Wednesday, December 30, 2015

'15 Year in review

Running is like a rolling hill course. There are going to be ups and downs along the way. One just has to understand it and keep moving.

Such was my ’15 year.

My ’15 racing season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. I headed down to Disney World for the Dopey Challenge. Through my many races I have run numerous times on the same day and over a couple of days, but never had I attempted racing 4 races in 4 days – ending it with a marathon.  My Disney’s Dopey Challenge was going to be a truly epic event.

First up was the Pluto 5k, it was cold, windy, and my legs were feeling the effects of the long drive to Disney. When I finished, I headed straight for the buses and straight back to the hotel.

Friday morning, the weather was a bit better, and my legs now recovered from the drive felt great. So with the Minnie Mouse 10k on the agenda, I could only hope that I was ready. We ran much of the 5k course again, and then we dipped out for a run long the EpCot Resort Boardwalk before returning to EpCot park and heading to the finish.

Along the entire way, I kept telling myself to run within myself. There are 2 more days of racing and each day gets progressively harder. Still, I was quite happy finishing 13th overall and 1st in my age group.

Saturday morning, things shifted to the roads around EpCot for the Donald Duck ½ marathon. Of all the races, I might consider this one my personal favorite. We make a quick trip over to the Magic Kingdom and back.

I finished 23rd overall and 2nd in my age group with a 1:19:34. Although, I wasn’t quite pleased with how it all went down.

The guy that beat me in my age group apparently started in a later wave. So while I was running solo, he had the benefit of running with other people. I would like to think if we had been running head to head, then the outcome might have been different. Of course, we will never know now.

Sunday morning is the big day – the Mickey Mouse Marathon. After three days of racing, I had no idea how my legs might respond. I could only hope they didn’t crash and burn too early in the race. My goal was a realistic one at sub 3 hours.

The race started and I got in with good bunch of runners. The pace was a little faster than I wanted but it didn’t feel hard. Helping the fact, they were laying down pretty even splits.

 We started to separate after leaving Animal Kingdom. Being on my own was nothing new to me. I made my way through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There are way too many turns in this section of the course which included a loop around their track.

The Sergeant Green army man was yelling at me to charge the hill behind Holly Wood Studios. I guess the green coverage over his face didn’t let him see my Dopey Bib very well. There was pretty much no charging left in my legs.

The loop through the EpCot resorts board walk and theme park is a nice one because here you get to see some different stuff, but also because you know you are nearing the end of the race.

The EpCot ball comes in to view and the finish line isn’t far away.

I can see the clock and it finally set in how special this day was. Heck, it was a special 4 days. I count my lucky stars at how well that I ran.

Five weeks later, I was lining up for the 13.1 Half Marathon in Wrightsville Beach. This would be my attempt at breaking the ½ marathon USAT&F record for 50-54 men. I knew what pace that I wanted to run and hoped that I would have some help.

A couple of hundred yards into the race I settled in to second place. Within the next 2 miles, I found myself leading the race.

Ok, the only help now would be from me, myself, and I. And, they weren’t much help.

We ran over the greenway and through the UNC-W campus. Actually, this would be a pretty nice place to run if I hadn’t had other objectives for the day.

I crossed the finish line and savored the moment. I had broken the USAT&F - NC State age group record by several minutes with a 1:18:54.

The ride back from the beach that day was better than usual.

Three weeks later I made my way to Salisbury for the St. Patrick’s Day 5k. As I remember it, the rain was pouring. The runners were soaked standing at the starting line.

My legs felt heavy right from the start and the feeling never went away. I finished 2nd overall with a time of 18:06. On the bright side, this scored me the RRCA Masters – NC 5k Championship.

Then my running took a turn for the worse. During my final speed session before the Emerald Isle Marathon, I pulled my hamstring. At first it didn’t feel too bad that day, but with each day it grew steadily worse.

By the morning of the marathon, I couldn’t even do a stride without it hurting. Runners are stubborn creatures, and I am no exception. I toed the line and headed off to run a marathon where every stride hurt. I made it through 15+ miles before my left leg finally gave out completely. I literally dragged it back to my car and drove home. I had abused it so badly that it hurt even when I wasn’t moving.

The next several days I struggled to run 2 miles.

Another 4 months passed before strapped on my racing flats. The results were not pretty. On the 4th of July, I ran a painful Fire Cracker at the Huntersville Aquatic Center. A week later, I ran the Street Light 5k in Concord. I won this race but the race become less about speed and more about who could withstand the heat. Race time temperatures were pushing 100 degrees.

Two weeks later, I tried my hand the Beat the Heat 5k in Winston Salem. The heat beat me more than I beat it.

Moving into August, I ran the Myers Park Cross Country race put on by Start 2 Finish, and then a week later the Sundae run 5k. The Myers Park Cross Country Course is no joke. It is but kicker. At the Sundae run, Donny kicked my but going up this long hill in the last mile. I just didn’t have it to go with him.

In September, I went back to one of my favor races. The Charleston Distance Run, and I paid dearly for it. By 10 miles, I was slowing down. At 12 miles, the monkey jumped on my back. By 14 miles, I just wanted to be finished.

Nearly 4 weeks later, I ran the 13.1 race here in Charlotte. It was muggy and rainy. At about 12 miles, I folded my tent and nursed my way back to the finish line.

Finally, the cold air arrived in Charlotte, and I started feeling better. I got some revenge on Donny for kicking my "but" at the Sundae Run by returning favor at the Big South 5k.

