Saturday, December 26, 2015

High on Running

A friend who happens to be a non-runner asked me what the runner's high is really like. This caused me to do something quite unusual: stop and think.

My gut reaction was to retort with some sort of smart-ass remark, since that's how I respond to most serious inquiries about running. But something stopped me this time: I didn't have a good real answer to reply with on the heels of the smartie one.

I answered, "you just feel real good." And then, realizing that that wasn't very satisfying, went on to say that it's caused by endorphins being released into your bloodstream, affecting your brain. "Kind of like heroin," I said half-jokingly, even though it's true.

I went on to say that running provides a general sense of well-being, and that I always feel better right after a run than before. But the times when I've felt truly great - enough to notice and contemplate - have been truly rare. They've definitely happened, but not often at all.

In order to add some research to back up my explanation about simple feelings of well-being as well as occasional euphoria, I found this Runners World Article that explains things quite well. And this one from Scientific American also provides some good information.

All I can add is that it seems to occur in the late stages of a long, hard effort, and yet in my case, it's rare and always seems to happen unexpectedly. But as with some of my best runs - and I'm sure this is related - those rare occurrences are so wonderful that any possibility of more keeps me coming back and trying even harder.

No, *You* Are

This is a bit of a postscript to my post, To the Nines, Again. It was only a couple days after the post, and I met Debbie Scheel for an early morning run in the cold rain. She wanted to run ten miles in order to satisfy some mileage goal she has for the year.

I didn't want to get out of the car. The rain was coming down hard, and it was 50 degrees. But that's the good thing about having training partners: they get you out the door on days where it would be way to easy to stay inside.

As always, once we got moving, the rain didn't bother us (hardly) at all. But here's what did:

We were arriving back to our cars with our Garmins informing us that we'd run 9.77 (hers) or 9.83 (mine) miles. Debbie just ***assumed*** that I - or any rational runner - would run another quarter-mile in the Wal-Mart parking lot in order for their Garmin to register a number in the double digits.

But I didn't; I stopped and just watched her run that extra little bit. Just before, we'd been discussing who was the most obsessive-compulsive / anal-retentive / just plain crazy, and she dared me to quit. So quit I did.

"Isn't this going to bother you for the rest of the day?" she asked. "Nope. I'll be just fine," I answered. "Well it'll bother me!" she said.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Change of Plans

I was three minutes into my Christmas Morning run when the change of plans occurred. I went West (on OH-303) instead of East. And I didn't come back... at least not until I was done.

Back in the 1990's, we would often come from Michigan to Ohio to visit during the holidays, and on most of those occasions, I wind up doing a long solo run on Christmas Day. Where would I run? When we stayed with Debbie's sister and family in Brunswick, I would run either over to Hinckley, around the lake and back, or else I would go West. Way west.

Those long runs bring fond memories. It was often cold and nasty (this was Cleveland in late December, after all), and I would run 20 or more miles without water or other nutrition (it was the nineties; I didn't know any better). Yet I immensely enjoyed the runs on those deserted country roads (it was early on Christmas morning), and I haven't forgotten them.

Fast forward 18-ish years.

It's 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's quite possibly 46 degrees higher than some of those long-ago Christmas runs. I don't worry about my pace; that's guaranteed to be slow - significantly slower than those runs from my younger years. I'm more concerned about going the entire way without water, nutrition, or access to a toilet. Almost all my long runs these days are with friends, and exactly all enable some sort of pit-stop capacity. If I run alone from home, I will make sure that there's water along the way, or more likely, a plan to return home for said pit-stops every 6 miles or so. Prior to the Plan Change, today was going to be one of those days: do three to four 6-ish mile loops, returning home after each one, and/or do some 1-mile loops wound Brunswick Lake with access to a water bottle and some gel. These days, everyone - especially me, knows that you can't run 20 miles without water and some kind of calories. Or can you?

Onward to the West I run. Past Marks Road, past Columbia Road, past Valley City (Frog Jump Capital of Ohio!), past Lester, Station and Erhart Roads. Farther west than some of those other long runs. I turn South onto Cowley Road, and then back East on Law Road. As it had been all those years ago, St. Martin of Tours Church is well lit, and is a beacon that's visible for miles. After a little zig-zagging, I turn Southeast onto Abbeyville Road until I get to Lager Heads Restaurant and brewery, where I turn East onto Hamilton Road.

I look at my Garmin for only the second time. I know I've been going slow, but I'm enjoying this - possibly as much as those long ago long run. The reason for the glance? I know that it's a long five miles home from here, and I learn that I've run 14.79 miles to this point. Happy that I didn't notice the overall time or pace, I make the beeline for Shortstack (my house's name) that I'd hoped for.

After running in the darkness for all these hours, it was a different sensation to see the first hint of daylight whilst heading north on Substation Road. I hadn't seen very many cars during the entire run, much less any pedestrians or other passers-by. But here I come from behind, up to a man walking his dogs. I say hi as gently as I could so as not to startle him, but for some reason, startle him I do - he nearly jumps into the ditch on the side of the road. I say that I am sorry, and he seems fine, so on to Shortstack I go, finishing in 20.17 miles and a painfully slow 3 hours, 37 minutes.

Was I thirsty? Hungry? In need of a bathroom? Yes, yes and yes. But am I glad I did it? YES!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

To the Nines, Again

A few months back, I wrote a post called, To the Nines. It's mostly about how nine-minute pace has sort of become a new standard as a pretty good training pace for me. It's probably about some other stuff too, but as with a lot of my posts, all-in-all, it's kind of hard to figure out what the heck it's really saying. Along that same vein, here's another post about nines, but this time from another angle. I think this other angle may be in the sixth or seventh dimension. Further such analysis is left to the discretion of the reader.



I am finishing my ten-mile park run and turn into the office parking lot when I spot Dave Gajewski getting out of his car. I jog over to him and stop my Garmin. As we're talking, I glance at the watch and see that I've run precisely 9.99 miles. Almost without thinking, I am about to reach down and start the thing again in order to run another 0.01 miles over towards the building. But wait! I have to consciously stop myself, almost in the fashion of Dr. Strangelove.


For almost no reason whatsoever, I decide that today I am stopping at 9.99 miles, and that is the way this particular run will go down. To ensure that the event has a witness to verify its authenticity, I show Dave my watch. "Look: 9.99 miles, and I'm stopping right here. I'm not going to run any further. This is it. No more. Not a single step. I could, but I won't. No sir." I may have rambled on for even a few additional sentences. It's a good thing to have a witness.


I've had my Garmin for nearly a year now, and it's amazing how it's changed my mileage mindset. BG (that's Before Garmin), I would only record miles rounded to whole numbers. 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon races were problems, since they aren't whole amounts of miles. If I was doing a Half-Marathon for example, I would need to jog 0.9 or 1.9 miles as a warmup. 0.8, 1.8, or any amount with a 0.8 attachment would work for a 10K or Marathon.


How did I know how many miles I'd run? If I could, I'd use www.gmap-pedometer.com, my car's odometer or any other known way of measuring the distance. Tracks always work. If nothing else could apply, I would estimate my pace and extrapolate the distance from that.


How accurate were those methods? Not too awful. Most of the time. By and large. For the most part. Of course if there was any doubt, the benefit of that doubt would be me. In other words, there may have been just a little bit of rounding up.


All this comes to mind as I finish my Saturday long run with Larry and Christine Orwin. My total for the day is 19.71 miles, giving me 59.69 for the week.


Does it bother me that I could have fairly easily bumped those totals up to 20 for the day and 60 for the week? Not one bit. Nope, I'm fine with the numbers as they are. It's fine to have nines in the distance totals instead of zeros.


Who needs zeros anyway? Nines are fine. Really.




