Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'14 Another trip around the Sun


Having lived to complete another trip around the sun, the time has come to recap my year that was. Thinking back to my recap of ’13, I had no idea of what ’14 might offer. I never set any big goals for myself. Mainly during the year, I just ran the races that interested me the most.

Reminiscing about those races now, I am pretty happy with how things worked out.

In the shorter races, I ran 5 x 5ks during the year with the fastest being a 16:54 at the Big South 5k. I ran one 8k – the Winter Flight race that Dave Freeze directs. And wrapping up the year of shorter races, I ran one 10k. The Turkey Trot 10k in Cornelius.  A long the way, I had some great battles with Steve and Cory. They beat me in a few races and got them back in a few races. This is the kind of stuff that I love about running and competing.

Next, I hit the trail races more this year than any other. An 8 miler, a 6 miler, and ½ marathon all of these races were at the Whitewater Center. The job that Adam and Lindsey do with those races is awesome. Definitely, it is worth the short drive out 485.

Late spring and early summer saw me hitting the track. I hit an early one in April, and another one May. I scored some decent efforts at the Powerade Games, the Jim Law Invitational, the RFYL Summer Track Series, and Winston-Salem Track night. But the one race that I most wanted was the Ultimate Runner race organized by the Winton-Salem Track Club. Running the mile, 400, 800, 100, and 5k all in one evening was a true test one’s ability. Throw in that it was bucket list item for me. I couldn’t have been happier to do it, score the coveted Ultimate Runner Shirt, and get the all coveted mug for finishing in the top 15.

Perhaps my most rewarding moments was in the longer distance races. After looking back through my many years of running, there has never been a year where I ran 3 marathons, a 50k, and 2 half marathons. I did more races over 10 miles than I did under it.

 The year started with my running the Charleston Marathon in Charleston, SC. The day was going great for me right up to the point where I missed a turn and ran 2 extra miles. During the race and right afterward, I was really bummed about it. There is such a feeling of disappointment. At one point, I even considered dropping out. However, there was just something inside of me that made it just felt wrong. Instead, I got myself back on course at the right spot and finished the race with a 3:01.    

A month later, the cold, wind, and the rain made the Myrtle Beach one tough race. I was so happy getting the 1:19 that you wouldn’t believe. Another month passed, and I dropped a 1:18 at the Wrightsville Beach ½ marathon.

Skip ahead to September, and I was running the Leigh Marathon in Allentown, PA. I wanted so badly to run well to make up for Charleston. It just never materialized. I felt tired right from the start. When I hit the finish line in 2:51, I felt like I got better than I deserved. Flash forward 6 weeks, and I was standing at the starting line of the Spinx Marathon in Greenville, SC. Really, I was doing this race because it was bucket list item. I didn’t feel very good through out the race, but my legs kept digging. Approaching the stadium, I was totally surprised to see a 2:45 was possible. This was perhaps my best race in two and half years.

Most runners would have wrapped up their season after such a great performance. However, I felt like I still had something more in the tank. Off I went to the Derby 50k in Derby, NC. The Magnum Track Club put on this race every year, and they give a Derby Hat to the winner. Just so you know, I will sometimes chase certain races just for the awards. For years, I have chased the awards at the South Park Turkey Trot 8k in hopes of winning one of their elusive Turkey shaped awards. It has never happened, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. Winning a Derby hat falls right in line with the Turkey award or the Pelican from Kiawah Island half marathon. Race day was cold and sunny. For 6 miles, Mike and I shared the lead. When he stopped for water, I pushed on. I would run solo for the next 26 miles. I ended up winning by 30 minutes but truly, I never felt safe until I crossed the finish line. My new Derby hat now sets on my desk, and I put it on whenever I think about that day.

This covers all of the road, track, and trail races that I did. Though, I did step way outside the box this year by doing a Spartan Race. Quite possibly, this was the toughest event that I have ever completed. I was tired, sore, and covered from head to toe with mud when I crossed the finish line. I spent the next two week recovering from the upper body soreness. The more that I think about it, this may well have been my one and only Spartan race. I am definitely glad that I tried it, but I truly believe that I am a one and down type of guy when it comes to Spartan races.

This year also saw me finish out my second year as the Charlotte Running Club’s President, and then step away from the role. Being President was something that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I found that I enjoyed organizing events for CRC even more. With each event that I did, I learned and improved. From the All-Around Miler, to the CRC Summer Track night, to our Guinness World Record Tether Team, the events got bigger and hopefully better. ’15 starts tomorrow, and I am already working on some ideas for later in the year.

