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

Sunday, March 04, 2012

2012 Mill Creek Distance Classic

This is the year of the "signing up for races I've always wanted to do."  There's a handful of races out there that I consider every year, but never sign up for for one reason or another.  It started with running the Peace Race last year.  This weekend I headed over to Youngstown to run the Mill Creek Distance Classic.

This is a half marathon race put on by the Youngstown Road Runners and starts and finishes at the Wick Recreation Area.  The route goes along the hilly roads in the park to the Mill, crosses the bridge, does a turn-around about a mile from the Rose Garden then heads back out to the Mill again.

I wasn't sure how I was going to do since my training hasn't been intense mileage, but relatively consistent with some long runs.  Trying for a PR is usually at least in the back of my head, but with this course's hills, a goal of under 1:40 was more reasonable.

The drastic change in temperatures lately made it hard to know what the weather was going to be like until it got closer to the weekend.  It was 60 degrees just days before, but today we had snow flurries and 30 degree weather.

I heard someone say the course has 22 hills.  I didn't want to take the hills too hard, but found I felt strong so I ran them hard.  My legs felt good.  My breathing got naturally heavier going up the hills, but I had time to recover on the following downhills.

My legs started feeling heavier and tired at the Rose Garden turn-around at mile 7.  In my head, I thought "just make it to 10 then you only got a 5k left".  As I ran past Big Bear, I saw Matt Folk flying down the hill with the next person in a very distant second.

When I got to 2 miles left, I got a second wind and my legs felt as fresh as when I started.  I think it was just the adrenaline kicking in though because there were a group of guys around me starting to pick up the pace.  There was one guy in particular who I had been yo-yo-ing with.  I took the flats and downhills hard and worked the uphills.  I could tell he wasn't as good on the uphills, so that's where I made my ground.  Little mind games like this kept me from giving in to a more relaxed pace.  It's amazing how easy it is to add 5 minutes to your finishing time if you decide to just bag it and coast in.

As I came into the finish, my legs were pretty heavy from the last two miles of faster pace and the last 13 of hills.  One guy took off ahead.  I didn't have my usual sprint in me this time, but the guy I had been running by for the last two miles had dropped back.  I finished in 1:36 and was definitely happy with that.  Races are always a great measure of your fitness - they either give you a great confidence boost or a reality check.  Today was a confidence boost.