Archive for February, 2010

Running roads with my pimp

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 by Trail Boy

If the truth be known, I’m a trail slut. I’ll run trails with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

It takes a special person, however, to get me to run on pavement.

They have be tough enough to smack me around if I start to whine about asphalt and traffic.

That’s where Kayleah comes in.

She doesn’t hesitate to slap me, keep me focused.

She’s tough. She’s my road pimp.

Kayleah is training for her second Boston Marathon, having qualified again last fall at the Columbus Marathon. She runs three or four road marathons a year and a whole bunch of shorter races, mostly on roads.

I’m training for a road marathon too, my first one it three years. So it made sense to get together and knock out a few miles.

Today, we ran about 90 minutes on pavement, in and around Fort Ben.

I know I’m in good hands when I run with Kayleah. She’s strong, focused and determined. She sets big goals and gets the job done.

“Kayleah, you know I won’t run roads with just anyone, don’t you,” I told her.

“That’s right,” she said. “I don’t want to find you running roads with anyone else. I’m your pimp.”

“What would you do if you caught me?”

“I wouldn’t pay you,” she said.”I’d cut you off.”

And she’d probably pimp-slap me, too.

We ran for 10 1/2 miles today, in an hour and 29 minutes. Then Kayleah went home to run a few more miles on her own. I told you she was tough.

Ours is a running friendship unlike any other I’ve had. We met about four years ago, shortly after I moved to Indianapolis. I didn’t have any running friends. I hadn’t joined any running clubs. I was a lost lamb.

One morning, wanting to find someone to run with, I checked out some running clubs on the Internet, and found when one of them was meeting for a run. Then I drove to meet them.

So there I was, hanging around the Monon Trail near Broad Ripple, looking for the group at 8 a.m. that Saturday. But either I was late or the group had taken off early, because I never saw those runners.

However, I did see one guy in running gear, stretching, looking as if he was about to start his run. “Is there a running group that meets here on Saturday morning?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “But you’re welcome to run with me. I’m just waiting for a friend.”

And a minute or two later, the friend, showed up. It was Kayleah, all smiles and glad to find another person to join her run. We all took off down the paved trail for an eight-mile run.

A month or so later, we ran into each at a 7-mile road race, and ran it together. And a running friendship was born.

Ever since that first day, Kayleah has kidded me that I was the little lost runner who couldn’t find anyone to run with.

We’ve run a dozen or so races together, including the Cleveland Marathon in 2007, where Kayleah qualified for Boston the first time.

Me, I’m still trying to qualify. Maybe I should run more often with Kayleah. She knows the road to Boston.

She’ll get me there too.  She’s tough. She’s my pimp.

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What Would Frazz Do?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 by Trail Boy

 

On my living room bookshelf, I’ve collected books written by some of the greatest running coaches in the world.

Lydiard. Daniels. Pfitzinger. Higdon. Galloway. Beck. Rodgers. Henderson. Burfoot.

They know the sport. But none of them can boil it all down like my man, Frazz.

Frazz is my favorite comic-strip character, a school janitor who spends most of his free time training for marathons and triathlons.

Whenever I need a dose of motivation, I pick up a collection of Frazz strips and watch my hero run 20 miles in the rain, or bicycle up brutal hills, or dream of swimming across the English Channel.

For Frazz, staying active is a lifestyle.

 

Like me, he hates treadmills and Stairmasters and runnings gadgets. He just runs. And bikes. And swims. And hikes. And anything else he can think of to keep his heart rate up for a few hours.

Whenever I wonder how to approach a certain workout, I ask myself: Would What Frazz Do?

Like this morning, for example.

I was outside early, with my 10-year-old son, waiting for the school bus. While we waited, we kicked a soccer ball back and forth.

At one point, my son’s sneaker (which has logged a lot of tough miles) got caught on a chunk of ice, and the sole ripped halfway off.

In a flash, I ran up the driveway to get him another pair of sneakers from the house. But before I could return, the bus had arrived.

“Drop them off at school,” he shouted to me as he hopped on the bus. “I have gym at 9:15.”

I was planning to run four miles in the neighborhood before work.

My son needed his sneakers. His school was a mile away.

What Would Frazz Do?

You guessed it.

I changed into my running clothes, put my son’s sneakers in a bag, and trotted off to his school.

When I got to the school, I bumped into the principal, who wanted to hear all about my run. He said he had gotten up early that morning to run three miles in the dark. “It was cold, but it woke me up,” he said.

I got a Frazz feeling.

I stopped by my son’s classroom and gave him the shoes. “Your son had a blowout,” the teacher told me. “I’m glad you could get him some new shoes before gym class.”

Another Frazz feeling.

On the way back outside, I saw another teacher, who is a cross-country coach at the nearby middle school. My older son is one of his runners.

Frazz again.

I didn’t see the school janitor, so I don’t know if looked like the comic book Frazz. But I think it’s safe to say this school is runner-friendly. In a few weeks, the local high school will host its annual fundraiser, the Great North Race, a 5K that attracts hundreds of runners and raises thousands of dollars. Better than a bake sale. Better for you, too.

But I didn’t have time to think about bake sales or fundraisers. My run had just begun. I had to get in another three or four miles before work.

I ran back home and did a few wide loops around the neighborhood, getting my workout and checking off an emergency errand at the same time.

Frazz might be proud.

Of course, if I were truly Frazz, I would have run another nine or ten miles.  And then I would have grabbed my bicycle and pedaled 12 miles to work, through the ice and snow.

I guess I will channel Frazz a little more tomorrow.

Go Frazz! You’re my kind of guy.

Just one of those lousy weeks

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 by Trail Boy

Having a good week? Hahahahahahahaha! What a joker!

Here’s a quick look at my last four days. No, it’s not a parody, unlike my recent posting on handguns (which way too many people took seriously). The following is competely accurate, down to the last miserable detail.

* Friday night: Got ready for bed. Set alarm for 6 a.m., with goal of getting in a 60-90 minute run in the morning. I needed the run, to help me cope with an upcoming weekend that promised to be over-long and overwhelming. 

* I slept fitfully, waking up at 1:30 a.m. and was unable to get back to sleep. I read four chapters of a book, did a little Wii bowling, watched TV and finally went back to sleep around 4:30.

* Saturday: At 6 a.m., the alarm went off. I sat up, exhausted. I stumbled through the kitchen, looking for the coffee. After 10 minutes of bumping into walls, I decided a run wasn’t in the cards.

* I inhaled coffee and some fruit, got dressed, and drove off to a merry day of meetings and interviews, highlighted by lots of sitting around, with periodic meal breaks.

* At 9:30 p.m., I came home, exhausted, and went straight to bed.

* Sunday: I woke up early for a run. It took me about two minutes to realize that things were still moving slow in my world. But I couldn’t procrastinate. I forced myself out the door, dressed in my finest running gear. After a excruciating half-mile of plodding around the neighborhood and breathing heavily, I downgraded to a power-walk, fearing that anything tougher could result in a hospital visit. The weather matched my mood: cold and foggy.

* After 30 minutes of walking, I came back home, showered, dressed, and headed out again to church in a fog, literally and figurately. I spent the next six hours in meetings and interviews. I came home exhausted.

* Monday: I got up early. I looked out the window. I noticed it was raining, sleeting and still foggy. I poured an extra cup of coffee. I decided to postpone my run until lunchtime, hoping the rain would be over by then.

* I got dressed for work. With an eye on the weather, I decided on casual, warm attire. I pulled on a sweater, casual pants and heavy boots. I drove to work.

* Once at work, I remembered, in a panic, that I had a face-t0-face interview today with a top executive at the biggest company in town. I stifled a scream.

* Instead of running at lunchtime, I used my lunch hour to buy new shoes at downtown shoe store. (I needed new shoes anyway.) I hoped my “sweater look” wouldn’t make me look ridiculous, because I had no way to correct that in the time or budget allotted.  I went to the interview. I had a grand time talking to executive who was very down-to-earth. I went home for dinner and much-needed beer.

* Tuesday. I got up and looked out the window. Thank God, it wasn’t raining. It wasn’t snowing. It wasn’t foggy. There were no plagues of locusts, frogs or death or large animals.

* I pulled on running clothes and went outside, and (don’t faint, dear reader!), began to run.

* It felt great. For the first mile. Then I had to take a walking break. Yep, that happens after three days of stress, sleepless nights, bad weather and botched plans. Then I ran another mile. Then I walked again. Then I ran again. Then I walked again.

* I thought back to last week, when I ran five days in a row, highlighted by hill repeats on Friday. I considered how far I’ve fallen, and how quickly. I prayed for a quick bounce back.

* Later in the day, I got an e-mail from the director of a tough 25K trail race that will be held in a little over a month. The note confirmed that I was registered.  I groaned. It’s going to take a HUGE bounce back to be ready for this race.

* Throughout the day, I noticed periodically that my feet hurt. I looked down and cursed my new, shiny shoes.

* I concluded that the week is off to a crappy start. I brightened up after realizing it can only improve from here. Hahahahahaha. Another joke!

Get a clue, Forbes

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 by Trail Boy

I like the Midwest, but I’ve been around the block once or twice.

I’ve lived in Washington D.C. and Boston. I’ve run on beaches from California to Maine.

I’ve traveled to Russia, France, England, Peru and Bolivia. I’ve taken business trips to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and most of the other great cities of America.

When I’m at work, I constantly read news web sites around the country. My own news stories have appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Seattle Times and 20 or 30 other major papers.

So I think I’m on pretty solid ground when I say this: I know a good city when I see it. And Cleveland is a wonderful city — to work in, live in, run in, raise a family in.

For more than 40 years, I lived in Cleveland or in nearby Akron. The region offers so much that I’m almost embarrassed to write this defensive-sounding post.

But when Forbes magazine, in this week’s issue, calls Cleveland “America’s Most Miserable City,” my hackles go up.

I apologize to no one for being one of the biggest cheerleaders of Ohio, even though I’ve lived in Indiana for the past 4 1/2 years. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person in our neighborhood with Ohio license plates on the garage wall and two framed photos of the Cleveland lakefront on our living room wall.

I’m not, for a minute, pretending that Cleveland is a world-class city. It’s not. There are only so many of those.

But this is what Cleveland is: a terrific, middle-sized city, with a real personality, with real history, with real neighborhoods, a real economy and a real future.

And here is what it definitely isn’t: a miserable city. Or America’s Most Miserable City.

As a longtime Buckeye and a journalist for the past 26 years, I know a lame, ranking story when I read it. Forbes, this really was a sloppy, half-baked idea, poorly thought out, probably designed to generate buzz and web traffic and get your magazine’s name in headlines.

But it really doesn’t tell the story. It doesn’t come close. You need to raise your game.

Forbes said it compared and measured such things as unemployment rates, taxes, commute times, violent crime, weather, Superfund pollution sites, public corruption and how pro sports teams fared over the past two years.

The top 10 list included Memphis, Detroit, and even New York and Chicago. Yeah, New York is on the most miserable list, if that tells you something.

So as a service to journalism, let me suggest that Forbes look at a few other things: walkability (sidewalks, mixed-use neighborhoods), recreation (a Great Lake, along with the only national park in the Midwest), cultural diversity (scores of ethnicities, with their foods, churches, restaurants, neighborhoods), arts and culture (ever hear of the Cleveland Orchestra, Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Art Museum, the Cleveland Film Festival, the Rock Hall, and a few other institutions?), beautiful architecuture in almost every town, world-class hospitals and medical research, and on and on.

Sure, winters aren’t fun in Cleveland. But every region has its bad weather. Here’s what you won’t find in Cleveland: earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes or water shortages.

Sure, Cleveland has challenges with its schools and crime. What big city doesn’t? Every city has its plusses and minuses.

But Cleveland? The plusses outweigh its minuses by a huge margin.

Yeah, I wish the Indians or the Browns could get into the post-season. But let me say this. I’ve watched Indianapolis get excited when the Colts played in the Super Bowl twice in the last four years. It was a thrill. But a week or two later, we all forgot about it and got back to our real lives.

Cleveland is a real city, filled with people living wonderful lives, and struggling, and laughing, and crying, just as they do everywhere.

It’s a real city that’s wonderful to visit. And even more wonderful to live in.

I have no doubt that Cleveland and Akron (which ranked No. 12 in Forbes’ “misery list”) have plenty to be proud of. I still jump at every chance I get to go to Northeast Ohio. That’s usually six or seven times a year. 

So what does this have to do with running? Why am I blowing off so much steam on my running blog?

Here’s why. Cleveland Marathon, you are now on my schedule (May 16). So is the Fool’s 25K in nearby Peninsula (March 28). Today, I signed up for both races.

And I’m already registered for the Buckeye Trail 50K in July. I can’t wait to sign up for the Akron Marathon this fall and maybe the Towpath Marathon, too.

Politicians and economists like to say people vote with their feet.

So I’ll let my feet do the walking. And the running. And the voting. All over Northeast Ohio.

Screw you, Forbes. I’m planting a Buckeye tree in my front yard this spring.

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Snow warms you twice

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 by Trail Boy

My neighbor across the street owns a snowblower. A neighbor around the corner has a snowplow.

Their driveways are always nice and clean, even after the heaviest snowstorms.

I don’t have a snowblower or a snowplow. I have two shovels. My driveway is not always nice and clean. This time of year, it is usually filled with snow, ice, tire tracks, boot prints, chunks of frozen slush, and sometimes a stray sled or snowboard.

None of that bothers me. I can drive through or over just about anything in my Jeep Wrangler. Therefore, I don’t feel much pressure to shovel my driveway, which is more than 100 feet long.

Mrs. Trail Boy is not so fortunate. She drives a Toyota Matrix, a compact car with low clearance. Last night, returning from an errand, she got stuck halfway up the driveway, which was filled with a foot of snow. It took her a minute or two to get the car unstuck and into the garage.

So this morning, as I was finishing my coffee and was just about to pull on my running clothes, she said: “Can you shovel the driveway, please, before I go to work?”

Of course, I said yes. Snow shoveling or snow running — both are fine ways to start the day. Both give a good workout.

But it meant I would have to reschedule my run.

I pulled on my boots and spent 45 minutes shoveling the driveway, and in the process, filled my lungs with fresh air and did something constructive. I also worked up quite a sweat.

Afterward, I packed my gym bag and hoped I would have a chance to squeeze in a lunchtime run at work.

Thankfully, today was pretty quiet in my corner of the newsroom. At lunchtime, with a clean conscience, I drove to the canal towpath a few miles away and got in a five-mile run.

The scenery was spectacular — white hillsides, snow-covered trees, a blue sky. And most of the towpath was plowed, thanks to the Indianapolis Water Co., which owns the property, and usually does a good job keeping the path clear.

So today, I had two workouts for the price of one.

See what you might miss if you own a snowblower?

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My recent post about mall walkers hit a nerve or two.

But even more surprising, the post was read by hundreds of trail runners from Massachusetts to California, and from England to Australia.

That was a first. Here’s how it happened.

Somehow, a trail runner named Liz Minton, who lives in Ulverston, England, stumbled across my post. Liz has a web site called “Go Trail Running,” which has an active following on Facebook. Liz linked to my post on her Facebook page yesterday and blasted it to several thousand followers, with this tease:  “Mall walking versus trail running. Hmmm, which one sounds better?”

In the past 24 hours, my post received more than 200 clicks, instantly making it one of my best-read entries since I launched this blog 11 months ago.

Readers weren’t shy about chiming in, both on the Facebook thread and my blog.

To my surprise, a few of them defended mall walkers, and gently criticized me for giving the walkers a hard time.

“It is GOOD that these mainly elderly people are exercising,” wrote Sean Dunlap of Sugar Grove, North Carolina. “They most likely have developed a healthy lifestyle and good friendships. They are not harming anybody.”
“Of course, running outside is better – but give these folks a break,” said Stephanie Collins of Boston. “We don’t know what reasons may keep them indoors and if they’re finding a way to move than it’s a good thing. Maybe in a year or two you might find that some of these folks have moved up and out to the great outdoors!”
“Mall walking happens here in Australia too! Maybe it has a place in the lives of some – those who have to walk in safe places because of balance and stability issues,” wrote Sonya Conrad of Adelaide, Australia.
But others were squarely in my corner.
“I hate malls and would never go there to exercise,” wrote Kim Allen of Worcester, Mass. “The woods is where I go to seek refuge and exercise.  I go to the mall for Starbucks and occasional dreaded shopping.”
“Trails absolutely, ” wrote Wayne Kurtz of Pittsburgh. “Even with all the snow we have, I am seeing more and more elderly people snowshoeing on trails and the golf course!”
“PUH-LEEEEZZ people! Trails win – no contest!” wrote Veronica Ligon-Cravin of Stanford, California.
Trail runners. We’re such a passionate crowd.

Now that’s some Northern Exposure

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2010 by Trail Boy

I’ve been looking high and low for a winter race in the next few weeks, but I just can’t find anything that really excites me.

Oh sure, the names all sound good — tough guy and wintry. But when you take a look at the courses, they are really lame.

The  Great North Run is a 5K through a high school parking lot.

The Fight for Air Climb is a race up 30 flights of stairs in a downtown office building.

The Polar Bear race is  “fast, scenic and flat through the newly renovated north side neighborhoods.”

That’s not really what I had in mind. 

How about something really off the wall, like this scene from old TV show “Northern Exposure.” I guess once you spend a few winters in Alaska, you lose your inhibitions and take winter runs to a whole new level.

One of these days, I just might have to find a race like this.

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Another day, another snowstorm.

Yep, we got another blast today, our third major snowstorm in less than two weeks.

But that’s what you expect when you live in the snowbelt. You make peace with it.

In that spirit, I ran for about a half-hour before breakfast today on neighborhood roads. The snow blew into my face, no matter which way I turned. The footing was very difficult, with  a few inches of snow on the roads, and more coming.

Of course, after posting my rant yesterday about people who exercise inside, I couldn’t cop out. I had to head out and take it.

But after three miles, I decided that was plenty for a blizzardy Monday morning.

Congrats to all hardy runners who continue to rack up 40 or 50 miles a week (or more) in this weather. Lately, I’ve been lucky to break 25.

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Snow joke

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2010 by Trail Boy

Ah, the joys of road running in winter: slush, ice,  snowdrifts, puddles, slick roads. I had almost forgotten.

I went out at lunchtime today, for a quick four-miler around downtown, mostly on sidewalks. Within 10 minutes:

* I was sprayed with road  slush from a car that was flying by in the curb lane.

* I rolled an ankle as I was climbing over a mound of plowed snow.

* I got my feet drenched from running through countless puddles.

* I slipped once or twice on ice, although not seriously.

* I had to jump out of the way of vehicles at road crossings, including a huge snow plow that either didn’t see me or didn’t care.

Yep, it was another idyllic run. I met the elements on their own terms, taking whatever nature and modern society dished out.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. This is what you expect when you run roads in January.

You might say: “Trail Boy, what in the name of John Muir were you doing running on roads? Have you slipped a gear?”

Fair question. All I can say is that we’re having some tough weather these days. Most trails buried under a half-foot of snow, thanks to two heavy storms in the past five days. Like lots of cities, we’ve been digging out way out slowly.

So my choice was to hit the roads or hit the treadmill. It was like choosing between arsenic and hemlock.

It was a toughie, but I can’t stomach the thought of treadmills unless the air temps fall to single digits. And it was no where near that today, with 26 degrees on the time/temperature sign outside my building.

So took a deep breath, went outside, forced a smile, and began trotting down the sidewalk. Less than two minutes later, a car came flying my way, from the opposite direction, right through a deep slush puddle. A second later, I was covered with icy, filthy slush from chest to knee. For the next few minutes, I felt it seep in through my running pants, and run down my leg. That wiped the smile off my face.

But I kept going, running in a wide loop around the Indy Zoo and the IUPUI campus. I  got back to work about 45 minutes later, wet and wobbly.

Spring is almost here, right?