Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘kennekuk’

So this is the shirt I SHOULDA bought during my last VA Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And it’s also the shirt I SHOULDA worn at my race this last Sunday. 

Photo Credit

The company is One More Mile Running and I get absolutely NOTHING if you buy something from them.  (Come to think of it, I should talk to those guys about some kind of finders’ fee–but I digress.)

I love the hilarious shirts this company makes.  Going to an expo for me is like going to Vegas is for some people.  I give myself a certain (small) amount of money that I know I will throw away on super-fun running gear on the (likely) chance that I will have a great time while wearing said gear in the future.  Actually, in this light, the odds are far better than Vegas, but again…I digress.

So I did NOT buy the shirt but I did INDEED have the experience the shirt indicates at a race this past Sunday at one of my local running club’s signature events. 

Explanation:

Each year our awesome local running club, the Kennekuk Road and Trail Runners, hosts an event called the Wild Wild Wilderness Run.  Runners from all over the midwest descend upon our lovely little hamlet to challenge themselves on the Wilderness Trail. 

See, the thing is, the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run includes at least one portion of trail that is not really a trail for human beings.  True, some deer and squirrel may have ventured up the side of that beast, but humans…not so much.

And the OTHER thing is, THIS year I knew that beast was coming.  I ran the stinking trail last year.  And I heard from my friend–let’s just call her Ami (because that’s her name)–that the run was SO much easier when you knew what to expect.  Just so you know: she totally lied.  (A different experience, but NOT easier!  Still love you though, Ami.)

So now in the interest of Truth, Justice and the American Trail-Running Way,  if you’re EVER considering the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run, you should know THIS is TRULY what to expect: 

7.55 miles (or 7.45 miles, depending on the race year) of some of the most beautiful trail in the region.  Including: 

3.5 initial miles of relatively bumpy, grassy trail, in and out of the woods.  Wear your deet during tick season.  Basically an enjoyable but moderately challenging run.  Followed by…

4 miles of hell on earth.  A mountain fit for certain animals, but definitely not people.  Creeks to leap over.  A slippery bridge to run across.  Hills, hills and more hills.  A “stairway” built into the side of a nearly-vertical hillside just before mile seven–that conveniently had its STEPS removed this year–where you are basically sliding up a rooted-mud-hill.

Essential Aside Advice:  Try to strategically select the people who are running in front of you and behind you as you face these natural obstacles.  Sliding down a mud-hill onto the head of the helpful, but completely unsuspecting, gentleman behind beneath you as you lose your footing on one of these obstacles is not the most polite way to make new friends.  Even if he does promise that he won’t let you fall down the hill.  As you are practically sitting on his head.  *sigh*  Well, after hitting solid ground, at least there’s plenty of motivation to pick up the pace and get outta there as fast as you can after that little getting-to-know-you adventure. 

And back to the shirt.  See, while the front-half of the shirt would have been me on Sunday, the back-half of the shirt would be me TODAY.  After my rugged adventure.  While trying to walk or move quickly.  Thank goodness for my friend, Ibuprofen. 

And regarding the WWW Run.  Would I do it again next year, even after all of the muddy drama?  OF COURSE!  Maybe even several times next year.  Because, come to think of it, it wasn’t really that tough after all.  Yeah, in fact, it was more like awesome.  Kinda like childbirth is awesome the farther you get away from it. 

I’ll be there.  Probably with a cool new shirt.  And definitely with a strategy that calls for me making new friends in more lady-like ways than sitting on some poor stranger’s head.

 P.S.  As proof that I should have known better and for the entertainment of the historians among you:  Here’s the post about a couple of last year’s trail runs:  Trail Runs Before I Knew Better 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Image Credit

Hurray! 

As of Monday, I’ve officially traversed over 500 miles while training for various races!  I’ve gone from being a complete couch-potato to a Mom-Who-Runs.  And I’m so grateful to the people who have encouraged, guided, coached, prodded, and tricked me into and along this journey! 

NEVER would I have imagined at the beginning of this year that I would have participated in a half marathon, an ultra, several 5Ks, and logged 500 miles while training for them all.  NEVER would I have imagined it on May 1st!  Indeed, I logged my first mile on May 19, 2009. 

I am amazed at how much this adventure has changed me.  I know beyond a doubt that I am one blessed lady and the first 500 have made me even more determined about the next 500! 

2010 has BIG things in store for me, running-wise, assuming all continues to go well.  Thanks for joining me on this adventure and helping me celebrate the 500 milestone!  If I can do it, anybody can do it.  Here’s to all of our success!

Read Full Post »

Running Shoes: BEFORE

So here’s the thing. 

I had this whole post planned with the title:  You Don’t Expect Me to Run Up THAT, Do You?  And the post was about the Wild Wild Wilderness Run hosted by the Kennekuk Road (and must.not.forget.the.TRAIL) Runners a couple months ago. 

That trail featured 7.55 miles of pure running torture.  (So terrible that I plan on running it again in the arctic weather we surely can expect during the Sibearn Express on January 2, 2010.)  Seriously, though.  It was terrible.  There was a nearly vertical hill that only mountain goats or really nimble deer should ever be expected to climb, one that hugged an earth wall and where a single step to the left would leave a person pummeling hundreds of yards to their demise in a thornbush-infested ravine.  There were three or four miles of challenging, but bearable terrain that initiated the uninitiated WWW trail runner.  Then (surprise, newbie!) the turn-off to the hill-from-hell.  Only to be followed by three or four miles more  of Really. Hard. Trail Running. 

Now, I love running hills.  But these weren’t people-hills.  They were animal-only hills.  And those super-runners who could just prance up them with ease–well, I’m astounded by those people.  They need a special category of fitness just for them.

As for me, I was so proud of Finishing Without Dying that I floated along on that experience for quite some time.  It mattered very little to me that I was near the Very End of the pack.  I was thrilled beyond words to have finished on my feet instead of a stretcher.

So that was the essence of the post I was going to write.  Because that was the craziest trail I’d run so far.  Until today.

Today I was introduced, quite accidentally, to the Backpack Trail at Forest Glen.  I personally believe they call this the Backpack Trail because most normal humans would need to bring camping supplies (or at least a meal!) in order to traverse the sucker, because it takes SO LONG and is SO HARD to finish this monster of a trail.

Now the introduction to the trail was only partially accidental, I confess.  Because I planned to do the 4.5 mile trail.  You know, the “this-11-mile-trail-intimidates-me-so-I-want-a-shorter-version-of-the-Backpack-Trail” trail.  What I did NOT plan to do was the 11 mile version of the Backpack Trail. 

Had I completed the 4.5 mile version, I’d still have had plenty of material to share with you, believe-you-me.  But the fact that just one teensy-weensy turn to the left rather than the right had us move our bodies over 11 miles of terrain instead of 4.5 miles is just plain wicked.  Indeed, we made the left vs. right decision because some Very Helpful (sadistic) Campers advised us that everyone had headed toward the left.  Thank you campers. 

What followed was an adventure that my two running buddies and I certainly had not anticipated.  We were told that we’d be heading over a creek.  Indeed, we headed over multiple creeks.  “Creek” is a highly subjective term, apparently.  I’m thinking, it’s a little thing you can hop over.  Nope.  It’s several big things that, even if you don’t fall off the slippery rocks that pose as steps across the current, you’re going to be wading in the water at least up to your ankles.  (Before you Florida readers think me a wimp, now, please remember that it was 33 degress when I got in the car to drive to this adventure!). 

And there were hills.  So many hills.  This trail wasn’t playing.  And let’s not forget that it’s been raining for, like, 952 days straight here in Central Illinois, so it was Mud City everywhere we went.  Read that:  No Traction.  Slip-N-Slides are fun when you’re eight and in your front yard with your neighbor buddies.  When you’re 43 years-old and trying to find footing climbing up a Monster Mud Hill, there are few humans that would call the exercise fun. 

Indeed, as we got to the bottom of our 382nd hill (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) we stopped thinking, “surely this is the last big hill we have to deal with” and started thinking, “surely this stinking trail has to end at some point.” 

