Category Archives: Sports

Up, Up and Away

Of all the running races I’ve done in the past 35+ years, one of my all-time favorites is the annual Up, Up and Away 5k,  held in conjunction with the Findlay (Ohio) Balloonfest.

Why does this race stand out? For one thing, it starts at 8 a.m., which is significant in August in Ohio, where the temp and humidity can often reach into  the 80s by 8 a.m. Then there’s the added exhilaration of watching the multi-colored hot air balloons fill and drift up to the sky above us as we approach the starting line. As we return to the finish line, the sky is dotted with many balloons.

And then there is the food table, sagging under the weight of slices of watermelon and bagels from Tim Horton’s.

Sure, those are all good reasons for loving this race, but the real reason we’re there is to help the Findlay Striders raise funds for the Hancock County (Ohio) Special Olympics. Following this year’s race, the local running club presented a check for $8,000. How great is that?

Once the 5k is over, we get to cheer on all the Special Olympians who are able to participate in a one-mile run/walk. Their persistence and strength far outshine the rest of us.

And somewhere in our attic is a box of race awards collected over the past 35+ years. But none of them means as much as the ones I’ve received at the Up, Up and Away. These unique awards are handcrafted by the Special Olympics athletes at the Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay.

These are the only awards I actually keep out where I can see them on a daily basis because they serve as a daily reminder to be grateful for what is really important. photo (14)

photo (12)

Peacefulness of early morning runs marred by thoughts of violence

In 35 years of running, my early morning runs have provided me with much time to think, to pray, to meditate, to plan, to talk (and not just when I have a running partner because who better than oneself to talk to), and to completely lose myself in memories.

Tuesday morning’s run was in many ways like every other run. The early morning quiet was welcome, broken only by birdsong and the occasional car passing by. But the peacefulness of the early hour was marred by conflicting thoughts of sorrow and anger as memories of the horrendous bombing at runnersMonday’s Boston marathon.

As I ran, I reflected on all of the finish lines I’ve crossed, happy in knowing that my family was often waiting to cheer me on. It never once occurred to me that I could be putting them in danger, that there might be someone angry enough at the world that he or she would set off a bomb at a road race.

Even as this thought crossed my mind, a distant rumble of thunder broke into my reverie, sending chills down my spine. It reminded me of the old lady in “Under the Tuscan Sun” who agrees to sell her crumbling villa when a bird defecates on Frances’ head. “Le signe, le signe!”

If that thunder clap was a sign, it was perhaps more a sign that we all need to remember that we Americans aren’t the only ones facing acts of violence every day. Even as the bombs exploded in Boston, there were about 20 separate car bombings in Iraq that killed at least 37 and injured more than 140 people, all in one day.

I’m reminded of a statement by a cousin — “We are not alone in our grief.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/world/middleeast/attackers-strike-across-iraq-as-elections-approach.html

In the weeks to come, those early morning runs will serve to remind me of our shared grief the world over. I’m sure I won’t be alone in my thoughts.race

 

 

 

 

Hopscotch — alive and well in 2013

Remember hopscotch? Guess what? It’s still alive and well….at least in our neighborhood. Yesterday we had one of those glorious early spring days that just begs for playing outside in shorts.

Anyway, with temps in the mid-60s, my two favorite next-door neighbor kidlets were busily designing their own hopscotch board on the front sidewalk. I bet them that they couldn’t extend it beyond their property line all the way to our driveway.

The almost-6-year old (he made sure I knew exactly the date on which he turns 6) was drawing the squares and numbering them under his 8-year-old sister’s giggling directions. 2013-03-10 14.23.41

When I asked if I could test it, they looked at me in that dubious way that only children can. After all, in their minds, I’m OLD. My children are MUCH OLDER than them….so old they barely remember them. But being the cheerful kids that they are, they allowed me to take a test hop. 2013-03-10 14.23.532013-03-10 14.23.38

When I reached the final squares, I heard Xavier breathe a sigh of relief. He grinned. “I thought you were going to fall.” Ali giggled. Ahhh, the forthrightness of youth.
He then proceeded to show me the rock they intended to use for their game. Apparently, their version involved throwing the rock on a distant square. If it fell in a square, they could take a turn. Okay, so this is not the version I remember. So what? Are games not designed to be played with whatever rules one chooses to assign?

This is the joy of being a child and having plain old fun on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Ohio. And what better way to do this than by dressing for fun?2013-03-10 14.24.59

Facing winter head on: Increasing the endorphins with a snowy run

Here’s the problem with Ohio winters. They’re completely unpredictable. No, that’s not quite true. They’re predictably unpredictable.

On Monday, I ran in shorts and a t-shirt. Then the temps dropped to sub-freezing, the wind kicked up to 25 plus mph, and the snow followed. Back to the indoor track — for which I am ever-so-grateful. But today is Saturday, which means long-run day, and my body craved the outdoors. So I layered up, Velcro‘d on the Extreme Masque…IMG_0371[1]

…strapped on the YaktraxIMG_0372[1]

…and headed out. Toward the end of eight miles, I rounded the National Quarry on one of my favorite trails. My iTouch was on its last few minutes of battery power, so I turned on the video camera. This is for my friend, Debbie, whose heart is in ski and hiking country, but current home is in the city. This’ll probably make her even more homesick for her hometown.
Unfortunately, the battery died just before I reached my favorite rocks that overlook the water. And despite my footfalls and breathing, you get the idea of the peaceful feeling of this location.

From vintage Adidas Dragon to 2012’s Brooks GTS12: a retrospective

Here’s the thing about running shoes. Just when you find the pair you really really like, the company’s “experts” decide it’s time for a change. Ask any long time runner — change is not always a good thing. Back in the early 1980s when I first began running, there was a limited choice of running shoes. The science of running hadn’t yet delved into the complexities of pronation, cushioning, motion control, stability — not to mention the much contested minimalist/barefoot options.
Pity the poor newbie runners confronted by all those shoes. Even the old-timers shudder at the thought of having to replace old favorites.
It occurred to me recently that it was time to start searching for a new shoe. Sadly, Asics had finally decided to quit producing my long-time favorites, the GT2110. I knew this was coming — they’d long warned the shoe was “endangered.”
My search resulted in a sort 0f nostalgic retrospective of the many shoes I’ve run in over the years.
My first pair was a heavyweight faux leather shoe of no particular distinction. I remember them clearly — white with green stripes. They must have weighed at least 3 pounds each — triple the weight of my beloved ASICS.
Those lasted only until I discovered there were real shoes made for runners but as I remember, only men’s sizes were available. My second pair was the ultra cool tan nylon and suede Adidas Dragon, a shoe I would love to have again.

After that, there were a series of Brooks, Saucony, and a horrendous pair of Nikes that were so unbending that I developed the dreaded plantar fasciitis. A wonderful physical therapist took one look at the shoes and wrote a letter to the company insisting that they reimburse me the cost of the shoes.
More importantly, she taught my husband to massage the fascia from the heel to toes — a process so painful that my screams prompted our young daughters to beg their dad to stop. The massages and professional orthotics corrected the fasciitis, but convinced me that I needed a flexible shoe.
Somewhere along the way I discovered Asics, progressing from the Gel versions to my current GT2110.

None of the subsequent GT models have passed muster so it was only a matter of time before I had to face facts. Time to search for a replacement.
Note: Here is where two of my brothers — both of whom read Christopher McDougall‘s “Born to Run,” would lecture me about the futility of buying new shoes.
Okay, so sometimes I listen to them, but this is one of the times when I didn’t. Instead, I hightailed it to my favorite store — Dave’s Running, at their Findlay location. A look at the bottom of my shoes suggested that I overpronate and need something with cushioning and flexibility.
The result? Returning to a brand I once loved…Brooks…the Adrenaline GTS12. It has one thing my feet crave — a wide toe box.
And now…the breaking in has begun. Will these be my next favorites? Only time and mileage will tell.

What Bluffton’s Swinging Nature Preserve has in common with Neil Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix

Some pretty major events occurred in 1969. On August 20 of that year, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon and immortalized the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Just a few days earlier, more than 400,000 music lovers attended “Woodstock” to hear Jimi Hendrix; the Who; and Crosby, Stills and Nash, among others.

Opposition to the Vietnam War continued to gain strength with demonstrations staged around the country — some peaceful, some violent.

And in a tiny town in northwest Ohio, the local college completed construction of a swinging bridge that spanned the Riley Creek and became a favorite destination for those hiking the paths of Bluffton University’s Swinging Bridge Nature Preserve.

In 1969, I was 13. Go ahead, you do the math. Since then, I’ve crossed that bridge and skated under it countless times. Even so, each time I cross it, I’m struck by a sense of amazement and peace.

My guess is that a lot of people who live in Bluffton, Ohio, are not even aware that the bridge exists nor of the many trails that wind through the nature preserve.

Needing a bit of that peace and quiet, this morning’s run took me along the paths of the preserve, ending up at the bridge. Here’s what I found:

Bluffton University Nature Preserve offers change in running route

Runners (and probably walkers) easily get into the rut of covering the same ground day after day — especially early morning runners because routes are limited by the lack of light.  But a vacation and a new set of eyes (and feet) can remind us of what we’re missing in our own neighborhoods.

This is why today’s run took me on a trail I’ve not been on for at least a year, probably longer. My daughter — home for Grandma’s big birthday — reported that she’d run the Bluffton University Nature Preserve, an outdoor education area with eight-acre lake and nature trails.

In addition to discovering some new trails she didn’t remember, she’d also seen a vole and a mama groundhog with her fat babies. That was enough to make me head out there early this morning, while the air was still chilly enough to keep me comfortable.

The nature preserve is about a mile from our house, and just before you reach the drive to the preserve, I noticed lots of climbing pink wild roses. Wonder if someone would mind if I clipped a piece to try rooting? They’re beautiful.

The nature preserve is well-shaded on the path I chose, which winds around the lake and through the woods, back to the Riley Creek and the swinging bridge. I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk across the bridge — running is not advised.

A wave of nostalgia hit me when across the creek, I saw the childhood home of my friend, Karen Kreider. I’d spent many days and nights at that house, exploring the creek in the summer and skating on it in the winter.

While I kept my eyes peeled for groundhogs, I saw none, but I did see a heron in the creek, some geese in the tall grass near the creek, and a deer on the path about five feet ahead of me. He looked at me for a second before taking off down the path, so I followed him and caught another glimpse when he stopped to look back at me. I guess he was hoping I’d give up.

With all of my family rolling in for our mom’s 90th birthday, I’m guessing we’ll be taking that route multiple times over the next few days. It’s a favorite for most of my brothers — also runners/walkers — so it’ll be fun to see what other wildlife we encounter.

Duck, duck, goose

My early morning runs along the local bike path take me past two quarries and usually involves sightings of ducks, geese, a heron, and — on very rare occasions — a bald eagle.

The ducks that hang out at the Buckeye quarry often sleep curled up in the grass near the bike path, and their close proximity sometimes distracts me from running. It’s impossible for me to pass up the chance to try to make friends with the cute little guys and girls?

With spring comes the extra fun of watching for baby ducklings and goslings. This morning I watched mama and papa goose shepherd their four little goslings across the grass. One little guy kept lagging behind and then had to run to catch up. I managed to take a photo of part of the family.

Later, as I was heading out on my bike through our back yard, I saw three male ducks wandering through our yard. I actually saw one of them sitting in our tiny fish pond (just big enough to hold one duck at a time) but when he saw me, he hopped right out and waddled off after his buddies.

Because a creek runs along the back of our property, ducks have become fairly regular visitors to our neighborhood. I suppose some homeowners might not appreciate them — especially their droppings — but hey, who can complain about such entertaining and beautiful birds?

Navigating the slopes of Cincinnati on foot

A few years ago, I decided to run a mini-marathon near Cincinnati — 10 miles on a “flat, fast course.” That phrase alone should have made me skeptical, but silly me….a pure-bred Northwest Ohio runner defines flat as in pancake. No hills.

About halfway through the third mile, it occurred to me that flat was a relative term. If one lives in Cincinnati, a “flat” race course in Mason could certainly be considered flat since Mason doesn’t sport the steep hills of downtown Cincy.

But as the race went on, it became more apparent that I’d been naive to believe that first hill would be the worst. By the end of the race, I swore I’d never run in Cincinnati again.

But oh, how time dulls the memory. So when my daughter suggested we go for a run on a balmy late January morning, I jumped at the chance to explore a new neighborhood. As we approached an intersection, I asked which way we were turning.

She snickered and said, “Well, we won’t be turning right.”  Curious, I looked right — I swear the road went straight up. In reality, it was certainly steep, but not quite the equivalent of Cincy’s Clyde Street, which rises at a 30 degree slope.

Steep Clyde Street

 

The rest of the run continued in gradual ups and downs, which can be almost as bad as a straight-up hill. You don’t realize you’re running uphill until you’re nearly out of breath, thighs aching.

But as is usually the case of running in a new locale, it was a route of surprises. Along the way, we passed my cousin’s studio, and later, her house. A short while later, I admitted I had no idea where we were. I wasn’t worried until daughter number 2 admitted she too wasn’t sure of our location.

But down another hill, and across a street, and she suddenly recognized her surroundings. Phew.

In retrospect, it was a good run. We had a great conversation, discovered a new bakery, and conquered a few hills. And it was 62 degrees, sunny, and we had worked up a good sweat outdoors in late January.

Visuals from a snowy run

Last night Mother Nature dropped 5 inches on snow on us, so this morning we woke to the sounds of snowplows making their way around the neighborhood. Fighting off the urge to hibernate, I got up to face a snowy run.

Running in snow and chilly temps requires some adjustments in gear. Hats don’t always cover my ears so I wear a Brooks Nightlife fleece-lined earwarmer with a New Balance fleece-lined hat on top of it. It was below 20, so I added my 15-year-old Neofleece Extreme Masque — it covers the nose and mouth, but there are little holes that let you breathe.

Fleece-lined tights over capri length compression tights, Smartwool socks with baggies over my toes (this works!), and a 20-year-old Gore-Tex jacket. The coup de grace (since my middle name is Klutz) — Get-A-Grip Ice Joggers.

Today, though, I added one more item — my phone. Not because I expected to make any calls but because I wanted to take some photos and videos of what and who else I’d see out there on the roads. So…here you have it… the first is a video (obviously not top quality) of the geese and/or ducks who band together at the quarry.

Ducks and geese huddled on the National Quarry

My husband and neighbor clearing her driveway for her husband's return from medical mission trip

The Weaver sisters

The Riley Creek behind my house