Saturday, November 22, 2014

2014 Star City Half Marathon

Star City Half Marathon

 2012- time 1:40:41, Pace 7:41/M, Place 56/573 overall, 2/39 in my age group, 44/253 among men
2014 Star City Half Marathon
Time: 1:35:59.9 (chip), Pace 7:19/M, Place 33/480 overall, 2/26 in my age group, 30/202 among men 

Garmin Data: HERE

I haven't been following a training schedule for any specific event this year. Since May I usually run a 4 miler an 8 miler and then a 12 miler each week with 1 day rest in between, maybe 2 days rest if anything starts to feel uncomfortable. For this race I'm swapping the 8 miler and the 4 miler so as to create a tapering effect.
Me and my lovely supportive wife.

The Event
Anything I had to prove to myself at the 13.1 mile distance I had taken care of last weekend at the Richmond Half with a new 13.1 mile PR of 1:33:08. With that weight off my shoulders I looked at the Star City Half with much less anticipation than when I had signed up for it, but even though I wouldn't be pushing myself for a PR I still had a few thoughts to keep me motivated.
Enjoying some excellent post race food with running buddy and Frank F. 

My biggest priority would be to beat my 2012 time of 1h40m. In 2012 I was starting to feel some burn out from 4 years of running/racing and I just wanted to take it easy for a while. I guess some faster runners stayed home that year because I still came home with a 2nd place Age Group award even though a 7:41 pace typically would not warrant an Age Group podium spot for 40-44 yr olds.
Nice to see Dru Sexton and get a team Mountain Junkie pic!

Secondly, I did kinda want a podium spot at a half this fall. I had a streak of top finishes, age group wins and a masters spot in all my late summer/fall races heading in to the Richmond Half, but I knew placing in Richmond would be outside the realm of comprehension given their aptitude for drawing elites, so placing at Star City would be my opportunity to realize an achievement with an award at the 13.1 mile distance this fall.

    I'm not going to elaborate on the course or the race. It was slightly tweaked from the 2012 course, but not enough to make it significantly different and the race was typical in that after everybody got warmed up and established their paces by mile 5 I didn't see any passing. 

I saw a 1:35 and change on the clock when it first came into view and mounted an attack to try to squeeze in under 1:36, I barely pulled it off with a chip time of 1:35:59.9. The finish line photo will show a 1:36:02, but that would be my gun time not my chip time. 

Close up of the Age Group award

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 Richmond Half Marathon

Richmond Half Marathon

Time: 1:33:8, pace: 7:04/M,Place 238/8452 overall, 17/393 in my age group & 180/2901 Among men 
 Garmin Data: HERE

It was a spur of the moment decision. The Star City Half Marathon on Nov 22nd was going to be my long distance fall race, but after running the Greenway Memory 10 Miler at a sub 7 pace I knew I had potential for a PR at the 13.1 mile distance if the course was right. The Star City Half is rolling hills with a few steep ones thrown in...not what I would call a burner by any means.
At the expo with Denise and Faith

The Richmond Half is mostly flat with a final mile characterized by significant elevation loss. If I was going to log any distance PR's this calendar year then Richmond would be my best bet.

Last year I logged a half marathon PR in North Carolina at The Scream Half Marathon, a point-to-point half marathon mostly consisting of 10 miles of steep elevation loss. I wasn't in the greatest of running shape last year, but as a somewhat good downhill runner I figured I had a good shot at beating my 2012 Blue Ridge Half time of 1h35m29s. I did beat it by just over a minute with a 1h34m26, but it was kinda a "gimme" statistic since it was a downhill event. The true essence of running achievement lies with running equal amounts of elevation gain and loss.
Warming up a bit before race start.
Richmond has a net elevation loss, but its mostly contained to the final mile. All things considered, a half PR at Richmond would be a significant statistic, so I had to go for it.

I started out with the 1:30 pace team and resisted the urge to run ahead at an unsustainable pace even though it would have been in my character to do so. I figured I'm not in it for any chance at a podium spot, so why even tap into my burn out reserves when all I need is a steady high 6/low 7 to PR? Position means almost nothing at an event of this size with almost 9000 participants and over 350 in my Age Group. 

I just settled in to a pace I thought would be sustainable given my stats at the Greenway Memory 10 Miler, a high 6, then I figured since this was 3 miles longer than the 10 miler that a handful of low 7's would be good energy management.

With no interest or viable reason in thinking I could go sub 1h30m, I wasn't the least bit discouraged when the 1:30 pace team dropped me about 3 miles was to be expected. I kept my mind on my cadence and only looked at Garmin once per mile when it beeped to alert me what my time was for each completed mile.

I knew I had a good bank of high 6's and low 7's so I could afford a few mid 7's without compromising my chances of a PR, but I didn't want to use any of the time I was banking. I was a bit concerned when I started logging 7:13. 7:16 and 7:15 for miles 8, 9 and 10. Not only were these numbers slower than their counterpart miles from the Greenway 10 Miler, but I was also systematically being passed this entire event. Usually I don't see much passing at a half marathon after the first couple miles while everybody is establishing their pace and stride.

Still, anything under a 7:20 counted as a success given the time bank I had established in the first few miles and the anticipated strong final mile since it was downhill. My PR pace from the Scream Half was 7:12, so I had enough wiggle room to play a little bit if energy management started to look like an issue. I was relieved when mile 10 took me back in to the 7's with single digits, but my relief would be short lived as I was starting to hit a wall of sorts by the middle of mile 11.

For the last mile and a half I kept a good cadence, but my breathing seemed off rhythm and it was messing with my head. I knew my time was looking good and that I was flirting with a 1h32m finish, but I was also considering the value of maybe just ditching the PR attempt and slowing down into the 8's or 9's just to reestablish my breathing pattern with my pace.
Making sure Garmin time and clock time and the same or close as I stride towards the finish.

I kept plugging along with reservations and stayed encouraged as mile 12 wrapped up with another 7 in the single digits and with mile 13 being mostly downhill I figure I could count on a high 6 or low 7, so my PR seemed in the bag. I wasn't concerned at all by about 5 or so more people passing me in the last mile because the podium was never in my sites anyway.
Finishing up in the 1:33's!
The finish came into view and I just cruised in at what ever was comfortable. 1h32m and 40ish was on the clock, but I was too far away to go in under 1h33m so I just took it in stride and got a 1h33m8s. 

My deepest respects and appreciation goes to my wife and daughter who waited and walked in the chilly temperatures while I ran this race. The race and the PR were fantastic, but a weekend get away with the family is always priceless. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Greenway Memory 10 Miler

Greenway Memory 10 Miler

Red=Personal Record
 2011-time: 1:07:37, pace: 6:45/M, Place 5/60 overall, 1/5 in my age group & 5/26 among men
2012-time: 1:13:35, pace: 7:22/M, Place 9/75 overall, 1/5 in my age group & 8/38 among men
2014-time: 1:08:55, pace: 6:54/M, Place 7/83 overall, 1/10 in my age group & 7/39 among

Garmin Data: HERE
The Event
I wasn't really sure what to expect from this race since I haven't been training on flat surfaces. My 10-12 milers on the steeply rolling sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway that I train on have been averaging about a high 7 pace. My 0 incline 8 mile treadmill runs have been averaging a mid to high 6. My 2 most recent races, the Bank of Fincastle 10k and the Into the Darkness 4 Miler were both within a stones throw of PR territory.

I expected to be competitive with my 2012 time on this course. I thought it would be close. 

I took the first mile at burn out pace. Completely unsustainable. Not always a wise strategy, but I knew I had enough endurance to push through the fatigue that would accompany the rapid pace drop. By mile 3 my legs were feeling tight, but not on fire. I decided to only look at Garmin once per mile when it vibrated to indicate a completed mile. As long as my calves were burning with each stride I knew I was pushing myself just enough to maintain a pace.
About 1 mile in. I was still gunning it at this point.

Holding a pace in the high 6's and very low 7's on this gently rolling course was not something I had planned on. Every mile after the 3rd one surprised me when I would look at Garmin and see the pace I had just ran the last mile at. I never looked at any other number until around mile 7 when my buddy, Frank, who had been taking event pictures yelled out that I was looking at going under 1h10m. I was amazed. I ran a bit longer then looked at Garmin's "time" and saw I was around 57 minutes into this thing with just over 2 miles to go.

Some easy math when I hit the 8 mile marker indicated I would go under 1h10m if I could just hold my pace. I could have even relaxed a little bit, but I didn't want to jeopardize my spot and my legs were feeling "locked in" to my current pace, so I didn't feel any need to take it easy on myself.

Crossing the line in right at 1h9m far exceeded my expectation. 

Much thanks to Frank, Marion and my wife Denise for getting up early to support the runners and for taking pictures.

Rethinking the Leaf...

Rethinking The Leaf...

I write a personal experience health and fitness blog. I'm not a licensed health professional, personal trainer, or doctor of any sort, mostly I just do simple race reports documenting my experiences, but I have been known to branch out and write about other areas of interest within the endurance sports and personal wellness spheres when the mood hits me...well the mood has hit me. Virginia is considering a cannabis decriminalization bill, SB 686 this month and the Republican leadership in our senate and general assembly has encouraged us to look towards Colorado and take a "wait and see" approach.

Like many people, when the elections of 2012 saw Colorado and Washington legalize recreational cannabis I did a double take. I never saw it coming in my lifetime. Then 2014 added two more states to the list with Oregon and Alaska legalizing the herb and Washington D.C. thrown in for good measure.(As of this writing DC is still in a legal limbo of sorts.)

Within the scope of health and fitness, I've taken the advice of our elected officials and used a "wait and see" approach. So while we "wait", here in Virginia, what exactly are we "seeing"?
{To be clear: I am NOT advocating for, nor do I engage in, any form of controlled foreign substance dependency in any way. I am only writing this to envision how a decriminalization bill MIGHT eventually impact some people in the endurance sports community IF the trend continues. Other issues, such as impact on gang related crime, incarceration statistics, morality, workplace safety and spirituality are best left for other posts on other blogs!}


One thing I'm seeing is THIS article from the Men's Journal on their Health and Fitness page. This triathlete has had remarkable success using cannabis infused energy bars while training. Many of us endurance sports enthusiasts are familiar with the term "runners high" and some of us have read the science linking runners high with the bodies own natural endocannabinoid system. (If not, please begin your research HERE). As far as natural supplements go it is hard to see a more appropriate choice than a cannabis infused edible.

I, however, am not a big fan of supplements. I like the satisfaction that comes from NOT following strict dietary regimes. I do consume some extra whey protein 3 or 4 times a week though and I have nothing against experimenting from time to time just to see how something might affect my training.

General Health

Inflammation is a concern for almost everybody if you are an endurance sports enthusiast or not. The relationship between inflammation and cancer is well documented and if that is news to you then here is a good read to start learning about it. We endurance athletes are particularly prone to having inflammation issues and consume more than our fair share of NSAID's. Nonsteroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs, like Ibuprofin, Aspirin and Naproxen to name a few seem to be generally safe in small quantities for short durations, but long term usage paints a highly controversial picture.

Multiple sources in THIS well documented article tell of the dangers associated with using NSAIDs in any manner. Such quotes as "Please kill my kidneys" from RICE University and the FDA warning about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke are enough for me to avoid almost all usage. 16500 deaths per year attributed to NSAIDs is nothing to make light of either.

Cannabis is well documented to have anti inflammatory properties. THIS article from National Geographic explains how THC and another cannabinoid, beta-caryophyllene, both have anti inflammatory properties. With zero deaths ever in recorded history from overdosing on cannabis I'd have to say a cannabis infused edible or maybe a small vaporized bud would be the much safer option for long term use and general health.


There is no shortage of endurance sports events in the Roanoke area. Almost any given weekend I can find a race within 20 miles, and if not then I wouldn't have to drive much further if it really meant that much to me. That said, the active lifestyle community always needs to grow. Not everyone can be or should be competitive, but just waking up and going the distance with like minded people across various terrains such as trails and urban courses is a great way to get out and meet people.

California based 420 games is a great way to reach out to a new demographic and encourage active living. The silly Cheech and Chong, couch-locked teenager stereotypes are about as accurate as the old black faced vaudeville performances. Sure, some people find such stereotypes to be funny and I'm not passing judgement, its just not anything I would want my kids seeing.

The 420 games are branching out into other states where cannabis is legal and I'd like to live to see some Virginia events reach popularity. Half marathons routinely have post race music and bands, so why not expand on that? Some also have finish line alcohol such as the VA Beach Shamrock Marathon, and Half...lets expand on that and offer something besides liver damaging intoxicants.

Run a hard 13.1 mile race, grab a beer and/or a natural anti inflammatory like a cannbis infused edible or a vape pen and then walk over to the stage and appreciate the arts with a heightened sense of appreciation for the sounds which cannabis is known to stimulate...

In conclusion...I want to present this article for public consideration and discussion. If I am missing some vital consideration, then I'm sure somebody would point it out..If my research and ideas seem reasonable, then please consider a membership or a donation to any of these fine organizations that promote the political changes necessary to make positive changes happen...

MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) 
LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)

And finally...there is no need to wait for the repeal of prohibition in order to begin an active living lifestyle. Please comment below if you would be willing to participate in a 5k, 10k, or half marathon organized by VA NORML to support the reform of cannabis laws. 
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that people using NSAIDs may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.” - See more at:
” You may as well wear a sign, ‘Please kill my kidneys’” - See more at:
” You may as well wear a sign, ‘Please kill my kidneys’” (4 Rice University). - See more at:

NOTE: Cannabis is illegal in all instances in the state of Virginia. It is a controlled substance and considerable risks are associated with getting caught with it. As previously stated, this article is to promote the public discussion only! Please do not violate laws.