The Runner's Reward

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Getting back on the training train

The year may be coming to a close, but training is just starting for many of us running the Pittsburgh Marathon and other spring events.   Training through the winter isn't easy. Short days and long nights, cold temperatures, snow and the worst of the!  So far we have had it good. The unseasonably warm weather this year let me run on December 22nd shirtless and in shorts and I was still sweating. 

I started training on December 14th and am looking ahead to 34 weeks of training broken down into 3 cycles.  First, will be base and strength building which will lead to to the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend. From here five high mileage weeks and then a taper for the Laurel Highlands Ultra. This race will be my furthest to date with a whopping 70.5 miles of moderately technical terrain.  After recovering from Laurel Highlands one more buildup of miles and then a taper leading to the Burning River 100 miler!

The hardest part of training is simply finding the time, or more aptly making the time to train without neglecting my work and home life. Is there anyone out there that would like to hire me to run? That would simplify things greatly!

Here is how I am attempting to balance training.  Mondays are for rest and crosstraining. Tuesday through Thursday are run days with a medium long run on Wednesdays. Tuesday and Thursday will alternate between running on lunch break and after work. Wednesday will be early AM. By the time I get up to running 15 milers on Wednesday I will likely need to be awake by 2AM.  Also when the back to backs get very long I likely will be on trail by 3 AM or so.  Is this sustainable? I'll let you know over the course of the next few months. At this point I have some doubts, but as Nelson Mandela said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." So now I get to it and get it done.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Marshall Mangler 50k 2015 Race Recap

31 miles, over 4500 feet of gain, and one hell of a good time!

I woke up at 3:45 AM and had a big glass of water, a banana, and toast with Wild Friends Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter. Oh man is that stuff gold!  I headed out the door to pick Alyssa up with a mixer bottle in hand filled of one serving UCan superstarch and 3/4 serving of Hammer vegan protein powder, which I started drinking at 5:00 AM.
The Trail Family
We were the first runners to arrive. We got hoodies and pre-registration goodies including gloves and a mug with the Marshall Mangler logo.  Around 6:15 I downed another serving of UCan. People were starting to trickle in. We checked our race packs to make sure we had everything. Alyssa offered me a packet of pickle juice. I accepted and tucked it into a front pouch and forgot about it. We set our drop bags in the designated area and put everything else in the car. It was 10 minutes to start and looking around the room I was surprised to see very few people.  5 minutes to the start and we went out to the line. Still there was only a few people! Was this it? No. People started filing in from the parking lot. All said we had a small field of less than 30 when the race started.

The 50k race started at 7AM. Temperatures were in the upper 30's with a good breeze. The first 5 miles were comprised of the orange loop around the golf course, a very runnable loop.  I was happily moving along at a pace in the 11's. At around 1.5-2 miles in I came around a turn in the trail to hear some intense screaming and crying.  One of the front runners had taken a fall on the roots and rocks and lacerated her leg! A number of people had already stopped with her and were calling 911 for help.  There was ample help so I continued on.

At the Pigeon Aid station I caught up to Lamar​ and we spent the next 18 miles or so running together, pacing each other by switching of lead.  The first 5 miles of the red-blue trail have some good climbs and our pace dropped to around 12:00 all the way up to the Wisconsin Shelter Aid Station around mile 10-11. From there we were able to modestly increase speed.

The next loop of the course went first.  At mile 16 at the Pigeon Aid Station a volunteer dug my last serving of UCan out, a 5 ounce soft flask of which I drank on trail over the next 5 minutes. I also had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich square and a small handful of pringles before leaving the aid station. The pace had slowed down just a little bit, but I was still running strong . That is until around mile 23.  I had neglected hydration and the Ucan I had taken wore off leaving my blood sugar low.  Bonk! I was in trouble. The first 23 miles I had only drank around 30 ounces of water. I began walking because I simply couldn't run and felt my legs starting to cramp.

Realizing my mistake I started drinking water, took a salt cap, and had some Honey Stinger chews. After two 20 minute miles I started feeling a little more human and by this time I had arrived at the Wisconsin aid station where I met up with Lisa (aka Coach Cupcake)​, who graciously volunteered to run the last 7 with me. We slowly left the aid station and made our way along the trail, my legs threatening to cramp up when ever I tried to push so I just let myself run comfortably and took many walking breaks.

I stopped to let some runners by and then remembered the packet of pickle juice from Alyssa. Let's see if this stuff can help at all.  I downed that puppy and almost immediately felt my legs ease up. Within a mile or so I was back at it with some gusto. My feet felt battered with every footstrike, but Lisa kept me moving like she was a cowboy and I a cow, coaxing me forward when I walked too long. Coming up the big climb at mile 28 with 260 feet of gain I was running more and more, stopping less and less.  Then came the mostly flats and downhills. The pounding of the downs really were crushing my feet. The trail here is loaded with rock and I was wincing with each footfall by the end of mile 30.

It was up the damn oil line hill one more time, cursing it the whole way and then an easy decent down the bathtub trail, appropriately named for the bathtub on the side of the trail. Lisa kept saying " Go!, Go!" To which I finally replied "I'm gonna!" and took off down the final 0.3 miles at an 8:30 pace. Gotta love the downhills with soft, forgiving trail underfoot.

I was happy to see Lamar waiting to see me cross the finish.  Then it was inside for some Hammer Recoverite, food, and rest before moseying out just in time to catch Alyssa tearing down the final hill!

The Marshall Mangler closed out my 2015 race year.  It has been one hell of a year for me running. I ran 3 marathons and 3 ultras including two 50ks and my first 50 miler. Over the course of the year I had PR's in the mile and 5k (ok those first two were training runs),and also the marathon, and 50k. This race was a PR by a whopping 39:26!  This coming year will be a distance year with big goals of running both a 70 miler and 100 miler.

Monday, October 26, 2015

One Training Weekend to Rule Them All

This was peak week for Marshall Mangler training. This will be the last big week of training until next year. After the Mangler I will take some much needed rest and crosstraining time and begin to mentally prepare for the arduous training cycle ahead in 2016.


