Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Pleasant Pennsylvania Run

I'm writing this from Pennsylvania on my father-in-laws lap top computer on this the last day of 2006. I had intended orginally to compile the year end stats today but hadn't really considered the fact that all my data is on my desktop computer at home in Californina. So the big year end wrap up will folllow sometime next weekend.

Last Friday we flew non stop from LAX to Philiadelphia on Southwest Airlines. My wife found very good fares that we couldn't turn down and if you've ever flown Southwest you know that a non stop flight across the US is unheard of. My in-laws live in Annville near Hershey and Harrisburg, PA. Friday night we pick up pizza at CC's Pizza and then drove over to Hershey to see Sweet Lights, a drive through Christmas light show. The lights were really cool. There were some fun animated displays of roller coasters, snowball fights, etc. I took some pics but will have to wait until the return home to download them.

Saturday we drove to Stamford, CT to have lunch with some relatives. Getting to Stamford is a 3.5 hour drive through PA, New Jersey, New York and then finally CT. We had lunch at Pellici's. I had the tortellini pesto; wonderful. I've waited at least 8 years to return to Stamford just for the tortellini pesto.

Today I was able to go for my final run of 2006. My in-laws live in a small, quite, rural community so I was able to just run out the front door and head down the road. I saw a total of 14 cars in the 6 miles. I ran out their little neighborhood, took a left on Louser Rd and the next left on Mount Pleasant Road. It was 42° and cloudy when I left the house at 11:30 a.m. I wore shorts and a long sleeve, My father-in-law thought I was crazy going out in shorts. At first my hands were freezing. It was a little windy. It took a little longer than normal to warm up. I was starting to think that maybe my father-in-law was right. When the road turned south, the wind was at my back and the comfort level improved significantly. When I hit Route 322, I turned around and went back.

Later today we visited Chocolate World for the Really Big 3D Show and the Chocolate Tour. After each attraction you get a free piece of Hershey's chocolate. The end of the tour conveniently dumps you into the biggest chocolate gift shop you've ever seen. We spent nearly $60 on chocolate. Later tonight after dinner and board games we may go over to Lebanon to watch the bologna drop. That's not something you see everyday.

Today is the first official day of training for the next marathon but with the travel I may postpone things a week. I would like to explore the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails and some trails in Mount Gretna before we leave if it fits into the schedule.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

22 Mile Legs

We enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather through Christmas. And yes, Michelle, I did get to go for another sleeveless Bonelli run between opening gifts and breakfast in the morning and our Christmas dinner in the late afternoon. It was wonderful. I really enjoyed the mid 70's temperatures. I just threw on the shorts and shirt and got the run in without any second guessing clothing layers like Saturday. I did the loop counterclockwise this time and felt much better than the day before, finishing in 48:39.

I've wanted to incorporate a map into this site somehow. I was thinking as a header with the states I've done colored in but I didn't really know how to do it. I came across a cool alternative on Scott Dunlap's blog and borrowed it. Check out the "My Maps" link on the right.

One thing on my Christmas wish list was entry into the Eugene Marathon and my lovely wife came through for me. I'm officially registered and have been assigned bib number M509. So far that is all that's on my calendar for 2007. I started 2006 with only SEAFAIR and ended up with three other marathons and miscellaneous other races so I'm not too concerned. Dr John and his wife are trying to convince me to sign up for a couple of other races, but I really want to concentrate on qualifying for Boston at Eugene.

Christmas's Bonelli run was the third day in a row of running. I haven't done that for nearly a month, since before Tecumseh. I took Tuesday off in keeping with the reduced year end thing I've got going, but I ran tonight. The same loop from home I did last Thursday. Boy, did I feel sluggish. My legs were toast from the very beginning. They felt like they feel at the 22 mile mark of a marathon. I really wanted to walk, but I wouldn't allow myself. I figured I could muddle through 4.5 miles one way on the other. I made it but never really felt the rhythm. My overall pace was 8:45, which I guess isn't that bad, but.... I think this is just my usual post marathon slow down. I may only get one more run in before the end of the year so that should give my legs a little bit of down time. I'm going to have to be careful ramping back up after January 1.

Friday we are traveling to Pennsylvania to spend a week with my father-in-law and his wife. No marathons that weekend in PA or I might have signed up. I may get a run in on New Year's Eve so I'll wait and tally up 2006 then.

Just in case I don't make it back here before the New Year, I wish you all the very best in 2007. Set some high goals and go after them.

"There's no point in not trying. " - a wise 7 yr old -Thanks, Sarah. I hope you don't mind me borrowing your quote.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Words of Wisdom

I was looking through my log book for a specific route and I just read the quote of the week for the week between Tecumseh and Otter Creek.
"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another." - Frank Shorter
I should have paid more attention to that a couple of weeks ago.

I found this weeks quote to be appropriately timed.
"Run slowly, run daily, drink moderately and don't eat like a pig." - Dr. Ernest van Aaken
(Bold type is mine). I've got the run slowly and drink moderately down pat. I need some help with the run daily and an intervention on the eating like a pig part.

I committed to running less through the end of the year. This coupled with the eating has the potential to be a very dangerous decision. I can definitely feel the difference on my recent runs. I can account for some of the sluggishness from the recent marathons and maybe some to the travel schedule but the the rest is clearly attributed to the ginormous (gigantic + enormous) quantities of food I've consumed of late. I've noticed a definite bounce around the middle and on Saturday's run my shorts were riding up in places they've never ridden up before. If I'm going to achieve my goals, I've got to get serious about food again. I know I've gotten lazy, but dang that sweet stuff tastes so good.

I ran three days this week, true to my scaled back plan for a total of 20.5 miles.

Wednesday I ran a 4.5 mile loop beginning at my front door. Back in 2004 this was a regular run for me. I checked back through my log this year and I've only run it twice, once in August and once in February.

Saturday, I met up with the Cruisers at Huntington Beach. We were a very small group, just four of us. But we were joined by 6 runners and 4 walkers of the 6:42 group. The weather turned out to be fabulous. Before I left I checked the weather and the chart. The weather called for 50 warming to 60°F by 10:00. I decided on a long sleeve tech shirt. When I first got started my hands were cold, but I've learned that gloves are not necessary after about the first mile (even in the 30's at Tecumseh). A couple of miles into the run, I wished I had chosen a short sleeve instead. The day was so wonderful. The sky was blue. We could see Catalina Island off the coast and lightly snow dusted mountains inland. As the run went on I even ended up seeing more than one guy runner shirtless and girls in jog bras. I felt pretty silly in my long sleeves. I ran most of the time with Jim and Randy and put in 11 miles at 8:44 pace overall.

I was surprised later that day about how sore my quads were. This was unexpected based on the morning run on flat land at a relatively relaxed pace and it seemed to come on pretty quickly. I'm not sure what was going on there.

Sunday, I hopped over to Bonelli (where else would I go on a Sunday?) in the afternoon to take advantage of the warm, sunny weather. The temps were in the high 70's and I pulled a sleeveless out for the occasion. It's Christmas Eve, December 24 and technically winter, running in a sleeveless tech shirt. How can you complain about that? My legs were still pretty fatigued. I walked a couple of the hills at the end of the loop and finished the 5 miles in 50:00. I didn't see another soul in the park, but I arrived back at the parking lot at the same time as another runner. He must have been elsewhere in the park. A third guy was just taking off into the park as I cooled down.

Last night we were over at my mother-in-laws for my wife's sister birthday. Tonight we are spending a quite evening at home with pasta for dinner. We'll go to Christmas Eve service at 11:00 and then home and into bed so Santa can come.

I usually like to get a run in on Holidays. The weather is expected to be beautiful for Christmas. I can already hear Bonelli calling me.

Merry Christmas to all. Isaiah 9:6-7

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

He Cooks

Unlike Saturday, Sunday morning broke bright and sunny. Bonelli beckoned me to come play. I hadn't been home on a Sunday morning in a couple of weeks so I opted for making breakfast and a leisurely morning before church instead. Mr Culinary Student came home for Christmas break early in the afternoon and we all went to pick out our Christmas tree. I pulled the lights and ornaments out of storage, draped some lights on the tree and headed off to Bonelli before the sun faded away. I did my usual 5 mile loop, counter clockwise in 48:18. While I was gone Lisa put the myriad of balls and ornaments on the tree. My snail medal from Saturday's Jingle Bob was front and center. The ornament we picked up in Seattle this summer was also prominently displayed.

