something interesting. While I still felt the fatigue in my legs, the stiffness that usually last for hours was not present. Actually for the rest of the day, I felt a lot better.

So I began a new post long run regiment. After each long run, I forgo the ice bath in favor of this aroma oil therapy batch and each time felt better.

I have been trying to rationalize why this was occurring. Today, while running with Jeff, I was telling him about it. He brought up the fact that because cold weather, he felt less inflammation in his legs. This may explain why I have not experienced any negative side effects. Running creates inflammation, yes, we all agree. However, my working theory now is that running in colder temperatures lessons the inflammation.  

Other than my own experiences, I have not hard facts to back up my theory.

I do know one thing for sure. It is far less taxing on me to climb into a warm bath than to climb in to a cold bath.

Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner

Friday, January 10, 2014

BB&T 8k and ½ marathon has been canceled

I was looking through my Facebook statuses this morning, and I was saddened to see that the BB&T 8k and ½ marathon had been canceled.

Last year, I ran this race and had a great time battling back and forth with Caitlin for the entire race. I was hoping to get a second chance again this year. Now, I guess I will have to look elsewhere for my racing during April.

Having gain some experience with our Charlotte Running Club’s Winter Classic 8k coming up in a few weeks, I certainly know that putting on a race is a lot work. Most race committees, I suspect, are a lot like our race committee. They work for free. They have a vision of something they want to make happen.

I have also learned that there are three major factors in any race: the runners, the race committee, and the money.

Runners have come to expect at every race that they get a race tech or standard t-shirt, a chip timed race, well marked course, and post race goodies and food.  Music is a plus. Other activities are a major plus. For the most part, any race having these attributes will get a positive review.

But to make the above happen it needs a good combination of the other two factors.  I firmly believe that every good race needs a strong race director and a great supporting cast. Yeah, small races can be a one or two man job, but as races grow, the race director needs lots of help. He needs a great supporting case to cover all of the “i” and dot all of the “t”. He needs cast members who will focus on specific areas of the race whether it is buying shirts, selecting awards, obtaining food and water for the race, race setup, porta-johns, chasing down sponsorship, or handling volunteers. The list of tasks seems to have no end. A race director with good organization skills and willing helpers is well on his way to a successful race.

Perhaps, the “white elephant” in the room is money. We all know the cost of everything has risen through the years. Very few races have a registration fee less than $25 these days. This cost has gone up because the cost of everything else has gone up from the cost of the cups at the water stops to cost of the shirts to the cost of insurance to hold the race. Then, there is the location cost if you are running the race on public streets or on a greenway. If the race is chipped timed, the race needs to block out at least $1500 and more if they expect more than 500 runners. Everyone seems to have their hand out these days for a piece of the pie.

Without money and especially money gained through sponsorship from companies, most races could not exist. I mean without sponsorship of races; most runners would face entry fees closer to $50 or $60 dollars for their local 5k race. Having a race would just not be financially possible. Thus money drives everything including our ability to hold races. I wish things were different but such is life these days.

I don’t know the exact reason for the cancellation of the BB&T 8k in Greensboro, but if it were from any of the above factors, I can certain empathize with them. I certainly hope that our Winter Classic 8k continues to have the strong leadership and supporting cast that this year’s group has displayed.

Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Most important person in your life

Sometimes when I have driving around Charlotte I tune my radio to one of several talk radio stations. Many times I then will just tune out whatever is being said. Mainly, I like the radio for the white noise.

This time, however, they were interviewing a life coach and he was talking about his latest work. 

He was telling the story about speaking to a group of people and one of the exercises that he had them do was to answer the following question – “Who is the most important person in your life?” Most people answered the question by saying – “their wife, their husband, their children, their parents, their siblings, etc”. 

Then, he asked them the awe inspiring question – “Where were they on the list?”

He went on to talk about why we should put ourselves on the list and at the top of the list. He reasoning made a lot of sense to me.

Before we can help others or do for others, we have to be happy and healthy our self. We can only do that if we consider ourselves in the equation. To a larger extent, being healthy can mean a lot of things to different people, but to me it means exercising regularly.

On more than one occasion throughout my life, I have been told that running is a waste of my time. At the time I never had the right response to why my running was important in my life.

