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





Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kings Mt Gateway Trail 10 Miler Recap

Over the last two months, I have slowly ramped up my training to the highest level this spring. Today, this 10 miler was my last big effort before my spring ½ marathon in April. Every training plan needs a hurt me race several weeks out to prepare both the mind and body for the coming effort.

I chose the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail 10 miler for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it gave me a decent test race at nearly the full goal race distance before my half. I can train as hard as I want but nothing test my resolve as a race does. Second, it was the cost. At $25 for a 10 miler, this is hard to beat.

Plus, the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail has gotten lots good press. So I definitely wanted to check it out.

Their 10 mile course is out and back along the Foote path. The first 3 miles are rolling hills with some really tough accents and descents. How tough? Well, anytime they have to put rail road ties on the hills (they put these in to control erosion), it has to be pretty steep. Miles 4 and 5 are relatively flat with only a couple small inclines.

A couple of minutes after 9 AM, we were off and running. The race quickly stretched out. I wore my Hoka Clayton because of the rocks on the course. There is nothing worse than stepping on a sharp rock. My Hoka's took good care of my feet.

About a mile and half in to the race, I was running along when I heard what sounded like the leaves rustling behind me. My first thought was another runner was coming up behind me, but when I turned back to look, it wasn’t a runner. A Pit Bull Terrier was tearing down the trail toward me. I could not see this ending well for me. But he/she don’t know, came up and started running beside me. We ran together to the next water stop. He started after me again, but “sh” him back. I am the first to admit; seeing a Pit Bull tearing at me is an unsettling feeling. My heart rate if it wasn’t spiking it was then.

It took a couple of miles to settle back down after this experience.

Then, after rocketing up and down (mostly down) the hills, I crossed the foot bridge over I-85. Miles 4, 5, 6, and 7 were uneventful. As I passed the turnaround, I snatched a peek at my Garmin, and then again when the second place runner and I passed each other. I had roughly a minute and half lead.

Back down the hill, and up the steep side, my legs were feeling it. Miles 8 and 9 were my slowest of the entire race. Miles 2 and 3 had been tough, but going on in the opposite direction, miles 8 and 9 were even tougher.

But I bounced back with a nice 10th mile – finishing in 69 minutes and 13 seconds for 10.25 miles.

They gave the race winners a rail road spike which was shaped like a runner. It was real unique award and one that I will display proudly.

Overall, these guys did a nice job with this race (Pit Bull incident aside). Not knowing the course, it was well marked which I greatly appreciated. They had 3 water stops. They had nice awards and a small sampling of bananas, bagels, and water at the end. The shirt was actually a rather nice. Given, they only charged $25 for this race; they had to be just breaking even.

For those who are headed out the Gastonia way stop by the Kings Mt. Gateway Trail. It is a good place to get in a nice 10 mile run.


The Cool Down Runner





Saturday, March 4, 2017

March Forth 15K Race Recap

March Forth 15k Recap

A couple of weeks ago, in my Valentine’s Day 5k Goodie bag, they gave out flyers to this March Forth 5k/15k race in Denver, NC.  The moment that I saw it, the idea of running a 15k race intrigued me.  A couple of the days later, I put through my race registration.

This brings me to this morning. Standing at the starting line at 7:30 AM with a temperature of 26 degrees, maybe this wasn’t as good of an idea as I had thought. Unfortunately or fortunately, once committed, backing out is never an option for me.  

Off went both the 5k and 15k races at the same time.  A couple of guys settled into lead with me and another guy following behind. By Lake Shore Road, they had slipped out of sight, and I was putting some distance on the 4th place runner.

With no mile marks, gauging how well that I was running was really tough. And as luck would have it, the course had an abundance of rolling hills. Some of them were rather steep. The kind that makes my legs burn and my breathing labored.

Toward the end, we did a little out and back on this side road. This gave us an opportunity to check our competition and gauge how harder that we needed to run to the finish.

