Saturday, December 28, 2013

December Morning at Ridley Creek State Park

It was a gorgeous day for what is likely my last trip to RCSP in 2013. The temperatures are supposed to reach 50 today but at 8 am it was still 34. I could see my breath as I started out on the trail. It was  a perfect December day. Besides being cold and mostly clear while I was out it was also that perfect time when there are no leaves to obstruct the view. One might argue that this takes away the mystery of the trail because you can see all the twists and turns before you get there. But there are plenty of other days in the year to be 'surprised'. 

Today you could see things you normally wouldn't see - the contours of the park; the views from the top of a climb; the extra paths of the creek (many of these were frozen while the creek itself was rushing); lots of birds - all of this is camouflaged during the other seasons. The sounds of the park are different on day like this too. You can hear sounds from farther away. Yet, despite the location of the park you really don't hear much in the way of traffic from 252 or Gradyville Road which surround the park. 

I don't have many photos.I took some but they just look gray and brown muting the beauty of what I saw today. Here are two you might enjoy though. 

I was by myself today. Originally there were 4 of us. Two were sick and one had unexpected holiday company. It may have been just as well. My back spasmed yesterday. I got out of the car (a simple task that I really have mastered in my old age) and BOING! my lower back was pulsing. I tried to baby it all day; stretching and trying not to give in to the hunchback formation it wanted. I took an alleve before bedtime and this morning it felt a little better. No more pulsing but still sore. So I ran slower than my usual slow pace. About halfway in I just gave up running and walked the rest of the way. My back wasn't happy and my left hip started bugging me too.

I did wonder to myself whether I should just give up running and stick to hiking. I shook that off pretty quick though. I had such a wonderful time last weekend and today's issue is just one of those things. I'll be fine. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jingle Bell Run 2013

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Today, a group of fitness buddies completed a Christmas eve tradition by running and walking the Valley Forge Loop. As I drove to the loop for our 8 am meet-up I tried to remember when I ran the loop last. I'm pretty sure it was Christmas Eve 2012.

What a perfect day. On the way there I heard Snoopy's Christmas. A must hear for the season to be complete for me. I was getting worried as I hadn't heard it yet. So when it came on I fist pumped, turned the volume up high and sang along. I can't carry a tune to save my life, btw, but I don't care. I bee bopped along happy as a clam and, as happens every time, I got choked up when the Red Barron says "Merry Christmas, my friend!" Every single time. If it were only that easy to make peace.

So on to the run. The sun was shining brightly and the skies were clear. It was cold. A welcome relief after Sunday and Monday's warm rainy dark weather. And good thing too because if it had been warmer I would have been uncomfortable.

The puzzle was a thoughtful gift from a friend.
As we waited for all of our group to gather another group was also coming together. One of them arrived , windows down blasting the radio and singing "All I want for Christmas is you!". It was awesome. One of their group took our photo before we started.

I was not looking forward to the loop. I haven't run much pavement lately and their is always the mental challenge of this loop's hill after hill after hill. But I was looking forward to spending time with friends and that always makes a difference. We started - as we often do - walking the first hill. At the top we kept walking which was fine with me because if we got to a mile I could add Roy and Brian to my list and I knew they were not planning to run today. Roy has an aggravated achilles and Brian planned to keep him company. I'm not sure we made it a full mile before someone suggested we start running but it was close enough. I'm now at 44 people. I need 6 more in a the next 8 days. It's going to be close.

We finished the run with a shadow picture. After some Merry Christmas high fives we were on our way. I love this tradition and hope we can keep it up in years to come.

Note the santa hat pom in the photo! :) 
Nutrition, training, fitness PS -
We ran 3 and 1 intervals. I did ok until the last mile and a half or so. My tank emptied again. This is the second time in a row this happened. I had peanut butter on a piece of toast and a banana which normally would be fine for 4-5 miles. I wasn't that surprised when I crashed on Saturday. I chalked it up to the extra work of the snow and the terrain. I was surprised today. I'm so out of practice with these things. I'm not sure if it's calories or electrolytes I need.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Survived a "5"

I love trail running. I know I say that after each run but I can't help it. I'm in that totally infatuated stage of the relationship where the trail can do no wrong! I'm most disappointed in myself for the Saturdays of late where I let my old lady brain roll over and go back to sleep. Today as I ran I thought I should just hang a note from my bedside lamp that says "You love trail running, dork, get up!!".

