Training Through the Holidays – Montour Trail 20-Miler

Posted: December 21, 2011 in Training
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A couple of years ago I started tracking all of the various states, cities and then countries that I had trained in preparing for a marathon.  I’m not entirely sure I knew back then just how many places would end up on my list, but it seemed like an interesting exercise nonetheless.

After last week’s trip added San Antonio, TX to the ledger we have now trained or raced in three countries, 16 states and 40 Cities in the US, Canada and Mexico.  The full list of locations is on the right side of the blog at the bottom of the page.

In a few weeks we will add Miami, FL and the Florida Keys to that list of locations as my band of merry runners and I compete in the Ragnar Florida Keys 6-person team ultra marathon covering 200 miles in about 24 hours.  That race report should be pretty epic.

I get asked a lot about whether or not I enjoy running while I am traveling and although it does tend to complicate things from a packing perspective – some of my all-time favorite runs have come away from my tried and true measured routes around Austin, TX.

I’ve had my share of mishaps like not packing warm enough, not packing “cool” enough, forgetting to charge my Garmin, only bringing one pair of running shoes, then getting them soaked through in a thunderstorm and having to pack them with newspaper overnight to run in the rain again the following morning.

I’ve seen amazing sunrises, beautiful sunsets, outlasted the ROTC candidates running loops around the reservoir in Delaware, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and even crossed state lines a few times.  All in all, any “pain-in-the-assedness” that training while traveling has presented has far been outweighed by the benefits.

Well this week as Dawn, Landry and I make our final Christmas trip away from home, at least until Landry is much, much older the marathon training calendar and the Christmas Calendar were really not getting along very well.

Christmas Eve – 10 Miles

Christmas Day – 20 Miles.

Add in a cross-country flight on Friday to get the three of us from Austin,TX to Pittsburgh, PA and all the joys that go along with holiday travel toting a now walking and running away from you giggling 15-month-old and it is sure to be a tough weekend of training right?

Not so fast.

I have two things waiting on me when we arrive in Pittsburgh this trip, three if you count Dom with whom I will be sure to visit over the weekend and have a little chat with to catch him up on things.

1.  The Montour Trail.

2.  Mark Williams.

The Montour Trail, just 20 minutes or so by car from Dawn’s parents home is a multi-use non-motorized recreational rail-trail near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, extending 46 miles from Moon Township near Coraopolis to Clairton.  The trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage(GAP), a trail system that stretches over 330 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

Montour Trail

I had a chance to run on the Montour Trail last year when I was back visiting for the holidays and it is a tremendous crushed granite trail along the old railway.  It features some great rolling terrain, lots of great overpasses and underpasses as the trail winds along the riverbeds for long stretches at a time.

It goes over bridges, through old train tunnels and is extremely well maintained and safe.  For a runner or off-road cyclist – this trail is the real deal.

To make sure my training plans do not get in the way of Santa’s arrival, I will be flip-flopping my workouts, running my 20-miler on Saturday followed by my 10-miler on Christmas Day after all the presents are opened and everyone is settling in for a nice easy Sunday.

The second reason I am looking forward to 30 miles of running this weekend is I will be able to run 15 miles or so of my 20 on Saturday morning with my friend Mark.  Mark and I “met” through Run for Dom when I was training for the Boston Marathon and Pittsburgh Marathon just 13 days apart back in 2010 in support of Dom’s battle with cancer.

Mark and I became friends over the course of that time and helped support each other through quite a few training cycles, marathons, unfortunately injuries and PR’s along the way.  Mark is a tremendous runner, with a shiny new marathon PR of 3:12 and change from this year’s Erie Marathon.

Mark Williams - Beast

He and his wife Tammy will both be making the trip out to Hopkinton, MA to race in this year’s Boston Marathon.  A first-time for both of them, but certainly not their last.

Mark is coming back from some knee inflammation, so he is not quite ready for a full-on 20-miler.  But we are going to meet-up early on Saturday morning for an enjoyable 15 miles at a relaxed-conversational pace to talk about life, family, kids, marathoning, beer drinking, and more running topics, not necessarily in that order.

At the end of the 15 miles I will drop Mark off at our starting point and then head out for a final 5 miles at a bit quicker pace to wrap up my Christmas Eve 20.  Then it will be off for a big breakfast and a great day with Landry and the family.

So if you are out there thinking about how you are going to get your exercise in over the holidays, plan it like anything else and enjoy it.  It’s not a chore, it’s a gift.  Just ask a runner who is nursing an injury or someone who would love to run, bike, swim, walk or take a yoga class but is physically unable to.

They would give just about anything to be out there on a beautiful trail with a good friend ticking off the miles.  They might not want to run 20 of them, but that’s what makes me the lovable lunatic that I am.

Afterall, there is a somewhat decent chance I might just run 21.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Comments
  1. Erin Ruyle says:

    Great post Joe – and very fitting for me as we approach traveling this holiday season. While many people will make excuses as to why they can’t get their runs in, you make them happen all while balancing travel, family and a 15 month old. Very impressing and inspiring! You’ve motivated me to not use traveling as an excuse this holiday season!

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