Friday, September 24, 2004

First Fall Trail Run

Dew point 63/Humidity 84%.

It was wet this morning as I set out on the trail. I have to cross a grassy field to enter the woods so my feet are quickly soaking wet. It is light but the sun is still hidden. A mist hangs low which always gives a primeval feel to the woods. It is warm this morning but fall changes have begun. Some trees have yellowed and the trail already has a coating of freshly fallen leaves. I make the great loop this morning and briefly leave the Arboretum and enter Ridley Creek Park. On the trail there I encounter a hiker. It's rare that I ever see another human on the trails. Our brief exchange of good mornings is interrupted by a deer crashing across the trail. The mere sound of our voices must have disturbed her.

Back in the Arboretum the trail I choose leads to a large meadow and here fall is more evident as much of the vegetation has begun to die back. The sunlight just striking the trees to my right makes the yellows particularly brilliant. As I re-entry the woods the dappled sunlight is another reminder of fall. In high summer the canopy is dense enough to keep out direct sunlight but now patches of sunshine are everywhere. I skirt one more meadow and then enter the woods for the last leg out to Middletown Road. I've been out here for more than hour but it seems like only minutes have gone by - it was that kind of run.

Bar Harbor Half Marathon

I ran this race on Saturday, 18 September 2004 but am only now getting to publish a report since we were visiting and exploring Maine and Canada.

This is a very low key race (especially compared to the race I might have been doing that weekend - the Philadelphia Distance Run). There were about four hundred runners. Pick your number and shirt up at the YMCA. Paper bag with the race shirt and number. That's it. No expo. No freebies.

Race day greeted us with the a driving rain. It rained about 80% of the race (I joked thatit was my longest swim ever).

The course begins on Bar Harbor's Main Street. I love resort towns. Kind of nice to think that whole towns exist just so we can go and spend money. I don't mean this in a sarcastic way. It just seems great that as a society we can create that much leisure.

Despite the fact that the summer season is over the place is still quite busy, but this rainy Saturday morning all is quiet as we thunder down Main Street past tourist shops and eateries. Down to the harbor and then a hard left on the road out of town.

Second mile is up a long black top where you eventually enter the park. Acadia National Park is just magical. Hard to believe it belonged to one family. The paths thru the park are a packed gravel of some sort(crushed granite I believe). The trick is to stay off the cinders and still cut the tangents as much of possible since the paths curve quite a bit.

There seemed to be long gradual uphills and then dramatic downhills. Mile six is almost entirely uphill but seven is almost entirely downhill so I guess it evens out. I may have been too conservative on the downhills. A woman running near me would open these huge leads on the downhills and then I would reel her in on the level and uphills. I was afraid going too hard on the downhills would result in poor performance later.

The vistas even in the misty rain are spectacular and when there are man made objects like the stone bridges they seem to fit quite naturally.

About mile eight I hear someone say "Didn't I wait on you last night?" It's my waitress from dinner. It must be tough running after serving all night. we
chat only briefly because I am moving quite well and want to keep it up. The next couple of miles seem to fly by.

Mile 11 is a shock as you leave the park and come out onto a highway. You must run on the shoulder as it is not closed to traffic. I tried hitching
a ride but no one stopped. There is one last hill not long but steep and then a mile plus of almost all downhill. In fact one drop seems almost too precipitous and I wonder how fast should I go for.

One giant puddle (is this a steeplechase)swin jokes a volunteer and then a couple hundred years in the park. It seemed easy.

My goal 1:50; my finish 1:50:15.

I saw the clock but just couldn't get 1:49. If I had known how close I was I would have pushed some of those downhills just a little.

Great race despite the rain which does ruin afterward more then the race itself. The Y does allow you to shower which is nice since you can go home clean, dry
and warm.

I enjoy the half marathon distance. A hard run but not a destroyer like a marathon.

The next day I returned to Bar Harbor to take a ferry. The CAT to Nova Scotia. The seas were choppy but I survived the three hour trip without getting seasick. (Fortifide by some Dramamine.)

We enjoyed a two hour guided tour of Yarmouth and then explore the town. It's a hardscrabble kind of place. Tourism helps but fishing and some industry are probably more important since the tourism season is short.

Sunday morning I ran for about an hour and saw the town from one end to the other. They have recently improved the waterfront and the town does have a number of victorian houses but it is really the vistas out to sea that grab you.

The ride back on the Ferry provided an unexpected highlight - whales. About an hour out we entered an area where we seemed to be surrounded by dozens of whales. Mostly you just saw their spouts. But a couple of times some were close enough to boat that you could glimpse their fins and bodies. Quick a stroke of luck especially since according to the local paper whale sightings have been rare this year.

Chad Brooks

Monday, September 13, 2004

Main Line Dollars For Scholars

A 5K run with two loops on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, Pennsylvania. It always surprises runners even those who traverse Lancaster frequently by car how hilly it is. But these are gentle hills and it is relatively easy to keep pace; it also helped that I warmed up by running a major portion of the course. This race has an elaborate, detailed certification map – one of the best I have seen and yet as far as I can determine no results on line. In fact I never did see the results board. I know they were disappointed in the turnout – beautiful morning, well advertised race, not a lot of competition, good prize money and still only about 100 runners. It was my best 5K time in a while: 22:30 and I was pleased with that. I couldn’t id anyone I had raced with before (which also surprised me since this is close to home) so was pretty much on my own with pacing. My first mile was about 7:30+ which means for once I picked up (very slightly) the pace as the race proceeded. Partly this was due to two nice downhills in the last mile. I love a race that finishes on a downhill which this did. I know that I ran the last mile well because for a change I was reeling runners in instead of being past left and right. I once again used another runner to draft but only shortly because I realized that although he had passed me just past two he was really slowing by 2.5 (must have miscalculated a surge) and I knew I had plenty of energy left. I can’t be certain but I don’t think anyone passed me in that last half mile. Nice event. It’s always good to run better then you expected.

Yesterday, I did a longish run – a little over two hours. Not sure that was wise since I am doing a Half-Marathon on Saturday. But I will taper the rest of the week and it was such a pleasant morning. I started out in the dark just after six and enjoyed seeing the gradual brightening day come. Merion golf course was a hive of activity as I went past; the grounds keepers already hard at work greeted me as another early bird. There is a water fountain just off Ardmore Avenue so I took advantage of it and just a little further along on Golf View I secreted a drink that I could pick up on my return circuit. While not crowded there were more people on Haverford’s nature trail then I expected early Sunday morning. Ironically, I nearly got a chance to test dog abatement procedures when I encountered a yellow lab on an isolated road. He seemed determine to block my path but when I showed no interest in his driveway he lost interest in me and allowed me to past, but not without some admonishments so everyone would know he did his job and chased the intruder away. Got home just in time for the Sunday puzzle on NPR (phrases where both words are silent e). Felt quite energized and ready for a good half.