As I put ’14 to bed, I cannot help but appreciate all of the good things that I have accomplished. What ’15 offers, I cannot say, but I can only hope that ’15 brings me as many new adventures and opportunities as I can hope to handle.

Happy New Year,

The Cool Down Runner   

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guinness World Record Tether Team




There is only a few more days left in ’14, and before it finishes up, I need write my about my CRC Tether team experience.

After months of planning, worrying if I would get enough runners to make it happen, and then worrying if enough runners would show up on race morning, the big day finally arrived. I slept only a scant few hours during the night.

By 4:30 I was awake and pacing the floor. By 5 AM, I was headed toward to the race starting area. Getting moving allowed me to focus more on the things that needed to get done rather than the things that could go wrong.

After all, with nearly 200 runners willing to participate in this effort, I didn’t want to let anyone down.

Bear and I had a quick call which told me where to setup our tent. This would be just outside Fleet Feet. To combate the dark of these late winter mornings, I had outlined my tent with Christmas lights and a rotating blue light. For those that don’t know, I love lights. I have since I was a child. Thus, I can never have too many of them. It is just not possible.

Setting up the tent is pretty much standard for me these days. I have the solo sequence of the setup down pat.

By 6 AM runners were starting to arrive. Between then and the race start, time literally flew by. Much of it was spent sharing information, demonstrating how to put on the belt and attach the carabineer, and mark off runners as they arrived.

At 7:30 AM I spent 10 minute updating the stewards and line captains of their roles and responsibilities. Passing out the bungee cord for each line was the easy part.

Finally, the time arrived for us to get started.

As I walked over to the starting area, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Everyone was lined up and ready go.

The 5k started and I waited for all of the racers to clear the starting line before we began to move.  

For the next 3.1 miles, we would run/walk. The stewards did a great job making sure everyone participated and was safe. The runners sang songs but most important paid attention to those around them and had a great time.

I have watched the video of us finishing a hundred times. I am still amazed. The crowd roar was awesome. The runners were so excited.   Heck, I was on cloud nine.

The feeling of accomplishment is just beyond explanation for me. Bringing a Guinness World Record to Charlotte and making a whole bunch of runners in to World Record Holders, I could not ask for a better way to end up my CRC Presidency or finish up the ’14 year.

Afterwards, I just wanted to hang out with the entire team and soak up the atmosphere.

What an amazing experience. I am so appreciate of everyone that helped me make this happen.
 
Here's a link to the video of our record settting accomplishment.

 

Happy Holidays,
The Cool Down Runner

 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Unbroken


Last night I saw the prescreening of the movie “Unbroken”.  Let me just say if you are interested in being entertained for a couple of hours, this is not the movie for you.

If you want to watch how one man survives despite what this world throws at him, you will find your time well spent.

This movie is set during the World War Two period of Louis Zamperini’s life but flashes back to his time as a child growing up, to his running track in high school, and to his participation in the ’36 Olympics.  The majority of the movie is spent watching him drift on a raft in the Pacific Ocean and later in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  

Both were such difficult situations and so hard to fathom that it is difficult for me to understand why he just didn’t just give up. This would have been the easy way out. However, something tells me that he never looked for the easy way. He had a personal inner strength inside of him that drove him to stay alive.

We all have this same inner strength. Living up to Louie Zamperini ‘s example should be a goal for us all.

 

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner   

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ugly Sweater Run


Ugly Sweater Run

Getting out of bed early on a Sunday morning never gets any easier, but yesterday morning, I was making my way down to south Charlotte for Phyllis’ Ugly Sweater Run.

Rolling in the parking lot lit only by the street lights, what better way to start my run. The temperature hovered in mid 30s which was just cold enough to make my hands feel numb during the early miles.

Circling back by the parking lot after 5 miles, Richard and Sharon were ready to head out for a quick run before we all started the Ugly Sweater Run. While we often see each other before and after races, we rarely run together so I enjoyed catching with them albeit brief period of time.

Returning with just a few minutes to spare, it was time for a shoe change. My goal for this run was to have an easy 8 miles and then tempo the 12 miles of the Ugly Sweater Run.

