Snowpocalypse: The Charleston Edition

Winter Storm Leon made his presence felt here in the Lowcountry as he made a pass through late yesterday afternoon into this morning. On paper, it would look as though he did very little damage (probably less than a 1/4 inch of snow and a bit of ice) but if you watch the news or take a look out your window here in the greater Charleston area, you shall soon realize that good ol’ Leon actually crippled the area.

From the Augusta Chronicle; presumably a cartoon depiction of an actual witnessed event.
From the Augusta Chronicle; presumably a cartoon depiction of an actual witnessed event.

It all started Tuesday morning when numerous businesses, clinics, shoppes, etc were closed down for the afternoon in anticipation of the snow/icepocalypse. Unfortunately, Leon ran a bit behind schedule (caught up in other shenanigans presumably) and did not hit the Charleston area until later Tuesday evening. By that time, a state of emergency had been declared and essentially everything had been prospectively put on ice (yikes, that was bad) in terms of Wednesday operations.

Ultimately, the ice did come overnight on Tuesday and into this morning. In the end, it was clearly a wise decision to shut most everything down for Wednesday given the overall inability of the South to handle any type of adverse winter weather, the numerous bridges in the area (all of which freeze and pose significant hazards), and the countless drivers in the area who have probably never had to navigate anything worse than a rain storm.

Don’t get me wrong here–I am in no way complaining about getting 1.5 snow/ice/precipitation days! I just think it’s amusing how different the South is from the Northeast in terms of handling winter weather.

In any case, the ice has resulted in my largely housebound status for the day. The long johns clad Alicia and I did, however, manage to get the pups out for  a walk around the development this morning (pictures below; the pups treat snow as though it was powder cocaine). I also hope to get out for a quick run around the development shortly, and I’m sure that shall be an adventure given the still significant amount of ice on the roads and walkways…

Charleston on ice.
Charleston on ice. 

 

Snowpocalypse desolation.
Snowpocalypse desolation.

 

It doesn't show up too well here, but this tree was encased in ice.
It doesn’t show up too well here, but this tree was encased in ice.

 

It’s A Long Road Up To Recovery From Here…

Well, for once I’m hoping that Frank Turner (despite all his English boy wisdom) is incorrect and that my post-marathon recovery is swift rather than prolonged…

Regardless, there’s no denying that I am not a superhero and thus this guy’s quads, knees, calves, feet, toes, and spirit all need a bit of recovery time following my first ever full marathon.

For better or for worse (it may very well be that I’m deluding myself), I feel as though I’ve bounced back surprisingly well to this point. The afternoon immediately following the race was clearly a wash. Both my mind and my body were in some strange post-marathon dimension where I wasn’t physically in too much pain but simply felt “off”. I was tired but couldn’t fall asleep. I was excited, but also worn out. I was hungry, but couldn’t stomach much food.

Luckily, that weirdness abated by the next day (although the leg pain did not!). The afternoon following the marathon I took part in a short, easy 2 mile recovery run around our housing development with the lovely Alicia. It took a half mile for my legs to loosen up to the point of actually being able to engage in any sort of movement aside from a geriatric shuffle (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). After my legs broke out of their invisible plaster casings, however, I felt pretty good (not good enough to run any more than an easy two miles, but pretty good nonetheless).

The day after that (two days post-marathon), I ran 3.5 miles out on the beach. Again, I took it easy and though my legs felt heavy, I felt solid overall. In fact, I felt good enough to pick up the pace during the second half of my run to a point that is respectable for this guy.

Then, I took two consecutive days off from running which is something I very rarely do. I took the first day off on purpose, but the second one was not intended. It was simply one of those nights where I wasn’t feeling a run at all. I tricked myself by proposing to my brain the possibility of taking a “short nap” at around 9:30pm and then waking up to go for a short 1 mile jog around the development (after all, it’s just as dark and cold at 10:15pm as it is at 9:30pm, I reasoned with myself). My brain loved the proposal! And subsequently held my body hostage in a sleep state until early the next morning…drats!

I figured I could get by with a couple of days off in a row, though, given the fact that I had just run my first full marathon.

As an aside, earlier in the week a boss of mine at work gave me a hard time about running a marathon in relation to the dangers of long distance running. He cited the studies that point to increased cardiovascular stress and subsequent increased morbidity/mortality of marathoners and ultramarathoners. I countered with the notion that we are “running people” with  a long tradition of such that is still alive in some cultures (ie, the Tarahumara) and that we are most likely capable of much more than we realize. Ultimately, the debate was never truly settled. It is a very interesting topic, however, and one that I think about/fret over from time to time (possibly a future blog topic?). Perhaps luckily (or lazily?), I don’t envision myself transitioning into a regular marathoner or ultra runner.

