Wednesday, April 30, 2008

5 at 5 and "a Mugging"

Dominic gets "mugged" in the pre-dawn mist, by Landy and Don after a 40-minute jaunt around Easton yesterday morning. Photo by Joel.

"This morning would have been one of those mornings to hit snooze and go back to bed," said Landy as we got a rainy run underway at 5 a.m. on Tuesday with 5 RUR runners--Dominic, Joel, Don, Landy, and me--our largest Rise Up gathering to date.

That's essentially what the Rise Up Runners group has meant to my running consistency. Alone, I had a hard time forcing myself out the door on a dark, rainy morning. Yesterday, there was no question in my mind as I headed out the door, looking forward to seeing everyone and to stretch my legs after a weekend marathon.

Joel proved his movie review versatility by forgoing feature films to focus on a documentary that kept him up the night before on Jonestown (Dominic was glad there was no Kool Aid in his mug). Conversation circled around recent and upcoming races, weekend trips--non-running related--and just about anything else that came to mind.

At a minimum, the RUR crew motivates me to get out the front door and go running. That's a gift in and of itself. I hate to miss a run, a chance to start a day with doing something I dig, in good (though shaky :) company, with other folks who have the same motivation to start their day.

After a finishing sprint up Idlewild Avenue, we took time for a proper "mugging"--with Landy presenting Dominic with the final RUR mug doled during the month of April. A solid morning by all accounts. The morning's chief controversy came thereafter--with the "bargument"--do you drink coffee pre- or post-run? That answer is easy for me: both!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stubbornness Over Common Sense

SARS Returns? No just trying to hold back the cough.

There are days when you wake up and everything feels "right". You know it is going to be a good run, you feel comfortable, rested, and relaxed. Maybe even confident that today is perhaps your day for a PR. You've been resting well, your training has fine-tuned your mental and physical strength, you feel "on". For good measure, "the sun is shining and the weather is sweet, makes you want to move those (running) feet."

Well, most of those things didn't apply to me the morning of the Trail Dawgs Marathon in Delaware this past Saturday. No doubt, the weather was pretty sweet, but the rest of it pertaining to me was a mess. I was just coming off one my worst flu-like illnesses in years, complete with a febrile relapse that didn't abate until Friday morning. I was coughing... a lot. All was not particularly well I would say. And yet I was improving. Friday was a better day. Perhaps just good enough to convince myself that I could start the marathon and drop out after finishing half. That was the plan anyway, hastily made at that moment where I finally was able to get through a day without aching all over. On the positive side, I was well tapered, having only run once in the last ten days. My legs felt pretty good due to that.

Yes, there was no rational reason for me to run the Trail Dawgs marathon on Saturday. I should have stayed home and watched my son's soccer game instead. And yet, I am a long distance runner. I don't have common sense. Instead, there was this strong desire to go up to Delaware with Joel, Mike, and Michael and participate in our first official Rise Up Runners event. I knew the company would be great(it was) and the trails would be beautiful(they were). I also knew that there would not be another marathon for me to run in the near future and having a race to train for is what got me back in shape in the first place after years of drifting along without a regular routine.

And while I am not superstitious, there was this nagging concern that I was stalled indefinitely on marathon 13, which I ran five years ago, and I felt like I needed to move past that number somehow. So with all that in mind, I met the crew outside Valliant's house for the early morning departure in Keene's mothership. It was a decision that in retrospect I am very glad I made.

The trip up there went quickly, and we arrived in plenty of time to get situated. Keene's first of three races, the half marathon, started five minutes before the marathon start, and he mentioned that he'd probably see me catch up to him along the way. I knew there was no chance of this, even on a good day, but I did hope I'd catch a glimpse of him on one of his other races throughout the day. Joel set off down the first meadow to get photos of the marathoners and half marathoners as they were getting started. Mike V. and I saw him again at the half-way point of the marathon, coming back from photographing the creek crossing over three miles away. His race hadn't even started, and he'd already done some serious hiking.

And then, it was time to start the marathon. I lined up right with Mike V. just a foot or two behind the line. It seemed like there were about a hundred full marathon runners which makes for a pretty small marathon field. But add those together with the half marathoners on a mostly single track trail, and it was plenty of people to navigate around over the course. We started and quickly went across a field and down a hill and into the woods. I tried to hold back some, but I couldn't really judge my effort or speed partly because I was finally feeling a bit better and partly because I never can when I have all these other amped up runners taking off around me.

Mike and I ran briefly together for a mile or so, and then I got a little impatient behind some of the half marathoners and started passing them one by one on the side of the trail. This used up energy that clearly I did not have. I believe Mike was a little more polite than I was and probably waited until wider sections of the trail to pass. For that reason, I separated from him and didn't catch sight of him until 3/4 of the first loop was complete.

This was the first marathon I had done that was pretty much all trails. I have done some marathons with sections on trail or unpaved roads, but not all trail like this one, and the experience was moving. The course had a little bit of everything: meadows, hilly single track, wooded grass roads, stream crossings, friendly mountain bikers, mountain bikers with attitude, and fly fisherman. I decided early on that I wouldn't save anything for the second loop, because I doubted there was anything to save anyway. I think I was right on with this assumption because I pretty much had a slow fade the entire run starting from the opening meadow. I felt o.k. at the first stream crossing and enjoying splashing and jumping into the cool waters while others around me tiptoed timidly trying not to get very wet. I am sorry if splashed other people on this first crossing, but come on, this was the highlight of the race for me. Even Keene looked like he had fun plowing through the stream full force.

