Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday Training Partner

The Golden Low-rider, 7-year-old occasional training partner, Ivan is still the fastest runner I've hit the woods with. If I lose the leash, it is a scene straight out of Chevy Chase's film "Funny Farm."

I've never tried running with my nose to the trail. I can tell you though, it seems pretty fast when getting pulled down a hill by an overzealous canine training partner. Whenever I take our Golden Retriever Ivan for a trail run, I always try to pick up pointers.

I've had people tell me that I run downhill like a nut, which feels accurate at times, and during JFK and some other trail races, I tend to pass people quickly while descending. Some of this credit goes to Ivan, who drags me down hills, causing me to have to look, react, and step pretty well instantly. When I go back to running solo, or with a human counterpart, the hills roll by underfoot fairly naturally.

Mike Keene reported that he and Jim Crowley, running on Saturday, found sections of trail out at Tuckahoe State Park, still snow covered and untrod. By Sunday at noon, mountain bikers and the sun had negated that effect, but 40 degree temperatures made for some trickling water from the snow melt, on top of solid ground--conditions that make running a blast.

I ran into a hiker atop a hill on the Tuckahoe Valley Trail, that we usually crest at about 30 minutes into a run. We are usually walking forward, tipping water bottles, but with Ivan, I was planning to turn around at that point and double-back to another trail. The hiker was coming up a different side of the same hill, on a trail I had never noticed before. Go figure, after countless times there over the past three years.

Ivan and I dove down the new side, which cuts back around to the Tuckahoe Valley Trail, making for a wicked circular trail for hill repeats. I can foresee a grueling battle with that hill preparing for bigger hills in spring, summer, and fall races.

This time last year, Keene and I were two weeks out from the Holiday Lake 50K++, our first ultra marathon. We had a 20-mile run, followed by two 15-to-17-milers on back-to-back-to-back weeks. I have to say I miss the time on the trails, as well as the challenge of having something we hadn't done before ahead of us.

2008 is a different year for me. My longest run of the year has been 10.1 miles (Mike and Jim had a Garmin with them, that measured our normal run at 10.1 miles). My radar screen races this year look to be 20 miles and shorter, giving me more time to focus on the home front and weekend adventures with the A-Team (Anna and Ava). I hope to emulate Richard Louv and his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, on that front. Our girls will stay outside as long as we let them. I will likely log less miles, but find more acorns; at times trade the runner's high for the father's high of skipping shells at the Oxford Park (worth noting - I haven't been neglecting the young'ens to be running, we do these things anyway!--just more so this year).

Both running and fatherhood feed my soul, one with a mango juiciness, the other with a pan-fried catfish in creole sauce sustenance. I need both for my palette.

I think a couple unique trail running adventures may be shaping up for late summer and early fall. I will be elaborating more on each before long here.

In the meantime, Ivan and I enjoyed a solid hour run in the woods on Sunday. Saturday night and Sunday night, were friend and family birthday parties for Anna's 6th birthday, which is Thursday. Not a bad attempt at balance, at least for one weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

B2B Not To Be

The site of the finish of the extreme--i.e. sideways snow and freezing rain and gale winds in April--Bridge to Bridge run, as well as the official race in 2007.

Let's get a couple of apologies out of the way. First, hate to go for an extended period of radio silence here. Second, all indications are that there will be no Bridge-to-Bridge Half-Marathon in 2008.

Last year saw a great runner turnout for a first-year event and folks left happy and excited for an annual event. My hope is that that can/will still be a reality, but it won't be on the calendars for April 08. The Museum is (rightly) focusing efforts, time, and resources to build Bay Day, on April 19, as well as other events throughout the year. Many on the staff and volunteers are sad to let it go, but it is difficult for an understaffed non-profit to really focus on a road race with so much going on.

Happy to speak further to anyone who has questions. In the meantime, I'd love to see a mess of local runners due an informal training run out of it, perhaps even a Fat Ass rules (no entry fee, no finisher's prizes, no whining) half and/or full marathon run this spring.

The other thought I had about trying to keep the race alive, would be to work with the St. Michaels school sports boosters group, who holds the 5K race during Fall into St. Michaels weekend, last in October. We could work with them to move the B2B run, and help them make it all happen. The trouble with that idea is that the fall is a busy race schedule--Baltimore, Marine Corps, Army 10-miler, etc. Curious to hear thoughts from folks on any front, including turning it into a fall race.

In the meantime, there is all the more reasons to get out there for the Adkins Arboretum trail 10K and the Oxford Day 10K in April. I look forward to being able to actually run the Adkins race.

Managed a cold, windy 54 minute, 20 second run on Sunday, running with Mike Keene on his Wittman home course, which put us through fields and right on the water on a 25 degree, probably more like 10 degree with windchill morning. Absolutely fantastic. Winter running gives life--cold life, but eye-opening, heart-pumping, WHHOO! life. Hope to find more of those in short order here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

On Running: The Perks

Running trails in late December in Maine looks a little different than it does on Maryland's Eastern Shore. A view of Christmas/New Year's trail running from Wood Frog. Photo by Mike Keene.

I would run in the snow every day over the winter if I could. I only lack the snow to be able to pull it off. I always look forward to our trips to the Pittsburgh/Butler, PA, area, both for seeing my wife's brother and our nephews, but also to see and run again on the trails near his house.

Returning from his family's trip to Maine at the end of 2007, our friend the Wood Frog writes:

"When I run I do the whole trip on foot making exactly a 5 miler; to the Point trailhead is 1.4, around the main old farm road trail is 2.2, and return is 1.4. I can add a few more miles if I take the various, more challenging side trails. It is a beautiful system of trails, though much smaller than Tuckahoe. However, if I ran all the trails at one time I could make for about 5 miles within Dodge Point.

"...It was a windless, sunny, 35 degree early afternoon. The snow cover was a mixture of packed snow, uneven post-holed foot prints, and ice. We easily managed a 9 minute pace. Our talk was easy, too, not delving into anything too deep. She truly seemed interested in "run" talk; form, pace (she asked if we were running at my normal pace), and distance. It was a good event for us both and a good first-time trail-running experience for Eleanora. I hope that is the start of many she is to enjoy through out her life."

Mike's words sat, and still sit, with me both for being transportive, and because Eleanora is his older daughter, who asked him to go for a run (a trail run, no less!). I would never wish my own girls' childhood away, but the idea of going for a run with Anna or Ava would make for a life moment for me. Who knows if either will take to running--I know many runners' children who don't--but I can at least hold the picture in the meantime.

Keene also has two daughters. They are 12 and 14--older than our girls, which makes sense since Mike is also old ;)--they are both incredible athletes, and Olivia, the younger, regularly runs and wins her age group in 5K races. I enjoy watching and hearing about the Keene girls and wondering what the Valliant girls will end up being like at that age. Hopefully not still chasing the cat around the house. I hope I will take them running. Better, perhaps they will take me running.

I am two runs into 2008, both shorter than I originally hoped. I ran my 4-mile Rails-to-Trails route on New Year's Day in 33:32, without pushing the pace. And this past Sunday morning (1/06), I got in an 8-mile run in 1:11:27, after starting slow and running negative splits, with a good stride and pace, especially over the last two miles. It was one of those runs that started in the dark and had me running as the sun came up. That is one of the great perks of an early morning run.

So here's to running as the sun comes up in 2008. To running new trails and returning, at least with new eyes, to familiar trails and roads. To travel and running new places. And to running with family and friends. In the snow, this winter, when possible.