Friday, August 31, 2007

Overreact Much?

Sometimes I wonder if maybe the terrorists haven't "won" after all.

Here's a story, a couple days old, of a running club in Connecticut busted for putting a white powder trail marking down on the ground for its members to follow. Does the reaction seem a bit much? Do you think someone might have put 2 and 2 together on this before sending in the National Guard???

Much Ado About Nothing

Man, I'm going to be more careful about where/how/when I eat a powdered sugar donut next time. I'd hate to be thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and tossed into a squad car because I dared to make a stop at Dunkin' Donut near a Nervous Nellie onlooker.

In other news...

Lansing has caught its serial killer! Apparently there had been one stalking the streets but the public only became aware of it after the 4th murder. I guess what we don't know can't hurt us?

Serial Killer Caught!

To celebrate, I went for an evening run last night after sundown. I'm not going to lie to you, I was going a bit faster than normal. What if they got the wrong guy, right?

8.75 miles
7:05 pace

It put a little giddy-up in my stride. Spooky stuff.

Time to head to the bathroom where I'll be taking great care NOT to do any toe tapping. Geesh, I think back to all those times where I sat there humming a little tune unknowingly tapping my foot. What people must have thought!

Wow, what a world!

This weekend: Camping @ Higgins Lake, Michigan. 15 miles on a nature trail path. Should be fun.

That completes the week in odd news.

Happy trails.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Running List

So waaay back last spring when I finally decided to attempt a marathon, I, of course, went overboard and immediately jotted down a list of marathons I'd like to do in the future. Keep in mind, I hadn't actually completed the first one. Or trained for it. Or knew if I would even enjoy it. Knowing myself like I do, I figured everything would go well and I'd have so much fun I'd want to do more. And I was right!

Every day at work, I open my desk drawer to grab my pen and deposit my car keys and the first thing I see (besides my kids pictures) is that list I jotted last year of marathons I hope to run some day. Now, it has a few check marks next to a couple of the ones completed.

Some on my list are logistically and financially doable - and will be done - within a few years. Others will be more of a challenge.

I think it would be a nice accomplishment to complete the 5 marathons comprising the World Marathon Majors (Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York) but I'm not sure how often I'll find myself in London or Berlin. And convincing the wife (and myself, for that matter) to spend hard earned money to fly to Europe - twice - just to run a marathon could be a difficult sell. Maybe, Maybe for London but Berlin? Not a chance.

Here's my list of marathons I definitely want to run. I'd be curious to see anyone else's Must Run list. If you are reading this, take a turn and post yours. We might all learn of some new, exciting races out there.

In no particular order:

1) Chicago Marathon (accomplished 10/06; again on 10/07/07)
2) Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati - gotta admit I find the name funny and the medal is cool.)
3) New York Marathon
4) Bayshore Marathon (accomplished 5/07; Traverse City, MI; my hometown;beautiful run.)
5) Walt Disney World Marathon (registered for 1/08)
6) Country Music Marathon (Nashville - a friend recommended it)
7) Honolulu Marathon (do I need to give a reason?)
8) Boston Marathon (scheduled for 4/08 when I register next week)
9) Detroit Marathon (probably doing this next fall)
10) London Marathon

Happy trails.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Feelin' Good 20

My original training plan called for three 20+ mile runs prior to Chicago but I think I'm only going to do two with the other being shortened to 18. That's just the way it's working out.

Yesterday was the first 20 miler and it went pretty good.

You'll recall that after my 18 miler nearly two weeks ago, I was a little down on myself for taking it a little lightly and struggling through the run. This time I prepared a bit better. I took in a good, high energy breakfast, stretched properly, and "psyched" myself up for the longer distance. With more attention to the pre-run preparation, the 20 miles went a lot smoother. I learned a good lesson which I'll benefit from going forward. You can't cut corners when taking on a run of this distance.

I'm also trying to teach myself to run slower at the beginning and fall into a slightly quicker pace after a couple mile warm-up. I've been busting out of the gate at marathon pace on every run lately. This is a bad habit I've developed and I'm trying hard to correct.

More than the previous two marathons, I've also noticed that it is taking me longer to get warmed up. Previously, I could fall into a run after just a 1/2 mile of warm up. Now, it seems like it takes 5-6 miles before my legs loosen up, heart rate stabilizes, and I'm feeling really good about my stride. Perhaps my body has adjusted to expect longer miles now after a year plus of marathon training. Or am I just fatigued from too much running? Interesting. I'll have to monitor this as the weeks roll by.

I was planning to hit a couple 5k races next year. I'll be curious to see how this elongated time to warm-up plays into shorter race distances. Maybe I'll need to run a few miles before the 5k?

