Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Run Woodstock Race Report

This weekend, I drove up to Pinckney, Michigan to spend a fun-filled weekend with my old college buddy, Farley and his equally awesome wife, Jessica. This was going to be Farley's first 1/2 Marathon, and I was so excited for him. Jess was there to support Farley and she was also volunteering to work the registration booth on Saturday morning. They've ran a handful of 5k's this summer, and Farley was ready to try the longer distances; his longest run before this weekend was 7.5 miles! He was almost doubling it this weekend and I was going to help him. :) I told him that if he signed up for a 1/2 marathon, I'd come run it with him. He did, so I kept my word and drove up to join him. I'm so happy that I did too because it was a blast and we had some really good times this weekend!

Jessica, Me, & Jamie (ie. Farley)

Farley is an old-school cross country runner in high school. He just recently picked running back up, and was about ready to give up on it because he got nasty shin splits. He found that running barefoot fixes his problem. He's a true minimalist and he has really had some great success with barefoot running. It goes without saying that we both wore our VFF's for this run.

What is RunWoodstock?
He couldn't have picked a better 1/2 Marathon for his first! This was one of the hippest... OK, it IS the hippest running event I've ever been to. The entire theme was "Peace, Love, & Running". The race coordinators did awesome to try and mimic the groovy vibes felt at the actual 1969 Woodstock Festival in Woodstock, NY. When live music wasn't being played on the main stage, there were old recordings from the original Woodstock event blasting through the amplifiers (Hendrix, Joplin, etc..). "Can you dig it, man?"

Tie-dye could be seen everywhere, fresh hotdogs could be purchased for $1.50 (we had a few), and people were just sitting around chilling all night long. The entire campground was filled with campers, tents, and runners everywhere. At times it was hard to believe that we were here for a running event. Music (literally) filled the campground at all times. I can dig it, man!

What made this event even more special is that there are distances for every type of runner:
  • Far Out 5k
  • Trip'n 10k
  • Flower Power 5 mile
  • Hippie 1/2 Marathon,
  • Mellow Marathon
  • Freak 50K
  • Peace, Love, and 50 miles
  • Long Slow Distance (LSD) 100K
  • Hallucination 100 miles
If you enjoy running (no matter what distance), I highly recommend this event. Before and after the race, it feels more like a music festival; there was live music at all times. The music was split between various artists and they were all very entertaining. The Hell Creek Campground was great as well. The bath house was nicely kept, and the there was a huge stage right in the middle of campground for live entertainment. The campground is privately owned by a very nice family. Since it was privately owned, we were able to bring out own drinks and walk around the campground with open containers like a real music event. :) It was great to walk around the campgrounds with our bottles of beer, meeting other runners while enjoying the live music after the sun went down.

Live music at the campground

Here we are enjoying the music Friday night

As for the actual race, it was also top notch. The volunteers were great, the aid stations were stocked with munchies, and the course markings were spot on. Apparently, some of the runners complained about the course markings, but I thought they were stellar! At no time did I feel lost or question where I was supposed to go. The course was flat at parts, and hilly at other spots. It was a nice mix and quite challenging at times.

Friday Night
I worked a 1/2 a day on Friday and was in my car, Michigan-bound, by 3pm. The drive up was very uneventful. I arrived at Hell Creek Ranch and met up with Farley and Jess. They helped me set up my tent, and then we walked around the campgrounds drinking beer and listening to music. It was kind of eerie seeing the 100 milers come through the campground.

Tents all setup

They started their race at 4:30pm and would be running all night. I can't imagine how hard it would have been to come through a full-blown party spot like this and then have to go back into the woods at night for another 3 hour loop. Each time a 100 miler came through, everybody would cheer them on, and then it was back to the music and good times. Me, Jess, and Farley sat around and drank beers and ate some munchies til about 11pm before calling it a night.

Finish line at night

Saturday Morning
The alarm went off around 6:30am and we woke up and got ready for the race. Jess wasn't running the race, but she was volunteering at the registration. Therefore, she was up and at 'em by 5am this morning! Phew!? Farley and I got to sleep in for an extra hour and a half. We were ready to go and we hit the starting line without 5 minutes to spare for our 7:30am start.