Even thou, I could not articulate the reason why. I knew because I ran that I was happy and healthy and could go that extra mile. I had the energy and made the time to listen when important things needed to be said. I was a better person for doing it. 

This started me thinking. I wonder is the hardest part – putting ourselves on this list or is it that others don’t want us to be on our list and thereby discouraging us from even trying. Are they jealous of the fact that we understand what happiness is and how to achieve it? I don't know the answer, but I do know that I am happy and healthy. Sometimes, this just has to be enough.  

Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner   

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A very Cold Tempo Run

6 degree temperatures brought out almost all of my cold weather gear yesterday. Compared with my normal tempo run clothing, I now understand what it might be like to be surrounded by bubble wrap.

Just pushing out my front door, the shift from being warm and toasty to being chilled to the bone didn’t take long. Lucky for me, my Garmin was quick to boot up and I was on my way.

My muscles are normally pretty stiff during the early miles, and they were a tad more so yesterday. But this  was quickly shaken off and I was into my tempo run.

Because my hands normally get pretty cold during these runs, I added hand warmers to my mittens. I should note that during the first couple of miles, they were working a little too well. My hands felt little like they were touching a hot stove. After about 3 miles, this sensation went away. I am guessing maybe the 6 degrees had something to do with it.

The rest of my tempo was pretty uneventful. Aside from my upper lip which felt numb and a runny nose which was more like an icy nose, I had no other issues. 

Once I finished, I did notice how quickly that I started to cool down. While I didn’t notice that I was sweating during my run. The dampness was pretty apparent after just a few minutes of walking back to my house. I actually started to feel a cold chill.

A quick hot shower and change of clothes solved the problem. 

Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cold Weather Running Tips

If the weatherman's forcast is accurate, Charlotte will have one of its coldest nights ever recorded.  Not to be out done, the following day will not even reach the freezing mark.

When the weather gets this cold, I have to remind myself why I don’t complain as much about our hot southern summers.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my cold weather running tips.

·         Under 20 degrees I switch to wearing mitten on my hands. Maybe it is just me, but I hate having my hands cold. Keeping the fingers together keeps them warm.

·         Once the temp gets to 10 degrees, I will add one of those hand warmer packs from Walmart or REI. They are .74 cents for 2. They work great.

·         For those really cold and windy days, I wear a hood that covers everything but my eyes. To the passer by, I look like I am heading for the ski slopes and all that I am missing is the snow. It but hey, no one wants frost bite. Right?

·         Another alternative that works most of the time involves is wearing a thin coating of Vaseline on my face. Bobby A. suggested this to me a few years ago and when I tried it, it worked pretty well. I mean it isn’t the same as setting by a roaring fire sipping hot chocolate, but the Vaseline really seems to help protect against the cold and especially the wind.   

·         When it comes to the upper body, it is all about the running gear. I have some Gore clothing so even on single digit days; I will usually just go with a running shirt underneath and the Gore stuff on top.

·         Another option is pull on your wing or rain jacket. A few more layer might be needed underneath it but if it stops the cutting through the wind, I know I am still better off.

·         Usually under 30 degrees, I will go with running tights. Under 20 degrees, I have an extra heavy pair of tights. I even have some running underwear that helps provide protection against the wind. I know some of my friends will tough out these cold mornings without tights, but when it is this cold, it is really easy to pull or strain a muscle. I have always felt an ounce of prevention (tights) was better the pound (recover time) of the cure.

·         As far as shoes and socks, I usually just go with my Thorlo Socks and regular running shoes. I have heard people say that their feet get cold while running but I have never experienced this issue.

·         Where should I run? Well, I always suggest running some place where the wind isn’t but just in case this isn’t possible, I always run into the wind on the way out. Then, when I am tired and cold, I at least have the wind at my back so it doesn’t feel as cold on the return trip.

·         Last but not least, don’t run alone. Accidents happen – twist an ankle – fall and get hurt on some ice. Having a running buddy along means someone there to help. Another option, I will take my cell phone. This gives me the option of calling for help in a dire emergency.

Whether the temperature is 105 or 5 degrees, always plan according.

Above and beyond anything be safe.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner