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January 7, 2012

Picture of the week (Running at North Chagrin)

Filed under: Running — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:40 pm

I have been running on Saturdays with a new group down at the North Chagrin reservation  (http://hikingohioparks.com/north-chagrin-reservation-hiking-ohio-parks.html).  This has been great in so many ways, the group is a lot of fun to run with, the area is beautiful, it has really challenged me as a runner because it is much more hilly than around our neighborhood, etc.

Today I went out for a 9.5 mile run with one of the guys from the group, and it could not have been nicer, it was about 44 degrees, and muddy!  This picture is from one of the many bridges we run across while running around the park.

December 18, 2011

The life of my first Vibrams

Filed under: Running — Marcus @ 8:58 am

It is a sad thing to report, but I believe the time has finally come to replace my first pair of running shoes, my red Vibram Fivefinger KSO’s.  I recently tore up the top of the left shoe while skidding across the sidewalk after I tripped on a crack running before daylight.  Also the glue holding the sole to the shoe has been breaking down and the rubber on the toes has been flopping around some.  And then the final blow, during my last run, I wore through the rubber on bottom of my middle tow, so now that is hanging down and wants to catch on everything.

So I think its safe to say, these Vibrams are done, I am sad, but they do not owe me anything.  I have put them through hell week after week after week.  I run on rocks, pavement, lots of mud.  They are constantly soaked, and I wash them in the washing machine almost every week.  I have trained for and ran two full marathons, one half marathon, and several 5k’s.  I do not know exactly how many miles I have on them, but looking through my training logs, I would be surprised if they had less than 800 miles on them, I think they have closer to 1,000 miles.

Besides the raw miles, these were my first real running shoes.  When I started in these I could not run a single mile without having walking breaks.  I went from running about 12 minute miles down to where I can now run a mile in the lower 7 minute range.  Also throughout the life of this pair of Vibrams I have lost about 40 pounds, and I feel I am in the best shape I have been in my life.

I spent some time looking through my pictures where these Vibrams were the star and I decided to post up a short history of them in this article.  Several of the pictures have been posted on here before, but hopefully you don’t mind.

Running Cleveland Marathon in May 2011

Running the Lake Classic half marathon in June (This is at the finish line)

Running the Lions Club 5k also in June

Running the Drake Well marathon in August

So with that, I must say farewell to these wonderful shoes.  I already have the replacement for them and I have been trying to break them in, they are… wait for it… A new red pair of Vibram Fivefinger KSO’s (The exact same ones again 🙂 ).

One final note I thought was interesting, almost everyone, if you look at the soles of their old shoes they will have worn out either the inside or outside of their shoes (I used to always wear out the inside).  With my Vibrams, I wore out the rubber on the ball of my foot in the center.  That shows that I was striking the ground dead center on the ball of my foot and that my foot wasn’t rolling to one side or the other.  Try to get that wear pattern o


July 25, 2011

Picture of the week (Bluebells)

Filed under: Picture of the week — Tags: , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Going back through my pictures from this spring I see that I never posted this picture.  Sometimes when I pull the pictures off from my camera and go through them I am shocked by them.  Walking around the island on the Chagrin River where I took this picture, there were bluebells everywhere, at one point I walked through a field of them, it was truly stunning.

Normally I only take 2-3 pictures of each plant as I go by, but I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the different bluebells as I ran across them, and I am glad I did take so many pictures.  The picture featured in the post today was one of the last ones I took while I was out.

Of course I would choose to post a picture of BLUEbells and have it be one of the few pictures where the flowers were mostly pink 🙂

July 18, 2011

Picture of the week (Milkweed)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week,Wild Edibles — Marcus @ 2:00 am

The theme this week is going to be Milkweed, it is fast becoming a favorite plant of mine, easy to identify, very edible, and has pretty flowers to boot. I will have some info up later this week on how to prepare young milkweed pods to eat.

Besides being human edible, milkweed is the primary food for the caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly, it also provides them with a natural defense since every part of the milkweed plant is extremely bitter, and in turn the caterpillars and the resulting butterflies are so bitter that other animals do not want to eat them.

