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