2014: half-year review.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2014 by Trail Boy

So….happy July. The year is half over. It’s time to take a quick assessment and make adjustments as needed. What’s good, not so good, lousy. Let’s go!

The good:

* I’m running regularly again, typically five days a week. I’m focusing on my goals (fall races, staying healthy, having fun) with a good mix of easy runs, hill work, tempo runs and long runs.

* I joined a weekend running group (Indiana Trail Running) and have run with them a half-dozen times, usually at Fort Ben. They have helped me enjoy the miles and get a little faster.

* I push myself on days I don’t feel like running.  Having challenging fall races on the calendar helps a lot.

* I’m losing weight (but not as quickly as a decade or two ago).

* I resumed strength training with push-ups and free weights. It’s a good start, and I need to expand it with core training.

* I had fun re-reading old running journals and starting a new one. All in all, I’m happy with how things are progressing.

* Running gives me joy. It’s as simple as that.

* In non-running news, I remodeled my kitchen, did some good things at work, won some awards, and choked back a tear as my older son graduated from high school. Our family also rescued two cats from the shelter.

The bad:

* The Winter That Would Never End threw a wrench into everything. The first three months of 2014 were a disaster.
* I scrapped plans to run two spring races I had registered for: the Fools 25K and the Glass City Half Marathon. That was the worst feeling.
* I had another birthday in May. I’m a year older. And I’m no closer to qualifying for Boston than I was 10 years ago.
The Ugly:
* Now that I’m in my mid-50s, it takes me longer to wake up and get going in the morning. I used to jump out of bed at 6 a.m. and go running. Now I get out of bed at 7 and drink coffee for an hour. Is that normal?
* I still need to lose 15 pounds. Why is it so hard at my age?
* My IT band occasionally grumbles. But so far, it hasn’t done anything worse, likeseize up or go lame.
Looking ahead:
* Keep doing the good stuff: daily running, stretching, journaling. Stay on course.
* After my trail relay in August, shift gears for the fall half-marathons. That means speed work at the track and more tempo runs.
* Have fun, stay healthy, keep feeling the joy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Three fun races on the horizon

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 by Trail Boy

I’ve got three races on my calendar in the next few months that I’m excited about.

1. Burning River 100M Endurance Run and Relay

emblemThis is a 100-mile race through the trails and back roads of Northeast Ohio from Willoughby Hills to Cuyahoga Falls. It runs Aug. 2-3, with a 30-hour time limit.

No, I’m not running 100 miles. As much as I’ve daydreamed of running long ultras, it’s not in the cards for an old guy like me.

I’m running the relay on an eight-person team.

I’ll run the last leg, 10.5 miles from Botzum Trailhead to the finish line, probably in the dark. To see all the legs, including maps and elevation relays, check out the Information Guide and scroll to page 12.

The name of our team is Friends and Strangers. Because that sums up the eight of us.

2. River Run Half Marathon.

riverrun

I’ve run 16 half marathons over the years. But this was my first ever, way back in 2002.

This is a beautiful course, slightly downhill, along the Cuyahoga River in Northeast Ohio, from Berea to Rocky River.

The first year I ran it, I made every stupid, rookie mistake. I started out too fast. I gulped down Gatorade by the cupful and got terrible stomach cramps. I had to stop and walk three times.

I missed my goal of two hours by 10 lousy seconds. (See summary here.)

But I learned my lesson. I kept training and racing. I came back to this race twice more in the following years, and got my time down to 1:38.

So now that I’m making my comeback, this is the half-marathon I want to face again. It’s on Sunday, Sept. 7.

I need to know: Am I a rookie again? Will I make the same dumb mistakes? Or maybe different dumb mistakes? Will I shuffle or will I race? Will I beat two hours? (Answer: I damn well better.)

3. Towpath Half Marathon

towpathsneaker

I love the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which stretches for more than 80 miles through some of the prettiest parks and woods in Ohio.

I’ve logged thousands of miles on this dirt and crushed-limestone trail. It’s an old friend. It has shaded me in the summer and dazzled me with unbelievable colors in the spring and fall.

I have run it for fun and for serious training.

But I’ve never raced the towpath marathon or half marathon.

I need to fix that. So on October 12, I will run the half marathon. Just for fun. And for a challenge.

***

If these races go well, I will think about going up a level in distance and intensity. If they don’t, I will re-evaluate, and modify my training, and maybe try something new to heal my iliotibial band.

For the past three months, my leg has done well. I’ve stretched it, iced it, babied it and prayed over it. Now I just hope it’s up the job of taking me back to racing heaven.

As I was saying…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2014 by Trail Boy

No, I’m not dead. I was just resting.

This hellacious winter came pretty close to killing my running forever and turning me into a couch slug for life. It was brutal.

It started out promising, though. I ran all fall with joy and abandon. I ran through the early winter and the first couple of storms of Polar Vortex.

But after the fourth or fifth killer blizzard, I said screw it. I was sick of running in 10-below weather and slipping on ice and dealing with sideways-blowing snow and crazy drivers. I was tired of falling down and twisting my ankle and freezing my ass off.

So about mid-February, I just stopped. I decided to wait until the tulips came up before I got back to it. And now it’s May, and the tulips are up. So it’s time to pull on the Mizunos and get cranking.

Here are my goals this year:

* Run a road half-marathon.

* Run a trail half-marathon.

* Run with a group once a week.

* Lose 15 pounds.

* Scribble in this blog every now and then.

* Write more detailed stuff in my private running journal.

* Cheer my sister from afar when she finishes her first 70.3.

2013 in review, and the year ahead

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1, 2014 by Trail Boy

2013-in-ReviewIt’s been four years since I’ve written a year-in-review post. I need to get back in the habit, especially since I’m back on the trails and training for a couple of big races in the spring.

So here goes.

Gotta say, 2013 was a mixed bag. I had progress and setbacks, joys and frustrations.

But it was mostly good, I am happy to say.

Biggest joy: No doubt, it felt great to get back into the groove. I finally learned how to manage my injured leg, a challenge that has bedeviled me for three years. Once I did that, I got busy and put together a sensible training schedule, with short daily runs and very slow mileage increases. I stuck to it and ran faithfully for months. I pushed my distance gently and gradually to 10 miles. I ran with a few old friends, and enjoyed some group runs. For a trail runner, this was absolute bliss, after  years of fits and starts.

Biggest thrill: After months of building of my base, I was able to say in November I was back in the hunt. I signed up for the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo in April 2014. I went running with the Indiana Trail Runners on a 10-miler on the Tecumseh Trail. I met old friends and made some new ones. I felt like a runner again.

Best of old times: Spending five days in Northeast Ohio in October, running and hiking old trails, including a morning on the towpath with Denny. Old trails and old friends are the greatest pleasures of a trail runner’s life.

Best race: I ran only two races this year. That’s low for me in the big picture, but two more than I ran last year. So I count that as progress. My races were the Butler Bulldog Jog in March (3.5 miles on trails and roads) and the Pleasant Run Run (5 miles on roads). Both were fun, and I’m not going to choose one over the other. Next year, more races!

Biggest setback: December crept up on me and clobbered my running. The cold weather, the holidays, the traveling, the stress of work and lots of other distractions threw me for a loop for the last two weeks of 2013.

Well that’s the beauty of a new year. It’s a fresh start. To 2014!

In that spirit, I did two fun things today:

1) I signed up for the Fools 25K trail race at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio for March 30. It gives me a fun, ambitious trail goal for the next three months.

2)  I ran five miles at Fort Ben with the gang from Indiana Trail Running. It was just what the doctor ordered. These are my people, and this is my scene.

Happy 2014!

Trail runners about to stampede off in search of trails. I’m in front row, far left, crouching like a baseball catcher. (Photo by Terry Fletcher)

Perfect way to start the weekend

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2013 by Trail Boy

How about a little neon to brighten up the woods? Here’s our group at Yellowwood State Forest before the run. (Photo by Terry Fletcher)

What a great way to start the weekend: running for a few hours in the woods, making a few new friends and catching up with old friends.

It’s been too long since I’ve done this — at least two years, maybe more. But now that I’ve gotten over my leg injury and rebuilt my base, it feels so good to be back for outings like this.

This was a familiarization run on southern half of the Tecumseh Towpath Marathon course. About 50 people showed up, ready to rock the hills. Most are planning to run the marathon on Dec. 7. I’m nowhere near trained enough to run 26.2 miles, let alone a tough, hilly course through the woods of southern Indiana.

I showed up for run just to have fun, run about 10 miles and get back with trail people.

(I last ran this marathon in 2008, and wrote this race report.)

I love running in November. True, it’s not as pretty as October, when the trees are bursting with fall colors. But November has its own beauty. The trees are thinned out, and you can see for miles across gorges and ravines. Luckily we had a bright blue sky today and great visibility.

View from the top of Indian Hill Road

The run was organized by Terry Fletcher and his gang from Indiana Trail Running.They did a great job of marking the course with pink ribbons, setting up three aid stations, handling the carpooling and a thousand other things.

Terry Fletcher, the run organizer and all-around great guy. (Photo by Christy Snider Odeen)

tecumsehsign

The goal was to run from the top of Indian Hill Road (about mile 13 of the course) to the end at Yellowwood Lake. You could run a little shorter, about 10 miles, by clipping off a loop near the end. Or you could run farther by tacking on an extra loop or two here or there.

map

I ran a nice, easy pace, near the back. My goal was just to run for fun and get about 10 miles under my belt.

The air was pretty chilly, with temps in the mid-20s. But I wasn’t complaining. I dressed in three layers and kept warm.

Like my green jacket? I was hoping it would keep me visible to hunters. (Photo by Terry Fletcher)

Even though it rained Thursday and Friday, the trail was pretty firm and the creeks were low. Of course, the hills were tough, as always, but they were spread out, with lots of creekside running, moderate rollers and fun downhills.

I ran for about an hour with Toni, Mark, Marci and Momi. I didn’t know them a day ago, but that’s the beauty of trail running. Most people love to share the miles and trade stories. Lots of long friendships begin this way.

My running buds on Saturday (from left to right): Marci, Mark and Toni.

I also had fun catching up with Jim Halsey for a while. We’ve put in a few miles together at DINO races and fun runs here and there. He’s run oodles of trail marathons and ultras and is always encouraging. 

Jim seems to be having a good recovery after surgery last fall. He told me he has signed up for the 50-mile portion of the Indiana Trail 100 in April, so he’s not letting a little surgery stop him.

Jim Halsey (in the yellow shirt) gets ready to climb a hill.

The course was mostly singletrack, with some paved roads, gravel roads, jeep roads and grassy clearings.

onroad

One thing about trail running in November: you see lots of hunters. Terry warned us not to strike up long conversations with the hunters, as they want the woods nice and quiet, and wish we weren’t even there. And for the most part, that’s what I did.

But at one point, we saw four young hunters in a parking area of a gravel road. We waved to them. They waved back and asked us to take their pictures. They were in a chatty mood.

We took their picture.

Then we asked them to take pictures of us with them. Here’s mine.

gun

Then we waved goodbye and clomped on down the road. Soon, we got to the turnoff point, where you could either finish up in a half-mile or keep going for another four miles.

I knew I was pushing my luck running this far. So I decided to wrap it up with 10 miles. The others in my little group went the other way and kept going.

Then I headed over to the finish area and gladly helped myself to some pretzels and brownies.

The temperature continued to drop, so a few of us gathered some sticks and wood and Terry built a fire in a fire ring. We traded war stories about the woods and warmed up.

Soon, it was time to go. I caught a ride back to my car at Indian Hill, and started the 90-minute drive home.

The run was a blast. Like I said at the top, it was a long time coming. Can’t wait for the next one.

(To return to the home page, click here.)

Finally, the base is back

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2013 by Trail Boy

I ran eight miles this morning in a big loop that took in three different neighborhoods. It was a mix of quiet roads, the canal towpath, the Monon Trail, a few busy streets, and one or two good hills.

It was my longest run since I screwed up my IT band three years ago. I felt nice and strong, and probably could have run for another mile or two.

So I’m declaring it now: I have rebuilt my base. I am ready to start training for a half-marathon next spring.

Oh, it felt so good to write that. You have no idea.

For the longest time, I have wanted to run and run and run. But I could take only baby steps. This has been so hard and required so much patience.

I think I’ve finally found a training routine that works.  The daily workout involves a mix of running, stretching, resting, power-hiking, more stretching — along with lots of planning and motivation.

It took me only three years to figure it out.

Over that time, I have started and stalled a dozen times. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Usually, I overdid it and reinjured my leg. Then I had to take weeks off and try something else. Most of the time, I just drifted away from running for months until I got the itch again.

This time, I think I’m good for the long haul. It has taken me 2 1/2 months of gradual running to get to this point. You should see my training log. It is filled with two- and three- and four-mile runs, day in and day out, plus gradually longer runs on weekends.

So the next big challenge is to find the right half-marathon to run in the spring. I have a few ideas, but it probably will take a while to find the right one that will motivate me to continue running hard all winter.

See you at the races.

Sunrise on the towpath

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2013 by Trail Boy

Slowly, slowly, I’m building up to something.

This morning, I ran the beautiful towpath behind Butler University and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The sun was rising over the trees and sparkling on the canal and river.

It was a picture-perfect morning. So I had to stop and snap one or two pictures.

I started at Hinkle Fieldhouse. I ran a wide loop of the Butler campus and the neighborhood, and swung down Michigan Road hill to pick up the towpath. From there, I turned south to run to the I-65 overpass.

Once I hit the bridge, I turned around and headed north for a few miles to 52nd Street. Then I trotted back up the campus hillside alongside the soccer and football fields.

This was the longest run so far of my comeback, about six miles. I felt nice and strong, and probably could have gone a few more miles. But I don’t want to risk another flare-up to my IT band. And my weekly mileage is now at 28, compared to 20 last week.

So it’s probably better to stop feeling good than to stop feeling miserable, clutching my leg and hobbling back to car.

During the run, I saw ducks, turtles and even a blue heron. I could have stopped every few feet and snapped another photo, but this was a run, not a photo shoot. I limited myself to two.

*****

Another fun season ends

Congrats to the North Central High School cross country team for another good season.

The boys’ team ran in the state championships yesterday in Terre Haute. They were one of 24 teams around Indiana. They finished seventh in the state.

My older boy, Steven, is a senior at North Central. This wraps up his ninth year of cross country. His mom and I coaxed him into running as a fourth grader, and he has stuck with it ever since.

Steven, age 9, pounding out the miles in grade school.

Steven, age 17, taking a corner at a meet.

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