Archive for November, 2009

Drumsticks and PRs

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2009 by Trail Boy

Thanksgiving is a day to think about your blessings, do a little extra running, get some fresh air, and enjoy a feast.

So let’s get busy!

On this day, I’m grateful for another year of good health, of spending lots of time with two energetic boys and a wonderful wife, and of having a job despite a lousy economy.

And naturally, I am grateful for the simple pleasures of life, such as trails and running.

That’s a real shocker, right?

This morning, I was in the mood for a race. It’s been about nearly a month since I’ve pinned on a number and pushed myself through a course. So I was overdue.

I couldn’t find a trail race, so I did the next best thing.

I found a road race. And then, later in the day, I went hiking with the family on trails.

Yep, it was double the fun. And on this day of blessings, I was grateful for two helpings of outdoor activity.

The race was the Drumstick Dash, a 4.5-mile race through Broad Ripple, an artsy, eclectic neighorhood on the north side of Indy.

The best way to work up an appetite for Thanksgiving.

I’ve never run this race before — usually because I go to Ohio to see family on Thanksgiving. So this was a novelty.

And on that score, I knew I would set a PR — two, in fact. First, as I’ve said, I’ve never run the Drumstick Dash, so even if I finished dead last, I would set a PR for this race.

And second, I’ve never raced this unusual distance before. So no matter how slow I was, I would set a PR for the distance.

But finishing dead last wasn’t likely. This is a community race that attracts thousands of people. Only a small fraction of them are hardcore runners. Most of them, I think, are weekend joggers and even walkers.

The starting line of the race looked like a marathon, with pace groups and signs for various speeds, from 6-minute miles to 15-minute miles.

I bought a race number, then pushed myself through the mob and lined up with the 7:00 minute pace group. As this was a Thanksgiving run, many runners were dressed as turkeys or Indians or pilgrims or something goofy. The race mascot was a giant turkey.

We were greeted over a loudspeaker by the race organizer, and then by the mayor of Indy and then by a chaplain who asked us to pray to “our heavenly Lord in Jesus’ name.” It struck me as weird for a secular event. But then again, this is Indiana, the Bible belt of the Midwest.

Can we run faster than a turkey?

Finally, the countdown started, the horn blew, and we took off.

It took me nearly 30 seconds to cross the starting mat. But this was OK, since I had a chip. After that, I spent the first half-mile trying to pass slow, clueless runners who had lined up ahead of me, despite their slowpoke pace of 10 or 11 minutes a mile. Some of them were pushing strollers.

The course started down a wide, main street for a half-mile. Then it turned onto a narrow sidestreet. The running got a little congested, as thousands of runners tried to squeeze down narrow streets, with cars parked on both sides.

I felt boxed in a few times. I felt a little sorry for the people in the back of the pack. I don’t think they could ever get a steady pace going.

We ran along sidestreets and busy streets that I’ve driven hundreds of times. It was cool to see them from a different perspective.

I finished in 32:43, for an average pace of 7:16. Later, I look at the race results and saw I had finished 474th out of 3,833 timed finishers (lots of walkers and slow runners didn’t wear timing chips). That put me in the top 13 percent.

And of course, I got my PR. Yes, I got it the cheap way, but I’ll take it.

I came home, fully endorphined. I had breakfast and cleaned up. Then the whole family hopped in the car and drove an hour south to Brown

Mrs. Trail Boy at Brown County State Park.

County State Park, one of the hilliest and most scenic state parks in Indiana.

We hiked two short but hilly trails in a light rain, getting in at least four miles. The boys also enjoyed climbing to the top of a fire lookout tower, about 200 feet high, three or four times.

Then we came home, heated up a full Thanksgiving dinner that Mrs. Trail Boy had cooked yesterday, gave thanks, and dug in, with hearty appetites.

It was Trail Boy’s kind of Thanksgiving.

Blessings upon our house. And yours.

Before the snow hits

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by Trail Boy

Some ugly weather is heading our way, so there’s only one thing to do: enjoy every possible minute outdoors before it arrives.

In that spirit, I did what had to be done. I drove to Fort Ben and ran 5.3 miles on leafy, hilly trails, enjoying the warm weather before it disappears.

There were only one or two others on the trails. I had the park nearly to myself.

The sky was blue, and the air smelled great. But I could see dark clouds moving across the sky.

According to AccuWeather forecasts, we’re going to get colder temps and rain tonight and tomorrow. On Thursday (Thanksgiving), we could even get some snow.

So I wanted to get out and enjoy the clear skies while they lasted. The woods were a fine place to be, even though the trees were bare and ground was brown. I trotted along contentedly, chasing endorphins and trying to regain some hill conditioning.

As I ran, I thought that every nice day in November is a gift. Winter could blow in any day, and stay for months.

Actually, I really don’t mind winter. Running in crisp, chilly weather, through the snowy woods, is a feast for the senses, and part of the rhythm of nature, which I try to embrace.

Well, for the first month or two, anyway. By February and March, I’ve usually had my fill of snow and freezing weather. By then, the thought of spring is the only thing that keeps me going.

So it is with late fall. The run was peaceful and pleasurable. I hope we have a few more like it.

Left in the dust

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by Trail Boy

If you don’t move fast, you get left in the dust.

That’s true in running. And it’s true in signing up for races.

Twice in the past month, I’ve dawdled in signing up for a cool trail race, only to have the race fill up early and leave me on the sidelines.

I wanted to run the Buckeye Trail Winter Fun Run next January. I dawdled. The race filled up.

This past weekend, I wanted to run the Outback Scramble 5-mile trail race at Eagle Creek Park. I dawdled. The race filled up.

The lesson: If you snooze, you lose. Get a plan and move fast.

Just ask anyone who got closed out of the 2010 Boston Marathon. It sold out faster than expected, surprising lots of runners. “Well, I sat on my rear end and thought I could sign up for Boston in December. WRONG! It sold out in record time!” wrote Jim on his blog.

“I never expected it to fill up so early,” someone wrote on a chat board at Letsrun.com.

So without a race to run this weekend, I just did some solo running here and there. On Saturday, I hit the trails at Fort Ben for about five miles. On Sunday, I ran roads in my neighborhood for about four miles. This morning, I ran trails for about four miles at Town Run Trail Park.

It was OK. But I was in the mood for a race. I guess when I see something fun, I had better move faster next time.

Speaking of which, it’s time to start thinking about a race on Thanksgiving. But after checking out the race calendars, I’m not real excited by the options. There are the usual short-distance road races around Indiana: a Drumstick Dash (4.5 miles) in Indy, a Galloping Gobbler (4 miles) in Fort Wayne, a Turkey Trot (10K) in Valparaiso, a Foot Feast (5M) in New Albany.

These races usually bring out a zillion runners on narrow city streets, and it’s just a mob scene. Last year’s Drumstick Dash, for example, attracted 7,000 runners. With that kind of crowd, it’s hard to get a good position or pass anyone.

Maybe I’ll just head to a state park and have the trails all to myself. Everyone else will be at the races.

But I should probably make up my mind pretty fast. Or I’ll be left in the dust again.

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Speaking of numbers, here’s a small milestone I want to mark.

Over the weekend, my blog got its 5,000th hit.

It’s not huge. But it’s not tiny, either. It averages out to a few hundred hits a week since I launched this blog in March. (It doesn’t include my own page views.)

In the big scheme, it’s a little thing. No matter. I got a little thrill seeing the first digit turn over.

Thanks for reading.

My smut collection

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 by Trail Boy

Don’t tell my wife, but I keep an impressive collection of hard-core magazines under my bed.

A few times a week, when I think the coast is clear, I’ll pull out one of the magazines and drool over the pictures. Then I’ll look at the classifieds. Maybe I’ll read some of the letters and advice columns.

I often feel myself getting faint with desire.

If I hear footsteps, I’ll snap out of it, and fling the magazine back under my bed.

But sometimes I’m not quick enough. A few times a year, Mrs. Trail Boy will catch me red-handed.

“Oh God, are you reading that smut again?” she’ll ask me.

There’s no use denying it. The evidence is right there in my hands — the latest issue of Trail Runner or Ultrarunning or Marathon & Beyond.

They are filled with glossy photos of runners jumping across creeks or trotting down mountain trails or running a 100-mile ultra through Alaska.

Sometimes the runners have the coolest GPS watches or backpack hydration systems or $200 trail shoes. I drool over that, too.

But I have to pull myself together in a hurry when Mrs. Trail Boy catches me in the act.

“I, I, I was just reading the articles,” I stammer.

“Would you please get rid of those magazines,” she says. “I don’t like that filth in my house.”

I know it’s no use, but I blurt out a defense.

“It’s not filth. It’s good, clean innocent fun.”

“Yeah, right,” Mrs. Trail Boy says. “Magazines about people who run 100-mile races in the mud. Don’t even think about doing that. I’d never see you. I need your help around the house. When are you going to refinish the floors or fix the porch?”

“I’m not hurting anyone,” I say. “I’m just just reading a magazine. I could be watching football all weekend.”

Mrs. Trail Boy rolls her eyes.

“You should know better at your age, drooling over those photos like a kid,” she says. “You’re making a fool of yourself.”

“But look at that scenery!” I say. “Look at those mountain peaks. Look at those ravines. Look at that finish line. Those people look so happy.”

“Stop filling your mind with that,” she says. “Those are just fantasies. Those people don’t really exist.”

“Yes, they do,” I say. “I know some of these people. I’ve met them. I talk to them.”

“You mean you send e-mails to people you’ve never met and talk about trails and races.”

“No! It’s nothing like that. You make it sound so creepy.”

“Well, what am I supposed to think when I catch you reading this stuff in private, and throwing it under the bed when you hear me coming down the hall?”

That Mrs. Trail Boy. She always thinks the worst of my hobbies.

There’s no use arguing with her. There’s only one way to win one of these discussions, but I feel so dishonest whenever I do it. It goes like this.

Mrs. Trail Boy: “What are you reading?

Me: “Um, uh, nothing, just Playboy.”

Mrs. Trail Boy: “Well, all right, then. Just keep away from that running smut.”

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NEW! AND IMPROVED!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 by Trail Boy

Whoa! Something’s different. Is this the right place?

Yep. It’s the same blog. With a different look.

It’s modern! And bold! And easier to navigate!

That’s the spin every newspaper publisher gives every time he overhauls a design for no apparent reason, right?

I’ve worked for newspapers for 26 years. And every year or two, without fail, every paper I’ve worked for would would undergo a complete face lift.

Columns would be wider or narrower. Type would be bigger or smaller. Photos would look different. The sections would be combined in a new way. Theme pages would come or go.

Of course, the publisher always wrote a note to readers, saying the redesign was done to make the paper easier on the eye, or more engaging, or easier to navigate. The headline would say something breathless like: “A clean, modern layout!”

The reporters knew better. The redesign was done to cut costs. Or to mimic some other paper that was growing faster. Or give the publisher’s idiot nephew something to do.

Readers would complain by the hundreds. But it didn’t matter. It really wasn’t their paper. It was the publisher’s.

So now it’s my turn.

If you're not careful, your blog could look this tired and outdated.

A successful blog is edgy, wow, high-energy, unpredictable -- so the experts say, anyway.

As you can see, I’m messing around with the design. Instead of black on white, now it’s white on black. The column width is slightly smaller. The header tabs are gone. I’ve changed my banner photo and the color scheme.

Why? Well, I’m the publisher of this blog, so I shouldn’t really even have to bother to explain.

But being the reader-friendly guy I am, I will. Here’s the story.

Part of the reason, frankly, is that I was getting bored with the old look. I looked at my blog day in and day out, sometimes a half-dozen times a day. The design was getting ho-hum. It didn’t excite me.

But more importantly, it just wasn’t doing the job. It didn’t have enough energy. This is a blog about adventure running. The design needed to convey more fun, energy, adventure and risk.

It’s hard to convey those things in my posts if the design is putting me to sleep. And perhaps some of my readers.

I think the new design has more punch and will convey more of the excitement that trail running is all about. The colors are brighter. The type is sharper.

I’m excited already. I want to stand up right now and go take a 10-mile trail run. When I get back, I want to sign up for a 50K.

That’s what a blog should do. At least this one.

Let me know what you think.

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I took a nice 5.25-mile run at lunchtime today on the towpath. The run was nothing fancy, just an easy out-and-back, to put miles in the bank and keep me going. It was your basic maintanance run. I finished in 48:10.

It was my last run in Indy before hitting the road Saturday morning for a three-day weekend in Cleveland and Akron. I plan to hit a trail or two while I’m there. Not sure where or when.

See you when I get back.

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What to wear?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 by Trail Boy

I like to think that I dress for the occasion.

I don’t wear a suit to the beach. And I don’t wear jeans when I interview the governor. 

I think before I dress.

That goes for running too, especially in November. The weather in Indiana has been swinging wildly in the last week, from gusty to balmy to frosty. It’s tough to know what to wear on a morning run.

Tclotheshis morning was a challenge. It was chilly, with temps so low that lawns were covered with frost and I could see my breath in the air.

Should I break out the cold-weather gear? Should I run in a cotton, wool, or high-performance synthetics?

Decisions, decisions.

I once had a running friend who always over-dressed in chilly weather. Whenever the temps fell below 35 or 40 degrees, he would bundle up in four layers: a T-shirt, a turtleneck, a sweatshirt and a coat.

 Then we would go running, and within 15 minutes, he would start swearing and shedding layers. He never learned.

But I learned from his mistakes. To this day, I’d rather under-dress than over-dress. When you’re running, you’re generating heat. Keep moving, and you’ll warm up soon enough.

So after mulling it over for a minute, I went for the “kind-of cold weather” gear. I wore a short-sleeve shirt, a wind jacket, nylon shorts, a cotton hat and Smart Wool gloves.

Would it be the right choice? There was only one way to find out. Start running.

I was just a tad chilly when I started off at about 7:30 a.m., running through the neighborhood. But within a half-mile, was feeling good, enjoying the crisp air on my face and legs. The air felt good in my lungs, too.

At one point, I passed a walker who was bundled up in long pants, shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. He took one look at my exposed legs and said: “You’re brave.”

I laughed, but I didn’t share his opinion. If I had worn long running pants, I would been burning up. I don’t get out long pants until the temps get under 25 degrees. Otherwise, I’m just taking a lot of extra material out for a run without a good reason.

I ran down the road, here and there, sticking to the quiet roads, avoiding the main streets. It was a good run, about five miles. My time was 44:38.

Then I came home, washed up and got dressed for work.

Uh oh, now it was time for the second clothing decision of the day. Coat and tie? Golf shirt? Something in between?

I chose an open-necked Oxfort shirt, Dockers, loafers and no tie. Hey, I’m just writing at my desk today. I don’t have to dress up for the governor.

You have to dress for the occasion, I always say.

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Another reason to love November

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 by Trail Boy

November is a great month to be alive. Why do I like it? Let’s count the ways.

1) CoBXP49582ol, crisp weather, great for running.

2) Some of the best meteor showers of the year, known as the Leonids, occur in mid-November. I like sky shows.

3) Elections are held in November. As a former poli sci student, Congressional page, and news junkie, I’ve always loved Election Day.

4) National Adoption Day is Nov. 1. How could I not salute that, having adopted two sons?

5) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s a chance to count your blessings, maybe run a race, eat some wonderful food, enjoy a piece or two of pie, and see family and friends. Plus it’s not as stressful as Christmas.

Yep, all those things are good.

But here’s another awesome thing about November.

It’s the month when the horse trail at Fort Harrison State Park is finally open to hikers and runners. The long wait is over.

That’s right. From April through October, the horse trail is closed to pedestrians. Horseback riders get to  hog the trail to themselves.

But from November through March, the riding season is over. The horses spend the winter in their barns or wherever, and trail runners in Indy get another three miles of wooded trails to run.

It’s reason enough to celebrate. Especially since I grouse all summer about the trail being reserved for horse-riding only.

So today, before work, I drove out to Fort Harrison and ran all the trails — including, of course, the horse trail. It’s a scenic trail through the woods with a couple of creek crossings and enough rolling hills to give you a workout.

Of course, I had to watch my step. Just a week or two ago, horses were using these trails, and they left plenty of souvenirs.

I had the trail mostly to myself. I counted just one other person, an older guy hiking the trail, near the creek. We laughed about how nice it was to use this trail again.

Yes, when you live in Central Indiana, you don’t have a lot of trails to choose from. You have to rejoice when a new one opens, even for a few months. 

I trotted along, enjoying the sights of November and breathing in the cool air. Before I know it, winter will be here. November is a time to appreciate the last few weeks of fall.

Today, it was a great way to spend an hour and 10 minutes.

Here’s to ya, November.

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By law, Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday of November.

But this year, for me anyway, it will fall on the third Sunday of November.

That’s right, Thanksgiving is coming nearly two weeks early.

Through some odd confluence of factors, mostly involving vacation schedules, my parents are holding Thanksgiving this Sunday at their house in Cleveland.

Yep,  Thanksgiving on Sunday, eleven days before the official holiday.

I just learned about it two days ago. Mrs. Trail Boy and I are scrambling to get to Ohio this weekend to make it happen. Actually, I’m grateful. I didn’t think I would be able to see my family this Thanksgiving, due to vacation schedules at work. I was planning to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Indiana.

Now, I’ll get to see family and friends. And of course, my beloved Ohio trails. I’m not sure when or where I’ll run them, or if I’ll manage to connect with old running friends. 

And when I get back to Indiana, we’ll still be able to celebrate the real Thanksgiving, a week or so later.

What’s the only thing better than one Thanksgiving?

Two Thanksgivings.

I’m giving thanks already.

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