Monday, May 24, 2010

Traveling Different Trails for a Change

Two miles from home is PA Game Commission Parcel #264, a.k.a. Bear Valley. When I first started mountain biking, these game lands were to be my stomping grounds until just a year later, the PGC shut them down to mountain bikes, horses, and ATV (although ATVs were never permitted on there in the first place). Being so close to home, the convenience is oh-so-nice so today I put on the trail shoes and headed to the woods; and for a change it wasn't Weiser State Forest. The Game Commission obviously never patrols these woods because what I found were the most pristine 4-wheeler trails you could imagine. It appeared even the horses like them based on the horse prints and shit I found. The trails were smooth, well-traveled, and not a log or obstacle anywhere. The trails were very easy to follow -- just follow the smooth doubletrack. These lands are old mining country, so every now and then you'll find mining debris and at one point, someone propped up some wires that were falling across the trail. After the climb to the top of the mountain (1,100 ft ascend from my house), the trail followed the ridge top for about a mile and it was beautiful. Then you come to a "T" which split down either side of the mountain. I opted to double back and head home which gave me about an 11 mile loop total. It was slow going at spots and yes, I walked up the side of the mountain so no time records were set. I was hiking for about 2:20 minutes. I might try the right side into Bear Valley later in the week. At some point, I think that trail will hook up to the private land that is leased by a 4-wheeler club from a coal company. That could explain why the trail so worn in -- a renegade 4-wheeler or two probably sneak off onto the game lands every now and then. It was SO pretty up there - much prettier than the private land that is used hard by the 4-wheelers and dirt bikes. It's quite torn up. But the game lands remain pristine. And there are dozens and dozens of remnant trails from the coal mining era. I recall the locals saying they used to ride over there a lot years ago. They really should rethink letting mountain bikes on their existing trails again. How nice it would be.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quiet Dayz

Things have quieted down on the training front. Oh I'm still getting out, but it's "exercise" again, not "training". Training seems like a dirty word. Exercise seems more refreshing. It's been just about 2 weeks since I had my ass in a bike seat, but that's about to change with vacation starting in 7 hours. The plan is to have 10 glorious days with no list of things to do. The plan is to exercise for two hours a day and hit the garden with summer crop plantings and compost/soil building afterwords. In between I might read Suicide by Sugar. The biggest priority is DE-STRESS. What gets done, gets done. What doesn't, doesn't. The priority every day is the 2 hours of exercise and everything else comes after. I want to trail run, mountain bike, house-clean a little, and garden a lot. And I'm ready for it! I may not see you for 10 days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More of the Lehigh River and a Little Road Running

Guess what Rick and I did on Saturday? Yup... whitewater kayaking on the Lehigh river. It was the first release of the season and there was no way Rick was going to miss it. It turned out to be a nice group of 17 from the Canoe Club of the Greater Harrisburg Area. You can see all the pics from the day here and get the list of folks who were in our group. We ended up splitting up into a group of 8 and 9 'cause some like to stop at every little bump in the river and play in it. And then we split down to five after Mike had a little accident in No Way rapid (one of the more difficult rapids on the river) and he hit his lower lip on a rock and cracked it open. Not a pretty sight and we wanted to get him off the river so he could get to an emergency room. Nine stitches later, he's doing fine and the doc said he can get back in the water next weekend. It was a loooonnnggg day, but fun nonetheless.

And today I had all intentions to hit the Rattling Creek trails for a nice long run and bike ride; but when I got up, I simply didn't feel like driving anywhere so I opted for a nice 10.22 mile back-road run for almost 2 hours. I was super-duper slow, but who cares. I made the distance without any problems. I'm always thinking of running lately (and NOT biking!) and have a half planned for June, a 21K for July and was looking for something for August. Low and behold, I had forgotten that Kuhn was planning a 25K for the weekend of the Rattling 50. So if he still is doing it, I'm in. I'll be back on a bike on Tuesday for a nice 20 mile road ride home from Millersburg while Rick takes his mother to the dentist. It'll probably take me two hours to ride it -- oh well, it's all good, right?! Ha! And how was YOUR weekend?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Obsessed with the Lehigh River Gorge

