Attack of the Lake Flies

As the realtor drove my fiancé and I through Neenah on a sunny Friday in March, we made our way through the adorable downtown, past beautiful paper baron mansions, and along the glistening waters of the Lake Winnebago in Riverside Park.

“This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself, before being verbally assaulted with a few harsh tidbits.

“Lake Winnebago was initially called Lake Au Puant by the Native Americans, which means “stink lake””.

“Yikes! So does it really smell that bad?” I asked.

“It’s pretty bad in the summer, but the worst is when the lake flies come out…”

Chironomidae, or lake flies as they’re known here, Continue reading

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The Daily Grind

I woke up April 8th in Door County, my legs taxed from a hard 16 mile run the day before on Peninsula State Park’s Sunset Trail. The prospect of cherry-stuffed french toast and copious amounts of coffee ensured running wasn’t the first thing on my mind, but the nearby knobby trails of The Park guaranteed it wasn’t far from it either.

After filling my belly and reading a few hours of the day away, I ran the quarter mile from the house into the silence of the Park’s woods for 10 methodical miles.  I didn’t see anyone, I never looked at my watch, and I felt better than I should have given the previous day’s workout.

Monday and Tuesday brought me back onto the concrete slabs of Neenah/Menasha. Continue reading

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Appleton Racing

In a first for me, I tackled two races over the weekend, the OSI/Miron April Fools 5k Friday in North Appleton, and the Scheels Run for Home 10k this morning.  And in what feels like another first given the lackluster performances of the last several races I’ve run, I finished each run feeling fantastic, with times with that in all honesty, surprised the hell out of me.

Two races, two fairly big PR’s.  16:18 to win Friday’s 5k, and 33:16 for a 2nd place finish at today’s 10k.  I’ll do a more thorough race report tomorrow, but for now, let’s just say that I forgot how much I love racing on flat surfaces in 45 degree temperatures.

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Neenah Beer Runner

While the details remain murky as to how I got here, as of last week, I now do my running and beer-sampling in Neenah, WI.  There’s of course excitement and anxiety surrounding any move, but this one may be the toughest I’ve made in my life.

I’ve settled into a new town with a new job to learn, running routes to explore, and restaurants to test,

Continue reading

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Fox Valley Beer Run

As we prepare for our move to the Fox Valley, I found myself in Appleton Thursday and Friday for two action-packed days on the interview trail.  Fortunately, that’s not the only trail I was on.  With the understanding that this area will become my new home running turf, I set out to find out what the Fox Valley had to offer.

Newberry Trail to CE Trail-Thursday, February 23rd: The Fox Valley Greenway system is a fine collection of paved asphalt trail connecting nearly every town and city in the region.  Having spent virtually no time here, I took to the Newberry Trail on the south side of the Fox River(across from Lawrence University) for my Appleton running inauguration.  The Newberry trail runs from downtown Appleton east along the river before becoming the CE Trail as it goes through Kimberly, Combined Locks and Kaukauna.  While the route was free of snow and ice and ANY path is better than no path, it wasn’t my favorite route.  After the Newberry ends, the CE Trail parallels a major thoroughfare, dense with traffic and noisy as hell.  A series of traffic crossings with cars who didn’t seem to appreciate pedestrian rights induced a bit of fear/rage that isn’t the emotional experience I tend to aim for on runs.  Regardless, the route is relatively flat, goes for a long while (i went 6.2 out, 6.2 back) and the run along the Fox River is great.  To top it off, i even accomplished my intended workout of 7 miles around marathon pace(5:59 avg), which will make me feel better about anything. I’m sure I’ll run it again, just not at rush hour.  In full disclosure, I’ll admit that at certain points, it smells a little weird.

FOX VALLEY BEER RUN!!!  After 12 hard miles, feeling dehydrated and exhausted, I sought out the most appropriate purveyor of elixir I could think of, the local brew pub.  The Stone Cellar Brewpub is housed in a great old-school brewery south of the river in central Appleton.  It’s a beautiful building, the atmosphere inviting, and they generally have six to nine house brews on tap.  Their mainstay beers looked to be traditional English varietals, and I tried small samples of their IPA, scotch ale, English session ale and vanilla stout.  They’re all well-made beers, the scotch ale and IPA were too light for my taste, but the stout and session ale were the winners of the bunch.  I had a bison burger which was local and good enough, and their food menu appeared solid.  I’ll be back I’m sure.

