Monday, September 29, 2008

Running for Sanity

I started this entry in my head midday on Sunday as I was doing my husbandly duties and pushing the vacuum throughout the house. My mind was jumping ahead to Sunday evening when Lori was once again coming over for my post-marathon deep tissue massage. I gotta give it to her: she worked on me 2 days after the YUT-C 50K which was also 5 days before Akron. Without a doubt, it was the deepest "stripping" out massage I'd ever had. In the past, it's always taken a day to recover from these but this time, it was a whole 2 days before the soreness left. The end result was zero soreness come race day this past Saturday in Akron. Here's another shameless plug for her: she works at a well-known facility bordering Stow and Hudson part-time, runs a studio out of her home in Mantua, and has a few other options in meeting with clients. From what I hear, a few of you have already contacted her. You can contact her or visit her site for more details. To me, she's a valuable component of keeping me healthy and injury free during these treks in pursuit of sanity. That reminds me...the subject of today's entry:

I got to church on Sunday morning and a friend asked: "Run any marathons lately?"...joking, of course. I said "Yea, yesterday in Akron." The common astonished look was there, common to many of those who consider us "insane." Of course, I couldn't let it go there. "I ran a 50K for about 7 hours last Saturday, too." I forget his exact words, but the general idea was "crazy," "insane," "nuts,"...take your pick. OK, follow me back to my aimless thoughts while vacuuming on Sunday night. After the massage, all I really cared about was getting to bed as soon as I could so I could run in the morning before work. Honestly, the words that sprint through my head were "I've gotta run tomorrow just to maintain my sanity at work tomorrow." I don't know what it is. An addiction? If so, commit me! "Hello, my name is Nick. I'm addicted to running." (the group replies: "Hello, Nick!") Heck, I could fill the first meeting of "Marathoners/Ultra-Marathoners Anonymous" with many of you! Maybe it was only TWO 2.5 mile runs mid-week last week. It was worth it, though...the recovery plan worked and worked well. I felt great after Akron and I see a quick recovery on the horizon.

This morning, I set the alarm for 3:35am. I popped up like a jack-in-the-box and brewed some espresso and was on the road by 4:30am. Super thick fog this morning and made worse by the corn fields on my route trapping it in the low areas. It was just me trapped inside a 5 foot cone of light created by my headlamp. I couldn't see a thing out in front of me. The run ended up being incredibly refreshing 5-miler, prayer-full, and full of thoughts about my wife, kids, and basically an inventory of life in the now. No better way to start the week. My new Brooks Defyance shoes got their first time on the pavement, too. Nice shoes! No problems at all...I actually dropped a 1/2 size in this pair of Brooks but they fit perfectly.

Anyway, there you have it. Here's to sanity and the flood of post-run endorphins! Run on, friends!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Akron Marathon in Review

We nearly got the "big red bow" race morning. Cloudy skies, temps in the upper 50s, but very humid. The sun never did come out and temps only rose into the mid 60s so all-in-all, a great day for a marathon. The morning started as my whole family hit the road at 5:45am for Akron. Once we finally got through the traffic and found a parking spot, we met up with other fellow VR runners for a photo op near the starting line. (a large video compilation has been posted at of VR-tech tee-wearin' runners throughout the race)

I gotta say, I felt really good. The recovery "experiment" from last Saturday's 50K worked and worked well. I had zero soreness and felt ready to go. My plan was to head out with the 3:40 pace group with Karen S. who I was pacing to qualify for Boston. I've never been a user of the pace groups at marathons but after leading the pace group at the Buckeye 1/2 Marathon, I found a lot of value in them. We hung with them for quite awhile. Karen was doing well and we were "all systems go!" Once we got to mile 10, we headed on down towards the Towpath and made our quiet trek towards the infamous 3 mile climb through Sand Run, starting around Mile 15. It was in this section where Karen began getting cramps in both her quads and calves...with even one cramp causing her toes to curl and cramp...kinda hard to run that way! Since my goal was to simply stay with Karen all day, no matter what, that's what I did. It was at this point we said our goodbyes to the floating 3:40 pace group stick in the air and focused simply on forward movement. After we climbed out of Sand Run and moved into Revere, it was clear that I, too, was very dehydrated as every dang hair on both arms and my legs were standing straight up. However, I could still maintain pace and keep it moving. As we moved towards Stan Hywet Hall, Karen really started to suffer and had a lot of pain. Here's where my post "Why Run?" revealed itself to me once again. I've been in her shoes....out of energy, hurting, and not wanting to take another step. (the Inaugural ING Georgia Marathon in 2006 comes to mind...the closest I ever came to quitting) No matter what, I decided that we were crossing that finish line together. We'd run the Blue Line...we knew the we just broke it up in segments and focused on hitting the major landmarks...HeartRate Hill, Stan Hywet, the turn onto Market, and the final turn at the Federal Building with less than a mile to go. No matter what your ability, how well you've trained, how perfect your training plan was followed, anything can happen over 26.2 miles. Remember Deena Kastor at the Beijing Olympic Marathon? The day of the marathon can deal you nearly anything. It's what you do with it when it gets dealt. Looking back, I am very thankful for the opportunity to run with Karen today and cross that line TOGETHER. We finished in 4:01:24...only 21 minutes shy of the goal but given the circumstances, it was still a great accomplishment. I am very proud of her and this is one of the marathons I won't soon forget. Thanks and congrats, Karen!

Afterwards, I met back up with Chris K. from Rhode Island who I met back in January while on active duty in the Navy at Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island. We ran together until Karen and I dropped back. Even though he's not local, he's a VR Mean Green Tech Tee wearin' runner up in RI! Congrats on a great 3:41:13 finish!
We packed up, I "showered" in the parking deck next to our car, and we headed up to get my free pair of Brooks for finishing the marathon. Box after box was stacked up ready for the swarm of finishers. Lunch at Longhorn and my favorite Grande White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino Light from Starbucks and home we went.

Congrats to all who ran today and a big hearty THANK YOU to the volunteers. Once again, without you, this would all be impossible.

The shoes on the right are my brand new pair of FREE Brooks....gotta love this sponsorship!

5 weeks to Mount Masochist 50 Miler down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia! Time to get back to the trails...just in time for the fall season.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pre-Race Jitters....still.

I've gotta be honest. With marathon #22 on deck and one that follows a heavy ultra-marathon year, I feared that I'd get to Akron with it just being "another day" of running. I remember back, like it was yesterday, in 1997 out in Scranton, PA at the Steamtown Marathon. It was Columbus Day weekend, the air was cool and crisp, leaves changing, and a seemingly insurmountable distance in front of me. The marathon. A truly life-changing experience. I still remember the firing of the Civil War cannon over the hillside for the race start...which they still do today. I also remember the elementary school kids greeting us at the start with purple "good luck" ribbons as we stepped off the bus after our bus ride from downtown Scranton. (I think I have that ribbon somewhere!) A point-to-point course through 13 small towns, all with phenomenal crowd support, made Steamtown a perfect first marathon. The finish line was equally as good as it was on a fast downhill into downtown Scranton. Space blankets flew around, medals were draped over worn-out sweaty runners, free massages were plentiful, and thoughts floated around aimlessly about the #1 question on so many runners' minds: "What next?"

Jump ahead 11 years, almost to the day. I've got the pre-race jitters this morning as if it were years ago. I am SO thankful for this!!! Why, you ask? It's because the excitement of the marathon, the expo, the packet pickup, the pasta load, the starting line, the FINISH line, the medal...I've been very afraid that it would get "old" as the numbers got racked up. Guess what: it doesn't. Just because some training runs eclipse the 26.2 mile distance, the "experience" of the marathon is special every single time. With Akron, it's even more exciting. With a running community alive and well, I'll know more people at the starting line than at any other marathon I've ever done. That's just the icing on the cake. How awesome is it to combine friends and family in such an awesome experience?

Best of luck to all running Akron tomorrow. It is a finely done event and should be a blast. Personally, I can't wait to read all the funny/encouraging signs along the course. I also look forward to the neighborhood parties from miles 21-23. Soak it all in!

Happy "Akron Marathon," everyone! (I'll make just this one exception away from the trails...just this one!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Look at the Scale

Many, like myself, are in the final stages of their taper down to the running of the Akron Marathon this Saturday morning. A word of caution: if you are one that hops on the scale from time-to-time, this is NOT the week to do that! If you're doing the correct thing (ie: carb loading, drinking lots of water, running very little), there's a good chance the scale will read a number you may not be too keen of right now! Stay away! You want some encouragement? Throw the scale in the trunk and take it to Akron this Saturday and weigh yourself right after the marathon. That may be a bit more encouraging. My 50lb weight-loss ended over a year ago, but I still weigh myself every Thursday habit, and still record it on the running calendar. So no, I did NOT take my own advice this morning!

This week has been an experiment in recovery. With 6hr, 50min on the trails of Mill Creek Park last Saturday, how fast could I recover? I had a plan and so far, all is well. I took Sunday totally off. Monday, I took a very casual "jog" (oooohhh, that's a cuss word to us "runners") around the neighborhood for 2.4 miles. It's purpose was to "jog" loose the lactic acid trapped in the muscle fibers to help foster recovery and also to make the pending deep tissue massage more effective. Monday night, Lori came over and gave me perhaps, the deepest deep tissue massage I've ever had. She stripped out my calves, worked those hammies hard, and often, I was doing my best not to come straight off that table in pain. However, she is AWESOME and 100% of the time, I am sore from the massage the day after then feel awesome afterwards and recovery is fast on track. Ditto this week! I've been drinking lots of water and eating well all week and took another (jog) this morning for another 2.4 miles and yea, I'm feeling well. This isn't my typical taper routine but this week, it's all about rest and recovery in a short period of time. I won't run again until 7am Saturday when the gun sounds in downtown Akron.

