Sunday, September 30, 2007

Akron Marathon Race Report

It was a beautiful day for a marathon; Akron puts on an extremely well organized and managaed event. When I shook the RD's hand after finishing, I made sure I told him how nice the volunteers, policeman, and citizen were on cheering everyone on.

I got to the expo in the late afternoon; I managed to snag a 60$ pair of Saucony Trigon Ride 4's and some new sunglasses; bought some of Chef Sub-Four Bill Bailey energy bars and some Clif Bloks from Vince; then went over to Mike's place for the evening. Mike's daughter graciously gave up her bed for me for the evening where upon I had a marathon nightmare. I used to have these quite often; I really don't have these since I started running ultras.

The Dream
I was running a marathon. It started at John's farm (the RD from Punxy) out in the country. But it was starting at 5pm in the evening. For some reason, the race was getting postponed until 6 pm, and I realized I would need a light, so I was rummaging through my drop bags for a light. Then I realized everyone wasn't around for the start of the marathon. In fact, most people's attention was at the pond/lake next to the property. Apparently, there was a water monster in the lake- and it was actually Godzilla- yes the monster. So somehow, it was the runner's responsibility to deal with Godzilla somehow. I wanted nothing to do with the monster. I went back to the farmhouse. All ideas of the marathon were now off, and people were just heading out for a run (avoiding the Godzilla area of course.) I was just getting ready to head out with my friend Nick when my phone rang, and I got into some lengthy conversation and my friends ran without me. It turns out it was okay, because they were back soon, because it was about 50 degrees out, and very windy, so they only ran three miles. The last I remember from the dream was, I was walking down a long hallway, and someone was commenting on the runners were going to eat John out of his house, because, for some reason, we couldn't leave until Godzilla was vanquished!

I know, very weird. But I used to have these on a regular basis. Good thing I run trails now, huh?

Mike has to listen to me tell this story at 430 am...he probably wondered where I hid the bottle the night before.
We take the obligatory prerace photo and head down to Akron...a whole ten minutes away. That was sweet, to have a marathon in your backyard!

We hang out for a short bit in my vehicle to catch up, then feel the urge to do the social thing, and run into our fellow runners out there on the blue line.

Mike goes off to the 4.00 corral and I just hang out in the back of the pack, just smiling at the people stretching, and bouncing. People, you'll have plenty of time to get those muscles stretched out, especially if you are running in the 4.30 + group!

It was a nostalgic run for me, since this was my first marathon in 2004. Over the bridge, I catch up to the Akron group, and I yell out their names as I am behind them: Red! Brett! Debi!! Sarah!! Red whips her head around and everyone says hi!! I know I am running a bit fast to be with this gang, but I hang with Red across the bridge and around the corner. We discuss how hot Tony is, since we managed to see him on his way back across the bridge, and then Red pulls away from me as we get back into Akron.

I was suprised how much I remembered from the course, just about the whole thing. I studied this course in 2004; in 2007 I didn't even glance at it. Hey, I will follow who's ahead of me.

I was having a good run, although very slow; my legs tightened up around 11 miles, although nothing really hurt; it just felt like my hamstrings shrunk in half. It was more difficult to walk than run, although I wasn't finding any place to walk on the course-way too flat for me!

I was so appreciative when we hit the towpath trail portion, about 4 miles to get off the asphalt. But my hamstrings were still so tight, I didn't make up any time here at all. The hammies didn't really loosen up until we got into the little undulating hills after the Sand Run Area, the up and down just really helped.

Of course, as soon as the hammies loosened, we ran by Debi's house. I knew it was Debi's house because of all the signs out! I also then noticed Debi's street was made out of concrete...which started to pump the cement back into my hammies again.

Soon we're at Stan Hywet, and I am ready for this to be over! I remember my first marathon, at this same point, I had messed up my Garmin, and was so upset because I wouldn't have my splits proper...and today I didn't even set my watch at all. This was just a training run for me. I was much slower than I wanted to be, but it was good time on my feet.

The last two miles are about all downhill. I made the turn at West Market Street. The police are controlling traffic. They see me start to slow down because of the cars, and they immediately stop traffic for me, and tell me I get priority to cross on this day! This really tickles me, and I thank them and tell them it's cool to have traffic stop because of me! The police and traffic control folks out at all the side streets were really the best!

I hit the downhill, and start to pick it up a bit. Hey, it's less than two miles. I start to eye folks ahead of me. I manage to "chick" six guys on the way to the finish line.

I run into the ballpark, I hear someone yelling "Trail Goddess" (I think it was TJ but not sure) and cross the finishing line in an astonishing PW of 5.25. Yikes!! Oh well. It was a good training run for me. I get my sticker for my free pair of Brooks shoes (all marathon finishers receieved free running shoes) shook the RD's hand, got my medal and went off to look for food!

The Akron Marathon organizes their race so well there is still food left over for us slowpokes, and I managed to cadge a beer off some other finishers in the stands. I know Mike probably has taken off for home with his family (and if not, it's just a 4 mile run/walk home) and I decide to head south. I do stop at the running store, Second Sole, that is sponsoring the free Brooks shoes and I pick up my Radius Shoes. I wore them this morning, for a four mile walk around the block, and they felt good.

I did the ice bath after I got home and still was very stiff! No wonder people only run road marathons a few times a year. It's tough on the body! It's back to dirt for me. I've gotten a better offer for next weekend (a run at Mohican) instead of the Towpath Marathon!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

YUT-C 50K Race Report

What a beautiful day for a race!
A little warm, I'm guessing it was into the 80's around mid day, but thankfully the course is almost completely shaded.
I really love running this course. Mill Creek Park is a real gem of a park set right in the middle of urban Youngstown Ohio. This is a very long, skinny park; the race course follows the shore of three different lakes.
The course consists of two figure eight loops and then one shorter loop to make up the 31 mile distance.

I took the early 7 am start. There was about seven of us this year starting early. We had one runner, Jim, from California! Jim is making his way all over the country, running marathons and ultras. I believe he'll be running 68 marathons this year alone! Jim needed the early start because he needed to finish and then drive to Illinois for the QuadCities Marathon the next day!!

It's just daybreak as we start running, and a little dark in the woods, but nothing where we need lights. We get to the infamous Monkey Trails and I get across the "Love Log" first and manage to snap a pic of Jim traversing it. It sure looks easier on those folks with the long legs getting across it!

Just after the Monkey Trails, you are almost at the covered bridge (we have alot of these in Ohio!) where the aid station is located. Actually, since we're the early runners, there is just water and GatorAde, but no one is in need of food yet, so I top off my water bottle and we continue on.

There is a small section of road along the 'bottom' of the course, because we have to go around the lake (I guess that would be better than going through it) and I encounter my geese hazard. I eye them and give them an 'amscray' and run through them, hoping I am not going to get nipped in the butt by a goose-hey, they're not really nice creatures!!

I have a goal for this first loop, with my early start. Last year, the lead guys caught me around ten miles and passed me. This year, I want to make it back to the start before they catch me. So I am running a bit hard (for me). I pass Shubi with about two miles to the cabin and he thinks I can do it. So I keep going. And I did it! Back to the starting line in 2.5 hours. The lead guy comes in about two minutes later! Ha ha!! (This means they have run the 11-some miles in 1.5 hours..)

I start back on the second loop. For this loop, you reverse direction and just run back the way you just came in. This gives me a chance to now see everyone in the race, and it seems like most of the folks in the Northern Ohio ultra community are out for the race.

I hit the aid station again, this time fully loaded The two boys helping out are the Harris boys, Slim's great kids-thanks for helping out Heath and Eric!! and I go off to go around the lake again.

It's pretty warm out here for this loop, and the road section and the asphalt is a bit warm. But there are really great views, if you pick your head up and look around!

