Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Trail Run of 2008

Kathleen, Mindy, and I

And boy was it a good one! Yesterday Mindy posted a message on Vertical Runner's message board asking if anyone was interested in a run this morning before she drove up to Michigan to see her family. I jumped on this opportunity to get in one last trail run for the year and we decided to meet at Happy Days at 8am. It started snowing sometime after 3am last night and by the time we arrived at Happy Days there was already like 2-3 inches on the ground with winds gusting up to 30 mph.

We began our run on the ledges trail, heading uphill and making the first left. This takes you through some pine trees and rock structures, before heading up to the scenic Overlook. We were the first people on the trail this morning and as a result we were able to enjoy lots of freshies! The snow covered trees were also beautiful through here.

Not much visibility today!

After heading downhill from the Overlook we continued over to the mile and a half Pine Grove trail loop and then went over to the Kendall Lake Sports Center. Around this area Kathleen decided to turn back to get in approx. 7 miles for the day. Mindy and I continued on and immediately went up "The Hill", which is located in the center of the Kendall Hills area, before going up the "Sound of Music" hill en route to the bathrooms located at Pine Hollow. Here are a couple pictures and a video on top of "The Hill" to show how epic the conditions were...

We then went over and ran the Salt Run Trail before heading back to Happy Days via the Kendall Lake path and the lower ledges trail.

No matter how good you feel on your way back to Happy Days, there is always that one big hill you have to go up at the end that really works you. A lot of times I'll walk up this hill, but Mindy and I both agreed that since this would be our last hill to run up during 2008 that we might as well go for it. After a strong surge to the top we finished with a total of 10 miles. I was happy with our effort today in the snow and my legs felt pretty good during and after the run. When we arrived back at our cars we were surprised to see that it was STILL snowing! It definitely came down hard because there was an additional inch or two on the ground from the time that we started.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Recovery Workout

After a tough trail run in the mud yesterday I was surprised to wake up this morning and not feel too sore or tired. My friend Jim always talks about the importance of active recovery and I must say that I agree with this logic. So, to take advantage of my extra energy I headed over to the fitness center and did 30 minutes of biking, followed by 15 minutes of walking at a 10% grade and then 15 minutes of running at a 10% grade.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2nd Annual Waterfalls FA

Group Photo at Lock 29 (over 50 runners!)
This morning I drove over to Lock 29 in Peninsula to run this year's Waterfalls FA 30K Trail Run which was set to begin at 7:30 am. This run was thought up by NEO Trail member Nick Billock last year and is meant to be a celebratory run that takes place the last Saturday of each year. This year's run will definitely be remembered as a new record temperature of 65 was set, breaking the old record which dates back to the 1930's. When I woke up this morning sometime after 6 I was surprised to see that the temperature was already a balmy 55 degrees!

I knew this weather would help attract a lot of people for today's run so I tried to arrive at the Lock 29 parking lot a little early (around 7:10). About 5 minutes later the parking lot was already full. I chatted with some people while waiting around for my friend Bob to show up and after a group photo we were off and running. If you're wondering the route for this run, here it is....

Leave Lock 29, head out to Route 303 and go up old brick road to Pine Lane trail head. Take Buckeye Trail to Boston Store. Continue on Buckeye Trail after crossing Riverview. After crossing Boston Mills Road, we'll shortly turn right off of the Buckeye Trail to visit the Blue Hen Falls...Kodak Picture Stop #1. After some brief navigating around water and trail, we'll arrive next at Buttermilk Falls...Kodak Picture Stop #2. We're now directly behind the Boston Mills Ski Resort. We'll emerge from behind the resort, most likely scaring a few workers and cross back over Riverview to the Boston Store. Next up, we'll travel to the Brandywine Falls via the Towpath/Stanford/Brandywine Trail. At viewing area, Kodak Picture Stop #3. Return to Boston Store and re-trace steps back to Pine Lane and to Lock 29.

Once we hopped onto the Buckeye Trail at Pine Lane it didn't take long for everyone to figure out that today was going to be a very wet and muddy day on the trails. Snow melt and rain leading up to today's run led to lots of slipping, sliding, and occasional falling. It also intensified the streams and waterfalls. Here's what it looked like out there...

Warm weather at the end of December, trail time with all my running buddies, and beer at the Winking Lizard afterwards. It just doesn't get much better than this! Bob and I ran together for most of the day and we ended up finishing with a total of 15 miles. Here are some photos that pretty much sum up the day...

Bob and I heading downhill towards the Boston Store

Stream crossing

Large icicles and a stream crossing on our way to Buttermilk Falls

The fog was pretty cool through here

Buttermilk Falls

New bridge that was recently built en route to Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls

Group photo at the top of Brandywine Falls

Heading back to Pine Lane

My legs towards the end of the run

Friday, December 26, 2008

Monsters Hockey Game

This evening my brother, sister, Tami and I headed downtown to watch the Lake Erie Monsters take on the Toronto Marlies at the Q. We were surprised to see how many people showed up for the game... close to 10,000. I guess the main reason was because it was dollar hot dog and drink night, but also because people were looking for something to do during their holiday break. Luckily we were still able to steal seats behind the glass again!

It was a pretty exciting game but you could tell that the Monsters have lost some of their good players to the higher leagues recently. In the end the good guys lost 3-1 but we had a lot of fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Treadmill Run

I wanted to get in a workout before heading over to my in-laws for Christmas Eve so I went over to our fitness center and hopped on the treadmill for 40 minutes. Every 5 minutes I would alter from a 4 mph walk at a 10% grade to an 8 mph run at a 1% grade. Then the last 5 minutes I kicked it up to 10 mph.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Easy 5

Ran an easy 5 miles with Bob tonight. His son Shames lead the way again on his bike. We did our usual run through the west side of Warren and into Packard Park. I told Bob that the nice thing about running in the winter is that the neighborhood is very quiet. Everyone's inside their home trying to stay warm while we're out there enjoying the cold wind blowing through the trees.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arctic Blast

Me and a couple trail gangstas
With a predicted low of -2 and wind chill values plunging as low as -25 tonight, my brother, sister, and I accepted the challenge and headed over to the Boston Store for a trail run. When we started our run around 7:00 pm the temperature was 6 and the wind chill factor was -15, with gusts as high as 40 mph! Luckily the valley and the trees along the way provide some protection, but it was still frigid. Since Jamie and Jeff both did not have a balaclava to wear I gave each of them a bandana to cover their faces from the harsh conditions.
We then hopped onto the Buckeye Trail and headed towards Pine Lane with the intention of turning around there and running back. About halfway in though, Jamie said her feet were really cold. Since she was only wearing cotton socks and I didn't know exactly how cold her feet were, I decided it might be best for us to peel off down this paved downhill that leads to Lock 29 and run the Towpath back to the Boston Store for a total of 6+ miles in approx. an hour & 15 minutes. It was extremely cold in the open sections of the Towpath and I found my eye lashes getting heavy and beginning to freeze whenever the winds were steady. We knew it was cold when we ran over the boardwalk section and the wooden boards cracked like a gunshot after each of our steps. Jamie commented that it sounded like the 4th of July.
A couple other amusing things that happened on our run was watching Jamie get startled by a deer running through the woods, listening to a large tree limb that was close to breaking and falling on us, and seeing how Jamie and Jeff's bandanas were frozen solid after getting back to my car. Overall, it was an awesome night run and I found that it really wasn't too bad if you dressed and prepared properly. It's supposed to stay cold Monday and Tuesday but then on Wednesday they're calling for rain and a high in the mid 40s. Crazy Ohio weather!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pounding the pavement

After work I ran an easy 5 miles on the road with Bob and my brother. We went from my parent's house on the west side of Warren, down into Packard Park for a couple loops, and then back. Legs felt good and no soreness around my left knee. Very enjoyable run!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Treadmill Workout

I went over to our apt. complex fitness center late tonight after my dinner had digested and got on the treadmill for a 45 minute workout. The first 15 minutes I walked on a 10% grade at 4 mph. The next 15 minutes I lowered the grade down to zero but ran at a pace of 8 mph. Then I finished the last 15 minutes back on a 10% grade at 4 mph. Click here to view a nice treadmill pace conversion chart.

Coming off of Saturday's long run I was happy to feel strong during and after tonight's run. I'm also glad that I felt no soreness around my left knee/IT Band. My plan is to continue doing hillwork and building leg strength from now until the 100 miler next May and also try to mix in some speedwork/shorter runs along the way to help with my breathing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 URINEO FA 50

Lanterman's Mill & waterfall

Today marks the 3rd year for the URINEO FA 50 Miler which starts at the Lily Pond parking lot in Mill Creek Park (Youngstown, OH) and is organized by the N.E. Ohio Trail Club. Last night I slept at my parent's house in Warren and woke up this morning at 4:30 in order to get ready and be on the road a little after 5:00. There were 3 starting times that everyone could choose from this year - 5, 6, & 7 am. My brother arrived at 5 and met up with Bob Combs, Jim Harris, Frank Dwyer, Mike Dobies, & Joe Novicky. I showed up at the Lily Pond at 6 and met Greg Murray, Kevin Jones, Jay Layshock, Rich Vrboncic, and Pat Dillon.

From left to right - Pat, Jay, Greg, Kevin, & Rich

Rich pumped up on the first loop

What a beautiful day to run in Mill Creek Park! Very cold though! Last night's low was around 15, with the high temperature only making it up to around 30 today. At least there wasn't any wind when we started, but that changed later in the day and became quite cold after we were finished running.

Earlier in the week it rained quite a bit and temperatures went below freezing at night so we thought that things might be pretty slick today. However, the trail conditions were much better than we had anticipated and we only ran into a couple spots of ice on the trail. The rest of the trail was frozen solid and primarily dry. You did have to watch your footsteps though as there were quite a few leaves covering the trail, except for the sections that have been blown off by NEO Trail member Bruce McMurray.

Early in the run speedsters Jay and Pat pulled ahead of our group and they stayed together for most of the day. Pat was able to finish his first 50K today in just over 6 hours. Congrats Pat! Another great performance to mention is Jim Harris' completion of the 50 mile distance today. He was the only person to finish the entire distance. All of these guys looked strong throughout the day.

Jim and I near the Lanterman's Mill boardwalk

One thing that's nice about this run is being able to change the direction that you're running in order to see everyone out there on the course. It's also fun to yell or practice your NEO Trail turkey call whenever you hear or see someone on the other side of the river. At one point we ran into Bob and a few others at the Covered Bridge and Bob showed us the wound on his hand that he sufferd from a fall before sunrise. He must of hit the ground pretty hard because he said that his chest was a little sore as well, but he was still in pretty good spirits. We had a lot of fun out there today and had a total of 18 runners show up! Great turnout!

My original plan for the day was to do the entire 50 miles, but early in the run I was already beginning to feel the very early stages of an IT Band problem around my left knee. Luckily as a preventative measure I wore my IT Band strap for the entire run and I think this helped to minimize any damage. Since this is a loop course and you pass by your car approx. every 8 miles I figured I would just keep running and see if it got any better or worse. After finishing my 3rd loop (25 miles) I decided that the smart thing for me to do was to call it a day and try to stay healthy for my ultimate goal, which is next year's MMT 100. I was happy though to get in 25 miles today to follow up my 50K at Laurel Highlands three weeks ago.

Afterwards I hung out in the parking lot and enjoyed some post-run refreshments with Bob, Mike, and Jeff, as we waited for the final runners to come in. For final results, click here. Then, once everyone was finished I drove over to the Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe in Girard and met Jim, Mike, Kim, and my brother for some chili dogs and fries. We shared our stories from the day and assumed that we were probably talking louder than normal since everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. The annoying tapping sound from my screwed shoes probably didn't make us seem any more civilized either. Oh well... Who said ultra runners were normal?

I will leave you with a few more photos that Greg took during our 3rd loop. They came out pretty nice and really captured the beauty of the day...

Lake Cohasset waterfall

Lake Cohasset

The Steel Bridge

View from atop the Monkey Trail

Me next to Lake Glacier

Me and Greg at the Lily Pond parking lot

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I won the lottery!!

Well, not the Mega Millions $170 million jackpot... but almost as good. Today was the selection date to decide who will be able to run in next year's Massanutten Mountain Trails (MMT) 100 Miler. There were 333 entrants, including myself, applying for one of the 180 available spots.

The starting number of this lottery draw is determined by the last 3 digits of today's closing Dow Jones Industrial Average. If the market closes up, the draw counts upwards. If closes down for the day, then the draw counts downwards. Click here to read more of how the lottery works

Therefore, since my randomly assigned # was 884 I was hoping for the DOW to close upwards with a lottery number of 883, downwards with a 885, or somewhere counted within the first 180 entrants from the lottery starting number.

Sometime after 4:00 pm today the DOW closed down and the last 3 digits were 133, meaning that I am now entered into the 2009 MMT and will have to pay my entry fee before January 5th or else someone on the wait list will take over my spot.

Since this will be my first 100 mile attempt you can imagine how excited I am right now. Tonight I began my training by walking an hour on the treadmill, alternating between a 10 and 15 percent grade every 10 minutes. While the treadmill was angled at 10% I had the speed set at 4.0 and when it was at 15% I had the speed set at 3.5. Good solid workout. I'll have to continue to do more of this and make sure that I'm gettting in good mileage.

Congrats to everyone else I know that was selected today. Dan Fox, Paul Lefelhocz, Roy Heger, Gabe Rainwater, Greg Trapp, Lloyd Thomas. Those on the waitlist but likely to become accepted are Bob Combs, Dave Peterman, and Bill Losey. For the complete list - click here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Oil Creek State Park

From left to right: Dan, Jesse, Gary, Adam, Jeff, Jamie, & Me
Last night I stayed at my sister's in Meadville, PA since we had a group run planned for 9:00 this morning in Oil Creek State Park. This was my first trip here, which includes more than 50 miles of trails, including the 36 mile Gerald Trail. Click Here to read about the history in this area. Gun season is currently underway in Pennsylvania so we knew going into the run that it would be pretty exciting. Last night we looked in a few stores to find a couple orange hunting vests to purchase, but of course they were all sold out. So, we settled on getting some fluorescent pink duct tape which Jamie used to decorate herself like an 80's rock star.
We were running a bit late this morning so I wasn't able to stop at McDonald's for breakfast but hoped there would be something along the way. Our plan was to meet Dan Kuzma and a couple of his friends from Youngstown, along with a couple guys from the Titusville area (Jeff Nelson & Adam Peterson), at the parking lot next to the Drake Well Museum (the world's first commercially successful well drilled for oil back in 1859). Jeff and Adam were both informed of our run from one of their friends that posted on the TeamPR Forum under the screenname "runtrail24" after finding out that he had to work on Saturday. Thanks again for giving us a couple of great tour guides for today's run!

As we drove into the center of Titusville I saw a Country Fair, so I stopped and picked up a breakfast sandwich. I don't think we saw anyone there that wasn't wearing orange and purchasing either cigarettes or chewing tobacco. They were probably like, who's this weirdo coming in with running tights on?

After eating my breakfast in the car we continued driving to meet everywhere else. The trip to here from Meadville only took about 35 minutes which was nice. Right before you turn left and cross this bridge near the center of town I spotted a McDonald's. I thought, I'll have to remember this for the next time we have a group run here. From the center of Titusville it's really easy to follow the signs they have posted for the Drake Well Museum and soon we arrived at the parking lot near the museum. You know you've gone too far if you cross over a one-lane bridge. We parked next to this car with a CC sticker on the window so I figured this was one of the guys we were supposed to meet. His name was Andy and I noticed he was wearing a Div. 5 cross country championships stocking hat so I jokingly said, uh oh.. looks like we're in trouble. I think he said that he went to the state meet 10 years ago.

Soon, everyone else showed up and after a group photo we took off over the one lane bridge and picked up the Gerald Hiking Trail on the south side of Oil Creek. Jeff, who is a high school CC/track coach in Titusville and once coached Andy, led the way for us. Despite being 44 yrs. old I could tell that he's in great shape when he started running up this pretty steep hill early on. I was breathing pretty heavy at this point but at least it was warming me up quick. The temperature this morning was in the upper teens but the wind chill made it feel like it was only in the single digits.

It didn't take me long to figure out that I was really going to enjoy this park. Most, if not all of the trail, is narrow single-track with some large and small rocks to make it technical in spots. The scenery and terrain reminded me a lot of the Laurel Highlands Trail and Mill Creek Park. The trail, which is marked with yellow or white blazes the entire way, runs along hillsides overlooking Oil Creek, providing some awesome views. Here is a picture of me at the first scenic overlook that we came to...

Somewhere near this area we passed two hunters and it wasn't long after that when we heard a loud gunshot that I think startled everyone. For most of the run we didn't hear many shots fired. When it did happen though, you could hear the loud echo through the valley. Thanks again Jeff for staying in front of me with your bright red shirt!

Continuing on, we signed our names in a notebook kept on the trail for hikers and then passed through a large section of pine tress and even an area full of laurels and some man made bridges which reminded me a lot of the LHHT. Pictures are worth a thousand words so here you go...

Jeff said he adds another rock to the stack each time he passes by here

Looking off the side of the trail. Nice big hills for some off-piste running.

This area has some history

Strange graveyard in the middle of the woods

Somewhere around 5 or 6 miles we reached our turnaround point and crossed over Oil Creek (pronounced "crick" by locals) by way of this bridge near Miller Farm (shown on the park map). Once you cross over this bridge you meet up with a bike path. You can hop on this or take the trail head that we got back onto, near this shelter area with restrooms. These shelter areas in the park would make for nice aid stations if an ultra marathon is eventually organized here. Jeff did tell me that he and others are talking to the park about possibly organizing one in the near future. That would be awesome if it comes to fruition. I've already thought of a cool name for it... "Burning the Midnight Oil"

After passing the shelter area you'll see these signs giving you the option to head east back to where we started or you can turn left and continue west on the Gerald Trail...

There seemed to be more hills on the west side of the creek but still lots of nice views and even a few small waterfalls...

The best part of the return trip was the last 2 or 3 miles where the trail runs slightly downhill along the hillside. It felt great cruising through this section and glancing to my right occasionally to admire the views of the valley and the hillsides. When we got back to our cars with a total of 12 miles complete, Jeff showed us this steep hill that they do sometimes for hill repeats. He said you have to get down on all fours at one point of the uphill climb so it sounds like a lot of fun for next time...

Before driving back to Meadville Jeff also told us about a brewery in Titusville called "Blue Canoe" that is right in the center of town. At this point I didn't think the day could get any better. Unfortunately they don't open their business until 3pm on Saturday so we'll have to make plans for a future group run. If you're interested let me know!