Tuesday, December 31, 2019

One last look behind

Well, 2019 is quickly coming to a close now, and I need to take one last look over my shoulder before setting my sights on 2020.

Coming in to ’19, I was running but limping as well. After running the Derby 50K in Nov of ’18, I pulled my hamstring enough that I was waddling in to ’19. In my own usual stubborn way I pushed through it.

My first race of the year was the Charlotte Running Company 13 mile trail which was cold and super muddy, and it was awesome to go do. Takes me back to being a kid again. Adding to the awesomeness, I had some great back and forth battles with several runners.

The Charlotte 10 mile was “but” kicking experience. I felt like I was stuck in mud the entire race. Ironic one would think given I normally run on muddy trails this time of year.

The WWC Frigid 10K was another manner in indeed. The trail was dry enough for my racing flats but the temperature was pretty bone chilling. Chilling enough, I only wanted to watch the others jump in to the river and not doing it myself. However, having seen this now, I am pretty much a lock to try this myself this coming February.   

March added a couple of good races to my calendar. First, I experienced the “Wolf Pack” Ultra running for the first time, and I learned what cool group this was. Of course, their “Wicked Root” 10 miler lived up to its name. No two steps could be taken without stepping on or over a root or rock. Then, there were the huge amount of twist and turns. Literally, the course was a maze, but to their credit, they had the course well marked. Otherwise, I might still be trying to find my way out.

The latter part of March, I ran my second New South Marathon. I wasn’t in the shape that I was the previous year. I slipped down to 4th place but still I had fun doing it.

After resting for a month, I headed for the Tuckfest event at the WWC. The WWC guys put on 5 races in 4 days totaling about 30 miles. My only other experience with running back to back races was the Disney Goofy Challenge. That was hard.

On Thursday, I ran the 5k, Friday at noon, I ran the ½ marathon, and a noon time ½ marathon in April is plenty warm. A spring storm rolled through in the afternoon which brought down numerous trees. This turned the night time 4 miler in to more of an obstacle course run than just a run.

Saturday morning, I was off on the quarter marathon. Actually, in this race, I felt probably the best. Sunday morning, I lined up to run the 5k race, and with the bulk of the miles, I went all out to score a top 3 finish. Afterwards, I needed 5 or 6 days to recover from this effort.

Starting with May my racing season really picked up. I love doing the Thursday night River Jam 10k series. May and September are pretty good races. June can be hit or miss depending on the temperature. July and August are, well, hot, and I do mean hot. Walking from the car to pick up my bib are a sweat inducing experience. Every year, I get to the Lake Loop where the 5 and 10 k races split. I admonish myself for not signing up for the 5k.

Midway through May, I headed down to Fort Mill for the Stumpy ½ marathon on the Ann Spring trails. Walking back to my car after the race, the score read Stumpy Trail “1”, Cool Down Runner “0”, and I was covered in mud as proof.

I finished the Memorial Day weekend at the WWC 8 miler. This was not my best race nor was it the worst. I always seem to land somewhere in the middle with this race but I keep coming back to do it.

May came to a close, and June was upon me at this time. This was the time that I made a decision which would change the course of my running for at the rest of the year.

After doing the WWC 50 miler in the fall ‘18, I could not shake the idea of doing a hundred miler.  I cannot explain why this crazy idea just would not go away but it persisted. For several months, I had been exploring different races on Ultra Signup. There are plenty of good Ultras but I was looking for something that suited me. After much reading, I landed on the Tunnel Hill 100 miler in Vienna, IL.

I dropped my 200+ dollars for the entry fee by clicking “confirm”, and then I set there looking at my confirmation number and wondering what I had just done.

There was no turning back now.

If I was going to run a 100 miles, I needed to get my “but” in gear and more so my training. I signed up for the Vertical Mile in Hiddenite, NC. Vertical means steep so that has to be good. Right? Steep, the uphill was. The course was basically a 2 mile loop with a ½ mile climb followed by a zig zap technical decent. I saw people zig zagging on the climb which I didn’t quite follow. I pushed straight up through this section but the only the race leader did I see actually run up it. To me, the downhill was more the difficult part. They had EMTs all over the course. I saw numerous people on the ground from having fallen, and I saw one guy in a stretcher being carried out. This a challenging race, and it should not be attempted by the timid.

Of the 4th of July, I won the Big Butt 50k in Lancaster. There is nothing like running a 50k in July. It is hot, hot, and hot.

On three successive weekends, I ran the Stevest 42 miler, the Riverman Brewery 50k, and the Ridgeline Ruckus 25. The Stevest course slapped me down several times, but I always got back up. I finished in 8 hours. The Riverman Brewery 50k was a first time and last time race at the Belmont trail. They literally crammed 3+ miles of trail in to the area of a football field. There were so many twist and turns that I felt like a rat in a maze. The temperature made it the race even more difficult. I was downing 16 ounces of cold water with every lap, and it didn’t seem to be helping.

The Ridgeline Ruckus was on the trails at Crowders Mt. This course has lots of climbing. At some point, my lungs felt that it was too much.

With only a week in between races, I pulled off another Tread Nightly/Thread Brightly back to back ½ marathons. The WWC was hit with another summer storm so sleeping in my tent was a little damp that night. Not to mention, racing on the trails at night in the rain is pretty miserable. The trails are slick, and the rain created like a curtain in front of face. I spent most of the race looking at the 1 meter so right in front of my feet.

Labor Day weekend, I ran the WWC 15k on Sunday, and then on Monday, I ran 52 miles on trails at the WWC. I enjoy running, and I enjoy running on the trails. However, 12+ hours of solitude on the trails can be a little much.

This is the point where I crossed over. From then on, I used Ultra races for my long training runs.

I ran the Mountaineer Rumble at Kings Mt State Park. This was a 12 hours race from 8 PM to 8 AM. I put this race on my calendar for a couple of reasons. Like I said from above, I was running Ultras for training runs, but I choose this one because it was a night race. I fully expected to be running throughout the night during my first 100 miler so I wanted the experience of being on my feet all night. Honestly, I didn’t find the experience all that bad. I pretty much ran the first 30+ miles, and the run and walked some so I could eat over the last 20ish miles. Because this was a loop course by the time that I got tired, the course was pretty much locked in to my memory, and I could have run it on the auto pilot. The really cool part was the next morning. When the sun started to come up, I could finally see the area around the trail that I had been running all night.

The race director was cautioning us to be careful driving home. He had a lot of sleep deprived runners getting behind the wheel. I drove home, took shower, and got some food. I tried to close my eyes, but I guess that I was still pretty wired-up from the race. I did not sleep until the following night.

5 days later, I was up above Morganton for the Table Rock 50k. Talk about a “but” kicking course. There is lots of climbing and lots of descending. This is a race that I probably should not have been doing – at least not doing 5 days after running 50 miles. We left the camp grounds, and dawn was barely upon us. With no head lamp, I struggled through the early trail section. Then, there was a long grassy road, and there was a long gravel road. These were steep rolling hills. Then, we hit some stream crossings and trails, before running on my gravel road. About 18 miles or so, we make the climb to the top of mountain. Some people might say that I ran to the top, others might say that I power hiked or walked to the top, but essentially, I was taking my time and doing my utmost to not break my neck. I will say that the view from the top was spectacular.

I signed up for this race because I knew that it would challenge me but I also signed up because they were giving away a “hoodie”. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned this cool hoodie with “Table Rock 50K” in massive letters with the perspective of a mountain top over the letters. In my mind’s eye, this was to be the most awesome hoodie ever. Well, I crossed the finish line and went over to pick up my “hoodie”. They would only give me a “hoodie” if I finished their race. Walking up to the table, what I had envisioned and what was reality was starting to come in to focus. The woman handed me shirt. At first, I thought there must be some mistake. I unfolded the shirt to see that it was a “hooded” long sleeve shirt with the “Table Rock 50K” in small letters over the left breast. This was far from what I expected. At my car, I pulled up the race website, and reread the race info. Indeed, I had misread this particular detail about the race. I was still glad that I did this race. The race was every bit as challenging as I expected, and I did my best to hide my disappointment of not getting my dream “Table Rock” hoodie.

