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