Starting Line of the 1/2 Marathon

As we started the race, the runners all came to a screeching halt as we entered the woods. Apparently there were more registrants for the 1/2 marathon than any other race, and it was obvious once we got to the single track and we were all standing around for about a full minute until we the runners were able to spread out on the single track.

There were lots of up and down sections through the horse trail, then it opened up onto a nice flat service road for about 2-3 miles. At the end of this section there was a turn around and then we jolted off the path back into the woods. From there, it was mostly single track wooded trail sections til the end. There were a few sections of sandy terrain, and a few muddy areas.

Here is a little video interview that I did with Farley. I was playing with my camera and decided to post it here on the blog. Check out Farley's stride, he is built for this stuff:

Towards the end of our run we came into this huge pine area that had everybody talking. It consisted of a nice pine-needle bedded trail nestled in these enormous pines that stretch way up into the sky. It was very peaceful in here and made running very easy.

Peaceful trail section...

Action shot in the pines

Farley running through the pines

After the pine section, we did a quick "bow-tie" loop through more beautiful pines that went down a nice steep decline. The ascent wasn't as bad, as it was less of a grade than the descent. Once we came of the little loop, we only had about another mile or two until the finish.

The finish was great, the trail opened back up into the campground, and the campers were all cheering as we came down the lighted tunnel to the finish line. Of course, Jess was still working her volunteer shift, and she snapped a few pictures of us coming across the finish line.

Farley kicked butt today for his first 1/2 Marathon! He looked like he could have easily run more miles if he had too. Our times were:
  • Luc - 2:38:50
  • Farley - 2:38:52
After the race, Farley and Jess and I all headed into Hell, Michigan and ate at Hell in a Handbasket. We got pizza and pop. There was a "Hike to Hell" that left the campground a while before and they were arriving right after we ordered. Runners were taking over Hell!!

Hell in a Handbasket

After we ate, we headed back to the campground, where Jess and Farley decided to lay down and take a nap in their tent. I decided to hop in my car and drive around the Pinckney area. I went looking for some public parks to maybe sit on a bench by a lake and chill out for a while. I came across two parks, but both were asking me to pay money before entering. If I had more time to kill, I would have paid, but I was only looking to kill about 30 minutes to an hour. I didn't feel that $8 was a good price to pay to spend 30 minutes in a public park... I decided to just drive around some more with my windows down and look at all the beautiful houses by the lakes. The Pinckney area is a beautiful area!

When I got back, we hung out for a while, and then Jess decided she was going to head back home and leave us boys to hang out for the rest of the day. We did just that. We drank beer, ate some lasagna, drank more beer, listened to music, and talked with lots of other runners. Farley actually recognized a guy that he knew on the Huaraches Google Group, named "last place Jason". He's a big minimalist activist and Farley went up to introduce himself. We stood around and talked to him for about 10-15 minutes and he seemed like a really cool guy. He hosts all kinds of barefoot clinics in the Grand Rapids area and it was real nice talking with him. The rest of the day was pretty lazy. I recognized a few people from previous races, and we met quite a few others as we stood around killing time.

Night Run
Around 7:30pm, the Trip'n 10k started. This was a night run through the woods, with a twist... Some runners would be able to turn off the course into a heated tent, where they would then be able to "get free" with other runners and run through the woods "au naturelle". Surprisingly, a lot of people did this!?

Trippin 10K Starting Line

Farley and I decided to walk the 10K course. However, once we got about 2 miles into it, Farley's knee was acting up, so we called it quits after 3 1/2 miles and came back to the campground. When we got back, we stood around the fire pit and talked with various other runners. We drank a few more beers and munched on some hot dogs. It got pretty rowdy after a while, but it was all in good fun. :)

Sunday Morning
After an "interesting" night on the campgrounds, we woke up around 8am and got packed up. We said our "later bro"'s then headed our separate ways. I had a 4+ hour drive ahead of me, and Farley had about an hour drive ahead of him.

Brother Farley & Brother Luc

Congrats on an awesome (and technical) first 1/2 marathon, Farley! Heal up fast and "keep on keepin' on". :) I already can't wait for next years event...

