The Arboretum

I ran a few miles on the cross country course at the arboretum tonight. It was my first run since the Riddle. I made it about three miles before my ankle became a little sore then I walked back home. It will take just a little while longer for me to fully recover.

In the fall the cross country course is marked with silver paint

Arboretum 1.5 mile cross country loop

The Riddle

Today was the 9th annual “world renowned” Riddle Run at Lake of the Woods forest preserve in Mahomet, IL. The Riddle Run is a 28.35 mile ultramarathon run consisting of 7 loops on a 4.05 mile trail. It is named after its organizer, Jeff Riddle, and it is a very low-key event. The run uses “clipboard timing” (rather than chip timing), where runners are required to write their times down on a clipboard after every loop. Most runners have no intention of running all 7 loops, only 1 loop is required to get an official race cupcake. A record 105 people pre-registered for today’s run (that is to say they sent an email to Jeff).

I think this runner never finished the Riddle Run last year

A few of the runners showed up early to socialize

The stark winter landscape

Jeff’s wife was kind enough to prepare 105 cupcakes

4 years ago I completed all 7 loops of the Riddle Run in 5:23:44. It was my one and only ultramarathon. 6 weeks after the 2004 Riddle Run I tore the cartilage in my left knee and took 3.5 years off of running. When I started running again last August I could never have imagined picking up where I left off, but today I finished the Riddle Run again, completing my second ultramarathon in 4:50:32.

I was nowhere nearly as well prepared for the run today as I had been 4 years ago. Last time I did multiple 18 mile training runs, whereas this time I did multiple 12 mile training runs. I think my legs are stronger now (thanks to countless hours of cycling), and at 29 years of age I think I am slightly better suited for endurance events than I was when I was 25. Fortunately, we also had “great” weather today. It was 23˚ at the start and 34˚ at the finish, whereas in 2004 it was -10˚ at the start and +5˚ at the finish.

I must have burned over 4000 calories, so I definitely felt the need for a nap when I got home. It was exhausting, though I was never really in pain, which is a good thing. Many of the runners choose to eat their cupcake after the first loop, but I wanted to save mine until the end. It made the accomplishment that much “sweeter.”

Rob enjoying a post-run cupcake (thanks to Eric Smith for the photo)

The Bitter Cold

Today was probably the coldest weather in which I have ever bicycled, though not the coldest I have ever felt while bicycling. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. It was -2˚ Fahrenheit when I left this morning for physical therapy (right shoulder) on the other side of town.

I am the proud owner what could possibly be the greatest invention of all time, Gore-Tex socks. When I wear these things over my regular socks my feet never get cold, no matter how cold or windy it is, and they stay very dry unless I happen to be wading in water for a significant duration of time. I was very sad when I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I misplaced one of my treasured Gore-Tex socks. Since that time I’ve had to get by simply wearing multiple layers of regular socks.

Today was a 3 sock pair day. My shoes would barely fit me and it didn’t even work. My toes were frozen by the time I arrived at my destination. It was then that I resolved to do whatever it took to find my missing Gore-Tex sock. When I got home I looked through all my drawers, behind the washer & dryer, under the bed, all to no avail. Finally, out of desperation, I searched the garage and I found the missing sock in the trunk of Iris (our car). It was still dirty from whenever I last wore it.

At one point during the day Melissa mentioned to me that the UIUC weather page listed the current weather conditions as “bitterly cold.” I could not have agreed more.

And apparently I’m not the only one. On the coldest of winter days, generally when the wind is blowing from the west, I’m joined at my east-facing office window by several small black and brown birds. They fly up to the 5th floor of my building and take shelter from the harsh winds. I don’t think they can see clearly through the tinted windows, though they are startled by sudden motion. If I approach very slowly I can often come within inches of them without them noticing my presence. I managed to snap a few pictures today.

The Practice Leave

This morning on my way to work I had a practice leave. What is a practice leave, you ask? A practice leave is when you get your stuff ready and head out the door, only to realize you forgot something and have to go back inside to get it. It’s when the first leave doesn’t really take… it’s just practice. The next leave is the real deal.

This morning it was the little reflective straps I wear around my ankles while bicycling to keep my jeans from getting caught in the bike chain. I wouldn’t have gotten very far without them. In the past I’ve left without my wallet, keys, bike helmet, bike lock, bike headlight, bike taillight, computer, gloves, hat, glasses, you name it.

I’ve done this literally dozens of times. It’s slightly embarrassing when I walk back inside only to hear Melissa shout “Practice leave!” at me. I’ve gotten to the point where I now preemptively shout “Practice leave!” before she gets the chance.

The Frozen Pond

For 5 years Melissa and I had a pond in our back yard at our old house in Champaign. Once or twice a year it would freeze over solid enough to support the weight of an adult human and I would go ice skating. Well, more accurately, I would spend an hour on the frozen pond in ice skates shoveling a path through the snow… then I would skate for a few minutes.

Rob shoveling snow off the frozen pond in 2003

Friends Aimee and Brett skating on the frozen pond in 2003

Now we no longer have the pond, but our friends Cara & John (and our other friend Jeff) live on the very same pond. We had dinner tonight at their house and spent a few minutes out on the ice afterwards. Fortunately there was not much snow, so no shoveling was required. Unfortunately we only had a single pair of skates, so only two of us actually skated. Others walked out onto the ice and slid around a little bit.

Rob and Elliott stepping out onto the ice

Little Miss Claire and John walking across the frozen pond