Sunday, August 23, 2009


I first ran in Death Valley in February ’06 in the Death Valley marathon. That year the Titus Canyon road was closed and we ran out and back on West Side Road. It was the first time I’d traveled to a race. The temperature got into the 80’s. I wasn’t prepared for that. I lost my S-caps right away. I didn’t eat much at all. My legs were locking up from cramps the last couple miles. At the end, as we milled around, another runner came over and asked with concern if I was OK. His girlfriend was embarrassed and pulled him away. He was right, however. I was hot and exhausted, not thinking really clearly.
Since then, I’ve learned a whole lot. I came back and ran the marathon again in’08. This time it was on the much tougher and scenic Titus Canyon route. I did much better that year and began to love Death Valley.
I began to run longer and more difficult courses. The toughest race was Massanutten in ’08. I was 34 ½ hours finishing that 100 miles. I ran 4 100’s in 2008. I applied to Badwater in January ’09 like many other runners. I know I’m not an elite runner by any stretch. I made back up plans for a solo run the week after the official race. I made stay reservations for both the big dance and a solo party.
When the email came from the selection committee came, I opened it with trepidation. I re-read it several times in the next couple of days to be sure it was real.
I had prepared a crew. Denny would be crew chief. He works for the county emergency services He has been a firefighter and ambulance attendant. He is thorough and is an organizer.
My son Mike is an engineer. He too is organized and logical. He is a passionate skier and cyclist. He has done several 100 mile bike rides.
My daughter Melinda lives in California. I wanted to make this a family event, so she and her boyfriend Mike were in. My ex-wife rounded out the family. Her nurse skills might come in handy.
We needed one more and were able to find Niki from the Badwater blog crew postings. Niki is a climber and mountaineer, spending time in the mountains all over the world. She is also a cyclist, having covered 200 miles in a 24 hour period.
Mike and Denny had crewed for me before, in Vermont and at Iroquois in New York. The best chance for more crew training came in May at the Keys 100. Mike, Denny, Ron and I flew to Florida. We picked up a rental van and set it up just like we would for Badwater. Keys is a point to point run on a paved road, just like Badwater. It is a great practice event. Several others were practicing there too.
At the 6 am start, I went out a bit fast. The crew said “You’re going pretty fast” “I know, it feels OK for now” Around the 17 mile point, I was way up among the relay teams. I was sitting in the shade eating something when Alissa Springman came by.
I pointed her out as last year’s winner. That’s when the crew said “You are still holding 9 minute miles.” “What!! That’s way too fast” A bit later, my thighs started to feel a bit sore. I started to take walking breaks, then more. I ended up walking the last 30 miles. I was making 15 minute miles, so I didn’t lose any place because of it. I finished in 25:05 much wiser and with an experienced crew.
We flew into Las Vegas Thursday. We picked up our rental van, making sure to get one with two keys. Getting locked out of the car is a disaster we didn’t want. We stocked up in a big store and finished the list in Pahrump. We stopped at Dante’s View so the crew could get a look at the valley. It is stunning and the scope of Death Valley and the task ahead became real.
After supper that evening, we stepped out to a hot evening with a hair dryer wind. That was the only time I felt any concern about the weather. Sunday went by quickly with runner check in and the pre-race meeting. We turned in early and I slept well. We were up at 4:15, nervously quiet. Once we got to Badwater, I felt calm. The point called Badwater is a parking area where the race was to begin. I weighed in, got lots of pictures taken and waited. Even at line up, I was calm. Thalia Kostman, daughter of the race director, sang the national anthem, very moving, in her beautiful voice.
At GO, I moved out with everybody else, intending to stay in the last half of the group. I didn’t have a real strategy, just to remain steady. I had told the crew to keep me under 12 minute miles. I knew the first 42 miles were the key to the race. I walked the upslopes and ran the flat and downhill parts. I found myself running with Frank McKinney from Florida. This was his 4th Badwater. Our pace was well matched and I saw him many more times. We were in the shade of the mountains till around 9:30, when the sun rose above them. I was running easy, looking at the desert scenery, still not sure it was real.
After the Furnace Creek check in, I felt the day warm up. I had done my sauna training, so I was as ready as I could get. The crew started spraying me with water and making ice bandanas for my neck. At Stovepipe Wells, I sat on the shaded porch with my feet up. I ate ice cream and rested. I was videotaped by somebody. I said “ Do I look like I’m racing? There is 100 miles to go, no hurry now” He thought that was funny. I probably rested 40 minutes. Mike and Niki fueled the van and got more ice. As they were finishing up, I started out. I told Niki, “If we get through Stovepipe with feet and stomach intact, we’re halfway home.”
The walk up Townes Pass is where I got the first company. Mike got out and paced me here. We began to get passed by the faster runners that had started later. There are 3 starting waves, with the elite runners assigned to the later starts. I remembered last year when we were at the Emigrant Canyon turn off, we were told that the course route had been changed due to flash flooding ahead. We got another rain shower right there just like last time too, only no rainbow this time.
I continued to run and walk easily, not feeling any pressure. I came in with a goal of finishing. I really wanted a buckle for finishing in 48 hours or less. During a burst of optimism I had made up a chart showing a 44 hour finish. I was feeling good and ahead of even that.
It got dark as we neared the top of the pass. Niki took a picture of us at the sign on the summit. I ran most of the long downhill to Panimint Springs. There was a crew shift change a few miles outside Panimint. Frank caught up to me as I ate by the van. He intended a break at Panimint as I did. Jack Denness was running the checkpoint at Panimint. He showed me the cottage set aside for runners. I was able to get a shower, but the bunks were full. My prepared crew laid out a pad for me and I was able to nap just off the parking lot. They let me sleep an hour and a half. I felt good and finished a huge strawberry smoothie they had ready for me when I woke. There must have been 1,000 calories in the thing. I saw Frank’s crew van on the road as we left, he must have been right behind me.
Denny took over pacing up to Father Crowley Point. This long uphill is dreaded by most of the runners. It is 8 miles long, narrow and with few good places for the van to park. Daylight arrived as we moved along. I felt good, felt strong.
After the top, Melinda took over for some pacing duties. It was great to move along and talk and enjoy the sights. There is a long downhill stretch past the Darwin turnoff. I ran the whole thing, 7 miles or so. I ran through the Darwin checkpoint, calling out my race number, 83. For a portion of this I was doing 9 minute miles. Really flying for me. Especially with 24 hours done and almost 100 miles.
At the end of the downhill, I sat down at the van and ate and rested a bit. My plan was to walk the long flat past Keeler. We did get pictures at the 100 mile mark. Right around there, we got a couple F15 flyovers. Around the 115 mile mark, Kelvin Marshall’s crew pulled up behind us. I had crewed for Kelvin last year. This year, he wanted to better his time of 40:20. He hoped to beat the previous time set by another Australian runner. He did so with a 36:30 finish. In a few minutes, Kelvin blasted by me with Steve Ochoa in tow.
Soon it was crew change time again. Niki stepped in to pace. Mike and Mike were the van guys for now. Niki was a good pacer, talking when I wanted to talk, quiet when I was.
I got a bit behind in taking in calories around this point. Mike B had come prepared with some MREs. He had a backpacking stove and made me an omelet with turkey and cheese, followed with hot tea. That hit the spot and gave me the boost I needed.
Most runners find the Owens Lake stretch boring and hate that part. I didn’t find it so bad. It took me a while to figure out what I was seeing cross the lake. It looked like a parade of Loch Ness monsters. There was a head and tail and humps in between, black in color and reflecting in the lake. As we got to the lower end of the lake and they got closer to the road, I could see that they were truck tractors pulling two trailers of rock. I don’t know what they were doing, but there was a parade of rock trucks going somewhere.
This seemed the hottest part of the course. Denny’s weather instrument only registered 115. It had been 120 the day before. Maybe the fatigue had something to do with it. I was still moving well with a steady walk. The crew kept spraying and bandanaing. Nothing sounded good to eat and I got behind on calories again. I looked forward to a burger and fries in Lone Pine. I kept underestimating the distance left. By the time we turned onto Route 190, I was way behind the curve, into a bonk. I was tired and a bit cranky. I thought I remembered the walk to the Portal Road as having shade. There was no relief this time. Niki and I checked in at the Dow Villa time station and finally turned onto the Portal Road. I was really ready for that burger and fries.
I had told the crew we would take a break in the first part of the Portal Road. I remembered it as wide and shaded in the first ¼ mile. I sat and put my feet up on the bumper. The food went down well. I was sweaty from the hot walk and when I sat in the shade, I cooled off fast. There was a bit of a breeze and I began to shiver. When I finished eating, I got into the car that had been sitting with the windows up. The warm car felt good, as I was still shivering. I got to doze a half hour. Ron and Denny went back to the Best Western to wait while I went up the last 12 miles. I told them to allow 4 hours.
This is the home stretch, so there was no pressure or doubt of finishing. It’s just late in the race and runner and crew are tired. This is the steepest part of the course and everybody walks here. Part way up the road is along a stream, the first fresh water we’d seen anywhere on the course.
It got dark for the second time and we put on reflective vests and got our lights out. Way below us we heard a siren. It came closer and then a sheriff’s deputy car came screaming up the hill. A couple minutes later another one followed. The last checkpoint is at a wide spot along the road at mile 131. We recorded a time of exactly 40 hours to there. I ate a bit and moved on toward the finish line. The next mile and a half is the steepest of all the course. I got through that well and turned to the left onto the last switchback. From here, the last 2 ½ miles are much easier. I felt the cool air and knew we were near the pines. Just as we got around the corner, one of the sheriff deputies came down the hill and told us the campground and the area was being evacuated due to a forest fire. We were to go back down off the mountain. About a minute later, this was confirmed by the race director, Chris Koffman. He told us to stake out and return to our motel. The finish line was closed and our race was over.
I didn’t feel let down. I absolutely knew I would finish in 41 hours. That was way beyond my most optimistic hope. The actual finish line wasn’t needed at that point. It would have been only a ceremony.
We went back down to our rooms at the Best Western. The crew was all wound up. I was tired but happy with the whole adventure. We talked a while and I got a shower to wash off the stickiness. My feet were in good shape, just swollen.
After breakfast the next morning, we unpacked the van and cleaned it. Then we went to see if we could get to the top of the mountain. The Portal road was open, so we went on up to see the official finish line. Many other runners were doing the same, so things were crowded at the top, with runners and the usual hikers and campers.
It is such a contrast to run for days through the desert and finish in the cool pine trees with a waterfall rushing nearby. No doubt there is a metaphor there. I got my finisher’s medal from Chris. He must have had some sleep at some time, but he was at all the starts and met every runner at the finish line. His is an endurance event.
As we went down the road, there were runners still coming in. We honked and cheered for them. In all, there were 75 finishers of the 88 starters. That makes it a pretty good year. The medical team reported it was quiet for them.
It has been a month now and I have no doubt lost a few details. The whole thing went so smoothly, it is hard to imagine what could have been better. I do know I want to go back and do it again. It was due to the crew that it did happen so well. I felt like a circus pony doing my bit while they ran the show.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting Ready for the Big Dance