Who knew that any trail, anywhere in the known universe could have So Many Gigantic Up’s and Gigantic Downs?  One after the other.  (Of course, happily interspersed with flowing creeks throughout.)

And the downhills.  I believe they were even worse than the uphills.  I’d always had the strategy of running on the downhills whenever possible.  It’s just that it was Very Rarely possible on this Sadist Trail.  The first bad boy that we faced, I remember clearly thinking that we’d taken a wrong turn.  People aren’t supposed to go straight down hills that steep with NO earth on either side.  Just a little mountain goat path straight down with an occasional tree mercifully situated for holding-on-for-dear-life on the downward descent.  I remember thinking after that first hill that the worst was behind us.  HA HA HA HA HA.  No.

All three of us in our brave little what-in-the-blazes-are-we-doing-out-here-without-a-GPS-or-a-cell-phone party fell nicely on our touckases at least once during the adventure.  We kept a good eye-out for each other and never got too far apart while out there.   We learned the difference between a shriek of  “Woo Hoo!” (“We’re awesome!  Look what we’re doing!”) and a shriek of “Woo Hoo!” (“Heaven help me, I’ve just fallen into the biggest mud pit in a five state region!”).  We learned the difference between this-hurts and this-sucks-but-let’s-keep-going-because-we-still-have-daylight.  And we most certainly learned to love the signs with the little red arrows and how to look for the red splotches on lots of trees. 

Most of all, we learned that there was more within us than any of us bargained for when we set out to Forest Glen for a little run one cold Saturday morning in November.  We learned we could do it.  At least for me, I surprised myself that I could do it.  And any one of us could have gone the 13.1 half marathon distance–so we learned that we were able to do that too!  I had another chance to give one something that had intimidated me a beat-down.  And we were blessed with the commraderie, the friendship, that comes from battling those stinking hills and creeks and elements together. 

Overall, it certainly was a day worth having.  Maybe even a day worth repeating.  A great adventure by some unlikely adventurerers.  And a great achievement by some tough-as-nails women who, though total newbies, were ready and willing to give it our all.  And we did. 

Three other Very Important Points: 

1.  Hats off to the Kennekuk Road (and Trail) Runners who gave every one of us a round of applause as we staggered off the trail.  These Super Runners had been done for well over an hour, but were still glad to cheer on the lost-little-newbies that somehow finished that 11 mile beast without dying! 

2.  My trail shoes are now officially trail shoes.  Here’s the after picture: 

Shoes: AFTER

3.  WW Activity Points mean I can EAT after today.  Yes!

4.  I’m certain I’ve forgot to mention much more than what’s been said here already.  I’m sure you’ll get more tidbits as the days and weeks move on…

For now, here’s proof of the mud: 

Muddy!

And proof of the buds:

We Made It!

Read Full Post »

If you’re not from around these parts, you’re probably wondering, “What in the world is a Kennekuk?”  Excellent question.  Here is my answer.  “Kennekuk” is several different, very awesome things. 

Most widely understood, it’s one of our local county parks that is absolutely amazing.  If you’re a nature person or a trail person or a enjoy-the-peace-and-serenity-of-the-prairie person, then this park is for you and you owe it to yourself to visit there.  A lot.  If you’re not from the area, it’s worth the drive to visit.  A lot. 

Kennekuk can also refer to the Native American Kickapoo leader for whom (I believe) the park was named.  If you’re a history person, this will interest you.   A lot.

Most germane to this blog, Kennekuk refers to the Greatest Running Club in the Universe.   If you’re a runner, this group will inspire, entertain, challenge, support, amuse, encourage, and amaze you.  A lot.

banner3[1]

I first became involved with the Kennekuk Road Runners when I ran in the Memorial Day 5K that my friend Chris suckered me into running.  This was such a well run race and people were so nice and encouraging, it was a very easy step to try the next race.  Since it was members-only, I bit the bullet and joined the group with its Most-Affordable-Family-Membership-Fee-Ever

The first member race which followed shortly was the Clear Pond Trail Run.  The organization raised money for local animal shelters during this event, which was a see-how-far-you-can-run-in-five-hours-you-crazy-person event.  I’ll give you my observations and experiences on the Clear Pond Trail Run in a separate post, I promise.

