Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hoka Clayton

My friends at the Charlotte Running Company hooked me with Hoka’s newest marathon racing flat

– the Clayton.

For a while now, Hoka Running Shoes have been high on my recommendation list as the “go to” shoe. The Hoka Clifton has carried me through my last 4 marathons: 2:51, 2:46, 2:50, and 2:55. My body takes a huge beating over 26.2 miles. Having the right combination of a light weight running shoe yet one which provides cushioning and support to help preserve my legs for the final 10k is very important.

Now, Hoka has stepped up their game with the Clayton. Weighing in at roughly 7 oz I was very impressed when I did a side by side comparison with my Cliftons.

Sunday at Wrightsville Beach Marathon my Clayton got their first field test. I did little more than wear them around for a bit on Saturday just to get the feel. Then, put them on for my race on Sunday morning. Within a couple miles, my feet seemed to form right into the shoe. From then on, I forgot all about them which is exactly what you want when you are running marathon. Having shoes issues or hot spots make for a long marathon day.   

My legs felt good enough that I closed mile 26 in 6:32. This was only a few seconds off my fastest mile of the entire race.    

Based on my Wrightsville Beach Marathon experience, the Clayton racing flats will be my marathon shoe for the foreseeable future.

Buy a pair or better yet check out one of the Hoka shoe demo days. You might find that you will be a “convert” like me.


The Cool Down Runner

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wrightsville Beach Marathon Recap

With the temperature forecast fluctuating all week and the chance of rain looming, I had mixed emotions about what might be.

Yet, on race morning, the temperature settled in at a nice 46 degrees. The gusting wind took it down a few more degrees.

Would the rain old off?

Well, yes and no. Minutes before the start showers rolled across the area. Being cold is no fun, and then the rain started falling and no one knew for how long. Forecast said the rain wouldn’t arrive until around 11 AM. Personally, I was ready to get this race started.

The race was practically a home town event for me. Carolyn, Matt, Sharon, Rob, Jamey, Jason, Stephen, Adrian, Anne, Lisa, Rodolfo and Alice had made the trip out to the beach. And, special shout out goes to Chad. Chad has the enthusiasm of 100 people. Each time, we slapped hands as we passed.

Leaving the starting line at 6:40, there is just enough ambient light for the runners to see the road. Our first mile was spent getting warm. My legs were still cold and tight. After the beach loop, we headed across the bridge and turned up military cutoff. This right hand turn took is directly into the wind. Fortunately, there were 5 or 6 people in my pack of runners to share busting through the wind.  Turnning into Land Fall, the wind was at our backs. I felt better but within a mile, I noticed the sweat running down my forehead.

Land Fall is a private gated community so my only experience with the roads has been during my other previous two races. There were usually a few people out cheering but mostly it is a lot of quiet neighborhoods streets. There is also the occasional car zipping by us at 30 mph. Why they were going so fast, I have no idea. Leaves me to question how much common sense they really had.

Soon, I was out on the main drag again and headed back to the Wrightsville Beach. Crossing the bridge, the wind was coming at us from the side. Matt caught me going over the bridge. We talked for maybe mile. Then, the pace was a little too rich for my blood so I had to let him go. We both caught the guy in front of us in the next two miles.

Finally, after a quick peek at the ocean we were headed away from Wrightsville Beach, across the bridge, and by my hotel for the 3rd time. From 14 miles to about 18 miles it is a straight shot and into the wind. While I slowed a bit during these miles, I actually felt my best.

Then, we made the left on to the Cross City Trail which lead us over to the UNC-W campus. This is the new section of the course.  Much of which, I had run during my 13.1 race last year.

It is pretty much flat and decently shielded from the wind. We ran the long stretch into the campus before making a loop and returning the way by the same route. The fatigue was growing in my legs. I kept reminding myself to use my arms. Pumping my arms will force my legs to follow.

To illustrate how tired that I was, we were running long and they had cones ever so often with an arrow pointed to either the right or to the left. However, there were no turns off the greenway at these points. I keep wondering why they didn’t point up meeting straight ahead. It was only after the race that surmised they were indicators the runners to run on the left side or right side of the cones. Like I said, when I am super tired, thinking clearly isn’t easy.

At 22 miles, I looked at my Garmin and attempted to gauge what my time would be if I ran 7 minute miles over the last 4 miles. Up this point, my splits hovered between 6:35 and 6:48. At 5k to go, I gave myself a “pep” talk. At 24 miles, I pictured the last 2 miles of my daily run – downhill and flat to the finish.

My 25 was my least favorite of the race. We moved to the side walk which was narrow and lots of twist and turns. My body was tightening up so every one of these turns was super painful.  In fact, mile 25 was slowest of the entire at 6:54. Mile 26, we were back out on the neighborhood streets. I glanced at my Garmin to see how much was left. Rounding the corner, Adrian was yelling encouragement to me. I wanted to yell back but I couldn’t muster the energy. My Garmin beeped at mile 26. 200 yards later, I passed the 26 mile sign.

Coming around the building, there were the ½ marathoners going to the finish. Someone yelled 400 meters left.  May be I was just in the zone, but it didn’t seem like 400 meters.

