Friday, June 16, 2017

I Run This Town (Part 1: Weeks 1-4)


Have you ever wondered what was down the road never taken? Do you run the same routes every time you leave your house?   Did you ever say, “Hey, I never knew that was there!”  Well, my friend took the journey and ran every street in her city and I decided to do the same.  I wanted to discover landmarks, famous places, beautiful and obscure things in my own neighborhood. Some cool, some creepy and some that just confused me.   This was my journey, I planned to Run This Town.

Day 0: I picked up map from the city clerk’s office, cost $4.  I ordered a set of assorted colored highlighters from Amazon, cost $7.  I decided that different colors would be assigned for certain reasons.  Pink would be for if Kirby or Zuzu (my dogs) ran with me.  Blue would be used if a friend joined me.  Green would be for if I ran alone.  Large round dots with a black sharpie would indicate a loose dog that approached me.  More on that later, but thankfully I also bought a can of pepper spray, cost $20.

I called the department of public works to determine how many miles of roads were in my town.  They told me about 300 miles.  I guessed I needed to exclude the highway section as I was not sure if pedestrian traffic was allowed, and if it was, did I want to run on the highway?  Probably not.  But I’m not saying no yet.  I told my husband what I planned to do, he didn’t even bat an eye.  Guess he has become used to my nonsense by now. 

Week 1: May 20-26, 2017:

I ran a section of the Paint Creek Trail with my buddy Jeff.  Technically it’s not a road, but it’s on the map and I love running here.  I told Jeff about my plans and he didn’t seem shocked.  Guess he knows me well.  

Another day,  I parked my car in a subdivision and headed out on my run.  I came back to find the sheriff’s department investigating my “suspicious” vehicle.  I told the deputy that I had been out running.  He asked how long my car had been parked there, I glanced at my Garmin watch and it read an hour and five minutes.  He rolled his eyes and went out to look for real criminals.

I realized that this project may take longer than I anticipated.  At first I thought I could do it this summer.  But there are a lot of dead end streets, which means running that street twice.  There are many subdivisions that you can’t run with out repeating several blocks over the duration.  I try to plot my runs on the computer with the site to make my run as efficient as possible. 

I ran a few days with my dogs.  Kirby was frightened of a trash can in the street.  The dogs seem unsure of why we are running different routes, they keep bumping into me or trying to turn the wrong direction.  They are creatures of habit after all.  Until now we have always run the same routes and they knew exactly where to turn.  

Week 1 Stats:
24.18 miles (this is my total miles logged in the city, miles elsewhere don’t count.)
Interesting objects encountered: A turtle, red bellied woodpecker, and the largest Beeb Oak in America.  Also found a quarter and a cool orange milk crate that I brought home for my husband.  Found four Free Little Libraries.  
Contacts with police = 1
Contacts with loose dogs that approached me = 2

Week 2: May 27-June 2, 2017:

I ran a few miles with each of my dogs on Saturday.  Zuzu and I were approached by a small dog came across the street to us.  The owner came and got it and apologized.

Another day,  I ran Kirby about 6 miles.  She did great.  A large dog ran across the street to us, while the owner yelled that he was friendly.  Everything turned out ok, no harm.  I’m already getting frustrated about these loose dogs.  For the record, my dogs are always on a leash when I run.  

The next day my heart was broken.  As I ran Zuzu not even ten blocks from my house two loose dogs charged us from three yards away.  They were not friendly and attacked Zuzu from both sides.  I pulled out my pepper spray and hosed them down with it.  The spray was enough to subdue them until their owner came to get them.  A neighbor heard my screams and came to help me.  I called the sheriff’s department to take a report.  My dog had been bit several times on both sides.  She wound up seeing the emergency vets in surgery twice over this incident, resulting in $1,200 in vet bills.  I can only count my lucky stars that the owner of the dogs was as horrified as I was and he gladly paid my vet bills (and the ticket issued by the animal control officer.)  

The rest of the week I was a mess, as I ran I jumped at the slightest sound of a dog barking.  I didn’t sleep for several days and I worried about my Zuzu girl and her recovery. 

Week 2 Stats:
25.28 miles
Contacts with police/animal control officer = 2
Contacts with loose dogs = 2

Week 3:  June 3-June 9, 2017

I went to Boulder, Colorado this weekend for the Skirt Sports 13’er (half marathon.)  I talked about my “I Run This Town Project” with several friends.   Some of them got inspired by this challenge and have decided to join me and do the same thing in their towns all over the country.  I created a Facebook group where we can discuss our adventures.  We now have Fifteen people that are doing this project and many more considering it.  It has turned into a daily source of inspiration for me.

I ran some industrial areas near my home, nothing much of interest.  Another day, my husband rode his bike as I ran and we encountered another loose dog.  This one stayed in his yard but man, he was mean.  I’ll come back another day and get this street completed.

I decided to take preventive measures and ordered this placard for my car.  Hopefully it helps make me look less suspicious.  

I later stopped by the Sheriff’s Department and briefed my friend (who is a detective) of my plans.  I gave him my license plate number and car description, hoping to avoid the deputies being called out on my highly suspicious vehicle. 

Another day, Kirby found the sprinklers on in the Walgreens lot.  She played like a child in them.  What is not to love about this.  I could have watched her play all day.  

My friend Argenta saw my I Run This Town project post and came to run some with me.  We covered about 9 miles of subdivisions.  There was a lot of dead end streets. She didn’t mind and I was happy to have some company.   

It’s only three weeks in and I can’t run anything from my house without repeating at least the first and last mile.  I’m starting to consider driving to areas to run them.  

I had go to run an errand, so I ran three miles nearby my destination.  I discovered a community garden.  I also saw three sheriff department cars go by.  They all waved at me.  I wonder if my memo was shown at their roll call and now they know who I am.  

Zuzu is recovering well.  She is walking a little bit but won’t be joining me on a run for a few more weeks.

Week 3 Stats:
20.73 miles 
Contacts with loose dogs = 1
Contacts with police (but this was self initiated) = 1

Week 4: June 10-June 16, 2017

Instead of chipping off streets, I went to a neighboring city and ran 11 miles of trails with my buddy Jeff.  None of these trails are in my city.  So it was all just for fun, they didn’t count towards my weekly mileage.

The weather has been humid and the temps into the 90’s most days this week.  Tough to get out there. I walk the dogs a mile most days before my runs, but they can’t come with me, it’s just too hot and humid.

I did two miles in an industrial park just to mark a few streets off the map.  I wonder what most of those businesses are as their names really don’t explain much.  I’m guessing most are manufacturing plants but I did see one called Grit Obstacle Courses.  That sounded interesting.  

I’m closing in on one month of the I Run This Town Project.   My husband came out with me.  He dropped me off at the dead end of the street I could not pass last week because of the loose dog.  I ran along side the car as he drove so I could complete this street.   Why do we have to be afraid of loose dogs in our own towns?  I’m even more skeptical now since the attack, than I ever was.  We got through this second time without incident.  The dog just watched us go by.  Later, I ran another 5 miles in a different subdivision.  People still look at me funny if I park my car in front of their house,  They seem afraid to say hello while I run by. It’s like reply with the word say the word “Hello” and I can hear the question mark behind their voice.  Guess a lot of people are skeptics.

I decided I’d post blogs about this in about four week increments.  Today is the last day of the first segment.  I had an interesting run.  I saw a man that looked like Santa Clause in a yard that looked like Sanford and Sons.  I found a Free Little Library and brought a book home.  Another loose dog chased me, it was just an ankle biter and I wasn’t afraid.  I worry more when I have my dogs with me.  Then I was heckled a bunch of kid on a school bus.  I was waiting to cross the street and they were stopped at the stoplight.  I just pretended not to hear them, but the smart mouths on kids these days amaze me.  I’ll sound like I’m a hundred years old but “in my day” the bus driver would have brought the vehicle to a screeching halt and gave us a good smack for acting like a fool. 

My map shows I have three square miles completed and parts of other sections done.  It will be interesting to see how the next month goes.  

Week 4 Stats:
11.79 = miles
Contacts with loose dogs = 1
Police contacts (finally!) = 0
Total miles this month: 81.98 miles

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Great Escape

This is a guest blog post by Erick, my amazing husband.  He wanted to do an epic bike adventure this summer to pay tribute to his mother.  She passed away before her prime.  I never got to meet her, but I know that she would be proud of him.  In honor to her he wanted to ride from our home to our property, close to where he lived as a child.  There is no bringing back a loved one that has left us.  But there is a spiritual force that is with us, when we take these journeys and venture into our own great unknown.

I'll take one second to tell my husband that I have never been more proud of him.  This ride was so far out of his comfort zone, it took a lot of planning, some changing plans after they were set and then actually following through with this.  You are my hero.  Love you babe.

What follows is Erick's report that I copied from his Facebook feed.  

Ride report: Wednesday: I started my adventure at 7:00 am. The weather was near perfect. Winds were moderate out of the north east. I rode Clinton River trail to Paint Creek trail to Gunn Rd and onto Lake George Rd north to Sutton and worked my way northwest toward 5 Lakes Rd and crossed over I-69. I continued north to Kings Mill Rd. The country road/dirt riding was excellent. Lite traffic and only one honking angry driver near Lake George and Oakwood Rd. I had a chance to stop for resupply at the Five Lakes Grocery on Kings Mill Rd. I was an old service station from the about the 1930's and the senior lady was very nice and asked me all about the ride and where I was headed. She asked if I had anything to eat; I said yes. She insisted I have a Zinger cake on the house. I was delicious. I worked west into Coulmbiaville, Mi and ate lunch at Subway. I started onto the Southern Links Trailway and headed north. I passed through Otter Lake and ended the trail in Millington, Mi. As I worked west again on Murphy Lake Rd and picked up Vassar Rd north. The traffic on Vassar road was wicked fast. No honking, but no moving over either. I stopped to assess my mental attitude and if I was pushing the energy to far. I decided it was not wise to try and make Midland on day one. I elected to turn west onto Ormes Rd and head into Frankenmuth and camp at Jellystone. I ended the day at 77 miles. It was a great first day and only one angry driver out of hundreds for the day.

Ride report Thursday: I awoke from a restful tent camp in Frankenmuth and started my second day of riding. I was refreshed and mentally prepared for the journey ahead. I entered the the US 20 bike route and met up with two men, who started in Brunswick, Maine and were headed to Oregon coast. We leap frogged north toward Bay City. They moved ahead of me on a steady 15 mph pace. Their bikes weighed in at 90 pounds. They were solid riders. I kept a pace of 13 mph. I felt strong. I turned west onto Harger Line Rail Trail and rode a beautiful paved rail trail to Portsmouth Rd. I turned north and heard several sirens approaching. One police car moving quickly north on Portsmouth Rd. I continued north. I crossed M-81 and saw a rescue truck rapidly approaching from the west. Sirens and lights active. I pulled off the road and waited. They passed. I was concerned about the two west riders, that were about 1-2 miles ahead were somehow involved. I poured on the steam and was covering a 18 mph pace for several miles. I looked ahead and saw cars turning around. Police cars and fire trucks and an ambulance had blocked the roadway ahead. I saw one of the riders pushing his bike at the scene. I hoped and prayed they were not hit. I arrived and moved pass some stopped cars on the shoulder and then saw the second rider was pushing his bike through a front lawn of a farm. They were not involved in the accident. I crossed through the yard and observed a garbage truck stopped and a FedEx truck had rear ended the stopped garbage truck. Due to the damage and crushed front cab area of the FedEx truck, it was a serious injury accident. MLive says it was not a fatal. I rode into Bay City and stopped for a much needed food at McDonalds and then rode a few miles to water up at Rays Bike shop in Bay City. I had started to develop a sore left knee, along the top of the knee. I rested briefly and worked west on Salzburg Rd. The knee pain was becoming a concern. Downward pressure caused a lot of pain. I called Saundra Lee and she made contact with Judy and Dan at the Trek bike store on Hall Rd. They advised I raise my saddle. I did and the pain went away after a few miles. I rode into Midland and stopped at Rays Bike shop for a break and had coffee and spoke with several workers and talked about rigs and adventures. It was great to meet these guys. I entered the Pere Marquette Rail trail and forged ahead to Clare, Mi. I had intended to ride to Evart, Mi. making it a 100+ day. It was not to be. I stopped in Clare and covered 78 miles on day 2. I was tired and needed a comfy bed. I stayed at the historic Doherty Hotel. I arrived later than I expected and missed a chance to stop again at a Rays Bike shop in Clare. Next time I'm through Clare, will stop for sure. And for those wondering, I did not stop and get a donut. I stank to much to enter the bakery.

Ride report Friday: I set the automated wake up time for 0700 hours and planned to ride to Cadillac Mi. I awoke to people talking loudly in the hotel hallway. Surely they must be early risers. I peek at the clock and huge red numbers read 9:00. I blink a few times, foggy mentally. I check it again and 0901. So much for the lovely computer voice taking my wake up time. I get up and look at the gear strewn around the room. I don't panic. I get items in order of importance for the day. After two days on the bike, I learned what needs to go where on the bike. I check out and start riding at 9:45 hours. No donut again and no breakfast. I entered the second section on the Pere Marquette trail and work west at a 13 mph pace. About 30 minutes later I look back and see two riders approaching. I recognize the gear and knows it's the two west riders from the prior day. We stopped and chatted for a few. They had stopped in Coleman at a friends house. They were looking to stop in Reed City about 40 miles away. I was headed to a short day of 70 miles. I wished them luck and a safe journey. I arrived in Evart, Mi and stopped at a fantastic car hop. The girls even had the metal coin belts. I rode up and sat at the picnic tables and chewed on a double cheese burger, curly fries and a small root beer float. It was just what I wanted for breakfast. Several locals asked about my Jersey (Mountain Bike Patrol) I was very happy to tell them about our organization. I got several long stares about where I started riding from and where I was riding to. Breakfast was over and now to ride west to Reed City. I finished the Pere Marquette trail at 42 miles for my day. The west riders waved as I turned north onto the White Pine trail from Reed City to Cadillac. I was about 1/2 mile north and realized I forgot to get water. I turned around and stopped at the trailhead depot and filled up. I filled up and turned back north. I started the White Pine at 4:00 pm and decided, to go for the "BARN". The first 10-15 miles on this trail is loose gravel with grass down the middle. I knew it would slow my down. I rode strong and energized about finishing the ride on this day. I kept a great pace of 12-14 mph. The surface was packed perfect. I knew I had to eat more today, if I wanted to stay mentally alert and strong. I stopped in Le Roy Mi at a great diner (Mr. Pibb) this place was packed and the food smelled way better than I did. A grilled chicken sandwich, chips, pickle and large Pepsi was perfect. Several folks asked about my ride. They see lots of riders in the area. It turns out, Le Roy is on routes for the US bike and Michigan bike ways. I ate and rested and knew I was 14 miles from Cadillac. The trail surface was paved all the way to Cadillac. I passed under US 131 and under M-55 and into Cadillac to end the White Pine Trail. I worked through the streets toward the final stage of the day. I stopped at Wesco gas station and got 1.5 liter bottle of water and then stopped for food at McDonalds and consumed 1 2/3 grilled chicken sandwich. I knew this last push of 27 ish miles will have no water or food options. The sun was setting and the most challenging section was the last 7 miles. I worked north on a highway and then turned northwest on country dirt roads for 20 miles. The moon was hazed. I had lights active and made sure to hydrate. Several large walk a bike sections presented a challenge. Mentally, I was all in. Physically, the knee pain was nearly gone and I felt great and as strong as when I started north from Clare. As I approached the ATV bridge that crosses the Manistee River. The heavy sand was becoming more apparent. I stayed straight and kept a view as far ahead as my light projected. I can see the reflective panels to the bridge. I saw a stopped pick up truck parked ahead, it appears empty. I keep