Monday, April 30, 2012

Glass City Tune-Up

The North Coast 24 is just days away.  Having done few long runs this year, I though I would get in my "longest" training run before the NC24 by running the Glass City Marathon in Toledo on April 22nd.  Toledo is an easy 2 hour drive from Cleveland.  In years past, I have just driven up the morning of the marathon.  This year, two friends joined me so we decided to make a road trip out of it and went to Toledo on Saturday night.

Since I last ran Toledo, the course has changed.  It could only improve because the old course was run on alot of roads with heavy traffic, not alot of fun.

Last year, the course changed so instead of starting and ending in downtown Toledo, the race started and ended at the University and in between meandered through neighborhoods before turning on a bike path and through parks a fairly flat race.  I would give the course a pretty good mark.  There were surprisingly quite a few people out to cheer on runners even though the race started at 7:00 a.m. and the race start temperature had to be in the 30s.

As the race got underway, I was trying to figure out if I should just lope along, try to run really hard or somewhere in between.  I fell in with the 3:40 pace group and thought that would be a good in-between group for me.

It was a bit crowded in the initial miles of the race as there were quite a few twists and turns.  Although I looked forward to the joke that our pacer told every mile, I decided around mile 7 that I needed to get away from the pack so I wasn't fighting to get into position to run the tangents.  I slowly pulled ahead and then kept waiting for the pace group to blow by me at some point.  I also decided to not watch my splits too carefully so I wasn't really sure how fast or slow I was going.  By the mid-point of the race, temperatures were about perfect although there was some headwind.  We apparently ran by Olander Park, which is the former site of many former 24-hour and 100 mile races... although we didn't run inside.

I finished the race at 3:38 so I was able to hold off the 3:40 pace group to the bitter end.  Not a huge race so I was able to get a first place finish in my age group - nice functional award that included an Asics gym bag, arm sleeves and socks.  Each finisher also got a glass beer stein (and nice medal of couse).  Due to the weather being pretty chilly at the finish, we opted to pass on the free beer (shocking) and instead went back to the hotel for a hot shower!  Now we'll see how prepared I am for the NC24!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Solitude on the Chippewa

Last weekend, I find myself back in Wisconsin visiting family with only
three weeks to go before the North Coast 24-hour National Championship.  I am a little bit stressed because I have gotten way behind on my training.... oh well, I end up having a few hours to kill and so go exploring on the Chippewa River State Trail.  The name is a bit misleading because it is not exactly a "trail," but a very nice asphalt bike path.  From the looks of things, it is quite new and very well maintained.  The west end of the trail starts in Durand, Wisconsin and ends up in the east at Eau Claire, for a total of 30 miles one-way of paved trail.

I start in Durand on a bright and sunny day.  The temperatures increase throughout my 20 mile run to the point of being downright hot.  What's up with that?  It is only mid-April.  It still should be snowing!!  The trail is completely flat. Apparently it is converted from an unused railway corridor.  Early on, the views are of fields and farmland.  Even though it is mid-afternoon on a Saturday, I see only two runners, a handful of bikers, two fishermen and one snake.  It is very quiet and peaceful.

After about seven miles of running, I see my first real glimpse of water - the Chippewa River.  The Chippewa eventually drains into the Mississippi River.  It was used heavily in the 1800s for logging.  Now, it's a popular river for canoeing.  Although I would like to keep going, I have to turn around at the ten-mile mark and head for my car.  Unfortunately there are no drinking fountains on the trail and I have brought no water with me.  I am parched.  I am tempted to jump in the river but decide to keep plodding along the path.  When I eventually get back to the trail head, my car is a welcome sight as I drive off in search of drinkable water!  Definitely though a nice way to spend an afternoon.  I will be back to see the rest of the trail as I missed the sandstone buffs that are further east.