Sunday, May 29, 2011

Race Video: The Bare Bones 5K

Yesterday several DARTers attended the Bare Bones 5K in Salisbury, NC. Impressively, every DARTer who participated won an award, including 9-year-old Nicole Aswell! Marc Hirschfield and I attended as spectators and we made a little video including both action and still shots. Make sure you watch all the way to the end for a nice surprise.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Slower Than A Nekked Guy: A Recap Of The 100th Bay To Breakers 12K

By Bobby Aswell

Yes, it’s true!  At the start of the 100th Bay To Breakers 12K in San Francisco, he came by me like a flash!  Reminiscent of the 70’s song ‘The Streak’ (by Ray Stevens), ‘… there he was, nekked as a jaybird … yes they call him the Streak, looka dat, looka dat, fastest thing on two feet …’.  And then he was gone, mooning me and all of the other runners he left ‘behind!’

What a race!  Elvis was there!  As were the Keystone Cops, men in tutus, superheroes, monsters, and more!  And of course, the notorious naked runners!  Nothing boring about this race!

Threatening rain all week, start time was almost perfect for racing:  ~48 degrees and partly sunny.  Starting at sea level near the Embarcadero area, Jean and I lined up with 54,998 other registered runners, and thousands of bandits, and were ready to rock the centennial version of the race.  The countdown began:  15, 14, 13, …, 1 and we were off!

10 Minutes Before The Start
 Right away things got interesting!  After running a few yards, one woman after another started passing me on the right.  Dressed in all black and tied together at the hips with rope, I realized it was a human centipede made up of all women!  And not just any women, very fit women running six minute miles!

A few seconds later, on my left, out of nowhere, there he was!  He blew by me like I was standing still!  Nothing on but his birthday suit and a pair of running shoes!  Man, he was really mooning, I mean moving!  The crowed loved it and was screaming and cheering like crazy!  Not even a minute into the race and all of this already!

Running on, the course was rolling for the first couple of miles before approaching the big daddy, the Hayes Street hill!  For what seemed like an eternity, this hill kept going up and up and up finally cresting with the steepest section at the end, climbing an 11% grade!  Having run 5 marathons in the prior 10 weeks, my legs felt like lead going up that hill!  I kept grinding away and finally reached the crest completely whipped!  It took me the entire 4th mile to recover.  It was definitely one of the toughest hills I’ve run in a race!

After recovering from the hill, you entered the most beautiful section of the course, Golden Gate Park.  Full of lush greenery and beautiful flowers, energy filled the air as the street was lined with spectators screaming and yelling and cheering you on!  This was like an instant gel giving you a quick burst of energy to keep you moving ahead.

Apparently centipedes are hard to drop as the all dressed in black female centipede reappeared in the 5th mile.  This gave me an extra boost to pick-up my pace so I latched onto the side of them for a mile or so before finally dropping them on a long downhill.  From this point on, the course was mostly flat with a few downhill sections.

Upon exiting the park, we turned left onto the Great Highway for the final stretch to the finish.  Greeted with a major headwind, the view was magnificent as we ran alongside the Pacific Ocean all the way to the finish line!  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful finishes you’ll ever run.

Dead legs and all, I crossed the finish line in 48:47.  With a few minutes to kill before Jean finished, I pulled out my phone and started taking pictures.  Some of the characters I saw included Jack Sparrow, a masked wrestler, a manly man wearing a pink bodysuit, and a group of women dressed like bees forming a human centipede.

Several minutes later, out of nowhere, a gorgeous rainbow filled the sky!  It was magnificent!  I snapped a shot of it and then looked up and saw Jean heading towards the water table.  She finished in 1:00:15, a great time considering she hasn’t been racing any.

After grabbing some goodies and sampling everything from coconut milk to cheese and crackers to hummus, we picked up our commemorative finisher medals.  New for 2011, the medals were specifically designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the race and are awesome:

100th Bay To Breakers finisher's medal!
Continuing on, we arrived at Footstock, a huge post-race party loaded with freebies and vendors selling almost any kind of food you could imagine!  Since it was in the low 50’s, and we didn’t have any clothes to change into, we quickly grabbed some freebies and headed to the Muni bus to catch a ride back to the starting area.

A short bus ride and jog later, we arrived back at the Hotel Griffon, took showers, ate brunch, and headed to Pier 33 for the departure to Alcatraz.  The next few hours were spent exploring the ‘Rock’ before heading back to shore and eating a fabulous dinner at Sinbad’s on the San Francisco Bay!  After dinner, we headed back to the room to relax before packing for the 4:45 am departure to the airport the next morning.

All in all, this was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken!  Besides celebrating our 14th anniversary, Jean and I got to participate in a historic road race, shop along the Embarcadero, visit Alcatraz, and eat magnificent food!  A trip of a lifetime!  Can’t wait to go back!

Jean and I post-race

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Race Recap: The Siskey Y 10K

Dave Munger recounts his experience running the Siskey Y 10K. Originally posted on Mungerruns.

My workout schedule called for a 10K tune-up race today in preparation for the Steamboat Marathon in two weeks. I decided to see if I could round up a few DART teammates to join me running the Siskey Y 10K, and Mark Ippolito, Tim Richter, and Terry Ake signed on. Unfortunately Marc Hirschfield was a last-minute scratch due to illness.

The DART crew post-race
The race had an early start: 7:00 a.m., which meant that Mark picked me up at 5:10. As we soon discovered, that's 20 minutes before Starbucks opens. After driving to Starbucks and waiting for it to open, we finally got on the road to Matthews, NC at 5:35. Fortunately there wasn't any traffic at that time, and registering for the race was a breeze.

We had enough time for a quick warm-up, and the first thing we discovered is that the start of the race isn't exactly downhill, as I had thought in Thursday's strategy post. To the contrary, it was the steepest uphill segment on the course. Here's how my Garmin profile compares to profile I'd planned for (the course repeats the same 5K loop):

Above: my planned profile; Below: The actual profile
As you can see, the start was quite different -- it was roughly a 50-vertical-foot climb in about a third of a mile. After that, the course was pretty much as expected, with nice, gentle rolling hills. My goal was to run a 7:00 per mile pace, for a 43:30 overall time and a personal record. Back when I thought Mile 1 was all downhill, I had been hoping for a 6:40 first mile.

