Monday, September 30, 2019

16 Day Training Block

This past Saturday, I finished a 16 day training block where I ran the final River Jam 10k on a Thursday night, followed it with the Mountainaire Rumble 12 hour night race two days later, 7 days later the Table Rock Ultra 50k, and 7 days passed it, the Wild Vine Trail ½ marathon. In total, across 16 days, I raced more than 100 miles.

I thought my July to August 14 day training block had been difficult. However, this upped it by another level. Going 50 miles at night on a technical trail was all new to me. Add on a week later, tons and tons of climbing at the Table Rock Ultra pushed my quads more than ever.  

By the time that I toed the line for Wild Vine my legs were already feeling weary, and I hadn’t even ran the first mile.

I hope my grand plan pays off and when I start my taper for these upcoming races, my legs will have the some bounce return to them. That’s really the hard part of training. Convincing myself that all of the hard work will pay off and my legs will bounce back to give me a good race. There are no guarantees in life or running. All any of us can do is follow our plans, and hope the running gods smile down on us race day

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Retiring my Hoka Tracer

The perfect running shoe is worth its weight in gold to a runner. That’s what the Hoka Tracer has been for me. For the last few years, I have raced in my Hoka Tracer shoes in everything from 5k to 50 miles. In each and every case, this shoe has always served me well. Even on days when I soaked it in water and covered it in mud, it never let me down. I have even used it in the snow one year.

I realized its retirement moment arrived this weekend. After I finished the Wild Vine 1/2, I was walking back to my car when I noticed a rip in the shoe along the inside arch. I don’t know if it was just wear and tear of racing or perhaps, I caught the edge of a rock. Either way, its racing days are over. I don’t want to risk a total separation of the upper from the lower.

What makes this moment even sadder, Hoka decided a year or two ago to drop the Tracer from its shoe line. When I heard this, I was really disappointed but yesterday, it finally it home that never again would I race in Tracers.

Now, I guess I am back to searching for its replacement.

Suggestions are welcome.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Wild Vine Trail ½ marathon Race Recap

They pushed the start of the Wild Vine race up from previous years. Going off 8 AM over 10 AM made a huge difference. Most runners were finished before the temperature pushed in to the mid 80s. Also, they changed the course. Due a wedding at the Pavilion, they started the race at by the Pump House.

This is my favorite place to have race. After finishing, we all set on the grassy hillside and cheer on the other runners as they finish.

The new course is faster than in years passed. The first couple of miles included running around the channel and on some of their service roads. Paul and I hooked up and were running the early miles together.

I could see Jamie ahead of me. He loves the more benign trails and was making use of them to push the gap between us.

The humidity was terrible this morning, and I was constantly wiping sweet from my forehead. Coming off the Lake Loop at 5 miles, my legs felt tired which isn’t a good sign with East Main laying ahead of me.

I just sucked it up and kept moving. Paul seemed to be struggling a bit as well. Usually, I am chasing him but today, our roles were reversed.

May be this is the reason that we couldn’t get away from each other.

Coming up to where East Main crosses Prairie Dog, I was surprised to see a purple arrow turning us right. This wasn’t in the course map, but the arrow says turn right so we turn right.

Prairie Dog actually provides a nice break from the toughness of East Main. Before long, we were back on East Main, and then turned on to Tributary Trail. Tributary is a tale of two trails.  The first mile or so is downhill and flat. Then, it turns in to a rolling climb back to the point where it touches East Main.

I was hurting in this section. I thought that I would do better but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs going.

Paul and I picked up the East Main trail again. He seemed to be feeling better and passed me. He was still struggling on the hills but he was flying on the downhills. I lost sight of him at one point.

Finally, we popped out on the service road headed toward the finish. I realized that he was only about 30 yard ahead of me. I dug deep in this section because not only was Paul there but so was Jamie.

Slowly, I was closing down the distance between us. There were two more hills before the finish line. I committed myself to charging both of them.

Topping the first hill, I was on Paul’s heals and quickly passed him. Jamie was dangling out there about 15 yards. I charged hard on the last hill but so did Jamie. I was gaining, and for a moment, I thought I might catch him. However, I think he sensed that I was coming. I could never make up the last 5 yards. He finished 5 overall. I finished 6th, and Paul finished 7th.

I was super happy with my 1:48:59 time, and I landed a 1st place in the 50-50 age group.  

This year the race had a “burgundy red” theme. The medal had red coloring and a red ribbon. Even better, I loved the burgundy red shirt.

Kudos to the WWC crew for putting on another quality race.

Kickin’ up the tail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Table Rock Ultra 50k

Today, I ran the Table Rock Ultra 50k at the Steele Creek Camp ground just above Morganton. This was a tough race on me. I finished in 6 hours and 15 minutes and 34th overall. I didn’t do as well as I wanted but I achieved both of my goals. I got in a tremendous climbing, and I brought home an awesome hooded pullover shirt.

My plan was to go up last night, but I had to work late. I couldn’t see myself driving up to arrive around 8:30 PM. Then, setup my tent in the dark only to pull it down by 6 AM this morning. I opted for just getting up early and driving up this morning.

The race started at 7 AM so navigating the trails were a bit rough during the early pre-sun rise miles. Then, the course opened up to a grassy road for about 3 miles. This was followed by a gravel road for several more miles until we finally picked up some trail miles. Here’s where we started the stream crossings. The water was cold. Really cold.

They did a pretty good job marking the course with blue ribbons. I only got turned around once, and I back to tracked to the last ribbon. I then did a 180 sweep of the trail and spotted the next one for crossing the stream.

About 10 miles, we popped out on another gravel road for some good climbing and some good descending. About 17 miles, we started the climb up to Table Rock. This part of the trail was toughest. I pretty much power hiked this section as best that I could to the top. I have to say that the view from the top was spectacular. My race was already a struggle so I took the moment to take in the view. I have to learn to enjoy these moments.

A bunch of runners took advantage of the downhill and rolled by me. Maybe I could have run a little faster during this section but the risk vs. reward wasn’t there for me. I have bigger races coming up, and turning ankle, breaking a leg, or worse was not worth it for me.

After the Table Rock climb section, we ran another trail section before picking up the gravel road back to the final aid station. Here we had a few more stream crossing but the cold water felt great on tired and hot feet. Hurting the runners, the sun was now out strong and heating everyone up. The last 5 miles roasted everyone.

I was happy when I finally popped out on the final section back to the finish. I could now relax and forget about any more roots and rocks to the finish.

Coming in to the race, they sent several emails. They talked about how tough back country trails were, and they talked about the potential for bees on the course. Yeah, some their trails were highly technical, but I never saw any bees. Thankfully, I never got stung.

Outside of the 4 mile out and back climb to the top of Table Rock, the majority of the course is runnable. The stream crossings are what they are. Just slow down and wade across to the other side. But be prepared to do some climbing. There is a lot of it.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

12K Days

I recently passed another running milestone - 12 thousand consecutive days. As thought about it, I wondered when I would pass 20k. So after some rough math, looks like I will be pass the 20k mile stone in Sept of 2041 or I have just over another 21 years of running.

Let's hope that I am still putting one foot in front of another in 2041.

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

When the fatigue catches up to me

I had just finished running 50 miles this past Sunday, and after a few minutes of talking the others around the finish line, I slowly made my way back to my car.

At that moment, I didn't feel too bad.

Then, I set down, and I took a deep breathe.

Suddenly, like an ocean wave breaking through a retaining wall, a wave of fatigue sweep over me. I felt tired all over.

I knew that I was tired running but I didn't really feel it. I was so focused on the race that the feeling of fatigue stayed at a distance.

Looking down at my legs now, a realization set in on me. I am really, really, really tired.

Then, even more daunting thought entered my mind. If I felt this tired after running 50 miles, what would 100 miles be like.

For the next 8 weeks, I can only imagine what this feeling might be. Then, I will know for sure. The butterflies are already churning in my stomach. I still am wondering what I signed myself up for.

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mountaineer Rumble 12 Hour Race Recap

Just a few hours have passed since I finished this race, and I am setting here linking my wounds. I had 3 hard falls last night. Two, I walked okay with just some bruises. However, the 3rd fall left a nice scrap down the left side of my face. Seems that I am going to have scars on both my knees and my face.

Several ultra-runners recommended that I do a night time run in my prep for my 100 miler later this year. This race gave me this opportunity.

Having never run a timed event I had no idea what to expect.

The race started at 8 pm, and I would be for the most part running trails that I had never seen. Also, I had decided to go with just one head lamp vs. the normal two head lamps that I wear. This is my plan during my 100 miler. May be not my wisest decision given the technical nature of this trails.

I went through 22 miles in a little over 4 hours. I went through 30 miles under six hours. However, I was finding that as my fatigue grew, my ability pick up the subtle changes in the terrain was getting worse. This is when my first two falls happened. Then, I after the 3rd fall, I just slowed the pace way down. This really helped. Then, I would only run aggressively on the smoothest sections. Of which, there were few.

This course had more than its fair share of roots, rocks, and creak crossings. I remember on the first lap. I was rounding a corner to a creak and found these 4 widely spaced stepping blocks. I think that it was 8 or 9 more laps later before I started to manage them easily.

Going in to this race, I wondered if I would be watching the clock since this was a time event. This turned out to be a non-factor. I was so focused on the trail and the runners around me that the time just seemed to fly by.

Looking back now, the best part of the race was the last 45 minutes. My entire night was spent looking through the telescopic view of my head lamp. I had no idea what was round me. Then, the sun came up, and I could see the world around me. Even better, I could turn off my head lamp and get back to running hard.  

Kudo to Chris for a well-run race. The course was well marked. He laid all the logistics out for us so all we had to was arrive, setup our stuff, and run.

On a personal note, I got my goal of 50 miles in 11:35:57, placing 3 overall, and 2nd male. The men’s and women’s winners ended up running 1 more lap than I did. Big kudos to them for handling this course so well.

Kickin’ up the trail dust.

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, September 14, 2019

WWC River Jam – September Edition

Thursday night, I ran the last of the 5 race WWC River Jam series. And, boy was it hot. My car showed a temperature of 97 degrees. Breathing in only added to the feeling of shearing heat. Sweat ran down my arms walking over to pick up my race bib. To my knowledge, this was probably the hottest race that I have run in the series ever.

My legs were still feeling the effects of walking the many Disney miles so I was probably a little slower than usual going out the first couple of miles. Yet, I was still passing other runners who seemed to be welting in the heat.

Usually, once under the foliage of the trees the temperature drops. None of this was happening today. Heat engulfed us, and worse, there was no breeze. Sweat ran off my skin faster than I was running. Hoping for any reprieve at all, I would take water at the aid stations to dump over my head. For a few moments, I admit I felt somewhat better.

Avery was catching me as we finished off the Lake Loop, and he passed me while crossing the parking. In the last few races of the series, Avery has been putting on a strong finish. Usually, he catches me in the middle of the final mile.

I crossed my finish line in 47:58, finished 4th overall, and first in the 50+ age group. I stopped and put my hands on my knees to just steady myself. My legs felt totally wasted.

Looking back, I was really happy with my effort. I battled the heat, humidity, and leg weariness, and I was still faster than in August during my big training block.

For those of us that completed all 5 races, the WWC gave each of us this nice scarf. I really appreciate the gesture. Although, it is a bit funny to be handed this nice heavy winter scarf on day when the temperature is well over 90 degrees. It will be a while before I use it. 

Another unexpected yet awesome award, I finished 3rd in the 10k series standing. For this, they gave the top 3 men and women branded WWC backpacks. Definitely, this turned to be a good evening to visit the WWC.

I highly recommend their series so put it in your calendar for next year. Races kick off the 2nd Thursday each month May through September. After the race, stick around to have some food and listen to some awesome music. 

Kickin’ up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner  

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Are those Hokas that you are wearing

I was strolling up Sunset Blvd at Disney's Hollywood Studios Park this past weekend when we decided to get our picture taken by one of the photo pass photographers. She must have taken note of my shoes because she asked if I liked them.

Like them; I love them. Going to Disney is like walking a 1/2 marathon every day. Wearing a good pair shoes means the difference between wanting to leave early and staying to the very last minute.

Apparently, she had order herself a black pair of Hoka similar to the ones that I was wearing. I told her that they were awesome. I wouldn't wear anything else at Disney. Hopefully, she finds her experience the same. I can only image what it is like to spend 8 hours taking pictures on the hot Disney asphalt.

Kickin' up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner   

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Black Diamond 375 Lumens Head Lamp – follow up

A while back I wrote about buying a new 375 Lumen Black Diamond head lamp. During the Tread Nightly race, I got a chance to put it through a full field test.

Am I satisfied with the results? Well, yes and no. Does this light put out some serious light? Yes, it does. Does it burn through batteries like a Hummer burns gasoline? Totally, so.

Before the race, I put in fresh batteries. I checked to ensure that the light worked, and then I turned it off until race time. Just before the start, I tuned it on and turned it up to full brightness. For the next 2 hours and 11 minutes, I made my way through the woods and back to the finish. Some 2 hours and say 15 minutes after turning it on, the lamp dimmed down and within 30 seconds later went out. I felt a sinking feeling as it happened, but I was so glad that I had finished.

I find the older 300 lumen modal on full brightness gives me hours more of light. When running at night, having a light that has some staying power is a must. I just don’t trust this new modal for anything more than a short run.

If anyone is planning on upgrading, plan on keeping a large pack of triple A batteries handy. It takes 4 at time.

Kicking the up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner  

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

52 Mile effort

Labor Day last year, I went for a 45 mile run. This Labor Day, I had even bigger goals in mind – 52 miles.