I would finish off September with the Wild Vine ½ marathon a week later at the WWC. Jamie, Paul, and I were running about 5, 6, and 7 most of the race. Jamie got a big lead which Paul and I cut in to over the last few miles of the race. I caught Paul on the 2nd to last climb of the race, and I was chasing Jamie up the last climb. He bested me by a few yards, and I had nothing left to make up the distance over the last 100 yards to the finish. This is the part about racing that I enjoy so much. The world drops away, and I can focus on a single solitary task.

October was upon me, and I had roughly 6 weeks until my 100 miler. I had spent the last few months absorbing everything that I could find about running 100 miles. I watched countless youtube videos. I could only hope that the many miles in my legs had harden them and the years of experience had callused my mind.

Two weeks later, I was in Fries, Va for the New Year 50k. Fries, Va looked pretty much the same as it did 10 years ago when I made my first visited this small town. I choose to run this race because the course was very similar to the course that I would be running for Tunnel Hill 100 miler. Two guys took off battling each other. I settled in to 3rd place, and pretty much ran solo for most of the race. Now, the best part of this race is the postrace meal. Homemade soup, bread, tea, chocolate chip cookies were provided for the runners. I wanted these people to adopt me. The food was awesome.

Another two weeks passed, and I was standing at the starting line of the WWC 50 mile at 5 AM. Unlike last year, when I was unsure of my abilities. This time, I was more confident of my abilities. I felt that I had figured out my pacing and nutrition.

The headlamps of the guys quickly disappeared in to the distance. I kept telling myself 50 miles is a long ways, I cannot win in the first 25 miles, but I sure can lose it. Darkness turned to daylight, and I was feeling better. Having held back during the early miles was allowing me to easily bounce up and down the hills.

I was catching people over the first couple of laps. I grabbed my Camel Bak and headed off on the 3rd laps. I was about a mile in to it when my left leg cramped on a short decent. I had maybe 15 to 16 miles left to run, and I was suddenly concerned that this last lap might turn in to a long last lap. I walked about 30 meters, and I felt it ease up. I slowly tried running again. It didn’t cramp. I kept moving over those last miles. Several times, I could feel it start to twinge, and I would slow to a walk for 20 to 30 meters. This always seemed to help. It never did totally cramp up, and I think it was because I stayed ahead of it. I allowed it to rest for short bouts which allowed me to go back to running again.

Even more surprising to me, I finished this race some 13 minutes faster than last year. I don’t know how this was possible but it happened.

Finishing the WWC 50 miles gave me a lot confidence, but it also raised my concerns. Two weeks later, I would be running 100 miles. Could I do both? Would my body be recovered enough to handle it? I had no way knowing. Never before had I attempted this type of long distance running.

The days flew by, and I was driving out to Vienna, IL. I stopped by and picked up my daughter who had agreed to crew for me. In hindsight, this was my best decision of the entire race. Looking forward to seeing her at the aid stations was a huge emotional boost, and above all, with her watching, there would be no way that I would quit. I would finish if I had crawl those final miles.

Just before 7 AM in Vienna I could feel every bit of the cold 23 degrees. I gave me daughter one last huge, and I told her that I was see her again at the  aid station. We had driven over the course so she knew where to be. I had also setup my tracking info on her phone so she could follow me throughout the race. 

I stood there crowded in with the other runners. All of us were about to embark on this same 100 mile journey. I knew absolutely no one in this race. I silently said a pray and hoped that today would be a good day for me.

The runners in front of me started moving, and after a few steps, I started running. I pushed the worries of negative thoughts aside. Now, was the time for action. I would not stop again until I finished the 100 miles.

Those early miles seemed so easy. Everyone was full of energy. Everyone was eager to chat someone else up.

I passed through the marathon point, and I just hoped that next 74 miles would be equally good

I crossed over the 50 mile point in just under 8 hours. When I saw the clock, I thought either I was either going to have a really good day or going to hit the wall hard.

One thing, I did know, is that I could do 50 miles in 22 hours so I was going to finish one way or another.

I made the 2nd to last turn to see an awesome sun set. The full moon came out and hoovered over the trail. The brightness made the trail glow enough that I turned off my head lamp and ran with only the ambient light to see.

My legs didn’t mind running but they did hate slowing to walk and then pushing back to a run. Leaving the last aid station, I had 10 miles left. I would not walk any of those last 10 miles. It hurt too much.
Because this was my first 100 miler and because I had no experience running a 100 miles, my brain was constantly nagging at me to hold back. I do not think that I full accepted the fact that I was going to finish until I was in the final 6 miles. These miles turned out to be some of my fastest miles of the entire race.

I have run many races of the course of my runner career, and I have seen numerous finish lines. However, no finish line ever looked sweeter than when I came around the final bend in the trail, and I could see the lights of the Vienna aid station. I heard them call me name as I was coming to the finish. I crossed the finish line, and I checked off another item on my bucket list. I was now a 100 mile ultra-runner.

I cherish 100 mile sub 20 hour belt buckle that I received. It has a prized place on my desk.

After spending months preparing for this race and knowing that it had consumed most of my waking thoughts, it felt good to turn it off for a while and enjoy my downtime.

The only thing that pulled me away from this downtime was getting in the WWC “We Believe”5K. I started the year running at the WWC, and I finished it running there.

2019 was an awesome year for me. I raced distances from 5k to 100 miles including 5 x ½ marathon, 1 x 25k, 1 full marathon, 4 x 50ks, 2 x 50 milers, and 1 x 100 miles. There could not have been a better finish to this decade than this for me. In a few days, a new year and a new decade will start. I look forward to seeing what adventures await.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Tremendous Trail Traffic Today

Today was awesome for venturing out doors and enjoying some trail miles. Seems that I was not the only one with this idea. The Whitewater Center Trails were overloaded with walkers, runners, and mountain bikers.

As an exercise enthusiast seeing families out enjoying the trails is an awesome sight to behold. Too often these days our children spend the lives looking at high definition LCD screens. What I cannot understand is why they would want to look at a screen full of images when they can immerse themselves in the ultimate real life experience called the outdoors.

Remember, life is about balance. Technology is great. Technology makes lives better and easier. However, technology can also offer us too many opportunities to not get up and do something. This can distract us from experiencing life to the fullest.

Keep “balance” in mind. Before setting down for the two and half hour movie, get out and do something active.  

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, December 27, 2019

“We Believe” 5k

My apologies. Despite my best efforts to slow down and enjoy the holiday season as much as possible, the weeks between Thanksgiving and News Year simply just fly by. If only I could get my hands on a Time-Turn like Hermione used to take multiple classes in the Harry Potter novels.

Yet, I did make a little time to get in to a trial race at the WWC center – the “We Believe” 5k. This is a race that I have done the last three years, and I very much enjoy doing it.

Like in previous years, the race has been plagued by the rain. Rain poured leading up to race day, and race day had a steady drizzle wetting things down. The course was going to be muddy. I wondered if the high school runners sporting their new Foot Locker bags realized this. I suspect not so much. The shoes that they were wearing were geared toward the roads rather than a slick and muddy trail.

I sported my Hoka Evos. They were good at grabbing the muddy soil and holding on to it.

There was a mass start, and a group of us entered the woods. The wet, muddy trails sorted us out pretty quickly. I settled in to 3rd overall and watched as the guys 10 to 30 years my junior stretch out the distance between us.

That’s okay. I expected as much. Experience and good trail shoes can only make up for so much.

I finished 3rd overall in 20:24 which was 30+ seconds faster than last year. I scored a top age group award. Actually, I just crossed in to a new age category. It felt good to once again be the young guy again.

Wrapping up this post, I want to give a shout out to the WWC crew. They did their usual awesome job organizing the race. I was to give them extra props for their homemade chocolate chip cookies. No, these were not your normal store bought, hard as a brick, chip your tooth cookies. They practically melted in your mouth. I had 4 of them. Yes, I love a good chocolate chip cookie.

