Tuesday, January 19, 2010

50K Run for Regis - 2010


I have mixed feelings about this “Fun Run”.

The first 13 miles were easy and rather enjoyable, at 10 min/mile average pace. But after that, the “fun” very quickly changed to “torture”. My pace slowed down to 12-14 min/mile. I developed blisters, got tired of running, and started praying for the ordeal to be over.

But I made it under 6:30 and when it was done, I actually felt pretty good. Good to the point of entertaining thoughts of more 50Ks soon and attempting longer distances, even a 100 miler!

Am I a masochist or what?


Who thought that running 32 miles in snow-covered trails without proper training in January in Ohio would be a good idea?

One problem is training: It is impossible to train properly for the given running conditions because most likely the running conditions on “race day” will be unique. I had trained on dry trails, leaf-covered trails, muddy/wet trails, trails with fresh snow, but not slippery trails covered with half-melted snow, as we had on Sunday.

My training consisted mainly of running 12 miles / 2 hours on trails every Saturday. That’s clearly not enough. You need at least 2 runs 20-25 miles to get ready for this.

With the word “fun” in mind I arrived at the “Ledges” around 6:45 am.  The race director (Tanya, below) gave us the final instructions and at 7:30 am off we went!


This is a new course, consisting of two loops 5 and 8 miles, just like the old course. To compete the 50K you need to run 5 + 8 + 5 + 8 + 5. After you complete each loop, you return back to the “headquarters” (starting point). There is one aid station inside each loop.

The run is labeled “fun” in the sense that it is not a race. There are no awards. Everyone pays the same amount and gets the same benefits: a handsome Brooks running jacket and a bowl (or more) of chili. Anyone can run any distance they like, a combination of the two loops: 8, 13 (“Half Marathon), 18, 26 (“Marathon”), 31 (50K)

According to my GPS Garmin, both loops were about 1/2 mile longer so the total distance was about 33.5 miles or 54K.

After each loop, I zeroed my watch (a good idea, since I then knew exactly where I was located within the loop and how far away I was from the nearest aid station). I timed each loop and I think these times tell the story:

5 mile loop times: 54:37, 1:00:47, 1:13:02
8 mile loop times: 1:27:11, 1:58:00


The first two loops (5 + 8) went fine, running strong and confident. I was even ahead of Mel and Rachel, the top female runners. (They both passed me around mile 13, with 15 year old (!) Rachel finishing first - again!  I can run faster than her in shorter races but she is nowhere to be seen in these 50Ks).

The course was well marked with little arrows at cross-points and orange ribbons marking the right side of the trail. We were told that it is possible to get inside a loop the wrong way and still finish the loop, having the orange ribbons on the left side, instead of the right. This actually happened to me in the first 8 mile loop, when I followed the guy in front of me, despite my better judgment. No harm done, I got to meet all the runners who ran the loop in the correct direction.

By the time of the 2nd 5 mile loop I was already slowing down, got passed by several runners and felt blisters developing on the bottom of my foot, as a result of the friction of the wet socks and shoes.

Despite the well marked course, I managed to run a loop in the opposite direction (duhhh!)


The worst part by far was running the 2nd 8 mile loop. I slowed to a crawl and did a lot of walking. Only a couple of people passed me (a sign that others were struggling too?) so I was mostly alone.

Just to give you an idea of how low my spirits were, I had carried with me a music player to entertain myself listening to the radio, podcasts, or some music, and did not even have the energy to take it out of my pocket! I also carried my new Fuji digital 3d camera with me, but only used it for a few pictures. I was not in the mood (very strange for me).

My feet were sliding all over the place and I was wondering if wearing plain trail shoes was a good idea. I could see from the footprints in the trail that some people were using additions to add traction on the snow.

I was feeling miserable and I had decided to skip the last 5 miles. I was already composing my blog with title: 50K (NOT!) FUN (NOT!) RUN. This was definitely not fun. The only way to run the last 5 miles was if my wife joined me. She was going to meet me before the last loop. I called, but she did not bring her running shoes, which made me mad (not difficult to do at this point).

Last 5 Miles

By the time I reached headquarters for the last loop, something strange happened: I felt better. This is very weird, but it also happened last year.  My wife said that I looked fine (after 5+ hours of running, under these conditions??). I changed my socks and shoes (well aware that this would do little to stop the blisters), kissed my wife and son, and headed for the last 5 mile loop, determined to complete the 50K.

This last loop was actually the best, even though it was the slowest. At first I was trying to catch a younger guy in front, so I could have some company. But he seemed determined to finish ahead of me and he had more energy, so he pulled ahead. Then I heard someone approaching from behind. I started talking to him and, soon enough, we are talking and enjoying the run together. Running with a partner makes a hell of a difference at this stage.

Two young guys passed us when we stopped at the last aid station (1 mile from the finish). Then another guy came from behind just to finish a bit ahead of us. If I were alone, I would have pushed, to finish ahead of these guys, but, what the heck, it seemed meaningless at the time and I had a good time running and chatting with my new friend, Bob (above).

