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!