Here, here, let’s hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. Sleep well, eat hardy, and enjoy your time with family and friends. Come January 1st, training and racing will once again become a priority in our lives.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, December 8, 2019

I-77 Toll Lanes

When they first started talking about the I-77 expansion and adding toll lanes. I was not overly surprised. More lanes cost money, and the money has to come from somewhere. However, I was really surprised when they started adding an on/off ramp which intersected with many of my weekly runs. All during the construction of it, I thought of just about all of the worst case scenarios for my run.

Now, that the exit is open, my concerns have lessened quite a bit. Only those actually using the toll lanes are allowed to use the exit which at this point seems to be darn few people.

Then, something that I hadn’t given much thought about happen last night. I was heading north on 77. They were working on the non-toll lanes so everyone was diverted to the toll lanes. Instead of getting off at my normal Harris Blvd exit, I got off the toll lane Lake View exit. That’s when the question crossed my mind. Why did they really build this exit? Where is the value in it?

Likely most people are going to Sunset Road or Harris Blvd. Getting off the Lake View exit does not provide any quicker access, and from my perspective, it is slower getting to either of these two locations. Now, I imagine if someone perhaps lives in this area, getting off at this exit might save them a few extra minutes but darn, it will take years if not decades to recoup the cost of creating this exit off the backs of these locals. That is if they ever recoup the cost of it.

Sometimes, I just wonder at the thought process some people use to justify their choices.

Sorry about getting off topic to day but sometimes things just need to be shared.

Kickin’ up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Wolf pack

Today, I was putting in some miles at the Whitewater Center when I ran into Richard and his wolf pack. Last that I saw Richard was at his 50k race in Belmont. Richard is always over the top with enthusiasm. I am so jealous. We should all have such a high for running.

He is still after me to run one of his races at Kings Mt. next weekend. I had to politely decline once again. I have no plans to run much over a 10k for a while. Still, I might venture down if I can break away from other tasks and help with his race. Having put on a few races myself, I know what it means to have a few extra hands.

I am just happy that my legs are starting to return to normal. Three weeks ago, I ran this course in a little over 3 hours. Last week, I was under 3 hours. This week, I pushed under two hours and 50 minutes. Felt really good to be able to cruise along the trails.

The trails are a great way to break away from the hustle and bustle of holiday season. A few hours of solitude makes a world of difference.

Kickin’ up the trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, December 6, 2019

Do you run with a tool

I was finishing a run earlier this week, and I was standing at the end of my street stretching before walking back to my house.

This guy was walking by and asked me if I always run with a tool. I had to laugh. No, I do not make it a habit of running with a tool or in this case a wrench. As it so happens, I was running up Statesville Rd when I saw a wrench laying in the grass. I just did what anyone else would do; I picked it up and carried it home. I would wager that a good portion of my tool set comes from my runs.

Hey, every run can be an adventure because people lose the strangest of things. In full disclosure, I do not bring every one of them home. I am not a hoarder. I like to give others a chance at some of this stuff. LOL.

Kickin' up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Y gets new machines

For the last couple of weeks they have been telling us about the new cardio machines coming to the University Y or for those new here, the Keith Family Y. They renamed it a few years ago. I still call it the University Y much like I still use the Central or Dowd Y.

Today, those machines arrived. There were new Precore tread mills, LifeStyle ellipticals, and several other machines vendors that I am not familiar.

I was very impressed. If I understood them correctly, they spent close to $140 thousand dollars on this new equipment.

After I finished my normal workout this evening, I spent some time machine hoping. Most of the machines now have internet or tv access and some have both. Nearly all can be used via a guest account or by establishing a profile. I was a little disappointed that I had to create an account on each machine, and my info didn't follow me from machine to machine. However, they will still working out the network issues so I could not establish an account on any of the machines today.

They have this one machine which simulates roller blading. I spent about 5 minutes on it, and my inter thighs was burning so was my glute. When I stepped of it, this woman came up to me and said that she didn't last much longer. I agreed, and at the same time I was already thinking about adding this in to my routine. I go by the old adage that if it burns, I must be doing something right.

For those with a Y membership, definitely stop by the University Y. I don't think that anyone will be disappointed.

Kickin up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Recovery time,

Running Sunday only a few hours after running a 100 miles was indeed pretty rough. I got on the tread mill and set it for 15 minute miles. I tried to not think about how much my legs hated me for doing it. However, my streak must live on. My run on Monday morning was still pretty rough. Tuesday, I ran 4 miles. I did not do much other than a short run as my ankles and feet were slightly swollen. The next couple of days went pretty much the same way. By Friday, the swelling has subsided in both feet. The following Saturday, I ran 10 miles on the trail albeit; I was still pretty slow.
The following week, my legs still felt sluggish but I pretty much returned to my normal running routine. For the last 2 weeks, I ran 70 miles each week. When I could, I headed for the soft dirt of the trails. This seems to help more than anything else.

To eat up my extra energy, I am back in the Y now. After missing my weight workouts for nearly 2 weeks, the aches and pains seemed to come out everywhere. This took several more days to subside.

Instead of falling back to my old routine for lifting, I am changing it up yet again. I brought more free weights in to my routine. I like to think that it requires more fine motor control and gives me a better workout. However, I will settle for just doing something different.

As my racing season winds down for ’19, I love to go and experiment with different workouts and different machines in the weight room.

Staying with the status quo means likely I am losing rather than gaining. Improvement only comes through indulging in constant change, and only through this change is there any possibility to improve.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 25, 2019

My Nutritional Plan for running a 100 miles

Leading up to race day, I lost count of the number of articles that I read and videos that I watched on YouTube. They all provided a lot of nutritional info but nothing that really help me feel confident about my own race day nutritional plan.

I guess this is what happens when one decides to run twice their longest distance ever.

Thinking back on it now, I can see why most people don’t give an exact plan or even an approximate plan. Running an Ultra is much different than running a marathon or shorter distance race. Typically in shorter races, runners have an aid station every two to three miles. Distances between aid stations can vary widely from Ultra to Ultra. Add in the fact, what runner's can eat varies just as widely. By and large, Ultra races seem to put more onus on the runner to take care of their own nutritional needs. If this means carrying those items, then so be it.

Furthermore, whether a runner is “crewed” or not impacts their nutritional plan. “Crewed” runners can have more of their “comfort” foods on hand at each aid station. While non-“crewed” runners can carry what they need, use drop bags for extra food, or just munch off the race buffet offered at each aid station. Still, while there is plenty of food to eat, the options are still limited. I was lucky in this regard because my daughter “crewed” for me. Knowing what I had coming at the next aid station was a huge benefit. I felt like that this made a huge difference in my race.

Another factor is race day weather conditions. In an Ultra race, the temperature swing can be any number of degrees, and hotter races challenge runners in my opinion more than colder races. That’s where having “comfort” foods really help. On a hot day a finicky stomach can send a runner’s race downhill quickly. I caught a huge break for my race. The weather conditions could not have been more prefect for me.

Let’s get to my plan. So for my race I wanted eat at least 100 more calories per hour. I would eat more when I could. I wanted to err on the side of caution because I have “bonked” a few times during training runs. “Bonking” is no fun, and it took me several hours to recover during the race.

I also want to add that I tried all of my foods during my training runs except for the “chocolate chip cookie”. At no point during the race did I have any stomach issues. My daughter told me several stories of other runners struggling with their stomach woes. I had actually plan for this if it happened by having ginger chews on hand to eat. And, yes, I even tried these during my training runs. I do my best to leave nothing to chance on race day.

The Tunnel Hill course is laid in two directions. The first out and back section is roughly 26 miles and includes 3 aid stations. The second out and back section is roughly 24 miles and includes 4 aid station.

In the first section I had my daughter meet me at the Karnack aid station which was about 10 miles in to the race. Since this was an out and back course, I would see her at 10 miles, and then 16, and then again at 26 as she leap frogged from Vienna to Karnak back to Vienna (over the second half of the course) to Tunnel Hill and back over last 24 miles making 1 x 50 loop.