Tyler told us about his final cooking assignment that brought his grade into the A range. We convinced him that he needed to cook it for us. So off to the store he went with Mom and returned with onions, carrots, celery and two whole chickens. He cut up the chickens and made chicken stock with the veggies. He started with about 2 gallons of water and over the next 24 hours that was reduced to 2 cups that went into a rice pilaf and another very concentrated cup that served as the glaze. Monday night we enjoyed pan roasted "airline" chicken breasts with rice pilaf. Tyler spent a better part of the afternoon preparing this. I think he dirtied almost every sauce pan we had in the process. He even got out the white plates and used his presentation skills to plate the food. He mounded the pilaf just so on the center of the plate and used a towel to clean away any stray bits, then the chicken breast was placed atop the rice. It looked good and tasted good. This was his first official meal for us. I think he got a sense of satisfaction out of doing this and we certainly appreciated the effort he put into it. I'm really glad that he seems to be enjoying his schooling.

The remainder of the week so far has been spent nibbling away at bake goods that were meant to last a week and are basically already gone at this point. I certainly picked the wrong time of the year to cut back on the running. Come January 1 and Eugene is 17 weeks away, so it will be time to get down to business. Hopefully at that point I will be able to lift my sugar laden hind quarters out of the chair.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Jingle Bob

Whew, what a week. I made it home Friday afternoon after a week away, 8 airline flights, 3 hotels, countless hours in airports, 3 orthodontists and a trail marathon to boot. I realize this is just a normal week for some people, especially in sales, but for me it was way out of the ordinary.

In Louisville I was pretty much out in the suburbs. My observations of KY is that they must be the most patient people in the US or we in California are the most impatient. The traffic lights last longer than any lights I can remember, up to 2 to 3 minutes. Here in CA if you wait 60 seconds before it changes you've waited a long time. The other observation is that its a good thing I only spent 3 days there, longer than that and I might have become a country music fan.

I arrived in Montreal on Tuesday in the dark and spent all of Wednesday in an orthodontic office until after sundown again. The sales guy and I made the three hour drive to Quebec. He drove me through old Quebec City for a quick tour. It is a very beautiful "Old World" City, decorated very nicely for Christmas. The following day was spent at another orthodontist, then off for the return to Montreal again in the dark (the days in Canada are quite short). We had dinner in the old section of Montreal. It is a very eclectic mix of old multi-story town homes and all manner of shops and boutiques for blocks on end, a very walkable city. I would definitely like to visit again under different circumstances. I was also quite lucky with the weather in the 30's and no snow. The product was well received by orthodontists and staff alike. I feel very fortunate that this is the case, it is not always so and would make my job far more challenging.

I came home to multitude of emails and phone calls that needed to be returned. Being out of the office isn't all its cracked up to be.

On the running front, I took the week off since Otter Creek. I usually take a week off after a marathon but this week there simply was no time to run even if I had wanted to. This morning I met up with my old Cruiser buddies for the "4th not so annual" Jingle Bob. It was started back in 1999 but has not run continuously. This was a 3 mile fun run organized by the coach at Snail's Pace, Brea for the benefit of the underprivileged in Santa Ana. Entry fee was $5 and a gift certificate or unwrapped toy. Several of the cruisers assisted as course volunteers. There was no on course aid station and post race food was potluck style. The finisher's medals were clay snails hand made by the 6th grade students of a CA Cruiser, each one unique in size, color and decoration. Awards were given out to the first and last male and female, as well as first dogs and most festive costumes. About a dozen door prizes were given away. I won a gift certificate for a free haircut.

