Sunday, July 20, 2014

Training update 7-20-14 and whats coming !

Well, in a way there wasn't all that much training the past two weeks since two weeks ago was mostly a mini taper for Grandfather Mountain Marathon and this past week was a recovery week.

 I did have  a nice 4 mile tempo run the week before and some nice miles with Karla. But overall  I cut back on the mileage and no doubles. And of course I guess you could say all running is training for something and I believe the marathon and then the hill climb to Fire Tower will both make me stronger for whats coming.

 This past week I took two days rest on Monday and Tuesday although I did do short versions of my cross-training. Wednesday was in one way the very best run I have had in 6 months. Yes, it was a strong 6 miler on a hilly course on what should have been an easy day but this one was more for the heart and soul than the body. It was totally unexpected but I am so thankful for it :)

 Finished up the week with a few more easy runs and had a wonderful 12 miler on Saturday with Karla and Laura.

 And now with Grandfather behind me it is time to get serious about the next big thing which will be my Boston qualifying attempt at The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle on Sept. 14th. I have 8 weeks to go so I just have to hope that all the miles this Spring and Summer so far have me with a strong enough base. More details to come but for now it's a week to ease into the speedwork and a 5 k next weekend, then  5 weeks of speedwork and marathon pace running and a two week taper.

 Stay tuned

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Grandfather Mountain Marathon 2014 .And a little extra !

 I had another nice trip to the mountains in July for a fun race and a little escape from the heat of the flatlands. Arrived in town about 4 pm Friday and took a little drive as far as I could go on the "fire tower" run that Bobby Cordell runs frequently. More on that later.
 I came back down the mountain and went for packet pick-up where I saw several friends and then headed to the Meigs cabin for a wonderful dinner with their family and a lot of the Zap Fitness staff and athletes.

  Arrived at the stadium on race morning about 30 minutes from the start and spent the time visiting with friends before lining up on the track. It was comfortable in my singlet which meant it was a bit too warm but nothing I can do about that.

  I thought I was holding back the first mile but it is all flat or downhill and I passed that first mile in 8:12. Too fast but it felt like a jog so I didn't worry and just relaxed and slowed down a little for mile two. Shortly after that is the first climb as we turn onto Winklers Creek Road and I would get an idea if the 4 hour attempt was going to happen. Mile 3 was 9:10 so I  felt good and decided to go with it. Only problem is the first one is the easiest.

 Over the next couple of miles I was feeling good and running well on the downhills and on the less steep parts of the climbs but when it got steep I just didn't feel I had the power to climb as strong as I hoped and needed.  I was losing too much time on the climbs and although I  made up some time going down it is a losing battle . You just can't make up as much going down as you lose going up and with a lot more up than down on this course you can't afford to lose much cushion. By mile 8 I was pretty sure unless I had a miracle surge of energy on the next 2 mile climb that the attempt was over.

 Well I felt ok but just too slow. I passed by the 10 mile mark where I have stopped for a photo every year since 2008 when I ran with Laura MacLean but just kept going. Too bad I had no Angel to run with and get a photo because for the first time in years there was a clear view of Grandfather Mt. And I was already about 4 minutes over goal pace.

  From mile 2 to 10 is about the hardest part of the course and it is possible to make up a little time so I was still hoping I could at least get close to 4 hours. Maybe run a time to match what I ran on the long course. But when I got to the little climb to the Parkway just before mile 11 I had to take a walk break and just wasn't feeling too good. I did see Tim Meigs there and he had a camera so I had to run for the picture before walking the last little bit to the aid station for water and a gel.

approaching Parkway aid station near mile 11

 I felt better once I began the 2 mile downhill portion of the Parkway. I was running strong but not bombing down it and had a good mile 12 split. No mark at 13.1 but best guess was I went through the half in about 2:02:30. Not bad but as I began the 2 mile climb up the Parkway I was not feeling too good and the sun was bearing down on us. By mile 15 , a very slow one that had turned to a shuffle as I exited the Parkway, I was feeling pretty bad and started walking the steeper hill to the Hollowell Road Aid station and the beginning of the gravel section. Margo passed me looking strong and I knew she was going to have a great day for her.


  Thanks Sharon and Ricky Scott for the pic halfway.

 I was really struggling the next two miles having to take a lot of walk breaks, running slowly and I walked all of the steep hill up to Hwy 221. That's when I posted on FB that I was in for a death march. I was very disappointed of course and really didn't want to suffer for another 9 miles and watch very slow miles destroy any chance for a decent time.

 The first 1/2 mile of 221 continues at a fairly steep grade so I kept walking until it leveled out a little bit and began to run again. And surprisingly I felt pretty good.  A resurgence of energy came from somewhere and I was actually running pretty well. From that point on I only walked a little bit on a couple of sections of the mostly uphill 8 miles to the finish when the grade would kick up a bit steeper for awhile. I was relieved and my attitude improved greatly as I felt so much better and knew that at least I would easily get my 2nd best finish time in 9 attempts here and could enjoy the end a little bit instead of wallowing in pain and self pity !

  It was definitely a relief to finally reach MacRae Meadows and the sounds of bagpipes and drums. I ran strong up the last steep hill to the track past quite a few friends and then as usual when I circle the track in the kilt I get what seems to be a lot of extra cheers from the crowds attending the Highland Games. Number 9 finish in 4:24:40. I'll happily take that.

 It felt good to go back down to the marathon tent, change out of my sweaty clothes and hang around with lots of friends and meet a few more sharing our stories.  Margo had done great as expected and was 3rd in her age group in 4:12. Lisa was out of shape and knew she was in for a long day so after awhile I walked back up a ways so I could see her coming. It was a relief to see her finally come into view and getting it done. Soon after she changed we were able to ride back to Boone with Dale And Alan and not have to wait on the double shuttle. Much more comfortable and great company visiting with old friends !

 Which brings me back to the beginning of the post and Fire Tower.   Bobby runs this course just about everyday, sometimes more than once and has gotten so strong on climbing It is 3.3 miles to the top and gains about 1590 feet ! Amy had been up there and run it a couple of times and I had hoped at some point to go do a training run on it with fresh legs, preferably  with her but alone if necessary. Well, I never made it up there so I decided a couple of days before the race that I would run up it on Sunday am afterwards. Probably not the smartest thing to do on dead beat up legs but who knows when I would get back up there. And besides, I'm Ultraman ;)

  So I contacted Bobby  to clarify the route for me and I was very happy that he was excited and willing to run it with me. So  we met at 7:30 at the Earthfare lot and headed up. I was very pleasantly surprised that I was feeling no real soreness from the marathon and as we began to run I just had the normal stiffness I have for every run. Only problem was the climbing starts after just the first tenth of a mile so no time to loosen up or get the blood and breathing settled in !

  We had only been a short distance when I was already breathing like I was racing a 5k  and things were only going to get steeper. What had I gotten myself into? Bobby was telling me about all the people he knows that have tried and many bailed before the first mile , others have suffered and turned before 2 miles and all that have finished have resorted to a run/walk at some point.  I had expected I would have to walk a lot but now I was determined that wasn't going to happen and I was feeling a lot better than I expected.

 But then the road got just ridiculously steep and for at least a mile my heels never touched the ground, just up on the toes digging and climbing as I tried to keep my breathing under control.  Bobby was chatting away the whole time but I just kept focused on the ground in front of me, not looking at the never ending hill in front of me and would answer him occasionally with a word or two that I could muster between gasp. The first mile was 11:59. The next half mile was just ridiculously steep but I kept digging. We finally made a turn and the grade eased off. It was weird because it was still about a 6% grade but after what I had been doing it seemed flat and I was able to run strong. Mile 2 was 12:27.

  Then at mile 2.2 ish it just got horrible. A turn up a steep gravel drive and I thought I would have to walk but sucked it up and pushed . After a short distance we had to bushwhack for a couple of hundred yards before hitting another steep gravel road. When will it ease off ! I'm dying here ! It finally did slack off the grade a little just before I was going to keel over but now we got onto a rough rocky 4 wheeler path. Soon I could see a tower but it was a false hope as the trail got steeper once again and we still had half a mile to get to the rock and the big cluster of towers still out of view.

