Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back in the Swing of Things

It's been a few months of trial and error, but I think we've got a good fit on the orthotics. During the period of adjusting, I jammed the base joint of the 3rd metatarsal of my left foot. So, I'm resting, icing, and using a pad placed on the orthotic at the affected area to take pressure of the joint and the impinged nerve. Healing will be a while, but I'm not letting it deter my training.

I will be running the Borax Marathon in Death Valley, CA on 12/6/08. It's planned as a personal celebration of my 40th birthday and I just want to go have fun (yes, my wife thinks I'm crazy). Training has been getting better as I learn to adjust to the foot issues and I really cannot complain! Today's 20 miler was consistent and felt good overall. Running in snow flurries during early-mid November in the Midwest (last weekend and today) was a little odd, but it was a great distraction. I'm feeling good and am really looking forward to going to the desert.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still lurking about...

For anyone wondering where the heck I've been, I'm still here. Life's been fairly busy with the usual (work, travel, family, etc...) but it's been a good summer. As I continue to rehab & repair my ankles, I've done several local races and made adjustments, the biggest being stepping up to custom orthotics. I've known for some time that I'm a severe overpronator and that the instability issue wasn't just my shoes. This was confirmed by a pedorthist after another sprain at the Half Madness 13.1 in August. So now I'm getting acclimated to the orthotics and working my way back to feeling stronger. Thanks to Foot Mechanics for working with me on the fit. I'll post info. on the prior races soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flirt with Dirt 10K

I was back in Michigan last week and figured I would play in the dirt for a bit before Father's Day. The Flirt with Dirt 10K is a nice trail run on primarily single track mountain bike trails in Novi, a suburb roughly halfway between Ann Arbor and Detroit. Figuring 10K would be a relaxing little run during a slow week, I was game.

The weather for the two days leading up to the run was overcast and filled with rain. On race morning, it looked as though rain was still the order of the day. Figuring the turnout would be low, I drove to the trail late and thought we would have a small group on an early start. Was I wrong! The locals came out in droves for both the 5 & 10K and it seems that the weather had us all fooled. Start for the 10k was delayed over 30 mins. while course adjustments were made. By the time the gun went off, the sun was out, humidity was rising, and we were all itching to get moving.

As for the course, over 3/4 of it was muddy and slick. Limbs were hanging low across the trail due to the rain and generally everyone was a mess of arms blocking and legs sliding. It was a blast!! At 6'5", I think I ran the entire race hunched over with my eyes on my feet to ensure I didn't get whacked in the nose or take a not-so-graceful tumble into oblivion (or Bolivia...if you're Mike Tyson). Runners were bunched tightly by pace and passing was really tough as everyone kept jumping sideways trying to keep balance. The course has some really tight switchbacks and inclines that proved to be a nice challenge. As usual, the runners were polite, friendly, and for the most part primarily out to have fun.

Director evaluation: Overall, the event was well run. Hydration and food were sufficient. Race photography was quality and inexpensive. On the down side: Chip timing was attempted due to a larger than expected registration, but that was an utter disaster. Too few chips and no prior notice to runners left it in disarray. Reported times were gun-based and many are suspect. This short coming was immediately acknowledged by the race director and pledged not to occur next year. My only other criticism would be concerning starter's announcements -- a single megaphone at the front of a narrow & deep crowd didn't work. Possible placement of speakers on the registration tent might alleviate this issue and allow everyone to hear.

Post-race, I discovered that poison ivy resides directly off trail. Purely my fault though, as I forget to apply Ivy Block. A few spots on my ankles, nothing major. Also, for some reason, I strangely blistered on the edge of the ball of my right foot.

Seeing no crease/fold on my sock, I can only assume the hot sport was created by too much movement in my shoe due to loose laces or excessive lateral movement which I normally don't experience. No big deal, but it was just weird.

No PR was set, but it was really a fun time. My parents were able to make it out for the finish which was a great added bonus, especially while my dad battles cancer. (Thanks Mom & Dad!) Nice to be home for the weekend, see friends & family, and still get on a trail. Thanks to the folks at Running Fit for another fun event.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Empty Nester...