Throughout the race, I used only Orange-Mango TailWind in my Camel Baks. Because the temperature was not a major factor for me, I carried roughly 1 liter of TailWind during the 10 mile segments and ½ liter during the 6 and 4 mile segments. The only exception to this was during the last 10 miles of the race when I asked my daughter to only put in ½ liter of Tailwind. There were two aid stations in the last 10 miles, and I felt carrying less weight was better. If I got in to trouble, I had two locations where I could get more fluids.

Through the first 50 miles, I ate 1 Sportsbeans and 1 Chocolate GU during each of the 4 x 10 mile, 6 mile, 4 mile segments. After 50 miles, I had my daughter drop the Sportsbeans in favor of Goldfish Crackers and GU. Like I said, I wanted my “comfort” foods.

During the first 50 miles starting at the Tunnel Hill which is 40 miles in to the race, I was drinking about 8 oz. of Sprite at each of the aid stations, and I ate one of my tortilla and mash potato wraps at each of the aid stations. I have found that as the race wears on, my brain needs sugar energy. Taking on some Sprite gives me that mental surge that I need to carry on. I used this during all of my 50 milers. I don't know why but neither the Sportsbeans or the GUs have this same affect on me. 

Oh, I did eat the “Chocolate Chip” cookie at the 29 miles. It was store bought, and it didn’t taste all that great but I suffered no ill effects from it.

At 60 miles, I switched to the hard soda – lots of caffeine and sugar at each aid station and continued with the tortilla and mash potato wraps at the aid stations. I drank TailWind and ate Chocolate Gu and Gold fish during segments.

Calories wise, I was probably eating more than 100 calories hour, but I was able to tolerate it and keep running.

That’s it during the race.

After the race, my daughter handed me a bottle of water. Funny how great a little water can taste.

Postrace thoughts here, if another runner were to ask me for advice, my recommendation is above all else stay on top of your food and water intake. Better to use a few extra seconds in an aid station refueling than leaving too fast. “Bonking” can cost minutes even hours of race time to recover. As for what to eat, if “comfort” food are available, use them. If not, then try to stick to foods that are at least a “known”.

I would also recommend going with roughly 100 calories or so per hour. How this breaks down in to what a runner has to carry depends on the distance between the aid stations and the time required to run between aid stations. Utilizing Tailwind supplemented some sports beans and GUs I easily pushed over 100 calories per hour. This plus my aid station snacks kept me moving all day and in to the evening even after my legs were so tired that I had to "will" them to run.  

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

100 Mile Race Splits

The race site posted our race splits which I wanted to post here. I found this interesting as it shows how I was moving through out the race.

I wonder if by taking it easy through the miles 50-76, I was better able to run the miles 76 through 100. It is easy to theorize these type of ideas while setting here rested. It was not a thought that I had when my sole focus was to keep putting one foot in front of another after another and after another.

Just a heads up, I am working on a post which breaks down my nutrition through out the race. This is something that I wanted to do because this is one of the struggles that I had with this race. Being a newbie 100 miler, I had little to no idea how much to eat and and when over the course of a 100 miles. Stay tune and look for this post later this week. 

Result Details

Split# Mile Split Time Race Time

1 5.2 00:50:02 00:50:02
2 10.2 00:49:28 01:39:31
3 13.2 00:23:23 02:02:55
4 16.2 00:23:46 02:26:41
5 21.2 00:50:11 03:16:53
6 26.5 00:45:58 04:02:51
7 29.3 00:24:36 04:27:28
8 36.0 01:04:20 05:31:48
9 38.3 00:20:04 05:51:53
10 40.6 00:20:11 06:12:04
11 47.3 01:09:52 07:21:57
12 50.0 00:25:34 07:47:32

13 55.2 00:54:50 08:42:22
14 60.2 01:00:02 09:42:25
15 63.2 00:29:38 10:12:03
16 66.2 00:30:27 10:42:30
17 71.2 01:01:12 11:43:43
18 76.5 01:01:08 12:44:51
19 79.3 00:32:26 13:17:17
20 86.0 01:19:23 14:36:41
21 88.3 00:24:41 15:01:22
22 90.6 00:24:33 15:25:55
23 97.3 01:14:29 16:40:25
24 100.0 00:25:09 17:05:34

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Crewing a Runner for an Ultra

Having had a few days to digest my most recent experience, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about crewing for a runner at an Ultra race.

These are thoughts come from the runner’s perspective rather than from the crew person’s perspective. Someday, I would like to be on the other side of the fence to see more of what that perspective is like.

For now, I will break down my own experiences in hopes that this will provide others with some ideas to use in their upcoming races.

First, and foremost, create a notebook for the person or persons crewing for you. Make sure to include things like: a map of the course, directions to the aid stations, and a breakdown of your needs at each aid station. Let me know the time frame for when they should expect you at an aid station. Tell them when you are going to be dropping off the extra cloths if the race has a cold morning start or when you are likely to want to add clothing as the day turns to night. Explain to them what foods that you are going to want and when you might want them. I know my taste changed over the course of the race.

Provide them with something that helps you easily identify them at an aid station. Honestly, when everyone is bundled up at an aid station, everyone looks pretty much the same. I gave my daughter some Christmas lights which helped me spot her in a crowd.

Let them know that you are there to race and not to have a long conversation. Their job is to get you in and out of the aid in the minimal time possible. I saw numerous runners who seemed to be just hanging out in the aid station. Over 20 or so aid stations, “hanging out” can burn through time where you are not moving toward your goal.

If possible, your crew should setup near the entry point to the aid station. Then, they can unload and reload you as you are moving through the aid station. This also give you a few minutes to update them if you need to call an audible during the race. Maybe you want something different to eat at the next aid station or perhaps, you need to add or remove clothes or change shoes. Again, they will be able to send you off having lost only a minimal amount of time.

A pro tip here, where the crew can park their car and where the aid station may be may not exactly be in the same spot so I suggest getting one of those fold up wagons. Several places, my daughter had to walk a fair distance to the aid station. Lugging my stuff back and forth would have made for a long day for her – aside from it already being a long day.  With the wagon, she could nearly take everything that I might ever think about needing to the aid station. Then, if I needed to call an instance audible, likely what I needed was already in the wagon.

A second pro tip, let them know what do if they fail to make an aid station before you. I covered this several times the night before and on race morning with my daughter. This is one of things that worried her the most. If we found ourselves in this situation, she was to move on to the next aid station and prepare the refueling based on my notes from the book. My daughter and I actually found ourselves in this situation. She did exactly as we discussed, and we connected at the next aid station. The aid stations are well stocked so it not like you cannot find fluids and food to carry you to next aid station.

A third pro tip, if the race offers live runner tracking, take advantage of it. I setup my daughter’s phone so she could follow me throughout the race. This helped her tremendously. After a certain point, she pretty much knew the window of time that I would be coming through the next aid station. This made her life a lot easier.  

Lastly, thank them over and over. While I had a long and tiring day of running, my daughter had an equally tough day. Driving from aid station to aid station is not easy. One never knows what might happen along the way. She lugged my stuff to the aid station from the car, refuel me, and then lugged it back to the car, and drove to the next aid station. Then, did it all over again. They are there to help you do your best. Make sure to let them know how much their help meant to you and to you having a successful race.

Kickin’ up the trail dust

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, November 15, 2019

Tunnel Hill 100 Race Recap – Part # 2

Picking up from part #1 here.

My daughter told me that she would see me in Karnak and sent me off for my second 50 mile loop. At this point in my race, I no longer think big picture. I break the course in to small chucks, and I focus on completing just those chucks. If I didn’t do this, likely I would have turnaround and walked back in to the Vienna aid station and called it day.

Coming out of the Vienna aid station, we cross a major road again. Earlier when I crossed this road, they had a guy managing the traffic for the runners. Now, I could see that he was doing something in the back of his car leaving the runners to fend for themselves while crossing the road. Another time, I probably would not have given it much thought, but at this time, I was tired and while I was moving, I was still no match for a speeding car. Fortunately, I guess for me, the drivers were on the lookout and let me cross. Still, I was none too happy that he wasn’t paying close attention. Tired, slow runners mixing with speeding traffic is a problem waiting to happen.

