Archive for May, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Posted in Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis. So where do you think you’ll find Trail Boy?

Here?

Or here?

OK, that was the mother of all rhetorical questions. My blog name isn’t Indy 500 Boy. So no matter how crazy this city gets in May for race cars and paved oval tracks, I’m sticking to nature. 

Over the past few days, I’ve done the following:

* Town Run Trail, 5-mile run on Tuesday morning.

* Canal Towpath Trail: 4-mile run at lunchtime  Thursday (in 89-degree heat).

* Fort Ben, 5-mile run on Friday morning.

* Fort Ben, 3-mile hike this morning with Mrs. Trail Boy.

And I fully expect to be on a trail a few more times before the long weekend is over.

So what do I have against the Indy 500? Nothing much. It’s just not my scene.

I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys motorsports, but I have never felt the desire to drive out to the Indy Motor Speedway and shell out money to sit under the sun and watch loud cars go in circles, kicking up exhaust, and watching thousands of people  sit around. That sounds about as fun as dragging a lawn chair out to the freeway, sitting on the median, and watching rush-hour traffic.

Still, I realize I’m a distinct minority in this town. Around here, race car drivers are bigger than Major League Baseball players (possibly because Indy doesn’t have a Major League Baseball Team).

So I keep my mouth shut about the subject. Well, except to my running friends, and on this blog.

So I do my own thing on Memorial Day weekend. Which means, I hit the trails. And I try to spend some time with my family.

Today, after the hike with Mrs. Trail Boy, we came home and hours of yardwork. Then we kicked off the beginning of summer by going to the local pool. We horse-played in the water for two hours, and I managed to swim about a quarter-mile (20 lengths of the pool during the adult swim.

Doesn’t all that sound like a good way to enjoy a hot day? Then we came home and had dinner on the back patio: grilled chicken, rice, corn on the cob and watermelon. Man, summer is the time to be alive.

Tomorrow morning, we are heading to Columbus, Ohio, for an annual pig roast with Mrs. Trail Boy’s fun and rowdy cousins. Then we’ll come home tired and happy, and glad we have one more day to relax.

On Monday, we will put our flag out. Then I will go for a two-hour trail run somewhere, then come back and relax. Later, we’ll drive 15 minutes to Crown Hill Cemetery to pay our respects to the war dead.

Happy Memorial Day.

A fun morning run, and a lousy report card

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 by Trail Boy

It’s been months since I’ve been to Town Run Trail Park. That’s pretty odd when you think about it, because I really like the park, and it’s only two miles from my house.

I’m not sure why I stayed away so long. I always have a blast running the seven-mile mountain-bike trail, which is loaded with challenging twists and turns, lots of short hills, and roller-coaster layout.

I’ve called this trail the best seven miles in Indy.

So I decided to get reacquainted with the park this morning. Before breakfast, I drove out there, changed into my trail shoes, and got down to it.

The weather was great, clear and sunny. The trail was nice and dry and the park was bursting with green, just about everywhere I looked.

I didn’t have to worry about running into any bikes this morning. I had the whole park to myself. That’s probably because part of the trail that crosses under the I-465 bridge is closed, due to some construction work on the freeway. That meant that the middle section of the trail — probably about two miles — was off limits.

But it still left about five miles or so of fun trails. and I had fun powering up and down the hills as fast as my legs could carry me. It was a fun workout combining speed and strength, while running under a canopy of shade trees. I finished in 47:05.

It was my best run in the past week or so, which isn’t saying much. I’ve been letting my sore legs recover from the Cleveland Marathon earlier this month, and have done only short, easy, tentative shuffling.

Over the weekend, in fact, I didn’t run a step, as part of my Serious Recovery Program. Instead spent hours and hours doing yardwork, which was probably more strenuous than running a 15K.

So this run was just the medicine I needed. It felt great to run strong again.

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

Welcome to Indy, Home of Very Few Parks

When I moved to Indy about five years ago, I was stunned by the scarcity of parks and playgrounds.

The city just seemed so lacking in green space for kids to play in and adults to hike, run, or otherwise get back to nature. I really had to make an effort to find parks and trails.

That was such a shock, coming from little Akron, Ohio, where there was a city park within walking distance of just about anywhere, and a national park just 15 minutes from my front door.

What was wrong with this picture? Was I just not looking in the right places?

Well, now I know it wasn’t just me.

Acording to a new report issued this week by the American College of Sports Medicine, green space truly is a rarity in the Indy metro area. 

How rare? Let’s start with parkland.  In Indy, it amounts to just 4.8 percent of the metro land area. That’s less than half of the national average, which is 10.3 percent.

Or how about park funding? In Indy, it’s just $45 a year per capita, compared to $102 per capita nationally.

Ball diamonds? Just 0.8 of them per 10,000 people, compared to 2.0 nationally.

Playgrounds? Just 1.6 per 10,000 people, compared to 2.3 nationally.

The list goes on and on: We lag the nation in recreation centers, swimming pools, tennis courts, mass transit, people who walk and ride bikes to work, and just everything else that could make us more healthy.

As the Indianapolis Star said in an editorial: “We even scored low in the number of farmers markets. And we live in the Farm Belt, for goodness sake.”

Bottom line: Indy just doesn’t value public parks as much as most of other cities. For whatever reason, most people here just don’t think it’s important to live an active, outdoorsy lifestyle.

So what is the big deal? I’m glad you asked.

The report also gave a snapshot of health and fitness. I’m sure you will be not surprised that Indy scored higher than the national average for the percentage of people who smoke, who have asthma, who die from cardiovascular disease, who are obese, and who have diabetes.

Yep, looks like I moved to the land of the walking dead.

Overall, Indy scored near the bottom of all major cities — 44th out of 50 largest cities — for overall health and fitness. That puts us in the same company as Las Vegas, Detroit, Memphis and Oklahoma City.

And it’s getting worse. Last year, we were 36th. We’re going in the wrong direction.

If I ever get out of this town, it will be for a city that values parks, health and fitness.

Well, what do you expect? The biggest sporting event in this town is a 500-mile car race. That’s about the least green, least fitness-conscious sport I can think of.

If you can find a park, expect to have to pay $5 to get in. Per car. Per day.

Meanwhile, wooded green space is quickly disappearing. The state is allowing contractors to chop down trees practically as fast as they can in state forests, according to Indiana Forest Alliance, an environmental watchdog group.

On the brighter side, Indy scored better than the national average on the number of golf courses per capita.

Now that’s really sticking it to the rest of the country.

Back where I belong

Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2010 by Trail Boy

           

           

Oh sweet, sweet trails. Where have you been? It’s been so long.                  

I went out to Fort Ben this morning to run trails for the first time in weeks, maybe months.                   

After pounding the pavement all spring in training for my marathon, it felt so good to be back where I belong.                 

On dirt. And mud.                  

                    

The woods were nuclear green. The air felt nice and cool. It was a perfect morning in the woods.                   

I ran the Fall Creek and Camp Creek trails. I was hoping to run for more than an hour. But my legs are still sore from Sunday’s marathon, so I called it quits after about 40 minutes. I’m not going to push myself during this recovery period. I’ll give my legs a full 10 days or longer of easy going before I start pushing hard.                   

So this morning’s workout was more like a run-walk. And that was fine. It gave me more chances to smell the flowers and take a few pictures.                   

                    

The trails were a bit muddy. But that was too be expected. It has rained almost every day and every night this week. Puddles and deep creeks are part of the package.                    

                    

Sure the marathon was fun, and I was pleased with my time. But now it’s trail time for the next few months, culminating in the Buckeye Trail 50K race in July.      

So between now and then, this is where you’ll find me. In the woods. With green stuff around me, and dirt under my feet.    

Back where I belong.                  

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

Two boys, two days, two graduations        

Trail Boy and the missus are mighty proud this week.

On Thursday evening, our older son, Steven, graduated from middle school with honors. He also was named the school’s top student in computer science.                  

I always knew Steven was good with gadgets — he can fix or build anything. But  I thought he was just a normal 14 year old. Now I know better. In the past year or so, Steven has talked about going to to MIT or Cal Tech to study computers. I’m starting to think he’s not just dreaming. His teachers believe in him too.                   

Steven and Mrs. Trail Boy with his diploma and certificate as top computer science student.

And today, Jake graduated from elementary school with honors. He will start middle school in the fall.                  

My boys are growing up! Soon they’ll be bigger and faster and smarter than their old dad.                  

Jake and his teacher, Mr. Snider.

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

Meet Kevin, my virtual coach

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 by Trail Boy

My friend Kevin is a strong runner. Last year, he qualified for the Boston Marathon twice. In his spare time, he ran two 50K’s.

Kevin is also a computer whiz. He is finishing up his Ph.D. in computer science.

What does this have to do with me?

A lot, I’m happy to say.

Even though we live 300 miles apart, Kevin has offered to coach me through the fall marathon season — by e-mail and a shared web site.

We’ve agreed to run the Columbus Marathon together on Sunday, October 17, to give us a common goal.

Between now and then, we’re going to train together, in separate cities — Indy for me, Cleveland for him. We’ll keep in touch several times a week by computer.

At Kevin’s suggestion, I’m going to customize a marathon training plan from Runner’s World SmartCoach site. Kevin swears by it, and he’s got the results to prove it, so that’s good enough for me.

Here’s the crowning touch: We will upload and record all of our daily training on a web site, RunningAhead, using our Garmin GPS devices. That will allow us to compare workouts and motivate each other.

Three weeks before our marathon, we’ll run the Akron Marathon on Saturday, September 25, as our long last training run. It will give us a chance to share a few miles in person before the big race.

I know I’m in good hands. Kevin and I have put in some miles together. In 2007, we ran three marathons together. Last year, we ran our first 50K trail race together. And we’re the same age and have been running for about the same number of years.

Needless to say, Kevin is into this high-tech, long-distance training. In fact, it was his idea. It grew out of a conversation we had after the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday, as we were walking back to our cars. We were talking about our fall goals and I was asking him for coaching advice.

We continued our discussion  for a few more days. Finally Kevin — the marathon and computer expert — came up with this plan.

“The idea of a parallel training partner is really cool,” he told me (by e-mail, of course). “If we play it right, we can both hit the Columbus finish line around 3:30 and head for Boston next spring.”

That’s my plan, too, Coach!

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

Bike to Work Day

This Friday is Bike to Work Day in Indianapolis. It’s part of a national effort to  reduce traffic congestion, provide cleaner air and encourage fitness — goals I whole-heartedly support.

But I won’t be biking to work on Friday.

Why not? Because I’m not working on Friday. I’m taking the day off to watch my younger son graduate from elementary school and to catch up on yardwork.

At first, I was bummed that I would miss out on this event, which includes riding with thousands of others into downtown, from all directions, followed by breakfast with Mayor Greg Ballard on Monument Circle.

But last night I decided: Why is Friday so important? Ride your bike to work tomorrow, Butthead.

 So that’s what I did.

This morning, I pedaled the 12 miles downtown in an hour and eight minutes — not speedy, but not slow either.

The weather was perfect for a bike ride: partly sunny, mid-50s, low winds.

It was my first long workout since running the marathon on Sunday, and it felt good to stretch my hamstrings and calf muscles, which were still tight and sore.

I took the usual course — backroads and the Monon Trail — into downtown. It was a bit of a lonely ride; I saw only a dozen or so other cyclists during the whole hour.

But I had a good time, and remembered why I like to do it: the warm wind in my face and the pleasant burn in my legs of cranking the pedals for an hour or more.

I do this about a dozen times a year. I run to and from work another half-dozen or so times.

This morning, I got to work energized and upbeat.  I hit the showers, changed into my work clothes, and got busy. It was a good way to start the day.

Even if I didn’t get to have breakfast with the mayor.

Who the hell are you calling “Pavement Boy”?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 by Trail Boy

I got the following e-mail this morning from a running friend:

“Hey, Pavement Boy! Way to go, 3:48:07. You may never go back to dirt.”

Ooooh, that stung.

Yes, he was complimenting me on my performance Sunday at the Cleveland Marathon.

But he was also rubbing my face in it, throwing around the “P  word” like that.

This friend — I’ll call him Tom, because that’s what his mother named him — is a diehard road runner. Every time we discuss running or racing, I gently coax him to join me on trails and leave his beloved pavement behind for a few hours. I go on and on about the benefits of trail running: beautiful nature, no traffic, lots of cool shade, soft footing, wildlife, etc.

Tom always smiles and then says something polite like: “Not in this lifetime, or any other — but I’m glad you enjoy it.”

One day two years ago, however, Tom surprised me. He said he would join me at a 10-mile trail race the following weekend. The race was taking place on Three Lakes Trail, a steep, rugged loop at the Morgan Monroe State Forest near Bloomington.

I was amazed. I could only conclude that my months of passionate, poetic stories about trails had won him over. Or at least made him curious.

On race morning, the weather was beautiful. The woods were lush green. It was a perfect day for Tom’s maiden trail race.

He and I ran together, nice and easy, up and down the hills, through the woods and meadows, and across the creeks.

Tom chattered and joked the whole time and seemed to be enjoying himself — well, maybe except for the moment he cracked his head on a low-hanging branch. Well, and the time he tripped on a foot and fell face-first against a tree stump.

“You’re having a hell of an adventure,” I saw, trying to lighten the moment, as Tom knelt on the ground, rubbing his head.

It took him a moment to regain his senses. I pulled him to his feet and looked him over. “Hey, there’s nothin’ broken, so you’re good for another 10 miles,” I said.

Ever since that day, Tom has never run a single step on a trail. And every time I suggest another trail race, he has told me where to go. With a smile, of course.

And then he said something like: “One day, you’ll get tired of trails, and you’ll come back to pavement.”

Well, Tom is no fool. When he learned I had run the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday, he saw his chance. He sent me that e-mail. He called me that terrible name.

Oh Tom. What did I ever to to deserve that? I gave you an exciting, beautiful run in the woods. I gave you a story to tell all your friends. If you had a blog, you’d have enough material for weeks.

But here’s the rub. Tom is right. This year, I’ve really hit the pavement, big time. That’s because I’m focusing on a BQ. And this fall, I’m going to run another road marathon. Maybe two.

Still, there’s a long summer in between spring and fall. And my next big race is the Buckeye Trail 50K in July.

Did you hear that Tom? The Buckeye Trail. Not the Buckeye Road.

You’re welcome to join me. I plan to start training in a few days.

As soon as I can find my trail shoes.

Cleveland Rocks!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 by Trail Boy

If I heard this song one time during the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday, I heard it 20 times. Or maybe 30.

But that was just fine. The song does rock. And so does Cleveland. And so did my race.

As I wrote yesterday, I finished in 3:48:07, crushing my goal of finishing under four hours.

It was my best time in five years.  I never hit the wall. It felt soooooooo good.

After struggling so hard in the last few years, it was a sweet day. It rocked!

During the last six miles, I passed scores of runners — maybe hundreds — who had apparently gone out too fast and then run out of gas.

Hey, I’ve made that mistake plenty of times. It was nice to run a smart race for once.

For the first 17 miles, I ran alone, striking up conversations with various runners and just enjoying the scenery and the energy. I kept my effort steady. My pace varied between 8:30 and 9:15, depending on the hills and the wind. 

At mile 17, I heard a pace group coming up behind me. When they caught me, I saw it was the 3:50 group, with about 20 runners. I decided to jump in and feed off their energy. The group, led by a  guy named Brett, had great camaraderie, giving each other lots of encouragement and sharing laughs. I stayed with them until mile 24, when I realized I still had plenty of gas in the tank and could push harder. I peeled off and ran ahead, finishing a few minutes before them.

I finished 638th out of 2,788. That put me in the top 25 percent.

Here are a few race highlights:

Most scenic stretch: A beautiful, shady section through the Edgewater neighborhood between miles 8 and 10. It was great to see all the beautiful gardens and century-old mansions on the lakefront.

Least scenic stretch: The blighted commercial section on St. Clair Avenue between miles 21 and 23. Man, was that depressing. Ugly isn’t strong enough word. We passed block after block of boarded up buildings and graffiti on walls. It was probably the most depressed section of any marathon course I have ever run. On top of that, this section of road was filled with chuckholes, and the street had absolutely no shade.

Coolest sights: Running past my own high school; running within a stone’s throw of my sister’s house (she was on vacation in Italy, and didn’t catch the race); and running by all three professional sports facilites (Browns, Cavaliers and Indians).

Un-coolest sight: Running uphill, into the wind, on concrete for several miles on the West Shoreway.  

Biggest surprise: Running into an old friend, Darris Blackford, at the expo on Saturday. He was staffing the Columbus Marathon booth. Darris and I worked together as reporters at the Lake County News-Herald 20 years ago, and now he’s an elite marathoner and the new race director of the Columbus Marathon.

Second-biggest surprise: Running into a stiff headwind between miles 13 and 17, as the course ran east along the lakefront. The winds usually blow from the west; in fact, the course was rerouted a couple years ago to take advantage of the prevailing winds. I expected a tailwind during this section, and had to really push it here.

Best smell: The scent of muffins as I ran past a bakery in the Tremont neighborhood.

Worst smell: The stink of rotten fish as I ran past an old industrial section of the lakefront.

Best Music: Three-way tie between the the St. Ignatius marching band, playing in front of the school near Mile 5; an energetic percussion group playing “Stomp” rhythms on trash cans and drums near Mile 7; and of course “Cleveland Rocks.”

Worst Music: “Running on Empty,” which was playing on loudspeakers at two different points. Hey, I like Jackson Browne as much as the next Baby Boomer, but I don’t want to think about running on empty. I felt full of energy, and wanted to keep it that way.

Biggest joy: Realizing in the last two miles that I would crush my goal and possibly set my best marathon time in five years — then crossing the finish line and seeing it come true.

Biggest disappointment: Starting too far back at the starting line. It took me forever to pass slow runners and walkers — two miles, probably. I should have known better, and positioned myself closer to the front. Then again, maybe it was a good way to start slow and finish strong.

Best decision: Not to carry a camera. Hey, there’s a time for taking pictures and a time for running hard.

Worst decision: Chugging chocolate milk at the finish line. I immediately got the worst stomach cramp. It was painful to walk a half-mile back to my car.

Best bonus: I ran the race on my 51st birthday. It was a hell of a way to ring in another year!

Biggest absence: I never saw Drew Carey. He wasn’t there, but it would have been the only way to make the day complete.

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

My best marathon in five years

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2010 by Trail Boy

Today was  a magical day. I beat my goal at the Cleveland Marathon and felt strong for 26.2 miles.

My goal to run faster than four hours, something I haven’t had much luck doing lately.

I finished in 3:48:07, for an average pace of 8:42.2 a mile. It was my best marathon in five years.

According to official results, I was 638th out of about 2,788 finishers in the marathon division. That means I finished in the top 22 percent. (Thousands more ran the half marathon and 10K.)

Yes, I am on Cloud Nine.

Full race report to come.