As we lined up for the start, there was another surprise -- pace teams! I'd never seen a pace team at a 10K before, but given the fact that there was a 7-minute pace team, I figured I'd join up. After a "ready-set-go," we took off, up that tough little hill. My hopes for a 6:40 first mile were dashed almost instantly. Instead, I struggled to a 6:58. Mile 2 was mostly uphill, but there were some small bits of relief, and I ran it in 7:01. I knew Mile 3 would start with a downhill section but end with a long uphill, so I just hoped to hang on until I could make it to mostly-downhill Mile 4. I passed a couple people heading up the hill, but as I neared the crest, one woman passed me back. She was a 5K racer, and sprinted to the finish while I headed back up the steep hill we had started on.

My time for Mile 3 was 7:06, but I was tiring fast, and as before, I hadn't really counted on the steep uphill start to Mile 4. At this point I had dropped the 7-minute pace team -- I guess they couldn't quite handle an actual 7-minute pace! There was no one in sight ahead of me; I knew there were at least three runners in front, but I also knew there was no chance of me catching them. The new goal was to avoid being caught! When I finally reached the downhill section of Mile 4, I knew there was no chance of making up time; I just had to hang on. Mile 4 split: 7:11. I still had some gas in the tank, but I wasn't sure I could hang on until the finish without slowing more. During Mile 5, I spotted the two race leaders, who turned out to be Jason Holder and Aaron Linz, guys I had seen at races and on Facebook but didn't really know. They had already finished the "lollipop" loop at the end of the course and were heading back on their final mile, looking strong. I pushed onward, finishing Mile 5 in 7:19.

One mile to go, all I needed to do was hang on. Mile 6 starts with a downhill, and I tried to cruise as fast as possible while still taking a bit of a breather. Now there was just .7 miles, uphill, to the finish. I pushed as hard as I could, around a corner beyond which I hoped to see the finish line. The hill just kept going up. I slowed a bit, then reminded myself that there was surely less than a half mile to go. I pressed on harder. The last little bit of the course was a slight downhill, and I tried to pick up the pace even more as I raced to the finish line. I was disappointed that I wouldn't make my goal, but I knew I had run a solid, hard race.

Then, surprisingly, I saw the timer at the finish register just 43:00, less than 100 meters away. It ticked 43:17 as I crossed the line! Somehow I had run sub-seven-minute miles even though my only sub-seven-minute split was a 6:58. It took a few moments for me to remember to stop my GPS, and it had only recorded 6.07 miles, not 6.21-mile 10K. So the course was probably a little short. Still, Garmin recorded my average pace as a 7:09, which would still be a PR for the 10K distance.

The official results are here. I got credit for a 6:59 pace, and finished in fifth overall out of 62 participants. Tim ran a great race and finished third, while Terry placed first in his age group and Mark was third in his group (I was first in the same group). A great day for DART!

I actually got a $25 gift certificate for the age group win, so this race was effectively free for me (assuming I make my way down to Charlotte to cash in my prize). Not bad for a morning's work!

This was a well-run race with good timing and excellent support on the course -- there was never any question which way to run. The only thing I'd suggest to make it better would be to place mile markers on the course and make sure it's a legitimate 10K distance. And maybe smooth out some of those hills!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Running routes in Davidson

We're frequently asked about good running routes in Davidson. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Beginner's Loop. This is a great 2.5-mile run, with one significant hill. This course also previews a portion of the route for many 5K races held in Davidson.

Click for larger version

  • Start at the CVS on Main Street in downtown Davidson. Head south (away from the college) on South Street (to the left of the Flatiron Grill). Continue about 0.7 miles, past Davidson Elementary. 
  • Turn Left onto a paved greenway just before you get to the covered bridge. 
  • At Mile 1.24, Turn Right onto Avinger Lane and head up the hill. This is a good place to take a walk break if you need it. 
  • At Mile 1.57, Turn Left onto Pine Road and continue up a gradual hill.
  • At Mile 1.85, Turn Left onto Lorimer Road.
  • At Mile 2.05, Turn Left on Thompson St but make an immediate Right Turn to stay on Lorimer. Be prepared for some rolling hills.
  • At Mile 2.38, Turn Left onto Chairman Blake Lane and sprint up the hill to the finish at Main Street!
  • Head across the street to Summit Coffee for a much-deserved refreshment.

2. The DART Loop. The one that made us famous. This is a lovely 6.38-mile run, with some significant hills, but nothing extraordinary. Join the DART group for this run every Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 6, or run it on your own anytime.

Click for larger version

  • Start at the CVS on Main Street in downtown Davidson. Head south (away from the college) on South Street (to the left of the Flatiron Grill). Continue about 0.7 miles, past Davidson Elementary. 
  • Turn Left onto a paved greenway just before you get to the covered bridge. 
  • At Mile 1.24, Turn Right onto Avinger Lane and run up the hill. 
  • At Mile 1.57, Turn Right onto Pine Road. Continue almost to the end of the road.
  • At Mile 2, Turn Left onto Patrick Johnson Lane. Continue down a steep hill.
  • At Mile 2.23, Turn Right onto Hudson Pl. Stay to the right as Hudson loops around several houses. 
  • At Mile 2.59, Turn Left onto Samuel Spencer Parkway. This will complete the small loop and return you to Hudson. Stay right.
  • At Mile 2.93, Turn Right onto a greenway and continue for .75 miles until you reach the next road.
  • At Mile 3.69, Turn Left onto Robert Walker Drive and run up a gradual hill.
  • At Mile 3.96, you will reach Concord Road, a fairly busy highway. Cross the road and Turn Left onto a broad paved path that parallels Concord, going gradually uphill.
  • At Mile 4.2, cross Concord Road and stay on the path. You will pass a roundabout and head back into town. Some gradual uphills will give you a workout before your final descent into town.
  • At Mile 6.3, Turn Left onto Main Street. Make your final sprint to the CVS! You're finished!
  • Head across the street to Summit Coffee for a much-deserved refreshment.

3. The Abbreviated DART loop. If you're not feeling up for the full 6.38 miler, try this 4-mile version.

  • Start at the CVS on Main Street in downtown Davidson. Head south (away from the college) on South Street (to the left of the Flatiron Grill). Continue about 0.7 miles, past Davidson Elementary. 
  • Turn Left onto a paved greenway just before you get to the covered bridge. 
  • At Mile 1.24, Turn Right onto Avinger Lane and run up the hill. 
  • At Mile 1.57, Turn Right onto Pine Road. Continue almost to the end of the road.
  • At Mile 2, Turn Left onto Patrick Johnson Lane. Continue down a steep hill.
  • At Mile 2.23, Turn Left onto Hudson Pl.
  • At Mile 2.3, Turn Left onto Kimberly Road. Continue up the hill.
  • At Mile 2.58, Turn Left onto Concord Road. You'll get a quick breather before a gradual uphill, then descend back into town.
  • At Mile 3.95, Turn Left onto Main Street. Make your final sprint to the CVS! You're finished!
  • Head across the street to Ben & Jerry's for a much-deserved ice-cream cone.
4. The Davidson College Trail 5K. This is a well-marked, wide trail run used by the Davidson Track and Cross Country teams. Once you find the trail entrance as described below, if you carefully follow the 5K signs, you should be led through the route. We provide some additional description and landmarks below.

The run starts at the northeast corner of the Baker parking lot -- get there by going 0.3 miles on Concord Road from Main Street and turning left on Baker Dr. (there is a small sign indicating this is an entrance to the college), heading down to the far side of the lot where a paved path heads behind the basketball stadium.

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  • Start your run by heading northeast up the concrete path towards the football practice field behind the basketball stadium. Run the length of the field to your right and look for the entrance to the trails, marked with a sign and a map.
  • At Mile 0.13, enter the trails and head downhill
  • At Mile 0.22, there is a fork in the trail. Stay Left. Run down a steep hill and cross a bridge. Head uphill.
  • At Mile 0.37, there is another fork. Turn Right. Follow the trail into the woods and then into an open meadow under some power lines. (If you arrive at a soccer field, you've gone the wrong way!)
  • At Mile 0.85, Turn Right to stay on the main trail as a rough trail heads up a steep hill to the left.
  • At Mile 0.98, Turn Right at the main junction. You will pass the 1-mile marker for the 5K route shortly after this turn. The trail will then wind through woods.
  • At Mile 1.58, Turn Left to stay on the 5K route. The 8K route splits off to the right at this point.
  • At Mile 1.67, you'll reach another junction. Turn Left to stay on the 5K route.
  • At Mile 1.96, Turn Left at a large warehouse to stay on the 5K route. You'll head downhill and soon pass the 2-mile marker for the 5K route.
  • At Mile 2.1, you'll arrive back at the main junction. Stay Right to continue on the 5K route, while the second loop of the 8K route turns left.
  • At Mile 2.3, Turn Left to stay on the main trail, avoiding the rough trail that heads up a steep hill.
  • At Mile 2.7, Turn Left at the T-junction to stay on the main trail. Head downhill, across the bridge, and up a steep hill.
  • At Mile 2.87, Stay Right as the main trail continues uphill to the football field.
  • At Mile 2.95, emerge onto the field, cross it, and run back down the concrete path to the parking lot. You're finished!
  • Head back into town to Summit Coffee for a much-deserved refreshment.
5.  Fleet Feet Out-and-Back.  This is a straightforward 10-mile out-and-back from CVS in downtown Davidson to the Fleet Feet store in Birkdale Village.  It utilizes the new McDowell Creek Greenway Trail which runs north-south between Westmoreland Rd. in Cornelius to Highway 73 in Huntersville.  Although it's not a hard run we'd give it a "B" rating in terms of difficulty, primarily because there are incomplete sidewalks and a short bridge crossing over I-77.

Click for larger image.
  • Start at the CVS on Main Street in downtown Davidson. Head south (away from the college) on South Street (to the left of the Flatiron Grill). Continue about 0.7 miles, past Davidson Elementary.
  • At Mile .79, just after crossing the covered wooden bridge into the Antiquity subdivision, Turn Right onto Old Canal St.
  • At Mile 1.25, Old Canal St. turns into E. Catawba Ave.  Continue up to the railroad crossing and Turn Left onto Main St./Hwy 115.  There is a sidewalk on the west side.
  • At Mile 1.85, Turn Right onto Washam Potts Rd.
  • At Mile 2.94, Turn Right onto Westmoreland Rd.
  • At Mile 3.19, cross Statesville Rd./Hwy 21.  There is no crosswalk, so be careful.
  • At Mile 3.45, cross over I-77.  There isn't a sidewalk but the sides are wide.  Watch for cars!
  • At Mile 3.6, enter the McDowell Creek Greenway by Turning Left just after crossing I-77.
  • Take the Greenway south.  Bear left at the two right-hand ramps.
  • At Mile 4.94, go under the wooden pedestrian bridge then Turn Right and up the ramp to the Fleet Feet parking lot.
  • Drop by Fleet Feet and say howdy.  During store hours they offer cold water; otherwise, you can visit the spigot on the outside of the building.
  • Retrace your route for the return to Davidson.  Stop by Summit Coffee for a much-deserved refreshment.
6.  Davidson Lands Conservancy's 10k Route.   This is the route of Davidson Lands Conservancy's annual Run For Green 10k.  (There is also a 5k as well as a half marathon.)  It utilizes much of the greenway, including the seldom-used south spur.
  • Head south (away from the college) on South Street (to the left of the Flatiron Grill). Continue about 0.7 miles, past Davidson Elementary. 
  • Turn Left onto a paved greenway just before you get to the covered bridge.
  • At Mile 1.24, Turn Right onto Avinger Lane and run up the hill. 
  • At Mile 1.57, Turn Right onto Pine Road. Continue almost to the end of the road.
  • At Mile 2, Turn Left onto Patrick Johnson Lane. Continue down a steep hill and Turn Left onto Hudson Place.
  • At Mile 2.15, Turn Right onto the greenway and continue for .75 miles until you reach the next road, which is Robert Walker Dr.  Go across Robert Walker Dr. (watching out for traffic).
  • Continue on the greenway until its terminus at Mile 3.4.  There is a yellow metal pole in the middle of the greenway, which ends at Davidson-Concord Rd.
  • Turn around and head back on the greenway.  At Mile 3.9 go back across Robert Walker Dr.
  • At Mile 4.6, Turn Left onto Hudson Place.
  • Quickly Turn Right onto Patrick Johnson Lane and climb up, up, up.
  • At Mile 4.9, Turn Right onto Pine Rd.
  • Take Pine Rd. past Avinger Lane and toward Davidson-Concord Rd.  Turn Left onto Lorimer Rd. at Mile 5.6
  • Continue on Lorimer Rd. all the way to the finish, which is behind the Davidson Public Library.  The finish line is across from the book drop.
Click on image for larger view.
Here is a link to the official route, along with those of the 5k and half marathon.

7.  Abersham.  A running location that's out in the country but still less than four miles from downtown Davidson, the Abersham subdivision is the place to get your hill workouts done.  It's a long story, but Abersham was planned as a development of $1 million+ homes that has fallen into foreclosure.  Fortunately for us runners the roads and greenways were put into place before bad times arose.

To get to Abersham from downtown Davidson take Davidson-Concord Rd. and turn left onto Grey Rd. Grey turns into Greystone Rd. and veers right, merging with Shearer Rd.  The main entrance is on the right, and there is a small parking lot inside.  It's important to note that there is only one house in Abersham, and it might not be occupied.  Therefore, stow and lock all valuables in your car.  There are no facilities at Abersham, so be sure to bring water and foodstuff.  No bathrooms, either.  Finally, bring a friend and/or phone.

Once you get into Abersham you can run either clockwise or counter-clockwise and you will be assured of some long, steep hills.  There is a large map near the parking lot.

Example of a clockwise run.
There are a couple of spots where you will have to step over low-hanging steel braided ropes (placed there to keep vehicles out), but otherwise it's completely runnable.  Odds are you won't see another soul, but you may see some interesting wildlife.

Although there are no paths or greenways leading to Abersham from Davidson, one can run Grey Rd., but that can be a little tricky, and it's a topic for another entry.

Monday, May 16, 2011

5k Weekend, by Marc Hirschfield

Editor's note:  This article was originally posted on "My So-Called Jogging Life".

Since I hurt myself at Disney I haven’t been able to run 2 days in a row.  Trying to take it easy and give myself time to recover in between runs.  But last weekend there were 2 back to back races for 2 good causes.  And since they were only 5K’s I figured I’d give it a shot.  Plus, there’s also the fact that 1)  I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been pushing hard enough in my runs the last few months, like I haven’t really wanted to move into the pain of pushing.  Plus 2)  I just wanted to see how my knee was going to be.  So I signed up for both the Ourboys 5K (for Batten’s Disease) and the Falafel 5K (for Jewish Family Services-got to support my boys)

Our Boys 5K
In the list of horrible, brutal diseases, Battens’ Disease has to rank pretty high up there.  The disease affects children, not when they are born, but at some point a few years down the road.  The disease leads to blindness, dementia, a variety of other problems and is generally fatal.  I can honestly say that before about 2 weeks ago I had never even heard of it.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten quite an education.  Fellow DART-er Jeff McGonnell was serving as race director for the race, and word spread through the DART blog page ( about this great cause, so I decided to head out there.  Luckily, Julia had a sleepover the night before, so both Jo and I got to go.

Jo ready to go
Race Director Jeff McGonnell ready
Tim Richter ready to run, and Dave Munger ready to keep me from dying of hydration at mile 2
Chad Randolph ready to rock
We stopped by Chad Randolph’s house to pick him up and then headed out to Concord.  The race took place at a school in the middle of a residential area, with the actual course starting and ending at the school and winding it’s way through the residential area.  At the start we met up with DART-ers Tim Richter who was also running, and Dave Munger and David Moore who were volunteering.  Nice turn out for DART.   As I said, I felt that I hadn’t been pushing hard enough recently, so I decided to go a bit harder.  After a nice and emotional sendoff from Chris Hawkins, whos’ sons both have Batten’s disease, we were off.  The only flaw in my strategy of going fast, was that I forgot that I’d be running with Jo, so we did wind up talking (at least I did, no surprise there) quite a bit, so I was a bit winded.  I’ve also noticed recently that with both running and biking it definitely takes a little bit of time for me to warm up.  I probably should’ve spent a little more time doing that, but you do what you can.  After the first mile, there was water, but I decided it was too early and I skipped it.  We made it through the first mile in 9:06, which isn’t necessarily fast, but considering how little I had been able to do since the marathon, it was great.  The second mile was a little slower at 9:23, as it felt a little hillier and I started getting thirst.  I kept looking at my garmin to see how soon the 2 mile mark was and hoping there would be water, since I was really thirsty.  We got to the 2 mile mark and thankfully Dave was there with water.  It felt awesome.  With that, we headed back towards the school, and it seemed a bit more downhill, and did the third mile in 8:58, my first sub 9:00 mile of 2011.  We put on a little kick at the end and ended in 27:58.  While Jo seemed to be barely making any effort (probably a heck of a lot easier than the marathon she had just done the week before), I was a bit tired.  But it was good.  Got to cool off, and then see Tim get his 3rd overall and Chad get his 9th overall.   A fun time.

Time and pace for ourboys 5k
Tim, Chad, and Jeff comparing notes
To keep awareness up and to raise money Jeff will be doing the “24 hours of loopy” in Davidson from Saturday June, 4th at 11 and ending 24 hours later.  Jeff will be running around the green in Davidson for 24 hours.  Please come out and support him in any way you can.  The website for this event is   A great cause, and Jeff could certainly use some support during the long night hours.