I look off in the distance, and I see the sun moving toward the horizon. Gauging by the angle of the sun, I figured that I had 2ish hours to get to Karnak before the sun totally set. Another runner pulled up beside me and asked if I wanted some company. We settled in to a nice pace which I guess we both felt was good for each of us. He tells me that his sciatica is flaring up and radiating down in to his hamstring. I also noticed how awkward this stride is becoming. He met his wife at the 5 mile aid station but catches back up to me on the far side. We go maybe two more miles, and he tells me that he needs to alter his strategy and take some walk breaks.

I wished him well and pushed on. The sun was getting close to setting, and I finally come in to view of the Karnak aid station. They have huge flood light so I see it a good distance away.

My daughter has my shoes, tights, and Camel Bak ready. I switched to a long sleeve pull over my shirt sleeve shirt, my tights, and Clayton. She offered my head lamp which I was now going to need but my hands were full of food. I then gestured toward my Camel Bak, and she instantly understood. She pushed the head lamp down into an extra compartment on my Camel Bak.

My daughter is a quick study. I had realized over the course of the day that she was meeting me early in the aid station zones, switching out my gear, loading me up with food, listening to what I needed, and sending me on way. I never had to stop moving.

I finished eating on my way out of the aid station toward the Wetlands turnaround. Entering the Wetlands section, the course opens in to what looks like a huge tall, brown, grassy area. Off in to the distance, the sun is setting to produce one of the prettiest orange glowing sunsets that I have ever seen along the horizon. Luck must have been on myside to experience it.

No one appeared to be manning the Wetlands aid station, I circled the cone and headed back to Karnak. I met this woman not too far behind me. I later learned that she was one of the lead woman in the race. She passed me on the way back to Karnak. Then, I passed the guy that been running with out of the Vienna aid station. I guess that he passed me back while I was changing clothes.

All the way back to Karnak, I ran without putting on my head lamp. The moon was pretty full, and the grayness of the trail in the moon light showed the way. My only issue was when meeting other runners wearing a head lamp. They were so bright, and when we met, their lights shined right in to my eyes temporarily blinding me.

I met my daughter again at Karnak, and she immediately started asking about my head lamp. I told nothing was wrong, I was just enjoying a moon light run.

Pushing out of Karnak was hard. My legs struggled to return to running after walking through the aid station. I felt that it took a mile before they felt good again.

I put on my head lamp, and I took stock of my condition. I was 66 miles in to my 100 miler which left 34 miles to go. That’s just a little more than 50k of running, and I have done a bunch of 50ks this year – 4 in fact. Of course, in none of them did I run 66 miles beforehand.

I crossed through the midway point. I was now at 71 miles. I had another five miles to go, and I would have basically run 3 back to back to back marathon. I passed through the tunnel on this section of the course, and I had only had a few more miles to the Vienna aid station.

This time when I came up the road crossing no one was monitoring the road crossing. However, I was so tired that I didn’t really care. I pushed across it and in to the aid station.

My daughter was in full pit crew support now. I never stopped moving which at this point was a very good thing. I crossed under the banner to mark 76 miles in 12 hours and 44 minutes.

My confidence was growing at this point. I was mentally running the numbers in head. If I ran these last 24 miles in 5 hours, 6 hours, 7 hours, or 8 hours short of a totally collapse over this final stretch of the race, I was going to finish. Still, I had a long climb to the Tunnel Hill aid station. This time, I would be climbing the dark. Running in the dark can be a both a blessing and curse. One hand, the darkness makes me focus on the area right in front. Plus, I cannot really see the hill that I am climbing. On the other hand, time and distance seem to take longer to cover.

I passed through the aid station at 79 miles. Mentally, I noted I was starting the major portion of the climb now. On the bright side, I only had 21 miles to run. Funny, how one’s thinking changes when the mind finally comprehends what 79 mile of running is like.

During the day, I had noted the numerous bridge crossings so this helped orientate me to my progress. 

Then, there was the night critters. Several deer suddenly sprang up and ran across the trail. A few other times, I had dogs in the distance. Both unsettled my stomach more than anything that I had eaten all day.

I crossed this one long bridge which I remember to be only a few miles from the Tunnel Hill aid station. Then, I crossed the road by these homes, and I knew that I was roughly with in a ½ mile of the tunnel.

Unlike during the day, there was no bright light at the far end of the tunnel this time. Only the light produced by head lamp. I only realized that I was passed the exit when I noticed the still dripping icicles hanging from the rocks.

Unlike the other aid stations, the Tunnel Hill aid station is bathed in darkness. I spotted my daughter by the Christmas light draped around our wagon. Yes, I tried to think of everything so we could find each other at each aid station.

As we walked through the aid station, I told her that I only wanted a ½ liter of Tailwind for the return trip back to Vienna and one gui. I wanted my pack to weigh as little as possible.

Leaving the aid station for the little 4 mile out and back, it was all that I could do to resume running. My legs were beyond tired.

I met several runners on the way out to the turnaround and lots of runners on the way back. However, I didn’t know where they were in relationship to the overall distance to me. Everyone was blended together. For all I knew they could be 50 milers mixed in to them. We all wore the same still of bibs.

Entering the Tunnel Hill aid station for the final time, I was now 90 miles away from goal. I knew that the majority of this race was downhill. Nothing was going to stop me now.

My daughter handed me a Camel Bak. Gauging by the weight, I would say that she had it just about right. She swapped out my head lamp and sent me off one final time. I looked back and told her that I would see her in a couple of hours in Vienna.

This time, when I pushed my legs to return to running, I promised myself that I would not stop until I cross the finish the finish line. If stopped again, there was a very good chance that I would never get started again.

Passing through the tunnel for the final time, I pushed forward in to the downhill section. By now, the full moon was directly overhead. The moonlight illuminated the trail so well that I actually turned off my head lamp. The quietness of the night was only interrupted by the occasional passing runner or the runner that I was catching. I did switch my head lamp on while crossing the bridges. Some of the bridges were smooth concrete while others had wood planks. The wood planks were not always the smoothest.

I crossed the longest bridge so I knew was about 93 miles. I had just 7 miles to run. With this section being downhill, I was a little worried that one of my hamstrings might balk at the extra strain. After all, I was running a bit faster than I probably should have been. There is an old saying about “smelling the barn”. I was clearly starting to smell the barn.

With about 4 miles left, I was coming up on this runner. When I got within about 10 yards of him, he started running again. I was still closing on him, and I moved over to the other lane to pass. When I did, he immediately cross lanes and got right on my heels. Oh, did this irritate me. If he wanted to follow me or even run beside me, I am fine with it. I have already run nearly 96 miles, and I was not having any of this. Rather than say anything, I did something even worse. I ask my tired legs to pick up the pace. To my surprise, they responded. Maybe it was the “smell of the barn” or maybe it was just the combination of the “fatigue and the frustration of having some on my heels” they moved faster. I kept wondering if this might come back to bite me. 

I flew through the aid station at 97 miles. I could still hear his footsteps. At 98 miles, I could barely hear his footsteps. By 99 miles, his head lamp had faded back.

However, I was now committed to this pace, and I wasn’t going to let up unless my hamstrings forced me to let up.

I rounded the last curve, and the lights of the Vienna aid station came in to view. Never have I been so happy to see a finish line.

I crossed the finish in 17 hours 5 minutes and 33 seconds. I had run the first 50 miles in 7 hours and 48 minutes. I had run the last 50 miles in 9 hours and 17 minutes. I didn’t even realize that I was 11 overall until after the race when my daughter told me. She told me that I had been hovering in the mid 20 overall all day but after the darkness settled over the race that I had been steadily moving up.

When I crossed the finish line, I stopped and put my hand on the trailer next it. Suddenly, the strong, fluid running legs that I had shown over those last miles were suddenly weak and shaky. The race director congratulates me, hands me my race finisher coat and my sub 20 hours belt buckle. I gave it the kiss that I had been thinking about for months. It was one of hardest earned awards that I have ever received. It is going to have a special place on my wall.