A week later, I ran the Marshall Marathon in 2:55:14. Not all that bad for barely training, and other than racing, I didn’t do any hard workouts.

The Marshall course was my first marathon attempt on a double loop course. The more that I think about it the more liked it. On the second loop, there was no need to think. I knew where every turn was located.

I hadn’t planned to run any more races in '15. Rather I had hoped to train hard through December and come out strong in January.

But Stan messaged me about the Drop Zone Trail Marathon. The more that I thought about it the more I felt like I needed to do it.

The Magnum Track Club guys always put on some of the more interesting races.

Dodging the piled high pine needles and the land mines of pine cones to go along with the soft sandy course, I guess running the ½ the race in the evening darkness only made sense.

Stan and I ran the first lap together so I had a sense of the course. From there, I ran the next 24 miles solo. I really enjoyed it and just might consider returning to this one next year.

Who knows what lays ahead in ’16?

Definitely, '15 throw some good road blocks in to my path. However, I believe that the good Lord throws these obstacles in our path to help keep us well grounded in reality and to never get to full of ourselves.
Feeling well grounded now.

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Death of my Garmin 310XT

I am sadden to report that after nearly 6+ years of using my Garmin 310XT that it gracefully passed away while setting on my desk this passed week. I attempted numerous times to resuscitate it with the Garmin 3 button CPR. However, my efforts were completely and utterly futile. I officially pronounced it dead on 12/26/2015.

Over the last 6 years, we have shared much time together. The fatigue, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the scraps, and the broken ribs that we endured went a long ways toward bonding us together.   

It successfully tracked my marathons and 50ks not to mention lots of shorter distance races and an untold number of training runs, tempos, and speed sessions. By recording my splits nearly every day it became a mere extension of my arm.

I will miss it dearly.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Best and the Worst of ‘15

Recapping the entire year is still on my agenda to write here, but I thought doing a best and worst post might also be interesting.

So here I am calling out my best and worst races of '15.

Let’s start with my worst race. Let’s get the bad out of the way first because I like to talk about it the least.

There is no doubt in my mind to which race this would be: Emerald Isle Marathon.

And, worst might be an understatement. I should never have started this race. Tuesday beforehand I pulled my hamstring during a speed session. The pain only got worse and not better in the few days leading up to the marathon.  

The morning of the race I couldn’t even do a stride to warm up without it hurting.

Yet, we launched off the line and I went to running 6:20s miles and some 6:10 miles through the first half of the race. As I passed 13 miles, a glimmer of hope that I might make it shined through the dark clouds but only briefly. By 15+ miles, I was done. My left leg simply shut down. It was all that I could do to drag it along. This was by far one of my lowest running points in years.

The days that followed were very painful and left me wondering if I would ever run well again.

By contrast, my Disney World Dopy Challenge was truly a highlight for me. For those that don’t know, I am huge Disney fan so getting the chance to run 4 races in 4 days was a totally awesome experience. Okay, before you say it, yes, technically, the Dopey Challenge is 4 races rather than one but you cannot talk about one without also talking about the others.

Leading up to the Dopey Challenge, my training had been nothing spectacular. There were a few solid long runs and a few decent tempos. There was nothing which would indicate what was in-store for me.  

On Thursday morning, I ran the Pluto Family Fun 5K in 18:55. The weather was cold and the wind was blowing incredible hard. No idea where I finished. They don’t produce results for the 5k. Friday morning, I ran Minnie Mouse 10k in 36:55 and finished 13 overall on a course that ran mostly through EpCot. I could have run quicker but I kept tell myself to take it easy. There is another race tomorrow.   

Saturday, it was time to get serious with the Donald Duck ½ marathon. We launched off the line and into the darkness. The crowd of runners quickly strung out. I found myself catching a few runners on the return trip to EpCot but running alone once we entered the park.

I couldn’t believe that I had run a 1:19:34 and finished 23 overall. But I was also very worried. Had I given too much? 26 miles is a long ways, and would I be up for running it the very next morning.

I had set a realistic marathon goal of breaking 3 hours. If this was a 2:59:59 so be it. After all, I am 50 years old. Slowing down is a part of my life.

Sunday morning came, and promptly at 5:30 AM the Mickey Mouse Marathon started. I settled in to a nice pace and found a great group of guys to share the pace. We ran over to the Magic Kingdom and through the park. We ran through and around the Walt Disney World Speedway. We were still bunched together for the trip through Animal Kingdom. Then, we started to separate. A few guys pulled ahead and a few dropped off our pace.

I kept looking at my Garmin and waiting on the monkey to jump on my back. Through the ESPN Wide World of Sports, I was catching a few of the guys that had pulled away from me, and I was catching a few new guys that were crashing. The green army man was yelling for me to charge that hill by Hollywood Studios. Really, did he not see the Dopey Bib pinned to my chest. Charging anything was beyond me at this point. The back stage tour of Hollywood Studios is always nice. Then, we were off to the broad walk which runs by the EpCot resorts and enters EpCot from the back side.

We enter EpCot Park just before the bridge which is a small hill but after 25 miles it feels like a mountain. But I do love running around the worlds.

We exit by the EpCot Ball and head to the finish. The music is bleary and they are calling out our names. My legs are spent but mentally I have energy to burn. My mind drives my legs to sprint with whatever I have left.

I finished the marathon in 2:50:35 and finish 23 overall.

For my efforts, I collected 6 shirts, 6 race medals, and 3 age group awards.

