Monday, July 28, 2014

Running with new friends

For me, the most fun and memorable runs have been those experienced with new friends.
What makes them even better is when the run with these new friends is someplace they have not run before, AND what makes it even MORE exciting is when that place is Hill Country State Natural Area. 10 miles south of Bandera Texas HCSNA is a very Rugged, Rocky, beautiful, Rocky, Hilly, Rocky, desolate park. No water here, no shelters, no paved roads, but there are beautiful views from hilltops and many trails littered with Sotol Cactus that bite at your legs. Did I mention it was rocky? An accomplished trail runner from the Rockies who was here for a race years ago said HCSNA was the place where rocks go to die.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of showing some new friends the trails at HCSNA, or as we refer to it, Bandera.
Mari loved the scenery, enjoyed the many birds, ran well, but after the first loop had enough of the tough climbs and relentless rocks. She'll be back though.
Chris and Jeremy loved it as well but were "humbled" by the difficult technical terrain. Chris referred to it as "Delightfully Painful."
Everyone was smiling all the while. I enjoyed pointing out the trails and leading the way. This is what makes trail running with friends so much fun.
What keeps me coming back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pedernales Falls 30K night time trail race 06/28/2014.

The Capt'n Karl's races are popular in Central Texas and with my group but I had not run any of them. They just didn't seem too appealing to me. Besides, many folks laughingly complained about the heat and humidity and some about the low hanging tree limbs at some venues. But then again, that's why we run these trail races, for the challenge.
Even at night the high temps and humidity do not take a rest here in south Texas. But last Saturday evening was not too bad. It was humid but not the normal 90+ % and there was a nice stiff breeze on a "cool" 80ish degree night . A breeze we would only enjoy while running in high exposed areas like on a hill ridge on the pretty but not so rugged trails of Pedernales State Park in the Texas Hill Country.
A week before the race the organizer sent out a photo of the age bracket awards. Overall first through fifth and first through third masters would receive a framed copy of a hand painted Texas Longhorn chewing on bluebonnets. Nice! I must confess, I wanted one of those. Yes, I run for the experience first but nothing wrong with trying to beat the competition. I had no idea whatsoever of the other masters abilities.
At the 30K race start, 15 minutes after the 60kers,  it was the usual camaraderie as we all gathered around our Rockhopper canopy and shared handshakes, hugs and laughs.
As the race began I pushed out to a swift clip locking on to another friends pace. Alex was moving well and I hung onto him for the first two plus miles before Alex broke off to deal with a shoe issue I think. My pace was a bit too fast than what I usually run but as long as I felt good I thought I'd keep it up. Soon Alex was back and passed me. I decided to slow my pace to my regular speed. "Run YOUR race Tony" I told myself. Leading up to the  the second aid station, about mile 7, there is a steep but short gravel jeep trail to get over before descending to the aid station. Here I caught Rich (60K). I greeted him and Joe P. who was working the aid station. My one bottle I was carrying was empty. You are not supposed to try anything new at a race but that doesn't stop me. Tailwind had been highly recommended and I had a free sample to use. Half the packet of this powder mix went into my bottle, topped it off with water and took off down another jeep trail. I came upon Jean and then Julie (60Kers) on this stretch. Smiled and said hi and kept going as I was feeling really good. Was it the tailwind? no, it's too soon to credit that. The next aid station was at about mile Eleven. Headlamp out of my bag and on my head as night was almost upon us. I started to get tired at about mile nine but all of a sudden I got a burst of energy! Where did that come from? Maybe it is this tailwind stuff. I started passing folks, Alex too, until mile fifteen or so when my legs began to rebel. I had not run beyond this distance since March. Up ahead I saw a familiar figure. Even at night I recognized Brian's stride. We talked a bit as I surged ahead and came upon Tom (60K). Tom and I strolled in and out of the last aid station together. The other half of the powdery stuff in my bottle and I was outta there. The truth is Tom's pace helped me up the short climb out of that aid station quickly. A couple hundred feet of running and hiking with Tom and I said goodbye. Again I felt good even though by now that tailwind had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe I have to dilute it more. I had been on the trail about three hours with over a mile to go to the finish. I had hoped for a three hour finish but thought 3:15 was more realistic. With one mile to go the trail.........well there was no trail. Just a bunch of reflective ribbons guiding us through and around large rocks surrounded by water. This went on for about 100 yards or so. At the pre-race briefing we were warned about a high volume of snakes recently. Water moccasins! Besides trying to maneuver over these rocks we had to look out for snakes. These rocks were almost boulder like in all shapes and sizes. No way can anyone run through this crap. I laughed and thought "this is in true Joe Prusaitus style." Throwing in different, difficult and challenging sections is Joe's style. He calls it fun. I've heard many a trail runner call it otherwise.
With less than a mile to go, according to my garmin, I heard the crowd at the finish line. I and a 60K runner came out of the woods to cheers from the crowd as we approached the finish for me, and the half way point for my companion.
3:14:37 as I crossed the finish line. I was happy. My friends greeted me with high fives. Our fellow Rockhopper Stefan won the 30K in a blistering 2:20! We sat and talked about our experience with Thor, another Rockhopper (finished 7Th) and Mike, Jeanie, and Ed who came out to support us.. I began to cramp. My muscles were in shock. I got up and walked over to the results table and found I had placed third in the Masters category! Joe recognizes masters as over 50. I was told my award was given to the fourth masters by mistake. Oh no! Oh well, I'm not gonna chase the guy much less find him in the dark. But the fellow who made the error did find the guy and told him the bad news. I was given the award but by now I felt bad. And even worse when I found out the fourth place guy was not only on my tail at 3:15:46 but he was 62 years old.
I hope when I'm 62 I can run that well. And a young snotty 55 year old whippersnapper like me doesn't show up on race day.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Every Trail run is an adventure!

Ran with some friends today at our local State Natural Area, Government Canyon. It was so much fun. I truly enjoy fun runs with friends more than any race. We saw this crazy looking mushroom too.

 Robert said if I ate it I might feel good, or I might die.
One of the great benefits of trail running is seeing things one might not otherwise see. I shared some of these sightings with a Professor of a local University recently. He is working on a documentary of trail runners to promote interest on a stage race in the Amazon. My good friend Chris and I were interviewed together. I liked that because with Chris there I was more at ease.
Now, I am not the most accomplished trail runner by any means. As a matter of fact, I am not as accomplished as most of my trail runner friends. I think I was recommended because somehow folks in our group think I played a major part in starting the Rockhoppers, our trail running group. I was a small player in planting the seed. Those who came, have stayed to encourage others to join and offer support to them are the reason we exist. That is pretty much the recipe for any successful group.
The interview for the documentary went well I think. Not sure when it will be complete but I will surely share it here.
I was not able to share all that I have seen on the trails. I seem to have a problem categorizing, filtering, and arranging all the thoughts in my mind in an orderly fashion. I shared a few like, the time I came upon a pack of coyotes drinking at a pond, An owl looking at me while flying away from me on a wooded narrow trail (I thought he might bump into a tree!), My first view of a mountain meadow. But I did not tell about the bat that flew right between Lalo and I as we ran shoulder to shoulder at night in the Angeles Crest mountains, the juvenile fox that was following me on a night run, the White tail buck who seemed to want to challenge me for trail access, the beautiful golden Eagle perched on a fence post, The roadrunner who, upon seeing me, turned to run off only to be spinning his legs unable to gain traction (just like in the roadrunner cartoons!),and the Bobcat cubs playing on the trail. I probably will remember more great moments after I end this post.
Get out and run trails people because every trail run is an adventure. Like Forrest Gump's mom said, "You never know what you're gonna get."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Speed work

I couldn't decide where to run today. I wanted to run intervals but not in the sun. Summer seems to finally be here. We had a pretty nice winter and Spring by South Texas standards this year. More cold winter days and more cool spring days than normal. But it's all over now.
I decided on Friedrich park. Friedrich has become my favorite training ground these days. Most of the trails are shaded, there are two steep climbs to work on hill repeats, technical trails to work on foot placement and technique, and flats for speed work. All this on only about 5 miles of trails. Soon though there will be more trails opening up as the park expands.
After a one mile warm up I ran 4 quarter mile repeats with quarter mile recovery in between and a mile cool down to finish it up. A small number I know but I didn't want to push it since it's been awhile since I've worked on speed. Although yesterdays 5 mile run at Friedrich did turn into a tempo run after a slow start. I hope to have a good run at the Pedernales 30k in three weeks. Gotta put in the work.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Latest best run

"5 AM! you'd think we were going fishing or something."
My response to This (John's text about the time he was picking me up to head out for some trail running in the Hill Country), "yeah, but it's just as good."
We met a few other friends who were staying in a cabin out near Leakey Texas. Leakey (lake-ee) is nestled in the Heart of Texas' beautiful Hill Country west of San Antonio. I have fond childhood memories of this area. Stories I tell about camping out in this area probably bore my friends by now.
Today's run was one of those that will live in my memory as one of the best ever with friends. No set amount of mileage to be run, no goal pace, no hill repeats. Just a fun, conversation sharing, nature loving run. BUT, In an effort to keep me motivated, I signed up for The Pedernales Falls 30K night Trail race on June, 28th. This will my first race in this series and It's been a very long time since I've run at night so I am looking forward to it. But I have to ramp up my training.
Now I've got to share this. Yesterday I saw a co-worker who has changed his eating habits by cutting out processed foods, eating more green leafy vegetables, good fats, and has become more active. All because of the guys at work who have experienced serious health issues lately. Jokingly I asked him if he is tired of hearing people tell him he is too thin. "Yes! but I get really upset when they ask me if I am sick." he said.
I laughed and he continued, "But you know what? I am no longer suffering from allergies, I no longer need my high blood pressure medication, I have more energy,........."
That's what I try to tell people!
OK, That's all  :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ride with Herman. Timmie wants to walk and the gang is already at it.

I was supposed to go on a ride with my friend Herman today but he cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Herman is on the right track though and asked to reschedule soon. About a year ago Herman came to me asking for advice on what exercises or activities I would recommend for an aging pal. Herman was concerned because he couldn't walk far with out running out of breath and found it difficult to bend down or squat. He was amazed at my ability to demonstrate a burpee. Now, Herman can squat, he lifts weights , and is riding his bike. We'll ride together soon.
This made me think of a recent event where I saw an old co-worker. Dave retired some years back. As we spoke, Dave made a comment that made me want to say, "I told you so." But I just couldn't. I had spoken my piece years ago. His comment was, "you work all your life, then you retire and things start to break down, and you get sick."  It doesn't have to be this way! Ruben retired before you Dave, is older, and in perfect health. Years ago Dave relayed to me the illnesses that were creeping up on him. He said I was lucky because I'm fit and healthy. "It's not luck so much Dave! You have to exercise" His response, "I walk here at work."
I told Dave he had to walk consistently for 30 minutes or more and stop eating food from the vending machine and eat more vegetables. His response to walking more? "You sound like my Doctor. To eating vegetables? " I'm not ready for that." Dave was among the gang at work who ridiculed Ruben for eating Garlic regularly and refraining from eating junk from the vending machines.
In the past year there have been three co-workers of mine who have had heart bypass surgery. All younger than me at age 55.
Willie was as fit as they come. Well as they look. He was a body builder but never worked on his cardio fitness. Willie almost didn't make it. Now he is walking regularly.
Joe didn't have time to prepare his lunch. I constantly criticized his meal choices. We've talked since his surgery and he promises he will make better meal choices and is walking also.
Otto was always tired and too busy to exercise. He is now walking for his health and is recovering well. I talked to him today.
Hey! You know what? These guys were not runners! Wasn't I warned running can cause heart problems? Hmmm.
Herman is now biking!
Ruben always biked, rode with me, and got me on the healthy eating routine.
Willie, Joe, and Otto are walking, and maybe.......will become runners!
Gotta go, Timmie wants to walk.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hey friends, See you soon!

An old friend contacted me and encouraged me to run a new trail race being put on by another old friend. I took the bait and ran the first ever IAAP 20 mile trail run along the banks of the Medina river in south Bexar county in the month of April. Many friends came out in support, I made new friends on new trails and had a blast.
Last weekend I traveled to Littleton Colorado to visit another old friend and run with him on his one and only trail race of every year, the "Fear the Deer" 1/2 marathon. Anthony, my niece Adrienne,  and I spent quality time together on and off the trails.
Just today a co-worker sent me an article via email on how too much running can lead to negative health issues late in life. I have read these articles and commented on them. As in all I have read previously, this one ended with "but more studies need to be conducted to prove this theory."
What about the positive effects of running? If I don't run I don't meet and make new friends. I/we don't reconnect, maintain, and rekindle old friendships. Is that not a positive health benefit?
I'll keep running. Hope you do too.
See you on the trails friends.