Thursday, August 28, 2014

Major respect to running mothers

There are many reasons why I love running but there is one in particular. Running allows me to see things in the world that most people never see or realize because they go flying by it at 55 mph.

This morning during my run I passed by this mother pushing her baby jogger up a hill. Now, normally, this would not draw my attention. I have seen numerous women pushing baby joggers. There have even been a few evening pushing them up a hill.

No, what made me take notice initially was that she was running. In fact, she was booking it pretty good up the hill. The baby jogger didn’t seem to be slowing her down one bit.

For this alone, I had to give her some respect points. I have never pushed a baby jogger uphill while running but I cannot imagine it being easy.   

So I continue on my loop through this neighborhood and come back to this same hill on my out. To my surprise, she is heading up this same hill again.

Wait, am I seeing this correctly? Yes, she appears to be doing hill repeats while pushing her baby jogger.

Now, this is truly a hardcore mother who is not letting anything stand in her way.

She had my respect before but now, my respect level just pushed to a perfect 10.  

To the mothers of the world, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals. This morning I saw living proof it.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, August 25, 2014

Taper Week #1

My first taper week amounted to an up and down week.

Tuesday, I ran my 2 on 2 off workout which I repeated 17 times during the course of my run. I felt good about these intervals and how my body responded to them. The best part, the “on” intervals were well within my expected marathon pace which was nice confidence buster.

Thursday, I headed out to the Whitewater Center for their evening trail run. There was no race this week but there was still plenty of runners ready to hit the trails at 6:30 PM. I grabbed a quick 8 miles beforehand and then joined in when their run started. This makes for a nice tempo effort on some moderately tried legs.

There were two of us running together most of the run. I could expand out my lead during the open sections but when it was the more technical sections, he would close back up. I freely admit that I am not a great or even a good trail runner. I am not even sure that I qualify as a decent trail runner. But I realize the benefits specifically the strength and stability that it builds in my legs.  This makes my effort worthwhile. Afterward, the Whitewater Center is a great place to hang out and listen to some music.

Ah, Saturday was my low day for the week. I made the awful mistake of pushing the start of my 20 miler to 11 am on Saturday morning. There were lenty of clouds around but the heat and humidity were the worst. 

To get in my 20 miler, I would be doing two 10 miles loops. I do this because I can refill my hand held bottles. One had Gatorade while the other had water, and I was sipping on them every 10 minutes.

From my very first step, my body just didn’t feel like running. By the time I finished my first 10 mile loop, I was having serious thoughts of stopping.

But I had committed to running my 20 miler this day so I pushed on after refilling my hand held bottles. Miles 11 and 12 were tough. Miles 13 to 15 were a struggle. At mile 16, I kept telling myself that I only had 4 miles to go and I could do it. Mile 17 and 18 were more about putting one foot in front of the other and not walking. Just after 18 miles, I stopped and set down on the curb. I was hot and I felt absolutely terrible. I kept thinking that I could walk the 1 and ½ back to my house. 18 miles was still a good run albeit a little slow at the end. The reality of the situation – all I really wanted to do was just set there on the curb in the shade.

As I have been reminded many times, pain and suffering our temporary. Quitting is forever and once you accept it as an option, it is easier to do the next time. So I rolled over on my hands and knees and pushed myself vertical. The last thing that I wanted to do was take another running step, but I did. Those steps were not fast or high but they were running steps. Mile 19 split flashed up on my Garmin. I had only 1 mile left to run. Don’t think about it. Just do it. I probably check my Garmin 30 times as each 10th of mile clicked off. Finally, mile 20 flashed up and I slowed to a walk.

I knew better than to stop or bend over. If either one happened I would probably passout and hit the ground. This is just how bad that I felt.

A few hours later and several large glasses of water I felt so much better.

Lessons learned from this day. No more mid day 20 milers will be on my training schedule in the future.


Sharing one thought at time

The Cool Down Runner.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Working out while on vacation

Last week, someone asked me a question about working out while on vacation. The thought kept rummaging around the back of my head until today when I finally decided to write something about it.

Being an everyday runner means that even when on vacation my miles still need to be run.  

But vacation is vacation and is my body's well deserved time to rest.

So there is no core work, no pushups, no situps, no stretching, no foam roller, no weight lifting, etc.

I just get up and go out the door for my run. This is just the way that I remember it when I was a teenager. Just run!

