Tuesday, June 19, 2018

RFYL Summer Track Meets

Over the last couple of years, I have finally put my track days behind me. Oh, I did enjoy running the turns and sprinting the straight a ways during the Summer Track Meets of yesteryears. but no more. My hamstrings just don't like it, and I have come to realize that I value running over running injured.

So to fill the void, I have been lending Tim and Tom a hand with the RFYL Summer Track Meets. I guess I am living vicariously through others while at the same time helping Tim and Tom keep a running summer time tradition alive.

Besides, what else would we runners do on Tuesday nights around Charlotte? I could not image a June without these meets or a better way to spend a Tuesday evening.

Even better, I get to enjoy watching the next generation of runners learn to toe the line. Possibly, in another 10 to 12 years, I might just see Chase and Noah flying along on the same track in the mile that I have watched their Dads race.

If you have not been out, there is one more meet left on the schedule. Come out next Tuesday night. The 50 meter event starts around 6:15.

See you then,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Eastern Divide Ultra 50k Run

About a month ago, I felt like I had grown too comfortable running on the trails around Charlotte so I spent some time looking for a little adventure to shake up my trail running.

That's when I stumbled across the Easter Divide Ultra 50k Trail Run in Pembroke Va. A town just some 20 miles or so from where I grew up.

Over the coming weeks, I attempted to learn at much about this race as possible. I read through their race info about the course. I found several blogs of runners describing their experiences.

I wanted to know it all. No piece of information was to small not learn.

Fast forward to Friday, I arrived in Blacksburg in the evening and picked up my race packet. 

Along the way, I find it very interesting when I return to places of my youth. There were many changes but some things looked just the same as they did 30 to 40 years ago. I saw the same barbershop that my Dad took me to have my hair cut when I was a boy.

Saturday morning, I was up by 3:30 AM, by 4:30 I was headed to the finish area. The Eastern Divide Ultra starts at Cascade Falls and finishes near Mountain Lake Lodge. The drive from Blacksburg to finish is normally 30 minutes but it took me about 45 to 50 minutes. Deer lined the road on the climb up to the lodge, and the last thing that I was a collision with a deer.

Arriving safely at the parking area, I settled back in my seat to rest before grabbing the bus ride to the start. The bus ride was an adventure until itself. The bus looked like it was built while I was still in school. Stepping on it, we were greeted with the sound of country music blaring in the speakers. I don't ever remember buses having radios. Shortly after 6 AM, our bus was finally filled with runners, and we headed off to the start. The bus is huge and consume pretty much all of the lane and half road that we traveled. The decent from the lodge to the falls is steep, and I only hoped the brakes didn't give out causing us to have a white knock ride to the bottom. It was during this time that I took notice of a big sign above the driver's head which said “bucket up”. All great and good except this was a school bus – meaning “NO seat belts”. With decent over, we were making our way up to the falls when we came across the doe and her young fawn. Everyone woman on the bus let out a long “Ahhhhhhhhhh”. The fawn must have been a new born because it was all it could to walk on the road. Fortunately, the bus driver stopped and allowed the doe and fawn to safely cross the road.

Arriving at the falls trail head, we went to the check-in station. Even thou, I had picked up my bib the night before, I still had to check-in on race morning.They told us that they wanted to know who actually showed up. 

I found myself a comfortable spot and settled into wait the 45 minutes to start. Another bus arrived, and I found a familiar face in the crowd. Jonathon, he works at the Ultra Running Store and was the winner of the White Water Center 50 miler last year. We passed the time chatting about racing and this race. Neither of us had did it before.

After some last minute instructions like follow the pink ribbons with black dot which marked the course. Something that is of major importance to me unless my desire was to get lost.

We were off and running.

A bunch of people took off, and I couldn't understand why. That when I learned about the stairs. Apparently somewhere in the first 4 miles there was to be a group of stairs that we would need to climb.

The first 5 miles is pretty much all climbing with only a single small decent down to the water and just before hitting the stairs. Jonathon passed me here. He skipped through the rocks like a mountain goat. I stumbled, stepped, and grabbed a hold of anything that would keep me up right.

Then, we hit the stairs. In truth, yes, there were stairs, but not really that many, and we were soon back on the trail again. I tried running but when I saw the line of runners ahead me all walking, I followed suit. Still, I was passing people. All the while I was climbing over logs and following a narrow trail. There were a few runnable sections, but mostly we walked.

When we fill burst out the wood on to an old, jeep trail, we found the first Aid station. Among their many refreshments were water, tailwind, Burbin, and a few other a sorted drinks if I understood later reports correctly.

This jeep trail was steep and deeply rutted. I was constantly switching between walking and running while jumping from one smooth to the next smooth spot.

To let you know how much of a climb it was, my ears were popping. Even thou, I was shucking in air like crazy.

When things finally did flatten out, I gave my breathing a chance to settle down and I settle in to run rhythm for the next 18 miles on forest roads.

Looking the course map, I was lead to believe it kind of rolled easily, but in truth, there were many ups and downs. My quads took the pounding of rocky, rough trail roads going downhill, and struggled to push my body up the steep accents. Some of the roads nice and smooth but others were in rough shape. I shift track often in an attempt to find the smooth possible lane.

Some were 10 miles or so, I was making this one decent when I noticed someone walking up the hill with what looked like his hand over his face. When he got closer, I could see blood all over his face, his hands, and down his legs. I asked if he was all right. He nodded “yes”, but if left me wondering what the road ahead had in store for me. I would later learn that he fallen and broken his nose.

Just remember, some these are mountain roads that are rarely used. There were places were water covered the road, and we had to make detours around the edges. In one place, I had to make a circle through the woods so I didn't have to wade through the water.

The miles were slowly ticking off. We had been warned about the heat but honestly I only noticed it during one section where we ran through a meadow. 99% of the course is covered by foliage. And often I had a cool breeze blowing in my face. At least for someone from Charlotte, the 54 degrees at the start made it feel like a cold morning.

Around 15 to 16 miles, I was told there was a 2 mile climb but it was very runnable. May be their measurements were off or my Garmin was off but it seem more like 4 miles. All I know is I kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing. Enough climbing, I felt my ears popping again. As for runnable, I don't know if I would use the term “runnable”. At least not for the average runner. It took everything I had to keep putting one leg in front of the other. I caught two guys on the climb who were switching between running and walking. I thought about doing the same but I choose to push through it. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake on my part because it took a ton out my legs.

Cresting the hill, my Garmin read roughly 19.2 miles. I was also greeted with an enthusiastic aid station which was a good thing. I suspect every runner coming over the hill looked like they were about to die.

The next few miles some gentle descents and accents. Nothing was real long or real steep but at 20 miles it doesn't have to be either to hurt. About 22 miles, I pulled up to last aid station before entering the conservatory trails around Mountain Lake. From what I had read, these trails were full of rocks and roots, along with plenty of ups and downs. I wasn't disappointed.

As I entered the trail, I thought this was not all that bad, but then it grew harder and harder. I shortened my stride and slowed down. Having hard fall at this point would not be a good thing and especially if it were me doing the falling.

Through out the race I had noticed the pink ribbons with black down lining the course, but here following them was of major importance. Some times the ribbons were the only guide to know where the trail was. I get the sense that these trails were rarely used, and 90 of the foot traffic for the year on them happens during this race. When the sections became too tough, I resorted to walking over running on the climbs.

Also it was doing this section where I had my head down while churning up a hill to hear what sounded like someone on the trail behind me. I looked over my should but I didn't see anyone. Then, I looked up the trail to see this fawn tearing down the trail right at me. We missed each other but not my much.

Just as I was about to enter the meadow two the guys that I had been going back and forth with passed me.

Up ahead was the last aid station before the end, and my water vest was nearly on empty. This was my last chance to fill, or I would be running on empty to the finish. 

I had already pulled it off and unscrewed the lid. When I entered the aid station, the guy asked me what I needed. All I could say “water”. He went on to say “with ice”. I nodded “yes”. I watched as he poured water and ice from a pitcher into my vest.

