Monday, September 29, 2014

Wild Vine Trail 1/2 Marathon

Wild Vine ½ marathon

On Saturday, I ventured out to the Whitewater Center for their Wild Vine ½ marathon. As always Adam, Ally, and crew put on a solid race. Numerous water stops with Gatorade and water along the course. Plenty of ribbons and signage were used to keep me on the right path.

I lucked out and missed the bees’ nest that got stirred up by the passing runners. Several runners were stung, but there was nothing too serious.

My race was up and down both figuratively and literally. Aside from the lake loop, the course hit some of the most difficult trails at the Whitewater center. Our only reprieve was during the lake loop.  

After the first half mile around the rapids we hit the woods. I tried to settle-in with this group of about 6 or 8 guys. My breathing was off and I just didn’t feel good. In fact, I really felt like I was struggling. I just couldn’t get my legs to go.

They started to draw away from me while I tried to settle down my breathing. Chris, who just moved here from Texas, and I were working the trails together. On the carpet trail, he wanted by and was soon out of sight.

Off the carpet trail, I was really struggling. I took my gel at about 6 miles. I grabbed some water and Gatorade just before we hit the lake loop. Of all the trails at the Whitewater, the lake loop trails are my favorite. There are no twisting and turning or tiny rollers. There just lots of soft pine needles for the feet. This is the point where I really started to really settle down and pull myself back into the race.  I caught and passed Chris. I then caught sight of two other guys.

My legs were growing tied, but they had found their groove now. Finishing up the lake loop, we headed for the new section out by the entrance. I had run this as part of my warm up to get better acquainted with it.

The were numerous twist and turns as well as ups and downs. I caught three more guys during this section.

In my experience trail runners fly down the hills while taking it rather easy on the ups. My running style tends toward the more even approach. They catch me on the downhills but I would slowly pull away on the up hills.

Luck was truly on my side here because in the last half mile there were two nasty steep hills. One of which ran right up to the finish.  This definitely helped me slip away from them.

I wasn’t happy that I struggled so much during the early miles, but maybe I am still feeling some residual from my marathon 3 weeks ago or perhaps it was from being on my feet all day while volunteering at the 49er Invitational XC meet on Friday.

The good part, I got my head on straight and found my legs during the second half of the race. Coming on strong over the finishing miles was a good confidence booster.

My time was 1:52:17 and I finished 5 overall. This put me second in my age group to the race winner who was 45.

I am still curious about how they measured the course. My Garmin read 13.35 for the total distance. Given my experience with trail running, the course could have been closer to 14 or 14.5 miles easily.

One last thing, I ran this race as part of my weekend long run. I grabbed 5 miles before the start. Ran the 13+ during the race and then did another 2 miles around the whitewater center to finish out my 20.

All in all, this was a pretty decent day.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Going with a Ladder Workout

There is something about having my workout done before the sun comes up that is so satisfying. The awesome feeling of accomplishment literally pushes me through the day like a surfer catching a huge wave.

Having company along makes it even nicer because someone is there to push me harder for my internvals. This morning, Steve and Clayton joined me while Philip was running his 400s at the same time. Having Steve and Clayton along really kept me honest.

This morning, we were pushing hard with a nice ladder workout: 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 with ½ distance recovery. Similar to last week Steve and I took turns leading the laps. We hit the first 400 in 80 seconds. I followed with a 2:45 for the 800. Steve pushed us along with a 4:14 for the 1200. My 1600 was in 5:31. Steve had us moving in second 1200 with a 4:09. Yeah, I kept telling myself to “just hold on”. I went 2:44 for the 800. With a 400 left, I wanted to stay as close to Steve as possible. Last week on our final 400, I managed to stay close until we hit the 200 meter mark. Steve then just took it up another gear that I didn’t have. I believe he ran around 76 to my 79. This week, I stayed close until the final 150 meters. The gap between us just started to open and there was very little I could do to change it. However, this time I ran 76, but he was still a couple of seconds in front me.

All in all another solid workout and another solid building block for this training cycle.