So if you're running Akron this weekend, you should be drinking a LOT of water and carb loading...especially today. More today than tomorrow. Plus, don't pig out tomorrow night like many do. There's only so much you can do 12 hours from the start so be sure to be doing it NOW.

Saturday is going to be a blast! So many are running that I know and for many, it's their first marathon. For you, HAVE FUN and just worry about finishing! You'll never forget crossing your first finish line. Then, go get your free Brooks! The weather is looking great with start temps in the low 50s and highs in the low to mid 70s. A healthy dose of cloud cover would be the icing on the cake. Best of luck to all running Akron this weekend! I'll see you out there! In fact, many are meeting before the start between 6:30am and 6:45am. Check out the details and where to direct friends/family to at the finish inside Canal Park.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2008 YUT-C 50K Report

Before you read on, turn up your speakers and watch/listen to my compilation from yesterday's YUT-C 50K Trail Run in Mill Creek Park (Youngstown, OH). Enjoy! (FYI: pics are in order from race start to end)

I've also uploaded the photos to Facebook and they should be viewable with or without a Facebook account here.

Yesterday marked Ultra #5 since my first one in 2007 at the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K. Back then, I was new to trail running but quickly got hooked. That HAD been my slowest time at the distance...6hrs, 37min. However, with trail ultra-marathons, it's hard to compare apples to apples because the race conditions/terrain/weather can play such a major role. The YUT-C (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) 50K (aka: 31.2 miles) is in it's 4th year of existence and is a fine example and representation of what the Northeast Ohio Ultra-Running community has to offer. Bob Combs (Race Director and veteran ultra-runner) and his excellent team at NEO Trail Club have really put together an excellent event. Superb support, aid stations, and volunteers were present as well.

If you look at the map, the race circumnavigates 3 lakes and connecting streams: Lake Glacier, Lake Cohasset, and Lake Newport. Simply put, the course begins at the Old Log Cabin (just below the well-known Gardens at Mill Creek Park) and heads east around Lake Cohasset (figure 8 style). After a climb up the steel staircase, we go through some ball-fields (which grew in number of kids each time we passed) and then on to some fresh trails. Here's where the first loop got interesting. Someone, perhaps myself, must have really ticked off some yellow-jackets, because I got stung 3 times within 10 seconds! Then, I heard other runners screaming behind me after I passed! These bites hurt and I've got the irritating itching and holes in the skin today to prove it. One got me on my right thigh (as you saw in the video above), another at the bottom of my rib cage on the right side of my back, and the last on my right bicep. The back one and the leg really hurt and swelled. The swelling eventually went down about an hour later. This section also brought with it the Monkey Hills. Very steep, slow-movin' areas to carefully navigate along with some logs, notably the "Love Log" that we had to cross. (see Kim's blog to see all about the Love Log...I think she snapped 3 pics of her crossing it...on each loop) At 4 miles, we reached the first, and main aid station: the Covered Bridge. We would pass by here 5 times. Typical "ultra" fare was offered like Heed, water, Coke, salt tabs, gels, peanuts, PB&J, M&Ms, pretzels, bananas, oranges, etc. GREAT volunteers and a very well done aid station. These encouraging volunteers would come in very "handy" later on when their prodding would be needed most. We leave there and keeping the "figure 8" pattern in mind from the map, we head to the west side of Lake Newport, but first passing the waterfall/dam that it spills over. We circle around Lake Newport and on the east side, hit some asphalt for about a mile. See that smiley face? That would be the volunteer course-markers with a sense of humor...that helps in an ultra! The loop around Lake Newport, in my opinion, was a breeze compared to the other loop, especially that first 4 miles. We returned back to the Covered Bridge where we again circled Lake Newport. OK, if you're following the "figure 8" analogy, we only have the left/upper part of the "8" to cover. Once we finished loop #2 of Lake Newport and visit #3 to the aid station, we headed to the western side of Lake Glacier and Lake Cohasset. This side was very rocky, a bit challenging, but still nothing like the Monkey Hills. This is where I finally met up with Kim (who you saw in the video). Kim and I are fellow-bloggers, see each other posting to the ultra-listserv but have never actually met. Kim had just finished "removing" the V-8/Ensure/Coca-Cola combination from her stomach when I saw her...thanks for the intro, Kim! We walked/ran for a bit and then I took off again. The "figure 8" completes at the Old Log Cabin which marked 25K or the halfway point. Now it's 2 more loops around the "top" part of the "8" which is Lake Cohasset and Lake Glacier. At this point for me personally, I was not feeling too good. The hairs on my arms and legs were standing at attention indicating I was pretty fully dehyrated...not a good sign. I have zero explanation for this since I started well-hydrated, the weather was favorable, and I was drinking well so far. Usually, I can narrow it down to something, but not today. Anyway, I continued on, slowing as I went, and completed another loop and arriving back at the Old Log Cabin at Mile 23. Here's where Mr. Vince Rucci came screaming through the finish at just over 4 1/2 awesome 4th place finish...and a small 7.8 miles in "front" of me! I was lingering a bit here and eventually Bob Combs looked at me and said: "Hey, we really like ya and we'd love you to hang out some more, but you need to get the heck out of here and get going!" Enough said. Out I went. For this last loop, my entire abdomen hurt, I wasn't really sweating much, and it was a pure mental battle. I kept telling myself: "Remember what you feel like right now. You feel like crap! Remember this tomorrow (ie: TODAY!) when you get all siked up about that next hovering ultra. Remember how bad this stuff makes you feel!" OK, I remember all that self-talk...but dang, this "craziness" is addicting. Can't you relate? I got through the Monkey Hills for the last time, crossed the Love Log, and arrived at the Covered Bridge at just under 28 miles. The aid station captain (I don't know his name) told me an inspiring story he heard the infamous Dr. David Horton tell once. That was enough motivation to get me moving again. I ended up back at the Old Log Cabin in 6hrs, 50min. All my VR buds were there, basking in the sunlight, rooting me in. A very tough day. My most difficult 50K to date and the slowest, but still another finish line crossed. For that, I am thankful. Again, many thanks to Bob Combs, Jim Harris, Brian Musick and the many more whom I don't even know. You did a great job!

Happy Trails, Everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Why Run?"

Deep Thoughts "running" through my mind...a visit to the reason I started this "blogging" thing in the first place (see title/sub-title above):

"Why Run?"

I've heard this question more times than I care to count. Unfortunately, I've never come up with a clear-cut answer to best communicate: "Why?" Sure: simple responses of "Because I can" or "To lose weight" are common responses but come on, isn't there something deeper to explain the "Why?" Not to discount someone who runs 2-3 miles a few days a week, but once someone gets to running regularly 30 or more miles a week (I picked that number out of the clear blue sky), something must be driving this. Goal setting? Sure. Lose weight? Yep. Run a marathon? Oh yea, baby! OK, so let's keep that running going through the cold northern winters where cross-winds of 20-30mph with air temps below 20F exist and the miles just keep on getting logged...perhaps with an increase. Is it really worth it? Do the "why" answers above justify this craziness? I can tell you by drivers in my hometown that they don't think much of me trudging along the snow/ice covered roads in January. Who am I to be out there?? "Why?" OK, now let's take a step on the "wild and crazy" side of running. If running multiple marathons (like 7 in 2007) becomes just not enough and the idea of ultra-running comes into play, "Why?" on earth would I (or YOU) subject yourself to the tearing of muscle tissue, dehydration, pain, time for recovery, and the higher risk of defeat that an ultra-distance event brings? "Why???" While I may not have finished my first attempt at the 100 mile distance last month, the question of "Why?" was certainly present with me out there when pondering what to do while injured. As my mind told me and the great friends who were supporting me, if I can still sustain forward movement, then I must continue. It was at the point, shortly after the 50 mile Snowville Aid Station, where the "forward movement" issue became the one and only stumbling block. The pain had become such that movement on flat/up/down terrain was incredibly painful. Mentally, there was no option to drop. The "Why?," disregarding the physical obstruction, was clear: "Because I can. I set a goal. I prepared. There is no quit." Reflecting back nearly 2 months later, I have zero regrets. I couldn't have prepared for what happened, but it did happen. The day for redemption will have to wait, but it will come. Most specifically, it will come at 5am on August 1, 2009 at Squire's Castle.

The physical body is an incredible, miraculously-created machine that is capable of amazing things. Looking at amazing athletes like Lance Armstrong or others that continue to "Wow!" the public, some folks were just wired the exact way to perform extraordinarily. For the rest of us, we can only strive to get better, improve ourselves, and explore parts of our true grit that can only be found when taken to the extreme. That's my "Why?" answer when it comes to past and future ultra-running events. It's not about an award (sorry, I wasn't wired for those!), a bib number, the medal, the pats on the's about pushing myself to areas not previously visited and explored. When I ran the Green Jewel 100K back in May 2008, it poured rain for nearly all 62.4 miles and 13hrs, 9min. I finished wanting more! I felt better and better after the 50 mile point. I must admit, though, that the relationships and people I meet along the way, also answer part of the "Why?" I get out the door before 5am most days. The volunteers that freely give of themselves, the dedication of race directors, the communites that support the events, and my fellow runners who join me, provide guidance/inspiration...they are all part of the "Why?" I run. I value all of them (you)...more than they (you) know.