Going into the Dopey Challenge my expectations were low. I wanted to have fun and enjoy the experience. I did enjoy it but it was also nice to run fast over 4 days too.

If you have the running bug and you enjoy Disney, you have to do the Dopey Challenge. You will not regret it.

For the record, my Monday morning run after 4 days of racing was pretty said. I could barely lift my knees.
But it was all worth it.  

 

 The Cool Down Runner

 

 

Drop Zone Trail Marathon Recap

When I want to step outside the box for a race, there is no better place to do it than with one of the Magnum Track Club races. Their races test a runner like none other.


Courtesy of Stan

Case in point is their Drop Zone Trail Marathon near Hoffman, NC. This is a no frills race. The course covers a 2.8 mile loop with a portion run over what most would consider trail. Roots didn’t seem to be an issue for me, but the number of pine needles and oh, yeah, pine cones make running oh so much more difficult. My ankle flexion was tested well and often. That’s the first 3rd of the race course. The other 2/3rd of the course is run on a loose sandy rolling hills fire road. Like I said, it pushes you outside your normal box.

Possibly the clincher is the start time. This races starts at 4PM on a Saturday afternoon. The real question is how many laps you can get in before it gets too dark. Once it is dark, it is really dark. No street lights or lamps exist on the course.

If your night vision isn't that great, then you had better have a good bright headlamp. Luckily for me, I was using my Blackdiamond Head Lamp which produces about 200 lm.
Courtesy of Stan

Getting there can be a bit of a chore, but I had the good fortune to catch a ride with Stan. I was super appreciatived because this race couldn’t have been more isolated. The location is only known to God, the locals, and Stan. My only recollection from the trip over was the side view of Rockingham Speedway, NC.

Doug organizes this race, and he made this thoughts clear right from the start. He is a no nonsense straight at you race director. I took an immediate liken to him.

Heck, even getting to the start, I had to jump over a ditch. In fact, I jumped over this same ditch on each of my 10 loops around the course.

In previous years, runners had done a short out and back to make the distance a marathon. Doug wasn’t having any of it this year. He told us that we were going to do 10 laps. Meaning more running for us and less hassle for him. The distance would be some where around 27 miles.
Courtesy of Stan

After just a few instructions, we were off and running. Stan and I ran most of the 1st lap together. Then, he dropped off saying the pace was too fast.

The first 5 laps were not bad at all. By 3rd lap I was catching other runners and was settling into the flow of the course. I was also pushing hard to run as far as I could through the race before the sun went down. I knew once the sun headed over the horizon that it would get colder but it would also get very hard to see.

I had set out my lawn chair to hold my water, Gatorade chews, and any extra clothes that I might need. Then, if I needed something, I could simply grab it as I passed by each lap.

I picked up my head lamp at the start of the 5th lap. And, after fumbling with it to get the lights working, I used it starting with the 6th lap through the rest of the race.

The 6th lap taught me a bunch about running at night. Mainly, it taught me that I needed to slow down. Better to pick my way through it slowly than risk a face plant.

Lap 7 was tough. On 8, I pulled up behind Stan. He was having a solid race but not quite as good as last year, but he still looked strong to me.

Once lap 8 was in the books, I focused on getting through laps 9 and 10. Unlike road races where zoning out is a possibility nothing like this could be done here. Every second, I had to pay close attention. So when I finished up the trail section on the 10th lap, I couldn’t have been happier. I felt like I was home free to the end. Just a few sandy hills layed between me and the finishline.

Under the brilliant stars of a NC night, I called out my bib number one last time - #26. I finished 1st overall in 3:34:33 which considering the course and my Garmin saying that I had run 27.68 miles, I was pretty happy.
Courtesy of Stan

Stan finished second about 30 minutes or so later.

Some of my best memories included talking running with Stan on the trip, smelling the warm smoke as we made away toward the end of each lap, seeing the stars clearer than ever before, meeting some new people, setting by a warm camp fire after the race, and getting to do a very different race.

Big congrats to Doug and his entire crew for making this an awesome experience, I loved it.
An especially big THANK YOU to Stan for letting me tag along with him to and from the race.

The Cool Down Runner

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sunburn - no way

It's December. I would normally be more worried about getting frost bite than a sun burn. This is the case this year. Santa is going to need sun block on his way through Charlotte. With lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s, it feels more like the start of spring than the start of winter. Aside from the occusional rainy and of recently foggy day, the afternoons are down right pleasant. Definitely, they are nice enough that I want to be outside.

Guess, we just have to see how long this all last.

For now, anyone have an extra tube of SPF 50 that I could borrow.

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

243

Early yesterday morning, I was cruising along on my tempo run. About 6 miles in to this run, I glanced down to see to check my heart rate.  My eyes nearly exploded out of my head. This couldn’t be right. My Garmin says my heart rate is 243. Heck, if it was 243, I would be laying alongside the road – probably shaking like a leaf.

No, something else had to be wrong.  

Different reasons rolled through my head in an attempt to explain this unusual behavior. However, the most likely cause was a depleted battery.

When was the last time that I changed it? At least 3 to 4 years had to have passed. Definitely long enough I didn't remember doing it.  

I made a mental note to change it after my run.

The miles rolled by and soon the split for the final clicked off. Scanning back through my splits, it was pretty easy to find where my battery started to go sideways. There was a nice smoot 145 to 150 and then, it jumped to 230 to 250.

