Sunday, December 30, 2018

Planning my '19 race calendar

For the last month, I have been looking at my spring '19 race calendar. Two races that I wanted on this calendar were the Hot Chocolate 15k and the Start 2 Finish Trail race When I started lining up the dates, I suddenly realized that when the Hot Chocolate 15k shifted their race date to January, they overlapped with the Start 2 Finish/Charlotte Running Company Trail races at the Whitewater Center. This was a major disappointment to me since I wanted to do both races as I had done in '18.

So I had a decision to make. I could run either the Hot Chocolate 15k or the Start 2 Finish Trail race. I really liked doing the Hot Chocolate race but equally, I enjoyed knocking down the trail miles at the Whitewater Center.

Ultimately, the decision came down to who do I want to support. Do I want do support a local business vs. visiting business? Jenn and Donny are huge supporters of our local running events so my decision was a no brainier.

I signed up for S2F Trail race. I feel like that I would be remiss as a responsible runner if I didn't support businesses that provide us with so many opportunities to race.

I am still disappointed that both races ended on the same day and hope next year, they will figure out a way to separate them out to different weekends. For now, I am happy with my decision.

For those facing this same dilemma, please consider supporting those businesses that support our local running events. Without these business, either the entry feeds would be enormous or these events would not be possible.

Happy Holidays

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, December 28, 2018

Looking back '18

I rolled into the '18 with one thought nagging me. Did I want to do the Whitewater Center's 50 miler? Adam had planted the seed to do it in the fall of '17 for the WWC race but the question still lingered should I run their 50 mile race; could I run 50 miles. The furthest that I had run was a 50k and while 50 miles is only 18 miles further. It is still 18 miles further and 18 miles further than I had ever run.

In some ways my entire year was tailored around getting myself to this one race.

I started the year with the S2F 13 mile trail run at the WWC. I finished 8 overall on a soggy and in some places snow covered course. From there, I hit the Hot Chocolate 15 and placed 7th overall. I liked this race. I love Chocolate so this race was right up my ally. Next up I knocked off two 10 milers. The Charlotte 10 miler was fun, and I surprised myself with a 61:14 time. A couple of weeks later I won the Gateway Trail 10 miles in 65:42.

Two weeks later, I ran the New South Trail Marathon at the WWC. I caught Nathan and another guy on the back half of the first loop, and I ran as if my hair was on fire in hopes that no one would catch me. I won the race in 3 hours and 50 minutes.

4 weeks later, I pulled on my On racing flats to run the Christina Latini 8k race. Again, I surprised myself with a 30:01 time to win the race.

At this point, I quietly focused my energies toward running the 50 miler. I keep my long trail runs at 22 to 24 miles, and I committed to doing them every weekend.

A long the way, I signed up for the entire season of Thursday night River Jam 10ks. Andrew and I had a back and forth battle all year.

My Memorial Day 8 mile went well. I had hopes of breaking 60 minutes but ended up with a 61:02.

Knowing that I needed to run longer races in prep for the 50 miler, I went against norm and signed up for 50ks in the summer time.

The last of June I ran the Easter Divide 50k. I finished 10 overall in 4 hours and 33 minutes. While I looked at the course map and read the description of the course, it didn't prepare me for what I encountered. I walked, climbed, and scaled sections of the course. This is the one race I would like to do again because I feel like I could run it faster now that I know course.

Roughly, two weeks later I headed for the Big Butt 50k in Lancaster on the 4th of July. I cannot think of anything more crazy than attempting a 50k in July in South Carolina. It was hot. My right hamstring cramped up with about ¾ of mile left in the race. It brought me to a walk. I don't know what I was thinking about sticking to an entirely water diet for the race, but it was a lesson learned. I never ran a long run after it without mix Nunn tablets in to my water, and I never had incident of cramping not even in the 50 miler.

Probably my most humbling run was the Stevest 50k. Well, I thought it was a 50k but we did 3 loops of 14 miles so let's just say it was closer to 42 miles than 31 miles. I ran okay for the first 2 laps, but they wiped me out. I knew that I needed energy, and I was eating tons of food. It took an hour before I felt like run walking again. I finished the course because I wouldn't let myself in think of quitting. It was another powerful lesson in prep for my 50 miler. I credit Martin for his willingness to help me get my race day diet on track.

I have always been of the mind set that I could not eat much more than Gels during race, but after working with Martin, I found that I could actually stomach more than I thought.

In August, I ran the WWC's Tread Nightly and Tread Brightly races. In truth, I was more interested in the Tread Nightly because I wanted to experience some night time miles on the trails in prep for the 50 miler. I finished 5th on in the Nightly ½ marathon and then 3rd in the Brightly ½ marathon 12 hours later. I ran well enough that I finished 2nd in the Treadminister category which scores runners across all of the events.

I started September with the WWC's Labor Day 15k. I finished 3rd overall in 71:53.

A week an half later I finished up my final River Jam 10k by running 45:24 which matched my fastest time from May.

A week later, I ran the Wild Vine ½ marathon. Ugh, was this race hot. The start time was 9:30, and I was hot by 3 miles. I suffered the rest of the way to finish in 1:52

Three weeks later, I quietly setup my chair and cooler for the WWC's 50 miler. I was excited and scared at the same time. I had run the course numerous times, so I knew what to expect. However, I had never ran the full distance. This was the day that I would put all of my training to the test.

The race started at 5 AM, and we immediately jumped right on to the trails. No warm up for those of us that need it. I found myself in 2nd place as the lead guy pulled away in to the night. I wasn't even sure that I should be in 2nd place. I wanted some one else to lead us out.

About 3 miles in to the event and in front of 5 or 6 guys, I rounded a turn, planted my right foot, and promptly went down. Without thinking I jumped right up. I wouldn't realize until some 8 hours later that I blood had run down from my knee.

Justin and I run together and back and forth during the first lap. On the 2nd lap, I caught him going out on the Thread Trail.

I got by him at one of the water stops, and this was last that I had anyone around me. I saw Chris finishing up the 50k when our two trails came together. Otherwise, except for catching a few runners I was solo. I guess it isn't surprising how much we get spread out over an 18 mile course.

On the last lap, I broke the lap in to chunks. First, there was the lower Thread Trail. Then, I moved to North Main and South Main. I completed Goat and Toilet Bowl. Last but not least, I was did East Main. Here, I broke it down in to even smaller sections. Each mile that passed, I felt more confident that I would finish, but I wasn't totally certain until I came out of the last trail section.

I crossed the finish line, and Jenn handed me my 50 miler belt buckle. I felt an enormous sense of satisfaction. I finished 2nd overall and ran just over 9 hours and 50+ minutes. I had erased all of the linger questions in the back of my mind about doing it.

A week later, I strapped on my racing shoes to finish 2nd in the Trick or Trail race in Gastonia. Two weeks later, I finish 10 overall in the WWC's Shot in the Dark 10k. Last year I ran this race and couldn't wait to finish it. I wasn't sure if ever wanted to run another night race. This year I was several minutes faster on a soggy, muddy trail and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I like to end the year by running at least one Turkey Trot race and Christmas race.

This year I jumped in the Lake Norman 10k, and I finished 2nd to Beck. Beck has come a long ways from a few years ago. I remember running with him and his dad. He has gotten bigger, stronger, and much faster. I am impress by how much he has improved. I know if he keeps running that he is going to get even better.

