Friday, September 13, 2013

Blue Ridge Relay 2013

Anticipation had been high for the months leading up to the latest edition of the Blue Ridge Relay. Over the past few years, Knoxville Track Club (KTC), Asheville Running Collective (ARC) and Charlotte Running Club (CRC) had stamped their authority on the event and had some memorable clashes but never had all THREE teams really battled against each other in the same race.

This year, KTC had eschewed their usual presence at Hood To Coast to concentrate their efforts on Blue Ridge and with 13/14: 5k guys everywhere you looked, had undoubtedly the fastest 12 man squad on paper in Blue Ridge history. ARC, the dominant champions of the previous two races had assembled potentially their fastest ever squad and were loathe to surrendering their crown to any 'out of towners'. CRC, only able to field a ten man squad last year after the epic race with ARC in 2011, were quietly putting together the strongest team in their history adding Blair Teal (2:20 marathoner), Joey Thompson (UNCG graduate/stud), Jesse Mcentire (recent arrival in Charlotte from the hills of Brevard) and App State alumni Mike Mitchell and David Brinkley to their already talented and motivated ranks.

Facebook team pages had been established, newspaper articles had been written, the stage was set for an epic battle and a three-pronged attack on the elusive 20 hour barrier.

Over the next few paragraphs I will provide an overview of the race that followed from my perspective as the lead off man for the CRC team....

CRC ready to roll (Brad Popple, Rocky Falcone, Paul Mainwaring, Josh Baker, Mike Mitchell, Blair Teal, Mike Beigay (captain), Jesse Mcentire, Dan Matena, Billy Shue, Joey Thompson, Joe Lanser, David Brinkley)

Away we go

At 1:30pm Friday afternoon, myself, Javan Lapp (ARC) and Elijah Shekinah (KTC) were unleashed down the mountain to set the ball rolling. 153 other teams were already heading towards Asheville on their own journeys. 4 miles downhill, all downhill. Just under 20 minutes later, according to form and expectations, ARC handed over in first place with a very small lead over KTC and CRC. From a personal point of view I was happy with the leg. To legitimize my presence on the team after only confirming my availabilty a month before I figured a sub 20 minute performance was needed, to only be a few seconds down on the other 2 teams an added bonus. I jumped in the van, my feet burning from the impact on the downhills and we headed off to see how the second leg was playing out.

Leg 2 is also predominantly downhill and is traditionally reserved for the strongest runners on the team as this rotation includes the glamour leg 14 on Grandfather Mountain. The three horses of their teams were on course.

7.5 miles and 37 minutes later Billy Shue was quietly warming up a few hundred yards away from the exchange zone. All of a sudden Blair Teal came powering around the corner and Billy had to sprint to the start line to get there in time to take over the baton. The CRC man had smashed the previous course record and left two supremely talented rivals in his wake. A new BRR star had been born.

Over the next 6 legs CRC consolidated and extended their lead, with 5 new team leg records being added to the two already established by Mainwaring and Teal. Brad Popple showed he meant business on leg 8 by beating the all time leg record and the last addition to the team, David Brinkley, bashed out a great leg along the river. CRC clearly meant business but knew there was a long time to go, we were only a quarter of the way into the race.

Original team member David Willis paid us a surprise visit on leg 6/7!

Brinkley ready to roll on leg 9

Leg 10 saw the first pause for thought for CRC. In the midst of running the 8th team leg record out of 10, Josh Baker felt his calf tighten significantly. Close attention was going to be necessary to ensure he could power through his other two legs. Additionally, the studs of KTC were beginning to make their presence felt. Nick End, 2:19 marathoner, had knocked a three minute hole into CRC's lead, which was now down to about 4 minutes, with Asheville not far behnd and still very much in the race.

We were now just over 5 hours into the race and beginning to catch up with the rest of the teams. As darkness descended, Jesse and Joey bashed out two solid debut legs and now every member of each team had run. It was time for Vans 1 to set out again. The drama and unpredictability of night racing was about to begin.

Van humour

Night running

It was my turn again. I felt pretty decent warming up for my run. The burning feet had cooled down and my legs felt pretty fresh. Good job too as the first two and a half miles of this leg out of Blowing Rock were straight uphill! I tried not to red line so I could take advantage of the more forgiving second half of the leg and ended up doing a pretty good job, finding out later that I had extended our lead over KTC while only losing a small amount of time to 3rd place ARC. Now is as good an opportunity as any to congratulate my Asheville counterpart on his performance in his first BRR. Armed with 2 new course records after this race, Javan will surely be a fixture in the Asheville team for years to come. Elijah, meanwhile, lost a few seconds to me on this leg but beat me comfortably on the other two legs. Such was the depth of quality in this year's race that even team leg records were not always enough to hold off your rivals.

The glamour leg

As mentioned earlier leg 14 is often seen as the marquee leg of BRR. Featuring just over 10 miles of gradual uphill on Grandfather Mountain, the 60 minute barrier had only been breached once in the race's history. Soon that amount was trebled. Blair Teal continued his dominating form, knocking nearly two minutes off the previous course record in 58:01 and unofficially passing 35 other runners. Roadkill indeed. Mark Driscoll, last seen by CRC runners during his sub 25 8k showing and victory at the Club's own 8k event, turned in a fantastic 59 minute performance and the KTC runner only just missed the 1 hour mark. Wow!

