Sunday, August 20, 2017

Trail Long Run #6

With the heat and humidity kicking runner's buts across Charlotte including mine, taking my long run back to the White Water Center trails made perfect sense this morning. About 7:30 AM, I loaded up and headed out.

This week, I needed to change up my usual plans. Instead of going out for one long run before returning to the parking lot, I made loops. Rather I made the 15k loops which composed the course for  the White Water Center race coming up in a few weeks.

Getting the terrain laid out in my head means I will likely run little faster on race day. However, today I found other motivation to be a little quicker.

Shortly after turning on the North Main trail, I was cruising along enjoy the morning when my eyes identified something that brought me to a halt.

Setting on edge of trail was nice fat copper head snake warming himself in the morning sunshine. Definitely, snakes are never part of my plans for a trail but occasionally, we do cross paths.

Once I could see he wasn't stressed i.e. looking for a nice lean runner's leg to bite, I gave him a wide berth and continued down the trail. Unfortunately, seeing one snake means that every odd shaped root which catches sun just right looks like a snake. Several miles passed under my feet before my brain stopped this ludicrous behavior.

Nine miles later, I made a quick stop at my car to load up on water and headed off again. I treaded lightly through the snake section but he most have moved on. Having a few Mt. Bikers flash by, he likely decided to find a better spot to work on his tan. He will get no objections from me.

After finishing up a my second loop, I headed over to the gravel path around the white water. With only a couple miles left in my long run, watching rafters seemed like a nice idea. At least this was better than staring at trees.

Looking at the Whiter Water Center now and 5 years ago, they seem like totally different places. They continue to grow and expand. Given the fitness craze that my people are on these days, the White Water Center makes for a ideal place to spend a lazy day for a fitness nut: flat water rafting in the morning, white water rafting in the afternoon, zip lining in the evening. If the mood hits, there also are plenty of trails and obstacles course to enjoy.

Definitely, they have a great place to get in a full day of fun and cool workout to boot. So check it out.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlotte Running Company XC 5k

Boy, the humidity made running terrible this morning. I finished my warm up miles before the 5k race, and sweat dripped from shorts as if I had been standing in a rain shower. No amount of toweling off could keep it from coming back.

So this morning, I headed down Myers Park for the Charlotte Running Company XC 5k and High School Invitational Meet. The adults go off first at 8 AM. Then, starting at 9 AM, the kids get to run going off in groups every 30 minutes. Let me tell you, they are amazing to watch.

Adults run with caution. We totally understand that tomorrow is another day, and we are unlikely to push to the point that we put ourselves in harms way. Kids don't have that fear yet. They attack the up hills hard and even harder they attack the down hills with a reckless abandon. A fact made very evident to me while I was attempting to stay a couple runners likely not born before I ran my first marathon.

We start from the far side of the ball field. Run along a dirt trail until it pops out behind the school. We follow the edge of the campus until the course picks up the trail again. Some of course is rather rugged. Bone crunching down hills followed by heart pounding up hills. To make runner's life even more interesting, every type of surface is encountered on the course: from grass, dirt, asphalt, gravel, to concrete.

I had hopes of staying with Cory during the race but once we hit the rugged section, he opened up a lead that I never closed. When I came off the second loop, he was well out sight. He went on to beat me by some 50 seconds today.

I finished 6th overall in 20:45. This was a little better finish than my last XC race here a little over two years ago. Funny, my time was nearly same.

Kudos to Lamont from Myers Park High School, Start 2 Finish, and Charlotte Running Company for supporting this event. They did an awesome job making sure the race was organized, and this is all any runners wants.

While XC running has never been my real forte, the way this course challenges me keeps me coming back year after year.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Long Run #5 – No trails.

With the off and on stormy weather for the past few days, the Whitewater Center Trails were closed today. So I was back on the roads for my weekly long run.

Why didn't I run the trails anyway? Well, during the early miles of my run, I contemplated this very question. The result, I came up with 3 reasons. Whether they are good reasons or not, I will let everyone else be the judge.

Reason #1 for not running on the trails, no one like being the trail cob web cleaner. Think about it. No one wants to be the first one on the trails. Catching a cob web across the face is just nasty.

Reason #2 for not running on the trails, didn't want to get busted for it. Yeah, I could sneak in and run the trails but with my luck one of the WWC guys would be out checking and I get kicked out of the center maybe even permanently. No point in taking an unnecessary risk.

Reason #3 for not running on the trails, this might actually be my best reason. The WWC team does an awesome job giving us all these trails and taken care of them. I should be respectful of their rules. If they feel the trails should not have runners, mt bikers, etc on them, we should obey them. Personally, I want these trails to be enjoyed for years to come. Tearing up the trails does no one any good, and likely gets additional restrictions imposed on their usage.

So how was my long run today?

The humidity was the worst this morning. Sweat quickly coated my skin and without the slightest hint of a gust of wind my shoes were soon making that “swooshing” sound of soaked running shoes. By 14 miles, my legs wanted to be done, and they still had another 5 miles to carry me.

But I stuck it out, and I finished my run. The ending was a bit ugly, but I finished it and will live to run another day.

See you on the trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Trail Long Run #4

So late Friday night the storms rolled across the Charlotte area. When this happens, they often close the Whitewater Center trails. However, come Saturday morning, they were showing all trails open. It must be my lucky day or so I thought.

Long Run number four had a few surprises in store for me. There tumble on the trail. There was a snake out and about. A new section was added to the Thread trail.

Where should I start.

Ok, let's tackle these in the order that they occurred.

First, the new trail section, I am headed out on the Thread trail. I was about to cross the service road when the path a head was blocked. No, I don't mean blocked like a trail fell across the trail. Although, after last night's storms, several trees had fallen cross the trail in different sections. No, in this case, someone had made a big “X” with two trees blocking the path a head. Veering left, they had created a new entrance to a whole new section of the Thread Trail. This was no small addition. I felt like I ran forever before connecting back up with the old trail. A couple of weeks ago, I ran this same course, and didn't hit 16 miles until I was back side on the figure 8 trail. With this new addition, I was well over 16 miles before I even reached the figure 8 trail.

I love the fact that the Whitewater Center crew is always adding new trails. This keeps things interesting. We all know runners love interesting things.

Moving on to my tumble, well with rain last night, there were a few slippery sections. About 17 miles into my run, I was getting tired and probably wasn't paying close enough attention to my footing. Well, I started down this steep slope when my right foot just went right out from under me. I rolled down the hill and on to my side. I immediately popped right up and looked around to see if anyone had seen me. I was more embarrassed than hurt. Brushed off some of the dirt. Did a quick head to toe sanity check and headed off running again. Luckily nothing was hurt. I kind of bounced down the slope and on to soft sandy pile of dirt.

So last item was my snake encounter. I am heading back to the trail head along the Parkway trail, and this guy passes me. He is just head of me when we round this bend and suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see the huge black snake crossing the trail and heading up the embankment. I don't know. May be he never saw it. If he did, would have been nice to give a fellow running buddy a little heads up. Nothing like being totally surprised by a black streak crossing the path in front of me.

Otherwise, this was just another boring uneventful time in the woods. I will say the fatigue was really starting to set in over those final miles. For the first 9 to 10 miles, I felt pretty good and probably ran a little harder than I should have. I, then, paid for it over the later miles. Most of the time, I always save the easier trails for the end because I know that I am tired. I don't pick up my feet as well so on the easier trails I am less likely to fall. Although, may I proved this wrong by falling on the Thread trail.

With week number 4 for trails in the books, I need to switch up my trails again. Run them in some different combination. Like I said earlier, runners like to keep things interesting.

See you on the trails,

The Cool Down Runner.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Trail Long Run #3

Ok, so Saturday I headed to the trails to knock out my 3rd long run in as many weeks under the shady leaves of the forest. The morning started out a bit rough. For the first hour or so, the humidity was something awful. Within the first 20 minutes, my body was dripping with sweat. Then, somewhere around around 9 or 9:30 the humidity lifted, and the breeze picked up. From then. On, my run felt totally different.

Everything was stark contrast to the previous week when the heat seemed to radiate from every possible direction. I couldn't get enough water in me to rehydrate.

The week, the miles rolled along. By the time my Garmin clocked 18 miles, I was pulling back in to the parking lot, and still felt good.

Three more weeks, my body should become well adapted to the stresses of the trails. Let's hope some of this trail strength will cross over and show up during my road races.

I do my best to keep you posted on my progress.

By the way, been thinking about doing another Crowders Mt. To Kings Mt. Trail run. I didn't do one last year, but I feel like time is right for another one. Of course, I need to pick a good weekend for it. Maybe one here during Aug or September.

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Horse sighting

Finishing off my morning run by Northlake Mall this morning, I pulled up at the red light by Reames Rd. 

Normally; there is nothing of interest to see. Cars transitioning to where they need to go.

This morning, however, as I pulled up to wait on the pedestrian light to clear me, here sets a lady riding horse. Yes, that’s right – a horse. And as if she were in her car, she was messing with her smart phone. May be she was checking her FaceBook account. May be she was Twitting. May be she was “heaven forbid” ‘texting’.

We have a law about ‘texting’ while driving a car. I wonder – is there a law about riding a horse and ‘texting’.

The light changes and off she heads toward the mall.

Life is never boring.

The Cool Down Runner

Charlotte Running Club Summer Track Night

While the weather was still hot and humid, the summer storms that troubled us last year remained at bay this year. This gave the Charlotte Running Club the opportunity to produce an awesome event.

Runners began arriving around 5:30 PM. After picking up their numbers, the events soon kicked off with the 50 meters, proceeded by the 100, the mile, the 4 x 100, the 200, the 400, the 800, and the evening finished off with a 5k run on the track. Every event seemed to be stacked with numerous fast runners.  Seeing so many members come out to support our club is so overwhelming.

Success only comes through preparation and planning. Both were well illustrated last night because of the time and energy put in by Aaron. I for one will be sending him – major kudos for his efforts as well as well deserved slap on the back for a job well done.    

Charlotte Country Day also gets a big “Thank You” for being so kind in allowing us to use their track. They are a wonderful group to work with.

For those that missed this event, please be on the lookout for it next year.
See you in the summer of '18 for sure.


The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whitewater Center Trails LR #2

Ok, as thermostat pushes to near triple digits these days, getting out the sun for a run is a priority.

So, if I don't have some hotels to cast a shadow, I had better have some trees. Right?

Yes, without a question, trees do help. Thus, this morning, I headed back to the Whitewater Center for my second long run in as many weeks. This week's run started on the East Main trail, ventured to the Parkway trail, then to the Academy, Thread, and Figure 8 trails.

At one point, I stumbled upon one of the Whitewater Center Water Coolers. This must have been heaven sent because the heat and my sweating were starting to have an effect on me. I filled my Nathan water bottles, and cooled my cap with cold water before continuing.

When I started, I planned for 18 miles. After my stop at the cooler, I had second thoughts. 15 miles would bring me back to the parking lot. Rather than carry on in the heat, I made the smart move and chose to wrap my long run at 15 miles. Live to fight another day.

As the heat continues its oppression on runners of the south, our local trails may be your only relief. That is, unless you are willing to get out of heat by running at 5 AM.

Check out the Char Meck Park & Rec's page for a list of local trails. Charlotte has some amazing locations; most are only a short driving distance. 

The Cool Down Runner

Hotel Shadow Running

Spent a few days enjoying the sand and the surf of Myrtle Beach this past week. If memory serves me correctly and let's hope it still does, this was my first visit to Myrtle where I stayed on Ocean Blvd.

Usually, when I visit the beach, I like to avoid the tourist traps, but this time, I signed up for it.

Looking back now, I must say that I like being able to walk easily to restaurants, the beach, and evening activities. We were even surprised by an evening fireworks show so off the pier.

But I digress here.

I kept the running light and easy this week. Rolling out bed at 6:45 and out the door by 7 AM, the sun was just high enough to cast some nice hotel shadows which helped keep the soaring temperatures at bay for a bit longer. Even better whether running north or south on the blvd, the wind seemed to be hitting me in the face. Let's face it. In the middle of summer, a head wind no matter mild is a much sort after occurrence.

Where did I run?
Well, Tuesday morning I was out exploring the lower half of the Myrtle Beach ½ marathon course. Wednesday, I explored the upper half of the course. I have run the Myrtle Beach courses numerous times but only this week did a allow myself to take in the sights of the run.

Slowing down and enjoying the moment does have it perks. Everyone should do it.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Street Light 5k – Concord, NC Recap

So after racing on Monday night at the Fire Cracker 5k in South Charlotte, I spent pretty much the rest of the week laying around. Thursday morning while browsing through a list of local races, the Street Light 5k caught my eye. Wild, that's tomorrow night. I was thinking that the race was next week.

Why not go race.

Fast forward to Friday evening, I headed toward downtown Concord.

The weather was typical for July. The temperature was in the mid 90s but it feels like 100 degrees. Throw in some oppressive humidity and not much wind and you have the making for a tough race – even for a 5k.

The Street Light race follows the same course as the Bunny Run 5k earlier this year. The first mile is fast, the second mile is pretty much flat along the green way, but the 3rd mile is the beast. In this mile, the course slowly climbs back up to downtown Concord. Along the way, we have a nasty set of switch backs just to make a runner's life totally miserable.

So I am finishing my warm up strides when I ran in to Brittney. If memory services me correctly, I hadn't seen her in a couple years. Not since, she was a senior in high school. She has moved up now. She runs for the UNCC 49ers XC team, and she brought a few of her buddies along with her to this race. Oh, they are going to make life interesting. I am sure of it.

As with most starts, the young guys go out pretty hard. In this case, this didn't do them much good. We round the first corner, and they suddenly break right and head down a side street.

There must have been a surprised look on my face because I didn't remember doing this any of my previous races here.

Suddenly, people were yelling for them to turn around. Having not made their mistake, I found myself in the front of the field.

We made it through the first mile in 5:33. Brittney, and her buddies were right behind me. By two miles, Brittney moved ahead of me, and her two buddies followed.

That last mile, the monkey was truly jumping on my back. My legs felt wasted climbing up the hill. Brittney put some 40 seconds on my during the last mile.

What a difference a couple of years make. She has become a stronger runner, and the training showed as she charged up the last hill.

Big Kudos to her and here 49er running buddies.

As for me, I went on to finish 4 overall and was the first male finisher in 18:56.

To wrap up this post, I want to send the Concord Park & Rec Dept a huge shout out for a job well done. I run numerous races during the year so I see the extremes both good and bad for how races are run. Those guys do a awesome job, and to beat it, they only charged $20 race day registration. That's why I believe in giving credit where credit is due. They deserve it. Job well done guys!!!!

The Cool Down Runner

Whitewater Center Trails

Ok, what has it been? Something like 18 months have passed since I took one of my runs to the trails. The time felt right again to chew up some dirt. Helping push my thinking in this direction has been these summertime temperatures.

How many 90+ degrees have we had lately? More then enough if you ask me.

I probably don't appreciate how much the shade really means until I am literally melting in the street on one of these hot summer days.

But I digress, the Whitewater Center trails were in awesome shape yesterday.

I cruised around the north trail to the figure 8 trail from the trail head. Off the figure 8, I picked both the Carolina Thread Trail and then Academy trails. I like these two additions. They connect off the existing trails and they roll along pretty well. By the time that I had finished off the figure 8 trail, I have put nearly 7 miles in my rear view mirror. These sections make for nice little run, and the trails are not overly technical.

After the figure 8 I finished off the rest of the north trail and headed into the south trail. I picked up both the wedge loop and the goat loop. The Wedge loop, I like. The loop is a nice easy rolling loop. The Goat on the other hand has more “but” kicking hills than I remember. After south trail, I headed right into the Lake Loop trail. The Lake Loop is probably my favorite trail to run. After all, the trail is probably the least technical of Whitewater Center trails. Also, I was getting tired, and on the Lake Loop, I am least likely to snag my foot on a root and hit the dirt.

After I finished, I picked up my cooler of water and headed over the shelter by the trail head to relax for a few minutes. Over the closing miles my legs were feeling it. I didn't realize how much until I stopped running.
I am way out of trail shape. The twisting and turning, uphills and downhills, brought this realization home. So I am changing up my training plans to do my long runs on the trails for the next couple of months. Once I get 3 or 4 weeks under my belt, my runs should start to feel a little easier.

In the meantime, let's just say that I am going enjoy these summertime trail runs.

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fire Cracker 5k – South Charlotte 7/3/17

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and post race activities were spoiled by a steady down pour settling over the area. My walk back to my car left me soaked to the bone, but surprisingly, the cold, soaking rain felt awesome on my skin after hours of being in the hot, humid, and sticky weather.

Such was the life for nearly everyone that ran the Fire Cracker 5k in South Charlotte last night.

For past several years, my Fire Cracker 5k experiences were focused on volunteering for this race at the 2nd water stop.

This year Corey talked me into running. Then, why not? Getting in a race on or around our nation's Independence Day should be on everyone's bucket list.

Rumors were abound that this was a pretty tough race. With hot and humid July weather on one hand and a hilly coarse on the other, runners didn't get many chances for a reprieve.

The start was a bit crowded but the competitors quickly strung out. Aaron was quickly making his way to the front, and slowly but surely he was disappearing in to the distance. Around me was a bunch of runners. All were younger than me, and they all seemed to be full of energy and speedie legs.

Through the first mile, several were passing me on the downhills while I would pull them back on the uphills. Megan, Ben, Chase, and Rob yelled encouragement as we passed them several times during the race. Hearing encouragement from the sidelines is always nice. Sounds from the distance motivate me to push more when every part of my body is telling me to slow down.

Just before 2 miles, we hit what is perhaps the steepest and hardest hill on the course. One guy pulls over and starts walking. Lower my head and pumping my arms, my focus is on one single solitary objective – reaching the top of the hill.

After 2 miles, the course calms down with only a few small rollers of hills to overcome. My legs felt the best that they had the entire race. Helping me along was the fact that I was still passing runners.

With less than a quarter mile left in the race, I was were I wanted to be – at the front of our group. I have always found my chances are much better when being on the front of a group than hanging off the back.

Nearing the finish line, I could still fell them pressing hard just behind me. Then, there was the expectation that someone would come sprinting by me. Corey was back there somewhere. I fully expected him to put in a strong finish.

Making the last right hand turn, I was sprinting as fast as I could humanly pick up and put down my Hoka racing flats.

My time was 18:31 which I was extremely happy to have run, and I finished 3rd overall.

Later, I got a chance to look at the results. 2 seconds back were 2 more runners. Another second after them was another runner. 4 seconds after him was the last runner in our group. If I had let up even for a bit, I could have easily went from the 3rd to 8th place in the blink of an eye.

May be this is why humans don't have eyes in the back of their heads. Do we have any business worrying about the things coming up behind us when we should be solely focused on the road in front of us.

Kudos to S2F for their efforts. The race was well organized and the course was well marked which has come to be the norm for their races.

Kudos to Aaron for upholding the Masters division by taking home the win.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to two of my Charlotte Running Company/Hoka Race teammates: Mary Kate, and Stacy. They ran a strong race together and finished in a dead heat. Congrats on your awesome efforts ladies. Great work!

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer Storms

Walking into Walmart, the sounds of thunder rumbled in the distance. The passing thought registered - would the rain arrive before my shopping efforts concluded?

My question was answered only a few minutes later. The beating of the rain against the Walmart sky lights echoed throughout the store. If I had been at home, I could have curled up for a good afternoon nap. The sound made even the most alert person sleepy.

So after picking up a few more items, I finish my shopping, checked out, and headed for my car. The exit from the store was crowded. People were waiting out the rain in hopes that the storm would pass quickly.

This isn't the part that struck me as interesting. Staying dry is important to everyone. Right?

More so, the gender of the individuals waiting is what struck me as interesting. Nearly 90% of those waiting were women. So out 10 individuals waiting only single male was waiting. As I stood there observing not only the people around me but the rain blowing sideways across the parking, more than one male passed through ranks of women and headed out into the storm to their cars.

So why would males head out into the storm and women deemed it better to wait out the rain? Granted my entire theory here may well be flawed. But flawed or not, stopping for a second and really examining the world around us is something we all should do from time to time.

Some of the reasons I pondered: women tend to shop more than men, men tend always be in a hurry, etc.

Of course, one should consider the fact that women are likely smarter than men. Showing a bit more patience means staying dry. Possibly men are only thinking of the short term gains like getting home while women take the long term view – not wearing wet clothes for the next couple of hours.

Ok, enough observing, time for me to head out into the storm. Life moves pretty fast, wasting it watching the rain fall doesn't seem like a productive use of my time.

Oh, yeah, before going, the primary reason women don't venture into the storm while men do, well the answer simple and is as old as time itself. They are made of sugar and spice. Everyone knows that sugar and spice dissolves in water. Right?

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, July 1, 2017

When you don't know the race course

Do race course directions really help?

We were getting our race instructions just before the start of the Freedom Run 5k, and I could not help but smile. I wanted to relay this story because I found it somewhat humorous, and hopefully, you will as well.

As we lined up for the start, the race director is giving us the rules of the road for his race. Part of his prerace speech included a turn by turn break down of the course. Go straight for two blocks and turn left. Go another 3 blocks and take another left. Go 5 blocks and take a right. Cross over the road and take the city trail. Stay left at the lake and take the right over the bridge. Go up the hill and follow the path around the base ball field. So on and so forth.

Hopefully, you are getting the picture by now. This course had more than a few twist and turns on it. By the time that he finished his description, course sounded like a 5 mile course rather than a 5k course, and I said as much out loud which invoked more than few laughs through the field.

For the local runners, his directions made total sense. I am sure of it. They know the local roads probably by heart. For me, I stopped following after the 3 left turn. I could only hope that they marked the course well.

From my personal experience, I find any directions beyond the course is out and back unlikely to help me later during the race.

Why do race directors often feel the need to do give these turn by turn instructions. I often wonder if it is out some sense that the course isn't marked very well. From a runners perspective, a course should be marked based on the assumption that no one knows it. Better to say look for the signs marked on the road or signs at each turn. Follow the KIS method (Keep It Simple). Runners will follow signs well during the race just don't expect them to think too much along the way.

The Cool Down Runner

Freedom Run 5k – 6/24/17 – Oakboro, NC

Running along the trail and around the baseball field during the Freedom Run 5k in Oakboro NC, an old memory resonated from the back of my mind. I signed up the week of for this year's race, and the thought never dawned on me that I had run in Oakboro before this year. Yet, as I circled the lake and then looped around the baseball field, the memory came roaring back that I had done this same course years ago.

My time wasn't nearly as impressive this year – 19:04. While the heat and humidity has something do with it, my age and training had more do with it. Still, I was happy to grab the win. They gave a nice fire department plaque to the winners. A nice gesture given the race was organized by the local fire department members. Kudos to them. They did a great job with the race.

Maybe this is a sign that I am getting older, but I really like these small town races. In some ways, this takes me back to when I started running. The lines to the porta potties were short. Everyone was up for a conversation either before or after the race, and people hung out for the awards. And, if you wanted, the race director was readily available to talk about the race.

Don't get me wrong here. Big races have their own perks, but I often feel that with larger races, the runner gets lost in the shuffle. Runners are expected to show up, race, and leave as soon as possible afterward. The entire process is an organized procession of events planned to give an experience and get you on your way. May be the what I see missing from the larger races is the personal touch. They are much more business oriented. Having helped organize multiple races. I understand this part of the picture.