Falafel 5K
Once I heard that there was also a 5K on Sunday at our temple, I started to think about doubling up.  After feeling pretty good Saturday, I decided to get up early and head down to Charlotte.  Even though it was mothers day, Julia had a dance competition out in Concord, so she and Jo had to be up and out early anyways.  I figured that a Sunday race in Charlotte on Mothers day might not have a lot of turnout, and I thought I should go support my people, plus it was for Jewish Family Services, another good cause.  After getting there early, as usual, I signed up and got my shirt and number.

Packet pick up
The shirt was interesting as it had more info than I’ve ever seen on a race shirt before, including the start time and address.

DART shirt ready

The race would start from behind Temple Israel, head out on Providence and then wind it’s way through some of the developments behind the community, before coming back into shalom park and ending in front of the peace/butterfly statue.  Again, I wanted to try and go a bit harder today.  The race started off immediately heading up a hill, so I was winded from the start.  But right after that it was a nice long downhill.  I tried to go with the “falling downhill” method of running, and saving up some energy.  My overall goal was to try and come in around the same time as Saturday, if not a little faster.  The courses were definitely different. While ourboys had hills that weren’t that steep, but were long stretches of uphill, the falafel had more sharp ups and downs.  I made it through the first mile in 9:01 which wasn’t bad.  Though to avoid my dehydration like Saturday, I decided to drink at the 1 mile mark.  The only problem was there was no water to be had!  Once I got to the 1.5 mile mark, there was finally water.  There was only one water stop on the course, and it was right after a bit of an uphill.  I made it through the second mile in 8:58, which made me feel like I could beat the day before’s time.  The third mile had a pretty big downhill on Providence, but then a pretty big uphill back into Shalom park.  I felt winded even on the downhill.  So the uphill was even tougher.  I was moving along, but had to take a 5 second breather to start breathing again before turning into the temple.  This is where my only complaint about the course happened.  In addition to the 5K there was a fun run which started after the 5K.  They sent both run’s out in opposite directions, but both came back in the same way as well.  So the last .4 mile both groups were on the same course.  So coming back in I had to weave to avoid a bunch of young kids.  A bit tough.  At that point I was moving, but really running out of gas.  Somewhere between the 3 mile mark and the finish at 3.1, a woman came flying by me.  Normally, I’d try to chase her down, but this time I had nothing.  I could only watch her go by.  I did the third mile in 8:40, and wound up crossing the line in 27:19 a 30 second improvement over the previous day.  
No caption needed

Peace sculpture near the finish line

Falafel 5K pace/elevation
While I wished I was faster, I was pretty happy with that result.

I hung around for a few minutes to see other people finish and cheer them on.  They even did indeed have Falafel, but I (barely) avoided it, since I know how fattening it is.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my weekend of running.

-Marc Hirschfield

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Running the Morrow Mountain Challenge

"The South's Most Unique Specialty Store"
Last Thursday I headed over to Albemarle, NC to pick up some additional DART singlets.  In addition to selling vacuums and running gear and offering UPS shipping, the Vac & Dash store also does screen printing.  Truly "the South's most unique specialty store".  I spent some time chatting about running and racing with Vac & Dash owner Peter Ascuitto before heading out.

I figured that while I was there I'd get in a few miles.  Looking over Vac & Dash's many running route suggestions I decided to take on the Morrow Mountain Challenge, primarily because I wouldn't have to memorize too many turn-by-turn instructions (no, I don't have a so-called smart phone).  Peter and his crew put on a number of runs and races within Stanly county, many of which incorporate Morrow Mountain State Park.  I had gotten a taste of the hills at the last two Fellowship of the Idiots (FOTI) runs and wanted to have a nice, scenic run.

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."  -Yogi Berra
The Morrow Mountain Challenge is a Y-shaped course that hits the highs and then the lows of the park. Start at the main entrance and take a right at the intersection up to the top, which at 931 feet above sea level is the highest point in Stanly County.  Return to the intersection and head down, down, down to the boat ramp at Lake Tillery.  Return to the main gate for a total of nine miles.

1,035 feet in elevation gain

Runner's high
No kidding!
Lake Tillery
It being a weekday morning there was little traffic and I spent most of the time listening to my breath and wondering if my lungs might pop.  It was so quiet that when I came upon a small herd of deer they pretty much ignored me.
Master of camouflage
Since I'm gearing up for next month's Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50-miler and July's Grandfather Mountain Marathon I plan on spending more time doing hill work at Morrow Mountain.

Chad Randolph
Davidson Area Running Team

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In The Heart Of The Desert: Recap of the 2011 Juniperwood Ranch Marathon

by Bobby Aswell, Jr.

I always love traveling out West so when the opportunity presented itself via a business-related trip, I jumped at it.  With the travel dates in hand, I started scouring the Internet for any races in the area and wouldn’t you know it, I found one:  the Juniperwood Ranch races in Ash Fork, AZ.

Very nice race logo.
The Juniperwood Ranch event consists of 4 races:  a 48 hour race, a 24 hour race, a 50 Mile race, and a marathon.   I opted for the ‘sprint’ of the 4 and was looking forward to running in the middle of the desert.  Saturday morning arrived and I was up, checked out of the hotel, and on the road at 5:45 am for the drive to Ash Fork.  Three hours later I arrived with plenty of time to spare before the start of the marathon at 10:00 am.

Located in the desert in the middle of nowhere, Ash Fork is one of the mile high cities located at an elevation of ~5,200 feet.  The course consisted of laps run on a relatively flat one mile trail made up of dirt, gravel, and some strategically placed large rocks.  For the marathon, you ran ¼ mile followed by 26 laps of the one mile course.  Since the event was chip-timed, no lap counting was necessary (however, in my case, that proved to be incorrect) as on each lap, your name, total time, and number of laps was displayed on a wide-screen TV.  Even though the course was relatively flat, there were very few straight-aways as you were constantly turning one way or the other.  Some of the hairpin turns contained very loose gravel causing your feet to slip and slide as you rounded them.

Being my 3rd marathon in April, I didn’t really have any expectations as far as time.  Add the fact that my legs felt ‘dead’ all week and all I was hoping to do was to enjoy the scenery and complete another marathon (#162) on my way to number 200.

One nice thing about running laps is that the aid-stations come frequently so plenty of refreshments are available the entire race.  On the flip side, you start to go stir-crazy repeating the same thing over and over and over.  To help break up the monotony, the race directors decided to change the direction of the course every 2 hours so on the hour, as you approached the start/finish line, you made a u-turn and headed the opposite way.

Pre-race and ready to go!
At 10:00 am we were off.  I started out about 7:40 pace and it felt a lot harder than it should have!  I kept running steady for the first hour until we made the first u-turn of the day at 11:00 am.  At that point, the wind became incredible and my splits starting slowing!  Even though I was slowing, I was passing people left and right and was even lapping runners very frequently.

At the 20 mile mark, I glanced at the TV monitor for the first time and it’s a good thing I did.  Somehow, they ‘lost’ one of my laps and showed me with 19 complete and in these conditions, there was no way I wanted to run an extra mile!  Luckily, I was recording each of my splits on my watch so I knew I had run 20 miles, not 19.

The sun was really bright and it felt like it was sitting on my head baking away.  The flags lining portions of the course were flapping so hard I thought they were going to fly away at times.  I continued trudging along and started grabbing watermelon from the aid station and eating it as I ran.  Man, was it delicious!  Best tasting stuff ever!  After a couple of laps, I was rejuvenated and picked up the pace.

As I came running by with 2 laps to go, I yelled out that the lap counter was off by one.  Next thing I know, on the last lap, one of the race directors started running next to me asking me if I took an 8 minute break on one of the laps.  I said ‘no’ and told him that I was recording each of my splits and would show him after I finished.  I finally completed my 26th lap crossing the finish line in 3:55:42, 2nd Overall.

After catching my breath, I proceeded to the timing area to straighten out the timing issue.  It turns out they missed my 12th split making my 11th split look like 16 minutes.  It was corrected but it did make me wonder how many other people ‘lost’ laps and didn’t know it?

Unlike most marathons, no medals were given to finishers.  Instead, I received this unique finisher’s award:

Nice finisher's award!
After chatting with a few people and sampling one of the locally made wines (pomegranate), it was time for the 3 hour drive back to Phoenix to catch my flight.  As much as I enjoyed running in the desert, this was an extremely tough race due to the conditions:  intense sun basking down on you, the lack of shade, and the 20 mph winds.  All said and done, I don’t know if I would run this race again but would consider it if the start time was moved earlier, say to 8:00 am.

Bobby Aswell

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Race Report: The Big Sur International Marathon, by Dave Munger

Here's Dave Munger's report on the Big Sur International Marathon, his first. Originally published on Mungerruns

As I drove towards Monterey, California, last Friday, the wind was blowing furiously in from the sea. Beside Highway 1 was a row of dunes over a hundred feet tall, and sand was being driven over the top of them, half-burying the paved recreational path at the foot of the dunes.

I checked into my hotel and arrayed my electronic gear for charging:

You can never be too thin or have too many electronic devices!

I donned my running gear and went for a recovery run before visiting the expo to pick up my race packet. The wind continued to gust, blowing sand from the beach into my face as I tried to relax and loosen up during an easy five-mile run. If it was this windy on the shores of the relatively-protected Monterey Bay, what would it be like in two days, when I would be running along the exposed cliffs of Big Sur?

The race expo on Friday afternoon was a relaxed affair, with runners just beginning to trickle in. I picked up my bib, D-tag, and shirt, then strolled into the exhibitor's area where I bought a couple pairs of $1 throwaway gloves. Prominently on display was a stack of Big Sur souvenir fleece blankets. In retrospect, I probably should have bought one!

The next morning I met up with fellow DARTer Todd Hartung, and we went for another easy run along Monterey Bay. This time, the wind was much lighter; it was actually quite pleasant, if a bit chilly. At race pace, the weather would have been perfect. Big Sur would be Todd's 26th marathon and my first; he's a lot faster than me, so this would be my only chance to run with him all weekend. Later that day we drove the Big Sur course (I wrote a recap of that drive here). Suffice it to say that, while the hills on the course were daunting, the scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at several points along the way and tried to imagine what it would be like on race day, when the runners would have the highway all to themselves. By this time, the wind had picked up again. What would tomorrow's weather bring?

At dinner we once again stuck to the carbo-loading regime. Our restaurant featured an annual "marathon pasta" in honor of the race, and Todd and I both ordered it: Whole-wheat noodles with potatoes, peas, and corn. It was a little bland, but that was okay -- I'd rather have bland food than something exotic that might upset my stomach. Joining us for dinner were Todd's wife, and my father and stepmother, who had flown down from Oregon in Dad's small plane to watch me race. The three of them mocked us with their protein- and fat-laden meals, and we pretended not to care. I like pasta as much as the next guy, but it doesn't hold a candle to a nice piece of steak or fish -- especially when the pasta isn't bathed in delicious, fattening sauce.

I went to bed around 9:30, grateful that my parents, who were sharing a room with me, were also turning in early. I set my alarm for 3:30 and hoped to get at least a couple hours of sleep while I fretted about the race. The weather forecast was sunny, light winds, and 43 degrees at race time, warming to 55 or 60 by my projected finish time. I couldn't decide whether to wear a singlet alone, or to wear a short-sleeved compression shirt underneath. The decision was made for me when I realized I hadn't packed a short-sleeved compression shirt! I put on an old pair of sweatpants and sweatshirt over my shorts and singlet, and headed to the hotel lobby to meet Todd.

We walked to the bus pickup area, just two blocks from our hotel. The pickup was meticulously organized by race officials wearing matching jackets, ties, and running shoes. We were on a bus and on our way in a matter of minutes. We arrived at the starting area in Carmel at about 4:30, walking through the largest array of porta-potties I've ever seen before finding a stone wall we could sit on while we awaited the 6:45 start. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was unbelievably cold. I was shivering within minutes, even while I maxed out my layers and wore my $1 gloves. Why hadn't I bought one of those blankets?!? The other bad news is that we were directly in front of the loudspeakers used to make pre-race announcements. Somehow Todd and I managed to protect our ears and shiver our way through the hour and a half wait, availing ourselves of the generous porta-potty array multiple times before getting herded towards the starting line. It was only then that we realized what hundreds of runners had already figured out: There was a huge, heated grocery store right next to the start line, open 24 hours!

As I walked to the starting area, I began to warm up, and by the time I arrived in our "corral" (actually just a loosely defined area with no physical separation from the other starting groups), I knew I wouldn't be too cold on this race. My plan was to stay with the 3:30 pace team for as long as I could. Most large marathons have designated pacers running at set speeds, helping the runners achieve their goals. For Big Sur, 3:30 was the fastest team, and it was also my goal. There were also teams running 3:40, 3:50, and so on.

I knew that a 3:30 pace would be very difficult for me on a course as hilly as Big Sur, but I had trained hard for this race and figured I might as well give it a shot. Todd, fresh off a 3:18 performance in Charlottesville, was going to be going even faster, so this was a way to stay with someone running a pace I should be comfortable with for many miles. Here's the scene at the starting line:

Many runners, many cameras

There were a couple hundred runners ahead of me, but thousands arrayed behind me. Here's a self portrait:

 Me and a few of my closest friends. The tiny guy to the left finished about 10 minutes ahead of me

At this point, between the adrenaline of the imminent start and the proximity of hundreds of warm bodies, I was finally feeling warm enough to remove my sweatpants and sweatshirt. I tossed them to the side of the road, where we assured they would later be picked up and donated to charity. After the Star-Spangled Banner and the rockinest invocation I've ever heard (including something to the effect of "God grant me the strength to persevere in the face of adversity, the courage to stop in case of injury, and the wisdom to know the difference"), we were off.

The race starts with one of its hilliest sections. Within a few hundred meters, we were headed up a hill, which crested in a half-mile, then descended just as rapidly. This would be the notorious 25-mile hill on our return, but at this point it seemed only a minor obstacle. The hills kept coming, rolling higher and higher in a lovely residential neighborhood of million-dollar homes with tantalizing glimpses of the ocean every few hundred meters. This is the Carmel Highlands, considered by many to be the toughest section of the course -- when encountered at the end of the race! By Mile 4, we crested the highlands and started down a long hill. My splits for miles 1 to 4 were 7:56, 7:42, 7:50, 7:59. Here's a photo of me crossing one of the many beautiful bridges in Carmel Highlands.

Yep, that's one fine bridge

Mile 5 was a solid downhill stretch. I figured I should run this hill in an equal effort to the uphill sections, so I strode down at what seemed like a comfortable pace, which turned out to be 7:23! Perhaps a little too fast. The 3:30 pace group was now well behind me. I was still feeling very strong, not winded at all, so I decided that was okay -- as long as I didn't start running up hills at that pace. At this point we emerged into much more open country, with sweeping views of the dramatic coastline. Here are a couple photos from this stretch:

Looking good, Dave!

Feeling good, Dave!

The gorgeous scenery just goes on and on

I struck up conversations with a couple of folks in this section, including a guy who actually owned one of the multi-million-dollar homes we were all drooling over as we ran by. He had run Boston two weeks earlier and was hoping to just hang on for a 3:30 pace (kind of like me, with the exception of the whole "just ran Boston" part). He said the hardest part of the race for him was going to be resisting the temptation to turn up his driveway the two times he'd be passing it. Between the scenery and the conversation, the miles passed quickly. My splits for miles 6 to 9 were 7:57, 7:56, 7:53, 7:51.

The Big Sur course had to be revised this year due to a landslide just past the Rocky Creek Bridge, which had only been partly repaired a week before the race. Normally it's a point to point race, starting in Big Sur and ending in Carmel, where we started this year. This year it was an out-and-back course, with a turnaround just past Mile 12, right before the bridge, and a small extra loop at Point Lobos State Park. This means we wouldn't be running one of the most dramatic sections of the course, Hurricane Point, nearly a 600-foot climb to a spectacular bluff overlooking the ocean below. Although the consensus was that this year's course was harder, I couldn't help feeling like we hadn't done the "real" Big Sur Marathon. Besides, we missed out on an amazing view. Here's a picture I took from Hurricane point on Saturday when Todd and I drove the course:

As I approached the turnaround, the hills got nasty once again, but I still felt quite strong. I dropped the Big Sur Homeowner and maintained a pace solidly under 8-minute-miles. Here's a self-portrait:

Still looking good and feeling good, Dave!

As I climbed the last, tallest hill on the course, I wondered when I'd see Todd. I knew he was ahead of me, and I figured by this point he would be several minutes ahead. I had the idea of taking a picture of him as he ran by, so I got my camera out. Here's a shot from the crest of that final hill:

No Todd here

After a few minutes running along carrying the camera, I began to feel self-conscious. How long was I going to have to keep this up? Was the turnaround farther ahead than I thought? What if the camera fell out of my hand? WHERE ARE YOU, TODD?!? Finally I put the camera away. A couple minutes later, Todd ran by, chatting away with another runner. "Looking great, Dave!" he shouted. I shouted something encouraging back, but had no time to take out the camera and take a picture. I had also wanted to take a photo of the turnaround point, but it was also a water station, so I decided the better of it and took the opportunity to hydrate.

Fortunately, I had taken a picture from the turnaround point the day before

Then I headed back up the hill, still feeling quite good when I reached the 13-mile marker. My splits for Miles 10-13 were 7:56, 8:06, 8:07, 7:58.

I don't have an exact half-marathon split, but I do remember looking down at my watch just after I passed the 13-mile marker and seeing a 1:43. That's the same as my half-marathon PR, on a much flatter course. I hoped I wasn't being too aggressive. But this is also the section where the 3:30 pace team started to catch up to me. My watch still showed something like a 7:50 average pace, so it seemed odd to me that the 3:30 team would be here -- they were supposed to be running 8:01s; they should be two minutes behind me. Each time the pace team caught up to me, I'd pick up the pace just a bit. I just felt more comfortable in front of them than behind them. I decided to snap some pictures to pass the time:

I'm not the only one taking pictures

I noticed the guy ahead of me was taking pictures too, so I asked him if he'd mind if we swapped cameras and took pictures of each other. His camera was an iPhone, and even though I have an iPhone myself, somehow I screwed up and pressed the wrong button on-screen, and couldn't take the shot of him. He didn't mind, and still managed to get a picture of me:

Still looking good, Dave! But, um, next time would you mind not taking a picture when there's a car parked between you and the view?

