Monday, January 28, 2008

Twinsburg Fitness Center

I was still a little sore today from the 50K on Saturday so I decided to head over to the Twinsburg Fitness Center where my friend Derek works and use the hot tub this evening, which always seems to work wonders on my legs after a race. This was my first visit to the fitness center and was impressed. It is somewhat similar to the Natatorium in Cuyahoga Falls but on a smaller scale. This picture shows the pool with the hot tub located behind the water slide...


Tonight I went over to the fitness center at my apt. complex and did 10 miles of easy cycling in a half hour on the stationary bike, just to get the legs loosened up some. Then I did some dumbbell curls and called it a night.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winter Buckeye Trail 50K

This morning I got up a little before 5:30am to make sure I had my stuff ready and could be out the door by 6. As I got in my car I realized I was almost out of gas and had to hurry up and stop at Sheetz. It only takes me about 20 minutes or so to get to the Boston Store from Streetsboro and packet pick-up went until 6:45 so I wasn't too worried. After parking in the grass lot closest to the Boston Store I went over to the M.D. Garage. As I went inside, Tanya Cady (race director) was giving everyone instructions on wearing their race number which was equipped with radio frequency identification. Basically there is a wire that stretches around the inside of your race number and when you cross the finish line you pass underneath this thing that records your time.

After getting my bib number I went back to my car to put on my shoes and grab my Ultimate Direction waist pack and then headed back over to the garage. Before heading into the garage though I realized I needed to take a pit stop. The heated Boston Store restrooms had a long line even for the guys so I noticed there were a couple port-o-johns outside and took the opportunity. Thankfully there was enough light to not have to sit in complete darkness. As I left I saw a line was now starting to form for the port-o-johns as well and told them the seat was all warmed up now. This girl said, eww gross! Obviously she must have been a half marathoner!

I then went back inside the garage and stood next to Bruce McMurray, one of my running buddies from Youngstown and fellow N.E. Ohio Trail Club member, as Tanya and Roy Heger gave some more race instructions. Soon after Jim Harris and his son Heath entered and came over to talk with us. There were so many people I knew running today. These ultra events are almost like a family reunion of sorts since everyone knows each other. Eventually I looked down at my watch and realized that it was just after 7:00 and instructions were still being given. At this point we were all getting anxious and ready to start. Soon everyone went outside to gather for the race start which began on the road and then turned left onto the towpath. As with most ultras you never know when the race will actually being until you see everyone take off running and then you know that you are on your way.

Me, Heath, and Jim before the race start

The beginning of the course is on the Towpath for a half mile or so and then you make a right turn near the Stanford Hostel.

At this point you are now on the Brandywine trail and things become more fun as you encounter more uphills and downhills. Through this area I met Wendy Babcock and Gabe Rainwater. They were both very friendly and talkative which always makes the time go by quicker.

Wendy and Gabe heading uphill

This was the first time that I had run the Brandywine loop and I definitely enjoyed the scenery. Lots of neat steps, bridges, and valleys. This was also the first time I had run the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K on the new multi-loop course. Just like the summer BT50K it used to be point-to-point, starting in Brecksville and doing an out and back to Pine Lane. Now the winter version starts and finishes at the Boston Store with 3 Brandywine loops (5 miles each) and 2 Pine Lane loops (8 miles each). I have to say I was a bit skeptical going into this race today with all the loops. I thought it would become monotonous and possibly boring late in the race. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed being able to see all the runners as they either came towards you or as you ran past them after reaching the turnaround point. Everyone was very friendly on the course and it was very rare for someone to not acknowledge you or offer words of encouragement. That's one of the best things I enjoy about ultra running - being able to share time with such great company. We are very lucky to have such a great running community here in N.E. Ohio. Another thing I liked about the course was the fact that you only had to wait 4 miles at most to reach an aid station. This allowed you to refuel more efficiently and also allowed you to not have to carry as much stuff along the way.

During the first Brandywine loop the partial full moon was still up and the sun was beginning to rise. I wish I would've taken a picture of the moon because it looked pretty cool through the trees with all the snow. I did take this photo over by the Stanford Hostel on my return trip back to the Boston Store though. At this point the sky had a very nice yellow & purple glow to it...

As I returned to the Boston Store I talked to my friend Bob for awhile who ran the summer BT50K course throughout the night and finished in the early morning. He ended up volunteering at the Boston Store aid station throughout the day. Now I was really looking forward to getting onto the Pine Lane loop. This is a great section of trail that I always enjoy. Of course I do enjoy heading from Pine Lane back to the Boston Store more, since you can go all out on the downhills that you just went up.

The weather and trail conditions were close to pefect today. At the start of the race the temperature was about 18 degrees, rising to the mid/upper 20s late in the day. It was a little chilly in the beginning but once you got going you were fine. All it takes is a nice long Buckeye Trail uphill to get the blood flowing and the muscles relaxed. There was one guy though believe it or not wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I can understand maybe the shorts, but wearing a t-shirt seemed a little ridiculous. Towards the end of the race I saw him coming towards me and he had an icicle hanging from his beard. I guess it kept him running though as he finished slightly ahead of me. The trail was in pretty good shape today, with just enough snow to provide some traction, and the downhills stayed runable even late in the race. The only bad thing that most people talked about was the uneven footing where mud had frozen solid, leaving ruts in the ground. You really had to watch your footing in a few areas so you didn't sprain an ankle. Other than that though there wasn't too much to complain about.

On my first Pine Lane loop I ran into a couple nice guys, Jerry Williamson from Brecksville and his friend Chris Miller, who traveled from Indianapolis. We carried on a long conversation and ended up sticking together all the way until the last loop of the race. At one point we even started singing songs out loud to make the time pass by. Hey, whatever works right? Along the way we made it a point to just get done with the Pine Lane loop so that we could then focus our attention on doing the Brandywine loop for a second time. Once this was completed we knew that we only had to do one more loop of each section to finish. Like with most races, it's much easier to break down a course into smaller goals then to think of everything as a whole. Later on during the 3rd loop we met up with Elizabeth, Janet (who completed her first 50K today - congrats!), and a few others.

We kept each other motivated and pushed through the pain, eventually reaching the Boston Store for the last time before the finish. I was very happy that the only section I had to walk a decent amount on today was the last 5 mile Brandywine loop. In a lot of cases the "ultra shuffle" starts a lot sooner and makes for a long day. However, I think a combination of rest leading up today's race and a good solid mileage base helped me succeed. During the run I thought to myself... geez, I've run a marathon or more each month since last September. In Sept. I ran the YUT-C 50K, October I ran the Columbus Marathon, November I did the Slim Pickins FA 70 Miler, December was a 50K in Mill Creek, and this month I did the Summer BT50K course 2 weeks prior to today's race. No wonder I am starting to see results. I guess to run well it helps to run huh?

On the last Brandywine loop I ran into Brian from Twinsburg, who I originally met on a trail run with my friend Derek. This was the first time I'd seen him for months so we had some catching up to do, but we were so tired at this point that our conversation was mostly whining. As I got closer to the Stanford Hostel I could feel myself really picking up the pace now, probably moving at an 8:00 pace or faster. I could smell the finish line from here. On this final stretch of the Towpath I passed by Mike and Maria who were both looking good. I then put on a nice finishing kick at the end and stopped my watch in 6 hours, 10 minutes, and 23 seconds, giving me 49th place out of 86 finishers. My best time so far on the Summer BT50K course is 5:41 so I was pretty pumped about my time today with the snow and everything.

Once I got changed into some warmer clothes I went inside the M.D. Garage where others had gathered and enjoyed some delicious veggie soup that Tanya had made. I also picked up my race packet which is distributed after you finish, unlike most races. The race shirt was a very nice Brooks stylish knit hunter green warm up jacket with a full front zip and 2 front pockets that zip. This top would probably retail for at least $50 in a store which made the entry fee well worth it! A bunch of us then headed over to the Winking Lizard to share our stories and enjoy some carbs, both in solid and liquid format. I also made sure to signup for the 2008 World Tour of Beers. Overall, what a great day... life doesn't get much better than this!

Other N.E. Ohio Trail Club finishes
David Peterman (3rd overall) - 4:47:24
Jim Harris (6th overall) - 4:57:58
Ron Ross (7th overall) - 5:01:04
Lloyd Thomas (11th overall) - 5:10:37
Michael Kazar (64th overall) - 6:45:01
Michael Keller (70th overall) - 6:53:51
Bruce McMurray (72nd overall) - 7:00:12

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I took this photo of the sunset while driving home from work tonight. It doesn't capture exactly what I saw, but basically there was a long streak of light rising straight up from the sun. It was pretty cool, especially since we usually have gray skies everyday during this time of year.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kendall Lake to Rt. 303

This weekend was forecasted to be a very cold one. Today the high temperature was only going to be around 20 and tomorrow it was only going up to around 10. So, my brother and I figured we'd pick the lesser of the two evils and get our run in today. We wanted to start our run from somewhere where we don't usually begin, so we headed over to Kendall Lake in the Cuyahoga Valley and began our run at 1pm.

