Thursday, May 31, 2007

Running Faster

Yesterday I decided to do some mile repeats at Shelley Lake. After a 1.5 mile warm-up , I wasn't feeling that good , still a little tired and sore from all the miles the past few weeks. And then as I clicked the watch and took off an amazing thing happened. I felt fantastic!. My stride felt smooth, fluid and efficient. My breathing was quick but strong as I settled in to the quicker than normal pace and a slight smile came from inside. Although I concentrate on ultra's these days and the pace can sometimes feel like a crawl, I still find pleasure in opening up the pace and running FAST.
In my younger days when I ran mostly 5 and 10K's with an occasional 10 miler or half-marathon, I would do qtrs and halves on the track as I attempted to reach for new Pr's. I probably went for 20 years without doing any speedwork after those early days until I decided to try and qualify for Boston in 2005. Karla and I began running on the track once or twice a week beginning in late July that year. I planned out several workouts using half mile and mile repeats and occasional 2 mile repeats that were more like tempo runs. Marathon training is different from 5K's so the pace was much easier and less painful than the 400's I ran at mile pace in the past. I found I very much enjoyed these workouts and the end result was lowering my marathon PR by 25 minutes and getting my qualifier. And then I stopped the speedwork.
I had lost my training partner while she underwent her treatments and soon after, NCSU tore up the track and my focus changed once again to ultra's. I got away from the routine and before I realized it, a year had passed since I had done any speedwork. I do feel that the speedwork has helped in my ultrarunning. Although I don't run those kinds of pace in the ultra's, it has helped with my fitness and my running efficiency and I continued to improve with pr's from 50K to 100 miles in the next year. Amazingly my times for the repeats yesterday were about 30 seconds per mile faster than last year at the same effort. A sign of some fast times this Fall?
I hope to continue now to include some speedwork in my regular training and look forward to continue to improve for several more years before the years inevitably slow me down at all distances. I'l l never touch those 5 and 10k pr's from my 20's and 30's but I expect new pr's at all the ultra distances this year and next. I never would have dreamed I'd be saying that at age 51. And it wouldn't happen except that after all these years I still have the passion for running FAST!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Weekend 35: or not

So how did the planned 35 mile Umstead training run go? Well as you can see from the picture it got off to a great start with three lovely companions, Katie, Laura and Karla. Alan took the picture and was running with us too but he's not as pretty as the ladies. I was expecting more to show up so we waited until nearly 8:45 to start and it was already quite warm. Finally decided the other 5 or 6 weren't coming so we took off. It didn't take long for Karla and I to be running alone as we were a little too slow for the others. That was OK. I have had so few opportunities to run with the Marathon Princess lately so we were having a great time enjoying the beautiful morning together. Karla hasn't worked her way back into shape yet to go the full lap comfortably, so when we got back to Graylyn after about 7 miles, we said good-bye and I settled in for the long day ahead. It was just then that I realized we had not stopped at the water fountain to refill my bottle and there would be no more chances for the next 6.6 miles.
I was still feeling very good though and not too worried. As I worked my way around the Turkey Creek loop, I looked ahead and saw Laura running towards me with Barbara, about two miles from the parking lot. The three of us continued on and I was glad to have the company again. We finished that lap in 2:31, only a minute off my estimate. I drank nearly a whole bottle of water and took in some calories and after a short break Barbara and I said good-bye to Laura, Alan and Katie and headed out for lap two. The next several miles passed quickly. We were having a good time talking and getting to know each other better. Barbara will be running Western States also and has paced a friend over the last 38 miles of the course so we certainly had a lot to talk about on that subject. I was still feeling great as we left Turkey Creek and headed down Reedy Creek Trail.
It's amazing how fast things can change. In less than 2 miles I went from feeling good to feeling very bad. By the time we reached the water fountain, around 21 miles into the run for me I was in trouble. I sat and poured some cold water over me and drank and ate a gel, took two e-caps and rested for about 5 minutes. Then we started off walking. I was hoping that I would feel better in a few minutes. We finally started running some more but by the time we reached the turn-around point at the gate, I was toast. We walked along and I still was getting worse instead of better. I began looking around for a place in the shade to sit but slowly trudged along hoping to make it back to the water fountain. I told Barbara to go ahead , that I would rest and cool off and I'd be fine to walk to the car in a little while and she could go ahead with the workout. Being the caring, compassionate Dr. that she is, she declined and stayed watching over me. I told her again a few minutes later to go ahead but then she noticed that it was possible to drive to the gate at the water fountain on the road that leads to Camp Lapihio. Not really looking forward to the long hot 3 mile walk back to my car I took her up on the offer. So she took off running to get her car and I found a nice old log in the shade to sit on and wait. It's amazing how many hundreds of ants, other insects and spiders live on one old log. I also had a visit from a lizard about 8" long. After the time I estimated it would take her to reach her car I walked towards the camp to meet her at the intersection at the camp entrance so it would be easier for her to turn around. I had only been there a minute when she drove up. So my planned run ended after 24.3 miles and hopefully I learned a lesson. It was all great fun for a while. Thanks Barbara.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Falls Lake 26.7 miler