My daughter wrapped me in a blanket and handed me a water bottle. The cold water tasted awesome. We went over and set down for a few minutes. When I tried to stand again, my legs was still shaky. I felt really lightheaded. Eventually, we agreed that it was a good idea for her to get the car, drive around, and pick me up. When she pulled up, I literally pushed off what I was leaning against and toward the passenger side door. To someone watching, I must have appeared to be pouring myself in to the car.

The walk from car to the hotel room was pretty painful. Not to mention the fact that my legs hurt throughout the rest of the night and in to the next day. I finally took a couple of ibuprofen to soften the pain and let me at least rest.

To those that are curious about my running streak, yes, it continues. Because I did not run a full mile on Sunday during the race (the race started at 7 AM and I finished 5 minutes after mid night), some 8 hours later, I took my battered and broken body out for a mere two miles. They hurt but Ibuprofen does wonders. The rest of the day, however, I did not do much of anything else.

Running a 100 miles is incredibly hard, and when I signed up for this race, I was not even certain that I could complete it. I just hoped that I could but I had no way to know for sure. I simply had no yard stick to measure myself by. I read what others said and learned from their suggestions. Somehow, I merged what I learned from others with what I knew, and this was result.

I count myself super lucky here. I had a fantastic crew, great weather, good nutrition, and my body held up for the duration of the race. If the stars could have aligned, they did on this day for me.

Major kudos to my daughter for her help. Having her support made a huge difference, and I repeatedly told her so.

Thinking back now, my best decision during the race was changing shoes and wearing my tights over the last 40 miles. They kept the chill of the air away from my legs which really helped. Otherwise, I think my legs would have really tightened up, and I would have really slowed down.

Resting my legs is the only thing on my agenda for a while.   

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tunnel Hill 100 Miler Race Recap – Part #1

For months, I agonized over running this race. One hundred miles was fifty miles further than I have ever run, and the thought of the suffering that this might entail gave me much to ponder. Would I totally shut down? Would I be a like an engine down a cylinder walking more than running to the finish? Would I be strong enough to run the distance? The thoughts weighed so much on my mind that I developed a few ulcers.

On Thursday, I drove up to Lexington, KY. My daughter was crewing me for race, and we were driving over to Vienna, IL on Friday. It is roughly about 4ish hours from Lexington to Vienna.

We arrived a couple of hours early in Vienna, so we recon the course. My daughter would be driving between aid stations solo so I wanted to her to have some idea of what to expect. She dropped “pins” on our iPhone at each location to help her with the race day navigation. Note to other, this is a huge help for those crewing. Tunnel Hill is a two loop course so she would be driving it once in the day light and once at night. The race provides good directions, and the course is pretty easy to navigate for a driver. Still, having GPS makes like even simpler. 

We finish our little recon trip just in time to arrive at the local school for packet pickup. I do not know why, but the 100 mile line was much longer than the 50 mile line. They gave away some nice swag: race hat, race belt, a nice race shirt, a branded race towel, and two branded race bags. Before leaving we looked through the race branded gear and bought a few other pieces of clothing.

Then, we were off to the hotel and a pasta dinner. I crawled in to bed around 9 PM CST. Surprisingly, I slept better than I expected.

Race morning, I rose at 4 AM. I packed my nutrition and made up the two Camel Baks. I then reviewed all of the logistic with daughter. From how to mix up the Tailwind so I liked it to what shold be packed at each aid station.

Then, I picked out what I was going to wear. Race morning, the temperature was around 23 degrees. The temperature would then rise in to the mid to upper 40s by midday. I needed to think about what would keep me warm during the early miles, but also would be easy to strip off later in the day.    

We arrived around 5:45 at the start finish just ahead of the rush of runners. I delayed heading to the start until 6:45. I wanted to stay as warm as possible as long as possible. Easing the cold conditions, there was no wind.

My race plan was to go out slow and then slow down. I did not want my first 100 mile experience to be a struggle. I wanted to enjoy the experience.

They played our National Anthem, and we got a few race instructions. I placed myself well back in the pack. I took my “newbie” status seriously, and I did not to screw up someone else race. I certainly did not want to be pulled out too fast.  

I never heard the gun sound. I just saw the group of runners in front of me begin to move.

We rounded the parking lot, and we headed south west (I guess) on the Tunnel Hill State Trail. The runners streamed out in front of me. I chatted with a few of the runners around me. The first 5 miles seem to fly by as we passed the first aid station. At Karnak which is at 10 miles, I saw my daughter for the first time.

She was there (iPhone pin mapping worked), and she was waving at me. I exchanged Camel Baks and headed out 3 miles to the wetlands turn around.

I started counting the runners on their return, and there were 68 runners in front of me. At this point, I did not know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. I felt like I was running well within myself. Still, this was 100 miles. I had no idea what within myself really meant at this distance.

At 16 miles, my daughter had my Camel Bak ready, and I grabbed a bagel for some extra calories. I also dropped my running tights, gloves, and heavy shirt in favor of a short sleeve running shirt.

Loaded up with fuel and having dropped my extra clothes, I was now headed back to Vienna where I would cross the marathon point.

The 6 miles to the wetlands turnaround is pretty much flat. However, the 10 miles between Karnak and Vienna has some long gradual climbs and descent. Exactly the type of thing, I expected for a rails to trails course.

I passed the 5 mile aid station. I was down 21 miles with 79 miles to go. I kept reminding myself to run slow. Keep the pace easy.

Coming in to Vienna, we crossed the only major road. We do cross several roads over the 50 mile course, but only this one had any amount of traffic. Fortunately, there was a gentlemen controlling the traffic, and making sure we crossed safely.  

Here is the only snafu that my daughter and I had. She had setup just off the course, and I didn’t see her, and she didn’t see me. At the time, I hoped nothing was wrong. We had talked about if this happened, and she would just move on to the next aid station. She knew when I passed through because the race was running live race tracking so she could monitor my progress along the course.

Since I missed her at the Vienna, and I also missed seeing my marathon time looking for her, I was running in the unknown at this point. At the 29 mile aid station, I snagged a chocolate chip cookie from their food spread. I thought that I was good on the Tailwind since the temperature was barely in the mid 40s until my daughter and I met up again at the Tunnel Hill aid station.

I passed the 31 miles point where they had a full stock of water for runners that needed it.

When I looked at the race map, I realized that there was about 400 ft of climb over 10 miles to Tunnel Hill. The first couple of miles are relatively flat. However, then it starts a steady climb all the way to the Tunnel. While I was climbing it, I thought it would never end. Plus as I rose in elevation, the wind picked up and temperature seemed to drop.

I was super happy to finally see the Tunnel. The Tunnel itself is pretty long, and I found it a bit disorientating to look at the end of the tunnel and see just the light of the sun. I was better off staring at what I could see of the ground around me. It was dark inside the tunnel.

On the far side of the tunnel, I noticed the icicles hanging from the rocks. Then, I was in to the Tunnel Hill aid station. I was happy to see my daughter with a full load of fuel for me. She walked with me for a bit while I ate something.

Then, I was off to do the 2 miles out and 2 miles back on the far side of Tunnel Hill. This section is basically 2 miles of a slight down grade followed by a 2 mile climb back to the Tunnel Hill aid station.

I grabbed my Camel Bak, and I updated my daughter on what I wanted in my pack at the Vienna Aid station. My daughter offered me my head lamp but I waved it off. The sun was still overhead so I would not need it for several more hours.

Going back to Vienna was a combination of letting it roll downhill and not pounding my legs in to the point that they would not carry me.

I passed through the 2nd of two tunnels on this section of the course, and I went through the aid station at 47 miles

I still felt like I was running with something in reserve but I was also starting to feel the miles. I wore my Hoka Carbon X, and I was realizing that I needed to switch shoes. I was already making plans for what I wanted at Karnak aid station so I could update my daughter at the Vienna Aid Station. At Karnak, I would switch over to my Hoka Clayton, and I would put my tights back on it. The Clayton’s have a wider toe box, and my feet were starting to feel pretty snug in my Carbons. I went back to my running tight because the temperature was starting to drop. Not enough to warrant wearing tights but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew putting on the tights would keep my legs warm as they continue to fatigue.

I came in Vienna, and I crossed under the 50 mile banner in 7 hours and 48 minutes. This was 4 hours and 12 minutes ahead of where I thought that I would be. It was also nearly 2 hours ahead of my two WWC 50 milers. I tried to push aside the anxiety that I gone out too fast after all. I also focused on the fact that if I totally melted down and had to walk most of the last 50 miles; I had over 22 hours to do it.

More to follow in Part 2.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 8, 2019

Nearly that time

I finished up my last run this morning. Now, I have nothing to do but rest and think about doing my longest trek ever. If I said that I was just a little nervous about it, this would not be the full truth. I am a lot nervous.

I just hope all the training, the long miles, the sweat, the blood, the sore muscles give me the strength that I will need.

7 AM CST, I will be off on an running.

Wish me luck,

Kickin'  up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Nagging feeling

This morning I packed up my car and set off on my trip to Vienna, IL. For the better part of the trip, I had this nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. When I reached the hotel, I walked around back and popped open the trunk.

As if I had been struck by lightning, I realized what had been nagging at me all day. My Camel Bak was missing.

I have no idea how I forgot it. I am running a 100 miler. A Camel Bak is a crucial piece of equipment for a 100 miler, and I simple walked out the door and left it. I do not know what I was thinking.  

At least I arrived a day early so I can do some hunting tomorrow. Hopefully, I will find another one. If not, I can always go with some hand held bottles. Those are pretty easy to track down.

Kickin’ up trail dust while looking for a CamelBak,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

33 years of running

This past October, I marked another milestone in my running career. I completed my 33rd straight year of running without missing day.

Most of the year, I do not think much about my running streak. My thoughts are in the present. What is my next training run, or what is my next race, but each October, somewhere in the back of my mind, the reminder that I have completed yet another year without missing day slowly rises to the surface.

These days, my running streak is often the first question that most people ask me. Am I still running every day? This is often followed by how do I do it?

Honestly, I do not have any special secret to running every day. I simply accept the fact that I need to run every day so I plan my schedule to get it done. Some days, it means waking up early while the rest of the world slumbers ways. I push out the door before most people get their first cup of coffee. By the time that they throw back the covers, I have finished 10 miles, had a shower, and am ready to charge in to my day. If there is any secret here, it is that one needs to be committed and be willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. Then it becomes not “if” I will run, but “when” will I run. Anyone can do this. They just need to be committed and willing. Like I said, there is special secret here.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Hoka Evo Carbon Rocket

What will be my shoe of choice for my 100 miler on Saturday? Well, my shoe will be the Hoka Evo Carbon Rocket. I bought my first pair back in the summer for a couple of races. Since my Hoka Tracers were on their way out the door for racing, I needed a replacement. In comes the Carbon Rockets. They broke in rather easily.

I bought my 2nd pair this fall and wore them during my New River 50k. I wore them again during the WWC 50 miler. Between the 50k and 50 miler, I replaced the laces with Yanks. I like the stretchy strings, and as a plus, I don’t have to worry about tying them. The one drawback to using Yanks, I did not get my heel settled securely so my ankles rolled a bit more during the 50 miler than I would have otherwise liked.

I will not have that issue at Tunnel Hill with the entire course being on a rails to trails greenway. Once I get them on, I will not take them off until I have crossed the finish line.

One other thought that crossed my mind earlier today, I will have worn these shoes for only 3 races and will have over 180 miles on them. I do not know about anyone else but this is definitely a record for me.

Wish my luck on my latest adventure. I am going to need all the luck that I can get this weekend.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, November 4, 2019

Using races as training

Throughout my years of running, I never found using races as training workouts to be an ideal way to improve. Races put extra stress on the body that overloads the body’s recovery systems. Doing this too often tends to leave me at a plateaued level, and I have struggled to improve until I broke out of this mode of training.  On the other hand, controlled workouts at a certain percentage of my physical conditioning have usually led me down the right path to running faster. Mixing shorter interval with longer interval along with some tempo runs and some fartlek workouts make for a better way to improve while giving my body adequate time to recovery.

Like I said, this training technique has worked well for me until I started running ultra-marathons. Ultra-marathons are an entirely different beast in my mind. Preparing for ultra means long hours running on sometimes isolated backwoods trails. I am not talking about a couple of hours but what I mean by hours is 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours longer. Running for these extended periods of time leaves me tired, very tried, and this increases my risk of simply falling from not getting my foot of the next rock or root. Once hurt, I would have to drag my body out to get help. Honestly, I don’t really want to put myself in to this type of situation.

Which explains why I shifted my training this fall to running more ultra-races. I could still get in my long runs but at least now, I was not entirely alone on the trail. Plus, I had support along the way.  In all honesty, it is a cheap way to get paid help for my long runs and often plenty of company as well.

Let’s be honest here. Finding a buddy to run 10 miles with me is very doable. Finding a buddy that wants to run 40 miles with me is a lot harder. And, I don’t like asking someone to run with me for the first 10 or last 10 miles since they will want to run much faster than I can go for the first 10 or faster than I can go for the last 10. But during a race, there is a better than fair chance that I will find someone running close to my pace. We all know that a little chit-chat makes the miles go by much faster.

So keep this mind with your upcoming training cycles. For most ultra-training plans, they have at least one and perhaps two long runs over the course of four weeks. Mixing in a couple of 50k race is pretty easy to check these boxes while meeting some new people and seeing some different training trough.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fore Runner 35

A couple of weeks ago, my Garmin 310 XT band broke for a second time. This time, the housing which holds the pin for the band broke. I was so disappointed. My 310 XT and I have covered lots of miles together, and I greatly depended on it.

However, this Garmin is going on nearly 4 years old so getting it repaired is likely going to cost more than it is worth. Therefore, I went in search of a new Garmin.

The Garmin ForeRunner 35 is where I landed.

It has it pluses and minus. The battery life is about 13 hours which is about 3 hours less than what my 310 XT had. The interface face is not super intuitive so I roamed around until I figured out most of it. It has a built in heart rate monitor but so far, it doesn't seem to be accurate at all. Setting on couch, my heart rate runs at about 145, and if I am running, it is ranges between 170 and 190. I questioned the accuracy because I have another watch which also monitors my heart rate, and it shows my heart to be a more realistic number. Maybe there is some setting that I need to track down but definitely something is out of kilter with the way it works today.

The one feature that I do like over the 310 XT is recharging while on the run. With my 310, when I am charging it, it takes over the entire interface. It stays this way until I remove the charging clip. It still records time, distance, and laps, but it just runs in the background in silent mode. The ForeRunner 35 charges but continues to show the time, distance, and alerts which is a really nice feature.

From what I can tell so far, the 310 continues to be superior in GPS accuracy. Running the same course, the ForeRunner comes up about 1/2 mile shorter in distance.

But it will do for my needs. 

Kickin' up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The "Offer Me" List

Next weekend, I will running the Tunnel Hill 100 miler. As with most runners at the 50 or 100 mile distance,they often has someone crewing them doing the race. My daughter has agreed to fill this role from my first 100.

I am extremely grateful that she signed on to do this. This gives me something to not only look forward to at each aid station, but someone watching and pushing me along that I don't want to disappoint. 

On the bonus side, I don't have to worry about any logistics, and I can focus totally on running.

To help her, I created a notebook with all the information that I think and more likely hope that she will need. I included everything from directions to aid station to what foods and drinks that I want at each aid station.

I also created what I am calling the "Offer Me" list. First, she is not a runner so she doesn't necessarily have a runner's mind and might not think of what a runner might need. On the other side, I am going to be pretty tired, and I probably not going to be thinking of everything that I am going to need.

This way, I have planned ahead for what I might potentially need. All she has to do is run down the list and off me those things at each aid station. I am sure that there will some give and take here. After the first couple of aid stations, she get a pretty good sense of what I will be needing. From then, we should be good.

I don't know if other runners do this for their crews. Likely some do. But having a list to guide the crew to what the runner needs can only help all involved.