After cleaning up, I picked up my heart rate strap and turned it over to remove the battery. Usually, with a nickel I can turn the cap and the battery popps right out.

What I saw made my mouth drop open.

Not only was the cap gone but so was the battery.

How could I have lost them? Better, question – where could I have lost them?

I racked my brain to remember every detail of my run. 14 miles is a long ways.

I thought chimed in.

I removed my heart rate strap at the street before heading up to my house. I recall hearing something hitting the ground but it didn’t register at the time as an issue.

I headed down the street to see if I could find it. No luck.

I came back searched my running clothes. No luck here either.

I looked throughout my house. Still no luck.

Then, it hit me. I’ll bet my heart rate monitor went wacky once the battery cap came off. Well, this did narrow down the places to look, but 8 miles is still a pretty big haystack to find a nickel size black cap lying alongside the road.  

I pretty much gave up all hope of finding it.

After finishing up my run, this morning, I did a second look over the area where I remember hearing something hit the ground.

Scanning ground, I was pretty much ready to give up and head back to my house when I spotted shinny nickel size battery. I picked it up. Yep, this was where my battery fell out.

As I looked up, I saw this black nickel size cap not 3 feet away. It was pretty beat up. I suspect that one or two dozen tires had run over it since yesterday but yes, it was the cap to my heart rate monitor.

Some days, it is better to lucky than good. Today, I was lucky.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Morning Run

This wind whistling by my uncovered ears creates a deafening roar over the silence of the carless highway. A roar only broken by the steady unfettered “tap, tap, tap” echo of my Hoka’s striking the cold, hard asphalt.   

Breathing in the fridged air not in gulps, but not easy, and just in the right amounts to keep my power plant operating efficiently.

In these precious moments, time slips away into a sliver of reality where the miles pass by unnoticed.
 
 
The Cool Down Runner
 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Long Runs – Plan accordingly


I had pushed off my 20 miler to Sunday since I had been volunteering at Foot Locker on Friday and Saturday. Getting up and running 20 miles, then spending all day on my feet just didn’t sound like a good idea.

In hindsight, I should have thought about how my run would go on Sunday. I didn’t, but then most of my learning experiences go through trial and error phases.

For the first 10 miles, my legs felt decent. The pace was not exceptionally fast but overall, the miles were passing by. As the miles from 11-15 went by, I could feel my legs beginning to tighten up. The miles from 16-20 were just more of the same.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every run felt easy, but most runs are not like that. To quote Larry the Cable guy – sometimes, you just have to “Getter Done”!

 

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 30, 2015

Foot Locker – Race Day



I slept fast on Friday night so I could be back at McAlpine early on Saturday morning. The grunt work was over and now, the main event was about to start.

They put me on timing and later working the finish chute area.

Being a timer is a tough job. Ok, as the first few runners arrive it isn’t bad. But suddenly there are 8, 10, 15 runners all crossing the finish line at once. Keeping up with the count is hard. It is amazing that once they compare the total number of bibs pulled with the actual number of times recorded, just how close they really are.

Of course working the finish line chute is an entirely different experience. I am right in the middle of the action. Guys and ladies are coming in bunches. Our job is to keep them moving and to help those who can’t. I saw runners throwing up, runners weaving from side to side, runners falling down. Heck, I even saw runners crying as they crossed the finish line.

One runner, I held around the shoulders as I helped him to the medical tent. He told me that he couldn’t feel his legs. It is hard not laugh because I can empathize with him. Just as remarkable, 10 minutes later he was walking around as if nothing had happen.

Then, once the last runner crossed the finish line, it was time to clean up. All the hours that we spent putting up fencing, banners, flags, tents, etc, it all had to come down and packed up to be stored away.

The races were over a little after 1 and by 4 we were putting the last of the stuff away. It was like a sprint getting it all taken down. Tom was so tied that he was bent over looking at the ground. At first thought, I wondered if he lost something on the ground.

All of these guys and ladies put in a yeomen’s effort to make this happen. I was just fortunate that they allowed me to share in their experience.

I am already looking forward to helping next year.

 

The Cool Down Runner  

  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Foot Locker Event Setup

With no racing plans on my schedule for the Thanksgiving Holidays, providing some race support sounded pretty good idea to me.
So a while back, I reached out to Tom about helping out with the Foot Locker events. I had run the Open and Masters’ race but never helped out with them.
Through our email exchange, Tom told me to around 9 AM to help with the setup. I arrived at 8:30. Actually, it was 8:20 because I had just finished a 10 mile run around McAlpine.
To describe all of the work that goes into the preparation for this event would make this blog go on for days.  What I can say is this. Aside from one 30 minute break for lunch, we were busy from 8:30 am to nearly 5 pm. We setup scaffolding, hung fences; put up more banners and flags than I care to count. We setup 4 huge, and I do mean huge tents. There were just hours and hours of work put in by Tom and Larry and few others to make this event happen.  
How do you know when someone has a true love for something? Well, this was the 33rd year for Larry doing the Foot Looker events. That’s a lot of holiday weekends give up by anybody. Not to mention, that’s a lot of drive by one individual to keep coming back year after year making it happen.
I applaud Tom, Larry, and Evine for their commitment to excellence. They truly lead by example. They were first to arrive and the last to leave. We could all do well to follow their example.
Btw, on Friday, I dragged myself home, took a shower, ate a small dinner, and fell into bed. Only the alarm for Saturday interrupted my night’s slumber.
The Cool Down Runner
 

When does one value a workout over self preservation?

