Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Over My Head

Tonight I met the SCU group at the Appalachain Brewing Company for their Thursday night ride out of Collegeville. I kinda knew going in that there was likely not a group slow enough for me but I figured I'd show up and ask and then go out on the Perkiomen Trail on my own if it came to that. I got swept up in the kindness of the group again. With assurances that no one gets left behind and I shouldn't worry about that off I went with them anyway.

Well it was obvious very quickly that their slow group was still way ahead of my condition. My endurance just isn't there. My legs didn't mind the hills all that much but my lungs sure did. :( True to their word one of the group stayed back and babysat me. I knew I would not get left behind or lost.

Then we turned a corner and I recognized access to the Skippack Trail which meets up with the Perkiomen Trail that would take me back to Collegeville. No worries about getting lost and plenty of daylight left to do it. I called ahead to two different people in my group - including the group leader. One relayed the message again to the group leader and a third person heard me as well. I knew this because he checked to make sure I knew where I was. I did.

I didn't want to just disappear on them. So secure in the knowledge that everyone knew where I was going I turned off onto the trail. All the years of running out this way paid off big time tonight. I made my way back to Collegeville.

Tomorrow I'm off to Harrisburg for the PA Council of Mediators conference for Friday and Saturday. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Opt Out Hill

Tonight I went for my first group ride with Suburban Cyclists Unlimited (SCU). This was also my first group ride on streets and my first group ride since the groundhog incident. In the interest of full disclosure, I did ride at Cooper River Park with my daughter and her boyfriend last fall which did involve a bit of street to get from the bike shop to the park but this was my first entirely on street group ride.

There were many obstacles to overcome.

First I had to get the nerve to show up. I am not great in groups where I do not know anyone and am not sure I belong. As I mentioned in the last post, Maggi is part of this group but I knew she had a meeting to be at tonight and would not join the ride. I arrived at the Church of the Savior in Wayne, found what appeared to be the meeting spot (evidenced by the other people with bikes and I finally asked one) and took out my bike. I attached the front wheel and took a spin around the parking lot to be sure it was attached correctly and that my gears still shifted right. All was good so I waited. As usual I was way early.

While I waited I flashed back to kindergarten. On the first day of Kindergarten my mom and my aunt dropped my cousin Helen and I off at St Denis gym. Helen was the only other person I knew but since I knew her it was safe. Until they separated us and I was led to a classroom full of 20+ kids and one adult I did not know. At story time I made a run for it. True story.

As I looked around the parking lot tonight I knew no one would notice if I left. But I decided I was a big girl now I would stay.

It was a tough decision to stay. As I watched more and more cylcists arrive they all had road bikes and some were taking some pretty fast spins around the parking lot. I was convinced I would be the only person for the slow hybrid group. I have no idea where to start actually but the group's website encourages everyone to be realistic about what group they ride with even though no one will be left behind. So I decided I would start with the 8-10 mph group.

One of my fears of group riding is that I will be the one that causes an accident. If no one showed up I could ride alone but that wouldn't help me conquer the fear. Fortunately I was not alone and there were only 4 in the group. They all had road bikes but preferred to ride slower they said so off we went. We rode around the streets of Wayne. The ride leader stopped periodically to get the four of us back together. All in all I did pretty good. I was stronger on the hills than I thought I would be and at the end I felt like I could have gone farther.

Before we started, the ride leader explained the rules of the group and emphasized that no one would be left behind. She told me there was one significant hill and that anyone could opt out as the group would circle back to the bottom of it and pick up anyone who did not want to do it. As we approached said hill, the ride leader dropped back beside me and told me this was it. I had a choice to wait or go for it. By this time I had showed up for the ride; not run away; was not the one anyone had to wait for; no one had fallen over because of me; and I had not fallen over. I was not going to stop now. I told her I would go for it. I hedged for next time though by saying "I'll try anything once.".

I did and I did it just fine. It wasn't fun exactly but I've climbed steeper hills. The thing about this one was the way it wound around and just kept on going. Just when you thought you were going to crest it, it continued on. Ugh.

I will feel this ride in my legs tomorrow. I haven't ridden this far - 11 miles - since last fall. It's ok. I didn't opt out of any of it. I got past a lot of fears tonight so any strain I feel tomorrow will make me smile. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Morning Ride

This morning was all about getting out and doing something active. I bailed on joining the trail running group because the only folks who rsvp'd where way out of my league and - as awesome as they are in their acceptance of newbies - the pressure I feel to not drag them down too much is, well, too much for me. I know I've said that before and it's still true. So this morning I decided to take the bike out for a ride around the neighborhood. I want to join a group ride in Wayne on Monday and I decided I better make sure I'm not going to embarrass myself (or Maggie who rides with them and is not shy about acknowledging her friends).

Right away I could tell the bike wasn't right. It was not shifting well at all. It either wouldn't shift or it would all of a sudden shift two at a time. And the chain was rubbing against the derailleur even in middle gears where I spend a lot of time. I have to admit I panicked. I vaguely remembered Mike telling us about this in bike class but I couldn't remember exactly what he said (or what I had read). I was certain that I had put something back together incorrectly and had now broken something else because of it. And after the $$$ that had to go into the car this week I was ready to cry. At this point I also wasn't sure it wasn't just me not being able to ride or shift properly.

I headed toward Cyclesport which had just opened for the day. I was embarrassed to admit that this was my first ride since the class had ended. Barry, the mechanic who looked after my bike, said he hadn't been out much yet either. I think he as lying but it was nice of him to try to make a customer feel better. Anyway, he showed me how much slack there was in the cable on the lowest cog and suddenly it all started to come back to me. I actually recognized what he was telling me about how the cable can stretch and that can cause the gear shifting to slip. :) He said it wasn't that unusual just after replacing it since it had been all coiled up before putting it on. He took his time adjusting both rear and front shifting cables and the front derailleur. After that I went out for my ride and the bike shifted beautifully.

So the bike is fine. As for me, I definitely need to get out more. My mini panic attack is - I'm sure - due to being slightly depressed from not getting enough activity. In the end, I had a nice ride today but my fitness level is more or less ground zero right now. It's hard to believe I completed Goofy in 2010. I am still leery about joining the group ride Monday.  But I know the area of the ride on so I can always beg off and find my way back on my own. I have to start somewhere.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Wawa!

On Wednesday I made a last minute decision to go to Wawa Preserve for a run. Wednesday was WaWa's 50th birthday and it seemed appropriate. I left the parking lot shortly after 6pm after taking a shadow picture. 

Six O'clock Shadow
It was a gorgeous evening even if it felt more like January than April. But the sky was blue and the sun was shining bright. I was out for a total of an hour (not running for an hour just out for an hour) and as the sun started to set the birds came alive. Combined with the water rushing down the creek it was a very peaceful sounding place. I saw a lot of deer but they were not happy to see me. 

The Rocky Run trail starts from Valley Road at route 1 and follows the creek of the same name up to route 352 near Fair Acres. Despite being between a bunch busy roads it's amazingly quiet and peaceful. At 352 the trail crosses over and eventually fades into Tyler Arboretum. 

It was a nice evening and I enjoyed being out and moving.

But I didn't really enjoy the running part :(. I'm not sure if I'm done with it for good or not yet. There's nothing wrong with walking and hiking and I love both so it makes sense to stick with those. But I miss my running buds. 

On to more happy thoughts. I posted to my FB page again about my 27 things and go an offer from Dan to teach me ballet and from Alexis to learn how to care for a Polish Chicken's crest feathers count. "I've got haircuts to give my polish hens so they can see better. You are welcome to join me and give me a hand!" I told her yes. I have no idea what's involved but that kind of makes it all the more intriguing! I hope it works out that I can help her with this. 

Have a great weekend! I'll be around ;) 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

If the Shoes Could Talk ....

These are Ken's shoes and hydration pack. On April 12th 2014, Ken's shoes and hydration pack completed 31.1 miles on the Horse-Shoe trail. Of course they didn't do this alone. Ken was there along with 30+ friends (or soon to be friends) either running or supporting the run. This is a story about how the shoes, their owner and the friends got there.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....  Wait, wrong story. Yet it does feel like it all started that way. On October 23, 2013 Ken Dorris typed

"I wish I was a faster runner... I can not qualify for anything longer than a marathon times b/c I dont meet time requirements.. sigh.. No 50 or 100 in my future.. Was looking at Tussey 50 as my first 50.."

And before Ken could delete his statement from Facebook it was decided that an event would be held to give him the opportunity to complete a 50. You see, Ken belongs to a group called Misery Loves Company (MLC) and true to the name they rallied around determined to get him through training and his first ultra marathon. Within minutes of his initial statement and for the next 11 days there were over 39 replies with suggestions and encouragement. Including this exchange:

Pete White: How about we create an MLC race, the Do This Dorris 50M? Who's in? 
October 23, 2013 at 10:28pm 
Ken Dorris: I love you Pete White!! im in! how about we run it in march? Say the 22nd?!!
October 24, 2013 at 8:52am 

And with that, preparation and training began in earnest. At least that was the intent. Training would take place mostly in Winter and Mother Nature was not on the MLC team. The Philadelphia area had it's third snowiest Winter (since 1872) with 62.9 inches of snow and record breaking low temperatures. Some of the participants traveled miles and miles and miles and miles south of the area just to have the chance to run on ice-free and snow-free surfaces.

Initially posted to MLC FB page
by Destrie Cossaboom
Photo credit: Randy Hall

Randy HallMotivated and on schedule, tho finding a good place for a long run this weekend may be a challenge.
Destrie Cossaboom: The map shows rain in Dover. I'll most likely end up back at the beach for my long run again!

So the runners either traveled distances or trudged throw snow & ice. One group was heard to refer to their outing as "an advanced training course in slogology". But train they did. Even if it meant frozen beards; wind burnt faces and eyelashes that stuck together. Ken's comment on the photo below "... but it was AWESOME!!"

Meanwhile work was underway to set up support staff; identify a location & date; and to name the event. In short order the RD lined up an Admiral of Aid Stations (Maggi); Viceroy of Volunteers (Paula); Minister of Money (Mike) and Sergeant of Selling It (Sara). OK so that last one is made up because I cannot remember the name of Sara's role but my made up one does accurately define it.

After considering a variety of dates from March through April and locations including Valley Forge, Coventry Woods and Lums Pond a group vote settled on April 12th on the Horse Shoe Trail. Naming the event was a bit more involved and a lot more fun :). From the first day of Ken's infamous - but often misquoted - FB post, names for the event flew across the Internet. Here are just a few of the suggestions:

The Militant March? The Militia Mash?
OGWIWTA which stands for "Oh god, whose idea was this, anyway?"
The Peoples Ultra
Thought you were lucky
The Ken Dorris Dash
The Dorris 50

The final vote came down between 50 Shades of Sore and Everyone KEN Run. 50 Shades of Sore won and the event became an option between 50k (31.1 miles) or 50 miles.

As the Winter gave way to Spring the days lengthened. The snow and cold weather, however, were much slower to move out. Yet the runners continued to train and sign up. Some unfortunately had injuries and had to drop out. Many of those signed up to support the runners. And as with everything else in life some had difficult decisions to make:

Michael MitchellDilemma... 50 shades of sore, or 50 shades of sun. My wife just asked me to go on a trip with her that weekend to sunny Tucson, AZ. 
(In the end he stayed home and signed on to be one of the support staff as well as run 13.1 miles on race morning)

Speaking of volunteers - Misery Loves Company is an amazing supportive group. A couple of emails and that quick we had a full roster of aid station managers and extras to spare. They made it easy to organize. They were willing do anything and everything that was asked of them. Many stayed all day (12 hours +) and more than a few stayed well beyond what they had originally signed on for as the weather played a bit of havoc on the runners pace.

On the night before the event Maggi, Sara and Mike took this (and some other stuff)

and turned it into this for each of the aid stations:

PB &J sandwiches; Bananas; Grapes; Cookies; Peanut M&Ms; Hard candy; Trail mix/granola bars; Potato chips; Pretzels/PB pretzel bites; Chicken broth/soup (limited; later aid stations); Water; Gatorade; Coca cola; Electrolytes (Succeed S! Caps); Vaseline; Wet wipes; Hand sanitizer; Basic first aid kits; Duct tape; Bug spray; Bear repellent (just kidding although bug spray might have been useful)

Also, on the night before the event, race director Pete White had this to say,

"We have 23 registered for the 50K and 13 for the 50 miler; runners are coming from 4 states and as far away as Pittsburgh and northern Virginia; (the) group has collectively finished nearly 320 recorded races, including 138 50Ks, 76 50 milers, and 23 100 milers; 100M finishes include Western States, Pine to Palm, Mohican, Hallucination, Oil Creek, Burning River, Pinhoti, New Jersey, Massanutten, Indiana Trail, Rocky Raccoon, and Umstead; finishes include 18 overall or gender first-place awards; Ken Dorris will finish the 50K, even if we have to carry him"

Ken Dorris: Crap
Paula Tansey: Ken Dorris, YOU are the reason some of us are getting up a 0 dark thirty to make this event happen. You will NOT fail. Keep smiling and keep moving .... 
Maggi Buckler: ... OR ELSE!
Ken Dorris: Double and triple crap! question of the week... how many 50 milers beat me to the finish line?! lol
Ryan Schannauer: Ken .This entire run is your fault.
Pete White: Yeah, Ken, what were you thinking? 
Ken Dorris: I am not talking to either of you tomorrow!!! Ryan Schannauer, Pete White
Critter Alexis: I am going to attempt to get my drone going so I can get some drone footage of the runners coming through the Northside road aid station. I promise I won't drop it on any one. 
Pete White: I think the drone has a "Ken will finish" custom program--luckily, Ryan is a computer programmer and kindly donated his time to create it

On April 12th the sun rose at 6:36 a.m. and would be shining for the next 13 hours and 11 minutes. The race was scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. We would just make it.
As I've said, Mother Nature is not on the MLC team and she (I wish my gender could disown her quite frankly) continued to throw curve balls at the runners. After a cold wet winter and continued chilly weather in the weeks before the race, April 12th brought bright sunshine and temps that ran from low 40s at the start to low 70s by midday. Gorgeous by some standards but not so much to run in when you haven't had time to adjust. With little and no leaves on the trees the sun beat down on the runners. Many of the runners struggled with hydration as a result. The rough winter weather dropped numerous trees and other debris along the course making the already challenging course even tougher. As a result, most ran slower than they ever have for these distances. Of the 12 runners planning to go for 50 miles, only 2 completed that distance.

And quite frankly, the day was

I think Gary Peterson captured the feeling of the day best: Yesterday was a really great time.......I had a really great day and once again achieved my goal that I have at all events, which is to have fun. Had a blast!!!! Another up side is that I got to meet a whole bunch or people who I only previously knew via fb.

Whether you ran or supported the run, I think we all agree it was a day of fabulous "company" and there wasn't anything "miserable" about it. (OK maybe that hill at mile 23 but you know what I mean!)

For captioned photos I took at the event click here.


As I researched this post I found a photo of the shoes fresh out of the box. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Witness Protection

My running mojo has gone into hiding. For awhile there I had glimpses of it but lately I can't find a trace. So I've decided the best strategy is to stop looking.

On Tuesday I went walking from the Betzwood Trailhead out on the Schuylkill River Trail with my friend Elaine. We put in a good 4+ miles in just over an hour. The weather was just about perfect. Toward the end I wished I had worn my head band. It was just cool enough to bother my ears but not enough for a headache fortunately. Here is me on the picnic bench waiting for Elaine to switch into long pants. The sun was really very bright even at 6 PM. Yay for DST, Spring and Summer. :)

On Wednesday I posted a walk for Inner Line Drive at Valley Forge. No one took me up on it so I went alone. Inner Line drive goes nowhere but in a misshapen horseshoe inside the park from Route 23 just west of the Chapel back to Route 23 a little farther west of the Chapel. I think most of us never see what's there unless you've been there for a grade school field trip or take the bus encampment tour given by the park. I can't remember the last time I was up there. The road meanders around and up Mt Joy.

When I came to these stairs I had to see where they went. The led to a dirt trail that climbed to a clearing at the top of Mt. Joy. I wonder if this is where the observation tower used to be. If so, there is no sign of it now. Not even a base for it. It was a nice climb though. There was a trail on the other side of the clearing that likely comes out on the Drive on the other side or possibly goes all the way to the bottom of the mountain. I'll try that next time. I wanted to stick to the drive this trip and see where it went exactly. As you continue on the Drive you can see the other trails that climb Mt Joy. I'm glad to see them open again. For a period last year they were closed.

On the far side of the Drive I saw the monument for the New Jersey Brigade. If you look closely just to the left and behind you can make out the mama deer giving me the evil eye for stopping there. Her fawn was just off the edge of my photo.

I had a great time on both walks. Tonight I was hoping to join the Suburban Cyclists Group on their ride out of Collegeville. I need to get over my fear of riding in groups but decided tonight was not going to be that night.

I'll leave you with a few more photos from the Inner Line Drive walk.
For Molly. I know how you love sun photos.
This was just about 6 p.m. before my walk. 
Looking out across 23 and 422 at St. Gabe's as I came down
off the mountain.