Monday, March 30, 2009

M-Cubed for 3/30/2009

Monday Morning Musings (M-Cubed) for March 30th, 2009

- T-68 days and counting until the Kettle and only a handful of weekends left for good/long/quality runs

- On my rolling 6 this morning around home, I couldn't help but think about many people who are training for their first marathon this spring or their first ultra-marathon. It is very common at this point in training where you are hitting 20 miles for the first time to get over-confident and over-train. Endorphins are running wild and you feel amazing. I know. I've been there and experience it all the time. Also common at this point is overuse injuries. I can't emphasize enough the need to stick to your training schedule. Do what it says and no more. Rest is equally as important as the running itself. Also, don't freak out in the last 3 weeks before your event. If you've trained well, be confident in it. You won't lose your fitness in only a couple of weeks although I promise, you'll feel like a slug for cutting your mileage so much. On the other hand, if you don't have a training plan to stick to...well, it's kinda late to say this but to fail to plan is to plan to fail. So with that said, stick to your plan and reach the finish line. THAT is the ultimate goal (and to have fun along the way, of course!).

- April 10th/11th are going to be my next back-to-back 20+ mile trail run days. The plan is to run from 6pm-10pm on Friday night for 20+ miles and starting on Saturday, another 30 miles over a span of 6-7 hours. Lunch at the Winking Lizard afterwards. Post on the VR Board if you want to join me for all or any part of it. Details here. The goal will be 10-11 hours on my feet and to put into practice the hydration and nutrition plans I have for the KM100. The only thing I haven't tested yet over many hours is introducing protein. I've got the carbs (potatoes) and electrolytes (Heed/Shot Bloks) down but not the protein. My plan will be to use Hammer's Perpetuem.

- Thanks to Brian Musick for lending me "Running the Sahara." When Charlie Engle was on his tour through our area to screen the movie, I missed it but Brian went and got a copy of the film. I highly recommend it to runners and non-runners alike. Very inspirational and very good mental training for the 100-miler that lies ahead. 4500 miles, 3 runners, no days off...simply unbelievable.

- The sold-out Fools 50K is this Sunday and it should be a blast! The weather forecast (although very subject to change in the Spring in NE Ohio) is looking great right now with lows in the low 40s and highs in the low 50s. I'm helping Lloyd mark the course Saturday late afternoon, too. I'm tapering this week like I would before a marathon and would really like to challenge this course. I know it extremely well which will help in managing how each section is run. Having Salt Run as the last segment is a brutal way to end this 50K...but hey, I wouldn't want it any other way! I'm also looking forward to seeing so many new trail runners out that day. Lots signed up for the 25K.

- I went over the 200 mile point this morning for the month of March. Not much by some folks' standards but for me, I rarely cross the 200 mile point in a month. I've only done it once or twice before and that was last year while training for Burning River. It wasn't a goal or anything, it just happened. I really don't care about weekly mileage, I just want to run. (well, I care but it doesn't rule my life or anything...more of a barometer to keep me in check)

- Watch your inbox for the April edition of the Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter. It is, by far, the longest newsletter to date and chock full of great information that everyone should really enjoy. With Spring being sprung here in NE Ohio, trail running is alive and well! If you don't get the newsletter, stop by the WRTR website and sign up before Tuesday night and you'll get it.

- I've got to tell ya...running sleep deprived is a whole different experience. Even though I only ran for 3hrs on Friday night, it was totally different. That was good exposure and experience that will help me later. The mental side REALLY takes center stage. Physically, I felt 100%. Mentally, as I blogged about on Saturday, I didn't have the passion. I just wanted to go home. At least now I know what I need to work on. Priceless training, I'd say.

- I often draw on music for inspiration. For me, it nearly always falls on music within the Contemporary Christian genre and typically, I'm listening to Casting Crowns. They really help me keep the focus "upward" instead of "inward." Here's a video below that has garnered nearly 7.6 million views on YouTube. Lyrics to "Who Am I". Enjoy!

- We (Marjie and I) are big fans of "Friday Night Lights" that is on NBC on Friday nights. "Coach Taylor" said something on Friday's episode that has stuck with me. He was talking to a guy whose family has crumbled and all he has left is his daughter. He said: "Money. It comes and goes. Your kids...well, that's a one-shot deal." Isn't that the truth? Worthy of some deep thoughts and inward reflection, I think.

- I picked up the item on top of my Most-Wanted list this morning, the Princeton Tec Apex Pro headlamp. It has a whopping 130 lumens and from reviews and personal testimonies, this is one of the best headlamps to light up the trail at night. It has a LED spotlight but also 4 smaller LEDs on the sides so there are plenty of options. It's powered by 2 CR123 batteries so weight is lower than the AA version but yes, it's still heavier than my Petzl which I'll still use, especially around home on early morning runs like this morning. Thanks to Slim and Gombu for the recommendation!

Have a great April, everyone!

Happy Trails!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Obsessive Compulsive?

After my last post on Monday morning (M-Cubed), I was coming off a great 52 mile weekend and feeling great. Monday night was my massage therapist's chance to "correct" me and find all the issues I didn't know existed...and she did! Actually, I expected a messed up lower body but that ended up being pretty good. I got a few comments about my glamorous toes/toenails and also the multiple fresh cuts/scrapes on my calves from misc. branches on the trails over the weekend, but it was my upper body that was all twisted. (In trail running, I use my upper body quite a bit on the hills as I create momentum with my arms to get me up the hill.) She often finds that my diaphragm (just below the bottom of your ribcage) needs "released" so she always starts there. After an hour of work, she found something in my right shoulder and and went after it like a lion after a fresh piece of meat...I yelped like a puppy. Come Tuesday morning, I was more sore from that "beating" than after the weekend. I went out for a post-massage run to get the muscles warmed up followed by lots of water to release all the junk she broke up the night before. By Wednesday, I was good as new.

