Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 URINEO - 50 Miles

With another year coming to a close, this could only mean one thing - NEO Trail's annual URINEO FA at Mill Creek Park.  I usually try to make this event every year and have gone the last 3 out of 5 years with the following results:
  • 2007 - 50K - 8:18
  • 2008 - 50K - 7:35
  • 2009 - MHM - 20 laps
I was feeling ambitious this year after knocking off one of NEO Trail's challenges a month ago - Gate28x2 at Slim Pickins.  My goal this year at URINEO was to accomplish the other challenge - 50 miles.  This would be a new distance record for me since the farthest I've gone up to this point has been 50K.

I just recently bought my first pair of trail running shoes and really like them.  I got the same kind my brother wears, Brooks Cascadia.  I've had many pairs of Nike Pegasus, so I really like the Brooks since they are just as light as the Nikes, but have a tougher foot plate to protect from rocks and roots.  A tough shoe sole has never been a big worry for me doing 50Ks, but after today I realized how much of a difference it can make for longer distances.

So back to URINEO....I went to bed early Friday night and set my alarm for 2 AM.  I left my apartment in Akron at 3 and got started at the Old Log Cabin at 4 o'clock.  I only saw one person there, but ran into Bob, Jim, Todd and a couple others as I was headed out.  I started counter-clockwise around the park.

The URINEO loop is the same as YUT-C except we skip the Lake Newport section and only run to the Mill for 7.75 miles.  If you're trying for the 50 mile finish, you add the Lily Pond section plus Big Bear for about 8.33 per loop.

My legs felt good the first loop.  It was cool running through the park so early in the morning, especially seeing the waterfall at the Mill with more water than usual rushing over it.  The trails were in good condition with only a couple icy spots on the boardwalk and mud in a couple places.

For aid, I had 2 Cliff Bars, 2 packs of Shot Blocks, a foot long Subway spicy Italian sub, salt tablets, and a gallon of Gatorade.  I'm starting to get smarter with ultras as far as what to pack for aid.  Salt tablets made a huge difference today.  Even though it was cold out, I'm sure I was losing a lot of electrolytes.  It only takes one bad calf cramping experience (Laurel 50K last Spring) to wise up and prevent it from happening next time.

The second loop was pretty uneventful.  When I got back to my car for the 3rd loop, I met two people from Pittsburgh, Cindy and Jeff.  Cindy had been to the park last year for URINEO, but this was Jeff's first adventure in Youngstown.  Cindy asked if I could show them the trail, so I ran with them for the 3rd loop.  My legs were starting to feel the miles at this point.

The 4th and 5th loops are a little bit of a blur.  Bits I can remember include:
  • Seeing Brian, Rich and Paul at the Monkey Hills attempting the MHM
  • Me sitting on the trail on the ridge by the log cabin during the 4th loop exhausted and massaging my calves as Taylor Sowers came by finishing his 2nd loop.
  • Slim Jim telling me the 4th loop is the toughest mentally since you know you have 2 left after.
  • Running hurt just as much as walking, so I ran as much as I could to get done faster.
  • Hitting my head pretty hard on a fallen tree across the Monkey Trail and almost doing it a second time the next loop.
  • Running with Cindy and Jeff on the 5th loop.  They really pulled me along and prevented me from having a really slow loop.
As I got back to the cabin before starting my 6th and final loop, the party was in full force.  I knew I had to get in and out of there since it was full of excuses to throw in the towel (food, warmth, refreshments).  Bill Losey said to me, "Get what you need and get going.  Don't get caught up in this bullshit."  He was right, but in my head I knew if I made it to this point, there was no quitting.  It was either stop at 4 loops or finish the whole enchilada.  A 5 loop finish would've meant nothing, or close to it.

So I started off counter-clockwise again, pumped up from the encouragement of the runners at the cabin.  I ran for about 30 seconds, stopped, then realized I was going to be doing way more walking than running this loop.  Each time after starting back up from the log cabin, my calves really ached due to sitting down.  Most times they got "better" after a mile or so.  However on this 6th loop, I can't say they really got better.  The good thing, I thought, was that you can only hurt so much and then you start to forget about it.  Or maybe just get used to it.

I ran into Cam Baker and Lloyd Thomas near Big Bear.  Cam was also finishing his last loop of the 50 miler.  I started singing "The Final Countdown" by Europe, he told me he did a 1-up and ran an extra MH, we exchanged words of encouragement, and were on our way.

When I got to the Monkey Hills, Rich was still at it.  He was just coming down the hill towards the road as I was starting up, so I walked the trail in one direction with him.  He was on his 23rd loop en route to a record setting 30 loops!

I could feel the finish nearing closer as I arrived at the Stone Bridge trail.  I couldn't believe what I was about to accomplish today.  All the effort and struggle throughout the day was becoming worth it for this moment of finishing.

I finished in 12:15.  Exhausted and relieved, I changed clothes and then walked into the cabin to a loud applause.

What a great day!  I think it's awesome our club has events like these.  It really feels like an extended family.  Each person seems to truly care about each other's accomplishments and encouraging each other along the way.

