Tag Archives: RF Events

Mt. Hood? Nope! Neighborhood. The Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Runner

THE BAD NEWS I SUSPECTED WAS COMING arrived a few days ago. The Mt. Hood 50, the other UTMB qualifying race I’d signed up for, has been cancelled.

It’s a July race, so I was holding out hope. But Oregon has extended its group restrictions through September, so that was that. It’s not such a bad thing, though. It meant either driving across the country and back, or risking a plane flight, something my wife was definitely NOT in favor of.

So I’m now officially committed to no races at all. I’m a stay-at-home runner for the foreseeable future, and my tales of adventure will be confined to my house and my neighborhood.

I know what you’re thinking. What kind of adventures could a stay-at-home runner possibly have? Well, here we go.

Virtually as Good

The running event companies may not be doing actual races, but virtual races are going strong. For a lot of people they are better than nothing, and they like the “bling” that comes with them. I don’t need more T-shirts or medals, but if that’s what gets you out and moving, by all means go for it.

Confession time: I did one virtual race, and because of the medal. But only because it struck right at my heart. I’ve played D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) for over forty years, and this virtual 20K came with a medal shaped like the 20-sided die (the icosahedron, for you geometry geeks) which the game is famous for.

BTW, I’m still playing D&D through all this, with my regular gaming group, via the “roll20” video app instead of meeting in person. It’s nearly as good, and has saved me countless calories from binge eating at someone’s house. Something about group D&D begs for continuous eating. Less of a problem at home.

Going Streaking

RF Events, a racing company that would be going all out normally right now, is offering monthly challenges instead. May’s challenge, dubbed “50K in May” is to run at least one mile every day of the month. At the end, you’ll have at least 31 miles, which, as all trail runners know, is a 50K. Not a bad plan, and they could use the income, so I signed up. It’s a “pay what you want” challenge, with swag you could buy if you wanted to.

Some of us (ahem) far prefer to do the entire distance at once. And nothing says I can’t go out there and do a 50K run for fun. But the “run every day” part is enough of a challenge. I have never done a running streak of any meaningful kind, and I take total rest days pretty seriously. Since I decided to take on the challenge, I need to define “rest” at least for this month.

So far, so good. I’m averaging about 5-6 miles per day, with a Saturday long run as usual, and “rest days” of two miles or so. Most of it is slow and easy, but I’ve included some tempo work and hill work, too. My legs are feeling the cumulative fatigue, but that also keeps me from training too hard right now.

For those of you who don’t think this is quite enough of a challenge, I’m following a blog of someone (longruntom) who’s running 1K per number of the day. That was 1K on May 1, 2K on May 2, and so on, up to 31K on May 31. The daily distance is getting interesting for him now. Have a look at his progress (May 17), if you dare.

Ticked Off

My run club leaders continue to put out a weekly email, with suggested routes (solo) and encouragement to keep running. In a recent email, they warned us about how bad the ticks are around here, and to check carefully after a run.

I’ve seen some in our yard from time to time, but have never worried about them. Until today. I’d done some weeding in our garden beds, in blue jeans, and when I took them off a little bit ago, I found one happily attached to my calf. That was after this morning, when I removed one from my hair. How it got there is anyone’s guess. My cats profess total innocence, and perhaps I brought it in myself.

Both of them got the alcohol bath treatment, as recommended by websites everywhere.

The only good tick. . .

These little forkers are Hard. To. Kill. I even slammed a book on one (on our table) last night, and it still kept crawling along. And they can go months without food, so don’t try to starve them out, either. Alcohol or high heat is about the only thing that does the trick. So put your pillows in the dryer if you’re worried about it.

A Novel Approach

And, finally, (for now), I have been hard at work on a novel. That’s the good news. The bad news is that what takes place in it would be impossible under current circumstances. Hopefully by the time I finish it, life will have returned to a semblance of normalcy. Either that, or I’ll have to set it in 2015, or 2050.

I am now releasing the first two chapters to a select few intimates for review and feedback. Perhaps sometime soon I will expand my review audience. If you are interested in such things, drop me a private email – jeff (at) runbikethrow (dot) net, and I will keep you posted. Only if you really want to. In the meantime, thanks for reading my blog, and please stay safe out there.

50K in May? Yes! And So Can You

Last week my run club hosted a “Boston Marathon” on the day it would have been run. I was told over 25 of us showed up to run it (solo) and afterward some of us gathered on the run studio’s lawn to enjoy treats and socially-distanced conversation.

Among them was Mike, a strong, dedicated runner in our club. While we talked he mentioned that over the past week he’d run every day and totaled over 110 miles. “It was hard,” he admitted.

“Well,” I said, “now that you’ve done that, maybe I can talk you into trying the whole distance at one go.” At that he laughed and said he had no intention of  joining me in an ultra.

Okay, I get it. Maybe a hundred miles in one day is a hard sell, even to diehard runners. Even I still don’t know why I do them. Years ago I began to run regularly, and after a while it became enjoyable, and a run became something to look forward to. And it’s become fun and fulfilling at distances that boggles even my own twisted mind.

Such as this one (2016).

That said, running is not something I do every day. “Run streaking” is not part of my training or vocabulary (*). The longest consecutive days I’ve run stands at ten, which my daughter Rachel has already shattered this year. And I was happy to let her win that particular competition.

Until now.

You see, the pandemic has created opportunities to get your running freak on, even if there are no public races until further notice. There are virtual races a-plenty, and RF Events, the company that is normally putting on races like the Martian Invasion and Hightail to Ale, is joining in the fun.

