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!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Low and Dry at Tuckahoe

Ivan is pretty spry for a 56-year-old. In fact, I'd put his four legs against any two legged 56-year-old out there. He was the only taker I could find yesterday to head out to explore Tuckahoe State Park, post Tropical Storm Hanna. And that suited him just fine, as yesterday was his 8th birthday.

As it turns out, the trails were pretty dry and the tide and creek crossing were fairly low. Seems Hanna didn't have much left by the time she rolled in to Maryland. Ivan and I hit the abbreviated loop (7.5 - 8 miles), and lingered for a while at the bottom of Turkey Hill Trail, so that Ivan could swim around for a while--including into the treadmill-like current. For the record, Keene, Ivan favors the traditional crossing, not the log route ;)

I made it a point to hit all the hills back there at a full run, to maximize hill work for Vermont. I'm hoping to hit Tuckahoe a couple more times by the end of the month, once for a 15-ish mile run, and another for the 10-mile loop.