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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Waves

we begin to find ourselves feeling empty. what is this strange inability to eb and flow that feels like voided vigor. we blink and begin to realize we are going through a valley. we haven't known it the whole time, but the parchment in our veins has made itself known through the realization that the spark has been missing now for some time. maybe it's the right chords and notes at the right time as we continue about our day that wake us to the tides. is that the long lost spirit we had taken for granted when things seemed so normal and easy? a flicker or notice that water is coming snaps into our soul, reminding us - by the very spontaneous joy that comes with the movement - that yes, goodness and love and warmth have spotted us and that we are again moving. this gift comes and is resurrection-thousand of times in a lifetime, a microcosm of the large arch that is the dance of this conscious spirited relationship, yet ever so forgotten many times. Where you are is never forever static. enjoy, wait, remember, keep going. onward.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Art Loeb

4 days ago two other guys set off with me from Charlotte to attempt a completion of the full Art Loeb trail in Pisgah National Forest.

We headed to the mountains to set up our camp, which was at the south trail head of the trail, greeted by a summer shower immediately upon arrival just as we began setting up our tent. Due to this fact, things began to get wet.

After getting situated, and then changed out of our wet clothes, we decided to hit the town of Brevard for a hearty dinner which would be the big meal that would accompany us in our bellies as we set out the next day. Big Mike's fit the bill with their offering of ample Italian fare, thick pizzas, and cold local draft beers. We each ordered a personal thick crusted pizza and downed our drinks, and returned to our campsite with a little daylight still to spare. After milling around for a bit, we settled into our chairs at the site and conversed about a few topics, but none more than what our future may have in store in the morrow. Of the three of us, I was seemingly the most unsure if the task of 30 miles, deep in the blue ridge mountains, would be doable in a days journey; for we were not bringing anything with us other than fuel, water, and a space blanket and some basic first aid supplies. If we were to not finish, we would have to get creative - and what that would mean seemed to be an open ended wonder. Yet to my comrades, failure seemed almost impossible.

Wade, our elder of the group, who has hiked much of the trail in segments, seemed the most optimistic, which of course was a good sign since Stewart and I were in the dark. Stewart seemed more optimistic than me, yet maybe not as sure as Wade. Stewart is the newest of the long distance runners in the trio, so I think a little bit of naivete was on his side, which can't really be faulted. Experience is a great teacher, and while I haven't attempted such a feat - I did feel that understanding the distance we were to undertake, given such extreme trails with vertical paths, winding routes, and gnarly terrain that is common in the NC mtns, was present in my calculations, and the idea of maintaining less than a 20 min mile pace for over 10 hours on our feet would certainly not be easy...maybe even unlikely. Yet....i wanted to see for myself, so on my own accord i was a happy participant. 

Sleep was hard to come by that first night as we settled into our quarters. The ground was very hard, and as a side sleeper, it was pretty uncomfortable to fall asleep. Would imagine i maybe only got about 5 hours of light sleep. At 5:30 I arose to greet the others, as we made breakfast and packed our ultra vests full of water and energy bars, in order to meet our pick up at 6:15 who would drive us to the Northbound trail head, which was about an hour away by car.

As we arrived at the Daniel Boone Camp that is a host to Boy Scouts, the sights of children milling about in the outdoors, and the trail made itself shown. We were here, and it was time to see what we were made of. The first 5 miles we knew were some of the steepest, so with caution we started out, not in a jog, but a hikers pace that was not slow. Taking into account the hills so early, while keeping in mind that this was a days event, was all too present in our minds. The steps of faith started early. For the first 4 miles on our journey the trail was set up on the side of the mountains, rising around as we assented towards the top of Cold Mountain. Typical rocks and fallen limbs, but no overgrowth. The views down the mountain were pretty open and if you caught an opening through the distant trees you could see through the mountain out into the further surrounding mountains, making for the occasional glimpses of sky and early morning sun.

at over 4 miles we hit our first check point marker: an open level small field, where a recent abandoned camp site lay, and 4 or 5 different trails inviting travelers into unmarked territory. With Wade having done this section before he was prepared and knew exactly which path to take. (also, which proved to be a big help and of frequent use was the pre loaded map on his phone that would show us in relation to the trail, which would confirm that we were on the right path. (Once we got to about 6 miles, we were out of unmarked territory and the Art Loeb trail was furnished with White Blaze markings on trees and rocks, as is typical).