 We made that steep climb and then had a little bit of an easier section and I picked up the pace determined to do the best time that I could. Passed mile 3 in 13:17 and then one final push,  a steep climb and then a bushwhack through the weeds and woods to the rock. Bobby let me lead the way there to be first to arrive and run the whole thing. I reached the top of the rock in 41:01. !

 Rested a little bit and took some pictures before the  quad crushing descent back to Boone. Awesome ness ! Thanks for the tour, the company and the encouragement Bobby !

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Grandfather Mountain Marathon Preview Part 2. The plan

I'm feeling pretty excited for this years race. OK, I still get excited for most races so that's nothing new. I always look forward to a good time and making memories even when I'm not in shape and fortunately this year I am in good shape and hope to put that to the test this weekend.

  This was not originally planned to be a fast attempt although I had hoped that someday I might have one shot at finally getting that sub 4 hour on the course with no detours and it looks like things have come together this year to make it happen. I have had a pretty heavy training load all Spring and got right back into the training just a week after Boogie and I have had some really good quality runs so it was easy to make the decision to go for it even though my training has been geared toward Sept.

 So with that, I plan to go out at an easy pace and hit the first climb just past the 2 mile mark and see how I feel and if I do  and I expect I will feel good then it is on !

 So wish me luck. See you at MacRae Meadows in less than 4 hours or bust !

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Grandfather Mountain Marathon Preview Part one , my history.

 A little hard to believe but I will returning for my 9th trip for the GMM this weekend. I made my first run there in 2003 and it was my 2nd marathon since I began  to get into the long distance races. I had been aware of it and looked at the results going back to the late 70's when I first began running and I have to admit I was  little intimidated by it. This will be the 45th year of the race making it the oldest marathon in NC and there are not too many that have been held that many years in the country.

  I was a little disappointed to find that first year that due to a bridge being out that we would have to take a detour and I would not be running on the historic course for most of the first 10 miles. Instead we stayed on the highway all the way to the Parkway at about mile 8 and then joined onto the regular course just past the 10 mile point. It was a bit warm and humid and I ran under the circumstances a pretty good race for me in 4:41:52  , just 8 minutes slower than I had run in Richmond the previous November. That included a lot of walk breaks and hamstring cramps in the last 4 miles.

  I returned in 2004 and they still had to re-route us on the highway.  I was slower that year in 4:47:20 with the usual cramps and bonking toward the end.

 I skipped 2005 because of a trip to the Vermont 100.

 By 2006 I was in a whole lot better shape after training so hard to get my Boston qualifier and running my marathon pr in February. I was brimming with confidence, the weather was better and I had a goal of breaking 4 hours. We were finally able to return to the original course for the first 10 miles but then had to take another detour because of a bridge replacement on the Parkway ! I was actually able to run the first 11 miles with Laura Mac The Trail Angel but she was picking up the pace way too much for me so I had to let her go to keep from blowing up.  My race went great until I realized  that all the mile markers on HWY 221 had been replaced and I could still see the old ones about .6 miles later. Well sure enough I got to mile 26 in 3:56 and  was no where near the stadium ! Turned out with the detour the race was about 26.8 miles and I would have been 3:58 but instead have an official time of 4:04:08. Grrrr.

  I skipped 2007 because I didn't want to run it worn down from Western States .

 As you may have noticed I have no pictures from those first 3 races but started running with the camera after that.

 In  2008 I was struggling with hamstring issues off and on the whole year and had dnf'd the Boogie in June after just 10 miles of pain so I was not in great shape and just planned to run slow and easy and try to have fun. At least I would finally get to run the real course  !  Just before 2 miles I started running with Lori and Camilla and was having a great time with them. Then somewhere past the 5 mile mark I saw Laura walking ! I knew she had been sick a couple for weeks before so I started walking with her. She said she was having trouble breathing so I spent the rest of the day making sure she made it to the finish ok and we had a marvelous time. We were too slow and the hard cut-off was 5 hours then so we didn't get to cross the finish line but just as we entered the track we were stopped in 5:07
That was the year the tradition of getting a picture with my training partners at mile 10 begin ! Laura was the original Trail Angel and the first to have the picture taken with me there.

 Here is my report form that year.  A link to more pics in that report.

 I was back again in 2009 and this time I was finally able to get Karla to come give it a try and Lisa was along for the trip too. This would be my 10th marathon with Karla. I was in my comeback year and had just completed my 1st Ironman 3 weeks before so I was just hoping I could stay up with the girls. The track was closed so yet another alteration to the course had us running a lap around the parking lot at the start ! We did have a great time but I fell behind at mile 24 or so and couldn't catch up fighting calf cramps. finished in 4:49:15.

  And here is the 2009 report  with link to more pics

 In 2010 I was back in good shape and came up with the crazy idea of doing the first ever double Grandfather. Karla and Lisa were along for the adventure with me planning to run marathon # 11 with her. Lisa was going to do her own race but the two of them would provide support on the return trip as soon as they could get back to the car. Jenn was along too  and would take the shuttle to the top and run the 2nd half back down with me.
 I had a lot of fun running the real race with Karla and we finished together in 4:56:24.

 It was hot on the way back and tough but I got it done with the wonderful company Jenn provided.
 Here is a link to that report and some pictures and video if you have a lot of time on your hands !

 I skipped it again in 2011 to run the Tahoe Rim 100 ! That was awesome !

 I returned in 2012 but this year I knew I was in for a struggle. I was very worn down from the Boogie 100k and the dog bites and antibiotics and had been struggling the week before just to finish my normal easy runs. On top of that it was a terrible warm 100 % humid morning most of the race and I did struggle !
 Here is the report
 from that year. 

 I was finally back in good shape for 2013 and this year along with Lisa my friends Margo, Amy and Jenn were all along. My plan was to run the race with Jenn since this was her first time actually running the race after doing the reverse course with me in 2010. I was hoping we could all stay together at least until mile 10 for the traditional photo spot. We did start together but by mile 4 Amy and Lisa were falling behind and  I knew they were in for a long day. I was feeling great and having a wonderful time just cruising along with Jenn. We kind of leap frogged with Margo and luckily we were together at mile 10.
 Some where around mile 14 margo pulled ahead for good and had a great finish. Jenn and I contniued to have a lot of fun and although she slowed toward the end we had a decent time of 4:41:42.
  After getting some gatorade I headed back on the course to go find Amy. I was feeling great and thinking it would have been a good year to have done the double ! I found Amy and she was happy to see me. It had been a bit of a rough day for her but she ran strong all the way the last mile to the finish and I was able to get my 2nd picture of the day on the track !
  here is the report and pics for 2013

Well that brings me up to date. Stay tuned for the this years preview and report.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

training update 7-6-2014

It's been two weeks since the last update so I thought I would fill you in on what I have been up to.

 Quite a bit of training actually. The last week of June I had a 64 mile week which is well above average and right on my goal of getting into the 60 per week range over the summer. That included another great hill workout at the Art museum with my fastest average splits times ever on a warm muggy morning. I had 2 days with doubles including a fast run on Umstead single track, something I haven't done in awhile. Ended up the week with a solid 18 miler on hills.

 Then this past week I hit 64 miles again. Mostly easier pace stuff in hotter weather early on in  the week but I got in  a 9 mile hill run in Umstead, 3 days of doubles, a progression/tempo run and then solid back to back 10 milers on the weekend. It was a pleasure to be able to share many of the miles over that time with Karla and an added bonus was having Lisa back with us for one, some rare miles with Margo, a couple of 10's with Laura and a guest appearance with Maureen for an hour of one of the long runs. 

 Along with the running I was able to work the cross-training pretty hard with just one day off.

 The next week I will be doing a bit of a mini taper with the Grandfather Mountain Marathon coming up on the 12th.