Saturday at 8:35am, 7 trail-running friends headed into the wood for a training run along the length of the Falls Lake Trail in Raleigh NC. The trail is a part of the Mountains to the Sea trail and is 26.7 miles from point to point.( a new 7.2 mile section has been finished recently that was not part of todays run). Several years ago as a beginning ultra-runner I joined a group organized by Matt Kirk and Scott Brockmeirer. I was struggling early on a hot summer morning and dropped after 9.3 miles of suffering. Since that time I have wanted to go back but just never made plans to go through with it.
This Spring as I was planning my training schedule in between the races I was entering I felt that this run would fit into my plans. I mentioned it to Mike Walsh and he was immediately on board and excited so the run was on. We mentioned it at one of the Thursday night NCRC series social runs and Mike Waldvogel and Rhonda Hampton volunteered to be a roving aid station for us. This would solve the logistics problem of worrying about dropping off water and food and provide a sag wagon if anyone ran into trouble. After e-mailing invitations for anyone to join us, we had several sign on and several others that wished they could but had prior commitments.
As the day arrived, we woke to a gorgeous morning with a near perfect weather forecast for our day's little adventure. We gathered at the northern terminus of the trail at 8am and then shuttled to the start at the Falls Lake Dam tailrace area. Besides our aid crew we had( in order l to r in the photo) Bea Kendall, Laura MacLean, Tyler Peek, Jeff Branin, me, Mike Walsh and Dorothy Hunter. All experienced trail runners with at least 2 ultra finishes or more.
We started off easily enough as everyone just planned to have some fun and enjoy the great trail. Mostly we stayed in a tight group early on. Laura always has a problem running slow and would disappear ahead but after a while we would pass her as she stopped to take photos as we passed by. She would repeat that pattern for most of the first half. Mike was feeling great and was leading the pack with Laura early on too.
It was in the mid 50's by the time we started and warming quickly but not a problem as the high for the day would only reach 72. It was quite humid in the early miles making it feel warmer but as the day went on the humidity dropped and a cool breeze picked up making it actually seem cooler in the later miles. Mike and Rhonda were waiting for us as the trail came out of the woods along the roads that cross the trail approximately every 3 to 4 miles. These were always a welcome sight and we would all gather back as a group at these first few stops. We had a large cooler of water, gatorade endurance and an assortment of food that would rival any average race. Especially welcome were the homemade ginger snaps that Dorothy brought. Anyone that has run the Umstead 100 in recent years would recognize them from the aid station by Ebenezer Church Road. Yummy!
As we neared the midway point I was feeling the effects of last weekends Capon Valley 50K and the other difficult races I've run recently. I wasn't concerned as this was part of the plan. Right now everything is training for WS next month. After next weekends long run I will begin a taper period that should have me in my best shape ever and eager to race hard. But, it was still going to be a tough slow 2nd half today. By now Tyler was feeling good and he soon disappeared up the trail never to be seen again by me. Laura also did a disappearing act after the 17.2 mile stop and Mike went on too. Dorothy was still feeling strong and pulled ahead leaving myself along with Bea and Jeff.
Before we got to the next stop we hit a confusing intersection on the trail and Dorothy was there and would join us for the rest of the run. She would provide one of the most exciting moments of the day. I was leading the group when I heard her let out a cry of pain. Snake bite? No but she was having a major calf cramp like I had post race last week. Very painful. She was making a lot of noise and we were joking that the folks out in their boats on the lake were probably calling 911 thinking she was being attacked. I tried massaging it while she stretched and soon it subsided and fortunately it didn't repeat again. Soon after I took a nice tumble when the side of my foot brushed against a small stump hidden under a new leafy weed. It was a very soft landing as I rolled down the side of the trail. Bea had taken a couple of tumbles too but Jeff, who fell once too would have won best blood. But the good blood he had on his arm was not from the fall but from tangling with some briers. Horton would have proud.
We all gathered at the end and savored the moments knowing we had just spent a special day on the trail. Will there be a repeat? You never know. I do know several others are hoping to join us if we do repeat. And then there is that other 7.2 miles to consider.

Laura took a lot of great photos here

Some more photos from Mike Walsh's camera

A course map

A detailed course description

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Capon Valley 2007

Ok , the report is now posted at NCULTRA.

