Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boardom: Get Up, Stand Up

Valliant and Ryan Hickey approach a beach for a quick recharge during the 7.5-mile paddle from Easton Point to Town Creek in Oxford, Md.

Count me in. If it sounds fun and/or epic, I don't want to miss it. One of the reasons I try to stay in reasonable shape running, longboarding, etc. is that I don't want to have to sit out any adventure that stacks up to be cool.

That's what happened when Joel Shilliday proposed a 7.5-mile stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) trek from Easton Point in Easton, Md., to Town Creek in Oxford. I hadn't spent much time on a SUP and can't recall the last time I paddle more than a mile in a kayak, canoe, etc. But I wasn't going to miss connecting two towns in a way almost no one has done.

Joel, Ryan Hickey, Jim Campbell, and I set off at around 6:40am with the sun coming up, boats departing for a local fishing tournament, and flat, following seas. I grew up on the Tred Avon River, making the same Oxford-to-Easton route hundreds of times in a 13' Boston Whaler.

The view from a SUP board on a scenic waterway equals the full body workout you get from paddling while standing up. And the Tred Avon River boasts creeks and cuts next to multi-million dollar estates; by water, you are able to see what's at the end of the long, wooded lanes you pass driving along Oxford Road. All you need is a Robin Leach voice-over.

Jim had to turn back about half-way to make a meeting and Ryan, Joel, and I continued on, arriving at the Oxford public ramp next to Schooners Landing at about 9am, with one brief sandy beach layover, mostly just to enjoy the trip and the morning more. That was my first stand-up paddleboarding trek of any substance. I look forward to many more.

Ted Knab, Zach Skaggs, and me Mikey V. at the western end of the Cross Island Trail, Chesapeake Bay and Bay Bridge in the background.

My primary adventures in "boardom" come on a longboard skateboard. We had a fairly recent group skate on the Cross Island Trail on Kent Island earlier this month, further details of which can be found on the Rise Up Longboarders blog. The next uber-longboarding adventure will come in mid-October as we take the RUL crew to western Maryland for 21 miles of smooth, scenic pavement (42 miles round trip if we do the whole trail) on the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

That trip is another case of something that looks way too fun to pass up. I can't imagine many folks have given the whole trail a go on longboards, as the discipline of long distance skateboarding isn't as widespread around here as it is, say, in the Seattle area. Novelty aside, though, it just looks like a blast--a windy, scenic paved trail, no traffic, as the fall foliage starts to re-color itself.

So the fall adventures are shaping up. We've got some trail running designs, both locally and beyond; some longboarding road trips; and some fall stand-up paddleboarding, not to mention a fall road marathon or half-marathon. The kind of stuff that makes me want to rise up early out of bed and cruise out into the cool, fall weather.

Monday, September 7, 2009

(The Lighter Side of) Running in the Dark

Mike V. and Derek Hills await the down stream float/swim of the rest of the Rise Up Runners crew during a 10-mile trail run at Tuckahoe State Park after serious flooding. Photo by Joel Shilliday.

I run in the dark. Sometimes that is a metaphor. There are plenty of life examples when I feel like I am cruising along with only a narrowly illuminated view of what's going on around me. And I push ahead, running into the sunrise, hoping for a brief glimpse into the bigger scheme of things.

Mostly that doesn't happen. And running in the dark is just running in the dark. But it is enough. Though it's cool when it happens, running does not open up in "a-ha" moments too frequently. Some runs feel good, some hurt. Some runs are with a group and some are solo. The only thing I have any control over is getting up, drinking coffee, and getting out the door for a run. In the dark.

There is something to running out from under the streetlights in town and getting onto Oxford Road, where the light pollution fades and the stars pop. There is something to being out and active before most people are awake. I dig it. But I don't run in the dark for just those reasons.

My wife is a teacher and our two girls are in 2nd grade and Pre-K. They play soccer and take dance some afternoons. When I leave in the morning, they are asleep and they are generally still sleeping when I get home. Our schedules don't allow for the convenience of after work runs. Plus, I don't want to miss time with the girls. So I run in the dark by necessity. It won't happen otherwise.

It's a lot easier when I know I am meeting other folks. I don't want to be the one that leaves folks hanging, especially when some of our runners drive some distance to meet at 5 a.m. It motivates me to know there are other folks rolling out of bed to meet for a run. That's the reason our Rise Up Runners group got together.

Then there is the feeling of knowing the run is in the books. Banked for the day. Granted, coffee, tea, and/or a kick in the pants is sometimes necessary in the late afternoon, but my body (and mind) have adapted and now even look forward to running in the dark. It's become a part of running and a part of me. I wouldn't change it. Except maybe to have some trails closer by...:)