Marie Hickey Hiking

The Hiking Hardbargers

Earlier last week, Jennifer had to be somewhere and I had the girls for the evening. I was actually very excited about this because the usual schedule includes: them getting off the bus, doing their homework, playing with each other for a while, dinner, then bed. This day I was anxious for them to get off the bus so we could go outside and get some fresh air.

Daizi and I got ready so that when they got off the bus, we'd all have a quick snack, then hit the trails. They walked in the door and I told them about my plans. Lizzie jumps for joy when she hears the news, but Jazzy whines and says she doesn't want to. I told here that's exactly why we're doing it. :) The weather was perfect, and everybody was pretty groggy. I know that getting out into the woods always wakes me up and puts me in a better mood.

We arrived at Marie Hickey and headed down the east side of the parking lot. After about 10 minutes everybody was giggling and running around the trails. They all took turns holding my hand and it turned out to be a perfect evening. Not only did the evening turn out to be fun, but the time flew and before we knew it, Mommy was back home.

Here are some random pictures taken on our hike:

"Daddy, my legs hurt..." says Daizi.

This is one of the girls favorite spots on the trail...

Daizi found some berries...

Hiking along an incline about 3/4 mile into the trail...

Daizi runs across a bridge.

Hiking down a service road (1.5 miles)

We're all smiles now!!

Almost back to the car...

I'm raising future Trail Hackers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Daizi

Today our youngest baby, Daizianna, turns 4 years old.

She's growing too damn fast, and I just want to hit the pause button sometimes. We had a big "Beethoven Themed" birthday party here yesterday and she was the main focus. She got lots of Barbie's and dog-themed toys. It was so cute to see her so happy around her sisters and cousins.

Daizi - One day you might find Daddy's blog and I will want you to know that Mommy and Daddy love you very much! :)

Oh and Happy Birthday to you too, Mom. Thanks for... well, life. :P

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2010 Indian Run 60K

Yesterday was the Hocking Hills Indian Run 60K Trail Race. I had a great experience and left everything out on the course. The weather was perfect, the park was bumpin with friendly campers, and the hills were plenty. I decided to wear my VFF's for this run. They held up great, and I didn't get torn down like I did @ Mohican last spring. I'd trained all summer in them and my body has adapted to them. I thought this would be a good time to validate all that training in them and see if they're a good option for me as a distance runner for future trail races. (cliche?) :) They are, I actually finished this race an hour and a few minutes faster than my 50k race only 5 months ago. I will continue to wear them on my training runs and future races.

Friday Night
The night before, I arrived around 7 or 7:30 and hung with my best bud, Tyler and his family. They were EXTREMELY hospitable and hooked me up with a huge dinner, pillows, blankets, and great conversation. We sat around the fire and feasted while laughing and enjoying each others company. Around 10pm, Tyler and I went into the camper and called it a night, as we had an early morning ahead of us. As it turned out, Tyler had a rough night's sleep and didn't get much sleep. So much so that he had to cancel his start of the 20k. I felt very bad for him, because he had talked about this race for a long time and he and Liz (his girlfriend) had been training for it all summer. :( Next year guys!! Next year...

Saturday Morning
My phone alarm went off at 5:45 am sharp and I drove to the visitor center to get checked in. I (literally) got the closest parking spot to the starting line. I did my stretching and configured my trunk to be my own personal aid station as I came through on each loop. Jennifer had packed me a killer lunch with ham sandwiches, gatorades, grapes, power bars, banana's, all of which was buried in a stack of ice blocks. It was awesome and kept me strong the entire race. Thanks babe!! :) I got my race number and t-shirt, then stood around and talked to some of my running buddies that came to the race.

One of the first faces that I saw was good ol' Mike Allen. This was the guy that helped me finish my first ultra marathon here 2 years ago. He remembered me and we caught up for a little bit. He told me that he shared the story of that day with many of his friends, and that it was a great honor for him to do that with me. I agreed and told him the same. It was great to catch up with him again. I swear this man doesn't age, he's just as young as I am; yet he claims he's 61 yrs old. !? :) Great seeing you again Mike!

