The Case of the Missing Cooler

Last week, I couldn’t make my usual long run, so I arranged with a friend to run mid-week. We agreed to meet at her house, then run down to a popular trail. The trail we selected is a state-run, mulit-county trail that is hugely popular with cyclists, runners, and walkers. In anticipation of our long run, I put a cooler with water, my inhaler, a few gels, and a towel at the trail head. I routinely leave a cooler as a water drop on runs longer than 10 miles. I hate to carry a ton of water and I generally have to drink so much that I can’t carry enough reasonably. I’ve left a water drop hundreds of times. I’ve left my trusty cheap cooler on the side of roads across the state. It’s been buried in bushes, left on rocks, and stuck in trees. My cooler has been a trusty companion for me and my running buddies for a long time.

We ran past my cooler on the way into the trail. Eight miles later, we passed the water drop spot. My trusty blue cooler was GONE.

No cooler

No cooler = no water. I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe the not only would someone steal my cheap, old cooler, but that someone would take a cooler that had my inhaler, water, and running supplies in it. Every time I pass a cooler on a trail, a bottle of water in the woods, or a shirt tossed in a tree, I know immediately what it is. It’s someone’s drop. Some bicyclist, runner, or walker has left those supplies. I told everyone I knew about the theft. I was shocked. My phone number was  on the cooler (along with some purple hearts and a little sketch – my theft deterrent) and when a day passed without contact, I assumed that someone had actually stolen my $8 cooler.

Imagine my shock when late the next day, someone called me. He had my cooler. This “helpful” guy told me that he “found” it and knew I would be missing it, given that it had my inhaler and cold water in it. Well, not missing it too much since it took him more than 24 hours to contact me. Sigh. As happy as I was to have my cooler returned, I was dismayed that someone would move a cooler full of supplies.

That’s when I realized – runners are weird. It was entirely possible that he had taken my cooler trying to be helpful. Maybe everyone doesn’t know what a cooler on the trail means.  Huh. I guess we are a strange bunch after all.

Race Recap: Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay

A few weeks ago, some running friends and I made the trek to upstate New York for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay. Organized by Fleet Feet Sports Rochester and Yellow Jacket Racing, we made the trek to run with some friends who live in the area and are part of the Fleet Feet Endurance Team.

Our weekend started with a great trail run at a favorite local spot. Friday, we picked up packets at Fleet Feet and got to see both locations. The staff were friendly and the running gear selection was excellent. The weather wasn’t great (39 degrees and rainy – in June!), so we spend the rest of the day inside, resting up for the race. The race includes a marathon and a 2- and 4-person relay option. We were signed up for the 4-person team and were ready for a fun day.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we made our way up to the Mount Morris Dam. The Dam is on the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. The Dam is remarkable. I had no idea that the Sehgahunda Valley was so deep and wide. The sights were simply amazing!

Mt. Morris Dam

It was a gorgeous day, cold, and bright. A small group gathered at the start and listened to some last minute instructions.

Sehgahunda start

Runners were told to mind the trail, watching for roots, rocks, and “gullies”. Having never experienced a gully, I asked some local runners. Apparently a gully is a ditch with a stream in the middle. The trail is advertised as highly technical and it didn’t disappoint. I ran the first leg, about six miles through open plain, forrest, and rocky hillside. The trail was highly technical, with roots and rocks galore. I lost count after about 10 gullies. Some were little bumps in the trail, others were deep crevasses with a mud puddle at the bottom. One was easily 5 feet deep with sheer mud sides. Crawling was required. Another had a flowing stream in the bottom, requiring a shuffle through six inches of swiftly moving water. I loved the course. It was well marked and the trail was clearly identified and well thought out. It was clear that runners organized and planned the course. It was such an enjoyable experience to run that I lost track of the miles.

I made it through my miles quickly and managed to pass a few people. I loved the scenery and enjoyed the challenge of the new terrain. I was covered in mud by the time I reached the incline up to River Road for the exchange.

Sehgahunda exchange 1

Each exchange point was staffed with helpful volunteers who filled water bottles and passed out food and drinks. A great food selection was available at each check point – chips, fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a variety of commercial fuels from Honey Stinger.

Overall, I loved the course and had so much fun. Everyone I interacted with was amazing – helpful and happy. Every aspect of the race was well organized and carefully run. The Fleet Feet Endurance Team did an amazing job. I would highly recommend the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay for trail runners looking for a challenge. I hope to be running it again next year!