I hit the trails at 7 AM. The temperature were awesome, and I was rolling along. I wanted this run to be similar to how I thought that I would run my 100 miler later this year.

By 10 AM, the temperature pushed upwards of 90 degrees. Even in the shade, I was hot and drinking at every opportunity.

One realization that I have come to understand from this experience. Tailwind works wonders to keep me going through most of the day. However, after drinking it hour after hour, I find that I just want plain old water taste wonderful as it is. Also I found that I don’t like crossing Gatorade with Tailwind. By this, I mean; I don’t like going back and forth between the two. I get this awful acidic test in my mouth. Nothing but water seems to wash it away.

Between the heat and no air stirring, the feeling of being inside of an oven comes to mind. So much so, I had a steady stream sweat dripping from my hat. I struggled to eat my crackers and figs that I was carrying. They didn’t taste good. However, I did go through 3 packs of sports beans. Any that counter acted the taste of the Tailwind really seemed to help

As the afternoon pushed toward the evening I started to feel better and run stronger.

The one thing that tasted great throughout the day was the watermelon that I had stuff in my bag before leaving. I had planned it as an afterwards snack but I opened up the pack early in the run. It was a little piece of heaven each time that I passed by my car.

I pulled up to my car 12 hours and 30 minutes after starting. My Garmin was literally on its last power bar.  I looked down at my legs, and they were a dark brown with trail dust. I don’t know that I ever want to do a solo run like this again. It just a long time to be out on the trail by one’s self. Not the type training I am fond of doing.

Tail Dust Stories

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, September 1, 2019

WWC Labor Day 15K Trail race recap

Today’s WWC Labor Day 15K race found some favorable weather conditions for runners, but it didn’t end without some controversy.

As we waited on the start, I was talking to a couple of runners from Greenville, SC. They had a big race coming up in a few weeks, and they were using this race as a tune up. One of the guys asked me about the course, and I gave him a quick breakdown. Then, I asked where he had been training which was at Parrish Mt. I told him that he wouldn’t find any hills here that matched up to the trail on Parrish Mt. but the trails here would roll him to do death.

We took off around channel and entered the North Main trail. One of those guys was gone. I settled in to 3rd place, and I began to open some distance on the guys behind me.

Coming down the Wedge, I heard the volunteers at the aid station talking with the leaders and guessed that they were about ½ mile or more ahead me.

I turned on the Lake Loop for the final section of the 15K. I know this trail well and could likely run it in the dark. At this point, I knew 2 runners ahead of me, and I couldn’t see anyone off to my right as I started these last 3 miles.

Rounding by the lake, I noticed one of the signs turned a bit straight up or say slightly to the left, but I didn’t think much about it. Like I said, I know this loop like the back of my hand.

I round the small lakes and did the back mile. Coming back by the lake, I suddenly see 2 guys coming at me which totally confused me. I thought that they were to the two leaders. I didn’t take notice of their faces just to two runners coming at me.

One asked me which way, and I indicated straight ahead, and to follow me.

I think that they were still confused but they did follow.

I came out the woods, and I saw another guy in front of me. I passed him as we went back in to the North Main trail behind the pavilion.

He was telling me that he was lost and had missed part of the course. I told him that I was headed toward the finish and to stay close.

I finished in 1:11:55, and according to the results, I finished 2nd overall and first in my age group.

After the race, I got the scoop on what happen. Apparently, these guys both in front and behind me took the arrow to literally. Instead of going around the lakes to the right as is normal, they went to the left. Both leader and 2nd place skipped the back mile so did several out runners.

They all self-reported ended up being DQ which was the right thing to do. However, I don’t think any of them was too happy about it. I totally understand their perspective. I have been put in the same situation a few times on a trail. Although, I have not been in this exact situation. In my experiences, I always back tracked to the point where I got off and went the other direction. The guy that had lead most of the race asked me if I was would have caught him, and I would not have. He would have had to slow to a walk before I could have caught by the finish.

Our markings conversations continued for quite some time. Another runner brought up the fact that WWC often has different color arrows directing runners along courses. He found the arrows confusing. This is something that I don’t understand. Before every race that I have run at the WWC, they tell us which color arrows to follow. Yes, runners will often see different color arrows along the course but they should follow the color that they are told.

By and large, the WWC does a pretty good job marking their trails. At the end of the day, we are still talking about a trail and no markings are totally perfect. The onus is still on the runner to pay attention to the course markings, and if you deviate from the designate course, return to the point of deviation to continue to course. If you end up cutting the course, then, a you should self-report.

Trail Dust tails.

The Cool Down Runner