Since Old Dominion, I've backed off and let things heal and strengthen. I've been running fewer miles and taking rest days. I've been using the sauna several times a week. I can tell I'm getting more heat trained. I can stay in longer each time, but it still takes a toll. I can't get up early the next morning to run, I have to take the day off or run in the evening. I just feel like I've taken a beating. It's like coming down with the flu, that achy all over, tired feeling.
Part of the adaptation is teaching the body to sweat more and to use salt (electrolytes) more efficiently. For a while, I was pouring salt on my food. Now I use a lot less. I have been drinking 2 liters of water in a half hour and still losing weight in the sauna, as much as a couple pounds. That is a lot in a half hour, especially considering I drank 4 pounds of water in that time and still lost weight.
I did take a couple afternoons off to run on the hottest days we've had here. I felt guilty running on a weekday afternoon when I had work to do. I'm sure I'll make it up. I ran 11 miles on Route 49. It was 85 degrees and 50% humidity, not especially hot by most standards. I was out 3 hours and drank 90 ounces of water. The often quoted medical texts say humans can only process 20 ounces per hour. I came back 5 pounds lighter than I left. I lost a total of 180 ounces of sweat in that 3 hours. I needed 60 ounces of water an hour to keep hydrated.
Today I ran in the afternoon. It was only 80 degrees today. I made a real point to keep taking in water. I drank 120 ounces in 3 hours and came back in at the same weight I left with.
It takes some adjusting to drink that much and not feel full. Mostly I have to pay attention and realize what I did in the past isn't enough.
I have assembled a box to send to Melinda. She can bring those things so I don't have to fly quite so much out. Extra shoes and some clothes I won't need before I go.
Things will move even faster now. I can't believe it's only 2 weeks and one day till race day. I leave in 12 days.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Old Dominion Training Run

