Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in Review

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times"....no, that's really not my style. My style, it turns out, is brain spillage on this little creation called a blog. I was never someone who wrote in a journal nor shared much of anything personal with anyone. Now I publish it online for the world to see. Ironic, I'd say. I set out one year ago today, December 30, 2007, to start a habit of sharing my thoughts on running, life, and serving my country...as you see in my subtitle above. Funny thing? My first post was last year's WaterFalls Run! It was so short that you could almost speak it in one breath. The picture has a total of 7 in it in front of Brandywine Falls. Greg, Vince, Chef Bill, Brett H., Mel, Aaron, and me. This year, over 50 showed up! Anyway, I scrambled for a name for my blog...something catchy, not too "100% Running," unique, and wrapped up my whole point. Point? There's a point?! My goal has to always be genuine and real, be free of sugar-coating anything, put my deep thoughts into words on a screen, and more than anything, make an impact...if even on one single person. Whether it is motivation, inspiration, or whatever. That goal has been met time and time again. The e-mails, the side conversations on group runs...thanks for all of them. I've thought many times: "No one reads this stuff. I'm just going to shut it down." Then, like always, I'm on one of those early morning, moonlit runs with "Mr. Moon" and thoughts start showering over me and I just "have" to get it into writing before I forget it! That's not a joke, either. I forget stuff so easy. This "journal" has helped me focus my energy and goals by seeing it in writing...and it ends up almost being an accountability partner in a way. (that's the main reason I started posting my training plan each week on the sidebar...to keep myself accountable to it...and to you) Through it all, I love writing and sharing my thoughts. We're all running the race...be it literally or figuratively....set before us. We each must plot our own path and be accountable to it. This just happens to be my journey. So on to Post #93 on RTRSBM!

Events/Times of 2008: my race recaps/reviews are linked

January:
173.3 miles, Winter Buckeye Trail 50K, 4hrs, 47min, 4th overall
February: 180.5 miles, training and speedwork only
March: 160.3 miles, training and taper to the Athens Marathon
April: 153.4 miles, Athens Marathon in 3hrs, 26min, 7sec (my 20th marathon!)
May: 191.6 miles, Green Jewel 100K, Part 1, Part 2 (62.4 miles) in 13hrs, 9min and Buffalo Marathon in 3hrs, 44min, 43sec
June: 214.2 miles, training and buildup for BR100, started two-a-days
July: 199 miles, Summer Buckeye Trail 50K in 6hrs, 13min and continued two-a-days, taper to BR100
August: 191 miles, 55 miles of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run in 13hrs, 30min, many days off for recovery and healing from injury
September: 157 miles, Labor of Love 5-miler, pacer for 1:45 group for Buckeye 1/2 Marathon, YUT-C (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) 50K in 6hrs, 50min, and Akron Marathon with Karen S. in 4hrs, 1min, 24sec
October: 133.75 miles, recovery from heavy September, then taper again for Mountain Masochist 50+ Miler
November: 179 miles, Mountain Masochist 50+ Miler, 10hrs, 50min, 8sec, 90 of 185 finishers; Home Run for the Homeless 4 miler on Thanksgiving Day
December: 172.95 miles, Tecumseh Trail Marathon, 4hrs, 27min, 49sec; recovery from Tecumseh

2008 Total Mileage: 2,107 miles. 2007 Miles in comparison were 1,972.

Overall, I'm incredibly thankful for a great 2008. As I was jumping around this year's posts, so many memories were brought to the forefront. There were many days where I just fell down on my knees and was simply thankful...thankful for family, friends, the trails, health, freedom and the list sometimes kept on going. I think back to Labor Day when I ran my first race with my daughters at the Labor of Love Run. Even my 5 year old ran the whole mile without stopping! I think back to standing on the Buckeye Trail just before Blue Hen Falls late afternoon on during Burning River debating myself on what to do: drop? go on? smart? stupid? Hands down, that was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. Follow that up with "Daddy, did you quit?" as I got into the car at Mile 55 to head back to the Boston Store to get my ankle worked on at the aid station. I think back to spending over 13hrs on asphalt, in the pouring rain, for 62.4 miles with Greg D. in the inaugural Green Jewel 100K. It was amazing how little of an increase in elevation suddenly became known as a "hill" as the day grew longer. I remember fondly how it felt to run in the front of a race as I placed 4th at the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K. I'd never been there before and no other 50K has been faster than 6hrs, yet this one was under 5hrs (yes, I know the course was a bit short but not THAT short!). That was a day to remember! With joy, life oftens balances that out with pain. On May 8th, the incredibly difficult decision to put my 12 1/2 year old Chocolate American Cocker Spaniel to sleep came. I'd never cried so much in my life. Actually, a tear is rarely shed, but I just lost it as I held his head and rubbed his ears while he laid down....hmmm, that was tough. Then there was that time I got stung by 3 yellow-jackets during the YUT-C 50K only 1 mile after the start. The day ended up being warm and sunny and I had a tough time finishing. The bonus from YUT-C is that I met a whole other group of ultra-runners in NEO Trail. Bob Combs, a veteran 100 miler directs YUT-C and it was a great experience...finish line food/beverage was the best ever!

On the family side of things, a great trip to New York City followed by a cruise to Bermuda was sensational! My chance to run in Central Park...only hours after Burning River, was a real treat while in NYC. The beaches in Bermuda are second to none. We also took a few days to hike around the Gorge area in Cuyahoga Falls as well as the Brandywine area.


For 2009, my goals are simple and straight-forward. The schedule is quite fluid and is open enough to add/subtract events or vacations(!) as they come up. My passion is certainly shifted from less road marathons to more ultra trail marathons. Down deep, I want to push further than I've ever gone. For me, that translates into the 100 mile race distance. Burning River and I have unfinished business and my name is already on the registration list. I've grown and learned a lot about nutrition, training, and mental preparation in 2008 and I will employ that in my 2009 events. The biggest lesson I think I've learned in 2008 is about strict recovery. Some people can run 6 or 7 days a week without injury. Some can run excess distance (20+ miles) weekend to weekend without any problem. For me, I'm not physically able to do it so in order to grow stronger and build endurance, I must allow my body to "fix" itself after I tear it down...only to become stronger. I also refuse to run a weekly mileage that negatively impacts my family life. Many claim that marathon training and better yet, 100 mile training will wreck a marriage. I'll prove to you (yet again) that it doesn't...with a plan. Open communication and working together is the key. I have countless testaments from ultra-runners all over the country attesting to the fact that it is NOT necessary to log 80-100 mile weeks to run a 100 mile race. I also have friends who believe it IS necessary. One thing is for sure: each must find their own plan that works for THEM. Not only the physical self, but the social side as well. We are all different and ultra-running is a very far cry from "one size fits all." If 100 mile weeks work for you...GREAT! There is no concrete right/wrong answer. Write down your priorities...together, and stick to them. Running is not at the top of my list. It's up there but it doesn't "rule the roost." Ya know...it's all about "Running the Race Set Before....YOU!"


Happy New Year, everyone!
Plus, it wouldn't be me if I didn't wrap 2008 with:

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Why?" answered: WaterFalls Trail Run 2008

Many...MOST Saturdays you'll find me somewhere within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park running the trails or roads. You'll find me nearly always with friends that I've met on the trails or at local races. Thanks to support from home, Saturday mornings are a guarded time and I do my best to get home before lunch each week. Today was my 2nd edition of a run I came up with last year. My idea was to have a fun run on the last Saturday of the year to celebrate friends, the trails, and some of the most gorgeous parts of the trails that we run on each weekend. What came of that idea last year was a small group who left Lock 29 on the last Saturday in December 2007 and visited the Blue Hen, Buttermilk, and Brandywine Falls. It was a great time with temps below freezing but not too cold.
In my 2nd edition, we got the word out simply through word-of-mouth and on Vertical Runner's website and wow, we had the biggest turnout ever on a Saturday morning outside of organized races. At least 50 runners showed up...but I have no idea how many in all were there. A few other groups that have their own group runs joined in as well. We started a few minutes late simply because of us filling and overflowing the Lock 29 parking lot. After a brief talk and disclaimer about how everyone should expect to get muddy and expect to get wet, we were off. With nearing-record temps around 60F and lots of rain in the hours and days preceding, the water crossings would surely be water crossings and not the typical tip-toe across the rocks we're used to. Full immersion today!

Alright, I'm going to try and not get too deep here, but today truly answered the question of "Why?" I'm sure you can relate...that question that sedentary friends/co-workers/family ask you from time to time. "Why would you run in this weather?" "You ran today? In 2 degrees with the windchill below zero?!" "You ran HOW far?" Every time we left a waterfall today, everyone applauded. Ahhh....a nice warm fuzzy among the hanging icicles. Witnessing the gorgeous waterfalls which were more like rapids today and surrounded by LONG icicles from the ledges surrounding them...all while laughing and running through ice cold water really made today's run THE best group run I've ever been on...ever. 11 years of running and this tops them all. I hear the question already: "You had FUN running through ice cold water, sloshing through mud, AND running HOW far???!!" Yea...I did...a lot of it. So much that I was a chatter box through mid-afternoon at home...my poor wife. She endures so much!

Instead of re-hashing the route, I'll let the pictures tell the story. My camera got quite the workout today and I've posted 60 photos here. You do NOT need a Facebook account to view them or save them. (By the way, the local running Facebook nation is growing! Join in!)

Here are some of my favorites out of the bunch:

Mel making mud-running look graceful

Buttermilk Falls

Only this picture describes just how COLD the water was

Unlike typical runs, we took the time to stop and take a group photo at each waterfall...I made sure to disclose this long beforehand so no one would be surprised by the common stopping. It's tradition, right? Here's my favorite photo of the day in front of my favorite waterfall, Buttermilk Falls. It's a hidden treasure that most haven't seen or even heard of. It's hidden right behind Boston Mills Ski Resort and off the beaten path of the Buckeye Trail. If the falls haven't been raging like they were today, you'd see layers upon layers of rock on a gentle slope showing thousands of years of age...and multiple colors due to the different stone. Plus, it was our best group photo of the day, too.Oh yea, I almost forgot. Note to self: "next time, be sure to zip the zipper on your Nathan handheld bottle pocket...especially if your car key is in there." When we first arrived at the Boston Store, I looked down and that pocket was wide open and no key....GONE! I borrowed a cell phone and called home to ask Marjie to leave home after 10am and meet me at Lock 29 with another key. (Thanks, Greg for the use of your phone!) At the end of the run, Kevin M. comes up to me and he asks if I lost a key. "Yes!" He replies: "Well, I saw it on the trail near Pine Lane and it looked like someone placed it there so I left it." "You did WHAT?!?!" I honestly thought with all the runners and the muck we were running through that I was soon to be buying another $100 key from Honda. At about this time, Marjie showed up with my key and off to Pine Lane I drove. I take ONE flippin' step onto the trail and WHAM! My feet leave the muddy ground and go horizontal along with the rest of my body as I go crashing down in the mud...camera, too. I made it 18 miles in this muck today without falling and NOW I fall? I get up, grab what clean shirt is left on me to wipe off the camera, and get scootin' down the trail. I get to the broken log where we used to cross but now dip down and back up the muddy slope and sure enough, it is nestled in between two logs...like someone purposely put it there...just like Kevin said. Thanks again, Kevin! I trudged on back to Pine Lane and washed up...emptying my whole gallon of water, and felt really good for wrapping up a total of 19.4 miles for the day. Gombu and Brian M. were both down at Winking Lizard so I headed on down for some lunch and some 'ultra-talk' and then headed on home. Bob is the race director of the YUT-C 50K and an accomplished 100 mile runner. I really appreciated the time I had to talk about his races and my goals regarding the 100 mile distance. I got some great advice, too. Brian is running his first 100 at MMT next year, too.

To the many of you who made this run a success...and fun, THANK YOU!

Happy Trails, everyone
and have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve and Obama

Ever have one of those days where you think: "How on earth is it (insert holiday/event/etc.) already?" That's today. Christmas Eve, already. Before we know it, we'll be scratching out mistakes on our checkbooks when we repeatedly write "2008" when it's 2009, Jackson-Hewitt and H&R Block commercials will be on every commercial break due to tax season, and the news won't be able to stop talking about the inauguration in late January.

Speaking of the inauguration, some of you may have heard of Mike Murphy. He is an artist who has garnered the attention of the Obama transition team and has been invited to the inauguration and the ball by President-Elect Obama. Mike is not your conventional type of artist but instead uses things like nails, light, high tension wire, etc. His work is truly one-of-a-kind and simply phenomenal. He's posted all of his work at http://www.mmike.com/ and regardless of which side of the aisle you find yourself on, you can not help but appreciate what he has done. Oh yea, he's my cousin...I just thought I'd throw that in there. Here is my favorite piece of work that he has done. Light and nails and nothing else. I just can't imagine the precision needed to accomplish this.Anyway, that's enough Obama-speak for today (some of you need to close your mouth from it dropping open when you saw Obama on my blog!). This morning was the annual Vertical Runner Christmas Eve Run in Hudson. Annually, we meet at 8am for a one hour trek around Hudson and get back to the store for some raffle give-aways, hot coffee, hot chocolate, and bagels. I didn't count, but it looked like around 30 in all showed up. Fun times and Santa hats were had by many. Picture gallery here.Another thing I was reminded of: I understand how some people (namely my wife!) have a difficult time NOT spending money in places like Bath and Body Works, Kohl's, Sam's Club, etc. when I hang out at VR. Walls full of gear that really belongs in my closet. The North Face, SmartWool, Brooks/Merrell/Keen shoes....they all need to gather up and ship on over to my closet. One problem...this stuff just isn't free! Eventually, I just need to peel away and escape the near-death (of my credit...and marriage!) experience. However, before escaping, I did grab a couple of deals. I've been wear-testing a new pair of Brooks neutral road shoes...for Brooks. I only have a bit over 100 miles on them and I truly despise them. On my last review, I put down how bad the cushion had disappeared. I honestly believe that my 350 mile Brooks Glycerins feel better than these. Unfortunately, I'm supposed to run in them until mid-February before I ship them back. Hmmmm..... Well in the meantime, VR has had the Brooks Defyance on sale and ONE last pair of Brooks Radius left...both neutral cushion road shoes and two shoes I've had tremendous success with. A call to Marjie at work (for permission, of course!) and they were mine. "Merry Christmas to me! Merry Christmas to me!!!" That should get me through Burning River training, I think. Before I left the store, I got a glimpse of the running shorts you get if you run Lloyd's Fools 50K Trail Run on April 5th....nice job, Lloyd. Great shorts. (I'll take a large, please) Oh yea, those shorts are for the first bunch who register so don't delay.

To officially put the cap on 2008, my Tecumseh Trail Marathon medal showed up this week. Unlike any other marathon, runners had an option to pay an additional $6 for a customized medal which would be shipped after the race. Before you balk at this, understand the race already has a registration fee half of the majority of road marathons out there so I had no problem shelling out the extra $6. I have to say...it's a nice medal. Thin but nicely done and customized.

For Christmas, I'm puttin' the Santa hat on and going for a run around my hometown...just trying to get those weird looks I get so often around here. It won't be at 4:30am like normal. I'm thinking that after Marjie's "gourmet" breakfast, a late morning easy run will be in order. Friday will be a day off (maybe some weights in the basement) and Saturday is the 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K Trail Run...leaving from Lock 29 at 7:30am.
Happy Trails, everyone and a very Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend of Accomplishments

Accomplishment #1: On Saturday, we had a great turnout of 30 runners at the Boston Store for the VR Group Run. Many have requested less trail running so I came up with an extremely mild route with a little bit of trails but nothing technical. Well, of the 30 who showed up, 3 opted for that route and 2 of those were my brother and myself. I guess the demand for less technical trails has subsided or disappeared altogether. Regardless, I ran that route. This was the first "group" run for my brother, the first time in the CVNP, the first time on any trail, and the first time past 9 miles of running. I advised him of the 10% increase rule but he insisted on the whole route so we headed north on the Towpath. Once we arrived at the first entrance to the Carriage Trail, we headed on up and enjoyed the Carriage Trail....on ice. I hadn't been back to the Carriage since Burning River. This is where I sprained my ankle and eventually spelled my doom for the day at Mile 55. When we got to that spot where it happened, I am ashamed to admit that's where it happened. How on earth I sprained my ankle there is beyond me. I've put in hundreds of miles on the technical Buckeye Trail with ZERO injuries and I get hurt HERE? Simply pathetic. Anyway, I passed on by the spot (just before the end of the Carriage loop) and we turned north on the Towpath to Station Road...a memorable spot, indeed. I remember Lloyd giving me a hard time for not taking salt tabs all day here and Vince giving me a hard time for not eating real food up till then. Both lessons learned and not to be repeated. (Station Rd. serves as 2 aid stations at Burning River...miles 33 and 39 and Lloyd is the Aid Station captain.) Once we passed up Station Rd., I headed out on the APT (All Purpose Trail) into the Brecksville Reservation and took a right on Chippewa Creek Trail...following the BR100 course. A few miles into it, we got off track and lost the trail. I think we had to cross the creek but who knows where...it was raging from all the previous day's rain and we would have certainly got soaked. Instead, we climbed the steep incline to Route 82 and ran down to the Reservation entrance and picked the APT back up and headed back to Station Rd....the planned route. We retraced our steps back to Boston for a round trip of 16 miles. Congrats to my brother for toughing it out and finishing. It got tough for him after Station Rd. but he never gave up. Shockingly (NOT!), he's now thinking of a marathon. Well, I think I know a few people (ME!) who might be able to help in that category. I've offered to train him and pace him to a finish at Akron 2009. Akron is a great first marathon and a really fun event overall. We shall see... Oh yea...Accomplishment #1 would be my brother showing up, running his furthest ever, and seeing the gorgeous trails I call home...for the first time.

Accomplishment #2: I cooked dinner. Period. For some, that's second nature. Not for me. I haven't truly cooked a meal (unless you call mac-n-chz or frozen pizza a meal) for years. I used to cook often when I was in the Navy in the 90s down in Virginia Beach but since our kids were born, I haven't. With the rare occasion of me being home at dinner time and Marjie coming home from work, I decided to step up, strap on the apron, and do some impressing! Keeping healthy eating in mind, I ran on over to Runner's World's website for some help. They've had some great recipes lately in the magazine so I thought my luck would be good on their site. I was correct. Here's the best part: it all turned out really good! It was either "Crash and Burn!" or succeed. I'm so thrilled with how it turned out, I thought you'd like to have the recipe so here it is!

Dish #1: for lack of a name, I'm taking creative license and calling it "Nick's Baked Turkey Sausage Pasta"...original, eh?!

Pick a pasta...any pasta. For me, I picked Ronzini's Whole Wheat Penne.

12 ounces of your favorite pasta
1 container (15 ounces) low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I used Tastefully Simple's Garlic-Garlic)
2 1/2 cups shredded part-skim provolone cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper
4 cups fat-free tomato sauce
Dried oregano

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions. Drain.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, milk, basil, garlic powder, 1 1/2 cups of the provolone, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Mix well. Season with the salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to mix. Place 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish. Spread the pasta mixture on top. Add the remaining 2 cups sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup provolone and the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Sprinkle with the oregano. Cover with foil, tenting the foil to prevent the cheese from sticking. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling.

(The recipe (found on the vegetarian part of the site) included an option for meat so I added Italian Turkey Sausage I picked up at Ames. I browned it with some olive oil and onions and added it to the ricotta mixture.)

Original Recipe on Runner's World

Dish #2: BAKED ASPARAGUS WITH PARMESAN CHEESE

Ingredients:
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain bread crumbs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 450ºF. In a medium baking dish, toss the asparagus with the oil and arrange in an even layer. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.

This was REALLY good. I cleaned up the asparagus, poured a little bit of olive oil in a 13 x 9" baking stone and turned the asparagus over and over in the oil. I then laid them all out flat and sprinkled the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese over them. These were SO good! Original Runner's World Recipe

Last ingredient: a nice chilled Australian bottle of Reisling. YUM! (NOT to be added to the food !!!!)

Can you believe Christmas is practically here, already? 2009 is essentially sitting on our doorstep. With that in mind, I made it official and mailed in my 2009 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run application on Saturday. I know I'm doing it so no need to pay $25 more after January 1st. For those of you planners out there, I also updated the VR Group Run Schedule through the 2009 Boston Marathon. It includes the first 4 races of the Western Reserve Trail Running Series. Check it out! Failure to plan is planning to fail....so get planning!

I hope to see many of you on Saturday for the 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K FA Trail Run. We'll be taking off from Lock 29 at 7:30am this Saturday. 100% trails!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ultraholic Blog Tag

Tag...I'm it. Clara tagged me so here it goes:

1. What was your 2008 running highlight and running low? My running highlight is easily the Mountain Masochist 50+ Mile Run in Virginia. I took away an incredible amount knowledge about my self, both physically and mentally. On the opposite end of the spectrum would have been dropping at Mile 55 at Burning River 100. After an ankle injury at Mile 38, the pain became too much. THE hardest decision ever in a race and my first DNF....Did Not Finish...or as others keep reminding me, "Do Nothing Fatal." My 5 year old's words still ring in my ears when I got in the car: "Daddy, did you quit?" Ugh...

2. What race are you secretly planning on doing (or contemplating) for 2009 but haven't made it known to the public....until now? I'm considering a 2nd hundred miler...'nuf said!...and some other things in the fall.

3. Where would you like create and direct an ultra that (to your knowledge) none exists? I'd really like to see a trail ultra of the 100K (62.4 miles) distance and a 50 miler. It's all we are missing here in NE Ohio. We've got plenty of 50Ks and our hallmark 100 miler. We've got plenty of trail systems to make it work so hopefully in the future. (I don't see myself as a Race Director...but I'd sure like to be on the race/organizing committee....hint, hint!!!)

4. What is your "primary" race for 2009? Burning River 100...again.

5. What is the most exciting thing about your upcoming race schedule? I'm looking forward to Lloyd's new Fools 50K in April and doing more local trail ultras...and less road marathons. I'm also really excited to see the new WRTR (Western Reserve Trail Running) take off. I'll be doing the monthly newsletter, as well. A great race series, new series rules, and awesome organization. It's definitely an exciting time for trail running and ultra-running in NE Ohio.

6. List your planned races for 2009: Winter Buckeye Trail 50K, Green Jewel 50K, Fools 50K, maybe a spring marathon, Burning River 100, and maybe a fall marathon or two. I'm holding off on planning the fall until Burning River is here and gone. No need to put the cart before the horse. I'm not looking at any typically sold-out races, so I should be fine to just sit tight and wait until later.

That does it for now! Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To Resolve or Not to Resolve...that is the question

(cross-posted at VR Training)

Resolutions. It's that time of year where many (like myself) are planning for 2009. Resolutions are floating around and will be more so after Christmas gets here. So what do you think about resolutions? Are you a member of the mainstream resolvers that want to "lose weight in 2009" or "stop smoking in 2009" or "get back to running in 2009" or "eat better in 2009"? Goals are a wonderful thing. Without them, it is a proven fact that things will not be achieved. Surely you've heard the saying that "It is impossible to achieve your goals unless you set them." Goals need to be real, tangible, and attainable. So are goals the same as resolutions? A resolution usually refers to making a major change in your life. Goals may not require such a drastic change but maybe a shift in direction or path traveled. Consider this: instead of making any new resolutions for 2009 (which generally do not work), consider making some small, subtle changes with clearly identified goals in place. Better yet, tell everyone what your goals are. If you really want to achieve your goals (no matter where they fall in your life), you greatly increase your chances of success if others know about them, thus bringing forth some accountability. Some ideas for you to throw around...some "changes," perhaps:

1. Start running regularly for the first time or get back to running. We do our best to plan weekend group runs within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are runners of all abilities at these runs so finding someone to run with should be easy. These runs are always posted on the VR Discussion Board (not just VR group runs) and scheduled VR group runs are posted here. When you are new to a group, introduce yourself!

2. Run your first marathon. Luckily, you're have tons of resources here in NE Ohio and a couple of marathons where no travel is required. Reach out and ask for help and you'll get it. Shopping for a marathon? Here's a great resource.

3. PR in a race: have a favorite race distance? Use the McMillan calculator set some goals to set a new PR in a target race. Set the goal, establish a plan, and reach it.

4. Run your first ultra-marathon: NE Ohio is becoming very popular in the world of ultra-running. An ultra-marathon is anything past the 26.2 mile distance. The most common next "logical" step is the 50K (31.2 mile) distance and is normally on trails. In 2009, the Western Reserve Trail Running Series will offer lots of options such as the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K in January (sold out!), the Green Jewel 50K (on asphalt), the Fools 50K Trail Run (April 5th), the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K, YUT-C (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) 50K in Mill Creek Park, and the Forget the PR, Mohican 50K. Trail running is increasingly popular and there are countless resources right here to help you. Everyone at VR Training has done many of these events and can help. Take your first step and try out trail running.