The course was a three mile loop through Yorba Linda Regional Park. The park is adjacent to the Santa Ana Bike Trail that we run most weekends. It turns out that there is a small lake in the park that I've never been aware of in three years of running the trail. The lake is within sight of the path if I knew to look for it. There were about 60 racers. We took off and we fell into sequence almost immediately. There were two men, two women and two 12 year old guys ahead of me. I overtook the two kids within the first mile and continued to trail the adults for the remainder of the race. The route took us east along the dirt path for a loop and a half around the lake then back west down the dirt path. I ended up finishing 5th overall, with a time of 22:06 (7:22 pace). My original goal was to just have fun but once I was off near the front of the pack I had to keep going. I'm pretty happy with this result coming off two marathons and no speed work and the fact that my 5k PR pace is 7:04.

Pix from Otter Creek

The finisher's medallion
A frozen water cascade around mile 2 of the loop
Me along the trail, Otter Creek in the background
Along the trail on a small bluff above Otter Creek on the right
Lightning Strike?
A shear rock cliff on the left, Otter Creek on the right
The Ohio River

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Otter Creek Trail Marathon

Well, I did it. I completed two marathons in two weekends. Not just any old marathons, trail marathons. And frankly I'm pooped.

As you know my current work responsibilities have me traveling throughout the country and Canada to visit orthodontists that are trialing our newest product. The doctor in Louisville was able to see me tomorrow, December 11, which would require me to travel on Sunday. A quick search of the internet (isn't technology beautiful) led me to the website of the Otter Creek Trail Marathon. The allure of another state was almost more than I could bear. Besides the $40 entry fee is a bargain too good to be missed. So I booked my airfare to arrive on Saturday (the same price as the airfare on Sunday, so I don't feel too badly that my company paid for the flight).

Last weekend I ran the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in the company of fellow blogger Joe Ely. The Tecumseh Trail Marathon was a very tough course that was further compounded by the muddy conditions brought on by the heavy rains just prior to race day. I would say that Otter Creek is the kinder, gentler, more civilized cousin to Tecumseh. It still has its challenges, but not nearly to the degree of Tecumseh, not nearly the elevation gain and loss and definitely not the mud.

Last year was the first running of the Otter Creek Trail Marathon, or at least the first time it was reported on marathonguide.com. There were 31 finishers in 2005. I would guess there were probably equal number of participants for the 8 and 16 mile runs as well based on this year's attendance. The race directors were a little overwhelmed this year. There were probably triple the number of participants from last year.

Dean Karnazes's blog stated that getting to the race "required some doing". I found getting there from the Louisville area quite easy; three highways and done I was there in about the exact time that mapquest had predicted.

The race consisted of three loops of the Otter Creek Trail and an additional 2.2 mile loop for the marathoners. Due to the unexpected volume of people the RD's decided to send the marathon out on the 2.2 loop first at the same time as the 16 milers went out on the 8 mile Otter Creek Trail. The 8 milers started about 5 minute later. This helped clear up the single track trail considerably. We were glad that the extra loop was done first. Last year it was done last after having survived the 3 loop Otter Creek Trail.

There were two aid stations, 1 at the start/finish line and 1 half way around the loop at a place called Blue Hole. There were two porta-potties at the start and really that's all that was necessary to accommodate the runners.

The weather was just around 30 degrees at the start. The prediction called for highs in the 50's. I wore the exact same gear that I had worn the weekend before (all washed and dried, of course), minus the beanie. I took it off early last week and carried it the rest of the way. I didn't want to do that again. After the 2.2 mile loop I discarded the micro-fleece pullover and was plenty comfortable.

After the 2.2 loop the main trail run started through a pine forest for about a mile. It was reminiscent of the woods in Findley State Park where I camped often with my family. The trees were obviously planted by the Corps of Engineers or other government body; in perfectly symmetrical rows and columns. We then crossed over into woods predominately oak based on the leaves on the trail. Thankfully no problem with mud, at least on the first loop. The ground was frozen solid. We ended up on a trail that parallel Otter Creek then ultimately parallel the Ohio River. The major challenge of Otter Creek was the tree roots. The trail was criss crossed with roots. They sometimes served well as staircases but mostly they just need to be watched closely as they had a tendency to reach up and grab you. I fell once and I saw the guy in front of me during the first loop fall twice.

The first loop went smoothly. I felt good. I stayed with a pack of half a dozen or so runners up to the Blue Hole aid station. I left the station before them and ran the next four miles pretty much alone except for the occasional 8 or 16 miler that I would overtake. There were many walkers in those divisions. There was one significant hill and it occurred on the back 4 of the loop.

I passed the start/finish aid station the first time in 1:48 (including the 2.2), for 10:36 pace. I fell in behind two other guys for about 3 miles of the second pass until I stopped to take some pictures. By the time I hit Blue Hole for the second time my legs were feeling pretty beat. I soldiered on and made it through the second loop with out falling. I stumbled a few times but never fell. The temperature had climbed and I was beginning to warm up.

I finished the second loop in 1:25 (10:38 pace). Nice and consistent so far, albeit slower than road races. By this point I knew the third and final loop was going to be a struggle. I had thought about leaving my tights behind at the start but didn't and was glad to have them on the first part of the loop. For some reason the first half of the loop was cooler than the second. My legs were getting seriously fatigued and even doing the downhill portions was difficult. I felt like I had no real control, so I went slower. I resorted to walking the few uphills there were before Blue Hole. At Blue Hole I had a tough time getting going again, especially knowing that the biggest hill was yet to come. A few minutes after leaving Blue Hole I stopped and took off the tights. I thought maybe if my legs were a little cooler they would respond a little better. The bad part about taking them off is now I had to carry them. I really wished I had taken them off at the start when I originally intended. A little life lesson there: you have to live with the choices you make.

By now my legs were completely shot. I began to take walk breaks even on the littlest of inclines and it became increasingly difficult to begin running again. I really began to question the sanity of trying to run 2 trail marathon in 2 weekends, but I had to finish. I rationalized my dead legs with talk of Tecumseh, of my work travel schedule, of crazy sleep patterns. It was all just negativity that wasn't going to get me to the finish. I passed a couple of walkers but other than that I ran the last 8 miles virtually alone.

The nice thing about repeating a loop three times is that you know where you are in relation to the aid stations and finish. I was very happy to see the pine forest which signaled nearing the finish. I made it through the last loop in 1:54 (seriously slowed from the first two in 14:15 pace) for a finish time of 5:08:34. I was the 28th finisher.

I'm not sure I've ever been so wiped out after a marathon and based on they way my legs felt I'm really pretty happy with the 5+ hour marathon. I was greeted at the finish by the wife half of the husband/wife RD's. She printed my name on the bib tear off with my time and had me take it to the husband half who printed my finisher's certificate. On the spot, no waiting 3 months like those big races. The finishers medallions are three inch disks of tree limb with the logo branded into the wood and a leather strap. They were made by kids at a local high school, pretty cool and unique.

So now I've completed nine states and I'm ready for a rest, at least for the rest of 2006. Beginning January it will be time to start training for the Eugene Marathon. The completion of two marathons in a 9 day span qualifies me for membership in the Marathon Maniacs. I may have to give this serious consideration. I'm not sure I would ever meet the criteria again, I should take the chance while I have it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Maniacal Coincidence

Recovery from the Tecumseh Trail Marathon has gone smoothly. I continue to travel for work making my way to Calgary and back earlier this week. Thankfully the temperatures in Calgary were in the 30's on Wednesday. Everyone told me that the week before the temperature was -40°. That's cold no matter what scale you're on.

Work travel continues next week with a trip to Louisville, KY to visit an orthodontist on Monday followed by a flight to Montreal, a drive to Quebec and back and then home to fill all of next week. I was going to have to fly on Sunday to be at the office on Monday morning. Curiosity kicked in and I snooped around the internet just to see what I might find reasonably close to Louisville.

I came across this. Dean Karnazes had run the Otter Creek Trail Marathon as his 40th the day after he ran the Tecumseh Trail in Indiana. In an email to Joe at the time (around the end of October) I had joked to him that I should just hang around Indiana for a week and run my next marathon. No way that was going to happen, right?