Phyllis provides some course instructions, and Peter handled starting logistics. Even before we crossed the bridge; runners had broken in to small packs. Most were dressed in the some sort of Christmas sweater. I found myself running next to this guy that towered over me. In fact, the thought occurred to me that 3 of my strides were equivalent to just one of his strides.  Inching head, there was a small gap between us at the first turn around. He pulled even as we started hitting the board walks again.

Just past this section, I started inching head again. My breathing was well under control, and my legs felt fine. Catching a couple of splits on my Garmin which were in the 6:24 range, this was a pace that was perfect for me to maintain the entire way.

Having the miles marked off in quarters is the nice part about using the greenway. Every minute and half, the realization that the finish was getting closer comes to mind.

Soon, the second turn around arrived, and it was time to head back to the finish.

My legs were starting to feel a little bit of the sting now. Miles 14 and 15, my splits fell in to the 6:30s. But they bounced back once I hit the pavement again: 6:24, 6:25, and 6:23 over the last few miles.

This turned out to be an even better run than I expected. It was the first hard effort since the Derby 50k two weeks ago. My legs didn’t have quite the pop that I usually feel, but it will come. Usually around 3 to 4 weeks after a marathon or 50k my legs start to feel normal again.

Hopefully, they will bounce back a lot over the next 3 weeks. Otherwise, the 4 races of the Dopy Challenge will turn in to a very long weekend. LOL

 

Sharing one thought at time

The Cool Down Runner

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Skechers’ Go Run Ultra Running Shoe


 

Just over a month ago, the opportunity to try on a pair of the Skechers Go Run Ultra running shoes presented itself.

Since Skechers entered the running shoe market a while back, there has always been some level of skepticism in my mind. After all, when most people think of Skechers, kid’s shoes quickly come to mind. Maybe there are a few that think of adult shoes, but there are probably not many that would put Skechers and running shoes in the same sentence.

Surprisingly, their shoes felt decent. Decent enough that I decided to purchase a pair.

Since then, I have run some of my easier runs in them. Mostly, these were test runs to see how my feet and legs reacted to their ride.

The Go Run Ultras do have a different feel than the other running shoes in my collection. The heel portion tends to feel like it has more cushion than the forefoot. This is not to say that there is a rocking motion. My runs usually start out with me being a heel striker, but as my body warms up, my strides shifts to more of a forefoot striker.

These shoes will definitely stay in my rotation of shoes, and they definitely changed my perspective about Skeckers’ efforts to enter the running shoe market.

 

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Corner

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Derby 50k Recap




Working most of the 3rd of 3 x 10.5 mile loops, the wind is was blowing into my face without any mercy. My quads stripped of their warmth and loaded with fatigue had tightened up.  On top of it, after leading for the past 25 miles, the urge to glance over my shoulder is unnaturally strong. To think, there was still another mile and half to run in the Derby 50k.

Let’s hold up for minute, and rewind back to the beginning.

For a number of years now, the Derby 50k has been a bucket list item for me. Drawing my attention was their unusual awards. A derby hat was given to the male and female winners. Having heard stories about the toughness of the course and of the runners who ran it, there was plenty nervousness after signing up for it.

For those that don’t know. The Derby course is basically in the middle of nowhere. The course consists of about 7 and half miles of asphalt and 3 miles of dirt road. There is about a 3 ½ mile of climbing in the first 5 miles which is followed by a 4 ½ miles of climbing during the second 5 miles. Needless to say, the course is tough.

My plan going in was to settle in with the other runners and find a buddy for the first 10 miles. Not knowing the course, having four eyes to spot the arrows on the road seemed like a better idea than two eyes.

The weather was great for the 8 AM start – clear and cold. My hands are so cold in fact that they went numb while we are waiting on the start.

The Magnum Track guys gave us a countdown and we are off. Unlike a 5k, there is no sprinting off the line. Everyone just eases out slowly.

By the mile, Leigh Ann, Mike, Mike, and I are running together. Around 2 miles, Mike drops back. By 3 miles Leigh Ann drops back. I try to encourage her to run with us. Later she tells me that we were running the hills to fast for her.

Mike and I continue on. I broach the subject of expected times. Mike says that he wants to run around 4 hours which was my goal as well. The course was tough, the wind was terrible, and the cold makes running hard which is why 4 hours sound like a good goal for me.

We are chit-chatting until about 6 miles when I look over and don’t see him anymore. Glancing back he has stopped at the water stop.

Feeling the need to push on, I keep going. A mile or so later while rounding a turn, there is a glimpse of him a good distance back.

