Saturday, February 28, 2009

28 on the 28th

Dictionary.com defines "euphoric" as "an exaggerated feeling of well-being or elation." Yea, I think that pretty much sums up how I felt in the later miles of today's 28 miles among the trails of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 48 hours ago, I shot Greg an e-mail to see if he might want to join me at 5:15am for a pre-dawn night run before the scheduled 7am group run on the roads. Surprisingly, he jumped right in...but then thought that perhaps a whole day, minus any asphalt, might be nice. I came up with a route which I estimated to be around 28 miles and that was it. We met up and hit the trails at 5:23am under the guidance of headlamps and headed out from Lock 29 on the Valley Bridle Trail towards the Wetmore Trail. Once at Wetmore, the mud started and we were no longer dry. We learned real quick that if we see white, it's the dusting of flurries we got last night on top of extremely thin ice. That was followed by a water crossing where I made a most feeble standing long jump attempt and landed right in the water. Definitely soaked now! Once out of Wetmore, we continued on the Burning River course until the 4.5 mile point where we turned and traced our steps back to Lock 29 where we picked up Dave K. who wanted to jump in for the remaining 19 miles.

Before we took off, I loaded up with 1.5 liters of water on my back and a baggie full of boiled/salted red-skin potatoes that I made last night. I found out at the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler last November that these potatoes are the ultra-running "wonder food." Kept in a bag, they retain their moisture and absolutely hit the spot and taste so good. They don't upset the stomach nor do they stick to the roof of the mouth like dry foods do. In the later miles of an ultra, the mouth gets extremely dry so moisture-rich foods are best. The best part? I don't know what it is, but potatoes are the only food that I've found that maintains my energy levels up. Electrolytes, gels, other foods...nothing works like these potatoes. Today was the test to see if my experience at Masochist was just a fluke. It wasn't. I brought an extra bag of taters for Greg and in his first experience with them, he loved them and agreed with their ability to maintain energy up. For me, it's not that my legs don't have any "umph" left in them, it's just my energy being sapped. Today was confirmation that this is the real deal. I'll be boiling lots more in the future.

We left Lock 29 and hit the Buckeye Trail at Pine Lane and took it out to the Boston Store, had a few taters, then picked up the Valley Bridle Trail and took it all the way to Snowville Road, just south of Jaite...for about 2.7 miles. We ran about 100 yards up Snowville and picked up the Buckeye Trail again. After another refueling of potatoes, we hit the Snowville Steps. A trail run in the CVNP wouldn't be a trail run without lots of ups and downs and lots of steps...be them man-made or logs. Eventually, we got to the Piano Keys which is about 1/2 mile from Boston. You can see from the opening picture in the video below why they're called the Piano Keys. After cresting the top and another short rise, I told the guys to just "Go!" because I finally had a chance to film the "Rollercoaster Hill." This is about a 0.4 mile stretch that is blistering fast. You know how a roller coaster screams down a hill, has a gentle rise, then drops off again? That's exactly what this downhill is like. It's an absolute blast. Luckily, it's not technical and rooty and has pretty good footing so there's not too much risk in tripping, but you still need to keep your eyes on the ground in front of you. Just remember to hit the brakes at the end. There's a sharp turn at the bottom that you may just miss and end up in the branches if you don't know it's coming. Enjoy the ride!

Afterwards, we refueled, had the orange I'd been carrying all day, and headed on back to Pine Lane. Oh yea, remember the 1.5 liters of water? I still had 1.5 liters of water. The drinking tube froze solid...it was in the low 20s for the whole run. The plus side is that I carried a good deal of weight all day and still ran strong beginning to end. Once back on the trail, I kept on leading the pack and eventually got to the water crossing about 1 mile from the Pine Lane Trailhead. To prove how loopy I get in the later miles, I said: "Well, we only have 2.7 miles to go so instead of leaping across the water, why don't we just walk on through?" That turned into standing in the water for some super-frigid "cold-water-therapy!" After running for over 4 1/2 hours, the freezing water actually felt good. After a few pics, we took off again, completely soaked of course!

After back at Pine Lane, we needed another 1.2 miles so we hit up the Valley Bridle Trail again (same as where we ran in the 5 o'clock hour) and crossed over the 26.2 marathon distance right at about 5 hours. Not too shabby given we stopped to eat from time to time, goofed around in the water, and we were running on hilly, muddy trails. After a high-five with Greg, we continued on and wrapped up the run back at Lock 29. Like good social trail runners, we gathered up for a final pic post-run and then headed on over to the Winking Lizard for some quality re-fueling. A phone call came in saying that my girls wanted to stay at Grandma's a little longer so no pressure to sprint home...perfect!

I know the question is coming or being thought so I'll just state it and answer it: "Why on earth did you run 28 miles?" Honestly? Just because I could. You might say I love to run...just a bit. More specifically, I love to run on the trails and mentally and physically escape from speeding cars, the roads I see on every morning run I do during the work-week, and to absorb everything that the trails can throw at me. Thankful is barely a good enough word to describe how I feel when out there. It's thankful times a hundred...a thousand. I don't take a step for granted or the National Park for granted...never. I really just wanted to run for a very long time today and it's really just as simple as that. Now having another 50K (31.2 miles) only 7 days away...well, that's another story and I'm sure, another blog post. Oh yea, I had to snap this final pic of my trail shoes after I took them off. Chocolate-covered pretzels is what comes to mind. Layer after layer of frozen mud...and that rushing water didn't pull it off, either. Kinda cool, eh?! Here's the whole 17pic photo album from today.

Most definitely, more so today than usual, Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2009

T-99 Days and Counting...

That's right! 99 days until my primary goal for 2009, that being a 100 mile finish. The Kettle Moraine 100 Miler kicks off at 6am in southern Wisconsin in the Kettle Moraine National Forest. Without a doubt, I'm itchin' to get into the specific training for this event. Hours on the trails getting more used to a slower pace and longer periods of time on my legs are on the way. I suppose tomorrow counts towards that as Greg and I will be hitting the trails in the dark at 5:15am...lots of mud and darkness await! Our goal is to cover about 28 miles tomorrow all on trail. The rain is really coming down this morning so the trails should be quite a treat tomorrow morning. Temps will be falling through the floor tonight, though, and temps should be in the upper teens to the lower 20s for the run. Here are some other random musings....

- I've started a concentrated focus on strengthening my core. A strong mid-section is instrumental to increasing endurance and survival in ultra events. One way I've started doing this is by working on the TA (transverses-abdominus) isometric contraction. It is a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal stabilizing muscle fibers while maintaining a stable back position. Those muscles are the ones at the bottom of your abdominal muscles in between your front pelvic bones. If you lay on your back, slightly arch your back and tighten your abs towards your belly button, you should be able to feel it tighten. There's a detailed explanation on how to find it and work on it in March 2009's edition of Trail Runner magazine on pages 23/24. It's really the central point that connects your lower extremities to your upper body. Since running is an all-body exercise, strengthening this area is key to success and remaining injury-free. I am also mixing in varied crunches and abdominal stretches throughout each week focusing on high/mid/low/side areas. Good for running but great for swimsuit season, too...right?!?

- The Covered Bridge FA 50K is next Saturday at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. It's one of many things that NEO Trail organizes and should be tons of fun. Normally, I take down-weeks after big weeks (like this week which will approach 60 miles) but this next week will be the exception. I'll be starting at 6am at the Old Log Cabin. The CBFA50K will be on the URINEO and YUT-C courses. To bring forth some feelings of spring, I recalled the pic on the left from last year's YUT-C 50K. It's nice to remember what it's like to see green leaves on the trees.

- This has been a great week of training. With warm temps yesterday, I only wore shorts and a short-sleeve shirt which was incredibly refreshing. It was nice to feel the sweat dripping off my forehead again. The day before, I had a really good 8.5 mile tempo run averaging 7:15-7:45 pace. I'm trying to get in at least one run per week where I get my heartrate up and push myself. I try to make every run unique and not run the same 'ol, same 'ol pace each and every day...boring, for sure, and less overall training value.

- Be watching the Vertical Runner Discussion Board on Tuesday morning and your e-mail inbox as the March 2009 edition of the Western Reserve Trail Running e-Newsletter goes to "press." I had a great Q&A with Suzanne Pokorny as next month's featured local trail runner. Suzanne is a veteran ultra-runner and volunteer coordinator of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run on August 1/2.

- I'm considering running the Cleveland Marathon as part of my last major mileage weekend before Kettle Moraine. It's 3 weeks out before the event. If I did it, I'd run about 90min - 120min of trails on Saturday then run the marathon easy on Sunday and support many of you running the marathon. However, I don't know if this is smart to do. I'm not sure if I should instead be doing a very long trail run this weekend, instead. I wouldn't mind hearing some experienced opinions. Either comment here or e-mail would be appreciated.

Spring is coming....Happy Trails!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Passion * Influence * Silence

Passion

What is it exactly that drives you? Whether it's the drive to get on the treadmill for 30min every day, do your P90x routine every day, call your best friend, run 50 miles, read your Bible...you get the idea. Deep down, what drives you forward and provides the "umph" each and every time? Is there a constant need for something? Were you influenced by somebody or some thing?? I read just this past week a race report from a 20-something girl who ran and finished the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in Texas. It was a post on a website of the CrossFit program she trains with. Clearly by the end, it was a big push/advertisement for CrossFit. Disclaimer: I have zero experience with CrossFit and will neither promote nor criticize it. However, this runner stated how extremely little she ran in preparing for the 100 and stated the following near the end of her post: "I can only imagine the number of runners who participated in the same event who are planning out their 50, 60, 70+ mile weeks leading up to their next event. How boring is that?! Don’t they know time is precious? I guarantee you that if I had been the one putting in all those miles, I either would have wound up injured or been burned smooth out; both of which result in no 100 mile finish." (Read the whole post here.) Again, I'm just a runner. I don't have a gym membership. I pump some iron once a week, do some crunches, do some planks, do some wall sits, and occasionally knock the tar out of my heavy bag that hangs from my basement ceiling. I eat right, burn a ton of calories every week running for hours, and guess what, "boring" would be defined to me as NOT running. Take the way I feel today...if I could and I didn't have to work, had no family, had no responsibilities, I'd choose to go run and run for as long as I could. I'm passionate about it and it drives me...emotionally...physically. Do you know your passion?

Influence

What I talked about above goes hand-in-hand with this. Do me a favor, ask yourself this question and maybe even write it down: "What truly influences you?" Got it? I propose this and yes, I heard this concept on an audio-blog which I totally agree with: What influences you...will in turn be the way you influence others. Put it to the test now. Are you influenced by those who drive colorful, shiny, expensive cars? Are you influenced by those who are servant-oriented? (ie: they serve others as a major part of their life) Are you influenced by lots of money? Are you influenced by "image"? Here's a good one: Are you influenced by others who drive themselves physically to reach previously unreached distances? (ie: ultra-running) Yea...that one I will certainly claim. Once you answer some of these questions for yourself, you may be happy...or not so happy with what you hear from yourself. To make a change, it's not easy. Essentially, you are wired a certain way and it's shaped from so many facets of your life: upbringing, friends, TV, workplace, moral/religious beliefs, and the list goes on and on. However, change can be made by starting at what you "allow" yourself to be influenced by...and then watch this spill over into your influence on others. In other words, you're essentially "paying it forward." I'll continue working on my own list....offline. Maybe you could do the same?

Silence

120 seconds. When was the last time you had a full 120 seconds of pure silence. I mean nothing at all. Not the furnace, the clock ticking, kids screaming, spouse snoring, birds chirping, rain falling....nothing. Trust me, it'll be a challenge to find it but try to and just "listen"...it can, and I believe it will be an enlightening experience for you. I personally had it sitting down on the Appalachian Trail a month ago. Remember that post? I can't really explain in words the value of complete and pure silence. It's just something you have to experience. I'm not talking about anything "new age" here or anything meditative. Plain, simple, quiet. Just you and yourself. Now go find your 120 seconds of purity!

Thanks for reading today, friends! I hope you find that you know your passion, embrace your influences, and find your silence. For me and I speak for me alone, I find it being out there...with every footfall on the soft bed of dirt, mud, or snow.

Happy Trails!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Never a Dull Moment on the Trails

It was another one of those typical NE Ohio mid-winter mornings: nasty roads, lots of snow overnight, and me...white-knuckle driving for 1/2 hour out to the park for a trail run. I took Marjie's 4 wheel drive to maybe have a less stressful drive to the park but it didn't matter. The roads were treacherous and an 18-wheeler had already made it's way completely into the interstate median. (he was still there 4 hours later when I was driving home) Once at the park, I sat and waited for the park worker to plow the driveway before I parked then I did what most call crazy....hit the trail with 4-6" of fresh snow, in the dark, and at about 15 degrees. Lucky, fortunate, thankful...take your pick...it was one of "those" types of mornings...the perfect kind. I was meeting my brother at 7am so I thought I'd do the Boston Run loop early and once in the woods, it was surreal. Pure. Perfect. Tracks zig-zagged back and forth across the trail from deer and the one and only owl I've ever seen in the National Park...was calling out. It was on this trail in the same location where I saw him about a year ago. I also decided to give shooting some video a try just to see how it would come out. It turned out OK but I'll let you be the judge.






















Just before the end of Boston Run, I stopped and took 2 pictures. The one here on the left is without a flash. A few seconds later I took the exact same photo but with a flash. Look at everything the flash reflected off of that was in the air but couldn't be seen with the naked eye...isn't this cool?!?! Once back to the parking lot, it wasn't quite 7 so I headed over to Happy Days Lodge to burn up some time and saw 2 coyotes running through the woods. I couldn't move quick enough to snap a pic, though. That was the first time I'd ever seen them out there and they were big and had the fattest, bushiest tails. On the way back and while stepping back into the Lodge parking lot, my toe snagged a parking lot stop and BAM! Faceplant and right knee drilled into the icy asphalt. The camera took a hit, too, but like always, it just keeps on working...such a brute! That fall hurt. But, the run had to go on! We took the typical route around the Ledges, took in an "ooooohhhhhh, ahhhhhhhh" moment at the Overlook (below) and headed on over to Kendall Lake. It turns out some type of construction is going on at the Lake Trail. When entering the park area, the Lake Trail is closed to the right (west) so we took the Lake Trail clockwise around the lake with the intended goal of Salt Run Trail. Today was my brother's first trail run so I thought a good "mixer" of trails would be perfect and Salt Run is always a great place for some initiation! Just before the Salt Run entrance, we get to the barricade saying that the trail is closed. Well, just like always, I proceed around the barricade and continue. Not even 10 steps past and I hear "HEY!!!! The trail is closed!!!!" The park ranger must have been watching us circle the lake and just waiting to see if we'd ignore his signage. I yelled back "We're not on the Lake Trail!!!!" I wasn't lying because before I shouted it, we were already off piste and pushing through the woods towards Salt Run...probably another violation! We ran Salt Run but soon realized that we weren't going to make it back in time. Plus, I didn't know where we'd go once we got back to Kendall Lake because the trail exit was blocked and we didn't have time to retrace our steps back around the lake. We ended up exiting Salt Run at the marked exit to Akron-Peninsula Road, headed north to Truxell, and took it all the way back to the Kendall Lake entrance and headed back over the Pine Grove Trail. We did that then wrapped up our run by finishing the Ledges, but not before another coyote went running through the woods.

All-in-all, a great, GREAT day on the trails. My brother had a good time and discovered muscles he didn't know existed (sound familiar, anyone???). He's running his first trail event at the Fools 25K so it's good that he still decided to show up today. Here's the rest of the pics from today.

I couldn't believe how much snow fell overnight out there. Luckily, it's supposed to be in the mid-40s next week with rain so GOODBYE snow! I will miss these gorgeous runs but I will NOT miss everything else that comes with the nasty, frigid, NE Ohio winters. Give me green foliage everyday and I will not complain! Tonight, I type this from the Kalahari Indoor Water Park in Sandusky, OH....just down the street from Cedar Point. It is the largest indoor water park in the United States. Mix the chlorine along with hundreds of energy-charged kids all day plus the 4am wakeup call this morning and I'm one tired 'ol sap! I had planned to take a short jaunt tomorrow morning but that fall on the ice along with a tough run in the snow has me feeling like a rest-n-repair day is in order. Sunday morning will be just fine!

I hope to see many of you on the trails, soon! Spring will be here soon! Oh yea, not that I'm counting, but it's 105 days until the Kettle Moraine 100!

Happy, snowy trails, everyone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Thoughts on the "Recovery" Bill

Are most people still asleep or are they simply choosing not to acknowledge what is happening in the news everyday? As I've said before here on my blog, I stay away from the "political speak" but I've just got to vent about a couple of things. I heard someone say yesterday that when someone gets elected, they'll never be more popular than the day they were elected. I think that's incredibly true. Whether it is President Obama, W, or any other elected official, governor, senator, etc. Now that the inauguration is a month gone by, it really seems that most Americans are still living in the haze and believing all of the hype. Instead of just spreading propaganda and running off at the mouth, let me explain:

If you're not living in a sound-proof box, you've certainly heard critics say that are country is on the path towards socialism. (Soviet Union ring a bell??? USSR???) One of socialism's "features" is one of massive government involvement...one where "they" are making more and more of your decisions for you and "controlling" more and more of our country's infrastructure. Basically, our basic freedoms that we all hold near and dear are being stripped away one piece at a time. This last week, President Obama flew to Denver to sign the new Economic Recovery bill into law. You may have heard of it before called the "Stimulus Package"...but it's name was changed. Ever wonder why? Pure marketing. That's it. They (the government) needed to "sell" it to the American public and since the stimulus package was getting such a bad rap and people tied it to the last administration, they re-branded it the recovery bill. Still, it's nearly 800 BILLION dollars of money. OK...how many zeros are in there? Another way to look at it is $787,000,000,000. Look a little bigger now? When have you seen it shown to you that way?? Next part: where does that come from? We're in big bad debt, aren't we?! The Obama campaign team often mentioned how bad "W" drove us into a horrendous national deficit so you know we're already in the red in our national "checkbook." So, if we don't have any money in the bank, then how on earth does this work? Borrow it from other countries? Well, we're already indebted big time to the big ones and they're hurting, too. Well, the only thing left is to...PRINT some more!!! You know that money tree we all want planted in our yard where we can just walk out and pluck from? We all want one of those. Unfortunately, nothing in life is free like that and this "recovery" money is no exception. Take that horrible deficit and ratchet it up yet again. However, don't expect to see that in the liberal press. That's not worthy of headline news. So who will pay for it eventually? How about my kids, your kids, their kids, and their kids, and their kids, etc. You get the picture. Eventually, it'll get paid for...and it won't come from the money tree on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So the big issue is the economy and job creation which is the overall goal of the $787,000,000,000, right? On the same day that President Obama jumped in Air Force One and flew to Denver (do you have any idea how much THAT cost??!!!), the stock market dove nearly 300 points. OK, you don't need to understand stocks and Wall St. to "get this." As a previous financial advisor, let me just tell you that the stock market is an "emotional machine." It literally operates on human emotions. If those trading on Wall St. just hear a hint of good or bad news, hear that interest rates might or might not change, or even if a hurricane is approaching oil drilling platforms, the market "reacts" as it thinks it should. It is an emotional animal. So very little of the daily ups and downs are based on fact, but instead on what folks "think" will happen. So Obama signs this thing in Denver and the market dives nearly 300 points. Coincidence? Take it another step further, for a second: one of the goals of the bill is to infuse more $$$ into the banking system and to get the banks lending, right? They (the government) is saying to the banks "Lend some money!!!!" Why? If you and I are borrowing, then we are spending. If we are spending, then we will help the economy "recover." Right now, most Americans are sitting on their hands and not borrowing and spending way less. They want us to stop doing that and get out there and spend. OK, hold that thought for a second. Remember where our whole economic downturn started? It was the mortgage mess. Lenders (banks) were lending to people who shouldn't have been getting the loans and they were defaulting on them (not paying on them). Many got into variable rate loans that became unpayable when those rates went up. The cumulative effect of that crushed our financial system. Sloppy lending practices and giving money to whomever, whenever they wanted it got us into this mess and now, this "recovery" bill's intent is to get the banks to do it again...but this time, with money from the "money tree." Is any of this soaking in? Do you see anything wrong with it? Oh yea, General Motors also announced thousands of more layoffs and also said they need more money. Where does it end? It doesn't. Once the original "bailout" money was handed out to the banks by the Bush administration, it was all downhill from there. Now, the government can't say no. The floodgates are wide open.

