Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sore Legs

Landy, Michael, and Joel with fresh legs before running the trails at the Triple Crown.

I don't mind that I "really" feel my legs this morning after the abuse I put them through yesterday. At 5:15am Saturday Michael Valliant skippered "Julius" with Landy Cook, Joel Shilliday, and me to the Delaware Trail Triple Crown races at White Clay Creek State Park. Once we finally got a decent parking spot at the park (backed up to the grass and a shady tree) we took in the early morning vista from atop the hill where the races would later begin. Yes, I said "hill", and there were many thoughout the day. This is a wonderful set of trail races, set in an idyllic setting, accessible to all ranges of running talent. During the day I saw runners from 12 year old boys to sub-3-hour marathon runners, people of all shapes and sizes, and sure-footed creek runners to hill walkers.

In our RUR group we had a range of runners: Joel, who's just getting back into running, fastpacked a 10K with camera gear to catch the creek-crossers, then later ran a stellar 10K, finishing in the upper third of the fleet. Michael and Landy ran the full marathon which consisted of two laps through the park, up and down the many hills, four creek crossings, and several open meadow treks. Both finished in the upper half of the fleet, posting impressive times for such a difficult course; a testiment to those 4am training runs around Easton. Landy, by the way, was just coming off a battle with the flu and was still badgered by a cough. He's a tough one.

My day consisted of three races: Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K. The day could not have been more beautiful with hazy sunshine, light winds, and warm temperatures. My race was the first to start. All the races started and ended at the top of the open meadow hill where the volunteers cooked and provided aid for us all day at the pavillion. I quickly settled into an easy pace, but when the downhills started I found myself, in full Valliant-style, passing scores of runners with my downhill advantage. However, most would catch me on the up hills. The woods were welcoming as the morning sunshine sifted through the canopy. Running on "new" trails is exciting because you never know what's coming, and these trails were not a disappointment.

Some of the aid stations were minimumly stocked, but others had a full array of items. I felt my pace was relatively fast for the day I had planned, but not knowing where I was on the mileage-front, left me guessing most of the time as to how to throttle my speed. The creek crossings were purposefully fast, to show my buddies that "Wood Frog" does not always need a log to cross the water. On the approach to my final creek crossing I heard a "KEENE" from the middle of the creek. It was Shilliday sporting his camera. I don't think I disappointed him with my run across the submerged, slick-green rocks in knee high water. My last stream crossing. Guy in light blue shorts passed me 18 times thoughout the day. Is the guy in front of me really brushing his teeth? That makes me feel slow.

Hills were very tough and the meadows were hot (but a good hot) as I plodded up to the finish line in 1:56 and change. My legs felt "okay" ,but, I had 30 minutes to wait before the start of the 10K. "What would happen to my legs in that time?" I fueled, stretched, and changed clothes. I went with my Ibex Balance running shorts this time, the ones with the holes in the front, and no shirt. I put my race bib over the holes and away Joel and I went on the 10K. I wouldn't say I bonked on this race, but I didn't have my legs. I had breath, but no legs. Joel was strong and I lost sight of him after mile 3. I concentrated on keeping my cadence high, which meant short strides on the flats and longer ones on the downs. I had to walk most of the hills, except for when I followed the runners ahead of me up a wrong trail. I remember seeing the "X" at the turn, and thinking, "look there's an X", not registering that we weren't supposed to be on that section of the trail. And, of course, I was "running" this hill that I wasn't supposed to be on. From behind I heard, "Wrong trail", and the echos were passed forward. There were at least 20 people ahead of me; not sure how many turned back. So, my excuse for being 2 minutes over an hour to do that 10K is, "I got lost".

I had little hope that I would be able to "run" the last 5K. Walking was going to be my style, so I thought. I stood in the back of the pack, behind all the fresh legs, and with the older ladies, one with a Scottie dog on a leash. Off we went down the hill. I again found legs to do my down hill thing and managed to run the entire race and all but the steepest uphills. What surprised me was my 34 minute time. What was that all about? My 5K time from Adkins was 18:46. I think if you averaged the two 5K's true distances one might come to a 3.1 mile length. The one yesterday was surely a "long" 5K.

Joel at his finishline post in the meadow at White Clay Creek State Park.

Joel had prime seats at the finish in the meadow under a tree, and I heard/saw him cheer me on as I finished my first Triple Crown. Once settled in with hamburgers, sodas, blanket, and a Rise Up Coffee tee shirt, I joined Joel and Landy (who had finished while I was feasting) as we waited for Valliant to post. Soon enough here came "Ibex" man across the meadow, finishing with astounding speed for someone who had just run 26.2 technical trail miles.

Landy enjoying a post-marathon break. Is that a "coral" colored shirt?

It was great to wallow in our accomplishments there in the meadow, swapping stories and recanting incidents on the trail. This was the first official RUR roadtrip with four in attendance. As we rose from the meadow our legs were starting to stiffen, and, mine at least, haven't eased up yet. I will swim this afternoon with the Masters, but there won't be much kicking from this Rise Up Runner.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Twin Tuckahoes

Landy Cook with Adkins Arboretum 5K runners Olivia and Michael Keene. Please take special notice of the newly presented RUR mug. Thank you, Landy, and Rise Up Runners. Awesome!

I had the pleasure of getting two runs in this week on the Tuckahoe trails. The first was the Adkins Arboretum 5K trail race in which my daughter, 40 other runners, and I competed. The second jaunt at Tuckahoe was a solo 10-mile run today under clear-blue 70 degree skies.

I try not to take for granted that my younger daughter, Olivia, is often willing to join me in any 5K race that comes along. Saturday, under 65-degree, partly sunny skies Olivia raced her first trail race. The conditions were perfect as she tore up the course, winning her age group, as well as, several higher age groups. I managed to finish a few minutes before her. The course was short, by how much I don't know; maybe as much as 4 tenths of a mile. My time was 18:36, finishing 4th overall. After I caught my breath, I turned to head back down the trail to meet Olivia, but she was already coming out of the woods and heading to the finish. She was so excited to have finished in 21 minutes; 3 minutes better than her personal best for a 5K. I didn't have the heart to tell her the course was short at that moment. It was later in the day that I gently broke the news to her.

We spent the rest of the day doing lacrosse things: Olivia taught at the Starter (5 and 6 year olds) Program for Talbot Lacrosse; Eleanora refereed for the U9's and U11's for TLA; then our whole family went to watch my neice, Ashby Kaestner, play for Georgetown University vs Notre Dame. It was an action-packed day. The closing moment of the day involved a conversation with Olivia about school work, competition (lacrosse), and constructive criticism. You would think for a 12 year old this would be a difficult concept to understand. It is definitely difficult for anyone of any age to implement properly, including me. I'm a "dad" and after 15 years of being a father, I am still learning how to do it well. I have much to offer to my daughters' lives, and it is often difficult to relay; even more difficult to just listen. Well, Olivia understood the concepts and then she came up with some ground rules that both she and I will follow. It was a proud moment for me, and a nice shift within our father/daughter relationship.

My run today at Tuckahoe was fast (for me) and, though solo, not lonely, but far. I had a 2 and a half hour window to run the Tuckahoe 10 Mile Challenge course. Conditions could not have been more perfect. I wore nothing but Ibex wool clothing; the Balance Runner Short (which I ripped on thorns) and my green Echo T. Bright sunshine shot down through the windless trees illuminating a plithora of spring bouquets on the forest floor. Squirrels, birds, deer, and a fox joined my run. So did an older gentleman in a golf cart. I had to pass him by going into the briers to get around the cart. His wheels were straddling the single-track trail. My guess is that he came from the Arboretum.

Me befoe today's 10-mile effort at Tuckahoe State Park.

Tuckahoe is sacred ground. Michael "Tucks" Valliant introduced me to trail running on the Tuckahoe Valley trail nearly 2 years ago now. It was from those early runs with Mike that built my love for trailrunning, and there is never a time on those trails that my gratitude to Mike is not felt. Back then, during our first creek crossing (and yes we used the log, Landy) we had to take our shoes off, and then ended up walking through briers. We sat on a log on Little Florida Trail wiping our feet, putting our shoes on, and catching our breaths. A true appreciation for nature, our sport, and a friendship was granted.

So, today was a different run because there was little time to allow the senses to bask while running a fast pace. I felt the presence of the new group of friends and runners (The Rise Up Runners and others) on the trail. I texted Mike at work before I started and would report to him after the run, knowing he would, in turn, relay my good day to the rest of the gang. It was a good feeling of support and camaraderie. I evidentally, broke the record time by logging a 1:26:36 from trailhead to end of the bridge at the dam. I will relish having the fastest time until someone else truly gives it a go; and I know it won't last long.

But, that's just the thing...what is the point in racing through those beautiful woods, missing all the little things a slower pace would allow? I ask myself that question. Was today's effort a foolish one? How many squirrels, birds, deer, foxes, and golfcarts did I not see?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Flourescent Orange

My daughters, friends, and I came upon this plaque near the start of the Crawford Path in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last August. I'm such a sucker for history, it gave me chills knowing we were going to trek the oldest mountain trail in America.

Welcome to the introduction of my first blog called Runners On Trails. This name came to me after running the trails of Tuckahoe State Park with my running partner Tuckerman, aka Tucks. One cold winter morning in early 2007 we ventured for a predawn run. Upon arriving at the trailhead, we found several pick-up trucks with gun racks. I told Tucks that I was not going into the woods without some flourescent orange on my head and body, but we had none. We backtracked to the local outdoor/gas station/quick-mart place where we were then informed that it was "Youth Hunting Day". Luckily, for about $12 we garbed ourselves in orange hunting hats and vests. The run could commence.

We nervously came upon several pairs of father and sons/daughters sporting shotguns on our run through the woods; we were doing a 10 miler. We, also, were bantered by many loud gunshots through the morning. So, despite having the orange wear over our running clothes, I was a nervous wreck; we needed to protect ourselves more. I'm not against hunting, in fact, I feel it is necessary. But, accidents happen and I wanted more awareness to the hunters that we were in the woods.

Upon our return to the "mothership", my car Julius, we noticed that many more hunters had entered the woods after our start. That gave me the idea of making flags, signs, or bumper stickers that said, "Runners On Trails" that could be displayed on or around our car that would alert others that we were sharing the trails, too. This will give the hunters an added reason to be careful. Like "Life is Good" maybe my "Runners on Trails" will catch on to the world.

I plan on presenting to you kind readers stories and thoughts about adventuring; mostly running, hiking, and racing. I am presently training for my first triathlon this spring; the 1/2 Ironman called the Eagleman held in Cambridge, Maryland. There may also be a few stories about sailing as well.

All is well on the trails ~ Michael