Archive for February, 2010

On the wings of eagles

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2010 by Trail Boy

Like a lot of runners, I love watching Chariots of Fire, the movie about two British sprinters who competed in the 1924 Olympics.

I’ve seen it 20 or 30 times, but I’m always inspired by the runners’ hunger to win, and how hard they train.

But of course, it’s more than just a just a running movie. It’s a look into the runners’ souls. The main characters were driven by deep personal beliefs. 

Harold Abrahams, an English Jew, ran as a way to battle anti-Semitism. Eric Liddell, a Scottish Presbyterian missionary, ran for the glory of God.

Well, at least that’s how it worked on the big screen. I’ve read that the movie took lots of liberties with history, and overplayed the religious angle.

Even so, the movie is a good yarn, with a powerful message.

I always find it interesting what drives a person to succeed. It’s often rooted in someone’s personal philosophy or religion.

I was thinking about it this week, because my own religious commitments are starting to affect my running — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

I belong to a church that is a big part of my life. The programs and services give me a lot to think about, and feed my spirit. The people are fun, creative, smart and very involved in the community.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Last year, I agreed to serve on a search committee for a new minister at my church. Of all the leadership jobs in the church, this is about the most time-consuming one possible. The search process is extremely complex, with lots of planning and discussion, and too many meetings to count.

And it’s about to get even more intensive. We’ve winnowed down our list to three finalists. We will interview them in person during three different weekends in February and March. Each of these weekends will be jam-packed with activities, as we try to figure out if the candidate is a good fit. The visits start on Friday evening and continue through Sunday afternoon.

Yes, the work is important and interesting. But this is what it boils down to: I’m about to lose the better part of three weekends that I could be using to train for a spring marathon.

I’m not scrapping my marathon plans. I’m still committed to running a marathon in May. But it will be a lot tougher to do my training. I will have to get up extra early (maybe before 5 a.m.) to squeeze in my long runs. I will have very little free time for my family or anything else during these three weekends.

On the other side of the coin, the church feeds my running in ways I didn’t expect. I’ll write about that another day.


I love my Jeep.  It’s fun to drive.  It’s sturdy. It can get me through the deepest snowdrifts and down the muddiest dirt roads.

But every once in a while, old Betsy leaves me in the lurch.

On Tuesday, as I was driving to work, I noticed thick steam coming out from under the hood. A moment later, a dashboard light began blinking: “Check Gauges Immediately.”

It didn’t take the “Car Talk “guys from NPR to clue me me that my  engine was overheating. But why? 

Luckily, my mechanic’s garage was just two blocks away. I drove there, explained the issue to the mechanic, and then took a shuttle to work.

When I got downtown 20 minutes later, I realized I had left my gym bag in my Jeep. Ah, crud. So much for my lunchtime run that day.

The next day, I ran five miles around downtown at lunchtime. I wondered when the mechanic would call me with the bad news. If the problem was serious, I might have to go without a car for a few days.

I tried to look on the bright side of things. I could also run to (and or from) work, a mere 12 miles each way.

But as it turns out, that wasn’t necessary. The mechanic called me a few hours later to tell me my radiator and pump were shot. I picked up the car Thursday morning, my wallet $500 lighter.

Before I got the car, I went out for a six-mile run on neighborhood roads.

Trail Boy has not seen much of the trails lately.

It’s just one of those weeks.


Still, despite all my problems, there’s always something fun to look forward to. A few days ago, I got a message from the organizers of the Buckeye Trail 50K. The race, which is held in July, has already filled up. I looked at the list of entrants and noticed that I am the only Hoosier on the list, out of a total of 175 runners.

I guess I’ll be the pride of Indiana. Maybe I should carry the state flag with me as I run up and down the hilly, rugged trails.

The race is very much a local event for Buckeyes. More than 160 of the runners are from Ohio, with a sprinkling from Pennsylvania, and one each from Arizona and New Jersey.

I ran this race last year, my first ultra, and had fun, even though it much tougher than I expected. I hope to run it a bit smarter and smoother this year.

But if the going gets tough, perhaps I can just zone out and start to hum an uplifting tune. I don’t know, maybe something like this:


Winter getaway: sweet and simple

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 by Trail Boy


This is my kind of winter getaway.      

Wake up. Get dressed. Step outside. Walk about 100 yards to a trailhead.      

Start running.      

Does it get any more sweet and simple than that?      

I didn’t have to spend 10 minutes scraping ice and snow off my car. I didn’t have to waste time driving to and from the trails on slick roads. I didn’t have to pack a bunch of extra clothes or food or think about where to park or hide my keys.      

My transit time between stepping outdoors and beginning my trail run: about 60 seconds.      

I’m pretty sure that’s a new PR.      

This was my Sunday run, through the snow-packed, rolling trails at Pokagon State Park in northeastern Indiana.      

I was up there with my family for a fun weekend with some friends. Our weekend agenda: hiking, tobogganing, bird-watching, playing on the frozen lake, having a few meals, playing board games, reading and relaxing. It was a fun, low-stress weekend.      


The highlight for me, of course, was hitting the trails.      

I had never spent much time at Pokagon before. It’s one of the most popular parks in Indiana for winter getaways, the main attraction being the refrigerated toboggan chutes, cross-country ski trails and a scenic lodge overlooking a lake.      

On Saturday afternoon, after a few hours of tobogganing and fun in the snow, I happily spent an hour or so hiking the trails, doing reconnaissance for a Sunday morning run. I also wanted to stretch my legs, enjoy the scenery and take a few photos.      

I had nine or ten short trails to choose from. I hiked parts of four of them. They were well-groomed and not that challenging — no singletrack or tough climbs. So it would be a laid-back hike on Saturday and run on Sunday.      

Mrs. Trail Boy and I just power-walked up a long hill and climbed 40 or 50 steps to get to this lookout point, where the cold air hit us in the face. Do we look pooped?


That was fine. I didn’t need to kill myself. This was supposed to be a fun getaway. I enjoyed my hike and got ready for dinner.      

On Sunday morning, my prep work paid off. I ran for about 90 minutes, cobbling together three different trails. One ran through the woods. Another wound through rolling meadow, around a lake. Another took me through a marshy area, on a boardwalk.      

I was in trail heaven, inhaling chilly air, listening to the woodpeckers, watching the deer and feeling my feet hit the ground.      

Sweet, sweet trails.       


CHEAP THRILL: Playing on a frozen lake 

Here’s the biggest surprise of the weekend. Of all the activities, my boys got the biggest thrill out of running, jumping and sliding on the frozen lake.     

Sure, the toboggan rides were fun.  So were the swimming pool, hot tub and sauna. And what boys don’t like a video game room or a ping pong table or a nature center full of snakes and turtles?     

But the frozen lake was the runaway hit.     

Steven runs across the frozen lake. The lodge is in the background.


Here is the same view during summer.



      The ice was several inches thick, and the boys spent nearly an hour horsing around, while the wind blew in their faces.     

It was a cheap thrill. No fancy equipment required. Just boys and nature. Sweet and simple.      

Kind of like trail running.