Monday, August 28, 2017

Midnight Flight 10K or so it begins

 I've been racing for 40 years, this was the 40th edition of this race and it was the first race of the 40th Running Journal Grand Prix Series so it seems appropriate that I opened up the quest for points in Anderson SC and this event.

 Although its not a large event in comparison to many , with about 1,000 runners in the 3 races combined, it's a pretty big deal for this small city of about 26,000 in the foothills of South Carolina. By 6pm they shut down a 3 mile stretch of a busy 5 lane blvd that leads into downtown, well in advance of the races. Meanwhile at the YMCA vendors set up tents and there are activities for the families including giant bounce houses and slides. With my race not beginning until 10pm I had a lot of time to kill.

 The fun finally started with a mile race at 8:15 with about 100 runners. Mostly kids and parents running with smaller children but a local HS XC team had about 20 kids and several adults were taking it seriously.

 At 9pm it was time for the 5k. A little fireworks display just before the start and then I found a good spot to watch the finishers. There was prize money 3 deep and a group of Kenyans from Chapel Hill , male and female racked up with 1-2-3 finishes. The 1st place male was 14:28 !

 Around 9:30 it was time for me to begin my normal warm up routine so I jogged a mile in the Y parking lot and then walked the 2/10ths up the hill to the start. I was really happy to find that we didn't have to start running up it to begin ! With 10 minutes to go I did some strides and then made my way to the starting line. There were quite a few guys that looked my age and looked fit but not the one I was expecting to see. Oh well, just run my race and let the chips fall as I said in the preview.

 My goal was to go under 49 minutes or at least under 8 mp but if things went well maybe a bit faster. I kind of doubted faster though after looking at the course. No steep hills but a lot of long gradual  ones including nearly 1.5 miles at the end before that nice downhill to the finish.

The race began right on time and I held back a little on the pace to make sure I stayed comfortable. It was nearly flat but soon started heading gradually down the hill and I didn't want to  get carried away too early ! It was still around 78F and the humidity had crept back up to around 70% so it was going to be a warm one.

 I was happy to find that I had some zip in the legs and was soon cruising along comfortably. I had forgotten my garmin which I normally don't race with on certified course anyway but after awhile I was thinking I should be hitting the first mile but no marker was to be seen. It was dark but there was enough light from street lights and the  businesses with lit parking lots but I thought maybe I just missed it. Oh well, just run at effort and not worry about it. Finally made it to the bottom and we had some mostly flat  for a bit and I was looking for the 2 mile mark. Never did see one. And then we were in an area with no businesses for a while and with trees and few streetlights causing the visibility to be lacking.   And then boom, I was on the pavement. A quick assessment showed no real damage and nothing was hurting much. I looked and saw I had stepped right in the middle of a hole where a small utility access had sunken a few inches. I popped up quickly and was back up to speed in not time. Maybe lost 15 seconds total.

 I seemed to be fine and running comfortably back at race pace and feeling confident I still was having a good race. Finally made it to the turn around on the out and back course  but still no mile markesr. The way the course was laid out though I figured the turn was right at 3 miles and my time was 23:30 and if I was right I was around 7:50 pace even after the fall. I tried not to think too much about most of the race being uphill from there !

 There were only about 200 of us and we were pretty spread out but I was still passing a few people and trying to focus on at least maintaining the distance on the ones ahead. Still feeling good and confident. I tried to take advantage of the downhills as much as possible to build a bit of a cushion before the last long climb. I really expected to struggle more but I actually felt pretty good , and seemed to maintain a strong pace over the long grind from about 4.5 to the 6 mile mark. Well again no sign there but I knew once I crested the hill and got back to the start it was about .2 downhill.

 That was surely a welcome sight by now. I glanced at my watch and it was obvious that I was going sub 49 just as planned and had not lost too much off the pace up the hill. Zoomed down the hill and crossed in 48:53. Got that part accomplished. Now I just had to wait and see if I made the podium, my #1 goal.

 It took a while but finally the results started rolling in and the preliminary results had me 3rd in my age group. The two guys in front of me were locals and they were amazing ! Even in pre-injury shape I was not going to beat those guys !  In fact they were so fast that they actually  beat all  the 50 year olds and so took 1-2 in the Grandmasters division. I was bumped up to 1st in the age group.

 One guy in the 65 to 69 age group finished in front of me so in the Grand Prix points I am in 3rd in my age group and 4th in the Senior Grandmasters division. I was hoping for a little better but it's only the first race and barring something  getting in the way of my training, I will get in better shape and back to 100%  hopefully by the time for  the next race in 7 weeks.

 So that's all for now. Stay tuned for updates along the way.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Racing South/Carolina Runner/Running Journal Grand Prix Series.