I push through the hill section and head back toward to start to finish the first loop.

Now, I have an idea of what the course is like after the first loop. The rest of the race is about running it in chucks. Don’t think ahead and don’t worry about how far it is. Just work the course one chunk at time.

The second loop is rather quiet for me. I catch my first runner with about a mile to go in the second loop.

As I pass the start, I yell two down and one to go.

The third loop is both hard and easier all at the same time.  My entire body is ready to be finished. Yet, the energy from seeing the other runners along the course keeps my mind focus on something else. Each one that I pass, I say an encouraging word or two. I recognize Jamie as I pass her. I touch Danny on the shoulder as I pass him to say hello.

My first climb up the 4 and half mile stretch wasn’t too bad. The second time around the climb was a little tougher. As I said in my opening above, the 3 time up the 4 ½ mile section was unforgiving.

Looking at Garmin, there has only been one other time a 30 and 31 mile split has ever been recorded while during my New River 50k run.

Finally, cresting the difficult section of the hill, catching me now would be tough. Yes, there was still a gradual climb, but if someone came into sight, there was enough in my tank now to get me home.

More runners are just finishing their second loop. I keep sharing the encouragement while I am slower than before but making my way to the finish.

The parking lot comes in to view. The feeling of achieving my own personal goal is just insight. My just seem to float across those last twenty to thirty meters to the finish. .

Oh, did it feel good so stop.

Driving me through those last 26 miles was one thought. Win the race and get that coveted Derby hat.

Suffice is to say, I am setting here now typing this recap while wearing my new derby 50k winner’s hat.

There are cool race awards and then are “COOL” awards. The Derby Hat ranks at the top of my list as most cool awards ever..

Let’s not forget. I ran 3:36:13 which was just 7 minutes slower than my last 50k at New River. This course was nothing like the New River 50k where the course is mostly flat, dirt trail.

I actually ended up winning the race by over 30 minutes.

Along the way, I made a bunch of new friends. I got a chance to go hang out with the Magnum Track Club guys. They are an awesome bunch.

Definitely if you are in to ultra running, check out the Derby 50k on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

 

 

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Leaving office

On Saturday afternoon, the office of the Charlotte Running Club Presidency was handed over to Eric. There is no doubt in my mind that Eric will do a good job for our club. He will bring a new perspective and new style which I am sure will help our club as we continue to grow and mature as an organization.

Thinking back to just over 2 years ago when I started my CRC Presidency. The time was both exciting and scary for me. We as a club were barely out of our infancy. Aaron, Jay, and Caitlin took an idea and made it a reality. They had gotten us off to a great start.

Driving home from the board meeting where I was elected President, there was little pit in my stomach. There was also this nagging voice in the back of my head saying don’t screw this up and above all don’t run our club into the ground.

People who know me; know that when I say I am in; I am in 100%. I learned so much about running our club. But those first 6 to 8 months were rough. There were times when I wondered if the rest of the board made a mistake in electing me.

But I dug in. I learned and listened to others. I tried to make the best decisions possible.

Yes, I had my fair share of failures. Who doesn’t have failures? Make small ones, and learning from them is what's really important.

Looking back now, there was a lot of hard work that I put in to this club, and I am proud to say that we did more and accomplished more than I ever expected or even thought possible. But I am not going to say that I did everything solo. Having a great group of board members over the last two years really helped. I would be entirely “white headed” if not for all the extra hours that they put in as well.  

Lately several people have asked me why I am stepping down. The answer is really twofold: time and preferences.

The demands on one’s time are much greater for the President than any other board position. Like I have often said, the “buck” stops here. Everyone looks to person leading our club for direction on nearly every issue. Whether there is a potential member with a question about joining our club, an existing member is changing their membership, or a vender wanting to do business with our club. All of it tends to flow back to this one person to figure out.

Throw in top of it; I really like organizing events. 10,000 Day Run, CRC All around Miler, summer track night, Holiday Lights Run, and Guinness World Tether Team were all things I had hand it making happen. In all honesty, my workload just become too much.

Stepping back will allow me to focus on the things that I truly like which organizing events for CRC. In all honesty, I will probably do an even better job with them. No longer will I be splitting my time across numerous different fronts. I can solely focus one thing at a time.

What's in store for me now. Well, I am looking forward to the next two years as being just a board member and seeing what I can do to continue our successes. Fun times are what lay ahead.  


Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner