Monday, July 30, 2018

The Stevest 50K+++++++++++

So why all the plus signs after the 50k title, you might ask? Give me a bit and I will get to it.

A friend of mine from our On Cloud/Charlotte Running Company Race Team suggested that I come out for the Stevest 50K Trail Run. Since I needed a long run this past weekend, and the prospect of doing a solo long run sounded less enticing than running with other runners, I told him to count me “in”.

To commit to the run, I went out to Facebook, marked myself as attending the event, and noted the whopping high entry fee of $12.99.

The run is held on the Rocky River Trail near Harrisburg which is on private land owned by this guy Steve. Apparently, this Steve doesn't ride mountain bikes or run trails, but finds his passion in building trails. What's not to like. Right?

I followed my navigator's directions and find my way to the parking area a few minutes after 7 AM on Saturday morning. To my surprise, I found few familiar faces in the crowd: Martin, Tim, Adam, just to name a few.

I signed in and got my wrist band #46.

Nothing left to do but put on my shoes, add a little sun screen, and grab my hydration vest.

A couple of a great race directors gave us some last minutes instructions. Among them that this was a 3 lap run. Ok, I noted from the sign that 1 loop was 14 miles. By my calculation, 3 laps come up to a bit more than 50k. Thus, the reason for my additional “+” signs.

But who knows? May be they had shorten the course. Wrong!!!!

The first lap took me nearly 2 ½ hours. My Garmin was nearly to 13 miles. By the time, I finished the second lap, I am already marching toward 26 miles, and I have not even started the 3rd lap. In fact, I was seriously thinking of quitting after the second lap. I was out of energy because I had not fueled well for a this type of distance.

As I set there on the ground contemplating getting in my car and leaving; someone offered my a Popsicle. It was like the most delicious thing ever. Even better, it was cold. I needed to cool off, and I needed energy. The Popsicle helped!

After several minutes, I rolled over and pushed myself back to my feet. I stuff a bunch of M&M into my mouth, scooped up a hand full to eat along the way, drank several sips of slushy coke and finally headed back out. I felt a bit light headed and weak but better than when I finished 2nd lap. Besides, I wasn't a quitter. I had to finish.

I don't know the exact amount of time but it was 2 or 3 miles before my energy levels came up again. At first, I just ran the easy flat sections. Then, I started running on the flats and downhills. I pretty much followed this pattern for the rest of the run. I would walk the uphills and run the downhills and flats. Those last 14 miles took me a while, and I was worried that I might not make the 6 PM cut off.

I wish I could give you an exact time but I hadn't expected to be out for such an extended period of time. My Garmin gave up some where after 8 hours. Best guess, my time was about 9 and 5 minutes for about 42 miles.

Of the roughly 40 to 50 people to start, only 3 guys and 2 ladies finished. Martin passed me shortly after I started the 3rd lap and was soon out of sight. Tim caught me during the 3 lap but as I felt better I reeled him back.

Had I known it was 42 miles, I might not have run it or at the very least, I would have planned my eating a little better. But I will say the experience was invaluable. I am saving my thoughts about fueling for another post here soon so look for it.

As for the course, I give Steve major kudos. He has built some nice trails. For the most part, the trails zig zap with in a few feet of each other. Someone might pass by me going in the opposite direction only a few feet away but by the trail, they could be more than a mile or two ahead of me. Of course, there are plenty of rocks and roots. I took two falls one on the left side and once on the right side. The last fall left a huge gash across my right palm and blood dripping from my hand when I rolled down over the bank. Fortunately, there was plenty of mud and sweat to coat over it. If there a section that I least enjoyed, it was the gorge section. These were near vertical drops to a small wooden bridge only to be followed by a near vertical climb out. On my first first lap, I lost a layer skin from my hands on the decent. By the 3rd lap, I developed a system of sliding down on my “but”. It wasn't easy but at least I can always buy a new pair of shorts. Aside from the gorge section, there are no crazy steep climbs and 99% of the course very runnable. Just keep an eye for the rocks and roots.

