Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mud, Ice, and Kahuna!

What a great vacation it's been so far! I've been off of work since Christmas Eve and am off until January 4th. It's always a welcome time off--even if the weather isn't very nice.

We had a nice white Christmas this year. Started the Holiday season out with a 4 mile run with my friends from the Uno Fish Running Club, then Dawn and I spent Christmas Eve at my parents house and Christmas day at her parents. It's always great to watch the kids open their gifts (niece and nephew, none of our own.) Dawn and I didn't buy for each other this year after our $4800 plumbing repair two weeks ago.

Saturday was also a great day. Ran with Luau (AKA the Big Kahuna) in the morning (my Uno Fish buddies slept in!) and then went to her parents in the afternoon for "left-over" lunch. I love cold turkey and stuffing! And we capped off the evening with dinner out and gift exchange with friends--a great 2010 Running Log and a Super University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt came home with me!

And the vacation kept getting better today! I planned on taking Luau to the trails early today while Dawn went with friends and practised with the dogs (she runs them in AKC Agility competitions.) BUT, instead, I spent a lazy day relaxing around the house. I did make it to Mingo Creek Park and run for a few hours on the trail. It was a great afternoon to be out.

Weather was in the high 30's with a slight breeze. I left the shorts at home today and opted for tights in the shade of the trees. Since trails are relatively new to me, I'm still exploring the possible loops at Mingo. Today we started on the horse trail at the south east horse trailer parking and made our way. I was planning on spending around 2 hours running; at the hour mark, we popped out of the woods onto a gravel road and I knew where we were. I decided to make make take the "cut across" trail and finish the run on a part of the trail I've run before. Turned out to make almost a perfect 2 hour jaunt. We only covered 6.88 miles, but we stopped for pictures, to get out bearings, and had to slow down the pace for a few steep slick down hills!

Here are a few pictures from today:

Luau at the first "water crossing!" More like a muddy run off!

There's still a fair amount of snow left along the trail. Here's Luau leading the way. At least this section of the trail didn't have ice on it!

Just a beautiful forest to be in!

Entering into the pines. I love running on the soft bed of pine needles.

A shot inside the pines.Snow through this valley.Luau getting a drink out of Mingo Creek. We crossed the creek here. He loved it, I found it to be VERY, VERY cold! We got to the top of "Generator Hill" just in time to see the sun setting. We ran along the ridge in the distance at the beginning. Just about a half mile to go before we get back to the Jeep.

How lucky am I?

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Running with the ERTR

That's Elite Runners Trail Runners!!!

Some of the local trail runners decided to put together a trail running "team" to promote trail running in and around the Pittsburgh Area. My favorite running store, Elite Runners and Walkers, and my favorite running shoes, Brooks, are sponsoring the team. I attended an informational meeting yesterday and decided to become a "Full Time Racer!"

There are 3 different levels of membership you can belong to: Full Time Racer, Part Time Racer, and Part Time Racer without the Brooks deals. Each level has it's own membership dues and has different benefits and requirements. My level cost $25 and comes with discounts on Brooks merchandise, 10% off everything in the store throughout the year, and a few other perks. I need to volunteer at a couple races and wear Brooks shoes and ERTR shirts to major trail races.

I'm really excited about this group! As a budding trail runner who lost his best friend and training partner to a career relocation (which was SO GOOD for her!!!) I'm looking for as many experienced folks to run with as possible. And to have a group dedicated to running trails and helping each other out is just fantastic!

Today was our first group run. We met at 10 am and planned on running at least a 4 mile trail loop. As you can see from this picture, it snowed here this weekend.

We headed off along the side of a golf course to catch the trail through about 4-5 inches of fresh snow. This was my first time to run in snow like this and it added a little bit of a challenge. Each step brought a small "slip" backwards, and by the end of the run, I could really feel my quads!

Carl brought Bella, his Australian Shepherd. I had some dog treats in my Jeep and Bella and I became close friends right away. Here they are running through the snow!

Here's a shot of today's group. Wayne (on the left in the gray) just finished a deca Iron Man and was pour guide today. If you don't know, a deca Iron Man is 10 straight days of Iron Man competitions--WOW!

It was a great run and I managed to keep up with the group. It was nice to meet new friends and learn about trail running. I love to listen to peoples stories of races, training runs, and pacing.

I'm really going to enjoy being a member of the ERTR!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby

Elite Runners and Walkers, a local running store, has put together a group on Facebook to promote trail running in the Pittsburgh area. Being a budding trail runner, I joined the group. Unlike most Facebook groups, this group is active outside of Facebook! They send out event notices for local trail races--both supported and unsupported--and are planning on putting together a team of folks that promote the fun and excitement of trail running. Today we were going to meet to run a 4 mile loop of trail then hit another trail for a few more miles.

WELL.... I knew they were calling for rain this morning, but I didn't realize it was going to be freezing rain!

I got up at 6 AM, made coffee, took care of the dogs, ate breakfast, grabbed my gear and was out the door by 6:45. It seems like everything is 20 minutes or an hour from our house, today's run was going to be just a hair over the 60 minute mark. I was greeted with a cool winter drizzle when I walked out the door, I second guessed the shorts, and hit the road. About a mile and a half later, the rain started to freeze as it hit my windshield!

Now, I should have turned around and went home. But being a dedicated runner and looking forward to meeting new friends, I continued onward! The roads were slick within the next .75 miles. I got on the highway and hoped that PennDOT was out salting the roads. They weren't! It took me 30 minutes to go 10 miles on I70, and I got to watch a car spin completely around twice before coming to an abrupt stop against the Jersey barrier taking up all of the passing lane and a portion of the driving lane. I got off the next exit, pulled into a parking lot, and notified both my friends and my new friends that Mother Nature was keeping me from the run! They were turning back as well!

I sat in the parking lot for 20 minutes then decided to chance it to the local park a few miles away. I figured the trails were probably treacherous with the rain on top of frozen ground, so I decided to run my normal 5 mile road loop... maybe twice. Until I got out of the Jeep. The roads were very slick, or slippy as my Pittsburgh friends like to say. I drove to the other end of the park, sliding around every turn and skidding through at least one stop, to the other side of the horse trail I've been running.

I decided to wait a bit, so I took a little nap. At 10 I decided the rain wasn't letting up and it was now or never! I put the sleeves back on my jacket/vest combo, attached the hood, and headed up the trail!

It started out with a nice hill. A gain of around 232 feet in the first .6 miles (I love the elevation correction on SportTracks!) The trail was tricky along this portion, and others, because of the horse traffic leaving deep, frozen pock marks! I power walked most of this hill, but I did run a little.

At the top of the hill there is a large opening into a few farm fields. The county who runs this park bails the hay to help offset some of the costs. Here's a picture of the buildings that house the equipment.
Through the fog and into the pines! The pine trees provided a little shelter from the rain; running on the needles through this section was magical!
Some horse pocked trail filled with ice.
I missed the turn for the trail I wanted to run and continued along the horse trail for 3 miles. After I crossed a road and a frozen stream, I decided to head back. I knew where I was and contemplated running a cross trail to the other side of the park then back to my Jeep, but I had a meeting at 1. So I turned around and headed back.

The trail was tough today. Some of the down hills had to be walked or slowly jogged to prevent a nasty fall on the frozen mud and rocks. Some of the areas had to be lightly tread due to the horse traffic, unless a turned or broken ankle was wanted! But the trail was nice!

I sent my friend Jess, who really helped me get into running and I give her ALL the credit for my new found interest (and love) for trails, a text message after the run. It simply read, "Ice sucks. Injinji's are wonderful for wet feet. Deer are gorgeous. Cascadias rock. Pine trees are magical. You created an addict."

Stay safe, keep your feet to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Enjoying the simple things...

The last few days have been kind of rough. The back-up of the floor drain in the basement has led to very expensive project. I had to take 2 vacation days Thursday and Friday for a guy to come out and dig up part of my drive-way and yard; which led to further problems. To sum up the plumbing problem, terracotta pipe should never have been used!

I did manage to get in some running this week despite the plumbing issue. I ran 6 miles of "commercial fartleks" on the treadmill Thursday night--kind of boring, but better than no running at all. Friday I managed to put in 4.5 miles on a local horse trail! Now that was fun and educational!

I practiced "power-walking" on the hills that were not runnable, learned to slow down after it gets dark, discovered that horse trails can get very rough when frozen, and most important--time means nothing on the trail! Even though I wore my Garmin, I never really looked at my time or pace. I did check out my heart rate during some of the climbs, but that was more for learning how to pace my "power-walks." I'm sure I'll get stronger on the trail. It'll take some time, and I'm looking forward to putting that time in!

Today was the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation in Pittsburgh. It was a nice 5K that I ran with some of my Uno Fish Running Club buddies. The temps were in the low 30's and the sun was bright! A perfect morning for shorts, long sleeve tech shirt, vest, ear warmers, and a Santa Hat! We had a ball. Shannon ran a 3 minute PR! I'm so happy for her! She's come such a long way!

Anyway, I managed to run my way through the stress of the plumbing problem. They're just pipes. We really didn't want to spend the money that we really don't have right now, but there's nothing we can do about it. Letting these things go and enjoying life for what it has to offer is so much more important.

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


They say God only gives you as much as you can handle. Well, I believe God has a lot more faith in me than I do! Just when I was getting ready to ramp up my running to prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Buckeye Trail 50K, a minor disaster hits at home.

We had horrible downpours yesterday leading to a flooded basement. No big deal, we know the water backs up when it rains exceptionally hard, it happens very infrequent, so we have everything in a flood safe place. But the water wasn't going down. Could there be something in the pipes?

I spent 2 hours working a snake last night and decided to call in the pro. For $275 they were going to fix the problem. I had no choice; see, our house was built in the early 60's and all the gray water is tied together somewhere under the basement floor--so every drop of water that goes down the drains upstairs, comes back up the floor drain downstairs! After 2 hours of power snaking the drain, the plumber said he'd knock off $75 and give me an estimate to dig up all the pipes in the morning. Um, I need a second opinion!

Changing one of my vacation days from the Christmas Holiday to today, i had Roto-Rooter come in. He snaked every possible entry and exit into and out of the house... no clog. So he ran a camera and low and behold he found the problem. The pipes have come apart under a portion of my paved driveway causing the water in the basement to not drain.

Changing yet another vacation day to tomorrow, I will watch as the $3000 excavation crew digs up and fixes the problem!

Maybe I'll run tonight and take an quick shower. It's been a 3 day lay off and I'm ready to burn some stress!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward.

PS... please cross your fingers or say a prayer that this will fix the problem!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Glad to be done

I have been the treasurer for our dog training club for the last 2 years. Tonight I passed the torch off to someone else.

The job's not that bad. It's time consuming and thankless, but it's not rocket science. But sometime in 2009 I became a bad guy with the members. They all of a sudden didn't like how I did things, when I did things, and what I did. I lost total interest in the club and the position around June. I went through the motions and got things done, but now it's over!!!!!

Because of tonight's meeting, I ended up taking another rest day. I really wanted to put in 4 or 5 miles. It was our Christmas party and my wife really wanted me to go. It was a fun time hanging out with friends.

This weekend brings the Jingle Bell Run 5K and maybe a nice trail run on Sunday. Tomorrow I'll get 4-6 miles in and enjoy them all.

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Every journey begins with a first step...

That's kind of my thought process for today. I'm not sure why, but I'm feeling like my running has just begun. A new passion.

Maybe it was registering for the Buckeye Trail 50K, maybe it's the exhilaration of running in the 30 degree temps 2 days in a row. Maybe it's been the 4 "cut back" weeks to try and let my body get ready for the upcoming training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and then the BT50K.

I don't care what it is, I'm really enjoying it! I feel alive again. Ready to take on the hills, the roads, and the mountains. Ready to run.

I'm thinking like a runner again. Food has become fuel; drinks have become hydration. I'm planning my meals for the week and have tightened up what's allowed on my plate. Vegetables, fruit, grains, and beans are what I'm craving. It's running food... fuel for the future!

I hope that all of you can find a renewed passion!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Committed!!

Well as the title of my blog suggests, I want to be an Ultra Runner!!! I want to cover distances and smile with like minded folks beating the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks out of themselves just for the fun of it!

So, I signed up for my FIRST 50K! The Buckeye Trail 50K!!

It may be early in my running career (it will be 2 years in April of 2010,) but I know I can do it. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the training leading up to it! And best of all, my best friend and Sis, Jess, is going to run it as well!

This will be Jess's second running of the summer Buckeye and she kicked butt last year with a time of 5:38:50 for her SECOND EVER 50K. It'll be great to see here at the finish and chat about our training as we get there... She's one heck of a runner, clocking in 70 some miles this week!

So, the training begins. I have the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 2nd on my way to my first BT50K! Great way to get my distance up then concentrate on the trails!

I'll keep you posted!

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trails revisited...

I've been enthralled with the idea of running a 50K sometime in 2010. In fact, I'm actually trying to use the idea of going the 31 miles as motivation to get back on my healthy diet and think of food as fuel and not as a satisfaction. I've always used food as a vice and it seems that I've been doing that yet again--healthier foods than most, but not the correct balance and probably not enough. BUT, that's a topic for another post.

With the idea of running a 50K came the realization that most are run on trails. Now, I've had a few attempts at trail running in the past and have had very mixed feelings after each run! After my first real trail run, I decided that I'd stick to the roads. I was slow, the terrain was rough, and there were hundreds of hills that reduced me to walking. I swore of the dirt.

While I helped coach a group of folks to run their first 5K, my best friend Jess was helping me get ready for my first marathon. Jess LOVES running on trails. She has completed two 50K's at this point and paced a friend at Burning River. I listened to her talk about the hills and the mud and the trees and the animals and so much more she experienced on a single track. I kept thinking that her love of trail running was proof that I should give it a second chance.

After my marathon, I decided to run a trail 10K in Ohio--the Barkcamp Trail 10K. My friend Robin wanted to run a 10K and I picked this to be her first! She had no trail running experience, and I took Luau (my Chesapeake Bay Retriever) out for a 4 miler on a trail. That, combined with the training from the marathon is what I took into this new experience. Robin trusted my knowledge, strictly learned from reading about trail running, bought a pair of trail shoes and blindly followed me!

We had a blast. I loved it. The terrain was rough, there was a weeks worth of rain that created nice mud, the weather was cool, and the people were nice. Robin took 3rd in her age group and I won Pittsburgh Pirate tickets in the door prizes.

Maybe there was something to this trail running?

2 months later, I went out for my first jaunt on the trails since the 10k. Robin went with me and we covered 5.25 miles of trails that were a lot hillier than the 10K. We walked a lot when Robin's injury started to act up, but it didn't matter. Being out in the woods, smelling the leaves, hearing the breeze through the barren late fall trees, reminded me of a 25 year younger Brad. A time where I always wanted to be in the woods, the fields, along the creeks and streams. Anywhere I could be out in nature. Sometimes you just have to forget about how long it takes you to cover the distance and enjoy the distance itself.

I live in South Western Pennsylvania. I'm in the foothills of the Laurel Highlands. I can be at a trail in 15 minutes in the local county park, or take a weekend morning and drive an hour or so and enjoy some of the trails that run through the Laurel Mountains.

How lucky am I? And why did it take me so long to learn this?

Stay safe, keep your soles to the ground, and keep moving forward!