First Loop
The race started promptly at 7:14 am. :) The ranger stated that this was the record year for the 60k turn out. This race is getting bigger every year, and I think it's great. We all did a big cheer then shuffled off into the dewey morning fog. The sun was rising and it was simply a beautiful morning to be at Hocking Hills. The first section of the loop is mostly road. All of us runners spread out pretty good along here and it was neat seeing so many runners on the road as you came to the top of a big hill. I was able to keep a pretty nice pace down RT 664 and felt real good. I had forgotten how huge the downhill was at the end of the road section though.

As I got to the bottom of the last (huge) downhill, I turned left up Steel Hill. This is a hill that goes strait up for about 1/2 mile to Chapel Ridge Road. It wasn't as bad as I remembered it, but it was still pretty big compared to other hill climbs on this course. Perhaps I just wasn't as intimidated by it this year and I approached it more confidently. I got to the top of the climb in a decent jog and kept on trucking past the water stop; my water bottles were both 3/4 full.

From Steel Hill, we winded down the road for about a mile to a service road that leads us down through across some rolling hilltops with open views of the hocking hills. This is one of my favorite sections on this course. It was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS this morning. All of the runners had spread out by this point and I found myself running alone with these panoramic landscape of the Hocking Hills. K, here goes: The dewey leaves of the rolling tree tops had a nice light fog that gracefully tucked into the valleys of these sunlit rolling hill-tops known as the Hocking Hills... What d'ya think? :) Just know that it was awfully pretty, ok? I was kicking myself for leaving the camera in the car.

Once I got out of my Shakespeare moment, I found myself in the woods running down a wide service road. I had two runners creep up on my stellar pace, Chris and Matt. They immediately started asking me questions about my shoes; most of which I didn't have the answers to: How much do they weigh? How many miles do you have in them? How long do they last? I just kept saying, "Good question" :P We talked about lots of different things and they stated that they were marathon runners. This was their first trail ultra. They have both been training for the Columbus Marathon next month and they decided to run this as a training run. They were working to PR at Columbus this year. These guys looked like some pretty strong runners, and I'm sure they're gonna kick butt next month. They took off ahead of me and I stayed back to settle back into my delicate pounces through the randomly scattered gravel rocks.

I came out to the next road section and felt real strong. The sun was out, the cars were driving by and it turned out to be a beautiful morning.

By the time I had gotten to Rose Lake, the 10k runners were starting to merge into the mix. I a nice steady jog through this section and kept my eye out for "toe crushers" (ie. roots). On my ascent out of Rose Lake, the course came onto the campground section. I was going to be passing right by Tyler's family camp site where I stayed last night. On my way through I yelled hello to all of them. They cheered me on and I kept on running. I'd be seeing them two more times today, so I didn't feel so bad not sticking around and talking with them this first time. It looked like they were just waking up anyway...

From the campground, we headed up the main road to back to the starting line (and my car). I forgot how long this road section actually was. It's a little over a mile and it's all uphill. Granted it's a gradual uphill, but it is uphill.

When I got to the car, I scarfed down two ham sandwich halves, some grapes, and I chugged a gatorade. I found enough time to snap this cool pic. --->

There were tons of runners standing around waiting on the bus to take them to the 10k and 5k starting line. I got a lot of stares at my shoes and some people asked questions about them. I think some of them were seeing them for the first time, and I felt like I looked eccentric... I'm not, really! I'm normal and love kittens. :)

A small group of guys said "Yeah, Mr. Five Finger!", I just raised my water bottles and said "Woo hoo!". :) Then took off running again feeling the stares.

Second Loop
On my second loop, I was chugging a long and a runner came up behind me and asked me if I was running the 60k. I said yes, how about you? He said he was running the 20k and I congratulated him. He then asked me how my feet were doing. I told them they were doing just fine, and then he went on to tell me that he reads my blog! I got very excited and thanked him for introducing himself to me. That put a smile on my face for a while, for I mainly post my blogs without thinking of other people reading them besides my family and friends. So "dude", :) if you're reading this post, feel free to comment anytime. It was nice meeting you!

The second loop was pretty uneventful. I ran into Matt and Chris again and we talked for a while up Steel Hill. At the top, they pushed on again and I settled back into my trot. I had a pretty good pace going (in my terms) and I didn't walk much at all the second loop, except on the crazy uphills. I tried to jog up the gradual uphills and leap up some of the smaller climbs. The course was mixed with a lot more runners by this point, as the 20k and the 40k were all in the race now. You could tell who was who for the most part. Many of them traded encouraging words, and I would always return them.