As we approached the finish, Bob noticed the Race Clock nearing 6:30 and said “let’s beat 6:30” so we sprinted and made it! Here is the proof:

In the end, there were 5 of us finishing within one minute, from 6:29 to 6:30. In the official results (posted at: http://winterrunforregis.blogspot.com/ ) I am listed 29/74 with the official time of 6:29:56. This is better than last year’s 6:47, but slower than the year before (my first winter 50K) were I finished at 5:31 (in better weather conditions).

I am sure there were a lot more than 74 runners signed up for the 50K, so I am pleased to be one of the 74 who made it (even though I barely made it!).  The rest completed the shorter distances.


After the race, I stayed around for a while, socializing with other runners. I met Clara and her friend from Indiana. Clara is the “Indiana Girl” from my first Winter 50K blog (seen below, suprisingly fresh and quick, at the "finish line")

We all got our packages and were treated to nice chili and grilled cheese sandwiches (I had 3 servings!) By the way, in this race I made an effort to eat and drink in every aid station. My favorite food was noodle soup and I had plenty of Gatorade.

The most amazing thing is that I felt great at the end. It seems that all the bad memories were erased. As I am writing this blog, I am making an effort to remember the “bad times”. Equally strange, the next day I had almost no muscle pain. Liz took care of the blisters and I am ready to resume running today (Tuesday).

The human body and mind is a strange thing. Despite the pain and frustration during parts of the run, I am already thinking of running longer and faster. I love running and I think I prefer long and slow trail runs to short & fast road runs.

I think I will look into running a 50 miler this year and maybe 100 miles next year.

Many thanks to the race director and volunteers for making us do this, and helping us stay fit and strong during the winter (talking about "strong", I've gained 10 lbs since my marathon in Athens, but I am sure it is all "muscle" :)) Now I am starting a diet so I can go back to my normal race weight!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Following the Guy with the Pony Tail

Snow covered Trail Run – 15F

I had every good intention to wake up early and join the 6 am, or maybe 7 am running group today, but when I got up and saw all the snow in the ground, I decided to wait and join the SERC (South East Running Club) which always starts at L29 at 8 am on Saturdays.

I arrived at L29 at 8:15 and barely made it, joining about 8 more running fanatics. This group runs for about 12 miles, 2 hours, in the trails. The temperature today was 15F (-9C). It sounds more dramatic in Celsius but it was quite cold and I had to wear a face mask, in addition to the regular winter running gear.

Steve (second from left) is deciding which way to go.  - Some parts of the trail has thick snow.

The group’s leader appears to be Steve Godale, Mark’s brother, who has a long redish hair and long beard. A couple of weeks ago I asked if they have a running schedule and they said, “we just follow the guy with the pony tail” (Steve). I then asked, “What are you doing today?” Reply: “We are following the guy with the pony tail”. So, the plan is very simple.

Some parts were easier to negotiate that others.

Today Steve decided to go off the trail so for about 30 minutes we were a bit lost, in the thick snow, in the middle of nowhere. But, finally, we found the trail again and we were back to L29 safe, almost exactly 2 hours after we started.

I really enjoy these trail runs, even in the winter!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year’s Run with Ed – 2010

Happy New Year everyone!

What a better way to start the new year than join Ed for the Traditional New Year’s Day Run? Nice but challenging run 6.6 miles in 1:03. Here is a picture from two points during the run:

We started at Boston where Ed took a group picture but his camera ran out of battery, so when we reached the Brandywine Falls I was the only runner with a working camera. I took a picture of the group and then someone took another picture, seen here (I am the guy with the red jacket in the first row):

Great New Year’s Eve 5K Run - 2009

Great New Year’s Eve 5K Run

My wife and I ran the Great New Years Eve 5K last night. This was the 3rd time for me and the first time for my wife (I had to work a bit, to make her agree to this :))

My times in the previous 2 years:

2007 – 20:47
2008 – 21:48

The weather was fairly decent (last year it was very cold and icy, this year it was 38F, the streets were wet but not slippery). At the start I got behind some slow runners and was a bit delayed, until I found an opening on the left side. My first mile was 6:31. Mile 2 involves some hills in the return, time 6:51. Mile 3 = 6:53. Final stretch: 6:18. I was happy I passed a couple of runners near the end, including 14 year old Rachel.

My time was almost exactly 21 minutes (a bit over actually, as I tried to beat 21 minute but did not make it). This is a good time considering the weather, tough course, and the fact that I have gained 8 lbs since the Athens Marathon! (I’ve fallen off the proverbial wagon, in the eating/diet department)

Liz before the race and at the finish line.

We stayed after the race to enjoy the food and socialize with other runners. When the time came for the awards, it was a repeat of the Thanksgiving 4 mile race. They announced the top Female winner but she said she was not the first. If they cannot get the first female runner right, you know the results are all messed up. So, they stopped the awards and asked people to come forward to check their times and placement. I was listed 3rd in my age group with 20:50, and my wife was also listed 3rd in her ago group, so we took our awards (engraved glass) and went home, happy. They have posted what they call "preliminary" results in the Summit Athletic web page.