Another feature of a socialist environment is "income redistribution." Many call this welfare. Basically, money is taken (in the form of taxes) and "redistributed" to others in our country (ie: free medical, cash assistance, welfare). Take from the "rich" and give to the poor. I'm all for helping out the needy and in fact, I do it for a living working for Uncle Sam. However, I think we all have a job to pull our own weight and do our job to make our great country thrive. It's the blood and guts of good 'ol Americans that made this country great in the first place...not more government. (that's a fact you can't dispute) No American is beneath doing anything. We need to do whatever it takes to be a fruitful member of society. Unfortunately, a lot of people have been handed a bad deck of cards. They may be disabled so bad that there's nothing they can do and I believe we have a duty to care for them...to care for our fellow neighbor. However, there are many who abuse that very system who are NOT doing their part. It's those folks who need to step up and contribute. One other feature of the "recovery" bill are additional checks to those on federal disability. Call it their "stimulus" payment, if you will. I believe it's about $250 over and above their normal checks. The idea? The government hopes that this money will be used to "boost" the economy and will be spent and infused back in. Keep in mind that those in receipt of these checks don't pay taxes because their income is too low to start with. I'm not sure of the correct technical name for this check but I'll make it simple for you to remember...just call it the "IR" check...or "income redistribution" check. Makes sense, right?

I want our government to succeed and to thrive. No one, regardless of party affiliation, should want our government to fail. However, I can't find a glimmer of hope in any of this. I don't see how this bill is going to help our economy, create the millions and millions of jobs it claims it will, or help friends right here in our community get work and pay their mortgage. I'm not a pessimist at all. I'd call myself a realist and one who can look at nearly all things objectively...intelligently...and without prejudice. I really do hope this "bill" works because this funk our country is in is really bad. I do believe everything works in a cycle and we will eventually come out of it. It's just a matter of how long it will take, what it will cost "us" as U.S. citizens, and what we have to go through to get there. I think we're just in the beginning of a long down time. I hope and pray I'm wrong. For me and my family, I'm going to do my best every day and be the best contributing member of society that I can be, for there really is nothing else I can do. I encourage you to do the same.Oh yea, one other tidbit: why did President Obama fly to Denver and sign the bill at a company that makes solar panels? Was it to show a more "green" president? Support alternative forms of energy? Perhaps. However, what you WON'T read in the headlines is this fact: the company he went to has 55 employees. Everyone at this company makes the exact same salary, works the same hours, gets same 6 weeks of vacation per year. Regardless of their job, they get paid the same. They also have a portion of their check held back and given to charity, without their consent or "freedom" of choice to do so, or not to do so. I'm not going to continue to beat a dead horse, but I hope you see the "socialist" structure at this company and don't really think that was some coincidence yet again. I have never heard of a company structure like that in my entire life, but the president found it. Just more food for thought.

I'm sorry if I disappointed some my "regular" readers by venturing away from running for one post, but hey, this blog is about sharing my thoughts, right? Now you know them! But really, running is great! I logged over 50 miles between last Friday and by the time I returned to work on Tuesday. I took yesterday and today off for the sole purpose to rebuild and recover. I didn't want to but I was begging for injury if I didn't. I'll hit the trails for 3 hours tomorrow, though, and from what I hear in the forecast, it'll be in fresh snow once again. SPRING, please come to Ohio!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, February 16, 2009

43 and Couldn't Feel Better

I just got done watching "The Distance of Truth"...a documentary covering the 2005 Badwater Ultramarathon...a 135 mile trek from the lowest point in North America in the Death Valley to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Many call it the toughest footrace on earth. Thanks to Greg for letting me borrow the DVD. It is yet another tool in the toolbelt as I train towards my goal of a 100 mile finish on June 7th. Every little bit of inspiration, race strategy, and wisdom I can gain may be called on in a time that I may need it. It was a very well-done documentary that even non-running folks will appreciate. Marjie (my wife) sat through it all and enjoyed it. I think I may have even learned a bit about blisters as well. Below, is the trailer for the movie followed by "Blisters 101"...one of the extras on the DVD. The man in that clip is Ferg Hawke who was the main subject of the documentary.





Earlier today, I met up with Vince who joined me on a lightly snow-covered Buckeye Trail for a 10 mile trail run. I hadn't been on the BT since the winter 50K last month and questioned the trail conditions given all the snow-fall followed by all of it melting. Well, we were pleasantly surprised by really good trail conditions and a superb day on the trails.

Runs with Vince always turn out to be great as we never know where the conversation will lead or what pace we'll end up running. In the end, the pace nearly always ends up faster than expected but a pleasant surprise and conversation is well....priceless. Like we say, what's said on the trail...stays on the trail. (that's him in the bottom right of the above photo) I also shot some video today as well and ended up getting a deer in there at the end. Just before I shot this, I was about 5 feet from another deer and it just stood there...not spooked at all. One of the benefits of few people on the trail is that the wildlife don't hear us coming.

In the end, we racked up 10 miles and I ended up with 43 miles since Friday and I couldn't feel better! I attribute part of it to how I've recovered from each. After any run over 10 miles, I recover with Hammer's Recoverite and occasionally make up a Hammer Whey Protein/Hammer Heed mixture recovery drink. They go to work immediately by rebuilding the broken down muscle tissue. Putting in 43 over the weekend really wasn't the plan but I'm glad I did it. Now, it's mid-afternoon, the sun is shining, and my tendency is to lace up the Brooks and hit the pavement again...maybe for another 7? Round it off to 50 miles for the weekend? Probably not, but it sounds...and looks like a perfect plan.

(By the way, I stood on slightly lower ground so I could "appear" a bit shorter than normal in the picture above...gotta look out for the little guy, right?!?!?) Here's some other pics from today's run. Afterwards, I took my Valentine (it's still Valentine's Day weekend, right?) out to lunch at the Pufferbelly in Kent for my favorite Grouper Reuben sandwich. Federal holidays sure are a great thing!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back in the Groove for Twenty-Three

Where on earth did January go? It seems like yesterday that we were all running the Winter BT50K in deep snow. I'm definitely not complaining, though...I am absolutely done with winter in northeast Ohio. I say "Bring on the spring, green leaves, sunset after 8pm, and no coats." Unfortunately, it's snowed before on my birthday (mid-April) so I'll take the gorgeous days as they present themselves. This last week (since my Mr. Moon post early in the week) was a complete blur. I came back to work after being gone from my desk for 17 days to a mountain of work so I spent all week attempting to dig myself out from under it while tackling the continuing work-load that presented itself each day. Much of that "stuff" still sits where it was when I showed up on Monday. The good news, though? This next week is a 3-day week. Government holiday on Monday and Friday I have off. (I work 9 hour days so I can have every other Friday off.) Now THAT I can handle! This last week's early morning running also took some shifts as I skipped one day to instead sit behind the computer from 3:30am to 5:30am working on stuff (ie: other responsibilities) that couldn't get done any other time. Plus, the wind was gusting to 50 mph that morning so my heart wasn't broken. I still ended up the week at 45 miles with only 4 days of running so I'm quite happy with that.

Well, after a super fast tax return (filed last weekend and in the bank this past Thursday), I put my money where my mouth is and registered for the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run on June 6/7 in Kettle Moraine National Forest in southern Wisconsin...northwest of Chicago. Time is moving fast and it's almost time to click in gear and start the buildup in race-specific training for this 100-miler. Starting on March 7th at NEO Trail's Covered Bridge FA 50K in Mill Creek Park, I will begin the slow and gradual buildup to Kettle Moraine. Things like running trails in the dark and back-to-back long runs are a few examples. The only event in between Covered Bridge and KM is Lloyd's Fools 50K on April 5th. By the way, if you snoozed and didn't register, you're only option is probably the wait list now. As of yesterday, 197 of 200 spots were spoken for. Not too shabby for the inaugural running of this 50K. Way to go, Lloyd! My plan for that event is to help Lloyd mark the course, run the 50K, and help clean up the course...perfect training for KM. That will be 2 months out from KM. In late April and again once or twice in May, I'll do some middle-of-the-night runs on the trails while sleep deprived to mimic that 2nd half of the 100 miler.

Today, I wanted to run for no other reason...but to run. I had no really training need for 20 miles but I would like to maintain that 20-25 mile long run base just to keep myself growing in endurance and an increasing feeling of that feeling "easy." I just think that will help me in the 100. I may be wrong but it seems to make sense to me. I started at 6am today in the dark on the Towpath Trail and surprisingly, 3 others showed up as well...a pleasant surprise! We knocked out 6.3 before the VR Group Run at 7am which was a 16.5 mile run including mostly Towpath and the Carriage Trail. Once back, I did a little out-n-back to get myself up to 23 miles for the day. I was pretty tired and sore at the end but I never really slowed down much at all. I just kept it slow and steady all day. I also want to give a shout-out to my brother, Bill, who ran 17 today and marked his longest run ever. He's dropped nearly 50 pounds over the last few years and recently signed up for his first marathon, Flying Pig, on May 3rd in Cincinnati. (I may have had just a bit of influence on him in picking that one!) It's really cool to see someone (even better when it's my brother) set a goal, follow the steps to a new and better lifestyle, and achieve that goal.

To "celebrate" a 3-day work-week, I'm going to dive into the mud on Monday morning from 7am-9am at Pine Lane and see what the Buckeye Trail has to offer after all the snow has melted and then again on Friday at Happy Days for another 2 hours on the trails...mostly covering the Fools 50K course. Friday will also be my brother's indoctrination on the trails...time to get those new Merrell trail shoes muddy! Anyone is welcome to join me but please let me know if you're coming so I can wait for you if you're running late.

Speaking of new trail shoes, I found redemption at Keen. I've been bummed out for awhile because they totally discontinued my Keen Wasatch Crest trail shoes. Well, a new one has been released and is called the Powerline. They should have just kept the Wasatch Crest name because essentially, everything below the upper is identical and they redesigned the upper and also kept the unique lacing pattern. Since both of my old Keens are nearly at their end-of-life (one has around 450 miles and has screws in them and the other is very close to 400 miles), this news couldn't have come at a better time.

Happy Valentine's Day to you all and as always, Happy Trails!

Monday, February 9, 2009

3:30am: Part V


3:30am, Monday morning, February 9, 2009. "Time to make the donuts," I think to myself. I stand up quick as if snapping to attention but quickly sit back down. No need to kick in my vasovagal syncope and pass out. A slow beating heart (less than 40bpm) from sleeping makes me very vulnerable to hittin' the floor with a flat-lining heart. Been there, done that, no need to revisit that again. Out the side of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the window in the bedroom. A soft, white light is pushing around the edges. At 3:30am, that can only mean one thing: Mr. Moon!!. A smile so wide that every tiny tooth in my mouth can be seen and a quick disabling of the security system and I am out in the kitchen, pumped full of energy and dying to get outside. THIS is the day I've been waiting for. The last time a full moon graced northeast Ohio, the clouds kept it from shining through. Not so today...there isn't a cloud around and the reflection on the remaining snow makes it especially fascinating when I look outside at Old Glory to see what kind of wind is out there. Good news...no wind. It's calm, peaceful, and as far as I can tell, absolutely perfect. A quick glance at the thermometer reveals a crisp 18F which is also just right. I brew my ritualistic espresso, have a Clementine, a tall glass of water and sit down to check on e-mail, etc....you know, the normal rounds we make every day when we log onto our machines. It looks like from the look of Facebook Status Updates that many stayed up to watch the Grammy's. I didn't recognize half of the nominated artists and sleep is far more valuable to me so I passed on the Grammy's and hit the sack.

Geared up and ready to go, I grab the house keys, lace up my Brooks Defyance shoes, and step outside. I passed once again on those junk wear-testers from Brooks. Thankfully, that wear-test ends tomorrow and I can send those dreadful shoes back where they came from. Hardly 150 miles on them and the cushion is all gone. I'd love to help out the company by wear-testing but not at the expense of my knees. Anyway, Mr. Moon is shining bright outside and I snap this photo outside my garage. Cameras really don't like dark shots when you turn the flash off...they blink all kinds of red warning lights trying to get you to "comply" with its desires and turn on the flash. I step on out into the road, dodge around some icy spots from frozen snow-melt in the road and off to "our" route. Today, however, will be different. I have some extra time because I don't have to be at work until 8am so this early 4:30am departure time allows for a bit of an extension. I decide to take "Karen's Loop"...named after Karen S. who I paced at the Akron Marathon last September. She's the only one who has run today's route with me. It's the same route in the beginning but instead of an out-n-back like past "Mr. Moon Runs", it's an 8.2 mile loop full of roller-coaster hills. Because I like even numbers, today will be a Karen+ Loop with an even 10 miles. "Legs!: If you could, please, provide me a comfortable, worry-free ride today and take it easy. Mind!: Float away and enjoy the quiet, peace, and clarity the next 10 miles will provide."


Slipping away from the artificial lights of my neighborhood, the area and road in front of me appears brighter. The soft, warm glow from the sky makes it incredibly easy to see. Ahead, the heavy fog sits awaiting the sun to rise and burn it away. With lots of snow evaporating during daylight hours, the air is heavy with moisture. As I dig into the roller-coaster hills, the valleys are fully taken over by the mist and it's drops can be felt all over. 2 miles in and I'm all warm and toasty. My thoughts turn to taking off the gloves but I quickly remind myself that it's 18F, not 38F and leave them on. Thoughts also start to turn upward...upward in prayer, if I may be so bold. There are times, times often too reliable, where decisions must be made. Decisions that at first glance seem all too difficult to challenge and conquer. Decisions that one day, will be looked back on and evaluated. For me, prayer is not something that I will ever blog and share in words on a screen for it is too personal. However, I will admit that on a morning like today when time matters not, distractions cease to exist, and all I hear is each footstrike and breath, no better time exists to pray. I can say with 100% certainty that my life has been guided by this communal relationship I have through prayer. Steps are guided, assurance is given, and peace is found. Decisions, though tough and robust at first glance, can most often be reduced to rubble when tackled through prayer. It is no different regardless of the challenge. As I pass through miles 3....4.....5, I converse, discuss, and seek guidance. I don't expect a huge "a-HA!" moment, but instead know that it's a process to be lived each moment of each day.


By the time I realize it, mile 6 has arrived and Mr. Moon shines from behind me...exactly 180 degrees behind me. I know this because I'm running exactly in alignment with my 8 or so foot shadow in front of me. It's not often that anyone gets this type of opportunity to evaluate one's running form. I can see everything from head to foot. Are my hips wobbling too much side to side?! Am I bow-legged?! No on both counts. I start to turn on my analyzer-self that I used to use at Vertical Runner when fitting someone for shoes. I'm trying to see how efficient I look. Arms are moving but not out of control...that would waste energy. Footstrike appears to be pretty straight on but turns out a little at toe-off. That's normal. From up here at my vantage point, all looks pretty good. "That's ironic," I think. "I was standing in the shower just last week and looked down at my legs and they looked all bowed, twisted, and contorted! Here, I look as efficient as can be!" I remember thinking how in the world I can run given my physical makeup. I have longer-than-normal legs, a shorter upper body, longer arms than that upper body should have, and from what I hear, I run nearly straight up...with nearly no lean forward at all...as if I am a running statue. I'm the last person that will ever criticize someone's running form. Some look perfect, graceful, and have the "born-to-be-a-runner" form and physique. Not me. I didn't do sports, I was in the band, and ran only when I my dad was chasing me...usually trying to deliver punishment (much deserved, I'm sure!). However God did it, I sure am thankful. Without that shadow in front of me, I wouldn't be out here. I'd probably be asleep and soon be at the McDonald's drive-thru picking up a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit. (one of my pre-running-days favorites) Proof from my 8 foot shadow: it all depends on your perspective. In one way, I'm a twisted mess. In another, I'm a smooth, efficient running machine. I'll take the high road...the positive road...and be thankful for it.


Soon, the shadow shifts again with a turn in the road. Home is not too far off now. Mr. Moon, in fact, is noticably lower in the sky than when I began today's trek. I decide to make today as good as it can be and pick up the pace by a minute a mile and run faster to various landmarks. The first is a huge farm ahead, the 2nd a huge oak tree one mile from home. It feels SO good to get the heart really pumping on a day like today. For the last mile, I slow way down...really to prolong the run and avoid Mr. Moon's light from being sapped by the neighborhood lights. It may be awhile to next time. Once back in my driveway and a quick glance at the Garmin, I give a little nod to Mr. Moon and give my thanks for once again, a phenomenal run. The legs didn't obey as much as they should as the overall pace was just over 8min/mile. While not fast by many folks' standards, it was very comfortable. This is a good sign...especially in the dead of winter...and especially when my training is shifting to the long, slow stuff as Kettle Moraine looms in the not-so-distant future. I grab the newspaper, head inside, and take on life and the "routines" once again. "Till next time, Mr. Moon...."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Home

I originally started this post titling it “3:30am, Part V” but ended up erasing it since it really doesn’t live up to past editions. I feel like a run with Mr. Moon is far overdue but it hasn’t been dealt to me as of yet so it’ll have to wait.

I was talking to Marjie this morning how I hadn’t made an entry on here since Tuesday. I said: “Well, Mr. Moon was out last night but by this morning, he’d tucked himself away. Instead, the stars were bright over Athens, GA and I had perfect 10 miler.” Now, it is midday, coming up on 4pm on Friday and I’m in Seat 22F of AirTran Flight 198 from Atlanta to Akron. Home at last. But wait! Out my window, there “he” is. Mr. Moon! He is almost full and tonight (if Ohio skies are clear, that is), he should illuminate the sky bright. In my conversation with Marjie this morning I also said how “I’m not just inspired unless he shows up. There’s something about him that triggers the need/ability/desire to spill my thoughts on the screen.” Well sure enough, here I am counting down the minutes to embrace Marjie at the airport and out my window hovers inspiration.

The past two weeks have gone by quicker than expected. I was down in Athens, GA (about 75 minutes east of Atlanta) at the U.S. Navy’s Supply Corps School. It’s a tiny postage-stamp-size of a base in a college town. The University of Georgia calls Athens home…and home of the Bulldogs. As a Navy Reservist, I spend at a minimum 2 weeks on active duty per year. For this year, it was spent jumping on the “conveyor belt” as a fellow officer so wisely put it this morning…the “conveyor belt” being the training program. Much like a conveyor belt in any factory where pieces are assembled in order for the finished product to function, so am I in this training process as a Supply Corps Officer. The finished product will be a fully qualified Navy Supply Officer and finally, of some use to the Navy. I originally spent 10 years on active duty in the Navy in the enlisted ranks and they got plenty of use out of me as a nuclear mechanic. I spent hundreds of hours in the bellies of aircraft carriers and submarines taking care of their nuclear reactors. Once a fully qualified SUPPO (Supply Officer), the Navy can use me as they see fit. As a reservist, that most likely will mean being “mobilized” to support the War on Terror in a far off place on the other side of the world. So on the conveyor belt I travel…a 4 day trip in July will serve as the midpoint of training with graduation in March 2010.

I really looked for Mr. Moon over these past 2 weeks and really wanted an early morning run with him. Most days, I’d rise at 4am, brew my typical small cup of espresso, have a banana, and hit the road. It took me a few days to find my way around Athens but I eventually hammered out a solid 8.5 mile loop that took me from the base and out to the campus where I passed completely through then traveled through a high-end neighborhood and back to the base. Athens is a very hilly town and it was rare when I was just running flat. The hills were steep and challenging…but then again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Flat is just plain boring. So, most days I did that loop and tacked on a few extra to end up around 10 or 11 miles. As you already know, I had a fantastic time in the mountains at my midway point. That was clearly the highlight of my 2 week trip.

So now, the Captain has turned on the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign and has said that all electronic equipment has to be stowed. That means that I need to type fast before that pretty-boy flight steward scolds me! It’s good to be home. I look forward to getting back into my routine, being with family, eating my cottage cheese/kidney beans mixture again, and returning to “civilian” life once again. (the guy who gave me the idea of that cottage cheese combo was there in Athens and I made sure he knew the impact he had on my eating habits!) Home really IS where the heart is. Nothing else really matters at all. Without that, it’s all for nothing. Home…Family…it gives everything else meaning and purpose. I hope you feel the same or are on the way to finding it. Till next time…

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Morning Inspiration

Believe it or not, it's about 30F down here in Athens, GA this morning when it was in the low 60s only 2 days ago. Luckily, we'll be up in the 50s shortly. While waking up in preps for my morning run and also calling the front desk of my hotel (ceiling tiles came crashing down in my room overnight from leaky pipes...it's still dripping and tiles are all over the floor...soaked), I ran across two short but inspirational videos courtesy of "ultrapastor" Mark Swanson. The first was posted on YouTube back in October and will surely put a smile on your face and the 2nd is from an amazing, but disturbing finish at the 1997 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii...for 4th and 5th place among the women. I'm surprised that I'd never seen this finish before. Enjoy!




Pretty good stuff, eh?! I'm a sucker for any kind of "fuel" I can use to get me out the door in the morning, get me to the next mile marker, or simply make me laugh or put a smile on my face. Speaking of that, I ended up finishing Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" on Sunday after my 60F 10-miler (wow, that was a NICE run!!!!). I just knew he was going to pull at my emotional strings at the end and he certainly did. I think I spent 3 hours at Borders on Sunday reading...I just couldn't put it down. My next task is to watch his lecture online.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chattahoochee National Forest Trail Run Report

At the mid-point of my 2 weeks down here in Athens, GA, I've been planning for months to spend it on unknown trails with no concern for time, commitments, or places I have to be. I just wanted to run and see a different part of the country yet to be explored (by me) and soak in all that nature could deal me. A few months back, I reached out to a common contributor on the ultra-list that I get on e-mail every day that lives nearby down here and we planned to spend a day on "his" trails. Even though we connected on Thursday with the plan to still run on Thursday, I got hung out to dry when he totally dropped the ball and come Friday night, zero contact. (I feel safe in saying that this would not happen in the NE Ohio ultra-running community) I sensed this might happen mid-week so I started browsing websites and maps online to find out where I might find some trails. I found this huge "blob" of green on the map called Chattahoochee National Forest...about an hour north of Athens. I hit the road before sunrise on Saturday morning and headed north....on a search for rugged, rooty, rocky trails.

The weather forecast couldn't have been better: 55F and sun. I headed out and about 65 miles later just after sunrise, I huge grin came across my face. As I crested a hill heading north, the sun illuminated a string of mountains....ahhhh, now THAT'S what I'm looking for. I continued on and just before entering the Forest, I found Unicoi State Park which borders the National Forest. Turns out, they have a lodge there so I headed to the front desk for some type of map and a very helpful gentleman was extremely helpful. He had a really well-done map of the trails within the park. I noticed that there were waterfalls nearby called Anna Ruby Falls which I inquired about. His response was "Well, that's on federal land and the trail up to it is very strenuous and is 10 miles round trip and will take you all day." Bingo! I told him that's exactly what I'm looking for. What a non-runner calls steep, strenuous, and long, a trail runner calls paradise. I happily paid my $3 parking fee, geared up, and headed upward on yet another WaterFalls Trail Run. (you all know how much I love these waterfalls!) The man who helped me mentioned something about 3000' of elevation at the falls which I took to mean a 3000' elevation gain on the run. Well, not exactly. Point to point, Smith Creek Trail has about an 1100' foot elevation gain over 5 miles. It was mostly uphill on the way up to the falls. Terrain varied greatly from red clay, to lots of roots (like Pine Lane), to rocks (like the Appalachian Trail), to trail less than a foot wide with steep drop offs. As you can see in some of my pics, the angle was very steep crossing over the trail so to compensate, I had to run a lot of it leaning uphill. There was also a lot of time running beneath rhododendrons which would have clipped me had I not ducked down for a lot of it. I also found it peculiar that the blue blazes marking this trail were scraped off with blue flakes of paint at the base of each tree previously marked. I have to wonder if they are trying to shut down this trail. Luckily, the scrapes are fresh on the tree so I could easily stay on trail. The trail also appeared to not get much traffic which is sad because I absolutely loved this trail. It was everything I was looking for: technical, very hilly, rocky, rooty, stream crossings, gorgeous views, and the cherry on top...the waterfalls at the top. Video below is of a brief section of this trail while running followed by the Anna Ruby Falls. Don't ya just love the sound of crashing water? (I didn't ruin it by talking!)


After my return back to my aid station (aka: Kia rental car trunk), I ran the rest of the trails inside of Unicoi State Park. Frog Pond Nature Trail: a short little trail past....guess what, a frog pond! (no frogs spotted, though) Bottoms Loop Trail (an offshoot arc off of the main Helen Trail...nice-n-rooty. Helen Trail: this trail bordered Smith Creek (the water from the waterfall) and was non-technical but very hills and gorgeous. I also noticed all of the soil had a glitter to it...clearly a rock/mineral in the soil. The Helen Trail ended at the Alpine Village of Helen...all German. By first glance, I decided right there that my post-run grub/refreshments would be had right there. I headed back 3 miles to the lodge and having run every trail within the park, had lunch (banana, orange, Kashi bar), and jumped in the Kia and headed north and up into the Forest.

I really had no idea what I'd find but I was optimistic. The roads twisted and turned through the mountains, cell phone signal was lost, the skies were the brightest of blues...does it get any better than this? Well, it did. I crested a hill with a downhill on the other side and I spotted a trail head. Another quick glance and I spotted a white blaze. White blaze = Appalachian Trail!!!! NOW we're talkin'!!! I did a u-turn and found my spot in the gravel parking lot. Across the road was a sign marking the current elevation of 2900 feet which is just over where I ended up at Anna Ruby Falls. I wandered over to a big boulder at the trail head and found this plaque installed marking the AT. For you non-runners, non-trail-runners, I'd equate this to my wife finding a "can't be missed" Kohl's sale or a sale at Bath & Body Works (ever notice they ALWAYS have a sale?!?!?). I was thrilled to end my day on this famous trail. The Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Georgia and is about 2,170 miles long. This section is maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club which was founded all the way back in 1930. One thing about the AT is that it essentially is always going straight up or down. It's access points are "gaps" where the roads run through and trails crest mountain tops in between. Up to this point in the day, I was in the 16 mile range but it was a good beating-of-a day with lots of technical muscle-burning running so I was already feeling a bit weary. I had grand aspirations of 30-40 miles today but 10 minutes on the AT, I quickly realized two things: #1: ice is on the trail (it's not 55F up here!) and my nose and fingers are freezing. I was on the side of the mountain where the sun was not shining. #2: I am wussin' out today...I'm beat and tired and I've been on this technical stuff for over 4 hours already. Yea, yea, yea...I know...only 4 hours...I'm mortal, OK? Plus, it's been 2 weeks from a hard-run BT50K and it takes me 3 solid weeks to be all the way back so cut me some slack, will ya?!? I resolved to get to the summit if for no other reason but to see the view which I knew would be magnificent. It's one thing to see the mountains from the car and it's quite another to look straight across the mountain tops from the top of another mountain. I continued on up...straight up to the summit of Rocky Mountain for 1.5 miles.

A few minutes before the top, I took seat on a log just to catch my breath. By this point, my heart was beating a mile-a-minute, I was warmed up, and I just needed a break. As I sat there, I just sat and listened: absolute silence. Not a sound. Not anything. I love to soak in and remember these moments. I think about the thousands who have and who continue to tread through here over the years. I think about the timeless nature of this place. It is the same regardless of technology, war, politics, and everything else you can think of with the exception of one thing...the seasons. Time seemed to just sit still...motionless. At this moment, I missed nothing of my material things...wireless internet, car, cell phone, laptop. My cell is strapped to my arm but is useless in this place. It is a place that exists on its own terms and its terms alone...un-impacted by the world surrounding it. Back to the trail...

I continued on to the summit and amazingly, the temperature quickly rose in the sunlight. Remnants of a recent campfire were there along with an awesome view of mountains in the distance. A quick look at my Garmin indicated 4,032 feet. That means that in a mile and a half, around 1100 feet of elevation gain. Yikes!
A lot of hikers hike the AT for multiple days and camp on the trail so that's why the campfire wasn't surprising to see. After the summit, the trail took a steep dive downward...to the next Gap. I decided I didn't want to summit this mountain twice so I turned back and headed on back to where I started. Once back, I crossed the road and continued up the other side on the AT just to round out my miles for the day. Once again...up and up. I snapped this one photo just to give you an idea of the "gnarly" nature of the AT. Do you see any dirt at all or can you even see the trail??? Rock, rock, rock. You can't take your eyes off the trail for fear of tripping and face planting yourself on one of these rocks. Just before I finished, the trail gave me one final goodbye when I stepped on a somewhat pointed rock and it nailed my forming blister on my left foot. Oh...some things said on the trail are meant to stay on the trail! OUCH!

All in all, I only logged 20 miles for the day. I didn't leave Athens in the morning with a goal of finding prime 100-mile training ground but I found it. Places like the AT that demand long-slow-continuous uphill walking are prime training ground for 100-milers. Back home, many people walk on inclined treadmills for extended periods of time to try and replicate this. I got some today without even looking for it. The day was filled with ruggedness and I definitely took a beating but I wouldn't change a thing. I loved every second of it and looking back, I'm glad I ended up by myself. The concentration in 100 mile training should be more on the type of training and time on the feet, not what the actual mileage is so I'm happy with the day.

Afterwards, I headed back down Route 17 about 10 miles to the Alpine Village of Helen. Definitely a bit of a tourist trap but also some pure German shops and residents so surely, a good restaurant could be found to refuel after a long day. By around 2:30pm, I found a local place called the Troll Tavern and picked it based on it being packed with people...meaning good eats! I refueled and headed on back south to Athens.

Today in Athens will bring a high temp of 62F and full sun so a recovery run is certainly in order. I'm thinking another 10 mile run through the University of Georgia is in order for today. I haven't run down there in daylight yet so today should look all-new to me. Afterwards, I'm going to try and get back to Borders and try to finish Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture."

Online Picture Album here and also scrolling on the upper right side of this blog.

Happy Trails, everyone!