Saturday, February 27, 2010

I

love green grass, lush woods, animals scurrying across the trail, trickling streams, and moss-covered logs.

always seem to have an active goal to pursue and if I can't or if something is in my way, it wrecks my world. Yes, I am a Type A personality and a "Pure D" on the DISC personality test.

won't sacrifice my family, my faith, or my service to my country for anything, anyone, or any selfish pursuit.

don't need to be reminded that I ran 3 100-milers last year and maybe that's why I'm having physical problems this year. "Gee...I never thought of that!" I can give you names of several people who ran double that and more and have NO issues. Thanks for the encouragement! I had almost forgotten about that little kettle sitting my my dresser and the two buckles beside it.

am pretty much over this snow, winter, sub-freezing temps, and cruddy roads. Go ahead, U.S. Navy, offer me a full-time job again down south and watch me accept it and say "Goodbye!" to this for good. Seriously.

am not surprised that we get push-back from others regarding our radical change in how we handle money and finances and our newfound view on the evils of debt. It's counter-cultural and far from being "normal." Our must-have-now borrow-ourselves-into-oblivion-brainwashing has got to end if we ever want our country back. Time to get our house in order and stop being a slave to the lender. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay myself interest instead of paying the banks interest. Maybe it's just me. Oh yea, Marjie's Pilot drove much better this week without having to drag that payment book behind it anymore.

love Fridays at Chick-Fil-A between Lent and Easter. They have a fantastic, once-a-year, fish sandwich for 99 cents for those who want fish on Fridays. For me, give me "#1" off the menu AND a fish sandwich. Thank you!

would like the impenetrability of Jack Bauer. He got stabbed a week ago in his abdomen that killed a guy moments earlier and it was like it never happened. Nothin' ever bothers that guy. Even jumper cables shocking the tar out of him.

just picked up my new Osprey backpack from Steep and Cheap. $100 retail and got it for $54 shipped. Awesome versatility and able to hold a bladder for water on the trail. Looking forward to using it on the Appalachian Trail in a few weeks when I start at sunrise and hike to sunset.

am going to be quoted in UltraRunning magazine...my absolute favorite mag. The editor asked if she could quote me in my recent blog post about the mind and body connection. Sweet!

need to burn calories or I'm going to gain back the 50lbs I lost a few years ago. No gym membership, no treadmill, and not able to run much at all. If not for my body, for my sanity. It may be time to awaken my tri-bike in the basement. Haven't been on it since 2001 after finishing my 2nd Half-Ironman. Oh yea, get the snow out first.

think it's really cool when someone like Carrie Underwood who is hugely successful, a multi-Grammy Award winner, and rollin' in the dough...still writes and releases songs that are against the grain of the mainstream and stay true to her upbringing and faith. She's right...this is "just our temporary home."

Monday, February 22, 2010

M-Cubed for Two/Twenty-Two/Twenty-Ten

Monday Morning Musings for February Twenty-Second, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Another weekend gone, another weekend with the Navy. As a Navy Reservist, medical readiness is a hot-topic. A "Reserve Center's" primary job is to keep us ready to deploy at a moment's notice so making sure every "T" is crossed and every "I" is dotted in Medical is an never-ending battle. The requirements consistently change and throw in a recent transfer to a new command and the whole world falls into a tailspin. To keep me "Fully Medically Ready," I had to get 5 needles yesterday. One tetanus shot which is good for 10 years, one H1N1 flu shot, one Hepatitis B shot (#1 in a series of 3), a blood draw to check my PSA level (since my Dad recently was diagnosed with prostate cancer...which, by the way, he is doing very well since a great treatment in Atlanta, GA), and another blood draw in the other arm to check for HIV and lipids (?). Don't know what that last one is, but HIV...yea, I've heard of it. I also had a dentist give me a clean bill of health, a vision test, and some one-on-one counseling with the doc to make sure the stresses of life aren't about to crack me and I'm eating healthy. All done = good to go!

- While in Columbus, I met up with "JetFuelBurner" for an evening trail run on Saturday night. I took my new Vasque's for a 2nd go at the snow and they were great yet again. It was fun running besides the packed snow in the foot-deep snow where my went down to my knees. Great workout climbing a hill while "running" in that stuff. Lung burner!!! Thanks for leading the way, Mike!

- Tickety-tock, I don't stop! I'm heading on out to Oil Creek this Saturday early morning for a 7am start at Titusville Middle School. I thought up this little run about 2 or 3 months ago, thinking it would be cool to see the Oil Creek 100 Miler course in the middle of winter since I loved it so much back in October. Now, it's grown to a point where I'm expecting 30-50 folks to show up. It should be a blast regardless of trail conditions. I just need to charge my battery well for my Canon and load up my Nathan vest and water bladder. If the trail conditions don't lend themselves to a full 50K loop, that's OK...just let me be out there for several hours and I'll be happy. Afterwards, we're all hanging out and refueling at Perk Place Cafe where the owner is both an Oil Creek 50K participant and sponsor of the event. Come on out, y'all!

- Exactly 2 months ago, Marjie and I sat down and wrote our first budget in 17+ years of marriage. Also today, we made the last payment on her Honda. 19 months early! We weren't a cent ahead in December and wouldn't be today if we hadn't made the radical changes. Come on Honda, send us the title! Now on to the next target! Roll on, debt snowball!!!! WOOT! Keys to success only 2 months in? Complete teamwork towards the goal, operating on cash-only, sticking to the budget and telling every single cent where to go, and using the envelope system.

- If you're a central Ohio ultra-runner and like to run trails or don't mind driving a few hours south, there "might" be an opportunity for a 5-6 hour night run that'll start around 6 or 7pm on a Saturday evening. The week before the BT50K is a possibility. Sitting around on Saturday nights during my Navy drill weekends simply isn't an option! Gimmee some new trails! Stay tuned for details as they are made...

- This past Friday, I took my day off and after getting my new Vasque's, hit the perfectly runnable Buckeye Trail starting at Pine Lane. Pretty cool to run 8-12" ABOVE the trail on packed snow. Absolutely breathtaking! My goal was an out-n-back to Boston Store...about 8.2 miles. Instead, I ran to Blue Hen Falls, then to Buttermilk Falls. I got some amazing photos from the day and 13 miles in. I really could've stayed out there all day. I recall one point about 3 miles from being done where I leaned against a tree that was leaning over a drop-off. I leaned on the 1.5" diameter tree....letting it gently bend...and just stopped, listened, and adored the woods and surroundings. It was just too amazing to not stop and soak it in. The few pics on today's post are from that run and here are the rest...start on picture #52.

- Lastly, how about some inspiration this Monday morning and motivation for 2010. Here's a great video compilation of mostly ultra-trail events from 2009 that was put together and released yesterday. Sooooo good! Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Velocity VST: My New BFF

For the past 3 years, I've been spoiled by a trail shoe that fit me perfectly and after 4 pairs of that shoe, they ceased manufacturing that shoe and came out with a replacement which was essentially the same, except that they made a subpar upper that had nowhere near the integrity of the old shoe. My favorite pair of Keen Wasatch Crests have 500 miles on them and got me through 3 100-milers last year. In two of them, I wore them from start to finish. In all 3 of them, I had no feet issues, no blisters, nothing. So given my experience with Keen, my standards were high in my search for a replacement.

Unlike road shoes which can spare some movement inside them, trail shoes really need to fit as close to perfect as possible. In road running, there aren't a lot of forces causing side-to-side movement so the perfect fit isn't as necessary, although desired. On the trails, we place our feet in multiple different directions and rarely are they on even terrain. Through creek crossings, over and around roots and rocks, and slippery snow and mud...trail shoes have to fit well and minimize movement within. Otherwise, hot spots will form, water from crossings will linger, and the nasty blister will present itself.
In my search, I explored everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately for me, most trail shoes are "posted" or are "stability" shoes...meaning they are engineered for the runner who pronates or turns their foot inward. This type of runner represents the majority in our country so it makes sense that they have more options. In fact, the top 3 road running shoes sold for both men and women in 2009 were are stability shoes. I need a "cushioned" shoe since I don't pronate...instead, I'm considered to be "neutral." Not too many trail shoes are available like that. Popular ones are the Brooks Cascadia and Montrail Mt Masochist.
Enter Vasque. Vertical Runner in Hudson recently introduced this line and understandably so. It is very popular in the ultra-running trail world and among elite athletes. They are big on proper fit and wrapping the shoe around the normal biomechanics of the foot like how it curves. The Velocity VST, in particular, is a workhorse of a trail shoe and has what most technical trail runners want. The tread is deep and strategically placed. The upper wraps the entire foot much higher at the top as compared to any other shoe I've ever run in. Not uncomfortably, though. It wrapped it so well during today's initial run on snowy trails that snow never got in my shoes because of the fit. Heel comfort was also superb and I had zero movement. During the 13 mile initial run in them, I expected to stop several times to make adjustments as the new shoes "relaxed." However, no stops were ever needed. The shoe remained as exact as it was when I put it on. It also has a metal plate that runs through it giving protection from the rocks as they present themselves. Toe protection is good as well as you can see in the photo above.

The Velocity VST employs two primary technologies: Ultimate Fit and VST (Vasque Spine Technology) You can view the Ultimate Fit video here. It's the VST that I find especially unique. Imagine rebar that masons put in concrete when they're putting in a driveway or a basement wall. The solid steel tubes are there to strengthen the concrete and keep it in its original form over time. The "spine" in the VST does a similar thing in the heel of the shoe. Most shoes (if not all) have cushioning in the rear. The cushioning can move side-to-side but in road shoes, really isn't a concern because that kind of movement isn't a concern. On the trails as our legs go in every different direction, the cushioning material can be pushed side to side thus breaking down that cushioning faster and also not providing the proper cushioning that's required. This keeps it in place and along with a superior fit thanks to Ultimate Fit, the shoe is simply fantastic on the trail. Here is the VST explained by Vasque themselves:

All in all, I loved the shoe. I was afraid I wouldn't and I'd have to take up the search yet again. But alas, I believe I have found a suitable replacement for many, many, many future miles on the trails. Hopefully, the Velocity VST really will become my best friend forever.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, February 15, 2010

"The Card Game"

2 days before Christmas Day 2009, I sat down with Marjie and wrote up our first written budget in over 17 years of marriage. Embarrassing, of course, since I have a strong financial background along with a graduate degree...in finance. Since then, we operate on cash only and have cut up/closed all but one credit card...the one that temporarily has a balance. This change has revolutionized our marriage in a short two months and put us on track to be purely debt free. There's a reason I've always had a great credit score...I borrow...and PAY...really well!!! My goal now? A ZERO credit score. ZERO.

I just finished watching "The Card Game," which premiered in November 2009 on PBS' FrontLine. I beg you to take 55 minutes and watch it. You will never look at your credit card, that junk mail that comes in your mail touting 0% interest, and your debit card the same. The greed and preying upon us in our country and those around the world is sickening. WAKE UP, people!!!! The practices continue because we as consumers cannot find it in our human free will to say "NO!!!" Whether you agree or not, the facts are the facts. Educate yourself, if nothing else.

M-Cubed for 2/15/2010

Monday Morning Musings for February Fifteenth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Ahhhh....another Monday and another beginning to the work week! Oh wait a minute, I'm a government employee. Long live the weekend!

- Here's a big 'ol "Way to go!" to the "Hopeinator" and her Trinity Trotters. Hope started this group in the North Canton/Uniontown/Hartville area and it has really become a huge success. I finally got the pleasure of running with them on Saturday. Hope and I started at 5:30am on the snow-covered roads of Hartville before the main group met at 7am. Many in the group are newer to running with goals such as spring 1/2 marathons. To see 12-14 folks meeting on a morning where temps are in the low 20s and snow covers the roads was pretty cool. Hope's husband even trolled the course with aid like electrolytes, gels, and sugary snacks. I ended up 20 miles for the day and was really inspired by what Hope has done by being a leader in her community. It was a great, snowy morning on the many Hills of Hartville!

- Instead of pretending I don't feel anything, I'll be honest. I definitely felt my troublesome adductor muscle on Saturday's run. More pronounced from 15 miles and on, I'd say. Very distinct discomfort at the insertion point. No issues anywhere else including the iliopsoas muscle. Perhaps the candy coating of snow on the roads on Saturday contributed. Who knows? I would say the discomfort was a 3 out of 10 which according to Dr. Shah, is the limit for running and not running. Outside of that, the 20 miler was no problem at all. I wasn't even tired afterwards and felt nothing on Sunday. I swear, my body thinks a 20 miler is a snack anymore and the real long distances are the main course. Good thing, right? If that one pesky muscle would just cooperate, I feel like I'd be unstoppable. In my mind, I keep thinking that MMT in May is so much hiking and not as much running so all is good. Stupid rationalization? Who knows. Unfortunately, no one is going to tell me what to do and what not to do. They all know better.

- Week 2 of P90X kicked off last night with the arms and back workout follow by the 15min ab ripper X. I swear, that arms and back workout is masochistic. It's essentially multiple ways to do pull-ups and about 4 different ways to do push-ups, some seemingly impossible to me right now...like that diamond push-up. Spread your fingers on each hand, put them together to form a heart then spread your legs wide and do the push-up. That is NOT easy. Tony Horton, the leader on the DVD, even wants you to take your chest to the floor. If I take my chest that low...it is NOT coming back up! The military push-up and keeping the arms pointed back instead of flaring out is also a bear. As for pull-ups, all I have is a band right now to "simulate" the pull-up. That's not cutting it. I need a pull-up bar. No band can simulate lifting this carcass vertical above a bar. Ab ripper, on the other hand....oh yea, that's a burn like none other. "I hate it...but I love it." So with all the core/upper body work I'm doing, I hope it is strengthening the central area.

- The Oil Creek FA 50K run is on schedule for 12 days from now at Titusville Middle School in Pennsylvania. Reports from the area are saying that inches upon inches of snow are on the trail but it does get used so it's passable. Along with the yellow blazes adorning the trail, we should be good to go. 7am departure time! I can't wait to wear out my camera battery out there in Oil Creek State Park. I'm expecting a really great showing of over 20-30 runners so a good time is brewing! For those of you considering this run, or the Oil Creek 50K, 100K, or 100 Miler this October, registration is expected to open next month!

- My neighbor plowed our sidewalk yesterday. There is 2 FEET of snow where he plowed. Even better, more snow is expected today. Enough already! The 2nd half of February is here which means that March is not far away. I've got my John Deere mower tuned up and it ready for green grass. Surely, there is grass somewhere outside my house. I just don't recall seeing it anytime recently.

- "I got a feeling..." as the Black Eyed Peas would sing...."that the trails are going to come alive this Spring"..."oh yes, the trails are going to come alive"..."caveman mentality is wearing thin, treadmills are getting worn out, the desire to kick up some dirt, splash through stream crossings, and to see the green "pop" on the trail and spring arrives"..."oh yea, spring is coming."

- A trip down south isn't far away. This time last year, I found myself on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in northern Georgia. I hope to find that same trail-head again in March and spend a day from sunrise to sunset on that trail. I cannot wait to crest those mountain tops...to see those views...to bask in the glory of creation...raw and true, just the way it's meant to be. Alone. Peaceful. Ahhhh......

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

P90X Thoughts after Week 1

A week ago today I started the famed and often touted P90X workout program. After watching the intro DVD, it appeared to me to be a great way to cross train, increase overall body fitness, and most importantly for me, a way to strengthen my core section and up. As primarily a long distance runner and nothing else, the legs are strong but everything else has been neglected. One downfall to that has been my left adductor injury...a tell-tale sign that I need strength in that area so all the responsibility doesn't fall on one muscle.

The best way I can describe the P90X program (X stands for extreme, by the way) is to say that on each day, a different set of muscle groups are targeted, known as muscle confusion. This leads to great overall building strength and it forces everything to work and grow together. As one area is growing and rebuilding from the workout the day before, an adjacent group is getting beat down.

Day 1 last week (Saturday) was chest and back. In a nutshell, it is pull-ups and every kind of push-up you can imagine. Each session also starts with a warm-up and wraps up with a cool-down...all in all, taking about an hour. By the end of this session, my arms were jell-0. OK, I liked it. It was a great workout and humbled me to no end. I felt like a big 'ol wimp. I also did Ab Ripper X, a 15min workout that's done every other day. WOW! Abs, abs, ABS!!! As Tony Horton says on the DVD, "I hate it....but I love it." Oh yea, bring on the rip! Day 2 brought on plyometrics, or "jump training" as it's known. Now this one is my favorite. I had my heart-rate sky high and was sweating buckets. You are all over the place in this workout and the best part (in my humble opinion) is that the whole thing feels so applicable to trail running. The footwork required on technical running trails is replicated here. Moving in multiple different directions but with very concentrated "lightness," precision, and control. Superb workout and my favorite by a long-shot. Day 3 brought shoulders and arms, another day I liked and similiar, but different, than Day 1 and also another session of Ab Ripper. Oh yea...hated it...but loved it! Day 4...yoga. Ugh. I'm not a big fan of this one. Namaste. Downward Dog. Blah, blah, blah. Sorry to those of you who are big yoga fans...it's just not for me. I really couldn't get into it. I don't doubt it's benefits, but honestly, I'm augmenting future weeks to do more plyometrics in its place and some core synergistics. Day 5 brought on legs and back. OK...careful, careful. All in all, I really liked this workout. However, there is some kicking involved and high leg lifts. If you know where the adductor is, this is risky with a healing muscle. I felt this workout in a negative way the next morning. I'll keep doing this one but I will tread lightly in a few sections. One of my favorite parts of this one was the wall-sit. I love that burn! Day 6 brought Kenpo. Kick-boxing, essentially, and upper-body hand/arm stuff. I actually skipped this. With the soreness I felt this morning, I felt it unwise to stress the adductor again. Rest day...but I did run 7 miles, though. Day 7 was a stretching or rest day. I took the rest day since I'm running 18 this morning with the Trinity Trotters.

So, that's week 1 and also weeks 2 and 3. Week 4 is a down-week but still has workouts, just different ones. I am going to augment out Kenpo and Yoga next week and insert plyometrics twice and also core synergistics. After week 4 which marks the 1 month point, the schedule is repeated and also a 2nd set of pictures is taken.

As I progress, my goal is clear: to increase my endurance and strength for ultra-running and the 100-mile race distance. Whole body fitness and strength thereby translating into greatly increased endurance over the extended distance of ultra-running. So far, so good...with some tweaks. As Tony says..."Bring It!" Here's a short video about the program if I've peaked your curiosity at all:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mind & Body Connection

The Mind: the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc. (Dictionary.com)

The Body: the physical structure and material substance of an animal or plant, living or dead. (Dictionary.com)

For an endurance athlete, the relationship between these two nouns is crucial. As I woke up this morning, feeling like a 70 year-old man due to my first three days of P90X, my mind started throwing darts on my plans to hit the roads in front of a winter storm bearing down on northeast Ohio. My abs, my shoulders, my chest, my hamstrings...oh, they all hurt. I was still feeling the Plyometric-X workout from Sunday night in my legs. I loved that workout and what it can mean for me and trail-running. It is such a great workout that targets the main workhorses of an endurance trail-runner. It was a good hurt. Regardless of how I felt, I still laced up, covered up as much skin as possible for the 20 degree run, and headed on out. My problem area, my left adductor, has been feeling pretty good lately, but man...I was like a creaky old man this morning. I hit the road and the rust definitely needed to be worked out. About a mile into the run, the hinges and pulleys had been oiled up and things were working well. Two miles in and the hamstrings had virtually released completely and all upper-body soreness had disappeared. By 3 or 4 miles, my stride had opened up and power had returned. With only three days into my P90X conditioning and focusing on whole body fitness and endurance, I already feel the benefits and the strength during the run.

But what about my mind getting in the way? It was reasoning and trying to make a decision for my body and will it to NOT run. Fortunately for me, I deciphered this trickery for what it was and ended up with a run that was strong and powerful and a perfect way to start off the day. As an ultra-runner, this mind-body connection is huge. It is, in my experience, the one X factor in the 50 to 100-miler that every athlete must confront head on. Reflecting back to my 1st attempt at the 100-mile distance, the 2008 Burning River 100, I wrestled with my mind and body from the time I twisted my ankle at Mile 38 until I dropped out at Mile 55. I had my cell phone (a mistake never to be made again) and called everyone looking for them to decide for me what to do. The pain just grew and grew and grew. No one decided for me to drop (and wisely so) but I finally faced reality for what it was and pulled the plug. Looking back, mental toughness that day got me to Mile 55 but stupidity would've gotten me one step further. I was definitely hurt and dropping was the right decision. Flash forward to June 2009 at the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler in southern Wisconsin. I trained all winter on a whole new level and mentally prepared by running very long training runs at predicted pace for my 100-miler, not 50K pace. I learned to discern between pain and soreness and how to address them both. Come race day, I was mentally a fortress to not be destroyed. Nothing...absolutely nothing would stop me from crossing that finish line outside of an ambulance. Unfortunately, 15 miles in and I felt like a brick wall hit me. It made absolutely no sense since I had trained with back-to-back 30 milers with no problem. I was very rested and at 15 miles, the life gets sapped out of me? Usually, I tell up and coming ultra-runners that the first really tough mental section usually hits me in the low 30s...now it's at 15 miles and I have 85 miles to go...ugh. I plowed ahead and in all honesty, I felt this way ALL THE WAY to around 60 miles. I had not planned for this and it was a true test of mind over body. My mind threw at me every reason in the world to pull the plug, get in my car, and head for Ohio. Identifying this trickster for what it is, is so absolutely critical to success in the ultra-marathon. Many ultra-runners have some kind of mantra they think or speak aloud to motivate them. This is very important. I had laminated a picture of my wife and two daughters but to no avail...I lost it in the first 20 miles somewhere on the trail. My mantra goes something like: "You're going great! Keep moving forward! You feel fine! Get your tail movin'!" Each person has to come up with what works but make sure you have something ready. You WILL call on this at some point and probably many more times than just once.

Flash forward to the Oil Creek 100 Miler last October, the single most difficult thing I've done to date. I learned more that weekend about mental fortitude than at any other time in my life. If you have been a reader of my blog for awhile, you know that I pulled my left adductor and iliopsoas muscle somewhere between my 2nd and 3rd 100-miler last fall and that injury presented itself at Mile 20 at Oil Creek. I'm not a fan of ibuprofen during events. It's a risky thing to do and is a highly debated topic in ultra-running circles. However, I got to the point that it was the only option at Oil Creek. As my muscular pain flared in my upper left leg, it was not soreness...it was plain-as-day PAIN. The "rational" human would call it right then and there. Hmmm....rational: intelligent, wise, judicious, sagacious, enlightened (from Dictionary.com). Also at Dictionary.com is the antonyms of rational: stupid, insane. Many outside the 100-mile ultra-running community openly use the antonym of rational when referring to these endeavors and that's OK. It's certainly a point-of-view definition, don't you think? Anyway, I continued on and stuck to a personal limit of 400mg of ibuprofen every 4 hours. Eventually as I approached nightfall and into the 60-70 mile range, the ibuprofen had a smaller and smaller effect on the pain. My pace had greatly slowed to a snail's pace with an occasional burst of running energy. My mind was still in control, though. I kept spinning my mantra through my mind and broke the course into bits and pieces and focused on that instead of the big picture. 5 miles to the next aid station is much easier to swallow than 25 miles until the finish.

If you've read my race report, you know what happened at Mile 92...I crumbled...I cried...I dropped my head onto my wife's shoulder as she completely surprised me as she stood in the center of the bike path. She had driven into town, two hours from home to see me in. I had built such a mental strength around my physical ailments that when breached with the flood of emotion of seeing her, I cracked. When I saw her, the sun had already risen on Day 2 of the event on Sunday morning and I had been up since 5am the day before. Telling her the story of what happened at Mile 20, she kept me moving enough to kick me back onto the course for the final 8 miles to the finish. Out on the last loop, a loop saved just for the 100 milers, hill after hill after hill is thrown at you. It seemed so much further than what it was. The mental strength held strong, though, and by the time I got within 2 miles of the finish, I hurt so bad that I couldn't even walk forward. I remember clear as day, turning and walking backwards on that asphalt towpath. Walking backwards felt refreshing and it was still forward movement to the finish line....that's ALL that mattered. The finish line. Finally seeing that finish in sight, I broke into a light jog, branded a smile, and crossed that finish line in 30 hours, 49 minutes. Yes, I WAS the happiest man on the planet.

People laugh and chuckle at me when I sometimes carry my finisher's buckle in my pocket with me. It's only a piece of metal, right? "Ooohhh, that's nice," they'll say. They really have no idea what that gold and silver buckle means...what it represents. The mind alone couldn't have earned that. The body would have quit at Mile 20. Together though, with the right Mind & Body Connection, anything can be accomplished.

Run strong and with passion out there!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, February 8, 2010

M-Cubed for 2/8/2010

Monday Morning Musings for February Eighth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- OK, let me address yesterday morning's P90X post real quick. 2 things: I am only trying this thing out because I suspect it can make me a stronger trail runner and increase my endurance in the ultra-marathon. Second, I think many who give it a go do it because of the physical changes. That's definitely not my drive but if physically, it helps....great!

- Back to P90X: I'm humbled! The first day tore me up with a sickening amount and variety of push-ups and other upper body workouts. That 52 minutes lasted forever. Yesterday was plyometrics (or jump training). I loved that workout and sweat a ton. Plus, my heart-rate was up so high that it felt like I was back on the track doing speed-work. Today brings another (but different) upper body workout and another 15min ab ripper X workout and tomorrow, the yoga workout. I'm so sore already...

- For those of you waiting to hear about the Oil Creek 50K/100K/100M race date, it has been officially set for the October 16/17 weekend, the week AFTER Columbus Day weekend. Football schedules conflicted with the desired date so it was moved one week later. Registration is expected to open in early March. This stinks for me in a way because October marks a new fiscal year for the government so my schedule with the Navy isn't known yet. Waiting to register for this race will mean not running it because it WILL sell out. I'm stuck and frustrated. I really want to return to Oil Creek.

- Heard of the Trinity Trotters? They are a fairly new running group that run the roads of North Canton/Uniontown/Hartville areas. Hope leads this highly organized group who have been reaching a lot of goals set individually within it. I'm going to give the Valley a break this Saturday and head on down to Uniontown to run with them for a cool 18 miles. However, many in the group do much less and are fairly new runners. Runners of all abilities are welcome. I love what Hope has done with the Trotters and have been wanting to give them a try. Check out their blog for all the group run details each week!

- We had over 30 people crowd into our home for a Super Bowl Party last night. For me, I couldn't care less about the game. I really only watch for the commercials. Volume down during game. Up for the commercials. As a past business student, I love to see how a company will blow 2.8 million dollars for a 30 second opportunity to convince me that I should buy their product.

WINNERS (as voted for by ME)
  • Doritos: Dog Gets Revenge (awesome pay back!!!)
  • Hyundai: New Car (a beautiful car and more than just this commercial to prove it...nice job, Hyundai)
  • Bud Light: Voice Box (not quite the "Wuz up???????" commercial, but still pretty funny)
  • Dodge Charger: Man's Last Stand (REALLY liked this one...nice job!) (I will watch your vampire shows with you...classic!)
  • Dove: You Are a Man
  • Two movies made my "To See" List: Robin Hood and The Bounty Hunter (romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler)
  • VW: Punching Game (nice marketing here...how many people will be getting punched today? Nice way to get people talking about your product...and punching each other!)
  • Google: Parisian Love (my top vote! Google kept it simple and hit a grand slam with this one...my pick for the Best Commercial of Super Bowl 2010!)
LOSERS (and there are many)
  • Budweiser Clydedales: for me, the most anticipated commercial of the night and such a let-down. Texas Longhorn meets Clydesdale. Really? Back to the drawing board, Budweiser.
  • Census of America: so Mr. U.S. Government spent 2.8 million to tell us about the census? Another example of just throwing money right into the inferno for what? It wasn't even a good commercial. Dumb Cubed!
  • Dockers Wear No Pants and CareerBuilder's Casual Fridays: both equally stupid and filled with average day Americans in their granny-panties on national television. Am I sprinting out to buy some Dockers or visit CareerBuilder.com? Uh....no.
  • Tebow and Mom: lots of hype about how Focus on the Family got behind Tim Tebow for this commercial and unless you know the story, it meant NOTHING!!! They had the opportunity on a national stage to take a stand against abortion and they blew it. In case you're wondering: when Tim Tebow's mom was pregnant with him, the doctors recommended aborting him...that's what the commercial is referring to. Unfortunately, I'm guessing they caved to "political correctness" and kept incredibly neutral and said...nothing. Total let down.
- Some of you may recall that in 2009, I got the crazy idea (the day before) to run 36 miles on my 36th birthday. I did it and had a ton of fun. This year, I wasn't planning on it due to some other plans with my "part time job." Well, those reigns have loosened a bit and I think it wise and prudent that I kick it up a notch and do it again. 37 miles on my 37th! If things go to (my) plan, Spring will be springin' and the sun will be shinin' just like last year. Boogety! April 16th!

- My planned Oil Creek FA 50K run is still a go for Saturday, February 27th. If you thinking about running at Oil Creek this fall or just want to run in a super-gorgeous place, you should consider it. Start time is at 7am from the Titusville Middle School parking lot followed by refueling at Perk Place Cafe afterwards. Only a 2hr short drive from northeast Ohio. Check out my Facebook event for more details.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

P Ninety What?

Unless you are living in a void, you most likely have heard of P90X. Either by flipping through channels on the tube and seeing one of their infomercials, from a friend or acquaintance, or in the press. I heard of it when Marjie ordered it many, many months ago. I never gave it any consideration but she's always said I should try it. In the past few months as I've gone through physical therapy for my strained adductor muscle and my trail running has essentially been on a hiatus, I've been searching for new ways to strengthen my core and upper body to prevent this type of injury from happening again. You see...it all needs to be strong in the mid-section so all the muscles can work in harmony and not force one or two muscles to do all the work. If I expect my body to go for 30+ hours during a 100-miler, I've got to broaden my horizon and cross-train...something many of my fellow ultra-trail runner friends don't do...and nor have I.

So enter P90X. I'm not preachin' it. I'm just putting it out there to give myself a dose of accountability. Heck...if I tell YOU that I'm committing, then I consider you my phantom silent partner holding me accountable. Whatever works, right? So if Marjie has been telling me to do it, why now? That answer is twofold: 1) I want to run strong again on the trails...and the 100-miler is my passion. I want to go the distance again...I want to suffer...I want to celebrate. In order to do that, I must find something to make me stronger than ever before. 2) Pink. Yea, the singer. Marjie was watching an episode of Oprah on the DVR yesterday and Oprah was interviewing Pink about her Grammy performance. If you saw it, you'll never forget it. Anyway, she's not endorsed by P90X but guess what, that body of hers is partly due to P90X. She wrote it off as just a bunch of DVDs she does, but it's part of her routine...plus, she's a gymnast...that doesn't hurt, either. Anyway, that got me to watch the intro DVD for P90X.

To start, I took 6 pictures...not to be shown here until I can show you side-by-sides with some results. At the 30 day point, 6 identical pics will be taken for a side-by-side comparison. I "may" post them...we shall see. Honestly, I hope I'll want to! Then again at 60 days and 90 days. The idea behind it all is muscle confusion. Each day is about a 52 minutes workout that works different parts of your body thus adding to the 'confusion.' The workouts don't use a whole lot more than your body weight. A few weights, a band, a chair now and then...that's it. Twice a week, I'll also do a 15 minute Ab-Ripper X workout to supplement. Here's the calendar that I'll be following. I'll be following the "Classic" calendar. I won't be doing their nutrition calendar, though. I already eat very healthy and also don't want to skimp on my carbs...gotta have fuel to run. Speaking of running, this won't interfere and I won't run any less.

In the end, the ultimate goal is to be very strong whole-body and prevent another adductor injury. With trail running so dependent on strong hill strength which comes from not only strong legs, but also a strong upper body, this can ONLY help my endurance in ultra-running. If this can make ultra-running better, stronger, and more enjoyable, then sign me up.

So there you have it...today marks Day 2 of my 90 days to see what happens. At the end of 90 days, I'll be 2 weeks from the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 and will shut it down at that point and rest for my 36 hours (or less) through the mountains of northern Virginia.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Simply Amazing

It is simply amazing what happens to me on the trails. It's so hard to explain but I'll try. It doesn't matter what has been going on in my life or what is to come. When I lace up my shoes and take the first step, it is as if a burden or weight has been lifted from atop my shoulders and chest and I can finally breathe deep yet again. The fresh air stimulates my lungs, the scenery connects to my brain and together, a deep sigh of relief is felt. From there the magic begins and I begin to take flight on a journey that in the end, I never want to end.

I love to run with friends on the trails and share the experience with them. However, I ventured out yesterday on Friday solo...just me...to a park in Youngstown, OH that never, ever disappoints. It presents with every kind of trail surface from lots of rocks, pine lanes, fresh dirt inclines, bridges, and nearly always within sight of one of the lakes or waterfalls/dams that connect each one of them. It wasn't long after starting from the Old Log Cabin in Mill Creek Park that I was thankful for the aloneness that the day had provided. It was perfect. It was peaceful. It was a deep-rooted relaxation of the mind unable to be accomplished anywhere else in life. As I climbed up the steel stairs, passed by the ball-fields, passed by each waterfall, climbed the Monkey Hills, loved the Love Log, stopped by Kimba's Rock, and sat on a few brand new benches overlooking Lake Glacier, the peace and solitude of the trails came to me and there was nowhere else I wanted to be.

For some, it's just the beauty of the trails. They thank 'nature' and the 'universe' for what it has provided. For me, it's not that. Like Emeril says, I "kick it up a notch" and thank the One who has made 'nature'...who has made the 'universe.' There are no accidents out there in creation...no missteps...no "getting lucky". It is all a perfectly-crafted beauty that has been created by the One who knows beauty and perfection like none other. Wouldn't you agree? Can perfection and beauty like we immerse ourselves on the trails really just 'happen'? Doesn't it make logical sense that a conscious being created it all? Thought was put into every species of tree, plant, and animal. The perfect combination of light, oxygen, and temperatures so that everything can thrive is just too much to think that some mystical power just made it all happen. SomeOne's hand crafted it and for that, I acknowledge Him every time I hit the trails. I just wish that others would make the attempt and get out there for themselves and experience it.

In the end, life happens. Reality happens. Work. Kids. Bills. Responsibilities. They all remain when the trail shoes are thrown aside and we say goodbye to the trails...temporarily. The gift of decompression that the trails provide, though, is priceless and should never be underestimated or taken for granted. Whether one runs, hikes, or walks the trails...they have something for everyone and in Ohio, we have a plethora of them. For that, we should be thankful. It is just simply AMAZING...

Happy Trails, everyone!

(if you want to view 93 of my favorite photos from yesterday's run, here they are including one cool encounter with a brave squirrel)

Monday, February 1, 2010

M-Cubed for 2/1/2010

Monday Morning Musings for February 1st, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Hallelujah! February is here. That means March is next and April isn't too far behind! Think Spring, Think Spring, THINK SPRING!!!!!

-I spared my adductor from the ravages of the trails on Saturday and instead, hit up the roads with VR Training. Luckily, I treated myself to about 4 miles at the end on the very quiet and nearly empty Towpath Trail both north and south of the Boston Store. I stopped by my car and picked up my Canon so I could snap a few pictures of the single digit, frigid morning in the Valley. I swear, it felt like the Valley was "sleeping." To that end, I tried to capture that feeling in the pictures. A few of them are included here on M-Cubed today. (Here are all of my Winter 2010 running pics) In the end, I got in 14 miles which wrapped up a 33 mile week...certainly on the low end of my desired mileage but still a mileage that is maintaining my sanity.

- A shining light from the run on Saturday was my hill prowess and how I haven't lost it. That is certainly my ace in the hole when it comes to trail running. Even on very steep asphalt-covered roads, I can walk up them while everyone else runs and still get to the top first. I'm so glad I haven't lost that. That is such a key factor in the 100-mile trail event. I like how the Hopeinator refers to it: "Pullin' a Billock!" Love ya, Hope!

- Well, the Vasque's have started arriving at Vertical Runner, minus the one I'm waiting for, the new Transistor FS. I have never run in the Vasque nor have many local trail runners. However, they're quite popular in the trail running world around the globe. I stopped by VR, regardless, since I needed to get some more BodyGlide and while there, tried on the Montrail Mt. Masochist and the Brooks Cascadia. Both are neutral shoes and have been on the "try out" list before making a final selection. (FYI: they no longer make my beloved Keen trail shoes so I'm venturing out of my comfort zone, looking for new trail shoes) The Montrails made my feet sore after wearing them around the store for about 10 minutes so understandably, I ruled them out. They felt like they really needed some more substance to them. The Brooks felt pretty good and are still a consideration for less technical trail runs. I say that because they offer very little in the way of toe protection. The bottom is rough and tough for the trail but the upper doesn't offer much more protection than a road shoe would. Lastly, I tried on a shoe I had never heard of before, the Vasque VST. The VST stands for "Vasque Spine Technology." They have this spine-like device in the rear of the shoe that keeps the cushioning from shifting left and right as you run the trail. As we run the trails, our feet go in every direction which tends to push the cushioning to the left and right. This keeps it where it needs to be. It also has a metal plate that runs throughout the shoe for protection on very rocky terrain. Hearing all this, I expecting a bulky, heavy shoe which it is not. In fact, it felt very comfortable and even felt good when I took it for a spin in the parking lot out back. Once the Transistor shows up, it'll be one or the other. If the Transistor wasn't en route, I would have bought the VST. Here's a really cool video showing how the spine technology works. Both shoes retail at $100 which is right on target with their competition.

- So this is the month of MMT to be or not to be. I am happy to report that nearly all soreness from my iliopsoas and adductor muscles are gone but I still ache in my very low central abdominal region. I'm working on that soreness by doing lots of core strengthening exercises. Until all is gone, I'm off the trails. I may, however, seek out some mild, easy, trail this Friday since I have the day off. Gotta be smart, though. Nothing technical to aggravate the healing adductor. It may feel OK right now but that's because I've been off the trails. I have a few exercises that directly isolate it and I'm telling you, it's not done healing. I'm itchin' to hit the trails more than ever.

- While I've been craving the great western 100-milers, I'm nearly 100% that I won't venture out there this year. I've been playing around with going out to the Bear 100 in Utah/Idaho in late September but I'm leaning almost entirely towards making a repeat trip to the Oil Creek 100 in October. A big factor will be the date...I'm praying it will fall on Columbus Day weekend yet again. That makes it so easy with my government work schedule. Come on, Tom, tell the school we need the school that weekend!!! :-) Time to shop for an air mattress for the gymnasium floor, too. I am NOT sleeping in a sleeping bag again! Putting Oil Creek on the calendar also frees me up for yet another return to NEO Trail's YUT-C 50K in Youngstown. I really, really hate to miss YUT-C so this works out perfect. I'll most likely just cheer from the Akron Marathon's sidelines this year, though, a week later and work for Vertical Runner at the Expo.

- Boogety, boogety! It's time to get moving! It's 21F, clear, and Mr. Moon is brighter than ever and trying to crowd out the millions of stars in the sky. NO BETTER WAY to kick off the week!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!