Saturday, March 17, 2018

Kings Mt. Gateway Race Recap

Sorry about the delay in writing this post. Work has been super busy lately so I haven't had the time to set down at my keyboard.

10 PM on a Saturday night, it is either now or never.

So a couple weeks ago, I headed out to Kings Mt. for the Gateway 10 mile race. The race is held on along the foot path and the section we run is mostly a gravel road.

Last year, I ran just under 70 minutes for the course so I was hoping for something close to it.

We start on a side road and quickly enter the foot path. I grabbed the lead. The first mile or so has some night rollers. Then, I hit a nice climb which is followed by a wicked decent. This is then follow by another nasty climb which forced me in to my lowest gear as drag my body over the top. From there to the turn around is pretty much flat.

At the turn around, I was a shade under the 33 minutes.

Heading back, I thought the monster hills were attacking me because my legs were wasted and my lungs were burning. The climb seemed to go on forever, and then, with a right hand turn, I was on a hard decent. This was followed by yet another nasty climb which left me with my slowest mile of the race. I swear I ran the next ½ mile before my legs felt right again.

I got myself over those final rollers and crossed the finish line in 65:42. Roughly, I was about 4 minutes faster than last year. Not sure where it came from. I wasn't feeling exceptionally good and those hills felt just a tough as last year.

I will give the race props for some nice awards even if they did have some strange age groups. Most of you are familiar with the standard award break down in 5 year age brackets. For this race, they had 39 and under, 40-44, 45-49, and 50 and over. In addition, they gave overall and masters awards. Talk about tailoring your awards to a specific audience.

I will sign off by saying that I am not sure if I will be back next year. After the race, they were telling us that they were considering making it a ½ marathon next year. It was hard for me to not cringe at this announcement. 10 miles/15K are my favorite race distances these days. I can find a ½ marathon pretty much any where in the spring. 10 mile races, however, are few and far between.

See you on the trails,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tales from the Trail

Sorry, I have been busy for the last several weeks so I just hadn't had a chance to set down and do some typing.

With a few minutes on hands this Sunday afternoon, I thought I would recount some of the experiences from the trail in recent weeks.

Let's go back about 3 weeks, I was out doing a 20 miler. The weather was unseasonably warm, and I found myself wanting some water. Wintertime runs, I typically don't carry much in the way water. I sweat but not enough to really feel thirsty during a long run. On this day, I found myself circling by the water fountains at the Whitewater center on multiple occasions. After the run, I made a mental to add water bottles and Gatorade Chews to my runs. Since then, my runs have been a lot better. 

Last Sunday, I was finishing up a 10 miler along the north main trail. With less than a mile left, I was letting my mind drift to what I was planning to do for the rest of the day. As I was running down the trails, I was gazing ahead. My eyes are constantly on the lookout for any objects that my might pose a danger.

So as I was cruising down the trail, my eyes took note of a stick laying across the trail, and then they gazed further down the trail. Who hasn't seen a stick a stick laying across the trail at one time or another. Seemed like it took several seconds but suddenly it registered in my brain; the stick was moving. Oops, sticks don't move. My brain was suddenly sending out all kinds of signals to put on the brakes. Crossing the trail in front of me was a 4 ft black snake. Heck, I didn't think snakes were out yet. I patiently waited while it moved across and continued on my run. And, I am glad that I didn't have much further to run because every stick that I saw looked like a snake. Funny, how this does happen.

Yesterday's long run was tough in all kinds of ways. My plan was to do 2 x 13 mile loops. I was managing my pace pretty well until two guys came by me. I couldn't helping picking it up just a bit to stay with them. Bad I idea. I didn't need to be running with them and finally let them go. I made it through the first lap, and started the second lap. Somewhere about 17 miles, I was coming down the trail and crossing through a rock garden. For some unknown reason, my legs got tangled up, and down I went. This wasn't a easy fall. This one hurt. I could feel it all the way through my shoulder, neck, and head.

I stood up and brushed off the dirt and leaves. Nothing seemed to be broken, but darn, did my palm sting. About a ¼ mile later my palm was still stinging. I reached down and slowly peeled back my glove. Oh, I could see now why it was hurting. There was a huge gash across it. My glove was soaking up the blood so I hadn't noticed.

I still had another 9 miles to run. My glove seemed to be doing a good job bandaiding the blood so I kept running. I made a point to be a little more careful. There was no point in tempting fate with another fall. Once back at my car, I cleaned and bandaged it.

Today, I am a little sore on my left side, and my palm is sporting a nice bandage, but nothing to stop me from another 10 miler this morning.

Anyone who is runs on the trails is likely to take a fall. As the miles stack up, the chances increase big time. The mind is tired and so are the legs. This presents the perfect conditions for fall.

I know that this will not be my last unless I decide to quite running on the trails. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Happy Trails.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, February 19, 2018

A little dirt makes for a better run

So this morning, I checked the Whitewater Center website, and to my surprise, I saw that the trails were open.

Ok, well, I thought some rain rolled through last night but may be not as much as I thought. When I went past the guard shack, the green flag was waving. This confirmed what I saw on the website.

I laced up my new trail shoes and headed off on the Figure 8 trail and then the Thread trail. The trails were definitely wet and slippy. By 2 miles in my new shoes were covered in mud so were my legs. Normally, I would have done a road run, but since this was President day, and floating holiday for my company, I had the time and the opportunity to hit the trails. A few of the hill climbs were a bit tricky. I could not churn straight up the hill. I had to do this side to side thing to make it to the top. Otherwise, my run was pretty much uneventful.

Of course, I always enjoy any run that turns muddy. This reminds of the days when my mother would tell me to stop splashing through every mud puddles. Now, I go through every one of them making an even bigger splash. However, I still get this eerie feeling that she is looking down on me and frowning – may be just a little bit. LOL.

Anyway, as I was driving out by the guard shack, I noticed that they had switched up the flags. Apparently, in hour or so that I was out running, the trail were determined to be a bit to wet. Luckily, I was finished so no way to undue my run.

You can never get too much mud on you,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Charlotte 10 Miler 2-17-18 Race Recap

At some point in the past, someone has told me that what goes up, must come down. I guess the reverse is true as well.

In the Charlotte 10 miler we go down, down, and, down, and down some more in the first couple of miles. Everyone looks strong running downhill.

Then, we tackle a few hills thrown between miles 3 and 5, but they are not bad. They help break up running on the greenway.

Around 8 miles, we exit the greenway for the last couple of miles on the road which took us through a side neighborhood. Here's where the real climbing comes into play. I guess what makes the final hill such a challenge is that it climbs so much in just a short period of distance.

Up to this point, I thought I was managing my race fairly week. Dan, Ryan, and few others made up our little group leaving the start. Ryan looked strong heading into the greenway but then he drifted back. Meanwhile I was working hard to stay with our group. Warming up, I just felt tired today. My legs didn't have any pop in them. This partly explains why they were opening some distance on me, and the fact they were in better shape than me. Through miles 3 to 5, I felt like I was struggling. The hills were kicking my “but”.

I went through 5 miles in 30:30, but I wasn't feeling good about it. However, keeping me motiviated was catching the two guys in front of me. The first guy, I caught around 6 miler. The second guy, I caught him about 8 miles. We ran together until we hit the hill. Then, he says to me: "come on”. I wish. I felt like I was crawling up the hill. My quads were burning. I just wanted to get to the top and more so the finish.

He opened a small gap on me during the final climb. I thought I could close it back in the last mile, but it never happened. I watched his back as he stayed just out my reach all the way to the finish.

I really felt tired the entire race and never felt like I had any punch in my legs. They simply refused to turn over any faster. This is one of the cases where the mind was willing but the body was not.

Overall, I was still pleased with my effort. I ran 61:14 which is about 20 second faster than I ran this race 2 years ago. This put me 1st in my age.

Mostly, I was really happy that the rain held off. The greenway boardwalks get slippery when they are wet. Makes it very easy for a runner to down.

After two straight weekends of racing, I am looking forward to some downtime from racing next weekend. February is half over, and this brings a lot of good racing in March. I need to get my leg mojo back.

See you on the roads,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, February 16, 2018

Caution - Warm Days a head

Walked outside yesterday, and wondered where all of the cold weather went. Suddenly, my body is fighting to compensate for the sudden change in temperatures. Sweat poured down the sides of my face.

As much as I am ready to pack away my cold weather running gear, this likely isn’t the right time yet. Give it until mid March and maybe even the first of April. The trees will be in full bloom. The time will be right to pack way my winter gloves and hats for the roughly the next 6 months.

That is until a stiff cool fall breeze comes blowing across Charlotte, but let’s not rush it just yet.

I like the warm days. 

Although, this reminds of something that a buddy once said to me. He preferred it cold. He said that as it gets colder that he could always put on another layer of clothes but when it is hot, you can only take off so much.

Every time that I am running down the street and sweat drops off my cap, I smile because I remember back to that conversation with him.

So go grab some miles. It is awesome outside. Sweating is a good thing. LOL

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap 2-10-18

Had some fun times at the Charlotte Hot Chocolate 15k this morning. Got a chance to catch up with Megan. Hadn't seen her in nearly year. Had the opportunity to mix it up again with Mark this morning. The last time that we mixed it up was at the Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k on Thanksgiving several years ago. He was wearing a Turkey costume, and it took everything that I had on that day to stay in front of him. I was expecting him to be off running with the leaders.

The weatherman was calling for rain today, but we got off lucky. Most of the race we faced nothing more than a slight drizzle.

With the 5k runners heading off at 7:45 AM, we made our way to starting line for an 8:05 start. Mark and Megan were lined up next to me. Chaz, who was pacing the 7 minute milers, was just behind us.

Everyone stepped up to the line, and we were off and running. Almost immediately, we all went single file. Seemed that Mark and I were running similar paces. We passed a couple of guys in the first 3 miles, but by then, the lead runners were out of sight. We were pretty much pushed each other, or in all in honesty, Mark was pushing me the rest of the race. However, from the look on this face, he didn't seem to be working as hard as I was.

And, good lord, was the course full of rolling hills. I cannot explain it why but it always seems like the uphills go on forever while the downhills are way too short. We passed through 4 miles, and then 5 miles, and then 6 miles. These Hot Chocolate guys had their stuff together. Cones marked the course so if you got lost, it was because you were not paying attention. Something I nearly did at one turn. They had clocks at every mile. If I remember correctly, all running except one. Then, there was aid stations. Plenty of the water, Nunn, and Chocolate if you wanted it were being offered, and they had plenty of volunteers staffing these aid stations.

For most of the race, I had a step or two on Mark. Occasionally, he would come up by side me on a hill, but once we crossed it, I got my step back. That is until we hit the final climb on Randolph Road. Mark came up by side me, and then he just shifted into another gear. My legs were struggling. I couldn't maintain his pace. The more we climbed, the more ground that he put on me. We turned off the Randolph Rd, and for a moment, the ground losing stabilized. Then, we started up Laurel. Laurel isn't necessary steep but rather just a slight steady climb. However, at nearly 9 miles, my legs thought they were climbing Everest. Not helping my confidence, Mark was growing smaller with each step that I took. And, he wasn't getting smaller in my rear view mirror, but out my windshield. He was definitely pulling away. The whole time, I felt like I was slowing down. I hit the 9 mile mark around 56:20. I sucked it up and pushed my way to the finish. I clocked a time of 58:28.

My time was slower than my Novant Health 15k last fall, but still I was happy with it. This coarse in my opinion is actually tougher than the the Novant race.