Below are my approximate splits I wrote down after each loop.  All the splits, except the first, include time stopped at the cabin refueling.

1 - 1:35 - 11:24/mile
2 - 1:45 - 12:36/mile
3 - 2:00 - 14:24/mile
4 - 2:14 - 16:05/mile
5 - 2:16 - 16:19/mile
6 - 2:25 - 17:24/mile

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Warren Turkey Trot

Brian, Jamie and I continued the tradition today of running the Warren Turkey Trot at the Kent Trumbull branch.  I always look forward to this race and was glad that I was healthy to run it this year.  I thought about taking it easy and enjoying it this year, but that idea faded quickly as I know how hard it is not to race it!

We got there around 9 AM and the 2 miler was going on.  The 5 mile race was set for a 10 o'clock start, so we got in a warmup after saying hi to many familiar faces.  It didn't take long to spot Shubi, who was in from Colorado and fresh off a 10,000 ft run out there the same day as Slim Pickins.

The weather was perfect and the crowd was large as usual.  Ted Rupe gave a pre-race prayer and then sounded the siren to start the race.  I felt pretty relaxed despite the tough 50K last weekend.  There was a slight wind on the way out and way back, but nothing too strong.  I finished with a 33:45.  Jamie won her age group and Brian had a good race also.

Afterward, we followed tradition and had dinner at my parents house.  My mom cooked a great meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn bread, biscuits, cranberry jello, apple sauce in the crock pot, salad and pumpkin pie. 

I have so much to be thankful for and this day is always a great remember of those things!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slim Pickins 2011

This year I decided to join the shenanigans at Laurel Highlands for the annual NEO Trail member-only Slim Pickins event.  The event lasts from Friday night to Sunday and this year we stayed at the Yough Plaza Hotel in Ohiopyle.  The stated goal was to run a 50K from the start of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail out to mile 8 and back twice for a total elevation gain of 7,400 ft!

On Friday, I drove up to Hudson with Brian to meet Lloyd Thomas and carpool over to PA.  We left around 3:30 and it took about 3-3.5 hours.  Some people had already arrived in Ohiopyle and planned on getting some extra miles in.  My plan was to try and run only the 50K on Saturday.  If I bailed out early, I would do some extra on Sunday.

When we got there, we parked at the Falls City Restaurant & Pub and there inside was a table full of NEO Trail members greeting us including Jim & Eric Harris, Cam Baker, Paul Lefelhocz, Kimba, Chris Kalie, and Bruce "The Moose" McMurray.  Later, Wild Bill, Tara Schweitzer and Allison Holko joined us.  The night was filled with good beer, delicious food and plenty of interesting discussions.

After eating, we all went back to our quarters and tipped back a few more.  We snapped this fairly normal photo of us at the hotel and posted to Facebook to show the world what true club companionship really is!

We ended up getting to bed after midnight.  The planned start time was at 8 o'clock.  Cam had to get done early, so he started at 6.  Jim also joined him to get a couple hours of running in before the official start.

My sister showed up about 10 minutes beforehand, as well as a few other people that didn't spend the night.  We walked down to the gate at the start of the trail, took a few group photos and were off.

Instantly within the first quarter mile, the trail heads skyward.  There are three main hills to the mile 8 marker, each with their own difficulty.  The first one isn't overly steep, but continually inclines until a little bit after 2.5.  It also has some pretty technical rocky footing.  The next hill goes from mile 3.5 to 4.5, crests, then zig zags downward on some switchbacks.  Finally, the grand finale from mile 6 to 8 climbs about 1200 ft.  This last one seems to go on forever.

I was feeling pretty good during most of the first out-and-back.  No major issues and aches which was good.  I wanted to take the first loop easy and push it the second if I had the energy.  The main goal was to finish.

After the first loop, Brian and I went to the market to grab a bite to eat.  We both got burgers and fries.  I knew it would be tough starting the second loop after this, but the extra fuel was a huge help.  After a half hour or so, we headed back out.  We saw Wild Bill, Tara and Allison at the gate.  We egged them to try for another loop, but weren't able to entice them.  We headed up the trail a few steps and saw the Moose coming at us.  He was also done.  So, Brian and I were bringing up the rear since my sister and the crew she was running with were only going three more miles out and back.

It took a little while to get back in the groove since we had the burger on our stomachs.  The sun was slowly starting to head to the western horizon.  Brian and I wanted to at least make it to the turnaround before we needed to use our headlamps.

We saw Lloyd and Rich as well as Jim and Kim on the way out.  At the overlook near mile 8, we snapped a few photos and headed back.  We had to turn on our lights with about 5 miles to go.  The darkness slowed us down quite a bit, but we had a few nice streaks of running especially when Brian had his headphones on!

The excitement grew as we continued to clip off the miles.  My legs ached a bit, but it really didn't bother me since they had been even before we started the second loop. 

Finally, we made it back to the mile 0 gate!  We gave each other high fives and walked to the pub.  As we entered, we got a round of applause.  It's always a great feeling to accomplish something you're not sure about when you first start.  This was my second 50K this first being the actual Laurel Highlands 50K race!

