Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review: 2009

Oh, the irony. As another year wraps up, I sit here in a sports medicine clinic, waiting to see Dr. Nilesh Shah. Dr. Shah is a local runner and probably the #1 go-to person for local runners when they are injured or suspect injury. I have been resilient and injury free for so long and have never set foot in such a place so with the successes and life-changing events that I want to remember in 2009, it’s ironic that it is here that I find myself 1 day before the crystals fall in Times Square. Perhaps by the time I end this final post of the year, I will have spoken and been diagnosed by Dr. Shah and can fill you in. For now, I just want to float back about 12 months and recap a simply amazing year and a year I would have NEVER predicted a year ago.

As I crossed over from 2008 to 2009, I had but one primary goal…to run and finish my first 100-mile endurance run. With a failed attempt in August 2008 and my impatience of not wanting to wait 365 days for my second shot, I picked a 100-miler in the kettles of southern Wisconsin, the Kettle Moraine 100. I decided that all training I did leading up to this event on June 6, 2009 would have to coincide with this goal race, otherwise, it wasn’t to be done. Early in the year, I ran the final installment of the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K. It never did get above 22F that day and trailside, the snow was 8-12” at all times. I was also sick as a dog and was coughing and sneezing violently, even up to the race start and continuing post-race. During the race, I ran hard and thanks to the 20 or so sheet metal screws in my trail shoes, I placed 5th overall in one my fastest 50K trail races ever. Through the winter, I trained a lot on trails and maintained about a 50-70 mile average per week. I even got to run/hike a bit on the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia as I took a break from my 2 weeks of active duty with the Navy. Starting in early April, I began the ramp-up to the Kettle with back-to-back training days where I first ran 20 miles on a Friday followed by 15-20 more on Saturday morning. Eventually, I got up to 30 mile / 30 mile days and an incredible recovery rate. I was recovering practically overnight with minimal soreness. I also ran the inaugural Fools 50K just after April Fools Day in a respectable 5hrs, 23min. Pretty happy with that time especially since I ran much of the day before.

Later that month, specifically on April 15th, the day before my 36th birthday, I got this crazy idea of "The weather looks good tomorrow. I should run 36 miles on my 36th birthday!" I got to work, requested the day off, then planned out my route. On April 16th, I got my girls on the school bus, then set out from my home on a 36 mile route that included Brimfield, Kent, Ravenna, and Rootstown. I stopped at various spots along the way, took pictures with friends and family, and still made it back home before the girls were done with school for the day. I actually ran a decent pace considering it was just for fun as I passed the marathon point at 26.2 miles right at 4 hours as I passed through Ravenna. That day was soooo much fun and I see a repeat of something similar in the years to come.
Here's my report from the run. This is one of my favorite pics from the run. Around mile 33, I stopped at my youngest brother's house (who was at work at the time) and my niece and nephew had made up a sign welcoming me and wishing me Happy 36th Birthday! That was so awesome. Thank you!


North of Chicago, it was quite a drive but little didn't I know what a haul it would be AFTER the race. Getting into Wisconsin, I loved the area immediately as well as the people in the area. Come race morning (which I remember vividly still now), I began my journey to my first 100-mile finish. In the over 230 blogs posts that I have written and the many race reports, I still believe it is my best. As you know, your “first time” regardless of what it is, only happens once. Finishing the Kettle Moraine 100 was truly a life-changing event and seeing that finish line created such a rush of emotion that I felt from head to toe that I can’t imagine ever forgetting it. I can still see that bold red finish line banner through the pines on Sunday morning and the tear that dripped down my cheek. Solo. Alone. Just me and the trail. It was, as the saying goes…priceless. I finished in 25hrs, 39min. Part 1 of race report. Part 2 of race report.

After the Kettle and bringing home my little baby kettle (my finishers award), I took some time off but probably only about 3 weeks until I ramped up the mileage again since big goal #2 was just around the corner, my chance at redemption at my 2nd attempt at the Burning River 100. You see…2008 ended not-so-good at Burning River. I sprained my ankle pretty badly at Mile 38 on the now-closed Carriage Trail. The pain became unbearable by the time I got to the Boston Store aid station and I dropped out at Mile 55. I still remember sitting in Marjie’s car and my youngest daughter asking me: “Did you quit, Daddy?” That question still pierces me today. At the Boston Store, the podiatrist confirmed my decision to drop and wrapped my ankle up and hanging my head low, I headed on home as many of my friends continued on to the finish.

So 2009 was the year to crush this event and get my buckle and be done with it. I did just that and for the first time in my life, I learned what it was like to “sleep run” which is what I was doing between miles 90 and 95. Kellie T., my pacer, would turn around and look at me as we were heading south on the Towpath towards Memorial Parkway and I’d have my eyes shut and I’d be weaving around like a drunk driver…er…drunk runner. I could not wake up even though I had taken in 3 Starbucks Doubleshots and caffeine-infused ShotBloks over the span of the race. Eventually, I emerged onto the final stretch in Cuyahoga Falls, took both of my girls in hand and crossed that finish line in 27hrs, 11min.
Finishing Burning River was a huge accomplishment and it felt like I finally proved to people that I really can do this thing. I proved it to myself, for sure. There were a few people who came up to me in the weeks afterward and questioned me doing two 100-milers within 8 weeks of each other and weren’t too sure if I could do it. Well, I did it and dangit, I felt pretty darn good!

Immediately after Burning River, my family and I escaped to southern Ohio into the Hocking Hills area and rented out a cabin where not even a cell signal could be received. We spent a few days just hiking the many trails down there and spending a lot of time beneath the foliage that was so heavy down there…a fair amount of time in the hot tub, too. I wrote my Burning River report while down there and you can read it for yourself
here. That report sealed Burning River for me…for good. While I will support that race for years and years to come, I do not ever intend on running it again. I won’t say never because…well, I said I’d never run a 100 miles. If you are considering a 100-miler, though, I still recommend it, but you’d better train well and expect a lot of warm, humid temps on that first weekend in August. As I approached the Boston Store this year around mile 56, it was 87F.

After vacationing in Hocking Hills, and a good time at local fairs and apple orchards as fall silently approached, something else was weighing heavily on my mind: the inaugural running of the Oil Creek 100 Mile Endurance Run in Titusville, PA. Titusville is the undisputed birthplace of the oil industry located a short 2 hours from me in northwest Pennsylvania. I had been watching Tom Jennings, race director, build and craft an excellent event over the past year. He was constantly posting Facebook updates about everything and I really wanted to be a part of it. He offered a 50K, 50 mile, and the 100 mile. Prior to Burning River, Marjie said “no way!” to another 100-miler this year. However, after her faithful volunteering experience at Burning River, she fully supported me if I would decide to do Oil Creek. I was already signed up for the 5th running of the YUT-C 50K threes prior and the Akron Marathon two weeks prior to Oil Creek, though. Hmmmm….do them all! So I signed up…for 100-miler #3 in my life and 3rd in 2009.

About a month after Burning River, I ran a 5 mile race in Akron on Labor Day, called the Labor of Love Run which I run every year. In a not-very-smart way, I raced it and raced it hard. I hadn’t been doing speedwork at all in 2009, but instead had been focusing on long trail runs. I was also only 4 weeks removed from my last 100-miler. Well, I think I caused a little damage that day to my iliopsoas and adductor muscles in my left leg. Actually, I can’t say that it was just that event but probably a combination of the 100-milers, lack of enough rest after Burning River, and racing hard when I wasn’t conditioned to do so. A few weeks later, I ran the YUT-C 50K, cutting a whoppin’ hour off my personal record on that course, then ran the Akron Marathon one week later. That didn’t go so well and looking back today, that race was a mistake. I wasn’t keeping the big picture in mind and ran it just because I wanted to be in a race where so many friends were running and a race that is so much fun each year. My left leg muscles acted up and the last 5-10 miles were not so much fun. After that, I totally shut it down until Oil Creek with very minimal running. The goal was to rebuild and rest as much as humanly possible in 14 days.