Two days, later, I headed over to Derby, NC for the Magnum Track Club's Derby 50k. Mark and his crew always put on some great races, and I always enjoy every opportunity that I get to run with them.

However, this was day was a tough one. The temperatures was in the low 30s, the wind was blowing, and the rain was coming down. I was soaked by ½ mile. At one point, my hands were so cold that I could not move my fingers, and the wind chilled my quads to the point that they ached. I am not sure if it was a blessing or a curse but after ¾ mile, I took off on my own. I ran the next 30+ miles solo. Numerous runners bailed before the start, and more bailed during the race. In truth, I wanted to bail myself but I don't know if it was pride, determination, or just plain stupidity but I would not allow myself to stop. I wanted that Derby hat to complete my set. 3 hours and 55 minutes I completed my journey for the win.

Three weeks later, I finished my '18 racing season at the WWC's Santa, We believe 5k. Charlotte had been inundated with rain this fall, and this was day was no exception. The course was muddy, slick, and had plenty of standing puddles. I went slip sliding my way through it to a 5 overall place.

'18 turned out to be a pretty good year. I challenged myself with some different types of races and different distances. In a few I struggled but most I came through fairing pretty well.

I can only hope that '19 and the years to come provide me with the same type of challenges and the same sense of satisfaction.

Happy Holidays,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Equipment at the Y

After a week long vacation, I headed back into the Y last Monday. I was strolling along to my favorite stair master when I noticed something different. They had rearranged the machines. Every few months the powers that “be” move the machines around. At first, I thought this was just to shake up the people using them but on second thought, I suspect that this is their way of cleaning up the dust and dirt that builds up around.

However, as I peered closer, I noticed that not only were the machines rearranged, but they were also different weight machines.

I like it when they get new equipment, but I am always disappointed too. Each time that they do this, they usually swap out the machines that work well for runners. I would love to know what criteria is used to select the new machines. May be some day I will ask them.

For now, I will adjust my work out circuit to include all of these new machines. And, here's hoping this little shake up will shake me up to running better i.e. faster in '19

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wilderness Lodge

So with my racing season wrapped up for '18, I headed south for a few days of warm temperatures and some much needed fun and downtime.

We left Sunday morning at 3 AM, and I was setting by the Wilderness Lodge pool by 12:30. After shaking off the drive, I can a chance to run some miles at a warmer temperature. I cruised through the Wilderness Lodge grounds, and then I picked up the New Balance Trail over to Fort Wilderness Camp Grounds. I got a chance to cruise along the beach, along their dirt trail, and through the camp grounds. Pretty cool to see how they decked out their campers with holiday decorations. I saw one camper that must have had 100 inflatable Mickey's. It was quite a sight to behold.

Later in the afternoon, and evening we cruised by boat over to the Magic Kingdom resorts to check out their ginger bread houses. The Contemporary Result had an alright ginger bread house, but the one at the Floridian resort is pretty awesome. Lots of people were stopping in to see it.

The Wilderness Lodge had some awesome decorations as well. They had one of the largest indoor trees at Disney. We had our picture taken in front of it.

We took the bus to downtown Disney, and boy was it busy. We did the Wreckin' Ralph 3d adventure at The Void. We did the Star Wars version during our past visits so we opted for the Wreckin' Ralph encounter this time. I believe that I enjoyed it more than the Star Wars adventure.

Monday, I was up at 6 AM for a few miles before heading to the Hollywood Studios. Tuesday, we were off to the Magic Kingdom. We spent the day riding and seeing shows, and we stayed the evening for the Mickey's Merry Christmas party which was pretty cool. Everyone should do this at least once. They provide snacks all evening, different shows, and an awesome fireworks.

Wednesday, we were off Animal Kingdom. We stood in line for for 2+ hours for the flight of passage which I guess wasn't bad since at one point the line was close to 4+ hours. We were there and in line before the park opened. People absolutely flock to this ride. Later, we did the Na'vi River Journey, the Dinosaur ride, Everest, and the Safari ride after sunset. Anyone visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom needs to do the night time Safari ride. The animals tend to be up and moving especially the lions.

Thursday, we headed for EPCOT. This day was a wet one. The rain was absolutely coming down. My shoes were soaked, but we were not deterred. With rain pouches, we kept going. The crowds were staying away and most of Disney's rides at EPCOT were inside so we road and rode and rode some more.

The rain slacked off in the evening so we decided to park hop over to the Hollywood studios where we rode the Slinky Dog, Toy Story, Aliens, and Tower of Terror. We finished off the evening by seeing Fantasmic for the second time this week.

I had no trouble falling in to bed each night. In fact, with in minutes of my head touching my pillow, I was a sleep until my alarm sounded.

Friday, we hit the stores of downtime Disney for one last time before heading home.

As my daughters get older, I treasure each of these adventure more than ever. I know before long that they will have families of their own, and hopefully, they will continue to find their way down main street at the Magic Kingdom for years to come.

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Santa, We believe 5k Trail race

For the 2nd straight year, I finished up my racing season at the US Whitewater Center's Santa, We believe 5k trail race.

This year the course was a bit different and had a lot more water on the trail. I spent a lot of time slipping and sliding along the way to a 6th place finish in a time of 21 minutes. I didn't fall down but it was not for a lack of trying. More than a few runners were not so lucky. They crossed the finish line with a rear covered mud.

Going in to this race, I knew I was going to be out of shape, and I was a bit worried about my hamstring. Racing doesn't do it any favors, and the slippery conditions are not exactly ideal for a weak hamstring. Luckily, I came through with no issues. In a few weeks, I should be back to my regular miles and soon - crossing fingers - long runs.

Felt good finishing up my season.

Now, rest for next two weeks.

Happy holidays to all of you.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Wintery Run & more

As the wintery weather rolled across Charlotte today, I couldn't resist the opportunity to knock out a 10 mile run. At first, the snow blew across my face making for a picture perfect view. Soon this transitioned to a pounding of ice pellets against my rain jacket. Four miles in to my run, a steady down pour of rain took the place of the ice pellets. The road were a snowy slush if I were running in the tire tracks. Outside of those tracks, however, I was trudging along more than running. I had opted for my trail shoes in hopes that they would provide a some small amount of traction. Hard to tell if they were really helping. My gloves grew wet, and my fingers were cold. The last 2 miles, my fingers were felt numb if one could consider numb as a feeling.

I did do a good deed today during my run. These two had their car cross ways in the road, and they were going no where fast. One of the guys crawled out, and together we pushed the car in the right direction. Not the workout that I expected what left my front door. Still, this made for an interesting experience. 

They thanked me for helping, and I told them that I was happy to help. The wintery weather is tough on us all.

Hopefully, everyone enjoy the snow today and is now safely tucked in their homes tonight.

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

WWC Series Meeting

On Tuesday night, I got the chance to attend the Whitewater Center’s race series meeting. Jenn and Jenny, yes, the two women leading the Whitewater Center race series have nearly the same name, asked a group of us that frequent the center’s events to provide some perspective on the ’18 events and to listen in on the events that they have planned for ’19.

Having been on the race director side fence more than a few times, I can identify with some of the issues that they have encountered. I can also speak to the eminence satisfaction that comes with putting on a well-run event.

Their enthusiasm for what they have planned for the ’19 spread throughout the group. I found myself thinking ahead to how I might get even more of their events on my race calendar.

