Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Aid Station Boost

Starting my final lap on Saturday, I was zipping along the trail as if I were in the first mile. I had been so tired entering the aid station. Then, like a light switch was flipped; the men and women helping at the aid station were up-loading so much encouragement in to me that I sorely needed. The mental bust helped me wave away the growing fatigue. However, the surge was fleeting. Roughly 2 to 3 miles later, the fatigue of the day slowly came filtering back in to my body mostly my legs. But for those first few miles, I was rolling along. This made me realize how much energy not just in food and drink but mental energy the aid station had given me. I wished that I had one every 2 or 3 miles. I also want to give a shout out to everyone that helps out at an aid station. Yes, rest assured that your efforts are greatly appreciated even if no one says so. 

Never underestimate the power of emotional support.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 28, 2019

“The Stevest” Race Recap

The Stevest” course welcomed me back in the only way that it knows how. Just over a mile in to the race, it reached out and slapped me to the ground – hard. According those running behind me, I hit the ground, did a perfect forward roll, and ended up back on my feet running. I thought I was going escape without any further damage, but just when I was feeling a bit “full” of myself, “The Stevest” reached out twice more and slapped me to the ground on the third and final lap. My right knee has the look of having been run through a meat grinder.

The Stevest” crew gave us some prerace instructions around 7:45, and we were off and running at 8 am. The temperatures were better than last year. The high only got to about 88 degrees vs. the 95 degrees last year. I settled in running with Kim for most of lap one. I was walking the steep sections, and I was running everywhere else. I decided to adopt this strategy for this race because I wanted to test out some ideas in preparation for my 100 miler later this year.

The second lap I ran solo. I really don’t remember much about it aside from feeling the heat and humidity ramp up.

I came in after the second, grabbed my last CamelBak, and headed out. I was actually feeling pretty good starting this lap. I probably ran those first few miles a little too hard. I caught a couple of people which were a few minutes in front of me.

Then, I settled in to my usual pace. I was on one of the switchback when a rock snagged my foot and down I went. The 3rd occurrence on an easy section. I was tired and not watching my footing and went down.

After my numerous falls last year, this year I decided to wear gloves. Maybe it looked dumb wearing gloves, but they saved my hands, and they also worked great for wiping away the sweat.

I ran my first lap in roughly 2:35, second lap in 2:40, and my third lap in 2:45 for a total running time for 43 miles of 8 hours on the nose. I knew it was going to be close, and I was pushing hard in the wrong sections. My quads didn’t like this, and I had to slow for a bit to let them recover. Then, slowly I started pushing the pace again. However, it just wasn’t enough to break the 8 hour barrier.

I was happy with my race. Running 8 hours was about 70 to 80 minutes faster than last year. The temperature helped, but what really helped was improving my hydration and nutrition.

I felt solid the entire race.

Big shout out to the “The Stevest” guys.  They did an awesome job with this race. I foolishly missed signing up before it maxed out, and I had to wait list. Yet about a week ago, I got an email asking if I still wanted to run it. I clicked on “accept” immediately. I also want to give them a kudos for adding ropes to the “Death Valley” descents. I used them with every lap.  

Anyone building for a fall race needs to make “The Stevest” part of their training plan. I used it last year in my prep for a 50 miler. This year, I am using to propel me toward both a 50 and 100 miler this fall.

Just remember, it isn’t if a fall will happen, it is when will it happen.

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, July 26, 2019

“The Stevest” Take 2

Tomorrow, I will be returning to the “The Stevest” race on the Rocky River Tail. If you read my blog from last year, you remember that this course grabbed me by the back of the neck and gave me a good shake. Driving home that evening, I was questioning if I could even run 50 miles. “The Stevest” had really tested me.

But I learned from it, and I went on to complete my first 50 miler last fall.

Because of last year, I am going back again this year. Those 42 miles made me dig deep, and I am hoping that they add something to me again this year. I am telling you this because this fall, I am doubling down on the distance, and I know it is not going to be easy.

Wish me luck tomorrow.

Tails from the trail,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Never Doubt Yourself

Charlotte is in the midst of a full summer time heat and humidity event, and I am feeling every bit of on my long runs. I finished up a 22 mile trail run this morning, and I couldn't have completed it if I hadn't drank nearly a gallon and half of water. Actually, it was Tailwind. I have to have those electrolytes and glucose to keep me going.

As I was churning through those final miles, I was wondering which was worse: the building fatigue in my legs, suffocating heat and humid surrounding me, or pouring of sweat off my body. I really hate hearing my shoes go "swoosh" with every step.

Mentally, I find these summer time runs to be some of the hardest to endure in my training. I find myself questioning why I am out there. Of course, I also question why I am out there in Jan when it is 25 degrees, but then, the heat of summer seems so far away.

But I have to keep reminding myself that the work I put in now will help me this fall. The mental toughness that carries me through each of these runs will make strain of those fall race seem so much easier.