This next section of the trail was thicker and a bit steeper as we were gaining on the tops of a ridgeline that would get us above 5 thousand feet. The first layer of sweat had started to cool in the more densely shaded elevated terrain, and so did the scratches around the legs as we forged through the brush to the opening tops of our first mountains, here at 6-7 miles in. It was also here that we passed our first other human. An older man with poles, coming in the other direction, moving with a veterans efficiency.

at 7.5 miles i started on my first energy gel. Prior to i had a banana and had been munching on dehydrated bananas and granola intermittently, with the occasional sip of water. I felt the immediate lift in energy as we made our way into double digit miles. To note, as we signaled to each other with mile beeps on the watch, we would break down percentage wise how far we had come and left to go, and would make light calculations in our heads about pace and if we were on target to make it in day light. We were, and while it was tough terrain, we also kept expecting plenty of upcoming trail to make it up on, a fact that seemed to almost never materialize.

While our pace was steady, we did refrain from long breaks. At a view we might take it in for a moment or two, but then it was off again - to keep moving seemed to be on all our minds. These first 6 miles also I was in the front of our single line trek, but at mile 7 I asked Stewart to take the lead for a change. I think this was a good approach to mix it up, and let others be pullers and others be pacers, let alone for the change of scenery and to give turns to those being the greeters of the unknown be it cobwebs, brush, or the hoped to never see snake. (we never saw any, but we sure got a loud warning about their prevalence from our shuttle driver!) It was not late into the journey that we were going to have to place Trust at the forefront of our steps hoping that as we landed a snake would not be there. I guess after a while we let go and tried to do the best we could with our eyes and ears. Speaking of which, it's worth noting the mental strain it takes in looking where we place each step given the nature of the uneven terrain and obstacles that lay afoot. this is true in all trail running, but on a day that was going to be over 8 hours, the tax is surely felt.

Hitting miles 10-12 we emerged into open balds with grand vistas. Thick overgrowth covered the paths, and here we did take a wrong turn only to have to retrace our steps back to the trail, our one directional mishap. After the brushing and negated views of our feet, we then saw even more spectacular views as we came to Tennet Mountain and Black Balsam Knob. 360 degree views atop 6k feet really was a nice spot to hit at this juncture. Soon after noon, 4 hours in, we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and into a new section of trail that was laid with a soft-bed of pine needles, and dark cool air given the abundant trees on this short lived flat section of trail. From here, we began to descend with more familiar winding tighter trails, which weaved down into one of two shelters that we would encounter. This one was a triangular shaped opened sided hut basically. it provided a nice spot where i shed my damp socks and resumed sockless, much more comfortable.

after this brief stop, the climbing resumed....and with a vengence. Here, as we scaled up towards the top of Pilot Mtn, the grade became the steepest of the day, and the quads started their burning screams in concert with the lungs until we hit the top, putting us around 15 or 16 miles into the journey. We took a short minute to admire the view, and realize that water was beginning to get scarce between the three of us. Steward was down to his last bottle, and Wade was dry. I gave one of my bottles (of which i was borrowing from Wade anyway) to Wade, and still had more left to keep my company. We knew on the descent we would eventually get to a water source where we could refill....but we had miles to go before that. As the downhill started off and stayed technical for a couple of miles, we did get to a point, the first of the day really, where you could hold a jog pace more than a hundred meters, and make up some time - but not without feeling the toll that was built up from the beginning. Here, i was getting a second wind, and started to think that if the trail stayed like this, we would be able to make it before dark. As I got to a waiting point where the trail crossed a service road, i looked at my watch and it read about 18.5 miles. I had gone ahead the furthest I had of the day so it was a couple minutes until Stewart and Wade showed. At this cross road, Wade knew  - from reading - there was a natural spring which he really needed badly...we all did to be sure. With this pause to look for water, I noticed a gait change...he seemed to be favoring his knee, which added to the concern...also, his color was looking pale, so I knew this water stop was critical. Down the road we kept going but given that it was supposed to be 100 yards, we had gone about twice that and had not found any. Perhaps it was on the other direction down the road. As we backtracked, a sense of helplessness began to hover, and with that an awareness was being sensed that what would happen would next be out of our control. This sense of surrender was palpable for me, and it was brief too. It was as if soon as i recognized this peril I also became aware to let go - and intuited that something was going to happen, perhaps sooner than later. It was Just Then that a US Forestry truck slowly drove up and slowed down next to us. Seeing the logo on the door, I internally began to smile. As if on cue, here was our deliverers. As we began to speak to them, letting them know we thought a stream was near by, we noticed a truck bed full of bottled water. They were unaware of any springs, but they were very willing to give us some water bottles on our journey, while they opened up their maps and told us about what lay ahead on the rest of the trek. We thanked them, said goodbye, and crossed the road back to the trail when no more than 10 seconds later, Wade - with a defeated face - bravely told us that he believed he was at the end of his Art Loeb journey. Scenarios were shared, but in the end we all agreed that we needed to stay together. Getting back we still had many miles to go, but with the service road there we had access to much easier terrain that would take us back.

Sadness or disappointment was not really heavy, it was more a sense of understanding that this feat demanded respect, experience, and a high level of fitness. to get 18 miles in was no small task, and our journey was still not over. Even though we were off the trail, i was still delighted at the setting we were in - deep in the mountains - and more miles ahead to test myself until the days jaunt was truly over. The road was downhill, flat and smooth, and beckoned me to run. So I did. I knew hitch hiking was not out of the question if we got too tired, so that was a bit of a safety valve, and with our sights set at camp, away we went, this time dispersed, with me leaving the group.

at this point i'll leave some of the details in my mind, but to conclude, with about a mile to go, Wade and Stewart came up hanging out of a car asking if i wanted it. Earlier, i would have - but being so close to the end i opted to finish the task on foot. 28.6 miles until i stopped, and while I was pleased to go farther than a marathon, i was ecstatic to be finished as I saw the sign welcoming back to Davidson River Camp Ground.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

shamrock 4 miler

well after 24 hours of digesting that race in my mind, i take to computer to recap a little bit.
heading into the race I was looking for a PR as my goal. Be it too lofty or not, I would find out where i was in my short race fitness. The two 4 mile races i've ever done were in 2011, one the March Shamrock 23:52 - different course that year, and the other the RFYL 4 miler in July that year 23:20, which was in dilworth and a bit of an easier course I would say, in terms of flatness. I also believe yesterday was the most headwind of those three races. And so coming off my last race being a marathon, I started aiming to try and get some speed in some workouts over the last 2 months. I feel I did pretty well in that regard, with a mixture of intervals, fartleks and tempos. Still, after yesterday's gauge, I need more, and I will have to stay consistent and patient to get where I want...which is basically looking to get PRs anytime i toe the line, save for the 5ks and 8ks...I still want to PR there but that might take a while, as those are a bit longer or a reach going back to my highschool and college days.

So with the test line being at 5:45 pace, i was off with the gun in the front of the start line and felt good getting going with a steady pace feeling comfortable just off the 4-6 place runners. Billy Shue and Brian McMahon were out in front along with a smaller guy i didnt know at the time, but would later meet who is a younger, 22 year old red headed guy named Chase. I noticed my watch was adjusting to the 5:30 pace and i was fine with that, knowing the course where it takes a bit of a downhill grade that first mile. Garmin to course markers were a little off, so at the marker i split 5:35 and felt ready to keep on the pace. shortly after, we turned onto Ardrey Kell, and right away could feel the road rise from the down/flat and as well as the wind beginning to come at our heads. But it was here where I left the chase pack and settled into 4th place. The course doesn't stay on Ardrey Kell very long before you take another right hand turn onto Blakeney Heath, which again changes into more uphill headwind section. I checked my watch and could also feel I had slowed from the 5:30s but i was still feeling about 545-55 here and that was fine, just needed to get back in rythem quick after adjusting to the course. But not long after you are on BH you hit a short steep hill and that got me. I was passed here just before the 2 mile mark on this hill, and couldn't go with the runner.

I could tell i was slowing, and the 2 mile clock confirmed as much with it ticking off at or just under 11:30. i realized, something i hadn't in a while from lack of short races, was that you have to start fighting early to hang on, which really is merely preventing you from falling apart. you have to fight/attack just to hang on. that was a good lesson. okay, 2 miles to go, still in position to PR but I have to reel this pace back on track, i thought. No one was near me from behind, and the runner who passed me was steady staying up ahead about 15-20 yards or so. I was doing an okay job of not letting him get further, but i wasn't in contact, and my pace was no anywhere near where it was the first mile. I was in the low 6s, but i was fighting. I seemed, which was frustrating, because I wasn't too badly fatigued, just at a loss of ability to get the turnover back. So i kept reminding myself to look ahead, and stay in the moment and focused, not letting myself drift off which would have just increased my slow down. One thing i did that helped, was pick markers about 20 yards ahead and surge throughout this third mile. It helped, because i just needed something to jolt me. Still, I had paid the price of a pretty much lost PR by the time I turned on to the second to last road where the three mile marker lay, watching it tick at 17:35.

however, I was gaining on the 4th place runner and with just under a mile to go, did what competitive foot racers will do, and start attacking because mentally you know you just have to pull out the guts and start taking chances if you want to make it to the finish line feeling like you raced well. I chopped up my stride that last hill, and started gaining ground like i can do on a downhill, and just at the bottom of the downhill I caught the runner and passed him, with authority like one should...when making a move you can't be nonchalent about it, otherwise the runner will just seize it right back. at this position i also used the final turn to look to increase the gap and the adrenaline of that last straight way to the finish to be sure I was starting to pour on what i had, while running away from whoever was behind me.

I noticed that third place really hadn't increased his lead, and that i was closing the gap, but it was just way too much for me to get over the last mile. I could tell my pace was quickening, and i was happy that i seemed to escape that crawl that jumped on my back mile 3. for how i was fighting though, i was only about 5:45 pace, which is not where i want to be....but i will keep working. ideally i feel like i should have been under 530 pace for the effort, but alas it will take more time. being a bit in no mans land the last mile, I did not hit the finish maybe as hard as possible. But, i think the race gave a good indication of where i am physically, and was a needed experience in racing so that i can build on it for the next race to sharpen up and look to find that pain chamber / next gear that comes with practice.

my watch had splits of 531, 547, 617, 553, and my watch sounded 4 miles 15 seconds before i crossed the line, clocking the distance at 4.05. officially i was 535, 554, 606, 609 for 23:44

https://www.athlinks.com/event/39045/results/Event/840438/Course/1521585/Bib/829





Monday, January 21, 2019

Walt Disney World Marathon 2019 recap, Jan 13th 2019

One of the reasons I appreciate and enjoying taking on a marathon is that it has the potential to be one of the greatest teachers to life that one can learn from. It was after my last marathon, my 6th one, that this really became apparent when I went through my second hell race (hitting the wall hard and early and having to suffer, rather than compete, until the end of the line). And it's funny to think before i ever undertook a marathon that I would ever do more than one...but looking back each one has been a teacher in different ways, and to varying degrees, and there is still more i want to learn, experience, and soak up while I can as I continue to embark on this physical test that doubles as a reflector to your own interior make up and fortitude. With each one, we certainly carry our own preparations and expectations, but what you will find as you encounter the challenge that there still is that element of unknown fortune that will show up on race day....and that is why also I like it. Ultimately we can not control every variable, but we try to give ourselves the best chance, and we learn how to spend those saved up coins of fitness more wisely each time we go about the race, yet we march on with that bit of uncertainty that things can go south, or just as unexpectedly better than we hope, all while it unfolds before us.

about a year ago i was looking ahead to see what marathon I would give a go next, and with our third child arriving in April, I had the second half of the year to look towards. I, for the second year in a row, applied for New York Marathon via lottery, but when i didn't get in, and also when I discovered the Disney marathon was run in January, and that we were looking to take a family trip with our other children to visit the parks, it made sense that - while a year away, the Disney marathon 2019 would work well. I'm still in the mode of wanting to try new marathons rather than repeats, and this one was appealing in that it lined up with our vacation and was a nice big event, something memorable.

My recent posts tell you, without having to repeat too much here, that I had gotten myself in shape well enough to garner a PR this past November and that certainly was the beginning of small thoughts toward the potentiality of a new marathon PR, though I still considered it more unlikely than likely. As training continued well with long runs in December through some naturally hilly runs in Charlotte, my target eyes grew a bit more as I considered the flat terrain I would be working with down in Orlando. I felt it was about 50/50 going in to grab a PR, and when pressed, my answer to goal was 2:58-3:04 (as that would be nice to earn another BQ at this stage in my running). that is about 6:48-7:02 pace per mile.

The taper had gone well, and the carb loading also going into the race weekend. A nice Italian dinner at carrabas in Savannah Friday night, a shake out jog Saturday morning, a Mahi Sandwich for lunch the day before after the race expo, and a fantastic buffet at Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort for a pre race dinner where I opted for much pasta (and a Long Island Iced Tea!) served my diet well. I was hydrating well, as the weather was calling for 60 degree with 90% humidity and even an email to all runners to be advised of less than perfect weather and a caution to perhaps forget not going for an attempted best.

The wake up was earlier than anything I had ever woken up for. The last bus was leaving at 3:30 am from our resort at Disney's the Art of Animation, and so I figured looking back I got about 4 hours and change of sleep, with a wake up call at 2:55. A front row seat on the bus with a pleasant conversation with the bus driver who was a Vietnam Vet still in extraordinary shape started my day, as I brought with me coffee, a bagel and some peanut butter which I would eat around 4:15-30. From the bus drop off the runners are held in a parking lot complete with a full pre party stage that held a DJ (yes, working it and playing loud music). It was basically a late night club vibe except everyone was sober and wearing short shorts. Quite the scene at 4am! I continued to drink water after my coffee to make sure i was hydrated, and probably went to the bathroom about 5 times before the gun went off. once i break the seal i am guaranteed multiple times going.

