Monday, December 28, 2015

Back in the Saddle

Took 10 days off. No running. A lot of eating, especially sweets. Not much of anything athletic. Did work a lot so that kind of filled up the no running spaces. Gained a little weight. And by about the 9th or 10th day I was climbing the walls, ready to lace up the sneaks, and let her rip somewhere.

Got a brisk 6 mile run in today, most of which was back on the Carolina Beach State Park trails. Legs were a bit creaky, and my left ankle felt like it wanted to roll a few times, especially in the real loose sand near the Cape Fear River.

But it was great to be back out. Hammering some miles out as the last vestiges of daylight slipped away, and darkness fell gently upon the island. I forgot how beautiful the aforementioned Cape Fear River can look, like it did today beneath a low hanging dome of whitish grey clouds which served to blur out the far shoreline some.

I saw a green light attached to a post along the water and thought back to a night run me and Natasha did out past Airlie Gardens... when we saw a solitary green light across the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway and I said it reminded me of one of the quintessential scenes in the Great Gatsby. And she shared that for her the run was like being in a Lewis Carrol book.

I hadn't thought of that since a night maybe two years ago when I was out on a run...

How the memories will come back to us suddenly and seem so tangible, the intensities of which can almost put us in a queer trance like state that we momentarily lose any semblance of time and place...

Meanwhile our bodies, so conditioned to the movements churn forward step after step after step...

I got out the woods and onto the dark, wet streets and headed home on the some of the same roads I've trod hundreds of times, but with a bit of a tingle in my bones. For I hadn't really left, yet it was good to be back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A run with a friend

I had planned to take as many days off as I could after last Saturday's race, and 4 mile run with Rick afterwards around Greenfield Lake. Partly to give my body and mind a little extended rest, and also in the hopes that my lower leg/ foot aches could clear up some more. Ideally two weeks off with no running, to follow the advice many college and high school coaches prescribe their runners. But... this is much easier said then done, and truth be told volume wise I have not run that much since the end of summer, though the intensity has been fairly moderate.

However, the point of this rest or reduction in running is also to kind of reset and recalibrate my "running soul" as we head into a new year. Ripe as always with new challenges, ambitions, plans, races to be run... where we kind of take the long view as runners surveying the vast frontier that stretches far, far beyond the horizon. Infinite paths and byways will inevitably greet us on our pilgrimages into the next calendar year. It's exciting, fresh...and sweet like the dew lying atop springtime's green grasses.

First though winter awaits. For some of us it's another foray into the teeth of marathon training plans as we eyeball the Big Race in March or April.  For others... it is hiding indoors and patiently waiting for mother nature to thaw. While we get in some runs here and there, perhaps on the weekends when we can actually find some daylight to run in.

Yesterday I got a text, and then a phone call right as I got home from work from a friend I've known for going on a decade now. They wanted to run... so I said sure I'll be over in a few minutes.

We went for an easy 5 mile run, most of which was on the trails in the Carolina Beach State Park. It was a gorgeous mid December day, sunny skies and temperatures feeling balmy in the 60s. In general, as humans we tend to sometimes not see what may be going on close by to us in the internal lives of others... unless it concretely manifests in the external world of which we happen to share with them.

There's something spiritually magic at times about a shared run. Barriers which may hinder open and honest communication tend to fall away.  Our own inhibitions about revealing our true selves seem to slowly melt as the miles slip by. And to sort of borrow a saying from commercial culture, what happens on the run stays on the run. Without either party ever having to acknowledge as such. For we runners all know this is to be inherently true.

After I got home I was so glad that I went on this seemingly innocuous run. Glad that I didn't rigidly stick to some arbitrary run schedule I had formulated for myself.  For I felt like I was at that hour in life, right where I was supposed to be.  Hopefully, I got to be a good friend.

Monday, December 14, 2015

William H Craig 5k

Rick, my Dad, me, Jeff post race

Ran the William Craig 5k race in Wilmington Saturday December 12th. Came in 1st place with a time of 18:57.  Once again several of the Cape Fear Flyers kids I help coach ran well; in fact the Club had many PRs set, as well as awards won. Including Sarah Martin who was the 2nd overall Female, and coach Amie who was the 3rd overall Female. Coach Jeff took home 2nd overall Masters Male.

But aside from the individual hardware, it was a great capstone to a magnificent XC season.  Many young kids, 6, 7, 8 years old who could not even run say a quarter mile back in early September, completed their first 5k races. The smiles become infectious, and serve as a continuous reminder to why as coaches we put in the time and energy to do what we do.

Running is a gift that we need to regularly give away... in order to keep for ourselves.

To serve out of love, is a topic I frequently think about, and at times discuss with others. Or to sort of flip it around, if I (or others) serve while getting paid, does it diminish whatever spiritual purity that is inherent in any free exchange?  Read an excerpt in a popular running blog of which I can't recall, where either the author or a guest took the position that all running coaches should be paid. That since at any level, where time is being given and services are being rendered, one should be compensated. In principle, I can find some common ground and agreement. However, if the argument is furthered to any and all other sports (what is the difference between running and soccer, basketball etc?), a lot of money that is essential (and usually donated) to turn the lights on, purchase the equipment and uniforms so kids can actually play, will be going to persons who coach.

Food for thought, as I see both sides of it. And will perhaps cross such bridges in the future if I continue to develop my own personal coaching career. And I don't profess to be saint either.

Back to the race... I went out fairly quick to get ahead of the large field of 1,200+ runners, many of whom were kids participating with their respective schools in the Girls on the Run and Stride programs. (which are fabulous at introducing and subjecting kids to what we hope to be the joys and camaraderie of our sport). Found myself in 4th place about a quarter mile in, while running about a 6:10-6:15 pace. Made my way steadily up and took over the lead between the 1/2 and 3/4 mile mark... and once again was on my own leading a 5k race.

Felt pretty good throughout, but not outstanding. Didn't have my top end gear, and I think the 20 minute or so delayed start to the race, combined with warmer temperatures that approached 70 served to knock down most competitive runner's times a tad. At least that seemed to be the consensus of those I talked with after the race. Splits were pretty even: 6:01, 6:06, 6:04. Once again I got to "follow the bike." This time being ridden by a young woman who had to also periodically clear the sidewalk of outbound runners and walkers while I made my way back inbound during the 3rd mile.

Was great to hear a myriad of voices young and old shouting encouragement as I ran towards the finish... while trying on some level to soak in the fleeting moments of local fame... as I assiduously pushed though the inevitable pain. Yes, sometimes we get to play the hero in our own stories.

I raced the race. The field, the course, the elements, the intangibles. I even gave a small wave as I ran through a crowd of people lining the finishing chute in the middle of the soccer field at Legion Stadium. After I got done and gained a modicum of composure, I turned back up the course and cheered in my friends and the kids I'm blessed to be able to coach. Little 7 year old Hannah was puking her guts out in the last tenth of a mile... yet she kept running, amazingly. And was rewarded w/ a PR and an AG award. My Dad finished strong, and was happy afterwards to be out racing again, taking on the spirited over 70 crowd.

The stories go on and on, we all have them... and love to share them with each other afterwards. Running may be an individual endeavor... but it is truly a We sport.

Start of the race

Top 3 Overall Males

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peak week.

Last XC practice of the season Monday night on the Ashley HS track. I got a bit nostalgic on the drive in through the grounds...the complex of schools, ball fields, playgrounds, etc, has truly become like a home away from home to me. But I (and we) will be back again soon-

Cutting the volume but keeping the intensity.  Reading some old blog posts by Coach Jay Johnson how we should refer to this period not as tapering, but as peaking. I think in this case the name we give it has a psychological underpinning in that peaking connotes a proactive action; whereas tapering seems to suggest something more passive.

Nonetheless, we ran 2 x 800m at 5k pace or slightly faster, with 2 minutes of recovery on the track. Followed by 5 x 100m striders on the football field, goal-line to goal-line. I like the idea of going slightly faster than race pace. For one, it should make race pace on race day seem a tad slower. And two, most kids want to a wail a bit on a short number of reps, so it's easier to let them just air it out a bit, within reason.

As I told Owen, who's leaving Thursday for USATF XC nationals in New Mexico, don't leave your race on the track here tonight. Which he didn't.

Took off Tuesday, and ran 4 miles Wednesday which included 4 x 400m at about 5:50 pace on a :30 second rest cycle. Felt alright... trying to prime the pump for Saturday's 5k race at Legion Stadium in Wilmington. Will run a few easy miles Thursday and add in some fast striders, then take off Friday. Excited that my Dad is coming up to race as well, and Paul and his family will simultaneously be running a 5k up in Pennsylvania. The unofficial Franklin Township Road Runners Club lives on... almost twenty years later.

Run on my friends.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sharpening the Spear

Last hard workout for the Cape Fear Flyers XC season last night. Told some of the runners I coach that the workout of 200s was like sharpening the end of the spear, getting us primed for the last race of the year the following Saturday. Fortunately the rains held off, but I was prepared to run them personally even in a downpour.

My own mentality being colored from finishing the book Racing the Rain by John L. Parker. Informative prequel to his seminal running novel Once a Runner published back in the late seventies. We get to see our hero protagonist Quenton Cassiday coming of age, and how he eventually found his way to the sport of running.

"The guy in Kansas will coach me through a local proxy who lives in a shack in the jungle without electricity." Quote from the novel referring to Archie San Romani, a champion miler in the thirties from Kansas. It's a dream of mine to one day write fictional literature, based off my own experiences, that may fire someone's imagination, and excite their running passions in a similar way that Parker's words have done for me the last several years.

But back to last night, I ran with Owen and Zac. Averaged about :36- :38 per 200m, on a quick rest cycle of about :40. Controlled, hard running... repeating it over and over again. Reminded them a few times (and by extension myself) to take them one at a time. I told them going in it would be a tough workout, and it was. But they and I handled it well; with the dedication and attention that runners who are serious about competition need to possess. We can't shy away from the pain on such days, we need to embrace, and become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Talked to them afterwards about taking ownership and being accountable in their upcoming races. We have to go out and earn our race result... it's not going to be handed to us just because we have done all this work the past few months. Concepts I picked up on from listening to a recent Steve Magness and John Marcus podcast.

Plans are on the table for our season end party next Wednesday night. The calendar has flipped to December; darkness swallows up the days a little past 5pm.  The end of one season though is always a bridge to the next one. Though there is still work be done the next 10 days.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Magic

I was running pretty hard thru turn 3, but felt sort of like I was floating. 150 meters left in the 3rd of 5 800m repeats we were running. Dakota, Owen, the Avery brothers,, and me... 5k pace... but a bit faster, knocking them out in the 2:45- 2:55 range. Coach Beth read out the times at the start/ finish line after each lap. She had 4 separate timers going on her smart phone.

But right then and there as I watched the track continuously pulling back away and under me... as it also simultaneously kept stretching forward... the phrase black magic suddenly came to me, like seeing a comet flash across the dark sky. Black magic. The track. What a name.

Running under the lights. Multiple groups of us running 800s at various paces and rest cycles. The younger kids running 400s, staying mostly in the grass so the older and faster didn't run up their small backsides.

Owen blew by Dakota on the last straight away. "You little $%*" was his response between gasps for air after we finished the rep. He was laughing about it. But a little serious too. Paxton cracked, "hey a 7th grader beat ya." "I know," said Dakota, with hands on his knees... he's a senior in high school as are the Averys.

Paxton started singing a Christmas carol, Jingle Bells... I chimed in and sang along. She was in jeans with a boot on her right foot, severs disease flared again last week. But there she was out on the track helping time, encouraging, cheering... being a kid and having fun.

After the last 800 Owen told me he negative split them all. A year ago he wouldn't have known what that meant. Maris asked me how fast was her fastest 800?  I estimated 3:07. She turned and proudly told her Dad. Riley on a cool down lap told me she PRd the 800 tonight, while adding how she wasn't fast. That doesn't matter was my response.

Later on the drive home it hit me how blessed I am certain nights. How I get to be right where I am supposed to be in those given moments. I got teary eyed...for this little running life I have stumbled upon is the gift that just keeps giving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

4 Mile Trail Race

Ran the 11th annual Wilmington Road Runners Turkey Trot 4 mile trail race in the Carolina Beach State Park Saturday morning. Had a pretty solid race with a time of 25:08. Finished 4th overall out of 239 runners and won top Masters award.  Also several of the #CapeFearFlyers kids that I coach ran and won or placed in their respective age groups, as did some of my fellow coaches.

All of us had a beautiful late fall morning to run, sunny skies with race time temperatures in the sixties, and a light breeze. In fact on places in the course not shaded it got a bit warm out.  Participants were treated afterwards to a full, catered breakfast, including banana bread pudding which made quite the impression on a lot of the athletes.

The night before, as per my usual routine, I spent some quiet time down on the beach.... watched a full moon cast her feathery yellowy light down onto the rolling waves, and the flowing currents in between. I feel really alive and touched by life in these moments, as well as contemplative, and spiritually connected to the entirety of the world present, past, and unseen.

I thought about my Mom and prayed for her up in heaven. In fact I thought of and said prayers for several of my friends and their parents whom they lost recently... many of them dear friends through our shared love for the sport of distance running. I even got a little teary eyed and cried softly, which felt healthy and good. As I bade goodbye and gave thanks for the communion, I looked at the unfurling and crashing waves and asked if I could harness a little of the ocean's energy and strength for the next day's race.

Picked my packet up early Sat am at the visitor's center in the state park, had a nice chat with my friend Brenda about some of the local races that occurred on Thanksgiving, then parked my car down by the start line area to get some warm-up drills, stretching, and miles in. Saw Peyton and we headed back into the woods on the trail for an easy 15-20 minute or so jog while we chatted away, before looping back to the marina and meeting up with the Flyers kids and other coaches.

Led the kids on a 15 minute run, showed everybody the finish line which is in a separate part of the park, and got a few striders in on the main road before heading over to the start line back by the Cape Fear River. Was fumbling around with my Garmin watch as the race surprisingly to me began, and I almost ran over Sawyer and another kid while trying to reset and start the thing. Fortunately no-one went down.

The first half mile followed the main road back out the park, which lends itself to most of us going out a little faster then we would like as to not get to jammed up behind the pack when entering the single track trails. Though the pace didn't seem too fast Saturday, and I felt fairly comfortable settling into a race pace before making the right turn and entering the woods. Followed a tall guy whom I chatted with briefly on the road about a hole, for about the next 2 miles. I kept thinking (and was actually temped to ask) how old are you, are you over 40?  (he ended up winning the 35-39 AG).

But on sugar loaf hill he slowed and I surged ahead of him , and ran the next mile or so by myself, save for the occasional glimpse of a lone racer up ahead on the trails. Gradually the distance between the two of us narrowed, until with about a half mile to go I caught up and ran behind him for a bit. I sensed he was not in position nor had the desire to challenge me if/ when I made a move... which I did with about 3 tenths of a mile left. It helps for me to be intimately familiar with the park's trails, not only the terrain, but to have a fairly precise knowledge of how far away I am from the finish at all times.

Cruised it in fairly hard but not all out after a brief glance or two back to make sure my fellow competitor in fact was not coming back after me. Splits afterwards revealed a fairly even effort, and there were 2 sections of the trails about 100-250 meters in length of real loose sand that slowed the pace down. Felt I could have gone a little faster overall, especially had I been pushed harder, but also ran a steady, consistent, and fairly intelligent race. All in all I'll take it. And I hope I've learned over the years to not pay too much credence to the typical runner's psyche that no matter how fast we've run, we feel we could have gone faster. Albeit it's true, but not something to get overly hung up on.

Had a lot of fun hanging out afterwards, eating breakfast with and talking to many wonderful friends in the running community. Our journeys are all unique, but on days like this they can all converge for a few brief moments in time...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Talking shop

Went to the North Carolina USATF Junior Olympic XC meet Sunday in Hagan Stone State Park, just south of Greensboro.

Several of the kids I coach on the Cape Fear Flyers Club ran well, and qualified for the national meet in New Mexico coming up on December 12th. We even had a state champion, Sarah Martin in the 9-10 girls 2K division. Second state champion that our club has produced this year.

Great experience again coaching and being a part of a coaching staff. Made some mistakes as well such as not having enough knowledge of the courses being raced before-hand and during the actual events. This led to me to yell to a young kid to kick real hard, since I thought the 2K finish line was in about 30-40 meters, when in actuality he had about another 150 meters to go. Worked out ok as he held his competitor off, and finished in second place.

We learn as we go. I wasn't the only one confused at times by the direction, finish lines of the multiple course being used.

Rode up and back with a fellow coach Jeff, who's son is a freshman XC  and track runner at Queen's College, and is off to a promising start already in his collegiate career. Jeff and I talked a lot especially on the ride home about all kinds of facets of training, and running histories in our own lives, as well as what his son had done during his high school years, and what he is doing now. It's always so great to talk in depth with others who are not only passionate about the sport, but have had a lot of wide ranging experiences and successes and of course failures as well.

Got into a conversation at one point about training for shorter races specifically the 5K. Jeff talked about at how age 52, he finds himself not wanting to grit through some of the pain associated with faster speed work needed to run at a high competitive level in the local racing scene. How his focus shifts to other types of running and work outs that will keep him in a great shape, specifically 20 minutes of core and strength work early each morning. And make no mistake, he is a very good runner who certainly has done his fair share of demanding, tough running.

Was interesting to hear, because for one, (god willing I am alive and running) it is a bridge that I will likely someday cross in my own running. And two, I found myself today amending a work out since mentally I just couldn't get into that spot I needed to be to really gut through what I had initially intended to do. Though I can step back and accept that this happens to every single runner from time to time, and that specifically on a physiological level I was not in the best spot to tackle a higher level intensity work-out. (7 hours driving yesterday + several hours on my feet at the XC meet).

On the flipside, he relayed conversations that his son and teammates have about being able to get to that spot where one can run through a lot of pain and fatigue. Or to be able to sort of disassociate from mentally, while physically moving thru the task at hand. Oh to be young with the world at your fingertips?

Small microcosm of where three runners are at a given snapshot in time.

Keep talking, and keep running all.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Some changes

Have gone back to a lot more stretching, similar to what I used to do in high school. Basic exercises to work mainly on my hamstrings, quads, and calves. Am cautiously optimistic that this is helping my lower legs, specifically my left achillies, and outer sole of right foot heal. Time will tell.

Also though, and in conjunction with some reading I have been doing, and ancillary work at Flyers practices, I am revamping how I look ay myself holistically as a runner and an athlete. I've caught myself at times and realized that I don't have as full of a range of motion as I would like to have, or should have. Or to state another way, my body is so conditioned to run and move in the planes of motion,, legs, arms etc, that it takes to run. But faced with a physical task, and it doesn't have to be demanding, that deviates from what my body is hard wired to do, it can be more difficult than it should be. And/ or such activities expose glaring weaknesses I have either strength wise, or range in motion wise.

And sometimes it just takes a new approach or outlook on how one is going about their daily routines to interject a shot of new life into their overall running and fitness program. Get a little bounce back in the step. For me the genesis too has been running in pain often, and finally getting around my sometimes own pig headed -ness to change what I have been doing.

Monday morning got in about 7 miles total. Ran a 2.5 mile easy warm-up back into the Carolina Beach State Park. Then ran 5 minutes at a fast 5k pace x 2, with a 5 minute slower recovery jog in between. Felt pretty good, pacing fell around 5:50 per mile for the 2 fast segments which equates to a low 18 minute 5k time. Going to get a couple moderate paced 800s in tonite at Flyers practice, then likely take tomorrow off. Planning this week for my first 40+ mile week since the middle of August. Praying, hoping, and working towards doing that with less and less pain and discomfort.

For new challenges always lie ahead... 

Friday, November 13, 2015



The essence of growth. Asking questions. Looking for answers. Which lead to more questions. For my own training, as well as for my development as a coach.

Couple great peals of wisdom I've come across the last few days. Listening to Coach Jay Johnson's podcasts;  a story about his former college coach Mark Whetmore at The University of Colorado. Whetmore was coming off his first XC NCAA national championship, and planning for the upcoming season. Instead of having the mindset of simply recycling the training plan from the previous year, he was more interested in seeing what improvements could be made. Taking what he had learned since then and applying to his training, looking for areas or aspects to become more efficient at, analyzing processes with fresh eyes... and not being willing to rest on his laurels as a coach.

Also reading Vernon Gambetta's blog Functional Path Training. The importance of seeing in our athletes the complete spectrum of movement, and the need to develop strength, coordination, speed along interconnected planes of motion that we all use in our respective sports. Continually searching and seeking as practitioners of sport as well as coaches of sport new ways to improve upon how we train and view the training processes holistically. Never being content with what we know. The best in any field do not always have the answers; rather they are the ones who are asking the questions.

Coach Brad Hudson:  Believe in nothing since one needs to believe in everything.

Last night our Cape Fear Flyers XC team had an exhibition meet versus our cross town friends and rivals from the Without Limits squad.  As a coach it was a great opportunity to observe what my more experienced coaching brethren across the field were doing. The attention to detail, from the time they got there and set up their tent, to the very last stretches being done with elastic ropes by their athletes long after ours had gone home. Plus it was awe inspiring to watch 17, 18 year old boys run 2 miles on grass circling soccer fields in a little over ten minutes. Efficient and smooth, and in control.

It's wonderful and humbling to feel like after nearly three decades in the sport I am just scratching the surface.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Run, Roll and Stroll 5k

I had a feeling about a half to three quarters of a mile into the race that I was going to win. The steep hill which climbs back away from the Cape Fear River on Walnut Street hadn't taken too much out of my legs. And I was able to steadily wind my pace down though the 6:20s per mile into the 6:10s running on a slight upgrade, as the course made its way towards New Hanover High School.

But the principle logic for such heady speculation was that I was leading a small pack of runners, which then fell off to just me and Owen. His breathing had become a little more pronounced and labored as I continued to periodically call out our pace times. As we could see the one mile mark sign alongside of the road I began to pull away from him, but hollered "stay with me Owen." 

Then I was on my own.

I told myself a few times to "just keep it together" and you'll win. I figured if I could keep the hammer down through the middle section of the course I would be ok. Take the slight uphill city blocks hard and no-one will come after you, or if they do they'll have to bleed it out of themselves to catch up.

Those were some of my fuzzed thoughts as the sun continued to throw warmth onto the unshaded areas of asphalt on which we trod.  Hardly immune where we either to the abundance of humidity that permeated the November morning air. And added challenge to test the meddle of even the most hardened and battle scarred athletes amongst the smaller field of runners. It felt more like a late spring race...certainly not the middle of fall. But so it goes in our beloved sport.

And so I followed the kid on the bike. One block after the other. Past 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th streets... dear God get me through to the next block, and eventually back to the river. Then a half block at a time as I'd catch the alley entrances in my peripheral vision. Don't drop me now God I asked. And I got on myself for being a bit too whiney in my devotions. Keep it pure. A low hanging tree branch knocked my hat off. I didn't bat an eye and ran on.

We've come this far to get caught. I was the pursued, like a wild animal in the bush running with all it's might to avoid the ultimate penalty, death itself.  I passed Brenda again at the intersection of 5th street. I couldn't spare the energy this time to acknowledge. I listened though as I went past for her voice again... until I heard "go Owen"... which gave me a sense of what was coming up behind me.

I love the kid too. We joked before the race. We both know he is going to beat me one of these days. Sooner then later. I want that for him. But when he does he's going to have to earn it. And it wasn't going to be today.

Finally I could see the Cape Fear River as the course began to roll down hill towards her gently flowing waters. Blessed river. Just keep following the bike. You'll get there. Just keep taking the pain. Keep following the bike. Another half block, another block. Elaine and her Girls on the Run friends cheering again. God I'm almost at the boardwalk. I can smell the river. It's right there. Follow the kid on the bike and take a left. Watch your step. He called out to some people to make way.

And I just kept following, it was all that mattered. Life right then and there was that elementary. Follow the bike. Down the boardwalk, past some people but it was all a whirling blur peppering my senses. I glanced back, once. I didn't want any surprises. Then we went behind the Hilton. Dam this hotel is big. Takes awhile to get past. I dry heaved behind this hotel years ago near the end of a race going in the opposite direction. I had told the story when me & coach Peyton and a bunch of the kids were warming up. But I didn't think of that gastric occurrence now.

Finally we went through a congregation of spectators cheering at the finish as I heard my friend Colin on the PA system calling out my name. And that quickly it was over. 18 minutes and 45 seconds. Once again I was able to stare down and sort of square up the waves of pain...and mute all the conniving voices which beg and plead for us to slow down. Was it Emerson that said the best way thru it is a straight line?

Owen came in 2nd and Zach 3rd. Was happy and proud. Later I would find out that Paxton was 1st, coach Amie 2nd, and Hannah the 3rd female. A clean sweep for the Cape Fear Flyers Club. Several other of my fellow coaches and our runners won age group medals.

One of the best days out of thousands of days that this sport has blessed me with. I hope and pray the ride never ends. For me, for you... for all of us.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

2 Tough Miles.

Been staying in Shallotte and running the Copas Road 8.5 mile loop. Sunday morning I added 5 pick-ups of 2/10s of a mile at about 5k race pace at the start of each new mile. Felt petty good, but was a warm, humid morning. I chided myself shortly into the run for not shucking my shirt at the start. Back in Pennsylvania, we would have referred to such as weather as "Indian summer."

Took off Monday and Tuesday as the warmth and the sun were replaced by clouds and a deluge of rain. But the Gods of Nature can work in our favor, or do things for us that we seemingly can't always do for ourselves. Which in this case was to take some needed rest.

Wednesday morning ran a moderate effort based 5 mile cut-down on the Brierwood loop. Started the run in the mid 8s per mile, and ended in the mid to high 6 minute range.

Flyer's practice then later in evening. Set up a half mile course around the perimeter of some soccer fields to mainly take advantage of the lights that ring the complex. Plus to keep the workouts on softer surfaces, and avoid the macadam and asphalt by the schools.

Workout called for 2 x 1600m with a rest interval of half the mile split time. Ran very hard at the beginning of the first rep to stay in front of Dakota and the rest of the fastest boys in order to direct them around the course. But it was a good exercise in being able to take a punch run wise, and not hit the mat. Or to simulate what happens when we would go out too fast in a race, and have to quickly navigate through the unyielding demands of oxygen debt.

On the far back stretch, and in the darkness (the lights had been turned off along the far end of the adjacent soccer fields) I was able to regain some modicum of control, and settle into a tough hard pace while following behind Dakota and Thomas, two seniors in high school. I had a brief flashback to running the 1500 meters in Myrtle Beach last June, when I clung to the backs of Thomas and his two brothers for 3 and 3 quarters laps.

Ran the first 1600m (or in actuality a mile per my garmin) in 5:35, then after an all too quick sub 3 minute reprieve, ran the 2nd 1600m in 5:39. I let my mind sort of check out for a good bit on that one, and just let the legs and body take over and pull me through.  Sometimes it's best to just to strip it down to its barest essentials, and let our animal like, primal instincts guide us through the undulating levels of pain and discomfiture.  Or if we check in, its on the most basic terms like how much farther is left to run.

Added 5 striders for good measure after the 1600s, and had a nice, easy cool down run with Paxton and Elle.

This morning I ran an easy 4.5 miles thru the fog and mist... clearing out some of the lactic acid from yesterday's tribulations.

Going to rest Friday, and perhaps race Saturday. Blessed to be living the running life.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Flyers race, 200s, and more runnin'

Great experience last weekend putting on the 1st annual Monster Dash race for the Cape Fear Flyers Club. Got to be involved in all aspects of race planning, and specifically, in designing two courses and marking as well as decorating them in a Halloween theme. With of course the help of some of my fellow coaches. Friday evening I was walking by myself through the Carolina Beach State park woods where the race was to be held. As darkness slowly descended upon the silent, still woods, I prayed that the Gods of running would watch over us, the runners, and all those involved... and that a fun, festive, competitive day could be had by all. Which, thankfully ended up being the experience shared amongst a hundred and fifty to two hundred people who turned out on a sunny, gorgeous autumn morning.

Wednesday after the rains cleared, I laid out three 200 meter courses for the Flyers kids, and some of us coaches like me to run on. We've got the kids grouped A, B, and C per ability. I took the top A kids through a 14 x 200m workout, averaging each rep in about 38 seconds, with a forty second rest interval. Kids ran hard, efficient. Talking to them on some of the reps about how workouts like this make us tougher, faster runners... able to dial up or tap into those last crucibles of energy in the latter stages of races, when our bodies and minds are flooding us with distress signals.

Then talking afterwards about the timeless wisdom of Frank Shorter. The importance of running fast and hard when it's time to run fast and hard, but conversely running slow and easy when it's time to recover and run slow and easy.

Though I violated that a bit myself running four miles with Amie the next morning around Greenfield Lake. We averaged a low to mid eight minute per mile pace, which again I told her impressed me about her running, since she is more into strength and weight training, and runs to supplement those activities. In my mind I told her I'm gauging how she would do versus the female competition in her age group (35-39) around the Wilmington area. Learning some valuable tips from her for my own ancillary strength and core work, which supplements my running.

Friday morning ran the Copas Road loop from my Dad's house in Brunswick County. Another pristine, sunny autumn morning... though I'm hoping for some more cooler weather again like we had about two weeks ago. Enjoyed the rambling run through the country side, and closed the last mile and a half of the eight and a half mile run fairly strong in a mid six to low seven minute per mile pace. Got lost in my own thoughts... the rest of the Flyers cross country season, ramping my own training slowly back up, entering some upcoming races.  Cognizant of my form in the last three quarters of mile... something I need to be more aware of.

Looking forward to a Saturday morning run tomorrow in the Carolina Beach State park with Peyton and some of the kids.

If I can paraphrase what a wise man once said... if you get to spend an hour each day doing something you love... life aint half bad.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall rolls on

Last Friday ran 3 threshold miles on the roads in Carolina Beach. Splits were 6:25, 6:18, 6:19. Felt a bit better than the last time I tried a harder tempo run, but I still didn't have what I would call my top end gear.

I think part of this is that I am still recovering from the high mileage of the summer, followed by a grueling 30 mile ultra in the Appalachian mountains Labor Day weekend. Recovering in the sense of being able to tap into those higher end yet controlled paces as I was able to better do during the spring.

But late Monday afternoon was a different story as I ran another quasi time trial through the 6k course in the Carolina Beach State Park that we will be using for our inaugural Cape Fear Flyers Monster Dash. Running 95% on trails (some of which consist of loose sand, or are literally covered in six inches of water) I laid down mile splits of 7:02, 6:41, 6:22, 6:32.  And felt like I was cruising at a fairly hard but not too strenuous pace and effort. Was pleased afterwards.

Took the older kids through the course then later at practice. Told them my time, and that its the current course record. Sarah correctly pointed out that I was the only one who had run it so far. They enjoyed being out on the trails and in the woods. Mixed in several one minute bursts of race pace running. Got back to the marina parking lot just before dark.

The weather really cooled off the past few days. What a welcome change from the warmth and humidity. Even put on a long sleeve shirt and gloves running Sunday morning in the State Park with Amie. Took her through some real water logged spots on the trails too. She toughed it out quite well.

Playing the fall race calendar by ear, and slowly upping some mileage. Doing some calf/ Achilles exercises and stretches to try and heal up my lower left leg. Perhaps it is slowly paying some dividends. The negative side effects of the sport we love.

Which helps us all appreciate the runs we do get in all the more.

Monday, October 12, 2015

TaTas 5k

Ran an 18:59 5k at the Run for TaTa's race in Wilmington, NC on Saturday. Felt like it was a faster effort than that, and in fact my garmin recorded the distance run as 3.22 miles. So unofficially I am chalking the effort up as around an 18:30 5k. Finished 13th overall out of 750+ runners, and was the 1st Masters finisher. Actually was awarded $75 for top Masers, which unless I am forgetting a race, was the first time I have ever won prize money at an event.

Also the Cape Fear Flyers kids I help coach ran very well; was so pleased and happy for them afterwards as were my fellow coaches and some of the parents who were in attendance.  Several of the kids won age group awards in the 5k, and also we had the 1st place finisher in the mile race. It's a tremendous feeling to see hard work pay off, and the kids reap the benefits while also enjoying themselves

I am still fighting through some aches and pains; specifically my left achilles, and discomfort on the bottom and side of my right foot. For the moment neither of which prevent me from doing what I have been doing, and want to do.  Though it would be nice if some of it would abate in the near future, and necessitates continual monitoring and efforts to alleviate.

Felt like I had a pretty good effort and ran a fairly smart race Saturday. Splits were 6:04, 5:52, 6:00. First mile included some maneuvering around fellow competitors, especially the field of women who started this unique chaser race 2 minutes and thirty seconds before all the men.

Pushed the last quarter to half mile hard, and ended the race with a real hard kick from about 200 meters out. A guy who I passed even joked about it afterwards how I was flying on in to the finish. But I've learned from the past, that even if a gut wrenching kick is not necessary to try and beat a fellow racer, I usually will see my time later and think dam had I just gone all out it would have made my time 3, 5, 8? seconds faster which would have made my finish time a little more pleasing to me. And in this case it got my official finish time under 19 minutes. Plus it's good training for when I may really need that kick.

Mainly though I didn't shy away from the pain. I was able to sustain and push through especially in the darkest stretch of the race from about the half way point to around the two and half mile mark, where there was a turn around. And that voice which can get progressively louder, progressively more persuasive... the one which pleads and begs us to slow down, tells us this hurts too much, asks us why in god's name are we doing this?  That voice I was able to pretty much stifle and mute, and just for this race not pay too much heed to.

It'll be back again next hard workout. Next race. And I'll deal with it then.

For now, I will enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Unconditional Love

The roads, trails, the track... have always been there for me.

They have always loved me, no matter what state of mind, body, and spirit I show up in on that particular day.

Yesterday the trails in the Carolina Beach State Park provided just the solace, comfort, and communication I needed. They weren't particularly swayed by my confusion over a emotions rubbed a bit raw, my innermost self whispering "let go..."

And when I thought about my Mom and a tear rolled down my cheek as I ran up thru the Swamp Trail  ((everyone I know goes away in the end, I hear the guitar strumming gently, sadly, beautifully in the Nine Inch Nails version of the song Hurt))  -  the trails accepted me for exactly who I was at that given moment. They do not judge, pity, uplift, counsel, advise... they are just there.

There when we need them the most.

Wednesday night I ran 2 x 1200 meters before Flyers Cross Country practice, then 6 x 800 meters with Owen and Zac... all in the low 3 minute range. Tough, controlled running. I needed an outlet, I needed to rage a little in a constructive way... and the grassy half mile course on the Ashley and Murray school grounds was there. It didn't say a word to me, and afterwards I felt better.

Out here we get what we need. We can be our flawed, human selves... and not have to explain why we feel like we do, why we want what we want, why we act the way we act sometimes. Our sweat and tears fall softly into the ground, all to reappear later in this wonderful, mysterious grand circle of life.

None of us ever have to feel like we are not loved.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Some days that extra gear is not there. Such was the case this past Saturday morning. Got up early (6:30a) to meet the Ashley HS kids at the Carolina Beach Rec Center for their voluntary practice, but unbeknownst to me it had been cancelled due to the weather.

Perhaps since we usually run mile repeats, and get a harder workout in, I decided to try and run some threshold miles on the roads from Carolina Beach down to Kure Beach and back. A brief heavy shower hit, and I almost bagged it; perhaps mother nature was trying to send me a message.  But once my running shoes are on, and the garmin watch strapped to my wrist, it takes much more than a volatile atmospheric system to get me to abort the run.

The rains subsided and I got in a solid 3 miles, cutting the pace down to about a 7:20/ mile, before I ramped up for what I had planned to be 3 more miles at threshold pace in the 6:15- 6:20/ mile range.

I didn't feel too bad, but it also wasn't clicking. The effort was a bit too strenuous for what I felt the results should be pace wise, though truth be told it was still a pretty solid workout. I got 2.5 miles in at a 6:30/ mile pace before I shut it down along the main drag on the island, Lake Park Blvd. But the humidity was much more of a bear than I had anticipated, and when the winds gusted off the ocean it made the running doubly difficult.

After a real easy half mile though, I decided to add some hard, longer sprints in. I ran for a 10th of a mile close to all out, followed by a 10th of a mile slow recovery jog, and repeated 5 times. Felt pretty good doing so physically... ran them all under 30 seconds, or sub 5:00 / mile pace. And I felt good since I had salvaged some more of the work-out. Or perhaps a better of way of stating, is that I felt a lot better mentally about the entire output of the morning's running after the elongated sprints. I even dry heaved and almost yakked after one of them.

As a runner I've learned over the years to adjust on the fly... quite literally some days. It's better to get part of a work out in, then none at all. Or to not blow up a hard run too early, instead of attempting to recalibrate.

I've also had several harder efforts the past two weeks as well, which is likely adding a bit of accumulated fatigue to my legs. Will slot in some off days and easier runs before the big Tata's 5K this coming Saturday.

I carry forth, one step at a time.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sloshing Along

8 mile run today in the rain.

Parts of the trails in the Carolina Beach State Park were flooded out. Mainly along the marsh lands that parallel and are back off the Cape Fear River in the southern section of the park.

I wore a lightweight and water proof jacket which kept me fairly dry, and a ball cap as well. Temps were fairly mild, which plays a large part in whether or not a run in the rain will be enjoyable or not. Today was definitely enjoyable. In fact it was one of those it's good to be alive type runs.

Especially back along the Oak Toe trail spur which travels almost right along part of the river's shoreline. A thick bank of whitish grey clouds hung low over the river. Sheets of misty wind driven rain fell a short ways down onto the surface of the river, which rippled steadily from the effects of the storm system moving up from the south.

The marsh and the river were almost sort of converging together from the edge of the woods about a quarter mile inland to edge of the river. I found myself splish splashing thru 6 inches to a foot of water, save for the one wooden bridge that goes over a small inlet. The pier at the trail's end was almost becoming submerged at it's farthest point, as the river was cresting fairly high.

And I had the park to myself, at least for the time I was out there I saw no-one. Just me and mother nature renewing our communion once again. Days like this I more acutely aware that I am provided with all I need at such moments in time. Maybe we truly are in our own heavens, and the trick is just to realize it as such.

Today I was able to reach out and touch it. Ended the run on the beach, while watching the waves unfurl, crash, and roll high up onto the sand...

Thank you.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Existential musings

Sometimes I feel like I'm just fast enough to stay a half step ahead of it...

This thing we do, affirms life. It seeks challenges, adventures, the roads less travelled...

We all have our reasons. Our stories. Our raison d'etre.

I closed the Brierwood loop by my Dad's house in a 6:08 mile late Saturday afternoon. Later at dinner I confessed that I did not know why I had run the 5 miler so hard. But perhaps, that's the speed it took at that particular moment in time to stay a half step ahead of it...

I miss my Mom. I will never ever see her again. But I can stay ahead of that...

Regrets, confusion, sadness... life on life's terms. But I can stay ahead of all that too...

Happiness. Joy. Freedom. A sense of purpose and belonging. I can slow down for that if I choose to...

They bury us all in the end anyway right?

Bah. I can laugh and go for a run.

Peace to all.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Recovering, moving on

Have been trying to thread the needle between recovering from my 30 mile mountain ultra, and getting into race shape for a 5K coming up the first Saturday in October. Plus just in a basic sense getting that lovin' feeling back when I lace up the running shoes and head out the door.

Such as today's run which consisted mainly of slower paced miles back on the water logged Carolina Beach State Park Trails. Taking in the sight of dozens of little sand crabs scurrying across the wooden bridges that traverse parts of the marsh land near the Cape Fear River. Digging the views, the moisture dripping off the trees, the smells that the woods take on after a good soaking rain.

Had a couple harder run/ work-outs the past week plus. Last Saturday morning fortuitously came upon some steep hills just east of Birmingham, AL, up from the hotel I was staying at. Knees kissing the chin total breath sapped out of the lungs suckers too. Mixed in a few thirty second burst of sub 5k pace running and a few in and out sprints towards the end of about a 5 mile run.

Monday at Cape Fear Flyers practice ran 7 400s with Owen and Zack. Grassy, meandering track my fellow coach Shawn had set up. Ran them all in about 1:25ish. Two minute rest cycle. Pleased how the two boys ran as well. Pushing themselves, encouraging each other. Been a great start too to the Cross Country season.

Then Wednesday before practice I ran a hard 1.5 miles at top end threshold pace, 6:17, and 6:08 pace mix of on and off road, and also last section into a pretty good early fall breeze. Added 2 fast 400s on the grass track, 1:13, 1:17. Legs tying up into wobbly pretzels the last 100 meters of each rep. Down on my knees gasping for air after. A bit later then some ditch/ hill circuits with the kids. Loving how even the young ones 6,7,8 years old are working and out there getting it.

Also getting back more into the ancillary work. Pushups, free weights, sit-ups, planks, some other core work that coach Amie had the kids doing Monday.

Ready for the fall season to unravel.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Iron Mountain 2015 part I

It all happened so fast. I had just passed some fellow competitors and increased my pace going down a narrow single track trail through the woods when WHAM. I hit the ground so hard I'm pretty sure I went into a bit of shock for a few moments. I don't even remember beginning to trip or the actual fall itself... just parts of the immediate aftermath.

My watch snapped off and sunglasses skipped a few times down the trail before coming to a stop. Then, a complete, an eerie silence. Until those same runners came bounding down the trail and asked if I was ok?  I spit blood out of my mouth, took my dirty, cut up hand and rubbed my face to try and feel how bad it was. Then I gingerly pushed myself up and onto my feet. Not sure if I could even stand, let along walk, or gosh even run? 

My heart was beating fast. I took a few easy steps, and a few more down the rocky, root strewn trail and realized, relatively speaking I was alright. I had a dirty face, belly and chest. And a fat upper lip, but nothing broken, and only a couple of bruises, including a bit of my ego and pride. And after a short walk I started to slowly run again. My left leg was quite sore but able to move in the normal range motion I needed it to be able to in order to run. So I carried forth.

For that's the nature of an ultra. They are full of challenges, twists of fate, highs, lows, and seemingly everything in between. They contain innumerous tests of willpower. I could have called it a day but I didn't. I moved forward. A step at a time. Sometimes quite slowly, and quite painfully. But I didn't quit. Though my brain periodically reminded me of that option, my heart and spirit wouldn't allow for it. The running gods helped pull me through, as did my fellow competitors. I hope I helped a few in return. Ultras are truly a "We" sport.

And we were all participants in the Iron Mountain Trail Run September 5 in Damascus, Virginia. 50, 30, and 16 mile options were available. The course predominately uses the Iron Mountain Trail which traverses a rugged section of the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, in extreme southwestern Virginia. The 50 mile race features over 8,000 feet in net elevation gains.

As for myself, I finished the 30 miler in front of the Damascus town park gazebo with a smile on my face. Not as fast as I would have liked, but that didn't matter. What did matter is that I had persevered, and found sublime moments of joy in coping with, and ultimately overcoming the pain. I was able to see the forest through the trees

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dancing in the Rain

Fighting thru a head cold, perhaps brought on in part by running. Nonetheless, I took yesterday off so was eager to get back at it this morning.

Within the first half mile I got that "man it's great to be out running" feeling. Just the simple act of running... legs churning, feet thwapping the ground,  heart rate elevating...  the sights, sounds of being outdoors and being in motion.

Maybe it's odd or funny that being forced if you will away from running for merely one day would conjure such a primal response.  Like tapping into a primitive state inside the body and mind.

Later back in the Carolina Beach State park I ran a few intervals at threshold pace. I thought I could ignore the humidity which bore down like an enormous wet sponge upon the island... but it claimed victory over tiny little me again. Hence I cut that part of the workout short after 2 1200s and 2 400s on the campground loop, as I watched the sky turn greyer and darker thru the tree tops.

As I ducked back onto the single track trail leading up and behind the Visitor's Center the sky opened up and threw torrents of rain upon the earth below. Which felt rather cooling to the touch, though I did have to continually wipe water out of my eyes. After a short while I reveled in splish splashing through all the puddles I came across, like a kid cut loose and free to roam about.

For every run is such a unique gift.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Upstate Magic

I wanted to see the Hudson River. And I figured the only way that was going to happen on my work trip to Albany was to hitch a ride on the 'ol shoe leather express, if I can borrow a phrase from an old running friend of mine.

So I plotted a route using the map function on my I-phone and headed out the hotel doors a little before 6pm... unsure of just how far away my destination was, or if I'd even have time to make it there and back before nightfall.

After about a half mile running on the main commercial drag we were staying on, I took a right and headed down Albany Shaker Road towards the Hudson River where it would pass a bit north of the downtown area.

I ran through several middle to upper-middle class residential neighborhoods, sort of digging the scenes around me as I passed through.  I always enjoy the sensation of discovery when running in new places. Not knowing what's around the next bend in the road. Was also afforded occasional views to the west of a far off mountain range looking so diminutive beneath the big fiery setting sun... but otherwise I couldn't see much around me beyond the next few peoples' yards upcoming alongside the road.

I kept hoping for more of a clearing so I could perhaps catch a view of the downtown skyline, or even the river itself so I could get some sense as to how close or far away I was from my objective. Around 40 minutes or so into the run (wore my cheap wristwatch and not the garmin), I about gave up on the expedition... and was ready to turn around and head back towards the hotel.

But as I came upon the next stretch of road it was like someone pulled back the curtains and the show began. There was the Hudson River Valley stretching east into the far distance like an unfurling painting. I could see rolling hills and mountains on the other side of where the river bottom must lie. And as I rounded the next turn I could also see the valley extending northward, with more hills, and more mountains beyond them some 20, 30, 40? miles into the distance.

The grandeur of the Hudson River Valley and all its natural majesty in upstate New York was now mine for the viewing, as my cadence quickened on the long downhill sweep towards the river. I thought of a scene in Dharma Bums where Kerouac writes "...and suddenly it was like jazz," hiking down trails in the mountains of California.

For it was all breathtaking and lyrical... as I kept rolling and rolling faster and faster down the steep ascension to the valley's floor.  I felt wildly spiritual and even a tad religious...for at that point I was a believer. I felt like someone discovering that God had been with them all long, and loved them, and would always love them...and everything would be alight in this big complicated and messy world of ours. Because right then and there it was all so simple, and tangible. I was free. I was running. And I felt joy in my heart.

And I did eventually make it to Hudson River. I stopped and stood quietly on her bank and gazed out across her mighty waters and gave thanks for such a wonderful evening. For there was a bit of magic in the late summer air...I could feel it tingling my skin as I bade goodbye.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Out Here.

I think at times like now I get into a netherworld where I can crack up or break down. But for now no big sign posts of trouble on the horizon. Sometimes I feel like it's just as important to handle the running and all the mileage mentally and spiritually, as it is physically.  Perhaps in part because a good bit of the physical realm can be quantified, and understood on a cause and effect basis. The measure of man's soul by its very nature cannot be. Therein lie many, many mysteries.

Maybe I've hit a point where I've pushed though a lot of the doubts as to why I am doing what I am doing. Or perhaps a better of way of stating is that I don't seem to ask myself those questions quite as much. Do I know the answers deep down inside... and it's merely a matter of tapping into that part of the subconscious where such knowledge dwells?  Or is all mental trappings that interfere with what I seek to do physically?

Why is sometimes a fool's errand. Or a Pandora's box that goes much, much beyond running.  In the words of Nike, Just Do It. I chose this path, and am enjoying the journey.

As I've written before, the numbers are but a small part of the narrative. They serve as  communicative symbols which can be translated and understood by the vast majority of those who run. Even those who don't, can get a bit of an insight into the scope of the endeavor when presented with numbers. To the laymen, 75+ miles in a week comes across as a crazy amount of running.

Today I rest. Tomorrow god willing I run. Within such simplicity, new worlds begin to slowly emerge...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More trails, getting lost.

Immersed in the local trail scene the past two weeks near my birth place in eastern Pennsylvania. Was trying to loosely calculate the number of miles of trails that are say within 10-15 miles of where I'm staying. Must be 50-75 miles worth, maybe even more?  Paul agreed with me that there are also likely trails that I am not thinking of or do not know about.

Yesterday I branched off the Switchback trail onto a challenging and technical single track trail called the Fireline Trail. Was pretty much a straight climb up the north side of Flagstaff Mountain. Somewhat rocky and rooty, and a bit narrow in sections, but runnable. Very dense, damp old woods. A mix of deciduous and coniferous trees. Which keeps the temperatures pretty cool on a warm day.

Later in the day ran Mt Pisgah trail which is anther single track trail off of the Swithback Trail that basically cuts diagonally up the mountain back down towards the town of Jim Thorpe. Not nearly as technical as Fireline; and in fact since I was feeling good and light of foot I ran at a fairly brisk pace on most of the trail. Some great views of Mauch Chunk Lake through some partial openings in the woods.

Today I ran the Blue Mountain trails off of the DnL (Delaware and Lehigh river rails to trail). Took Three Ponds Trail which lazily meanders through some high grassy meadows and passes some small ponds (hence the name), before intersecting with Prairie Grass Trail which begins the ascent up the Blue Mountain. This trail is single track and cuts in and out of some wooded areas, and is a bit rocky in places, but not too technical.

Prairie Grass ends at dirt and grass road that runs parallel along the mountain maybe a quarter of the way up. Then I took a 3rd trail, of which I cannot recall the name (a signpost here to trouble?) which mostly travels vertically up the mountain, save for some turns and a few downward loops along the north face of the small mountain. Very rocky and technical in many sections which have to be cautiously walked. Even so the footing can be tricky. One also must look at times for the next trail marking on either a duck (small man made pile of rock) or painted onto a tree.

The views became more and more spectacular as I slowly ascended higher up the mountain. I would guess I could see a good 20-40 miles especially to the north and to the east. The vegetation is sparse in spots which also leads to numerous vantage points to take in such breath taking wonder. Wonder that the only way to experience is first hand by hiking or running up these trails. Was reminded again of Japhy Ryder in Dharma Bums stating that such experiences are only meant for those hearty and fortunate few who make it themselves to such spots.

I finally reached the summit and then foolishly decided to bush wack off trail and explore for myself. I walked thru a large grove of trees sort of out cropped  until I could see down off to the other side of the Blue Mountain, or southward. After taking in the views and trying to figure out what towns were what (it's almost like looking down out of an airplane window) I decided to head back down the mountain, and back to the DnL.

Somewhere in the middle of the summit I found a trail and decided to take, thinking it would loop back around the Lehigh Gap, and on around to the other side of the mountain, and eventually to the trails I used to climb upwards. But somehow I became disoriented... (and also amazed at how innocuously this can happen). The good news was the trail was very runnable, and I wasn't too tired, and thought to myself at least you are in good shape, and this would also make for a good story. On the downside I did not have any water with, and was starting to feel a good amount of thirst coming on (at this point an hour and a half+ out). Though I did have 2 power bars in my pockets

At some point though in the midst of staving off any sort of panic, knowing that this would only make the situation worse while draining mental resources... I really started to question where the heck I was going. I could see the Lehigh River like a little blue thread down below and thought I was heading towards, knowing that in a worse case scenario I could descend straight to the river and subsequently follow it back up stream to where I had begun this now somewhat ill fated journey. The sense of disorientation was becoming a bit too palpable in my mind's eye, though physically I kept noting I felt fine. But I knew at some point that would diminish.

About 2-3 miles later on the trail I came upon 3 large radio/ cell towers on top of the mountain. I decided the best course of action was to follow the dirt access road down the mountain. Since one, it would be a lot quicker, and two, it would eventually take me back to civilization. Which a mile+ later it did... though just to make the adventure perhaps more interesting, I was on the wrong side of the mountain. Fortunately after asking a lady in her yard what road it was and which way to the main hi-way... I was finally able to make it back to the DnL trail, about 3 miles away from where my car was.

Epic, indeed. As they say, pride goeth before the fall. Since just a few day ago I was telling people at a cookout about how I never carry a phone with, and rely on lady luck to carry the day should any misfortune befall me.

Though I got to run some picturesque trails I may have never found otherwise... capping a wonderful 12 days back home in Pennsylvania running.

Things have a way of working themselves out.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Good vibes

At times I catch a glimpse into this portal whereby I am almost unbreakable as a runner. Perhaps this is naivety and foolhardy; in fact on some levels I know it most surely is. But... I love when I feel like if I strap shoes on my feet and propel my legs into motion... I can run, run, run.

I can go long. I can run fast. I can run up a mountain. I can run in the heat. Sometimes my legs get going and its almost like I can fall into sort of a cruise control. Or I can shift at will, little faster, little slower. I'm controlling this "thing".

That is not to say I do not encounter my fair share of aches and pains. Tired, sore legs. Sluggish body and mind. No... these become a bit common place when putting down a lot of mileage. Maybe I just have become a little better at handling it, or working thru stuff when it inevitably occurs.

Ultimately it's a great feeling, for like most euphoric states on mind, body, and spirit though... it can be fleeting.

And I seemingly can eat whatever I want whenever I want to.

Today, life is good.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back in PA

Atop Flagstaff Mountain

Back home and running in Pennsylvania. Easy 3+ miler with Paul thru Lehighton last evening. Hit some hills. Weather was beautiful, told him compared to my summer in North Carolina this felt like stepping into a runners' paradise. But as fate would have it, hotter weather trailed behind me by just a day.

Long run today (Tuesday) up and through Lehighton via the roads, and then up and over Flagstaff Mountain (see picture). Checked my garmin and the last part of the 6-7 mile climb that encompassed the first part of the run was exactly one mile, on probably a 30 degree incline.

At the base of Flagstaff, got onto the Switchback Trail and ran the steady, slight incline up to Mauch Chunk Lake. Beautiful running through old, dense, damp deciduous forests, along side a large rambling creek for part of the time. Got a drink out of a sink at the bathrooms by the lake, then ran back down the Switchback Trail, and back down on the roads into the town of Jim Thorpe.

Legs held up pretty well but did have some occasional pains on the bottom outside of my right foot (have had on an off for the past 2 years), as well as some slight pain in my lower left leg which eventually worked itself out. Been trying to transition more physically as well as mentally back into the ultra runner's sort of mindset, being that the Iron Mountain race is rapidly approaching. Ran Umstead State Park last weekend with Natasha and Andres. We put in 3 hours time on feet Saturday, followed by 2 on Sunday morning.

Also trying to pick back up with the ancillary work such as pushups, planks, and sit-ups. Have slacked somewhat on the past month or two.

Last 4-5 miles of the run was aside the railroad tracks at the base of another small mountain, then a single track trail back to the old towpath that brought me back to the finish about 2 hours and 50 minutes later. At one point I sort of put myself into a meditative running trance listening to sounds the rushing waters of the Lehigh River were making.

Shooting for another big mileage week coming off the last 2 weeks of 74 and 78 miles respectively. Loving being back home and back communing with a different sort of nature, and back hitting the hills again.

It's all good man.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tri- Span

I came as close as I may ever come to taming this unruly beast of a race yesterday. Finished the 10k in a time of 40:47, which placed me 11th overall out of 385 runners, and got me first in the Masters Division. Once again it was a brutally hot day for racing; start time temperature at 7am was 80 degrees, with a heat index likely in the mid 80s. And scant cloud cover.

Came up with a plan (after batting around several ideas) to take the 1st two miles relatively easy, and then try to hammer the last 4.2 Time wise I was looking at about 7 minute miles or slightly below for the 1st two, then 6:30 pace or hopefully a bit under the last 4.

And by the grace of the running Gods I dang near executed this to perfection. Actually went thru the first mile of slight undulating hills in 7:11, well back in the pack. But did not panic, nor pay too much heed to what was going on around me. Mile 2 I ran in 6:33 which included the couple tenths of a mile climb up and over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge... and found myself in position to attempt to pick up the pace and reel in a good bit of the first part of the field the remainder of the race.

Ran the last 4 miles with splits of 6:23, 6:33, 6:37, 6:27, and 5:01 (pace). Felt strong, and able to cope with the weather and the inclines up and over the latter two bridges. Passed one last competitor in the last two tenths of mile with a strong kick to the finish line on Water Street (looking at the guy from behind I was not sure if he may be over 40 or not, turns out he was 36. Reminded of a George Sheehan story about frantically out kicking a fellow racer, who then looked at Sheehan in the finishing chute and said "I'm not in your age group").

Like I told a few of my friends in the Wilmington Road Runners Club who complimented me after the race. I've blown up here before, and it wasn't pretty. Hence the cautionary early pace and race strategy. One of them even said that I was to be the pacer next year here.

The race also served to remove the bad taste I was left with in my mouth after the NewBridge Bank 4 miler in June, after going out too fast and running a horrible race, that felt like a forced death march the last 2.5 miles.

Yesterday that was not the case. As for the next race?  ... that's why we do what we do.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Voices

I was running behind two of the older, female runners on the Cape Fear Flyers team and listening to their conversation as we all made our way along a meandering macadam pathway in the wooded area behind the Ashley High School complex.  The girls were taking about how when they run (and race) that they are essentially competing against themselves. Trying to get a little better with every run. And maybe they'll endeavor after a time to shift some of their focus to competing against other runners.

And that's what a lot of this running boils down to in the long run... we are competing against ourselves. In the hope of becoming better versions of ourselves in the process. We compete against the voices in our heads that tell us to slow down since we are not fast enough, or strong enough, or tough enough... or courageous, athletic, skilled, gifted... the list can go on ad infinitum. 

Every time we complete a run, no matter how far or how fast... we silence those voices.

Every time we lace up our shoes, and try our best... we are becoming better versions of our god given selves.

99% of us will never win a race. If we measured the appreciation we can find in our sport by the size of our trophy displays... most of us would have hung up our sneakers and threw our gear a long time ago. And left the sport solely in the hands of those born with the high VO2 rates and freakishly low pulse rates.

No, we do it in part for the feeling we get when we accomplish those things that perhaps previously we thought not to be possible. That feeling that we can carry with us throughout the rest of our day. Knowing it's always right there to be had again and again and again. It's just a matter of not paying heed to those little voices...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Oh summer

Summer blasts on. Some days she is relentless with her heat and incessant humidity, here in the South land. But we did get a bit of a reprieve of late. Alas her fiery, firm grip returns again, like we all knew it would. And we are left to fend for ourselves in the breach; afternoon temperatures in the 90s and heat indicies over 100.

Still I slog some late afternoon and early evening miles, some days with Peyton around the Ashley High School grounds before track practice. The high school cross country kids have begun their voluntary work-outs, a signpost that perhaps their is a light at the end of summer's long merciless tunnel.

I talked to old Bob this morning about Tri-Span Saturday. He joked about needing to start early in order to just finish the 10k. I said the good thing is plenty of liquids on the course. But we both agreed about how tough running on the far side of the Cape Fear River is. You are exposed, there is scant shade... the heat radiates off the asphalt in sinister, unforgiving waves. The humidity lies along the river basin like an invisible, heavy wet blanket... threatening to choke the life out of even the most hearty of folk.

But we love it, right?  For it gives all something to talk about over post race refreshments downtown... back on the slightly more forgiving side of the river. Where there is some shade from the buildings and trees.

And as runners we don't duck challenges. We revel in them, and sometimes extoll the virtues of having the fortitude to overcome... or at the very least, in attempting to overcome the best way we know how. That is one foot in front of the another.... trudging along.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


220 miles the past 3 weeks. 81/66/74. I The numbers are like art work to me. There can be a  thousand stories behind the numbers. And there is the dedication and perseverance that it takes to hit those numbers. The 5am alarms, two days, heat, humidity, sore legs, tired mind.  I ate steak and red beets with a salad tonight for dinner to kind of top it off. Mission accomplished. Now a cut back week. Perhaps Tri-Span 10k Saturday. Hell-span. Bridges, hills... stifling humidity. The race we local runners love to hate.

Want to read some Joe Vigil. I have been thinking of his quote along the lines of expect nothing of your running and you will get so much more in return.

I sent a message to my fellow coaches that we should let the kids know how proud we are of them, and not focus so much on the results since a trend of late is a few of them getting too upset after races.

Read my Running Times this weekend which reinforced the notion that I (we) need to always be learning, not only in running, but in life. I know from experience, that the worst spot to sometimes be in mentally and perhaps more importantly spiritually... is to feel like I know a lot.

Threshold miles early Saturday morning in Shallotte. 6:21, 6:18, 6:15, plus another quarter mile at low 6 pace. Nice, nice, nice. Felt good about it. Worked for it, but didn't kill myself. Stayed mentally engaged. Physically felt pretty strong

13 miler Sunday morning. Longest run in a while. Need to bump up / add more long runs in lieu of Iron Mountain in two months.

Looking at races up in PA in early August.

Surfing the running waves and digging the ride...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Days

About to head to Greensboro for the North Carolina USATF State track meet. We've got kids that I help coach participating in everything from the 100m, to 3000m, to the steeplechase... and all the field events. Should be a fun weekend. Blessed to be able to coach, and give back to the sport of running that I hold so dear. Great bunch of kids too...