Of coarse each of us is driven by our own long list of needs and desires. What I am looking for in a race isn't likely to exactly match with the runners standing on either side of me at the starting line. As long as I am checking off most of the items on my list, this usually gives me plenty of reasons to return for another year.

The Cool Down Runner

Charlotte Summer Track - Wraps up for '17

Yes, another year of Summer Track in Charlotte has come and gone. Runners this year were rewarded with some of the best June temperatures in recent memory. This past Tuesday night, the mercury in the thermometer barely pushed over 80 degrees. The real benefit to the runners came in the way of super low humidity. Personally, I was very envious. The June weather couldn't have been nicer.

Our Summer Track wrapped up with Championship heats this week. Tim handed out medals to the top three runners in each of the events from the 100 meters to 5k. Bert took home top honors in the 1 mile while Chad took home the win in the 5k with a time just over 16 minutes.

While I would have loved to be out there running each and every event. Volunteering this summer came with its own rewards. Giving back to help Tim and Tom put on this series helped encourage them to keep the series going for many years to come. Volunteering, furthermore, gave me numerous opportunities to make new running friends and cheer on old friends who still have the desire and the speed to push their bodies. Steve and Corey showed the way for our masters group, but more impressing were the efforts of Terry and Bob. Watching them run gives me hope that the effort of going out the door for run will never overcome my desire for the run.

From me to each of you track speedsters, thank you for coming out on Tuesday's nights. Hopefully, you made some great memories and will be enticed to return next year.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Track – Make up night

After last week's Summer Track Meet washout, the make up night was this past Thursday night. As one might have expected, the turnout was lighter than expected. But on the bright-side, the only water hitting the track came from the sweat produced by the runners. Which I guess; is a good thing.

The low turnout didn't deter an enthusiastic group of runners. The highlight of the evening was Matt's 4:28 mile. Watching someone who is really good at what they do is awesome experience. Matt and another guy, who I cannot remember his name, run together for the first 3 laps, but I could tell Matt had more in the tank going into the final lap. Sure enough, going down the back stretch he kicked it into another gear.

Quick heats of the 400, 800, 4 x 100, and 200 followed. The last heat of the evening was the 3200 meter run which Chase won just under 11 minutes.

During one of the breaks in the action, Tim and I were chatting about the fact that next week is the last week of Summer Track. Our first meet went off the day after Memorial Day, and 4 more weeks of Summer Track were to follow. Now, with one week left time seems to have flown by. Mentally, I know that there are 24 hours in the day, and 7 days in the week. Sometime life is so busy, we don't realize how fast those minutes turn into hours and how quickly those hours turn into days and weeks.

I am reminded that our lives are short, and not a minute of it should be wasted. Live the most out of every day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Track – Session #3

For the second week in row, the rain poured on us. Yet, this week the thunder and lightning remained at a distance. Letting us get a full evening of activities completed.

Several groups brought out their young kids so the 50 and 100 meter runs were super busy. James ran a 4:28 mile. Bert followed close behind him. Spada keep the 50+ group honest by nearly running a sub 5:20 mile.

This week’s activities culminated with a 5k run. Bert again showed a yeomen’s strength by running a 15:28 in a solo effort. Second place was nearly 90 seconds back. Nathan, who is part of the Running Works program, and Rich fought through the steady rain that descended on the track to finish well.

Much appreciation goes out to all of the runners that attended.

 And a special kudos goes out to the runner's parents. Mary Kate’s kids knocked out some great time 50 and 100 meter efforts. Chase appears to have captured the running genes from both sides of the family. He roars down the track with a smile on his face.  

Summer Track continues with a makeup event tomorrow night - 6/22/17 – 6 PM. We will follow the usual schedule of events finishing off with the 3200 meter run.

See you then,

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Track Makeup night 7/22/17

Hot, Muggy, and a good chance of an evening thunderstorm are not the only items on the agenda this week.

After last week’s washout, a double feature occurs with this week. Tomorrow night, we have the usual Tuesday night track activities. Then, just some 48 hours later, area runners will have a second chane to put their track skills to the test. Yes, this week we have a rare opportunity to run fast, and then attempt to run faster 48 hours later. How many times have you run a race, and over the next day or two wished that you could race again. Well, here’s your chance.

·         The make-up date for Tuesday, June 13 rainout is Thursday, June 22.

·         Those who paid for entrance into Tuesday, June 13 can participate at no charge either June 22 or June 24.  If you still have it, please bring your bib from the 13th.  If you do not, please email ahead of Tuesday so she can prepare a new bib for you.

·         We will run the 5000M on the 20th and 3200 on the 22nd

·         Any future rainouts will not be made up.


The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, June 15, 2017

RfYL Summer Track Week #3 – Washed Out

Hot summer days often end with huge evening thunderstorms. Take Tuesday evening earlier this week for example, our setup was ahead of schedule. But an ominous feeling hung in the air. Dark clouds covered all of Charlotte. Thunder rumbled in the far distance. Keeping our fingers crossed that the storms would pass us by was the most we could do.

Maybe a tell-tale of things to come, the sprinklers on the foot ball field kicked on while I was setting up the clock and soaked me down.

The 50 meter races ended up being the only on track action for the evening. For shortly afterward, the lightning flashed which put an end to our efforts. The wind picked up and within 15 minutes the skies opened up.

For those that don’t know, high school tracks have similar rules to outdoor pools. If thunder and lightning occurs, all on track action stops. Everyone is directed to seek cover. Action cannot resume until 30 minutes after the last thunder and lightning occurs. Runners need to remember; rules like this are put in to place for their protection. Getting struck by lightning is not going to be a fun experience.

On the bright side, Summer Track is scheduled to happen two more times here in June so don’t miss out. Runners on Tuesday evenings come by Myers Park Track. Registration starts at 5:30. Races start shortly after 6PM.