Yes, on more than one occasion, I scurried across an intersection as the lights were changing from one color to the next. Not once did it occur to me that I actually might get hit by car. No idea why, the thought never occurred.

This leads me to a similar topic. This past week, I was at the Y spending some time on the stair master. I had just finished an hour long workout and was wiping down the machine when the fire alarm sounded.

One might think that my attention should have been focused on the insanely loud alarm blaring throughout the Y and the potential for real danger lurking just out of sight. Instead my very first thought went something like this – “Wow, I am glad I finished my workout before the alarm sounded”.  

Did I really need to smell of smoke or see the flames roaring in front of me to embolden me to action of exiting the building?

In this case, the great employees of the Y were directing to us to leave the building. Could there be a fire?

I made it just outside the rear entrance before they called off the alarm and said it was safe to enter.  

Still the thought stayed with me. I should worry less about my workout and more about my own personal safety.  On second thought, maybe I will keep my car keys with me as well. No joke. Without my keys, my car is a little more than 3 ton paper weight.

The Cool Down Runner

Spectator’s view of Santa Scramble 5k


I am behind in my blog posts for the last week and it is for good reason. The last week seems to have been a blur of different activities. Typing them up is time that I haven’t had.

I’ll get to each one but for now, let’s start with the topic of Santa Scramble 5k.

The Santa Scramble 5k in Concord is by far one of my favorite races to do. The course is lined with 1000s of parade watchers. There is just this feel that other races don’t have. Only by sheer determination of will, I wasn’t at the starting line.

The mental torture of being a spectator is never easy for me.  Watching as the runners milled around before the race start in the distance. Seeing them as they filled the entire road and made ready to race. Feeling the enormous energy being spent as they came sprinting by where I planned to watch the parade. The entire time, I wished desperately that I was among them. My legs would be resisting the urging to turn over faster. My heart would be rocketing from 0 to 50. My lungs would suddenly find themselves in a desperate need of additional oxygen. All of these things add to one’s discomfort yet I was somehow yearning for them.

Then, out of sight out of mind, the last runner disappeared in to the distance and I set back down in to my see to watch one for the best parades around.

But not before one last thought crossed my mind. Next year, yes, next year, I will be back. I will run it next year for sure.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fall Marathon Social



You missed an awesome Fall Marathon Social on Tuesday night. Charlotte Running Club provided the food, and Charlotte Running Company provided the adult beverages.  What more could any runner want.

Plus, any opportunity to talk running, count me in. With about 20 to 25 having shown up, there were plenty of post race recaps to hear. So for a couple of hours, we put the world on hold and talked about the sport that we all loved doing.

The evening drew to a close when Eric gave out some gift cards to the Charlotte Running Company. He covered our upcoming volunteer opportunities. One is this weekend for Let Me Run 5k near Huntersville, and then next week will be hosting H20 water stop for the Turkey Trot 8k in South Park.
Big "THANK YOU" to Charlotte Running Company for hosting the Fall Marathon Social. The support of our local running stores in Chalotte is second to none.  

Fun times,

The Cool Down Runner

 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pacing Thunder Road


Pacing Thunder Road Marathon

(appreciate Scott for sharing)
 
Rolling up on the Thunder Road Marathon finish line a little before 6 AM on Saturday morning, Tim was doing a TV interview. The reporter was asking about what security precautions were be added to the Thunder Road events in light of the tragic events in Paris. After listening to Tim share his thoughts, the interview ended. Hearing him talk about it, my own thoughts drifted to those terrible events, and my prayers went out to everyone affected by those events.

 I wanted to hang out and enjoy the finish line view but my pacing duties called. I needed to head up stairs inside of the BBT stadium.

Our pacers slowly made their way in as we all gathered before heading to the starting line just after 7 AM.

Rob didn’t roll up until I was standing at the starting line. The thought had crossed my mind that I might be going solo today. I really needed Rob’s assistance. Rob and I work well together. I bring the enthusiasm. Rob keeps our pace in check the entire way.

Like I said, we work well together.

The final countdown goes by quickly, and we are off and running.

Launching from nothing to 7:15 isn’t easy. This is especially true as I get older. We were off by 15 second over the first couple of miles. No one really feels the hills until they hit the first real uphill on 4th street. Then, there are a few rollers as we go through Coleville. The first true test is heading up the long hill on Providence Road.

What is good about these sections is the crowd support. Lots of people were out bringing the noise as we pass by. Those not cheering were encouraged loudly by me as we passed.

We lost a few seconds on Providence but tried to make it up going back down Wendover. We ran even splits through the Myers Park area. So far, we had a pretty good group with us.

The long drag down Kings Dr. was awesome.

(appreciate this picture, Peter)
 
Then, the hated climb up Moorehead and by Latta Park tested everyone. We lost a large portion of our posse during this section. Let's be honest here. TRM is a tough course. For that matter, any uptown race is tough.

The bands playing along the course were a nice touch. I do wish they had been playing more enthusiastic/up beat music. I am working to motivate my posse so every little bit helps.

The last couple of miles in South End are some of the better running sections on the entire course. The view of the skyline coming up Mint Street is fantastic. As we came by the Panthers Stadium and move passed the Duke Energy Parking deck, the finish line can be seen in the distance.

Last year, I didn’t take the time to enjoy this moment, but this year I did. I slowed, whipped out my camera, and started taking pictures. I took pictures of the people coming to the finish line. I took pictures of the people headed to the finish line.

