The cup runneth over...

Every once in a while the sublime and the ridiculous collide. The result is something beyond words. To witness such an event and to then try to summarize it using pithy language and flowery adjectives is folly.  Any accurate description comes off sounding far more like hyperbole. 

To then push the limits and try to convince the reader that one not only witnessed said event as described, but then was immediately treated to an equally astounding event on the very next day... Well, hell. Might as well spin a yarn about the prize winning trout. So I'm going to do just that, because it doesn't matter if the fish was this big or that big, it's the time spent with the tale that's worthwhile.

We start in Ontario County Park, Naples, NY.

Part the first

... wherein the reader is asked to believe the tale of the inaugural Ontario Summit Trail Races by GOOSE Adventure Racing

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times.

Just out for a leisurely stroll through the woods, Photo Credit: Eric Eagan #TrailsROC

Just out for a leisurely stroll through the woods,
Photo Credit: Eric Eagan #TrailsROC

From the highest point in Ontario County, the course rolls through some grassy fields and gently flows under a beautiful green canopy. Upon entering the woods, the course, now a winding single track, careens through the trees providing views of fellow runners both ahead and behind then quickly drops into a fast, technical descent plunging deep into the forest, crashing through gullies and pleasantly depositing the runner onto the edge of a serene pond. After a meandering stroll through a few marshes and an opportunity to stretch the legs on the road for about a mile, it's time to get wild again. Hop off the road to quickly transition into a dizzying climb that takes one's breath away and then, just as it has been caught, takes it away again with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Finger Lakes region far below. Sigh, pant, gaze, wonder, or reflect... it's viewer's choice here. Personal epiphany concluded, time to open up that stride a little and get moving with a tour through the more frequented portions of the park on well-groomed gravel roads. A quick peek out of the trees, a glimpse of finish line and then back into the woods for more winding single-track fun. Greetings, well-wishes and cheering can be heard in the distance upon leaving the woods for the final time and heading towards the famed GOOSE Adventure ladder-supported finish line. 

For those exiting the ride here, they will be treated to good friends offering congratulations, all the cold beverages one can handle, among which is fresh craft beer that can be poured into the finisher's newly acquired custom printed pint glass, and a post-race feast including a spread of fully customizable Rochester Garbage Plate fixins. 

But not so fast! Gut-check time. Runner's can bail now and still receive the satisfaction and congratulations of a job well done, but those that choose to delay their gratification can have the opportunity to do it all again!

That's right. From the rolling fields to the careening switchbacks, down the furious descent and the daunting climb back up to the clouds for the million dollar view. It can all be experienced, enjoyed and cursed with a few simple steps forward after crossing between the ladders. 

Only this time, being deposited at the pond is not quite as pleasant and the climb takes away more than just the breath. The view at the top however, is more than twice as valuable. 

That was no leisurely stroll.  Photo Credit: Eric Eagan #TrailsROC

That was no leisurely stroll. 
Photo Credit: Eric Eagan #TrailsROC

The reward... a strong sense of accomplishment, a hearty and cheerful welcome from your friends and fellow runners, all the fixins at the feast, the pint glass AND a custom growler. 

If you can believe such a course and such a race exists, then you can believe that runners will have run it.

And about those runners... you can believe,

That a woman who was running her first trail marathon, crossed the finish line with a smile on her face waving her hands and thanking everyone for cheering for her as if she were a seasoned veteran. Sublime.

That a woman, at mile 4, had a misstep and assumed she had probably ripped off a toenail. 22 miles later (yes, choosing to go back out for the second time), after peeling off her dusty trail socks, she was greeted with deep, swirling hues of pink and purple engulfing her pinky toe and running up the side of her foot. The nail was there, but the toe was broken. Ridiculous.

That a man, who was deep in the course struggling through a rainstorm was picked up by the course sweeper (the fella tasked with closing the course.) No,  not picked up by being ushered off the course or into a vehicle headed back to the start. He was picked up by having his spirits lifted, by being with someone who knew what he was going through and why he was doing it. Maybe the sweeper also told him to get moving because the beer was getting warm. You and I shall never know. In that way, the sweeper was perhaps carrying a bit of his burden and encouraging him to his finish. His last place finish, that he was elated to experience, with the large group of friends waiting to congratulate him. Sublime.

More so, the group that organized this... they put over a year of planning and effort into this... and they're sole purpose for doing it was to provide a unique and fun experience where everyone felt welcomed and supported.  (Well... everyone except the marathon runners. The organizers weren't too concerned about their comfort on that second loop. After all, they're the ones that chose to go back out there.) Ridiculous.

And if you're still into this tale, then I'll ask you to believe that there is a an amazing group of people, volunteers they call'em, who willingly, with no coercion or bribery chose to use more than 8 hours of their time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, to stand all day and work for free. That's right, people giving freely of their own time and efforts to make sure that other people could have a great, life-affirming experience. Sublime.

All of the above is true. I know it to be so because I was there. I ran that course. Twice. I witnessed the hard work, exhaustion, joy, camaraderie, and caring all with my own eyes. I tell you, as sure as I am resting a custom pint glass of beer on my sore quads, it is an awesome feeling to be one of the 41 people to finish the inaugural OSTR marathon. 

Stay tuned for Part the Second wherein the reader shall hear of the Cayuga Trails 50. A story of perseverance and dedication, stairs and waterfalls, of friendship and burritos.

It's hard.

The writing. Not the running. The running has been going super awesome. But the writing... well. To say writing has been difficult would be a lie. Because in order for it to be difficult, I would have to be doing it. It is the starting of the doing that is hard. The sitting down, the actual fingers on keyboard. 

Once in the act, with the brain having finally accepted that this is thing we are doing, the words seems to come out okay. But as witnessed by the time in between posts, wrestling the brain and body into submission is the hard part about writing. 

It has been almost 3 months since I last wrote something on this website. During that time, I have ran 228.5 miles. 26.2 of which was the NYC marathon. Other notable miles include just under 20 being a Stage Race covering 3 races in two days and a 21:01 5K PR. There was also a Winter Half Marathon and three Snow Cheap trail races. So yeah, I would have a lot to write about, if I had been writing. I had countless opening paragraphs stream across my brow as I lay in bed or commuted to work. 

But I just couldn't sit at the computer and get started.

I suspect I may moved the boulder a little closer to the edge with this article and maybe now the writing will happen. 

The doing is the thing.

I guess that is no different than running though. When you feel like it has been too long since you've ran and you just don't know how to get started, just get dressed in your running gear. Put your shoes on and take the first step. It'll just happen.

Gravel for breakfast

Over the course of my training, I have developed a fondness for a small gravel hill that climbs up the side of Cobbs Hill reservoir. It has become one of my favorite things. It's not a particularly huge hill, but it does provide some challenge in that it is gravel footing and that we always do it at the end of a speed workout. 

Tomorrow's treat is 4 x 1200 followed by hills. 

My goal is the get the Strava CR for the hill segment (46 seconds.) My closest so far is 53 seconds. 7 is a lot of seconds.

But when you can be surprised what you can do when you eat gravel for breakfast.

Why do I run (part II)

Okay, so in reading and reading my previous post I realized it didn't even begin to capture the myriad reasons why I run. So I'm going to keep trying and maybe by the end of this blog, I'll have captured them all. In this Runner's World article, Dean Karnazes (The man who was a very large inspiration and helped me decide to run for Team Healthy Kids in the 2014 NYC Marathon) does an excellent job of describing a main reason I run the marathon... my favorite part, 

... There is no lying to yourself here, the Marathon sees right through excuses, shortcuts, and self-transgressions.

... You remain steadfast, knowing that you did not skimp, that you did not take shortcuts, that every footstep was earned through months of rigorous preparation and hard work.

When discussing my running with others, I will sometimes hear, "Isn't a marathon like 26 miles?!" and I  meet that semi-rhetorical question with, "Point-two. Twenty-six-point-two. You don't get credit if you only do 26." 

Why do I run?

I used to run back in High School, but I really had no idea what I was doing. I just ran as part of the school team. And I was barely passable as a runner. In fact, during some post-graduation conversation with my coach wherein I was commenting on how I thought I was finally getting it, he responded "Yeah. You could probably be an occasional recreational runner." 
... Hardly inspiring words for an admittedly un-inspiring runner. 

I stopped running somewhere in college. When asked, I answered, "I used to run"

Fast forward to my 30s and after a bit of Woe-is-me-I-never-get-out-anymore type whining,  I remembered that I used to run and that I loved it. Or maybe I was just frustrated and had no creative solutions. So I went for a few late night runs.

And it all came back to me.  

  • I remembered that I liked the feeling of earning my physical exhaustion rather than having it bestowed upon me.
  • I enjoyed those brief moments when my thoughts drifted and I wasn't thinking about anything in particular.
  • And that I liked that bit of tiredness in my legs that told me I went somewhere. 
  • I liked the solutions of long unsolved problems that simply popped into my head at the end of a run. 
  • I was crushing 2-3 audiobooks per month. And enjoying reading again (another hobby I "gave up" in college)

In short, I acquired some maturity and I developed an appreciation for what my body and mind experience when I run. And because of all that, eventually I began to cover greater distances and log more miles. 

I'm a runner. Sure, I may be recreational. However, I am anything but occasional.