This year has been filled with more injury downtime than running and races, but today made the rest and cross training worthwhile! This event has me itching for more miles...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Magic Moment

“You have to take risks”- he said.

“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

“Every day, God gives us the sun–and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy.
“Every day, we try to pretend that we haven’t perceived that moment, that it doesn’t exist–that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow.

But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment.

It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock.
It may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us.

But that moment exists–a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.”

-Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

West Branch Night Run

Tonight I met Jim Harris and Todd Hanks at 6:30 at the boat dock parking lot for a night run.  We started on the Lake Trail, crossed Cable Line Rd, ran the trails on the other side, and then finished on the expert trail.  Before crossing Cable Line Rd, we walked down to the family cemetery to check out the witch's grave.  No screams heard tonight!

It was a perfect night for a run.  A nice breeze, actually feeling warm at times, and a partly cloudy sky that gave way to a bright full moon.  We still needed our headlamps, but I looked around a few times and was surprised how bright it was out.

I really enjoy night runs.  A trail route you run all the time during the day looks totally different at night.  It's easy to get in a trance and forget you're physically exerting yourself.  The pace always seems faster than what it is.

Group night runs are even more enjoyable.  It's like sitting around a campfire telling stories except you're running and the glowing light is your headlamp.  A lot of people get depressed when the clock turns back and it gets dark earlier.  I've learned to accept it better and not let it ruin my workouts.  Each season provides a different adventure and a different challenge.  I do wish winter was shorter, but it makes us appreciate Spring that much more.  If it wasn't for the challenges in life, we would take the simple things for granted.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Double 12

Yesterday I went for a run at Mill Creek with Brian.  The weather was gorgeous with clear blue skies and nice temps near 60.  We ran a big loop counterclockwise around all three lakes starting from the Rose Garden.  By the wetlands, we saw a bald eagle.  I had never seen one in person, much less in MCP!  It's wingspan was amazing as it flew away.  We ended the day with 12 miles.

So today the weather was still good and I still had some running fever in me.  I got out of work early, but knew this was post- move the clock back an hour.  Ugh!  I was glad for the extra hour of sleep, but now it gets dark at 5:30.  I grabbed the headlamp and headed out as quickly as possible.

I ran from Boston Store to Snowville Rd. then did two more miles on the Towpath.  I made it to Snowville without my light on, but had to turn it on after to avoid tripping on the leaf-covered roots.  I saw plenty of deer out on the trail staring at me.  I always enjoy night runs.   There's something about being all alone in the woods with just the creatures and the moon that is very calming.  I only saw one other person out there and he was doing the same route as me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Youngstown Peace Race

Well I finally signed up for the Youngstown Peace Race this year.  I've always wanted to run this one since it goes through one of my favorite places to run - Mill Creek Park.  They changed the course this year making it a point-to-point run from Kirkmere Elementary school and ending in the usual finish area at Federal Plaza in downtown Y-town.

I caught a bus from downtown to the start line.  This guy I was talking to in line for the bus happened to be my high school English teacher's son.  At the school I saw a bunch of familiar faces including Tim McNeil, Terry McCluskey and Stacy Sowers.  I walked to the start line with Stacy then worked my way toward the front.  I definitely wasn't conditioned very well for this race so I just had two goals: enjoy the scenery and run under 7 min/mile. 

The course had some nice rolling hills, but nothing too steep.  We ran down to the Mill and worked our way back to the Old Log Cabin and on to downtown.  On my way back to the city, I talked to a real nice Warren runner named Walter I've known from running around Warren and going to the Mocha House.  He's real upbeat, so I enjoyed his company and conversation through the huffing and puffing.  I told him I forgot how quick these short road races were.

I ended up finishing in 42:34 (6:52 pace) and was very pleased.  The finish line was great with a live band and tons of post-race food including Dunkin' Donuts!  At the finish I also saw Dan Kuzma who was cheering on his wife who ran today.

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone and plan on hopefully doing it again next year.  The course is beautiful and Ted Rupe does a great job directing such a large race with over 1200 runners.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"A giant oak is only a little nut that held its ground..."

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Today I drove to Middletown, OH to go skydiving! I bought a coupon on LivingSocial for Start Skydiving a year ago and it expired on the 11th, so it was now or wait another 6 months or so.

I got to the airstrip at 9 AM to fill out papers, watch a video and get suited up. Around 10:30 or so, we boarded the plane to climb up to 13,000 ft. The guy I was going tandem with was pretty cool. He had a Fu Manchu style moustache and had made over 6,000 jumps in his life. Before we went up, he already had 4 under his belt for the day!

As the plane kept climbing higher and higher, I was getting more nervous, thinking WHAT AM I DOING!? I got the photo/video package, so the video guys were in the plane with us trying to ease our nerves. My videographer told me that not going to church today was the worst possible day in your life not to haha!

When we finally got up to altitude, I was the first to go. My instructor connected my harness to him and gave me a few instructions. We inched towards the open door and looked down. My legs were a little locked, but on the count of three, we were gone!

