Sunday, April 25, 2010

Which task is more difficult?

Choices: Running 50K or cutting up two trees?

Answer: Cutting up two trees!

We traveled to NY this weekend so that I could help my father-in-law, Dick, cut up a couple of trees. I was looking forward to this for since I don't get a lot of chances to use a chain-saw, and it is always good to be able to help Dick with his endless source of projects.

We arrived saturday early afternoon to find him already cutting off the smaller branches. I got out of the car, grabbed a pair of gloves and started in with loading the trailer with the brush. Dick told me where to dump branches and off I went with the tractor to unload while he continued to cut. When I returned, he had started to cut up the larger limbs and soon handed over the chainsaw after he stumbled a couple of times! Did I mention that Dick is almost 82 years young? I think he should have given me the saw much sooner but you can't tell an old Italian anything! Ha!

So we worked together to cut up the limbs and trunks. It took a little longer since we would have to prop up the trunk every so often in order to keep the saw blade out of the dirt. I was feeling pretty good after that last cut! Now, the real work begins: Hauling the wood away.

Dick took on the task of loading the smaller pieces onto the lawnmower trailer. I loaded the larger chunks to take over for splitting. This is the part that was work! Running does not do much to build your upper-body strength. I used some muscles that I forgot I had! By late afternoon, we had cleared all of the brush, moved the wood, and put away all of the tools. We were both ready for a nap!

It was a great weekend visit. It is not everyday that people let me use power tools! As an extra bonus, I got to drive the tractor too!

Although this tractor was not quite like the one that I used to drive!

One of the benefits of growing up on a farm!

Recovery from last weekend's race is going well! Time to start another build phase towards Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 "Forget the PR" 50K Race Report

"Run for your Ride"

I had so much fun at last year's inaugural event, I just had to do it again this year. Contrary to the race name, I also wanted to better last year's time of 6:33. My stretch goal was to actually set a 50K PR. (6:05)

Denise, Gina, and Abby accompanied me to the race this year. We spent saturday evening in the Mohican Resort Lodge after taking a side trip to Kenyon College where Gina will be attending a swim camp this summer. The weather was very cool and breezy which squashed anyone's enthusiasm for a hike. We instead relaxed and caught up on some reading.

I went to packet pickup at the starting line, setting way-points on the TomTom for Denise in the morning. She was going to drop me off for the start of the race and then go back to the lodge where her and the girls would have a nice breakfast and wait for me to pass by. Then they would travel to the finish line and wait for me there. Denise told me that they were leaving for home at 2pm, giving me 6 hours to finish the race or I would just have to keep running to get home! I hoped that she was joking but I did not want to take a chance...

Hence the subtitle of my race report: "Run for your Ride!"

Rob Powell, the race director, gave some last minute instructions and before long, we were off and running. My goal for the race was to not kill myself in the first 2 miles of climbing, and then settle down into a nice solid steady pace. I found myself in a conga-line of around 15-20 people moving at a 9-11 minute/mile clip. Just where I wanted to be.

A quick refill of my water bottle at the Hickory Ridge aid station and off I went towards the Covered Bridge. The crowd started to thin out a bit after the aid station making the running a bit easier since the roots and rocks were easier to see. The hills at Mohican are larger than what I am used to running on but the scenery more than makes up for it. I was feeling fine and enjoying the day.

I refilled water/heed and grabbed a stack of pringles at the Covered Bridge aid station before I started towards Little Lyons Falls. This has to be the coolest trail ever! You follow a small valley upstream, crossing the water several times over rocks, trees, sometimes through the stream itself, until you arrive at the water fall. A turn to the left provides you a hand-over-hand climb up some tree roots to get up and out of the ravine! It is really really fun. After the fun of the trail, we were dumped onto the 'dam road' to climb up out of the river valley towards the lodge.

Back into the woods again to make the out-and-back loop to the lodge. The leaders of the race were now coming back towards me and I was surprised that there were not too many people ahead of me. The trail takes a tour of the shoreline of the lake before we pass by the lodge. I stopped to say hello to my family at the lodge before I was reminded that the clock was running and that I had better get running! I had been running for 2:51 so far and my 6 hour goal was close! The lodge was half-way so things were looking good.

Back through the out-and-back section and onward to Big Lyons Falls. The trail here goes DOWN a steep pitch without the aid of the roots like little Lyons. Last year, it was really muddy and my descent was more of a controlled crash than anything else. This year was much dryer, but not much more control... Back to the covered bridge again and off for the hardest section of the race: The fire tower. This leg is only 2.5 miles, but almost all of it is up, up, and more up. Here is where my fast aid station stops caught up with me. I had not been eating nearly enough food. I had food with me, but I forgot that I needed to eat it!

I was feeling apathetic, tired, and I really did not want to run anymore. I was in a group of 4 at the start of the climb and before long I was in a group of one. Not where I wanted to be... I started to eat some powerbar and ginger snaps. I was looking forward to the potato soup at the aid station; I just had to get there.

Finally, I could see the tower through the trees and I refilled my bottles, ate some soup, and took a couple of fig bars with me as I started back towards the covered bridge for the last time. Again, I was alone and started to panic a bit as I did not see any course markings. I almost turned back to make sure that I was not lost but then saw a flag! Good, I really did not want to climb back up that hill. The course was now back on the mountain bike trail and I was able to clock my slow pace...12 minute mile! Hey, that is not bad. It felt more like a 25 minute mile. Maybe things are not so bad after all. I caught up with a couple of people who looked as bad as I had felt and my energy levels were coming back.

