When the Whole Family is Running

The Stepson

“I’ll give you $1000 if you run a 10K in 59:59 or less before you are fourteen”

This is a challenge that my 13 year old stepson is eager to conquer. So far, he has made two attempts at capturing the prize; and while he’s missed it each time, he barely missed it…

Austin Henry unbelievable first 10K time

…and still walked away with an age group trophy.

Saturday, he will try again at the flat and fast Possum Trot 10K at the Chattahoochee Nature Preserve and I really want him to make it. …well, kinda – $1000.00 is a big hit to the ol’ wallet.

The Wife

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”

That’s how my wife responds when friends and family ask about her new found love for running. Although there is no monetary goal for my wife, she has also been bitin’ by the running bug.

She started first with a 5K, finishing somewhere around 33 minutes. Next, she moved to the 10K distance, her seemingly favorite distance, and has continued to improve her times with each race.

Like my stepson, she has been walking away with age/sex division trophies as well – I am very, very proud of my family and their new accomplishments.

Babette and Austin score running trophies

The Stepfather and Husband

We all know I am way to self-centered to skip myself in all of this.

While I typically train for, and run, ultramarathons, it has been a blast running with my family. In fact, running the shorter distances with them during the week has helped me to improve my own 10K speed and as a result, score a 10K personal best of 47:17.

This should get me a great starting block spot for the Peachtree Road Race in 2009.

What Has Running Together Done for the Family?


  • Family togetherness, instead of individual interests
  • Stronger personal connections
  • Healthy competition
  • Weight control
  • Increased energy
  • Improved fitness
  • Improved athleticism – especially for my stepson who plays soccer.
  • Bragging rights (we all love’em)

If you have the means, I strongly suggest you give family running a try in your household. Start out with walking like my family did …then, increase to running short distances …then longer distances…

Support the family and they will embrace the activity and develop their own sense of accomplishment and goal achievement.

Next thing you know, your busting your hump to keep up with them!


Chattooga 50K Race Report

When You Finish a Race in Your Underwear, There’s Got to be a Story

Chattooga 50K Finisher award

As I rolled out of bed at 3:30 a.m. for the drive the South Carolina, I knew it was going to be hot. I pulled up the Weather Channel on the laptop and saw the 95 degree high temp warnings, and thought I was prepared.

I was not.

Not for that heat.

For me, and many other runners, The Chattooga 50K was a race full of pleasure and pain. A whirlwind of emotions, physical struggle, and mental fatigue; yet, all wrapped up in a package of incredibly beautiful single-track trails, diverse vegetation, varied running terrain, enthusiastic and helpful volunteers, and ultrarunning icon veterans from all over the southeast.

This is easy

I am learning that this is usually the first sign of trouble. The ultrarunning Gods seem to enjoy making things seem too fun, too nice, too pleasurable in the early stages of race, …just to shock ya later on with a firm and healthy beat-down.

The first few miles of the Chattooga 50K was mostly a slight downhill grade, along some technical terrain of roots, loose rocks and a heapin’ helpin’ of fallen trees. To our right was the river – the Chattooga River, I think – and to our left was a very steep wall of either mountain rock or vegetation. The single-track trail was tight and technical and although we were moving slowly, didn’t leave much margin for footing mistakes.

“This is so damn nice”, I thought to myself as I trotted along, overlooking the rushing river, and dancing across the rocks and roots.

Sandwiched Between Two Chicks

Get your mind out of the gutter…

After a period of confusion about which way to go, I found myself in a group of people much faster than myself. This is where I met Kathleen, from Tennessee, who, runs like a gazelle and I think ended up as the first place female. She held the pace ahead of me while Robin, from Atlanta, whom I suspect scored third place female, ran in the spot behind me.

Now what’s a manly-man to do?

I knew the pace between these two speedy girls was too fast for me, but quite honestly, I enjoyed running and chatting with them, so I did my best to keep up.

That didn’t last long, maybe one mile, and soon Robin asked to pass, and her and Kathleen were off to the races at a pace much more suitable for front-runners.

Long and Slow vs. Short and Steep

The Chattooga course was not the most difficult course in terms of brutal climbs, but there was some stretches of climbs that while not super steep, were very, very long. After leaving the turn-around aid station, about mile 16, there were some climbs out of that section that appeared to be two or three miles long.

Just long, steady grinds with limited relief.

Up to this point in the race, around the halfway point, everything was peachy. I was strong, running well, and while I wasn’t on pace for PR, I was close, and ready to give it a valiant effort.

And, then, the meltdown began…

My God, It’s Hot

During those long climbs out of the turnaround aid station, between miles 16 and 22, around 10:30-ish, the heat began to suck the life out of me.

In the six mile trip from the turnaround to the last aid station I suffered a couple of good falls, complete with mouthfuls of dirt, a few cuts, and ran out of water about four miles into it. I suffered through the last two miles to that last aid station with no water, which on a normal day would be easy, but on this day, it was downright dangerous.

I started seeing spots and getting dizzy which is something very new to me, but little did I know it was only going to get worse from here.

The Last Aid Station

I stayed at the last aid station too long, but I was still making great time and a PR was still looming as a possibility, although my condition had deteriorated greatly and it was only getting hotter and hotter.

The aid station volunteers were reporting 95 degrees, and I still had ten miles to go, but I figured if I fueled up, drank plenty, and rested just an extra 5 minutes, it would pay big dividends in the end.

hahahahahahahaha. whateva’

So Much for a PR? Hell, So Much for Sanity

I left that aid station and enjoyed about two miles of downhill, easy running.

Woo Hoo! …PR here I come!

I got to the end of that downhill section, entered back into the rolling, technical trail sections, and was trotting along easily…

…when everything went haywire…

I couldn’t focus. My eyes simply bounced around and I was seeing multiples of everything.

“What the hell?”

I stopped running. I shook my head around a little. Nothing. Nada. I couldn’t focus and now I was seeing stars and spots again.

I was more than a little frightened. I tried to walk, but was misstepping so much that I was afraid I would get really hurt if I didn’t chill out.

“This sucks”, was all I could think. “What is wrong with me?”

I sat down, took two S! Caps, ate some Clif Blocks, and finished off my water over about a 5-10 minute span.

That did the trick, at least allowing me to move forward without seeing double and triple, but not exactly “quite right”.

I started slowly running for about ten minutes, got thirsty again, and realized I was out of water – I had finished it off during my “episode”.

I started cussing like crazy and felt very helpless. Looking back, it probably wasn’t that bad, but at the time, with my brain in a state of mush, it was very traumatic. I had a slight bit of fear for my ultimate safety since I was completely alone, out of water, wandering around in a confused state, and very freaked out.

I just kept moving. When all else fails, one foot in front of the other.

I could hear the river, but this only served to frustrate me more since I was running along a ridge, with a steep, gnarly drop off of thick vegetation, and there was simply no way to get down to the water. AAARGH!

Eventually, although it seemed like hours to me, the trail meandered close enough to the river for me access it, and I plunged my entire body, wedged between two rocks, right in the river – shirt, shoes, shorts and all, and laid there like a dead man for about five minutes without moving a muscle.

I drank directly from the river until my belly was bloated, and then filled up my Nathan Backpack/Water Bladder.

Who Needs Running Shorts Anyway?

The entire race my running shorts were driving me crazy. Since I’ve lost a bunch of weight, they don’t fit me like they used to and they constantly fall down during downhill running sections. Since they were caked with dirt from all my falls, I took them off, scrubbed them along a big rock with rushing water, and somehow lost control of them only to watch ’em take off down the river.

I was in no condition to try to chase them down – not that I could have anyway – and there I stood in my green, spandex-y underwear all nut-hugged and ass-squeezed.

“Well, at least they won’t fall down anymore”, I thought, and pulled myself out the river, pleased-as-punch to have liquid, but no-so-pleased about running in nut-huggers.

All I could think about is, “How am I going to explain this at the finish?”

Land of the Lost

While the water was a life saver, I was still not quite right, and I kept getting myself lost on the trail. All I had to do was follow the white blazes – how hard is that?

Apparently, too hard for me.

I got lost about four times, one time almost killing myself on a steep incline, where I slipped, went sliding down a steep wedge, heading straight for a v-section of exposed tree roots at a good rate of speed, and at the last second caught myself with my arms and shoulders just before my leg got wedged into this precarious situation.

