Thursday, January 28, 2016

Winter rolls On

Cold trail run in the Carolina Beach State Park

Been staying consistent with running throughout January, despite dealing with a head and sinus cold the past week and a half. Mileage is right where I would like it to be: 4 weeks averaging about 40 miles per week, and transitioning up to closer to 50 miles per week as we move into February. Also, and perhaps most important is that I am running relatively pain free. Some slight discomfort at times (especially when its damp or colder) in my left Achilles, and/ or bottom of right foot. But for the most part it is all systems a go. Which is such a relief not only physically, but mentally in my overall approach to and appreciation for the nuances of the every day run. And hopefully a lesson learned, for a second time. Do not keep running on worn out shoes, not matter how much I like the feel of them.

2 staples of the past month of running have been the Sunday long run, and the harder midweek 10 mile run. Did 14 miles last time out, and plan to progress up the next 3 long runs to 15, 16, 17 miles. Feel like it's an aspect of my running that I have neglected somewhat in the past. Or was only making it a regular part of training plan when targeting and working towards specific longer distance races, like the 30 mile ultra I completed last September. Now I am doing more so for the inherent benefits of such runs; the increase in capillary development and oxygen transport efficiency, and what I have learned of late, the utilization of fast twitch muscles which occurs late in long runs over say 1:30- 2:00.

Last week I gutted out my 10 miler in the midst of the worst of the cold symptoms I was experiencing. Was pleasantly surprised by the effort I was able to put forth, though it totally wiped me out afterwards. Finished the road loop on the island in 1:12:23, which included several miles fighting with a persistent head wind.

Yesterday I completed the course in the fastest time yet, 1:10:44 which equates to a 7:04/ mile pace. Held back a bit the first few miles, in order to kind of experiment to see if by doing I would have another gear or two available later in the run. Which I was happy to find out was the case (was also coming off a decent effort the night before running a hill circuit twice in the CB State Park, but didn't want to wait until the day after to run the 10 miler per the weather forecast). Instead of running miles 5 through 10 in the low 7 minutes/ mile range per usual, I was able to crank out those miles in the 6:45- 6:50 range, except for mile 7 which was into the teeth of a decent northerly breeze.

Saturday mornings been meeting up with some of the Cape Fear Flyers kids I coach, as well as a few parents and fellow coaches. Last Saturday was freezing cold (see picture above) with temperatures around 30 degrees, combined with 20 mph winds. I don't even want to know what the wind chill was.

Staying true to and sticking with the ancillary work. Have added in weightless squats and calve raises to the myrtle routine after runs. Diligently attacking my core work, and some push-ups and free weights. Perhaps it's just my imagination, but certain times in runs I can tangibly feel some benefits especially in the mid section of my body as I move forward. It's as if it's being held together a little more tighter, or there is less wasted motion or deviation from the plain of propulsion my body is running forward in. Anyhow... I'll take it.

Happy Winter Running all-

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Deep Thoughts by Greg Z

Sometimes the run silences the ambient noise of the day. Some days it provides temporary shelter from the storms of living; a safe port in the harbor. When I lace up my shoes I become the person that I want to be, my best side is put forward.

I slip into another world. Perhaps, it's the challenge of running a hard 10 miler. Or doing a hill circuit multiple times. Or completing a long run. Or keeping the pace nice and easy on a recovery run.

The environment around me comes alive. I'm keenly aware of even the slightest atmospheric changes; an increase in wind speed, a slight drop in temperature, the movement of clouds in relation to the sun. And it's revealed thru clues in the vegetation; the sounds the wind makes whistling thru the tree tops. A chill felt on the back of my neck. The disappearance of shadows on an asphalt road.

Time, as measured by clocks and wristwatches and cell phones loses it's hold on me. The words of the poet William Blake come alive; "time is a tyranny to be abolished."  Time becomes something that is now quantified in relation to distances and speeds run.

Thoughts tend to flow smooth and easy like they are surfing the waves in the ocean. Other times there is silence, whereby a small raindrop falling onto the surface of smooth glassy pond might cause me to momentarily jump.

After an hour or so out here things are always better. The vicissitudes of the toils we inevitably face lose their sharp edges, and become a bit softer to the touch. The roller coaster may not be grounded, but we are also not hanging onto the rails with clenched fists.

I become spiritually plugged in. I marvel at the beauty of nature; like witnessing a painting on a scroll slowly unwinding before my eyes. Some days I contemplate God. Some days I know God exists, because I feel touched in places deep inside of me that I cannot fully comprehend. I'm grateful, and feel blessed.

And I hope and pray my fellow runners can feel the same way-

Friday, January 22, 2016

Survival Run

Pre- run in the Carolina Beach State Park Visitor's Center

Had the pleasure of coming up with and marking 2 courses for the annual Wilmington Road Runners Club Survival run last weekend. Laid out a 4.5 mile route, and a 9 mile route that utilized most the Carolina Beach State Park trails. Over 75 club members turned out; impressive considering it rained and was in the 40s. Afterwards, we all feasted on a full catered breakfast. A good time was had by all, even though many a runner got lost on the trails in the park. (which I took some good natured ribbing for). Many thanks for the hospitality shown to us not only last Sunday, but year round by the State Park. Great race place to run, and enjoy nature.

Eating breakfast afterwards

Me, checking to see if any runners were left on the trails


Monday, January 11, 2016

Getting to work in 2016

Started planning already for the 2016 Cape Fear Flyers Club track season. Had a Board Meeting Tuesday night at one of my fellow coaches' homes. Two of my roles are to put together a coaching staff, and oversee our nascent off-season running and fitness program. I've come to see how being a coach with the Club is an essence a 365 day per year role, similar (but on a much smaller scale) to how for instance, college football coaches are always representing their programs. Or to state another way, we never fully take off our "Coach hat" in our respective endeavors.

We had our first off-season work-out Saturday morning at the Carolina Beach State Park Fitness Trail. The day began blanketed in a grey, cloudy and misty shroud which trapped some cold air on the island. I put on a long sleeve shirt, beanie and gloves to start the run... but twenty, thirty minutes later the sun burned off the gloomy fog and quickly sent temperatures soaring through the fifties and into the sixties. I and the others shucked off gear and clothes as we ran. Again, was such a beautiful, warm day for wintertime.

Ran and talked with Cian. He said he has a goal this year to run 500 miles, and is keeping track of all his runs and cumulative mileage totals. Great goal for a 7th grader. His kid brother Isiah wants to break the state 2K course record this fall in XC, though he was unsure of what the time is. Their younger sister Lily who's 7, ran 2 consecutive laps (2.1 miles) with her Mom on the trail without stopping, and chatted happily away about the different flavored chap sticks she has. Zac, his Dad Paul, me and the brothers got in 5 laps, or about 5.25 easier miles. Next Saturday we all agreed to meet back in the actual CB State Park.

Got a 12 mile long run in Sunday morning with Amie. Ran down towards Kure Beach through the inner island trails, then back in the State Park on a mix of trails and roads. She was struggling in the latter stages, but would not be deterred from hitting the goal mileage. It's healthy as runners to get humbled at times, or to be again reminded that in running it wont always be handed to us, no matter how much talent we have. All I have to do along these lines is think back to the Iron Mountain 30 miler last Labor Day weekend... which nearly beat me into the dust. I emphatically knew after that day that I did not have all the answers...

Two straight 40 mile weeks for me. Plan to up the mileage some this week, and spend a good bit of time back on the CB State Park trails, setting up courses for the annual Wilmington Road Runners Survival run and breakfast this coming Sunday.

Hope everyone's 2016 is off to a promising start-

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beauty on the Run

I was running back through the inner island trails as I call them, (which are over grown dirt roads that connect to several drainage ponds on the uninhabited middle part of Pleasure Island) past sunset Wednesday evening when I was struck again by the natural beauty of my surroundings. There was just enough daylight left to make out my footing, and the atmosphere had almost a deep purplish grey hue to it, as I made my way back to the asphalt roads. The silhouette of bare deciduous trees ahead, standing apart from the dark, shadowy woods on either side of me made me feel like I was gliding through a painting, hung on some gallery wall, that no one else could see.

Been reading Thomas Merton. He writes about the idea that sometimes works of art, in this case poetry, can touch parts of us deep inside that are beyond our ability to actually communicate in language the feelings evoked. Similar to the mysticism we may feel when in communion through prayer and or meditation with God.  At times like the run on Wednesday I feel like I catch a glimpse into this aesthetic realm...whereby the things around and what is inside of me melt into one. And where conventions such as language begin to fail me...or as Merton would state, we actually dilute the experience through words or symbols.