The fall lasted 50 seconds, but seemed to go really fast. The wind was so intense that it was hard to realize how high you were. After giving a thumbs up, yawning, and giving some gang signs to the videographer, my instructor pulled the rip cord.

Things calmed down quickly and we floated slowly towards our landing spot. After the parachute deployed, my instructor told me it was twisted. So, he had me put my arms out so the wind would push us around like a swing. It didn't take long and it was untangled. He told me after that happens 1 in about 100 and one time he had to actually cut the parachute away and use the backup because the guy he was with locked up and wasn't able to follow instructions.

The ride down lasted about 4 minutes. My instructor told me what to do for the landing - lift my legs up, point my toes and we'll land on our butts. As we were landing, I gave the videographer a high-five. We made a soft landing and that was that. I had gone skydiving!! My instructor told me, you now have more takeoffs in a plane than landings :)

Thursday, October 06, 2011


Go unto life like a bull to the streets.
Leave no rock unturned or path untraveled.
The winner in life is not the first to the destination.
In contrast, the golden prize is not making it past first, stuck smelling the roses.
Regrets are opportunities in the present.
There is no blueprint, just a blank sheet of paper.
God gives you a box full of a thousand colored crayons.
Find your passion and draw your Picasso.
If you have but one regret,
Regret there was no time to sign your name
For you were busy drawing more roses.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Cure All

After a really busy day of work, it was great to get out for a run at the Cuyahoga Valley. I hit heavy traffic on Rt. 8 from an accident and started wondering if this was a good idea. I took a detour around the accident and finally got to the Happy Days parking lot.

The run started out slow and sluggish. I felt like I was moving backwards and even the flats were a struggle. The temperature felt great, nice and cool, but I still worked up a sweat.

I started with a 3.5 mile loop on the Boston Run trail. After finishing that, I headed towards the ledges and Kendall Lake, did a No Frills loop around the hills, then jumped on the Salt Run trail for a 3.5 mile loop. I finished with 13 miles.

I was glad I had decided to run today since I felt great afterward. All the thoughts and stress from the workday vanished into the woods. Even though I've experienced it many, many times before, it always amazes me how a run can fix just about anything. I can't remember one run that I've finished and regretted. Whether it's 90 degrees or 20, raining or snowing, there's always an adventure out there to free your mind, especially on trails. It doesn't always happen, but when you can get in a rhythmn and forget that you're even running, the miles just fly by.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Akron Marathon Relay

This morning I woke up to run in the Akron Marathon Relay. I joined a team at work and would be the 3rd leg - 6.3 miles. The race started at 7 AM and I tossed around the idea of running from my apartment 5 miles to the start, running my leg, then running back. I was glad I decided not to since I didn't get to bed till midnight and it probably wouldn't have been smart anyway since my mileage hasn't gotten too high yet.

I started at Brown St, which is right by the Akron football stadium. I started out like a bat out of hell, but settled into a pace. My leg didn't have to many extreme hills and the part on the Towpath was nice. I handed off the wristband to the next member at Sand Run Metropark and took the bus back downtown to watch the finish.

Our team finished in 3:49. We definitely had much room for improvement since some of our handoffs took 5 minutes or so to find the next member. We weren't going for any world record, so everyone was happy. I was hoping to see my time, but unfortunately one of the chips didn't register at the end of the 2nd leg. Oh well!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"Too often we are scared. Scared of what we might not be able to do. Scared of what people might think if we tried. We let our fears stand in the way of our hopes.

We say no when we want to say yes. We sit quietly when we want to scream. And we shout with the others, when we should keep our mouths shut. Why? After all, we do only go around once. There’s really no time to be afraid.

So stop. Try something you’ve never tried. Risk it. Enter a triathlon. Write a letter to the editor. Demand a raise. Call winners at the toughest court. Throw away your television. Bicycle across the United States. Try bobsledding. Try anything. Speak out against the designated hitter. Travel to a country where you don’t speak the language. Patent something. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. JUST DO IT.”

-Barry Sanders, 1992

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mile Swim

Tonight at the Munroe Falls Metropark, I swam a mile in the lake. The lap lane is 250 yards, so it's definitely a lot more enjoyable than doing flip turns every 25 meters in a pool. I felt great tonight and really strong. I'm starting to really enjoy this cross training and hope to get a bike this weekend so I can start doing that also. I think that will help a lot with nagging injuries I've had with my quads and IT Band. The biking should also strengthen my calves pretty well, so that will be good for trail running and hills.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Alchemist

I just finished reading The Alchemist for the second time. Both times I've read it, I felt inspired. The book is about following your dream, your "Personal Legend". A story about a shepherd who follows his dream, this book tells about the ups and downs and struggles of following your true calling in life.

I enjoy it because it reinforces what I feel a lot of people forget about in life. And that is, you only live once and you only get one shot at chasing your dreams. I feel like I've seen a lot of people who aren't necessarily unhappy, but they have a hole, big or small, in their life. That hole is the thought that they passed up following their Personal Legend whether it be traveling around the world or following a certain career path. They've fallen into a daily routine in life and feel it's too late and too risky to do what they truly want to do. The Alchemist tells how fulfilling your Personal Legend isn't easy, but if you pay attention and put your trust in a higher being, you will be given signs and direction.

