Saturday, January 25, 2020

Top 100 - 100 Mile times for 2019

Jonathan and I were chatting this morning, and he asked me if I had seen Ultra Running Magazine's top 100 times for the 100 mile distance for 2019. I hadn't. He went on to tell me that my Tunnel Hill time squeezed me in just under the wire at the 100th place.

When I got home, I checked it out.

Ultra Running Magazine posted there times here.

Select the 100 mile distance and page down to the 76 -100 runners.

Pretty cool. Huh.

Kickin' up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Fellowship of Idiots Run

This morning I woke up and looked at my watch. The display read 3:21 AM. I had a decision to make. I could turn off my 3:31 AM alarm, roll over, and go back to sleep.

Nay, I would rolled out of bed and started pulling together my stuff for the drive over to the Albemarle, NC for the Fellowship of the Idiots Run.

Yes, I returned to Albemarle this morning to run an unsanctioned, free event to the top of Morrow Mt and back. Round trip, we cover nearly 20 miles with plenty of climbing thrown in to keep all of us honest.

I have not run a road long run in more than 2 years so I wasn’t expected much in the way smoothness out of my body.

Pulling up to the YMCA a few minutes after 5 AM, there were cars and buses everywhere. The last time that I ran this event there may have been 20 maybe 30 runners. Today, they must have had 300+ runners. I am in awe of how this event has taken off. No doubt here all of the success can be attributed to Peter and his team. They have turned a long run with a couple of buddies in to something that people come from all over to do. They literally go above and beyond. Our event branded bibs even had our names on it.

After a few encouraging words from Peter, we began the parade of runners out of Albemarle under police escort at 5:30 AM. 

The line of head and tail lamps strung out both in front and behind me. At the edge of Albemarle, the police escort left us to our own devices.

The memories of my previous runs came back as the sting of the climbs and pounding of the downhills resonated up through my legs.

Plenty of people came over from Charlotte so I had plethora of chatting buddies.

Climbing to the Morrow Mt hurts no matter what the pace. I felt the wind a few times on the exposed curves but nothing else.

With no leaves on the trees, I could see for miles around. Catching my eye was the bobbing of head lamps making their way up the mountain like a snake slowly moving in the distance getting ever closer. This was really cool to see.

Most people think the tough part of this run is the climb up Morrow Mt. Indeed, this climb is hard. However, most people don’t realize that they are running a net downhill until they reach Morrow Mt. Thus, the return trip is a gradual climb back to Albemarle which in my opinion is tougher not just because it is uphill but also because the miles begin to stack up and fatigue builds in to the legs.

All that aside, running this event is a must do

So next January make sure to get signed up.

Kickin’ up the trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Charlotte Running Company Trail Race Recap

In years past, this race had been my yearly kick off race. However, this happened a few weeks ago in Albemarle so I should run a little better with a race under my belt. Right?

I’ll let you be the judge here.

I grabbed some warm up miles on the trails. I want to see the trail conditions. Is the trail dry? Is it muddy? Is it somewhere in between?

To my surprise, the trails were in pretty good shape so I opted for my racing flats over my typical trail shoes.

The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees near race time so I went with just gloves. One, they would keep my hands warm. Two, if I did fall, I at least had one extra layer protecting my hands.

We started in the upper parking lot, and we ran nearly mile through the parking lot area and around the channel before entering the North Main trial. Entering here creates a log jam of runners. Add to it, this is steep decent which is quite often slick. However, I passed through this section unscathed. Lucky, I guess. John is following long right behind me. We begin to work the line runners ahead of us. We pass each as the opportunity arises.

We cross over the top of ridge and begin the section along the river. I come around one turn to see Marcus standing. He does not look hurt but he is not moving. As I pass him, he give me some encouraging words. Still not sure what happened to him. I never saw him after the race.

Finishing off the north main section, we move to the South Main. During this section, we pick up several side trails. First, we do Carpet. There are sections of Carpet that I enjoy. Then, there are sections that I could totally skip. I begin to suspect that John is having a pretty good day. He sticks to my rear bumper during this entire section.

Next, we pick up Wedge which goes by in a flash. I steal a few glances to my right to see the runners on the return side of the trail. I am gauging how far that they are in front of me.

Goat is next, and hitting Goat hurts. The entrance is rocky and rooty and above all steep. I feel it the most in my hip flexors. My breathing further tells me that I struggling a bit to maintain my desired pace. Topping Goat, John goes by me. I attempted to jump on his heals but he was descending like a mad man. All I could do is watch the distance grow between us. About this time, I begin to notice that I am sweating pretty good. I hadn’t expected this but my body apparently thought it needed to cool down or maybe I was wearing a layer too much. 

I held on to a small glimmer of hope that I might pull him back once we got back on south main again. However, any hope that I had was dashed upon enter the Toilet Bowl trail. The distance between us was going in the direction that I did not want it to go

Exiting Toilet Bowl, John was out sight. On the bright side, I didn’t see anyone right behind me.

Toilet Bowl was the last side trail. I had roughly another mile to run. Time for me to dig in a little more and push for the finish.

When I exited in to the parking lot from the trail head, I noticed that the starting line was gone. I realized that they had changed the finish for this year. The race would be a little longer. We ran across the parking lot and down the hill to the area where the WWC guys have their ice skating setup. While I am never excited about running extra distance, I have to admit; having it there made a lot of sense.

I finished the 9 miler in 67:10 and finished the race 4th overall as the first male master. Yes, this year I dropped down in distance from the 13 miler to 9 miler. In truth, I never enjoyed running the last half of ½ East Main backwards. Plus, I never really understood why they run it backwards. Anyway, dropping down in distance just made sense to me.  I ran a lot of the trails that I enjoy the most.

Now for some kudos. First, the green hoodie gets a “thumbs up” from me. Green is my favorite color so now, I just need to keep it from fading when I wash it. Second, if I remember correctly S2F had 4 water stops in the 9 mile race. No chance of getting dehydrated during this race. Postrace, they had bagels, bananas, oranges, cookie, coffee, other fluids, etc. Essentially, they had a runner’s post run brunch. Lastly, the race awards were head lamps with the CRC Trail race branding. I like this as it will be something that I use in the future.

Jenn and team get a huge thumbs up for a well-run race. Of course, I have grown to expect nothing less from them which is why I often frequent their races.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Rain, rain, rain

I was looking out my front door, and I was seeing something that I very much did not like. Rain was coming down. Not just coming down but coming down in buckets. So much so that streams of water flowed along the ground on each side of my house.

Days like this make me question my commitment to running everyday. Life would be so much easier if I just ran on the nice days. Of course, anyone can run on the nice days. Going out the door on the days that are not so nice just reminds me that I prefer to take the road less traveled.

Traveling this road means life is full of ordinary adventures that most others miss out. I gain experiences and learned things about myself  that I would have missed if I not pushed out that door.

So the next time the rain is coming down hard or the snow is covering the ground don't use it as an excuse to stay inside. Rather use it as an opportunity to create your own adventure. An adventure worth sharing with your friends.

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, January 12, 2020

70 degrees

Winter is going to hit us hard any day now, but I am not complaining at the moment. Today, I could work on my January tan. Actually, on these warmer days, I need to up my water consumption during my runs. I am sweating more than I think.

What felt cool during Oct and Nov now feels like I am in a steamer. Sweat was dripping from my cap during m run today.

Make sure to stay hydrated. The runs will feel better. I promise.

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Holiday Pounds

Every year, I vow to watch my diet during the holiday season, and every year, I roll in to January having packed on a few extra pounds.

I just cannot help myself. There is so much good food around, and usually, this is my down season so I am not watching every morsel that I am eating. Admittedly, I am super guilty of having an extra morsel or two or even three.

Then, comes January. For the next four to six weeks, my running picks back up, my diet returns to normal, and slowly my weight drops back to normal.

But for those weeks, I do feel the extra pounds. Mostly, my knees and ankles feel it.

Once I get back to my normal weight, I know it. Every part of me feels better, and my legs especially feel better.

I imagine other runners face similar circumstances. I have often wondered if they go through a similar phase during the first month or so of each new year.

Kickin' up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Handling Muddy Trails

Having been racing on some very muddy trails recently, I thought that I would share a few tidbits from my experience.

First, let’s level set about something. If I know that the trails are dry, I will likely run in my road shoes. Road shoes will work just fine on a just about any dry trail. I have never ran in to a situation where they did not do the job.

Now, if rain has been falling or will be falling making the course a wet sloppy mess, switching to trail shoes would be my first suggestion. Make sure to choose a trail shoe which has a good cleats on the bottom. While new tail shoes will work best. Even older, worn trail shoes will work better than road shoes on a muddy trail.

With shoes in hand, are there things that can be done while running on the trail?

The answer most definitely, yes.

Avoid running in the middle of the trail if the trial shows clear signs of being muddy. As more and more runners tread along on the trail, they will churn up the ground in to slippery mud. Running along the edges will tend to give better traction where possible.

Now, nearly every trail that I have run will always have some uphills and some downhills. Try to avoid leaning back on while descending. This tends to put my weight behind my foot which increase the risk that I will go sliding. The better option is to lean in to the downhill while keeping as much weight as possible over the ball of my foot. Yes, this sounds counter intuitive and bit reckless. But in my experience, it tends to work.

Once course swings back to the uphill, use the banking on the sides of the trail help climb it. What I do is pinch my knees slightly inward so my ankles flare out. This way, I am using each side of the trail to propel myself upward. This technique is a bit of a variant from my suggestion for running on the sides of a trail. Sometimes it just is not possible to run on the sides uphill but bouncing back and forth from side to side will work fairly well.

This next suggestion pertains to taking a turns on a trail. I learned this lesson just last year. I went in to a left hand turn and decided to take the inside track on the trail. I planted my foot which promptly gave way sending me sliding down and across the trail. No, the better option is to take the outside line on a trail. Here, I would have been pushing against the banking which tends to hold up better.

Lastly, my best suggestion is to take advantage of all straight ahead sections. These are best sections to make good time with low risk.

Having suggested all of the above, remember that nothing is full proof. I am zipping along on a trail in questionable conditions. I am looking ahead and making split second decisions based on my experience of what is the best path to take. Choosing wisely is very important.

So if slowing down makes sense, then do so. Better to finish the race 2 or 3 seconds slower than twist and ankle or worse break an ankle.

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Hot Chocolate 8K Recap

A few years ago, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K here in Charlotte. I have been wanting to run this race again but life has not lined up enough that I could make it happen. Unfortunately, life was not lining up again this year.

However, Peter shared a post on Facebook about the Hot Chocolate 8k in Albemarle, NC that he was organizing. Hot Chocolate, a race, and an open weekend, I signed right up.

Darkness still covered Albemarle as I eased my way in to town. I located a good spot to park and headed for packet pick up.

At 8 AM under an ever so slight drizzle, we started the race. We all caught a break with the 55 degree temperatures. I sported my WWC singlet.

Several guys went out in front of me. The downhill start makes everyone look awesome. As the course began to encounter some hills, I was able to make up some ground. By the mile, I caught the 3rd place runner. By two miles, I had moved in to 2nd place. The leader was still moving away. All I could see was the flashing the lead police vehicle vanishing in to the distance.

The 2nd and 3rd miles are stair case of climbing. Then, the course levels out as it heads back toward downtown Albemarle.

My labored breathing told me this was about my upper limit. I had a good gap on 3rd place so I could focus on running to the finish.

Peter marked the course well, and there were plenty of volunteers at the intersections to keep us moving the right direction.

When I turned on First Street, I glanced at my Garmin, and this gave me a rough idea of my finish time.

The course makes a big loop, and once it returns to the Y, it makes a loop around the block.

I finished in 31:24 and 2nd place overall. This was my first true road race since last February. Getting a chance to hit the road again was nice. I may jump in a few more road races this year.

Yes, after the race, I got to sip some hot chocolate. The taste was awesome. Also I want to give a shout out to Peter and crew for putting on their usual top notch race. If the opportunity presents its self, I recommend getting over to Albemarle for a race. I have never been disappointed.  

Kickin’ up trail dust,

The Cool Down Runner

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cross over lanes

Our NC DOT has been changing some of our area intersections to have these new cross over lanes. I been through a few of them: Cornelius and over near Concord Mills Mall. I hadn't give them much thought until I was setting in the latest one on highway 16 and Mt Holly-Huntersville Rd.

While I was setting in the line traffic, I begin to wonder if this was really a better way of traffic control.

From my perspective, I come up to a red light, and I have to wait to turn left. With these new cross over lanes, I have to essentially set through the same red light twice. First, I wait for the light to change so I can drove over into the cross over lane. Then, I have to wait on the same light cycle and allow me to turn left.. If this had been a normal left turn lane, I would have already been headed down road 5 minutes earlier.

So I asked myself where the value here? Does this help me get through the intersection faster? No, at least not from my perspective. I set through the same light twice. In fact, I would say it is slower. I would further add that these new intersections are adding to global warm because my car is setting there pumping out carbon dioxide while I am waiting.

But I am open minded kind of guy. If someone could explain how these cross lanes are better, I would gladly be up to debate their value.

Setting in cross over lane.

The Cool Down Runner 

Racing across the Years

Humm, I wonder. Was I racing across the years? Or, was I racing across the decades? The more that I think about it the more I think both are true.

About a month ago, I got an email from the WWC race guys that they were putting on a trail race that would run across the years. They had me with the title. Having never raced across the years, I definitely wanted to do it.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, I drove out to the WWC around 10 PM. Grabbed my bib, and chatted with a couple of people for a few minutes. Then, I headed off to warm up over the race course that we would be running.

Ugh, I had barely entered the North Main trail when I went slip sliding. This was going to be fun and possibly a little dangerous.

The race course was 90% of the North Main trail with the WWC Christmas lights trail added at the end to make it a legit 5k course. The start/finish would be from their Pavilion. The 5k runners would do 1 lap while the 10k runners would do two laps. We would be repeating the 5k course twice.

I made sure my head lamps were set and set at max brightness before the start. I thought I was ready but looking around I wasn’t so sure. Most of the runners surrounding were not old enough to shave yet.

With 5 seconds to 11:45, Jenn gave us a starting count down. Everyone one of those guys blasted off from the starting line. Could I be wrong? Hopefully, no of them thought that this was a 100 yard sprint.

The line of runners stretched out in front of me as we made our way around the channel and started in to the North Main Trail.

The distance between us began to shrink as those road shoes were not the best suited for these trail conditions. Now, catching them was one thing. Passing them was entirely another manner. There was a line of runners in front of me, and I was doing my best to leap frog through them but it was taking time. The North Main trail is fairly narrow so it became a “pardon me” or “excuse me” to get by. Then, I have to run hard until caught the next guy and then try to time it for a spot that I knew that I could pass.

We were running along the river section of the trail when I heard the sound of many fireworks in the distance. I could only assume that the New Year had arrived.

We followed the North Main trail to the boat dock and then proceed up the service road. Oh, is it steep. Then, right on the trail which leads back to the Pavilion. Where we then turned right on to the Christmas lights trail to run it in reverse.

This section had a lot of zigging and zagging. I had a real hard time maintaining any type of pace. Any attempt to accelerate was met with a hard right or left turn and at one point, a bridge crossing. I didn’t even know that there was a bridge in this section of woods.

Finally, I popped out of the woods to finish my first lap. They had a volunteer directing the 10k runners out for the 2nd lap and the 5k runners toward the finish.

I had lost sight of Troy. He had pulled away from me while we were running through the lights section.

Enter North Main for the 2nd time, I treaded gently. Having serval hundred runners gone through, I expected the trail to be pretty cut up, and it was.

However, I didn’t expect to almost immediately upon entering the trail to start coming up upon other runners. In some respects, I was running in a long conga line of runners. Given the conditions, I guess they increase the lag time between the waves. Now, I doing my best to work through this line and stay up right on a muddy trail.
There were plenty of opportunities to the fall, but I never went down. I was pretty well covered in mud.

I climbed the service road and headed in to the Christmas Lights section. This time through I took the opportunity to the take in the sight of a few more of the lights.

I crossed the finish line in 52 minutes and 26 seconds. I think that I finished 5th overall but I am not sure. The results for the 10k had me 26 overall which I didn’t understand. That is until I looked at some of the other times for the 10k race. Apparently, someone set a new world 10k record with a 23 minute time.

I don’t know how many 10k runners turned left instead of going on to finish a 2nd lap. Seems to have been quite a few. Still, the 10k race awards came out fairly quickly. I mean it was around 1:30 in the morning. I can only assume that the WWC guys based the 10k awards on the times for those that crossed the 2nd timing mat twice. They must have eliminated the others.

Based on the huge turnout, I suspect that the WWC guys will be working next New Year’s Eve. I fully expect this race to become a tradition here in Charlotte.

Lastly, over the last couple of days, I was been pondering how to record this race. Should I record it as a ’19 race since I started the race ’19 or should I record it as a ’20 race since I officially finished the race in ’20.  Both sound right to me. I finally settled for recording it as ’19 race. Logically, I paid for the race and started the race in ’19. Does when I finished have any real bearing on it. I guess not.

Happy New Year!!!!

Kickin’ up trail dust

The Cool Down Runner