This event invites runners to run at least one mile every day in May, the payoff being that at the end, you’ve run at least 31 miles, which to trail runners is very familiar as “the 50K.” So there you go: an ultramarathon. So it took you a month? No big deal.

Given that the two 50K races I had scheduled for March were cancelled, how can I pass up a challenge like this? So I signed up my wife, too. I’ll run the mile, and she’ll walk. Or we’ll both walk. Either way, we’ll get in our 62 combined miles!

If you’re interested in joining the challenge, just go to the signup page at this link. It’s Pay What You Can, so whatever you can afford. Hope to see you out there! (At an appropriate distance, of course. Or just post on Facebook.)

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(*) With the Natural event at Run Woodstock the exception. Feel free to search my blog for related stories, such as The Naked Truth and A Beer for Brian.

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!

Trail Marathon: Chasing Ghosts

April 30 was a cold, gray day on the Potawatomi Trail – and the ghosts were out.

Trail Marathon is the original and oldest race put on by RF Events, celebrating its 32nd running on April 29-30. “It’s so old,” says RF Events owner Randy Step, “that it doesn’t even have a fancy name. It’s just ‘Trail Marathon.’”

I ran the 5-mile race here for several years, gasping all the way and marveling at the signs that said, “MARATHON MILE 13” and such. How was it possible to run even a half marathon on these crazy trails? And a full marathon or 50K? Inconceivable! That is, until a pivotal conversation led me to find out in 2014 that it wasn’t only possible, it was fun. I’ve run the marathon or 50K there ever since.

2014, after finishing the 50K. No wimps, baby!

But it wasn’t until last year that I found out about the Rogucki trophy. Named after the late local running legend John “Road Kill” Rogucki, the top marathon finishers each year (male and female) age 50 and older get their names and times on the trophy.

Isn’t that worth running a marathon for? I thought you’d agree!

Well, there was something cool to shoot for! But in 2016, I was preoccupied with getting our Zero Waste program off to a good start. So I ran a solid 4:20 but didn’t focus on trying to win. I was happy with my time, until I discovered I’d finished second in the Rogucki by just five minutes.

Well, that settled my plans for 2017 – I would run the marathon again. And this time I’d mean it.

With last winter’s hard training, I figured I’d be in peak shape for Trail Marathon. It was just two weeks after Boston, but I lined up Sunday morning feeling confident I could give the race my best effort.

My plan was to run the first loop in under two hours, then hold steady in the second, with an overall finish around 4:10. Nowhere near the 50+ record time, (Randy said Rogucki had run it in three hours) but a winning time in many past years.

I started with the front runners to establish a position early. The leaders soon disappeared, but I settled in at the pace I wanted. Despite the cold weather, I heated up fast; at the first aid station I peeled all my top layers off. I’ve never run a race shirtless before, let alone in 45 degrees, but here you go:

Near the end of the first loop I was still among the top marathoners and hadn’t seen anyone else near my age. I powered up the hills between miles 11-12 feeling good. If I could sustain the pace, I liked my chances. I tried to imagine Rogucki’s spirit running with me. Or was I too slow even for his ghost?

Then someone in gray hair and a gray-white beard passed me. Not a sudden burst of speed pass; his pace was steady and strong. Past me, up the hill, and down the trail, the distance between us steadily widening.

Oh, sh**.

Well, what to do? Step it up and try to stick with him, or stay on plan and let him go? With over half the race left, a faster pace risked burning out. But it looked like my shot at a Rogucki win was rapidly fading into the distance with the back of this guy’s shirt.

I made the decision; I would run my race, not his. And who knew? Perhaps he’d get tired near the end, or tweak an ankle (which I do NOT wish on anyone, but it happens). And if he won, well, more power to him. There was always next year.

I finished the first half in 1:58, right on plan. Then things went downhill (not the good kind). I struggled up the inclines, and my legs were sluggish. Maybe it was too much to expect, so soon after Boston? My spirits picked up when I spied my opponent up ahead, only to fall hard when I realized it wasn’t him and likely wouldn’t ever catch him.

But that turned out to be the low point. I relaxed and focused on keeping my cadence up despite fatigue. I caught a second wind and fell into a rhythm that carried me through the remaining miles. At Boston, the final four miles were agony; here, they weren’t easy, but I was able to enjoy them. The rain held off, I was on my favorite trails, and running strong. Couldn’t ask for more!

Why yes, I AM having fun. Can’t you tell? (From 2013)

I crossed the finish line eighth overall in 4:08, beating my goal time and improving last year’s time by 12 minutes. Success by all measures – except one. And as I walked through the finish chute, there was my worthy opponent, stretching by a picnic table. He’d finished seventh overall, just ahead of me.

By five minutes.

I walked up to him and congratulated him on his great race. “Thanks,” he said. “This was my first marathon.” Yep – his first ever, and on these trails! We figured that on the road, his performance would translate to about a 3:15 finish. He looked puzzled when I mentioned the Rogucki, so I took a mental deep breath and asked how old he was.

“I’m 40,” he said. So he wasn’t even eligible for the trophy for another ten years! The gray hair had fooled me completely. I went over to the display of results, and there it was:

It was funny, but I felt relief more than pleasure. Not from winning, but that I’d stayed disciplined and stuck with my plan. If I’d tried to chase him down, I might have cost myself an excellent result – and the win – for a nonexistent competitor. For a phantom.

And if he’d been over 50 after all? Well then, so what? So much of winning a race is outside one’s control – the weather, the trail conditions, and above all, who shows up and who doesn’t. What really matters is that I ran the strongest, smartest race I could that day. That’s at least as gratifying as my name on the trophy. Not that I’ll refuse it.