Toward the campground area, I ran into Mike Allen and we ran beside each other for a while through here. We played leap frog a few times. The first time was when I stopped into visit with Tyler's family's camp site. By this point, the entire crew was there. We chatted for a little bit and they gave me some Funyuns to send me on my way. Thanks guys. :)

After visiting with them I caught back up with Mike and we climbed up the road section together and into the checkpoint. We paused at the snack table and had some random snacks to refuel on: apple slices, pretzels, and banana halves. I got to see my Italian twin brother Luca:

I had a ham sandwich chunk in my mouth during the photo. "It's not a too-mah!"

Luca is this cool guy that runs with a lot of the same people I've run with. He and I met on a training run with Nick and his buddy, Bret last year. We cross paths every now and then, but haven't ran together since that first time we met. I would enjoy running with you again soon, Luca! Let's make it happen. :)

Third (and Final) Loop
Mike and I grabbed a frosty gatorade from my trunk and we headed back up the climb to RT 664. On our way up the climb, Mike went ahead of me and I wouldn't see him again for the rest of the race. As we wove through the hills along RT 664, I saw him getting further and further from me as I crested each hilltop. He would have a great run and I'm sure he finished strong. Great job, Mike!

This third loop was a little more difficult than the first two loops (duh, right?). My feet were pretty swollen by this point and my calves were pretty tight. I found myself walking on the crazy downhills along 664. I walked all the way up steel hill, and actually sat down at the top of Steel Hill for the first time to gather myself and give my legs a quick break. I sat there for maybe a full minute and talked to the aid station crew. They were very friendly and I was grateful for their hospitality and conversation, it helped.

I stood up and decided to trot. I tried not to walk, and only walked when I absolutely had to. This third loop was just as peaceful as the first loop. Most of the 20k runners and 40k runners had either finished, or was keeping the same pace somewhere else on the loop. I found myself running along through a lot of this loop, and I really liked it. I just let my mind wander and enjoyed the great run. I did meet a few other runners on this final loop and it was great to talk with them and hear their stories.

I didn't sit again until I got back around to Tyler's family's campsite (sounds weird?). Here I actually sat for a minute or two and they fed me a warm juicy hot dog, right off the fire. Yum!! Michelle (Tyler's wonderful Mom) filled my water bottles with ice, and it really helped! Thanks Michelle!! I left their campground with two freezing cold maracas that kept me hydrated for my final 3 mile stretch.

From the campground, I made it to the final stretch of road up to the finish line. I did quite a bit of walking here. My feet were throbbing, but I found that when I was in a shuffle/jog the pain went away. Either that or it hurt worse, and actually numbed my feet... I'm leaning toward the latter. As I made my final ascent, I got to see a lot of the other runners leaving and many of them honked and cheered for me. I just love the love. :)

The Finish Line
I finished my race with a time of:
8 hours, 33 minutes, and 1 second
There were no fireworks, no announcers, no media, no trumpets, and no elephants. It was just me and very nice lady that gave me my medal. The medal for this race is worth the $25 entry fee alone. The local elementary school kids make medals for the racers, and I have a nice little collection of them in my basement now. I can't wait to get my finishers medal next year.

In conclusion, the training has worked. I'm very happy with todays run. It was 3 minutes slower than my first time out here, 2 years ago. However, it was over an hour faster than my 50k time earlier this year. The most rewarding to me is that I ran it pert-near barefoot. I'm also very happy with the way I feel after the race. My feet hurt, and my calves are pretty sore, but other than that it's just the normal "post ultra" pains.

Next weekend, I'm going to RunWoodstock up in the great state of Michigan with my good buddy, Farley. We're running the Hippie 1/2 Marathon and the Tripin 10k (night run). This is going to be Farley's first 1/2 Marathon and I was able to talk him into a 10k too. I have that effect on people, just ask Dan. :) I have a feeling Farley's gonna crush 'em both this weekend! Can't wait, Bro!!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

My Mohican Marathon

Today I ran my longest training run of the year. I ran my very own private marathon at Mohican State Park. This was my last (and longest) training run before the 2010 Indian Run 60k, in 2 weeks.

The night before, I headed to Newark and called my buddy Dan to see if he wanted to join me on a night run. He was in town for the weekend so we met up and ran 7.5 miles around the west end of Newark with our headlamps. I wore my VFF's even though my feet were still pretty bruised from last weekends run @ Mohican.

This morning, I woke up around 5am and got everything ready to head up to Mohican. Due to my bruised feet, and painful stroll around Newark last night, I decided to run in my Brooks Cascadia 5 shoes today. I've only wore them 2 or 3 times this summer, so they still kind of have the new smell. I used my CamelBak since I was going to be running solo and didn't feel like dropping water at various locations.

The plan was to park at the covered bridge and keep a gallon of water in my car for refills as I came back through off of each loop. I made it to Mohican State Park around 7am and found that the covered bridge was still under construction. This forced me to drive around the construction to the back side of the bridge and drop a gallon of water. Due to the construction, I decided to focus all of my running on the Orange loop. This little "water drop" detour took me about 30 minutes.

I made it back to the campground A parking lot and started running towards the covered bridge. This was a 4 mile run along the river. It was very early in the morning and the river had a nice fog hovering over it. It was very relaxing! When I made it to the covered bridge, I didn't fill up my CamelBak, because I hardly used any water after only 4 miles. I simply turned around and headed back to the campground A parking lot for a total of 8 miles.

When I got back to the car, I packed a bunch of nutrition bars for my 15 mile loop around the orange loop. I headed up the switchbacks along RT 3, and took a relaxing stroll through the woods. I came upon a few mountain bikers and hikers along here, and nothing too adventurous happened. I just let my mind wander from thought to thought as I shuffled over the roots and rocks.

I made it to Hickory Ridge and kept on moving. I didn't even stop to get some fuel or anything, I just strolled right on through. Somewhere after here, I turned on my iPod and listened to some music. It helped me to pick up the pace a little bit. It's amazing how music can take your mind off of the mundane "left, right, left, right". I had a few startling moments as bikers would come up behind me and yell right before they got to me. I think I yelled at one dude (politely of course) about it. It would be much better if you yell when you see me up the trail rather than waiting until you get 4 feet behind me and say "COMING THROUGH".

Towards the end of the Orange loop I ran into a Mohican runner named Ron, but I forget his last name. I'd seen him at various races here at Mohican, and we were both wearing our "Forget The PR 50K" shirts. We looked like twins. :) We traded greetings and kept on moving; he was going the opposite direction anyway. I made my way down the backside of the Orange loop to my gallon jug of water and filled up my CamelBak. It was pretty low by this point and the warm, crisp water tasted great actually. I decided to crush the gallon jug and stick it in my backpack so that I didn't have to drive all the way back around just to pick it up.

Now it was on to run along the river one last time. I'm sure the campers thought I was crazy, as I saw most of them early in the morning as they were creeping out of there tents, and here I was still running around by myself in the mid-day heat. The good thing about running this river section 3 times today is that it's no longer a sore spot for me to run along the river. I used to always dread this section because it's so technical and slow at spots and the North Rim Trail is a killer. It's no longer a bad section for me and I forced myself to appreciate it today. :)

When I got back to the car, I chugged some gatorade, ate some of my packed lunch (PB & J, Cheez-Its, Granolla bars, etc..). I was at mile 23 or so by this point, so I had 2 miles to go. My goal today was to run 25 miles... I then got to thinking, why not just make it a marathon!? I thew my CamelBak on again and headed down to Campground A. On my way down there, I saw Ron walking through the campgrounds as it looked like he was pretty well spent from his run today. I slowed down and walked with him for about a mile. He took me on a path I'd never been on before. It was great! We traded stories and talked about various things. It's amazing how many people we both knew, and even more amazing that we'd never (officially) met one another until today.

Around mile 25, I told him I was going to head back to my car and call it a day. I did just that. My walked turned into a jog and I jogged the last 1.5 miles back to my car to a make it a full marathon. I actually ran 26.24 miles, so if you want to get politically correct, I ran an Ultra Marathon today. :) Time to taper...