I'll see you on the trails...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rain & Spyglasses

It may have been raining all day today and will most likely continue throughout the weekend into Monday, but we all should be very thankful up here that wet is all we get.  Those down in Louisiana and Texas have got beaten down hard over the past 24 hours and the recovery will be long and slow.  The remnants of Ike should be here in the Ohio Valley over the next 24-48 hours.  

However, no rain will stop Saturday morning group runs!  We were thoroughly soaked throughout our very hilly/challenging run through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park this morning.  With 2 weeks to the Akron Marathon, this was our last "organized" group run with Akron Marathon training as the goal.  I knocked out 16.3 miles while others varied from 12.5 to 16.5.  Along with the Buckeye 1/2 Marathon last Sunday, that brought me up to 54 miles for the week.  (my running week calendar runs Sunday - Saturday)  Good news from today is that I felt better, stronger, and faster once I passed the 10 mile point today.  All-in-all, I'm feeling great heading into my next 50K (YUT-C), the Akron Marathon, and Mt. Masochist 50 Miler on November 1st.  I'm still tossing and turning over 2009 and what to fill the schedule with.  Lots of thoughts with zero commitments...yet.

Yesterday morning, I got an e-mail from a doctor from Wellsphere.  The best way I can describe Wellsphere is by picturing WebMD and then add in communities.  The communities can be illness related, health related, and get narrowed down by what you're looking for.  You really just need to check it out to see what I mean.  Anyway, one thing they do is collect bloggers in different subject areas that they've screened and then invite them in.  That's the e-mail I got this morning.  The e-mail was from their Chief Medical Officer who has taught Internal and Emergency Medicine at Stanford and Harvard medical schools for the past 25 years.  He (or his staff) had read my blog and wanted to add me.  They've added me to the marathon community and will hopefully be adding me to the ultra-marathon and running communities.  The combination of healthy lifestyle, writing style, and a particular sport is what they're after.  Not only can you tap doctors in the area you are looking for, there are videos/pictures/blogs to browse as well.  A ton of great info.  Anyway, it was cool to get the invite and I post here, it'll feed into the communities that I'm a part of.

Deep Thoughts from today's run: I found myself alone for the majority of today's run.  There were folks in front of and behind me, but no one beside me.  Thoughts ran (pun intended) on the whole time.  Go with me on this for a few minutes: a few weeks ago, the pastor at my church preached a sermon about the goals of our church.  He used the illustration of an antique spyglass (pictured here).  The spyglass is fuzzy unless fully extended and then it comes into focus.  Extend it less than the full length and it simply doesn't work.  Building on this same analogy but applying it to goal-setting within the world of running, I offer the following:

1. Spyglass Part I: The Physical: Without the physical pounding of the pavement or the trail and thus teaching the body to grow and evolve to meet the demands placed upon it, we can not physically complete the task.  There's no way around this.  Complete the well-planned, well-researched training.  In a nutshell, get out there and RUN!

2. Spyglass Part II: The Nutritional: In order to complete Part I and do it efficiently without injury and proper recovery, fuel consumed in our bodies must be quality and suitable for the task at hand.  Just try an Atkins Diet on a runner and see what happens.  Carbs are a necessity.  Storing muscle glycogen is a necessity.  Drinking gobs of water day in and day out....yes, a necessity.  Staying away from the junk like fast-foods, high fructose corn syrup, enriched bread products are all pieces of the puzzle.  Your body is a machine.  Would you really shove a Big Mac in your car's fuel tank?  Why would you do it to your body?  Ahhhh....deep thoughts, eh?!

3. Spyglass Part III: The Mental: Remember, the whole spyglass needs extended so all 3 parts are needed.  The mental is so very real, especially at the marathon (and beyond) distance.  Envisioning the goal at hand and better yet, actually visualizing bits and pieces of the course are incredibly beneficial.  Take the VR Training Run from 2 weeks ago where we ran 20 miles of the Akron Marathon course.  It was a warm, humid, and difficult day.  For many, they saw that nearly 3 mile uphill portion within the lonely crowd-less Sand Run Parkway for the first time.  Much better to see that on a training run than for the first time on race day.  They also saw what waits for them later in the course and what to expect when the finish is near.  These images can be called upon in the race for motivation and used as tools to get through the "funk."  Many speak of the "Wall" around mile 20 of marathons.  Believe me, the "wall" is mental.  You will surely hit it if you keep telling yourself that you will.  

Taking all 3 together forms the Physical, Nutritional, and Mental Spyglass.  Fully extended provides the view and direction to the finish line.  Close any part of this device and your path will surely be a bit bumpy.  Enjoy the view!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Head on Down to the Apple Orchard!

