Runs on Plants

(I stole the title of this post from No Meat Athlete).

Photo courtesy of Fun Memories Photography

As of May 2013 I’ve been a vegetarian (eating plants, dairy, & eggs) for 14 years. I try not to mention it much because I don’t like to evangelize about it. My diet works for me, though it may not work for you. I have many, many reasons for eating the way I do, but you may or may not agree with any particular one of them. Big whoop.

As of June 2013 I’ve been a vegan (eating solely plants) for 1 full year. I never really even mentioned the change to anyone (partially because I didn’t think it was a big deal, and partially because I wasn’t sure it would stick) unless they happened to be preparing food for me. I was vegan-curious for quite some tome, but I put off making that leap for two reasons:

1. pizza
2. milk chocolate

I honestly didn’t think I could live without pizza (although I think Imo’s Pizza here in St. Louis is awful enough to turn anyone vegan). I gave it a shot and after about two weeks I didn’t even want pizza any more. That was easy. I’ve eaten vegan pizza a couple times in the past year and it’s so-so. Restaurants tend to use too much Daiya cheese substitute (a little Daiya goes a long way). Melissa makes the best vegan pizza. I used to eat pizza once a week and now I eat it once every three months.

Milk chocolate was another staple of my diet. I’ve since discovered what many people probably already knew: milk chocolate sucks. Semisweet and dark chocolate taste way better. Ditching milk chocolate also made it easy for me to cut out a lot of types of junk food from my diet. I used to eat crap like Nutty Bars for a snack, while now I eat apples and grapes. Real food trumps shit every time.

Becoming vegan was far easier than I ever expected, though a lot of that had to do with having an already-vegan spouse. I have fewer options at restaurants, but that just means eating more real food at home. I typically eat more food, I eat healthier food, and I feel better.


Anyone who follows my usual posts about endurance athletics my be wondering how this diet affects my performance. It turns out the past 12 months have been the most successful 12 months of my life for endurance racing: 21 races, 17 top ten finishes, 12 podium finishes, 4 wins. All with a plant-based diet.

There is certainly a strong correlation between my diet and athletic performance, but there’s far from enough proof to suggest my diet is responsible for my performance. So I’m not going to suggest everyone start eating the way I eat. On the other hand, it would be pretty difficult to argue that a plant-based diet is hindering my performance, wouldn’t it?

In 3rd

As for the question everyone is thinking, how do you get enough protein, the answer is simple: from all the food I eat. It’s a non-issue.

The Strangest Marathon

I was moving along at an easy pace. The guy in front of me had just taken a downhill section of the trail very gingerly and nearly tip-toed across a creek crossing. I passed him on the uphill section on the other side of the creek and began to pull away. Then, out of nowhere, I hit the wall. Well, not exactly. I’m not talking about the glycogen depletion “wall” where my fuel reserves have run dry. This was something entirely different and unfamiliar to me. This small incline got my heart beating so fast I was gasping for air only to find I was physically unable to maintain my modest pace. My worst fears had come true. I stopped to walk up the hill. By the time I reached the top I was seriously contemplating dropping out of the marathon.

This was at mile four.

One week prior I was in great spirits, having wrapped up my long training runs and raced fairly well at the FOLEPI River Trail Classic. I showed up at work on Monday feeling as good as possible and left work that evening with a sore throat. My throat got worse through the night and was a full blown illness by Tuesday morning. I went to work (even though I clearly shouldn’t have) only to discover my coworkers were already sick.

By Wednesday my throat started to get better, but the snot and sinus pain got worse. By Thursday evening I was finally starting to feel like I was getting over the sickness. I still wanted to race. I trained really hard for Tecumseh and I wasn’t going to let the sniffles take that away from me.

Friday I travelled to the Nashville, IN area with fellow Buffalo Ken, Brian, and Jen. We stayed at the same paintball/cabin place as last year (though with far fewer people this time). Despite feeling back to normal that morning, by Friday night I felt terrible again. Ugh.

I awoke Saturday morning before the race feeling as fresh as a daisy. Whatever I had seemed to finally work its way out of my system. I thought. We drove to the race finish area, picked up our packets, and loaded up onto the buses to the starting line miles and miles away.

Tecumseh course map

Last year I started way faster than I wanted to, but it was kind of necessary because of the congestion on the single track trail that started 2-3 miles into the race. I vowed to start off slower this year. I ran nice and easy the first mile only to look down when my GPS beeped to read 7:20. The exact same time as last year (and faster than my first mile at the Rockford Marathon where I ran my PR in May). That was the bad news. The good news was that I felt spectacular. Even though that pace felt super easy I made a conscious effort to slow down anyway. For the trail was not nearly as congested as it had been the previous year at this point. Despite the superior weather conditions (sunny rather than snow storm) everyone else was moving slower.

I hit the second mile at 7:29. So much for slowing down. It still felt really easy. I was barely exerting any effort. Still, I decided (once again) to consciously slow down. I hit the third mile in 7:23. Oh, come on. This was too easy. That would be the best I felt all day. We entered the single track trail through the woods, ran down a hill, over a creek, and started back up the other side when my world began to fall apart. This was not going to be my day.

After the first miserable uphill I walked I tried to shake it off and continue on like nothing had happened. I got back up to a comfortable pace on the flat sections of the course, but on the next uphill I found myself gasping for air and walking once again. If after four miles I wanted to quit, then after six miles I really wanted to quit. At this point I decided to stop racing. At the current rate I couldn’t possibly have finished. Instead I slowed down (a lot) in the hope of just dragging myself to the finish line, regardless of time or place. Tecumseh was now a training run. Or so I told myself.

Rob at Tecumseh Marathon

I ran super slow the next four miles, frequently stepping aside to let people pass me on the trail. At the 10.6 mile aid station Ken passed me. Prior to the race I was voted by the others the mostly likely to finish the fastest of our group, and as such I was entrusted with the only key to Ken’s car. Here, 16 miles from the finish and still slowing down, I quickly whipped out the key from my back pocket and handed it to Ken, who kept it for the remainder of the race.

I ate a banana at this aid station and it actually started to bring me back to life. For the first time in many miles I didn’t feel like I was about to die. Ken pulled quite some distance ahead as I walked up the next few hills. Once I got to the flat and downhill sections I just ran a comfortable pace and I actually caught back up with his pack. The thought entered my mind that I might actually be able to keep up with him until the end. Of course, the next uphill section would put that thought out of my mind and I fell behind again. But what goes up must come down and before I knew it we were together again (briefly) at the 15.8 mile aid station. We were running different races, but by not keeping up with him I had just kept up with him for five miles. We ascended once more, and once more I was alone.

Prior to this point I just felt bad for much of the race, but around miles 16-17 I actually started to get tired. I wasn’t picking my feet up, and as a result I stumbled a few times. I almost went down around mile 17, though I was able (with great determination) to stay upright. But this came at the cost of both calves, both hamstrings, and my right hip cramping at the same time while I tried to catch myself. Shaken, I walked for a bit with my head hung low. After a couple minutes I heard someone yell at me from behind, “Hey, you missed the turn.”

You have to pay attention.

I got back on the trail and started running, fighting cramping muscles. There was a big hill at mile 19, a moderate hill at mile 21, then it was mostly downhill to the finish. I got another banana in me and, again, it brought me partly back to life. I was able to pick up the pace a little and before I knew it I had caught up with and passed Ken… just in time to trip and go down. I remained on the ground long enough to work out the cramp in my calf. Then I was back up and moving quickly again.

I had to concentrate really hard through a short, beautiful section of pine forest where the tree roots stuck up really far from the trail. As much as I had been dragging my feet I thought for sure I was going to hit the deck again. I didn’t.

My pace continued to increase. I wasn’t running for a faster time. I was running to get to the finish faster so I could stop running sooner. People often joke about doing exactly this, but I’m completely serious here. I took a short break to walk up the final hill with less than a mile remaining then ran all the way through the finish. Heading into the chute I caught up with a young woman who heard me cough right behind her and took off that last few meters. I congratulated her on the fast finish after the race at which point she informed me she thought my cough sounded like a woman and she really wanted to keep her top 10 finishing place. Ha!

Another 26.2

I finished in 4:20, my slowest marathon yet (by a mere two minutes). Last year, on the same course, in the snow storm, I ran 3:54. That was a really great race for me. I knew I didn’t have the fitness for the same performance again this year, but (given the better conditions) I thought for sure I would be able to equal that time. No dice.

This was a very strange race for many reasons, perhaps the strangest I’ve ever run. I felt great, then crappy, then okay, the crappy, then just fine (and so on). I ran fast, then slow, then moderate, then slow, then fast (etc). I was freezing, then comfortable, then hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. I actually ran about 8 miles wearing a single glove because my left hand was cold but my right hand was not.

The really strange thing, though, is that none of these dichotomies coincided with each other. I ran fast while feeling good. I ran fast while feeling bad. I ran slow while feeling good. I ran slow while feeling bad. I was hot while running slow. I was cold while running fast. And every other permutation of the aforementioned states.

Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome of this race, but I did finish and I did learn some valuable lessons. Namely, you can’t run as fast when you’re sick as you can when you’re healthy, AND trying to do so will make for a fairly unpleasant experience.

The Thorn

If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them.

-Born to Run

The Tecumseh Trail Marathon is coming up on December 5. Rather than the typical 16-week training program I would follow for a big road marathon, I adopted the less conventional 5-week crash course training program for this race.

I ran this race last year and it was incredibly difficult. The course is very hilly, with thousands of feet of ascents and even more of descents (it’s a point to point course with a net loss in elevation).

I’m not terribly worried, for a few reasons.

I feel no pressure. This isn’t like the 2001 Chicago Marathon or 2009 Illinois Marathon, where I worried about the race for months and choked on race day. This is more like the 2008 Tecumseh Marathon or 2009 Rockford Marathon where I didn’t concern myself with place or time and just went for a run. Those were two of the best races of my life.

I feel better on the long runs than I ever have before. This is fairly surprising given that I took the summer off from running and ran only short distances in the early fall. By mid-October I decided to push myself and run 11 miles (the farthest I had run in 5 months) on the Allerton trails and I was sore for a week. Somehow things just magically came together.

Since the Allerton Trail Race I’ve alternated long runs at Lake Mingo and Forest Glen, running 14.2 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G., then 21.3 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G. These are 2-3.5 hour long runs on fairly challenging trails, yet the miles have passed so easily for me… easier than they ever have before.

Forest Glen Trail

Forest Glen 11 mile loop and 5 mile loop

Lake Mingo Trail

Lake Mingo 7.1 mile loop

The past month or so I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my diet, eating a lot more higher quality, natural, unprocessed food–lots and lots of vegetables and fruits. My blood pressure has dropped noticeably, I’ve shed a couple of excess pounds, and I don’t feel like crap after meals.

I’ve drawn a tremendous amount of inspiration from reading the book Born to Run. It’s incredibly well written and covers everything from history and science to tips on form/training/nutrition/life, all while building up to the story of the “greatest race the world has never seen.” I couldn’t put the book down and when I finished I read it again. I haven’t felt this hungry to be out on the trails since I was in high school.

The only thorn in my plans so far has been, literally, a thorn in my foot. 9 miles into my 21 mile run last weekend I stepped on a thorn, which isn’t all that rare. This thorn, however, went all the way through my shoe and into my left foot. I felt the pain and immediately hopped on my right foot until I could slow down and stop. At first I thought it was just poking me so I gave it a tug and the thorn broke off flush with the bottom of my shoe. Then I tried to take my shoe off, but that required sliding my foot out, which I couldn’t do because the thorn was still stick in both my foot and my shoe.

After about five minutes of trying to get a grip on the fraction of a millimeter of the thorn still sticking out I eventually just shoved a stick in my shoe (like a shoe horn) and pried my foot away from the shoe enough to get the thorn out and slide my shoe off. It was fairly unpleasant. With the shoe off though I was able to pull the thorn out of it and continue on down the trail. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to walk, let alone run. It was tender for a couple hundred meters then I forgot all about it. I ended up running 12 more miles before calling it a day.

I thought my problems were all over, but after the 45 minute drive home I couldn’t even walk on it my foot hurt so bad. I limped all day Monday and even stayed home from work on Tuesday. By Wednesday I could walk short distances, and by Thursday it felt just barely not-horrible-enough to walk to work. By Friday the pain was virtually gone.

Now that this scare is over I’m headed full steam ahead. It’s still early to tell what’s going to happen at Tecumseh, but I feel pretty good about it.

“Don’t fight the trail,” Caballo called back over his shoulder. “Take what it gives you.”

-Born to Run

The Gift of Brownies

Simpsons episode CABF14, Trilogy of Error:
Homer: Oooo! Can I have a brownie?
Marge: They’re for after dinner.
Homer: Oooo! Can I have dinner?

I am a brownie fiend. You all know it. I was fortunate to receive a very unique gift for my birthday a couple weeks ago, a gift certificate to an online gourmet brownie store (Vermont Brownie Company). I ordered a box of their Signature Brownies and a box of Peanut Butter Brownies.

Internet brownies

Oh. My. Goodness. Are they ever delicious.


The first couple I ate cold, directly from the fridge, and they were good. But then I started to microwave them for 25-30 seconds, which is so much better.

Anyway, I love the brownies. Thanks so much to Michelle, Mark, & Logan!

The 50D

As long time readers may recall, I retired my beloved Canon Digital Rebel camera (which was a low end DSLR) last fall. I really, really wanted a high end Canon 5D mark II, but the price was simply prohibitively expensive (and they weren’t released yet). Instead I replaced my Rebel with the 5D mark II’s little sibling, the mid-range Canon 50D. The 50D has most of the features of the 5D mark II, really only lacking video and the full frame sensor, yet cost half the price.

When I got the 50D I immediately started shooting RAW instead of JPEG and switched from using iPhoto to Aperture to manage my photos. I’ve always been very interested in photography, but these three changes marked the point when I dove in more deeply.

At the same time I also purchased a pair of new lenses, a wide angle zoom (Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM) and a telephoto zoom (Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM). These are both on the low end of Canon’s top of the line L series of lenses, and they’re both much much nicer than any of the lenses I had used previously. In addition to the large apertures and great focusing, one of the neatest things about these two lenses is that the zoom mechanisms are internal to the lens on both. When you zoom in or out the lenses don’t change length.

The camera itself is relatively heavy, and these two lenses with their large glass are heavy as well. Whenever I hand the camera to someone else, the first thing they mention is how heavy the camera feels. I prefer to think of it as solid.

Canon 50D

The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM quickly became my favorite lens

Canon 50D

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM is great for sports

After eight months of use I can say that I’m quite happy with the camera. It’s not perfect, but it is very, very good. The resolution of the photos is very high. The focus is very fast and very sharp (particularly with the Canon L lenses).

The 50D (along with my newer lenses) have produced some of my favorite photos.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (wide angle zoom)

The Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM is great indoors.

Garter toss


…and for portraits.

Musician Rob


Dynamic duo

The Bassetts

…and outdoors

Luke & Mark


It's that time of year

…and it’s perfect for landscapes


Sunrise at the Riddle Run

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM (telephoto zoom)

Marla & Brian

Happy holidays from the Ragfields


The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM lens is great for sports.

50 Free

Sandra finishes the 23K with a smile

…and wildlife.

Bird on stick


Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro

The Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens allows close-ups.


Japanese beetle

…and landscapes.


an agile tree-dwelling rodent

…and portraits.

Ravage meets Fig

I love almost everything about this camera. I can only really think of a few complaints. First, I always leave the camera in Auto White Balance mode. When I shoot indoors (usually without a flash) the white balance almost always needs adjusted. This is simple enough to do (though I can’t always get it just right), but it’s a little annoying sometimes.

Second (and this one’s kind of big), is the camera is very noisy at higher ISO speeds. This model was supposedly much better than previous generation DSLRs, but it’s not good. In most cases 800 and above are unusable, so I rarely shoot higher than 400. That by itself isn’t atrocious. The bad part is that the automatic ISO mode will set the ISO up to 1600 (which is nearly always unusable), and it almost always errs on the side of setting the value too high. This means I can’t use the automatic ISO mode and instead I have to set it manually. I usually use 100-200 outdoors and 400 indoors. I switch between indoors and outdoors multiple times per week so I always have to remember to change the ISO settings, but I often forget. I have two cheaper cameras that solve this problem with a simple setting allowing you to choose the maximum ISO value for the automatic mode. I would love to have a similar setting on the 50D. It’s frustrating, but given that this is my biggest complaint about an extremely sophisticated piece of technology, it’s not that bad in the scheme of things.

Third, the live view focusing is very slow. Other camera manufacturers have made this work (live view focusing on my Olympus E-420 is much faster). Additionally, the traditional half-press of the shutter button does not activate autofocus in live view, a separate button is required. Perhaps they did this on purpose because they knew their live view focus was so slow. Who knows. Regardless, it has room for improvement here.

This is by far the nicest camera I’ve ever owned (or even used). Quibbles aside, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else (in the same general price range). I still dream of owning a full frame DSLR some day, but until that day comes, this one is a keeper.

The Bell Ringing Contest

We arrived in San Francisco last Sunday. When we took our first cable car ride of the trip that evening I noticed signs everywhere advertising the 47th Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. I thought nothing of it. I met up with Melissa & Laura for lunch on Tuesday right when the contest was taking place a short distance away at Union Square… so we grabbed some lunch to go and watched the bell ringing contest.

Union Square

Cable Car bell ringing contest at Union Square

When we first arrived the amateurs had already started, and let’s just say it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. Fortunately, the professionals (actual MUNI cable car employees) started soon and they were much better. Granted, there’s only a certain level of creativity one can express with a single bell, but it was all good fun.

Bell ringer

The pros show how it’s done

The Training Camp

This past weekend was my cycling team’s training camp in southern Illinois. We spent four days riding on some very hilly roads (particularly compared to the very flat roads of Champaign County) in what turned out to be some fairly nasty weather (much like last year).

Training camp

My cabin at Giant City State Park

The ride schedule was mostly the same as last year. About half the team went down a day earlier this year to get in one additional ride. We started out on Thursday from Giant City State Park and did a quick climb from Makanda up to route 51. This is a two mile long climb that got the heart pumping right away. On the way back down I hit 45.3 mph trying to keep up with fearless Jay. Last year on this same hill I only hit 39.1 mph.

Jay descends into Makanda

Jay descends like an animal

From there we headed to Bald Knob, the highest point in southern Illinois. This is the same climb we would be doing on Friday, so this was just a warm up. We intended to go nice and easy, but those intentions never seem to work out. We rode a litter harder than we planned, and probably a little harder than we should have.

I was pretty exhausted by the time we returned to our cabins in Giant City to clean up. We drove to Carbondale for dinner at the Italian Village, followed by some window shopping at closed bike stores, before picking up Dan who took the Amtrak train from Champaign. After returning to Giant City I slept for 10.5 hours.

Six grown men ogle bikes through the store window

a Carbondale drive up liquor store

Friday we rode to Lick Creek to meet the rest of the team members who were staying in cabins there. From there we rode over to Bald Knob again. The entire group was much bigger and rode much faster. I was pretty tired from Thursday’s ride, so it was tough just getting there.

At a gas station stop I made the mistake of taking too long to strap my little Flip video camera onto my bike and ended up missing the group as they rolled out. I had to chase for a couple miles, including the really big hill were the group split up. I caught up with several riders on that hill and a few of us hauled ass to try to catch up with the lead pack. We didn’t quite make it as they reached the Bald Knob climb before us and we picked our way through the remnants of that group on the way up the climb.

Training camp Friday elevation

Friday’s elevation profile

The remainder of the ride was much easier as everyone was tired by this point. We refueled afterward with a big dinner at the Giant City lodge, which, despite not having any vegetarian entrees on the menu, has a number of delicious sides, including wild rice, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, etc. After dinner I quickly fell asleep for 9.5 hours.

Saturday’s ride was 100 miles, going from Lick Creek to Golconda and back. At the start of the ride it was 50˚ and drizzling rain. The rain came and went all day, but the temperatures got colder. During one two minute stretch I was even pelted with pea-sized hail. We split into two groups. Given my fatigue from the previous two days (and the fact that I am supposed to be tapering for the marathon) I wisely chose to ride in the slower group. We faced a stiff headwind the entire first half of the ride. Despite the nasty weather we had a pretty good time. It was a tough ride, very hilly. The group would split up on the uphills they we’d come back together on the flats and downhill sections.

Training camp Saturday elevation

Saturday’s elevation profile

Half of our group chose to turn around at 37.5 miles rather than ride the full 50 to Golconda. The first 10 or so miles after we turned around were actually somewhat pleasant. Sure, I was soaking wet, but we had a good tailwind and as long as I kept moving I stayed plenty warm. Around this time the sun actually came out for about 30 seconds. Soon after came lighting, thunder, driving rain, hail, a drop in temperature, and a change in wind direction. We faced a headwind the rest of the way back.

After the ride I changed into dry clothes, munched on some snacks and chitchatted while we waited for everyone else to finish. Then we all packed up and headed over to the Giant City Lodge for a team banquet. Saturday was all you can eat fried chicken night at the lodge. This is going to sound crazy, but that’s actually what I ordered. I simply didn’t eat any of the chicken. The meal also had all you can eat mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, etc. Everyone placed the same order and huge plates of food were served to us family style.


We awoke Sunday morning to temperatures in the mid-30s, howling winds, and damp roads. The ride was much shorter, but still challenging. We coasted down to Makanda then took turns climbing the two big hills heading out of the valley. One was long and gradual, the other was short and steep. I did five climbs before deciding my toes would fall off if I did any more.

The last descent of the last day of training camp

And that was it. Training camp was great fun. We had some tough rides in tough conditions. Most importantly, I don’t think it screwed up my marathon preparations. We’ll know for sure in less than two weeks.

The Forest Glen Maple Syrup

Today was the Maple Syrup Open House at Forest Glen park. The park holds this event each spring where they demonstrate how they make maple syrup and have a pancake dinner. I’ve run at Forest Glen four or five times this winter so I’ve been looking forward to this event for a while. When I told Melissa about it she was very excited, so we just had to go. And since my parents live somewhat near the park, and they love pancakes, we invited them to come along as well.

Melissa and I arrived a little early so we could get a short hike in before the pancakes. First we hiked to the observation tower.

Forest Glen observation tower

Forest Glen observation tower

Forest Glen observation tower

that’s a lot of stairs

Melissa & Rob at Forest Glen observation tower

Melissa and Rob at the top

View from Forest Glen observation tower

view of the forest

Melissa descends observation tower steps

Melissa descends the tower’s many stairs

Next, we continued on the path down the hill towards the Vermillion River. We passed the beloved backpack trail on the way. The water in the river seemed high and fast-moving.

Crooked tree shadow

a crooked tree casts a shadow on the backpack trail I usually run

Vermillion River

the Vermillion River looked high

Melissa & Rob at Vermillion River

Melissa & Rob

Noon was approaching, and this was the time we agreed to meet my parents for pancakes, so we hiked back up the hill and drove over to the Maple Syrup Open House area. We got in line a few minutes after noon. My parents arrived shortly thereafter. We were having a good time, but we couldn’t help but notice the line wasn’t moving very quickly.

The line for pancakes and maple syrup was long

the line for pancakes was long

It took us right at two hours to reach the front of the line, get our pancakes, and sit down to eat (what became) a late lunch. The pancakes were good. The syrup was good. I’m not quite sure it was worth waiting two hours in line, but at least the weather was beautiful.

After lunch Melissa & I walked a short distance to the recreated pioneer homestead, where the syrup was made. They collected sap from 400 or so maple trees in the park all winter. Then they heat it up to evaporate away most of the water, leaving just the sugary syrup behind.


one of the pioneer homestead buildings


they collected maple sap in buckets and bags all winter long (old photo)

Maple sap drips into a collection sack

maple sap drips into a collection bag

Maple syrup building at Forest Glen

this building housed the evaporator machine which converted the sap into syrup

Evaporation device converts watery maple sap into syrup

the evaporator was heated by a wood stove

Melissa in front of the evaporator

Melissa watches sap become syrup

The Epic Double

Illini Chill

Saturday morning was the annual Illini Chill winter bike ride in St. Joe. I rode it last year for the first time in some horrible weather. It was a pleasant surprise to see the forecast for this year indicated the high temperature would be in the 50’s.

I learned the hard way last year that the included lumberjack breakfast actually isn’t pancakes. Luckily, Melissa and I filled up on pancakes Friday night at IHOP.

Short stack

Melissa & I ate our own “lumberjack breakfast” the night before the ride at IHOP

The ride start in St. Joe is only 12 miles from my house in Urbana. Since the weather was so nice I just decided to ride over there. I had a nice cross-tailwind to help push me along the whole way.

Illini Chill

Don, Karl, Greg, & Gene at the ride start

The regular route was a 22 mile loop from St. Joe to Royal and back. There was a 20+ mile long route addition, which I assumed we would do. We started heading north with a strong tailwind. Before I new it we were in Royal and we kept going on the long route–still heading North. We were 15-20 miles north of St. Joe when we finally turned west and hit the first headwind. It was tough. Eight of us took turns leading the way, but our speed still slowed from 25 to 15 mph.

Illini Chill map

my Illini Chill route

We wound our way back to St. Joe, mostly into the headwind. I realized that 20+ miles actually meant 28 miles. That put me at 60 for the day… so far. I was fairly exhausted by the time we returned to St. Joe for the pasta lunch and I was dreading the final 12 miles into the headwind back to Urbana. Fortunately, one of my friends also rode over from Urbana and we were able to ride back together.

It took 4:30 to travel 72 miles. Not great, but it’s only February. This one ride was more than half as far as my total January mileage.

Clinton Lake

I returned home, showered, took a 30 minute nap, ate a snack, then started to prepare for my second adventure. A different group of friends was planning to run 10 miles at the Clinton Lake trail on Saturday night. Clinton Lake is one of the harder area trails to run under normal circumstances. At night (using headlamps and flashlights) it was going to be a new challenge. Additionally, we realized pretty quickly that the entire trail was covered in several inches of mud.

Clinton Lake trail map

Clinton Lake trail

There was a big turnout–18 or so runners. It was kind of neat in the early miles to turn around and see 15 flashlights lining the trail behind me. We slid all over the place. A few people fell. I managed to stay upright, though one time I took a step and when I lifted my foot up my shoe stayed in the mud.

Trail running

my muddy shoes this morning

Somehow I was way overdressed. I started with pants, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves. I took the gloves off almost immediately. Later I pushed up my sleeves and unzipped my shirt. Then I pulled up my pant legs above my knees. I was on the verge of taking my shirt off. I don’t know what the deal was… I’ve never been that hot when it was 45˚ before.

This trail usually takes me less than 1:30, but last night it took 2:20. There was an awful lot of hiking going on at times rather than running. After 6:50 of aerobic exercise in one day I was utterly exhausted.

After the run we all grabbed dinner at Dos Reales, where I consumed copious quantities of chips, salsa, & water. While I was nearly the last person to receive my order, I’m pretty sure I was the first to finish.

Needless to say I had no trouble sleeping last night.