Thursday, March 30, 2006

50-Mile Trail Run Weekend

Well, tomorrow I'll be driving to Kanopolis State Park, Kansas. On Saturday, I'll be running at the Rockin' K Trail Run. This year, I'm not (too) injured, so I'll be doing the 50-Miler instead of the marathon. Woo-hoo! This course is so much fun! I'll post some up-to-date photos, after the run. We are going to camp in "Elemental Conditions" in a campground near the race. Fellow Trail Nerd Kyle, my spouse, and my dog will be driving out with me.

My fastest PR on this particular 50-Mile course is 10:02:00. I don't plan on any speed records this year, as my knee is still hurting from a fall that I took 3 weeks ago. It will just be a "fun run" for me, and hopefully help keep me in 100-Mile shape for some upcoming runs, later this year.

Previous event photos taken by yours truly: 2004, 2005.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Blogs, Running with Scissors, and Savage Chickens

I've had a long week at work. Time to goof-off before I go home for the weekend. I like this cartoonist's stuff. And it's got chickens! Speaking of chickens, they kind of go along with one of my favorite themes: many folks in this world are too chicken-shit to actually live their lives to the fullest. By that, I mean actually ENJOY life. Many folks become subservient to a real grind. They think work, suffering, heart attacks, and NO FUN are an inevitable part of life in general. If you fit into this category, put this mask on, so that we may all know just how subservient and chicken-shit you really are.

By the way, I didn't run last night. I had a slight detour toward the non-running side of life enjoyment. My favorite spouse hijacked me, and convinced me to take her to a fancy French restaurant. I'm now $105 lighter, (oh yeah...$125 with the tip). Sometimes you just have to do these things. "Marriage Maintenance," I call it. It was a very nice, unplanned way to spend an evening with the love of my life.

Peas out, homelies!
Bad Ben

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Famous Lies told to Runners (at a race)

Over the years I've heard some whoppers from aid station crews, course officials, race directors, and people on the sidelines of a race. Disclaimer: I love race directors and volunteers; (I've been both), so don't flame me for this post! These are just observations of mine, from the point of view of a race participant.

Here are Some Famous Lies told to Runners:

"The finish line is just ahead." - (No way...don't be duped, Gomer).

"The aid station is just ahead." - (the aid station crew hasn't even set up yet, or it's over 5 miles away).

"Trust me ... this is the last hill." - Translation: 4 more hills.

"It's all downhill from here." "You're almost there." - Translation: 5 more hills.

"Another 100 yards, around the corner, and you are can turn on the speed, now." - (There's always 1/2 mile to go when they say this).

"You're looking really strong." - (You look like a stumbling, self-flagellating drunk).

"You're looking good, keep it up." - (You look like total dog shit and not even your own spouse would be able to recognize you, at this point.)

"You are breathing're in a groove." - (You're practically asthmatic, you're caked with dried salt, your face is an almost purple-red, you are slobbering, and you're bleeding from 6 spots on your body when they say this).

"That guy is in your age group! Go get 'em." - (He's actually 10 years younger/older than you, so don't worry your tiny, mileage-addled brain).

Heard from the finish line of a 10K: "if you can hear my voice, you can still break 40 minutes." - (No frigging way, with just 10 seconds left...don't be a fool, yet again).

"Just an easy 5K to go!" - (usually said by some numb-nuts-non-runner with a bull horn at about Mile 21 of a marathon).

Heard before trail ultra-distance races (many, many times): "The course is well can't get lost." - (This is always a total fabrication; you'll be lost for at least an hour).

Said (incorrectly) at the mile 53 aid station in my last 100-mile trail run: "This container has water, that one has Heed in it...let me fill your water bottle for you." - I almost threw up when I drank it, because Heed was now mixed with my sports drink.

...And the biggest whopper that I've ever heard: "Just 1.5 more miles and one major hill to go." - Said at the last aid station at the Superior Trail 50 in 2004...there were actually 3 major hills and 7 miles left to go in a 50-mile race that turned out to be 57 miles long! (We were warned at the start of the race that the new, 2004 course might be slightly long-ish). I still had fun, though, (even though the finish line was not marked and I was lost for 30 minutes trying to find the damn thing).

Please share other race lies that you've heard!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Trail Running and Volunteering

The weekend started with a bang! Friday night, I went to a St Pat's party at the neighbor's house. Saturday morning, 6 or 7 of us Trail Nerds ran on the trails at Kill Creek Park. Four of us stayed to run a total of 2-1/2 hours on the nice single track. Saturday afternoon, I ended up doing KC Track Club stuff, and driving around town with my dog. I spent Saturday evening loading up the Element with the aid station stuff for the Brew to Brew race on Sunday.

The Brew to Brew Run is a 44-mile relay and solo run on pavement, dirt roads and levee trails. The race starts at Boulevard Brewing in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and ends at Free State Brewing in Lawrence, Kansas...hence the name. This year, there were 2600 runners who signed up for it. Some of the Trail Nerds were going to run in the race, and others were going to man the last station and keep the runners safe and satisfied. This was my 3rd year as aid station captain.

Thanks goodness for the Trail Nerds who volunteered for aid station #9! We had nobody splatted or squished by a train, and everybody got through our "exchange" station in fine order! Traffic control and safety were our greatest concerns. Historically, this aid station has 20 - 30 high-speed trains pass by the aid station throughout the race day. It also has no real place to park (except at the side of the road), and the station always experiences a really crazy rush, between 1 and 3 p.m.

The hardworking brothers Doug and Terry Obershaw, were on rope/traffic duty on the far side of the tracks, and kept the forces of "mob rule" at bay. We abided by "railroad rules," and the Obershaw's made the railroad crossing safe for all of the participants. Doug even schmoozed the Leavenworth County Sheriff, who was visibly upset that "so many 'running nuts' were blocking HIS road."

Kyle Amos directed car traffic and runners across the tracks and into our aid/exchange station. He worked both sides of the tracks. He also would yell whenever a solo runner was arriving. Steve Mathews kept the aid stations refilled and ready for action and kept the runners navigated toward the water/gatorade. He also brought another table and some other "necessary items." Alex Kovalev and Jeff Perry filled-in wherever they were needed, (which was everywhere). Jeff brought food for us volunteers, and Matt Holmes even made a short appearance to bring us a much-needed "amber emulsion fluid dispensing tool." Other Trail Nerds filtered in/out and helped out as they had time, or before or after their team's runs.

Our goal of keeping the runners and drivers safe, and taking care of the special needs of the solo runners was met in fine style. Moving the solo runner's table away from the other tables and down the levee (a short distance), really helped keep the short-distance-food-vultures away from the solo's table, this year. We were once again totally self-sufficient, and even loaned water to the finish line. And everything from the aid station fit into my little Honda Element!

Luckily, the weather cooperated, and the only suffering we endured was a visible windburn. It could have been worse; snow and rain were predicted. After the race, we head to Liberty Hall in Lawrence for some good food and beer provided by the race. I got home at 6 p.m., and my wife had just gotten home from work. My son and I unloaded the Element in about 10-minutes, and I got the water jugs rinsed and soaking with sanitizer and water. I made a quick run to get barbeque for the three of us (before Sopranos came on). Whew! Another busy weekend of running and volunteering!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Two 50-Milers, Two Months

I finally sent-in my entry for the Rockin' K 50-Miler (in central Kansas) that is scheduled for April 1st. Today, I'll also send in my entry for the Berryman 50-Miler that happens in late May. I haven't raced since the 100-miler nearly 6 weeks ago, so it's about time to get back at it. I'm going to camp in the Element/tent combo for both races. We should have some good Trail Nerd participation for both races. Sounds like a couple of parties to me!

The Rockin' K is a really fun course with a lot of difficult footing. It also has at least 14 water crossings that can make it tough for you to "keep your powder dry." Check out the photo of Paul crossing the last of the water crossings in 2005. The course also has features on it that make it look like the surface of the moon (or mars), including red, yellow and orange sand! Sunsceen and a hat are essential on this course; there is absolutely no shade. It's run mainly on the tall grass prairie, with multiple forays into canyons, arroyos, and up and down steep hills. Photos that I've taken: 2004 Race. 2005 Race.

The Berryman (SE Missouri) course is a rocky, rooty, and hilly course that is almost completely shaded by deep woods. It's always hot and steamy that time of year, so being out of the sun helps significantly. It's almost as though you were running in a green tunnel for the whole race. I can camp right on the start/finish line, so there's no huge scramble to get to the race start on time. Photos from 2005 race.

Both of these courses are SO different, but they are an absolute blast!!! Also, the week after Rockin' K, I get to go to Miami Beach! Can't wait.

I also need to redeem myself from last year. I severly sprained my ankle right before RK last year, and couldn't run RK...I could only take pictures. I taped the crap out of my ankle and took the marathon option at Berryman a month later. It hurt like hell. Can't wait for total redemption!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Trail Running Disclaimer

Some of you may know that I schedule and lead 4 trail runs per week for our little KC Trail Nerds group. We're a fun-loving group of guys and gals who's main purpose is to have fun running together in the great outdoors. We also don't mind working our tails off constructing, cleaning, and maintaining trails or race courses, or volunteering for races.

The basic rules of the group are: Have fun and no whining. We also have a trailrunning disclaimer that can also be found on our main website. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

Informational Disclaimer:
These are free, all-comers, non-organized, trail "training" experiences. Whoever shows up, runs. (We just happen to be running in the same direction at the same time). You are responsible for yourself and your own safety. We will run at the slowest runner's pace, so no one gets lost. This is an easy-going way to have a fun run in a natural setting. Please use common sense. When the deer are in rutting season, don't show up with a dumb, doe-eyed look on your face; you may live to regret it, (unless you enjoy that sort of thing). No whiners allowed. No littering, either: If you think you won't be able to finish the run, please don't litter the trail with your dotard carcass. Please dig a deep hole first, then pull the dirt over your body right before you succumb to the Grim Reaper's sickle.

Further Disclaimer:
I, the runner, affirm that I participate in these training runs at my own risk, that there will be no "aid stations" or support available except where provided by me. There will be no route markings, no course marshals and no medical personnel in attendance and that I cannot hold my fellow runners, those who advertise the run or anyone else involved in the run or anyone else, responsible for any accident, injury or death sustained by anyone, anywhere. I have been advised that the run may traverse lands that are owned, policed or controlled by Cities or Townships, City or State Parks, Hatfields & McCoys, or other landowners/controllers and that they have not been notified of these training runs, and permission has not been given and that I will accept any consequences upon myself resulting from any legal transgressions. I know that the run may traverse extremely rough and rugged areas, that is inhabited by the standard Midwest wildlife (snakes, deer, spiders etc), and vicious "domesticated" pets, and accept that I could get hurt, lost, dehydrated, injured or could even die. I fully accept these dangers & difficulties on my own behalf. In fact I will thoroughly ENJOY the prospect of suffering blisters, cramps, trashed quads, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, snow, ice, heatstroke, frostbite and other entertainment that can be associated with running an event such as this. I understand that any roads to be crossed or run along may be narrow and twisty and that all vehicle drivers are CRAZY MAINIACS, out to run me down. I understand that any trails or paths that I may cross or traverse will have similar maniacs on horses, mountain bikes, unicycles, pogo sticks, harvesters, hay-balers, D-9 Catapillars, flailing-bladed lawnmowers, and other sundry vehicles, gizmos, or devices, dedicated to squashing/ripping my flesh and bones to unidentifiable (flattened) chunks of meat. I understand that even if I am an extremely experienced athlete, I may still not be fit enough to continue at some point, and I should know when to say "Uncle", throw in the towel, and get back into my fricking car, shut the hell up, and go the hell home. I have been advised to take some water and have my own supplies, and look after my own personal needs, such as having available: toilet paper, Power Bars, Hammer Gel, Band-Aids, gloves, and a black leather teddy with sequins. I realize that my fellow runners, those who advertise these runs, or anyone else involved in the run or anyone else, are NOT organizing an event or race and that this is a joint endeavor by all who take part. This is not to say I will not b*tch or use strong language, I expect to do so during the various stages of these training runs. I understand this is just a part of the experience of "reality running", not to be confused with "reality T.V.", no matter how much similarity I, or my co-runners may find herewith.

Tuesday Trail Tempo Run

It was another fast "tempo" run last night on the trails after dark, with the Trail Nerds. I warmed-up by doing a 1-1/2 hour gym workout with Igor, my personal trainer. I had some "recovery food," which consisted of a bag of Clif Shot Bloks, water, and a single shot of espresso at my son's Starbucks. I had just enough time to get dressed and get to the park to run. We ran the first 4.6-mile loop in 39 and change, and the 2nd loop in 34:40. Doug twisted his ankle on a rock or root, but he did o.k. on both loops.

My right knee was hurting from a fall that I had in my garage on Sunday, but it did just fine. It's a little stiff today, though. It's stupid...I rarely fall on night or day trail runs, but I end up tripping in my own damn garage. It couldn't have had anything to do with drinking beer during "White Trash Theater," though, right?

This morning I did back, biceps and abs in the gym. Tonight, I'll run a slow 5 to 7 mile run in either SM Park, or Kill Creek Park.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Yikes...Running in the Woods during a Tornado!

Well, 5 of us Trail Nerds decided to run at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, Kansas on Sunday. The "Weather Guessers" had predicted severe thunderstorms by the afternoon. We thought we were safe, since we were running at 7 a.m. No such luck.

We saw lightning in the distance as we started heading out onto the heavily wooded trail. About 5-1/2 miles into the run, the lightning was all around us, and the sky had this strange, dark color to it. We made a group decision to head back on the "blue" trail, because it was only 3 miles back by that way. We looked for a crossover trail, found it, and started heading back on the blue trail.

Hail started falling on us. Great, now we would have to run on wet marbles. Then, what we thought was a "normal" thunderstorm front, blew in with intensity. It was much more than "normal." The large trees all around us had their top branches whipping around like fly rods. A lot of branches, trees, and debris was falling all around us as we ran. Needless to say, we were running at an adrenaline-charged pace. By the time we got back to the cars, it was fairly still around us.

I had several cellphone messages waiting for me. My son had spent the night in Lawrence at a friend's house, and said that tornados had hit the town. (Actually, it was mostly straight-line winds of 95 MPH and above that hit Lawrence...the tornados touched-down east of Kansas City). The storm front was headed eastward, which is the direction we needed to go to get home. We decided to try to find a breakfast joint open (that still had electical power). My son met us for breakfast, and we made a few cellphone calls to home. We found out that several more fronts were moving in from the west. Time to leave!

The church across the street from the breakfast place had lost two of its 3 brick steeples, and they were blocking the street. We saw that and some debris here and there, but we didn't realize the extent of the damage until we tried getting out of town. It took what seemed like an hour to pick our way through town and get to the main road to home. Trees, powerlines, etcetera were blocking our way. When we got out to the main highway (10), the freeway signs on the side of the road were twisted and blown down flat. These signs are mounted with two 6-inch I-beams, and are rated for 95-MPH winds!

We got home safely, and I figured that I wouldn't be able to do any yard work as planned, so it was a perfect day for homebrewing beer, right? I opened the garage door so, and got on with it. Several people showed up: "Good" Ben, my son, his friend, and two next-door neighbors. Of course, my dog was there, too. We figured we would watch the storm(s) from the relative comfort of my garage, while drinking beer. I have a name for this activity. Its called "White-Trash Theater." It's a very inexpensive form of entertainment.

We braved 2 more tornado siren sessions, some hail, some rain, and some gnarly Costco chicken burritos. A fun time was had by all. Good Ben had told me of his run in the woods at SM Park with his wife that morning. (They had the sirens go off while they were running, also). He may have fibbed a little to her about the severity of their situation, until they got safely back to their car.

We were all lucky. Nine people who died during this rash of local tornados weren't so lucky. My heart goes out to those who lost love ones.

Lawrence newspaper story.
By the way:
We also ran on Saturday morning at SM Park. (The weather was wonderful on Saturday). I had to leave our trail run early to work the finish line of the annual St Pat's day run. "Barefoot" Rick Roeber wrote a little race report about the event, which included a photo of me in my fluorescent orange KC Track Club shirt, standing next to him.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Muddy Trail Run

Six of us showed up at WyCo Park for a trail run, last night. It had rained 1-inch the day before, so we knew we were in for a muddy run in a few spots on the trail. We were right. I was leading, and on some of the steeper uphills, there was a rooster-tail of mud coming off of my shoes. Poor Kyle was right behind me and taking it in the face. (I actually got some mud on the top of my own head).

We finished one 5-mile loop and decided not to go out for another. We ran about a 1-1/2 mile loop on the pavement by the marina to finish our run, and to clean/stomp some of the mud off of our shoes. At least pavement is good for something!

I drove home wearing sandals and sitting on a 55-gallon garbage bag. I was so muddy that I had to undress in the shower.
I love playing in the mud!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Yum, Yum...Fast Trail Run

A weird weather front moved in, so was unseasonably warm and humid, last night. We started after sundown at 7 p.m. in SM Park. The trail conditions were perfect; the soil was just moist enough to be tacky without being slick. Nine Trail Nerds showed up. We ran the first 4.6-mile loop in 40 minutes. A couple of runners left after the first loop. I led the first part of the 2nd loop (in the opposite direction) slowly, and then picked up the pace for the last 2/3 of the loop. We ended up with a 34:18 2nd loop!

It always feels great to hit the trails hard and fast (at night). Luckily, I get to do trail-tempo-runs 2 nights per week! Most of the other runners in the group that I run with are 15 to 20 years younger than me, so it keeps me sharp. My speed and technical abilities are increasing with age. That's a good thing!

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Week's Training; Bad Wreck; Brutal Week

Let's catch up:

My daughter was in a bad car wreck last Friday night; (see photo from wrecking yard). She broke her left wrist and banged-up her knees and right leg quite a bit. She will do ok, and so will the person that caused the accident. My daughter was borrowing one of our vehicles when the wreck happened. Luckily, my grandson and nobody else was in the car. The insurance thing is going ok, (at least for me). I should have a check within 2 weeks for the car, but I know they will take a while to settle with my daughter for medical and lost work time. We ended up having our grandson over at our house for a lot of this last week to help her and her S.O. out. So things have been real busy at home, in addition to tons of stuff going on at work for me and my spouse. It has been an absolutely BRUTAL week.

I'm still not hitting the training as hard as I did before my last 100-miler. In part, it's due to the events of the last week. I'm also still in recovery mode somewhat, so I'm not putting in the miles so much during the week, but I still save the weekends for my higher mileage runs. I've also "run the gauntlet" of having everyone around me sick (before and after the 100-miler), and I still did NOT get sick. I think this is due to not pushing myself as hard after the 100-mile race, (when my immune system is usually comprimised). Yes, I am getting smarter with age!

Here's my last week's training:
Saturday: 18-mile trail run at SM Park in dry conditions at 40 degrees F, or so. I wore shorts. Note: I found a wild rose bush while bushwhacking, and ripped the crap out of my exposed legs. Only superficial damage, though...I ran for the next 2 hours with blood dripping from them.

Sunday: 10.35 miles on the WyCo course with 5000' of elevation change. I also went hiking and trailrunning with my grandson and dog later at WyCo, and took down some more trail markings from my race.

Monday: Massive Gym routine, no running.

Tuesday: Very warm night with record high temps. (We've gone from zero F to 79 degrees within the span of a week). Night trailrunning for two 4.7-mile loops with the Trail Nerds. We did the first loop in 39 minutes and the 2nd loop in 35 minutes. I was leading.

Wednesday: 1-hour Gym routine, no running.

Thursday: Night running with group for one 6-mile mini-loop at WyCo. I didn't do a 2nd loop, even though I wanted to. My knees have been "talking to me" since the race, but are almost back to normal. (I didn't want to ruin my plans for running long on the weekend).

Friday (this morning): Massive-superset gym routine, with additional 20 sets of abs. Holy crap, I felt strong! 'Must have been the coffee.

Plans for the weekend:
Tomorrow: 22-mile trail run at SM Park. Host a bachelor party for Alex on Saturday night!
Sunday: 10-mile trail run at WyCo, (quite probably with a hangover).

That's it. TGIF!