Thursday, November 30, 2006

A sneak peek

I started running as a pastime back in 2003 and its been off to the races ever since. The journey began with a two year chase of the elusive Boston Marathon qualifier. Now, I'm attempting to go further than ever before.

I have an ambition to go back and chronicle these past four years of running. My desire is to have a race log of some sort, starting in 2003. While there's still work to do in '06, I can't help but look to next year. Its exciting to fill in a blank calandar with races and training plans.

While there's still plenty of time to toss around next year's goals, I'm pointing towards two goal races: Glass City Marathon and Mohican 100 Mile.

Check it out. Happy trails.

Sneak peak at 2007 runs:
1/6 - FA 50 (Cleveland Metroparks)
2/3 - Dirty Dog 10k (Trail)
2/17 - Loving the Hills 50km (KY)
4/15 - Glass City Marathon *
5/12 - Capon Valley 50km (WV)
6/16 - Mohican Trail 100 mile *

* Goal races

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

PLUS Band at the H.O.B. - 12/26/06

For the third year, Carlos Jones plays the House of Blues on December 26. If you're around Cleveland for the holiday, consider bringing the family down for some all-ages fun. Ghetto Wisdom, whom I've never seen, opens.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A warm weekend

After four days off from work and seven days off from running, I went for a short easy run. A bit of stiffness remains in the ankle, so I plan to take it easy for one more week. The weather's been so unseasonably warm, I even managed about 15 miles on the road bike on Sunday. Finally, is this our indian summer?

The nice weather prompted an impromptu camping trip down to Mohican State Park for some hiking and camping by the river with a fire under the stars. A bit chilly at night (30F), but a couple cords of firewood did the trick to keep warm. Hiking up to Lyons Falls on the blue loop rekindled my interest as I look forward to possibly trying the Mohican 100 next June.

Being single, and displaced from my family in California, I'm always grateful at the kindness of my Ohio family, friends and co-workers--all whom made me feel at home and with family during Thanksgiving.

Certainly, a warm weekend...all around.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


The prognosis is good. The x-ray revealed no fracture and all the bones remained in good alignment. I figured as much, but its nice to know for sure. It's a sprain--the photos made it look much worse.

So now what? I'm idle. I wonder how to develop a strength training routine.

For now, its time to enjoy some time away from running. I will return as soon as the swelling subsides and hope to start a new relationship with swimming.

Although there's no turkey trot this year, its almost turkey time. I look forward to time with family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I did not finish the JFK 50 Mile.

Nearing the end of the Appalachian Trail at mile 14-ish, I rolled my ankle. Hard. In an instant, my race was over. Well, almost. After a couple dozen choice words, I limped down Weverton Cliffs and off the AT. Ankle sprains and I go way back. When it immediately swelled to baseball size I knew it was too stiff to even think about going on. I dropped out at the crew access point at Weverton (15 miles.)

Click here for ankle photo.

Everything up to this point went as planned. The weekend began with a carpool with three other Cleveland peeps, all first-timers, including Elizabeth and Doc Louis. After a 5-hour drive from Cleveland and a short reconaissance of the course, we checked in. We met with a whole slew of Coolrunners and other NE Ohioans for pre-race dinner. Check soon for photos on the picture blog: Click here.

Race day weather was an ideal 37F at the start. I started the race with the same folks as last year from the Vertical Runner team, including TJ, Dave, and Bob. I've run numerous ultras with these guys this year and we all normally finish within the same range. We looked to improve upon last year's 6th place team placing and our goal was 3 runners around 7:45-ish, or between 23 and 24 hours (cumulative time, best 3 of 5 runners.)

So instead of testing my mettle on this day, I became spectator. Luckily for me, we had local crew at Weverton and I got immediate attention, a blanket, and a ride. (Thanks, Michelle.) I feel fortunate to have had an ice pack on the ankle for 5 of the first 6 hours after the sprain. The swelling slowed. After a trip back to the finish in Williamsport for warm clothes, we headed down to Antietam to cheer the others along near mile 30. Then back to the finish line just in time to watch the 2nd place runner finish in 6 hours 12 minutes. After grabbing some chow and another ice pack, I sat outside to watch the finish line from the 7:00 mark and all the way to 9:23 when Elizabeth came thundering in. Its hard not to imagine on where I might have placed.