The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Grizzily 5k Race 6/9/2017

Last night, I ran the Grizzly 5k in Gastonia, NC. Going in to this race, I thought I could run an 18:20, may be evening an 18:10. My training has been going well, and my runs had me thinking it was possible.

Right from the start, my breathing felt labored. Which this in its self isn’t unusual, who runs a 5k and doesn’t feel the strain while running hard.

But the effort never felt any easier, and to compound my problems my legs felt extremely flat. The second mile is a gradual uphill grind, but it shouldn’t have felt this hard considering the pace that I was running. My hopes hung on the fact that may be coming back, my legs would kick into gear.

Yes, they did but only slightly. I was only 10 seconds quicker on the 3rd mile when in reality I should be been even faster.

By the time I was turning into the ball park, my legs were turning over but were doing so on autopilot.

I finished 2nd overall while running 19:01 for this course.

What I cannot explain is how off my game that I felt.

Running is all about cycles. We have ups and downs. Right now, I seem to be in a down cycle, and I am struggling to find the escalator for the up side.
Just have to keep working hard.


The Cool Down Runner  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer Track Week #2

Was the weather today awesome or what?

Standing the curb in front of my house this morning, I was about to step in to the first stride of my run when I couldn’t help but let my mind wonder for just a second. Letting the savoring thought of this great weather fill my body with energy, and hoping every other runner in this world was having the same experience.

Let’s be honest here. How could this be the first week in June.  June weather is not known for low humidity, nice breezes, and awesome temperatures.

Following that first step were more steps. Each was carrying forward the goodness from that  very first step.

But I digress.

I am here to talk about last night’s track meet. I guess I took too much for granted. Last week, everything seemed to go off flawlessly. This week, I had my first major screw up.

For the 100 meters, we had what looked like a false start yet, the sprinters kept going. Afterward, Tom and Tim decided to run the 100 meters again. So I needed to reset the timing machine. Our single timing machine needs to be reconnected to the 8 hand held individual lane timing. Then, I was in the middle of explaining how it all works to our 8 volunteers when I hear the gun sound. The sprinters were already roaring down the track when I looked up and cringed. I haven’t started the clock. All I could say is that “I am sorry”. Crawling under a rock was pretty much what I felt like doing. I should have waived Tom off until I was ready. I didn’t.

I couldn’t change what happen. Making apologies was all that I could do to the sprinters and make sure I was ready for the next events. The rest of the evening moved along with no other major mishaps. Later after the two mile run, we did another heat of the 100. Actually, we had two heats. At first, we had only a couple of runners up for doing another 100, but by the time everyone gathered, we had 10 runners interested. This time, I had my volunteers ready, and we captured all of the times without any issues.

Life experience is a cruel teacher. Often forcing us down the more difficult path in hopes making us better, this certainly taught me a lesson. I have no plans on repeating it.


The Cool Down Runner.  


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Run For Your Life Summer Track Meet 5/30/17

The start of summer track in the Charlotte area officially kicks off the beginning of summer for our runnning community. If you didn’t know this, then you already missed the first night. Yesterday, Run for Your Life held their first “All Comers” track series meet last night at Myers Park High School.

Registration opened at 5:30, and events kicked off at 6:15 with the 50 and 100 meter runs. 6 minute+ milers raced around 6:40 PM with the sub 6 minute guys going off 6:50. James ran a sub 4:30 open mile. His legs were a blur coming off the last turn and heading down the final straightaway.

The 4 x 100 is always a special event and draws teams from all age groups. This event especially pulls in my attention because unlike most events in track and field, the relay events provide a team aspect to running. Seeing a group of runners work as a cohesive unit to transfer the baton around the track creates a lot excitement.

After a couple heats of the relay, the 400, 800, and 200 heats ran. Ending the evening was the 3200 meter run.  Here, three lead runners making a mad dash for the line. Great seeing the next generation of runners out on a Tuesday night showing off their running abilities.  

More information about Run for Your Life’s Summer Track series is available here.

As a heads up, kids run the untimed events for free. For just $10 and $7 students, you can run any or all of the events.

Kudos to Tim for sharing his equipment for the series and to Tom for being the meet director. They have been doing this for many years now, and our running community hopes to have their continued participation for many years to come.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

30 Second Fatigue Buster

During the later part of my long runs, I often feel the grind of the miles. My legs have pounded their way through the half point, and now, all they want is for me to be done with yet another long run.

As one would expect, mentally, this is the toughest part. The near constant signals from my body to my mind urging me to slow down.  

The question is – do I give in to the pain or do I push through it?

My age old approach is to push through it. Show the mental toughness that it takes by dragging my body along to the finish line. We all respect and honor this kind of toughness. Right?  

Lately, I have been adopting a different approach.  By playing some mental games, I shift my way of thinking during the latter half of these runs.

Here’s how I do it. Once I hit the half way point, I start listening for my Garmin auto lap to chime at each mile split. And, on the chime, instead of continuing to slug along at the same pace, I throw in a 30 second surge. I am not talking about an all out sprint here. Let’s not go crazy. This is a long run after all.

I am suggesting more of a 30 second stride. Think along the lines of a prerace strider. Any pace that raises my running cadence above my current running pace seems to not only work but after the surge, returning to my previous pace now feels easier.

Using this strategy over my last few long runs, I have found that those late miles don’t feel nearly hard. Another side effect, I am running faster than I was prior to using this strategy.

Try it, and see how it works for you. Running can be 90% mental and 10% physical. The less I let my mind think about my fatigue, the better off that I am.


The Cool Down Runner




Monday, May 15, 2017

Absorbine Jr

Growing up, Absorbine Jr was one the commercials that I remember clearly. No explanation as to why I remember it, but I do. At the time, understanding the need for it probably wasn’t important. After playing, working, whatever I did, rarely was I ever sore.

Fast forward a few years, ok, fast forward a lot years, the understanding finally hits home. Over the weekend, I spent quite a bit of time digging up my yard to move to some plants around. You understand. Right? Once you buy a house, you work on it for the rest of your life.

