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2010 – A Year In Review

img_5088What a year!  My life feels a lot like a dream.  I ran a hundred mile race with my future wife and we loved every minute of it.  We traveled to Utah for what used to be “my” annual trip west, which is now “our” annual trip west, to see the Utah crew and had an absolute blast.  I lost an amazing boss (he moved) and gained another.  We celebrated the marriage of our wonderful friends Brian and Kelly, Bill and Leslie, and Susan and Ryan.  We traveled to some amazing places to run on gorgeous trails with some of our closest friends.  We planted our first garden and ate food that we grew.  We spent some quality time with both of our families.  Speaking of family, and on a sad note, I lost my grandpa this year but feel extremely fortunate to have been able to attend a wonderful ceremony to celebrate his life and be closer to my grandma as a result.  We cut down yet another perfect Christmas tree and celebrated the season in style.

But, the highlight of the year, without a doubt, is that “she said yes”.  Paige came into my life a little over a year and a half ago and it was immediately apparent that she was more than special.  I’ve always been a pretty content person but she has complemented that in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.  I am more “myself” than I ever was without her.  I am happy in ways that I didn’t realize I could be.  I am more comfortable than I knew to even wish for.  I feel supported regardless of circumstance.  I have found my partner in life and it feels wonderful.  That is the highlight of a most amazing year.

All Is Quiet On The Blog Front

2010 SchmoopiesThe past month has been a blur despite my blog silence but… a good blur.  Since our recent engagement, my focus has completely shifted to all things wedding.  Yeah, it surprised even me.  What I can say is that it is wonderful and I am loving every second of it.  On top of that, we had a visit from our good friend Kalina.  Then we got  busy with the holidays.  Our holiday party season started out with the second annual Brelly shindig which, not surprisingly, was awesome.  Torey and Charlie hosted the CHUG holiday party the next week, their place was a perfect cozy setting to mingle with our favorite CHUGs and some new faces too.  Everyone brought fun eats to share and we had a white elephant gift exchange which landed me a CHUG ornament for our Christmas tree!  The following weekend, Ben and Sarah had us up to Marengo to help decorate the “shoe tree”.  We all brought a pair of old running shoes and after a delicious breakfast, we headed out to the tree.  The tree was more elusive than we expected and some of us had to toss our shoes multiple times before they found a branch to hang on to.  The next week lead us up to Christmas.  Friday, we headed to Iowa and to a huge amount of snow!  After a wonderful dinner followed by opening presents with my family, we went to see the Festival of Lights.  Then it was time to put on our snow clothes and play for a while.  Paige and I headed out to feel the snow under our feet.  The snow was deeper than I remember for a long time and we had a blast!  On Christmas morning, we made a quick stop at grandma and grandpa’s house before heading to see Paige’s family.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – the food was delicious and the company was great!  Christmas night, we opened our presents to each other.  Paige proved, yet again, to be the best Santa around!  Sunday turned out to be a productive but amazingly relaxing day.

That’s a quick recap of the past month. Somewhere in there, we bought our wedding bands (man, I can’t wait to wear that thing!).  I’m looking forward to getting back on a roll with my training and starting the new year on a healthy note!

She Said Yes!

Our First Dinner As An Engaged Couple

Our First Dinner As An Engaged Couple

Having waited as long as my excitement would allow me to wait, I reached out to our friend Sande Culhane to get the engagement ring buying underway.  Sande was the jeweler for Brian and Kelly and happens to also be Kelly’s brother-in-law’s sister.  After perusing hundreds of engagement ring photos, I narrowed it down to a dozen that I liked and sent them to Sande along with my thoughts regarding what I thought would be the perfect ring for Paige.  She took in everything I said, looked at all the pictures and with her incredible skill, she quickly guided me to the absolutely perfect ring.  From there, things unfolded very quickly and I scrambled to schedule an exclusive lunch with Paige’s father, John.  Lucky for me, John was available for lunch the next day and with the cover of “I have a random day off and wondered if you would like to have lunch tomorrow, just the two of us… and I’m not mentioning this to Paige,” we had our date.  Upon arriving at his office, I noticed that my predominate feeling was raw excitement rather than feeling nervous.  Sitting across from John, I wondered if he knew what was about to be asked of him.  Not by chance, the conversation quickly turned to my affection for his eldest daughter whom I intended to marry, with his blessing.  John’s response could not have been more warm or enthusiastically affirming.  With her father’s blessing, everything was in place.  After an amazing lunch, I headed home knowing full well that it would be only hours before I proposed.