I took this picture a couple of weekends ago at Paul & Jess’ new farm.

July 14, 2011

Mystery Plant of the Week (Identified as Hepatica)

Filed under: Outdoors — Marcus @ 8:32 pm

So I am getting quite the collection of plants I have taken pictures of that I haven’t identified yet, so I think I am going to start posting some of them up as I get a chance.  The last couple I have posted people seemed to really enjoy trying to figure out what they were (And I got answers to all of them I have posted so far!).

I took pictures of this plant on November 6th while hiking out at the Allegheny National Forest with Paul and Jess.  This looked like a plant that should be edible, and I figured it would be an easy find because it was a fairly unique leaf.  I had figured something in the clover or sorrel families, however I made two passed through my wild edibles books and some sites I use online and came up with nothing.

This plant was unique because it had such large leaves for what seemed like a grass like plant, also the fact it had the three distinct lobes on each leaf.

Anyone know what this one is?  Unfortunately I haven’t run into it again this year to see if it flowers or anything else distinct, all I have are the three pictures I took last year.

Update 7/14/2011: That was quick, I got an answer on Facebook that this was Hepatica (Also known as liverleaf or liverwort).  After doing a quick search I can easily confirm that is correct.  From looking at pictures online it appears that Hepatica has beautiful flowers very early in the spring, I will have to keep an eye out for them.  Also as I always am looking for wild edibles, I checked up on this one, historically it was used for liver issues, but that is more to do with early medicine using plants that look like the part that was sick, and since the leaf on this plant has three parts, the same as our livers, it was used to treat liver issues.   Thanks Beth for correctly identifying this plant for me!

To see a nice writeup about Hepatic, please check out the following link: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/hepatica_nobilis.shtml

July 11, 2011

Picture of the week (Honeysuckle)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week,Wild Edibles — Tags: — Marcus @ 6:52 am

So once again, its been awhile since I have posted, same reason as before, summers are very busy for me 🙂

This weeks picture is of a honeysuckle bush that is loaded down with berries.  I found this at Paul & Jess’ new farm when I went out for a walk before anyone else was up on Sunday.  It took me awhile to identify it, all the matches on the fruit led to pin cherries or choke cherries or some kind of cherries.  However all cherries have a toothed leaf which this one does not.  It seemed that all the matches I found for the leaf was not close to the fruit it is bearing.  I ended up just searching Google for “Trees with red berries” and an hour or so later I had a pretty solid idea this was a honeysuckle.

So the big question, is it edible? Depending on the source you range from delicious to deadly.  There is a LOT of misinformation out there on honeysuckles from my research, and it seems to come down to the fact that there are quite a few species of honeysuckle.  The general consensus on sites I trust say that the berry is mildly toxic, it won’t kill you, but it will probably upset your stomach and maybe give you diarrhea.  There are a couple of the honeysuckle species that are edible, most notably Lonicera Caerulea (Blue-berried or Sweetberry honeysuckle), this appeared to be one of the only ones with blue fruit, but I did not research that much since the ones I found had red fruit.

If you do want a treat, from my reading, when the tree is flowering you can pick the flower and there will be a dot of nectar at the base of the flower that tastes like honey, it seems that you can eat this from any of the honeysuckle family.

So in summary, very pretty, bright fruit, but for the most part inedible.

June 12, 2011

5k Race in FiveFingers

Filed under: Running — Tags: , — Marcus @ 4:05 pm

So I have not dropped off the face of the planet, I know it has been almost a month since I have posted.  Things get very busy for me over the summer and I just haven’t had time to write.

I have not been doing that many different things, mostly trying to keep up on yardwork and of course as much running as I can fit in. Since running the Cleveland full marathon, I have been just out enjoying myself.  Last weekend I ran the Distance Classic Half Marathon in Concord, OH (About half an hour from my house).  It was a really fun run, and I was able to do it in 2:04.  I was hoping for between 2:00-2:15, so I was right where I wanted to be.