Anyway, most of Saturday was spent digging, cutting, hauling, and covering. Sunday, my shoulders had that nagging feeling of soreness. Today, DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has fully set in.  Rolling my shoulders just reminds me that I am not 20 anymore.

Which brings me back to the Absorbine Jr commercial, hitting up WalGreens later today for a bottle sounds like a good idea.

Oh, my aching shoulders. LOL


The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Beach Blast 5k, Albemarle, NC

Having run the Beach Blast several times, I know exactly what I am facing. A tough course, a well mark course, plenty of water stops, plenty of police presence on the roads to keep the traffic at bay, and of course, some great post race food and activities. Again, this year, the Uwharrie Running Club and Vac & Dash did nothing to disappoint.

At 8 AM sharp, we rolled off the line under overcast and cool conditions. The late night storm brought down the temperature. This year’s Beach Blast race the coolest that I remember.

The first ½ mile brought out a fast and furious charge from the 15 and under age group. Then, the older and a little wiser of us began to make their presence felt.

By the mile, there was a small gap between myself and the second place runners. By the turn at the top of the hill, the distance had grown quite bit.

At each of the turns, I kept a constant vidual on this gap. Topping the last hill, I made for the finish line in 18:30.

This was my 3rd Beach Blast 5k win, and I have the gourds to prove to it. They are one of my prized awards.

Love going over the Albemarle for their races, they always make me feel welcome.


The Cool Down Runner



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Red Run 8k, Huntersville Race Recap

The itch to race again reared its head and sent me in search of a local race. Popping up first on my list was the Red Run 8k in Huntersville. Actually, the race is held in the Huntersville Business Park which is a scant 5 miles from my home. Making it even better, this race was an 8k.

My favor race distance is 10 miles but a close second is the 8k. They are hard to find so when I spotted this one and given the close proximity to my home, I signed right up.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, the weather was cool for May – very cool indeed.

As we stood waiting the final minutes before the start, a slight drizzle settled over the area along with a stiff wind out of the west.

The 8k race had a small field with most runners and walkers opting for the 4k distance.

If you are not familiar with the Huntersville Business Park, the lay of the land is pretty much on the side of a hill. Either you are running up or you are running down hill. Given the direction, you can have a lot more uphill than down.

Maybe this was the thinking of the race director because we ran course in the direction that had us going uphill for 3 miles and then downhill for 2 hills. The saving grace is the last mile is mainly downhill.

Within a few hundred yards of the start I found myself taking the lead.

Uphill, the mile mark appears in the distance but seems to take forever to reach. Luckily, I crest over just afterward and am rewarded with a long downhill to recover my breathing.

Then, back up the hill a second time but as I near the top, the coarse turns right on to Vanstory. After a short downhill, I am climbing yet again. Both miles 3 and 4 are all up hill.   

Passing the 4 mile point, the course turns downhill. I urge my legs to turn over faster. They resist my mental suggestions. Two miles of climbing have left them numb to my request.

Rounding the final bend in the road, the finish line comes in to sight. Glancing at my Garmin, I see a 28 something. Again, I urge my legs to move faster. I pump my arms in hopes that this helps.

Crossing the finish line, my 29:15 time was far better than expected. May be all those uphill ¼ mile repeats are finally paying off.

All, in all, this was a pretty decent little race. Kudos go to the group for organizing this one.

Staying with my 2 races per month game plan, where will I show up next. There are 3 more weeks in May.  


The Cool Down Runner





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bunny Run 5k Recap – Concord NC

As a late week call, I put the Bunny Run 5k in Concord NC on my race calendar. Just two weeks removed from my goal race, I felt like I needed to get back on the roads again and put some racing under my belt.

The Bunny Run 5k is pretty late start for April. In the case of this April, it was. Race time temperature had to be pushing mid 70s by the time we rolled off the starting line.

Since the Bunny Run and the Street Light 5k share the same course, I was well aware of what lay in store for me. Mile one is super fast with a long downhill section. Mile two is relatively flat. And, mile three is – well mile three is pretty much all uphill with some nasty switchback thrown just to make our lives more interesting or possibly more miserable.

The starting line is packed with kids and adults.

With a quick countdown, we were sent on our way.

Running a 5k feels fast and different. My legs hate the need to turn over so much faster. Watching everyone else, they bound along effortlessly heading to the greenway entrance. What looks effortlessly for them doesn’t feel the same way for me.

Switching from the road to the greenway the course levels out. Each of those young runners now feels the true weight of running. Funny how life is equalizes us all.

My patience’s during the opening mile pays off.  Shortly after the mile, I match strides with the race leader. At the turn around, I gain a slight advantage but he roars back so we can run side by side. We switch back and forth wanting to take the lead but the outgoing racers force us to return to a single file running order. We cross under the road and see the 2 mile point just ahead. My pace carries me in to the lead. Passing the two mile mark, I grab a cup of water and dump it over my head. The cold water feels awesome and revives me from the sluggishness of the heat that I am enduring.

Now comes the hard part of climbing back up to downtown Concord. Not as much as seeing but feeling I know he drops off the pace. The terrain steepens – slowly at first but growing more and more every 100 yards.

Reaching the switchbacks my legs feel the strain of the hills but with only two options – push those thoughts aside or slow down, I opt for the former.

Topping last switchback leaves me with weary legs but one more hill still looms ahead. This last hill hurts badly.

 Now, I am free to run to the finish.

Three more corners are in the books. I dig it all the way to the finish.

At 52 years old, I claimed the overall Bunny Run 5k title in 18:14.  

The Concord Park and Rec Department deserve a big “pat” on the back for job well done. They consistently organize well run races at a reasonable cost. My race day registration was $20, and I got a shirt to boot. The course was well marked and had plenty of course monitors. This included a police presence and blocked off roads.

Races everywhere could take a lesson from these guys. Could well be the reason they always have a large turnout for their races. Kudos to them on their efforts.


