Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cureton MUGGED at RUR Party (Just Days Before His B-Day)

Rise Up Coffee's Cuban dictator Tim Cureton was officially "mugged" with a Rise Up Runner mug at the ceremonial festivities of the RUR end of the year house party.

2008 marked the formation of the Rise Up Runners. It also marked the gauntlet being thrown down for the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge. Put those two condiments together and you wind up with a sandwich of a party for the end of the year RUR bash, held on December 6.

Most everyone took the night off from running (except two, who we'll get to later) and turned out to do some combination of drink, eat, hang out, and be recognized for a very few of their accomplishments for the year. We'll devote a post a little later to the final findings of the Tuckahoe 10, but all runners in attendance had successfully completed the challenge. Those in the house, taking home their commemorative T10 keepsake included: Stephen Bardsley, Katherine Binder, Lori Callahan, Landy Cook, Derek Hills, Mike Keene, Joel Shilliday, Dominic Szwaja, and James Woodring.

If you'd like to see the full gambit of photos taken by eminent photographer DDP JShill, have a look-see by clicking here. In the meantime, we'll point out just a couple...

Marathon Mama Lori C. took home the "Best Mud/Blood" Award of the Tuckahoe 10 Challenge, for her almost legendary spill into the "water hazard" early on the Creekside Cliff Trail.

Ultra Slug Grand Poo-Bah Derek Hills was the proud recipient of the "King Cobra" Award for longest distance run and longest distance raced for his Mountain Masochist 50 mile finish. This award is a 22 oz. King Cobra because you have to have something going through your veins to attempt a run like that ;) Strangely, the award somehow disappeared before the end of the evening...

And Dominic took home the soon-to-be coveted RUR "Most Outstanding" runner of the year award, by virtue of his coming out to run as a casual runner, declaring his intent to run a marathon, and throwing down a sub 3:30 time in his debut race.

As you'll see from the photos, we had a good time. It was a chance to get together, with spouses in some cases, with time to talk without worrying what pace we are moving at, and, well, just because.

Aside from running, which is the purpose for us all getting together at whatever hour and location, the camaraderie of this group has indeed been a gift. Heading to Delaware for the Triple Crown Trail Races, to Vermont for our 50-Mile Relay, or Rehoboth for the Seashore Marathon, I have enjoyed the time traveling, the time hanging out, eating, drinking, and celebrating post-race almost as much as the races themselves.

A couple forthcoming posts will include: a 2008 wrap-up for the Tuckahoe Challenge, top 10 RUR group runs and races, and a race/challenge preview for 2009. Also, the famed New Year's Day Stupidathon, coming soon to a hot-tub near you :)

One caveat for the RUR bash--there was an inherent promise, that there would be no running involved, so as not to confuse the party with a group run. The last of the RURs left Laurel Street at about 2 a.m., on foot, heading back across town. They covered the 2 - 2.5 miles in roughly 40 minutes, as indicated by a slightly incoherent e-mail that was sent at the trek's completion. That's roughly 20-minute miles. Thankfully, at that pace, we can say that the no running promise for the evening was kept ;)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Running Barefoot in Winter (Well sort of...)

As I continue my recovery from my knee injury, I am trying many new things. I am attempting to redevelop my technique by transitioning to more of a mid foot strike rather than heel striking which I generally have done for many years. I have explored a couple of books and videos, including Chi Running, the Pose Method, and Evolution Running.

There are many things these methods have in common as well as several important differences. One concept I am currently exploring is that the running shoes that most of us are used to are fairly heavy, overbuilt clunkers. They bring our feet up off the ground and have features that we hope protect our feet from impact, keep them from excessively pronating, and prevent injury by absorbing some of the harsh impact that running creates. This all sounds great, but if they work so well, why are so many of us hurting ourselves year after year? It could be that perhaps we'd have a whole lot more problems if we ran without shoes, but I don't know this. Clearly there are people who run barefoot and seem to do so effortlessly. Lots of kids run barefoot in the summer and don't seem to have shin splints, stress fractures, or sprained muscles. Perhaps they just aren't running far enough to develop these problems, but I think there is a better reason. By not relying on shoes, you are forced to develop a more gentle running style. Impact is minimized by the instinct of self-preservation.

Today I tried out a product called Vibram Five Fingers. The idea is that they are very minimalistic shoes that hug your feet and separate each toe from the others. I decided to give the Flow a try as these are a little bit insulated with neoprene to help with water activities or running in the cold. They are pretty odd looking, and in fact my wife thinks they are hideous. They are certainly er, ... unique. They feel more like slippers than shoes, and at first the separated toes feel a little odd. I also picked up a pair of toed socks that seem to match the shoes perfectly. Don't worry I stuck with matching black as I already look a bit like a freak with my tights and toe shoes. I need to work my way up to rainbow socks now don't I?

This morning, I went for a three mile out and back run to the high school via the bike path. I have noticed that I have two significant problems every time I run. First, my right calf always feels very tight despite stretching and seems to tighten more and more as each run progresses. Second, I have periodic knee pain where the meniscal tear occurred that reminds me to be very careful. So far, my runs have have felt OK, but it is a very fragile feeling I have compared to before the injury. I have been working on landing more on my mid foot by using many of the Chi Running principles, though I also am trying to make adjustments that seem to avoid pain in my meniscus.

With the Five Fingers shoes, I noticed several things. For starters, it is nearly impossible to heel strike with these things on. Your body just rejects that possibility outright due to the lack of cushioning. Mid foot striking seems the only possible way to land without seriously hurting your feet. As the run went along, I really liked how I could feel the ground under me. The Vibram sole definitely cushions the blow of pebbles, twigs and bumps on the pavement, but you still feel that they are there. In a word, I would describe it as feeling "connected" to the ground. I was drawn to the grass and made my own trail as much as I could because it was the softest surface, and it felt natural. But running on pavement was possible and indeed not bone-jarring. I just found myself naturally trying to land as softly as possible. I have a long way to go with my technique, but I feel like progress is possible. I think I may have felt more medial knee pain with the Five Fingers, but I am not entirely sure as I have felt that on runs in real shoes too.

So, a good first run. It felt close to being barefoot, and my feet weren't too cold though I wouldn't have made it more than another two miles before my toes would have been more numb. As it was, they were starting to get pretty cold towards the end.

Good road and trail feel
Natural feeling
Very light and sort of disappear underneath you when on the grass

Expensive way to feel more barefoot. Barefoot is way cheaper.
Kind of gimmicky
Fugly if you ask my wife

The biggest unknown: will they create or prevent injuries? I suspect that with proper attention to efficient and gentle running they could be protective. I don't think I would run every time in them but occasionally they might help with speedwork and improving running form and efficiency. Perhaps the best way to run is as if we are running barefoot while running with the protection of cushioned, more clunky shoes. That may be too great a challenge for our minds to overcome.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Apologies

I’m not one to typically share my thoughts in writing, but the blog seems to be a part of the RUR thing, so I’ll put in my two cents. As for a race report, I don’t remember much about the marathon I ran in Rehoboth last week except that is was bloody cold, the last two miles were excruciatingly painful, and the post-race Dogfish Head never tasted so good. Mostly, I would like to just say a word (and make a little confession) about running in general.

