Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Running some hills

Time to post about last weekend's hill training.

Saturday I headed to the Palos Forest Preserve in Cook County to run and hike on the yellow trail at Palos Sag Valley which is south of Rt 83 and locals know it for the "closed" toboggan hill with the big stair climb to the side. I've only been to this part of Palo FP once before generally opting for the north section by Bullfrog Lake. I love the north section; full of fine single track and wider trails created and maintained by and home to the DeTonty 50k but Saturday was time to go back to Sag Valley. SV has plenty of single track but bikes are banned from riding them (wide trails are legal) and so the single track is not mapped. I stuck to the wide yellow trail which has plenty of hills. The trails I believe are supposed to be covered in limestone but due to lack of maintenance are more dirt and gravel now, perfect for me. Also last time here was after a big rain storm so the trials that time where a tad muddy with swollen stream crossings; this weekend they were dry and hot. Parking at the base of the toboggan hill I strapped on my Camelbak and set of eastward (clockwise) where I promptly got attacked by a swarm of cicadas when walking to the tail head by a big tree. Just has I got to the trail I see a runner heading away from me and a biker passes by; it's only 7am so I know it is going to be busier than most Palos trips. Without going into to much detail of the trail, mainly because I can never recall where all the hills, streams, ridges,flat bits come along the way by the time I am done (how do people write such detailed training and race reports!) the yellow trail has plenty of hills, some stretches of flat and many cicadas. Part I do remember is the first stream crossing that was a swollen river last time was basically bone dry and the park people are building a bridge over it (marked ford on some maps). Within a few miles of this section is also the biggest hill in the area known per Brenda Barrera's book as Big Bertha. This hill just goes up at a steep incline, or decline if you come from the other direction, oh and it is not the first hill you encounter after the current ford soon to be bridge crossing. It is near Palos Park Woods (south) on the map. As you go along the trail there are more hills and some of the trail reminds me of Kettle Moraine although not as hilly and they don't have cicadas. I made it back to the car in one piece, cicadas are really nice bugs and they only attacked me that one time. Saw one deer on the first part of the trial which crossed the trail in front of me then stopped and just starred at me. If I had my camera it would have been a great photo. I'd recommend this 8.1 mile loop for anyone wanting some serious Chicaogoland hills training (bring dry shoes/socks if wet).

Saturday afternoon I got in some time in the heat and sun when Laura and I went to Fullersberg Preserve, Oak Brook mall and La Grange (for Elephants on Parade - think Chicago Cows on Parade).

Sunday I slept in and then went to the nearby Blackwell FP to do hill repeats on My Hoy. This is a former rubbish dump now owned by Du Page FP and part of a good forest preserve that I like running in. According to gmap and Du Page website the hills is 105 feet in gain and a round trip from the road edge along the gravel service road to the 836 foot summit is 0.5 miles approximately. There is also a teepier but tad short grassy side that is used for tubing in the winter and both sides are very exposed to the sun. More great heat training for Badwater plus maybe the hill repeats would be good for climbing Mt Whitney (14497 feet) after the Badwater race!! Not sure how many repeats I completed but I did 30 minutes on the gravely road and then 30 minutes on the grassy slope. It was a great tough work out and I think more of the sme will be very beneficial not just for Badwater but my fittest level and towards my 2007 goal race, HOBO 25k. I did drink a lot of water at Mt Hoy, maybe more than I did the day before - might have been due to the sun, Palos is all shaded. From the summit of Mt Hoy there is a great view of Du Page, so many trees and water towers plus good view of Fermilab's office towers. A number of egrets and herons flew over plus I saw a deer running along the base of the hill past the archery range and into the wooded area. Guess the deer was speed training passed the archery range!

Got home in time to shower then watch Englishman Lewis Hamilton win the USA Formula One Grand Prix then Real Madrid clinch the Spanish league title

Sunday, June 10, 2007

First posting

Well this is my first posting to my first blog, let's hope I get it right. Going to use it to record my running and hopefully one day the biking I do.

I ran a little in school back in England but mainly cross country and the once a year track and field event that everyone in school was supposed to partake in. When I went to college my accounting professor, George, ran the first London Marathon which I watched on the TV, BBC I think. I didn't see George on TV during the live broadcast but later that evening on the BBC news poor George got his 15 seconds on fame on The Mall, around 1 mile from the finish, as he collapsed in front of the camera. George wasn't at college for a few days but when he returned and told the class his story I was inspired.

In 1990 I moved to Chicago. Proud to say I am married to my lovely Laura who grew up in Chicago and just two weekends ago we celebrate 17 years of marriage. We lived for 12 years a few blocks from the Chicago lakefront which includes an 18 mile stretch of running and biking paths (paved or limestone). This was more inspiration for me and I sort of followed in George's footsteps and did my first marathon in 1993. I also took up biking with the hope of doing a triathlon one day but realized swimming is not for me. I've done one triathlon, a super sprint but the swim was a struggle. Think I was last out of the water in my wave of 50 but powered by most on the bike and run. Duathlons worked for me so I've done a few of those in the past.

Not sure when but I found a copy of Ultra Running magazine in a store and became hooked on ultra running, at least reading about them. Of course I started to meet Ultra Runners and after oh 5 marathons I was "talked" into the Danville Howl at the Moon 8 hour ultra by my friend Nikki Seger. I completed my first Ultra distance event there then a few months later ran a 50k race on the trail of northern Wisconsin Kettle Moraine. I was hooked on trail running although trails on the Chicago Lakefront are hard to find.

Well after 8 marathons and 4 50ks I took a break from running and even biking.

Laura and I moved west 5 years ago to Naperville and after a few false starts and a medical issues and injuries I finally got back into running. Most of my running is done in the Du Page Forest Preserves which has an amazing trail system in most of their preserves. My only issue is close to 100% is limestone but I have also discovered a few jewels of dirt multi and single track trails in other Preserves such as Naperville's Knoch Knolls and the brilliant trial system of Palos.
Within a drive from home I've also ran trails at Rock Cut, Clinton Lake and some Wisconsin state parks plus recently attended a race on the trails of a park in Portage IN (allegies stopped me racing but I'll return).
I've done probably 8 races since September 2006 when I signed up for my first race in over 6 years -all but one has been on the trails in distances from 5k to 25k. OK I have to admit I am slow, very slow and even have finished last place male in a few of these trail races but I am enjoying myself out there and for me that is what it is all about. BUT as I get back into running I hope to get quicker but still enjoy myself.

I also own a great Gary Fischer mountain bike which I have to admit I have yet to use since purchasing it. Got it pre-winter a few years ago then came down with my medical issues (nerve issue in both legs - now cured). Now I have no excuses and as I enjoyed biking previously all road and love trail running and hiking it is time to get the MTB out there and enjoy the dirt on wheels (but only when trails are not wet)

So that is my brief running and biking story; nothing out of this world but I enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and come back for hopefully more postings down the road, hmmmmm trails.