Monday, May 25, 2009

2009 Cotton Row Run

2009 Cotton Row Run
Huntsville, AL
May 25, 2009

Cotton Row 10k
Official Results

7am start
Weather was 87% humidity and a cool 70 degrees

Mile splits

Mile 1: 5:31.99 Sucked out with the pack, lead out by the Kenyans. Felt pretty good and was all smiles running down Church.

Mile 2: 5:52.30 Ran back and forth with Kevin Betts and John Nevels, with the last part of the mile run up hill on McClung, adjacent to the cemetery. I was not the only one who slowed, but so did the whole pack of people I was running with.

Mile 3: 6:12:22 Slight uphill onto Owens seemed to fatigue the runners in my pack, but I took it slow and by the time I hit the top, I found my rhythm again and ran the middle portion of the mile well. The turn onto Mountainwood and hearing the Rocky Theme is always fun and despite the urge to walk, split the hill at mile 3 still vertical.

Mile 4: 6:11.40 Started the mile on the second half of Mountainwood and if I had not seen Twig, I probably would have walked for just a few steps. The humidity was like a blanket at this point and I was wearing a sweater! The turn onto Tollgate was all about recovery and trying to get back into a rhythm again. I had lost Kevin and John and George had pulled away, so I was really running alone. Making the left onto Bankhead felt so good as I was able to stretch out my legs and make up some lost time. This mile rolls more than people think, and my plus 6 minute pace really shows it.

Mile 5: 5:37.73 This was a great mile as I took advantage of the downhill. Running past a friends house on Maysville/Bankhead seeing DJ Pauli and gang really gave me a lift. I dug in and hammered this mile at a pace near mile 1. I knew that it was now about survival and position as my sub 36 target time was out of reach.

Mile 6: 5:55.57 I had caught up to Brandon Smith of Birmingham and we fought back and forth the entire mile. Making the last turn onto Clinton we both picked up the pace and it was game on! I made the tragic mistake of thinking the first banner was the finish and I started my kick too soon. Upon hitting the intersection, I could see the clock still a 100 meters away and as Brandon kicked it in and blew by me, I knew it was too late to respond. I had already started thinking about the 5k race and knew that I was already running at near top speed, so I didn't go with him. We ran the last 0.214 miles at 5:15 pace.

My overall time was 36:31.

I feel pretty good once you step back and look at the bigger picture. I was 31st overall of 2140 pre-registered and 1838 finishers. I was 6th fastest local runner and was beaten by a bunch professional runners, or guys that win most any race that they enter. I was 6th in my age group of 135 runners and the top 5 were all sub 35 minutes. This race is a classic where you throw the time out the window and just focus on position.

Congrats to Team Fleet Feet
David Riddle for 11th, Jason Reneau for 24th, George Dewitt for 29th, Eric Charette for 31st, Kevin Betts for 34th, Shane O'Neil for 35th, Rob Youngren for 39th, David Purinton for 42nd, Marty Clarke for 47th, Candace Jacobs for 53rd, Joe Francica for 57th, Jon Elmore for 63rd, Conrad Meyer for 65th, James Falcon for 85th, Joey Butler for 112th, Kathy Youngren for 141st, Madelyn Patton for 196th, Linda Scavarda for 219th, Whitney Hollingsworth for 235th, Jane Reneau for 248th, Katie Maehlmann for 282nd, Ovella Jessee for 346th, Ashley Cain for 403rd.

Cotton Row 5k
Official Results
9am start
Weather was 80% humidity and 72 degrees

Mile splits

Mile 1: 5:38.19 Amazingly the humidity fell by 9am and with the proper cool down and compression socks, I was able to recover in time to have a great first mile. The 5k is slightly less competitive but still had some horses in the race. I held back slightly and let the kids rush out front, but by the first turn, I was in 8th place.