Honestly, I never really understood runners. My 20’s were spent mountain biking and skiing at every opportunity. As a young and arrogant ski bum, my assumption was that these were some of the toughest and most extreme sports one could participate in. I hiked and skied many peaks, rode a 24 hr mountain bike race, and routinely pushed my physical limits. Running had always seemed too simple or dare I say, easy, to me (I know, blasphemy…take away his RUR mug). As is the case with things we have never tried, our assumptions about them can be completely wrong.

I started running with RUR in the early spring. Though this group could get just about anybody exited about running, I caught the running bug quickly and decided to give a marathon a try. How hard could it be, right? I quickly found out that running is. . .hard as hell. Running a marathon was one of the most physically difficult things I have ever done (the race itself as well as the months of training leading up to it).

As for the Rehoboth marathon, I was doing alright until mile 24, when my body starting failing. I felt like all the muscles in my legs were on the verge of cramping. I skipped the last 2 aid stations because I was sure my legs would seize up if I slowed down or changed pace. My left hip was throbbing, but I’d become used to that over the last few months of training. The real killer was my right knee which suddenly started feeling like a knife was being jabbed into the side with every stride. I was fairly convinced that I was doing some serious damage to my knee, but there was no way I was stopping 2 miles from the finish. I have since figured out that this was my IT band, which has still not heeled 1 week post race day. I can’t recall needing assistance walking down a flight of stairs after any day of skiing, hiking, or biking, but I did after this race. You might argue that I’m a little older now, but repetitively pounding your feet on pavement or trail for over 26 miles will never be easy.

I’m also finding the joy in running. It is a mentally versatile sport – by that I mean you can run with a head full of anger and finish feeling purged, get into a meditative rhythm and crank out mileage with nearly a care, or enjoy the social aspects of running with a group. Running with RUR is mostly the latter and I can’t image exercising with a better group of people. Forgive a generalization here, but it seems that runners have a lot less ego than I’ve found in other sport subcultures. It might just be this group of like-minded RUR people, but it seems like runners are generally congenial and friendly folk.

Well, that’s my confession and apology to all those runners out there whom I silently disrespected over the years – I’ve been humbled by this “simple” sport and have a whole new appreciation for long distance running.

Finally, some lessons from my first marathon experience:
Good ideas include Band-aids on sore nipples, spending more than $50 on running shoes, finding someone running your pace early in the race and partnering up, taking off your gloves at the aid stations to keep them dry (thanks for that one Lori), and pinching the cup in order to get more fluid in your mouth than on the front of your shirt (I would thank Lori for this one too, but she gave me this tip AFTER the race).

Bad ideas include trying to eat a Cliff bar when it is below freezing outside and attempting an unrehearsed wardrobe change half way through a race resulting in your shoes getting stuck in your tights (Thanks M. Keane for the rescue).


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Records at Tuckahoe

Though he has been running less this year than years past, our man Stephen Bardsley is still setting records, of a different kind, out on the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge stomping grounds. Here's an update from Bardsley:

"I think last Sunday [sent on Nov. 17] I locked up the honors for the SLOWEST Tuck10 challenge. I took my den of Cub Scouts there, and did the entire loop as the Tuck10 is outlined. The time, a whopping 5 hours and 12 minutes. Great day, but my hips were actually killing me from walking for that long. I did not know what the river crossing would be like at "the log", so I actually wore shorts and the Brooks trail shoes I did JFK in, in case i had to carry any of the boys across. I went though the water, but the boys shimmied the log. That is my Joshua in the Terps sweatshirt. Thought you'd get a kick out of the pics, and story. Just for the record, I did a double Tuck10 loop 48 hours before the appendectomy. it was my last long training run for the B&A marathon that never happened."

Incredible stuff, Stephen--spreading the trail gospel to the young'ens. I'd have to give the nod that this would be the slowest challenge time, but the records theoretically continue: Joshua would have to be the youngest to complete the challenge (though we'll have to check James's ID ;); Stephen and Joshua would be the only father/son team to complete the challenge or parent/child for that matter. And I am guessing we could come up with other categories. Well done Bardsleys!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rise Up ... Swimmers?!?

This is part two of my injury report. I hope this is a more positive post than my initial injury post. Truth is, at this time of Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful that I injured my meniscus. Yes, my knee is not the same anymore, but I have gained far more than I lost in the transaction.

I suppose I should share how the summer after the injury was sort of frustrating. If you ask my wife Megan she'll tell you I was depressed for a little while, feeling sorry for myself and overall a little bit of a grouch. It was a bit hard not being able to do simple things like go up the stairs easily, ride a bike, or hold my kids for long while walking on the boardwalk at the beach. But that part of the story is kind of boring. I'll skip ahead to and indeed past the surgery. The surgery itself went very well. I had a great surgeon and an excellent anesthesiologist. I was walking later that day, and I must have had a very good local block because it didn't wear off until later the next day.

The surgeon performed a partial meniscectomy, meaning the torn portion of the meniscus was removed and the remaining part was sort of cleaned up a little bit. Due to the location and extent of the tear, a repair was not possible. The good news is that the recovery is much faster with that type of surgery than a repair so I knew I would soon be exercising again very soon.

The first week afterwards, I started going to the pool at 5:15 in the morning when it unofficially opens. I was relieved to feel that when I kicked in the water it didn't feel all wobbly and goofy like before the surgery. I could push off from the wall with minimal pain. I felt mostly whole again.

I can't say I really loved swimming at first, but it was something aerobic I could do in the morning before the kids got up and going, and it was certainly low impact. I decided to try to stick with it a few weeks and see how it felt. Somewhere along the way, I found I could swim for longer periods of time with less effort and really started to enjoy how I felt as I was leaving the Y after I swam. And boy did it make me hungry, and I sure do like to eat.

So, I stuck with it. And then I thought again about the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim next June that I had mentioned wanting to try to qualify for. So, I went ahead and swam the qualifying swim of three miles in about one and a half hours. By that point I was hooked and started thinking about the Masters Swimming program at the Y.

I talked a little to our own Wood Frog about it, and he was very supportive. Go figure, Keene supportive and positive about something. Next thing I knew I had fired off an email to the team and was attending my first practice. I have only been a couple times, but I already like it a lot. Like the RUR crew, this is a very friendly group of people who enjoy exercising and all the positive experiences that brings along the way.

I have tried to run a few times so far, and each time hurts like crazy but feels a little better than the time before. Someday, I may be able to run pain-free for more than two to three miles. I'd be thankful for that. But for now, I am happy to swim and bike and row on the erg and use the still very adequately functioning body that I still have to get my heart rate going and enjoy the mental cleansing I feel with a good hard workout. I know my injury was quite minor compared to what others have gone through and most likely I will face far more serious health problems in the future than a small bit of torn cartilage.


