Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Screaming down the Mountain. Scream Half Marathon that is.

Coming into this I wasn't in the shape I'd hoped to be but I am pain free and the running is going well so I was eager to test myself on this mostly downhill route. Yeah, mostly downhill. But somehow there is 496 feet of climbing mix in there too ! More on that as the story unfolds.

  The race is a point to point beginning in Jonas Ridge and ends down the mountain in Mortimer which is a ghost town in the Pisgah National Forest. The first two miles on paved roads and then gravel the remainder of the way after entering the park service land. Because of this we would have to take a shuttle to the start and then another from the finish back to Brown Mountain Resort Campground where our cars had to be parked.

 I arrived in plenty of time to catch the bus and after a pleasant enough and scenic ride to Jonas ridge I had an hour to kill before the start. Fortunately there were quite a few Raleigh area runners with ties to the NCRC, MTC and Capital Runwalk for me to visit with while waiting. Because of the restrictions from the Park Service and logistics the race is limited to only 300 runners so it was nice to know so many in the race this far away from home.

 With 15 minutes to go I made final preparations and headed toward the start about 600 yards away after only 1/2 mile warm up jog and no strides. I figured with the downhill and my low base of miles I would skip most of my usual warm up routine. You always hope for cooler weather in the mountains but it was 70F and about 100% humidity at 8am so not much in the way of a break for us ! I lined up behind a couple of other grey hairs near the front and then we were off. And up.

  Most of the 1st two miles of the race are uphill. Its mostly a gradual climb with nothing steep and I just planned to take it easy until the course turned downhill. I watched the two older guys pull away but didn't even think about trying to stay with them. I would stick to my plan and let the race unfold as it may. I was feeling pretty good and very happy to pass mile 1 in 8:22 which was about the pace I needed to average to make my realistic goal of a sub 1:50. To be honest I wasn't sure what time to predict on a flat course right now in the comeback but I did feel the 1:50 was reasonable with the gravity assist.

 By mile two the small field of 300 was already spread out quite a bit, the grey hairs were out of sight and after that mile in 8:36 I was looking forward to stretching it out a little.  As I began picking up speed going down I was still holding back a bit because it was still further to go than my longest run so far this year and I didn't want to beat my legs up too much. By mile 3 ( 7:48) I was already worrying a little if my legs would cramp on me or give out from the pounding but soon I relaxed and it didn't seem that it would be an issue.

 As I said, we were spread out and I was running alone maybe passing a couple of people since mile 2. Around mile 4 a young couple eased by me but I would keep them in sight. Mile 4 was 8:01 and I was a bit disappointed because it felt faster but then I remembered that I'm not in the same shape as I was 5 months ago and just accept it for what it is and be happy that its still adding a cushion to my goal time.

 Mile 5 was anther 7:48 and my confidence was growing but I was still holding back a little bit and just enjoying myself. You really have to pay attention to where you are going and putting your feet to avoid the bigger chunks of gravel , ruts in the dirt and exposed larger rocks poking through but then there were not many views along the way to distract you. Just the dirt road and a tunnel of green.

 Mile 6 was an 8:02 and I was happy to be approaching the halfway point still feeling strong. And then about that point I was a bit surprised to have a hill to climb. I did expect a little bit of up but this was fairly significant with a total gain of 121 ft.. No wonder I slowed down to 8:32 for mile 7. Another 40 feet of climbing to begin mile 8 and then a screaming downhill worthy of the race name with 436 feet of loss in mile 8 ! It was my fastest mile of the day in 7:24 but at times it was so steep that I couldn't run as fast as I wanted having to be careful and not beat up the legs any worse than I could help it.

 I was still not seeing too many other runners. Only one young guy passed me somewhere right around mile 9. Yeah mile 9. Up again with 150 ft up but then it dropped 272 feet. That took 8:22

 By now  I was feeling great and was ready to begin to push the effort to the end and about the same time I could see what looked like about 10 runners spread out up ahead including the young couple that had passed me back at mile 4. I started focusing on trying to reel them in one by one as I passed mile 10 in 7:39.

