Monday, March 26, 2012

Trails, trails, everywhere are trails

I watch a lot of House Hunters on HGTV. I DVR all the new episodes (domestic and international), and watching it I've noticed a trend: all of the homeowners want a sense of place. All  of them - 100%. They want to be close to downtown, want to walk to restaurants and shops, they want parks, and they really want trails. 

As I was running 12 miles this weekend on the Caperton Trail in Morgantown, West Virginia, I was thinking about this common theme of placemaking on House Hunters, and how vibrant communities almost always have trails for running, biking, and walking.  Nearly every time I visit my parents I run on the trail in Morgantown. The Caperton Trail is only 6 miles, but it connects to the Deckers Creek and Mon River Trails for a total of 48 miles worth of trailway in northern West Virginia. That's incredible, and it's an important resource for the region.

Caperton Trail in Morgantown, WV
I do the majority of my running in Lansing on the Lansing River Trail. It is such an asset to the community, and every time I hit the trail I am grateful that there is a dedicated recreation space in our town. 
Lansing River Trail near Old Town
The creation of trails is a trend nationwide, and residents are beginning to expect it. As I've run during my travels, I've run 12 miles on the Mount Vernon Trail in Washington, DC. Lansing utilizes its river trail for the Capital City River Run each fall, but they aren't the only one. The river trails play a key part in the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, IN and the Knoxville Marathon in Knoxville, TN. While during a race these river trial portions tend to be the quietest with the fewest spectators, it serves as a statement to me that these trails are a critical part of placemaking in so many communities.

Beautiful views from the Mount Vernon Trail in Washington, DC
I grew up in the town of Hundred, West Virginia, a town of about 344 people (according to the 2000 census) in the northern part of the state.  When I was in high school the town began converting the old railroad tracks to create a trailway to connect various communities. I didn't realize then that even this small town in the middle of bloody nowhere was working to create a sense of place. Those trails are an important resource for the region's residents.

Rails to Trails in Hundred, WV. I grew up just a few houses down from this spot.
As both a runner and a believer of placemaking, I'm so grateful to live in a community that has a recreational trail. Lansing has 13 miles of trails, and I've run each and every one of them many times.  And as I travel, I look for and appreciate those communities who have safe running trails that I can borrow. Happy trails to all of you!   


Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting it right - running Plymouth, Michigan

In my job we talk a lot about placemaking - creating the kinds of places where people want to live, work, and play. When it comes to placemaking, Plymouth, Michigan gets it right. Plymouth is a small city of just under 10,000 people located about a half an hour northeast of Detroit. I decided Plymouth was a great place for a St. Patrick's Day race - specifically the inaugural Shamrock 'n Roll 10k.

Beautiful downtown Plymouth, Michigan
Plymouth is just over an hour from Lansing, so when my alarm went off at 5:15 on a Sunday morning, I was not amused. A large coffee and an hour drive later, I was ready to run. The race was extremely well organized - I could not be more impressed. There was plenty of parking, and I was able to get a spot near the start/packet pick-up. Packet pick-up was quick and easy. The shirt (because it's all about the shirt) is great - a sassy white tech shirt with green stripes down both sides.

The race began at Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth. Kellogg Park is exactly what you think of when you imagine a town square - a nice green space in downtown with a beautiful fountain, lots of trees, a lovely place to gather. It is really the perfect focal point of the downtown.

Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth
The 10k and 5k had separate starts, and the 1500 of us running the 10k took off promptly at 8:15 (did I mention this race was REALLY well organized?).  The course wound through the neighborhoods near downtown, on quiet tree-lined streets past beautiful homes.  There were a number of spectators out cheering on their runner and just hanging out in their yard to cheer on all the runners. I had my own fabulous cheering section of my husband's mom, grandma and aunt. My husband gets being a great spectator naturally.

A photo taken by my cheering section - I am so fast I'm blurry!
Nobody can control the weather, but the weather was PERFECT. You could not ask for more flawless weather on race day - cloudy, high 50s, no rain. It was just fantastic. I had a great run at just 7 seconds off my 10k PR at 57:22 (that's 9:15 miles - pretty good for me).

Clearly happy after the race - check out that medal!
The race ended at Kellogg Park. There was a great medal (everyone loves a medal). The race made good use of the pavilion at the park to house post-race snacks and drinks. I could not be more pleased with the quality of the race.
With 2/3 of my great cheering section

With my awesome MIL who is becoming a veteran spectator!
As for Plymouth, well, we're in love. My husband immediately said, "We can move there" but I think I'd tire of an hour commute pretty quickly. In terms of design the neighborhoods are perfect, and downtown is just awesome. I love it there. Downtown Plymouth also always has something going on - a festival, a street fair, a farmers market. The downtown is so engaging, and it makes residents and visitors alike want to be there. It is a perfect example of what placemaking should create.

Sometimes I am cursing when the alarm goes off so early, but yesterday it was 100% worth it. Anyone who happened to drive by me on the way home on I-96 and saw me dancing in the car to Jay-Z and CeeLo Green, well you know then how happy yesterday morning made me. I'm a simple girl with a simple recipe for happiness: a good run and a good place.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

Running my town - the joys of marathon training

When I ran my first marathon in the fall of 2010, I swore I'd never do it again. The race itself was one thing, but the training was just out of control. When some time had passed and I remembered marathon training as "not being that bad", I decided to sign up for marathon number two - the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May.  Upon making this decision my husband reminded me how much I hated the training, and also said he didn't want to hear me complain. I assured him that I wouldn't.

All smiles after the Detroit Marathon - just glad to be done
Fast forward two months into training. I ran 15 miles on Friday, and I was exhausted and grouchy on Friday night. I showered, put on my pajamas and refused to do anything all evening. I was productive all weekend, but only in between complaints of sore quads and my new bruised toenail.  I have never been able to recover quickly from long runs. I need at least 2-3 days to feel normal again once I get above 10ish miles. This training cycle appears to be no exception. Then there's the scheduling. If we go away for the weekend I've got to get in a long run. And not just a fun 5-6 miler. It really starts to take over our entire lives.

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day in Lansing, Michigan, so I decided to head out in the early afternoon for a run. After only about a quarter of a mile, I was struggling. I felt like I was wearing cement shoes, and my legs were screaming. I ran two (yes TWO) miles and called it a day.  I couldn't believe that I rocked out 15 miles two days earlier, and yesterday two miles felt like a marathon. It was brutal. Ah the joys of running.

One of the most frustrating things for me about marathon training is that I love doing races - particularly half marathons. But once you dedicate yourself to 26.2, you don't have the freedom to just jump into races. I have to log the miles in my training schedule. I could do a half and then add a few miles onto the end, but it's not the same. I find that what I love most about running - consistently racing - gets put on hold during marathon training.

26 miles isn't a problem. It's the last .2 that really does you in.
On Sunday I am running a 10k - my first race since last months 15k in Pensacola. After my struggle yesterday I'm a bit anxious. I have to run 12 miles on Friday and then run 6 on Sunday. I'm not sure how my body is going to handle it.

In the mean time, I am still logging lots of miles, and I'm pretty familiar with the Lansing River Trail these days. I know exactly where the flooded parts are, I know where the most geese will be (those mean buggers will chase you) and I know every curve of that trail like the back of my hand. I'll be running Green Bay in just a couple of months, and then I'll be back to running more towns. I've just got to get through 26.2 first.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Running from Crazy Town

People run for all sorts of different reasons - to lose weight, to combat stress, to stay healthy.  I run for a combination of reasons, but some days it's to get out of my house and away from the combined 200 pounds of dog. My dogs are INSANE. Totally crazy. If you've been to my house you know what I'm talking about. Murphy, our Golden Retriever, is 116 pounds, and Izzy, our Portuguese Water Dog, is 85 pounds. When it's just my husband and me at home, they are sweet, loving, passive creatures. I swear. Take them in public or bring a visitor to the house, and it's all over.

This is the face of adorable/crazy.
Last week I dropped the dogs off at the groomer around 7:30 in the morning. When I opened the door, there were four other dogs with their owners in the waiting room. Izzy, who loves other dogs, immediately starts clamoring to get to them by barking and pulling me. At this point I realize that the wedges I am wearing, while adorable, have zero traction. It's everything I can do to stand. Murphy loves to sit on the padded bench in the waiting room. While Murphy is sitting in the human seats and Izzy is pulling me off my feet, the door opens behind me and another customer comes in with his pooch. It was seriously like something out of a bad dog movie.

John Grogan has nothing on our house
I moved to the counter where they help people and was literally holding onto the far side of the counter while pulling my dogs in with the other hand. Then the receptionist asks me to sign a form. I looked at her, exasperated, and said, "Really?" I managed to scribble something like my signature and gratefully gave away my dogs for them to take back.

They had slightly calmed down at that point, but during their walk back to the grooming area Izzy took the opportunity to stick her whole mouth into the ear of a beautifully groomed, show dog quality Golden Retriever and drool all down her face. I managed to mutter an apology to the dog's owner before hastily retreating outside. I was sweating worse than I do after a short run.

This is a real scene we came home to last year. Seriously.
After a few days have gone by and my dogs are being sweet and well-behaved at home, the story seems funny and I think maybe it wasn't really that bad. Last night my in-laws came for dinner, and my poor mother-in-law was mauled by Golden/Portie love. Lovely. The dogs had to stay in the basement for the duration of the visit.

Do not trust this seemingly innocent face.
Some people run with their dogs, and sometimes I run to get away from mine. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my pups, but they are a handful. My house is truly nuts. That would make me what, the city manager of Crazy Town?