Monday, November 24, 2008

BBRRrrrr...A Seashore Marathon Race Report

(From left) Laura, James, Dominic, Keene, Lori, Joel, and Valliant celebrate, space-blanket style, after the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon on Saturday, November 22.

Earlier this year, many of our Rise Up Runners didn't know each other, and certainly hadn't run together. Completing the Tuckahoe 10-mile loop in the spring was the first time Joel had run more than eight miles. And after his first or second run around Easton in the dark, Dominic coolly said, "Yeah, I might be game for trying a fall marathon..."

Fast forward to this past Saturday. Friendships forged on the roads and trails and Keene and Joel comprised a marathon relay team, with Joel voicing his goal of running a sub 2-hour half-marathon. A recent move to the Eastern Shore and James Woodring was one-half of a team with Katherine Binder, who found herself having to pull out due to a car accident (we hope Katherine continues her recuperation), but thanks to Megan Cook, Laura Divjak was able to step in at the last minute and keep Team Woody on track.

Meanwhile, the speedy Dominic came into race day after a much needed taper with lofty goals for himself; marathon veteran Lori stepped up to give the First State's inaugural Seashore Marathon a go; and Valliant was gunning for a sub 4-hour effort after a strong summer and fall of running.

The speedy James Woodring (center) bursts past the competition between loud YAWPS! of enthusiasm and pouncing on unsuspecting RURs as he passed them.

The weekend was made a number of ways: 1) Dominic headed up the house hunting brigade and landed a posh pad for crashing the night before the race, as well as post-race showers, recouping, and family time, 2) The chance to run together, get to know each other and spend some time chilling, and 3) the fact that everyone accomplished their individual goals.

I encourage anyone who wants to write up a report to do so, and we'll post various takes up here. But there were some common factors worth relating. The start temperature was roughly 27 degrees with winds up to 20 mph. It was cold and with the wind it was damn cold.

The course was beautiful, well marked, excellent support, flat, though a couple sneaky hills found their way in, and the Breakwater Trail is running nirvana on most counts. Dominic's skills as a meteorologist are questionable ;), and the post-race party was stellar--a great spread of food (world's best mac and cheese), free Dogfish Head Ale for runners, massages, etc.

Valliant shows his strength by crushing an ice and water filled paper cup, while Lori tries to deny that she knows any of the Rise Up Runners around her.

There are a few weekend photos posted in the story here, but let us never forget how nice it is to have our pal DDP Joel Shilliday as RUR photographer. The full smattering of Joel's photos can be viewed here.

Dominic imagines seahorses as he crosses the finish line on the boardwalk in 3:29 and change. Hey, is that an Atayne shirt he's wearing? :)

The photos are worth their weight in Clif Shots (which are tough to get down when they are frozen). On top of that, a search of the official results yields some cool information:

Dominic made his marathon debut in just under 3:30. Wow!
Joel and Keene combined for a 3:36 or so, with Joel running a 1:53 for his half
James and Laura netted a cool 3:47 relay time
Lori motored to a 3:51 and speedy and consistent a marathoner as you'll find
Valliant notched a 3:52 and change, breaking under the 4:00 mark, goal accomplished


Keene comes through the arches in a 1:42 half-marathon time, wondering if the guy on the left stole his watch...

Laura speeds down the boardwalk to a stellar half-marathon finish. The funny thing is, just 24 hours before finishing the race, she didn't even know she was going to be running it!!

My parting words here are, if you are looking for a nearby fall marathon, you couldn't do better than the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon. Flat, certified course with scenery and multiple surfaces, great support, winning festivities after the race. Look for the Rise Up Runners to return next year, with an even bigger posse, and maybe even a house along the course for party central for friends and family.

As for more story lines from this year's race... I'll let someone else bust out the deer hunter. Do what? Look through the photos...that's not in there by mistake. Thanks to all the RURs for a great race weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Race Report: Derek as a Mountain Masochist

Rise Up Runner/Team Slug Grand Poobah Derek Hills contemplates levitating up some of the 9,000 feet of vertical gain that constitutes the Mountain Masochist 50-Mile Trail Run.

I’ve been debating with the idea of writing a race report. For some time now I’ve struggled with the idea of posting my thoughts online, as there are many “bloggers” (particularly ultrarunners) wasting bandwidth with incessant self-dramatization. However, I do hope to share some of my thoughts on the 2008 Mountain Masochist Trail Run with those who couldn’t be there, and perhaps inspire someone else to get out and push themselves a little more. So, I’ll apologize in advance if anything comes across as boastful.

Boring Stuff
I left the office around 11:30 am on Friday for the five plus hour drive to Lynchburg, VA in hopes of making it to the pre-race check in and dinner at a reasonable hour. The weather was absolutely perfect-upper 50’s, without a cloud in the sky. Oddly, we had identical weather on race day (I’m used to either rain or 100+ degrees/humidity). Traffic was sparse, and Mapquest landed me in downtown Lynchburg in 5 hours 16 minutes. I found my way to my hotel (I stupidly got a room about a mile from the “sponsoring” hotel, as they only had smoking rooms left), checked in, unpacked, and took a walk over to the Kirkley Hotel to get registered and check out the pre-race dinner.

I meandered through the lobby, and found myself in a long line of runner-types waiting to get registered. I recognized a few familiar faces, including Tom Green who was going to run this race for the 26th year (sadly, Tom DNF’d due to an injury which he was having surgery on the following week). Standing there, I began to feel overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. Most of these folks were the typical tall, lanky, sinewy mountain runner types. And there I stood-- the short, stocky flatlander. Just then, David Horton (former MMTR Race Director and ultrarunner extraordinaire) walked up the hallway, noticed a strange face, and introduced himself. I stumbled over my words at first. He asked where I was from, and when I told him “The Eastern Shore of Maryland” he jokingly replied, “Lots of hills over there!” My downward spiral of doubt accelerated, so I sped through the check-in, grabbed my number and swag bag, skipped the dinner and hotfooted it back to my hotel. Once there, I flicked on the TV, organized my gear, prepped and tape my already gnarly feet, obsessed over the alarm clock, and was asleep by 9:00.

Race Day
I woke up around 3:30 a.m. and began my race day ritual of coffee, shower, prep., lube, gear check, etc.. Drove over to the parking lot at the Kirkley, checked in, and hopped on a warm bus around 5:45. As we sat in the parking lot, I tried to shut my eyes and block out all of the conversations going on around me. The bus left right at 6:00 a.m., and the drive over was dark and uneventful. When we arrived at the start area, the bus pulled right up to the port o’ johns, so I promptly got in line. Despite multiple layers (am temps were in the low 30’s), I began to shiver as I waited a good 15 minutes. After my turn, I slipped back onto the warm bus, reviewed all my gear and drop bag contents, and ate a power bar while it was still pliable. I waited until two minutes before the race start to get out.