I finished 7th overall, and some 20 second or so behind Mark. This placed me first in my age group.

Post race, I need to give the Hot Chocolate guys props for a “sweet” looking medal. Also, the post race mugs were more like a huge bowl. It came with snacks and a cup of hot chocolate. I just wish we could get seconds, thirds, and forths.

One last note on my closing miles, while mentally, I thought that I was slowing down. Looking at my splits now, I pulled my over pace for the race down by 2 seconds per mile over the last 5k. In reality, my only problem was not slowing down but Mark pulled his down by 5 seconds. Guess, I just need to work harder so next time, I give myself a better opportunity to stay with him.

Now, I am on to the next race - the 10 miler next weekend. 

Sipping the Hot Chocolate,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fartlek Workout that was more

So to mix up some of my training, I headed out for a 10-mile fartlek workout yesterday. I like those on the gas off the gas workouts. The run gears was starting to kick-in. My legs felt loose, and I was rolling along.

A little after 6 the mile point, I glanced down at my Garmin. For whatever reason, it went from ½ battery life to giving me the nearly out of battery message.  I don’t understand how this happen. The darn thing should have had enough of a charge for a 10-mile run.

Anyway, because this was a Fartlek workout, I wasn’t following any particular known route. If my Garmin completely died, I would be guessing at the final distance, and I hate guessing.

What else could I do? I had to pick up the pace.

Funny note about the Garmin, when it dies, there is no last second cry for help. The screen simple goes gray.

Sweat pouring, lungs burning, I pushed on. I hit 7 mile still it hadn’t died. I hit 8 miles, and it still had life. At 9 miles, it was still recording. Could I make it?

Any second, the last ounce of energy would be gone from the battery.  9 and ¼ miles, still life exists. 9 ½ miles, still life. I was now literally glancing from the road ahead to my Garmin every second fully expecting the flame of life to be whiffed out.

9 and ¾ miles, I might make it. Finally, the 10-mile split popped up.


I made it.

After my run yesterday, I left my Garmin on. How much of the battery life could be left. The little flashing battery was just pulsing. Yet, I just looked at it just now, and it is still on.

Just so you know, I am not chancing another run with it until it goes back on the charger.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Day After

Well, I thought about sneaking on to the trails today, but my body was struggling. I felt sore all over. Thus, I settled on just 10 miles from front door. The run was easier on my brain than my body.

Clearly the holiday buffet tables were too kind to me. I feel like I am still carrying most of it around with me.

But with a race under my belt now, I need to get down to some serious running and training. My running schedule really picks up over the next two months.

See you on the roads,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, January 20, 2018

S2F 13 Mile Trail Race at the WWC

I finished up ’17 with a trail race so it is only fitting that I start ’18 with a trail race.

When I arrived this morning at the WWC, the temperature was a frigid 23 degrees. My hands went numb with in minutes of stepping out of my car.

I did nice little 3-mile warm up run to check out some of the trails. I wanted to gauge how messy that they were going to be before hitting them during the race.

For those runners in the 4 miles, they were lucky. The extreme cold made the trails slippy in places but otherwise frozen. Those running 9 miles race were just finishing in the window time where the trails were turning to mud. Those of us that where not smart enough to run the 9 mile race and were tacking on 4 more penalty miles, the trails were softening up fast. At each turn and downhill, I just hoped my foot plant's stuck. For the most part, they did, but on a few occasions, I did go slip sliding. I never went down but I did do some tree hugging.

Breaking down the race, we started in the parking lot. Then we did a few sections of the parking lot before, descending down along the white water’s edge before entering the North Main Trail.

Watching these guys bounce down the trail as if they were on a dry clear road was remarkable.

I was doing all that I could just to stay up right. Up and down, back and forth we went. I was pretty happy to have the North Main trail behind me.

But enter the South Main Trial

A lot of the South Main Trail is in the shadow of the sun so here we were running through the snow. Up the Carpet Trail, back on to South Main, then up the Wedge, then back on to the South Main, up the Toilet Bowl before taking the South Main Trail back to the split for the 9 and 13-mile races.

During this part of the course, I was thinking back to all of the races that I have run. I cannot ever remember running a race in the snow. Technically, I guess that this is my first.

Through the first 9 miles I had going back and forth between being in oxygen debt and not. The results left my quads feeling used up.

Going up the Wedge, I glanced over to see Corey coming off of it. I could not resist yelling some encouragement to him. Then coming up to the split for the races, I was catching him but so were many of the 9 mile racers. Again, I throw another round of encouragement at him. 

Of course, I got some encouragement of my own from Meredith and the entire Running Works crew. I needed it. I was felt like I was running on fumes.

Starting into the last 4 miles, the trail was slick and snow covered. We turned on to the East Main Trail but with a nuance. We were going to run it backwards. Ugh I never run it backward. While I recognize most of the trail even in this direction. Running it backward, I don’t know the right angles to take at each corner. This slowed me down even further.

With about 2 miles left, the lead woman and another guy caught me. I offered to let them pass. But she was like “You are setting the perfect pace". Inside, I was thinking, “if you only knew, I feel like I am falling apart”.

With about a mile left, I caught sight of a guy that had been keeping just out of my sight most of the race.  I was quicker on the hills and flats than him, but he could descend like nobody else. I freely admit. I am poor a descender on the trails. This guy was taking full advantage of it.

Yet, the last mile just enough that I was closing. I was dragging my cold and tired body over hills faster than I wanted. Along with me, I was dragging two other runners.

I eventually ran out of race but only by 10 seconds.

I finished 8th overall in 1:41:59 placing me 1st in the 50-54 age group.

The snow affected more than just the trails for this race. Apparently, they shipped the shirts via UPS. After being told they could pick the shirts up in Atlanta since they were delayed by the snow, and then driving to Atlanta, they were told the shirts had already shipped out to Charlotte. Yet, when they went to the UPS depot here in Charlotte, they were told that they couldn’t pick them up. Well, at least I will give them an “A” for “trying”. Their back up plan – Runners can pick them up at the S2F office on Monroe road or have it shipped to them. Kudos to them for making this right.

Then, there were the awards ceremonies. The 9 mile awards were to start at 10:30, and 13 mile race awards were to start at 11:30.  At 12:50, I was finally called up to receive my award. The 9 mile awards were stopped after the first couple of awards all together. Then, they seemed to be struggling in the 13 mile awards.  They were jumping around between the age groups which I think that this only confused everyone including those calling out the awards. Now, I understood why they did it. Those first in their age groups could pick from swag on the table.  However, this only delayed the entire process as runners pondered over what to pick. However, I didn’t really have this problem. The 50-54 age group was pretty much last so my choices were either XS gloves or XL gloves. LOL. I am not complaining. My daughter will get a nice pair gloves. J It is not all about me.

Overall, I had a good day. This race will help me shake up my training plan and showed me some places where I need to improve. Now, I just have to dig-in and get myself back in shape.

Kudos to S2F for keeping it together during "trying" times.

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Charlotte Snow Day

Huge snowflakes filled the air here in Charlotte today which was awesome to see.  

And with each passing the second the pull to hit the road only grew.

So by the time that I made my way on to the streets, a good 2 to 2.5 inches covered the ground. I loved it. This was just like running on trails. A nice soft bed of snow cushioned each foot strike against the ground.

10 miles and 80 minutes later, I didn’t want it to end, but work beckon. I needed to answer the call. From time to time the rest of the day, I would glance out the window.

Watching each snowflake lazily drift to the ground can be somewhat of an hypnotic effect. Lulling me into wanting an afternoon nap. Luckily, the steady stream of emails and building list of todos kept me alert and moving forward.

Still, these are the days where if I still did doubles this would be one of them.

The Cool Down Runner