Posts Tagged ‘Montour Trail’

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!

One of the things that I have started to really look forward to recently is to find new places to run while I am away from home in Austin, TX. Run for Dom in just the last 12 months has taken me to 27 different running cities in three different countries. I’ve run across the Golden Gate Bridge, along the coastline in Mexico, on the waterfront in Ontario and high in the mountains in Colorado.

I’ve run Venice Beach in California, the strip in Las Vegas, from Hopkinton to Boston and of course the city streets of Pittsburgh.

But this week while I am in Pittsburgh for the Thanksgiving holiday I was looking for a break from the golf course area near my Mother and Father-in-Laws home. Don’t get me wrong, the Beaver County Country Club is a beautiful place to run, it has some amazingly challenging hills and is less than a mile from their back door.

But for some reason I was hankering for something different this week for my training runs.

Maybe it was the fact that the last time I ran the golf course was the morning of Dom’s memorial service. I may just not be ready for that run yet.

So after running a very nice 8-miles along the Allegheny River on Tuesday morning in downtown Pittsburgh along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, I was looking for another location to “explore” on Wednesday.

A friend of mine reminded me of the Montour Trail, not too far at all from where Dawn grew up in Hopewell, PA. I would have to drive about 20 minutes to the trailhead just east of Moon, PA. But it was an opportunity to turn my Wednesday run into an adventure. The Montour Trail is a wonderful run, hike and bike trail, made possible by our country’s Rail to Trail initiative.

An opportunity to take old railways that are no longer in use and turn them into a trail system allowing outdoor enthusiasts to see some beautiful parts of our country. The Montour Trail runs from Pittsburgh all the way to Washington, DC. 32o miles of adventure.

Montour Trail

I only had a 6.2 mile training run on my training plan as I had taken advantage of the Three Rivers Trail on Tuesday morning to run my “Wednesday 8-miler”. I had a feeling however that 6.2 miles was not going to give me enough freedom to explore, and I might need to stretch things a little bit further.

I woke up to 32 degree temperatures, with a wind chill of 24 degrees. As I toggled my iPhone to Austin’s weather it read partly cloudy and 73. Essentially a 50 degree difference.

Fortunately I planned ahead and was able to put on running tights, a long sleeve Under Armour Cold Gear top, my long sleeve Boston Marathon technical shirt, two pairs of gloves and my Asics Winter Running Hat.

I was warm, snug and feeling fine as I made the 20 minute drive to the trail head. I pulled off of Montour Run Road, parked the car, stretched a bit and headed East.

The miles seemed to click by easily as I got underway, running along a small creek that would miles later funnel into one of the rivers that surround Pittsburgh, I was greeted by miles of perfectly packed crushed limestone. My feet crunched away as I headed down the incline toward Robinson, PA, toward downtown Pittsburgh, toward Washington, DC.

Montour Trail, Robinson, PA

When I hit the 3 mile mark it was time to turn around if I wanted to bring my run in at 6.2 miles.

I kept going.

As I approached the 4 mile mark, I thought that if I turned around and made this an 8-miler, I could run 5 miles or so after my Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5K and get back on track for my weekly mileage.

I kept going.

As I got to the fifth mile, I decided that even though I was enjoying myself, it was time to turn around.

I would be racing in less than 24 hours. Time to get back.

To make things interesting I decided to bring the run in with the second 5 miles coming at a faster pace than the first 5.

A Negative split. Something I am hoping to be able to pull off at Austin in February.

This was made a bit more difficult as the first five miles featured a gentle downhill grade, that would now require me to climb a bit back to the start of the trailhead.

6 became 7, 7 became 8, 8 on to 9 and a final mile to wrap up a great 10-miler run.

Splits for the first 5 miles were:

7:12, 7:08, 7:02, 7:05, 6:58

Splits for the second 5:

7:05, 6:56, 6:58, 6:48, 6:44

10 miles – 1:09:55 (6:59 min./mile pace)

As I got back in the car to head home I thought about all the great miles on the trail that we didn’t get a chance to see this morning. During my next visit perhaps I can run longer, or start at a different access point to run through one of the old train tunnels or over another old bridge.

That is one of the great things about our sport. No matter how many times you lace up the shoes and go for a run, no matter how far you go or how many races you run. There are always new challenges.

New areas to explore, and no matter how far you run, you always have to turn back around before you reach the end.

We are now up over 2,000 miles in 2010.

I’ve barely gotten started.