On the other side, the crowd thinned out a lot, and I ran a good part mostly alone. From that point on, I don't really think I passed anyone else, but was passed rather steadily by others. I was fortunate to strike up some nice conversations with other runners along the way. There was a guy Matt, who seemed pretty young, running four marathons or ultras in a row over a four week period. He seemed to be cruising along effortlessly. Somehow, I stuck it out with him for a good part of the back loop of the first half until the second stream crossing. Then, by some stroke of good luck, I saw Mike catching up to me. This was the highlight of my race, as I enjoyed hearing how he was making out, and it gave me a psychological boost knowing he was kicking along looking good. We staying together until just after the half marathon point, walking some of the bigger hills as we approached the end of the first loop. I was struggling, a lot, when we passed through the first loop and into the second, especially having to see the half marathon finish line right in front of us. Mike made the comment about how nice it would be to finish at a half marathon and feel good the rest of the day, and I muttered something back I don't recall that sort of echoed my theme here about stubbornness and along we plodded.

The second loop is a bit more hazy to me. I ran it mostly alone, and my body and mind were failing me but in a very slow and controlled way. Mike and I started off together, but he gradually pulled slightly ahead so I could barely keep him in sight by the time we arrived at the creek for the third crossing. The water felt wonderful on my sore legs, and by this time it was getting hot so the cool temperature was refreshing as well. On the other side, Mike stopped to fix the laces on his shoes. I shuffled along, afraid to stop, and mentioned that I'd see him when he caught up to me again. Unfortunately, I didn't see him until the finish. But I had my own race to run so I puttered along just trying to break the course into very small sections, and hoping to distract myself with thoughts of aid stations or perhaps a talkative runner or two.

I was getting a little lightheaded at this point, and I could feel my body starting to slow down more and more as I was running out of glycogen. I was trying to eat what I could, but I couldn't stomach too much. I did manage a Cliff bar on the first loop and two packets of these salty gummy sharks that I struggled to swallow. I was excited to find a pop tart piece at the next aid station and an uplifting volunteer to boot. He got me going again, but I quickly crashed on the next big uphill. I ran briefly with an ultrarunner who talked a bit and helped distract me, but he quickly took off after half a mile or so. The rest of the time, I pretty much ran alone. I had several more people pass me, but not nearly as many as I would have guessed. I was walking more and more at this point and not really caring. In a bright, hot meadow, I had a little bit of a visual aura, the kind I get before a migraine, when parts of my visual fields are replaced by zigzag lines. Somehow that didn't bother me since my body hurt so much and I was coughing so hard that a headache wouldn't be so bad at that point. The headache mercifully held off at that point, and my scotomata improved. I walked, then shuffled, walked then shuffled. Somehow I made it back across the final creek crossing to the last three miles of the course.

By the last hill on the second loop, I was hunched over, pushing my hands on my quads and limping along at a snail's pace. I had a few people pass me still, but not as many as I had expected given how slow I was scooting along. Certainly others were finding the heat and the course as challenging as I was. In the end, I stumbled across the finish line in 4:48 or so. It was one of my slowest finish times in a marathon, and it took most of what I had in me to finish. But boy was it nice to finish and to have kicked this illness once and for all. Never mind that my "sprint" (read- slow limping shuffle) to the finish induced a bronchospasmodic cough that lasted for about an hour or so. I had done it, and I knew I would be glad I did it over the next few days.

I caught up with Joel and Michael K. waiting for Mike V. to finish, and caught my breath, took a hit of my inhaler, and drank a few glasses of Coke. Ahh, thank goodness for the stubbornness of the long distance runner. Mike V. made it across the line shortly after I finished, and we all relaxed some, ate burgers and hot dogs, and shared stories about the day.

My cough was so bad I wore a mask home, partly to protect my fellow RUR friends, but more so to rebreathe more humidity to settle my bronchospasm. Thanks to Joel, Mike and Michael for a great race day. Hope we have many more to come!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rise Up Race Day

The fearsome foursome - Keene, Cook, Valliant, and Shilliday, post-races, sporting handsome Rise Up Coffee shirts. Photo taken by a wooden-post fence, with Joel's camera.

Our 5 a.m. meeting scheme had a different theme on Saturday, April 26. We met on Laurel Street, piled into Mike Keene's Expedition, and headed to White Clay Creek State Park, outside Newark, Delaware. Now, Newark is a nice town, and home to tax-free shopping and the University of Delaware Blue Hens, but our reason for traveling was much more in line with our morning call to run: The Delaware Trail Dawgs "Triple Crown" trail races.

"It will probably be a lot like Tuckahoe, but with hills that are three times as long," surmised Landy Cook on the ride to the race. Correct in some cases, in others ten times as long might be more accurate.

The races on tap for the day were for Joel Shilliday, the trail 10K; for Landy and Mike Valliant, the trail marathon, and for the wardrobe-changing Keene, the full "triple crown"--half marathon, then 10K, then 5K, consecutively.

Joel modeling the race shirt he received for running the last 10K he ran, which took place circa 1973 ;)

One of the most interesting aspects of race day, in retrospect, is the fact that the races had different start times--namely Joel and Mike K.'s 10K didn't start until 2 hours and 3 minutes after the half-marathon. This triggered the wanderlust, creativity, and fastpacker in Joel, who loaded up his camera and hiked all the way to the creek crossings for the half and full marathons. The shots he took along the way of the course and of Wood Frog hopping across the creek are phenomenal. Perhaps he will post more than I put up here.

Can you spot the two Rise Up Runners in this starting line shot? Photo by Joel.

