Archive for October, 2012

An old trail closes; a new one springs up

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2012 by Trail Boy

I went out to Fort Ben this morning for a few laps on the Lawrence Creek Trail, one of my favorite getaways.

But instead seeing of an old familiar, 2.2-mile loop trail — one I have been running for seven years — this is what I beheld:

What the $%#@???

What happened to my trail?! It was now covered with logs,  branches and brush. Several signs warned me back.

I was dumbfounded for a moment or two. Was this really happening?

The trail and I went way back. I’ve run it hundreds of times, in all kinds of weather. It was an easy, groomed loop: about eight feet wide, covered with limestone, packed dirt and occasional rocks.

It was the perfect trail for warming up. It didn’t require much thought or effort. Just run and turn when the path turned.

This is what it used to look like:Confused, I walked around a bit, trying to see if there was a new trail anywhere.

And sure enough, in a minute, I found it.

It looked like a brand-new trail — a singletrack, with lots of twists and turns, short sight lines and banked turns.

I had my iPhone with me, so I turned it on and entered search terms on Google.

In a few seconds, I found a few blog posts about the new trail. It seems the old one frequently got flooded and suffered lots of ruts (very true). The park management wanted to let the old trail grow over.

In its place (or in the same general area), a new trail with a much different look was built — apparently designed and constructed by a local mountain bike association.

The new trail was a whole different breed of cat. But my curiosity was piqued.

Mrs. Trail Boy was with me, and we decided to explore the new trail. I jogged ahead, and she hiked behind.

I turned on the GPS mapping function on my phone so I could see what the trail looked like on a map — and how it compared to the previous trail.

I also kept my eyes pointed down. This trail seemed a bit more technical — lots of rocks, roots, twists and turns — and therefore more challenging. I didn’t want to take a spill if I could avoid it.

I have to say the new trail had some advantages. Instead of a mindless, groomed loop, it was a bit more interesting:

And it offered some nice scenery of the various gorges and ravines:

I have to say I was enjoying the new trail and the new view.

I also was glad that the trail used more of the parkland, in a wider loop that run up behind the sledding hill and numerous hillsides that were previously off limits.

The miles passed by.

After about 30 minutes, I got a text from Mrs. Trail Boy saying she was turning around, and would meet me at the car.

I continued running, with a few pauses to shoot pictures or check the map.

I had the trail mostly to myself, with the exception of a few people out walking their dogs. I realized that come next summer, the trail will be packed with walkers, runners and mountain bikers.

But today, I could enjoy the scenery in peace and quiet.

Eventually, I hit the final descent, did a few last turns, and saw the trailhead back to the parking lot.

I hit my GPS “stop” button. I had covered 4.4 miles.

Then I looked at the map image, to see how many twists and turns I had actually done. I was amazed.

First, here’s a GPS map of the old trail:

And here’s the new trail:

What a difference.

Overall, I was glad to discover a new trail.

Even though I’ll miss my old friend, the new trail seems like a worthy replacement.

It’s a Jeep thing

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2012 by Trail Boy

For nearly a decade, this little Jeep took me nearly everywhere I needed to get as a runner.

It took me to trails, to races and to running stores.

It took me to expos, to pasta parties and to starting lines.

It took me the doctor, to the physical therapist and to the emergency room.

It took me to the woods, over and over again.

And it always got me back home safely.

Now it’s falling apart. It’s parked in my driveway. The frame is badly rusted, and the underside is busting through, like a hernia.

I have no idea if I will ever drive it again. The engine is rattling. The gears won’t shift. The stuff underneath is about to hit the pavement.

But I can’t say goodbye. So I’m going to leave it in my driveway until I figure out what to do.

It’s hard to say goodbye to this old buggy.

It was more than a set of wheels.

It was almost my running partner.

It got me where I needed to go, every time, and with a lot of fun.

On nice days, I took the top down and let the wind blast through my hair. I felt 20 years younger.

More than that, it was part of the family. My two boys loved to ride in the Jeep as much as I did. They practically grew up in it.

Here’s a picture of them in 2006, a couple of years after I bought my Jeep:

And here’s a photo six years later, in 2011:

But not everyone in the family was a fan.

Mrs. Trail Boy called it my midlife crisis car. She didn’t like to ride in it, except for very short trips. She thought it was too bouncy. After a half-hour, she would feel seasick.

She also thought it was the most impractical car we ever owned. It had almost no storage space, a tiny cabin, and it took forever to raise or lower the top. It also got terrible gas mileage and was expensive to repair.

She was right. It was all those things.

But it was also fun. And you have to have a little fun on this earth.

I bought the Jeep second-hand in 2004. It was three years old, still shiny, with lots of promise.

I bought it after my boring, 11-year-old Toyota Camry died.

I was sick of driving dull cars. I wanted a something a little rowdy, a little restless.

I wanted a Jeep Wrangler, nothing else. Like the automaker says, it’s a Jeep thing.

I told all this to Mrs. Trail Boy.

She looked at me like I told her I wanted to quit my job and become a matador. After all, I was in my mid-40s, with a wife and two sons, and a mortgage and a responsible job.

But after a couple of weeks, she got used to the idea. A man in his 40s has to do a few things before time runs out. As Mrs. Trail Boy told me, a Jeep would be cheaper than a mistress.

So I jumped at the chance,  found a good deal and did it.

I never regretted it. It was my fun car. And it was also my everyday car. It took me to work, to job interviews and even to a funeral.

About a year ago, the Jeep began to show its age. I had to sink more than $1,000 into it for all kinds of engine and power train stuff.

Then the trunk door got bent and wouldn’t close. It cost another hundred or so to fix that.

Then I began having trouble shifting gears.

I thought it was a clutch problem. But the mechanic gave me the bad news: the frame was rusted and falling apart. The guts were falling out of the bottom.

The price to fix it: at least $6,000.

“I would only do this if you’re really sentimental about this car,” he said.

For a few days, I considered it. But then I came to my senses. This is a 12-year-old car. Things are going to keep falling apart. I wouldn’t be able to depend on it.

So I parked it at the end of the driveway and began looking around for another car.

I looked at lots of car websites. I hit six or eight dealerships. I took lots of test drives. I almost bought a Mazda.

But I just couldn’t. The Mazda was just a car.

I needed a Jeep. It was in my blood.

I joked that I would buy another Wrangler. Mrs. Trail Boy, who drives a compact Toyota Matrix, gave me the look of death.

She wanted a bigger car that could take us on vacations. She wanted a roof rack. It would be nice, she said, to get a hatchback that could carry a sofa or a ladder if we needed it.

So we compromised. I got a four-door hatchback with a roof rack. And I got a Jeep.

It’s a Patriot, the smallest SUV that Jeep makes.

I picked it up yesterday, and parked it at the end of the driveway. Next to the Wrangler.

I hope they keep each other company. Until I figure out what to do with the old buggy.

First the bleeding, then the scabs

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2012 by Trail Boy

It’s been a week since my nasty fall, and I’m still on the mend.

I went through a box of Band Aids. I winced every day as I pulled my pants on and off. I limped around the house and the office.

Now the question: How long until these ugly scabs disappear?

I look at my boo-boos and think: I look like I’m nine years old and just fell off my Schwinn.

Grown men aren’t supposed to have scabs on their knees.

In the meantime, I haven’t been running. Big shock there, huh?

Last weekend, I took several bike rides and long hikes.

This weekend, I was hoping to run the Knobstone Trail 5K or 10K, but that’s looking unlikely. I guess I could hike it, but it really won’t be the same.

Still, the T-shirt looks good.

Check back in another week. I might look my age by then.

A man walks into a bar

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 by Trail Boy

For bleeding like this, you should have a good story to tell.

Like: “I slipped on a rock, fell into the river and was swept over the falls.”

Or: “I was running across the highway and didn’t see the truck.”

Or as my friend Denny told me: “You were scrambling through the brush to avoid a bear.”

But no, it was none of those things.

This is what it was: I tripped on a sidewalk.

A normal sidewalk on a normal street.

And wham! I went down like a load of bricks.

I scraped the hell out of my left leg and shoulder, and both hands.

This happened at noon today. I was trying to squeeze in a quick run before a business lunch.

My goal was to run three or four miles. According to the GPS on my iPhone, I ran 0.81 miles when I tripped and hit the ground.

The weird thing: As I was falling, all I could think was “Please don’t let anything happen to my phone.” I didn’t even care if I busted my nose. Just not my precious, precious phone.

I got up slowly, and limped back to the office.

Then I washed up, changed and limped to lunch.

Without even much of a story to tell.

Running ’round and ’round the river

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2012 by Trail Boy

Today was a day for running in circles.

I joined three friends from work — Chris, Jon and Julie — for the Back on My Feet 42K Relay. We ran around and around the White River on a 2.2-mile loop.

We ran 12 loops in all, which added up to about a full marathon, or about 6.6 miles per runner. (Well, kind of. More on that below.)

It was my first relay race in more than three years, and I forgot how much fun it is to run with friends — even when you’re the oldest and slowest one on the team, which I definitely was.

We cheered each other on, shared snacks and kept our eye on the scoreboard to see how well we were doing against dozens of other teams.

The course wound over two bridges, behind the zoo, along the riverfront, past the IUPUI campus and the NCAA Hall of Champions and a few other downtown landmarks. It was a windy, chilly day, so no one was interested in dawdling.

The race worked this way: the first runner ran the loop, which came right back to the starting area, and handed off to the second runner, who handed off to the third runner, who handed off to the fourth runner.

Then the rotation started all over again, in the same order.

That meant each runner would get about 45 minutes of rest between each lap.

Here’s the order our team ran:

First: Jon, our fastest runner, who ran the Portland Marathon last weekend in 3:12.

Second: Julie, another fast runner who recently graduated from Kent State, where she played field hockey on an athletic scholarship.

Third: me, an injured and recovering marathoner, and all-around middle-aged guy.

Fourth: Chris, a competitive swimmer and triathlete.

While we waited for the race to start, we set up our chairs and blankets on the grassy area on the pedestrian bridge near the starting line.

The race was a fundraiser for a nonprofit group that encourages the homeless to run and gain self-confidence. A few homeless people were among those wearing race numbers.

A few minutes before the race started, we all stood in a big circle and recited the Serenity Prayer. Then we turned around a faced a flag by the NCAA building for the national anthem.

Then the countdown started. And the first member of each team started running.

Oh, did I mention that team costumes were encouraged?

Yes, indeed, and some people went all out, some as Smurfs…

…or Super Heroes…

…or Jedi warriors…

…or rag dolls.

Our team decided to pass on costumes and cute team names, and just run the circles, dammit.

So off we went. For the first loop, Jon, Julie and Chris finished in between 13 minutes and 15 minutes. I came in at 18-plus minutes.

It was pretty much the same for the next loop. Except that I finished even slower, at about 19 minutes.

The course was set up that you could see the runners at several points, and cheer on your teammates from across the water. When you saw a teammate heading in, you knew it was time to stand up and get ready.

For the third loop, my 13-year-old son Jake asked to take my place. I had originally invited him to run alongside me as a pacer for the second or third loops, but he wasn’t interested in that greasy kid’s stuff. He wanted to wear my number and the timing chip. And he wanted to run fast.

Since our team was just running for fun, and not trying to win the damn thing — and since I was starting to get tired –I said fine. I handed him my number.

He walked over to the relay point.

A few minutes later, Julie came flying through on her last loop. She handed me the timing chip ankle wraparound.

I handed it to Jake. He put it on his leg, then he flew down the bridge and around the corner.

I went back to our little campsite on the grass and told the others what I had done. No one seemed to mind.

About 15 minutes later, I saw Jake barreling down toward the finish line, running at a terrific clip.


He blasted through the relay point, having run a 15:19 loop.

He sure killed my times. I told him that next year, he can wear a number for the whole race.

Then Chris, our anchor runner took the timing chip and set out for the final loop. We all settled back for a rest. It was all up to Chris now.

The sun was coming out and the wind was dying down. It was turning out to be a nice morning.

After a while, we saw Chris come flying down the home stretch and put in a final kick of speed. He crossed the finish line in 3:03:56.

We clapped him on the back. We all felt good. We walked over to the scoreboard and saw that we had finished in 14th place.

Of course, that was not a legal finish, since Jake took my place for the final lap. But like I said, this was just for fun. No one on our team was going home with a trophy or cash. Just endorphins and smiles.

Then we lined up for the obligatory team shot, Jake included:

Here we are (from left to right): Jake, me, Jon, Chris and Julie.

Same time next year, Team Star?

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