 From 9.5 to 11.5 was about the most drop of the race with 10 losing 357 feet and 11 another 426 ! I was just pushing as hard as I could without losing control and steadily passed one after another of the runners I could see and was really enjoying myself. Mile 11 was 7:37.

 About 11.5 we had landed in the Wilson Creek river valley and the big descent was over and we made a right hand turn. NCRC President  Rebecca Sitton was volunteering there and cheering for me and snapped a nice picture of me waving and smiling. The smiles didn't last too much longer as the course made a gradual rise. By mile 12 the effort  and warm humid conditions were taking their toll and the legs after all the pounding were having a hard time keeping pace. That was an 8:26.

mile 11.5. photo credit Rebecca Sitton


 Just one more mile to go but I was toast. I tried to will my legs to move faster but it was a painful shuffle as I hoped to see the finish around every turn in the curvy road.  I did pass a couple of more runners that were suffering a bit more than I was .Finally it came into sight but I was hearing footsteps coming fast. I picked up the pace a little but it was obvious I was going to be passed. I didn't care. I knew it wasn't anyone close to my age so let them have their moment of glory passing the old guy. I had no desire to try a sprint and puke at the finish !

The end. Photo credit Bobby Aswell Jr.


 And then it was done . 1:46:28. Certainly a lot better than I expected. And a harder course than I expected also. But I had fun other than that lst mile lol. Good enough for 2nd in my age group. This is a good confidence boost on my fitness level and also that my body held up to the punishment with no problems or issues.

 I grabbed my drop bag and slowly walked to the picnic area but before getting on the bus I soaked in a cool creek for about 15 minutes which felt wonderful after the beating my body just took.

 So that was my Scream. A well organized fun race and a good excuse to travel to a beautiful area of the NC mountains. Will I return? Maybe. So many things to do and so little time.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ready to race the Scream Half Marathon !

 Ok sports fans, I am ready to get serious about racing again. In another 6 weeks. But in the meantime it's time to run my first time at THE SCREAM this Saturday, July 15th !

 This will be the fifth year for the race but my first time. It's always looked like fun but didn't fit my schedule for whatever reason This year I thought it would be fun to go run it a week after having a great race at Grandfather Mountain. Well, we know that plan fizzled out with the injury but  I'm hoping to go up there and have some fun this weekend. And yes, I do plan to race it as hard as I can !

  The race is a certified distance but it is not your normal race. It is held in a national forest  beginning not too far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. And its almost all downhill from there being a point to point event from Jonas Ridge down to Mortimer with a net loss of about 2,368 feet according to a strava segment here at this link. (segment shows 12.9 but it is 13.1 and several runners gps tracks show a wide range as usual).

 My plan when I signed up was to use the gravity assist and my great conditioning to go for my fastest half since a 1:38 back in 2006. With my 1:40 at OBX last November it seemed like a reasonable goal. But now not so much. I'll be happy just go see the sunny side of 1:50. Things have been going well with my comeback so who knows, I may surprise myself.

 Here is a link to the race website

 Stay tuned for a recap as soon as possible 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Looking forward to making the remainder of 2017 amazing.

  Two choices.
 #1 Look at the downside of coming off of an injury and lack of conditioning and just hope to make it through the year.
 #2. Look at the break as a chance to let my body prepare for some awesome training and racing ahead.

 I'll go with option #2 thank you.

 Not much has changed for my plans for the second half of the year other than  facing reality and having to cut back on expectations for the rest of this month. But beyond that I intend to work hard to get back to top running shape and be a force to be reckoned with in the Senior Divisions again.

 I've got the Scream Half Marathon coming up next weekend. Obviously I am not going to run anywhere near as fast as I had planned but i will give it my all and use it to build strength as I then began some real serious training. I'm looking forward to getting back on the track, doing hill repeats, tempo runs and building the mileage.


 Which brings us to the real goal for the rest of 2017 and into 2018. As I wrote at the beginning of the year I intend to run as many races as possible in the Running Journal Grand Prix and if all goes to plan I intend to win my division. I'll give more detail on that as it gets closer to time for the series to start. As of right now the full schedule has not been released but it should be ready by August 1st.

 These are the races currently known. 

