Archive for October, 2009

Fly it, Wyatt

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2009 by Trail Boy

I recently ran across a guy named Wyatt Hornsby. I was amazed at how much we had in common.

* We both have a passion for trail running.

* We both write running blogs.

* We’re both 6’2”.

* We both began serious distance-running about five years ago.

* We’ve both worked at hospitals. He’s a fundraiser at University Hospitals in Cleveland. I once did public relations for Lake Hospital System in Willoughby, Ohio.

* We’ve both run the Cleveland Marathon, the Buckeye Trail 50K and a bunch of other Northeast Ohio races.

* We both did an Ohio-Indiana move, although in opposite directions. I lived in Cleveland and Akron before moving to Indianapolis four years ago. He lived in West Lafayette, Indiana before moving to Cleveland a few years ago.

* We’re both in newspapers. I write for one. He’s often written up in one.

* He once worked for a Democratic governor of Indiana, Frank O’Bannon. I once worked for a Democratic congressman from Ohio, Charles Vanik.

* My last name is Russell. He lives in South Russell, Ohio. (OK, this one was a stretch.)

* His first name is Wyatt. I live on a street called Wyandott. (Another stretch.)

* Wyatt has a marathon PR of 2:58. He finished first in the 2009 Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run.

Wyatt Hornsby

Wyatt Hornsby

Hmm, on second thought, maybe we’re not that much alike after all. I’ve never won a race. I’ve never run 100 miles. My marathon PR is a humble 3:40.

But the reason I bring this up is because last night, I couldn’t get to sleep, so I picked up an old copy of my favorite running publication, Marathon & Beyond.

I found a story I hadn’t noticed before. It was about a race called the Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run. The author wrote about running the race during its inaugural year in 2007. He finished sixth out of a starting field of 144.

The author was Wyatt Hornsby.

It was a terrific read on many levels.

First of all, it was a good human-interest yarn about a guy trying to face his past. As a high-school kid, Wyatt had quit his cross country team during a preseason run of eight miles.  That was just too far, he decided. He walked away and never went back to practice.

So what was he doing running a 100-mile race two decades later? Trying to find redemption, of course.

“This race was my destiny and a challenge I had to confront. It was an opportunity to face a significant challenge and prevail, as I had failed to do the day I quit cross-country,” he wrote.

Of course, he prevailed, and blossomed into one of the most competitive distance runners in Northeast Ohio, within just a few years.

On another level, the story was interesting because I knew many of the places and landmarks. The race connects numerous parks and trails in Northeast Ohio. I’ve run on or by all those places when I lived in Ohio — Boston Store, Pine Lane, O’Neil Woods, Stanford Road hill, Happy Days visitor center, Everett Road covered bridge, Glens Trail, Signal Tree, Sound of Music hill, etc. etc.

br100I also knew some of the other runners he mentioned (Jim Chaney, Vince Rucci), and had heard of many others.

And any 100-mile race in August makes for a great story, as the runner battles with heat, injuries, doubt, darkness, mental fatigue and exhaustion. Wyatt writes about them all in a nice, fluid way.

The story read well, because I could identify with Wyatt, someone who took up running fairly late in life, worked hard and was trying hard to accomplish big goals.

It’s easy to assume that accomplished runners have been running all their lives, and do it without any effort. Reading Wyatt’s story shows that it’s about setting big goals and working hard to achieve them.

Plus, how could you not root for a guy who finishes the story this way:

“Somewhere on that home stretch, I dusted that kid who had quit on his cross-country team 20 years earlier and finished with a time of 21 hours and 8 minutes — an hour ahead of my goal and in sixth place. At this late hour (2 a.m.), the cheering section was modest, but it didn’t matter. Overcome with emotion, I hunched over, covering my sweaty face with my grungy hands.”

After reading the story, I decided to check out Wyatt’s blog, to see how it was different from mine.

Well, the two blogs are only as different as Beethoven and the AC/DC. My blog is a hodge-podge of daily running, stupid/random thoughts, family tidbits, little stories, trail cheerleading, free association, and oh yeah, a race report or two.

Wyatt’s  blog is very serious, very focused, very organized, just like his running.

Maybe I should take a page from Wyatt. Then maybe I’ll have a few more accomplishments to boast about, instead of just reading about his.


Well, I can’t just sit around and read about other runners’ great feats.  I have to get out there, too.

This morning, I ran about 4 1/2 miles on neighborhood roads before work. It was a bit chilly at first, in high 40s, but I warmed up in the last half. My time was 34:06.

I felt much better than yesterday, when I was huffing and puffing during a trail run, following too many days of rest. I’m feeling positive as I think about the Knobstone Trail half-marathon, which is just four days away.

My goal is to beat last year’s time, when I ran a fairly slow race of 2:18:02, finishing 64th out of 94. (A few hundred additional runners ran shorter distances of 5K, 10K and 10M.) If I can finish in the top half, so much the better.


American jiggle-oh

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2009 by Trail Boy

The s’mores will do it every time.

So will the bratwurst. And the homemade pizza. And the hobo dinner (ground beef, sliced potatoes and onions, cooked in foil, on hot coals).

One bite won't hurt you. But look out for the tenth or twelfth bite.

Yep, I spent a few hours around the campfire this weekend, eating like a horse.

Why have just one sandwich when I could have two? And a bratwurst! Sure, why not? And how about another s’more?

Well, today, I’m paying for it.

I went running at lunchtime, just an easy five-miler on the towpath.

Within 10 minutes, I was wheezing and rumbling like a cement mixer. I had to slow down to a walk (twice) to catch my breath. How humiliating.

Mind you, I’m generally in decent shape. Just two weeks ago, I set a PR in a 5-mile road race, finishing second out of 10 in my age group. A week ago, I ran home from work, twelve miles, on the spur of the moment, just for fun.

But today, I was a big, old, fat guy huffing and puffing.  I was bouncing and jiggling like it was the day after Thanksgiving.  I was amazed. I was speechless. I put the flab in flabbergasted.

You’d think I’d learn. I do this to myself at least two or three times a year.

Usually, it’s no big thing. But today, it’s a big thing. I’ve got a tough half-marathon coming up this weekend. I can’t mess around like this. I have to stay strong. 

I have to say no more to s’mores.

The thing is, most of the time, I don’t even need to fight it. When I run regularly, I’m just not that hungry. I eat like a French model, a salad here, a cup of soup there. Keeping active is a great appetite suppressant, I’ve always thought.

When I run races, I eat very lightly for days afterwards. And it always surprises, at the races, to see people stuffing their faces at the finish line, with bananas and cookies and chips and sometimes even burgers. I always want to say: “Hey, you ran three miles, not 300 miles. You don’t need all that food. Keep the banana. Put everything else back.”

But I don’t. Because I’m nice. And deep down, I’m just a workout or two away from losing control and grabbing everything in sight and cramming it into my mouth.

It’s true. Every now and then, I take a few days off from running. Then my hunger pangs go ballistic. I lose my mind and start wolfing down food as fast as I can, like a Viking pirate. Have you ever seen me around a pie counter? It’s not a pretty sight.

Here’s my not-so-secret problem: Deep down, within me, there’s a 400-pound guy just screaming to get out. And that is one reason I run. To keep that guy in his place.

It usually works. I run. I eat sensibly. The next day, I run again. Et cetera.

But I’m not exactly a skinny guy to start with. And every once in a while, like a fool, I take three days off from running. Then I go nuts and eat my weight in greasy camp food, or Pringles, or frozen pizza.

And the 400-pound guy starts laughing  in that deep, rumbling, evil, scary laugh of his. 

Then I get scared and I hit the trails again. For the next 24 to 48 hours, I wheeze and huff and puff, trying to get back into shape. I suffer.

So now I am back on the upswing. I went running. Now I’m not that hungry. My lunch was a bowl of raisin bran and two apples.

And not a single s’more.

Trails are great for hiking, too.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2009 by Trail Boy

Hiking in October is a great activity for the family -- or a bunch of families.


Finally, Mother Nature took a good look at the calendar and realized what month it was.  

Yes, it’s October. And thank God, it finally looks and feels like October, once again.  

The gray, dreary weather have ended, at least for now. The crisp, clear weather of October is back. All it took was a little kvetching by Trail Boy.  

And to take advantage of the wonderful fall weather, I took the family out to Shades State Park on Saturday for a day on the trails.  

We didn’t run the trails. But we spent hours and hours hiking them (along with three other families) and that’s nearly as good, in my book.  

The park is about 70 miles west of our house. It’s worth the drive. The trails are spectacular — up and down ravines, through gorges, along creek beds, some waterfalls, rock ledges, a few steep staircases, some challenging hills.  

Mr. and Mrs. Trail Boy are all smiles. And why not? We're on the trails.


Is there a better way to spend the day than on the trails? I think we all know the answer to that.  

So here was our day. We drove the park after breakfast. When we got there, we took a long hike. Then we had lunch around the campfire. Then we had another long hike. Then we had dinner around the campfire.  

Sounds like a full day to me.  

Next weekend, I get back to the races, with a fall favorite, the Knobstone Trail Half-Marathon, on the rugged hills of Low Gap Trail in the Morgan Monroe State Forest.  

But this weekend was a fun, laid-back hiking weekend. Both kinds are great.  

You just can’t go wrong with a trail.  

Jake slices potatoes for dinner.


Chowing down around the campfire.

November in October

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2009 by Trail Boy

It’s a picture perfect day for late November: wet, windy, gray and chilly.

But hang on. It’s only October 15.

What the hell happened to October?

Yo, October. Get back here. No one said you could leave the stage yet. We have two more weeks before your contract is up. There’s a lot of performances between now and then. It’s not time for your smoke break!

If you hadn’t guessed, I like October weather — REAL October weather: crisp air, dry ground, fun smells, mind-blowing scenery. That is ideal weather for running.

I do not like November in October. I do not want to look out the window and see this:


Ooh, that’s ugly. That’s raincoat-and-long-pants weather.

In October, I want to see pretty leaves, not gray skies.

Do you get my drift? I look forward to October all year long. For runners, the month is solid gold. It’s the Boardwalk in Monopoly. It’s a Broadway show and the Super Bowl and the Boston Marathon, all rolled up into one.

OK, maybe not the Boston Marathon. That’s in April. But there are lots of other marathons in October —  more than 80 of them, according to, probably more than any other single month. Why is that? Because October is  tops.

Have I said it enough?

OK, I guess I can’t just sit around, fuming and throwing large books at the wall. I have to go running. This is a running blog, after all, not  some mindless rant. If you want endless bloviating and turning molehills into mountains, go turn on Fox News.

So back to running. Yes, did go running today — five miles on the towpath at lunchtime. I jumped over endless puddles, and saw my breath in the air.

When I was done, 43 minutes later, I felt a little better, but not much. Because it was still November outside. In October. So I’m kind of feeling cheated.

Just thought I’d point that out, in case you couldn’t tell.

The Super-Duper Instant Waker-Upper

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2009 by Trail Boy

Before: Something's not right with the world.

Yep, today was Monday, all right.

I was feeling sluggish all day. Yawning. Walking around the office in a daze. A bit down in the dumps. I snapped at my editor. I growled at the nice lady at the front desk.

By noon, my head was throbbing.  I felt like I just lost $8,000 at Mr. Potter’s bank.

The big question: How could I snap out of it? I considered a few options:

A) Buy a tall cup of Kenyan coffee with three shots of espresso.

B) Slap myself in the face once every five minutes.

C) Count to 10,000 by sevens.

D) Write a letter to my congressman, complaining about the lack of trails in Indiana, and demanding that he establish a national park within one mile of my house.

E) Pray that Clarence, my guardian angel, would get me right with the world.

Those were all good options. But I felt they went only so far. I needed to go big.

I needed a long run.

How long? Well, how about 12 miles home after work?

Whoa — now that’s just might hit the spot. Hee haw!

Good thing I brought my running stuff to work today. I had been planning to get in a few licks at lunchtime. Unfortunately, lunchtime came and went, and I was feeling bored by the thought of the standard five-mile lunchtime run on the towpath.

But a 12-miler, chasing the sunset from downtown to the burbs? My heart fluttered at the thought of it. I started drooling at the thought of endorphins.

Yep, this idea was gold.

This was the Super-Duper Instant Waker Upper.

At quitting time, I ran down to the basement locker room, changed into my running clothes, and hit the — well, not the trails today. I hit the pavement. This was all city streets, bike paths and sidewalks. Sometimes, you have to throw out the rule book.

After: It's a super-duper, wonderful life.


But what this course lacked in trails and natural beauty it made up for in purpose. This was a destination run. I had to get home — and before the sun set.

I made it in an hour and 48 minutes, about faster than the last time I did this, in March.

The weather was perfect — 50-something and just a hint of wind.

I arrived home at about 7:20, just in tie for a pork stir-fry dinner, courtesy of Mrs. Trail Boy. I hugged my kids.

All was right with the world again.

Yep, this run did the trick. And I have a pretty good feeling that I’ll get a full night’s sleep.

I love you, Bedford Falls.


My buddy, Kevin, is having the best year of his life — when it comes to running, anyway.

In May, he qualified to run the Boston Marathon in 2010, with a great run at the Cleveland Marathon.

In July, he ran his first trail ultra, the Buckeye Trail 50K, as my “zen master.”

And yesterday, he set a new PR, running the Chicago Marathon in 3:29 — which qualified him again for the Boston Marathon in 2011.

Hey, Kevin, what’s next, the Olympics?

Enjoy your recovery. You earned it.

Sleeping under the stars

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2009 by Trail Boy

For the cheapest thrill around, nothing beats watching the stars overhead all night, between a few winks of sleep.

Nature really puts on a hell of a show.

I went on Scout campout with Jake on Saturday. After a full day of hiking, cooking, telling stories around the bonfire, etc.,  it was time for bed. I got Jake all bundled up and in sleeping bag. He and a friend shared a two-person tent.

But what about the adults? Well, the dads and Scout leaders were herded together in a big circus tent, with room enough for 20 people.

That was a bit too cramped and stuffy for me.

So another dad and I decided to spend the night under the stars.

Who cares if the forecast called for overnight temps to fall below 30 degrees, meaning there was a good chance we would wake up with frost on our sleeping bags?

We were dressed warmly, and had several layers between us and the ground. We spread out our bags, crawled in, and gazed at the contellations far above.

My friend was an experienced camper, as well as a trail runner and adventure racer. For him, there’s no better way to spend a weekend than a 24-hour, he-man competition involving running, canoeing, rappelling, and orienteering. He knows the outdoors.

And he knew the skies, too. As we looked at the heavens, he pointed out several constellations to me, including the dippers, Ursa Major, and a few others I’ve since forgotten. “In a few hours, they’ll all be rotated 180 degrees,” he said.

And they were, to my amazement.

I fell asleep after an hour or so, but woke up every now and then as the chilly air forced me to snuggle deeper in my bag. Each time, I glanced up at the stars for a few minutes.

OK, nothing really unusual happened. There were no meteor showers or supernovas. If there were, I missed them.

But just watching thousands (millions?) of stars twinkling in every direction of the sky, I was mezmerized. It truly was a grand show.

Finally, dawn broke, a cloudy sky appeared, and the show was over.

And yes, my sleeping bag was covered with crusty frost. So was all the ground around me.

But I didn’t mind at all.

Most of the Scouts slept in the big teepee or little tents. Most of the adults slept in the green circus tent. I opted for the big outdoors.


Of course, it’s hardly worth spending 24 hours at Scout camp without getting in a few trail hikes and runs.

I hadn’t been to this place before, Camp Redwing in Muncie, Indiana. So while the Scouts were occupied in an afternoon workshop (studying fingerprinting), I spent 45 minutes hiking the grounds, and got a lay of the land.

There wasn’t much to see, actually. It’s a pretty small campground, and fairly flat. But there were a few trail loops that connected all the campsites, and they looked runnable.

So before dinner, I changed into running clothes and did three loops. 

It wasn’t a whiz-bang, stop-the-presses run. But it was fun, and did the trick. I finished the run in just under 35 minutes.

And I worked up an appetite for dinner, homemade beef stew.

So between the stars and the trails, it was a full day.


Who knew that I was raising a chef?

My pride and joy, and a few of his friends, won a big prize at the campout for cooking the tastiest dish. And they’re not even Boy Scouts yet — just Webelos (the stage before crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts).

They were attending the Camporee as guests of a Boy Scout troop. And during their visit,  they beat out cooks from five other troops to win the Camporee’s cooking award.

Their winning dish was called “Delicious Evidence.” It was a tasty dessert, made of bananas, chocolate, whipping cream, bread, oil and vanilla, simmered over a flame.

I had a bite. It was good. The judges let us know just how good it really was.

Jake (center) and two friends display their "Traveling Cooking Award," for winning the cooking competition.

Run like Ed

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2009 by Trail Boy
Just about every time I run through a cemetery, I think of Ed Whitlock, and wish I could channel his outrageous energy and drive.
Ed is 78 years old, but runs faster than most people half his age. 

Ed Whitlock runs like the wind through his neighborhood cemetery.

Six years ago, he ran a marathon in 2:54, setting a world record for runners over 70.

He does all of his training in a cemetery a block from his home in Milton, Ontario. He runs a paved loop in the cemetery — often for up to three hours at a time.  In the 10 weeks leading up to one marathon, he did 48 three-hour runs. What a work horse!

Why cemeteries? Here is what he told one interviewer: 

“There are no traffic problems. The drivers here are a docile lot. It’s largely shaded in the summer. And I’m never more than 800 meters from home if any problem occurs.”

I thought of Ed again today as I did a lunchtime run at Crown Hill Cemetery, one of the oldest and biggest public cemeteries in the U.S.

This cemetery is not just big and old. It also has the most fearsome hill in Marion County.

I’ve written about this killer hill several times. (See here and  here and here).

No matter how many times I return to Crown Hill and try to conquer the hill, it never gets any easier.

Today, I managed just three repeats of the hill climb, running them in a gasping 1:46, 1:47 and 1:50. (Last time I did hill repeats here, in June, I did six repeats, between 1:48 and 1:55.)

But I didn’t just throw myself at this hill. First, I ran two wide loops around the cemetery on mostly flat ground, which took me about 28 minutes.

Then I thought: “What Would Ed Whitlock Do?”

He would jump in and do what needed to be done, that’s for sure. Ed Whitlock “may be the world’s best athlete for his age,” the New York Times wrote a few years ago.

So without further ado, I began climbing and climbing.

“Mother of God,” I gasped, as I got to the top for the third time, looking at the downtown skyline. “I can’t go up this hill again.”

I’m sure Ed would have beat me to the top each time, and run a few extras, just to prove he could out-do a “kid.”

When I grow up, I want to be as good as Ed.

But today, just don’t make me run this hill again.

Here is the view of downtown Indy from the top of Crown Hill Cemetery. Usually, I'm gasping too hard to enjoy the sight.