Monday evening I ran a hard 10 miler on the roads. Want to start incorporating more medium to longer runs, some at a harder pace. Finished reading Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear, who spends an XC season with the University of Colorado and coach Mark Whetmore. Coach Whetmore has his runners do a lot of longer distance runs, and many are at steady state type paces. Plan to run 12 miles on Sunday, which is an additional mile added onto my last long run New Years Day. Idea is to keep adding a mile per week.

Felt pretty good Monday night; finished the run in high 1:13s which pleasantly surprised me. Was a cold and windy night with temperatures in the 30s, and wind chills in the 20s. I wore long pants along with a heavier long sleeve shirt, and a beanie and gloves.  Opened up with the 1st mile in a little over 8 minutes, and wound down through the mid 7s in the middle part of the run, to 7:00-7:10 in the last 2 miles. Controlled, harder effort, but didn't drop the hammer too much in the last third of the run. Want to have something to build off. Enjoyed running on the streets of Carolina Beach in the dark.

Sometimes on nights such as that, I think about the Jack Kerouac novel Dharma Bums where he writes about people like his buddy Japhy Ryder wandering the streets at night in his own esoteric revelries... while the rest of the civilized society eats their dinners in front of the blinking glare of television sets.

Thursday went back to Carolina Beach State Park and hit the trails, and also hit my 'ol hill circuit for the first time in awhile. Did 2 sets of the approximate one mile loop, which encompasses 4 main hills in sand, dirt and leaves. Felt it pretty good on the hills, legs sore in a good way, breathing a bit labored.  Want to start incorporating into a workout once a week. Gradually adding the number of sets, and reducing the time per circuit. Ah, I love a tough running challenge.

The year is just beginning too-

Keep on challenging yourself as well my friends.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ringing in a New Year

Happy 2016 all!  Time to ring in a new year, ripe with endless possibilities on the roads and trails. Finished 2015 with over 2,300 hundred miles run, which is a new yearly record for me. Have assiduously kept running journals now for the last 7 years. Got my 8th as an Xmas present from my Dad, my very first role model in the sport some 35 years ago.

Put down almost 40 miles last week. Jumped right back into the fray after nearly two weeks of complete running rest. Also started back up with the ancillary work, which each year becomes more and more vital to my overall running program. Though my upper arm/ arm pit area was killing me for a couple days after doing push-ups and lifting free weights.

Ran 8+ miles with Shawn on Wednesday. Both of us struggling in the unusually high humidity for late December; I even shucked my shirt early in the run on the new Carolina Beach State park fitness trail. Shawn wanted to do 3 x 2 mile, bringing each 2 mile segment down in time. But the workout started to get the best of him on the 2nd set, so we amended it, yet still got the mileage in. He's in the process of dropping a lot of excess weight and getting back into his old running shape. Five years ago he could break 17 minutes for the 5k on a good day.

Friday, and New Years Day I ran 11 miles with Amie. Longest run she has ever done, and the longest run I've done I think since my 30 mile ultra Labor Day weekend. Ran at a decent pace averaging in the 8:30s on a big loop that took us to the North End and back as well as part of the back side of the island by the boat launch on the canal. Bit of a colder day too, at least in comparison to the days in the 70s we've been having.

Saturday I stood in the late afternoon cold back again on the fitness trail and helped coach Patti to a PR for distance as well. Which in her case was 7.35 miles, or 7 laps around the loop. I did some pull up type exercises during one of her loops on some of the equipment stations that are location around the off road track in the woods. And read some Running Times magazine, while I kept an elapsed time going on my old, strapless digital wrist watch.

Capped the week with a 7.7 mile run early Sunday morning with Owen... mostly on the State Park trails. Cold, pristine morning with temperatures in the 30s. Ran the last 2 miles just over 8 mins/ mile. He had taken some rest as well after the end of Flyers XC season. Saw Lisa, Jill, and Carey from the Wilmington Road Runners Club back in the park by the marina. They were going to get 10 miles in. Training for the inaugural Southern Ultra 50k the end of January.

Got a core workout in Sunday afternoon to finish off the week. Plan is to try and get 40-50 miles in per week for now, while concentrating on some medium to longer distance runs. Looking forward to what the new year has in store.