Before the time creeps up too quickly, I wanted to highly recommend an outing for you and your family as we enter the fall season. For the past few years, we take one Saturday and head on down to Rittman, OH to Bauman Orchards for their Fall Festival. Besides the nice country drive down there, it's a great family tradition to start and get some apples you'll only find there. Mark your calendars for September 20, 27 and October 4th. Our calendars are full the first two weekends so we're headed down on the 4th of October. For the kids, they'll enjoy a small petting zoo area, a hay/straw maze to run through, and a ride inside the kid-size train that'll pull them around the market. They will also let you roam through the back where they make fresh cider on site. From the apple selection, cleaning, crushing, and pasteurization, to pumping it into the gallon/half gallon can see it all first-hand. Outside, you can have lunch with fresh kettle corn, hot dogs, homemade apple fritters (and I mean homemade right in front of you!), and a few other things. Best of all, jump on board the hayride for a trip back into the apple orchard where you pay one flat price to stuff your plastic bag full with as many varieties of apples as you can carry. Our girls love to get on my shoulders and go for the ones really high. We'll bring home way more than we can eat but end up sharing with our neighbors who convert them to apple pie. All-in-all, a blast of a time and one we all are looking forward to. Take my word for it and give it a try this year! Here's their website to check them out. FYI: credit cards are accepted inside the market but it's cash only for the hayride back to the apple orchard and for food out front. Google Map here.

From a pathetic running week last week to a great one this week: along with the 1/2 marathon on Sunday, I'm finally taking a day off today to rest and recuperate. Vince led a great trail run last night from Pine Lane along with Brian M. and Rob L.. Even with all the rain and thunderstorms we had the night before, the trail soaked it up like a sponge and was dry. We turned back at the Boston Store and took the Valley Bridle Trail back. Some great hill work, indeed! It was great to finally be back on the trails just before the leaves begin to fall. I can't wait to get off the asphalt long-runs and back onto the trails. But before that, our last VR Training run in preps for Akron will be this Saturday. We'll be leaving Lock 29 in Peninsula at 6:30am for a 16.5 mile or 12.5 mile run...all on roads, and very challenging. A great final push before Akron's hilly course. I think a trip over to Szalay's Farm Market will be in order after the run....YUM!

Did You Know??: on this day in history, Frank Shorter won the gold medal in the men's marathon at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. When will American marathoners return to the podium???

Oh yes, very Happy Trails to you all!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Water Heater and Pacing at the Buckeye Half Marathon

The week started with the awareness that the water was no longer hot coming out of the shower. In a house just 4 years old, it was a surprise to us that we needed to replace the heating elements. Not being mechanically inclined with hardly any tool, I got through that just fine...that is, until I flipped the breaker to turn the heater back on. I flip the breaker and I hear a "crackling" accompanied by an electrical burning smell and a little stream of white electrical smoke rising from the top of the water heater. I quickly returned to the breaker box and tripped the breaker. Further investigation revealed wires totally submerged in water on top of the heater....not good. It turns out there had been a leak for sometime and it literally ate through one of the wires. To make a long week short, we had to order a new water heater, under warranty thank goodness, had it delivered, it was badly damaged, had another one delivered, and by Friday night, hot water was flowing once again. I actually ran less this week because I just didn't want to take an ice cold shower. (pitiful excuse, eh?!) So last week it was the shower door replacement and this week a new hot water heater. What's next?

I also gave in and finally took the dive head-first into Facebook. Marjie's been on it and has since been telling me I should open an account...and that I did. It was amazing to me that immediately, it told me that 52 people in my e-mail address book had Facebook accounts! I have to say...pretty cool site. A great way to connect with family from afar (or near if you don't see them much), find old college classmates, and a plethora of other cool things. Just search for me if you want to hook up. Many of you have already done so.

I skipped the Saturday long-run due to the Buckeye 1/2 Marathon today. It sure was strange being home on Saturday morning. Today brought a perfect morning for a race. A few months back, Vince asked for volunteers to be pace team leaders. Vertical Runner sponsors the pace teams for the Buckeye 1/2 Marathon. I signed up for the 1:45 pace group leader thinking this would be a great way to get the legs turning over again and inject some confidence back in me heading into fall marathon season. Vince gave us these blue tech tees which made it super easy for participants to locate us and latch on, so to speak. We also pinned our target time to the back of our shirt. Basically, our "job" as a pacer is to hit the target finishing time within a minute. For me: no faster than 1:44:00 and no slower than 1:45:00. That equates to an average pace of 7:57 - 8:00 min/mile. I set up my beloved Garmin and prayed it didn't pick today to malfunction. Start weather conditions were perfect with temps in the upper 50s and overcast. It started to sprinkle around the 6 mile point and continued for the rest of the race...perfect! As I like to say: "race day weather with a big fat red ribbon wrapped around it." Kinda like what we got at the Akron Marathon last year, minus the rain. Hopin' for a repeat this year! In the end, I finished perfectly on target at a finish of 1:44:34, avg. pace of 7:59. (full results here) This was a blast and I'll definately do it again. Lots of fun being around people at the finish who are setting PRs and celebrating with them. I also gotta give a big "Job Well Done" to Jim Chaney, Race Director of the Buckeye 1/2 Marathon. Great new/fast course, great water stops, great volunteers, super hooded sweatshirt and artwork, and heck, some fine pasta and rolls at the finish! I don't know the last time I had pasta at 10am in the morning! Thanks a ton, Jim!

Afterwards, I zipped up to Peninsula and met Marjie and my girls for brunch at Fisher's. Their vegetable scramble just hits the spot so well after a, I've been trying to get my family down there for some time. Great, as always. The weather was clearing so on to Part 2 of today. I've also been trying to get my family to Blue Hen Falls. This just happens to be the EXACT parking lot where Marjie picked me up at Mile 55 at Burning River....ahhh, the memories! Well, the parking lot was roped off so we couldn't park. We instead headed back to the Boston Store then took Hines Hill and headed to Brandywine Falls. By this time, the skies were clearing and humidity dropping...perfect. We took the stairs down to the falls viewing area and kids read the information signs telling the history of Brandywine Village that once existed in the 1800s. The falls are VERY dry right now. I'm used to a huge veil of water coming over the top and because of an incredibly dry August, it was weak at best. We headed up out of viewing area and then over by the Inn at Brandywine Falls. If you ever want a quiet night away (MINUS the kids!), I highly recommend this Inn. Great inn-keepers and a SUPER breakfast. They have goats behind the old house and the girls fed them fallen leaves which they loved. We headed on down the Stanford Trail...again, an area that I should have tread on back on August 2nd during the BR100. I actually found an orange streamer still attached to a tree. I retrieved it for use next year...wonder if I'll see that streamer again?!?!?!?? Anyway, we headed on down to the stream crossing, snapping pics along the way, and amazingly, there is VERY little water passing through. I clearly recall my last time past here when we got soaked. All the rocks were covered with rushing water. Not so right now. The entire line of boulders are fully exposed as you can see in this picture. Amazing how dry it is. We then connected with the Brandywine Trail and headed back up to the parking lot (also the turn-around point for the winter Buckeye Trail 50K.)

OK, one last tidbit to get done. I noticed that Szalay's Farm Market was coming to life as we passed it on Bolanz during the 2nd loop of the 1/2 marathon today so we headed on down to see what good produce we could find. We'd never been there before, either. All I can really say is "GO!" If you haven't been there, go there and go soon before the first snowflake falls. We got the biggest plums you've ever seen, "strawberry" apples, nectarines, peaches, fresh strawberries, corn-on-the-cob, and some cider. Good, quality, LOCAL produce. Cash or check only....ATM is on site, though. They are open right now 9am-7pm every day. They also have a ton of other produce items, breads (awfully tempting!), and different spreads. Afterwards, we grabbed a roasted corn-on-the-cob and some fresh-squeezed lemonade. Each was worth every penny of $1.75.

It was great to see so many of you this morning! We sure do have a great network of runners/friends here. Good luck to the group heading up to Erie for the marathon next weekend. QUALIFY, Rose!!! Stick to the plan!

Have a great week and as always, Happy Trails!

“Stotan, a word coined by Percy Cerutty, a great Australian coach from the 1960 Olympics, is about toughness. The stotan must be willing to stand on his own, to resist pain, to stick to his ideals. A stotan is quietly self-sufficient. He accepts the challenges of training, injuries, races, and disappointments without complaining, because he understands that simply by keeping on, by sticking to the path he has chosen, he will get stronger and better.”

(from Amby Burfoot’s “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.”)

Monday, September 1, 2008

20 Miles on the Blue Line and my Girls' First Race

I quote my wife: "As a reader of blogs, you really need to post at least once a week...preferably twice." My response: "Babe, there just wasn't much to talk about this week!" Well, now there's plenty. This was the first week back to school for our girls so open houses and the parents-only kindergarten meeting were Monday and Tuesday. The start to the new school year went well without any surprises. Before that, though, I actually was able to squeeze in a 14-miler on Sunday morning. I ran a hilly course, thus simulating the Buckeye Half-Marathon course this Sunday where I'm pacing the 1:45 goal-setters. (ie: 8min pace). I've been trying to get the leg turnover up in preps for this race and upcoming Akron Marathon. The Sunday run went well and I finished at a 7:54 average pace. Throughout the week, I got in a few 6-7 milers, a 5-miler on Friday, then the big VR group run on the Akron Marathon course. The forecast was for a cool and crisp morning but instead, we got a mid-60s morning with high humidity. 45 dedicated runners showed up for their run on the "Blue Line" of the marathon course. We covered the whole course with the exception of miles 4-10. This was a great training run, especially for those who haven't seen the course before. Akron is not easy and shouldn't be underestimated. As we exit the lonely Towpath section around mile 15, we turn into Sand Run park where we climb for 3 miles and without any crowd support...a tough section. Once we get past that, we enter the neighborhoods until our arrival at Stan Hywet Hall at mile 22 before turning towards downtown and the finish. Whether we've run many marathons or this is our first, seeing the course beforehand, especially in less-than-ideal conditions, is great physical but also mental training for race day.

Wednesday night was the day to get the entire shower door replaced since it's been leaking pretty bad. It was never really fixed correctly after I went crashing through it a few years ago after passing out in the middle of the night. Long story...but let's just say I am thankful to be alive and not being paralyzed. I have vasovagal syncopy and while getting up to use the bathroom, I fell backwards through the shower door and my neck landed on the threshhold that you step over to get in the shower. After being strapped to a hard wooden stretcher, being hauled out sideways through my maze of a bedroom, I spent the whole night with a neck brace on in the ER until they were sure no neck injury existed. Like I said, I'm thankful for every running step I take.

Sunday was very relaxing with sunny skies, low humidity, and temps in the low 80s. After church, we headed over to my brother's house for a birthday party where my girls got to ride their cousin's pony. Amazing that such a powerful animal can behave so well with little instruction except for a 5 or 7 year old on her back tugging at her reigns.

Now to Labor Day: ahhh, another reason I love my federal job...federal holidays! Today was the day my girls ran their first race. The Labor of Love Run, held at The Chapel in Akron is a competitive 5-miler and also a 1 mile fun run that benefits Akron Pregnancy Services. This past Thursday, I took the girls down our street and back up to teach a little bit around running, form, breathing, hands, and pace. They gotta start sometime, don't they?!?!? Kids naturally know how to run, but it's usually run all out or stop! I had to show them how to slow it down and run longer. That 6/10 of a mile in the 85F heat was the ticket to success today. We showed up early, picked up their bright yellow bibs, pinned them on, talked again about our plan, and were on the line ready at 8:30am. It was AWESOME! Around the 1/2 mile point, my 7 year old was itchin' to go so she took off and never stopped until the finish. I remained with my younger one, hand in hand, until we reached the finish...never walking a step! Definately a proud moment for us all! When asking if they'd return next year, an immediate "yes" was shouted out. Before the 1-mile start, though, I sat down with Mark Zimmerman from "Mark and the Morning Team" at WCRF 103.3FM. WCRF in conjunction with The Chapel Sports Ministry put on this race each for 24 years. Mark interviewed me live on the air and discussed the recent Shoes for Orphan Souls shoe drive for orphans in Latvia but quickly led into running.
I found out quickly that Mark heard about my drop-out at Burning River a month ago so we briefly talked about that. So nice for the listening audience to hear about that! But honestly, that was a blast to sit down with Mark and talk about it. (By the way, NO REGRETS from Burning River!)
My 5-mile PR is from last year's race at 34min, 43sec., a 6:57/mile pace. This year, I definately feel in worse shape and with the 20 miler only 48 hours previously, racing well today was not really in the mix. However, once that bib number gets attached, there's just no stopping the adrenaline. I really felt good so I went with it. I told myself that a 35min finish would be great but I should really be happy with 36min, too. Well, after cresting the infamous hill the 2nd time, I realized that the race went much better than planned. I gave it my all but still fell short of my PR by SIX seconds! 34min, 49sec. 6th of 23 in my age group, 32 of 397 finishers, and very happy. No PR was expected but neither was a sub-35. Congrats to many VR-ers who ran well and placed in their age groups...a great VR representation was out there today.

Next up: I realized on Saturday that although I didn't finish Burning River, I still ran 55 miles and recovery is longer than I'm allowing for. My ultimate goal is to finish the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run on November 1st feeling strong and healthy. To do that, I must be smart, rest a lot, and take it easy through this Sunday's half-marathon and the Akron Marathon 3 weeks later. I really only want to have fun at Akron and get my free Brooks shoes! Then, it's 5 weeks to Mt. Masochist. Rest, run, rest some more.
“It’s the other sound that keeps me from falling asleep – the sound of mindless thoughts flitting through my head. I have heard a million people say that running is the most boring activity that they can possibly imagine. Since I’m sure I’m not any smarter or wittier than these people, I can only guess that they never learned to listen as they run. If they did, they would surely be entertained and informed by their own thoughts. How strange that running, which seems so outwardly physical, is actually the most thought-full of activities. If you slow down and pay attention, you will be amazed at what you hear. And you will find that the thoughts that surface during a workout run strong and true through all the parts of your life.”

(from Amby Burfoot’s “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life.”)

Happy Trails, everyone!