When we started running we weren't really sure where we wanted to run to or how far we wanted to go, but a lot of times that is the best part of our sport... not knowing what exactly may happen but always knowing that it will be a great time! As soon as we left the Kendall Lake parking lot and crossed over Truxell Rd./Kendall Park Rd. to head onto the trail Jeff stopped abruptly and pointed out a deer that was pretty close to us on the hill. This was the exact same spot where I had a very close encounter with Bambi on a run last August with my friend Derek - Click Here to read about it.

So... at this point we decided to head off trail to see how close we could get to the deer. This one was a lot smarter than the one I saw last year though and it took off in a hurry. Once Jeff and I got to the top of the hill we looked over to our left and spotted another 3 or 4 deer running through the woods. This was when my brother decided to label this "The Deer Run". His blog post can be read here.

From this point on we decided to see just how many deer we could spot as we ran along Camp Manatoc's trail system. The last time we ran these trails was with Jim Harris and his son Heath on New Year's Eve - Click Here to read about it. That was a very fun run, being able to explore new trails that we hadn't been on before, and we were looking forward to exploring a little bit more today. I think for the most part these trails are marked with little colored markers on the trees. The ones we ran on today were the yellow, red, and orange sections. To view a complete map of this area - click here.

These trails take you through some nice valleys with beautiful views from the top when the leaves are down. Check out the slideshow at the bottom of this post for more pictures. We weren't really sure where the trails that we were on today were going to take us, but we were having such a good time that we figured eventually we'd run into a major road or landmark and we could find our way back. It wasn't long before we reached Lake Okchanya which is near Rt. 303 and the main entrance to the Boy Scout camp. After we left the camp we paid homage to Chief Wahoo and then decided to run a short section of Rt. 303 until we reached the Happy Days Visitor Center.

Once at the visitor center we then followed the trail up to the ledges and then took the trail over to the overlook before making our way back to our car at Kendall Lake. We really ran the last mile or so pretty hard since it is primarily downhill once you reach the top of the ledges. I will never complain about a downhill finish! Back at the car we hurried to put on some warm clothes and then headed over to Tequilla Pancho's next to Rt. 303 and Rt. 8 for some mexican food. It's a great restaurant to check out if you're ever in the area. Today's mileage - 6

Monday, January 14, 2008

Powerthirst 2 : Re-Domination

If you thought the first commercial for "Powerthirst" was funny wait until you watch the sequel:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happy Days to Kendall Hills

Today was a great day for a run! The temperature was around 40 and there was actually a lot of sunshine for once. Usually I like to get my runs done in the morning but I was glad that I waited until noon today because the clouds continued to decrease as the day went on. Before I started my run I noticed that the park had put up a new sign next to the steps leading down to the tunnel that goes under Rt. 303. I'm not really sure if a sign of this size is necessary to tell people what seems to be common sense information but oh well...

My plan today was to run from Happy Days to Kendall Hills with a few possible variations from my normal route depending on where I felt like going. I headed up to the ledges area and made a left. I took the following photos as I passed through this section. It was really beautiful on the trail today with the sun shining brightly through the trees. A nice change from our usual gray winter skies. I thought.. man, I'm glad to be a trail runner and be able to experience the outdoors on these kind of days. There are a lot of people who don't know what they're missing out on.

Through this section I looked to the right and saw a tree that had fallen across a large open corridor and landed on the rock formation on the other side. It made me think of Corey (one of my running buddies) and his uncanny ability to walk across long narrow trees during some of our night runs. What do you think about this one Corey? Looks like a challenge to me....

I felt great on my run today. I don't know if it was because my muscles were rested or because it was a nice day to run or a combination of both... but I was running a lot of big hills today that I would normally walk up. It was probably because I hadn't run since Monday when I did 5 miles with Bob. I figured that the rest was good though since I had just done another 50K last weekend with my brother.

Once I reached the road next to the large open field I made a right (instead of heading straight to the overlook) and headed up the road, past the parking lot, and to the trail which leads to the Ledges Overlook which runs alongside of a steep dropoff . I love running the entire length of this narrow trail because you are right next to a cliff on your right side and you can take in some very nice views in the distance...

Me at the Ledges Overlook

Once I got to the Kendall Hills area I decided to run these hills without stopping on my way to the water fountain and on my return trip back. Here are 3 photos I took en route to the top of my favorite hill in this section...

It doesn't look that bad...

OK, this is pretty steep...

Man, this sucks!

Once you reach the top of this hill you are rewarded with this great 360 degree view...

It was now primarily downhill heading back to Happy Days. I decided to take the lower portion of the ledges trail on my way back and enjoyed leaping over all of the scattered rocks and boulders. It's sometimes hard to pay attention to your footwork through this section when you are admiring all of the awesome rock cliffs on your right side...

I finished the run in approx. 7 miles and was pretty happy with my effort today. This is definitely one of my favorite running routes! On my way home I spotted what appeared to be a new Ferrari driving through Hudson. Very sharp car...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nalgene Radius 2.0L Hydration Pack

About a week or so ago my friend Jim sent me an email to inform me of a hydration pack that Bike Nashbar had on sale - the Nalgene Radius 2.0L Hydration Pack - which was on sale for $19.99, a 66% savings off of its original $59.99 retail price. Since I recently purchased a Camelbak M.U.L.E. for my longer runs and have enjoyed it, I thought this pack would be good for my shorter runs. So, I decided to buy it tonight figuring you can't pass up a deal like this. It looks like a slimmed down version of my Camelbak but still seems like it has the capability to hold a decent amount of stuff. The water bladder also holds 2 liters, which is only 1 liter short of the Camelbak M.U.L.E., so it should keep me going for awhile. I can't wait to get it delivered in the mail so I can try it out on the trail!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Art Moore's FA 50K

This was the scene for much of the Buckeye Trail today. Muddy, snowy, and frozen ruts! It didn't make things easy for my brother Jeff and I who were setting out to complete 31 miles (50K) on the summer BT course.

Today was the date selected for the annual Art Moore FA 50K+ (a fun run that concludes with a great post-race meal at "Mohican Colleen's" place in North Olmstead. Most runners usually start in the Rocky River reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks and run either trails, multi-purpose path, or a mix of both. However, your starting time, distance, location, and course is very flexible and you are only required to keep track of your finishing time. Last year my brother and I ran with Bob (who was running a FA in Pennsylvania today) throughout various sections of the Cuyahoga Valley. This year Jeff and I decided to start at the Pine Lane parking lot next to Rt. 303 and head north towards Brecksville, which is basically the summer BT course in reverse. However, first things first. On our way we stopped at McDonald's and I ordered a sausage McMuffin with egg and a hashbrown and my brother got a sausage McMuffin and a sausage, egg & cheese McGriddle. This is always an easy way to start off the run with 500+ calories in your body!

We then arrived at the Pine Lane parking lot a little after 8:00 and finished getting our gear ready. Today would be my first chance to try out my new Camelbak M.U.L.E. pack which I bought recently. Even though I would be carrying a little extra weight on the run I figured it was a good idea to bring it since we didn't have any aid placed out on the course. The backpack holds a 100 oz. water bladder and I started the run with it mostly full. In my pack I also included some Clif Shot Bloks, Pure Fuel energy bars, a Snickers bar, and some Reese's Cups.

As we were just about to begin our run a couple runners (guy and girl) were heading towards us on the trail to turnaround at Pine Lane and head back to the Boston Store. We talked with them for a second and then they told us to go on ahead of them because we were "fresh". I told them "You guys are the ones fresh.. we're not warmed up yet!" But we agreed and went on ahead. Not by much though, as they soon began to catch up with us. So, from that point on they stayed just behind us and we had a nice conversation on our way to the Boston Store. Along the way we noticed that despite the sloppy/frozen trail conditions, there were a lot of runners on the Buckeye Trail today. Some that I recognized were Maria, Elizabeth, Janet, and a few others. Maybe everyone figured they better get on the trail today since it will be even muddier after the temperature warms up to 60 on Monday & Tuesday.

A picture that this guy took of Jeff and I running through the pines - the quality of some of these pictures are low since I had a disposable camera

Heading towards the Ohio Turnpike and the Boston Store

When we arrived at the Boston Store, I noticed a somewhat large group of runners gathering, including Roy Heger and Tanya Cady. We talked to them for a bit and then Jeff and I were back on the Buckeye Trail without any further stopping at the Boston Store. Later on down the trail though Jeff was very glad that I brought a stash of toilet paper with me (to wipe his nose of course!) Around the area of Blue Hen Falls and beyond the trail starts getting tougher with steeper climbs... and we could definitely tell as we began sliding up and down the hills more frequently. It started to feel like we had to make 2 steps for every 1 in order to make ground.

We maintained a decent pace though to Snowville Rd. and then stopped there to eat/drink some. Past Snowville Rd. we then ran through the section of open fields which I always dislike because it's like a swamp. Surprisingly there weren't really any major falls today but there was a section of single-track trail past the open fields where my brother stepped to the right a little too much and had his leg completly slide to the right, making him collapse to the ground. It was a graceful fall though and we both laughed for awhile.

We then navigated the section of the Buckeye Trail between Snowville Rd. and Parkview Dr. This area is not traveled a whole lot and therefore the snow was not packed down as much as it was before. Jeff and I were really starting to feel tired at this point and we began to think whether or not we should go all the way to Brecksville. At about 12 miles or so into our run we then decided to turn around and head back to Pine Lane. We figured if we felt good enough when we got back to the Boston Store then we could hop on the Towpath and do the extra 7 miles that we would need in order to complete the 50K distance before arriving back at our car. Unfortunately as we got closer and closer to the Boston Store we both had no desire on doing our additional 7 miles on the Towpath. The snow and ice had made our legs feel like someone had hit them with a hammer. The "ultra shuffle" was definitely in effect now. We would run for awhile until we felt exhausted and then slow down to a fast walk. We tried to run more frequently though the further along we went so that we could be done faster.

The closer we got to Pine Lane the more and more the rain was starting to pick up in intensity. It was starting to feel pretty cold out now, especially since we were somewhat dehydrated. Once we reached our car with 24 miles complete we now had a difficult question to answer. Do we call it a day or do we continue on? We mauled over this question for some time as we loaded up on food/water and then we were finally able to convince ourselves to push on. Our plan was to just run the road on Rt. 303 heading east for 3.5 miles and then turnaround and head back. Once we reached the intersection by Rt. 8 though we were only at 2.5 miles. So, we decided to head back to the car once again to fuel up and then complete the final 2 miles needed for our 50K distance. These miles sucked bad but we were able to run a few of them in under 10 minutes even with a decent amount of walking.

As we reached our car for the final time we were both very happy that we decided to complete the run rather than take the easy way out. This goes down as my 14th ultra and my brother's 2nd 50K in back-to-back months. Great job Jeff! To read his report - Click Here

I'm also very happy that I have been able to put together a good string of distance running lately with a 70 miler in Nov., 50K in Dec., and this 50K in January. Plus I only have about 3 weeks now until the official Winter Buckeye 50K, which takes place on Jan. 26th. Hopefully we will get another freeze before then or else the trail may be even worse than it was today.

After getting a shower at my place Jeff and I then headed over to Colleen's house for an evening of camaraderie, food, relaxation, and ultra talk. It's always fun to hear everyone's stories, especially Art Moore's and Leo Lightner's, who are both around 80 years old with lots of ultra experience. Here's a photo that was taken shortly after we arrived...

From left to right - Chuck Shick, Leo Lightner, Chris Shick, Rita Barnes & Dan Fox are behind Jeff Musick, Art Moore behind Brian Musick, Judy Nejman behind Colleen Theusch, Debbie Lemmer, and Eleanor Royko

*NOTE - A few people were not shown in this picture or had left before the picture was taken

Some background info given to me by Colleen of the people listed above:

Chuck & Chris Shick have been Mohican volunteers for a over a decade - the last few years they have captained the Bridle Staging Area aid station. Rita Barnes has the most Mohican 100 finishes for a female (6). Rita & Dan both did 50 miles at the FA. Judy Nejman is an EMT who has volunteered at Mohican several years. Debbie Lemmer ran part of the FA50, also volunteers at Mohican - usually in food service at some time. Eleanor Royko - finished the FA50K last year. She volunteers at Mohican often - as Fire Tower aid station captain the last few years.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I've got my ticket!

I purchased my ticket online tonight for the January 24th showing of "The Spirit of the Marathon". I'm not sure how quick this movie will sell out but I didn't want to take any chances since it's only being shown on one date and 7:30 PM nationwide. I will be seeing it at the Cinemark Tinseltown theatre in Boardman, OH if anyone wants to join me. To view a list of participating theatres in your area - Click Here or visit for the official movie website.

As a side note, Olympic medalist Deena Kastor (one of the main athletes featured in the movie), Dick Beardsley, and Kathrine Switzer will all be upcoming live chat guest speakers on my website. Click Here for more information.