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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Last long run before my 50

I dropped Justin an email earlier in the week. He is usually good for a long run during the week as long as I am willing to go early.

We rolled off for 17 miles this morning just before 5 AM. This would be my last chance to test some gear. I like to double check my head lamp, and I just purchased a new CamelBak vest. I wanted to make sure that it fitted properly before pulling it on to my shoulders during the 50 miler.

I was also test driving some shoes that I might have to wear during the 50 miler. Typically, I wear my racing flats, but next week there is a threat of rain, and rain can make a trail treacherous. I might be running in my trail shoes. Not my first choice, but some time staying up right is more important that speed.

Thankfully, all of my gear checked out wells.

Not checking out so well was my legs. At least when I compare them to how Justin was doing. He was bouncing up the hills like he was on flat ground. I marveled the ease with which he was running. He is going to do quite well during the 50 miler.

The next 3 weeks are pretty much all taper for me. I have my 50 miler next Saturday. Two weeks later, I have my 100 miler.

I just hope my legs come around. If not for the 50, at least, I hope for the 100. Otherwise, I will have a long 30 hour run.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Monday, October 14, 2019

Squirrel’s Nut Butter

Any runner that has put in some miles has experienced some chafing at one time or another. I too have had my own fair share of experiences, and I thought that I would share some of my experiences with a few different products.

Over the years, I have relied on essentially two products: Vaseline and Body Glide. Based on my experience, Vaseline works well if the race is relatively short and doesn’t have warm temperatures. As the temperature rises, the Vaseline turns in to a water substance. It becomes nearly impossible to apply in a water state. What I was able to apply originally tends to have run away.
Body Glide works better than Vaseline. It does last longer during exercise and across a wider temperature range. This is important because in longer races temperatures can vary greatly from start to finish. For whatever, I just never found myself to be a strong user of it.

Recently, on a recommendation from another runner, I have been trying Squirrel’s Nut Butter. I have been using it in my races this fall, and I found that it works a lot better than the other two. I have spot on my back that tends to rub against my CamelBak. I had it rub the skin raw during a race. When I switched to the Squirrel’s Nut Butter, I no longer have any issues with chaffing on my back.

The only drawback that I could found so far, if the temperature is cold, Squirrel’s Nut Butter is a bit difficult to apply. I found that I have to dig my fingers into it and hold in in my hand until it is soften enough to apply it. But once applied, it works great.

I am including the link here. Check it out. It is also available on so with a prime account, it will be laying at the front door in a couple of days

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Garmin Woes

Saturday, I was finishing up the 50k when suddenly, my Garmin started complaining about satellite reception. I get that this happens from time to time, but this time, it didn’t make much sense. The race follows an out and back course. It didn’t have any issues on the way out, and it was far more overcast. Even weirder, I had run through a tunnel twice. All that I could was keep clicking the notifications. I ended up missing about 3 and ½ miles of the course because this was happening. Fortunately, this doesn’t affect the running time.

But it is quite irritating. I count on the auto lap feature to remind me when to drink.

May be it is time to update my GPS watch.

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, October 12, 2019

New River 50k Race Recap

The last time that I darken the New River trail was 11 years ago. I was a little younger and a little faster. Today, I had much different goals in mind. I am using this race as tune up for my 100 miler because the courses are so similar.

I headed up yesterday evening so I can spend the night in Galax. This would get me to the starting line in about 15 minutes vs. the nearly 2 hour drive from my house.

It was still dark-30 when I rolled in to the parking lot this morning at 6:45.

I will say that Fries, Va has not changed much at all in 11 years. Fries is still a quant small, little town which reminds me of the towns of my youth. As the sun pushed back the darkness of night, I listened once again to the roar of New River which is just yards away from the starting line.

5 minutes before the start, we received some brief prerace instructions. At 8 AM on the nose, the horn sounded, and we were off.

Two guys shot out fast. They were clearly looking to run fast today

I settled in to a comfortable pace, and I readied myself for the miles ahead.

The runners quickly strung out. I found myself running with a young woman from Richmond, Va. She had only done a couple of marathons, and this was her first 50k. We chatted back and forth for the better part of next 5 ½ miles.

Then, she dropped back when we made the turn to head toward Galax. For those not familiar with this course, the first 5 miles follows along the New River downstream so it is essentially has a net elevation drop. Everyone enjoys this part.

Turning toward Galax, we run along what I believe is Clark Creek but we are running up stream. The elevation gain is every so slight, but after 5 or 6 miles of it, the quads start to feel it.

Then, we turn around, and get to use the slight downhill coming back. However, at this point, you are working miles 16 – 26 so the legs are not exactly feeling the greatest.

Helping to encourage us to run faster, we had 60 degree temperatures and over cast skies. At point, coming back from Galax, we enjoyed a slight drizzle.

This front quickly pushed out of the area, and by the time I reached 26 miles, the clouds had broken, and the sun was out in force. I could definitely feel the temperature pushing up.

Those last 5 miles were a bit of a struggle for me. I wanted to push hard but I just could not get much more than 7:30 pace out of them. May be I went out harder than I thought. And, even thou, I knew where I was going, the last couple of miles seemed like they took a life time to complete.

I finished in 3rd overall with a time 3:48:37. This was some 19 minutes slower than when I ran it 11 years ago. I had no aspirations of running 3:29 this year. I am older and slower, and I know my limits these days. Plus, today was about preparing me for my 100 miler. That's the goal race not this one. I walked away with some ideas that I want to use for my 100 miler because of it.

Wrapping up this post, I want to give a shout out to this race but also to the postrace crew providing the post race meal. They had like 8 or 9 different soups, side items, and deserts. Other than the Derby 50k, I don’t know of any race offer such a good post race meal. And, this was a home cooked meal. Every bit of it tasted awesome. Runners that do this race rave about the after race meal. I had forgotten how good it was, but I was reminded today. Might be just the reason to start making a yearly trip to Fries, Va.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Blood, sweat, and trail dust,

Last Saturday morning, I was cruising down the Figure 8 trail probably enjoying it a little more than usual. After all, the temperature was an awesome 65 degrees. I was also zipping along a little faster than usual. The coolness of the air added some zip to my legs.

Of course, nothing ever goes too smoothly for me. I was descending this one particular steep section when I toed a rock with my left foot. Before I even realized it, I was down, rolled over, and setting on my rear. My left knee was burning, and my right side and shoulder were also burning. I pushed myself up to my feet, and I reached around to rub my hand along shoulder and back. Pulling back my hand, I didn’t see any blood but ugh, it was burning. Looking down at my left knee, it looked like I took all of the hide off the knee cap. Ok, I was a little battered and bruised but otherwise, I seemed to be alright.

This was just a mile in to my run so I still had another 21 miles to go. After couple of steps, I slowly went back to running.

Somewhere in the next mile, I glanced down at my knee. Now, it looked much worse. Not only was it bright red with blood but the blood was starting to run down my leg. But at least, the pain had gone away.

I spent the rest of my run being a little more careful. I was banged up, and I didn’t need to add to it.

Later when I got home, I was able to look in the mirror. While I nothing bleed on my back, I had abrasions from my shoulder all the day down my back and hip. I think it stung even more cleaning it.

My knee is just starting to scab over. Luckily, it doesn’t hurt running but each time I touch it; I am reminded that I need to keep my attention on the trail and to not let my mind wonder even for a second. 

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner