Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Navy Supply Corps Museum Tour

Day 4 here in Athens and the thermometer reads 61F right now around lunchtime. Back home, every school is closed and the snow is piling on. If I could choose, I'd take the snow and being forced to spend the day home with my girls. Those days are some of the best where we just huddle down and spend good quality time together.

I had some free time today so I stopped by the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps Museum here in Athens, GA. As a new Supply Corps officer, it was a surreal experience to walk through the museum and look at the history of the Corps. Dating back to the origins of the Navy, the Supply Corps has a rich heritage. For most of you unfamiliar with the Supply Corps or what a Supply Corps officer might do, think of us this way: we're heavy into logistics and getting things from here to there, food service, financial, fuel, weapons, retail, and supply chain management. The Navy has many different staff corps like medical, dental, JAG (attorneys), engineers, etc. The Supply Corps is but one of the many. As you can see from what we do, our hands are in everything and impact everyone. In today's new climate (post 9/11) and the War on Terror, Supply Officers have taken a front seat. We are now in high demand in leadership positions to support the War on Terror and also are individually inserted into Army and Marine Corps units to replace their Supply Corps Officers...since they are stretched so thin. Once I graduate from this school in March 2010, that is where my destiny lies unless a major shift happens regarding the multiple wars currently taking place. (no, I do not spend the next 14 months down here. 2 weeks now, 4 days in July, and a final 2 weeks next between is correspondence-like work with multiple tests)

Anyway, the museum was pretty cool. I took a few pics and posted them here. One really jaw-dropping pic was the one I took of the $760,000,000.00 check from Saudi Arabian government to the United States for our services during Operation Desert Storm...the first gulf war. Ever seen a check with this many zeros?
On the running front, I got lost again in Athens yesterday morning but ended up getting 11 miles in once I found my way back. I'm finding out quickly that with not much to do down here in Athens that I can get a bunch of miles in. I'm not really aiming at anything but if I can afford the time to hit the pavement, why not? Right?! I'm really looking forward to this Saturday. I'm meeting up with Christian and we're hitting the trails down here for 4-6 hours. Weather is looking like full sun and temps in the low 50s so it should be a great time. There are a few National Forests down here but I'm not sure where we're heading yet.

Also on the running front is the ax falling on the Akron Marathon...for me, at least. I've run it twice and I really do like it. After "seriously" running it in 2007 with a strong 3:33 finish, I paced Karen S. last year and was considering running it again this year with my brother for his first marathon. Well, since he has now signed up for Flying Pig in May for his first and Akron has DROPPED the free Brooks shoes promotion, I'm changing those plans. My road shoes are primarily Brooks so I thought I'd run it for the free shoes but now it's a free jacket. How much you wanna bet it's the same jacket that we got at the Winter BT50K?! Anyway, I'm shopping again for my Fall 2009/post-Burning River 100 schedule. One consideration is the inaugural Bobcat Trail Marathon down in Athens, OH near Ohio University. Vince Rucci from Vertical Runner is the co-race director. It's being held on Sunday, November 8th. Whatever I do, I want it to be new...I'd love a new 50K or 50 miler in the fall months. But, no need to plan the fall now...much needs to happen between now and then...namely one kettle and one buckle.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Comfort in Being Alone

Oh just wait a minute...I don't mean being alone...alone away from my family. Comfort in being alone...while away. Yea, I know...deep stuff.

My time so far in Athens has been good. After picking up the 100-scratch Kia rental car from the Atlanta airport yesterday and driving 90min east to Athens, I finally got situated on the tiny Navy base embedded within the cool, small college town of Athens, the home of the University of Georgia. After a brief trip to the grocery store to pick up my staples (Kashi cereal/cheese crackers/bars, wheat bread, PB&J, bananas, a bag of tiny little oranges, and some apples) and some dinner, I crashed. I awoke without an alarm in the 4 o-clock hour and christened my new travel espresso pot and for a few minutes, it actually smelled like home as the Lavazza Blu espresso brewed. Ahhh....the sweet aroma of fresh-brewed espresso. With a college campus so close, I figured I'd have to head that way for a run since it would be well lit and plenty to look at in the early morning hours. I mapped out a course on USATF's website to figure up the mileage and time and hit the shorts and a short sleeve VR Training tech tee. (oh how quickly I forgot that when I awoke yesterday, it was 8F outside in Ohio!) With a meeting time, on the first day of class, of 8am, I grew very nervous when I was still at least 2 miles from the end at 7:02am. I picked up the pace and turned the last stretch into a tempo run. All I had with me was the image of the computer screen of the course in my head and a soggy hand-written turn-by-turn copy of the directions. Luckily, the class is a 5min walk from my room so I was still able to squeeze in a shower and still get my bowl of Kashi cereal for breakfast. I ended up with 7.8 miles in 1hr, 4min and felt like a million bucks.

Oh quickly I forget the subject of my post, that being one of comfort. I quickly discovered today that when outside of my comfort zone (ie: home with family, running the trails with friends), I quickly withdraw into my own very-alone world...much like the majority of my life has been. It's not depressing nor is it wrong. I find peace and comfort in dwelling on those things that bring me comfort, even in the absence of those things. For me, I found a movie to go see (Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino") and a local coffee shop to hang out at for awhile (Jittery Joe's...see pic on left). I had the chance to catch up on my final subscription to Marathon & Beyond. I found this quote's yet another way to frame how I pick the "next great thing" and also a way to simply live life:

"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people."
- Randy Pausch

I have found that when people who don't know me find out that I'm a runner, often ask if I've run a marathon. There was once a day where I wanted to let everyone know that "I'm a marathon runner!!!" Heck, I had a license plate frame to advertise it. Today, I almost don't even want to have the conversation. Once started, it's going to lead to my current schedule and my "crazy" endeavors. No one gets least total strangers don't...and there's no way in the world I'll be able to answer the question "Why?" so why even bother? I'd rather just run and not participate in the self-absorbed part of it all. Now wait a minute, don't go critiquing me for having a blog. That's not the point of my blog. If you've been around here for awhile, you know that. I think the ultra-running community is much the same way. Ultra-marathons aren't big on prize money (and most have none), not big on age groups, and are rarely glitzy and glamorous. They're more about the experience of the entire event, both personal and that with fellow runners and volunteers. It's a humble community, albeit a few, and this makes being a part of it even sweeter.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Headin' South

Lack of running = a lack of blogging...AKA "blog-slacking." Nearly 100% of what I write comes during or following a run. This week, I've been trying my very best to wreck this dreadful cough I've had since last Thursday. With the Buckeye Trail 50K last Sunday (thanks to Jeff Musick for grabbing this pic of me one mile before my 5th place BT50K finish) and the cough in full swing afterwards, I figured I would shut down all running to try to get it under control. That did not work one bit. I took a seemingly forever 3 days off straight and felt no better. Tuesday night I got my deep tissue massage from Lori and she promised I'd feel even worse come Wednesday. Dang, she worked me hard. When she finds something wrong, she goes after it like a mad the end, fixing the problem. It's just a bit painful en route but worth it nonetheless. As always, I swear by her. She is a key ingredient in staying healthy after major events and recovering properly. Not just recovering, but recovering with all muscles where they belong. It doesn't make much logical sense to recover all out of alignment. I'm working on getting her at the finish line of a few of our local trail races so hopefully, some of you can sample her for yourself.

I ran on Thursday and felt awesome (as I should after 3 long days off) and again on Friday when I ran in the snow again around Virginia Kendall for 12 miles. Vince kept me company and we were at Kendall Lake at sunrise as I wished I would be all week...and clear blue skies, too. I only did 12 miles as part of my recovery plan. I'm continually amazed at how many other people seemingly don't recover from major events and are out running high miles only days after. I guess some just recover must faster than me. For me, a gradual buildup is key to strong/long running once again. If I rush it, my body will essentially say "No way!" and it'll shut me down. I'm a firm believer that the body becomes stronger during the recovery phase. In my opinion, rest is equally as important as the training you do while NOT resting. Many experts agree, too. I'll use this up/down training strategy this spring as I peak in my training for Kettle Moraine. Big back-to-back long runs will be followed by a down week and then back up again the following week. This will essentially define the period 4-8 weeks before KM.

After this run, I hit up Vertical Runner for the best sale all year...when all winter apparel goes to 50% off. I grabbed a North Face vest and another merino wool Smartwool sweater that I'll wear to work and around town. I swear...I'm a walking advertisement anymore for Smartwool...heck, I'd buy their underwear if they made any! I also grabbed a big 'ol container of Hammer's Recoverite. This should hold me over for all of 2009. I'm a HUGE supporter of this product for immediate post-run muscle repair. It gives your ailing body exactly what it needs when it's screaming for it and properly and quickly gets recovery on the right track. Smart recovery!

This is one of those days where I am just plain sick of sub-32F temps. The sun is shining but it's still 16F out there. I can't wait for the pear trees to bloom in our neighborhood, to leave the windows open at night when we sleep, and to have a white car that can't seem to be anything but brown lately. It's almost February which means March will be here soon. March just sounds refreshing. Sure, we can get snow in March but Spring can't hold out much longer once March gets here. In the meantime, I'm going to head on down to Athens, GA where the forecast over the next few weeks will be 55F-70F for the high and lows much warmer than our highs here in Ohio. This will be a time on active duty with the Navy and also will mark the beginning of my much anticipated training. After my return, the training will continue via "distance education" and local testing and will conclude in March 2010. What happens after March 2010 will be up to our new President and Commander-in-Chief.

So over the next few weeks, I hope to blog and blog often about what ever I can find in the small college town of Athens, GA...the home of the bands R.E.M. and the B-52s. On the weekend while I'm there, I'm hitting up a fellow ultra-runner (Christian G.) and he's guiding the ways into the mountains for hours upon hours of trail will surely be in tow. I hope to seek out the locals in Athens...both people and businesses. I see no other way to get a real taste of this small town. Once back in the arctic (aka: Ohio), it's go-time. Time to start the buildup to Kettle Moraine in June. There's only 2 events between now and KM100: the Covered Bridge FA 50K on March 7th in Mill Creek Park and the Fools 50K on April 5th. Both will be added on to, both before and after to get more tired-running in and put more time on my legs. One last ingredient is to actually register for KM. I think the tax return should take care of that one!

Happy Trails, everyone! Come on back to see Athens!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration 2009 - History Happening Around Us

While I seek to remain politically neutral in the blogosphere, I will admit that regardless of your political leanings, policy views, or what party you are registered with, if you don't feel some patriotism today, you must be numb. I have heard from many who are anti-Obama remain hateful and wish the worst for him. However, how can you, as an American, ever wish your president to be a failure, regardless of your party of choice? While I may have some fundamental differences with my new Commander-in-Chief, I still wish him the very best. I will pray for him, his family, those he surrounds himself with, and our nation that he leads. It has been inspiring to see how he has motivated and engaged the American public. I love how he is doing his best to be very inclusive of everyone, from every faith, of every color, and from each party. As he takes the oath on President Lincoln's Bible, I will watch with hope that he is successful as our 44th president and 1st president of color. A historic moment, day, and time in our country.

This "feeling" of the inauguration also compels me to again think about him more than just a president, but as my Commander-in-Chief. While the news of two wars going on is back-page news these days, he is inheriting them and now directs the lives of thousands and thousands of soldiers, sailors, and Marines who have also taken an oath to support, defend, and uphold the Constitution of the United States. Those are enormous shoes to fill and I hope he surrounds himself with leaders filled with wisdom who can guide him as very difficult choices will confront him that will impact countless lives of American military families. As a reservist bound for the Middle East in the future, I do not believe he will begin a massive withdrawal of troops. The drawdown is already in motion in Iraq but Afghanistan is getting worse and worse and much of the strength in Iraq will simply be shifted next door to Afghanistan. He's never said we'd be decreasing our presence there and I don't believe we will in the foreseeable future. That's where the rubber meets the road for me personally. Most of my "kind" (Navy Supply Officers) graduate from training with immediate orders to support the Global War on Terror. Most of us are trained in combat skills with the Army and inserted into an Army or Marine unit as their Supply that handles everything from food, weapons, logistics, parts, etc. As the Army and Marine Corps supply officers are stretched thin, they insert Navy supply officers to fill the void. That's the part I will play. Knowing the day is coming, we talk about it often as a family and go into it eyes-wide-open. I simply ask you this: remember those who serve and don't only remember on the patriotic holidays or only fly your flag on those days, but remember them and show your support every day. Your patriotism should not be a fad, but a way of life in this great country. Below, I've shared a video with you that wraps up so much. It's not a morbid video but is a video and song of reality. It essentially brings front-and-center what is most important in each of our lives. Be warned: even the strongest of you may run for the tissue on this one. I know it tugs at me every time I see it or hear it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 Winter BT50K Race Report

Sick. Sick since Thursday. I did everything I could think of plus everything my ER nurse wife told me to do. I woke up each since Thursday hoping I'd wake up feeling good. Instead, each night consisted of multiple wakeups to blow my nose, take more medicine, etc. Same for last night, too, and when I awoke this morning, I felt like crud once again. This flu thing or whatever I have is exhausting physically. I have really felt it in my upper body so before I even went to the Winter 50K this morning, I was tired, sniffly, bags under my eyes, coughing, and feeling a bit exhausted. My only goal was to survive and get as far as I could.

I don't know what it is but running in the cold (sub-freezing) is so perfect for me. I run better and feel better. Being sick pretty much got trumped by that. Once I got moving, I felt pretty good and we all lined up in single file to run the Towpath. Single file because outside of that file was 10-12" of snow. No one really want to get into that so early. So off we went towards Brandywine Falls. In the Winter BT50K, runners have the option to run the whole 50K, a marathon, 18 miles, a 1/2 marathon, or even 5 miles. That's because the course consists of two segments. One is a 5 mile loop and the other is an 8 mile loop. The 5 mile loop is first and is followed by the 8 mile loop and so on. It finishes with a third trip on the 5 mile Brandywine loop. Anyway, the single file gradually segments off into smaller groups and I do my best to not trip on any heels. My plan was to "run how I felt." Easy controlled breathing was the gauge. If it was labored breathing, slow it down. If my speed felt too slow, speed it up. I only had to deal with that if I was behind someone. In that case, I excused myself and moved on by. By the time I finished 13 miles, I was feeling even better so I went with it...still wondering when the ball was going to drop (remember, I was miserably sick this morning). I head again to Brandywine and start passing people which was a good sign....and it felt good. At the Brandywine aid station, my day was brightened...salty boiled potatoes!!!!! This is my wonder food at ultras and I scooped up a handful, said my thanks, and kept moving. I really enjoyed those on the way out...thank you to whomever made those and made them available. You don't know how appreciative I am (well, now you do). As the race progresses, I essentially keep on passing people and move into 3rd place overall (say what?!?!). Wait a minute...reality check: "aren't you sick?" I got comments all day by fellow trail runners saying that very thing. "YES." Again, I can't explain why the race was going so well but it was. My voice was going, though. Anyway, once I left the Pine Lane aid station (mid-way on the 8 mile loop) for the last time, I noticed two trail wolves (stolen from Red) who were clearly going to hunt me down. I kept my pace and upon arrival at the actual entrance to the pines (where Pine Lane gets its name), they passed. I went from 3rd to 5th. At this point, I'm 2 miles out from Boston Store and 7 miles from the end. Ironically, Pine Lane was one of the smoothest sections all day because of the packed snow between the roots...and normally it is the biggest trip hazard on any trail in northeast Ohio. As the day wore on, the trail kept getting faster and faster because of all the traffic packing it down. HOWEVER, without those handy-dandy sheet metal screws I installed on my Keen trail shoes, I could have never blazed down those downhills like I did. Honestly, I flew down those hills as fast as I do in the spring/summer/fall when it's just dirt. Without the screws, you'd be committing trail suicide at that speed. Switchbacks + rubber soles (no screws) + high rate of speed = FACEPLANT! Once I arrived back at Boston Store, a 20 year old whom I exchanged spots with all day passed me looking very strong. I told him he was doing great and keep it up and out he went. I've now gone from 5th to 6th. Once I was out on the last leg of Brandywine and saw the front-runners coming at me, I realized that one of those two trail wolves must have dropped at the marathon distance because only one was left. (6th to 5th!) I charged on and got back to Brandywine to have some very chilled potatoes and out I went. Brandon R. was entering as I was leaving and he told me: "You better not let me catch you! Hammer it out!" Luckily, the return trip to the Boston Store is much MUCH faster due to some blazing downhills. I did as ordered by Brandon and finished in 5hrs, 56min, 47sec. 5th Overall! Brandon came in 3 minutes later at 5:59. This now stands as my 2nd fastest 50K. The first being last year's winter BT50K. Inside M.D. Garage, I walked into applause and congratulations from race director, Tanya Cady (pictured here) and enjoyed some hot chili. YUM! I also picked up the jacket. A royal blue Brooks Podium jacket embroidered with the race logo. Very nice and a very practical/usable jacket for running. (I've actually been wearing it for the last several hours!)
You know, I don't know why this race is good to me. It really makes no logical sense, especially when sick. What I do know is this:

- I love seeing so many familiar faces of the local trail running community

- I greatly appreciate Tanya and the passion she puts into this race. I also appreciate the fairness of making it open to everyone and not showing favoritism to supposed "elites" who want entry just because of a past performance. This race sold out in record time and many didn't get in because of it. It took Tanya and much of the running community by surprise. The size is limited based on her permit within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She's fair...and I appreciate that.

- I love to see so many people challenging themselves to new things. Many today ran their first ultra, their first trail race, or their first time running in these conditions. Everyone stayed happy and joyful all day and said "Hi" while passing even though we passed each other multiple times. That's a community that I'm incredibly thankful to be a part of.
- I'm once again eternally grateful to the many volunteers. Without them, it would be impossible to hold any of these events.

- Today was my 30th marathon/ultra-marathon! (23 marathons and 7 ultras) (note: no, I am not counting my DNF at Burning River nor any FA runs)

- I'm sicker than I was this morning but I wouldn't change a thing! (ugh....)

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Screwed Shoes Test Run & Sick

Boy oh boy, it's hard to believe this is Post #100! Thanks for all the comments and e-mails after my last installment of "3:30am." It's fun to do something not-so-normal or "routine" every once in awhile. Since I had that moon-illuminated run, some nasty virus has infiltrated my body and a scratchy throat, runny nose, aching all over, and a constant headache has been beatin' me down. For someone who very rarely gets sick, the timing of this is horrible. The BT50K is tomorrow morning at 7:15am. Not so good to have your energy stores sapped before you even hit the trail. Regardless, I'll be out there. To combat this, I've been eating lots of oranges, drinking lots of water, and poppin' 800mg of ibuprofen every 6 hours. None of the other over-the-counter meds work on me, but this stuff really helps. After every 5 or so hours, I keep hoping the nastiness doesn't return. So far, it keeps coming back. One thing that definitely makes me feel better is to go run...even at subzero temperatures. To that end, I got out this morning for an easy 3 mile out-n-back to test out my recently screwed trail shoes that I plan on wearing tomorrow. I shot a video (below) of how to complete this installation and tried them out today.

During the run, I ran into snow drifts besides the road and purposely looked for the icy patches. I have to admit...those screws really work! I couldn't slide even when I was trying to. I even tried to take off fast on top of ice and couldn't slip. They just dug right in and off I went. The only change I'm going to make is to remove the one screw I have in the center/front part. I couldn't feel any of the screws except for that one. It didn't hurt, but I could feel it there. If you take your thumb and press lightly on the bottom front 1/3 of your foot, that's what it felt like. With screws on the inside and outside perimeter, front and back, that screw really is unnecessary so out it comes. I'm also concerned for 5 - 6 hours of that light pressing and how it might effect me. It doesn't hurt, but my body isn't used to it so negative side effects could present need to find out. I also thought my shoes had about 300 miles on them. Turns out, they have 384 miles on them and my newer Keens have 300. I REALLY need to find a new pair of trail shoes. Keen has discontinued all production of their trail shoe line. I've been shopping around for a new one but with my Keens so perfect over the past 2 years, I've been really picky. Anything slightly wrong with a trail shoe in the store will be amplified on a slippery, wet, multi-directional technical trail. It really needs to be a perfect fit. Many in the ultra-running trail community rave about the Inov-8 shoe line. They are a British company who make a very extensive line of trail shoes. Unfortunately, the closest store that carries Inov-8s is in Dayton. After a little prodding, Vince says that the Inov-8 line should be at Vertical Runner by March 1st. Yea! I've already placed my order for a pair of RocLite 320s. The sooner these shoes get here, the better. I encourage you to check out Inov-8s website. It is very intriguing to read about the technology that goes into these they've broken the human foot down into each bone and how best to build a shoe that works in harmony with our feet. I'm really looking forward to trying them out. Greg M. already picked up a pair and I think he's wearing them this weekend at the his 38.5 mile trail race out west. I'll be curious to hear some feedback.

With the last few days with wind chills as low as -30F, a "warming" trend is heading in today. Temps are expected to rise all day and even over night and should be a balmy 20-25F at the start tomorrow. Bring out the suntan lotion! Along with the rising temps is a 100% chance of snow this evening so a fresh coat of powder should be on the trail come morning. Of course, it should be pounded down by the lead pack before I even get there. Without a doubt, tomorrow's focus is going to be to have fun and survive. Last year, I was in tip-top shape and ran the best race of my life. I'm not there this year but wouldn't miss this race no matter what. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow and sharing some homemade chili at the M.D. Garage!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

3:30am: Part IV

Tick tock, tick's 3:30am. Time to get up. A slow, feet-draggin' trip to the thermometer reveals a meager 5 degrees above freezing. Dragging a few feet further reveals a windchill of 12 below zero. Old Glory is slowly swaying in the wind although not as smooth as before...more like a piece of red, white, and blue cardboard suspended by a piece of frigid aluminum. Nylon + moisture + single digits = FROZEN. HOWEVER, oh is Mr. Moon! It has seemed like an eternity since he last filled the clear sky and illuminated my running path. No doubt, he will do it again today. After brewing my traditional 6 ounces of piping hot stove-top espresso with a touch of Splenda and checking up on morning e-mails and Facebook updates (an ugly addiction of mine), I suit up to join Mr. Moon. Sporthill gear made for temperatures to -20 degrees is today's choice (single layer) and a vest for good measure in order to break any wind from hitting my chest. Smartwool liners inside of another pair of Smartwool gloves, my Sugoi balaclava, and my Smartwool hat...all gear to cover the skin and keep me toasty. The final piece was my Merrell trail shoes. They're as light as road shoes with some serious lugs on the bottom to give me some traction on the snow and ice. As I reach for the handle of the door dividing the inside of my garage from the outside, I notice that the frost has actually traveled through the metallic components of the lock and come inside the garage. I've only seen this a few times...the few times it has been bitterly cold. As I open the door amidst a few crackles as the rubber seal gives way, the driveway is illuminated as if a spotlight was shining from the sky. Gorgeous, indeed. Crunch, crunch go my feet across the fine crystals of snow in the driveway and I'm off. "Good morning, Mr. Moon! I'm so glad you decided to show up again!" Just last week, the moon was reportedly as close to the earth as it would be in all of 2009. Unfortunately, the NE Ohio weather kept us from seeing it up close and personal and today was the first day. Today's run was meant to be short due to my tapering to the Buckeye Trail 50K this Sunday and only 3 miles were scheduled. However, given the unexpected visitor this morning, I decided to squeak out a few extra. As I head out on "our" route and the artificial man-made light of my neighborhood fades and Mr. Moon takes the helm (in the lighting department, that is), my attention is drawn to the rolling hills of snow and tree-tops illuminated. I think it's so cool to think that 1000 years ago, those same trees stood and were illuminated by this same light...just as I see it. Some things are truly timeless and this causes me to realize how very small and insignificant I am in the this world. I wonder what ran through those fields, who ran among those trees, and what life experiences happened out there. Forgotten. My attention shifts back to the road as a stinky, tune-up-needin' Ford truck slides by me leaving a plume of smoke and snow powder. "Doesn't he know I'm supposed to be the only one out here?"

I don't know how the Moon does it but he forces me to run through everything in life as fast as I can before the run with him ends. I think to family: I think of my girls and how fast they're growing up and the many issues we'll face together some day...some day soon, I'm sure. I think of my wife who fills the part of life I don't ever want emptied. I want the best for her and for happiness to prevail in every facet of her life. I think about my mom and dad and how my dad is facing cancer straight on. I pray that the cancer is taken away and success is found as he travels to an expert in Atlanta. I think of my brothers, their wives, and their kids. I'm thankful we all have a great family to come home to every night and kids to welcome us. I hope we all grow old together and watch each others' kids grow, succeed, and take life by the horns. I think about the many friends I've made through the local running scene and how many more I'll meet in the future and the many hours we'll spend together on the trails. I embrace the passion we share while pushing ourselves to previously unforeseen limits. I think of the public citizens who visit my office everyday...disabled, sick, dying, with nothing. I again am reminded of the simple ability to run and be healthy. I am thankful for the warm bed to sleep in, the food on my plate, and the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and where I want. That brings to mind Justin M. who is serving over in Iraq. Although I've never met him in person, we've "talked" many times online and through the ultra-running listserv community. We will both toe the line at Kettle Moraine this June as we both go for our first 100 mile finish. I hope his tour finishes without incident and he gets home to the good 'ol USA soon. Thank you for serving, Justin! I'll see you in Wisconsin, soon!

Running back, I trace my fresh tracks just left and that remain undisturbed. My shadow keeps running to keep up and I continue to drift away. Running now is effortless and a pure joy. I'm not even paying attention to each foot strike but instead peering upward into the sky to the many starts that surround the moon. Puffy smoke rising from nearby chimneys, a horse wandering out of a nearby barn, kitchen lights turning on as residents wake up for their own new day, and me...the crazy one, running in sub-zero temperatures. Sight is actually becoming a challenge now as the icicles are forming on my eyelashes. A quick swipe fixes the vision problem and again, I'm as comfortable as ever and much warmer than anyone would ever imagine. As I approach the entrance back into "civilization" of my neighborhood, sadness falls down. Deep down, I do not want to stop. I just want to run...and keep running. I'm immediately reminded of so many who are hopping on their treadmills for their morning run and what they're missing out here. If I had one myself, I'd never have these priceless runs with Mr. Moon. Heck, we would have never met! For that I am thankful.

As his light takes a backseat to the street and house lights, home can be seen just around the corner. I take one last look upward and give him one last nod just to say thanks for another great run and for lighting the way. A guiding light....His guiding illuminate and guide me as I run the race set before me.

Happy Trails, friends.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Counting the Days Until Spring...but in the meantime...

From what I hear, the snow will continue this week. Over the weekend, we have collected between 10 and 15" of snow depending on where you live here in northeast Ohio. For those of you reading this down south, count your blessings! It's been quite the weekend but seriously, it couldn't have happened at a better time. Through it all, not a single day of school has been lost due to when it hit (Friday night) so the crews on the roads have had an easier time with less traffic to fight with. Before it hit, though, I leveraged my day off and hit the trails (see last blog post) knowing I'd miss Saturday's run due to Navy commitments. Saturday comes and to my neighbors' pleasure, I fire up the snowblower at 4:30am just so I can get out of the driveway to head to Cleveland. A trip normally taking 55 minutes on dry roads took 90 minutes on nasty, snowy, slippery roads. With the snow coming in harder and heavier, we broke loose early and headed home after lunch. The roads were even worse on the way home. I was astonished how the snow piles in downtown Cleveland were literally in the MIDDLE of the road, not the sides. I guess they're more concerned with pedestrians navigating around snow then CARS in the road?! Anyway, once home, out came the snowblower once again. Snow was coming down over 1" per hour at that point. I blew out our driveway and also our elderly neighbors' home and headed in for the night. Turns out, we decided (for safety's sake), to get together via phone for Sunday's Navy muster. SWEEEETTTT! Could it be a trail run is in order in this deep DEEP powder? I shot a few e-mails/texts around and sure enough, I found myself at Lock 29 at 7:30am on Sunday. 7.5 miles in just over THAT is slow! I think the best way to describe this run is to imagine running at the beach in about 1 foot of water. You know how you have to pick your legs up high to keep moving? It was just like that but we had a great time. Vince brought out the canine members of his family and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. The rest of the pics are here from the run. Afterwards, Rob L. and I warmed up with a few cups of coffee and breakfast at Fisher's in Peninsula.

Back home, the girls were pumped about all the snow and wanted to go sledding. In the spring and "green" months, I had been out to Towners Woods park in Ravenna and knew about this big "cereal bowl" that would be great sledding in the winter so we packed everyone up, picked up my sister-in-law and niece and headed on over. That hill was FAST! Clearly, it had been nicely packed and slicked up before us so once we crested the hill, we were off and flying. A few wipeouts, a few moments of the kids' crying (due to face-fulls of snow), but overall a really good time. Once we had been there for over an hour, the kids were all thoroughly wiped out. It's fun to sled but the flip side is that you have to walk back up that hill every time to go again. Deep snow and little legs tend to wear the young ones out pretty darn fast. For me, I took advantage of the deep snow and steep hill and got some hill work in by running up it each time. (geez....can't I ever give this running thing a rest?!?!) I shot about 47 seconds of video below. Check out my youngest daughter taking out this unsuspecting girl who didn't know she was in the sled path. Hilarious!

Afterwards, hot cocoa and much-needed naps were in order! So yea, deep snow is all around us and we could moan and groan...or, we could make the best of it all. Cherish each moment you can!

Oh yea, how could I forget about WRTR?! WRTR stands for Western Reserve Trail Running. It's a non-profit organization formed about a year ago to promote trail running in our area. After it's inaugural year last year, the kinks in the system have been poured over and worked out and a whole new race series and rules have been launched for 2009. To that end, communication was identified to be incredibly important and I was asked to be the editor of their monthly newsletter. I was given a pretty liberal creative license to do what I wanted as long as I hit on a few major items. I sent out the inaugural newsletter on Sunday morning and so far, so good! Here is the web version of the newsletter. A word of advice to many of you regarding the Race Series: if you plan on running the Fools 50K on April 5th, do not delay. I really think it going to fill up and close out early. I know many got closed out of this Sunday's BT50K due to its super fast sellout in 3 weeks. If you're a 2009 NEO Trail member (as I am), the fee is only $25! That is VERY cheap...especially since you'll get a new pair of running shorts along with the race itself. Don't delay!

And lastly: to the young man who came up to my booth at the Pufferbelly restaurant last night in Kent as I was enjoying the best sandwich on earth, the Grouper Reuben: he thanked me for posting this video on my blog so without further delay, a reprise. This video never gets old and never stops bringing on the laughs...especially if you're a Star Wars fan. Enjoy!!!

(check out this great picture of the foot bridge besides the Lock 29 parking lot and the Scenic Railroad train station in Peninsula...kinda hard to imagine everything green, isn't it? Spring will be here soon!)

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Some Explanation is in Order

How do I adequately describe today? Absolute perfection. Sure, I had the day off which was nice. (I work 9 hr days so I can get every other Friday off) I had my favorite Falaffel Hummus Vegetarian Rolled Pita from Aladdin's...that was REALLY good. I had some chillin' out alone time at the Kent Starbucks using my 2 free hours of Wi-Fi I get every day...that was nice, too. I also had one of their London Fog Tea and very good as well. But perfection? That would be the trail run from today over the lunch hour. I got to the parking lot at Happy Days at about 10:15am and saw Wild Bill's car in the lot...seems like I wasn't the only one seeking an escape on the trails today. The temperature was around 20F, no wind, and the snow varied between 3 and 6 inches. I was alone which gave me full license to stop and admire my surroundings and take as many pictures as I wanted. I would have been really upset if I hadn't taken my camera today. I was on sensory overload with how incredible it was. Besides Wild Bill's footprints, no one else had disturbed the white powder. Plus, the lack of wind kept about a 1" stack of snow on top of every branch, rock, or anything relatively horizontal that would hold it. It was the epitome of peacefulness and God's creation. Perfection in every way and I had the privilege of running on top of, beneath, and through it all. In all, I gathered up 34 pictures worth keeping and got a new header for my blog along the way (just in case you missed it when this page loaded!) The pics can be viewed in the slideshow which is running on the sidebar or you can view them in full view here. Since so many folks are asking how I take the running photos or who is there to do it for me, let me explain: This little gadget called a GorillaPod makes it all possible. It's light as a feather and will wrap around anything and stand on anything. I use it along with setting a 20sec timer on the camera while also setting my camera to take 10 consecutive pictures. It was hard to find the GorillaPod in a brick-n-mortar store but I did at Best Buy. They're also available all over the place online. This picture here on the right is of a woodpecker I heard hittin' the wood hard along the Ledges Trail. It took awhile to spot because it was so high up but I eventually captured a shot.

Now in case you're not following along with my past few posts, you may have not stumbled onto my finalized 2009 schedule. After careful consideration, consulting with some veteran 100 mile runners, evaluating the different race options, looking at the family calendar, kids' calendar, summer schedule, vacation schedule, Navy schedule (whew!!!), I came up with a very doable schedule, in my opinion. The events were picked to build on each other and point me towards my end goal: finishing my first 100 miler. No road races/marathons will happen until the fall at the earliest since they don't coincide with the type of training I need to do. The events are also far enough apart to allow proper recovery. Like I've heard so many times, I can't get to the finish line unless I get to the starting line. That means staying healthy, training smart, and recovering smart. Recovery and rest are often overlooked but I have found for me personally that it has equal importance as the training itself does.

After the BT50K next weekend, all training will be pointed squarely at the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run the first weekend in June. It's about an 8 hour drive from here and is located north of Chicago in southern Wisconsin. The only 2 events after the BT50K that I have scheduled will be the Covered Bridge FA 50K in Mill Creek Park on March 7th and then Lloyd's Fools Day 50K four weeks later. In between and after the Fools Run will be some back-to-back runs, some night running, and some focused hill training. As I outlined a few posts ago, I will do the sleep deprivation/overnight/back-to-back training runs twice...once in April and once in May. Overall mileage on any given week will not go over 70 miles and if it actually hits 70, it will be on those two big back-to-backs. I have zero intention of training at that level for an extended period of time. Basically, my mileage will look like a rollercoaster if graphed out over the months. Big training weeks piggy-backed by recovery weeks. Within the weekday early morning runs around home, I will do some speedwork, tempo runs, and fartleks. I want to keep leg turnover and speed up while going long and slow on the weekends thereby keeping overall fitness up from head to toe. Nutrition will not change but I will train on the long runs to simulate race day foods like boiled potatoes, PB&J, chocolates, Hammer's Heed, etc. Once I get my kettle (!), I will have 8 weeks to properly recover before Burning River on August 1st. After Masochist last year, I was totally back in business in 3 weeks. I followed a strict recovery strategy and it worked well. I will do the same and will not run in ANY events during that time period...including the Summer BT50K, which is 2 weeks before BR. (Vince, sign me up to volunteer, please!) For BR, I hope to use all the knowledge I gain from Kettle to get my first buckle at Burning River.

So that's it in a nutshell. Why 2, you ask? Hmmmm...a good question that I honestly don't have a good answer for. It all makes sense in my head (and in some other not-to-be-named fellow ultra-runners' heads) but putting it down in words seems to be difficult. I'll take a raincheck on that question for now.
I hope to see many of you next Sunday at the Boston Store!
Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Little Bit of Inspiration

I'm sure so many of you have seen the following video. Dick Hoyt has traveled the country telling his story. Not only to those in the sports world, but he actually spoke at a MetLife conference when I worked for them...just a few years back. When you think life has thrown you a curve ball and want to give up, remember the Hoyt's. Remember, just keep telling yourself that you "CAN"......

I've seen this countless times and it has millions of hits on YouTube but somehow, I never get tired of it. I can relate to the triathlon as once upon a time, I completed two 1/2 Ironmans with the goal of an Ironman. Instead, I moved away from the ocean (my prime training ground) and ended up in Ohio. (enter: ultra-running!) Today, I can look at this and realize, anything is possible and if I try, train, aim, and keep my head in the right place....surely, I CAN!

Thanks to Joe Jurczyk for essentially putting this post in my head. He's at the Disney Marathon in Orlando right now and got his picture taken with the Hoyt's today. Thanks, Joe! (FYI: Joe is the BR100 race director) Pic below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009 in .jpeg

January 18, 2009

Covered Bridge FA 50K
March 7, 2009

April 5, 2009

June 6/7, 2009

August 1/2, 2009

September 26, 2009

Fall be determined

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Deep Thoughts from the Trail

2009. 2009. 2009. OK, I think I’ve got it. I think I wore out my backspace key on Friday at work after typing in 08 all day long. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, we’re never perfect but practice sure does help. I’ve been having a few days of those “deep thoughts” that commonly invade my private space inside my mind. Of course, I set myself up for this by firstv planning a 5:30am “group” run (HA!) yesterday morning. I never thought a single soul would be up in the 20F cold of January and in the dark to join me on the crunchy trails. I was not disappointed! I took off from Lock 29 at 5:35am and went on a route I made up with the goal of being back to Lock 29 at 8am for the VR Training group run. Fast forward to the end: I ran back into the parking lot exactly at 8:00am. That wasn’t even on purpose, it just happened. Back to the run: it was perfect. It was surreal. It was…well, exactly what you want every trail run to be. The run took me over the Valley Bridle trail for 3 miles until it dumps out onto Akron-Peninsula Rd. I then picked up the Salt Run trail within the Kendall Lake area. Very hilly and technical and still dark, but with 3 fresh new AAA batteries in my Petzl headlamp, seeing was no issue at all. Halfway through Salt Run, I arrived at Kendall Lake and took the Lake Trail counter-clockwise around the lake. At this point, there was just a hint of orange outlining the horizon. I thought that hopefully, I’d catch sunrise here on my way back. Once I got to Truxell, I crossed over and headed up towards Pine Grove and took the long way around and then taking the first exit towards the Ledges Trail. Once to the Ledges, I went clockwise around, navigated through some fresh-fallen pine trees near the ice box cave, then took the exit back to Pine Grove Trail. I re-traced my steps back to the Lake Trail at Kendall Lake and finished the Lake Trail, thus rejoining the Salt Run Trail. Unfortunately, I was too early for sunrise. I did capture this picture on my phone of sunrise over the valley. I snapped it looking south over Akron-Peninsula Rd. The hills you see in the distance is where the Salt Run Trail is.

I continued where I left off on Salt Run arrived back at the entrance with exactly 28 minutes to spare before 8am and 3 miles to go on the Valley Bridle. Ironically, it took me exactly 28 minutes to cover that on the way out. Back at Lock 29, the large VR Training Group was waiting. For those of you interested, this loop ended up being 14.2 miles and one that is a great sampling of our trail systems. You get a little bit of everything during this run: roots, rocks, flats, the Ledges rock formations, Kendall Lake (and a sunrise if you’re lucky), and probably a few spooks from resting deer in the high brush of the Valley Bridle Trail. I really enjoyed this route and will certainly do it again. Easy to make it longer, too, with the cross-country and Wetmore trails adjacent to the course.

So here are some fleeting thoughts I’ve been wrestling with: as I craft, re-craft, and shape the 2009 schedule with regards to the events I aspire to doing, I have discovered that to plan, you must do it objectively, looking at all aspects. For me, one of my goals for 2009 is to cross the finish line of a 100 mile trail race. That was also the goal for 2008, but never happened. Starting at the goal and working backwards is a great way to plan to see if the end goal really is possible. With some really good experiences in 2008, I know the type of training I must do. The tricky part is planning this training around every other facet of life: family vacations, the kids’ spring break, my Navy commitments every month, a couple extra Navy trips and good ‘ol family time. I also have a goal of spending as little as possible on these events which removes “destination marathons” from the 2009 picture. So my process went like this: pick an event and work backwards. Does it fit? If not, move on to another event and repeat. At one point over the last 5 days or so, I was going to do the Cleveland Marathon….preceded by a long trail run the day before. That idea was scrapped within 12 hours of coming up with it. I certainly don’t love the Cleveland Marathon and I’d rather do a 30 mile trail run anyhow. At least THAT would coincide of my ultimate goal. Then came the Green Jewel 50K fun run…a run done entirely on asphalt. 2 weeks after GJ is Lloyd’s Fools 50K Trail Run which I’m definitely doing. Plus, 2 weeks BEFORE GJ will most likely be the Covered Bridge FA 50K in Mill Creek Park…another event I want to do and support. With that said, I’ve scrapped Green Jewel. I wanted to do it, mostly because I ran the inaugural GJ last year, but running 31.2 miles on asphalt fits nowhere within my ultimate goal…so it’s gone. Again, I’d rather be somewhere other than on asphalt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trashing marathons or road running. Heck, I’ve logged 23 marathons and thousands of miles on asphalt and all of my Monday-Friday runs are done on it. My goal event, though, is trail and I believe my events leading up to it should prepare me best for it. Road running during the week will allow for speed-work, tempo runs, and “resetting” my legs after a long trail run over the weekend.

As I head into 2009, I plan on making some other changes, too. In a nutshell, they consist of:

a) Less “official” events

b) Smarter recovery from multi-hour training runs and events

c) Smarter taper leading into events

d) More time running in the dark so as to better prepare for the night running in the 100 miler

e) Back-to-back training runs practicing sleep deprivation and tired legs: let me explain…I have every other Friday off of work so to get these types of workouts in, I’m going to use these Fridays to my advantage like this: During the very few times I do this, I will stay up late on Thursday and then hit the trails just after midnight while everyone is in bed and run until sunrise (around 30 miles). I’ll head on home, catch a cat-nap during the day and then run the normal group run on Saturday, probably starting early while still dark. This accomplishes two objectives: night running, running while tired, and running on tired legs. In my opinion (very much so), I only need to do this twice at most and it should come at the peak of my training with the last one being between 3 and 4 weeks before the targeted 100 miler. I realize these runs will mostly be alone but I don’t expect too much company at this stage of a 100 miler, either…again, simulating race conditions. The rest of Saturday and all day Sunday are reserved for family.

f) Less concern with what everyone else is doing and how they’re doing it. It is wise to learn from others. However, it is quite another thing to know what does work and what doesn’t work. Rest/recovery/days off/tapering/ultra-distance nutrition/training mileage/diet are all things that can vary greatly from ultra-runner to ultra-runner. Luckily, there are endless resources to tap into to allow each of to craft the best strategy that will fit into each of our lives.

g) Get to know my fellow runners a lot better. There are some really good people here that I don’t even know more than an e-mail address, an occasional face on group run, or a name on race results. The intangible reward of being a lifelong runner is the friendships garnered along the way. In the ultra-running world and especially tackling the 100 mile distance, a whole new side of humanity is discovered. Sharing in that is priceless.

h) Forget trying to explain the answer to this question: “WHY on earth would you ever run THAT far?!?!?” They’ll just never understand!

i) Try to stop looking at the scale and worrying about my weight. I lost my 50lbs a year and a half ago and honestly, I couldn’t lose anymore unless I stopped running and lost the muscle mass. I weigh exactly what I weighed one year ago but if I so much as see a 5lb increase on the scale, I nearly freak out. I still log my weight every Thursday morning on the calendar. Take yesterday for example: I ran 22 miles, ate a little for a late breakfast and then took my 5 year old out for Mexican and some of my Dad’s homemade ice cream at 3pm. I felt so guilty that I didn’t eat again until breakfast this morning….after my 6 mile recover run!!! Remember the saying “practice what you preach”??? Note taken.

j) Make sure that every goal/event put on the calendar is “screened” through the “boss” in the house and support is at 100%. No exceptions. There will not be a “running widow” in this house!

k) Have more fun! If this ever turns into something NOT fun, I don’t what I’ll do with myself. That existence is unimaginable.

So off to 2009. Now that you’ve traveled through my mind, maybe what I do will make a little bit more sense to you?!? Maybe not, but I’m glad I wrote this all down…kinda helps putting everything into perspective.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ...
--David Blaikie