I was in and out of the water stop in less that 30 seconds. I give those guys major kudos. They are as good as a Nascar pit crew.

All three of us left the aid station together, but I struggled getting my water vest back in place. They opened a gap on me, and I was no position to make it up. They slowly pulled away from me.

Although, I did find one good thing from the water stop besides the water. The cold water and ice from the vest could be felt through the vest on my back. In this hot section, it did feel kind of nice.

This final section has some road sections, a long technical down hill trail section, and then more road sections. This took my to the finally road crossing by the lake.

From here it really gets hard, and I pretty much spent time crawling between boulders, and over and under trees. I twisted and turned on the narrow trail. I finally popped out on this little road. I knew I should be close to the finish, but I had no idea how close.

It wasn't until I crested the hill and could see the finish in the distance that I knew how close that I was. Whatever I had left in the tank, I used it up now.

I finished in 4 hours 33 minutes and 33 seconds. This placed 10 over all, and I was the first masters runner. Actually, I was ecstatic about placing 10. This race gave lots of prize money out to the overall racers, and this drew in a great group of harden ultra runners. Getting a top 10 against great competition made me like I can still run a little bit. 

When I signed up for this race, I wanted something that pushed me outside comfortable zone. This race did. I lost count of the number of trees that I climbed over and rocks that I navigated over and around. Also I don't think that I will ever complain about Goat Hill at the WWC again. It is a mere baby goat to some of the hills on this course.

Lastly, I give the race committee for this race a double thumbs up. They put on a great event from the packet pick up to the post race food buffet bar. EDU is a great summer time ultra experience. 

The Cool Down Runner

WWC River Jam 10k Trail Race – June edition

So the thermometer was pushing a good 90 degrees along the river's edge, and my only respite from the heat was to stay in the shadows of the treeline some 30 yards away.

Such is the way it is if you want to run an evening summer time race.

As we mingle at the starting line I found a few familiar faces in the crowd and a few new ones. 6:30 finally arrived and soon we were kicking up a dust storm. The sun baked dust cloud rose from the path which surrounds the WWC channel.

I could see both Mark and Andrew ahead me as each of us jockeyed for a good position to enter the woods. I thought that I had a good spot but I quickly realized that I was not so lucky. The guys ahead me were bottle-necking a group of us. We spent the next mile or so picking our way through them.

Around 2 miles, I pulled up beside Andrew just as a I did during the May race. While he was moving well, he didn't seem to have the same bounce in his step. I suspect the hard racing at the Tuesday night Summer Track Meet had something to do with it. I attempted to encourage him to stay with me.

One of the 5k runners passed me as we passed the Toilet Bowl trail. Popping out on top by the water stop by the Towers, I saw Mark standing there dumping water over his head. The heat must have gotten to him.

From then, I just ran. With no one in sight and no one forcing my pace, I ran what I needed through the Lake Loop.

I was hoping to run a little faster time but ended up about 30 seconds slower than May with a time of 46:03. This placed me 6th overall and first in the 50 and over group.

Afterwards I wondered if the 30 seconds was from the heat or was it from getting out a bit slower. Either could have been the case or getting out a bit slower could have set me up better for the rest of the race. There is no way to ever know. Still I was happy with the result.

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, June 11, 2018

Grizzly 5k Canceled

So last week, I was scanning through my email in box and came across an email from the Grizzly 5k Race Director. I had been expecting as much since the race was to be last Saturday evening.

However, when I popped it open, I was immediately disappointed. They were canceling the race do to low participation.

As I set there reading it not once but a couple to times to make sure I totally understood what I was being told, I was left to wonder how this could happen.

I stumbled across this race a couple of years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite June Friday races to do. I could get in a race and then take in a baseball game. Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.

Because the Grizzly's games start at 7 pm, the race went off about 5 PM. This is pretty early start time for weekday race, but they always had a great turnout. This in and of itself always surprised me.

So when they moved it to Saturday, I rather expected a bigger turnout rather than a smaller one.

For some reason, this apparently wasn't the case. The numbers were so few that they took the unusual step of canceling this race.

