Sunday, May 31, 2009

This week will probably hold more blog posts than ever before...just a warning. I have lots of things swirling through my mind and I believe that those around me (namely my wife) have heard enough so this blog will come in handy this week. By this time next Sunday, I will have finished or will be finishing soon at the Kettle. As I woke up this morning, I had a bit of a reality check and thought: "This time next week, I will have been going since 6am YESTERDAY, ran all day, all night, and perhaps still going...maybe all the way until lunchtime at high noon!" Yikes. That'll create another batch of pre-race jitters real quick.

As you can see on my schedule to the right, today's plan was for an easy 6. I headed out in the 7 o'clock hour on Mr. Moon's rollercoaster route. It was 50F, sunny, low humidity...or in other words, perfect. My goal for all runs lately has been to just take it easy, focus on my stride, watch every step (no injuries!), and enjoy them. Today felt really easy...and slow. Another indicator of a successful taper is when the effort apparently gets easier and less and the average pace per run gets faster. Today was that kind of run. A rolling, challenging run that felt easy turned in an 8:07 average pace. No, that's not super zippy or anything but it felt more like an 8:45 to 9min pace. Good sign. Now, I just need to get this under control so I don't go out too fast on Saturday morning. That would be a terrible mistake. Along the way I saw bounding deer in a nearby field, horses grazing, and 3 adult Canadian geese herding 7 baby geese across the street in front of me. Yea, it was one of those "Mr. Moon" kind of runs...minus "Mr. Moon."

I hope to write a review someday soon, but I watched "Taking Chance" with my family just a few days ago. In my opinion, anyone who calls themself an American should watch this movie. It is non-graphic, non-offensive, non-political, and appropriate for need to shield your kids' eyes from this one.

Watching it and also hearing that we have a National Cemetary here in northern Ohio led me to stop by the Western Reserve National Cemetary yesterday on the way home from our canoeing trip in Loudonville, OH...where the Mohican 100K Mountain Bike race was also going on. If you take the Route 57 exit off of I-76 and go towards Rittman, you'll see the signs for it. It is a beautiful cemetary and we're all glad we stopped by. Here are some pictures I took while there. Most have captions so you know what you're looking at.

I have nearly all of my plans made and lists made for the Kettle. I'll put my aid station breakdown and reminders on a laminated card I will make, about the size of a credit card. On the reverse, I'm going to include a few pictures that I can call upon for motivation. One will be of my girls. The other will be a picture of Clementine. She is from Peru and is the maker of the handmade kettles that await each finisher of the Kettle 100. I think this picture may come in handy at various times along my journey.

For the rest of the week, I'll run 5 tomorrow "easy" before work, get my "super-tight" haircut after work, deep tissue massage by Lori Roosa on Tuesday night, then take my last run of 3 miles on Wednesday. Time is finally cruising by quickly now and I'll be on the road before I know it. Oh yea, I heard from the race organizers at the Kettle and boiled/salted potatoes will be served at the aid stations so I will not be making my own and trying to make them last several days. Great news!

Enjoy the sun and have a great Sunday!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


OK, this time next week I'll be an hour into it. My head is spinning around a million different issues but overall, I'm totally pumped about it all.

Some random things:

Weather plays a big part for me. Right now, the forecast is calling for 30% chance of rain on Saturday and increasing to over 50% through the day and into Sunday with temps only in the low 70s. Overnight lows are expected down around 50F which is darn chilly. I say that because by that point, my body will chill easily even in 80F temps due to dehydration. I will continue to watch the weather and plan my drop bags accordingly. I have inserted a weather gadget on the right so you can see current weather conditions at the race site along with sunset/sunrise which definately matters. It's looking like sunset at 8:30pm so that means lights out (and headlamps on) by 9pm and sunrise not until a little after 5am on Sunday so that means first light should be out around 4:45am. All in all, over 7hrs in the dark.

Those Hefty bags I mentioned yesterday are nowhere to be found. Luckily, Target carries the same thing by Ziploc so I'm going to pick them up today on our way down to Loudonville for our family canoe trip.

I've e-mailed the race directors about live updates during the race. I've heard that we'll wear chips but unsure about how often or how reliably updates will be posted online. That's the only way that you'll be able to check in since I will be totally disconnected with regards to technology...cell phone will be powered down and in my trunk for the duration. When I get more reliable info, I'll post it here.

Drop Bags will be approximately every 15 miles: Emma Carlin #1, Scuppernong (50K point), Emma Carlin #2, Nordic Parking Lot (100K and start/finish line), Highway 12 #1(77mi) and Highway 12 #2 (86mi). Standard items will be replacement socks already filled with Sportshield Lubricant powder, Shot Bloks, anti-chaffing lube and replacement baggies filled with Perpetuem. Other items depending on the location will be replacement trail shoes, change of clothing (shirt), water to refill my 1.5 liter bladder in my pack, Garmin GPS, and my headlamp(s). I rely on potatoes, as well, but am confirming now if that will be standard fare at the aid stations. If so, I'm not going to try and stage those as I believe they will be nasty by the time I make them on Wednesday, they make the 8hr trip, sit on ice for a couple of days, then go un-refrigerated in drop bags. I may get more sick from them being old than helping me. I'm also waiting to hear back from the race director on the potato reliability at aid stations.

I plan to have a few items with me at all times: backup headlamp which is very tiny, weighs only a few grams, and will be the 2nd/backup light during the night for directional use. I'll wear a head-mounted lamp for the bulk of my light. (new batteries purchased yesterday) I'll also plan on always having a fresh baggie of Perpetuem with me at all times...double-bagged to keep it dry. I will start the event with one handheld bottle with Heed and will pick up the 2nd bottle with Perpetuem powder in it at Emma Carlin #1. From that point on, I will sip on a multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem and supplementing it with Heed and water. I will also alternate between Shot Bloks and Hammer Gels every 3-4 miles. Everything else will be solid foods at the aid stations.

Ants in my pants...that's what I've got 7 days out! The weather is promising, too. Rain for me is a good thing. It helps keep me from over-heating...kinda like having a slow-trickle battery pack on my back....or like running in air conditioning. When I ran the Green Jewel 100K last spring, it rained from Mile 15 to 55 and was a good thing. If raining as night falls, I'll double layer with a long sleeve tech tee and my rain proof North Face jacket to keep the chills to a minimum. That jacket is so darn technical but so light and minimal. I'll keep it with me for the duration of the event as it will fit in the back of my's a "never leave home without it" item.

Say goodbye to May and hello to June!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Single Digits

This is it! Only single digits are left in my countdown to the Kettle...8 days as of today. My taper is becoming a growing frustration, as it should be, as I want to RUN! Right now, I'm at 23.9 miles for the week and feel like I haven't run since last week...that's a good sign. Take yesterday for example: I had taken Wednesday off and planned on the Thursday night group trail run, but I just had to run Thursday morning before work. It's not like I needed two runs yesterday, but there was just too much bottled up energy inside to not run. So, I did an easy 4.5 and then another 5.9 on the trails last night with 25 others at the Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls. (Thanks to Chef Bill for the pic on the right) Afterwards, about 15 of us headed down the street (about 1/4 mile from the Burning River 100 finish line) to Hunt's Bar and Grille to get some eats and watch the CAVs game. It was a great, relaxing evening with friends and also a chance to chat with Lloyd and Andrea who just returned from Lloyd's great performance in his 2nd 100-miler at MMT. I like how Andrea put it: "in the taper, anything less than 4 miles just doesn't count"...perfect...justification to go burn some energy!

For the past several days, I've read again the race packet for the Kettle and studied once again the course description and aid station details. I also put together my spreadsheet for the aid stations and put together the list for my different drop bags. I've got a couple of things to purchase like replacement batteries for my headlamps, some more drop bags, and I'd like to find a light disposable camera I can carry with me to snap some pics along the way. There's no way I'm carrying my Canon, though. It'll get ruined for sure. For drop bags, I've become a fan of these Hefty bags I found at Giant Eagle (local grocery store) last year. They are 11 gallon, clear bags with a zip-lock closure. It's great because they have a built-in handle, easy open/close with the zip, and clear so I can easily see inside to get what I want. This will be especially helpful at night when I'm fumbling around trying to find something. I can just shine my light on the bag and see exactly what I need. Plus, the bags are really strong. They'll hold way more than what I'll fill them with so holding extra shoes or clothing are no problem with them. Possibly in another post, I'm going to go over drop bag contents and placement at different locations. Right now, I'm still strategizing, planning, and putting it onto the spreadsheet so I can see it all as one big picture.

The Next 8 Days: today, Marjie and I are taking the day to spend together and do some running around. We're heading to Akron to Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, getting some lunch somewhere between Akron and Hudson, and picking up her new Asics 2140s and my new canister of Perpetuem at Vertical Runner. Tomorrow is going to be fun...we're taking a family trip down to the land of Mohican in Loudonville and taking a canoeing trip. We'll take the 2 or 4 hour trip (don't forget, we have a 6 and 8 year old), have a picnic riverside, and just relax away from the noise of cell phones, TV, etc. Plus, it keeps me off my legs and lets me work out those jitters commonplace with a taper. For next week, I'll work on Monday and Wednesday at my normal day job, be on active duty with the Navy for one day on Tuesday in Cleveland to support a Navy conference in downtown, then hit the road for the Kettle on Thursday morning. It's about an 8hr drive to Whitewater, WI where I'll be staying. On Thursday night, I'll hit the carbo-load hard then take a "mental" prep day on Friday...alone. Besides picking up my race packet, I plan to drive around and see some major points of the course simply so I can visualize them during the race and use as motivation to get to each one. Relaxing and doing nothing for the rest of the day is the plan. Saturday morning at 6am CST is the event start. In the next week as the event site goes "live," I will post information for runner-tracking during the event. The rumor is that we will be wearing chips...supposedly ankle-attached since many will change shoes during the event. I will NOT be carrying my cell phone nor doing any Facebook updates. I found out at Burning River last year that the cell phone is an unneccesary "life-line" in times of mental strife. It's a weakness to have it, not a it will remain locked up in the trunk of my car!

Have a great weekend, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Monday, May 25, 2009

M-Cubed for Memorial Day, 2009

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

- There are a few holidays that dig deep down to my core as an American. Veterans Day, the Fourth of July, and today, Memorial Day. Sure, it's a "federal" holiday which equates to a day off for me and many others, the annual parade through my hometown, but this day is a day of remembrance. It's a day set aside to stop and remember those who have laid down their life for your freedom...for MY freedom. Generations before us, these brave men and women have done so and continue to do so today. Please remember them and fly your flag not just today, but every day of the year. I also can't help but think of those in harm's way today...half a world away. There is so much strife in this world and our U.S. servicemen and women are in the middle of it. Unfortunately, the mainstream media nor hardly any media (unless you watch the Military Channel) covers it unless there is a "newsworthy" event worthy of covering. Still, thousands upon thousands are over there, separated from their loved ones, voluntarily serving you and me and maintaining that popular word you'll hear often today: freedom. Support them 24/7/365. (I've gotta bring back the picture you see below. Back on 9/1/07, I re-entered the Navy. Previously, I was on active duty from 1991-2001 in the enlisted ranks as a nuclear mechanic but in 2007, took an oath as a Navy Supply Corps Officer. Today, my training is nearing completion in the Supply Corps and about this time next year, I'll be trading in my shiny white uniform for some desert camouflage gear. Marjie's support is very much appreciated and I'll thank her again now in advance for the huge weight she'll have to bear in the inevitable future that awaits. THANK YOU!)
It is days like today, Memorial Day 2009, that I stand by my decision to serve yet again. Let me correct that: WE decided to serve again. That decision was a group one. I am only 50% of the equation.

- Well, it's 12 days and counting until the Kettle. Saturday was a great example of the awesome trail running community that is thriving right here in northeast Ohio. As a sucker for the trails, I couldn't resist a carrot being tossed my way last night (Sunday). Marjie was working and my girls were at her parents for the night and Jim Chaney posted a Facebook message about a short trail run at 6pm. As I told him, resistance is futile. I gave in and had a great run on the Buckeye Trail with him and the other Jim C., Jim Christ. A relaxing time at the Winking Lizard followed before getting home to watch the Cavaliers fall to Orlando once again. Ugh...they're in a pinch, now! Must win on Tuesday in Orlando!

- There is light at the end of the tunnel. With last week being such an awful week at work, I'm thankful for a 3-day work-week this week. This Friday is my scheduled Friday off and I'm off today so "Yeah, Baby!!" Then next week, I'll work Monday-Wednesday and then leave for the Kettle on Thursday so that's another 3-day work-week! "Yeah, Baby x 2!!" Time's flying now...I'll be at the starting line before I know it in La Grange, WI.

- Honestly, my mind isn't really spilling much else on this last Monday of May. Here's one last tribute on this Memorial Day 2009. Have a great week, everyone!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

5 to 10

5 to 10 runners. That's what I expected this morning at Lock 29. As part of my taper to the Kettle, I made up an easy trail run just shy of 15 miles and posted it on the VR Message Board a week ago thinking I'd get a few folks out there to share the trail with. Well, it was like deja vu when I pulled in the parking lot. I felt like it was time for the Waterfalls Trail Run that I headed up on the last Saturday of 2008. In that case, we had around 75 runners. Today, 50 runners showed up! With the growing number of new trail runners going to the Thursday night trail runs, some of them showed up today. It was G R E A T to have so many to share the trail with.

I hadn't seen some in quite awhile like Kellie, Chef Bill, Nick V., Melissa T. and others. With my 4am starts over the past few months, I've not had the benefit of running with many who I used to run with week in and week out. It was super cool to see everyone again, instead of just on Facebook!

The route was simple: Buckeye Trail from Pine Lane and then to the Brandywine Falls and then back the way we came. I had so much bottled up energy this morning and wanted to run much, much further than 15 miles but I remained strict to my schedule and did the 15. I took my camera along and grabbed a few pictures, too. Here is what it looks like when 5 others are trying to dodge the camera and not get shot. Nice try, guys! It almost looks like they're in synchronized swimming or something.

I was doing all kinds of silly things like running up the embankments along some of the trail just to liven up the run. After a little goofing off, though, I thought about how dumb that was. Two weeks from my target event and NOW I'm going to goof off on the trails?! A sprained ankle, hard fall, or some other type of injury is the last thing I need right now. Each passing day is one less day to recover from something like that...and 14 days isn't a long time.

After the run, a few of us hit up Fisher's for breakfast in Peninsula. I'm getting a bit ticked off at them. My favorite breakfast, the Vegetable Scramble just keeps getting smaller and smaller. I said something about it today and it got smaller yet! Not only that, the pieces of toast were super tiny. I entered hungry....I left hungry. It was good, but an increase in price along with a decrease in size just doesn't make a whole lot of logical sense, now does it?!

Afterwards, I went up to Vertical Runner and lurked around for awhile. Mizuno was there with a trailer set up for testing runners foot type. It was pretty cool, actually. Turns out, I have a very low arch and don't pronate...thus a neutral runner in need of a cushioned (vs. stability) running shoe. No new news here! That's what I've been running in for years. I did like the ride of the Mizuzo Wave Rider...perhaps I'll try that out when it's time to shop for shoes again. I got a cool orange Mizuno tech tee for participating. (Marjie will be so happy...another tech tee laying on the dryer in the laundry room...where ALL my gear is stashed) Oh yea, the guy said I'm bow-legged, too. Again, thanks for bringing that up and again, no new news to me!! :-) Also while at the store, I came ever so close to buying a pair of the Vibram Five-Fingers "shoes." I tried on so many pairs but in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money on things I'm not so sure I'd wear enough to justify having them. They really do feel like walking barefoot. For nearly the same cost, I could buy another pair of Keen's...much better use of my $$$$$. In the end, I walked out with some Clif Shot Bloks for the Kettle and another canister of Hammer's Heed electrolyte. I also took a picture of the new sign at the store. On the storefront which is painted to match the current logo, the new letters just went up. They are wooden and raised up off the surface of the storefront and are "soft" and curved. Very well done and very sharp looking. That store is such an upgrade over the previous store a few doors down. Once again, I miss helping out around there and selling their product!

Last week, I did 71.2 miles. This week, I cut it in half with 35 miles...and that wasn't easy! This next week will be even harder. Luckily, Memorial Day is on Monday, I'm off on Friday, and Saturday is a family canoeing trip down south of here. Time should go by quicker this week. I did make one change to my schedule: I'm going to squeeze in one last trail run on Friday. Vince and I are running at the Gorge Metro Park at 8am this Friday for 60-75 minutes. Anyone is welcome to join us. After that, it'll be just "midget-miles" for the final week to the Kettle. Many have asked if I think I'm ready. My reply?: "Yes."

Happy Trails, everyone!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

KM100 Training Recap

I've been pouring over my running log/calendar for 2009 and have compiled my training leading up to the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler. If you would have asked me before today, I would have said that I've been training specifically for it all year. In fact, I didn't until March 2009. Early in 2009, I placed 5th at the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K in mid-January. I maintained my long runs on the trails through the winter and in February staying in "50K shape" and ran the Covered Bridge FA 50K (tons of mud and torrential downpours) on March 7th in Mill Creek Park. Two weeks later is when I did my first back-to-back (Friday/Saturday) training weekend...March 20/21. So, assuming a base of being in good 50K condition, I ramped up to where I am now in a matter of 2 months, since today is May 19th.

In summary, I am going to list what I did starting in the beginning and using "Weeks Out to Target Event: KM100" as the guide...a countdown timer, if I may.

13 weeks out: Covered Bridge FA50K
12 weeks: Down week; Week Total: 38.7mi
11 weeks: 22 on Friday/20 on Saturday (trails), 10 on Sunday (road); Week Total: 66mi
10 weeks: Friday 2-a-day with evening trails of 13.4 until midnight, 7.6mi on roads Saturday morning; Week Total: 50mi
9 weeks: Quick Taper to Fools 50K; Week Total: 18mi
8 weeks: Fools 50K on Sunday, 20 on trails Friday after dark, 30 on trails Saturday morning; Week Total: 92.2 mi
7 weeks: 36 mile road run on my 36th birthday; Week Total: 68mi
6 weeks: Down week, 27mi long run on roads/trail; Week Total: 47.5mi
5 weeks: Friday/Saturday 30mi/30mi back-to-back trails; Week Total: 76mi
4 weeks: Down week in Florida; Week Total: 30mi
3 weeks: 35mi trails Friday/12.6mi trails Saturday; Week Total: 71.8mi
2 weeks: Taper (currently in); 15mi trail run this Saturday, expect week total in mid-30s
1 week: no more trails, total miles around 20
Final Week: 10+/- miles early in week then travel to the Kettle

January Total: 173.5
February: 166.2
March: 209.9
April: 230.7
May (projection): 235-240 miles

Looking back, the only thing missing is an overnight run. I have lots and lots of night trail running and night running experience in general as I normally run pre-dawn during the week. I made sure that on my long back-to-backs that I got a max of 5hrs of sleep the night before and usually around 4hrs. The goal was to start out tired and go the distance. All-in-all, I am very happy with my training. The 2nd day of each back-to-back always ended up being better. I felt better, ran faster, and felt like I had much more in the "tank" when I finished...all good signs. I also placed a big focus on uphill strength on the hills. After seeing Jim "Slim" Harris powering up the hills at the Covered Bridge FA50K, I knew I had my work cut out for me. His uphill speed is amazing and he's not running. Well, I worked hard on this over the many, many miles and I am sure that I am much stronger now as a result. I have learned to move swiftly up the hills, opening up my stride, and using my shoulders and arms for more power. Not running keeps my heartrate under control so that as soon as I crest the hill, I can roll right into running again without delay. I have found that running the uphills isn't faster and increases the heartrate resulting in being winded at the top...then walking! So, I'm much more efficient on the hills and maintain a more steady heartrate. I also practiced race-day nutrition during the long runs by drinking Hammer's Heed and Perpetuem, eating Clif's Shot Bloks, eating my boiled/salted redskin potatoes, and the occasional banana and clementine. Post-run, I always took one serving of Hammer's Recoverite to expedite muscle recovery and ensured I ate good food within an hour of finishing. In my opinion, and I know there are many opposing views on this out there, rest and recovery are just as important as the training itself. I stand by the belief that your body does not grow stronger while on the trails but instead while you rest and recover. To properly do that, you must eat right, hydrate, and give your body the building blocks to do its job. I believe I am a living testament to this as I have come through the most intense training cycle I personally have ever done without one shred of injury or nagging problem. I take no supplements, either. I feed my body the fuel it needs to perform minus the junk it doesn't. If I expect to go long, recover well, rebuild, then do it again (and I take no supplements to cheat the system), then the food has got to be on target.

The taper is only a few days old now and I feel very, very good. I have to keep looking at my calendar to remind myself I just ran 35 on Friday because I don't feel one shred of it and I haven't since Saturday night. (I felt like I could run the Cleveland Marathon when I was up there on Sunday!) So, time to stick strictly to the plan and take it easy. One last trail run this Saturday of 14.5 to 15 miles and I'm done with the trails. Right now, there's quite a contingent of runners who are planning on showing up to join me: 6:30am, Lock 29, Saturday morning.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, May 18, 2009

M-Cubed for 5/18/2009

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

- Want to be inspired? Stand at the finish line of a marathon. As I wrapped up supporting Marjie's completion of her second 1/2 marathon, I snapped as many local pictures of local runners as I could which included standing in a perfect spot at the finish line as people crossed their very own finish line. I showed up when the clock read 2hrs, 55min...a great time to see some great marathon finishes for those attempting to break the 3hr point and beyond. It was inspiring to watch each and every runner and their emotion as they reached their goals. For many, it was their ticket punched to the Boston Marathon, for one man it was crossing the finish line of his 110th marathon, and for many, many others it was arms stretched high to the sky as they celebrated their accomplishments. Pain as well was there. There were many who made that last turn off of 9th St. limping...often with one leg straight/stiff as a board with clearly a bad cramp or muscle pull. Watching them push through and not quit was a great testimony of mind over body and crossing that finish line regardless of the obstacle. I also was witnessing 1/2 marathoners who at this point, were registered as 1/2 marathon walkers. Marjie, my wife, was one of them. She did the Buffalo 1/2 Marathon last year while I ran the full marathon. This year, she cut off an entire 25 minutes, or about 2 min per mile finishing in 2:51! She walked with Amy B. who she trains with and also walked Buffalo with last year (in the picture, you see 2:58...that was clock time but she didn't cross the starting line for over 7min so her time started late...and thanks to the chip she was wearing, she got the correct time) Great job to her! I gotta say, though, that when I saw her at Mile 12 and she was running...well, that just made my day! Hopefully, you can understand why. :-) Here are the 60 photos I took of many local runners. Congratulations to so many of you for a really great performance yesterday. It was a blast to be on the course seeing you all on a very rare good-weather day for the Cleveland Marathon. Afterwards, we celebrated with a packed Winking Lizard in downtown Cleveland...where everyone was wearing their hard-earned finisher medals. The finish line buzz and endorphins were certainly in the air!

- As I reported on Saturday, I wrapped up my training for the Kettle Moraine 100 on Friday with my last long run of 35 miles. I headed out for a recovery 12.6 mile trail run on Saturday morning and I'll admit, I was exhausted. It was a good run but still, I was cooked! The saturated air with a soon-to-be-unleashed thunderstorm made sure we were all soaked by the end of the run even though we didn't get rained on one bit. Afterwards, I had my favorite Vegetable Scramble at Fisher's in Peninsula with Greg D., Jim C., and Rob L....sort of a 2008 Tecumseh Marathon road-trip reunion...only missing Vince and Brandon!

- Well, the Kettle is 19 days away now. The registration fee took a bump on Saturday so there was a rush of registrations last week. The count is now up to 119 registered runners with a race limit of 150. I doubt it will sell out and I'm sure not all of those 119 will show up. I'm guessing that I'll be with about 100 others on race morning combined with another group running the 100K distance. Actually, the last person to register is from Richfield, OH...though I've never heard of him before. Registration list here.

- Congratulations to the handful of locals who ran the 2009 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Miler this past Saturday/Sunday, known as one of the hardest, if not the hardest, 100 miler east of the Mississippi. Lloyd Thomas, Bob Combs, and Roy Heger all crossed the finish line at Skyline Ranch before the 36 hour cutoff on Sunday. A few others (Brian Musick, Dave Peterman) also ran but ran into some obstacles along the way. All these guys ran through rain, thunderstorms, hail and lightning while on the course. I look forward to hearing all the reports! Results here with the splits.

- For anyone looking for a recovery trail run or a mid-distance trail run this Saturday, I'll be toeing the dirt one last time before the Kettle for a 14.5-15 mile trail run starting from Lock 29 at 6:30am. I'll cover the Pine Lane to Boston Store portion of the Buckeye Trail and a trip to the Brandywine Falls via the Valley Bridle/Stanford/Brandywine Trails. Look for 2.5 to 3 hours on the trails. After that, I'm done with dirt until June 6th!

- This Wednesday night is the kickoff meeting for the Fall 2009 VR Training program. It's hard to believe, we're already talking about fall marathons! Jim Barnett, Race Director of the Akron Marathon will be there to talk about his race, changes this year to the event, and to answer any questions. The VR Training group leaders (myself, Greg, and Vince) will also be there to answer any questions. All runners (young, old, new runners, veteran runners) are invited! Hudson Libary, 7pm, on Wednesday...join us!

- Alright, it's taper time. Time to behave and take it easy and to do nothing stupid to injure myself. To kick it off, I headed out on a rare 37F, crisp morning run this morning. I headed out on Mr. Moon's rolling 7 mile course looking for peace and quiet. I found it along with frost covered cornfields, a pasture with 4 horses dancing around, birds singing, heavy mist laying atop tree-tops and slowly rising from ponds, and a brilliant blue/orange sunrise as I returned home heading east in the light. It was the perfect way to start the new week and my taper. The even better news is that I have zero physical issues from head to toe. No aches, pains, discomforts, or anything. Awesome!

Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Training Complete...with an Exclamation Point (!)

22 days from now, I'll get my shot at an event I've been training for since the beginning of the year...the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run in La Grange, WI (about an hour northwest of Chicago). Today, I essentially capped off my training and will now enter the tapering phase and eventually dwindle my mileage down to basically nothing days before the event.

This morning at 4am, I hit the trails of the CVNP from the Boston Store with Mindy. I've never got anyone up for my many 4am starts but somehow, Mindy wanted to run until 5:45am, zip home and shower, and be at work in N. Canton by 7am. She made it! We did the Pine Lane route and said our goodbyes...but not before Mindy once again ate a little bit of dirt. (she tends to do that when she runs with me...I'd get my own dirt in the not-too-distant future, though) Next up, I was to meet Vince from Vertical Runner and Kyle, a new employee at the store at 7am for an hour run before they headed up to the Cleveland Marathon Expo to team up with Saucony and man the Vertical Runner booth. Before they showed up at 7am, I ran the Brandywine Loop but instead of running the Towpath to the trail, I took the Valley Bridle to Brandywine. As I was coming down the hill past the Inn at Brandywine Falls, I caught a glimpse of a trail sign and that little glance away from the trail which was strewn about with big rocks and roots, cost me. I hit the ground hard but tried to "gracefully" barrel roll it (I just read about "how to fall" in TrailRunner magazine) before hopping back to my feet. Luckily, the water crossing was just around the corner so I washed off in the downstream water of the Brandywine Falls. Once back to the store, I met up with Vince and Kyle and we ran to the Brandywine Falls yet again and got 'em back right at 8am so they could get going. At 8:30am, I was scheduled to meet up with Jim Chaney who wanted 7 or 8 miles on the trails. Well, Marty and Wild Bill also showed up! We did one of my more favorite routes which is an exact 8 miles. We took the Valley Bridle Trail to Jaite to the Buckeye Trail entrance off of Snowville then took the BT back to the Boston Store. One big benefit (in my humble opinion) is that I got to run DOWN the rollercoaster hill just before the absolute favorite downhill in all of the CVNP. Back at Boston, I said my goodbyes once again, ate some more potatoes, and thought about what to do next. In the middle of meeting everyone, I ran and stayed moving so at this point, I was at nearly 31 miles. Here's where the exclamation point comes in: I have found that running 30 miles is "easy." By easy, I mean that I can run the whole thing with a steady pace and feel fine afterwards...even wanting more very often. Doing it again the next day has also went very well. My back-to-back training runs in the preceding months have certainly done this for me. In an ultra-marathon, most runners will tell you that somewhere in the late 20s to the early-mid 30s in mileage, that a mental "funk" is nearly unavoidable. The key is to know it will happen and to know that you can push through it and all will be well again on the other side. Since I don't hit that "funk" anymore through 30 miles, I thought I'd go on out for some more miles and "find" it. With this being my last big training run, I wanted to remind my head and my body that it is will happen...and I can push through it. So, I say to myself: "So where can I go to make my head scream "STOP!!!!!!!"?" Ahhh, the Mother Hill will do just fine. I named it that, by the way. It's the hill which is part of the Valley Bridle Trail that runs from near the Towpath under the Ohio Turnpike and heads up 0.60 mile besides the Turnpike...straight up, under the beating sun. It is a relentless hill that will humble the best runners. So, I head on out looking for the funk and sure enough, I found it. In fact, when I crested that hill and stood at the intersection of the Valley Bridle and the Buckeye Trail, I put my arm/head down on the sign post and just froze there. "Hello, FUNK!!!" I gathered myself and continued on through the pines and then took the Buckeye Trail back to the Boston Store. I was at 34.2 miles by the Garmin so I did a little out-n-back on the Towpath...funk still in control. About 1/2 mile from the 35 mile point, the funk said "Bye, Bye!!!" and I felt good once again and felt that I had many more miles in me. But, I decided I'd save that energy for another day...namely June 6th.

I think I'm going to pour through my calendar over the past several months and summarize my training. Once I do, I'll post it here to give an idea of where I started and where I ended up. The back-to-backs really did increase my endurance level. I started with a 20mile/15mile a few months back, gradually increased the distance over a few more, and capped it off two weeks ago with a 30/30. This weekend isn't "technically" a back-to-back but I am going to head out tomorrow morning for another 10-12 miles on the it a recovery run. Sunday, I'll be rooting fellow runners on from the sidelines at the Cleveland's looking like perfect weather! Mid 50s is perfect marathon weather...just bring in some clouds and that would be the icing on the cake.

I really feel good about my training. I have done the work so hopefully, I will be rewarded with my first 100 mile finish. I honestly have zero regrets. I did everything I planned to do, got in all the big mileage weekends I planned to, and rested/recovered just as I planned to do. Sitting here now (all covered in nasty salt/crud/dried mud from the trails...not yet showered!), I am incredibly thankful for training that: 1) involved no injury whatsoever, 2) did not impact my family negatively one bit, and 3) did exactly what it was supposed to do...increase my endurance and teach me how/what to eat, manage my energy levels, and manage my pace to maintain it over the long haul. What else can I ask for?

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

3:30am: Part VII

Is it time? Already? I just laid there listening to the "overnight" forecast that was clearly recorded last night for the overnight wee hours. "G E T U P !!!", I shouted ever so softly in my head. Wobble, wobble...scoot, scoot...out to the kitchen and a pile of dried dishes that I washed the night before. Unfortunately, I have to get through those pots and get to the espresso pot that lurks below. It is with that blessed pot that I will come to life. A clang here...a clang one awakes and I get my espresso pot, pack that Lavazza espresso in, and start the 2min, 30sec brew process stovetop. Ahhh...nothing like the aroma of fresh brewed espresso in the morning...or even the superground fine grinds. Out the back window, the shadows are cast from the tall trees indicating Mr. Moon's beckoning once again. It has been far too long since a blissful jaunt over Mr. Moon's 7 mile route by his light.

Peace. Quiet. Calm. As I lace up one my many pairs of Brooks running shoes, this time the 400 mile red Radius pair, I'm on the outside very quiet but on the inside simply bursting with excitement to get out that garage door. Toeing the road, headlamp on my head just in case I'm chased by a canine again, I head on out of my sleeping neighborhood and head west on Mr. Moon's route. It's his route due to it's rollercoaster type of profile and absolute absence of man-made light. This creates the perfect landscape for a gorgeous, Mr. Moon-lit course of relaxation. I'm a goal setter, so I set a goal to run extremely quiet. Call it a "peace" run...calm...quiet. I pass by the large oak tree marking one mile and focus on my smooth stride, gently striking the pavement not to make a sound and rolling off to complete the transition. Perhaps I can make by the house on top of the hill just past two miles where that dog normally comes out barking. I enter the hills but as I crest the last one, there he is...that big, furry, fat, white dog...barking his head off. I keep my eyes on the road ahead, not wanting to stir him more by seeing the reflection from my eyes, and he stops cold in his driveway paying me no further attention. Hmmm...he appears to have sensed the peace...the calm...the quiet of this run.

With my mind quiet, my thoughts drift off to my girls. I stayed up an hour past my 8 year old's bedtime with her last night to work on her missed homework from our Florida trip and to work through some math obstacles that have thrown themselves in front of her. It was a good time...just her and me working together and spending some quality time with each other. Simple, I know...but precious all the same. I told her to not worry about finishing quizzes and tests first in the class. "Check your work. Be sure you answered all the questions. Turn in a quality assignment," I told her. As we prayed together at bedtime as her heavy eyelids were falling, she repeated that mantra taking it to sleep with her. As I do in many things, I said it to myself and said it again this morning as I ran. Have I ran a good training schedule this year? Have I prepared for the challenge before me in a few short weeks? Have I completed a quality assignment ready to turn in? The teacher will do her grading and hold my prize in her hand...a handmade kettle from Peru... Grading to be completed by Noon on Sunday, June 7th.

This time around as I passed that white, scruffy dog, he was sprawled out in the moonlight in his driveway, seemingly uninterested in my virtually-gliding-form-of-running. I had never seem him laying down before. I passed without incident and back over the rollercoaster hills I ran. Amazingly, at 5:15am, there is already morning light in the eastern sky...not orange like sunrise, but blue. Light enough to yank Mr. Moon's shadow beside me away. That's alright...he's still shining bright and continues to offer up assistance along the way. For the last few miles, my thoughts shockingly turn to running and how to best spend my last big training weekend before the Kettle...3 weeks out. I decide it best to run long and slow for 30-40 miles on Friday then enjoy a few easy hours in the form of a recovery run on Saturday on the trails again. That, combined with lots of walking in downtown Cleveland on Sunday rooting lots of Vertical Runners through the Cleveland Marathon, should do just fine before I kick off my three-week-taper down to the Kettle.

Home at last, I'm not surprised one bit to find the family still asleep and undisturbed. After a gentle nod to Mr. Moon thanking him for the run, I duck inside to begin the other "half" of the day...that of dad, husband, and government worker. Deep down, though, a passion-driven runner through and through...and one thankful more and more every day...for every step, for every breath, for every mile, and every official and more so, unofficial finish line I cross.'ve got to have it >>> and with it, there are no limits. For me, I find that passion on the trails...and if you share that same passion with me, sit down, relax, crank up your speakers, and get your heart pumpin' while you share that passion with others in the following video by Matt Hart. Enjoy!

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

M-Cubed for 5/11/2009

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

- Congratulations to those who completed the Ice Age 50 Miler up in the Kettle Moraine National Forest on Saturday. I’m particularly interested in hearing about their experiences since that event was held on the same trail that the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run will be held on in a short 26 days. Vince, Brandon, Suzanne, Tanya…great job to you all! I talked to Vince who summed up the terrain in the Kettle Moraine National Forest. He confirmed all that I've heard on the discussion boards, had a great stay at the hotel I recommended and will also be using, and spoke optimistically on my behalf for my experience up there. I can't wait!

- Sometimes, stepping away from what is considered “normal” and “routine” can help ground you and help you appreciate what you have. Being away for a very short time did that this past week. I’ve been in such a “training mode” lately with much structure and routine that this “curve ball” really made me appreciate the “normal” and “routine.”

- It was good to see over 600 fellow Navy Supply Corps officers all in one place this past weekend. It is rare to get us all in one place together. We had speakers whom I’d all heard of but never seen in person. Every speaker was a high ranking flag officer in the admiral ranks. For you military types out there, I’m talking O-7 to O-9 and for you non-military types, these are the folks making the big decisions and answering to people like the Chief of Naval Operations who answers to President Obama. It was pretty awesome to hear from so many of them and they’re understanding/explanation of Supply Corps’ role in the Global War on Terror. As they say, we’re high demand, low density with regards to the two wars going on. My ticket will get “punched” to armor up in 2010.…..

- After a few days in the melting pot called “Orlando,” I think the next family vacation needs to be away from all the materialism, commercialism, and rush-rush-rush found there and in similar cities. I envision something besides the water…lakeside…oceanside…lots of trees…peaceful…(and perhaps some trails nearby where I don’t have to worry about live chickens being sold!)

- I heard that the new trail runs on Thursday nights are a hit with 15 runners who showed up last Thursday. If you haven’t heard about them, watch the VR Discussion Board and/or join the Facebook group to stay in the loop. Easy miles on the trails followed by some social time at a local watering hole is what’s in store. I hope to make it out to one of them soon.

- If I practice what I preach, then I know that fitness cannot be lost in one week. However, I will admit once again that it’s hard to believe it when you have such a cruddy running week. Even though I had one of my best weekends ever a week ago with my 30mile/30mile back-to-back, this last down week makes me feel totally out of whack. This week’s goal will be to get right back into it and make this week count. This weekend will mark 3 weeks out from the Kettle 100 and will also mark the beginning of my taper…after some long miles on Friday/Saturday. I can’t decide what to do yet but will firm up some plans soon. I’d like to include many hours on the trails and many of those in the dark. On Sunday, I’ll be in Cleveland rooting on my wife who will be walking the ½ marathon and rooting on every VR tech tee I see on the course. FYI: the Kettle’s registration is moving faster than ever before and they may have to invoke the race limit for the first time ever. The more the merrier! As of this morning, exactly 100 have registered.

- Speaking of registration numbers, 101 are signed up for Burning River now. There was a 3-4 month span there lately where BR100 was a "maybe" for me even though I've been registered since late last year. Well, that "maybe" has been erased and I'm definitely onboard for Burning River exactly 2 months after the Kettle. Burning River and I have a score to settle after last year's "experience." Revenge will be mine!

- Finally! I had a really good 10.2 mile run this morning around Rock Hill, SC. Rock Hill is just south of Charlotte, NC along I-77. So nice to be OUT of Orlando and back up north again. The fragrance of spring was so overpowering this morning it was like someone dropped one of the Bath and Body Works stores over my head for the run. Lots of different flowers and trees blooming down here. Rock Hill reminds me of what Colorado Springs was like when we lived there in 2001-2002 with the booming developments and strip plazas. This area being so close to Charlotte seems to still be in its growth phase even though the nation as a whole has pulled back. Overall, a really nice area and dare I say, a bit "blissful" to run in. I did find this one newly constructed park and stopped to snap a pic. My camera did survive today even though I was rained on for 7 much for that 10% chance of rain I read immediately before heading out at 5am. The best part? I don't even feel like I ran today...and would've loved to run for hours more if more pressing things didn't need driving another 8 hours today to Ohio.

- About 1/2 mile from the hotel this morning, my eye catches this little guy (see below) alongside the road...dead. But, even though his diameter isn't any bigger than that of a #2 pencil and he's no more than 8-10" long...and he's DEAD, he still made my heart skip a beat. I H A T E snakes!!! Then, not even 1/4 mile later, I find a completely flattened snake in the road, but clearly a good inch or more in diameter when he was alive and a few feet long. OK, this snake was most certainly dead but still, it freaked me out. Thank goodness no slithering reptiles crossed my asphalt path this morning!
Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Sale: Live Chickens

That’s what the sign read at 5am yesterday morning on Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, FL. I was out in the warm, balmy air early before the day kicked off at the 2009 U.S. Navy Supply Corps National Conference. OK….first, let’s skip back a few days so I can bring you forward to the chickens:

As an excuse for a mini-vacation with my family combined with a required trip to Orlando with the Navy, we hit the road Wednesday morning for a 16 hour road trip south. Being the “expert” planner that I try to be (that’s the ‘A’ personality type coming out in me), I estimated where we’d be around the 10 hour mark and shopped the hotels. That would put us south of Columbia, SC halfway to Charleston, SC in a town called Orangeburg. I ended up choosing the HOJO Express (Howard Johnson). It was about $59 with military discount and had decent ratings. About halfway there on Wednesday, I called down to make the reservation since we were on schedule. After I deciphered what the minimal-English-speaking clerk was saying, I made the reservation without coughing up my credit card number. I offered it thinking this was a requirement but all he’d accept was my phone number. (RED flag #1) As we got nearer, I just had a weird feeling in my gut like I should shop around for a different place to stay “just in case.” I did so, thanks to my Tom-Tom GPS, and found a few other good options close by. As we pulled into the HOJO parking lot that evening, we saw the following: “suspicious” looking people (that’s all the detail I’ll put into print!) hanging around on the two levels of the outside-entrance hotel rooms, old appliances supposedly victims of recent refurbishing, and a very empty parking lot. (RED flag #2) I played the part of the good reservation-maker and went in to ask to see the room just to confirm my gut. I walk in and see two filthy girls in clothes five sizes too small working behind the counter. They spoke English fine…the other guy must have gone home. They were sitting down watching an old TV on a milk crate. (RED flag #3) I asked to see the room and did so but with zero intention of staying there. I opened the room and not only did it stink, but it was dirty like it hadn’t been swept. I wasn’t about to check the sheets, either. I headed back to the lobby and let the girls know we were going to keep on driving. I wasn’t lying…it’s just that we were going to drive straight across the street to the Hampton Inn. I had called them earlier and the lady who answered was super nice and offered a 10% discount. We ended up staying there and were incredibly happy. In fact, that same general manager greeted us by name at breakfast the next morning. So was the $30 increase worth it to cross the street? Heck, yea!

I awoke dying to get some miles in. It had clearly rained overnight and lightning was dancing around in the clouds in the pre-dawn sky. So far, I’d only got in 10 miles all week and that was on ONE day…absolutely pathetic. So, in an effort to salvage the week in running, I went out hoping for at least 10 more before everyone got up. It was a high humidity, balmy, mid-70s morning. I did my best to map out a course online and headed towards downtown. From the very beginning, I felt like my head should be on a swivel rotating 360 degrees for security. I just didn’t feel safe. As I passed businesses, I made note of how each one had steel bars protecting them. I also noted the barbed wire around a few schools. I kept running just hoping it would get better (ya know…kinda like running through an injury, right?). It never really did until around 5 miles in, I came upon a park…a Memorial Gardens, to be exact. I headed on in for some mental relaxation and then turned around at the 6 mile point and re-traced my steps back. All-in-all, a miserable run…quick and fast-paced, but miserable. I am so used to my morning solitude-filled runs in my rural, country town where I can really relax and mentally slip away. Once back on the road, we arrived in Orlando six hours later and spent the evening at Sea World. Another benefit of holding a military ID is free admission for my entire family…it’s part of their Salute to Heroes program. It was a good evening capped off with third row seats at the Shamu show, “Believe” where we got drenched by Shamu. It was really, really good…my favorite part of the park.

With all the driving and walking around in the 95F heat at Sea World, I didn’t run on Friday morning. Instead, we were at the Magic Kingdom at 8am so my youngest daughter could celebrate her birthday with Cinderella by having “Breakfast with Cinderella” at the castle. While Marjie and my girls dined with royalty, I grabbed myself some Chick-Fil-A outside the park and killed some time until meeting back up at lunch. After a L O N G day, it all ended with the fireworks display over the castle at 9pm. It was really good and worthy of several pictures. My handy-dandy Canon did well in its night mode…here are the pictures.

So here we are full circle back to the chickens. I head out Saturday morning wanting miles more than anything since I only had a whopping 22 miles so far and that was only on two days. Once again, it was a run filled with paranoia as I was constantly passed by loud booming car stereos and people walking just staring me down…downright eerie. Then came the chickens: on the opposite side of the road, there was a group of…uh, how do I remain politically correct here…um…trouble makers. Let’s just say it was the same “group” that was hanging out at HOJO. They were sitting around on lawn chair besides a vending trailer…you know, the kind you see at the county fair selling elephant ears. Well, they weren’t selling powdered-sugar elephant ears! Nope! LIVE CHICKENS! Perhaps it was for a local cock-fighting tournament? Maybe chicken for some chicken burritos later that night? They were selling other animals as well but honestly, the chickens are all that stuck in my head. Oh yea, I also got yelled at by a rent-a-security-guard while passing through a Ford dealership (lots of lights = felt safe running through it). “Hey!”, I heard from behind me. I turned and looked and heard “We’re closed!” “Really?”, I shouted back…and kept on running. Please keep in mind it was about 5:30am. Back at the resort, 8 miles were logged, 30 for the week, and I was just plain crabby about the run. I run BECAUSE I’m crabby!!!….not to GET crabby!!!

Sunday is here, which marks day one of a new running week. I’m so glad last week is behind me. (regarding running, that is) We’ll be laying our heads south of Charlotte, NC tonight (NASCAR country!) before completing the trip tomorrow. I feel bad for Marjie today since it’s really nothing more than a travel day…while on Mother’s Day. However, she did relax poolside all morning at the resort while my conference wrapped up.

Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fall 2009 VR Training Program

(cross posted at VR Training)

Dare I say it? "Fall 2009." With Spring just recently being sprung in northeast Ohio, it's hard to believe that the Fall '09 VR Training Kickoff Meeting is only 2 weeks away. Join us on Wednesday, May 20th at 7pm at the Hudson Library.
With many spring marathons complete, we are coming up on the unofficial "end" to spring marathon season with the Cleveland Marathon only a short 11 days away. Believe it or not, if you are planning to run a fall marathon, you should be narrowing down your choices so you can start your training on schedule. As one of the group leaders with VR Training, I want to give you an objective summary of this fall's program. Between myself, Greg Dykes (other leader) and Vince Rucci (Vertical Runner/VR Training owner), we have somewhere between 60-80 marathon medals between us and several ultra-marathons. We all bring a very different background to the "table" and are all committed to see you reach your goals. As always, running with the group on a weekday or any scheduled weekend run is open to anyone regardless of them "officially" paying and entering the program. Those who participate via a fee is transparent to the runners around you. In fact, Greg and I don't even know. Your participation is between you and Vince at Vertical Runner. With that being said, it is my opinion that this fall's program is the most attractive to date regarding everything you get for what you pay for. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I'm always looking for the best value/quality proposition. In my opinion, this has it all. It's also open to anyone whether novice or veteran runner. Granted, it would be good for you to be able to run at least 5 or 6 miles before starting but the program is open to all. (disclaimer: I have absolutely no financial interest in VR Training or Vertical Runner)

2 options:

a) If you are running the Akron Marathon or 1/2 Marathon:

- Normal registration is $85.00. This year, they have done away with the free Brooks shoes to all finishers. Instead, you get an official Brooks Road Runner Marathon jacket, tech tee at registration, a year's subscription to Running Times, and all the goodies normally expected in your goodie bag.

- VR Training Program including your Akron Marathon registration is $135. So what do you get for the extra $50? Is it worth it? (here is the flyer for the $135 program)

> VR Training Tech Tee valued at between $30-40. Look around...someone is always wearing one on Saturday and there will be a sea of them at any local race.
> 10% off shoes and accessories and 15% off socks and apparel. Do the math: shoes cost between $95 and $145. There's $10-$15 right there not including the socks, apparel, etc. OK, I've already justified the $ for the intangibles...
> Personalized training plan built uniquely for you by Vince Rucci. You'll answer several questions regarding your goals, time availability, etc. and he will create a custom plan for you to get you to the finish line. Valuable? Absolutely.
> Supporting your local running store who has given so much to the local running community and continues to give. This one is near and dear to my heart and it truly matters. I moved here in 2002...pre-Vertical Runner. Ask any of the local longtime runners to describe the pre-VR community against the current running community. There is a huge and positive difference. Plus, their new store is awesome!

b) 2nd Option: you're not running the Akron Marathon but want to participate in the program minus the race registration.

- the fee is $75 and everything else still applies
- training plan will be tailored to your target event

It is really exciting to be a part of such a vibrant running community here in northeast Ohio and honestly, I believe we are only at the early stages. There is much more to come! Let me encourage you to take full advantage of our free Cuyahoga Valley National Park, our multiple training runs (always posted on the VR Discussion Board by multiple local runners), and all of the local running talent our area has to offer.

One last thing: at the kickoff meeting in two weeks, Jim Barnett will speak. He is the Race Director for the Akron Marathon and has shaken every hand of every finisher of the Akron Marathon to date. (that's a lot of Purell!!!) Hear about the race's past and also how it has evolved since its inception. The Akron Marathon is a constantly evolving event that is tweaked each year to make it better for everyone so I'm already excited to hear what is new for us in 2009.

Happy Spring to you all and run strong out there! I'll see you out there on the roads and the trails!

Monday, May 4, 2009

M-Cubed for 5/4/2009

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

- First off, a big CONGRATULATIONS to the many, many local runners who ran the Pittsburgh and Flying Pig Marathons yesterday! Of particular note, an even bigger CONGRATS to my brother, Bill, for completing his first marathon at the Flying Pig! That is him on the left with his daughters at the finish. Not only did he finish it and finish it strong, but he ran the 2nd half only 28 SECONDS slower than the first half...a super job. His finishing time was 3hrs, 49min, 24sec. E-Speed, the 3:30 pacer was only seconds behind him. He didn't technically run with the pace group, but he could hear E-Speed speaking her motivation all marathon long! Thanks, E-Speed!

- My day to relax, recuperate, and perhaps take an afternoon nap yesterday was instead spent sunning myself while mowing the lawn, chopping sloppily at some rotting tree stumps, and filling bird feeders. While outside, Marjie was inside "installing" this bracket she got me about a year ago. Imagine this: a wrought-iron hanging plant holder x 5...attached to a bracket that allows them all to pivot. Her idea was to give me a place to display all of my marathon medals...23 of them to be exact. Downstairs in my "man corner" (you know, the area some men are kicked to in the basement with unfinished walls and a cement floor...a place for all our "stuff") is where she mounted it. It's pretty cool, I must admit. Talk about bringing up all kinds of memories all at once. I can see nearly all of them just by moving my head around a bit. I can remember every finish, some incredibly awesome experiences, some not-so awesome experiences, but all of them special to me. If you look close, some of you undoubtedly have some of these exact same medals for yourself. Recognize any?

- Yesterday was also a day I was really missing the traditional road marathon. All of this 100-mile trail training has kept me from road marathons for a short time but like I've said in the past, nothing replaces the feeling of standing around at the start of a marathon and then crossing the finish line and having that medal draped around my neck. I was joking with Steve W. on Saturday that I've lost count of how many UNofficial marathons I run week in and week out during training. Nearly every weekend has had a run of 26.2 or longer in it lately and this past weekend, there were 2 back-to-back. I always shout "there's another marathon!" as my Garmin clicks by 26.20 miles during the training run. Still, it doesn't steal anything away from the experience of the road marathon. I can't wait to get back to collecting medals! (But first, I need to collect one Kettle from Peru and a buckle from the Burning River!)

- An inventory of myself physically from head to toe after Friday/Saturday's almost 12 hours on the trails reveals.....nothing! I have zero issues with my feet, anything muscular, overall energy levels, or anything else that would reveal a warning sign. Absolutely nothing to keep me from heading out on an 8-10 miler around home this morning! I am so thankful for both a very successful training weekend and it being the last back-to-back training weekend.

- 33 days until the Kettle. Enough, already...let's get this thing here and get it goin'! I'm ready.

- For all you marathoners who ran a marathon this weekend or recently, this video is for you. Perfect for the day after a marathon. Enjoy!

Have a great first week of May and Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Joyfully Putzing

I got to sleep in today...until 2:40am. Yesterday was 2:20am but I was rushing so much to make the 4am start, I gave myself a little buffer for the 4:30am start today. Kurt "O-Pod" slept in past his alarm time so around 4:40am, myself, Mark, and Kathleen took off towards Virginia Kendall from Pine Lane on the Valley Bridle Trail. Kathleen is the one who fell last year on the piano keys and had a branch impailed in the rear of her skull and is running Burning River this year. Mark is pacing her. We took it nice-n-easy and got back in time for the 6:30am meeting time for the next batch of runners...but not before both Kathleen and Mark ate a little dirt and mud on Salt Run. Sorry, guys!

At 6:30am, Patty, Kurt, Steve M., and myself headed out for the 18.5 mile loop I came up with that took us along the Buckeye Trail to Boston Store, to the Brandywine Falls, then a short connector over to the Valley Bridle Trail. From there, we followed it to where it intersects Riverview and Snowville Roads. From that point, we picked up the Buckeye Trail and headed on back to Pine Lane. I had my camera today since no rain was forecast and snapped a few good pics. There's this one section in between Snowville and Columbia Roads that has good pine tree coverage and runs creekside. It's one of my favorite areas in all the CVNP. I slowed Steve down a bit, snapped a few, then got our tails moving again.Patty was cracking me up today. Steve and I kept putting distance on Patty then she would catch up to us out of nowhere and then thanked us for slowing down and waiting for her. "We weren't slowing down! You sped up and came out of nowhere!" Out came her comment: "You're just putzing around today." Moa? Me? OK, to be safe, I looked up that word to see if it is actually a word and sure enough, it is...and defined as "To behave in an idle manner." Well, that is one way I've never been described on the trails. Usually, I'm being told to "Slow down!" Well, I had a great time today "putzing" around and enjoying the trails. BUT, once back at Pine Lane and adding an additional 3 miles on the Valley Bridle to get to 30 miles, my time was only 15min longer than yesterday at 6hrs, 3min so yea, a bit slower than yesterday but that's what I get for "joyfully putzing." Patty was actually one of the first runners I met when I moved back to Ohio in 2002. She ran with a Saturday morning group led by Bill Mann. That was the "chubby" Nick that existed back then (50+ lbs heavier) and pre-Vertical Runner. Patty still remembers those runs as do I. That group was my introduction to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

All day long, I was looking forward to one section more than any other...that being 1/2 mile out before returning to the Boston Store: the Rollercoaster Hill. I've recorded this rapid descent before but I thought with Spring springing on the trails, I'd give you the Mile 53 of 60 version today. It's very amateur and I apologize in advance for the side-to-side shaking. I was trying to "float" it with my right hand and hold two handheld water bottles in my left. You'll get the idea, though.

So that's last back-to-back training weekend before the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run 35 days from today. This was the 3rd or 4th back-to-back. It started with a 15mi/20mi back-to-back and graduated to this weekend's 30/30. In each instance, the 2nd day felt better, easier, and was more fun. Today was no exception. I finished with less soreness and many more miles in the tank. I honestly felt like I had at least another 20 in the tank. In my opinion, these are all good signs that my training has gone well and significantly increased my endurance and especially my recovery times. It's almost as if I don't need recovery days anymore...that is, unless the long run is on asphalt which is far less forgiving than the soft-n-supple trail bed. From here on in to the Kettle, it's pretty simple: this next week will be absent of trails as my family will be heading to Florida for a short mini-vacation and a Navy conference. The next weekend I am considering doing one more 6-8 hour trail run on one day...3 weeks out. It's taper time after that. All in all, I feel incredibly ready. I feel I've put in the work and put everything to the test with successful results. (you know I love my boiled potatoes!)

35 days and counting...

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, May 1, 2009

First 30 of Last Back-to-Back

2:20am is a time so sacred that it should not be interfered with by an alarm. It is meant for deep sleep. However, every once in awhile, it's time to do the uncomfortable in order to prepare for what lies ahead. I clearly remember being woke up at 2am by the steady downpour on our roof. "You up?", I asked Marjie. "Yes," she replied. "Do you hear that rain?! Oh geez..." I fell back asleep until 2:20am then popped up out of bed, brewed the ritualistic espresso, made up my bottles of Heed and Perpetuem, bagged up my potatoes, sent out May's WRTR (Western Reserve Trail Running) Newsletter and headed on out. Today's plan was to run the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K course in reverse starting at Pine Lane. It poured rain all the way there but as soon as I hit the stopped....and never started again.

One thing about running in the valley late night or very, very early is that the hundreds of deer linger literally everywhere. They're roadside, in parking lots, in peoples' front yards, standing right in the middle of the trail...everywhere. Thanks to my new high-power headlamp, I saw more little green eyes of deer than ever before. I'd put the number at no less than 100 deer today. The greatest concentration was at the Boston Store (mile 4 and 26) where at least 25 of them were either standing or laying down in the adjacent lawn. They rarely run...they just stare right back at my light.

Heading out at 4am after getting up shortly after 2am, the body isn't quite down with what it's doing. About 2 miles in this morning, I was seeing spots...the kind of spots you see after you look at a bright light...but I hadn't looked at a light so this was really messing with me. It was the perfect recipe to catch my foot on a root or rock and plant my face in the mud before me. Luckily, it only lasted about a mile. Also in the dark, a bright headlamp also tends to attract bats and they'll fly all around you darting through the light. They never get too close but I'd hate to have any bugs on me which might attract them to my skull for a snack. I also encountered another animal around mile 17.5 which was on the way back after making my turn-around in Brecksville. I was coming down this one hill when all of a sudden, a big fat turkey, which was tucked close to a fallen log, took to immediate flight clearly being spooked by me. Spooked by me?! Heck, it spooked ME! Every hair on me standed on end! I'd never seen a turkey fly before but it's chubby body hit branches on the way up to safety and sloppily landed on a branch not too far away. Then, about 1 mile before getting back to Snowville Rd. (about mile 19), a black and yellow turtle was on his own little trail scoot...right down the middle of the trail. He was just a bit larger than a softball and quickly tucked his head in his shell when I came by.

I also took one pretty hard fall. With so much rain, there was lots of mud. As I was coming down a slope to a water crossing around mile 12, I stepped on a very slippery spot and both legs went airborne to the left and I landed, right hip first, in the creek, in the water, on a bed of jagged rocks. Thanks once again to my handheld bottle for saving my hand from getting cut up. The natural reflex is to put your hand out so my bottles have saved me numerous time by provided a soft and cushioned landing. My right knee, however, got a nice cut and is a little swollen. That was the only damage done physically today..not too bad given the muddy trail conditions.

Thanks to Jim Chaney who was waiting at Boston Store to join me for miles 26-29 before turning back to pick up his car at the store. Jim is nursing an injury and getting ready to start his Burning River 100 Mile training so was just looking for some therapeutic time in the mud. It's always good to share the trails and break the silence with some good conversation. I got back to Pine Lane in 5hrs, 48min but first washed up ankle deep in the last water crossing about 1/2 mile from the finish.

After some lunch at Panera in Hudson, I zipped on over to Vertical Runner's new store in Hudson. They were closed yesterday for the move and re-opened today. Vince had considered joining me this morning but it turns out he didn't leave the store until 5am! I gotta tell you...I LOVE the new store. They're still getting things organized but it's a much bigger space and it's decor is perfect. Hardwood ceilings, old brick walls, and a combination of wood and carpet floors. The ceilings are really high and the front windows let in tons of light. I really missing helping out and working at the store. Here's a pic I snapped on my way out. Pretty nice, huh?!
So tomorrow I'll hit the trails again at 4:30am. Believe it or not, I'm expecting about 4 others as well and then more at 6:30am. The plan is for another 30 but I'm leaving it open-ended as far as that distance. I want at least 20 and would be thrilled with the full 30. I'm just going to see how it goes. 20 is more than enough for a back-to-back but I'm a sucker for being out there so the more, the better! After that, I'll back off in mileage next week as my family travels to Florida for a mini-vacation and a Navy conference then the following weekend (3 weeks to Kettle Moraine), I'll do one long 30-35 mile run, but no back-to-back. After that, it's taper time to the Kettle! I love what Karen S. e-mailed me yesterday...she was talking about my training and the Kettle and said: "You're going to steam the Kettle!" I sure do hope so, Karen!

Happy Trails, everyone!