5. Run further than ever before: some call us crazy, but there's something special about pushing your limits. Run 50K? Run 50 miles? Run 100 miles?!? The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run will be run on August 1st/2nd for the third year. Registration is now open and goes up by $25 once the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. It's on my Christmas List...is it on yours? Of course, there are other 100 milers out there, like the Mohican 100 (MO100) held the 3rd weekend in June, about 2 hours south of here in the Loudonville area. Here's a 100 Miler event calendar. Here's an ultra-marathon calendar from 50K to 100 milers and beyond.

6. Volunteer:
each race is run by volunteers, including the race director. Volunteering can be very rewarding and is actually a requirement to run in next summer's Buckeye Trail 50K. If you want an incredibly rewarding volunteering experience, consider working at an aid station during Burning River. Contact Suzanne P., Volunteer Coordinator to find out how. You can also contact any race director to volunteer at a race. Their name can be found on the race application for each race or e-mail posted on the event website.

So the question stands: make a resolution or make some permanent changes with goals in place?

Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy and Successful 2009!

See you on the trails!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

3:30am: Part III

Part I * * * * * * * * * * * Part II

Saturday morning, December thirteenth, two thousand and eight, four a.m. (for consistency, I think I'll keep the 3:30am title, but in all truth, the alarm went off at 4am)

"Should I still run this morning? My schedule says that today is a rest day. I ran 10 gorgeous miles on the trails yesterday because of my Navy duty this weekend, but if I don't run this morning, and I can't run on Sunday, then that's 2 days off in a row and that simply is unacceptable. Run." I stumble into the kitchen and peer out the back window. Surprise, surprise, that back yard is illuminated. A full moon is out yet once again and with the fresh, thin layer of snow on the ground, it is awfully bright out for 4am. "Hmmmm, which espresso today? I think I'll take the Lavazza Blu, my favorite...and a banana. Anything new on e-mail?" I check e-mail and Facebook and I'm reminded of Jim Chaney in Texas. He's running with the Clif Bar pace team this morning and racing the Dallas Marathon tomorrow. "Good luck, Jim!" I also see a total of 3 different groups meeting for a run this morning. Mayor of Trails, Kurt O., is heading up a group with Red and Red Rubble over where I ran yesterday at Virginia Kendall. A 6:30am group will be at Lock 29 then swinging by the Boston Store at 7:30am, and the VR group run takes off from Lock 29 at 7:30am. "Gee...it's clear, cool, crisp. Perfect morning for a trail run. However, I need to make the best of it and run on my own then put on the uniform and get to Cleveland for the Navy. Any wind out there? Nope. Old Glory is motionless on the front of the house. Temperature? Ooohhhhh....15 degrees. Time to bundle up and cover the skin." The espresso finishes brewing while filling the room with its aroma, and every sip is pure joy. I gear up, pull over my Sugoi hoody, New Balance vest, Brooks wear-test shoes, Smartwool hat, and just in case of a wild driver or animal, my headlamp, but I doubt I'll need it. It's 5am...time to go.

"Oh boy, it's cold this morning. It's perfect, though. 'Hi, Mr. Moon! We run together once again!' The salt they dropped last night and the lack of any more snowfall has left clear, dry roads. OK, just take it easy today. Remember, you're supposed to be recovering this week. You just ran 6 on Thursday, ran an "aggressive" pace for 10 miles on the trails yesterday and now you'd BETTER take it easy. Just mentally slip away and let the moon light the way and forget about anything on your Garmin. Deal." I head out towards my rollercoaster hills like my last 2 "Mr. Moon" runs. Running at 5am with such a brilliant light takes my mind off tripping over roadkill, stepping in a pothole, and dry roads remove fear of ice patches. "Slip away, mind, slip away." I start thinking about Christmas and family. Just a short 2 days ago, my dad got positive test results for prostate cancer. The same day, my brother's father-in-law was rushed to the ER for a possible stroke. My dad is doing well but doesn't yet know WHAT to think. He will see the doc on Monday for a plan of treatment. Luckily, my family is full of nurses so we all have people to call and lean on for help, explanations, and guidance. These thoughts of family bring forward other thoughts of Christmas and how it comes and goes and how so much is wrong with it. Not wrong with Christmas, but what it's become in our nation of consumerism. Why can't people just enjoy being with each other and celebrate health, happiness, and each other? Oh yea, here's an idea: how about celebrating Christ's birth? CHRISTmas. This competition for getting the latest must-have is terribly sad. Why do people literally run down people at a Wal-Mart and kill them for a few sale specials? Are we inherently vicious animals? I think not! It is a lifestyle flowing with the need for more and more and more. Excuse me, I meant to say the "want" for more and more. So very little is "need."

"Wow, I'm feeling really, really good this morning. I don't even feel like I'm moving. I wonder what pace this is...wait, don't look. It doesn't matter. The stars are so brilliant this morning, too. Constellations are so easy to pick out." My mind continues to wander.......

Casting Crowns has a song called "While You Were Sleeping" and it talks about how when Christ was born, Bethlehem had no room for Him. It transitions over time and ends up with the United States. While not talking specifically about consumerism or our relentless pursuit of wealth, it asks the fundamental question of will we (the U.S.) go down in history as a nation with no room for its King? Here are the lyrics if you want to read them. It's a great question. Whether you subscribe to a Christian faith, a different faith, or no faith at all, where do you fall on this? Are you celebrating the true meaning of Christmas or just another federal holiday that consists of a gift exchange and "holiday" parties? Think about it.

"The moon is super bright this morning. It is so quiet, too. I need to be careful not to run too far or I'll be late this morning. There's the Catholic church and the little bridge. The water is crackling this morning beneath the bridge and I can hear the sizzle of the frost on the power lines up above. There it is...time to turn around...my 3 mile mark beeping at me on my Garmin." I head on back over the bridge, past the church, and back towards my roller-coaster hills. WHOA! A semi-truck coming right at me! "What on earth is this truck doing here this morning!??!" I jump off the road because this truck is all over the road. I stop and stand still and wait for it to pass then get moving again. Did he really not see my bright red top and reflective piping all over my body? Typical for my neck of the woods. I head on over the hills and before I know it, 5 miles are done. Sadly, I'll be home soon and it'll be time to get a move on. But wait! Out of the side of my right eye, I see a shooting star! In the southern sky, a super-bright shooting star arched across the sky. It was a surreal moment. I stopped and turned around staring at the sky trying to "catch" another one. No luck...that was the one and only. That was great, though. I wonder if anyone else saw it. That reminds me: "I wonder who else is running with me under this moonlight this morning. The Hellgate 100K Trail Run is going on right now down near where Masochist was last month...and hopefully they have the same light I have. I doubt anyone else in my town is running or enjoying this moonlight...they sure are missing out. It's never too cold for a run."

Back home, I hear the 6 mile point alarming on my Garmin. 8:36 pace and just shy of 1000 calories burned. "Oh wait a minute...this cracks my 2000th mile for 2008! YES! A great milestone for a great year." Back inside, Marjie is up and making her rounds of the blogs she reads every day. All I could say was "I think I feel a blog post coming on..."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Parting Thoughts - post Tecumseh

After having a few days to digest a 6-man road trip to Indiana, exchange a bunch of e-mails and Facebook messages, read some others' race reports, and read my own race report a couple of times, I thought a wrap-up of Tecumseh was in order before moving on. In no particular order, here are some take-aways:

1. "Shhhhhhhhh.....just let it happen." You'll just have to hit the trails with me to find out what this is all about. This is the Gold Medal winning quote of the trip. Hint: Brandon, VR, and Greg are also witnesses...with Greg having the evidence in hand. Enough said!

2. Never underestimate a course before you get there. "Hey, it's only 26.2 miles" can be deadly words. "If I can run 50+ miles up multiple mountains in Virginia, then how hard can 26.2 be in "flat" Indiana?" HA!

3. I really have some great running friends. This trip would've been so boring alone. Insert 5 other trail runners on a 6 hr road trip and suddenly, it's a party. Good times!