Yippee Ki Yay

Now it was Billy's turn again. Armed with a mile PR in the 4:50 range, Shue somehow flew down his c. 2 mile leg in a new course record of 9:56, shouting "Yippee Ki Yay" as we passed in the van! Van 1 continued to knock down every CRC record one by one. When the dust had settled after the race, it transpired that 16 of 18 CRC Van 1 records were taken down and Joe Lanser got in on the act on leg 18, putting yet another overall course record in CRC's hands. Halfway through the race and it appeared only navigational errors or injury could stop CRC now. The potential for both were not insignificant, however. KTC and ARC had already made a couple of small errors and were both now about ten minutes back fighting nip and tuck over second place.

Mistake proof?

Virtually every race in BRR history has been impacted by teams going off course. In the night hours especially, when tired and cranky runners are more liable to miss turns or local kids have seen fit to move signs around, teams often make navigational errors and run off course. This year proved to be no exception, with both KTC and ARC going off course on a couple of occasions. To the eternal credit of CRC no such errors were being made. Over the next 6 hours through the middle of the night, a combination of people taking close individual responsibility for knowing their leg directions and help from fellow van members saw CRC extending their lead even while KTC and ARC were occasionally running significantly faster leg times than the CRC team up the road. In the midst of this it should also be noted that Josh had notched another course record for the team, putting to bed any doubts we had about his calf.

A significant moment in the race came at about 5am Saturday morning. 15 and a half hours into the race, speedy veteran Rocky Falcone passed the last remaining runner in front of his team on the course. Now not only were CRC leading the race by a solid margin, they were also the team furthest along the course in the race, with over 7 legs of the race still to run! As van 1 finished off their stints and sat back in the van to rest their weary legs, van 2 were pumping themselves up to finish off the job.

Mountain Goat

The last 6 legs of the race all have their own unique characteristics and often provide the most exciting racing of the event. First up is the infamous Mountain Goat stage which features 5 miles of uphill, turn after turn, Alpe D'Huez style. Last year, CRC's Aussie Mountain Goat, Dan Matena, had broken the course record in a famous performance made even more impressive by the fact that he had to run 4 legs during the race. With only two legs behind him this year Dan was on a mission to break his own course record and further consolidate CRC's lead. And he didn't disappoint. Climbing the hill in complete darkness and isolation, Matena rolled a new course record. He was so far ahead of his scheduled time that Brad had to be rushed to the exchange zone in time to be handed over to. "Aussie Aussie Aussie" indeed!

Leg 32 takes the teams down the mountain they have just come up! Of particular note this year was the fact that CRC were so far ahead of course record pace that it was still pitch dark as Brad took off down the mountain! Normally the day is dawning as leg 31 is being negotiated. As the first few miles of this leg unfold over steep downhill rutted gravel paths, more than one CRC team member was concerned that Brad was running so fast in the dark that he may slide off the mountain! As it was Brad made it safely to the bottom of the hill and maintained his close to five minute pace for the few miles along the valley floor. As he handed over to Brinkley for the last time after an awe inspiring average 5:05 pace for 9.5 miles (this having already run 12 miles on his other two legs remember!) Brad crashed to his knees, completely spent, everything left out on the course in the name of CRC. He literally had to be carried to the van.

Behind him, though, word was coming through of an epic fightback from KTC's horses.....

The grand finale

Up next was 'the nipple', known for its 13% grades both up and down, one of those legs that while driving it in the van you can scarcely believe your runner will conquer it. As Brinkley passed us he was taking it in his stride. We drove Josh ahead to the next exchange zone and waited.

We had noticed that the KTC van was pulling into the exchange zones closer and closer to us. We hadn't really paid much attention to the lead we had during the night, we were just concentrating on getting the legs done and not making mistakes. Unbeknownst to us, KTC had made another navigational error and our lead had stretched to over 15 minutes. Our lead was like a red rag to a bull however. First, team captain Ethan Coffey, two course records already safely up his sleeve, absolutely massacred the Mountain Goat stage I just described, making it to the top in just over 40 minutes- 4 minutes faster than the record that had stood at the start of the race! Not to be outdone, Kyle Stanton beat Brad's time by over two minutes. These two new records may be very long standing. KTC were not going down without a fight and behind them ARC continued to head towards their fastest ever time on the course, ready to pounce if either of the teams ahead erred.

As David's expected arrival time passed we started to get a little concerned, we were so near but so far from victory. KTC were pressing. It transpired that David had suffered cramps at the top of the nipple and was unable to push as hard as he would have liked on the downhill section. What a warrior though, gutsing it out to minimize our losses. He passed over to Josh and we timed the gap to KTC at 10 minutes. With three legs to run, realistically we weren't going to get caught, but your mind starts playing tricks on you at this point. On leg 34 we knew that Josh had it all to play for against KTC stud Nick End and we also knew that on the fast last stage ahead, KTC had a 3:58/13:50 closer!!

No need to panic, Josh actually put time into Nick on leg 34, yet another team leg record and what a time to do it! Jesse headed up the ridiculously steep two mile section of leg 35 and we could taste victory at last. After another sterling leg from debutant Mcentire it was left to Joey to bring it all home. We headed down the mountain into Asheville in our vans and parked up, ready to accompany Joey over the finish line in the time honoured BRR tradition. As he came around the corner still focussed on the job at hand it finally dawned on us that we were going to win! We ran in behind him, cheering as we went. And guess what? Yes indeed, the cumulative time was 19 hours and 58 minutes. The previously untouchable 20 hour barrier had been breached.