Somewhere out here, I WHACK my left foot into a rock-not hard to do when the trail is as rocky as the YUT-C is. I hit my two middle toes and it hurts pretty bad. I wonder if my toes are broke. I know there is really nothing you can do for broken toes but tape them. So I figure keeping my shoe on so the toes won't swell is my best option if they are broke. I just figured it they were broke, I wouldn't be running the Akron Marathon the next weekend. Just then, a bee comes out of nowhere and stings me! No worries, now my arm hurts worse than my toes!

I'm still having a great run mentally, but know I am running pretty slow. Gee, wonder if that extra twenty pounds has anything to do with it? Hmmm....

I go through the whole gamut of aches and pains-bad headache, quad hurting, arm hurting from bee sting,but you know, it's kind of the normal stuff. I'm still in a very good mood. Sometimes it's amazing how you can separate your mental/emotional mood from your physical pains. Sure, I was hurting, but still having a great time out on the trails.

I get back to the starting line, grab some quick chow, and turn around for the last and shorter loop. This time I am kind of dreading the Monkey Trails, probably because I am tired. But I also know the Covered Bridge is right after them and that will be halfway through the last loop. I know I am not going to make my goal of a sub eight hour race, but I continue to chug along. I've run this course four times now, and it really helps me at races to know where I am. This way I can gauge where the aid station is and drain my water bottle ahead of time.

I start on the little side loop which we only run on the third loop, and I notice this cool little waterfall/pool off the right. The water level is really low in the park, and the waterfalls aren't as spectacular as they usually are:

After this, I climb some stairs and cross a road-where I don't see any Montrail yellow markers. Even though Slim pre-ran the course at 630 am, there has been trail mischief out on the course. I know where to go, here, so I go down the trail, grab some Montrail marker from the course, and hang it where hopefully runners behind me will see it (and someone won't remove it before the end of the race.) As it turns out, Josh who has never run this course before, got lost several times. He probably ran 40 miles instead of 31.

I am finally done with the side loop and heading for the finish line! The last 1/8 of a mile on the road to the cabin is nice and hot, but I still run in for a 8.26 finish-well off my goal, but I had fun out there, as I usually do!

Probably by pushing it on the that first loop, I may have done myself in, but hey, that was my goal to do!
There was soup, pizza and plenty of stuff to eat at the finish line. Josh finally comes in after his 31+ miles. Josh eschews the pizza and goes for the healthy watermelon:

After sitting around and chatting with Josh and trying to pry his future races out of him, we both take off, since I have a two hour drive and he's got a four hour drive ahead of him.

Thanks Bob and the NEO Trail Club, this was another excellent race, I had a great time!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Groundhog 50K Race Report

It was back to Punxsutawney Pa, "The Weather Capital of the World" for another fine 50K race put on by John Goss and the Punxy Runners--just such a first class event.

This year, though, I picked up my co-host Andrew, at the Pittsburgh airport and we ran the race together. Andrew believed me of course when I said the course was runnable and there were only 6 hills. Well, I guess I meant "major hills" aka named major hills. The fun thing in Punxy is they have banners out announcing the hill you are going to run.

This year we weren't as lucky as last year. It was a bit muggy at the 7 am start. We were off and running, about two miles through town, then out past the schools and the first down hill. This is a bit long gradual downhill named "ESPN Hill" and why, the name escapes me for now. We climb up a bit and then I note we are going down the notorious "Two Beer Hill" which apparently it takes two beers of courage for the mountain bikers to go down this hill! (see "T" on the map.) After this huge downhill (all I remember is the fact we have to go back up it at the end of the race) it's just some undulating mix of some roads and jeep roads for a few miles. Andrew and I have a differing opinion on this. If it isn't an asphalt road, it's trail to him.
Note to Andrew: I will publish your race report here if you will write one!

We finally hit the loop that we will run twice. The first hill is "Yellow Bus Hill". It is a really really steep uphill incline. Looking at the elevation profile, I would still say it's tougher than "Two Beer". Andrew hit a bad spot near the top of this hill and we both stopped for a break. As we rested, we got to see Mark Godale running his second loop, running up the freaking hill. Not tromping along. Not trudging. Running!!! And having enough breath left over to talk to us. Unreal!!! It was very cool to see the front runner come through at a race!