This weekend I ran two 5k races, yesterday was a practice race so I could try to figure out how to run a shorter race, I have been training for such long distances that it is totally different running the shorter ones.  I took off way to fast on this race running the first mile in about 6 minutes 30 seconds, I spent the next couple miles really trying to just keep going.  I finished pretty close to the front, at least in the top 20 I would guess out of a few hundred runners.

Today I ran again, this time with two friends/coworkers (Matt & Rebecca).  Rebecca has been working the the couch potato to 5k training program for the last 2-3 months I think, and this was her first 5k, I was hoping it would work out for me to be able to run it with her for the heck of it, and then I talked her husband (Matt) into running it as well.  They did great and they both beat their personal records for the distance.

I was excited because I ended up winning this race, the race coordinators were running the 5k and a Biathlon at the same time, both races did the same course, but at the end the Biathlon runners got on their bikes for the second leg of their race while the 5k runners exited to the finish line.  I pretty much kept up with the first group of runners through the whole race, they didn’t have mile markers so I wasn’t really sure how far along we were until I was within half a mile of the finish line and I was still moving pretty fast.  I didn’t realize until after I crossed the finish line that I was the first runner through for the 5k.  The next runner for the 5k was a full 3 minutes behind me!

That being said, that 5k is very small, I am not sure how many people ran it, but I doubt that there was more than 15-20 people that ran it.  I finished in 22:28 I think (I will get an official time in a couple days).  All three of us ended up getting metals.  I got the overall mens first place,  Rebecca got third place in her age group, and Matt got first place in his age group.

Overall, it was a great run, and I have been having a fun time running some shorter races while I am still training for my next marathon.

Check out the Vibrams, Matt and I both raced in Vibram KSO’s.  Rebecca is going to start training in hers for the next race!

May 18, 2011

Cleveland Marathon, The Summary

Filed under: Running — Tags: , — Marcus @ 6:43 am

So I have now completed my first marathon.  It was a very interesting (and painful) experience, but I learned a lot of lessons, and you can bet you will be seeing me at the starting line again, soon.

To start out with, the Marathon was scheduled to start at 7am, the website wasn’t all that clear on how to get down to the starting line, they just made reference to the roads being closed down at 6am.  I decided I didn’t want any stress in getting there and finding out where I needed to be etc, so I had my friend Paul drop me off down by the stadium at 5am.  They already had closed down most of the roads and we drove around a bunch of road closed signs to get there.  I may have gotten there a touch early though, I am pretty sure I was the very first runner there by about 15-20 minutes (and there were about 19,000 runners).  However, next year for the Cleveland Marathon, you can bet I will probably show up at 5am once again.  I had no stress running around, had time to relax and focus on what I needed to do that day, and I got to talk to quite a few people.

The beginning of the marathon was interesting, I am a very new runner, and I have never run with anyone else before.  The beginning of the marathon (and by beginning, I mean like 9 miles) could best be described as a stampede, it was shoulder to shoulder runners for at least the first 5-6 miles.  I spent a lot of energy trying to keep up with the pace group I signed up for (a group led by veteran runners with a goal of finishing in 3 hours and 50 minutes), there were so many people, my group kept getting ahead of me, and I would have to run side to side to try and find a hole I could move ahead some.  It also was a bit unnerving because I couldn’t see the road very well and I need to be careful of what I step on in my Vibrams.

By the 9th mile I knew I couldn’t keep fighting the crowd or maintain that pace, so I decided to leave my pace group and just run what felt natural, that was probably my best decision in the marathon, the next 7 miles flew by.  Also as soon as we rounded about 12 miles the half marathon runners split off to head back to the finish line, at that point it was no longer crowded and I could really just focus on me running.

Mile 15, I started feeling a twinge just above my left knee in one of my quads, it felt like a bit of a knot, it seemed odd as I hadn’t had any issues with cramping in my training, I just kind of hoped it would go away.