Big shout out to Philip, Clayton, and Steve for the morning workout assist.


Sharing on thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 20, 2014

First Time Marathoner

While running a marathon, there is always time to strike up a conversation. After all, everyone is headed to the same place; the only real question is how soon that they will arrive.

 Well, during the Via Marathon, this first time marathoner was running next to me for the early portion of the race. The conversation started up with a question and things went back and forth while the miles clicked by.

Then, he asked me a very important question that every first time marathoner has pondered .

When it hit my ears, it made me chuckle on the inside. He asked me “When you do you know that you have made it”. Granted we are clipping along as just over 6 minute pace so I could have easily miss understood him. I never actually asked for clarification. Anyway, what I took it to mean was “when do I know that I can finish the marathon”. 

Both jokingly and seriously, I replied “When I pass under the finish line banner”.  Now, that I think about here and now, it sounds more like a silly than a serious response, honestly. But frankly it is a true enough statement.

Does anyone ever really know for sure that they have the marathon finished and in the bag until they have literally stepped across the finish line. I certainly don’t.

It is important to be honest with one’s self. I know full well that my wheels can come off at anytime during a marathon. I have every desire and hope that they stay on but I will only know for sure when I cross the magical 26.2 mile mark.

 Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner






Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Getting back in the swing of things

Just how quickly does one’s body get out sync? It happens pretty quickly in my opinion. Three weeks of taper, one big race, and then another week of recovery (really 1 week is not a real recovery) has made an entire month vanish from my training plan.

My body just seems so out of tune with any thought for hitting a hard workout again. Of course, this is to be expected afer a slower period, but like most runners, our mental capacity doesn’t allow us set idle very long. Our very nature prevents it. Besides, there is always another goal and another race to run on the horizon.

Anyway, this morning’s workout was pretty rough. Fortunately, Steve decided to join me for my 400s. I was so glad that he did. Instead of me beating myself up going around in circles, we alternated leading 400s. Our pace bounced between 77 and 78 seconds. Steve took the lead on last 400. Coming off the turn with 150 to go, I yelled ahead for him to crush it. Crush it he did. I thought maybe I was slowing down over this last 150. My legs felt like it, but not really that much. Steve just ripped through the final meters.

I was pretty pleased with my effort despite the temperature being in the mid 70s and 90+ for the humidity.

Feels good to get one in the bag and have something to build off of during the coming weeks. Definitely, I will be back next Tuesday.


Sharing on thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner


Monday, September 8, 2014

Via Lehigh Marathon Recap

Yesterday morning, I was finishing up the last 2 tenths of the Via Lehigh Marathon when out the corner of my eye something hugely orange caught my attention. The race announcer was calling out my name and I was getting my five seconds of fame on the jumbo TV screen. People were cheering me onward.

For the first time ever in a marathon, I reacted to their cheers and started pumping my arms skyward. To my surprise, the people reacted and the cheers roared ever higher. For those last 2 tenths, I felt like I was floating to the finish. This memory is firmly planted in my mind that will last forever.  

Okay, let's get to m recap.

Megan and I headed for the start at 5:15 AM. Yes, this is a little early but last year, there was some traffic congestion getting to the start. Megan was a good sport about it and indulged me. Besides, the last thing that I wanted was to get parked and hear them counting down to the start. I would much rather be setting and waiting. I will have enough stress from the race; I don’t need any stress getting to the start.

After a bathroom break and change out to racing gear, I headed to the starting line for some easy jogging/strides.

With 5 minutes left, I moved to the starting line. To my surprise, the starting line wasn’t that crowded. I had plenty of room to be right up front.

They gave us a final 30 seconds count down and sounded the horn.

Caleb and I ran together for the first mile. Then, we hit a sharp downhill. He pushed head while I held it back. There was no need to pound the quads this early when running 26 miles.

This was followed by a long gradual climb. This is something that became the norm over the entire course. Short downhills followed by long gradual uphills. There were places were the pavement was broken and uneven so I had to be careful where I stepped. We ran through a covered bridge at one point – maybe 30 yards long. We crossed a grated slippery bridge.

