Monday, September 28, 2009

M-Cubed for 9/28/09

Monday Morning Musings for September Twenty-Eighth, 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 am so thankful the Akron Marathon is behind me. I loved the local buzz building up to it, standing at the starting line, and shaking Jim Barnett's glove-covered hand yet again. Pretty cool finisher's hat, too! 3rd Akron in a row! The only other marathon I've run 3 times is Richmond. That race from 2000 still holds my PR captive: 3:21. That's the one marathon finish that actually got me to tear up! My goal was to break 3:30 for the first time that day. Thanks to Chef Bill for the pre-race photo on St. Bernard's steps. That's my reflective stripe on my tech tee giving you the light beacon up top. So many good friends in this photo!
- So did standing on my feet for over 9hrs at the marathon expo cause my troubles at Akron. Perhaps. Would I work the expo again? Oh yea! I had a lot of fun seeing everyone and helping newbies with their marathon questions. With Booth #1, people couldn't get by me without making eye contact so it was cool to see so many friends there. The number #1 question? It had to be about lubrication. I sold a ton of BodyGlide. Easy to sell something I've been using for over 12 years and is the reason my nipples bled only the 1997 Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, first marathon. Like I always say: "You only need to bleed once before you start using this stuff!" I also sold all of VR's handheld water bottles. I tend to know a lot about those, too. Oh yea, I got a promo Bobcat Trail Marathon cotton t-shirt, too. Gotta promote the new trail marathon here in Ohio! (yes, I will be there ready to get dirty)

- My girls were with Marjie's parents most of yesterday on a mini road-trip so we just went lazy around the house. I took the opportunity to kick up my feet on the ottoman and work on October's WRTR Newsletter. I really thought September was the biggest to date but October is chock full of more information than I've ever put out at once since the newsletter started in January this year. No preview-nuggets today, though. What's really cool is that I now have over 400 who directly get the newsletter and it also goes out to hundreds via the UltraList nationwide. People have really fallen in love with trails here in NE Ohio. It's really fun to be a part of it all.

- Speaking of the trails in NE Ohio, did anyone else see the PBS special last night on the Cuyahoga Valley National Park? I think I fell in love all over again with that place. It was so cool to see the history of the area, how it became a National Park, and everything that is going on today...much of which I had no idea about. Heck, even our own local celebrity, Vince Rucci, owner of Vertical Runner in Hudson, was interviewed for it! There are more showings this week before it is released on DVD and On-Demand. Here's the link to their website which includes remaining showtimes this week. It's final broadcast is this Sunday at 9pm, by the way.

- One cool thing about writing the newsletter each month for WRTR is getting to learn more and more about not only local trail runners but also the gear I feature each month. Last month, I talked about injury prevention. To do that, I went up to Vertical Runner and tried out the stuff I was going to write about. I knew about most of it but only had experience with "The Stick." The thing I fell in love with and have since purchased was the overly simplistic foam roller. I absolutely sold myself on it. So simple to look at but so effective in its use. By slowly rolling your muscles across it, using body weight as the pressure, it breaks up the scar tissue in and around your muscle fibers thereby flushing the toxins into your blood stream which promotes healing of your muscles. This combined with steady water intake creates the optimum environment for healing. I've now made the roller part of my regular routine and immediately started using it after the marathon on my right calf. It's already made huge improvements since Saturday and I'm hugely optimistic about how I'll feel at 5am on October 10th. Go get one! Prevention is the key!

- I might go "asphalt-less" for the next 12 days. We'll see. I'm going to go a bit overboard on rest which will surprise many of you...if that actually comes true. I'm confident in this: I can achieve absolutely nothing from running in the next 12 days except for warming up the muscles. Zero training benefit can come from it. However, I could do lots of damage. So, I may just head out to the trails for a few 45min - 60min runs just to get some soft dirt beneath my feet. To that end, I'm hoping Jim C. posts a good CRTR Trail Run for this Thursday night. I'm in the mood for that plus a little Winking Lizard afterwards. Perhaps we could have a HUGE showing this week as we all return to the trails after Akron? Yes?

- I love not working Fridays. I haven't worked one in a month and won't work another one until late October. I still dislike going to work on Mondays. It simply stinks. Period. Oh well, my co-workers could possibly endure one more "foam roller demonstration," I suppose. :-)

- I'm finally starting to dig in deep to the Oil Creek website and learning about the area and the course. Drop bag planning is on tap and I'll share my plans as they develop. I'll wrap up the race for you now in one sentence: It takes a 3.5mi trek from Titusville Middle School (race start/finish/headquarters) to the trails where it does a 50K loop three times with one-way 1.25mi treks to the middle school each time we pass, and ending on an almost 8mi final loop to finish off the 100 miles. Total elevation gain of 17,785 feet, too. I CAN NOT wait!!!

- Did you see the 64% "waxing gibbous" Mr. Moon last night? Since I love the moon so much, I thought I'd better talk about it correctly and learning the names of the phases. The "waxing" phase is the one where it's growing in brightness every night. The "waning" phase is the sad part...when it's going away. :-( For Oil Creek, it'll be 58% waning gibbous. Curious, too? Here are the "phases of the moon" and here is the spot you can plug in any date for any area to see what it will be along with rise and set times. Pretty cool, eh?!

- My Dirty Girl Gaiters should be here any day!!! Woo hoo! I'll be wearing them for the first time at Oil Creek. Hopefully, I can keep out all of the debris from getting in my shoes and not have to take them off a single time. I got the "blue flame" pattern and you can be sure I'll post a pic once I get them on. You won't be able to miss me with those things on! Hopefully, they'll scare the bears away at Oil Creek along with my handy-dandy Bear Bell.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails! Let's get out there and get dirty!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marathon #24 is History

Great day today at the Akron Marathon. My 24th marathon and 3rd Akron Marathon. No blow-by-blow account of the race but I'll give you the highlights.

I got home kind of late last night from the expo after working with Vertical Runner from Noon-9pm...on my feet. I finally got to bed around 10:15pm and up at 4am. I felt quite good and the drive to Akron was a breeze. After hanging out at the Finish Line in Canal Park for awhile (see photo below), we head on up to the Starting Line to meet up with everyone else at the old church steps for a group photo and some well-wishes. I kissed Marjie goodbye and wished her luck in her 1/2 marathon then found my way into the throng of adrenalin-pumped runners in the starting corral. A really good prayer followed by the singing of our National Anthem followed. Wow, she was GOOD!!! The flag high above the Inventors Hall of Fame was blowing perfectly in the wind. I loved it.
Right on time, the bells sounded and we were off! Through 14 miles I ran between a 8:15 - 8:30 pace hanging out in between the 3:40 and 3:50 pace groups. On the Towpath section, I met up with Hope and we ran together for awhile and E-Speed's 3:40 group was in front of us. Well, just as I was finishing up the Towpath section around Mile 15, my right calf started to act up. I have never had one single issue with that muscle. NEVER. The pain was between the lower part of the meaty part of the muscle and traveled to the Achilles. I absolutely had to back way off. From this point on, I was all about salvaging my 24th and not doing any damage that could sideline me. So, from that point on to the finish, I inserted walking breaks where I took full strides to stretch out that muscle. Of course, I greatly slowed and finished in 4hrs, 8min, 22sec. Definitely one of my slower marathons but still another finish line and one on my home turf. Afterwards, Marjie took my traditional photo outside Canal Park and I thought it would be neat to make a collage out of the last 3 years.

Some highlights from the day:

- Marjie and Amy bested their previous times at the 1/2 marathon distance. They typically walk the 1/2 marathon but have been incorporating more running (insert me grinning ear to ear) during the races. They blew their Cleveland 1/2 Marathon time out of the water and I think they are considering running a 1/2 marathon completely sometime next year.

- Bill (my brother) set a PR today in his 2nd marathon after this past Spring's Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy. Akron is a tough course to PR on so well done! His wife Jaime ran her first 1/2 marathon today, too! All great stuff!!! (yet another grin to insert right here)

- Jim and Bekah (youngest brother and his wife) participated in a 5-person relay today and did very well. Neither ran a year ago, either. (OK, my face hurts now from's just so cool that we ALL participated in the Akron Marathon and 1/2 Marathon today! I have no more siblings, by the way.)

- Still staying positive and praising Him when things got ugly for me. I instantly recalled Casting Crowns' song "Praise You in this Storm" and I did just that. Good, bad, really doesn't matter! Oh yea, I just got tickets to see them in Akron on October 30th. FINALLY!!!!

- Getting to see all of my running peeps. Always good to see you all and share these events together. It was also great to finally meet Hope and run with her on the Towpath. Great job out there, Hope!

- The "Mr. Moon" call-out by the Inca Princess as I left the Towpath and headed into Sand Run. YOU ROCK!!!!! The smile lasted at least 1/2 mile.

- Heading straight to a soccer game from the race to see my daughter tear up the field. You should have seen me shivering as I poured cold water over my head trying to the caked on salt off before I slipped into some dry clothes. Brrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!

- Hot soaking bath where I nearly fell asleep...ahhhh.....

After the bath, I got right to work on my legs, focusing on my right calf. I'm totally sold on the effectiveness of the foam roller and used it again today. Flush the crud out and let healing begin! Hey, I don't have all the time in the world, you know....less than 14 days until I'll be lost on the trails of Oil Country!

Congrats to all who participated today and if you volunteered, a big hearty THANK YOU!!! All of these events are impossible without YOU! Thank you!

Happy Trails, everyone! (no more asphalt!!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Objective #2: On Deck

I think that's a fitting title for Objective #2 out of my 4 week, 157+ mile, 3 event plan, seeing that this Saturday's Akron Marathon finishes square on top of the Akron Aeros' ball field in Canal Park in downtown Akron. Great buzz has been flying all over NE Ohio leading up to the race and Mother Nature even seems to be cooperating. Temps should stay in the 60s and if we're lucky, it'll rain a bit. For me, that's like running in air conditioning and nothing could be better. Not so good for spectators but for me, bring on the rain. Extra lube, of course.

Believe it or not, I've not run one single marathon in 2009. I have run several training runs in excess of 26.2 miles but I haven't actually pinned on a bib number and toed the line of a marathon this year. If I'm going to do one, I'm really happy it's this one. Out of 23 marathon finishes, I'd rank Akron near the top of my favorites along with Richmond, Flying Pig, and Steamtown. It's just such a blast to be a part of. I can't wait for the moments before the start where endorphins are at a fever pitch, the sun will barely be up, and cowbells will be ringing as we take off across the Y-Bridge. Even with all the ultras and hundreds of miles on the trails this year, nothing is quite like the good 'ol marathon. It was my first running "love" and I'll always return. It's always pretty special to me personally this year because both of my brothers, their wives, and Marjie are all participating. ALL of them! Marjie is run/walking the 1/2 marathon with "Agent" Bower, Bill is running his 2nd marathon after Flying Pig this past Spring and his wife is running the 1/2 marathon, and my youngest brother, Jim is running a leg of the 5-person relay that he put together. His wife is running one of the legs as well. A couple of years back, NO ONE ran. Now, they all do. I'm happy.

I stumbled on this video on YouTube tonight. It's actually put together quite nicely and captures the spirit of the Akron Marathon well. The front-yard parties you see are in the 19-22 mile stretch leading up to Stan Hywet Hall. I love running through there. I'm actually in the video as well as I pass through the Akron University campus around Mile 10. I have no idea who made this video but it's great!

Update since YUT-C: my philosophy this week has been to evaluate the need to run before every urge to go run...and there's been plenty. I took Sunday off completely and only ran twice more since. One day for 4 miles and another for 3 miles. There was absolutely nothing beneficial to gain from running this week outside of loosening up the muscles to promote blood flow and healing. That combined with the foam roller to work out some kinks and lots of water, I feel really, really good. Lots of rest has worked well. It was pretty tough this morning not to run...I got up in time to run, stood in the kitchen just thinking: "Should I run? Will I really benefit AT ALL?" I decided I wouldn't so I passed. I also think being on my feet for 9hrs at the Expo with Mizuno and Vertical Runner the night before the marathon could take its toll on me. It's very easy to think during the final hours of a taper that you're not doing enough. That's your mind playing tricks on you and it should absolutely be ignored at all costs. Don't worry...your body will remember what to do when that gun sounds at 7am, Saturday. Trust me, it will.

My plan is to simply run comfortably on Saturday and not push for a PR or anything. Focus on the ultimate goal (an Oil Creek 100 Mile finisher's buckle in my hand) will constantly be front and center in my mind during the marathon. NO running hard! NONE! I'm guessing I'll finish sometime between 3:40 and 4hrs. Is that wide enough a prediction for ya? Afterwards for 13 days, it's going to be all eyes on the prize...OIL CREEK. I cannot wait to escape for 24+ hours into the fall foliage of the old oil country of northwest Pennsylvania. Ahhhh....memories will be made.

Good luck and please, HAVE FUN if you are running in any part of the Akron Marathon this weekend! If you don't have fun, it's not worth it!

Happy TRAILS, everyone!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

YUT-C 50K Race Report

As Race #8 of the 2009 Western Reserve Trail Running Race Series and being the WRTR Newsletter Editor, it's good that I decided to run YUT-C once again this year. Out of the 8 series races thus far, this was only my 4th, and I won't be in anymore for 2009. YUT-C, or the "Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic" celebrated it's 5th Anniversary this past Saturday on the trails of Mill Creek Park nestled in between Youngstown and Boardman, Ohio, just west of the Ohio/PA border in northeast Ohio. It is organized by NEO Trail, a grassroots trail-running club and is directed by Bob "Gombu" Combs and heavily assisted by Jim "Slim" Harris, Brian "Pebble" Musick, and Bill Losey. Gombu placed a pretty big emphasis on keeping the event low-key but focused on excellent organization, top-notch volunteers, and improving the evolving trail systems within Mill Creek Park. As a multi-100 mile finisher himself, he embodies the "spirit" of the ultra-marathoner and does his best to convey and share his passion to everyone who toes the line at the Old Log Cabin at Mill Creek Park.

One thing I really was looking forward to on race morning was driving east towards Youngstown at sunrise. Just like last year, the sun was cracking the horizon just as I entered Youngstown and just like last year, I held my camera out my sunroof for a photo. No better way to start the day!

Milling around the Old Log Cabin at the start, it was good to quickly catch up with old friends and new friends alike whom I'd never met in person and pick up my goody bag which again contained a high quality tech tee. This year, La Sportiva supplied the tech tees. A record crowd gathered for both the 50K and 25K this year which went right in line with the growing demand for trail-running events in northeast Ohio. In all, 119 started the event. After a few brief words from Gombu and his "old-school" method of starting the race (a simple "Go!"), we were off. (photos from this point on are all courtesy of Pebble who has also published over 130 pictures on Facebook...below is a group of us before the start)

I find YUT-C easiest to describe by thinking about a figure 8. By starting at the bottom of the eight and working clockwise first, that's essentially the first 4 miles to the Covered Bridge which is the main aid station for the event (the intersecting part of the number 8). The 50K runners will pass through here 5 times. That first section has some gorgeous scenery along Lake Cohasset and eventually encounters the "Monkey Hills." These hills are so steep in sections that you are nearly dragging your knuckles on the ground to get up them. To add to the difficulty, they are fresh trails with very loose dirt and some very steep descents thrown in. On a wet day, it's slicker and more dangerous than ever. After many ups and downs, the last steep climb is celebrated by greeting the "Love Log"...a log you essentially have to "love" to get over. Once past here, it's a nice decline down to the road and eventually to Lanterman's Mill. As we approached the Mill, you go up and down many wooden boardwalks up over the water and under rock me, the most gorgeous section in all the course. Once the Mill is in sight, the Covered Bridge awaits and it's time to refuel. Thanks to Pebble for catching this photo of me the 2nd time that I came in.

So far, I was feeling pretty darn good. As this was an event more like a stepping stone for me, I was supposed to be taking it easy. Racing was not permitted! Still, a bib number was pinned on which has uncontrollable mental side effects. With that being said, I came up with the idea that I'd run strong and steady for the first 25K and then treat the second half like I was running a 100 miler which of course I will be in less than 3 weeks. Like my rationalization? Us ultra-runners can always make sense out of the senseless.

After leaving the Covered Bridge and grabbing some PB&J, salt tabs, and electrolytes, I headed for the loop around Lake Newport. (Pic at right is typical ultra fare and what was found at the Covered Bridge Aid Station) Think back to the figure 8. We're now traveling up the top right side of the 8. The course does the top circle of the 8 twice and each loop is 4 miles, of course passing through the Covered Bridge each time. This section has 3/4 mile of asphalt on it on the east side, has some very rocky, technical sections, and the rest is gentle, rolling, rooty trail. It's a good breather of sorts after conquering the Monkey Hills. I had the pleasure of running with Pebble's brother, Jeff, and 100-miler Mark from a couple hours south of Youngstown. Mark and I ran the Burning River 100 together a short 7 weeks ago. He was also down at the Mohican 100 in June. It was great to catch up and spend some quality time with another "sane" runner like myself. :-) (Eventually after leaving Mark and Jeff behind, they caught me on the final stretch and dusted me!)

Finishing the top loop around Lake Newport twice and seeing those fine volunteers at the Covered Bridge for the 3rd time, I headed back to the Old Log Cabin, or that "fat" part of the number 8 on the right side thus completing my numerical explanation of the YUT-C course and the 25K (15.6 mile point). From this point on, it's 2 loops of the "fat" part of the 8. The Lake Newport loop in no more. Essentially, two sub-8 mile loops around Lake Cohasset.

Remember the game plan from earlier? My rationalization? Well, I arrived at the 25K point in 2hrs, 37min which translates into a 5:15 50K if run at the same pace. Clearly, I "raced" the first 25K...sort of. Time to shift into 100 mile mode. I brought the pace down and focused on slow, consistent, forward movement. I told Jeff earlier when he asked me what I thought I'd run today and I said between 5:45 and 6:15 and I intended to do just that. Unfortunately for my toes, that meant day-dreaming and not paying attention to the surface in front of me...that being rocky and rooty! Illustration: you know that thing at amusement parks where the big 'ol tough guy (not me) picks up the sledge hammer and slams the base, trying to ring the bell in order to pick out his favorite stuffed pink teddy bear? OK. You know those lights that travel upwards towards the bell? Imagine those lights being the nerve shockwave that I felt when I severely caught my right foot on a rock. I felt a shock of electricity so clearly identifiable that went from my toes of my right foot, up to my waist, across my pelvis, up my left side to my shoulder, and ended in my left ear. YOWSERS! I was fortunate that I caught myself before I got all bloodied up on the ground. That wasn't the last near-miss but it was the hardest one of the day. Speaking of blood, check out John DeWalt's arm at the right. This guy is the epitomy of hard core. He is 73 years old and just completed the Hardrock 100...again. (another reason I can't stand people who complain or give me the excuse of being too old to run) Anyway, he fell in such a way that his skin got peeled right off his arm...probably about 3" long by about 1" tall. The skin just hung there. Yes, he stopped running the race and eventually covered it up. He definitely won the "Best Blood" award! Anyway, I finished another loop (23-24 miles total) and charged on for the last go-around. Luckily, the cool air was being trapped and contained quite well by the thick woods and weather conditions remained dry and perfect from start to finish. Still, the roots and rocks remained and continued to give me wake-up calls. Arriving back at the finish line, the clock read 5hrs, 56min, 42sec. I was dead on target and practically an hour faster than last year's time where was I stung by 3 bees at Mile ONE! It was a lot warmer last year, too.

Afterwards, the whole gang was at the finish line and I expressed my thanks to everyone I could find and consumed some taquitos, pizza, and lasagna. YUM! Great finish line food in fine NEO Trail style. Not surprisingly, the official results were published only 5 hours later. Gotta love it!

I gained a new appreciation for YUT-C this year. I've been so consumed by the trails of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, my normal training ground, that this course's differences were very pronounced to me. I think it's safe to say I know the overwhelming majority of the trails of the CVNP like the back of my hand and I know of none of them which compare to the rockiness and technical nature of that found in Mill Creek Park. It's nothing like the mountain trails of Virginia, I know, but it was refreshing to be on a more "mental" and technical trail...for a change. From what I've heard, this was the perfect thing I needed for the Oil Creek 100 in 19 days.

All-in-all, a super day on the trails with some of the very best people on Planet Earth that I know. Thanks to all who ran or volunteered for this event! It lived up to everything that I've been preaching about for months. I'll certainly be back for more in the future and for other NEO Trail events. For now, it's a quick recovery to the Akron Marathon this Saturday then the 14 day countdown to the Oil Creek 100.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Quick Note...

It's one of those mornings and if I didn't need to eat, shower, and go to work, I'd write a nice, long, pre-dawn-run inspired post....but alas, no such time to do such a thing, so I resort to bullets:

- I'm mid-taper and ready to rock out YUT-C this Saturday. Weather forecast is perfect. The real chance of rain isn't for another week. The registration list continues to grow and I'm hearing whispers of folks who plan on showing up on race morning and registering. It WILL be a perfect morning to spend hours on the trails of Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.

- I'm also bursting at the seams with energy. If you could ask my co-workers, they'd attest to the same. Typical "side effect" of dropping the mileage down before an event. Add in some super-concentrated espresso and you have a super-charged ultra-runner who....can't run. Dangerous.

- My morning run: only 4 miles. 2 shooting stars in the western sky. Mr. Moon...a sliver of harvest moon color, laying on his back. Millions of stars filling the sky with constellation after constellation easily visible. What a shame that so many never get to see this stuff because they're at home sleeping. Sorry, I'm no advocate for sleeping in and waking up just in time to bolt out the door to go to work or get the kids on the bus. There's a lot better way to start the day and bear witness to the gifts that await just outside the door. You want inspiration? It's RIGHT ABOVE YOU.

- Marjie is getting a pink Dyson. Yes, they make such a thing. This should be interesting. Don't worry, I'll take some pictures of the unveiling when the UPS man shows up with it...that is, if he doesn't change his uniform to pink before getting it to our door. Sheesh...

Happy Hump Day, y'all! Happy Trails, too!

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW! What a ride!"

- unknown

Monday, September 14, 2009

M-Cubed for 9/14/2009

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

- It's great when the grocery shopping and the lawn can get mowed BEFORE the weekend so the weekend is free for everything-family with no to-do lists. It was one of those weekends highlighted by my family's first trip to Kent's 16th Annual Art in the Park. 95 local artists, 2 stages with local musical acts and artistic folks, a kids' craft area, and some good food. We had some kettle corn and bought a few pieces of $1 pizza to support the local Boy Scout troop. I think we spent about 3-4 hours out there. It was a really nice, relaxing time on a brilliant day.

- Another 4-day work-week this week. I love these non-5 day weeks. Friday is my normal every-other-Friday off and the day before Objective #1, the YUT-C 50K. YUT-C is a really fun ultra-marathon with the cream-of-the-crop in local ultra talent. It's got a different "feel" to it as compared to some other local events. Not a good or bad thing...just different. I'm looking forward to 3 trips up and over the Monkey Hills, circumnavigating the lakes of Mill Creek Park multiple times, and seeing new and familiar faces of good friends. After YUT-C, I'll employ a week of recover/taper to the Akron Marathon 7 days later, Objective #2. No time goals for Akron this year. If I dare race Akron, which is hard NOT to, by the way...I should be shot on site. No better way to sabotage Objective #3 and the grand prize of 2009, a 3rd 100 mile finish at Oil Creek two weeks after the Akron Marathon. Ahhhhh.....this is exciting.

- Anyone see the sousaphone player dot the "I" at the Ohio State Buckeye game on Saturday night? It's a huge tradition at "The Horseshoe" in Columbus. I guess someone didn't pass the memo to the cameraman about the actual "dotting" procedure as he got a bit too close to that big 'ol sousaphone as it dove south to the turf. Funny stuff. Unfortunately, our Bucks got run over by a bunch of much for all that trash-talking I was doing to some good friends down south!

- It's hard to forget to mention it when it doesn't exist, but guess what...I continue to remain injury free! Nothing has crept up on me since Burning River and I continue to be blessed with an incredible track record in 2009 absent of any real injury. Sure, I've had some nagging knee issues and little things here and there, but nothing to sideline me and cause me to drop out of any event. All in all, I head into these next 4 weeks in great shape both physically and mentally. How will I come out the other end???

- I nearly missed Grandparents Day yesterday. I normally count on my well-labeled Hallmark calendar on the fridge but it's not up anymore. Luckily, I remembered in time to go see my grandma who is 84 years young, my last surviving grandparent. She fortunately only lives a few miles away now so I was able to drop in as a surprise, have a cup-o-tea with her and just catch up. She is going quite well but will probably require another knee replacement surgery real soon. I can't help but see the irony in her getting her knee cut open while I bash mine in these endurance events. But hey, I'll lean on the researchers who preach these events strengthen my knees instead of the naysayers who preach the opposite. I love you, Gram!

- A big shout-out goes to Vince, owner of Vertical Runner who outright won his first ultra-marathon this past Saturday at the Groundhog Fall 50K in Punxsutawney, PA. Beating out Mark Godale who finished 2nd, Vince finished in 4hrs, 3min., a respectable marathon time but instead 5 miles longer than a marathon at 31.2 miles and on hilly trails. Way to go, Vince! Full Results here.

- Tell me once and I may or may not listen. Tell me again and my ears will perk up. That's what they did when Tom Jennings, Oil Creek 100 race director recently sent out another extremely detailed race-update e-mail. Turns out bears are becoming more and more common out there in the former oil country in PA. He recommended getting a "bear bell" yet again for those of us who will be trudging through the night and have better chances of stumbling upon one of those big 'ol creatures. Enough said, Tom! I finally picked up one on eBay this morning. It has a magnetic silencer so it's quiet when it needs to be. I'm one who does travel very quietly through the woods at night and will be especially so at Oil Creek since I'll be alone the whole way. It's going to be a long night, too, with the sun setting earlier and earlier every day now and the sun rising later every day. Sunset will be at 6:45pm, moonrise is at 11:35pm with 58% of the moon visible (pray for clear skies!!!), and sunrise will not be until 7:25am with first light at 6:58am. Note to self: BATTERIES!!!!

- To many of you, be smart this week, eat a bunch of carbs, drink lots of water, and I'll see you at the YUT-C 50K on Saturday! It's a record for participation this year, too! 113 registered as of this morning! YEA!!!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Just Want To Feel Good

Wasn't that great?! I think I've seen nearly all of those movies and during many of those scenes, I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I think I'd have to add a scene from "A Few Good Men" to make it perfect, though!

What makes you feel "good"? I'll tell you what doesn't: nightmares...or just really bad dreams. I've awoke at my normal 3:30am or 4:30am times three times this week with a sore jaw from gritting and grinding my teeth all night due to downright crappy dreams. I only recall one of them clearly. I was deep behind enemy lines in Afghanistan as an infantry soldier in the middle of a firefight. In the Navy, this is not my role, by the never has been. But in this dream, it was...and it felt more real than ever. That dream stayed with me all day that day at work. I was physically drained and upset for hours. Anyway, the week progressively got worse and today ended up being a mental health/re-charge day and a day called off sick from work. At this past January's Buckeye Trail 50K when it was 22F for the high temp, inches of snow on the trail, and I was snifflin', coughin', had a fever, I still ran that race and placed 5th overall...and felt wonderful while running it. Immediately thereafter, I was more sick than before...but the race was worth it. Today, I was not nearly as miserable but I took my own advice and laced up the Wasatch's and hit the trails for 13 euphoric miles...alone. Some leaves had already started to fall on the Buckeye Trail and the smell of Fall was in the air...just unbelievably perfect in every way. I averaged about 10:36 per mile which is a really nice pace on the trails...around 5.7 to 5.8 miles per hour and it felt E A S Y. That'll be the longest I'll run before the YUT-C 50K in less than 9 days from now. Speaking of YUT-C, they are way ahead of registration numbers from any previous year so if you want in, you'd better get in now before it sells out. Next week will be treated as a taper week like any other and then it's game time: YUT-C + 7 days = Akron Marathon + 14 days = Oil Creek 100 Mile Endurance Run. Time to run smart, use my head, do nothing stupid, and have 3 successful races, celebrated with one big mutha of a buckle at the end.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, September 7, 2009

M-Cubed for Labor Day 2009

Monday Morning Musings for Labor Day, September 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.

- Day 4 of a 4-day weekend for me. I'll be running in the 25th Anniversary of the Labor of Love Run 5-Miler at The Chapel in Akron this morning. It's certainly the most family-friendly event I've ever done and has become a tradition on this holiday much like my Turkey Day 4-miler has become. My girls love the 1-mile fun run and well, the 5-miler is brutal twice during the run with the same lung-burner of a hill. I'm not so optimistic about my time this morning. The last 2 years, I've kept my times sub 35min but I don't believe I'm in that kind of shape anymore. I'll shoot for 35min but highly unlikely I can crack that barrier this year. That's OK, though! Anything close will be a reminder my "road legs" still work!

- Saturday was another one of those days where I stood in awe. I posted a group run about a week ago to run on the Blue Line, the Akron Marathon course, as we are now less than 3 weeks to race day. I mapped out a 20 miler which covered the whole course with the exception of the south part of the course as well as the part that winds through the University of Akron. I projected 40-100 runners (kind of liberal, I know) and we certainly hit the 100 mark. Seeing that many people out from just a simple internet post was pretty cool. A great day with friends and another day to spur the buzz surrounding a great marathon. The northeast Ohio running community is certainly alive and well. We also saw many, many others on the course outside of our group. 19 days to race day!

- After the 20 miler, I packed up my family and hit the road for Cleveland. We've had perfect weather for quite some time now and Labor Day weekend has been no different so why not a Cleveland Indians game?! Yea, they stink this year, but it's one of those things I hope my family remembers for awhile. Before the game, I found some free parking over near 6th Street by the Starbucks then took a walk, a L O N G walk. I had no idea my 30min walk would be over an Great Lakes Brewing Company. They are located across the bridge near the ballpark. I've always wanted to visit there and have lunch or dinner and with a game time of 4:10pm, we had plenty of time. Well, with blazing sun and legs much shorter than my own, other members of my family were great troopers and enjoyed the walk. Icing on the cake was flyovers by F-15s above us for the Cleveland Air Show while we crossed the bridge. The brewery was really good, super good food and atmosphere, and a band playing on the square outside. Afterwards, we slowly walked back over the bridge to the ballpark. I noticed this billboard on way back. I'm sure many of you have heard of the Hoyt's. Great inspirational sign, eh?

The game was great and everyone enjoyed themselves. We got bleacher seats (in my opinion, the best in the house) and enjoyed...get this...FOUR flyovers by the Air Force's elite Thunderbirds! I'm a Navy guy so of course, I love the Blue Angels but in "Air Force land," the Thunderbirds are it. 3 times, a single Thunderbird blazed right above the stadium, afterburners on, and bringing the crowd to its feet. The final and greatest one of all was all 4 of them, in close, tight formation doing a slow flyover right over the stadium! That's 4 times more than what NASCAR fans get!!! Even cooler was that they kept flying directly over the bleacher section in left field so they were directly above us. Ahhh....the pure sound of freedom roaring overhead. Roaring fighter jets always bring back the memories of when I stood in the "Crow's Nest" onboard my previous aircraft carriers watching F-14s and F-18s roar off the flight deck for missions over Iraq. My blood still pumps red, white, and blue...

- Training related, it's time to put my game-face on. 12 days from now will be event #1 of 3 that will take place between now and October 10th. After this past Saturday's beating on asphalt on the Blue Line, I'll be taking a very heavy down week this week and will run nothing over 10 miles and will totally take this Saturday off. Maximum rest is my goal but also staying limber through my mid-week runs. After the YUT-C 50K on September 19th, I'll have only 7 days until the Akron Marathon. No goals are being set for the Akron Marathon as any racing would be "100 mile suicide." I simply want to enjoy the event and enjoy seeing so many friends during a super-fine event. I do expect 26.2 miles of asphalt to require focused rest and repair. I gotta tell ya, that 20 miler this past Saturday did beat me up a bit. It reminded me of how much I love the trails and how they are so nice to my body regarding recovery. Anyway, after the Akron Marathon, I'll only have 2 weeks until the Oil Creek 100 Mile Trail Run. The goal? Get through 157.4 miles of "racing" over 3 events in 4 weeks injury free and 3 succcessful finishes. It will be a true test of smart running, smart recovery, and how well I can "listen" to my body and respond appropriately.

Happy Labor Day and Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Buckeye Trail @ West Branch State Park

I am used to making my 35min one-way trek down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to run my beloved trails. Unknown to me, I live a short 12min to another section of the Buckeye Trail at West Branch State Park in southern Portage County. Today, I went solo and enjoyed a crisp, morning run. The route I ran will become a staple for me. It is exactly 4mi out then 4mi back to the parking lot...a perfect mid-week getaway 8 miler when I can't take anymore of the asphalt pounding and just need to get away. Shame on me for not knowing how close I was! About a mile from the finish, I 'think' I saw 2 bear cubs cross the trail. They were the height of a medium dog, jet black, walked like you'd expect a bear to walk, but had much shorter legs and therefore closer to the ground...just like a bear would be. I slowed my pace then walked trying to get a look but they hid and I couldn't find them again. If they weren't bear cubs, I don't know what they could've been. I put in a call to the park office and no reports had come in about them but only 15min south of there, a bear cub was killed while crossing the street within the last week, so who knows. The park ranger is going out there today to check it out and they'll call me if they confirm what I 'think' I saw.

I hadn't taken the camera on a run in a long time due to it being so warm and therefore sweaty...bad when carrying a piece of electronics. Today, I took a bunch of pics and put them together in video form. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3:30am: Part VIII

Well, not exactly. I checked the moonrise/moonset last night before bed after seeing the moon rise before I went to bed…full and bright. I thought by setting the alarm at 3:15am, I might better my chances of running with Mr. Moon today. So 3:15am it was. I popped out of bed fully anticipating a brilliant run absent of a headlamp but instead guided by Mr. Moon's light. Based on my energy at 3:15am, I believe the triple shot of fresh-brewed espresso from last evening was still flowing in my bloodstream. However, upon checking the moonset chart, I realized my goal of running with Mr. Moon would not be realized on this day as he was scheduled to set just before the 4am hour. Still, I continued on my morning routine of brewing my espresso, unloading the dishwasher, and listening to some radio drama on WCRF. "I really just want to go and not come back today. If only a job weren't waiting and the rest of life beckoned…" Chores complete, e-mails answered, I donned my favorite pair of Brooks Radius with over 420 miles on them and stepped outside my garage door only to find Mr. Moon! He shined as bright as ever right in front of me in the western sky. So much for that moon chart I had referenced from the National Observatory. I considered not even taking my headlamp but left it on just in case a canine or rabid animal wanted to give chase on this God-send of a morning.

"Good Morning, Mr. Moon! I've got the perfect course for us today…yours!" I set out on his course, a rolling, farm-laden, pristine part of southern Portage County that I've deemed to him…and me on these days. It's hard to believe that looking back, I haven't had one of these days since May 13th of this year. It truly has been too long. I left the artificial light of my development and embarked along the country road almost always absent of vehicular traffic this time of day and stared straight ahead at Mr. Moon, the road fully illuminated by his light. As I approached the 1 mile mark, his light illuminated the entire countryside and the blanket of fog sitting atop the ready-to-be-harvested corn. It looked like silk with no sharp edges and soft and gentle. I look above and stars are there, but nowhere as bright as they were a few days ago. They are being dimmed this morning by Mr. Moon. Just ahead, I dip down with the road and enter the other end of this fog and can feel it on my skin. Above, Mr. Moon has gained a few rings of color, mostly orange, some green, and a hint of red created by my vision through the water vapor. Emerging from the other side, the rings disappear and he shines in all his brightness once again.

Turning left onto the rolling road, Mr. Moon is on the right and as of now, I haven't even thought about the fact that I'm running. Effortless, blissful, and in a state of euphoria…yea, that's how I'd describe it. "How can I bottle this up and share it with people…show them what they're missing out here?" This makes me wonder and recall a text my youngest brother sent me a few days ago. It went something like "Do you realize your wife and all of your siblings and spouses are now running?" I hadn't ever really thought about that before, honestly. But yea…he was right. None were before. Now, they all are. I responded with "yea…I'm smiling down deep inside" since credit is not what I seek nor anything like that. If I had anything at all to do with any of it, that is wonderful. But, to take credit? Heck no. It's one thing to inspire others but to motivate them out the door to get moving, they have to do that on their own and they all have…every one of them. In fact, that brother (Jim) was out at this very moment with Mr. Moon himself…I think he's found the magic that I've been loving and craving for so long…and realized this morning.

As I passed down and up the biggest "bowl" of a hill on the course, I approached the one farm house that always concerns me. It has giant trees which cast big shadows in the front of their home created by their buzzing light. It is here where one or two dogs…big dogs…have emerged lately. I slowed my pace and began running as if on clouds, not trying to make a sound but also peering as hard as I could into the pitch black shadows…ready to stand my ground and blind them with the 4 LEDs from my headlamp. Luckily, I pass without incident…surprised, though. At least one of them, the big white one, is normally out at all times…free to roam as he or she pleases. The last time it came right out into the middle of the road.

As I pass through 2 1/2 miles, I give a nod to the horses in the nearby pasture and also notice the moon is taking on an orangey harvest-moon type of look and rapidly descenting down to the horizon. "I sure do hope I can make it home before it disappears," I think to myself. As I turn the corner by the Catholic church, the geese are in the creek-bed nearby and a truck flys by from out of nowhere. I was on his opposite side so he paid me no attention. Good thing, too. I am in such a state of "un-touch" with reality, I could easily see myself getting hit by a car. Just past the church it gets dark due to tall trees and thick woods. The remaining light in the sky gives enough illumination but not too much. As I make another curve in the road, I notice a man on his enclosed front porch, reading his morning paper and having a cup of coffee, and his dog barking outside…tied up, thank goodness. Just past him is the spot where I spotted the mysterious smoking man last year. I remember only seeing the burning butt of his cigarette walking down his winding driveway. I always remember the irony of that moment as he puffs away days of his life and I'm out here ADDING days to mine. Well, he's not out today and I make the turn-around just past his house at the 3.5 mile point and head on home, Mr.Moon now directly behind me.

Entering back into that very dark corridor, overshadowed by trees, I'm immediately drawn overhead to the millions of stars which are now starting to take center stage on this early, crisp, 52F morning. I think to myself: "It's amazing how Mr. Moon, so grand and bright, can overshadow the 'big picture'…that being the landscape in the sky. He, on this morning, is grand and stands afront to all. On the big 'universal' stage, though, he is nothing more than a spec in the galaxy, if that. It's like that in life, isn't it? Things that appear to be the only thing important take center stage in our life and we ignore everything else. In reality, wouldn't it be better to notice it all? I mean…look at this sky!!! It's brilliant! It's beautiful!!" For me, I'm a runner, an ultra-runner in fact, any many believe that defines me. I'd be fooling myself if I said it wasn't a major part of my life…because it is. I'm also a dad, a husband, the guy who heads up the team at church that projects the words to the songs and images behind them on Sunday morning, a Navy officer, a neighbor, a son, a brother, a civilian employee of Uncle Sam (notice where I put that?!), and a friend to over 250 Facebook friends! (how did THAT happen, by the way?!) Geez, to only look at the moon and not the universe would be a sad mistake.

As I near home, I think about running and how I haven't thought about anything regarding it so far…my pace, my gait, my effort, future events, nada! My legs just keep churning away and carrying my body along for the ride…a sweet ride, I must say. I turn over my right shoulder and the moon is a brilliant orange and just barely visible over the tree-tops. The spotlight-white is gone and has been replaced by the fall glow we'll all be adorned here with soon in NE Ohio. In front of me, the horizon is beginning to show signs of the morning sun as the brilliant blue is glowing in the east. Above, the stars are starting to fade and soon will be invisible. They are still there…those stars, you know. They never go away. The universe always remains…begging to be noticed, to be recognized, to be appreciated.

Arriving back home at my garage door, I look to the west and Mr. Moon has gone away but will soon arrive yet again this evening in all his brilliance. A glance at my watch reveals 7.00 miles and shockingly, a pace just over 8min/mile. I always take a guess at my pace before I look and this time, I was guessing somewhere between 8:50/mi and 9:05/mi pace. "Wow!" For some, the 8min/mile is nothing. For me, it's been that way before. However, with months and months of training for the 100 mile ultra-marathon event, I have focused on slow, consistent L O N G miles. It is incredibly refreshing to have a run so nice, so peaceful, so easy…and have it be at a pace where I didn't even try to be at, but just happened. It's reassurance that I still have my "marathon legs"…good thing, too! The Akron Marathon is only 3 weeks away so those guys need to spruce up and put up! I guess those tempo runs mixed throughout the past several months have paid off.

Mr. Moon is awesome…better than awesome. I love my runs with him. I also love looking at those stars…millions of them…and noticing them. I just hope I do the same in life. Here's to a great run and a great opportunity to sit back and just simply…notice.