Saturday, May 31, 2008

Are you experiencing?

Gratuitous drugs and alcohol aside, Hendrix was on to something when he asked, "are you experienced?" Though I prefer to ask, "are you experiencing?"

"Will I live tomorrow? Well, I just can't say,
But I know for sure, I don't live today"

When I run with an i-pod, I tend to mull and ponder lyrics. And I dig music that touches on deeper matters (though don't get me wrong, a well-timed KISS or Van Halen song need not plum the depth to be just plain cool). My running buddy Jimi Hendrix has had a lot to say lately.

The above lyrics from "I don't live today," seem to sum up the way a whole lot of folks go through life--from home to office or cubicle to home to bed, get up, repeat, etc. That's a really scary proposition for me. If you don't decide how you want to live, someone else will be happy to lay everything out for you.

When I look at the last couple weeks for our Rise Up Runner crew though, I am encouraged and inspired--I realize that everyone here is strapped in to the roller coaster of cool stuff that life can show.

In one week's time, we had the first young'ens born to RUR peeps since we've been running together. Charlie and Pam's newest daughter Kate and Joel and Liz's newest girl Amelia were bookends to a packed week for them--and Charlie even managed to come back from his stress-fracture-induced layoff and join us for a morning run.

Mike Keene went out to Utah for his niece's graduation, spent time with family, and explored the beautiful trails, mountains, and people of the Wasatch Mountains. You can read about his trip on his blog.

And then there is this whole get up and run thing. The act of committing to running in the mornings; of deciding to extract yourself from bed when sane people are sleeping and experience your body and mind connecting with an activity that dates back to upright locomotion.

When you add to that getting out onto trails with scenery and varied terrain; when you add pushing yourself in a race to go farther or faster than you've ever gone; when you add coming up with creative ways to cover distance and connect with other people--when I get up to run, to do something I want to do for me because I am compelled to, then I know I have lived today.

Tomorrow morning, a number of us will head out to Tuckahoe State Park, and will explore our stomping grounds after a pelting, windy storm today. We'll return home from our run and spend time with families and see what else the day has. A question and an attitude I always want to keep sight of is a revised take on a Hendrix question, "am I experiencing?" Are you experiencing?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Runner's High

First of all, congratulations to Joel and Liz and future Rise Up Runner Amelia, born yesterday at Easton Memorial Hospital. I'll let Joel fill you in with a photograph hopefully sometime soon, but she looks beautiful!

I should say at the outset that I am not a believer in the "no pain, no gain" philosophy when it applies to running. You can have great running experiences without causing yourself undo pain. And I certainly don't think one should run through injury to be "tough". That being said, there is a different kind of pain with running that I do somewhat masochistically enjoy. The kind of pain that I am talking about is the burn in the trachea that comes with pushing oneself really hard and huffing and puffing, the aching in the legs as the miles add up on a long run, the overwhelming feeling of needing to slow down when really pushing hard for a sustained distance.

That kind of pain I like, if only for the feeling of contentment when it ends! Today I explored that type of pain, which led to a profound experience by the end of the run. My goal today was to run fast for an hour.  I do not mean sprint until I drop fast, but a sustained aerobic fast, testing the limits of where my body produces lactic acid after I run out of ability to use oxygen- the so-called lactic threshold. I thought it would be great if I could maintain a seven minute per mile pace. That seemed like a nice round, albeit odd, number that I have run recently for shorter distances.

I ran an easy half mile to warm up, then waited at the corner of Idlewild and Aurora for a few minutes. No, I wasn't waiting for my running peeps, as Saturday is not a traditional RUR day. Instead, I was waiting for my Garmin Forerunner watch to pick up satellite signals and "lock in" on my position. It is a slow process, at least on my older watch, but eventually I was ready to go. When I started, it felt tough, being a little sore from the long run Mike and I did on Thursday. That was a easy-pace 21 mile affair that took a toll in soreness mainly due to the distance. Today, I was using slightly different muscles, or likely different parts of the same muscles or at least using them in a different way.

Anyway, I felt o.k. after a mile of so, and I was soon accelerating from a 7:30 pace into the 6:50 range. I was breathing hard. Not quite completely out of breath, but certainly unable to carry on a decent conversation with anyone. It was steady going until about 5 miles. Then things really started to hurt.  This is the where the pain I mentioned earlier started to hit.  I was maintaining my pace, but the will to do so was fading. My legs were tired, my breathing heavy, and I felt this urge to stop and walk. I pressed on thinking, this is my pain, I brought it on, and this is what I wanted out of today. Somehow that worked, and on I pushed.  I actually felt better by about 6 miles and by the time I turned towards home on Aurora St at 7 plus miles I felt like one of those 16 year old trail horses that picks up the pace suddenly when turning for home. If I just lost you there, I apologize. If you've ever traveled west and gone on a trail ride on a horse, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

And then, halfway down Aurora Street it happened.  It was something that I haven't felt in years. I felt a rush of adrenaline, then my legs went almost numb. Perhaps not numb since I could still feel them but the pain was gone, replaced with a feeling of strength that I could run forever. My pace quickened into the low 6's, and I felt strong. My breathing got easier, and I felt invincible.  My thoughts became crystal clear, and I briefly felt both extremely connected physically to my body, yet somehow far removed at the same time.  Then reality set in and my runner's high faded as quickly as it came. It lasted only a minute or so, but it was a glorious minute. As it disappeared, I slowed down and almost stumbled across Dover street having sustained a seven minute per mile pace for eight miles.  I stopped short of an hour at 55 minutes, 15 seconds.  My pace was 6:52. It was a good day.  The thought of running for a full hour was now irrelevant. That would have to wait until the next run.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pot Pie Rise Up

Warning: Besides the occasional opportunity to wear matching shirts, running with a group (particularly this group) may cause you to run more frequently and/or farther than you may have run otherwise. Keene and Landy prepare to head back to Maryland after the Delaware Trail Dawg Triple Crown races.

Another Sunday and another 5:30 a.m. departure from the Coffee East/Diving Dog parking lot. This morning Lori, Landy, and I headed for Wittman to join Wood Frog for some running in and around "Pot Pie," Maryland. Keene was a gracious tour guide, taking us through strides of a run he does that Lori measured at 8.9 miles or so on her Garmin.

I have long envied Keene for the gravel roads, open fields, and water views he enjoys on his home running base. Temperatures in the 60's and ample sun made for a great run, complete with several attempts by Wood Frog and myself to make Landy run fast. This can be quite a task and is often best done by two or more people with interval bursts :)

Our sprints and pick-ups led to Lori giving voice to what could be an interesting challenge day--an RUR track invitational. Now, none of us are prone to want to run on a track. Personally, I stay away from them, as well as speed work in general with the exception of end of the run sprints and test-each-other intervals. But to get everyone together out on a track and have fun pushing 400's, 800's, miles, and such could be a fun (albeit painful) day. A Charlie vs. Dominic showdown would likely be worth the price of admission, though if you spread the speed over a decent distance, I think the long legs of Landy might outdistance everyone. Besides, that's about the only way I am likely to do any speed work proper...

We convinced Mike K. to show off some of his handiwork in the form of the Hooper's Island draketail, Dora, into which he's put countless hours, as well as two kayaks fully of his own building. And we got to scope the Frog's new shed-housed titanium commuter, a day after his longest bike ride--56 miles, getting ready for June's Eagleman half-Ironman triathlon.

Again though, for me it goes back to the company, the RUR folks, who once more, motivated me to get up earlier than I would have on my own, to go and get in a run I probably wouldn't have by myself. So my mind's eye today, kept the gravel country road and chatting with Lori, Landy, and Mike. And my mind's ear marched to a gravel-crunching cadence that Landy and I pounded out on about a quarter-mile pick-up down the lane to Rabbit Point Farm. One of those sublime rhythms that you just stumble upon and into, but not unless you get up and get out there!

P.S. It is also worth noting that this is the second RUR group run where we have cruised through Rise Up Coffee prior to making our return to Easton. A Bay Hundred area bonus :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Pony-Up Challenge...aka...The Assateague Ultra.

The possible scene of one of the next Rise Up Runners group challenges: The Pony-Up Challenge.

From the road, to the beach, trail or no trail. Say hello to one of our next "challenges." An end-to-end run of Assateague Island, from Maryland to Virginia. On road and off. On the beach and off. Thirty-eight miles of mayhem. If you want a proposed route with mile-markers, check out the Map My Run map.

I like to call it, "The Pony-Up Challenge"...because, well, there are ponies on that thar island :) Some folks might call it the
Assateague Ultra. Personally, I have not trod much on the shores where the route goes and I don't know if it can be done. But I bet it can. Obviously, there is going to have to be some dropping off of cars. And I might guess there could be a camping component and invited guests, friends, families, to partake in the camping end of it.

When I ran the idea by
Landy, his comment was, "I'll bring the bug spray!" Indeed. But man do I love the sound of the challenge. This one could take some logistical tinkering. But I'm tempted to lay down the gauntlet to call it a summer challenge, meaning checked off or attempted by the autumnal equinox.

If need be, maybe this becomes a multi-day challenge, but I'm thinking it could be done in a single go--it's flat after all, though likely slow going at times. The route may need adjusting, could be a couple miles shorter with a start and finish that make sense. But there is something to starting with your foot in the water at the northern tip and running all the way to the southwestern boot.

For a detailed map of the island and more information, camping, etc., click through to the Assateague National Seashore website.

So break it down, shout it out,
holla back. What do you think? Any takers :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Back to the Choppaa!"

Joel, Landy, Keene, and Lori recharging, though still soaking wet, after a high water day at Tuckahoe State Park. It wasn't pretty trying to get a wet Shilliday into Landy's carseat ;)

The cultural tendency is to take things for granted the more you get used to them, or the more you do them. Most folks don't marvel when they start their car in the mornings or turn on a light at night anymore, though they surely did once. Thankfully, running at Tuckahoe State Park has not reached this point of becoming a commodity, at least not for me!

Meeting 5 people to run at 5 a.m. during the week has become a frequent occurrence for our Rise Up runs during the week. But it hasn't happened until yesterday on a Sunday, made all the more impressive when you consider what meeting in Easton that early means for someone who lives in Wittman (also known as "Pot Pie" for its backwoods goodness--try to come up with a better name for a hamlet). So we were especially happy to have Wittman's Wood Frog join us on his first "sanctioned" Rise Up run.

The discussion on the ride and beginning the run, among many other topics, was how wet the trails would be after a couple days of rain, particularly how high the Turkey Hill creek crossing was going to be.

Generally speaking, the first 6-ish miles of our 10-mile loop are not overly affected by tide or rain--they run on higher ground and not right next to the creek. We could tell at the various bridges we went over though, that the tide was high (sorry for the Blondie lyric).

After turning off the curves and climbs of Creekside Cliff, the exploration began, with our crew encountering water much earlier than "normal." Ankle-deep stepping, became knee-deep slogging, until Landy and I decided to high step it to a soundtrack of quotes from the movie "Predator," courtesy of Joel. We were waist deep before ever reaching the official "crossing." We hit the drop off and were every bit of armpit deep with a strong current as we pushed across and turned to watch the rest of the group come across.

At 5' 10", I am actually the shortest of our the crew that went to Delaware. Joel and Landy are both basketball tall and Keene is nearly 6' 0" (6' 2" with afro) and very buoyant. I am not sure how tall Lori is, but I knew she was in for a rough ride!

Joel moshed across the creek, before Keene went from waist-deep water to cross on the log, earning him the "What the #@%*&??" Award, though he says he was able to keep his shirt drier :) And then came Lori, who thought about trying the log, then tried her hand at the deepest Tuckahoe crossing to date, notching two historic firsts. After a slip and a why-not moment, she took a few strokes and swam freestyle across the creek! The swift current applauded her efforts by sweeping her through the quick and carrying her UNDER the log. Neither has ever been done, and Lori will own those monumental accomplishments in the annals of Tuckahoe lore. Well done! Her comment on the other side, "If I go home and get on a bike, does that count for a triathlon?" Indeed.

The bog section that followed can only be characterized as funny for its gunkholing qualities. The mud of the Little Florida Trail had us skiing down hills and stomping up them, until after running hard down a reasonable hill, a took a full body spill as the ground leveled out. Landy didn't signal a call, but I'm pretty sure I was safe at the plate.

The singletrack of Pee Wees Trail made for a fun run, with Keene and Landy pushing ahead, while Joel, Lori, and I came down the road and finished together.

A blast of a day, for its high water novelty, for the early morning transition in light and temperature, and for the company of the Rise Up crowd that got to be a part of it. I think part of the reason that Tuckahoe doesn't get old to me, is that it's somehow different every time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mudder's Day Sunday

The Tuckahoe 10-mile loop, within the context of the larger trail system. Tuckahoe Valley Trail, Creekside Cliff, Turkey Hill, Little Florida, and Pee Wees are all run from end to end.

Peanut butter and jelly represent a combination that has done pretty well for itself. Eggs and bacon, steamed crabs and beer (with or without pickles and cheese), the list goes on. Tomorrow morning, looks like we are testing out the new combination of a Rise Up group run and a Tuckahoe loop. Any takers, we are meeting at the Diving Dog/Coffee East/Farmer's Market parking lot along Washington Street at 5 a.m.

Given the rainfall over the last couple days, odds are high for a muddy run. The game plan is to try the full 10-mile loop, run either forward or backward, but as anyone who has run out there will report, with rain can come impassable sections of trail, unless Joel brings a kayak or a Huck Finn-style log raft.

Keene and I have started Tuckahoe runs in the dark and caught the sunrise along Tuckahoe Valley trail, and that is something I look forward to any time I can swing it. In the few years I've been running out there, we've never had more than three people for a run. If schedules, sleep, and inclinations hold, we could have between four and six Rise Up Mudders. Another great Sunday adventure!

Friday, May 9, 2008

RUR Injured Reserve...or....The Trouble with Charlie

RURs Valliant and Charlie Andrews after completing the Tuckahoe 10-Mile loop. Is this where things began to go wrong for Charlie?

If you want to read about the latest RUR run--the quest for Rise Up Coffee--I encourage you to scroll below and check out Landy's excellent report. I am going to take a different tack here and focus on one of those running stories that runners aren't supposed to talk about...

Soon after getting our morning runs going, I ran into Charlie at the Avalon, who seemed very interested in running early in the morning and in trail running. What's more, this conversation happened on a Saturday night, and come Tuesday morning, sure enough, Charlie showed up! And not only did he show up--he came to bear and even suggested a couple 4 a.m. starts. Landy and I have started runs in the 3's (much to Joel's considerable chagrin), but Charlie rolled out smiling and with perfect hair that early ;)

Charlie had been regularly running 3-5 miles a few times a week in the afternoons. He came out a few times, picked up the pace with us, then stepped right up to the Tuckahoe 10-mile challenge, and nailed it, seemingly without much effort. He made it to one or two more runs after that then some pain started in his shin. He hoped it would roll out on its own and when it didn't he got it checked out: stress fracture, out for 6 weeks or so. Dude, that sucks.

A tough blow for Charlie, and for the group, as his energy and humor are missed in the mornings and during our more substantial weekend adventures and races. Get rested and back soon, Charlie - looking forward to running again...

At least that's what we thought, or what we were told. Then the reports and sightings began. "Man, did you see Charlie at the Y? I thought he was busted up?" "Yo, what was Charlie doing at Cross Courts?" "Dude, I heard Charlie is working out at Curves!"

They were seemingly random at first, and we thought harmless. Then a pattern began. Co-workers began seeing boxes of vintage L.A. Gear leg warmers and aerobics shoes being delivered. Charlie's son was heard singing Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," after riding in the car with him. Then it happened: an anonymous RUR blog reader sent us this photo:

It had to be a joke, right? Our boy Charlie couldn't be busting out an aerobics step class instead of running mornings with us. And where was he keeping that hair? Talk began to get serious. Then he went from taking classes to teaching them. And from teaching them to home video. We couldn't believe it either. I'm still scared to order, "Disco Sweat."

We hope that this is just Charlie's means of coping with an injury. A temporary setback. We're still willing to welcome him back to the ranks, if he'll just shoot straight with us. We can take it. And let this serve as a warning to runners and trail runners nursing an injury and waiting to get back to more serious training: 1980's aerobics is not an alternative to trail running.

Get back out here soon, Charlie...I'd hate to see where you end up next ;)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pilgrimage to the Coffee mecca

Most Thursday mornings, we are content to get up, join a few others, and run around the town of Easton. I very much enjoy these outings for the conversations we have with each other, the feeling of contentment when we are finished, and lately the faster paced race to the finish at the end of our runs. But, forgive me for saying this, running around Easton in the dark can get a little old sometimes.  There are only so many variations on a basic loop around town that even creative folks like ourselves can come up with.  Sure it is fun to joke about how clean the streets look in downtown proper as we see the street cleaner diligently making his morning rounds, and it is interesting to wonder what random people and drivers are doing out and about at that hour, but sometimes, one longs to venture out past the confines of Route 50 and the bypass and see what lies ten miles West on Route 33.

Yes, today we ventured to our mothership of sorts, the wholesome, organic, fair trade and shade grown-supporting coffee shop that spawned both our group name and logo: Rise Up Coffee.  Truth be told, we were itching to get back on Route 33, that lovely stretch of highly traveled road with just the right camber to induce twinges in the knees. But more so, we were jonesing for a really good cup of java, and we were willing to run for it.

Mike and I decided to drop a car off last night around ten pm, so we could make it a point to point run. We opted for the Maritime Museum parking lot because it wasn't quite far enough to go only to RUC, we thought it would be nice to run through a deserted St Michaels in the dawn hour, and most important, we thought the support vehicle would be less likely to be towed from that location.

At 4:15, Valliant and I headed out from our respective houses and planned to meet at our favorite thrift shop at the head of Bay Street. Mike was uncharacteristically late by about 4 minutes on my watch. It allowed me window shop a few minutes and to also confirm that there was not a woman in the window, only a manequin. Sure enough, Mike arrived before I had to run to his house and start throwing rocks at his window, and we were off. I brought along some new gear in the form of a blinking red LED light that straps to the arm as well as a cheap party favor version of something similar that my son Will got a year ago. I tried to convince myself that the more expensive version that I just purchased was somehow better, but all I saw were similar seizure-inducing blinking red lights.

We had prearranged to meet Dominic at the pincushion park and ride at around 4:45, and we arrived right around that time. Dominic had borrowed Joel's headlamp so we all were sufficiently illuminated at this point. We then set out as a threesome at a pretty good pace towards St Michaels. As usual, there was more traffic than seems possible at 4:45, but overall it was a very comfortable run. By the middle of the run, a pretty stiff headwind had developed, but the rain held off and the temperature, while warm, was never too hot. The time seemed to pass pretty quickly as we eventually made it into St Michaels, past RUC which was just about to open and to the waiting car.

We then doubled back to RUC in the car and picked up some tasty drinks served up with a smile by Matt. We even managed to deliver Mike back to house prior to the important 6:30 cut-off time. All in all, it was a very nice run and a good change of pace from our usual routine. I hope it becomes a recurring event.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Creek Crossing Photos from Delaware

Above: Is that a Wood Frog or Splashing Airplane. Below: Who or what is Valliant pointing at anyway? Photos by Carl Camp.

There are some new photographs posted on the Trail Dawgs website from the Delaware race. Here are a few of the RUR crew that I could find. To scope out more, check this out.


Aha! Look what I by Carl Camp from the Trail Dawgs website. --MV

Monday, May 5, 2008

TTAC Complete! A Sunday Well Spent

(From left) Dominic, Derek, Lori, Landy, Mike V., and Joel enjoy a scenic break and ferry ride at roughly the mid-point of the Trans Tred Avon Challenge loop.

Forty-eight hours. That's about all it took to get seven runners into an Easton parking lot ready to embark on some or all of the Trans Tred Avon Challenge. We had some of our morning regulars, Landy, Dominic, and Joel; our second guest appearance by Lori Callahan; and a couple of newcomers to our group of running vagabonds, Easton ultra runner Derek Hills, and speedy marathoner Mike Bickford (Mike was so speedy he turned and headed back for Easton before we could capture him on film). Fair warning to anyone thinking up a challenge to throw out there: if the quest is tasty and the timing is right, watch out!

A little after 7:30 a.m., our traveling circus started its way up St. Michaels Road. The pace stayed fairly easy and the conversation was flowing--from past and upcoming races, jokes, stories, and plenty of laughs--time moved by apace, and we soon found ourselves heading up the shoulder-less Royal Oak Road, with Mike B. on point, since he was wearing the brightest green shirt. This route was a concern for Landy, who had mapped an alternative, but the Sunday drivers were mostly gracious and fairly infrequent. Mike B. was planning a two-hour run and said good-bye and doubled back along this stretch. Reports have him taking the equally shoulder-less Glebe Road home... perhaps looking for a motorist to take him on in a game of chicken? ;)

Dust your shoulder off--the TTAC crew making their way along Royal Oak Road towards Bellevue during the inaugural long run with a boat ride.

Bellevue Road was warm and the sun-baked conversation led to a couple possible future challenges--the Turkey Chase, spotting and chasing actual turkeys across a field (we spotted some, but did not give chase) as well as the Firehose Challenge, which is best described as a Fear Factor type of event. A warning to cross country enthusiasts--from at longest a 1/4 mile jog on the grass along the road, Joel came out with a number of ankle-biting hitchhikers. Invest in flea and tick collars early!

The timing of our start was to allow us to catch the first ferry leaving from Bellevue, which we arrived early for (ferry starts running in Oxford at 9 a.m.), giving Joel, Landy, and Dominic a chance to dip into the Tred Avon River for a cool down and the rest of us a chance to snack and relax as the ferry made its way over. Lori's Garmin had us arriving at the dock in 10.3 miles.

We had the ferry to ourselves as we rode to the sweeter side of the Tred Avon, and Landy's family--Megan, the kids, and dogs--checked in on us and said hello. We all stopped and refueled at the Oxford Market and then creaked the legs back into gear through town and up Oxford Road.

"The weather isn't going to get any nicer than this," predicted Joel of our 70 degree day. "It's only getting hotter from here on out." No doubt--if I could order up running weather throughout the year, it wouldn't change a bit from Sunday.

Our crew stretched out a bit along Oxford Road, with Derek working through some lingering calf cramps, and Joel and Dominic scheduling a pre-arranged pick-up. Of considerable note here: when Joel completed the Tuckahoe 10-mile Challenge a couple months ago, it was the farthest he'd ever run. His goal for the TTAC was to run about 12 miles to set a new distance record. He and Dominic made it seemingly effortlessly through 14 miles, up to Trappe Station, and stopped for moderation, not because they had to. Dominic, who has been running with us for a couple weeks now, may not have broken a sweat, and actually went and played tennis after the run. Those guys are each boundless energy and awesome to run with.

My two chatting mates now picked up by motor vehicle, and Derek a little bit behind, I caught up to Landy and Lori and pushed up towards Trippe Creek Bridge. With Derek's ultra experience (several 50 milers now) giving us comfort, and the toll extracted by last weekend's trail marathon somewhere waiting for Landy and I, the three of us pushed ahead looking for landmarks and waiting for the return of Joel via mountain bike.

I had the feeling that if I slowed down or stopped moving, I might not be able to start again, so we made a move across the Easton Bypass and into town, beginning to pick the pace up on Washington Street, and passing Joel's casa just as he was coming out to meet us. We had a mountain bike escort through Easton to complete our loop behind Coffee East. Total elapsed time - 3:48 (including the ferry ride, wait, and market stop), total running time 3:16, giving us an average pace of 9:17 minute miles over the 20 - 21 mile loop (aren't Garmins great?). Derek appeared coming around the corner into the parking lot a short time later.

We finished at a brisk pace, much to the amusement of java juicers in Coffee East, who couldn't have known that we were just finishing the first recorded Trans Tred Avon Challenge, having connected Royal Oak, Bellevue, Oxford, and Easton, and thrown a ferry ride in for kicks.

For their trouble and willingness to come run 20+ miles with us on less than two days notice, Lori and Derek were appropriately "mugged"--they are the two latest runners to receive the coveted RUR mugs. A good day in the schwag department for sure ;)

I rode a high for the rest of the day, one that still sits with me when I think about it or check out the photos above. Joel (and possibly Dominic) ran the farthest he has/they've ever run. We got to run with Derek, another long distance nut who we just met, and met Mike B. We got Lori back out with us, ramping her long run back up to 20 miles after her spring marathon. Landy and I proved that we could run 20 miles a week after a brutally hilly marathon. And we put an exclamation on a run I've been thinking about for more than a year, which seems an epic. That's a Sunday well spent. Here's to many more!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Trans Tred Avon Challenge

The key to the Trans Tred Avon Challenge is fueling and keeping leg muscles fresh while crossing the river on the Oxford Bellevue Ferry. Photo from the OB Ferry website.

In April, we brought you: The Mug Challenge. This May, we lay down the Trans Tred Avon Challenge. In other words, it just got a lot harder to get a mug ;)

The TTAC is a group run covering roughly 20 miles (yet to be measured, likely between 20 and 25). It will start in Easton, run up St. Michaels Road, and follow signs to the Oxford Bellevue Ferry through Royal Oak, Bellevue, with runners then taking the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry across the Tred Avon River. Once across, the run continues in Oxford, making the return route to Easton up Oxford Road, completing a loop whereby runners have made a successful river crossing and run nice-sized chunks of Routes 33 and 333. There may or may not be a cookout or post run soak or celebration after the run.

This is an idea I have been entertaining for some time, though never sure where to start it--St. Michaels, Oxford, Easton, or when to try it. And therein lies the danger (or blessing?) of finishing a marathon and not having anything immediately on your race calendar.

So far the three who have expressed interest in completing the challenge are Landy, Mike Keene, and myself. I know there are others out there suitably trained to pull something like this off in the next 4 to 6 weeks (if our new Easton ultra buddy Derek is reading, as well as marathon gal Lori C., and I won't implicate others by name...yet :)

There are a number of ways to take part in the challenge: the full-monty (no, no nudity, please) - meaning to complete the whole loop. The half-nelson - run either to Bellevue and call it a day or meet us in Oxford and run the back half of the loop. Or the parti-colored - run some part of the challenge to get in the mileage you want and call it a day. A really ambitious and creative group may even wish to make a relay with as few or many folks as you need to wrap it up.

A few things to consider - the TTAC is self-supported. It's a group run, you carry your own fluids and food. We may outline a couple stash places on the route, AND we pass right by the Oxford Market, where it would be easy to grab a Gatorade, water, etc. If you are running less then the full-monty, your transportation to or from is up to you. Again, the whole self-supported thing. The challenge rests on the legs or shoulders of those wishing to take the challenge.

What do you get for completing the challenge? Well, a very cool and note- and story-worthy run. I am not sure that a group of runners has done this before, sure bikers on a regular basis, but running and biking 20+ miles are different experiences, no? There may be a post-run shindig of some caliber. And, I daresay, if you are not currently in possession of an RUR mug, running the FULL loop may or may not :), be a means of acquiring one.

When is the challenge? The goal is to make it a group run and thereby accommodate all those folks who want to participate. Mitigating factors include call schedules, children sporting events, etc., so we are going to use the blog here and e-mail to select a date where most of those wanting to do it, can do it.

Are you Trans Tred Avon Challenge material? Interested? Leave a comment and maybe even thoughts about when you could pull it off. The challenge must be completed by the end of June, maybe even during May, but there is a pesky half-Ironman triathlon in Cambridge in early June that one of us (Wood Frog) is doing.

So if you are a gamer here, or think you might be, holler in the comments. Specify if you are going for the full monty, the half-nelson, or a parti-color. And stay tuned for our next, or concurrent challenge, cooked up by Chef Joel Shilliday: the Tuckahoe Creek Scramble, which will be much muddier :)