What time do I start these runs? Well, unless I had a late night, I like getting up early and seeing the world while it is still new. This doesn’t mean rolling out at 5 am in the morning, but a 6:30 or 7 am run usually works best for me.

When I do push out the door, I like to go exploring. Most people when they go on vacation, they only go where things are accessible by car. By running, I get to see things most people never even conceive. This could be far end of a beach area or some hidden trail that is only known to the locals. Most people might walk a mile, but my runs can easily go 7, 8, 10 miles. I can see a ton of cool stuff or spot some local dive that might be worth trying later in the day.

Nice part is that the rest of the day is about enjoying some family time which is what life is all about.

Life is good.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner





Monday, August 18, 2014

Marathon Training 4 weeks out

Well, my last big training week is now in the books and what a week it was. Three stressor workouts played heavily in my training plan.

Tuesday, I was out running 5 x 1 mile. Just as I hoped each mile went a little better. I could feel the sluggishness in my legs but still felt like pushing.

Thursday evening, I headed out the Whitewater Center for their River Jam 6 mile trail race. First up, I ran 8 miles on the trails and the returned just in time to get my bib and get to the starting line. My goal was to run around 40 minutes. I ran 40:21 so mission accomplished. Finishing 5 overall wasn’t bad either. I have never fancied myself a great trail runner. In fact, I don’t really think of myself as a trail runner at all. But there are days when getting away from the asphalt and concrete as most welcome.

Now, I am on to Sunday morning and my long run.

Months had passed since Megan and I had last run together. We were joined by a relatively newbie to Charlotte – Emily. Having a new runner in the mix is a good thing. They always have so many good stories to tell and nothing passes the time on a long run like a good story.

Back to my long run, I started off with an 8 mile run before sun started to rise. Then, I met Megan and Emily. We did probably another 16 together before Emily headed back. Megan and I finished out her 20 and my 28.

Every time that I put this 28 miler on my schedule I have to remind myself why I do it.

Running a marathon is not easy under any conditions. Running 28 miles with the temperature climbing from the 70s into the 80s makes it even more difficult.

But, once I complete it, I know that I am ready to run a marathon. The question is no longer the distance but how fast.

In three weeks, I will know the answer.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, August 15, 2014

River Jam 6 Miler

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share a little about my experience last night's River Jam Trail race at the USN Whitewater center. Every Thursday night, the Whitewater Center throws party with live music, food, vendors, an opportunity to watch people shoot the rapids, and oh, yes, there is several options for a trail run.

If every family members isn’t a runner, they can come throw out a blank, enjoy the music while you knock out some miles on some of the most well kept trails in the Charlotte area.

Then, there is the second Tuesday of each month when they do their trail races series: 3 and 6 mile races. 

Thursdays are typically my medium long run day during the week. Since Tuesday, I ran mile repeats; I thought a 6 mile tempo run on the trails would be a nice complementary workout.

Running at the the Whitewater Center always a no brainer because it is no more than 10 minutes out 485 from house. I love this part because there is minimal traffic and it is an easy drive.

To get things rolling, I headed out to preview the course. But before starting, I looked at the course map. Having run at the Whitewater Center numerous times, I am fairly well acquainted with the different trails. I knew the course had some fast sections but also included some rougher single track sections.

My warm up went well.  I got mixed in with some cyclist who probably made my warm up a little faster than I wanted. The result, I was back in plenty of time to pick up my race bib, drop some stuff at my car, and pick up a couple of more miles before the race started.

We gathered near the trail center and Adam gave us some last minute instructions. 3 milers would be following the Green arrows while the 6 milers would be following the orange arrows. Essentially, the 3 and 6 miler ran the same course for the first 2 ½ miles. At this point, us 6 milers broke away to run the 3 miles or so around of the lake loop.

Like cross country, in trail races position is everything. Everyone goes sprinting out hard trying to be at close to the front as possible. This limits the number of people they have to pass during the single track sections.

Last night race was no exception. Everyone went out hard which is something that I am not great at doing. Once we hit the single track section I focused on setting a good pace as I fell in with several other runners.

As the opportunities presented themselves, I made some passes. To me trail running is a lot like a fartlek workout. There are times where I have to go all out and then there are times where the course is so difficult, it only makes sense to slow down.

