Tag: madcowrunco

Run all the Runs

Run all the Runs

Normally when I go to work on a Monday morning and co-workers ask me, “How was your weekend?”, I typically just smile and wink and say, “It was fine”.  I don’t do this because I don’t want to tell them what I did over the weekend, but I like to filter the amount of running adventures I share with them.  If I tell them about all the runs, their eyes start to glaze over or they get a bit nervous.  My boss is mildly concerned that I might get hurt on one of “my runs” and have TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) . . .which makes for a poor project manager.  One of my colleagues has a daughter my age and is a nurse . . .she just worries and reminds me to be careful.  A lot.  And to wear my sunscreen, bug spray, and don’t fall and make sure I stay warm and carry water.  I can tell she cares.

But this morning, I broke my rules and told them that we ran all the runs.  And then the words just spilled out like an over excited child who gets home from a particularly amazing day at kindergarten and wants to tell EVERYONE about EVERYTHING.

The story started innocently enough, but then it just got . . .well a little out of hand.  I told them how I went with my run group, the Mad Cows, to Percy and Edwin Warner Park to run 9 miles of trails . . .at night.  That was met with much concern.  The part about running trails in the dark.  I explained to them how there were a dozen of us, some who had little trail running experience, some who had never run in the dark.  I told them how we raced up and down thousands of feet of elevation change through sloppy mud, slick ice, and beautiful snow covered paths.  How we saw deer and armadillos, icicles, and forests by the light of our headlamps.  I told them how beautiful it was to look out on the Nashville skyline when we stood quietly at the highest point in the park and turned off our headlamps and the only sound track that night was the whooping of fellow runners in the distance and the hooting of owls around us.  I told them that the evening ended with flushed faces, no injuries, and amazing peanut butter cookies from a Mama Bear.

But then I didn’t stop there.  I told how we drove home to catch a few hours of sleep before crawling out of bed the next morning to meet our trainees that we coach through the Fleet Feet Marathon training program.  We ran the the beautiful country roads of Bell Buckle where we saw wild turkeys and bulls doing unspeakable things to cows.  We met a beastly hound dog named Clyde who lopped along with us for 10 miles before he was finally picked up by his owner, and because every story has a villain, how we had our water cooler stolen when we left it out on the road to provide water for our trainees.  And of course, more peanut butter cookies.

The best stories have a good ending.  So I told them how we met a good friend on Sunday morning and went down to Virgin Falls to test our tired legs on thousands more feet of elevation gain, mud, and ice.  I told them how I did a swan dive down a muddy hill. How we saw caves with soft bottoms lined with bat guano, icicles come crashing to the ground, fossils, and waterfalls.  How we saw trees with the tell tale signs of being scratch up by bears.  I regaled them with how at times we climbed hand over foot and up ladders to reach the top and see the vistas below.  And at the end, we had run all the runs.

We had run all the runs.  We were filthy and exhausted and starving but we had never felt more alive.

We had run all the runs and spent many miles with friends and seen things that we would never have seen if we had not left the couch.

We had run all the runs . . . and ate all the peanut butter cookies.

So, how was your weekend?

Looking ahead to 2018 – What Lifts You

Looking ahead to 2018 – What Lifts You

Tis the season for putting away things that are better left behind in 2017 and looking to the horizon to plan what could be for 2018.  It may surprise people who know me, but due to a lot of family “things” over the last few years, I have rarely approached the New Year with droves of optimism.  In fact, our family received another “bomb shell of worry” for Christmas this year that would make you think I would be approaching 2018 with the same measure of apathy of optimism as past years.  But oddly enough, this year does feel different.  This year feels like I’ve finally found that measure of maturity required to truly accept the grace associated with the “Serenity Prayer” . . . “Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;  accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.”

So what is different this year?

If I am being completely honest, it is my running tribe that has made me excited.  I blame them for an audacity of enthusiasm in the New Year that has hitherto been lacking.  Many of the folks in my running group, the Mad Cows, have set bold goals for the New Year.  Many of them blame me for their “bad choices”.  I tell them that they need better friends. We have folks who have gone from never running trails to signing up to run a race on the side of the mountain, at night, in the cold.  We have folks who started running 1.5 years ago and are now signed up to run an ultra marathon . . .or maybe two.  We have folks that made their goal to run a marathon in 2018 and then somehow ended up registered for a 50 miler.  My running tribe has invited me to be part of an exciting journey to run the Black Toe 12 hr Trail Race, the Strolling Jim 41.2 miler/marathon, and the sweetest one of all, the Tunnel Hill 50 miler.