Thank goodness for my upper body strength – If I wouldn’t have caught myself with my arms first, I surely would have broken, or severely damaged my leg.

And then, finally, other people!

Susan Donnelly and a guy name Rich, I think, ran up on me at about three miles from the finish. Together as a threesome we also managed to get confused, and I got so frustrated with the getting-lost thing, I let them go on and laid back down in the river.

Two minutes later, they were back. They went the wrong way. {grins}

I got out of the river and followed them again, hoping to get the hell off of this course. Times be damned, I just wanted to finish, alive.

Rich dropped back behind me, and Susan pulled ahead, and somehow, in that short moment of time that I was alone again, literally less than a half mile from the finish, I took another wrong turn, went another half mile in the wrong direction, and went all the way to Kings Creek Falls.

“Hey wait, there weren’t any waterfalls in this race…”

You can only imagine the flurry of cuss words that left my mouth as I stood there, realizing I was lost yet again, and in so much pain that trying to collect myself and figure out what I did wrong seemed impossible.

I just wanted to lay down, give up, and go to sleep.

How did I get lost – again – so close to the finish line?

I trotted back the way I came, and sure enough, saw my missed turn.

I was again, out of drinking water, and so eager to finish that I just took off as fast as I could run, across a wooden bridge, up the white blazed trail, towards the voices, and finally, finally finished the race… in eight hours, six minutes and some change.

…standing there in my underwear, I tried to explain…

But, it wasn’t working.

Everyone got lost at some point or another – no sympathy for Christian.

I sat down, ate three Subway sandwiches, and waited for my buddy to finish – he finished fours later, just missing nightfall.

When we left, very near dark, there were still six runners out there the course …or, off-the-course, as the case may be.

I hope everyone made it back safely.

Pleasure and pain.

Chattooga 50K Garmin Data

This is the data from my Garmin. I know it’s not accurate on the total elevation gain/loss since it showed:

Total elevation for the Chattooga 50K as reported by Garmin 405

Here are the maps, which are much more accurate:

Chattooga 50K Profile

I loved the race.

The course was simply stunning. Sections of this trail are some of the most beautiful anywhere.

This was great training for me, both for heat training and for training in simply keeping it together to the finish. While I got frustrated, I never “lost it”, and only have myself to blame for getting lost as much as I did.

Interesting Chattooga 50K tidbits that made this race special for me:

  • Experiencing a new, beautiful trail
  • Soaking in river ala Laurel Valley style
  • Seeing a big ol’ black snake
  • I got to spend a lot of time with three of my ultrarunning idols, Byron Backer, Rob Apple and Susan Donnelly after the race.
  • I finally met Ray K
  • A very enthusiastic and helpful volunteer crew
  • Cool finisher awards {pictured at the top of this report}
  • Running with some fellow GUTS members, and meeting new people
  • Seeing local road race speedster Kate Brun and watching her tear up the trail
  • The consistent blue butterfly {personal}
  • Watching my buddy finish even though he spent the entire racing puking his guts out, losing it at the end, and pretty much suffering through the entire race dehydrated and cramped-up.
  • Watching some of the first-time ultrarunners finish.

Who’d a thunk a 50K would go that long?

Garmin Forerunner 405 Review

The Garmin 405 Running Watch

Seeing has how I seem to have a reputation as “that guy” who always shows up least prepared for races, long runs, or any endurance trek of just about any kind, it seems unusual that I would plunk down $300 for a Garmin Forerunner 405.

But I did.

And if you’re reading this, you probably want to know if it’s worth it, right?

GPS-enabled Sports Watches

As a little background, I first became interested in GPS-enabled sport watches since a majority of my running is on the mountain trails. On the trails there aren’t exactly convenient little mile markers along the way like there are in the running parks; nor can you “drive the course” to get an idea of how far you are going.

The GPS-enabled watches offer the promise of distance monitoring, pace, laps, and more.

I bought the Garmin 205 a couple of years ago. After playing it for about 15 minutes, i found it slow, cumbersome, confusing, and it looked like I was wearing a laptop on my wrist. Thing was huge.

