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