Saturday, May 23, 2015

Life's a race. Isn't it?

Well it's been a while. Writers block and pretty upset with my last race.
The first weekend of this month I ran the Pandora's box 'o rox trail Marathon. I was looking forward to this race. The Granite rocks in this part of the Hill country I remember so vividly. Years ago my Dad brought our family to this area frequently to camp, fish, and swim.
My race did not go well. The first 14 miles were ok. But then I started to feel really bad. My head began aching as did the whole length of my back. Three times I stopped and laid down to rest. Runners going by asked how I was. One offered to share his orange. Trail runners are cool that way. The only thing that kept me going was knowing my friends were out there too. Three of my friends passed me at about mile 19. Their encouraging words and knowing my buddy Tom was at the last aid station kept me on my feet even though I felt like I was going to faint..
I finished and waited for others in Our group to finish. It was fun cheering them cross the finish line.
Two days later I felt like I was going to die. The headache persisted. As did the Pain in my back, legs and abdomen. Three days at home and I began contemplating the reason for running long distances. I shared my thoughts and the pain I was going through with close friends. Comforting to know they were understanding and cared enough to respond with compassion.
After two weeks of no running I met with a friend for a 5 mile trail romp at my favorite natural area. It felt good but I would only run one more time that week. Today I ran 4 miles . I began thinking two miles would be good enough but feeling ok, I kept going for two more.
I had been wondering, the last three weeks. do I want to keep running these ridiculous races? Maybe. Maybe not. I do very much enjoy the friends I have made running. And races are exciting. Watching my friends do well is the best part. We have a great group. Belonging  is very beneficial to my physical, and more importantly, my emotional health.
I think I'll stick with it. I don't have to run long. Running or hiking will keep me fit, and by belonging we can be part of exciting and fun events like races and the Wilderness survival course I volunteered for last night. 
My rescue team did well!
 
This course is taught by my a wonderful friend I've known for over 10 years. A friend I met running, and one of many  I have shared many thoughts, laughs, and tears with on the trail.
Yeah, I'll keep going. My friends will help with that. Maybe I'll run another race too. Not too long though. Just long enough to keep me well.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Joe T's 14 mile Boerne stage rd/Cascade caverns turnaround 04/11/2015

My buddies Joe T., Tom, Ed Souza, and I had a great run this morning on one of Joe's many training routes in the Leon Springs/Boerne area back roads. 
Although it was very humid the cool mist made for a comfortable run. Running on the bridge over IH 10 I couldn't help but wonder what motorists on the highway thought seeing four runners wearing headlamps crossing the bridge overhead at 6 AM. We stirred dogs and scared deer in the residential area we ran through making our way to Boerne Stage rd. Boerne stage road is a typical Texas hill country back road with gradual gentle inclines and lined with farms and ranches, although many new subdivisions are popping up. .
The Airport lights on the Boerne airfield, all three of them, weren't powerful enough to light up the road. Maybe the fog was too thick.  We turned left on a small narrow road for an out and back to add some mileage. The surrounding area looked spooky with that Scooby Doo like fog blanketing the fields. I said to Joe that this would be really scary running alone. Tom said it would be really scary if Zombies started coming out from behind the trees!
Back on Boerne stage road we shared our stories about Dog encounters while running. Joe had the best. He stopped and tried to carry the dog home. Tom had the most costly,  $100 in medical bills. For the dog!
At mile 7.5 and just before daybreak we found Joe's water stash. The next stretch took us up a two lane black top, past a few sheep ranches to cascade caverns. We also spotted a donkey hanging out with a few cows near Elmer's ranch (sign on the fence). The Donkey looked suspicious to me.
With three miles to go Joe tells us the last 1.5 miles is uphill. Reaching this point it seemed we all were determined not to fade. We kept a steady pace and actually ran the last mile faster than any of the previous miles (8:15).
But wait! The end of the run would be at 13.6. If you know Tom he doesn't round up. normally I do but this time I followed Tom and Joe for an out and back down Fair Oaks road to make it 14. Ed did better by going further to get his 16.
We celebrated with Recovery drinks of Coffee stout and Chocolate milk

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hells Hills 25K

 Rocky Hill Ranch is not very rocky at all but I'd forgotten how many rollers it had. I also had forgotten how pretty this place is. Before this past Saturday the last time I ran at this east central Texas locale was about five years ago. Most of the place is single track sandy loam terrain through piney woods.
I arrived early enough to see some of my buddies start their 50k. After that I walked over to my truck to try to catch a few Z's. I didn't sleep much the night before the race. Does anyone?
The 25K started promptly at 7 AM. The start began on a slight incline and for the first mile or so the trail was  hard dried mud full of holes and ruts of all sizes. We'd been warned. There had been a mountain bike race the weekend before with 600 riders tearing up the exposed trail. Luckily most of the trails are under a canopy of tall pine trees and covered with pine needles and leaves. There were some very small pockets of dried up hard mud and running water from springs we had to jump over but for the most part the trails were smooth. My plan was to walk every uphill no matter how short.
My buddy Mike and I leaped frogged throughout the race. It was nice having him around. We talked and pushed each other to run harder.
My left leg has been bothering me. I think it's my IT band and I know I should use my foam roller to massage my legs, but I don't. Favoring this leg led to me pulling my left calf muscle at about mile five. It hurt so bad. The next ten miles I hobbled as I ran trying to ignore the pain. It would hurt more if I walked too long. I'd find a rhythm now and then. My stomach started to turn at about mile 12 and I had to find a place far off the trail to lay some fertilizer. Thank God for Leaves.
Peering through the woods to find my way back to the trail, I see Tanya running at a brisk pace. She sees me and waves. Right behind her is Mike. I fall in and soon pass Mike. Later mike said he wondered, "how did Tony get behind me?"
I caught up with Tanya and hooked on to her pace. It's amazing how one can find energy feeding off of another runner. I don't know what the pace was but we were moving at a swift clip.
At about mile 13 the rollers get longer leading up to "The Wall", A short 20 yard  Very steep climb.
Coming out of the woods at mile 14 Tanya pauses and asks if I want to pass. "No." I reply, "I'm using you."
Tanya takes off and I am hot on her heels. I keep up until about 150 yards from the finish. I couldn't hang anymore. I crossed the finish line at 2:30:10. Mike was about five minutes back.
I hung out with the gang at "Rockhopper Central." Our groups canopy/tent/refreshment post at the start finish.
My left calf  has ached for two days. Feeling better though. I broke out the foam roller.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nueces Trail Races. 02/28/2015

The ever changing weather forecast called for freezing temps and rain. I planned to meet a friend in Boerne,TX on IH 10 at 3:30 AM and caravan up to Camp Eagle on the Nueces river. Driving up the highway 18 wheelers littered the roadside rest areas and  picnic areas almost spilling on to the Highway. They dared not try to traverse the frozen bridges. Texas Department of transportation work crews were out in force spreading gravel and anti ice agents on the bridges. Nearing Kerrville TX. my Tundra pick up began fishtailing on the bridges. Marianna called from behind and asked if maybe I should park my truck and ride with she and her husband. I made the right choice.
Turning off the main Hwy and on to the farm to market two lane highway we were now driving on a sheet of ice. We watch a pick up truck ahead fish tail every now and then. I felt comfortable in Carter and Mariana's front wheel drive SUV.
We arrived at the race start 10 minute before the start of Marianna's 50K race. I headed to the start to see my friends Tom and Michelle. Marianna and Rachel started together about 15 minutes late. They all were to have good runs. It was Michelle's and Marianna's first Ultra.
My 25K race started one hour later at 7 AM. 25k is just about right for me now. My left knee can take not much more (don't tell it I might run a trail marathon later this year). Besides, I'm tired of trying to figure out the right nutrition plan for an Ultra. And 25K's can be run hard and they're over quickly.
I hoped to have a good race despite no running the week leading up to race. I was battling a stomach virus but felt good two days prior to the race. I did walk 5 miles three days before race day and figured the time off may be a good thing.
The first mile climbs a bit and I was sucking wind. As the trail began to level off I got into a rhythm and hooked on to the back of about five young dudes who were moving at a pretty good clip. Hey! I was feeling good and feeding off these guys and their energy. Almost felt like a road bike team pace line.
After five miles the group broke apart. The first big climb found me trailing a guy I knew was also a masters runner. My competition. I passed him and put the hammer down. Gotta beat this guy to the finish. That was on my mind the rest of the race. Nothing wrong with that, Right?
At the top of the second big climb there was Michelle! We spoke briefly and up ahead was her husband Tom. Tom and I had a couple of laughs as he took my picture.

Still moving well and now running with my friend Fabian on the long descent into the final aid station I hoped to keep my energy level on high. A brief chat with Chris at the aid station and I was off alone on the final 1.5 miles to the finish trying to keep pushing. The energy dial began to slowly turn down as I tried desperately to keep it up. With about half a mile to go the fellow I was trying to stay ahead of passes me! Oh No! I try to keep up then he cuts off course. I yell at him, "Hey, the course turns here."
"NO" he said as he keeps going straight, "It goes this way."
"The arrows point to the left pal." I responded
He kept going. Cutting about 20 to 25 yards off the course jumping over a bright yellow tape to get back on course.
Now, I may not have been able to keep up with him anyway. He was moving well and I was spent. But......
As I Crossed the finish I noticed the time keeper tried to catch him to give him the first place masters award. He was already at the parking lot heading for his car. I wondered. Was he afraid I would confront him maybe, and call him out? I would not. Maybe he felt bad knowing he did cut the course. He undoubtedly saw the yellow tape he jumped. I hoped he did not intentionally take that shortcut.
Again, I may not have caught him, and this isn't the Olympics. "It's just an effing run."
I was happy with my effort, and my cute Kitty second place award was cool too!
 



He's coming home tomorrow! We have to get the house ready. It's going to be fun. I can't wait. Matthew will be here soon. Everything has to be perfect. I'm so anxious, nervous!
.............................................................................................................................................
But it's only a dream. A dream she doesn't like. A dream that causes her to wake up. A dream she only recently shared. Because it will never happen. He is not coming home. Ever.
-

Friday, February 13, 2015

You aren't old until age becomes your excuse - Joe Friel

"There will be more opportunities soon as people like you will be retiring real soon."
So said my very young co-worker as I worked on her PC today.
Hey wait a minute! Don't push me out yet!
Somehow her comments made me feel old and conjured up memories of my Dad saying he retired because there were too many "kids" coming into his department.
Two days ago another co-worker relayed information on other aging friends at work suffering with ailments forcing them to retire.
It was not too long ago that I had begun to tell myself I was too old. My good friend Lalo would scold me for having such thoughts.
I had given up on competing as an age grouper. Given up on training to run fast. Resigned myself to being an old guy just trotting along.
Then my buddy Tom and I went up to the Bandera 100k pre race briefing on January 09, which was followed by the previous year's Texas trail running awards presentation.
Our Group, The Rockhoppers won the Ultra series and took second in the sub ultra series for 2014. Our very own 61 year old Rich Mihalek won an award for the ultra series in his age group! Many others in our group won individual awards also.
On the way home Tom said, " We need to get more folks to compete in the sub ultra races this year."
That got me thinking. I can do that!  I can run fast for short distances. Chris Russell proclaimed this fact to the world a few years ago after I paced Liza at the Bandera 100K some years ago. "Fast for short distances." Yeah, I can do that.
Tom fired me up. I registered for the Nueces 25K and the Hells Hills 25K.
I ran across a book titled, "Fast after 50" by Joe Friel. Half way through the book and already, I'm excited about increasing my training load. Yes, I'm 56 years old. Old enough to retire from work or from running. I can resign myself to wait for illness to creep up on me.
I'm just not ready for that yet.
Thanks Lalo, Tom, Rich, Rockhoppers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Legs

Legs felt heavy today as I started my trail run.
Sunday's short uphill sprints taxed my legs.
Bones are getting old. Muscles tire easily now.
Or maybe it's lack of consistent training.
I've got to work on that.
My legs eased into the run, running smoother after mile one.
Walked the steep climb, trotted on the ridge,
descended the hillside as smooth as water gently flowing over stones.
Folks saying Hi, teenagers smooching on a bench, Young girls smiling.
Sunset creating vibrant colors, calm in the woods as I exited the trails,
on rejuvenated legs.