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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ohio Trip Day 1: Hourly Photos

As I'm writing this post, the snow is gently falling outside so it's appropriate to get to work on some posts I've been meaning to provide; the first of which was filled with constant cold and snow.

I spent a the four days before Thanksgiving 2013 enjoying the west.  "West" in this instance is simply anything within a few days driving distance while being sure to hit Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

Rather than simply taking photos of interesting things along the way, during my drive westward on day 1, I decided to take a tip from a PCT Blog I followed this year and take a photo on the hour, every hour, throughout the day, no matter where I am (interesting or not!).

So here you have it!

PA Turnpike tunnel, 10AM

PA back roads, 11AM...snow beginning to fall.

Johnstown Flood Memorial, looking out on the former dammed lake.

Johnstown, PA

Geocache stop.  GC47CY5

Just entering Ohio, I-76, 3PM
Still moving westward in OH, I-76

Almost to the destination, day 1, near Akron, OH, 5PM

At the bar, Winking Lizard

Still at the bar

I found a different the same restaurant!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Desire To Explore

Columbus Day is Monday this week in the US, and I think it's an appropriate time to talk about exploration.  In most cases, the term "explore" applies to seeking new places from a geographical perspective, which I am a huge fan of.  For example, I RARELY run the same route twice.  I just feel there's so much benefit from a growth standpoint in experiencing new places.  The growth is exponential as well...what happens when you share an interesting place or experience with another person?

Of course, that was rhetorical.  But it's a simple concept; what are you doing in your life to explore?  Really, what have you done in the past 7 days that was exploratory?  Did you try any new foods?  Go to a new location that you've never visited before?

These are the foundations of  personal and interpersonal growth.  Think about it.  How do many conversations begin? (with friends and strangers alike)

"How was your weekend?"
"What's new?"

I don't know about you, but that sounds like an invitation to share what you've explored recently.  Is that an emotional "place" you've visited over the weekend?  Maybe you had the chance to spend time with a recent young addition to the family, or reconnect with an old friend?

Exploration is human.  Everyone desires for something new, interesting, different or exciting.  Go get it.  And no matter what anyone says, it doesn't matter what race, gender, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation you are, these feelings are universal.

Do some exploration today.  When someone asks you on Monday,  "What have you been up to?"  Is your response interesting?  Why not?  There are so many interesting things in this world to explore.  Please experience them, enjoy them, and share them.  Growth is a universal currency; share it.

Given the nature of this post, I figured I'd give a few nuggets of what I've "been up to" since my last post:

- Ran an impromptu 5K in Camp Hill this morning just for the hell of it
- Tried several Middle Eastern dishes I've never experienced before, including Halwa
- Spent a quality few minutes with my niece, nephew and brother, getting an idea of they they've been up to
- Ran essentially every trail at Wildwood Park in Harrisburg, finding some amazing new stretches of trail with a running buddy

Explore locally
Explore distant areas
Explore inward
Explore the familiar

I invite you to share what you've explored in the past 7 days.  If you're unhappy with your results, please alternatively share what you're planning on doing differently for the next 7 days.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blues Cruise 50K 2013 Race Report: A story of survival

 In a word: the experience was HUMBLING.


With a single loop ultra, relatively flat (on paper), and only an hour and fifteen minutes from home, signing up for the 2013 edition of the Blues Cruise 50K Ultramarathon seemed like a no brainer.  It was held on a warmer than average Fall Sunday, 10/6/13, starting around 8:35AM.

Named as such because of its location: Blue Marsh Lake west of Reading PA and interestingly enough, this area is maintained and managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Despite the current US Gov't shutdown, the show still went on.  Along with many other runners, volunteers, and family, I was pleased to hear this news in the days leading up to the race.  Kudos to the Race Director for keeping on top of that crucial business!

Please Note: the vast majority of photo credits in this post go to: 

I didn't know much about this race before the start other than it was mostly singletrack, and was supposed to be a pretty good "beginner ultra".  For some reason I thought that was equivalent to saying it was "easy", an idea that left my mind early in the race.

Being fairly close to home and a pretty late start, I decided to head out from home around 6:30AM instead of trying to find housing near the race.  When I arrived at the foggy lake side, there were already considerable lines for packet pickup and the 5 porta-potties available near the start.  I had around 45 minutes until the race began, plus the lines moved along nicely so no worries.

Looking at some times from previous years it seemed the course was pretty quick, so my strategy was to maintain somewhere between a 9:00/mile and 10:00/mile pace, and see how that went.  As always, I was using my Garmin Fenix along with Magellan HR Strap to record data for quick feedback during the run, as well as analysis later on.

The race started at a quick pace as expected, and didn't get into true singletrack until nearly a mile into the course...nicely designed.

Albeit a bit rocky, I was able to allow gravity to take care of business on all the downhills, and taking it easy on flats and uphills, maintaining a solid 9:30-10:00 mile for first few miles.  After the first 10K it really leveled out and it was comfy ticking off the miles around a 9:00/mi pace through mile 10.

Having some fun early on in the race

Even though my legs felt a bit sluggish, I pretty much ignored it believing it was simply gonna take some time to loosen up.  Little did I know that the fatigue was from overtraining the prior week:

Sunday: 23 easy
Monday: Easy 6 + 10x10sec hill sprints
Tuesday: Specific Endurance Intervals: 3 easy, 6 x 800m @5k pace w/ 2min active recov., then 3 easy
Wednesday: Easy 7
Thursday: Easy 5
Friday: rest
Saturday: rest

I'd never done that type of mileage the week before a long race and now I know why.

With my physical and subsequent mental state waning, my memory is pretty poor from the final half(ish) of the race so other than the general statement about it "sucking", here's what I can recall.

  • The "Love and Marriage" theme from Married with Children was stuck in my head for about 10-12 miles on the back half of the course; the tempo seemed to work well with my "death shuffle", and the thought of sitting on a couch like Al Bundy sounded oh so good during those long lonely stretches in Penn's Woods.
  • Coke tastes good after running for 4 hours in the humidity!
  • Some badass dude named Scott who's run a few 100 milers seemed in great shape and was good conversation for a mile or two around mile 16
  • I was loving the eye candy at the Octoberfest aid station!
  • Definitely got Chicked and Geezered* multiple times around mile 22
  • Thinking..."I don't remember this many hills on the elevation profile"
  • My freaking watch lost satellites from mile 20.55 to 22ish
  • On a decent hill climb around mile 23, I had two options: Cry, or Sit.  I luckily found a stump to rest on, somewhat saving my masculinity.
*same as getting Chicked, but rather than a female, it's some wise old dude running a much smarter race than you

Bombing a downhill around mile 12

Don't confuse that with a smile...pretty sure I'm just holding back the tears.

MMMMM...Aid station goodness

We shared the trails all day with bikers, horses, hikers and other runners
The final 4.5 miles after the last aid station were all a mental game, constantly checking down at my watch, seeing the miles tick down.  I don't know if it was the coke or the endorphins, but I actually remember feeling pretty energetic during this last stretch!

The leader coming through the finish in amazing time!  (3:45:10)

Finish area scene

DONE! (5:43:38)

Some final thoughts:

- I sweat like crazy, especially when it got sunny and into the 80's in the afternoon
- AMAZING aid stations!  They'd take care of each runner like we were royalty!
- I seem to remember lots of bridge crossings
- I didn't fall!  Or stub my toes!
- The course was much more hilly than I expected
- I didn't have any GI issues
- There were no mile markers (not a big deal for me, but maybe others without watches)
- As promised, the course was 95% singletrack, which was simply beautiful!
Good quality swag: T-Shirt, Hoodie, and Hat
- Great food after the finish: potato pancakes, grilled cheese, soda, chocolate chip banana bread, etc...
- I seem to like bullet points today
- All in all an extremely well run race that I would highly recommend!

The Octoberfest Ladies cheered me up a bit after a rough day!

Personal Nutrition Notes:

  • Coffee, Banana and Chobani Greek Yogurt for breakfast
  • GU Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate Gel 15 minutes before, then every 30 minutes, or Power Bar Gel Bites at 60 minute intervals
  • Pretzels, Twizzlers, and Grapes at aid stations
  • Coke at final two aid stations
  • 4-5 Salt Stick caps periodically from mile 20 on
  • 3-4 full refills of water in bottles, at least 1 cup of water at each AS
  • Whatever crap I could stuff in my face after the finish

Gear list:

See you on the trails later.  I'll be resting up for a few days before getting back to training for the JFK 50 Miler next month.

As always, here's the link to the activity on Strava.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Photos from the past month or so...

There's been a whole lot of "life" going on recently and I haven't been active on the blog.  Here's my attempt to give you a little something of what's been happening in pictures (in chronological order).  Enjoy!

Montour Trail in Pittsburgh

9/11 Memorial in Shenksville, PA

Wienermobile on the PA Turnpike

Geocaching in the storm drains!

Delaware Water Gap swimming hole

One of the many DWG waterfalls

Roof of an old mill in DWG

NPS sign

Cliff view in DWG

NJ state highpoint

View west from NJ state highpoint nearing dusk

Elevation comparison at NJ state highpoint



Dam at Beckley Furnace, western CT

Beckley Furnace, CT

Near CT state Highpoint

CT state highpoint, log.

South view, near CT state highpoint

Blueberries all picked!!!

Another summit, CT

CT view

Time for a break from highpointing, Great Barrington, MA

Mt Greylock Summit, MA

AT view on Mt Greylock

RI st highpoint

RI state highpoint

Local beers to celebrate highpoint achievements

Sam Adams brewery tour

Visiting my childhood neighborhood

Beautiful day in Suncook!

NH Capitol

ME Capitol

Along the ME shoreline

Self shot on top of Cadillac Mountain

Elevation comparison on Dorr Mtn

View NE on Dorr Mtn

Lunch break!  Killer Lobster Rolls!

"That guy" in Rumford, ME

Crap.  Got to Mt Washington too late!

Potty break in VT, on the way home.

The loot from New England!

A pleasant view on a run along the Susquehanna in Harrisburg

Kayaking the Susquehanna

More kayaking, approaching the SusQ Lady Liberty

On the Rocks Trail Run, my 3rd running.

Celebratory brewski

I found a Cicada

Gift from the boss.

Having a religious experience at the AT Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA.

Great Race!