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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Uwharrie 100 Training Runs

About once a month between April and October, the Uwharrie 100 Ultra holds training runs on their race course.

Martin sent me the link to it, and he invited me to run their Aug training run with him this weekend. Since I am always looking for new and challenging runs, I headed over this morning.

By reputation alone, I knew the course would be tough. We did the figure 8 loop of the course with an out and back section thrown for some additional miles. Martin was awesome hostess, but I could easily tell that he was holding back for us. He was flying up the steep hills while I was sucking wind. Outside of a few sections at Crowder's Mt. I cannot ever remember doing so much climbing, and the course is pretty technical in nature. That's not to say there are no easy cruising sections because there were. But by and large, there were far more rocks and roots to keep us runners off balance. Martin told me before we started that it was not a question of “if” you would fall, but a question of “when”. True to his word, Martin went down before we even a mile in to run.

My respect for those that run this course regularly only grew today. The level of strength and fitness in them is truly something to behold. I did a single lap, and I cannot image going back out 4 more times for 100 miles. Let alone doing 2 of the laps in the dark. These guys are amazing.

If you find yourself in need of a run, check out their page. If you want to do something solo, the coarse is well marked. At regular intervals, the trees are blazed with yellow marks going out and white marks on the return trip. Remember it is a figure 8 so you are crossing trails.

Big thank you for those providing support to the runners today. The Gatorade help hit the spot for an tired runner.

The Cool Down Runner

August WWC River Jam 10K 4th Edition

Second Thursday of the month means I am heading out to the WWC for their River Jam 10k. Conditions were definitely warm and humid, but nothing like what we saw during July.

Warming up I was feeling sluggish but the start of the race spurred my legs to run a little faster. Andrew was 5 guys in front of me leading our little group when we entered the trail. For me, this is the always the most stressful part of the race. Everyone is grouped up so its hard to find a steady pace.

Working by each one as I could, I got to Andrew in the second mile, and I encouraged him to latch on. Something he usually does and then comes back to beat me.

Over the next couple of miles, I caught a few guys but my legs grew heavy during the last couple of miles. A couple of guys having strong days closed up and moved passed me.

I thought that I might be able to run them down once we were clear of the woods, but those younger legs prevailed.

I finished in 46:46 and 7th overall. This was much better than my July race and was on par with my May and June races. I am pretty happy with the result as my training continues to evolve in preparation for this fall.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Trails of Crowders Mt. State Prk

I thought that I would get in some hill work during my weekly long run this weekend, and there is no place better than Crowders Mt. for it to happen. Usually, when I visit Crowders I am running from Visitor Center to Visitor Center, but today, I decided on spending some time running the trails at Crowders.

First, I took the tour out to The Pinnacle and back. I made a detour through the camp grounds area. I even took a little side detail along a fire road for I don't know how far.

Next up were the trails on the eastern side of the park. This is an area where I had never run but I was interesting in exploring. I followed the Crowders Trail all the way up to the overlook. There is some serious up hill running here, and the finish has way too many steps to the very tip top. I found myself in a conga line of people making this climb. Most appeared to be exhausted from just getting to the stairs, and several were either standing or setting as they rested during the climb. At the top, I saw several with hammocks setup at the top taking in the view. I must say; it would be an awesome way to spend the day.

Personally, the view was awesome as I could still see some fog settled in the valleys. However, I didn't rest for long. The journey down was about to begin. I thought about taking the steps, but opted for the gravel road all the way down to the Linwood access point. They down side wasn't bad, but the trip up left me gasping for air and my legs feeling used up.

Just before the top, I picked up the Rocktop Trail. Although, considering this a trail is in only the loosest of terms. There was a great deal of walking and climbing all through this section. They even had signs stating that injuries or even death are possible here. A few hikers seemed to be up to the challenge, however.

I thought about swinging back to pick up the Backside trail, but then I would have to do the Crowders Trail again. The miles were starting to mount up. Plus, I needed to replenish my water supply and give my legs a bit of rest.

I finished out my run by taking in the Fern and Lake Trails. After so much climbing, I was ready for a flatter terrain.

Next time, I want to hit up the Linwood access and get in a good climb to the top. One where I don't have so many miles in my legs before I start.

The Cool Down Runner


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Training Methods

Listening to Martin talk about his training methods got me to thinking more about my own. He was telling me about doing speed work on Tuesdays, a tempo run on Thursdays, and a long run on the week ends.

Martin and I are roughly the same age so I am left wondering how he finds the energy. Maintaining an every other day hard effort requires the body to recovery fast. When I was younger, I could tolerate it, but now that I have topped 50, I do just one of those workouts, and it seems to take days before I recover.

Now, we didn't get into specifics so he might well have been describing one of his heaver workout weeks.

I know my own training methods have changed. I no longer use the track for my intervals. I stick to ½ mile hill repeats. I just couldn't take the stress of the turns on my hamstrings any more. Instead of tempo runs, I do fartlek runs on the trails. Yes, this may raise a few eye brows for some of you but I am not doing this on some silly difficult technical trail. I'll do it on something like the Thread trail or the Lake Loop trails at the White Water Center. I found that trail running consist of a lot of speeding up and slowing down. Fartlek running more closely simulates the efforts during a trail race. As for long runs, in the year and half, I done exactly 2 long runs on the roads. The rest have been on the dirt.

So far, the results for me have been positive. I have seen no discernible drop off in my marathon times and my 5k times have held study. More if not most importantly, I have been injury free.

May be the wisdom of the years is finally settling in for me, but I found fewer and fewer reasons to push up to the edge. At some point which is more important chasing fast times or staying injury free.

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Eating while on the Run

So during my Stevest 50k+++, I experienced what most runners might call “running out of gas”. While this wasn't my first time, it was to this degree.

I had my normal pre long run meal on Friday night. Saturday morning, I skipped eating something to help keep my engine running. Then, during the first 2 laps, I was consuming my usual of gummy bears.

So the lack of proper fueling the night before, the morning of, and then not consuming enough to offset the amount of calories that I was burning, left me feeling ready to quit after two laps.

Likely compounding my desire was the heat. Nothing like being out of energy and overheating at the same time.

Martin and I were talking afterward, and he gave me a few insights into what he does. Honestly, I never even thought of using certain foods during a race but hearing him talk about it opened my eyes to the possible options.

Saturday, I was stuffing gummy bears, M&Ms, Popsicles, and slushy Coke in to my tummy to help restore my energy levels. As I described in my previous post, 45 to 60 minutes passed before my energy levels felt normal again. Before I felt like I could even run again, but then I was only doing a run walk to conserve both my energy and my ability to finish.

My experience Saturday gave me enough insight to know that gummy bears are not going to get me to the finish line of a 50 miler. Which means, over the next few months, I will need to test different foods to see what works and what doesn't. I need to avoid crashing if at all possible.

The Cool Down Runner