2009 Grandfather Mountain Marathon

I last ran Grandfather Mountain Marathon in 2007 as a training run, and figured it would again be good for hill training. This time DJ joined PM and me, and a great time was had by all.

In 2007 I went out conservatively for the first ten miles, then ran a hard effort to finish up with 3:32. This time I stuck with a more even effort over the entire course, finishing in 3:13 and 13th overall. (However, still only 7th in the 30-39 age group).

Lots of recap and photos behind the link

Miles For Marines trail 15K

Tino, Hochberg, Janie and I drove down to SC last Friday for the first annual Miles For Marines 15K trail run. Intended as a fundraiser for injured U.S. Marines, the run is not formally a race, with no race numbers or formal timing. The course was through Westminster Park, private land owned by a Presbyterian Church, much of it on well-groomed trails and even a few miles of freshly mowed field grass.

I wasn’t exactly feeling up for a quick trail race, so I stayed well behind a lead pack of about 5 (which included Hochberg), and kept them in sight for about two miles. I found the paths reasonably marked, but apparently the lead pack did not, and took a wrong turn sometime around mile 4. Turns out I unknowingly led the race until about mile 7. (I thought it was strange that I was knocking down so many cobwebs!) One guy paced along with me for most of the race, and then left when another guy overtook us with a lot more enthusiasm than I had. So, I think I was third, and was happy with my pace, considering the workout my ankles and other underutilized trail muscles got. Hochberg ended up running too many extra miles to be happy, and Tino and Janie seemed uncomfortable with the terrain. I liken the terrain to Anne Springs Close Greenway, though the mowed sections were often slanted and tricky on tired ankles.

I give the volunteers a big thumbs-up; the event was very well-done to not be a formal race. Plus, it was for a very good cause. Next year I would encourage them to organize with a timing company (this course has the makings of a great XC race), but I will likely return regardless. Friendly people, great cause, good fun.

Myers Park Summer Track, final week

Last night was the final night of CTTC Myers Park Summer Track Series, featuring championship races for the top qualifiers from the month, and a 5000 meter race instead of the 2 mile. This was only my second visit, but I’ll definitely be at more of them next year.

I did reasonably well with a 5:24 mile and an 18:52 5K, slight improvements over my previous week efforts. I haven’t done speed work on a track since before I got hurt last year, so I have a lot to learn about pacing on a track. My current intention is to be able to break a 5 minute mile and to run the 5K comfortably in the 17s this time next year, so I have plenty of work cut out for me.

Very nice to see plenty of Crazy Leggers show up. Congrats to Dan “Duracell” Hochberg, who placed third in the master’s championship mile with a smoking 5:16. Very nice seeing Mike, Tino, and the entire Koos family all running events, and also having Julia and the Stewarts there to cheer us on.

Myers Park Summer Track

I’m late to the party, but Summer Track Series is every Tuesday evening in June at Charlotte’s Myers Park High School. Lots of fun, tons of events for both kids and adults, 50m all the way up to 2 miles.

I haven’t run on a track since late last summer, and was happy to run a poorly-paced 5:26 mile at the 6/23 event. (Honestly, I was a little surprised to run under 5:40). Looking forward to sane pacing and getting closer to 5:20 next week.

I was spent after the mile, but I ran the two-miler for kicks. Total dead legs, but ran a negative split, with first mile at 6 flat.

Funny note: The runner I was trying to hang with for most of the two-miler was a tiny TrySports girl apparently named “Mo”, so every lap there were lots of “Go Mo” calls from their team, followed immediately by the occasional “Go Bo”. I would have been laughing if I wasn’t desperately trying to keep from passing out. And, yeah, she kicked my ass.

Great to see lots of familiar faces out, and to have met some friendly new ones. See you next week!

China Grove Main Street Challenge 5K

On the reliable recommendations of a few past participants, I made the trek up to China Grove last Friday for the Main Street Challenge 5K. Plenty of local support (around 400 runners), and the late 9PM start time is novel. I convinced a couple of Hochbergs to join me, and the afternoon drive up I85 in their convertible was a nice start to the evening.

The course is an out-and-back burner from the small China Grove downtown. It starts on a long, gradual downhill for about half a mile, and there is a long, gradual uphill for the half mile at the turnaround. It was nice to warm-up jog the course along with some friendly folks before the sun dropped, though the flying bugs along the graveyard road were not an ideal pre-race snack (also didn’t appreciate the one that got stuck in my eye).

The course is fast, and I was hoping to stay well under 19; unfortunately, my legs didn’t have any speed in them come race time. I struggled the entire race and salvaged a 19:07. Friday night runs are awesome fun, but my body just can’t seem to get into gear for them. I shouldn’t complain much, as I was happy the time was good enough for third-place age group award.

Post-race snacks were quite good (I enjoyed a huge chunk of watermelon, a cookie, and a free energy drink, and people tell me the chocolate dip-and-sprinkle Krispy Kreme stand was a winner), and the tech tee event shirt will definitely fit nicely into my post-run shirt stack. The after dark, small town atmosphere was very friendly, and regardless of my time I’m already looking forward to the race next year.

Shout-outs to the friendly people I warmed up with: Dan was right behind me and good for a third in his age; Stan, Jinnie, and Bill from TrySports went home with hardware, as did Bobby. I also ran into Théoden, who set a nice PR and has a great account of the race on his blog. I suspect his daughter will be passing all of us in no time!

Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon

It is not accurate to call the Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon an easy marathon. It is a very fast marathon, but the descents are as quad-trashingly brutal as you will encounter. I can usually jog a day or so after a marathon, and I comfortably run a week afterward. After Pocono, I was having difficulty walking almost a week later.

So, what was my opinion of the race? I absolutely loved it.

Such a thing as an accidental personal best?

I’ve run a lot of organized marathons recently (five in the past six months), but most have been paced like long runs rather than all-out races. Each has been faster than the previous one; since I’ve been slowly recovering from some nagging injuries, this strategy has been good for me both physically and mentally. I’ve managed to stay focused with my recovery without piling on massive weekly mileage totals, and the events are fun motivation. It works for me, at least.

My splits and more photos behind the link

Back to speed, even if slowly

Some months ago, I tweaked a hip flexor during an impromptu trail race. I didn’t give the injury proper respect, instead drawing out my recovery much longer than it should have taken. Furthermore, adjustments in my stride resulted in development of a very annoying plantar fascia cyst.

Now, as I’m training my way back into shape, I’m experiencing some extreme tendonitis in my right ankle area. Initial icing and mild anti-inflammatories were doing the trick, but it got worse over the weekend. Just as I was ramping up to 50-mile weeks. So depressing!

So what have I learned from the past year? First, I should give injuries proper respect. Part of what makes endurance athletes special is their constructive tolerance of pain. I pride myself in this, but I need to get better in distinguishing constructive and destructive pain tolerance. I need to listen. So, I’m taking at least most of a week off, even though I have a marathon date bearing down on me.

Second, I’ve really let my core conditioning go. I hate lifting weights when it’s not part of a routine, so I must find a new routine that includes core. Skimping on core strength is so common for runners, and has to be one of the most counterproductive things a runner can do.

I’m signed up for Birmingham, Albany, and Boston. The coming weeks will tell when my next attempt at a personal best should happen. It doesn’t have to be soon.

Davidson Half-marathon

All out at the Davidson half-marathon finish
(thanks to Jeri for picture)

Fun race last weekend in Davidson. Most of Crazy Legs showed up and we even got a few age group awards. I was 13th overall with a 1:25:35, good for an age-group second in my first race in the 35-39 group (congrats to fellow CL Paul Gonzalez for getting first about a minute ahead; I was no match for him in on the hills).

Blue Ridge Relay 2008

Last weekend was the Blue Ridge Relay, which is 209 miles and 24+ hours of sick quad- and hamstring-bashing. Our Crazy Legs team showed up with a full twelve-person roster, and pulled out an impressive seventh-place (out of 75+ teams) in 26:45.

The view from “Goat Hill”, somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains

I ran position eight, with a first leg of 4.5 miles (moderately hilly), which I tried to run at my 5k pace. My overnight leg was 8 miles (nightmare dark mountain up, up, up, then screaming down), during which I experienced repeated heartburn worse than any college beer and wings episode. A sunburn and a general lack of sleep during the preceding week almost got the better of me before the night run, but passing a bunch of people delivered enough oh-so-lovely adrenaline to keep the feet turning over.

Mike “Goat” Smith cranking Goat Hill

At the top of Goat Hill, I got the hand-off for my last leg, which was 9.4 miles downhill with over 2000 feet of descent. I cranked it as best I could, averaging sub-6s. My quads were destroyed for a week.

Prior to downhill bash (thanks Cheryl for the pic)

Coach Tino rounding the corner for the finish

The finish was in downtown Asheville. Luckily, the downtown Y allowed participants to shower afterward, so everyone was able to survive the ride back to Charlotte.

Two vans’ worth of Crazy Legs

I’d go on about how fun the team was, but it would mostly be “you had to be there” stuff. Which, of course, is what makes these sorts of things worthwhile. I fully expect to run this event again, probably with much the same crew, and preferably as an ultra team (running more, but avoiding all the waiting around). Also, I’ll get more than three hours of sleep the night before the race next time.

I have a bunch more pictures at this link, and Mike’s Flickr archive is at this link.