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

Monday, August 27, 2018

Camelbak Classic Hydration Pack

With this longer runs, I moved from carrying my hand held water bottles to a hydration pack. Even after doing some research in selecting my first one, I still felt like I didn't know what I really needed.

After using it during several races and training runs, I begin making a mental check list of of things that I liked and disliked about it.

Some of the things that I liked were the fit and the extra food that I could stuff in the pack. I liked the way that I could disconnect the hose from the bladder for cleaning.

Things, I didn't like were the way it rubbed in the middle of my back and the difficulty in refilling while out running. Literally, I had to unstrap, and remove the entire bladder just to refill which was a major drawback for me. I mean the other things, I could live with them being a pain but just the amount of time that it took to remove it and then put it back was a huge frustration point.

This led me to buying the Camelbak Hydration Pack. The bladder is a bit bigger - closer to 3 liters if I fill it completely full. The storage space is a bit smaller. The bladder is a bit more difficult to clean and the hose doesn't disconnect in the same way as my first one.

The major perk and the reason that I purchased this one is the ability to uncover the opening to the bladder and refill it without removing it from the pack.

My first run using it was my 35 miler past weekend. I probably over filled it because I had plenty of water for the entire first lap. I had prefitted it prior to wearing it, but then promptly forgot to use any body glide prior to my run. I expected to have a few rubs but nothing appeared. None of the rubs that my other pack gives me happened which I was greatly appreciative. The ability to refill it easily was awesome. I just uncovered the lid, poured in the water, and refastened it. It was both easy and quick.

I'll still use my older one from time to time and for runs where I do not need to fill it, but for racing and longer runs where refilling is a requirement, I will definitely be using the Camelbak.

If you are looking for something light weight and easily to refill plus has some storage space check out this pack.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, August 26, 2018

35 Miler

As many of you know, I have been thinking about doing the Whitewater Center 50 miler this fall. Yesterday, I decided to give myself a little taste of what it would be like.

Omitting the 1st lap, I focused on what it would be like to run last two full laps plus a little more during the day. I parked my car along the course so it became my official aid station. I ran roughly 10+ miles of the lower loop, hit up my car to refuel, and then headed out on the East Main loop.

The first lap went by better than expected. My legs were staying underneath me. I attributed most of it to following Martin's suggestions. He encouraged me to try food other gels and chews. Foods which maintained my blood sugar and not having it bouncing up and down. The chews and gels left me feeling great for about the 30 minutes, then I would feel like I was dragging car along behind me. 

I found that I liked some of the apple sauce based ones best but I couldn't stomach the more paste type. After just a few bytes, I literally tossed it back in the bag. Strawberry fig newton of all things were my favorite. I made sure to use the ones without corn syrup.

This was pretty much a solo effort until I started the 2nd loop of the East Main trail. This guy, later I learned his name, Justin, dropped in behind me. I offer to let him pass but he were more interested in having some one to share the miles. We chatted back and forth about training, shoes, races. I learned that he was training for the WWC 50 miler as well and is looking for a time around 12 hours. Ironically, our chit-chat was picking up our pace. I ran this section well faster than I had expected. I didn't realize how much I was feeding off the energy have just having someone else there. At least until we exited the trail and went our separate ways. But it was good to share the miles.

I finished this 35 miles in 6 hours and 56 minutes. This was total time. As I wanted to include the time that it took me to refuel at the aid stations.

I'd like to hit one 40 miler before race day just to get the feel of it.

By the way, when I finished, I was plenty tired. I walked back to my car, opened the trunk, and just set there are a few minutes. I had not desire to even move.

Then, today, I ran another 10 on the trails. My legs were a little stiff in the opening miles, but once I got warmed up, I felt pretty good despite having run 35 yesterday.

Cool Down Runner

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Talking about Head Lamps

Browsing my Twitter feed earlier this week, I stumbled on to an article about tips for night time trail running.

