week four.

When I last did a weekly update, I'd hoped that the week ahead improved upon the week before.  When the sun rose on Friday morning, I still hadn't managed a single run in over a week's time.  Not good.

The upside was that I was certain that my cold/flu/whatever was fading into past tense and I was sure to get some mileage in after work.  I didn't appear to have given too much fitness away during my time off and so decided to sneak in as much running as possible over the weekend between time with the family and plenty of take-home work.

At mid-month I'd been on pace for a 120+ mile month and had logged three different double-digit distance runs.  By my standards, those were shaping up to be solid January numbers.  But, as aforementioned, I ended up on the shelf for more than a week and didn't run further than just over 8 miles at a single shot the rest of the month.

Still, I'm pleased with the momentum of the last few days and it was cool to crack 100 miles in a month that I've often struggled to stay focused or manuever around short days and winter weather to run effectively.

As to last week (including Monday of this week), here's the evidence:

Friday, January 28 - Long overdue afterwork run - Doe Run/Elm/Fairview/Meadow/Penryn road loop.
Saturday, January 29 - Solid afternoon run out Colebrook/Breneman/Back Run/Esbenshade/Fairview.
Sunday, January 30 - Met friends for pre-dawn run up to Eagle Rock on the Horsehoe Trail and the lower loop off of Pumping Station Road - check out the tortoise-like pace from post-holing in the snow!
Sunday, January 30 - Mid-day run at local R2T - glad to have Microspikes (pictured) on packed ice.
Monday, January 31 - Run to work to start the new week.
Monday, January 31 - Ran home through town and up Power Road.


present company.

Running a mile or two in the woods and still seeing the moon and stars peeking through the trees can be rather surreal.  It's a unique experience that is a nice one to share with friends.

On Sunday morning , I met Jefferson and John and we headed east on the Horseshoe Trail headed for Eagle Rock.  Because of the preceding week's multiple small storms, there were several inches of snow on the ground.  For the most part, the trail had already been broken, though the track was narrow because those who had come before us had stuck pretty closely to the initial path that had been blazed.  The higher we climbed the fewer footprints appeared ahead and more trail-breaking was required.

Each of us had our individual reasons to be concerned less by pace and more by simply getting a workout and enjoying the time outdoors.  In my experience, that's usually a healthy recipe for having fun in the woods.

The last moments of darkness hung in the air when we topped out at Eagle Rock.  I tried to coax the camera into taking photos in the limited light and, thanks to my rudimentary (at best) ability to manipulate settings, managed only a couple of successes and even those bore peculiar effects.

Moments after our arrival, the sun poked its head above the horizon and our headlamps became unnecessary.  With full fields of vision and the surer footing of a beaten path, we bounded swiftly down from the ridge top before post-holing through virgin snow on the climb up the neighboring ridge.

We completed our short run (about 5 kilometers) happy to have stretched our legs and spent time together.  In the parking lot we swapped stories about recovering from sicknesses and injuries.  We discussed the focus and dedication of elite athletes and mutually agreed that we wouldn't trade for their success if it meant being lesser parents, spouses or friends to those who contribute so much to our overall happiness.  Being able to get out and run on a regular basis, be it alone or with company, and enjoy ample time with my friends and family seems to me to be overwhelmingly successful.

I slid into the drivers seat of my car and started the engine with the dual goals of getting home to the girls and thawing out my beard.

As if the loveliness of the woods hadn't been enough, the sun rising over the farmlands outside of Manheim painted a beautiful landscape.

Even though it wasn't yet 8:00 and I had a boatload of work to get done before the sun would set that evening, it had already been a great day.


getting over.


That pretty much sums up my feelings on the passage of time between the middle of last week and the tail end of this one.  A sickness of some sort that had trickled down from Piper Bea through Lindsay and into me laid waste to my energy and enthusiasm for doing much of anything, be that going to work, sneaking in a run or simply remaining awake.  Grieving the death of my grandfather, juggling work demands and managing to shovel out a driveway that I've firmly decided is too long made things that much heavier.

Lily diligently prompted me each morning with a "better today, Dad?" and was repeatedly disappointed by my listless responses or grunts of negativity.  She did her best to remain positive, offering me this hope to cling to:

"Maybe by Summer you'll be better."

Oh, how I hoped I could beat that prediction.

The work week drew to a close without my having managed even a single run.  After punching the clock and before heading home, I found myself with a short window of time to see what my legs could muster.  In the first mile I lived with dread over what may have become of my cardio in the last 10 days, but after a few minutes I realized that little lasting harm had been done. 

