Monthly Archives: May 2009

Brown County State Park

I returned to the scene of the crime yesterday, Brown County State Park. That’s where I ran the DWD 50k three weeks ago. Yesterday I was there for the DINO Series 15k. It’s called a 15k, but in reality the course is very close to 10 miles. Last Monday I ran a very hard 15 miles at Eagle Creek, Wednesday I ran intervals, and on Thursday I ran a short, but fast pace run. I think I was feeling good about finally feeling healthy and was ready to get my training back on track. So rather than rest up for DINO, I trained hard. I hope there will be future returns from that training investment.

The Brown County DINO race starts out with a mile up hill including a set of stairs a quarter mile in that always creates a bottle neck. I know from past experience to take it easy on this first mile and I thought I was taking it easy. After reaching the top I settled into a moderate pace behind Steve and Jim, a couple other DINO regulars. Around 4.5 miles in there is another significant hill climb. This is where I lost Steve and Jim. My legs just said enough and I walked up much of the hill and most of the remaining hills on the course. I was still able to run a good pace going down, but even then my legs felt a little shaky. I lost count of how many other runners passed me, but every time I would hear footsteps behind me I just moved out of the way. I didn’t even try to stay ahead of them. Fortunately the last mile is mostly downhill so I was able to get up a good head of steam into the finish, my slowest time ever on this course, about 4 minutes slower than last year. I was in a haze at the finish and I didn’t stop my watch so I won’t know my exact time until DINO posts them on their website. Oh well, it was a good week of training and I somehow managed to finish second in my age group. This week I think I’ll take it a little easier since Another Dam 50k is on Saturday.

Turning Point?

I survived Dances With Dirt; however, a more appropriate event name might have been Mingles With Mud. Then again it was definitely more than just mud I was slogging through on that nightmarish horse trail. My performance wasn’t pretty, but I finished. Of course the ugliness was mostly, as is usually the case, self inflicted.

At the urging of fellow DINO runner Steve B. I went off way too fast at the start. I managed to stay with Steve all the way to the second aid station at about the 9 mile mark. I had to stop there to take my left shoe and sock off to clean out the mud that had built up under my toes. At around the 2 mile mark there was a long section of ankle deep mud. Running through that shoe sucking ooze wasn’t the best way to start a race, but being fresh made it seem easy. There was a lump of mud about the size of a quarter inside my sock. It was packed in there pretty hard and made it feel like I had a nail poking through my shoe. I managed to catch back up to Steve about a mile out of the aid station but then quickly realized I couldn’t go another 20 miles at that pace. At this point there were only about 9 runners ahead of me but I was suddenly making frequent stops to allow others to pass me.

Mud on the inside of my sock after the race.

I wasn’t completely wasted yet, but knew reaching the finish line would be painful. There were a few moments where I seemed to get a second wind and was feeling pretty good. Those moments didn’t last long. There were a number of small creek crossings with cool flowing water. After the second aid station I didn’t even try to avoid the water. I actually started planting my feet firmly in the rapid flow and would squish my feet around in my shoes to clear out the mud. This worked well and I never again had to remove my shoes. Also the cool water helped sooth my aching feet.

I stopped paying attention to where I was on the course because there was no point in wasting any energy on negative thoughts about how many miles were left to go. Just keep moving forward, no stinkin’ thinkin’. I hadn’t studied the course description much, but I knew Ogle Lake was the last aid station and from there it would be just less than 7 miles to the finish. I thought I might be getting close to Ogle Lake and seeing a trail sign pointing to Ogle Lake was one of those moments when I started feeling pretty good. I soon reached the aid station, topped off my water bottle, grabbed a handful of pretzel sticks, and was quickly munching my way over the dam. They had pretzel sticks at all the aid stations. Pretzels are my favorite race food anyway, but these sticks were easy to grab. This time I even thought to poke one of the sticks into the jar of peanut butter they had. Mmmm, gourmet trail running food.

After crossing the dam there was a nice little climb up from Ogle Lake. Upon reaching the top of the ridge I started repeating my mantra from the Ice Age 50 miler “walking only prolongs the misery” and starting running as much as I could. A mile or two out of Ogle Lake the course came onto a paved road. Just up ahead I saw a lady pop out of an outhouse on the side of the road. She turned around and said, “Come on I’ll jog with you to the aid station”. I said, “huh”? That was about all the conversation my brain could muster at this point. Turns out she was a race volunteer and there was indeed another aid station just ahead. She said it was a surprise aid station and a pleasant surprise it was. It was there for the half marathoners. She had hoped to be gone by now but not all the half marathoners had come through, lucky me. Water bottle topped off, orange wedge, handful of pretzel sticks, a fresh shot of adrenaline and off I went. Only 5.4 miles to go. I was feeling good. Woohoo! I was running even though my legs were screaming walk. I was running because it was smooth flat trail and at about 5 hours 30 minutes into the run I started thinking I could still finish around close to 6 hours 30 minutes. Plus that nice lady at the aid station lied to me. She said there were only about 12 runners ahead of me. (I should have known better, turns out the number was closer to 3 times 12.)

Then it happened. By it I mean the course turned onto a section of horse trail that was pure hell. This time I wasn’t fresh. I wasn’t able to just plow right through it. Every step in this shoe sucking muck was also sucking out what the little remaining energy I had, not to mention any chance I had of coming in anywhere close to 6:30. Before the start the race director said we would start hating him 20 minutes into the race when we hit that first mud section. Then I was fresh so it didn’t bother me. Now I was worn down ready to be finished. Now I didn’t just hate the race director, I wanted to hurt him. This seemed to go on forever, no end in sight. I passed another runner through this section. I even saw several horses. One pair of horses turned and came up behind me very fast. I was hoping they would trample me to death and put me out of my misery, but they missed me. Eventually the course turned off this section and soon after I could hear the sound of a highway. The trail soon opened up to an old ski slope. I could see highway 46 and a building that I first thought was Mike’s Dance Barn (the start/finish area). It wasn’t, big disappointment. I kept running though, now being motivated by the thought of maybe coming in under 7 hours. I didn’t quite make it. My finish time was 7:00:57.

Except for the mud I liked most of this course. There weren’t many big hill climbs and most of the trail was very runable. I think if I had started out at a sensible pace I could have run this course under 6:30 maybe even close to 6 hours. Also on the positive side is the fact that my left calf gave me no trouble at all. I’m now cautiously optimistic that I can get this year turned around and headed in a positive direction. I have three weeks to find some speed for the DINO 15k May 30th at Brown County which is run on some of the very same trails as DWD (thankfully not the extreme mud sections). Then exactly one week later is Another Dam 50k at Englewood MetroPark in Englewood Ohio.

Polar Opposites

Without a doubt 2008 was my most productive year of running, just an awesome year full of great challenging races and lots of PR’s. Well, 2009 is slowly starting to stagger 180 degrees off awesome. The year started out ok, but I’ve been fighting a left calf injury for a little over a month now. This has put a huge dent in my training and is giving me a bad attitude.

Last Saturday I ran the Mini Marathon. The calf felt ok at the start, but I was afraid it could give me trouble. For the first few miles I was on pace to hit my goal, but by mile 4 I starting thinking I wouldn’t have the stamina to maintain that pace. Then at mile 6 the calf started acting up. I probably could have pushed myself a little harder, but with the Dances With Dirt 50k coming up this Saturday I decided it was smarter to try and save myself. That was one of the smarter decisions I’ve made in quite a while. I finished the run and posted my slowest half marathon time since 2003. The day after the Mini my calf felt great. On Tuesday I ran six miles. I wouldn’t say the calf was 100%, but it was ok. The lack of training was proving to be a tougher hurdle. Then today I ran another six miles and felt much better. Without even trying I ran the course almost four minutes faster. Calf felt pretty good.

So now the big question is, do I take it easy this Saturday or do I push myself? Smart thing would probably be to start out slow and then if I still feel good 20 miles out start to kick it up a notch. Of course taking it easy at the start of a race has never been my forte.