There is no shortage of reminders of a prosperous past
Tuesday, I worked on a site in West Virginia and due to downtime I had an extra long lunch and was able to squeeze 10 miles in along the Wheeling Heritage trail in an out and back. I was still a bit sore from Sunday's 21 miler, but I got it done and felt good doing so. The Wheeling Heritage trail is a little over 10 miles long and all asphalt.  I started at mile zero and went out to 5 and back.  The first 2 miles passed a snuff factory, the smell of their product filling the air. A short jaunt up the trail and one finds himself smack in the middle of a sewage treatment facility with the trail bisecting the property. After this was a scenic stretch in downtown Wheeling. This was the highlight of the first 5 miles of the trail and also had public restrooms and water fountains.  I hope to explore the second half sometime and I hope it offers more.
All in all I'm just a runner in the wall

Wednesday I took a 2 1/2 mile run in Luna sandals around the roads near work.  I have to say the sandals felt great. I ran gravel and grass on the sides of the road when possible and they seemed to handle all types of terrain well. I am looking forward to more runs in these "flip flops".

Thursday I ran 5 miles in Oakmont and Verona. I tested out the new Hulton Bridge. It works! I got over the river dry!

North Park

After a rest day Friday it was time to get real. Real real. Extra real with real realness in every bite. get it.  I woke up at 2:40 AM, stumbled towards the espresso machine and turned it on. Soon I was out the door and driving to North Park. I arrived around 3:40 and managed to get 1 mile of road in before Lamar arrived to start our pre-dawn run. We began with the Orange loop around the golf course.  A few miles in and I had to make like a bear does in the forest,  more precisely that big, blue Charmin bear.

Trailrunning Tip of the Day:  Always pack some TP!

We made it back to the cars right around 5:15 when we met Lori. This was Lori's second trail run and she had decided to come out into the forest in darkness and hoof it out for an hour or two with us! Brave girl. We ran the red-blue up to the Wisconsin Shelter. We took our time navigating the ankle twisting, rocky sections with care and crossed the road from Wisconsin to the Red trail and followed it back down to the road.  Lori parted ways at that point with 6 or 7 trail miles under her belt before the sun had cared to rise.  From here Lamar and I took the pipeline climb towards Pigeon Shelter and came back around to meet Lisa just as the sky was starting to show color.

From here we ran a complete loop of Red-Blue to Red along the Marshall Mangler course route.  There were plenty of deer and the weather was beautiful for running. The trees were in full color and the trails were covered with the fallen hands of their brethren.

After reaching the cars Lamar and Lisa headed out and I put in 4 more miles at around a 9:30 pace. I was surprised to be able to hold that after such a long run. All said and done this training run was 26.2 miles in 5:45 with over 3400 feet of gain. Afterwards Tara and I met up with friends for an after noon at Phipps Conservatory and for Japanese/Korean at Oishii Bento in Oakland.  So. Damn.Good.

Lisa gave me a pack of Ucan generation to try out.  I will be picking up a pack or two for the mangler.  In 26 miles I had a little under 100 calories of tailwind in my water, one pack of Ucan in water, and a few Honey Stinger chews. With so little I still felt surprisingly strong for the nearly 6 hours out there.

EQT 10 Miler

Most of the EQT Runderful Crew
Sunday arrived and I was up at 5 AM to get ready for the EQT 10 miler race.  I hadn't planned on racing it after Saturday's huge run.  Just getting out there and enjoying the morning with friends and getting my training miles in was the goal. My legs certainly were sore still. I donned my costume and drove down to Station Square to meet up with Lisa, my race partner, and the rest of the awesome SCRR and Runderful squad. Lisa was dressed as a nerd and I went as The Doctor, which arguably could be said a nerd too. I figured on trying to hold around a 10 pace, but likely ending up walking much of the race. As long as we could stay ahead of the 15:00 mark we were good as gold.

The gun went off and we began the small climb towards the West End Bridge.  At mile 1 I was surprised to see we had a 9:30 pace and my legs were loosening up. In the back of my head was the thought that this would be the opportune time for a tempo run if my body was in good enough shape to safely pull it off. Aid Station 1 was a little after mile 2 and our awesome friends Suzanne (AKA Wonder Woman) and Lori were volunteering. Selfies and water and hugs were had. Mid-race hugs should be at every race!

We began picking up the pace dropping into the sub 9's and I felt good still. What the hell!?  I asked Lisa what her course PR was. She said around a 8:24 pace.  I looked at my garmin and crunched the numbers.  I asked her if she wanted to go for a PR and said it was still possible in that we weren't too far off pace wise. We began modestly accelerating and I think it is safe to say neither of us really felt it too bad until maybe the last 2 miles. That said, we were not going to get Lisa a PR on that day and both of us could care less.  We ran a much faster race than either had anticipated. Lisa recovering from the Chicago Marathon and me from a long training run.

 All said and done we finished with a pace of 8:38 per mile. I don't know if it was the bow tie or the sonic screwdriver or maybe the fez, but it felt like a miracle in it's own small way.

At the finish volunteers were ushering us to keep moving after the finish line. I did not know until shortly after why. Lisa asked if I saw the guy being treated by medical personnel. I hadn't.  She did. They were giving a man CPR. Unfortunately the end of this story is not a happy one.

My sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of Michael Kovacic.

If there is a lesson to be learned it is this: Life is short and one never knows how short it may be. Love those around you, care for yourself and others, and seize the day.  Don't put off showing your love to the world because in the end that is what we leave behind. The care and love we bring to the world is what is immortal in us and it is the best we have to offer. 


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Getting cold? Look bold! Shirts and Hoodies on Sale until 10/25/15.

Gear up for the cold months ahead with a sweet Runderful hoody and tech long sleeve! The ladies cut long sleeve has a v-neck.   The order is open until 10/25/15. Details and ordering info is at the bottom of the blog page.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Akron Marathon Race Recap

A friend of mine is a running coach and has done a lot of biking and weight lifting in the past. She now mostly runs. We were talking about how good running is for us mentally and psychologically when I asked her this question:

What do you think it is about running that makes it different than biking or lifting as far as therapeutic value?

Her answer is perfect.

"I think it's the beating your body takes, It strips you bare and makes you look deep within to push beyond everything you thought you were incapable of bearing or accomplishing. It's just you and your weights, no bike...just you and your legs. I've been told that I run with my heart and I believe that to be true..." - Coach Suzanne Natter

Saturday I ran with my body and heart at Akron and was stripped bare.

I was fortunate enough to leave work early Friday. It was just a short 1 1/2 hour drive to Akron. Once at the expo I got in touch with Ryan to see where he was and he came up to meet me.  The expo was easily navigable. It was a bit smaller than Pittsburgh's which worked to my advantage as I was not looking to spend much money.

We spent a few minutes in the expo, in which I mostly bought beer glasses, and then headed out to look for some food.  We ended up getting about a 2 mile walk in up to Angel Falls Coffee and back for sandwiches and kombucha. By the time we made it back downtown Don, Paul, and Lori were checking in to the hotel. Ryan and I went back to the expo and met up with them. My corral assignment was wrong. For some reason I was put in C instead of A so I had that sorted out at the pacer booth. 

Looking for some good food in downtown Akron? Urban Eats inside Musica on Market Street has great coffee and food.  We ate dinner here. I had a pear and brie wrap that was just plain amazing.  Then it was off to then hotel to prepare and try and get some sleep.

Race Day

We dragged our backsides out of bed at 3:40 AM and got some breakfast. The Hilton Garden Inn was very accommodating. They had set a breakfast out at 4 AM for race day and allowed checkout at 2PM giving runners time to come back and shower.  I had half a bagel, coffee, and OJ.

After driving the 5 minutes to the race area we parked and headed up to gear check, which was at a parkade right by the corrals. We met Brianne and her husband Marc and shortly after all headed to our corrals.

The temperature was in the low 60's with a nice breeze on some sections of the course.  Most of the course was shaded, which made for thoroughly enjoyable running weather.

The gun went off promptly at 7:00 AM and with it the Elites and seeded runners.  Ryan and I were at the back of Corral A. We crossed the starting line about 2 minutes after our speedy predecessors, albeit at a much slower pace.  Around mile 3 a small group of people were setting up a makeshift aid station stocked with cups of beer and nothing else.  We laughed. Mile 3 was a bit too early for either of us to start the victory celebration.

The first 13 miles of the course stayed close to downtown. Miles 6-8 took us through the University of Akron campus area and 8-11 south and west of downtown with mile 12 at the race starting line. Here the half marathoners split off to head to Canal Park and their reward for a race well run.  Our route would take us northwest along West Market Street and it's surrounding streets and neighborhoods.   Mile 13-14.5 was a long , gradual hill climb. I found it to be fairly easy.

I had a plan to execute.  Knowing the course would be a number of rolling hills the goal was to keep below the 9:00 average pace that would secure a sub-4 hour finish. I would slow down for hill climbs and make up time on the flats and downhills thereby keeping my heart rate from spiking over and over which would bring fatigue quicker. That fatigue would surely come in later miles and I wanted to have some time banked against that probable situation.

Ryan was on board with the plan.  I could see many times he was itching to put the speed on.  A few times early in the race I broke into strides in the 7:00 range to hopefully satiate some of his speed hunger.  I don't know that it helped, but it didn't hurt my race effort. I joked with Ryan that it was like giving a treat to a dog. "Who's a good pacer? You are! Have some speed!"

At mile 16 the course left the roads for roughly 1/4 mile and winded through the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens property, the grounds for a historic Carriage House.  It was a welcome change of scenery albeit too short. I was feeling great. We were averaging 8:45 per mile  and another 10 miles looked like a piece of cake.  At 18.5 the course began it's return path towards the city. I saw a marathon foto photographer and threw up the "hang ten." By mile 20-21 I could feel a little fatigue creeping in, but nothing too serious.  Miles 22-24 were mostly hill climbs.  Yes..that was it. The point where the battle began.

Ryan turned to me and said only 5k left.  That was meant to sound like a good thing, but at that moment he could have said 20 more miles and it sounded about the same.   I found myself walking bits of the hill climbs here and there and by the time I hit the mile 24 1/4 and flat ground I could hardly hold pace. I was slowing us down to around a 10 pace. With each mile I recalculated our projected finish time and bolstered myself with the thought that we banked enough time for this exact situation. Ryan just kept the positivity flowing and I kept crunching numbers distracting myself from the task still ahead.  Mile 25 was all downhill! We ran a 9:00 during that mile. I didn't push, opting to let gravity pull me down at whatever pace was comfortable. I felt like I might puke. That was a new feeling on a run for me.  Ryan said if you have to it's cool, let it out.  I wasn't quite there, but damn was I close.  The last 1.2 were hairy.  There was one very slight climb and a ever so slight rise coming up South Main Street.  I stopped frequently to walk. I was getting tunnel vision and feeling disassociated. Run, walk, run, walk.  Finally the course turned off of the road onto a sidewalk. 0.1 miles to go! I saw the Canal Park stadium out of the corner of my eye and felt the surge of excitement.  Rounding the corner into the stadium I could see the race clock was still under 4 hours. Ryan and I surged forward together crossing the line at a chip time of 3:57:43.

As I walked from the finish I could see one of the medical staff watching me intently.  I felt it was time to lay down. Right that second. So I did.  The grasstroturf felt lovely.  It was then the medicine man yelled at me that I had to keep moving. I staggered to my feet and went to claim the bling.  A nice medal and finisher's swiftwick compression socks! Bada bing bada bling! After entering the Finisher's Festival we met Paul and Lori and after mutual congratulations I propped my butt down on the ground. All I wanted to do was sleep.  I took a salt cap and we made our way to the beer and food tents. At that moment I swore off distance running. Twenty minutes later I was thinking about , and looking forward to, the next big race; The Marshall Mangler in November.

The Post Race Crew

Thursday, September 10, 2015

8th Annual FAAP Fall Classic 5k/10k

On Sunday (9-6-15), I ran the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh's (FAAP) 8th Annual Fall Classic.  I had opted for the 5k not knowing how I would feel after Saturday's 23 miler and simply because it has been since March of 2014 that I raced a 5k.

I arrived at North Park about 30 minutes before the start and picked up my packet. I had plenty of time to warm up and talk with friends.  The 10k runners started 5 minutes or so before we were given the go ahead. 

The course was a cross country run with some singletrack with roughly 230 feet of elevation gain. I had planned to run it comfortably hard and hadn't expected much performance wise after the previous day's long run.  At the start I held back a little for the first 50 yards and then seeing the trail approaching I passed a few people while there was space to do so running around a 7:15 pace.  Once on the trail I slowed up a little.  Taking the hills by running a few steps up them and power walking the rest of the way I had a few people pass me, but without spiking my heart rate I was able to overcome them quickly once at the top of the hill.  It had been a while since I was on trail and I was feeling good and in my element.

The most technical section of the 5k wasn't very technical at all.  It was some windy singletrack with a lot of rocks and roots.  By now I was squarely in the tail end of the 10k runners who were taking this area cautiously.  Being a little more seasoned to trails I was able to pass a number of others , both 5 and 10k runners with relative ease.  As the course came back to meet the road I could see 3 people ahead of me. I broke into a full on sprint somewhere in the mid 5's. I managed to pass two people and coming up  close on the third he dug in hard and outran me. I had nothing left to give and happily crossed the finish line.

Afterwards I hung around and talked with friends and watched others finish. Checking the results sheet I couldn't believe  I came in 1st in my age group and 8th overall! I have never had a 1st place before and am ecstatic. Lisa took home a 3rd in age group.