I went to Woodstock, Va to run the OD 100 last weekend.Old Dominion is the second oldest 100 miler in the country. Only Western States is older. Like States, OD started as a horse event. The horse and runner events have separated since then. This was the 30th running of the event.
I had run Keys 100 May 16, then Denny's BFT Boogie, 42 tough miles with 8,000 feet of climbing, just last weekend.
Most wouldn't have even attempted another 100. I'm not sure what that says about me. I felt good by the end of the week and had rested as much as I could all week. I drove down in 6 hours. It is about 300 miles. About 30 miles away, I still didn't see the mountains we were supposed to run over. That area has unique geography. The mountains popped up just in time and they were for real.
The race headquarters is at the Shenandoah County fairgrounds. The grounds are visible from the exit of I81. There are motels and places to eat within sight of the race start.
I checked in at the fairgrounds and got my number, 58. I intended to camp, but the grass was almost knee high and soaking wet. They had received 5 inches of rain in the last 3 days. I was allowed to sleep on the floor of the building that was the headquarters. I had foam pads and didn't mind the hard floor. I just didn't want the wet. The race briefing was on time and not lengthy. There were 39 runners, about the usual number for this event.
I went out for some pizza and came back to a dark and empty building. I was able to turn in before 9:00. I slept well and the first of the race crew coming in at 3:15 woke me up. That was about right timing. I got dressed and ate a bagel and only had to wait around 10 minutes before the start.
The morning was comfortably warm and foggy. I felt good and started off in the main pack. We ran some streets to get out of Woodstock and then some paved roads to the George Washington national forest. The roads there were a mix of pavement and gravel. Some parts were steep so that was plenty of walking. The aid stations were 4-6 miles apart. I felt good and kept a comfortable pace. I could tell I was moving plenty fast, but it felt good. There were a couple nice trail sections, but the first 25 miles were mostly roads. I was out of the 25 mile station at 4:40 into the race.That works out to a 11:15 pace per mile,which is faster than I sometimes run.
I felt good, no sign of the quad soreness that I felt at Keys and on the BFT. The BFT had a lot of downhill running, so I wasn't sure if I had done more damage. Apparently not.
What did grumble was groin muscles. I had torn them badly in martial arts class almost 2 years ago. They were not right all last summer. I thought they were healed this spring, since there hadn't been any soreness there. I kept going, paying attention to what I felt.
At 32 miles, I took a good break. I ate a can of chili and a hard roll from my drop bag. I have learned I need real food and not to rely on aid stations. If I had anything to say about this race, the aid station food was spare. Pretzels, Pringles, and chocolate chip cookies were the choices. At the last couple stops there had been orange sections.
I felt I could ease out another dozen miles, since the trail came back to that same place later. I headed out and took it easy. This time I saw some more trail sections. Nasty trail, with lots of rocks and water running down it. I don't know how anybody could ever run this part.
The day was getting warm. It must have reached 85 degrees. I walked along and got passed by lots of runners.
I got to the 42 mile point. That was a medical check. We had been weighed at check-in.
I thought I had been doing good with my drinking and S-caps. I did get a bit behind on eating. A few yards before the medical check, I crossed another stream.
I weighed 2 pounds over my earlier weight. Considering I now had wet feet, I called that dead on. That was good to know, considering how things went at Keys.
I told the folks there I was dropping out. They agreed with my assessment and gave me an ice pack.
I was given a ride to the next station where there were more crews and I might get a ride back to base. There wasn't a ride there, so I got driven to another station and did finally get a ride to the fairgrounds. I needed to check out with the race timing official. That point had been repeated several times in the briefing. I couldn't find him. I ate and waited and he finally came back a couple hours later. He showed me a sheet he had left on the table in case anybody needed to sign out. This race is small, and quite different from any other I've been in. Not bad, it just thinks differently. Definitely old school.
I loafed around the parking lot until dark, then put out my sleeping bag on the grass. I intended to cheer in runners as they finished. The runners would have to pass right in front of me. The last bit was a lap around the outside of the horse track to the finish line.
I didn't hear a runner all night. I didn't wake up till 4:00 am. By that time most of the runners were done. I did get to cheer in 2 runners.
I stayed for the awards presentation and breakfast. The most amazing story was Dan Brennan. He got off course by 9 miles. He ran back to the course and finished the race, 118 miles, within the 28 hours allowed. And Dan is no kid. He's 58 years old.
"Tough as nails" was the description that summed it up.
I felt I had a good weekend. I know that is a monstrous amount of running in a short time. I wanted to see how much I could do. I had paid the registration fee. It cost me around $100 to drive down. Old Dominion is usually a hot and humid, tough race. I hoped for a run in the heat. It was actually the nicest weather in years. I stopped early before I did any serious damage. I have too much at stake in July to blow it now. I'm not sorry I went down. I may well try this one again. It is sometimes disparaged as a road race. It is not, there are some absolutely nasty trail sections. And the 24 hour finisher's buckle is very classy. Being old school, the awards are men and women's winners, then 24 hour finishers. No age groups, no finisher's plaques for completing the distance.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keys 100

I hoped to write a full report. It has been almost 3 weeks now and I'm losing the details.
Here is the short version;
Airlines got us into Miami 3 hours later than planned. We missed the mandatory pre-race meeting while we were getting supplies at Walmart. Director Bob Becker gave us a quick briefing when we did get there. We turned in for a short sleep, the second in a row for me.
I didn't feel stressed at all by the heat. It was 85 degrees, with a breeze. Denny had mobile internet and said the humidity was only 50%. That sounds very low for there. I would have expected 85%.
I started off well, maybe a bit fast. My hands started to swell. That was new for me and I didn't realize how serious it was. I did change shoes at mile 30 or so, but too late. I had blisters by then. I didn't bring oversize shoes because I've never had this happen. I expect it in DV, but not here.
I also developed some tightness in front of my thighs. That eventually limited and ended my running. I walked the last 30 miles. I did walk 15 minute miles, including breaks, so I still made time and didn't lose place by it. At mile 5 or so, Route 1 splits and I took the wrong turn for a half mile. That cost me a place.
I finished in 25:05, Not a bad time. Looks like 13th of 27 finishers of 70 starters.
Mostly this was a crew training run. They did very well, so I feel this was a successful weekend.
We did get to dive Monday afternoon on the reefs. We ate quite well after the race.
I'd rate this a 8.5.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gettysburg to DC Relay

Last weekend I was part of a 12 runner team that took part in the American Odyssey Relay. I was part of the "Whalen Good Time" team. It was a family team mostly made up of Whalen's. A couple extras filled out the roster. The Whalen's had been athletic and on their track teams in their high school days. For some that was 30 years ago. There were 3 Whalen teenagers who were now on teams. Nobody had done this type of event before. The furthest anybody else had run was a half marathon. It was a family event, not a race.
The start was according to our reported previous 10k times. Slowest teams started first. We were #35 of 105 to start.
The morning was cool and a bit overcast, just nice for running. I was the #4 runner. I had legs 4, 16, and 28. Each leg was around 6 miles. Some were easier or harder. The race handbook had ranked the legs for difficulty to allow the team captain to place runners in the appropriate slot.
We had 2 vans, 6 runners each. Van 1 took off, meeting runners at change points and sending out the new runner. Van 2 had the morning to kill and met us at point 7, where their man took over. Then we, van 1, went to eat and get some rest.
The course was mostly on secondary paved roads. It went through the Gettysburg battlefield and Antietam. This area is great for running. It is mostly rolling with enough short steep parts to make it interesting. I noticed how the grass was more grown and the trees were more leaved out than at home. It is only a couple hundred miles south, but must be 3 weeks ahead of us.
Van 2 carried on through the afternoon into the dark. We met them at the Boonsboro high school. This was a major transition point and arrangements had been made to open the school gymn and showers for us. It looked like a disaster center with people wandering around, sleeping on the gymn floor, talking on cell phones.
I had an out and back leg here. I ran from the parking lot to the edge of town and back. The 2 runners following me in rotation did similar loops. When we turned it over to van 2, we went to the Amtietam Battlefield Visitor Center. We got some sleep here and soon it was our turn again.
In a couple legs, we were on the C and O Canal path. This historic path led us more directly toward DC. It was gently downhill and packed dirt. My section was well shaded. I was grateful because the day was warming fast. Van 1 turned over to van 2 around noon. It was well into the 80's and humid, quite nasty for running.
After loading up on pizza, we headed to Washington to the finish area to wait. I hadn't been there in many years. I'm glad someone in our crew knew their way around the expressways. We went to the national mall, a grassy area on the Potomac river within sight of the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson monuments. We drove around and were fortunate to get a parking place within sight of the finish line. We lay in the shade and watched and cheered other teams as they finished. A couple more family members joined us to see the finish. Soon our runners came along. They had run in the hottest part of the day and were quite beat. We all joined in for the run under the banner. Pictures and medals were in order. Then we loaded up and out for a needed meal together.
This was my first relay race. The format is quite different than a trail run. The run, get stiff and then run again, is quite a change. Also, the legs were short to me. I'm used to 40 or 50 or 100 miles at a stretch and I pace myself accordingly. 6 miles is a sprint to me. The others on the team found that very funny. They are used to a 10k as a whole race.
These relay races are apparently popular and numerous. I think this group may run another one. Some members won't run again, some family members had commitments this time.
In all, I had fun and would do another one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rail Trail Ride

The Venture Crew wanted to do an interesting event and needed a fund raiser. They came up with the idea of a bike-a-thon. The logical place was the Pine Creek Rail Trail. It is 65 miles of fine scenic riding through the Pa. Grand Canyon and is known as one of the best rides in the east.
We loaded up Saturday morning and headed to the north end at Wellsboro.
We rode about 30 miles to our campsite. There are campsites along the trail. They are basic with fire rings and picnic tables. This one was between the trail and Pine Creek. We had the place to ourselves.
We had a parent drive a truck with our camp gear, so we carried it into the campsite and set up in relative comfort. We had coolers of food, camp chairs and cooking gear.
The Crew members had energy enough to play frisbee and run around before supper. Nobody stayed up late, though.
Breakfast was cooked by volunteers who got up at 6:00. When else do teenagers get up that early on Sunday? They made pancakes and bacon and scrambled eggs to order. We had a youth led Scouts Own Service since it was Sunday.
Then on the bikes again. Only 35 miles to go. The group I was with stopped for ice cream at 11:00. We need to keep our energy levels up to pedal.
The group had set a finish time of 4:00 pm. Be at a road crossing then to be picked up. Since some were getting donations based on mileage, everybody wanted to ride as far as possible. I followed the last rider in to the south parking lot at 3:40. The first few had arrived at 2:00 or so.
We all had sore butts and were pleased with the weekend. We stopped on the way home for pizza and recounted the trip. Another fine adventure.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strategic Planning

I decided to withdraw from the McNaughton race. I iced my knee for a couple of days and it felt better. I ran gently on it Sunday and Tuesday. I just don't dare subject it to 150 hard miles right now. I don't want to risk the whole season being lost to an injury. I have too much at stake here to blow up now.
That means I will get a decent training week in and be able to ride with the Venture Crew on their bike-a-thon next weekend. They want to ride on the Pine Creek Rail Trail as a campout and fund raiser. We will start Saturday morning at Wellsboro Junction and ride to our campsite below Blackwell. We'll camp overnight and Sunday everybody will ride as far as they are able. Some might do all 65 miles. Some probably won't. We have lots of adults going along and it should be a lot of fun. I have encouraged them to get on their bikes and get some miles on. I don't think anybody has. I have not ridden since last fall either.

Friday, April 3, 2009

More Spring

Things are looking better. There are more signs of the new season. Local folks are making maple syrup. I heard turkeys gobbling this week and saw a gobbler puffed up and showing off one day. I saw a bear when I was coming back from class one night. The ospreys are back to their nest at the high school. A pair have nested there for 7 or 8 years now. Their nest is on a pole a few feet off the track.
I have been running well the last couple weeks. I have a road run that is 26 miles with almost 2,000 feet of climbing in it. There are a couple of stores where I can get something to eat and drink. Doing this twice a weekend is good training. Combined with weekday morning track work, I'm aiming at 80 mile weeks. I have started doing some speedy laps in the mornings. If I can keep this up and not injure myself any more, I'll be ready for the season.
I did smack a knee a month ago on a jackhammer I was using. It was pretty well settled down, but I bashed it again today in the shop. I'm taking the afternoon off and icing it. I need that knee for McNaughton. I think it will be OK. I'll decide by Tuesday. No sense tearing it up this early in the most important running season of my life.
My Badwater crew has a new member, Niki. She has done some interesting outdoor adventures and will fit right in.
Gotta go tend my knee now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It Has Sprung!!

Spring is actually here. I have seen robins. They are spread out taking territories, no longer in flocks. I saw woodchucks out, that is a local sign of spring when they come from hibernation and move above ground. Coming home from class the other night, I saw a bear crossing the road ahead of me.
The days are nicer for running. Fifty degrees is nice weather to run in. I have gotten out the last couple of weekends both days. I have a 26 mile road run that has around 2,000 feet of climbing. Four and a half to five easy hours with a couple of stops in stores for water and snacks is good training.
My running season starts April 10th. I have a 150 miler in Pekin, Il. It's time to back off and rest for that effort. I had hoped to have more miles in by now, but a nasty cold and life in general has happened. I'll go with what I have got. It will be my longest run ever. I have run several 100's. I'm not taking this lightly. Illinois is not all flat, and there are a couple small stream crossings each lap. The course can be muddy if there is much rain in the week before. Last year, there was horrendous mud conditions and cold snow flurries in the air. I'm hoping that is out of the way and this year is going to be better.
I have a huge running year planned and want to get off to a good start.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Like In The Good Old Days

My internet connection went down last Wednesday.
I don't know exactly what happened, but Verizon has been very good about doing what they could to get things back up. I spoke with technical support people who were native English speakers. They were patient and checked actual repair orders and verified that repairs were happening at 1:00 am. Right now they have arranged me a dial up connection at no cost so I can at least check email and keep in touch.
I have been adrift for almost a week. I don't count myself a techie by any means, but I get most of my news and weather forecasts from the internet. I don't have a television nor do I listen to radio much at all. I'm certainly not anti-social nor unsociable. I'm self employed and have no employees. I don't hang out in the coffee shop.
I remember buying my first computer. I can't remember the technical specifications, but now a microwave has more computer inside. At the time, I thought the kids would like to use it for homework assignments. The first one used 3.5 inch floppy discs. They were much better than the 5 inch ones. Soon came CD's. Who imagined DVD's full of information and entertainment? I remember when internet service was first offered here. I was one of the first couple dozen in town to sign up.
And the internet? It was touted as a way to swap recipes and to chat to family. Who predicted billions of dollars changing hands on E-bay?
I have benefited from the growth and evolution of the computer and internet. I can research and make better business and personal decisions. I can research and make better buying choices, both personal and business related.
One experience; I was arranging T-shirts for the Venture Crew. I phoned Stacie at the embroidery shop. She was making similar shirts for the Scout troop. While we were on the phone, she emailed me a couple of designs. I looked at them and chose the fish design, in green. She said OK, I'll make them. Elapsed time, 3 minutes. Once upon a time, I would have had to drive 40 miles, look at a book of designs, pick one, and drive home. Two hours spent, gasoline burned, etc.
In the last week, I didn't have a weather forecast. I went out for a run Saturday and got rained on. Just a brief shower. I missed an email saying a Scout meeting had been canceled.
I hadn't thought about how comfortable I've become with all this communication and information at hand. But I am glad to have it. Even as I wonder how much more can be coming and where will it end.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Good Weekend

I drove up to Maine to visit my son last weekend. He lives near Portland. I drove briskly up on Thursday, taking 9 hours. He had invited me to attend his Aikido class. I study Hakkoryu Jujitsu and wanted to see what Aikido was like. Mike earned a black belt, which is "Master" or teacher, level in karate in college. When he moved to Maine, he visited several dojos or training schools to find one that he liked to continue training. He wasn't impressed with the first several schools he checked and pretty well gave up his search. He happened to find this school and has been pleased.
I got to Mike's just before he got home from work and we headed to class. I found a clean, spacious, well lit practice area with a huge mat room. Mats on the floor make for nicer throws and rolls. I took part in two classes that evening and we went back Saturday for more. A regular class plus a sword class. I had never done any weapons training and was pretty clumsy with the wooden sword.
I found the fundamentals the same in Aikido as Hakkoryu. Both are purely defensive arts using off-balancing techniques for throws. The names, in Japanese, for the techniques are different. The teaching methods are different. But the two arts are very similar.
Mike is a cyclist and cross country skier. He loves Maine because of the snow they get there. The country around Portland is rolling hills and is great for cycling as well. He has helped me with some of my runs as a crew member and pacer. He hated running in high school and wasn't sure he wanted to do any more. I'm glad he gave it an honest try in order to help me out. I'm also glad he has decided maybe it's not as bad as it was. Trail running is very different than fast track sprints. He has a dog that needs exercise and running in the woods is a good way to do that.
We got out to run together Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday. Mike told me he found a steep hill to run on. No kidding!!! Saco Mountain is the higest point in York county, with 800 feet of climbing in a little over a mile. It is topped with two radio towers. There is a paved road that leads to the towers. It leads through a stone quarry where we can see the layers of granite they are blasting off. We drove over to the quarry gate and ran up and down twice on Saturday. That is a real killer hill. We ran from home to the mountain and back Sunday. That made a 15 mile run with a thousand feet of climbing. We ran it at an easy pace in 2 1/2 hours, just a nice run.
It surprises me how few wildlife I see in Maine. The area is old farm land with scattered houses. Swamps and wooded areas outnumber the fields. We saw 2 deer this time and a dozen turkeys, the first I've seen there. There are reports of moose in the area, but we've never seen one. The big score, however, was a bobcat we saw on Saco Mountain on Saturday. He crossed the paved road about a hundred yards away. When I said "Look!" the cat turned around and ran back across into the woods. He was a pretty reddish color, not the tawny I have seen. Imagine the odds of seeing 2 bobcats in 2 states in the same week.
I intended to drive home Monday. Monday had other ideas. We woke to a foot of heavy wet snow and no power and things pretty well shut down. I had told Mike he ought to have his camping stove there instead of leaving it at my house. "You just never know" We fired it up on top of the kitchen range and cooked breakfast. We had the woodstove for heat, so we were just fine. The family that owns the house Mike is in, came up from their house next door. We cooked for them and we all shoveled the driveway. Around noon, the power was restored. The folks in Maine are used to this and it was no big deal.
It got colder through the day Monday, into the low teens that night. That froze the new, wet snow and made for some fine skiing conditions Tuesday. The farm Mike goes to had groomed the trails Monday afternoon and made them smooth and fast. I'm not a skiier, but can make forward progress, mostly upright. We had a good time in the morning. Trail conditions were super, nobody else was around and the weather was about perfect.
In all, another fine weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'M IN!!!!!!!

"Hello Steve!
Congratulations! You have been accepted to compete in the 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon, presented by AdventureCORPS, Inc. You are part of a select group who will participate in what is recognized across the globe as the world's toughest footrace."

I applied for the Badwater Ultramarathon in January. I knew I met the posted minimum qualifications. I had crewed for a runner there last July and knew I was capable of running the course. I had been awed by the talented runners I met there, the names everybody knows, Dean Karnazes, David Goggins, Charlie Engle, Pam Reed, Lisa Smith-Batchen.
I wasn't sure I fit into that category. I knew I wanted to run there, very badly. I was prepared to run on my own as a solo runner outside the official event.
I first ran in Death Valley in 2006. I absolutely love that place. It is the absolute opposite of northern Pennsylvania. Here is green and hills. You can not get a half mile from a road or a water source. There is brown and mountains and space. There is no soil on the ground, the sandy gravel crunches under your feet. Polar opposite but equally beautiful. Starry winter night and warm June sunrise.
I went back in 2007 and ran the marathon again. This time I spent a few days exploring and seeing more. So many times, I didn't even try to take a picture. Some things just don't fit on film.
When I came home in 2007, I posted my availbility to crew for the Badwater Ultramarathon 2008. I was contacted in a few days by Kelvin Marshall. Kelvin is Australia's best known and most prolific ultrarunner. He asked me to be part of his crew. It was a big blind date on both sides.
I agreed to meet two strangers in Las Vegas and then share a van with five people I'd never met. We would be bound together for a week. A week of 110 degree weather and the tension of a race. It was a good match. We bonded into a good team. We got Kelvin to the finish line in good time and healthy. We have kept in contact since then. Most of the teams scatter, like a one race stand.
I the time since, I have run more races. I have gained more experience and found some people who made a good crew for me. I was building toward my own Badwater run. I knew there was a selection committee that reviewed the applications. I had heard of some good runners that didn't get accepted. I applied, but I also made backup plans to run outside the official race in case I didn't get invited in to the big party.
Now how do I feel?
Like a dog that chases cars. Like I've got a tiger by the tail. I've put my name out there. Now it's time to walk the walk. Or run the run.
It's a "What have I done?" feeling.
It's a graduation, an acceptance into the big kids's lot. I was a shy, clumsy, socially clueless kid growing up. I was the last to get picked for teams in gymn class.
It's a "YEEEHAA!!!! Go for it!!"
It's a humbling feeling to have my crew members and crewmates say they know I can do it.
It's a motivator to do the work, the training, to be the most ready I can be.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A great weekend.

I had a good weekend. I got out to run Saturday on the hill behing the shop. An hour and a half on the log road and the pipeline was enough for that day. I saw lots of tracks in the dusting of snow. Deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels, fox and coyote had been traveling.

Today, Sunday, I went to run with Doug on the hill behind his house. It was a clear, sunny morning, about 16 degrees, just nice for running. Overnight, a bit of new snow had fallen, so the ground was a new sheet. As we climbed, we saw tracks of deer, porcupine, fox, rabbits, squirrels and a pair of bobcats. As we descended on the side toward Westfield, we actually saw a bobcat. The tracks showed that a pair, most certainly the pair whose tracks we had seen on the other side of the hill, had rested in the sun alongside the log road we were coming down. We could see where they had laid beside the road long enough to melt the snow under their bodies. They must have been sleeping, because they are usually very alert and we weren't being quiet. We were chatting and jogging along. Doug said he had only seen a couple other bobcats in his life. I have seen 5 or 6. Bobcats are on the increase in Pennsylvania. February and March is the mating season. Usually bobcats are solitary. I had seen tracks and other sign in this area before.
Later in the afternoon, I went back behind the shop for a few more miles. I put in another hour and a half that included half a dozen trips down and up the pipeline. I came home pleasantly tired, not thrashed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I am now a Diver!!!!

Had a terrific time on the cruise. Things didn't go according to the original plan, but everybody had a good time. I and my best friend flew to Mobile, Alabama Friday and stayed overnight. I got out to run Friday afternoon and a found the municipal park a couple miles up the road. It had paved paths to run on. I got in another run Saturday morning, before we got on the cruise boat. It was a couple hours late getting in. We found out why. The ship had two engines, but was running on only one.
There were about 80 people in our group. It was a Scout trip for the troop and my Venture Crew. 18 Scouts and the rest families and friends. My brother and sister-in-law, my sister and brother-in-law and their friends and friends of Scouts. We all had travelled separately. Everybody was set to relax and we all did. We ate well, wandered about and talked with each other and strangers.
We were supposed to stop in Costa Maya to visit the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. Because the ship was slow, we missed that stop. I had seen the ruins and they are amazing. The Scouts were all disapointed. We got to Cozumel late in the day and had a couple hours to get off the boat before dark. Cozumel is noted for the shopping, especially for silver jewelery. The other thing to do there is to scuba dive or snorkel. Eleven of us in the Venture Crew had earned our scuba licenses for this trip. We had chartered a small boat for our group. The next morning we got off the boat at 5:30 and caught a taxi to the dive shop downtown. It had been windy in the night and we could see the waves were high. The dive crew arrived at 6:00 and looked at the water and at each other. After a consultation, they decided to go out. The dive boat was about 25 feet long and the waves were 3 and 4 feet. It was tough getting into the pitching boat. On the way out I lost my breakfast. A couple of the boys looked pretty green.
When we got to the dive site, we hopped in. A few feet under the surface, the waves didn't exist.
It was our first time in salt water. We had trained in a pool and the river here. The water was so clear, we could see 5 times as far as the river we had learned in. We dove to 45 feet and travelled along a coral reef. There were bright colored fish and camoflauged fish. There were coral growths like vases and like bowls. This was a marine park and we were warned not to touch anything so as to leave it as we found it. Forty five minutes went by too fast. We came up and went to another dive site. This one was within sight of our cruise boat. On the way, we passed the rest of our group on their snorkel excursion. We all waved. The second dive was as good as the first. It was like being in a huge aquaruim full of tropical fish. Imagine that!
One of the most fun parts of being under water is that you can move in 3 dimensions. Left and right, front and back, also up and down. Properly weighted, you are at neutral bouyancy, just like being weightless. You can do front somersaults, rolls, stand on your head. Just too much fun!!!
The second dive was all too short and we had to get back in the boat for a rough ride to the pier. We thanked and tipped the divemasters. Back on the cruise boat, we showered the salt water off and chowed down. Diving is hard work, but I can't wait to do it again.
The trip back to Mobile was without incident, a bit of rough seas one night. We got in 5 hours late, but our group all managed to get home without much trouble. We are working with our travel agent and negotiating with the cruise line about how to make up for our missed stop and scramble to get home. Maybe we'll get a tremendous deal and get to go again soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Introduction and trial run

This is my first post to my new blog. Like it says, this will be my random thoughts and wonderings. I will post about my adventures and misadventures. I'll try to understand and share what they mean to me and what I've learned.

I live in northeastern USA and do most anything outdoors. I run, hike, camp, canoe, hunt and photograph. I help out with the local Boy Scout troop and lead a Venture Crew. Venturing is a division of Boy Scouts that is for the older youth, 14-21 and is co-ed. We have a high adventure crew who camps, rafts, and some of us have learned scuba diving. Our next trip is a cruise to the western Carribean where we will dive at Cozumel. I will have lots to say about that. It is next week, January 31 to February 5.

I am self employed as a contractor. I like old cars, especially Mustangs, and am working on a '52 Ford pickup truck. You can see that the truck is in the early stages. I actually had 2 cabs that had different bad parts. I cut them apart and welded the parts back together again.
My outdoor passion is running; trail running. I have run several 100 mile runs. I have big goals for this year and more beyond. I am fortunate to live in a rural area that has hundreds of miles of trails available to me. You WILL hear more about that.
Stop in and see what I'm up to.