Looking ahead to the weekend, my wife had a 12hr shift on Saturday so my Saturday morning run was on the backburner so what every good runner does, I improvised and thought a night run could takes its place. The original plan was a Thursday night run at 9pm but that got shifted to Friday night which ended up being a wise choice as I got 4 others to join me on the crazy train. We met up at 9pm at the Boston Store. Before we even left, the park ranger was there questioning what we were doing but quickly left telling us to have a good run. It's truly a good relationship we runners have with the National Park. The running community continues to respect the trails and don't ever give the Park any trouble and in return, they give a little latitude when it comes to runs like these. So who showed up? From left in the pic below: Brian, Chris, me, Courtney, and Chef Bill.
It was SO awesome running the trails last night. The temp was in the low 50s and dropping into the mid 40s. It was perfect. Plus, we were running at a pace that was very casual compared to normal. One reason was not to face plant on the trail since visibility is a bit tough but also to more mimic the 100 mile race conditions. The pace will be slower and hills we walked so that's what we did. I actually ran 6 miles before work on Friday morning to make sure I was tired at 9pm Friday night. Hey...that worked! By 9:30pm, the time I normally shut down and hit the sack, I felt like curling up on the trail and saying "night-night!!!" This whole tired running thing is definitely a unique and sometime euphoric experience. I loved it. My favorite part was hearing the water trickling below us, beside us, and around us as we ran. Multiple streams and waterfalls are within the park. Hearing it without seeing it was almost meditative. Very cool. So as the miles clicked away and the trail provided a soft, cushioned ride, I felt tremendous and the whole "Forrest Gump" concept about going, and going, and going was creeping up. I even boiled some of my potatoes and had them with me in case this night turned into an all-nighter. Well, we got back to the Boston Store at 10.3 miles and Chris, Courtney, and Chef Bill called it a night and Brian and I decided to head to Pine Lane and shoot for 20 miles. As we hit the trail, I was really yearning for my soft, down pillow. The stars were starting to push through the thin clouds, turnpike traffic is roaring above on top of the silhouette of the bridge above us, and my legs were feeling great. But, I feel the "passion" meter on "E". I eventually broke the bad news to Brian and after unsuccessful prodding by him, we took the turn about 1.75 miles in that leads down the gravel road next to the turnpike that leads back to the Boston Store. I finished up with 13.4 and 19.4 for the day. Brian headed out for another 1/2 hour then headed home, too. The ride that was another story. I had the hardest time staying awake and hit the rumble strips multiple times. If a cop had seen me, I am 100% sure I would have been pulled over. Once back home, I literally had trouble driving up my street 0.2 miles from my driveway. I was so trashed. I had been up for 21 1/2 hours and it showed. That drive home was stupid and I'm lucky to be alive.

So here I am: it's almost 1pm on Saturday, my girls are spending the day with Marjie's parents, Marjie is working, and it's 61 degrees out. Let me say that again...61 DEGREES. I just told Brian on the phone that I feel blasphemous for not being out there running! Remember, this was supposed to me a down week and semi-taper for next weekend's Fools 50K. Right now as I type this, I'm at 42.4 miles...not really a down week, right?! So here's the conversation in my mind: "Why not go out for an easy 7.6 miler in the warmth and make it an even fifty for the week?" And so it goes, I'm giving in. I'll wrap up this post in, let's about 7.6 miles. Be right back... (in the meantime, watch this video below and make sure you keep your eyes on the trail the next time you're running, walking, or biking!)

OK, I'm back. Like the video? Humor is a great thing, isn't it?! My run was great. I miss the feeling of sweat dripping down my face so that was nice. So now it's 50 for the week...I'm happy. I'm even happier that Marjie is getting sent home early so that means a date night for us. Yea! We've been trying to find a night to head to Luigi's in downtown Akron so that's where we'll be headed.

So to the title of today's post: Here's a snippet of what Wikipedia thinks about "obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)": "Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts resulting in compulsive behaviors and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform, according to rules that must be applied rigidly, aimed at reducing anxiety by preventing some imagined dreaded event. However, these compulsive behaviors and mental acts are not connected to the imagined dreaded event." OK, I'm not too sure about the "dreaded event" thing and really, I think OC more applies to ultra-running...obsessive compulsive minus the disorder. Anyway, Wikipeda continues: "The phrase "obsessive-compulsive" has become part of the English lexicon, and is often used in an informal or caricatured manner to describe someone who is meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed in a cause, or otherwise fixated on something or someone." Yea, I'd say ultra-runners are a bit OC. A good thing? Well, I think you know what I think.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2009

M-Cubed for 3/23/2009

Monday Morning Musings (M-Cubed) for March Twenty-Third, Two Thousand and Nine

- I am extremely grateful for a 100% successful weekend in the running category: Friday = 22 trail miles, Saturday = 20 faster trail miles, Sunday = comfy 10 miles on roads around home.

- Does anyone else have that Filet-o-Fish commercial with the talking fish stuck in the head? "Give me that Filet-o-Fish...give me that fish!"

- 75 days until Kettle Moraine: this weekend was a huge confidence boost

- I'm a very organized, to the letter, first-born, Type A personality, type of guy. The only thing complete off its rocker is my desk at work. It is out of control and I can't get it back under MY control. This is creating a huge amount of stress!

- Here in northeast Ohio, we've had 8 straight days of sunshine! That is unheard of up here! Plus, the 5-day forecast is continuing that trend.

- As of now, we've had 77" of snow, or 6'5" for the '08/'09 winter season. Unfortunately, according to Fox 8's Andre' Bernier, we can't put the shovels away until April 15th.

- Yesterday was the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. I sure do miss it there along with so many of my great running friends. They're the ones who got me started on this who running gig 12 years ago. I've run Shamrock twice and plan to return again some day.

- I forgot to mention: a week ago, I was running on the Boston Run Trail by myself while measuring the Fools 50K/25K course and about 2/3 of the way through it, I got a bit startled. One of the National Park workers stood mid-trail, facing me, and holding a chain saw. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anyone?! He totally freaked me out! It turns out he saw me coming and decided to wait for me to ask me to help him roll the tree off the trail that he just cut in half. So when you pass a fallen tree, cut in half with just enough room to get by, that's the one! He was a very nice guy, even though he did cause my heart to skip a few beats!

- So many local runners had a great running weekend: from training runs on the Fools course, to the Green Jewel 50K, to night running on the Buckeye Trail...spring has arrived in northeast Ohio and it's cool to share the trails and passion for being out there with so many others

- So am I sore after 52 miles this weekend? Honestly, I'm more sore from spending 3 hours washing, waxing, and detailing my car than I am from running. Amazingly, I haven't an ache, pain, or anything from the miles. In fact, if I had zero common sense and had no commitments, I 100% had the desire and drive to head out last night to the CVNP and hit the trails for 20 miles of night-running. I really wanted to go....but alas, common sense prevailed. enough. Perhaps a month from now???

- Revelation Realized: I am not addicted to running. Nope. I finally discovered on the way to church yesterday why it is I am driven to get out there for hours on end with zero boredom and the continued desire for more. I won't share this revelation here...but feel free to ask me on the trails sometime or one-on-one. Now that I have a clear picture, I can embrace it and use it to fuel my future endeavors and fully wrap myself around it.

- I've been having these lower abdomen pains over the last week. Running seemed to aggravate it and rest seemed to cure it or let it subside a bit. With that said, I was a bit worried what this past weekend's mileage would do to it. Ironically, it's virtually gone now after the weekend. Hmmm...perhaps running cures ailments?!

- What I've learned lately: 1. Hammer's Recoverite is the bomb! I fully believe it has played an instrumental part in staying injury-free and recovering the correct way. 2. Boiled/salted potatoes absolutely work in keeping energy levels up. 3. The new Clif Shot Blok packaging technique works really well and makes it very easy to eat on the run. 4. Down weeks following big mileage weeks are the key for me. Occasionally, 2 big weekends back-to-back is fine but overall, the up-n-down method of training really allows for good recovery and very successful big-mileage-weekends.

- I wonder if anyone is interested in a night trail run this Thursday for about 2 hours...I'm thinking about an 8:45pm start time. Sure, we'll be tired at work on Friday, but we'll make it worth it! E-mail me if you're interested.

- We had a great time at the zoo this past Saturday. It was a great, relaxing time with my family and also a way to keep the lactic acid from taking up residence in my legs immediately after the 2nd 20 miler. We'll definitely return.
Happy Trails, everyone! Please, have a great week and make today and everyday count!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

42 Miles & the Akron Zoo

Wow, what a great weekend so far. It has been chock full of great things since it began. This weekend was to be my first back-to-back training weekend in preps for Kettle Moraine...only 77 days from today. So Friday, I headed on down to the Fools 50K course with the intent of running it in reverse then adding miles afterwards. To my surprise, I actually got someone to show up on a Friday morning at 9am to run. Tracy M. showed up, considering to run the Fools race, and we ended up running the course in the correct direction so I could "sell" her on the course and get her to sign up. (once a car salesman, always a car salesman!) Luckily, with all the sun this past week and warm temperatures, the trails really dried up nicely. We ran the 25K loop in 2hrs, 38min. Not too shabby considering I ran it a week ago in 2hr, 50min. After she took off, I headed back over to the Ledges and Pine Grove and wrapped up the day with 22 miles. I felt best. I certainly ran out of gas the last few miles. I finished up at 1pm and the next 18 hours were going to be a test in how well I could recover for today's run on the Fools course again. In a nutshell, I wanted plenty of protein, lots of water, lots of fruit (carbs and water), and some good, hearty, filling food. First up was sushi from Heinen's in Hudson and for dinner, I took my girls out for Mexican...and some superb homemade ice cream from my parents' ice cream shop...Pecan Ball, to be precise. I was in bed by 8:30pm and feeling completely wiped out not knowing what to expect when I awoke. Lately, I've been waking up the day after a long run with aches and pains that didn't exist when I went to bed the night before. With a "late" start at 7:15am, I set the alarm for 5am but at 2am, I was wide awake and starving. I hopped up, had a banana and clementine orange, popped some ibuprofen, checked the e-mail and hit the sack again 20min later. At 5am, I stood up...gingerly...just to see what would be hurting. Outside of some creaky muscles, nothing really hurt. So far, so good. At the group run, we set off just after 7:15am. With temps below freezing, I only wore shorts and a long-sleeve tech tee but that ended up being perfect once I warmed up. Most others wore double-layers, hats, gloves, etc. Incredibly, I felt really, really good. I felt the way I feel after tapering down for a race....which made absolutely zero logical sense. After all, I finished 22 sixteen hours ago. Perhaps my recovery was dead-on? I went with it and never got tired and never slowed. I finished the 25K loop in 2hrs, 29min. A whopping 9min faster than yesterday. That's shaving over 30sec per mile off. Feeling really good and extremely crunched for time (my family was en route to the Chapel Hill Chick-Fil-A to meet me for lunch before heading off to the Akron Zoo today), I solicited a few others and we kept on going until we hit 20 miles. Overall, my average pace for the whole run was a minute faster per mile than yesterday. Plus, I did not want to stop. I think I easily had another 10 in me. However, I would have been in the dog-house big time if I bailed on my family. Plus, 42 miles was plenty and to run the 2nd day so strong is icing on the cake. Now as evening arrives, I feel the lactic acid taking up residence in my legs like cement but I'll keep the fruit and water going. A crisp, early recovery 10 miler is my goal for tomorrow (Sunday) morning. 52 over my 3-day weekend should suffice, don't ya think?

So how much can I cram into the weekend? The Akron Zoo was superb today. After some Chick-Fil-A, we headed on over and had a great time. Isn't this picture of an African Lion the best?! I stood there just waiting for this and finally got a phenomenal shot. It was definitely the best shot of the day.
The Akron Zoo, in my opinion, is hands down far better than the Cleveland Zoo. It is a hidden gem in Akron, just outside of downtown. We ended up becoming members for a year. The decision was's why: the winter rates are 6 bucks a person plus 2 bucks for parking. That would be $26 for all of us, for one day. For $68, we could buy (and we did) a year membership that covers all of us plus parking, unlimited. The best part, it's honored at over 130 zoos across the Cleveland, Columbus, and Pittsburgh...and many, many others. With at least 1/3 of the exhibits closed today, I'm sure we'll return later in the Spring and also in the Summer. I took about 45 pics today...see them here. One of the new exhibits at the zoo is their first saltwater exhibit, the jellyfish exhibit. WOW! It was unbelievable. If for nothing else, check out my pics to see some of them. They turned out really, really good. Unreal that they have a pulse, but no heart. (Oh geez, I could write all kind of parallels to that statement! I'll save it for a Mr. Moon run in the future.)

All in all, a super couple of days and the weekend isn't even over yet. This next week will be a down-week to properly recover and rebuild. These are the times when common sense must prevail. Yes, I feel really good after the miles. I feel like heading out right now, but that's the crossroads between staying healthy and getting injured. Many people get hurt when they are on a continuous running "high" and they do too much. A recovery week is certainly in order. With that in mind, Lori is coming over on Monday night for a deep tissue massage. I have a feeling I'm going to be yelping like a whipped puppy on the table. After the super-muddy, Covered Bridge 50K a few weeks ago and the several multi-hour trail runs, I know my body is out of sorts. She'll put me back in check and keep me on the healthy straight and narrow. The following week will end with the Fools 50K on April 5th. My intent is to help Lloyd mark the course on Saturday then run the event on Sunday and get as many miles in as I can over the weekend.

Congrats to the 35 starters/finishers at the Green Jewel 50K that also happened today around Cleveland. I ran the inaugural event last year in the pouring rain when the 100K still existed. To date, that is still the furthest I've traveled in one day. (100K = 62.4 miles) I was definitely missing being there today, but 31.2 miles on asphalt just doesn't fit into the type of training that I need to be doing right now.

I think I need a clementine....

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

8 Years Ago Today

Well, let's start one day earlier: March 17, 2001. It was a cool, crisp morning on the Virginia Beach oceanfront. It was the annual running of the Shamrock Marathon. I was deeply entrenched in the running buzz around Virginia Beach and in my 4th year of "serious" running since running my first marathon in October 1997 at the Steamtown Marathon. This marathon would be number #8. It was a capstone on another part of my life as well. I was getting ready to be honorably discharged from 10 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. So, running this marathon was sort of a goodbye to all of my great running friends in the Hampton Roads area that were so supportive to me. I set out with a goal of running with one of my best running friends, Doug D., who just happened to be twice my age (sorry, Bear!). He never misses the Shamrock. I ran about 16 miles of it with him but just before I picked up the pace, my wife called and said "My water broke!!!" You see, she was getting ready to "pop" any day so I took my cell with me during the marathon. After I picked up my jaw off of the race course, she said "Just kidding!!! How's your race going?" ARGH!!! That was downright mean. I carried on and finished the marathon in 3hrs, 45min. Later that day, I was soaking in an epsom salt bath (I actually used to do that) and she was laying on the couch in our condo, and her water DID break so off to Portsmouth Naval Hospital we went! Dressed in my cotton Shamrock tee and shorts, we stayed up all day and night until Katherine Grace was born in the wee hours of March 18, 2001. So today we celebrate her 8th birthday and my 8th anniversary of becoming a dad. Life certainly changed on the moment she entered the world...forever. Luckily, we had 8 1/2 years of marriage withOUT kids so this was perfect, along with getting out of the Navy, it all worked out well.

When they say time flies, they're not kidding. The portrait on canvas we had done only a few days after her birth where I'm holding her still hangs in our living room at home and it feels like it was yesterday when that photo shoot happened. 8 years gone. To think...8 years from now she'll get her driver's permit...yikes! Being a father has been a challenge, a privilege, and a constantly evolving process that is as fluid as one could imagine. Flexibility and the desire to grow closer, nurture, and be by her side then, now, and forevermore have been key to a great first 8. I anxiously look forward to the next 8.

Now, if I can just get her running! She has expressed the desire so in time, it'll come. For now, she roots me on from the sidelines. In fact, I ran a strong 8 miler before work this morning just for her 8th birthday. She loved that!

As Dad duties continue, work takes up over 1/3 of every day, I am pressing on with regards to my training plan for Kettle Moraine in 79 days. My plan is to rest tomorrow and run 20+ on the trails this Friday followed by 15+ on Saturday first back-to-back training runs in preps for the Kettle. I'll follow that up by a down week next week and then up again for the Fools 50K weekend on April 4th/5th. After the 15+ on Saturday, the weather is looking like a full-sun day in the upper 50s so you may just find us at the Akron Zoo. I've been watching for the perfect weekend day to take everyone and this looks like it!

The sun is shining, Spring is springin', so get out there!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, March 16, 2009

M-Cubed for 3/16/09

"M-Cubed" = M to the 3rd Power = 3 M's = "Monday Morning Musings"
I came up with this idea during my morning run this morning and thought I'd give it a try.

M-Cubed for 3/16/09
"A spattering of thoughts that alone don't condone a blog post but collectively need to be shared."

- I really love Cape Cod Potato Chips (specifically,the 40% reduced fat, kettle chip variety...cooked in a "good" oil - canola oil)
- Another weekend with the Navy confirms I really do love serving my country in uniform
- While I love the Navy, I sure did miss being on Saturday and Sunday morning's group runs
- The Fed chairman says that the key to getting out of our depression is to get the banks to "loan more freely"...isn't that what got us into this mess???
- To run without passion is to run on empty
- There isn't much out there that can compete with the innocent smile on my girls' faces
- I can't help but smile when I see the daffodils pushing up
- I ache more with less miles on asphalt than I do with more miles on trail
- 82 days until Kettle Moraine....oh geez....
- I am going to do my very best to have a positive attitude this week although the environment is incredibly negative
- Body fat and physical fitness standards are for everyone in the military, not a select few
- Is it Friday yet? I can't wait to run the Fools 25K course on Friday and again on Saturday
- I'm just waiting for the perfect weekend afternoon to take my family to the Akron Zoo
- It is awesome to have such a peace in everything and cast every worry/decision/thought on Him
- I'll admit it: I'm addicted to running. If I don't get my "fix," I'm a grump to be around
- I wonder who my 200th Facebook friend will be.
- I really don't like the new Facebook layout.
- I cannot imagine not being married and can't imagine being married to anyone else. Been so since age 19 and for over 16 years now.
- I'm really in the mood for the #1 breakfast off of the Chick-Fil-A menu right now: Chick-Fil-A Chicken biscuit, hash rounds, and a diet fresh-squeezed lemonade...mmmmmmGood!
- I don't think people know that oil tankers are sitting off the coasts of many countries around the world full because on-shore facilities are full. Demand has dropped so much so why isn't gas at $0.99 a gallon??? One word: greed. I wonder when the main-stream media will tell the world about this...don't hold your breath!
- All of my 1hr drives to and from Cleveland this past weekend were in silence. Nothing sounded good to listen to. All I wanted was peace and quiet.
- Lastly, I hope this week goes by REALLY fast. It's only Monday morning just after 7am and I'm ready for the weekend.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pre-Fools 50K Course Report

Stress really got it's greasy hands all over me this week at work. So much so, that I opted to get up at 3am yesterday (Thursday) so that I could fit in a 10 miler before work. I've been taking it easy this week while recovering from last weekend's 50K but dang, I just needed to RUN!!!! I figured that if I had a good long run in before work, the "runner's high" would carry me longer through the day. It started out good but quickly fell out of the sky like Sully's US Airway's jet in the Hudson River a few months back. By the end of the day, I requested today off to just get away from it all and de-stress, decompress, or whatever. The forecast was for full sun and temps in the low 40s so after getting the kids off to school in the morning and lounging around the house for a bit, I called up Lloyd, the Fools 50K race director, to get the low-down on the course change due to construction on Lake Trail. Since I'm leading the familiarization run next Saturday on the course, I thought it might be smart to actually KNOW the course. I headed on down to Pine Hollow, the race start, which is located on Quick Road, not too far past the Humane Society and Woodridge High School. Being the constant-picture-taker that I am, I thought I'd do some public service and shoot away with the goal of a picture tour of the course for those who haven't run out there before. With a sold out field of 200 runners, there are surely many who haven't been out there...ever. I ended up snapping over 130 pictures and put them all into a rolling video set to music. Before I give you the link, let me give you a few words of advice:

1. Let it load. It's big and if you don't wait, it'll keep starting and stopping...downright annoying!

2. On the top right of video, click on "View HQ Video"

3. On the bottom right where the "Google Video" button is, click on "Original Size" and "Smooth Video"

4. Lastly, keep your trigger finger on the pause button. With that many pictures, each one only stays up for 2 seconds and on some pictures, there's a good amount of text to read that gives direction on the course. You'll never read it all if you don't pause it. If I hadn't done that, this video would have run for 20 minutes! Right now, I think it's just over 4 minutes.

View it here.

In true fashion of putting the cart before the horse, I thought I'd take today to give a pre-Fools Report...mostly about the course. I've run all parts of this course many times and it is hands down, my favorite trail system to run in the area. I like it because over the length of this course, you will get a little bit of everything: roots, rocks, smooth-n-groomed trail, muddy, dry, grass, and gorgeous scenery. The 50K is just two loops of the 25K course. With that being said, the 25K course is essentially broken down into 5 main sections:

1. The course begins at Pine Hollow and heads east in the grass to Little Meadow and at about 1 mile in, you're on the Cross Country Trail (1st main section). This is a nice, rolling, challenging, muddy area that has a few lung-burner hills in it. My advice: do not burst off the starting line running full tilt towards Little Meadow. This course deserves respect and if you do that, it'll make you pay starting on the Cross Country Trail.

2. Just before Mile 3, you'll enter a row of pines on the Lake Trail. You'll be here only briefly because at Mile 3.3, you'll leave the Kendall Lake area and head on over to the Pine Grove Trail in order to be connected to the Ledges Trail (2nd main section). On the way out, you cover the west side of the Ledges. Be careful here: the tendency is to gaze at the awesome rock formations. However, this is one section to never remove your eyeballs from the trail, otherwise you'll be face-first on the rocks and a bloody mess.

3. Once you've finished 1/2 of the Ledges and you're at the northern point of this trail, you jump on the Haskell Run Trail that takes you to Happy Days and the Aid Station at Happy Days. Once re-fueled, you cross the grass and hop on the Boston Run Trail (3rd main section). Boston Run trail is a 3.25 mile loop and you'll end right back at the aid station. This trail got really beat up over the winter and it's a mess. It is by far, the muddiest section of the course. With the warmer temps coming, it should be interesting out there! Get dirty!!!

4. Once refueled again at the Happy Days Aid Station, retrace your steps on the Haskell Run Trail to the Ledges Trail and complete the east side. (You're at 9 miles when you get back to the Ledges) The east side has a whole different look and feel to it with lots of pines and moss. If it's a really warm day on April 5th, you'll feel the cold air rushing out of the Ice Box cave, too. Again, keep your eyes on the trail.

5. Once you complete the Ledges, you'll come to the stairs that originally brought you up to the Ledges. Trace your steps back and when you reach the right-handed entrance to Pine Grove, take it and run the Pine Grove Trail counter-clockwise (4th main section). This is a fast, non-technical 1.5 mile trail. Enjoy the easy terrain because the 5th section is going to eat you up! You'll eventually see a sign-post for Kendall Lake. That sign is at the top of the stairs that you came up earlier to get to Pine Grove. Again, re-trace your steps and return to Truxell Road. This intersection of Truxell/Kendall Lake entrance is also an aid station.

6. Hop back on the Lake Trail and go back the way you came but instead of turning up the Cross Country Trail, stay straight on the Lake Trail and proceed through the tunnel. Stay on the Lake Trail until you see the orange barricade then follow the detour signs which will lead you to Salt Run Trail (5th main section). Salt Run....a great leg-burnin', lung-burnin' trail to run. At just over 3 miles, you may swear it is much longer. It is very rooty and technical so watch your step. You'll hear traffic throughout as well. At first, that's Truxell Rd on your right, then it's Riverview Rd. on your right, then it's Quick Rd. on your right. When you get to Quick Rd., you'll come up on a metal guardrail. You are 1/2 mile from the finish now. Finish up Salt Run, crest the grassy hill, and there's the Finish Line!

Overall, I'd recommend you pace yourself and don't ever get over-excited and think the hills are going to stop...because they don't. Ever. You're almost always climbing or going down. It's definitely a challenging course and a very well-designed one at that. Respect it and run smart!

