Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rest is a Wonderful Thing

Rest is a good thing. After this past weekend's beating under the sun capping off with a run in the sun/humidity Sunday night, I felt totally wiped out and still was tired come Tuesday morning. Most runners hate to take off more than one day in a row but after taking Tuesday completely off as well, this morning's run was absolutely perfect. Not an ache, pain, or any feeling of discomfort. Once again, my belief in recovery when your body orders it up is re-confirmed. For those of you Piggy and Pitt runners this weekend, my best wishes to you all and hopefully, this final week of tapering finds you taking it easy, resting, drinking lots of water, and getting ready to pack in the carbs starting tomorrow. It looks like a great weather-weekend for a marathon. Have tons of fun!

For anyone wishing to join me on my last big back-to-back weekend leading up to the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run 38 short days from now, here are my plans:

- I'll depart from the Pine Lane Trailhead at 4am and do the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K course in reverse.
- Boston Store ~ 4:50am
- Snowville Rd. ~ 5:45 - 6:05am (first light of the day)
- Snowville #2 heading back (south) ~ 8 - 8:15am
- Boston Store ~ 9 - 9:30am
- Finish @ Pine Lane 10am - 10:30am

- Depart Pine Lane at 4:30am and do an out-n-back on the Valley Bridle Trail towards Virginia Kendall for 10-11 miles.
- Arrive and Depart Pine Lane at 6:30am and head towards Boston Store on the Buckeye Trail. After leaving Boston, travel to Brandywine Falls but instead of coming back to Boston Store, get off trail on the asphalt road and follow road down hill (reverse of BR100 route) and enter the Valley Bridle Trail towards the Jaite area. Pass Jaite and get on the Buckeye Trail towards the Boston Store then return to Pine Lane. This 6:30am route will be 18 +/- miles.

Overall pace will be around 5.5 miles/hour.

I've really appreciated the many fellow runners who have shown up during my Kettle 100 training trail runs. I rarely have found myself alone out there and I sure do appreciate it. This is another beautiful time of year as the trails are coming alive in green all around, the deer are shedding their winter coats (as evidenced by piles of it on the trails!), and the newly-bloomed foliage is providing a blanket of coverage from the beating sun. We sure do have a lot to be thankful for out there!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, April 27, 2009

M-Cubed for 4/27/2009

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

- So long to a "down" week in my training towards the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler. As of today, I'm T-40 days until race day. My down week, although at 47.5 miles was low for weeks preceding it, still included a 27 miles and only 11.2 of it was on trails. (ugh) Vince and I met up at 4:30am at Lock 29 for the trail portion and met back at 6:30am to meet the VR Group Run. I felt more beat up after that run than after my previous weeks of back-to-back weekend of 50+ miles. I'll chock it up to good training in the heat as temps climbed into the 80s. Who would've thought it would be in the 80s all weekend when my Thursday morning run last week was at 37F?

- Last night, with the sun high in the sky, I got a few brave souls out at 5pm (Tracy & Glenn) for a hot/humid 85 degree trail run. Initial goal was 10 miles but it was shortened to 8 miles because I was pinched for time. I don't have much time left to get used to the heat before the Kettle so I'll take the training whenever I can get it.

- This past Saturday, Marjie had to work and my mom had my oldest daughter so a "Dad Date Day" it was with my youngest who is almost 6. After I sulked, moaned, and groaned about how tired I was after baking in the sun on the Towpath, we headed to Kent and spent some time down by the Cuyahoga River. It was an absolutely picture-perfect day to be down there. After some relaxing on the rocks we had lunch at the Pufferbelly located just above the river. I had my favorite sandwich of all time, the Grouper Reuben and she had HER favorite, PB&J and a side of cinnamon applesauce. Afterwards, we wandered aimlessly throught Earth Day vendors set up just around the corner. We finished our date at Billocks' Ice Cream shop in Rootstown for some ice cream. She got her usual...a chocolate ice cream sundae and I tried out the new Moose Tracks: vanilla ice cream with hot fudge swirled through it and chunks of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup...and then some peanut butter sauce drizzled on top. YUM!!!

- I'll be honest. I'm more than ready for the Kettle to get here. I'm at the point where I feel I'm at my peak in training and am ready to attack the goal. I know....40 days will pass fast but I'm just ready to move on. I also feel that I'm on the brink of getting burned out and/or injured. I need to just stay focused on the goal, run my training (vs. letting it run me), and be smart and listen to my body. For example: I'm totally exhausted so I'm for sure not running today. I may even take tomorrow off. I want....I need this weekend to be the best it can be. It's the last major training weekend so I need it as a mental springboard for the Kettle.

- Last Thursday was a lot of fun. It was the National "Take Your Son/Daughter to Work Day". My oldest daughter who is 8 got to be an employee of the Executive Branch of the federal government for the day at Social Security. It started with a meet-n-greet with the staff, a mock interview where she was "hired," and jobs where she got to do shipping, shredding, recycling, and stocking of workstations. For lunch, we ordered in pizza for the group of 16 youngsters, and late afternoon, I served up my parents' ice cream to the staff with fixins' for sundaes. Last but not least, she got to see my "exciting" job in action, taking a disability claim from a local resident in Stark County. She had a blast, the staff loved her, and she asked if she could come to work once a week! Good times....good times, indeed.

100+ screaming elementary age girls + Hanna Montana + barn-decorated cafeteria = Spring "Hoedown" Father/Daughter Dance. This past Friday after work, I took each one of my girls in an arm, saddled up our horse (aka: my Honda Accord), put on my best cowboy get-up (jeans and a button-up North Face shirt), and headed up to the school for this annual event. I had no idea how many "cowboys" lived in our midst. Talk about feeling out of place! The girls saw their friends, burned off an incredible amount of energy, and I sought out just about anyone in my same situation and caught up on times gone by. By 9pm, I was cooked and ready to head on home since the 2:40am alarm for Saturday's trail run would come quick.

- While growing up, I fondly remember my parents taking us down to the Loudonville area southwest of Wooster to go canoeing. As spring is here and will most likely transition quickly to summer, I think it's time to introduce this great family past-time to my own family and my girls. The Loudonville Canoe Livery is still alive and well. There are multiple distances you can travel from the Livery and I think we're going to do the ~4hr, 14 mile distance. $44 will get us life jackets for all, 2 paddles, the canoe, and transportation back to the Livery. I've gotta find a map, but I remember little pulloff points along the river to get some lunch, ice cream, etc. It should be a blast and a day to remember. Most likely, we'll head down during my taper to the Kettle.

- If anyone wants to join me on Friday or Saturday on the trails, just let me know when you want to run and we'll meet up. The more company, the merrier!

Have a great week and Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Saw a Shooting Star...

...this morning while I was running. The last several days have been plagued with cooler temperatures and heavy rains so this morning's crisp 37F and a starlit sky was a welcome relief. It's been quite some time since I've had one of my forever-desirable Mr. Moon-lit morning runs. This last full moon cycle happened more in daylight hours than at night or in the early morning hours. That shooting star, though, did stir up some "deep thoughts" that have been dancing around my cerebrum all day.

When I see something like a shooting star, I typically see it out the side of my eye. I've only seen a few (< id="SPELLING_ERROR_0" class="blsp-spelling-corrected">monotonous and thankless job that they do and most people, if they say anything at all, just complain to them. I also think about the little things on this earth that are at first glance, perhaps insignificant, but are a beautiful piece of creation. Think of each unique flower blooming right now, the cherry blossoms and pear trees blooming, each leaf of every tree erupting from the cold winter in unison with each other and reaching upward towards the life-giving sun. Think of the waterfalls we love so much nearby in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and how they've been formed over 100s and 100s of years without man's intervention. All of these things listed are at first glance no big deal and don't deserve a second glance. I, however, challenge you to "stop and smell the coffee" and appreciate the little things that surround you each and every day. Better yet, stop and smell the cherry or pear tree blossoms!

I'll take it another step further: how about the friendships, acquaintances, and face-known-name-unknown runners you see at each Saturday group run? How about the selfless giving of so many fellow runners who give so much to the local running scene or the volunteer organizations who maintain our beloved trails? It's so seemingly insignificant that most don't even notice any of it.

As I pondered the shooting star throughout today, I felt renewed...renewed in my appreciation for all of God's creation around me, for the awesome, perfect, landscape that we all find ourselves inhabiting, and appreciative yet again for a running/trail-running/ultra-running community bent on supporting each other regardless of who each other is. I've always thought it incredibly cool that we all lead lives much unknown to each other but come Saturday morning or at any other time we get together, none of that matters. All of it is peeled away and out there, we're all just runners wanting to run. Pure and simple.

So while we may be simply a spec on this landscape and one person among billions, I challenge you to live a life of significance and don't just fly by life not looking around you. Once you do, I promise you that your life will never be the same...and you'll never again stop looking around and soaking it all in.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, April 20, 2009

M-Cubed for 4/20/2009

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

- Well today is the day. The 113th Boston Marathon kicks off today from Hopkinton, MA to Boston, MA. I wish all the very best to the army of local runners who are there! Watch it live here starting at 9:30am. Below is my favorite female distance runner and my pick to win today:

- I'll be honest. It was a lonely weekend inside my brain. I had a Navy drill weekend in Cleveland but there were a few other places I would have loved to have been. One being yesterday's Forget the PR 50K down at Mohican and the other place being Boston, MA. Seeing all the pictures from the Boston expo and hearing the early reports from Forget the PR indicates lots of fellow runners having lots of great experiences.

- The flip side is that it really was a good drill weekend with the Navy. Saturday morning was spent taking tests all morning followed by a great lunch at Al's Deli in downtown Cleveland. I shared an order of hummus with Lisa and had a Chicken Schwarma Wrap for myself. Marjie told me last night she could still smell garlic in the bedroom from me having that hummus and the wrap. Was I oozing garlic, overnight?!?!? Later on Saturday was our semi-annual physical fitness test. For me, it's really not much of a test but it's always fun to see how fast I can cover a whoppin' 1.5 miles. I first knocked out 45 pushups (I wasn't so happy with that), 75 situps (happy with this, though) and a 1.5 mile run along the Lake Erie waterfront in 9min, 12sec....a 6:08 per mile pace. The closest person was 1min, 10sec back. Honestly, I was really happy with that considering I had run 46 miles in the 2 days previous and my right hammy was actin' up a bit. (The run fixed that, by the way...somehow) Yesterday, we spent the day at the Reserve Center in Akron where Rear Admiral Ray English was in town. I am a Supply Officer in the Navy and he is the most senior Supply Officer in the region. To give you an idea of how senior an admiral is, an admiral is someone who the President of the United States goes to when he needs an answer or some direction related to the Navy. If you watch "24," you've seen that a lot lately in scenes with the Joint Chiefs. He certainly doesn't come to me! After speaking to everyone at the center, we got some more interactive time with him when we went out to Applebee's in Cuyahoga Falls for lunch followed by more a more professional meeting afterwards talking about our futures, supporting the War on Terror, and our training path. All-in-all, a very good time and a rare one in fact. Below is a picture I got the hostess at Applebee's to take for us. (of course, I was secretly needing a pic for my blog and for Facebook...hehehehehe!!!!!!)

- You know the 'ol saying "practice what you preach"??? Last week was NOT that. It was supposed to be a down week and what did my crazy brain do? It came up with that crazy idea of running 36 miles on Thursday...on asphalt. Well let me tell you Mr. right butt muscle is not so happy about 36 miles of asphalt! However, I myself am very thankful you came up with the idea! I loved it and it was the PERFECT way to spend my birthday! I took the picture below at mile 20.5 with my camera phone. I thought that those of you who call me crazy would appreciate it. Think I should check in??? - So with last week's "down" week (yea, right!) of 68 miles and the week prior at 92 miles, let's just say that April 2009 will be by far the highest mileage month of my life. I'll pass up 200 miles this week with time still left the following week. I suppose that if there is ever a time to do this, it is at the peak of training for my 100 miler so in reality, it actually does make sense...logical sense. Wait a minute...did I just use the word "logical" in the same sentence as "100 miler"??? Yes.

- This week's training will be pretty low-key. The idea is to rest this week, rebuild, grow stronger, and be ready for my last really long back-to-back training weekend the following week...the first weekend in May. That's 5 weeks out from Kettle Moraine. So far, 68 runners are signed up for the June 6th event.

- Time now for a necessary Monday morning pre-dawn run. It's 54F and drizzling rain out there. Mentally, I've been in a funk since last night so hopefully, this run will work some of its usual magic on me. I have that real feeling of being alone right now for some reason....need to run it off.

- Have a great week everyone and I'm already looking forward to hearing reports from "chowder country"....Boston.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

36th Birthday 36 Mile Run Report

One of the greater things about being an ultrarunner is that at the drop of a hat, unless getting ready for a big event or recovering from one, is that I can decide on any given day that I'm going to go run for 20, 30, or more miles. If you look at my schedule for this week as well as my schedule counting down to the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler, this week was supposed to be a down week since I just had a 58 mile weekend with over 12hrs of running this past weekend. Well, the endorphins or something else mysterious planted a thought in my head yesterday morning on my 4:30am run around home: "The forecast is saying 60F and sunny, it's your birthday, so why not take the day off from work and run 36 miles on your 36th birthday?" By the time I got home, I had 1/2 of the route already planned and plans to request the day off just as soon as I got to work. My plan was to see the girls off to school at 7:45am then hit the road. As long as I didn't fall apart, I could make it home before they did.
So the plan was to do one big loop from my home in Rootstown. I wanted to stop by major landmarks and also stop in different places to say "Hi!" to friends, snap a picture, and move on. I wanted to do at least the following: 1) stop by my favorite restaurant, the Pufferbelly, in Kent, 2) walk along the Cuyahoga River in Kent, 3) stop in at my church in Kent and say hello to the staff, 4) possibly a stop at Starbucks, 5) run to Ravenna and stop in at the hospital to see my wife at work, 6) stop by the new Veterans Memorial in Ravenna, 7) surprise my barber, Heather, in Ravenna, 8) stop by my parents' ice cream shop in Rootstown, and 9) to stop and see my parents, my only surviving grandparent, my Grandma Mary, and my sister-in-law and her 2 kids, Emma and Ean. Of course, taking pictures all along the way. As for the running part, my goal was to go out comfortably and try and manage my pace and nutrition/hydration so that I could remain consistent throughout the entire day. I knew that with temps climbing, not a cloud in the sky, and virtually no warm weather running yet this season, the bright sun could take it's toll. The "menu" for the run consisted of: red-skinned salted boiled potatoes. I started eating them at Mile 15 and every 5 miles thereafter. I also took one caffeinated cherry Clif Shot Blok every 5 miles. I carried 1.5 liters of water in my pack for hydration as well as a hand-held bottle full of Hammer's Heed. At Mile 11, I re-filled with Perpetuem, then back to Heed at Mile 24, then back to Perpetuem again at mile 29. Well, it all worked out exactly to plan. The food and hydration were a big hit and did everything they were supposed to. As for pace, I crossed the 26 mile point in 4hrs and finished the entire run in 5 1/2 hours which is equivalent to a 9min, 10sec per mile pace. The best part? That felt like a really comfortable pace and when I got home, even though I didn't want to take another step past 36 miles, I felt like I had much more left in me. Once again, a huge confidence boost for Kettle Moraine in 51 short days from now. I've got to back off now, though. A down week has GOT to happen to prevent any injury or overuse damage from happening. I am at such a peak in training right now and this is the time I am most susceptible to getting hurt...gotta be careful and get to that starting line strong, healthy, and injury-free.
Now for some pictures. I've included some of my favorites below but the whole album can be viewed here. Let me just say this one last thing about today's run: I am so very thankful to be able to do this. While it doesn't make sense to 99.9% of the population, it makes total sense to me, my family and fellow ultrarunners out there. There's just something about running....simply to run. "Why would you do something like this?" is a question I heard more than once today. Easy answer: because I can. It is really just as simple as that. There's also plenty of time for inward reflection, organization of life's priorities, observing nature change through the seasons, and soaking in all the sights and sounds of the path ahead. I don't ever plug anything in my ears while running and honestly, I don't ever expect to. The rest of life has plenty of "noise" like music, TV, kids (I still love 'em!!!), traffic, etc. This is my reserved quiet time and I treasure it. "Noise" in my ears would destroy one of the best parts of being out there. So here's those pictures:

So since tomorrow is my "scheduled" day off (hehehehehehe!!!!!!) and the forecast is supposed to be sunny and near 70F, I'm going to get in an easy 9 miles on the trails. The weekend is reserved for the Navy so no long runs this weekend.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

36th Birthday Run Plans

Well, as Forrest would say...."Every run is like a box of never know whatcha gonna get!" Well, not exactly as Forrest says but close enough. This morning while zippin' around my small town in the dark, you would have thought Mr. Moon was out because a great idea fell upon me for my 36th birthday tomorrow: a 36 mile "Tour de Southern Portage County!" I'll leave home in Rootstown, travel through Brimfield en route to Kent. Once in Kent, I'll run by my favorite Pufferbelly Restaurant then stop in at my church, Riverwood Community Chapel, for a quick pic with some friends. After that, I'll stop in at the Kent Starbucks, grab some eats, snap a pic and then head towards Ravenna. Since Marjie will be working tomorrow, a group pic at the Robinson Memorial Hospital Emergency Room is a must-do! Then, I'll cruise through Ravenna, surprise my barber (Heather) then continue back to Rootstown with stops at my parents ice cream shop, their house or my brothers' house, then return home hopefully in time to get my girls off the bus. All in all, 36 miles! I'd like to think that this is the kind of run that my blog was made for. Lots of fun, pictures, and a cool story to tell along the way. Of course, a report will follow soon thereafter with pics to tell the story.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mid-Week Humor

8.5 million others agree...the funniest cat video ever. Thanks to my girls who after returning from Colorado for Spring Break couldn't wait to show me this. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

M-Cubed for 4/13/2009

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

- I ended up with 8 more trail miles last night with 7 others. This group run was one that I thought up on Friday night's run and I never thought I'd have that many show up with such short notice. Thanks, everyone! That makes a whopping 58 miles for the weekend. Plus, since I have always tracked my mileage from Sunday to Saturday, that makes my mileage 92.2 miles for the week! I had the Fools 50K last Sunday. I don't think I've ever cracked 70 miles before. Last night's run was amazing because I thought I'd have issues/soreness/pain from the 50 miles but I had none of that. In fact, the run eventually turned into a speed session! We were haulin' tail!

- Ironic in a really high mileage week is that I have zero physical issues. I do have a lot of tiredness that I think I'm going to need a solid couple of days to refuel and get back to normal. I see caffeine in my future at work!

- I have posted my final 8 weeks of training to Kettle Moraine on the right side-bar. It's simply a big-picture view of my plans. Specific runs will be listed in the normal weekly schedule just above it. If you ever want to join me on any of the long trail runs for all or a portion, just say the word!

- I am so ready for my family to come home. I pick them up tomorrow and it couldn't get here soon enough. I definitely took advantage of them being gone and got some great training in but I sure do miss them...and the cats miss 'em, too!

- Easter services were really good at Riverwood yesterday. Most of you don't know that I run the Projection Team there. Since my family is out of town, I gave the team a break for Easter and ran all 3 services today. I ended up being there for 5 1/2 hours but it was worth it. The bonus was being in all 3 services. They never got old! I did mess up one thing in the 2nd service that got everyone in the room laughing. I was so embarrassed. I just wanted to crawl under the table. The good news is that I rebounded and didn't make the same mistake again.

- As you start this week, take a reality check at your "foundation" and what you're building your life upon. Collected enough "toys" yet? Have you put your family first? What rules your life? Does spending, collecting, and accumulating bring you contentment and happiness? Is your life built on a castle of sand or is it on a solid foundation? I have found that this video is a great way to take a personal inventory of where I personally stand and ensuring my priorities are in check. A look in the mirror and reflecting at where I stand...right always a good thing. (I didn't embed it in my blog due to copyright)

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sharpened Focus on the Goal

So what on earth do you...or I fill my head with for 50 miles? When running with friends, that's an easy answer. Great conversations happen out there on the trails. Friendships are born, life stories are told, problems are discussed, training opinions/wisdom are shared or absorbed and those are all awesome things. But the times alone is equally great and allow for really good quiet time to mentally slip away. The past two days have really been good. I worked a full 9hr day on Friday and met up with Mindy W. and Melissa C. at Happy Days at 6pm. Torrential downpours were the recipe of the day and it was still going. Initial doubts of running were quicky snuffed out by recalling what happened at the Kettle Moraine 100 miler last year with the downpours, tornado warnings, and lightning. (see one of my posts from last week for the video of the downpour at mile 62.4) This is perfect training weather! I also took the opportunity to try out that North Face jacket Marjie got me a few days ago. I warned Mindy earlier in the day that we were going at "100 miler training pace" other words, no speedy Mindy! All went well and when the sun went down around 8:30pm, the rain also stopped and out came the headlamps. I wore my new Princeton Tec and lit up the woods but was sure not to look in the 3 watt beam this time. It is blinding...just ask Mindy or Melissa! (sorry!) We wrapped up our run just after 10pm and 20 great miles. I downed a Starbucks DoubleShot in order to not drive off the road on the way home (remember that from a few weeks ago?), and by midnight, I was in the sack. 4 1/2 hours later, the alarm sounded and after some breakfast, some espresso, and getting my boiled potatoes finished up, I head back down to the park for a 7am start at Pine Lane. Saturday's goal was another 30 miles at the same pace. Patty, Don, and Kurt "O-Pod" showed up and we were off. Mud, mud, mud! Those rains left their mark, for sure. I snapped some good pictures from the run and also shot a 30sec video of the raging Brandywine Falls below. (the rest of my pics are here including some cool pics from some beavers' handy-work besides the Cuyahoga River) Enjoy!

Here were my goals for the 2-days and 50 miles on the trails:

1. Step one at 6pm at Happy Days on Thursday would be the same as the last step at Mile 50 on Saturday. Running gait, stride, pace...all the same. If I could manage my pace properly, I could extend my endurance...that was the idea.
2. Eat and drink like race day. I boiled lots of potatoes and they were once again the miracle energy food. I also introduced Hammer's Perpetuem finally. It has everything that my normal Heed electrolyte has but introduces protein to fight the muscle canibalization. I actually really liked it and will use it more often. I also took a Clif Shot Blok every 4 miles.
3. Not get injured, do anything stupid, and to start recovery the second I finished running. That recovery included immediate fruit, water, and Hammer's Recoverite. It also meant to keep moving to keep the blood flowing and get the garbage washed out of my weary legs.

Well, EVERYTHING was accomplished...every single thing. Step one DID equal the last step. Expectedly, I was super exhausted and I felt like a Mack truck had hit me by the time 8pm rolled around last night. But, I focused on proper recovery and kept moving.

I also wanted to learn during the run. Mentally, I wanted to see if I could "trick" myself into forging forward and keep on top of my game. Here's a bit of what I learned:

1. Self-talk is incredibly important. With the proper training/nutrition/etc., your body can keep going, going and going. However, as time passes and thousands of calories are burned, your brain starts saying: "I quit".."No more!"..."You're really not feeling good so you should so walk/slow down/stop." First off, accept that yes, you'll be tired. However, every time (especially in the last 10 miles yesterday in the blazing sun...another sunburn, thank you!) negative thoughts creeped in, I said to myself "You're feeling good. Get your tail moving!" That sounds simplistic but I'm telling you, it worked. That was a huge lesson to learn. I'm really going to need that on June 6th.
2. I also learned that Perpetuem isn't as nasty as I had thought. When it mixes, it reminds me of mixing cement...all chunky and nasty. However, 5 minutes of running and it's mixed up really good and it's taste really isn't too bad. I will use it more often.
3. I can increase/sustain endurance by three things: a) proper nutrition leading up to and during the run, b) proper and disciplined pacing throughout from the very beginning and 3) mental attitude.

So here we are. 55 days (~8 weeks) from June 6th and the Kettle Moraine 100. My plan between now and then was to do two more of these types of weekends. However, I question how much more value I can get out of it. I feel like I got everything I could have wanted out of this past weekend. My lingering questions were answered and obstacles dismantled. Since I am of the mindset and more is not necessarily better, I am going to make one major change to the final 8 weeks. I will only do one more weekend like this past one and it will be on the first weekend in May. (that's also the Flying Pig and Pittsburgh Marathon weekend) So my last big, big weekend will be 5 weeks before the event. I'll still go long at the 3-week-out point but I won't do a big back-to-back. I really do feel like I am at a peak right now with regards to endurance, fitness, and health. I just need to maintain it now and not do anything that would risk injury.

So when 50 miles just isn't enough, my family is still out of town, what better thing to do but to go run some more trails! I'll be heading down to the Boston Store tonight at 6pm for a "casual" 9 miler on the trails then some dinner at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula. The skies couldn't be a more gorgeous blue than what they are today and temps are in the upper 40s...together a perfect recipe for some more trails!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Point A to Point B

I'm alone. That is, unless you count the cats: Berkeley and Bella who are brother and sister Seal Point Siamese cats...different litters but siblings, none the less. I took everyone else and placed them on a plane for a week with aunts/uncles/cousins in Colorado. We actually lived in Colorado Springs for one whoppin' year from mid 2001 to mid 2002. In that short time, I had a great job, built a house, sold a house, and even worked at Starbucks for a short period of time. (perhaps that is why I now brew fresh espresso every morning before ANYthing else)

So my goal: get to next Tuesday (Point B) when I pick them up from the airport. I know, I know...many, if not everyone, think I should be jumping for joy to have the house to myself and free reign over my schedule. There is some truth to having freedom in the schedule but in my core, I'm a family guy and children or not, I don't like being alone. Most don't know that I was married at the young, ripe age of 19. Now that I'm turning 36 next week (wink, wink), well...I've been married for nearly 1/2 of my life. Hmmm....I've never really thought of it that way until now. I've told Marjie countless times that I can't imagine NOT being married. For me, completeness is found by her side and her absence is never welcome. But in the meantime while she's enjoying some much needed time with her brother, sister, and their families, I've got some work to do.

Yesterday, I took a mandatory day off from running to rebuild and recover from Sunday's 50K. Plus, I'm protesting the winter weather outside. It's a good thing it was yuck outside because I do not want to put winter running gear on again this season. Luckily, this will all be over today. Plus, I want to get another recovery run in this morning before another rest/rebuild day tomorrow. The only purpose of today's run is to warm up the muscles to help expedite recovery...nothing more. Looking forward to Friday, after work I'll be heading to the trails for my 2nd evening night run. I think I'll have some company...but if not, that's OK. I'd like to get in around 20 miles on Friday night. This time, I'll have a Starbucks Doubleshot in the car to give my brain a shock to get me home and keep me awake. No more near-death experiences this time like 2 weeks ago. Come Saturday morning at 7am, I'll be hitting the trails for 30 slow miles. I really, really need to get through this weekend feeling good. One reason is a good confidence boost for my 100 miler in 59 days and another is to teach my body successfully how to continue on when tired and the mind doesn't want to play anymore. Yea, this run is more about the mental warfare than anything physical. The mental side is the sleeping giant waiting to come out in the later hours of an ultra-marathon. Remember...get from point A to B...whatever it takes. If you want to join me for any of it, let me know. Expect a casual pace at 5 to 5.5 miles/hr....not 50K "race pace."

You know that torrential downpour, thunderstorms, thunder, etc. that happened at last year's Kettle 100? (see post from last week) Well, the one piece of gear I don't have is a good, light piece of rain gear that waterproof, packable, and breathable. Well, Marjie pulled a good one on me and actually surprised me with an early birthday present (she'll tell you how hard that is!). I got home on Monday and the jacket I've been eyeing was hanging in the closet: North Face Trajectory Hybrid jacket from Vertical Runner in Hudson. The most technical piece of gear I've ever owned, for sure. Light enough to pack in my pack but the perfect protection when the elements threaten. It's waterproof and windproof in the front and has great circulation out the back. I'm actually hoping for some nasty weather to run in soon to give it a spin. Thanks, Babe!

OK, time to go run before dawn then knock hump-day out. I'm already looking forward to my breaks and lunchtime today so I can crack open my new issue of UltraRunning that came yesterday. Hands down...the best magazine on the planet.

One last thing: for those of you who don't share the trails with me but stop by here to read my adventures and mis-adventures and may call me crazy, there is a "race" out there that takes the "crazy" crown for itself called the "Barkley." It is probably the most brutal 100 miler on the planet with 55,000 feet of elevation gain/drop. In its history, only 8 people have completed it...the last one was this past weekend. Here's a report of an accomplished ultra-runner and his experience at the Barkley this year. It's a report that makes what I (and maybe you) do seem like child's play. Be sure to look at his legs near the end of his report from pushing through all the briars...yikes! Here's Dan Fox's photo gallery from Barkley, too. Dan's a local from Cleveland. Another photo album is that Slim in pic #136? And another...Alan Geraldi's pics on Facebook.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, April 6, 2009

M-Cubed for 4/6/09

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

- What a flippin' great weekend! I tapered well last week (only 18 miles) and ran my 31st marathon/ultra-marathon yesterday at the Fools 50K. 5hrs, 26min, 15sec, 17th overall. This is my 2nd fastest 50K to date by a long shot. I'm a very happy camper this morning.

- OK, I'm calling you out! To the person who shouted out to me on the connector between the Lake Trail and Pine Grove Trail, "Good job, Mr. Moon!", identify yourself! I'm sorry, but I didn't recognize you. For those of you RTRSBM blog newbies, Mr. Moon is the main subject in my "3:30am" series. Sorry, I can't elaborate. The moon isn't shining today. By the way, you shouting that out made my day. I grinned about that from ear to ear at least until I got back onto the Ledges Trail! Thanks for the mental boost!

- I really love the Winking Lizard in Peninsula. With my family at the finish line yesterday, nothing sounded better than that. Plus, they've got the biggest activity sheet for kids to work on! That's a great distraction when mom and dad are trying to get some "us" time in. By the way, I swear by the Asian Chicken Wrap. It is soooooooo good!!!

- Everyone see the article that the Cleveland Plain Dealer did on Vertical Runner in Hudson? It is a really good write-up. Read it here.

- My family is heading off to Colorado for a week on Tuesday (minus me). Oh, what to do?! I think there are some good movies out right now. With my free admission at any time at Kent Plaza Theaters (military ID), I need to hit them up at least a few times. I think that time on the trails is in order as if I didn't get enough lately!

- It was great to meet so many people that I knew by e-mail or name but not in person. Yesterday's race was great in so many ways...that's just one of them. In my opinion, Facebook has united so many local runners that otherwise would have never met. Feel free to add me if we're not already hooked up!

- I feel obligated to share some more post-50K results. Due to popular demand, here's another sampling of one of the many benefits of ultra trail-running events. Enjoy!

- I'm very thankful for 2 medical issues in my extended family: my dad finishes 7 weeks weeks of daily radiation this Tuesday. He and my mom have been in Atlanta, GA attacking his prostate cancer. The Hope House (provided by the American Cancer Society) has provided lodging for them and local organizations brought in food 40-50% of the time. I really hope the radiation did its job! On another front, my dad's mom, my only surviving grandparent, had a stroke recently but is recovering well now at home. I saw her on Saturday for an Easter brunch and I was pleasantly surprised at her rebound from how I saw her in the hospital. Our prayers were answered!

- I got my first suntan/burn of the season. I can still feel the heat beaming off my face this morning. I may have been on trails under trees all day but those trees don't have leaves on them yet so full sun it was! It was such a beautiful day to be out there!

- This upcoming weekend (Friday/Saturday) is a big training weekend. I plan to leave from the Happy Days parking lot on Friday night at 6pm for a night trail run and again at 7am Saturday morning for 6-7 more hours on the trails. Why? Kettle Moraine 100 is only 61 days away! Let me know if you want to join in for any of the "fun."

- I had a very nice and relaxing jaunt around home this morning for 5 rolling miles. It's always a good idea to warm up the muscles the day after a really long run/marathon/ultra simply to warm up the muscles to break free the lactic acid/cement in your legs followed by lots of water throughout the day to flush it all out. The only real soreness I feel today is in my abdominal muscles. Those guys help out a lot during hilly trail running and now need a little TLC. I also wore my new Fools 50K Asics running shorts. I've never received a pair of shorts for a race but Lloyd did a fine job in picking these. They were great and will get a lot of use in the future.

- "Give me back that Filet-o-Fish. Give me that fish! Give me back that Filet-o-Fish, give me that fish! What if it were YOU hanging up on this wall? If it were you in that sandwich, you wouldn't be laughing at all!!!!" You're welcome.

- I think that about covers it. Off to work for Uncle Sam!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Inaugural Fools 50K/25K Race Report

Months ago, I recall a conversation with Lloyd Thomas, Race Director for the Fools 50K/25K Trail Run. He wasn't too confident that many would sign up for his race in it's inaugural year. It's been run a few times previously but as an unofficial FA event. I told him that "You're race will sell out. Just watch!" Turns out that this time, I was right. It didn't sell out's been sold out for awhile. He did his best to accommodate late-comers as other folks dropped off which maintained the field at its limit of 200 runners plus a few extra thrown in just to be safe.

The Fools Run is run on trails within the Virginia Kendall/Happy Days areas of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, local samplings of trails this area has to offer. You get all of the following at some point: grassy meadow, wide leaf-covered trail, rooty-rocky-technical trail, and rocky/boulder-like trail. With some recent modifications, there is less than 100 yards of asphalt on the entire 50K course. The only asphalt sections are road crossings to get from trail to trail.

Minutes before the 7:30am start, Lloyd gave a few instructions, thanked the sponsors and kicked everyone out of the Pine Hollow starting area and onto the trail. For me, my plan was to treat the 1st half as a training run and try to hold on for the 2nd loop. The forecast and what happened were a bit different. The forecast was for cloudy skies and rain around 4pm and starting temps in the low 30s and climbing into the low 50s. What actually happened was full, brilliant, sunny skies and temps that topped out right at 60F. Early morning frost was covering the "Sound of Music" hills at Pine Hollow but that quickly burned off. Due to easy-to-follow course markings and great course marshalls, the pack of runners made it easy through the woods from trail to trail. For me, I knew the course very well since I measured it a few times for Lloyd and also helped mark part of the Yellow Loop yesterday on the cross-country trail. One really cool feature of the this race is that after challenging sections, it essentially gives you a breather and time to recover before attacking the next tough section. The early part of the cross country trail has some challenging hills but ends with about a 3/4 mile downhill to the turn onto the Lake Trail. Then, you have about 1/2 mile of easy terrain on the Lake Trail before crossing Truxell Road and picking up a pretty good lung-burning uphill on the connector to the Pine Grove Trail. Like a "well-behaved" trail, as soon as you crest the steps and place your foot on the Pine Grove Trail, you get a nice flat, smooth section en route to the boulder/rock-infested Ledges Trail which you reach at 4 miles in. Here is NOT a time to take your eyes off the trail. Much of the time, you'll want to look up at the gorgeous scenery but in reality, you've gotta keep your eyes on the ground in front of you as you'll tip-toe through a lot of the Ledges Trail. It's not just has big rocks. Once you get halfway around, you cut off on the Haskell Run Trail en route to the Happy Days Lodge parking lot...location for Aid Station #1. Aid stations at Fools are comprised of typical ultra-fare: pretzels, PB&J, M&Ms (yum!), Hammer's Heed electrolyte, Coke, Endurolyte salt tabs, and water. (picture on the right is Greg (left) at the Happy Days AS) Once you get to Happy Days, you're 5 miles in and immediately head out to Boston Run Trail which is a loop that brings you back to the aid station about 3.2 miles later. Boston Run really mixes it up. You have your flats and your hills. It could be quite muddy but it is not technical at all. The last hill is just downright dirty. A walker, for sure. It is a straight up, lung-burning, gravel hill. The good news is that at top, you're back in the grass and heading back to more food at the aid station. Once refueled, you re-trace your steps back to the Ledges Trail which you reach at Mile 9 and continue the oval around the Ledges. Today it was great because it felt like running in air conditioning. With the sun beating down (I won't dare complain about the sun shining in northeast Ohio!), it was nice to get a little break. Once finished on the Ledges, you're back on Pine Grove around Mile 10 and end up running the 1.5 mile trail. Pine Grove, unlike the name implies, really has very few pines. It is a scenic, fast trail and almost pancake flat except for one little baby dip. Once complete, it's time to head back on the connector to the Lake Trail and head towards the 2nd aid station at the intersection of the Cross Country Trail and Lake Trail. After some fuel, you'll run under the old toboggan hill and rest your legs on a gentle, gravel trail. It's important to recharge, refresh, and prepare while on the Lake and Pine Grove Trails because what waits during the last 3+ miles is the Salt Run Trail...the only technical, rooty section of the day. However, just before you enter, you can see the Finish Line up the hill and perhaps your car. Not too bad during the first loop but cresting that hill at 28 miles...well, that was just darn mean, Lloyd! Talk about tempting just to call it a day right there! Salt Run is the hardest section and my favorite. It winds, wraps, climbs, falls, and is rugged. It has lots and lots of stairs but downhills to compliment them as well. About halfway, you run through this mossy section that is green year-round. It's like the trail saying: "'s your breather. Enjoy it while it lasts." Just after that, up you go again. A few minutes later, you meet the longest, steepest climb on Salt Run. The hills aren't over yet, but I think this is the "Mother Hill" of Salt Run. In fact, the last hill is crested in the grass with the Finish Line in sight. The course is simply relentless!

For me, I ran in Mel from Vertical Runner who was running the 25K since she's running Boston in only a few short weeks...then refueled at the 3rd aid station. Since the course runs along the the parking lot, I backed up into a spot so I could stop at my car and get any supplies on the way out on the 2nd loop. This worked perfect and I'm sure many others did the same. I was able to get some boiled/salted potatoes out of my trunk, grab some more Shot Bloks, and re-tie my shoe real quick without even leaving the course...another little benefit of the course layout. The 2nd loop went fine for me personally. When I crossed the halfway point in 2hrs, 22min, I knew the 2nd loop would be interesting. So much for running the 1st half easy...that was 7min faster than I had ever run it previously. I hung on but when I got to Boston Run for the 2nd time (~21 miles), the "wheels" fell off and my pace really took a drop. For the first time, I was getting passed but still kept it going. My potatoes that had been lifesavers in the past weren't doing much for me today. I think the full sun was taking it's toll on me. I haven't really run in it since last fall. From looking at the sunburn on my face this evening, I know I'm right.

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 5hrs, 26min, 15sec...17th overall out of 67 finishers. Before the race, a few fellow runners asked what I was going to run today. My response was: "I'd be happy with a 5:30. I feel I'm in that kind of shape." Faster would be great but 5:30 would be 100% acceptable and one of my faster 50Ks, for sure. So in the end, I had a blast and loved seeing so many people I knew on the trails and hearing my name shouted all day. There really are some huge...and priceless perks to running races in your own backyard...not to mention sleeping in your own bed, brewing fresh stove top espresso on race morning, and toasting some blueberry waffles for breakfast. I want to thank Lloyd for his incredible organization and execution of the event and to the army of volunteers that came forth. It was a day to remember and a great example of what's going on in the trail running scene here in northeast Ohio.
Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Snow is Gone

The snow is gone from NE Ohio and although we may get a few flurries next week, I am hereby proclaiming the END to Winter 2008/09 in Ohio. NO MORE! With that said, I couldn't look at one more picture on my blog with snow in it so how do you like the new pics? The header up above is one of my all-time favorite pictures from running on the Buckeye Trail. Specifically, this is immediately before arriving at Pine Lane right where that Buckeye Trail brochure holder is. I am so pumped for the spring trail running season that I can barely contain myself! Tomorrow morning at 7:30am is the Fools 50K around the Virginia Kendall and Happy Days area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I tapered this week (and it nearly killed me) with a whopping 18 miles. I ran 6, 5, 4.5, and 2.5 this morning. A textbook taper to a marathon that has worked beautifully for me in the past. Race conditions tomorrow will be muddy, start in the mid 30s and rising into the low 50s by early afternoon. The chance for rain doesn't threaten until late afternoon...far after I'll finish. In my humble opinion...perfect conditions!

So today is 9 weeks until Kettle Moraine...63 days. Next week the fun will really begin. My family is spending Spring Break and Easter in Colorado Springs with family so I have full reign over my running and running whenever I want to. Friday/Saturday are back to back trail runs with a goal of 10-11 hours on my feet and around 50 miles. How tomorrow goes and how I feel on Monday morning will dictate what happens between now and then. I'm hoping for a successful week of key training in my 100 mile training schedule. Eat right, refuel properly, and listen, listen, listen to my body...all essential parts of success.

I know I ate garbage a few days ago but hopefully you know that is light years away from my normal diet. To that end, here's another article about the trash called high fructose corn syrup. It is published by Hammer Nutrition, the brand of electrolyte, salt tabs, and recovery drink I swear by. It recently came out in their most recent edition of their Endurance News. A quick and necessary read.

Alright's game on. Tomorrow, I have no interest in racing others but I will race myself and that course. I've run the course multiple times so I have an idea at where my 1st lap (25K) time should be. The question will be how I can hold on for the whole 50K. Boiled/salted potatoes will be on hand! After that, nothing else matters except getting my kettle on June 7th. For anyone wanting to join me on my last few back-to-back trail runs for all or any part of, here is my schedule:

April 10/11: Friday at 6pm for 20 miles followed by 30 miles on Saturday morning starting at 7am.

April 25th: I'll join the VR group run this Saturday for a run on some pavement but will probably hit up some trails before the road pounding begins.

May 1/2: this will be my next back-to-back trail run. Similar to April 10/11 but will incorporate more nighttime running and sleep deprivation.

May 15/16: this is the Cleveland Marathon weekend. I will be in Cleveland rooting on local runners but will run my last back-to-back on Friday/Saturday. Similar again to the previous two. This will be the last major training weekend before the Kettle. 3 weeks to go!

Happy Trails, everyone! (one more little tidbit...the video below is what happened at last year's Kettle 100. Lightning and tornadoes were around, too! The video is only 30sec.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I really want to blog....

...but, I really don't feel like I have much to say! I just got back from some authentic Mexican food with my wife. Today, I think I fell off the nutrition wagon to the excuse of carbo-loading for Sunday's 50K. It all started out with a 4.5 mile run. Short...too short...but I am tapering this week like I would for a marathon because I'd sure like to see what I can do on Sunday at the race. So, 4.5 it was. I also took out my new headlamp for a test run. I got Princeton Tec's Apex Pro. It's a little heavier since it has a 2-battery lithium pack on the back. Unlike my tried and true Petzl 4-LED light, this also has 4 small LEDs but also a 3 watt spotlight in the middle. As these 2 dogs came rushing at me at 5am this morning, I turned that baby on and wow!...I lit up their whole front yard! Plus, the dogs shut their mouths and froze in their tracks. I'm sold! Plus, I noticed that due to the orientation of the smaller LEDs, it gives more of a flood pattern with better vision side-to-side which will be helpful on the trails.

Anyway, back to the carbs: Chick-Fil-A is running a special today where they give you a colored receipt after your purchase. Then, at anytime that you return before May 31st with your receipt, everything on it is FREE. That's right...completely free. So, I stopped by the Belden Village location and had my favorite #1 meal: Chicken Biscuit, hash rounds, and diet lemondade. All cooked in peanut oil (a good oil) of course! Except for the diet lemonade...and it's sweetened with Splenda. (I'm watchin' my waistline, ya know!?!) Once I got to work, in an effort to bring a little trail running into the government office, I ran into the office at 7am, my Nathan pack on my back (no water in it, though), and my Petzl headlamp on! It got a pretty good laugh in the office and was a fun way to start the day in an otherwise stressful, super overloaded office. Now they understand just one piece of what I do in my free time. Maybe next week I can run all the way to Canton and stink up the place. Then, they'll truly understand! For lunch, I had a fish sandwich (NOT broiled), some fried mushrooms (THE best around) and some fries. Hmmm....just about everything was cooked in oil so far today. Back in the office, I supplemented my lunch with an orange. OK, now I feel better. (well, it was a small not a regular size orange) The end of the day arrives, I strap on my headlamp once walk in the sunshine out to my car...and hit the road. After the slowest-pumping-gas pump on Planet Earth, I hop on the interstate to hear my phone ring. "Wanna meet me for Mexican? The girls are at my parents." "Well, dear, I ate out at lunch today and didn't eat too good," I reply. "So you don't want to go?" "Oh no, I'll meet you at 5:30!!" So much for self-control. So off to Mexican, chips-n-salsa, and a large burrito stuffed with chicken and fajita-like fixins'. "You must be done by now," you must be thinking. Well, here's the dilemma. At this Mexican restaurant is also my parents' homemade ice cream shop. Fresh homemade ice cream...and my favorite dark chocolate peanut butter. 2 scoops, chopped nuts, pecans. Perfect. Oh geez...I think I've taken this carbo-loading thing to a whole new level. Plus, I think I might be carbo-loaded one day too early! The 50K isn't until Sunday!!!! I should have done this (well, should probably isn't the proper term here) tomorrow! Ugh...I'm feeling a little bit...uh...heavy right now. That's all right...I'll just sleep it all off and run it off tomorrow. Oh dangit! I'm tapering! I'm not "allowed" to!!! OK, maybe I can just keep my glycogen stores topped off until 7am on Sunday. "Focus!!! I know I can do it!"

So anyway, I really don't have anything to blog about so there you have it. A day of carbo-loading taken to a place it should have never gone. I hardly ever eat fried food and today, I think my body will go into shock after this. I think a cleansing is in order. (sorry, but it's true!)

Disclaimer: I typed this blog in a matter of a few minutes, have a ton of built up energy, am talking in my mind a mile-a-minute, and due to the lack of miles this week, feel like I could run a hundred miles right now! Too much energy to contain until Sunday! ARGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Oh really bright spot: my Runner's World came today and my #1 female elite distance runner is on the cover!!! Kara Goucher!!! You rock, Kara! Don't know Kara? Below is the race and a post race interview of heat II of the 5000m run at the United States Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Kara Goucher is the winner with a time of 15:32.31.

Happy Trails, everyone!