Having obsessed over the course maps and elevation profile for months now, my plan was to crank it out to the first aid station, which would involve an out and back section on pavement (up and down a hill). This would ensure a fast warm up, and would provide a good “systems test”. While I cranked out the first few miles around an 8:00 pace uphill, and felt OK, I noticed that I wasn’t too far behind the “Team Montrail” and “Inov-8” shirts. At the turn around, it was downhill again, so I maintained the same pace while the frontrunners surged forward. It was going to be a long day, and I would need to conserve energy for the mountains. As the road leveled, I eased up the pace and maintained a steady 10 min. mile pace on the roads. There were a few long climbs that necessitated some short walk breaks, but the pace was overall easy, and as dawn broke the scenery of all the fall foliage along the river was nothing short of spectacular.

The course soon diverted into the woods. The first few miles were on single track, with a few tree hurdles, climbing, loose rocks and roots—plenty of excuses to get cautious. Knowing that the long climbs would be a huge time draw, I knew I’d have to push it and get a bit more careless with the trail conditions as long as the inclines weren’t too tough. The strategy worked well enough, although I was somewhat surprised at the next aid station that I was within 30 minutes of the cutoffs despite my decent performance on the roads. At that point, it became obvious to me that the cutoffs weren’t arbitrarily based on an even pace per mile for the entire 54 miles—they had to be based on historical data from aid station to aid station. Mentally, this would be the toughest challenge—knowing that in order to at least skim the cutoffs I would need to at least maintain consistent effort from point to point, regardless of the conditions.

Those first twenty miles were certainly hillier than I was used to, but tolerable. At the 26 mile aid station, I was dragging a bit. Mentally, I was beside myself, as I was only 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff. Physically, I was overheating a bit. I ran to the aid station, called out my number and dropped to the ground by my drop bag. I immediately stripped down to shorts and a tee shirt, and downed a Starbucks double shot. I felt somewhat delirious when I looked up to find Annette Bednosky filling up my Camelbak. A few familiar faces were standing around, but I was in a desperate rush to get the hell out of there.

"You mean we're running up that thar mountain??"

The real climbs began. And they continued. And continued. The first real climb up Buck Mountain was harsh. Maybe 3000 feet in about 5 miles, with few sections I considered runnable. Fortunately, the trail was mostly wooded and cool, and footing was decent. I pushed forward, trying to run the short inclines, and speed hike everything else. One of the runners I had been yo-yoing with (on his 6th MMTR) was starting to have a tough time, and told me that it would be hard work to escape the cutoffs at this point. My legs were feeling pretty heavy, and his comments made me nervous. Then, I heard something. Far off in the woods, from somewhere up the mountain, I heard some familiar music…Rocky. Yup. The Rocky theme. Now I usually don’t run with music, and I’m not really a big movie aficionado (or a Rocky fan), but between the music and several inspirational posters with scripture verses that appeared out of nowhere, I caught my “second wind” and started running uphill towards the next aid station.

By the time I reached the next aid station I had gained a reasonably significant lead over the group I had been plodding along with, and had actually made up some time on this leg. I departed with a new spring in my stride, and covered the next, largely fast, downhill stretch in decent time.

The next aid station marked the entrance to the notorious “loop” section. While the terrain didn’t look bad on the elevation profile, I’ve heard that the loop will quickly humble even the most skilled runner. Expecting the worst, I was surprised to find myself running on some beautiful downhill single track for the first mile or so. From there, it started to get ugly. First a few wet stream crossings over some loose rocky areas. Then rocky/rooty ascents and descents, all densely covered with leaves, so you had no idea what you were stepping on. Fortunately, I managed to stay vertical, and survived this 5+ mile leg in just over an hour. On my way out, I came across another familiar face…err, head—a young runner I’ve often seen at several events whose trademark is to shave the race initials onto his head. We chatted a bit on the way out of the aid station, and yo-yoed along for a mile or two, comparing war stories.

The remaining 10 miles were tolerable. A few decent climbs, which proved difficult on tired legs in the warmer afternoon temperature. I was pleasantly surprised when one girl I had been running with earlier caught up to me. Apparently, the guy she was running with (the 6 timer MMTR dude) had dropped and she was now on her own. We held pace together for a while, and forced the other to run when the other would slow down. At the next to last aid station, I was still 15 minutes ahead of the cutoffs, so I checked in and left right away. The trail led me straight up the final hill of death. The overall distance of this section wasn’t terrible…maybe about a mile or so, but it was all nearly straight uphill…the type of climb where you had to stop every so often to catch your breath, and grab a tree to keep from going backwards.

After finally reaching the last aid station, the remaining 5 or so miles were a gift. A couple of mild, runnable climbs, with virtually all descents on gravel mountain roads. A few wet/rocky crossings here and there, and a very fast final couple of miles back out to pavement. I caught up with another young girl named Becky I’d been yo-yoing with for most of the day. It was going to be her first Masochist finish as well. As we approached the finish, we passed another runner who was hobbling along on fumes. A few of Becky’s friends drove past and cheered us on. As we picked up the pace for a final sprint to the finish, she summed it up by saying, “I’ve been going all day for this!” and offered to cross together. My slug roots came through…I knew we were approaching the 12 hour cutoff for an official finish, and there was a possibility that I could at least snag the DFL title, so I graciously let her go first. David Horton was right there, wildly cheering us across the finish. Eleven hours, fifty three minutes and fifty seven seconds.

The bus ride back to the Kirkley hotel was an experience in itself. Dozens of exhausted, stinky runners were packed in, with the heat blasting, as the bus wove through the mountain roads. It was a war zone—folks were moaning, others were stretched out on the floor. Many rested their tired feet on the backs of the seats in front of them. I chugged another Starbucks double shot and chatted about the days events with a gentleman sitting next to me named Lew McGrath, who had just finished his 6th MMTR (in 9:25), after previously winning the Iron Mountain 50 miler (Eric Grossman’s 50M race held in October—now on my “must do” list for 2009).

About an hour and a half later, I was back at my hotel. I peeled off layers of dirt, grit, salt, and clothes, showered for a half hour, and headed out the door for a few post race recovery beers and sandwich. It felt great to zone out and stuff my face.

Final thoughts
MMTR is not just another 50-miler. Any rumors you’ve probably heard about it are true. It’s beautiful, it’s incredibly challenging, the volunteers and race organization are absolute top-notch. When you finish it once, you’ll want to go back and do it again. Yet it’s not a race that you can just “go and run”, especially if you’re even a mid-packer like myself. It is a course where each of the 54 miles, and 9200 feet of gain and 7200 feet of loss demand your respect.

--Derek Hills

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Plus Four...

Just a quick note, hoping to post more later, to say that we have added four names to the list of folks who have completed the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge. Congrats to:

Mike Bickford
Dan Bieber
Brandon White
James Woodring

Who joined Lori Callahan and Valliant for a windy and capital MUDDY loop this morning. For the record, Valliant, Lori, and Brandon opted for the aquatic creek crossing (dedicated to water crossing pioneer Landy Cook), while Mike, Dan, and James scampered across the log. That's a 50/50 ratio on a cool November morning.