About eight weeks ago, we found an interesting, rather large, egg in our flower bed behind a peony bush. Not sure what it exactly was, we decided to leave it alone for fear that it was still alive and its mother would return for it. Sure enough, the next morning a pair of mallard ducks was seen together in the lawn and, by the end of the day, the female had laid several more eggs and created a nest! Pretty cool, right? Well, we did the research, found out that Ma Duck would lay roughly eight eggs and, eventually, Pa Duck would leave her and continue sowing his oats. Meanwhile, Ma would stay around for the hatching and then take her ducklings off to a water source.

We kept on eye on the nest, observed the mother take her place on the nest when the male left, and decided to put out some cracked corn to keep her fed during the period. Here's a photo of her nesting comfortably (she has such beautiful coloring and markings):

So we carefully made sure to keep away from direct contact with the duck or the nest, and went about our business in anticipation of soon seeing the ducklings when they hatched and before Ma Duck led them off for life in the water.

One morning we placed a pile of corn out and figured we would check on her the following morning. Would you know 8 a.m. the next day, the eggs had hatched and the young were gone. The hatching must have taken place shortly after we placed the corn and then Ma decided it was time to begin the trek to the pond. Here is all we were left with:

All eight eggs were hatched (not eaten by a predator) and the empty shells lay cracked around the area. Well, guess we don't get to wish the newborns well. I'm feeling like such an empty nester now....waaaaay before my time. All the same, it was nice to help out in the process.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Running at Starved Rock

This past Saturday, I decided to travel to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL (about 2 hrs. southwest of Chicago) for some trail running and photos. Temps were cool and the skies were sunny, which made it a perfect day for both activities. The park has 13 miles of trails which were ideal for some light paced running to rehab my ankle.

Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver, was slain by an Illiniwek while attending a tribal council. According to legend, during one of the battles subsequent to his death, a band of Illiniwek, under attack from a bank of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125 ft. sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illiniwek died of starvation - giving rise to the name "Starved Rock". There's your history lesson for the day.

The trails were in good condition and pretty nice overall; a combination of dirt, some wooden plank, and a bit of good old mud for fun. I trekked through several canyons, most notably LaSalle, Ottawa, and Kaskaskia. Each of these three had small, but nice, waterfalls and provided good photo ops along with the running pleasure. Here's a photo of the waterfall in LaSalle Canyon:

Heading away from LaSalle Canyon, I must have missed the trail change onto the next canyon, and wound up popping right off trail and into a parking lot. For the life of me, I can't understand how I messed that up, but at least I got a chance to see a bit of the forest I would have otherwise neglected (everything happens for a reason). Was I lost, you ask? Me? Are you serious?

Nope, just turned around. Which I did...and suddenly found where I had originally misstepped! So back on the trail, I finally made my way to Council Overhang and into Kaskaskia Canyon. Council Overhang looks like an amphitheater carved into the side of the sandstone wall and garners a fair amount of foot traffic. Probably an easy place for school groups and vacationers to hang out.
Kaskaskia Canyon was a few strides up the trail. As I entered the area, I was amazed by two things: 1) The fact that nobody was there on such an awesome day (not that I'm complaining); and 2) The overwhelmingly peaceful sound of running water. Before I could stop my last step, I looked up and saw that I had run right to the base of the falls. The photo doesn't do it justice, but I hope it's at least a decent attempt at conveying its beauty.

From here, I made a quick jaunt into Ottawa Canyon and saw an additional waterfall. While it pales in size to the others, it was still nice to see. I took a few shots of a tiny brown frog, made a quick turn around, and did a return trip on the trail.

Overall, it was a great day. The ankle held up nicely and provided no sense of pain or visible swelling. Ultrasound therapy and strengthening exercises seem to be doing the trick and I appear to be healing quite nicely. I didn't really push myself in terms of pace but did get about 13 miles of running in, took some nice photos, and really enjoyed the full day. It's amazing what you can find only a few hours away from home. If you're ever in northern Illinois and want a nice trail run, take a look into Starved Rock State Park.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Running America

So, Charlie Engle and Marshall Ulrich are running from San Francisco to New York in a record breaking event that will be the subject of an upcoming documentary film called "Running America". The event tentatively begins in June and cuts straight across the U.S. The run will be raising money and awareness for several causes soon to be announced. Anyone can apply to join Charlie and Marshall ( for a mile and then drop back to allow others to join in. Celebrity runners will also be joining in. While I'm not one for the celebrity thing, I think this is a cool way to be part of something that is history-making and help out some charitable causes in the process. I'll be joining in on the fun and wish Charlie and Marshall the best.