Yeah, we kicked butt.

Before the awards ceremony there were traditional Filipino dances performed.  So cool!

Thanks to Mark, who is the RD, and everyone else who helped put on this great race!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I came back for all the miles

It has been a while since I have posted. Life, know. All the normal reasons things get off track for.

After seeing a podiatrist, Dr. Hajnosz, I was diagnosed with tendonitis and a pinched nerve.  No stress fractures here!! I was clear to start running again and only needed to re-lace my shoes and keep pressure off the affected area so it could heal.  I was so worried. A stress fracture would have cost me the Akron Marathon and possibly the Marshall Mangler in November.

After the appointment I went home Tuesday night and ladder laced a few pairs of shoes and hit the ground running on Wednesday. I felt like a baby deer on new legs for the first mile. After that things fell back into place.

Ladder Lacing
Two weeks ago I ran 18 miles with Jason and Lisa, who were also running the Around the Square 5k in Regent Square. We met up at 7 and went up to packet pickup for them.  We managed to belt out 6 miles before the 5k started at 9. I went on ahead and ran the 5k course about 20 minutes before race start. It was nice having the road all to my self. I had bands playing for me and by the time I had reached the last water station on the course the race had started. The volunteers at the water station all started cheering when I ran by and offering water. I yelled back that I wasn't in the race and they replied, "That's okay!" I wasn't in the race, but I still found myself pushing the pace averaging around an 8:40 for 5k. Afterwards I ran back up the trail about 1/4 mile to grab some pics of the runners.

 Last week was another long run with Lisa. She was running 15 and I was looking for 19-20 so I ran 4 miles before meeting up with her at Millvale Waterfront Park. I planned a route and managed to stick to it until Oakland. Lisa had never heard of Conflict Kitchen so we ran by there. They are making Cuban food now. Even though it didn't open until 10 or 11 they were busy cooking up the day's eats. Oh man! The smells!! Lisa, our resident Cuban foods expert, seemed satisfied by the glorious scents pouring from la Cocina del Conflicto. This restaurant is so cool. They pick a country that the US has had or currently has some conflict with and serves up their food and culture with a side of politics.
After filling our olfactory up we entirely left my planned course. My fault entirely. I managed to find the one singletrack trail in all of Schenley Park to drag Lisa down. We followed Panther Hollow back into the city and picked up the Eliza Furnace Trail, better known locally as the jail trail. From here we crossed the Hot Metal Bridge into the Southside and finished our run on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system.

Now I am into my heaviest week before the taper for Akron begins. The focus has shifted to mostly roads and increasing speed and burning fat for fuel. Of course, I am still getting some trail time in too. My first week back I got around 30 miles in with 11 on trail Saturday at North Park and 10 road Sunday. Last week and this week I am on track for back to back 50 mile weeks.

To help with burning fats as fuel I am taking a race pace to tempo effort run the day after the long run with no food in my system.  These runs have been around 8 miles in a carb depleted state. After the run I binge on carbs and refuel ye olde glycogen stores.  This gets the body used to burning fat at higher intensity pacing instead of relying solely on glycogen.

That is a little of what has been happening for the last 3 weeks or so in my training. Also, I spoke with Salomon. My hydration vest back pocket started ripping away from the body of the pack.  They asked me to first contact the seller. I wrote, whom I purchased the pack from 11 months ago, and included some pictures They have a 60 day return policy, but said they understand some things can't be resolved in that time period and are exchanging it! I have received nothing but excellent service from them on each occasion I have dealt with their company. Unfortunately they did not have the same pack in stock so I opted for trying the Ultimate Direction PB. I am looking forward to getting that next week along with a new pair of Mizuno Inspire 10's for Akron. It is a little close to the marathon for new shoes, but I figured it is better than running it in a pair of worn out shoes with over 430 miles on them and I have not fully transitioned into the zero drop Altras yet.

This weekend I have 20-22 miles on tap Saturday with another fat fuel run on or possibly trail on Sunday. Feeling fierce and ready to attempt a sub 4 hour at Akron!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


After Burning River I had planned to take a full week of rest or more. Well, I likely will be getting a little more than that.

About 4 days after the race my left foot started hurting. It was similar to a pain I had in the past involving my plantar fascia being too tight so I assumed that was the cause and started rolling my foot with a tennis ball. Saturday AM I headed out for a run with the cool cats of the Steel Ciy Road Runners. It was great seeing everyone.My foot was a touch sore as we started out, but as expected the pain died down within the first mile. And the pain wasn't all that severe. Around mile 5 it started throbbing with each stride. I had planned on 5 miles anyway so I decided to walk back to the SCRR garage. Really, my foot wouldn't have it any other way and made the decision for me. Lisa, being a kind soul, walked with me.  I decided to take another week off at that point.

Later in the day Tara and I headed out to do our household shopping for the week.  After a couple of hours my foot really got sore again and then , as quickly as it came, was gone. It was time for a medical opinion. My guesses included extensor tendonitis or stress fracture.

Sunady morning I stopped into Urgent Care. They X-rayed my foot and the doctor poked around on it. I left with a diagnosis of either tendonitis or stress fracture. In other words, I left with nothing I hadn't guessed already.

The radiologist saw no indications of fracture and the doctor thought she did. I scheduled with a podiatrist who also is a runner and came highly recommended from some of my SCRR people. Unfortunately, that appointment isn't for over a week.

Today (Tuesday) I went to the gym to bang out some crosstraining. I got a good leg workout with the arc trainer,bike, and weights.  No pain, but I am being very conservative in the event it is a stress fracture healing up.  I have plenty of time as far as training goes,though this might knock a few hours off my Akron finish time.

In short, I'm not sure what's up , but the symptoms match a stress fracture well. So for now I rest and crosstrain and likely will not know anything until at least next Thursday.  Who has a pool I can aqua jog in at 5 AM? :-)


Also, I have been focusing on nutrition for healing bone damage which includes a lot of fresh veggies for nutrients, bone broth soup, a collagen supplement in orange juice daily, and getting a good amount of protein, some of which is in easily digestible liquid form.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Burning River 50 Mile Weekend

 I was at work all day Friday and working the day before the race....well, let's just say productivity was down. By the time I got home and showered, threw the cooler in the car, and gassed up it was 6:30.  By 8:30 I made it to Macedonia and met with Don and Gerry, my friends and crew team for the race. We dropped my car at Stanford House which was not only the finish line, but it was the place I had a room reserved for after the race, went over the plan, and tried to catch a little sleep.

