Monday, 30 April 2012

Paint Creek Trail (Rochester, MI)

For my LD today (the last before TAPER time!), I chose the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester, the first rails-to-trails in Michigan (opened in 1983); it has also been a National Recreation Trail since 2006. We had walked part of this before and vowed to return, so return we did, even though the weather threatened otherwise!

As soon as I got up this morning, I checked the weather and it did not look good! Soon enough, it was raining very hard. However, the hourly forecast on TWC said that there would be a window of opportunity between 11:00 and 2:00, so we took it and ran! Rochester is about an hour and 15 minutes from our house when you count in the border crossing, etc. I was going to start at the Northernmost entry to the trail at Lake Orion. However, once we got there, we could not find the trail, even after asking several people (even at the local bike shop!). After a frustrating time driving around and around, we opted to just go further down the trail and hop on at Kern Rd. [I will be emailing the Paint Creek offices to see what they can do about this!]. My original projected 8.9 miles was whittled down by 1.5 miles!...or so I thought.

The trail itself is quite beautiful, and any rails-to-trails project could learn a few lessons from this one! It is tree-lined, well-signed with many benches, restrooms, etc. The creek is never far from you as you walk, crossing under bridges frequently. As stated earlier, I started at Kern Rd. (see map).

I head off down the open road....

About 1.5 miles into my walk, the heavens opened and it poured! Luckily, I was a Girl Guide in a former life and was prepared! Out came the rainsuit and I was dry and comfortable. The storm only lasted about ten minutes, but I would have been soaked!

Benches were added in very scenic areas, and the creek was fast moving, lively and cheerful sounding.

Areas where fishing was allowed (trout, I believe) were frequent and very well set up.

There were some very amazing properties backing onto the trail at one point: huge house with lots of glass to look over the wooded areas. At one, an antique horse fountain originally from Detroit was placed strategically for any horse traffic along the trail:

Also along the trail were new signs to indicate where the old stone railway mile-markers had stood:

Trilliums, wild geraniums, etc., were in bloom and the many swampy areas were rife with marsh marigolds. Lots of chipper little chipmunks were scuttling about on the path, and goldfinches, robins and cardinals were enjoying the water on the trail.

The path enters Rochester after passing a few parks (Mike was exploring Bear Creek park while I was heading towards Rochester), and, believe it or not, continues to follow the creek through town until it ends at.....The Rochester Mills Brewing Company, my rendezvous with Mike, right on time, as luck would have it, and at 8.04 miles with the added bit through town.

In spite of that bit of rain, (and maybe even a bit because of it), it was a lovely walk and I enjoyed it very much. I also enjoyed the pint of IPA and Michigan Cherry Salad at the end of the trail!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Olympic Update!...and a cool trailer

Breaking news on Canadian racewalker Rachel Seaman. This is from the Athletics Canada website:

Rachel Seaman lowers Canadian mark; 12 Canadians register Olympic Standards

Monday, April 23, 2012

On Saturday in Namburg, Germany Peterbough, Ont’s Rachel Seaman established a new Canadian record in the 20-kilometre race walk with a time of 1:33:05, dipping below the Olympic A standard and bettering the Canadian record of 1:33:33 which she set last season. This marks the fourth time that Rachel improves the Canadian record.

In other "news", check out this trailer for a documentary on Henry Laskau and Tim Seaman:

If you've never heard of Henry Laskau, google him. He was a very interesting person who experienced absolutely horrific situations in his life; he became an amazing racewalking athlete.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Chrysler Greenway Rails-to-trails Pt. 2

For a trail map, see previous post, Chrysler Greenway Rails-to-trails Pt. 1

I set off to explore my second segment of the Chrysler Greenway today, planning to do an LSD (that's Long Slow Distance, folks - fooled ya!) of 9.4 miles which ended up being 9.8 miles (apparently either the distances on the map are off somewhat or my km-to-miles calculator was having a bad day). Mike dropped me off near Oldcastle, at the official beginning of the Greenway, and my goal was CR 18. It was very windy, and of course I had chosen the wrong direction to walk!
The trail is straight and flat. It is an old railbed, after all.

The road goes ever on and on....

I really do like walking on this surface - hard packed dirt covered with a light layer of fine gravel. Very easy on the legs. Initially going past farmlands, there were lots of areas where the trail is lined with tall shrubs and small trees, making the wind less of an issue than it might have been. You pass some lovely forests, dark and deep:

Bucolic areas with horse farms:

and swampy bits (but not on the trail):

Although in many sections the whine of tires on roads wasn't far away, there were long stretches where one could only hear the wind in the trees and lots of birdsong. There were wildflowers like wild geraniums and wild strawberries, and the goldfinches (aka wild canaries) were in their brilliant breeding plumage. Here and there, crabapple trees in full bloom lined the path:

As I approached the bridge near CR 12, I heard an unholy din in the bushes, kind of a cross between a screech and the sound a very angry donkey would make. I stopped and searched and there, in the rich bushy hollow beside the trail were three guineafowl passing the time of day as only guineafowl can.