 Shortly after I began racing in March of 1978 I found a regional magazine, Racing South which covered 6 states in the Southeast, NC,SC, GA, TN, AL and Florida. It was a running magazine with a heavy emphasis on, well racing ! The magazine was based in Florida and started by Mike Caldwell. One of the features was a yearly Grand Prix series of races in the states covered where runners would earned points based on the finishing position.  I assume it was one of the earliest GP series in the country for runners.

 In those first few years it only had the open division for men and women in a schedule of about 15 races. After several years they did add a masters division and by 1986 added Grandmasters but still no seniors. In that era most races didn't include age groups over 40 and a few larger ones over 50. I remember at Maggie Valley 5 Miler which was a pretty big race in the those days, my mother won an award for being the oldest finisher on the day she turned 50. A happy birthday. Ok, back to the story.

 In 1984 while I was at a Labor Day race in Durham I was handed a small magazine called Carolina Runner. It was the first issue and covered just NC and SC. The magazine was started by Bruce and Julie Morrison. The significance of this is that they bought and merged with Racing South around 1987 and changed the name to Running Journal. Fortunately they continued with the Grand Prix Series which is now in its 40th year.

 Over all those years I just by chance ran in a few races on the circuit but never earned any points that I can remember and made no effort to join in any races because they were in the series. Of course over  most of the past 20 years I have concentrated mostly on triathlons and then ultramarathons and the series was just a curiosity to me as a subscriber over all these years.

 But then a couple of things have come together. My recent return and focus on shorter races along with the fact that I too I'm entering my 40th year of racing made it an easy decision to make my biggest goal for the next 9 months to compete and attempt to win the Senior Grandmasters division ! Ultras will have to wait awhile longer.

 None of the races from the original series are still on the schedule which has changed almost yearly and has fluctuated between 15 that first year to 8 currently on this years. There are several that have been on there for around 30 years  or more though including the kick off race, the only marathon and the final race.

 Here is the schedule.
 August 25 Midnight Flight 10K Anderson, SC
October 15 Hero Half Marathon Fayetteville, AR
November 19 Magic City Half Marathon Birmingham, AL
December 9 Rocket City Marathon Huntsville, AL
January 28 Winter Flight 8K Salisbury, NC
March 3 Birmingham Wine 10K Birmingham, AL
March 11 Germantown Half Marathon Germantown, TN
May 28 Cotton Row Run 10K Huntsville, AL

 Hmm, several trips to Alabama which I have never been to by the way.

 Here is a link to Running Journal

 I've been lucky to have my picture in magazine a couple of times over the years, quite by accident. The year I ran my double Grandfather Mountain Marathon the editor was looking over pictures for the event and choose one of me and my former training partner on the track in our kilts to feature in the magazine. I emailed her and explained the significance of that photo and the story  behind it and so she did a story on me a month or two later. On another occasion I was in a picture Teri Saylor took for one of her monthly columns in the magazine. If all goes to plan next Summer I hope to be on the cover as series winner !

 I hope to run in most of them as time and money allows. The competition could be very tough as there are some  serious runners competing in several of these races but I hope to make a good showing. I'm not quite back to 100% of the condition I was before the injury in February but if things continue to improve by the 2nd or 3rd race into the Fall I hope to be back in top form.

 I head down to Anderson SC tomorrow for the Friday night event which actually begins at 10pm, not midnight by the way. It's a hilly course and will be still quite warm and humid so not sure what time to expect. I'll just give it all I have and see how it turns out. I did see that the total elevation change is practically identical to the NCRC Classic 10 in Umstead which I won in 2016.

 Stay Tuned for results and updates and thanks for following along on my latest adventure !

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Because I like winning ! Training update 8-17-17

Many people ask, why do you do so many workouts?  I also get a lot of comments about all the stuff that I'm doing. Simple answer is I like winning ! Ok, maybe its a bit more complex than that and several other reasons some of which have nothing to do with competing. I may delve into some of those other factors at some point in the future but I'll just talk about the winning for now.

 Actually winning is something I've never had much experience with. I was a scrawny kid with no speed, and no athletic skills. By Jr High age I was usually one of the last picked for teams in PE classes. And no, I didn't turn to running like so many stories of kids like me finding themselves in the sport because they finally found something they were good at.  I'm not going to say what I wasted my time doing but lets just say it wasn't healthy.

 So by 21 I was still a scrawny weakling but trying to turn things around and my boss got me into weight lifting and things began to change. Then as many of you know that have followed along, I began to run  in 1977 to help quit smoking. It would be another 9 months before I discovered racing and then my life really took a change. I was hooked.

