Tag Archives: Pinckney

This is Fun? Damn Right!

A COUPLE OF MILES into last Sunday’s trail marathon, as I wound my way along the Potawatomi Trail, a low roar of excited babble came from across the lake to the right. The guy in front of me glanced in that direction.

“Sounds like the five-milers over there,” he said, referring to the shorter race that took a different path through the woods.

“Yeah,” I replied, “but they’re not having as much fun as we are.”

He agreed. “Got that right!” The morning was sunny and cool, and the Poto was in superb condition. Why settle for a measly five miles when you could run 26.2?

Saturday’s half marathon had been gray and bleak, with the wind off the lake driving most runners to warm places elsewhere for their afterglow. Working Zero Waste afterward, I shivered with the race staff and made liberal use of the heater in the volunteer tent.

No such issues on Sunday, the kind of day you’d want for a marathon, or any kind of run. Despite some fatigue from the half, I had good energy throughout. I finished slower than last year (which I’d run on fresh legs) but as I said, I was having fun.

So what exactly is “fun” about running four-plus hours up and down a trail?

I’m sure every trail runner would answer a bit differently, but “fun” and its synonyms are prevalent in our conversations. When someone says, “I nearly died out there. I couldn’t walk for a week. It was AWESOME,” we nod and make a note to look up that race.

This couple shows the joy on Sunday. (Photo from Frog Prince Studios.)

For me last weekend, enjoyment came with “being present” in the event, where outside thoughts and worries slipped away and my world shrank to the race and the trail. Hard effort, discomfort and pain mixed with runner’s high and feeling of accomplishment. The scary thrill of nearly losing control on steep downhills. Encouraging shouts from volunteers and spectators. Sweat-soaked PB&J and cookies in sticky hands. Exchanges of “Good job!” as I pass and get passed by other runners. A surge of adrenaline cresting the final rise and seeing the finish line, sprinting the final hundred yards, and capping it off with a somersault just for the hell of it.

Cruising along the back half of the loop.

Trail Marathon Weekend remains among my favorite events. I like going to new locations and rarely repeat a trail race, but every year I go to the Poto. It’s local and low-key, with, to me, a “just right” mix of smooth running and difficult climbs and descents. Not overly rocky or rooty either, though there are places that require careful footwork. You can spot them by my face prints in the dirt.

TMW also scratches a particular itch I have to push my limits. You mean I can run both the half on Saturday and the full marathon or 50K on Sunday? And it’s called the “No Wimps” option? You sadists! Where do I sign up? (You can read here about how I graduated to this from the 5-miler.) This year I even ran an “ultra half” which you get by missing a turn and running 14 miles instead of 13.1. (I’m thinking of suggesting this become an official category.)

And the marathon has a special award, the Rogucki Trophy, for the top finisher age 50 and older. Each year the male and female winners get their names and finish times put on the trophy. As the 2017 Rogucki winner, I had a title to defend, which reason would argue for resting on Saturday instead of doing No Wimps. Reason lost. (It usually does with races.)

Nearly as famous as the Stanley Cup!

So did I successfully defend my Rogucki title this year?

My name added for 2017 (bottom left).

Well, no. Two guys in the 50-54 age group smoked me like a pork butt. The winner finished second overall in 3 hours 35 minutes, a time I wasn’t going to touch even with a month of rest and an IV line of espresso. And that’s just fine with me. Frankly, I was stressing a bit too much about it. With the pressure off, I can enjoy that I won it once, and have that much more fun next year.

And, BTW, our Zero Waste effort rocked again, with reduced overall waste and a 97 percent landfill diversion rate. That’s three straight years of winning that no one can take away!

The Sunday morning Zero Waste crew – a gaggle of Girl Scouts. They did great! I’m wearing my marathon and No Wimps medals. Wooden! Very sustainable!

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Gearing Up – Ultras Ahead! And a Trashy Update

My first ultra of 2015 is just a week away, and it’s time to start putting things in order for the big day. Actually, the big weekend, as I’ll be doing the Running Fit Trail Marathon “No Wimps” challenge again – half marathon Saturday, 50K Sunday. No guarantees that I’ll jump into the lake again after finishing, but we’ll see.