Mile 2: 6:02.43 I had a little fun with the guy I was running with by making several surges, separated by 15 seconds or so. He tried to stay with me each time and by the time I made the 4th of 5th surge, he couldn't go with me and I held the surge until White Street and had successfully moved into 7th place. I am sure that he will go on to learn race tactics and probably has far better talent than me, but on this day it was experience that helped to carry me.

Mile 3: 5:48.2 Coming back down Randolph for the last time felt great running past the cheering fans at the Sherman household. I was running smooth and as Marty says, I felt like I was floating along. Making the final turn onto Clinton I did pick up the pace a little as there were more and more people toward the end. I didn't have anyone else close, but I still found another gear in the home stretch and dropped the hammer and it felt great. Actually it was this feeling of the people yelling and screaming as I flew down to the finish line, that fuels my inner fire and makes me want to do this again and again.

My overall time was 18:05.

Looking over my performance in the 5k, I am very proud having bounced back so quickly and able to make the top 10 and 2nd in my age group of such a large field of 1900 pre-registered and 1677 finishers.

So my combined time this year was 36:31 + 18:05 = 54:36. In 2008, my combined time was 37:56 + 19:07 = 57:03, so I was 2:27 faster this year which I am very proud. Of the runners who ran both races, I was 3rd in combined time only behind David Riddle and Jason Reneau.

Thanks so much to all of the volunteers that make this event move so smoothly and to the race directors Dink and Suzanne for making sure everything gets done. Thanks also to Laura and the elite runner dinner team for their help last night.

Onto Alabama A&M 10k!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2009 Laranda Nichols Memorial 5K

Charette Takes Top Honors in Guntersville

By ERIC CHARETTE, Senior Writer
May 9, 2009

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – In a last minute decision to attend, Eric Charette of Huntsville, Alabama runs away with the top honors at the 10th Annual Laranda Nichols Memorial 5k in Guntersville.

Charette outlasted 230 other runners, clocking a time of 17 minutes and 28 seconds for the 3.107 mile race. The course was certified by USA Track & Field and took runners south along Sunset Drive on the Guntersville Isthmus, and returned them back on a paved walking path winding along the shores of Guntersville Lake. On a day where the temperatures were in the mid 70's by the 8am start time with high humidity, Charette's nearest competitor was more than a minute behind.

Charette was coming off a heavy stretch of races, where over a 14 week period, he had competed 12 times, including four ultra marathons, the Boston Marathon and seven other shorter distance races. Only 7 days prior, he had finished 8th overall at Strolling Jim, which was even longer than the normal 41.2 miles, when heavy rains washed out a section of the course, causing the course to lengthen by more than a mile.

"I was still recovering from running Strolling Jim last weekend, and I had no business entering a 5k," Charette said. "I knew that the smart thing to do was to sleep in or take it easy, but at the last minute, I decided to make the short drive down to Guntersville and see what I had in my legs."

At the start of the race, Charette let a few others take the lead and run out front. "My plan was to let the others sprint out ahead, while I held back and eased into it. I really had no idea if I could run hard or not, so I was just going to take it easy and see how the race progressed." By the half mile mark, Charette pulled away from the pack and never looked back. "After I caught up with the pack, I decided to put on an early push and make the other guys work hard early. Then with any luck, I'd be able to run even through 2 miles and then ease up coming in."

Charette did just that, splitting the first mile in 5:35. He noted afterward that he was having some difficulty breathing as the humid conditions had dried his throat. "I was hoping for a small gulp of water at the turn, just to generate some saliva and make it easier to breathe." At the end of Sunset Dr, runners make one small loop up to the water treatment plant before making the turn around. "I was able to get a small splash of water which really helped."

Seeing the rest of the field for the first time, Charette was able to see how close the next runner was to him. "Even though I was still running strong, the next runner was a lot closer than I was comfortable with, so I knew I had to keep pushing," Charette later said. He split the second mile just 1 second off of the first mile, clocking 5:36. "When I got to mile two it really reinforced to me that I was running even, as planned. Hitting 11:11 through two miles was exactly where I wanted to be."

