Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of Year Running Review

I am typing this on the last day of 2017.  This is the moment where I review my running goals for the year. Let's get to it, shall we?

Goal #1: Run the Cleveland Marathon all by myself without freaking out.

Melissa, Rachel, and me at the Expo

The Ambassadors at the starting line

Mission Accomplished! I definitely had moments of insecurity at the VIP Dinner, but I ran that sucker all by myself like a boss. From this race, I learned that I don't necessarily need to rely on anything (like music) or anyone to run a marathon.

Goal #2: Run more trail races.

Me, Candice, Kristin. Burning River, Leg 5

Goddesses + Mother Runners. Leave No Trace Half Marathon

Marta, Me, Nicole, Spooky Ghost. Run with Scissors Half Marathon
Mission Accomplished! I had counted on running Burning River, but the other two trail half-marathons were kind of spur of the moment decisions.  I'm really glad that I ran them. From these races, I learned that I don't have to kill myself just to run a race. I can just enjoy it.

Goal #3: PR at the Akron Marathon.  This was a stretch goal, I admit. The weather on the day of the race was incredibly hot and humid, and I was tempted to drop to the half. I really freaked myself out. . .and then I got my shit together and got the job done. I told myself that I would just run easy because it was silly to believe that I could PR in that kind of weather. . .but I still wanted to meet that goal.

Still freaked out at Expo

PR, Baby!

Mission Accomplished! I PR'd by about 90 seconds, and I consider that an incredible accomplishment. I learned that I am much stronger than I think, and I think I'm pretty badass.

Goal #4: Run at least 1,500 miles.

Mission Accomplished! I learned that the best way for me to train is to put in lots of longer miles, one of which must be a midweek long run of 7-10 miles. This was the best way for me to run two marathons without getting injured. 

I finished my running year with eight miles on the Towpath with Marta. It was bitter cold, and the snow wasn't packed, so we got a great glute workout.

We look like we are about to rob a bank, but really we are gearing up for the run.
I have had a successful running year, and now I'm thinking about my new goals for 2018. I've got some ideas, but I will leave that for another post. For now, I'm going to bid you a Happy New Year. I hope you met your goals for the year, and I hope you have some challenging goals for next year. Whatever your goals, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

So Much Fun at Night!

When I approach the end of the semester, my stress heightens, and I find myself looking for ways to blow off steam so I don't punch someone in the throat. This is where the night runs came in this week.

On Tuesday I ran the annual Christmas Lights Run. It's a 4-mile run to Stan Hywet Hall from Lock 3, a walk through the lit up gardens with lots of photo-opps, and then a 4-mile run back to Lock 3, where we finished with holiday cheer. There were at least three big clubs joining this run, and I belong to all of them: Phillips Phlyers, the Canal Rats, and the Crooked River Trail Runners. Over 100 runners showed up, decked out in Christmas Lights and elf and Santa running gear.

Lock 3 before we left. I'm standing on a chair in the back, but of course I turned my head to the side at the wrong time.

The weather was perfect--in the 40's--and the traffic wasn't too bad, so we had a safe and fun run to Stan Hywet Hall following the Blue Line. I had a great time talking to everyone on the way there (when I wasn't sucking wind).

When we got there, we took lots of photos. The grounds at Stan Hywet were all sparkly with holiday lights. So beautiful!

Crooked River Trail Runners. I am wearing the Santa outfit on the right.

Phillips Phlyers in front of the mansion
Katrina and I passed the time by taking selfies, and of course, Doc Craino had to get in on the action:

Before shot: The Pretty Picture of Katrina and me

I feel like someone is behind us. CRAIN????
 We ran back to Lock 3, with Katrina and Crew trying to kill me by running 9-minute miles (which, for them, is like a stroll in the park). All three clubs were meeting in different bars for our holiday cheer, so I was a bit torn on what to do. I went to 69 Taps to see the Crooked River Trail Runners, but without my glasses, I couldn't see anyone I knew with my quick peek, so I headed to Barley House and ate burgers with Phillips Phlyers.

Post-Run Shenanigans with Joey Phillips
This was an incredible night; 8 miles is exactly what I needed to relieve some end-of-semester stress, and it was so fun to hang with such kind and fun-loving people.


The week's celebrations were not over!

Thursday night was the Crooked River Trail Runners group run and White Elephant Gift Exchange. I knew I would show up for the run, but I didn't intend to participate in the celebration after because it was for 2017 members, and I only just joined for 2018.  I ran 3 miles through the woods and then through Lock 29 with the elves and Santas for the Polar Express. It was a bit surreal to pass about 20 Santas cheering us on.

We arrived at the clubhouse, and I ordered a beer and sat back to watch the exchange around the table. Right away, my new friends encouraged me to join them at the table, even if I didn't participate. This meant that I got some great pics:

Cari got the hot-ticket item of the night. There was a lot of fighting over the onesie.

Kelleigh seems to be VERY SERIOUS about the rules of the game. Was she negotiating for the onesie? Marta seems ready to step in if necessary, and Ken is too busy looking at his own gifts to care if there might be a cage-match going down.

Highlight of the Night: As I'm drinking a Christmas Ale and waiting for everyone to set up the exchange, a young man approaches me. No, it's not what you might think:

Young Man: Mrs. Itibrout? Are you still teaching at Medina?

Me: sigh. Hi, Darian! It's good to see you! Wow--you are an adult now!

I'm like a gazillion years old.

Today, Christmas Eve, I ran 7 miles of Boston Run with Marta. We decided to do our photo opp with a little help from a friend:

Can you guess where we are?
Marta and I focus on the important parts of the statue.

This week was all that I could want in de-stress running. I look forward to running what I like, when I like for the next week or so. In the meantime, I will be calculating my running paycheck next week. What's that? You don't know what a running paycheck is? Check me out next week, and I'll explain it.

Have a wonderful holiday, Peeps, and don't forget to run happy!

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Night Running Again

I've had some great runs in the past few weeks:

10 miles at the Vertical Runner Tryptophan Run.  The first 4 miles were with Joy; then I did 2 miles with Joy and Rob:

We aren't sweating; we are glowing.

The last 4 miles were with Ken, who kept me going at a 9:30 or under clip:
In other words, he tried to kill me. 
The next week I ran with Kristin on the Towpath. It was a bit chilly, but other than that, it was just like old times!

You can't tell because she is wearing sunglasses, but her eyes are googly-wide, just like mine.

On Thursday evening, I decided to try something different: I ran with the Crooked River Trail Runners. They are a crazy bunch who meet at the Brandy Wine Clubhouse in Peninsula to run trails at night. Kelleigh promised me she would guide me, so I gave it a go. Luckily for us, there was Mark on the trails to help us when we got confused and basically started bushwhacking our own trail. I loved that run! Running at night jazzes me; I feel so full of energy running in the dark, even after a full, exhausting day of work. After that run, I went home and signed up officially for club membership. I'm telling you this now because if you never hear from me again, it's because I got lost on a Thursday night run.

Kelleigh and I are a bit rosy-cheeked after our run/trailblazing.
Today I decided to do something seriously crazy: I ran two loops of the Bills Badass course with Marta. Holy Shmoly! It was really hilly.  I can't imagine what it would be like to do all six loops AND run up Candy Ass Mountain at the end. Plus, the wind was making my eyes tear up, and my nose wouldn't stop running (even when I stopped running).

Here is Marta at one of the stream crossings. We were lucky that it wasn't thigh-deep, like it was during the race!

And here we are at the finish. This is EXACTLY how I look when I am more than relieved to be done.
I've been looking for a new challenge before I start race training, and I think these Thursday night runs will be perfect. My goal is to attend every Thursday night run, unless it rains. I hate rain.

Are you looking for new challenges? What are you doing to enjoy your workouts? Whatever it is, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Race Recap: Home Run for the Homeless

This four-miler has become my Thanksgiving tradition. It starts and ends at Gennesaret, which is the  charity it benefits. Everyone associated with the race is a volunteer. Local businesses donate gift cards and door prizes worth hundreds of dollars. It's just a super-fun time for a great cause.

Gennesaret is an organization that helps homeless people to move into housing. Sometimes they donate furniture and kitchen supplies; sometimes they help financially. The Home Run for the Homeless is their only fundraiser. The race costs 20 bucks to register online--25 on the day of the race--for a four-mile jaunt through West Akron and the Glendale Cemetery. There is also a 1 mile Fun Run/Walk which is completely in the cemetery.

I picked up my packet on Wednesday afternoon. There was a tshirt option with online registration, but I don't have much luck in getting tshirts that fit me, so I took the gloves that come with the bib. I love those gloves.

On Thursday, I was able to roll out of bed at 6:30, eat breakfast, hang out, and then leisurely make my way to the start by 8:30. I used the bathroom before the crowds and then ran a mile warmup. I missed every group photo opportunity available to me: Phillips Phlyers, Canal Rats, Crooked River Trail Runners (I'm not really part of that group, but as a Burning River Goddess, I feel like I could have joined in). No biggie. There were soooooo many people there; the mayor said that there were about 4,000 people registered for both the Fun Run and the Four Miler.  What a testament to our community!

The countdown began, and then it was time to start. It took me about 2-3 minutes to get to the starting line, which normally is no big deal, but this morning on my group run someone told me that it was a gun start, not a chip start. What this means to me is that MAYBE I ran 2-3 minutes faster than I thought I did. I'm not upset about it because I had no intention of trying to beat my PR, which is 33:48.

The cemetery is hilly--super hilly. This is the run I did on Wednesday with Phillips Phlyers, and it is a toughie for sure. The first mile is through the streets of Akron, just outside downtown, and the rest of the course is basically inside the cemetery. I was feeling pretty good, but I decided to run the race conservatively based on what happened to me last year. I kept things at an even effort (rather than an even pace), which is important when running hills if you don't want to lose gas climbing all the time. I saw quite a few friends blow by me, and it made me happy. A woman dressed as a turkey, flapping wings and all, passed me going uphill, and that did not make me happy. At mile 3, we were about a half mile from getting out of Glendale, so I tried to push my pace as much as I could, until I popped out back on Exchange Street running toward Gennesaret for the finish.

The race was a bit short, so I jogged it out until I hit four miles, which means I had a nice cool down. My official time was 35:46, which I will take. I was 15/85 females in my age group, which I will also take. What I REALLY enjoyed taking was the gigantic piece of coffee cake that was waiting for me at the finish. I shoved that baby in my mouth while I stretched and talked to Pam and Steve.

Pam and I are horrified: Those hills are tough!

Pam won third in her age group, and Steve won first in his, which means they got a turkey, two mugs, and a huge jar of Smuckers jelly.  This is quite an accomplishment because the finish times at the top are incredibly fast. This race is a tough field of fast and experienced runners.

The Canal Rats CLEANED UP in the finishing categories; there should really be a Rat Party with the turkeys and pies they won. I was happy to congratulate them when we ran Sand Run the day after the race. It is important to note that the ONLY WAY I could run with the Rats was by choosing hills to run on a day that I knew they were tired from leaving it all out in the Glendale Cemetery. Even then, they were slowing down their pace to accommodate me, so THANK YOU, CANAL RATS!

I also found Joey Phillips and John Adams and took a post-race selfie with them:

By this time I've recovered and eaten my coffeecake, so I'm happy.

There were plenty of amazing door prizes and raffle prizes donated by local sponsors. I didn't win anything again this year, but I'm holding out hope for next year. It is a sure bet that I will be there next year. . .maybe with a shiny, new PR.

How was your Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving? I hope you pre-emptively burned ALL the calories you consumed, and I hope that you continue to run happy, Peeps!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cold November Rain

There are two sides to the song "November Rain" by Guns N Roses. On one hand, Axl sings, "Everybody needs some time all alone," and I definitely believe that this applies to me.  I like to be alone. As a teacher, I feel that I give of myself physically and psychologically 24/7, and it really drains me. "Sometimes I need some time on my own," and I get that on the majority of my 4:30 AM runs.

On the other hand, Axl also sings, "Don't you think that you need somebody? Don't you think that you need someone? Everybody needs somebody; you're not the only one," and this is also me. I get tired of the Voices in my head. Sometimes they scream at me. Sometimes they tell me that I'm not enough. Sometimes I need perspective, and sometimes I just need levity.

And cemeteries.

And donuts.

