Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pine Lane to Boston Store

Tonight my brother and I met at Pine Lane and ran the Buckeye Trail towards the Boston Store. On our way there we ran into Trevor and Jamie Carr who were running from the Boston Store to Pine Lane and back. We turned around and ran with them. This was Jamie's first night trail run and he was enjoying it. Once we got to the Boston Store Jeff and I headed back to Pine Lane via the Towpath to finish with 8 miles.

Jamie (left) and Trevor

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First Snow

This is what I saw when I looked out my window this morning. Yuck! We probably got a little over an inch in Streetsboro. At least it's supposed to warm up into the 60's later on this week so I guess I can deal with it for now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

West Branch BT Night Run

After work I drove to West Branch State Park and met up with Bob, Jim, and my brother Jeff for a night run on the Buckeye Trail. This was a new section of the BT that I hadn't been on yet and I enjoyed it very much. Tonight was our first NEO Trail night run for the fall/winter season with temperatures in the mid 30's, a strong wind, and some light rain/sleet/snow mixed in. It usually isn't quite this cold in late October, but thankfully we're supposed to get another warmup starting on Thursday.

Tonight we ran for about an hour and a half and included some stream crossings and off-piste running. In the picture below you'll see Jim wading through water almost up to his knees. It was very cold at first but your body gets used to it eventually. Above the 2 tunnels you'll see the railroad tracks that we eventually ran on. We had a lot of fun playing around in this area and walked through sections of mud that were like quicksand, making our feet sink completely under.

Once we got back to our cars Bill Losey (another NEO Trail Club member) was waiting for us and we hung around and chatted for awhile. Once again, it was another fun night in the woods and I'm already looking forward to our next adventure!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tree Farm Trail

Tonight my brother and I were looking for a new place to run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. After checking out the map above, we decided to park next to the Horseshoe Pond (southwest of Peninsula) and run the tree farm loop a couple times in opposite directions to finish with 5.5 miles. This trail is pretty nice and is overall pretty flat and wide.

As we were pulling into the parking lot I stopped to ask this guy who had just got done fishing if we were allowed to park here after dark. He said yes but cautioned us on running in the dark. He said that there have been reports of a large cat (mountain lion) in the area and that it was on the news. At first I thought he was just joking around but he continued to talk very seriously about this and mentioned that his wife teaches nearby at Woodridge high school. Well, Jeff and I didn't decide to cancel our run but it did make us pay a little more attention to all the sounds we heard in the woods. Once I got home I looked online and found these 2 recent articles

Overall it was a good run. My legs felt great following last Saturday's 60 miles and best of all, we didn't run into this guy...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Presque Isle Endurance Classic

The sun rising over the Water Works ponds

Yesterday was the 29th running of the Presque Isle Endurance Classic, which takes place in Presque Isle State Park (Erie, PA). This was my first time participating in this event which is chip timed and only $5 to enter, with the option of a $15 commemorative long sleeved t-shirt.

According to the event website, the primary purpose of this run is to promote cardiovascular fitness in a safe, relaxed and friendly environment. Many individuals will run/walk a distance beyond that they have previously achieved or set a personal goal that is meaningful to them. It is a personal thing and not a competition with other participants. There are no trophies or prize money to be handed out but there is an option to purchase a commemorative plaque that is personalized with your name and accomplishment (miles).

This event was started 28 years ago by some of the founding fathers of the Erie Runners Club to test the endurance of some of the local runners. It still stands today as a personal test of ones endurance, whether it be running or walking or any combination thereof because of the tireless efforts of Rick Ferko and his long time volunteers. Rick’s battle with cancer ended shortly after the 2006 Endurance Run and his family and friends wished to have a lasting memorial that would exemplify his life. Since social work and helping others was such an integral part of Rick’s life, the Rick Ferko Spirit of Social Work Scholarship was established to give an annual monetary award to a social work student who exemplifies Rick’s dedication and enthusiasm. On the run application there is a section to contribute to the scholarship, since it is funded solely on individual contributions.

I've been very excited in the weeks leading up to this run. Not only because it's a new local event for me to try out, but also because it lets me re-visit the town of my alma mater, Penn State Behrend, and hang out with an old college friend who agreed to let me crash at his house the night before and after the run. On Friday I drove to his place in Erie after work. By the time I arrived it was going on 7:00 so we headed over to the Olive Garden for some pasta and then came back to his place with enough time for me to organize my stuff for the morning.