Once again, refill bottles, grabbed a couple of cookies, and off I went for the finish. I had 49 minutes to go 4.25 miles to make my 6 hour cut off. I realized that indeed a PR was possible!!! I quickly flashed back to a memory of setting a PR at the Spring Classic 1/2 Marathon with my friend Andy. We were both tired but we pushed each other to a strong fast finish! No one in the group was willing to back off the pace and we kept building until the end. Today was different in that I was alone, but I could feel Andy there beside me. The last section of trail follows the river and Rob took us as close to the river as possible. In fact, I think that if there had been anymore rain that week, we would have been IN the river! I knew from last year that one monster hill remained and I was not going to let it demoralize me this year. I kept running and managed to catch a couple of people before I allowed myself to realize that I had a PR. As I rounded the corner towards the finish line, I saw the clock at 5:59:55 and tried to make it. I crossed at 6:00:11... Whoohooo!!! A PR by 5 minutes over a much much harder course. It was a great day!

Many thanks to the volunteers and to Rob Powell for putting on yet another fantastic event! That course is tough, but oh so nice to run! Thanks to Denise, Gina, and Abby for once again tolerating my strange hobby.

Lessons learned:
1) EAT! I had gu and powerbars with me. I guess I need to actually ingest them for the calories to help.
2) I need to run some more hills!
3) Never give up. Bad patches happen, and then they go away. Keep moving!

Denise, Thanks for not making me run home...

Oh yeah, Mark C. asked me how I was going to recover. This photo is a start...

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I love to taper! The aches and pains diminish, energy levels rise, and life is good. I am tapering for the "Forget the PR50K" race at Mohican State Park.

Last year's race report can be found here for your amusement. I am hoping to beat last year's time and to enjoy myself immensely in the process. Denise, Gina, and Abby will be there too cheering everyone on.

Weather looks to be great and I cannot wait to climb Little Lyons Falls again! Race report to follow next week.

Good luck to everyone running Boston monday. I'll be following alone on-line...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Best race yet!!!

Today was the Spring Classic 1/2 Marathon and 5K race in Strongsville. We decided to run this as a family event with Denise running the 1/2 marathon and Gina, Abby, and I running the 5K. Denise was gunning for anything under 2 hours, Abby was gunning for a fast run, and my job was to get Gina across the finish line in one piece.

Gina's run training is not going too well this spring with her allergies and asthma kicking in full force. She would usually end up wheezing and walking on the bike path during the few times she ventured out. Denise and I decided that I would stay with Gina and help do whatever I could to get her through. We knew we had at least an hour and a half to do the 5K before Denise finished her 1/2 marathon.

The morning was near perfect conditions with lots of sunshine and a crisp 38 degrees. We checked in, got our t-shirts, and before long, Denise started her race. 15 minutes later, the 5K started. Abby took off on her own with Gina and I following behind. I kept talking to her telling her to stay calm, breath deep, and have fun. I asked her if she wanted to take a walk break at the turn around and she declined. She told me "If I want a walk break, I'll ask for one. Don't offer it to me." Ok, game on....

We saw Abby running strong after the turn around and she was 8th female at that point! Gina said something about Abby being a running beast and I agreed! Abby is really enjoying the running experience and it shows on her face.

Gina and I made it to the 2 mile mark, still running strong and no walk breaks!! As we neared the shelter area, Gina said "Hey! I am doing this!" Darn right she's doing this, she is crushing this!!

We crossed the finish line in 28:5x and that was enough for Gina to get 2nd place in her age group! The funny thing was, it was also good enough for ME to get second place in my age group!!! I was floored. I never place in a race, yet alone in a 5K. I guess no one else in my age group showed up! Ha! Abby won her age group.

We waited for Denise to complete lap number 1 and showed off our hardware as we cheered her on her way for lap 2. A trip to the food line was next and as we ate, the winners of the 1/2 marathon came through in 1:09!!!! I would like to run ONE mile that fast, yet alone string several of them together.

Denise completed lap 2 with a total time of 1:54 which gave her 2nd in her age group! We were 4 for 4 as a family for hardware!! An awesome day.

Two things stand out from the morning:
1) Gina saying "I'm doing it!"
2) As I went to get our drop bags, an older gentleman asked me if those two girls were my daughters and if so I should be very proud of them. I responded that they were and that I am very proud of them!

He said he was following Abby for a little over a mile, thinking that she would eventually slow down, but she never did!

The smile on Gina's face as we crossed the finish line was priceless... I think the smile on my face was too, at least it felt that way!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Build complete

I was fortunate to have both last friday and today as holidays from work. I took advantage of the summer weather friday to complete a 4.5 hour run on the local trails. I ventured over to Liberty Park to see the progress on the new trails. There was not much activity other than a few streamers hanging from some branches. I wandered down the grassy section under the power lines toward Route 82, looking for a way to connect the two sections of the park. All I found was lots of deer paths and lots of brambles. My legs will be scratched up for a while...

It was quite warm friday and it was nice to sweat for a change. I met Denise and Abby on the bike path as I returned and shared my remaining water with them. They had the same love/hate relationship with the heat: It felt good, but too warm too fast. Another 10 miles saturday morning completed my build for the "Forget the PR" race.

I completed 10 miles this morning, 5 of which were with Abby! Track practice has started and their first meet is coming up next week. She enjoys running and it has been showing on her face these past couple of weeks! She has the 'glow' about her again.

We attended a fantastic Easter service yesterday morning and then took a great family hike up in South Chagrin park. There are a few challenging hills there that we want to get back to often before our ADK trip. We need to train a bit for our assault on Algonquin Peak.

Spring Classic 1/2 Marathon this weekend for Denise with Gina, Abby, and I running the 5K. We will then cheer Denise in for her finish! Should be a great weekend. I will taper a bit for the 50k these next two weeks and then ramp up again for my 50+ mile run memorial day weekend. I need to get some details worked out about this one. I really don't want to run this alone, especially since it will probably be a night run...