This also reminds me that I like running on the trails when it is overcast. On overcast days, there is very little change betweem the light and dark areas of the trails. This makes it easier to see the roots and rocks. On a sunny day, I can easy be blinded for a second while my eyes adjust to the transition. It takes just one arrant second to twist an ankle or take a fall.

Pretty much as these guys moved up, I followed them. After 3 miles, we turned to the lake loop which is one of my favorite trails to run at the Whitewater center.

The three of us stayed together for the 4th mile. Then there were just two of us. I tried to make a move but I couldn’t hold it. He passed my back and over the 5th mile pulled away.

Then, one of the guys that we had passed early caught up to me. I could tell that he was running hard because his breathing was pretty labored.

Just having him behind me pushed me to run a little harder. Soon, we were out of the woods and headed toward the finish. There is about ½ mile to run from the exit of the woods to the finish with one nasty gravel hill to be climb. Then, it is downhill to the finish.

Having got my “but” kicked in this same scenario at the Beach Blast race; I let him pass me coming down the hill. Then, when we hit the hill, I charged up it hard. We topped it side by side. But this time, I had a little more in the tank and charged down the hill to the finish. I finished a few seconds in front of him.

I finished 5th overall in 40:21. This was pretty much in line with my goals. Trail racing has never been my forte. I like the idea of being able to run tomorrow so running the trails with reckless abandon is something that I will probably ever do.

This was my second race at the Whitewater center this year. Both times Adam and his crew have done an outstanding job with the race. Then, throw in the post race entertainment and it makes for an awesome evening.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner






Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Marathon Training WK#5

Tuesday has rolled around again so time for me to recap my previous week's training.

This particular 7 day cycle was decently solid but there were some up and downs.

Let’s start with my Tuesday tempo run.

If you remember two weeks back, I went 27 miles on the trails between Crowders and Kings Mt. Well, let’s just say that I ran a little too hard on the downhills. My quads were still plenty sore on Tuesday morning when I rolled out for me 8 mile tempo.

Interestingly, my first couple of miles were actually faster than any of my previous tempo runs, and not be a little but by a lot. Then, around 6 miles my quads just started to fold. The more I tried to push, the slower they seem to be able to function. The last couple of miles were a real struggle.

Several times the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just tank the workout. My body clearly wasn’t ready for it. I could live to tempo another day. This was the creative side of my brain talking. The logic side said – no I needed to keep going. Reasoning – in the later stages of a marathon, I am very much likely to feel the same way. Experiencing it now and continuing to push through it would give me the confidence that I need to push through it in the actual race.

Moving on to Thursday evening, I headed down to the TrySports TryThursday Adventure Run. This would be the first time that I had ever did their run – supported yes, but never participated.

Beforehand, I was out getting in some extra miles, and my legs felt absolutely dead. Then, the adventure run started. Running with Dan, Billy, Andrew, and Paul, my mind worried less about how my legs felt and more about the conversation and the challenges that we had to perform at each station.  

Friday, I pushed my run to the very evening because my legs still felt so bad.

Saturday morning, I was off to run another trail run at Lake Norman State Park. This time my target mileage was about 25 miles. I had run a couple of the trails a few years ago, but this time I was headed for a section of trails that I had never done.

I would start on this trail which was a 9 mile loop that could be extended by 3 other loops for a total of 18 miles. The one thing that I had missed when looking at the park information was the construction at my favorite parking lot. Instead of parking near the trail head I had to run about 3 miles to reach the trail head from the main parking area, and of course, there is still the return trip back to my car. It is what it is.

This also meant that I had to carry all of my water and gels during the entire run. This was a slight bummer because I was going to be out there for 3 hour plus. I had to ration my water.

The trails in this section were quite nice. There are some rocky sections and some loops meant for mt. bikes to climb the steep banks, but there are also some nice sections covered in pine needles which I dearly love to run on. The Wild Life loop was actually my favorite section. It isn’t overly technical. It doesn’t have a lot of climbs. It just weaves back and forth a lot.

Compared to Crowders/Kings Mt. trails, this trail was much easier to run and my splits albeit determined by my Garmin were over a minute faster per mile.