One of the events that jumps out is their Tuck Fest weekend. Events start on Thursday and run through Sunday. Runners get a chance to do races at night, twice day on a week day, and both Saturday and Sunday. Think of it like a mini version of the Disney Dopey Challenge.

If you get a chance, definitely check out their race schedule for ‘19. If you have not already done so, their Santa 5k Trail run is just over a week away. Registration is still open

Happy Trails

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Stepping over the edge,

So last Sunday, I went for my run. Other than being tired from the Derby 50k, I didn’t notice anything special during the run. Monday, I headed out for my run, and my hamstring wasn’t having any of it. I had to break off my run after just a few miles.

Tuesday, my run wasn’t much better. Neither was my run on Wednesday or Thursday. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself on Friday. I was back and forth on whether I was going to the Y for a workout. I hadn’t been all week. At the last possible second, I forced myself out the door.

The workout was just what I needed to shake me out of my funk. After the workout, I was back home icing my hamstring. Also, I had pulled out my 2XU compression shorts to help. I hadn’t worn them in the last couple of years. Now, wearing them felt like the right thing to do.

Sunday, my hamstring felt much better. I can feel the weakness while running, and there is still a sore spot to the touch.

I kept my mileage down in the meantime.

Too often, I have pushed through the pain. This resulted in my hamstring pain dragging out for months. Hopefully, I am learning from my mistakes.but each day is a new test.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Derby 50k Race Recap 11/24/2017

No lie, the rain was pelting down my roof at 4:45 AM Saturday morning. The sound was the second thing that hit my brain after my alarm. For fleeting second, I had thoughts of rolling over and going back to sleep.

I had to run sometime. At least this way, I had motivation so after 2 hour drive, yeah, between the rain and the slick roads, I finally pulled into the Derby community center parking lot. Many other runners had already arrived. I made my way inside, and I picked up my race bib. Now, all I had to do was settle back in my seat and rest.

45 minutes went by real fast, and we gathered at the starting line. The temperate was around 34 to 35 degrees according to my car. A steady down pour was already pelting us runners. Not to mention, we were standing with our backs to the wind.

I had selected my race apparel and hoped for the best. I'd be wearing it for the next 4ish hours.

Mark gave us a some prerace instructions. Most of us were anxious to get started. No body was getting warm standing around.

With in ¾ of mile, I moved to the front and was pulling away. At the first left turn, I felt the wind picking up now. By two miles, I was soaked. Coupled with the temperature and the wind, plus the fact that I was running into the wind, my lips fingers, and quads were literally numb.

By the time, I turned left on Derby highway, I could hardly open my ziplock bag of Cliff blocks.

The right by Sycamore camp rounds, I could feel the wind ease a bit since it was hitting me from the side.

I rolled the downhill and turned left on the dirt road cut through. Actually, this is my favorite section of the course. The road starts out pretty flat but soon begins a gradual climb over the next couple of miles. Only one or two spots were slippery.

Back on the asphalt, we run perhaps another mile before turning left and tackling the the longest and steepest hill on the course. Nothing to do but sink down in the a low gear and let my legs climb to the top.

With another left on Derby Highway, the wind was finally at my back. I was soaked and cold but at least the wind was no longer freezing me. 

Right on Jones Rd took me back by the Derby Community Center and the completion of lap number one.

My race plan was to stop at my car and grab a new set of hand held bottles. I must have lost two minutes here. I keep my key in a Velcro pocket on my shorts. But my fingers were so numb that I could not feel the buttons. Finally, I laid down my gloves and hand held bottles to fish out my key and unlock my car. 

Mark asked me how I was doing. I responded that I was wet and cold but still moving.
About ¾ of the way through the second lap, the rain finally slacked up. In the 3rd lap, the wind eased up and the sun popped out. I actually started to sweat in the latter half of the 3rd lap. I could finally feel my fingers again.

During the first and second laps, I found difficult to drink from the my hand held bottles so I started taking the caps off. By the 3rd lap, I decided to forgo the the bottles and make do with just eating my Sports Beans.

While 35 degrees isn't that cold, when combined with the wind and the rain, it really put a drain on me. At one point my teeth were chattering.

To survive the difficult condition, I broke the race in the chunks and focused on completing each piece. Also, being in the lead, made me want to keep going because I wanted a second Derby hat.

To give you some back story, for years I knew about the Derby 50k but I could never make it work with my Thanksgiving schedule. Then, 4 years ago, things fell in to place. I went and came home with my first Derby hat. Over the last couple of years a friend of mine picked up a couple of Derby hats for himself. This year my schedule again fell in to place and I headed back to see if I could perhaps grab a 2nd hat. In deed, I did. I am sporting my latest Derby hat while writing this post.

As I wrap up this post, I cannot say enough about the Magnum Track Club, Mark, and his team of volunteers. Saturday was miserable for the runners, but I can only image what it must have been like for the volunteers supporting us along the course. My hat is off to them along with a heart felt thank you for giving of your time to help us runners.

Oh, and before forget the local Jones Church puts on a spaghetti dinner complete with deserts. They had banana pudding. When the lady found out that I liked banana pudding, I had to literally tell her to stop piling it on my plate, and it was GOOD!!!. Your entry in the race gets you a meal afterwards. You can literally finish and walk in the door to eat.

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend checking out Mark's Derby 50k. It is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I promise – you will not regret it.

1st overall in 3 hours 55 minutes and 40 seconds. 

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Lake Norman Turkey Trot 10k Recap 11/22/18

A several weeks ago, I was thinking about my to-do list for Thanksgiving Day. I quickly realized that I needed my run to be early. To motivate myself to get moving, I decided to sign up for the Lake Norman Turkey Trot 10k. The race is close to my house. The course isn’t overly difficult. But truly, the reason for me signing up was the 7:15 start time. 7:15 forced me to get out of bed and moving early. Plus, I would be finished with running before 8 AM.

I was cold walking to the front of Golds Gym to pick up my packet. The sun was still nearly an hour from coming over the horizon. The 34 degrees still bites.

As I getting ready to head out for my warmup, I ran in to a running buddy’s son. Jeff and I have run off and on over the last 20+ years. We spent more than a few of those years racing one another. Now, his son, Beck, is turning out to be a chip off the old block. He was out fast from the start, and he would go on to run 35:01. He took home the win besting me by nearly 3 and ½ minutes.

With Beck pulling away quickly, I settled in to a comfortable pace and focused on running smooth, even miles.

I completed the first lap in 19:05. The second lap, I would slow a bit but not as much as I thought. My legs didn’t feel fluid. More so, they felt like they tying up. Still, 19:20 was pretty good for me.

I was second overall male today.

These Epic guys do an okay job with their races. There are few thinks that I would suggest if they asked, but one a whole, if you have a busy Thanksgiving Day planned and want to get in a race, this could be the one for you.

Happy Trails,

Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 16, 2018

Yes, Virginia, There is a Sun

Ok, after days and days of overcast skies and more than a few rain drops falling not mention cold temps, I was ready for a change. This morning, I walked down my driveway, looked up, and I saw this strange yellow round glowing object in the sky. I had nearly forgot what it looked like.

So, yes, Virginia, there is a Sun up there.

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


I don't know about you but I am ready for Mother Nature to string together several days of dry weather. The cold doesn't really bother me, but the rain can down right chill me to the bone. Based on what the weather man keeps telling, I am not going to see anything in the way of sun until possibly Saturday and hopefully Sunday.

