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...