Just in case you thought my week was done, it wasn’t. Sunday morning our club was participating in the SLR Unsanctioned ½ marathon on the McMullen Greenway. The threatening rain clouds meant the air was loaded with moisture and sweat turned into a coating on my skin.  I ran the first few miles with Mike and Sharon. This was over the first half of the course. The second half I was solo. The first half my legs continued to feel dead, but over the second half they started to feel better. In fact, they felt the best they had felt the entire week. I cannot explain it, but I can just accept it. In this case, I welcomed it.

Like I said, this was a week ups and downs. Now, I am in my last full training mode this week before starting my taper for Lehigh.

My perception of time is that it moves faster when I least want it to.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner





Sunday, August 10, 2014

SLR Events

A couple of years ago, I started hearing about these Sunday group runs called SLR. After a little internet researching I learned more about these events. The more I read the more I wanted to try one. Over time, I have grown to enjoy these 2 to 3 time year runs on the McMullen Greenway.

Phyllis and Rob are the organizers behind these free events, and there is usually anywhere from 30 to 100 runners attending them.

They have always run a half marathon for the ones that I attended and open to anyone that wants to run it. Everyone brings a dish or desert to the event because what runner doesn’t want to eat after running 13+ miles.
It is a low key event but they are usually timed and have run shirts. Peter from the Vac & Dash store makes the journey over from Albemarle to provide the timing and sell the shirts.  I got a sleeveless and a regular t-shirt today.

Phyllis’ handy work shows up well with a well mapped out course and plenty of volunteers handing out water along the course.
When checking out the run, make sure to meet Phyllis. For without her hard work, we would not have such runs so make sur to thank her for her efforts.

Sharing on thought at a time,

The Cool Down Runner





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mararthon Training WK#6

After signing up for the Lehigh Marathon this spring, I fully expected to be doing my marathon in the midst of the summer time heat. So far, the weather has been nothing short of fantastic. The morning runs are unbelievable.

Last Tuesday, I stuck with my weekly tempo and followed it with a Visitor Center to Visitor Center run between Crowders Mt. State Park and Kings Mt. State Park on Saturday.

An eight mile tempo is my go to weekly workout for marathon training. The first mile is always at a solid warm up pace and then, I roll right into it. From this point, I can just shut off thinking about it and follow my normal 8 mile loop. Each my body seems to adjust a little more. The evidence is the few seconds per mile drop on my overall average. Definitely, this is the kind of signs that I like to see.

 A couple of years ago, I was looking the trail map for Crowders’ Mt. State Park and noticed that I could follow the Ridgeline trail until it hit the Kings Mt. State Park. Pulling up the Kings Mt. trail map the Ridgeline trail connected into Kings Mt. trails.

The idea then hit me. Let’s do a visitor center to visitor center run. The Crowders Mt. map measures the miles with GPS but the Kings Mt. doesn’t give distance. Ballpark, I figured it had to be somewhere between 20 and 30 miles and yes; this is a large guestimate to be running.

So one Sunday morning, I ran it. If memory serves me correctly, I spent about 4 hours and 45 minutes running.

Fast forward 2 years, I headed out last Saturday morning. From 2 years ago, I remember thinking that it felt like I ran forever before I got into the Kings Mt. park. This year with overcast skies and fog hanging along the mt. tops, I felt like I was cruising along. Honestly, I probably pushed too hard on the way out. My halfway split was 2 hours and 8 minutes.

Refilling my water bottles I was ready for the return trip. Settling into an easy but solid pace I began the return trip. I don’t know this for sure but I have always felt that there is a net downhill going out which meant I have a more climbing on the return trip. In several sections, my quads were definitely burning. This culminated with the final climb up the rail road ties. This is an absolutely brutal section. The ties are placed a different heights and different distances. Think running up bleachers in a stadium but with each one spaced out a little differently. Power walking might be more appropriate than running.

With this last climb in the bag, I could rocket back down to the parking lot. This would absolutely obliterate my quads. The soreness hadn’t waited the customary two days settling in because it had already arrived by the time I reached the parking lot.

This is by far one of the toughest training run trails that I do around Charlotte, but this is also one of my favorite. I love out and back courses like this one because there is no opportunity to cut it short. Once I start it, I am fully committed.

For those that want to attempt this run, my Garmin registered about 25 miles, but I am guessing that is closer to 27 or 28 miles. There is a multitude of switch backs – especially when climbing up the side of a ridge. I suspect my Garmin just viewed this as one straight line from the bottom to the top.

Give this run a try.

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner