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