The two leaders were still together and looking strong. There no catching the. And, unless I fell completely a part, 3rd place was pretty much a lock for me.

 So keep digging was all that I could do.

My goal going into the race had been 60 minutes given my level of training. The 58:09 displayed on the clock was a huge surprised to me. Given how difficult the course was I was half expecting it to be either 62 or 63 minutes.

But I will take it. I walked away with a 1st in my age award which as a nice gift certificate to use at you guessed it – Charlotte Running Company Northlake. By the way, it was nice to see them out in the community to support local events such as this in Denver. It really shows what Charlotte Running Company is all about. Kudos to them.

Before I wrap up, a strange sequence of events happened to me during the middle miles of the race that I wanted to share.
So as I said, early in the race I had settled in to 3rd place overall. So back along Lake Shore Rd, I caught a glimpse of runner in the distance. My first thought was that one of the two leaders had crashed and burned. Over the next mile or so I reeled him. Then, just as we were approaching a water stop and with me right on his heels, he moves over and stops at the water stop. Glancing over as I passed him, I noticed that he was wearing one of the race bibs.

However, something was off. He didn’t look like either of the two runners ahead of me from earlier. They were both much younger. This guy was older late 30s or 40s. My brain is turning this over and over wondering how he got in front of me. I was pretty sure they were only two runners ahead me which later I was confirmed same two during our little out and back section.

Setting here now, I could kick myself because I didn’t think look at his bib number.  I would have liked to ask him how he had gotten front me. I guess it is one of those questions that will never be answered.


The Cool Down Runner




Sunday, February 19, 2017

Valentine’s Race Recap

Several weeks ago, Jeff, one of my business park running buddies, asked if I was coming to their Valentine’s Race in Denver, NC. I had run it a few years ago, but with my typical spring marathon plans, it hadn’t worked out as often as I would like to make a return trip. However, with no spring marathon on my training schedule this year, I signed up.

And with a 9:30 start time, I can sleep late, and still easily make the start.

To shed a little light on this race, they always hold it the weekend after Valentine’s Day. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, and I have never asked why. Anyway, they should really call this race Cupid’s Revenge because their course is one of the hilliest 5ks around. Literally, the only flat section on the entire course comes in the first ½ mile which runs along the western shoreline of Lake Norman. The rest of the course, I was either going uphill or going down. The up hills were steep, and I often felt like the downhills were even steeper.  Needless to say, this course challenges a runner’s lactic acid threshold and max heart rate. I vouch both.

Throughout my many years of running, I find small town races are some of the best. They can also be some of the most humorists as well. For example, as we gather for the start, the race director proceeds to tell us the turn by turn directions for the entire course.  And, yes, there are a lot of turns on this course. When they do this, it always worries me. First, does he assume everyone knows these streets by heart or I should I have brought a pencil and paper to write them down.  Apparently, getting to finish is really a test of my ability to follow verbal directions. Second, more worrisome is the course not well marked or will there be no volunteers directing us. Running off course in a 5k isn’t so bad. However, I run off course in a marathon. Now that’s bad.

Next is picture taking. Now, I understand the need for pictures. Our Winter Classic is a growing race in January, and we like to use pictures from our race in our advertising for the next year. So, yes, race pictures are important, but how many do you really need. I lost count on how many they took yesterday. But it was more than 5, and slightly less than infinity.

Of course, their playing of the Star Spangle Banner had to be special. Ok, the playing of the Star Spangle Banner is always special, but they added something. He started with one horn and then switch to another one during the second half of the song. I am not a music expert so which horns that he used is beyond my musical knowledge but it was still pretty cool how he switch without missing beat. I give him major kudos for his effort here.

Well, start time was finally upon us, and as one final part of our race directions, we were all asked to run PRs. Apparently, the race was already 2 minutes late so they need us to run faster so they could get back on time. Now, from my perspective, if they wanted me to run a PR, I am going to need more lead time than race morning. I am going to need to go back in time about 25 years to run a PR.

