Saturday, January 19, 2019

Run Holden Beach Half Marathon.

  This race wasn't on my original plan for 2019 but after cancellation of the Running Journal Grand Prix series I decided to skip Winter Flight 8k and run a half  which fits in with my plan to work back up to marathon shape better anyway. Other than the bridge( more on that later) it's a flat fast course and a good way to kick off the year of racing,

  My training has gone ok but it's been hampered by a cold that lingered for about 5 weeks. It never was really bad but affected my breathing and I'd start coughing sometimes in a run and almost always afterwards. But finally that seemed to have cleared up over the past few days. As race day approached things started to look good and falling into place and the weather forecast of mid 40's to low 50's was nearly perfect.

  As I made my way to the 7am start, the sun was just beginning to rise. I only did a short half mile warm up in the dark. I lined up with a goal of just getting under 1:49 which we be my fastest since last March but I wasn't all that confident.

  The race started right on time and after less than a quarter of a mile we began to climb the bridge which is tough without much of a warm up. The bridge like every new one built over the  Intracoastal Waterway is a minimum clearance of 65 feet and this one is probably the steepest one of them due to the topography only allowing for a short ramp. And it would probably have been impossible to even squeeze it in so rather than straight over like all the others, it is built with a couple of S curves but it's still steeper than cemetary in Umstead.

  So, anyway, I backed off the pace not wanting to go into oxygen debt in the first half mile and enjoyed the view !  Cruised down the backside and before too long hit the first mile in 8:14. Not bad since my overall goal pace was around 8:15-8:18. The next few miles were on the mainland and about pancake flat. Mile 2 was 8:00. By now I was feeling good and that felt fairly easy and was a good confidence boost. Mile 3 was at the first turnaround and it was 8:05. At this point I could see everyone ahead of me and I figured I was in the top 50. I saw one guy that looked like he could possibly be in his 60's in the top 20. If he was 60 then no way I'd be winning today.

 Mile 4 was 8:19 and I was cruising and happy. Mile 5 was almost at the top of the bridge as we made our way back over to the island. I was actually surprised at not having a struggle and  almost holding pace in 8:22. It was still too early to think about trying to push the pace but I did try to get a little momentum going off the bridge. Mile 6 felt almost easy and was my fastest in 7:55. Wow, I may beat that 1:47:? I ran in Tennessee last March !

  Mile 7 was another 8:00. This was awesome. And then as we made the turnaround to head back to the opposite end of the island I realized why the last two had seemed so easy. It seems the wind had picked up and was now blowing a steady 10mph or so. Not all that bad but you could definitely tell a difference in the effort. Mile 8 was 8:11, still faster than goal pace. Mile 9 was 8:16, still good but I could tell I was wearing down a little while I mentally convinced myself I just had an easy 4 miler to go. Mile 10 included maybe 4/10ths of a mile on a dirt/sand road.  It was pretty hard packed so not really much of an issue but it combined with a 3rd mile in a row into the wind and I had my slowest mile of the day in  8:35.

 Ok now, just a 5K  to go ! You can push that home ! Goal is still in the bag ! Between mile 10.5 and 11.5 we had several little rolling hills over some dunes(on asphalt at least!). Nothing long or steep but I was feeling them and to be honest when I went through mile 11 in 8:24 I had expected slower. Now I was really working the mental math. I still felt like I had the goal but the cushion was disappearing.
 Mile 12 came in 8:31. Not good but I felt I had enough in me to push it home and as long as I stayed under 8:30 it was all good.

 The finish line is directly under the bridge and it sure looked an awful long ways to it but after a short little in and out and u-turn in a neighborhood I could see the mile 13 banner ahead.   That one was 8:24. A right hand turn and there it was. BAM ! 1:48:51. Mission Accomplished.

 I was soaking wet with sweat due to high humidity and effort despite the cool 53F at the finish and the breeze so I immediately begin walking to my car to get warm and changed into dry clothes. I checked online but no results had been posted so when I went back for awards I had no idea how I'd placed. As I suspected it turned out that guy that was so far ahead was 64 and ran an amazing 1:36:36  and came in 15th place overall ! I was 2nd by about 3 minutes and 49th of 381 finishers.

