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!

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