Found: Nemo

Connecticut found Nemo. And we’re hoping whoever lost him will claim him soon. This weather is insane! After weeks of record-setting cold and single digit temperatures, it had finally reached a suitable run-outside temperature last week. Then we had a monster wind storm. And then, the predictions of Nemo began. Nothing good comes from a storm that is predicted, days out, to be “historic”, “epic”, or “catastrophic”. As if poor New England didn’t suffer enough with Irene and Sandy, we were getting Nemo. It’s always bad news when the weather reporters name a winter storm.

In preparation, I went to the gym and did a brick workout. I washed running clothes and bought some spinach for salad. Priorities. Nemo came through with the expected record snowfall. We got about 30 inches at my house. It was so much snow that the town had to send some sort of terrifying road grader/plow and front end loader to clear the snow.

Snow plow

Yikes! It was a lot of snow. Undeterred, I went out snowshoeing. I had 13-15 miles on my schedule for the weekend and I figured a nice snowshoe hike would have to do. I made it about 10 feet before I realized – three feet of snow is a crazy amount of snow. Snowshoeing in a foot of snow is lovely. Two feet of snow is doable. Three feet is practically impossible. Clearing trail by myself, I could only make it four or five steps before I had to rest. Although I was up on top of a foot and a half of snow, I was having to move another foot and a half with my feet. It was like walking in quicksand.

Snowshoeing

I’m on top of about 4 feet of snow here. That’s my normal height lamp post, all but buried in the snow.

24 hours after the snow stopped, I was finally able to leave the house and set up a snowshoe date with some local friends. Most roads were only barely passable, so we kept it close to home. Working as a team of three, we took turns breaking trail. It was tough going! Our hard work was rewarded with great views, amazing animal tracks, and a nice workout. The snow is deep and mushy, so it will be here for a while. Looks like me and my SportsCenter treadmill workout will be spending extra time together this week.

My next big race, the Gapsarilla Distance Classic, is less than two weeks away. I’m hideously undertrained, thanks to this terrible winter weather, but I’m counting down the days. Nothing will feel better than to leave all this snow and freezing rain behind and run in gorgeous Tampa!

Happy Holidays!

Dr Rachel Runs has been on hiatus for the last several days to celebrate the holiday season. I hope that each of you have enjoyed a happy holiday time with friends and family.   I hope that you’ve squeezed in some time for fitness with friends and family. Whether it’s a run, a hike, yoga in the park, or just chasing after the little ones, the holidays are a perfect time for fitness.

It’s been a nice, but busy, end of the semester and start of the holiday season for me. For college professors, the real panic of the end of the semester starts after Thanksgiving and the work load increases until the semester ends. This year, our program had the exciting bonus of an end-of-semester visit from audits from our national accrediting body. Life was all about work for a few weeks. Horrible. Luckily, I made it through that with my sanity (at least mostly) intact. I’m so thankful for the end of the semester and the freedom that brings.

My leg has continued to heal and I’ve increased my runs accordingly.  I even managed to squeeze in a 20-mile run just in the nick of time. I’m training for the Disney Marathon (yay!) and had built into my schedule several extra weeks, just in case a winter storm thwarted my running. I was so thankful to have a few extra weeks when injury struck. Somehow, I managed to get back on track and get my 20-miler in just three days later than scheduled. It was a little slower and more painful than I had hoped, but I made it.

20 miles!

It was a huge relief to get in my 20 mile run. I am feeling much more confident about the Disney Marathon. This week, I resumed running normally. It feels amazing. Running normally meant a Sunday trail run, and wonderful runs with friends on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve brought sunny skies and excellent weather. Several friends and I met to run on a paved trail with lovely views of the local reservoir.

Dam

Christmas Day, I gathered with friends for a gorgeous, snowy run on a private trail. I brought Lucy, the running dog, and she was delighted to run with her doggy friends. It was a perfect run and made my holiday special.

I have been enjoying time off, time for running, and time with friends. I hope that you’ve been doing the same.

Connecticut Race Report: November 2012

It’s November in Connecticut and, as if we didn’t notice the colder temperatures and blustery weather, we got a Nor’easter last night that dumped inches of snow on the area. Yuck!

 

November is also the end of the busy fall racing season in Connecticut. Races will be few and far between until spring, but there are some options for the hardy few who want to get out there and race.