In addition to being the race day photographer, Joel also ran a 56 minute 10K on a course that is likely as tough as any 10K course around.

If you want some race report play by plays, you can check out the Wood Frog's race day on his blog. If you want to hear how two times around the same course can be so different when you don't eat enough during a marathon, you can check out Valliant's trail marathon report. I'd love to hear more from Landy and Joel as well--we'll see if they throw anything up.

For me, race day highlights include catching up to Landy and running together for 6 or 7 miles during the last part of the first and beginning of the second loops. Seeing Joel hiking up the hill as we hit the half-way point, as well as his photo perch at the start of the race. Also, learning that Joel went over and jumped in the creek during his race, even though there weren't any creek crossings in the 10K! Hearing that Keene completed the triple crown and lived to tell about it. And seeing the three other RUR runners cheering at the finish line after a long day of running for me.

Everyone finished their respective races. But how about some awards? The Ironman award goes to Landy, who didn't think he was going to be able to run as late as Thursday. Friday he was going to find out if he could just run the 10K or 5K. Come Saturday, he cranked out a full marathon. Landy may also be eligible for the Hold Up award, but I won't go there...;)

Landy coming out of the woods and onto the home stretch to finish the Delaware Trail Marathon. Photo by Joel.

The Multi-Tasker/Good Samaritan award goes to Joel for going above and beyond throughout the day. I was pretty well spent, chilling on the picnic blanket at the finish line, when Joel brought over hot dogs, burgers, and iced tea for all. Best damn hot dog I've ever eaten.

And the Boundless Energy award goes to Keene, who found time to stretch, refuel, and change into clean clothes between each grueling round of the triple crown, and then was still amped after, and drove our bunch of jokers home.

Michael "Wood Frog" Keene finishing one of three races on Saturday, on his way to completing the actual "Triple Crown" of trail races, for which the day is named. Photo by Joel.

So the first trail running adventure for the Rise Up Runners is in the books. I hope there are many more like it, to also include Charlie, who was missed; Dominic, who just joined the ranks; Don, who will wait until trails aren't involved :) ; Bardsley, who is rehabbing, but active on the blogs while he works back into race form; as well as others who haven't made it out to join us yet. We are taking nominations for the next RUR race road trip!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mug Challenge...Revisited

"Still Life with Mug"--Everything you need to start a good RUR day--a bag of Rise Up Coffee beans, a handsome RUR mug, and a pair of running shoes. And yes, I am a dork.

It's a good week when we welcome a new runner to the Rise Up Runner ranks. Dominic Szwaja braved the dark streets of Easton at 5 a.m. with Landy, Joel, and me, both Tuesday and this morning, making him the latest to complete the Mug Challenge, which Landy issued for the month of April. As Dominic doesn't seem to mind the early rising time, or the questionable company, he's now on the roster.

As Joel mentioned this morning, initiation into the RUR faithful is mixed blessing--we are glad to see you when you show up, and we dog you to no end when you sleep in. In any case, we are glad to have Dominic in the mix.

Aside from that, what was to be an easy pre-race taper week has turned into the crawl of the walking wounded, with flu and injuries hobbling two (just when we seemed sure to have 5 runners meeting at 4:30 a.m.!) and the pace and duration of runs backing down.

The crew making the trek to Delaware this Saturday is up in the air, so stay tuned for a post-race report on or about Sunday.

And for those looking to score a fresh RUR mug, the challenge thrown is for the month of April. That leaves a few days next week to make it out to score some swag. After that, qualifications for the coveted mug become completely open to interpretation and the judges' scorecards.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Horse Country

The best way to train for a trail race is to run trails. A truism, it would seem. So among the RUR "walking wounded" this weekend, Joel Shilliday and I took the last men standing award and went to Tuckahoe to do the abridged loop, to the tune of about 7.5 - 8 miles.

We fully expected to be running in the rain this morning, but the water gods slept in, and gave us a muggy 70 degree romp through dry trails. The horse gods, however, were in full effect. During the course of our loop, we passed between 15-20 folks on horseback, for whom you need to slow down and walk, lest you spook a horse, and make a bad situation for all involved. All were friendly, and it was fine sharing the trail today, with the equestrians, the fishermen, and one muddy borderline psychotic, who warned us of a water snake early in the run, and who we thought may have left a body in his wake behind him. If he did, it must have gone the way of the water snake, because we didn't find either.

Today was the first beat-the-heat day for us; it wasn't hard to break a sweat, and by the time we made it to the bottom of Turkey Hill for the famous creek/stream crossing, the cool water was like an ice-cold beer after cutting the grass. Multimedia Joel again busted out video, so look for a posting with as many as two crossings caught on film. And for our friend Wood Frog: there are no lily pads out there. She's every bit of waist deep. For those who enjoy the log crossing, scamper while you can. The boisterous Mr. Keene has guffaw'ed a threat that we might find a way to relocate the log, so there may, or may not, be a stealth, or noisy, extraction mission down Turkey Hill Trail, and said log may or may not reside at the Wood Frog's personal lily pad in Wittman before long :)

After the fun with cameras segment, and the cooling properties of waist-deep April water, we were fully recharged and mucked through the bog, zig-zagged through Little Florida, and then watched a bald eagle fly out ahead of us as made our way down Pee Wees Trail. I've been running back in Tuckahoe for a few years now, and that is the first bald eagle in flight I can recall seeing. A rare treat in a special place. If you haven't gone running back there, or mountain biking or hiking, I'd get back there before high tick and poison ivy season, which is just around the corner.

