Thursday, August 30, 2007

Collecting Counties

Recently a member of the Mangum Track Club, David Soloman wrote about his experience running across his home county. Now Mark Long is planning a run across his. I have no plans to duplicate their efforts (my county is a lot wider than theirs) but it reminded me of a goal I was pursuing at one time. In the early 80's I began a new job that required driving over a large territory, I would often carry my running clothes with me and before heading home, I would look for a place to run. Sometimes I would explore towns, other times a trail in a State Park . As I drove I was constantly scouting places that looked like a fun or challenging route. I soon realized I had run in a lot of different counties so I decided to began tracking them on a map. I took a NC highway map and taped it on my wall in the bedroom and after every new county, I would outline it on the map. Since NC has a perfect number of 100 counties, I made it a goal to run in all 100.
I was also occasionally traveling out of state for business and pleasure so I got a Rand McNally road atlas and started marking the States and counties all over the country I had run in. During the Dark Years, I stopped tracking these things and the atlas hadn't been opened in long time. Last night I decided to pull it out and update all the unmarked locations I've been to in the past few years. It took a lot longer than I expected! I was a bit surprised that my count now is up to 81 counties; only 19 to go. Since I'm that close I now have decided to try and complete the map. It will require some effort because all that remain are in the far outlying corners of a very long state. (Roughly 600 miles end to end)
As far as the State count, I am up to 21 now. At the time I started this, the 50 States and DC marathon group did not exist. There probably weren't marathons in more than about 20 States back then anyway. I would like to join that club but the travel and expense are not an option for me unless I hit the lottery so I will be content to run a marathon or ultra out of state once or twice a year while trying to finish my 100 county goal. Probably hundreds of people have done the 50 States and DC thing but I wonder how many can claim they've run all 100 counties of the Great State of North Carolina?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shirt Run 8-25-07

When I contacted Mark Long last month about the possibility of holding a shirt run this weekend for my friend and frequent training partner Jenn, he replied that it fit his schedule but it might be too hot. We agreed that it would probably be hot but that everyone should be used to the heat by now anyway so the run was on.
As the popularity of MTC has grown, so have the shirt runs and soon we had a full group of runners ready to assemble by the Dog Pen. Another friend, Frank Werner, husband to my Marathon Princess, Karla was also planning to join. Frank has made the commitment to run his first marathon this Fall and today's run would be his longest training run so far. We were very excited for Saturday morning to arrive so that we could run and see many other of our wonderful friends from this bunch misfits.
The forecast was not looking good and as we drove down in the pre-dawn darkness , it was obviously going to be a very humid day too. Jenn and I were the first to arrive but within moments a large group had assembled and after some greetings and hugs it was time to shuttle over to Mangum for the start. Jenn and I piled in the big SUV of Alan Hughes along with Frank and Karla, Laura and Lisa Howell. Alan was being smarter than the rest of us and not running today.
After a quick group photo and one of the newbies, we started running down the road. Jenn and I were joined by Lisa who was here for her shirt too. Her sponsor Sean was called away to work and couldn't run so Lisa ran with us. Karla and I had met Lisa while training on the track at NCSU for Boston two summers ago. We took off at an easy, steady pace knowing that we had a lot of heat and hills and many miles ahead. It was definitely warming quickly and we were soon drenched in sweat that would not evaporate but just filled our shoes. Any shade was welcome and thankfully there was a lot in the early miles. As always, Mark had put out water at several places along the road. With the extreme conditions today though everyone was happy for the assistance Alan was providing. Every few miles he would drive ahead and wait with a large cooler full of cold drinks and ice and I know it made a big difference in helping us complete the run without anyone suffering from heat stroke.
The three of us continued to run steadily toward the end with great fun and conversation until we finally reached Bethel Church Hill. About halfway up I took a walk break and the ladies pulled ahead. Boogie man Doug pulled alongside in his truck and we talked while I walked and tried to run a little. Once I reached the top I began to try to catch back up to Jenn. They were about to miss the turn on the now paved road to the Dog Pen so I yelled for them to turn. I was gaining on them but then took another walk break when I caught up to Mike. I slowed to talk to him for a few minutes and then took off in pursuit again. In a few minutes it became obvious they had picked up the pace and I was not going to catch them. I was now really feeling the effect of the heat and humidity and the sun was really bearing down. To make the effort to catch them I would probably have passed out from heat exhaustion, so I backed off and settle in to just survive the last 2 miles.
Eventually everyone made it in and survived. We all whined a little and then spent time socializing in the little bit of shade we could find beside the road. Frank told Karla and I , that he always thought we marathoners were crazy for doing this and now he knows we are. Even with the heat it was still a good time. Thanks to Mark for organizing and Sarah Jane for picking up the pizza and to all the other volunteers. And a big Thanks to Alan for the roving aid station and ride to the start.
Laura has posted some photos you can link to here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In it for the Long Run

I recently wrote of my 30th Anniversary of running which offered a good time to reflect on my life and the big part that running has played. But this week a younger member of the Mangum Track Club posted the question to me and other long time runners, what was the key to our longevity. Several members posted some good replies but I needed a little time to think it over and decided to post my thoughts here.

Maybe the picture says it all?

The reasons we all take our first steps on the road(or trail) to becoming a runner are many. Some for fitness, to lose weight or help break a bad habit such as smoking. Some are introduced through competitive programs. Others maybe from a dare from a friend. Perhaps they are just seeking a challenge and a marathon or ultra seems exciting. But whatever the reason to start, in order to stay a runner for years and for it to become a lifestyle, at some point you have to fall in love.

You must simply love the sensation of your body moving over distance. The sound of your feet striking the ground, your steady breathing and your heart beating in your chest. You must learn to love a good sweat, or the sting of a cold wind although you will always dream of those perfect Spring and Fall days.

You must learn to love the roads, the trails, the greenways, and even the track because no matter the location, it's all about the movement. Variety in all things is good. Some days you just want to enjoy the beauty of nature, the next you may want to just run as fast as you can without worrying about rocks and roots. Somedays you will want to race and others just soak in the sights and sounds.

You should learn to love the people you run with. Nothing is better than having friends that understand your passion and can relate to your experiences. Learn to love to run with people faster than you so you will be challenged. Learn to love to run with people slower than you. It will make you a better person and a better runner.

Friday, August 03, 2007

NCRC August Umstead Series 2007 weeks one, two, and three

Thursday Night at 6:30pm we had the first of this year's fun runs on the bridle and bike trails of Umstead State Park. No one knows for sure how many years ago the club started doing these social weeknight runs but it's been a long time now and they continue to grow in popularity. Not really sure who thought it was a good idea to run here in the heat, hills and humidity either, but what better way to get together with a bunch of other runners on a summer evening?
I'm also not sure how I ended up in charge of the series last year but I enjoyed doing it and this year I'm back again. The format really hasn't changed to my knowledge over the years although there have been some course variations. We are using the same course from last year for the 2007 runs. The runs are held for four Thursday evenings in August with distances in descending order each week of 12K, 10K, 8K, and 5K with a 5K option each week. The runs are non-competitive although some runners choose to run all out to test themselves. We do have some giveaways from the club and our series sponsor, which is Inside Out Sports of Cary again this year. Since I'm in charge I decided this year to add a special prize, the Ultraman Joey Award. I run the course before everyone arrives and the runner closest to my time is the winner. The time is held secret until the run is over so no one can try to aim for a particular time. And each week I will run a different type workout so the pace will vary from a run/walk ultra style one week or maybe a tempo run the next.