Cool Down Runner




Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington KY – Recap


Sorry, I am little late in getting this one published. Work has been super busy lately, and this has caused my 2nd job/hobby running to get pushed in to the background.

Anyway, let’s move on to the talking about the race.

On Friday, I drove up to Lexington, KY for a couple of reasons. The primary one was to visit with my daughter who attends UK. Family time is always important to me, and seeing a friendly face always helps. Besides, she doesn’t mind that I take her and friends out to dinner either.

Then my secondary reason was running the Bluegrass Half Marathon which starts and finishes Keeneland Horse Race Park. Friday evening, I went by to check out the Expo and pick up my bib number. Surprisingly, they have a rather nice Expo. Way more vendors than I expected. Also good was the opportunity to check the race start and find a good place to park for race morning.

In my preparation for the race, I spent quite some time reading about the race. When I am unfamiliar with a race course, reading several people’s reviews give me a lot insight to what the course is really like. Based on my experience, runners will describe a course as it pertains to the strengths. So if they are hill runners, they tend to play down the hills. If they are flat landers, the course is pretty much considered by Everest standards. Most reviews said this was Everest type of course.

Race morning arrived with a drizzling rain, gusting wind, and a 40 degree temperate. With the wind chill, my body told me it must be in the 30s. My arms and hands were shaking at the start.

The Yearling race heads off at 8:55 and the 7 miler and ½ head off at 9 AM.

But before we can start, they play the Star Spangle Banner. Okay, I am up for this one. Then, they play “My Old Kentucky Home”. Alright, I am cold, and I am from North Carolina, let’s get this show on the road.

Within a quarter mile of the start, the course kicks up into a monster hill, and my legs have nothing for it. I’d been sick up until Thursday so may be this took something out of me. Or possibly, it was the 6 and half drive. Or maybe, I just wasn’t ready for the hills. Whatever it was; I was struggling.

And, this course has a lot of hills. Over the 13.1 miles, there are approximate 43 hills. Some hills were short but most were a long and steep climb. Still others are rollers. They busted your lungs going up, and then, beat the crap out of your quads going down.

For first 5 miles, I tucked in to a small group of about 5 runners. The wind was stinging at times, and pushed back with each step forward.

By 6 miles, they were putting a gap on me. I didn’t have anything in the tank. My legs felt totally dead.

Between miles 6 and 8 the hills were beating me up. At 9 miles, my climbing was reduced to the lowest gear above walking.

We merged with the 7 miler around 9.5, and this helped. They yelled in encouragement as I ran past. I needed it.

10, 11, and 12 miles hurt. Mile 13 was on along steady climb. This happens when the course is a loop course.

Pretty much the only flat on the course was the last tenth into the finish.

The Hickory Half Marathon in June is tough race but mainly because it hilly and hot. The Badin ½ Marathon in September has tough climb to the top of Morrow Mt. but still neither of these courses can hold a candle to this Bluegrass Half Marathon. I can vouch for all 43 hills on the course and “but” kicking that it gave me.

However, this wasn’t the only “but” kicking that I took. As tough as the course was, I still finished 10th overall in 1:25:20. In the Master’s division, I finished 6th. There were 3 Masters’ runners between 40 and 49, and 2 faster than me in the 50-54 age group. So out of the top 10, 3 were Masters, and 3 were Grand Master. Not something that is seen too often.

My award for the race was 6’in bourbon barrel. I have to say this was rather nice and unique race award.

My overall assessment for the race – they did a nice job. The course while tough was well marked with plenty of course monitors and water stops. A nice little spread of food and beer were provided after the race. The Expo was up and running on Thursday and Friday as well as on Saturday before and after the race. Overall awards were given on the stage while the age group awards could be picked up at a side tent. The race shirt was a thin hoodie.

So Two Thumbs up.


The Cool Down Runner







Monday, March 27, 2017

Garmin 15

Ok, let me start off by saying that my life has been forever altered by my Garmin experience. Every run, well nearly ever run is captured by my Garmin as proof that I went out my front door.

So recently, when the last of my long standing Garmins died the horrible death that happens when batteries no longer have the “will” to hold a charge, I was left Garminless if there is suggest a word.

Doing without is hard. Racing without is even harder now a days. Long gone are the days where if I ran fast, it was a good day and not a short course. And slow time meant that I was not feeling well or was tied rather than course being 3 tenths long.

These days, I need to know these things. For no other reason than I need to rationalize my own effort whether good or bad.

The time came that I needed to find a replacement.

After looking at the various brands and modals, I found myself leaning toward buying another Garmin. But which one should I buy.

These days, a Garmin comes with more bells and whistles than a BMW car. Did I really need all of those whistles?

After all, I wanted to GPS watch to capture my runs and that’s pretty much it.

After some consideration and really not a lot, after all, I am buying a watch not a house,  I dropped $70 on a Garmin 15.

Have I been happy it? Well, the answer is a bit complicated.

The short answer is both “Yes” and “No”. Yes, in that it does what I need. It provides me with a GPS watch, captures my overall time, records my splits using the auto lap feature, and allows me to see the history on it.  
But on the “no” side, the interface is a bit on the crud side. And the directions for it are lacking in the way of real usage instructions. Most if it I figured out just by pressing buttons and seeing what happens.

Two of my biggest complaints are the display and the battery life.

The display only goes to 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Once it reaches this point, it rolls over 00:00 again. Granted it still tracks your over all time and splits, but you have to mentally add the 1 or 2 or 3 depending who long you been out on your run.  I haven’t found a way to change it.

Then, there is the battery life. I am getting roughly 5 hours before it shuts down. For me, this means about every 3 runs, I need to recharge it. Or for those marathoners in the 4 to 6 hours range, they will like run out battery life before the run out of race. For ultra marathoner, it isn’t even worth the effort.

For anyone considering the Garmin 15, this is very much a entry level GPS watch. Yes, for the most part, I feel it does what it advertises, but like your first home, you will quickly grow out of it.

The Cool Down Runner