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Fall half marathon

I started writing this blog last year after I struggled through two half marathons — the Great Smokey Mountains Half and the Fort4Fitness half marathon in Fort Wayne. Today, I signed up for the Oct. 14 Purdue Boilermaker Half Marathon. I plan to run a 10K on Sunday, then I must begin training in earnest.

I’m afraid if I don’t start training right away, I’ll let summer slip by and then by mid-September, I won’t have any worthy training and I’ll end up with a crappy race time and feeling miserable after the race, kicking myself mentally for not training.

I know West Lafayette, Indiana, has hills, so I’ll have to train for hills. The Nutri-run the Fort Wayne Running Club put on in March was plenty hilly, and I really wasn’t ready for them. I struggled late in the race. I need to run hills, and lots of them.

I also need to get the distance. Jeff Galloway suggests overdistancing. Ideally, I’d like to have one or two 15-mile runs beforehand. I’ll start with the 10K distance and go from there.

Also, I want to work on some speed. Seven weeks ago, a new dog came to live with us. He runs with me most of the time, and he forces me to run faster than I’m generally comfortable with. For at least one run a week, I’m going to have to step up the speed.

There it is. I’ll use this blog to keep you posted on my progress. I hope that by doing so, I keep up with my training.

 

 

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Eventful month of geocaching and a pair of races

As the calendar turns to May, I thought I’d look back at an eventful April.

Since this is supposed to be a running blog, I’ll get the running out right away. I ran a pair of 5K races in April. One, the Mastodon Stomp, raises money for the women’s track team at IPFW, our local Division I university. There is no men’s track team there. The other race, the Formula for Life 5K at the University of Saint Francis, raises money for an orphanage in Haiti. Both races were run on unseasonably warm Sunday afternoons.

The first, the Mastodon Stomp, April 9, saw me run a time of 33 minutes, 30.9 seconds. I was 13th out of 15 in may age group  (men 55-59). Except for the crossing the bridge from the main campus to the where the dorms are, the course was flat. I walked through the water stations, hoping to stay hydrated.

On April 23, I ran the Formula for Life race in 33:52.6 and finished seventh out of 19 in may age group (50 and older, which included two folks in their 70s and four in their 60s).  The race left the Saint Francis campus and went to Lindenwood Cemetery next door. The cemetery is hilly. I chugged up the first couple hills, trying to keep up a fast time. Big mistake. I ended up walking several of the hills, which ultimately slowed me down. In addition, the race had just bottled water, so I didn’t take any. I should have brought my own water. I was parched when the race ended.

mastodon
Me at the Mastodon Stomp on the IPFW campus April 9.

In addition to the two races, I found a geocache every day in April. Last Tuesday was the only day that looked as if I might not find a geocache.

Geocaching, for the uninitiated is a sort-of treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find a hidden cache. Tuesday is the 17th anniversary of geocaching. It was just after midnight on May 2, 2000 that a switch was flipped that allowed civilians to use global positioning satellites more accurately.  Dave Ulmer hid what he called a stash, posted the coordinates on the internet, thus the first geocache.

During the month, I found 69 geocaches, which includes attending three geocaching events. In addition, our family added a new member to the household, a German shorthair pointer by the name of Kinsler. Kinsler came to us via the DeKalb County Humane Society. Apparently he had been abandoned in Ohio. I’m not entirely sure how he ended up in DeKalb County, Indiana. My wife found him online and we apply to adopt him. He came to live with us April 11.

capttailwagger
Kinsler, aka Capt. Tailwagger, helps find his first geocache.

Also during April, the geocaching world celebrated the 3 millionth active cache being hidden. Caches are located in all seven continents as well as on the International Space Station. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to ever claim that one.

As I write this, there are 3,010,033 active geocaches hidden around the world. Anyone who found a geocache the weekend of April 22 got a souvenir.