pushing ahead. I'm nearly there. I look up and straight out of a Stephen King scene. I see a man standing at the entrance to the bridge. His back is to me. I see beyond him, candles lite up all along the bridge sides. I see what looks like flowers strewn along the floor of the bridge. My mind races. My security level is maxed out. I'm within 20feet as I roll forward. I look beyond the man and see a second man and a women standing on the bridge holding flowers. I tell them I'm passing through. They step aside. I enter the bridge and see a parked ATV blocking the exit to bridge. I attempt to move from the right side to the left side of the bridge. I don't see two raise metal rails and loose balance and fall over. I catch myself quickly. The trio ask if I'm ok. I said yes and righted myself and moved past the ATV and off the bridge. As strange things go.....that was strange. I'm now 7 miles from the end of my adventure. I moved north and stop for a brief mental check. I am now entering the most difficult section. These next 2 miles are 4x4 jeep tracks with lots of sand. I knew I would have bike-a-hike for nearly a mile. I work thru sand, I'm tired. I keep updating Saundra Lee about my location this track has no name or number. It's back in the woods. I knew I had to make a right hand turn in one mile. I see it coming. I'm almost there. I make the turn and as I reach for a water bottle. I hear coyotes let loose with howling. Not just one, two or even three. I mean about a dozen. I guessed they might be within 1/4 mile. They know I'm here. I now know they are out there. I jump on the bike and pedal, like Elliot in E.T. Go home !!! I'm hauling as fast as I can. I knew there was "y" track change and I had to stay right. I miss it. I start down a left track. Every crack of limbs and branches means these animals are about to jump my from behind. I hit a t-junction. I'm lost. I check my phone and pray for a signal and the blue dot. I get it. I see I'm west of where I need to be. I don't tell sandy just yet. I have used up a ton of reserve energy. I walk quickly east. I check my compass to make sure I'm east bound. I see the trail marker and turn north onto the correct route. I let sandy know what happened. I moving 15 mph down a two track and pop out onto Walton Rd and it's paved. I'm out of forest. I'm 5 miles from being done. I'm on the roads of my youth. I'm approaching my childhood home. I'm talking aloud about the route. My GoPro only sees a white bean of light. I near the front of the house and look at it. So, many emotions flood me. This is my 4820 ! I'm tearing up as I write this. Those that know me, understand what that means. For those that don't: my mother died when she was 48 years old. I'm now that age. I wanted to make this journey for me and her. I stare at the house and all I can get out is I Love you Mom, I miss you. I pass the house and feel peace. I ride north on Hodge, on the same route I rode when I was a kid. I push forward. Renewed and focused. I turn west and head 2 miles. I turn north for my last mile. One more mile ! I hit M113 and I'm 1320 feet to the barn. I finished at 12:10 AM Saturday June 10. 104 miles for the day, my first ever century ride, and 256.6 miles total. It was a 14.5 hour day of riding. I accomplished a lot on my journey. I had time to reflect on my life and to thing about the people who are part of it. I publicly want to thank my wife Saundra Lee for all her love and support. She is my inspiration for life. I love you beyond measure. To Paul Hytinen many thanks for the training and guidance to endurance cycling. You're a powerhouse of strength. To all my family and friends for their support. Most of all to Carole Beauchamp for her prizes and 🤑🤑🤑. Your generosity is unparalleled. Thank you all for watching. Until the next exciting episode !

