Tag Archives: Running

Mayor of Slackerville

That’s the position that I’m currently running for, or at least acting as though I am. I’ve been majorly slacking on both my running and keeping this blog poppin’! In a confusing twist, I actually do believe my skills may be better utilized if appointed Governor of Rutville, as I am currently in a significant running rut. I have no doubt that it’s just one of those less than fruitful phases during which you simply aren’t feeling it the majority of times you lace up the running kicks, but it’s no fun nonetheless. I’m just hoping I start feeling “it” a bit more before the Cooper River Bridge Run this coming weekend!

In an attempt to somewhat assuage the slacker stench that’s been pervading this blog for a month or so now, here are some of my favorite pics taken during runs over the past few weeks:

Intense cloud/sun action during a run around the neighborhood.
Intense cloud/sun action during a run around the neighborhood.

 

Folly Beach run on a day after the skies cleared and the sun popped out.
Folly Beach run on a day after the skies cleared and the sun popped out.

 

I was really willing the sun to burst through the clouds to provide some warmth during a county park run...
I was really willing the sun to burst through the clouds to provide some warmth during a county park run…

 

Shot of James Island County Park pond during a nice, brisk jaunt.
Shot of James Island County Park pond during a nice, brisk jaunt.

 

I was lucky to catch this epic sunset off the West Ashley Greenway!
I was lucky to catch this epic sunset off the West Ashley Greenway!

 

Alicia asking, "Why you creepin?" with her eyes and glare during a recent run together. Precious.
Alicia asking, “Why you creepin?” with her eyes and glare during a recent run together. Precious.

 So here’s to losing my two election bids and instead getting back to some quality running in the near future! (along with less blog slacking of course…)

Sunday Morning Long Run

Yesterday morning, I had my weekly longish run slated on the calendar (not physically of course, but rather in my mental calendar). I was shooting for somewhere between 8-10 miles (yes, I’ve been slacking on my long runs since I’m not currently training for anything), and had initially thought it a good idea to head out to the West Ashley Greenway to knock out those miles. However, on Sunday morning a combination of laziness (since I’d have to drive out to the greenway) and rekindled love for the Morris Island Lighthouse (since I had just written a much delayed race recap) led me to the zany idea that running from my doorstep to the beach front near the lighthouse would be a better option for completing my longish run.

Ideally, I would love to live somewhere where you can lace up your running kicks, bound out the door, and have your choice of different running routes you could complete right from your doorstep. I’ve lived in places ranging from pretty solid out the door running spots to downright awful. Where I lived for my last two years in Durham, NC definitely offered the best in terms of a running neighborhood. Unfortunately, my place in James Island does not offer the same diversity of options when it comes to running routes in da ‘hood. Sigh.

As chronicled in this blog in the past, I’ve come to enjoy beach running and typically head out to the beach for a run whenever afforded the opportunity. Thus, wouldn’t it be near ideal if I could combine my love of beach running with my desire for out the door runs? Yes, I certainly believe it would be. The problem with that dream, however, is that in order to get to Folly Beach from my house you’re going to spend some time running along Folly Road. Yes, you can minimize your time on Folly Road by running along some side roads for a bit, but ultimately all roads lead back to Folly Road.

You may be wondering, what’s so bad about Folly Road? Well, in a general sense it can be a traffic nightmare during the summer since it’s the only road leading in and out of Folly Beach (but that’s not what we’re talking about here). From a runner’s perspective, the main issue is that there’s only a sliver of shoulder for much of the road (though there are some well-worn dirt paths on the side of the road at times). Combine this lacking shoulder with motorists who tend to fly along Folly (and who may or may not be intoxicated during the summer months), and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.

This sign is NOT found on Folly Road.
This sign is NOT found on Folly Road.

On this morning, however, I was feeling brazen (and lazy–I really didn’t want to drive anywhere). I had run from my home to Folly before, but had never run from my house over to the end of Folly near the lighthouse. How far of a trek would this be? I consulted with my legs who informed me that they had a maximum of 10.01 miles in them today…maaaaaybe 10.02, but any more than that and they would abandon me outright. I knew they weren’t bluffing as they had quit on me before and clearly were not above doing so again.

I drew out the run on Google Maps, and rejoiced when I saw that the route would be approximately 9.7 miles! My legs gave their nod/shake/jump kick of approval, and Alicia agreed to provide shuttle service at my run’s terminus. So off I went!

I am glad to report that the run was uneventful overall, and enjoyable on top of that. My knees were both a bit sore initially, but felt better after about 15 minutes of running. No cars hit me on Folly Road…score! Believe it or not, I even got a bit of a sunburn on both my forearms as the first half of the run was pretty sunny (it became significantly overcast for the second half) and Folly Road offers little in way of protection from the elements. I passed “Phaz” (or at least that’s what I think it’s called), which I believe is being marketed as a bar or night club but is really two run down buildings with a “courtyard” (read: open space with cinder blocks on the ground) between the two buildings. This spot opened up a few months ago, and it has intrigued me ever since. Further arousing curiosity is the fact that they intermittently advertise Happy Hour and oyster nights (though they seem to be continually changing which night is oyster night…how are you going to build a solid patron base that way?) on their billboard up front. I have found very little information regarding this joint aside from a sparsely maintained Facebook page which may or may not belong to this establishment. Do any Charlestonians out there know anything about this spot? Also I apologize to the owner of Phaz if he/she is among the dozen of blog followers I have and is reading this. I am sure your establishment may indeed be world-class and it is most likely my ignorance (given that I have never stepped foot through your enterprise’s door) bleeding through here.

I was also afforded the opportunity to run over a few waterways, which I always enjoy and I weaved in and out of the Folly Beach neighborhood streets, admiring the beach houses that I certainly would not mind inhabiting. There’s always something magical about being in a beach town, and I’ve found that it feels even more special when you’re there during the off-season as one of the “locals”. I am definitely lucky to live so close to the ocean.

At just about 9.7 miles, I reached Morris Island lighthouse and the end of my run. My legs congratulated me, but reminded me that they were ready to bail on me in another third of a mile (thanks, guys). After snapping a couple pics of Morris, my chariot arrived and whisked me off to the rest of the day’s adventures!

Still saved.
Still saved.
Morris from behind a tree.
Morris from behind a tree.

Save The Light Half Marathon

Just about three weeks ago (on February 1st to be exact; yes, I know I’m slacking big time on the blog posts), I ran the Save the Light Half Marathon along the streets of Folly Beach, SC despite the fact that I had run my first full marathon a mere two weeks prior.  I was a bit wary (as well as apologetic towards my legs) about running another 13.1 miles after barely surviving the full a couple weeks before. However, I’ve never been accused of making the smartest decisions and I really wanted to contribute towards the cause, and thus I signed up and ultimately lined up on race morning.

As for the cause, the proceeds from the race were going towards Save The Light, Inc., a grass-roots, non-profit organization committed to initially “saving” and now preserving the Morris Island Lighthouse. Now I love lighthouses. Why? Perhaps it’s because of my Jersey roots and the fact that I spent so many summer hours out on Sandy Hook while growing up, and thus got to take in the majesty of the lighthouse there on a regular basis. Who knows? Regardless, the fact remains that when a lighthouse needs saving, you know I’ll be there!

Getting back to the race itself, another plus for me were the facts that the race was on the small side (280ish finishers for the half marathon and another 200 or so for the 5K) and very local to me as Folly Beach is essentially right down the road from where I live on James Island. Quick transit time, a familiarity with the course, and not having to worry about parking nightmares can go a long way on race morning!

Start time for the race was 8:30am, and thus I arrived on Folly around 8:15, found a parking spot, and started to walk the three or so blocks over to the starting line. Stepping out of the warmth and dryness of my car, I quickly realized that the weather gods were not in the best of moods this morning.

"The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."
“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”

Luckily, the race was not on the beach itself but rather through the streets of the Folly Beach neighborhood. As everyone lined up, the sky was “spitting” rather than producing any significant rain, but there was that damp chill in the air that made the 40F temps feel significantly cooler.

Shot of the Folly Beach Pier on race morning.
Shot of the Folly Beach Pier on race morning.

As everyone stood around talking about how chilly it seemed and their hopes that it wouldn’t “really” rain, the starting gun fired without any warning or preamble and off we went!

Given that the entirety of Folly Beach is roughly 7 miles and this race took place wholly on the East side of the island, you can imagine that this wasn’t a point to point race or a pure out and back course. Instead, the biggest continuous stretch of miles came along one road (Ashley Ave) with the rest of the mileage coming from different loops of varying distances within the neighborhood roads. The course was actually pretty ingenious as it managed to cover a USATF certified 13.1 miles within a smallish chunk of real estate. Sadly, the course didn’t allow one to see the lighthouse while on the run itself as this would be impossible without running off-road and onto the beach, but the course took us as close to the lighthouse as we could get while still staying on black top. I like to think that ol’ Morris knew we were running for him and could feel our presence there.