In the whole walk, I only encountered three cyclists and a runner....until I was almost near the end of my walk, and looming out of the distance came these seven:

..that is, 3 people, 3 horses and a very friendly dog.

I practiced the horse-courtesy etiquette one uses in the Southwest (that is, when hikers meet horsemen, the hikers step off the trail and stand quietly as the horses pass so as not to spook them). Apparently, I didn't have to do that here. These horses were very calm and steady, and not even curious as to why I was there (the dog was, though - as you can see, he is running towards me for a big headrub).

I had phoned Mike from CR 12 and he was waiting for me at CR 18.

All in all, a lovely spring walk.

Beware though - places where toilets are indicated on the Greenway map don't necessarily have one! Luckily, this didn't impact me, but don't put all your hopes into finding one where there should be one!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Just a pic to share...

Just wanted to share this pic from the finish line for the Martian Marathon Meteor 10K!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Treading Lightly

Call it what you like - dreadmill, conveyer-belt-to-nowhere or hamster wheel, I like using my treadmill. I realize I am in an extreme minority here, but it won't be the first time! So now I guess I have to qualify and justify the statement that I like that instrument of torture!

Firstly, you can't just get on a treadmill and go for x number of minutes or miles; that would be brain-numbing. LSDs just don't work so well on it. However, interesting workouts that change up every few minutes really do work well. HIIT, incline work and even shorter tempo walks all work great on the 'mill. A must is having another source of entertainment as you use the treddie: my little basement "gym" is outfitted with a small TV hooked into my satellite dish and equipped with large, very comfortable headphones with great sound quality. There is also a DVD player hooked into this. That comes in very handy when doing stationary biking because I have these great discs of real-time bike rides through beautiful scenery like parks in Arizona, etc., but also for somes walks because I also have discs of real-time walks in England, complete with the natural sounds of birds, etc. I've found if you don't allow yourself to watch a favourite TV show unless you're on the treddie is good incentive!

I like the freedom of not having to drive somewhere to start my workout, not having to worry about dressing for the weather [or weather conditions themselves] or finding an open restroom if needed!

However, I realize doing all of my workouts on the treddie is not a good idea. One needs to be able to racewalk in different weather conditions and through different terrain, and I do a lot of workouts outside. I'm just sayin' that I don't hate my treddie. Now dangle that carrot in front of me.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Martian Marathon Meteor 10K...and other madness.

Saturday, April 14th was, shall we say, a busy day. I had to go from

 this.... this... 

....that is, race in the early morning and play a 2.5 hour harp gig in the evening!

Let's start with the race, the Meteor 10K portion of the Martian Marathon in Dearborn, MI.
 Up at 5:50 to cross the US/Canada border and get to the race start to pick up my bib, etc. (10K started at 8:00). There was an expo Friday night where I could have done this, but that would have meant crossing the border twice more. Waits are very unpredictable at the border, so I opted for Saturday morning. I did the Martian half last year and was able to use this plan, so tried it again. Over the border easily at that hour (the guard even knew something about races and racewalking!)...didn't even have to explain the antenna on my head
or the martian on my belt.

It was a mob scene of vehicles as we approached race central, but we magically found a parking spot, threw a bunch of quarters in the meter and followed the crowd down to Ford Field. The lineups weren't too bad (I think lots of folks did the Friday night thing, especially as so many were from that area, and all of the races had largely staggered start times, which is good as this event has a LARGE turnout).
Lots of warming up, potty break, then say goodbye to Mike and ensconce self at Back of Pack. The race follows the first portion of the longer races, and ends through a lovely paved woodland trail where I train frequently. This was my first 10K (I usually do halfs), so I wasn't sure on strategy or pace. I had pre-programmed what I hoped was something reasonable into my Garmin, and started out relatively slowly, fiercely resisting getting caught up in the burst of adrenalin and fast push out of the gate. I picked up the pace, settling in to my racewalk groove. Needless to say, the required hip action caused my little martian to groove along, causing amusement in those I passed. I had two "aha!" moments re: technique: one was a true balance between toe-off and heel strike, the kind you see in pros (this only lasted for about ten minutes, LOL!). Another was about mile 5, when I was observing a runner about my age ahead of me. He was running with such easy grace, relaxed and totally in the zone. It kind of seeped into me and I found my upper body moving quite differently than it usually does when I racewalk. Again, it didn't last long, but it's definitely something I will be pursuing in the future.
Round the bend, pump in the gas left in the tank and push for the finish. Really nice medals again this year (heck, even the bibs were nice!):

and the tech shirts were cute, with an Atari-type critter racing for the finish line:

