keys, celery and a toy drill.

Poor Piper Bea is nearing the end of her rope with the whole teething thing.  She'll gnaw on anything within arm's reach in a thus far failed attempt to relieve the four small sources of her aggravation.

A couple of weeks ago she tried to devour a set of plastic keys.  Last Sunday at our pre-Thanksgiving family get together she discovered the cool, solid vegetable that is celery.  That seemed to work for a short time, but eventually she sent a telepathic message to my stepfather who obliged her wish by running a toy drill along her gums.  For a short time, she seemed to have found solace.

Today brought more of the same frustration and though she was putting up a good fight, the teeth were once again winning the day.  Piper gnashed her teeth and eyeballed every toy in the house, the kitchen appliances even the salespersons at the hardware store.

Unfortunately, that toy drill does not dwell in our home (though I plan on rectifying that).  Yesterday's run, however, seemed to be a decent substitute and I decided to give it another go.

Piper napped fitfully until 4:30 and I knew we were pressing our luck.  I decided to wake her up, quickly ushered her into her car seat and fed her a bottle on the drive over to the rails-to-trail.  By the time we pulled up to the trailhead, Pipe had downed most of the bottle and gave little resistance when I removed it from her mouth.  She didn't argue as I buckled her into the jogging stroller.  Another good sign.  I threw a headlamp into the stroller's pocket and away we went.

I'd decided to be content with whatever distance we were able to cover, but hoped we'd at least manage a 5K.  Light was fading as we neared an intersection that serves as a just-over-a-mile-and-a-half turnaround.  Piper's early cooing (adorable) had quieted and I wasn't surprised to peek under the weather shield to find her sleeping soundly.

Daddy's "drill" had worked its magic.

Breaking out the headlamp, I pushed past the intersection and continued on to the true turnaround, pleased to have stretched the mileage a little further.  Pipe slept the rest of the way and then serenaded me with sweet little infant songs on the drive home.  I felt rewarded.

Of course the pain returned and before we'd made it the whole way through Piper Bea's entree of organic sweet potatoes, she'd turned her attention away from the food and focused on the spoon itself.

But, Monday will bring with it the possibility of another comforting run. Lily comes home tomorrow and she'll find a little sister, mother and father who are thrilled to have her back.

It's definitely time to track down a double jogging stroller.


At some point late this past summer I got it in my head that I wanted to run my first 50K.  The longest events I'd ever taken part in were 10 milers though I had run slighter longer distances without the fanfare of an offical start/finish line.  Years of ankle injuries and poor rehabbing of said injuries have led to some odd issues when I push road mileage.  So, even though the jump past half marathon and marathon distances seemed a bit daunting, being able to do it on a less demanding surface seemed possible.  Plus, in recent years I've also discovered how much more joyful trail running can be in comparison to road work.  I'd never manage to go quite as fast, but I don't ever have to worry about vehicular threats (save the occassional mountain bike) and the quiet and beauty of the surroundings trump most any road run I'm likely to find locally.

Maybe I can't match road pace because I'm not in as much of a hurry to be done!

After scouring race calendars for a target event, I settled on the 2nd annual New River Trail 50K (http://www.ncnr.org/nrt50k.html), hosted/directed by Montrail UltraRunning team member Annette Bednosky in tiny Fries, Virginia.  The race date of October 10th was far enough away to allow me to train but close enough to feel relevant each day I woke up and considered whether to run or not run.  Even Annette's event description was written as on open invitation for first-timers.  As a newbie, I happily accepted.

As I began increasing mileage and slowly developing an understanding of just how far 50 kilometers actually is, I realized I needed footwear that was up to the challenge.  I'm sure there are barefooters out there who'd scoff at that claim, but I invite them to wear my feet and ankles for their next run.

To be fair, convincing myself that I needed new shoes was hardly a challenge.  While I'm not much of a hoarder (am I?), I do love shoes.  Sneakers, that is.  I love sneakers and, specifically, I love rail running shoes.  I already owned several pairs, but they'd been purchased or received as gifts because I believed they looked good not because I actually expected to log serious running miles while wearing them.  A few long runs definitely revealed that the shoes in my possession fell into the fashion-over-function category.

The obstacle in my need for new shoes was my father-of-two/homeowner wallet.  Thankfully, working in the outdoor industry does have its advantages and I didn't end up needing to spend the dollars I might have if I was in another line of work.

Once I had obtained a few likely candidates, I needed to test them and do so in a manner that fairly pitted one pair against the other so I could make an informed decision on which would serve me best.  To get right to the point, I never developed the required methodology.  I just ran in one and then moved on to the next.  Anyone who runs with any regularity knows that energy levels and strength can vary drastically from one day to the next and I knew I was passing false judgment based on tired legs that had little if anything to do with the shoes I was wearing.

Still, as time rolled along I found myself reaching for certain shoes more frequently while others began collecting dust or wordlessly made the conversion to everyday wear.

In the last weeks before race day, I narrowed it down to two finalists, Vasque Celerators and Montrail Mountain Masochists, and did a better job of putting them through similar paces.  The Masochists won out and did everything that was asked of them on October 10th.

Of course, shoes are still just shoes and they didn't make up for my usual lack of discipline in setting too fast an early pace. They weren't any protection against the aching shoulder that stems from continuing to hold my hands too high--as though I'm Carl Lewis instead of Plodder Lutz.  And, the Masochists brought no relief from the eventual spasming of my inherited bad back that came on shortly after mile 21 and accompanied me, off and on, for the remaining 10.1 miles.

Regardless of my other shortcomings, the Masochists provided the support and cushioning that I needed to get close enough to the finish to hear Lily cheering and see her "Go!!! Daddy,  Go!!!" sign.  At that point, flip flops would've been sufficient to deliver me across the line with an exhausted (but satisfied) smile.

Shoes, you gotta love 'em.


piper's inaugural run.

And so today it became official:  my daughters run.

Or, at the very least, they've both been taken for runs by their father.  And, thankfully, they seem to enjoy it.  At two-and-a-half, Lily Harper has been out with me in Pennsylvania's unpredictable spring, the all too predictable heat and humidity of summer and the cold chill of autumn and winter.  She's accompanied me on empty and crowded paths.  Even raced (if you checked my times, you'd challenge my right to use the term) in a 5K that began with an after-the-gun-had-fired-dash-from-the-men's-room start (a candidate for its own post).

This afternoon, (almost) eight month old Piper Bea experienced her first run on a cold and breezy November day.  I'm actually disappointed and slightly embarrassed that this is the first I've gotten Piper into the jogging stroller and out on the trail.  Lil and I used to get out frequently and today served as a reminder to not allow Piper Bea to miss out on special experiences now that my home and schedule have become even fuller.

I've had Lily laugh and chatter throughout a full run, but often early enthusiasm fades to a rhythm-induced nap.  Such was the case today for Piper and it was a blessing for us both.

 Poor Pipe has had (count 'em) one, two, three, four baby teeth pokily creeping toward poking through for what's now going on three weeks.  In the last day or two Piper's discomfort has increased tremendously and she'd struggled with a restlessness that has taken a toll on her, Lindsay (her mother) and myself. She hadn't gotten the uninterrupted naps that she craves and requires at this age.  Between a busy week of pre-holiday work, Thanksgiving engagements and attending to Piper, I hadn't been in running shoes since last weekend and both my mind and body were all too aware of that fact. With big sister Lily away for the weekend on a trip to the mountains with her Memma (my mother) and Lindsay putting in a rare weekend shift at the hospital, Piper and I had the afternoon all to ourselves.

All to ourselves and the teeth.

And that's when the solution became obvious.  A quick trip to the local gas station and its "free air" reinvigorated the tires on our lovely jogging stroller.  While Piper wasn't exactly laughing and chattering, she had stopped crying and was watching quietly and curiously as I hung up the air hose and lifted the stroller back up into the van.

A few moments later we arrived at the Lancaster Junction Rails-to-Trail to find a nearly deserted trailhead.  With a stiff breeze making mid-40's temperatures feel closer to freezing, I tucked a blanket around Piper (which initially made her angry), affixed the transparent weather shield to the stroller and off we went.  Settling into a comfortable pace and paying close attention to the path which fluctuates seasonally from a muddy track to a pitted, hard stroller-bumpfest, I attuned my ears for the sound of crying that thankfully never came.

We put in a slow but steady 4-and-a-half miles, cheerfully (and in my case, proudly) accepting the "isn't she adorable" compliment from the sole dogwalker braving the wind.  After a bit, traffic thinned out entirely and we had the path all to ourselves.  I heard barely a peep out of Pipe and suspected that she'd been lulled to sleep somewhere along the way.

I reveled in the fact that much like Lily and Daddy, Piper seemed to find her own brand of escapism in logging a few miles.  There's certainly a chance that neither one of them will have any interest in running as they get older and perhaps its being "Dad's thing" makes that likely, but I hope they'll at least have warm (even if foggy) memories of our time together.

I know I will.