 As is customary the Series will begin With the Midnight Flight 10k in Anderson SC on Aug. 25th.

 A race new to the series is scheduled for Oct 15th, The Hero Half Marathon in Fayetteville Ark.

 Nov. 19th will find me in Birmingham Al for the Magic City Half Marathon and then in Dec I will be return to Alabama, this time to Huntsville for the Rocket City Marathon. This is a race I've always wanted to run because of its reputation as a top notch race. It also earns double points in the series and I hope to run very well and lock up a Boston qualifier.

 That's all for now until the full schedule is released. If nothing is added for this year I'll look for something to do  in Sept for fun and possibly something in early Nov. Most of the series has been stacked with a lot of Half marathons so I'll try to mix in a couple of 5ks to keep the speed up but definitely not going to do too much racing so I stay sharp with my eye on the ultimate goal. Which of course means no return to ultras in the foreseeable future.  Maybe next year? Stay tuned for more training updates and racing fun ahead !

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Looking back at the 1st half of 2017.

  This is probably the most disappointing 6 months review since I began the blog back in 2006 and even more so considering what an amazing year in 2016.  But stuff happens and I've learned how to roll with it and look ahead. But this is a review post so here goes. It's short.

 Jan:
 I had planned to begin the year by sneaking back into Ultras for a little bit the first week of January but the race was cancelled due to snow and ice storm, It was just as well because I had not really prepared well for it with no long runs other than the Kiawah Marathon a few weeks earlier and my heart wasn't really into it.

 Feb:
 Cancelling the 50k allowed me to focus on what I was in great shape for and that was the Run For The Roses 5k.  The race went well despite the unseasonably hot 80F and the hilly course and I was able to get my 3rd RRCA State Championship for Senior Grandmasters. Then about 9 days later it all fell apart when I had to bail on a workout with what turned out to be a stress fracture of my right heel. Ironically it was not running that initiated the injury but continuing to run and hope the pain would go away did it and me in.

March and April were total washouts with no running and lots of pain.

 Finally on May 20th I felt like a test run. I tried one mile and it was pain free so I was able to begin to ease back into running again.

June:

 On the 3rd of June, just 2 weeks after I started back I decided to go ahead and run the Rocky Mount Mills 5k that I had entered well before the injury. I just wanted to be careful and not hurt myself and get an idea at just how much conditioning I had lost. It was much cooler and drier than last year and I ran a lot better than I could have expected in 25:04, almost exactly 2 minutes slower than 2016 but I was very happy to run that well.

  3 weeks later I went to Chapel Hill to run the Vegfest 5k for fun. The only reason I entered was because Laura and Susan's new yoga studio was sponsoring the awards and I thought it would be fun to race and spend some time hanging around at the booth at the festival. Wow ! I knew it would be hilly but it turned out to be the toughest 5k I have ever raced in my 40 years at this sport with nearly 300 ft of elevation gain ! And it was hot and 100% humid.
  I ran 26:12 which included an extra 10th of a mile thanks to the lead bike leading us front runners off course in the first 1/4 mile and then we had to weave our way through the entire field to get back up front. Grrrr. with the extra distance and hills and humidity I think my effort was definitely better than three weeks earlier. It wasn't a very competitive field and I finished 6th overall out of about 100 finishers. The best thing was Laura's daughter Isabella won the race overall for men and women and Sophia was running well in the top 4th of the pack but was led off course near the 2 mile mark. Julian was there to cheer for us and take pictures and its always the best to have Laura cheering me at the finish.

Vegfest 5k finish. Photo credit Laura Frey


 So that's about it.  I've already had to cancel the first race I had planned for July because it was the Grandfather Mountain Marathon and no way I'm ready for that tough course yet and only a 10 mile training run so far.  I'll have a post looking ahead to the next 6 months up very soon I hope.

 Throughout the whole year so far I have done more yoga than ever before which has helped tremendously with keeping me in good shape. I really kicked it up a notch in June when Raleigh Yoga Company opened up for business May 28th. It is so much more convenient for me and so awesome to get to workout there nearly everyday and some days 2 or 3 times !

 That's it for now. Stay tuned for what I am sure is going to be a much better and more exciting 2nd half of 2017.