Friday, November 8, 2013

Bobcat Trail Marathon

This is the first time I’ve attempted the Bobcat Trail Marathon in Burr Oak State Park near Glouster, Ohio.  I really had no idea what to expect, I have never run any trails in the area, I am still struggling with an injured ankle, and I have not trained consistently since August.  Still I was confident I could complete the challenge, it’s only 26.2 miles.    
This race was a little different for me due to my family making the trip, typically for a race this close I would go solo or take just my middle daughter and best crew worker with me, but this time not only did my youngest and wife come but we stayed with a running friend and his family. 
It was a nice morning about 40 degrees, ended up perfect weather for what I wore.  It was supposed to get into the 50’s but I doubt it ever did.  It had rained most of the day before so the course, which had very few road sections, was wet but only really muddy in a few places.  The leaves were down and still wet making it both slick and hard to see obstacles on course.   I think I slipped and tripped more at this race than all the trail runs I’ve done in my 4 years of trail running.  I thought most of the course was runnable the hardest sections being:
 1. The 1st 4 miles, which you don’t notice because you’re fresh and full of adrenalin
2. Miles 14 and 15 seem to be lots of climbing.
3. Miles 22 thru 25 always going up or down.   

This is a great course around a lake; the lake is almost always in view on your right side.  In fact just about the half-way point they tease you by taking right by the lodge where the start finish is, if only that 100 yards or so of water wasn’t there.  The course is hilly or maybe that is just my perspective being a flatlander, but from my experience this course was much harder than the Tecumseh Trail Marathon but comparable to Mohican, I had it at 7600ft of gain and loss. 
The mile 18 aid station (when did water stops become aid stations?) was manned by the Buckeye Trail Volunteers.  I have heard of the buckeye trail but didn’t really know what it was until packet pick up where the Buckeye Trail Volunteers had some information and were more than happy to talk with us.  They did not know of one and I’ve since checked no one has posted a fastest known time for the 1444 mile trail.  Maybe I could take a month or so and do a FKT, new bucket list item. 
As for my race, I went out thinking 4:30 as primary goal, but thought 5 hours was more likely.  The first half I ran well and was near pace at the half way point (about 2:16), but my knee was really starting to hurt and because of my cold I was kind of wheezing a little bit.  I tried to push thru but by 15 miles I was hurting too bad and needed a break, my pace slowed to 15 and 16 minute miles and I started to wonder if I was going to beat 6 hours.  At the mile 18 aid station I stopped asked for some ice and rubbed my knee for a while before continuing.  Something worked, I starting picking it up again about mile 20.  After the last aid station at mile 21 I sat in with a group of five and ran with them for a while, 5 became 4, then 2, and then I went off alone not seeing any of them again until the finish.  I was feeling pretty good considering and was running much better catching a few people and passing them easily.  When I finally made it to the road I knew it was downhill to the finish, the friend I was with was there (he finished 35 minutes earlier) than I was greeted by my youngest who for the first time ran me down the hill (picture above) and then by my middle daughter, who crews and comes to most of my races ran me across the finish line (1st pix).  I crossed in 5:22:50 (52 out of 114). 
This is what I have come to call my Mohican strategy.  I run a good first half, the next ¼ I suffer and bleed time, only to make a miraculous recovery and finish strong the last ¼. 
We all when back to the cottage and finished the day with some pumpkin pancakes than a mad dash home so we could salvage Halloween for the girls (Which should have been on Thursday but was canceled for bad weather which never really came). 
Great fun race, I may be back, I know I left something on the course and could do much better, plus I really had a good time. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A long run in the city of Chicago!

I had not planned on doing Chicago, but I jumped into the free lottery when they had registration problems, and to my surprise I was in.  I paid my $175 registration fee and thought well that will take care of Illinois.  I never thought much more about doing Chicago until about 20 weeks out when I set up my training program, I wanted to PR this race and I wanted to BQ.  Fall events are sometimes tricky for me to train for because I have to work it around coaching Cross Country and they rarely run far are hard enough at the K – 8th grade level for me to use it as training, but this year became much more difficult.  I play on a summer tennis league, usually finishes up the last week of July, this year we were pretty good and kept moving on all the way to the National Championship Tournament in Tucson Arizona the 1st week in October, making me miss 3 weekends of long runs do to playing and traveling.  Also, I suffered my first real injury of my short running career when I tore my hamstring during a 5K, I do this 5K every year because it is the 1st race I ever did back in 2008.  I ran on it the best I could but was unable to run more than an hour or fast for 6 weeks.  My best run was a 17 miler at an 8:00 pace, so I went to Chicago with little expectations, the distance is easy the pace is what makes it hard.

I have never done an event anywhere close to the size of Chicago.  The expo is amazing.  So many realtors, very well organized.  Packet pick up is a breeze.  I walked the rows of booths sampling stuff like Clif Bar and MamaChia, trying on and running in a pair of Hokas, and meeting Scott Jurek and Bart Yasso.   

Race day even without the proper training I was going all out for as long as I could hold on, but I knew ultimately it was just going to be a nice long run through an awesome city.  Prerace was very well organized with loads of volunteers, signs, and gates pointing you in the correct direction.  Security check was a breeze and bag drop was easy, and finding your way to the correct starting corral was no problem.  The corral was packed tight.  The start is so congested you are bumping people and people are tripping on curbs, road dividers, and other runners.  I am not used to big events; in trail races you get out front at the start to avoid the conga line, not possible at Chicago.  The amount of support from spectators and volunteers   is humbling they line the streets from the start to the finish which is very helpful and encouraging; I have never received so many high fives.  I started to fade 15 miles in and by mile 18 I knew it was going to be a slow finish and around mile 22 started to walk through the water stations.  I finished in 3:37:22, not bad considering the lack of training. At the finish volunteers watched all the runners and had EMS and bags of ice at the ready.  Finish line party was crazy crowded and I was on a tight schedule so I did not stick around, my one complaint it took an hour to get from the finish line, through bag pickup and to the runners reunite area; most of that time was taken up waiting in long lines at the bag pickup, because people were corralled, numbered and assigned a drop bag area by time you had 1000 people picking up bags at once. 

All and all the experience was memorable and positive the crowds and volunteers are like none I have seen, but I see no reason to add this race to my must do again list.  It is expensive, crowded, the lack swag was surprising, and now I have Illinois.  Illinois gives me 10 out of 50 states, and Chicago marks the 23rd official marathon or greater event I have done since I started in Oct. 2009. 

Next up Bobcat Trail Marathon. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Long Tennis Season

So, for 3 years I have played some Tennis in a USTA (United States Tennis Association) league.  The league is a 3.0 18 & over men’s summer league.  This is a team sport with 2 courts of singles and 3 courts of doubles, win 2 out of the 3 courts and you win the match.  My teams have always been competitive but completely recreational.   Usually finishing just in time for me to coach cross country, not so this year.

This year the guy that captained the team bailed and I was left as the captain with little experience.  We struggled to field a team, forfeiting a court the 1st week of the season.  Lost a promising young player to a job relocation, but picking up a few solid replacements that would prove key to the team moving on.  Even with being short we managed to go undefeated but the AW and B teams were sitting on the top of the standings looking tough to beat.  We had several guys sacrifice to make sure we filled the 5 courts (8 players) every week, I played after my 100 mile trail race, others skipped family functions, one rescheduled a minor surgery.  Two weeks left in the season and we are undefeated, qualified for the district championships, with the two teams we will meet left on the schedule.  We play AW and win, they tell us that B is the team to beat.  We play B and defeat them.  Going to the District championship as the favorite now we beat AW again, so does B.  So it us or them for the championship we win convincingly, even after they try to DQ one of our players.   We are the 11-0 Northwest Ohio USTA Champions. 

The next weekend comes the state championships.  We must play the winners from NE Ohio and Ohio Valley down in Cincinnati.  The long and short of it is we went down confident and won against both teams.  Making us the 13-0 Ohio State USTA Champions.

The next weekend was the Sectional Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.  We would play the state champs from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  But the short roster and long season was becoming a problem, the rules say you most take 8 players or face sanctions or let the 2nd place team go.  We were having problems getting 8 players for all 3 days.  The host hotel and all the hotels in the area were booked due to multiply events in the city that weekend.  We got a hotel 20 minutes away from courts and nearly had to give up our place but at the last possible minute we got our 8th and were heading to Indianapolis.  We won our 1st three matches as did Michigan, so it would all come down to this.  The matches were tight, and tied 2-2, with doubles 2 going into a 3rd set tie break.  He prevailed; we were now the 18-0 Midwest USTA Champions. 

The final step in this journey was to be in Tucson, Arizona a month later where we would play with the 17 best teams in the country for the National Championship.  This is not an inexpensive journey so far and it just got more expensive.  Some good friends and the club we play at throw us one heck of a party and fundraiser and bring in enough to pay for more than ½ the expenses, I can never thank them all enough.  We practice in the buildup, we’ve not practiced a lot prior, realizing just how serious this is getting.  We are in a tough draw with Florida, SouthWest and Texas with the winner getting through to the semis.  The hotel was nice with courts to hit at, a pool and rooms with patios.  It was also close enough to walk to the Tennis Facility.  First we would play Texas they would beats us handlely, the team’s first lost.  Next is SouthWest, we came close, still feel like we could of beat them but lost.  With Florida still to come we were already out of the semis, with some minorly injured players, including me with a bum hamstring and fractured ankle.  For the 1st time this season we mixed up the lineup and with nothing to play for Florida overwhelmed us.  We finished the season 18-3 and we were finally done.  That evening we partied by the pool, then at the OSU  - Wisconsin game, then at the players party.  The next day watched the Semis and the Finals, before heading to Phoenix and home. 

Some observation of the overall event I enjoyed myself and thought it was an amazing experience and take nothing I say as sour grape, I did not expect to win and some of the teams were just better.  The event was well run we were all on the same block of courts unlike the other championships and the courts were laid out much better for fans and players.  The organizers were approachable and helpful.  Officials seemed ineffective or worthless, not overturning obvious bad calls or providing direction.   Some of the teams and clubs take this much more serious than others.  Captains of some teams were not players but teaching pros or coaches.  The only thing that really bothered me was the team that won it all was not made of 3.0 Men. 

Glad the season is finally over 2 months late, now I can go for a run.  Just a few days until the Chicago Marathon. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Passion for the trails

My passion for the trail started long before my running life started.  Living in NWOhio we don’t have a lot of good hiking or any hills, but the hills called.  I loved trips to SEOhio, N.Y., Vermont, and N.H. where I could get out into nature.

My running life began in Aug. 2008 with kids grades K-8 on my daughters cross country team.  A year later and 60lbs lighter I ran my first marathon.  Then some friends told me about the Tecumseh Trail Marathon coming up, I went not knowing what to expect.  I was hooked; the people there talked about amazing feats (100milers, 24hr, and Mountain runs), walked the hills, ate food at aid stations, took salt, and talked with the people around them.  The atmosphere and people were completely different from the roadrunner crowd.  Laid back, beer drinking folks more interested in having a good time than running a good time, the race was the goal.  A few months later another friend who just returned from Mexico told me about this 50 miler at Mohican I’d enjoy and told me to read a book  “Born to Run”.  I did both.  When I got to the prerace dinner and meeting and meet up with the friend who told me about the race he sat with Michal True (Caballo Blanco) introduced me, he had brought Caballo up with him after running the Copper Canyon Ultra.  I got to spend some time running with Caballo at that race and over the next week.  I really enjoyed his easy going attitude.  The greatest memory of that time is when Caballo invited me to do his race; he told me it’s only a little harder than Mohican.  I never did, and regret it. 

Since then I search out trail races, always looking for a new challenge or fun event I can get to.  But, I always go back to Mohican where this year I completed my first 100miler.  At the finish line I was already talking about doing it again some of the other first timer thought me crazy but I knew that is where I belong. 

I have tried to immerse myself in the Ultra life through websites like, podcasts, books, and videos.  Podcasts is where I first heard of Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest, I was interested immediately, the maker of the best bottles on the market and designed by Scott Jurek this is what I want to use on my next challenge.