On the final stretch just before I got back to Truxell, I came up on a young but very brave deer. Luckily, my camera was ready so I shot a little over a minute of video of him/her. Quiet and peaceful and not much else. Enjoy!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

3:30am: Part VI

I stood once again bedside last night pondering whether or not to set the alarm for 3:30am or 4:30am. 3:30am for a run. 4:30am for another rest day. The 50K was only a few days ago and humanly so, I still have some aches and such so perhaps another rest day was in order. Decision made: 3:30am alarm for a run...

"Is it 3:30am already? Yep...sure enough." I rub the sleepies from my eyes, slowly slither out of bed not to wake Marjie, turn off the radio (they're giving the "overnight" forecast still!) and "YES! Light is beaming around the curtains!" I peek around the corner into the bathroom and "YES! He IS back! It's about dang time!" I've been dying for a run with Mr. Moon! OK, nothing will stop this freight train from moving forward today. I quickly, probably more so than normal, get to the kitchen, pack the aging espresso pot with some espresso, set it on the stovetop on Hi and make my lunch. Same 'ol stuff today: Whole wheat penne with some feta, a couple of tangerines, a banana, an apple, a Kashi bar, and some of Marjie's vegetarian chile full of lentils and other beans. (gee, that's a lot of fiber!) I scoot to the front window to peer at the sky one more time just to make sure I'm not hallucinating and sure enough, he is high in the sky and FULL. "Moonlit run here I come!!!" First things first: hard-boiled egg lathered in ketchup and espresso pre-run: CHECK! Balance the checkbook: CHECK! (that means transfer money from savings to checking!) Clear the e-mail inbox: CHECK! I glance at the clock and it reads just past 4am and it's almost as if I can hear the seconds ticking by like I'm watching an episode of Jack Bauer saving the world from terrorists in "24." You know, I haven't missed a single episode...EVER. Last night's episode is DVR'd along with "Heroes" for some juicy watchin' later. DVR'd...a new English verb for Webster, perhaps? I haven't missed an episode of Heroes, either. I love edge-of-your-seat boob-tube watchin'! Time to head out...the clock's-a-tickin'...

As I step out into the crisp morning air, I quickly notice a much more dimmed landscape as compared to what I saw only moments ago from inside the house. The clouds have pulled their veil across Mr. Moon. "How very rude!" However, he is so bright this morning that even though I cannot see one bit of him, his powerful light is spreading across and above the cloud layer and the residual light is enough to light the way. Immediately, a parallel thought creeps into my mind: "Can a light so powerful remain unseen but still light the way? Can a god, MY God, be so powerful to light MY way but physically remain unseen?" A unanimous "Yes!" is heard by the coyotes and stray cats in the nearby woods. As I hit the road, I pray for a run that is effortless, timeless, and filled with nothing but the positive this life has to offer. Only 72 hours out from a multi-hour 31+ miles in the mud, I still have some lingering sore spots but I've found that once I'm running, I'll feel better. Ironically, I'll probably be sore again after I return. As I slip out of the confines of my neighborhood and into the adjoining countryside, the road is clearly visible even though Mr. Moon remains hidden. I'm feeling far better than expected and so far, so good. I return to my thoughts on this light so powerful that it illuminates without it's source being seen. A light to guide, a light to follow, a light so powerful that I can drive my stake in the ground and proclaim: "This light I will follow. This light will be my launching pad, my foundation." I have found during these days of national strife and an outpouring of negativity from the media, that having a bedrock in something other than myself or anything else found in this world doesn't quite cut it. A "firm foundation" so as to build upon is needed. A song continues to run through my head this morning by the group Casting Crowns that has a verse in it that says basically "I'd rather have a tent on a rock, than a castle in the sand." Isn't that the truth?! Think back a few years when just about anyone could get a "castle" mortgage regardless of whether they could afford it or not. Wouldn't they rather have that tent today instead of a castle foreclosure?? The same can be said for absolutely anything else in life and should be. Marriage, career, friendships, the latest fad-diet, ultra-marathon training name had better be grounded in something...or someONE solid or eventually, that tidal wave will come crashing onto the sand.

I cross Mile 2 which is the bottom of the "cereal bowl" section of the roller coaster hills I run on Mr. Moon mornings. It's 33F out but I don't have a hat or gloves on and it feels like it's 50F out. I turn my 1/4 zip top into 1/8 zip to let some air in and cool down. I'm feeling really good and the pace quickens. I approach the top of the hill and try to remain very quiet as a dog occasionally likes to give a chase at this hilltop farm. I think people are starting to think that since the temps are going up, they can just let their dogs run free in the morning. How wrong they are! As I pass on through some more open farmland, I turn the corner by the Catholic church and cross the small bridge over the creek and finally, Mr. Moon is out in all his splendor. Full illumination of the sky around me. As the church disappears behind me, another dog, near the church, clearly caught a glimpse of me because boy-oh-boy, was he upset! It sounded like he actually got closer to me indicating he may still be there by the the road, upon my return. I make it out to the 3.5 mile point and make my u-turn only to put Mr. Moon at my back. As I re-approach the church, I don't hear a dog. Just as I pass the church which is now on my left, a loud barking dog is on my right and nearly makes my heart skip a beat. I see a shadow and with the moon shining, it makes this supposed dog look 6 feet tall in the adjacent yard. I can't tell if he's moving towards me or not so of course, I get my legs turnin' over even quicker. As I turn and look ahead to the small bridge, WHOA!!!! There are FIVE deer standing right in front of me! (I'm losing my breath again just typing this!) They clearly get a glimpse of me and all dash into the nearby woods. All I see is white cotton-tail rear-ends bouncing across the landscape. Geez...nothin' like getting me out of my "Mr. Moon" zone!!! I make the turn onto the roller-coaster hills again and all is well again. With thoughts of firm foundations still fresh in my head, I turn to thoughts on the positive effects from doing so.