No, not me... hubby! Ricky can't get enough of the Lehigh River - the entire length of it from White Haven in the Poconos to below Jim Thorpe at Walnutport. He likes to ride bike by it, drive by it, stop and gaze over walls at it, smell it, touch it, study it, study the levels of it on the internet, take pictures of it, near wreck the van on the side of the bridge looking at a rapid on it, and oh, that's right - he likes to go down it on his kayak with hundreds of other like-minded individuals. So since it was kind of a crappy weekend in Central PA, he decided to forgo paddling due to wind on Saturday (and it was going to be too cold on Sunday), and instead, ride bike on the rail trail next to the Lehigh River Gorge. Since it's only a little over an hour's drive, we don't think twice about packing up the toys and heading to the Lehigh. It's actually a very nice ride -- never boring due to the boats on the river and the varied types of people on the trail. On Saturday, we were entertained for more than hour with a group of 7 kayakers that had one poor soul along in a recreation boat that probably shouldn't have been on the river. He was old, it took him forever to get ready (and you could tell the others were frustrated before they even hit the water!), his boat had no flotation and got pinned twice, he had no helmet, and he swam twice in the short time we watched. We knew it would be a looonnng day for those guys. Rick said at one point "this is better than watching a movie!" And it was, but at the same time it was very sad that his fellow paddlers allowed him on the river. They really should have said they didn't think he should go along. We rode 30 miles on the rail trail. There was a lovely bank of woods violets, and a spied a valuable discovery -- hundreds, maybe thousands, of glass insulators still intact on dozens and dozens of poles for 12 miles along the west side of the railroad tracks. Some of them looked very hard to get to (on the side of the mountain) and the poles didn't look in too great shape. I thought if I took my climbing ropes and ascenders, I could scurry up the ropes, take a couple, and make a small fortune. The value of glass insulators varies from about $2.00 to $300.00 EACH. There are thousands of shapes, sizes, colors, and companies - and each one has its own value. There were all kinds of insulators on the poles at the Lehigh. Most looked blue and amber. Of course I'd ask permission of the railroad to shimmy up poles 'cause it IS on railroad property. Rick didn't think they'd give me a problem if I asked. Let's see, now when can I find the time to collect glass insulators? (I'm dreaming again!)

Sunday - The Lykens Watershed property was perfect on a cold, windy day for a nice long trail run. I eked out another 10 minutes longer and about 7 tenths of mile more to hit 9.2 miles at 1:49:49 which is a 11:48 mile pace. I'll take it! It hurt a little, but I felt SO good afterwards. I finally love running and am hooked. You burn a whole lot more calories running than riding bike AND you don't have to suck down energy food while doing it. Nice...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So Now What - No More Mudder. How About the Michaux Half Marathon on Trail

How about we start chiming up some business for the first of its kind in the wondrous Michaux State Forest -- the Michaux off-road, trail half marathon. Yes folks, there's never been a trail half marathon in Michaux and June 13, 2010 is the inaugural running at Long Pine Run Reservoir, near Caledonia State Park. It's being put on by Fast Forward Racing Productions and registration is open. There's even an age group appropriate for Chili (unlike mountain biking) and after this weekend and realizing how nice it is participate in events but NOT have to really compete, Chili's very happy with her own category! This will be 13.1 miles of beautiful, soft, hilly trails in the gorgeous woods of PA. Now you good folks get to follow posts of my training regimen for a half... an off-road half, no less. As of today, my longest run is at 8.5 mountainous miles in Weiser State Forest; so I feel confident 13.1 will not be a problem by June 13. I plan to raise my mileage on the longest run by 1 mile a week to take me to 12 miles two weeks before the half, then back it off to about 6 miles the weekend before, then do the half on the 13th. That was what a beginner's half training plan mentioned. It seemed to make sense, and that's what I've been doing the past two months with no issues. There it is my good peeps -- the training for a HALF Marathon is underway.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tough Mudder Bear Creek Event Report - Part One