 But not winning. No way I was ever competitive. But that didn't stop me from trying to be the best I could be. I set goals and I trained hard to achieve them. I think during my 1st life as a runner in my 20's and 30's that I may have gotten a couple of 2nd or 3rd place age group placings in some very small local races but most of the time I was way out of the awards. I was satisfied as long as I gave a good effort and continued improving . Somehow in 1987 I actually won a 5k overall ! That was awesome  following the police car but in reality I knew the only reason I won was because this race only had 17 runners and all the faster people were at a larger race 20 miles away. But it was still pretty cool !

 There would be no more winning for a very long time. My running suffered as I took on the role of single fatherhood and battling depression. After tearing up my knee playing soccer in 1998 I came back in 1999 at age 44 and spent the next several years competing in triathlons along with some road racing and never came close to winning anything. And then in 2002 I turned most of my attention to running ultras where my main goal was just finishing and I never dreamed of winning anything.

 And then in 2005 and 2006 as many of you familiar with the story know I paced a friend to a BQ ,something that for me personally was out of reach, But several friends convinced me to try and began to train harder than ever adding speedwork and a real training plan to my already busy  ultra schedule and the rest is history as my life as a runner took another turn. In the process as a 50 year old I got that BQ and along the way started winning or placing in my age group in races from 5 k to the half marathon. Not always but often enough and it was a of fun !

 After a few years though I seemed to be slowing down and some of the fire was gone and I was focusing more on the ultras again until yet another friend decided to try and qualify for Boston and I agreed to help and in the process try and regain entry myself. Once again a lot of hard and consistent  training found me back in the best shape in years. It was also about this time that outside of the running my body was taking a beating and I felt weak so I began with the body weight strength training. Lots of pushups and pullups and core work and as I looked and felt better I started to run as well as I hard 7 years earlier ! Wow. And in the process not only did I regain speed but I crushed my 50 mile and 100 mile pr's winning my age group in the 50 miler at age 57.

 And then things got tough. Really tough. A series of injuries to my hamstrings and hips and if that wasn't bad enough I woke up one day and my life had been completely turned inside out, upside down. We're talking twilight zone , wtf just happened. I was in a very dark place and hurt more than anything I'd felt in decades. I could have crumbled and given in to the darkness but I refused to give in. Instead I used the pain and eventually anger to push myself even harder. I used it as motivation to get stronger than I had ever been.  I must say that my dear friend Laura was huge in helping get me through this period as we had just began to actually run together .No one is more inspiring or understands this part of me better than her. She is the Honey Badger after all.

 It was so hard and with each injury more frustrating but I never gave up. I did everything I could to rebuild my body to withstand the punishment which included all the exercises the therapist gave me and I began doing the yoga, first about 3 times a week and building until now its more like 10 to 12 classes a week ! But that's what it takes to build a bullet proof body. And to win !

 I began to set new goals , some so ridiculous I even doubted myself. Running times faster than I had in over 17 years, taking on age groups with the attitude that I was the man to beat, winning championships and finding my way back to Boston. Done, done and done. And I'm not done yet. I am as motivated to work as hard as I can to achieve many more goals in the coming years.

 Ok, I know I am not the fastest senior by any means but on any given day I can make the guys hurt for it if they want to win. And I know if I want to win I have to work harder than the others because I have no natural talent. Just a fire inside.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Isn't running bad for your knees?

" Don't your knees hurt?  Isn't running bad for your knees? I heard you can get arthritis if you run too much." Blah blah blah. Just some of the annoying things we runners hear all the time.

 Short answer is no no and no. In fact study after study has proven just the opposite. Long time runners actually tend to have healthier knees than our sedentary counterparts. I'll post a few links at the bottom if you are interested.

 I've been a runner for over 40 years now and since I turned 46 I have run 50 marathons and over 80 ultramarathons and I'm happy to say both of my knees are fine. In fact the only real knee injury I had was a torn acl playing soccer in in 1998 and after I recovered from that is when my longer distance running really began.

 So what do these pictures of me in yoga poses have to do with it? Well actually the both emphasize that I would not be able to perform these if I was having knee problems.

 This one is called awkward pose and it demonstrates the strength and stabilty that is needed in the knees to be able to move up and down and hold this position.

 The one below is known as fixed firm. IT took quite a while before I was able to do it but not just because the knees are under a lot of stress for beginners. Before moving into this one you need some flexibility in the hips, quads and ankles which for runners are usually very tight and mine were like steel bands. It was 8 months before I could go back as far as my elbows and almost a year before I could ever get my shoulders to the floor. Now no stress on the knees ! I can leave the yoga room, lace up my shoes and run pain free.

 Here are some links you can look at so don't just take my word for it.

Does Running Damage your Knees?

Running May Protect your Knees. 

5 Experts Answer. Is Running Bad for your Knees

Does Running Hurt Your Knees.. 

 So that was a bit different  than the usual stuff here. STay Tuned for my training and racing action.