"No Wimps, Baby!" - 2014

“No Wimps, Baby!” – 2014.

I’ve done the prep work; from now until race day it’s rest and maintain, backing off on distance just a tad and slowing the pace way down. Today, for example, I cut down my long run from 16 miles to 11, and ran easy the entire way. I’m also working in some bike rides, which keep the legs moving without overstressing the knees.

But the tricky part of ultras for me isn’t sore legs, but other factors that cause discomfort. It’s these things more than fatigue that put me at risk of not running as well as I hope to. So I will be making a couple of adjustments at the Trail Marathon. If all goes well I can carry them over to my Glacier Ridge 50 miler, and onto my next 100K attempt later this year.

Lubrication. Chafing is a big problem when I go past 50K, and was one of the things that contributed to my DNF at my 100K attempt last year. Let’s just say that no man wants to experience skin rubbed raw where mine was. Two mainstays of ultrarunners, Vaseline and Body Glide, don’t work well enough for me. Skip at Body Specs recommended Cramer’s Skin Lube, and I just ordered some. That plus compression shorts instead of regular shorts should help a lot.

There are times... (Source: http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/in-print/2010/april-2010/21-april-2010/too-hot-to-handle.aspx)

There are times…
(Source: nzdoctor.co.nz)

Electrolytes. When I’m on the trail I sweat a lot. An awful lot. From learning the hard way I know I have to keep my salt level up. Until now I’ve been relying on salt-dipped potatoes at the aid stations, which work really well for me – but they don’t always have salt at every station. So salt tabs seem like a logical thing to bring along.

Stomach relief. So far I’ve been fortunate in that eating during an ultramarathon doesn’t bother me. But you never know. And this article explains why runners can get an upset stomach. So I will be packing a roll of antacids, just in case.

Followup: Race Trash and what’s being done about it

This is from the Berlin Marathon, but quite typical. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

This is from the Berlin Marathon, but quite typical. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

A couple of posts ago I talked about the amount of trash generated during a typical race, and the efforts made by some events to cut down on that waste. On Sunday I will be part of the “Green Team” at the Gazelle Girl half marathon in Grand Rapids – a race that last year produced one 6-lb. bag of trash. Everything else was recycled or composted. I’m going there to find out how they do this, and I’ll share what I learned with you next week.

And before I go, I want to give a big shout-out to the 21 PR Fitness runners who are going to toe the line at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Go get ’em, guys!

PR Fitness - Boston Marathon runners 2015

 

 

Over Hill, Over Dale, As We Hit the Poto Trail

Last year, I was working the finish line food tables at the 2013 Trail Marathon Weekend when a runner walked up. Shuffled, really. He looked like crap – tired, stiff, pale, and haggard. I could have killed him with a sneeze. But he was wearing TWO medals.

“What’s that all about?” I asked, pointing to them.

A different No Wimp. Looks way too chipper, doesn't he.

A different 2013 No Wimp. Looks way too chipper, doesn’t he.

“The No Wimps Challenge,” he said. “I did the half marathon on Saturday, and the 50K today.”

“That’s crazy,” I told him. I’d run the 5-mile Road Ends race that morning, and just those five miles on the trails had trashed me good. But by some miracle I’d finished in the top 10 overall, and I’d been wondering how the hell I was going to top that.

The runner got some food and staggered off, and left me there in amazement. Two long runs back to back on those trails. That was nuts. Totally insane. Impossible.

I had to have those medals.

Fast forward to April 26, 2014. Two weeks after running myself ragged at the Martian half marathon, I’m in the starting chute to run the half on the Potawatomi Trails. And 24 hours later, I’d be in that same starting chute for the 50K. No Wimps Challenge, here I come.

I'm in there somewhere. (Photo courtesy Detroit Runner)

I’m in there somewhere. (Photo courtesy Detroit Runner)

I’d lost count of how many people had called me crazy for signing up for this. Coach Marie, in particular, said it early and often. But she didn’t say no. (I’m sure she knew saying no was futile.) So we worked out a strategy – go easy on Saturday, then rock it out Sunday.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Pinckney Potawatomi trails, let me set the stage a little. Known affectionately (term used loosely) as “the Poto” (Paw-toh), they snake through the woods around Silver Lake, Pinckney, and Hell and are used for hiking, mountain biking, and running. Running Fit holds several races each year on the Poto, with the Trail Marathon being their oldest event.

Race routes are marked with flags. RF races use pink a lot. Also, women do most of the trail marking. Coincidence?

Race routes are marked with flags. RF races use pink a lot. Also, women do most of the trail marking. Coincidence?

The path is often single track (only wide enough for one bike or hiker at one time) and features challenging uphills and downhills, roots, stones, and, on wet days, fields of thick, sticky mud (Run Woodstock 2012). I’d been looking forward to it all winter.

Here are some on-trail photos of the races, courtesy of fellow blogger Detroit Runner. Click this link to read his half marathon recap and see even more awesome photos.

Climbing up the mountain, children...and lots more where that came from.

“Climbing up the mountain, children…” and lots more where that came from.

Did I mention there are roots and rocks on the trail? And for added fun, many are covered by leaves.

Did I mention there are roots and rocks on the trail? And for added fun, many are covered by leaves.

Downed trees are another feature of trail running. At least this one was cut - they aren't always.

Downed trees are another feature of trail running. At least this one was cut – they aren’t always.

To get over swampy areas, there are boardwalks. Sometimes.

To get over swampy areas, there are boardwalks. Sometimes.

Up next: Some of my memorable moments from the weekend, and how well my strategy worked out.

More Than Living

Last Friday I was working the registration table for the Trail Marathon Weekend, and a runner came up to get his bib whose last name matched a friend of mine I’ll call Alan. I hadn’t seen him in several years, but I’d been receiving annual Christmas greetings which included his latest adventures.

This runner was not Alan – too tall and too much hair – but perhaps he was family. I handed him his race bib and asked if he happened to be related to Alan. “Yes,” he said. “Cousin.”

“Great!” I said, pleased that I’d hit pay dirt. “Next time you see him, please tell him I said hello.”

Alan’s cousin was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “He’s actually passed.”

Well, that changed the mood pretty quickly.

Alan’s cousin said it had happened recently, a brief, sudden illness. I believed him, of course, but it still didn’t seem real to me. Later on I did a Google search and found Alan’s online obituary. He’d been only a few years older than I, active, running his company and raising a teenage son, and now he was gone.

During the Trail Marathon events I thought about how Alan had actively experienced life and encouraged others to do so. He’d taught team development all over the world and founded a company dedicated to safe, healthy weight loss and sleep improvement. He’d helped me grow personally and professionally; it was an unavoidable consequence of knowing him. And he was fascinated with “off the wall” stuff. For example, he’d attended Tom Brown Jr.’s tracker school, which, he told me, really raised his awareness about what was going on around him, and, conversely, taught him how to avoid being noticed if he wanted.

How do you choose to experience life?

Do you, like me, sometimes get so caught up in daily routines and activities that you lose the awareness that you are alive – living – and forget to be grateful for that gift?

Some people race cars, or jump out of planes, or live in caves, to regain touch with that sense of “alive-ness”. Running is one activity that does it for me. Last weekend I raced a total of 44 miles over 7 1/2 hours through the Pinckney-Potawatomi Trails. It was uncomfortable a good deal of the time, and painful at some, and yet I was there of my own volition, pushing through the discomfort and challenging my limits, and very much aware of my presence in the world at that moment. That’s one thing that Alan, among others, has helped me to do. Rest in peace, my friend.

And the races? Yes, I lived to tell the tale – a tale of ups and downs, dirt, rocks, and roots, a windy lake, and some remarkable fellow runners. All of which will be posted when the last of the photos come in. Stay tuned.