The icing on the cake came when I asked him that given what we had been discussing, what did he then think about another co-worker of ours who is an Ironman triathlete and regularly competes in triathlons of varying distances. My debate partner simply shook his head,  and said (deadpan): “He is going to die.” He was joking, of course, and the delivery was pretty hilarious.

Dead endurance athletes aside, I picked back up running this afternoon by squeezing in a late run out on the beach. I almost didn’t make the trip out to this sandy haven, but ultimately dragged myself out there to get in a few miles and boy, was I glad that I did! The run wasn’t all that great (tired, heavy legs), but the view was simply jaw dropping. The sky looked to be on fire as it lit up the whole beach on the second leg of my out and back run.

Honestly, the backdrop was downright spectacular and once again made me thankful for the beach running opportunities I have nowadays.

Pre-run views with the Folly fishing pier in the distance
Pre-run views with the Folly fishing pier in the distance
The sky was on fire!
The sky was on fire!

So here’s to more beautiful running views and continued recovery!

 

 

 

 

I Am A Marathoner…

…or at least that’s what I need to tell myself.

Before we get more into that, however, let’s take a look at some of the nitty-gritty stats:

What?: Charleston Marathon

When?: January 18th, 2014

Where?: Refer to the “What?”

Why?: Well, it seemed like the next logical step…

Who?: Yours truly!

Kicks: Brooks Ghost 5’s

Fuel: Clif Shot Bloks, Sport Beans, Pretzels, Gatorade

Tunes: Varied mix with heavy doses of The Gaslight Anthem, Pela, Fake Problems, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Frank Turner, Jukebox The Ghost, Spoon, etc

Results: 4:20:38 (9:56 Pace)

The very good news is that I crossed the finish line in my first ever full marathon this past weekend. The bad news is that I am admittedly my own worst critic and thus cannot say I’m satisfied given the fact that the race did not go according to plan (though really, what does?). The other piece of good news to finish off this good/bad news sandwich is that my outlook is shifting more and more towards the sense of accomplishment spectrum and further away from the “you suck” spectrum.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? First off, I do want to say that it’s my opinion that the Charleston marathon was organized well from beginning to end and executed extremely well on race day. I have heard others coming down on this race for one reason or another, and whereas it is true that there are indeed areas that the race directors can look to improve upon in future iterations of this event, it is my newbie marathoner’s (though not newbie racer or runner) opinion that this was an excellent event overall. Plus you have to remember that this is only the fourth year that this race has been around and the first time that the event sold out (it capped at a combined 5,000 participants for the half and full). In any case, the fact that 46 States and 10 countries were represented must mean that they were doing something right here! (or maybe just that people love to visit Charleston?…nah)

The race expo on Friday night was a no frills type of affair (which was more than fine by me!). I wanted to get in and get out, and the set up at the expo allowed just that. A free (well, with the registration fee) technical shirt and my race bib was all I was searching for, and so I snatched them up and got on out of there!

Shizz was getting real.
Shizz was getting real.

After taking the above photo of the ol’ race shirt, tweaking my marathon playlist a bit, and setting up my race gear for the morning, I set off to bed. I managed to get to bed around 11pm which is early for me and good considering the anxiety I was beginning to feel more acutely. I slept well and awoke to my alarm at 5:30am feeling well-rested along with a mixture of nerves/excitement. One cup of coffee, a peanut buttered bagel, and a shower later and I was out the door accompanied by my lovely driver/cheerleader/motivational speaker for the day, Alicia.

As expected, there was race day traffic near the starting line but nothing too crazy and the future ball and chain my beautiful fiancée was able to drop me off a few blocks from the jumping off point. While walking over to the starting area, a black cat did cross in front of myself and two other runners walking in front of me. Was this an ominous curse or a good luck blessing? I’m still not sure. Maybe I should try to find out how those two other runners fared so that I can establish a final verdict…

The race started at 8am, and it was sunny but cold (at least by Lowcountry winter standards). The temperature was around 34F when the race began and only rose to about 45F during the course of the event. Although it was a tad bit chilly while standing around before the race, the cool air felt good for the most part while running. I’ll always prefer cooler temps during a run as opposed to warmer ones given the overall lesser degree of stress on the body and hydration status. It is worth pointing out, however, that gloves may have been a good idea given the fact that I found my fingers to be largely non-functional the first time I went to grab some Shot Bloks out of my Fitletic pouch. Opening up the Shot Bloks packaging was also quite challenging. Yikes!

The sun rising and doing its best to warm us up as we stood waiting for the gun to go off!
The sun rising and doing its best to warm us up as we stood waiting for the gun to go off!

At 8am, the gun went off and the race began! The first four to five miles were jumbled as any race that draws more than a few hundred people is. These miles were perhaps the most scenic as we ran along The Battery and up along the “touristy” part of King Street. I focused on staying relaxed and not pushing my pace, keeping it around 8:40 per mile. I told myself to just enjoy the experience (“This is your first marathon and it’s awesome!”).

The problem is that I never felt good. You know those runs when you realize you simply don’t have it within the first five minutes? Well, this was one of those runs…and it was my first marathon! It would be one thing if this was a 10k or even a half marathon since then I could just say, “Meh, you’ll get ’em next time”, and take it easier than I normally would have while knowing that I would still finish (or at least most likely would!). Having never run more than 20 miles at a clip, I didn’t know what this all meant for my morning as I would ultimately be heading into uncharted territories…

I told myself things such as, “Well, they don’t call it a marathon for nothin” and “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it” to try to motivate myself.

Ultimately, around mile 6 I started to have some significant GI distress. I’ll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that the Shot Bloks were not sitting well with me that morning. This fact was both surprising and a bummer given that this was the fuel I had been training with all along while preparing for this marathon, and it had never disagreed with me before. Did I say something to offend the Bloks? I’m not sure. Regardless, we were like an old married couple locked up in an epic argument that made it painfully clear we could not even be in the same room together.

After hitting a port a potty at the mile 8 aid station in an attempt to smooth over the disagreement myself and C. Bloks were tangled up in, I actually felt pretty good. There was a bounce in my step and I was able to pick up my pace a bit. I passed the 4:00 hour pace group somewhere around mile 13 and was feeling pretty good…

…until the Bloks and I began not seeing eye to eye again. This resulted in another call of nature stop at mile 16, but unlike last time no magical rejuvenation coursed through me after exiting the green construction site staple beacon of hope.

My pace again began to falter. I switched to Sport Beans, which were apparently friendlier on my system but didn’t work any miracles.The 4:00 hour pace group passed me looking like a group of Olympians. My left ankle began hurting (that was weird). My right quad began screaming out in pain. I felt like I was stuck in quicksand and I’m pretty sure a teeny, tiny ant zoomed passed me and shook his head in disgust.

Around mile 20, I began questioning whether it was even worth it to continue running. After all, I was a failure–I was significantly behind my goal time, I felt like death, and I was even considering walking. For some reason, that was the part that stung the most. I was ashamed to even consider engaging in such a preposterous and lowly act! How embarrassing would it be to walk past volunteers and spectators?! After all, this is a run! What would they think of me?

Now I don’t know where these ridiculous thoughts were coming from. After all, I am nowhere near an elite runner and am instead a middle of the packer at best on most days. Furthermore, I have always had a healthy dose of respect for any variety of distance runner (respect which has only grown since this past weekend).

Luckily, my brain was still functioning enough to realize it was indeed being absurd and convince my legs that walking is ok. “After all”, my brain said, “we want to get out of here in one piece”. They tried, but ultimately my legs could not argue with that logic.

So that’s what I did. After mile 20, I alternated walking with bits of running. When my body felt like it was going to give out during these running spurts, I stopped and resumed walking. I leisurely hit up the aid stations along this stretch and consumed electrolyte laden Gatorade. Around mile 23, I called my partner in crime, Alicia, to tell her that I would be nowhere near my goal time and would instead be lucky to cross the finish line. (She missed the first call and subsequently called back to ask if she had missed me at the finish–this was around the 3:41 mark; I wish!).

Still, I’m not going to say the last 10k or so of the race was easy by any stretch of the imagination even with the walking. There were still times when I thought about just throwing in the towel. How easy would it have been to have just walked off the course, sat down on a park bench, and called my chauffeur up?

I didn’t, though. Simply put, I didn’t want to quit. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other–sometimes it is as simple as that.

The volunteers and spectators were great as they offered support and kind words even when I dared to walk! (How bout that?) The cheers of the crowd were enough to motivate my legs to run the last 0.40 miles of the race and even pass a couple of other runners on the way down the straightaway (a girl in the crowd actually met my eyes and called out to me that I’d better “watch out” because a guy behind me was making a last kick and going to pass me down the final stretch; maybe I would’ve cared another day, but I didn’t on this day). I crossed the finish line and pretended I wasn’t going to die long enough for Alicia to greet me and act as a support beam as I became a lean-to.

In the festive atmosphere of the post race festivities, I wasn’t feeling good enough to stomach the free shrimp and grits or even much of the complimentary brews (though it should be noted also that it was Bud Light), but I did begin to feel proud of what I had accomplished out there on the 26.2 miles of pavement I left behind. Sure, the clock didn’t read what I had hoped but I persevered through one of the most physically challenging runs I have experienced and the most mentally challenging run. That is something that I’ll always remember and hopefully be able to draw from in the future.

Someone will need to help me off this bench...
Someone will need to help me off this bench…
Alicia got me roses for finishing. I told her she should have thrown them at me as I crossed the finish line.
Alicia got me roses for finishing. I told her she should have thrown them at me as I crossed the finish line (and I do mean “at” instead of “to”).
Celebratory grub (inhaled and thus not pictured) and brews (Dos Equis Amber) at Taco Boy.
Celebratory grub (inhaled and thus not pictured) and brews (Dos Equis Amber) at Taco Boy.

 

In the end, it's all about the bling (and the brews as provided by the lovely Alicia).
In the end, it’s all about the bling (and the brews as provided by the lovely Alicia).

Final thoughts:

1) Major thanks to the lovely and talented AJH. Without her support (emotionally and physically following the race), I would not have survived!

2) Next time (and let’s be honest–there is clearly going to be a next time), I’m going to nail down my fuel plan and have a stronger base going in.

3) I hope I at least look good in the race photos. Ha!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

 

 

It’s The Final Countdown!

AKA Sh** is getting real.

Tomorrow I shall be attempting to run and complete my first full marathon at the 2014 edition of the Charleston Marathon (at least it’ll be flat!).

Before we get to my anxiety  thoughts on that, let me rewind a day and mention that I went for my last pre-marathon run yesterday afternoon (two days before race day). The training plan schedule that I’ve been following pretty closely (at least with respect to tempo and long runs, as well as total weekly mileage) called for two days off before running a final 2 mile run today. As I tend to not run the day before a race (I like to keep my legs fresh) but also do not like taking two consecutive days off before a race (I don’t want my legs that fresh), I opted to go out for my last run two days before the big race day.

Thus, I took to the beach late in the afternoon yesterday for an easy, breezy two miler. I felt good and focused on going nice and slow, which made the jaunt peaceful and calm. The upside of running on the beach during the “magic hour” was that it afforded some beautiful (albeit blinding at times!) views.

Mr. Sun, why you be blinding me?!
Mr. Sun, why you be blinding me?!
Always trying to catch the sun and never succeeding...yet!
Always trying to catch the sun and never succeeding…yet!

Back to the lecture at hand (shout out to old school Dre and Snoop…I know you two G’s are following along), I have to admit that I am pretty anxious about the run tomorrow. I generally don’t get too nervous before a race (it’s not like I’m anywhere near an elite runner and am not challenging for any sort of age group (or otherwise) win or placing), but I definitely find myself feeling anxious as I sit here typing away. Part of it has to do with the fact that this is a new distance for me, and a distance that I have never covered before. Yes, I guess the unknown is indeed scary. However, I feel as though most of my uncertainty and unease come from the fact that my last long run was less than stellar.  Had I dominated (or at least survived) that training run, I am pretty sure my head would be in a different place (as would the butterflies in my stomach).

But none of that matters now! The past is the past, right? No need to dwell on that and I should instead focus on the positive and visualize myself crossing the finish line tomorrow so that I can add “marathoner” to my CV. That reminds me that I need to add “blogger” to that as well…

So tonight and tomorrow morning, I’ll carry out my typical pre-race/pre-long run rituals and have faith in the notion that these acts have gotten me this far and thus will help power me through to the finish line tomorrow.

For me, these rituals include constructing and subsequently devouring a home-made pizza this evening along with a couple of beers (as you need those liquid carbs…and some of us need to write blogs incorporating running and craft beers!), getting to bed early (often the hardest part for a perpetual night owl like myself), getting together my race gear tonight so I only need to do a minimal amount of thinking in the AM, eating a bagel with peanut butter in the morning along with only one cup of coffee (below my normal day-to-day intake but I’ve found greater quantities can be hazardous for longer runs), and getting to the race early enough to hit a port-a-potty (hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!).

Perhaps I’ll also watch some sort of inspirational or running themed movie tonight to set the tone. Or maybe I should just watch one of my favorite movies to put my head in a good place? Hmmm…

I’m curious to hear about anyone else’s race eve or race day morning rituals along with any suggestions for a good flick to check out the night before a race. Also, is there anything you do to ease your mind or get yourself focused before a race? I’d love to hear about it!

I shall be calm and serene like the afterglow (maybe that'll be my mantra for tomorrow morning...)
I shall be calm and serene like the afterglow (maybe that’ll be my mantra for tomorrow morning…)

 

And Gravity Has Taken Better Men Than Me…

Smuttynose’s Graviation is one of the brews in their “Big Beer” series which are touted as “Big Beers in Big Bottles”. As per the Smuttynose website, these beers are produced in small quantities and sporadically, and furthermore they don’t brew every style each year. Thus, the beers are “maddeningly hard to find” . Damn you, Smuttynose!

But seriously, let’s please refrain on the damnation of Smuttynose as that is one spot that is definitely on my brewery bucket list.

A big beer indeed!
A big beer indeed!

So what did I think of Gravitation? Well first off, this is definitely an in your face type of brew. This quality can be at least partially accounted for by the fact that it rings in at a respectable ABV of 11.3% (for the 2013 version), but furthermore its significant raisin character gives it a greater “fruity” presence than would be expected. The bottom line is that this brew has a nose on it and is not a “ho-hum” type of beer. You’re not likely to forget this brew, that’s for sure!

All in all, this doesn’t strike me as your traditional Belgian Quad (though what do I know?). It poured a much deeper amber red than I would have expected, and was much fruitier than I had anticipated. You definitely taste the alcohol content in this one, so there’s no chance of acting surprised when you’re trashed following the consumption of just one of these bad boys.

This particular brew wasn’t my cup of tea, though I tend to love the Smuttynose line in general. Perhaps with time the fruitiness of the beer would mellow out? I’ll never know as I needed to drink mine in the interest of good blogging.

Cheers!

Adaptation

As any runner will tell you, adaptability and flexibility (both in the body and the mind) are important qualities to possess. There are times when one needs to adjust plans, strategies, and schedules, and seemingly more often than not these modifications are unexpected or last-minute. Such adaptation may come to play in numerous facets of a runner’s life from training all the way to race day execution.

Sometimes you need to be able to adapt in a big way such as when an injury forces you to take some time off from running. Other times you need to make smaller adaptations such as finding a different time to run when life happens and prevents you from running during your initially targeted time slot.

Still other times you need to be flexible enough to find some other running terrain when your first choice doesn’t pan out. This was the predicament I was faced with yesterday!

Remember when Nicolas Cage actually seemed like he cared?
Remember when Nicolas Cage actually seemed like he cared?

Ok, I know that I wasn’t faced with an end of the world type scenario, but I was still bummed out about the situation and thus I’ll say I employed some serious adaptability! (sorry to you, the reader, for being subjected to the whims of a blogger in such a dramatic mood)

According to my trusty marathon training schedule, I was slated to run 8 miles yesterday in what would be the last taper run before my marathon this coming weekend (how did that happen?). Using my second to none mathematics skilz (hey, I didn’t say anything about spelling prowess), I calculated that a perfect site for my 8 mile jaunt would be the Wannamaker North Trail given that this trail is an 8 mile loop. Perfect!

Well, it would have been perfect aside from the fact that the Wannamaker North Trail has a tendency to be shut down anytime that there is any precipitation more significant than fog (as the trail is primarily used by mountain bikers and thus the county is rightfully cautious so as to avoid significant and possibly irreparable damage secondary to use in adverse weather conditions). Even though it rained fairly heavily on Saturday afternoon and early evening, I somehow deluded myself into believing that the trail would still be open Sunday morning. Further feeding into and solidifying my delusion was the fact that the trail website (which is updated religiously…or so it seems) continued to state that the trail was still open all through Saturday evening.

Thus, upon checking the trail status the next morning (still open!), I headed out to the trailhead. I thought about brining some road shoes along with the trail kicks I was wearing (you know, so as to be prepared in case a trail with a tendency to be closed following rain is actually closed following rain), but then decided I wouldn’t need them (hello, any logic or reasoning anywhere?). Upon driving along the back road leading to the trail, I noticed numerous puddles (an ominous sign for a trail with a nasty tendency to be closed) but continued to keep a positive attitude. However, as you can guess, this positive attitude was very soon crushed by a big ol’ red trail sign reading “Trail Closed”.  It could have just as easily read: “Heart Broken” because that’s how I felt. Wow, this has really taken a dramatic turn…

Not to be deterred, I set out for a greenway type system I had driven by on prior occasions when heading out to the Wannamaker North Trail. After performing some Google Maps recon, I found that this greenway-ish entity was the Crowfield Plantation “leisure trail”. I also found that there is an annual 5k held on this trail of leisure (not relevant to today’s tale, but a fun fact nonetheless).

After getting my bearings and ascertaining where I could link up with the trail system, I headed out to throw down my 8 miles (in trail shoes…which was less than ideal). Footwear aside, this greenway system offered up a nice run with great shade cover, infrequent road crossings, and the occasional rolling, gentle hills. There were a bunch of other runners and cyclists out getting their fitness on, but the greenway never seemed crowded at any point. I also learned that the Crowfield Plantation space is synonymous with a whole bunch of nice houses in different developments and that it contains its own private lake. Now that isn’t too shabby!

Crowfield Lake
Crowfield Lake
Someday I'll Own My Own Lake...
Someday I’ll Own My Own Lake…

What’s the moral of this story? If it even looks like it may rain, the Wannamaker North Trail is going to shut down at least for the next 24 hours.

Oh, and that adaptability is important!

Searching For Some Upness

Well, they most certainly don’t call it the Lowcountry for nothin’! Coastal South Carolina is flat. I’m talking the if you drop a ball, chances are it ain’t rolling anywhere type of flat. That’s how vertically challenged the terrain is here.

Thus, one has to be somewhat creative when seeking out any sort of elevation gains round these parts. They call the hills here “bridges” with the most famous of them in the greater Charleston area being the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. This beauty of a bridge stretches over the Cooper River and links up downtown Charleston with neighboring Mount Pleasant. It is a very popular spot for runners, cyclists, walkers, and even rollerbladers (with the most hardcore ones wearing jean cut-off shorts…obviously). Furthermore, it is the center piece of the uber-popular Cooper River Bridge Run, which I plan on running this coming April along with 39,999 of my closest friends.

Climbing into the clouds...
Climbing into the clouds…

I try to run the Ravenel from time to time, but it can be a bit of a pain driving over to it when in a time crunch. Thus, I occasionally run on a much smaller (and less famous) bridge, the Paul Gelegotis Bridge, which is nearer to my home and thus more convenient. The “PGB” as it’s called around here (nope, that’s a lie), is short but offers a little bit of an elevation gain and is not nearly as crowded as the Ravenel. Chances are you’ll have the PGB all to yourself if running it, and at the very worst will have to share it with a handful (or less) of cyclists and co-runners.

Unsuccessfully attempting to get a few miles in before darkness fell, I headed out to the PGB yesterday evening. I parked in a dirt lot towards the Johns Island end of the bridge where I’ve seen people park before and thus assume it must be legal (air tight logic, right?) and headed off on my run. I had the bridge all to myself in terms of those seeking fitness (probably due to the fact that nightfall was rapidly enveloping the world in darkness), but there was a ton of vehicular traffic. The only reason I mention that tidbit is that it made the initial (and end) portion of the run a bit hairy given the fact that there is maybe a quarter of a mile where you find yourself running on a very thin shoulder or off in the grass before you hit the walkway of the bridge. Furthermore, there’s a turn in the road leading up to the bridge that most certainly will blind drivers coming from the Johns Island end to any runners that may be approaching their way until the very last moment. Note to self: Work on lateral jumping movements in anticipation of running the PGB again in the future…

All in all, I got in a total of 4 miles with a couple of nice views as the sun was going down. Bonus points were earned for not getting hit by a car. Not a bad way to end the week!

View from atop the PGB.
View from atop the PGB.
The sun was lighting up the clouds with some crazy coloring!
The sun was lighting up the clouds with some crazy coloring!

 

 

Beach Running

Yes, you read that post title right. Tonight’s edition of largely pointless and meandering thoughts will indeed be dedicated to running on the beach. And yes, I am posting this in the dead of winter.

Ok, I realize that a more intelligent or macro thinking “blogger” would in all likelihood pen such a themed post in the summer time, or at the very least in the spring when anticipating the arrival of summer (such a post would probably be seen as “timely”). Well, not this guy! I ran on the beach today, and thus the topic is on my mind. Plus as an added bonus, I hope that such a post about running on the beach (which is inherently thought of as a warm weather activity)  can bring some hope and spiritual warmth to any readers that are stuck in more Arctic like conditions currently. Conversely, this post may also fuel hatred and scorn in those readers for yours truly. Let us see, shall we?

While out for my beach run this afternoon, I was thinking about the pros and cons (at least in my mind) of using the sand and the ocean as your running backdrop. As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy running on either the beach, road, greenways, or really any surface that wasn’t my beloved trails upon first moving to the Lowcountry. Luckily, I’ve gotten less stubborn with time and now definitely enjoy running on the beach when I get the opportunity. Sure, it can get monotonous like any other running route you utilize often (that’s why you have to mix it up!), but I find myself saying to myself more and more while running the beach, “Dude, you are out on a beach. How bad can things be? Seriously. Just get over it”. Such self scolding (or mindfulness to put it in gentler terms) helps me keep things in perspective.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on beach running broken down into “pros” and “cons” (as one should analyze all aspects of life).

Let’s start with the “pros” as we strive to be optimists here…

Pros:

  1. Excellent for Barefoot Running                                                                                    I know that there are a lot of people out there that barefoot run on all terrains (trails, streets, treadmills, volcanic ash), but I am definitely not one of those people! In fact, I do not do any barefoot running at this point in time. However, after getting a little beach running under my belt and having heard the benefits of barefoot running for years now (and having just finally read “Born to Run” which further touts the benefits), I’m seriously considering working in some barefoot running on the beach once the weather warms up. Now unless you’re running on the Jersey shore and thus may very well risk running over broken glass or used syringes (I can say that since I’m from Jersey!), I can’t think of a better introductory terrain for barefoot running than the beach!
  2.  No Stoplights, No Street Crossings, No Fuss!                                                 Though the beach may offer some other obstacles (as discussed in the Cons section below), it is generally a great spot to get in a run without worrying about needing to stop every 50 yards for traffic or a street crossing. This fact in and of itself  has been a strong motivator for me to hit up the beach on many days!
  3. Decreased Stress on Joints/Utilizing Different Muscles                As one would expect, running on the sand is generally less impactful and punishing than pounding away on the pavement while road running. Concurrently, you are working muscles in the knees, ankles, and feet that you do not typically target while running on other terrains. While both of these facts are most likely good things, one has to always be wary of increasing mileage or pace on a new terrain too quickly or transitioning to training solely on one type of terrain as either can increase your risk of injury (again, mixing up running terrain/routes/habits is good for your body and mind!).
  4. The Scenery                                                                                                                          This is probably the biggest selling point for me. Even on the worst weather day, it is still an amazingly beautiful experience to throw down some miles on the beach. Simply put, nothing compares to running with the ocean as your backdrop and the sunrises and sunsets are all that more crisp and vibrant when seen from the vantage point of a beach run. The only downside to this is you may want to spend more of your time snapping photos than you do running!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!
You could most certainly do worse with respect to running views!

 

The Cons:

  1. Crowds                                                                                                                                        Due to the fact that the beach is so innately and unquestioningly amazing, people tend to flock to it. Crazy, right? Thus, you can sometimes find it difficult to even spot the sand under the throngs of people, let alone run on it. In addition, you may also find yourself dodging run away toddlers, unleashed dogs, frisbees, bocce balls, and drunk undergrads as you weave your way along the beach in a twisted version of “Frogger”. My advice: Hit the beach early or later in the day for your run so as to avoid the masses.
    "Excuse me please, runner coming through..."
    “Excuse me please, runner coming through…”

     

  2. Not Much Variability                                                                                                 There isn’t any elevation gain, pretty much all piers look alike, and the terrain can become monotonous to a degree overall. In the end, beaches are amazing and awesome but kinda look the same after a while. Though it is pretty neat seeing dolphins, crabs, and huge jellyfish during your runs at times…
  3. Gosh Darn Tarnation Overpronation                                                Apparently in contrast to the overall positive benefits beach running can have for your joints and muscles, there are also some papers and studies out there that suggest beach running (especially when barefoot) can increase the odds of overpronation. I’m not a sports med/ortho doc or PT dude, but I’m guessing that such terrain would thus not be ideal for you if you tend to overpronate at baseline. However, I also believe that variability in terms of your training regimen can nullify this risk at least a bit.
  4. A Tale of Two Runs                                                                                                              As I chronicled in a prior post, the wind is a fickle mistress while joining you on beach runs. For half the run, she’s supportive and making you feel invincible, while she berates you and tries to hold you back on the other half of the run. This fact could be flipped into a pro if you like significant resistance training built into half of your run. However, it could also be seen as a significant con when you tend to do as I do and run with the wind for the first half of your run and into the wind for the second half. When will I learn?
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin'!
Wind or no wind, these views are poppin’!

 

Enough random rambling from me, how do you feel about beach running? What have your experiences out there on the sand been like? 

Building Blocks

Last night’s run was certainly nothing to write home about. It was short, uneventful, and ultimately will contribute very little to any sort of my mileage totals, whether for the week, month, or year.

It was the kind of run that you keep putting off. Before the day started, I knew that I would “need” to get in a run as I had not run the day before and I always try to not go consecutive days without putting down at least a little mileage. Despite my brain being on the “we’re going running after work” page, my body was seemingly perusing a whole different chapter. After work, I was tired and simply did not want to bundle up to go out and run in the cold. I procrastinated, finding little  things that were suddenly very important and on a time crunch to get done (I do think I need to reorganize all this junk on my desk…right at this instant).

At some point, however, the balance between the procrastination drive and the growing realization that I was just putting off the inevitable pushed me towards the “get your ass out the door” phase, and out the door I went!

Yes, it was cold and yes, I had been dreading this run all day. But you know what? Once I got a bit of a rhythm going, none of that mattered. It never does, does it? It felt good to be outside doing something that I love (mostly) and am lucky to be able to do (always).

It was cold and dark for sure...
It was cold and dark for sure…

In the end, this run is not going to show up in any record books or within the pages of Runner’s World (then again, none of my runs are but you get the point). It probably won’t even be taking up much space in my mind’s log book for very long.

However, I do believe it’s these kind of “building block” runs that make all the bigger and more epic runs possible. Though, when you think about it, they’re all pretty epic in their own right, aren’t they?

Dirt Is Good For Your Soul

I had my long run scheduled for today, though it was a taper run of 12 miles given the fact that I am now less than two weeks out from running my first ever full marathon (yikes!). Speaking of taper runs, let me just say I am definitely not one of those people who experiences any sort of phenomena even remotely resembling “taper tantrums“.  When I see that both my scheduled weekly mileage and my long run distance for the week are significantly less than the week prior, I breathe a sigh of relief rather than becoming riddled with anxiety or overcome with an irresistible urge to cram in a few more miles. Does that not make me a “real runner”?

