Sunday, December 24, 2017

Video Recap Logs

With the '17 year quickly coming to a close, there one other thing that I wanted to share.

Through the years, I have found many ways to maintain my training log. During the early years, paper i.e. a log book was pretty much my only option. Computers came along, and I started logging my miles in a spread sheet. With the onset of the internet, a plethora of online logging sites sprang in to existence so I moved to using one them. Each has its own pros and cons. I could probably argue that any one of them is the best.

Yet, this year I took this logging idea a step up and started doing daily video logs. Each day this year, after my run, I would set down for a couple of minutes and just debrief about my run, my race, and anything else that was going on in my life. At first, I felt awkward. My words seemed to just stumble out of my mouth with no apparent connection.

As the days passed, I kept doing it. Soon, I found that I was better able to organize my thoughts and step through them, and the whole process became easier. Now, 350+ days of video logs later, the words literally flow out.

Actually, this year I kept a written log in addition to my video log.

Looking back over both, my written logs mostly contained the facts while my video logs contained the facts, but they also contained the intangibles. Reading the written word is often cold and unfeeling. Hearing the spoken word allows for another level of connection. The intensity of the sound carries meaning. Add watching my facial expressions and body language, I can nearly recall the exact feelings of the day.

I have not decided if I am going to continue this activity in '18 or if I am going to modify it to just make them on race day. May be I will stop them all together. Although, now that I have started, I do like the idea of making race day video recaps. Being able to listen to myself describe what I did good or bad always out weighs reading about it.

Give video recap logs a try. You might be surprised at how much you really like it.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Days gone by - a review of '17

Yes, with only a few days left in '17, the time has come to reflect back upon the year that was. I wish I could set here and write that it was an awesome year all around, but in reality, '17 wasn't.

Coming off '16, I was tired. Tired of running. Tired of working out. Tired of spending an hour 3 days a week on the stair master only to run slower on race day.

It wasn't that I didn't have the time. I do. More so, my body just wasn't responding to the training any more. More doesn't always equate to better. Some times, like in my case, excess can be too much. Think about buying a dozen Krispy Kreme Donuts. The first one taste awesome by the 10th donut, the question is why did I buy them in the first place.

Adding to my frustration, I did something to my left knee. Running on it hurt. Racing on it hurt more. I remember running the Fire Cracker 5k in July. I finished 3rd and ran 18:20 something. My left knee hurt so bad that even standing on it was uncomfortable.

For those 1st 6 months, I cut back. I cut back on my running. Gone were the mid week long runs and 20+ milers on the weekend. Gone were the two speed sessions during the week. I maxed out at 60 miles a week which made me feel like I wasn't even running. Gone were the hours on the stair master and another hour in the weight room. I moved to only 15 minutes on the stair master and then 30 minutes on a standard weight circuit. Most days, I was in and out of the Y in 60 minutes.

Nothing seemed to be working. My times only got slower and my knee hurt worse.

Times like this make any runner question their desire. How much joy was I getting out of something that hurt to do.

After that July, I really questioned what I was going to do. I had signed up for the Marshall Marathon. However, running just a 5k hurt. Running 26 miles with my left knee hurting, there was no way.

Something had to be done.

First, I revamped my entire approach to stretching both prior to and post workout. The effects were slow at first, but as the days turned in to weeks, and then in to months, I could see some progress.

Second, with my left knee hurting this way, there was no way that I could put in the long runs necessary to run a marathon on the road. So one weekend, I decided to hit to trails at the Whitewater Center. That first run gave me a glimmer of hope. I don't know if it was the change from pounding along on the pavement to hitting the soft dirt. Or may be it was the varying of my stride length that lesson the strain my knee. Whatever it was. The results from that first weekend had me going back week after week to WWC. Some weeks, I would do both Saturday and Sunday runs on their trails. In fact, since July, only two of my long runs have been on the pavement. All others have been on the trails.

Still I lacked confidence. None my races were exceptionally bad, but neither were they awe inspiring. My 5k XC run in August at Myers Park was a struggle. The 15k Trail race at the WWC made me wonder if I was cut for running the trails. Post race at the Wild Vine ½ marathon I was left laying on one of their benches hoping the world would stop spinning from the heat.

Then, a couple of weeks later, I ran the Novant Health 15k. The day was exceptionally cold, and I hung with a group of guys the entire race. For the first time, I felt like I had a solid effort.

A couple of weeks later, I ran the WWC 50k race. This race both excited me and worried me at the same time. Of my few 50ks, never had I ran a race on a trail. All of them had been either on a road, a greenway, or a fire road. Nothing was a true trail. I wanted to test myself on something totally different.

What worried was that this race started at 6 am in October. This meant I would be running the first 90+ minutes in the dark. I fully expected to plant my face against mother earth more than few times. If not face plant, I would at the very least turn an ankle or two or a dozen. Race morning came, and we were getting ready for the start. To my surprise, a familiar face was standing there next to me in the form of Mr. Spada. He and I have raced each other numerous times over the years. Suddenly, I was thinking less about falling, and more about if I could stay with him. Steve's tough as nails.

A few guys take off as we make a parade lap around the WWC before hitting the trails. I fell in behind Steve and crossed my fingers that I could stay with him.

We cruised out the darkness and in to the light with no issues. We both finished the first lap together. Steve made quick work in the transition area and went speeding by me as I scrambled to remove my head lamps and grab a new set of water bottles. Only once we were back on the trails did I close up the distance. He let me by at one point, and for a while, we stay together. May be he was not having a great day because I started putting distance on him. By the time, I finished the second lap, I couldn't see Steve. On the 3rd lap, I kept looking back. I kept expecting him to make a Hail Mary charge to the finish.

I ended up finishing 2nd that day. But more importantly I think it was how it made me feel. I felt strong the entire way. I ran within myself and stayed with my game plan the entire race. I was getting my confidence back.

A week later I ran the Big South 5k, and I ran a 17:47 5k. This again spurred my confidence. Along with it my knee seemed to be healing more and more.

Two weeks later, I stood at the starting line for the Marshall Marathon. I wondered how all of this trail training would translate to a road marathon. My goal was 3 hours. The past two years, I had run 2:55 and 2:58. However, this year, we had some unseasonably warm temperatures to handle. The temperature at the start time was 60 degrees and projected to go up quickly. By 10 AM, the temperatures was in the mid 70s. Over the last several years, pretty much since my Hatfield and McCoy Marathon where the temperature hit 90s degrees, I have not raced well in the heat.

I went out conservatively and fell in with 4 other runners. By mile 1, sweat had beaded up on my temple. My inner voice kept telling me to slow down. Today will be hot. It also told me to drink. Pretty much at every water stop, I was drinking water. Never in all my previous marathons have I drank that much water during the race.

Last year, by the time I hit the 10k mark, I felt my race was on the downhill slide. I was just limping along to the finish. This year, I felt much better and rolled through the ½ way point. I was already eyeing the guy a couple of hundred yards in front of me. My game plan was paying off. I felt strong the entire second half of the race. In fact, on a day where most runners ran much slower second halves. My second half was only 20 seconds slower than my first half. This all translated in to a 2:52 time and 4th place finish overall.

5 days later, I was back out at the WWC running their Shot in the Dark 10k race. I probably didn't need to be running it. My legs were in no shape to do any racing. However, I was running it for an entirely differently reason. I fully realized that I need more experience running the trails at night. There is no way to simulate this during the day.

What was the result? I ran off the trail more times than I care to count that night, but I also learned a lot at the same time.

Of course by now, you might be asking why this fascination with running at night. The answer is a simple one. I want to run a race which has some night time trails miles in it. The race is the WWC fall 50 miler race. They start this race at 5 AM so the runners face more like 150 minutes of running in the dark. Further challenging them, they are have to do it over some trails which are a bit more rugged. We shall see. I have not committed to it yet but I am certainly thinking about it.

Lastly, with all the trail miles that I have put in this year, I couldn't think of a better way to end the year than with one final trail race. 5k races hurt these days. However, 5k races on the trail hurt even more. At the same time, I had a lot of fun in the WWC "We believe in Santa" 5k.  

So in '17, I wondered through the first 6 months while finding my footing. Still, I am ending the year feeling good about my training and looking forward to '18.

If you are going to run, injuries and pain part of the game. Here's hoping if you are experiencing either of these, you find your way on the road of recovery in '18.

Best in Running and Happy Holidays,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

“We believe in Santa” 5k Race Recap 12.16.17

With the “We believe in Santa” 5k at the Whitewater Center this past Saturday, my '17 racing season came to an end.

I settled on the Whitewater Center's race just because I have been running on the trails a lot the latter part of this year. But to be totally honest, the noon time start also had something do with it. Still, the temperature was only in the mid 40s. But at least, the sun was out to provide the mere illusion of heat.

My race went about as I expected. I ran 20:13, finished 9th overall, and 1st in the 50-54 age group. I did get a little scare when Corey showed up at the starting line. Corey usually beats me quite handedly on the trails

There were plenty of young guns to take things out hard. In fact, I was surprised when I went through the first mile in 5:57. Never to my recollection have I went through a mile there in under 6 minutes. Of course, the second mile totally kicked me back to reality. A monstrous hill took me from running to barely going above walking pace. By the time that I topped it, not only were my lungs burning from the cold, but my heart was pounding out of my chest, and my legs had that feeling as if they were going to collapse under me at any second.

But with a couple of guys like carrots on a stick just in front of me, I trudged forward. We darted in to the trail section by Lake Loop, and then back out to pick up the all terrain trail.

Recently, they put in these water breaks on the downhill section. Yes, I know it helps slow erosion, but they were not helping my running.

Looking ahead, I could see one of the guys was struggling on the up hills. With each climb, I narrowed the distance, but on each down hill, he would go screaming down it. No fear at all.

I closed the distance, and caught him just as we neared the back side of the Whitewater center. But I was in troubled. I used up everything getting to him so as soon as the trail flattened out he went right back by me.

I fell in behind him going up the last hill before the finish. I knew full well that he would be sprinting away and yes, he did – all the way to the finish line.

Yet, I still enjoyed the back and forth racing. He kept me racing hard all the way to the finish.

For now, I am putting my racing shoes away. Nothing to-do but knock out some easy miles and enjoy the reminder of '17 because before any of us realize it, '18 will be here along with an awesome number of races.

Best in running

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 13, 2017

Multiple Flavors

Tonight, I thought that I would write about selecting the Gel flavors in your next marathon.

During this past summer, I was finishing up the last few miles of my long run when I reached in to my pocket for a Gatorade Chew. I pulled out the next Strawberry flavored block. I looked at it for a long second. While I knew I needed to take it, just the thought of chocking it down was less than inviting.

Similarly in several of my marathons, I have pulled out my last Power Gel. Looked at it, and tucked it back in my pocket. Pretty much for the same reason, while starting out I loved the taste and the texture, but after running 20+, I just couldn't stomach another bite.

Maybe others have this same problem may be not.

So I pondered what to do about it.

So happens, I was by the store picking up some additional Gatorade Chews for my next long but they were out of the Strawberry flavor. Instead, I picked up a couple of different flavors.

I didn't think too much about it at the time but when I was preparing for my next long run, I realized that I had 3 different flavors of chews. Usually, I only take one flavor on a long run. However in this case, I had to take server different flavors to cover the entire distance.

On my long run and much to my surprise, I found myself rotating through the different flavors. Even thou, the texture was the same, having different flavors made all of the difference.

I decided to test out my theory during my 50k a few weeks ago. Yes, the test went well. I actually looked forward to taking them during the later miles. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I used the same strategy during my marathon. And, I found them much easier to stomach.

We all have favorite flavors, but when we are hot and tired, even something that is a favorite can seem unpalatable. I found something that works for me, so maybe it will help others.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Shot in the Dark 10k Trail Race Recap 11-10-17

So my marathon is in my rear view mirror. Time figure out what’s next. For this week, I headed out to the Whitewater Center for their Shot in the Dark 10k Trail race. If you are not familiar with this event, the Whitewater Center puts on a trail race at night. Every runner is required to wear a headlamp. Heck I am not sure that even on a clear night with a full moon that I would want to do a trail race without at least a little light.

With Moores Chapel Rd being a mess while the DOT puts in a new round-a-bout, all of the traffic has been diverted over to highway 27. I can personally attest to the congestion. I spent nearly 30 minutes getting from the exit to the point where I can drive on to the Whitewater Center.

To help everyone out, they delayed the race by 15 minutes. Of course, this left me all warmed up and ready to go with no race for another 15 minutes.

Running at night has never bothered me. But I have always avoided the trails for fear of tripping over roots and rocks.

Given this race and my recent experience in the 50k, I am having a chance of heart. For the most part, the roots and rocks, I can see pretty well. What I really struggle with is staying on the trail. What is clear path in the daylight becomes a question mark at night more so now with the leaves falling.  And, I know the trail fairly well, but even I found myself running off of it in places. Although, once I stepped off the beaten path, the footing changes noticeably. I know that I need to back track.

The 5k and 10k start together. Marcus and couple of other runners are soon out of lamplight viewing distance. We pickup the south trail. 3 runners pass me. But over the next couple of miles, I catch a few others.

As I am coming up to the Lake Loop I already see head amps going out on the Lake Loop. My attempts to count them are unsuccessful because I need to focus on where I am running.  I catch one runner in mile 4, but as we are coming out the woods, another runner closes up on my “6”. I freely admit that I slow down on the trail. I have no death wish.

But now, we are clear of the woods, and I have just a gravel path back to the finish. I put roughly 30 second on him before crossing the line.

My time is 51:21, 8the Overall, and 2nd in my age group.

I am very pleased with my effort. While my time was some 3 minutes slower than over the same course during the River Jam 10k race, I am pretty certain the darkness had something do with it.

The reason for my delving in to night racing is my thoughts keep drifting to myself running the Whitewater Center 50 miler next year. The race starts at 5 AM. Runners have to endure more then 2 hours of darkness.  I am using these events to test out new lighting positions, shoes, clothing, etc. If something doesn’t work, then I only have to struggle with it for 30 to 50 minutes and not two hours.  Plus, I need to increase my comfort level of running at night on the trails. There is nothing like live action to test out my theories.  Like I described earlier, I thought running over roots and rocks would be a huge issue for me. The idea of running off the trail never really occurred but now, I realize where my struggles really are and what I need to improve.

That’s what life is all about. We each have to accept challenges to ourselves or we will forever be stuck in the dull and rut of mediocrity.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 6, 2017

Marshal Marathon Race Recap 11-5-17

Setting down this morning, I wanted to recount my experience yesterday.

Going in to the race yesterday, I was expecting it to be warm if not hot. From 10 days out the weather man said it would be in the 40s, but my race morning morning, the temperate was going to be a mile 60 degrees at 8 am and mid 70s by the time that I would be finishing.

Having run a few warm weather marathons, my experiences were not been the most positive. However, rather than dwell on these past struggles, I decided to focus on the things that I could control - mainly my pace and my hydration.

By the way, the race starts with the firing of a cannon. Who knew that such a small cannon, could make such a loud bang.

Off we sent heading toward the east end of Huntington to brick street. Yes, we literally turn on to a street paved in bricks and run for 2 blocks. The bricks are so uneven from years of abuse that I have no choice but to slow down. As quick as we were on the bricks, we were off.

Back on 5th street, the runners start to stretch out. The 1/2 marathoners are pushing a head while us full marathoners are taking stock of who we are going to be around for the next several hours.

I found myself in a small group of 4. One guy never says a word and hangs just to our rear. The 2 place woman in the 1/2 marathon and guy in his 20s running his first marathon. We chat back and forth which helps pass the earlier miles.

We pass by the bakery and the smell of fresh back bread is intoxicating to the an unfeed stomach. We pass over the timing map at 6.1 miles. I am right at 40 minutes.

From here we pick up the Ritter Park tow path. The grit is hard back but it does seem to give the legs a break from the asphalt. We round the park, and head back on to the roads again.

Under the train trussle. I slow and allow my legs to just coast down the hill and make the slow climb up the other side.

I barely notice that we have passed the 10 mile mark.

The heat is picking up. Every few minutes, I am wiping the sweat from my forehead. Something else I noticed. I take the Gatorade chews during the race. I barely seemed to have soak one down, and I taking another.

We jump back over along the Ohio river for a short distance. I am continuing to grab water at every waterstop. I keep reminding myself that taking water is of the utmost importance today. Once the scales tip too far toward being dehydrated, I will never get them back during the race until I walk.

I am also reminding myself to keep my pace in check. A few times, I feel my breathing become labored and have to remind myself to slow down.

Marathon runners are directed through the Marashall University Campus, and then we run miles 14 and 15 in the reverse direction to our opening two miles. I pass across the 1/2 mat in just under 1 hour and 26 minutes.

With the 1/2 and full marathoner have split up, I see a runner a couple of hundred meters in front of me. He is like my carrot. I have to chase him. I am making slow gains on him, and I finally pull up behind him when we pass the start finish area and head out on our second loop.

We chat for a few minutes. I learn that this is his 50 state marathon, and he is in my age group. If I am going to win my age, I am going to have to beat him. I catch one more runner around 18 miles.

Picking up the Ritter Park path for the second time, I can get a good gauge of how far that I am head of them.

Did I forget to mention, the temperate was 65 degrees at the 1/2 point. But now, the sun seems to be burning my shoulders.

I am waiting off the sweat and drinking at every aid station. Sometimes, I am taking two cups.

Gong by the 24 mile mark for the 4th time, I have no rgegrets about not seeing it again. Mile mark 25 sets at the top of the ever so slight incline. My quads are feeling it but perhaps my hamstrings feel it more.

Passing through the campus for a second time, I know there is not much left. I urge the last out of my legs. I

I had forgotten that the football dips down. Oh, why does it hurt so much to run downhill.

This year, we all get our own football to carry to the finish and keep. I take my hand off like a running back hitting the line of scrimmage. Suddenly, I am using both hands to hold it. Being covered in sweat, makes the ball extremely slippery. I run the next 80 yards while attempting to not drop it.

A finish line never looked so nice. My time is 2:52:20, and I finished 4th overall. This puts me as the first Male Masters runner.

Given the conditions, I could not have been more happier with the race. I paced  my self well enough in the heat that I nearly ran even splits for the race. I was only 40 second slower over the second half of the race. 

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Marshall Marathon Shakeout Run

So to catch you up, I am back in Huntington, WV for another running of the Marshall Univ. Marathon. This will be my 3rd year in a row running this year.

To add to the events of the weekend, this year they decided to have a 5k shakeout run for the runners. The cost was reasonable at $25, and I would get a nice sweat shirt instead of the usual t-shirt that most races provide.

Yesterday, I dropped back packet pickup. When I got the sweat shirt for the shakeout run, I was very impressed. This was a super nice one with a cool logo on it. In fact, I felt it was nicer than the pullover that came with the the Marathon registration. I suspect more than a few others felt the same way. Of course, I also suspect a few people didn't like the fact that they switched from the nice ASIC jackets the previous two years to these pullovers. Likely, my pullover will go into my dungin of shirts never to be seen again.

But enough about shirts, the shakeout run took place at Springs Hill cemetery. The course was a bit hilly to say the least, but what else would one expect. WV isn't know for a lot of flat land.

I cruised through the course in 23 minutes, and I finished something like 5, 6, or 7th. Only a couple guys seemed to be interested in racing it. Most of the runners were like me. This was a just another easy day before the big day tomorrow.

I love the idea of a shakeout run, and I would love to see more marathons adopt this type of event. Give the runners something todo on the day before the big day. Run, eat, and talk about running, a shakeout run is event to do it.

Well, that it for today. I drop a recap of my marathon race likely the first part of next week.

Best in running,

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 Years and counting

October 19th was a quiet day. I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door for another run. Strangely, other than being a little older and hopefully a little wiser, this run felt no different than the first run of my streak 31 years ago. Yes, that's right.

For the last 31 years and counting, I have been going out the door rain, snow, sleet, cold, hot, you name i, for a run.

Yes, many days I have had thoughts of skipping my run, but as the day wears on, I feel the pull of the run. To date, I have always answered the called and put running shoes to pavement.

How many more days or years are left in the tank, I have no idea.

As long as I am able, and I have the desire to do it; I will continue.

Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Big South 5k Race Recap

Coming off my 50k trail race last Saturday morning, I was worried about racing again to say the least. My legs just don't bounce back as fast any more.

But how could I turn away from one of the best races in the Charlotte area.

Big South 5k ranks at the top of my yearly to do list for two good reasons. First, the course while not overly fast by design always seems to produce great times. I imagine the downhill slant over the last mile and half has something to do with it. My legs start to tire but gravity continues to pull me along. Second, and to me the major reason is the competition. Charlotte on any given weekend will have numerous races. Runners have so many options that often after the first quarter miles, I am back to doing solo time trial. Aside from the t-shirt, I could run a time trial at home. Big South 5k brings out lots of runners. I ran 17:47 on Saturday and was 25th overall. This is the good kind of peer pressure. The type of pressure that propels me to run faster than I thought possible. Thus, this is why I keep coming back.

Anyway, let's talk about the race.

At 8 am, we got the final count down and were off. The uphill start does nothing to discourage the enthusiasm of the runners around me. Everyone seems to be charging ahead. We duck into a side neighborhood before coming back out on the main road again. Funny, side story here, every year, the mile mark seems to move further and further up the road while the 2nd mile is always in the same place. Yet, my splits don't seem to reflect the change.

I pass by the 1st mile mark in 5:50. This is faster than I expected. I am catching a few more runners now as their initial enthusiasm is curbed the lack oxygen going to their legs.