I even took pictures after I crossed the finish line.

With 2 Thunder Road pacing assignments now on my resume, I feel more like a veteran. Before last year, pacing was not something I thought much about doing. Now, my thoughts are already thinking about next year.  

If I have anything to do with it, our Charlotte Running club will be back in '16 to help with the pacing duties.
Think about joining us.

 

Best in Running,

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thunder Road Marathon Expo


If you want to talk running, then one of the best places to do it is during the Thunder Road Marathon Expo.

Over the course of 12 hours, numerous runners came by our Charlotte Running Club booth. We talked about everything from pacing, to the course, to the start and finish locations. We even gave recommendations on parking. We talked about other races coming up. We talked by races that we done in the past.

By Friday evening my voice was nearly done. It hurt to talk.

Was it worth it? Heck, yeah, and I would do it again. Actually, I have already made some notes about what we can do better for next year.

Our club played a small role in helping make the Thunder Road Marathon a success. The real praise needs to go to the race organizers. Tim, DC, Katherine and other did a fantastic job with the expo and race. They are truly leading by example.  

Billy, John, and Gurmit get a shout out for helping me out during the day in our expo booth. Gurmit gets an extra shout out for creating all of our pacing signs for the race. They are definitely difference makers.  

The most important part of our success story is our Thunder Road pacers which deserve a huge shout out. For the second straight year, our Charlotte Running Club organized the pacers for the race. These are an exceptional group of people that come out on a Saturday morning to do well by their fellow runners and help those runners achieve their goals. There are not enough words of appreciation to be expressed for how much this really means. All I can simply say is “THANK YOU”

 

See you at the expo next year,

The Cool Down Runner

 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cold and Rain


Cold was the morning air. Every step made chiller by the rain trickling down the inside of my collar. A warm and cozy tread mill run sounded so very good right now.

These were the thoughts that plagued me during my run this morning.

Yes, I could have hit the tread mills at the Y for a run.

However, I do these runs not because I have to but because I want to.

From time to time, mental toughness needs to harden from a real life experience. Unless, one is willing to choose the difficult path, they will never appreciate the easy path. A pouring rain and 40 degree temperature certainly qualifies.

Of course the drivers at the corner of Selwyn and Providence watching me bounce from one foot to the other while the rain flows off the sides of my cap might consider me at something less than sane. But what they do they know. With a warm bagel and a hot cup of coffee, they idled their lives away while I was living my life.

Challenge yourself to the tough path,

The Cool Down Runner

 

   

Friday, November 6, 2015

Recovery Time


After a big race, we all deserve a few easy days. After all, we have worked hard. We went out and preformed at a high level. Our bodies took a beating. Recovery is part of the process.

For me, I like to take a few easy days running after my marathons. Usually about Thursday, I add back the core work and stretching. If there is no lingering soreness, Gtting back into the Y for a easy weight circuit and stair master workout are just the ticket for Friday.  

So this is how my week went so far.  Boy, did it feel pretty good.

Everyone is different. Their recovery may be a day or two like me or they may need a few weeks. The reasons why vary just as much as the recovery periods.

My general rule is to let any soreness fade way. Then, slowly get back to training. My legs will be dead for a week or two which is to be expected. They will need the long recovery period. But core, stretching, upper body lifting, non-impact activites help keep the aerobic engine well tuned.

Find your own recovery time, but remember to err on the side of caution. Coming back too soon can lead to injury and further downtime. Something that no runner wants.

 

The Cool Down Runner  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Marshall University Marathon

Cruising down roads that I hadn’t seen in a long time left me nostalgic over the weekend, but Sunday morning it was time to get down to the business of running the Marshall University Marathon (MUM).

I would like to start off by talking about the weather. If only the race could have been on Saturday morning. The temperature was 40 degrees, low humidity, and no wind. In my opinion these were perfect conditions for running a marathon. Yet, we were running on Sunday. By race time, the temperature was 54 degrees and just a slight wind out of the south. But the overnight rain left the streets wet and the air nearly 100% saturated. These were definitely not nearly the conditions that I wanted.

When I tell other runners that I am running a marathon in WV, almost every time they reply with is it hilly. Yes, this is a good assumption. Finding a placed to run that doesn’t include a hill is nearly impossible. Yet, the MUM race team did a pretty good job with this marathon. This race only had 3 small hills of which 2 we ran twice. The first one, we hit at about 5 and 18 miles in to the race. The second one, we hit just before 10 miles and 23 miles. It actually is an underpass so runners go down and then back up. The third is on 29th street which is about 14 miles in to the race.

Continuing on the topic of the course, the MUM course is a two loop course. The race starts in front of the Marshall Thundering Herd Stadium. Then, it makes a short 2+ mile look before passing back by the Stadium and heading toward the west end of Huntington. Except for short stint where we run along the Ohio River, we run on the same road for about 3 miles. The course then turns south and runs over to Ritter Park where we did 3+ miles on the crushed limestone trails. These were my favorite miles.

After leaving Ritter Park, we turn right on 8th street, left on 4th street, and right to pick up the same road that we ran out. From there we retraced our steps back toward the start and do it all over again.

Before this race, I had never run a double loop marathon. There are some advantages. One of the biggest is that I know where I am going the second time around. Late in a marathon, I am tired and not having to think about where the course goes certainly helps.

I do want to give a shout out to MUM for water stops. There were at least 10 water stops spread over the 13.1 mile loop.  In total, we passed some 20 water stops over 26.2 miles.