Hey, for those that are worried about drought condition in the Charlotte area, I can only assume that we are well on the surplus side. Just saying.

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 11, 2018

32 Consecutive Years of Running

The latter part of October, I crossed the 32 year milestone of running day after day. I wish I could say that I did something special, but I didn’t. I got up, stretched, and headed out the door. I crossed off another day of running and went on with my day.

When other runners learn of my streak, one question frequently tops their list. How do I do it?  For lack of a better answer, I tell them that I don’t think about it. I just go do it. If I took the time to think about it, I might talk myself out of it.

That’s my best advice to anyone. If there is something that you want to do, don’t think about it. Just say, “I am going to do it” and let nothing else interfere with your efforts to do it.

Happy Trails

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 8, 2018

WWC Shot in the Dark 10 Recap 11/2/18

This past Friday night, I headed to the WWC for their Shot in the Dark 10k night race. Of the things gave me pause about this race was the recent rain over the last 24 to 48 hours. In fact the trails at the WWC had been closed much of the week because of the rain. This meant that the trails would be leaf covered and slick.

On my warm up, I found this pretty much to be true.

Both 5k and 10k races start at 7:15 so darkness is well underway. I was sporting my double head lamp combination – wearing one on my head and one at my waist. Going around the channel, the runners were stringing out pretty good. I was thank for this because it was going to allow us to enter the trail without being all jammed up.

I had opted for my trail shoes over my normal racing flats. I hoped that they would give me better traction.

I never went down but I did hit more than a few slick spots. With the leaves covering the trail and everything being wet, I found the trail a bit more difficult to follow in sections.

Given these conditions, I found myself holding back more than usual. To me it was more important to prize my neck over my pace.

After the race I talked to several runners that had gone down. Some of them went down several times. One was even stepped on by another runner.

I placed 10th overall in a time of 48:24. This placed me first in my 50-54 age. Surprisingly, my time as more than 3 and ½ minutes faster than last year. Then, last year, this was really my first night trail race. I had no experience and by in large felt like that I spent most of my time avoiding running in to the trees.

Interestingly, the women made a strong showing on this night. They took the first and 3rd spots overall. I am glad to see this, and I wish more of this happened. I feel like there are a lot of strong and fast women that hit the trails around Charlotte. Hopefully, this strong showing will inspire more of them to come out.

With the arrival of November, I have a few more races on my calendar before I close out ’18. Two will be on the roads, and I plan to close out the year with the WWC 5k in December. Closing out the year with a trial race just like I started the year only makes sense.

Happy Trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, October 27, 2018

New Trails @ the WWC

I have been meaning to write about the new trails at the WWC but I was holding off until I had a chance to run them. Recently, I got this chance.

They added 3 new trails: Bandit, Smokie, and Panda. These trails are located across the street from the WWC. Really, they are across the street from the WWC Academy School. Panda is a real nice trail It is much like the Lake Loop except that is only about a mile in length. Smokie is the next trail. It rolls a bit more and is about 3/4 of mile in length. Bandit is the longest and rolls but it easily runnable.

To access them, you take the Parkway Trail to the entrance, follow the sideway to the sign pointing you across the street. You will see the trail head. The trails are clearly marked.

From the illustration on the WWC trail map, they have plans to expand it even more. I hope they keep up this pace. I would love to some additional trails to hit where I could do one single long loop.

If you get a chance, check them out.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, October 26, 2018

Miserable Rainy Day

I had today off from work, and I had plans to hit some trails. However, Mother Nature had other plans with a steady cold rain covering Charlotte. Looks like tomorrow will be better so I opted for a easy 7 miles and a trip to the YMCA. Hopefully, I can go exploring in the morning. 

Hope your run was warm and draw today,

The Cool Down Runner

Trick or Trail 5k Recap

In June, I had planned to run the Grizzly 5k in Gastonia. Well, for some reason, the race was canceled. Since the race was part of the YMCA Series, they offer me a few other options. This Trick or Trail 5k was one of these options. I hadn’t thought much more about it until an email arrived on Thursday before the race.

Since I was already signed up, I decided why not run it.

This turned out to be one of the more unusual races that I have ever run. I am 5th in line as we enter the trail section about 30 yards behind the leaders. Then, it is as if they put on the brakes. They seem tentative on the trail. They are attempting to run 2 a breast on a trail where it doesn’t quite fit. We all closed up in to a tight bunch. This is when I say something about “let’s get single file”. I cannot go anywhere like this.

Then, this one guy sprints ahead. But then, he slows down. We catch up. On the next hill, he sprints up it. And, the next, and the next. On the flats and downhills, we close the distance, but with the numerous switch backs, it is hard to find a rhythm.

I maneuver my way in to 2nd place. We pass by a couple of water stops, and the two mile point. I am coming up on the 3rd water stop where I see the leader standing there sipping a cup of water. I have no idea what he is doing and keep running. I found out later from the people working the water stop that he thought it was the finish. No idea what made him think that this was the case.

I am pressing up the next climb when I hear heavy breathing and footsteps pounding the ground. He passes by me but this time, I stay close behind. We pop out from the trail to an open area, but there is no clear indication of which way to go. Out of the corner my eye, I see some volunteers waving us around. I am back in the lead, but barely as he is hot on my tail. This time we pop out of the woods, and the finish line is nearly in sight. I know what’s coming, and with maybe 30 yards to go he flashes by me. My legs are heavy from running 50 miles the weekend before. They are in on condition for sprinting. I settle for 2nd overall in 21:53.

The rain arrives, so they move us into the Y’s boat house where the food is now being served and the awards announced. But their speaker are setup for outdoors and not indoors so I cannot hear much of what they are saying.

They did an okay job with the race. I liked their little trail course, but there wasn’t enough to draw me back next year.

Running a 5k did feel good. The race was over so fast. I did a second run over the course just to feel like I got in some running.

Next up, I am running the “Shot in the Dark” 10k, and I thinking about another race later in November

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Recovery – one day at a time

So I am now working on day 3 of my recovery.  I have to say that it is going better than I expected. Saturday evening was tough. I had trouble getting up off my couch. Sunday’s run started out slow but once my legs warmed up, my stride felt better. Monday, I headed for the some trail miles. Honestly, these felt the best. Going for a soft dirt run seemed to be the right call. I definitely wasn’t breaking any land speed records but the soreness was abating slowly. Today, I knocked off 10 miles. The soreness is all but gone. However, my legs are still pretty lethargic. That feeling means a several more days of easy running but I am okay with this. My legs didn’t let me down so I need to reciprocate by letting them recover.  
Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, October 15, 2018