Fox Valley Paper Trail-Friday, February 24th: I woke up sore from the previous day’s workout, and set out south from my hotel(at the Fox River Mall) on the Fox Valley Paper Trail, another paved option in the Fox Cities Greenway system.  If you go north, the trail will take you past the mall and baseball park and finally west back into Appleton.  I opted to head south five miles as part of a 10 mile out and back.  It hugs a road and takes you through subdivisions and light industrial and commercial developments, all of which I tried to ignore as my legs resisted movement.  It was a fine if not particularily inspiring route that seems to make connections with a few other trails leading into Menasha.  If you stay at a hotel near the mall, it’s a really convenient option and I’m sure I’ll find my way on it as some point for a long run.

Conclusion: I’m trying to remain positive as I prepare to leave behind my Madison world of arboretum runs, 19-mile wooded greenway loops and 10 minute strolls to the local brewpub.  The area will be a change of course, but any new move is accompanied by anxiety and anticipation, and this is certainly no different.  I’ll find new daily routes to run, other cultural options to explore, and I’m ultimately really excited.

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Valentine’s Day Slog

Two weeks have passed since my last post, as Wisconsin’s near-winter continues to chug along its delightful, shorts-friendly way.  There have been a few days of biting frigidity, most notably another shockingly slow performance at my 2nd Valentine’s Day 5k, but for the most part, the roads have been clear, and I rarely need to break out my deep-freeze running gear.

About that Valentine’s Day 5k.  Yeah, not my best race.  My second worse 5k to be exact(only last year’s was slower).  I’m going to blame some of this on frigid temps in the teens, a 20mph blast from the north to start and general ill-preparedness, but in reality, it went about as I expected.  A fast pack scuttled out front, i hung out with a few dudes coming through mile 1 in a painfully slow 5:37 or :38 and basically tried to hang on.  Mile two was up a small hill onto a road with a bit of ice where we finally began to get the wind at our back.  Mile two was about 5:35 as I dropped one guy and continued to press on one more.  Past the hospital, back to the Lakeshore Path with about .3 miles left, I finally passed him.  Hurting pretty badly, I maintained pace through the finish for a final mile of 5:24 for 17:09 overall(about).  About a second improvement over last year, with the dramatic difference being that I actually sped up the last mile this go-round, unlike my 5:44 finish last year.

At least there’s nowhere to go but up.

Training update to come.

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One-Way Ticket Please

Among my favorite runs are those that involve traveling only in one direction.  While my standard 8-10 miler tends to be either a loop or partial out and back, when I’m presented with the opportunity to begin at one location and end at another, I’m sure as hell going to do it, and I recommend you do the same. 

Here’s the complicated process of making your very own one-way run.  A) run from your house(or other locale) and have someone pick you up at an agreed upon place after running, or B) Go someplace with your friend/wife, pack some other clothes, and then run home. Bingo.

Sure, the distance is the same, but the fact that you definitely will not see that same crazy bush twice is pure psychological freedom. So should you randomly find yourself in any of these my locations, buy yourself a one-way ticket to Awesometown, Population: You.

1) Washington, D.C. One-Way: Living in D.C., we didn’t have a car, which meant renting cars from Reagan National Airport for weekend excursions.  Continue reading

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Early Season Training

Early season running is like building a fire.  You have to build a little base, give it some oxygen to breath, maybe gently prod–not too much!–and occasionally just jam tons of fuel into it.  Well, i think i bumbled the analogy after building a little base, but you get the gist.

Looking for potential training ideas that won’t kill me too early, I came across this article at Running Times.  They advocate developing strength early, as you can quickly ramp up speed training, but not vis versa.  Unfortunately, their strength recommendations, which include 5x2k or 3x2mile at half marathon pace or faster(lactic threshold actually), seems entirely too intense for week 2 of a 12 week plan to peak.  So i’ve been hammering hills and sprinkling in tempos and fartleks.

Weeks in Review

1/15-1/21: This is my first week of officially getting my act together.  I got in two light workouts and 66 miles, including a (tiring) 15 miler in a quiet, beautiful Door County. Continue reading

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Top 3 Worst Runs of All-Time

I’ve conducted a highly scientific analysis of my past experience, and now present you with the three worst runs of my life:

1.  Daytona Beach, FL-September, 2010: After wrapping up a work assignment on a sunny Saturday morning, I hightailed it to the beach for 10 miles on the packed sand of Daytona Beach.  This was to be the culmination of an exhausting week of travel and work that masochistically included 90 miles of running.  I’d run this beach probably 10 times over the years while traveling, but never on a 95 degree, humidity-choked sunny nightmare of a day at high noon.  With nary a cloud in the sky, I shuffled shirtless and weezing past Floridians and vacationers while the tempting waters of the Atlantic lapped at my sneakers. Five grueling miles out, five grueling miles back.    When I’d made it back, I chucked my shoes and garmin, and had the most glorious swim I can remember.  I would spend the rest of the day sun-burned and dehydrated.  Only a trip to the brewery chain BJ’s, which included 2 ice-cold IPAs and a massive mound of nachos–could bring me halfway to normal.

2. Denver, CO August, 2008: While in Denver prior to the Democratic National Convention in 2008, the work crew made a Residence Inn in South Denver(or Englewood) its home.  Despite a location clogged with traffic and suburban sprawl, I carved out a nice 8-12 mile route from the hotel to beautiful Cherry Creek State Park.  I ran the route religiously for 6 days, the thin mountain air seemingly having no effect on my times or endurance.  Then, on the 7th day, a scheduled long run, it all fell apart.  My ride was leaving for downtown Denver at 11am, so I gave myself about 2 hours 15 minutes to run 16 miles and then shower.  Unfortunately, at mile 10, the mountain air, or hydration, or something caught up to me and I fell apart.  Even more unfortunate, I was on the far side of a reservoir that I soon found out could not be circumnavigated.  In the agonizing depths of a horrible bonk, I proceeded to try and create my own path over boulders and rocks, confident that without a shortcut, I would surely miss my ride,  and inevitably get fired.  I fell countless times, scraped hands and knees, but emerged on the other side to complete the stress-filled, desperate run home, barely making the appointment.  There’s a good chance I was useless the rest of the day.

3. Wilmington, DE, February 2009: I had to include one run that involved parking lots.  I’ve run in a lot of them over the years out of necessity. Some were fine,  some were awful.  This one was the latter.  I stayed in a Doubletree on Route 202 right next to Concord Pike Mall.  Nice hotel, and actually, once you cross treacherous 202, you’re in Brandywine Creek State Park, one of my top 5 runs of all-time.  Unfortunately, a non-stop deluge of rain had made the Brandywine trails impassable, and the 30 mph wind and 40 degree temps were not helping things.  Of course, I had an 8 mile run and 800 meter repeat workout I needed to finish, and the treadmill was not an option.  So out I went, making laps between the Sears and Boscovs, narrowly avoiding oncoming cars, trudging through puddles, all the while questioning why I ever took up this silly sport.  Drenched, freezing, and miserable after an hour, I went back to the hotel where I promptly took a scalding hot shower that would last 30 minutes.

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Back to It

Vacation, you are officially over.  Gone are your two-hour walks on the beach, pina colada lunches, snorkeling excursions aboard catamarans, and endless buffet breakfasts.  You’ve served your purpose, will be remembered fondly–maybe even desperately over the coming months–but there’s now work to be done.

After my graduation December 17th, we spent 10 days in DC and Delaware with family, one planned week of vacation in Nassau in the Bahamas, followed immediately by 5 spontaneous days in Cabo San Lucas, planned entirely last minute(but for an absolute song).

During that stretch, running was not ideal.  I managed to throw together 60 and 65 mile weeks in DC in Delaware, and it basically fell off my radar in Nassau and Cabo.  Nassau downtown-where we stayed-is fairly traffic-clogged and not ideal for a jog.  I ended up doing loops on a dirt track one day for 8 miles, and hitting the treadmill for a few shuffling miles a few other days.  Maybe 22 miles for that week.

Cabo was amazing, and we had a gorgeous stretch of beach in front of the hotel, but unfortunately, it was the deepest, toughest sand I’ve ever run in.  I went out 2 days, making it 4 miles in 40 minutes each time, and was exhausted after each run.  But I did ride an ATV one day, and another spent several hours snorkeling and drinking rum punch aboard a catamaran, so that probably counts for at least a 6 miler, right? I did get in a few runs after getting back, so i’m at 37 for the week.

Next week marks the official pre-pre-season.  Although suffering a tough bout of achilles tendonitis made worse by walking countless sandy miles in flipflops(poor me), I’ll begin bumping up mileage, and adding some very light workouts.

Oh, and finding permanent employment, that’s a big thing as well.

Here’s to a great 2012.


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