I got to my A corral about 5 mins before the start as they were beginning to sing the national anthem, and I was feeling ready and good. The gun went off under the dark 5:30am sky, clear and star and moonlit, and I was off with 11,000 other marathoners. Even though i was in the A corral, behind the elites, I was not in the front of A and so the first mile was quite a bit of dancing around the crowds to where i could get into my pace, and so my first mile split put me behind the 8 ball with a 7: 17 split. Doing quick math in my head, I realized at about 30 seconds behind optimal goal pace I'd have to hit about 6 miles of 6:40 to make it up. When I thought about this i was a bit frustrated at how just one mile can really effect such a long race as a marathon, but I had the experience to not worry, as the marathon still had more than 2 hours and 50 mins for many things to unfold. Also, I was a bit agitated at this point as I already had to pee! I knew i wasn't going to hold it forever, but I wanted to not give in right away for the thought that if I was to go this early, it could lend itself to having to go again still early in the race, and so I used the opportunity to practice patience and my mind to go elsewhere. 6:42 split the second mile, and so I was pleased that I was moving in the right direction to start chipping away at the deficit I had put myself in. The first couple miles of the race send you off on wide open highways leaving Epcot towards Magic Kingdom, and around mile 3 you see the entrance to the first Park of the day. I was comfortable with the next 6:43 and as the next couple of miles led us through Magic Kingdom, complete with running literally through Cinderellas castle, the flair that makes the Disney marathon special was really shining through. The spectators, characters, music, and lit up park made it an outstanding environment and scenery and increased the race adrenaline as i continued to stay on pace with high 630s and low 640s through the park and past mile 6 until we exited and were on a dark road on mile 7 that i gave in to my bladder  and pulled over to empty the liquids. This was a full 30 second pee break. Part of holding it seemed to fill the bladder more and thus take longer for it to empty. I hated losing that time but it's part of the race and most runners have to go through it. Only once I believe have I not had to stop for bathroom (Charlotte 2011). about 10 runners passed me, and I kept the group in my sights as I got back into pace. 

I tried to have some small surges to chop away at lost time and my 8th mile was about 5 seconds faster than my miles yet, with a 6:33. the next couple of miles i started passing those guys that passed me, and took my first of 3 Maurten energy gels (actually had this around mile 7, right around pee time). Character photo ops continued to line the streets, as did Disney music as well as DJs on stages blaring loud pump up music. At mile 10-12 there was this long straightaway on a wide road that did an out and back, with screens playing inspirational music and movie clips that got me going along with seeing the faster runners make their way ahead of me as i noticed their stride and determination on their face that helped keep me focused and reactivated to a sense of purpose and pursuit. Seeing these fast male and female runners out in front leading a charge got my focused as i was about to begin the second half of the race. 

We were finally led into our second park, Animal Kingdom where we would cross the half way point, for me, as the sun was rising, and the music was sounds of African Serengeti tunes and live animals awaking as well in their habitat, occurring around 7am. I started to get a surge of adrenaline as I was half way home and still feeling comfortable on my pace for a PR, crossing in just under 129. I was about ready to take my second energy gel as we exited the park, and I started to gap the nearby runners behind me and began to close in on some runners ahead.

We made the exit and through the parking lot out onto the highways of Orlando that would take us to the next Park. Here, the course was long wide and straight, with plenty of good views of runners ahead to put in my sights. These were miles 15, 16, and 17 - all straight away with some moderate ascents as we over-passed highways underneath about two different times. The population was sparse, but there were several loud official stops with blaring speakers playing inspirational loud rock and roll and various other pump up music along the way. This is the stretch I began to feel a bit of a toll on the legs from the pace, and had to start running on faith and focus.

We entered ESPN Wide World of Sports at mile marker 18, and here, for the next 2+ miles would run around the campus that included sports fields, a 400m running track, and the outfield of a baseball stadium which was seated with spectators and a guy on the PA announcing our names and places of residence on the loudspeaker, providing a nice little boost of motivation. This park was peppered with tight turns and narrow chutes which made for some tougher miles, but i was holding still to a sub 6:45 pace. My fastest mile of the day was the 18th where I hit 6:28, followed by 6:42, and 6:44 for my 20th mile. We exited the park on the 21st mile, and this is where I started to put into focus my last 10 kilometers of the race to execute, having done the work so far for 20 miles. At this point I was on my 3rd and final energy gel, and it started to go down not as easy as the other 2. A little bit of nausea, and some upper GI pains began to creep in, but I had to ignore that as best I could and begin the "hanging on" part of the race, as I also was trying to begin my most focused part of "letting go" to caution and leave all I had out there.

Around mile 13 or so, I began to think about how I felt like I was holding back, with the adrenaline making the pace seem easy, and still having so much more to go. The marathon is all about patience and then determination. The first half (13 miles) you have to make sure you get to your point on pace, but it feels like you are running with the brakes on. It's a race, but it doesn't really feel like it, as the mental part is a repeated "hold back" mantra. You see runners ahead and you cannot let your competitive race instincts kick in, going after them. You have to be methodical. Then from the half way point to mile 20, you still have to hold back, knowing that the last 6 miles a lot of bad things can happen the way fatigue will jump on your back in a hurry, and can cause you to derail all the work you have done.  20 miles of 26 is 76% of the race, and so I will tell you - three fourths of the race you are "holding back" and the last quarter of the race, you are "holding on/letting go" - trying to keep it together while also letting all the gas out of your tank so that you are completely empty at the finish line.

that 22 mile i really started feeling the exhaustion in energy, and some soreness in the legs, but I was not red lining it so I kept going, as we went up another overpass. A hill here was very challenging, but there was a Toy Story Army Man with a megaphone barking out military like exhortations and encouragement. I played to him and pointed to him and gave him a firm look, and he subsequently bolted out more encouragement which propelled me up the ramp, to where i was able to ride the down ramp and into mile 23, as i passed another runner.

These last 3 miles of the race were the hardest, and the suffering seemed to exponentially increase here. That 24th mile we jut into the 4th park, Hollywood Studios, and while there was much attractions along the way, I had lost the ability to take in my surroundings. I only had the capacity to focus on my will to keep going and hold on to the pace. With another park to navigate, the turns became tight again and the paths more narrow. This was intensely more challenging that the previous parks, but it didn't last long as this park is not very big. When I hit the 24th mile marker, I had a bit of a sense of relief that I only had two miles to go. This was a point I wanted to reach when the pain started because I knew once i got here, I told myself i just needed to hold on for one more mile, then let everything I had out that last mile. And so, that 25th mile began and I could sense the end being near, and that I was on pace to go 258 or faster as long as i didn't crumble. The only point really the whole day, a runner started coming up on me, as I was passing a couple runners ahead, and here he latched on to my shoulder and forced me to either give up - which i think would have mentally led me to slow down via just negative thoughts coming in that i was slipping, or try and push him and there by holding on to my pace. I chose the hard way by not letting him pass me, and this was the hardest part of the race for me. The next mile we ran stride for stride. He didn't make a move to pass me, and I was giving it all I could to stay one step ahead, and so we raced. Into the last mile, around the lake of the nations at Epcot, where the motivational loud music was replaces with common park Disney songs, smells of food and funnel cake wafting in the air, and the heat overhead and sun beginning to make things all that much warmer...all while I was in tremendous pain and battling the aforementioned bouts of nausea. With less than a mile to go, he passed me, and I couldn't fight back. I knew I had made it without falling off my pace and I simply just had to get to the finish line - about two laps around a track I told myself, and then I could start to feel better.

The finish lines stands started up ahead, and I was almost there. I was thinking of my family during the hard parts of the race, knowing they were going to be waiting for me at the end. Here, I was started to get emotional knowing I fought hard to not falter in, and was proud of my efforts. My daughter Avery made me a bracelet i wore during the race that i would look down on from time to time, knowing that I had people looking up to me, and that I wanted to run my best for her and all my family. The pics Disney took, you can see my face writhed in pain, more so than any marathon I have ever done. The battles of Boston and Chicago to finish were excruciating and hellacious, but this race was the hardest in it's own way of me fighting to hold on, and doing the best I have done so so far - through a faster pace than planned, and fighting the 90% humidity with low 60's temps and many many water stops taking me off rhythm. I will say i think my training in Charlotte with hills did prove to be an extra benefit to translating a faster time on this flat course. I saw the clock up in the distance at the finish line just tick up to 2:57, and I knew i was going to break 2:58. I saw my family just past the finish line...Grace, Avery, Arden, Katie, Debby, and Kristen, and I welled up with tears and emotion just having gone through the whole ordeal - the only other time getting that way in a marathon aside from my first one back in 2010. I gave them a smile and a high five, and kept going down the finishing chute, to catch up with them soon.

A great race event, a surprising PR, and a hard fought battle. 7th time was a charm.

From Official race results:
5 mile split: 34:14
10 Mile Split: 1:07:55
Half: 1:28.44
20 Mile: 2:14:30
Finish: 2:57:25 (6:46 ppm)

44th overall, 39th overall male, 8th in age group 35-40

Miles via Garmin: 7:16, 6:42, 6:43, 6:38, 6:43, 6:36, 7:05 (includes 30 sec pee break), 6:33, 6:34,
6:36, 6:33, 6:33, 6:38, 6:34, 6:34, 6:34, 6:36, 6:29, 6:42, 6:44, 6:33, 6:41, 6:41, 6:50, 6:47, 6:58, 3:27 (6:54 pace....watch measured an extra .3)



Monday, December 24, 2018

Raintree 21 miler

Started off immediately feeling a little better and recovered, having taken yesterday off and the runs before so slow, but still the first 5 miles I couldn’t get out of the slow funk I’d been in and sub 8 seemed still a bit of a chore. But after 5 miles, I took a Gu brand gel and that plus I guess just getting loose and warmed up I started to get in a little bit of a better rhythm. 5-9 as I ran down Rea and onto Bevington, I clipped away nicely and as I got into the 9th mile heading back towards the house I began to feel the first sign of fatigue. I’ll say the miles solo and with no headphones or anything seemed to go by peacefully and quickly. I made it back home as planned shortly after 10am where Mike Oelz was waiting for me to join in. I was at about 11.8 here, and I quickly grabbed my first ever Maurten gel and switched into my new Zoom Flys, and away we went. Holy cow. The immediate feel of the new shoes felt like someone gave me leg transplants. I had springs on my feet. I have never felt a show like this. The result was a dip below 7:30 pace, but I knew Oelz had to get warmed up and I didn’t want to get too eager so I actually backed off a bit as we settled into conversational pace. More hills as we ventured up Four Mile Creek, and the time started ticking away nicely with the company. At mile 16 Oelz wished to back off and allow me to go, which was fine. I was starting to feel the itch to drop some miles and wanted to capitalize in doing so at this point of the run. I turned into Ballantyne Commons and into Alexa here solo again, and got excited as I knew was going to complete 20 with out a collapse. More hills during this stretch and back out to Providence Rd where I was past 18 miles. On the sidewalk past Latin I started to glide with ease and joy, and realized I was going to reach home past 20 miles so I started thinking about this being a great Run where id finish it at 21. Down the home stretch I passed home at 20.5 and so tacked on an extra half mile and finished the run with my last mile being my fastest of the day. The second half of the run was also a big negative split. A great confidence boost with the wheel falling off last week, and to pull it off with all the hills today, I’m seeing the glass half full (only not fully full, in a perfect world I would have liked the overall pace quicker, but each run has its own design-how we go along with it is what counts). The Maurten gel surely was also a great weapon. That stuff gave me a big second wind. Hard to see myself getting to the pace that will yield a PR, which has been looming in my head since my half marathon PR in Nov., but the taper is here, and race day can have some magic-especially at Magic Kingdom?! :). 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

running ruminations

one way to look at running is to consider the runner as a fitness receptacle vessel. the metaphor occurred to me on my run this evening as I was about 30 minutes into the run, and started to contemplate my current level of fitness. I've noticed I have gotten stronger overall physically and mentally being able to knock off runs of certain distance and pace with greater ease, as well as feeling my current state in this approaching summit of training before the taper where the compounded toll of the pyramid is being noticed. The notion of a receptacle comes to mind as I have gotten here by a building phase of stretching what I have been able to absorb, and then being able to fill a larger amount of fitness the next week, similar to a weight lifter who breaks his muscles, only to find them grown back in stronger after the recovery. And so, as a runner, we are either using the container of fitness that we have built, sustaining it, allowing it to shrink, or expanding it - pushing the envelope of our boundaries hoping that we might not shatter it too much, so we can have it repaired stronger and able to hold more fitness, as we then get it ready to put on display at our contest.

For me, tonight, it was with uncertain reservation that I eschewed my weighed option of pushing some miles on the run at a faster pace - a trade off of perhaps a better decision - in order to be ready to maximize my effort on the pinnacled 20 miler this weekend, by keeping tonight full duration in cruise control.

Alas, around the 7th mile, as I sauntered onto Strawberry Ln., did I serendipitously slide into some swifter segments of the final sail, at least in feeling. The run felt very nice and comfortable. I am in good spirits and ready to take on the outpouring of the rest of the final hard week into my container before I begin the sharpening and recovery into Disney

Saturday, November 3, 2018

a return to the PR streets

as i thought of a title and settled on the above, it was just then that it dawned on my that my hometown marathon (and half...and 5k) annual event has provided the grounds for a perfect 1000 batting average of personal records in my running career. A lucky, 3 for 3...2 fulls and 1 half.

keeping with the theme of late to the party realizations, with not registering for the event until yesterday, and not even considering what a PR pace would mean...until last night as i lay in bed, the prospects of earning a lifetime best as even a thought at this seemingly unspectacular point in my running were not put into conscious, sub or otherwise, were only given with the slightest of possibility. 

The temperature and weather overall (aside from a *slight* headwind...only in places) were indeed spectacular, and my preparations- diet, sleep, health were all gracefully present....but my training seemed to - in looking back - only reveal a decent trajectory to approaching what i had done back when i was getting Half and Full PRs back in 2011-2012, still seeming a few months away - if i were to keep the discipline. Yet on a really good day, with everything working in my favor - and as i had mentioned, those things were checking off...perhaps i had a slim outside shot. And there before me, within the first two miles what laid before me was no doubt the secret ingredient that would launch me into a really good chance or keeping Charlotte perfect with it's doling out of running high-marks. 
Brian Baum was found moments before as we gathered at the start of the race, and with the gun - he, naturally, went, and i settled back - but quickly realizing the pace a bit swifter than anticipated.

For me, with running, you have to be disciplined. The marathon being the most requisite. Yet with the half marathon, it's not so short that you go into great lactic buildup with too quick a start like a 5k, and not so long that you bonk hard and have a death march like the full. Even the 10k i think can be a little more delicate with having to hold the thin line on pace, and endurance. The half no doubt is critical, but as an experienced runner may tell you - you know instinctively what your pace more or less feels like (usually) and what your pace/economy needs to be to keep it even, or with enough gas to still drop and not leave too much early race time out on the course. 

so there i was, with baum coming to me at mile 2...on a downhill...okay. I know i hit the downs a little faster than most given my longer legs, but i was not in a place that felt overwhelmingly too fast to sustain for 13.1 miles. something i think about, today being no different, is, if i'm ahead of the pace a little bit it at least gives me a cushion. Sometimes this backfires (see Chicago 2017), but sometimes if you are really being honest with yourself and feeling like a gambler, it can really pay off. Ideally, you might like to negative split, but sometimes you just have to go with it and hang on. That's what is inspiring me lately...i think from reading Bill Rodgers book "marathoning" where he basically just went for it and came out out of the gates into world class stardom by hitting it hard early. 

Another indicator i was in a little bit of uncharted territory was being in front of the Charlotte Running legend, Paul Mainwaring. Now, he was running the Full - so I won't pretend anything here, but we shot a few encouraging messages to each other last night and he told me he would be looking for 6:15 pace. What kind of got me wondering, was seeing Dan Matena at the Expo and his spurring me on to get after it and perhaps check in with those guys who might be hitting my pace. i don't think i was even serious about wearing flats until he gave me the gas to get in race mode. thankful for that. 

the first 3 miles were even. 607, and 1824 at three miles (didn't get mile 2) *note: my garmin was a bit off early from the downtime miles, perhaps pinging signals off the skyscrapers. 6:28 was my pace for my old PR, so there i was with a bit of that cushion i was talking about. At this point Baum was basically beside me (minimal) or just out in front. There wasn't much package around, with a group (paul, the winning female in the half, and another) and another guy who popped in and out for the first 8 miles....then Baum, also alone...playing carrot to my donkey :) 

on the rolling course, i would gain ground on the downhills and he would retake on the ups. Only once on the ups would i surge past him...going up providence for a bit when i felt my pace slack off and i knew it was too early to start succumbing to any thoughts of "where i should be". 

the course was laced with nice pockets of live music, speakers, and spectators encouraging and providing needed boosts to spur me along. to note: the live band on providence playing a song that escapes me now - a dixie tune with nice acoustic guitar, Bruce Springsteen "I'm on fire", brian's wife Sue on the bike cheering me, Megan Filnow cheering me, Hovis cheering me, a stranger on Morehead giving great encouragement (she seemed like a coach the way she knew what to say, seeing me), and a Rolling Stones tune - that is also escaping me at the moment (i'm a little tired writing this, while watching Bama and LSU) and of course the whole way of seeing Baum, being in front of the great Paul - for the first 8 miles...and being in place to get a PR with the clock ticking on my age! 

as Baum would go on to start making his gap grow from mile 9 (up morehead) to the end, i was able to hold on and knew - just from being aware of how i felt, that i could hang on to the pace if i stayed focused. Getting through latta park was a chore, but once I started going down on West Blvd and had a couple miles to go I ran with confidence and increased joy. I thought of a lot of things....all the runs i've done....my training....my family....my friends out there racing, here and elsewhere (josh brewer doing Shut In in Asheville)....and fed off any fan that offered support, in to the end. I also thought of my form, which lately i've paid more attention to, and really think it is key when you get tired as you can keep the fall off at bay with being aware and intentionally keeping as an efficient (think choppy....steps per minute) stride as can be. 

on the last 5k of the race I thought i was going to hold on to a sub 124, but closing I was easily in under 123....122:26 for a PR by 2 mins and 20 seconds.
*my official 10mile split was a PR (unofficial as splits don't technically count in running) - 1:02:34 (6:15 pace)...by almost 4 minutes!

what a joyous blessing it was to be able to etch a new PR on this almost 35 year old body after more than half a lifetime of running. onward we go! 

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3135171917 - splits via garmin (a little off)

https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/17795/IndividualResult/FNcN?#U31748639 - race results
13th overall, 6th age group 30-34, 12th male overall 6:18 pace