Monday, December 17, 2012

Live Like There's No Tomorrow

With many running friends on Facebook, I'm always seeing quotes and motivational statuses being posted.  Quotes about living like there's no tomorrow and things to that nature.  I'm guilty of it myself.  There's nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned quote to get you fired up, but many times I find myself reading or posting a quote to feel good but not really taking its meaning to heart.  It's easy to dream and to come up with goals, but another to actually follow a plan and reach your goal.  It's hard to truly love what you do day in and day out.  I'm sure many of my running friends if given the chance would love to quit their day jobs and travel the country running a new trail every day.  However, I think it's the challenges in life and less desirable moments that make the time on the trail and time with family and friends more meaningful.  If you can find meaning and joy out of the daily interactions with others in every way, the happier you'll be.  Often times it's all a matter of perspective.  If you have a bad outlook on people in general, you'll only see faults and not the good in them.  More times than not, a friendly smile or hello can lead to a conversation you wouldn't expect.  It's easier to contact people you care about in the technology-driven world we live in now.  Faster and easier doesn't always mean better though.  Take the time to talk to a stranger or call that old friend you haven't talked to in years.  Living like there's no tomorrow, to me, doesn't mean skydiving or buying a Ferrari, but instead means taking time each day to focus on the things that really matter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New year, new goals

With the end of the year approaching, I've given some thought to what races or challenges I'd like to take on next year.  A few months ago after finishing the Oil Creek 100K, I would've said a 100 miler was in the plans for sure, but after the usual soreness of doing an ultra longer than 50K went away I realized that the 100 mile distance was something I neither desired nor was ready for at this point.

My IT band has hurt since the 100K and I haven't run any significant mileage since.   However if I could do Oil Creek all over again, I wouldn't change anything except maybe lift more with my legs in the months leading up to the race.  I had IT band problems last year on the other knee which seemed to linger.  I'd like to get back to running, but have enjoyed the break from it.  I've been lifting and swimming laps at the rec.  One thing I've definitely noticed from swimming in the past is that it's a great workout and a great substitute to running when injured.  I've swam for months in the past while injured and when I came back to running, I felt like I lost nothing aerobically.

So next year my main goal is to get back to running and do it consistently and get back to doing it for the pure enjoyment of it instead of getting caught up in the number of miles run.  Nothing is better than the feeling of being in top shape, not from a short two or three month training plan, but from the fitness that results from month after month of slowly building up strength and endurance.

My second goal is to get a road marathon PR.  This is something that I've wanted to do since my last PR at Cleveland in 2009.  And not getting any younger, I feel like next year is as good as any to try and break 3 hours for a marathon.  Eight minutes is a lot to cut off, but we'll see....

My third goal is to try a new race.  Something out West like Pikes Peak would be great, but even a smaller race in PA or another close state would be fine.

The last thing (at least that I can think of now) that I'd like to do next year is to camp more, either in a tent or a cabin, near trails like Mohican or the Laurel Highlands and make it into a running/hiking weekend with friends.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


 I wanted to quit because I was suffering.  That is not a good enough reason. 
-Ted Corbitt

 I'ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt, undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me, I'm tearing down your balcony

 Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

One day's exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.
-John Muir

When you want something in life, you just gotta reach out and grab it. 
-Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild

  It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


Saturday, October 13, 2012

2012 Oil Creek 100K

The finish seems so far away.  Each mile is taking 20 minutes.  I try to run a bit, but my knees are locked and sore.  I know I have more than enough time to finish under the 30 hour cutoff, but can I get my mind off the number of miles and climbs ahead of me.  The downhills are hurting worse than the uphills.  What other option do I have?  I've made it this far and dropping isn't really an option.  I'm past the last aid station with 8 miles or so left, so I press on.

The day started with a cold, clear morning.  The stars were plenty.  A sliver of a crescent moon was rising slowly in the sky.  The 100 mile group had already been sent off at 5AM into the pre-dawn darkness by race director Tom Jennings.  The 100K runners followed at 6 and the 50K bunch an hour later at 7.

Why did I sign up for this race?  Why didn't I just register for the 50K?  I can't believe how tiring this first loop is.  I've run 50Ks much faster than this first loop, but for some reason I feel like crap.  I could have been showered and at the Blue Canoe Brewery within half an hour eating food, drinking beer, but instead I'm still out on the trail, muscles aching, quads burning...

Starting out, I thought the course was enjoyable.  It's always nice to run a new trail and see new scenery.  There were a lot of rolling hills, but there were also plenty of long inclines that seemed to last forever.  One hill was called Death March Hill.

I have a headache.  Too much Gatorade, too many shot blocks....too much sugar!  I needed to start eating real food at the aid stations and get some calories back in me.  I had a few salt tablets, but I'm not too worried about cramping since the temperature is cool out. 

Brian was trying to complete the 100 mile distance for the 3rd year in a row.  During the first loop, I caught up to him, making up the hour difference in start time.  I was glad to see him and hiked/ran with him for awhile.  My quad or hip flexor was hurting me and I was telling him that I was thinking of stopping after one loop.  I've had problems in the past with a strained quad, so this was worrying me.  That type of injury is something that only gets worse the longer you're on it.

Should I risk getting injured and being on the sideline for weeks or months just to finish this race.  If I don't finish, I'll have to tell every person I see, who asks how I did, my list of excuses of why I didn't finish.  If I don't finish, I won't even give myself a chance to meet the MMT 100 qualification requirements to enter the lottery.  Am I thinking about quitting because I truly believe I'm getting injured or because I just don't like the uncomfortable feeling right now and would rather be laying in bed sleeping?