The book mentions four obstacles that stand in our way to confronting and fulfilling our dream. They are:
  • Impossible. We are told as a child and onward that what we want to do is impossible.
  • Love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid to hurt those we love.
  • Fear. We fear the defeats that will meet us on our path.
  • Not worthy. We renounce our joy and conquest when we finally arrive at our goal.

Throughout the entire book, there are many good lessons, words of wisdom and encouragement. However, I really enjoyed this little story right at the beginning of the text:

The Alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the Narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

"Why do you weep?" the goddesses asked.

"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.

"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."

"But...was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.

"Who better than you to know that?" the goddesses said in wonder, "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"

The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

"I weep for Naricssus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

Realize your beauty and potential, follow your dreams, and stay resilient in your quest.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


This weekend, I drove over to Ohiopyle to run the Laurel Highlands 50K. This was my first race since last Fall when I injured my IT band and my 2nd official ultra, my first being YUT-C in '09. My sister was also running the 50K and Brian was doing the 77 miler. The longer distance is usually only 70 miles, but due to a bridge out over the turnpike, an additional 7 mile detour was needed. This was the last year for it.

I met Jim Harris, Tim End (Jim's cousin), Eric Harris, Eric's friend Nick, Lloyd Thomas, Brian and Jamie on Friday. Jim got two rooms at the Lodge at Chalk Hill about 20 minutes from the start line in Ohiopyle. I got there an hour before them, so I drove to Ohiopyle to see the waterfall and natural waterslide. This was my first time around this area and I thought it was beautiful.
On Saturday morning, Jamie, Eric, Nick and I woke up at 6 o'clock. The 50K started at 8 and the 77 at 5:30. Jim was also doing the 50K, but took the other guys down to the start for the 77 and hung around till the 50K start. Jim had also dropped a car off at the finish line on Friday, so that made things a lot easier for us since the race is a point-to-point.

We got to the start line around 7:15 and checked-in. About 15 minutes before the start, I decided I better hit the restroom. There was a line, so I got out of there 3 minutes before start time! As I was coming out, I dropped my Nathan handheld water bottle and the top of it broke. I wasn't too worried though since I had my camelback.

Rick Freeman gave a pre-race prayer, then countdown the last few seconds to the start, and we were off! This was my first time on these trails, so other than looking at elevation profiles of the course, I didn't know what to expect. I made a quick dash for the front of the pack at the start because the trail is single-track and hard to pass someone on.

It wasn't long before everyone was walking....even the lead guys! I knew these hills must be for real if they were walking already. The first 8 miles or so has 3 giant hills. The final one lasts a couple miles. The trail was pretty technical in the beginning and had some muddy and wet parts. You really had to watch your footing and every step. One slip could turn into a badly sprained ankle or a nasty tumble down steep stairs.

It was a relief getting to the first aid station around mile 12. I planned on getting in and out of each aid station as quick as possible since you can waste a lot of time here. I started out with Cameback Elixir in my hyrdation pack and refilled with Gatorade at the aid station. I had a few stomach cramps in the first 3 miles that luckily went away. Not sure if it was the Elixir mix, since I hadn't tried it before race day, or something else. I also had 2 packs of GU Chomps and a gel pack.

I was feeling great after the hills. Jim, Eric and Nick ran together for a good portion of the race and I yo-yo'd back and forth with them multiple times during the race. I tried to make up lost time walking the uphills by taking the downhills fast.

Between miles 12-19 is when things started getting tough. I was doing a pretty good job hydrating, but learned that salt pills would've been a good investment. I figured the sodium in the gatorade and Elixir would be enough, but not the case when you're sweating a storm on a humid day with giant hills facing you. I felt sluggish and walked a good part after losing sight of Jim and the boys around mile 15.

I couldn't believe the climb when I got to miles 18-19. It felt harder than the first three hills since it was more than half way into the race and my legs were feeling beat. The incline had steps at some points. I stopped half way and sat down on a log thinking that finishing with anything under 7:30 would be a miracle.

I finally made it the mile 19 aid station. There I got my camelback refilled and ate as many saltine crackers as I could. After 5 minutes of being there, Jamie came strolling in. It was great seeing her! We stayed for a little while longer then left together.

From 19 to the mile 26 aid station, we mixed in walking and running. I was now finding it a whole lot easier running when I had someone to get my mind off of it. My calves started cramping during this part of the race and felt like they could pull at any moment. I had to change my stride and not kick back as much. I also knew that I had to watch every step because if I tripped it would be game over.

Unfortunately, I tripped. Over a rock or a stump or something. Jamie was running in front. I instantly fell to the ground and let out a loud yell. I layed there and held my calf until it stopped pulling. It had locked up into a ball, so I started massaging it. I was pretty worried though because this could've meant walking to the finish for me. Some guy a little ways back heard my yell and asked if he could help any.

Luckily, I was able to continue running and walking and made it to the mile 26 aid station. The guy there gave me two salt tablets and I ate some potatoes with salt. Jamie and I refilled our packs halfway with a gatorade/water mix and got on our way. As we were leaving, it made both of us feel good when these cyclists, decked out with jerseys looking like they just got back from the Tour De France, said something. One of them said, "So you guys have already done a marathon?! That's awesome." They all looked shocked and wished us good luck.

I was pretty happy we only had 5 miles left, but knew these wouldn't be easy. Every so often, one of my calves started to pull slightly. I ran very gingerly hoping nothing major would happen. I knew we still had a pretty hefty climb ahead of us around mile 28 near Seven Springs.

The views from the top of the hills at Seven Springs were amazing. You could see the huge slopes and houses on the side of the hills. There was also a lake at the top where people were paddling and kayaking in. I imagine they use this in the winter to make snow.

After finally making it up the big climb and within a couple miles to go, we could smell the finish line. We ran into Jim and Eric in the last couple miles. When I made the last turn to the finish, I asked "Where's the finish?!?" Whoever's cruel idea it was, you had to pass the finish and make one last (small) loop around the parking lot. I crossed the line in 6:43.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Munroe Falls Metropark

Today I drove over to Munroe Falls Metropark to get a few laps of swimming in. I went here a few times last year and swam with Courtney and Brandon Russell when they were training for a tri. This year I decided to get a summer pass that lasts till August. It was only $30 for Summit County residents so not too bad.

They had part of the lap lane in the lake blocked off, so it was a little bit shorter. I asked the lifeguard and he figured it was probably about 100-125 meters. I went 10 lengths and called it a day. I wasn't pushing it too hard, but it felt surprisingly easy swimming those laps. It's a little harder than a pool staying in a straight line since you can't see in front of you unless you pick your head up. I have a tri in mind up on Lake Erie that Dan Bellinger mentioned to me a couple days ago. I figure biking will be the unknown for me, but I do wonder about the swim. I've never swam next to a whole bunch of people before and not to mention it will be in a bigger, deeper lake with waves...hmmm

Sunday, June 05, 2011


This morning I went to the Lily Pond at Mill Creek Park. I planned on running the big YUT-C loop around the entire park which is 11.75 miles. I ran the loop clockwise to get the majority of the hills out of the way (Stone Bridge trail, Monkey Hills).

I started at 9 AM and the temperature was already heating up. I brought along my handheld water bottle and filled it up 2 times at the Covered Bridge. I'm not usually a good hot weather runner, but today I felt great! This was my last long run before the Laurel 50k next weekend and was a good confidence booster.

I'm still reading Born to Run and I got to a section of it where they're explaining studies done comparing expensive cushioned shoes, cheap less cushioned ones and barefoot running. I was surprised when they specifically mentioned the Nike Pegasus. I've had over 10 pairs of these and have been pretty pleased with them. However since reading this book, I'm realizing my once- or twice-a-year injuries I tend to get are exactly what they mention in the book - either Achilles, planter, or knee issues. I might try switching up shoes after this pair and see how it works out.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Run Downtown

About the same time last year, I mapped out a run from my apartment to downtown Akron. Ok, well it wasn't hard to map out - the directions are take South Main St North into Akron. I planned on going for a run after work today, but after logging onto Facebook and seeing it was National Running Day, I decided to do something extra.

The run into Akron is about 10 miles. The temperature was about the same as last year: 80. The buildings, concrete and asphalt intensify the heat and any bit of shade is welcomed. I brought my handheld water bottle, but that was definitely not enough. I thought of walking into the FirstEnergy building and filling it back up with water, but seeing I had no shirt on and a bandanna I passed :)

Somewhere on the way back, I got a second wind. My lips were really dry, but I felt in a rhythm running. On the last turn into my apartment complex, this outdoorsy-looking couple in a Jeep Wrangler with the top down smiled at me. I wasn't sure if they thought I was crazy or what, but I gave them a thumbs up and a goofy smile. They smiled even bigger.

I'd be lying if I said I don't like being out there on a hot day like today busting it while others are in an air-conditioned car or that I don't like getting funny looks. I definitely prefer the trails over the road most any day, but every once in awhile I like to take a stroll through the city.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Frills, Just Hills FA

Today a bunch of runners met for the 4th annual No Frills, Just Hills FA. I've done it every year and was glad I didn't have to miss it due to some recent Achilles aches. This FA starts at Pine Hallow and does a 2-mile loop around the Kendall Hills area. Runners see how many loops they can do in the 6-hour time limit (or 12-hour option if you had your Wheaties).

My brother, sister and I all got in 8 loops for 16 miles. I was very happy with this and felt I got some good hill work in for Laurel. Everyone had a great time as always. It seems like every year I always meet some new runners. This year I met some friendly people from Michigan. I ran a lot of the day with this guy named Kevin. He was preparing to complete the ultra grand slam this summer. This consists of the Wasatch in Utah, Western States in California, Vermont in uh...Vermont, and Leadville in Colorado - all 100 milers. The 100 mile distance still amazes me, but I've become somewhat immune to the shock of the distance just because I know so many people that have completed it. However, doing 4 100 milers in one summer is just insane. Best of luck to him.

I also ran an easy couple laps with Cyrus Taylor. He was taking it slow because he was opting for the 12-hour option, the only person to do the full thing this year (and any of the prior 3 years as far as I can remember).

Another new face I met was Jerry Williamson. It was great talking with him for a few laps. He also signed up for Laurel, but is doing the 77 mile race.

There were also many others I ran with along the way that made the day enjoyable. It's cool seeing the progression of this event that started from an idea that Brian and I had during a run one day through Kendall. It's turned into a nice event that I look forward to every year. Sometimes you don't need any frills, just good friends.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Born To Run

My dad had let me borrow a friend's copy of Born To Run awhile back and it had just been sitting in my apartment for the past few months. Last week, I met someone at the Crooked River Trail Runners group run that was wearing Vibrams. Soooo, I decided to read the book which is about a Tribe in the remote regions of Mexico who are super ultrarunners that run barefoot. I got to this excerpt (which is mentioned in reference to a man's attempt to get members of the Tribe to run organized races such as Leadville) in the book and really liked it, so I thought I would share it...

When Ken (Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100) met Aron Ralston, the rock climber who sawed off his own hand with the chipped blade of a multitool after getting pinned by a boulder, Ken made an astonishing offer: if Aron ever wanted to run Leadville, he wouldn't have to pay. Ken's invitation stunned everyone who heard about it. The defending champ has to pay his way back into the race. Heroic grand master Ed Williams still has to pay. Ken has to pay. But Aron got a free ride - and why?

"He's the essence of Leadville," Ken said. "We've got a motto here - you're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can. Guy like Aron, he shows the rest of us what we can do if we dig deep."

You might think poor Aron had already suffered enough, but little more than a year after his accident, he took Ken up on the offer. New prosthetic swinging by his side, Aron made it to the finish under the thirty-hour cutoff and went home with a silver belt buckle, thereby stating better than Ken ever could what it takes to toe the line at Leadville: You don't have to be fast. But you'd better be fearless.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


After getting in some good mileage yesterday, I decided to go on another long run today. Before the run, I drove over to Vertical Runner to get a handheld water bottle. I tried a few on and decided to get the Nathan 10oz one for $10. I've been meaning to get one of these because every time I go on a longer run, I always wish I had something to drink. The 10-12 mile distance, for me, is too short to wear a camelback, but long enough to get dehydrated. Even when I've done 50k races, it seems that distance is short enough for me to be "stupid" about rehydrating and refueling. I'm able to finish the distance, but would probably finish feeling a lot stronger if I properly refueled. I'm starting to finally see the importance of staying fueled during longer runs. The more I test it out now, the smarter I'll be in the future.

Anyway, I drove over to Pine Lane from Vertical Runner and started my run there. I had no doubt this would be another muddy run; the first few steps were a clear sign.

I ended up running to Snowville Rd for 18 miles. I started the run with gatorade in my water bottle and refilled it twice with water at Boston Store. I finished the run tired, but feeling great about the effort and back-to-back long runs I got in. This run gave me 43 miles for the week! By far the highest weekly mileage I've had in a long time.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happy Days Run

My sister was in town this weekend from Pittsburgh, so we met at Happy Days to go for a run. The sky was cloudy, but it wasn't raining for once and the temperature felt pretty comfortable. We started out on the ledges trail, then did Pine Grove. From there we ran a loop around Kendall Hills, then did the Salt Run Trail. We figured we probably got in about 11 miles. With all the mud and hills, we got a good workout in. We've been getting a lot of rain, but both of us couldn't believe how green everything was. It almost looked fake!

Afterward Jamie and I went to the Winking Lizard in Peninsula for some food out on the deck. For all the pics of the run click here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Find Your Passion

Tonight I went on a run from Boston Store to Snowville Rd and back for 10 miles. This run always seems challenging no matter how well trained I am. It was especially difficult today with the muddy trail conditions. I got out of work a little late today and really didn't feel like running. I forced myself to drive out to the CVNP and was glad I did. The hardest part of a run for me is usually deciding to do it.

I was thinking today during my run how odd it is that something so exhausting and taxing on the body can be so rewarding. I'm fortunate to have been exposed to running at an early age. It's something that offers so many adventures and opportunities and can teach so many lessons.

I always laugh when I tell someone, who doesn't run, the distances I go. They always give the same crazy look. I guess they give that look because they couldn't imagine running that far. I don't take pride so much in the distances I run, but in the dedication and consistency it takes to do it.

Whatever your passion is, give it your all. It's amazing what can be accomplished by never giving up. If you need proof, just watch the news....10 years and we caught bin Laden. Things worth having or accomplishing rarely come easy.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Towpath - Manchester Rd

I knew that the Towpath had been expanded through downtown Akron a couple years ago, but I didn't realize that the bike path went so close to my apartment. I had noticed a path while driving past the Manchester Rd exit off of 224, so today I went for a run there.

The weather in Ohio has been cloudy and rainy and today was right on par. I still wore shorts, but had gloves and a hat for the first part of the run. I went north towards downtown Akron. I think it's always cool trying out new trails and paths. The scenery and wildlife was actually pretty interesting, but signs of the city were never too far away. The path went past a couple of industries including the water plant. This section was old and rusty looking and had a couple railroad bridges over top.

Further down, the path went across Summit Lake which is right next to I-76. They had a sign that explained how back when they were using the Ohio-Erie Canal, the lake had shores that were too shallow and swampy to allow for a path along the canal to be built. To fix this, they took over 12,000 dump trucks of mud from the lake and built a floating path above the water. The current path also floats above the water and gives a cool feeling when running over it since you're surrounded by water.

The neighborhoods around Akron aren't the best or safest, but I enjoyed the new adventure. I couldn't make it all the way to downtown Akron since they were building a bridge, but I got about 6 miles in today.

Monday, April 25, 2011


What an awesome run tonight! I did my usual Pine Lane to Boston Store route. This is definitely one of my favorite routes to run because it includes many hills, a couple stream crossings and beautiful scenery.

Right from the start, the trail was a mess! With all the rain we've been getting, the streams were filled to the max and there were huge puddles everywhere along the trail. I ran a pretty fast pace surprisingly, despite the bad conditions. I think I run faster in the rain and mud because it gets my mind off running. Whether or not it was actually a fast pace didn't really matter to me though. I was getting in a great workout since every step was a struggle. I only saw one other runner while I was out there. I told him "perfect trail conditions huh?" and he said "doesn't get much better than this!"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Egg Hunt

Tonight I went to the Crooked River Trail Runner's Easter Egg Hunt Run. They got over a hundred people for the run this year with a lot of familiar faces in the crowd. We did a short 5 mile loop starting from Lock 29, going up towards Pine Lane and coming back on the Towpath. I met a few new people during the run that were really nice. The trails were a little muddy but not too bad.

After the run, everyone met at the Winking Lizard for some food, beers and a raffle sponsored by Vertical Runner. During the run, we picked up an easter egg filled with chocolate and jelly beans. On the egg was a number for the raffle. My number was called at the end, so I got a t-shrit. I had a fun time tonight and will probably make it a point to go to more of these runs. Running with other people sure makes runs more fun and go by faster.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

Tonight I met my friend Sara, who goes to Kent, for a run at Pine Lane at 5 o'clock. Sara's an awesome athlete. She's a duathlete/runner/cyclist/mountain biker... you name it.

It was cloudy and drizzling outside. I knew there was a chance for some storms tonight, but I hadn't checked the radar. A couple miles into our run, it started pouring, hard! There was some thunder followed by some flashes of lightening. It's been awhile since I've run in a big downpour, and it was fun! The trails were beyond muddy. It looked more like a river than a trail. We decided to turn around right before the big downhill to Boston Store.

On our way back, all the stream crossings were rushing with water. It was a great time and it didn't feel like we ran as far as we did.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Miles and miles

Tonight I headed over to Boston Store to do a long run. I planned on doing at least 10 and up to 20 depending on how I felt. I started out to Snowville Rd to do the first 10 miles. The weather was great - pretty warm and blue sky. I had shorts and a t-shirt on which is awesome after a long winter. When I got back to my car at Boston, I felt pretty good and saw the time was a little after 6 o'clock. So I got something to drink and headed out towards Pine Lane.
About two miles into that out-and-back, I saw two familiar faces - Moose and Slim Jim! I ran with them for a little while then continued on trying to beat the sunset. It ended up that I had plenty of light still available when I finished...guess I'm still in winter mode!
The way back from Pine Lane to Boston was a little rough. I had not brought my camelback since it needed cleaning. My mouth was getting pretty dry and my legs and calfs were becoming pretty tired. I really had to pay attention not to trip over any roots. I finally made it back to my car and was glad to be done! Not sure if this was the smartest thing to do coming back from my injury, but it felt good. I plan on swimming the next few days and giving my legs some rest.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Portage Lakes

Beautiful rainbow and sunset on the lakes tonight...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kent Campus Loop

Tonight I ran my classic 4-mile loop around Kent campus that I used to run when I went there. It's a fun loop with a few hills, a lot of nice views of the grounds, and plenty of cars and college kids to keep the run interesting. After the run, I lifted with my legs in the rec and then swam 16 laps in the pool.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Three Rivers Heritage Trail

After work on Friday, I drove over to my sister's apartment in Shadyside in Pittsburgh to visit. We went and saw the movie Source Code on Friday night. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and we both thought it was a great movie that kept your attention the whole time. It was one of those movies that kept you thinking and could have multiple meanings. Afterward, we went to Dave & Busters for some appetizers and air hockey!

The next morning, we went on an 11-mile run on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail down to PNC Park and Heinz Field. This trail has multiple sections, but the part we caught was a couple miles from Jamie's apartment. It was a nice route along the river and gave a great view of the city and bridges along the way.

PS - Hi Melissa