Travel advice: avoid the Knight's Inn in Macedonia, Ohio.  That was quite possibly the worst hotel room I have stayed at.  On a positive I booked for one person, showed up with three, and they didn't upcharge. Gerry and I each took the two beds in the room and Zen master Don slept on the floor. 

We woke up around 3 AM and were at the the starting line, Squire's Castle, by 4:30.  

It was a cool morning, perfect for a long run. And can you beat starting a race at a castle?
Squire's Castle

We briefly met up with Monica, who was also running the 50 miler, and Sanchez, who would be crewing the 50 for her and then pacing a friend in the 100.  These two had a long day and night ahead. 

The race started promptly at 6:00 AM.  The first 11.5 miles were on roads through Cleveland Metroparks, scenic countryside, and quaint neighborhoods with historical houses. There was an aid station around 6.7 miles in and one again at the end of the road section at Polo Fields.

The Polo Fields aid station marks the first point with crew access. Gerry came out to meet me as I approached. The guys had my soft flasks filled and on ice. We talked briefly and I took a Vespa that Lisa had given me earlier in the week and it was back onto the course.  

Vespa......oh my does that stuff taste awful, but it really helped me out. It is a blend of amino acids that works to efficiently metabolize fats for use as energy and  helps clear lactic acid buildup. 

Bridle Trails
 On from here it was 7.5 miles to the Harper Ridge aid station on bridle trails. Bridle trails are crushed gravel horse paths. Fairly wide and easy to run.  At the aid station I pigged out on peanut butter sandwiches and filled my soft flasks back up.  From this aid station it was only 3 more miles to Shadow Lake and to my crew.
On this stretch I met and ran a few miles with Miranda. This impressive young lady had run a few 50ks and had been on a running streak for a few years. She was hoping to be the youngest woman to complete a Burning River race at the age of 17. I don't know if she completed the race, but she is doing amazing things running and I am certain will continue to do so in the future. (Since writing this, I found out she did, in fact, finish and is hoping to run the 100 next year)
Over this stretch of the course I lost my buff. The buff had quickly become a favorite accessory in this race. I dunked it in every stream crossing and could wash the salt of my face, put it over my head and pin it down with a visor. It kept me cool and kept my bald head from frying! I was sad to have lost it. I was telling Gerry and Don this when Miranda was walking by and she gave me an extra bandana. So awesome!
From here it was onward towards the Egbert aid station.  There were a few sections of road and sidewalk leading to the first substantial singletrack on the course.  I walked some of the sidewalk and sent a message to my lovely Tara telling her things were going well and I was about halfway in.  While not paying attention as I am wont to do,  I walked right past the cut into the woods. Fortunately, one of the relay runners was there and caught me with a yell.  As I came onto the trail I noticed she was limping bad. She said it was just an IT issue that she would make it to the next aid station just fine so I continued on.  Finally hitting the singletrack I felt like a kid. Excited and happy to be in the forest and to not be dodging horse poop.  

As I came into Egbert Gerry was there to meet me and I entirely blanked! I couldn't remember his name! Sorry, Gerry.  Race brain is my excuse. This was mile 27 and I was starting to feel some wear, but overall I was in great shape both physically and timewise.  I took extra time at this aid station to talk with Don and Gerry and to eat a little. Egbert had hard-boiled eggs, how appropriate.  This was one of my favorite aid stations. It was in a shady grove with a nice cooling breeze, and there was a giant tub of ice water with sponges to give yourself a sponge bath. It's the little things that really matter and something so simple refreshed my body and mind. 

 I met so many awesome people along the road and trail of this race. Thank you Scott, Jenny, Kerwyn, Miranda, Brandon, and the many others whose names escape me. You are all great people and I am proud to call myself one of this ultra running community. It really is a community.
 People help each other out in this running community and it is beautiful. I read on the BR facebook group about one man who stopped to help a woman. She was not doing well and he stayed with her until help arrived sacrificing his chance to complete the race. I hope the race comps him entry next year.  

The generosity of spirit the volunteers showed was amazing. They were all kind and warm-hearted people. Without the kindness of volunteers, friends crewing, and the camaraderie of those beating dirt on the trail this race would not be possible, and even if it were possible it would not be so wonderful. 

From the Egbert aid station at mile 27 it was a few more miles to the next station at Alexander Road which was about 50k in. I was tiring. I began slowing my pace and walking more.  The name of the endurance game is constant forward progress. No matter the pace just keep moving. Besides, I may have been getting tired, but I was still loving every moment. Part of this section was on the Buckeye Trail singletrack with one hell of a good hill climb. My leg locked up with muscle spasm shortly after the climb.  A few runners passing stopped to make sure I was okay and one offered salt caps. I assured each of them in turn that I was okay and they carried on. After applying pressure and sitting on a tree branch to let tthe cramping subside I was good to slowly start moving again and move I did.

The Towpath
After some food and stocking up the water reserves at Alexander Road I made my way to Oak Grove. The six miles between points seemed to last forever! Most of it was on the towpath and it was at the hottest part of the day. The sun was beating down with little shade or breeze , but the change in grade and surface allowed me to pick up pace and gain some time that would help in the miles to come.

At the end of the towpath was a small train platform. And on that platform was the Holy Grail! Was I hallucinating? No. Actually it was a water fountain. I washed my bandana in the fountain and washed my face, had a good long draught of icy cool H20, and continued on refreshed.  

By this point my feet were throbbing with each strike. I was very happy indeed to see the Oak Grove aid station at mile 38.  With less than a half marathon to go I could mentally grasp the task at hand. Don, Gerry, and I talked while I relaxed and ate some food and had drink. I would be returning to the same aid station in roughly 4 more miles. A loop through some beautiful forest and river canyon made this one of my favorite trail portions of the race.

Knowing I would be back here soon I changed into a pair of Altra Olympus and plugged my charge brick into the phone. I have been running in 9-10 mm drop shoes and figured a 50 miler was no time to rely on zero drop shoes that I hadn't yet acclimated to. That said, the Olympus, with it's thick cushy footbed, was just what my aching feet needed. I wish I had put them on sooner. I briefly stopped by the Oak Grove aid station at mile 42 and resolved to get back out quickly and forge on towards the end.

Mile 42 is where the race really started for me both mentally and physically.  After leaving Oak Grove I walked a few hundred yards until the path re-entered the woods. I had 8 miles left, but my Garmin was off by a few miles. I thought I was going out for 6 miles. Now two miles may not seem like a whole lot, but after 40 miles two miles was HUGE.

As I started to run again I felt that old familiar pain. My leg started to tense up and spasm. It was the same spot as earlier, but geting worse. I stopped and applied pressure. And then alternated between light stretches and more pressure until I was able to slowly start walking again.    

The area that came next was the notorious Bog of Despair.  It had mostly dried out and wasn't bad at all.  Only small sections were not runnable.  I managed to slip once and sink my right foot ankle deep into mud, but aside from that navigated the area fairly quick. The following miles  were both beautiful and torturous. The hilly trail was aesthetically pleasing and something I would normally enjoy running very much.  I walked most of it, running what little flats and downhill there was.  The miles really were dragging. At some point the trail came out onto a small battered road.  One of the locals had put their garden hose out. I can't really adequately tell you how grateful I was. I hosed my face off and bandana. I noticed someone in the driveway and bellowed a hearty thank you and received a wave back.  Atthe end of this rutty road there was a old section that could have been called a road in it's former life. Passing by here we entered into overgrown singletrack that eventually let out into trails with a number of downed trees and roots to scramble over.

As I mentioned my Garmin was off by a few miles.  I had been expecting to hit the final aid station for 30 minutes without ever reaching it. In ultra running I have heard it said that when you get tired of running then walk and when you get tired of walking then run.  That had served me well most of the race, but I was now at a point where I was too tired to want to do either. Nothing was comfortable and I was thoroughly ready to be done, but I don't get to decide when the race is over so I kept going. Walking mostly, running a little when I could, and keeping vigilant on the time always. Eventually I did come to that last aid station and knew there was only 2.5 miles left. I ate some watermelon and had a drink and got out of there as quick as I could. The following mile was mostly flat, but through high grass and weeds loaded with bugs. Fortunately that area was passed quickly and I came out onto a road. A hundred yards later the course turned back onto a towpath and I could see Don a few hundred yards ahead. This was it! The last mile!

It was nice to run with Don after so many miles inside my own head. I say run, but it was mostly walking and talking. It was one hell of a day to be a runner and I felt in my element. The time in the forest, the people, the runners all made for a wonderful and memorable day. As I crossed the line and got my medal I could feel nothing but joy and contentment. Walking towards the food I heard Sanchez yell out and saw him walking towards me with arms open. I can hardly ever refuse the opportunity to be silly so I spread my arms wide and yelled "I Love....sleep!" and took a pratfall on my face. Apparently my body wasn't ready for joking that way and I hardly caught myself. The grass sure felt nice though.

95 out of 171 Overall

What started as a crazy idea ended in success and an incredible day I will never forget. Congratulations to all of you crazy folks who ran any distance at Burning River!

I am certain I have mixed some of the order of events up. I will try and update this as needed.

I had an amazing weekend at Burning River. The following morning I drove down to the 100 mile finish line and had a breakfast burrito and coffee while watching these amazing runners claim their hard won victory. Next year, I hope to be one of them.

I took a few video clips throughout the day describing what I was feeling like at various points. The video quality did not translate well from an iphone, but I present it here because....why not?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Burning Insanity

Hell Hath No Hurry went well. And recovery has been swift. That downtime where a runner can not run is dangerous as I learned.

At the end of HHNH I realized that if I could tackle that course under the conditions we had that day I could train and run a 50 miler in good conditions with a generous time allowance. Or the other option would be to sign up for the Burning River 50 miler that is 3 weeks away with no distance specific training.

I think you know what option I chose. I am not saying it is smart or that I would recommend it to anyone, but the thrill of not knowing is calling. I need to find out if I can make the cutoff with the base level I have.  In the coming 2 weeks I willl be building off of the finish at HHNH and crosstraining areas I found to be weak in that race.  Adductors and the Vastus Medialis need the most work with some supplemental core work. That aside I am looking at long back to back trail runs the next two weeks. This week 18+ miles each day and next week something around 30 and 15. Then a solid taper. 

I hope that these back to backs will strengthen me , but also give me confidence for race day.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hell Hath No Hurry 50k Race Recap : Poseidon's Revenge

After months of training and two marathons this year it was time for the final Marathon Maniacs qualifying race: The Hell Hath No Hurry 50k in Settler's Cabin Park near Pittsburgh. It was a nice,cool morning even at 10:00 AM when the 50k started.  Nice and cool because it had been and still was raining like mad.  Here was the forecast for the day:

The course is laps around a 10k loop. I had 5 laps to complete and ample time to do least it seemed like ample time. The weather conditions made even that hard pressed. There were two aid stations on the course.   The main one being at the start/finish line and another roughly halfway through the loop.

The 50 milers (bless them, the brave souls) started at 6 AM and the 10k group started at 8AM.  By the time we hit the course it had been trampled to mush. A few of the long downhills were particularly treacherous.  All I could do was carefully inch my way down or point my feet downhill and crouch like a skier and let the mud carry me.  I found it is much easier to run through the heavy mud than walk through it.  More force hitting the ground provided more traction.

All Trail Mud Pics courtesy of Alyssa C, the Wild Trail Turkey
 That being said, only 10-15% of the course was runnable.  Out of 31 miles I estimate less than 8 were ran. The rest was a back and forth between slogging mud and running short sections where the opportunity presented itself. On a favorable day 95% of the course is runnable.

With each lap the trail conditions deteriorated further. I was already feeling fairly tired when I finished the 2nd lap (12 miles in).  I approached the aid station for a refill on suppies.

The aid station volunteers were fantastic! They essentially crewed for each runner.  Coming out to meet me they took my bottle and refiled it with water and offered up an assortment of foods. There were donuts, pb&j sandwiches, pizza, watermelon, trail mix, gummy candies, pretzels, easy cheese, crackers, and more.  One of the awesome things about an ultra/trail race is the food. It is plentiful and wonderful.

After the aid station stop I saw John and Alyssa who were awaiting the 2PM start of the 30k race. We talked for a bit as I walked over to my gear to top off the Tailwind. Each lap I switched out soft flasks from a cooler.  One with Tailwind and one with water. Then I mixed up a batch of Tailwind for the next lap and put the soft flasks on ice. Unlike a road race I took my time at the aid stations without worry of the consequence of time.

Starting the 3rd loop I wasn't certain how I would fare being so tired and with so many miles left to go, but in these conditions the name of the game is simply constant forward progress no matter the pace. I decided to try and take my poles for this lap. They helped tremendously on the slick uphills, but I found them to be cumbersome and slow me down over the rest of the course. I did not take them with me after the 3rd loop.

Suprisingly, I started feeling a little better over this 6 mile stretch. It was short lived, but a nice respite, regardless.  Also, I started feeling muscles wanting to cramp. Keeping in mind this advice given to Pittsburgh Marathoners from Dr. Vonda Wright proved to be so useful:  [When you cramp (or in my case are on the verge of doing so) stop. Do not try to massage the cramp out. Instead apply pressure on the area until it subsides.]  Over the following 16 miles I used this technique many times and never once went into a full blown cramp/spasm.

End of the 3rd Loop - Me stuffing my face with a PB&J

 The 4th loop - Every loop this mud was getting worse.  There was a break in the rain which was welcome.  At this point I spent the remainder of the race mostly walking with less and less of the trail being runnable. The splits from here on out were mostly between 15:00 and 19:00 minute miles. I was more than content knowing this was sufficient to meet the cutoffs by about an hour.  These last12 miles I saw a lot of camaraderie out there.  I met a number of people along the way.  Julie, who was hurting from not fueling enough. I gave her a gel and we talked briefly. She told me how she couldn't quit because she told her children to always finish what they start.  What an inspiration and a role model! I logged a good bit of miles with a guy from the Air Guard who was running the 50 miler. I met a number of others along the way.  Most of us never asked each other's names. We were in it together and were all supportive of each other. There wasn't that competitive edge trying to get ahead. Just an urge for us all to come through it.
This condition was present over most of the course

Those late stages of a tough race really test you mentally as much as physically. The nonsense that streams through my head at these late mile moments! And the silliest things can pull you through. The theme song to Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt was on repeat in my head for far too long, which then made me think of a bit of solid advice from the show. "You can deal with anything for 10 seconds. When the 10 seconds is up start on the next 10 seconds."  Don't think of the 10 miles to go when you have been slogging along for over 5 hours. Think only of what is immediate or as some say,  run the mile your in.

Approaching the Finish Line

I set out to run 3 marathon length events in 90 days to quaify for the Marathon Maniacs. Ultimately, I ran 2 marathons and a 50k in  54 days. I also realized that I can run a 50 miler. After running 31 miles with almost 5000 feet of gain through these conditions I have no doubt I can run 50 in good conditions. Looks like I'll have some plans for next year! But, for now I will rest and recoup. In 2 weeks training begins for a sub-4 hour attempt at the Akron Marathon and possibly a PR attempt on the 50k distance in November at the Marshall Mangler.

This finishes up my fundraising effort for the Epilepsy Foundation with a solid $900 raised! Thank you to everyone who donated!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Almost Hell Time!

We are just a few days away from the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k and I am feeling dem ole taper blues. I am also excited! Excited for the race and some quality time in the woods with friends! Excited for the Marathon Maniacs qualification! Excited for the next training cycle and getting back to big miles! So the dichotomy is alive and well. All at once I am happy and a bit sad, or should I say endorphin deprived?

The course is 10k loops. While this may bore some I am happy that I can set up my own personal aid station/drop bag along the course. A cooler with icy beverages, a chair, extra shoes, and a mini first aid kit are priorities on the list.

This will be my second ultra distance event. My A-goal is to finish under 6:45. The B-goal is under 7:30, and the C-goal is simply to finish. 

All the Run Foods!

Over the past few weeks I have been trying different nutrition products. Most recently I have been using Tailwind for long runs. I also used it at the God's Country Marathon.  True to their advertising, I found I could use solely Tailwind and come out of a long run in pretty good shape.  That said, at God's Country I think I mixed it too strong leading to excessive water retention. We live , we learn.  I plan to have pre-measured bags of Tailwind to add to my bottles for HHNH.

One of my favorite distance tasties has been Hammer Perpetuem Solids. They are not as sickeningly sweet as gels and have a good flavor.  Recently a friend of mine was moving and cleaning out her apartment. I was fortunate enough to be bequeathed a bag full of Hammer goodies. Recoverite, Perpetuem Solids, Perpetuem Powder, and Gels.  I likely will try a Perpetuem Powder on Saturday's race with Recoverite afterwards.

Thanks Coach Cupcake!


Since God's Country Marathon was only 3 weeks before HHNH I took care in planning my training/taper out.  God's Country was the longest training run for the 50k. The following weekend I ran back to back 13 milers; one on road and one on trail. Overall the mileage was kept low and reducing week to week.  At the time of writing this the orange fields are actual mileage and white is what is to come. 

Taper madness has got me, but not for much longer! Packet pickup Friday and then a day full of nature and camaraderie! Vive la run!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

41st Annual God's Country Marathon Race Report

Marathon Maniacs Qualifier #2: God's Country Marathon complete. Official finishing time 4:45:23

This was a tough race, but I knew that it would be heading in. The first 18 miles are uphill. The last 3 of those uphill miles, the locally infamous Denton Hill, are very uphill! 

I arrived at the Coudersport Courthouse Square at around quarter to 5 AM. It was still dark out. A few runners had arrived and were stretching or just milling around.  At 5:30 we boarded 2 school buses which would take us about 20 miles East to the town of Galeton, our starting point. During that ride we traversed the majority of the race course in reverse. As we came up to Denton Hill and began the 14 mile descent to Galeton I sat at the edge of my seat taking it all in. As we kept dropping mile after mile my stomach dropped too. In the next few hours I would be running up this monster. 

We arrived at Galeton High School around 6 AM. I grabbed my packet and started getting ready, which included pinning my race bib on and using the bathroom a couple of times and walking around to loosen up.  I met Ron Brown, of the Steel City Road Runners.  I had seen him running the Pittsburgh Marathon. At that race he had donned his full fire fighter gear. Helmet, jacket, pants, SCBA tank. What an inspiring guy! We chatted for a bit and ran the first mile or so together. I also ran into the pacer I had run with at Pittsburgh. At least I had run part of the race with him.  He and his wife were running and she was doing so with 3 broken ribs and a broken wrist from a recent accident.

There is never a lack of inspiration and dedication within the running community and that ,as much as the running, is what draws me in.

 The temps were a bit lower than anticipated (low 50's) with cloudy skies making for perfect running weather aside from the headwind in some spots, which seemed considerable to me. 

A few things that made this race difficult for me were GI issues the whole race (I only needed the port o john at mile 15 thankfully) and waking up the night before the race to my right calf charlie horsing. It was still hurting race by morning.

The first 4 miles of the course were all within Galeton town limits. There was great crowd support  and I found the town to be enjoyable to run through. Leaving town we hit the open road of scenic Route 6 to and through the Susquehannock State Forest. I love running along open, hilly country roads. The surrounding mountains, some wreathed in morning fog, created a backdrop that is etched in my mind.

For me, the first 15 miles leading up to Denton Hill were worst than the big climb itself. Big hills..I am used to those to a degree, but a gradual and constant uphill grade is not something I train on often. The first 15 miles had 430 feet of gain which averages to a little under 30 feet per mile. Denton Hill averages 189 feet of gain per mile for 3 miles, which is more in line with the hills I have trained on and I found that part of the climb the easiest in some ways.

Somewhere around miles 7-8 I briefly talked with girl as I was passing. Her name is Amie. She would catch up to me around mile 10-11 and give me the boost I needed. I was really starting to drag a bit after mile 10. The long climb was wearing on me and the mental was creeping. Once she had caught up with me we started talking and the miles started flying by. It is amazing how an occupied mind can influence performance so greatly. We ran together until the Mile 15 aid station, at which time I visited the Port O'John due to those GI issues I have mentioned earlier.

The break at the aid station gave me a moment to switch out bottles of Tailwind and the rest a moment. Those 5 minutes or so did me so much good. I started up Denton Hill feeling fresh and moving at a good pace.Smoky the Bear was at the top of the hill giving high fives and if there is one thing I have learned about distance running it is this: Never underestimate the power of a high five.

From this point on it was all downhill and flats! Cake, right?

The downhill and flat 8 were tougher on me than the hill climbs. I dread long downhills on the back end of a long race. That said this went off well. I caught back up to Amie around mile 18-20. We ran together for a little while before I needed to walk a bit. I wasn't looking for any specific time so I walked often and just enjoyed it..and when I couldn't enjoy it I just plowed on towards the finish.

As I rounded the last turn onto the final stretch I fell into form and ran to the finish. I could hear Tara cheering from 0.1 miles away! After crossing the finish I gave sweaty hugs to Tara and received my medal. Another one down! That is Marathon 4 (5 if we count 50ks).

About 3 hours after I finished the race I was feeling good. Tired, but good. There will be no walking backwards down stairs for this guy!

The event was well run, friendly, and challenging. Everything the reviews have made it out to be was true. Tara told me that as runners approach the finish line the announcers said there names and a little about them. I heard none of it, but apparently I got a good talk up with name drops for the Epilepsy Foundation.

In 3 weeks training culminates with the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k. From here out it is taper and more trail miles. Marathon Maniacs save me a number! I'm coming

Monday, May 25, 2015

Next up! God's Country

The Pittsburgh Marathon is now about 3 weeks behind me and the God's Country Marathon less than  2 weeks ahead.  After Pittsburgh I took some extra rest Monday and Tuesday and got back to running on Wednesday. On Saturday and Sunday I ran 11 miles of road and 9 of trail.

 Mission accomplished! I set out to run Pittsburgh at an effort easy enough so that I could quickly resume training. While I did run it harder than I planned (and had a course PR by over 30 seconds) it wasn't an all out effort. Continuing the reverse taper brings me into two higher mileage weeks and then a cutback before God's Country.

God's Country Elevation Profile
My focus is moving more to trail running now as I prepare for the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k. And what a beautiful time for it!! Week by week I see the forest come more and more alive and it makes me feel more alive.

 I challenge you all to this one thing: Get a friend or two and go out to a trail an hour or more before sunrise. Early enough so it is still pitch dark (don't forget your headlight and extra batteries). It is quite the sensation running through the forest at night! I often go alone for long runs out of necessity. I wouldn't recommend night running in the forest solo, but I do it anyway.  A night forest run tends to have an edge of anxiety for me. You see the eyes of deer, raccoons, and other furry critters reflecting back at you.  Every tight bend in the trail leaves you wondering what you might see as you come around it. There is a certain peace with it too. And then when the sun rises! Oh, when the sweet sun rises. Relief, warmth, and solitude. It is rare to find another soul out on the trails at these times and that is it's own reward. The beauty of nature all to yourself, even for just a few minutes. What a way to start the day! 

Here Comes the Sun! 

So back to the race at hand: God's Country. This should be a great training run and hill climb strength builder/assessment for the 50k.  The first 18 miles are uphill and the last 8 downhill. To prepare I have run a good bit of hilly roads and some big elevation trail running. Ultimately, this is just another training run and it will be the last large week before a 3 week taper leading to HHNH.

Memorial Day Weekend

As I write this it is Memorial Day and this weekend was a big one for running! After this I will do a mini taper for 2 weeks before God's Country.

Saturday I was fortunate enough to get a long trail run in on the HHNH course with John, Alyssa, and Sanchez. It was Sanchez first trail run and he ran like he had been in the woods his whole life.

Our first loop around the course there were some missed turns and some backtracking. All in all we did well though. By the second loop we had the course down pat. After 13.5 miles my trail friends departed and I hung around for an extra 10k of fun.  I picked up my pacing just a hair and strided a few of the flatter sections out. The extra pace and movement awoke something inside me...something primal. Like a bear I went off trail and lightened my load.  Strong like bear! Rawr! This run brought me to over 700 miles for the year and this monster had a gain of just under 2800 feet.

It amazes me that somedays I can run 5 miles and feel wrecked...entirely wrecked. Then there are days,like Saturday, where 20 miles and all of that gain did nothing to me. I felt great! Loose, relaxed,hungry as all hell, but not sore.

Pic stolen from Alyssa

Sunday was supposed to be 12-16 flat city miles. I say :supposed to" for a reason. I got bored running the same route I ran last week and the wanderlust took over. After 3 miles in the Southside I crossed the Smithfield Bridge and headed up the Liberty Bridge. On the other side is the PJ McArdle Roadway. PJ is one of,if not, the longest steady climb in the city area and I have neglected it for far too long. No More!

After the climb you are treated to some of the best views of the city from the aptly named Grandview Avenue. I didn't have my camera with me, so if you are curious you will just have to join me for a run there sometime ;-)

I dropped down towards the city on East Sycamore, a windy steep road. Near the bottom I saw a park I hadn't known about. Emerald View is a part of Grandview park. I couldn't resist, could I?
Road and trail make for a fine mix indeed! After thoroughly enjoying a few miles of park and the sporadic city views through the trees I found myself going up Arlington Ave. At the intersection of Warrington Ave a bell rang in my head and I thought it best not to continue on in this direction towards Allentown, Carrick, and Mt. Oliver. I made my way back to the Southside and rounded out a few more miles.

This made for my highest mileage weekend ever at 33.1 miles and my highest elevation gain week at 4521'.  I am thoroughly satiated and looking forward to a rest day and tons of food. Really...piles of a serving platter used as a plate food. All the miles+all the hills= all the foods .

I hope you all are enjoying this holiday weekend. The food, friends, and family are great, but keep in mind the many brave men and women who gave all to defend us and protect us. Really that is what this day is all about.