Mile 16, My left leg totally cramped up, I was running down Martin Luther King Jr Blvd and my leg totally cramped, I almost fell over in the street, I couldn’t walk, I wasn’t really all that sure what I should do.  I just stood there and stretched as much as I could until I could move to the side of the road.  I spent probably 5 minutes or so doing basic stretches until I could walk again, I then walked for probably 200 feet before I started running again.

The next two or three miles I ran until my legs would lock, and then I would stretch until I could walk again, I was in pretty bad shape, I ended up being able to recognize when my legs where going to lock and start walking right before that, so I would run a quarter mile, walk a 100 feet or so, then back to running, I did this through the end of the marathon.  My running was not looking so good at this point, I had lost a good bit of range of motion from the cramping so it was a very stiff slow run.

In the end I ended up running the full marathon in 5 hours 2 minutes, I lost an hour to the cramping as my time at the half marathon distance was 2 hours.  I was kind of disappointed I wasn’t able to do it in 4 hours, but my main goal for this, my first marathon, was just to finish, which I did.

During the race my wife Meagan and two of my good friends Paul and Jess spent their time fighting the Cleveland public transit to try and get ahead of me and cheer me on, I had worked out a route beforehand that would allow them to see me at 5 places max if everything went as planned, I ended up seeing them at 3 of the places.  It was an unbelievable boost each time I saw them, and it really was a driving factor when I was out there knowing that we had a checkpoint ahead where they may be.

Almost everyone has wanted to know how it was running the marathon in my Vibrams.  Well, in the end my feet hurt less than most of the rest of me, I feel that the Vibrams really rocked out there.  I never found myself thinking I was an idiot for attempting to run such a distance in a “barefoot” shoe.  The question of what I thought of running in my Vibram’s is really an invalid question though as I was never able to run distance until I changed over to them, so I can’t compare running a marathon in running shoes VS the Vibrams.  Also for those interested, I was running in the Vibram KSO’s, I spent awhile trying to decide between my KSO’s and my KSO TrekSport’s, the difference is that the TrekSports have twice as thick of soles which offer more protection.  However, I am very glad I choose to run in the thinner KSO’s.  Having the extra contact with the ground makes you run softer and saves your feet for later in the race.

As for the cramping, I spent some time researching when I got home, I believe the cramping was due to two things:  #1 Salt deficiency, #2 lack of training.  I have a very low salt diet as Meagan and I prepare almost all our own food from scratch, so we are not getting all the heavily salted prepackaged stuff many people do, and when we cook, we use very little salt.  As for the training, I lost 2 weeks in the middle of my training plan which made it hard to catch back up on my long runs, then at the very end I wasn’t able to run for 3 weeks leading up to the marathon because of my work schedule.  I started really cramping at mile 16, right up until then I still felt great, I wasn’t tired at all, which is why I think it was a combination of the lack of training and salt, I think if either of those had not been present I probably would have been fine.

As of Wednesday morning, I am feeling mostly better, I was really sore on Monday, Tuesday was quite a bit better, and today I am almost totally out of pain.  I am planning to start back running this week, I will be starting off slow as it will take several weeks for my body to totally recover, but I should be able to do a few miles here and there.  I am following Hal Higdon’s post marathon 4 week plan for recovery (I followed his training program leading up to the marathon as well).

I am already planning the next couple marathons, I am planning to run the Drake Well marathon in the middle of August, it is a tiny marathon back where I grew up (Last year about 80 people ran it).  I am not going to push my training, I am going to do what is comfortable, and just try and log a lot of miles between now and then.  I will of course be posting my progress here as I go.

May 16, 2011

Picture of the week (Trillium Flowers)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week,Wild Edibles — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

I love finding and getting pictures of flowers in the wild.  Finding cool flowers in the wild means more to me than a huge manicured garden, because this happened all on its own, and its up to you to discover it.  Also flowers are one of my best indicators on both identifying a wild edible and also as markers for me to know where we are in the season.  Since I take so many pictures each year, and many times of the same flowering plants, I can compare the dates on a particular flower between years to see if we are having an early or late spring, etc.  When I am having problems identifying a particular plant, if I can catch it while it is flowering, I can almost always positively identify it, then the next year I should know it much better even before it flowers for the year.