They were very apologetic for having to do so and offered a refund or a transferring my entry to another of their races. I took the transfer option. I may run one of their other races. I really don't know at this point, I don't plan 5ks that far ahead. They also provided all of the runners with a ticket to the game which I thought was nice gesture on their part.

Overall, they have always did a nice job, and I was really disappointed to not have an opportunity to race it. However, I also understand that these things happen, and sometimes tough decisions have to be made. If the numbers are not there to hold the race, then it is better to not have have it than go into the “red” with it.

Hope they can bring it back next year,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chicago Lakefront Trail

This past week, I spent some time in Chicago. I stayed in the downtown area, so I had just a jaunt out to the Lakefront Trail – 5 blocks give or take.

On the first day, I headed south by the Planetarium and Soldier Field. Usually, I try to make these runs as quick as possible, but this week, I kicked things in to cruise mode. Sit back let my body just cover the miles and take in the sights. The Lakefront trail is pretty much a combination of asphalt and concrete. Although, in some of the lower sections, they have dirt berm running a long the trail which is nice alternative to the harder surfaces.

The view was a cloudy which prevented me from seeing a cool sun rise. However, on the return trip, I had a spectacular view of the Lake Michigan to my right and scenic view of Chicago skyline to my left.

The next morning, the skies were clear, and the view of the run rising over Lake Michigan was awesome. This day, I explored north on the Lakefront trail, and then ventured in to the city along the River walk.

Not that I was surprised that there were people out running and cycling, but I was surprised at the number. I was never totally alone during my runs at 5:30 AM CST. In some sections, I was weaving among the other runners. I even had a few pass me.

Not sure how this trail would be during the winter, but in late May, it was nice place to stretch your legs before a long day at work. I ran 10 miles every day and would have done more if I could have.

If you have a trip to the windy city coming up, make sure to spend some time running along the lake. It is a great way to get some miles, and you will not have to worry about traffic. Most of it was well away from the traffic. I can only remember crossing roads twice during my 10 mile runs.

Enjoying some time in the Windy City.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day 8 Miler @ the Whitewater Center

What a muddy run. We were slip sliding the entire race.

The 8 & 5 mile races started at the same time so there are people racing around me with totally different agendas. My personal agenda was to not fall. Warming up, I hit some of the race trails, and it seemed that I was spending as much time staying vertical as I was moving horizontally.

The opening portion of the first mile is around the channel so not much chance of falling here, but entering the connector trail to the South Main Trail was another matter. It was slippy. My arms were flailing as I attempted to maintain my balance. At the last downhill section before the South Main Trail, my feet went out from under me, and I went down on my hands and “but”. Runners were streaming by me on both sides. FlaVia went by me saying something about wearing trail shoes. Yeah, the thought did cross my mind as I set there on my “but”. Everything is a risk vs. reward. At least only my pride was hurt and nothing more.

Back on my feet, I settled in behind a long line of runners that had passed me. Over the next 7 miles, I slowly worked my way back up through the field. Trail passing is tough, and sometimes you just have to follow until the trail widens enough to pass. Ultimately finishing 5th overall was good for me all things considering while finishing in 61:02 and first in my age group.

Looking around after the race, I wasn't the only one with mud marks. But isn't that the fun in doing a muddy trail race. The extra challenge is what creates a memorable race. Would I have preferred a nice dry coarse. Absolutely! However, this mud run will likely never be lost in the my lifetime blur of races.

Kudos to all of the runners that completed on this muddy coarse. You all deserve a pat on the back.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hydration Vest

Yesterday was hot, and the weatherman was calling for more of it today so I knew that I needed to drink and drink more. Nothing tanks a run like being dehydrated.

This leads me to talking about my new Hydration Vest. The idea of running a 50 miler this fall has me exploring all types of new things these days.

Before today, I had always used handhelds. For whatever the reason, they always seem to be more comfortable, but as I start to stretch my long runs out and in the heat, water plays an enormous in how well my runs go.

