Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fools 50K Race Report

Winter seemed to last especially long the past several months. We had inches upon inches of snow, I heard more reports about snow-shoeing than running, and my electric bills reached levels never seen before. With the Fools 50K marking the beginning of Spring in the NE Ohio trail-running community, it was an event I was eager to get to and usher in Spring and kick Winter square in the teeth and tell not to come back for as long as possible.

At the inaugural Fools 50K in 2009, we had a cool, crisp morning with light frost followed by a rising sun, dry trails, and an absolutely spectacular day to share the trails with a few hundred friends. 2010 saw an event sell out quickly as all 50K's are doing in NE Ohio but weather that saw lots of rain in the days preceding the event followed by one overnight snowfall which quickly melted. Race day, March 28th, had starting temperatures in the low 40s and nearly 100% chance of rain by mid-morning. The trails were already muddy BEFORE the rain. "THIS is trail running in northeast Ohio. It's going to be a great day," I thought.


Leading up to the Fools run, we were lucky enough to welcome a highly accomplished ultra-runner from out west who spoke to a full room of local runners and supporters of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park at Happy Days Lodge on Friday night. Pam Reed, Race Director of the Tuscon Marathon, 2-time outright winner of the grueling Badwater 135 Ultra-marathon, and author of The Extra Mile, spoke and inspired us all, hung out at Vertical Runner on Saturday during packet pickup, then ran the Fools 50K on Sunday. I was hoping to see Pam on Sunday and possibly soak in some ultra-running wisdom and inspiration but with over 200 runners quickly spreading over miles of trails, I didn't think that would happen.

The race kicked off promptly a few minutes after 7:30am on Sunday morning and within the first mile, most were already slopping around in the mud. The first section is in grass but is also on a slight decline from the road and adjacent parking lots. This runoff keeps this section very muddy and the trees keep little sunlight from drying it out. Quickly, I set in to my ultra-running shuffle and starting making my "rounds" of friends within the pack, catching up with as many as possible before the hills showed up. For me, early miles in ultras are simply social times as I rarely see these folks except when I have a number pinned to my shorts. It's one of my favorite things about running, for sure. Approaching the first hill, I kicked in my "A-game" and powered up the hill passing 30 or so runners. Hills have become my forte, for sure, and I walk them all on trails but I can normally pass folks while they run. I stretch out the stride, lean into the hill, and use my shoulders and arms as fuel to get up the hill. This method has paid dividends in longer ultras like 100-mile events and really makes the 50K's fun and much more easy to get through.

Around Mile 4 or 4.5, I thought I saw a friend who I see very rarely and did my best to catch her and after shouting her name, the actual person turned and said: "No, it's Pam!" "Pam?" "Pam Reed." "Hi, Pam!!!!" Starstruck, I was. So here she is...the woman who ran 482 miles over 6 days in New York City with 7 hours of sleep, the woman who won and beat the men in 2002 and 2003 in 125 degree heat at the Badwater 135, the woman who ran 300 miles once...just because, and the woman who has run nearly every dream 100-miler of mine on the West Coast. Oh yea, she runs 4 to 5 times PER DAY, too. Never a coach, never a nutrition plan, and rarely an injury. All this in a small, petite, 49 year-old, 100lb woman. Now I get to run with her. One thing I know is that some runners like the silence and a nagging talker on the trail can just drive a person looney tunes. She was wearing headphones so that immediately told me she may just be one of those runners who zone out and want the alone time. You'd have to be to run 482 miles, right?! Well, we did talk....well,
I talked quite a bit and asked lots of questions. I also turned into the local tour guide and explained the different trails to her and what races went through them through the year, especially the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. Pam was a trooper and endured my ramblings and we spent the better part of the next 16 miles within a few strides of each other. I remember her saying "I just have one speed. Whether I'm running 20 miles, 100 miles, or 200 miles, or going up a hill...just one speed." No kidding. Around mile 20, my hill strength could no longer keep up with her. She literally ran those steep inclines without slowing or anything. She wasn't even wearing trail shoes. I know shoes quite well, but I honestly don't know what brand of road shoe she had on...perhaps Newton's? I have no idea. With all the slop and no traction under her feet, she was amazing. I just hoped to see her post-race.

The Fools 50K consists of 2 25K loops and the 2nd loop was an incredible sloppy mess as the rain had began. It just got worse and worse. Luckily, I have experience in these conditions and understand the necessity of keeping my body above my foot strike to keep from falling and slipping side to side. While many go around the mud and run on angled embankments, I chose to go straight ahead through it all where the sure footing remained and kept me from potentially re-injuring a healing adductor muscle by uncontrolled sliding left and right. I had certainly chosen the proper footwear for the day: waterproof Keen Wasatch Crest trail shoes along with my flaming blue Dirty Girl Gaiters. The gaiters kept the muck out of the top of my shoe and since we didn't have any immersed water crossings, my feet stayed dry and clean all day long. In fact, after 31.2 miles of mud, my feet and socks were as clean as they were when I awoke that morning. Love my Dirty Girls! As the day progressed and I passed the 26.2 mile marathon point, I definitely slowed a bit, took some more pictures with my waterproof (thankfully!) Canon camera, and just enjoyed the trail. I was increasingly more happy that I wasn't in pain. The sloppy trails were exactly what I needed to RE-injure myself. However, I missed the trails so bad that nothing was going to stop me from being a Fool on this day. PUN INTENDED!

As I entered the "ultra" portion of the 50K ultra-marathon, the last 5 miles, it was time to crush the toughest section and arguably, one of the hardest trails in the whole Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Salt Run Trail. It's a very up-and-down trail, very muddy, and contains the steepest climbs and descents of the event. Entering the trail around Mile 28 with a view of the finish line across the "Sound of Music" hills, the quick calculations in my head told me that I was going to be incredibly close to a 6-hour finish. What I did NOT want was a finishing time of 6:00:something...I wanted sub-6 for no other reason but just to be under it. Based on my pace going into Salt Run, that wasn't going to happen, especially considering the difficulty of that trail. However, just after these thoughts, I came alive. I felt renewed, empowered, and ready to tackle the trail. No soreness, no pain, no mental barriers...everything felt in sync. I powered up and sometimes ran the hills and often looked behind me to see if anyone was coming. I passed a few runners, too, which just added fuel to the fire. After cresting the toughest climb on the course, about 1.5 miles from the finish, I knew I was WAY TOO CLOSE to missing the 6hr cut. I hoofed it harder and knowing the course so well, I had a landmark ahead which I had measured in 2009 when helping Lloyd out with this race. When reaching the guardrail along Quick Road, it was exactly 1/2 mile to the finish. In that last 1/2 mile was one quick descent, one steep climb, and another slowly rising climb over super-slippery grass with the finish line in site. When I passed the guardrail, my Garmin turned over 5:55:00. I also knew I had started my Garmin a few seconds late. "Oh geez, that's very little time to cover the final 1/2 mile considering what's ahead," I thought. "GET IT DONE!!!!" I shouted out loud. Sometimes, you really just need to give yourself a kick in the butt...verbally...out loud. Quickly glancing at my Garmin over and over again, I rocked that course as hard as I could and was all over the place as I slipped in the grass while seeing the ticking clock from afar. It read 5:59:something. I pushed as hard as I could and crossed in 5:59:47. 13 seconds to spare!!! WOOT! That was great. Great for no other reason but that I finished another ultra, accomplished a tiny extremely-short-term goal at the end of the race, and felt no pain, no regrets for running in the mud, and I got to spend 1/2 of the day with a running legend in the ultra-running community. Life was good. Life IS good.

Post race, Pam was there...freezing, finishing shortly before me and talking about heading to the pool to swim. (she never stops!) I got her to stop for a quick picture, thanked her for running our race, and then told her goodbye. A few bowls of Panera Bread's potato soup later and after changing into some warm cotton clothes, I was on my way home. A great day on the trails was just had and a day perfectly representative of a trail-running community that is alive and well. Great runners, phenomenal volunteers (on a miserable day to be a volunteer), and a national park that opens it's doors wide to us time and time again...it was a great day.  
Here are 52 photos from the event.


So here's to 2010 and another season of trail-running. I'm running a bit late on kicking myself into gear this year but I'm thankful the kick has finally arrived.

Start of event and finish line video. Go to 6min, 28sec to see my finish. Thanks, Chaney Events!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, March 29, 2010

M-Cubed for 3/29/2010


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


- Another 50K in the books and a whopper it was.  Hands down, the muddiest trail conditions I have ever run in.  Starting temps were in the low 40s with a breeze and certain rain heading in late morning.  In the end, I had clean socks (thanks to my flaming blue Dirty Girl Gaiters) but my legs were bathed in mud.  A finishing time of 5 hours, 59 minutes, and 47 seconds was earned, not by accident.  At my pace heading into the last leg of the race at Salt Run Trail, I wouldn't have broken 6 hours.  However, I did not want a six-o-something finishing time.  Around mile 28, I came alive and ran as hard and as fast as I could.  It paid off!  Awesome days on the trails!  I took about 50 photos...here they are.

- Icing on the cake yesterday was getting to run half of the 31.2 miles with Pam Reed who we went and listened to on Friday night.  Pam is one of the most accomplished ultra-runners on the planet and we were very fortunate for her to be in town for the lecture and to run our trail race.  Two of my favorite quotes from her this weekend: "I don't run to race.  I run to reach my goals and for the accomplishment."  I totally echo that!  I used to race for time but no longer run for that reason.  I run....to run!  Her second quote got a chuckle on Friday night: "During a 100+ mile event, when the sun comes up the 2nd day, you just forget about running all night and keep going!"  Thanks for the miles and inspiration, Pam!

- Icing on the cake from such a successful 50K yesterday was that I ran 10 miles on Saturday morning as Marjie ran her next long run of 9 miles.  (I had to run a bit more...I like even numbers.)  I felt none of that run yesterday and in fact, didn't taper or anything for Fools.  I'm taking Marjie and Amy on an April Fools 10-miler on Thursday night, their next long run.  The Flying Pig 1/2 isn't too far away!  From what I've heard, there's a lot of NE Ohio piggies heading down to Cincy in May.

- We finally ordered our telescoping flagpole for our home.  It's a rope-less pole that is very strong for the wind that we spotted at the Ohio State Fair last year.  Also ordered a solar-powered spotlight that'll reach 20 feet up where the flag will be.  Looking forward to finally "finishing" our house!

- I've had 2 Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs so far.  They're only available before Easter.  I wonder if I should stop here.  They are oh so good!

- Next running 'event' is in 3 weeks...my 37-mile 37th birthday run.  On April 16th, I'll lead Marjie and Amy out on their last long run of 12 miles then split off and head to adjacent towns to mine like Brimfield, Kent, and Ravenna, OH.  Stopping along the way for Spring-time pics and considering a lunch break at the Pita Pit in Kent.  They have some awesome vegetarian options on wheat pitas that would be perfect for that run.  They're located in the new Acorn Alley in Kent.


- MMT 100: I withdrew from the MMT 100 a week ago.  I've kept it hush-hush simply because I didn't want to explain myself over and over again.  However, with the race yesterday, I thought it time to explain now. It's quite simple, actually: my recovery from my injury has gone extremely well.  However, I do not feel that my body is ready to ramp up training to prepare for a May 15th 100-miler...the hardest 100-miler on the east coast.  Every fiber in my being told me it was not worth toeing the line of an event in that condition which could easily lead to a repeat injury and being down for the majority of 2010.  NO EVENT is worth that to me.  Secondly: I have to have a burning passion to run 100 miles.  I have to be 110% mentally there.  Honestly, I totally lost that for MMT.  I didn't have it, I didn't want to run it.  Many will disagree with me on the decision to pull out of MMT and that's OK.  My decision and mine alone and since it's done now, I am breathing easily again and now know it was the right thing to do.  Another year...


 - Speaking of injury and recovery, the Fools 50K yesterday was a true test of where I stand.  The slippery muck we ran through is EXACTLY what aggravated my injury.  The uncontrollable side-to-side sliding, thus extending and tugging on the adductor muscles, would've been impossible and very painful a few months back.  Actually..it was.  Remember the Winter Run for Regis?  It was not nearly as bad then but my short 15 miles that day hurt bad because of the unsure footing and sliding.  Not so this time.  I feel great this morning and have taken NO ibuprofen since the race to make sure I feel everything the way it is and I have no pain.  AMEN!!!!


- Monday, Monday, Monday....back to the grind.  I am off on Friday, though, so I won't hold it against you.  Time to go for an hour recovery run on the hilly roads near home!!!


Have a great week, everyone, and Happy MUDDY Trails!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Super Foggy-licious

I just have to share about this morning's run. I got up...thermostat showed 36F and a quick glimpse outside showed dry roads. Perfect. I put on my 13 year old SportHill running pants (hopefully for the last time this season), my Mizuno Breathe-Thermo top and I was gone. Fog, fog, FOG! I have never run in such a dense fog in my life. I quickly learned that my Princeton-Tec headlamp didn't stand a chance, even with 4 fully-charged LEDs. It only provided a bubble to run in. To that end, I turned on my Bat-Vision and headed onto my 6 mile hilly country route where no cars should be. Wise since there is no way they'd see me regardless of how much reflective gear I'd wear. My bat-vision actually worked pretty good. I couldn't see much in front, to my sides, or behind but if I looked straight up, I could see a million stars in the sky. Sooooo cool! Slipping into my running coma, my defenses were down, for sure, and as I passed through a heavy deer-crossing section on my return trip and I thought to myself: "A deer could run out right now and neither one of us would see each other and I'm pretty darn sure I'd lose that battle." Not even 10 seconds later, clickety-clack go hooves across the road only steps in front of me followed by crackling branches to my right. I turned on my lamp immediately trying to spot his/her green eyes but to no avail. My heart nearly leaped out of my chest! It was like being transported straight into a scene of Blair Witch Project. I got moving again and now being on edge, a little stream off the side of road even spooked me about 1/2 mile later. Returning home, I was soaked. Water was laying right on top of my eyelids and on each freshly cut hair on my head from my super-tight haircut yesterday. Even my shoes were soaked...without ever seeing a water-crossing.

Super cool run for hump day. The weekend is halfway here!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, March 22, 2010

M-Cubed for 3/22/2010

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

- I just pinched myself. I am alive and it is Monday morning. And yes, I have to return to my work cave for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks. No, I am not looking forward to the piles of "work" that await me and surely, 20+ voice-mails that are "urgent." It is never easy switching from uniform to civilian employee. My goal is just to blend in, keep my mouth shut, do my job to the best of my ability, and go home. I have to accept now that I won't even put a dent in the pile for weeks to come. Hey, that's tough for Mr. Type A!

- I love when meteorologists haven't a clue. 58F, cloudy, showers all day. That was yesterday's forecast. Reality was 60F and sun all day. Gee...that was close, wasn't it?!?!

- I'm in for my 2nd return to Oil Creek for the 100-miler and apparently, many others are jumping on as well. Registrations for the 50K, 100K, and 100 miler are cruising along at a modest clip after registration opened up late last Thursday night. As of now, 29 of the available 125 100-mile spots are taken, 22 of 75 for the 100K, and 35 of 99 for the 50K. It all sold out far in advance of race day last year and with the race featured on the cover of UltraRunning magazine and great word of mouth, it won't last long this year. Now if I can just find the time to get over the Oil Creek State Park this Spring, I'd be all the more happier. I really want to see the park again as Spring springs!

- I believe I mentioned my Garmin 205 dying while I was in Georgia. Well, the replacement sure did beat me home by about 3 days in fact. They received it a week ago on Friday and shipped a new one out that next Monday and UPS delivered it on Wednesday. Talk about fast service! Unfortunately, I think I dropped my charging cradle on the floor in the hotel room in Athens, GA so now I'm trying to contact housekeeping down there to see if they found it to avoid buying a new one. Luckily, it showed up fully charged so I'm just running already-measured routes around home and not using it. I want to wear it for this Sunday's 50K.

- Speaking of this Sunday, it's the 2nd Annual Fools 50K. The Fools 50K takes place in the Virginia Kendall part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park and is a 2-loop course. As such, it also offers a 25K option. Last year, I remember frost covering the ground at the start and the sun quickly rising to present us with a picture-perfect day. The sun has been plentiful as of late and very little rain so the trails are drying quickly from the snow-melt. I hope this trend continues and provides us all a perfect day on the trails. I'm really looking forward to seeing so many friends whom I haven't seen in months!

- After Fools, I'm really looking forward to my 37 mile 37th birthday run on April 16th. I ran 36 on my birthday last year and had an absolute BLAST! It is also going to double as Marjie's last long run before her first 1/2 marathon. So, I've mapped out a 12-miler that I'll lead them out on for the 1st seven miles then as they head for home, I'll head out on a running tour of southern Portage County. Last year, it was a full-sun, warm day and everything was in full bloom. I stopped and saw friends and family along the way, took lots of pictures, and had an awesome time. I expect no less this year!

- Speaking of Marjie, I ran 8.2 on the roads with her and her running partner, Amy, this past Saturday. It was their longest run to date and they both did great! I had them on the roads at 5am (NEVER did I ever think I would be running with Marjie at 5am...don't only crazy people do that?!) and I took them on the hilly "Karen's Loop." They finished knowing they could do more which was great! To add the whip cream and cherry on top, I took Marjie back out for a 4.8 mile trail run at West Branch a few hours later with a few other friends. We had a great time on perfect-condition trails along the water at the park. Marjie was totally pooped after 13 miles for the day but she had a lot of fun. As Master Yoda might say: "Proud, I am!" Keep it up, Babe!

- Yesterday, I went out with Marjie on a recovery 3-miler and also slipped on my Vibram Five-Fingers. I have the red Sprint model. I felt so good with them on and asked Marjie what she observed while I was running in comparison to when I am normally wearing shoes. She said there was a distinct difference. I slightly leaned forward, had a more "natural" stride and looked like I was more "springy" with each stride. My normal stride is obnoxiously straight up. You can see me coming from afar because of it. I didn't purposely change anything nor did I feel like my posture, etc. was different. However, like I've read countless times about running barefoot, the body just "knows" what to do. Our arch is a natural spring and we were designed to run so this all makes perfect sense. After Marjie's 3 miles, I headed back out for a much faster 3 miles and loved every second of it. It was so easy and effortless. The funny part was when 3 deer froze in their tracks and just stopped and stared...over and over again. I guess my bright red "shoes," my bright green VR Mean Green tech tee, and my black/yellow shorts caught their attention. Anyway, I'm going to throw in some barefoot running here and there but have no intentions of making that my primary way to run. Perhaps I can benefit...or maybe not. We'll see. Today, I have no soreness at all from the run.

- I placed my first order from Brooks last night so I can properly "represent" the brand at future events. I am finally getting a pair of their hugely popular Cascadia 5 trail shoes. I also picked up a sleeveless tech tee and 2 pairs of shorts. I'm looking forward to "Inspiring Daily" as the Brooks ID program promotes! Oh yea, some icing on the cake: while I stopped along the Atlanta Highway at a lake-front Starbucks to write my graduation blog last Friday, the Brooks folks had just posted their Friday giveaway on Facebook. I responded quickly and was one of the only 10 people who are getting a new "Run Happy" tech tee! WOOT! It only took a few minutes from start to finish for the giveaway...talk about being in the right place at the right time. Dang, I love Brooks!

- If you're a local trail runner and want to join me, I'm going to get back in the groove of leading some trail runs in the CVNP. It's been quite some time since I've done that but will start again soon. I hope to do some night running as well which I know many people want who are training for upcoming 100-milers this year. When I do, I'll post them on Facebook and the Vertical Runner message board. All are welcome!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Friday, March 19, 2010

SC, USN


SC, USN...let me explain. Those are common initials behind my name when signing anything in the Navy. SC stands for Supply Corps and USN stands for United States Navy. Today, I finally earned those first couple of initials for good. (when you think "Supply Corps"...think logistics, financials, food, supply chain management....like the hub of a big wheel that makes the whole "machine" work) At 10am this morning, 28 of my fellow classmates and myself graduated from the Navy's Supply Corps School in Athens, GA. It was a fine Navy day...starting with brilliant sunshine, warm temperatures heading for the 70s, and a Navy base littered with fellow officers walking around in their dress uniforms. It was...it IS a good day.

Before we headed into graduation at 10am, my class met outside on the historic building's steps, Winnie Davis Hall for a class photo (see below...that's me...top row, center) then made our way inside. Along with our class of 29 (all reservists), another class that has been there full-time for the past 5 months on active duty were graduating alongside us. In classes past, the graduations were on different dates. However, with the Navy's big focus on "One Navy"...thus blurring the lines between active and reserve, we now graduate together. Years before my time, the Reserve didn't do as much as today. Today, we are called up to support the Navy like never before...not so much on ships like many think, but heavily in the Middle East in places like southern Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Together, we are "One Navy" but the demographics between our Reserve class and the active duty class are a lot further. Many of them graduated college last year, went to Officer Candidate School, then reported to school. On the other hand, the majority of our class have graduate level degrees and are highly ingrained into successful careers. The education and our civilian careers most likely got us in the Reserve and many of us (like myself) previously served as an enlisted sailor which made me even more attractive to be a leader of junior sailors.


Icing on the cake today was the most senior Supply Officer in the Navy was our Key Note Speaker, RADM (Rear Admiral) Mike Lyden. Great words of inspiration and the handing of each graduation certificate to each one of us personally as we crossed the graduation stage. Afterwards, I met him and the Commanding Officer of the Navy Supply Corps School on the steps of Winnie Davis Hall for one last photo. It was great to have such high brass here for my graduation. (from left: RADM Lyden, me, CAPT Hayes)

There was certainly a great sense of pride and ownership in the Corps I now am officially a part of. The ceremony started with a commercial, courtesy of the US Navy's marketing department, which really got my blood flowing red, white, and blue. During the 1 minute commercial, memories are stirred from my many days out to sea on a cruiser and a few aircraft carriers and also has images of things I may do in the future. It represents well what the Navy is today for me and for you as an American citizen. My Navy. Your Navy. Our Navy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

M-Cubed for 3/15/2010

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

- A little sore on the outsides of my knees and beneath my right ankle bone, but all-in-all, I came out unscathed from my 30 glorious miles on southern section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through northern Georgia in the Chattahoochee National Forest. I won't be writing a report or anything like that about my trek. Some things are best left right where they were experienced...on the trail and in my head. It was a glorious day, though. I was on the trail at 6am and finished up around 4pm. A lunch break, lots of time taking about 100 pictures (50+ are available here for your enjoyment), and occasional stops to talk with hikers on the trail defined the day. I'm guessing I climbed about 8000 +/- feet in elevation based on the gaps and summits I went through and over. Honestly, the pictures (mostly taken in wide angle) tell the story of my day very well so please, take a look! (you do NOT need a Facebook account to view them) One thing I learned very quick after starting was that even though I planned on hiking all day and not running, I am not a hiker...I am a runner at heart and a trail-runner in my heart of hearts. With that said, I treated the day like a make-believe 100-miler and ran that way...slow and steady, power-walking the hills, running the flats and downhills, and being very, very careful on the thousands of moving rocks beneath my feet. At the pace I averaged all day, fully self-supported, I'd finish far before the cutoff at MMT in May. We shall see...


- More about the AT...very happy I was to easily knock out 30 miles on the trails after such low mileage throughout 2010 so far...proof that I haven't lost my endurance base. :-)

- Only a few days ago and it's goodbye to Athens, GA forever. This Friday morning at 10am, myself and 28 other fellow Navy Supply Officers will graduate from the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps School. It also ends one chapter that began on September 1, 2007 when I was commissioned as an officer and begins the next chapter when I will finally be able to be a usable asset to the Navy. Great stories to be lived in the future! Little Factoid: did you know that Regis Philbin was a Navy Supply Officer? He sure was!


- I found this coolest pizza shop here in Athens that has stolen a little bit of my business away from The Grit that I love so much called Your Pie. Made to order pizzas (choose white or wheat fresh dough) for 6 to 8 bucks and cooked right in front of you in 4 minutes in a brick/wood oven. So darn good and easy to make a healthy pizza! Yesterday, in celebration of Pi Day (3.14), they sold all of their pizzas all day for $3.14. Truth be told...I had one for lunch...and dinner. The one at dinner was one I was very anxious to try...the Hippies Pie...check out these ingredients: wheat dough with olive oil spread on top, Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Sauce with low fat mozzarella Cheese, Tofu, Spinach, Artichokes, Baby Bellas, Banana Peppers and Roasted Garlic. YUM!

- Shocking to me, but it turns out that my parents are going to re-open their homemade ice cream shop next month. Some guy actually stopped my mom out in town and told her "You need to open back up. Consider it a public service." Ha! Lots of people have been voicing their demands for my dad's best-ever homemade ice cream and the girls who work there did their part in petitioning my parents, too. In the end, it was decided to open the doors once more. Since neither of my parents care for the "Facebook-Generation," I took the lead and created a fan page at
http://facebook.com/billocksicecream. This will be the main way to announce new flavors throughout the summer and other happenings at the shop. Just become a fan and stay in the loop! I cannot wait for my favorite Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. Hmmmm.....

- My Garmin Forerunner 205 died last week. When I headed out to Oconee National Forest on Tuesday, it was dead and I thought I had left it on all night. When I got back and put it on the cradle, it was fully charged...hmmm. I did all the trouble-shooting from Garmin's website and talked to a rep there with no luck. Dead battery. I bought it back on August 22, 2007 from Vertical Runner. A rechargeable battery's life is dependent on how many times you charge it and since I run with mine on at all times, I charge it a lot...but I shouldn't have charged it until it was necessary. Often, I'd charge it just to "top it off." Not a good idea. Anyway, I was presented with about 3 options: 1) buy the latest and greatest 310XT..that'll set me back about 300 buckaroos. In my pre-budget days, I would've just charged it and been done with it. In these days, I'm not willing to give up that kind of cash. 2) buy a new 205 off of eBay for around $135 shipped. Not a bad option at all since I've been 110% satisfied with it. 3) send back my dead Garmin and pay Garmin $69 total to either fix it or send me back a fully rebuilt 205 (possibly new...we shall see in a few days). I'll take a rebuilt one, for sure. Another 2-3 years of service for 69 bucks? Sign me up! I had it in the mail to Garmin's headquarters in Kansas on Wednesday afternoon and their website already says it's been received and a "replacement" is on the way. Cha-ching!

- Marjie (my wife) is totally rockin' it out. Like many newbies to running, she "never thought she'd ever run that far." This past Saturday, she ran 6 then 7 yesterday. Six had been her longest ever a week ago. As I've always told her, it'll get easier and easier and she agrees! I just think it's so cool for her to be running now. This upcoming weekend, I'm going to run her 8 with her then take her out and a few other friends to West Branch State Park and run some trails. Before she knows it, she'll be crossing the finish line of the Flying Pig 1/2 Marathon and will have that piggy-medal draped over her neck. I can't wait to share that with her! She's a blogger now, too, so if you want some inspiration or read about her own journey, stop on by her blog. It's linked in my blog roll or just click here.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Daddy's Girls

Separation can sometimes be a good thing, I think. It allows one to reset, re-focus, clear the mind, and realign or at least refresh the priorities in life. Luckily, thanks to technology, that separation is made a little bit easier. You can do nearly everything but touch thanks to high speed broadband internet and our always-connected culture. True, though, is that often when we step foot inside the door at home after a time away, reality sets in and it's back to business as usual...or is it? We control that, don't we? Or, we can hang our hat on "well, that's just the way it is...it was nice while it lasted...here we go again."

So far over the last week, I've seen my girls every day...at least once. We quickly got in the routine of "Skyping" before they got on the school bus in the morning. (the wonderful side effect is that they stay on task...because they want to see Dad...while getting ready for school thereby decreasing Marjie's stress levels) It was great. They lit up on the camera, smiling, partially toothless, and holding up one of our cats to the camera now and then. They just loved it and even loved it more when I'd instant message them via Skype. "Type something else, Dad!!!"...as they'd stare at the bottom of the screen waiting for something else to pop up...then I get to watch their reaction. Priceless, I tell ya...priceless.

This separation is a lot like post-ultra-marathon (yes, I will always draw a parallel to running on my blog...would you really expect anything different??). After an ultra, I am elated...I am floating on Cloud TEN...I couldn't be happier. I totally forget all that pain and discomfort and all of the comments said inside my head and that sometimes leaked out. I am happy and think only about the good times. That's sorta how this is. As a dad, it's definitely not all roses as discipline, smart-mouthed kids, and frustrating homework nights all get in the way. Stepping aside physically, although temporary, and I easily brain dump it all. All I can see (or smell) is roses. It's the reset button of my relationship with them as a father...as Dad. To that end, I just so happened to stumble on a great book by Meg Meeker, MD called "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know." It's a very tangible book with tools and ideas to be a good dad. Things that make me wanna hit my head and say: "I shoulda had a V-8!!!" Ya know....as dads...as parents, we get stuck in a rut of doing things...same thing day in and day out. Life is just cruising on bye with not so much as a wave. Before we know it, my girls will be grown and it'll be too late. The type of relationship I want to cultivate must start now. It's not that I'm not doing anything right....I am. I'm just missing a lot, I think. Since I finally got my Borders Rewards 30% coupon in my e-mail today, I'm going to go and buy the book. It's one that I can see reading a few times over the years and one I'd want to loan out to fellow dads. It's just another tool in my tool-belt as I like to say.

I do love my girls. I want to be very close to them throughout every day of my life. I want them to still be calling me "Daddy" when they're being called "Mommy." (oh geez....that conjures up all kinds of thoughts!) In a culture that will do its very best to rip and tear them away from me, I have to work hard to be there for them, to protect them, to teach them, and to be their hero. They need to know that "My dad will take care of me!"

Below is a video that I hope you'll watch if you made it this far in today's post. Collin Raye, a country music artist, wrote a song about his granddaughter, Haley. Haley has an undiagnosed neurological disease. She started digressing at age 2 and is now 9 years old. It's called "She's with Me." Watch it...and listen to the words. This is Collin's story but when I heard it, it really compelled me to write today's blog...it was sort of a capstone on what I've been feeling this week. As the video comes to a close, listen closer to the lyrics and how it changes from "she's with me" to....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Miracle?

Many definitions of "miracle" probably come to mind depending on who you are and your belief...or non-belief in them is probably even more pronounced. Let me throw out Dictionary.com's definition: 1) an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.2) such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God. 3) a wonder; marvel.

I don't often talk "religion" on my blog. I don't throw my beliefs at you and condemn you if you don't believe. However, if you know me or can read into the title of this blog even a bit (it's very similar to a verse in the Book of Hebrews), hopefully you've picked up that I consider myself to be a Christian. I was raised in a traditional Baptist church but today, don't really subscribe to any particular "religion" like Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. Call it Christianity, if you wish, if you must put a label on it. Since the age of 5, actually. I've gone through peaks and valleys throughout my life when it comes to my Christianity...some very lows and some great highs. I am a never-ending work-in-progress and will never be perfect or know anywhere remotely close to everything. However, I do seek to know Him more everyday and I do believe completely that He guides my every step and decision. It is through His guidance that I lead our home, am a husband, a parent, a service member to this great country, and walk my daily walk. It's really as simple as that...He's always there...we talk quite a bit, and he sometimes gives me the answers I want, and sometimes not. He always answers, though.

That's the point of my post today. Let's back-track and review a bit first. Last September, I am quite certain that on Labor Day, I pulled my left adductor muscle while racing a 5-miler that I shouldn't have been racing. I was only 4-weeks post my 2nd 100-mile finish. I pretty much ignored that little "twinge" I felt and proceeded to run the YUT-C 50K, Akron Marathon, Oil Creek 100-Miler, and Bobcat Trail Marathon...all, while an injury quietly grew. Well, it wasn't so silent at Oil Creek where it nearly finished me at Mile 20. Anyway, the point is that I ignored it. Lots of scar tissue built up...so much so that by the time I got to my physical therapist, I practically had railroad tracks of scar tissue right on top of that muscle. After 3 x-rays (confirming no bone problems), and 3 sessions of the Graston Technique (imagine metal objects ripping the scar tissue apart from outside the body...ouch), I had little signs of recovery. I'd feel good during an easy run...then by evening, I'd be in pain. Delayed pain...interesting. Or, I'd run in the morning before work and feel fine then limp out of my chair at work all day. Frustrated by the end of the road that I apparently found, I shut it down. I didn't even run 100 miles in the whole month of February. I rested...a lot..even gained 5 or 7 pounds. Rest....rest....rest. Still, through a week ago, nothing felt better. It STILL hurt. DANGIT!!! "I've tried everything and I'm still sitting here...hurting!" ARGH!!!!

OK, back to my initial thoughts: being raised as a Christian, I've prayed throughout my life. I pray daily, in fact. For me, it doesn't come in the form of knee-bent prayer but more of an ongoing conversation between Him and I. From the initial onset of my injury to the wreck that I became at Mile 20 of the OC100 to the point in December when I cracked and sought medical help...I never once...not once did I pray specifically for healing of my injury. I believe in my core that He can and does heal. I came to the very end of help...when there was nowhere else to turn...I finally prayed specifically: "Lord, please just heal it. Just heal it miraculously." I prayed that about a week ago and a few times since. I then flew to Athens, GA and ran an easy 10 miles on Monday...mostly on concrete. I felt nothing. Even more telling is that I felt nothing Monday evening and most telling, nothing when I awoke on Tuesday. I always felt it most when I awoke before I even got out of bed. Then Tuesday, I ran another 2 hours on the trails, jumping side to side and slipping a fair bit, and same results. That was more of a test than you know. The adductor muscle controls side-to-side motion and that run "should" have shot flames of pain through that muscle and I should have been in pain Tuesday night and limping yesterday. Again...nothing. In fact, I felt like heading out for more yesterday...but I didn't. No need to push it too much...too fast.

I am a big believer in this: the Lord will cause you/I/us to fall flat on our face, if necessary, to get our attention. He will take us to where there is nowhere else to turn to cause the "light" to turn on and wake up and turn to Him. It's typically not going to be a pleasant experience when He has to do it but it's necessary in His fathering process. I'm thankful for these life-lessons and what I'll take away from them. They are priceless.

So what do you think? There is no rational explanation. One week ago, it showed no signs of recovery. It hurt after 3 days of complete rest. Now...nothing. Miracle? God-ordained? Prayer answered. Thoughts for you to ponder and perhaps discuss. For me...Yes....Yes....and Yes.

MMT, are you listening? 65 days by my calculation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We've Got It Good

Yesterday was my first full day down here in Athens, GA and with a forecast of the mid-60s and approaching 70F, I was lickin' my chops for a run...in shorts...without gloves. By 10:30am, I was on the always-hilly roads of Athens and made it through the UGA campus, downtown, a quick stop by The Grit (had to make sure it was still there!) and back to base for 10 miles...all sweaty. Yes...salty sweat dripping down my face instead of freezing to my eyebrows. It was a great run and pain-FREE. It was even on mostly concrete and still..no pain. The true test was when I woke up this morning and still, no pain. :-) Later after we let out of class in the afternoon, I went and saw Shutter Island. The previews made it look like a horror flick which of course, Marjie had no interest in. However, the reviews I skimmed didn't agree and the reviews were quite good. It's a quick-moving 138 minute movie and if you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing...it's for you. For example...if you like shows like "24"....you'll like it. I do...and I did. Afterwards, I got my 1st wish of the trip granted...a trip to The Grit for my first of four trips. Grit is a vegan restaurant just off the UGA campus and is what you'd expect regarding decor, staff, and customers considering it's proximity to the university and what it serves. It's actually in a 100+ year old building and all the original brick is exposed inside with local art adorning the walls. I had their staple dish...the Golden Bowl. Brown tofu cubes sauteed with with soy sauce and nutritional yeast served over brown rice. I added the optional cheese and mixed veggies, too. It was soooooo good!!! The tofu was so well cooked and reminded me a lot of scallops. I could've had 3 helpings without blinkin' an eye. Thursdays are their Indian cuisine nights so I'm going back this Thursday....then Saturday (or Sunday), then lastly on Tuesday next week. 4 visits and I should be good to go!

Today was a surprise bonus day. Either I could participate in a golf outing.......or......I could do as I please. Hmmmm....golf....or go find some trails. Easy decision. Since I'm heading north to the Appalachian Trail this Saturday for an all-day hike, I thought I'd head south to the Oconee National Forest...pronounced o-CO-nee. I drove straight to the ranger station, about 1hr south of Athens and got some directions to a trail I could run on. Hundreds upon hundreds of acres and there is ONE trail they recommend. Everything else is only a couple of looped miles and are widely scattered. OK...fine...where's the trail? "About an hour away. Further away." Yikes. This trail had better be good!!! I hopped back in my little, tiny, burgundy Toyota rental and got driving yet again...for another hour. I get to the road I'm supposed to turn on and it looks like an abandoned gravel road. I take it and sure enough, there's a "parking area" where the ranger said it would be. Reality: it was an open area under pines with horse poop everywhere. You see..this is an equestrian trail and it looks like they were here over the weekend. Oh joy...the trail should be....well...poopy. I had a really bad feeling about leaving the car there with my wallet/phone/laptop inside. I didn't even have a cell signal, I was in the middle of nowhere, and there was NO ONE around. Nada. I pulled up the rear seat cushion in the Yaris and found a cavity to hide my wallet. I hid my cell phone in another seat cushion (after uploading my GPS coordinates to Facebook just in case something happened), and got moving on the trail.

Right away, I felt like I was dancing on rocks and over roots...without either. The horses...many of them...had definitely been on the trail recently. Deep, muddy craters everywhere from side-to-side on the trail. It eventually got better and I just had to go off-trail a lot to stay out of the red clay mud. I didn't want to get my new Vasque's all dirty! I have to say...the trail itself was a disappointment. I'm so accustomed to our trails in Ohio and these trails were just plain ugly...sorry, but they were. No color, no beauty...nothing. I still had a good trail run because I don't know any other way to have a trail run...but geez..."WE'VE GOT IT GOOD" up in Ohio with our trails. Any month...any season....our trails are breathtaking. I can take my camera for any run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and never have trouble wearing down my battery. Today...I had trouble finding pictures to take. Made me miss "my" trails, for sure. (here are the pictures I did take...all in wide angle...they're pretty good) In the end, I got in 2 solid hours of trail running and here's the big fat icing on the cake: with the wide variety of foot placement and technical-like running, NO soreness in my adductor. That 20 miles over the past two days without pain. I'm praying (seriously) that I feel no pain when I awake in the morning. That's the true test...the morning after.

Afterwards, I headed back north and drove through historic Madison, GA, looking for a cafe with Wi-Fi access so I could chill, refuel, and work on my pictures. No need to rush back to base. I stayed until I got kicked out when they closed at 5pm. Getting back to base, I checked my e-mail and the perfect end to a perfect day was waiting: I got sponsored by Brooks in their Brooks ID program! I'm a big fan of Brooks and am also in their wear-testing program. ID stands for "Inspire Daily." I applied about a month ago and was starting to think I wasn't selected but BAM!...there it is! Here's an overview about the program. Enjoy!

Visit Brooks ID for more Videos

Monday, March 8, 2010

M-Cubed for 3/8/2010

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

- Ahhh.....Athens, GA. It's good to be back for one last visit. Today marks Day 1 of a my final 2 weeks in Athens and one that will be marked by graduation on March 19th from the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps School...the place all Supply Officers have passed through for decades upon decades before they went out and served across the globe. This chapter of my Naval career began on September 1, 2007 when I re-entered the Navy as a Reservist and began the training program. Once graduated, I become a "usable asset" as I like to say. As the Navy Reserve's motto says: Ready Now. Anytime. Anywhere. In fact, nearly 1/3 of my graduating class has already received notification of orders to the sandbox. The Navy sure doesn't waste any time!

- With a forecast of 72F and sunny today, sleeping in and reserving a run for the late afternoon is the plan. Running in 70F weather sounds like a dream right now after escaping the clutch of a seemingly never-ending NE Ohio winter.

- It's nearly time to re-work my blog again as that picture at the top (although I truly love it and that section of trail) is all about the cold, snowy trails in northeast Ohio. Spring is coming so I'll be on the prowl for another representative photo for RTRSBM. Something tells me that I'll have no problem finding one.

- I'm no vegan. I love a great burger, no doubt. However, I love, Love, LOVE a great vegan restaurant. THE one is down here in Athens...The Grit. I found it late in my last visit so only visited twice. Not so this time, though. I think I'll just start a tab. It is so unbelievably good. I can think of so many of my running friends who would love this place and would agree. Check out this rockin' menu.

- I miss my work cave. NOT!

- I can't quite figure out why "The Hurt Locker" cleaned up at the Oscars last night. Marjie and I watched it last week and upon finishing, thought it was OK and gave it 2 out of 4 stars. Then, I heard about all the nominations and how it was in the running for Best Picture and a run of many other categories. To me, The Blind Side trumped that movie AND Avatar and deserved the award. It was good to see Sandra Bullock take home Best Actress, though, for her role in The Blind Side. Great acceptance speech, too.

- If you ran or volunteered in this past weekend's Green Jewel 50K, Shamrock 15K, or Mill Creek 1/2 Marathon...way to go! Clearly, it was the weekend (along with the balmy 40F+ degree weather) that said "Welcome, Spring!!!" Truth be told, though...remember how in recent years that Opening Day for the Cleveland Indians have been scrapped due to SNOW and nasty weather. We're not out of the woods, yet, but there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

- 5 days until I'm heading up north to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Back in January 2009, I went exploring and running up there and stumbled upon the Appalachian Trail. I had no idea it ran through there. Since that day, I have sworn to return during my final trip down here. My goal is to be on the trail at sunrise and hike until sunset over as many mountain peaks as I can. It's a couple-hour drive north to the Gap I want to start at. I think I'll hike for 1/2 the day east or west then return to my car for food then go the opposite direction for the 2nd half of the day. I can't wait to get up there. It is truly the epitome of God's creation...untouched by the ravages of today's culture. It is beauty unparalleled. Of course, I will have my camera in tow and fully charged. I'm setting it to wide-angle for the hike just so I can capture as much as I can. This will also be a big test how I fare in elevation, on rocky terrain, climbing, and for several hours on end. The results will most likely be the determining factor on whether or not I still participate in May's MMT100 in Virginia. Here are photos from January 2009 when I last visited the Forest.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!