This will be a multi-part race report because there was SO much that happened there's no way I can possibly get it into one post. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! Absolutely everything about it... the Team (remember it wasn't a race, so we all helped each other and simply had a blast), the venue (Bear Creek was WELL prepared for 5,000 people plus spectators -- 28 porta potties were lined up), the organizers (I can't quite figure out how they had every minor detail nailed down -- even the plastic on the rugs in the lodge, fire hoses, and hundreds of volunteers), the course itself and obstacles (we did them all except for the one they shut down just after we opted out of the 1/2 hour wait), the post-party (5,000 people drinking Dog Fish Beer? Yup, even I drank an Indian Nut brown and got a buzz), the costumes (folks got awards for best costumes and there were some dandies - Elvis!) and the icing on the cake to start the day, the VIP Parking "Dallas, we have a white venture van headed your way) and the security cleared the way for us to park at the closest parking spot we could possibly have. Our team did awesome and it took us about two hours -- even with Kera's gimpy ankle which she didn't run on in two weeks and handled today beautifully, Preston who wasn't really focusing on training, Ryan who recently lost 35 pounds by running, and three other guys that were friends of Ryan who were in pretty good shape and got ahead of us - Crawford, Dane, and Brian. We all rocked the course. The course was actually not bad. It definitely wasn't the hardest thing I ever done. Yes, there was mud EVERYWHERE. Yes, there was fire, but it was about 5 feet (or more) on each side of us(no, we didn't have to run "through" it), Yes, there were really, really steep hills to walk up (we all thought that was the absolute hardest challenge), yes there was SNOW (don't how they pulled that one off), yes, the water temps in the ponds and mud pits were 45-50 (don't know how they did that either -- some said dry ice), and yes, we carried logs up part of the slope (that was easy). What was REALLY entertaining was the post-party. Lots of Dog-fish lushes who were having a really good time. To all my friends -- YOU GOTTA DO THIS NEXT YEAR!!! More to come.... we'll upload Ricky's pictures too and give you the link. It was $92.00 very well spent. think 24-hours of Big Bear and quadruple the fun.

Tough Mudder Bear Creek Event Report - Part Two - The Course

Remember when you had recess in elementary school and all the kids went to the playground and piled on the merry-go-round and the see-saws? Imagine as an adult you have a big-person's playground and 5,000 of your playmates all head out for recess to play. It was THAT fun. People were doing flips, dives, and cartwheels off the 8 ft-high plank into the pond, smiling from ear to ear as they stomped through the thigh-high mud pit, and encouraging each other up the really steep slope. There wasn't a bad mood for miles - just very happy people. Since it wasn't timed, there was aboslutely no pressure - no need to hurry from one obstacle to the next. Yes we ran where we could, but we spent a good bit of time walking up the hills which made it seem like it wasn't really 7 miles. There were only a handful of serious athletes in this bunch. Most were out to have a good time and boy were they ever. The obstacles were SOOO fun - two of them were simply climbing ski slopes. Two were crawling under a cargo net and wire in mud. One was a log carry (small logs) up a short piece of the ski slope. We crawled through a tunnel and the majority of the obstacles were at the ponds which is where it looked just like a playground. There were the planks and swim back to shore in 45-50 degree water (it felt good on a 90 degree day), the ropes over the water, the barrels you had to go underwater under, the walls to climb over, and the part that looked the most fun but we didn't get to do - the water slide. When we got there, about 500 other people or more were standing in front of us and someone said it was about 1/2 hour wait. Our team hesitated on what we wanted to do, stood there another 5 minutes, and chatted about what to do again. Rick mentioned the plastic was starting to tear and some people were getting caught on it as they flew down the slide. Finally, we opted out of the wait. Shortly after that they shut that obstacle down and we would not have gotten to do it if we would have continued to stand there. And the end was running between two rows of fire. This is the very first time I think I was not timed and it truly takes all pressure off and makes it totally fun. We were done in about 2 hours. It takes some getting used to the fact you aren't getting timed, but worth it when reality sets in. They had two trailers of Dogfish beer waiting at the finish line and gave us beer, a headband, fruit, energy bars, and bagels. It was awesome to say the least. Rick took tons of pics, but wasn't permitted to get too close to the obstacles so he didn't get many close-ups. There were a lot of spectators, and for safety reasons, security kept the spectators behind the line -- just like at a big sporting event! Ha. Here's the link to his many pics. They are worth a peek just to see the folks in costumes and how fun people were really having.

Tough Mudder Bear Creek Event Report - Part Three - How It Was Organized

When you gather 5,000 people plus spectators at one location and try to organize them into a safe, hassle-free, customer-comes-first atmosphere there's bound to be issues, right? Not with the Tough Mudder folks. I truly don't know how they did it, but they had every single last detail covered to the maximum. From the moment we approached the entrance and sat in a back-up of cars to get into the facility, to each and every obstacle, trash can, cold water, snow in May on a 90 degree day, and hundreds of volunteers; Tough Mudder covered every base without flaw. They found my blog when I was training, and asked that I contact them and do a profile for their website. What that got me, Kera and Rick was the royal treatment as we approached the venue. We stopped and asked about VIP parking and mentioned the password, and security immediately waved us through and radioed other security that the White Chevy Venture Van is on its way. Wow. We drove past hundreds of cars to a reserved spot that couldn't get any closer to the main lodge. 28 spotless porta-potties were lined up - absolutely no wait there. Registration was incredibly organized. Chris Leigh (I think that's his name), the organizer of the Got-the-Nerve Triathlon at Mt Gretna, greeted every person as they walked through the door and directed them to registration. It was alphabetical by last name in maybe a dozen sections and they had three volunteers at each station. Very little wait. You then moved onto the t-shirt area which had about 10 or more volunteers; again, no wait. And then they had maybe two dozen girls standing around writing your number on your forehead. We spent maybe 15 minutes in registration. The race start was grouped into 500 every 15 minutes. There was music, water, the Tough Mudder "chant," "I SAY TOUGH, YOU SAY MUDDER... TOUGH... MUDDER... TOUGH....MUDDER" and fireworks. We also took the Tough Mudder oath which mainly was no whining and help each other. At one point Kera mentioned something and a staff person heard her and said "what??? no whining!" Speaking of Tough Mudder staff and volunteers - there were hundreds and hundreds. Where there was one, there were three, four, or five. They had dozens in the water, by the mud, in the woods, on the hills, at food stands, cleaning up trash, announcing, and parking folks. They were everywhere - always watching for the safety and comfort of the participants. And because it was hot, they went the extra mile and had extra water and varied locations. With 5,000 people, I anticipated waits at the obstacles, but we waited very little. There was a 5-minute wait at the planks but it moved really fast 'cause it was fun watching people jump in the water. And there was a 1/2 hr wait for the water slide but due to technical difficulties, they shut it down. They had several fire trucks not only controlling the hay-bale burn which we ran through, but hosing folks off when they were finished getting muddy. There were dozens of volunteers tapping and serving beer and dozens and dozens of photographers at all parts of the course taking thousands of pictures. There was a live band which was awesome, food stands, more beer, a best-mullet contest and a best-costume contest. They were giving mullet haircuts and tattoos if you so desired. Didn't want to wait for a tattoo? They were giving out vouchers to get a free one at a later date. (It was just a black tattoo of the mudder logo - $20 bucks more for orange flames). There wasn't a detail missed. The only very minor "flaw" was they ran out of t-shirts, which they said send an e-mail and they'll send you your shirt when they get more. Hat's off to the Tough Mudder folks. You guys know how to put on a party!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tough Mudder Eve

It certainly feels like Christmas eve with all the excitement in the air. An article in the NY times, the Tough Mudder folks keeping participants uber-informed with frequent e-mail updates, my team mates preparing and contemplating what to expect, what to wear, what to take along, where to meet, and my co-workers and friends sending and calling with well-wishes. This is, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated events I've done in a long time. Not in terms of the event itself (I get excited for ALL of them!), but in terms of PR that's circulating around it. There's a different vibe attached to an event that's getting a good bit of press, especially when that event is completely sold out, including spectators. Hawaii Xterra 5 years ago was the last time this magnitude of press came with an event. My final pre-event run and obstacles happened yesterday at lunch, at work, on river front in Harrisburg. Yes, it's flat, but I made it "hilly" by running up and down the steps and embankment paths at every chance I had. It was a 4-miler, and I stopped and did a couple of the fitness stations like the push-up bar, chin-ups, and the stretch thingy they have along the route. Because the Tough Mudder isn't timed and timing finishers isn't part of the philosophy, it occurred to me yesterday I didn't have to worry to much about speed work anymore -- just run and have fun. I like that. Thanks Tough Mudder!