Pete White planned a run at Evansburg State Park that he titled "The Oasis Of Nowhere" with the following description.
"Back to that secluded gem, Evansburg State Park, with a lot of varied advanced beginner terrain-creeks, bluffs, fields, forests and geysers. Or at least most of these.
MLC Rating: 4"
When we (Julius, Maggi, Russ and I) arrived he gave us the good news-bad news "The good news is that these trails can get very muddy", he says smiling grinning, "And that can be a lot of fun. The bad news is they are not so much muddy today. There is a lot of ice and snow mixed in. Don't step in the gray parts." Yak Trax probably would have been a good idea today but by the time we got the 'news' we were ready to go so I left them in the trunk.

Quote of the day "How can you not like snow! This is fun". Said just a spit second before my  foot slipped out from under me causing me to flail wildly to stay upright. A 6 on the flailing scale for sure. My hands never touched the ground!! :) Well, not that time anyway. That came later after I decided to remove my gloves because I was warmed up and my hands were feeling uncomfortable in the gloves. Sure enough, not a half mile later BAM! Hands first in to the snow and mud! LOL

Up and down we went trying to align ourselves with Pete's definition of 'significant hill'. I reminded myself that this run was rated a 4 so there had to be some, but Pete had commented as we ran slid down one at the beginning of the run that that one was the only 'significant' hill on our route. When called on this later, he informed us that the others were 'rises'.

I have to stop here a moment and say that we tease him mercilessly about the difference between his and our perception of difficulty but it's just talk. If it weren't for his encouragement, people like me wouldn't be out there. He is an awesome pacer. He managed to push our little group just enough today so we worked hard but still loved the run.

Another benefit of running with an experienced trail runner is going places you probably wouldn't go on your own. I commented on this as we zigzagged our way up the side of one hill where the path was barely wide enough for one person and - today at least- was half ice and half snow. I felt like one good slip and I'd be rolling down the hill into the creek. I found myself leaning left away from the creek. I wasn't afraid - I really was having too much fun to be afraid - but I really did not want to go for a swim either.

On another section we came around the bend to find a hunter sitting quietly, gun across his lap, waiting patiently for a target. He didn't acknowledge us at all. He was probably not thrilled at our presence since our shouting and laughter likely kept his targets away.

So back to the advanced billing of today's run? I'd say we did get the creeks, bluffs, fields and forests. And you could say we had geysers every time one of us mis-stepped a creek crossing and went splashing down in the water. I think we all did that at least once.

Back in the parking lot, safe and sound ..... well safe at least, Pete said "If you did this, you can do Tyler!" And he upgraded the run to a 5 because of the snow!

I survived a 5.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


If you can't have snow falling (think blizzard) for your birthday, having snow on the ground from the third significant snowfall in a week the day before is pretty darn good. :) The snow on the ground made for an awesome trail run at Ridley Creek State Park as well.

I had originally planned to meet some friends at 8 am for 54 minutes  ('cause I'm 54 today get it?) on the Blue Trail at RCSP. Last night, however, the forecast showed rain through 8 am. I messaged my friends that as much as I wanted company I really did not want to run in a cold rain. As it turned out, about 8:30 a.m. this morning the sun was shining brightly so off I went.

The park was open but not all of its road were. The road to picnic area #9 where the Blue Trail leaves in a lollipop loop was closed. I headed to the mansion parking lot instead. I grabbed the park map and plotted a route that took me on the yellow-white-blue and back to yellow again instead.
Most of the trails in the lower parts of the park looked like this. The ice was covering pockets of cold water. My feet were numb within 10 minutes. After a while I didn't notice anymore. 
Many of the trails had been visited before me by the park wildlife. It made me smile to see how they followed the path. I saw few hearty birds along the trails but nothing bigger. 
The best parts though were the unbroken trail sections just waiting for me! Here began a longish section of flat and gentle climbs which meant I could run the whole stretch.

My natural slowness was made slower by the snow and the fact that I haven't been running a lot or very long lately. It took me almost an hour and a half to go just over 3.5 miles. The downhills were tough due to the slippery wet snow and the uphills well they are uphills! :) Still I got my heart rate up and gave my legs a good workout and my feet have forgiven me now that they are warm again. 
I have a long way to go to Tyler 10K but I'll get there. 

I saw very few people and none of them on the trails. I came off the trail onto the multi-use trail at one point and a gentleman making his way along that path said "You got your chains on?". "As a matter of fact, I do" I said and lifted my foot so he could see. The look on his face was priceless. We both smiled and went on our way. 

Oh and as for not running in the rain? The sun was melting the ice off the trees at a fantastic rate. I was 'rained' on most of the way. But with the sun shining through the trees and everything so sparkly it was ok. I was drenched when I got home but very happy. 

Tomorrow is a rest day. Tuesday we are going out for my birthday dinner. Hopefully I'll get out again Wednesday either to the trail at Haverford College or to do some hill work in Media. 

Happy Snowbirthday from me to you! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

2014 Challenge

In March of 2013, I began an effort to walk, hike, bike or run with at least 50 people by the end of 2013. Actually it was supposed to be 30 by the end of March but all kinds of things got in the way of that so I modified the plan. With 17 days left I have 8 more to go. I think I’ll make it - even if I have to walk the streets of Media on December 31st with random strangers!

I’ve had a lot of fun with this challenge. I got a kick out of  the number of people who thought it was cool and asked me about it. The challenge was a great ice breaker too. I set out to make sure I spent time with as many different of my fitness buddies as I could and I ended up meeting lots of new people as well.

So what can I have some fun with in 2014? The theme  “Learn Something New Everyday” keeps coming into my head. But I don’t want it to be that easy. Since I was a kid I’ve loved looking things up. Early in life, I spent hours and hours at the library and now I spend a lot of time on the Internet looking up random things. Left at “Learn Something New Everyday” by itself, I wouldn’t get the awesome interaction with others that I got from this year’s challenge.

The first modification then is this - “Learn from”  - or - “Try Something New With “- someone else.”  My friends and family (and random people) have lots to teach me or can encourage me with their company to try new things.

The second modification is to take out the “Every Day” aspect of it. Realistically, I won’t be able to accomplish something everyday. 52 is a good number. The equivalent of one thing a week but I’d allow multiple things in one week and zero in others to stay sane. And since I am 54 on Sunday why not make it 54. But that's a high number if I want these things to have some quality to them or I don't want to end up hedging with things that are only partially new so I can get to 54. So I've decided to halve that and make it 27.

A combination of 27 instances of Learning Something New From - OR - Trying Something New With - Someone Else. There do not have to be 27 someone else’s in this challenge. That might be fun but why pigeon hole my friends and family with only having one thing to share. Many of them are quite talented afterall.

Time to start thinking of things I’d like to learn or do. In the meantime, if you are reading this, “What would you like to teach me?” OR “What would you like me to try that you are willing to do with me”? BTW, the something to try can be new just to me or something we will try together if you like. Maybe there is something you want to try and need a buddy to hold you accountable? :)

I will probably draw the line at bungee jumping, zip-lining and things that involve long periods of time in an elevator or a submarine. Just so you know.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014

Misery Loves Company read to rock n roll

Today I volunteered/cheered at a trail run called "The Dirty Bird". The race is a post Thanksgiving 15k on trails at French Creek State Park. Many of the Misery Loves Company crew were running it. Maggi and I volunteered. The race director encouraged us to come out and volunteer although it was clear when we arrived that he had everything more than covered. We were able to help at the water stops.

After the race Maggi, Julius and I went to have a bite to eat together before heading our separate ways home. Julius ran the race today. It was his last race of the season/year which led to a discussion and the idea for today's post about what I'd like to do next.
I am registered for the Tyler 10k trail race for April as I've mentioned before. Here is where I'm at besides that:

* In general I want to run trails, hike and cycle a lot. Just do it as the slogan goes.

* I want to be a more consistent and flexible exerciser. One that does not end up doing nothing because out-of-my control forces cause me to have to skip what I had planned.

* I want to ride my bike to and from work at least one day in 2014. I don't see myself as an everyday bike commuter. It'd be cool if that were possible but the nature of what I do and the lack of shower facilities make that highly unlikely on a regular basis. Still, I'd like to try at least once.

* I want to have an adventure(s) on the bike. It doesn't have to be a century but it could be. It could also be a multi day ride of my own planning or an organized event. It could be something as simple going longer each weekend to new/fun places.

* I want to run in MLC's Rode to Joy II event on May 10th.

* I more or less committed to helping to organize volunteers etc. for MLC's ultra (50k/50mile) event April 12th. I want to do a good job at that, learn more about how ultra races work, and give back to this group that has encouraged and inspired me to keep trying.

I'd also like to come up with some kind of challenge for myself along the lines of this year's effort to run, walk, hike or bike 1 mile with 50 people. I'm still working on what that might be.

I'm not a new year's resolution person. Goals like that tend to be recipes for failure. However, on a non-fitness personal note in the vein of this post:

* I would like to pursue my desire to become a mediator.

* I want to be a better listener everyday. I am good at shutting up and letting others talk but that does not always mean I listen well. I want to practice better listening.

Keep smiling and keep moving.