Archive for January, 2010

At last, the Mohican

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2010 by Trail Boy

Until today, my knowledge of the Mohican State Park (one of the largest parks in Ohio) was limited to the following:

* It is located in Loudonville, Ohio, a fun name to say.

* It’s home to the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run, one of the toughest foot races in the Midwest.

* It has lots of hills and trails. And a river, I think.

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve visited this park — back when I was in college. That’s way before I took up trail running, anyway.

So yesterday afternoon, as I was driving to Wooster, Ohio, for a work assignment, I saw a higway sign for Mohican State Park on Interstate 71. And I knew what I needed to do.

I would check out Mohican in the morning.

It would be easier, in fact, than my original plans to hit the trails at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, some 50 miles north of my hotel. Mohican State Park was about 20 miles southwest of my hotel.

So in the morning, bright and early, I pulled on my running clothes and drove 25 minutes through rolling countryside to Loudonville. Once I got into the tiny town, I stopped at gas station for Gatorade and directions. Ten minutes later, I found the park.

Well, I found something resembling a park. This is a pretty big piece of real estate, thousands of acres of parkland, surrounded by thousands of acres of forest.

I spent 15 or 20 minutes driving around it, looking for a trailhead. I drove past a campground, along a river, through the woods and past a scenic overlook, without finding a trail. I guess that’s what you get when you try to explore a new park alone, without a map.

Finally, I spotted a scenic covered bridge, with a small parking lot at one end, with a sign for something called Lyons Falls Trail.

I squealed like a school girl, slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car.

I began running along the trail, glad to finally get out of my car.

But the trail was a bit tougher than I expected for two reasons. First, parts of the trail were sharply canted, sloping downhill. Several times I felt I was about to lose control and slide down a hill into the river.

Second, the trail was covered with snow and ice, making the footing and balance that much tricker.  But the scenery was worth it — beautiful ravines, overlooks, piney forests, etc.

I ran this trail for about a mile, until it took me smack into a towering rock formation, with a waterfall and lots of ice. OK, I guess I know why they call this Lyons Fall Trail.

I spent a few minutes marveling at the falls, and then tried to pick up the trail again. But I couldn’t find it. It was buried under snow, and not readily visible. After several minutes, I gave up and turned around. Fifteen minutes later, I was back at my car, and off to find another trail.

And I found one, too,  a mountain bike trail a mile or two away. It was a better experience. It ran through an evergreen grove, along gently rolling terrain. I trotted for another half-hour, enjoying the sights and smells of the winter woods.

Then I got back in my car for a five-hour drive back home — a chore made a bit easier by a fun morning at the Mohican.

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One lucky day

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2010 by Trail Boy

Is this my lucky day or what?

Just about everything I was whining about yesterday has turned to roses. Or maybe to Lucky Charms.

1) For the first time in weeks, it’s snowing today — not raining or sleeting. I was out running at lunchtime on the towpath and saw big, white fluffy flakes floating down from the sky onto the trail and surrounding woods. What a nice change, after getting hammered by rain  and sleet for weeks.

2) My running watch, which disappeared a few weeks ago, has turned up. I found it this morning in the pocket of a pair of work jeans. I guess I had taken my watch off while I was caulking the bathtub two weekends ago, and had forgotten to empty my pockets before neatly and carefully jamming my jeans into a back corner of the closet floor. I wore the watch during my run today, and was able to actually time myself: 29:29. (Unfortunately, I don’t how far I ran. I’m guessing about 3 1/2 miles.)

3) I looked at my calendar this morning and saw something that made me smile. I will be heading to heading up to Pokagon State Park in northeastern Indiana this weekend with family and friends for a midwinter getaway. I don’t know much about this park; I’ve been there only once for a couple of hours, on my way home from Michigan. But according to a park map, Pokagon has plenty of trails for running and hiking. That will be a great change of scenery, after too many weekends running the same old  trails at Fort Ben, some of which are currently under water. I’ll be staying overnight at a lodge at Pokagon, so hope to hit the trails several times. (Let’s hope the snow keeps falling this week, so the park’s toboggan chutes will be open for kids to enjoy.)

4) My editor is sending me to Wooster, Ohio, tomorrow to cover a hearing involving a possible fleecing of hundreds of investors. Wooster is just a hop and a skip from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, my favorite running grounds. I’m sure I’ll be able to squeeze in a trail run during my trip.

So all in all, it’s a good start to a week. If my lucky streak holds up, I’ll expect to find a $20 in the parking garage on my way home tonight.

Press 1 for muddy. Press 2 for completely under water.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s ugly out there. Rain, sleet, slush.  

Anyway you slice it, it’s sloppy weather. It’s been like that all week, and the trails are taking a pounding.  

I ran for an hour or so at Fort Ben yesterday morning. The trails varied between damp, slushy, goopy and completely under water.  

Look at this picture:  

   

You might think it’s a creek. But no, it’s a trail — the lowest part of the Lawrence Creek Trail.  

I hopped around it, as best as I could, turned the corner, and hoped for drier ground ahead. Thankfully, the next mile was merely muddy, but not covered with three inches of water.  

It’s been that kind of week — damp, rainy, slushy. It has been raining almost every day.  

Despite it all, I’ve been running almost every day, mostly on the towpath, facing the elements.  

And the elements weren’t afraid to dish it out. If the rain wasn’t hitting me in the face, the splashback from the trail puddles were soaking my feet.  

Whatever happened to light, fluffy snow in January?
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I was looking for a race to run this weekend, but couldn’t find one that excited me. A moonlight trail run was postponed for the second time, due to wet and muddy conditions.  

 The only big race nearby was the “Bop to the Top,” a staircase run up 36 flights of stairs at the Chase Bank Tower downtown. The thought of doing that gave me not a single, solitary goose bump.

I was hoping to get down to southern Indiana today to run through some hilly forests. But I couldn’t find any group runs. Then about a half-hour ago, I was scanning the Indiana Trail Runners web site, and saw a notice for a group run on Three Lakes Trails in the Morgan Monroe State Forest that was held this morning. Obviously, I missed it. What a bummer. I wish I had seen that yesterday. That would been the perfect medicine for a dreary weekend. 

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I love my running watch. It does everything I ask of it. It gives me accurate times. It remembers splits and laps. It times my intervals between 800 repeats. It even wakes me up in the morning.  

If only I could find it.  

My running watch, a Timex Flix with 100-lap memory, went missing a few weeks ago, and I’m getting the shakes.  

This is what I've come to: wearing a dress watch on the trails.

I’ve looked everywhere for it: in my car, in my running bag, in my pants pockets, in all my dresser drawers.  

In the meantime, I have taken to running with my dress watch. I feel like Ward Cleaver, bounding through the woods with a fancy watch on my arm.  

Please, running watch, come back to Poppa.

Neither mud, nor slush, nor gloom of night…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 by Trail Boy

What do you get when you combine the following:

1) Weeks of freezing weather and heavy snow.

2) A few days of spring-like weather, with temps in the high 30s and low 40s.

Well, let’s just say if this continues much longer, I’m going to have to change the name of this blog to “Hit the Slush.”

I went on a five-mile run on the towpath at lunchtime, and my shoes and running pants are splattered with mud.

Not that I mind. Trail running is a year-round adventure, and you take whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

Even when she’s dishing enough mud to choke a horse.

I’m used to muddy shoes during rainy season — you know, April and May, or thereabouts. But mud in January is a little early on the calendar.

My shoes won’t be dry for days.

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I had my heart set on running in the dark on Saturday. 

I was all set to run the Moonlight Trail Run 15K, but as I said in my last post, the organizers postponed it due to muddy conditions.

That took the wind out of my sails. I had never run trails in the dark before, and was eager to give it a whirl.

I also wanted to test out a new toy: a runner’s headlamp, which I got as a gift in December.

That’s right: Trail Boy has a Toy.

But the party was called off.  What to do? Only one thing. Go running.

In the dark.

And so I did.

But I decided, for perhaps the first time in my my life, to use a little caution.

I decided NOT to run on a trail, all alone, on my first nighttime run. I just didn’t want to risk tripping over a root in the gloom of night. With my luck, I would break a leg and be forced to curl up in the dark and wait hours for someone to rescue me. 

So I opted to stick to pavement — quiet roads, with nice, even footing, to minimize the risk of falling.

On Saturday evening, I went out for a six-mile run on back roads in my neighborhoods.

As I walked down the driveway, I put on my headlamp and snapped on the beam. I started running.

At first, I felt a bit goofy, like a coal miner, clomping down the road with a bright light shining from my head.

I pulled the lamp down, lower on my forehead, so the beam would shine on the road. At that point, I felt like an old-fashioned doctor, with a head reflector.

But after a few minutes, I got used to it. The lamp cast a wide beam and plenty of illumination on the road in front of me. The few cars that passed my way saw my light and gave me wide berth.

I didn’t see any other runners out, with or without a headlamp. I owned the road.

I got back to my house in about 50 minutes and switched off the light, declaring success.

I can’t wait to take this baby out for a real spin. On the trails.

Beautiful day, for better or worse

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2010 by Trail Boy

This sounds like the beginning of a vaudeville joke.

The good news is that we have beautiful weather.

The bad news is that we have beautiful weather.

Today, we had 40 degree temps, a real departure from weeks of sub-freezing weather and deep snow.

This morning, I ran four miles on neighborhood roads before work. I dressed in shorts and a long-sleeved short. No coat. No hat.  I had a spring in my step. A dash of warm weath will do that.

But a few hours later, I realized that warm weather in January cuts both ways.

I just found out that a trail race I was planning to run tomorrow, the Moonlight Run 15K, has been postponed for a week, maybe more, due to extremely wet and muddy conditions.

This would have been my first nightime trail race. I was looking forward to it. I was going to use a headlamp I got as a Christmas gift.

The trails at Town Run Trail Park are always a problem during thaw and rainy season.  The trails designed for mountain bikes. They are primitive dirt singletrack, and are easily damaged in wet weather.

The race has been rescheduled until next Saturday, January 23, with Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 as additional backup dates, if the warmer weather persists.

Brown County State Park has also closed its trails — at least the mountain bike trails. I’m not sure about groomed hiking trails.

Beautiful day? Sure — if you can find a trail to run.

The day I knew I was a trail runner

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 by Trail Boy

I still remember the day I knew, deep in my bones, I was a trail runner.

It was a winter morning, four years ago, shortly after I moved to Indianapolis. The day was a lot like today — chilly, with a light carpet of snow on the ground.

I was looking for a group to run with, and had run across a web site for the Indy Runners, one of the largest running clubs in town. The group was having its regular Sunday morning run. According to the web site, newcomers were welcome.

So I arrived full of energy and high hopes at the Lee Road YMCA parking lot, just a couple blocks away from Fort Harrison, the biggest state park in Central Indiana.

I assumed that the group would run into the park, and hit a few of the trails that I had seen there during an earlier visit.

I introduced myself to a few other runners. Then at the dot of 8:00 a.m., we got going. But not toward the park.

First we ran in a wide circle around the YMCA parking lot. Whoa, I thought, that’s not a good sign.

Then we swung over to the sidewalk, and followed it alongside a busy street, for about a mile. Hmm, another bad sign.

After that, we cut over onto a sidestreet, and then into a subdivision. We clumped along the pavement, leaving the the park and its trails farther behind us, with each step.

About this time, little doubts were beginning to creep into my mind. Would we ever leave this cursed road?

We ran along, then zig-zagged back toward the park. We ran around a village green and a few sidestreets. On pavement.

A few minutes later, we stopped for water. I looked around, and there we were, right at the front gate of the park. A minute later, we got going again  — into the park! Finally.

We ran down the long entrance road, passing the guard gate, with woods on both sides of the road. We ran on and on. 

 

I saw a sign for a trail, and got ready to turn onto it. But to my surprise, we ran right past the trailhead.

About five minutes later, we ran past another one.

We kept to the pavement, running and chattering.

Finally I asked the  guy running next to me: “Aren’t we going to run on any of these trails? We just passed two of them.”

He shook his head.

“We never do. They get muddy and snowy. Your shoes would get wet. And there are too many rocks on them.”

We covered about 14 miles that day. But we ran not a single step on a trail.

I don’t mind running roads occasionally. I’ve run scores of road races and thousands of training miles on roads. But that was usually when trails were not an option, or to mix things up. I can’t remember ever passing up a trail to clomp down a flat stretch of pavement if I had a choice.

So right then and there, I knew.

“I didn’t drive all the way out here to run on friggin’ sidewalks,” I thought furiously to myself.

And I wondered: “Why do these people have such a love affair with pavement?”

I ran with the group a few more times, hoping they would at least pick more scenic roads to run. But they ran the same exact course every time. On sidewalks and pavement.

I tried to talk up trails with a few of the runners, but never got a flicker of interest from anyone.

You could say this group was set in its ways.

And its ways were not my ways. 

I didn’t see much point in sticking with this group, so I found other places to run, and occasionally, other people.

I hadn’t thought much about that day, until this morning.

I was at Fort Harrison again. It was a beautiful morning, even though the mercury was only up to 9 degrees. The sun was shining, the woods were peaceful and I was enjoying every minute on the trails.  I marveled at the snow-filled ravines. I watched my breath in the air. Occasionally, I tried to figure out which animal had made certain tracks in the snow.

After a while, I hit the end of the trail and stepped onto the road, near my car, for a water break.

And who did I see, as I stood there, at the end of the trail? None other than a small group of runners, coming down the road.

They ran toward me. I stepped aside so they could enter the trail.

But they turned at the bend in the road, and stayed on the pavement.

I recognized two of them from the Indy Runners. I remembered their faces from that morning four years ago.

I waved to them. They looked happy.

They waved back. I hope I looked happy.

We were each in our own habitat.

I finished my water, turned around and ran for another 20 minutes on my glorious trails, for a total of an hour and six minutes. I don’t know how many miles I ran, and this morning, I didn’t care.

I was where I was happy. It was a great place to be.

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Don’t touch that dial

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2010 by Trail Boy

This could be me in a few more days, if I don't get back on the trails.

 Slowly but surely, I am becoming an expert on daytime TV.         

OK, not exactly an expert. But I’m certainly expanding my knowledge base at a frightening rate.            

Just about every day of this cold, snowy week, I’ve run on a treadmill at lunchtime, in the basement of my office.            

And when I am down there, humping away the miles, I can’t escape the TV images.            

No, I don’t turn on the TV. It’s already on when I enter the workout room. I ‘m just a captive viewer. Whatever is on the tube is what I’m going to be watching for the next 30 to 60 minutes.            

Thank God, I’m not forced to watch Jerry Springer or Judge Judy or any of that dreck. But what’s on is just a step or two above that.            

On Monday, it was football highlights on ESPN’s SportsCenter. For 45 minutes, I watched what seemed to be every great touchdown pass, interception, sack and upset in NFL history.            

On Tuesday, I saw an Andy Griffith festival on some rerun channel.            

And today, it was a dramatic re-enactment of a murder case in Alabama on the Discovery Channel. I watched how the cops found the body, how they hunted down the leads, staked out the bad guys and caught the murderer.  

Obviously, I’d much rather be running down a trail, listening to birds and watching the snow fall.          

But it’s been one of those weeks.  Lots of snow. Lots of cold. Lots of work.            

The treadmill is the easy fallback.       

So I head downstairs, turn on the machine, and turn off my brain. Let the TV entertain me.     

It’s a frightening thought.     

I gotta get back outside.     

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Speaking of treadmills, this is one of the most bizarre workout contraptions I’ve ever seen.            

Why would anyone want to push this heavy machine around?            

If you want to be outdoors, just run trails or roads.            

And if you want to run on a treadmill, why go to this much trouble? Just go to the gym.     

What do you think? Would you ever buy this thing?           

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A lot of my friends are runners, and therefore pretty active and healthy.  But in Indiana, we’re apparently in the minority.            

According to a story in this morning’s newpaper, Indiana  is No. 2 in the nation for adult smoking rate, No. 8 for cancer deaths and No. 12 for diabetes cases.            

More than one-quarter of all Indiana residents (28 percent) get no physical activity. About 27 percent of Hoosiers are obese.   

I’ve never considered Indiana all that healthy. Now I know just how unhealthy it is.       

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It’s been nearly a week since I ran outside, and I’ll have to fix that this weekend.            

One option is to head out to Fort Ben and enjoy snowy trails for about an hour.            

If the snow is too deep, another option is to stick to plowed roads.            

Yet another option is to run a 5K cross-country race at Northview Church in Carmel, which hosts lots of races on its 5K course all year long, as a fundraiser for its charities.  I’ve never taken part. Maybe this is the weekend to start. The cost is only $5 and a can of food.             

Meanwhile, a bunch of friends are driving down to Yellowwood State Forest to run the Tecumseh Trail Marathon course as a fun run. I won’t have time for that, as I have an all-afternoon meeting at church.            

So my plans are still a bit vague. But I do know two things for sure about this weekend.            

1) I will be running.            

2) During my run, there will be no TV anywhere around me.            

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