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


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