Regardless, I had initially planned to complete my 12 miler out on the Wannamaker North Trail. Mother Nature and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission had different plans for me, however. I checked the trail website last night (as it has a tendency to be shut down when there’s been significant rain in the recent past), and sure enough the trail was closed. Boo! Though as of right now, I see that the trail has re-opened. The Parks Commission probably reopened it as soon as I set off for my back-up running destination this morning. Yup, the whole world is against me. Is that paranoid?

That back-up destination was the West Ashley Greenway. This is a spot that I ran pretty frequently when I first moved to the area roughly seven months ago, and have just re-discovered recently. Essentially, it’s an 8.25 or so mile trail/greenway with one terminus in West Ashley over by the Windermere Shopping Center (where Earth Fare is) and the other end on Johns Island. Strangely, numerous websites list the trail as being 10.5 miles in length, though my own experiences and examination of Google maps leads me to believe that it is indeed only 8.25 miles (unless I’m missing a little over two miles somehow?). Thus, if you were hypothetically planning on running a 19 miler on this greenway, you may end up running along a train track on the Johns Island end of things. Though that is illegal and thus cannot be recommended. Hypothetically.

Back in the day, I essentially abandoned running the greenway due to the fact that the first four miles from the West Ashley end is all paved greenway and at the time the county was doing construction on a good portion of the trail. It was my fear at that time that they were opting to replace all the non-paved trail with new pavement, and that was part of the reason I decided to take my running business elsewhere. “I can run on roads anywhere I want, why would I come to your “greenway” just to do that?!”, I exclaimed to no one in particular.

However, as the fates would have it, the powers that be did not pave the dirt portions of the trail, but rather cleaned the trail up overall and brought in some hard packed dirt to smooth out the trail. Hooray! I discovered all this a few weeks ago when I came out to the greenway to do a long run and mix up my running terrain a bit. I can safely say I was pleasantly surprised. I also learned that the “far” end of the trail (the Johns Island end) offers some great views of waterways, runs along a big ol’ organic farm at one point, and does not have nearly as much stops for street crossings. Plus this end tends to be less crowded (although I fear that may be changing). Needless to say, I now always park and start off from the “awesome” end (read: Johns Island end) of the greenway nowadays.

Intense clouds during the run!
Intense clouds during the run!

Views like the one above made the run much more enjoyable. The clouds were threatening rain for most of my time on the greenway, but luckily they were all just bluffing in the end. As for the run itself, I actually felt pretty solid. Prior to the run and early on during the first couple miles, I think I made the mental mistake of thinking that I could knock out 12 miles easy as though that number of miles was “nothing”. Hey, after all I am running a marathon in a couple of weeks, right?

Well, I learned (or rather re-learned) that thinking in such a way is foolish. I am clearly nowhere near the level of running excellence where 12 miles is something to laugh at. Luckily, I remembered that early enough that I didn’t fall apart or bonk or cry (what?) during the run.  At the end of the run, I was happy with my overall pace and the fact that I felt pretty good all things considered. Could I have run 26.2 miles today if I had to? No, I honestly don’t think that I could, and that’s a semi scary thought with my marathon approaching so quickly. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to throw down 26.2 right now since I’m just coming off my highest mileage week? Maybe I really could run that distance, and rather it’s just that my mindset was to run 12 today and that’s how my body responded? I don’t know.

Look, it’s the sky and water again!

My doubts and uncertainties aside, I did observe an interesting phenomena out on the greenway today. As a bit of a backdrop, you have to know that I belong to the breed of runner guys (and gals) that will always shoot you a nod or a wave or a smile when I pass you. Why? Well, I guess because I think it’s the polite thing to do and also because I’ve always felt a strong sense of community and camaraderie with fellow runners. Hey, we’re all out here sweating, breathing the same air, and pounding the same pavement, right? Totally, dude…

In any case, as I ran into the more populated and less awesome portion of the greenway (read: the West Ashley side), I noticed that the runners I passed were becoming increasingly antisocial. Either they would fail to make any sort of eye contact (ok, that’s somewhat understandable) or they would blatantly ignore the wave I shot their way (now, that’s not cool!). Were all these other people having the worst day of their collective lives? Did I look like a serial killer? What is the deal here?

Thus, after I made the turn to head back to the awesome end of the trail where my car was parked, I continued to think about anything and everything (as you do on a long run) which appropriately included this blog. At that point in time, I had landed on “Running With Jerks” as an apt title for this entry. However, this title was thrown in the mental trash bin a few miles down the road when the strangest thing happened. Other runners started to wave and smile towards me as I passed them. Some even initiated these basic social gestures before I did. A dog even ran with me for a short bit (after I had chatted with his owner for a second, and thus knew it would be ok). What was happening here? Had I entered a twilight zone of happiness?

I found my answer as I looked towards my feet. I was back on the beautiful, hard pressed dirt and off the unforgiving and punishing blacktop that lines the trail near the non-awesome side.

And thus, I concluded that dirt is good for your soul.

Curious Pete, Unamused Alicia
Curious Pete, Unamused Alicia