Monday, May 25, 2009

No Bull

This is no BS.  Yesterday six of us got up really early and ran a beautiful 16-mile segment of The Finger Lakes Fifties Ultras course in The Finger Lakes National Forest in Hector, NY.  I happened to be leading the way at about  the 10-mile mark and when I looked up I was staring at a gi-normous black bull that was blocking the trail staring right at us and not looking too terribly afraid of our lively pack of ultra runners (we all are pretty damn skinny anyway!).  I must admit that I stopped and relinquished the position of lead runner and was scoping out some possible trees to climb if he decided to make a charge.  I doubted that would happen though and Michael ran toward him flailing his arms and yelling and he reluctantly moved on crashing through the woods.  As we continued by I congratulated the bull for escaping somehow and told him to run for his life..."You're freeeeee.....runnnnn!!!!!! Enjoy!!!!"  

In all seriousness I don't know how he got out because we made sure 
to securely fasten all the gates as we traversed some of the course's cow pastures (even the motto for the race is "Don't let the cows out!"). This course is very unique and it borders and runs through beautiful rolling green pastures that overlook Seneca Lake.  It is a nice mixture of single-track trails, pastures, gravel road, and snowmobile trails.  In 2007 this was site of my first ultra and I really enjoy being out in these woods as it is only 30 minutes from home. This year the race falls on the 4th of July and I hope for it to be my next ultra (50k at least...hopefully the 50-miler) as I rehab my injury.  I felt very good this week and this long run really boosted my confidence as I am building back up.

You can learn more about the event on Race Director Christine Reynolds' blog HERE
or at The Finger Lakes Runners Club website under race calendar HERE

So I looked up the symbolic meaning of a bull since I am an omen kind of guy and came up with this:  "The bull is a much-revered among Celtic animals, with several different translations. Mostly, the Celtic bull symbolizes of strong will, uncompromising, and even belligerent the bull stands for unbending, stubborn personality traits – leading up to the term "bull-headed."
I like to think that this bull symbolized the strong will, stubborn, "never say die" attitude needed for ultra running.  In fact one of the people that was with us yesterday was Nancy Kleinrock who decided NOT to give up at mile 20 of a 30-mile race on a hot humid day just the day before.  I know you don't believe in omen's Nancy but...hey...pretty cool huh!?  Way to be bull-headed and finish Highland Forest!

On a different and more sad note I would like to pay tribute to a friend that we lost on Saturday night.  Diane Sherrer who was a sports writer for the Ithaca Journal and Star Gazette and Finger Lakes Runners Club member passed away Saturday evening as she finally submitted to lung cancer.  I got a chance to meet Diane over the last couple of years as she interviewed me for articles and hung around races.  She was such a warm and endearing woman and a brave soul. We had a bond because we were both SUNY Cortland Red Dragons and I can still hear her telling me..." are a champion".  She will be sorely missed in this area but her enthusiasm and passion will live on.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finding a Place to Call Home

A lot of exciting changes coming up and this past week was spent exploring the wonderful city that is going to be our future home: Portland, Oregon.  The closer that we are getting to re-locate the giddier I am getting about all the amenities Portland has to offer.  This week I got a quick glimpse of the energy, lifestyle and culture I’ll be plunging into in like two months.  I’m definitely going to miss Ithaca, my family, and the community that I’ve been a part of for the last five years but the time has come to move on.

Other reasons my spirits have been lifted this past week are finishing my classes and finals, and the fact that I have been upping the ante on my running.  I am feeling like I am getting back some of the fitness I lost during my one month hiatus and I am not showing any signs of the iliotibial band pain returning.  (Knock on wood!) However, I am making sure that I don’t jump back into it too aggressively as I have read that this is a very common mistake for people like me.

Tuesday we flew into Portland and checked in to the hotel and got situated.  One of the main purposes of this trip was to try and find a place to live for August 1. We lined up some appointments from Craigslist and had a pretty packed schedule for this short Tuesday through Saturday morning visit.  Wednesday we checked out a townhouse that is in an ideal location.  It is two blocks from Washington Park (which connects to Forest Park which contains like 70 miles of trails!) and close to downtown, Portland State, grocery, etc.  This was our favorite place even though we really like fellow ultra runner Olga V.'s the way...thanks for taking the time with was a pleasure to meet you and we'll see you soon!

Anyway, we haven't set anything in stone yet and are waiting on some answers but it's good to know that we have some solid options.

Wednesday I did an out and back 7-mile trail run on the Wildwood Trail from Pittock mansion in the rain...(It was a characteristic Pacific Northwest day but once I got warmed up the rain felt great!).  Thursday I hit the Wildwood Trail from a different location.  This time I went from above Hoyt Arboretum and headed down toward the Pittock mansion and back...good for 8 miles.  Thursday I headed over to the Leif Erickson Trail and did a speed workout running 9 miles at a 6:07/mi. pace.  Wednesday and Thursday were epic in terms of the weather and we are so enthralled that this trail runner's wonderland could potentially be basically our back yard.

Read more about Forest Park by clicking HERE

The next two weeks I will be doing some teaching practicum work at Boynton Middle School and Ithaca High School.  The days are flying by and I am trying to enjoy this area as much as I can while we are still here.  I'm thinking that if all goes well that my next big race will be on the 4th of July at the Finger Lakes Fifties Ultras just a few miles down the road.

Happy Running!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thom Bugliosi Trail Run

(Picture of Thom Bugliosi...local trail runner enthusiast that died at age 31 who inspired this trail run to start several years ago)

I was registered for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler (Bear Mountain) today May 9, 2009 but due to an iliotibial band injury several weeks ago I was forced to "eat" the registration fee and rehabilitate my leg.  Sometimes we make all these plans but we really never know what's around the corner.  

I have been working really hard to get my body back to running.  Between laying off running (which was probably the most difficult), working with Dr. Gerrit, and stretching/strengthening/cross-training I started seeing some real progress in the last couple of weeks.  

So this past week consisted of:

Monday: very easy 4.5 miles on Cayuga Trail (mostly flat single track)
Tuesday:  5.5 miles in Water Works forest in Cortland with a couple faster miles in the middle- 7:15/mi. pace (flat, slightly rolling)
Wednesday: easy 6 miles in Cass Park (pancake flat bike path)
Thursday:  rest
Friday:  7 miles on Black Diamond Trail at a 7:00/mi. pace (flat grassy, single track) 

I was pretty happy about the way I was feeling after these runs so I made a calculated risk and jumped into the Thom B. 13k trail race Saturday morning repeatedly telling myself that I was not going to go all out.

My brother and his family picked me up and we made our way to the beautiful Hammond Hill State Park which is only a few miles away from us.   I know the trails pretty well not only from training there but from doing this race the last couple of years.  I saw many familiar faces and maybe some perplexed ones too when they saw me registering for the race knowing that I've been on the injured reserve.  I saw the usual suspects that like to hammer this course...Eric S., Garrett W., Earl S., Ian G. and re-emphasized to my brother that we would not be running with these guys today...just let em' go!

Joe R. took over the RD role for Evan K. and gave us a cowbell start.  It was really muggy...probably around 70 and gnats galore!  The race starts with about a 300 foot climb up a rugged dirt road then turns sharply into the woods.  Then it meanders up and down through gorgeous landscape.  I love these trails this time of the year with the flowers blooming and catching some nice views because the trees haven't filled in their leaves yet.

So...I did let the top three guys go and I ended up running with Ian G. for a little bit...good to see you out there Papa's been a while.  Although I must say he hasn't lost much speed because I had to let him go as well.  Then Brian L. passed us but I was totally content just settling into my nice pace and focusing on not overdoing it.  As we got the first couple miles under our belts I could realize that I did lose a significant amount of fitness during my time off but it was so frickin awesome to be running fairly fast through the forest...I love it!!!!

Mile 4.5 or so I was able to catch up to Brian L. and we chatted a little and I picked it up but not before getting passed by a guy from the Syracuse Chargers running club.  I ended up running the rest of the race solo shortening my stride on the downhills and really paying attention to how I was feeling.  Besides some burning in the lungs and lactic acid in the legs I felt goooood!  So comforting to not feel anything... I was in a great mood for the rest of the day!

I ended up coming in fifth place overall in 57:24.  The results will be up HERE soon.

Good to see everyone out there this weekend!  I'm off to finish some school projects, take a final on Monday then Portland, OR early Tuesday morning.  Gotta find some cool running spots out there this week...I mean...a place to live for Aug. 1st!

Quote of the week:  "Do not ask what the world needs. Instead, ask what makes you come
alive. Because what the world needs is more people who have come
alive.” --Thurmond Whitman

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tri for the Y- "A Family Affair"

The first Sunday in May...just about that time for the annual Ithaca YMCA sprint distance triathlon.  

Swim:  400 meters in the pool
Bike:  15.7 miles rolling hills 
Run:  4.7 miles slightly rolling

I have done this race a couple times (placed 12th overall last year) and it is so fun to get out there and see friends and test your fitness after the long winter.  This year, however, it was different...for me anyway.  Injury has temporarily sidelined me from racing but just about everyone else in my immediate family suited up and I was to be "Coach!"  It was an honor and totally awesome to have us all together in an environment that I love so much. 

My brother Jamal decided in January that he wanted something to focus on throughout the winter and thought that this race would be a good first triathlon.  It is a popular beginners tri for many including myself four years ago.  For Jamal, with two young daughters and another child on the way, training was a bit more challenging and he probably didn't get as much triathlon-specific tuning as he would have liked, but is still and always has been very athletic.  OK... more on him later.

After having my mother helping out in my first 100-mile trail run last fall she decided that she wanted to get back into swimming.  She wasn't too keen on the bike or the run (yet) so she thought of creating a triathlon team.  I told her to just worry about her part and we'd find the other two participants.  Over the last several months she re-awakened those muscles that she used for her high school swim team and was a pool rat in her local facility slowly but surely building endurance and speed.

I thought it would be cool if we got more family members involved so I suggested it to my sister and to my fiancee Erica.  I knew that Erica would be up for the bike with us living so close and her being in relatively good shape. However, my sister lives in Pittsburgh and honestly I don't think she exercises that often...(didn't use to exercise that often I should say!)  So the closer we got the more they reassured that they were in.  Now we had to come up with a team name.  After a few suggestions by people Erica finally came up with the team name "Yassine's Angels" (after Charlie's Angels) and the fact that these three are the women in my life!...everyone agreed ;0)

OK! fast forward to race day morning...5:30 wake up call from my annoying yet effective little device and minutes later the Gimmee coffee was brewing.  I picked up Acmae at 6 and told my family I would meet them down at the Y for the 6:45 pre race meeting and to get everything situated.  It was fun being the coach and sharing my experience and tips!  Everyone was a little nervous but we tried to maintain a "fun, no pressure, do your best" type attitude.

8am-- time for the heat in which my mother and brother would be sharing a lane.  How funny! and convenient.  Off they went as we all cheered them on from the muggy pool.  They had to complete 8 laps before exiting the side door to run out to the transition area.  Jamal was a couple body lengths ahead of mom for most of the way and both were working really hard, sucking in large breaths of oxygen at times.  Coach was happy!  My sister in law Daura showed up with my two nieces Lydia and Makana who both had home made signs for Dad and grandma.  Too cute!  Then the Salvato crew rolled in and we now had a nice entourage of supporters for the next couple of hours.  

Both finished the swim in respectable times in the 8-9 minute range and made their way outside to the bikes.  My mom passed off the bracelet to Erica and she was off for her journey pumping her legs out of the parking lot and up Graham Rd.  Jamal took a little while in the transition area but had to dry off and get situated before his excursion.  He was ready to go and off he went clipping into the pedals and motoring up the little hill toward Dart Dr.  Now we had about an hour or so until we'd see them again.

At this point I focused on getting Nadia ready for the run.  We went into the gym to stay warm and I also had to wrap her bum ankle for her.  After that we did some calisthenics and stretched her out a little and I gave her some advice about the mental aspect of racing.  She thought of a mantra to say if or when it started getting tough and I reassured her to walk if necessary.
Right on cue Jamal came zipping around the corner and made a pretty smooth transition into the run.  He had a solid bike and was looking great as he headed out for his final leg of the race!  Erica was right on his heels with a stellar bike time herself and made the pass to Nadia.  So much action that I don't really get to see, and especially cool because it is my family!  

Now we have a little more down time to await the finish of Jamal's first triathlon and Nadia's longest run perhaps ever!  I knew Jamal would be fine but I was a little apprehensive about Nadia.  I just didn't want this to be a bad experience for her especially if her ankle started acting up out on the course.  

We all gathered around the balloons at the finish line looking at our watches guesstimating when they would arrive.  Then all of the sudden we see Jamal's bright yellow shirt turn the corner off of Triphammer.  By now I was kind of losing my voice but hooted and hollered as he got closer.  This was so inspiring to see.  I knelt down right behind the balloons and as he approached he launched a running jump through the line!  Awesome! rocked out in your first triathlon!

After congratulating Jamal on his performance and welcoming in other athletes something happened that really took me off guard.  I looked at my watch, calculated, and told Daura that Nadia would probably be coming in to the finish area in like the next 10 or 15 minutes.  Like seven minutes later someone yelled, "here comes Nadia!!"  WOW!  She came striding on down through the balloons and finish line with her hands in the air and a big smile on her face!  Thatta girl!  Way to represent...I guess it's in the blood!

What a memorable day!  Good clean fun with friends, family, and activity.  Can't beat it!  Great to see so many others perform so well too.  Acmae...well...1st overall woman...I don't need to say anything else....and Stephanie hammered that course too!  I saw many ITC members out there doing their thing, smiling, smacking high fives and recording fast times.  I witnessed a father son finish...a couple people well into the 70's, and parents riding tandem with their kid...some with a couple kids!  Great vibe...great event...Thanks Laurie and Frank so much for doing what you do with such a great attitude and all the volunteers that help make this happen.  

Now I'm really raring to get back out there! ;0)  

Recover well everyone and happy training!!!

Full individual results HERE 
Team Results HERE
The rest of the splits are HERE
Here are some pictures of Jamal and "Yassine's Angels"---Way to go everyone!  I'm really proud of all of you and blessed to have such a great family...Love you!