So now that I have talked about the goals of our running tribe, what are the ultra running couples’ goals for 2018?  Our goals for this year are to stay in the moment and focus on enjoying each experience or alternatively, learning from each struggle.  We will not try to overlook or escape the experience by wishing it over or looking to a finish line that does not exist until we complete the run.  Our goals are to do what lifts us and during our journey, to do what lifts others.  So here are the race goals for 2018:

  • Black Toe Trail Race – 12 hour – We want to stay committed to the full 12 hours rather than get bored or tired and stop early.
  • Strolling Jim 41.2 miler – Our perpetual goal is to run the course in under 7 hours and earn the coveted “red shirt”
  • The NRC Dark Sky 50 miler – We have run 50 mile races but never one on a technical trail . . . and this race is a week after “the Jim” so the physical and mental challenge will be high
  • 100K – We have never run a 100K race.  We have run longer than 100K but never signed up for a 100K trail race.
  • The Barkley Fall Classic – This is some serious crazy.  We want to complete this prelude to the Barkley at Frozen Head State park.  We want to battle thorns and climbs and face the very real possibility of defeat.  We want to test ourselves.  We want the Croix de Barque.
  • Tunnel Hill 50 miler – We are looking to run the course in under 9 hours and bear witness to the Mad Cows who will be experiencing the distance for the first time.
  • El Camino de Lavaca – 225 mile Pilgrimage – We want to travel 225 miles in 10 days in a Texas “winter” with nothing but our trusty running shoes, our hydration packs, and each other.  If we can succeed, in 2019 – Vol State 500K, we are coming for you.

And then there are the “other” running goals that are even more important than adding to our race resume:

  • We want to do everything possible to help our running tribe meet their goals in 2018.
  • We want to run with new runners and meet with new running groups in our local community.
  • We want to have fun.  So simple and yet somehow we as humans often find a way to lose sight of the idea of fun and muck things up.

So with that, Happy New Year dear reader.  We hope you plan audacious goals in 2018 and that you do “what lifts you” and on your journey, do what lifts others.

Dirk’s Fat Ass 50 K – because you need better friends

Dirk’s Fat Ass 50 K – because you need better friends

It was on this day, the first day of January in the year of our Lord, 2018, that the 12th running of Dirk’s Fat Ass 50K took place.  Each year, a figure of legend, “Old Man Dirk”, challenges runners to crawl out of bed at an ungodly hour on New Year’s Day to spend their last day of holiday vacation battling uncertain weather and ill-advised hang overs for the glory of running 31 miles, with no prize, and no ultrasignup statistics.  Some say that Dirk is immune to cold and fear, that he is Buri, the primeval man of Norse mythology who had no parents but rather was created “by a cow named Audhumla. As she licked the salt blocks of Ginnagagap, [into] the shape of a man”.  Others say he is one of the White Walkers, and still others say he’s a dang swell guy who makes swank chicken and dumplings and serves the running community by being a great pacer at the middle-half marathon.

But I digress.

On this day, the temperatures were 6 F.  Yes.  6.  The winds were howling and the fear of hypothermia was real.  And yet, the runners came.  A rag tag group of Divas, Cows, “RIF”ers, Boro2Squarerers, and Nemos – no men (free of all running affiliations).  They showed up  in blankets, mismatched spandex, and wore cowls.  There were 26 brave souls who toed the line and only 2 who finished the full 50K.  A Badwater master and a Bull-headed man (my hubs)!

The course is simple.  Runners start from the home aid station located at the General Bragg Trail Head of the Murfreesboro Greenway.  They run a figure-eight loop that takes them for a 4ish mile quest through the hallowed Stones River Battlefield, back to the Bragg Trail Head, and then a 6ish mile out and back to Cannonsburgh Village along the smoky Stones River.  Complete the full figure-eight and you have a completed a 10ish mile Dirk.  Do it three times, and you have a 50K.  The course is mostly flat and all paved.  What makes the run difficult to complete is not the distance, but the sweet siren song of the Bragg Trail Head aid station.