So with a NASCAR style start we were finally off. It needs to be noted that we used the American flag waving rather than a NASCAR green flag to start the race. I am not even sure why I mentally noted this but I did.

As happens in many of these smaller races, if you were born in the year 2000 or later, you have a license to go out fast. I felt like I was taking a bunch of school kids to the play ground with them rushing by me on both sides. Yes, they were all school kids so maybe there was a play ground along the course that I missed in the course directions given earlier.  Of course, about ¾ of mile into the race, the rubber meets the road or should I say their lactic acid loaded legs and their hearts thumping along at close 200 BPM were telling their inexperienced brains to slow down.

By the mile, I had steadily moved up to 4th place. Before a mile and half, I had moved in to 3rd place. That’s as far as I would climb. Now, it was my turn for my legs and heart turn to refuse to go any faster. My tiny brain was willing but like I said my legs and heart were steadfast in their refusal to help my cause.

We rocketed down one hill only to be met with a steep uphill. Back and forth, I went.

That darn kid that ran right in front of me was like a carrot on a stick. He was just close enough for me to think that I might catch him yet just far enough out of my reach to make it happen. Ugh, if you are racer then you know what I am saying and how it feels.

Finally, my Hoka/Charlotte Running Company Jersey flashed across the finish line. My 18:26 time was better than I expected for the course or for being 3rd overall and 1st in my age group.   

Major kudos goes out to all of the Valentine's 5k Race Crew and their volunteers. They made this a memoriable event for me which is one of reasons why I will be back.

 See you at the races.....

The Cool Down Runner




Sunday, February 5, 2017

Run for the Cause 10k

Nearly two months have passed since I last strapped on my racing flats, and I went racing. Why am I starting my post this way? Well, I am getting the itch to put some racing miles in my training plan. This seem like the ideal weekend to do it.

On top of it, for the first time, in the several years, I laid out a formula training plan and with a specific goal of a ½ marathon as the end all target race. To set all this up, I needed some races to check my fitness and for that matter, some tune races to shake the dust off.

This started me looking for a nice little 10k race. Something where I had put in a solid effort but it wasn’t going to leave me recovering for several days.

A few internet searches later, I was registered for the “Run for the Cause 10k” in Fort Mill or rather Baxter Village to be more specific.

From what I gathered from the website, the course both 5k and 10k were pretty much rolling hill course. All the better, I like a challenge.

And of course, the weather was not really cooperating. Race morning at 9 am was bone chilling 25 degrees with a stiff wind blowing.

This is really too cold for racing but what’s a runner to do but “suck it up”.

The race strung out pretty fast. A couple of runners jumped out real fast, and through the mile, I was barely maintaining the gap between us.

Haven driven the course beforehand I knew where the 5k and 10 split. In the back of head, I kept repeating “turn right”, “turn right”, “turn right”. Sure enough, they both turn right to continue along the 5k course.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, I was going to be solo for the rest of the race.

When they said the course was rolling hills, they were not kidding. There course had plenty of kick your “but” hills. There is one hill on “Gardinia”. It must be a ¼ mile long but it is steep. My legs carried me up it, but they were wasted doing it.

Then, it was up and down until we hit the local greenway, and through the tunnel.

You are going to love this. The greenway ends with this set switch backs. They are super steep before putting the runners back out on the road.

If my legs were not finished being cooked by the "Gardinia" hill, they certainly were now.

I finished in 40:12 and won a nice South Carolina labeled plaque for my efforts.

Overall, this was nice little race. After seeing the markings on the road, I half expected to be guiding myself through the course, but they have volunteers at most of the intersections, and bikes out guiding us through it. I give them a double thumbs-up for this part.

They had tons of door prices. There were 3 different dentist giving away gift cards for their dental services. There were weekends give-aways in both Washington DC and New York City.