Before I knew it my alarm was going off at 5:30 am and I was on the road around 6:00. Luckily my friend only lives about 10 minutes from the start/finish line which is located at the Rotary Pavilion (about 3 miles into Presque Isle on the lake side). I arrived at the pavilion around 6:15 with enough time to pickup my chip & t-shirt and chat with Kurt Osadchuk for a few minutes. After final preparations at my car I walked over to the start line and talked to Bob and Suzanne Pokorny before listening to some last minute race instructions. Everyone was anxious to get moving since the starting temperature was around 45 degrees. I started off wearing shorts and a long sleeved tech shirt over top of a sleeveless tech tee, then switched to just my sleeveless tee, before puting on a short sleeved tech shirt over top of my sleeveless one when the wind started to pick up. At 6:30 everyone was off and running. It stayed dark until about 7:30 so I ran with Tom Jennings and Kurt O. who both had handheld lights.

Kurt and I early in the run

The course, which begins in front of the Rotary Pavilion, is a one mile rectangular shaped loop with the length about 3 times longer than the width. There are scenic views of Lake Erie on both sides of the loop and a lagoon in the middle. From the pavilion you run counter-clockwise on the road to the first left turn unless you decide to take a dirt/gravel path that meets up with this turn. After turning left you then have a long straightaway on the road, but you can choose to run on the grass if you'd like. Then, before you make your 2nd left hand turn there is a very slight gradual uphill which seemed to get steeper as the run went on. After turning left you can then choose to run on the road until turning left to the start/finish area or you can hop onto an actual trail (a new option for this year) which meets up with the road leading to the start/finish area.

Sunrise over Lake Erie on the opposite side of the start/finish area
(downtown Erie can be seen on the other side of the water)

Leading up to this run I was trying to determine a goal mileage for myself that I could put on my race application, but wasn't quite sure what was reasonable to shoot for since this is a different kind of race than I am normally used to. After talking it over with some of my running friends I decided to shoot for 60 miles. This would require me to do an average of 12 minutes per mile. I didn't make up a split sheet or anything though. Instead I planned to just run by how I felt and every once in awhile glance down at my watch to make sure that I was still on target.
For the first 26 miles I only had 3 miles that took longer than 12 minutes so I knew I already had some time in the bank. And I was feeling pretty good so far. I remember thinking how fast the time seemed to be going. It wasn't until near the midway point that I started doing each mile a little slower. I started feeling slightly nauseous, much like when I have a salt/water imbalance during summer ultras. I figured that I was probably feeling this way because it was lunchtime and I needed to refuel myself with more solid foods, rather than just Shot Bloks, Gatorade, etc. I was right. After trying to eat half of a turkey sub along with some other items I was beginning to gain my energy back. Note to self - During this run I learned that I also like to eat Chips Ahoy, Sun Chips, and Oreo cookies. It was also around this time that I finally broke down and listened to my iPod to keep me motivated. I was trying to put this off as long as I could but figured that halfway was a good time to start listening to music.
One more change I made around this time was my shoes. I started off wearing my Nike Pegasus road shoes (can't remember the last time I wore these) and eventually put on my Montrail Continental Divides for the extra ankle support they provide, since my right foot was beginning to get sore around my ankle and just overall in general. After a mile or so of wearing my trail shoes the soreness went away and I was back into the zone, clipping off the miles again.
As the run went on everyone else was beginning to tire as well, so it became a little easier to talk with the other participants. That's one feature I really like about this event... being able to see everyone else on the course and help motivate each other. Here's a couple photos of just a few people I spent time with on the course...

"Erie Tom" Jennings

I also have to mention a couple other runners who amazed me by their efforts. 69 yr. old Richard Sitter, who completed a total of 51 miles (only 6 spots behind me), and 84 yr. old Fran Albaugh, who finished 37 miles. During my last 10-15 miles I was able to have a nice conversation with Richard who had a lot of good advice. He said that during his younger days he would do 70+ miles at this event and it was evident by the way he can still run today.

Surprisingly some of my best miles came between mile 45 and 50. I'm not sure what happened but at times I was running at an 8:30 pace or faster even though my final average pace for these miles does not entirely show this. Maybe I can accredit this to the pacifier that my friend Jim gave me before the run. You can read the story behind the pacifier by reading my previous post. Anyways, I wore it on my right index finger for the entire 2nd half of the run to keep me from whining like a baby. It ended up turning into quite a conversation piece at the start/finish area each time I passed through. One lady said, "Did you lose your blanky?" That made me laugh pretty hard. So, the lesson here is to make sure that you keep that mind over matter attitude during endurance events. If you don't mind then it doesn't matter!

Once I reached mile 50 I decided to focus on just getting the next 5 miles done and then I'd have the final 5 mile countdown to my goal. Sometime before this the volunteers switched the race clock to show a countdown rather than how much time had passed. At first I didn't really like this but then realized it was necessary to help everyone figure out how many miles you could fit in with the time remaining. With 5 miles to go I only needed to keep like a 13 or 14 minute/mile pace to finish with 60 miles, but at this point I was walking each mile completely. Thankfully I'm a pretty good power walker and had Suzanne P. and this other guy with me to share in the suffering. The running I did during mile 59 gave me an 11:22 mile and left me with plenty of leeway at the end, but not enough time for what I thought I needed in order to finish another mile before time ran out. After 12 hours of going around in loops, I was very happy to finish my 60 mile goal in 11:49:06. You can view my splits by clicking here or check out the complete results by clicking here.

Finally, I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to Mike, Dave, the timing guy, and all the other volunteers who gave up 12 hours of their day to help make this run a success! It's events like these that make our sport so much fun! I'm already looking forward to next year's event.

Me holding up the N.E. Ohio Trail Club pacifier at the finish

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ready To Run

Mmmm....... ultra food.......

Tonight I finished packing my stuff for my drive up to Erie, PA tomorrow. I'll be staying with a friend of mine from college (also named Brian) and then running the Presque Isle Endurance Classic on Saturday. This run is organized by the Erie Runners Club and starts from the Rotary Pavillion in Presque Isle State Park at 6:30am. The course is a 1 mile, mostly paved loop around the Water Works ponds and the object is to see how many loops you can complete in a 12 hour period. Sounds like fun huh? Well, we'll see about that. You can learn more about this run by clicking here to view the entry form.

My main reasons for trying out this event are: #1- It's something different and a good personal challenge, #2- The entry fee is cheap ($5) and you get chip timing, #3- It's for a charitable cause, and #4- I get to visit my old college stomping grounds. The only downside of this run is that it's not on trails. The weather is shaping up to be nice though - sunny and 55. However, it could feel colder next to the lake, especially if it's windy.

Another neat thing about this run is I'll get to enjoy my own personal aid station when I pass my car after each mile. You can see some of the items I've already thrown together in the picture above, which include Clif Shot Bloks, Hammer Gel, peanut butter crackers, M&M's, Pringles, salt tablets, Advil, and skin lubricant. I'm also planning on bringing some water, Gatorade, and sandwiches.

My secret weapon though will be a pacifier given to me a few weeks ago by my friend Jim Harris. Bob found it while on a trail run with Jim and he gave it to him to carry during the Grindstone 100. If for whatever reason Jim started to whine or complain during the race he was supposed to take it out and suck on it like a baby. According to Jim the pacifier never saw the light of day. So now, it will be my duty on Saturday to carry the torch and continue racking up more "pacifier miles" for the N.E. Ohio Trail Club.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Boston Store to Pine Lane

I was pretty tired this afternoon but decided to look on Vertical Runner's message board to see if anyone had any group runs planned for this evening. Luckily I found just what I was looking for. Trevor from Brunswick Hills was planning on running from the Boston Store to Pine Lane and back (8 miles) around 5:30pm. So I hurried and got my stuff together and drove over there. I thought to myself... Even though I probably don't need many miles before my long run on Saturday, it may be a good idea to loosen up the legs and get in an easy run while the weather is still nice. The high for today was close to 80 under sunny skies. Luckily Trevor was in recovery mode so we both had the same pace in mind for our run. We made it to Pine Lane in 45 minutes and made it back to the Boston Store in an hour and 30 minutes. We both turned our ankles a few times as a result of leaves on the trail and diminishing sunlight, but we were able to walk it off without any problem. Once again the scenery was beautiful today with the leaves turning many different bright shades of yellow, orange, etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Day in the Valley

Getting close to Hale Farm
Tami and I drove over to Peninsula to check out Szalay's Farm Market. This was our first visit here and it was neat to see all the unique food/fruit items they had for sale. There were a ton of people here today since it's getting closer to Halloween. Plus it was sunny and 80 degrees. Very rare for this time of year. We bought a few pumpkins, gords, and some apple cider before leaving. Then we went over and walked on the Towpath, which is located right behind the farm market. We headed south to Indigo Lake and Hale Farm before turning around. The leaves on the trees were really nice today with the sun shining on them. I also enjoyed seeing the area around Hale Farm, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Everything was built back in the 1800's and it really makes you feel like you've stepped back in time. Sometime I'll have to purchase admission to see everything on their grounds. Here are a few more pictures I took next to Indigo Lake and Hale Farm.