Charette slowed slightly in the final mile, as the tight winding path made it difficult to maintain an even pace. "Even the lead biker was having trouble keeping his speed," mentioned Charette, who at times would pull up even next to the Guntersville Police Officer. "I was backing off a little, preparing for a good final kick at the end."

As the course turned 90 degrees from the path back onto Sunset Drive, Charette passed the 3 mile mark at 16:57. "I was clearly off my personal record pace, but the conditions were not ideal to run much faster."

Coming down the home stretch toward the finish line, the police officer turned off and Charette picked up the pace with a strong kick, running the final 160 meters at an average pace of 4:54. "I wanted to put on a little show for the small crowd," joked Charette.

Laranda Nichols is Charette's 10th career victory, of 125 races since he began running in 2003. "I didn't come here just looking for a race to win. I wanted to support the race director and fellow teammate Dana Overton. Also, I was hoping for some new competition to run against and figured that we had good representation for the Fleet Feet Racing Team in Decatur and Huntsville, so I'd try out a new venue."

"Winning the race was very special to me, but what was really moving was what I discovered when I went back out onto the course to cool down," mentioned Charette. "I went back out and met an amazing 91 year old guy who was competing and another very nice woman who was using the aid of a walker to complete the distance. Seeing people like that out there was very moving for me and couldn't help by make me smile for the rest of the day. I hope that I can still be doing this when I am that age. It was very inspiring."

Charete has no immediate race plans for this up coming weekend, but will be competing at the Cotton Row 10k and 5k in Huntsville on Memorial Day.

Full race results were not available at the time of this article.

Eric Charette writes race reports after every race and posts them at

Friday, May 8, 2009

2009 Cumberland Trail Ultra Marathon

2009 Cumberland Trail Ultra Marathon

Date: May 16, 2009
Distance: About 27 Miles
Where: Cumberland Trail
Trails: Possum Creek Segment + Soddy Creek Segment
Notes: This will be a point to point event, run North to South

Details: We will leave Huntsville at 5am and drive to the southern end of the Soddy Creek Section and drop off a vehicle. This is on Mowbray Pike Road. This is about 2 hours away from Huntsville. Then we will drive another vehicle up to Retro-Hughes Road at the northern end of the Possum Creek section. There we will drop off a car and begin our run at about 6am. The Possum Creek Section is about 10 miles down to Heiss Mountain Road. There is a gas station at the Intersection of Heiss Mountain Road and Jones Gap Road, should we require any food/water. From there it is another 16 miles on the Soddy Creek section back down to Mowbray Pike Road. From there back to the car is about 1/2 mile, which will make this about 27 miles, thus an ultra marathon.

Driving Route Between End and Start

View Larger Map

The run will take about 6-7 hours as this is rolling terrain and we will want to stop and take pictures of cool things, like Imodium Falls. We will be back in Huntsville with enough time to shower and go have beers to celebrate Joey's birthday.

Possum Creek Segment

Soddy Creek Segment

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 Strolling Jim 40 Miler

Charette Debuts 8th at Strolling Jim

By ERIC CHARETTE, Senior Writer
May 2, 2009

WAR TRACE, Tenn. – Running his first road ultra marathon, Huntsville, Alabama resident Eric Charette made his Strolling Jim debut in War Trace, Tennessee on Saturday. In the 31st year of this legendary event, Charette finished 8th overall, outlasting 91 other runners on a rain soaked day.

“I really had no idea how difficult this race was with the mental and physical demands that it imposes on runners,” Charette said after breaking the tape in 5 hours, 46 minutes and 48 seconds. “I had studied the elevation profile and talked to as many experienced runners as I could leading into this day, but nothing prepared me for the mind games that I went through out there.”

As the runners stood in the town square waiting for the rain to subside, race director Amiee Cantrell blew the conch, signifying the start of the race and the runners headed out on Knob Creek road. From the start, the leaders separated from the pack with Mark Lundblad, a national class ultra runner who won JFK50 last November, taking the early lead. In the immediate chase pack were Brian Kistner from South Carolina and closely followed by Charette, Dink Taylor and Blake Thompson, all of Huntsville, Alabama.

