All posts by Eldon

From Office Chair to Half Marathon

Staying in shape was not a problem in my growing up years. Between working on the farm and playing with my friends at school, I did a good job of staying on the move.  But when I reached the age of 20, things started to change.  I started a business of fixing computers, something that soon was keeping me busy for long hours. Still, I found time to play softball one or two nights a week, plus some volleyball now and then.

By the time I hit 30, there were more changes.  I was a husband and a father, and other priorities had crowded out my playing of sports. Now it was just time at work and time with the family.  I got more into hunting and fishing, but that doesn’t add up to a whole lot when it comes to building physical fitness.  Life was great, but physically some undesirable things were happening.  By the time I was approaching 40, my waistline was steadily growing.  I could not run more than 50 feet or climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath.  It was time to take action.

In April of 2016, at age 39, I signed up for a local 5k, the Strawberry Stampede 5k.  I didn’t like running, but I had to do something.  And I still had enough of a competitive spirit that having the race on the calendar would keep me running even though I would hate it.  I used my vehicle to measure out a roughly 3.1 mile section of roadway, and I started to train.  At first, it was mostly walking, with a little running mixed in. It was brutal.  Before long, I started getting a variety of running aliments.  Sore calves.  Shin splints.  Runner’s diarrhea.  It seemed my whole body was unhappy with my decision to run.

Landry crosses the finish line

By the time race day arrived, I had worked through most of those ailments.  The race was brutal, like my training.  I pushed myself as hard as I could, but still had to walk much of the way.  I finished in about 30 minutes – right in the middle of the pack. I was delighted to get an award  for finishing second in my age group.  Then I realized that I was one of only two 30-39 year old males in the race, so the medal was basically a finisher’s medal.  My 9-year-old son Landry finished in around 27 minutes, good enough for first male under 12.

I still didn’t like running, but crossing that finish line was rewarding, and my competitive spirit kept me running for a few more weeks. I rewarded myself by purchasing a pair of Altra Instinct running shoes. Soon I found I could “run” the whole 3.1 mile distance.  It was quite slow, more like a jog, but nobody wants  to be a jogger, so I called it running.

And then the unthinkable happened:  I started to enjoy it. Running was still hard, but physically it started to pay off.  I had more energy. I didn’t need as much sleep. In fact, the amount of time I spent running was more than made up for by the extra time I was awake. I could actually sing in church without running out of breath or getting light-headed. Over time, running became easier and my speed increased.   In July I ran the Shippensburg Fair 5k and finished in 25:45.  In August I ran the Bremenfest 5k and finished in 24:45.

When Crystal turned 40, she and I had taken an overnight trip to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to celebrate.  With my 40th birthday looming, it was my turn to decide on a destination.  When I stumbled on the Runner’s World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, PA, I knew that was the place.

Crystal ran the 5k and I ran the 10k.  I had set a goal of finishing it in under 50, and it took everything I had to finish in 49:48. It was probably a bit too ambitious of a goal, because within a few minutes after crossing the finish line, I had a severe case of IT band syndrome that left me hobbling for a day or two and then fighting with it during my runs for several weeks.

On thanksgiving day Crystal, Landry and I all ran the Greencastle Turkey trot.

Then I took the plunge and signed up for the Chambersburg Half Marathon, which was scheduled for March 11, 2017.  My plan was to train for distance and use the Chambersburg Half as a training run to prepare for the Garden Spot Village Marathon in April.  But my plans took a turn for the worse in December when I rolled my ankle during a run and pain shot through my knee.  I suspect I had a mild LCL sprain.  I never got it diagnosed, but it made running more than a mile impossible for about a month.  It was February before I could start building mileage again.  I still wanted to run the half, but I knew it was foolish to plan for a full marathon in April.

I had to ramp up my mileage rather quickly in order to be ready for race day.  I did weekly long runs of 6, 8, and 10 miles in the weeks leading up to the half marathon in addition to my usual two 3-mile runs each of those weeks.  Somehow, I made it to race day without any further problems.  I knew better than to set an ambitious goal this time, so I decided to shoot for a 9 minute mile pace, which would put me at the finish line in just under two hours.