Higher mileage the past two weeks. 81 miles last week, and 55 so far this week (Friday). Early morning runs to try and beat the heat and humidity. Two a days. Track practices. Drinking mucho fluids. Eating a lot.

Have caught site of some gorgeous sunrises the past few mornings, out over the marsh lands that stretch towards the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick County. It's already very warm, and the humidity is draped over the landscape like a heavy, damp blanket. My shoes start to squish after 5, 6 miles since my socks are soaked through.

Went down to Ocean Isle Beach late yesterday afternoon and go some threshold running in. 4 x 1000m, pace averaging between 6:10- 6:15/ mile. Generous rest/ jog recovery of about 600m. Starting each new rep when the garmin beeps at the end of each successive mile. Hard in this heat though to get much more than just slogged out miles.

Ran a few miles with Peyton in the broiling sun Wednesday before practice. Talked to about that same thing, trying to get anything quality wise in during the teeth of this summer heat, and how hard that can be. He's ramping his miles back up after having some heart trouble. Itching to go...

I do sometimes catch myself questioning myself as to why I do all this. But then again maybe its the only good fight worth fighting for me. Or better yet, I don't know how to not do all of this at this particular point in my life. So I run on. And try and smile thru a bit of pain.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Biting it, moving on.

Had a poor race last Thursday night. 4 miler in the heat, downtown Wilmington. Went out too fast, especially in lieu of the conditions, and the course. Several steeper one to two block in length hills.

Knew it early on too. Glanced at my watch maybe .2 or .3 into the thing and was running a 5:57 pace. Didn't feel that fast, and I tried to kind of down shift a bit out of it, but I think some of the damage had been done. Had been planning on trying to run 6:15 miles. Which coming off an 18 minute 5k last month, and a 4:48 1500m last Saturday, I should have been able to do.

But I knew I had blown it out a mile or so in. Then it becomes a death march, and an exercise in trying not to fall back or lose too many places. Finished in 26:43. Still won my age group, and was still in retrospect not a bad time... but just not a smart or good effort

Though I shook it off quick and like a ball team on a win streak that can use a loss, overall it may have been a good thing. I'm not bullet proof and ten feet tall. I'm fallible again. I think part of what lends to the mistake is being a victim of my own shape. What I mean by that, is similarly 2 years ago I was in real good shape going into the Tri-Span 10k and did the same thing. I did not think I needed to adjust as much to the heat and the hills of the course, because of my perceived conditioning.

Onto training for the Iron Mountain 30 mile race Sept 5, a little under 12 weeks away. Saw Natasha Thurs night at the race which got the both of us amped again for what has become an annual pilgrimage to the mountains of southwestern Virginia.

Plan is for 10 solid weeks of running, then a 2 week taper. Ideally would love to average close to 70 miles a week for 10 weeks; perhaps five weeks on, one down, then four back up? We'll see. The best laid plans of mice and men. Need to also amp the ancillary work back up, ie core and strength.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Sometimes it's as basic as putting on a new pair of cool looking lime green Kinvara 5s and busting out the door for a run. Getting back to the primal joy of why we do this...

Those days when it's not about threshold miles, pacing, bursts, cut down runs, pacing charts, mileage totals. Or how this run fits into the grand scheme of it all training wise.

No, it's the simple sensation of movement and the very act in of itself. The connection felt with the world around us while we trod over and through it. I thought about my buddy Ryan up in Pennsylvania and his calendars. Back in the day he always had one pinned up somewhere with little numbers written in the day's boxes with the miles he had run. There was something so romantically wild and magically invigorating about it... the way he would look at it and talk about it... perhaps describing just how one of those numbers had been achieved.

One day last week I went for a run with my ten dollar wrist watch and glanced at it at about what would be one mile into the run and noted the elapsed time read 8:37. This is why we do this. Because this particular day on this particular run it took me exactly eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds to get from point A to point B. It wasn't fast, it wasn't slow... it just was.

Last Friday and Saturday I was blessed again to help coach the Cape Fear Flyers in a big USATF meet in Myrtle Beach, SC. This meet I took a little time to check out some of the field events like the shot put and javelin back behind the stadium. And the pole vault and hi jump inside the track. You can fall in love again with all of this twenty plus years later...

When the kids PR, or medal, or place. Or just have fun. And come up to you later and tell you about it again. Yeah, yeah. The smiles.

And I got to run too. The 1500m early Saturday evening, after a long, hot day of coaching. Since I was the only open/ masters runner they thankfully thru me with all the high school boys, including three from our team. Standing on that infield, I wasn't sure if I would be able to summon the physical strength to do more than just jog hard a few laps around the track. "Five minutes of hell" laughed Chris.  But I said a short prayer and sucked up some courage and stepped out into lane 8 on the waterfall start in turn two and waited for the gun to go off...

And I ran like hell, and afterwards realized that I loved every precious second of it. I told Chris to duck in front of me heading into turn 3 and said to myself to follow him round and round for as long as I possibly could. I held on thru the first 300m past the finish line, and back through 400m and one lap in. Made it through 800m still sticking a few strides behind him. Looking at nothing but the back of his white Flyers shirt. Hearing cheers and encouragement from coach Joe and Shawn, Elaine and a few of the kids every time we went by the front stretch. Which all kind of fuzzed sound wise into the whirling dervish of the whole thing, but I could hear certain specific voices even though I couldn't fully process all of what it meant in real time ...

Since then life became a task of clipping off a hundred meters at a time. Get to 700m to go, then make it to 600m. Keep taking it. make it to 500m to go. If you can take it next is 400m. All that matters then is to make it to 300m left in the race. Nothing more. Make it to 300m. Nothing else matters. Nothing. That is the task at hand. Good. You made it. Now get to 200m. Get there. It's just the back straight away. Nothing more. Nothing less. Keep taking it. Get to 200m. That's all that matters. Yes, yes... now run the turn. Into the turn. Keep digging. Keep taking it. Get to 100m. Get through these big turns and get to 100m to go. Don't lose sight of that shirt. That white shirt is there. You are taking it. You are taking it. Not backing down. You are doing this. 100m to go. It's just the front straight away. Last one. Count it down. Past lane markings. Clip those things off. Past the long jump pit you can see out of the left corner of your eye. Gotta be half way now. Finish it. Finish it. That white shirt is there. Looks to be moving a little faster. Go with it. Keep taking it. It'll be over real soon. You are taking it. You took it. You took it and did it. It's over.

It was over. It was done. I staggered about the track. Congrats from and to Chris. I think James too. Not sure, but probably. And Thomas too. I wasn't too far behind them either. Time?  Wow, nice. 4:48?  Yes on the score board it read 4:48.80 behind my name. I was pleased. I was high. I heard some congrats now.  Thanks, Thank you. I smiled.

I felt blessed. I feel blessed.

Because I love this. From every race to every easy run. And everything in between. Run on my friends.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More runs and miles

Signed up to a run a 1500m on the track in Myrtle Beach next Saturday. Part of a meet that I will be coaching at. Decided this morning I need some "get down speed" to quote the fictional character Quenton Cassaday in Born to Run. Ran 10 x 200m at about 35 seconds but legs were just too fatigued to do more, and the mind was half checked out. Ran again at noon 5+ miles and got in 6 x 150 In/ Out sprints.

Going to cut the mileage going into next week. Also have a 4 mile race the night of June 11th in downtown Wilmington. Been running a harder average pace on most of my runs the past few weeks, while also accumulating a solid chunk of miles. Might be some kind of coping with grief mechanism... just seems more natural to go harder. Bash and bash some more. Throwing the rule back out a little.

Though there are days where I swear my legs respond to being in motion. Like they are returning to some primitive, natural state. Where it all just seems to flow. And I can get semi-fatigued but never too tired.

Up in Pennsylvania two weeks ago to say goodbye again to my Mom. And of course I ran. Got in as much as I could. 10 + miles that Saturday morning, weather in the upper 50s and raining. In fact pouring at times. Wailing on up and down the hills. Running with ghosts of the past. Floating around familiar bends on country roads. Flying down alley ways in my old hometown. Yesterdays long forgotten spring to life for a few fleeting moments... if I reached out I  swear I could touch them.

Ran into (almost quite literally) and old friend from high school. She was out on a 13 miler. Had run the Pittsburgh marathon a few weeks ago. We chatted amicably in the rain. I forgot that my hands were getting a bit numb.

Then 7 miles hard on the Towpath that evening. Out onto the single track trail that winds thru the valley up to Jim Thorpe. Was sunny, muggy and hot then. I pushed the pace and enjoyed it. Beautiful scenery. Like being cut off from the World. Came upon a bunch of people out walking, kind of looked like some sort of Outsiders. Couple, adults, kids. They all said hi, friendly. A girl asked if I was sweaty. Kinship I think because at heart I'm an Outsider too.

9 more miles Sunday morning. Hills. More hills. Up and down. Then back on the road, in my car.