Tuesday, April 25, 2006

McNaughton Aftermath

Recovery is a learning process. I'm in a constant classroom when it comes to deciphering body signals and getting a clear sense as to which of those signals are just nagging annoyances and which may be begging for a bit more tlc.

I feel like this effort at ultra distance maybe took less out of me than my first two attempts. The QQ race in 2003 was done at such an emotional time, having signed up before Dad's diagnosis and then dealing with all the trauma but racing anyway, having him at the finish was a transmogrifying event inside of a larger scenario, i.e. parental cancer, something that was affecting me in ways I couldn't perceive at the time. Physically I was in better shape three years ago but didn't have the realization that emontional stress is married to physical effort. That, coupled with just plain not being conservative enough in recovery, doing a semi-long trail run the next weekend and then a hard speed session, all set up the PF and some physical frustrations that would keep me away from ultras until Glacial in the fall of '05.

Glacial Trail just beat up my feet and pounded me physically with a broken toe and battered legs. My recovery last October took a much more reserved tenor, easing back into longer runs only weeks later. I think it paid off.

McNaughton was a much more gentle suitor. A hard effort, yes, but I feel that knowing the course and being pretty well attuned to nutrition and hydration may speed recovery. Per advice from the list, I took in some protein immeadiately after the race and didn't skimp all week. So far, so good. My first short run was the other day, the only other physical activity of the week being some short hikes.

I'm half tempted to try the Berryman Marathon at the end of May just to see the course. We shall see.

The approach to running I've been taking mentally is just to look at things in long cycles, sticking to 50k distances for a long enough time to learn the lessons required to move up to longer ultras rather than doing race after race and risking burnout. More power to the high mileage runners, but that ain't me. I could use the patience anyway.

So, essentially no concrete goals but maybe Berryman, a 50k in the fall if everything stays on course, then possibly the 50 at McNaughton next spring. All subject to change, of course.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

McNaughton Park Trail Runs: 30 Mile Race Report

A few pics from McNaugton. My wife took them at the start/finish so they're all pretty self indulgent. Race report is below the pics.

Keegan building up glycogen stores and plotting next year's 100 miler.

Ahh, the finish.

Plodding along....

Heat, Humility, and a Hippie: View from the Back of the 30 Mile Pack

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into the clouds.” -Edward Abbey

Pekin, IL. If you’re a local then you’re used to the name of this town being most referenced pejoratively, say as the site of the federal prison or breeding ground for the KKK, not as the site of one of the most inspiring trails in the Midwest. Ok, granted the mountains don’t rise into the clouds, but there ARE hills, at least by flatland standards. No foolin. There are also great creeks crossings, spring greenery, wildflowers of various sorts, critters too numerous to list, and the Midwestern hospitality of Weinberg and company.

For me personally this year was a chance to finally do the race after injuries the past two years. Word has gotten out—a maxed out field since a week before the race, news crews doing interviews, and a crowded starting line, all testaments to the experiences to be had. Andy started us off with the bagpiper at the first mile, the strains of the highlands a lovely way to start a journey for sure.

Our plan as usual was to start slow, suck down two both bottles between each aid station (half sports drink, half agua), and one succeed cap per hour. Beyond that, it was just more slowing down, more drinking, and hopefully peeing. Both Pam and I tucked in behind a group of 50 and 100 milers and went out conservatively. Heat was an issue. Most training runs this spring have been done in 30-40 degree temps, while highs for the race would top into the low 80’s, add the sun and it was fairly brutal for everyone. For a 30 mile plodder like me it was manageable, but I give mad respect to the 100 milers who have a much slimmer margin for error.

Loop one went by nicely, chatting it up with whomever was around, walking the steep ups, running all the downs and most of the flats. Being able to train on the course anytime is an advantage when it comes to tempo planning for sure and makes it easier to kick into autopilot.

Loop two was largely without incident, but the usual leg cramping started to twinge at about 4 hours. While cruising through the wooded area past the heaven’s gate field, I came upon a tie-dyed woman with a walking stick hanging out on the trail. Being down with the occasional Dylan tune, I threw her the customary “How goes it?” The only response I got back was “You’re 152nd.” Wussup, we’re out in the middle of the frickin woods and she’s keeping track of my inferiority as a racer? Thanks for the update, but where’s that 60’s egalitarian spirit? Ah, well, dehydration…lsd…it ain’t that much different, I suppose. So on I plod.

By marathon distance the legs were rebelling, the cramps were winning, end in sight so it’s ignorable. Trudged the last four miles with a woman from PA. who was jumping from her first 50k to the 100 in just a month’s time. The conversation made the kick home pleasant. I sincerely hope she completed her dream. Kim and Keegan were there at the finish (ok, ok, 7:35, but I got there) to cap off a great way to spend the morning.

Highlights for me were 1. The people. They’re the best--True salt of the earth, passionate and friendly all. 2. The trail itself. The creeks were up a bit, the wildflowers (especially my favorite patch of bluebells that wasn’t there last weekend) are establishing their temporary residence on the forest floor, and the tree canopy is greening all over. 3. Fig Newtons.

50 miles next year.

Congrats to my training partner Pam for her tenacity and thanks for the friendship. Props to my fellow Dead Runners Club madmen Stinky Pants Malone (Tapp) who is infected with the ultra bug and completed his first 50, Whisk for completing his first ultra after being sick all week, and Iron Lung Walcott for blazing the 30 while not even going all out. Large respect for everyone out there, especially those 100 milers, who occupy a universe I someday hope to enter.

Peace to all.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hiking at McNaughton

I took my son out hiking at McNaughton, mostly on the Heaven's Gate loop. A few pics:

The new bridge over the second creek crossing, complete with course marker.

Looking back at the creek on Heaven's Gate flat area.


More trail. Things are just starting to green out in the last couple of days. No bluebells yet but a few wildflower buds.

And more trail...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


"When you see a swordsmen, draw your sword. Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet."
-Ch'an Buddhist Proverb

Japanese Samurai talked about the sword as extension of your person, as a forge upon which to mold focus, discipline, and training into a whirlwind, yet paradoxically calm energy. All of your being honed in on the moment and task at hand. Us runners can get in this zone at times before a big training run or event, even back-of-the-packers like myself.

With McNaugton being just 10 days away, I'm loving getting the eye of the tiger these last few weeks during buildup. A large part of the beauty of running or more specifically ultras/long events, is that they often require a steel will and a resevoir of not only physical reserves but spiritual and emotional, the ability to tap into the flow and let the results fall where they may.

The physical training is done, the long hours in the woods, not so much "training" as communing. It sounds a bit tree-huggerish, but being on the trails is as good a vehicle into the self as any I've encountered. For me the retreat into self is a need that runs deep, and as much as it's required at times, can be difficult to attain--it's usually found is segments of a few hours or days here and there, the privilegded times, sometimes hours into a long journey on foot, perhaps in the preparation, hidden in the lingering endorphin high of days following.

And so we retreat inward, the eyes narrowing to slits for the battle of will--this is the space where the passion resides.

Soundtrack: The Weakerthans "Fallow." The acoustic and emontional side of Propagahndi, more introspective and less overtly clever than later albums.

Monday, April 03, 2006

McNaughton Park Bridge Article

And yet another article. This one about Andy's new bridge at the park. From the pjs 4/3/06:

A small group of volunteers built a bridge over Lick Creek in McNaughton Park, relying on raw ingenuity and mechanical expertise gained in diverse professions.
"Bridges intrigue me for some reason," said Randall Reliford, a Pekin jeweler who designed the bridge. "It's just pretty amazing how they build some of these things."
Reliford has designed and built 13 other bridges in Pekin parks, but this one, at 60 feet long, is his biggest to date.
It's made primarily of telephone poles, a dozen of which were donated by AmerenCILCO. The Pekin Park District spent $2,800 on the bridge, said Tom Elliot, superintendant of parks. "We're really pleased with it. We know it's going to be there for a long time."
The bridge was the brainchild of Andy Weinberg, a coach and physical education teacher at Pekin Community High School. For the last five years, Weinberg has organized the McNaughton Park Trail Runs, 30-, 50- and 100-mile races run concurrently on the same course. This year's event will take place April 15 and 16. So far 185 people have signed up, most from the Midwest but a few from far-flung places such as New York, California and Germany.
While running through wilderness is part of the sport of "ultra-running," crossing Lick Creek often posed more irritation than challenge. Although the water is rarely more than knee-high, running a hundred miles with wet feet can cause serious chafing and blisters.
Weinberg said one runner carried plastic bags in his pockets and put them over his feet rather than wade through Lick Creek.
"It was muddy and slippery and there were thorns," Weinberg said. "I've wiped out in here plenty of times."
Work began on the bridge shortly after the first of the year. Reliford worked from 6 to 10 most mornings and on weekends. Richard Skocaj, a salesman for Dr. Pepper and
7-Up, whose son Eric will compete in the McNaughton Trail Run, also pitched in weekend hours.
Larry LaBanca, a Pekin pipe fitter, did the bulk of the labor, putting in an estimated 400 hours. "Larry lived here," Skocaj said.
Work was slow this winter, LaBanca said, allowing him to spend "seven days a week" at the bridge site. "My wife wanted me to get out of the house."
It took two weeks to dig holes for bridge supports, working through dense clay soil and chipping away at rock. Their tools were low-tech: a sledgehammer, a heavy metal bar, and a couple of children's plastic sleds to cart away the more than 5 tons of rock they removed. He brought his daughter Elizabeth, 16, and sons Mario, 12, and Armando, 5, on weekends.
"It was fun," said Mario. "I mostly just hauled the rock."
A photo album showed Armando in a full construction jumpsuit and kneepads. "To be like dad," LaBanca said.
"He's a nut," said Skocaj, glancing at the photo. "He's a great little kid."
Work on the bridge is virtually complete. Reliford has only to install a cable.
"What's your dad doing now that the bridge is done?" Weinberg asked two of LaBanca's daughters, who are in his gym class.
"He's going through withdrawal today," they told him - he was visiting the bridge site, even though there was no more work to do

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Robinson Park Trail Article

This article was lifted from the Peoria Journal Star on March 31:

A pileated woodpecker drums on a distant tree. Wooded river bluffs buffer sight and sound of the outside world. Four white-tailed deer leap deeper into the underbrush. A red-tailed hawk loops on warm spring thermals high overhead.

The newest trail in the Peoria Park District network is now open and unfolding with early signs of spring. Robinson Park North represents years of work, planning and cooperation between public and private efforts. It is a link in what will become the park district's longest hiking trail, the Illinois River Bluff Trail, from Detweiller Park north through Green Valley Camp, through a tunnel under Illinois Route 6, across Robinson Park South through Robinson Park North to Camp Wokanda. Once completed, the entire hiking trail will be almost 15 miles one way.

On Monday, the Peoria Park District received notification that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had approved a grant for half the purchase price of the connecting property linking Robinson Park North and Robinson Park South. That link had been acquired by Forest Park Foundation in 2001 from the estate of Hudson Sours. The foundation has offered to donate the other half of the purchase price. The property is expected to be appraised at more than $600,000.

The new hiking trail through Robinson Park North was designed by Mike Friberg, landscape architect and planner with the park district.

"I grew up in California, attended University of Wisconsin at Madison and find I have a special affinity for oak woodland bluffs. This is an amazing trail. Every once in a while, you get a glimpse of the river valley below. Squint your eyes and pretend you're walking a couple of hundred years ago," Friberg said.

"I got really excited when Green Valley Camp was acquired. That was the last piece of the puzzle."

The Peoria Park District acquired Green Valley Camp from the Salvation Army in March 2003. It provided the missing link connecting sections of the trail. Friberg expects the trail through Green Valley will be completed by 2010. The section of trail through Robinson Park South is currently under construction.

Friberg and John Mullen, naturalist with the Peoria Park District, walked the 3-mile Robinson North section of the trail on a Friday morning in late March.

Mullen pointed out the trail's progression through an evolving woodland with invasive species spreading over the areas of the land once grazed by livestock. That disturbed terrain has maples, cottonwoods, black locust, honey locust and sycamore trees. The trail continues past a prized white oak on a hill prairie. Signs of multiflora rose help distinguish which areas of the trail were once grazed.

"There is a quietness that takes over on this trail," Mullen said, noting the bur oak and chinquapin oak along the trail.

Boy Scouts and volunteer park stewards have worked on restoration of the hill prairie, which now includes little bluestem, leadplant and woodland sunflower.

"We are dependent on help from these volunteers to open and maintain the prairie and allow the sun to get down to the woodland floor," Friberg said.

Mullen said hikers on this trail can note the different forest composition and perceive the impact civilization has had on this land. Some sections are solid black locust and shrubs. Another invasive species noted on this early spring walk was garlic mustard along some sections of the trail.

An isolated bench on a bluff over the hill prairie is ideal for watching sunsets, Mullen said.

Six months ago, a 130-foot-long bridge was positioned on the trail across a 60-foot-deep ravine. The bridge is made with low-maintenance, weathering steel, which already has turned a ruddy rust color.

Along the trail, Mullen and Friberg analyzed the furry remains of what they speculated was a squirrel consumed by a coyote or fox.

They said Camp Wokanda, the northernmost section of the Illinois River Bluff Tail, will have the first handicapped-accessible campground in the Peoria Park District system.

Friberg said the oldest, southernmost section of this trail is Detweiller Park, which dates back to 1927. The northernmost section is Camp Wokanda, which was acquired from the Boy Scouts.

"With the most aggressive work schedule, the entire trail will be completed by 2010. When completed, this will be the longest trail in the Peoria Park District. It's one thing to drive Route 6 and enjoy these river bluffs, but to really enjoy the uniqueness of this trail, you have to get out there and hike," Friberg said.

"It is these river bluffs that make Peoria so special. These river bluffs attracted me to the area. My dream . . . I'd love to see a 20-year plan someday connecting Grand View Drive north to Wokanda. Maybe that's a 50-year plan or a 100-year plan, but the more people who get out and hike these wonderful trails, the more possible that dream becomes."

Conservationist Bill Rutherford, 91, whose family started Forest Park Foundation, suggested that renaming Robinson Park to Robinson-Morron Park would more accurately reflect major gifts from the Jean Morron estate that financed significant portions of the park land acquisition.