The trillium has wonderful flowers as well as being a wild edible, the leaves when it first comes up can be used as a cooked salad green, however by the time the trillium flowers the leaves are too bitter to consume.  I missed trying the trillium this year because I was not totally sure of my identification of it (and I had mistaken a Jack-In-The-Pulpit as a trillium anyways which would have been a shocking mistake!).  From my reading you do not want to pick trilliums as an edible most times anyways as they are not that abundant, so you should only pick them if there is a large amount in the area already.

May 14, 2011

Reflecting back over my marathon training

Filed under: Running — Tags: , — Marcus @ 6:25 am

Note: I will be running the Cleveland Marathon on Sunday May 15th, the marathon starts at 7am, and I am hoping to run it in 4 hours or less, this is my first marathon.

If you want to see how I am doing on the race please check out http://runkeeper.com/user/KD8ITX between 7am-11:30am (when I am planning to run).  I will be carrying my iPhone through the race, and if all goes well it will update that site automatically as to where I am.

Its time.  I have been training for about 8 months, I have lost about 35 pounds, besides taking time off to heal from various minor injuries along the way I have been running 3-4 times a week.  Back in September I ran the Spartansburg 5k and I made it about 1.5 miles before I was exhausted and I had to walk a good part of the way back.  In October I started running in my Vibrams and had to start over again at 1 mile.  I celebrated the first time I ran 3 miles without having to take a walking break, and I blew myself away the first time I broke running three miles in 24 minutes (8 minutes/mile).  It seemed impossible the first time I broke 10 miles, then 15, and recently 20 miles in a single run.

I have covered a lot of ground this last year, basically re-learned how to run, and spent a ton of time at the gym, and more than my fair share of time limping around at work and at home from my long runs.  And you want to know what has driven me to do all of this?  I have no idea.  I would like to have some bit of ancient wisdom that is pushing me on, or maybe some charity or something noble like that, however I can’t think of one.  Instead it was a seed that I planted in my head that I could be an endurance athlete, it was my mind driving me to push myself a bit harder and do something totally out of my ability.

One thing about myself, I love pushing myself to do things.  I firmly believe that each time you push yourself to do something outside of your reach it makes you a better person, just keep raising the bar, even if its a little bit.  I started about 2 years ago getting a membership at the gym to try and strengthen my core muscles in my back so that I could stop throwing my back out and maybe I could keep from causing permanent injury to my back.  Little by little I pushed myself at the gym getting into shape, I got to a point last summer though where I was getting bored and finding it hard to make it to the gym, that was when the seed that I could be a runner was planted.

There is a quote I like from the Matrix, when Neo is in the car about to meet Morpheus there is a point where they stop the car and Neo has to either get out or decide to go with them, the following conversation happens:

Switch: Stop the car. Listen to me, Copper-top. We don’t have time for twenty questions. Right now there’s only one rule, our way or the highway.
Neo: Fine. (Neo opens the door to get out)
Trinity: Please, Neo. You have to trust me.
Neo: Why?
Trinity: Because you have been down there, Neo. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.

I like that section from the movie because I feel so many people spend their whole lives going down the same road over and over and over again.  I get to do a lot of cool things, and I write about many of them on my blog here, but in reality, all of the neat things I do is just me deciding that I am going to take half an hour here or an hour there and do something a bit out of the norm.  Do that enough times and your norm will shift into something pretty cool.

So no magical wisdom in what I am doing, just the knowledge that every time I push myself to do something more difficult or complicated, even if I don’t know what I will get out of it, it always seems in retrospect to be one of the greater things that I did.

Now, I do want you to notice I am writing and publishing this before my marathon, I might not think it was such a great idea if I was to write this article the day after my marathon!  Though I have a feeling this is more of the beginning of my real training lesson (and marathon career) rather than the end of my training leading up to my marathon.

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