After I ran into Brian, I stuck with him for awhile.  When I felt better, I pushed ahead.  We met back up as I was taking a longer than usual break at the Miller Farm aid station.  At this point, I was feeling pretty lousy.  I was eating ramen noodles, grilled cheese and ho-ho's hoping something would bring me back to life.  We both left the aid station together and at some point I pushed ahead and got to the middle school about 20 minutes before him.  In my mind I thought "I'm doing the 100K and he's doing the 100 miler.  I should be going at a faster pace than him."  I used that as motivation to push me along.  I remember at one point it dawned on me that I had started an hour later and this lifted my spirits.

Well, I made it to the middle school and I still feel the ache in my leg I felt 15 miles ago.  It doesn't feel any worse though.  I can do this!  If I start the last loop I know I'll finish.

I took a decent break at the middle school, saw Brian for a bit, then reluctantly headed out with no second thoughts.  I took three Tylenols before I left.  I forget at what mile the Tylenol kicked in, but when it did I was flying.  My legs felt no pain or tightness.  I was booking it downhill and powering uphill.  I was passing people left and right.  Many I'm sure were in the 100M, but it still felt good passing them.  It crossed my mind whether I should be going this fast with 20 miles or so left or conserve my energy.  From my experience in the past, though, I knew I had better take advantage before my second wind was over.  I felt like I was running 8 minute miles, but in reality I was doing 15-16 minute miles.

One thing I liked about this year was the chip timing.  Many ultra runners out there will say "keep it as primitive as possible" and "chip timing should only be used in road races".  I'm all for the simplicity of ultras, but if there's a technology out there that will let me look deeper into my race performance (and let family and friends follow along online) without drastically changing the feel of the race then bring it on!  In this case, I was able to see that from Miller Farm 1 to Titusville Middle School 1, I had run an 18:48 pace per mile.  From TMS 1 to Wolfkill Run 2, I ran 16:21.  Then, from Wolfkill Run 2 to Petroleum Center 2 I ran 15:02 per mile.  No wonder I felt like I was flying!

I somehow knew this was coming, but didn't want to believe it would.  I feel bonked again.  The Tylenol wore off, I've been sitting at the Petroleum aid station 2 for too long and it was starting to get cooler out.  Allison Holko walked up and gave some words of encouragement.  She also gave me a couple generic Ibuprofen pills.  I hope these have the same magic the last ones did.

The last 17 miles was a struggle.  I was able to run off and on, but that quickly turned into a power hike or death march, pun intended.  I tried to stay with a guy running the 100K and his pacer ahead of me by just hiking.  They would pull away from me on the downhills, but I would reel them back in on the uphills.  This lasted for awhile until the downhills became more numerous than the uphills.  I remember getting to Miller Farm.  It was dark now and I had my handheld Maglite flashlight on.  The aid station was cheering loudly and had a fire going.  I got my third bowl of ramen noodles for the day, ate some pizza and potatoes, drank some pop and sat by the fire.  It took a lot of effort to get up and head back out on the trail, but I knew I had to leave.  As uplifting as the Miller Farm aid station had been, it was equally discomforting knowing I still had 8.4 miles left to go and that all of these miles would have to be walked.

At this point, quitting wasn't an option.  One way or another, I would get to Tom Jennings, shake his hand and take my 100K belt buckle.  With the generous 30 hour cut-off time, I had no excuses.

My brother had texted me and said he dropped out at around mile 45.  He was battling a lingering cold and had quite a bit of congestion.  My dad called me on the trail and we talked for a short bit.  I was trying to hold my handheld waterbottle under my arm, my phone in one hand and flashlight in the other while trying to stumble my way over rocks and roots.  I was not a happy camper and in no mood to talk haha.  He told me the rain would hit Titusville in about 2 hours.  I tried to calculate the miles and time left in my head and set this as my new goal...beat the rain!

I ran with people for most of the run.  During the first loop, I had a good time meeting and running with Hugh Patton and Jen Beaujon.  I ran with Kimb Boner and ran into Paul "The King" and Kirk Harrison.  At the beginning of my second loop, I ran with a guy from Virginia running the 100M.  We ran together until the Wolfkill Run aid station.  There were also many other people I enjoyed the trail with, but was too delirious to catch their name.  At this point in the race, however, I was mainly by myself and the few people I ran into were in the same sociable mood as me - don't talk to me.

I finally hit the pavement at the Drake Well Museum and had 2.2 miles left.  I did the math in my head and realized with walking the rest, I was going to break 17 hours.  However, I still walked a brisk pace and with a sense of urgency.  The sky had been spitting rain and I wanted to beat any downpours.

Unfortunately, I didn't beat the rain.  Halfway into the 1 mile loop at the museum, the rain came down hard.  At this point, I didn't care though.  It actually felt good and rinsed the sweat and salt off my face. 

With only a half mile left on the bike path, Shaun Pope passed me and was finishing his hundred and securing the victory.  Amazing.

I got to the final straightaway and finished the race in 16:30:34.  The pain and torture was over.  There were no more miles to be hiked, no more hills to be climbed.  I shook Tom's hand and he gave me my finisher's buckle.

Monday, October 08, 2012

What Lies Within Us

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In about 5 days, I'll be attempting to run 12 miles more than I have ever gone in one run.  I'll be doing the Oil Creek 100K (62 miles).  I'm looking forward to this challenge and feel both anxious and excited. 