Race day turned out to be cold.  At the starting line, it was about 18 degrees F and 10 degrees with the wild-chill factored in.  I had never run a race in this kind of weather but somehow I ended up wearing just the right amount of clothing.  Once I started running, I was comfortable. The easier pace made it a very enjoyable race.  I felt great until about mile 12.  At that point, my legs started telling me it was time to stop.  But I kept them moving and crossed the finish line in 1:57:54.  My family was cheering me on as I approached the finish line.  By the time I had collected my finisher’s medal, they had escaped to the vehicle to warm up.  Landry collected a few video clips and put together a nice highlight reel of the race.

Running has been a life-changing experience for me. It has become a form of therapy.  My weekend long run is something I look forward to all week. Running is a time to enjoy nature, to reflect, and even to worship.  And in the process of doing something I enjoy, I’ve lost 25 pounds and feel about as good physically as anytime I can remember.

This Saturday, I plan to once again run the Strawberry Stampede 5K, the race that started it all a year ago.   My goal will be the same as it was a year ago, to cross the finish line.


Note: Because running is a bit off-topic for my Great Cove Adventures YouTube Channel, I have started separate channel for my running-related videos.  To visit and subscribe, click here

Day Trip to Seneca Rocks

Somehow on the eve of Memorial Day we still didn’t have any plans of how to spend the day, so I took to the Internet to find a good day trip. I ran across Seneca Rocks, a hiking and rock-climbing destination in West Virginia. I don’t have interest in hanging from a rock face on a rope, but we enjoy hiking. I remembered from a field trip our school had taken there years ago that there was a nice hiking trail and a lookout.

So I gave each family member a motion sickness pill and headed out immediately after breakfast on the winding 3 hour trip into the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. Upon arrival we ate a snack and then headed up the mountain. The trail to the top was about 1.5 miles with a 1000 ft elevation gain, so it was good for the cardiovascular system. At the end of the trail was nice lookout and a sign admonishing non-rock climbers not to go any further. Rock-climbers, of course, don’t bother with the hiking trail at all but scale the rock face directly from the bottom.

We finished off our picnic lunch and then hiked back to the bottom. Then we paid a visit to the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center where we watched a video about how the area was used for rock-climbing training during WWII. The building also had a large deck where those with good eyesight could spot some rock-climbers on the rock face above.

This destination is definitely worth a day trip. Be aware that there are only a few nearby places to eat, so you might want to pack a lunch. Also, you might want to pack a fly rod and enjoy the nearby trout stream.

UPDATE 06-27-2016: Landry put together some footage to create a nice video of our adventure. Take a look below.

Trout Season Begins

As usual, the boys were looking forward to the beginning of trout season. The Pennsylvania counties are separated into two regions with each of those having a separate opening day. Trout season in the southeastern counties starts two weeks prior to the season in the rest of the state. Also, in both regions there is a Mentored Youth Day as well, which is the Saturday before trout season begins. We are lucky enough to live close to the dividing line between these two regions, so we can easy participate in the mentored and opening days in both regions. Here are a few photos and videos of some of the catches and scenery we got to enjoy the last few weeks.

Return to the 1000 Steps

After a few cold weeks, Sunday we had some spring-like weather. My family and I took advantage of it by taking a trip to the 1000 steps.  As it turned out, a lot of other people had the same idea; the parking lot was nearly full.

In spite of having to pass a lot of other hikers going up and down, it was a great hike.  Upon reaching the top, we hiked out to the locomotive shed and the western overlook.

The trail-head for the thousand steps is located on route 22 about two miles west of Mount Union.  This is where the road follows the Juniata River through a narrow gorge known as Jack’s Narrows with high ridges on either side.

This was named for a trader by the name of Jack Armstrong who lived in the 1700s.  It was near this location in February of 1744 where Jack and his two servants were killed by Indians after a dispute over a horse.

1000Steps 12The steps were built in the 1930s by miners who climbed the mountain each day to work in the quarry. Sandstone mined from the quarry was taken to Mt Union where it  was made into  bricks. At one time Mt Union was the largest producer of silica bricks in the world.

1000Steps 4How long it takes to climb the steps depends on how physically fit you are but for most people will take between twenty minutes and one hour. At each 100-step interval you’ll see a number of painted on the rocks to tell you how many steps you’ve climbed.

Turn right or left at the top of the stairs to  continue exploring. Turning to the right will take you to a lookout that will allow you to catch a glimpse of the town of Mt Union.  If you turn left the path will lead you to a concrete building. This building housed the locomotive that moved the sandstone from the quarry to the bottom of the mountain.

If you still have some energy left, climb the steps beside the building that lead a little higher up the mountain. After a short climb you’ll come to trail that  leads further west along the mountainside.  After walking about half a mile you’ll come to a lookout that allows you to see the town of Mapleton along with the railroad, route 22 and the Juniata River.

If you’re in the south central region of PA and you’re looking for interesting hike, you definitely will want to visit the 1000 steps.  In fact, you might like it so well that you’ll find yourself making the trip every year.

 

Our Honeymoon in Hawaii

On February 12, 2005 – a little over 11 years ago – I married the love of my life. Crystal and I left the following day for an eight-day honeymoon in Hawaii. In the days following our return, I had written a day-by-day account of that trip.  Today, after some searching through old backup discs, I was able to find that account, and I’m re-posting it here.  Enjoy!


Our Hawaiian Honeymoon

Sunday

Today was a long day of traveling. We crawled out of bed about 3:45 and took the shuttle bus to the airport. Our first flight left at 6:05. The plane ride was long and uneventful. After a layover in Phoenix, we left for Honolulu. Within a few seconds after takeoff, two explosion-type noises were heard, one on each side of the plane.

A stewardess came on the loudspeakers and said that the flight crew was aware of the noises and were searching for a cause. A short time later the captain informed us that the plane was being diverted to Los Angeles airport, where we would do a fly-by of the tower, allowing the people on the ground to alert the flight crew of any problems with the landing gear.

La'aloa Beach Park #2The fly-by didn’t show any problems, so our plane circled and landed. Dozens of emergency vehicles, including several ambulances and fire trucks, were near the runway awaiting our arrival. Applause broke out in the cabin when the wheels were on the ground. A fire police followed the plane as it taxied down the runway.

After hours of frustration and waiting in ticket lines, we took an American Airlines flight directly to Kona, HI from Los Angeles.

We arrived around midnight Hawaiian time, and finally went to bed about 1 pm – twenty-six hours after getting out of bed in the morning.

Monday

Place of Refuge #8

“Place of Refuge”

We slept in today, and then went shopping for a few essentials. Around lunchtime we traveled to the Pu’uhonua Honaunau State Park (also called Place of Refuge) and tried snorkeling at the nearby Honaunau Bay (also called Two-Step Beach). Once I got used to breathing through a plastic tube, I was hooked. Although the sheltered part of the bay I was in isn’t known for good snorkeling, I spotted dozens of fish and and a few large green sea turtles. Crystal didn’t fare so well. Her mask didn’t fit well, and water kept leaking in.

Tuesday

We left our apartment at about 9 am and headed south. We stopped at Kona Boys (the rental shop) to get a new mask for Crystal and a two-seat Kayak. We stopped at Honaunau Bay where Crystal tried out her mask. It wasn’t perfect, but worked much better than the old one. Then, we drove up a narrow one-lane road to Kealakekua Bay.

Hawaii 022

Kealakekua Bay

After a Hawaiian helped us launch our kayak, we paddled across the bay to the Captain Cook Monument. We spent several hours there eating our lunch, snorkeling, and just relaxing on the large boulders. The scenery under the water was amazing! There were colorful coral and fish everywhere. Schools of fish would swim by so close you could nearly reach out and touch them. Within an hour we had used up the film of our underwater camera.

In the afternoon we left the bay and returned our kayak. After we cleaned up and rested up at our apartment, we drove up to the visitor’s center on Mania Kea. We had hoped to travel to the snow-covered summit, but because I badly underestimated the travel time it was already dark when we arrived at the visitor’s center.  We each had some hot chocolate and looked through the telescopes at various stars and planets. Then we headed back to our apartment.

Wednesday

Today we drove an hour or two up the coastline and visited Hapuna Beach. As usual, we had to fight a lot of traffic, and the drive seemed longer than it was. There we spent most of the afternoon sun bathing and walking on the beach. We also swam and played in the waves for a short time.

We waited until the sun went down to get some sunset pictures, and then returned to Kona. We ate at Denny’s before returning to our apartment.

Thursday

Today we slept in and then visited the Volcanoes National Park. The drive was a bit tiresome, but it was worth it. We viewed the craters and steam vents near the top of the mounting before descending the Chain of Craters road to the sea. From the end of the road, we hiked about forty minutes to view some lava flows. The surface flows were interesting, but the more spectacular sight was where the lava flowed in the sea.

