Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bambi Encounter

Earlier this week I went for a short run with Derek, who I met on Vertical Runner's message board. Surprisingly it ends up that he lives in the neighborhood right next to me so we should be able to get in a good amount of runs together. His running ability is very similar to mine and he's only one year older than me so it works out well. Tonight we decided to head over to the Happy Days Visitor Center to run some trails.

Large open field near the ledges

We started off heading towards the ledges and then continued south towards Kendall Lake.

Kendall Lake

Once we passed by the lake we then continued over to the Kendall Hills (our turnaround point) where we made a bathroom stop. As we turned to head back, we ran a couple of the hills hard and enjoyed the view at the top. This area is great for hill repeats and really works your breathing.

My attempt to connect 2 photos that I took

The best part of the whole run took place right before we crossed over the road next to Kendall Lake. I was running and drinking out of my water bottle at the same time when I heard Derek say "Check out this deer". I paused for a second expecting to see a deer somewhere off in the distance, maybe 40 or 50 ft. away from us. However, when I turned and looked to the left it startled me to see that the deer was only about 8 ft. from us. I know that the Cuyahoga Valley wildlife is very tame but this was the closest I had ever come to a deer on a run. I stopped and took out my camera and decided to see just how close I could get to it. I got within about 5-6 ft. from it when I noticed it starting to get nervous and beginning to scratch its hoofs at me in the dirt. As I took this video you can hear Derek at the end say "Watch out dude, he's coming after you"

That's when I decided to back off and not end up like "The Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. It was quite an amazing experience while it lasted though. Next time I promise I will jump on top of Bambi and take her for a ride!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mill Creek Park - Lily Pond

After work I headed over to the Lily Pond parking lot in Mill Creek Park (Youngstown, OH) for a Wednesday evening trail run with Bob and ultra legend John DeWalt. John is 71 yrs. old and most recently completed his 12th Hardrock 100 Miler on July 13th with a time of 47 hrs, 36 minutes. Truly amazing... I hope that when I reach his age I am still able to participate in races and enjoy running trails as much as he does.

Me, Bob, & Johnny D

We started off with a plan tonight of running one 8 mile YUT-C loop, but ended up cutting it a little short and doing a little over 6 miles due to sunset. The high humidity also played a factor and made breathing somewhat difficult. The later part of this week is supposed to cool down and should make for more comfortable running conditions. Next Wednesday we will be meeting at the Lily Pond again for another trail run. We will meet at 5:30pm and start running around 5:45. If you are interested in joining us check out the Group Run section on the TeamPR Forum.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

West Branch State Park

Yesterday I helped my brother Jeff move into his new dorm at Kent State, which he is now attending after being at Clarion University for two years. Now that he's at KSU we should be able to get in more runs together which will be cool. Today we decided to head over to West Branch State Park to run some trails. This was our first time back to these trails since our strange nighttime experience last December - Read about it here We decided to start our run from the parking lot next to Rock Spring Rd. Next to this parking lot there is a map which shows all of the trails developed by CAMBA - Click Here to view the map. As you can see, there are many trails which branch off of the snowmobile trail (which runs between the 2 locked gates)

The Snowmobile Trail

The first section that we ran on was fairly flat and basic. Then we eventually arrived at the "Experts Only" mountain bike trail.

That's right... we're experts...

This section is very technical with many large rocks and lots of turns. I enjoy this trail a lot because it tests your balance and coordination and it helps you to build strength and endurance. The miles seem to go by quick too since you are always watching your next step.

A portion of the trail filled with trees and thorn branches

CAMBA is a great organization and did an amazing job building West Branch's network of trails. Here are a few more pictures which show how you can go from running on a nice smooth single track trail, to leaping over log jumps, running over bridges, and passing through creeks.

Jeff freestyling without a mountain bike - (Click play button)

On these trails built by CAMBA there are a few random items that must have been in the way while they were building them so they just decided to leave them for decoration...

Jeff decides to take a pitstop and then wash his hands...

Overall it was another good day of running (about 6.5 miles total) and a lot less hot and humid (mid 70s).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Happy Days to Kendall Hills

This morning Bob and I met early around 7AM at the Happy Days Visitor Center parking lot. Our goal was to get a couple hours of trail running in before the daytime heat took effect. We started off running the Burning River course up to the ledges, then continued on the trail past Kendall Lake and over to the Kendall Hills area. The humidity was very high today and we started off easy but gradually felt better as the run went on. About an hour and a half or so into the run we saw a group of familiar faces heading towards us (Roy Heger, Tanya Cady, Bob Lisy, Julie Aveni, Janet Edwards, and about 4 or 5 others) so we turned around and ran the rest of our run with them. We ended up doing a couple hill repeats over at Kendall Hills which was fun and enjoyed a lot of good trail conversation with everyone. We eventually headed back to the Happy Days parking lot with them since their cars were parked at Pine Lane. As we reached the Happy Days parking lot we topped off our water bottles with some water that Bob had in his car and then continued on the Boston Run Trail, which is about 3.5 miles. On this trail the other runners with us peeled off to the right and headed back to Pine Lane, which left Bob and I to finish up the Boston Run trail. We picked up the pace some through this area and then really pushed it up the last hill back to the parking lot. After Bob and I were done we felt really good about our efforts and being able to get in about 13 miles today. Definitely a good training run..

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Boston Run Trail

I called Steve after work tonight and convinced him to meet me at the Happy Days parking lot for a 3.5 mile run on the Boston Trail, even though the air was very thick tonight. We were both dripping with sweat right from the start and it was hard for us to get our breathing right. As the run went on it got more tolerable though, as it usually does. This was Steve's 3rd day of running in a row with a goal of continuing to lower his time on this trail. He succeded by cutting off 2 minutes from his best time here, finishing in 32 min. and 40 sec. His time for this trail still has a lot of room for progress, but it was a very good improvement considering the weather and his recent increased mileage.

We both pushed hard up the last hill to the grass clearing and were greeted with the sun setting over the trees...

Tonight I also committed to running the last leg of the Akron Marathon Relay (7.6 miles) with Steve and 3 of his co-workers. This will take place the weekend after I run the YUT-C 50K so I will have to make sure to rest up for some pavement pounding.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mill Creek Park Trail Run / The Clarks Concert

Today, Bob and I headed over to Mill Creek Park and met at the Lily Pond parking lot for an 8 mile YUT-C loop. When I arrived it was pouring down rain... a continuation of the monsoon which had started yesterday. Between yesterday, today, and tomorrow we are expected to get about 3-5 inches of rain. We knew from the beginning that we were going to be soaked so we tried to maintain a steady pace to keep warm. Bob had just run 30 miles or so yesterday and I wasn't sure how much he would be able to tolerate today, but I was impressed by his ability to keep up and run a lot of the uphills. We were both feeling good and enjoying the opportunity for a quality weekend run. On our run we noticed that on the west side of Lake Glacier next to the closed road section, the park had cleared out a large section of this hill that runs from a bridge that Bob and I placed on the trail down to the road. This area was filled in with a bunch of small stones for drainage and we ran down it and then turned around and walked back up it. Bob commented that hopefully the park will add large stones on top of this section and it will make for good Massanutten training. Overall we had a good workout today, which concluded with great music by "The Clarks" (a band based out of Pittsburgh) at the Morley Pavillion in Mill Creek Park. My brother and sister met up with Bob and I after our run and we headed over to check it out. Surprisingly the rain stopped about 15 minutes before the concert and didn't start again until after their last song. This stopped a lot of people from coming out but there were still a couple hundred people in attendance. I saw this band about 5 or 6 years ago while I was in college at Penn State Erie and they rocked. Today was no exception, as they performed an excellent live concert. After the show I decided to buy their new DVD and had 3 of the 4 band members sign it.

Here are some videos I took at the free concert:

Here's an article about the show from a local website: (sounds like they will be back to play at "The Cellar" in Struthers... looking forward to it!)

More photos:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Geneva on the Lake

High winds made for large waves tonight

After work Tami and I drove up to the lake to meet her parents at the Lodge at Geneva (where we got married last year). Once there we had dinner and some drinks at the Old Firehouse Winery and listened to the music of Tom Todd.

Then we headed back to the lodge, used their jacuzzi, and called it an evening. Definitely felt good to relax on a Friday and spend the night up at the lake.

Into the Night

I wasn't planning on running tonight since I was still tired from going to the Indians game last night (great game by the way) ... That was until I decided to give Mike a call to see what he's been up to. After talking for a bit he told me that he was going to go out for a night run in his neighborhood around midnight. This caught my interest right away and I asked him if he would be willing to drive over to the Happy Days Visitor Center for a night trail run on the Burning River course. He said sure, and then out the door I went to meet up with him. Usually I wouldn't think about meeting for a trail run after 11:30 during the work week, but I have been needing a good night trail run lately and couldn't pass up the opportunity to enjoy it with a friend.

It was extremely muggy tonight and fog was already starting to form, as shown in this picture looking into the Visitor Center cemetary... kind of creepy eh?

As we began our run, we reached a point on the trail where you have to turn right and head into a long corridor filled with giant boulders. This area is about 65 miles or so into the Burning River 100 Miler with participants passing through this rocky section in the middle of the night. Definitely a difficult task...

Further down the trail we then came to the Ice Box Cave, or in tonight's case... The Bat Cave! This was because as Mike started to head into the cave to check out things, multiple bats started to race past him. They were flying so low that I thought we were going to get hit with one.

Listen to this Jack Nicholson audio clip for the full effect

As we continued on towards the overlook and ledges, I was able to spot a couple of deer lying in a large grass field. As we walked towards them I took this photo of them and their glowing eyes... Always a neat thing to see at night...

We both felt great on the run tonight and seemed to just cruise along, paying more attention to the rocks and roots than how much we were sweating. As we neared the Octagon Trail my GPS watch showed 2.5 miles so we turned around and finished with 5 miles, although I think we ended up doing more than that. Hard to be precise with all the tree cover this time of the year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Boston Run Trail

This evening Steve and I decided to meet at the Happy Days Visitor Center parking lot again for a run on the 3.5 mile Boston Run Trail. I enjoy its mixture of small rocks, roots, hills, and turns. Nothing too difficult or technical, but it's a great place to get in a short run after work. The weather was perfect tonight... Sunny, upper 70s, cool breeze, and low humidity.

Steve is still getting back into running form so we thought this would be a good trail to run again to judge his progress. I was glad to see that he ran at a decent pace for most of the run tonight and limited his walking to only a few hills, which was a large improvement over the last time we ran here. A couple more weeks of running and he should have a lot of his breathing back and be ready to increase his mileage. As for me, I felt great tonight and did not feel any soreness afterwards. So far my increased mileage is not taking a toll on my body and I'm looking forward to getting in longer runs each week before all of the marathons and ultra marathons take place this fall. The best part of the run tonight for me was sprinting up the entire length of the last big hill which takes you back to the grass field next to the Happy Days parking lot. It always feels good to let loose and really give it your all at the end of a run.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm Famous!

Last week I picked up the August issue of Ohio Sports & Fitness magazine at a local Winking Lizard and while I was flipping through the pages I noticed that surprisingly they had put a photo of me in an article about local trail running. In the picture, I am running behind T.J. Hawk from Concord, Ohio. This photo was taken 2 years ago at the summer Buckeye Trail 50K where I ran my best 50K time in 5 hrs. and 41 minutes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pine Lane to Boston Store

This morning I drove over to the Pine Lane trailhead off of Rt. 303 for a run on the Buckeye Trail. I had not eaten any breakfast this morning so I wasn't sure how my body would respond, but surprisingly I didn't feel too bad on the run. I was able to reach the Boston Store (4 miles from Pine Lane) in 40 minutes and was pretty happy with the pace I had maintained despite all the hills. I ran into Vince from Vertical Runner, who was also running from Pine Lane, about a couple miles into my run but told him that I had to continue on because I had not gotten enough miles in yet to turn around and run back with him. Once I reached the Boston Store I took a short break, filled up my water bottle, and then headed back to Pine Lane. My goal was to try to stay around 40 minutes on the way back and succeeded by only running a tad slower, finishing my 8 mile run in an hour and 25 minutes.

Later on in the evening Tami and I went over to the First & Main shopping area in Hudson to grab a smoothie at CaliJuice. This is a great place to enjoy a healthy refreshment. While I was there, I chatted with the owner for a bit and he agreed to be a sponsor for the YUT-C 50K by providing gift certificates for our random door prizes. This was definitely a great addition to our growing number of race sponsors... Thanks again Scott!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Warren Pizza Splash 5K

Race winner Matt Folk (15:13)
I headed to downtown Warren tonight to enjoy some pasta at the annual Warren Italian Festival and also to take some photos of those running the Warren Pizza Splash 5K. This race is a tradition for a lot of people in the area and there always seems to be a decent turnout. This year they had 281 runners participate. I felt pretty antsy not running the race this year since I usually try to do it, but I was just not in the mood for a blistering 5K pace this evening. For more photos from the race - Click Here ..... or to view a video of the race start - Click Here

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

99.9% Humidity

D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center

After work I drove to the Davis Center parking lot in Mill Creek Park to meet up with Gombu and Slim for a planned group run that we had previously arranged on the TeamPR Forum. They had met at 5pm and were already on the trail when I got there, so they made sure to tell me ahead of time to start running a counter-clockwise YUT-C loop until I ran into them on the trail. It was hotter then hell today and I could tell that this wasn't going to be the most enjoyable run as soon as I stepped out of my car and started dripping with sweat. Yesterday was pretty humid, but it was even worse today. I felt like I was breathing in water instead of air. But at least I knew that I would have a couple friends to suffer with.

After running for awhile I eventually met up with Gombu and Slim on the trail and was glad to see that 2 other local runners had decided to meet them at the Davis Center at our original 5pm start time. Their names were Bob and Bruce. As we talked they both said that they are interested in doing the YUT-C 50K this September, so I was happy to hear that. Both of them seemed like very nice people and I'm glad that they could join us on our trail run today.

Once we left Bob and Bruce, we then continued on the trail up towards the Wick Recreation Area where there is a large fountain area that you can stand in and get hosed down. As we approached this area, Gombu saw a large muddy area in the grass and decided to lay down and roll all around in the mud, knowing that we would be rinsing off shortly anyways. This made Slim and I laugh. After cooling off we then headed back to the Davis Center, which gave me about 7 miles for the day and marked 4 days of running in a row for me. Hopefully I can continue to pound out the miles this week and into next.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy Days are here again!!

If this doesn't make you smile then Click Here

For the third day in a row I decided to make my way over to the Happy Days Visitor Center to run some trails, except this time my friend Steve decided to join me. This was his first trail run for quite some time and the start of his plan to get back into peak running shape so we tried to keep a comfortable pace. This wasn't too hard to do since the humidity was extremely high today, making breathing difficult.

Steve running alongside a huge rock wall

The Ice Box Cave (it gets very cold here even with temps in the upper 80s)

Today we decided to run the same route that I did yesterday. The only difference was when we reached the large grass field near the ledges we cut across and ran to the Overlook and then continued to run along the rocky ridge which took us back to Happy Days for a total of 3 miles.

