Monday, August 16, 2010

Howl at the Moon 2010

After a decent summer of training I figured HATM would be a nice reward. If you haven't done this race before, it's 8 hours on a 3.29 mile loop, some double track trail and some short road sections, run/walk as many miles as you can. Race is at Kennekuk County Park near Danville, IL. Goals for this were just to cover ultra distance. I just don't do that well in the heat. Forecast was 95 degrees with high humidity, not conducive to huge miles.

Race started at 7:00 a.m. under cloudy skies, an advantage. My strategy was to push a bit early and get some miles in before the sun and heat of late morning and early afternoon, leading to some relatively fast early loops. Three and a half hours in the, out came the sun, instantly making things considerably more difficult. I was pushing fluids heavily, essentially drinking two bottles of water/gatorade mix every loop, sometimes pushing straight water, and s-caps about every hour. Was able to maintain a good electrolyte balance, there were some very slight twinges but never cramped. Kept a decent running pace for about 5 hours then slowed down quite a bit in the heat and with some slight blistering on the bottoms of my feet, attributed to sweating into my socks causing my feet to slide around. Still, felt pretty good most of the time. Lots of folks looked to be way worse off than I was.

Ended up getting in 10 loops plus one slowly walked out and back 1/2 mile for a total of 34.40 miles. I'm happy with this. Postrace is great at Howl; we're talking catered chicken and green beans and beer. Surprise beers this year were Killian's and Sam Adams. Felt ok enough for a Killian's.

So, good race for me considering I'm still about 15 pounds over ideal ultra weight. This summer has been good, have built up to decent miles and long runs in the 4-5 hour range. Also feel that incorporating some swimming into the mix helped with overall fitness.

If you're looking for a fun, "easy" ultra in terms of terrain and support, Howl is a great one with a total party atmosphere. Mad fun.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

McNaughton Park 2010

Fat. Out of shape. Wishing I hadn't played that pickup game of basketball and f'd my back up for a month so I could run McN this year.

Oh yes, it was 75 and sunny. It was dry. It was trail running heaven. Oh no, I didn't sign up for any actual race cuz I have no fitness.

At least the slackers can always pace. So I paced my buddy Stan Zygmunt from Indiana (he's a Physicist, wow.). Ok, didn't really "pace" per se, Stan didn't need "pacing," but I ran along for 19 miles. 19 glorious miles of trail running heaven. We know spring is early, the bluebells are popping, it's fricking 100 shades of GREEN, the creeks were perfect, not too high, not too low, not too cold, you get it. At least selfish me got to run for 5 hours or whatever it was. Some in the day, a little at night. Not enough.

Stan, well, he finished the 100 in 28 hours and change. Congrats, Stan.

Monday, April 05, 2010


My grandfather bought this farm 55 years ago. There is a plot of 20 acres where Mill Creek flows under the barbed wire from the cattle ground. Once hardwood forest, then years ago cleared and pastured, now an area of 50 foot locust, orange osage, bur oak, a few big cottonwood. We've cut a fun little mile and a half trail system up and down the creek bluffs. Bluffs is used loosely, we're talking 20-40 foot climbs. This waterway is young. Spring is the time to run there. No itchweed, the bugs aren't out yet, no breeze in the valley is ok when it's 65 degrees.

Blossoms just hinted at on the dogwoods, maples, shrubs in the underbrush I can't name and don't need to today. Sun. I start on the south end, across the creek at a spot where it's only a couple feet wide. Chilly water welcomed after the winter we've had. Short loop around the back section, something enveloping, comforting about skirting through the thickets, no humans to be seen or heard, even if they were, they couldn't see you even from the ridge top. Back across the creek, scramble the muddy hill past the fallen apple tree that doesn't know it has fallen and still gives fruit despite. Around and into the creek bottom where clover is planted for the deer. They die in October. Run this now before it grows to seven, ten feet tall in a few months with the onset of the summer heat.

The train of the valley opens here, a re-entrant, slight but visible if you look, it's where the stream enters the land from the north, valley train running the other way like it forgot for a second where the water was flowing, too late to turn back. Multiflora rose, raspberries, thorns waiting to prick and pierce. Easter was yesterday. Over the fence, soft run through a now green pasture, cattle trails crisscross. Pick one that heads west and follow. The hills roll here, although you wouldn't know it from the road, prairie we have, sometimes rolls if you know where to look for them, if you are patient enough to understand what you've found.

A lightning bolt shape, the creek bed here. Most trees stripped long ago by hands I can't be angry at, now a few osage the only sentries. Up the hill and scale the gate. Fields, field edge. The valley widens out into wooded bramble. Wider still, expanding, a Gordian Knot complication of underbrush, trees, another world away from the one down the dirt road. Around the serpentine contour of the bean field. Cut into the knot on a slight game trail. Duck under the branch. Out the other side. Maybe an eighth of a mile wide here. A labyrinth. Nah, you couldn't really get lost, but it feels like it and that's all that matters.

Running. Scrambling. Churning up some loose mud from last night's rain. Mud, yet it doesn't grab at you. The kind of mud that is soft and forgiving on the shoes. It's ok you're here, please don't linger. Around the next bend the woods disappear, the creek narrows, opens up as small prairie streams often do, into really just a ditch, not a creek by any definition we would apply.

Turn and run it again. This time I cut south at the cattle crossing, up the hill behind the old barn. First week of April and the grass is green, so green as to banish gray for a season, that gray that's all we've had for months. That gray. But not today. No pasture here, just woods now, a ford, water only a foot deep here, cross, back on the connector trail that connects the deer, coyotes, me, back from the hardwood forest to my little patch that used to be Oak hardwood forest and now can't be. To the south is a hissing, sounds like a cougar, but can't be. A feral cat? A bobcat? A badger? Don't know. An interesting sound for noontime sunshine, usually relegated to deep night.

Pace quickens slightly up that last slight rise ( I admit it). Back to the four wheeler, water. Only four miles, but renewed. A FreeRun.

Monday, February 15, 2010

February May Well be the Cruelest Month

Cold, gray, Illinois. Not a whole lot to write since this has mostly been a blog about my running and frankly I haven't been running a whole ton lately, for reasons that you wouldn't really care about. My last really good "long run" was sometime early last fall. I'm ecstatic to get out for an hour here or there. The plan is to work back into shape and do some fun stuff in the summer. There are indeed miles to go.

Cold, gray, Illinois. All of those things, yet I still miss the trails for hours and hours even on bleak, frigid mornings. One thing I do love about winter is the sense of hibernation, the atmosphere of burrowing in and having free time to think or read instead of do. About the time that wears off, warmth is coming and outdoors becomes home. All the burrowing has allowed to sneak in a few books. All read over the last couple months and recommended:

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford: A good basic study of the Mongols, but flawed in his over-the-top revisionism and recasting the Golden Hordes as creators of everything from accounting to the postal system. Still, worthwhile.

Go East Young Woman - A true story about 125 years of life in the Russian steppe of Bessarabia by German farmers, and how it ended during World War II by Karl Horst Schwarzer

The Emigration from Germany to Russia in theYears 1763 to 1862 by Karl Stumpp

From Catherine to Khruschev-the Story of Russia's Germans- by Dr. Adam Giesinger

Tracing Romania's Heterogeneous German Minority from Its Origins to the Diaspora- by Jacob Steigerwald

Yes, I have an obsession with Eastern European and Central Asian history.

Tales From Out There by Ed Furtaw-- Really cool new book with everything you ever wanted to know about the Barkley Marathons