That same weekend, which coincided with Earth Day, anyone attending a Cache In, Trash Out event got a CITO souvenir. My son and I attended a CITO event in Kokomo, Indiana. The world is our game board, so the geocaching ethic is to cache in, trash out. In addition, on April 13 was Donerstag, a time for geocachers around the world to get together. Donerstag started in Germany. My son and I attended a Donerstag event at a German cafe in Indianapolis.

On April 1, my son and I went to a geocaching brunch event in LaOtto, Indiana. Our plan from there was to find an Earth cache at Chain O’Lakes State Park. In addition to the Earth cache, we decided to look for the regular geocache the Indiana Department of Natural Resources put out last year for the centennial of Indiana’s state parks system.

We found the spot the DNR geocache was supposed to be. We couldn’t find it. We decided to go to the other side of the park to get the Earth cache. We parked and started down the trail around the kettle lake to the Earth cache. The trail was under water. We went the other way. The trail was under water. We didn’t find the Earth cache. We didn’t find any caches that day at the state park.

From Geocaching.com:

EarthCache

An EarthCache is a special geological location people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth. EarthCache pages include a set of educational notes along with coordinates. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage its resources and how scientists gather evidence. Typically, to log an EarthCache, you will have to provide answers to questions by observing the geological location. For more information about EarthCaches visit www.geosociety.org/earthcache.

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Souvenir for 3 million geocaches
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Souvenir for attending a CITO event the weekend of April 22.

donerstag

Dönerstag began in 2007 when German cachers met at kebab shops around the country all at the same time. The tradition caught on!

These special events are held each year on a Thursday. In German, this makes the name “Dönerstag” a pun: The German word for Thursday is “Donnerstag.” Kebab translates to “Döner.”

Last year, over 6000 players attended 233 Dönerstag events. The events were held all over Europe, from Germany and Austria to the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

 

Back home again in Indiana

Tuesday, we flew back to Indiana after a week in Florida. Wednesday, I went for my first run in a week. I spent a week in Florida and not once did I run. I’m such a slacker at times. I came up with tons of excuses not to run: too hot, too windy, territory too unfamiliar, blah, blah, blah.

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Tigers ace Justin Verlander delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a spring training game at Lakeland, Florida. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is in position to make a play.

Wednesday, Richard, a fellow Team RWB member, and I ran for a bit over 3.4 miles in windy conditions at Salomon Farm Park, starting near the YMCA.

March8run
Richard and I after our 3.4-mile run Wednesday evening.

In Florida, instead of running, we went to three Detroit Tigers spring training baseball games (all losses), found more than 20 geocaches, visited my wife’s 90-something aunt, visited my wife’s cousin and her family, went to a beach in Clearwater and to a beach near Titusville. We also went to a space museum at Cape Canaveral. All in all, it was full week, even without putting on my running shoes.

apollo 1
Fellow Hoosier and Purdue graduate Virgil “Gus” Grissom, far left, was the commander of Apollo 1. The Apollo 1 astronauts were killed in training accident on the launch pad, the first US astronauts killed.

 

Our geocaching included urban caches in Lakeland as well as caches in nature preserves. We found several in Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve, a Hillsborough County park.

setting sun
Setting sun, Clearwater, Florida

Dip in temperature

On Friday (Feb. 24), we hit a record high 71 degrees Fahrenheit in Fort Wayne. When my wife and I took our dog out for a walk in the morning, I mentioned that it was 70 degrees. My body seems to be able to tell the difference in the air when the temp hits 70.

The next day, when my son and I drove over to IPFW to grab a quick geocache before he went on an adventure with his Boy Scouts troop, our car said it was 31 degrees outside. What a difference a day makes and it’s a reminder that I live in Indiana and that it is still February.

Saturday, regardless of the temperature, my plan was to run 7 miles. I put on my running clothes, added an extra longsleeve tech shirt, added a pair of long running pants, found my hat and gloves and hit the road. I figured out how to run the previous week’s route and a add a mile to it at the beginning.

