Saturday, April 27, 2013

Race Day at Possum Kingdom

Today marked another first for Dave Hanenburg and Endurance Buzz Adventures.  Over the last year and a half, Dave has rolled out several new trail races in North Texas to the benefit of all who love trail running.  Today's race was held at Possum Kingdom Lake Hike and Bike trail, maintained by the Brazos River Authority.

Nice views all around. ( photo)
For those of us who have run at Dave's races, it came as no surprise that the race was well-organized and the course was well-marked. (Dave's warning at the pre-race briefing turned out not to be necessary.  The signs and streamers were plentiful and direction was clear.)  The aid stations were well-stocked and the volunteers friendly.  And the course--well, this is the kind of course that reminds me why I love trail running.  Varied terrain, lots of shade, cool rock formations, and tremendous views of the lake and surrounding area.  I enjoyed the sustained climbs, something I don't get much of on my usual D/FW trail runs.  To climb for a couple of miles and then be rewarded with a great view at the top makes the climb not seem so hard.

I originally signed up for the 55K, but common sense and my pathetic run last week at Cedar Hill convinced me that I was in better shape for the 20K.  I decided to take it easy, and figured a 12 minute pace would be plenty fast enough.  After the first climb, I fell in behind a pair of ladies running together and decided to keep pace with them.  It was sort of awkward; I kept wondering if they would think I was stalking them.  They were running at a conversational pace for them, but it was more a race pace for me.  I learned all about their kids, their restaurant preferences, where they like to shop. . . . I'm sure they were pleased when, after 3-4 miles, I passed them up.

Nice rocks. (Endurance Buzz photo)
But their pace was perfect for me, and I ended up running pretty even splits, overall.  I am always pleased when I still have something left in the second half of a race!  (Although today, I think I could have sped up the last couple miles and knocked a few minutes off my time.)  I don't know the final times, but I know I was way behind the first finishers, and there were at least a few people behind me.  Unofficially, I finished in 2:24:45, right at a 12 minute average pace.

I hope to make it back to these trails, for a run, a hike with the family, and for Dave's race next year.  Maybe I'll make a day of it and try for more distance next time!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nice Place to Run: Cedar Hill State Park

GWB, not at Cedar Hill.
After last week's failed attempt to run at Cedar Hill State Park, I decided to return to check out these trails.  I have heard first-hand accounts of other runners meeting George W. Bush out here.  Apparently this is a favorite mountain biking trail for him.

Picture credit:
The trails are well maintained by DORBA, and perfectly suited for mountain biking.  That is mostly a plus for trail runners.  The surfaces are generally smooth, with a few rocks and roots to keep you alert, but not too many.  There are a few climbs and drops that keep things interesting on a bike.  For runners, there is nothing that gets very technical.  Unlike other popular mountain biking trails I've run on, like Lake Grapvine's north shore or Cameron Park in Waco, and on the neighboring this trail never had me pulling up with my hands or jumping down stair-like rocks.

At some points in the trail, the mountain bike nature of the trail got to me.  At some of the winding portions, the trail banks, which is great going downhill on a bike, but not as much fun running.  I felt like someone driving the family minivan on the curves at Texas Motor Speeday; when the race cars take the curve at 180, they stay right up there, but when a minivan tries, topped out at 65, it runs the danger of flipping or slipping to its doom.  Also, some portions of the trail are in a deep vee, which, again, is probably perfect for 2 inch bike tires, but puts the runner in a position between carefully lining up his feet in single-file, or running along the edges.

Picture credit:
Sorry, that sounds like I'm whining.  I don't mean to.  All in all, I really like this trail.  Almost all single track, all runnable, views of the lake, thick woods, meadows, easy to get to.  It's a great place.  This should definitely top your list if you're looking for a spot for a long training run to get in some good miles without too much technical trail.  There are 3 loops, posted as 3, 8, and 12 miles (my Garmin said 11.17, but I suspect there was some tree interference).  And when you visit, tell the nice dude at the ranger station I said hi!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Memo to the dude at Cedar Hill S.P.

Hey, I'm really glad you're there.  I love the state parks, and love the commitment that state parks employees like you have for keeping these strongholds of nature and recreation up and running for regular city people like me. 

Last night when I stopped in to visit Cedar Hill State Park, you were very friendly and efficient in renewing my state park pass.  Then when I told you this was my first visit to CHSP, and asked directions to the trail head for the DORBA trails, you gave clear, efficient directions. 

Image stolen from
So I drove the 2 1/2 miles or so to the trail head, only to discover that the trails were closed!  Couldn't you have told me that when I told you I was there for the trails?  Maybe you could have mentioned that the trails were closed when I asked directions to the trail head? 

It's not that big a deal.  I drove over to Cedar Ridge, thinking I might still get a run in.  But Cedar Ridge closes at 8:30, so I would only have had time to run for 20-25 minutes.  So I went to Chipotle instead.

I'll go back to Cedar Ridge sometime.  It looks lovely, with views of Joe Pool Lake, the hills, and of course the DORBA trails.  Now that my state park pass is renewed, I'll definitely pay you a visit. And maybe next time I'll call the automated line, (972) 291-3900, for trail conditions first!

See you then!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A kick in the butt from the Grit Doctor

Sometimes we need someone to kick us in the behind and get us moving.  If we are to believe the news reports of the ever-growing problem of obesity in the United States, many of us need some encouragement.  That's exactly what Ruth Field, a.k.a., The Grit Doctor, gives the readers of her book Get Off Your A-- and Run! A Tough-Love Running Program for Losing the Excuses and the Weight.  (This is the U.S version of her U.K. release, Run Fat B---h Run.) (She doesn't obscure the naughty words.  This is a family blog, so I have chosen to redact her words. . . .)

Field takes a basic, no-nonsense approach to get the non-runner out the door.  Her premise is that anyone can do it.  Her plan is pretty basic: start walking for an hour and a half, several days a week.  Eventually start jogging part of it.  She's realistic about the fact that it won't be easy to get started: "Embracing the fact that this is going to be hard is the only cure for the terminally unmotivated."  And she's not out to make you into a speed demon: "Go slow.  Go slower.  As slowly as is humanly possible.  The aim is to go as slowly as you can for as long as you can without having to stop.  As soon as you have to stop, it is time to walk, not to sit down . . ."  Sound advice for beginning runners who give up too quickly because they go too fast.

Her focus is on women who are inactive, especially those who want to lose some weight.  Her basic formula: "run, eat less junk, lose weight."  I totally agree with her.  Too many weight loss plans focus on a special diet, and underemphasize physical activity.  She writes that as we become more active, we will naturally gravitate toward better foods.  I think she's overly simplistic on this point, but then I was pretty convicted on the hard line she takes on candy and soft drinks: "Frankly, as an adult, you should be ashamed of yourself if you are still buying candy and soda on a weekly basis.  Stop it now."

I might have to try one of her motivational methods: "When I want to lost a few pounds urgently, I look in the mirror early in the morning--pre-shower, no makeup, and with my entire naked body in view--and I repeat to myself over and over again, 'You fat b---h.'  I then glance immediately at Cameron Diaz or another equally buff celeb in a bikini. . . and the mantra begins to take on a life of its own."  Whatever works, right?

Get Off Your A-- and Run! is certainly geared toward the beginner runner.  I guess she figures there are plenty of books on the market that go into more detail about splits and training plans.  She talks about running intervals, and long runs, but is pretty casual about times.  "Fooling around with stopwatches is generally better for wasting time than tracking it.  Just mix up your speed during your regular runs and don't worry about the exact times."  I enjoyed her breezy, get-to-it style.  She leaves the non-runner with no excuses.

She sums it up nicely: "If you take only three things from this book, let it be these: Run. Drink more water. Eat less crap.  You. Can. Do. It."  If most long-time runners are anything like me, it doesn't hurt to be reminded of these three basic rules.  Field is a motivational running coach with attitude, and has little patience for those of us who can't seem to get off the couch.  Run!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!