Hot Like Wasabi   2 comments

Well.. Summer is here!

Kinda snuck up on us…


Leaving for Saturday’s ride I remarked to my training partner “Ya know… the warm weather is here… I think that this is the first Saturday ride I’ve started for a long time without arm warmers”

That was a harbinger of things to come.

This was the second Saturday I’d done this ride/route. I like to ride with the St John’s county Hammerheads but… I’ve been trying to up my mileage, and they are all training for ½ Ironman events this year… so I figured a way to ride from my house, met up with them for 80% or so of their ride, then ride home.

Along the way we picked up Jeremy, a friend of mine from work. The Hammerhead boys were a bit late so we me them further along than usual… which in essence added 5 miles to our ride. The ride was smooth and uneventful, which is the norm with these guys, until one of the guys stopped with a mechanical… we all stopped with him and the conversation immediately turned to the heat and specifically where/when could we get some ice…

We stopped and loaded up… and finished up the ride 80 miles in all… drenched and with empty water bottles.
I had dinner pans Saturday night but I did manage to squeeze in a quick 5 miles in the afternoon… the warm moist air felt so god in my lungs… I ran pretty hard… composing summertime sonnets in my head… but I think I was still sweating an hour after my shower.

Rode 40 Sunday morning with my friend Mark… nice steady ride but once again easily went thru 80oz of fluid in 2 hours.

My main workout of the weekend was supposed to be 4 hours on the Ft Caroline trails… That was not to be.

The kids wanted to go to the beach… so… I mapped out a plan.
I decided to ride to the beach with them then run home. I mapped a course that would be close to 20 miles. The idea being that a few hours out in the hot Florida Sun might begin to simulate my future in the desert.

We got to the beach… the kids headed for the surf… I headed home.

What a fine idea I’d had I thought… beach cruisers, babes, bikinis, folks having a good time… everything that is 1st Street in North Jax Beach on a summer afternoon… that ended all too quickly, however as I soon turned to the west. I still felt good…

I’d knocked out a couple of sub 10s.. So far which considering the heat and my 11# pack was fabulous… we can discuss fabulous a little bit more later.

Here’s a quick shot looking back towards the beach.

Soon I got to the Beach Blvd Bridge over the Intracostal… my only real hill of the day… I felt so good that I had thoughts of running it a few more times… good sense intervened and I decided to just keep running and I’d get fancy later if I felt good.

Leaving Jax Beach…

The next section was along Beach Blvd… Busy road on a summer day but… they are putting in extra lanes which meant that I had a nice graded dirt road all to myself… I felt good… ran steady.. Having quite a good time. I even tried to eat a little… managed to choke down 2 cookies… as it turned out the only solid food I attempted all day. I was enjoying the sunshine and sweat.

I left Beach for Hodges… and a few miles of sidewalk and sunshine… this was about an hour in and I started to slow my pace a bit… I saw shade on the other side of the street and abandoned the “desert acclimation” plan for a smidge more comfort…. I was trying to hydrate as much as possible… I knew it was still a long way to go.

The next section was through a golf course community that I’d never before visited. I’d pictured trees and a nice path… not to be… lots of sunshine… some sidewalk. Another thing I noticed was the lack of any players out on the course… I got a glimpse of more than half of the 18 holes and saw nary a golfer.

By the time I got to the UNF campus I was… decidedly not… fabulous… low on water… my 1st bottle of Gatorade long since gone… and my thirst seemed unquenchable. I got in the shade of one of the bus stops on campus and pulled out a polar bottle full of Gatorade from my pack… Gatorade never tasted so good… I had to stop myself from drinking it all at once.

I did dink it all in the next mile and finished my water in the mile after that…. I’d started taking walk breaks… at first because of the heat… running to a shady spot, then walk… I kept drinking because I was thirsty… and soon I was taking walk breaks because I had stomach cramps. Needless to say I was happy to see the Publix sign.

I grabbed some G2 Gatorade from the cooler… all they had… I just don’t get G2… I mean it’s Gatorade… why not get some glucose for my muscles along with fluids and electrolytes? But I digress… Bought a bag of ice too. Got some strange looks outside Publix… haggard middle aged dude stuffing ice in a backpack.

When I got it all together… I felt better… ran for a mile straight… but I was thirsty and soon was waterlogged again… back to walking until I burped or my cramps settled down.

I was within 2.5 miles from home running, once again, on a freshly graded roadbed and came upon a huge lake of a puddle… no good way around so I hopped up onto the unattached curb… ran down it for 100 meters or so until I spied what I took for dry land…. Jumped off the curb and sank mid-calf into the mud… luckily my shoe came out with my foot… and after I snapped a couple of pix I was back on my way. Shoes full of grit, stomach full of G2 I trudged home walking some… running some… caring very little which.

Despite the fact that I had ingested close to 250oz of fluids I was down about 11# of bodyweight…

In the end it was only 18 miles… and only just about as much as I could do…


Posted May 4, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

Another weekend of RATS Prep   Leave a comment

I knew that I had a few complications in my normal wide open weekend plan

I had to help my sister move Saturday…. And the Prom was Friday.

With that in mind I decided to do 20 miles on Friday. I couldn’t run it concurrently because I wanted to (of course) be there when my daughter’s date came to pick her up… and take pictures etc….

So I ran 10 miles at lunch…. I felt good… easy and smooth.

Got home… about the time the Prom thing all came together … corsages and boutonnieres… smiles and pictures.

I’d let my daughter and her date take my car… which was fine… because I was going downtown to run and wouldn’t mind too much getting my sweaty butt in her boyfriend’s hoopty.

The plan was to loop the downtown bridges for 10 miles… hitting the bigger bridge, the Acosta, as many times as I could stand it. Downtown was hopping on a Friday night. I was not expecting that… but it was not a really big deal. I did this run with full pack… which I weighed.. 9 lbs and change. Between the uphills… general fatigue… and the pack… I was crawling relative to my smooth even splits I’d put in earlier in the day…. Walked a few uphills… and stopped numerous times to answer touristy type questions… I guess folks figured a sweaty guy running with a pack would likely know his way around downtown Jacksonville… and I do… and I’m a bit biased of course but I do live in a beautiful city… and running through downtown… watching the sun set on my city… and the lights come up… and the stars come out… was pretty cool.

Saturday was move day… but… since I was chief mover… I decided that we’d start at noon which gave me an opportunity to ride with my Hammerhead (triathlon club) Buddies… 45ish miles… and these fellas ride 22mph… all the time… not 21 or 23… Twenty-two. Good group of guys tho… and a good ride.

Moving was the weekend activity that brought the most soreness….

Sunday time for another double

Started the day with a 37 mile ride with my two best friends… their fitness is coming on… and we beat our best time for our ride course by a couple of minutes… then cooked a big breakfast for everyone.

It’s funny… how sometimes… someone’s offhand comment can burrow it’s way under your skin… more so than even sage and sober advice… or a voice raised in anger… I’d remarked on the tri list something to the effect… that I ran loops around my side of town because there was really no place interesting enough to drive any distance to experience… My old Friend Lee C replied and remarked… “well then, I feel sorry for you” Lee is a gentleman… and meant nothing mean… but those strong words… made me rethink… and doo a little googling….

And in so doing I found a trail.

Sunday afternoon was the workout I’d been looking forward to… Susan and I were planning to hit the trails at Ft Caroline. Susan’s friend Bobby met us out there and acted as our tour guide… My planning was not so great, however, the park closes at 1700… I’d never even thought of that…. So I only had time for one loop… but man! Was it fun… Roots, and dirt, and hills (yes hills!), and more roots… I carried my pack once again which only added to the challenge but all too soon 5PM was upon us and it was time to leave…

Since Susan knows me pretty well.. she was less than surprised when I asked her to drop me off about half way home. I simply got out, shoved my wallet and a couple more items in my pack… said goodbye and started shuffling home.

During the first mile I rough sketched in my head a route that would give me ~18 miles for the day by the time I got home… then shuffled my way across town. Since my pack was full I had plenty of refreshments… and unbeknownst (no, I had no idea how to spell that word and had to Google unbenounced… see the urban dictionary definition for that…) to me to me at the time I ran pretty even splits and came in right at 18 miles.

The best news about the weekend, however, is what didn’t happen… no major Achilles flare up. J

Posted April 20, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

Running QOTD   Leave a comment

One reason I run is because I love the idea of the “journey.” Like life, running is a journey, not a destination. Like jazz, running is filled with limitless routes of discovery and self-expression. I enjoy running because it provides me an opportunity to spend time with friends in a physically and mentally productive way. I run because I love seeing the world outside my door. But most importantly, I run because, like life, it presents the chance to defeat, however briefly, my most formidable opponent – myself.” – Rob Ulon

Posted April 9, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

marking an item off my bucket list   4 comments


With RATS looming on the horizon like a midsummer late afternoon thunderstorm… and a self diagnosis of Achilles tendonitis… I knew that I needed training… and I knew that I needed to be careful and not do anything stupid.

I had an idea…

My injury research had told me that I needed to run on firm even terrain.. and to avoid sidewalks…. I knew of just the place.

The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

It’s paved asphalt flat… not even a crown to speak of… this idea led me to another idea I’d often had on my numerous trips back and forth on this trail on a bike… I’d even said aloud before… “I’d like to run this one day… not just part of it… but the whole thing”

I had some new gear to try out

in no time flat my pea brain put it all together….

And that, my friends is how an idea becomes a plan.

So… I found myself at the trailhead… just past dawn on Saturday morning. With my bladder full… (the Nathan one) a pack full of snax.. Ritz Bits, Uncrustable, gel flask, phone, keys etc…

I felt pretty much ready to go.

Now this was not my 1st outing with the Nathan… oh no… I’m not that stupid.. I’d run 5 the day before as a test. And after fiddling and fumbling with the straps I thought I’d gotten the fit pretty much right

The first few miles were pretty good… trying to go easy… knowing that it would be a long day… and yes, kids… adjusting my pack. I saw a raccoon… The restroom at mile 6 seemed perfectly placed.

It was interesting to take in the trail at a running pace vs a cycling one… I had a lot more time to check out the sides of the trail… and notice many side trails that I wondered where they went….

Around mile 10 my Achilles started to complain… just the right one… and just a little. My spirits were buoyed quickly thereafter when I passed the Baldwin rail station… and I knew that I only had a couple of miles to go until the end.

Not that I really needed a boost… the thought of not running all the way to the end… and back again was never considered… this is not necessarily a good trait. It has been pointed out to me as a weakness before… that I tend to follow through with things… to the bitter end… even if in so doing more harm than good is done…

Okay enough of the self psychoanalysis… I did get a bit jolly at the far end… opened a pack of Ritz bits in celebration but did not stick around… I just started shuffling back… 14.5 miles down and 14.5 to go.

On the return trip the mile markers were a countdown since all mileage is measured from the eastern end of the trail. That is really a good thing…. Because… I’m like an acrophobic in a multi storied building… once I get up to the high numbers I’d rather not know.

At around 9 to go I happened upon a couple of hikers resting beside the road… I’d seen them before… about a mile before the turnaround… at the time I thought them to be adults… but upon meeting them again I figured late high school early college age… One asked me how far I’d run… I answered 21.8 miles… the other dude was impressed… the one that asked me the question as much as called me a liar.

Well… I’d been thinking of taking an extended walk break… as my Achilles were both in high alert pain mode but… as I was one part pissed at being doubted by the punk… and one part buoyed by the other’s admiration I decided to run on.

I sang a lot… and since I had my headphones on and didn’t much care when passing cyclists laughed at me for doing so… I walked to ease the main in my legs… then ran faster since that hurt less as well… I wanted to break 6 hours… why? I don’t know… my pace had been painfully slow but… I had a goal… and something to focus on.

With about 3 miles to go I got passed by a cyclist I’d seen a few times already… he must have done 2 or more loops out there… he slowed down… told me good job and left with a thumbs up… simple thing but it made me feel a bit better as I soldiered to the finish.

As the trailhead came into view I felt a surge of emotion… nobody was there to hand me a medal… or a mug even… but I’d done something… proven something to myself… marked an item off my bucket list that few would know about and fewer would understand. My finish time was 5:57… three minutes to spare.

Posted April 6, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

Guana 50k   2 comments

I swore that it was just a passing thing… a means to an end… dabbling in another sport.

Not really that attractive… somewhat raggedy looking… none of the trademark appeal of Ironman… no carbon fiber… or high end zoot components required.

In training for RATS I had decided to do a few Ultramarathons… for training and to have some type of longer distance running experience.

My 1st ultra had been a 35 miler on the beach… extremely small and low key… and I’d loved it… but that’s the beach… I’m a beach kind of guy… having spent most of my adult life living in a beach community.

My 2nd ultra had been a 50 miler on an abandoned rail line… double out and back… I learned a lot but remained aloof to the charms of the ultra… It’s just a long day I told myself…. Running fast is more fun

So Guana… a race in my own back yard so to speak was to be my 1st actual trail run… and first 50k. The race is basically 4 – 8 mile loops in Guana State Park.

Just because there is no real high end gear… that does not mean that logistics is not a requirement… and now that I am such an experienced (ha!) ultrarunner I came well prepared…. I had a backpack full of junk… gels… crackers… Gatorade etc…

My friend Susan accompanied me to the race… on the trip down the coast I asked her what her goals for the race were… she turned the question around on me immediately (she is an attorney). I answered rather boldly that I wanted to do the race fast enough to be able to catch up to her on her last lap and run an extra loop… She just looked at me and said… I’m just going to finish… and the way she said it… and the way she looked at me made me feel dumb…

See Susan had done a something like 12 Marathons and a couple of ultras since October… she was understandably tired and also a shoo in to finish whatever she started.

So… we get to the race site.. and the RD shined his headlamp on the big trail map and started explaining the course and giving specific directions… I listened anyway but I was sure that there would be someone to follow…

At 0700 with the sun just peeking up over the dunes the RD lined us all up… and said “Is everybody ready?”

I heard one voice pipe up… “Wait! I don’t have my satellites yet”

The question, as it turns out was rhetorical… and he almost immediately shouted “Go!”

Now I had on my Garmin too… and I did not “have my satellites” either… but… WTH we started running.

I ran the first mile or so with Susan… and I was quite surprised at how quickly the pack thinned out…

Susan urged me to get on up the trail so I picked it up a bit. For most of the first lap I was catching people… but they were pretty few and far between… I found myself alone a few times racking my brain for the race director’s words about engineer’s flags and out and backs, and turns. I managed to find my way until I happened upon Matt

Matt is in the navy… I asked if he’d ever done an ultra and he said no… with a cautious smile… About that time we picked up Jim… a seasoned Ultramarathoner that I had met at the start line… nice guy… the three of us chat and run the rest of lap one together.

The clock… my only indication of pace so far… read ~1:17 when we completed the lap… I ran off to hit the duce… and thought my companions would disappear up the trail while I stopped.

When I started my second lap I could see a runner ahead… a ½ mile later I caught Jim again… and soon thereafter a heavy breathing Matt caught us as well. As Jim and I chatted about marathons, ultras, and cycling in traffic, Matt yo-yoed off the back…

I slipped away from them both at the water cooler placed at ~4mi… roughly the half-way point… I didn’t really want to stop… just run…. So that’s just what I did for the next loop and a half… I mindlessly ran… completely alone for the most part… just me… and my feet and the trail… and I loved every step. Lots of smiles to myself. Especially on the single-track part… roots… weaving… tight corners. I saw an armadillo… and a snake.

As I started my 4th loop I noticed that the clock read 4:0X… 4:07 if I had to guess… and with that knowledge I knew that I had a good shot at sub 5:30… so I just kept running…. Saw another armadillo… I was getting tired and I guess not picking my feet up… so a root got me at one point… like a hammer hitting my big toe. I caught myself with the other leg… slightly hyper extending it in the process… probably looked like sasquatch stumbling thru the woods for a few steps. Soon after this I could feel the wheels falling off a bit… and for the first time all day I was tired and beginning to slow.

About a mile and a half from the finish I caught Susan… She admitted to not having a great day but she was still in good spirits. We clowned around and laughed a bit then I set off again on my quest to catch 5:30. I wanted to finish strong but had no speed left. I even got passed by a couple in the last mile.

But finish I did… and in ~5:27… and that, my friends, was the end of the race… but not the end of the story.

To say I was spent would be an understatement… but I knew I had one more lap to go… So I ate some… and drank some…trying to pull myself together enough to not slow Susan down on her last lap.

All too soon the break was over and we set out for one more… more walking than running but that was fine by me… Nice day… good conversation… the miles while difficult passed quickly… Soon it seemed we were on the back part of the course along the Intracostal… We rounded a corner and pulled up to the beach right in front of us were two boats… one Sherriff’s boat with lights flashing and a civilian boat…

Susan wanted to go see what was going on… I vetoed that idea and insisted that we keep moving. 10-15 minutes later we hear sirens in the distance… piquing our curiosity about what might have been going on back there… a mile or so further on we meet a park ranger headed towards the far side of the island… He stopped long enough to tell us that some people had found a body floating in the Intracostal… so that’s what all the commotion was about….

Well we finished… then hung around to help clean up the site a bit…

We ended the day… sitting with friends… drinking beer at a bar overlooking the Intracoastal.

I think I’m in love with this trail running thing in spite of myself…

I had an absolute blast… like a rollercoaster at an amusement park… I want to get right back in line and go on the ride again!

Posted March 31, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

BFAS Duathlon   2 comments

I’m not going to do a traditional report this time… I got my hands on a bunch of pictures.

off on the first run… the dude in the Gator skinsuit over my left shoulder would be my nemeisis… he was one of 2 guys who passed me on the bike….

check out the guy above with the gloves on… there were many who did the whole race in gloves…. one dude had them on backwards… I guess he thought his knuckles might need the padding if he got into some fisticuffs out on the course.

I am cold… that’s my cold face.

With 6 180 degree turns wind and rain… lots of slowing down ad speeding up… I seem to have been chased by the police at some point…
Had just repassed Gator skinsuit guy somewhere along here….
Looking for the turnoff back to the TA
Oh… yeah… right turn
Off on the 2nd run…. chasing Gator skinsuit guy… who passed me in the TA depite the fact that I had the best spot possible in transition. I could see him and “Ralph” (some guy who works at a local bikeshop) who also passed me on the bike.

the lady that you can see on my left shouldre was so cute… in her mid 50s… she was doing her first race… and had a blast out there…. she had just remoounted… because she stopped, got off ther bike, and got a drink… despite her noobness she seemed to really get it… as she smiled and laughed and went hard all day.

At the finish… I’d caught both of the guys who passed me on the bike… and only got passed once… by the dude who took 2nd in my AG….

Posted March 23, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized

Race Report – Gate River Run 15k- "What a difference a Year Makes"   1 comment

As I often do… I re-read my race report from 2009 the day before the subtitle of this entry is what hit me…

In 2009 I had started with the masses… after being a runner and triathlete for over a decade I had decided a few months prior to get serious about my diet and training and I was just beginning to see results.

Flip the calendar 12 months to march 2010 and the consistent work I’d put in had paid dividends… I had a seeded race number… and was hanging out in the front corral with some fast friends from the local track club. I was planning to run with Barbra, my friend from work… and had already gotten in a decent warm-up with her and her boyfriend Steve…. I felt good.. no injuries… just maybe a little tired…. And slightly bandaged up.

I’d had a full training week complete with a leg work out on Wednesday and a 10 miler on Thursday.. hard to fit everything in with ultras looming… on top of that I had my 2nd Mohs Surgery in as many weeks which meant that I had 13 stitches in my chest…. I’d stayed out a bit to late on Friday night too.. but with a group ride and long run on Spring Forward Sunday.. I thought Friday night out was the better option.

But like I said before… I felt pretty good…. Ready to run…. And to not think… because I had a plan!

Barbra is one of the best female AG runners in the city… she was aiming at a 68 for the 15k… my #1 goal was sub 70… and easily attained I thought if I just stayed with Barbra….

When the cannon went off we were only about 20 rows back… in a crowd of 16,000… getting into a rhythm was easy… just run with everyone else. It felt fast… but it was supposed to… In the second mile my legs started to hurt a little… and for one second I thought… then immediately told myself “Don’t think Meat, Thinking can only hurt the ballclub” at which point I settled back in on keeping up with my pacer.

Mile 3 I got separated from Barbra a bit… she had slipped behind me… I figured she was just letting me lead for a while… swapping the lead is something we often do in training… so I thought little of it… I would never have guessed it would be the last I’d see of her until the finish line. Soon after I lost my partner the check engine light came on…

Mile 4 – cramps and a noticeable slowing in pace… my inner Scotty was yelling “”I canna change the laws of physics! I’ve got to have thirty minutes.” I hated it but knew I needed to back off the throttle just a bit or risk blowing up.

Around the mile 6 mark some local band was playing a cover of Cake’s “The Distance” with my cramps fading I hit the gas again to see what I had left. Near the top of the Heart bridge is the 8 mile mark… I hit it in exactly an hour… my hopes for a sub 70 were all but evaporated. I ran as hard as I could down the other side and to the finish and just made it… as long as this is an acceptable way to write my finish time…


Although I’d missed my goal I had, however, shown some significant progress… a nearly 8 minute PR over the same distance the year before… not to mention the joy of the journey through those calendar pages.

Posted March 16, 2010 by cowartm in Uncategorized