Joel treated himself to new kicks this week, and after a road run, creek crossing, bog stomping and single track stepping, I think he's got them ready to roll for Delaware. At the end of the run, coming down to cross the bridge, Joel kicked the after burners on and stepped up the pace, a full 7.5 miles (at least) after running hills. I think he is set to rock the Delaware Trail Dawgs 10K on Saturday. And with the gills Wood Frog is developing, as well as the scorching pace he blazed on the full loop last week, he will likely have a heavy-breathing, lactic acid-loaded triple crown on his noggin by day's end. As for the rest of us? Stay tuned. One way or another, my prediction will be something like: everyone getting muddy, everyone having fun. There's probably supposed to be a line about Wang Chung in there somewhere as well, but that just doesn't make good trail running theme music ;)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Best Laid Plans... A Separate Peace

"The Passing of the Mug"--proof positive that the Mug Challenge mugs do in fact exist. They are now coveted by the RUR faithful. Rise Up Runners Landy Cook (left) and Mike Keene, along with Mike's daughter Olivia at the Adkins Arboretum 5K and Fun Run on April 12.

The Rise Up Runners brigade were scattered today on a running Thursday, with best intentions of afternoon trail runs and other aspirations. I put in eight miles under dark of a 4:45 sky, with the company of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, the John Butler Trio, Damian Marley, and punk/ska band Common Rider.

I had a good, easy run, the first solo in some time, having caught some combination of Landy, Joel, Charlie, or Don on any given Tuesday or Thursday. Going back to the basics of running as a solitary pursuit, makes me realize what a gift a group of friends with questionable sanity, plodding along in the dark is worth. For one, I find Hendrix's movie review skills lacking compared to Joel's.

There is a bit of a pre-race taper going on--scaling back the mileage and pace to leave fresh legs for Delaware on April 26. And then there are others among us, who decided to take advantage of a briefly opened trail running window, to go drop the hammer and set a new standard/record for the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge. See Mike Keene's newest blog post about his 1:26 loop on Thursday morning. Congratulations on a great run, Wood Frog! We are all jealous not to have been able to get out there today.

Much to Landy's consternation, Mike was another log crosser today, which has the good Dr. Cook contemplating some tree removal. Stay tuned to see how that turns out.

Rumor has it, though no confirmed sightings, that Joel was breaking in new kicks around Easton this afternoon. And Charlie might have been on a conference call consulting for the San Diego Chargers as to their first round draft pick.

In any event, RUR mugs have landed, thanks to Landy, and are a big hit with the group. It is not too late to earn your own mug--join us for a morning run in April, or prove your mettle on a trail run or two. For those who have just stumbled across our group, please consult an earlier post, "The Mug Challenge."

Next general RUR run is Sunday, venue to be determined--possibly a 7-10 mile Tuckahoe run, possibly an early morning jaunt around Easton. Stay tuned and let us know if you are interested.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

RUR Road Trip

The creek crossing at the Trail Dawgs marathon/half-marathon/10K/5K/Triple Crown Races. Sorry, Charlie--don't think there is a log option to keep your shoes dry ;) Photo by Carl Camp from Trail Dawgs race website.

On Saturday, April 26, we'll be piling at least five of us into Keene's Expedition, and headed for the hills, mud, and creeks outside Newark, Delaware. Charlie Andrews, Joel Shilliday, Mike Keene, Landy Cook, and I are taking a trail running road trip to add some interstate mud to our repertoire.

Joel and Charlie will be chasing each other around the 10K course, I will quickly lose sight of Landy during the trail marathon, and Keene, who is a glutton for novelty, will be throwing his trail shoes in the mud for the enticing "Triple Crown," where you run a half-marathon, followed by a 10K, followed by a 5K. He will be the RUR experiment to see if any of us try that stunt next year :)

Pretty remarkable to roll with five head to a trail race, but maybe no more remarkable than having five head out running around Easton in the dark. The RUR mileage king, Don Marvel, is likely shaking his head with regards to our mud-hopping gusto--Don prefers flat road courses, where he can let loose. This despite having finished 3rd overall in the Appalachian Trial-happy JFK 50-miler in the early 1980s, in a time 4 and 5 HOURS ahead of where Keene and I finished the same race this past fall.

Me, I'm a mudder (shut your mouth... I'm just talkin' bout trail running... ;) . I have the most fun on the trails, and tend to feel I run my best there as well. So I am amped about the Trail Dawgs race. I can't wait--for both our respective/collective races and the trip itself, the time spent with the RUR crew, and the double-screening of the classic films, "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Sound of Music." Hopefully Joel and Charlie will survive without nightmares...

There is still time if anyone else is interested in signing up. There is a link under upcoming races, and you can register online or on race day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"I am not a runner!"

Or so my wife Megan says, with a fair amount of conviction. Trouble is, I have a hard time really believing her.

Here's a bargument for you: can someone run and yet not be a "runner". That is the question Megan and I have debated recently, and I am less certain of the answer than when we first started discussing the topic. You see, Megan has run a marathon before. In fact, she has run three of them. I know this because I trained with her for all of them and ran alongside her for all of them. In other words, I can vouch that she as done a lot of running. Over several years, she has clearly established herself as someone who runs. Yet, she does not feel like a runner.

When I asked her why, she had a whole series of responses ready, like "I never feel the runner's high", "I am a back-of-the-packer", "I would never want to run by myself", and finally "I don't enjoy running". O.K., fair enough I thought, but many of these reasons are things that any runner on any given day can think and still be a runner.

I have felt a runner's high, but not very often, and when I have it has been fleeting. I do however feel the runner's mellowness that Amby Burfoot describes nicely in The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life- a book that Mike turned me on to. He describes this as "simply the warm, contented feeling that almost all runners have after nearly every run". Actually, I think Megan might really like this book except that reading it might make her more of a runner than she is willing to admit. She does admit to feeling this contented feeling after run. In fact, it is probably one the main reasons she tolerates running.

As to being a back of the packer, unless you are a truly elite runner, you can always potentially be a back of the packer. You just have to find the right(or wrong pack). It is only a matter of perspective. No matter how slow you are, there is probably somebody slower out there. More likely, there could be millions or billions of people slower out there, especially if you include walkers or people who do not exercise at all. Further, no matter how fast you are, there is always someone faster. Even if you are Kenyan, this can be true. Back-of-the-packers work just as hard as front-of-the-packers and certainly run as far. I have very much enjoyed running at a slower pace in marathons with my wife, but it is frustrating to finish the race and have almost all of the food and other goodies taken by the faster finishers. That never strikes me as fair. Note to race directors, hold back some of your best food for the back-of-the-packers. They paid just as much to enter the event and don't have a chance at winning age group awards.

I actually don't mind running by myself, though I prefer in general to run with others. It definitely is easier to get up and out the door when I run with a group, and I certainly laugh a lot more on a group run. The time seems to pass more quickly and effortlessly. Yet running along isn't all that bad either. Some of my best thinking seems to happen when I am running by myself. However, the time passes more slowly, and it can be challenging to stay motivated on a a longer run. There also is no one to complain to!

That last reason that Megan claims she is not a runner is the hardest one for me to take on. Simply, she doesn't like to run. I like to run. I enjoy the process, the feeling of gliding along, sometimes effortlessly, other times almost heaving, but always feeling alive and connected with the world around me. I'm not sure she feels this. There are plenty of activities that don't give me this feeling, so I can relate to it on some level. I don't like using the stair-stepper, or the rowing machine, or really any type of workout machine. Come to think of it, I don't like working out inside at all.

So cast your vote, can you run without being a runner? To borrow a line from Mike V's other blog, perhaps "attitude makes the difference". I respect Megan for not feeling that she is a runner, but I still think she is wrong.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Into the Mud...

Lori Callahan and Charlie Andrews are the two newest runners to step up to and complete the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge for 2008.

Add two names to the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge roster: Lori Callahan and now RUR regular Charlie Andrews. We couldn't have asked for a better day to run the loop--60 degrees or so, sunny, and the rain hadn't done much to make any parts of the trails unpassable.

When we met at the Washington Street/Masonic building parking lot, notably missing were Landy's scooter and any Shilliday vehicle, but Mike Keene stopped by to say hello, talk shop, and try to figure out a way to beam himself out to Tuckahoe for a run.

By Tuckahoe standards, it was a busy day at the park, with a few groups of dog walkers, hikers, two trail clearing/maintenance crews (many thanks to them for their important work!) and a couple of trail (horse) riders. Everyone justifiably looking to cash in on the weather.

It was great fun talking to Charlie in the actual waking hours, and getting to know Lori, who I have only passed a medal/trophy to for being the first female finisher of the Bridge-to-Bridge half-marathon last year, and then seen at other area races.

I have to give some props to Charlie, who "allegedly" has just been running 3-5 miles, 3 times per week of late. On Thursday, he dusted through 7-8 miles, and then today, had no trouble knocking out 10 miles of mud and hills. We've made it an unofficial goal to see how far/fast we have to run Charlie before he looks winded or stops smiling ;)

Lori becomes the first female to complete the Tuckahoe Challenge. With 3:40 marathon speed around Easton, and great speed in 10-miles and half-marathons to boot, my guess is "first female" is a term she is somewhat used to hearing.

Gender aside, Lori earned herself two prestigious and coveted awards today. The first is the "Best Mud" award, which she took home almost instantly, about halfway into the run, taking a spill at the first stream crossing on the Creekside Cliff Trail. Charlie thanked her for helping him decide which way to cross, and also earned himself the "Gentleman's Award," by not running across Lori to keep his shoes dry. When you take a spill into the drink or mud, that's hard to top, and Charlie and I all but conceded the award at that point.

For those that have seen Joel's Golden-Globe-worthy short film of my creek crossing last Sunday, the crossing this Sunday was more sure-footed, if less energetic, with a strong current kicking through. Many thanks to Landy for pioneering the unassisted crossing, which has become one of my favorite parts of the loop. Lori enjoyed the course's chief "water feature" as well, with Charlie opting for high ground. He is a car guy, and says that he had the best interest of the Honda Pilot in mind. Let's say his true motivations are still questionable.

We had some muddy hills on Little Florida Trail and Pee Wees (not muddy enough for skiing, Joel), and somewhere among the two trails, Lori picked up her second award for "Best Blood," which may have been the kick-back from a branch of thorns. She pushed ahead, undaunted, and reported on our return to Easton, that she might look trail-thrashed, but she was ready to go back.

So two more names will be on the end-of-the-year party invitation list, and two more pairs of shoes have been baptized by the mud and water of Tuckahoe. The next trail trip of the RUR crew may just be a mid-week romp. Stay tuned and congrats to Lori and Charlie. Next up: Tuesday morning, back to the dark!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


At first, I was going to title this post "Fun Run" and write about the Fun Run today at Adkins Arboretum.  I may get to that yet, but I thought it important to acknowledge that we have almost a week straight of posts on the Rise Up Runners blog.  I think this is a good thing, as momentum on the blog parallels the momentum we have going with our little running group.

We were lucky to have Charlie come out this week and jump headfirst into the early morning routine on Tuesday and Thursday, pushing up the start time to the absurd hour of 4 a.m.  If that freaks you out a little, it makes more sense when you come to find out that Charlie starts work by 5:45 a.m. and wanted to get in a little over an hour workout.

Don Marvel seems to be becoming a regular.  I can't imagine how many miles he has run in his life, but I bet he has a pretty good guess.  He has a wealth of knowledge much appreciated by this crew.

We have been at this early morning running thing now for over a month, and it seems to be gaining steam as we maintain our enthusiasm.  I don't think there is a way in the world I could have become an early morning regular without this group, and I am thankful for every day that others show up to run while most people are still sleeping.  And most of all, it has been surprisingly fun- something that I look forward to the night before rather than dreading the knowledge that I will be tired when I first wake up.

Which brings me roundabout to the Fun Run today.  Today, I ran with the whole family: wife and three kids, including our youngest who is just under two years old.  He rode most of the way on the loosely organized course in our running stroller, known to our family for years now as "The Chariot".  My oldest son, Will, who is six, ran the whole way along with my wife, Megan.  I didn't even see him after part of the course.  Charlotte, the middle child and full of spunk at almost four years old, alternated between a fairly fast run, a fast walk, a slow walk, a skip, and a "Daddy Hold Me!!!".  She even spent some time on my shoulders, and I am a little afraid she actually might have trash talked to the girl next to her also riding on her daddy's shoulders.  (Not a high point on an otherwise fine morning.)  Benjamin, the youngest at almost two, rode in The Chariot much of the way, then asked to get out and run some.  He wasn't too slow either.  I have no idea how long it took to finish.  I don't know how far we went.  In fact, we made several wrong turns and pretty much made our own course.  But I do know that all of us had fun.

 On a final note, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Keene for the first time today along with his daughter, and I also saw potential Rise Up Runner Pierre Bernasse along with his wife and kids.  Mike was running the 5K and Pierre and his son were running in the Fun Run.  Good to see you both today hopefully having fun!


Friday, April 11, 2008

Sunday, SUNday, SUNDAY!

Bottoming out at the end of the Turkey Hill Trail is reminiscent of Yoda's home planet in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Photo by Joel Shilliday.

"You're going to run a trail race in Vermont? You better go find some hills to run on!" This from a friend upon hearing our plans for the Vermont 50-Mile Relay in September.

This friend has not run back in Tuckahoe State Park. Don't get me wrong--there are no mountains, it's not Whites-to-Smokies or any such comparison. But if you are used to running on the flat roads of the Eastern Shore, your quads are in for a surprise. And if there has been any rain at all, after a mud-stomp at Tuckahoe, you may not be able to look at your running shoes the same way again.

This Sunday, 4/13, we've got some new folks interested in, and potentially adding their names to complete the 10-mile challenge during 2008. Rise Up Runners readers may be familiar with the Mug Challenge (during April only, void where prohibited, read on a few posts below). Those to complete the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge during 2008 are setting themselves a place at the Beer-be-que this winter, as well as other goodies. Funny how these carrots keep getting dangled, don't you think?

We are currently working with a race director and fellow trail runner to make an official race day, for those looking to take the challenge in more race-like conditions. But the challenge is out there all year.

Will we complete the loop this Sunday? Only time and trail conditions can tell. The first time I tried to circle the loop with Landy Cook, we would have needed a canoe, or a swamp boat, to have made it TO the crossing, much less forded the creek.

That's part of the fun back there--you have to be open to what the day offers. On any given day, there are some distinct probabilities: your shoes are most probably going to get muddy. You are going to run up and down some fun hills. You are going to run on singletrack trails and wider walking trails. You are going to see and hear wildlife. You are going to see horse poop (try not to step in it). And if you don't know the trails, there are probably times and stretches of trails where you will wonder where the hell you are (looking at a map before or after for reference can be helpful for orienting yourself).

But if you're like me, and the other Rise Ups and other runners who have discovered Tuckahoe for themselves, you are going to have a blast. For me, running through the mud and woods stokes the soul. When I get loose out there, I feel about like Joel's dog must have in the photo below.

The plan as it stands for this Sunday 4/13, is to meet at the parking lot behind Coffee East, behind the Masonic building, off Washington Street (backs up to the Farmer's Market). The tentative time to leave Easton is 9:30 a.m., though there may be others looking to make trips out there during the day. Step up and take the Tuckahoe Challenge. And if you can't swing it this Sunday, stay tuned for others.

Now THAT is a diving dog. Thanks to Joel Shilliday for the great photo.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NOT a tropical rise.

But a good run nonetheless.
Don't let it scare you, join us.

A Tropical Rise

The fresh roasted beans as they fall into the hopper at the Hopetown Coffee House, Bahamas.

About the time the Rise Up Runners were beginning to make a name for themselves in Easton, this Rise Up Runner was in the Bahamas with the family. There’s a little safe-harbor town called Hopetown where we visit for a week each year. From Hopetown, which is bordered by the Atlantic on one side and the Sea of Abaco on the other, there is a perfect half marathon course if you run the entire island from North to South and return. That is my big run while on vacation. My other runs consist of northbound runs (4 miles) and southbound runs (9 miles) with our rental house somewhere in the middle.

So, I’m on vacation, for God’s sake, and “rising up” and running early doesn’t happen. Though I get up relatively early, there are things to be done; tea, walk to the oceanfront church yard where I can do T’ai Chi, check out the beach, breakfast, check out who is arriving on the first ferry, snorkel, and visit the Hopetown Coffee House.

We are talking the real McCoy here! This 40 year old, ex-corporate, Bahamian born, British educated, new father, Coffee Roaster does coffee right. He quit the corporate world and landed in Hopetown where he has built a coffee house facility that has become the center of Hopetown life. Free-trade raw beans are brought in by the 150 pound bag and “micro-roasted” daily in small batches. It is a science and the owner is figuring out perfect blends.

In the airy wood trimmed shop that has commanding views of Hopetown Harbor you are treated to an aromatherapy of hot and cold coffee, chocolate, and tea drinks along with freshly baked muffins and pastries. It is a place where I could sit all day and read (but, of course I don’t because I’d miss all the fun of having sharks chasing us as we snorkel the reefs).

Mike Keene caught “feeding the chicken”, a T’ai Chi pose, with heavy sea in the background

In the shed out back (the owner and his family live above the shop) is where the roaster is. Chris (I think that’s his name) roasts daily with the laptop computer monitored roaster that looks like a restored antique fire engine. Roasting usually happens before afternoon so Chris can use the “pm” swells to ride his board; yes, he’s an awesome surfer; one of the best I’ve EVER seen in person.

So, with the family all hyped up on Iced Mocha Frappes by eleven in the morning, I’m itching to get my run started. To be honest, I usually run before coffee, but on my “Half Marathon” day, for some unknown reason, I decide to run when it gets really hot. It reminds me of running to Tilghman from my house at midday in August…HOT! But, I love it. We’re talking shoes, socks, and shorts; that’s all, my favorite attire. I miscalculated the heat, however, and my handheld water bottle was completely dry when I reached the south end of the island known as Tahiti Beach (mile 8.5). I swam in the Sea water to cool off, rinsed the sand from my feet, put my shoes back on and started the rest of the 13.1 miles. A few minutes down the road I bummed some water from a tiki bar, which helped me make it back home. Drinking water is a precious commodity on the island, so I wasn’t very popular at the bar (with no money) begging for water. Hey, no problem, Mon!

To much pleasure I came home to hear of the start of the Rise Up Runners and felt compelled to write this little ditty on my coffee experience while on vacation. The Hopetown Coffee House got at least $20 a day from our family; we’d sometimes visit it three times a day. With sunshine, reefs, beach, ocean, and coffee just steps away, what more could anyone ask? Paradise.

--Michael Keene

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thursday Runnin' Day - High 70 degrees

The hope, for a better part of a Rise Up month, has been to reach a point where the morning runs can be comfortably made in shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt. Shorts have been no problem. Now we're starting to reach that point where the sleeves follow the pant-legs...

Our consistent Rise Up Run days have been Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, with Sunday often, if we're lucky, taking us out to Tuckahoe State Park. Tuesdays and Thursdays have been the true run-in-the-dark days. Why take the time to mention this, especially when Mike Keene has a great international running and coffee story, with photos, ready to roll? Because tomorrow is Thursday, runnin' day.

The forecast calls for a high of 70 degrees. Tuesday we met at Idlewild Park at 4:30 a.m. That will remain the designating meeting place, with the departure time maybe moving a tad earlier--stay tuned for final timing.

Will tomorrow be the day for the first pack of four? Will Joel hit the snooze alarm and risk petty vandalism to his house by a pack of reflective vest-wearing gang bangers? Will Charlie come to his senses after one run and wonder if yesterday was just some sort of a bizarre dream? Will the Bay Hundred region have its first representation in this pre-dawn ritual (I think it qualifies as a ritual if it has been occurring consistently for more than a month, right) ?

The saga continues. Stay tuned for these and other answers. And if you're on the fence as to whether it is worth it...see Landy's "Mug Challenge" below, with stipulations :)

--Mike V.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Mug Challenge

Sure, everyone has heard the expression, "Two's company, three's a crowd." Well, here at Rise Up Runners, we don't mind a crowd, at least the early morning, rise to run type crowd.

To date, our runs have included two, sometimes three people at a time. Even when the odds look good for a fourth, things seem to unravel at the last moment. Take today for instance, Mike and I were joined at 4:30 this morning at Idlewild Park by Charlie Andrews, who agreed to give our little, and I mean little, running club a test drive. He joined us for about a 40 minute run around Easton at a pace that I think is a bit slower than he is used to, but he had to leave to get ready for work just as we were about to be joined by Don Marvel who made his second Tuesday morning appearance at 5 a.m.

Now, I am impressed that Charlie manages to get very much underway with work at an hour at which most folks are still sleeping, but it remains uncharted territory hitting that fourth runner for our morning jaunts.

Running with three is fun, don't get me wrong. I very much appreciate my fellow Rise Uppers and what they do to keep me motivated and entertained on our runs. It just would be fun to see even more people out there. So, for the month of April only, I am offering the "Mug Challenge".

The Mug Challenge explained: Show up and run with us in the early morning any time in April, and you may or may not receive your very own Rise Up Runners Coffee Mug. I should point out that these mugs do not yet exist, are certainly made in China, and may or may not contain lead paint. They may have fuzzy graphics due to my inexperience in "uploading" a JPEG or any other type of graphic file to an online printing company that may go out of business before the mugs are printed.

Further, the offer may be rescinded at any time without explanation or warning. You may be required to run anywhere from one to many more than one group runs in order to qualify. Showing up on a foursome day automatically qualifies you for a mug, should indeed the mugs ever exist, yet if your running pace is too fast you may forfeit your prize.

Please join us for the first annual "Mug Challenge" this month. You may be rewarded, but then again you may not!


Monday, April 7, 2008

4/6 Crossing captured on video

A solid day of mudding at Tuckahoe was highlighted by a waist high crossing.

Good work Mike.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

4/6 Weather

Cloudy and windy with occasional rain...mainly in the morning.
High 51F.
Winds NE at 20 to 30 mph.
Chance of rain 70%.
Rainfall around a half an inch.

Oh the humanity.

Sounds Awesome.


You Don't Need to Be a Morning Person

I am not an early morning person. Let me make that clear from the outset. Being a morning person at heart is not a requirement to be a Rise Up Runner. There may be other requirements to being a Rise Up Runner such as occasional sleep deprivation or the willingness to ignore your brain when it screams to you to hit the snooze button. But I would not say you have to be a morning person.

I run early because I have to. No, I don’t HAVE to run, but if I want to run, which I do, I NEED to run early. Sure, I could try to squeeze in a run at another time during the day, but it isn’t easy. As a busy dad with three young children and a demanding job, there simply is no better time to run than before everyone else gets up. I should mention too that I love my mornings with the kids. It is the time I get to see them the most. After all, there are days that work keeps me late, and I arrive home after my kids are asleep. Or, there are days when I walk through the door at a decent hour in the evening, and I’m nearly tackled with kids shouting “Daddy’s home! Yeah!” I simply can’t imagine running upstairs, changing into my running gear, then jetting out the door with a shout to my wife and kids “See you in an hour!” It would not be cool.

When I get home, I like to play with the kids, catch up with my wife, and hear what everyone did during the day. Later, there is dinner to make, kids to wash up, bedtime stories to read, etc. I am not willing to give any of those things up. There is something very reassuring to the soul about running at a time that doesn’t take away from my time with the family.

Sure I could squeeze in a run at lunch. Only I can’t. I rarely have much time to swallow a sandwich in three bites, let alone go for an hour long run. Plus, I’d be sweaty and need a shower and a change of clothes and on and on.

So, early morning it is, and I have accepted that. What is strange is that I am starting to love it. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be waking before five in the morning routinely to go for runs, I would have said “You’re joking! I have heard of THOSE types, and I am not that guy!” But I have eased into it. I couldn’t run every day at five since that would hurt my muscles and joints too much, not to mention I’d be chronically sleep deprived. However, I can manage three to four days a week. When I finish an early morning run, I know my exercise day is done. Whatever else happens, I own that run, and nothing can take it back from me. I do not worry about how hectic the rest of the day gets with other commitments. In a sense, I have paid myself first with a run. It was for me and no one else, and yet with early morning running with our group there is a sense of shared experience. The fact that there are others to help me with this challenge of running early, to motivate me to show up at a godforsaken hour in the dark and sometimes in rain and cold, well that… that is what makes it truly special.

So, if any of this sounds familiar, consider joining us. You don’t even need to be a morning person. That is what coffee is for.

--Landy Cook

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Rise Up This Mornin'"

Tuckahoe State Park, the preferred stomping and gunkholing grounds of the Rise Up Runners.

"Rise Up this mornin', smiled with the risin' sun," sings Bob Marley. That seems to say it well. Never mind the fact that our weekday runs seem to start well before the sun rises. Early morning runs afford us the opportunity to smile with the sun.

Rise Up Runners is a running group that revolves around a fairly simple idea: rise up and run in the morning. Start your day with a run. In the case of Landy, Joel, and myself (Mike V.), we know that is when we have time to run--before kids wake up, before the workday calls, before your schedule has a chance to steal the run from you.

We've started running as early as 3:30 a.m. (though I don't recommend making that a daily occurrence :). Most morning runs get under way at 4:45 or 5:00 a.m. We loop around Easton and meet each other on the roads. It's a motivation, an inspiration, and a discipline. It's a pleasure, albeit an odd one.

Rise Up Runners (RUR) takes its name from the fact that we rise up and run. It also borrows a name from Rise Up Coffee, whose founder Tim Cureton digs what we're up to and liked the idea of working together. You'll notice the family resemblance of the logos. Coffee, especially good coffee, is a necessary fuel, indulgence, and recharging elixir for a wicked early runner, who then goes to work or tries to keep up with children for the rest of the day!

On this blog, you'll see things like scheduled runs; upcoming races where RUR are venturing out to; race reports and local adventures and endeavors; thoughts and ruminations on running and other endurance activities. And probably a number of other things--from outright humor to gear reviews to recommended reading.

Who are the Rise Up Runners? You'll see and hear from a number of us. To get things going, there are those of us who run around Easton: Landy Cook, Joel Shilliday, and Mike Valliant. A pediatrician, a web designer, and a marketing/media/editor/writer type. There are also those who make our favorite running trek with us to Tuckahoe State Park, and who have shaken sleep from their eyes for many running adventures like Michael Keene (boat builder, sailor, budding triathlete).

Who can be, or how do you come to be a RUR? Easy, come running with us, either around Easton, or out at Tuckahoe, at a race, or on an excursion you see posted here. If you are a morning runner and you can't connect with us for runs, post a comment and share what you are up to. The more the merrier, especially on long runs!

We hope you enjoy it. We hope you are inspired to run, start running, keep running, or run more. Or rise up and do whatever it is you do. And we recommend drinking good coffee to help you do it! Closing also with the words of Bob Marley, "Wake up and live, y'all! Wake up and live!"