What I could see was the clock just turning over 2 hours and 52 minutes. I charged across the line 9 seconds later.

Stopping felt good but then it suddenly felt cold. The rain had steadily picked up from about 5k to the finish. The water running through the streets had a green tint to from the pollen. Actually, this might be appropriate since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Some woman came up and wrapped me with a space blank. Oh, did it feel good. I was walking gingerly, but otherwise, I felt good.

While the weather was not perfect, it was pretty decent for running. Once my body warmed up, the only chilly points were during my trips over to Wrightsville beach and back. Otherwise, the wind wasn’t a major factor.

Once we separated from the ½ marathoners, I ran the last 16 miles pretty much solo. There was the small bit where Matt and I ran together, and when I caught a couple of other runners in the final miles.

With Jamey finishing in second overall, I got elevated to the first male masters. Ironically, the top masters’ finishers in the marathon were over the age of 50. Although, I looked back the results. A 40 something master had been breathing down my neck sense 20 miles. Luckily, my closing 6:32 final mile was enough to hold him off.

I give the race organizers some credit. They put on a pretty darn good race. If they could do something about the traffic in Land Fall and may be change up a few of those tight neighborhood sidewalks in mile 25. My only other suggestion would be to move one of those huge tents that they have at the finish to the start. There is nowhere to hang out if it had actually been raining, it would have been absolutely miserable.

For me, I am now resting up for a few weeks. This 2:52:09 and 8th place finish worked my body hard, and it needs recovery time. Then, there is a plethora of races on the horizon and the possibility of a fall marathon.

So there is plenty to keep me busy.
The Cool Down Runner

USAT&F NC State Age Group Record goes down

Huge congratulations go out to Jamey for breaking the USAT&F NC State 50-54 State Age group for men. His effort clearly defies his age. Jamie ran just over 2 hours and 34 minutes breaking the previous record held by Pete by nearly 21 minutes. Jamey shows what is possible when you combine hard work, talent, and smart running.
I tip my hat to him.
Great Race.
The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, March 19, 2016


During my run along the Cross City Trail in Wrightsville Beach this morning, I couldn’t help but reflect back to one year ago. I had just finished up a similar 4 mile run but this one lacked those very painful miles.

Thinking about it now, if there was ever a sign that should not be ignored, this was it. Yet, I not only ignore it; but I launch right into it.  Sixteen miles later, I was literally left standing alongside the road. Broken, my body beat down to the point where I couldn’t lift my left leg.

As I set here typing this post, I am reminded of a quote about writing checks that one’s body cannot hope to cash. Yet, isn’t this what makes us unique. Our ability to take chances even when we know there is the possibility, a good possibility that we will fail. But we still do it anyway.

Sports, athletics in general are a microcosm of life. A roller coaster of highs and lows to be experienced, understood, and used to strengthen one’s resolve.

Runners may well have the strongest resolve on the face of this planet.


The Cool Down Runner



Thursday, March 10, 2016

Morning Run

Finishing up my run with the PDS group this morning, every stitch of my clothing was soaked.  That’s what you get when the temperature in Charlotte swings 30 degrees in a matter of weeks. Adapting is a slow process, and true, my body likes the warmer days but not the heat that it generates during my runs. This makes an 8 mile run feel like a 10 mile run.
Give it another month. 60 degrees will fell cool. LOL

PS. Big thanks to Megan, Paul, and Laurie. They let me tag along for their run during my 14 miler. Certainly made the miles go by much faster.

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Preparation Time

If you saw me running lately, you might have noticed that the extra layers of clothes. It was way more than really needed given the mild temperatures outside. Yes, this can seem a bit extreme, but it is all part of my preparation madness.

Every year, January and February are cold here in the Carolinas. They are great months for running. Then, March arrives and so does marathon season in the Carolinas.

So what the problem?

Well, the problem is heat. Suddenly, our temperatures swing from 30 degrees to 50 and 60 degrees in the morning. Still, these are not bad for an easy run, but for a marathon, they can feel downright steamy.

So enter my madness of overdressing for my runs. Take my long run last Sunday for instance. I was wearing tights and 3 shirts. When I was running with the wind at my back, I was soaked. When I turned into the wind, I was chilled to the bone until it dried.

Will this totally prepare me for a hot marathon? No, not even close, but it will at least prepare me better than doing nothing at all.

It is also the small things that you either learn or are reminded of that make the difference.

Running well means being prepared.


The Cool Down Runner


Saturday, March 5, 2016

BB&T YMCA Corporate Cup 5k

My marathon build up is in its final two weeks, and my marathon training plan called for one final tune up race.

After looking around the local races, I settled on our local BB&T YMCA Corporate Cup 5k. The course was familiar to me to so there would be no real surprises. The drive time is a mere 15 minutes from my house so there was no excuse there. The Uptown Y would be open so I have restrooms available and post race, I’d have a place to take a shower. Heck, I was hard pressed to find any reason not to run it.

Fast forwarding to this morning, I settle into a nice spot on the starting line. Surprisingly, other than Steve and Sophia there are not many familiar faces in the crowd.