I sold it to another ultrarunner 3 days later.

The New Garmin 405 | A First Look

Garmin Forerunner 405 Sports Trainer

But this new Garmin is different. The size and shape of the Garmin 405 is about the same as your average Nike sportswatch. I bought the black one, and the design is sleek and dare I say, “stylish”.

You can easily wear it as both your training device, and your everyday watch.

In “training mode” the battery life is rather weak at eight hours, but in “low power” mode, usually just plain ol’ watch mode, the watch will last for two weeks between charges.

The band is strong and sturdy and feels good, but it’s a bit short. I have small joints, but those with large wrists, may find that they need a longer band. There are lots of accessories for the Garmin 405, but surprisingly, no wristbands of varied lengths available at this time.

“Ok, So it looks cool, but how does it work?”

The 405 locates GPS satellites very quickly. Usually, it will lock on to a satellite within 30 seconds of beginning training setup; however, I have also experienced as long as two minutes for it to make a reliable satellite connection – still, a strong improvement over the previous Forerunner models.

Accuracy? Well, this I just don’t know.

With regards to distance, the 405 has been spot-on. I have now clocked over ten runs and one mountain biking trip of known length, and Garmin was accurate each and every time down to the tenth of a mile.

But elevation? I dunno. I think the Garmin could be overstating total elevation during a training period.

A Run on the Appalachian Trail

Saturday, May 30, 2008, a group of us headed up to the Amicalola Falls Lodge to taken on the beautiful, but beastly, 16-mile Appalachian Trail approach to Springer Mountain. While this is a difficult course with a lot of elevation loss and gain, it’s hard for me to believe it’s a total of 12,000+ up and 12,000+ down.

Out-n-back to Springer Mountain - Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Elevation information for AT approach trail

However, since it is an out-n-back course, the elevations seem consistent both ways, so maybe it is accurate.

I’d be interested in other runners’ opinions who may have run this route in their own training. Is it really that much climbing and descending?

Garmin Connect | Use the Web to Keep Track of Training

Managing your training information is simple with Garmin Connect. The approach trail run information shown above is a screen shot from my Garmin Connect Dashboard. The dashboard provides indepth information about each of your runs storing you pace, distance, time, elevantion gain/loss; and if applicable, your laps, heart rate, cadence, calories and much more.

But it’s the Google Maps integration that really makes this online application shine. Below are some of the maps of our Appalachian approach trail run. Notice there are traditional map views, satellite views, and the very cool, terrain view.

Map View

AT approach trail map view

Satellite View

AT approach trail satellite view

Terrain View

AT approach trail terrain map view

…and of course, you can zoom in various section to get detailed views and information. Check out the close-up view of the springer Mountain summit below:

Zoomed Springer Mountain terrain map

Springer Mountain summits sits close to 4000′ …Cool huh?

It’s all wireless, baby …well, almost

The 405 tranfers all it’s data to the internet wirelessly using a small USB “key” that is constantly scanning, waiting for your Garmin to get within 20 feet, and BAM! it starts downloading new information. You could be uploading your training information while, well… typing on a blog for example, or answering an email, and you never have to take off the watch or initiate any software manually.

There is also a desktop software called Garmin Training Center that is supposedly even more feature-rich and designed to improve your overall training and route times, but I haven’t dug the deep yet.

I due time, friends, in due time…

So what else?

Since everyone loves bullet points, I’ll list a few more interesting features of the Garmin 405. If this list doesn’t send you out to the store with 300 clams in hand, I don’t know what else to tell ya.

  • Virtual Training Partner – Allowing to store routes, compete against a virtual runner, and even share your routes and data with other runners.
  • Two-way communication with the PC or Mac – Download training data to the PC, upload goals, challenges and other runner’s data to the watch
  • Optional heart rate monitoring and foot pod capability
  • Available colors are Black and Green (but get black!)

Already have the Garmin 405 too? Tell me what you think

If you’re already rockin’ the Forerunner 405 during your training runs and races, please share your opinions and experiences. I am sure there are people out there much more serious than me, and have probably squeezed out tons of additional functionality and possibility.

Let us know in the comments below. Cheers!