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Work In Progress


Not sure if anyone noticed but there was a big lag in blog posts.  I haven’t felt like writing about much while I’ve been recovering from my surgery.  Most of my posts are about running and I didn’t feel I had anything else worth saying while I was recovering.   My surgery was mid November and I spent four weeks on crutches or a walker.  I pretty much went from my bed to the recliner and to the bathroom.  The crutches wore on my shoulders and eventually I gained a new injury to my bicep tendon. It was a sad time.   Depression came and went in waves as my doctor tried to break the news to me that running would not be happening for a long time.  I watched my friends doing amazing things.  I was happy for them, yet envious.  I’m not sure if that is a normal reaction as I’ve never been in this position before.  

      My doctor didn't' think I needed physical therapy, but my brother insisted.  He's an athletic trainer and he knew I would not recover as quickly or fully without doing to therapy.  Physical therapy began in late December and went until the end of April. At first just walking was hard.  During the surgery they made an inch incision through the iliotibial band to insert the screws into my leg.  We did lots of exercises to strengthen the muscle and get my leg back in shape.  I saw my doctor monthly and by late January he said I could begin riding my bike on the trainer.  This exercise was as good for my brain as it was for my body.  February came around and I was allowed to walk on the Alter G treadmill. (An anti-gravity treadmill so you can run at a lower percentage of your body weight.)  By March I was running on the Alter G.  I felt my endurance came back quick and I could do 30-40 minutes before long.  As I raised the percentage of body weight on the Alter G, I also raised my spirits.  Soon I was up to 90 percent of my body weight and my doctor and physical therapists said that was time to try running outside.

My second run outside was at the Sharmock Shuffle 8K race in Chicago.  I had no idea how this was going to go.  I figured if it went bad, I’d just walk.  Turns out that I felt great!   This race is the “training run” for the organizers of the Chicago Marathon.  They use it to make sure all their suppliers for services are working right.  I read online that it was the 9th largest road race in America, with about 30,000 participants.  So for a short distance race, it is a pretty big deal.
I covered my Garmin with my shirt sleeve and willed myself not to look at it.  I ticked off the miles not knowing my pace, but knowing I was breathing hard and it felt tough.  This made it tough to know if I was running hard or if it was just hard as I hadn’t run outside in so many months.  I only walked for a few seconds at two water stops.  I pushed along and before I knew it I was coming down the home stretch (the same finish line that I crossed at two Chicago Marathons in years past)  I saw the clock and pushed as much as I could.  When I saw my finish time I was amazed.   It averaged a 9:52 mile.  This is a good time for me any day of the week.  But for my first race back?  I was THRILLED.  My husband said he was enjoying a nice breakfast and got text alerts that I was going to be done soon and had to cut his meal short.  He met me just past the finish line and was so happy.  He knew what this race meant to me.  He had seen me go through the emotional and mental turmoil this past winter.  It was a huge victory.  Since I’ve never run an 8K race, I guess it was also a PR.  I’ll take it.  It may not be close to my best times, but it is my new times and I’m good with that.  
Fast forward to May 10th, six months post surgery.  My doctor did another set of x-rays and declared me recovered and told me I could do “whatever” I want.  This is a dangerous thing to say to me.  But I will proceed with caution and likely won’t do any serious distance for a while.  

In June, I went to Colorado for the Skirt Sports 13er (half marathon).  I made sure to have fun and ran the entire race with Christi, my brother’s girlfriend.  I finished the race 20 minutes faster than last year and 20 minutes slower than my PR two years ago.  I’m happy with that.  It’s progress.  I’m running what I want, when I want, with no training plan.  Things are coming together, but it’s a work in progress.