Whitewater Center 50 Miler Recap

So I am still alive and kicking. I am a wee bit sore. No, make that a lot sore. Mostly knees hurt, but strangely enough, so are my shoulders. Maybe Camelbak should put a warning on their product that extended use may cause shoulder soreness.
But I am skipping head. Let’s go back and start from the beginning.
I set my alarm for 3:31 AM Saturday morning, but I was laying there at 2:45 unable to sleep. Might as well get up.
I finished packing my last minutes items, and I headed for the WWC. A little before 4 AM, I was rolling in to the parking. Strangely enough, I wasn’t even the first one to arrive.
I had picked up my number and hoodie the night before so my only task was to setup my drop bag. With it in place, I settle back to relax in my car. I was going to be on my feet for a while today, no point standing around.
About 4:45, they gave us the prerace run down. Nothing unusual was noted, but they did tell us to be cautious on the damp trails. Michael rolled through on the Thursday which had left them wet. The low morning temperature left a dew covering the trail.
As the clock counted down to the start, I took a deep breath and said a mental pray. Hopefully, today all the training I did would pay off. One major thing going in my favor, the temperate was about 50 degrees. This was way cooler than the 75 or more degrees on my previous training runs.
A 5 AM, we were off. No parade lap for the 50 milers. We went perhaps 50 yards and ducked directly on to the trail. I was hoping to settle back in the pack and go out as easy as possible. With 50 miles ahead of me, I opted to no warm up, but it was tough hitting the trail with this method. I struggled to get going and settle in to a comfortable pace.
The led guy quickly jetted off to run his own race. I found myself leading the second pack of 6. Two of my biggest worries for today were walking and falling. I feared both would happen in the last half of the race. When I get super tired, it seems that I find a way to fall.
We were about 3 mile in to the run. At this point, the trail pops out on a clear cut section for the Duke Energy Power lines. I planted my right foot just like I had been doing. This time my foot slipped, and I went down hard. My right knee and right elbow both hurt. Worse, I suddenly blocked the trail for the 5 guys behind me. I didn’t even think about it. I popped right up, shook it off, and went back to running. I was bit more tentative for a while.
Somewhere in during this section, I heard somebody call my name. The trouble night time races and head lamps, recognizing any one is nearly impossible. This time, Justin was calling it out. Justin and I had stumbled across one another out on the East Main trail about 4 or 5 weeks ago.
We quickly hooked up and were soon pulling away from the others. By 6 miles, the two of us were running together, and we were well in front of the others.
Justin and I went back and forth leading. Whoever felt the best took up the mantle of leading. We finished the Goat and Toilet Bowel sections, and we then made our way to the East Main trail. I was thanking my lucky stars that I had run the Tread Nightly half marathon. I knew exactly what to expect.
Justin got way from on my on this section. He was pushing the pace to a level that I was not comfortable.
In the middle of the East Main trail, we pick up the Prairie Dog Trail. This trail is open, and for the first time, I noticed the darkness fading way. By the time, I was on the back side of Prairie Dog, I was able to turn off my head lamp. I would not need it any more.
We ran through the grass in this section, and the dew on the grass soaked my shoes. I hate that feeling. Then, I was back on the East Main and making my way along the back side of this trail. This year, I ran so runs and races on this section of the trail that I don’t know even need to look at my Garmin to know how much is left.
Off of East Main, they had us running up the gravel road to reach the access point to North Main. Off North Main, I popped out right along where the people go down to do the flat water paddling. Then, it was just follow the gravel path around the channel back to Belmont Island where the start finish was located.
One lap was in the books. If running wasn’t hard enough, we cross the start finish and have to make an immediate left turn to climb a flight of stairs. No point in crying about it. Everyone needs to do it, so I just closed my mount and got it down.
I dropped my head lamps and grabbed out a new Cambelback. I looked to my right to see Justin go around me and head back out on the trail. For some reason, I thought he was further ahead but I guess maybe I was wrong. I down some Apple and Blueberry baby food and grabbed a bagel to eat on the run.
Now, back on the trail, I wondered how much of a lead that Justin had on me. But it didn’t take long, and I had him in sight. I was probably running a little too hard during this section but the impulse to close the distance was too great.
Soon, I pulled in behind him. He offered to let me pass, but honestly, I was happy with the pace and the company.
We chatted back and forth until we came to the first aid station again. He stopped to grab something and then was soon back on my “six”. We ran the back side of the North Main trail, and we were making our way toward the South Main trail. I noticed Justin hadn’t said anything in a while, but then again, I didn’t find it strange. Conversations often ebb and flow depending how certain a person is feeling. Passing by the flat water access area, set of switch back follows. When I hit the first switch back, I looked around and didn’t see Justin. Not only did I not see him, there was no sight of him. I guess he decided to slow down. He never said anything.
From this point on it was just me and the trail. The last time that I had seen the leader, he was headed down the Goat while I was still headed up it on my first lap.
I was catching a few of the 50kers and a few of the 50 milers. At the point, the North Main trail nears one another, Chris and I exchanged hellos. He was running the 50k. He would go on to win it in I believe 5:09. Chris is an amazing talent.
Coming in to the start finish area on the second lap, my body was starting to feel the pain of miles. I climbed the steps but not as briskly as the first time.
From my gear back, I pulled out my 3rd Camelbak, another packet of baby food, a bagel, and 16 oz, Sierra Mist. I downed all of it except for the Sierra Mist which I drank over the next mile. My brain needed the sugar, and the fog of fatigue lifted ever so slightly.
I was now on my 3rd lap and would soon be new running territory. Rather than thinking about the entire lap, I concentrated on the individual little trail sections that I was running. I would finish it off and then start to think about the next. I had run the entire distance but now my legs were feeling the effects more and more. How much longer would my legs last? But somewhere down on the Thread trail, I found a rhythm that suddenly felt comfortable. Each hill that I hit I just stayed with the stride as if it were my lowest gear and let it do the climbing.
Through North Main I kept running, and then on to South Main I went. I admit the 3rd time up Goat Hill was truly tough. By the last aid near the Lake Loop, they now recognized me and call me by name. Hearing your name does help.
Down the gravel road I went to pick up the last loop of the East Main trail. Some guys were finishing their 2nd loop of the East Main and shouted encourage that all I had left was East Main. Yep, this is true, but this perhaps the toughest section of the entire course.
My legs were still moving and as long as they were moving so was I. I knew that I was in 2nd place, the question lingered in the back of my mind – could I hold it or would someone catch me. Whenever I had an opportunity, I always looked around to see if anyone is near.
I caught a few more 50 milers heading up to the Prairie Dog trail.  One guy was huge. At least compared to me he was huge. I stand just shy of 6ft and 145 pounds. This guys had to be every bit of 6’5’’ and 250 pounds. But there he was moving right along on the trail. I was impressed.
Passing by the Tributary Trail, roughly 3 miles are left on East Main. I hit the tough hill section where I expected to walk but again my legs climbed the hills. Crossing back over the last mile and half section of East Main, I could feel my legs really starting to hurt. They hurt running up hill, but they hurt even more running downhill.
I never happier than when I exited East Main for the final climb. Up the gravel road to the North Main trail, I took it even easier in this section. In another race I had fallen twice here. My legs churned on and so did I.
Coming out on the gravel path by the channel, I knew I was going to do it. While I wore my Garmin for the entire run, I made a point to not look at it.
My goal here had been to run between 11 and 12 hours. My first was lap had been roughly 3:10, and second lap was roughly 3:13, so the question was how much did I slow down on the 3rd lap.
Turning right on the bridge, I caught sight of the finish clock. 9 hours and 53 minutes. The clock was ticking toward 54 minutes. Even after 50+ miles, I found the desire to sprint. Although, this was not one of my faster or prettier sprints, I was finished in 9 hours 53 minutes and 57 seconds to finish in 2nd place overall.  Jenny handed my WWC 50 Miler belt buckle. Unlike nearly all of my other awards that I have won over the years, this is going to be one that I wear.
I put in a ton of work to earn it, and I am going wear it proudly.
Sorry, this was long post but 50 miles is a long ways.
As I wrap up this post, I want to give a big shout out to Martin. He nudged/pushed/encourage me with some great advice for refueling during my race. Having him to bounce stuff off of really paid dividends for me. There is no way that I could have done this race without his help. Appreciate it, Martin.
Another big shout out goes to the guys at the WWC for putting on this race. They must have put out a million purple arrows to keep us on the course. Even if I had not known the course, I don’t think I would have gotten lost.
Lastly, someone asked me if I were going to do this race next year. I smiled and looked them straight in the eye. I told them is not the best day to ask me that question as I hobbled back to chair. LOL.
The Cool Down Runner


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Michael passed by Charlotte like a speeding train.