Finish line food looked good: bananas, bagels with packets of cream cheese, cookies and lots and lots of fresh chocolate milk served with hoopla (one of the proud sponsers this year was the United Dairy Farmers of Michigan). I grabbed a banana and set off to rendezvous with Mike a couple of block away (good cooldown), where he awaited me with a key lime soy yogurt and an incredible flourless muffin. I stretched a lot, then we headed for home. I was really happy with my time: 1:12, which translates to an average of 11:38 min/mi (pretty amazing for me, when you consider I started out relatively slowly and racewalked the whole thing). No aches and pains, no cramps or cuts, no blisters or bruises!
[A runner made this comment with disdain as I passed him: "Oh, man, this is depressing. I'm being passed by a walker." I wasn't fast enough on the uptake for a comeback.]

I think this race was better organized this year than last. Last year, they had timed the kids' marathon so that hundreds and hundreds of children came swarming into the finish line just as a large number of halfers were doing the same. Utter pandemonium. Then, of course, there was the distance error last year!!! Everything went very smoothly this year from what I could see. They had rescheduled the kids' race to noon (and there were 1400 kids running), so all was well! There was a glitch with the bib chips, though, and it looks to me like some of them didn't register the time properly if you look at the results. Mine was fine, though! [Just checked back and they adjusted the times]
Home, eat, short nap, luxurious bath, change into Edwardian Harp Woman, pack up gear and head out to play at a Titanic dinner (it was the hundredth anniversary of the disaster). It was a really good time, with a small but very appreciative audience. Well organized and very friendly people made for an enjoyable gig! I was in the zone, focussed and really into playing. On the way home I joked with Mike that I should schedule races on gig days all the time - NOT!!!!! Got home about 9:30, ate and eventually fell into bed, completely pooped but with too much adrenalin still coursing through my veins to sleep well. Ah, well - who needs sleep?

Again, don't think I could have done this day without Mike. Uncomplaining Mike, who takes me where I need to be, watches out for my wellbeing while there, totes my gear (except the harp - I carry that), etc. etc. Raise a glass of craftbrew, a shot of single malt or a very dry martini to him for me.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Chrysler Greenway Rails-to-Trails Pt.1

Fairly near to where I live is a great section of rails-to-trails called the Chrysler Greenway. On Monday of this week I did the section from just past Harrow (entered at Ferris Rd.) through to Kingsville (8.4 miles). First, though, a map:

This shows Essex County (the southernmost part of Canada; Michigan is actually somewhat  north/northwest of us at this point), bounded by Lake Erie to the south, the Detroit River to the west and Lake St. Clair to the north. This map shows the Greenway itself, with a blowup of the trail along the left and bottom of the pic, with distances between points along the way, and the Conservation areas scattered about the county. For perspective, I live kind of between Petite Cote and Crystal Beach Conservation Areas.
The Greenway is overseen by ERCA (our county Conservation Authority), and they have plans in the works for expansions in the future.
I'm kicking myself a bit now that I didn't bring a camera as I'd like to review all of the sections of this system. We have walked and biked many parts of it before, but nothing this systematic.
You can see here that it is a very flat course! It is, after all, a railbed. However, this is also a very flat county!!!!
It was a bright, beautiful spring day when Mike dropped me off at the entry to the trail on Ferris Rd. Monday being a holiday (Easter Monday), I expected to see a lot of people out and about, but I was alone for the first three miles. That section (up to the Arner Townline) is quite beautiful, lined with trees and bushes and going through a lovely woodlot and over a creek (I think now that this "creek" may be the tail end of Cedar Creek, which I kayaked part of last year with the kayak club). There are several interpretive signs explaining some of the local flora and fauna, and the old stone railway mile markers are still intact! Birdsong filled the air and my jacket quickly came off as the sun grew warmer. Fresh air and endorphins kicked in. I saw a fair number of wildflowers, blooming very early this year, including trout lilies and spring beauties. The trailbed itself is hard-packed dirt covered with very fine gravel - very nice to walk on! At about 3.5 miles I came to the entry at the Arner Town line, and there was Mike in our SUV waiting for me! I had stupidly forgotten anything to eat, so we sidetracked a short distance to the variety store/restaurant/gas station located at the Arner and Highway 20 (HIGHLY recommended, if only for the simple but extremely clean restrooms, eliminating using the port-a-potty at the trail itself). After picking up some corn nuts and sesame sticks, off I went again. Mike was set to rendezvous with me again in Kingsville, at the old train station, after going for a visit to Cedar Creek Conservation Area. During the next section, I really began to roll along, feeling very comfortable with my technique and getting a good speed without feeling like I was racing.