Anxious because I haven't been getting in huge mileage the past few weeks.  Anxious because I haven't run this course before and don't really know what to expect.  Anxious because my achilles, which feels better now, was hurting on my right leg after running the Akron relay.

Excited because there's nothing quite like an ultra race.  Training runs are fun, but races bring together all the people you don't see as much as you'd like to throughout the year.  The ultra community is small relative to that of the marathon or 5K crowd, but that's what makes it such a tight-knit group of people.

As I countdown the days until the weekend, another feeling I feel is a feeling of calmness.  With each ultra I do, the feeling of anxiety gets delayed closer and closer to the starting line.  Whether the distance is 50K or 100K, the game-plan is the same.  Stay fueled, take salt, hydrate, pace yourself and keep moving forward.  It's amazing what tasks seem impossible in running and in life.  It's even more amazing when you finish an "impossible" task and realize all it takes is a belief that you can do it and taking it one step at a time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Akron Marathon Relay

Since FirstEnergy is a sponsor of the Akron Marathon, we get free entries into the marathon, half and relay.  I did the relay with a team from work last year and did the same this year.  A few runners had to drop out from our team, but we found replacements pretty quickly.

By default (since I'm basically known as the Forrest Gump running freak at work) I got the longest leg: 7.5 miles.  The other legs ranged between 3-5.5 miles.  The race started at 7 AM and I had the 3rd leg starting by the Akron University football stadium and would take the baton from Tara Schweitzer.

I haven't run roads for quite awhile and knew it would beat up my legs a lot.  I felt really good though and fast.  It also helped that we were around the 10:30 pace group when I started my leg, so for most my leg I was flying past runners weaving in and out.

I had a couple of minutes added to my time in the beginning since Tara had already gotten to the exchange zone.  However, I figure I probably ran close to 7 minute miles and was happy with that.  I killed myself trying to go really fast last year and just tried to enjoy it a little more this time around.

Afterward, I met up at the Aeros Stadium with Tara and her sister, who finished her first half marathon.  I also met up with Tom, the anchor leg of our relay, and got a bite to eat in Portage Lakes at Hook, Line & Drinkers afterward. 

I had a great time doing a non-ultra road event, something I've grown away from a little.  The weather was perfect and it was awesome seeing many familiar faces, which included a lot of local trail runners actually, including Dan Bellinger, Dave Peterman, Ron Ross, Joan Cottril and a few others.

You can tell the race directors, including Jim Chaney, pay attention to every detail.  From the police officers blocking the roads to the shuttle buses busing you back to the finish line party at the stadium, everything took great planning and I think is why it attracts so many runners including trail runners!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


This weekend, I went on a road trip to Detroit with my friend Adam.  He's trying to see all of the Major League baseball stadiums in the country, so we got tickets for the Tigers game on Saturday.  We left Saturday morning and drove back on Sunday.  It takes 4 hours from Akron, so we were literally in Detroit for less than 24 hours.  We stayed with Erin, a girl from our Clarion cross country team, who lives in Rochester Hills now and runs professionally with Brooks.  I hadn't seen her since college, so it was nice catching up.  We all went to the game at 4 o'clock and then went out to a sports bar afterward around Greektown.

If you haven't been to Detroit post-recession, I recommend it for an eye-opener.  I had seen pictures of the abandoned buildings there, but to actually see in person city block after city block of boarded up houses with caved in roofs, broken windows and grass up to your waist really made me realize how hard this city was hit.  The city looked far more depressed than anything I have seen in Warren, Youngstown, Cleveland or Akron.  Graffiti was everywhere, entire office buildings had every single window busted out and apartment complex towers had been abandoned.  It's hard to believe one of America's great cities is now just falling apart.  It's also scary to think that cities in Ohio and across the U.S. may not be far from following Detroit if things don't improve soon.

A lot of times it's easy to take the simple things for granted such as a roof over your head or a job.  Seeing the depression that has taken over much of Detroit reminded me to be thankful for those small things in my life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Do It

After leaving work today, I was pretty tired.  On the way home, I started debating whether I should do a workout or not.  I had skipped yesterday for the same reason I was debating skipping today.  Even though I've learned over and over again that doing a workout makes you feel far better after than not doing one at all, my mind still wants to take the easy way out.  It's a constant battle, but one that gets easier and easier to make the more fit I get.  Each run feels less and less like a workout and more like a scramble through the trail bouncing off rocks and just having fun.  With each step, each incline, each downhill, I notice the previous workouts, the swimming, the lifting all helping me along the way.

So when I got home, I sacked out for a bit but then got my stuff together after a short while and drove to Kent.  I got to the rec center in my running clothes and took off for a 4 mile loop around campus.  This loop has a nice mix of hills and flats.  usually I'd rather run trails, but when school's in session, the activity across campus always makes the run go by fast.  When I got back, I was drenched in sweat despite the cool day.  I'd gone out faster than I planned, but that wasn't surprising since I was running on concrete sidewalk and by myself.

I stretched a bit then went inside to lift some with my legs.  I did my regular routine of leg presses and curls as well as the ab machine.  Following that, I got my suit on and swam half a mile in the pool.  My kick felt stronger and more consistent than it had in the past and made the laps go by quicker and easier. 

