Monday, November 30, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/30/09

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

- Registration opens up at 9am! Today, for one week, the flood gates will be opened for the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's MMT100, the 16th Annual Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. MMT has a nickname of "Massanutten Rocks!" and for good reason...more rocks to navigate than any other 100 miler on the east coast. Gnarly enough to warrant a 36 hour cutoff, too...instead of the typical 30hr cutoff for a 100-miler. Another little factoid: no woman from Ohio has ever finished MMT. Hopefully, Tanya Cady who directs the Winter Run for Regis will be the first as she will be registering today as well. After the week passes, registration will close at 9pm next Monday then the Dow Jones closing stock price on Tuesday will determine the starters for the 2010 event. Sound confusing? It's really not but if you want to read the lottery procedure, grab a cup of coffee and read it! May 15, 2010 is the day! It's fair to say this is my 2010 target event.
- "Build it and they will come." A quote from a popular baseball movie but true this past Saturday. With still a month to the Water Falls run on 12/26, I was tired of waiting to see the 3 different waterfalls and get wet so I organized a backwards running of the course and dubbed it the nuR sllafretaW. Once we picked up Wild Bill's group about 4.75mi into the 18mi run, we had about 20 folks show up. 12 showed up at Lock 29 for the 7am start. As expected, I do believe everyone had a blast and I'm pretty sure some folks got their feet totally soaked and immersed with Buttermilk Falls' water for the first time. I loved going knee-deep into the icy water. Of course, I had my camera in tow and ended up with a whoppin' 94 pictures. Here they are. Big thanks to those who showed up!
- I am organizing and giving a Trail Running 101 talk and short trail run on Saturday, December 12th at 11am. It will cover the basics of trail running to including shoes, 'how to run' trails, sock selection, foot care on the trails, traction in the winter time, and the basics of nutrition/hydration. Afterwards, I'll lead a 4 mile run of the infamous Salt Run Trail. The meeting place will be at the Kendall Lake Shelter off of Truxell Road. Search on Facebook for "Nick's Trail Running 101" and please RSVP if you plan on attending. (If you're interested in a long trail run early that morning, I'll be heading one up, too. Early start with at least 3 hours on the trails is the goal.)

- I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day and days surrounding the holiday. I must say that hosting a family dinner at our house has benefits like a re-creation of the meal the day after. Something about homemade stuffing as a leftover....oh so good. Prior to that, I ran in my annual tradition, the Home Run for the Homeless in downtown Akron which benefits the homeless shelter down there. Over 4000 runners participated in both events, the 1-mile fun run and the 4-mile race. To keep myself from racing, I carried my camera along the way and got some great pictures. About 29 to be exact. Racing this race would have pushed the reset button on my left psoas muscle recovery which has been active since the Oil Creek 100. The goal was just to have fun on a Turkey Day tradition and that's what I did! Gobble, gobble!

- I've always been mildly envious of those runners who have spouses who run and can share the roads/trails with them or their SO's (significant others). Yesterday, the sun was bright and we had an abnormally warm late-November day here in northeast Ohio and our kids were decorating the Christmas tree at Marjie's parents so we capitalized on the opportunity and headed to beautiful Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. Many think of Mill Creek in Youngstown and pair it up with the economically depressed city...everything negative, essentially. The trails within the park are anything but that, in fact. We parked at the gardens and I took Marjie on one loop of the lower loop of the YUT-C 50K course. I really didn't intend on doing the whole loop...maybe just 3 miles out and turn around. Marjie has always been more of a power-walker and not a runner and this was only the 2nd time ever to 'run' on the trails. Well, I'm baffled at why she doesn't run instead of walk. She looks like a natural runner with a perfect gait...much UNlike her husband! Once we were about 3 miles into the run and she was doing so well, I decided we'd go the whole way around. She really did great but did take a pretty nasty fall within the final 2 miles. As of last night, she couldn't straighten her left arm, her left elbow was swollen, and a nasty black-n-blue mark was on her shoulder and a mark on the side of her head. This morning should be interesting. :-) The overly positive thing was becoming "one" with the it a mutual smooch. I'm not so sure she sees it this way, though. (hehehehehe!!!!) She got up, though, brushed herself off and finished! I see many more miles together in the dirt... (37 pics from our run together)
Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ashamed...but Thankful

To think, I once turned up my nose at the pronouncement on a variety of Saturday mornings when the group was going to hit the trails. I sulked...I hung my head low...I turned my back and found my own lonely stretch of Towpath or road and headed out alone. The others went the opposite direction and disappeared into the woods and I was happy, or so I thought. Looking back at this, I'm ashamed. How could I be so close-minded? Today, there are not many places on this earth that I'd rather be. Of course, to be home with family is always good but for destinations...for retreats...for places to just escape from the "normal grind" that every day brings, the trails are right up there at the top of the list. Talk about a complete turnaround in the last two years! I guess it's even worse to accept the fact that until a few years ago, I didn't acknowledge the fact that I lived almost right on top of an incredible natural resource right here in northeast Ohio. Such many, many miles of it, too...all right here where so very many don't even realize it is here. I smile every time I hear that another person has realized what I realized a few short years ago.

It didn't take long to get hooked. Once I realized what existed off the normal asphalt or crushed limestone path, there was no turning back. It is this beauty and majesty that has created in me and continues to grow the desire and "need" to get out there and focus my time and energy at being out there. Running...a clear passion of mine...has got to stay fresh, attractive, and consistently challenging to me or unfortunately, I'll get bored with it. If you follow me at all, you know that one 100-miler in 2009 wasn't enough nor was the first one's difficulty. I wanted another...and another. The last one took the cake in terms of difficulty so "logically," I now seek to step it up once again. That'll be in May of next year. If the trails and His creation weren't as magnificent as they are and every new trail tread upon didn't present yet another example of perfection, then this path I'm on would simply not continue. This answers the question of "why" perhaps a little bit more that I've gotten so much this year.

As we sit here in the U.S. on Turkey Eve, I'm thankful for God's beautiful trails that I and so many of my friends and family get to appreciate. It is truly His thumb-print here on earth. I am also thankful for the freedom I have to run on them when I want, where I want, and with whom I want. I try to never take that for granted as freedom is certainly not free. A patriot, a fellow countryman or woman stands watch in the desert, at an outpost, on a ship, or right here on our borders to keep us all safe here in our land of freedom and we should not forget them. While we play, the watch is constant 24/7 to guarantee this freedom. Let us not ever forget them or their families on this Thanksgiving holiday!

To you and yours, a very Happy Thanksgiving and a day filled being thankful for ALL that you and I may not normally acknowledge. There is so much more outside of the material that we see first person on a daily basis. Be thankful for what provides the things you FIRST are thankful for. Make sense? Yes, I know....deep thoughts...but good ones, nonetheless.

See you on the trails....

Monday, November 23, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/23/09

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

- Blog-slacking, I know. Yea, yea, yea....I've been in sort of a running and blogging hibernation. Call it a mental/physical re-charge of sorts. It is ending, though. :-)

- I am a happily married man of 17 years now. Marjie and I celebrated 17 years this past weekend and kicked it off by heading out to West Branch State Park for Marjie's first-ever trail run. There were closed signs at the normal trail entrances like the mountain-bike trails and the Buckeye Trail due to deer-hunting season. However, there are some trails over by the camping area that are off-limits to hunters. Turns out, these trails (new to me) are the most scenic I've seen at West Branch. We had a blast and after dropping to a knee for the 2nd time, she said "Yes!" again! This is us taking a break at the trail-head of Wild Black Cherry Trail. Cool name, eh?!

- T minus 7 days until registration opens up for the 2010 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (MMT). It will open on Monday, November 30th for one week, then close. The lottery will happen the next day for May 2010's race! It's a cool lottery...all by chance and driven by the closing price on the stock market for that day. Here's how it works.

- Thanks to Mel at Vertical Runner for referring me for a photo shoot yesterday. Craig M. (who designed the WRTR logo, by the way) is working on a new website for a sunglasses company and needed someone to "model" the sunglasses. That was a first and I'm anxious to see the new site when it goes up in about a week or so. Great product, too!

- The volume of e-mails have certainly increased from friends or folks I've never met before who want to get into trail running. They are asking for advice from shoe advice, to what to wear, to where to find trails. I think it's time that someone did a trail running clinic so BAM!!!!...I'm doing one! I've created the event on Facebook which is open to anyone who'd like to attend. It will be at 11am on Saturday, December 12th at the Kendall Shelter off of Truxell Road and will conclude with a 4 mile run including the Salt Run Trail. For anyone else wanting to run earlier that day, I'm planning on a 3-4 hour trail run starting pre-dawn. Details to follow on Facebook and here at RTRSBM.

- I'm anxious for my annual waterfalls run to get here to in order to fulfill my need to run the course, I'm running it in reverse this Saturday morning, starting at 7am from the Lock 29 overflow lot with Fishers to follow afterwards for a late breakfast. However, I've dubbed it the nuR sllafretaW group run...waterfalls run in reverse. That's the course we'll follow...reverse of the course that we'll run on December 26th. 7am sharp! Be prepared to get muddy, wet, and it'll be COLD!!!

- Got some old running shoes you don't use anymore? Clean 'em up and bring them to downtown Akron this Thanksgiving morning to donate to the homeless in Akron and run the Home Run for the Homeless 4-miler! It's an annual tradition for me so of course, I'll be there with a bag of shoes in tow! It's yet another excuse to see a ton of my friends all in one place. I love this running community!

- With winter, I think it's time to get speedy! I am happy to report that my issue with my left psoas muscle that acted up at Mile 20 of the Oil Creek 100 miler is cooperating and playing nicely. Yes, I can feel it after a night's sleep and occasionally at other times, but it is not causing me problems while walking or running and on trails, I really can't detect it. I am, however, worried that if I pushed it hard on the roads and opened up a longer strider, I'd possibly make it bad again so racing hard this Thursday is out of the question. That's where I think it all started...when I was racing the Labor of Love Run back on Labor Day. But, back to being speedy over the winter. Back at Oil Creek, the sales rep for CW-X was there and offered all of us a sweet deal to get a pair of their performance tights. This product makes lots of claims but before I preach about 'em, I think I'll wear them a bit. I finally got them on my doorstep this week and yea, they make me 'feel' kinda speedy. We shall see!

- I don't claim to be fast. I used to try to be when I was targeting a qualification time for the Boston Marathon but anymore, my passion is out on the trails and covering further and further distances, efficiently and having a really good time. As a long-time supporter of Vertical Runner in Hudson, you can understand then why I was excited to see a new logo that Mark Godale came up with. No, it's not a replacement logo for their store but a logo for some tech tees. I got a bright red, long-sleeve Nike tech tee with this logo on the back. It's not small, either, and takes up the majority of the back. Cool logo and accurate words to describe me these days. Super cool!

- A new chapter kicks off for me here in December with the Navy. I will be transferring to a new command where I'll finally get my shot at leadership. It's a command that is of high priority for the Navy and has no limits to where it can go in the world. I won't 'officially' slip into the job until I graduate from the Navy's Supply Corps School in March in Athens, GA, but I'll be there ready to go. I took my final exam and passed just last weekend so between now and March, I'm done with my Supply Corps training. Good times and very exciting! (Here's a little about this new command if you'd like to read about it.) Extremely detailed info about my Navy career will be pretty limited here on my blog...with the global climate as it currently is, I don't see the need to make it all public but hey, join me on a trail run someday and I'll spill my guts for ya!

Exciting times right now. The holidays have magically appeared already (even though it seems like WAY too soon!) and my 'need' to sign up for another 100-miler has finally appeared again. This 'decompression' time since Oil Creek has been wonderful but it's time to start ramping it up again...just in time for the winter best training time of the year. For those of you who revert to the (d)readmill or do nothing over the winter, you don't know what you're missing! The right gear to protect yourself and this season can really be a blast. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favorite trails loaded down with snow on the pines and icicles hanging from the rock formations. But enough talk about sub-freezing temps...they're not here just yet!

Happy Trails, everyone, and have a great week and a great Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bobcat Trail Marathon Race Report

In November, the weather can be downright cruddy with freezing rain, warm and humid in the upper 70s, can be a chilly start with highs in the mid-60s, full sun, and a light breeze. That's what the runners in the inaugural running of the Bobcat Trail Marathon had on Sunday, November 8th. It was the perfect setup for a day that no one who ran would soon forget.

The Burr Oak State Park is not known by many of us in northeast Ohio. It is nestled in between Columbus and Athens, OH in southeast Ohio in an area of winding country roads and minimal cell phone coverage. After about a 3 hour drive from my home in NE Ohio and one of the funnest roads to drive on EVER from I-77 to the state park itself, I arrived on Saturday afternoon to help out with packet pickup and Vertical Runner's small retail "stand." Honestly, I think I sold much more of Crazy Monkey Baking's homemade granola than I did running gear and nutrition products. (I finished my peanut butter granola today after nippin' at it all week long.) After first glance around Burr Oak State Park, it reminded me a lot of Atwood Lake Resort located about halfway between Burr Oak and home in Sherrodsville, OH. The lodge overlooked a lake that clearly wrapped and turned much further than what I could see. The marathon course, in fact, would circumnavigate this body of water in a clockwise direction on Sunday morning. It looked brilliant from up at the Lodge and it only fueled the desire to hit the trails.

Friday, after we closed up shop at packet pickup, I got my last bit of pasta at the Lodge's $12.95 pasta buffet, created just for us, and it was actually pretty good. Spaghetti and/or penne with a choice of marinara, meat sauce, cheese, or alfredo topping, some shredded chicken, mixed veggies, breadsticks, and a side salad. Excellent! I headed on back to my room, watched some TV, and fell asleep which by morning, turned into 8 hours of extreme rarity in my life and even more so the night before a race. The last race I ran, I slept on a hard, wooden gym floor, tossing and turning all night before covering 100 miles. :-D Waking up on Sunday morning around 6am (another rarity), I sat up in my bed at the Lodge, looked out the window, and there was the Start/Finish line...yes, another rarity. I can't think of any event I've ever run when the start/finish was out the front door. Oh wait a minute, the Oil Creek 100 start/finish was out the back door of the gymnasium but if I had stayed at a hotel, I would have had a short drive. After my morning traditions of fresh-brewed espresso, a PB&J, hot shower and a shave, I headed out in the chilly morning air as over 130 of my closest friends for the day were milling around awaiting Vince Rucci's (co-race director) final instructions.

True to race day tradition (but often ignored by many race directors), the Star Spangled Banner would kick off the day. To put the icing on the cake, the Air Force ROTC would fly the colors on this beautiful morning. The sound system was bold, bright, and clear and seeing Old Glory blowing in the breeze was the perfect way to start the day. After raising it to full staff, it was lowered to half-staff in accordance with the President's order to fly it at half staff until sunset on Tuesday, November 10th to honor the victims of the Fort Hood shootings earlier in the week in central Texas. (video of Star Spangled Banner and the raising of Old Glory below)

After the flag raising was complete, Vince gave his final instructions and precisely at 8am, the inaugural Bobcat Trail Marathon was off and running. The first couple of miles are on asphalt and hilly. I like how Vince and Brandon put this section at the beginning in order to get the whole 26.2 mile distance in, instead of tacking it on at the end. Getting the hard asphalt out the way early was a smart move. For many miles after we hit the trails, it felt mostly like a group run with great difficulty in passing others due to the single-track nature of the course. It was very narrow at most points and sharp jaggers lined each side in many sections. I eventually gave in to the sharp blades and passed a few others spilling some blood along the way which was well worth it. What's a little bit of blood? The course was very winding around hillsides with constant ups and downs and nearly always within sight of the lake if not right besides it. A leaf covered trail kept everyone's eyes downward watching their every step as many roots, rocks, and occasionally a hole awaited underneath. Speaking of obstacles, I found my own at Mile 5. There was this huge log that crossed the trail at a downward angle to the right that was slicker-than-snot. I stepped up on it to cross it and out went my foot and down went my 197lb carcass, left shin first onto the log. My right arm tossed the camera and braced my body by cutting itself up nicely but in fact, stopping the fall. Today, a few scabs still remain and all soreness from my shin slam was gone about a day after the marathon. The camera, most importantly, fell into a bed of leaves. Nice.

I can't say enough good things about the Bobcat course. It was challenging, for sure. We don't have any climbs like that up in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's not that we don't have hills in the CVNP, but we don't have climbs with that kind of elevation. There were many more than I cared to count. It reminded me a lot of the Oil Creek 100 course in terms of difficulty. It also had its stretches of pine trees, beds of needles, small wooden bridge crossings, and simply pristine views of the lake. I said often to others that it would have been nice to have been running under a canopy of green foliage but if so, we would not have been able to see out across the lake. Since I wasn't out there to race, when I thought "Hey, I should really stop here and just look," I did. I also took a ton of pictures, too...171 in fact. Part of my "race day strategy" was to carry my camera with me and capture as much of the race as I could since I didn't know of any "official" photographers on the course which would keep me from running too fast and would force me to stop often to get passing runners and scenic photos. Well, it worked and the only thing that worried me was a battery that might not live up to the challenge of powering up and down for hours. Lucky for me and all of you, it lasted the whole way. I was having so much fun that not only did I stop, set up the tripod and take a few self-photos along the way, that my goal turned into simply finishing in time to get a hot shower before my 2pm late checkout.

The aid stations were great, too. Unlike a typical road marathon that has water, an electrolyte, and perhaps a few gels, this trail marathon had typical "ultra-fare" that you'd find during an ultra-marathon. Salty snacks, PB&J, sodas, M&Ms, and of course, water and electrolyte drinks. I got pictures of the them all, too, trying to pull out some smiles before I snapped each one, too. They were much further than a lot of runners were probably used to but for me, they were just fine and I wouldn't change a thing. Thanks to the many groups and organizations that sponsored the aid did a GREAT job!

One thing I kept saying aloud and to myself was all day was "The race-bib-wearing part of me wants this race to end and reach finality and the trail runner in me does not want it to end and running into the night would be perfectly acceptable to me." But alas, it did have to end. It ended on a downhill asphalt stretch into the Lodge's parking lot right where the start was and my room and hot shower awaited. I had sooooo much fun during this race and wouldn't have changed a thing. I ran it in 5hrs, 37min which was mid-pack as usual and achieved my goal of beating 5hrs, 45min (15min before the 2pm checkout thus ensuring myself a hot shower!) I never really hit a "wall" or anything nor had any problems to speak of. In fact, my issue with my upper left leg's psoas muscle wasn't an issue at all. Nothing had but a great time!!! I hung out after my finish to make sure I saw my brother cross his 4th marathon finish line (and 4th for 2009) along with Beth and Emily. The video below is a compilation of them three finishing their respective races.

It feels a little bit odd as I wrap up this short race report to not be talking about running with my eyes closed, taking 2min naps on cold benches, staring up at the stars in the middle of the night, hallucinating on the trails, trail "pole-dancing," or seeing two sunrises. Those race reports have been the norm since June and they forever changed me and impacted my life in a multitude of positive ways. However, it was great to celebrate not only my 25th marathon at Bobcat, but a landmark year in my running career. Even better was to spend it with so many friends and have such an awesome time from arrival on Saturday to departure on Sunday afternoon. Thanks and congratulations to all who made the 26.2+ mile journey around Burr Oak State Park and the very best to you in your future trail running endeavors. For sure, you can count on me to be out there with you.

Below are my favorite photos out of the 171 that I took. The whole gallery can be viewed here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Today, I'll not work, not punch a time clock, and I got to sleep in. Across the globe, U.S. military members are plodding through sand-blowing streets, scrapping up a hillside in Afghanistan, standing watch on-board an aircraft carrier, or running a humanitarian mission off the coast of Africa. Today, Veterans Day, November 11th of every year is a day where we, as Americans celebrate those who have served their country...your country, and continue to do so today. With my job, I will always have this day off but believe it or not, I won't spend it on the trails running or sitting behind the computer blogging. Instead, I want to honor those who have served and continue to do so by simply raising the awareness of this holiday by spending it with the most impressionable among us...little kids. I hope through my time each year on this date that a younger generation can recognize the sacrifices of those before them and the chance they have some day to walk in their shoes.

Do me a favor: not just today but every day, think about those who protect your freedom. Remember those who have spilled their blood so that you, your kids, and their kids can live in a free country. You may enjoy your opportunity to freely take a walk today...a choice to worship, or not worship this Sunday...the ability to speak your mind in a public forum without the fear of persecution...don't forget that so many in this world don't have the simplest freedoms we take for, included. We are a comfortable people...a people who find it all too simple to forget the selfless sacrifices going on around the clock to secure our freedoms. A veteran is anyone who is serving or who has served previously. They didn't have to be in a war or conflict or be seriously injured. They served...they stepped forward...they defended YOU. Find one, thank one, and support our military no matter what party you affiliate with or what opinions you have. We in the United States military have no party affiliation nor do we care what party affiliation you are. You are Americans and we have chosen to stand in the gap for you. Celebrate this day with us!

Monday, November 9, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/9/09

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

- Call it a marathon or a baby ultra-marathon, yesterday's Inaugural Bobcat Trail Marathon felt in every way like an ultra-marathon and at 26.4 miles (0.2 miles longer than the standard marathon), you take your pick! On the surface, my time of 5hrs, 37min, 17sec sounds like an incredibly sluggish pace for a marathon but you must know, this was a brutal, tough, take-no-prisoners kind of course. In fact, my time still puts me in the top half of all finishers if that tells you anything. People were still finishing at 7.5 hours. It was a fantastic event in so many ways but here's just a snapshot of a few of them:

> Sitting up in my bed at the Lodge, looking out the window and seeing the Start/Finish line is so very nice and convenient.
> A course that had us always next the water. With all the leaves down and a course that circumnavigated a multi-directional lake, we could see so much and soak in all the beauty.
> A well-marked and well-maintained the middle of nowhere. Many don't know about Burr Oak State Park and it's not near any major interstate but wow, it is a really great place. Blue and yellow blazes led the way all day!
> A strong contingent of NE Ohio trail runners: with Hudson's Vertical Runner as a major sponsor and it's owner, Vince, as co-race director, many of us followed his lead and supported his event and we are all so glad we did. Once the others who decided to pass on Bobcat this year will be lickin' their chops when they look at my 171 pictures.
> To make sure I didn't race and didn't further my psoas muscle and to make sure I had nothing but fun yesterday, I took my camera. I thought I could take a ton of pictures to share with everyone and I'd be compelled to stop and shoot all day long which would greatly slow my pace and keep my "throttle" under control. It worked perfectly to plan and would have it no other way. All I cared about was getting back in time to shower before my late check-out! Another perk: cross finish, walk into my room 100 yards later. Can't beat it!

- Around Mile 10 yesterday, I popped 400mg of ibuprofen just to take the edge off of what I was starting to feel in my left leg. It wasn't painful but growing in what I felt so I thought I'd just stay ahead of the game. It worked and honestly, I felt really good for the rest of the day, into the night, and still feel quite good this morning. Could 26.4 miles of trail move me closer in the direction of recovery? Perhaps.

- A great, great week is on tap. Veterans Day is on Wednesday and with a government job, I'll never work that day and have forever committed myself to spend it in uniform in the schools for as long as my kids are of school-age. Lots planned and I'm really excited about it. Can't wait! Friday, I'm going to see if I can gather some other trail runners up for a mid-morning trail run of the Run for Regis course. I'd like to do Loops A and B now that I have the course directions posted. I swear...the Winter Run for Regis 50K is going to feel like child's play after yesterday's marathon! Let me know if you want to join me.

- Like I said, I took lots and lots of pictures and in my humble opinion, they represent the Bobcat Trail Marathon well and really showcase the course and the happiness of the runners. Enjoy them! You do not need a Facebook account to view these. View them here.

- The Oil Creek 100 really has taken its toll. It was my toughest 100 and I absolutely loved it. However, it really beat me down and my recovery has been the longest by far. I certainly felt it yesterday in terms of energy levels. I wouldn't trade it for anything, either!

- I really don't have much else to say about Bobcat right now. I am just so thankful to spend the day on the trails, meet many new runners I hadn't met before, witness some great and emotional finishes, and just soak in a 67F, sunny, God-given day and appreciate every second of it. Words really cannot describe what it was like out there on an emotional level. It was simply off-the-chart bliss. I am extremely thankful.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Inaugural Bobcat Trail Marathon Details/Webcast

Schedule of Events:

Saturday, November 7th
Packet Pick-Up and Pasta Dinner
5pm - 8pm
Burr Oak State Park Lodge

Sunday, November 8th

Final Instructions: 7:45am
National Anthem: 7:55am
Race Start: 8am EST

Course Photos - Course Map (once loaded, go to Page 9)

Monday, November 2, 2009

M-Cubed for 11/2/09

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

- Halloween Candy: get it the heck out of my house! It has incredible powers to unwrap itself and somehow get inside all of us!

- T-6 days until the first running of the Bobcat Trail Marathon down in Burr Oak State Park! I'll be heading down to help out Vince and Brandon with packet pick-up and last minute sales for Vertical Runner. Current weather has the high in the 50s and low in the mid 30s. Perfect fall trail running weather! It should be a great time with lots of local runners making the trek down there. The Lodge has sold out, race numbers are approaching 150 runners, and for me, I'll be celebrating a milestone: marathon #25!

- Psoas muscle update: the only running I've done since mid-week last week has been about 3.5hrs total of trail running at West Branch State Park. All of it (well, most of it) has been nice and easy and babying this muscle. Yes, I can still feel it but it no longer hurts and doesn't change my stride or pace. The real indicator is after the run and the next morning and that is all good news. I have no lingering issues after the run and it doesn't hurt the morning after. I will run very, very little this week and hopefully, it cooperates at Bobcat. Regardless, I'll run and complete Bobcat, but it won't be some blistering time or anything. My goal is not to sideline myself after Bobcat but instead, dive headfirst into some great, cold, fall trail running. This is a magnificent time of year to be on the trails.

- Greatly lacking from my routine has been lifting weights. I used to do it 3 to 4 times a week in my basement. I've got the bench, plenty of weights, and even a heavy bag calling my name that hangs from the ceiling but months ago when I geared up for my 100s, I stopped. Back then, I focused on upper body work to better even myself out since I was getting so much lower body work on the trails. It worked well and made me much stronger with increased endurance. With things kinda settling now, I'm incorporating that back in and hopefully will see some results. It will certainly help my uphill power on the trails as I have turned those into whole-body climbs instead of trying to just run them. I'll go back to focusing on upper body and core strength with the occasional heavy bag workout. I can't do that in the morning, though, because it shakes the entire house. :-)

- Signed up for a Thanksgiving morning race yet? One tradition of mine is to run the Home Run for the Homeless on Thanksgiving morning. I collect my used running shoes from the year that have no use anymore, clean them up well, and take them to the race to be donated to the homeless. It's pretty cool to see the hundreds of others pairs of running shoes, too. The 4-mile race normally has a huge field and is very challenging as it goes through Glendale Cemetery which has humbling climb after humbling climb. Sign up early to avoid the traditional very long line on race morning, especially if the weather is good. Registration form here.

- I started the WRTR group on Facebook only a couple of days ago and we're already up to 98 members! If you haven't joined in yet, just search for WRTR and you'll find it. It'll be a great way to keep the local trail running community informed on a daily basis of what's going on in the local trail running scene. Speaking of WRTR, watch for the newsletter tonight or early tomorrow morning in your inbox...another great one! I'm really happy about the success of the newsletter which has now crested the 500-subscriber point for the first time at 537 unique subscribers with an extremely low reject rate when mailed. It's very exciting to be in the midst of it all!

- The Casting Crowns concert on Friday night was incredible. The concert sold out with 3600 people which just fueled an already great night. Casting Crowns' music is always the last thing I listen to before heading out on an ultra-marathon, especially my 100-milers. I find that the last few songs listened to stick in my head for hours on end and their music is what I want in there! Specifically, I listen to Lifesong and Praise You in the Storm just before I head to the starting line. On Friday, they opened up the concert with Lifesong and Praise You in the Storm was second to last for the evening. Wow....WOW! It was an incredible night!

- It's official. The 50 miler has been dropped from the 2010 Oil Creek Trail Runs. In its place will be a 100K distance (62.4 miles) which will greatly simplify the race course. The course consists of 50K loops so instead of having a 50 miler that has little "adders" everywhere to get in the distance, the 100K will simply be two 50K loops with the 100 miler retaining its design of three loops plus the final "headed home" 7.75 mile loop. The Oil Creek 100 was the first 100 mile race I finished that I immediately thought that I'd do again so for now, it's a "maybe" for 2010. My Navy schedule will most likely make that decision for me. Speaking of Oil Creek, if you have any interest in seeing the course, I'm throwing around the idea of going out there on the last Saturday in February for a FA 50K. I'd like to do one loop of the course (31.2 miles) and start/finish at the Blue Canoe Brewery in Titusville. I'll get the word out if this idea actually grabs hold and gets put on the calendar.

- I ordered my first pair of CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Running tights. They sponsored the Oil Creek 100 and the rep made us all a very generous offer so I'm going to try them out. They're much more than just "tights" but before I preach about them, I need to try them out. They make huge claims about reduced fatigue, quicker recovery, greater core stability, etc. so we shall see!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Turning the Corner

I headed out on a Friday morning trail run just after sunrise with friends from NEO Trail on the Buckeye Trail at West Branch State Park. After a half mile jaunt on the road to the BT trail-head, we turned the 90 degree corner and dipped down onto the trail. Turning the corner brought a deep sigh of relief. It was like a load lifted off my shoulders, the ability to breathe deep was restored, and all was well in the world. It was a great run as nearly all trail runs are and I headed out again this morning...alone, or so I thought. Something told me: "It's November 1st and something probably starts today in the hunting world." I had no idea what I was thinking but thought I'd play it safe so I wore my Kettle Moraine 100 super-bright orange tech tee. Good thing I did, too. I passed 8 hunters with some carrying bows and others with shotguns. Five of those were standing right on the trail and I nearly ran them over since they blended in so well with the surroundings. At West Branch, they're not used to seeing runners at all...but hey, it's a state park and we all have the right to be out there, including them. I shot some video and pics and ended up with 7.1 miles of great enjoyment on a 39F, sunny Sunday morning just after sunrise.

What is it about the trail? Why does turning the corner onto the trail produce such a release? I just recently wrapped up the November issue of the Western Reserve Trail Running (WRTR) newsletter and my interview with the "spotlight" trail runner was yet another great one. From all the feedback I've heard, this is the favorite part of each month's newsletter. She eluded to the "feeling" of being out there and how she was so immediately drawn in when she first hit the trails. But honestly, it's not easy to explain to someone. With three 100-milers under my belt this year, the #1 question is "Why?" but quickly followed with "How do you keep going?" These are two very, very difficult questions to answer. Does "deep rooted passion" suffice as an acceptable answer? No? What about "It's just so gorgeous out there." No? I don't know how to answer these questions and any time I attempt to do so, I start to ramble and end up feeling like I would have been better off to just have kept my mouth shut. I feel like I did it a disservice by not explaining it properly. Want to know "Why?" Get out there and try it. You'll get it and then maybe, just maybe, you can explain it. For the life of me, I just can't and honestly, I'm tired of trying to. All I know is this: it's real, it's powerful, and I wish I could bottle it up, carry it with me everywhere I go, and share it with others. Unfortunately, it's a first-person experience only and toeing the trail is the only way you're going to "get it." Turns out, the e-mails continue to pour into my inbox each week from new trail runners who did just that and WHAM!...they're hooked. The natural questions quickly follow: trail shoes? headlamps? traction? walk the hills? run the hills? get wet? training advice? first 50K to run? That's where it gets fun and I'm all about helping the person who makes the choice on their own to lace up, get out there, and try it out. No wimps, no whiners, just a "go get 'em" attitude.

It was bedtime a few nights ago and I had just noticed that the registration date for next year's Massanutten Mountain Trails (MMT) 100 was announced. Excited, I quickly told Marjie about it and her response, although unexpected, was another version of the dreaded question: "Wasn't Oil Creek hard enough? Why do you have to go do this one?" I was speechless. How do I answer that? Even with her, I can't sum it up and explain it. In another interaction with a fellow runner who is doing a research project for her doctorate degree (subject matter is 100-mile runners....go figure!), she mentioned how I "lit up" when I talked about doing another 100 mile race. Yea, I get excited about it but I can't explain it. I even stumbled and bumbled with her! All I know is this: I have learned so much about myself, where my limits are or where they aren't, and that journey is priceless and is craved more and more with each passing day. I did run across a video, though, that really does sum it up quite well. David Goggins, a Navy Seal and elite ultra-runner, says it perfectly. While I don't compare myself to him physically or in ability, I completely share the "why" he so eloquently describes. It's a video I've watched several times simply to remind myself that I'm not alone in this pursuit and there are others out there who share the same thing I have. Enjoy it and listen close. He nailed it dead on.

Happy Trails, everyone!