So when you are out there, and you start questioning why, just remember, these runs give you the mental toughness to overcome anything that you will face this fall. 

Never doubt yourself.

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Think Safety First

This morning, I was running along the South Main trail at the Whitewater Center enjoying another one of Carolina’s best hot and humid summer days. For the most part, the trails were quiet. There was the occasional runner or mt. biker but as I said, the trails were otherwise quiet.

While cruising along next to the river, I heard mt. biker coming up behind me. I instinctively moved to the left to let him pass. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him passing. Then, as if in slow motion, I could see him falling. Mentally, I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. Momentum carried my several steps down the trail where I came to halt and went back to help.

The guy had rolled out in to the trail, but what caught my eye was his 3 or 4 year old son lying next to the handle bars. Both seemed to be okay. The boy never cried.

Apparently, a brier snagged his handle bar and pulled them down.

They both got back on the bike and headed off as if nothing ever happened.

I spent the rest of my run thinking about it. I was reminded of the many times that I had taken my daughters on bike rides. Albeit, I never took them on a mt. bike ride.

I admit that I done a few dumb things while running and riding. There is an inherit risk to life and health anytime that I stepped outside my front door. Putting myself at risk is one thing. However, I never have or would put my daughters at risk. Yeah, I know that I can have an accident anywhere. That doesn’t mean that I should go looking for it. The risk of an accident on a mt. bike on a trail exponentially higher. I guess that I just cannot imagine why he would even doing it.

Strange isn’t how each of us view the world.

Growing up, I never wore a helmet or gloves. Yet, I learned there was a better way. I always wear a helmet and gloves now, and when my daughters ride, I make them wear both.

So maybe we do learn. Maybe we do learn from the generations before us what we can do better.

Let’s hope so.

Tails from the trail,

The Cool Down Runner

Friday, July 12, 2019

WWC River Jam – July Edition

I got out of my car yesterday at the WWC to face a shearing heat and oppressive humidity. I don’t think that there is any way that I could have felt more lethargic warming up.

When I feel this way, the negative thoughts of why I am doing this have their way with me.

Luckily, the storm clouds pushed into the area just before race time. This helped drop the temperature a few degrees but the rain stayed away. 

However, the shade cast by the clouds made the trail oh so dark. At some point, one might even consider wearing a head lamp.

Standing at the starting line, I wondered how much having run a 50k just 7 days ago would leave my legs with a heavy feeling.

Everyone jumped out quick as we circled the channel.

Six of us were running together when we entered the trails. Over the next couple of miles, Troy, Evan, and I worked past them.

We stayed together. Hitting the Lake Loop, I expected one or both to push past me. I gave them a several opportunities to pass. They never took me up on it so I settled in to lead our little group.

Exiting the trails into the gravel parking lot, we were all running hard. Evan and Troy pushed ahead of me at the hill by the upper parking lot.

They gapped me topping over the hill, and I was not sure that I could catch up.

Evan was pushing on but Troy, I caught by the bridges. I encouraged him to stay with me. On the other hand, Evan was putting just too much distance on me. I was not going to catch him.

I crossed the finish line in 46:51 which was actually one second slower than I ran in June. Having Troy and Evan with really helped keep me rolling along much faster than I would have otherwise. This placed me 4th overall and 1st in my age group.

This brings me to 3 River Jam races down and two more to go this year. I am racking up races faster than I did last year.

Tails from the Trail,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is not something that is typically a concern with my races. Even if I am running night race, the length has never been more than few hours.

Recently, I was talking with another ultra runner, and she was giving me a few tips to use in my preparation. Sleep deprivation caught my attention real fast because getting shuteye was not on my radar. Hearing her describe what it was like, I can only image the feeling of fatigue at 70 miles in the wee hours of morning. I suspect that body will just want rest. My eye lids will want to drop over my eyeballs, and my quads will just want it all to stop.

To prepare for it, she suggested working all day on a Friday, then running all night Friday in to Saturday morning. Rarely, do I dread doing something. In this case, an exception may be in order. 

I am already wonder which will be harder: staying awake or staying moving.

I am not sure of the exact weekend, but it will be sometime within the next two months.

Tails from the trail,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Garmin Band Woes

For the last decade, Garmin GPS watches have been my “goto” device for tracking my runs. I remember measuring a mile against a surveyed mile one time, and my Garmin flashed the auto lap right on the mile mark. So, I cannot argue with their accuracy.

Where Garmins come up lacking is in my opinion the quality of their bands. Numerous times over the years, I have replaced or returned it to Garmin to be replaced or had them send me a new band so I could replace it myself. Only once do I remember them covering this cost.

Take for example my current Garmin watch. I have had it for just about 2 years. In this time, I fixed the band in the first year. Here just last week, I was putting it on, and the band broke again.

This is most frustrating to me. If I wore my Garmin for every run, every day maybe I could see the see the wear and tear on it. I wear it may be two or three times per week. That’s a little over 200 days of running. I want to believe, no I have to believe that any watch band should stand the wear and tear of running for more than 200 days.

