Tag Archives: keokuk iowa

A Year of Living Adventurously

25 Jan

It’s been a grand 14 months on the Oregon coast, but my time in the Pacific Northwest soon will end.

I moved to Lincoln City, Oregon, in November 2015, and Barb followed a few months later. But a new job, family and friends are calling us back to the Midwest. Barb has already re-settled in Keokuk, Iowa, and by Super Bowl Sunday, I hope to be beside her again.

If you want to fully explore a place, get yourself a VW camper van. That’s what we did. And we saw as much as we could of this great state in a few short months. Most of those adventures — and the friends who accompanied us along the way — are captured in the video above. Some of the other adventures can be found in other blog posts.

Oregon has magnificent trails for running, and I hate to leave them behind. Although I saw many of them, there are many left unexplored. I hope to return to do more someday. There’s another 100-miler I’d like to do. But those adventures will have to wait.

We’re keeping the Eurovan Camper. We plan to explore more places in the Midwest. I’ve got my eye on a few epic runs there.

Part of the adventure for me is a change in occupations. The job that brought us back to Keokuk is Barb’s. She’s been named market president of the bank she left when we headed to Oregon. But I have no firm plans. I’ll see where life takes me.

For now, there’s one more issue to publish at the News Guard, and then it’s back to Iowa. The good lord willing and the creeks don’t rise (or more appropriately in this case, the snow doesn’t fly), I’ll be watching the Super Bowl in Keokuk.

Look us up if you’re in the area. But be sure to call ahead — there’s a good chance we’ll be out exploring the Midwest in the Eurovan.

100 miles is not that far? Well, yes and no

22 Nov
Dave Rogers, left, and I near Vienna, Ill., after completing 26 miles of the Tunnel Hill 100.

Dave Rogers, left, and I near Vienna, Ill., after completing 26 miles of the Tunnel Hill 100.

Karl Meltzer is a liar.

Harsh words, I know, but I was feeling harsh at mile 76.

Meltzer, a prolific ultrarunner, is known for famously uttering, “100 miles is not that far.”

On Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 a.m., I set off on my first 100-mile ultrarun, the Tunnel Hill 100 trail run in Vienna, Ill. And for most of Saturday, I agreed with Meltzer. But in middle of the night, when Saturday turned to Sunday, I knew 100 miles was damn far.

I had selected the Tunnel Hill race, I told my friends, because it was the easiest 100-miler I could find — as if any ultra of this distance could be “easy.” The race was about 5 hours south of our home in Keokuk, Iowa, in the tiny town of Vienna (pronounced “VY-enna”), about 25 miles north of Paducah, Ky.  It takes place on a converted rail-to-trail, which means the grade is gentle or even flat.

I couldn't have met my goal without the help of my wife, Barb, who ran 50 miles in the process, and my daughter, Laura, who hiked 24 miles and crewed for us.

I couldn’t have met my goal without the help of my wife, Barb, who ran 50 miles in the process, and my daughter, Laura, who hiked 24 miles and crewed for us.

As we ran out of the town’s city park in the chilly air, I made a concerted effort to dampen my pace. I am definitely not a fast runner, but I was trying to run even slower than normal. I knew I couldn’t afford to expend too much energy in the first hours of the race. I had outlined a plan for the race that called for me to complete it in 27 1/2 hours, but truth be told, I had no idea what it would take to finish or how long it would actually take.

The race has a 30-hour cutoff, which equates to an average of 18 minutes a mile. I took my best guess at my endurance and pace, and figured I’d start at a 13-minute pace and tail off to a 20-minute pace by the end. I knew the race would take its toll, and I wanted to be realistic.

The start/finish line was located in the middle of the course. You leave Vienna and head south for about 13 miles, hit the turnaround at the Barkhausen Wetlands Center and head back to Vienna. From there, you head north about 12 miles, reach a small turnaround and return to Vienna from the north. That gets you 50 miles, so you repeat the whole thing to record 100 miles.

I really did feel good through those first 26 miles. Instead of my planned 13-minute pace, I was running closer to 12 minutes, which is still slower than my normal pace and part of the reason I think it felt so relaxed.

I had planned on running the first portion by myself, but I picked up a fellow runner, David Rogers, about 5-8 miles into the run, and talking with Dave made the time pass so much easier. Dave and I had a lot in common: tackling our first 100s, roughly the same age, empty nesters, Midwest guys (he’s from St. Louis), etc. He could have gone at a faster pace, but he was trying to be controlled, too.

I refilled my bottles and picked up Barb at the start-finish line at mile 26.

I refilled my bottles and picked up Barb at the start-finish line at mile 26.

When I ran into the start/finish area at mile 26, I hooked up with my wife, Barb, and daughter, Laura. Barb had agreed to pace me for 50 miles, which would help her reach that distance milestone and aid in my effort. She was going to run the middle 50 miles. Our daughter, Laura, was crewing for us, and at some point, she planned to run with me, too.

The next 24 miles would prove more difficult. In the first miles, I really couldn’t detect any change in the grade of the course. But just a few miles north of Vienna, it became obvious that there was a small but constant climb. The race info said it’s a 2 percent grade. That doesn’t sound like much, but 8 or 9 miles  of even a small climb becomes tiring. About halfway into the climb, my left groin started to ache. I feared that it was going to cramp, but thankfully it never progressed beyond a nagging twinge.

We saw Laura at mile 36, refilled some bottles, made the turnaround in another couple miles and headed back toward Vienna.

By the time we reached there at about 7:30 p.m., it had been dark for three hours. Sunset was at 4:45 p.m., and we wouldn’t see the sun again until 6:30 a.m. — nearly 14 hours of darkness. If a relatively flat, straight, tree-lined, crushed limestone path presents a certain degree of monotony, you should trudge along that same path in the dark.

A few miles past what was the 50-mile mark for me and 24 for Barb, she began to struggle. Her stomach was queasy and her legs sluggish. After a mile or two, she insisted I go on ahead. I hesitated to leave her behind, but she continued to insist, and I relented. I soon met up with Dave again, and we’d stick together until the 76-mile mark at Vienna, when once again we’d get separated as we both refilled our hydration and nutrition and tended to our niggling injuries.

Barb can still manage a smile after completing her first 50-miler!

Barb can still manage a smile after completing her first 50-miler!

Laura had talked about going either 24 miles with me (the last out and back of the course) or waiting until the last 10 miles. We decided that if I could get to mile 90, there’s no way I wouldn’t finish, and so she took off with me out of Vienna — mile 76 or so at about 3 a.m.

Those last 24 miles turned from a slow jog to a moderate hike. I thought I was OK as I hit mile 76 at Vienna, but as I left that last major aid station, I just couldn’t will my legs to run. Thankfully, Laura helped me pass the time.

One of my big concerns was how I would even stay awake for the 24+ hours I knew it would take to complete the race. At one point, I asked Laura to talk to me — I needed something to keep my mind active and alert. She later said she wasn’t sure what she’d talk about, but that didn’t last long. I knew I could count on Lu for non-stop conversation! We’ve been doing that since we drove across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to attend Husker football games when she was 6 years old.

My muscles got stiff and tight, and my feet developed deep blisters. But in the end, finishing the race was simply a matter of continuous forward motion. I didn’t sprint across the finish line, but neither did I crawl. And I beat my goal time.

While I’d had doubts about finishing the race before I had started, once I’d hit the course and stuck with my pace, nutrition and hydration plans, everything really fell into place. Beforehand, I’d figured it would take me 27 1/2 hours to finish. Ultimately, I crossed in 26 hours, 48 minutes.

So in the end, maybe Karl Meltzer was right. My first 100-mile ultra really wasn’t that far.

Damn you, Karl Meltzer.

Crossing the finish line in 26:48:04. It was a great feeling to be done and reach a major goal.

Crossing the finish line in 26:48:04. It was a great feeling to be done and reach a major goal.

Yours truly talks ultras on RunIowa podcast

3 Jul

RunIowa snippedI could talk your leg off about running, but I try not to bore my friends by talking solely about the hobby that I love. I realize that not everyone is as interested in intervals and vertical and fartleks and long runs and the like.

So it was a pleasure to get to share without restraint my thoughts on ultras and running on the most recent episode of the RunIowa podcast.

Most of my training time is spent listening to podcasts, which are pre-recorded shows that you can listen to on your computer or download to your phone or MP3 player. I listen to a lot of running podcasts, a lot from NPR and a lot from ESPN. This link details some of my favorites.

As the name implies, the RunIowa podcast focuses on things around our state. The show is hosted by Rob Lindquist and David Kaeding, a pair of teachers from Council Bluffs. They’ll talk about gadgets, training, races and more. I stumbled across the very first episode that was released in late 2014, and it’s been at the top of my playlist ever since. I was honored to appear in the episode released yesterday (July 2, 2015). And I certainly enjoyed sharing my adventures in ultrarunning with fellow running enthusiasts.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the photo at the top of the post or here’s a link to the podcast on iTunes. RunIowa can also be found on Twitter at @RunIowa or here on Facebook.

Let me know what you think of the podcast by commenting below, and I’m sure Rob and Dave would love to have you as subscribers to the podcast.

 

If you think it’s been colder this winter, you’re right

13 Feb
The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February.

The Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa, was iced over for much of January and February, which made for great eagle watching but for chilly running.

After my third or fourth run in a row in single-digit temperatures, I was ready to toss in the towel on my outdoor Iowa adventures for the winter.

But I would do almost anything to avoid the dreadmill. It hasn’t always been this way. Just a few years back, if it got into the teens, I would retreat to the warmth of an indoor workout. But as I ran further and more often, I couldn’t stand the thought of heading indoors.

A Cold WinterI enjoy the fresh air — even if it’s especially brisk air. I love the  sights, whether it’s the frozen river, falling snow or an eagle sitting by an ice-hole waiting for dinner to swim by.

But this winter has seemed especially harsh. And in reviewing my training log from the past few years, it has been. Since November, the temperature has been a bit chillier than the past couple of years. And since mid-January or so, it has been considerably colder.

But I’ve managed to avoid the dreadmill by adding an extra layer — or two — and having a ski mask in reserve for those very cold days.

Just as I thought the cold may get the better of me, I’m headed out of state for a few days. It’s bound to be warmer in New Orleans and San Diego.

But then there’s always the hassle of trying to get in a run in unfamiliar surroundings and at odd times. If you want an excuse not to run, you can always find one.

But out as my wife is fond of saying: “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

See you on the roads.

GPS drawing: 50 miler pending

28 Mar
GPS drawing of a "50"

Only 9 more days until my ^ miler.

With my long runs behind me for this training cycle, I’ve resorted to entertaining myself in other ways. Like, drawing pictures with my GPS tracker.

The drawing above is the Endomondo route tracking from Thursday night’s run on the streets of Keokuk, Iowa. I only tracked a portion of the run — about a mile and a half of what was overall a 4.3-mile run.

With only 9 days until the Potawatomi Trail 50 in Pekin, Ill., my remaining runs are all short. I ran 6 last night, and I’ll do a 10-miler this weekend, and then just a couple of 3- or 4-milers next week.

I’ve built all the endurance I can hope to build. Right now, it’s all about getting healed. My left hamstring attachment at the ischial tuberosity is hurting again; I’ve been slamming ibuprofen a couple of times a day in hopes of calming the inflammation. But at this point, I’m just going to have to deal with it on April 6. I’ve put in too much time and effort to stop now.

The long-range forecast calls for only one day of rain between now and race day — Saturday, April 6. There is still a bit of snow on the ground from this past weekend’s 10-inch snowfall, but temperatures in the 40s and 50s over the next few days should take care of that. Now, if the warmer temps will just firm up the trails.

I’ve got some packing to do, getting my extra shoes, shirts and socks ready for the race. I need to prepare my race fuel.

But most of all, I’m ready to get this show on the road trail.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you missed it earlier, this post features photos and a scouting report on the Potawatomi Trail in Pekin.

This post details a battle I’ve had with blisters.

And this post tells some of the things I’ve been trying to stay fueled on the roads.

The Headless Combine

16 Mar
International combine without a head near Keokuk, Iowa

Combine near cornfield

International combine without a head near Keokuk, Iowa

Combine in sepia

 

Pelicans on the Mississippi

14 Mar
Pelicans on the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa

Plenty of Pelicans

Pelicans on the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa

A Pair of Pelicans

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