Each year, runners pay no fee to enter Dirk’s Fat Ass 50K.  The only thing required is a culinary sacrifice made to Dirk himself.  He demands cakes, pies, chilies, donuts, beer, and bourbon.  This buffet is laid out in tribute to the runners’ suffering and available to participants each time they pass the aid station – which if you complete the whole distance is 7 times.  Dirk also summons forth a fire from the bowels of the Earth to create a fire pit which warms the haggard runners.  When you pass the Bragg Trail Head, the Siren’s of “Warmth, Comfort, and Rest” call to you.  And many will answer the call.  Each year, only a few finish the distance, but all appreciate the challenge and the fellowship around the fire.

This year, two runners silenced the Sirens and completed the run.  The Badwater master ran with smooth stride and fire in his eyes.  He wore a mantel of frost and knew no fear of elements or exhaustion.  He ran with purpose and killer instinct.  He ran with some bitchin’ sexy spandex tights that made the Sirens take pause.  The Bull-headed runner could not quite keep pace with the Badwater master but was completely oblivious to the Sirens, focusing mainly on cookies and puppies.  He ran with a “here to unheard of” singular focus, layered with a strange patina of ice and sweat, and imbued with a fierce desire to finish the distance after 2 previous failed attempts.  Men of legendary stature.

Is any of this true?  Meh . . . trueish.  And besides, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that on New Year’s Day, 26 runners braved the cold to find fellowship in frost and fire.  So next year . . . will you be with us and earn your way into running legend?

Bryant Grove Trail – Review

Bryant Grove Trail – Review

The Mad Cows were on the mooooove yesterday!  Say what?  My local running group is the Mad Cow Running Company (MCRC), located in Murfreesboro, TN.  For some strange reason, we like each other enough to crawl out of bed on a frosty Saturday morning to hit the trails.  We have a really great and dedicated group of folks so it isn’t uncommon for some of the herd to drive for an hour (or more) to find our next great trail running adventure.

Being in Tennessee, we have access to so many wonderful trails, it seems like I should start sharing the details with everyone else.  As such, I will try to share information about the trails we encounter when the herd is on the move.  Yesterday, MCRC went for a fun run on the Bryant Grove Trail.

Here the basics of the trail:

Location:  The trail is located in Long Hunter State Park (2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076) – go in the main entrance of the park, make your first left, and the trail head is on the right hand side of the parking lot near the play ground.  There are number of other great trails in Long Hunter State Park, including a beautiful 2 mile paved loop around the lake, but we’ll focus on the Bryant Grove Trail for the purposes of this post.

Length:  The trail is 4 miles out and 4 miles back for a total distance of 8 miles.  The trail does NOT loop.

What else? The park opens at 8 am (sometimes earlier in the summer) and closes at sunset.  No pets allowed on this trail or in the Couchville Lake Recreation area.  There are bathrooms at both ends of the trail.  The trail is clearly marked with white blazes and mile markers.  And if you really like the trail, there is a 9 mile race there in August, sponsored by the Nashville Striders, called the Wild Thang 9 miler.

In my mind, this is one of the best trails for new trail runners.  The trail has minimal elevation gain (approximately 200 ft) over the course of the trail, so that runners can focus on the run.  Most of the folks I have talked to about becoming trail runners report that their biggest fear is tripping and twisting and ankle or falling and getting really hurt.  This is always a risk, but this trail is not super technical so it allows runners to get their trail legs.  In fact, yesterday I ran this trail as my first trail run after spraining my ankle at a trail race in mid-December.

I like this trail because it gives me an opportunity to run fast due to large open stretches without a lot of obstacles.  And let’s face it, the best part of trail running is the adrenaline high of zipping through the woods.  There are a few more technical spots that allow you to test out “quick feet”.  With short stretches of rocks and roots coming in clusters, some quick feet are needed to keep moving without tripping.  This is a good place to practice the skill.  If you are new to trails and want to get better at quick feet and improve ankle stability, I highly recommend jump roping.

If you come from the Couchville Lake Recreational Area side, you will pass by beautiful views of the water on your right during the first mile.  There is a mixture of cedar tree groves and single track trail but also plenty of parts of the trail where you can run two folks across.  The deer in the area are without fear and it isn’t uncommon for them to walk out onto the trail to investigate the people.  If you are lucky, and get up early on a cold day, you may also see some frost flowers like the herd found yesterday.