4. Aladdin's the day after a marathon really hits the spot. Thanks to Greg's GPS phone, he found an Aladdin's on the northwest corner of Columbus. We stopped for some grub 2 hrs before getting home on Sunday and it was fantastic...perfect post-marathon meal.

5. I really do like buffalo! At our post-race hangout, www.uplandbeer.com, I had one of the best burgers ever. This was a really cool brew-pub. Mix your traditional brew-pub fare with a menu full of vegetarian options....and there you have Upland. A cool atmosphere, no smoke, great menu, great location in downtown Bloomington, only 4 miles from the hotel, and a table for 6. No better way to wrap up an awesome day on the trails.

6. While I really love running the trails and the road trip, I was once again reminded how much I miss home. This was a really quick trip, but it once again reminded me that home really is the place to be. Luckily, with texting, Facebook, e-mails, and great cell phone coverage, staying in contact is easy. Still, it's good now-and-then to get a reminder of where my place in this world is.

7. I found a few other bloggers with race reports. Here's one from Indiana who found me somehow in cyberspace. Good race report even though he beat me! I guess we spent mile one together, though. His experience sounds on par with mine.

8. Feeling good after a marathon and more so, a trail marathon, is no true indication how you are physically beneath your outer layer of skin. I got my traditional post-marathon deep tissue massage by Lori Roosa on Tuesday night. Again, famous last words spoken on the table before she began: "I actually feel pretty good and not too messed up!" Lori is superb at within seconds, identifying if I'm out of alignment, I'm tilted to one side or the other (very common from road marathons), I'm twisted, and many other things. While I'd run twice already since Tecumseh, I found out that she found something new. My legs were actually "twisted"...mostly beneath my kneecaps. With the incredibly slick conditions on the trails, this makes sense. Miles of my legs going in every direction could do this. Once again, I grit my teeth and endured the necessary discomfort while she put me back in place. I preach recovery, recovery, RECOVERY to anyone who asks and I fully believe that a good, technical massage post-marathon (and beyond) is a requirement. How I feel and how I actually am are almost always completely different. What I THINK I know is always off from what reality is. Lori sets me on the path to a quality recovery. After her, lots of water and some more rest allows proper healing, blood flow, and the best way to re-enter training once again. If interested, she works out of her studio in Mantua, works at the Summa wellness center on Route 91 in between Stow and Hudson, and could possibly make a house call (like she does for me).

Notice how bare my 2009 schedule is over to the right? One stinkin' event...the winter 50K. I really need to start committing to some races! My goal is to not let the clock strike midnight on New Year's Eve without the main events committed to. One hundred miler? Two, perhaps? Have you helped me decide yet by voting on the right? I know, for sure, that there will be multiple 50Ks, perhaps a road marathon or two, and at least one hundred miler. From what I hear, many of you are tossing around your options as well. My ultimate goal in 2009 (much like 2008) is crossing the finish line of a hundred miler, but also to volunteer much more and support local/regional events. Lloyd's Fools Day 50K in April is certainly on my list as a must-do for 2009. I'd love it if you'd share your schedule with me and the world by commenting below.

Since I have Friday off this week, I'll be heading to the trails for a recovery run...hopefully for around 90 minutes. Also, if you haven't marked your calendars for our 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K fun run on the last Saturday of the year, be sure to do so. We'll leave Lock 29 at 7:30am for a celebratory trail run while we close out 2008. Join us!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

6th Annual Tecumseh Trail Marathon Race Report 12.6.08

Marathon #23 is in the books and my first trail marathon. This was one quite different that any other marathon as was the whole entire experience from the moment I left Ohio. Several months ago, Vince e-mailed me and wanted to know if I was interested in a road trip to southern Indiana for a trail marathon. Before we knew it, we had 6 VR trail runners signed up just before the event sold out...again. We hit the road just after 8am on Friday morning for the 6 hour drive. The event is held within the Yellowwood State Forest in Bloomington, IN. You may recognize Bloomington if you're familiar with Indiana University...ever hear of the Hoosiers? IU was just down the street from the hotel. Our drive took us through Columbus, then west by Dayton and into Indiana...due south of Indianapolis. We commented often as we got near Bloomington how flat the area was...those were words and thoughts we'd soon learn were far from the truth. Tecumseh is advertised as having a 3500 foot gain....not too shabby. We arrived in time to drive to the finish line where we found out we could catch a bus to the start on Saturday morning. This was perfect...nothing better than having your car and a change of clothes at the finish...and the ability to leave ASAP for a hot shower at the hotel. The alternative was to ride a cramped school bus back to the hotel. Before we crashed for the night, we stopped at a local co-op market we passed on the way into town. I'd never been to one but I wish I'd had. Really cool stuff in there from local producers. VR says there is one next to the old theater in downtown Kent...I'll be checking that out. Back at the hotel was packet pickup. After eating my pasta from home and going over last-minute plans for the morning, I could hardly stay awake past 9pm.

Race morning would surely be a challenge in the morning. It didn't start until 10am...a very late start for this 3:30am waking runner. At 3am I was awake...4am...then 5am I couldn't lay there anymore. Up, brewed the espresso at the hotel kitchen stove, ate some Kashi cereal I'd brought from home, then lounging until it was time to leave shortly after 8am. Surprise, surprise....at 5am when I walked outside to go brew my espresso, it was clear. Now, it was a heavy snowfall. The roads were already bad so it was a slow trek to the starting line where the warm busses waited. We snapped a quick pic (see below) and got on the HOUR long bus ride to the start. 10am passed and luckily, they didn't start the race. About 10min after we arrived, the race started at about 10:20am. First mile: 7min, 17sec.....OOPS! (Note to self: this is a TRAIL race! NOT a road marathon!!!) From that reality checkpoint, I slowed it down and ran my own race. None of us had been here before so no one knew what to expect. Roots? Rocks? Technical? Well, it's very similiar to the Buckeye Trail here in Ohio with tighter switchbacks. Fresh, wet snow combined with a full leaf cover provided very slick and eventually icy trail conditions. Temps at the start were around 18F with wind speeds between 10-20mph, thus dropping the windchill to the single digits. Most of the race it snowed and was heavy at times with wind. Here's my "little" race mess-up: I know gear and I know how to dress in nasty conditions. However, given the protection of the trees, I figured I would dress light and minimal. Being on essentially a Vertical Runner road trip, I figured I'd better wear a VR tech tee. Well, the only long-sleeve tech tee I have (except for another overly snug one!) is a black tech that I bought about 2 years ago. If you know my history, you'd know I was 50lbs heavier back then...so that's an XL tech tee. Within minutes of starting the race, a little lightbulb goes off in my head...kinda went like this: "You moron! Why on earth did you wear this trash-bag fitting tech tee? Don't you know technical gear doesn't work so good when all the frigid air blows freely inside the shirt?" Yea, yea, yea....I know. I was freezing. The sweat, instead of being wicked away like technical gear does, it was collecting on my skin...and freezing. My alternative? "Bun" it up and tuck the "bun" inside my pants. You know how girls balled up their shirt in the 80s? Yea...that. Anytime I saw a photographer, I pulled it out...as well as when I pulled into an aid station. I was doing my best to trap in the heat and dry my skin. The high winds only made it worse. (stupid, stupid!!!!) Exactly at Mile 13, I hit the "Mother Hill." It was EXACTLY from the Mountain Masochist race course. Very steep, wide, gravel surface, and no end in visual site. I get to the top, and in perfect Masochist fashion, it curves and continues its steep upward trend. This ended up being the worst hill all day...thank goodness. The course continued as it had all day....curvy, hilly, technical, slippery. Around the 21-22 mile mark, we entered one of the most gorgeous areas I'd ever seen while running. Pine trees about as high as a 5 or 6 story building. After entering, all the wind stopped and it was so quiet...just perfect. Fresh pine needles on the ground, very little snow, and a much appreciated break from the potentially treacherous trail leading into it. Unfortunately, it only lasted 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Home stretch to the finish! Oh yea, I haven't mentioned the aid stations: they were very well done. Unlike a typical road marathon consisting only of water and sports drink, these were more like ultra-marathon aid stations. Starting at AS 4, typical ultra-fare started such as pretzels, cheese crackers, bananas, M&Ms (one of my personal favorite ultra foods), hot chocolate at one AS, fig newtons, Gatorade, and water. OK, back to the race: the final 5 or so miles were a bit faster. Not totally downhill at all, but a net drop overall. The final mile has a bear of a hill on the gravel road leading to the finish but luckily, due to our drive to the finish the night before, this hill was no surprise at all. I finished in 4hrs, 28min. I'd be quite unhappy with this time on a road course, but with this course, I am very happy. The course actually has an 8 hour cutoff. Official results aren't posted yet but when they are, I'll post the official time and my placing on the upper right of my blog.

On my bib, I had everyone on the VR Road Trip sign it with the number marathon this was for them.
I think that makes 10 marathons/ultra-marathons in 2008. (that is, if you count 55 miles of Burning River!) 4 of those were marathons, one 50 miler, one 100K, and four 50Ks. Funny...after running 7 road marathons in 2007, I told myself I'd do LESS in 2008. I guess that didn't happen, huh?!


Now for smart recovery. Not much else scheduled until the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K in mid-January. If you are free the last Saturday of the year, join us on the 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K...leaving from Lock 29 at 7:30am. Entirely run on trails, we will visit the Blue Hen, Buttermilk, and Brandywine Falls. Plan on a fun, social, and picture-taking trail run. I came up with this run last year as a great way to close out the year on the trails with friends...I hope you can join us!


Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ready to Laugh Your Tail Off?

Sometimes, we just need to laugh. That is the whole point of this post today...to make you laugh and laugh hard. This first one will be a huge hit for the Star Wars fans out there. John Williams is the composer of many themes such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, etc. This one-man, 4-part acapella compilation will have your sides hurting and you'll watch it over and over. Enjoy! (turn your speakers on for all of these!)



Of course, no post would fit on my blog without even a mention of running so here's to post-marathon soreness...a commercial made by Flora, the title sponsor of the London Marathon. Enjoy!



Anyone out there a "Heroes" fan? I am. If you've never seen it, this next one won't make much sense. But if you haven't missed an episode (like me!), you'll enjoy it.



At over 68 million views on YouTube, this next one had better have your eyes watering. Young or old, you'll love this baby. Gather the family around for this one!



This next one is currently the most-viewed video ever on YouTube at over 105 MILLION views: The Evolution of Dance. Enjoy!



The last one...From the DVD 'Speedmouse' performed live at the Sydney Opera House, this is one of their most well-known performances, seen in full. Enjoy! The song is "Canon in D Major - Pachelbel"



Well, now that we've all laughed hard together, it's time to spend some time together on the trails, don't you think?!?! If I hear of one more person running on a treadmill.... It's never too cold or nasty to go out for a run, people!!! For now, the forecast is in the mid-20s for the start of the Tecumseh Trail Marathon this Saturday morning in the Yellowwood State Forest in Bloomington, IN with highs in the 30s....PERFECT! Of course, I'll post a race report just as soon as I can. I'll be celebrating marathon #23!!! Now back to my carbo load...

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Traditions and Family Time

Traditions can be fun and should be. This time of year abounds with opportunities to recover ones long gone, continue ones that haven't skipped a beat in years, or to create new ones. Thanksgiving started out with a new one...that being right here on my blog. A chance to share some personal thoughts on Thanks/Giving, as I coined it. The day continued with the Home Run for the Homeless, an ongoing tradition. This very challenging 4 mile race is one of my very favorites...not because of the course, the distance or anything even related to running and competing. The race directly benefits the homeless in Akron. First off, hundreds of runners bring their used running shoes to waiting bins at the soup kitchen. They'll be distributed to the area homeless. As shoes not fit to run in anymore, they are the perfect and comfortable shoes for someone with no shoes or falling-apart shoes. Over $1700 of door prizes were given by local businesses like Target, Hartville Kitchen, Dick's Sporting Goods, Giant Eagle, restaurants, etc. Each age group winner took home a full size frozen turkey, too. Everything is donated! For this year, it was a record pre-registered count of over 1400 and a record race day turnout of around 1700 runners. Frigid temps below freezing but clear, sunny skies provided for a fast race day for many. For me, I looked up my PR and it was 26:25 from last year...about a 6:37 pace. Last year, I had been doing speed work and very little long, slow ultra-training so I was faster than this year. I set a goal to be happy with anything around 27 minutes with no true aspirations of a PR. I went out and as many of you know, Mile 1 is mostly downhill and it got clicked off in 6min, 13sec....a bit fast for this big guy. The middle gut section of this course is rolling hills within Glendale Cemetary. Not gentle, rolling hills, either. Steep ups and fast downs...and ice/snow to dodge along the way. Once you leave the cemetary and crest the last major hill, it levels out and the 3rd mile marker is met. Since you've essentially hacked up the legs by this point at such a high intensity level, it takes a lot to maintain the pace. As I look at my 3 mile split, I realize I'm actually in reach of a PR. I figure that I need to run around a 6:30 last mile to PR. I gave it all I had and as the finishing clock came into view, I saw 26:25 click by...as if in slow motion. 26:30 was my final time and honestly, I'm thrilled with it. I guess the mid-week pickups during my 4:30am runs has helped get a little speed back. Like I always say, your body will not forget past training...it just needs woke up from time to time. Afterwords, I mingled about with the Vertical Runner onslaught that dominated the race, grabbed some hot chocolate (or two!) and hung out to see if I'd win any door prizes...not this year!

Thanksgiving Day itself was spent at my parents' home with all the usual fixins'...turkey, the best homemade stuffing in the world, cranberries, and my sister-in-laws corn casserole creation...now THAT was good...but full of "bad" stuff for my normal whole-wheat diet. That's OK...it'll get run off soon enough! All-in-all, a relaxing day with family.

Luckily, my every-other-Friday-off at work just happened to fall on Black Friday. I work 9 hr work days to have every other Friday off. I took the opportunity to meet up with fellow VR runners at Happy Days for a post-Turkey trail run. As just over 1 week to Tecumseh, this was meant to only be about an hour and E A S Y. I showed up early for 3.2 miles on the Boston Run Trail and then at 8am, the rest of the crew headed over to the Ledges and Pine Grove Trail. For the day, I racked up a quick 8.7 miles. I should have checked my mileage for the week after this. Last week's mileage was 32 miles so this week should be less as I approach the last 7 days to Tecumseh. Well, I awoke on Saturday morning with the last-minute plans for a family weekend trip to central Ohio including the Longaberger Homestead and an overnight stay in Sugarcreek. Since I don't like to miss more than one day of running in a row, I figured I'd better run on Saturday. With no time crunch, I took a longer loop, watched the absolutely brilliant sunrise, and got back home with 7.7 miles. I log in to my online running log and dang, I now have 34 miles! ARGH! Some taper, eh?! Well, I'll keep it simple this next week. Sunday off, 5 on Monday, 4 on Tuesday, off Wednesday and begin carbo load at dinner, 2.5 on Thursday, travel Friday, and race on Saturday. No big deal.

Our trip down to Longaberger was great. Actually, I'm blogging this morning from the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek while the family still sleeps...hard to sleep in when your internal clock is used to waking up between 3:30am and 4:30am every day. On the way down, we took a break to stop in at the Breitenbach Winery outside Sugarcreek. I love the sampling and all the cheese and crackers. Pretty cool place to visit. Now, I'm not a girly man, but I will endure a little "discomfort" and walk the grounds of the Longaberger Homestead, the headquarters of the well-known Longaberger Basket Company. We've been coming down here annually since we moved back to Ohio in 2002. This weekend, they were having a Santa workshop for kids and 20% off everything in every shop...a big surprise since this place is typically high dollar. I've heard of layoffs down here but oh my, this place has been hurt really bad. Every restaurant that used to exist is gone. Much of the manufacturing areas where baskets are individually made have been cleaned out and now remain dark. It was like looking at a graveyard of basket-making workstations. I also thought that given the first shopping weekend and the 20% discount on EVERYTHING, it would be busy. FAR from it. It was a ghost-town. It was what I'd expect on a typical Monday morning, not a Saturday afternoon. I asked a clerk about the financial health of the company and they said 2008 has been a really bad year and just two weeks ago, another 75 people lost their job. I guess when people are cutting their spending, extras like premium baskets are the first to go. We really didn't buy much of anything. We sampled a lot of foods, took a lot of time at Santa's Workshop, toured the basket-making area, then hit the road for the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek.

Whether you have kids or not, I highly recommend the Carlisle. Instead of snapping pictures, I recommend checking out their website. Great as a getaway for just a couple or for the family. Great indoor pool and hot/cold continental breakfast. Plus, the decor is just breathtaking in here. A couple of fireplaces, comfy couches, a two-story pair of Christmas trees, and rooms that feel like luxury. If you're in to the Amish shopping experience, just remember that most of those shops are closed on Sunday.

So it's taper week to Tecumseh. Training wise, I'll just be smart early on but have a focused effort on lots of water all week and start a concentrated carbo load on Wednesday. You have to start early and not the day before the event. I actually recommend backing off the day prior to the event. I don't like being stuffed to the gills the night before. It should be a really fun time with 5 other guys joining me on the road trip. Vince has been bold enough to state his predicted times for all of us....3:38 for me. I think that's a bit bold for a trail marathon, but you never know what could happen. I just want to have a good time, run strong, and finish strong. This will be my last major event of the year and I think, the 10th marathon or ultra-marathon of the year, and my 23rd marathon. Oh yea, just because people wouldn't believe me unless I could prove it, I snapped this picture of a road-sign last night. Who on earth would name a road this? Does this mean there is a "Blackwoman" road out there, too?!?!? Good grief!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks/Giving: an UNnatural approach

I'd like to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy this day off from work and the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and can find the time to sit down and consider all the things to be thankful for. Perhaps, a few laps around the Thanksgiving Dinner table sharing the same. I propose a different view/approach to Turkey Day: Thanks/Giving. With every Thanks, follow it with a way to give back. After all, without Giving by someone or something, we couldn't really be thankful for anything, could we? To stick to the principal of "practicing what you preach," I'll go first.

Disclaimer: in no particular order!

I am thankful for a beautiful wife and 2 beautiful daughters. In my line of work, I see a part of society every day that is lonely and without something this simple. A part of society with multiple physical/mental problems and hardly a soul who cares. I pray with my girls every night to be thankful for each other...mom, dad, a sister, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins...and the list goes on. We can't ever forget or take for granted the ones we surround ourselves with day in and day out.

I commit to give my full attention and love to my family and cherish every day I have on Planet Earth with them. I also commit to give compassion and caring to those not nearly as fortunate as me and serve them in any way I can. I also commit to impart this to my kids and raise them to always be thankful and to spread that around.

I am thankful that I have the God who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that I may have eternal life one day. (oh boy, he's goin' religious!) Well yea, it's pretty hard to get by THANKSgiving Day and not thank the One who is the ULTIMATE Sustainer, Giver, and Forgiver. For it is He who started it all and sustains my every breath and waking moment. I am forever thankful for His blessings upon my life, my family's life, my country, and the world we live in. May we stop taking so much for granted that He has and continues to provide for us.

I commit to do my best to walk in His footsteps and live a life worthy of Him. Although impossible for any man or woman to achieve, I will strive to follow Him in every moment of every day. I commit to continue to be thankful for His creations every day and soak them up. Beautiful trails to run on, fresh air to breathe, and good health for myself and my family. All blessings to not take for granted.

I am thankful for family who lives so close. In the 21st century, many families are fractured and many live hundreds of miles or even thousands of miles apart. With the advent of technology, we can "feel" much closer but nothing replaces the physical. Little cousins getting to know and grow up with each other, brothers to support and know better as life happens, and parents to support and spend time with. All things that I am thankful for.

I will give my best to not let these relationships crumble and be unworthy and a failure. It is one thing to be thankful for something but then let it get stale and moldy like old, stinky cheese in the fridge. For something living and fluid like family, attention must be given to it. Attention in the form of time, listening, love, support, caring, and a "genuineness" that at times can be hard.

I am thankful for jobs for both myself and Marjie. Period. We now have jobs that in an economy where people are getting their hours reduced or losing their job altogether, we must be thankful each and every day for the privilege to go to work. As I heard many times this week on WCRF, 103.3FM, live every day with the motto: "Overflow with Thankfulness Everyday". Can you imagine what a different kind of world we'd live in if we all approached our each and every day like this? Sure, we shout out our thankfulness as we slip and slide over the Buckeye Trail while running with some of the best people around each Saturday morning, but what if we lived our "daily grind" every day like this? It would...and WILL change everything.

I commit to put a little sign up on my computer at work that says "Overflow with Thankfulness Everyday" when I get back to work on Monday. I will give my very best to my job and and give the very best service I possibly can to the ones I have been called to serve in the public.

I am thankful for the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. I am thankful for every man and woman who has served our great country in the past, present, and future and I salute them. I am also thankful for those in the service profession such as police and fire that protect us all right here in our hometowns. They have committed to put their lives on the line if duty calls so that we may live. I am also thankful that we have a fighting force today that is 100% volunteer. No one is forced to take the Oath and defend our country. I have heard that many view service today in the Armed Forces as support for the current War on Terror and for policies of the current presidential administration. Let me be clear on this one (for yes, it is a touchy subject for me!): I serve my country and have sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. My Commander-in-Chief is whoever is elected by the citizens of this country. I follow orders from this person regardless of their political slant or views. I gave up my "right" to not follow orders when I raised my right hand. With that said, please do not think a person in uniform supports any kind of campaign or war because he/she fights in it. It is service to Country, its Constitution, its Citizens, and upholding Freedom which drives us to lay down some of our rights and perhaps our life. My blood flows Red, White, and Blue...not Red OR Blue.

I will continue to serve my country selflessly without complaint or disregard for orders I have been given. I will do my best to represent myself and my country in such a way that is beyond reproach. I will continue to live the motto of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps: "Honor, Courage, Commitment" and uphold the Honor Code of a Naval Officer: "A Naval Officer Will Not Lie, Cheat, or Steal, nor Tolerate Those Who Do."

Lastly, I am thankful for the physical ability to run and run far. I am also thankful for some of the most beautiful places to run, mostly right here in northeast Ohio. I am also thankful for some of my very best friends that I now have as a direct result of a vibrant and growing running community here in NE Ohio. As I have contemplated in the past of different career paths, many options led me away from NE Ohio. Why not live in the warm south? Why not near a beach and crashing waves? Each time, it came down to family and for me personally, my relationships and friendships with the local running community. Believe it or not, at heart I am an introvert. I have never been one with one or multiple "best" friends or been in the "in" crowd. I've always just been one on my own on the outside. Fortunately, the running and ultra-running community is one where ALL are accepted, regardless of, well, everything. We're all the same out there. For that, I am forever thankful.

I will commit to do more to give back. I have now run 22 marathons and a good deal of ultra-marathons. I have volunteered very little. I did some in 2008 but commit to much more in 2009. I still want to run my favorite events, but I commit to do more in organization, publicizing, course marking/clean-up, and anything else I can do. I'll start that today at the Turkey Day 4-miler in Akron. I'm also going to be the newsletter editor for Western Reserve Trail Running which is really going to take off in 2009. Stay tuned for more details...but take it from me, our trail running community in NE Ohio is going to get a major "upgrade" in 2009! Very exciting times! I also hope to get more involved in the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run...not just running it, but helping out in any way I can. (even Marjie will be getting involved by volunteering at the Boston Store Aid Station...a good place for an Emergency Room nurse!) I also hope to help out Lloyd in the new Fools Day 50K on April Fools Day weekend. Let me encourage you to get involved and give back to our local running community. It is growing by leaps and bounds and I feel that we're just cracking the surface of what's to come.

Friends and Family, thanks for "enduring" my UNnatural approach to our beloved national holiday. I wish you the very best today and in the future. Remember, "overflow with thankfulness everyday!"

To you local runners...

Happy Trails!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mortal...Indeed

"Running might not add years to your life, but definitely adds life to your years."

- Jim Fixx, Best-selling author who died at age 52 in 1984 while out on a run (he had heart disease and doctors say running probably added about 10 years to his life)


Masochist came back to haunt me a short 2 days ago. You may remember when reading my race report that my toes on both feet took quite a beating. Specifically, I feared for my left big toe. Losing toenails is pretty normal for us long-distance runners. For me, I've lost #2/3/4 on both feet multiple times, but never has a big toe been at risk. As predicted, my left nail died off and this week, it was time for removal. If you have a weak stomach, I'll try and spare you the details because just thinking about it gets me queasy a bit, too. In a nutshell, all came off with no problem except for the right side. A bit ingrown, I'd say. Well, if you know my medical history, you know I am highly susceptible to vasovagal syncope. It is the most common cause of fainting. It occurs when your body reacts in an exaggerated way to such triggers as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. The trigger results in a sudden drop in your heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to your brain and causes you to briefly lose consciousness. There are many triggers out there but for me, there are 3 main ones: sudden sharp pain, dehydration, and illness. Since I have a resting heart rate around 40 beats per minute, the sudden drop causing me to pass out and my heart stops...momentarily. I know this because I was tested in 1997 on the "tilt table test" which confirms this condition. I had all the medical equipment attached to me and sure enough, I passed out and flat-lined. As soon as they lowered the table, my heart re-started. ANYWAY, back to the toenail. You see...the pesky right side was giving me problems and hurt. I gave up on the tugging and grabbed the scissors. When I did this, I must have yanked on it, because all of a sudden I felt flushed...a warm fuzzy sensation starting in my mid-section and moving upward. I knew this feeling as I've had it before. The way to stop crashing to the floor is to get down there first so I got down on the kitchen floor slowly and just waited for it to subside. Usually, this works. I got up after a few minutes and felt totally out of sorts. Marjie wasn't home and my girls were in bed. Luckily, Marjie showed up within 5 minutes and I just sat down on the couch feeling totally "wrong." I was NOT OK. She came in and said I looked as white as a ghost. She laid me down and propped up my feet to get blood moving to my head. Strangely, this was NOT working as it should. I was feeling nauseated and felt the room closing in around me. I felt like I was slipping away and couldn't do anything. (this is upsetting just putting this into words) OK, pause the story for just a minute: one of the reasons I fear passing out so much is what happens when my heart restarts. It's the same every time. Each sense comes back one at a time. 1st: I can hear Marjie saying "Nick! Can you hear me?!" I can hear her, but can't see her, move, or talk back. Then, I can see...straight up at the ceiling. I can still hear her shouting at me but I can't answer. It's like an out-of-body experience....like I'm not alive and "observing" something happening. Confusing, I know. Then, I can start to move and speak...more like mumble. Almost immediately, a flood of emotion hits...I just want to start crying. Then, I start sweating, then get chilled, then sweaty again, and it continues. Oh yea, nauseated, too. It is just awful and it happens exactly in this order every single time, without exception. I've crashed through a shower door (the last episode in June 2006), woken up under a sink in a car dealership's bathroom after passing out and hitting my head on the counter top, and been flown off an aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis CVN-74) after being found on the bathroom floor. OK, OK...back to the story: I passed out laying down with my legs raised and it all happened again. Afterwards, Marjie told me that I curled my arms and hands up like I was seizing while I passed out....and was moaning. I don't remember that...and that's pretty dang strange stuff for this tough ultra-running, never-stop guy! I laid there for an hour...hot/cold/hot/cold, then falling asleep...and finally felt like I could make it to bed. The next day at work (Friday), I didn't feel "right" until after lunch. It took that long to recover. What really stinks about all of this is that after the Rolls-Royce of cardiology testing I had 2 years ago, my cardiologist told me that I would grow more resilient to passing out as more time passes without an episode. So, this just hits the big 'ol RESET button. And so the clock starts tickin' again...


I've been popping ibuprofen for the past 2 days and did so at about 6am this morning in preps for our scheduled VR group trail run this morning. With trail shoes that fit tighter, I didn't want the pain of that toe stopping today's run...and it worked. Today's run gathered up 20+ fearless runners at the Boston Store at 7am for a deep snow, turned to mud trail run. It was only 20F at the start but the woods provided protection from the light breeze and the biting cold. I ended up with a refreshing, but short 13 miles. I did my 20 mile, 3.5 hr trail run a week ago and that was my last long run before the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in a short 2 weeks from now. All in all, I racked up 32 miles this week and will now "officially" begin my taper to Tecumseh starting tomorrow. Vince R., Greg D., Jim Chr., Rob L., and Brandon R. are all joining me on a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana two Saturdays from now.

On the positive side of life (outside running, of course), Marjie and I celebrated 16 years of marriage yesterday. Yea...we got married young. I was only 19...and woundn't have done it any different if I could! I got home at about dinner time and our girls were at their cousins for the evening. We spent the evening at a winery about 25 minutes west of us in Berlin Center. It's called the Mastropietro Winery and I highly recommend it. I had an appetizer of homemade potato chips and a delicious gyro wrap for dinner. Excellent! A catering company actually provides the food and the winery...well, they provide the wine! A tasting station inside the cozy cafe is there for you to try out the options first. We will definitely revisit in the spring/summer and sit outside by the lake. If you go, leave the kids at home.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3:30am Part 2: Mental Warfare

3:25am? Why did I set it for that? Oh yea, a winter snow warning last night. A few minutes ahead to get me on the road a few minutes early to work. I've gotta make that 7am appointment or the whole day will be in shambles! Same 'ol routine: brew the espresso, make the lunch, check the e-mail. Nothing new this morning. Oh, wait a minute: "What is that I see?" A quick turn on of the back patio light reveals large flakes of white matter falling from the sky and about 2" of it on the patio table. The snowflakes are falling straight down...not a hint of wind. "I wonder how cold it is....YES! It's 28 degrees." A PERFECT day to try on my new running "equipment." Shiny silver with accents of blue, they are. They arrived yesterday in a beat-up Brooks' box: my new TOP SECRET pair of Brooks wear-tester shoes. I applied about a year ago and my profile finally matched up with a current shoe they are testing. I agreed to confidentiality but I will say that they're perfect for a neutral, high mileage runner like myself. I'd post a pic but that's a big no-no.
So, 28F and snow-packed roads await. Ahhhh, and look up there...there's Mr. Moon once again shining bright to light the way. "You mean to tell me that just as I step outside the house, the clouds part, the flakes cease, and under moonlight I stand?" A week ago I ran 7.2 miles under moonlight so let's try a repeat, but this time, pay attention and run 7.0 miles! I head out and the sound of crunching snow is music to my ears. I don't really love the cold or winter-time for that matter. However, I do love running in the winter and in fresh-fallen snow. The fresh snow and bright moon created an easy path to follow without the LED light of my headlamp. Out I go towards my quiet nook of roller-coaster hills, hiding wildlife, and little or no traffic. It is amazing how such a familiar course is so very different just 7 days later. The trucks haven't plowed yet so my tracks are the first. So far, so good for my Brooks. They feel absolutely perfect. Nothing feels out of place at all. I can tell now that it'll be hard to send them back in February. I just hope they make it to Vertical Runner's shelves soon thereafter. I'm already sold on them.

I get out to where I found the poor 'ol opposum on the bridge around 3 miles last week and sure enough, he lays packed in snow right where I last saw him. I start to wonder if Cigarette Man will be out this morning getting his paper. I'm guessing I won't see him and I'm right. Not a soul to be seen anywhere. I get to the 3.5 mile turnaround and wow, I've been clocking 8:07 miles and it's felt easy. I turn around with the goal to get back home with overall average pace under 8 min/mi. Time to pick it up on this slush/snow/ice mixture and see what these gorgeous Brooks' shoes are made of. I get back to my roller-coaster hills and cruise smoothly over all of them. Luckily, no Honda Odyssey this week going airborne over them. Mr. Moon still shines bright over my head, casting a shadow at my feet. Not quite full, but full of light. There isn't a cloud nearby this time so no need to sprint home. It does, however, look like I've really sped up...kinda feelin' like around 7:30-7:40 pace...a good thing...and it feels great! The cold air does wonders this time of year.

As I approach civilization again, I once again glance at my shadow and feel incredibly thankful for health, my family, my very good friends who I share with, run with, joke with, and cross the finish line with, and lastly...for every step forward. Each one truly is a blessing and I pray I never take it for granted. As I take the step into my driveway at home, I glance down at a very good thing: 7 miles, 2nd half average pace of 7:39/mi, overall pace at 7:53, and 1071 calories burned. Sweet!

So what about "Mental Warfare," the sub-title of today's post? I've heard a lot of talk about this time of year about not being able to just "get out the door" to go run. Let me encourage you to mentally defeat all the urges to stay in...all nice and cozy...and sedentary. You'll be warmed up soon enough and you'll be thankful you got out there. Don't have the correct clothes? Need I refer yet another person to Vertical Runner?!?!? The panels on their walls are nearly falling down due to the weight of so much winter gear. Plus, there are lots of specials going on right now. Just do yourself a favor, don't delay in getting out there....just do it and go...you'll be so thankful you did.

Happy Trails, friends!