20 miles
2:26:24 time
7:19 pace

Happy trails.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eight Mackinac Miles

This past weekend, my family made the trek north to Mackinac Island (pronounced "mack-a-naw") for a couple days of tourist trap type fun before the kids go back to school. Mackinac Island is located just off the shore between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas and in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge, for those of you unfamiliar with Michigan geography.

Mackinac Bridge
It's famous for fudge, horses, bikes, no cars allowed, the Grand Hotel, some of the tackiest gift shops imaginable and some beautiful and historic island scenery. If you go, explore the island's many trails and forget the downtown gift shop trash.

Fort Mackinac on the hill (view from ferry dock)

We stayed at the 150 year old Lake View Hotel on the west end of downtown. I've stayed there a few times now and it hasn't disappointed. A good base from which to launch island exploration.

View downtown from Fort Mackinac (Lake View Hotel arrowed)

There is a paved, flat 8 mile path that winds along the edge of the turtle shaped island. I've always wanted to run it. I've biked it numerous times (including again this visit with the kids). Tuesday morning, I finally got a chance to do it.

The alarm went off at 6:45 AM. It didn't take me much to get out of bed. I left the room as quietly as possible while the wife and kids slept.

It was already light by the time I took off. In hindsight, I should have arranged to start my run as dawn was breaking. I suspect that would have been spectacular.

I passed about 10 people along the way - about 4 runners, 2 cyclists, and 4 photographers - but the path was largely my own. Quiet. Birds singing their morning songs on my right; the wind and waves rushing ashore on my left.

British Landing. Arch Rock. Fort Mackinac. All came and went.

Back into town, I toyed with the idea of a second loop but knew we had other plans that morning. I circled back around, took one more look at the distant Mackinac Bridge, and re-entered my hotel to find my kids and wife still asleep.

I did the 8 miles in about an hour. I didn't have my watch or Garmin functioning to know for sure. I now realize I need to invest in a small, runner friendly camera in order to capture some of these images 'on the run' as they occur.

It was about as nice of a run as you'll ever experience. I can't wait to do it again.

Happy trails.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Time for a Reality Check

I have weekend plans that will prevent me from completing my 18 mile LR this Sunday. So, last night, I set out to knock them out a couple days early which lead to....a reality check.

Maybe it was the heat.
Maybe it was the after effects of Saturday's trail race.
Maybe it was just too much after a full day of work.

Or maybe it was something else.

Last evening's 18 mile run was about as tough of a training run as I've ever had. After 13 miles, my legs were dead. My hamstrings were throbbing. My energy was zapped. I felt an obligation to trudge on and "get the miles in" though.

My legs have felt heavy lately on every run.

I haven't lost my enthusiasm for running. I'm still as passionate as ever and look forward to my upcoming races and goals. After some consideration, I think what's going on here is a couple of things. First, there is no doubt that the heat of this summer is starting to catch up with me. I expect it's affecting everyone to some degree. And with the Chicago Marathon approaching, and the correlating increase in weekly mileage, this is a potent combination.

I think, however, I've become a little too cocky. Not in the I'm-such-a-great-runner kind of way. That's not true at all and I remain humbled before this sport. I think I'm getting comfortable running long distances (which I'll describe as 12+ miles). I'm no longer nervous or fearful or excited by a run of 18 miles. Just like I wasn't anxious at all before my 10 mile trail run - and that kicked my butt. I step out the door to run 15,16,17,18 miles, whatever, without a second thought. Previously, I would mentally (and physically) prepare myself for this time of run. I'd psyche myself up for an 18 miler. I'd consider my diet and physical activities in the hours preceding a run of this distance.

Lately, I've just been lacing up the shoes and running out the door. No preparation. No concerns.

And it has made for some tough runs.

No matter how many times now I've run half marathon or greater distances, it is still a demanding distance. It requires some mental and physical preparation. I need to remind myself of that and get back to being a wee bit fearful. Or one of these times I'll pay the price.

I'll be better off in the long run.

On a side note, Good Luck to Mike and Lisa as they tackle their Night 20! We should establish a southeast-south central Michigan running club. Steers Running Club perhaps? Run with the Steers, maybe? A little take off the running of the bulls in Pamplona? White ties...just a thought. (I'll let Mike explain someday the derivation of the Steers being a founding member and all).

Last night: 18 miles @ 7:24 pace.

Happy trails.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Legend Trail Race Report

Saturday's Legend 10 mile trail race setting the scene:

My first trail run. It's only 10 miles. How hard could that be? I did a 17 mile run last weekend and will do 18 miles this week. Not to mention the two marathons in the past year and several training runs in the 20 mile range. Okay, so it's a trail run. Big deal. I'll get up Saturday morning and treat this like an intense 10 mile training run - which I was going to do anyway this weekend.

That was the plan. Total confidence. I didn't even think much about it the night before.

Saturday morning, the wife and I herded the groggy kids into the car and drove the 20 miles to Sleepy Hollow State Park just north of Lansing, MI.

This is a small race. I was expecting about 150 ten milers (turns out there was 203).

The 5 mile run got going first. I watched them take off and disappear into the trees. Flat, packed dirt trail. No problem.

We were up next...and were off. I'm thinking: enjoy the experience, don't worry about pace, this will be a fun, new experience, etc.


Right off the bat, about a 1/4 mile, a dude misses the path around the closed (and locked) gate and slams into a 3 foot steel post landing on his side in the road right in front of me. He was okay though and continued on. Warning received. I better take this a bit more seriously.

The first mile was mostly on packed dirt and downhill through a winding dirt forest path. This fed my overconfidence. First mile: 6:20. This is way faster than I wanted to be going.

Second mile, it all caught up. Guess what? After you go downhill for a bit, there is payback on an uphill path. That goes up, up, up, up...never severely so but constantly and seemingly without end. Now I realize how I did the 6:20 first mile. The first mile hill must have went straight down and I didn't even realize it.

After mile 2, I'm already begging for a water station. It was about 70 degrees at the start but, trapped in the trees and brush, it feels like 80 or 85 now with the foliage creating a sort of devilish blanket.

I decided to get much smarter about my pace and settled in at a goal of 7:20 miles. At mile 2.5, there is a brief 6 foot river crossing - just big enough to require a couple ankle deep foot steps in the muddy river. Okay, so 7.5 miles left now in soaked socks and shoes. Another new experience.

By the half mark, I'm already contemplating a walking break. I never would consider this at this point in a typical road race. The rolling hills are non-stop. Of course, you don't feel the down hills but you sure as hell feel the up hills. And it seems like it is all up hill!!

I carried on until mile 6 when a large drop (I considered sliding down on my rear but took one look at the tangled roots and rocks protruding down the hill and gave that idea up) knocked the wind out of me. I gave myself a 30 second walk break.

Miles 6-8 I spent a lot of time questioning why I didn't start with the 5 mile run. Also, I'm considering the 50k trail run next year. At this point, thoughts were passing through my head like "you would never make 31 miles of this" and "are you freakin' crazy?".

By the time I hit mile 9, I caught sight of a man who had flown by me around the half way mark while I was despairing about my lack of trail running conditioning. He was within sights again. With 1/3 mile to go, I zoomed past him and found extra life to sprint into the finish (maybe because that part was flat and on a concrete surface?? back in my element??). That felt great.

Post race with the kids

I remember saying to my wife afterwards "I think this was harder than the marathons." In hindsight, I don't think it was. It was tough. It was more of a challenge than I expected. The constant up/down, twisting, turning, and need for total concentration just made it different than road marathon running. There is constant strain on the legs as you go through patches of loose dirt, take last second leaps over knotty roots coming up from the trail like little mountain ranges, while watching for low hanging branches. I think I nearly twisted my ankle about a dozen times but managed to catch myself before it went to far to cause injury. Plus, you can't zone out and just run. Concentration is required to stay on the course. For about 4 miles I was running by myself, I couldn't see anyone ahead of me and only heard the occasional crunch of branches behind me to indicate the presence of someone else. They mark the course with ribbons tied to trees but, if you zone out, you might wander off one of the crossing trails. I did, briefly, but looked back and saw a ribbon and had to run back to the course. I wonder how many people got lost??

Wife, daughter, and bad rocker poses.

It's a great run. Lots of fun. I was exhausted for the next 36 hours however. I'm sure I made the classic road-runner-doing-a-trail-run mistake though as far as underestimating the demands of a trail run. Next time, I'll know. For those of you considering a trail run, be forewarned.

In the end, I finished 1st in my age group and 24th overall of 203. My time was 1:13:08 with a pace of 7:19. I would not be happy with this for a road race but I'll sure take it for my first trail run. I got a nice little The Legend beer pilsener award based on the result. I enjoyed some Heineken from it later that evening. It always taste better when guzzled from a Major Award (to bad it doesn't light up and go in the front window - anyone get that reference??).

Happy trails.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


As I mentioned, last week was spent in Traverse City and my time there coincided with the 3rd annual Traverse City Film Festival. It's becoming a very popular event increasing in size, scope, and, so far, regional popularity every year. The festival was founded and still run by uber-liberal (though more of a populist in my opinion) Michael Moore.
There is delicious irony in the success of the festival in this area of Michigan. Traverse City is notoriously conservative politically. So, here is Moore, a nearby resident in the area and the devil incarnate to many a conservative, working in partnership with the bedrock conservative groups in T.C. to bring the film festival to life. I guess when there are dollars at stake, political differences fall to the wayside!

The wife and I made it to only one ticketed film - a documentary involving the 2004 election - hosted by Moore and then sat in on the post-film Q&A with him and noted 60's documentarian D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop, Don't Look Back [Bob Dylan]). That is, until the clock struck 12:30 AM and our Cinderella carriage was going to turn back into a pumpkin (re: the parking garage was locking its doors at 1 AM).
We also took the kids to the free outdoor flick Raiders of the Lost Ark at the downtown Open Space park. I have to say, I've seen the film many times but never noticed the frequent slamming of port-a-potty doors on the soundtrack or the image of an electrical box in the lower half of the screen for the entire movie. Go figure. ;)
I did learn that the State Theatre, a T.C. landmark (shown in picture above) and my former employer (projectionist, circa 1990), will be re-opening full time in November (thanks to Moore and the film festival). Hooray!! These old theatre's are classics and need to be renovated and saved whenever possible.

This Weekend:
My first trail run, The Legend, is this Saturday morning just north of Lansing, MI. Ten miles of off-road fun. I'm very curious to see how different it is from a road race. I need to get some rest though. Sunday's 17 miler wiped me out more than I care to admit. Last night's 6 miler was tough in the humidity. And to top it off, I was awoken at 3:30 AM last night (morning?) as work needed me to stare at some computer code to fix a problem as if the brain functions at this hour.
I have discovered that Girls Gone Wild seemingly has an unlimited budget to advertise between the hours of 3-5 AM on Comedy Central. Who knew that so many 'normal, every day college freshman willing to bare all' also resemble your garden variety stripper?? I'm sure they are just regular women choosing to pull their tops up though right? Not strippers. Nope. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Happy trails.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Leelanau Trail

One of the great things about northern Michigan is the natural, scenic beauty every where you go. Going to the store? Grand Traverse Bay just happens to be on the way. Going to the beach? Look at that, a bunch of sail boats and a beautiful sunset. I love being in the Traverse area during summer and fall. Winter and spring on the other hand? No thanks. I hate the snow - especially piles of it - and dripping, melting slush in the spring. I still prefer to visit the area rather than live there. But it is a terrific place to visit as a "fudgie".

I spent the last week at my folks place on a lake in Traverse City. The kids and I went swimming three different times in West Bay. Surprisingly, it was warm on 2 of the 3 trips. We did some boating, golfing, water skiing, and went down to the Traverse City Film Festival (more on this in a later post). It was a good week all in all except the wife had to stay back home and work during the week. That was a bummer.

I knew it would be a challenge to keep my running schedule this week but, somehow, I managed. I'm surprised really. There were so many more appealing attractions. I'm giving myself a pat on the back for keeping to my weekly goals. Of course, both weekends, my wife gave me a big assist. Never more so than this past Sunday.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I planned to hit 16 laps around the Civic Center track. I've done 20 laps before (each lap is almost exactly 1 mile) so I figured 16 would be no problem. So, on July 29th I dutifully started running circles. About 6 miles in, wanderlust struck and I started feeling trapped in a cage. Why am I running laps? There is so much to see just outside the gates. So, I veered right instead of left off the track and out the gates. I ran past 2 of my previous childhood homes. I ran for awhile on the Bayshore marathon course along the bay. I circled back and finished my last few miles on the track again to bookend the experience. Being that my Garmin quit on me again, I had to guess I went roughly 16.5 miles @ 7:18 pace.

Yesterday, my planned 17 miler, I decided not even to attempt the track again. Traverse City has a variety of running/biking trails. Why not try one of those? Sure enough, there's a 17 mile trail from the (former) Clinch Park Zoo on West Bay to downtown Suttons Bay. It's called The Leelanau Trail . This is where the wife came in. She needed to drive me downtown after getting up at 7 AM - on a Sunday, sleep in day - and then drive out to Suttons Bay just over 2 hours later to pick me back up. What a game wifey I have!

Start: West Bay in Traverse City

The Leelanau Trail: Off Road

Finish: Suttons Bay

This is a beautiful, serene stretch to run. Quiet countryside. Only a few road crossings. I was amused by the number of "tractor crossing" signs posted along the route. Much of the trail cut through farmers' fields. I kept my eye out for a John Deere haulin' a** across the trail.

The first 8 miles are paved, then 6 miles off road, and then 3 more paved miles into downtown Suttons Bay and the sweetness of an ice cream shop. Except none of them were open yet. Bummer. I recommend it as a nice run/bike if you are in the area. Bring water, however, as there are no water stations past mile 3. I took it a bit easier on this trail as I've been going hard - too hard - lately. I wanted this just to be a pleasant run through the countryside. And it was. (17 miles / 7:32 pace).

Happy trails.