Morning and evening today weatherwise were as different as night and day. I went for my run this morning. The rain was coming down so hard, and the wind depending on the direction that I was running was either forcing me to run leaning forward at a 45 degree angle, or it shoving me down the road. It felt like a huge hand was pushing me along. The last time that I felt that strong of a wind was during the Run the Red Marathon. Now, that was a rough day.

This evening I stepped outside to run a few errands, and I am greeted with nearly clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Unlike Florence, Michael wasn’t wasting any time. It dump water on Charlotte, and it moved up the coast.

But it did get me thinking about the WWC trails. Hopefully, they will have cleared the trees if any fell across the trail, but seeing as the trails will still be wet tomorrow, I don’t see them opening them for the Mt. Bikers. This likely means we will be picking our way through slippery trails covered in leaves and limbs. Of course, the first lap has to be in the predawn hours. Making this night time adventure even more interesting.

Yet, it will be the same for all of us. The question is which of us will handle it the best. Personally, I value my neck in tacked so I will likely be even slower than expected. Remember, my goal is to finish and get that belt buckle. Hummm, Is that two goals or one goal? I am not sure.  

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, October 8, 2018

Down to the last week

With my last 18 miler or one loop of the 50 mile course in the books on Saturday, I finished my last long run before the big day. Seems like only yesterday that I was picking up my packet for last year's 50k event. Adam asked me if I were running the 50 miler. That conversation led to me thinking about it more and more. While I was on the fence until August, I was still running 20+ plus milers in the early summer heat. All with the while, I was leaning toward running it.

Now, the big day is just a few days away. I excited yet I have more than few butterflies in my stomach. I am sure that the excitement and butterflies will continue right up to until start time. Then, I will do what I do in all of my races. I push those doubts aside, and I focus solely on completing the task in front.

I have one goal for Saturday finish within the time limit.

Wish me luck. 

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Starting my 50 miler taper.

With a little more than 2 weeks until the big day, I hit the trails for 20 miles today. Frankly, after so many long runs and being so tired after these runs, today's 20 miler felt like that I was cheating myself. I finished easily in less than 3:30 hours.

Mentally, I really wanted to squeeze in another longer run. I felt some how that I needed it but my common sense kept telling me to stick with my plan. Trust the plan to get me to the starting line healthy, rested, and ready to run. As much as I thought about it, my common sense won out today.

As runners, we far too often get caught up in the training so much so that we attempt to squeeze in just one more effort in hopes that it brings us the success that we seek. Yes, we all have stories where we did succeed, but we probably have just as many or more stories where we were tired, flat, and not really ready to go on race day. I have been here far more often than I have been raring to go on race day.

Here's hoping today's decision pays off with dividends in 2 weeks.

Stay tuned.

The Cool Down Runner

Another 40 miler

With a limited number of weekends left before my 50 miler, I felt that I needed to get at least one more 40 miler in before it.

So the day after running a total of 18 miles warm up/Wild Vine ½ marathon/cool down, I was back running miles at the Whitewater Center. This time, I was looking to do 2 loops of the race coarse plus another 6+ miles.

My legs were pretty beat up but I pushed through it. It isn't like they are not going to hurt on during my 50 miler.

I knocked down the first loop, and I didn't even let it cross my mind about stopping. I refueled and headed out for a 2nd loop. Now, when I finished up the 2nd loop, I had a much harder time convincing myself that I really needed another 6 miles.

Some where in the back of my mind, I knew that 40 mile barrier needed to be reached so I pushed off again for more miles. There was not much spring in my step, but I was moving i.e. running.

8 hours and 30 minutes later, my Garmin clocked over to 40 miles, and I happily pushed the stop button. The walk was slow but it felt good heading back to my car. This was a good day. 

An interesting aside, these longer runs have made me more aware of how the sun cast shadows as it moves across the sky. Most of my runs usually end in a couple of hours so the shadows cast are roughly the same from run to run. However, when I am out there 8 to 9 hours, the shadows go from being cast on one side to the other side or in some instances, I can be completely in the shade by the end of my run. In some ways, the shadows can make running the same course totally different. What made me take notice of this more than usual? I guess because on the trails, I have to be hyper vigilant of the rocks and roots. The changing shadows play tricks on my eyes which makes falling more of a possibility.

The Cool Down Runner

Wild Vine Trail ½ Marathon

I have been busy with work so I am behind getting my blog updated with my latest happens. Let's start with the Wild Vine Trail ½ marathon at the Whitewater Center.

Last year, I used this as my lead in to their 50k race in October. This year, I used it as my lead in to their 50 miler next month.

The race started beside the adventure pavilion and makes a circle of channel before picking up the North Main trail by the boat dock. We were barely on the North Main trail before transitioning to the South Main Trail. Two guys had rocketed out from the start. Given this race's late starting time – 9:30, I was fully expecting to see them again on the back half of this race. I settled in to 5th place by the time that we entered trail.

There was a guy between the two leaders, Brian, a guy in USA flag colored shorts, and another guy behind me.

We caught the 3rd place guy by the time that we entered the Carpet. Brain and USA flag shorts guy were flying down the hills. I was doing my best to keep it close.

Just before the Wedge, Brian passed mister USA flag shorts, and I followed along. He was still pushing the pace pretty good, and me following along was not doing me any favors. The day was already warming into the upper 80s. My body was feeling the heat.

At the water stop by the Goat Trail, Brian said that he was stopping for water. I grabbed a couple of cups and kept running so did the guy trailing along behind me. The two guys that took off at the start were long out sight by now. The warm day was taxing my body pretty good so I was doing my best to measure my effort through the Lake Loop.

When I slowed to grab some water leaving the Lake Loop, the guy following me bolted past me. He looked smooth and relax so I figured that he was having a pretty good day.

He really pushed pace once we hit the Parkway Trail. I was in no condition to stay with him. When I left Parkway Trail to pick up East Main, the thought crossed my mind that he was really pushing the pace. There is a decently long straight section here, yet he was completely out sight or so I thought. I will share more about this later.

I have spent so much time running East Main this year that I feel like I have it memorized. I could probably describe just about every rock and root on it.

My legs were feeling the effects of the heat and the hard early pace. At this point, I was just counting down the miles.

With each switch back, I was looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was catching me. While I was descending from one of climbs, I caught sight of Brian walking up the other side. This was the first time that I had seen anyone in the last 30 minutes. The sight of him told me two things. I knew instantly how much distance was between us and just the sight spurred me to run a little faster.

Exiting the East Main trail, they sent us up the road hill. Oh, how I hate running up the road hill. This section of the coarse is super steep. Not mention, cars were going up and down so I got the dust coming and going. But once on top, the coarse is pretty much downhill back to the pavilion.

