Monday, December 07, 2009


So it flurried last night, a half inch of powder on the trails by the creek. I guess this is sorta how those lucky bastards out west feel upon the first snow when the slopes are reopened.

The last few months have been sporadic running-wise. Soft tissue leg thing due to a dumb newbie training error, teaching two new classes, life stuff. Haven't run "long" since September. This really is ok, I kinda like free-forming it with the runs, just short stuff, nothing over five or six miles. That injury hasn't flared in a few weeks. Fitness lost, but not completely vanished. There are runs where things are hazy-- those moments of reuniting after some time away are awkward. "Where've you been??" This used to be easy, now we labor up that hill and over that log. No matter, I'm running in the snow and really loving it again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dances With Dirt--Devil's Lake

Ran the full marathon ++ of this one yesterday up in Baraboo, WI. DWD, Hell, MI is one I've wanted to do, but Baraboo being closer to IL made this an easier commitment. They advertise the DWD races as "insane terrain," and while is there is a smattering of truth in the marketing, there are runnable spots here. Still, make no mistake this is a tough course.

The early section is a nice steady uphill which eventually crosses a glacial deposit area, meaning rocks and lots of them. There is some really nice single track until you get to about 10 miles, where it's straight up I'd guess about 600-700 feet on rocky trail to the ridge overlooking Devil's Lake. There are some big, more steady climbs after this, then about a two mile bushwhacking section right around 12 miles.

While the trail is marked with ribbon, it is a bit confusing, as you have white, pink, and blue ribbons depending on the course you're running. The turns also aren't marked well and if you're looking down it's easy to go off course. I veered off course after the Steinke Basin aid station and stupidly didn't backtrack soon enough, adding two plus miles to the 'thon. The turn wasn't marked well, but then again, I should have been looking up. Ended up getting a bit dehydrated and draining my bottles before I realized my error. Finally made it to Tower aid station with 2.7 left and ended up hammering it home sheerly from being pissed off about going off trail. Word after the race was that I wasn't the only person who did this by a long shot.

My finish time was somewhere around 5:50, good for 8th place overall and 3rd place age group. 8th sounds impressive, but overall there were only around 30 some thoners. They had around 150 half thon and then a pretty good crowd of 50k and 50 mile. 50 k was an option, but didn't want to plunk down the extra 40 bucks for 5 more miles. As it stands 28+ miles is going down in my book as an ultra finish anyway.

I would recommend this race. Not being a skier, I didn't know the area was so cool. The race starts right at Devil's Head ski area and I think the 50 k course concludes up on the trails around the top of the "mountain." The only possible drawbacks are A. You have to really watch the markings or not be as dumb as I am. It is possible in spots to lose the course. B. A few spots are unrunnable bushwhacking through off woods terrain. If you are for some reason racing or running this for time, that could be annoying. I just thought it was fun. C. There wasn't a lot of grub postrace. Again, a minor complaint. On the positive side, the park is really gorgeous, the aid stations are great, and the shirt is one of the best I've gotten from a race.

There aren't too many better ways to spend a Saturday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Colorado 2009

This trip wasn't about me and my running addiction. Despite my uncharacteristic selflessness, I still managed some nice runs in the foothills. No San Juans this time around, unfortunately. I did get in a nice eight mile trail run at Red Rock Canyon in Colo. Springs. This park is the stepsister to Garden of the Gods. Heartily recommended if you want a less touristy place to run. I was out there at 6 am on a weekday and saw no other humans on the entire run.

Other runs were on the Pikes Peak Greenway trail, paved but a nice course along the creek in north Springs. Highlands Ranch is cookie cutter suburban, BUT they do have an awesome open space trail that rises up to Castle Rock Rd. and gives a great view of all the 14ers off in the distance. Put in 8 and 7 miles here, respectively. We drove partially up the road to Evans out of Idaho Springs to fish a trout pond, but no runs.

Next year: San Juans hopefully, Leadville thon' possibly, somewhere else cool. I'd still love to attempt the pack burro race at Fairplay.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Devil's Lake

I decided to sign up for the Dances with Dirt, Devil's Lake marathon version in July. I've wanted to do the DWD Michigan for quite a while, but never made it up that way. DWD DL is in Baraboo, Wi, a relatively close drive and should be a fun course. There are ultra versions of the race which I'm opting out of for a marathon training run type thing.

Preparation has gone relatively well. I've managed to get in several runs close to four hours out at Farmdale and some nice distance during-the-week road runs. I should peak this week for the season so far at about 60 miles, high stuff in my world. Will be in Colorado next week and already have some trail runs lined up, although there is little doubt that mileage will be down since this is a family vacation after all. Still, mountains are mountains.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rite of Spring/J-Church

Yeesh, my legs are still tired a month after McN. Tired legs on the trail and a spring tradition.

Sunshine, seventy and no humidity dictated that I just had to get out to Farmdale the other afternoon for a few miles. It's the heat, stupid. It wasn't that hot, yet those first few long runs in warmer temps require the body to adjust. This means drink, drink, drink, hydrate, hydrate. I know this, same routine every spring, and yet I didn't drink enough. First two hours were great, hour three honestly sucked. My legs suddenly went south, I knew I was dehydrated. Ran into Dexter toward the end of my run and from 20 yards out thought he was Mike Klop. Was shot for the rest of the day. Still, you know, they say two outta three ain't bad. I'll take two good hours and one crappy one on the trails over no trails at all any day.

Oh, I made up for it last night with an awesome midnight run in the cool air and J-Church on the Ipod.

Speaking of J-Church...if you like pop punk, these guys are oen of my favorites. Be warned, very politically tinged stuff, but in a situationist, personal way, not dogmatic. Lance Hanh's songs are like reading journal entries. Really great, catchy stuff. J-Church was also one of the most prolific rock bands of all time.


I nearly went broke in the mid 90's trying to keep with collecting all of their 7" vinyl singles. If you're interested, I'd rate their studio albums in descending order of greatness as follows (but they're all really, really good):

The Drama of Alienation
Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands
Arbor Vitae
One Mississippi
Society is a Carniverous Flower
also, Nostalgic for Nothing is a great singles collection.

One of the best live shows I ever did see.

RIP Lance

PS: Oh how I wish I was doing Berryman this weekend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Laurent Fignon

Screw Lance Armstrong. Laurent Fignon is my guy. My memory of cycling goes back into the 80's when Professor Fignon was dueling with Greg Lemond on summer afternoons on network tv. We'd immediately head out on our weighty ten speeds and have tour de neighborhood. Is it weird to admit that I still sometimes fantasize about being the Prof. when pedaling up a grueling hill on a "BIKE RIDE?" Ok, that is kind of weird.

Which brings me to me my point.

I just don't get the whole "CYCLING" thing. Last week I cracked out the bike while nursing a slightly tweaked toe. Still needing some sort of physical activity, figured I'd CYCLE for a bit. My bike needs an "I'd rather be frickin' running" fender sticker.

Before I took off I told myself I'd: A. keep it in the highest gear B. never take my butt off the seat C. Take the route around E-town with the most hilly sort of things.

So I did that for an hour and you know what? I still didn't feel it was a workout. It was a nice BIKE RIDE, a way to break a slight sweat and see the world a bit differently for an hour, but it wasn't much in terms of CYCLING or what felt to me like exercise. Why? Here's what I can come up with:

-My bike is old and heavy. A 10 year old Specialized hybrid bike. I like it, but it's a bit clunky, sits upright, and I'm sure it's not a real CYCLING bike. The whole gear head CYCLIST/Triathlete scene just isn't for me. If I had 2 g to drop on a bike, maybe I'd feel more Lance-ish.

-Hills. Yeah, they go up, great, my quads feel it a bit, but what about down? Coasting ain't a workout it's...coasting. You can pedal all you want to give the illusion of exercise, but coasting is coasting and it's easy. Pfft.

-Spandex. I don't wear it unless it's Under Armour under da' shorts on a long run. You can't be a real CYCLIST without spandex. Science and God both say so.

-Gears. They make CYCLING easy. It's like cheating, and I'm not down with that.

My heart may still be with Laruent-- he's forever cooler than that corporate ho, Lance--and I'll still invoke his name while grinding my way up that quarter mile climb on 117 (Woodford Alps), but bet your $5000 tri bike it will be on a BIKE RIDE and not while CYCLING.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Tears from the sky, i'm satisfied that i can't stop the rain,
Can't justify, and i can't define, and i can't stop the rain, rain

We only dream to float downstream, reminded by the rain,
Tied to a tree, cannot break free, reminded by the rain

from J-Church, "November"

Water is elemental to our existence. This we know. Rain is not elemental to good trail running. It is April, it has rained for hours and weeks on end. This is ok with me, I need a break from the trails.

Post-McNaughton has been a combination of probably drinking a few too many beers and eating a bit too much, not running enough, and working on busy end of the semester stuff at the new gig. It's easy to justify a lull as a recovery from a big effort and in some ways I think this a wise philosophy. I fully commend and in some ways envy the folks who do a lot of big, long runs back-to-back-to-back-to-back with seemingly no ill effects. I am not one of them. Dropping the mileage down, targeting only a few races for fun, and going for some shorter runs, are all good for the psyche and hopefully for long term participation in this stuff.

It's been two weeks and the only lingering effect from Mcn is a bit of forefoot pain, maybe a slight case of tendinitis. This is nothing new and new shoes will most likely help. In the last three days I've gotten out a few times for six mile road runs. Last night's was in drizzle and chilly air. Does early March never end?

Still, running in the rain is better than not running at all.

Friday, April 17, 2009


So far, so good. Had some soreness for about two days, feeling pretty good now. First run was Wednesday, a gentle three miler on trails, it's way too nice today not to get out, so planning on a six miler later. The occasional Fat Tire doesn't hurt.

Long runs may wait a few weeks, still Farmdale calls when the sun is out like today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

McNaughton Park 50 Mile 2009 Version

The weekend started on Friday at noon as I went out with Andrew to watch the 150 and early 100 starters in the cold rain, particularly Adam and Mike K. and S. Let me just say right off that I'm in awe of those guys and gals cranking the 150 or 100 on that course. It's just cool watching them launch off the start line then coming up Tanner's Pass, knowing some of these folks will be out there over two days later cranking out miles.

Lined up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning for the 50. First loop was good, maybe a bit fast at 2:16, ran most of it with Dex from Deer Creek and Stan Zygmunt from Indiana, who we were with most of the way in last year's race. Stayed steady on loop 2, felt good. The course, I thought, was actually very runnable. The rain had stopped Friday and most of the hills had dried out. Still, there was pretty severe mud in the usual low spots which made for tough going in stretches, but absolutely nothing like last year.

Loop 3 was my slowest at 2:32, hit a mental low spot from about 24-27, came out of it with some calories and never really dipped low again for the rest of the day. Picked up the I pod (Jayhawks) for loop 4. Music really isn't something I like on trail runs or in races, but in this case I sort of just tuned out, went inside myself and ran. Ended up pacing this loop off of a woman that passed me, tried to catch her for the rest of the race as a mental game, but was always 30 yards behind or so. Strong runner, whoever she was. Oh, she was doing the 100, demonstrating how slow my "running" actually was.

Loop 5 more of the same, actually picked it up a bit after totem pole and kept a solid pace. Was tired by heaven's gate, but m and m's and Pepsi cured it.

Ended up coming in at what for me is a good time in those conditions, 12 hours 7 minutes, with the family there to greet me.


-Training: I think it was good, could have probably been better. Got some good consistent long runs in in the preceding months, and I really think even the McNabb Fat Ass was a good jumping off point. I would have liked a few more weekly miles, but this is a time issue with family and such, or maybe that's just an excuse.

My mileage in the last few weeks leading up to mcN was fairly low due to life changes, basically an extended taper. I think this turned out to be beneficial. My legs felt really rested for mcN. That Illinois slam is tempting, but for me personally I just don't feel a 30 miler two weeks before something like mcN is what I want to do. Perhaps off of a better training base.

-Strategy: I had one and executed it pretty well. Going back over previous efforts and looking at other results, my conclusion was that it's really easy to go out too hard on this kind of loop course, thus the overall strategic goal was just to stay controlled and aim for more even paced loops. Even with the strategy in mind, went out a bit quick at 2:16, fading to 2:32 by 30, but then got back on track. Splits for 30-50 make me happy.

-Tactics: I consider this in-race stuff. Big guy=sweat a lot=drink a lot. I did this. Never got dehydrated. Took s-caps at the rate of about one per hour, added a few when little twinges came up. Never got too close to cramps, a possible issue for me. Adding gels this year was a help, I think. More easily absorbed into the blood, maybe? Added solid food like potatoes, peanuts, etc. when needed. No stomach problems at all except a bit of sloshing from a bit too much fluid at one point.

Knowing this course well from training out there so much helps tactically with being aware of when you want to run and when you want to walk. Some of this is dictated by the hills, but not all. I feel that I kept in a good rhythm, used the downhills to an advantage by running them, and ran more of the flats than usual. I honestly don't like the field sections at mcN and don't train on them, would rather be hill climbing, but this time having more flat miles on the road helped me run the flats better and took minutes off my finish time.

-Conclusion: This was a good race for me. Everything fell into place and I'm happy with the result. What's next? I'd like to jump off into a 100, although I'm not sure about mcN. One of the fall 100s holds appeal for several reasons. It's been a slow process, but I think with a little more training and the right buildup, it'd be possible. What form that takes, not sure yet. Going to enjoy this one for a few days.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Not Every Run Is In The Sun

Ok, so I haven't bloginated in a while. Life, new job, etc. Not like anyone reads this dreck anyway.

BUT, it is Mcnaughton Week, and that means life must be good. Training, what's that? No, actually I do feel like I got in some decent trail time. Cobbled together a few 5-6 hour runs on the course, filled in with some decent weekly mileage. The last three or four weeks has been on the low side, but am considering that an extended taper. After some lagging motivation, mostly due with just adjusting to new work conditions and other life stuff, I'm fired up now to go out and attempt fifty miles on those trails.

Weather for the weekend is looking decent, so far. "So far" has to be the qualifier because, as we all know, conditions are subject to change with no darn notice. I love running in the rain/mud, but I gotta admit that it would be a luxury to have a nice dry track to run on for a change after the last two years.

The word on thedirt is that Andy has called this the last McNaughton Trail Run. I certainly hope it isn't and that someone will carry the banner for the race into the future. What a great event for central IL for those of us that LOVE ultras and trail running in general.

Really started running the trails out there in 2002 I guess it was, but didn't do any official distance until '04, when it was the fun run. Leg fracture in 2005 but volunteered deep into the night to see Eric Clifton rip up that course. 2006 was 30 miles. 2007 was a failed 50 miler that turned into a 20 training run in the rain for Berryman. Vindication in '08 for the 50 mile DNF. Who knows what mysteries '09 holds? I just hope they aren't the last.

If they are the last, boy we had mad fun while it lasted and the philosopher in me always remembers that, like the race itself the last two years and last night's run in the pelting sleet, not every run is in the sun-- yet even the one's that aren't are always worthwhile..

Saturday, February 28, 2009

McNaughton Training Oh Nine

Since McNabb it's been running a little here, running a little there, doing some long, some short, a few weights. Low key.

One thing I've tried to be conscious of is keeping my weekday mileage fairly consistent, meaning a continued diet of 6-8 mile mostly road runs with plenty of recovery days. Despite the cold of winter, have been fairly successful at this.

Long runs have been ok. I feel like the Fat Ass gave me a nice baseline long run and since then have shifted exclusively to McNaughton for hill training. In the last three weeks have gotten in two runs of five hours plus, both going really well.

Yesterday's run followed a day of heavy rain and storms. Still, by the time I took off at 9:00 the trail was in really good condition. I ran a bit with Pam until she went home at about 2:15 in, then did the rest solo at a bit quicker pace. The only spots that were really boggy were the low areas in the open. Even the downhills after golf were in good shape.

So, next weekend will be in Florida and will hopefully get in some warm beach runs, then two more long runs here before McNaughton.

Monday, January 12, 2009

McNabb Fat Ass 50k 2009

Drove up yesterday morning to McNabb for the annual Fat Ass 50k. This is a no frills, no entry fee race up in rural Putnam County that starts at the jr. high, goes one half mile out and back, then five miles out and back three times for the 50k distance. I ran 15 miles here in 2006.

Ended up being a good run for me. It snowed a bit the first two hours, coating the road with about an inch of snow and thus softening the impact of the pavement. For not being a trail, the course is great. There are two decent sized hills at each end of the course where you come up out of the Clear Creek valley, but the middle miles are sheltered by being down in that valley and by the timber on each side of the road.

Got to run a bit with Mike Siltman and Jerry Davison. Overall, had a good run, stayed consistent for the most part and ended up running a 6:03. Bob Rehn does a great job with this. The aid stations were good ultra fare and there was (fresh) pizza at the end.

Good time.

I've been reading up a bit on the North Africa campaign after getting through "Land Warfare" by Thomas Dougherty. Dougherty's book is basically a historical overview of land combat in the 20th century, pretty straightforward, but got re-interested in N.A., which was an interesting theater of WW II for numerous reasons, not the least among them the tactics employed by Rommel and Montgomery, the unusual circumstances of desert combat, and the use of special forces, particularly by the British, particularly the Long Range Desert Group.

So far I've ready "Desert War" which is a part of the really, really great Time/Life series published in the 70's, "Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940-1943" by Andreas Molinari, and am currently plowing through "Killing Rommel," a novel largely about the LRDG. I have about five more books on my list--I'm particularly interesting in Popski's Private Army memoirs. Good stuff.