Archive for March, 2009

Old trails, old friends

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 by Trail Boy

Trail Boy is feeling giddy.

Later this week, I will travel to Northeast Ohio to see friends and family — and run some beloved old trails in the cvnp2Cuyahoga Valley.

When I e-mailed a running friend from Akron to see if he would join me on the trails, he said “you bet your posterior,” or something like that. Then he suggested a half-dozen trails to choose from. All of them are within a 15-20 minute car ride of downtown Akron.

Trail Boy can’t wait.

The thing is, my friend could have come up with another dozen choices, without breaking a sweat. Maybe two dozen.

Yes, there are that many good trails in Northeast Ohio. You could  fill a book with all the hiking and running trails in the Cuyahoga Valley. I have several guides like just like that on my bookshelf.trailguide2 I page through them from time to time, reliving great outings with friends.

During the seven years I live in Akron, I spent many many happy days exploring these trails.

Some people might be surprised to hear that an old industrial town in the Midwest is a trail-running haven. But it’s true. Akron is home to the only national park in the Midwest, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a wonderful gem of wilderness and recreation.

Most every weekend, the trails fill with hikers and runners. It’s pretty easy to find a group ready to hit the trails.

After receiving my friend’s note, I was so overwhelmed with options that I had to leave my desk and take a lunchtime run. I headed down the street to Military Park, the oldest park in Indy, where I ran loops on the grass for about five miles.

Properly endorphined, I came back and e-mailed my choice back to my friend.

I am really looking forward to my visit. Indy is a wonderful town, but the trail options are limited. To run more than 10 miles without retracing your steps, you have to drive nearly 90 minutes to a national forest.

I’m not complaining. Good things in life, such as beautiful trails, are worth the extra effort.

Pretty shoes, dude.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 by Trail Boy

One of life’s great mysteries is how some runners can keep their shoes so freaky clean.

Their shoes: squeaky clean. An abomination!

Their shoes: squeaky clean. An abomination!

On the rare occasion that I go to a road race, I am amazed to see so many pairs of running shoes that are completely unblemished by dirt, pebbles, mud or scuff marks. 

Where do these people run? Have they ever stepped a toe outside their pristine bubbles?

Or do they run every last step in the sterile comfort of a gym’s treadmill hell?

OK, so my shoes are a bit muddier than the average runner’s. I deliberately run on dirt.

My shoes: muddy as a swamp. Truly, a thing of beauty.

Real running shoes: muddy as a swamp. Truly, a thing of beauty.

But c’mon, road runners! Get off your sidewalks and treadmills for five minutes. Get a taste of authentic running.

There’s big world out there! With lots of beautiful trails. Don’t worry about a little dirt. I look at shiny clean running shoes and think just one thing: You haven’t had enough fun.

Real runners don’t have clean shoes.

Sweet, soggy trails

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 by Trail Boy

Saturday was a no-go day for Trail Boy. I was busy nursing my sore legs from a long run on Friday evening and sanding the wooden floors of a spare bedroom.mud-puddle1

Today, the weather looked grim. It had rained overnight (that’s putting it mildly) and the temps dropped into the 30s. We got a few snowflakes here.

But in the afternoon, I had a spare hour or two, so I drove out to Fort Ben Harrison State Park to get reacquainted with trails there.

They were soft and slushy, but hey, trails are like sex. Even a ho-hum outing is pretty good. And all those mud puddles (we’re speaking of trails here) are just another fun obstacle to jump over, around or through.

I ran for about six miles, on two loops, and finished the day with a smile. Sweet, soggy trails!

Running with a destination

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2009 by Trail Boy

Why drive home from work when you can run? Why indeed.

One of the most satisfying  types of workouts, I think, is the destination run.

It’s running to get somewhere specific. You’re not running in circles on a track, like a hamster on a wheel. You’re not running up a monster hill, over and over, until you black out.

roadmap1Instead, you’re running because you need to get someplace. You’re turning a journey into a workout.

That’s what I did today, when I ran home after work. I zig-zagged 12 miles on a run that took me through a variety of streets and neighborhoods, hither and yon.

The run felt good. It also saved wear and tear on the Jeep, conserved gas, and gave me a good workout.

I don’t do these destination runs as often as I should. More often, I drive to a park, run a few loops, and drive home. Or I run around my neighborhood.

But I’d like to do more of them. If you need to get in the miles, and you need to get someplace anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone?

The 12-mile run was my longest run in a few months, so I took it nice and easy. I didn’t blast the miles. In fact, my total running time was 1:51:20, which works  out to a pace of 9:15 a mile. That included a bit of standing around at intersections, waiting for the light to change, especially in the busy first half of the run, coming out of downtown.

 There were two drawbacks to the run:

1) Parts of the course were not, shall we say, the most scenic. About 20 minutes or so was spent running through some low-income neighborhoods, where many houses were boarded up. I tried to stay on main streets, rather than isolated backstreets during this stretch.

2) The run was entirely on pavement. And you know how Trail Boy feels about pavement.

On the other hand, much of the run led me through some very pretty areas that I don’t have a chance to enjoy when I’m driving through at 35 or 40 miles an hour.

The biggest issue with a destination run is you need to plan in advance.  And that’s what I did. This morning, Mrs. Trail Boy drove me to work, and then kept my car for the rest of the day.

I left my heavy briefcase at home, because I wouldn’t be able to carry it with me while running. I also left my wallet and keys home today.  I took my running stuff to work, changed in the locker room after work, and locked up my street clothes in a locker. That way, the only thing I needed to carry home were my glasses and a water bottle.

The skies were cloudy during the run, and there was a light breeze. I’m sure rain will arrive soon, maybe overnight. But  I’m thankful that it held off during my run. I’m also thankful that my legs didn’t quit on me.welcome

When I got home, I enjoyed a big bowl of chili. My legs had a pleasant buzz. But also a bit of a dull ache from too many miles on roads and sidewalks.

My next run, I swear, will be on a trail.

Let’s not mince words

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 by Trail Boy

Every once in a while you get something in the mail, between the bills and the Best Buy throwaways, that speaks your language, with a blunt, bold tone.muddy

For me, it was this race invitation:

Weak, wimpy treadmill running pansies who are afraid to get some dirt in their shorts need not apply.

Expect to be scratched, muddied and bruised by the beauty of this unpolished gem. Expect to get out near the edge where life is full color. Expect a day that leaves you knowing you are fully alive, awake and crankin’ on all cylinders.

 …. Basically, a difficult, wicked on and off trail run with stupid spots. Stupid spots include swamp crossings, river crossings, hills too steep to climb … and can only be a butt slide down. Did we mention poison ivy, thorns, poor marking, bad (no) footing, a waiver that mentions your death 3 times … and that we charge you for this?

How can Trail Boy say no to that?

The invitation was from an organization called Dances With Dirt gnawbonethat hosts trail ultras, marathons and relays all over the Midwest.

The relays, in particular, are notoriously wild affairs, where teams of hardcore and midpack trail runners select outrageous themes and then spend a day charging through the woods for fun and glory. Each team member runs 3 of 15 legs. Each leg averages four miles or so over the course of a day, so each runner covers around 12 miles. Teams drive a vehicle to the next exchange and the fire drill continues.

The closest race for me is in Gnaw Bone, Ind., near Bloomington, Ind., about 90 minutes south of my house. It’s on Saturday, May 9. Who wants to join me in this delicious insanity?

Not enough hours in the day

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by Trail Boy

Another busy day means I had to squeeze in a quick run this morning. Quicker than I really wanted to do.

Trail Boy is starting to get the shakes. It’s been five days since I’ve stepped foot on a trail. It’s just been that kind of week.multi-task1

In  a perfect world, I like to take 60-90 minutes for a weekday run, including driving to and from a trail.

But sometimes I have no choice. Work piles up. I have a big story to chase. The boys get good grades and I have to start my day at an honors assembly. My book club meets after work, and I want to do that too.

All those things squeeze out running. So like the modern American multi-tasker, I have to cut corners now and then.

That meant I had only a half-hour to run today — no time to Hit the Trails. But I decided to branch out as best as I could.

I pulled on my size 12 Mizunos, and on a whim, I trotted a half-dozen blocks over to check out a few yards that are famous for wonderful flower gardens. How did the gardens look this fine March morning?

As it turns out, they were pretty brown and unspectacular this early in the spring. Just a few daffodils here and there.

But while I was in the neighborhood, I kept running until I hit a nearby soccer field, and did a big lazy loop around it. That field is amazingly big. It has three or four baseball diamonds and room enough for about 10 soccer games at once.

The field was a bit damp from a rainstorm last night. But I was just happy to have dirt and grass under my shoes for the first time in nearly a week.

In fact, if I had to run on pavement for one more day, I would have to change the name of the blog to Hit the Road.

And that would make Trail Boy very sad.

Leave the watch at home

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2009 by Trail Boy

Sometimes, an easy run is anything but. That’s because I just can’t help myself. Instead of taking it easy, and recovering from a hard workout, I keep hammering when I should be cruising. easybutton1

That’s counter-productive. But it’s a very common running mistake.

Tonight, I ran five miles on a paved loop (didn’t have time to hit the trails) around my neighborhood. I live in a subdivision that is surrounded by a road exactly mile around. It’s very popular with walkers, runners and bikers, because it’s a measured mile. For anyone trying to count miles, it’s the place to be.

I did five easy laps. At least they started out easy. But every time I came to the starting point for a new lap, I found myself punching my watch’s split/lap function to record the time. Of course, that caused me to want to run the next lap a bit faster. And I did. 

Here are my times:

Lap #1 — 8:51

Lap #2 — 8:32

Lap #3 — 8:15

Lap #4 — 8:03

Lap #5 — 8:04

Total time: 41:46.

No, I didn’t burn up the road. But I think I should have taken it even slower. Nice and easy. Not faster and faster. Next time, I’ll leave the watch at home.