Now for a little side note: I am the most fortunate of women in having a husband who not only cheers me on in everything I do, but chauffeurs me around for point-to-point workouts, acts as my roadie for gigs, plans trips and hiking tours and basically puts up with me and my hairbrained ideas and is always there for me. I've known him for 40 years and have been married to him for the past 36 of those...and we're still best friends!

Now back to our regular programming:
There were more people using the trail for the part from the Arner to Kingsville, mostly on bikes. At one point, just as you arrive at the Kingsville town limit, you have to detour around a golf course (you can see the "bump" on the trail map), and the trail is only about 30-40 feet from the road for a very short span before heading back into the blissful roadless track.
The sun began getting dimmer and the air quite a bit colder when I noticed some very threatening low-lying dark clouds. In Kingsville itself, the trail goes through some lovely back yard areas. then through town on a very wide paved "sidewalk" (not really a sidewalk, more if a wide separated bike path) until you reach the train station.  Just as it began to spit, I arrived at the old Kingsville train station, now converted to a very nice restaurant. Mike arrived about 10 minutes later, with a Subway sandwich for me! We ate by the lake and then departed to do some errands.
It was a great walk, and I'm looking forward to my next section of the trail!

Now here are a couple of pics from Mikes' visit to Cedar Creek that day:

Monday, 9 April 2012

There are shoes, and then there is lacing....

If you are a racewalker (or a mere runner*, for that matter), you have come face to face with age-old shoe dilemna (or "dilemma" as it is apparently now officially spelled: I won't go into the dilemna dilemma here). But what if you could solve your foot problem using the shoes you presently have? Sometimes it isn't the shoe, but how you're lacing it that is causing the problem. I learned a long time ago that specialty lacing allows my severely messed-up left foot to function. I found New Balance's guide to specialty lacing through a link somewhere else so long ago that I forget where:  By using the lacing technique for bunions and heel slip I had what almost amounted to a custom fit! I have been religiously using this method ever since on all my shoes.

Since then, I've come across a few other webpages along these lines. Here's one for hiking boots for example: .

Then, of course, if you're more the stylish type, you could try some of these ( very artisitic patterns just for fun, LOL!

* sorry - couldn't resist giving back a little of what we racewalkers get all the time! We seem to be the Rodney Dangerfield of sports - we get no respect!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Cho shi and racewalking

I have been taking Iaido (a martial art that roughly translates as "the art of drawing the sword") for about ten months now. I have grown to love the newfound stability, balance and flexibility it has given me. My favourite times at the dojo, however, are when we literally sit at Sensei's feet and he talks to us about different facets of one's approach to the art, history, and connectedness to one's own life. It doesn't hurt that he's an excellent storyteller, either! A few months back, he talked to us about Cho-shi, which means natural rhythm. Within the strict patterns of the different kata or forms, each practitioner will eventually find his or her own natural rhythm; their own way of performing or living the art. A related term is Aisatsu, creative personal interpretation within the guidelines of form. This was brought to mind yesterday at the racewalk clinic in a mini "aha!" moment. Here we were all following these strict rules for racewalking, but each had found or was in the process of finding their own natural rhythm, a way of using those strict rules to make the racewalk their own. As I watched each person pass by, I knew we were all following the rules, but everyone looked different, walked differently, approached it differently. Beauty in diversity.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Racewalk Clinic in Huntington Woods, MI

I attended a racewalk clinic today in Huntington Woods run by the Pegasus AC walking club ( and coached by Frank Soby (who is also a US Track Racewalk Judge). There were about 14 people in attendance, from first-timers to well-seasoned racers. We used the quarter-mile track at the Huntington Woods Recreation Center, and boy, is it a nice track! Great surface; rubbery feel, etc.....but I digress. Frank gave a good overview of the basics, then had us try various things to highlight the necessary technique, focussing on strike/toe off, stride length, hip action, footwork and arm action, adding each in progression. We were then divided into groups of three (one per lane), and worked various drills, then spread out and circled the track. Next came speed work at various levels, from tortoise through hare, focussing on different aspects of the walk at each of these speeds. He presented some visuals of good technique (photos and diagrams), then it was back on the track in groups of four, working out for each other and discussing in our groups areas needing focus. This was great as when you're on your own you never really "see" your faults. After an hour-and-a-half it was time to break up and go our separate ways. It's always so good to get feedback on what I'm doing right and what needs work, being a self-taught RWer.

Frank was a great coach and it was a wonderful group of people in attendance, very friendly and welcoming. What amazed me was that this was a free clinic; the purpose is just to get more people interested in the sport!!! I wish I lived a little closer so I could work out and train with these people - they seem like a great club! (I'm an hour and an international border away!). I also got a lead on some very cool US vs Canada RW challenge cups in August. Can't attend this year due to previous commitments, but will keep an eye on them for next year!