In short, this trail offers a lot of opportunities for new and veteran runners. For those dabbling in trail running, the trail allows runners the chance to practice basic trail running skills of quick feet and the ever important, picking up of your feet (so you don’t trip) without having to worry about hills, poor trail markings, or an overgrown trail.  As for veteran runners, it is a great place to practice raw trail speed.

Running Adventures – Sewanee Perimeter Trail

Running Adventures – Sewanee Perimeter Trail

One of the parts I enjoy the most about running is the storytelling.  Our sport is so unique in the fact that we share much of our running lore and knowledge through mentoring and storytelling.  We have all been through grueling races and training runs only to spend hours reminiscing the misery and adventure later.

Last weekend myself and several members of our running group, the Mad Cow Running Company (credit to Tyler our “hype-man” for the videos and water drops), visited the Sewanee Perimeter Trail.  The trail stretches roughly 20 miles along the perimeter of the campus, within the Boundary of the University of the South and follows the bluff line of the Cumberland Plateau.  The trail is mostly single track trail but does cross a few logging roads and runs on a paved portion near the local farmer’s market.  The primary users of the trail are hikers and trail runners but there are some mixed use portions for horses and mountain bikes.

Our herd met at 8 am on Saturday at the Memorial Cross.  We parked at the few spaces afforded by the small gravel lots near the cross and took a moment to check our gear and water, as well as, to take in the view of the cross and the valley which it overlooks below.  The temperatures were already in the 80’s and forecasts called for temps to soar into the 90’s by noon with heat advisories and “real feel” temperatures expected to hit well into the hundreds.  Two of our cows were kind enough to do early morning water drops at 8.4 and 14.2 miles.  With temps as they were, we knew that we would easily go through our multiple liters of water during the 20 miles.

Five little bovines set off on the trail going counter-clockwise away from the Cross.  For most of the first mile we did “power hiking” as the trail winds through some rocky portions that required a bit of finessing and climbing over rocks.  In my opinion, the first mile is the prettiest but doesn’t have the great overlooks of the later portions of the trail.  The sweaty herd alternated a mixture of walk and run intervals with the goal of taking it nice and easy to keep from getting overheated and planned to average about 15 minutes/mile.

The trail was a mixture of more technical portions covered with roots and rocks with more groomed portions that were very runnable.  It goes without saying that there were hills.  Many hills.  The herd made it to the first water drop without major incident.  We did have to make a few minor detours as parts of the trail were “under construction”.  We were all grateful for the water drop as we had all nearly emptied our supplies of water in the first 8 miles.  I won’t share the indecent comments made during the exuberance of having ice cold water.

And then the herd was off again.  After a few miles, the cow in front of me stepped off the trail to let two oncoming runners pass.  Said cow yelped.  Not being the yelping type, I looked up to find said cow flailing and yelping and running away at speed. . . and a nest of yellow jackets.  With no time to spare I changed course and shouted a warning to the runner behind me.  But the damage was done and one of our herd had picked up a half-dozen or more stings.  According to Wikipedia, yellow jackets are a hazard on this trail – nailed it.

After a quick assessment, our wounded cow was still able to continue and did not appear to be majorly allergic to stings.  But, after a few miles our cow had itchy hands, swollen appendages, full body hives, and looked like he just got punched in the mouth.  So as our herd often does in the case of an emergency, we huddled up and problem solved.  Mercifully we were close to our next water drop which was also near a road.  By taking the road, we were only 2ish miles from the cars rather than the 5-6 miles remaining on the trail.  Half the cows ran to get their cars.  One car to gather the wounded cow; one car to grab Benadryl and Zantac.

And this cow, this cow called our herd nurse who wasn’t able to join us but knew exactly what to do.  She provided me with precise dosing instructions of what to take and how often.  Let me just say, a person can consume a lot of Benadryl before they will overdose.  Thanks to the quick work of the cows, we had a happy ending with everyone making it home safely and one cow having one heck of a Benadryl hangover.

The moral of this story is stick together and carry a better first aid kit on the trails.  As for the future, the cows will be out running this trail and many others in the future.  And in time, this story will move into the annals of running lore where 6 stings became 50 stings and yellow jackets become dragons.  And more importantly, where cows become legendary.