Saturday, January 31, 2009

Michael Kirwan Lake Run

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
John Muir

Today was one of those days that you just felt great being alive. Each winter everyone in N.E. Ohio complains about how much snow we have or how cold it is. And I must admit that every once in awhile I am one of those people. Living in Ohio my entire life and getting hit with two winter storms this month is not always the easiest thing to deal with. However, today I just had to stop, look around, and say... Wow... This is awesome!

After a West Branch night run last week with Bob, Jim, and my brother's friend Mark, I came up with the idea of trying to circle the entire frozen Michael Kirwan Lake on foot, which is close to 31 miles if you include all of the inlets. So, last weekend Jeff and I headed over to the park but decided to bail on our attempt after hearing a crack in the ice. With all the cold weather we've had this winter it was probably nothing to worry about, but we thought too much about it and ended up wussing out. As soon as we finished our run we were already talking about when we could head back to the park for another try. We decided to pick today for our second attempt since this entire past week had temperatures below freezing during the day and night, and there was also the chance that it could be partly sunny!

I woke up around 7:00 and after grabbing a bite to eat I looked out my window and was able to enjoy this beautiful sunrise. Definitely a good start to the day...

I drove over to the west boat dock and met Jeff a little after 8, and after gathering our gear we were on the ice at 8:30. At this point the sky was still cloudy but it looked like the sun could peek out at any time or even clear up as the day wore on.

Leading up to today's run we were anticipating a lot of snow to be on top of the ice due to the last winter storm, but much to our surprise there was only about 3-4 inches in most areas. There's a lot of wind that blows across this lake so I guess most of the snow blows across until it hits land. About a half mile into our run (where we bailed last time) I felt like I was sinking into the snow a little more than usual. I then looked down and noticed that my feet were actually sinking into slushy holes, which then filled up with water about an inch or two deep. Man.... Once again we were thinking that we might have to call it a day. Jeff broke a branch off of a tree that had fallen in the water and we used this as a digging tool. We noticed that there was still thick ice beneath the slush and after some discussion we decided that some of the rain/sleet we got from the last storm probably got snowed on before it could freeze, thus, keeping it soft. Either that or this section just doesn't freeze as well. So, we continued on and sure enough our footing became good again with solid ice still beneath us.

Every once in awhile as we ran/walked Jeff would push down the stick that he brought along into the ice to make sure that we were on solid ground. On our way towards the dam (which can be seen to the left of the water tower in the top picture ) we walked around the perimeter of the lake and covered most of the inlets but skipped the ones that weren't too large. We only ran into one other section in one of the inlets that had a few soft spots. As we continued on we could tell that the sky was beginning to clear up more and hoped that eventually we would have complete sun.

Sure enough, the clouds all moved aside, leaving us with wall to wall sunshine. The sky was a beautiful dark blue and reminded me a lot of Colorado. It felt so good compared to our starting temperature of 8 degrees and it made our journey even more enjoyable with the frozen snow shining like diamonds. Here are a few more pictures I took along the way.

As we got closer to the water tower we noticed some picnic pavillions along the shore so we decided to stop and have lunch. We soon realized that the area we were at is known as the West Branch beach during the summer months. We didn't stay here for too long though because the wind was really starting to pick up and we wanted to continue on towards the dam before heading back.

As we got closer to the dam we noticed a couple guys ice fishing in the middle of the lake and they had a couple tents set up. We decided to head over and talk to them since they were the only people that we saw out here today. They were probably just as surprised to see us. You should've seen the one guy's face when we told him where we came from. He couldn't believe it and said, "you know there's a lot better places to go for a hike... like Hawaii.. and.." This made us laugh. I told them "Just to make us feel better could you tell us how thick the ice is?" And the one guy said that it's at least 12 inches and that we had nothing to worry about. This made us feel a lot better and on our way back to our cars we were more aggressive and walked a lot more down the middle. We decided to cut the corners a little bit on the way back because the wind was pretty strong at times, gusting up to 20-25 mph.

During the summer Jeff and I had noticed this small island in the middle of the lake that we thought would be pretty cool to stand on. Well, today gave us the rare opportunity to check it out. As we got close to standing on it I could tell that the snow drifts were deep and at one point I stepped and the snow went all the way up past my knee!

We ran/walked at a pretty good pace on our way back and finished up about 9 miles in 4 hours. Overall it was a good workout and I'm looking forward to potentially circling the entire lake another time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Hill Training

This evening my brother came over to my place for a treadmill workout at my fitness center. I was planning to do some more hill work so I set the incline at 15% and walked at 3.5 mph for 15 minutes. Then I lowered it down to 10% for the next 15 minutes, raised it back up to 15% for the next 15 minutes, and then finished up at 10% to complete an hour of uphill walking. I could tell that I was feeling good and decided to complete my workout by running a 7 minute mile. We then headed over to the Winking Lizard to watch the end of the Cavs game and have some well deserved food and beer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Post Storm Run

Well... N.E. Ohio was hit with its 2nd winter storm in January last night into today, dumping another 8+ inches on top of what we already had on the ground. They're saying that this could be the snowiest January ever, with the previous record being set in 1999 with 36".

Despite the weather I met Bob, who cancelled his drive back to Baltimore, and we ran neighborhood streets on the west side of Warren. There were hardly any cars out on the roads which allowed us to run almost right down the middle. The roads that were packed down well due to vehicle traffic were very runable, but on others we had to make sure that we ran inside the snow ruts. There was a lot of slipping and sliding going on, but overall a good fun workout and we even got to see some blue sky and the sun before it set. We finished up with 4-5 miles in a little over an hour.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mosquito Lake Run

After work I drove over to Mosquito Lake in Cortland and met Bob and Jim for a trail run. We ran the Dirty Dog 10K course in a little over an hour and helped Jim clear the course in preparation for his race that takes place a week from this Saturday. It was a nice evening for a run... cold, but no wind. Must be the calm before the storm since there is a winter storm warning in effect tonight into tomorrow, with talk of 6-8 inches of new snow. Is it spring yet?

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Treadmill Hill Work

This evening I went out to eat with my wife and family at an italian place in Ravenna called Alessi's Ristorante. This was our first time here and tonight was Italian Night. Let me say... I don't think you can find a better pasta deal anywhere. It consists of all-you-can-eat spaghetti for $2.99, with the option to add on a meatball for .50/each, salad for .99, and garlic bread sticks for .25/each. And the best part was their sauce was delicious. They also have some other good nightly specials that you can check out here.

Once I was done stuffing my face (including a generous slice of their carrot cake) and back home, I knew I was going to have a hard time getting motivated for any kind of workout tonight. On the other hand, I really wanted to burn off some of those calories, so I forced myself to get off the couch and hit up the treadmill. My plan was to do another uphill workout and finish before 10pm so that I could watch the new episode of Man vs. Wild.

I started off with the treadmill set at a 10% grade and walked at 4 mph for 20 minutes. Then for the second half of my workout I raised the incline to 15% and walked at 3.5 mph for another 20 minutes. Felt pretty good during and after. The best part is lowering the treadmill back down when you're done... it feels like you're actually going downhill even though it's flat!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

West Branch Night Run

After work I drove over to West Branch State Park and met up with Bob, Jim, my brother, and his friend Mark, for a night run/off-piste hike. The temperature was probably in the upper 20's and surprisingly it felt pretty good compared to the cold temps that we've had lately. It's supposed to get up to around 40 degrees tomorrow, which will feel really nice, but that will be short lived since another arctic blast is moving in tomorrow night and will last through next week, keeping low temps in the single digits.

We began our evening running & walking across the large "Michael J Kirwan" lake that is in the middle of the park and measures approx. 6.5 miles from one end to the other. There was a spot that had a few holes in the ice from fishermen and Bob stuck a stick down into it to see how solid the ice was. I think he said it was at least 6-8 inches thick. We then continued running across the ice which had a few inches of snow on top to give good traction. Every once in awhile we would veer off to the right and hop back onto land to do some off-piste exploring. The sky was beautiful tonight with the stars and planets shining brightly down on us, and the light that shined onto the wispy clouds made it a gorgeous sight to see. We stopped a couple times to admire this and then eventually we headed back to our cars and finished with a little over an hour of running. Just enough to get my legs moving again after last weekend's 50K.

During our run on the ice we noticed how it didn't seem like we were getting anywhere very quick due to the size of the lake. That got me thinking.... A run around the entire perimeter of the frozen lake could be interesting! So, when I got back home tonight I went online and plotted out the entire perimeter of the lake and surprisingly the distance came very close to a 50K (31 miles). I'm pretty excited about this idea since it would be something different to do and if I get motivated enough maybe I could attempt it this weekend. Anyone interested?? If not this weekend though it shouldn't be a problem because the cold temperatures throughout next week will keep everything frozen.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 Winter Buckeye Trail 50K

Wow, what a tough day! Leading up to today's Winter Buckeye Trail 50K we had received around a foot of snow here in N.E. Ohio due to a winter storm that hit a couple weeks ago. Add another 2-3 inches of fresh powder from last night and that sets the stage for a very grueling race.

Yesterday I stopped by the Boston Store around 3:30 to pick up my race number (#69!) from Tanya. While I was inside I talked to Rob Lisy, Vince Rucci, Kim Love-Ottobre, and Ron Ross. Just before I pulled into the parking lot I ran into NEO Trail member Jim Harris on the bridge. At this point I believe he was 13 miles into his proposed 100 mile Buckeye Trail run. His plan was to run 70 miles before the BT50K and then finish up the last 30 miles during the race in the morning. He ended up calling it a night though around midnight with 40 miles completed due to the tough trail conditions, but he still was able to run an amazing 50K the next day. 8th place in just over 6 hours.. Nice job Jim!

Jim & I stopping for a photo near Pine Lane

The next morning I arrived at the Boston Store early (around 6:15) to make sure I could get a parking space in the overflow lot. It wasn't long before lots of cars began rolling in. After getting my stuff organized I walked over to the M.D. Garage where everyone gathers before the race and talked with NEO Trail member Bruce McMurray and another Youngstown runner Mark Sorrentino, who was running the half marathon today (his first trail race). Then I talked with Jim Harris and his sons Heath and Eric, who were both running the half marathon. Heath ended up winning the half marathon with a time of 1:57:30. This was his 3rd straight race victory.

After a race explanation from Tanya everyone headed out of the garage and the race was underway a little before 7:30. Immediately after the start line there is a quick left turn onto the Towpath which then takes you past the Stanford Hostel and onto the Brandywine Trail. For the first 5 minutes there was a lot of walking and stop-and-go running due to the large amount of people and the very tight single track trail. Nobody wanted to venture outside of this packed down trail because there was a good 6-8 inches of snow alongside of it.

The race course consists of 2 out-and-backs on each side of the Boston Store - the Brandywine loop, which is 5 miles and the Pine Lane loop, which is 8 miles. To complete the entire 50K distance, runners must do the Brandywine loop 3 times and the Pine Lane loop 2 times. Aid stations are placed at the Boston Store and on the far end of each loop.

I ran the first 2.5 miles out to the first aid station very slowly to let everyone ahead of me pack the trail down. The problem was that the trail never got packed down throughout the day as good as I thought it would, and it felt like I was sliding either backwards or sideways on each foot strike. The best way to describe today's trail conditions is to imagine running on the beach for 31 miles. And to top it off, it snowed pretty hard for a good part of the day. I think this helped distract me though and got my mind off of the trail conditions.

Good thing there was enough ice on this stream crossing

I picked up my speed on the way back to the Boston Store and then tried to settle down into a more consistent pace for the rest of the day. The thing I like about this race is that you get to see everyone on the course multiple times, allowing everyone to encourage each other and enjoy lots of small talk. During the middle of the run when everyone was beginning to get tired, a couple other runners and myself jokingly discussed how everyone always says "Hey! You're looking good!" or "Nice Job! Keep it up!" and thought it would be funny to tell people "Hey! You look like sh$%!" or "Boy, your pace sure slowed down from the last time I saw you!" Of course, we didn't really act on our discussion.... OK, maybe we told a few people... =)

The day became tougher for everyone the longer it went on, and a lot of runners quit earlier than they wanted to. The hardest part of this race for me is finishing Pine Lane for the last time before heading onto the last Brandywine loop. Luckily I forgot that my brother was planning on meeting me at the Boston Store for the last couple loops. I told him to meet me here at 11am and sure enough I arrived at 11:08. I thought it was pretty funny how close I was to my estimated arrival time. Having Jeff on the trail to chat with was a big help and I kept pushing on though. Once we arrived at the Boston Store for the last time I got a huge energy boost and was able to do the last 5 miles in pretty good time to finish the 50K in 20th place with a time of 6:34:04. For complete results, click here.

Special thanks to Tanya Cady (race director) and all the volunteers who stood in the cold to help out in some way! Also, I was very impressed again with the race jacket - a nice royal blue Brooks windbreaker that was embroidered. Afterwards I headed over to the Winking Lizard with a bunch of runners for some well deserved food and beer. Life was definitely good today!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Banff Mountain Film Festival

Today I purchased my ticket for the 2009 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour which returns to Playhouse Square in Cleveland for its 12th year on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18. The ticket that I bought is for Saturday night's "High Altitude Party" which I've attended the last couple years. Last year this special ticket entitled you to live music, all-you-can-drink beer from Willoughby Brewing Co., and cupcakes from Main St. Cupcakes. Definitely worth the extra $10! If you want to enjoy this pre-show party buy your ticket now because they are limited. To read my report from last year - Click Here

Here is the introduction video for this year's show:


I rolled out of bed this morning to get a drink of water and was surprised to see this beautiful sunrise when I looked out my window. Good thing I caught it when I did because it was cloudy for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mill Creek Park Night Run

Jeff, Bruce, Jim & I

Tonight after work I drove over to Mill Creek Park and met Jim and my brother at the Lily Pond @ 5:45 for an 8 mile trail run. We weren't anticipating anyone else to be there but NEO Trail member Bruce McIntosh also showed up for the fun. The temperature had been dropping throughout the day due to an arctic cold front moving in and was probably in the low 20's when we began running. Much like my run in the Cuyahoga Valley on Sunday, it was amazing to see how much snow was on the ground in Mill Creek Park. Here's a picture of the boardwalk that leads to Lanterman's Mill. There were some other spots though where the snow actually came close to my knees.

The sections of trail that are more heavily traveled had a single file path and we were able to run through here at a pretty good clip but there were a lot of areas that were slow and the uphills were very tiring. Despite a decent amount of walking due to the snow depth, we were still able to finish up in under 2 hours which I thought was pretty good.

After our run Jeff and I went to downtown Youngstown for some food and to try out some beer from the Rust Belt Brewing Co. for the first time. We first stopped in the Boxcar Lounge next to the B&O Station (which is the location where Rust Belt brews their beer), but they were having issues with their tap so we drove down the road to University Pizzeria, which is next to the YSU campus, and tried out Rust Belt's Blonde Ale. I thought this beer was pretty good and had a smooth finish. Definitely more of a summer beer though. When we first walked into the restaurant I was also able to meet Ken Blair (owner of Rust Belt Brewing Co.) for the first time. He is still working as a Youngstown police officer and was on break at the time.

After eating we went next door to Inner Circle Pizza which had Rust Belt's "Irish Red" on tap. I thought I'd like this beer more than the Blonde Ale but it was not what I was expecting. It tasted good but I think it needs to be either stronger or hoppier to match its dark red appearance. Nonetheless, I will continue to support Rust Belt's efforts as a local brewer and look forward to new beer releases.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Post Storm Trail Run

Me, Kurt, Courtney & Daniel

This morning a few of us met at 9:00 AM for a trail run that started from Happy Days. After the winter storm ended yesterday we were left with close to 10 inches of snow on the ground, so we knew that today was going to be tough! We started off heading towards the ledges and followed the trail to the left and up towards the Overlook. The park looked really beautiful today with the snow on everything. You just had to watch your footing as you went down steps because they were almost completely covered.

We had a great time slipping and sliding in the snow and got in a lot of good hill work and some off-piste action on our way to Kendall Lake. Lots of cross country skiers out today. The park lets you rent skies or snowshoes at the Kendall Lake Shelter.