I crossed the finish line in 1:52:33. Those two guys never came back to us. They ended up settling for a tie. For me, my time was 27 seconds faster than last year, and only 8 seconds off my time 4 years ago. When I looked at the results, surprisingly, I was in 3rd place. Brian finished in 4th place some 22 seconds later so he was closing on me. We just ran out of race before I ran out time.

I wondered what happened to the guy that passed me off the Lake Loop. I had assumed that he continued to pull away from me.

Later one of the race officials was asking me if I had any trouble following the coarse. Well, no, duh, I run at these trail nearly every weekend. At this point, I would have trouble getting lost but he didn't know this piece of info.

I replied no; the coarse was well marked. He then asked me about the transition from Parkway to East Main. Again, I told him that I had no issues. The coarse coned for us to turn right and then left on to the East main trail. Additional, they had added orange ribbon between the cones as they do trails when they want to make sure that we don't get off coarse. This is the point where he told me that the runner in front of me missed this turn. “Interesting” I replied. I cannot see how he could have missed the turn. He would have had to run around the cones to continue on Parkway. Literally, he would have make extra effort to go around. Not to mention they had numerous signs and arrows directing us. I am still puzzled how he could have ignored all of those directions. Anyway, he did and what is done is done.

I walked way happy with my 3rd overall place and first in my age group. I'll take it any day.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Florence spreads rain and wind across Charlotte

Florence changed my plans for the weekend. Rather than heading out for a super long run in the rain and wind, I settled for a couple of easy 10 milers. The risk of being out when conditions can change rapidly just does not make much sense. Fortunately, Florence was fairly cooperative during my runs. I faced few strong gust of winds but otherwise, the rain was never more than steady rain. Luckily, my usual 10 mile coarse does not put me in harms way of water overflowing streets which is better than I saw the rest of Charlotte is facing.

Hopefully, everyone stayed safe if they decided to step out for a run this weekend.

Cool Down Runner

Friday, September 14, 2018

River Jam 10k WWC September Edition

With Florence being on the distance horizon, the race crowd was seriously down for both races. I could tell the 5k was down and the 10k racers were significantly down.

Actually, I had been worried that they might postpone the race until next week. They were late sending out their usual prerace details email which only fueled the speculation that it would be either delayed or canceled.

However, the email finally came out the day of the race, and for those making the trek out to the Whitewater Center they were met with decent race day conditions. The temperature was in the mid to low 80s. The humidity was up but not significantly. Surprisingly, the trails were in decent shape given the off and on rain showers this week. I could tell they had been keeping them closed this week as the leaves and tree limbs littered the trail. At one point on the Lake Loop, I came around a corner to find a tree hanging across the trail. I yelled back “low bridge” to the runners following me.

Grabbed a few miles before the race to see how my legs felt and as they usually do, they felt heavy and lethargic. At the start the aside from Steve going out fast, our pace seemed slow. I quickly settled in behind Andrew. This was our rubber match race. He had beaten me twice, and I would beaten him twice so this was our deciding race for '18. The last thing that I wanted to do was let him get a big lead going into the trails with runners between us.

I made sure to be right behind him when we entered the single track. I followed him until we got to around the mile point. Then, I passed him. At each of the next few turns, I could tell that I had a small gap on him. Through, the quartz section, he hear foot steps behind me. I glanced back to see Andrew right on my tail. Once we topped out, I pushed again, but I wasn't getting way from him. Entering the Lake Loop, he was staying with me. Rounding the first lake, he pulled by me. Seems as if his Blue Ridge Relay race didn't leave his legs as tired as he lead me to believe. He was pushing the downhill sections hard, and I was struggling to stay with him. Then, we came to the ¼ grinder fake hill. I call this a fake hill because it looks flat but it just a long steady climb that makes my legs go numb. Apparently, Andrews legs were feeling it because I got back by him. We had less than two miles to run, and I wasn't going to give up easily. I kept throwing in little surges where ever I could. Soon, I had small gap. Out of sight, out of mind, running the trails, being just a few yards ahead of someone can put you out of sight of them which is what I wanted to do. Reaching the last section, I had a good gap on Andrew, but I fully expected him to come flying after me on the push to the finish. I exited the trail running hard and not looking back. If he caught me, there was very little that I could do about it anyway.

Rounding the channel, I caught sight of the finish clock. The time was just clicking over to 45 minutes. If I pushed a bit harder, I might get my fastest time this year. My eyes were glued to the clicking of the clock. I didn't look away until I had crossed the finish line.

I clocked a 45:24 time which is my fastest at this year. I placed 3rd overall and 1st in my age group. For age group awards, they gave out these nice WWC metal water bottles. I now have two so I guess this means that I need to run a few more races so I have complete set of them.

Kudos to the Whitewater Center Race team for putting on a great series of races this year. I have thoroughly enjoyed these Thursday night races. Very likely I will be back again next year.

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Time for some fall interval training

With several major races coming up on my schedule, making interval training a part of my weekly training plan is a must. Last week, I ran my first set of 12 x 400 hill repeats. I repeated the same workout again this week.

Last week, I was still recovering from my 45 mile long run so my legs were anything but cooperative. Not to mention, the temperatures was in the low 90s and the humidity just added to my struggles. But I completed on 12, and I completed all 12 this week.

This week's set started out only a tad bit faster but then on the 3rd interval it was like my legs finally clicked in to the right gear. Suddenly, my splits dropped by an average of 7 to 8 seconds per interval. My legs just felt easier running.

Typically, once I move over to interval training the first couple of weeks are so, so. Then, I go through a few weeks where I make steady gains. Then, somewhere about 6 to 8 weeks into the cycle, my gains stabilize. After 8 weeks, I might get another week or two of good running but if I continue running intervals, I often I find that my times start to fall off.

That's way I always set my my goal race in the 6 to 8 week window. I might as well capitalize on the my efforts while they are their peak for the current training period.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, September 10, 2018

127.5 mile week

I had thought that my running 100+ mile weeks had long since past. Then, Saturday, I was updating my log book, and the realization set in that I had just run a 127.5 miles in the past week. Of course, pushing over 100 miles does take to much effort after I figured in a Monday 45 mile long run followed by the next Saturday running 35 miles. That's a whopping 80 miles in 2 days. The rest of the days were filled in with my 7 and 10 miles runs. They were hardly worth noting in comparison to the other runs.

Looking at my schedule, I am likely topping 30+ miles over the next two weeks before starting my tapper in to the 50 miler.

Cross your fingers for me that these runs steel the muscles and callus the mind to handle 50 miles.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, September 7, 2018

WWC 50 Miler Sign-up

Today, I put my money down, and I made a commitment that I hope my legs will be able to delivery upon. I signed up for the Whitewater Center 50 miler. I decided is was finally time to stop talking and put my name on the dotted line.

Now that my decision and commitment have been made, I actually feel relieved. I had been going back on forth on doing it or not doing it. Fence setting is no fun and besides I am getting down to crunch time.

Only 5 more weeks and 50 miles stand between me and that belt buckle.

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Exploring the trails at Kings Mt (Military) State Parks – 45 miles

After racing on Sunday at the Whitewater Center, and with Monday being a holiday, I decided that a long training run was in order. To make things a bit more interesting, I wanted to explore some new trails.

One of the trails that has been on my bucket list is the hiking trail which circles the Kings Mt State Park and Kings Mt Military State Park. During my visitor center to visitor center runs from the Crowder's Mt. State Park to Kings Mt State park, I had run the short 2 mile section from the Ridgeline trail up to visitor center. What I hadn't done was the remaining 14 miles of it.