CRC, Blue Ridge Relay Champions 2013.

Joey Thompson leads home the victors


After the obligatory team photos we waited for our valiant adversaries and congratulated each other on our performances, mutual respect abound. KTC came home in 20 hours and 7 minutes, ARC in 20 hours and 25 minutes, just outside their previous course record. Later on, after some deserved refuelling and napping, members of all three teams were seen sharing beers and war stories at Wicked Weed and various other Asheville establishments. You don't see that in many other sports! Roll on Blue Ridge 2014 when surely even more legends will be written!

ARC hand over the belt they had taken from CRC at the Winter Classic 8k in January. Firm friendships and rivalries formed, the next battle to hold on to this belt is bound to be intense!

Awaking with sore heads and legs on Sunday morning, CRC were greeted with the day's headines

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On a more positive note

After the doom and gloom of my last few posts at least this week I can be a bit more positive. I started running again on Wednesday and 4 runs and 26 miles later the achilles appears to be standing up well and continuing to improve. A few more days of balancing between caution and active recovery and I hope I should be good to go again. Never count your chickens when you're reading this blog however...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

One step forward, two steps back

3 weeks ago I was really happy with how training was coming along. It was a Saturday morning and I was jogging back from PDS track having completed another successful workout with 60 miles and a really strong long run also in the week's bank. I was suffering from a cold but apparently fighting through it without it getting any worse. With a day off ahead I was hoping it would clear up and I could start another good week of training on the Monday.

Monday morning came and I could barely get out of bed. For the rest of the week I felt awful; tired, drained, sinuses messed up, painful pressure in my head. I didn't attempt to run a step until Memorial Day the following week. A six mile slog later and hoping I had turned the corner. Tuesday to Thursday I did some more easy running and my sinus infection cleared up and it looked like I could resume proper training again. On the Friday night I lined up at the start of the Office Party 5k which I had already paid my entry for a few weeks earlier when it had been postponed because of an anticipated storm that didn't even materialize. I wasn't expecting much, just wanted to get through it and use it as a hard workout to get me up and running again.

Unfortunately it was 85 degrees, sunny, breezy and humid and the race was miserable! My second mile was 5:54, a pace I ran for the entire 26.2 at Richmond a couple of years ago. I finished in 17:55, a new personal worst! On top of this it transpired that I had strained my achilles/calf during the race. I haven't run a step in the 9 days since that race and am feeling pretty down with running at the moment! The calf is feeling better and based on my experience of these issues I should back on my feet by the end of next week at least but this has been another setback I could barely afford. Back to square one, more like back to square half :-)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Update from the sidelines

My mileage for this week will read a big fat zero! I've been continuing to suffer from what has turned into a nasty sinus infection and swings from painful sinus pressure to general fatigue and soreness have kept me pretty much confined to the couch. I am hoping to go for a jog in the morning but it will all depend on how I feel when I wake up- the morning seems to be the worst presumably as I have spent the night horizontal and all the gunk in my head has nowhere to go. If I am still feeling bad on Tuesday I will go the Docs. I was meant to go on Friday but child care arrangements proved an obstacle with Lisa out of town. I am entered in a 5k on Friday but that is looking out of the equation at the moment. The only reason I would consider doing it anyway is because if I miss it I can no longer complete the Series the race is part of which finishes with Thunder Road Marathon in November. To cheer myself up in the mean time I have found this race that takes place while I am in Sydney with work for three weeks in July!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A bump in the road

Today I took my first sick day off from work in I don't know how long! I woke up various times in the night feeling absolutely horrible and sure enough when I attempted to roll out of bed to lace them up and get out there this morning my body said an emphatic "NO!" and thrust me back into the comfort of my bed. I have barely eaten all day and have spent most of it in bed nursing a fever and aches and pains all over my body. This evening I feel slightly better but unless I see a dramatic improvement overnight I can foresee another day home from work, which I hate, and obviously another day off from running (that will be three in a row as I took my usual Sunday off as normal). All I can do is wait for this to pass and then take it easy for a few days before launching back into the hard training again.

That hard training was just starting to bear fruit. I've been nailing my workouts and long runs and was finally starting to feel some wheels under me and look forward to racing again soon. Hopefully this will just prove to be a minor setback along that route

Friday, May 10, 2013

Morning Runner

This week has been a planned ‘down week’. I have been able to sleep in a couple of mornings, run a couple of times after work and generally just try and recharge the batteries a bit. My two worst runs though this week have definitely been the ones I did after work! Monday I was planning on running early but heavy rainstorms were passing through so I put my run off to the evening. Then Thursday I had planned to run late so that I could be all hot and sweaty for the weekly ‘Runners Yoga’ class I am doing while they offer it. Both runs pretty much sucked! Sitting at a desk all day clearly converts my lower limbs into even more inflexible objects than they usually are. My attempts at post run strides and drills were particularly laughable both these days.