There are some things that play on the mind when running this course. MUM marks every mile both on the road and with flag. Crossing the 24 mile mark 3 times before doing it for real kept reminding me of just how far that I had to go.

Then, there are the bricks. Ugh, I really hate running over bricks. They are never truly even so it plays havoc with my stride. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it is like running cross country where you can see the grass but cannot see the slight undulations of the ground underneath. This course has a couple of brick sections. The 29th street is brick and there is a brick section when we passed through the university.

No recap would be complete without talking about MUM race finish. I turned right into the stadium, and was offered a foot ball to carry to the finish. I knew about this tradition from reading the many online blogs about this race. Up and until this moment, I hadn’t made a decision if I was going to take one. But when they reached out to hand it to me, I took it and headed off down the field. At about the 20 yard line, there was a hard U-turn and then the sprint of 80 yards back to the finish. My body was tired and making a u-turn wasn’t easy but the sight of the finish line spurred me forward.

What seems more unbelievable, I couldn’t find a single picture of me carrying the foot ball over the finish line. How could they have missed me? I have no idea.

There is one other tradition which I didn’t know about or understand but during our 26 mile, they ask us to take a flower and throw it into the fountain.  Never heard what this one was about.

As for me, I was walked away with a time of 2:55:16. I finished 9 Overall and first in my age. The awards were these nice green glass bowls. My bowl is setting here on my desk.  I would have to consider this a pretty unique award.

My 2:55 was better than I expected. I had set an A goal of sub 3 hours based on my training which I hadn’t done much. My lead up races: Charleston 15 miler and Race 13.1 hadn’t gone well so more than a few doubts about my fitness circulated in the back of my mind.  I fully expected to slow down during the last 6 miles, but I hoped I could maintain 6:30s through 20. I hit 10 miles a few seconds under 65 minutes. I hit 20 miles at 2:10:32. My last 6 were run at 7:05 pace so in the end, I executed exactly what I wanted in less than ideal conditions.

As I wrap of this post, I do want to give the MUM race organizers a double thumbs up. They do a great job with this race. If you are looking for a good race to do within easy driving distance of Charlotte, this is a good one to do.

The MUM's race will like get on my fall racing calendar a few more times before I hang up my marathon racing shoes.

 

Adding another marathon to the books,

The Cool Down Runner

  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nostalgic


Being a little nostalgic, has it really been 30 years?

They say nothing stays the same for very long but aside from a couple of new play ground sets, Ritter Park looked pretty the same as I remembered it some 30 years ago.

Wow, have 30 years really passed? It seems like only yesterday that I cruised over these crushed limestone paths. I ran 800s around the park until I felt like I wanted to throw up. Any time I was out for a long run, I made sure to cover the park from end to end. It was my favorite place to run in all of Huntington.

Once again this morning, I cruised along those same crushed limestone paths. Memories rolled back like a high light reel from an eighties movie.

Getting back to one’s running roots can make you feel good all over.

Well, this time, I am back in Huntington for the Marshall University Marathon (MUM). I doubt that I will be throwing up this time, but running a marathon, I suspect I will be suffering just as much.

The MUM race committee gets a big thumbs-up for race swag. The cool Asics jacket sports the MUM race logo. Their sweet race blanket sports the MUM logo as well. Together, they probably cost entire race entry fee. I also picked a nice running hat and beanie for $20 both with the MUM logo. I will be styling for days to come. 

Now for my race goals, my training hasn’t been up to my usual standards so I have set my goals accordingly. A sub 3 hours will be my “A” goal. 3 to 3:15 will be my “B” goal. “C” goal will be from 3:15 to 3:30. I ran a 3:09 for 24 miles a few weeks ago so this makes me comfortable setting these as my goals.

I had hoped for some good running weather but right now it looks like mid 50s, humid, and possibly raining. This could well be the worst conditions that I have run a marathon in a long time. I have not run well when it is humid. Both my Charleston race and m 13.1 race were ugly because it was insanely humid.

I can only control one thing that is me. I will get locked into my pace and attempt to run as even splits as possible.

Wish me well,

 

The Cool Down Runner

  

 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

“The Guy”

Wow, yesterday was a full day for me.

First off, I had my last medium 14 mile long run before my marathon next weekend.

Pushing the sleep from my eyes, I headed down the Charlotte Running Company at Dilworth. I was starting here for 10 miles and then looping back so I can pick up the store runs heading out at 8 AM. This runs were in celebration of the Charlotte Running Company 15 years of being in business. Wow, had it really been 15 years. I remember, when they first opened. It is amazing the changes across Charlotte that have taken place.
By way, big thanks to Flavia for planning our our 8 an 4 mile courses.
Back to my store, as I planning out my run, by large, I was looking to do this on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway but while heading down East Blvd by Freedom Park, I suddenly changed my mind. I pushed past the greenway entrance and headed up through the neighborhoods. I ran by the Myers Park Country Club. Took right on Chilton, another right on Sharon, then a left on Wendover. Took left on Providence, and then took a right on Coleville before picking up Randolph Rd. From there, I headed all the way in to uptown. Then, a left on McDowell, a right on Stonewall, a left at South Blvd, and a left back on to East and back to the Charlotte Running Company store.

Without really planning a route out, I managed to run just under 10 miles.

From there, I picked up the store group runs to finish out my last 4 miles. This turned out to be the best part. I have been running so much solo lately that I have missed the social interaction that comes from group runs. On top of it, the miles passed so much more quickly. We were headed back up East Blvd to finish out my run before I knew it.