Over the last couple days, I have been test fitting my Hydration Vest, adjusting the straps, wearing it around my house to see how it felt, and practicing how to drink from it.

This morning, I headed out for 10 miles with 2 liters of water strapped to my back. Getting the feel of it was a little awkward. I had straps pretty well fitted so the vest didn't bounce around. But with every foot strike the water jostled inside the pack. I also realized the purpose of the straps to keep the drinking hose from bouncing around. Then, after a few miles, the sound the water began to blur into the background. To the point, I no longer noticed it by the end of the run.

I was drink at every mile today, and in an 90 minute, I had drank nearly a liter and half of water. Even thou, the temperature was close 90 at the finish. I felt good. No signs of thirst. Actually, I didn't even need the two extra bottles that I brought with me as backup.

I'll get a better test run in next weekend when I take it out for 18 miles. But from the signs I am going to like using it, and with more hot summer days ahead, I will make good use of it.

The Cool Down Runner

Gummy Bears

So, let's just say that I was too lazy about getting to the store this past week, as such I was lacking my usual supply of Sports Beans or something to throw a little energy at my system during my long run. This only dawned me while I was packing for my Saturday long run on Friday night.

While I am not a fan of Gummy Bears, I have heard stories that some some ultra runners use them. So on the way over for my trail run, I stopped by a gas station to pickup a bag. Actually, I grabbed two bags since they are 2 for $2.

If you are wondering what flavors did I chose, well, I chose the multi flavored pack. Although, I have to say, they all pretty much tasted the same.

One advantage, I do like about them. They don't get stuck in my teeth as I chew them. For the most part, I couple of quick chews, and they are ready to swallow.

One aspect that I was expecting but didn't get was an overly sweet sugary taste. In fact, I hardly tasted the sugar at all. I have found during my runs as I tire, I like strong flavors but I don't like any thing overly sweet. The sweetness just seems to leave me with a sickening feeling.

With my first Gummy Bear test run in the books, I don't know that I am going to become a pronounced user of Gummy Bears on my long runs, but you have to admit at 2 bags for $2 which easily gives me enough Gummy Bears for 4 long runs, the price point is right.

Never be a afraid to test something new. Just don't do it in a race. LOL.

The Cool Down Runner

River Jam 10k, May Edition

So the summer time is nearly upon us, and the River Jam 5k/10k race series is back for another year at the Whitewater Center. Last year, I only made one of their races. This year I put myself on notice by signing up for all 5 races.

This particular Thursday evening happen to be noticeably warmer. During my rerace run down by the river, I could feel the humidity rolling off the water. That was part of what was on my mind. But more concering; while casting my eyes toward the shy, I could see dark clouds looming in the distance. As race time neared, spotty drops of rain could be felt. I just hoped they held off until after the race. 

The 5k and 10k races start together and run for much of the same course. At the Lake Loop, the 10k runners take a right on to the Lake Loop Trail to add the additional three miles. The 5k runners head straight back to the finish by the channel.

In past races, I had always went out hard and then was gassed by 2 miles. This time, I took my time and positioned my self further back as we entered the South Main Trail. Several runners were ahead me so I picked my spots to move up. In a couple of places where the trail opens up, I throw in a couple of hard surges. May be too hard of a surge.

I had passed Andrew about 2 miles, but he passed me back about 2.5 miles. Just before the Lake Loop, I passed him back. He followed me for perhaps the next 1.5 miles. Then, he passed me one last time and took off. I wanted to stay with him but those two surge earlier took more out of my legs than I realized.

By the time I came out of the woods, Andrew had put a good 30 to 40 seconds on me.

Say what you want about the trails at the Whitewater Center, having the finish going around the channel is awesome. Most people might not realize it but this section is net downhill. Meaning, we all probably finish a little better than we should. I guess that's the trade off for busting “but” on the trails.

My time was 45:23 for 6 OA, and 1st in my age group. Overall, this is a nice start to my summer racing season.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Christina Latini Memorial 8K

Last week, the racing itch was back so I headed for the Start 2 Finish website in hopes of finding a race near by. As I scanned the list of upcoming races, the Christina Latini Memorial 8K caught my eye. I followed their link out to their website.

All I can say, no parent should ever have to lose a child. I have three daughters, and I cannot image losing one of them. To learn more about the foundation that Christina's parents have created in her honor, please check out their Operation Sweet Tooth website.

Fast forward to this morning, I made the short drive to Huntersville. The course was covered plenty of the roads that I have ran many times in years past. I was looking forward to seeing them again.

They sent a huge group of the F3 runners off first, and then, we left one minute later.

But just before the start, I bumped in to Chris and later Karin. They along with their two kids were doing the 2 mile fun run. Good to see them again. May be two or three years have passed since we last crossed paths.

So on the horn, we were off. This was my first race in my new On CloudFlash racing flats. In full disclosure, these were my first miles on them at all other than some warm up strides. Thus, aside from feeling out how my body was going to respond from doing nothing more than eating, working, and running for the last few weeks, I was breaking a new pair of racing flats.

These On shoes have a different feel while running or racing, and my brain is still wrapping itself around this feel.

At the first turn, I took a quick peek to see who my pursuers were. No one was close. Looked like it was going to be me, the hills, and the lead cyclist for the rest of the race. I pushed on. Some of the hills felt hard, but helping matters, the temperature was as close to ideal as possible this morning. Cool and dry is just the way that I like it.

Miles 2, 3, and 4 flew by. Compared to miles on trail, these road miles seem to zip by. I found myself crossing the street, and charging up the last hill on the sidewalk of the 5th mile. The finish line was around a bend in the road, and I didn't check my watch until it was too late. I sprinted for the finish but came up just 2 seconds short with a 30:01.

I was happy with the results. I felt like I have more under the hood, and I am looking forward to my next race to see if I can get it out. 

Big shout out to my On CloudFlash shoes. The ride of this shoe is definitely growing on me. I am looking forward to more chances to test them out this summer.

As I wrap this post, I want to give a big shout out to the race organizers. For an inaugural race, they did an awesome job. The course was tough, but well marked and accurate. Everyone received a finisher medal and a nice shirt. Plenty of post races food, and they had timely awards. They definitely checked all of the “must do” race boxes.

Sorry, I wanted to share one last item. We have all gotten goody bags from races. Pretty much anything is fair game for these bags. Nearly always, it is stuff that we know what it is. For the first time, there was something in my bag, I have no idea what it was or how to use it. I looked at it. Played with it for a few minutes, and I put it down on my desk. I have absolutely no clue. I am totally stump.

Anyone else ever gotten something in their goody bag that totally stump them as to its purpose?

Happy Trails,
The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Trail Tan

So over the last week, Charlotte has pretty much dried out. With the rain all but a distant memory, the trails at the Whitewater Center have become a nice soft powder. Now, throw in a warm spring like day, and you get what I like to call a “Trail Tan”.

It isn't as much of a brown tan as it is an orange tan.

So what is a trail tan you may be asking yourself? Well, it is a thin layer of dust that accumulates on my legs over 18 miles of trail running.

Any more, if I don't get at least a little trail tan on a run, it likely wasn't much of a run.

See on you on the roads,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

On Shoes - Cloud Flyer

Our Charlotte Running Company Race Team recently moved to using the On running shoes. Yesterday, I picked up my first pair – the On Cloud Flyer. This morning, I took them for my first run.

With any new shoe I go through three phases: uneasiness, feeling it out, and acceptance.

The first phase is uneasiness, I don't know the shoe so I don't know how my body and especially my feet will react to it. Is going to be a shoe goes in to my rotation or is one that sets on the self to gather dust and end up at Good Will. And, yes, through the years, quite a few of my shoes went down this path.

The second phase is “feeling it out”. In those early steps, what my is landing like? What does it feel like to land on the heel? Or landing on the fore foot? How is the toe box? How does the arch feel? Is it too low or worse too high? What are the strings like? Will they stay tied? All of these things signals sent back to my brain during this phase.

The last phase is “acceptance”. This usually happens about 6 or 7 miles in to run. By now, I will either like the shoe or hate it. Legs and more importantly my feet will made this decision for me.

One the warnings that some of my fellow team members told me about is the soles seem to love collecting rocks. This was a question that I even asked the Reps about last night. He assured me that the sole was built to expel rocks. As luck would have it, I was about 5 miles in to my run this morning, and sure enough, I got a rock stuck in the sole. I needed a breather in any way so leaned on a sign and pulled out the rock to continue on my run.

Aside from this small side bar, I was fairly impressed with these shoes. The Cloud Flyer has a light yet responsive feel to it for a stability shoe. I find a lot stability shoes seem to feel stiff and heavy. I will definitely keep it in my rotation.

Next up, I am looking forward to putting their Cloud Flash racing flats to the test. At 7 oz, they are on the heavy side for most of my previous racing flats. Weight as with looks, can be deceiving. The only way to decide for sure is during a race. So look for me on the roads sometime in the next few weeks. Check out those yellow flashes that I will be sporting. 

If you like to learn more about the On shoe brand - click here.

See you on the roads soon,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Day After.

So I rolled out of bed this morning and wasn't too much the worse for the ware for running a marathon yesterday. My ribs are tender. Feels like I got hit with a bat and not one of those foam ones either. Doesn't seem like anything is broken, however. I can do pretty anything. Unlike the last time that I broke some ribs, the next 6 to 8 weeks were pretty tough on me. My right knee will likely sport a nice scare for a long time to come.

Otherwise, I have to say. Everything else seems to be functioning normally. I ran 10 miles this morning and felt pretty good doing it. Unlike most of my road marathons where running the following day can be major struggle.

Not sure if it is the slower pace or it is the soft surface or perhaps, it is the fact that every stride is a bit different. Whatever the reason, I definitely prefer this feeling.

If you were out racing this past week, here's hoping your recovery is going equally well.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, March 24, 2018

New South Trail Marathon Recap

Appreciate the photo from Jason M. 

A few hours ago, I finished my first official trail marathon – The New South Marathon on the trails at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.

Before the race, I had checked out the results from the previous two years of this race. Most of the times were around 4 hours. In my long, long run before this race, I did the course in roughly 4:40 so I thought if I had a good day, I could place may be in the 10.

Of course, each year they tweak the course and the runners may and likely will change. But I still thought a top 10 was a possiblity.

Fast forward to this morning, we received our final race instructions and were off running a few minutes after 8 AM. The parade lap around the channel spread us out just enough before we hit the trails.

I settled into 4 place but soon I moved in to 3rd by the 2nd mile. The two guys ahead of me were setting a hot pace. One of them I thought I recognized before the race, and later confirmed it to be Nathan. Several years ago, Nathan and I did numerous runs together. The last one that I remember – he bested me at the Boston Marathon by a 1 minute. He caught me in the closing miles, and I had nothing left to respond. But enough about my running history, let's back to this race recap.

They were tearing up the Academy Loop. I caught a glimpse of them as we coursed under the power lines but they were soon lost from sight.

I'd occasionally get another glimpse of one them as we did the switch back trails of the Thread Trail.

There was a pace that I thought I could maintain on the trails for 26+ trail miles, and I was already on the high end of it. So I pretty much had come to terms with my situation. If they continue at this pace, I wasn't going to ever catch them. Otherwise, they would start to slow down and come back to me.

On the North Main Trail as we ran along the ridge line, I caught a momentary glimpse of Nathan in the distance. Like a blood on the scent, while my head was saying slow down, my heart was urging me forward and faster. By the flat water area, I was closing in on Nathan. I was starting to size him up as I wondering where I should make my pass on him. Then, as if he sensed me coming, he stopped stepped to the side of the trail to let me pass. I was both surprised at the unexpected course of events, but I kindly accepted it.

By the time that I entered the South Main trail, I had opened a gap on him, and I begin to wonder how far the leader was in front of me. This didn't take as long to figure out as I thought. Going by the entrance to the Carpet Trail, I saw him. By the time, we entered the Goat Trail, I was a few steps behind him.

