Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Unplanned Hiatis

The last few months have been pretty strange for me. I have barely run a step since the end of February. And after the really good year I had last year it has been pretty frustrating. Especially since it all seemed to be going pretty well over the winter.

After I finished the Shut In Trail race in early November I came home and did Bills' Bad Ass 50K the following weekend. The course is a loop repeated 6 times. So I figured I would just run a few loops and stop if I didn't feel recovered from Shut In. But I actually felt really good and did the whole thing. That was my last long race of the season. I backed down my mileage for December and January. And really I hadn't even begun to increase the mileage yet when during an easy 5 mile trail run I felt a cramp in my left hamstring. I didn't think much of it. I thought at worst I just pulled it a bit. Long story short it turns out to be a high hamstring tendonitis issue. After a few weeks of trying to work through it and easy runs I had to stop completely.

8 weeks of PT, ultrasound, ART therapy, several deep tissue massages and I feel some days like I'm 90% back and other days it just still hurts. Frustrating. Everyone who has had the same issue says that it really takes 6 months to get better. But I don't have 6 months. I have 2 months! Buckeye 50K in July. And I'm running it. Or crawling it.

It's time to start easing back into the training. Of course it would be helpful if one of two things happened. 1) stop raining or 2) warm up! I could live with either option. But seriously this winter was long and cold enough. Last year we were dying in the heat already training for Buckeye in May. Maybe this means that we will have a cool race in July.

I'm heading to our weekly Trail group run tomorrow night at Rocky River Nature Center. I'm expecting not to feel 100%. But 90% would be nice. Keeping the fingers crossed!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Outta Your Mine 5K Recap

A few months ago I got a Facebook event invite to a 5K. This wasn’t your run of the mill road 5K. It was going to be underground in a mine. I knew immediately that this was a race I just had to do. I don’t really run many 5Ks anymore. I’m barely warmed up when the race is over. And my super speedy days are long behind me. But come on when have you ever seen a 5K in a mine? I had to do it. I sent in my registration right away.

The race is held in Wampum, PA. It is in a limestone mine that is now being used as a underground storage facility. The company that owns the mine is The Gateway Commerce Center. It was an easy drive from Cleveland. The race also has a late start time of 11:00am. I got there for packet pick up pretty early. Like most 5Ks the race shirt was your standard cotton t-shirt. I had friends, Sandi Wethington and Tim Vincent, coming in from Cincinnati to join me. We met up at the entrance of the mine where they had registration.

Before the race everyone warmed up inside the mine. The entrance and first ½ mile or so into the mine looks pretty clean. They paved the ground and painted the walls. And it’s very bright. Lots of lights. There are offices up front too. It was a perfect place for pre and post race activities. Warming up for the race I saw several familiar NEO running friends including Jim Christ and Jim Chaney. As race time approached they ushered us down a tunnel toward the starting line. This race sold out with 500 runners lining up at the start.

At the start of the race it was paved for about ¼ of a mile. Then surprisingly the pavement, painted walls, and bright lights ended! The ground was now gravel, walls were dark rock, and lights were much dimmer. Now it was a TRAIL RACE!!!!! I was loving it. I’m not sure if all the road runners felt the same way. The course had a lot of left and right hand turns. It was a lot of fun seeing the runners who were ahead of you pass by after a turn. And then you would see runners behind you as they come into the turn you just went through. One of the amazing things about this mine is what they store down there. There were huge RVs, boats, trailers, trucks, cars. The temperature is always between 50 and 55 degrees down there. I even saw an ice cream truck. So between the turns and checking out the vehicles and the runners the race went by really fast. And for there being 500 people in the race it didn’t feel very crowded. The tunnels through the mine were really wide. And when you looked around the mine looked like a huge honeycomb. It had the huge pillars of rock which hold up the ceiling. But between the pillars you can either see through to the next lane. Or it was a closed space like a cell stuffed with a RV or camper. Before I knew it we met back up with the pavement and the finish line was approaching. They have you finish just outside the mine at the entrance.

The race was extremely well organized. It was chipped timed. And following the race they had pizza, fruit, and Eat N’ Park Smiley Face Cookies. The awards were very nice. They were wooden plaques with a Limestone rock attached. Sandi Wethington placed 2nd in the 40-44 age group. And Jim Chaney placed 21st Overall for 3rd in the age group 45-49. I would definitely say this was one worth checking out. How often can you say you get the opportunity to run a race underground?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shut-In Ridge Trail Run -- Asheville, NC

Shut-In Ridge Trail Run race report
Race always the First Saturday in November in Asheville, NC

Let me just say right up front that I love the Shut-In Trail race so much more than it loves me. It’s almost not fair. This race is truly a committed relationship for me. The race starts in late July when I start stalking my email and the race website to see when registration opens. They send out a few teaser notifications that registration will be opening “shortly.” Every time you get one of the emails you feel like you just saw the boy you liked in high school pass in the halls.
Then in early August the anticipation finally ends and registration opens. This means you get to download the paper application and send it in. There is no online registration for this race. Paper registration has worked for 31 years and it seems it’s going to stay that way. Also, at this moment your relationship enters a new level. Now you have a mutual “like” status. All the registrations are entered into lottery for the actual race field. And you won’t be notified until October if you’re in or not. At which time they will mail you a “Draft Notice.” So two months of agonizing questions of does he like me enough to pick me ensues.

During this time runners are preparing for the challenge this course poses. This historic race course follows the same ridgeline trail that George Vanderbilt blazed over 100 years ago to connect his house, The Biltmore Estate, to his hunting lodge located at the top of Mt. Pisgah 18 miles away. Located in the Nantahala National Forest this has to be the most beautiful and scenic course I’ve ever run. It rivals anything out west. The race starts at the North Carolina Arboretum right off the Blue Ridge Park way in Asheville. The race starts at 10am and runs a few miles through the Arboretum and the Bent Creek Trails to reach the Shut-In Trail. You will climb over 5,000 ft during the 18 miles. Enjoy those first miles as they are the easiest! Once you hit the Shut-In Trail the true fun begins. The Shut-In trail is mostly single track. They built the Blue Ridge Parkway in this area to follow along the trail to the summit of Mt. Pisgah. The trail then comes off the ridge line every 4 or 5 miles to meet the Blue Ridge at the scenic overlooks. They place the aid stations in these overlook parking lots. Of course descending off the ridgeline to the aid station means that you get to climb back up to the ridge line to continue on with the trail. The trail sections between overlooks are amazing. The trail is extremely narrow in places. And many parts of the trail have Mountain Laurel (Rhododendron) growing along both sides of the trail. It gets very tall and makes a tunnel of Laurel. Often you will reach the summit of a hill and you get a view of the rolling Smoky Mountains. For that moment you forget how much your quads and calves are killing you from the climbing.

Once you get to Mile 16 you are already quite fatigued. The final two miles are straight up. It’s all switch backs and vertical climb. Of course no mountain would be complete without a few false summits. You get to a little plateau and a little decline and you think the agony is over. And then the trail turns back up for one last hurrah! Once the descent really begins it is a quick steep jaunt to the finish line. You finish at 5,721 feet!

After mailing in my registration I spent the next 8 weeks remembering these details of the course. I wondered if I would be seeing the trail again this year. Then in early October it arrived. My Draft Notice arrived written on pink paper (no joke). The 200 spots filled in 12 days and they had 50 people on the waiting list. I felt like I had been asked to prom.

Vinnie and I had already schedule vacation for that weekend to spend in Asheville. We headed down a few days before the race. Asheville is our favorite place to spend time. The food, art, and music scenes are amazing. We spent Friday getting ready for the race. We received a few notices that the Blue Ridge Parkway was going to be closed to traffic between miles 6 and 16 of the race. They were doing rockslide repairs. Since this race is a point to point this changed what I needed to carry with me. This is bare bones race at the aid stations. They have water at all the stops. There was Gatorade at a couple stations. And one station had a big bag of Pretzels. After grazing on the buffets laid out at our NEO ultras this felt old school. So Vinnie and I spent Friday driving the course and detour so he would know exactly where to go.

Race morning was fun. I ran this race in 2007 and the weather was sunny and in the 60s. No such luck this year. Forecast had been calling for AM snow showers and freezing temps. When we got to the race the officials weren’t sure if the last two miles of the Blue Ridge were going to be open to Mt. Pisgah’s summit. There was ice on the road and the park service doesn’t salt. They just close the road.

They started the race at 10:00 still not knowing for certain if we would be running the last two miles. From experience I knew to take it easy the first 3 miles. They are easy miles and it’s so easy to get sucked into speeding out. But I kept reminding myself this race doesn’t start until mile 16. I felt pretty good through mile 6. This would be the last spot that I’d see my crew. Vinnie had been joined by my Aunt Sue and Uncle Alex. I’d see them in 10 miles. I have to say that the next five miles I was just enjoying the scenery and laughing inside about the snow that was falling. I drove 8 hours south of Cleveland to race my first snowy race of the season. Not what I was expecting. The weather was definitely a challenge. You would run on one side of a hill in the sun and be hot. Then the trail would turn and you’d be on the backside in the shade and wind and be freezing. It never really warmed up at all. And as you climbed higher it became more windy. Around mile 14 I wish I had my lip balm. But the snow covering the mountain laurel was just beautiful you soon forgot the cold and the ache of the legs.

I arrived at Mile 16 definitely moving slower but feeling ok. My family was there cheering on all the runners. I did a quick gear change adding a layer on top and retrieving my gloves. We were getting close to 4,800 ft and it was much colder. The snow had begun to fall again too. I pushed on to finish the last two miles. These two miles are brutal. Switch backs and vertical climbing the entire way. My hip flexors and calves were screaming. The climb this year though felt a bit easier than when I did it in 2007. My ultra training must be helping. I reached the summit and it felt good! I savored the quick downhill to the finish. Despite the weather I ran it over ½ hour faster than last time. The runners down here are amazingly fast climbers. So I’m always in the bottom of the finishers. After finishing I collected my Finishers shirt. The shirts are always a long sleeve cotton shirt. But they have a local artist design the front. And it’s always a cool depiction of trails and mountains.

I said running this race is a committed relationship. As in any relationship during those 18 miles your strength and perseverance are tested to the brink. During every climb to a summit you question your ability and your dedication. But then you get to the summit and you feel the love all over again. And when you finish you know come mid-July you’ll be waiting for registration to open so you can experience it all over again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The North Country Trail --- Michigan sections

It's been forever since I started this blog. And I really need to get on it. Since I started the blog I've been mostly running around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Future blogs will be spent talking about the amazing trails right here in my "backyard."

But for this blog I want to talk a bit about a trip I took in September to Michigan. I went up with my uncle for the Salmon run on the Pere Marquette river that flows through Balwdin, MI. Baldwin is on the western side of MI northwest of Grand Rapids. It sits in the heart of the Manistee National Forest.

We spent a few days up there camping, fishing and trail running. The fishing was fun. I hooked a few huge salmon. My uncle landed quite a few. But the best part of the trip was definitely checking out new trail to run.

After a quick stop in the ranger station for some trail advice and directions I headed to Section C of The North Country trail that goes through the National Forest outside of Baldwin. It's only about a 15 min drive out to the Bowman Lake trail head from town. I was running alone. So I left my trail plan in my car. And I texted it to my family just in case. It was grouse season already so I wore an orange vest tied around my waist just in case. I headed north on the trail. My goal was to run from Bowman lake to Timber Creek camp and back. It is 8.4 mile each way.

The trail was gorgeous. It had a slight elevation climb getting up past the lake. From there it was pretty gentle on the elevation changes. There were no serious hills. And the ferns that blanketed the ground were all starting to brown a bit and look dry. After talking to a ranger later I found out that they are Bracken Ferns. And they turn like tree leaves in the fall and dry out. The other really cool and different thing along the trail was the moss. You really felt like you were running along the Emerald road. The edges of the single track were lined with velvety moss. The trail itself was very easy to run. Not a ton of roots. For being in MI I expected more sand on the trail. But there was enough to keep the trail well drained. But not enough to feel like you were running on the beach. So there wasn't very much mud. And it had even rained the days before we arrived.

I had a enlightening surprise when I started down the trail. The trees were marked with light blue blazes. And the first thing I thought was "wow, just like the Buckeye Trail." Later I checked out the map at the trail head and read about the North Country Trail. I learned that this multi-state trail starts in North Dakota and goes 4600 miles through 7 states (including Ohio, yes the Buckeye Trail) and ends in New York. Here is a link for the trail's website:

The highlight of my first afternoon on this trail was coming up over a slight ridge and scaring the stuffing out of the biggest buck I've seen in a while. Luckily he took off in the opposite direction. Seriously the loudest thing I've heard in the forest was him crashing through the woods with his girlfriend in tow. Just glad he saw me first and took off the other way.

Here is a link to the map for sections I ran:

The second afternoon I headed to the Timber Creek Camp trail head. This is a really nice campground. It has decent facilities and I would recommend camping here. The entrance to the trail head here is cared for by a local nature club. They even labeled many of the native plant species along the trail. Of course I had to stop and read most of them. But I headed north again on this run. A little pressed for time I only ran an hour out and turned back. Again the trail was quite beautiful and easy to run. You could definitely log a lot of training miles up here without beating up your body.

I will definitely be heading back up this way next fall for the salmon run with my sister and uncle. It's a great excuse to get a few days of peaceful trail running in!

I would definitely recommend coming up to Baldwin to not only trail run or fish but also the Pere Marquette is an amazing river to kayak. In fact, the locals told me that if you go up in late September you can get a great deal on a kayak. There are several kayak liveries up there that rent boats. And they change them out each year. So you can pick one up pretty cheap.

On the food front Balwin is Not a gourmet foodie town. In fact, Michigan still allows smoking in the bars and restaurants. So be prepared to cook out at your camp or cabin. Also, there one decent grocery store in town. This is no yuppie town. But if you don't mind bringing your food or eating a lot of diner fare you'll do fine. There is a really good ice cream parlor in town. Email me if you want specifics.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Introduction of the Blog

So I have been kicking around the idea of this discussion for a very long time. I just couldn't decide what format I wanted to put it in. Should I blog, write a book, snip-it articles? What made me settle on a blog was I wanted other people's input. Firstly it will making getting the info out there that much faster. And it will help me discover places I haven't run yet.

Clearly this blog is going to be about Trail Running in America. And you could say, Heidi I get Trail Runner and Runners World. And I would say, Anyone can write about running the trails in Colorado, CA, and Oregon. My challenge to everyone is this --- We don't all LIVE in CO, CA, and OR. So, what the rest of the country doesn't have GREAT places to run??? But I've been getting Trail Runner since it was a quarterly magazine and they have yet to write up the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! The CVNP is a haven for trail runners in Ohio. Yes, Ohio. The single track trails here rivals anything out west. The trail is techincal, challenging, and hilly. The forest of old growth hard woods and pine is lush with wildflowers, ferns, and wildlife. There is a phenomenal running community that actively organizes races and training runs from 5K to Ultras.

I have quite a list of trails and parks that I plan on covering in this blog. But I really want to hear from people about the trails the run and love. I want this to be a resource for runners to use when making business travel and vacation plans. How often our training suffers by business trips to places we don't know well enough to figure out where to run. And we end up on a road run hating every minute of it! And since we all can't just take a week off to go run in the Ouray Pass in Colorado there may be awesome options closer to home that we've over looked.

Let's check them out! So while I compile my thoughts and some pictures of the CVNP to post next how about you guys give me some ideas of trails I should feature on this blog.

Now go get a good run in!