Monday, November 30, 2015

BW50K, 2015 Edition

With the help of a couple other numskulls, I started (inaugurated? founded?) the Buckeye Woods 50K back in 2010. There were only 10 finishers that first year, but boy has it grown! 12 in 2011, 13 in 2012, 16 in 2013, and a whopping 24 last year.



Okay, that still doesn't sound like a whole heck of a lot, but 240% growth in five years really ain't bad. And dozens more have begun doing the associated 25K as well as simply being out there for a few miles. This is also not to mention the loads of fun everyone has been having. By some measures, the total amount of fun has grown by 450%!! The only caveat to that is that that's gross fun, not net. But who's counting, anyway?



A lot of that growth and fun can be credited to Suzanne Pokorny. She took over from me last year, and has done a magnificent job with the event. There's actually some organization involved now.


This free MCRR member-only event involves a one-mile run followed by six circuits around the five mile loop through the wetlands and the wooded trails of Buckeye Woods Park. It's a pretty course, and it's also pretty darn easy for a trail 50K. The only challenges have come from the weather: over the years, we've had sideways rain, snow, ice, and also some decent running weather.


Fortunately, some of that decent running weather occurred for our sixth edition of BW50K in 2015. Unfortunately for me personally, I would have other challenges this day.


Oh, they were of my own making, all right. But regardless, challenges, they were. It's the usual stuff: the remaining amount of Thursday's 21 pound bird with related fixings that are still in/on me, the lack of any serious training since last month's Fall 50, the nagging Achilles Tendinitis that just won't go away. Would I, could I get through it? I thought so, but it most likely would not be just a walk in the park.

Running with Joe in the early and middle miles - John McCarroll photo




With Ray and David Case  - John McCarroll photo
After the initial gasping for air, I began running with Joe Jurczyk and a few others, including Ray Miller for the early miles. It was good to catch up on things with Joe, whom I hadn't talked with in a while. And it was now feeling pretty easy; maybe this would indeed be a walk in the park.


I spend way too much time at aid stations during ultramarathons, and such was very much the case this time around. Most of the actual running was at about 9:30 pace, but with the extra time spent fiddling and diddling, each five-mile loop took around 50 minutes.


It was great fun to see so many of my fellow MCRR club members out there enjoying themselves. The nice thing about the course is that runners see each other coming and going at so many points along the way. And it was really good to see some of the speedsters doing their thing. But I was also gratified that some of the speed-challenged folks were running (and running good!) as well. BW50K is great for first-time ultramarathoners, as well as those who would be intimidated by rougher, tougher courses with less support.


Okay, after some more long aid station delays, I managed to catch up with Joe again and we ran several of the middle miles together. But for the final loop, I would be on my own. I'd hit the end of the fifth loop at close to 4:20, so a 10-minute pace for these final miles would bring me in at something like 5:10. That would be a 10-minute pace  for the whole kit & kaboodle.


And a 5:10 wouldn't be too bad. I'd averaged just below 10-minute pace for 50 miles at the Fall 50 (when I was truly focused), but I'd run slower than that at August's Moebius Green Monster 50K: 5:29. Going in, I thought that anything between 5:00 and 5:30 would be acceptable, and certainly better than last year's fat-induced 5:59. I think all my BW50K's prior to that were sub-5 hours.


Well a funny thing happened during that final lap: I got tired and slowed down. I suppose I deserved it; the pigeons (or chickens, or whatever) had come home to roost. I crossed the line at 5:17, much to the wild cheering of the throng of BW50K spectators; all eight or so of them. I was happy that everything held together for another finish, tired and sore as I was.


This will probably be my final race of the year. I'm pretty beat up, but now I will rest a little... Only a little.

Almost, but not quite finished  - John McCarroll photo
An unsuccessful attempt at flying. Everyone else was doing it - John McCarroll photo



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

For my Next Trick

It’s the Buckeye Woods 50K (BW50K), and it’s only a week and a half away. One would think that having run 50 miles three and a half weeks ago, I’d be fairly confident that I can run a distance that’s 19 miles less than that. Except that I'm not. Lookyahere:

1)      I never take completion of any distance for granted. Especially not when it involves as many as 31 miles.

2)      I haven’t run much at all since the Fall 50. For the two weeks in Turkey, I don’t think I ever ran more than six miles, and I didn’t even run all that often.

3)      When I did return this past weekend and tried to do a 14-miler, I made it, but it wasn’t pretty. Not at all.

4)      I probably put on ten pounds whilst in Turkey. I’m not entirely sure; I’m afraid to check.

I could go on… But suffice it to say that I’ve got a healthy respect for the distance involved.

 And now I’ve got about 10 days to get (back) into shape. Anyone taking bets?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trotting in Turkey

Not much. That was the expectation, and it also turns out to be the reality. Our Turkey trip (for more on that, see my travel blog post) involves staying only one or sometimes two nights in small hotels before packing up and leaving early for the next destination. This kind of itinerary is great for seeing a big country like Turkey, but not so great for consistent running.

In spite of the challenges, I am able to get some miles in here and there. None of my runs set any distance or speed records. But when I do get out, it feels good to do so. And it's always interesting and fun, sometimes even exciting, to run in a new place.

Here are some of the highlights, sights and sounds along the way.

Just a mile and a half in Cannakale. Although this is hardly even a warm-up, I do manage to get myself chased by dogs on more than one occasion.

A couple one-hour runs in Kusadasi. It's nice to be able to stay two nights, and to actually run twice in a place. The second of these is with Ian, a fellow traveler from Christchurch, New Zealand. Ian will be running the Istanbul Marathon the day after our trip concludes there. I wish I'd have known about that.

During several of my runs I happen to be out during the early morning call to prayer. This reminds me, in case I'd forgotten, that I'm not in Kansas any more.

I'm always surprised that more people aren't about at 6:00 AM-ish in the morning. When I run at home at this time, it seems to be about the busiest time of the day. Here in Turkey, the streets are deserted, and no one else is even walking about. This is generally a good thing, but the dogs I awaken are a different story. They seem to want to bark, chase and otherwise terrorize a passing
jogger.

I do run in an ancient Greek/Roman stadium in Aphrodisias. It's actually pretty long, similar to the one in Olympia, Greece. Like that one (that I also ran in), it's probably the length of one stadia, or 191 meters. Too bad I forgot to turn on my Garmin. I therefore can not take credit for running this particular quarter mile.

Although I didn't run at all in Pamukkale or Konya (bad pollution there), I do get out for three runs in Cappadocia. One is a short run in the morning by myself, one is with Ian, and the third is with Ian and Robert, an Australian who sets a good pace from the start. I am having a tough time keeping up, but I later realize that we were going up an incline the whole way. As Ian begins to fall a little behind, I - from my middle position - call to Robert: "Better ease up on the pace; the old guy can't
keep up." I then add, tongue firmly in cheek, "It's not me, mind you. I'm fine. I'm just concerned about Ian." In truth, I am thrilled to slow down a little. And then it becomes much easier to come back down anyway.

Ian and I get out for an early morning run in Ankara, Turkey's busy capital. We try to run by the football stadium, but a guard with an uzi tells us we need to leave the vicinity. We do not argue and we do what he says. Then we try to get into nearby Luna Park, and a guard tells us no. We run around to the other side of the park, where a different guard makes a phone call and then lets us in. We run inside the park for a while, until some loose dogs chase us out. It probably wasn't meant to be. But it was good enough; any run is better than no run, and this one was at least interesting.

Out alone in the early morning darkness in Bursa, I marvel at the level of activity at this hour of the morning. It's still not a lot compared to home, but it's way more than the other areas I've haunted. The pollution is awful here. I eventually find the park that Rob told me about, but since I'm out of time, I have to head back.

And that's pretty much it. I don't get out in busy Istanbul, although I do pine a bit for the marathon that I just miss there. But all in all, it was fun to run in this exotic country.

Click here to see my travel blog post about our travels in Turkey.


Friends who run the Hinckley Hill known as Effie will appreciate the predominant Turkey beer

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fall 50

Cold Rain

I hate cold rain. But at least it's not raining all that hard. And at least it's not all that cold. And at least it's not too windy.

I'm here in Door County, Wisconsin with about 150 of my best friends, as the gun goes off. It's foggy, drizzly and gloomy, but last night's downpours have subsided. And it's in the 50's. All in all, things could be worse.

The fast guys - and with the Fall 50 being the USATF Road 50-Mile National Championship, their number is relatively legion - take off right away. They're gone. We won't see them again until the finish party. I am running with Michelle Wolff, and we have a similar goal: to finish. It would be nice, I think wistfully, to run this race fast and to be competitive, but then a dose of reality occurs; those days are pretty much in my distant past.

Debbie and I had driven up here yesterday, and we drove a good part of the point-to-point (Gills Rock to Sturgeon Bay) course. Debbie was concerned about finding her way from aid station to aid station, where she would try to support me. After seeing how well-marked the course was, even including the support vehicle detour routes, she was mostly reassured. We bumped into Andy and Michelle at the check-in / packet pickup in Sturgeon Bay near the finish line. We then all had dinner together at Villagio's, an Italian restaurant along the course that sponsors the "half-way buffet".

Door County is very tourist-oriented, and no wonder. It's the panoramic peninsula that extends into Lake Michigan, north of Green Bay. The Fall 50 is advertised as "the most scenic distance run in the Midwest", and although they could have possibly added even more qualifiers, Debbie and I did marvel at the beauty as we drove it yesterday. Too bad about the gloomy weather.

I only ran a mile and a half with Michelle before we became separated. Pete Schwanke, another MCRR member and one of the fast guys, ran up ahead early on.


My Blessings

I had been counting my blessings with the weather, but now, at Mile 11.5 or so, I'm pulling into the second aid station, and it's pouring really hard. And it seems colder. And more windy.

But I'm doing okay. I'm probably averaging between 9:30 and 10 minute pace, and I'm fine with that. I'm spending too much time at the aid stations, but that should improve later on. Debbie won't begin meeting me until the fourth one at mile 24 or so.


Sunshine!

Yes, the sun is out. And the breathtakingly gorgeous course just became much more-so. I'm running through Peninsula State Park, and thinking that the race just couldn't be more scenic. The reds, oranges, yellows, golds, and every color in-between, combined with views of Green Bay (the bay, not the city), are simply spectacular. I think my pace is improving with the now favorable weather.

My Achilles tendon is talking to me.


Fish Creek

I emerge from the park right by our hotel in Fish Creek, and there's Debbie to meet me at the aid station. She gives me some Hammer Perpetuum, and I kiss her and take off again. I hope that she asks those around her - as she's done on other occasions, "Who was that guy?"

Did I mention that it's raining again? The sun didn't last long.


Half-Way, A Marathon and A 50K

Debbie continues to hand me Perpetuum and gel, and I continue to run. There had been a monster hill coming out of Fish Creek, but it's not the only one. I'd say that there are five or so Effie-type or bigger hills strategically placed along the course, and the biggest one, Monument Point hill, is yet to come.

I go through half-way in just under four hours, the marathon in something like 4:08, and 50K in just under five hours. I'm happy with all that. There's only one teensy little problem: everything hurts. Yes, everything.

The rain stops, then starts back up again.


The Thirties

I'm still moving pretty well, even despite the Achilles Tendonitis, and all the other pain. I've been alone a lot, not that there's anything wrong with that. I pass a couple people, but we runners few and very far between. The first and second relay teams go by. The relay teams started later than us solo runners. They tell me how awesome I am for making it this far. Not able to utter much more than a mumble of thanks, I also think, "The day ain't over yet."

At about mile 39 or so I come to Monument Point hill. Of course I walk it, as I've done for all the other large hills. I have this crazy fear that I won't be able to start running again when I do get to the top.

I do manage to run again, but it seems slower still.


Home Stretch

I have finally reached the final aid station, and now have less than five miles to go. I'm not entirely sure, but I believe I've kept things at a fairly steady 10-minute pace. Debbie tells me that I look great and I'm going to finish in a great time. I think, not for the first time, that the day ain't over yet.

For the last ten miles, give or take, I've completely ignored my watch. I had decided that I only needed to get to the finish. Yeah, the sooner the better, but knowledge of my pace and the mental math to determine potential finish times are now just too much for me.

I keep moving, and the pace still doesn't feel too much slower than it has been. There's a guy on my tail, and I can't shake him, even when I do pick it up slightly. Although I can't be sure, I don't think anyone has passed me since about the first aid station. But that changes as he goes by at mile 48.

Yes, now I've slowed down. I know I will finish, and I can only hope that the fellow who passed me is not in my ancient age group.

The rain stops. And then it starts again.


Crossing the line

I cross the line in eight hours, thirteen minutes. It's faster than the other two fifty-milers I've done, but I don't know if I can call it a PR because I've done the first 50 of a couple 100K runs faster. What do you think? Discuss amongst yourselves.

I see Debbie, and even more than usual, she's a sight for sore eyes. She helps me get around. I have no idea how I can run 50 miles, but then not be able to take a single walking step afterwards.

We see Pete. He ran an outstanding race. I try to change, and after an extreme amount of time, I'm somehow successful. Debbie and I have cold pizza and some beer and wine. I'm not doing too well. I want to wait to see Michelle finish, but I just can't. Debbie helps me back to the car.

But not before I look at the results. I won my age group! That means I'll receive a neat USATF medal and a National Champion patch.

But everything hurts. And the day ain't over yet.

The rain stops. And this time it doesn't start back up again.




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tales of The Kid, Part V: This Time It May Not Be So Rosy

Tales of The Kid usually turn out pretty good. If The Kid didn't run pretty well most of the time, he wouldn't be known as The Kid. But heaven knows The Kid ain't perfect. This time may just possibly be different.

The Kid is staying at the Geneva State Park Lodge with family. They are enjoying a fine fall weekend, enjoying the fall foliage, tasting wine, eating too much, and so on. But there is also running to be done.

The Kid's alarm goes off at 3:40 AM, and he's up and out the door within 40 minutes. This is pretty good for The Kid, who often takes an hour or so to wake himself up enough to get moving. So to speak. Why so early, you ask? Because The Kid has to do 20 miles today, and the family's breakfast reservation is for 8:15 AM. And he would also like to be done in time to take a pre-breakfast walk with his wife like he did yesterday.

If The Kid can average 9-minute miles today, he'll be quite happy. If he can't go that fast, he will just have to do the best he can. He can even run 10-minute miles and still make it back in time for breakfast. But The Kid simply doesn't go that slow. Mostly.

As The Kid begins his journey through Geneva State Park, he is very thankful for the new headlamp. It lights the way quite well on the all-purpose trail, especially in the deep, dark, wooded areas, which is most of the way.

The way takes The Kid the long way around the marina, over to the beach, by the campground, around the cabins, and out the other side of the park. The Kid mostly retraces his steps back to the Lodge for his first loop of 5.5 miles. It's going fairly well, although despite some huffing and puffing, The Kid is only averaging 10-minute miles. Perhaps the second loop will be better.

After a short break, The Kid sets out again. This time he runs through town. The Kid thinks that Geneva-on-the-Lake, also known as GOTL, is a pretty cool place. Being an old-fashioned beach/seaside resort town, it's pretty much build for fun. And The Kid is all about fun.

Except when he's running. This is serious business, dang-it. It doesn't matter that well-lit GOTL is mostly closed and borded up for the season, that there's almost no traffic in this early morning anyway, or anything else; it's the run that counts. And The Kid isn't setting the world on fire.

He returns to the Lodge again and realizes that he's still not running very fast. For the first time it occurs to him that he may have to call it quites before his 20 are done. The Kid still wants to take his wife for that walk, and he most assuredly doesn't want to miss breakfast.

The Kid is able to slurp some additional coffee down this time - it's now out in the lobby. And he gets moving once again.

And he returns yet once again at about 16 miles. Now - can he make it to 20? Should he just hang it up? Can he make it to 20 and still make it to breakfast?

These questions and more are bouncing around in The Kid's head as he goes back out to run at least a couple more. Heaven knows there isn't much else bouncing around up there. And furthermore, there's plenty of room. But The Kid digresses.

Luckily, he doesn't digress long. It's getting lighter, and The Kid takes a different route around the park - this time making an actual loop. A loop turns out to be a good thing for The Kid; it's less easy to just turn back and call it a morning. In fact, The Kid finally begins to run at a (relatively) faster pace. He'd been averaging 10-mimute miles almost the entire way, and only now gets a couple decent ones in. Mile 20 is his fastest: a blistering 8:59.

So...
Long run of 20 miles: check.
Getting done in time for breakfast: check.
Averaging a decent pace: not so check.
Getting done in time to do a pre-breakfast walk with his wife: no check. But they are able to walk after breakfast anyway. Why didn't The Kid think of that?


Monday, October 05, 2015

No Feeling in the World

There's no feeling in the world like running strong in the closing miles of a marathon. I didn't say it was the best feeling in the world, although it's definitely in the top ten. I didn't say running strong for the closing mile or at the end of a marathon, although those experiences are nice too. No, by closing miles, I mean something like the last three to seven miles or so.

It's truly unique. Running strong at the end of a 5K or even 10-miler does feel good, but not as good as a marathon. I suppose that running strong at the end of an ultramarathon might be as nice too.

The thing is, for many of us, these situations are exceedingy rare. Out of my 102 marathons, I would guess that less than 30% saw a strong finish. Of those, probably half were considered by me to be long training runs and not full-blown efforts. That leaves us with perhaps 15% of the efforts where the finishing miles are what I'd call strong. Strong being faster than the average pace for the rest of the race.

Now that the definitions are out of the way, I would like to try to describe the feeling itself... But I can't. There's no way to talk about it; it simply has to be experienced.

And being so rare, it may take a lot of tries. But it's worth it. Worth all the times when things didn't go so well. Every single one of them.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Feels Like Old Times

It feels exactly the same. Back then, it was 6:50 pace. Now it's more like 8:40. But it feels no different whatsoever.

Today I ran the Northern Ohio Marathon with friends Michelle Wolff and Maureen Oblander. The race started and finished at Mentor Headlands State park, and took place mostly on city streets in Painesville, Mentor and Willoughby. The weather was a marathoner's dream come true: mostly 50's with very little wind and not too much sun.

All I wanted to do was to maintain a steady pace. After last week's marathon, I was thinking nine-minute miles would be nice. It would be nicer still if I could pick it up ever so slightly in the second half. And my double-secret probation goal was a sub-3:50 - an 8:40-ish pace. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The early miles were fun. I ran with Michelle for a while, and then Paul Lang and his nephew. The roads were wet from an early drizzle, but the cool air felt good. By about mile 10, it was drier, and I was running mostly alone. At this point we ran through a car dealership, near a dead deer that was actually partially on the bike trail we were running on, other dead animals and bazilions of orange cones.

Yes, there were orange cones galore. For many of the middle miles were on the sides of the road where fairly busy traffic was maintained in both directions. Our coned-off space wasn't very wide, and it was canted (that is to say, slanted) quite a bit. I didn't much care for it.

The last eight or so miles were closer to Lake Erie, affording some nice views and some less busy roads. Miles 21 to 23 included a nice limestone trail through a park. Of course the finish back at Headlands State Park was quite nice, as most finish lines are.

My pace quickened to some extent around mile 10, mostly because I didn't like those cones and the narrow running space. I hit half-way at about 1:56, and I managed to pick it up even a little more after that. Mile 20 was about 2:55. Could I pick it up faster still?

Yes, I could, and I did. After passing Mo and telling her to not forget to unleash the beast, did some unleashing myself and passed some more people, including a couple guys who turned out to be in my age group. The last two miles were my best ones: 8:00 and 8:10, and the final half mile (the course was a quarter mile long according to my Garmin) was at 7:42 pace.

The final time was 3:48:15. That's 50 minutes off my PR, but it truly felt like my many of my best ones did. All those years ago.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Witness

Out of Retirement

Akron Marathon Executive Race Director Brian Polen offered a free entry to anyone who was willing to run the race with a person who would be going for the Guinness World Record for jump-roping the entire marathon. I ‘jumped’ at it.

Never mind that I had retired from marathoning (at 100, which was well over two years ago). Never mind that I only had about nine days’ notice. Never mind that I had no idea what being witness to such an event entailed. It was free, I needed a long training run anyway (gotta get in shape for the Fall 50), and I was, therefore, all in.

Emailing back and forth with David Livingston, the guy going for the record, I learned that the existing record was 4:28, but having jumped a 22 miler and having run Akron in 3:05 last year, there was a high level of confidence in David’s chances. He was thinking about running at 9 to 10 minute pace, and I thought this would work out well for me, and would take him well under the old record.

My job was to stay behind or alongside David, and witness the record, should he achieve it. I would then fill out paperwork to testify that he accomplished it. I wasn’t alone. David’s whole family was involved: his wife and one son would take photos on the course Another son, Simon, would follow us on a bicycle equipped with a video camera to record the entire run.


VIP

I met up with Michelle Wolff, Debbie Scheel, Harold Dravenstott and Nancy Danisek at 5:00 AM for the trip to Akron. I was given a VIP parking pass, so we had a small privilege to be proud of. Of course I played this up with stuff like, ‘You guys are so lucky to know a VIP runner such as me,’ and so forth.

We got into the close-by parking garage, and Debbie and I hit the porta-johns at just the right time in order to miss the MCRR group photo. Even so, it was fun to see so many MCRR folks and other friends prior to the race.


First Do no Harm

That was my mantra as David and I started with the wheelchair competitors one minute before the main runner start. The elites soon went sprinting by, and David, Simon and I did our best to stay off to the side and out of trouble. I was taking extra care to help keep David safe and to personally not get in in his way at all.

‘Jump roper ahead,’ I kept yelling as the fastest of the main group of runners went by. It occurred to me that it may have been more appropriate to call him a ‘rope jumper’. But Jump roper it was, regardless. As much as we tried to keep off to the side, some still tried to go by on the inside. David wasn’t phased by this a whole lot; he was a pretty easy-going guy. Even so, I was falling into my role as a blocker, running interference for David as best I could.

Along the way, I greatly admired his run/jumping style. He was making this look easy. We talked some, and of course I told a few stories and stupid jokes, but we mostly ran side-by-side, or with me slightly behind, as our planned nine-minute pace.

The rules were such that if David stopped, regardless if it was to take in fluids or nutrition, or because he got his rope tangled up, he had to start jumping again at that exact point. As noted, I was the witness all this.

I actually did get tangled in his rope once, but only once. I apologized profusely, but as with some of the other challenges, it didn’t phase him a bit.


There’s Always Someone Crazier

My friend Dave Gajewski, when learning of this endeavor, told me that a few years back someone juggled the entire way, and then another year someone ran the race in sandals. I learned from the Akron Beacon-Journal article about David’s attempt that those two people were David as well. He’s done Akron every year since its inception, and he’s been looking for new challenges as late.

Here are the two of us at about 16 miles
One of our points of discussion was that no matter how wild you may seem to others, you can always point to someone else and say, ‘Yeah, I may be a little cracked, but I’m not as crazy as this other guy.’ On several levels, David was this other guy.

We encountered many folks along the way. Many of them had read the article, and wished David the best on his record attempt. We also saw several of my friends, including Harold, Michelle, Frank Dwyer, Dan DeRosha and Ron Ross. At one point, Harold was well ahead, and Ron had just passed us. I jokingly yelled up to Ron, ‘Don’t let Harold beat you.’ I then realized that Harold had probably heard, so I yelled to him, ‘Harold, don’t let Ron beat you!’


Caged Animal

We ran and we ran, and things were going quite well. But somewhere around 18 miles, David mentioned that he was going through a ‘rough patch’. I just did my best to encourage him, and told him that the record is in the bag – all we had to do was keep going.

We hit 20 miles in something like 3:04. I was thinking that a sub-four was probably no longer possible, but even if we slowed considerably, the record was still there the taking. All we had to do was keep going.

At mile 20 and a half, David stopped. He’d stopped other times where Simon and I gave him water and/or gels. He had also stopped when he missed a jump. He always started right back up again where he left off. This unplanned stop was different. He had a leg cramp.

I know from experience that leg cramps, while not a serious long-term problem, are nearly impossible to overcome during a race. I didn’t say so though. I just tried to get him to lean against a pole and stretch. I would try to get some electrolytes into him when we got moving again.

As I feared, the electrolytes didn’t help. It was too little, too late. David stopped again and again, and for longer and longer periods of time. All Simon and I could do was to try to keep his spirits up. At one point we even stopped at a first aid station, where we tried to get him stretched out. David, however, preferred to just sit in a chair for a while.

Time and again, I would tell David that all he had to do was to keep moving. If we could do that, we even now still had a chance at the 4:28 record.

At mile 23, David stopped for the longest time yet. After many minutes, he finally told us that he could no longer continue jumping. I asked if he was sure about a dozen times, and he said yes each to each query. He said I should go on, and that he would walk the rest of the way in. He didn’t want to not finish an instance of the Akron marathon.

So go on I did. I didn’t want to complain, because what David had done even to this point was so awesome and difficult. All that stopping and starting again, however, had been pretty tough for me. I would have preferred to keep things at a steady pace. Now, however, I had three miles to go, and was full of energy.

My Achilles was bothering me, but I ran pretty darn fast: generally about 7:30 pace. Harold later aptly told me that I’d been like a caged animal, suddenly turned loose. Even so, I managed to get a personal worst: a 4:16 or so. I saw Brian after I finished, and he was sorry to hear the news about David.


Closure

It was loads of fun to meet up with all of the Medina County Road Runners after the race. I loved hearing all their stories, and of course they wanted to hear mine as well. Eventually I saw David come in. I went over to shake his hand and congratulate him on his great effort. It sure was something to behold, and quite the memorable experience – for both of us.

Running fast, near the finish felt good                                                                                                photo by Dan Daubner

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Really and Truly Mean it This Time

Of course this is to build on my earlier post, I Really Mean it This Time

The 2015 NC24 is now history, and I truly have given it away to Vertical Runner Race Management. It's gone. Goodbye.

But what a ride it was! 2015, along with the first one in 2009, will definitely go down as the most memorable. In fact, things couldn't have gone better. (Except for that temporary rain and wind storm that luckily blew over by Saturday evening.) I must say that September 19-20, 2015 was a 24-hour high for me. I loved every minute, and I think a bunch of other organizers, volunteers and runners would concur.

As noted in another post, I did sign up for the Fall 50. I really mean to run this one, and it's now a month away. For training, I have done everything from Mugrage to Moebius.

And now I need to discuss something that I evidently didn't really mean: marathon retirement. I'm registered to run Akron this Saturday, It's mainly yet another training run for the Fall 50. If I finish, it will be number 101, and my retirement will be something I didn't really and truly mean.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Walls Were Built to Keep You In

This one from the Magnificent Seven has been another one of my all-time favorite movie lines. I’m not even entirely sure why I like it so much. It’s probably best not to over-analyze things. I know. With that in mind, I should quit blogging right now.

But don’t worry, I won’t.

More times than I can count, I’ve run the three miles over to the High School track, only to find it locked up tighter than (I was happy to see a website completely devoted to ‘tighter than’ sayings) an otter's pocket. But recently I’ve found a way to get underneath the fence, but the bad part about that is getting dirty or muddy in the process.

Yesterday I did the crawl, ran eight of my fourteen miles there, and then as it was getting light, discovered an open gate in a remote part of the track area. I would be able to get out without slithering! As I exited, I closed said gate, hoping anyone else coming by would think that it wouldn’t need to be locked.

It worked! It was open, so today I ran sixteen of my miles there. Yes, that’s a lot. Along with a smattering of a couple more with the grandkids and even two on the mill, I wound up with over twenty-five total. Add that to the weekly total of seventy for last week.


Yes, I’m taking this thing (the Fall 50) seriously. Next week starts the big push.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Buckets

Buckets of Sweat, that is. Aren't you glad you asked?

Having signed up for the Fall 50, I figure I'd better start training. The old legs were pretty tired most of the week; they were still getting over Moebius. But eventually, one must get back to it, mustent one?

On Thursday I met the MCRR crew for what they call a pace run at Mugrage. This is far out of my way to work, but since it starts at 4:30 AM, I thought I could manage it. And manage it I did. Even though it was warm and humid, I survived 10 sticky miles, as well as the uncomfortable 50-minute ride to work immediately afterward.

Saturday was Towpath day. I met Larry Orwin, and we did 17 sticky (again) total miles on the old TP. These runs are always fun - there are so many new and old friends down there.

Would I have anything left for Sunday? Debbie Scheel had a 2+ looper scheduled, and I had planned to be there too. She began without me for a 3-mile lake loop, but then she and I, as well as Frank Dwyer, Theresa Wright and Drew Williams went on to do two - count them, two - Hinckley 9-mile loops, hills and all. I'm surprised and happy to say that I made it! Not that it was pretty. Especially with the oppressive humidity.

So today, Labor Day, I stuck to the mill, for just a few easy ones. And that was sticky too.

I only wish I had a nickel for every gallon I've sweated out this miserable summer. Fall can't come quickly enough.

Not that I'm complaining.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Marvelous Moebius Monster Mileage Madness

Sorry about the continuance of my alliterational insanity. I’m trying to stop. Really. This post is actually a race report about the 2015 Moebius Green Monster Trail 50K, which takes place at Sunny Lake Park in Aurora, Ohio.

But first, to the tune of A Horse with No Name by America:

On the first part of the journey
I was happy this wasn’t real life
There were plants and roots and rocks and things
There was dirt and hills and stings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with some clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But I tried to stay vertical to the ground
I've been through the trails without getting maimed
It felt good to be not quite so lame
In the trails you can’t remember your name
'Cause there ain't no root for to give you no pain
La, la
After three hours in the Moebius sun
My skin began to turn red
After five hours in the Moebius fun
I was feeling pretty darn dead
And the story I told of a runner this bold
Made me sad to think there was more to tread
You see I've been through the trails without getting maimed
It felt…...

With the thought of meeting up with Brother Dave and his wife Carol, wife Debbie made the journey to Mantua to crew for me. This was a rare occurrence; I often travel to races with friends, but seldom with Debbie.

Prior to the start I enjoyed kibitzing with several friends from MCRR: Ron Ross, Jeannine Nicholson, Ladd Clifford, Larry Orwin, Chris Thomas and Jack and Suzanne Sharpe. Larry was volunteering; the rest of us would be running. We were all startled when people started running right in the middle of our conversation. Race Director Stephen Godale had started the race on time, much to our surprise.

The sudden start. I'm on the left, starting my watch.

Flock of geese over the lake just after the start

And the sun was just starting to rise over the lake







I quickly fell in the second-to-the-lead pack, which included Chris, Kim Good and several others. Chris likes to talk a lot whilst running, and this was fine with the rest of us; it kept us entertained. During that first of five 10K loops, I hardly noticed the scenery, or even the rocks and roots along the way. I was intent on staying with this group and not thinking too much.

End of lap 1
I came in at 1:00:33. Debbie was waiting with a bottle of Tailwind and some Endurolytes. I had told her to look for me every 60 to 75 minutes, so this was going fairly well. So far.

Our pack broke up a bit during the second loop. Now it was mostly me and Chris and only a couple of the others. I began to notice, and remember from last time, all the rocks, ruts and roots. Not that I tripped over any of them. Not yet anyway.

End of lap 2
The second loop ended with a time of 1:00:14. Pretty consistent, eh? Debbie was waiting with a bottle of Tailwind and some Endurolytes.

During the third loop, I was running with only one other guy, and he tripped and fell. When I stopped to help, he said, “At least I got that one out of the way.”

End of lap 3
I caught up with Jeannine. “What are you doing back here with us slugs?” I asked as we ran together for a while. She told me that Ladd had wanted to go faster, and she had let him go. This was a little unusual, especially because I thought she might possibly win today. I guess she was having a not-so-great day.

I, on the other hand, was having a pretty good day. So far, that is. I came in for the end of the third loop with a split of 1:01:01. Steve told me he had me at just over three hours flat. Debbie was waiting with a bottle of Tailwind and some Endurolytes. And now there were only two laps to go. How hard could that be?

I was mostly alone now, although I did encounter another runner on occasion. I even lapped a few friends, including Blondie Hinton and Barry Smoloff. When I least expected it, one of those many roots along the trails reached up and grabbed my foot. Down I went, but luckily not too hard. The dirt and dust clung to my sweaty skin, but I was otherwise none the worse for wear.

End of loop 4
Along with my loss of coordination, I learned that I was also experiencing a loss of speed when I finished this fourth lap with a split of 1:06:50. Debbie was waiting with a bottle of Tailwind and some Endurolytes. Dave and Carol had made it over and were cheering me on with wild abandon.

And now there was only one lap left. I was still not too far off the pace I’d need to run close to the 5:01 time that I turned in here five years ago. I’d come in hoping only to be within an hour of that, and here I was doing much better than expected. But it was getting quite hot, and I knew from experience that this would be a tough final lap.

It was. I had trouble keeping any sort of consistent pace, walking the uphills, the downhills, and even much of the flat areas. I stepped gingerly over all the roots. Except one. Yup, I fell again. And once again, it wasn’t too hard a fall, but the dirt and dust clung to my sweaty skin once more, adding to that which was already there.

Earlier I had been thinking that I might place pretty well. I was pretty sure there weren’t any 60-year olds ahead of me, and maybe not even any 50-year olds. But now a handful of runners passed me on the trails, including Ron. He and I talked a bit, but I was sad to see him go.

The Finish, at last!
My time for this final lap was 1:22:12. What with still getting over injuries and not doing so many long runs, I guess I got what I deserved. Still a time of 5:30 was pretty good. And it was good to have Debbie there to help me out – she even hosed me off after I jumped in the lake.


A jump in the lake felt great!!
And now it’s on to bigger and better things. I think.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tales of the Kid Part IV: The Sweet Smell of Darkness

It's later than you think.

This thought crowds out all the others as the Kid rounds the corner to face east and sees Orion relatively high in the early morning sky. In fact, Omnipresent Orion is higher than the Kid has seen yet this season, and this tells the Kid that either or both (probably both) of the following two statements are true: a) It's getting later in the season, which is to say, closer to fall, and b) It's later in the morning, and with six miles yet to go, the Kid had better get moving.

And what were the thoughts that got pushed out of the Kid's head, you ask?

The Kid is glad you asked. What do colors smell like? Why can't we hear the scent of a flower? How does the sight of a beach feel? And so on. All this while the song, the Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkle is bouncing around in the Kid's head.

Why the Sounds of Silence, you ask?

This time the Kid is not so happy you asked. That's because the Kid doesn't know. Usually it's something classical, often awesomely symphonic, but every now and then a rock, folk or other tune will come in and occupy space up there. Perhaps if the Kid had some hair, it would block some of these things from getting in. The how or why of what starts playing when is simply beyond the Kid's understanding.

Where did today's run take place, you ask?

The Kid is greatly gratified to discuss this one. He's on his eleven-mile route to the west of his residence. It's a route he hasn't run in over a year, but one he used to do quite often a couple years back, as a Little Kid. Today it brings back good memories, happy thoughts (and sights, smells, sounds, etc.) and half-way decent running.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An Adventuresome Attempt at Alliteration: Tale of Today’s Training Trot

Bearded Bob from Berea: I would like to dedicate this post to my friend BBB, also known as Robert Mayerovitch. Bob has a great gift with the English Language, and this is mostly evident in his use of puns. In fact, he’s the funnest punist that I know. But as his self-anointed nickname implies, he’s also not bad with alliterations.

Gatorade, Grass and Grieg: Since I was up relatively early today, I managed to get out the door by 3:37 AM, bottle of Gatorade in hand. It was pretty dark. The area behind the Brunswick Middle Schools includes the remains of an old cinder track. It’s almost entirely grown over with grass now, and it’s rutted and uneven. For this early part, and virtually all of the rest of my run, I had Grieg’s Piano Concerto bouncing around in my head. It’s fun to be able to do that without earphones. And speaking of piano, BBB is pretty decent at that too. Maybe we can get him to play Grieg for us some day.

Seeking Soft Surface Success: The reason I was running here is that for this long run attempt, I wanted to be on softer surfaces as much as possible.

Dirt+Darkness=Danger: What with the combination of the rutted uneven grass, dirt and cinders, the darkness and even the lighting from the schools that seemed to be constantly in my eyes but not on the ground, I just didn’t like this part of the run. So I moved on.

Beautiful but Beguiling Betelgeuse: With Orion, including my favorite start, Betelgeuse (don't worry - I won't say it a third time), rising in the east, I made my way over to Brunswick Lake and ran a couple miles there. This was better, but the surface was hard. So I moved on to the back of the high school for some…

Tremendous Track Training: Those first ten miles had been mighty slow – something on the order of an hour and fifty-one minutes. Now that I was at the track, it was time to get serious. The rubberized surface here was just what the doctor ordered. Round and round I went, getting faster and faster, at least for a while. I switched directions now and then. It truly does matter whether the GPS watch is on the inside or outside wrist.

Expeditiously Exceeding Expectations: After eleven pretty decent miles at the track, I made my way home. I had planned on 24 miles, and wound up exceeding that by a bit. Only a bit.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Long and Hard

Q: What's long and hard on guys like me?
A: The third grade.

I seem to do okay, running wise, so long as I do not run long or hard. I often get into trouble when I do, however.

As things stand (or sit), my piriformis is almost entirely gone, and my Achilles tendinitis is doing much better. But then...

1) I haven't been racing
2) I haven't been doing any speedwork
3) I haven't been running 20-milers

So I definitely have not been running long or hard.

Having said this, things may change. My mileage has begun to creep back up there, albeit kicking and screaming. And I even made it to the track a couple times in recent weeks. On the long run front, I've done some 17's and 18's recently as well.

I think I may be getting close to a decision on the Fall 50 that I've been considering. That will partially depend on any long run I'm able to do tomorrow and/or next week (which may include the Mobius 50K).

Or not.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meteors and Me


Orion is rising, and the Pleiades are fairly high in the sky. That’s how I know fall is coming. I am aware of the benefits of calendars, but sometimes I defer to my primitive side. Today’s quest, however, is more meteoric in nature.

It’s 4:25 AM, and although I’ve been awake for hours, I’m only now getting out on the road. No amount of coffee, it seems, does a whole lot at 3:20 AM.

The Perseid Meteor shower is all the rage; everyone’s talking about it. And today was the day: it was pretty dark with only a crescent moon, and the sky was mostly clear. I am looking up.
 
I sneak under the heavy-duty security fence in order to run at the High School track in order to be able to view the sky without tripping or worrying about much else. I do about three miles worth, out of my total of ten, there at the track.

Do I see any meteors, you ask? Nope, not a one. And this has happened before – see my post about Avoiding Meteors, as well as the Postscript. They're never there when you're looking for them. Sneaky, they are.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

I Really Mean it This Time

The Medina County Solid Waste District Central Processing Facility, also known as the CPF, is where we have to take all our recyclables. It's a long way from Brunswick - the opposite side of the county. It seems silly to waste the gasoline to drive that far, just to recycle, so I try to space out my trips there, and also combine them with some other reason to go in that direction, such as running.

Today I first went to Buckeye Woods park driving a truckload of papers, plastic, glass and cardboard. We ran down towards Chippewa Lake and back, and then, as it began to get lighter, around Buckeye Woods on the 5-mile BW50K loop. It was a very nice early morning 11-mile run.

After the run I drove further south to the CPF and dumped all the junk.

The Medina County Solid Waste District keeps telling us that they will soon place recycling bins all around the county, such as near schools and city halls. This was to have happened earlier this year. Then by May. Now it's by August. They really mean it this time.

And don't even get me started on how the county has screwed up on the entire idea of recycling.

It was over a year ago that we Brunstuckians passed a tax levy to fix our roads. Heaven knows they need it. What has happened so far, you ask? Not a whole XXXing lot, I answer.

The big project was to be the resurfacing of Ohio Route 303. It's the main drag through town, and I can't go anywhere at all without traveling on it. Most of the money is supposed to come from the state, but some, including presumably, some of the levy funding, from the city.

The resurfacing was to begin early in the summer. Then July. Now August. They really mean it this time.

And now the story gets a little more personal.

I've been trying to get back into ultra mode. Mugrage Park had been fairly successful, but the recovery has been tough stuff.

I'm thinking about a fifty-miler in October, but at the moment, I'm nowhere near where should be for such an endeavor. In order to train for ultras, you have to run a lot of miles. Including long runs. I haven't been very diligent in following this mantra.

Well, I'm going to do a long run soon, maybe tomorrow. I really mean it this time.

And another thing. For the past four or five years, I've been trying to pass off the directorship of the NorthCoast 24-Hour Endurance Run. NC24 is my baby, and I love it dearly. But now the child's growing older, and it's time for someone else to take over it's nuturement (I just made that word up).

Heck yes, I've been trying. And I've even had a little bit of success here and there. One time a person came in to share RD duties with me, but then gave it back entirely the next year. Another one took over exclusively for a while, but then, you guessed it, gave it back. A third person said they would take over after this year's race, but now will not. Obviously the root cause of this problem is that I'm always around to take it back.

I was forced to announce that I would leave the race no matter what, and if we don't find a candidate by September 1, we would not hold the event at all in 2016.

I really mean it this time.

The Moving Cave

When it happened, I was out in the park, enjoying the early morning sunshine. I thoroughly enjoy getting my morning exercise in that beautiful part of the world, and it's even better to be able to do so with my friends.

The sunshine was dappled through the canopy of trees. It was warm, and the humidity was high this day, but that never bothers any of us. And we never bother anyone else either; we simply enjoy ourselves and our surroundings.

Well, that part about not bothering anyone isn't entirely true. I suppose I should qualify it by saying that we never bother any of our own kind.

Yes, we do occasionally like to nibble on the various large mammals that come by. Sometimes we even take in a large bite.

But this day, I wasn't intent on biting anything; I was simply flying around and loving it. Too bad I did so above the open pathway. One moment I was flitting about, and the next moment - it happened so quickly! - I was inside a moving cave!

It was immediately dark, and very moist. The scariest part is that the opening closed right after I was sucked inside. How would I ever get out again?

More moisture came in around me. I thought I might drown. But then, just as quickly, something wonderful happened. There were loud convulsions and eruptions, and I suddenly found myself free again! Covered with this wet stuff, but free.

I looked up just in time to realize that that moving cave belonged to a moving mammal. It was still making coughing and gagging noises as it continued to run down the path.

I will have to watch out for this one next time. My revenge will be in the form of a very sweet bite out of the top of that bald head of his.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tales of the Kid, Part 3: No More Running Left in Me

The Kid is awake at 3:30 AM, a little before his alarm goes off. "Perfect," he thinks, "Now I can get a lake loop in prior to the 5:00 AM lake loop, which, of course, is prior to the usual 5:30 AM Big Nine Mile Loop."

Getting up in the early AM hours at all seemed problematic for the Kid. The previous morning he had gotten up at 1:45 AM in order to pick up his friends, Larry and Chris Orwin at 2:45, and get them to the start of the Burning River 100-Mile race by 3:30 for the 4:00 start. He had then made his way over to the Medina County Road Runners aid station in order to help out for about four hours. He had then managed to squeeze in a run on the towpath with some fellow MCRR volunteers, and had then gone into work for his 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM shift. And then he had gone home and crashed.

But after that, the Kid was just getting ready to drive some of Chris' pacers to various locations, when he received a call from the one called the 'Mountain Goat' to inform him that Chris had unfortunately dropped out. "I have no more running left in me," she'd told him.

No more running left in me, thinks the Kid, is a good way of saying that I just can't do this anymore; I've had enough. Or, in the words of famous runner Forrest Gump, "I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now."

Now that the Kid was off the hook, he was able get some additional rest and this in turn enabled him to wake up at an early hour for the second morning in a row.

So the Kid starts running around Hinckley Lake at 4:30 AM. He finds himself moving at a pretty decent clip - about nine-minute pace. The 5:00 AM crowd, Debbie Scheel and Caitlin Oblander, show up, and they begin another lake loop. This one's faster, and it has the Kid huffing and puffing a lot.

At 5:30 AM, the 5:30 crowd, Brian Rosenstock, appears, and the four begin their Big Loop. This doesn't go quite so well for the Kid, and he has a tough time keeping up, but Brian kindly stays with him.

The Kid is getting pretty tuckered out, more so as the run progresses. As he finishes up, Debbie and a few others (the 7:00 AM crowd), are milling around. Debbie asks the Kid if he wants to run another lake loop with her.

"No thanks," says the Kid, "I have no more running left in me."

MCRR BR100 Aid Station                 Photo by Jim Perichitti



P.S. Larry did, remarkably, make it to the finish of the BR100. That's quite an accomplishment. He evidently had just enough running left in him.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The New Dan

I would have liked to call this, The New and Improved Dan. But contrasting the New Dan with the Old Dan, the one who wakes earlier than usual to get extra miles in, there is precious little improvement to speak of.

Those eighteen coming a week after the thirty-five, were evidently a bit too much for me; it was a lousy week of running. I even had to take a day off. Besides the ever-present Achilles Tendonitis pain, I've now got some severe butt pain to go along with it.

It's piriformis syndrome. I've had it before, and this too shall pass.

I Wake, Therefore I Run

I suddenly bolt straight up to a sitting position. "Are you okay?" asks Debbie. "Fine," I answer. But I'm not quite fine; both arms had fallen completely asleep, which immediately awoke the rest of me. Having had this experience in the past, I know that this too, shall pass. It's 2:00 AM.

It does. And I actually get back to sleep, only to be re-awakened just before 3 - this time by a sneeze.

And now I'm up for good. I may as well run.

I had already been planning to run; there was a Hinckley lake loop planned for 5:00 AM, and then the usual 9 a half-hour later. Now I'd be able to start at 4.

This was the Dan of Old. Dan of Old didn't mind getting up even earlier than normal to run. If he awoke earlier than planned, it was an opportunity, not a problem. An opportunity for extra miles, that is. Dan of Old would do this, even if he ran a 35-miler just the previous Sunday.

I manage to run two lake loops before the 5:00 AM group shows up, and we run another all together. Now it's 5:30 AM, and the larger gang arrives, thirsty for our Hinckley Nine.

These nine are unsurprisingly slower and tougher than those first nine around the lake. But luckily, no one else feels like running fast today, and we all stick together.

Eighteen hilly miles. It was a pretty good day of running, and the best part is that I'm done. And that it's only a little after 7:00 AM.

Monday, July 06, 2015

MP6: Split Personality -> The Runner and The Race Director


“The more I run, the more Chris Orwin laps me,” says the Runner, “I’d be way better off to just quit.” He had been closing in on 36 laps at the Mugrage Park 6-Hour Run (MP6), and was moving slower and slower, eventually getting down to ‘ultramarathon shuffle’ pace. Worse yet, Jeannine Nicholson and Ladd Clifford, talking and laughing the entire way, had begun to lap him as well.

36 laps, the equivalent of 50K, was a milestone for many of the MP6 contestants, and it was a major goal for the Runner as well. But he also thought he might even be able to go a little further. Debbie Scheel and Larry Orwin, who had both run brilliantly this day, were wise enough to quit at that point, and were now relaxing near the Mugrage Park shelter. They, along with a couple of the volunteers and other bystanders, were watching everyone else keep on trucking around the 0.876 mile loop.


Fairly early in the run with the Sharpes and Rob.        Photo by John McCarroll
The Race Director (RD) is pretty much out of it at this point. And this is a good thing, since the Runner needed to be in charge now. Oh, the RD did stop to talk to the wonderful volunteers (including Harold Dravenstott, Rob Lisy, Renee Harden and most especially Ron Ross) every couple laps as the Runner came by, but since said volunteers had everything well in hand, he could go back into seclusion. He managed to be able to spend most of the race there in that secret place. Both the Runner and the RD appreciated that.

Things hadn’t been so easy for the RD in the days leading up to MP6. He had originally planned this to be a low-key ‘just show up and run’ event. Debbie had reserved the Mugrage Park shelter all day for the MCRR picnic, and the RD had thought that since the picnic would be in the afternoon, it would be nice to hold a little run there in the morning. To emphasize the small, easy-going nature of his planned event, the RD even began using the tagline, ‘If you think the Buckeye Woods 50K is getting a little too big and well-organized, this is the event for you.’

The RD needed to figure out some way to time a six-hour run, however. Timing such a thing amounts to counting laps and multiplying the total by the lap distance. Will Bertemes offered to pay for the timer. But that would entail finding and hiring someone. Hugh Patton, who’d timed Outrun 24, offered to do it for free. Will then offered to donate the money toward race expenses anyway. The RD determined that hats would be valuable mementos for the participants, and began working with Brian Polen of Vertical Runner to acquire them.

All of this was good stuff. But it did make work for the RD, who found himself reluctantly getting further away from the desired ‘just show up and run’ mentality. Then some problems arose. First there was some trouble just getting the permit. This shouldn’t have been a problem, since MCRR already had the shelter, and the county parks folks had told him the permit was coming. But it took some prompting before it finally did arrive. Then there were the hats. Actually getting hold of Brian and picking them up turned out to be a bit messy, requiring re-arranged schedules and so forth.

The kicker came at 9:30 PM the night before the race when the RD received the notification from Hugh that he wouldn’t be able to make it. The panic lasted an hour or so until he went to sleep, and then resumed with a vengeance as he awoke at 3:00 AM. During the ensuing two hours, he actually came up with an Excel spreadsheet that he thought might be workable: a volunteer would type the bib numbers of the runners as they went by, the lap data points would be time-stamped and counted. Bib numbers? The timer had said he’d bring those as well, not now the RD had resort to bringing a pile of his old used ones from his various races over the years.

None of this was good for the Runner. All the Runner had wanted to do was to run his best for the six hours, hopefully achieving at least 50K. But now he had a multitude of trials and tribulations, all because of the RD’s distinct lack of contingency planning.



But somehow, things did manage to work themselves out. The hat and the permit issues got resolved. And as he arrived at Mugrage, laptop, old bibs and other equipment in hand, relating his woes to Ron, the other volunteers and early-bird runners, the RD realized that this timing issue, too, shall pass. Ron preferred to simply make tick marks on paper to the training required for the spreadsheet, but it wasn’t a problem and that was that.

And the RD found that he didn’t need to worry any longer. Now the Runner could remerge from oblivion and take charge.


About half way through in the nice wooded section. Photo by John McCarroll
Take charge he did… at least for a while. He found himself with the lead pack for about the first ten laps. Talking with Larry, Chris, Debbie, Rob and the rest was fun and entertaining. At one point Debbie and Chris were talking shop, including that they would both like to work in an Endoscopy unit. The Runner suggested that they start a website: Dirtynursetalk.com. Let the record show that the Runner has not tried to determine whether such a site already exists.

Being in charge didn’t really last all that long, but the Runner also enjoyed the company of the other runners as well. He took turns running with Caitlin Oblander, Bob Pokorny, Beth Bugner, Suzanne and Jack Sharpe, and of course Ladd and Jeannine, and probably a bunch more.

By the time he was nearing thirty laps – the marathon distance, the Runner was slowing down quite a bit. Larry was just about done with his 50K, and the Chris lapping thing had begun in earnest. She just never slowed down. And Ladd and Jeannine were remarking that they could walk faster than he could run. Those two were actually running faster as the race went on. Had he been even a little lucid, he couldn’t have agreed more. He slowed even more in the next few laps, hitting the 50K mark about five hours, eighteen minutes into the run. He took a much needed break.

The RD came out for a moment to worry about running out of water. The Runner told him to shut heck up (without using the word, heck), and then went back out to see how much further he could go.

Fairly far, it turns out. The Runner gets some kind of second wind, and runs four more laps at about the same pace as some of the ones in the middle of the race. Along the way he finds himself running at various moments with ebullient as always Angela Demchuck, Roy Heger, Suzanne (again) and Kenny Welch, all of whom are all enjoying their runs way too much.

The Runner realizes that he was enjoying himself too. Mugrage is a pretty little park, and it is a beautiful day. But then all too soon, the six hours are coming to an end. The Runner hoofs it in for the last half-mile to try to keep ahead of Ladd. He wanted to allow for the possibility that he and Ladd were at the same mileage, in which case the question of who crossed the line for their final lap might be relevant.

It isn’t. Ladd had 42 laps, whereas the Runner winds up as the second male with only 40 (which is 25 miles). But both Ladd and the Runner were ‘chicked’ twice: by Chris (49 laps!) and Jeannine (43). The RD, the Runner, and everyone else had a blast.
Here is everyone who was still around as the race ended.                  Photo by Felicia Fago

It was dark in the park

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