The first mile is fast so there are plenty of runners looking to take advantage of it. By the time, we turn right on West Blvd, only the lead woman and lead man are ahead of me. I pass her heading down West Bld.  As I am passing, I recognize her from the Cupid Cup 5k.

I turned right on Tryon, and then left on Park Rd. Tryon is slightly up hill during this section but Park Rd. is all downhill.

I take a right on Mint Street, and it is an uphill climb until we near Morehead. Passing by Panther's Stadium, my legs are starting to tie up. It is colder than I expected. My hands feel numb. I know Meg is close behind. I don’t know who else. I don’t want to look.

Right on 3rd street is a rough. There is construction narrowing the road, and the traffic is still going up 3rd street. That's unexpected.

There is no choice but to cross over in front the moving traffic. We are both going up 3rd street but I need to go another block. All of the traffic has to turn right one block early.

Finally, I am clear of the traffic. I wish my legs had another gear. Rounding the corner, the finish line is right there. No time left to sprint. Crossing, I am done.

17:54, 5:36, 5:42, 5:44, and 49 for the last 10th were my splits. Finishing 2nd overall netted me this nice thermal steel jar with the YMCA race logo on it.

Not sure where I will use it, but I find something to do with it.

Overall, having a bit more turnover in my legs would be nice. Over the coming months, this needs to be a priority in my training. My running todo list never ends.

The Cool Down Runner



Friday, March 4, 2016

Hand Warmers.

There are some situations that seem funny when you think about. Here’s hoping it sounds as funny to you as it did to me.

To set the scene, here’s how it all started.

So last night, my daughter had her first soccer game of the season. With the wind blowing and the drizzle was settling over Charlotte. It was pretty miserable being outside.

She was cold, and it wasn’t hard to tell. Her sleeves were pulled down over her hands, and she was shaking.

A couple of weeks ago, while in Walmart, I purchased a pack of hand warmers and dropped them in the back of my car.

Given the conditions, it was a good time to break them out. I know she would appreciate it.

Digging through the back of my car, I found the package. Looking at it my closely, well more closely than I did while in the store, I realized this was a 3 pack of hand warmers.

Long ago, I remember someone telling to never assume anything. I still find myself being burned by this saying.

Anyway, I tore open the first of the 3 sub packages expecting to find two hand warmers. Ugh, okay, no, it was 2 hand warmers, it was only one. I tore open the 2nd package. It too had only one hand warmer.

Apparently, a 3 pack of hand warmers literally means 3 hand warmers.

This is the humorous part for me. I mean – why would anyone need 3 hand warmers. The last I check the default number of hands on most human beings was 2. Okay, there are some with 1, but I am getting off topic.
May be there is some yet unknown and unrecognized group of humans that have 3 hands. Or maybe the 3rd hand warmer is so you have a spare. Or maybe, it is for a friend that you only want keep half warm. LOL. Quite possibly, it is the company’s way of enticing customers to buy two packs. I mean now that I know that there “really” 3 hand warmers, I do need to buy two packs.

May be I am getting to old to fully appreciate the need for a 3 pack over a need for a 4 pack.

But the more I thought about it, the funny it seemed to me so I had to share.
Havea great weekend.

The Cool Down Runner.






Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Wind – friend or foe

Heading out for my interval workout this morning, I was faced with the prospect of being stood up straight by a serious head wind.

Most runners hate a head wind and love a nice tail wind. Who doesn’t?  

Now, I have never been overly excited about running into a strong head wind but once I get my head wrapped around the benefits, it can certainly make the effort extended a lot more palatable.

But before talking about running in the wind, let’s talk about an example of "not". Or as near “not” was one can get without being in a vacuum.

The best example of “windless” running that comes to mind is tread mill running. The common belief is if you are running on a tread mill, you need to bump the incline up one or two percent so the effort equates out evenly because you are not moving through space and thus you don’t have the resistance of pushing the air aside.  Of course now, that I have said this, I can totally see someone setting a huge fan in front of their tread mill and turning it on “super” high to create their very own wind tunnel.

However, once you step outside, the elements and especially the wind can have a huge impact on your running.

So once I moved past the idea of having to face the wind on every repeat, it wasn’t so bad. I found myself a nice long straight road in a neighborhood where the wind was blowing constantly from one direction.  Sometimes in neighborhoods, the wind can swirl through the houses to create a head wind one instance and a tail wind in another instance.

Then, for whatever interval session that I have I run the intervals into the wind and recover with the wind at my back. Yeah, it is tougher to run a workout this way. It is also slower, but it could also be argued that it makes you stronger. Now, you are not only pushing the air aside as you are running but you have a steady resistance pushing against you that you have to cover come. Given time with this type of training, you are body will begin to adapt to this and grow stronger.

A second benefit to doing your workouts into the wind is better race day preparation. Once you face something during your training period, the task of facing it on race day seems less daunting. Mentally, you have already overcome the most difficult part which can likely separate you from your competitors.

Either way, add a wind resistance workout to your training tool box. While it may not be your fastest workout ever, you can rest assured that the workout will be a strength builder.


See you on the roads,

The Cool Down Runner