This group of people is highly organized and professional.  They work very hard.  And they have a great time at everything they do.  People from around the nation have joined this organization for these and other awesome reasons. 

Personally, the thing I found to be amazing was that in this brief time running near the very back of the pack with these amazing runners, they were amazing enough people that they took the time to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging, not just about their club, but also about the sport of running. 

They’re the first ones to tell someone, “Good job!  Keep it up!” when you know that your lumbering, staggering pace is not a “good job” in anyone’s wildest imagination.  Yet, somehow, while you’re out there running, these people’s positive opinions and encouragement actually matters to you and urge you forward, with the great anticipation of finishing the race on your feet. 

And the fact is, each one of these people started somewhere.  Some were awesome athletes all their lives, I suppose.  And then there are my kindred spirits: a group of them who decided to pull their acts together at some point in their lives and do the Hard Work of getting back in shape after years of neglect.  They know that getting started is a “good job” and your first run is a “good job” and any personal record is a “good job” and that there are days when just plain not quitting is a “good job.” 

The bottom line is, they’ve been there.  And they haven’t forgotten the journey to where they are now.  And they’re happy to be a voice of encouragement to someone else starting down that path.   Hearing their voices sure helped me to remember that my own “good job” had a great deal more to do with showing up and trying than with finishing in any particular place or time.  And for me, that support was something I desperately needed to stick with the sport in the beginning stages. 

These superstars give time and encouragement and, yes, respect for anyone willing to lace up their shoes and come out and run, no matter what that newbie’s fitness level or experience.  They are ready to celebrate your “good job” with you, whatever that looks like, and without comparing it to the next guy (that one who lapped you four times, yeah, him). 

As a mama, I’m used to being the expert in lots of things.  I’m used to being the one doing the encouraging.  So it was an extra bonus to hear that atta-girl coming my way as I hauled myself over those courses and on those trails. 

Thanks Kennekuk Road Runners.  Yeah, I definitely wanna be like them when I grow up.  🙂

Read Full Post »

I know I’ve been trying to post these little pieces in some kind of chronological order, in an effort to give you the overall flavor of my running journey.  However, I’ve gotta break into the present here and share something that’s going on Right Now.  And ask for some help.  Now.  Please.

As of today, I have officially run(mostly)/walked 418.2 miles.  And as of today, from the start of my running journey I have lost a total of (drumroll…) ONE pound.  No kidding.  This swings from zero to five pounds depending on red meat, salt and PMS, but basically, all this effort has amounted to NOTHING in the scale department.  One of my Facebook posts was actually:  Does throwing your scale out the window qualify as exercise?  Grrr.

weight-loss-scale[1]

Photo Credit

Not that I’ve stayed the same, mind you.  My lovely daughters have been so kind as to report to me, “Mom your butt used to be THIS BIG (arm gestures–use your imagination) and now it’s only This Big (smaller arm gestures).”  Nice.

I’m in a smaller size and I definitely am cardiovascularly more healthy.  These are great things and I’m delighted about that.  I’m “compacting” as Shelly likes to call it.  Muscle weighs more than fat, I’ve heard; that’s why you can shrink your body somewhat and still weigh the same.  Yadda yadda yadda.

A few days ago, I finally just got sick of it.  I told myself (and my friend Jackie just before she ran quickly ahead of me with a burst of energy that I think came from a secret about her I’ll tell you a little later) that I knew this would be easier and so much more enjoyable minus the 40 pounds I still wanted to shed.  (Truth be told, shedding 40 pounds certainly would not have me runway-model-pageant-ready, but who cares!  I’m concerned with being able to run faster and longer.  This is not a beauty contest, people!)

I thought back to some of the advice that I’d received regarding diet when I started this running journey: 

1.  People warned me when I decided to train for a half-marathon that endurance running was not the way to lose weight.  Yeah, sure, I thought.  What do they know.  Turns out, they were telling the truth.   Endurance athletes need the C-word (That’s carbohydrates.  Or calories.  Actually, I don’t remember which, but both qualify.)  So traditional “diets” don’t work for someone who’s increasing their mileage by 10% every week for 20 weeks. 

This is especially true  for women.  Why?  I don’t know, I just made that up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true and it definitely seems that way, so I threw it in there.  I’m not a researcher, I’m a runner.  Google it! 

2.  Other people said to me, “If you keep running like that, you’ll be able to eat anything you want.”  Sweet.  This sounded like advice I wanted to hear!  Turns out these people were liars.  Oh, I tried it.  Didn’t work.  Liars.

3.  My friend Jackie has done an amazing thing, however.  In a year (maybe it was 18 months, I don’t know~Jackie help!), she lost 98 pounds while running!  The first time I saw her in quite a few years was at a running event in June and I barely recognized her.  She was, quite literally, a shadow of her former self.  I was so excited for her and of course I asked her for her secrets.  She shrugged modestly and replied, “Eat less, move more.”  GREAT!  Like I hadn’t heard that before.  But she was telling the truth.   (This would be the secret to her increased energy, don’tcha think?)

I spent several months after Jackie’s revelation trying to shortcut the “Eat Less” portion of her master plan.  Of course, this didn’t work and I had dozens of reasons, excuses, rationalizations and justifications for my shortcuts, which I certainly won’t bore you with here.  Suffice it to say that the  reasons, excuses, rationalizations and justifications didn’t do anything to lower those numbers on the scale, so they were simply a waste of time.

So now I’ve finally gotten tired of carrying around this extra weight.  Actually, I’ve been tired of it for a long time; I’ve only just now finally gotten tired enough to actually do something about it. 

If I’m going to follow the “Eat Less” rule, I know I’m going to have to keep better tabs on what’s actually going into this body, in addition to how many miles I put in.  I’ve got a LOT of challenges for making these changes.  At last I’ve got the Will, but for all practical purposes, I really need help with the Way.

Here are some of my challenges, including but certainly not limited to: 

1.  I am not exactly what you would call a culinary whiz.  For decades, I avoided the kitchen at all costs.  I can cook, under duress, but I still consider it a hassle.  The changes will need to be easy and convenient.   Imagine your easiest.  Now, easier than that.

2.  I have the palate of a 10 year-old.  I simply don’t like most things that grown-ups like.  I won’t eat them, though I’ve spent years trying and testing and forcing them down.  I could eat pizza and burgers/fries several times a week without getting tired of them.  I don’t like slime (most condiments) or anything with fancy names or anything that looks wierd or still has a face staring at me.  *shudder* 

3.  I have a family that likes to eat.  My kids are athletes and growing children that need to eat sufficient amounts of food in order to have fuel in their bodies and in order for them to develop properly.  They are very fit and lean because they still have a metabolism.  I am 43.  I no longer have a metabolism.  Ah, but that is the subject of another post, and I digress.  Fact:  I either have to make something that we all can consume, or I have to make two meals (not a Real Option, see Challenge Number 1.) 

4.  I must eat carbohydrates.  Not just because I’m a carbophile (I am), but because I’m training for endurance events and I really do need to fuel myself with these things.  Drastically cutting carbs or Atkins options are not viable choices for me. 

5.  The biggest deal for me is that I need to make changes that I can incorporate for the long haul.  I’m hard-headed and strong-willed enough that I can do almost anything for the short run.  I can Atkins and South Beach and Weight Watchers and cleanse and fast and point count and calorie count with the best of them.  I’ve done it (well, some of it) and it’s worked.  In the short run.  The problem is that for me, none of these have been changes that I could make permanently. 

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see myself as a physically active person permanently.  I could (and actually want to) run/workout consistently and regularly.  I’m excited about this “Move More” portion of the health formula.  I can do this for life!  But I’ve yet to determine things that I can do for the “Eat Less” portion of my world that I can honestly say I would do over the long run. 

And that’s where I need the help of my friends who read this blog.  (And your friends, and their friends.  This is serious, people!) 

I am looking for 15-30 recipes that are yummy and healthy and easy and would be enjoyed by my family with our highly immature palates.  My thought is that if there are low-cal, healthy foods that we actually would enjoy and would be easy to make, then I could make them, we could eat them and then I would rotate them around and my family would eventually all be healthier for it.  (For you domestic goddesses and Proverbs 31 divas out there, I’m sure this sounds like complete Common Sense, but this kitchen-business is not my strong suit, so bear with me! 🙂 )

Here’s what I’m going to do:  I’m going to hold a contest for these recipes.  I’m going to pick out the ones that I could make without going into kitchen-stress and that my family would eat without my having to listen to any impolite gagging sounds.  From those, I’ll draw a name and that lucky person will win The Prize. 

Start digging through your recipes, the contest will start tomorrow, when I post The Guidelines and tell you more about The Prize.  You’ll get a chance to post your recipes in the comment sections and then lots of people will be able to see them and try them.  Isn’t that a great idea?! 

I may even post my progress here (no, not actual numbers, silly, no one’s getting that SCALE number), so you can see how much you’ve helped me out.  Tell your friends and link away at will, you healthy people, to the posts about our contest.  I desperately need your help.  “Eat Less” won’t work if I can’t stand what I’m eating. 

I’m confident you all have the keys to my success in your recipe boxes, just waiting to be shared!

Read Full Post »

The afternoon after my first 5K, I took a ride with my mom and daughter, N, to one of our local parks to check out a trail on which an upcoming run was scheduled.  Never mind that my knees technically weren’t working and it had taken me more than 50 minutes to walk 3.1 miles.  Never mind that the trail was 7.3 miles and had to be completed in 2 hours.  Never mind that the race was scheduled the day of my 25th high school reunion.  Just because it was technically and completely impossible didn’t mean I shouldn’t do my homework about the thing.  C’mon!

My mother and daughter were happy to enable me in my delusion and we walked a bit of the trail together.  Didn’t seem too rugged to me.  The date was set for N and I to run walk the trail and see if we could complete it in the requisite 2 hours. 

After rescheduling several times due to pain and rain, N and I finally set out on the trail.  My brother (who several years ago had walked this trail while training to walk the Appalachian Trail~which he conquered, successfully, solo and in record time, by the way) had assured me that the trail was not rugged by A.T. standards, but had warned me about the ticks in the area.

TICKS?!  Ack.  My head was itching just thinking of it. 

We set off with our heads covered, and weighed down with snacks and water provided by my wonderful mom, who had agreed to hang out with Yay-Mommy-Princess while we were on our hike. 

Less than a mile into the trail we discovered suddenly an animal skeleton hanging in a tree, which set quite the tone for our adventure.  (My mother later told me that the park staff knew about the lovely carcass, and laughingly asked if we’d seen it.  Ranger humor.  Nice.) 

We also discovered that the definition of “rugged” meant vertical hills, with slippery steps carved into mud walls, and truly meant for mountain goats or wolves, but definitely not humans.  Note to self:  watch for “rugged” in description of future running courses.

Half-way through the walk/run/hike N decided that she needed to stop and rest.  Sadly, I knew that the one thing I could NOT do was stop, since my knees were already showing signs of locking up.  After trying to explain in my nicest mom voice that if mom stopped to rest, they would be needing to bring a little cart to pick us up and haul mom’s pitiful, aching body off the trail, we continued on walking, whining, whimpering and wallowing–sometimes in self-pity and sometimes in the mud. 

We somehow made it through without dying in 2 hours and 2 minutes.  It was an amazing bonding time with my daughter N.  M was at our “finish line” jumping up and down and shouting her trademark, “Yay, Mommy!  Go Mommy!”  We only found one stubborn tick that insisted on coming home with us.  And we had pushed ourselves further than what either one of us had known was possible. 

I had been exercising for about two weeks at that point.  I was leaving the domain of the “Normal Person” and was becoming a “Runner.” I was filthy and exhausted, but had discovered the exhilaration of the trail run, the thrill of meeting that goal and the knowledge that though I was far, far, far from where I wanted to be, I was 7.3 miles closer than I was the day before.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: