November 30, 2009

The FOLEPI River Trail Classic

On Saturday morning I ran the FOLEPI River Trail Classic 4-mile race in East Peoria. This is a race that I had run once before (in 2003) and I liked it. This race is quite unique in that it is a point-to-point race which is almost entirely downhill (at railroad grade so it's not steep at all, just fast Fast FAST). Since we were in Peoria for Thanksgiving I decided to give it another shot.

As Melissa pointed out to me before the race, yes, I am running a marathon next weekend. I've done very little speed work this fall, instead focusing on long distance. Still, what's the worst that could happen?

Rob & Will before the FOLEPI River Trail Classic
Will and Rob pre-race

In my warm-up confusion I somehow caught the very last bus to leave the finish/registration area to head to the start. We arrived after the designated start time, though fortunately they waited. I hurried to the start line just in time to... stand around. After several minutes of waiting with little-to-no instructions a young woman (parade queen?) very softly said "Ready, set, go" at which point, I assume, the race started. I wasn't really sure. My GPS had turned off during the long wait, so it was just as caught off guard as I was. I eventually got it going about 50 seconds into the race.

Every race has a handful of people who want to start at the very front who really have no business starting at the very front, and this race was no exception. In fact there seemed to be a greater number than usual, as it took me quite a while to pick my way through. I thought this would do well to slow me down, but it didn't so much. The first mile was completely flat (the only flat part of the course) and I kept reeling in the fast starters. I crossed the 1-mile mark in 5:32. Hey, that's the fastest mile I've run in probably six years. And I still had nearly an entire 5K race left to go.

On the one hand I thought I was probably going too fast. On the other hand I knew the next three miles were all downhill. That would help, but would it be enough? Instead of easing back I pushed on. I reeled in a few more fast starters with a 5:38 second mile. I hadn't slowed down as much as I expected, but it took a lot out of me.

The third mile was much the same, slowing down a little bit to 5:43. As soon as I crossed the 3-mile mark a couple guys I passed earlier passed me back. Uh-oh. I was slowing down and the trail was starting to flatten out a bit. It was all I could do to not completely crack in the last mile. It wasn't pretty, but I eked out a 5:51 4th mile. There were a few more runners hot on my heels by the finish, but nobody else passed me.

Rob finishing the FOLEPI River Trail Classic

So, I'm guessing my final time was somewhere in the ballpark of 22:44. Sure, it was mostly downhill, but still not bad for very little speed work. We left for Thanksgiving with my family right after the race ended, and the results haven't been posted yet, so I don't know my placing. Melissa and I both estimated somewhere around 15th place or so. In 2003 I ran 22:24 for 6th place, so the competition was much stronger this year. Anyway, I like this race for the sheer novelty of running three miles downhill, if nothing else.

Update: The results have been posted. I finished 15th overall (good estimate) and 2nd in the 30-34 age group.

November 25, 2009

The Super Secret Storage Room

When Melissa & I were looking for a house we were intrigued by the "bonus storage room" listed for the house we eventually bought. This is an unfinished room above the garage that happens to be quite large (24' x 8'). The terminology for this room has evolved from bonus storage room to extra bonus storage room to extra secret storage room to super secret storage room and all other permutations of these words. In fact, I'm not sure we've ever used the same name twice.


Anyway, it's a great room, in that we can store lots of stuff in there. Conversely, it's a horrible room that allows us to accumulate lots of stuff and cram it in there with no organization whatsoever. Hoping to allow for better organization I started building shelves in this room about nine months ago.

Storage room shelves

This morning I finished.

What, it's not like I haven't been busy.

Storage room shelves

Anyway, the shelves are 24' long and stretch all the way down one side of the room, and they include an 8' work bench.

November 23, 2009

The Thorn

If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them. -Born to Run

The Tecumseh Trail Marathon is coming up on December 5. Rather than the typical 16-week training program I would follow for a big road marathon, I adopted the less conventional 5-week crash course training program for this race.

I ran this race last year and it was incredibly difficult. The course is very hilly, with thousands of feet of ascents and even more of descents (it's a point to point course with a net loss in elevation).

I'm not terribly worried, for a few reasons.

I feel no pressure. This isn't like the 2001 Chicago Marathon or 2009 Illinois Marathon, where I worried about the race for months and choked on race day. This is more like the 2008 Tecumseh Marathon or 2009 Rockford Marathon where I didn't concern myself with place or time and just went for a run. Those were two of the best races of my life.

I feel better on the long runs than I ever have before. This is fairly surprising given that I took the summer off from running and ran only short distances in the early fall. By mid-October I decided to push myself and run 11 miles (the farthest I had run in 5 months) on the Allerton trails and I was sore for a week. Somehow things just magically came together.

Since the Allerton Trail Race I've alternated long runs at Lake Mingo and Forest Glen, running 14.2 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G., then 21.3 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G. These are 2-3.5 hour long runs on fairly challenging trails, yet the miles have passed so easily for me... easier than they ever have before.

Forest Glen Trail
Forest Glen 11 mile loop and 5 mile loop

Lake Mingo Trail
Lake Mingo 7.1 mile loop

The past month or so I've been paying a lot more attention to my diet, eating a lot more higher quality, natural, unprocessed food--lots and lots of vegetables and fruits. My blood pressure has dropped noticeably, I've shed a couple of excess pounds, and I don't feel like crap after meals.

I've drawn a tremendous amount of inspiration from reading the book Born to Run. It's incredibly well written and covers everything from history and science to tips on form/training/nutrition/life, all while building up to the story of the "greatest race the world has never seen." I couldn't put the book down and when I finished I read it again. I haven't felt this hungry to be out on the trails since I was in high school.

The only thorn in my plans so far has been, literally, a thorn in my foot. 9 miles into my 21 mile run last weekend I stepped on a thorn, which isn't all that rare. This thorn, however, went all the way through my shoe and into my left foot. I felt the pain and immediately hopped on my right foot until I could slow down and stop. At first I thought it was just poking me so I gave it a tug and the thorn broke off flush with the bottom of my shoe. Then I tried to take my shoe off, but that required sliding my foot out, which I couldn't do because the thorn was still stick in both my foot and my shoe.

After about five minutes of trying to get a grip on the fraction of a millimeter of the thorn still sticking out I eventually just shoved a stick in my shoe (like a shoe horn) and pried my foot away from the shoe enough to get the thorn out and slide my shoe off. It was fairly unpleasant. With the shoe off though I was able to pull the thorn out of it and continue on down the trail. I didn't know whether I'd be able to walk, let alone run. It was tender for a couple hundred meters then I forgot all about it. I ended up running 12 more miles before calling it a day.

I thought my problems were all over, but after the 45 minute drive home I couldn't even walk on it my foot hurt so bad. I limped all day Monday and even stayed home from work on Tuesday. By Wednesday I could walk short distances, and by Thursday it felt just barely not-horrible-enough to walk to work. By Friday the pain was virtually gone.

Now that this scare is over I'm headed full steam ahead. It's still early to tell what's going to happen at Tecumseh, but I feel pretty good about it.

"Don't fight the trail," Caballo called back over his shoulder. "Take what it gives you." -Born to Run

November 10, 2009

The Gift of Brownies

Simpsons episode CABF14, Trilogy of Error:
Homer: Oooo! Can I have a brownie?
Marge: They're for after dinner.
Homer: Oooo! Can I have dinner?

I am a brownie fiend. You all know it. I was fortunate to receive a very unique gift for my birthday a couple weeks ago, a gift certificate to an online gourmet brownie store (Vermont Brownie Company). I ordered a box of their Signature Brownies and a box of Peanut Butter Brownies.

Internet brownies

Oh. My. Goodness. Are they ever delicious.


The first couple I ate cold, directly from the fridge, and they were good. But then I started to microwave them for 25-30 seconds, which is so much better.

Anyway, I love the brownies. Thanks so much to Michelle, Mark, & Logan!

November 4, 2009

The Foliage

or as Marge Simpson would say, foilage.

Allerton Park entrance in autumn

Near Allerton Park

Vermont St.

Urbana High School

Iowa St.

Michigan Ave.

November 3, 2009

The End of October

Photo of the Day

October 2009 Photo of the Day


Fig's new hat

My running finally appears to be getting back on track. I had a decent race at Allerton. It's only three days into November and I've already run half of my total October mileage. I might as well run another marathon, right? Don't worry, it's a trail marathon (Tecumseh, December 5th) so it won't beat me up as badly. At least, that's the theory under which I am presently working.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January109.34 Mile1010.934 Mile
February55.83 Mile77.97571 Mile
March108.792 Mile1010.8792 Mile
April74.85 Mile89.35625 Mile
May64.5669 Mile97.1741 Mile
June7. Mile17. Mile
August16.3 Mile53.26 Mile
September39.78 Mile75.68286 Mile
October42.52 Mile76.07429 Mile
Total540.568 Mile668.19043 Mile


Rob headed to C4[3]

Yikes! 10 months into 2009 and I still have less than half the mileage on the bike as I did in 2008. I need to get on the ball here.

On the bright side, I bought a new bike frame for racing in triathlons and time trials. It's titanium and it weighs three pounds. Now all I have to do is buy the remaining components, assemble the bike, sell my old Litespeed (which you'll notice does not even appear in the table below, meaning I haven't ridden it a single time this year). Oh, and train so I don't totally embarrass myself.

October 2009

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi61.2 Mile163.825 Mile
El Fuego20.78 Mile120.78 Mile
Pocket Rocket45.25 Mile411.3125 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird91.97 Mile245.985 Mile
Total219.2 Mile239.53043 Mile

January - October 2009

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi566.35 Mile1294.39031 Mile
Big Red12.07 Mile43.0175 Mile
El Fuego75.2 Mile89.4 Mile
Pocket Rocket326.18 Mile437.58558 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird1730.17 Mile4142.1993 Mile
Total2709.97 Mile22512.0443 Mile


Yeah, I need a nap too

Unfortunately, the cold weather has kept me from walking as much with Will as I did during the summer. I have started walking to work a couple times per week in order to get a few extra non-running miles into my legs before this trail marathon.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
February3.75 Mile21.875 Mile
April8.51 Mile42.1275 Mile
May6.7 Mile41.675 Mile
June11. Mile33.66667 Mile
July29.52 Mile102.952 Mile
August35.02 Mile142.50143 Mile
September29.82 Mile122.485 Mile
October19.42 Mile92.15778 Mile
Total147.74 Mile592.50407 Mile