The rest of the week has been more positive. Tuesday I headed to the track with Mike, Aaron, David and Joe and did the 12 * 300m session that was the ‘shock to the system’ Coach had referred to. These were done all around the 52 second mark (last couple a bit faster) with 1 minute walks back to the start between each. I felt pretty smooth doing these although I definitely had to dig a little as the workout went on and running at mile pace for the first time in a while has subsequently left my hamstrings and groin feeling a little fragile. The next day I was able to knock out a solid 12 mile ‘long run’ and all that is left for me for the remainder of the week is a 4 mile tempo effort that I have on the plate tomorrow lunch time for which I will be joined by good friend and erstwhile training partner Jay!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday to Saturday 70

Solid 8 days of training in the books. 70 miles, 2 tempo runs, mile repeats, 15 mile long run, 1 * drills and strides, 1 yoga session! The latter probably the most significant item. Went to a free class for runners after our Try Sports group run on Thursday evening. Having run 15 in the morning and 5 miserably sore miles with the group, these 20 minutes were the best of the week! I felt rejuvenated in both the leg and spirit department and was able to knock out a decent run Friday morning to make it 25 miles in 24 hours and a solid LT tempo effort in the park today (2*3 miles with 2 minute recovery in 17:04/17:03).

I get tomorrow completely off and then a 'cutback week' next week. Coach has yet to reveal what exactly is in store for me. I asked and all I got was "next week will be a down week on the miles (but probably some added intensity to shock the system a bit). Just want to keep you on edge!"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Facing realities

As I was chasing (forlornly) after David and Jesse during this morning’s ultimately successful mile repeat track workout, I started thinking about how the getting fit process was taking a lot longer than my usual comeback journeys. Usually at this stage I would be seeing quick progress from week to week, bouncing back to pre-injury shape in fairly quick time. This time it appears the process is going to take a lot longer! Two major factors contributing to this I reckon.

One, and key, is that I have to remember that this comeback is following the longest lay off I’ve had from quality training since I started running more seriously give or take ten years ago. So I’m working from a lower base point than ever before. Two, I have to face the reality that I am getting older! This is the first time I have really thought about this as a concern! As I was a late starter taking up running I have tended to see improvement year on year on my training and performance, especially in the longer distances. Approaching 40, it may be that some of my best days are behind me. Obviously that’s not the way I am going to think but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern.

So what to do? Patience and belief in my training are the key words here! Be patient enough to not expect to be running low 16 5ks any time soon and believe in the training plans Tim and I are working on. I’ll get there……

In the meantime here’s a brief recap of my training since last week’s post (I’ve started using Dailymile to post my workouts so have changed the link on the side of my blog from r2w but I’m not sure it works unless you are registered on that site anyway). Regardless this is what has gone down since Thursday’s long run

Fri- 6 easy including strides and drills. Was going to take a rest day and do this Sunday but a planned night of revelry on the Saturday and a yucky Sunday weather forecast made the decision to bring this forward from Sunday an easy one

Sat- 10 including 6 mile AT tempo in 35:23. Compared to my (faster) 6 mile tempo run of three weeks ago this was a much more controlled performance and far less taxing. Coach has emphasized the need for me to stick within the assigned pace ranges for my workouts so I will make sure to do that rather than trying to hit times I believe I should be capable of and screwing the workout up!

Sun- off. It rained all day and I was hung over so good call! Total for week 58 miles (last 8 weeks since the ‘comeback’ started have been 25,31,37,42,51,35,52,58. 60 planned for coming week)

Mon- 8 easy. Felt sluggish and tired still

Tue- 9 including 4*1600 at JCSU track. Felt better today and hit the prescribed 5:20s fairly comfortably although the very brief one minute recoveries between each one made this workout very challenging!

The rest of the week will include a couple of easy days (with strides and drills on one of those days), a Saturday rest day, a long run Thursday and an LT Tempo workout Sunday. Onwards….

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Training update

Since the disappointing race below, training has been solid and thus:-

Sat 4/13- OFF
Sun 4/14- 9 miles steady. Total 35 miles for what was a cutback week

Mon 4/15- 8.5 easy. Horrific events in Boston
Tue 4/16- 4 easy am/7.75 pm including 12*400 off a minute at JCSU (average 72)
Wed 4/17- OFF
Thu 4/18- 7 easy
Fri 4/19- 5 easy. Was expecting to race an evening 5k but it got cancelled because of a forecast storm that never came. I was pissed
Sat 4/20- 10.5 including cross country 5k that I jumped in at the last minute. Repeated performance of previous Friday and lost to someone who had run 2:45 at Boston just five days prior. Hanging up the racing shoes until feel fit enough to compete to an adequate level
Sun 4/21- 9 easy. Total 52 miles for the week


Mon 4/22- 8.2 easy am/2.67 very easy pm- helping out with Try Sports ‘Run For Boston’ event
Tue 4/23- 8 including 4*800/400 off 1 minute/3 minute. Did on roads. Half miles were 2:33 down to 2:26, quarters were 72/73. Felt some wheels under me at last, good crew helped
Wed 4/24- 7.4 easy
Thu 4/25- 15.4 ‘long’. Longest run since October and felt good

So other than the race (which confirmed that I am indeed in 17 low shape right now and that the previous race was not an aberration) training has started to get solid. As noted above, Tim sent me some new schedules to follow. These were received with the usual enthusiasm and it’s good to have some structure and method back in my training. No real goals for now, just to try and get back into decent 5k shape. I received news last week that I am being sent to Sydney in July by work for a few weeks so that will create a natural end to this training block. I will target a couple of good race performances before I head to the other side of the world. Sydney will provide a fantastic training environment in its own right (I’ve been before) but I will be working long hours and living on the Company dollar (read eating and drinking more than usual!) so the goal there will be to just get in as much solid training in as I can so that I can kick on again when I get back to the US in August.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I’ve been hesitant to update the blog this week. I’m not eloquent enough to put anything meaningful together about the horrific events at Boston, and giving details about the runs I’ve done this week seems such a selfish endeavour in the grand scheme of things. Who on earth cares about my track workout I did on Tuesday night when all that went on at Boston has happened. Actually it’s made me question my motives for writing this blog in the first place but perhaps that’s an argument for another day.

Suffice to say I was as horrified as everyone else about Monday’s cowardly attacks. I’d spent the morning tracking all my friends and their brave assaults on the famed Boston course. As usual there had been a mixed bag of results but I was proud of everyone of them and jealous not to be out there myself! Then the news started feeding through and I spent the rest of the day just hoping that no one I knew had been caught up in it all- they hadn’t directly but I’m sure there will be some lasting psychological scars to overcome.

The response from the running community has been phenomenal (not unexpected) and I feel proud to be considered part of ‘that community’. All we can hope for now is that the perpetrators will be brought to justice soon and that the people injured during the incident recover as well as possible. Crumbs of comfort to the families of the deceased I know…..

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Town and Country 5k

Goal- Sub 17, blow some cobwebs off, win some cash

Actual- 17:22, blew some cobwebs off, won a beer koozie

As you can see, I only met 1 of my goals for this 'comeback race' and that one was a guaranteed achievement as long as I finished the race. The other two were actually jeopardized on Thursday before I even toed the line.

Firstly, after my run on Thursday morning I had decided that it was time I re-introduced my weekly strides and drills routine I always used to incorporate as an important part of my training. This was all well and good until I woke up on Friday with significant muscle soreness in my left groin from using muscles I obviously hadn't recruited in quite a while the day before. All day at work I was conscious of the soreness and during my pre-race lunch hour 'walk' I was debating whether or not to pull the plug on actually racing. Of course, that debate lasted all of five minutes and a few hours later I was warming up for the race and it seemed fine- 'there' but not likely to impact my race.

The 'winning cash' objective had also been thrown into jeopardy on Thursday. I went to the store to excitedly pick up my new team singlet and hoodie and discovered that Trysports shoe guru and stud runner Cody was also using the race as a comeback of sorts from his own injury issues. It happens that our respective PRs over various distances are very similar but Cody has a significant advantage in the age department. If I was to snag a victory now I was certainly going to have to work for it. The new goal became hang on to Cody for as long as possible and see what the legs had got later in the race.

This strategy lasted all of 100 yards. As soon as we turned the first corner on the course, Cody started to pull away and I didn't feel comfortable trying to match his early pace. Within half a mile I could pretty much tell the race was over unless he blew up majorly- not very likely in a 5k dash. Meanwhile third place was way back so I pretty much settled in and worked as hard as possible for the rest of the race, never looking at my watch, just running a good hard effort that I could take some feedback from later. The course was solid- tough but not overly challenging- an out and back with a significant downhill early on that was always going to be ugly when we returned later on. As we approached the three mile mark I glanced at my watch for the first time and saw 16:40 and was pretty disappointed to see that time- I ran my last Half Marathon just over a year ago at a much faster pace- but at least the race was nearly over!

Coming into the finish line

The victor and I post race, showing off our groovy new colours

Although disappointing and one of my slowest 5k times ever (I can count the number of times I haven't at least gone under 17 minutes in a race on one hand) it was still good to get out there and get that first race out of the way. The groin soreness was probably an issue, it was relatively humid and windy and I ran on my own on a tough course in a state of disinterest for much of the race. All valid excuses but all missing the real issue coming out of the race- that I'm really unfit and need to put some good solid weeks of training together to address that! Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Speed Loop reality check!

As I mentioned briefly at the end of my last post I’m planning on racing this Friday night in a local 5k that Trysports are sponsoring. With that in mind today I decided I would do a workout which might give me some sort of idea of the pace I may be able to hold on to for 5k right now. I was going to do 2 * 1 mile (2:30 recovery) and the some quarters to finish off In the back of my mind I had 5:20 as a ball park figure to shoot for and see how it felt. However, I had managed to recruit speedsters David and Brad to help out so I knew that I would be setting out harder than originally planned! Came through the first mile in just under 5:15 feeling pretty taxed, second one was just under 5:17. I was 5-10 seconds behind the other guys and it certainly felt a harder effort than 5k pace. We walked back over to the start of the speed loop and did 4*0.25 miles up and down Dilworth Road. The first one was a little fast at 71 seconds and the other 3 were a bit of a struggle in 73,71,73- felt like I was going through the motions a bit and didn’t have the heart or capability to latch on to the back of the other guys who were running closer to 70.

All in all happy I was happy with the times but well aware that I was pretty taxed to achieve them and that I was comfortably behind David and Brad for the whole workout. No apparent trouble from the glutes or knees though and I’m looking forward to the process of getting fitter the next few weeks! Friday night will just be a another step along that path

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Back in the 50s

That goes for both my weekly mileage and the thermometer gauge! Signs of spring at last (we'll soon be moaning about the heat) and a corresponding spring in my own step after a pretty decent week of training at last.

After a rest day on Wednesday I doubled on Thursday- nine with the Dowd group in the morning and four after work in the cold, miserable rain. This was supposed to be the monthly Trysports team run but the inclement weather left me as the sole representative. On the plus side I was able to pick up some new shoes at the store before the run (Pegasus 29) and have loved running in them so far!

Friday I got some early miles in with Boston bound Brad to make it 18 miles in 24 hours but the legs didn't feel bad at all and I was looking forward to completing my second workout of the week on Saturday. Before that I treated myself to a massage on Friday night where it was noted that my left quad was very tight. I mention this because usually when I get a massage it is my IT bands and glutes that are the problem areas so I was happy to hear that the extra work I've been doing on those areas is apparently paying off.

Saturday I had a 6 mile tempo effort on tap. With the family being out of town for one last night, I was able to sleep in and take full advantage of the suddenly improved weather conditions. When I met Aaron and Matt at 8:30 it was sunny and about 50 degrees with a slight chill in the air. Perfect! After a three mile warm up we launched straight into our respective workouts. Matt and I locked into slightly under 6 minute pace (I was hoping to hit about 35 minutes for the whole run) while Aaron sprinted off into the distance- he was doing 2 miles hard and then jumping in with me once I caught him during his recovery. This ended up being at the 2.75 mile mark. We ran together for the next three miles before Aaron left me in the dust, switching gears while I was stuck at tempo pace pretty much just hanging on for the end! 35:02 with splits of 5:56,55,51,48,48,44.

Fairly happy with it, though it was certainly a hard effort and I was pretty spent at the end again. However, in contrast to last weekend, I seemed to recover a lot quicker. Today's shakeout run was fine and I ended up running a little further than originally planned. Not getting ahead of myself, I'm consciously cutting back a bit this week and am excited to toe the line at a low key 5k next Friday night.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring Break

As the kids are on Spring Break, Mom has taken them to stay with her parents for the week. Although it sucks for me not being able to see them for a few days, there are some undeniable plus sides to them being away! Main one being I get to run when I want, where I want.

After Saturday’s hard effort I was able to sleep in on Sunday and do my recovery run a lot later than would have been the case had the family been home. Regardless this run pretty much sucked. I was planning on five miles but after a couple my knee was starting to get a bit sore so I called it in after 4 and walked the rest of the way home. In days past I would have sucked it up and finished the run off but I saw no point in pushing the knee any more than necessary. 42 miles for the week including a workout and a long run with some quality so all in all a good week with just a hint of caution that I need to monitor the knee situation.

Monday I was understandably a bit nervous heading out but my worries proved groundless as I completed a 55 minute jaunt with David and Derrick from the Dowd with no apparent issues. Another point to note for this early morning run was the 60 degrees temperatures which meant that nothing more than a t shirt and shorts were required- signs of Spring at last??

Tuesday I decided was workout day so I headed to the Speed Loop and did 6 * half mile with fellow Trysports ambassador and blogger Bill, Mike and Joe. After last week’s fairly light workout where I managed to hold a 5:10 pace fairly comfortably albeit for short intervals, I decided I should shoot for around 2:35 for the half mile intervals on tap this week. Although the first one was a little slow as we got adjusted to trying to run fast at 6am and my legs still had some residue from Saturday in them, the rest were pretty much on pace and I finished with a 2:33 and feeling like I had worked very hard but hadn’t gone to the well. Baby steps, now I just need to extend the length of time I’m able to run at this pace without taking a rest! Day off Wednesday, back at it tomorrow

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back to the grind

Today I did my second harder workout of the week and longest run in quite some time. With some solid easy miles on the days in between and a recovery run tomorrow that will take me over 40 miles for the week, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting back into the old routine and am looking forward to the process of getting into shape again.

Both workouts this week have been satisfactory in their outcomes but also reminders of the work I'm going to need to put in to get back to competitive race shape again.

Wednesday's 400s and 800s I was pleased I was able to show some decent low 5 minute pace turnover but had to work pretty hard to maintain it for the half miles!

Today a group of us ran the notorious Racefest Half course with its numerous nasty hills on the back half. I ran the first 6 miles of the loop with the group at a good sub 7 minute clip, then when we hit the lowest point of the course David Willis and I took off to run the last 7 at a hard effort up all the hills. At mile 10 David dropped me and Charlie had caught up with me so I ran the rest of the loop in with him. The average pace for these 7 miles was 6:18 and I was pretty much spent at the end!

Solid enough though and the knee was also very cooperative today, in fact it seems to give me more trouble on my slower paced runs than when I am pushing the pace a bit.

After 5 days running the last couple of weeks I am planning to get 7 runs in next week and get back up to the 50 mile range again

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today's workout

Did this workout today but on the roads not track


Hard work :-)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saturday double

I got to Blowing Rock mid Saturday afternoon. We were staying with a couple of other families at our neighbors’ parents’ mountain retreat which in a word was stunning, built into a hillside overlooking Grandfather Mountain. Knowing that the evening ahead was going to involve plenty of nice food and alcohol and that the weather forecast for Sunday was miserable, I decided to do Sunday’s planned run on Saturday afternoon instead. I hit up a horse path that started virtually outside the house and got 4 recovery miles in. My legs were sore but the surface was soft and the pace was very slow so I think I made the right choice- I certainly thought so when I woke up Sunday morning with a hangover and it was sleeting and foggy outside!

So that was 37 miles for the week on five days (six runs) and a little bit of ‘quality’ thrown in too, which was the goal I had for the week starting out.

This week I’m aiming to get in the low 40s on five days of running with a light workout tomorrow and a longer run on Saturday. After taking another day off yesterday I ran with some buddies in Mcalpine this morning and got about 8 slow enjoyable miles in. I’m still feeling a very slight stiffness in the right knee and wish the temperature would hurry up and climb out of the low 30s when I’m running soon because I’m sure that would help some!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tempo success

Looking back, I lied a bit in my last post, saying that if Friday’s run went well I would do a workout on the Saturday. Friday’s run generally sucked. My troublesome right leg was feeling crappy and I just ran about 5 miles before calling it in and not finishing off with the strides I had intended. So of course I still went ahead with my plan to work out Saturday.

To be honest though I did have a good excuse- it was too good an opportunity to pass up as many of Charlotte’s finest were meeting to parade their talents and polish off some final preparations leading up to Boston. Plus my family were out of town in Blowing Rock- I would be joining them later in the day- so I could sleep in before the 8am start and not have to rush back afterwards.

Most of the guys (and girls) were planning 10-15 miles at MP on the notorious PDS loop which measures at just under 4 miles and contains some good solid rolling terrain. Knowing that the fastest 4 or 5 of the 20 or so people who turned up for the workout would be shooting for a sub 6 minute pace, I decided I would try and hop in for the first lap and complete 4 miles in under 24 minutes. That, along with a 5 mile warm up and down, would give me a solid morning’s work if I could pull it off.

After a 3 mile warm up all 20 of us shot off to start the first (my only) loop. I soon found myself alongside Brad and Charlie at the front of the peloton and I settled in to what felt like a solid pace that I could maintain for the duration of the loop. Didn’t look at my watch at all, just assumed it was under 6 minute pace as I found myself at the front of the group. 23 minutes and change later I had finished my workout and pulled off to the side, waving through my fitter friends for whom the workout had just begun. I was pleased I had been able to average a 5:50 pace for the whole loop without noticeably hurting myself or feeling any pain during the run. Now admittedly this felt much more like a ‘as much as I had’ effort than a ‘tempo’ effort, but at this stage of my ‘comeback’ I’ll take it.

After a 2.5 mile cool down shuffle I waited by my car and stretched and refueled handing out fluids and encouragement as everyone else completed their own workouts. Tempo success indeed

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Starting to feel a bit like a runner again

There’s a couple of feelings I’m craving that will finally tell me I’m well on the road to recovery. One is a run where I’m not constantly monitoring how my body feels, I can just switch off and flow through the run and not worry about anything. Second is a run where I finish up and feel great, ready to head straight out again, plenty of gas in the tank. These feelings have essentially remained elusive to this point but I think there have been positive signs this week that I’m getting closer.

After getting back to Charlotte late Monday, I didn’t run again until Tuesday lunch time, which, with the time difference, meant I hadn’t run in over 48 hours. It appeared my legs had appreciated the rest as I had a far better run than any of my runs in England had been. So much so that it gave me the confidence to introduce a little bit of speedwork into the mix on Wednesday. Aaron, Jamaar and I headed over to the Dilworth speed loop and while Aaron was cranking out some 5 minute pace 800 repeats I jumped in and helped out for a minute or so at a time, ending up with over 11 minutes of running in the 5:10-20 range. Legs felt reasonable, lungs felt awful towards the end of each interval!

Another easy run today with the Dowd crew. I say easy but truth be told I was hanging off the back of the pack for most of this run even though we were hovering just around 7 minute pace throughout. Just another sign from my body that patience is key here. Tomorrow I will definitely be running solo, slower and shorter. If that goes well I intend to spin the wheels a bit again on Saturday….

A great trip home!

Since my last update a week ago I have been back and forth across the pond, had some good and bad runs, and am generally feeling better about myself and my next few weeks of running!

Thursday I took off work as I was flying out of Charlotte in the afternoon so I was able to sleep in and take the kids to school before I headed out for my run in Mcalpine. This ended up being 6 miles, felt pretty rough for the first half but legs had come round by the end. On Friday I was knackered from the overnight flight but wanted to get something in so headed out for 30 minutes on some old loops from my parent’s house. This run truly sucked as my knee and groin were achey and I generally just felt like crap, but my Dad did keep me company on his bike so that was cool. Saturday and Sunday were in a similar vein, I got the miles I wanted in but didn’t feel all that great (admittedly Sunday’s effort was always going to suck after imbibing a few warm ales the night before catching up with a couple of old friends). So I actually ended up at around 30 miles for the week, which I hadn’t seen in a long time!

Monday I spent all day travelling so had a planned a day off anyway. Other than the not so good running I had a great mini break in England. My brother brought his kids to stay the weekend so it was great to spend time with my nieces and my Mum is currently undergoing another round of chemo so having her two boys in the house all weekend was a good boost for her. Planning on taking the whole family over in the summer, just not quite sure how I’m going to pay for us all!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A run with Coach

Back in the day when I was a runner and actually training for races and what not, one of my best buddies served as my 'Coach', writing out training plans for me, acting as a mentor and someone to bounce ideas off, etc. He moved back to Cleveland a few years ago but pops down every so often on business and is in town this week as he is toeing the line in a 5k at Wake Forest on Friday night. So tonight I got to run with Tim and catch up, which is always a pleasure! On top of that, my knee which has been exceedingly troublesome the last few days, was a bit more cooperative this evening and I got 5 relatively pain free miles in. Tomorrow will be the true test of course but I'm certainly feeling a lot more positive than I was at the weekend!

Monday I headed out, could feel the knee immediately but it wasn't getting any worse so I did a couple of miles and had a good stretch after, Tuesday was 3 on the treadmill. Today was the end of my work week as I'm taking a couple of days off to visit Mum and Dad for the weekend. Looking forward to going home for the first time in three years!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Laugh or cry?

Don't know which one to do! Now I've got some knee issue going on! Feels like a mild case of tendonitis that shouldn't hold me back for long but come on give me a break! I thought tendonitis was an over use injury, maybe it's brought on by under use!