Relieved, I picked up the pace slightly to see if I had any kick at all.  I didn't have much, but things could have been far worse.  I settled into a comfortable pace and marveled at the beauty of darkness stacked upon the shimmer of snow-blanketed farmland.  Periodic black ice demanded my attention, but otherwise my mind was free to wander and feel thankful for the blessing of relative good health that may not be strong enough to fend off every virus but at least allows me to recuperate fairly quickly afterwards.

I eked out 5 miles in just over 40 minutes which mattered only in that it meant I'd still be punctual for the Ethiopian meal that Lindsay had promised to pick up.  I arrived home just moments after the food did.

Lily was quite pleased to find that I'd snapped out of my lethargy and Piper was excited to see Lily excited.  We decided to mark the occasion by taking photos of us taking photos of each other.

Mom and Pipe had a look at Lil's photographic evidence...

...that Dad was no longer in a prone position.

I feel certain that even better days are ahead even though Summer is still a long way off.


week three (a/k/a a weak week).

I managed three decent (though short) workouts early in the week, but my GPS conking-out just before the very end of the last of these may have been foreshadowing that the remaining days would get away from me.

Bad weather, a towering task list at work, the arrival of a headcold, a death in the family and poor nights of sleep as a result combined to convince my legs (and my mind) that they were tired. 

Somewhere during the week I read an interesting article addressing overreaching vs. overtraining.  In an attempt to remain positive, I can at least reflect on the week knowing that if I'd been guilty of either (my pace did seem to be dragging as of late), the last few days should've been some relief.

Hopefully the week ahead will look very different than the one just passed.

Monday, January 17 - Cold run home from work - pace suffered from wind and the efforts of the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18 - Ran well where/when I was able, but ice and traffic-dodging made for a slow trip.

Wednesday, January 19 - Ran further than the Garmin attests - battery bonked somewhere in the last mile.

sins of the father.

Today we buried my father's father.

Ten years ago we'd laid his youngest son, my father, to rest.

Much as I did while seated at my dad's memorial service, I found myself pondering unasked questions and wondering why emotions run so strong and so near the surface only when there no longer exists the opportunity to share them with the source.

I listened as my uncle shared touching and heartfelt recollections of my grandfather's sacrifices, his humor and his love for people.  He was right.

While I listened, though, I wondered why grandchildren and great-grandchildren had had so little opportunity to experience these attributes first-hand.  As kids, we hadn't had any say in the matter and embraced the little time granted without further consideration.  But as adults and, eventually, parents ourselves, we hadn't made any greater effort to seek out the company of a man from whom we'd accepted a certain degree of detachment.  We bemoaned the lack of closeness and loved the man in spite of it.  I did, at least.  But proactive steps to diminish the gap were not taken.

And now the chance to take those steps is gone.

I hope that Lily and Piper are decades removed from having to give account of how their parents provided for them and of the lives their parents led. When reporting that their father loved to run and immensely enjoyed hiking and camping with his friends, may they not believe those activities to have been pursued at the expense of the time and attention owed them.

May they never question if they were loved or that they mattered most of all to their mother and father.

They are and they do.


horseshoe daydreams.

The work week has begun and I'm on the road again.  Or, rather, I'm back to running back-and-forth to work on roads and sidewalks, wishing I was playing in the dirt.

Being there for the start of Lily's and Piper's day keeps the Horseshoe Trail just out of reach on most mornings.  A fair trade, for sure, but a good example of absence fostering a fonder heart.  As my feet pound the pavement on those runs to work, my mind stays busy replaying images of recent trail runs and conjuring images of those to come.

Images like these:

While this photograph doesn't offer much in the way of aesthetics, it marks the crossroads and parking lot from where any number of great off-road runs originate.  If you happen to see my car parked in this lot, you can be pretty certain that somewhere out in the woods beyond there's a smile on my face.

Last Saturday morning I followed an out-and-back section of trail that Jefferson turned me on to back in early Fall.  The last time we ran this section together, a heavy bed of leaves made it difficult to decipher if we were managing to remain on the winding and little used section of trail.  Running it in the snow without any sets of footprints put down ahead of me, I was questioning how I might manage to navigate.  Just as a I began to doubt that I was on the right path, a set of deer tracks appeared out of nowhere to confirm first that I hadn't strayed and then to escort me the rest of the way to the turnaround.

On a prior bulletin, I snapped a photo from Eagle Rock overlook, noting that due to the snow falling that day visibility was limited.  I paused at that same spot this past weekend and took another photograph and this time you can make out Blue Mountain off in the distance across the valley.  You can also make out, if you look closely, some frozen snot in my right nostril.

Snow and elevation change combined to my moving at a glacial pace.  On a day as beautiful as this day, who cares?  Not me.

This photo was taken from a high point on the Horseshoe Trail within Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.  These sections of the trail, where it overlaps with old fire roads, are some of my least favorite on most days of the year.  Add snow, however, and it's a different story.  The photograph looks northeast and somewhere on the ridgeline visible between the gap in the trees is the small house in which I spent the latter half of my childhood.

Thinking about that happy home on Texter Mountain (let's be honest, a wooded hill) brings back a host of other images to ponder on tomorrow's run.


week two.

This was definitely a week of ups and downs, days without any running, days with multiple runs (love those twofers) and, thankfully, a couple of long runs (per the clock, if not the mileage) late in the week.  We got some snow in the middle of the week which made roadwork sketchy at best, especially when trying to sneak in runs after the sun had set.  It also made trail work taxing but extremely rewarding (translation: fun. really, really fun).  The overall pace was laughable this week but it doesn't matter.  Breaking trail, fighting headwinds and bearing fatigue slowed me down but didn't put a dent in my spirits or my satisfaction in getting out and moving, moving, moving.

Here's the week that was:

Tuesday, January 11 - mid-workday road loop.

Tuesday, January 11 - post-work loop starting in Manheim Square and including some snowy hill repeats.
Wednesday, January 12 - mid-workday loop in snow and unexpectedly punishing headwinds.

Wednesday, January 12 - ill-advised PM run in deteriorating conditions - glad just to get home NOT run over.

Saturday, January 15 -an overdue trail run on the 3 Peaks route of (and around) the Horseshoe Trail.

Sunday, January 16 - return to the Horseshoe, this time between Middle Creek and Segloch Road (and back).

he'll be coming around the mountain.

While running on the Horseshoe Trail this afternoon I remembered that the camera tucked in the pocket of my jacket was capable of shooting video.

With the dual intent of finding out what the camera could do and seeing one of my favorite (though short) downhill sections from this part of the trail on "film", I took the footage that follows.  Despite revealing the sluggish pace I was managing today, hopefully the clip shows a little of why I find trail running exponentially more interesting than running on the road.


week one.

An innocent facebook status post (written about my last run of 2010) made me think that maybe I should make some effort to document my 2011 running efforts.  I've tried keeping running logs in the past but usually lost interest or tried to accomplish too much with them, noting all kinds of specific details I thought would help me improve my running but ended up just being noise.  This time around I'm going to try and keep things simple and, hopefully, remain interested while doing so.

Rather than charting performance or maintaining multi-columned spreadsheets, I'm just going to take a pic of the shoes I ran in, the face of my Garmin, the headlamp I was wearing during the run (if needed) and add a brief comment.  If I learn anything, great.  If I don't, at least it'll be interesting to see what shoes I turned to most often and be able to tally up the mileage.  So, here's week one of 2011 (plus the free-floating Saturday and Sunday to start the year that preceded the first full calendar week):

Saturday, January 1 - mid-day loop from home that included Power Road.

Sunday, January 2 - pre-dawn out-and-back on the Horseshoe starting at Colebrook Road and heading NW.

Tuesday, January 4 - pre-dawn start out-and-back on roads and the local rail-to-trail.

Tuesday, January 4 - post-work run home.

Thursday, January 6 - pre-dawn start round-about run to work to retrieve a vehicle and come back home.

Friday, January 7 - post-work Power Road hill repeats.

Saturday, January 8 - Horseshoe Trail off of 322, west of Brickerville.
This is a decent bit of mileage for me in the cold and darkness of January and a good continuation of where I was in December.  I hope to keep it up in the coming weeks and start building mileage late this month or early February to increase endurance ahead of Spring events.

My body feels good and all of my chilly fingers and toes are crossed.

snow business.

Two consecutive days of measurable (barely) snow lured me out to the Horseshoe Trail for a midday run on Saturday.  Admittedly, I'd have been headed that direction anyway but a couple of inches of snow made the prospect that much more inviting.

I even had a new pair of Patagonia Arrant Gore-Tex kicks to break in.

Another snow squall swirled as I pulled on my hat and zipped up my jacket.

I crossed over Hammer Creek and turned east on the Horseshoe Trail.  A few mountain bikes had clearly passed through earlier in the day, but otherwise there were no tracks to be seen.  Because of the snow, the footing was unusually forgiving but slippery and I didn't progress very quickly.  It was such a beautiful day, however, I couldn't have cared less.

A couple of right hand turns lead the Horseshoe to the top of the ridgeline before the trail bends back on itself and up to the overlook at Eagle Rock.

With snow continuing to fall over Lebanon Valley down below, visibility wasn't much more than a mile or two.  I couldn't make out Blue Mountain to the north where I'd head later that night with friends for a winter hike-in/camp out on the Appalachian Trail.  The short horizon didn't diminish the cold, crisp loveliness in the slightest.

I continued across the ridge top trail and began winding my way down, down, down towards Route 501 and Middle Creek Wildlife Management property beyond.  Wanting to watch my time and knowing that the snow base was impacting my pace, I decided to turn around at the bottom of the descent and climb back up the way I'd come.

On the way back up, I had a juvenile but motivating moment, passing another trail runner (I see few--as in almost none) on his way down the Horseshoe.  We were both grinning from ear to ear, offered brief words of encouragement without breaking stride and pulled off an instinctive, perfectly executed low five as we passed by each other.

My pace slowed further on the ascent back up to Eagle Rock but enjoyed every step.  Reaching level ground, my feet turned over more easily, my breathing stabilized and I pushed hard on the way back down towards Hammer Creek.  Instead of returning directly to the car, I hung a right and worked my way up the next ridge to the west, passing by the large rocks that lurk above the creek and then navigating back down the technical track that dumps back onto the lower portion of the Horseshoe Trail.  It had taken me over 53 minutes to cover a little more than 5 miles but I had a blast.

The Arrants proved heavy companions though I knew that would be the case at the outset.  The Gore-Tex lining kept my feet warm and dry, making up for carrying several ounces more per foot than I normally do.  They shed snow wonderfully and I suspect I'll turn to them on a few more occasions before winter is through, especially for running in snowshoes should we get some more significant snowfalls.

The beard, as usual, was not as successful in its attempts to shed snow.

As if I'd have it have it any other way.


last call.

The final daylight hours of the last day of the year were slipping away.  My had arrived to watch the girls while I snuck out onto the Horseshoe Trail for one final run in 2010.  I was moments from stepping out the door when Clouseau misunderstood Veterinarian Lily's waving of a tongue depressor with a too meek "say ahhh" command and ended up giving her a pretty scary double swipe to the face that barely missed delivering damage to her right eye.  I'd eventually soother her with two calming (though thankfully unnecessary) band-aids and gotten her to agree to my departing.

Pulling into the trailhead parking lot just off of Route 72 South, I glanced at the dashboard clock and realized that I had two hours of light left and I'd forgotten to pack a headlamp.  No time to waste, I fired up the GPS and headed up the abandoned but paved road on the far side of the gate and hoped that the yellow blazes would soon deposit me on unimproved terrain.  Nearly half a mile later I got my wish.

The next few miles wound through Governor Dick park lands on a path that wavered between technical and smoothed-over single track that allowed me to move briskly.  I passed a number of small access points that harbored parked cars but I never did see the people who had piloted the vehicles there.  Not that I minded.

Other than pondering Lily's near miss, I'm not sure my mind was terribly active with anything other than taking in the unseasonably mild weather, the rhythmic crunching of my feet and the periodic called complaints of woodland birds as I clambered by.  In other words, I was enjoying myself.

Crossing Pinch Road and entering into PA state game lands, the single track gave way to overgrown abandoned logging and fire roads, open meadows and woods-ringed farming tracts.  While not technical in the least, this portion of the run was a blast as I could push the tempo a bit without worrying about each footfall.

Reaching what turned out to be Colebrook Road, I peeked at my wrist and discovered that I'd traveled nearly 6.5 miles.  The sun was definitely riding low on the horizon but I decided to cross Colebrook and go far enough to ensure that I'd have covered half-marathon distance by the time I got back to the car.  I wasn't sure what time it was but I knew I'd need to maintain pace to finish with any light remaining.

On the return trip I was overcome with gratitude for the luxury of health and support at home that was enabling me to do what I was doing.  The shoes I was wearing had been Christmas gifts as was the camera I was carrying.  My boss had been generous enough to give all his employees the day off and my aunt had been kind enough to tend to her nieces so I could spend the time I was spending in the woods.  I silently thanked all involved and vowed to pass along my appreciation at each available opportunity.

Minutes passed swiftly and, relative to the limits of my abilities, so did the miles. I arrived back at the trailhead with a few moments of light to spare.

As far as running was concerned, the year was over.  Proof that it had been a good year, I would be able to step into 2011 injury-free.  I undid the laces on my shoes and grinned at the realization that I'd be lacing them right back up again in the morning.