The Huntsville trio ran together in the rain through the first checkpoint at 5 miles in 34:59, or a pace slightly under seven minute miles. It was shortly after this that Charette made the first move, pulling away from Taylor and Thompson. “I was finally warmed up and felt like I needed to put some time in the bank for later. I have always said, when you feel good you have to go for it; when you don’t, it’s time to back off a little,” Charette noted. He went on to run through the next five miles and climb the first official hill in 34:02, bringing his overall average to down to a 6:54 pace as he was closing in on Kistner for 2nd place overall.

Charette continued to run strong through the half marathon, where he clocked a 1:30:00 split time, though he was slowing slightly as the rolling hills were beginning to take their toll on him. Just 12 days prior, Charette ran a near personal best at the Boston Marathon, finishing in 898th place of 26,000+ runners with a time of 2:56:17. This fast turn around left him with little time to recover, and as he headed toward Whiteside Hill, Taylor caught and passed him up.

It was at the 15 mile mark that Charette started to break down. “I was fatigued and it was starting to hit me that I had another 26.2 miles (a full marathon) to go! This was miles ahead of when I normally hit the wall, but running on less than fresh legs from Boston, I should have expected this.”

Fellow Huntsvillian and INOV-8 Race Teammate of Mark Lundblad, DeWayne Satterfield, steamed past Charette just after Taylor had gone through. “DeWayne really gave me a lift when he ran by me because he told me to stay head strong and not listen to my body. I really took this to heart because my mind was still focused on the prize, but the body was not following suit. I knew that this was part of the normal roller coaster of emotions and fatigue that I go through in an ultra, so listening to Dewayne, I was able to push forward.”

“Climbing up the second hill near 20 miles was very demanding and this was the first time that I walked,” noted Charette who on the positive side, was still averaging 7:15 minute-miles, and split 20 miles at two hours and 25 minutes. On the negative side, he had gone from meeting his crew every five miles at the beginning of the day, down to every 2 miles.

Before the marathon split, Charette was passed several more times, dropping him into 7th place. He was still running well, especially considering the fact that after 20, it is a steady climb on Hilltop Road, ascending 300 feet from miles 21 to 24. The split at mile 25 was the first time that he averaged slower than 8 minute miles, when he clocked 41:09. His crew was now trying to see him about every mile and now forcing him to eat and take in more fluids. “I knew that I had to consume about 500 calories an hour, or I would start to go into a deficit, but at that stage of the game, I was glad that I had laid out a clear plan for taking in fuel/hydration for Laura or I would not have done it on my own”. Charette had also been taking salt tablets to ward off leg cramps and a few Tylenol to ease the pain of pounding on the roads, all of which were part of his pre-race plan.

Back in the early miles, Taylor had joked about how the success of a runner in “The Jim” was how long you could hold off David “Hollywood” Jones. Jones had taken the Masters honors every year since 1998 and is known as a second half or negative split runner. “I just wanted to be able to hold him off through the marathon split on Smith Chapel Road. To me that would be a very good accomplishment,” Charette later remarked. Not long after Charette came through the marathon split (in three hours and 15 minutes) he was passed by Jones and his multicolored split-legged shorts. “He had positive words to share, but I was fading fast and they didn’t help much, though I later thanked him for trying to help me out.”

Earlier this spring, Charette ran the 50km race at Delano12, which was in similar conditions, but on a soft gravel surface, all within a 1 mile loop in Decatur, Alabama. He took the overall win at Delano in 3:53:54 and set the course record. It was this race, in addition to strong showings at Mountain Mist 50km (6th overall) and Black Warrior 50km (4th overall) that lead him to register for Strolling Jim. “I had run three trail ultra marathons and Boston over a 12 week span, with shorter distance races mixed in between. I was recovering well each time and I had always wanted to run with the best in War Trace, so I decided that this was the right time to make my debut there.”

Just before heading into The Walls at mile 29, Charette met his crew and decided to lie down on the side of the road. “I knew that I needed to stretch out my legs somehow and that being on the pavement was the best way to do it. I think that I really worried Laura at this point, as she didn’t think that I would be able to get back up,” said Charette. “It is an example of how your mind can play tricks on you after running for that long. I just needed a physical break from the pounding, and lying down seemed like a good idea and the next thing I knew, I was on my back. The longer I sat there, the more I came to my senses and I realized it was insane; clearly when Jones or Lundblad hit a wall, they didn’t just sit down – they moved on, maybe even harder and pushed through it and came out stronger on the other side. I was in a race and needed to get through it and refocus on staying mentally strong.” Though he sat there for several minutes, he managed the strength to get up on his own and start running again.

Charette became somewhat rejuvenated heading into the walls, as his mile count was off and he thought he was on mile 28, but the course marshal let him know it was 29 and heading shortly into mile 30. This helped to give him just the mental lift heading into the last official hill. Through a combination of running, jogging and power walking, Charette navigated through The Walls onto Whiteside Hill Road. In doing so, he split the 50km mark at an even four hours.

The motivation was now to reach the 35 mile mark and then run an even pace through the last 10km to the finish. Charette clocked a 46:22 through 35 miles and as he made the turn onto Three Forks Bridge Road, he passed through the aid station only to find out that Taylor had also slowed and he was just minutes ahead. Charette, who had dropped his singlet hours ago when the rain stopped and the humidity picked up, was now dumping water over his head to remain cool. “I was drinking almost a bottle of Gatorade and dumping another bottle of water over my head at each mile. The external cooling effect helped to regulate my body temperature as the sun started to beat down on us near the 35 mile mark.” It was not long after this that the clouds came back and the skies become overcast again.

Charette was now running in 8th place, having been passed one last time.

“The game had turned into counting the miles off one at a time and knowing that he end was near. So when I saw that there was a detour on the course, which would undoubtedly cause us to run long, I was very discouraged.” The course officials would later note that the detour around a washed out section of the course added a little more than a mile to the 41.2 mile advertised distance.

After getting back on course, the final two rolling hills were ahead, before coming back into War Trace. “I could see Dink ahead of me, but I knew that I could not catch up to him.” Since mile 20, Charette had been calculating the pace it would take to run 5 ½ hours, which was his goal. “When hitting a half way split of 2:25, I knew that I could run almost 9 minute miles over the second half and still be on track, but as the miles passed by I began to realize that I wasn’t going to make it.” The added distance was the nail in the coffin on Charette’s hopes to hit 5:30.

Over the last 10 miles, Charette was meeting with his crew about every 1/2 mile.

With the added distance in the course, some of the times in this running of Strolling Jim were slightly slower than in years past. With one final push toward the end, Charette broke the tape in 5:46:48, covering the approximate course distance which has been estimated as 42.2 miles, at an average pace of 8:13 minute miles.

The full race results are available on the Strolling Jim website.

"Looking back, I am really glad that I decided to run this race and to stick it out after I wanted to quit early," Charette noted and then added, "I recognize the fact that physically my body was ready to run the distance, but I've got some work to do on my mental state of mind when I have to run that long alone. I am going to take quite a few lessons away from this day."

So the question is everyone's mind is what is next on Charette's plate. "I have some immediate plans to work on my short distance speed with some local races coming up. After that, we have a small group of people who will be running across Alabama to raise awareness for Tay Sachs. Beyond that, I am not sure what the future holds. I'm still considering Arkansas Traveler. Right now I am just happy with my Strolling Jim finish and want to thank my wife for being my crew. I couldn't have done it without help."

Whatever he decides to do, we are sure that he will continue to improve with experience and move up in the rankings.

The 32nd running of Strolling Jim is tentatively set for May 1, 2010.

Eric Charette writes race reports after every race and posts them at