Once we reached the open field at Kendall Hills we noticed a couple sleds in the brush that were left by someone and a steep hill next to the Salt Run trail. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so Kurt and I went flying downhill as Courtney videotaped the entire spectacle...

We then ran one loop of the "No Frills, Just Hills" course before heading back to our cars at the Happy Days Visitor Center.

Take it easy Kurt... Put the icicle down!

Once we arrived back at Happy Days Courtney agreed to do another 3 miles with me on the Boston Run loop. The sun actually came out for a little bit which was a nice surprise and we finished up our 3 hour run with a total of 10 miles. Click here to view the rest of the photos taken today.

After some food and microbrews at the Winking Lizard I went home to relax but was surprised how good I felt so I headed over to my fitness center for another workout. I set the treadmill at a 15% grade and walked for a half hour, then lowered it to 10% and walked for a full hour. So, overall I was able to get in a total of 4 1/2 hours of fitness today and finished feeling good. What a great day!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CVNP Lyceum Series - Andrew Skurka

Last night I went over to the Happy Days Visitor Center to listen to Andrew Skurka talk about some of his incredible hiking adventures. Andrew is an accomplished 27-year-old professional backpacker who is best known for two monumental long-distance hiking firsts: the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop and the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route. The Great Western Loop is a journey that links five long-distance hiking trails, 12 national parks, and over 75 wilderness areas. The Sea-to-Sea Route is a transcontinental network of long-distance hiking trails from Quebec to Washington, along which Skurka had to snowshoe 1,400 miles. Skurka was named the 2007 "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure and the 2005 "Person of the Year" by Backpacker. Also, in 2008 he finished 2nd overall at the Leadville 100 Miler, his first 100 mile run attempt.
This lecture is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's "Lyceum Series" which features national speakers who stimulate the heart and mind with compelling stories of our natural and cultural world. Click here to view some videos I took during Andrew's presentation.
After the lecture I was pretty pumped up, as you can imagine, so I went for a 5 mile trail run by myself from Happy Days to Kendall Lake and back. It was so peaceful and quiet as I ran through the fresh snow but I had to watch what I was doing since it was a wet snow and there were some areas with ice underneath. There wasn't much wind though so even though the temperature was below freezing it felt pretty good while you were moving. I wanted to stay on the trails longer last night, but with a winter storm warning in effect I decided to cut it short and make sure I got home safely. Total snow accumulation for this storm is expected to be up around 10 inches!
Despite all of this snow I was able to take a couple rare photos during my run...


Standing water!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Massanutten Training (MMT)

In preparation for the MMT 100, I went over to our fitness center tonight and walked for a half hour on a 15% grade at 3.5 mph, then walked for another half hour on a 10% grade. It was amazing how much better the 2nd half of my workout felt even though I was still at a decent incline. This seems to be a great way to mentally trick the body and I'm hoping to gradually increase the intensity/duration of these workouts as I progress. I felt great though during & after my workout tonight, which is a good early sign of my leg strength.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Recovery Workout

My body felt pretty good after yesterday's run but I could tell that I was lazy today. Finally around 8pm I forced myself to go over to the fitness center and do 15 minutes of cycling, followed by a half hour on the treadmill, switching between a 10% grade at 3.5 mph and a 1% grade at 7 mph. I'm glad I was able to get in a workout to help loosen up my legs.

Also, tonight I ordered the DVD "Massanutten: Two Runners, 100 Miles". It is a documentary filmed at the 2006 running of the MMT ultramarathon and follows 2 runners (one more experienced than the other) in their quest for the finish. I'm looking forward to getting this one!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Art Moore's FA 50K

Me, Kim, Rob & Michelle

What a great first run for the new year! Today was Art Moore's annual FA 50K+ run and my plan was to meet Rob Powell, Michelle Bichsel, and Kim Love-Ottobre at Pine Lane @ 7:00am and run the Summer BT50K course in reverse from Pine Lane to Brecksville and back. This is the same course that I did last year with my brother. For anyone not familiar with FA events, click here for a brief description.

This FA event allows you to run anywhere you want, as long as you report your time/distance to Art Moore at "Purple" Colleen's house in North Olmstead afterwards. Each year Colleen organizes a very nice post-run dinner and everyone gathers at her place to discuss trail and ultra running. There is always a good contingent of Mohican 100 folks in attendance, including the legends (10 time finishers of the Mohican 100 Miler - Art Moore, Fred Davis, & Roy Heger). I've done this FA for at least the past 2 years in a row and each year I enjoy the camaraderie and ability to chat with some of the best ultra runners in the area.

As I was driving down Rt. 303 towards Pine Lane I noticed a couple runners on the right side of the road and figured that it was probably Rob and Michelle trying to get in some early miles before our run. I honked at them and then continued into the parking lot at Pine Lane where I met Kim who was waiting in her car. We looked inside the car next to her and saw a bottle of Ensure, along with some running gear, so we figured that was definitely either Rob or Michelle's car. After waiting a few moments we saw a headlamp coming down the road and realized it was Rob & Michelle who were both finishing up an early 8 miles together. They refueled at their car and after a NEO Trail Club prize drawing and group photo we hopped onto the Buckeye Trail a little before 7:30.

Michelle & Kim trying to cross a stream early in the run and stay dry

The weather forecast for today was pretty good. Partly sunny skies (which became mostly sunny as the day went on), very little wind, and a high temperature around 33. The trail had about an inch or inch and a half of snow on it with some ice in spots and frozen ruts from last weekend's mud fest, but nothing that wasn't manageable. The trail was definitely runnable and a lot better than when Jeff and I ran it last year.

During the first couple miles of today's run we were given a beautiful sunrise to watch and the eastern sky lit up with bright pink and purple colors...

Rob, Michelle, and I exchanging leads throughout the run but stuck together for the most part and had a lot of fun.

When we reached our turnaround point in Brecksville I was surprised how good I felt. I attributed this to the sunshine, today's rare blue skies, and also to the increased training that I've been doing lately. It's been quite awhile since I've felt this good on a BT50K attempt. Here are a couple pictures to show how nice it was out there...

As the run continued, Rob and Michelle were both getting low on energy since they didn't bring enough fuel along with them, so I gave them some PowerBar Gel Blasts to keep them going. Eventually Michelle and I pulled ahead of Rob and we ran together from before Snowville Rd. to the Boston Store. At the Boston Store Michelle said she was going to wait for Rob but told me to continue on and see what kind of time I could get. I could tell I was getting pretty hungry during the last 4 miles but knew I was almost done and pushed on to finish in 7 hours, 33 minutes... a 20 minute improvement from last year.

After a shower at my place I headed over to Colleen's and noticed that Rob & Michelle had just arrived at the same time I did. We then enjoyed some hot food and cold microbrews together, which always makes the day's effort worth it! Only 2 more weeks and I'll be back on the Buckeye Trail to run in the official winter BT50K that takes place on January 18th.

Group photo at Colleen's place

Front Row - Irma Davis, Chris Shick, Kim Love-Ottobre, Autumn Keller, Gailanne Joachim, Flo Davis

2nd Row (kneeling/stooping) - Glenn DuMonthier, Brian Musick, Leo Lightner, Colleen Theusch

3rd Row - Ida Greiner, Joe Eisenberg, Rob Powell, Noreen Keller, Mike Keller, Tyler Bates, Zenek Zapotocky, Debbie Lemmer, Chuck Shick

Back Row - Eleanor Royko (almost hidden), Michelle Bichsel, Fred Davis, Mark Shelton, Dan Fox (face half hidden), Rita Barnes

Others that attended but were not in the group photo:
Bob Fehlner
Roy Heger
Ashura Keller
Paul Lefelhocz (only 50 miler finisher of the day)
Tim McGinty
Arthur & Edina Moore
Judy Nejman

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Left to right: Derek, Tami, Lesli, Heather, Me, & Brian

Last night Tami and I went over to Derek & Heather's house and joined the Berks for a night of eating, drinking, and board games. The money and chips in the picture above are from one of our games of left, right, center. We had a great time and shared a champagne toast at midnight. Hope everyone had a great New Years Eve! Here's to an awesome 2009!

My bottle of Patron