The Goat Trail is rough, tough, and winding so I settled on following him through it. We stayed this way until just before the Toilet Bowl Trail. If I had been running on the roads likely I would have continued to follow him. But on the trails, people run differently. They speed up. They slow down. Following them means, I have to be on high alerts to all of these changes of pace. Good or bad, if I am going to run like this I want to be on the front. I want to be the one setting the pace and let others react to me.

At this point, I moved to the front. Slowly, I was opening a gap on him. By the the time, we passed through the ½ way point, I had may be 100 to 150 meters on him. I pushed hard on the 2nd parade lap, and through the next couple of miles.

Now, when I race, I am reminded of something another runner once told me. When I race, I always wear my Charlotte Running Company Lime Green singlet. This runner told that it wasn't very “Ninji” like. Meaning, the lime green in the singlet is easy to spot, and it made a good target when chasing me.

Now, I keep this in mind, and in this instance, I wanted to some distance between us. I pushed hard through the Academy Loop. May be it was too hard because by the time that I hit the Thread Trail again, my legs sending “I am tired” signals to my brain.

Making things a bit more difficult, I was also catching the ½ marathon runners. While most responded to my hails to give me a side to pass. I found more than few that were lost in their headphones until I touched them on the shoulder. Most nearly jumped out their skin, but what else was I to do. We are on a single track trail, and their brains and their ears were apparently miles away.

My second trip up Goat Hill Trails wasn't met with nearly as much enthusiasm by my legs as my first trip up the hill. Not helping, I continued to navigate the ½ marathoners.

Thinking about this now, I am likely being to hard on them here, but when you are tired, the least little thing can seem like a mountain. Ignoring my hails was this mountain.

I passed by the Toilet Bowl Trail, and did a quick check over my shoulder. If I was going to be caught, they were cutting it close now.

By the Lake Loop Trail, I popped out to run across the parking lot to the side trail which runs parallel to the Whitewater Center.

Here I made my first mistake of the race. May be I was starting to plan my victory stride to the finish line or may be I just let me mind wonder for a bit. Whatever it was, my foot clipped a root, and I went down hard. My water bottles went flying down the trail. Normally, when I fall, I stop for a second or two to make sure nothing is broken. This time, I popped right up, grabbed my water bottles, and continued down the trial. Not 20 meters later, I went down hard for a second time with my water bottles again going flying down the trial. Again, I popped right up, shook my head to clear the tiredness from brain this time, picked up my water bottles, and continued down the trail. However, this time, I was a bit more cautious. I worked my way to the path around the channel and ran a nice steady pace to the finish.

Taking the win and finishing in 3 hours 50 minutes, and 28 seconds, I could not have been more happy with my effort today. In no way did I expect to win or to run under 4 hours for this trail marathon.

As wrap, up this post, let me share two things.

First, bit shout out to Nathan on his 3:58 marathon, and 2nd place finish. After the hot pace that he set early on to still close with a great time shows how awesomeness of his current fitness level is. We chatted for a few minutes after the race and talked about the possibility grabbing a few runs together in future.

Second, training for marathons is hard work. No “ands”, “ifs”, or “buts” about it. And, no matter where you finish, seeing the results of your training show up on race day is incredibly satisfying. For me, it is.

I will leave you with this parting thought.

The next time you are in the middle of training run and it hurts. Just think about it as – the hurt that you are feeling now will make your marathon all the more easier. Isn't this why you are training in the first place.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, March 23, 2018

On the foot path again

So earlier this week, I needed to be on the south side of charlotte. As luck would have it, I would be in the neighborhood of McAlpine Park.

May be year or may be more has pasted since my running shoes last tasted McAlpine dirt. 

The weather was cold and rainy. I only saw one other elderly couple out walking so I pretty much had the entire 5k course to myself. I don't know why but I seem to just float over the dirt on this day. My run was soon finished, and I was back at my car changing. Time seemed to magically pass by. 

Felt good to be back on familar ground. I hope I never lose that feeling for running on this particlar piece of Charlotte dirt.

Check it out if you ever get the chance.

The Cool Down Runner

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