Sadly, I didn’t walk-away with any prizes, but I was there so I at least had a chance.

So now with this 10k in the books, I need to kick my training up another notch this week before jumping in another race.  

Getting older just means I have to work smart as well as harder.


Cool Down Runner

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wrapping up another Winter Classic Race Weekend

Life is good. Another Winter Classic 8k and 4k have come and gone, and what a weekend it was for it.

Runners were signing up in droves all during race week and even more so on Saturday. With a weather forecast of sunny skies, nice January temperatures, and not much wind, it was going to be an ideal day for the runners.

They were not disappointed.


This year we split the 4k and 8k races. This led to a number of runners doubling up to run both races with many looking to score double medals as well as double awards in both races.

We were fortunate to have both the USAT&F and RRCA Championships for both races this year. They have been awesome partners to work with and have helped promote our races.  Combined with us working Start 2 Finish, the Winter Classic continues to grow in so many ways.    

Big shout out to our volunteers that helped us make this race a reality. You guys are fabulous.

And most of all to the runners, they supported our club’s races and turned our Winter Classic race in to a must do event.
I’ll wrap up by sharing a quote that I have heard numerous times – “It takes a village to have success”.  I agree, it does take a “village”, but if this village doesn’t have a good chief then, it is like a boat without a ruddier. Mike has been our race director and “chief” for 5 years. Under his careful guidance, our Winter Classic continues to blossom.   We appreciate all of your hard work Mike.


The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Carolinas are a great place to live

Someone once told me that Florida has two seasons: hot and less hot. Nothing could be further from the truth here in the Carolinas.

Take the seven days for example, Saturday; we had snow blanketing the ground across Charlotte. This was followed up by bone chilling single digits temperatures. And, then as if sweep away by a mighty hand; we were bathed in sunshine, a warm breeze from the south, and 70 degree temperatures today.

Those several layers of clothes that kept me warm over the weekend were replaced by a singlet and shorts. I couldn’t be happier.

That’s way the Carolinas are a great place to live. We experience so many different seasons which is like no other place on this world. This explains why so many people made the decision to call the Carolinas home.

They made a good decision. Done you think so?

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Break Time

Yesterday evening while going through my weight circuit at the YMCA, I was waiting for the burn in my shoulders and arms to subside before moving to my next set. As I was setting there, my eyes gazed lazily around the room. Never did I linger too long in one spot but taking in all that was occurring around me.

The weight area was a-buzz with activity as one would expect once the 5 o’clock whistle blows. People were moving from machine to machine. Some were doing multiple sets while others did a single set and moved on. Some were tracking their workouts using paper and pencil. Others seem to be lost in the thought as the beat of their favorite tunes drift from their ear buds into their ears. All seemed to be absorbed in their own little worlds. Like a comet in the sky. Their path altered only when another nears but never colliding.

Ok, breaks over time for the next set. Feel the burn again.


The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Wintry Weekend

If there was ever a weekend for doing nothing, this was it. Snow, sleet, rain, a blowing wind followed by bitter cold temperatures provided the perfect conditions for lounging around my house, watching foot ball and college basket ball on the TV. Sounds pretty good; don’t it.

However, lying around my house wasn’t the only thing that I did. Yesterday, I knocked down a 12 mile run during some of the heavier periods of snow.  Some people may dread the snow arriving here in the Charlotte area, but I love it. Put a layer of snow on the ground, and a run over a course that I done 1000 times becomes a completely different run.

Today’s run was a lot trickier. Black ice left me slip sliding throughout my run. Ice, I am less of a fan, but I still relish the challenge that comes with it.  

In a few days, the temperatures will rise above freezing and this January snow of ’17 will be nothing more than a distant memory.  

I guess it is for the best. Otherwise, I wouldn’t look forward them as much.
Here's hoping your weekend was awesome.


The Cool Down Runner