This sign reads "Jonathan Hale Homestead: Land purchased in 1810. Present house built about 1825 and maintained by the Western Reserve Historical Society as a museum in memory of the Western Reserve pioneers."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Days Trail Run

From left to right: Nick, Jeff, Courtney, Brandon, Me

This morning my brother and I headed over to Happy Days to meet a few others for a 7:00 am trail run. Man, this is too early for me. It's nice to see the sun rise though and be able to complete your run before 10 o'clock. We started out on the ledges trail, ran up to the Overlook, then continued over to Kendall Hills. We then hopped onto the Salt Run trail, ran that back to Kendall Lake, up to the ledges trail again, and then made our way back to where we started. This gave me 10.5 miles for the day and increased my weekly mileage up over 40, which hasn't happened for awhile. It was definitely an awesome morning for a run. Nice cool air, sunshine through the trees, a great group of people, and the changing leaves. It doesn't get much better than this.

Fog rising over Kendall Lake

Surprising Courtney on the Ledges Trail

Jeff ran the last mile a little too fast I think

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Myrddin Winery

This evening my family and I headed over to Myrddin Winery which is located in Berlin Center and overlooks Lake Milton. This was my first time here and I really enjoyed the scenery and their wine. We sat underneath a nice canopy seating area that they have (shown in the picture above). Temperatures were around 70 today with sunny skies and low humidity. More leaves are also beginning to change so it shouldn't be much longer until everything looks really nice. This coming weekend is supposed to be in the mid 70s though with temps topping out at 80 degrees on Monday before things cool down again. Here are a couple more photos I took at the winery...

Wine can be purchased inside the room with the large glass doors

More outside seating with an under construction tasting room in the background

The sun sets over Lake Milton

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Running with Scissors Training Run

I woke up this morning and drove over to Kendall Lake to meet some people at 8am for a 26 mile trail run. Roy Heger (2nd from left in photo) organized this training run, which was intended to familarize everyone with the course of his "Running with Scissors" run which will take place on Sunday, Oct. 26th and will include a double marathon & 60K option. Click here for more details.

When I arrived at Kendall Lake I noticed there weren't any cars in the parking lot. I thought this was strange since the details for today's run said to meet at the Kendall Shelter, which is located next to Kendall Lake. So, I decided to drive back up Truxell Rd. and check out the Octogon Shelter and the Ledges Shelter. As I pulled into the parking lot near the Ledges Shelter I noticed runners getting ready so I knew I was now in the right place. After everyone introduced themselves and chatted for awhile, we were off and running.

The temperature this morning was very unseasonal in the upper 30's. I wore a light long sleeved top which proved to be warm enough in the early morning but light enough to not get too hot later in the day. The run starts off heading down Truxell Rd. to Kendall Lake. At the entrance to Kendall Lake you turn left and run the trail all the way around the lake to some trails that continue over to the Kendall Hills area.

Heading to Kendall Hills (notice the frost)

Hills are fun!

Is Kathleen laughing at Roy getting tired?

Once you reach the top of the "Sound of Music" hill, you then turn left and head through "Little Meadow". At this point it was beginning to turn into a really nice fall day with the sunshine providing beautiful rays of light. Everyone agreed that it doesn't get much better than this.

After crossing Quick Rd. we hopped onto some bridal trails that I haven't run on much. These trails then led us over to the dreaded Towpath where we did about 4-5 miles. Even though it's better than roads, I don't enjoy running on this hard, flat surface much. This is a nice section of the Towpath however, with some scenic views.

Lots of turtles as we neared the Boston Store (I counted at least 10)

After stopping at the Boston Store we then got onto the Buckeye Trail and ran it to Pine Lane. From Pine Lane we only had another 6 miles to our cars. We ran some trails that went past the Brandywine Golf Course, over to Kendall Lake, and then back to the ledges area.

Kendall Lake

Just before we reached our cars we passed a group of people with a cat walking next to them. Tanya asked if it belonged to them and they said no. I guess someone must have dumped it off in the woods. So she picked up the cat (now known as "Scissors") and carried it with her to take home. When we got back to our cars Scissors decided to run underneath Tanya's car, jump up into the engine, and get stuck. That was pretty funny. Luckily Mark saved the day and rescued it before an auto mechanic was needed.

Overall, it was a great fall day spent with a great group of people. I was happy to complete the entire loop and increase my mileage base, but I'm not sure how another 26 mile loop would've felt. Roy's race (which has a 12 hour cutoff) at the end of the month should be a pretty tough challenge for those participating... but a lot of fun!