Joey Phillips put out a call to the Phlyers for a Wednesday morning run, a preview of the Homerun for the Homeless, which takes place on Thanksgiving morning. I hesitated, then typed, "Any slower Phlyers planning on running?" Right away Joey responded that I would not jack up their run if I came, and several very fast people (I'm talking about you, Jim Chaney) indicated that we would be a group. I decided to go, and as I often do, I put it in my head that I can always start with the group and catch up later.

We met at Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Phlyers prepare to phly. Notice that the Blogger (me) has her eyes closed. SMH.

And we took off toward the Glendale Cemetery. I love this cemetery with its mausoleums and hills, but I will describe that in further detail tomorrow with the race recap. I was unsure of how I would hold up since a run with the Phlyers (even at a relaxed pace for them) is a tempo run for me, and I haven't done speedwork since the Akron Marathon in September. Luckily, Jennifer and Lyndsey both ran at my pace (because Jennifer kicked tail at the Bills' Badass 50k last Saturday and Lyndsey is injured), and even Jim slowed down to make sure we were all together. (Poor guy, I caught him doing butt-kickers for about a mile because we were running at least two minutes slower than he was used to running). I still averaged a 9:30 pace, which is very good for me at this time.

We had a few photo opps along the way:
John, Ron, and Joey goofing off

RIP. If you look at the bottom right, you will see that this is the resting place of Joey Phillips. Uh oh.

When we got back, the shenanigans started.

Joey is CLEARLY not deceased here. He seems to be making the donuts.

We all ate donuts. Some ate more than others. I'm looking at you, Bryan.

Post Run high. Just as the sugar hit me.

This isn't creepy at all.
I normally avoid donuts at all costs--I consider them poison--but I got sucked into the comraderie of the moment, and I ate an apple fritter and drank some good coffee. (Full disclosure here: I just edited the post because I originally typed "I HATE an apple fritter." That isn't Freudian at all.)

I'm so glad I got out for this run. Phillips Phlyers are really good people, and I sometimes forget that running can be communal as well as solitary.

Thank you, Phillips Phlyers, for including me.

Where are you Turkey Trotting, Peeps? I'll be at the Homerun for the Homeless.  I hope wherever you run, you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

I Witnessed the BBA50K!

The Bills' Badass 50K is a legendary race that takes place in Peninsula starting from the Covered Bridge. Ever since I started trail running, I have heard people talk about its epic-ness: the weather, the stream crossings, the mud, the yelling of the RD.  I decided to volunteer at the aid station for this event, and I'm here to tell you that it is all true.

Here are the details of the race as I understand them:

It's free, but the racing community expects you to either donate your time to environmental cleanup or money to the cause. The causes this year were Edwin's Restaurant and Leadership Institute and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership.

The race consists of 6 loops of hills, single track, and stream crossings. Runners check in after each loop. After the 6th loop, runners must ascend Candy Mountain where they will take a piece of candy out of the basket and bring it back to the finish line.

The goal is to finish the race, especially when the weather fights back. Those who do not finish the race are considered "candy-ass." They tend to take this label in stride and promise to complete the next year.

The race director, Wild Bill Wagner, carries a megaphone and likes to yell at people.

I showed up at 7:30 AM in horrible weather (cold, sleet, pouring rain, wind) to work the aid station. Thankfully, Wild Bill had set up a tent for the station, so I was protected from the elements. There was already a plentiful amount of food set out for the runners, and many participants brought in homemade and store bought food to share. We had tons of bacon (a trail runner staple), Subway sandwiches, pb and j sandwiches, pretzels, Pringles, M and Ms, salted potatoes, chicken soup. . . you name it; we served it up.

Do we have enough food? No?  There is lots more behind me in the tent!

I met my fellow volunteers, who were very kind.

Here we are in the red tent!
I had quite a few friends who ran this race, and I am amazed by their badassery. Here is a shot of the Burning River Goddesses (Nicole, Marta, and Jennifer) coming through after the first loop.

I stayed until 10:30 because I had to go home and wake up my kids. Wild Bill offered to yell at them over the phone, and in retrospect, I should have taken him up on it.

The weather got increasingly worse all day, so I am even more in awe of all runners of this race, even those who were "candy-ass," considering I didn't run a single mile that day, and I CERTAINLY didn't cross any swollen streams. Instead, I threw on every layer of clothing I had and tried to get warm for the rest of the day.

Will I run the BBA 50K one day? I don't know. The weather is a deal-breaker for me. Someday I intend to run a 50k, but I don't know if I want it to be this difficult. I do want to say that you will never find a more supportive community than these trail runners. Everyone was positive and encouraging and happy to be out there. I am honored to be a part of that family.  Even if I get yelled at.

Where did you run this week? Wherever it is, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Leaf Peeping

Today's run featured Marta for 4.5 miles

She is tapering for Bills' Badass 50k next week, but she was still kind enough to come out for a bit and show me some new trail. Sorry, I'd love to tell you where it was, but I have no idea.  Well, that isn't quite true. I did recognize Blue Hen Falls:

When Marta left I decided to test my common sense on the Buckeye Trail, following the blue blazes as Marta taught me. The leaves are still on the trees, and the colors are so vivid and gorgeous everywhere! Today I remembered how lucky I am to live so close to the Metroparks. I especially loved running through the pine trees:

I put in almost six miles for a total of 10.25. Not bad at all! The common sense thing ended when I realized that instead of attaching my key fob to my vest, I had attached my house and classroom keys.  Actually, I have no clue what these keys are doing on my key ring, but they were definitely NOT going to help me get into my car.   So, I had to call my husband and ask him to bring me a spare car key. He wasn't happy about it, but I promised to go shopping and buy steak for dinner.

As I was waiting, an older man pulled his car over to me and said, "I once hiked a trail around here. It goes through the woods and almost straight uphill. Do you know where that trail is?"

Me: "Ummm. . .yeah. That would be any trail around here. You can go there (pointing) or. . . "

Him: "No. This one was through the woods and straight uphill."


This was a great run today. I'm amazed that there are so many leaves around; it made for a dazzling long run.

Did you run in the leaves today? No matter where you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Race Recap: Run with Scissors

The subtitle to this post is "How I Ran More than a 25K when I Just Wanted to Run a Half Marathon."

This is the first time I've ever done Run with Scissors. You see, it has a reputation, and the crazies who embrace this trail race love the misery involved with it.

1. The weather will suck on the day of the race.
2. The trail markings will be confusing.
3. You will most likely get lost.
4. You will definitely get cold and muddy.

On the other hand, there are plusses:

1. You will get bacon.
2. See #1.

I decided to try the race this year just to have a long trail run. Some of the Burning River Goddesses signed up, too, so I figured it would be a fun time. . . and it was.  Sort of.

There are three races here: a half marathon (me), a marathon, and a double marathon (for people who generally like to be spanked, I guess). The half marathon started at 9:00, which was nice because I didn't have to get up too early to run it. I still didn't want to get out of the car and go out into the cold when I arrived at The Ledges Shelter.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I don't want to get out of the car. I really need to reconsider my life choices.

We listened to directions from the RD, Roy Heger; well, we pretended to listen to directions. Mostly people just looked at the runners who decided to run in Halloween costumes. I do distinctly remember Roy telling us to follow signs and markers on the right side of the trail. Pay attention because this becomes relevant later.

I took our obligatory selfie just before the start:

Me, Marta, and Nicole. Tracy and Katrina were also there. Katrina was a taco.
 Then we took off into the woods. 

It was a nice run during the first half of it. We stopped at the aid station located at Pine Hollow, and I ate bacon and grilled cheese and cherry licorice. The volunteers were amazing, especially considering they were standing in the damp and cold.

When we got to the halfway point, we were supposed to use our scissors to cut a page from the book there to prove that we made it that far. I just ripped the page out because although I ran with my scissors, I forgot to take them out of the plastic wrap, and I didn't want to deal with it.

And I STILL haven't taken them out of the plastic!

My page: Nietzsche
We ran back together towards the Pine Hollow aid station, but I was getting a bit fatigued. I hadn't fueled at the proper times for me, and it was wearing me down. When we got back to Pine Hollow, I knew that I had just over 3 miles left, and I felt that with another slice of bacon and some M&Ms I would get there. And then things got weird.

Nicole ran ahead of Marta and me a bit, and Tracy was behind us a bit. Marta and I were deep in conversation, and we weren't really paying attention to our surroundings. In my defense, I am constantly looking at the trail instead of around me because I don't want to fall. We saw a sign on the right of the trail pointing downhill for one of the intersections, and although it seemed counter intuitive to us since the finish was higher up, we followed the trail marking. This was a half mile from the finish line.

When we found ourselves at Kendall Lake, we knew we had screwed up, but there were more trail markings (on the right) directing us around the Lake loop.  We stopped and looked at some maps, but we were puzzled. Two marathoners and two half-marathoners approached us and told us we had taken a wrong turn and we had to double back to get on track, so we did. As we ran, we called our loved ones and  told them we loved them and we wanted to be buried together when they find our bodies covered in leaves.

We made it back to The Ledges Shelter after 16.55 miles, tired, hungry, thirsty, muddy, and a bit embarrassed.

Just a wee bit of mud
The Goddesses had been somewhat worried because we didn't come in when we should have, so we were all relieved to be reunited. I felt much better after eating a grilled cheese sandwich (prepared by the beautiful Stacy, who was volunteering) and some chili. We agreed that we had more than earned whatever treats we gave ourselves this weekend.

It was a spooky finish!
After following social media posts, I realized that many runners went the extra mile (or three!), including my friend Sydney, who ran the double marathon and decided to throw in some extra mileage when she turned off course.

Will I run this race again? Honestly, I don't know. I don't like running in cold rain.  The race itself was very nice: the woods are beautiful, and the volunteers and runners were all amazing. If you like to feel like a badass, and/or if you are a masochist, this race is for you. Consider the double marathon.

The swag is sweet, too!

I love my mug!
Next up: I laugh at the fools who will be running the Bills' Bad Ass 50K in a few weeks. I will be volunteering and reporting on their shenanigans. Will I see you there?

I hope wherever you run, you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Relax, Max

I've been trying to cut down my mileage and relax, but I am stuck in this awful cycle of feeling guilty for doing less mileage. I did 11 miles today on the trails, and I feel like I should have done more. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME????

Last week I ran ten miles of trails, the first five with Marta, Nicole, and Jen, and then the last five with Jen. This week I ran with Marta, Kate, Renee, Carrie, and Nicole, and I finished the back seven with Nicole. This is great mileage; I feel good. Why do I feel like I'm slacking, then?

I know I need to allow my body time to relax; I'm just not used to relaxing. I'm one of those people who can't do shavasana at the end of the yoga session without wondering how much longer I have to lay there like that.  It's important, though, to counterbalance the time and energy I spend training with some other activities so I don't burn out or injure myself. I plan to chill until January, when I will need to start training again. In the meantime, it's Relax, Max, and have fun.

Today I started a Goddess run from the Boston Store to Brandywine Falls and back.

Kate, Marta, Nicole, Renee, Carrie. This is EXACTLY how I look when I am happy to run with Goddesses.

 As we ran, Marta pointed out to me where I went wrong on my infamous "I'm an adult and I can run by myself just fine" run to Brandywine.  We did a lot of talking and laughing. I love the dynamic on group runs when people pair up to chat for a while and then the pairs mix. It's so cool to talk one on one with everyone there at some time or another.

Burning River Goddesses in front of Brandywine Falls. I'm taking the picture.

We dropped the group off at the Boston Store, and Nicole and I decided to test our senses of direction by running the Buckeye Trail. We missed a turn halfway through and started up again in a different place.  Then we saw him:

It's Sasquatch!  Run for your life!

As we approached, Nicole started laughing and said, "Look at that tree. It looks just like a bear."

I squinted and said, "Yeah, it looks like Sasquatch. . .wait a minute.  It IS Sasquatch!"

We have no idea what he was doing there, but it made my day.

Nicole ran me back to the Boston Store for a total of 11.25 miles, and she continued on to 15.

Overall, considering we were able to find our way around Peninsula, I'm really pleased with my running adventure today.  I really need to continue this idea of "chill" so that I can learn to love training again.

When is your season to chill? Do you ever shut it down for a while?

Regardless of how much you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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