Archive for June, 2009

Rolling hills, plenty of shade, wooded view

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2009 by Trail Boy

Ahhhhhhhh, gotta love that cool ocean breeze.

No, I’m not at the ocean — not for another three weeks. But the temps in Indy have dropped about 20 degrees since the Killer Heat Wave last weekend, making my run this morning a joy and a relief. The breezes felt like they just blew in off the Atlantic.

I ran 12 miles on rolling trails at Fort Ben Harrison.  My legs had lots of bounce, even on long uphills with tricky footing. The woods were shady, cool and quiet. I was in heaven.

This is one of the tamer sections of the Lawrence Creek Trail: no sand, no mud, no loose rocks. But my legs started to feel the hills after about 10 miles.

I ran laps on the Lawrence Creek Trail, a woodsy, laid-back trail loop that has lots of variety.

One minute, you’re running on hard-packed dirt. A minute later, the surface changes to loose stones. Then a short stretch of sand. Then an area that is always, always muddy. Then back to hard dirt. Then up a gravel-covered hill. Then a series of rollers, etc. etc.

In other words, it keeps you on your toes, in more ways than one.  Glance at your watch at the wrong time, and you will do a face plant. But keep your eyes on the trail ahead of you and the surrounding woods, and you will enjoy every step.

Speaking of watches, I remembered to wear mine this morning (unlike Saturday), so I was able to time my laps on this loop. My average time around was about 13 minutes, leading me to conclude that this loop is only 1.5 mile around, not 2 miles, as I previously thought.

That might sound like a short distance, but it’s a challenging in its own way — neither a flat towpath that would bore me to tears nor a super-steep switchback that would slow me to a power walk.

So in total, I ran an honest 12 miles, requiring concentration and effort. 

I felt strong throughout and even though my legs started to feel the hills after about 10 miles, I could have run several more loops with no problem. I just ran out of time.

I also alternated the direction after nearly every lap, to keep the run interesting. I wasn’t running for speed, but I kept a nice, strong trot, and kept track of all the loop splits, just to see how consistently I was running.

Here are my times (and directions) on the path:

Lap 1 — 13:31 (counterclockwise)

Lap 2 — 12:49 (clockwise)

Lap 3 — 12:50 (counterclockwise)

Lap 4 — 12:37 (clockwise)

Lap 5 — 12:38 (clockwise)

Lap 6 — 13:04 (counterclockwise)

Lap 7 — 12:46 (clockwise)

Lap 8 — 12:46 (counterclockwise)

Total time: 1:43:05.

Daddy, one; Trail Boy, nothing.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 by Trail Boy
mr mom

OK, I had only one kid to watch this weekend. And I'm not nearly as photogenic as Michael Keaton. But you get the idea.

I survived the weekend as a single dad.

I cooked and cleaned and did some yardwork. I played a few games with Trail Kid. I took him to play miniature golf. I watched him cruise the neighborhood on his bicycle, playing with friends and hitting garage sales, spending every last dime of his allowance.

Later, he and I ate pizza, watched a little  TV and read the last two chapters of “The Mystery of the Yellow Feather” at bedtime.

What I didn’t do was get in a long run. It just wasn’t in the stars.

I couldn’t leave a 10-year-old boy at home alone for three or four hours (or more) while I went to the woods. And I just wasn’t going to run the neighborhood loop 15 or 20 times.

I didn’t neglect my running completely. I ran 10 miles on Saturday (before Mrs. Trail Boy shoved off) and five miles this morning in the neighborhood.

Mrs. Trail Boy will arrive home at about lunchtime today, while I’m at work and Trail Kid is at a friend’s house.

I have a vague plan to try to get up extra early tomorrow morning and run for three hours before work. Stay tuned on that.

Looking ahead, we have a three-day weekend coming up. So I’ll have no excuse to sit around, watering the garden and playing Putt-Putt. It’s time for another 20 miler.

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I’m getting excited about the Indiana Trail Runners, a new web site and social network that got up and running a few weeks ago.

Trail runners all over the area are signing up. A few have begun to post information about training runs, asking for company. I had to say no to two tempting invitations this past weekend. But I hope there will be many more a-comin’. It will fill a much-needed void.

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The steamy weather of late has begun to cool a bit. I could feel the difference this morning when I ran five miles around the neighborhood at 7:30 a.m.; sure, it was sunny, but it wasn’t oppressive. And the weather man says the temps will drop for the next two days, with highs in the 70s. Sweet.

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Just when I feel a bit overwhelmed by the hot weather and all my other responsibilities, I get a cold slap in the face when I read other running blogs. Many of my running friends are training for (or running) 100-mile races this summer.

This past weekend, the big race was Western States 100-miler, where several runners (including Jamie) DNF’ed due to injuries and monstrously hot weather.

The next big race is Burning River 100. Read this blog entry to see how the tough guys do a 30-mile familiarization run in 90-degree weather. Oh Lord!

OK, genius, what did you forget this time?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by Trail Boy

At least once a month, I forget something critial as I head out for a run.

It usually happens when I’m running late. I throw things in my gym bag helter-skelter and dash out the door.

I don’t discover the problem until it’s too late, when I’m at the trailhead, or in the locker room.

Damn it, where are my socks?! I know I packed them! No towel, either. Damn!!

No matter how many times I look in the gym bag, the socks and the towel refuse to magically appear.

Over the years, I have forgotten, at one point or another, running shoes, socks, towel, hat, sunglasses, water bottle, shirt, gloves — you name it.

You can call me Mr. Potato Head for all the times I’ve left my brains somewhere.

Today might be the topper for this year.

I drove out to Fort Ben to run trails. Did I have everything I needed? Of course! Well, yes, everything except for my wallet (containing my admission pass for Indiana state parks), my watch and my handkerchief.

Aye-yi-yi. Some days I amaze myself.

I was just 20 feet from the park gate when I discovered I didn’t have my wallet with me. Of course, that meant I also didn’t have any cash for a one-day entrance fee ($5).

So I turned my Jeep around, drove back down to the main road, made a wide loop to the back of the park, where I found a nice, quiet sidestreet.

I parked and ran 10 minutes down the road to aother (unguarded) entrance into the park.

I finally got to the trail — the Lawrence Creek Trail in this case, — a nice, shady, hilly, loop through the woods.

I started running, and hit my watch. Nope! No watch!

Well, I guess this will be an untimed run.

I ran the loop five times around, stopping each time for water. (Hey, thank God I remembered my water bottle.) 

Then after 75 minutes or so, I ran back to the car. I’m guessing I ran about nine or ten miles altogether. It’s hard to say. The trail isn’t measured, although I’ve heard it’s about two miles around.

Yes, and I forgot my handkerchief, so sweat was pouring down my face, and I had nothing to wipe it with.

At least I remembered to take a towel and a fresh shirt for the ride home.

No wonder Mrs. Trail Boy constantly asks me if I have everything I need, like I’m a half-wit who can’t tie his own shoes. She knows the real me.

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This is how the week has shaped up so far. Let's hope it cools off in a few days.

Today was another hot, sticky day. It’s going to get up to 90 degrees, the weatherman says, and there’s also an ozone alert. Sunday is no prize, either, with temps forecasted for the high 80s.

I’m going to wait another day or two for my long run. I’m hoping we get cooler weather Monday and Tuesday. That would be great.

But there’s one other wrinkle. Mrs. Trail Boy hit the road today for a long weekend in Ohio, with just one of our two darling boys.

That means I’m Mr. Mom this weekend. It’s going to be tricky to find a time to disappear for a three- or four-hour trail run.

I’ve got to put together a plan. This will require some ingenuity.

Do you think Mr. Potato Head can pull it off?

Go change your shirt

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 by Trail Boy

The next time I go running in 90 percent humidity, I wish I would use my noggin and wear something besides a race shirt plastered with silkscreen graphics.

I went out this morning, wearing my “Dances With Dirt” race shirt, a crazy looking garment from a crazy race.

The front of the shirt shows a large, green skeleton gnawing on a bone, and lots of doo-dad graphics and text. The back features the race’s famous disclaimer in large type, warning participants about the risk of injury and death.

Front of the shirt.

Back of the shirt.

Yes, that’s all well and good, except when you’re sweating like a banshee. Then the shirt, with all the silkscreen lettering, sticks to your torso and won’t let go. It’s maddening.

More maddening yet is that I should have known better. I’ve been around the block a few times, so to speak. From now on, only plain running shirts on hot days!

This steamy run happened out at Fort Ben. I ran for 58 minutes on various trails, trying to keep cool in the woods during a wicked heat wave.

I was glad to see that the trails are starting to dry out after four or five days without rain. Still, there were enough soggy spots that I got my running shoes nice and muddy. But that comes with the territory. I’m not complaining.

Speaking of boneheaded moves, I also forgot to take a bandana or handkerchief with me on the run. Within 20 minutes of trotting up and down hills, I was drenched. Sweat was pouring down my face, burning my eyes. I had nothing to wipe my eyes with, but my wet shirt.

All in all, it was a tough run that shouldn’t have been that tough. Trail Boy just wasn’t using his noggin today.

Ten times around the pines, nice and shady

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2009 by Trail Boy
The brutal, stifling heat wave just won’t quit, so there’s just one thing to do. Go run through the pines.
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That’s Royal Pines, one of the shadiest neighborhoods in Indy, located just a block or two from my house. It’s perfect on a day like this.The sun doesn't have any chance of over-heating this alpine neighborhood known as Royal Pine Estates, just a few blocks from my house.

The place is a former tree nursery that was converted into an upscale development in the 1960s.

The development is so thick with pine trees that most of the houses are shaded all day long. Yards are carpeted with pine needles instead of grass.

So even though many trails around town are still waterlogged, I had a decent place to run today. 

I headed for a small loop in the heart of this neighborhood, maybe one-third of a mile long, with a gentle hill.
 

My goal was to run 10 loops, each other faster than the previous one, without any rests in between.

I did a short warm-up, trotting from my house to the pines. Then I got down to business.

The shade felt great.  We’ve had a rough week, with four days of sticky, 90-degree weather. This morning, the city of Indianapolis issued its first Ozone Alert of the year — or as they call it, a “Kno-Zone Air Quality Action Alert.”  In other words, good luck breathing.

So this was the place to be. I took the first loop nice and easy. Then I upped the speed on each repeat.
 

After a few minutes, I saw Mrs. Trail Boy coming down the road for her morning walk through the pines. I ran in the opposite direction and she gave me a high five as we crossed each other.

I kept pressing the speed, finishing eight loops and starting the ninth, when I began to gasp for air. Normally, this is to be expected on speedwork days. But with the ozone alert, I decided to be a bit cautious, and took a 60-second breather to let my heart settle down.

Then I finished the last two laps, but not at top speed.

Here are my times: 3:16, 3:08, 3:02, 2:57, 2:52, 2:47, 2:46, 2:48, 3:13, 3:11.

Then I trotted home at a cooldown pace and let the sweat pour off my body as I took off my running shoes.

Tomorrow, I go back to the trails for a 10-mile run. I think I’ll leave my watch at home.

If you like pine trees, this is the place to live -- or run. Just don't expect to find much grass.

If you like pine trees, this is the place to live -- or run. The trees are so thick that yards are covered with pine needles instead of grass. The houses are a mix of European chalets and modern McMansions.

My drug problem

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2009 by Trail Boy

Some days, I wonder if should join a support group and come clean with my little problem.

I’m a junkie.

That’s right. I can’t last two days without a fix. I get irritable and strung out. I snap at people. I sleep poorly. I can’t concentrate.

All I can think is I need another hit, and I will do whatever it takes to score it.

No, not coke. Not angel dust.

Endorphins, of course. The name of this blog, after all, is Hit the Trails, not Snort a Line.

Yep, endorphins are freakin’ amazing. One rush, and you’ll keep coming back.

The wild thing is, it surprises me every time. I’ll wake up in a bad mood and drag myself out for a run, feeling sluggish and cranky and overwhelmed.

Then an hour or two later, I’ll be a whole different person, flying high and full of energy. Who needs morphine or opium when your body’s polypeptides can do it all for free?

This morning was a perfect example. I slept terribly last night, mostly because I didn’t run yesterday. I blame the weather for that. It was raining like hell in the morning, and was miserably hot at lunchtime. I just did not want to fight the elements.

But after tossing and turning most of the night, I got up at 6 a.m., made some coffee, read the paper, drove to Fort Ben, and ran for an hour and  18 minutes under the canopy of shade trees.

I started in a foul mood — angry at the park for not opening its gates until 7:30, cranky that the trails were waterlogged and not runnable and ticked off that I had to run on pavement — a rolling, 2.5-mile asphalt loop.

On top of that, I was irritated by at all the park workers getting in my way as they cleaned up storm damage.

If that weren’t enough, I was mad that the state charges admission to the park.

It’s not easy being a trail runner in Indy, I grumbled to myself. 

Yep, I was working up a good rant, which I was mentally forming into a blog post about the sorry state of parks and trails in Indianapolis.

I ran in this state of mind for about a half hour.

But about 45 or 50 minutes into the run, the strangest thing happened.

My negative thoughts melted away, and I began to enjoy myself. I ran the loop three times, plus a long out and back to my car, parked at the other end of the park. I probably covered nine miles.

When I finally got back to my car, I started for home, I wondered why I had been so grumpy.

Like I said, it never fails to amaze. Endorphins will make you fly, and each time you see bright colors.

When I get home tonight, I am going to set my alarm. I have another date with my drug dealer in the morning.

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Hot, humid and hellish

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21, 2009 by Trail Boy

It doesn’t get much uglier than this: 92 degrees, with humidity so thick you can spread it on toast.

As a running friend of mine said: “August weather in June. Gotta love it.”

On a weekend like this, I wish I had taken up swimming. I could easily spend two or three hours doing laps in the cool water, rather than pounding out the miles under the scorching sun.

I tried to cope as best as I could, running just two hours this morning. I had no problem justifying the shorter distance, after several weekends of three-hour runs. I needed the break. This seemed to be a great day to do it.

I ran from 7 to 9 a.m. on the towpath and Monon, covering about 13 or 14 miles.

But even as I started, the sun was higher in the sky than I expected — with heat probably in the 70s . The towpath provided less shade than I hoped. The thick humidity did a number on me, too; I soaked through my shirt within five miles.

In retrospect, I should have started an hour earlier and headed for Eagle Creek or Fort Ben, with more shade and cooler air.

But the main thing is I got my long run done and didn’t hurt myself.

Next week, I will pray to Our Lady of the Weather Channel for a break in this heat.

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The heat took its toll on lots of runners this weekend, judging by comments I’ve seen on various blogs and chat boards.

Here’s one, for example, by Trail Goddess Kim, who DNF’d at mile 42 of the Mohican 100 in Loudonville, Ohio, a few hours east of my home.

A good downpour hit around 6pm Friday night and then again around 4am race morning. This made, as I feared, the green section really muddy. I was pleased with my decision to wear my old winter trail shoes, that still had the screws in them. I think that helped with my traction…

I hit a bad patch starting on the orange loop with its climbs. I actually had to stop and yell at myself out loud, to get over it. I was eating and drinking; in fact I had iced coffee in a handheld. I could kind of feel the caffeine in my head with a bit of a buzz but no energy. In hindsight that could have just been part of heat stroke.

Or this one from Roots Runner, who watched (but didn’t run) the Mohican bake-off:

(The) 50-mile runners endured the brunt of the heat with their final 13 miles on open roads. The uphill road stretch along Rt 3 with the sun beating down, in my view, was nothing like the trails of Mohican State Park. We drove past most of the finishers 10-12 hour range and many were near heat casualty.

I’m sure I will see more notes in this vein once the runners recover from their heat stroke and are released from the hospital.