Friday, July 25, 2008

iPod Classic

To help stimulate the economy I went over to Best Buy tonight with some birthday and tax rebate money and purchased an 80GB Apple iPod Classic. After using one for the first time at the end of the Laurel Highlands 70 Miler I realized that this could definitely be a helpful device at the end of a long ultra marathon. Plus, now I'll have the ability to store up to an amazing 20,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 100 hours of video... all in the palm of my hand. I was also impressed with how bright and crisp the picture quality and colors were. It's hard to believe how fast technology has advanced in the past 10-15 years. I also purchased a Griffin Sport Armband that is made specifically for the iPod Classic so that I can take my tunes on a run.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Buckeye Trail 50K

Post-race recovery at the Winking Lizard with other BT50K finishers

I woke up around 5am this morning, got my stuff ready, and then headed over to the Oak Grove Picnic Pavillion, which is the start/finish for the Buckeye Trail 50K. This was the 15th running of this race which has continued to grow each year since its creation. This year there were a record number 185 starters. There were already a decent amount of people parked at Oak Grove when I arrived a little after 6, but not as many early birds as last year. This race is sort of like one big N.E. Ohio trail running party and is always a lot of fun each year since most runners know each other.

Jim Chaney, Me, Jerry Brandt, & Dave Peterman

I pulled in next to my buddy Bruce McMurray who was getting ready outside of his van and talked to him for awhile. This guy named Mark, who I ran the last part of YUT-C with last year, was also parked next to me. Meanwhile, more and more runners continued to arrive, including my pacer from last month's Laurel Highlands 70 Miler, Joe Novicky. He asked me if I had seen Slim (aka Jim Harris) yet and I said no. Jim is another one of our trail friends who began running by himself around 10:30 last night with the plan of running to the start of the BT50K and then finishing the race with everyone to complete a "double Buckeye" - 100K (62 miles). With today's predicted heat, I was very curious to see how his attempt would pan out.

It's been hot and dry all week, making the Buckeye Trail bone dry and the river crossings low. Today's high temp was supposed to be around 85, with a starting temperature around 70. Knowing this, I made sure to wear my Nalgene Radius hydration pack so that I would have ample water whenever I needed it. My plan for the day was to try to beat my summer BT50K PR of 5 hours, 41 minutes, but still be realistic if the heat and humidity got to me during the day. I told my friend Greg Murray yesterday that we'd try to run together since he wanted to finish around the same time as me.

Once I had all my gear ready and my bandana on I headed over to the start line and waited with everyone while Vince (owner of Vertical Runner) gave final race instructions. I saw Jim arrive just before the start and wished him luck in his 100K attempt. Soon we were off and I told Greg that we should run fast to the trailhead so that we don't get stuck in the bottleneck that occurs when 185 runners try to squeeze onto one single track trail. We did get off to a quick start but we ran the first few miles a lot faster than I wanted to. However, I figured the day would only get hotter and we might as well get through some early miles quick to avoid being in the heat longer than we needed to be. I talked to Mike George and Nick Billock along the way, and soon I settled myself into a more reasonable pace. Greg continued to push the pace though and it wasn't long before I realized that I might have to let him go ahead of me.

My plan was to reach the turnaround point (Pine Lane) in about 2 hours and 54 minutes which would put me on pace for a 5:44 finish (3 minutes slower than my PR). I was able to do this and arrived almost right on 2:54. I was happy about this, but my stomach was beginning to get quesy from the heat and my legs/body were beginning to feel the fast pace that I maintained for the first half of the race. At Pine Lane I took about 3 or 4 salt pills and tried to eat some food for energy but just wasn't in the mood too much for solids. My main energy source for today was Clif Shot Bloks which I use at just about every ultra. They're really good in the summer since they almost melt in your mouth and you can eat a bunch of them without feeling like you're going to puke. I have to say that the aid stations were very well manned this year and there were a lot of knowledgable people helping you out with what you needed. Thanks again to Vertical Runner for the great tech shirts that they provided this year and to the many volunteers that helped out, including Brian and Lloyd.

Once I left Pine Lane I began to change my goal for the race from getting a new PR to just finishing. I could tell that a lot of other runners were beginning to struggle though too so I knew that if I just kept pushing on I would finish with a respectable time and place. After leaving Pine Lane there is a big downhill about 3/4ths of a mile down the trail. This is where I saw Jim as he was heading uphill towards the aid station. I was really surprised to see that he was almost at the turnaround point already even with more than 31 miles already completed. This gave me some extra motivation to continue running as much as I could to stay ahead of him. This lasted until I got close to Columbia Rd. where eventually Jim passed me. He looked pretty strong at this point and I told him to make sure to save a beer for me at the finish. After Columbia Rd. my only thought was to get to the Snowville Rd. aid station so that I could dump cold water over my head and body to cool down my core temperature. I was beginning to feel pretty hot and it felt like the world was closing in on me. I knew that I had to keep drinking water and re-fueling to stay out of danger.

At the Snowville Rd. aid station I drank a little bit of Coke to try to settle my stomach some and it seemed to help. While I was there I saw another one of my friends, Valerie Watson from Cortland, who was running her first ultra marathon today. She seemed like she was running a smart race and she pulled slightly ahead of me. She would eventually finish with a time of 6:30. From this point on I exchanged places with a lot of runners and carried on many different conversations. We all tried to help motivate each other and keep a positive vibe as the miles seemed to get longer and longer in the heat. At least the sky was mostly overcast today or else everyone might of been in even more trouble.

Eventually I ran into this guy, Doug Delahanty, who is a professor at Kent State, and we ran/walked the majority of the last 5-7 miles together. When we first met I could tell that his spirits were down and I told him that we'd work together to get up these last big hills. This gave him a boost, but it was funny, because later on I was the one feeling sorry for myself and he was the one trying to motivate me. That's the beauty of ultra running... the highs and the lows that every runner goes through.

The last few miles of the summer BT50K always seem to drag on and today was no different. We managed to save up enough gas though to put on a good quarter mile sprint to the finish and I was able to finish 77th out of 156 finishers with a time of 6 hours and 38 minutes. Click Here for the final results and splits.

After the race I enjoyed some delicious food that was prepared by chef and local ultra runner, Bill Bailey, who has a catering business called "Playing with Knives and Fire". I decided to go with the Grilled Chicken Wrap (whole wheat wrap stuffed with cilantro-lime rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled chicken) and Barley & Quinoa Salad (barley, quinoa, tomatoes, onion, red peppers, olives, fresh herbs).

Overall it was another great day on the trail and I am happy to say that today marks my 18th ultra marathon without any DNF's. This paired up with my 12 marathons gives me a total of 30 completed races of 26 miles or more each. It doesn't seem that long ago when I was considering running my first ultra marathon. Time sure does fly by... Just not when you want it to!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bongiorno's Ristorante

If you're looking for a great Italian restaurant with a nice atmosphere, check out Bongiorno's Ristorante in Twinsburg. Tami and I ate here for the 2nd time tonight in celebration of our 2 year wedding anniversary. I enjoyed a generous portion of clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari, and Hawaiian fish, served over a plate of fettuccine. We then shared a dish of warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Mmmm... good stuff!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buckeye Trail / Towpath

This evening I drove over to Pine Lane and planned on getting in some solo trail miles since everyone I talked to was already busy with other plans. As I pulled into the parking lot though I was surprised to see Vince, owner of Vertical Runner, standing around and waiting for his girlfriend Holly to join him for a run. Perfect timing... I said I'd come along and we ran the Buckeye Trail all the way down to the pine tree section, made a right on the road and another right back onto some bridal trails. This was a new section of trails for me, with a few nice uphill climbs. The loop eventually brought us back to Pine Lane and from there I headed over to the Towpath where my wife was doing a couple hours of walking. Once I ran into her I turned around and headed back to my car at Pine Lane for a total of 7.2 miles. The weather was gorgeous tonight (80 degrees) and it's supposed to be dry and sunny for the entire work week leading up the Buckeye Trail 50K on Saturday.

The water level of the Cuyahoga River is definitely up

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Next Monday Tami and I will be celebrating our 2 year wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe how fast time goes. Since we got married at the Lodge at Geneva I planned for us to head up there and stay overnight somewhere. As a surprise I booked us a room at the Warner Concord Farms B&B which we haven't stayed at before. It is located in historic Unionville (about 10-15 minutes from the lake) and is situated on 130 acres of vineyards. It turned out to be a really nice place with great hospitality. We will definitely be back here again. Here are a few photos of the place and our room...

After checking in around 2:00 we drove up to Geneva-on-the-Lake and stopped at Eddie's Grill for a bite to eat. Even though the weatherman said there wouldn't be much rain today until after dark, it had been raining off and on almost all day. Tami said that maybe if we were lucky we'd see a rainbow. Sure enough, as we were walking down the strip, out came a big one...
After a footlong hot dog and some fries we then drove over to Chalet Debonne, one of our favorite wineries, for a few drinks. They're just beginning to brew their own beer now too under the name "Cellar Rats Brewing" which is pretty cool. I tried their Rat Tail Ale. After leaving Chalet Debonne we headed back up to the lake to see "The Professors" play at the Lakehouse Inn.

A quick storm moved through and Bill and his partner were forced to move inside to finish playing. We stuck around until they were done and then headed over to the Firehouse Winery to check out their entertainment. Just like the rainbow we saw earlier in the day we were then treated to a beautiful sunset...
Today seemed to get better as it went on. Unfortunately I don't think the same can be said for this kid who had a little bit too much to drink...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Carlos Jones Concert & Towpath Run

Tonight I met my brother at Howe Meadow to enjoy a free reggae concert by Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band. Here are a few videos that I took, including a full length video of their song "Leave a Trail".....

We were planning on running trails after the concert but realized that it would be getting dark soon, so we headed over to the Boston Store and ran to Lock 29 and back on the Towpath for a total of 5 miles. My new shoes felt great. We'll see how they perform over longer distances. Here are a few pictures from our run and a video that I took on the way back to the Boston Store. You won't be able to see anything in the video but listen to all the wildlife sounds (toads, etc.)

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Trail Shoes

This evening I stopped over at Vertical Runner in Hudson to purchase a new pair of trail shoes since my old ones are long overdue. When I walked in I told Vince to give me a pair of Montrail Continental Divides in a size 12 since those have been my bread and butter ever since I got into trail running. He said OK but told me to try on this new pair of trail shoes that he just got from Merrell called the CP Paragon. He told me that I would be the first person in the store to actually try them on. I figured what the heck.. So I laced them up and was surprised to find out that they fit like a glove and were noticeably lighter. The Merrell CP Paragon is 10.5 ounces versus the 13.6 ounce Montrail Continental Divide. A big difference for sure. Now the question I had was - do I want to have a lighter shoe and risk giving up the higher ankle support and protection that the Continental Divides have to offer? Plus, I always go by the slogan - If it's not broke, don't fix it. After tossing around the decision in my head for awhile I finally decided to purchase the Merrell's since I don't have any trail races coming up that are extremely technical. If I had to buy a pair of shoes before my last trail race (which I probably should have) I would've picked the Montrail's for sure since the course is fairly rocky, but my next race is the Buckeye Trail 50K which is a little bit more tame. I guess only time will tell how much I like my new shoes. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out on the trails and test driving them though!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Days to Covered Bridge

From left to right: Me, Rich Wisneski, Courtney Baker, Bill Bailey, Jim Chaney & Nick Billock

After staying up late for the 4th of July I wasn't too sure if I had the energy to get going on today's run, but thankfully I pushed myself out the door and met Courtney at Happy Days around 3:00pm. We then drove over to the Covered Bridge which is about 11 miles away and dropped off my car in case we needed it for aid or to call it quits and head home. The way I was feeling today I knew this was as far as I was going to go.

Upon arriving back at Happy Days, which is mile 70.5 of the Burning River 100, we met up with 4 other runners and then began our run around 3:40pm. The holiday weekend weather continued to be great again today - sunny, low humidity, and about 80 degrees. The plan for most people was to get to the Covered Bridge (mile 85 of the Burning River 100) and then continue on to the finish the BR100 in Cuyahoga Falls, but I decided that 11 miles was enough for me today and was grateful that I made it this far on an empty tank. The surprising thing however was that I felt better as the run went on while some other runners became more tired. I guess I developed a new philosophy today by accident - If you feel horrible at the beginning of a run, it can't get any worse.

Well, here are a few more photos from the day, as well as a video that Jim Chaney took during our run. He has been filming segments of the BR100 and then posting them on YouTube for other runners to familiarize themselves with the course. Nice job on that Jim!

Me heading up a big hill at the Kendall Hills area

Me heading downhill - the fun part!

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July Fireworks @ Blossom

Tami and I purchased tickets today for the 4th of July celebration at Blossom Music Center. The Cleveland Orchestra was set to begin performing at 8pm with fireworks immediately following. Before we arrived at Blossom though we stopped at Sarah's Vineyard which is right across the street. We enjoyed some warm ciabatta bread along with some Sweet Elisa (a not-too-sweet blend of Ohio Concord and Niagara that is fragrant and refreshing) and Brandywine Falls Blueberry wine (a full bodied semi sweet wine handcrafted with fresh picked fruit from Michigan). The weather was perfect today... mostly sunny and a high in the mid 70s... and the next 2 days are supposed to be just as nice.

After leaving the vineyard we arrived at Blossom about an hour before the orchestra began playing. Much to our surprise the place was already packed with people and spots on the lawn were few and far between. Luckily we found a good area that was just behind the walkway and directly in the center of the amphitheatre.
Blossom allows everyone to bring in their own food and drinks for the evening so we brought along a cooler with us. This was a nice change from the usual rip-off concession prices at other concerts and events. The orchestra sounded great and played a bunch of patriotic songs. The only song I would've been fine with them leaving out was "Sleigh Ride", but I guess they were going for the whole Christmas in July thing...

The fireworks display which followed was top notch and went on for quite awhile. Overall we had a great time and will definitely consider doing it again next year. Here are a few more photos and a couple videos that we took...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Boston Run Trail

This evening I met my friend Steve at the Happy Days Visitor Center parking lot for a trail run. He's trying to get back into shape and regain his old form so we started off easy tonight. The plan was to do the Boston Run Trail which is a 3.1 mile loop that starts close to Rt. 303. Click Here to view the trail map.

It was pretty humid tonight but the air was somewhat cool and we both felt pretty good during and after the run. My legs have been doing really well after my 70 miler and I'm excited to find out how much I can build upon that. The main excitement from tonight's run was when I went running full speed across this short wooden bridge and forgot to remind myself that wooden bridges are always very slick when wet. I wiped out and was on my butt in a split second. Luckily when I hit the deck I didn't pull my left arm backwards too much to catch myself and only had it along my side as support. The outside of my left arm was a little sore after the run but nothing as bad as what it could've been.