About 5 miles or so, we were going through one of the many transitions from sun to shade when I stepped on a rock. My ankle rolled and hurt like you would not believe. Fortunately, the two guys that I was running with kept telling me to shake it off. It was still “smarting” pretty well, but I pushed on.

 Through about 10 miles, I could still see Caleb but he was slowly getting out of sight. Between 6 and 11 we were hitting the trails. There was a short break around 12 and 13 miles for some asphalt miles. 

Up to this point, we had been hitting 6:18 to 6:20 miles. Suddenly my two running buddies dropped the pace down for a 6:05 and 6:08. No wonder I was felling effort.

I decided to ease back and let them go. There was no point running so much faster than what I could maintain for the entire race.

Soon I was back to clicking off 6:20s along the tow path through 20 miles.

Before the race, I made the decision to wear my sunglasses. Much of the marathon course is in the shade which is really nice, but there are a ton of spots where you transition into the sun for a few seconds and then back into the shade. During these many transitions, I couldn’t see anything. These blind spots left me hoping and praying that I didn’t step on a hidden root or rock. After a while, I was so annoyed with these transitions that I pushed my sunglass on top of my head. Removing them was the right move because at least now I could see well.

At 20 miles, we hit a steep short hill on a gravel road. I remember from the course description that between 20 and 21, the course continued along the D&L path but it was paved.

Just before the 21st mile, we picked up the trail again. I also started to notice that we were running ever so slightly up hill. My hope, I could pick up the pace once I was back on the pavement. But this gradual upgrade just never seemed to end. Megan didn’t think so but I am pretty sure it lasted until about 23 miles. At least my legs were pretty sure of it. I looked at my Garmin. All things given, I was looking at a 2:50 to 2:51.

My legs didn’t have much drive in them and I was making deals with myself to keep going. I kept telling myself “you don’t have to work harder”, “Just hold what you have”. Miles 23 and 24 passed and each was run around 7:05 pace. At mile 25 I could hear the noise from the finish. In fact, we ran parallel to the finish for quite a ways.

Somewhere I around 25ish miles, another master guy passed me. I so wanted to go with him but my legs were lying on empty and I was in the "get to the finish mode". He slowly pulled ahead of me. It was hard to watch him go but there was nothing that I could do about it.

We finally make the turn and head back to the bridge. Over the bridge we go. I have just 2 tenths to run. I am going to make it before my body decides to stop.

The crowd roars and I cross the finish line. I finished 12 overall and 2nd Male Masters with a time of 2:51:34.

My goal had been between 2:45 and 2:50 so I am pretty happy with my 2:51.

I was pretty thankful that this course had so much shade. The temperature was around 63 to 64 degrees at the start, but I could tell by half way that it was heating up. When I hit the sunny sections, I could feel the burning on my shoulders.  

Going into this marathon, a lot of runners labeled this as a fast course. Yes, there is a net drop in elevation from start to finish. There are also a number of rolling hills in the beginning. These downhills tend to be short and steep. While the climbs back were rather long and gradual. Later in the race, there are a few hills which they were short but steep. There is a long gradual climb between 20ish and 23 miles. The crushed gravel along the tow path had plenty of rocks, roots, and mud puddle in places. There was nothing extensive which could not be stepped around but runners had to be on a constant vigil.  Any other time, I would love to run mile after mile along the crushed gravel of the tow path in the shade. These sections were absolutely perfect for doing a sunday long run. Racing is another thing. The miles just tend to be slower than asphalt miles.

I have now run both Wine Glass and Via marathon. Both are considered fast courses, but in my personal opinion, Wine Glasses is a faster course. Just throwing out information to anyone wanting a BQ time.
I also want to give a shout out to all of the Salisbury (Rowan Area Marathoners i.e. RAM). I hung out them them Saturday night at the hotel and then at the air port. They are fun bunch. Congrats to each of you on your races Sunday. You guys are awesome.