Andrew and I continue on. "Cry Baby Hill" seems like nothing after Yellow Bus, and Andrew recovers a bit and gets his sense of humor back. We start on the second loop and take "Yellow Bus" a bit slower the second time. The day continued to be hot and muggy, although cloud covered. I was glad for the sun but we kept hoping for the rain!

The funniest part of the day, (well at least to me) was when we started back through the strip mine area. This did not follow the same route that we took on the way out; we detoured in order to take in yet another hill. Even named. Water Tower Hill. This was the last straw for Andrew and he went off into a very long diatribe about detouring race courses in order to pick up as many hills as possible. I was laughing so hard I couldn't even trudge uphill and he was getting away from me!
As I recovered from my laughing fit, Art Moore, age 69, ultra runner extraordinaire, caught up to us, and chatted with us as we ran through the strip mine (or Death Valley as it is also called, especially when the sun is out). Art kicked our young butts as he broke away from us and we watched him run into the distance....

But we were almost on the homestretch..except we still had Two Beer Hill and ESPN Hill to go up. I used my same strategy as last year to get up Two Beer...walk ten steps, rest for a ten count, then repeat.. We made it up the hill!! Crossed a road and I turned to tell Andrew it was the last year as he jumped across a downed tree and really put his back out. His back had been bothering him for practically the whole run, but this was about the last straw. He went on, though, since we only had 3 miles or less to get through. He's much tougher than me, to run with a bad back!!

We finally get through the last hill, and get back on the road. It's all downhill (really) at this point, except Andrew is telling me it's uphill. I don't know whether he's teasing me or delusional at this point. The run down the dirt road (we compromised and called it a troad) seems really long. The ambulance is behind us again and we think we are the DFL runners. We are hoping we aren't, because the couple behind us was running their first ultra, and we're hoping they didn't drop out.

We turned the corner to finish, and all my local ultra runner peeps are still there, waiting for us-Gabe, Rich, Wendy, Reg, Di! How nice of them!! They knew we were still out there somewhere!!!

We get a nice finishers hat and Andrew gets a glass groundhog for coming all the way from Alabama to be tortured...I went off to retrieve my vehicle and towels for a nice shower. Andrew recovered quite nicely from the run and was already chipper as we headed back to Pittsburgh...stay tuned for a podcast coming soon of our race recollections, I am sure you will get both sides of a race after this one!

I think I now owe Andrew a road marathon race together after this one!

To me,it still was fun. It is a nice challenging course. I still think it's runnable (except for the hills and if your name is Godale) and John puts on one excellent race-thanks John and the great volunteers!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trail Run Salt Fork

I did the same route that I ran last Sunday, except I did it about twenty minutes faster! I also didn't dawdle or have epiphanies out on the trail like I did last weekend. I broke my rule and ran with my iPod--I really just didn't want to think out there today, just run, so I ran with it at a very very low volume.
I didn't start until almost noon, and thought for sure there would be alot of horsepersons out on the trail. I only encountered two couples out there, which was kind of nice.
Less than one mile into the trail, I tripped and fell!! I swear it was about the same place as last Sunday. Today I was a bit smarter and was wearing capris, so I wouldn't rip my legs up on the briars like last week, so no new skinned knees today!

The run did break through my apathy. I'm going to get up early and run to town and back, about 18 miles. This sleeping in is for the birds--I'm not feeling any better rested!!

Umstead 2008

If you were thinking of this race and haven't registered for it yet, you are probably too late. They had 200 registered about 1 pm September 2 and would reach their online registration of 225 later today. I hadn't quite decided on Umstead but the race filling up quickly made me change my mind. It's crazy! Signing up Sept 1 for a race in April 2008. It's nice that ultra running is getting so popular, but you also have to make your plans well in advance too! If you are just thinking about a race, you might want to register for it! FYI: Massanutten registration opens December 4.