Arriving in Titusville, PA on October 10th, I found my sleeping spot on the gym floor where I’d sleep, met up with a lot of friends at the local brewery, Blue Canoe, and enjoyed everyone’s company in the packed cafeteria the night before for the pre-race dinner and meeting. The race was sold out for all events and to see the room packed for an inaugural event was jaw-dropping. (way to go, Tom!) The next day started a journey not soon to be forgotten…one with pain, mental toughness, tears, and a bit of “trail pole dancing.” Oil Creek consists of (3) 50K loops of about 31 miles each with a "final trip home" route of about 7 miles at the end. Around mile 20, my muscular issues flared up in my upper left leg which is the reason I sit here at Dr. Shah's today. Those issues have not gone away. As someone who takes ibuprofen as a last resort, I began doing just that around mile 25. With a no-quit attitude, I made the decision to run on regardless of the pain and so I did. I saw 2 sunrises, ran under hundreds of hemlocks, met a lot of incredible volunteers in the aid stations, and did break down and cry around mile 92. Assuming you have already read the race report, you know that Marjie totally surprised me by appearing around that mile. The sun had risen for the 2nd time since I started the race and I was tore up physically and mentally. Seeing her let loose a flood of emotion as I spotted her down the asphalt bike path. I remember the tears and falling into her arms for a brief moment. Wow, that was such a "moment." She escorted me in to the final aid station before my final 7 mile trek. I finished Oil Creek in 30hrs, 49min with 1hr, 11min to spare. Hands down, the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life without a doubt. I was really thankful for the extended 32hr cutoff time for this event, otherwise, I would've been pulled from the event. I'm also thankful for Marjie's continued support of my ultra-running. It was clear that she drove out to Titusville alone because she and she alone wanted to be there for me. It meant the world to have her there with me and to have her standing at the finish line. Here's my
race report from Oil Creek. Speaking of the race report, someone at the local Titusville newspaper read it and requested permission to put it on their front page...the WHOLE front page! I shot a video only a couple of seconds long to show how awesome that was after they sent me 2 copies of the newspaper that ran 4 days after the race...you can see it here. Post-Oil Creek, I certainly had the longest recovery of all and honestly, I don't feel like I'm done yet, nearly 3 months later. It really did whack me upside the head (and body) pretty hard but it was sooooo worth it! It was the first 100-miler that I finished and I immediately said that I'd like to go back and do it again.

I did take a lot of time off to rest and take it easy but about a month later, I laced up my trusty trail shoes and ran one final event at the inaugural Bobcat Trail Marathon in southeast Ohio. This was 26.2 miles of new trail I had never been on that felt in every way like an ultra-marathon. Superb course, superb race organization, and how many races can you wake up, sit up in the hotel bed, and look out the window at the start/finish line?! Plus, the pre-race dinner and post-race lunch were all right there at the lodge, too, at Burr Oak State Park. Vince and Brandon, co-race directors did a phenomenal job and I see many years of fun for this event in the future. I will certainly return. The relationship has developed so well between them at the state park that they have granted them permission to permanently mark the trail for the marathon. That's unheard of! Along with running my 25th marathon at Bobcat, I also turned into amateur photographer and snapped 171 photos of the event. I really got some great ones!
Here they are and here is my race report.

Wrapping up the year, I am eternally grateful. Here are some other bullet points that stand out for 2009:

- I took Marjie on her first trail run! (see pic below, taken at 'Kimba's Rock' at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, OH) This picture was actually her 2nd trail run. About an hour later, Marjie fell and broke her left radial head (left arm just below the elbow) and has been out of work since but will return next week. She can't wait to hit the trails again!

- I really enjoy writing the monthly Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter. Subscribers now exceed 640 which are unique and I have less than 1% reject rate when I send it out. I've met a lot of people and continue to be inspired by those I interview every month. I plan on continuing this in 2010. For January, I'm featuring a trail runner who was once on the Wheaties box!

- I gave my first-ever trail running clinic for new trail runners just this month. With such an increase in e-mails over the past several months about how to run trails, where to find them, what to wear, etc., I sensed a demand for a clinic. It went very well and we concluded it with a 5 mile trail run aboard the challenging Salt Run Trail in the CVNP.

- My U.S. Navy career is moving full speed ahead as well and 2010 will be a big year in that part of my life. Promotion in late 2009 to the next rank and moving to a new high-tempo command just this month were the highlights. In 2010, I'll formally graduate the the
Supply Corps School in Athens, GA and will take on a more prominent role in leadership at my new command. As for deployments in the near future, that remains to be seen.

- I ended up with 2,265 miles for the year as compared to 2,107 for 2008. A modest increase and less than I expected considering the 3 100-milers but with the recovery time from each, it all makes sense. I don't see much increase, if any, for 2010 and I'm perfectly happy with that.


So as 2009 comes to a close, Dr. Shah has informed me of something that comes as no surprise. Back in October, my massage therapist said I had hurt my psoas muscle. Last month, my chiropractor said it was my adductor muscle. After being evaluated yesterday and three x-rays, it is both. Nothing broken or out of place, according to the x-rays, but a diagnosis of a iliopsoas and adductor muscle strain. For now, no slippery, unpredictable trail running and no hard running. Instead, nice and easy running and physical therapy starting next week including the Graston Technique as well as overall core strengthening exercises. My goal is to be back 100% by the last weekend in February when I am heading up the Oil Creek FA 50K on the Oil Creek 100 course. I want to kick off my MMT100 (Massanutten Mountain Trails 100) training that weekend. Between now and then, I need to heal and get strong. The Winter Run for Regis 50K on January 17th is a big fat "maybe" right now. We'll see how the physical therapy goes and what the therapist recommends.

All the best to you and yours for a happy, safe, and goal-reaching 2010!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

M-Cubed for 12/28/09

Monday Morning Musings for December Twenty-Eighth, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- So this is how fast 5 days off in a row can go, eh? Dang, it's time to go back to work already. That went way too fast!


- Good times were hopefully had by all this past Saturday at my last installment of the Waterfalls Run. The first year in 2007, we had around 10...70+ last year...who knows this year. There were a lot for the start at 7:30am but we picked up a bunch 5 miles into it and the group fractured off into several smaller groups. The numbers don't matter one bit but as long as everyone had a blast, I'm happy. It was cool to see new faces and also folks who were using this as their FIRST trail run ever. Awesome! These 3 pics on today's M-Cubed post are from the 3 waterfalls. The first is Brandywine, followed by Blue Hen, then the mostly secret waterfall and most gorgeous one...Buttermilk Falls. After the run, many headed over the Winking Lizard in Peninsula for the '09 WRTR (Western Reserve Trail Running) Awards lunch. The winners got really nice, embroidered Mizuno backpacks and leading volunteers as well as those who completed at least 5 events got tall black coffee mugs with the WRTR on one side and the '09 races listed on the other. Great time!

- Well, for those of you who stop by often, you know that I've had issues with my upper left leg since my 3rd 100-miler at Oil Creek in October...specifically mile 20 of that event. I do believe it is the adductor muscle which starts attached to the pelvis and ends on the inner side of the femur. Side-to-side motion is what is mostly controls (I think). Well, with Saturday's muddy trail run and lots of sliding, it really irritated it. I'm throwing in the towel now and will go see a doctor, hopefully local runner Dr. Shah will be the one and hopefully this week. I'm guessing a MRI or x-ray will quickly follow. If I don't get this fixed, forget the 2010 season. With that said, I haven't run since Saturday and really don't have a schedule for this week, yet...thus, you still see last week's schedule to the right.


- Before the shoes give out, the laces will. About 10 miles into Saturday's run, I sensed that my right shoe was getting awfully loose. I stopped to tighten it and behold, no laces from the toe to halfway up my shoe! The laces literally dry-rotted away and split. I did some creative lacing just to get me back to my car. Afterwards, I set them out in the sun at home to dry out from the creek crossings but forgot about them. They were frozen solid by the time we got home from a family Christmas dinner. Love those shoes...

- We're already putting into practice the FPU baby steps that I last blogged about...regarding becoming debt free. Budget in writing, giving every dollar a place, 100% accountability, and making the necessary tax withholding changes and investment contribution changes to increase our cash flow so we can began the attack. I gotta say...this is exciting and I can't wait to watch it all work and come together! Impossible without my team member, though...this is definitely a team effort.

Have a great week, everyone, Happy Trails, and have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yet Another Goal...

Time to switch gears for a post or two. If you checked in today looking for an inspirational blog about running or the trails, you may be disappointed. Instead, this is going to be more about big-picture stuff...like moola, aka: money. I wanted to name this post "pathetico" but it turns out the Dictionary.com says it's not a word so I held back. That's how I would define myself in this category, though. Truly pathetic. Let me explain...

In a marriage, there is normally one person who takes care of the bills...that would be me for the past 17 years. I also have a MBA...a masters degree in business administration. For you non-business degree types, that degree involves lots of numbers, economics, case studies, etc. No real way to avoid it. If you hate math, that's not the degree for you. I also used to work for the largest insurer in the United States as a financial advisor and was working towards becoming a CFP, a Certified Financial Planner...typically a main goal of developing financial advisors. It's sort of the equivalent of a CPA that accountants have. I had my Series 7 license which was not easy to get and would allow me to trade stocks and do a lot of the cool stuff. I often sat down with clients and looked at their whole financial picture and advised them on investments, DEBT REDUCTION, life insurance, college savings, etc. It came easy to me, the principles were second nature to me, and I "got it"...I believed in it. By the way, sales are easy when you believe in something. I found that out when I sold Honda vehicles for nearly 3 years a few years back. (dang, I miss that job...dang, I DO NOT miss the commission-based income!) Anyway, you'd think with my education, my past profession, and just a knack for finances, money, and truly understanding economics and how the whole big machine works, I'd have my own house in order. I feel truly "pathetico" for having my wife to provide this wake-up call, along with a good friend I haven't seen in years.

FPU, or Financial Peace University, is a program by Dave Ramsey about getting out of debt. Let's be honest for a second: every stinkin' time I'd be flippin' through the channels on the tube and I saw him on Fox Business or on any other channel, I'd quickly fly right by him. Why? I knew exactly what he was going to say! AND, I didn't want to hear it because I knew he was right and I'd feel like he talking right at me. The principles are simple but for who knows what reason, I never put them into effect in my own life. Pathetic. Anyway, my good buddy Chuck (see my blog roll on the right...I've got him linked) from Virginia who I really miss has gone through the program and can proclaim "I am debt free!" due to sticking to the principles. He just recently started blogging the baby steps this past week and we're on-board! NONE of what FPU teaches is new to me...I told these principles to clients!!! ARGH!!! Basic stuff like having the emergency fund setup, paying off the lowest debt first regardless of interest rate, stopping 401K contributions, upping exemptions on the W-4...I've heard it all. Through Marjie reading Chuck's blog, she got a little burr stuck in her side and before I knew it, she had the notebook out and our income/expenses charted out. "So, do you want to sit down and do this?" she asked. Hmmmm.....

Writing it all down and seeing the numbers like how much really comes in every month and how much goes out and WHERE it goes is humbling, perhaps upsetting, too. "We went out to eat THAT many times?" "I went to Starbucks that many times?" So WE sat down and planned out the next month of income/expenses and where every stinkin' dime would go. One big, big switch is going to cash-only and paying ourselves an allowance. We have grocery money which comes out of the ATM on payday, "entertainment" money for us to go out to eat on or to see a movie, and allowance. All in cash. If I want Starbucks, cash only. If I want to go out for lunch at work...cash only. If I'm standing in Vertical Runner on Christmas Eve with a bag of Crazy Monkey granola in my hand and I realize that it comes out my wallet in the form of cash....well, that's where the rubber meets the road. It is TOTALLY different to pay in cash for something instead of using the check-card. The check-card draws from our checking account so it's the same thing, right? No way. The visual pulling out of cash from my wallet (aka: allowance) is totally different than swiping my card. (Marjie is still laughing about this, by the way...she thinks it's hilarious how fast it affected my buying behavior)

Anyway, I am just an infant in this journey that WE just embarked on. The "we" is critical here, too. I can very easily see how grabbing debt by the horns could provoke major arguments in a marriage and the irresistible urge to throw in the towel. You are forced to work together. I am assuming, of course, that you jointly own everything, which we do. We have always been opposed to individual accounts and will remain so indefinitely. For example, we were considering a visit to the movies two nights ago to see "Invictus" or a visit to Applebee's where they have their "2 for 20" special. We had already taken the girls to see the new Chipmunks movie and realized that if we went, we were done until next payday because this would zap our "entertainment fund." We had to verbally make a joint decision and to hold each other accountable to the commitment we made a few days earlier when we sat down and decided to travel this path. We went to Applebee's, had a great time, paid cash, and we're done until next payday in the "going out to eat" category (which we LOVE to do, by the way).

So why blog about it? Why publicize something so personal? Well, you won't see any specific numbers or account info here...ever. Like running, my blog helps keep me accountable and telling YOU, the reader, I feel sorta accountable to you since now you know the commitment I've made...to be debt free. Pretty dang similar to signing up for a 100-miler next May....now I HAVE to do it...and train for it! If you have some time, check out Chuck's blog.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. I didn't buy the granola...but I did get 2 bags from Santa. :-)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Breakin'

Very rarely do 5 straight days off present themselves without taking any vacation but this is one of them this year. I don't remember this ever happening before, either. "Thank you, Mr. President, for closing my government office. Much appreciated. Would New Year's Eve be too much to ask?" To get the maximum benefit out of this time, I certainly had to hit up some trails, plus a variety of other trail-running and group running adventures. On Wednesday, I spread the word about a trail run at West Branch State Park. I really think that those who live west of me in Summit County and those who live north towards Cleveland think West Branch/Portage County is in another world. It seems no one ever wants to come on over. Seriously, it's no further to drive than it is for me to drive to the CVNP like I've been doing for 5 years. The West Branch trails often are running very near the lake and also include about 5-6 miles of the Buckeye Trail...yep, blue blazes in Portage County! Anyway, thanks to Dave for making the incredibly 'long' trek from West Akron and to Slim and Gombu yet again. Always nice to get some 100-milers together for a small trail run. We're all doing MMT, too. We saw many, MANY deer and even a set of very distinct turkey tracks...and even heard a gobble, gobble on the way back but couldn't locate the bird. It was a great 10 miles at sunrise on snowy, crunchy, lakeside trails.

Today, tradition dictated that I join others in Hudson at Vertical Runner for the annual run around Hudson and Hudson Springs Park for about 6+ miles, some treats at the store afterwards, and a generous raffle afterwards, courtesy of Vince at VR. 65 others braved 15F temps and had a great run. Some eyes were rolling, but I the camera yet again. Here are the pics. The pic here is my favorite, courtesy of Tracy. She tried to avoid my camera lens, but I got her!

The day after Christmas will be the 3rd installment of a mammoth group run that will visit the 3 main waterfalls of the CVNP and conclude with lunch at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula where we'll hand out the awards for the winners in the 2009 Western Reserve Trail Running race series and also the awards to those who ran in at least 5 events. I picked up the awards today and yea, they are nice! I think those who rose to the top and captured victory will be very happy this Saturday. The participation awards are pretty cool, too. All in all, a great time will be had by all this coming Saturday.

A few posts ago, I was talking about 2010. I'm pretty torn about my 2nd 100-miler. Yes, I want to get out west and into the mountains to do one of those. Yes, I want greater and greater challenges. Yes, I want to support local races, too. If I pick, for example, the Bear 100, there is no way I can run the Oil Creek 100 in 2010. I'm not so sure I like that. I really want to return to that event and run it again and just be apart of a second-to-none kind of weekend in northwest Pennsylvania. It will most likely happen on Columbus Day weekend, too, which works good in my schedule. I just don't know...it's not a matter of cost, either...both are about the same price except the airfare and lodging to go out west. At Oil Creek, it's an easy 2hr drive and an air mattress on the gym floor. (no sleeping bag next year...that was not an enjoyable experience!) In the meantime, the FA 50K that I am planning for the last weekend in February on the Oil Creek course is still a go. It looks like a good size group will be meeting me out there.

I hope you all will have a wonderful Christmas tomorrow and get to spend the time with family, friends, and whomever else you are close to. For me, I thought it would be a good day to wash the car since it'll be in the mid-40s and snow will be gone. "You are not washing your car on Christmas!" the Lead Santa said. OK, OK....can I run?

Happy Trails, everyone and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fresh Snow, First Prints

It wasn't even like running with my body as it was with my mind. I got up and actually considered not going out this morning. The temperature was at 29F and more snow had fallen overnight. If I've learned one thing about early morning 4am runs is that I never, ever regret going. I went through my normal morning rituals: espresso, banana, Facebook, e-mails, blogs…then headed on out. Never once did my headlamp get turned on. I was wearing a lot of dark clothing and didn't want to see any cars so I headed out for the rolling countryside.

Step after step left the first print in the snow ahead of me on the snow-lit road ahead. Not a car, not an animal, not a person had been out yet. Something is so special about being the first after a snowfall. It was quiet, too, with hardly even a footfall heard beneath me. Nothing more than steady breathing and some crunchy snow with each step. I knew it was snowing, too, not because I could see it. I never did. I could feel it, though…each flake on my face as they fell. Awareness down and fully vulnerable to a bounding deer across the road, a chasing dog from a nearby farm, I slipped away mentally and ran absolutely effortlessly through the snow and across the farm-laden countryside. In the distance, I could see bright multi-colored Christmas lights along a fenceline marking the entrance to the biggest home on the street. They shined bright, far off in the distance against nothing but a backdrop of white all around. Soon, it was time…time to turn around and head home and face life straight on as the work week began. I traced my steps back, still not another track anywhere to be found. Breathing steady, pace steady, and running without even trying. I thought about everyone who'd miss out on this today as they jumped aboard the rubber mats with pulleys and belts to run in place, inside, with a TV or radio nearby. They won't miss this for they don't even know it exists. It's sad, you know, that such beauty exists right here in a small, rural, country town and most, probably 99.9% of the town sits inside and sees none of it. For me, it's yet another reason to lace up, head out, and breathe in the cold air and do what comes naturally and maintains its purity mile after mile after mile. Fresh snow, cool air, flakes upon my skin, and steady breathing with every footstrike surrounded by silence…to be fully immersed in a landscape that for me, on this first day of winter, was priceless beyond measure.

M-Cubed for 12/21/09

Monday Morning Musings for December Twenty-First, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Those 400 pushups on Friday have given me new direction. I didn't do any on Saturday and they didn't hurt my 20 miler. Yesterday, I got down for 4 sets of 25 each and they were not easy. After so many, it's not my arms that are sore. It's dead center in my abs. So my thought is this: high counts of these bad boys and perhaps they can really have a "ripple" effect throughout my whole upper body...in moderation, of course. And in the end, if it strengthens my whole upper body, then I'll be stronger on the uphills on the trails where I power up and use my whole body to do so. I think I'll start out with the goal of 100 per day and work from there but take a day off here and there. A bit of an endurance experiment, I suppose.

- Question: "Why did you do 400 pushups on Friday?" Answer: "It just popped in my head." Response: "You're crazy." My response: "Yea. I get that a lot. Daily, actually."

- As Mr. Rogers used to say "It's a wonderful (week) in the neighborhood, a wonderful (week)...." Oh yea, Christmas 2009 and a great week of running, too. :-) After only 2 days of work, I'm going to hit up some West Branch trails on Wednesday, hit up the annual Vertical Runner Christmas Eve Run-n-Raffle on Thursday morning, put on my Santa hat and run Karen's 8.2mi loop around home on Christmas and then cap off the week with my very own creation, the Waterfalls Run. (I seriously think over 100 people are going to show up for that last one...yikes! That's a LOT for a group run!)

- If you ever think a restaurant has done a really great job time and time again, take the time to write them an e-mail. Not only is it rare for them to get compared with the many complaints, but a little something might be sent your way to say "Thanks for the compliments!" Hey, I'm just saying.... (from very recent experience, that is)

- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: does it EVER get old? Thank you AMC!!! Long live Clark Griswold!

- A new headlamp is on the way: I've become frustrated with Petzl as moisture seems to keep finding it's way in but I've had great success with my super-powerful Princeton Tec Apex headlamp, powered with 2 lithium photo batteries. It was superb during my 100-milers but is a little bit of overkill on morning runs around home and on some snowy trail runs when a lot of light is not needed. So, I ordered the "Fuel" model, a 4-LED headlamp and powered by (3) AAA batteries...much cheaper than those lithiums. It's super-lightweight, too. Princeton Tec makes a great product and in my opinion, they're my top pick in headlamps.

- If I don't blog before Christmas, please have a very Merry Christmas! We may just have a white one here in NE Ohio! I hope I get to see many of you either on or off the trails very soon!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

400 and 20

I got to work on Friday, Day 5 of 5 for my work-week and with my Santa running socks on for dress-down Friday, I wanted to spice things up a bit so I set the challenge: 400 push-ups by the time I left for the day at the rate of 50 per hour, on the hour. 400 sounds crazy but 50 per hour felt doable. Getting to 200 wasn't hard but with each passing hour (which seemed to go by faster than ever before), those push-ups in on the cold tile floor in the stockroom got harder and harder. I remember pumping out the 350th around 3:45pm, only 50 from my goal and how thinking that nothing would stop me from the coveted 400. At around 4:40pm, 5min before quittin' time, I pumped out the final set. It was not easy and at 30, I took a walking break, thinking foolishly that I would gain some energy and strength back. I came back to knock out 10 more and at 48 (or 398), I hit the floor, literally. Up on my knees, I knelt for a moment to get my composure. "Come on you big wimp, two more quality push-ups!" I did one more...then sat up again. "Dangit." I pumped out the last in Navy-regulation-style, happy as a clam. I normally do...well...ZERO per day so 400 on this day was pretty sweet. I have found a new way to pass the hours at work and get some strength-work in at the same time. The only problem: I had a 20 mile trail run planned for 14 hours in the future...uh oh. Rubber arms on the trails don't make a good combination.

With an alarm sounding at 3:50am on Saturday morning, I first lifted my arms in bed wondering what they'd feel like. Surprisingly, they felt fine...no more sore than if I had done some bench-pressing or other free weights. Good to go! At 6am, I hit the trails with 8 or so others, led by Beth T., and into the night and onto the snowy trails we went. In the distance, Boston Mills Ski Resort was fully illuminated with fresh powder awaiting the locals to their slopes. It was good to not be the leader or organizer of this run and just someone who showed up. I had a great run up to Brecksville and back and ran the majority of the run with a guy from the Netherlands who was on his FIRST trail run. He is a 3hr marathoner (which I am not) but on this day, he fell in love with the trails. I did my best to brain-wash him into my world of ultra-running and by the end, he was asking questions about how to train for a 100-miler. (HA! Mission accomplished!) I'd mention his name, but I'd butcher the spelling of it so I won't touch it. By the time we got back to the Boston Store, he was hooked on the beauty and splendor of the trails and will certainly be back. Just before the end, I shot video once again of the my favorite downhill, the Rollercoaster Hill just past the "Piano Keys." I've shot this many times in the past and in different seasons. It actually turned out pretty good this time. Another 20 miles and a day I passed 2200 miles for the year. 2008's total was 2,107 so this has already became the biggest mileage year ever for me. I thought it would be higher with (3) 100-mile races but with the recovery after each one, the mileage all balances itself out. I'm happy with this quantity and really don't want to increase it in the future.
video
All in all, a great winter weekend with our first good snowfall of the season. While I don't relish the sub-freezing temperatures for day-to-day living, I do relish the season for trail running. My endurance goes up, I fade much slower, and my hydration is much easier to control. With proper gear, there is no excuse to stay indoors in NE Ohio winters. Even with ice, my friends...sheet metal screws work wonders attached to a pair of Keen trail shoes. :-)

A note: if you've ever wanted to check out some new trails, specifically in the West Branch State Park, I'm going to lead up a short trail run on Wednesday, December 23rd. Drop me a note if you want to join me.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 Planning...Thinking Out Loud

Maybe it is the Type A personality in me, but I have to plan ahead. Not having much of 2010 planned is grating on me. First, how about some overarching goals:

- minimal road running except for weekly morning runs
- increase whole-body strength thereby increasing long-term endurance
- less events and more high-quality, high-caliber events
- more volunteering at local trail events
- foster and lead some trail maintenance projects
- more FA 50K+ training runs with fellow trail runners
- continue to grow and spread the word about NE Ohio trails and surrounding trails in central Ohio and western Pennsylvania
- help those with the inner desire to go further and longer and challenge themselves to previously untouched limits and push through them

While I have nothing against road running, my passion currently lies on trails where I can escape to. As of now, I do not plan on running any road marathon or ultras in 2010. I may run a trail marathon at Bobcat, though. Instead, I want to focus on a few key events in 2010 and use other events as building blocks to the end goals. In my personal life, I am shedding some personal commitments I held for the last few years but my Navy responsibilities will be and have taken an up-tick in time requirements and I don't anticipate that slowing down. My previously thought plan on deployment to the Middle East will most likely not happen in 2010, after all.

Here are my open-ended thoughts about 2010:

January: I've been maintaining a long trail run in the mid-20s in mileage since the Oil Creek 100 so I'm pretty much ready for the Winter 50K Run for Regis on the 3rd weekend. I will treat it as a training run and won't race it for fear of reversing the healing of my left adductor muscle.

February: weekend long runs as normal with an Oil Creek FA 50K that I'm organizing on the last weekend of the month covering one loop of the Oil Creek 100 course. Great elevation work that I need as I inch closer to my goal race in May. Slow, steady, and practiced nutrition is the goal. Weekly mileage in February should be in the 50-60 miles per week range.

March: my Navy duties will take center stage this month but an opportunity for a day-long run/hike on the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia will most likely present itself. This will be awesome training for MMT in May. Since I don't anticipate getting to the Shenandoah Valley to train on the MMT course as many recommend, I need this type of training and 2 months before MMT is perfect timing. My plan will be to go out on the AT for as long as I can with no aid/support except for what I carry with me. Continued mileage per week will be maintained along with longest runs pushing past 30 miles. I will probably run the Fools 50K on the last weekend in March.

April: more Navy duties will make it difficult to peak as I should this month. However, I will try to fit in mid-day multi-hour steady-state trail runs as I can. As we come into Spring in NE Ohio, some time on the rock-beds in the Brecksville Reservation and more running in Mill Creek Park on the rocks will be a part of it. At least one back-to-back high-mileage training run is needed.

May: May 15/16 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (paid my entry today so I'm in...for sure!)

June: focused downtime with no events and more trail time to foster recovery

July: slow re-build in mileage with the Buckeye Trail 50K as the first return to 30+ mileage since MMT.

August: volunteer at the Burning River 100 on July 31st/August 1st followed by steady-state trail running throughout the month with no events planned

September: volunteer at the YUT-C 50K in Youngstown followed by running my 2nd 100-miler of the year, the Bear 100. It takes place on the last Friday/Saturday of September, the same weekend as the Akron Marathon. This is tentative right now and no firm commitment for many months, but it is a heavy consideration. The Bear 100 is a 35 hour time limit event with 22,000 feet of elevation gain. It takes place in the Wasatch/Bear River Range in Utah and Idaho. I watched the Bear 100 DVD back in September and fell in love with it. It is a down-home, old-school 100-miler with a $150 entry fee with some great traditions. It kicks off from Logan, UT, a short 2 hr drive from Salt Lake City, UT. This event is over 4 months post-MMT so my participation in MMT should not interfere with this unless injury presents itself. History has it that the race directors run the event itself. Here is the video from September 2009 that Phil Lowry put together, co-race director of Bear.

October: if I do the Bear, then Oil Creek is out for 2010. I've really been missing Oil Creek since running it in October and have been leaning towards running it again in 2010 but I really want to get out there and experience other events and other parts of the country, especially the mountains out west. So if Bear becomes a reality, October will be a month of recovery and rest.

I think that's far enough for planning right now. It's a simplistic schedule, for sure, but that's where my heart is right now. I don't crave road marathons and I don't crave a jam-packed schedule. I have loved my time since Oil Creek...a time of not doing much of anything except for resting when I want and running when I want and for as far as I want with no real schedule. Not having a bunch events in 2010 will foster this even further.

Happy Trails, everyone! If you're on the Buckeye Trail this Saturday morning, say "Hi!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

M-Cubed for 12/14/09

Monday Morning Musings for December Fourteenth, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Christmas. Charlie Brown style. A classic and still one of the extremely few shows that gets it right.

- Great friends. West Branch style. I met up with 'Gombu' and 'Slim', fellow 100-mile runners at 5:30am this past Friday. Yea...you read correctly...we started at 5:30am and 11 degrees before accounting for the light breeze. It was a ton of fun, awesome conversation as always, lots of talking smack, and of course, lots of chatter about our May 2010 trip to Massanutten. ALWAYS a good time with these guys. In this pic, the West Branch Reservoir is off to the left in the pitch darkness. There are about 15 other pics in my "Misc Running" folder on Facebook, too.

- Mr. Moon. Yea, some people have their favorite teddy bear. Nearly everyone has their "thing" that just makes 'em smile. For me, whether he is full or on the brink of disappearing for a few days, I just love to look at him in a clear sky before sunrise. He was out there for both runs on Friday and Saturday...welcome as always to come along for the ride.

- 30.6. Got that many miles in over Friday and Saturday. 8.8 with the guys on Friday then a total of 21.8 on Saturday through both a run on the Regis course and a short run with a bunch of new trail runners after my trail running clinic. I had about 20 new trail runners show up on a cold morning at Kendall Lake where I talked for about an hour about the do's and don'ts of trail running, trail shoes, blister protection, hydration, trail etiquette, and about some local trails. Afterwards, I took many of them on their first-ever trail run aboard Salt Run Trail. It was so cool to see so many brand new faces I hadn't seen before eager to hit the dirt. If you are reading this and were there, THANK YOU for showing up and I hope you get use out of your Vertical Runner discount! (Thanks, Vince!)

- Cold is good. "You run in THIS????" "Are you crazy???" I swear...I get more of these comments now than I did when I ran 3 successive 100-mile runs this year. Most come from work as people wander in from outside freezing. My response: "Heck yea! I already ran 6 this morning before work!" I really do run the best in the cold. Sure, it stinks for the first few minutes until the "furnace" kicks in and starts generating heat but after that and wearing the proper clothing, it's all good! Heck..."it's GRRRRREAT!" (Thanks, Tony, for the quote)

- I think people-watching at Wal-Mart is nearly as good as at the airport. Anyone agree? Hey...I'm just sayin'...

- Adductor Longus muscle: I went to my chiropractor on Thursday night to get his opinion about my upper left leg muscle soreness since the Oil Creek 100 miler back in early October. It hasn't gone away. Through a series of exercises, he ruled out the psoas muscle as being the problem. He concluded it is the adductor muscle which runs right on top of the psoas muscle and whose job is to stabilize the entire upper leg. He told me to gently squeeze a soccer-ball-sized ball 15 times x 3, twice daily to help break up the scar tissue in the area. He did NOT recommend to stop running but to run on more predictable surfaces, minimize hard surfaces and to not race hard at all. Take it easy, essentially. No limit on distance, though. :-) The link I linked above explains perfectly what this thing has felt like.

- Did you hear that Charlie Brown's Christmas got the boot when the President gave his speech about our ramp-up in Afghanistan on December 1st? Yep, that was Charlie's slot. Not to worry, though. He was on a week later on December 8th. Thanks, ABC.

- Time to pay. I have until January 4th to pay my entry fee into the MMT100. If I change my mind and don't want to run it, I simply don't pay and my entry goes to the wait-list. (no, I'm not considering that) The entry fee is a very modest $150...fairly average for a 100-miler. To put that fee into perspective, those running the 2009 New York City Marathon paid $171 and international participants paid $231. That doesn't include the transportation and lodging costs and the madness on race morning. Add in the Cadillac-like treatment us runners get at a 100-miler and $150 is peanuts compared to other races. The outrageous price of the NYC Marathon is one reason I have no desire to run it. The same goes for the JFK 50 Miler which charged $145 last month. The fee was $85 in 2007, jacked up to $135 in 2008, then $145 in 2009. The race sells out at 1,000 runners and pays it's people well including a $45,500 salary to the race director. Want to see an objective article that lays it all out? Here you go. The other one which will tick off some reading this is the Western States 100...the oldest 100-miler in the country. It's kinda like the "Boston" of 100-milers. Two-hundred ninety-five dollars!!!! $295!!!! Are you insane?! Tack on a flight to California, travel on the ground, and hotel...well, I will choose to stay close to home near reasonably-priced races and support them instead of supporting this event. The event lets in only a fraction of those who sign up in the lottery...only 1 person from Ohio got in the lottery held only a week ago. Talk about taking advantage of the popularity of the race. MMT could do it, too, and people would still be on the waiting list...but they don't. That's the kind of race I want to run and support. Just my opinion, folks...

- Christmas. Again. Yes, my invisible blog-reading friends, it is only 11 days away and then Twenty-Ten is only a week later. Make your resolutions yet? Forget 'em! Make a CHANGE! Both my brothers kicked the resolutions to the curb and changed their lives and between them have lost over 75 pounds in the past year through healthy eating and running. Neither one would have believed it if the future had been foretold to them over a year ago that they'd be where they are now. Forget the red-ribbon-resolution and go for permanent change. Resolutions are forgotten and discarded. Permanent change is......well...permanent. As Michael Jackson would say: "Make that change."

Have a great week everyone, and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm in MMT!

Get used to it. I feel like RTRSBM just got re-energized and a whole chunk of reasons just fell on my lap to continue blogging. After all, what would I do with all this 'stuff' inside my head? But yea, get used to 'hearing' or reading about MMT. MMT, or Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, is the premier 100 mile endurance run on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Dubbed as the most difficult east of the Mississippi, it's nickname is "Massanutten ROCKS!" Do I really need to explain this? Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Oh, my poor toenails. I should just have the usual suspects surgically removed now instead of going through the beating - turn blue - lose liquid - turn white - ripped off stages post-MMT. If you've been around RTRSBM for long, you know that most 100-milers have a 30 hour time limit. When you see a race up that time, you know the difficulty factor has greatly jumped. My last 100, for example, at Oil Creek had a 32hr time limit and good thing it did as it took me 30hrs, 49min to complete it. MMT in comparison, has a 36hr time limit. Yea, no escaping the witnessing of 2 sunrises at this one!

So the stage was set yesterday at 4pm when the stock market closed. 438 people had registered for the available 180 slots, over 100 more than the number registered in 2009. Based on where the stock market closed and the direction in which it was moving when it did, the field was set and I was in. I was actually one of the first in. I believe the number was 597 (the last 3 digits of the closing stock price including decimals) and it was dropping at the close...I was number 565 so I got in lickety-split! I now have to pay my entry by the first week of January or I lose it. No problemo, senor! I now have about 5 months to best prepare for yet again, the toughest challenge of my life. Like I have said before, this just seemed like the next "logical" step in my 100-mile "career." It's been an awesome journey so far and I expect nothing less for 2010. The picture here is of Lloyd Thomas' MMT buckle from 2009. As you can see, it's basically a 'pewter-like' work of art. It will go nicely right beside my Oil Creek 100 buckle. :-)

Training will be tricky for this one as much of it must happen over the winter. I really need to seek out tough terrain and long multi-hour runs. Unfortunately, we don't have anything that really compares to MMT here in NE Ohio regarding rocks. Mill Creek Park has a bunch and 'running' up creek in the Brecksville Reservation are a couple of options. Plus, my Navy commitments have a pretty big ramp-up starting in March and April, the last 2 months before MMT. Luckily, one of those involve my graduation from Supply Corps school in Athens, GA. I'll be there for 2 weeks so the weekend in between, my plan is to travel about 2hrs north into the mountains and hop on the AT (Appalachian Trail) and hike/run for at least 12 hours. Awesome elevation, major drops and rises in temperature conditions and lots of rocks will provide a perfect training ground. I'll have to get creative to get in other quality training runs but I'm confident I'll make it all work out...I always do. One thing I won't do is show up in Virginia in May ill-prepared.

A little update on my trail clinic this Saturday at 11am at Kendall Lake Shelter. I picked up some great swag to raffle off to those in attendance courtesy of Vertical Runner. Thanks, Vince! I will also be giving out discount coupons to Vertical Runner good for anything in the store except for Garmin products. You must be in attendance to be eligible for either of these items. It's going to be cold so if you're coming, dress warm to stand around in the beginning. For the run, it'll involve slow running and some walking on a beautiful but tough trail for about 4 miles. As of now, about 20 have RSVP'd to the clinic. If you're up for lots of running before the clinic, I have posted multiple options starting at 6:15am at Happy Days including a familiarization run of the Winter Run for Regis 50K course to be held in January.

Remember the pesky psoas muscle problem that showed itself at Mile 20 of 100 at the Oil Creek 100? Well, it continues to remind me of its presence. My massage therapist has thrown in the towel and can't do anything more so I'm going to visit my chiropractor tomorrow to get an adjustment and see if that helps. It's not stopping me from running but it's still 'there.' It needs to NOT be 'there' because it will rule the world if it's still 'there' at MMT! It feels the worst when I rest, believe it or not, and feels better when I run on trails. Go figure! The soreness is just in such a difficult location that you really can't stretch it much or anything.

Winter has appeared in NE Ohio! Time to ramp up the training and get out there! Screwed shoes, stand by!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Matters...and What Does Not

What REALLY matters...

I'm on the bubble right now about my blog. With the onset of Facebook and so much sharing going on there, I feel like there isn't as much to talk about here. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe not. I just don't know. In the meantime...

What doesn't matter is your political affiliation when it comes to being an American. What REALLY matters is that you don't take your freedom for granted and that you show your support for those today and who have come before you to guarantee your freedoms. That's what REALLY matters.

What doesn't matter is WHAT you do. What REALLY matters is WHY you do it. So many people today make decisions and do things because they "appear" proper and fit in with the culture that surrounds them. If the core driver for why you do it is sour, then the result is empty and shallow. This crosses all types of things from purchases to words you say in passing on a daily basis. Think about it.

What doesn't matter is some peoples' maturity level and the wrecking ball they swing to try and dismantle the good intentions of yours. What REALLY matters is that the work you do, have done, and continue to do is for the greater good and has a positive impact on others. It's so easy for me to take insults and jabs personally and just want to "throw in the towel" and walk away because of one or two childish comments and attacks when the overall impact is overwhelming positive. It matters that I keep the big picture in focus and discard the negativity thrown my way.

What doesn't matter is the car you drive, the house you live in, and the possessions you own. You will take none of it with you when you leave this mortal world. What REALLY matters is the impact on peoples' lives you have today and your relationships. Keep it simple...if you can put a price tag on it, it probably does NOT matter. It's the priceless things that matter.

What doesn't matter is the rhetoric pushed out by Washington and the politicians on both sides of the aisle. What REALLY matters is the overall impact of what is going on today. The deficit is on an unbelievable rampage like never seen before in history. I'm not blaming this on only the current administration. It started before the past 12 months but has escalated to a feverish pace. At this pace, generations upon generations will bear it's burden for a very long time. Our U.S. dollar is at so much risk of becoming worthless which could have a horrible domino effect on so much here in the U.S. Something has to change to redirect the current path. What that will be....well, only time will tell but a debt that climbs by millions 24 hours a day is never a good thing.

What doesn't matter is how many races you've run, how many ultras you've run, and how many 100-mile finish lines you've crossed. What REALLY matters is why you did them, what fueled you to the finish, and what drives you to the next one. I may blog but it's not to hold a sign high over my head to say "Look at me!!!" I share...to maybe help or inspire one other person out there and I enjoy doing it.

You know what matters...seriously matters. Disregard everything else as fluff...for that is what it is.

Have a great week, everyone and as always, Happy Trails!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/30/09

Monday Morning Musings for November Thirtieth, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Registration opens up at 9am! Today, for one week, the flood gates will be opened for the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's MMT100, the 16th Annual Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. MMT has a nickname of "Massanutten Rocks!" and for good reason...more rocks to navigate than any other 100 miler on the east coast. Gnarly enough to warrant a 36 hour cutoff, too...instead of the typical 30hr cutoff for a 100-miler. Another little factoid: no woman from Ohio has ever finished MMT. Hopefully, Tanya Cady who directs the Winter Run for Regis will be the first as she will be registering today as well. After the week passes, registration will close at 9pm next Monday then the Dow Jones closing stock price on Tuesday will determine the starters for the 2010 event. Sound confusing? It's really not but if you want to read the lottery procedure, grab a cup of coffee and read it! May 15, 2010 is the day! It's fair to say this is my 2010 target event.
- "Build it and they will come." A quote from a popular baseball movie but true this past Saturday. With still a month to the Water Falls run on 12/26, I was tired of waiting to see the 3 different waterfalls and get wet so I organized a backwards running of the course and dubbed it the nuR sllafretaW. Once we picked up Wild Bill's group about 4.75mi into the 18mi run, we had about 20 folks show up. 12 showed up at Lock 29 for the 7am start. As expected, I do believe everyone had a blast and I'm pretty sure some folks got their feet totally soaked and immersed with Buttermilk Falls' water for the first time. I loved going knee-deep into the icy water. Of course, I had my camera in tow and ended up with a whoppin' 94 pictures. Here they are. Big thanks to those who showed up!
- I am organizing and giving a Trail Running 101 talk and short trail run on Saturday, December 12th at 11am. It will cover the basics of trail running to including shoes, 'how to run' trails, sock selection, foot care on the trails, traction in the winter time, and the basics of nutrition/hydration. Afterwards, I'll lead a 4 mile run of the infamous Salt Run Trail. The meeting place will be at the Kendall Lake Shelter off of Truxell Road. Search on Facebook for "Nick's Trail Running 101" and please RSVP if you plan on attending. (If you're interested in a long trail run early that morning, I'll be heading one up, too. Early start with at least 3 hours on the trails is the goal.)

- I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day and days surrounding the holiday. I must say that hosting a family dinner at our house has benefits like a re-creation of the meal the day after. Something about homemade stuffing as a leftover....oh so good. Prior to that, I ran in my annual tradition, the Home Run for the Homeless in downtown Akron which benefits the homeless shelter down there. Over 4000 runners participated in both events, the 1-mile fun run and the 4-mile race. To keep myself from racing, I carried my camera along the way and got some great pictures. About 29 to be exact. Racing this race would have pushed the reset button on my left psoas muscle recovery which has been active since the Oil Creek 100. The goal was just to have fun on a Turkey Day tradition and that's what I did! Gobble, gobble!

- I've always been mildly envious of those runners who have spouses who run and can share the roads/trails with them or their SO's (significant others). Yesterday, the sun was bright and we had an abnormally warm late-November day here in northeast Ohio and our kids were decorating the Christmas tree at Marjie's parents so we capitalized on the opportunity and headed to beautiful Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. Many think of Mill Creek in Youngstown and pair it up with the economically depressed city...everything negative, essentially. The trails within the park are anything but that, in fact. We parked at the gardens and I took Marjie on one loop of the lower loop of the YUT-C 50K course. I really didn't intend on doing the whole loop...maybe just 3 miles out and turn around. Marjie has always been more of a power-walker and not a runner and this was only the 2nd time ever to 'run' on the trails. Well, I'm baffled at why she doesn't run instead of walk. She looks like a natural runner with a perfect gait...much UNlike her husband! Once we were about 3 miles into the run and she was doing so well, I decided we'd go the whole way around. She really did great but did take a pretty nasty fall within the final 2 miles. As of last night, she couldn't straighten her left arm, her left elbow was swollen, and a nasty black-n-blue mark was on her shoulder and a mark on the side of her head. This morning should be interesting. :-) The overly positive thing was becoming "one" with the trail....call it a mutual smooch. I'm not so sure she sees it this way, though. (hehehehehe!!!!) She got up, though, brushed herself off and finished! I see many more miles together in the dirt... (37 pics from our run together)
Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ashamed...but Thankful

To think, I once turned up my nose at the pronouncement on a variety of Saturday mornings when the group was going to hit the trails. I sulked...I hung my head low...I turned my back and found my own lonely stretch of Towpath or road and headed out alone. The others went the opposite direction and disappeared into the woods and I was happy, or so I thought. Looking back at this, I'm ashamed. How could I be so close-minded? Today, there are not many places on this earth that I'd rather be. Of course, to be home with family is always good but for destinations...for retreats...for places to just escape from the "normal grind" that every day brings, the trails are right up there at the top of the list. Talk about a complete turnaround in the last two years! I guess it's even worse to accept the fact that until a few years ago, I didn't acknowledge the fact that I lived almost right on top of an incredible natural resource right here in northeast Ohio. Such beauty...so many, many miles of it, too...all right here where so very many don't even realize it is here. I smile every time I hear that another person has realized what I realized a few short years ago.

It didn't take long to get hooked. Once I realized what existed off the normal asphalt or crushed limestone path, there was no turning back. It is this beauty and majesty that has created in me and continues to grow the desire and "need" to get out there and focus my time and energy at being out there. Running...a clear passion of mine...has got to stay fresh, attractive, and consistently challenging to me or unfortunately, I'll get bored with it. If you follow me at all, you know that one 100-miler in 2009 wasn't enough nor was the first one's difficulty. I wanted another...and another. The last one took the cake in terms of difficulty so "logically," I now seek to step it up once again. That'll be in May of next year. If the trails and His creation weren't as magnificent as they are and every new trail tread upon didn't present yet another example of perfection, then this path I'm on would simply not continue. This answers the question of "why" perhaps a little bit more that I've gotten so much this year.

As we sit here in the U.S. on Turkey Eve, I'm thankful for God's beautiful trails that I and so many of my friends and family get to appreciate. It is truly His thumb-print here on earth. I am also thankful for the freedom I have to run on them when I want, where I want, and with whom I want. I try to never take that for granted as freedom is certainly not free. A patriot, a fellow countryman or woman stands watch in the desert, at an outpost, on a ship, or right here on our borders to keep us all safe here in our land of freedom and we should not forget them. While we play, the watch is constant 24/7 to guarantee this freedom. Let us not ever forget them or their families on this Thanksgiving holiday!

To you and yours, a very Happy Thanksgiving and a day filled being thankful for ALL that you and I may not normally acknowledge. There is so much more outside of the material that we see first person on a daily basis. Be thankful for what provides the things you FIRST are thankful for. Make sense? Yes, I know....deep thoughts...but good ones, nonetheless.

See you on the trails....

Monday, November 23, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/23/09

Monday Morning Musings for November Twenty-Third, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Blog-slacking, I know. Yea, yea, yea....I've been in sort of a running and blogging hibernation. Call it a mental/physical re-charge of sorts. It is ending, though. :-)

- I am a happily married man of 17 years now. Marjie and I celebrated 17 years this past weekend and kicked it off by heading out to West Branch State Park for Marjie's first-ever trail run. There were closed signs at the normal trail entrances like the mountain-bike trails and the Buckeye Trail due to deer-hunting season. However, there are some trails over by the camping area that are off-limits to hunters. Turns out, these trails (new to me) are the most scenic I've seen at West Branch. We had a blast and after dropping to a knee for the 2nd time, she said "Yes!" again! This is us taking a break at the trail-head of Wild Black Cherry Trail. Cool name, eh?!

- T minus 7 days until registration opens up for the 2010 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT). It will open on Monday, November 30th for one week, then close. The lottery will happen the next day for May 2010's race! It's a cool lottery...all by chance and driven by the closing price on the stock market for that day. Here's how it works.

- Thanks to Mel at Vertical Runner for referring me for a photo shoot yesterday. Craig M. (who designed the WRTR logo, by the way) is working on a new website for a sunglasses company and needed someone to "model" the sunglasses. That was a first and I'm anxious to see the new site when it goes up in about a week or so. Great product, too!

- The volume of e-mails have certainly increased from friends or folks I've never met before who want to get into trail running. They are asking for advice from shoe advice, to what to wear, to where to find trails. I think it's time that someone did a trail running clinic so BAM!!!!...I'm doing one! I've created the event on Facebook which is open to anyone who'd like to attend. It will be at 11am on Saturday, December 12th at the Kendall Shelter off of Truxell Road and will conclude with a 4 mile run including the Salt Run Trail. For anyone else wanting to run earlier that day, I'm planning on a 3-4 hour trail run starting pre-dawn. Details to follow on Facebook and here at RTRSBM.

- I'm anxious for my annual waterfalls run to get here to in order to fulfill my need to run the course, I'm running it in reverse this Saturday morning, starting at 7am from the Lock 29 overflow lot with Fishers to follow afterwards for a late breakfast. However, I've dubbed it the nuR sllafretaW group run...waterfalls run in reverse. That's the course we'll follow...reverse of the course that we'll run on December 26th. 7am sharp! Be prepared to get muddy, wet, and it'll be COLD!!!

- Got some old running shoes you don't use anymore? Clean 'em up and bring them to downtown Akron this Thanksgiving morning to donate to the homeless in Akron and run the Home Run for the Homeless 4-miler! It's an annual tradition for me so of course, I'll be there with a bag of shoes in tow! It's yet another excuse to see a ton of my friends all in one place. I love this running community!

- With winter, I think it's time to get speedy! I am happy to report that my issue with my left psoas muscle that acted up at Mile 20 of the Oil Creek 100 miler is cooperating and playing nicely. Yes, I can feel it after a night's sleep and occasionally at other times, but it is not causing me problems while walking or running and on trails, I really can't detect it. I am, however, worried that if I pushed it hard on the roads and opened up a longer strider, I'd possibly make it bad again so racing hard this Thursday is out of the question. That's where I think it all started...when I was racing the Labor of Love Run back on Labor Day. But, back to being speedy over the winter. Back at Oil Creek, the sales rep for CW-X was there and offered all of us a sweet deal to get a pair of their performance tights. This product makes lots of claims but before I preach about 'em, I think I'll wear them a bit. I finally got them on my doorstep this week and yea, they make me 'feel' kinda speedy. We shall see!

- I don't claim to be fast. I used to try to be when I was targeting a qualification time for the Boston Marathon but anymore, my passion is out on the trails and covering further and further distances, efficiently and having a really good time. As a long-time supporter of Vertical Runner in Hudson, you can understand then why I was excited to see a new logo that Mark Godale came up with. No, it's not a replacement logo for their store but a logo for some tech tees. I got a bright red, long-sleeve Nike tech tee with this logo on the back. It's not small, either, and takes up the majority of the back. Cool logo and accurate words to describe me these days. Super cool!

- A new chapter kicks off for me here in December with the Navy. I will be transferring to a new command where I'll finally get my shot at leadership. It's a command that is of high priority for the Navy and has no limits to where it can go in the world. I won't 'officially' slip into the job until I graduate from the Navy's Supply Corps School in March in Athens, GA, but I'll be there ready to go. I took my final exam and passed just last weekend so between now and March, I'm done with my Supply Corps training. Good times and very exciting! (Here's a little about this new command if you'd like to read about it.) Extremely detailed info about my Navy career will be pretty limited here on my blog...with the global climate as it currently is, I don't see the need to make it all public but hey, join me on a trail run someday and I'll spill my guts for ya!

Exciting times right now. The holidays have magically appeared already (even though it seems like WAY too soon!) and my 'need' to sign up for another 100-miler has finally appeared again. This 'decompression' time since Oil Creek has been wonderful but it's time to start ramping it up again...just in time for the winter season...my best training time of the year. For those of you who revert to the (d)readmill or do nothing over the winter, you don't know what you're missing! The right gear to protect yourself and this season can really be a blast. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favorite trails loaded down with snow on the pines and icicles hanging from the rock formations. But enough talk about sub-freezing temps...they're not here just yet!

Happy Trails, everyone, and have a great week and a great Turkey Day!