Sunday, December 30, 2007

West Branch State Park Witch Run 12-26-07

I traveled with my son Taylor to West Branch this evening to meet up with Brian and Jeff Musick along with Gombu for a night trail run. We met at 5:00 and it was just starting to get dark. Last year on this exact date Brian and Jeff encountered a haunting in these woods so we thought it would be a good idea to go see for ourselves. After Brian and Jeff's experience last year, they did a little research and found out that local folklore tells a tale of a witch that was killed by the locals in these woods by piling stones on her until she died. Many people believe that she still haunts these woods today. You can read Brian's account on his blog

When Brian and Jeff arrived Taylor and I were already playing Rob Zombie, "Dragula" which lyrics go something like "Dig through ditches, burn through the witches". He thought it was cool so I did a little witch dance for him. He filmed me and I thought I looked pretty good doing my witch dance.

Anyway, we had enough fun in the parking lot so we donned our headlights and warm clothes and set out for our night trail run. I had just purchased a headlamp (Princeton Tec Quad LED)and was eager to see how it worked on the trail. It did not take long for me to find out it worked real well. Even at the lower settings, it provided plenty of light for a night blind person like myself to be able to find his way down the trail.

We ran on the trails made by CAMBA which is a mountain bike association from the Cuyahoga Valley. They have done a real nice job making and maintaining these trails. We ran deep into the woods and made so many turns and creek crossings that I was truly unsure where I was at. Gombu continued to lead and gave us directions at the intersections as he seemed to know these trails well. After about an hour, we all stopped, turned off our headlamps, and enjoyed the night sky. On this particular night you could see Mars very clearly. It was shining amber with a brilliant luster to it. We also noticed all of the other star groupings, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion etc. After a short while we continued on our run.

About 15 minutes later, Gombu said he was taking off and headed for the car. We decided we were going to go a little longer so we headed directly to the spot where Brian and Jeff had encountered the witch last year. Brian wears a GPS watch so it was real easy to get to the location right down to the exact spot. We got on a trail marked for "experts only" by CAMBA and Brian informed us that this was the spot. After not feeling anything weird at all, I called out to the witch. Nothing. We ran to the end of the trail and decided to double back as this is how they experienced her last year. On the way back we walked quite a bit as the trail was rocky and slippery from the water on the ground. We still did not see or hear any witch.

Once we got back to the main road, we decided to head back. We ran for about 20 minutes and returned to the car without incident. We laughed and talked a while in the parking lot and looked at the stars some more. After sharing some Christmas cookies, it was time to part ways and head home. We had a nice 2 hour 15 minute run in the woods at night, but no sign of the witch. Oh well, there is always next year.

Christmas Morning Run

I ran this morning. Not much, but enough to qualify it as a run. After opening gifts and spending the earlier part of the morning in front of a warm fire, I decided I needed to get out and do a little running to stretch my legs out after the 3 hours of running yesterday.

It was cold so I dressed for the weather, plugged in the IPod and took to the streets of McDonald. I didn't plan to do much but once I worked out the kinks in the first 20 minutes I felt like I could run all day. It was very serene in McDonald this Christmas morning. No one was out. Everyone was warm in their houses enjoying Christmas morning. I ran in the middle of the street. I cruised all the streets that run East to West which in McDonald transfers to ups and downs. It was a good run and after I got home 45 minutes later, I was glad I ran. I did not see one living person nor pass a moving car. What a weird feeling! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve Run 2007

As a member of TeamPR I have several opportunities to go on group runs with a variety of people. On the morning of Christmas Eve, 7:30 a.m. December 24th I got just that chance. I met Bob Combs (Gombu), Bill Losey (Shubi), and Jim Harris (Slim) at the Lily Pond parking lot in Mill Creek park in Youngstown, Ohio on a cold, blustery, windy morning. After we said our hellos and Merry Christmas, we decided we had better hit the trails. We started off walking, talking and catching up on each others lives. I hadn't seen Shubi in quite a long time nor had I seen Gombu much. I have the good fortune of seeing Slim at area road races with his family but we rarely have a chance to talk. So off we went.

We started by following the ridge around the top of the Lily Pond and then getting on the trail at the top of the ridge that is part of the YUT-C course. We remarked that a new sign had been placed there indicating this was trail 1. We ran and joked and tried to warm up as the wind pushed across Lake Glacier below us. This lake was aptly named on a day like this. The pace was leisurely and we enjoyed the sights, sounds and views of the park. We were quickly to the log cabin which is the hub for all the action at the YUT-C. It acts as the start and the finish for Youngstown's only Ultra Trail run. Talk quickly turned to the upcoming event in September and Gombu gave me the usual ribbing about doing it again. I reported to him that it is on my list of races for 2008 along with the Cleveland Marathon. He seemed pleased with that but reminded me of his disdain for road races by singing "Roads Suck" to the tune of "Love Stinks" by the J. Giels Band. I laughed and on we went.

We criused through the Lake Cohasset section of YUT-C and soon found ourselves on the Monkey Trail which is a great section of hill climbs and descents that take the most out of your legs. Gombu stated he wanted to try and make the first climb more gradual and have a few switchbacks in it to make it more runner friendly. After many course trials (us running in the snow on the side of a hill over fallen trees and rocks) Gombu felt he had a plan. We moved on and soon we were at Lanterman's Mill enjoying the fast moving water flowing over the falls. I thought the water looked like chocolate milk, but Slim thought more like coffee with cream.

Then comes Lake Newport. This is a section most of us don't like because there is about 1 mile of it on the road. After running the trails, it is a drag to switch over to roads. I caught myself singing Gombu's song "Roads Suck" yeah yeah! Fortunately we cruised around Newport fairly quickly (it is always better when you are running with others) and we found ourselves crossing the foot bridge to get back to the deck side of the Mill. We ran down the deck, onto the trail and quickly back up the first climb onto the Monkey Trail Extension. What a climb. It never gets easier and I tell myself I am going to start doing workouts on this trail to strengthen my legs.

Once on the Monkey Trail and traveling the other way, Gombu, Slim and Shubi start eyeballing what it looks like coming from the other way, because in the YUT-C you run the course both ways. After much debate, and more trekking on the side of the hill (more that the first time), Shubi and I decide we are going to start running again. We leave Slim and Gombu on the side of the hill debating which tree would be best to go around. Shubi and I run together from the end of the Monkey to Pioneer Pavillion and I tell Shubi that I'm going to take off (as I still have Christmas shopping to do).

Just then we see Slim and Gombu by the dam so I decide to wait a few minutes for them to catch up. Once they get there I tell them I am heading to the car which is about 5 minutes away. After some choice name calling, I am running down the trail with the three of them delaying my arrival to the car (I succumbed to peer pressure). We traveled towards Lake Glacier, came out to the road, forged our own trail into the woods and trekked to the top of the hill to find the trail on the ridge above the Lily Pond. Shubi was covered in dingleberries (burrs) and I stood and watched as he tried to pick them off. We each ran this last little section our own way. Slim ran up and down the sides of the hill like a madman, from the top to the bottom and back up. Gombu went half down right over the side of the hill and then came back up. I am not sure exactly where Shubi went but I think he was avoiding the dingleberry patch. I cruised down the main path and enjoyed the view from above the pond.

It was nice running with these guys on Christmas Eve morn. We enjoyed some good "man time" had a nice relaxed three hour run, and in the end enjoyed a nice cold adult beverage as we toasted the holiday. I think we should make this a holiday tradition and do it every year!