The wind was fairly strong, and snow fell off and on throughout. I saw no beavers this week, though I did see some Canada geese here and there. In fact, a I don’t recall seeing anyone else out on the route I ran. Yes, the Old Fort was having a bake sale, and I did see someone there when I stopped to use the bathroom. Even the ice rink at Headwaters Park was all closed up.

old-fort
Historic Fort Wayne, aka the Old Fort, is a replica fort of one built circa 1816 near the confluence of the St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee rivers before Indiana became a state.

Winter had returned.

I felt good throughout the run, though by the end, my quads were letting me know they were tired. I never felt too cold, though I did feel too cold an hour or so later, when my son and I went to grab that geocache.

Speaking of geocaching, we decided to hit far south Fort Wayne on Friday, the 71-degree day. We grabbed a few along roads that dead end where Interstate 469 cut them off. We also decided to make a trip to Ohio. We stopped at a cemetery outside Payne, Ohio, made a find and went across the street to look for another. What we found was a cache about 10 feet off the ground in a tree. The tree wasn’t an ideal climbing tree and we didn’t have any kind of tool to get up there, so we let it be for now. I recorded at geocaching.com that I had visited that cache, but I cannot claim because I did not sign the log.

ohiocemetery
Cemeteries often have some of the neatest geocaches to find. They are always away from headstones and other grave markers, usually on the perimeter. 

We had planned to find some more geocaches in Ohio, but the sky started looking ominous, and we really didn’t want to get caught out in a thunderstorm, so we headed back to Fort Wayne. It was raining pretty hard while we drove down the state line road, but soon after we were back in Indiana, the rain let up then stopped. For the day, I found eight geocaches. My best day was 11 on Veterans Day. Some cachers find 200 or so on a single day, and I’ve heard of someone finding 1,000 on single day. I’m not sure how that is done.

My running plan this week is to run 4 miles tomorrow, another 4 on Thursday and then 9 on Saturday.

Wildlife in the neighborhood

Several years ago, more than 20, I think, the city of Fort Wayne, the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Michigan Power put a peregrine falcon nesting box atop the building now known as the Indiana Michigan Power Center, Fort Wayne’s tallest building. Ever since, a pair of falcons has returned and raised chicks there.

The bird at the top of this blog is a peregrine falcon that I saw last year along the Rivergreenway near the Maumee River.

Today, as we were walking home from downtown, we saw falcon go up into a tree along the street around the corner from our house. I got out my not-so-smart smartphone and started taking pictures.

falcon3
If you look closely, you can see the falcon on the branch.

After watching the falcon for several minutes, we saw a second falcon in a tree directly across the street from us.

falcon4
This one is tough to see, but it’s there.

I’ve twice seen an American bald eagle overhead near the river. And I’ve seen hawks in the neighborhood. Usually the hawks don’t let you get too close and do a good job of camouflaging themselves. Also, I’ve heard barred owls at night.

Saturday on the my run, I saw a beaver down in the river where the St. Joseph and St Marys rivers come together to form the Maumee.

Speaking of running (which is the reason I started this blog), I ran 4 miles today. I thought about Monday’s run and came to a couple of conclusions: 1. I did give myself enough time to warm up after jumping out of the car. I was in a hurry to complete the run, so I started running without a proper warmup. 2. I started too fast. I have started too many runs in recent weeks too fast, usually I am able to find a good cruising speed and run fine. Monday, I never found that cruising speed. 3. I ate too soon before the run.

Today, I was in no hurry to complete the run. I would run until I was done. Yes, my first mile was the fastest, but I was able to find a good cruising pace and never really felt out of it. I ate just a banana before I went out and had some raisin bran and shredded wheat when I got back along with an orange. Not once today did I crave coffee while running.

I didn’t see any wildlife while I was out running, but I did see what I think were mute swans flying west. I think they were mute swans because there was no honking like a goose would do or the noise sandhill cranes make when they’re in flight. Besides, it might be too early in the year for sandhill cranes to be this far north.

Tuesday afternoon, my son and I went down to Huntington — former Vice President Dan Quayle‘s hometown — to do some geocaching. We found eight caches and did not find four others we were looking for. In addition there was a cache that wasn’t there and a barber came out of a barbershop and said the tree the cache was in had been cut down.

watertower

When the body (or is it the mind) doesn’t fee like running

Monday, I was motivated, determined, excited to run. Then what happened? Less than 2 miles into a planned 3-mile run, I was ready to give up and go home. Trouble was, I was more than a mile from the car, so I had to get back there somehow. I ended up running 2.5 miles. I never felt as if I accomplished anything.

About a half-mile into the run, I started craving a cup of coffee. A few blocks from Foster Park, where I ran Monday, is a small coffee house. I could have run over there, gotten a cup of coffee and continued on, I suppose. But I wasn’t carrying cash.

coffee
I started craving coffee while out running Monday.

What did the coffee craving tell me? That was tired? That I had underslept? I suppose that could be it. After all, I worked until 1 a.m. Monday morning and then had to be up about 9 to get my son to a homeschool program at the library. I ran 10 kilometers (6.3 miles actually) Saturday as I train for the 20K race I’ve signed up for March 25. Maybe my body hadn’t recovered from Saturday’s run.

Saturday’s run went really well. I saw a beaver at the confluence of the three rivers (the St. Marys, St. Joseph and Maumee rivers) just below the water filtration plant. I tried to get a picture of the beaver but my not-so-smart smartphone gave an error message every time I pushed the shutter button, so no pictures of that magnificent animal.

I didn’t run Sunday, I did a bit of walking and rode my bike to work (less than 3 miles round trip). So why did I not feel like running? I don’t know.

A few weeks ago, I purposely ran with someone else for the first time in a long time. That run forced me to keep going even when something inside me said to stop. We met again the following week and ran in the snow. Last week, he couldn’t make it and this week I can’t join him.

I think having another person to keep your training honest helps. That is part of my motivation for writing this blog. Share with my legions of readers my running struggles in hopes that it keeps me honest in my training and I actually have a good year of training and some success running.

About that coffee. I’ve read in Runner’s World that the caffeine boost before a run boosts a runner’s speed. I like that. Trouble is, I have to pee — a lot — after drinking coffee. I’d rather keep running than looking for a spot to relieve myself when running. So, I generally don’t have coffee before I run.

starbucks
After an October race, I stopped at Cosmic Deer for an oatmeal and a cup of coffee.

But I will have a cup or two after a run. After I ran the Grand Tetons half marathon in June 2015, all I wanted to drink was coffee. The organizers had a coffee urn in the recovery area, and I kept going back for more and more coffee. It wasn’t necessarily good coffee, but I just kept drinking it. After I ran the Great Smoky Mountains half marathon in September 2016, my first stop on the way home (yes, I drove back to Fort Wayne from Townsend, Tennessee, right after the race) was a Starbucks across the road from the Knoxville, Tennessee, airport for a venti coffee and oatmeal.

4-mile run then a few geocaches

I’ll admit it, I’ve caught the geocaching bug. I went out Sunday (Feb. 12) and ran four miles then went geocaching, finding all three caches I looked for.

cemetery1
The entrance to Lindenwood Cemetery on West Main Street

First the run. I went over to Swinney Park and from there ran to Lindenwood Cemetery. The cemetery, one of the oldest in Fort Wayne, holds some of Fort Wayne’s earliest movers and shakers. It’s also huge, 175 acres. It’s also fairly hilly. So I ran from Swinney over to this unnamed street that runs between Jefferson Boulevard and Main Street. The street seems to have one purpose, access to a bowling alley. I ran down that street to Main and from Main into the cemetery.

cemetery2

I ran the outer perimeter of the cemetery and then back to the entrance and up Main to a street that connects Main with Swinney Park but only on foot or by bicycle because a flood wall was built some years ago to prevent cars from going through. When I was kid, we lived north of Swinney Park and when my dad drove us to the park, we went down that street and entered from that entrance.

swinneysign
In February, the water is turned off. No toilets or drinking fountains.

Well, I returned to the park from the cemetery through that north entrance and was about one-third of a mile shy of completing four miles, so I followed the road around past the parking lot where I had parked and ended up by the swimming. Or should I say what used to be the swimming pool.

Many years ago, the city decided to “temporarily” close that pool. Of the four city-owned pools, it had by far the smallest attendance, so to save money, the pool was closed for a summer. Then another. Then another. Until finally a decision was made to make the closure permanent. I looked around as I cooled off from the run and snapped a few photos.

pool1
No, closed forever
pool2
The slide and hole for the pool are still there.

I walked back to the car and decided to go find a few geocaches my son had found without me. He and my wife were out of town, so off I went. My first stop was a cache along the Rivergreenway. My GPS pointed me a to mess of honeysuckles. I poked around there and was about to give up when I decided to look at the clue. The clue wouldn’t work where I was looking, but 30 feet or so away was a sign, and sure enough a tiny geocache was near the sign. I signed the log and went to the next cache. It was on the former Taylor University campus. Taylor’s main campus is in Upland, Indiana, but for several years it maintained a campus in Fort Wayne. I parked the car and quickly found the cache. From there, I drove to a cache that was in someone’s front yard. It’s the fourth such cache I’ve found.

I logged them with geocaching.com and had lunch.

I felt really good after the run. At no time did I feel as if I was laboring in my running as I had just a few weeks ago. I think my steady increase in the number of miles I’m running is working out. I know I’m still more than a month from my 20K run, but I think I’ll get there.

Longest run of 2017 (so far)

Friday (Feb. 10), I ventured out on the ice and snow for a run. I took it slow, running around a nearby park and a boulevard that has a park strip in the middle of it. One lap is a just a tad over 1.5 miles.

On the path in the park, the snow was packed down but not too icy. Normally, when I run down this particular street, I run in the street. I doesn’t get a lot of traffic and most of the homeowners keep their cars in garages, so few cars are parked on the street. Friday, the street was fairly icy, particularly the intersections. So I ran down the sidewalk. I completed a lap with the intent of doing a second and maybe third lap.

After running to the next busy street my boulevard crosses, I decided to take a little detour. The street I turned onto wasn’t icy and it has a couple of nice hills in them. I went up that street, came to another that wasn’t icy and ran down that a block. Then I came to the hospital. The hospital has a running trail at the back end of its property, about a mile round trip. That trail wasn’t icy. I followed it out and back, came back to my boulevard and then back to the park, 5.2 miles. My longest run so far in 2017.

I felt really good. It was a slow run, thanks to the ice and snow. Although, I picked up the pace the mile or so I ran on dry pavement.

As the day wore on Friday, the temperatures rose. In fact, the low over night was above freezing, which meant, no ice today (Saturday).

My son and I went geocaching in this morning before a previous appointment he had. Together, we found four geocaches, including one hidden in a brick. Possible favorite point for that one. Love those ingenious cache containers.

While he was at his appointment, I ran 2.3 miles. I had planned to take it slowly, yet I ran my first mile nearly as fast as my pace for last week’s 5K race. And I didn’t realize I was running that fast. I kept trying to slow myself down. I ran a second mile, this one a tad slower.

I have run nearly every day this month. Normally, I run three days a week. Two runs of about 4 miles and a longer run. That was how I had planned to train for my half marathons last fall, yet my training never seemed to stay consistent. I’m writing this blog to keep me on task. I figure if I put it out there for the world to see, I’ll have to train on a consistent basis. Sunday, I plan to run about 3-4 miles on a fairly hilly course. I  am signed up for a 20K race in late March. Yes, you read that correctly, 20 kilometers as in about 12.4 miles. Shorter than a half marathon, but still challenging for someone who has not been as consistent in his training as he’d like.

snowyrun
Parkview Hospital’s fitness trail was clear of ice and snow Friday.

 

Snowy run, indoor run

Here in Northeast Indiana, we have had some weird weather this winter. In the week before Christmas, the temperatures hovered between zero and the teens Fahrenheit. After a really cold first week of January, temperatures stayed above normal. We got less than an inch and a half of snow, but got 4.7 inches of rain.

Wednesday, we got 2.4 inches of snow.

snow
More than 2 inches of snow fell Wednesday in Fort Wayne. In January, Fort Wayne received about 1.5 inches of snow.

My family and I went to Toledo, Ohio, Wednesday morning for a homeschool program my son participates in. And as we left Toledo, the snow started to fall. We wanted to be back by 4:30 so my son could get to his comedy class and I could get to my running appointment near the Parkview Family Y. Under normal conditions, we left Toledo in plenty of time. When we got to Defiance, Ohio, the snow was really coming down and sticking. By the time we got home, I needed a brush to clear the other car of all the snow that had accumulated. I drove up to the Y, met Richard and we ran a couple of laps around Salomon Farm Park, about 3.5 miles. I had wanted to run 5, but I got to the Y a half hour late and each of us needed to be elsewhere, so we halted after two laps and headed our separate ways.

winter-run
Richard and me at the end of our snowy run Wednesday.

Today, Thursday, much of the pavement is covered in ice. I do not like to run on ice. I have this fear of falling, and avoid ice whenever I can. I decided to drive to the Jorgensen YMCA, another of the many Y branches in Fort Wayne, and run laps on the indoor track. One lap is an eighth of a mile. I ran 21 laps in 30 minutes. I’m not a big fan of running laps on a track. I have no sense of how fast or how slow I’m running. I just know how often other runners lapped me and how often I lapped walkers.

Friday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 30s or lower 40s, which means most of Wednesday’s snow will soon be gone, and I’ll run outdoors tomorrow.

For the Run Ranger Run challenge, I have recorded 27.11 miles. I have recorded miles each day of February. Every day this month I’ve run, except Superb Owl Sunday (Feb. 5) when I walked 5 miles.

runrangershirt

Rainy run

Today (Tuesday, Feb. 7), my plan was to run an easy two miles after running a fairly hilly three on Monday and with a plan to run five on Wednesday evening.

Well, a thunderstorm (yes, a thunderstorm in February) woke me about 5 a.m this morning. It was still raining about 9, when I went to hardware store to pick up some items for around the house, and at noon, when I decided a little rain wasn’t going to melt me. I wrapped my phone up in a plastic bag the newspaper came in (yes, I still subscribe to the local newspaper, and you should too) and headed out the door.Sometimes, two miles aren’t so easy. My feet were soaked and my shoes were rubbing against the back of my ankle, bringing up a small blister. I never quite got comfortable during the run and was somewhat unsatisfied with the run.

Early in the run, rain came down really hard. Midway, it stopped running completely. On the walk home after I had finished the two miles, more hard rain. I wasn’t feeling it — the runner’s high or whatever it is.

By early afternoon, the rain had stopped and my geocaching partner and I decided to look for some at Kreager Park, a park a few miles east of our house. We parked the car, turned on the GPS and discovered we were less than 200 feet from a cache. We walked over, looked in a pine tree, and there it was, wedged between a couple of branches. Our first of five finds of the day.

kreagerpark
Kreager Park in Fort Wayne has numerous geocaches, though none near this small pond where some Canada geese were frolicking.

Today was a milestone day for me in my geocaching, as I found my 200th cache since I took up geocaching after a 10-year break. My late father-in-law introduced us to geocaching, and my wife and I set up an account at geocaching.com. We got a GPS and found 9 caches, some here in Indiana and some in Colorado where my wife’s parents lived. Life took over and we drifted away from geocaching.

In the summer of 2015 while we were at Grand Tetons National Park, I met a young woman wearing a geocaching T-shirt. I asked her if she geocached and she said she did. Soon after we got back from the Tetons, I re-registered as a geocahcer, trying to use the name we had used early in the century. Unfortunately, the email address we used back then no longer exists, so I was new geocacher. We introduced the activity to our son, and he has been fairly avid about geocaching since. He found his 250th cache today.

gps
The most basic piece of equipment for geocaching is a handheld GPS device.