By now my legs were starting to feel a little tired. I began to labor a bit on the uphills. It was getting warm. But I was staying ahead of the 3:30 pace team, and the scenery was as spectacular as ever. My pace for miles 14-17 was 7:58, 7:49, 8:06, 7:50.

Around Mile 18, the 3:30 pace team finally passed me, along with Big Sur Homeowner and the tiny guy from the starting line. I kept up with them for the next couple of miles, running miles 18-20 in 7:50, 7:42, and 7:53. But just after I passed the Mile 20 marker, I entered Carmel Highlands. Remember that 7:23 downhill mile? Now I'd have to run up that same hill.

This was also the final relay change point, and there was a big crowd of runners waiting for their teammates for the exchange. I saw a big table loaded with water about 10 feet off the road, but no one was handing out water to the racers. With a big hill ahead of me, I wanted some of that water. I weaved through the crowd of relay runners to the water table and reached for a cup as I ran by. Instead of grabbing it, I knocked it over. I briefly thought about stopping and grabbing another cup, but I decided against it. There had been plenty of water stations along the course, sometimes coming even more than once a mile, so I figured there'd be another station soon. I'm not sure if this was a critical error, but it certainly contributed to my losing steam. I took that hill slowly... very slowly. Mile 21's split was 9 minutes flat.

Finally there was a water station, and I was able to keep going. But I never got back to my 8-minute pace. Miles 22 and 23 were 8:51 and 9:00. I was spent. I hadn't taken any photos since around Mile 15. At this point I was on the Point Lobos spur, a march through a narrow, tree-lined road with no breeze to cool me. I was hoping for a stunning view when we reached the ocean, but when I arrived, I didn't have the capacity to appreciate it. Finally, I decided to walk. I hadn't walked yet, except for a few steps at water stops to make sure I drank every drop.

The 3:30 pace team was now a distant memory, and I shifted my goal: I didn't want the 3:40 pace team to pass me. I ran for a hundred meters or so, then walked again at the Point Lobos aid station. I told myself that I needed to run until I hit the Mile 24 marker, under a half-mile away. I didn't make it. I told myself I had to start running again after 30 seconds. Finally I passed Mile 24, a 10:14 mile. I was now four minutes behind my 3:30 pace. I told myself to run five minutes before walking again. I made it four, then walked for 60 seconds.

I was back on Highway 1, and ahead loomed the final hill of the race. What had seemed so easy at the start of the race now seemed like a huge barrier. I decided to snap a picture to show the world what a horrific ordeal I now faced:

Uh, Dave? That's really not a very big hill

I told myself to run at least to the bottom of the hill. I made it all the way to the aid station at Mile 25.1, halfway up the hill. Mile 25 split: 9:32. Maybe I'd be able to crank out a fast finish. But first, I walked for 60 seconds as I finished my cup of water. Then I started running. I wasn't going to let myself walk again. I told myself I could run slow, but I couldn't walk. I crested the hill and started down the other side. This should be easy, it's a downhill finish. Somehow, it wasn't easy. I shuffled down the hill. Practically there, right? Not quite. There was a seemingly interminable flat stretch until I finally arrived at the bridge where we had started. Looking at my GPS record, I now see that it was in fact about a third of a mile. My Mile 26 split was 10:16. The finish line, I knew, was a little farther up the highway than the start. Surely I'd be able to pick up the pace for that last, final sprint to the finish. I did speed up, but not much. My Garmin records the last 0.32 miles at an 8:25 pace—slower than my average pace for the entire race.

But I was credibly running across the finish line—I hadn't walked for over a mile. I even remembered to raise my arms in victory as I finished.

My final time: 3:37:50 according to my watch, but officially 3:37:55. That's a bit slower than my goal, but still a very credible first-marathon time. I had two backup goals: Faster than 3:45, and sub-four-hour, and I beat those handily on a very difficult course. While the corrected elevation recorded by a Garmin isn't necessarily accurate, my record shows a cumulative elevation gain of 1,859 feet. The hilliest training run I've done is the Fellowship of the Idiots, with a cumulative gain of 1,210 feet. Even if you extended that terrain over 26.2 miles, it would still only be 1,653 feet. While the hills at Big Sur were never especially steep, they were relentless: this is a very challenging marathon.

I finished in 354th place out of 3,218 runners, 280th out of 1,670 men. In my age division, I was 42nd out of 246. My average pace for the race ended up being 8:19 per mile. Many of the commenters on Facebook who have run Big Sur in the past said that this out-and-back course was actually tougher than the usual point-to-point course. Fellow DARTer Todd Hartung said he felt as good as he ever did for this race, but his 3:32:29 time was more than 14 minutes slower than his PR, so that gives you a sense of how hard the course was. So, despite not attaining my top goal, I'm very happy with my performance in this race, my first-ever marathon.

After I crossed the finish line, I handed my camera to my dad, who was waiting in the spectator area, and he snapped this photo of me.

I'm amazed I managed to raise my arms this high. Heck, I'm amazed I was able to stand up at this point.

Then I wobbled over to accept my one-of-a-kind, hand-made ceramic finisher's medal. This is definitely a keeper!

Simulated wood-grain desktop not included

Next we were funneled through a station where we were given nice trays of fresh fruit and energy bars, and finally to a surprisingly small self-service water station. While I can understand that bottled water is wasteful, it's quite difficult to get yourself a cup of water when you're feeling woozy and holding a tray of food in one hand. Fortunately by this time my dad had arrived and was willing to get me as much as I wanted. I collapsed in the grass a few yards from the water station while Dad continually refilled my cups of water. I must have drank at least 12 of them.

I do have to say the the experience of completing a marathon, especially such a dramatic one, is unlike anything I've ever experienced. While I've struggled at the finish of races before, I've never felt so simultaneously drained and elated at the end of a race. It was a fantastic journey, and I'm already planning my next one.