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!