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!