Friday

This morning we spent some time at the Kahalu’u Beach, just a mile south of our apartment. Crystal rested on the beach while I snorkeled. The coral in this area wasn’t spectacular, but there were plenty of fish and sea turtles.

State Park #5

Kekaha Kai State Park

After my snorkeling session, we traveled about ten miles north of Kona to a secluded beach at Kekaha Kai State Park. For much of the time we had the beach to ourselves, or at least the portion visible to us. I started to feel sick to the stomach after an hour or so in the sun, so I left Crystal to soak up my share of the sunshine and took a nap in the shade.

We had planned to hike to one or two other beaches that were within walking distance of the one we visited, but it was getting late by the time my nap was finished, so we headed back to Kona and ate some excellent food at Pancho Lefties.

Saturday

We left at mid-morning and stopped at Wendy’s for brunch. Then we continued to Honaunau Bay and put our snorkel equipment to use one last time. The bay was a bit rough, especially getting in and out of the water. Crystal stayed in the more sheltered area. I ventured into the rough water for a few minutes, then returned and put on a life jacket for the remainder of the time. The fish weren’t as plentiful as in Kealakekua Bay, but the coral was beautiful.

After soaking up some sun, we again drove into Pu’uhonua Honaunau State Park and hiked the “1871 trail” before returning to Kona.

Sunday

Kona Airport

Kona Airport

Today we cleaned up the vacation rental and checked out around 11 a.m. We visited White Sands Beach (the one without any sand) near our vacation rental, and then made various stops around town until our late-afternoon flight. One of the highlights was a stop at Jamba Juice, where we purchased some delicious smoothies. The picture to the right is Kona Airport.

Our tour guide

We owe our success in finding our way around the big island of Hawaii almost entirely to a book loaned to us by a family member. “Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed” was a big help, guiding us to the best beaches, snorkeling locations, and other places of interest. The information was accurate and useful. In one case, it warned of a rip tide at a snorkeling location, even correctly specifying the direction the current would carry me. The information is categorized by geographical region, letting you explore more while driving less.

A Night in the Igloo

Tent camping in cold weather never seemed very appealing to me, but for a long time I’ve wanted to spend a night in an Igloo.  Thanks to winter storm Jonas, I finally got that opportunity this year.

The 2010 Igloo

The 2010 Igloo

The first time I built an igloo was after the blizzard of 2010.  The snow was powdery and it took several hours of spraying down snow with water and packing it before I got it constructed.  That structure was too small for camping, but Landry and I were able to have a picnic inside.

When the forecast called for a blizzard this year, my boys started talking about building an igloo.  I told them I wouldn’t be doing it unless the snow was wet and packed easily.  But after Jonas dumped two feet of light, powdery snow, I changed my mind and built it anyway.  Igloo 4Like before, it took a lot of water and a lot of work.  This time I made it large enough for three people to spend the night. The end result was a bit odd-shaped; it wasn’t perfectly round like the igloos you see in a story book.

At first the igloo was not very sturdy, but as the week went on we got a few days of warmer weather that caused the snow to soften and then harden again at night.  I also took some opportunities to pack more wet snow onto the structure.  But the end of the week, the igloo was very sturdy.

Igloo 1On Friday night we decided it was time to put it to use.  The nighttime temperature was forecasted to get down to about 15 degrees, so the challenge was going to be staying warm.  Our sleeping bags were cheap ones, not rated for winter weather, so I wasn’t sure they’d keep us warm with each of us in separate bag and not benefiting from each other’s body heat.  So we used blankets instead. I covered the floor of the igloo with a piece of plastic, and then put a piece of egg-crate foam and a blanket on top of that.  Landry, Camden, and I laid on that and used three more heavy blankets on top.  I also draped a folded blanket over the doorway tunnel to help keep the cold air from coming in.  Cullen, our youngest son, wanted to join us, but there wasn’t enough room, and I wasn’t sure if he’d stay still enough to stay under the blankets.

It turned out to be a reasonably comfortable night.  Our body heat warmed up the interior to the point that a few drops of water fell from the ceiling. Igloo 3 A more perfectly shaped ceiling would have caused the water to run down the walls instead of dripping, but it wasn’t enough to cause a problem.  But by the middle of the night the dripping stopped, meaning that the interior temperature had fallen some, but as morning came it started again as it began to warm up.

Igloo 5I’m not sure I’m ready to strike out into the wilderness to go igloo camping, but as long as I’m a short distance from a warm house, I’ll be ready to do it again the next time winter sends us a bunch of snow to work with.