 This race is part of a series of Beach runs by Coastal Race Productions. This was only my 2nd time running one of their events but they are really quality races. I paid 56:25 including fees which is very reasonable with most halfs going for 70 to 100 dollars these days.  For that you get a certified course, timely starts, plenty of aid stations and porta potties. ( I got lucky and found an indoor bathroom open with no line :). Good water stops, and food and beverage at the finish and the Biggest medals out there if you like medals.  I'm also  signed up for Sunset Beach half on March 30th so come join me as I try to knock a couple of minutes of my time.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Carolina Beach Trail Half Marathon

  I had originally signed up for this race just for fun and training. I had expected to be recovering from a marathon but I ended up not running that. I also expected to see my friend Stephanie and  maybe run some miles with her but she got sick and couldn't make the trip. I was still fighting off a cold but on race morning my lungs were feeling better than they had for a couple of weeks so I decided to go ahead and race it hard.

  Race morning turned out to be warm and humid but at least the rain had stopped. It was about 62F at the start. I went for my usual warm up mile and ran into MTC friends Mark and Irene and talked to them a few minutes. They had both raced last year and told me to be prepared for sand. I had run on some trails in the park but it was over 20 years ago and I had envisioned dirt and hard packed sand with some pine needles and a few roots. How bad could it be?

 I finished my warm up and lined up with about 300 others. I had no idea if or how many other seniors were racing but I was hoping to make the podium. We started off on the park road in front of the visitors center and then turned onto a paved bike path along the border of the park. This allowed for a fast start and a chance to spread out a bit before hitting the trails. After about .8 mile we turned into the woods and it was just how I had remembered it.   I went through mile 1 in 8:08. Cool. That was better than expected so just maybe I could make my goal of sub 1:50:00 today.

  All was well and I was having fun and making my way around a few people and then we hit the first of the deep sand along the waterfront. Good thing it wasn't a long section but I was already thinking this could be tougher than I had planned on. Mile 2 was about 8:37. The next mile was mostly some fun stuff and I was right behind a couple of locals that were familiar with the course and they were talking about Sugarloaf and how it was going to be hard going over it twice. Hmmmm.

 So then it was there in front of me. Sugarloaf is an ancient sand dune mostly covered in forest now but still pretty deep sand. By Umstead standards not a long or steep hill but definitely a challenge. The path up was wide and fairly hard packed but the race took us down off the main path and it was very narrow, twisting sandy and eroded. The people in front of me walked the while way down and there was no way to pass. In reality I"m not sure I could have run it much faster so I stayed patient and it wasn't that long anyway.  Mile 3 was about 9:04 and any thoughts of sub 1:50 were about out of the equation now.

  Mile 4 was a bit of the more enjoyable stuff with short sections of deeper sand but overall not too bad. Then we hit mile 4 and a water stop. Then it turned ugly. We left the trail and went cross country over and through sand pit hell for about the next half mile. It was deep, much like trying to run on the beach at high tide, just sucking the life out of the legs as I tried to keeping running a somewhat normal gait. Somehow I still managed a 9:37 but now my plan was to just run hard but not try and push it not knowing how much more sand would be encountered.

  Around mile 6 we came out onto the bike path and soon were back near the start area. I did pick up the pace and ran what would be my last sub 9 of the day. The next half followed the first mile and a half but then we veered off in a another direction and crossed over onto a  couple of trails we didn't run on in the first lap. These trails were nice most of the time but every few minutes there would be some deeper sand but at least we didn't have to go through the sand pit again. By now I was hovering around a 9:20 pace but I was still feeling pretty good and confident that I wouldn't blow up.

 Around mile 9 we went up the only other significantly sized hill and it was fairly steep and I walked about 15 seconds near the top. . After that we soon merge back onto the trail we started on but in the opposite direction. And so eventually we came back to Sugarloaf but going up the backside gnarly trail. I walked most of it too but once I hit the summit and about 2 miles to go I just started hammering. Well, as hard as I could under the conditions. The humidity was getting to me and it had warmed up to about 70F, not typical late December weather. We did a short out and back spur along the river and it had a lot of deep sand so mile 11 was my slowest of the day in 10:21.
view from sugarloaf

 My new goal had been to break 2 hours and trying to do the mental math showed that was becoming doubtful but I pressed on. With a mile to go I still had never noticed anyone that looked my age so as I came off the trail for the last push to the finish I still had no idea if I would place.  I came to the line quicker than expected finishing in 2:00:06. Good enough. I was quite happy with it because after all it was a trail race and more of a challenge than I bargained for. Most importantly was that I felt good and was pleased with the effort I put into it.

 After resting a few minutes, I walked back to my cabin to grab my phone to check for the results. Boom. 1st pace 60 and over out of just 6 of us and I won by over 7 minutes. I'll take that.

   I doubt I run this one again as there are just so many other things that I want to do but if you like trails and fun it's worth a try. The organizers did a great job with the event. Everything went smoothly. Plenty of volunteers and despite the many turns and different trails the course was very well marked and for a trail race there were plenty of water stops. The race schwag was pretty cool too.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Looking ahead into 2019

 As I move forward into the new year my main goal is to get my weekly training miles closer to what I was running from 2003 through 2015 and be a bit more focused on getting in the hard workouts on a more consistent basis.  My racing schedule for the 1st half of the year is already booked up for the most part but depending on how things go there is a little bit of space to be filled if something comes along that suits my plans.

   At this point there are no truly epic adventures planned and unless something changes this will be the 4th year with no ultras. At least not until very late in the year if the mood strikes.  But there are some things I'm planning that if I hit my time goals will be pretty epic for me. So here is how things are looking right now.

 The big thing for Jan and Feb is to try and build mileage so I can actually run a marathon  and be properly prepared for it,something that hasn't happened the last two years. I've only got one race, the Holden Beach Half Marathon on 1-19.  I just want to see some progress on getting back to times resembling what I was running in 2016 to 2017.

 Nothing but miles.


 Wrightsville Beach Marathon on 3-9. If things go as planned I hope to be in shape to actually race it and go for a Boston Qualifier. I may not be quite there by then but hopefully can have a strong showing. I'd like to get back to Boston but if I have to wait until 2021 that will be ok because that fits with my every 5th year pattern.  but yeah, I hope to go for it. With the new tougher standards I need a minimum of  sub 3:50 now so probably at least a 3:45-3:47 to guarantee a spot.

  On 3-30 I'll do the Sunset Beach Half Marathon. If recovery goes well after the marathon I'll be ready to keep pounding down the half times.


On 4-14 I'm signed up for the Inaugural Sir Walter Miler Half Marathon which is on the section of the Neuse River Greenway that I do most of my training miles. Overall if the weather cooperates it should be a fast course and that's my plan.. To go for a really fast time. Other than volunteering as always at the Umstead 100 I have  no other plans for the month but may decide to run a half at Morehead City. Or a 5k.


 One of my big goals of the year is to return to the Cotton Row 10k in Huntsville AL. This is the only race from the GP Series that I'm returning to. It's a great event but I was not really satisfied with my time there. I really need to put in some strong hill training which I didn't do last year. I seek redemption.  5-27, Memorial Day.


  A race thats had my curiosity up since it began is the Vertical Mile at Rocky Face Park.  8 laps of a 2 mile loop up and over the Mountain. Ridiculously steep and challenging. Sounds like fun !

 July: Will this be the year I finally run Grandfather Mountain Marathon again? Well I iope to be in shape for it. 2 years ago I had to bail as I was coming off the stress fracture and last year I was just nowhere near marathon shape. Hopefully things will be different this Summer.


 No plans at this time.


 Ok, this is the biggest goal I have for the year. Return to my favorite all time road race, The Virginia 10 Miler, run it faster than I have in about 20 years and finally make the podium. In 2016 and 2018 I finished 4th. This year I intend to make a fantasy come true. I must have speed and most importantly strength on the hills. After training for Cotton Row, Rocky Face and Grandfather I should be prepared to put the icing on this cake.


 Nothing planned yet but the month is full of fun options. I'll come up with something.


 I always said I had no interest in the City of Oaks Marathon but after winning the 10k two years ago and placing 3rd in the half last year I decided to go for the trifecta and shoot for a podium finish in the Full. With all the hills it's gonna hurt.  Make it So.

 I'll decide last minute probably on how I finish up the month. Maybe return to Foot Locker or do something different.


 No plans at this time. Maybe another marathon if needed for a BQ.

 That's it. I'll update probably by May or June as plans unfold for more Fall events. Stay Tuned.