Also for the record, Bieber was doing some math in his head, and thinks that Keene's record is breakable. I'm not trying to start anything, mind you, but...;)

Thanks to everyone who got out there this morning. A great run and stellar way to kick off a Sunday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rise Up Rehab Part 1(The Injury)

Somehow it has been just under five months since I acutely injured my medial meniscus on my right knee while running a marathon. It has not been an easy thing for me to write about until now, but enough time has passed that I thought an injured reserve update was in order.

My injury occurred June 15 while running in the Lake Placid Marathon. I decided to run this race since I was attending a continuing medical education conference in Vermont that weekend anyway, and my wife Megan's sister was already running the relay with a group of people from their hometown of Massena, New York. Megan decided to do the half marathon and her parents came down to watch the kids while we raced. It seemed to just fall into place. Lake Placid is a very pretty town and is not at all a bad place to host a marathon. The race started routinely enough for me as Megan and I hung out and talked some before the race. She had asked if I was going to run with her for her half marathon(a little slower than my usual pace) or try to go a little faster. Coming off one of my slowest and most painful marathons, the Delaware Trail Marathon, I was anxious to see what I could accomplish this time so I opted to run solo. Turns out I should have run with my wife instead and perhaps that is lesson #1 in my story. Always listen to your spouse. At least in my case, she is usually right.

But of course, I did not. Before the race started, there was a man with a megaphone talking over some pretty loud, pumping music trying to get the crowd psyched up. I remember thinking, I'm really not at all into this. Can't it just be low key, sort of like the start to the trail marathon I had recently run? There were maybe 1500 people at the start with a combination of marathon runners, half marathoners, and relay runners. I said good luck to Megan, gave her a hug, and slipped over to the side of the road near the first third of runners and sat on the curb to wait until the start. Finally, the man was yelling more and more into the megaphone, the music got even louder and the race was on.

The first three miles were very nice. I concentrated on running slowly and constrained as people all around me were getting settled into their paces. I felt like I could see plenty of people going out too fast, although one thing I have learned in running marathons is that you can never predict a runner's speed by their body type or form. Still I know what someone looks like when they go out too fast from adrenaline at the start, and there were plenty of those folks around. The race looped around a pretty lake for the first few miles before turning sharply down a hill to head out of town. I was shooting for easy eight minute miles with a goal of seeing whether I could break 3:30 and if I was feeling strong at the half, I would increase my pace and see what happened. I felt really strong through the first few miles and then came this monster downhill. I tried to run the hill slowly and controlled, but it was far steeper than anything we have seen in flat Talbot County. About 50 yards in I thought, "This isn't working for me"so I let it unwind a bit and tried to increase my turnover some. Another 50 yards and I let 'er rip and opened up. I imagine it was a good steep half mile downhill or so. In retrospect, I wonder if I set myself up for the injury on that stretch. It is hard to say though because it felt very natural at the time. Anyway, things leveled out a bit after the hill, and I ran by the Olympic ski jumps before heading out a country road to a turnaround at mile eight.

Somewhere along this rolling country road near mile six, it happened. I was running along feeling strong and relaxed at an easy pace when I planted my right foot and instantly felt and heard an ominous pop. I instantly felt severe pain and the feeling like my knee was collapsing on the inside with each step. It was obvious to me that something bad had happened. Nonetheless, we runners are well, a bit thickheaded when it comes to these sorts of things, so I tried to walk it off some. I shook my leg, gently walked on it and tried to run again. Again, it was blatantly obvious that something was terribly wrong. There were a few runners around me passing me every few seconds and a several offered words of encouragement like "Just shake it off" or "work it out". I remember telling one well meaning runner "I don't think this is something I can just work out". She replied, "Oh sorry..." Most people just passed me silently as I tried to hobble along. There was no water stop anywhere near me and certainly no medical station so I figured I would hobble along walking with a straight leg until I could drop out at the next aid station. Somehow I made it to the turnaround spot on that road at mile eight where there was a water stop. I asked around about getting a ride back to the start so I could wait for Megan, and a guy who seemed to be in charge made a call on his radio then told me to wait a few minutes and someone would come to pick me up. Well, I waited and waited, eventually seeing Megan come by who asked how was doing. I filled her in and told her I'd see her back at the finish. I waited some more.

By this point, I would guess 40 minutes had gone by. There was no sign of the guy who I spoke with and no sign of help on the way. So, I trudged on peg-legged and made it back down the road a couple miles to around mile 10, where there was another water stop. This group seemed much more on the ball, and the guy in charge made a call and gave me some ice and a nice seat on the tailgate of his pickup, and I waited. This time, it was only about 30 minutes or so, but help did arrive eventually. I couldn't help but think, good thing I am not having a heart attack. I can only imagine they figured I could safely wait hours if needed and didn't want to get in the way of the runners on the course. Anyway, the ride back to the start was slow as well as the truck the picked me up stopped a few places along the route to talk to other volunteers and the police directing traffic. I don't recall exactly but he may have also picked up his dry cleaning and some things for dinner. Seriously, I was thankful for the ride, but it took forever. Eventually I made it back to the finish area where Megan was waiting with my in-laws and our kids- two of which immediately wanted to be held by me.

Prior to this race, I had always wondered why people dropped out of marathons. I couldn't fathom not trying everything I could to finish. But that day, my decision was quite easy. Running was not possible, and my body very clearly let me know that running was not something I should continue to do. I was thankful for that, but it made it no less difficult.

Up next, Part 2: From injury to surgery


Monday, November 10, 2008

The RUR's in Bay Hundred

The Sunday morning crew - Pierre, James, Valliant, Dominic, Joel, Keene and Katherine, in Keene's shop before departing on a 6 a.m.'ish 13-mile run.

Drivers along Route 33 between St. Michaels and Tilghman, Md., are not used to seeing runners spread out along the road in the early morning hours. Neither are residents of Wittman, home of RUR stalwart Michael "Wood Frog" Keene.

But it's fall racing season, and the Wood Frog invited the RUR crew down to his neck of the woods to get in a good training run for upcoming marathons and half-marathons. We've got quite a crew gearing up for racing the inaugural Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon on Saturday, November 22. Dominic, Lori, and Valliant are signed on to give the full marathon a go, and relay teams of Keene/Joel and Katherine/James, will see each runner complete a half-marathon to finish the full distance. Come the weekend after Thanksgiving, while we're all figuring out what to do with those extra calories, Pierre will run them off at the North Central Trail Marathon, outside Baltimore.

For our Sunday run, we ended up with a hodgepodge of runners, working at various speeds, engaging in various conversations, and running with different folks, accordion-style, closing in on and catching up to one another, and spreading out, all reconvening at Keene's after 13 miles. Pierre saddled back up and ran another 7+ miles back home and beyond to get in his last long run before his marathon.

Rather than give you a narrative of the run, I offer some thoughts that Keene shared with the group later on. The things that stuck in his head:

- Katherine’s muffins (I think there were 6 fewer muffins then when she left her house; Woody?)

-The sunrise over Harris Creek and the warm light hitting the trees.

-The great conversation I had with a French marathon runner

-Joel talking a little louder than usual because he had his IPod earphones in his ears.

-Joel, talking louder than usual, when he asked me if I “owned tights” as we passed my waterman neighbor who was getting his newspaper out of his box.

-Joel doing pushups on the Tilghman Island road.

-Joel running one of his longest distances he’s ever run

-Woody running over the Tilghman Bridge and me wondering if he really won’t shower until the 22nd

-Wondering if, in deed, Bieber is qualified to critique graphics

-Wishing there was someone on a bike distributing Gatorade and muffins to us dehydrated and fuel starved runners

-Wishing I had my new Clif gels from the backseat of Lori’s car

-Wondering if Derek ever wants to run on flat ground again; Route 33 is a dream, except for that hill leading up to the bridge

-Wondering, “Charlie who?”

-Dominic closing gaps in distance between runners on a whim.

-The thought of Katherine’s muffins waiting back in my barn to be eaten

-The expression on my neighbor Margaret’s face when runners kept turning into our driveway at 8:30 in the morning

Very many thanks to Keene for hosting and route planning, and to Katherine for muffin-baking, and for all who came out to run!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It was a morning...just like THIS ONE...

Katherine Binder and I met at 5:30 a.m. this past Sunday at the Diving Dog/Coffee East parking lot to cruise out to Tuckahoe State Park for a 10-mile trail run.

It was foggy, like can't see Landy's shiny new bike in front of your face foggy. And, with daylight savings time having not kicked in, it was jet black dark where it wasn't foggy. Interesting conditions for a trail run.

A week or two ago I picked up a headlamp, which I've taken to bringing along on morning runs. Katherine and I pondered how two people running on a night-black trail would fare with a single headlamp, but decided to give it a go. Since We found it was fairly easy for me to light up the trail for both of us, and we know the trail well, so it was on.

It is a novel experience to run somewhere you are familiar with in completely different conditions. I've run out there in the wicked early morning, but not in the full-on dark before, and it was a blast. A whole new take.

As we were coming up Tuckahoe Valley Trail, after the two foot bridges and the rise onto the wider, flat part of the trail (for those familiar), we approached the widest section of the trail, which is shared by Adkins Arboretum. Coming to our right turn, we came up behind what looked like a decent-sized stage. Bear in mind it is black out (I think we've established that), and that the only thing we can see is whatever the headlamp is shining on.

As we come around the stage, there it is...BAM!:

...a body, laying covered in blood, with limbs and guts all around it. We shine the light a bit farther down, and bodies are everywhere: a dude strapped into an electric chair; a feller coming out of a coffin; a number of aliens and a landing craft surrounding the wide bridge. Further down on overturned car with a bloody Chuckie doll sitting on top of it.

We were caught completely off guard, but as soon as the light started telling the story, Katherine and I both recalled that Adkins hosted their haunted hayride (which is what the photo above is from) on Friday and Saturday night. Absolutely the most bizarre and funniest stuff to come across on our first night/morning run out there.

The rest of the run, though less startling, was stellar. The sun started to climb over the trees as we were on the last part of Tuckahoe Valley. The poison ivy and critters common to summer runs out there seem to be gone and the weather was morning-cool on what was to be a mid-60's day and perfect for running.

We did alter plans a bit though. We enjoyed the section of haunted hayride we ran through so much, we came back up the TV Trail, so we could check it all out again in the daylight.

On a related note, as it is October 30, we realize that RUR stalwart Joel Shilliday celebrates his birthday today. So happy birthday to Joel, and happy Halloween to all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life at 6 a.m.

I got out the door just after 6 a.m. I am usually getting back home from running about this time. As a self-inflicted penance, I started my run at the quicker pace at which I generally finish--once everything is firing, cadence feels great, legs have woken up after the first few miles.

This morning there were only a few miles to begin with (around 5, maybe slightly less...have to measure), so out the door quick. It's still dark at 6 a.m., but other than that similarities end. There are people out. There is traffic, thick for Easton in several spots, and through town, you're better off running on the sidewalk, so as not to end up as a reflective-vest-wearing hood ornament.

Another peculiarity: running up Aurora Street there are lights on in the generally dark Cook and Callahan houses. People aren't supposed to be up during RUR runs!

I cruise by "Da Corner" of Aurora and Idlewild and turn right running by the tennis courts. Still too dark to make out anyone on the track. I should haven been there about an hour and 20 minutes ago, but got home past midnight from the office and to bed at 1 a.m., and only vaguely recall drifting back to sleep after the 4:15 a.m. alarm.

After three weeks of one-run-per week efforts while trying to kick a lingering cold, I told myself this was a three run week. So I stuck with the plan: get up, have coffee, run. Robin is home today with Ava, who cracked a fever at daycare yesterday, so I have some waggle room.

Turning down Washington Street and running by the hospital, traffic is intermittent. Further along, walkers who also wear the dork-badge reflective vests of pre-dawndom. I know it's an off-kilter morning when I run by an open-for-business Coffee East and there are a few customers coming and going. 7-11, generally empty or sporting an errant car has no parking and a delivery truck unloading.

There's a flashing light on the back of a bike ahead of me, on which I am steady closing the gap, with a smooth, even, though be-labored pace. As I turn right on Chapel Road, the target is within 10 yards, though he doesn't make for decent prey as he swerves and teeters back and forth in the bike path.

The sights are similar, albeit a bit more illuminated, but the difference at this point is seasonal, not time of day. The smell of wet leaves on the ground and of fireplaces having burned the evening before. A great smell, marking fall and early winter running.

I pick up the pace a bit more as I turn into our neighborhood, where there is another runner (one who runs 3 miles every single day of the year) up as well as a walker, both of whom I run right up behind as I come even with our yard, cool down, stretch, and go inside for breakfast.

That's life at 6 a.m.--a starting time, which is generally the finish time. A shorter run, where I was hoping to get in a longer jaunt. A missed 5 a.m. meeting time. But I am glad I stuck to the plan: get up, have coffee, run. And now, the rest of the day begins.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Guest Commentary: Tour de Shore

Our man Stephen Bardsley during his self-created, self-supported cycling Tour de Shore.

We are in the midst of an RUR coup. First Keene turned triathlete on us. Dominic was first a cyclist, having competed in 24-hour mountain bike races in Colorado before coming east. And now, post-op, rehab Landy is turning our band of runners into bonafide cross dresser...umm...cross trainers. We have a cycling coup d'etat on our hands.

To be honest, it's pretty cool. I've heard reports of Keene's and Bieber's antics on rides, and the miles they are able to cover in a morning. There is a freedom and speed that cycling brings to the table, where running is somewhat limited if you don't have all day to devote to covering 50 miles. This opens up some creativity in being able to come up with challenges either for yourself or a group.

With that in mind, I offer a guest commentary (our first!), on the kind of nutso adventure I expect from this group. The perpetrator of this adventure is RUR friend, blog reader, and frequent commenter Stephen Bardsley. Stephen has run Tuckahoe with Keene and I a few times and I guarantee logged more miles than anyone out there in 2007. He also ran the JFK 50 last year, rocking a 9:3o (roughly) finish. Stephen is a heck of a runner. Earlier this year, while training to break 3:30 in the B & A Trail Marathon, Bardsley ruptured his appendix, and running got put on the shelf, ending his streak of more than 400 consecutive days with a run.

Bardsley used his time off and his rehab to try something different, but no less epic (more-so, in fact). He set out to ride the entire C&O Canal Towpath unsupported on his mountain bike. He test rode, got his gear dialed in, planned meticulously. And then the rains came. Faced with canceling a trip he'd labored over, Stephen got truly creative. Below is his story as sent to Keene and me in an e-mail. Awesome stuff. Between adventures like this, the New Year's Day RUR "Tri" and the rising current of cycling in our midst...I can tell I'm gonna have to spring for a bike! --Mike V.

By Stephen Bardsley

I had planned the C&O canal trip for Sept. 7-8-9. I decided to go with my mountain bike, and had tested some intermediate tires, to cut down on the rolling resistance, and still have some form of tread for the terrain. Our Saturday night hotel was booked in Cumberland, and my wife Lauren was to pick me up Saturday at work and drive with the family up to Cumberland. I was to start the ride Sunday morning, and had logistics worked out for a buddy to finish the ride with me into Georgetown on Tuesday, and drive me back to my car at work.

I put a rack on the back of the bike, pannier bags were full, my one man tent, and light sleeping bag were tied on top of the rack. I also got a nice sized handle bar bag to hold camera, wallet, cell phone, flashlight,and lots of Ibuprofen.

Saturday morning showed up with all the rain from Hannah. Lauren and I spoke frequently throughout my work day, and by noon i called C&O bike shop in Hancock Md. The man told me that with all the rain forecasted, the trail would be a swamp in most parts, and the camping areas would be flooded. TRIP CANCELLED! The forecast for Sunday, Monday, and most of Tuesday were flawless, and after a couple Mapquests, the TOUR DE SHORE was planned.

On the way home from work, i bought a pair of slick tires to fit the mountain bike wheels, and mounted them on the bike. Sunday morning i left the house early, and by late afternoon, I had taken Rt. 50 all the way into Salisbury, 92 miles. I found a cheap hotel for the night. Monday morning, I kept heading east on Rt. 50, and had pizza and Red Bull for lunch on the boardwalk in Ocean City. I proceeded up coastal highway, all the way to Lewes Del., 85 miles for day two.

I got a campsite at Cape Henlopen State Park, and stayed in my tent. Tues. morning I had a lot of knee pain, and Lauren had warned of severe afternoon storms. With the knee pain, I planned on spinning all day in a high gear, and told Lauren I would get as far as I could, and she could pick me up somewhere on Rt. 404 when she got out of school at 4:00. I left Henlopen at 176.5 miles, and was hoping I could just get to 200 miles. I had headwinds all day, so the light spinning idea was out the window, as I had to mash the pedals to get anywhere.

I managed the knee pain throughout the day with Flex-All. I went through Georgetown Del, no storms, made it to Bridgeville, no storms, made it almost to Denton and got hammered by a storm. Ducked into Dunkin Donuts, and got a coffee. The storm passed, and the wind went with it. I kept pedaling, and made it to the big Royal Farms by Tuckahoe, had a Red Bull there, and rode to the 50/404 intersection.

Lauren called, and was out of school, I told her to pick up our son Joshua, and call me, I would probably have her pick me up at the Prime Outlets on Rt. 50. By the time she called me at the outlet, I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't finish the journey. I told her I would see her just before dark.

The 18 miles from the outlet to home were brutal, I was a mess turning the corner of my street. As I rode into my driveway, Jacob and Joshua were standing there with little checkered flags. Lauren took the finish line photos, and had a killer meatloaf with mashed taters and gravy ready! Final odometer reading was 268.4 miles, and 21 hours and 36 minutes of ride time. Very satisfying, a great adventure, solo and unsupported!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rise Up Vermont!

If you really want to know what kind of friends you've got, drop them off on a mountain in Vermont and tell them you'll see them in 3 hours, 15 or so miles up the mountain. If your friends are happy-to-downright-giddy at the prospect, you might have Rise Up Runners for pals.

At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 28, Team Rise Up Runners got out of the car at Mount Ascutney to find food, coffee, and get the Vermont 50 mile trail run underway as a 3-person relay. This is one of those trips that seemed like it had been on the books for a year, but would never actually get here. But before I'd even finished my coffee (coffee "plus," which means coffee and bagels), we were walking outside to watch the mountain bike race start and then wishing Katherine Binder well and cheering her off at the start at 6:40 a.m.

Some serious "bling!" Is that Electra-Woman or Dyna-Girl? Katherine gets ready to roll up the mountain.

Katherine's husband Rob is probably still driving back and forth between the Hartness House in Springfield, Vermont, and the Mt. Ascutney Resort in Brownsville. If he isn't, I am positive he can still see it in his mind. Staying 20 minutes or so from the race, we had a less than perfect scheme for shuttling runners and spouses, but we decided early on to whisk the weary-having-finished runners back to the hotel to change and shower after their leg, before cruising back to make the next switch. All in all a solid plan.

Talking shop the day before, Katherine hoped she'd see us after her 12.3 mile leg by 9:00 a.m. We arrived at the Skunk Hollow aid station, where she'd make the tag to Keene at around 8:45 or so. The mountain bikers, who'd had the earlier start were coming in strong, as were some speedy runners. We heard runners coming in a fair amount slower than they anticipated, per mud and hard climbing, and guessed Katherine might be a bit behind where she hoped. You could see runners coming around a school yard before they reached the aid station, and Katherine's white shirt bounded by the fence at almost 9 a.m. on the nose. She tagged Keene at 9:02, and the Wood Frog hopped toward more climbing. Katherine grabbed some aid station grub, caught her breath, and filled us in on course and run details that included hands-on-the-ground in front of her climbing in places, fast downhills that turned into walking only climbs, and a scenic course. She completely rocked our lead-off leg, and nailed the time she wanted to make, right on the nose. Way to go, Katherine!

Happy Katherine and her husband Rob at Skunk Hollow aid station, after tagging Keene into action for leg 2 of the relay.

I have no doubt that the Wood Frog will clue everyone in to the details of his hopping adventures on his blog, but I have already spoiled the ending of his 17.9 mile leg to Dugdale's aid station, where leg three of the relay began. Suffice it to say here, that Keene made it, bounding (and I mean BOUNDING) down the hill to make the tag in a crazy 3 hours. The second leg had some ridiculous climbing (okay, so each leg had wicked climbing!) and Keene hoped aloud the day before to finish his leg in 3 hours, thinking that might be asking too much. Not at all, my friend. When the chips come down on race day, Keene and his high energy, and climbing quads always find a way to deliver. He claimed to be undertrained for longer running, having added biking and swimming to his training this year, but there was no evidence of any let up. A stellar run, Keene!

And so leg three is underway, with Valliant off on the last 19.8 miles, looking to anchor the Rise Up Runners relay team. Again, a bit anti-climactic, since the finish photo has been up on the site. You know we finish in about 9 hours. You know we end up with shiny medals, smiling faces, and Harpoon I.P.A. on draft. But what happens during the last leg? What does Valliant learn from the mysterious and fleet-footed bearded man? Does he bank a mountain biker, steal some wheels, and ride on to the finish? For those answers, you'll have to change the dial over to The 4-1-Run... (you didn't know this was going to be a three-blog relay, did you? ;)

Team Rise Up Runners finishes the Vermont 50-mile relay in just over 9 hours, giving the RUR crew 3rd relay team overall out of 13 teams. Full results can be found here. Robin and Mike Valliant, Katherine Binder and Rob Forloney, and Michael Keene and Carita Crawford-Keene pose for posterity before finding the Harpoon I.P.A. draft, food, and seeking shelter from the coming monsoon-like rain.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Making Lemonade is Easy.

"When life throws you lemons make lemonade" someone once famously said.
Probably an entrepreneurial kid trying to make a buck, but whatever.

I try to follow this saying whenever the circumstances in my life dictate it may be an option.
My Mom just got 2 new knees.

She's 71 and pretty tough, but she need her kids help so my sister took the first shift of three weeks, and my brother and following up with an 8 day stint. Yes it takes two men to handle the work of one woman. Anyhow, my mother is doing ok, but more than a little ornery at the fact she can't do everything herself yet. She will be able to soon.
Between running errands to town, & helping Mom out where she needs it I have been able to get 3 runs in the first 3 days I have been in my hometown. Franklin Pennsylvania in western PA is similar in size to Easton and some other respects, however very different in that is definitely not growing or affluent. Instead of luxury cars Franklin inexplicably has the largest number of obese creatons I have ever seen assembled in one place cruising the streets. Take from that what you will.

Morning mist slides down the Allegehny River just south of Franklin PA a the Belmar Bridge.
One thing this area does have going for its natural beauty (when the sun is shining). And Mom's place is right along the Allegheny River, arguably one of the nation's most scenic rivers and adjacent to a number of trails both paved and natural. Rails to trails is prevalent in this area, as it used to be bustling with rail car activity in the form of petroleum transports from Oil City, now relegated to freakshow status, Titusville the birthplace of American oil production, and Franklin where some the Standard Oil Barrens chose to call home.
Now we kinda just have the river and hills around it as I see it. Which is fine with me. On Tuesday I may have sparked some running interest in my brother as he accompanied me for 5 of my 6.5 miles along an eastbound trail that included a nearly .25 mile tunnel
(in which my brother screamed "get back tot he choppa", just to hear it echo...yep he's my brother) and handful of bridges over the creeks that feed the Allegheny (pic of overpass at left).
Perfect temps(low 70s), and the accompaniment of my bro made this a most enjoyable way to start the week here.
I have been fueled by the fact that some of our crew is heading to Vermont to challenge the mountains. So I have challenged myself to run everyday I am here. So yesterday I ran the hill that leads up and off the river from my Mom's place. It is only 1.25 miles and 20% grade, but it might as well have been the White Mountains, as I am total flat lander these days, and every step was something very foreign to this runner at this time.
The downhill was enjoyable, though I was cautious not to "tweak" my own knees as I want to take advantage the elevation changes for the next few days.
Today yielded another 10k with a short sojourn on a longing trail that turned into an overgrown trail, which turned into a deet path, which turned into no path, which utltimately led to a dried up creek bed which I scrambled down after much cussing and back to unnatural comfort of the paved trail heading south along the river. Better luck tomorrow on that.
The run culminated with a good swim in the crystal clear, cool flow that is the Allegheny at this moment in time.

View from the Belmar bridge north aka a great place to swim.
Rain is the the forcast for the next few days, so that may mean some good mudding ahead!
At the expense of the rivers clarity. Wish you were all here to enjoy this.
Ahhh Country Time,
Best of luck to all racers this weekend!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Tuckahoe Seven

The Tuckahoe Seven - Derek, Pierre, Dominic, Joel, Katherine, Keene, and Valliant. Photo by Charlie Bandura. Thanks, Charlie!

It was a record morning at Tuckahoe State Park today. I pulled into the Coffee East/Diving Dog parking lot just before 6 a.m. to see six other folks waiting in the still dark to go play in the woods. The Bay Hundred RUR contingent brought Katherine, Pierre, and Keene, while Easton RURs represented with Joel, Derek, Dominic, and Valliant. We all piled into Keene's Expedition, "Julius," and ventured out to complete the Tuckahoe 10-mile loop.

Katherine and Keene coming through Creekside Cliff Trail.

We ran most of the first 4.5 miles in a group as we came up the Tuckahoe Valley Trail. Once we hit the rolling hills of Creekside Cliff, we could see there was a new lawman in town: Deputy Dominic. The Speedy Szwaja mosied on out front and glided along the trail. The pattern for the rest of the day was to let everyone regroup as we turned onto another trail.

Conditions were cool and dry as we made our way down Turkey Hill for a September creek crossing.

Joel ponies up crossing the creek, while Pierre wonders, "Do I really have to get my shoes wet?" ;)

As we hit the crossing, Wood Frog Keene surprised us all with his first crossing without log assistance! A low tide and a few blister-worried runners who logged it made for a mostly uneventful, but still a fun dance in the creek.

Dominic says, "Come on man, there's a 'Welcome Back Kotter' marathon on today, let's go!"

On the Little Florida Trail, we were cruising along, and Dominic busted out his gazelle imitation. Moving. I decided to give chase and each time I closed the gap, he ambled on a couple curves or a hill ahead. I backed off a bit with our Vermont race a week out, but I doubt it would have mattered much if I hadn't :)

We reconvened at the bottom of Grieners Fishing Road on the way in to Pee Wees Trail. The crew spread out a bit on Pee Wees, with a few call outs for directions and a well-placed 'Predator' quote heard echoing in the woods. At the end of trail, we unwound for a bit at the creek, posed for a photo and cruised back home.

Derek and Pierre cruise down the fishing road, about 8 miles into the run, en route to Pee Wees Trail.

Congratulations to Derek and Pierre--the two latest finishers of the "official" route for the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge! It was a great day on the trails, which is something I try to never take for granted. It's all the more great when you can get out there with seven head. A heckuva way to Rise Up!