Became aware of the potential issue on Thursday as I headed out for some solo post work miles before meeting up for the monthly Trysports group run. After a few steps I could feel a dull ache in my knee and stopped to massage it out and carry on with my run. It felt better after that as my legs slowly came round but had definitely given me pause for thought. Sure enough as I headed out on a beautiful Saturday morning there it was again. This time the ache was gait altering so I pulled the plug and reluctantly headed back inside from the gorgeous weather. I managed a 4 mile run today and 25 miles for the week but could still definitely feel something as I headed out.

Let's see what next week brings!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Today I headed out for a second run in two days- first time I have done that in a while! It was 15 degrees warmer than yesterday am so pretty ideal. I went to the Dowd and met up with Aaron, Caitlin, Mule, Caleb and Philip and warmed up with them down to the Dilworth Speed Loop.

Once there, the gang rocked out some mile repeats while I just carried on at an easy pace shouting encouragement whenever our paths crossed. After about 45 minutes of jogging around I headed back to the Dowd, 6.5 miles in the bank, 12.5 for the week- by far exceeding my year to date weekly average and it's only Tuesday haha! Plan is to run Thursday and Saturday for the rest of the week and potentially Sunday too if all goes well. Baby steps

Monday, March 4, 2013

Critter run

Sunday's run didn't happen. Lightweight that I am, 2013's first excursion into town for a few adult beverages on Saturday night left me feeling the worse for wear for much of Sunday. I did actually lace them up at one point but stepping out the back door made me feel nauseous. 6 miles was not going to happen and I quickly returned to the safety and comfort of my couch.

So instead of going out to run in beautiful sunny conditions I deferred the run until this morning when it was 25 degrees and pitch dark. Luckily I don't go out on the town very often.

When I did eventually run today it was a fairly uneventful run and the leg was pretty solid. I layered up and headed off road into Mcalpine for 45 minutes, just me, my headlamp, some good tunes and the usual assortment of unidentified critters jumping in and out of the undergrowth. I was literally the only person in the park which is hardly surprising being that it was before 5 when I headed out the door.

Friday, March 1, 2013


After a day off yesterday I decided to venture out to run with the Friday morning Dowd crew for my first Dowd run in months! Although the plan is to do as many of these 'comeback' runs solo so that I can do them at my own (slower) pace and intensity, the set up this morning looked good as the crew were due to loop back to the Dowd after an easy 30 minutes to pick up later arrivals. As I was planning 30 minutes maximum myself this fit in well. Good company and 4.3 miles later I was back having a good stretch on the back porch of the Dowd with another pain free effort in the bank and the most optimism I have felt in a long time. On to Sunday

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Evening runner

So as I alluded to in my previous post, my legs have been feeling ready the last couple of days to go for a spin. I decided today that if all felt okay during the day at work I would head out for a few miles when I got home, so I did. With the gradually extending daylight hours and a beautiful, Carolina day in place it was the perfect opportunity to head into the park and do my 'trial run' on the softer surface that Mcalpine provides.

My plan for a quiet solo run that I could easily bail on without anyone knowing if required was scuppered almost immediately as I ran into Aaron within moments of entering the park! Thoroughly enjoyed catching up and the company so can't complain! We also ran into a fast group of Matena, Mitchell, Willis, Brinkley and others warming down from a workout- lesson being if you want to train 'under the radar' don't go to Mcalpine on a beautiful sunny evening!

I ended up doing a 30 minutes out and back route and the legs felt the most 'solid' they've been in recent memory, no pain of any note afterwards.

As the daylight hours lengthen I may become more of an evening runner for a while as my old legs seem to feel better after a day of walking around at work than first thing in the morning.

Going to take today off and then run again tomorrow after work

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I've decided to start the blog again!

I'm not running regularly right now, in fact I've essentially been on the sidelines since last May. For much of the time I barely think of myself as a runner any more such have been my injury frustrations! However, my body is starting to feel like it will be ready to start training again soon and I'm hoping that after so many false dawns the past few months, this time the restart will be for real!

For the second half of last year I had ongoing issues in my left glute/hamstring. I was able to put together the odd solid week of training, even venturing back into the odd couple of races but really I was running through the injury, only the good hands at Carolina Sports Clinic holding me together. I could run so I did, even though not even one run was pain free. Yes I was being stupid and in major denial, shoot me!

Then just round the New Year, a new injury struck. Great, at least I can forget about the other injury for a while and focus on this one right?! Groin strain on the other side. At last I was stopped in my tracks. I couldn't run even if I wanted to. This was a weird injury. I could barely feel it on a day to day basis but every time I did a test run I would get 10 minutes in and the pain would start to flare up again. A couple of days off and it would feel ready again only to break down on my next effort to run. So my training log for the first six weeks of the new year was a cycle of run, rest, rest, run, rest, rest, rest, run, rinse, repeat!

However, last week, a breakthrough of sorts. After yet another aborted effort, I was walking/limping around the next day and the pain in my groin seemed to have shifted around to my quad. From previous experience of injury I have found this to be a good thing, a sign of pain trying to leave the body if you like. So I haven't run for the past week or so and right now I can't feel any pain at all.

Am I ready at last to start training again? We'll see. One of the purposes of restarting the blog is to have some sort of accountability to a wider audience. If I say here that I'm going to be cautious and listen to my body more then there is more chance of me doing so. Keep your fingers crossed!