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.

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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.

The joy of running again

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31, 2013 by Trail Boy

I feel happy again in some deep, forgotten place in my bones.

Things are improving by the week. I’m running almost every day.  I’m entering short races. I’m running 20 miles a week. I’m tackling hills. I’m gradually stretching my distance runs.

And it’s getting easier — not a slow, pathetic slog around the block, but a joyful, 45-minute run around a neighborhood lake.

I think I am very, very close to being able to say I have rebuilt my base. For the first time in three years, I have a sense that I really might be able to run long distances again – for an hour or even two.

This is not endorphins talking. This is a part of my soul that died and is coming back to life.  I’m feeling whole again.

Do you know how good it feels to go to bed with a specific plan to run in the morning? And then to get up at 5:30 and do it?

Do you know how good it feels to run with an old friend for 45 minutes, for the first time in years?

Do you know how good it feels to look at a race website or a running blog and think “I can do that again — maybe not today, but in a couple more months, if I keep at it.”

This is the joy of running again.

I’m not fast and never will be. At my best, I was a midpacker, a 3:40 marathoner. I’m going to run slower by the year.

But I’m not drifting through another year without running goals and successes. I’m not avoiding my old running friends. I’m not shuffling through a pathetic two or three miles a couple times a week.

I’m running almost every day and feeling strong.

It’s not about running fast. It’s about running happy – and not letting that place of joy go dark again.

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

A few favorite Ohio trails

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2013 by Trail Boy

While I was in Northeast Ohio last week, I ran and hiked as many trails as possible.

And I shot plenty of photos of my favorite trails to keep me warm at night. (Non-trail people: Don’t even try to understand that.) Here are some of them.

t16

t3

t4 t2

t6

t14

t15

t17

t18

t19

t20

t21

t23

 

t7

t8

t9

t26

t22

Trails and an old running friend

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2013 by Trail Boy

dennyandjohn

Why are Denny and I grinning like fools?

1) We’re feeling a nice buzz from a morning run on the Akron towpath.

2) It’s our first run together in more than three years.

3) In my case, I’m just glad Denny ran slow so I could keep up.

The answer is All Of The Above. And those are good reasons, if you ask me.

Denny and I used to run together three or four times a week when I lived in Akron. Over the years, we probably ran this trail together more than 500 times — along with every other trail and road in town.

But now we live about 300 miles apart and see each only once in a blue moon.

The moon turned blue this week, and Denny and I were able to get together for a few miles. It was a fun little reunion, just the two of us, clumping out the miles and chattering like Trappist monks on a holiday.

We met at Cascade Valley Parkway and pushed north on the trail.

park sign

towpath sign

I was nervous. Just a week earlier, my IT band had given me a bad scare, with a series of twinges and flare-ups. For hours, I was limping around like a war veteran.

So I decided to get serious about stretching and strengthening exercises. I started doing them for 20 minutes, twice a day. And my leg has behaved itself.

On top of that, I was pushing the distance. Denny and I were planning to run 4 1/2 miles and my longest run in the past month has been 3 1/2 miles. Could the old man take it without crumpling to the ground?

I just hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of my old running partner, who has been listening to my injury hard-luck stories for too many years.

It was time to find out what I was made of.

We trotted down the trail at an easy pace, past the Mustill Store, the riverside and a few other runners.

mustill

river

runner

Denny told me about a bunch of races he has done this year, including the Akron Half Marathon, and a few more he plans to do in the next year or two, including the famous Dipsea Race in California, the oldest trail race in America.

Then we hit the turnaround. At my suggestion, we stopped for a few minutes so I could stretch and take stock of my legs.

All good, so we turned around and began retracing our steps.

We traded stories and jokes and caught up on our lives. Around us, the birds were singing and the river was babbling. It was a glorious morning.

Of course, at one point, we nearly got flattened by a dump truck that was hauling sand down the trail in a resurfacing project. (OK, maybe not “flattened,” but the truck was on our heels and we had to step off the trail to let it pass.)

We trotted on.

We pushed up the final hill to the parking lot and felt the endorphins wash over us. I’m happy to say I made it to the end with no strains or scuff marks.

Yay, a new milestone — a whopping 4 1/2 miles.

But no, we weren’t through. After we stopped for water, Denny offered to show me something I hadn’t seen before. It was an extension of the trail into downtown.  He said it continued south all the way to Stark County.

We crossed the street and walked up a few slopes and maybe some steps. Then we got to a long 5% uphill grade that stretched for about a quarter mile, running alongside a canal lock.

lock

“This will take forever to walk,” I said, and broke into a trot.

So just like that, I was pushing myself again.

Running with Denny will do that. For the four years we ran together, he helped me build speed, strength, endurance and intensity. We trained and raced together and had a blast.

Now it was like old times. For about an hour.

So that’s why we were grinning like fools.

I can’t wait to do it again. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for another blue moon.

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

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