Then, the mingling started. I got a chance to catch up with a few guys that I hadn’t seen in while. I picked up some shoes. Got myself a sweet Charlotte Running Company hoodie just for spending a $130 on two pairs of shoes. Which of course, I would have bought anyway but the hoodie was a nice perk.    

We took some pictures. I watched as Scott engraved glasses for anyone that wanted one. Wow, I learned that Scott does engravings. I helped Mike put some labels on the shoes boxes.

Before, I knew it; it was 9:30, and I needed to head out.

I swung by to pick up my daughter before heading back to my house. Along the way, we made a quick stop to pick a few items.

Our neighbor was having a block party, and it happens to be on my street.

Changing clothes in a flash, I was back out mowing and then finishing up all of my other chores before the party setup began.

My daughter was expected to do the face painting so we put out our tent, and setup her table, chairs, and supplies.

This was her first time ever doing face painting, and she was awesome at it. First, the girls wanted the frilly stuff done. The boys wanted the scary stuff. Even the adults were getting in on the act. She was painting the Panther’s Iconi Cat head image on their cheeks.

This is a sad but true side story. I have lived in this community for roughly 20 years but I hardly know anyone.  Yes, there are neighbors on each side of me that I know but overall, I don’t know anyone.

Then, yesterday, people were coming up to me and asking was I “the guy” that they see running. Quite possibly, I am. I have seen a few others running her, but not as often.

They were tell me that I inspire them to work out because I am out there rain, sleet, snow, cold, or hot. It doesn’t really matter; I am always running. Actually, I don't run that often. Ususally, my typical runs are over an hour, I rarely run much of the run inside my neighborhood but anyway. 

I don’t know but I wonder now if my cheeks turned red. I have never been one for seeking or expecting praise for the things that I do.

I feel that a man doesn’t need to seek praise for his actions. If he believes in what he is doing. then the results and the satisfaction from his efforts are all that really matter.

True satisfaction always comes from within one’s self.
Like I said, it was a full day, but an awesome one. I would trade watching my daughter face pain for any amount of money. Some memories are so much more valuable.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Big South 5k Recap

One of my favorite races to do locally is the Big South 5k. One wouldn’t think this was a fast course after running it but it produces some very fast times year after year. Not to mention, each year it draws more and more fast runners.

This year I rolled out from the starting line for a prerace warm up with some of my Hoka Teammates and few others. Even thou, I have run this course 4 times; I still like to see the course on race morning to remind myself of each and every turn.

As for the race itself, I couldn’t have asked for a better morning. Temperatures were in the mid 40s and there was no wind. For a runner, this is like hitting the lottery.

Seems like every year, I feel like I am stuck in mud getting away from the starting line. People are passing me on both sides. This year was especially bad. My hamstring didn’t like the cold temperatures. I did my best to compensate for it by wearing my compression shorts. For most of the first mile, my breathing was more labored than usual. I couldn’t get comfortable.

Of course, having Corey and Donny up front surging a head me didn’t really help how I was feeling either.

When my Garmin flashed up a 5:45 first mile, I knew that I was at least 15 seconds off of last year.

A couple of hundred meters after the mile, I caught up to Donny. I expected him to go with me when I passed him, and he did. At the crest of the hill, I caught Corey and pulled in behind Andrew.

Andrew was pushing it hard down the hill. It was all I could do to hang on.

I hoped my second mile would be faster. I felt like I was running faster yet the clock showed an 11:31 at the 2 mile or 5:46.

Thinking back to last year, I was nearly 30 faster during that race.

Andrew and I took turns pushing each other over the last mile. We caught up to another guy, and he joined in with us.

I lead them through the last 3 turns. Then, they took off sprinting toward the finish line.

Remember those comic representations where the guy has the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other shoulder. One was pushing him to be reckless while the other was screaming for him to take the safer course of action.  

During the faction of second while they were passing me this was exactly what was happening to me.

One was telling me to go sprinting after them while the other was telling me remember the big picture. Don’t spend another six months waiting on my hamstring to heal.

With a heavy sigh, I watched as they slowly pulled as away from me. Another day, I might have chased after them. Today, the wisest decision was to let them go.

Finishing with a 17:26 and 23 overall was still a great effort for me. In fact, the entire morning was spectacle for me.

I won my age group.

My Hoka Race Team buddies and I won the Corporate Division of the Team Competition. If memory serves me correctly, this was my 5 winning team award at the Big South 5k.

I count myself luck to have some great fellow runners to help me chase after this team goal.

They are the best ever.

 

The Cool Down Runner

 

 

 

Awesome morning for a run


My fingers were left tingling as the thermometer dipped into the 30s this morning. Months of sweat drenched mornings have passed since the last time they felt this way.

This all happens to occur on what I feel is arguably my favorite day of the week to run - Sunday. Rising early, I get to see the sun rise of over the horizon. My eyes slowly adjust as the darkness yields to the dawn. My shadow casting a long dark outline of a runner on the road ahead me but with each passing minute the sun rises into the crystal clear Carolina blue sky; I am gaining on him. As my shadow reluctantly relinquishes it lead, there is the sudden awareness that the long streets of Charlotte are car free for as far as the eye can see.

There is just this gentle quiet time before world begins to stir that make it seem so special.

Remember to stop and look around once in a while, otherwise you are going to miss out on the world around you.

The Cool Down Runner