Lastly, big shout out to Megan. With limited training and long runs due to an injury, she put in an awesome effort and easily got her BQ time with a 3:11 and 1st age group.
Sharing one thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner 



Friday, September 5, 2014

Thinking about mental toughness today

With a marathon just a day away the thought of mental toughness comes to mind.

I never really considered myself a mentally tough runner. Yeah, I have had a few people tell me that I should not think this way but it is hard not to. We all have a little self doubt about our abilities whether we want to publically admit it or not.

I never really think about being mentally tough when I am racing. Racing is a time to push all external thoughts aside. Racing is a time to focus one thing and one thing only – racing. Everything else is just a distraction and takes away from your effort – at least in my opinion.

To me, people who exhibit mental toughness always seem race well.

How do they do this?

Again this is my own personal opinion, but I believe they do the following. They take their great days and turn them into something exceptional. They take the good days and attempt to turn them into great days. They take their bad days and turn them into good days.

Again do they do this?

They are realist. Not every run is going to be a PR run. Running involves so many factors. Any one factor could sabotage a race. They realize and understand that this will be the case.

One powerful example is the almighty stop watch. This may be the biggest creator of self doubt ever made. When a split pops up at the mile, people are often either happy or disappointed. They expect a certain time and if it isn’t displayed, those self doubts push forward that they are having a bad race.

How easy is it to forget that the stop watches don’t factor in the hill you just ran up or that it is 90 degrees outside with 80% humidity. No, the stopwatch just displays a cold hard time.

Mental toughness is not letting these factors spoil your overall race.

I will leave everyone with this parting thought.

When racing and conditions are not ideal, remember you are not alone. The cold, the wind, the rain, the heat, the humidity, everyone running in your race is enduring the same conditions. It is how you react to them that determines the outcome of your race.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner









Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just a little sluggishness

Lately, sluggishness seems to have taken over my legs. Could it be to due to all of this oppressive heat and humidity having over Charlotte? Could my body just being tired from my weekly mileage. More likely, I am experiencing the same phenominom that race car drivers experience while leading late in a race. Every noise that car makes leaves the driver wondering if his day is just about over.  

There is just now way to be sure.

Sunday morning, I will strap on my racing flats and make my way over a 26 mile course. If the weather man is right, we will be racing under some rather warm and humid conditions. I really long for those cool fall mornings. This Sunday drinking fluids every few miles will be a must along the course. I learned my lesson about hydration and heat at the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon. The temperature was 92 degrees on the sign next to the finish line. I still remember how badly that I felt that day. No way do I want to repeat it.

Wish me luck, 

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two weeks out review.

Well, the days are counting down again for me to run another marathon. But first, I need to review how my training went for the period two weeks out.

Monday evening, I went my for my last spin class and stair master workout. Looking at my training plan, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of taper in it. What most people don’t realize. When I taper, I taper by dropping the auxiliary workouts. There is no spinning. There is no stair master. There is no weight workout. Dropping these workouts may not seem like much but consider this, take away this additional intensity, stress, and effort, my legs start to slowly feel better. Give them a week and half and hopefully, they feel strong enough to run a great marathon.

Anyway, after Monday’s workout, Tuesday I went for a tempo run. Each mile was solid and felt pretty good. My finishing mile was 5:55 which made me feel like I was headed in the right direction.

Skip ahead to my medium long run early Thursday morning. I was more than 20 second faster per mile than usual.

With an easy recovery day on Friday, I focused on having a nice controlled effort on Saturday morning for 16 miles. No matter what the legs felt like. Running too hard could mean leaving my best marathon miles on the roads around Charlotte rather than the road around Allentown PA. This is a definite no-no.

Sunday’s workout was an easy 10 miles.

My mileage reached into the low 70s for this week. I am pretty happy with 3 stressor workouts for the week plus doing strides on Friday.

This is pretty par for the course as my training plans go. Next Sunday morning around 10 AM, I will know for certain if all of the time and energy have paid off.


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner