Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Running Back in Time - Southeast Texas

I recently took a short trip to my hometown in Texas.  I needed to get in my long run so I decided to explore some of the places where I grew up.  As a young kid I knew we did not have much but we always made the best of things.  My first stop was 6th Avenue, in Port Arthur.  This is the first house I can remember living in.  The key word being remember.  Today it is just an empty lot.  Things I can remember are The DelaRosa family next door, playing with matches under the house, and my first game of spin the bottle.  Next stop was Sam Houston Elementary. Of course I had to run a lap around the recess field.  My time at Sam Houston was probably my earliest memory of running.  I remember a kid who ran around the field every day throughout recess.  I wonder if he still runs today?  Then I ran couple blocks to my grandmother's house.  There are so many memories here,  it's hard to decide what to list.  The zip line in the back yard, the old attic fan that created a hot breeze though the window, working on low rider cars with my uncles.  The house still looks the same just slightly different landscaping.  Next came the tears, I don't know why but they just started flowing.  Seeing these neighborhoods in slums, some of my friends today would be afraid to go to an area like this.  There were cars on blocks, litter all over the school grounds, and white crosses everywhere.

Next, I headed over to the mid town area.  I decided to visit my mother's grave.   The cemetery is very large but I easily maneuvered my way through.  The odd thing was the signs everywhere saying no gaming in the cemetery.  I guess the pokemon game is big in the area.  There was nothing emotional at the cemetery, but I took some pictures of Mom's grave
as well as my Nonny's & Poppy's.  There was a man sitting in a truck nearby.  I wondered if he was going report me for gaming in the cemetery?  I tried to go out a different way and took a wrong turn.  This led me to the Asian burial grounds.  I think they spend whatever money they have left on their grave site.  Some of them looked like rooms.  There was a guy out there laying granite floor tiles at one.  Personally I would rather be cremated, then spread my ashes in the woods where I love to run. Or maybe donate my body to science and study what a lifetime of running and eating unhealthy has done to me.  Really, it's not unhealthy, it's just good food.  I still think after they finished studying me, I would like to be in the woods. Sorry I digressed a little.   Now off to Groves where there are more white crosses everywhere.

Groves is the small town  where the second house I remember living.   I could not help but notice the improvement in the way the houses looked.  I guess when we moved to Groves we where middle class, the houses were nicer and the s school district was one of the best in the area.   I don't go back home often,  so I had to figure out how to get to my old house from where I was.  I knew the general direction and it was supposed to be a long run, so I was not that concerned about getting lost.  During my search to the house I found Groves Middle School.  This was the best part of my whole run.  The pavilion I played kick the can under brought back memories even though the school was totally remodeled.  As I was reminiscing, there it was, the track I ran my first race on...it was still there...still the original cinder track

with the little rusty metal building next to it.  I could not help but to sprint a lap around.  It felt fast but I know it was slow.  I can remember spending summer recreation in this area.  Riding my bike over to swim, run and play basketball.  I ran over to the baseball field where I played little league. 

Boy did I suck, I was probably the worst kid on the best team.  All I was good at was bunting and running.  I made my way over to Carolina St., for those of you that don't know, this was the house that burned down when I was in high school.  My mother died there a couple years before, so I am kind of glad the house is gone.  Again this is a period of my childhood where there are so many memories.  Moak's Meat Market, where I used to play and watch them slaughter the animals, the elderly neighbors, that always took me under their wing and talked for days on end, the girl that ran away from home and hid in the woods for a couple of nights.  My pets, Keynes the dog, rabbits including Othello that lived in the house until he took a chuck out of the kitchen table, chickens, ducks and turtle.  There were other pets  too.  The trees around the new house looked the same, I can remember climbing high up into one and just swaying in the wind.  Mindi, my sister flipping the go cart when she was out of sight and us thinking is she ever coming back.  Running around barefoot and coming home with tar on my feet from where it bubbled up out of the street in the summers.  Probably the most important lesson I learned in life was at this house.  When you buy the flexible pipe to fix the gas leak always buy the Teflon tape that goes with it.  Either that or don't have a dog that likes to chew on things.  Some mistakes you only make once.  At least I did not burn the house down in Port Arthur when I was playing with matches underneath it.  I joke about it, but I don't blame myself, the leak had been going on for several days and we left the garage open to let it air out.  At least there were gun shells in the garage that woke me up in the middle of the night.  By the time the fire alarm went off in the house I had already woke my dad but it was too late. 

All in all it was a pretty good run.  It's not uncommon to go through various emotions on a long run, but it's not that often that you get to go back in time.  I have to say running on that track was the highlight of my trip to Texas.  There have been times I went home and went to PNG, the high school I graduated from, to run on the track but it wasn't the same.  The track is rubber now and everything around it has been updated for the better.   Did I mention that I saw crosses everywhere?  In Alabama you see them where people have died in an accident or at certain times of year in celebration.  They were everywhere, in the flower beds, up against the house, at the edge of the road.  I asked relatives what it was about and it turns out a group tried to have a cross removed from Port Neches Park due to separation of church and state.  The city sold a small piece of land to one of the local churches so that they no longer owned it.  To show support for the cross some of the churches gave away crosses to homeowners.  Now there are thousands of crosses all over the Golden Triangle area.  You can read more here

Thanks for spending a few minutes of your time reliving my memories with me.
After thought...My wife made fun of me for playing kick the can as a kid.  She thought that was a game from another generation.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Couch to 237.7--yes that's miles

"If your dreams don't scare you they are not big enough"
--Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

All my running friends know that I have fallen off the wagon the last several months.  This is going to be the ultra year.  I plan to go from sitting on my butt and gaining 20 lbs. to setting a fastest known time running the Katy Trail in November 2016.  The goal will be 3-1/2 to 4 days to complete the longest rails to trails project in the nation.  I am working out the training/racing program now, so stay tuned for details.  What's your opinion, is a 100 miler, like Thunder Rock to long to be considered a training run?

As part of my goals, I will also plan to bring more awareness to a local rails to trails project I am working on in Madison County.   Here is the Facebook link, please go like that page as well.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Don't be a Jerk

Yesterday I ran in the Destin Rodeo 5k and meet the biggest jerk ever.  I thought I would write about it so that you know what not to do during a race. 

The race was an out and back and finshed with a right turn then 20 yards to the finish. I am not sure of his name but we will call him Jerk. Jerk finished then came back to the turn to take pictures of his wife who is the lead female.  She makes the turn to the finish then Jerk proceeds to step out into the middle of the turn to take a picture of her run in. I tell him to get out of the way as I am making the turn and have to go around him.  Immediately after I finish he comes over with his wife. I am expecting him to apologize but instead he tells me something to the effect of "I would be different if I ran a time that matters."  Needless to say that at this point I had a few things to say to him as well.  She was polite enough to apologize for him. 

Lessons to learn from this: 
1 pay attention to the runners on the course
2 if you have a fast wife take pictures of her face instead of blocking runners coming up behind her. 
3 if you want to recover from a 5k really fast go tell Jerk to say something stupid as you finish. It will get your adrenaline really pumping. 
4 don't be a jerk 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Skechers GOrun Ultra Review

So now that I am on my third pair of Skechers GOrun Ultras, I figured it is time to do a review.  To start let me say that I am a neutral runner and have had issues with Morton's Neuroma over the past several years.  In March, I had surgery to remove the nerve related to the neuroma and since then have opted for running shoes with more cushioning.  I started wearing the Sketchers in February of this year and in that time I have logged ~900 miles over three pairs.  During this time I have done the following races: McKay Hollow 25k (technical trails),  Black Warrior 50k (MUD!), Coldwater Mountain 50k (100 degree temps), Barkley Fall Classic 50k (no explanation needed),  as well as several 5k cross country races and a few 5k to 1/2 marathon road races.   I have started using these shoes for all my training and racing whether on the road or trails.

The pros:
  • Cushioning
  • Wide toe box
  • Overall fit - true to size
  • The shoe laces -the flat laces never come un-tied
  • Did I already say the CUSHIONING
  • Wide tread pattern does not seem to excessively pick up debris
  • Price - about 20-30% less than most of my other shoes
The cons:
  • Wear - when running on the roads the shoes wear faster (see pictures below) it does not seem to effect the cushioning on the roads but go back to the trails and you start to feel the rocks.  This is only after excessive wear.
  • Other reviews talk about the stability or rolling of the foot on trails.  I did not find this as a problem.  I did lace through the very top hole to tighten the shoe up a little more because when I first wore them I thought this was an issue.  I do not feel that way any more. 
  • I had one shoe separate where the upper connects to the sole in one small area.  (see picture)  I do have to say that this pair took the most beating with water, mud, and technical trails.  This did not seem to affect the fit.  I wore them for quite a while after noticing the tear.
  • I have had issues occasionally with the insole on my two older pairs.  When I accidently kick a rock/root I have had the insole curl up under my toes.  It happened several times and once I had to take the shoe off to fix it.  If you don't run technical trails this probably would not happen or if I picked up my feet. 
All in all, if you are looking for an excellent shoe that has tons of cushioning and is affordable this is the shoe for you!  I have bought new pairs at around 300 miles but continue to wear the old pairs on the road.  The newest pair has not seem to wear as bad but I have been on trails a lot more lately.  I seem to replace them a little more often than some of my other shoes but with the lower price I do not mind this.  Don't let the cons I listed scare you, I tried to explain my particular problems.  None of them would keep me from buying another pair.

 Small separation between upper & sole after lots of wear.
Wear patterns on all three pairs from oldest on left to newest on right.
It's hard to see but the ball of the foot and lower left on heel have the most wear from the way I run.
So now that you have finished reading this go to Fleet Feet, get a pair and hit the trails!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Adrenaline Rush

Today I was running in the woods on Monte Sano.  Focused on the rain soaked trail, just another training day.  This time of year not as many people use the trails so they get over grown and you have to watch for all types of critters.  Todays sightings included centipedes, a box turtle, a bunch of spiders and a couple of deer.  You would think the adrenaline rush would come from floating along the trail not even feeling the ground beneath your feet.  Nope, that did not happen today.  You might think it would happen as I am walking next to a beautiful waterfall and my feet slip out from under me then I roll across the hard rocks below as the water flows over me.  Nope, while that did happen it did not cause the adrenaline rush.  It just plain hurt!  So you may be asking yourself what could cause it?  Well, I was running along and all the sudden about 20 feet away, just behind me over my left shoulder,  the loudest commotion I have ever heard in the woods.  It was way too loud to be a group of deer.  I immediately stopped and turned around in a panic, then I realized a large tree branch had fallen just off the trail.  Yes this was the adrenaline rush, if you want to call it that.  It made me think of Cary Long, I had to check my shorts to make sure I didn't panic too much.  It startled me so much I decided to walk for a second.  Maybe it wasn't an adrenaline rush after all and it was just fear.  Who knows?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Michelle Madness

This is the story of my wife's couch to 25k.  First let me say that if you know Michelle, she has always said running is a spectator sport.  She has always supported me and my crazy adventures and been there with her camera to capture the moments.  Many times she is just as tired as I am after a race from finding her way around courses so that she can crew me and get pictures.  Enough of that though, this story is about her running McKay Hollow Madness 25k. 

I don't remember the exact details of what made her want to do the race but I think it had to do with her completing the Huntsville Half Marathon, which she completed in 2:40:37.  I basically challenged her to try McKay since it was "only" two miles further.  She knew that it was hard just from me talking about it in the past.  One thing lead to another and boom she was registered.  I told her that she would have to train for the race or I would not let her do it.  Well, throw in a son playing baseball, a daughter playing volleyball and me, a needy husband with a busy schedule, and when do you have time to train? 

The training - over the past couple months, we tried to run different sections of the course and get in 4-5 miles at a time.  This was usually one day a week, the rest of the time we would try to run some of the flat trails in our neighborhood.  This was typically 2-3 miles at a time usually one day a week.  This sounds like two days a week averaging 6-8miles, well I just looked at her log and I was exaggerating. 

Here is the real log:
January - 3 training days - 6.85 total miles
February - 7 training days - 23.8 total miles
March - 4 training days - 15.7 total miles (not including the race)

The game plan - well I threw out the not letting her race if she did not train.  We went in with the goal of finishing in the cutoff time.  For the women reading this, the answer is yes, we had to go shopping to try to find a cute outfit that matched her new bright pink Sketchers trail shoes.  We also had to buy several different kinds of snacks for the race since she had not trained with anything and we were not sure what she could eat.

The race - we started out slow but faster than what I thought she should be running so I kept telling her to slow down.  By the time we entered the trail head we were near the back of the pack.  Honestly, this is exactly where we needed to be.  This early in the race any time we came to a larger hill I told her to walk and conserve energy.  Early on it is easy to run some of these, but with the training she had done I knew it would catch up later.  When we arrived at the first aid station we were way ahead of the cutoff and due to not drinking much our bottles were still partially full so we skipped this aid station.  I keep telling her that she needed to eat and drink, at times even giving her Honey Stinger chews/waffles.  Because she hates to eat when running and did not train with food she would not eat enough.  In the next section, she started to have problems with her stomach bothering her.  She was a trooper and kept pushing on.  I was amazed when we made it to the second aid station still way ahead of the cutoffs and on pace to finish around 4:30.  We refilled our bottles for the first time and even the aid station workers told her that she was not drinking enough.  Everything was going good until we descended on Arrowhead Trail to Big Cat Hill.  At this point she started running out of energy.  Big Cat Hill zapped her even further, once we topped it we were reduced to a true walk/run.  Once we reached the bottom creek crossing, I told her to walk through the water to try to refresh her legs some.  She did but just barely.  We started up Cry Baby Hill and at the next creek crossing (the area where you cross the boulders to stay out of the water) I just jumped in the water and told her that was the trail.  Again, she was a trooper and slowly waded through the water.  Cruel joke, I know, but it is very refreshing if you have never tried it!  Finally, Death Trail, I just kept pushing her to walk with a purpose.  I didn't think we lost as much time as we did or that we would be so close to the cut off, but by continually moving forward we made it.  Her finish time was 4:53:48.

So what does all this mean?  It means I am very proud of my wife.  She is an incredible wife, mother and yes she is a runner.  There have been many times people have asked if she runs too and I have always said no, but that is not the case anymore.  Michelle is a runner!  Do I agree with her couch to 25k program? No way, but I do enjoy spending time running with her.

Disclaimers/Warnings - If you are getting started running, I would not recommend trying to complete any 25k with this little training.  I ran with her the entire time and experience with the course as well as regular training will make your experience much more enjoyable.  My minimum recommendation is that you do the race distance mileage for your longest week of training before the race.  You should gradually build to this level.  Secondly, nutrition plays a key role in any longer race, we chose Honey Stinger since she used it at the Half Marathon.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Faking It

Over the past 2 months, I have paced at the Rocket City Marathon, run three 50k's (Recovery from the Holidays, Mountain Mist & Black Warrior) and ran the 11 mile option at Tick Ridge 25k (aka cut the course by mistake).  All this sounds impressive, but the reality is I did not put in the work needed to get the performances I wanted.  Instead I faked it, my fitness level gets me through about 23 miles then I just do what I can to finish.  It's somewhat discouraging because I know what I am capable of, but pushing through those last several miles teaches you about yourself. 

In those last several miles you begin to talk to yourself, sometimes even outloud.  Telling yourself "you can do this", "get your breathing under control, relax", "hold it together, it's not that far."  Breaking the sections down to mini segments, "20 steps walking then I will run", "I can run to that shadow, hill, mud hole, etc."  Then the other thoughts come into your head as well, "my foot sure does hurt", "I just let 3 people pass me", or "there is no one in sight it's ok to walk a little longer."  The thoughts you want to ignore are "what the ____ am I doing", "I just need make it to the next aid station then I can get a ride"

Part of my problem this season has been the fact I have Morton's Neuroma on my left foot.  It's a problem I have been dealing with for two years.  I was hoping that the cortisone shot I got before the marathon would hold me through the season, but it did not seem to help much this time.  I have an upcoming appointment to discuss surgery to relieve the problem.  This is just one excuse and most of you know the saying, any excuse will do.

Even though I titled this faking it, I do have to say I have had some really amazing finishes this year.  Not my best times but some great experiences.  At the marathon, pacing with Alex Clark and Christy Scott we got to watch a hand full of people just run away from us and beat their goal time.  At Recovery, my son, Christian ran the last 9 miles with me and Michelle joined us for the last mile.  Mountain Mist was my 10th finish and at Black Warrior, I got to see my friend Alyson Chicosky finish her first 50k then hug her husband Jason as she cried.  Oh and I can't leave out my finish at Tick Ridge coming in with Alex in first place on the 25k only to receive my first disqualification for taking a wrong turn.  By the time we realized we took a wrong turn it was too late to figure out how to fix it, so instead we came in to win the unofficial 11 mile.

The reality is I love running, especially trail running and I rather fake it, than put in the mileage which would just damage my foot worse.  You just have to adjust your expectations if you are going to fake it.  You also have to have a positive attitude and see all the amazing things that happen around you.