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CVNP Trail Series Bills ...

Posted Oct 23 2010 5:09pm

CVNP Trail Series
Bills' Bad Ass Training
Running Bender

This time of year it's necessary to go on a few running benders to bank up endorphins in preparation for the dark cold days of November. Friday night, I made an impulsive decision to participate in the full moon night run--one of the park's final night runs of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's trail running series. Bob and I arrived 45 minutes early to stand around in the dark, shiver, and try to figure out the convoluted rules under the high bright yellow light of an astounding Hunter October full moon. I hoped the shivering would help me digest the three pieces of pizza and Burning River beer I drank before impulsively deciding to go on a running bender. This was a 3 mile thing and tomorrow, just mere hours later, I was going to meet up with a big group and run a trial run of Bills' Bad Ass course, an arduous 50K course, made up of 6 loops of Perkin's Trail near Everett bridge. I didn't recognize many faces tonight, as this appeared to be a very different slice of the running community than I was used to. Debi loves this series, but I think it was anniversary date night. Melissa C. was going to come out and run too. The series is odd, as it can't be straight running...there are hoops to jump through, so to speak, which made me nervous.

I don't know what it is, but IQ points drain like water through a sieve, when runners don running shoes and head lamps and try to figure out rules. A smiley guy, ironically named Guy, stood next to the large poster and read the instructions, smiling while he talked, explaining to dumbstruck shivering runners bouncing up and down in the moonlight, "Run a loop of the 'endless loop' and then pick up either a green or red card from a spook which will tell you if you have to run the endless loop again, immediately, or later, after running the big loop." Huh? I stayed around for another reading to get it straight. I was feeling pretty stupid, but Joan C. couldn't understand it either and she's super fast and a teacher at that, so I chocked it up to runners getting excited, and dumb, to run in the moonlight. Pick up a card from a spook? I thought the terminology was interesting, and ghastly in-politically correct given that there wasn't a black face in the crowd while I envisioned burning crosses and hooded figures with axes. Pie plates marked the course with ghosts (I think this is better) posted at various shadowy twists and turns in the trail handing out cards listing instructions to do weird things, like 10 lunges, or 20 jumping jacks, or retrieve hard candy or chocolate at the finish, and so forth, before continuing the 3 mile moonlit journey through the night.

I suck at night trail running. Bad eyes and old lady fear of planting my feet fast and firm in that little nebulous beam of trail lamp light made me slow as all get out. I paid 15 bucks for a number, but I surely wasn't going to race this. Bob, predictably went out like a bat out of hell chasing the 20-something year old Perusek siblings. It was fun and festive, even though I finished in an embarrassingly slow time--and immediately wanted to head to the Winking Lizard because beer after a trail run is nothing short of divine. We talked running, relationships, and patience--Bob, Melissa, and I--and this group of 20 somethings you wouldn't think we'd have anything in common with, but do, because of running. Bob said he had shoes older than Brian, which I thought was a real hoot. They got carded and we didn't. Bob and I felt like we were chaperoning a group of kids after the high school dance.

With only five hours of sleep separating runs, and 8 hours since my last run, the sky still dark, and the moon obscured by thin gray clouds, I pulled into the Everett covered Bridge parking lot for part 2 of my October trail running bender. Chef Bill B., one of the Bills and race organizers was already in the Everett lot ready to run a few miles of the 50K course deviously devised of 6 loops of the muddy, notoriously hilly, and rooty swatch of the most bad ass trail in the whole park. We set out in the dark--Chef Bill, me, Bob, and a few other people I didn't recognize. We met up with Melissa and Brett just as we entered the loop since they started an hour earlier at 6. It's what's so cool about running a loop like this--people can start at different times, hook up, so running the same damn loop doesn't make you feel like a rat on a wheel when you have different people to run with. Trail conditions have been fabulous this fall--Mama Bear perfect--not too dry or too wet, a nice leaf cover to give a satisfying "swish-swish" as we ticked off the miles.

To keep things interesting, the Bills elected to shake things up this year by having runners run the course in reverse of last year, which was heavy on the downhills and ultimately hard on the quads, but fun. Now, we'll be running more up hill which will just be plain hard to do, but maybe better on the body later. The plan today was to do 20 miles, but already, I was feeling slow and heavy with the short night, the beer, and running just hours ago.

Coming in the lot again after five miles, a new group had just arrived at 8, which included a various Towpath Trotters like the Farley's, Darcy, and the other Bill--the notorious Wild Bill whom I haven't seen in ages because I'm such an early morning runner and Bill's...well....not. We had a group picture taken before heading out. We organized the redheads together on the end, since, like Mallory says, "we're all related anyway, right?" and headed out for another loop. Wild Bill is a fabulous story teller. He told us about his Idaho misadventure vacation with Celeste, where the single engine plane they were flying in, gave out, somewhere over the mountains of Montana. They landed, miraculously, but happened to to land in a remote area currently hemmed in by forest fires. They were told the only way to get out was fly out. Wow. Bill's wife, Celeste, is truly the ultimate woman. Bill says he's the luckiest man in the world to be married 35 years to his high school sweetheart, this sweet, tolerant, sexy, and most forgiving woman, that puts up with his adrenaline junkie ways, dragged, as she is on class 4 white water rafting trips without a guide, tumbled down rivers, jostled out of the boat, to stand sopping wet on the river bank, without shoes, by her man and life mate. Wow.

Bill told the story that illustrated his stubbornness and perseverance as a distance runner when he rolled his ankle so severely it blew out the tendons and would require surgery grafting of cadaver tendons to keep it from giving out and making him flop over like a rag doll. He got the surgery, eventually, but not before attempting Western States. He was signed up after all, the plane and hotel reservations made, and an ankle that made him flop over like a rag doll was not reason enough to cancel. He said he made it 40 something miles before his injury beat his spirit and forced him off the trail.

Listening to Wild Bill's stories, helped make the miles go by quickly, but after 3 loops of the Bass Ass course done, in uphillish reverse, I was fried. Bob's plantar's was acting up too. That's the bad thing about a loop course--easy to bail. I finished my running bender is grand fashion by going out to breakfast sandwiched happily tired and dirty between two Bills and a Bob at the Valley Cafe where Chef Bill generously treated. I got Eggs Benedict, home-fries, and listened to more Wild Bill stories. It was a fabulous running bender and I could now spend the rest of my weekend happily contented with my family. Life is good.
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