Monday, November 12, 2012

First Trail Race–I Finished Happy!

14183_4720711583165_1150147315_n-croppedMy sister inspired me to run and now she’s finally inspired me to run trails.  I’ve also heard from other local runners that have been loving it, so I had to get my butt out there and get dirty!

In preparation for the Rockledge Rumble 30K, I trained weekly at the North Shore rails on Wednesdays after work.  It was definitely warm, but my goal was to get used to the trails and a pace that I could handle.  I put in about 8-10 miles each night that I went out there.  I definitely encountered my fair share of mountain bikes.  They were pretty courteous.  I usually wear headphones, but for safety on the trails, I go without them.  It helped me listen for those bikes and enjoy the nature of it all.  One thing about no headphones was that I would heard the occasional rustling on the sides of the trail.  That would always get me running a bit faster.

I’ve heard that trails are easier on your body, but I think it’s still pretty darn challenging.  Per my Garmin which is probably not totally accurate with elevation changes, here’s a look at the ups and downs of the 30K trail race.  There definitely seemed to be more ups than downs.


Before the race

It was definitely different at the start of the race.  As Mark O. stated, Trail Races are chill!  They definitely are… it seemed a lot less stressful, except for my usual butterflies and excitement.

I caught up with friends before the race.  They gave me some last minute trail tips.  Thanks to Steve Griffin on recommending on lining up closer to the front and letting others pass you up.  It’s definitely challenging to pass on the trails.

A huge thanks to Felix for coming out and cheering me on.  It’s so great to have his support.  He was at the turn around point twice and of course, the start and finish. He’s the epitome of an encourager.  He doesn’t say, “Yes” just for you to hear “Yes”, but he says that right things.  It’s a hard thing to say, but there are certain things you say to someone that’s feeling fatigued.  He played his role very well.  Thank you, Felix!

The First 15K

0011-croppedThe race itself was two 15K loops.  Luckily, it was the section of North Shore that I trained on.  I knew it pretty well.  Also, I’ve heard it was the easier portion of the trail.  Ummm… thank you!

After we started, we had about a half mile on the road until we got to the trailhead.  This definitely allowed us to separate a bit.  Once we got into the trails it probably took a mile or two to settle into a good pace.  I intentionally made sure not to pass anyone until 3-4 miles out.  I wanted to stay behind people to force myself to have a slower pace.  Then I started passing people with a couple of others, but would settle in behind the next runner.  You definitely have to keep your distance more on the trails than on the road.  If you’re too close it’s too hard to see roots or upcoming twists and turns.

It was great to see Felix at the first water station.  I pretty much didn’t need anything so I trucked right on through.

On the final portion of the first 15K I had a great conversion with a female runner.  I told her that it was my first trail race.  Her great trail race advice to me was to not be a hero and walk up the steeper inclines.  You don’t lose much time by doing it and you save your legs.

The Great Fall of Mark

685405657Up to this point of running trails and running, I have never fallen.  I was told that everyone falls… so I was waiting for it.  It finally happened!  I was completing the first 15K.  I saw Felix up a head and I’m sure that I was about to wave to him, but next thing I know… BAM, I was on the ground – face down.  It was a 4 point landing as I caught myself with both hands and knees.  I dusted myself and laughed it off.  Felix let me know that he was 5 seconds from filming me as I was running up.  He got to see me fall, but didn’t record it.  That would have been fun to see.  He said that I was a good sport about it.  Well, I’ve heard that everyone falls, so I might as well be a good sport.  :)

My knees were sore after the fall, but no blood… so I guess no foul!  I wore the dirt on my hands like a badge of honor!

The Second 15K

The first 15K was definitely enjoyable.  The second 15K was WORK. 

I didn’t mind the loops as I like things to be a little predictable.  I can count down to the Murrell Park water stop and then the way back.  It’s kind of a way to break the race down into consumable chunks.

The field was definitely thinning out after the first 15K.  I passed 3-4 people on the way back out.  I was getting the hang of it… looking for an opening and then “on your left”.  The big thing about passing in a trail race is knowing that you’re going to be committed to a pace faster to the person in front of you.  I’d hate to have them ask to pass a few minutes later.

Once I got to the water station, I refueled a bit and chatted with Felix.  I told him that I was ready for this thing to be over and that I was getting fatigued.  He encouraged me to keep pushing and that he’d see me at the finish.

The last portion of the race I took a short wrong turn which probably cost me a minute.  When I caught up to a runner that I passed up earlier, he said, “You took the wrong turn, didn’t you?” I said, “Yep” as he wished me well as I ran by.  I was so ready to finish.  The wind was brutal toward the end as you ran toward the finish line.


0046Steep steps at the end… really!?!  I was determined that I was going to conquer those steps and do it with a smile.  I remember recently having a Twitter conversation about finishing happy… that forced the big grin on my face.  To the right is proof that I bound up those stairs with a huge smile on my face!

Before running the race I did have a time in mind.  Since my training runs were done at a pace of 9:30 minutes per mile.  I was hoping to shoot for 10:00 minutes per mile which would have been about been about finishing at 3:06 for a 30K.  I finished at 3:13:45 for 19.4 miles.  So, I was pretty darn happy with that time.  I know that I shouldn’t have a time goal for my first trail race, but that wouldn’t be me.

I was very surprised that I finished as the 6th male and 10th overall out of 73 runners in the 30K.

I’ve signed up for the Grasslands Half Marathon in March, but am looking for additional trail races for 2013.  The great thing about the Grasslands race is that my sister, Denise will be here from Ohio to race that one.  I cannot wait to see her then and to enjoy the race with her.

I’ll definitely be back for next year’s Rockledge Rumble… possibly the 50K?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Race Recap: DRC Half …aka… Sub-1:40 Half

After seeing Brian’s blog post on his race, I thought I’d follow his race recap format, so here goes.


It was pretty darn awesome! I knew that I wanted to PR, which I wanted to get below my PR of 1:43:05.  But, I pretty much killed that and then some… 1:39:56.  CRAZY!


Uhh… no, but I won when I ran past that Finish Line!  6 weeks earlier I ran in the Heels, Hills, & Him Half Marathon.  It’s not a highly competitive race.  In that race I ran 1:43 and came in 9th place overall.  There was no way that this was happening at this race.  There’s always a lot of fast runners at this race.

I came in 19th of 124 in my age group (45-49), 152nd of 917 men and 182nd of 1,968 overall.  I’m super happy when I can come in the top third or in this case, the top 10% of the runners.  It’s just my thing.


20121104_072023It’s always fun to meet running friends before the race.  Idle chit chat on the weather, what we’re planning.  Erik, one of my running friends, spotted a number on my hand.  He asked what 7:52 was – I told him it was the pace that I needed to be under to hit my PR.  After saying that… internally I was doubting if it was possible.  I was kind of laughing it off at this point.

It was cool that Cairo and his girlfriend came out to volunteer at the food tent.  They had fun.


I felt confident that I could PR this race, but there’s always a voice of self doubt that pops in your head.  It usually comes moments before the race.  Felix got to hear it a bit before we started.  He assured me that the temps were cooler than my previous Half and to shut up and just do it!  We agreed to run our races as we’d try to start together.

We lined up between the 1:40 and 1:50 pace groups.  A bit closer to the 1:40 group.  Felix and I got separated almost as soon as we started.  He got to a pretty fast start which I was not ready for.  We agreed to an 8 minute per mile start, but that was definitely not the case.  I glanced down and saw that we were already at a 7:18 pace.  Too fast – too early!  I let him go, but I kept an eye on him.  At about mile 3, I caught him and he told me to push.  He’s the best encourager ever!

Check out the above video at mile 4 at the 9:00 minute point to see me and then shortly thereafter Felix.  I’m in black shorts and a yellow shirt.

My breathing seemed very even and controlled for most of the race.  I had some challenges in the neighborhoods with the hills, but kept telling myself that I had to get past the spillway. Just like Brian, the spillway is my nemesis!  It’s not the longest, but something about is so UGGGGHHHH!  It’s probably that I just ran through all of the other hills and have to cap it off with the spillway.

It took me a couple of miles to recover from the spillway, but once I did I figured that I had a shot at a Sub-1:40.  My legs were feeling a bit at this point, but I was still feeling good.  I actually couldn’t believe that I was still holding onto this pace.

It was cool to see running friends out on the course cheering for us.  Every once in awhile I’d hear my name yelled out and see a familiar face… what a boost!

Throughout the race, I could see the 1:40 group, but it always seemed that they were out of reach.  I didn’t know how far ahead they were.

I really like running White Rock Lake, because I know it so well.  I know how far we’ve got to go to complete the race by landmarks.  It seems very achievable when you know the twists and turns of the lake.  There really aren’t any surprises.

Once I started into Norbuck Park, I gave it all I had and finished strong.  When I turned the last corner and saw the finish line, I thought I might’ve started my kick too early, but just willed myself to hold on. I caught a glimpse of the finish clock, it read 1:40something.  I stopped my Garmin after crossing and it read 1:40.  At that point I was totally excited about a 1:40 finish!  It was more than I was expecting and hoping for.

Elaine-MarkImmediately after finishing, I was being handed my finisher’s medal by a volunteer, but I tactfully declined it from them and got it from Elaine.  She was there volunteering in a boot.  This woman is a beast… always moving, always pushing, always encouraging!  I stole a hug from her and for once didn’t cry after the PR.

Cairo and Baylee said that they would watch me finish, but I didn’t see them.  I kept looking over at the fence line.  I waited and cheered on my running friends… Felix, Erik, and Michelle.  I love seeing people finish a race!

After some goofy pictures, I finally called Cairo and asked where he was at.  He asked me the same.  I told him that I was finished.  He was worried as he saw Felix, Erik, and then Michelle finish, but not me.  He missed my finish and thought something happened to me.  It was great to hug it out with him when he found me.  He was proud of dad and was bummed that he missed my finish.

1 - smileWe made our way to the official results board and I was officially on Cloud Nine as I learned that I hit sub 1:40!  This is definitely something that I never ever uttered as a goal!


6:18 pace last .20

It’s crazy looing at these split times.  When I first started running I never thought that they’d be mine.  The fun thing is that I think I can get stronger, faster, and go longer distances.


Why the improvement in time?  I’m chalking it up to INSANITY and somewhat to running trails once a week.  I feel like both are making a stronger runner.  This is a big reminder that I might not see improvements daily, but I need to keep after it daily if I want to surprise myself.


I’m super excited about my very first trail race on Saturday.  It’ll be the Rockledge Rumble.  They had 3 distances to choose from – 15K, 30K, and 50K.  I chose the 30K to push myself and act as a nice challenging long run before the Dallas Marathon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Don’t think you are, know you are!

Hit Me

This Sunday I’ll be running in my 19th Half Marathon. Whenever I run a race, I have high expectations… usually it’s to beat a previous Personal Record (PR).  However, that PR number at times seems so far out of reach.  That’s when I think of one of my favorite scenes from The Matrix.

“What are you waiting for? You're faster than this. Don't think you are, know you are. Come on. Stop trying to hit me and hit me.” -Morpheus

Self doubt will came, a more challenging course will be thrown my way, and other possible issues that may be out of my control, but Sunday, I’ll be drawing on knowing that I’m faster than this and know that I am!

I always try to remind myself… As long as I’ve done the training, I’m stronger than the last time that I raced.  I’m faster than this – I’m faster than the PR!  I hope you realize this too and knock the crap out of your PR!