I'm looking forward to the challenges and possibilities that await, running-wise.  I can't remember exactly when doing a seemingly impossible feat became possible mentally, but I have a feeling the seed was planted with going to my dad's marathons as a kid.  From there, the biggest challenges were initially being able to run a mile or two, then further down the road, maturing physically and being able to handle the runs I wanted to do.  As far back as I can remember, I never thought that a half-marathon, marathon, 50K, 50 miler, 100K, 100 miler or whatever the distance seemed impossible.  Just something that might not be possible at the present time.  The body can do far more than what the mind thinks it can do.  It often makes me wonder what percentage of my physical ability I'm using, or what anyone's using.  I can say very few times, if at all, that I've given it everything....EVERYTHING....I've got.  As nice as it is to think you gave it everything, there always is that little more you can squeeze out of a race or run.  usually you can defy the mind for so long before you give in, whether it's at the last 10 miles, mile or 100 meters of a race.  The "giving in" used to be more important to overcome during the race, but now, to me, it's more important during the moments after leaving work and deciding to do a training workout.  When not giving in becomes a habit during training, it'll make you that much stronger on race day to not give in when it hurts.

So that's my rant for the night.  I haven't been posting as frequently as in the past, but haven't felt the need to as much as in the past.  Before, it was a good motivator to keep up with my training schedule.  Now, my running log seems to do that just fine.  I still enjoy throwing random thoughts out here, though, as well as all of the races and bigger training runs I do, as a record to look back on.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pikes Peak Marathon 2012

Where to begin?  My trip to Colorado was one hell of a time.  Sunshine, family, friends, outdoors, running, hiking, baseball, red rocks, mountains and a marathon at the end to cap it off.

I flew out of the Akron airport on Saturday and drove to my friend Tasha's place in Westminster, just outside of Denver.  She ran on my team at Clarion and has lived out there for three years now.  My other college running buddy, Adam, from Pittsburgh flew out on Friday and was leaving Tuesday.

The day I got there, we went on the Coors Brewery tour in Golden, CO.  It was cool seeing the world's largest single-site brewery in the world in action!  At the end of the tour, they gave three pretty big samples of their beer on tap from which you could choose from about 8-10 different ones.

Later that day, we went to Boulder for a hike on the Flatiron trail.  It ended up only being a 3 or 4 mile hike, but it was quite a climb to the top of the overlook!  On our way down about a mile from our car, we got off the trail we came on originally.  We were out in the open and dark clouds in the distance soon were overhead.  Rumbling thunder and occasional bolts of lightening in the sky were not a good sign.  We started hiking faster, but within 5 minutes a sprinkle turned into a heavy downpour which turned into quarter-sized hail and strong swirling winds.  At this point, we were in a dead sprint and made it to tree cover.  I was stupid and had worn sandals on this hike, so running across the flooded rocky trail was interesting.  We finally made it back to our car and were all relieved.  Tasha and I both thought a tornado was coming at us and we were both looking for a place to hide or hang on to as we were sprinting.  Adam, on the other hand, thought there was a wildfire haha..

We drove down to Colorado Springs on Sunday and had planned on driving up the Pikes Peak Highway.  However when we got there, we had to turn around since the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was going on that day.  I later heard that one of the drivers drove off the mountain around a turn and flipped about 12 times!

So instead of going there, we went to the Garden of the Gods and the U.S. Olympic Training Center to look around.  Afterward, we had a late lunch and met up with my friend Sean who is from Austintown and yet another running teammate at Clarion who moved out to Colorado.

On Monday, we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, CO and went for a drive around the mountains.  We hadn't planned on going for too long of a drive since we were going to the Rockies' game that night, but ended up driving all the way up to 12,000 feet on Highway 34 with great views overlooking the valley.  We even saw an elk on the side of the road with a bunch of stupid tourists seeing how close they could get to it.

Adam was leaving on Tuesday, so I planned on driving over to Leadville to stay a couple of nights before picking my parents up at Denver Airport on Thursday morning at 7:15.  It was a cool drive through the mountains to get to Leadville.  I bought a couple of nights at the Leadville Hostel.  Since I wasn't sure what kind of place it was going to be, I got a room to myself.  However, it ended up being a great place!  The owners were really nice and the atmosphere was awesome.  The place was filled almost entirely with runners taking part in the Leadville 100 Miler that weekend.  I met a lot of great ultra runners from all over including Arkansas, Canada and Maine.  Some were veterans and others were here for their first hundred.

Living room in the hostel

On Wednesday morning, I woke up around 5 AM to go hike up Mount Elbert, the tallest of the Rockies.  I planned on doing this by myself, but was pleasantly surprised by a guy and two girls in the kitchen.  I said hi and found out they were doing the same as me.  He asked if I wanted to come along with them, so I got my Camelback and we were off!

They're names were Fiona, Silvia and Fergus and were all very friendly.  All of them were from Victoria in British Columbia.  Fiona and Fergus both had Canadian accents, while Silvia had a Swiss accent as she was originally from there.

We made our way to the parking lot just before dawn with a few stars overhead.  At the lot, there was a guy and a girl getting ready for the hike also.  The guy was literally smoking and drinking a beer!  Not to mention he had jeans on for the 10 mile trek.  We ended up seeing both of them still headed up, almost out of water and tired, as we were headed down with about 3 or 4 miles to go. 

The view from the top was beautiful.  Even though the valley was a little hazy from wildfires west of Colorado, you could still see pretty far in the distance.  We took a few pictures and then headed down.  It took us 6 hours to hike the full 10 miles.  No world record by any means, but still a tough hike!  Afterward, we went to a cool and delicious pizza place in Leadville called Mountain High Pies.  We were all starving and each got a full pizza.  The one lady that worked there had purple hair and was really carefree and easy going.

Back at the hostel, more runners started trickling in.  I took a stroll down the main street in Leadville to look at the shops and restaurants.  For being a rundown town with some questionable residents, the downtown was pretty interesting.  I ended up getting a drink at the Silver Dollar Saloon with this girl from Colorado running her first Leadville.