To all of the runners out there on race morning, I appreciate you welcoming me into your fold and letting me participate. As hard as this run was, it was an awesome experience and one that I will not soon forget.

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Backing to my routine

So after spending a week enjoying some much needed downtime, and downtime, I might add that left me with a mere 30 miles for the entire week, I am now attempting to get back to my normal routine.

I find it fascinating that how in just a few days, my body quickly welcomes the slower pace and fewer miles. When I attempted to return to my normal routine, I am left wondering if climbing Everest would be easier.

On Monday, I needed to run and then spend some time at the Y. The run I finished, but the Y, well, let's just say that I found more than a few excuses to skip it. Among them was the nice little rain shower that moved across Charlotte at the appointed hour of my Y visit.

By Wednesday, I had pushed all thoughts of missing my Y visit and made the trek. Once in the door and going through my circuit, I felt better and was glad that I pushed through the desire to skip it.

Now, all have to worry about is shaking off the extra pounds that I accumulated last week. They will come off quickly enough. None of them will last long if I don't let myself being talked out of my workouts.

Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Downtime Time

Finally got away from work and slowed down my running for a few days this summer. I needed it. Seems like I have been busier than ever on all fronts this year.

But there is nothing like napping under a beach umbrella and listening to the waves wash up on the shoreline. Just thinking about it now, the sights and sounds of the waves washing in and out still linger. To me this is as relaxing as it gets.

Of course, I still found time for running.

One morning, I was cruising down the beach. A light breeze blew across my face and no hills were in sight. This is a runner's dream. Right? Well, except even with the sun barely above the horizon, the temperature was pushing the upper 80s and nearly 100% humidity. May be 10 minutes into this run, I was soaked from sweat.

What else should I expect. This is the south. Heat and humidity are bad and worse in Florida.

Now, it is time to get back to work on all fronts. There is much to do and preparation for my big races this fall begins now.

I cannot wait to get started tomorrow.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, July 13, 2018

River Jam 10k – July Edition

Wondering where I should start this post to night. Ever since last night I have been turning over the events of the race in my the back of mind. Several different points are worth mentioning. However, with no obvious place to start, I will just jump in with the worse and get it behind me.

I never heard the story of what happened but for some reason there were no results posted for the 10k. At least there were none posted after the race, and nothing has come up on White Water Center website today. Usually, by the next day they have the race results and the series results posted.

Whatever happened, they were giving out awards but not for every age group. Most notably, my age apparently didn't have any finishers me included. I pretty sure I finished. I had the sweat dripping from body, and my shorts were soaked completely through. Not to mention, the layer trail dust that turned to mud on my legs from sweat. Of course, if push comes to shove, I do have the documentation from my Garmin. Thank goodness for it. I have my finish time and a map of my race recorded for anyone that wants to see.

I talked to the timer after the race and followed up with an email giving him my bib # and time. I am sure he will get it figured out. What choice does he have. I suspect numerous other runners like myself want their credit for completing the 10k. We earned it yesterday. He will get it right even if it takes him a while.

With worse part out of the way, what is next.

Well, the story of this race was the heat and humidity. The temperature was hoovering between 95 and 100 degrees with a heat index over 100. The humidity was 100% as well. Making the heat worse was the lack of a breeze. Just standing still, my body was pouring out sweat.

From the gun, my legs didn't want to move. They felt heavy and lethargic. As I entered the woods, a stream of runners in front of me lead the way. I attempted to “will” my legs forward and faster, but they were having none of it. I could see Andrew and Mark just ahead of me, but my legs were refusing to go any faster. Heat just seem to radiate both outward and inward.

At the top of the hill, I popped out of the woods to once again see Mark gulping down water. This time, however, when he finished, he came sprinting by me. He soon caught up to Andrew when we entered the Lake Loop.

With the stagnate air wrapping around my entire body, I wished so much that I was finished. Mark and Andrew were pulling further and further ahead. Little that my tired legs wanted to do about it.

When I finally came off the Lake Loop and headed toward the finish, I was coming around the channel. I noticed first a slight breeze. As I made the turn around the channel, the breeze turned to a wind. Also I noticed the clouds casting shade over the White Water Center.

Best of all, I noticed the temperature dropping. Oh, it was only for the last quarter mile, but boy did it feel good. All I could think was “Why couldn't you have arrived 50 minutes ago”.

Another runner told me that the July races are the worst. The heat and humidity get to everyone. They certainly got to me. I ran on fumes the entire race.

My 47:58 time was nearly 2 and ½ minutes off my May time.

I am already signed up for August and September races so I am going to take my beating and do those two races. Come next year, I may opt for the 5k races. I can go out a little harder, and I will be finished a whole lot sooner.

Normally, I stick around afterwards and listen to the bands for a while before heading home. Yesterday,the rain sent everyone scurrying for cover and me for my car cutting short a relaxing evening. 

See you at the River Jam 10k – August edition

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cool Days left too soon

Friday was okay, but Saturday and Sunday were better. I hadn't enjoyed finishing a run without my shorts being totally soaked in the last 8 weeks.

Oh, but it didn't last. Monday, Tuesday, and today, the sun heated things up, and the sweat lathered my skin. The humidity allowed for no evaporation.

I don't know why but those few cool days already had me thinking about the fall. For some reason, June is the month of summer but by July and August my thoughts have me looking forward to the fall. In reality, I should be enjoying these warm summer days while they last.

Really! Life is good, and my running is going well.

What more is there in life. right?

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Big Butt 50k Ultra, Lancaster, SC

Ok, I think that I have become a full fledged idiot runner now. On Independence Day, I ran Claude Sinclare's 50K Ultra in Lancaster, SC.

What make this crazy; you may ask? Well, just run a 5k in the July heat and humidity. How tough is it? Now, you need to multiple it by 10 x 5k back to back. That's crazy on another level. It is July? July is hot, July is humid, That's crazy? Right?

Shortly after the race, I turn on the ignition in my car to check the temperate. It was 95 degrees in the sun. There were only two thoughts on my mind then – I am glad that I am done, and where is the water.

For a race director, Claude has it easy. The starting line is not a stones through from his front porch. The course that he setup is a certified 10k so 5 loops make up the 50k distance. Each lap, we run by his house so our laps are tracked. So while he sets in the shade of the tree in his yard, we are running up and down the road in front of his house. Think about it; we paid for the privilege to do it.

So how was my race? Well, I arrived at Claude's house around 5 AM, and I wasn't the first even the first one to arrive yet everyone was up.

At 6 AM, I was packed up and ready to go. Claude gave us a few pre-race instructions about the course, and then fired his starter pistol.

One guy headed out quick. He was too quick for me. I settled in to chat with these two guys for the first couple of miles. The lead guy was soon out of sight.

We chatted for a while then I got ahead of them. From then on, I was solo for the rest of the race. Solo, yes, but not alone. With a loop course, I was seeing the other runners along the way which really helped. We gave each other encouragement and a reason to keep moving.

For the first lap, I was on high alert. Claude had placed signs telling us where to turn, but still I had to pay attention and look for them.

On the northern end of the course, we ran by the memorial. On the south end of the course, we ran through the state park and the camp ground. One note about the camp ground, there is a wicked hill coming out of it. The hill is not very long but steep, it is.

Finishing up the first lap, I already felt over dressed. My Charlotte Running Company Race Team Jersey was soaked and sticking to me. On the bright side, the sun hadn't crested over the horizon that I could see. I dropped the hat that I expected to ware for the entire race at my car. It was too hot, and I need all the heat being generated from my head to escape.

The second lap felt easier. I settled into a comfortable pace and went to work churning out laps.

By the completion of my 3rd lap, I knew two things. My jersey was coming off. I needed air flowing over my chest, and I was dropping my water vest replacing it with my hand held water bottles. 

During the first 2 laps, I turned down the bottle water being offered to me, but starting my 4th lap, I knew I needed it.

The moment that I touched it, I felt the cold. I immediately placed it on top of my head and exhaled. Anything cold felt good.

Within the next mile, I had down the entire bottle. Normally if I did something like this during a run, you could hear the water sloshing in my stomach. I never felt it or heard it.

By the end of the 4th lap, I felt like I was in a pressure cooker. The sun was up in the sky, and I could not seem to find enough shade on the course.

My pace was slowing but not drastically. I kept telling myself. If I cannot endure 50k in the summer time heat, how am I going to endure running 50 miles this fall. I kept pushing forward.

Starting the 5th lap, I took another bottle of water. Easily I downed it over the next mile. I also continued sipping from my hand-helds.

My pace was slowing a bit more, and I could feel my hamstring wanting to cramp. As I thought about it later, I was only drinking water straight up. I should have prepared some Nunn to help with electrolights and sodium. Definitely, it will be on my ticky list for the 50 miler.

I finished the upper half the course and came by Claude's house. I so wanted to just be finished, but I still had roughly 2 more miles to run.

I thought – “it is only two more miles. You can do this”. In to the Start Park for the final time, around the camp ground for the final time, and up the wicked little hill for the final time, I was checking off the small victories to keep my body moving.

But between ½ and ¾ from the finish, my hamstrings finally balked on me. Not one but both of them. I came to a slow awkward walk, but I kept moving. I was close to the finish, and I was close to breaking 4 hours which is something else that I wanted to do.

For nearly two minutes, I walked and massaged my hamstrings. My walk definitely looked funny as I was walking my heals with my toes pointed up in the air. I don't know why but it felt good to stretch those hamstrings.

Time was slipping away if I wanted to break 4 hours, so almost as if on que, I felt my hamstrings release and relax. I don't know why. I attempted to run. At first, I started easy. I was expecting them to balk again, but they didn't so I ran little faster. Then, I ran faster. In fact, I covered the last half mile nearly as fast as I had when was starting the race. Makes me wonder if I had slowed and walked a bit at the start the 5th lap would I have been able to run the entire lap faster. No way to know now, but it did cross my mind.

And, yes, I did break 4 hours with a time of 3 hours 58 minutes and 54 seconds. I finish second overall.

Like I said, I must be an idiot for running a 50k in the south in July.

Claude is an awesome host, and I enjoyed his race. Not sure if I run his race next year. I am not getting any younger and Lancaster doesn't have many cool July days.

The Cool Down Runner

Wrapped up another year of Summer Track at Myers Park

The tradition of June Summer Track meets at Myers Park High School goes back; I don't know how many years. I have been attending them since the mid-90 first as a participate and now as volunteer.

I still feel the draw of the track during every meet. I love the feeling of heading off the 2nd turn and feeling the track turn what feels like downhill.

But I have gotten older and hopefully a little wiser. But mostly, it is event like this that I don't want to see disappear.

When the Charlotte Track Club folded, Tom and Tim stepped in to continue this tradition. They kept a part of Charlotte Running scene alive and well since that date. When Steve made his move to Florida a few years ago, I offered up my volunteer help.

Tim and Tom do a great job but that doesn't mean an extra hand is needed. Putting on a track meet is 3 hours of work for those organizing it. As participate, I never really consider what it takes to organize a track meet. The events were announced, and I ran. This is all that I knew.

From setup time at 5:30 to 8:30, every one is moving non-stop. Runners need to be signed in. Water table and coolers need to be setup. Timing equipment needs to be setup.

This is all before any of the events go off.

Then, there is recording the runners and their times which have upload to the internet by the following morning. And, I am just hitting the high spots. 

Lastly, as everyone else is making their way to their cars while discussing their times that they ran and what they will do next week, those organizing it are breaking down all of the equipment to store it way until the next event.

So the next time, you see either Tim or Tom, please tell them “Thank you” for keeping a Charlotte Running tradition alive.

The Cool Down Runner