Passing over the top, I catch this 15 year old kid. He is panting harder than one should be for a 5k. We go back and forth on the downhill section to the 2 mile point. I can tell that he is hurting but he is showing some real guts. He isn't giving up. Each time that I pull past him he responds in kind. 5 minutes before I never knew him. Now, we are locked in an epic battle, and I have major respect for the effort that he is showing. In the parking lot by Target, he drops back from my shoulder, I could have said nothing to him and attempted to surge away. I didn't. Instead, I encouraged him to stay with me. We only had a ½ mile to run. He could do it. We round the last corner, and his youthful legs carry him forward. He beats me by a couple of seconds. In the recovery area, he is all bent over. Lungs were still demanding that he supply them with oxygen. I on the other hand slow to a walk still breathing deeply but nothing out of the ordinary. We exchange “good jobs” and hand slaps. I walk on to my car while he continues to swallow as much oxygen as humanly possible.

I am happy with my time. Running a sub 18 minute races have been few and far between these days. I also won my age group which I was a little surprised at this fact. There were several other good runners in the race. I expected them to lead the way.

All in all, my Big South 5k was good confidence booster. I needed it.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, October 23, 2017

Whitewater Center 50k Trail Race Recap

 Forgive me, I am behind in my races recaps but I am attempting to catch up this week.

So back in August, I was planning out my fall marathon training schedule. As part of my training plan, I usually do a 26 to 28 mile run for my last long run 3 weeks out.

Since I have been running at lot trails at the Whitewater Center, and likely, I would be out there on race morning, I decided to sign up for their 50k trail race. At 28 miles, I would need to go another 3 miles, and at least I have some company hopefully during the run. On the bonus side, I would get to reward myself with a nice medal for a very long run. Worth it? At least I think so.

My only real concern with this race was with the race start time i.e. 6 AM. This meant hitting the trails for first 90 minutes by head lamp. This is something that I had never done. Staying up right on the trails is tough enough when there is plenty of daylight. I never found a reason to hit the trails at night and risk breaking my neck.

Race morning, I arrived early so I could see the 50 milers go off at 5 AM. Then, I settled back to rest and wait until our start time at 6 am.

Funny, time crawled by for the first 30 minutes, before seeming to sprint by the last 30 minutes. As I milled around before the start, I ran across Spada. I had no idea that he was running the 50k, but it suddenly felt good to have a familiar face running it. I figured it would make the miles pass much faster.

Pre-race instructions came and soon we were off at 6 AM. A quick parade loop around the Whitewater center, then we entered the trail on the Figure 8 loop. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Having never ran trails at night, my eyes were totally focused on the 5 to 10 yards in front of me. Besides unless I turned head the rest of the world around me was dark.

Spada and I chatted a bit as we settled in to a good pace. There were several guys in our group. A few would pass as we hit an open section but I was comfortable with my pace. I just wanted to get through the first lap, and not kiss mother earth.

Leaving the Figure 8 trail, I took a huge deep breathe. I was nearly 5 miles in and still up right. Watching Spada's reflective shoes dance along in front of me really helped me understand where my feet should go.

Before the Goat trail, I passed Spada. I was starting to feel more comfortable running in the darkness. Of course, the sun was just behind the horizon so that helped.

I wasn't sure how his race was going but I did notice that I was opening a gap on him.

Coming off the Toilet Bowl loop, I made my only screw up of the day. In the week since my last run, they had introduced a change where we went around the long way at the natural gas station. I didn't catch this and took a right too soon, but as soon as I realized it, I back tracked to follow the course as it was design.

This put me back behind Spada. So I had to play catch up. From there, I latched on to him, and we ran in to the start/finish area together. Spada was faster getting things done because I saw him go flying by me before I could gather up my stuff. Nothing sends one's adrenaline flowing like seeing a competitor go flying by.

Back on the trails, I closed up the distance, and soon passed him. For the most part things grew quiet as I let myself slip into my running zone. I focused solely on the few feet of trail right in front of me and nothing else.

Before I knew it, Spada had dropped off my pace. By 6 miles, I wouldn't see any again for the rest of the race.

The second time up the Goat and around the Toilet Bowl weren't that bad. I was well warmed up. The temperature was still cool, but the sun was shinning brightly. I was having fun just flowing along the trail by myself.

The second time through the start finish, I spent a scant few seconds. I looked back as far as I could see but never saw Spada.

As I trudge through the 3rd loop, I could feel the fatigue settling into my body. Lifting my legs required much more focus. The only time that I felt them really balk was climbing Goat Hill for the 3rd time. My hip flexors were none too happy with me.

The 3rd loop was more interesting than the second because I was catching runners in both the 50k and the 50 miler. I love how we pass the encouragement around when we see each other. We all realize that while we were all racing each other, the real challenge is defeating the trail its self.

Coming off the Toilet Bowl loop for the 3rd time, I felt an enormous relief. Barring anything dumb happening, I was going to finish this run with no falls.

Starting the loop around the Whitewater, the feeling of fatigue seem to fade. Don't get my wrong here, I was tired, but this was the good kind of tired where I know that I have accomplished something special.

My first lap was in 1:49:18 this includes the 1 mile parade lap. My second lap was 1:38.57, and my final lap was 1:51:35 for an over all finish time of 5 hours, 19 minutes, and 51 seconds.

According to reliable sources, the 50k course was much tougher than in past years. Likely, by switching out the Lake Loop for the Thread Trail, they were looking to stiffen up the effort needed to complete it.

Personally, this was the longest time that I have ever run in my life. The mileage both officially and guessing was  my longest. My Gramin clocked 33 miles. I suspect the course was closer to 35 or 36 miles. Not to mention, this was my first ever trail 50k. Having run two other 50ks, but both were either greenway or road races. This one was entirely on a trial which presents additional challenges.

What was truly surprising is when the results popped up, and I had finished 2nd overall. I couldn't believe it. There were a number of guys ahead of me during the first two loops, but they struggled home with much slower times on their 3rd lap. I had made up 15 minutes or more on some of them.

So with this race in the books, I am seriously thinking about running the 50 miler next year. Each finisher earns a belt buckle, and running 50 miles would be a new challenge for me.

And, I like challenges.

The Coo Down Runner .

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Novant Health 15k Race Recap

Temperaturewise, this morning was a great morning for running. On the other hand, windwise, conditions were less than idea.

At least we were not racing in temperatures like last Saturday morning. They were miserable to say the least.

However, before I dive into my race recap, I wanted to share a funny story about myself leading up to it.

Some time back in August, I signed up for this 15k. At the time, I noted that the race date was in October. Then, I pushed the thought on the back burner.

Earlier, this week, I popped open my inbox to find an email from Run For Your Life giving the detail race break down. I thought – how strange. They sent this out a full week before the race. They are really on top of this race stuff. Worked picked up, and I pushed thought into the background. However, in the back of my mind I could shake this feeling that something wasn't right. Strange, they would send this out a full week before the race. I didn't recall the date of the race from my registration, but I assumed it was the first full week in October.

Finally, I went back to the email from my registration and read through it. To my surprise, yes, the race was in October but the race date was the 1st. I flipped over to my calendar, and suddenly, the date dawned on me. The race was this Sunday i.e. today. How could I have screwed up the date.

Any way, I pulled up my training plan and shifted around my workouts to make things work with racing this weekend.

Tada, this morning I am standing at the 15k starting line. With any luck, my legs will not let me down.

We get a quick 5 second count down, and we are off. Laurie and Billy quickly move out to the front. They will soon be out of sight at least to the small group where I am running.

Four of us form in to a nice little pack. Two guys, who I had never met, wanted to be out front. I had not problem with letting them. The wind was nasty. If I didn't need to lead the pack so be it. The forth member of our little group was young lady from the UNCC 49ers XC team. This was her first 15k race. I remember her because she beat me at the StreetLight 5k back in July.

So the miles rolled back by. We would run a bit slower on the up hills, and then run a bit faster on the downhills. Somewhere between miles 4 and 5 she dropped back. I stayed with the two guys until between miles 6 and 7. We went in to this little side neighborhood. Actually, the run in was not that bad. The run out was another story. The hill was about 200 of super steepness. They opened a gap on me that I never make up.

Once we up on top, the wind was hitting us hard in the face. The harder I attempted to run the harder that the wind seemed to be pushing back on me. Miles 7 to 8.5 seemed to take a life time to complete.

I saw the sign saying 15k to the left and 5k straight ahead to the finish. I so wanted to go straight ahead to the finish.

Nope, I had to follow the 15k course. At least, I had the 5th place guy probably 30 to 40 yards ahead of me. He was my carrot. I keep chasing as if I could still catch him. Even thou, in the back of my mind, I knew my changes were slim.

I pass by mile 9 in just under 56 minutes. My brain is already calculating my finish time. I am urging my legs forward in hopes that I can do a bit better than my calculations.

I brought my Hoka/Charlotte Running Store jersey home in 58:03 which put me the first male master. Actually, one of the guys that I had been running was a master as well, but he finished in the top 5. They bumped him up and by bumping him up, they also bumped me up i.e. 1st place Master.

Having not raced in the roads in nearly 3 months, my goal today was sub 60 minutes. My hope sprang from the fact that I had been running bunches of tough trails. May be some of it would translate over.

Looks like a bit of it.

Kudos, to my 3 running buddies that helped me through the early portion of this race. The pace was perfect. My only wish is that I could have stayed close a little longer. May be next year.

Big shout out to Billy for taking home the win for guys, and Laurie K. for the latest. Both were in a league by themselves today.

Now comes "rest" for the rest of the day today, and then I need to get back to training. My marathon is a little over 5 weeks away.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Wild Vine Trail ½ marathon

So this weekend I ventured out to the White Water Center for their Wild Vine Trail ½ Marathon. Great event but everyone endured tough conditions. Between the weather and the course, more than one runner including yours truly was “cooked” by the end.

Heaven only knows why they decided to start this race at 9:30. The temperature was well in to the upper 70s by the time we rolled off the line and well into the upper 80s by time that I crossed the finish line. I will say that for the first 5 or 6 miles, I was tolerating the heat fairly well, but over those last 7 miles, I was reduced to putting one foot in front of the other. In fact, when I crossed the finish line, I immediately went over to the benches and laid there for probably 30 minutes. I wasn't alone. Looking around, many of the runners were suffering. All any of us wanted was water and shade.

The early miles of the race suited my style of running which was probably why they let me pound away at the front. We made a circle of the main loop around the rapids before descending into the trails. Rolling along the South Main trail, we picked up the Carpet and Wedge loops. Then going by the Weigh Station loop, the 2nd place guy passed me. To my credit, I told him early on to not let me hold him. I guess finally he decided to take me up on my offer. Minutes after passing me, he had pulled away and was soon out of sight.

After the Lake Loop, we picked up the “but kicking” East Main trail. Twisting and turning, going up hill and down, all the while I was attempting to keep my feet underneath me. Throw in the fact, the heat made me feel like I had an 800 lb. Gorilla on my back. I was really happy to get through it without falling.

Plus, I was really surprised that I didn't get caught by another runner. I felt sure that my crawling up the hills would give someone the time that they needed to catch me.

Guess they were struggling as much as me.

Long story short, I ran 1 hour and 53 minutes. This was 40 seconds slower than my time 3 years ago. However, this time I moved up a few spots to 2nd overall, and I came home with 1st place in my age.

Take the tough days in stride and live to run another day.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 17, 2017

22 Miler LR 9-6-17

Following my usual weekend long run plans, I was cruising a long the trails at the White Water Center on Saturday morning. The last couple of weeks, I would repeat my first 10 mile loop. This way, life is nice and simple. On my second lap through my brain is nearly on autopilot.

But this week, I switched things up. I ran two different 10 mile loops. If I had desired, I believe I could have squeezed out a 3rd 10 mile loop with hardly any overlap. The WWC guys keep adding trail. I love it.
So why did a switch up my run pattern this past weekend.....

As we get tired, our ability to concentrate becomes more and more difficult. For this very reason, I pushed myself to do the more technical trails over the last half of my runs. Thus, knowing the course is far more difficult; I force myself to concentrate so much harder and longer. An ability which I believe can be enhanced in us all if we are willing to work at it.

But I digress.

Hopefully, these long runs will help me with my Marathon. The race is fast approaching with only 6 more weeks of training left to do. Seems like the weeks are flying by.

The Cool Down Runner

River Jam 10k Trail Race

Ok, my apologies here, but I need to vent on a particular topic.

Last Thursday evening, I jumped in the last trail race of the White Water Center River Jam 10k Series. Myself and a couple of other runners had been going back and forth over the first 2 to 3 miles of the race.

We had just passed by Wedge Loop exit and were running the long straight path section on one side of the open field. The trail takes a little detour here which is about a tenth of mile, but the section is single track and extremely technical. A lot of people who are just out running bypass this section and if you do, it cuts down both on the distance and time because the path is flat and shorter.

As we are coming of this technical section, there were a stream of runners moving ahead of us. They all had taken the short cut.

I was feeling a little frustrated at that moment to say the least. Passing them back on a road is hard, but passing them on a single track trail is way tougher. Over the next mile or so, I work my way by some of them but others, I never got a chance to run down. The combination of the time bonus from the short cut and then working my way back by these slower runners was just to much of an advantage for them.

I ended up 10th overall with a time of 49:35. This placed me 1st in my age group.

Thinking back afterward, did I miss a sign or something. Maybe I was the one that took a wrong turn. Maybe I should have went straight.

Later, I went back out to check the course again, yeah, I know. I should just let these things go, but this is not one of those times. When I got back to the spot in question, yes, signage did indeed direct us to take the side trail. This means that those runners not only ignored the signs but crossed the ribbon directing us to take the side trail. The only reasonable explanation that I could think is that the race map showed us bypassing this side trail. But still, they should have followed the mark course. Otherwise, why even mark the course in the first place.  

Here's the sad part of any race. All it takes is one runner ignoring the directions and going off course. Runners behind him will follow him like little ducklings following their mother. I suspect that this is what happen here, but I will never know for sure.  

Oh, well, I did get in a pretty good workout. At the end of the day, is anything more important.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back to the trails - Long Run

After a summer of suffering in the heat and humidity, Saturday was another fine example of great fall weather. For the first hour or so, I could have worn a shirt.

But we all know this is great weather for running. I hope each of you is taking advantage of it.

Anyway, after racing last Sunday, and then running my long trail run on Monday, I was back on the trails at the WWC for my long run yesterday.

I wanted to clock 22 Garmin miles before quitting. To make this happen I attempted to pick a course which brought back around 20 to 21 miles. This way, I get a nice little loop around the rapids before quitting. Since I had been running the 15k Trail race loop, I decided to throw in both the Carpet and the Figure 8 loops. Using both of these loops, one lap was about 10.5 Garmin miles.

My first lap went fairly well, but I could tell with all the miles over the past week, my legs were “sorely” lacking in any pop. A couple of times on the second lap, my foot clipped a root, but luck was on my side. I didn't go down.

By the end, my quads were spent.

Hopefully, they bounce back this week. I am in full marathon training now so I don't need any set backs. Also, I have a trail ½ marathon coming up in a couple of weeks. They need to keep me up right and carry me the entire way.

Please keep you fingers crossed for me.

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Another Visitor Center to Visitor Center and back run

A couple of weeks ago, I tossed out the idea of running from the Crowder's Mt Visitor Center to the Kings Mt. Visitor and back in day. One way, this course is roughly 13 miles by the Garmin. Likely, the run is closer to 14 miles with all the twist and turns.

Fast forward to Monday, I didn't have any major plans so kind of last minute decided to head down and do it.

A few minutes after 8 AM, I rolled out from the Crowder's Mt. Visitor center. The past couple of times that I have made this run, it has been in mid July, and usually on a Sunday. The crowds were rather sparse.

However, on this day parking lot was over half full and hundreds of people were making their way up the slopes.

The first 3 miles are a bit of climb as I headed for the top of ridge line. Mostly, I felt my heart rushing along and sweat dripping from my forehead. A strange feel considering the temperate was a mere 61 degrees.

Along the way, I passed numerous families on their journey to the top. Some were slowing making their way up the slope. Others were standing or sitting from what I presume would be oxygen debt.

Gazing into their eyes as I passed them, I wondered what they thought of me. After all, here is a 50 year man running up a slope that they are struggling to walk.

Once I was up on the ridge line, the view was awesome. I could see for miles in all directions. Then, I began the long slow decent in to South Carolina and Kings Mt. State Park.

For the most part this is a nice wide trail for running. A few sections do narrow up and some get washed out a bit by the water, but otherwise, I could pretty much cruise along.

The Ridge line trail ends in the Kings Mt. Start Park, where I took a right for the 2+ mile run up to the visitor center. They had added one small section since I last made this run two years ago. The course veered away from the creek for a small distance before returning to pick up the main trail again.

Nothing much had changed at the Kings Mt Visitor Center, and the parking lot didn't look nearly as full as the Crowder's Mt. parking lot. I filled my Nathan water bottles, and within a few minutes, I was on the trail headed back.

Going out I never think too much about how much the course drops, but coming back I begin to take more notice of it.

The terrain tilts only slightly uphill but as I push further into the run, the slope steepens, flattens out, and steepens again. Until finally, I am in the last ½ mile of the climbing to the top and going from one rail road tie to the next. The ties are about 2 and half feet apart, and my quads are aching from the constant climbing.

Hitting the top, a feeling of relief sweeps over me. The climbing is finally done. Now, I have only 2 to 3 miles of running back to the Visitor Center. Of course, nothing is ever easy. I am tired. The course is super steep in sections. To keep from tripping and falling, I have to grab a tree. Tired legs just don't respond like fresh ones.

Some 4 hours and 30 minutes later, I pulled back in to the parking lot at Crowder's Mt. State park. My legs were covered in trail dust. I never realized how dirty they get during a run but I wear it proudly. Any one that sees me knows I have been putting in major miles.

Seems like very couple of years; I do this run. Every time, I am reminded that I should consider running from Kings Mt. to Crowder's Mt. and back. The run would be way easier but I never seem to remember that fact. May be I just like the ruggedness of running this way. This certainly test my lung power and stamina.

See you at the next Visitor Center to Visitor Center Run.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, September 4, 2017

WWC Labor Day 15k Trail Race

So I was kicking around where I wanted to race over the Labor Day weekend. With all the miles that I have been piling up at the WWC, why not jump in their 15K race. Many of the trails used for the 15k were ones that I was already running.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, I headed off in wave one. We quickly strung out with a couple of guys putting a gap on the rest of us. This was fine with me. I had my plan for the race, and I sticking to it.

After an out and back along the western edge of the gravel road around the white water section, we hopped on to the trail. I had 4 guys on my “six” and pushing me to run faster. Two miles in, they were still on my tail. A couple of times, I gave them the wide side of the trail to pass. While I was open to letting them by, I was about to slow down for them. If they wanted it, they needed to muscle up the speed and take it.

With them not making any real effort to pass me, we settled into this pattern of my pulling away slightly on the uphill while they came pounding back on the down hills.

We transitioned to the south main trail. Here things flatten out and the trail widens. I expected a flood of runners going by me.

Yet, this didn't happen. By not plunging into the trail section in oxygen debt, I had maintained my breathing and lactic acid levels. Now, we were running long the river, and I was feeling good. Approaching the Wedge Loop, I sensed that I had gap. The Wedge Loop is only about ½ mile but it suites my running style. This allowed my to open my gap on them even further. Adding to my inspiration, the 2nd place runner was floating in and out of my vision at every turn. Nothing encourages a runner more than seeing a runner just ahead.

Within a mile, I reeled him back to me. Now, I was on his “six” and pressing him at every turn. I guess he didn't like the hoofs pounding at this back door because he pulled up and let me pass. Although thinking back now, I didn't believe that I was pressing my point that much because I knew the trail head was about to open up. Giving me my opportunity to get around him.

Entering the Lake Loop, I could tell that I had nice gap. As many of you know the WWC Lake Loop is my favorite. The terrain is pretty similar to running at McAlpine. Every cruise section, I pushed harder to hoping to keep my gap growing.

Trail running makes it tough to gauge distance. How well a runner can handle the terrain means more than raw speed. But when we crossed the parking lot for the final section of trail, I couldn't see any one close.

There were a number of 5k walkers finishing up. I nearly ran over a couple of them. Calling out  “a heads up”, I am coming. They never moved. In fact, they didn't move until I tapped them on the shoulder. They had their ear buds and were tuning out the world around.

Once out on the gravel section, I was free of the roots to run now. Loved their finish along the water on the island. They should have all of their races start and end at this location. In my opinion, everyone loved it.

I finished in second place 4 minutes and 37 seconds behind with a time of 72:34. The guy that I passed for 2nd place ended up some 48 seconds behind me.

My only glimpse of the leader was during our Wedge Loop, I was heading in while he was heading out. He was likely about 3 minutes ahead of me at this point.

Kudos to Adam and his entire WWC crew. They did an awesome job organizing the race, and gave away some nice swag to the age groupers. Interesting enough, the WWC races don't give overall awards. Not sure why, but it is what is.

Loved getting some trail time no matter what. Even with the temps in the 60s, the humidity was awful. My Hoka Race Jersey, shorts, and shoes were soaked. Who knows how many days will need to pass before they dry out.

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Long Run #7

Finishing up my 20 miles on my Garmin at the White Water Center on Saturday morning, I felt like I could go another 3 or 4 miles. That's what happens when the weather changes for the better. With the temperature in the mid 60s and a much milder humidity level, my body finally felt like running again.

To digress for a moment, Bobby and I were discussing how the heat and humidity seems to affect us more now a couple of weeks ago.  

Push the humidity up to 70, 80, or 90%, and going for easy run feels more like the last few miles of a marathon. Legs feel heavy and lethargic. Only sheer will power and muscle memory keeps them going when everything screams to slow down or stop.

One thing that I have noticed as I have gotten older, I sweat more. Not just a little, but a lot. May be my body through years of running had just adapted. However, I feel like the increased sweating is a double edged sword. Yes, sweating helps keep me cooler, but sweating also means that I am losing water – lots of it. More than I can put back during any run. This in and of itself can turn a decent run into a long slow march to the finish.

But enough about the effects of the summer heat and humidity. Fall is in the air. This means cooler temperatures, plenty of road races, and fall marathon.

So take advantage of this great weather and hit the roads or the trails.

As long as you are moving, nothing else is important.

The Cool Down Runner