Looking back, it wasn't too difficult a choice to drop out. For one short moment, I thought I could have possibly walked it in for a 12 hour finish. The day was not to be and it cannot change. Yet I appreciated being there to watch the other finishers arrive, particularly those runners I do not normally see during the course of a run or race. I watched my team come in and improve our team time 24:02. This year another record was set at the JFK 50 Mile with over 1,000 finishers. Good thing they did not need my finish in order to set the record for largest finishing field ever at an U.S. ultramarathon.

I'll soak it in for a few days before I fully reflect. I certainly have the disappointment of not ever knowing what I was capable of on this day. Yet the trip was still a hoot. I don't know what I enjoy more: To give my own highest and best in a race, or to witness and maybe assist another runner acheive their ultrarunning goals. I'll imagine, in the future, I'll keep on searching for the answer.

Preliminary results click here.

Carpool buds: Elizabeth (9:23), Barb (9:50), Louis (9:20)

Team Vertical Runner (24:02) - Bob (7:45), Dave (8:03), Terry (8:14), Suzanne (10:05)

Coolrunning buds: Merideth (10:50), Cari (9:22), Jesse (8:12), Pete (9:33, including an amazing 4:20 at Philly on Sunday.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Random thoughts as I head down the road...

Random quotes

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." ~ Pre

"It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse." ~ Ann Trason

Random run

Tonight's run: 5 miles easy (41 min) and cooled down with 6x strides. Ran at my favorite place to do strides: The River HS track on their "Field Turf" football field. The surface feels like jelly and was easy on the joints. The run random because about 2 miles of this run was on this square field. Back and forth on the turf for about 19 minutes and loved every bit. Odd yes, but I was loving the surface.

I chuckle as I write this because I just realized that its now been 20 years since my first high school football and soccer games. Man, I certainly don't feel this old. Running on the field and between the lines brought me back to my childhood. And of watching my brother perform in the Drum Corps.

There's something about doing strides on the field. I start at the back of one end zone and run about 120 yards through the far end zone. Start with a jog and incrementally speed up every 25-30 yards until going full blast for the last 30 yards. Slow and walk it off. Repeat. Tonight the strides felt powerful and no significant soreness or injuries. Its a good sign--so it's all systems go.

Random pre-race thoughts

- Once again this year, I'm part of the Vertical Runner 5-person team. I hope to keep up with Popcorn and Faceplant.

- 4.5 of the first 5.5 miles of the JFK are on road. Its the entire 1200' of climb in these 5.5 miles. Going to take it easy and not hammer the roads.

- Last year I arrived on the Towpath and took off like a jet. This year, I'm going to walk and fuel up to begin the Towpath leg. I'd be thrilled with a sub-4 hour Towpath section (26.3 mi.)

- The nutrition number is still 250 calories per hour. 8 hour goal equals approximately 1800-2000 required calories. Going to carry a handheld and a belt with about 800 calories (CLIP and gels.) I'll figure out how to add those extra 1000 calories. I could live off trail mix alone.

- I'm allowed to walk, anytime I wish.

- I will know that in this race, as with all others, there will be a low point. It will pass.

Can you tell I am really excited for this moment? I feel up to the challenge and hope for a big day on Saturday.

Before I retire for the night, I wish to give thanks to everyone out there who has given support, a word of encouragement, and especially the to the ones who have given me their time. There are those out there in blogland that have encouraged me more than they could ever know. I 've just now passed 100 days since my first blog on August 4. I'm having fun reflecting and seeing at how I've become a new writer. Not striving for perfection, but just putting it out there.

Blogging is a day at a time deal, eh?

I still like going back to this Irie post when ever I need some inspriration.

Happy trails,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Last year's JFK race report

I'm disappointed. Its now 3 days to the big race and I had great aspirations writing up a good ol' JFK preview blog entry.

The JFK course traverses some hallowed Civil War terrain and I wanted to retrace a couple of the battles. The race begins with a run up to South Mountain, continues along the famed Appalachian Trail before arriving on the C&O Towpath, near Harpers Ferry, and passing near the historic Antietam battlegrounds. (The bloodiest one day battle in American History. 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862)

There's just not enough time for me to tell the story. One thing, however, I will do is to remember. As I run along this path, I will remember the bloodshed and remember the men and women that have given their lives in the line of duty.

