Archive for March, 2010

The Butler did it

Posted in Uncategorized on March 30, 2010 by Trail Boy

Butler player Avery Jukes and coach Brad Stevens celebrate after beating Kansas State on Saturday to advance to the Final Four.

When I moved to Indy about four years ago, I was surprised to learn the city didn’t have a major college.                   

The state’s two biggest universities (both in the Big 10) were more than 50 miles away — Indiana University in Bloomington to the south, and Purdue University in West Lafayette to the north.                     

But I kept hearing about a small liberal arts college in Indianapolis called Butler University, with about 4,000 students. It was just located about five miles north of downtown. Its most notable alumni were novelist Kurt Vonnegut, bodybuilder Peter Lupus and former Illinois governor George Ryan.                      

Soon, I began running by Butler a lot, because the campus sits on a hillside above one of my favorite local trails, the Central Canal Towpath.                      

Sometimes I would cut through the campus to get to or from the trail.  Then little by little, I got to know more about Butler.     

I wrote news stories about its pharmacy and business schools. One of my sons ran a few cross-country meets on the school’s wooded trails.  Another son visited Butler’s Observatory and Planetarium on a Scout trip. I took in a few jazz and classical recitals at Butler’s concert hall, and was amazed by the creativity and energy.                      

Then it got bigger. Mrs. Trail Boy and I took walks and picnics at school’s lakes and gardens. I once watched a nervous young man propose to his girfriend on the steps near the school’s bell tower. I  joined a church located just a few blocks from Butler’s campus.                      

And of course I learned that the school’s old-fashioned Hinkle Fieldhouse was a landmark. The final game of the 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, was shot inside Hinkle. Every Hoosier worth his salt knew that, I found out. The place is to Indiana basketball what Wrigley Field is to Chicago baseball. It’s a temple.                      

                      

Pretty soon, it felt like I had known Butler a long time.                    

And now, the whole country is hearing about Butler. Last weekend, the little school surprised the college basketball world by earning its way into the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament after upsetting Syracuse and Kansas State.                      

Butler, the school I never heard about five years ago, is getting huge play in the New York Times, USA Today and just about everywhere else I look. It’s the smallest school to ever make it to the Final Four.                  

Of course, the whole city is rooting for Butler, the Cinderella team without a superstar, just a baby-faced, 33-year-old coach, Brad Stevens, and a bunch of Indiana kids who play well together. It’s their moment in the sun.                      

This weekend, Butler will face mighty Michigan State for the right to play in the championship game. The final game is also in Indy, on Monday night.                     

 The campus is on fire this week, as kids try to get tickets to the games.     

The nation’s sports press is swarming around Butler, interviewing just about everyone. The school has been featured in hundreds of newspapers and TV reports.     

A few months ago, it was Butler Who? Now it’s Butler U!                    

Today, I had to get a little taste of it.  At lunchtime, I drove up to Butler, about 10 minutes away from my office, and ran through the campus. I wanted to soak up a little excitement.                      

I parked a few blocks away, trotted to the scenic, wooded campus and took a look around. You could feel the electricity. At every turn, you could see kids and adults wearing “Final Four” shirts and hats. You could see pictures of the Butler Bulldog mascot nearly everywhere.                      

                      

Then I ran down the back hillside, past the gardens, over a footbridge to the towpath. I followed the path for a few miles to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, then crossed a footbridge back across the canal, ran up the driveway, through the museum grounds, and circled back to my car on quiet sidestreets.  I finished in 37 minutes.                      

It was a fun run.  With a dash of Butler excitement.                      

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This was my first run since the Fools 25K trail race on Sunday morning, a tough race that battered my legs. My hamstrings and glutes have been sore for 48 hours. My run today was more of a shuffle than a dash. But the sun was shining, and Butler was shimmering. I enjoyed it.                      

The Fools race director posted the results yesterday. I finished 73rd out of 146 in the division, or smack in the middle, with my finish time of 3:03:06. Guess that makes me a true midpacker.                      

Another 90 runners ran in the 50K division. I can only imagine what they feel like today.                      

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Congrats to my younger sister, Sheridan, who ran her first marathon this month, the Los Angeles Marathon.                      

She finished in 6:00:58, and is already planning her next marathon in Denver.                      

I’ve always thought that running marathons was pretty contagious. Nice going, Sheri!                      

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Call me an old fool

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 by Trail Boy

 

What’s the best way to start a dark and stormy Sunday? Splashing through the mud, of course. And paying good money for the privilege.

Today was the Fools 50K and 25K Trail Run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron, Ohio. It’s held every year around April Fool’s Day.

And when it comes to trail running, I’m as big a fool as you’ll find. So this race had my name written all over it.

I gladly plunked down $50 and drove 600 miles (round-trip) to take part. I decided to run the 25K distance option. This early in the year, my legs weren’t ready for an ultra.

These trails were wonderful —  a mix of challenging hills, rock ledges, old-growth forests, rolling meadow and lake loops.

In addition, the surface had a little something for everyone: roots, rocks, groomed trail, singletrack, grass and steps.

 

Some trails were firm and relatively dry. But long stretches of trail were covered with gooey mud, giving my leg muscles a workout. And the hills kept coming. My Indiana flatland legs weren’t used to them, and started aching after the 15th or 20th steep climb.

Other than that, it was a great way to spend a few hours, in the company of running fools.

According to the entry list, fools came from all over — Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky and even Canada. The run has been growing in popularity since it was launched a few years ago, originally as an informal fun run. This year, the organizer capped the field at 250 runners.

Most of the runners, of course, were local, and probably were familiar with the trails. I used to be local, too. When I lived in Akron, I ran these trails (and other like them) countless times, so I generally knew what to expect. But a few short sections were brand-new to me. So it was a little adventure, along with a homecoming.

It was also a chance to run for an hour or two with my old training partner from Ohio, Denny, who has kept me company for many a race and plenty of workouts over the years. 

At 7:20 a.m. or so,  we all gathered near the starting line, high up on a grassy ridge.

 

The sky was growing dark, threatening rain. And most of us probably knew the ground was already soaked, making for a muddy few hours. But I saw lots of smiles at the prospect of a long, wet run.

Like I said, we were a bunch of fools.

At 7:30, we took off, across a soggy field and the first of many hills.  Denny and I aimed to finish in under three hours.

The first hour or so was sheer fun. I had strong legs and lots of energy. We ran across meadows and through woods, and up and down stairs and hills, and even through a few tunnels.

The course was well-marked. The volunteers were friendly and helpful, which brightened the mood on this chilly, damp morning.

But after about 75 minutes, I had an unexpected problem.

A small pack of runners apparently had been drinking or beating their chests or doing something really macho, because one or two of  them were talking in extremely loud voices. One of them was regaling his friends, in a booming voice, with every race he had ever run since the dawn of time. His voice echoed throughout the woods, and grated on my ears. Who wanted to hear that for another hour or two?

Not me or Denny. So we turned on the speed for about 10 minutes and put some distance between us and Mister Motormouth.

But that was a mistake. About 20 or 30 minutes (and several hills) later, my legs started to protest. I had surged too early, and still had about 8-10 miles of tough running ahead of me. I could feel my legs getting heavy. I started slowing.

Meanwhile, I could hear Loudmouth coming up from behind, blathering at 120 decibels about his strategy for drinking water. Oh God, spare me!  Denny was running much stronger, so I told him to run ahead, don’t worry about me. My plan to was walk for a minute, let my legs recover, and let Loudmouth get ahead of me.

But the damage was done. After two hours of running in the mud, my legs were taking a beating.

Then it began to rain, and the trail got muckier. My shoes started sinking in the ooze. I slowed to a trot. No sense dying in the woods, with muddy pants and shattered eardrums.

I kept plugging away, enjoying the scenery of ravines and deep woods. The course led us on one loop after another. (See map here.)

I chatted with a few other runners. Some of them were planning to do the course twice for the 50K distance. “I get to have double the fun,” a woman told me. I couldn’t tell if she was kidding.

Finally, I hit the last hill, and pushed myself across the finish line. My time was 3:03-something. So I wasn’t Trail Boy today. I was Snail Boy. I guess if I hadn’t stopped to take so many photos, I could have met my goal.

But I wasn’t running this for all-out speed. I really just wanted to enjoy my old trails. And looking on the bright side, I’ve never run this race before. So it was an automatic PR. Next year I will definitely finish under three hours and set another PR.

I caught my breath and watched a few other runners splash across the finish line.

Then I walked over to the snack table and gladly accepted a chocolate milk. Others were eating some vegetable soup. I talkd to a few finishers.

“I was going to do two loops, but after all that rain started falling, I said the hell with it,” one guy told me.

 I couldn’t blame him. By now, the footing was terrible. But I also saw a few brave souls continue for a second circuit.

I wandered over to see Denny, who was hanging out near the finish line, by his red truck. He told me he finished in 2:48, so he had a nice, strong run to the very end.

I congratulated him. He also said he saw Motormouth running alone, coming across the final stretch, and still jabbering his jaw at full volume.

“Who was he talking to?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Denny answered. “To himself, I guess.”

Yes, when you enter a long trail race on a dark and stormy day, you’re likely to run into just about anyone.

They let all kinds of fools into this thing.

The official results haven’t been posted yet, although the race director sent out an e-mail this evening to say results would be posted by Monday.

Farewell, Cuyahoga Valley National Park. See you again in a few months. After you’ve had a chance to dry off.

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My run home in pictures (Part 1)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by Trail Boy

A few times a month, I leave my car keys in a drawer and run to or from work. It’s a good way to squeeze in a 12-mile run during the week and save a few bucks on gas.

On Tuesday evening, I did it again, carrying a camera for the first time to record some of the sights. It was a fun run. It was also a necessary run, because my car was in the shop again, getting a hip replacement.

Here’s a look at my journey, from my downtown office to my home on the northeast side, via the Monon Trail and many neighborhoods.

1) Leave the Indy Star at 6:18 p.m.

2) Run up Massachusetts Avenue, past the art boutiques and coffee shops.

3) Run past the Indy Public Schools’ bus yard.

4) Dodge some gritty urban construction.

5) Cross a busy downtown road, Tenth Street.

6) Finally turn onto the Monon Trail, a popular rails-to-trails path, and head north for about five miles.

7) Take note of one of many emergency call boxes, in case someone decides to jump me.

8) Enjoy the view of the downtown skyline and my fellow commuters.

9) Run past several warehouses and urban art scenes.

10) Pass many factories that have been here for decades, and give this course a certain industrial charm.

11) Glad to see other people getting in an evening workout. You can see the Monon is paved, although Trail Boy likes to run down the soft shoulder.

12) Run over the scenic red bridge, which spans the Fall Creek.

13) Gaze below, and see nature for the first time. Resist the urge to scamper down the hillside and look for trails.

14) Run above traffic, past neighborhoods and mountains of dirt.

15) Trot past the state fairgrounds. Nothing to see today but an empty parking lot.

16) Pass a colorful archway, with the Indiana School for the Deaf in the background.

17) Hurry past a few run-down properties and their junkyard dogs.

18) Wave to what appears to be the Monon Dog Walking Club.

19) Pass another of many houses that back up onto the Monon.

20) Finally exit the Monon at this playground, even through the trail continues for another 8 or 10 miles. Start running through neighborhoods.

(END OF PART ONE. Click here to see the second part, or just continue scrolling down.)

My run home in pictures (Part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 by Trail Boy

(This is the second part of a photo essay of my run home from work. Click here to see the first half, photos 1 through 20.)

21) See some neighorhood guys playing catch in their front yard.

22) Begin a two-mile run eastward. I note, with concern, my lengthening shadows on the street. I begin to pick up the pace.

23) Pass a baseball game at Bishop Chatard High School.

24) And see the manager give his team a few pointers.

25) Run past a house I lived in for a few weeks, as a renter, when I first moved to Indy.

26) Dash past Glendale Mall. Notice the sun setting over Target. Remember why I ususally prefer to run in the woods.

27) Run past my mechanic’s garage. Say hi to my Jeep, still out of commission.

28) Run down a quiet road, as it begins to get dark. I have another two miles or so.

29) Oh man, I don’t remember this dead end. I’ll have to backtrack a quarter-mile.

30) Continue along some narrow roads, watching carefully for traffic.

31) Getting closer. Just have to cut through a few more subdivisions.

32) And another one.

33) Finally, home!

OK, by this time, it’s so dark, you can’t see my house in the background. I got home around 8:30 p.m., meaning my run took two hours and 12 minutes — a bit longer than usual, but it was fun to capture a few scenes.

Now I just have to figure how to make it home completely on dirt trails. That would be a big challenge. Stay tuned!

The family that runs together

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2010 by Trail Boy

Most days I run alone. Some days I run with a friend.

Either way, I usually leave my family behind, as I scamper across field and stream. Running trails is not their scene.

Once a year, however, we make it a family affair. We run together, all four us, in a local race to help support a worthy cause, our school district.

Today was that day.

We all rolled out of bed early to take part in the Great North Run, a 5K road race sponsored by the Washington Township Schools. 

We run it every year and always see lots of people we know. The race attracts hundreds of people and raises thousands of dollars for the schools. It’s better than a bake sale.

And why shouldn’t we support the cause? My two boys attend the public schools. Mrs. Trail Boy spends four or five days a week in the schools, as a math tutor, substitute teacher and volunteer.

That’s reason enough to give up trails for a day.

So off we went, bright and early, Mr. and Mrs. Trail Boy and two Trail Kids. Off to run a road race.

This year, the course was new. In past years, it was routed entirely on the high school campus, mostly around the parking lot.

This year, it went onto public roads. Some of it looped through scenic neighborhoods.

As for other parts — well, they were not so scenic. Let’s just say Trail Boy would never be caught dead running some of these roads any other day of the year. 

When we arrived, we saw a large crowd, the biggest in the four years we’ve participated. It turned out be 668 runners and walkers.

My goal was to beat my time last year: 22:14. But it wouldn’t be a slam dunk. I was facing a new, unfamiliar course and trying to jostle through a big field of runners. Either factor could hurt my time.

So for luck, I went over and did a fist-bump with the sponsor’s mascot, the Chick-fil-A cow. Of course, this being a blog, I had to get a photo.

Then I hurried over to the starting area, where everybody else was already singing the national anthem.

I found a spot about five rows back from the starting line, so I wouldn’t have to run around any strollers on the course. Yep, there plenty of strollers. This is a local fundraiser, after all, not the New York City Marathon.

I didn’t see too many people I knew in my little part of the starting area. But I didn’t have much time to look around. Before I knew it, the horn sounded, and we took off.

For the first mile, the course twisted and turned plenty of times, as it exited the school parking lot and worked its way to the main road. We ran a gradual uphill. I fought for position and pushed hard, passing a few young cross-country runners I recognized, and pretty soon hit the first mile marker. My split on Mile 1 was  7:01.

The second mile had a few rolling hills, some fun downhills and another long, gradual uphill on a busy divided highway. My split on Mile 2 was 7:14.

The third mile was just a long, long stretch that seemed to take forever, along one of the busiest roads in the city.  I was slowing down, despite myself. My split was 7:38.

Then we turned a corner for the last one-tenth of a mile to the finish line. I pushed as hard as my old legs would allow. 

I crossed the finish line in 22:26, for an average pace of 7:13.

Not great. Not terrible. And no PR.

But I had fun, and was glad to support the schools. I ended up finishing 4th out of 30 in my age group, and 48th out of 668 runners and walkers.

That put me in the top 7 percent overall and the top 13 percent of my age group. But that doesn’t count for much, not with all these weekend walkers and stroller pushers.

I waited for the boys to show up. Son No. 1 (Steven), wearing his lucky Eastwood Middle School sweatshirt, crossed the finish line a few minutes later, in 26:59.

Son No. 2 (Jake) came a bit after that, in 28:33.

Mrs. Trail Boy, who walked the course, turned on the speed when she saw the finish line, and bounded to the end. She finished in 41:10.

Afterwards, we caught up with a few old friends and cheered the stragglers across the finish line.

Then we went inside and were glad to see that our sponsors put out a lot of healthy snacks (fruit cups, bagels, granola bars) for the runners. After all, this was a healthy fundraiser. No sense wolfing down a cupcake, something you often see at a school fundraiser.

We ate our share, stuffed our pockets with granola bars and went home with a warm feeling, looking forward to next year’s race.

So I have 12 months to talk the race director into considering a new course.

One that involves dirt and a few creek crossings.

A grind and a thrill

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s 64 degrees and sunny — a beautiful day for baseball, yard work or a long bike ride.

Or a trip through the Meat Grinder.

That’s my not-so-affectionate term for hill repeats. You dig down deep and grind it out.

I cranked out eight repeats today (one more than last week) during a lunchtime run at Crown Hill Cemetery, following a three-mile warmup.

Here are my times: 1:21, 1:22, 1:12, 1:14, 1:17, 1:15, 1:15, 1:12.

Oh yeah, that last one was a barrel of laughs. I think I caught my breath about 20 minutes later.

*****************************************************

Go get a medal, Greydawn!

My younger sister, Sheridan, has always been a good athlete.

As a girl, she competed in swimming, basketball and horseback riding. She played outdoors all summer long. She could climb to the top of our 80-foot-all backyard sycamore tree. She was always active.

As an adult, she has run lots of short races near her home in southern California, and has always kept in shape. But she dreamed of a longer race. Last year, she ran her first half-marathon.

And now, just a few months before turning 50, she is about to run her first 26.2-mile race, the Los Angeles Marathon, this Sunday.

I encouraged her to push farther, stretching for a marathon. Now I feel like a proud big brother, as she nears the end of her training.

It’s been fun to read her blog (blogger name Greydawn, after her favorite horse) and her Facebook updates. She has faithfully racked up the long runs, week after week, and gotten more excited about achieving her goal.

I have nine marathons and an ultra under my belt, but I still remember what a thrill it is to train for and run a first marathon, after years of dreaming about it.

Greydawn, enjoy your first marathon. 

We’ll run one together, some day.

My Galway Day

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17, 2010 by Trail Boy

My wife’s name is Colleen.  Her brothers are named Patrick, George, John, Michael, Walter and William. Her sisters are named Rosemary and Annie. Her father, a retired cop, is George. Her mother, a retired nurse, is Mary Eileen.

She has two sets of cousins named O’Brien, both with huge families. She and nephews and nieces named Colin and Kaitlin and Killian and Liam and Kieran. She has a cousin who’s a bishop named Quinn.

Do you get my drift? I married into the Pride of the Irish. Or maybe the Irish mafia.

And since today is March 17, there was no way I was spend my lunch hour running hill repeats in a cemetery (my midweek habit of late).

Today was all about parades and corned beef and bagpipes.

For Colleen, St. Patrick’s Day is bigger than Christmas. We were going to watch the parade downtown.

That meant I would have to run before work. So, with the strains of “McNamara’s Band” running through my head, I pulled on my running shoes and got in four miles on neighborhood roads.  

It was a beautiful morning, a true Irish blessing, I suppose.  You never know what kind of weather you will get in mid-March. It could be anything from snow to 70 degrees.

I was in a good mood, greeting people who were out taking walks. Getting into the spirit of things, I said “Top o’ the morning!”

Unfortunately, not a single person replied with the proper Irish response: “And the rest o’ the day to yourself!” Yes, I ‘ve picked up a few things from my sweet Irish bride.

I wrapped up my run in 34:07. Then at lunchtime, Colleen came downtown for the main event.

My office building is right on the parade route, so we just headed out the front door and across the street. For the next 45 minutes or so, we watched high school bands, bagpipers, cops on motorcycles, firemen in green sashes, Irish dancers, etc.

But of course, this being Indianapolis, things were a bit, well, different. The city’s biggest annual event, after all, is not an Irish parade in March, but a 500-mile car race in May. The racing spirit runs year-round here. So I wasn’t surprised to see bagpipe band in the parade today, waving a huge checkered flag. Nor was I really surprised to see Indy race car driver Sarah Fisher riding in the back of a Jeep.

Yes, it was much different from the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Cleveland, where Mrs. Trail Boy and I grew up. There, the parades were packed with Irish cops and Irish priests and Irish judges and the West Side Irish-American Club and Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Dance School.  Mrs. Trail Boy’s dad marched with the Retired Irish Police unit, proudly wearing his green blazer.

But Cleveland or Indy, people still like a parade. The differences just make it more interesting. We saw a few thousand spectators today, cheering and waving.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to head out to the cemetery for hill repeats, until I’m red in the face.

Today, it was all about green.