Something to keep in mind.

Kickin' up trail dust.

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, November 1, 2019

Yearly Health Screening

A while back I had my yearly health screening. I like writing about this because we age a little bit every day, and running puts a lot of miles on our bodies. Making this yearly visit to see my doctor allows me to confidently go out the door without to much worry. None of us like the thought that we might keel over while running.

As usual, having an active life does wonders for my health numbers. All of them were within the expected tolerances for someone my age. I was especially happy with my cholesterol number. While well under 200, it had been pushing up over the last couple of years. This year, it was down nearly 10 points. Makes me wonder if running more ultras has anything to do with it.

I will probably never know but anything that keeps the heart beating is a good thing. Right?

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Squirrel Nut Butter - follow up

I guess that I didn't get enough Squirrel Nut Butter under arms, and as I was finishing up my first lap, I could feel it rubbing. I had put the Squirrel Nut Butter in my drop bag. Being prepared is always a good thing.

I reached in to my bag and pulled it out. I unscrewed the lid, but I couldn't get any of the butter out of the jar. Even at 60 degrees, the consistency of the butter is hard solid.  

So not having any luck with the Nut Butter, I opted for my backup plan, and I dipped into my tiny jar of Petroleum Jelly. I applied a liberal portion, closed the lid, and headed off.

I really like the Nut Butter but if it isn't kept warm, it is nearly impossible to use. 

Something to keep in mind for those Squirrel Nut Butter users. 

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner


Sunday, October 27, 2019

WWC 50 Miler Race Recap

My eye lids popped open. My room was quiet, and I looked over at my alarm clock. The red digital lights read 2:59 AM. It was time to get up and make my final preparations for running 50 miles today. 

An hour later, I was pulling in to the WWC parking. As of late, the night guard has gotten used to seeing me. Over the last few weeks, I have been running some of my long runs at 5 AM to prep for this race. Today, it would be the real thing.

I put my drop bag in the designated area, and I headed back to my car. It was time to gear up.

At 4:45 AM, Travis gave us a rundown on the race logistics and the course break down. Only a couple of changes from last year. We would head down Parkway to pick up the East Main trail, instead of running North Main trail behind the pavilion, we come down the grave road, and lastly, we would enter Figure 8 trail from a different location. After the race last year, the WWC did some construction which took out the previous year’s entrance.

I pulled on my head lamp, and I walked up to starting line. It was nearly 5 AM, and the temperature was about 57 degrees. This was better than the early week forecast when the weatherman kept telling me that it would be rain on Friday and Saturday. If this had actually happened, it would have been a miserable 50 miles. Fortunately, as the weekend neared the rain forecast pushed of until Saturday night. However, just in case, I packed a few items such as hat, extra towels, and rain gear. I like to be prepared.

Unlike the 50k, there is no parade lap for the 50 miler. We went 100 yards from the start and dropped right in to the Figure 8 trail. Justin and I had plans to run together but in the dash to get in to the woods, we got separated.

I settled in to a comfortable pace, and I got my head lamp adjusted to the proper position. From here, I just focused keeping myself upright. From the Figure 8, we went to Tortuga, to Thread, to Figure 8 again, and to North Main. While the temperature was 57, it was on the humid side around 98 % so I was sweating pretty well.

We picked up South Main, to Goat. I have a love hate relationship with this section. It has two steep hills. By the 3 lap, my hip flexor hate me. They hurt climbing both the front and backside of this trail.

Back South Main, to Toilet Bowel, and back to South Main, I was feeling better, and I can tell that it is starting to get light. The glow of the dawn can be seen in the distance as I pass under the power lines.

Going by the 2nd aid station, I would catch up with Justin. We run down Parkway, and we pick up the East Main tail. In the open, we don’t need our head lamps but once back under the foliage of the trees, I realize that my head lamp is still needed.

Justin and I work well together, and we chat over the next several miles. We would catch the runner in front of us just before Prairie Dog. By the time we reach the back side of East Main, I switch off my head lamp. I am not going to need it for the rest of the day.

The 3 of us run together back to the Start/Finish to complete lap one.

I grabbed out my lap 2 camel back, down some food, and extra drink. I look over at the Justin, and ask if he is ready. He say to get ahead that he would catch up. I headed out.

The other guy that we had been running cruise right through the drop bag area and headed back out.

I run him down about a mile later. My legs feel pretty good. I felt like I had been holding back on the first lap.

Before I knew it, I was back on north main trail. I could see a couple of the other 50 milers in front of me when we did switch backs.

I ran up Goat hill, and I spotted them a couple hundred yards ahead of me.

I caught them just before the 2nd aid station. The temperature was coming up so I opted to grab some extra fluids and snack here. One those guys jumped on to my heels, and we run the rest of East Main together. I didn’t realize it but he was the guy that won the 50 miler here last year.

So far, both of my first two laps had been faster than the same laps in last year’s race. I had run a 3:04 and 3:06 laps.

I was feeling pretty good starting the 3 lap. Perhaps, I was pushing harder than I should that hat I am not sure. However, I was descending one the many rollers on Tortuga when suddenly, my left hamstring started cramping. I kept thinking how terrible this was. I still had another 16 miles to go. For the next 20 to 30 seconds, I continued to walk and stretch it. I also started massaging it my left hand. I felt it release, and I started to run again albeit slower.

From here on, I went very easy on the downhills. Anytime that I descended, I was using my hamstring more than quads, and my left hamstring was not liking it. Although, I noticed that as the miles wore on, the hamstring twitching was less noticeable. After the race, I was thinking about this, and I wondered if this has something to do with the load that I was carrying in my 3rd Camel Bak. For the 1st to 2 laps, I had been carrying about a liter and half of water. The 3rd lap, I was carrying nearly 3 liters. That’s extra weight and added pressure on my hamstring. And as I said, it was less noticeable once I started drinking down the water.

I stopped at the second aid station for some extra water and food. The temperature was on the rise and so was the humidity. I needed the extra fuilds.

I glanced at my Garmin. The elapse time was 8 hours and 15 minutes. I was doing some mental calculations on possible finish times. I felt that if I maintain my current pace, I could break 10 hours.

I entered East Main for the final time. My legs were tired, and I tried to ignore the pain signals. I hadn’t seen anyone in the 50 miler in over an hour, and I had no idea where I was in the race.

I completed Prairie Dog and headed back in to the woods on East Main. Confidence was starting to build that I was going to finish, and I would finish running.

I finished those 3 nasty hills on the back side of East Main, crossed the road for the final section. This is roughly 2 miles from the finish. My eyes were tired of looking for roots and rocks, and my brain was tired of using this information to tell my legs to lift my feet off the ground to clear them.

As I was coming to the East Main exit point, the woman and her two kids, they had been there all day, came to cheer me on. I smiled, waved back, and thanked them.

I looked back as I turned at the trail. I was glad that it was behind me. I slowly ran up the hill. On the plus side, my hamstring didn’t mind the up hills or the flats. Cresting the top of the hill, I glanced back one last time. No one was insight.

I rounded the channel, and I looked to my right as the start/finish line came in to sight. I had nothing left in my legs, and at this point, I could not ask much more of them. They had carried me 50 miles.

I pumped my fist in front of me. The thought that I had was finishing my 2nd WWC 50 miler felt awesome.

Jenn gave me my 50 miler belt buckle, and I gingerly walked over to the aid station. I needed water – plain water.

I chatted with Travis, Tom, and Jenn for a few minutes. I then walked over to the food trays for some nice pasta.

Getting up to walk back to my car, my legs had already started to stiffen up, and it was hard climbing up the stairs.

While I was suffering postrace, I was happy with what I had done. I ran 9:40:45 which was some 13 minutes faster than last year and was 3rd overall. I had finished the final lap in 3:29:51 which was 2 minutes faster than I had run it last year. Not bad considering, I was nursing a tender hamstring for 16 miles.

As usual, I offer major kudos to volunteers which up early to help us. To the WWC crew they provided a well-marked course. A nice race shirt and finisher belt buckle.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner