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