And here are some photos I took. I wish I had felt better hanging around at the finish and gotten some more of my friends there. Here are Laura's Photos.

I arrived Friday evening about 7 and as soon as I stepped out of my car I saw Sue Norwood standing in the door of their camper. She invited me in and I spent the next hour enjoying conversation with her and husband Jim. Laura showed up and joined us until it was time to pick up our race packets. Laura soon left and I went to set up my tent before it got dark. I had it up quickly and walked over to visit with Jennifer Cochran from WV who was camping in the next tent over. Bill Potts was there to and the three of us had a nice time talking in the darkness until time for bed.
After the race I went and changed clothes and then joined Laura and friends for the delicious bbq chicken dinner. Had a great time with Brian McNeill, Quatro Hubbard, Stephanie Wilson, Farouk and Marianna among others. The only problem was I was having a lot of cramping. The worst I've ever had after a race. Quatro went and got me some S-Caps and while I massaged my left hamstring , Laura tried to work a knot out of my right calf. Eventually I figured I would feel better if I walked around and stretched out a little. I went and packed up my tent and then sat around some more outside with Laura and Quatro until time to leave. Overall it was a great weekend even with the slow race and the post-race cramps.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Capon Valley Preview

If you recognize this picture, that's because I used it in my story of last years race. You can read it here. I really enjoyed the race and I'm happy it fit my schedule again this year. I just wish it wasn't such a long drive!
The race is held in a very remote, rural and beautiful area of West Virginia.There are a lot of horse farms in the area. In fact the previous race director, Lynn Goleman was a horse rider and not a runner. She and some others in the area decided that sharing their trails would bring some needed dollars to the area. One thing that is different from most other races is that it is held on mostly private property. There are some short road sections but mostly the trails and paths belong to local property owners. They have opened up the gates to their pastures , fields and wooded trails to allow the race. The community is very supportive as the race is a major fundraiser for the local fire and rescue and Ruritan Club where the race is headquartered.
With camping in the grassy field at the Ruritan Club there is plenty of chance for pre and post race socializing. They sell a good breakfast in the morning for a bargain price and then a chicken dinner is included afterwards. I hope to get some good pictures this weekend and improve on my time from last year. I promise I won't forget a water bottle this time! You should definetly try and get to this race sometime. Here is a link to the website.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Relay for Life

This weekend the Eastern Wake version of The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life will be held at East Wake High School. For the 4th year in a row my church, Zebulon United Methodist will be sponsoring a team. In 2004 I was working with the Youth Group and we stayed at the track from midnight to 6am taking turns walking and I ran about 6 miles. In 2005 I decided to run the same 6 hours by myself and promised to cover 30 miles. I had just run the Massanutten 100 the week before and had a sprained ankle and was walking in a Frankenstein boot the week leading up to it. I went to the track thinking I might be able to walk a mile or two but after testing the foot out I just kept running and was able to complete the 30 miles in 5:56. Miracle do happen.
Last year the event took on a whole new meaning to me when my training partner Karla was diagnosed with Cancer. I couldn't be at the Relay because I was racing in WV but I used the race as on of my fundraising runs in her honor . Most of you reading this know the story but if you don't then you can click on this link for the Dreams Can Come True story. I am very happy to tell those of you that continue to ask about her that she is doing great. She is working out and running and hope to soon be back in pre-cancer shape.
Unfortunately cancer still is touching many lives right now. Just this week I had one friend have surgery for prostate cancer on Monday and another had skin cancer removed on Tuesday. I will be on the track tomorrow night running for an hour and then again Saturday am for another hour. If you are unable to participate in your local Relay for Life and would like to make a contribution, you can contact me at and I will give you my address. Checks should be made out to the American Cancer Society.

Early Summer?

Whew, it's powerful warm out there this week. I met Jenn at Umstead Tuesday afternoon for a run on the bridle trails. With the temperature at 91F I think we were both satisfied to only go 7 miles. My quads were still quite sore from the pounding at Promise Land. The steep downhills , especially the last 2.6 coming down the gravel road back to the valley really beat me up.
Wednesday it had cooled down to only 88F but a bit more humid. I decided to do an easy 6 on the Company Mill Trail, my favorite single-track in the Park. The Umstead Park mascot, the big black annoying flies were in full force harassing me every step. Someone posted on the NCRC yahoo group asking advice on how to deal with them. I just run down the trail as fast as I can, cursing, yelling and flailing my arms around my head like a madman. It doesn't do anything for the flies but people give me plenty of room on the trail. Looking forward to a bit cooler and more normal temps the next week, although I do need the heat acclimation for this summers big one.