Tuesday, June 19, 2018

RFYL Summer Track Meets

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

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

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

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

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

See you then,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Eastern Divide Ultra 50k Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were off and running.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cool Down Runner

WWC River Jam 10k Trail Race – June edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, June 11, 2018

Grizzly 5k Canceled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope they can bring it back next year,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chicago Lakefront Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying some time in the Windy City.

The Cool Down Runner