Monday, May 17, 2010

The rest of the Ohio Trip- Serpent Mound

One of my favorite things to do when I travel to a race is to get out and explore the surrounding area. My interest is usually oriented more towards the natural and scenic areas and I also have an interest in the historical sites. Although I do occasionally enjoy some of the modern attractions I especially like to get a feel for an area and try to imagine what it was like long before my arrival. Exploring questions about why a town or city ended up where it is, looking at the old architecture, what drew people to the area. Of course with Cincinnati , the Ohio River was the main influence for it's development.

So on the Monday morning after the race with Jerry already back in Raleigh and the Werners back in Dayton, I set out by myself to check out the area. My first destination was to Serpent Mound Historical Park which is located about 60 miles east of Cincinnati. This is an archeological site,that was built about 1,000 years ago by the best estimate of the scientist that have studied the area. I have known about the existence of the park for many years and always wanted to visit if I got the chance. The drive over was pleasant with little traffic as the region is very rural once you leave the city of Cincinnati. It is mostly flat with the occasional rolling hill, green with pastures and farm and woodlands that could easily pass for the eastern peidmont area of NC.

Upon my arrival at the park I started over to the small museum but as seems to be normal with my luck it was closed for renovations but most of the information about the site is on the signs around the area. It is a beautiful area with the mound winding around a parcel of land on a small hill with cliffs on two sides overlooking the Ohio Brush Creek Valley. The mound itself is quite large and is nearly 1/4 mile in length from head to tail. They have an observation tower that you can climb up to get a look over the whole site. At the end past the head there is an overlook with great views of the surrounding countryside.

After checking out the mound I hiked down a trail that leads to the base of the cliffs and passes underneath the overlook. There is a small creek at the bottom that flows into the larger Ohio Brush Creek that was very pretty and there were numerous wild flowers in bloom and a small waterfall across the creek. Due to heavy rains over the weekend the creeks were high and the trail was flooded after a short distance so I hiked back up to the mound. Just past the serpents tail , the trail goes down the other side so I decided to see if I could get a better look from the bottom on that side.

The first thing I saw as I started down was a green snake lying across the trail. I got a few pictures and wondered if his ancestors were the model for the mound. Further down the trail you can see small caves in the cliffs and just before reaching the flooded portion of the trail I could see up to the overlook.

After hiking back up to the top I walked around to explore the rest of the grounds. There is one effigy mound in the park but there are many more in the surrounding area on private land. The park keeps a meadow maintained for wildlife and I saw another large brown snake sunning himself. He didn't seem to mind me taking his picture or walking around him and he hadn't moved as I continued on. The Buckeye trail passes through the park on it's long 1400+ mile journey around the entire state of Ohio. Anyone up for a real long run?

After leaving the park I headed South for about 30 miles until I came to the Ohio river at Aberdeen Ohio, with Maysville Kentucky on the other side. The river was swollen from all the rains and an amazing amount of debris was washing downstream. I took Highway 52 West from here back in the direction of Cincinnati. This is the same Hwy 52 that passes through NC from the Virginia border , into Winston-Salem and on South.

Lots of nice sights and views as the Hwy meanders along side the mighty Ohio River. I stopped along the way at another historical park, the site of a village that was built for the families and workers of one of the many locks that were on the river from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi. This one was called Chilo #34. Several of the original buildings remain including the power house which is now a museum and of course it is closed on Mondays. The locks here were replaced when a newer and more modern dam was located about a mile downstream and the area where the locks and the promenade were located is now under 30 feet of water.(A few more feet on this day with the flooding).

My next stop was the birthplace of U.S. Grant in Point Pleasant. And of course it is closed on Monday and Tuesdays. It is a very small white wooden home with an interesting story to it. You can read it on a placard that I photographed. They have a small park along the river here and although I was a bit tired and sore from the marathon I wanted to get in a little run and this looked like a good place to do it. Most of the area you are either running flat parallel to the river or if you head away from the river you have to do a lot of climbing up the bluffs. I was hoping to avoid the hills so with Big Indian Creek flowing into the Ohio here I thought maybe I would run on the road beside the creek.

It was about 82F but no humidity and as I hoped the road was a very gradual climb with some flat and a little downhill. I felt ok and was glad I chose this route to run. Not far along a small creek passed under the road several times and it was one of the prettiest I have ever seen. It is called Col Colzater Run and is named after one of the first trappers/explorers that settled in the region. The creek flows in little falls over the shelf of layers of sedimentary rock until it flows into the larger Big Indian Creek a mile before ending in the Ohio River. After my run I drove back up the road to get a few pictures before heading back to Cincinatti and a good nights rest.

Here is a link to all the photos I took on this day.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Catch Me If You Can 5k, Garner NC 5-9-2010

I really hadn't planned to run this race this year mainly because I didn't think it would be too smart to race a 5k just a week after the Flying Pig Marathon. However, after a couple of easy running days and a day off for a massage, my legs have actually felt very good this week so I began to consider maybe going anyway. Other than feeling good I actually had a couple of other good reasons to go. Number one is that the race is held 2 miles from where I grew up and Mom and Dad still live in the same house so it is convenient for me to come race, and then go to church with them for Mother's Day. And two, I get a free entry since I work part-time for the sponsor giving out the awards cards, The Athlete's Foot -Cameron Village.

The race is three years old now and I have run each year. The race has been lucky to have nice weather each year. Just yesterday we had a very warm muggy morning but today was in the mid-50's and lower humidity, perfect conditions for racing.

I arrived in plenty of time to get in my usual warm-up routine so I was very relaxed. I have had several of my usual running friends here each year but none of them showed up this time around for various reasons. I did get a pleasant surprise when I saw that Susan Karnatz was running. She has been mostly out of the sport the past 2.5 years due to having two fine sons with husband Tom but she has been training and getting back into shape. Also Gavin Coombs one of the very fast young men I work with at TAF and winner of the Tobacco Road Marathon was there to go for a fast time in the 10k.

About 166 of us lined up for the start of the 5k and since there weren't too many fast looking runners I lined up right near the front. Once we started Sue,took off like a rocket. I felt I was going fast enough so I let her go and stuck to my plan. I couldn't believe how good I was feeling in the early going. It is flat and slightly downhill so you can really get a good start. I never saw a sign or mark when I got to the area I thought should be the one mile mark, and when I checked my watch I saw nothing that looked right and I thought I must have pushed the wrong button at the start. Oh well , I would just have to run by feel but I doubt it would have made a difference. I run by feel anyway but like to have some feedback on my pace. I had passed Sue just before this and she wished me luck.

Just after the one mile mark the course climbs a little hill and the next mile is gently rolling. About halfway , I looked down at my watch and then I realized I just had it on the wrong screen and it was actually working. My overall pace there was about 6:57 and I still felt great. Mile 2 is at the top of a little hill and at that point I was at 14:00 so I had slowed down just a little over the hill. The last mile is mostly flat with a couple of small rises which slowed me just a little but as soon as I hit the top I was pushing hard again.

I passed several people in that last mile and was able to go strong to the end and held off a late challenge from a 32 year old guy, unlike getting out kicked two weeks ago in Asheboro. When I saw my time of 21:33 I was very happy to see more improvement over the past year. This was the 2nd fastest time I have run a 5k since the 1980's and the fastest since Oct. of 2005 when I ran 21:12 in the Selma Railroad Run. Despite coming in 10th overall and running this fast, I was 2nd in my age-group. That's OK though, I'll take the time and be very happy with it.

Sue was the overall womens winner and Gavin was the overall men's champion in a smoking time of 30:16.

So what's next? Well the plan is to hit the hills and get ready for the Boogie 50 miler next month. Strange to go from 5k to 50 miler? Well, it seems that most of best ultra times have come during marathon training and when I was running well at the shorter distances so we'll see. And maybe, I could jump into another 5k between now and then if the urge strikes me.

Here is a link to the race results

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Gettin' Jiggy with the Piggy

The big question on everyone's mind was how bad was the weather going to get? Rain was a given, but hopefully no thunderstorms and high winds to go along with it. The band of storms that had caused flooding and havoc in Tennessee looked like it might be heading our way.

We awoke about 4 am Sunday morning to a steady rain and about 62 degrees so being in no hurry to stand in it too long Karla , Frank, Jerry and I lingered a bit longer in the Millenium Hotel lobby before walking the 6/10ths of a mile to the start at Paul Brown Stadium on the riverfront. I had a disposable poncho just for the occasion and it was great to keep me warm as we finally headed down to find our places at the starting line. I had made the decision to race it after looking over the course so I wished my friends luck and made my way close to the front near the 3:20 pace group. I had no intention of running that fast but it seemed folks were reluctant to fill in the space and I didn't want to get trapped behind a lot of slower runners with a crowd of 18,000 in both races.

There was some lightning in the area but the race was in direct contact with the weather service and with assurances that the severe weather would stay well to the south of the city, the race began on time. Despite the large crowd, I was able to run without any problems early other than dodging a few idiots that were walking who had lined up at the front and one woman trying to avoid getting her feet wet ( in the pouring rain !) nearly bumped me off the course. My plan was to take it easy until things thinned out a little bit and soon enough I was stepping onto the bridge heading over to Kentucky and the one mile mark which I hit in 9:30. Not too bad with the congestion so far and now I was able to run at my on pace.

I guess I picked it up too much and passed mile 2 in 7:55 so I quickly backed off the pace and settled into a relaxed but steady run. Our visit into Kentucky was a short one and we hit the 3 mile point as we began climbing up the bridge back to Ohio. It was here that a runner from Raleigh named Jim came up and began talking to me. He was a lot younger and a bit faster but like me was planning to wait until we got over the HILL before pushing the pace so we stayed together for most of the next 8 miles.

By now I was settled into pace and was enjoying the sights around me and the large cheering crowds in town that had come out and braved the rain . By now the rain had slacked off quite a bit and would just be an off and on light rain for most of the remainder of the day. Actually the rain felt good and helped to keep the temperature down and allow for a faster pace than if the sun had come out.

A quick mile through downtown on 7th street and everything was going along perfectly. Now with the HILL looming just ahead I should get a real test of how the day was going. My plan was to just take it easy going up and pretend I was just on a training run in Umstead. Jim and I were taking about just that as he trains out there regularly too. The real climbing begins just at the 6 mile mark and my time was just :33 seconds off of my goal pace for a sub 3:45 for the day. The good thing about the climb is it is never very steep and every half mile or so it levels out a little bit and there are even a couple of very short downhills to break it up a little.

At mile 7 I felt fine and was satisfied with the time and at 9:27, the slowest mile since mile one. I high fived Elvis there at the Krohnn Observatory and then crested the first part of the hill and entered into the little park and overlook of the Ohio River below. This was one of the breaks and I felt great. The worst of the climb was already behind but it would still be an uphill for about 2 more miles. Mile 8 was 6:55 and although I forgot to hit a split at 9, my average for 9 and 10 was 8:30, so I was right back to goal pace now as we began running mostly downhill.

I was still holding back some even with the downhill and was planning to wait until halfway to pick it up some and see just how fast I could go. This course seems to be ready made for running a negative split and that's what I was intending to do. Then just before the 11 mile mark there is a slight incline and then the course makes a sharp left turn up a steep hill but it is only about half a block long. But that's when I knew something was wrong. Jim begin to pull away and I felt I had no strength to run up the little hill. Very strange. I had been drinking plenty and was well hydrated, the weather was cool and I had already had a couple of gels so where was my energy suddenly?

The next few miles are predominately downhill but the best I could do was about 8:50 pace. No matter how I tried to pick it up. I had no zip in the legs. I can usually run this fast or faster on my training runs at home and here I was just nearing the halfway point and I couldn''t run goal pace going down a hill !!!!

The half-marathon point is on a sweet gradual downhill and I passed it in 1:53:11, Just 41 seconds slow but I was already slowing more instead of picking up the pace. I wasn't too worried just yet. It is still mostly flat or downhill and the energy level does return sometimes in these things for me so I just tried to relax and keep going as fast as I could comfortably run. Several more miles passed by an still I could run no faster than 8:56 -8:57. I then accepted that there would be no fast time for me today but hopefully I would be able to maintain what I was doing and hang on for at least a 3:50 or so.

And then when I knew I had nothing but downhill for a few miles after the 18 mile mark the wheels started coming off quickly. A 9:55 mile and the race was over for me. Now I was wishing I had just run with Karla for fun after all. I tried to keep my spirits up but the miles were passing so slowly now and finally at mile 21 , feeling like I was doing the Ultraman shuffle, I began to take walk breaks. Now I was running a while then walking backwards looking to see if maybe Karla was going to have a great day and catch up to me so we could run it in together. The difference between this and OBX though was that on that day I had gone out at a suicidal pace and blew up big time. Today I was just slowly deflating so at least my finishing time would be a lot faster and would be much less painful than in November.

The last several miles are back close to the riverfront and with about 3 miles to go I could see the Baseball Stadium where the race finishes. Wow, it sure looked a long ways away. I continued to look back for Karla now not caring about the time as each mile continued to be slower and slower and now even a sub 4 was beyond my reach. There is one last climb just before the finish and after one last look back and no sign of the Marathon Princess I dug in to get it over with ,picking the pace back up a little bit. The rain had come back a little heavier too and I was relieved to finally see the Finish Swine ahead.

My time was 4:06:44 and after getting my medal I waited just over the line under an overpass to wait for Karla. She finally came in at 4:22, after not having a great day but with a smile on her face.

Jerry would have a miracle race considering he had surgery last December and didn't start running again until sometime in February and was as happy as ever after a marathon. Frank had run the half but the hills slowed him down a few minutes over his normal time.

Despite the disappointing time for me, it was a great event. The have a great organization, great volunteers and everything went very smoothly. Even with the rain the city came out in large numbers to cheer us on. I doubt I return since there are just too many other things I would like to do, especially in April and May but I would recommend that everyone put this on there bucket list and do it once just for the fun of it.

Here is the race website with the results and some photos that show just how wet it was.

I didn't run with my camera for two reasons: I was planning to race so taking pictures would not be very easy and it was raining but I did take some pictures touring the course and a few others around town. Here is the link to the pics

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Time to get my oink on

It's a bit odd I guess that I ended up coming to run this marathon. I usually don't travel this distance for one, usually saving my travels for ultra's with the exception of Boston. I usually don't go for urban marathons with big crowds either, preferring smaller low=key races. I know that Karla and I had talked about this one a few years ago because it looked like fun and she really liked the cute Flying Pig theme. Years went by and nothing else was ever mentioned.

Late last year as I was making our plans for trying to get our Boston qualifiers, I was going over the schedule at marathon . We had already chosen Tobacco Road as our primary choice but I was looking for a back=up just in case around this time of the year. So when I saw that the Flying Pig was around the first of May, and usually had cool weather I mentioned it to her and she was all for it.

So we signed up and here we are. Frank and Jerry are here too with Frank running the half and Jerry joining in , woefully under-trained in the full. Since we have both gotten into Boston I was debating with myself on how I wanted to run it. A part of me would love to run alongside Karla as I have done in 10 others and her first 50K. But I'm in good shape right now and focusing on the marathon so I also want to race it and see how fast I can go. I didn't make up my mind until this afternoon after Jerry and I drove over the course. It has a serious climb, from mile 6 to9 but is mostly flat or downhill on the remainder of the course. I'm going for it. No guts no glory right ? But I still wish I could run it with her. She will be deciding after she gets going whether to go for her pr. Either way it looks like we'll have a lot of fun.