I woke up bright and early the next morning to pick up my parents at the airport.  We drove from there to surprise some friends of ours (Kathy and Gary) who lived close by in Thorton and then on to our cabin in Divide, 40 minutes west of Manitou Springs.

The cabin was a rental by owner.  The owners were missionaries who traveled and played music.  They were currently in China.  Their home was awesome and a lot better than staying in a hotel.  It was a log cabin with three floors, a vaulted ceiling with a huge glass window overlooking Pikes Peak and a hot tub on the deck.  There was plenty of room with the three of us since the place could hold 6 people.

During the time before my race on Sunday, we hiked 3 or 4 miles at Mueller State Park which was very close to our cabin, drove up the Pikes Peak Highway, walked around Garden of the Gods, went horseback riding and looked around Manitou Springs downtown area.

Hiking at Mueller State Park
Having been out there a week before my race definitely helped adjusting to the altitude.  The climb up Elbert and hikes at Mueller and the Flatirons were tough, but my legs felt good and my breathing all-around felt better and easier.

On Friday, I picked up my race bib in Manitou and we listened in on the elite athlete press conference.  There were many great runners there, including people from the Salomon racing team.  Kilian Jornet, a 24 year-old Spaniard, was expected to win the marathon and especially since, as we later found out, Matt Carpenter would not be competing.  Kilian was really friendly and stayed to talk after the press conference.  Following his 3:40 victory at the marathon on Sunday, he actually gave his winner's trophy away to a lady he met from the race!

Kilian and me
 Now for my race report, if you've made it this far....

The race started at 7 AM in downtown Manitou Springs.  It follows Ruxton Ave. up near the Cog Railway and onto the Barr Trail.  The first part of the race is a little intimidating since the incline is steep and comes up on you fast.  It wasn't long before mostly everyone was walking.  I ran whenever I could on the flats, but for the most part it was a steady hike.  The trail wasn't too technical until we got higher up.

For aid, I had my Camelback filled with water, a Nathan handheld water bottle filled with Gatorade, Cliff bars, gel packs and 6 or 7 salt tablets.  I tried to keep ahead of any cramps and took the salt tablets every few miles.  I also refilled my handheld at every aid station along the way.

When we finally got above treeline at the A-frame shelter, I was starting to really notice the altitude and lack of oxygen.  I had to really concentrate on my breathing, taking quick deep breaths.  As I got closer to the top, I started wheezing like I had asthma.  I wasn't sure if I could keep going and thought I might actually pass out.  I was able to somewhat get my breathing under control and made it to the top.  My parents and Kathy and Gary, had driven up the highway together and were just as excited as me to be at the top.  I got a few quick pictures and then started downhill for 13.1 miles.

 The break at the top and the fact that I was going downhill now gaining more and more oxygen with each step was a huge boost of morale.  I love running downhill and was able to dance around the rocks.  I ended up going 35 minutes faster from the Summit to the A-frame than from the A-frame to the Summit.  Things felt great, but I knew I had to keep up with hydration and not get too confident because my legs were taking a beating and one wrong step could mean my day was over.

I passed a lot of people on the way down.  I ran for quite awhile with this lady from Boulder.  Our conversation made the time go by faster and made me forget about my legs getting weaker from the downhill.  She ended up going ahead of me with about 6 miles to go.

As I got within 3 or 4 miles, I caught back up with the lady from Boulder.  This one guy from Texas named Rick, who I had been yo-yo-ing back and forth with, ran past me.  He said, "You're not gonna let a 45 year-old flatlander from Texas beat ya, are you?".  I told him I was from Ohio and he shouldn't have said that :)  I ended up beating him by about a minute.

When we hit the pavement of Ruxton Ave again for the last mile or so, I felt like I was flying after running trails for the past 6 hours.  I was passing people with each step.  When I finally turned the corner to the finish, I saw my Dad sprinting to get a photo.  I finished in 6:25:15!

I had a great time running this marathon.  Even though racing up a mountain shouldn't sound easy, before I actually started this race I didn't think it would be too bad for some reason.  After actually running it and dealing with the altitude, however, I sure have a lot of respect for it!

The only thing I was a little disappointed with about this trip was the fact that Matt Carpenter didn't run the race.  I looked for him at the pre-race meeting and pasta dinner, but he was nowhere to be seen.  After talking to a few people, I found out he wouldn't decide if he was going to run until the morning of the race.  Turns out, only his wife ended up running as he took a break from it this year.

So it was our last day in Colorado and we decided to look around the shops in Manitou Springs.  We got some breakfast at this one restaurant.  Our waitress asked how I did at the race.  She then told us Matt owned a gelato and ice cream shop down the street.  After eating, we walked down there and sure enough Matt was opening up shop for the day!   

Sunday, August 05, 2012

YUT-C Familiarization Run

This morning, I drove from my apartment in Akron to Mill Creek Park.  I wasn't sure when I would make it there, but ended up getting out of bed when my alarm clock went off at 5 AM.  I got to the log cabin at 6:30 and took off right away.  The official start was at 8, so I needed to get back in an hour and a half.  I did a small 7.75 mile loop to the Mill.  I didn't have any watch or clock with me, but that seemed to only push me to run faster.  I saw Kimba and Moose headed the opposite direction as I got closer to the Mill.  Even this early in the morning, it was still really hot and humid out!  I was sweating up a storm and looked like I jumped in a pool.  I was lucky to have one salt pill left in my handheld water bottle pocket and also had a granola bar I bought at the gas station on my way.

When I got back to the Mill, I asked Kimba what time it was and she said 7:49.  So I ran that loop in 1:19 or 10:12/mile.  I was drenched in sweat, but felt pretty good actually.  The group took off clockwise around the park at 8 o'clock.  We did a big loop around Lake Newport.  I had a good time talking to new people as well as the club regulars.  During the run, Jon Bolha, AKA Scooby, mixed in some quick sprints or fartleks I guess you could call them.  Especially on the westside of Lake Cohasset, we got into a few dead sprints which lasted 5-10 minutes.

Afterward, we had pizza and drinks that Jim brought in his minivan.  I finished with 19.5 miles and was really happy with how I felt during a long distance run going into Pikes Peak, just a couple of weeks away.  I'll probably try to get a few easy runs in, mixed with some swimming, and then it's showtime!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hill Repeats

After work, I went over to Firestone Metropark across the street and did hill repeats on the hill that runs parallel to South Main St.  I brought a gallon of water with me.  The temperature was cool with a nice steady breeze especially at the top.  I ended up doing 15 repeats.  Each one was .2 miles so I got 3 miles of uphills and 3 miles of cool down in between each repeat.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pine Lane to Boston Store

Here's a video from last year of the hill going down to Boston Store from the Pine Lane side.  Definitely a lot drier this year than last!


Sunday, June 03, 2012

Building Back Up

The last two weeks have been a great start to training for my Fall races.  I got 30 miles in two weeks ago and 39 this week.  I ran a long run with Taylor Sowers on Saturday morning, starting from Pine Lane and going to Snowville Rd and back for 18.  I felt really good going up the big climbs.  The mixing in of swimming and lifting throughout the week also seems to be helping a lot to keep my legs strong and fresh.  My goal for Pikes Peak is to just enjoy it and for Oil Creek to finish it.  That doesn't mean I won't be shooting for a good time, but it isn't the top priority.  The key to continuing to train hard, for me, is to keep lifting.  I can definitely notice my quads and calves getting stronger by sight and feel during runs.  There's nothing better than going on a run and it feeling effortless.  Combine that with the cool weather we had this weekend and it made for some of the best runs I've had in awhile!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I went to Happy Days after work today and ran 6 miles going around the Ledges Trail, a Pine Grove loop and a No Frills loop on Kendall Hills.  The temperature was perfect and my legs felt great.  Going up hills, the only thing that stopped me from increasing the speed more and more was my breathing.  It wasn't that my breathing was bad at all.  My legs, however, felt like they could go all day and all night.  I can't say once during the run that they felt tired.  The only times I slowed to walk was going up some of the hills when my breathing got heavier.

During these kinds of runs, your mind wonders.  These runs have a great way of allowing you to think clearly and forget any problems or stress that happened during the day.  Same effect as a drug, but legal and good for your health.

During the run today, I was thinking about human limits and the Bill Bowerman quote from the movie "Without Limits" when he's talking to Prefontaine at the end:
Your belief that you have no talent is the ultimate vanity. If you have no talent then you have no limits, it's all an act of will. Your heart can probably pump more blood than anyone else's on earth, and that takes talent. The bones in your feet are so strong, it'd take a sledgehammer to break 'em. Be thankful for your limits, Pre, they're about as limitless as they get in this life.
Human limit questions come up many times in all areas, but especially sports - Do humans have a limit?  How low can the marathon time go?  How about the 100 meter dash?

There's no definite answer except that there is a limit, but those limits are farther than we think.  History has shown that people get proven wrong again and again.  It's the difference between those that dream and those that doubt that determines how far humans push the limits.

Are the limits just waiting there for us to reach someday or are they just a moving target.  Once one limit gets reached, the new standard is set and new ideas, goals and dreams are created for the next generation.

I think Bill Bowerman's thinking that people are born with a special talent is, to some extent, correct.  However, I don't think that Pre's physical God-given attributes were his best talent.  A hundred people could be born with that talent and only one do something with it.  What set Pre, and others with his thinking, apart was his belief that he had no limit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Burger and Ledges

I wanted to go for a run tonight after work.  When I got home, though, I fell asleep for a couple of hours.  I woke up around 7 and still wanted to get some mileage in.  I was pretty hungry so I decided to get a Five Guys burger first then run at the ledges for a night run.  The burger tasted delicious and the run felt great.   Not too sure what the temperature was outside, but it felt nice and cool.  I had shorts and a long sleeve shirt on, no hat or gloves, and my handheld flashlight with me.  Coming back to the ledges at night brought back memories of the LT Challenge - something I don't think I want to ever attempt again haha.  I parked at Happy Days, did a couple loops around the ledges and back to my car.  Didn't see anyone, but heard an owl somewhere hooting and some other weird noises that sounded like it was catching its prey.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forget the PR 50K

On Saturday, Brian and I drove down to Mohican State Park for the Forget the PR 50k on Sunday.  Rob Powell, the race director, got one of the big cabins and graciously let us stay the night there for free.  We were amazed at how nice the cabin was - 4 bathrooms, about 6 or 7 bedrooms and a big living room/kitchen area.  When we got there, the long kitchen table was already filled with food along with lasagna and other good stuff over by the stove and fridge.  People arrived throughout the evening and we had a nice dinner and good conversation.

The race started at 7:30 on Sunday, so we woke up around 6 to get our bib numbers and shirts.  The registration building next to the start/finish line was buzzing when we got there.  I have to say, I had a blast walking in.  Every few seconds someone I knew called my name or said hello.  A big chunk of good running friends were all gathered here today for this race.  Nothing gets better than that!

After a speech by Rob Powell and Kimba about the course, we were off with a quick "3, 2, 1....go." by Kim.  My plan before the race was to get a PR despite the name of the race.  As we started out, I noticed the pace was pretty slow and we started walking some.  At that point, I decided I was just going to enjoy myself and not care about time.  I had also stayed up late the night before, so the first 3 or 4 miles were rough including stomach cramps and feeling sluggish.

After "Big Ass Hill" and a few other steep climbs, arriving at the aid station at the Fire Tower was a welcome sight.  I immediately saw Paul "The King" Lefelhocz standing there, so I paid my respects and bowed before him :P  I then saw Kim and a few other people.

For the first half of the race, I took it pretty easy and just enjoyed talking to new people along the way.  I met this guy named Samir who was really nice.  I ran with him for about half an hour and we talked about a little bit of everything.  He knew Brian and told me to tell him hi.  Samir was taking it easy today since he was in training for another race (an Ironman I think?).  I think it was around mile 12 when I left him and went ahead (he actually passed me later on and had a good race)

The rest of the miles were a mix of mud, hills, hills, more hills, rising temperatures, sun beating down overhead and cramping calves.  I had left my salt pills at the cabin, so when I got to each aid station, I ate as much salty foods as I could.  When I got to the Fire Tower for the second time, Kim gave me the salt shaker to take in pure salt.  I also had a couple cups of her soup, which tasted delicious!  After I left that aid station, I could noticeably tell I had an instant increase in energy and my calves felt better.

On the loop after the Covered Bridge aid station on the long road hill past the dam, I started running with this one guy.  When we got back to where the loop connects with the main trail back to the Covered Bridge, we almost took a left which would have been repeating the same loop again!  I stopped in my tracks and told him I think we have to go the other way.  We asked some runners starting the loop and indeed turning right was the right way.  Phew!

After the Covered Bridge stream crossing, my calves were twitching again ready to pull.  I let the guy go ahead, especially since he was on pace for a PR.  Not too much longer down the trail, this girl probably in her 20s came behind me.  She was in good spirits and lifted my spirits too.  She also helped me keep a solid pace.  I learned she was one of the "Grunt Girls".  I kept with her close to the finish.  We also caught back up with the guy I was running with earlier.

Rob didn't give us any slack on the last couple miles of the course.  We had one final climb over a few big hills before we headed down towards the finish line at Mohican Adventures.  I could finally see an end in sight for the race!

As I was nearing the finish about 300 meters away, my right calf strained pretty badly.  All I could do was stand there and massage it.  It finally let up and I was able to hobble to the finish, get my finisher's buckle and give Rob a handshake and hug.  I finished in 6:23:38 and was more than pleased with that time.  For complete results, click here.

I had a great time this weekend!  I finally know firsthand why everyone always has good things to say about this race.  Rob does a great job paying attention to every detail and all of the volunteers were very helpful.  I will definitely mark this on my calendar for next year!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Micah True

 '"When I get too old to work, I'll do what Geronimo would've if they'd left him alone,' Caballo said.  'I'll walk off into the deep canyons and find a quiet place to lie down.'  There was no melodrama or self-pity in the way Caballo said this, just the understanding that someday, the life he'd chosen would require one last disappearing act."
-Born To Run (pg 281)

Monday, March 26, 2012


Yesterday I went to the Kent Rec Center to swim a few laps and use the jacuzzi and sauna.  When I got in the jacuzzi, this guy in there said to me "I'm cold".  This was about the weirdest thing you could say in a jacuzzi, so I said "Cold?".  He repeated and I realized he said "I'm old".

We talked for a bit.  He told me about his aches and pains.  He also told me about how he used to play football and how rough a sport it is on the body.  I told him some about me, where I graduated from and my running career and events planned for this year.  He said he used to love the feeling of running the quarter mile and quarter relay.  He loved the feeling you get when you round the final turn on the track headed down the straight-away.  He also mentioned how he loved the "runner's high" and that effortless feeling during a run when you feel like you can go as far and as fast as you want.  He said he would give anything to be able to step out there one more time and get that feeling.  Before he left, he said youth flies by and you don't realize it till you're older.

After the jacuzzi, I went in the sauna for a bit.  There was one guy in there, who looked like he could be a professor at Kent.  We started talking about swimming laps.  He said swimming is such a great way to clear the mind, when you're out there you are forced to listen to the silence with just the crashing of the waves or the flow of the water interrupting the peace.  He said it clears the mind and is the best medicine out there.  I asked him if he just got done swimming laps and he said he had a bad rotator cuff in his shoulder and couldn't swim anymore.

These two conversations were a good reminder to take advantage of youth.  Do what you want now.  Do what you want while you're still healthy.  You never know what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Covered Bridge FA 2012

This weekend, I went down to Mohican State Park in Loudonville, OH to attend NEO Trail's Covered Bridge FA.  I've never been to Mohican, so this was a good chance to scope it out before my 50k in April.

The club rented a cabin for Friday and Saturday night.  There were five of us there for the first night and four the second, but with two bedrooms having two beds each and a pull-out couch, there was plenty of room.  Not to mention the satellite TV, enclosed patio and fireplace - we were really roughing it!

We started the run at 8 AM on Saturday morning.  The plan was to do the 25k loop and again if you felt inclined.  I ended up stopping after one and got 15 miles in for the day.  I just did the LT Challenge 50k last weekend, so I thought it would be smart to end my day early.

I had a great time.  The park is beautiful.  About 40 people showed up, a lot of them from around Mohican, so I met many new people.  The hills were decent sized, but nothing like at Laurel.  I'm feeling pretty good about the race next month and might even try to defy the race name (Forget the PR) and get a PR.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ledges Trail Challenge

Dense fog lifting in the air and a crescent moon shining overhead.  A clear morning with diamond stars hanging in the sky.  An empty trail lies ahead, only to be shared by a few early rising deer.  Miles and miles before I rest, rocks and ledges and loop after loop.  Today I decided to attempt the Ledges Trail Challenge.

I woke up around 4 AM, got my gear together and headed out.  I stopped at Giant Eagle to get a gallon of Gatorade, but they were closed.  So I drove to Sheetz, picked up a 32 oz bottle and a Clif Bar.  As I turned onto the highway, I thought of something pretty important I had forgotten - a light!  I didn't feel like turning around now, so I stopped at Walmart on the way.  They had a lot of flashlights to choose from.  I was going to get a cheap one, but decided to go with a small Maglite for $30.  It's powered by 3 AAA batteries.  I was really impressed, for the size of it, the amount of light it gave off!  Without a light, I would've been doing 40 minute miles on the ledges trail and probably spraining my ankle within the first mile.

So I left Walmart and headed to the Happy Days parking lot.  I figured the Octagon lot was closed this early, so I didn't want to waste time driving there to see.  When I got out of my car, I tried out my light and saw there were about 7 deer around the parking lot, probably surprised to see me.  I got my stuff together and walked down the trail to get to the Ledges Trail loop.

I set my stuff on a bench near where the Happy Days trail runs into the ledges loop.  With me, I had 48 ounces of Gatorade, a Clif Bar and a couple pieces of pizza.  I got started at 5:20 and ran clockwise (and for all 18 loops).  The challenge is to do 18 loops around the 1.75 mile trail.  It's pretty rugged with a lot of scattered rocks and a few hills.  Brian finished the challenge last weekend and was the first to do so.

After each loop, I marked down my time on a piece of paper.  For the first 5 loops, it was like clock work.  Every time I finished a loop and looked at my cell phone for the time, it was 16 minutes.  For the later loops, my times slowed but not by too much because even though I walked more of the hills, I took the downhills harder to make up.  I was lucky that the Octagon bathrooms were open and had running water because my supply of hydration was not nearly enough.  I filled one of the 32 oz bottles twice with water.

Towards the end, you start trying to convince yourself that you've done more loops than you've actually done.  On my 14th loop, I couldn't remember if it was actually my 15th loop and I would only have 3 left when I got done with that one.  When I got back to my time sheet, I was pretty disappointed to find out I still had 4 left.  I sat down for a bit, cursed a little, then got my butt moving.  My legs were getting stiffer sitting there and the faster I got done, the sooner I could relax.

As I got closer to the end, I realized I had a good chance at breaking 6 hours.  I figured out that I could do the last loop in anything less than 37 minutes and break 6!  I finished in 5:46, only 13 minutes off my 50k PR set at YUT-C in 2009.

Literally right after I finished, my sister called me.  She didn't know I was doing this, so I told her.  She also wondered if I could sign her up for the Oil Creek 50k.  So I hurried home and got back just in time to sign her up.  The 50k filled up in about 5 minutes, so I'm glad I got her registered quickly.  I then entered myself into the 100k race.

Start time  - 5:20
1 -  5:36 - 16 min
2 - 5:52 - 16 min
3 - 6:08 - 16 min
4 - 6:24 - 16 min
5 - 6:40 - 16 min
6 - 7:03 - 23 min (bathroom break at Octagon)
7 - 7:20 - 17 min (last loop where flashlight was required)
8 - 7:44 - 24 min (bathroom/water break at Octagon)
9 - 8:01 - 17 min
25k time: 2:41 (10:22/mile)

10 - 8:21 - 20 min (pizza break)
11 - 8:38 - 17 min
12 - 8:56 - 18 min
13 - 9:17 - 21 min
14 - 9:35 - 18 min
15 - 9:59 - 24 min
16 - 10:22 - 23 min
17 - 10:43 - 21 min
18 - 11:06 - 23 min
25k time: 3:05 (11:55/mile)

Total 50k time: 5:46 (11:09/mile)
Average loop time - 19.22 min

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wingfoot Lake State Park

Since the weather was so nice today, I needed to go for a run.  My plan was to go to Quail Hallow State Park in Hartville and run either the trails or the country roads.  However on my way there, I saw a sign for Wingfoot Lake State Park in Suffield just a mile down the road.  I had already been to Quail Hallow before, it was still 10 minutes away and it was already a little past 6, so I decided to try this park.

I ran down the main road and got on the walking path.  It was a nice looking park.  As I got closer to the lake, I noticed a huge building that looked a lot like the Goodyear Airdock by the Akron Fulton Airport.  (If you've never heard of this structure, read up - it's pretty interesting).  Anyway, the first thing I thought of was that this was the hangar for the Goodyear blimp.  Totally cool!  On my way to the park, I saw the blimp in the air and a lot lower than you usually see it, so I figured that was indeed the hangar.

The building was across the lake, but I made my way down a few country roads, got to a sign that said "Home of the Goodyear Blimp Hangar" and turned down that road.  About a mile down, the road went right past the hangar.  I would've loved to wait there and see it land, but decided to do that another day, especially since I could see the blimp in the far distance, probably over Akron.

After gawking at the enormity of the structure, I retraced my steps back to my car and got in about 6 miles. 

Overhead view of the Goodyear Blimp hangar