This Saturday, we will embark on a run that encircles Antietam and somewhat follow the path of the Confederate Army in the the days leading up to the Battle of Sharpsburg. I know that after running here this weekend that I will feel much more connected to our nation's military heritage.

After running this route, I will appreciate that I live in the 21st and not the 19th century. For sure, after running on the rocky AT, I will imagine what the shodily equipped Confederate Army had to endure in its sweeping advance to the north. Reportedly oft-barefoot, I imagine these men as the first ultra-runners in these hills. I imagine back then, distance running was no sport but a job.

Reading about the trials and hardships of these soldiers puts it into perspective. My short 8 hours on this course pales in comparison to what the soldiers of the time had to endure. Remebering this will help me when the running becomes difficult.

A neat thing about writing race reports is getting to go back and relive the day, even if the writing is less than perfect. I finally found a copy of last year's JFK report:

Last year's race report at (Warning: its long)

Not perfect, actually kind of lengthy and over-detailed, but its there. Reading it, I see how I'll do things differently this time. For one, I will start the Towpath with a walk to get my senses about me after coming off the AT. Last year, I came off the Weverton cliffs running. I ran too fast, too soon and had nothing left at the finish. I even skipped an aid station by running right on past--a big no-no.

I'll end this post with some numbers and go ahead and put my goal out there. The course is divided into three distinct sections. The start and through the AT (15.5 miles,) the C&O Towpath (next 26.3 miles,) and the final rolling road section (final 8.6 miles.)

Last year's splits:
2:45 (first 15.5mi - AT)
4:11 (next 26.3mi - Towpath)
1:27 (last 8.6mi - country roads)
8:28 - final time

If the stars align and everything goes my way:
7:45 (my goal, plus or minus 15 min)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Cleveland Weekend

A cold rainy Saturday. Perfect time for taper. No races, no long runs. With one week to go, just a couple lazy runs and a trip to the museum and the zoo.

On Saturday, a friend treated me to a guided tour of the Barcelona exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I cannot begin to describe the viewing, except that I'm more enlightened about the Catalan Renaissance during Spain's industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century. After what seemed like a hundred oil paintings by Casas, Picasso, and Dali, my guide's focus turned to the architecture and woodwork of Antoni Gaudi.

Casa Mila

Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece

Late Saturday, caught the first set of Carlos Jones and the PLUS Band before heading home early enough for a few hours of sleep.

Joined a couple Cleveland Tri Club peeps for about a 10 mile run at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Our metroparks rock. I love this path and wish to get to the zoo more often. A chilly, but clear 35F at 830a. After a few miles on the outside paths, we were the first ones to enter the gate when the Zoo opened at 9:30a. The animals seemed to be up and active in the cool air. The best part was the Cheetah, who ran along side us as we passed her pen. She was into it. (For this moment, I insist that she thought of us as fellow runners, not lunch.)

And what do you know, the Browns come home with a win this weekend. No doubt, the Monday mood will seem a little bit lighter and the downtown crowd more jovial.

All in all, not a bad Cleveland weekend.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Kennedy March

"The need for increased attention to physical fitness is clearly established. The Government cannot compel us to act, but freedom demands it. A nation is merely a sum of all its citizens, and its strength, energy and resourcefulness can be no greater than theirs."
- John F. Kennedy

(President Kennedy and Charles "Bud" Wilkinson, March 1961. Courtesy JFK Presidential Library and Museum.)

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy got the idea for a 50 mile hike from an old executive order of then President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) that challenged U.S. Marine officers to finish 50 miles in twenty hours. In turn, President JFK coyly challenged his staff to hike 50 miles. The first JFK 50 Mile Hike took place in 1963 and rest has been history.

JFK's words are the inspiration for at least two separate 50 mile events. One, is Kennedy's namesake race, the JFK 50 Mile. The other, is half a world away in the Netherlands. Both events celebrate their 44th anniversary in the coming year.

I found the story on how JFK got the idea for a 50 mile hike in this link from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

I wonder about the date of the first JFK 50 Mile Hike in 1963. Over the years, the traditional date of the race has been the Saturday before Thanksgiving. In 1963, the first 50 mile hike consisted of 11 starters and 4 finishers, one of which was Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. I wonder about this first JFK 50 because the President was assassinated on November 22, 1963. I do, however, believe the hike was held earlier in this year and that the President was there to witness the very first edition. I hope to find out for sure.

I'll be sure to ask a JFK veteran down there in Maryland. This year marks the 44th running of the JFK 50 Mile. I'm curious if I can find someone who was there at some of the early JFK hikes.

Its interesting to read on how the government took on the project of addressing fitness. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the "President's Council on Youth Fitness" to encourage American children to be healthy and active children. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy changed the title to the "President's Council on Physical Fitness" to reflect its role to serve all Americans.

Its also interesting to note that the President's commission, after the 50 mile hike became popular, had to consider a spin to temper the the budding craze. Apparently, the goverment thought it was crazy for everyone to hike 50 miles. Go figure.

Not lost in the spirit, however, was JFKs inspiration for citizens to become healthy and strong. The month before JFK took office in 1961, he wrote a Sports Illustrated article titled, "The Soft American," that outlined his policy for national fitness.

Simultaneously in Europe, the Kennedy March found its own humble beginnings. In 1963, four Danish high school students hiked what has now become the oldest Kennedy March outside the U.S. The Kennedy-Mars Sittard is a 50 mile event even larger than our own JFK 50. Over 3000 hikers entered the 2006 Sittard Hike, held each April in the Netherlands. Unlike the JFK 50 Mile, the European verision is strictly walking and hiking. No running allowed in this event.

Excerpt: The origin on the JFK 50 Mile Hike

Click here for article - "The Federal Government Takes on Physical Fitness."

Source: JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

Perhaps Kennedy's most famous intervention in the area of fitness, and an indicator of the extent to which the Council became identified with him, was the fifty-mile hike. The idea of the hike developed from Kennedy's discovery in late 1962 of an executive order from Theodore Roosevelt challenging U.S. Marine officers to finish 50 miles in twenty hours. Kennedy passed the document on to his own marine commandant, Gen. David M. Shoup, and suggested that Shoup bring it up to him as his, Shoup's, own discovery, with the proposal that modern day marines should duplicate this feat. Shoup, of course, responded speedily, and the President went on to say that:

"Should your report to me indicate that the strength and stamina of the modern Marine is at least equivalent to that of his antecedents, I will then ask Mr. Salinger to look into the matter personally and give me a report on the fitness of the White House Staff."

In his conversations with his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, Kennedy left no doubt that "look[ing] into the matter personally" would involve Salinger walking fifty miles himself. A well-padded individual with a sense of humor about himself, Salinger turned his efforts to avoid the hike into an open joke, finally releasing a statement on February 12, 1963, in which he publicly declined the honor. As justification, he pointed to Attorney General Robert Kennedy's completion of the hike as proof of the fitness of the administration. The President's brother had undertaken the hike on an impulse, and although clad in leather oxford shoes, had slogged the distance through snow and slush.

But the real impact of the fifty mile hike was with the public at large, which took the hike as a personal request and a challenge from their President. Furthermore, responsibility for the President's challenge was presumed to lie with the President's Council. This put the council in a tricky position. To disavow the hikes would undermine its declared purposes. On the other hand, the council wanted no part of having the hikes thrust on it as a program by an overenthusiastic public. As a compromise, the council sent out a cautious press release recommending a moderate, gradual program of walking for exercise. For the more persistent, the council prepared a background letter explaining the origin of the hike, again suggesting a sensible walking regimen, and stating emphatically that government agencies were not sponsoring or rewarding hikes.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Smoke FREE Ohio

Congratulations Ohio. Its not official yet, but it appears you saw right through the smokescreen and voted for a Smoke Free Ohio.

What does that mean?

It means that bar and restaurant workers, along with any other persons subjected to secondhand smoke in the workplace will now have the right to clean air in their place of work. This study by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that bar workers' health displayed "significant improvements in respiratory symptoms and lung function within 2 months following a ban on smoking in confined public places." It means that the health of Ohio workers is due to improve very soon.

For me, it means dining, drinking and going to more shows without coming home smelling like a chimney and having wheezing smoke hangover the next day.

Two closing thoughts:

1. I believe all citizens, smokers included, will appreciate the new law once it takes effect. The new law is not a complete smoking ban. If smokers want to smoke, all they have to do is step outside the door.

2. Not that it matters any longer, but I wonder if the Issue 4 people and the Big Tobacco lobby caused a reverse effect on the poll. I wonder the outcome if the ballot only had the one Issue. I believe the fight for a Smoke Free Ohio may have been closer had there only been one issue on the ballot.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pleasant surprises...

Just a quick post today about the weekend runs. The theme: Pleasant surprises.

- For the weekend, I had about 30 miles planned on 3 runs. I ended up with bonus miles...36 miles on 4 runs.

- It started on a cool clear Saturday morning 5K at Edgewater Park. Not a cloud in the sky and 28F at 8:30am. Wasn't thinking about a fast race since the course has that hill. Andrew and I both wanted a good hard workout to stay sharp for our upcoming races. After a 4 mile warm-up and some strides, we lined up. I chased him around the park for a surprising PR (18:49) on a day I least expected it. Andrew finished about a minute ahead. 10 miles total.

- Saturday continued with a trail run. I introduced my friend D to the best closest trail to home. Its a 6 mile run starting from Little Met that not too many people know about. It climbs over the ridge and across the stream before joining the bridal trail on the east bank of the Rocky River. On this day we were pleasantly surprised by mild temps, a tame deer peeping us out, and the brilliant yellow leaves that padded the trail. But the best surprise of all was watching the joy on D's face as she discovered the beauty of this route.

- Sunday started out with Roxi the superdog to join E-speed and Faceplant for a pre-JFK run starting at Station Road. This route had a bit of everything--roads, hills, single-track trail, and towpath. Starting in Brecksville, we headed west along the Valley Parkway and the Buckeye Trail before traversing the valley floor and heading east to the Towpath Trail and the Carriage Loop Trail. What a pleasant surprise to have climbed both sides of the Cuyahoga Valley all within the same run. About 14.5 miles total.

- After the morning run, Roxi and I made our way out to Elyria to cheer on D at the Inland Trail Marathon. Running out to meet her, Roxi and I got 6 bonus miles. The day turned into a mild fall afternoon just perfect for running. In her final miles, what a pleasant surprise to witness D running strong and with a smile on her face.

- The spoils: a not so surprising, but pleasant meal of baked salmon, brown rice, steamed asparagus, and sauteed veggies. Topped off with a bottle of Pinot and my first viewing of Napoleon Dynamite.

What a weekend.

Today is election day. Please consider clean air when making your choices. No on 4, Yes on 5.

Is it too early to start stumping for 2008? Pedro for President!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Looking ahead...

...but not too far ahead.

The year's end is near and a fresh 2007 calendar awaits. I'm easily distracted by what and where I want to be in April, May, and June of next year. Oh, my imagination...

Not so fast. One lonely race remains over there in the sidebar:

JFK 50 Mile

Why be in such a hurry for 2007 when there's still two months to go? After all, its still three weeks before Thanksgiving. Hmm.

(Mile 21: Bill and I on the campus of BC at the top of Heartbreak Hill)

Yes, 2006 has surpassed my dreams. Boston. Need I say more? And twice this year I set out to, and ran further than before. Time really does fly when doing this thing I love to do. It seems like only yesterday hanging with my bro at the top of Heartbreak Hill at the little race they have in Boston. Every running goal I set for this year I've gone out and hit the mark. Yet there's still one more challenge to go.

(Photo: Mile 2 of the 2005 JFK 50 Mile. Photo by Ultrarunning Magazine.)

Two-and-a-half weeks to go before JFK. At the time, last year's JFK was my longest race to date. There's a race report from last year somewhere and I'll have to dig it out for review. Its amazing to look back at the last 365 days. I've been blessed to have the chance to run in some very cool places. Yet this ultra-running thing is turning into some slippery slope. My imagination runs wild at the prospect whats next.

So instead of looking too far down the road, I'm going to cherish the next 2 weeks. I have a goal, but for sure I'd like to beat my time from last year. Now in its 44th year, JFK has a history like no other ultramarathon. Here's a reason to brush up on my Civil War history as the course follows some spectacularly famous battlegrounds.

Now that running in circles is not on my mind, I hope to check out my notes from last year and do a JFK preview. There's certainly lots to say. From the 1100 runners, to the varied terrain course, and the 300 trekkers, the JFK 50 Mile presents tactical challenges like no other.

First things first. Its time to hit the trails (that I've oh so neglected.) I hear its been muddy out there. I hope so. I've a couple trail runs planned for the weekend to get my trail legs back.

Two weeks. I can do this.