That evening, as we walked home from work, Paige described a frustrating day at the office while I did everything I could to hide my overwhelming excitement.  “She has no idea what is about to happen,” I thought to myself.  Once home, I convinced Paige to sit with me on the couch for a minute to unwind from her day.  While sitting there, I opened my computer and played a slideshow I had prepared for the occasion.  The slideshow was set to music and incorporated pictures from our numerous adventures together including our very first meeting.  Paige seemed to be relaxing some as the slideshow ended and I moved forward with my plan by reaching behind the couch pillow, dropping down on my knee and asking if Paige would marry me.  At this point, you already know her response.

This past week has been sheer bliss.  We have had such an amazing outpouring of support from our friends, family and family-to-be, we could not feel more loved.  As I sit here looking at my fiance (I doubt I will ever tire of saying that) my mind wanders to a common thought that I’ve had throughout our relationship, “how’d I get so lucky?”

Volunteering At The Chicago Lakefront 50/50

sunriseLast weekend, Brian organized a group of CHUGs to man an aid station at the Chicago Lakefront 50/50.  Being the hometown 50 mile, we were all excited to help out and cheer on those CHUGs who were running the race.  We reported at 6:30AM and helped the early shift finish setting things up.  It was a good group with several new faces and lots of familiar ones, we were instantly having fun.  Late October in Chicago is especially unpredictable when it comes to weather and we lucked out, it was going to be a perfect day!  Our AS was at the four mile mark and with the race being four (I think) out and back loops, we got to see the runners eight times – so we kept busy.  After the first couple of waves, the runners spread out and then it was a steady stream all day long.

aid-stationI figured the first couple of times we saw the runners there needs would be relatively subdued since it was early in the race and the temps were cool but, to my surprise, most of the runners stopped and drank several cups of water and Gatorade and started eating right away too.  As the day heated up, the consumption levels went up proportionately and several times, we nearly ran out of water before the next delivery came – it was quite stressful but all worked out in the end.  Several CHUGs stopped by and spent a few hours throughout the day, it was great to see everyone.

Brian And Siamak Battling The Garbage

Brian And Siamak Battling The Garbage

A couple of things really struck me about the day.  1) I couldn’t believe the amount of trash that was generated by this one AS.  We had two very large trash containers full, two equally large recycling bins full, half a van full of boxes to be recycled, and a couple of garbage bags full as well.  I always carry a bottle when I run and therefore don’t use cups very often at aid stations but this was not the case for most people.  Even those that did have bottles often took several cups, it was a real shocker.  2) I was very surprised by how much work it was.  I have crewed and paced at ultras but this was my first volunteer experience – I have always appreciated the volunteers at races but my level of appreciation just went up by a factor of ten.

At the end of the day, CHUG Shan Riggs pulled off the win and set a personal PR.  Congratulations to Shan and all the runners who toed the line!  And, thank you to Brian for organizing the effort!

One Coffee Cup At A Time

mugshotI drink a lot of coffee and about a year ago, I decided to buy an insulated reusable mug.  There were a couple of reasons for buying it, it felt better in my hand than a flimsy paper cup, it kept drinks warmer longer, it has a secure lid that isn’t as prone to spilling, but the reason that pushed me over the $15 price tag was that it meant that I wouldn’t be throwing away a cup, lid, or sleeve every time I had a cup of joe.  Over the past year, I have carried that mug with me in my backpack everywhere I go – at work, on the road, running errands around town – and I can only guess at the number of cups that are still sitting on the shelves of Starbucks rather than being buried in a landfill but the number is definitely in the hundreds.  That’s a lot.  This post isn’t intended to be preachy, not at all, but it always amazes me when I think of the trash that we generate in a normal day.  Paige and I try to reduce, reuse and recycle but the reality is that even with those measures, the volume is high.  So, as I move through our world of disposable everything, I am on the lookout for simple things I can do to make a dent in my impact – this one was easy.

Javelina Jundred Documentary

Last year, I ran the Javelina Jundred and we had an absolute blast.  Today, a CHUG who is running this year’s race sent me a link to the below documentary that was shot during last year’s race.  It actually pretty short but captures the start of the race, a few characters who ran the race, some of the drama during the day, and a few of the finishes.  Once the credits roll, it goes to one final scene which is me crossing the finish line with Paige by my side.  Thanks Juan for sending me the link.

Planning For Next Year

As the season begins to wrap up with Glacial Trail last weekend and the Deer Grove FA in November, I can’t help to begin thinking about next year.  Several things are rattling around in my head as I weigh my options.  I really loved the Leadville experience and want to incorporate a major mountain race every season.  I want to do at least two hundreds with enough time between them to really sufficiently recover and then train again which means timing is important.  I would love it if there were some CHUGs going to the race as well.  I want to get back to Javelina soon.  I want to run one race with Paige.  My uncle Steve got bit by the “crew bug” and is chomping at the bit to have another go of it, so something that he can make it to.  There are so many races that we have done and loved, those are always fun to return to.  Then there is the money consideration – local races are much cheaper since no flight is involved.  Vacation time is another commodity that is in short supply (relatively) and local races take less time.  With so many things to consider, I haven’t gotten very far with my planning but here is what I’ve come up with.

I am going to put my name into the lottery for Western States.  If I get in, that will be my “big” race for the year.  WS100 is a classic race, a sort of Boston Marathon for ultras.  The course is legendary, the scenery is awesome, the location is close to Steve so he can easily make it, and the timing of the race is perfect – early June.  If I don’t get into WS100, I may look to Tahoe Rim Trail as a back-up plan.  It is in a similar location, very challenging course, beautiful scenery, and being in July, the timing is still pretty good.  Either of those races would allow me to pick a few spring races as “tune up” races with Ice Age Trail being high on the list for its course, the proximity to home and the great organization.  It would also serve as a perfect last long run for WS100.  Either of those races would leave me plenty of time to get ready for Javelina in late October.  Throw in a few CHUGs events and that is what I’ve come up with so far.

Crashed And Burned!

topgunSlider: “Crashed and burned, hey Mav?”

Maverick: (sniff, sniff) “Slider… you stink.”

This scene from Top Gun pretty much sums up my race at Glacial Trail 50 Mile this past weekend.  Except in my version, I am playing both characters because I both crashed and burned AND I stank!

We drove up Friday night and stayed with my dad and Andrea.  We were up late talking so we slept in on Saturday.  After a late (and very lazy) start to the day, we got some food and walked around the Rotary Botanical Gardens.  The gardens were beautiful and the warm sunny afternoon was good for the soul.  After a delicious summery treat, we hit the road for Sheboygan Falls, WI.  We checked into the hotel and asked for a dinner recommendation – they offered the Falls Firehouse Pizza and we accepted.  The food was great, the service adequate, and the price was right.

Leslie, Deanna, Me And Ben - Pre-Race

Leslie, Deanna, Me And Ben - Pre-Race

After a fitful sleep, we were up and at ’em by 4AM.  We got to the Greenbush Community Center in time to check in, hear some of the pre-race meeting, and greet a few CHUGs.  Then it was time to roll out.  The day started optimistically enough, my plan was to start slow and finish strong.  The first part of the race went really well, I felt I was flying along the trails with little or no effort.  Before long, I had passed several people and I was toward the front of the pack.  Normally, this would indicate that I was starting too fast but today, it felt easy so I went with it.  I cruised through the first aid station and before I knew it, I was at the second AS (mile 13 something) – this was where I was to see Paige for the first time.

Coming Into Mile 20+

Coming Into Mile 20+

After a quick turnaround, I was back on the trail and feeling good but in the back of my mind, I was thinking that I should back off a little bit.  Around mile 18, I was starting to feel some twinges of fatigue and my stomach was not quite right so I slowed down.  By the next AS (mile 20+), I was starting to feel pretty rough.  I have felt this many times before and it usually passes pretty quickly so I paid little attention to it and waited for it to pass.  Little did I realize, it wouldn’t pass …. not today.

Just before the turnaround, I met up with Lisa Guinta, Lisa was running her second 50 miler and is married to Dominic.  Dominic is the first Chicago Ultra Runner that I met, even before the CHUGs were official, but this was my first time meeting Mrs. Guinta and she was rocking it!  By the time I hit the turnaround, I figured I had paid my dues and would be feeling much better soon so I just kept moving as best I could.  I was being passed frequently and kept thinking to myself that I’d be seeing them down the road (as in, I thought I’d get feeling better and then pass them all back again) but the day had other plans.  When I got back to Paige at the 50K mark, I was frustrated that the fog hadn’t lifted, I was thirsty and couldn’t seem to shake the crud I was feeling.  I spent a little time here, sitting down, changing my shirt, and trying to get some extra fluids down.  Eventually, I stood up and got back on the trail even though I wasn’t feeling that great.  About a mile down the trail, I saw my second snake of the day.  Normally, this would be startling but at this stage of the race, I was too tired and grouchy to care.  Another ten minutes, I saw my third snake.  Another 15 minutes, my fourth.  Another 20 minutes, my fifth… okay, I was tired but seriously?!?!  By the time I saw Paige just seven miles later, I had seen a total of six snakes – amazing.  One thing about moving as slow as I was, I had the opportunity to take in more of the surrounds… for better, or worse.

Mile 36+ put me back in Paige’s care and really wishing I was done.  Everyone around was very encouraging but all I wanted was to be left alone.  I sat for a few minutes, drank some ice water but failed to take in any calories.  I was starting to worry about making the cutoff times and decided that I should move out.  Back on the trail, I realized that I should have eaten something and I should have brought more water.  As slow as I was moving and as hot as it was getting, I was certain to run out of water before I reached the next AS – I did, and it wasn’t even close.  People continued to pass me and all had encouraging words but I wasn’t in the mood.  I put my head down and pressed on.

Head Down: Story Of The Day

Head Down: Story Of The Day

The final AS was seven miles from the finish line and a welcome sight.  I sat for a moment while several people tended to my needs.  Paige was amazing all day long and this stop was no exception, she put up with my grouchiness and didn’t take it personally… it wasn’t.  With time ticking away, I got up and moved down the trail.  As soon as I crossed the road and was alone again, I realized I had made the same silly mistakes as before – I didn’t eat anything and I didn’t bring enough water with me, it was going to be a slugfest to the finish.  I knew there were people behind me but I also knew that there weren’t many and I was basically by myself for the rest of the race.  I ran when I could, walked when I needed to, and just tried to keep focused on finishing the race.

The last few miles felt very long.  The only thing that broke them up was Paige at a random road crossing, Mr. Bill and his bells, a few odd fans waiting for their runner, and the seemingly endless number of rocks to trip on.  Eventually, I hit the edge of town where Larry, the RD for Rock Cut Hobo 50K, was waiting for one of his group to come.  I met Larry in Leadville and could immediately tell that I liked him.  A couple of weeks ago, we went to his Hobo run to cheer on several CHUGs and my impression of Larry was further solidified – he is a good dude.  Anyway, the edge of town was meaningful for two reasons, 1) no more rocks to trip over and 2) it was less than a mile to go – I picked up my pace.  As I turned the final corner, I felt a little choked up which is unusual for me during a 50 miler.  Paige was waiting with a big hug.  Rob Wehner, the RD, was there with a finisher medal.  It was finally over, the reality of that set in and I could finally relax.

I don’t know what caused me to have such a rough day but I know I have never felt that bad, for that long, while running.  It was a good experience to push through the discomfort and still finish a tough race but it wasn’t much fun.  Rob puts on a great race, on a gorgeous trail, with great volunteers and an awesome atmosphere both pre and post-race.  We got so see several friends including a bunch of CHUGs.  We also had a chance to catch up with Timo and Jason, co-RDs for the Kettle Moraine 100, they are such awesome guys and always a joy to spend time with.  Despite the tough run, it was a beautiful day and a fun weekend.

Wrapping Up The Week At Deer Grove

Kelly, Paige, Me - Deer Grove

Kelly, Paige, Me - Deer Grove

This week was my first real week of running since Leadville.  I’ve done a fair amount of running since then but this week felt more focused with some quality thrown in and then I capped off the week with a long CHUG group run on trails.  I had a couple of five and eight mile runs, a couple of tempo runs, did a Vibram FiveFinger workout, and ended with sixteen miles at Deer Grove.  My legs feel decent but worked.  Between adding the tempo runs and the Vibram workout, I can really feel it in my calves.  The highlight of the week was our group run this morning, meeting new people and catching up with others – it was awesome!  Another item of note, my girl ran today for the first time since RDL – oh, how I’ve missed her on my morning runs, I’m so happy to see her back out there.

Next week is Glacial Trail 50 Mile.  We went up to this race for the first time last year and absolutely loved it.  This year, Paige won’t be running and my race will be much slower but I am looking forward to it just the same.  We will be accompanied by many CHUGs but our usual partners in crime will be manning our pad as their Chicago Marathon headquarters.  Despite looking forward to the race, I’m a little sad to be missing the marathon, it is always such a fun weekend, not to mention missing the chance to hang out with Brelly.  On the upside, we will get to see Dad and Andrea, run some gorgeous trails, and spend some time with our other CHUG friends!

A Long Strange Lull

Leadville was five weeks ago and since then, I have been in this really strange lull.  I feel good physically and mentally but my training has been strange because I keep telling myself that I should be taking time off, not because my body is telling me I need it or my mood is less than enthusiastic but because normally after a hundred miler, I need and want some time off.  This time is different for some reason.  Two weeks ago, Paige ran Rio Del Lago and I paced her the last 33+ miles, of which, we ran most of that and I felt good.  My weekly training has been very ad hoc with several five to eight mile runs.  I haven’t done any long runs other than RDL.  In two weeks, I am planning to run Glacial Trail 50 Mile and I am excited about the race but completely unsure what to expect given this odd place that my running has been for the past month.  It seems too late to “train” for the race and yet I want to be running more.  I feel I should be cutting back some to recoup for the race but I have very little to cut back from – strange place.  I had planned to do one long run today but opted to spend the day with my mom and Kevin instead so I go into Glacial Trail with???  Its a great race and will be fun no matter what but I am looking forward to getting back on some sort of training plan.  With that in mind, I begin the process of picking my races for next year…