Seems like there is always plenty of advice about how to do something after I have learned the hard way.

While their tips were good, some I thought made sense, seemed to be common sense and others, well I am not so sure.

One of the tips talked about head lamps that had the light on the front and batteries in the back. These head lamps tended to be brighter and lasted longer because of the larger batteries. They also seemed indicate that it was better on the head and neck because the weight balance between the light and the batteries.

Now, this tip made sense to me. However, I have not had one of these type of head lamps so I cannot speak from real life experience from using it. What I can say is after a few hours, I do feel the strain in my neck muscles. My head lamp type is smaller and has both the batteries and the light on the front. The tip did point out that these type of head lamps were slightly heavy so it may well offset the front battery/light type. Something to explore in the future. 

Another tip was to replace the batteries before your race. This one I thought was pretty much common sense. Before racing last Friday night, I changed out my batteries. I'd used these batteries for a while so I wasn't taking any chances. The last thing I needed was the batteries dying on me while I was out on the trail. Leaving my hot and tired body standing in pitch black darkness. 

This next tip, I was on the fence about using. They suggested that a runner should turn up the brightness on the downhills while turning down brightness on the uphills. The idea being that this would extend the battery life.

To me, this technique has to be put into perspective. If I am running night time race, and I need my head lamps to last through out the night. I can see the benefit of using this technique. However, if I am running a shorter race, I would rather have the head lamp on full brightness the entire time. It is easy enough to fall going up hill. May be not with the same likelihood as going downhill but still possible. I kept my head lamps on full brightness the other night but this didn't stop me from stumbling more than a few times.

The one tip that I expected to see but didn't was running with two head lamps. When I hit the trails for a night run, I always run with a head lamp on my head and one at my waist. This gives me two light perspectives which cast just enough light and shadow for me to pick up the difference in the rocks and roots. Then, if one goes out or if you read my earlier post about Marcus falling and the batteries coming out of his head lamp, having two head lamps is a good thing. Once they are both strapped into place, I don't even notice them.

Numerous head lamps are on the market but my go to head lamp the last few years is the Black Diamond Head Lamps. They take 3 AAA batteries and cast 300 lumens of light so across the two head lamps, I am creating about 600 lumens of light.

This is plenty of brightness for me, but I will say that I ran a night race last fall where I was over lighted by another runner. I have no idea what type of head lamp that he was using. I asked but he never responded. And since it was dark, I had no idea who he was to follow up after the race. However, the light from his head lamp far out shined my two head lamps. It was like running with the Sun behind me. Honestly, this was the one time that I didn't mind having someone running on my “6”. I had no trouble seeing the trail ahead or the rocks and roots from 10 yards away.

The Cool Down Runner

Being a Fearless Descender

While running with Martin and Eric, I could not help be but be in awe with the way they attacked the downhills. Any downhill that we encountered, Eric was quickly out of sight. Martin wasn't far behind.

As for me, I slowly picked my way through the rocks and roots. Some of our discussions that day were about how to be a better downhill runner, and both Martin and Eric recommended lots of practice.

Yet, I cannot help but think there is more to it.

I freely admit that my downhill skills is the weakest part of my game. More than a few runners have opened a gap on me by charging down a hill. Yet, it isn't like I have not worked on it. I have, and on course where I am familiar, I probably am faster.

But take me to an unknown trail, I am slow.

Martin and Eric, I believe, both are right. Practicing downhill running should make you better at navigating whatever obstacles that are in your path.

However, I believe both exhibit a certain level of fearlessness which allows them to take greater risk. A fearlessness they use to fly downhill. It is a level desire that I am not sure that I possess. Will I ever be able to match them heads up, likely not, but I am okay with it. I like running every day. This can only be achieved by knowing when to risk it and when to choose the safer path.

So if you are not a super strong downhill runner that's okay. Few courses are all downhill. Make the most of the course where you are strongest.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, August 19, 2018

WWC Tread Nightly & Tread Brightly ½ Marathons Recaps

This weekend, I was off doing something that I hadn't done since the Dopey Challenge at Disney World. I raced on successive days. This time I was running the Whitewater Center's Tread Nightly & Tread Brightly ½ marathon trail races.

Tread Nightly started just before sunset at 8 pm. Then, I had sleep fast because the Tread Brightly race started at 8 am the following morning.

After a long day at work on Friday, I packed up my CRV and headed for the WWC. The race was still several hours away but I needed to arrive early for other reasons. I would be camping out between races. Granted I only live about 15 minutes from the WWC, but the opportunity to crawl in to bed just after the race and then crawl out for the morning race was just too tempting.

After checking in, picking up my packet & hoodie, I headed for the camp site area. A few others had already setup their tents so I found myself open site and begin setting up my own camp. Roughly 25 minutes later, I settled back in to my lawn chair to relax for a bit before the evening race and watch as others runners/campers arrived.

About 7:15 I headed out for a few easy miles on the trails. For some reason, I like to hit the trails before the race. Some how, I think it helps remind my brain that I need to pick up my feet. Running on the pavement makes me rather lazy, but being lazy on a trail makes going down almost a certainty.

Dawning two head lamps, one on my head and one on my waist, I headed for the starting line. The announcer was telling us that we must be stout at heart since we were tackling the East Main Trail and doing in the dark. I couldn't find a reason to argue with her. East Main can be tough on a runner in the day time. Running it at night would just upped the ante.

Making manners worse, the temperature was still hanging around 90 degree, and my sweat was lathering up like a second skin. Instead of evaporating, my sweat hung around until it congealed enough to run off.

The race starts at one of the WWC's event area. The race has a down hill start, and plenty of runners were taking advantage of it. We go barely a ¼ mile, and we are already entering woods. Darkness had yet to settle over the country side, but entering woods, the runners in front of me were already turning on their head lamps. I could see the reasoning in their decision and followed their example.

We followed the South Main trail for the first couple of miles. I was picking off runners one or two at a time as the opportunity presented themselves. We swung on to the Weigh Station loop. Weigh Station is not particularly difficult loop but it is rocky. Off the Weigh Station, we were back on the South Main for a couple of hundred yards before ducking off on the Toilet Bowl loop.

Runners were getting really strung out now. I could only occasionally see a head lamp of a distance runner in front of me and few head lamps of the runners making their way along the South Main trail behind me as our two trails paralleled.

Off the Toilet Bowl loop, I was starting to settle in to a nice rhythm. With no one close beyond or a head of me, I could run my own pace.

We followed the South Main trail back past the Lake Loop and by the WWC to the Parkway Loop. We ran on a short distance on the Parkway Loop before picking up the East Main trail.

Normally, this is the section where I slow down. The humidity was terrible. The air was stagnate, but temperature was slowly dropping. I was taking both Powerade and water at every water stop.

I was also catching a few more runners. Henrique, who had beat me at the last River Jam 10k, was drifting back to me.

His little group would open up some distance on me in the downhill sections but the uphills, I was making up more ground than I was losing. If you have ever run the East Main trail, it seems to be more uphill than downhill.

Just before we arrived for the Tributary Loop, I caught them on an uphill. I went right by and kept on pushing up the hill. I knew coming up that the first half of the Tributary section was downhill to flat. They could well come roaring back on me.

By the time, I started the back half of the Tributary trail, I could see no head lamps either ahead or behind me.

I worked the up sections of the Tributary back to the East Main trail. My legs were starting to fatigue now. I had to concentrate harder to see the roots. I found myself stumbling or putting my feet at the wrong angle a few times. Both served me to refocus my attention on the trail ahead.

Upon exiting the East Main trail, they sent us up the gravel road. I thought climbing up the trail was hard but the road gravel road was harder and steeper. I felt like walking near the top.

Then, we picked up the tiny trail section that runs along side the WWC. This was the section where I fell twice during the New South Marathon. Those two spots are permanently etched in my brain. I had no intention of falling again.

My Garmin had already clicked over 13 miles so I knew they were giving up some bonus distance. Exiting the final trail section, I followed gravel channel path until I came to the section leading back to the finish line. I thought back to the runners that charged down this hill at the start. I had no charge left in me. I simply “willed” my legs to climb the hill to the finish.

Crossing the finish line, I came to a halt. My body was down running, and my only need at the moment was water. I must have drank 6 or 8 cups setting there on the bench.

I was physically tired, but I believe I was even more mentally tired. Concentrating so hard on the roots, rocks, and the path ahead, had left me wiped out.

I took the long walk back to my car, grabbed my gear back, and headed for the shower. Taking a hot shower made me feel a little better, but I was tired and even more so dehydrated. Circling back by my car, I dropped my bag, grabbed some food and water, and headed for my tent. I didn't even think about going to the awards ceremony. I crawled in side, ate dinner, and then laid down for some much needed rest. I had hoped to sleep straight through until morning, but I found myself walking up to drink. I went through 3 water bottles during the night.

I was very pleased with my finish. I was 2:02:11 and 5th overall. I hadn't realized just how many runners that I had passed during the race. I was 1st in the 50-54 age group.

At 6:30 the next morning, I rolled out bed, broke down my camp site, and packed my gear back to my car. Then, I headed over to change for the race.

I bumped in to Marcus who told me about falling during the race last night. When his head lamp hit the ground, the batteries came out. He was left feeling around in the dark attempting to find the head lamp, and then the batteries. He eventually found the head lamp but not all of the batteries. He then had to wait on the 3rd place runner before he could make his trek the rest of the way out. But his story didn't end there. He thought it was all road back to the finish. But when he neared the finish, he realized his mistake. He back tracked hoping to catch up with the the 3rd place runner before he entered the woods section but he was too late. Marcus was left feeling his way along in the dark until the 4th place runner caught up with him.

After talking with Marcus, I jogged ¾ to mile just before the start. My legs were tired, and I wasn't imagining it. Scanning the starting line area, there were plenty faces from last night but I also saw a few new faces.

The weather was better the wind had picked up, the skies were overcast, and the temperature and humidity were better.

Not as many people rocketed off from the start this time. Not knowing how my legs were going to react to racing again, I went out in a conservative pace. By the time I had entered the East Main trail, I was in 4th place. Catching an occasional glimpse of the 3rd place keep me pushing forward, and I finally ran him down on backside of Tributary trail. I never saw either the 2nd or 1st place runners, but the rest of the trail doesn't lend itself to seeing them.

I popped out on the gravel, picked up the final trail section, and then made the final climb up to the finish. Tread Brightly had been far easier than I had expected.

I finished in 2:01:57 for 3rd overall and first in my age group. I was only a slight faster than last night's race but then I was running on tired legs. 

I had run two trail races less than 10 hours apart and had stayed up right for both races. A fact, that gave me a huge sense of accomplishment after hearing about so many falls during the night race.

I knew the conditions were bad for the Tread Nightly race, but I heard that some runners were out on the course for 6 hours. The awards were pushed well into the night which made me glad for choosing sleep over waiting on awards ceremony.

Some race I do once, create the memory, and move on. Never thinking about doing it again. The Tread Nightly & Tread Brightly plus the option to camp out creates a neat experience. I will certainly consider doing it again next year.

Before I wrap up this post, there is one more story for this weekend that I want to share with you. These two races have what is called the TreadMeister category. Runners score points for either running the ½ and 4 miles races for both events. The top 3 runners received a TreadMeister awards. I was lucky enough to walk away with a 2nd place in this category. This is a unique award, and one which I am especially proud. 

That wraps up this weekend's adventure

Stay tuned for more training adventures.

The Cool Down Runner