 

Steelhead Fishing in Erie, PA – December 2015

Bicentennial Tower in Erie, PA

Bicentennial Tower in Erie, PA

Each of the past two years I have traveled to Erie, PA with some fishing buddies to fish for steelhead.  This year, Crystal and I decided to change things up a little and take the whole family.  We have three sons ages four, six, and eight who love to fish; and I wanted them to have  chance to hook into a steelhead.  I went into this knowing that it would be challenging.  Steelhead fishing is something that can require a good bit of patience.  I’ve fished as long as two days straight without catching anything, and with the family along I knew fishing time would be much more limited.  So we went on the trip hoping to have some family fun with a chance of a bonus fish or two.

Day 1

We traveled up in the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 16.  We arrived in Erie around 8 am and started the day with a trip to Poor Richard’s Bait and Tackle, which is always our first stop.  The guys there can give you some general advice about where to look for fish and what they are likely to bite on.

Next we did some scouting to find some good fishing spots.  We first went down to Trout Run to show the boys the steelhead that are typically stacked up in the creek near the mouth.  We hoped to do a bit of fishing in the lake there (trout run itself is off-limits for fishing), but there were probably 20 anglers already standing in the lake and nobody seem to be catching, so we moved on.

Our next stop was at Elk Creek.  We hiked over the ridge and down to the mouth of the creek.  I did some fishing while the boys looked for sea shells and other treasures along the shoreline.  The water was low and clear and there were no fish to be found.

Raccoon Park

Raccoon Park

From there we checked out Crooked Creek and Raccoon Creek. There were some anglers fishing the riffles upstream from the no-fishing area in Crooked Creek and reportedly were catching a few. However, the terrain was not family-friendly at all so I decided it was as spot for me to try later by myself.  We ate a picnic lunch at Raccoon creek and was surprised to find a few fish in the creek near the mouth.  However, they didn’t seem to be hungry for anything I threw at them.

Boys with SteelheadAfter lunch we headed to Homewood Suites at the Millcreek Mall complex where we had reserved a room.   I left Crystal and our four-year-old son there and left with the older two boys to check out spots on Elk and Walnut.   We found some fish and Landry and Camden each were able to pull in a steelhead by the time the day was over.  Both fish were caught on egg sacks.

Day 2

The weather was unseasonably warm the next day just as it had been the day before.   I took the whole family down to the creek and by lunchtime Crystal and Landry each were able to land a steelhead.  Four-year-old Cullen had one on as well, but had to hand the rod off to me when his arms got tired.  All three fish were caught on skein.

Tom Ridge Environmental CtrAfter lunch we headed down to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center for some educational time.  We watched a video about Presque Isle and climbed the tower to have a better look at the area.  We then drove out on the peninsula to get some views of the bay and Lake Erie.

Day 3

steelhead on the fly rodThe weather turned colder on day three.  I took the older two boys out in the morning.  By 9 o’clock they each had caught one fish and were ready to get out of the cold.  I dropped them at the hotel and fished myself until just after lunch, landing two more, one of those on the fly rod.

In the evening we spent a few hours at the Splash Lagoon indoor water park.  It was a great experience for the whole family that we won’t forget anytime soon.

Day 4

Steelhead fishing in the snowBy morning some lake-effect squalls had blanketed the ground with 2-4 inches of snow.  I got to the creek just as it got light and never saw another angler.  It’s hard to remember when I had a more enjoyable time fishing.  I fished until 9:30, landing six fish and losing several more.   After landing four on single eggs, I switched to the fly rod and landed two more on a nymph.

After lunch we made a very cold and windy visit to the top of the Bicentennial Tower before heading for home.

Equipment Used

Rod: Okuma Connoisseur CQ-S-862M-1 Steelhead Rod
Reel: Quantum Optix 20 Spinning Reel
Line: 6 lb. Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon

Fly fishing outfit: Wild Water 5/6 Starter Package

Shout-outs

Rarely is a fishing trip successful without help from others, and this time was no exception.  As usual, the guys at Poor Richard’s Bait and Tackle were helpful in deciding what to use for bait.  Jack York’s web site and video channel contain great information for anybody trying to learn more about steelhead fishing.  Last but not least, thanks to the fly fisherman who gave us the tip to look for fish farther upstream, and also the one who shared a nymph and some fly fishing tips.  You made our trip a great one!