Overall, despite the confusion with the times and awards, it was a fun race and we’ll do it again.

Falls Run & Accident

Last Saturday I joined a group of 40 or more runners for the “Falls Run”. This is a comfortable 18 mile trail run visiting local falls. It is the first time I do this (previous years we went to Minneapolis between Christmas and New Year’s so I have missed all previous runs).

It is a nice scenic trail run. We started from Lock 29, ran up 5 miles to Pine Lane and to Boston. From Boston we ran 5 miles to the Brandywine Falls (1) and back, then 4 miles to Blue Hen Falls (2) and Buttermilk Falls (3) and then 5 more miles back to L29 via the Buckeye Trail and Pine Lane. It took exactly 3 hours of running.

Here are some pictures that I took from the Brandywine and Buttermilk Falls:

You can see more pictures (with me in the picture) in Nick’s blog here:

This would have been a perfect day, if it was not for an accident I had around mile 3 of the run. While crossing Boston Mills Road (from Pine Lane to Boston), I fell and hit my leg at the metal rail on the side of the road. This was clearly my fault. Instead of stopping and taking it easy, I tried to step on the piece of wood (see picture below, taken a few weeks ago with my wife going over the exact same rail - I marked the piece of wood I stepped at) to go over. The wood was icy, so I slipped and fell right at the sharp metal rail.

At first it hurt quite a bit. Michele was running ahead, turned around and asked if I was OK. I said I was fine and continued running. I knew I was hurt badly, but I could not decide whether to stop and call my wife to pick me up, run to Boston and from there to L29 and then drive home, or just keep running. I kept running. I decided to continue to Boston. At Boston I checked my leg (see picture above - I snapped this picture for memories). The wound looked really deep but it was not bleeding a lot and it was not hurting enough to force me to stop. So I decided to keep running, to finish this nice long run.

When I got home, my wife saw the wound and started screaming at me to go to the Emergency to have it stitched up, which is what I did. At the emergency I had 2 X-rays, a tetanus shot and 14 stitches put in my leg! Everyone was amazed that I kept running for 15 miles / 2 ½ hours, after this accident.

Anyway, I was able to run the next day and race on Thursday (New Year’s Eve) so it cannot be that bad. It is healing nicely right now.

Home Run For the Homeless 2009

Home Run For the Homeless 2009

This year for the first time I ran (together with my daughter and Matt, her friend from Toledo) the “Home Run for the Homeless” 4 mile race on Thanksgiving Day.

It was a perfect running weather, cold in the morning but sunny later. Good running atmosphere. Delicious muffins in the end. A nice way to start the Thanksgiving day.

I ran with the Fuji 3d camera in my hands - This is a picture from early on. Mike George (center left) is leaving me in the dust at this point.  I ran most of the race with the little girl with the green T-shirt on the left, which wrote in the back "Sorry officer, was I going too fast?"   I could not get this out of my mind during the entire race!

This picture is from near the end.  A couple more turns and we are done.  The guy with the black shirt is Jamie Carr from our running group.  He passed me in the uphill and even though I yelled at him "Hi Jamie", he did not turn around to say "Hi" because he was working hard to pass me.  I tried to catch him in the final stretch but he was going too fast for me.

I thought that the course was hard overall. It was also a bit short (3.8 or 3.9 miles). I felt a bit out of shape and finished behind most of the people in my running group, but I am happy with my time (26:18). It will take a lot more effort and training to meet my time goal of 25 minutes.

One of the more interesting runners at the finish line:  The leaping leprechaunm made a nice subject for our 3d stereo club competition "Motion".

We stayed for the awards and that was a bit frustrating because it became clear from the very beginning that the results were messed up. They made the mistake to announce times with the awards so every time they mentioned a time, someone would say, “Wait, I ran faster than that, how come I am not getting an award?” After a while, they stopped announcing the times but everyone had the feeling that things were not right.

My friend Mike Juppe is receiving the Master's Award.  He appears to be really excited about this, plus the large Turkey that is part of the award.  But, as it turns out, he was not the fastest Master runner.  So, later he had to return his trophy, but he kept the Turkey because he was still in first place for his age group (first place winners get a turkey).  Thanks to Mike, I got my award too! (Later, not at the award's ceremony because, thanks to Mike again, I was bumped into 3d place when my division 1st place runner got the Master's Award)

Later, next day, I checked the results in the internet and I was not listed. After a few email exchanges to straighten things out, I was listed 4th, but then changed to 3rd because they moved one of the guys ahead of me in my age group, to get the “Master’s Award”. My friend Mike went and picked up my award (he had to return his Master’s award) so in the end I am happy I got a nice mug.

The “good weather” and large “same day” registration was blamed for the errors. This is the first time in 8 years of running races that I waited to register on race day, because I was not sure I would be running this race, plus the deadline for mail-in registration was 11 days before the race (isn’t 7 days enough?) Needless to say, I will not wait until the last day again.

Anyway, we had a good time and got a nice exercise. We will do it again next year.