I felt pretty solid during the first 2-3 miles as I stayed within myself and didn’t push too hard. My legs felt a bit stiff at first, but quickly loosened up. Unfortunately, however, as my legs loosened up the skies opened up! Soon there was a torrential downpour upon us, and we were all a bunch of fools running through heavy rain. I don’t typically mind running in the rain (unless it’s a very cold rain on a cold day), and I actually usually enjoy it. This day was no different. As I became progressively more soaked, I had one of those “Why do you do this to yourself?” thoughts that amused me, but otherwise I didn’t let the rain dampen my spirits too much (top-tier humor there!).

Luckily, the weather gods took mercy on us and the rain abated after a few miles. I continued to feel strong, hovering around my goal of an 8:00 minute/mile pace. I started to waver a bit as we entered into a long stretch of Ashley Ave that is pretty wide open and near the shoreline, thus offering very little protection from the headwind that was constantly trying to sap all my energy. I promised myself that things would be significantly easier once I hit the turn around point at the end of Ashley Ave (aka near Morris’s home). The pessimistic side of my brain tried to argue that I had no basis for such a promise, but I tried to drown him out with some “Augustines”.

Coming up on the turn around, the elite runners passed all us chumps going the other way, looking strong, graceful, and as though they were born to run as I’m sure all us mere mortals looked slovenly, uncoordinated, and completely gassed. Nonetheless, I tried to put on a face that said “this isn’t my first rodeo and I feel great” as I passed the course photographer at the turn around. I even posed with a fist pump type of move because nothing exudes false confidence like that gesture. Sadly, I haven’t seen those photos yet (let’s pretend I was waiting for them to get posted before I wrote this recap), so I don’t know how it all came off…

After the turn around, the course did actually get a bit more manageable as the head wind became more of a tail wind and I felt rejuvenated by all the other runners around me, waving and nodding to others that were still making their way to the turn around point. Around mile 9, I downed a couple of Shot Bloks with Gatorade from my water bottle as I was beginning to feel I was dragging a bit.

As I came into the last few miles of the race, it started to get a bit more mentally challenging as we were going in and out of neighborhood loops that we had already covered in the past. I always feel like retreads on a course are a bit mentally draining and tough to stay motivated for. Plus it made it more difficult to gauge where exactly we were going and how close we were from the finish (even though my Garmin was obviously providing stats for me). Furthermore, after mile 10 I found myself running pretty much by myself as the field was thinning out over the many in and out loops. I don’t know about everyone else out there, but I find it tough to stay on pace when I’m out there all by myself (one major reason why I shouldn’t be an ultrarunner…that and the lack of endurance). I tell myself I’m just running for and against myself, but still my competitive side doesn’t want to see me get passed by someone when the field has thinned out to that point and that late in a race. Maybe I just need to think less…

In any case, I luckily started to close on a dude that was running ahead of me and looking strong. For the last 1.5 miles (as the rain started to come down again), I simply stayed within a few paces of him as he led us to the finish line. He was running strong and thus I never felt the need or desire to pass him, and instead just stayed with him through his kick to the finish line. After we crossed the line, he turned to me and said, “Thanks for the push”. I told him I was just happy to hang on.

Ultimately, I finished in 1:43:50 which is a half marathon PR for me! Thus, I was very happy with my performance overall.

About 15 seconds after crossing the line, it started to really rain again. My fiancée and sister were supposed to meet me after the race at the finish, but fortunately for them (in this case) they’re slackers and thus were “just leaving” my house when I called them after cooling down for a minute. I told them not to bother, and that I would rather meet them back in the dryness of our home.

Race bling!
Race bling!
Pretty sweet poster by a local artist that came with registration. It's crooked in the photo because it's crooked on my very yellow wall as well...boom!
Pretty sweet poster by a local artist that came with registration. It’s crooked in the photo because it’s crooked on my very yellow wall as well…boom!

The next morning, Alicia and I went out for a little Sunday run together. We had planned on running on the beach, but high tide pushed us back out to the streets of Folly Beach. Alicia had only wanted to run 5ish miles, but I tricked/persuaded/pushed her to run a bit further so that we could get to ol’ Morris given that she had never actually seen the lighthouse and the fact that I saved him the day before. After a little bit of “Negative Nancy” talk, she pushed through and persevered to complete her longest run to date. Victory!

Running all-star Alicia and Morris beaming with pride.
Running all-star Alicia and Morris beaming with pride.

Sometimes Even Horseshoe Crabs Need a Hand

(Because they don’t have any…)

Yesterday morning, I went out to the always scenic (and often offering adventure) Folly Beach for my Sunday morning run. I set out aiming for six miles on the beach, and that’s ultimately what I accomplished. It was a beautiful (albeit a bit chilly) morning and I felt good overall despite having run the truly epic Onshore Racing’s You Can’t Run From Love 8K the day prior (race recap coming in a future blog entry when I stop slacking so much…).

Although this weekend run was rather ho-hum overall, it was notable on two counts:

  1. The sky was (for lack of better terminology) poppin’!
  2. I tried to rescue a horseshoe crab.
Look at those popcorn clouds!
Look at those popcorn clouds!
I mostly took pictures while warming up and cooling down, but will admit I stopped to take a couple during the run itself...
I mostly took pictures while warming up and cooling down, but will admit I stopped to take a couple during the run itself…

While the pictures may suggest otherwise, this “run” wasn’t all about being awed by the beauty of the sky.

Right as I was coming up on my three-mile turn around point, I also came across a horseshoe crab lying/resting/dying/drying out/tanning just beyond the shoreline. Now seeing a horseshoe crab stranded on the beach is no longer the sight it once was for this guy given the fact that they are frequently desiccating out on the beach (I’ve actually noticed that there are way more dried out horseshoe crabs out on the beach in the winter months than during the spring/summer months…maybe someone out there knows why this could be?). In fact, this horseshoe crab dude that I speak of was probably the fourth or fifth I had seen on this run alone.

What set this guy apart from the rest, however, was the fact that he did not appear all that dried up…and the fact that he was moving!

Come on, buddy, let down your hard shell guard a bit. I'm just trying to help ya...
Come on, buddy, let down your hard shell guard a bit. I’m just trying to help ya…

Yes, indeed I could clearly see him waving about his rear rudder tail/scorpion stinger appearing death appendage as he laid there helpless on the sand. So I paused my Garmin and took to assessing the situation which involved taking the above picture and admiring his cool barnacle like appearance.

After the in-depth assessment was completed, what ensued was a 10 minute cycle of me picking the big guy up, avoiding his rear tail (yes, I know it won’t kill me but still…), placing him a bit deeper into the water, watching to see if the tide takes him out, and then repeating. It was a delicate dance balancing my desire to save a majestic sea beast and my hope to not get my shoes soaked. Ultimately, the scales tipped further towards the humanitarian side and thus I was able to get him sufficiently far enough off shore that he could “swim” off to his sea home if he wanted to. I watched him for a bit, and he was definitely making movements on his own but I never saw him enter into the true depths of the ocean. After all, I didn’t have all day to watch him…sheesh!

So who knows if I ultimately did a good deed or not. It could be that he was dying and just wanted to be left alone in peace on the shore and instead some jerk in shorts threw him back into the water. It could also be that he was out on the shore to mate (though I don’t believe it’s crab mating season now) and thus I effectively “you know what–it rhymes with rock”-blocked him. Or in the best case scenario, it could be that I truly did save his crabby life.

In any case, I learned from Wikipedia (which contains only factually correct material) afterwards that horseshoe crabs are often used as bait fish for eel but a “permanent moratorium” has been put in effect in SC to restrict this practice. Way to go, South Carolina! Not enough to make up for being part of the Confederacy, but it’s all about baby steps…

Maybe the crab dude was just coming to shore to admire the sky as well?
Maybe the crab dude was just coming to shore to admire the sky as well?

If you somehow read this or have someone read the blog to you, Mr. Horseshoe Crab, please know that I was only trying to do you right.

Unrelated to running and crabs, I was able to close the day out with drinks at Kudu and watching the sunset with Alicia “It’s So Cold Outside” Herklotz. It was a good day overall.

His and Hers Evil Twin Brews at Kudu.
His and Hers Evil Twin Brews at Kudu. 

The sunset as seen from Folly.
The sunset as seen from Folly.

 

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…)

 

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?