Monson Memorial Classic, Monson, MA, Sunday, November 11, 2012 – The Monson Memorial Classic features three events: a half marathon, a 5k, and a 2 mile fun walk. The half starts at noon, the 5k at 12:15 and the fun walk immediately after the 5k. The Monson Memorial Classic road race was started in 1996, shortly after the deaths of Kelly Waldron and Kathy Waldron Perry. These sisters died eight months apart from different types of cancer. This race is in their memory, and proceeds to Griffin’s Friends and Melanoma Education Foundation. I’ve run Monson before and it’s a fun, challenging race. Both the 5k and the half marathon have largely uphill courses. The first 7-8 miles of the half marathon have an overall uphill profile. But, the course is lovely, run on back roads and country lanes. Be forewarned that traffic is not blocked from the race course, including the final two miles of the half marathon and the finish line on Route 32. There will be cars on 32, and caution is merited. This year, there will be chip timing, free massage after the race, and prize money for individuals and teams. As an added bonus, this race has wonderful, home cooked food post-race. I thought the apple cider and chili were fantastic! I enjoy this race and recommend it if you’re looking for a challenge. Fees are $55 for the half marathon and $35 for the 5k. For reference, here’s the elevation profile for the half marathon.

Freedom RunFreedom Run, Hartford, CT, Sunday November 11, 2012 at 10:00 am – This popular 5k is a production of HYPE (a great organization) and the MetroHartford Alliance. It’s a measured 5k course that’s run on well maintained park trails. The course starts in front of The Riverfront Boathouse and runs north through the Riverside Park trail system. The course is a loop and ends back at the Boathouse. This event is run to honor the men and women who serve our country. Registration is $25 in advance, $30 race day. There is a discount for students and children. There will be professional timing and runners will get a t-shirt.
8K Cross Country Challenge8k Cross Country Challenge, West Hartford, CT, Saturday November 17, 2012 at 10:00 am – Sponsored by the Hartford Track Club, this trail race features a rolling course with gravel, trails, fields, and minor asphalt. It’s a unique distance, perfect for a PR. The race is also a bargain at $10 in advance and $15 race day. There will be few amenities, but expect a well organized event.
Finally, no race report would be complete without mention of the Manchester Road Race. This great race needs almost no introduction. It’s on Thanksgiving Day, in downtown Manchester, and is a wonderful, spirited race. Learn more about the race and its storied history on their website.

A Trip, A Race, and A Mystery Illness

It’s been a super long time since I’ve written anything – perhaps the longest time ever between posts. I swear, I’m still here and still running, but I’ve been out of my usual routine. This is the first time I’ve had my computer on in 11 days (or so my automatic backup tells me). Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to.

I ran the Hartford Half Marathon as a pace leader for Fleet Feet West Hartford.

Running as a pacer for the first time in a major race was so. much. fun. Earlier in the season, Fleet Feet hired me as a coach in the half marathon training program. I was lucky to be matched with an awesome training group who ran together consistently throughout training. On race day, my mom and I headed to the Fleet Feet meeting area. It was freezing cold – about 28 degrees and everyone was bundled up. We had trained in much warmer conditions, so this was new to most of the first time half marathoners. I managed to find a few of my group members before the race and offered to pace them to their goal of 2:15. We had a great time, felt amazing, and cruised in at 2:12. It was a great time and a wonderful race.

My mom was in town!

Yay! I love my mom. She’s a walker and runner and lives in Florida now so we don’t get to work out together as much as I would like. But, she was in town for 10 days. Hooray! We picked apples and made pies and apple sauce. I ate a slightly scary quantity of apple cider donuts. We walked on the trails in the area. We even completed an epic, 9 mile walk on the rail trail.

All in all, we had a great time. It was wonderful to have my mom here.

My running friend and I started a running club at University of Connecticut.

Following the success of the University of Connecticut Run@Work Day event, my running friend and I were asked to start a running club for university faculty and staff. The JM Club had its first ever group run last Friday. Sadly, only my friend and I showed up. It was about 50 degrees and pouring. We got soaked, but we got in the miles and kicked off the JM Club events.

I have a mystery illness.

It’s true. I’m sick again. Only I’m maybe not sick. I have a mystery illness. It all started with a sore throat about two weeks ago. The sore throat went away, but then I developed a stuffy nose. The stuffy nose went away, but then I developed new symptoms. Now I’m fatigued, have a headache, and my nose is running. Weird. It’s that day-before-being-super-sick feeling. I keep thinking that I will wake up in the morning super sick, but, thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I’ve been resting, sleeping lots, drinking tons of water, and taking my vitamins. I hope that I can beat this mystery illness – whatever it is.

 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me and there’s more fun around the corner. Today, I leave with my running friend for the Cape Cod Half Marathon in Falmouth, MA. I’ve lived in New England for 5 years, yet I’ve never been to Cape Cod. What better way to see the Cape than on foot, in a race? Expect a full report later.

Race Recap: Rubber Chicken 5k

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, I ran in the second annual Oddfellows Rubber Chicken Run 5k. This unique event features a cross country 5k, walk, and children’s race. Proceeds from the race benefit the Oddfellows Playhouse, a community theatre project that provides educational and social theatre programming for young people. The 5k race featured a team division, which some friends and I entered. In the team division, teams of five people averaged their times for one group time. The walk was non-competitive and open to all.

Check in was well managed. I waited only a minute or two to get my number, a pretty cool technical t-shirt (with gender-specific sizes!), and a bag. With such a small entry fee, I was surprised at the high quality of the race goodies. The shirt is really pretty fun – one I will wear with pride.

It was approximately 84 degrees and humid for the 6:30pm race start. The race course was unusual. It was a bit of a loop course, but the loops shared a central alley. Perhaps it is more aptly described as a concentric circle course, with one loop run in one direction and the second loop run in the opposite direction. The course was a true cross country course, complete with grassy fields, dirt paths, crushed stone paths, and single track with roots, rocks, and hills. Overall, the hills were mostly rolling and gradual, save for one uphill on single track fringed by poison ivy (so no passing, much to my dismay).

Helpful volunteers were on hand to point the way at tricky intersections and there were two water stops staffed with cheering volunteers. The course was easy to follow, with a helpful white spray painted track. In fact, parts of the course had a continuous spray painted line with arrows, so it would have been quite difficult to get lost. I have run lots of trail races and I must say that this on was possibly the best marked of all.

There was professional timing provided by Start Liner Race Services and a festive finish line. After the race there was great pizza, breadsticks (individually packaged!), and the best cookies EVER. Seriously. I loved the cookies.

Age group winners were announced and received rubber chickens as prizes. In the team category, the top three teams were announced. Winning teams got one rubber chicken, and five certificates for two tickets to a Oddfellows production. I’m proud to say my team, Team Rooster, won third in the coed division and two of our team members placed in their age groups.

Overall, I loved the Rubber Chicken Race. It was highly organized, well managed, fun, and fast. Times were good overall even with the heat and the course was enjoyable to run. I would highly recommend it!

Results can be found here.

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon Cool Racerback tank in Blazer Fossil, Janji Run for Kenya shorts, super old men’s Nike running hat.

Mini Race Recap: Bolton XC Classic

On August 11, 2012, I ran in the Bolton XC Classic 5k. This is a race of many names. You may know it as the Bolton Alumni 5k, or the BHS 5k, or even the Bolton XC Race. No matter what name you choose, the Bolton XC 5k is a great race. In its fourth year, this cross country race benefits the Bolton High School cross country teams and is directed by their coach, Paul Smith.

The Bolton XC Classic begins and ends at the Bolton High School. A small group of runners gathered at the high school at 9am. It was 82 degrees with overcast skies and 80% humidity at race start. Not ideal racing conditions, but it wasn’t raining and the sun wasn’t cooking the runners. Coach Smith got things started by explaining the 4-loop course. The race was run around the school grounds on a variety of surfaces. The majority of the trails are standard, 8 foot wide, grass cross country trails, but there was some more traditional rocks-and-roots trail in the woods. Professional timing was provided and runners of all ability levels were welcomed.

This race is about as low key as a race can get. A group of mostly local runners gathered, chatted, and set off on the run. At the conclusion of the race there was a wonderful spread of food (with plenty left over, I might add). There were cookies, bagels, fruits of all kinds, chocolate milk, and water. Once all the runners had finished and results were tabulated, Coach Smith presented the awards. The awards are what really make this race special. Age group winners are presented with a hand-painted rock. Not a tiny little rock, but a boulder, hand painted by the high school art class. This year, the rocks were painted as part of the art class’s final exams and each was painted in the style of a famous artist. The rocks are vey cool. Several friends and I were the proud recipients of our very own rocks. Note – my rock, pictured, was one of the smaller rocks.

I’m pleased to say that I won my age group. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that I was the only one in my age group, but let’s not dwell. I’ll be back next year to defend my title, and to get a third rock for my collection.

Connecticut Race Report, August

In this Connecticut Race Report (also featured on Pace Per Mile), I’m highlighting some great race, a few triathlons, and one cycling event in Connecticut in early August.

Running Events:

50th Annual John and Jessie Kelley 11.6 Mile Road Race, New London, CT, Saturday, August 4, 2012, 9am –  Beginning at Ocean Beach Park in New London, this race is a unique distance, and a perfect opportunity for a PR. The race is free to enter – it’s even free to park at Ocean Beach if you register in advance. Mail your completed registration form along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address provided on the registration form. Your bib, which provides free parking and access to Ocean Beach, will be sent to you a week before the race. If you miss the mail in registration, race day registration is available but you may have to pay for parking.

Living Well 5k, Glastonbury, CT, Saturday, August 4, 2012, 8am - The Living Well in Glastonbury 5K is a summer road race that is hosted by the Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce. It begins at Smith Middle School and winds through the flat and fast streets of the Addison Road neighborhood. Registration is $25 through August 2, $30 day of the race.

Bolton Cross Country Classic 5k

Bolton XC Classic 5k, Bolton, CT, Saturday, August 11, 2012, 9am – This fun annual race is a great family event. The race is run on the Bolton Cross Country trail behind Bolton High School. The cross country track is mostly wide, smooth grass, but trails are possible. Proceeds to benefit the Bolton H.S. Cross Country program. Age group winners receive custom, hand-painted rocks as trophies. Registration is $15 through August 6, $20 on race day. Registration for students is $10.

Rhythm Race
Rhythm Race , East Hartford, CT, Saturday, August 18, 2012, 7pm - Walk or run this flat, fast 5k course while enjoying great live music. Stick around for a post-race party with DJ’s, a laser light show, and tailgating. The whole event takes place at Rentschler Field. Registration is $25.

And…the very last Bolton Summer XC Series event is August 8, 2012, at 6:30pm at the Bolton Rose Farm.

Triathlons:

Sandy Beach Triathlon, Morris, CT, Friday, August 2, 2012, 5pm – Flat, fast, and scenic course around Bantam Lake. The event features a 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3 mile run. There is a special division (and lower price) for first timers and a special youth race.

Lake Terramuggus Tri Series, Marlborough, CT, Thursdays at 6:15pm (also on Facebook, here)

Winding Trails Tri Series Race 10Winding Trails Triathlon Series #10, Tuesday August 14, 2012, 6:15 pm – This weekly triathlon features a 1/4mi swim, 8k trail ride, and 5k trail run, making it a unique triathlon. Please be aware that you must ride a hybrid or off road bike on the bike portion of the race – it really is a trail race.
Bike Event:
Steeple Chase Bike Tour
SteepleChase Bike Tour, Willimantic, CT, Saturday August 18, 2012 beginning at 7:00 am – With ride routes of 10, 20, 35, 50, 62.5, and 100 miles through scenic Northeaster Connecticut, this is a popular race for cyclists of all levels. Each ride features many rest stops with free food, beverages and snacks pre and post ride for all participants. Free Steeple Chase T-shirts are provided to all individual riders.

Running the Pere Marquette Trail

This week I’ve been in Michigan helping my post-surgery sister in law and caring for my baby nephew. Luckily, one of my running friends lives in the area and was willing to meet up with me for a long run mid-week on the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail. I definitely needed the accountability to get out there and get the run in. I honestly have no idea how running mamas get anything done!

The Pere Marquette Trail (Pere means “father” and the trail is named after Jacques Marquette, a French missionary) and occupies the abandoned bed of the CSX railroad in Midland and Isabella Counties. It runs from downtown Midland to the outskirts of Clare, a distance of approximately 30 miles. The Pere Marquette Trail is a barrier-free, 12-feet wide, asphalt trail and is popular among walkers, runners, bikers, and rollerbladers.  There are mile markers every half mile for much of the trail.

The Pere Marquette Trail officially begins at the Tridge in downtown Midland. The City of Midland owns a three mile portion of the trail located within the city limits and maintained by the City. The portion owned by Midland begins at the famous Tridge, runs past a little splash park, and along Main Street. At the Tridge start there is a drinking fountain (including dog drinking fountain!), bathroom facility, and plenty of parking.

The City-owned part of the Pere Marquette Trail goes past several City of Midland parks, including a skate park, baseball diamonds, open fields, and even the Dahlia Hill, a huge planting of dahlias.

The Pere Marquette Rail-Trail is lovely. I really enjoyed the smooth, asphalt surface. It was even, graded, and comfortable for running. There were barely even any cracks. The path was truly smooth – smooth enough that my friend and I saw an elderly couple with walkers using the trail. It was wide enough for multiple people to pass comfortably, including families on bikes, runners, and walkers. The trail, like much of this part of Michigan, is totally flat. Most of the Midland part of the trail is shaded and bordered by wild flowers, shrubs, and trees. The trail even runs past the river in some places, creating a nice breeze off the water.

My running friend and I had a really nice run together and I enjoyed the trail. It was hot, hot, hot, but we trotted along for several miles. It was a good run, with even better company. Now I’ve caught the cold that the baby had, so I haven’t been back to the Pere Marquette Trail, but I hope to visit it again sometime.

If you’re in the mid-Michigan area, check out the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail.