Sunday, February 10, 2008

Run Forrest Run!

Ran my second 20 miler today in preparation for the Shamrock Marathon on 16 Mar. With all the races that I have been competing in (six in the last six weeks), it has been hard to schedule my long runs with any consistency. I have been able to get some good quality racing long runs in with the Norfolk Half last week and the Striders Distance Series...with a 20K and a 25K the last month and next weeks final 30K...which has helped with my preparations for the upcoming marathon. I normally don't do two hard runs back to back but after yesterdays 6K race, I was still feeling good and was thinking about putting in another 10 or so miles in at the gym after the the last time. But I felt that I really need to get another 20 miler in and didn't relish the idea of doing it on the treadmill. So...I decided today would be the day to hit the trail at the Dismal Swamp Trail...the long, flat 8.25 mile course...16.5 miles out and back. The weather was suppose to be nice but heavy winds were forecasted...12-15 mph building to 20-30 mph gusting to 40, but what's a little wind?

I stashed an extra bottle of water around the 6.5 mile mark and started my run at the main entrance with nothing but another bottle of water in gels, no beans...not even Gatorade...and again, no watch...I did note the time on the clock on my truck before starting. I liked the feel of the last 20 miler not worrying about time and pace and decided to just pace as I felt and see how it goes with the main objective of the run to get the 20 miler in with no stops and at a good pace.

I started out at a slow pace and found my legs were a bit tight and my right achilles was sore, but after about a half mile they were feeling fine. It was windy out on the course but the first four miles is protected by the trees that line the trail. Even further, there are trees on the canal side that shelters a bit as long as the wind is coming from the NW...which it was today. The wind also brought other dangers to be wary of while running this trail and it wasn't keeping a lookout for bears or bobcats. Since most of the trail is tree lined and with the heavy winds...I was constantly dodging falling pine cones and gumballs...gumballs are the seed pods of the gum tree and about the size of ping pong balls but have spikes...kind of reminds me of those floating exploding mines with spikes sticking out in all directions to sink ships. These gumballs weren't big and they didn't explode but stepping on them while running is very uncomfortable, so you try to avoid them. The road was littered with these little mines and you had to wind your way through these mine fields trying not to step on them. Then the biggest danger was falling branches...most were small but I saw a few that were quite large and could give you a good headache if hit with I tried to stay in the middle of the trail. For the first three miles or so, I would see a few runners coming back and small groups of bikers going and coming. After around the five-mile mark, I hardly saw anyone. Seems like lots of people don't like going out further got to get back too and the further you get out on the trail...the more distance you need to cover to get back to the entrance. So anyone you see this far is usually the hardcore runners or bikers getting their miles in. I kept myself hydrated by chugging on my water bottle about every mile and everything was good. At one point I could see way off into the distance with no one in sight except for the freeway that parallels the trail, off to my left about 500 yards out, and all I could think of was what these people in their cars were saying seeing me running down the trail with no one else in sight. What came to mind was: "Run Forrest Run"! I got to the end of the trail at the turn around and headed back, clicking off the quarter mile markers. It's great having quarter mile markers like this trail has because most of the time you can see the next marker ahead and the miles just seem to go by faster. At the 6.5 mile marker, I retrieved my second bottle of water. Getting back to around the five mile mark, I started seeing other people again, runners, walkers, bikers and even an inline skater. Now if I was having problems avoiding those gumballs...I wondered how the inline skater was fairing. I got back to the entrance/beginning of the trail and since the out and back only netted me 16.5 miles I kept on going out the park and down the road to the 1.5 mile turn around at the other end and back to the park entrance. This section did not have anything to shelter it from the wind. The out to the turn around was fine with a nice tailwind, but coming back into the strong headwind was quite hard especially when there was even stronger gusts. Finally got back to the trail entrance and ran another quarter mile out and back on the trail to complete my 20 miles. I checked the clock on my truck when I time was 2 hrs 38 minutes for a pace of 7:54 minute miles. I was happy with that, especially since I felt really good at the I could do the whole thing over again...But that was only a fleeting thought as I walked and stretched a bit before heading home to a hot shower and a big lunch.

Next week is the final Strider's distance series...a 30K race on Saturday...which comes to about 18.6 miles, and with my usual 2 mile warm-up, I should be getting in another 20 miler too! Looking forward to next week's race.

Happy running everyone!


cymrusteve said...

Congratulations Forrest! (I mean Charlie....)

Very solid run in tough conditions and the pace was pretty good too. Gets kind of lonely on some of these long runs doesn't it?

Now I know the correct term, I can tell you I ended up with a few gumballs lodged in the tread of my running shoes yesterday. I had to prise the spiky mines out with a screwdriver...

Have a great training week and I hope you finally shake off the chest thing.

See you at the 30k!


LetsRoll said...

Enjoyed doing the Norfolk Half with you. Nice job! I was the guy on the yellow handbike.

Looks like we did the RnR Half together also.

Say hi when you pass me at the Shamrock, I'll be doing the Whale.

Visit my blog at

-Lets Roll!

Steph Bachman said...

Way to go on your 6K race and 20 miler, Charlie! I'm amazed that you can do 20 miles with no fuel at all. I was low on salt and crusty from just my 4.9 mile recovery run today.

Good solid run. : )

Charlie said...

Thanks Steve...The chest things almost gone. Should be good to go at this weeks 30K. Should be fun!

Thanks LetsRoll! I remember you at the Norfolk half...Great job on completing it! See you at Shamrock!

Thank you Ms Stephanie! I eat good an hour before the run. The last couple of long runs and races I took along Gu and other stuff in my pocket but never used they were just extra weight. One marathon I started ditching them about the half way point and just drank what was offered on the course...seemed to be plenty for me at the time. But at the finish I am hungry and will eat everything and most anything! During a long race or when it's hot I will drink the sports drink more than the water...I figure sports drink has water in it along with the electrolytes so why do both?


LetsRoll said...

Hey Charlie,

I've enjoyed reading through your blog. Thanks for taking the time to detail your experiences with your training and your races. You've posted some good intel for some races I'm considering this year.

I read with some interest your account of cramps in the MCM and your conquering them in Richmond. I went through a similar bout during my early training. I made some egronomic changes which ultimately got rid of them. You might want to consider things like that also if it's still a problem, e.g., your shoes, your stride, your arm movement, etc.

Anyway a trick I learned from my nearly eighty year-old mother was tonic water. If you still have problems with cramps, try hydrating the night before with a quart of good ol' tonic water.

Heck, if you suffer from pre-race jitters and can't sleep the night before...make it a gin and tonic.

I know the pain you experienced. About 20 miles into a long ride my shoulders and neck would sieze up and the rest of the ride was excrutiating. I had to carry Tylenol with me to make it home once the cramps set in.

I don't think I ever had a cramping problem though after I took a preventative dose of tonic water. Your milage may vary. But if cramps are still a problem, you may want to give it a try on a training run...unless like me you've been lucky enough to ferret out the root cause by now.

Also FWIW, two other low-tech silver bullets that give me a lot of boost for on-the-course fuel:

Snickers: Taste great and lots of calories--more than shots.

Red bull: The caffiene is as welcome at ten miles as coffee is at 6:00 am. Lots of calories and electrolytes; and it also has a dose of vitamin B and other goodies which seems to take the edge off the caffiene a little.

I'm a believer in maximizing calorie density in the fuel you take in on the course. My theory, is you want to put as little mass into your stomach as possible and hence make it work as litle. Try these crazy sounding ideas on a training run and see if they do anything for you.

Good luck and keep posting.


cymrusteve said...

nice tips letsroll!

the tonic water sounds intriguing - might give that a try...

charlie: look what I just posted on the Tidewater Strider web site -



Charlie said...

Thanks for the tip LetsRoll! I was reading up on Tonic Water which is basically carbonated water with quinine. Quinine sulfate had been used medicinally for leg cramps until the FDA banned the use of prescription quinine sulfate because people sensitive to it could develope a potentially deadly blood disorder. But it is still allowed in bottled tonic water used as mixers for gin because it has a very low dose of quinine. Might give it a try and see how it need to do a fast 22-24 mile long run to test it out.

Steve...You're Bad! But who knows...I might need something to bridge the gap to the Shamrock Marathon! Besides...I still need to break 19 minutes! ;-)


cymrusteve said...

Me? Bad? Nah....

Cox is a fast course with a nice finish on the High School track. I remember way back in 2003, I ran a then 5k PR at the Cox Falcon one week before the Shamrock Marathon.

I followed it up with a marathon PR too.

Good times :)


LetsRoll said...

I've read the same history on quinine. The medicinal doses were much, much more intense than you'll get from a bottle of tonic water. Also, folks that took it medicinally tended to take it regularly and frequently.

Infrequent low doses shouldn't be a problem. Let me now if you have/or don't have any luck with it. I had good luck and other friends that have tried it have too.

And it sure does wonders for gin.