Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Sort of Homecoming

Getting away to tropical Delaware for a long weekend was one of my best ideas of the year.  Caught up with family, met the newest littlest one, Liam, played with Rachel and Jacob, day tripped to Lums Pond, and even got some solid marathon training in.

Really hard to top that kind of action, unless you're counting Alaina's weekend, where she won overall amateur female at Syracuse 70.3 and has a chance to get her pro triathlete license!!!  She'll get a blog of her own for that one.

This is the wee peanut, Liam.  We had some tummy crawling time and big gummy smiles.  He's a cutie.

Family baseball time in the backyard.  Jacob could play ball all day long and never tire.  And he knows his Phillies on TV.  Much fun.

Apparently I hadn't cleaned out my ears in a few weeks, because Rachel sees carrots growing out of them.

Lums Pond has one sweet disc golf course, with a some field holes and some woods holes very well maintained.  Eric and I played a full 18, both throwing some mean disc, and then Mom joined us for a few holes.  

 Get low, Eric!  

We did some kayaking on Lums Pond, which is really more like a small lake.  Saw great blue herons, turtles,  and a big white bird whose name I don't know.  On the water, time and cares float far away.

Great Blue Heron

Pretty turtle

I heard a splash and a big belly laugh behind me after I got out of my kayak, which could only mean one thing.  Eric's foot fell asleep while we were out, so he stepped down and collapsed in soggy heap.  Funny stuff.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Woodstock Trail Half Marathon

I WON MY FIRST RACE! Totally stoked writing this right now.

Last night we went out to this Cuban place for fritas (burgers w/ fries inside) and batidos (coconut shakes with rum) and wine. My kind of pre-race, yah.

It's been raining for like 3 days straight now, including this morning, so the trails were sloppy, slippery, sometimes ankle to knee deep puddles of muck. And it was an absolute blast just as I imagined it would be. My limbs have never torqued like they did today.

Started out really easy for the first trail section, just soaking in the experience of my first trail race, hanging maybe 15-20 people back, but I found my rhythm pretty soon and started picking people off. I wasn't trying to get to the front, just to pass the next person and see how I felt. I hit this one nazty puddle and my shoe stuck but my legs kept going. D’oh. Yeah, using the shoes with quicklaces was not my finest move.

When I got to the flat, loose gravel rail/trail section, I could see the four leading runners and I started tapping out a really steady rhythm choosing to run in the grass for better pushoff, surprised to see a 6:30/mile pace on my watch. Gradually they got closer when one guy turned off early before the out-n-back! Wha? Down to three.

I passed the next two guys running together (only one more left), and when the first place guy got a drink at the aid station I took the lead! Uh, this is pretty cool. I went through the turn around and kept a steady pace and got tons of "good job man!" from runners going out which felt great.

Back in the woods trails I settled into a more comfortable pace and went through countless sections where there was no firm trail left, just standing water and mud. Sometimes it was like this on the hills and you had to skate-run with absolutely no traction, especially on my road running shoes. I lost another shoe in the mud and had to go retrieve, all the while thinking I was hearing the slapping wet sound of the second place guy behind me. Don’t look back, just keep going.

The trail got a little crowded with ultra runners doing 100 milers, 100k, 50 milers, 50k runners sharing parts of the course. Next year, that WILL be me.

I promised myself I wouldn’t look at my watch until I was nearing the finish, so when I looked down to see 7.6 miles on my watch I had an OH SHIT moment. Only halfway there, and I can’t hold this effort. So I dialed it back on the hills and waited for the guys behind me to catch me, but no one came.

At mile 10.5 the Race Director was in the woods telling me to do one more loop of 2 miles then go to the finish. I couldn’t believe I was still in first. This was the most beautiful section of trails I’ve ever run in. There were huge pine trees all in rows, with mist coming from the ground and soft pine needles covering the ground. It was like I was hallucinating. Maybe I’m still in bed dreaming, and I haven’t started running yet. No, the pain in my legs is for real.

The last half mile I felt so good, taking my first win with no one anywhere near me and holding the lead since mile 5 or so.

I crossed the line with a fist pump and saw Alaina cheering me on. So happy to have her there with me.

The only thing I'd change about this race is my equipment. I should've worn tri shorts and race singlet to avoid the soggy heaviness when racing in rain. Also, need trail shoes and no quicklaces.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lost in the Woods

Fall is here! It's exciting, right? For a little while anyway until I'm sick of piling layers of clothes on for a run or a ride. But for now, it's great to not sweat like a sumo wrestler in Death Valley.

At the beginning of the summer, I mapped a dirt road route in the Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Area, which is about 20 miles to the west, and I planned on taking my cyclocross bike out there a few times. Didn't happen. But with Chicago Marathon around the corner in October and very cold weather soon after that, I seized my opportunity to ride it on Labor Day.

40 miles of these tree lined, canopied roads. Can you believe how pretty it is? And hilly too. Nothing too long, but constantly rolling, with some nazty grades and loose rock to make this a true adventure. And it was kind of spooky out on those deserted country roads without cars or houses or other bikers for miles at a time.

But as you can see from this pic, I was diggin it. Just me and the dirt and the birds a singing. Saw some sand hill cranes and tons of hawks and vultures over my head, but somehow no deer.

Here's an example of the hills and the canopy of greenery above me. Check out how narrow these roads are. Good thing there isn't any traffic or we'd be out of room.

Along the way I came across this old, barbed wire fenced in area with partially dilapidated barracks but no signs indicating what was/is here. Now this had me spooked.

That building at the end was totally burnt out and roofless. Looked like it was a factory of some kind.

The bombed out buildings being the anomaly, most of the time when there was something to see besides woods, I saw these beauties at the numerous equestrian farms in the area. So cool!

Yeah, so I got lost. I had written turn by turn directions, but it turns out that one of my "roads" was essentially an unmarked grass path with a metal barrier to prevent cars from going down it. And I had this map as well, but I was at an intersection where it wasn't clear which way was north. *sigh*

So I rerouted and discovered this winding, hilly, narrow road called Cassidy that was scarcely wide enough for two cars. At the end of the road I came to this:

That's when I knew I was waaaaay out there! But I also knew how to get back to the car, so I wrapped up this high adventure with a smile on my face, glad to be a free, found man :D

I have another loop in this area on even more dirt roads that's 60+ miles, and hopefully Alaina can join me on the next adventure.