Photos from Series

Week 1: 8-2-07
The first run was almost cool compared to last year with it only reaching about 90F and of course the typical humidity. I expected a good turnout but with 10 minutes to go we only had about 30. But then cars kept coming and by the time I sent them on their way, we had 62 signed in, which I believe is the 2nd highest total in the years in have been coming out. Several other stragglers showed up a little late.
I gave my usual welcome speech and trail briefing and sent them on their way. Even with the heat, most chose to go for the full 12K. A few others made a wise choice not to push too hard and turned around early. Then there were several others that wanted a hard workout and really pushed the pace posting some impressive times on the tough course. As the clocked ticked up toward my time it was looking like Nathan Ward would be the Ultraman Joey winner with no one else in sight, but then Jenn Ennis came into view and amazingly only missed my time of 1:11:40 by 1 second! I doubt anyone else will come that close over the next 3 weeks. I had just run an easy, normal pace run this time. What will my workout be next week? Come out next Thursday and find out. Maybe you can be the winner. Angela Candies was the lucky winner of the $75 gift certificate from Inside Out Sports.

Week 2: 8-9-07

Showing a total lack of good judgement and common sense, 45 runners showed up to run 10K on the 2nd hottest day ever recorded in the Triangle area. At 4 o'clock the temperature reached 104F just missing the record of 105 set in 1986. ( I ran 10K in Garner that day in the middle of the afternoon ) By the time 6:30 Pm rolled around I'm sure it had cooled off to no more than 100F. It actually didn't feel that bad to me as I sat in my chair in the shade waiting for the runners to complete the course.
A handful opted for the shorter 5K but once again the majority were brave enough to face the heat. Jarett Prady was the first finisher in 38:56, an amazing time on such a tough course in these brutal conditions. He was followed a couple of minutes later by John Royal, who was also 2nd last week. The Trail Angel, Laura MacLean was the first woman.
Frank Werner, making a rare appearance to Umstead was the winner of this weeks Ultraman Joey award. I had done an ultra style run/walk pace to set the target time. This was Frank's first time on the steep hills of North Turkey Creek and he says it will also be his last.
As we awaited the last runner, a thunderstorm was fast approaching so we scrambled to prepare for the prize giveaway and pack everything away. A couple of very close lightning strikes convinced us to just give away the Inside Out Sports $75 certificate and make a bee line to our cars. Laura was a double winner tonight and took home the award.

Week 3: 8-16

I'm sure this will always be remembered as the hottest August Series ever. Temperatures had dropped over the weekend but as Thursday neared, the mercury began to climb again. A new record for August 16th was set at RDU of 101F but by 6:30 it had dropped to "only" the low 90's. This did not deter 47 determined runners to come test themselves once again on the hills of North Turkey Creek.
Jarett Prady returned and was the fastest man in an amazing sub-30 performance. On the ladies side, young Katie Markley finished way ahead of all the other women with a big smile in about 37 minutes I think.
John Richardson was the lucky Ultraman Joey winner just missing my 45:11 time by about 15 seconds. I had gone out fast but like most everyone else, wilted in the heat and hills coming back. Charles Scharlay was the winner of this weeks Inside Out Sports gift certificate.
The final run, a 5k will be this Thursday. Afterwards we will have a brief club meeting at Fat Daddy's on Glenwood Ave. The prize drawing will be held at the meeting so everyone needs to come.

Week 4: 8-23

The final week of the series brought some cooler temperatures, only in the upper 80's but it was probably the muggiest night so far. We had 43 runners show up for the 5K finale. I was surprised that none of the top 3 men's finishers from previous weeks showed up, but that left it open for someone else to take top honors. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the young man in first or the fastest lady. If anyone can help identify them I will be glad to acknowledge their efforts. Lena Hollman was our most enthusiastic winner of the Ultraman Joey Award. I had run pretty hard again but once again wilted on the return trip, finishing in 26:45. Lena was only about 5 seconds off that time.
After allowing everyone a little time to cool down, we headed over to Fat Daddy's for some wings and a brief NCRC meeting. The meeting was brief and after a short history of the roots of ultrarunning by the guest speaker, yours truly, the prize drawing was held. Our lucky winner of the Inside Out Sports gift certificate was Jennifer Fratello.

It was a real pleasure to host these runs again this year and I look forward to next year.