Wrong. The doc I needed to see in Louisville, KY had suggested I come out on December 11. The plan was to fly in Sunday and back out Monday afternoon. Otter Creek is run on Sunday, December 10. The town of Brandenburg is 45 miles southwest of Louisville. Was it possible to run two trail marathons in the span of 9 days? I was going to be there any way. Why not fly in a day earlier and tackle marathon #11, state #9? You gotta love adding a state to the total with Corporate America subsidizing the airfare. This is a really small race and the weather looks to be ideal with cloudy conditions and highs in the 40's.

Now you know "What's Next?" and come Sunday if all goes well "Eight Down" will be the shortest lived title of this little blog.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tecumseh - The Race Report

This report is almost two reports in one. The marathon report and the Joe report.

As I said earlier, who’d have thought I'd travel across the country to run a marathon. My perspective was why else would I go to Indiana except to run a marathon. In fact why have I gone almost anywhere in the last couple of years that didn’t involve running (or lately work)? Better yet why would I travel across the country to meet another runner I knew only from a blog? Kind of like internet dating for runners, huh? More than one person thought I was crazy to travel that far to meet up with someone I didn’t really know. I stopped telling people that we were sharing a hotel room. I guess they were all afraid to read accounts of the ax murder from Indiana or other such insanity. When I went to Washington and met Rob, Lisa was with me. I guess people felt better about that. Funny she doesn’t come off as the body guard type to me, but anyway.

I’ve met nothing but stellar folks through the RBF and had no worries. Everyone has been genuine. Joe and I have shared a few emails behind the scenes so I was comfortable in meeting up. I got the feeling that Joe would do just about anything for you. He is a host beyond compare. I wish I could run every race with the support of someone like him. He took care of everything, down to the smallest details. All I had to do was show up and run. He was concerned about me staying warm and reminded me to drink during those first few miles we spent together. Joe is engaging, personable, spiritually grounded, an adoring husband, father and grandfather, a real class act. We did in fact talk for nearly the entire 26 hours that we spent together. Our work shares many common themes and family was a large part of our conversation. There’s no way I can adequately thank him, except to say that I would be pleased to do it all over again (I might have to make Indiana a repeat state) and to say that I would gladly be host to he and his family in California should the opportunity arise. A race wouldn’t have to be the reason of the visit.

My greatest fear about the Tecumseh Trail Marathon was the weather. Winter has come very late to southern California and I was running in 70-90 degree weather up until Thanksgiving. I spent a great deal of time the last couple of weekends before the race scouring the local running store, sporting goods stores and discount retailers for the best deal on cold weather running gear. I ended up with a pair of Asics Tiger running tights from A Snail’s Pace. I was happy to know that the running store had a better price than the big box sporting goods store. I did get a Nike Thermal Fit half zip pullover at the big box. They had one on the sales rack in my size. I bought another water resistant Champion C9 jacket from Target as backup. My son donated his old Under Armor t-shirt as the base layer. A long sleeve tech top, a beanie and gloves rounded out the attire.

The torrential rain in Bloomington on Friday made getting to race HQ difficult. Joe and I had quite the adventure getting there. I can honestly say I’ve never driven washed out gravel roads on my way to packet pickup before. We even saw a deer sneaking into the woods.

Race morning dawned early. Having arrived at race HQ the night before in the dark, the parking situation was unknown. We decided to get there early to assure a good space. We both tend to obsess a little over things like that. It turns out by the light of day that there was plenty of parking but the early arrival allowed for watching the sunrise and enjoying the parade of runners coming in.

This was the first trail race for Joe. We noticed a pretty significant difference in the crowd from the standard road marathon. Trail runners in the Midwest seem to be predominately male, older and of sturdier stock. There was a noticeable lack of lanky and lean. The logistics of getting 500 runners to the starting line took longer than planned. The 10:00 race start became 10:45. More than one runner was concerned about finishing the course in the allotted amount of time. As I looked around at the trees and hills I was excited to get going.

We stayed on the warm buses as long as we could. Standing around waiting for the race to start was rather frigid, but once we got moving I was warm and soon began to wonder if I had overdressed. The beanie came off first, followed by the gloves. I thought about taking off the micro fleece but was afraid that I would get chilled from the sweat I had built up underneath. I ended up wearing it the whole way. Around mile 15 or 16, around 2:00, the weather began to cool again and I put the gloves back on.

Joe and I ran together for the first 6.5 miles. At this point the crowd was still bunched up. Joe and I filed in single file. The single track demanded this. When the lead runner walked we all walked, mostly on the uphill, which in a trail race turns out to be a really good idea. Joe stopped early on to stretch. I continued on slowly at his request and he caught back up. It was then that I started worrying about his IT band issue. I had really hoped to run together as much as possible but I’m afraid that I didn’t do a very good job of maintaining a suitable pace. I had fun running ahead and taking pictures of Joe running up the trail.

Many times I felt like a kid again. Running through the woods seemed to me to be a perfect way to spend the day. The hills, the terrain, the trees all reminded me so much of family vacations in Findley or Mohican State Parks in Ohio and running around the Boy Scout Camps on Jones Road and at Firelands as a kid. I couldn’t help but smile and have a blast.

I was at first at ease with our decision to split up. Joe had mentioned this point more than once in emails and I have run with other partners that would expected the same. After the point that Joe and I separated ways the crowd thinned out considerably. It would have been easier for us to run our pace without being passed or having to pass on the single track trail. The farther I went the more I second guessed my decision to march on. I spent considerable brain power debating whether I should have gone on or stayed back. Early on I caught up with a group of about 6 other runners. At a stream crossing the group broke up and broke up completely at an aid station.

Aid stations in a trail race are quite the different affair than a road race. Rather than grab and go, runners stop and take a break, drink their fluids standing still and enjoy the cookies, crackers and pretzels. I could get used to this laid back approach to racing.

The remainder of the run was spent nearly in solitary, slowly catching up to other solitary or pairs of runners. Walking the hills became a survival tactic after mile 13. The conditions of the trail deteriorated as the day wore on. A couple of hundred people in front of you leave a muddy trail even muddier. At times the mud was so slick that running was nearly impossible, gingerly walking through was the only option if you wished to remain upright. All the extra work maintaining balance was taking its toll on my legs.

The farther I went the more people I ran into that were really struggling. I caught up to one guy that was hobbling along. I asked if he had sprained an ankle or something. He commented that it was his darn IT Band. I really turned my thoughts back to Joe at that point. With the way others were feeling and the continual deterioration of the trail I really hoped that Joe had decided not to go on. The trail crossed and recrossed the same stream multiple times within a half mile with no real rhyme or reason. We would also climb hills only to circle back down the other side. The trail seemed to be designed by someone on a maniacal, sadistic rant. A quarter mile stretch of shoe sucking, slippery mud nearly ruined my day.

I chatted with a few people along the way. I met up with Marc from Washington DC. Joe and I had met him at the race HQ that morning. Marc had recently run the Marine Corp and Philadelphia marathons and his first triathlon this summer. I ran for a half mile or so with an ROTC cadet from the University of Indiana. He was the only one of his group that had accepted the challenge from his captain. He had three weeks notice and only got in one 12 miler as training. He is a swimmer and bike rider and was doing great aerobically; his legs were really tired at mile 13. He had already taken a fall in the mud but I was confident he would make it. I saw both Marc and ROTC finish in about 5:50 as we were driving away. I was glad to see ROTC finish. I joked with another guy wearing a back pack about planning for an overnight stay. I shared the trail momentarily with three girlfriends that were testing the limits of their friendship out there. They finished about 5 minutes behind me.

There were no mile markers along the way, only at the aid stations. This made determining pace very difficult. I had started my watch at the beginning and just let it run. I think I was at 15 miles at around 3 hours. I wondered whether I could get 10 more in 2 hours. Around mile 22 my legs were getting very tired, feeling like Jell-O. I began stepping more deliberately over the trees across the trail and across the streams. At some point I just completely gave up trying to stay out of the mud and water. I remembered an older guy telling some kids that their feet would not get cold. He was right. They were cold with the initial shock of the water and then warmed right back up. Although the trail had taken its toll, I never felt as though I couldn't go on.

Sometime along the way I was able to hear the cheers of the finish line in the distance. Then they were distinctly off to the right. The trail approaches a gravel road which I assumed I would turn right on to the finish, but no. There was still about a mile to go on the trail before we came out on the road farther down. As I rounded that last corner the crowd was small but loud. There was a man with a camera taking pictures that I assumed to be the official photographer. Then he moved his camera and I recognized Joe. I was both glad to see him and sad that his race had obviously ended early. I got a high five and then he met me at the HQ and made sure I had food and water. I told you this guy takes care of people. I had some warm tasty vegetable soup and a chocolate chip cookie. After changing into dry warm clothes we headed out for burgers and Cold Stone ice cream. Joe had never had Cold Stone before. It was fun to treat him to his first. We discussed the race, his IT band, his decision to drop and his plan to seek qualified medical care at this point.

My final time was 5:24:29, my longest marathon ever and beyond my original goal of 5:00, but the experience was worth every extra minute that it took. I was however, first in the 45-49 year old male from California division, go me! There were actually three Californians in the race. The first to finish was a female and the third was another 45-49 male. I didn’t get to meet them, that would have been fun.

If you’re looking for a fun and challenging romp through the woods, put the Tecumseh Trail Marathon on your planner. If your travels take you to Indiana look up Joe, I’m pretty sure he’d be thrilled to meet you and you’d certainly be blessed to meet him.

Tecumseh - The Thoughtful Post

Eight hours or so traveling home alone can do this to you. Having made it home in time to go to church and out to lunch with my family, its time to sit down and put some thoughts down.

I had a superbly enjoyable weekend in Indiana at the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in the company of fellow running blogger Joe. My current thoughts can be summed up in a simple word: Grateful.

Grateful that I am able to run what many think is a crazy long distance. You know the comments - “I don’t even like to drive 26 miles.”

Grateful that I found running in the first place. Running is a physical activity that this life-long couch potato enjoys. There are no losers in running.

Grateful that running allows me to pursue another passion of mine, eating, without too much guilt. No, I don’t run more to make up for over eating, but if I’m offered a piece of chocolate cake I don’t have to turn it down.

Grateful for the support of my wife and kids in pursuing this pastime. They allow me the time to train. The fact that my boys are in their late teens, one is away at college, affords me a certain freedom. They also encourage my crazy 50 state adventure. As much as possible, Lisa and I turn an out of state marathon into a mini vacation. There’s something special about seeing her face pop up throughout a race. The ones she’s shared with me have been the most fun. Even my in-laws, recently moved to Pennsylvania, went looking for marathons in PA as an excuse to get us to visit (as though they really needed one). My little sister visited and my Mom showed up unexpectedly (from OH) the first time I ran Los Angeles.

Grateful for a job that provides me the resources of time and finances to run more than one marathon a year. Pretty much everyone at work knows of my passion for running. My boss interjects the fact that I run marathons into every introduction.

Grateful to Brian my first running partner. Although 20 years my junior he helped me achieve my initial dream of running a marathon and went on to run 3 more with me before he went off to dental school to pursue his career dream. Fellow coworkers Celeste and Terry were also there through the first couple of years and marathons.

Grateful for the great people I’ve met through A Snail’s Pace Training and the CA Cruisers. It is Dr John’s 108 marathons, including all 50 states that inspired me to pursue the 50 state challenge. Between us I’m sure we’ve run nearly 300 marathons.

Grateful for the people I’ve met through the Running Blog Family. The internet connects people in ways not probable before. Who’d have thought that I would get to run a couple of training runs with the a Boston Qualified Amazing Hip Jeff, or meet the ultra adjective ultra runner Nattie, or run the mountains with the race directing queen of the OC trail runners Jessica and her pals. Who’d have thought I’d travel to Indiana, of all places, to meet up with the ever persevering Joe. All people I would not have met had I had not taken up running and blogging in particular. There’s also all the bloggers I read faithfully and that seem to come back to my blog time and again. Their adventures in running and in life inspire and make me want to be a better runner, a better person. They are all the real deal. I’m truly grateful to be part of a community such as this.

I guess a quick trip across the country to Middle America, a place that reminded me so much of my roots, can make a guy a little introspective. Now it’s back to the regularly scheduled race report.