The Overlook

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Flowing River

After volunteering at the Burning River 100 Miler yesterday I was ready to hit the trails as soon as I got out of bed today. So, I decided to drive back to where the action was last night at the Happy Days Visitor Center and start my run at about 4pm or so. When I got there I figured I might as well take advantage of the BR100 course markings while they're still up, so I crossed over Rt. 303 and headed towards the ledges. I had a great time running alone and imagining what it would have been like to run this section in the dark after already doing 65 miles. The thought of a 100 mile race and the adventure that comes along with it intrigues me, but I am still not sure if I want to enter one yet. This November I may run my first 70 miler on the Laurel Highlands trail in PA with members of the NEO Trail Club, which would be a step up from my longest race of 50 miles (which was also in the winter), but we'll see.

As I continued running on the trails around the ledges I noticed that it was beginning to rain, which didn't really bother me since we have had such little rain this summer. As I looked around, I was amazed at how well the race committee for the BR100 had marked the course. Orange streamers hung from clothes pins that had a strip of reflective tape on each pin. There were arrows on the ground that were drawn heavy with lime in case of rain. And there were pie pans with arrows on them that were attached to stakes at each major turn. Great job guys!

Now the rain was starting to pick up in intensity and got heavier and heavier until it was an all out downpour. I was having a great time getting soaked and it brought back memories of my high school & college XC meets that were run in heavy rain and mud. Then the run really started to feel like a high school meet when all of a sudden I looked over to a trail on my left that ran parallel to the short stretch of road that I was on and saw a couple high school runners flying past some trees with their shirts off . Not knowing how long they would be running alongside of me I picked up the pace and eventually saw that the trail they were on would be crossing over the road that I was on. This trail was also where I was going to be headed since I noticed a pie pan ahead with an arrow telling me to turn right. As I met up with the high school runners I told them how I was trying to take advantage of the BR100 markers still being up and tried to strike up a conversation with them. All I heard was the one kid say "Yeah" and then "Have a good run". Boy, what a conversation... For some reason this fired me up and I picked up the pace even more to stay a close distance behind them. I continued this for about a mile when the one kid glanced back and was surprised to see that I was still running with them. Unfortunately as they turned left at a crossroads in the trail, the BR100 markers told me to turn right. So, my game of cat and mouse was now over and I was on my way back to the car to finish up about 6.5 miles. It was fun while it lasted though!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Burning River 100 - Happy Days Aid Station

I arrived at the Happy Days Visitor Center parking lot around 6pm tonight and met up with members of the N.E. Ohio Trail Club (Gombu, Shubi, Slim, Moose, The Trail Goddess) and a few other friends to help volunteer at mile 65 of the Burning River 100 Miler. Our aid station was set up around 2:30 or so this afternoon. However, by the time I arrived there had only been about 10-15 runners pass through due to temperatures in the upper 80s and mostly sunny skies. I could tell this was going to be a tough day for a lot of runners.

Race director Joe Jurczyk checking out our aid station

Race winner Mark Godale (16 hrs. 7 minutes) getting aid at Happy Days

We had a good amount of experienced ultra runners working at our aid station which I thought made things go very smooth. Hopefully everyone that came through our aid station felt the same way and was given first class treatment.
This was my first time volunteering at an ultra marathon and really enjoyed hanging out with everyone I knew and meeting some new people. It was also great to see so many runners I knew pass through our aid station... Mike Keller (1st 100 attempt), Josh Dillingham, Rob Powell, Bruce McMurray, Dan Kuzma, Ron Ross, Kurt Osadchuk, Dave Peterman, Dan Fox, Fred Davis, Mike Kazar, to just name a few... Congrats to everyone who participated!
Here are a few more photos I took throughout the evening...
Gombu, aid station captain, cooking some ramon noodles
The Trail Goddess staying warm as she waits to pace

Shubi giving Kim some love before she heads out on the trail

Pinball after one sip of Burning River Ale