Archive for April, 2010

Put your wheels on

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2010 by Trail Boy

I did a 12-mile workout this morning and felt like I was flying!

Or like I had wheels! Or maybe flying wheels.

My pace was unbelievable. Every few minutes I would glance down at my Garmin GPS and see an incredible number: 7:30 pace, 6:40 pace, 6:11 pace, 5:50 pace, even 5:24 pace.

I’ve never seen numbers like that, especially on a long outing.

I had my wheels on, baby.

Well, in this case, “wheels” is more than a just a metaphor. I actually was on wheels. I was riding my bike to work.

When the weather is nice, I ride my bike to and from work once a week or so. Today was the first time this spring.

I wouldn’t say this was a well thought-out plan. At about 7:30 a.m., I decided a bike ride would be a nice cross-training workout. I threw a change of clothes and my shaving kit into a gym bag and strapped it onto the back of the bike. Then I kissed Mrs. Trail Boy goodbye headed down the road.

The sky was blue. The air was cool and clear. But it wasn’t all peaches and cream.

I ended up riding into a stiff wind for most of the way. When I say “stiff wind,” I’m not kidding. The trees were bending. I got a hell of a workout. My legs were pumping at some points, but I didn’t feel much forward motion.

It took me 1:17 to get to work, about 10-15 minutes longer than usual. My average pace was 6:25.

By the end of the ride, I was whipped.

Still, the pace was much faster than I could have done while running, so I can’t complain.

I can only pray that when I head home tonight, the wind will keep blowing, and exactly from the same direction, so I’ll have a nice tailwind to make it worthwhile.

Because if I have to ride into another headwind for 12 miles home, I’ll be tempted to ditch the bike by the side of the road and catch a bus.

Hey, I don’t mind riding the bus. That’s just another way of putting on my wheels.

UPDATE: The ride home was easier, thanks to favorable winds. I got home in 1:03.

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It’s been a few days since I’ve posted, so here’s a quick update:

* Tuesday: Six-mile tempo run on neighborhood roads before work.

* Wednesday: Five-mile run on the towpath at lunchtime.

* Today: Wheels, baby!

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Cashing in the chips

In every marriage, there’s a trade-off, as I know all too well.

Mrs. Trail Boy puts up with my running and racing, and disappearing for hours or days — up to a point.

Then, when I least expect it, she cashes in her chips.

Yesterday, she told me is traveling to Dayton, Ohio in a few weeks to see her niece graduate from law school. While she’s there, she plans to look  up some old college friends as well.

That means I will have to stay home and make sure the knuckleheads, I mean my sweet boys, get where they need to go, including a Little League baseball game and taekwondo practice.

Normally, that would be fine. But that is the same day my favorite spring trail race, the Anti Mini Marathon. For the first time in four years, I’ll be passing up this spring favorite.

Mrs. Trail Boy drove that home in her friendly e-mail. “Please don’t schedule any major running stuff that day,” she wrote.

Oooh, no wiggle room there.

Well, I really can’t complain. I do leave her in the lurch a lot.

The very next weekend, I’ll be traveling to Ohio to run the Cleveland Marathon. Then Mrs. Trail Boy can watch the knuckleheads sweet darlings then.

The agony of tapering

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s taper time, meaning I will drive everyone around me bonkers for the next three weeks.

That is, if my head doesn’t explode first.

I’ve always thought tapering was the most agonizing part of marathon training. After months of hard training, you’re suddenly forced to pull way back on weekly mileage to save your legs for race day.

Whenever I go through this phase, I have to figure out what to do with all my nervous energy.

I can’t run 40-50 miles a week any more. I have to just sit around, thinking about the race.

I imagine it’s how a lawyer must feel after his case has gone to the jury. The lawyer can’t do anything but wait. And wonder. And worry.

The lawyer thinks: Will I win or lose?

The runner thinks: Will I set a PR or blow up at mile 24?

Yes, taper time is when your mind races through all the excruciating possibilities.

A few years ago, during the final week of marathon tapering, I was so keyed up that my legs were shaking and twitching as I sat at my desk.

It was a tough few days, but on race day, I ended up running my best marathon ever, in 3:40. So I guess that was a good taper, even though it felt like hell at the time.

And then there’s the other side of the coin.

Five years ago, while training for a spring marathon, I did my last long run during a rainstorm. I got so cold and wet that I caught a nasty cold that I couldn’t shake. I was sick in bed for two or three days.  I felt drained.

By the next weekend, when my schedule called for me to run 10 miles, I could barely shuffle through five. The following weekend, I was supposed to run six miles, but still felt like crap. I was mainlining Robitussin and aspirin. My tapering was going in the wrong direction. It was the first time I ever had to scale UP for my last taper run.

On marathon day, I had the worst race of my life. I shuffled and stumbled and walked to the finish line, still coughing and hacking. I racked up my slowest marathon ever, 4:32.

So here we are again. It’s taper time. Will I have a good marathon or a lousy marathon?

The one saving grace to this particular marathon is I am not pushing myself to set a PR. This is just a way to reintroduce myself to road marathons after nearly three years on trails.

So I’m not setting a time goal. I’m not going to wear a watch. It’s just a 26.2 mile run, for the fun of it.

The real battle of nerves will come this fall, when I push myself for a PR and BQ.

So for now, I’m going to try to enjoy it — if I don’t have a breakdown first.

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I kicked off my taper today by running an easy four miles in about 35 minutes. I ran on the towpath at lunchtime.

I was expecting a real mudfest. It rained for hours yesterday. But the trail was very runnable — just a few puddles here and there.

Tomorrow, I plan to do a tempo run, six miles at a brisk pace.

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This little blog gives me an outlet to blather about running and other nonsense.

But lest you, dear reader, think I don’t have a serious side to my writing, I am happy to set the record straight.

Over the weekend, the Society of Professional Journalists (Indiana chapter) held its annual journalism awards banquet.

Trail Boy scooped up four statewide awards in the large newspaper division, including first place and honorable mention for spot news, first place for medical/science reporting and second place for business writing. Not a bad haul.

Now if I only had a Boston Marathon medal to hang on the wall. That’s next!

Picking up a mess

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2010 by Trail Boy

Every time I see someone throwing trash on the ground — especially in parks and woods — I wonder what jerk raised that person. I wonder who he thinks is going to clean up after him.

And then I think about a lesson I learned a few years ago. It’s something worth remembering during Earth Week.

This little story takes place in 2003, during the last few miles of a 24-mile run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I was tired and just trying to keep my legs going at a 9-minute pace. My mind was empty, just taking in the sights around me — the river, the meadows, the hillside.

But up ahead, about a quarter mile in the distance, I noticed something. It was a group of people wearing orange vests, picking up trash out of ditch.

As I got closer, I recognized one of the people. He was a co-worker of mine at the newspaper — a nice, friendly copy editor named Tim.

I waved to him as I passed. He waved to me. And then I felt terrible. Poor Tim, I thought. He’s so desperate for money that he’s picking up trash on weekends, probably for minimum wage with some federal litter-control program.

Then another thought hit me, even worse. Maybe Tim was doing community service as part of some court sentencing.

My mind raced. What was Tim arrested for? Driving under the influence? Threatening a neighbor?

Yes, funny things happen to my mind after a few hours of running.

I wondered if I should pretend I never saw him. He would probably appreciate that, I thought.

But on Monday, Tim came up to me in the newsroom and said: “Did you see me on Saturday? You looked pretty good, running up that hill.”

“Um, yes, I saw you,” I said. “You were picking up trash. What group were you with?”

I steeled myself for the worst. What would he say? The sheriff’s work detail? The low-income summer litter program?

“The Sierra Club,” Tim said. “We adopted that stretch of road. We go out there every month and pick up the litter.”

I didn’t know what to say. Boy, did I feel like a jerk.

Here he was, doing a wonderful service, volunteering as part of a group that tries to keep the earth clean, one mile at a time.

And I had felt sorry for him, thinking the worst.

I wish I could say I went back the next month to help the Sierra Club pick up litter. But I didn’t. I just kept running through the valley, enjoying the beautiful sights — thanks in part to Tim and his friends.

This week, the country celebrated the 40th anniversay of Earth Day. Again, I did nothing.

Well, mostly nothing. In my own little way, I celebrate Earth Day every day. I recycle. I buy long-lasting light bulbs. I combine trips. I even bring home and wash out my sandwich bags, and re-use them a dozen times.

But Mrs. Trail Boy is the real greenie in the family. She makes homemade granola. She has a composting bin in the back yard. She buys lots of clothes at secondhand stores.

Still, we could do more.

Yesterday, I posted a bunch of quotes from famous environmentalists in honor of Earth Day. I did it mostly for myself. I need the reminders.

Yes, we need to take care of the earth. It’s the best friend we have.

And I need to find a local chapter of the Sierra Club, and show up a few times a year with my work gloves.

(To return to the home page, click here.)

Happy Earth Day

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by Trail Boy

“The wealth of the nation is air, water, soil, forest, scenic beauty, wildlife habitat — take that away and all that’s left is a wasteland.” 

— Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

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“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed – chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides.”

— John Muir, naturalist, father of the National Park Service

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“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”

— E.B. White, writer

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“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”

— Rachel Carson, author and environmentalist

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“God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the west… keeping the world in chains.  If [our nation] took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.”

— Mohandas Gandhi, spiritual leader of India

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“As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us:  With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas.

— U Thant, Burmese diplomat

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“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed. ”

— Theodore Roosevelt, conservationist, president

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Speedwork, short and sweet

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 by Trail Boy

Today’s workout: Speed.

Location: Eastwood Middle School track, Indy.

Goals: Get some snap back in my old legs, and burn off the strawberry ice cream I ate last night.

Details: 800 meters x6 (one more than last week) @ 3:15 to 3:20.

# 1 — 3:18

# 2 — 3:19

# 3 — 3:15

# 4 — 3:18

# 5 — 3:16

# 6 — 3:19

Mission accomplished. Felt strong throughout. But I need to push harder through the turns, when I tend to relax.

Blog goal: Dash off this post as fast as I ran one of the 800s.

Next week: seven sets.

The morning after

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by Trail Boy

Oh man, what a party. It went on for hours, with music, dancing and pool volleyball. Everyone was into it. What a way to celebrate 10,000 hits. 

This morning, I spent a few hours picking up the empties and thinking about all the fun we had with Clif Bars and handcuffs.

The back yard is a mess, but it was completely worth it. Yes, definitely a good time. Well, except when Dean Karnazes threw Frank Shorter into the pool with his clothes on. You should see Frank when he gets mad. It took six people to pull them apart.  Frank said he probably won’t come to my party next year, but he says that every year.

Bill Rodgers won the funny hat contest, wearing an upside-down 10-gallon hat filled with tequila. Pam Reed won second place, wearing a Notre Dame football helmet, topped with a Billy Bass talking fish.

At one point, I saw someone I didn’t recognize. He was walking around, taking pictures. I asked who he was, and after some hemming and hawing, he said he was a freelancer for Outside magazine. I asked him to take a photo of me and Joan Benoit Sameulson, wearing our matching luau costumes, but he got all prima donna on me, so I told him to go home. One thing I hate is a party crasher with an attitude.

Besides, it was almost time for the running in place contest, and Ryan Hall was talking trash with Deena Kastor. Those two go at it every time, but it’s fun to watch. That’s why they’re on my A list.

The party went on until about 3 a.m., when one of my neighbors called the cops. It was time to close down. 

Time to start planning the next party. Frank, next year, leave the orange Day-Glo Nikes at home.

A reason to party

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s Monday, but I’m feeling festive.

Over the weekend, this humble, little blog got its 10,000th hit. So I’m popping open the drinks at the Trail Boy blog shack. Take off your coat and join me in a bottle of Gatorade. Any flavor. Let’s live large.

Because when you blog about something as mundane as running, you’ll celebrate anything. And getting 10,000 hits since launching this site 13 months ago is one of those times.

You might wonder whether blogging is a productive use of a person’s limited hours on earth. Or as Mrs. Trail Boy gently puts it:  “What a complete friggin’ waste of time,  who cares about that crappy trail stuff but you and two other losers, of all the weird things to write about — Jesus, are you back on that computer again?!”

Oh, that Mrs. Trail Boy and her sweet words. Sometimes, when I’m feeling beaten down, exhausted by life’s cares, she’s the only thing that keeps me blogging. Because I know, deep down, she can’t wait to read my next post. Or to wash my scuzzy running shirts.

Mrs. Trail Boy, I dedicate my first 10,000 hits to you, my biggest fan. Oh, by the way, sweetie, I’m going running for three or four hours, down at Three Lakes Trail in Bloomington. Can you keep an eye on things for a while?

Ha ha! That was a joke. C’mon, it’s a party! Laugh a little!

Seriously, though, I’m not running Three Lakes today. In fact, it’s Monday, so I’m off to work. And I’m in for a busy day. First thing is to cover the annual shareholder meeting of the biggest company in Indiana, ready to scribble down any news I might see or hear.

After that, I’ll probably hurry to back to the newsroom have a talk with my editor about another story, one I wrote for today’s paper, about a church minister who is running what appears to be a big scam out of his house.

Or I might get started on a story about new research into Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.

Yep, those are things I write about during the day, for a paycheck.

But this running blog — this is the thing I write about at home, for fun.

And that’s why I like it so much. No editor can tell me what to write. I don’t have to go to any meetings. I don’t have to do any research.

Here’s how it works. I go running. Then I scribble down a few weird thoughts.

And if I’m lucky, a few dozen people will read it.

But those few dozen people add up. The clicks keep coming. And it’s fun to watch the numbers climb.

And eventually, you reach a big, round number, like 10,000.

That’s reason to celebrate.

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Just out of curiosity, I did a quick look at my top posts, to see what entries have gotten the most clicks over the months. And here are the top 10 (not including my home page), in descending order:

A rant about Forbes magazine dissing my hometown, Cleveland.

A race report, in the form of a 130-stanza haiku, about my first 50K trail race.

Another rant about runners who run the Boston Marathon without qualifying.

A post about Nazis building a prison camp near one of my running trails.

A commentary about guns in national parks.

A remembrance of my running friend “Voodoo Joe” Truini, who died last year at age 37.

About Me: “Meet Trail Boy”

A plea to mall walkers to get outside and breathe the fresh air.

An homage to John Muir, the godfather of national parks.

A rant about paved, all-purpose trails: “Calling it a trail doesn’t make it one.”

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Getting 10,000 hits doesn’t happen because I write this drivel. It happens because you read it.

So this party is really all about you, dear reader.

Yep, the best thing about blogging is the chance to connect with other runners and readers. Through this modest little blog, I’ve had conversations with readers from California to Maine, from Italy to Australia.

(By the way, that 10,000 figure doesn’t include my own clicks on this blog. My host, Word Press, assures me that it doesn’t record how many times I lovingly re-read all my favorite posts.)

But here are the numbers I’m responsible for: 207 posts, nine pages, a few dozen responses to more than 250 reader comments.

The rest was up to you, trail runners and others with too much free time. Or as Mrs. Trail Boy might say, weirdos just like me who go running through the woods for hours at a time for no good reason.

Thanks, readers! See you at the 20,000 hit party!

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