I made plans to run this loop at least twice and possibly three times if my legs felt up to it. I would use the visitor center as my base of operations since it was only quarter mile off the trail. However, when I arrived, I found the visitor gates locked so I back tracked to the Lake Crawford camp grounds, and trail head located within it. This trail head is roughly 1 mile from the main tail loop. Parking is couple of dollars, and I guessing is in the honor system. I left my $2 and hung the little marker from the front mirror. Either I did it right or there was no one around to ticket me.

The extra miles out and back from the camp didn't factor in my decision to launch my runs from it. A few extra miles don't really manner much after 30+ miles.

The trail head isn't well marked from the parking lot, but they have plenty of maps positioned around the area. Between the maps, and the signs, I was able to meander my way to the hiking trail.

I am not sure why but I decided on tackling the trail in the clockwise fashion. In hindsight, this was a good decision.

So one of the things, I never realized is that there are actually two state parks here. One is Military and one is not.

This lower section resides inside of the regular state park. The terrain is not difficult. There were lots of rolling hills and creek crossings. Some creeks I could skip over. On a few, I had to wade through the water. One of things that disappointed me about this section of the trail is the lack of maintenance on it. In some sections, the trail was over grown, and the only way to follow it is by looking for the blue trail marking squares. There were also numerous trees across the trail. After a while, I gave up attempting to count them. It took roughly 2 hours to make it the first 7 miles.

Once I crossed over to the military side of the parks, things were different. The trails were all clear and well maintained. However, this is side a lot more hilly and there were still plenty of roots and rocks.

By the time that I finished my first loop, I had already modified my plan. Instead of making a 2nd loop of the trail, I would run up to the Ridgeline trail to the the Turnback Trail in Crowder's Mt State Park. Rough guess, this would be about 18+ miles round trip. This section also had the most difficult climbing section, and to make manners worse, I would be making this run during the hottest part of the day. I drank the last of my water vest's 3 liters of water with 3 miles left.

At this point, my legs were super fatigued, and I had already fallen once. I considered quitting but I wanted a long run in prep for 50 miles, and I wasn't going to leave without.

While I was running my first loop, I remembered reading about the trail up to the top of Brown Mt which is about 1045 ft. Some quick math told me this was roughly about 10 miles round trip from the camp ground. I focused on keeping a slow but steady pace. First, I made the 2+ miles run back to the visitor center, and then the 2+ miles run out to the top of Brown Mt. This section has several nasty smaller climbs which I hadn't noticed during my 1st loop, but after 30+ miles, I was feeling everything a bit more. The climb up to the top of Brown Mt is a bit tricky. I made this climb up to what I thought was the top, only to realize, there was second decent which was followed by another climb. I just “willed” my legs to the top. Knowing I would finally be headed back and a step closer to being finished, I found strength in this knowledge. This gave me the extra push that I needed. I stumbled over a few more roots and rocks along the way but no more falls. When my Garmin finally clicked over to 45 miles, I was about ½ mile from car. Perfect timing, I needed to walk it off. My legs were so stiff and sore and even standing hurt.

This 45 miles of running took me about 8 hours and 58 minutes. Maybe it is remarkable or maybe not, but I drank over 10 liters of water yesterday, and I drank even more later.

This was my longest run ever, but more importantly, I walked away with the added confidence that 50 is with in my reach now.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Blood and Guts Trail 15k Race

After today's Whitewater Labor Day 15k trail race, I found myself a comfortable spot along the finish wall. As the seconds continue to click off, I saw numerous runners cross the finish line. Some had smiles their faces to illustrate their feeling of accomplishment. Others slowed to walk with a grimace on their faces. Mud covered their legs, arms, and/or shoulders. Blood flowed from their knees, elbows, hands, and few had busted lips. These were the core members of the Blood and Guts crew to finish. More than few times, I have left the Whitewater Center humbled by their trails so I could truly empathize with their pain.

Personally, I pretty much had an uneventful day. I chatted for a few minutes with Marcus, and I could nothelp but laugh at his predicament. He and Chad were grabbing a little extra warm up miles only to have the race start before he and Chad made it back to the starting line. We were heading out from the beer garden while he and Chad to go all the way back to the starting line so they cross the mat. He and Chad made up for it as they both came sprinting back up to the front.

We entered North Main trail by the Figure 8 entrance. Marcus, Chad, and another guy were running strong. I was following 4th place guy until we hit the steep hill by the river. I made the pass and pulled away from him. Along the ridgeline, the lead woman and different guy closed in behind me. But they made no effort to pass and by the time we were back running along the river, I was opening some distance on them. I was loosing just over a minute per 5k to the leaders but I was running by myself and could set my own pace though the tougher sections. I wasn't going to catch them but neither was I in too much danger of getting caught from behind.

By the time that I turned on the Lake Loop, the leaders were completely out of sight. With nothing to gain or lose, I focused on setting solid pace for the rest of the race. I exited the Lake Loop, and then, they had us running the short section behind the Whitewater Center. Thinking back to last year's race, I thought we went up the hill and down the gravel path to the finish. Taking the trail section doesn't really add much in the way of distance, but the difficulty level is amped up.

My time was 71:13 and I finished 4th overall and first in my group. The age group winners received these nice hot/cold thermos with the Whitewater name and logo.

I was hoping to run sub 70 minutes today but with the heat in the mid 80s and 100% humidity, my body just couldn't do it. I could feel my legs grow heavy doing the last 4 miles. I ended up 3:30 behind the leaders so the weather seem to be affecting us all.

Even with the rain storms popping up all week, the trails were in really good shape. I didn't notice any place where the ground was muddy.

All in all, I walked away happy with my effort.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Putting in some volunteer time

Each year I set aside time in my schedule for volunteering at a few different races. Having put on a few races and ran numerous races, I have a greater appreciation for having an extra set of hands around. Where races are concerned, this could be anything from setting up tents to handling a water stop to giving out bibs and shirts.

Jen, the volunteer coordinator for the Whitewater Center races, reached out asking for help with this weekend's races. Given I was racing their trail race this weekend, I replied back that I would be happy to help with their prerace packet pick-up.

When I have put on races and runner walks up to me, I can usually handle their questions quickly and efficiently. However, when I am volunteering at a race, this is rarely the case. Typically, I walk in the door, and I get the general run down on bibs and shirts and race registrations; then I head to work. Runners don't know this so they come in with all sorts of questions like what time does the race start, where does it start, what time should they arrive, are they able to leave their clothes at the start, what are the trails like, can they wear they road shoes. I could go on and on.

I found the best way is to smile, be friendly, do my best to answer their questions, or route them to someone that can answer their questions.

Yet, it is hard not laugh at their questions. When I sign up for a race, I have fair idea of what I am getting myself into. At least most of the time, this is true. From the sound of it, I suspect the closest some of these runners have came to a trail is running in the grass along a side walk. Their perspective will certainly change once they finish the race. But I do have to respect their determination. It does take guts to attempt something different and step outside what our daily boundaries.

If you have never volunteered for a race, I highly recommend that you do. Not only will it give you a better insight to what volunteers are facing, but the experience might just make you be a little more patient with them. Remember, most of the time, they are helping because they want to. If we make their jobs harder, they are less incline to volunteer in the future. Without volunteers, races couldn't exist. They are the labor force that makes races barely reach in to the black.

Something to remember for the future,

The Cool Down Runner