Positive? In this economy? Jobless rate the highest in 25 years and I'm to be positive?! Yes....and yes, again. I fully believe with every fiber in my being that regardless of what challenge is before you, you can and must find the positive to get through unless misery is what you seek. I know so many people who just can't ever be positive. You know...the kind who will argue the sky isn't blue when there isn't a cloud in the sky? Surely, you know these types of people. Positivity, happiness, joy...they are all choices. We must....I must...choose. I gotta tell you,'s much easier with a firm foundation. That makes it WAY easier. I'm not talking about artificial, superficial, fake positivity here. That's simply hypocritical and means nothing. I'm also not saying we're not human...because we are and we'll all have bad days and negative garbage will creep on in. There's no avoiding it. It's how does it go...???....turn that frown upside down??

OK, the last few miles and I swear, I nearly went topless for the last mile. It felt so warm! Honestly, I almost did but then I thought: "It is 33F out. There is a breeze, too. Don't be stupid." Enough said, self! It stayed on and I got home fully clothed and bummed I didn't have time to run more. A little glance over my right shoulder, a fist pump with Mr. Moon...and in I went to my sleeping family. 57 minutes wasn't bad for a 7 mile recovery run.

After I pour down a dose of Recoverite, I sneak into the bedroom towards the shower to get ready for work but am stopped by my awaking love-of-my-life who asks: "Did you go run?" "Yes, Ma'am!" I reply. I think to myself: "If she only knew........"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Covered Bridge FA 50K Report

In days where so much of the daily talk, if not all of it, is about the economy, the job losses, 401K statements, and in running, the rising race entry fees (like the insane $182 to run the New York City Marathon in 2009), an event like the Covered Bridge FA 50K which is completely free outside of the gas money to drive there (about 45min drive from home) and the food to eat makes the day even sweeter. A FA (defined here) is characterized by the phrase "No Fees, No Awards, No Aid, No Wimps." What's really cool about these is that the people who show up REALLY want to be there. No big crowds, post-race refreshment, medal, bib number, etc. Those who show just want to have a good time with other like-minded folk who they may know or not know yet. It really is the icing on the cake.
6am: we met just below the Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, OH. MCP is a gem in a city that's been very depressed since the steel industry left decades ago. As a child, my parents took my brothers and I to the Gardens every year. If you're within an hour drive of MCP, you HAVE to visit the Gardens. The picture on their home page is very representative of what you'll find throughout the park. Bring a camera, slip off your shoes, and enjoy the won't be disappointed. Anyway, we had about 6-8 people at 6am and we headed out on the trail to follow the YUT-C 50K course and get back to our cars around 8am, the 2nd meeting time for those late-risers. A FA event can be whatever you want it to be. Anyone can show up and run any distance. My goal was to do it all as this was the launching point for my 100-miler training. For the first 2 hours, we kept the pace extremely casual as not to get back too early plus we were in the woods with only a headlamp lighting the way. At this point, only a few sprinkles of rain were falling. Once back at 8am, the downpour had begun. Not only heavy rain, but chest-rocking thunder and lightning. Who would have thought we'd have a typical summertime storm a week after running in the snow?! This lightning made the all-steel steps a bit un-nerving in the beginning of the 2nd loop. For about an hour, the rain didn't let up and the trail became little rivers of mud and people were slipping and falling all around. Eventually, the rain tapered off and drying could begin, and hopefully warming. The plan at the 8am departure was to head out for 25K (about 15+ miles) so fluids/food had to be carried. I had my Nathan #020 pack on, loaded with Shot Bloks and boiled/salted redskin potatoes and 1.5L of water so I was good to go.

Throughout the day, I was able to run with almost everyone who showed different times. I had a great time and great conversation...about trail running, running 100 miles, my career in the Navy, and lots of side conversations that as the rules say, will forever remain on the trails. For me, I feel like the most junior of them all out there. Take "Gombubu" for example: he'll run his 4th Hardrock 100 miler this year....emphasis on HARD. He'll follow that up with 2 more tough 100s this year. I don't know his total number of 100 milers but it's safe to say, he's a veteran ultra-marathoner and 100 miler. (he's also been a sounding board in my training plan/race selection over this past year) Then take the Covered Bridge's "champion", Slim, who just ran a rough, technical, gnarly 70 miler a week ago. He typically ranks at the top of the field when he shows up to an ultra. Then there's Brian who is tackling his first 100 miler this year at MMT and has, I believe, 28 ultras under his for each year of his life (or so I learned on the trails yesterday!). He's the one in the black shirt on the left. Even Lloyd showed up, a local running coach and race director of the sold-out Fools 50K in 4 weeks. He's the one down the Monkey Hill in the picture. I spent the most time with Lloyd and Brian overall and had a great time.

Unfortunately, my camera had to stay in the trunk of my car until the last 7.5 miles because of the rain but I did manage to get some pics. I've posted about 21 pics here so stop on by to check them out. I'm not a fan of clogging up my blog with a ton of pictures but these did come out pretty darn good. A few of my favorites are below:

One of the many waterfalls as we ran along the lakes all day

At the top of one of the last major climbs in the Monkey Hills is the "Love Log"...a tree so big you've just got to "love" to get over!

Of course, a picture of the Covered Bridge, the event's namesake has got to be in here. The Covered Bridge is essentially the middle of the course which is generally shaped like a bow-tie. We passed through here 5 times and during races, you'll find the main aid station here just to my right. This was taken just before mile 28 yesterday.

Talk about therapeutic...this felt GOOD! After the finish, we were parked right next to the water and a waterfall. With so much ice melting into the water and some sections of the lakes still covered with ice, this water was super cold, but ohhhhh, it felt so good to soak in. I finished off my boiled potatoes and had a banana while sitting here and just enjoying the view and solitude of the park.

The last picture I really want to post is going to remain free from your sight just momentarily. This picture was taken at the request of my mentor/co-worker, Carol, at work. I promised her I'd take it immediately after removing my trail shoes. Two words: "Pedicure, anyone?" (you've been warned!!!)

Yea, it was a great day...a phenomenal day. A day I started with Casting Crowns on my drive out to Youngstown and ended lathered up in shea butter lotion and cucumber cream on my feet. Today, time change Sunday, I was up like a spring chicken right on schedule at 3:45am (really 2:45am if you don't count the time change) and I can hear the steady rain hitting the rooftop. A soaking, relaxing recovery run is in order, I'd say. If all goes to plan, my family will be waking up about the time I'm back and it's time to get moving for church this morning. Another great Sunday to cap off a great weekend.

I was reading my April edition of Runner's World this past week and shockingly, a story about a 100-miler made it in there. I took the liberty of snatching a few quotes from the article that I really like. I think they're a perfect way to end today's post. Enjoy!

"What matters is that together we push ourselves harder than either of us can manage on our own. It works that way when we run, too. We run to suffer, because to suffer is to feel alive."

"Looking up at the stars, an incredible sense of calm settles over me. Reasonable people are in bed, asleep. It's just me and the coyotes and the Milky Way, and I feel completely at home in the universe. A few minutes later we are walking silently, basking in the wonder of the night. When we reach the aid station by Desolation Lake at mile 67, it's like a dream - a campfire and cauldrons of hot chocolate waiting for us in the middle of the wilderness."

Happy Trails, everyone! Make TODAY count!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Slimy Cottage Cheese

Maybe you've had a morning like this...or perhaps you haven't. As "normal" would have it, the alarm went off at 3:30am this morning, the volume was a bit high so I "jack-n-the-boxed" my way out of bed, only to quickly lay back down to prevent my 'ol vagal nerve from causing me to pass out yet again. Rising so fast from sleep can cause this to happen. Anyway (talk about getting off topic so fast!), I remained in bed for maybe 2 or 3 minutes then slowly got up and moved towards the kitchen to partake in morning tradition, that being brewing the espresso, unloading the dishwasher, and making my time to hit the road at 4:30am for my morning run. Things are different today, though. I actually feel like my "passion meter" is off today. I am 100% certain that returning from an 18F chilly run this morning at 5:30am, I'd be glad I did it. I am also 100% certain that a few moments ago, I stood motionless in the kitchen, my Garmin next to the window gaining its satellite signal in preps for the run, and couldn't budge myself to put on the winter running gear to get out the door. The clock ticked past 4:35am and now it was either rush out the door or drop the run altogether. No wiggle room when I have to be back no later than 5:35am in order to shower, eat, and be Canton-bound by 6:20am for work. I caved and instead, decided to sit here and spill my thoughts into the cavernous unknown on my blog.

I was making my lunch a few minutes ago and as I do on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have my cottage cheese/kidney beans combo for lunch. I put Bush's Dark Red Kidney Beans at the bottom of a plastic bowl and cover them with low-fat cottage cheese. I then put them crushed black pepper on top. Yea, it sounds un-appetizing but to date, no one has said they don't like it once they taste it. It's protein-packed, low-calorie, and the beans have all kinds of good things for me. Anyway, the last two containers of cottage cheese have been...well, a bit slimy inside. They weren't bad and past their expiration dates, but seemed softer than they should have been and have an off-taste. Today, a new container was due to be opened. "Please, be good. I could really use some good cottage cheese today. I'm trying to rebuild torn muscle fiber, you know!" Good news...a good batch today.

Word pictures are a cool and insightful thing. Go with me for a minute, here. Slimy cottage cheese while still nutritionally sound just isn't as good as the real thing. Quality, texture, color...they all matter and contribute to the finished product. So true is much of, if not all in life. The components that make up a day, a task, a conversation, a training plan...they all matter in their smallest part to their largest part. So where on earth is my passion today to get me out that door to run? Why am I not firing on all cylinders? These morning runs are a bedrock in my daily life and really help at work in an environment of constant negativity and high stress. I NEED them. Hmmmm....I just can't put my finger on it.'s a thought...and I hope you don't mind working through this with me as I'm dissecting it as I type with no idea where these words are heading. I am a big believer in the body/mind getting what it wants one way or the other. Let me explain: in running and the effects of it on the human body, I believe that when it comes to repair, I must listen and listen close in order to remain injury-free. This past weekend, I had a really good 28 miler on the was simply perfect and great training for this year's goals. On Sunday, my left foot really hurt...enough to make me hobble around the house. It subsided by the evening. I wake up Monday morning with every intention of a recovery run and behold, my foot feels fine but now, it's a long muscle on the inside of my right leg. Common sense said "Don't even try to run. It's not worth it." OK...fine. ANOTHER day off. By afternoon, it felt fine. I found it ironic that after the 28 miles on Saturday, I felt great and really wanted to keep on running. Even that evening before bed, I felt good....tired, but good. Now, I'm getting these come-n-go aches/pains withOUT even running at all. I told Marjie that after all, I am mortal! I'm not anything special, super-human, or immune from being physically beat down! I've never been an athlete or gifted in anything physically. However, I have found a passion to get out there and go far...further than I ever previously imagined. So today, I guess while although some good cottage cheese is in my lunch, a bit of "slimy" found it's way into other parts of my day. While I know and preach recovery, I believe that sub-consciously, my mind simply kept me in today, to recover some more even though I "feel" 100% this morning and don't have a single ache/pain anywhere from head to toe. I have a 50K this Saturday and it's supposed to be in the 50s. I do NOT want to miss this or be sore. Not a lick of training or fitness can be lost by not running one day, like today, so in the big picture, today matters not and it can only make this Saturday all the better. How's that for finding the positive in things?! So recover I will and tomorrow, I'll get out for another run and stay healthy for this weekend.

One last piece of "cheese" this morning: the obsession over mileage. A really good conversation has been going on since Monday on the UltraList over 100-miler training. Unlike a classic marathon training program which is pretty much cut and dry for most runners, the 100-miler is a unique challenge all to itself and finding what works individually is so important. All I can do is to glean as much experience from those around me and find my niche...and do what works for me. I really want to lose the obsession over weekly mileage, what others are doing, and focus on what gets ME to the finish line. I love the opinions and guidance of others but it's up to me to have trial/error and find my own way. It's all about balance...staying healthy, training smart, keeping to family priorities, and ensuring that everything stays IN balance and doesn't topple. One dose of slimy cottage cheese on the scale and the end result, while perhaps still successful on paper, may just not be as satisfying or enriching. I need to throw out the slimy and focus on the quality...without compromise.

Thanks for "listening" go get some kidney beans for yourself!

Happy Trails, everyone!