Oh, well, I guess I will see what it takes to fix it again. Next time, maybe I will look at some other GPS watches. Isn’t like that I am asking for a lot. I just want a band that will last at least as long as the battery on the watch. Is this really too much to ask from any maker of these type of products.

Tails from the Trail

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Tailwind Usage follow up

For the Big Butt 50k, I fueled almost entirely on Tailwind. I say almost entirely because I did take a few other items that included salt. With temperatures around 100 degrees, I was sweating profusely. Letting myself get low in electrolytes would have doomed my race.

After testing Tailwind during a training long run, I wanted to test it during race. I wanted to know how my stomach would handle it in a more stressful workout.

My race result was similar to my training run. I had no stomach woes. During the race, I went through over 9 liters of Tailwind. Thus, I was pretty happy with it.

I am still a big fan of Nunn, but I am slowly becoming Tailwind fan. On the plus side, I can buy a huge bag of the Tailwind powder for around $35 off of Amazon. Nunn runs about $7 for 10 tablets. For a long run, I can easily run through a couple of the little bottles of Nunn. I have been through 3 long runs using Tailwind and have barely put a dent in the bag.

For those looking to try something new or switch to something different, Tailwind is worth a test. I like getting the powder and mixing it myself. This way, I can control the consistency of it. The few other times that I have tried Tailwind in the past, the taste was too syrupy for me. Mixing it myself let’s get the taste just to my liking.

Tails from the Trail

The Cool Down Runner


Friday, July 5, 2019

30/20 Run

As I am putting together my 100 mile race training plan, I have been looking at number of different training plans. On a side note, there are so many plans that I could have my pick. However, in my case, I am attempting to merge concepts which I think will work best for me.

This is where the idea of a 30/20 run originated.

So what is a 30/20 run? A 30/20 run is where a runner goes 30 miles on the first day. The second day, the runner goes another 20 miles on those tired legs.

Yesterday, I ran the Big Butt 50k so this gave me the 30 part of the run. This morning, I was up early to knock out another 20 miles.

Let’s just say that I could still feel the fatigue in my legs. The first 5 were okay. The second 5, I felt it more. The 3rd 5, my legs were hating this idea. The 4th 5, I wondered what numb skull came up with this idea. Of course, there is always the numb skull was doing this run – mainly me.

Setting here now, I can see the value of these type of runs. Although, I am not so sure of the cardio value. To me, the real value here is how it callous the mind. We all have these imaginary boundaries which we limit us. Learning to keep pushing through those tough spots is the real value here. Realizing, the body has more to give. We just have to figure out how to dig it out.

It is like that tough teacher that you had in school. They pushed you to learn something that you never realized that you were capable of learning. We are all capable of more than we will ever realize.

Tails from the Trail

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Big Butt 50K Race Recap

I was back in Lancaster, SC for the Claude’s Big Butt 4th of July 50k race this morning. My hope; I was prepared. Based on the Weatherman’s forecast, today was expected to be a hot one. Hot, it was.

When I finished, I checked the temperature display in my car. The display read 106 degrees. I felt every bit of it.

Claude shared via email that the race time was being moved back to 6:30. However, the Ultra Signup website had 7 AM so the start was delayed.

The temperature was already in the low 80s, and I was sweating just standing at the start.

Finally, Claude blew his whistle, and we were off.

Claude’s 50k consist of 5 x 10k loops with us starting in the center and doing an out and back loop first left and then to the right of the start.

By the mile, I was leading, but more importantly, I was sipping from the CamelBak at every mile. In full disclosure, I was training through this race so my legs didn’t have much pop in them.

The first 10k went by smoothly. Being familiar with the course from the last year, I knew exactly where the turns were located.

With the sun on the rise, the temperature were going up. I started to feel the weariness in my legs toward the end of the 2nd lap.

At the end of the 2nd lap, I grabbed a 2nd CamelBak from the car. I also downed a 16 bottle of water, and I grabbed some ice to dissolve in my mouth over the next mile.

I had enough water in my CamelBak to do laps 3 and 4 but I decided that quick stop was needed at the end of lap 3. I toweled off the extra sweat, sip some more water, and grabbed more ice.

After lap 4, I pulled out my last CamelBak and headed off.

Lap 5 was one of those times where I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Helping to keep me going was the encouragement from the other runners. This is something I found awesome about Ultra races. There is so much support exchanged between the runners during the race because we all know what the others are facing.

I picked up the win in 4 hours 17 minutes and 9 seconds. Everyone was struggling with the heat. Most runners were reduced to walking or run/walking. Some were struggling with cramps. Some came in between laps and set under the tents to cool off.

Last year, I thought this race was hot, but in comparison, this race was way hotter. I have total respect for every runner there today. They all showed so much determination and drive.    

Kudo’s go out to Claude and his support team for putting on a great race. He does an awesome job taking care of the runners.

Tails from the trail,

The Cool Down Runner