Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer = Deer Flies

Battled the oppressive summer heat this afternoon...OK, it wasn't oppressive, but it was 75. First time it's been that warm since the Muddy Moose debacle. However, the heat wasn't the biggest challenge. A more worthy adversary is the deer fly. Or, in the case of this run, the dozens of deer flies. I managed to kill four of them. Each, more satisfying than the last. There really is something magical about the crunch when one of those little buggers goes down.

Route-wise, I headed for the Cathance River Trails, but I switched things up a bit. Instead of my usual loop, I stayed on the dirt roads to access the Ravine Loop, which is the loop that is furthest out in the system. It's a groovy singletrack trail that I don't get to run all that often.

As for how I felt, I'm going to go with OK, which leads me to my next point. As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven't been posting much of late. In fact, the number of blog posts is a direct correlation to how I'm feeling about my running. Lots of posts, everything is peachy. Few posts...not so much. Last week, was definitely in the not so much category. No idea what's going on. I only managed three runs last week. Yesterday, my run wasn't anything to write home about. The only way I can describe how I've been feeling lately is "unnatural." I can't find my groove. I thought I'd turned it around, but perhaps not. I do have a couple strategies to get back on the right track. Hopefully, they'll pan out. In the meantime, hopefully the post frequency will increase, but I don't plan on putting in any hard work or fast (for me) racing. In fact, my plans for the fall are even more up in the air. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Yesterday, I headed to Bradbury to run the Bradbury Bruiser course—twelve miles of twisty delicious singletrack. It was fairly warm and (surprisingly) sunny, but the majority of the run was in the shade and I was wearing my Nathan HPL 020 with 40 oz of HEED. I figured I was ready for the almost heat. But, almost immediately I knew that it wasn't going to be my day. Right from the start my legs felt heavy. I had a few moments in which I felt alive, but for the most part, I was dragging the entire way. When I got to the O Trail, I seriously contemplated skipping it, and that would have been the smart move. Instead, I was macho and pressed on. My run (and sometimes walk) through the O Trail wasn't pretty, but I finished eventually. And, then I peed eventually. Well, 96 oz of Gatorade and a couple hours later. That's never good.

Speaking of not good, that's sort of how I felt for the last few days (weeks). Perhaps I over did it last week. Perhaps I still am. Perhaps I'm a big wuss. (Perhaps it's blood loss from repeated kitten attacks.) Not sure what's going on really. Four minutes slower at the Scuffle this year, nearly dying on the Bruiser course, and just running generally slow. Is it possible I'm still recovering from the 50k? Or, did the training for the 50k make me slow and tired? Or is it something more sinister? Something's not right, and I need to figure it out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Highwater Trail, Evans Notch

Alternate titles for this post:
"The Out and Back that Kept on Going"
"I Could Have Sworn There was a Bridge Up Here Somewhere"
"Hmmmm...It's Getting Dark"

On Thursday, I had the chance to check out a trail I'd wanted to run for a long time. Well, at least since this winter. The Highwater Trail starts near the northern end of Evans Notch and follows the Wild River. But, the run was a spur of the moment decision, so I wasn't exactly what you would call prepared. I didn't get started until close to 6:30, but it stays light latish, right?. Plus, I was thinking that I could run out for two or three miles, hit a bridge, then head back on a trail on the other side of the river. Seemed like a good plan. Did I mention that I didn't have a map?

The trail is reasonably flat with a few sharp ups and downs where tributaries or drainages cut across the trail to the river. Makes for great running. So, ran I did. And, then ran some more. And kept running...and running...and running...and running. The bridge never materialized. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing because there isn't actually a trail on the other side either. My "memory" of the map was way off. I was pretty certain that I was just going to have to turn around and go back the way I came. Then I saw this:

I guess the writing was on the sign on the tree. Well, so much for 5 maybe 6 miles. I did make it back before it got dark...barely.

Short run today with D and my sister. It was short and on the road, but it was groovy. Long run planned for tomorrow.

In other news, if you want to know what life is like with a kitten: go here. That's exactly what she sounds like and that's exactly how she acts. Well, except for the spraying of poisonous goo. She does eat flesh.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Lot...For Me

Since I realized that I had tired legs during the Scuffle, I thought it best to just keep running hard.

Well, Monday I didn't run hard because I ran with Danielle. Five, easy miles, which was great for my recovery and a lot of fun. Pre-run pics here.

On Tuesday evening, I was finally able to make it to the TMR TNR at Twin Brook and tackle the dreaded stream of doom. The stream wasn't so scary, but the mud was quite prolific. Very, very squishy. With the addition of the sprints and a slightly faster pace than my usual, it was solid workout. It also confirmed what I was already thinking: I need to step it up. My easy runs have been entirely too easy. And, speed work/hard workouts would help. As far as the run goes, I'd have to say that Twin Brook is a groovy place to run, but it might take me a few times to figure out the official loop. I felt like I was on the same trail over and over again. Seems like a good excuse to me. I skipped the barefoot run at the end because I'm bucking the barefoot running trend just to be a contrarian.

At the TNR, Ian and Jim mentioned that they had a special torture in store for tonight: loops over Bradbury Mountain as part of their training for Escarpment. I was tentatively planning on running the Back Cove 5k, but running trails at Bradbury sounded way cooler than sprinting a flat 5k. So, I met them at Bradbury, and we did two loops of the modified Breaker course. I'm really glad that I did this run with those guys, but it was hard. It didn't feel far off from what I think will be my race pace on the big ups and downs. Like I said, I need to step it up.

It definitely helped running with people the last two nights. Kept me from being lazy. Hopefully, I'll be able to swing more group runs as I go forward. So, yeah, a lot of up tempo/harder running for me. I feel like I've proved to myself that I can put in the mileage and be healthy: MDI in the fall and Pineland 50k in the spring were huge steps up for me. Now, it's time to see if I can...well, get fast again. I'm not trying to get back to college fast...let's be realistic here..., but I'd like to think I could get faster than I am now. Maybe I'll even do some track work. (That's funny.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bradbury Scuffle - Race Report

As the craziness of life increases, the frequency of my blogging decreases. But, that doesn't mean I haven't been out on the trails. In fact, part of the craziness has been me squeezing in some great runs...in between working way too much this week. And, these runs were all leading up to the Bradbury Scuffle on Sunday.

The tale of this race really begins on Thursday with a great run through the Cathance River Preserve. Fully mojofied. More of the same on Friday, but this time I was on the trails at Great Glen...sort of. I started on the trails, followed some sweet singletrack that we don't really maintain anymore, and out onto the Auto Road. Then I had the brilliant idea to run up the Auto Road about 1/2 a mile to a trail that I knew used to exist, but I had never been on. Long story short, I ended up losing the trail and bushwhacking for about 30 minutes until I came back out on a trail I recognized, but no where near where I thought I was. I was bruised and cut up, but it was kind of fun. "Hmmm...which way should I go? Oh, look more bear scat. This must be the right way." Much harder than it should have been, but it was all about more mojo.

Perhaps, I'll get to the actual race report now...

D and I arrived early, and I helped Ian set up the start/finish banner. I lost about a pint and a half of blood to the mosquitoes—anti-blood doping at its finest. I did about a 15 minute warmup, and, frankly, felt tired. I was excited for the race, so I was hoping adrenaline would carry me through. I think just about everyone had the same plan at the start: get out fast to avoid getting boxed in. I executed this part of the plan to perfection, but I think it was a bit too fast. In fact, I was running pretty close to the 5k pace I'd running the last couple weeks. Not ideal, but not catastrophic. Once I turned onto the first section of single track I was alone. Every now and then, I could see and/or hear a group just ahead of me. I really wanted/knew I should put in a move to bridge the gap to them, but I already felt like I was going on the edge of too hard. I felt pretty solid when I was running alone, but eventually, the pace got to me. Near the end of Ginn, one guy passed me, but I hung with him for a while. He was pulling two guys along, and they stayed behind me...until they passed me just before the aid station. Last year, I made my race on the Snowmobile Trail. This year, it was just the opposite. I kept it together pretty well in the "second half," but it wasn't pretty. When it was uphill or sloppy, I was holding my own, but on the flat and downhill sections, I was getting crushed. I can wade through knee deep water with anyone, but just don't ask me to run fast. The three guys who passed me in Ginn steadily pulled away. I took a look over my shoulder shortly before I reached the Knight's Woods Trail, and I could tell I was getting reeled in. I just couldn't turn the legs over. Nothing. Right at the corner of the Knight's Woods Trail, a runner caught me, and there was this exchange:

"Hey, you're Ryan, right?"
"I read your blog."
"Uh oh, well, then take it easy on me."

Then, he was gone. It was nice to meet Nate, but he didn't really have to smoke me. Even if Nate had been walking, he would have smoked me at this point. I was pretty much all done. I tripped on a something, nearly went down, let out an expletive, and got passed by another guy. He offered the oh so telling, "Finish up strong." In other words, "Dude, you look like shit." The gradual, but lengthy, uphill on the Knight's Woods Trail was not treating me kindly, but I just tried to keep it together. I actually closed the suddenly shockingly wide gap that the latest passer had opened up, but not enough to even think about catching him. But, I kept pushing and was happy to cross the finish line. I finished in 18th place in 50:42, more than 4 minutes slower than last year. The course was probably a minute or two slower due to the greasy mud and knee deep puddles.

Overall, I'd give the race a B. The effort was good. Not the smartest strategy, but I pushed pretty hard. So, A- for effort. As for how I felt, C-...maybe D+. Tired legs. They just felt heavy. That being said, the race went exactly how I expected. I wasn't really set up to run fast, but I put in a good effort. And, that's really the most important. Would I like to have run faster? Absolutely, but I haven't done any training that would have lead to that type of result. But, again, I'm pleased with the effort, and I had a great time. Ian puts on one helluva race, and best of all there were twice as many finishers this year as there were last year. Hopefully, all the trail newbies will be back for more.

Time to start thinking about the Bradbury Breaker!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Really Easy, Then Kinda Hard

D and I ran 5 miles together in the Commons yesterday. It was nice and easy. It was funny when she thought we were running 10:45 pace. I knew it was a wee bit slower than that but don't discourage the pregnant lady. In fact, it was slow enough that my stride felt a bit wonky. That being said, it was fun to be running with her. Then I took her out for ice cream.

Tonight was a different story. My scheduling worked out that I was able to jump into the White Mountain Milers Summer Trail Series. It's listed as a trail race, but it's more of a cross country course. Everyone was up in arms about the muddy conditions. It was squishy in a couple spots for a few yards, but certainly nothing ugly. The course itself is 5k, but it is really two courses: A completely flat 1.25 miles to start and .5 miles to finish and a big climb and gradual downhill for the rest. I scoped the hard/fun part of the course beforehand on my warm up and formulated a plan to go out comfortably fast, mash the uphill, roll on the downhill and survive the final flat.

That's pretty much exactly how it went. I was surprised at how painful the first mile was then to only see 6:50 at the mile split. It felt like I was in slow motion. When I hit the hill, I dropped the two guys I was running with in the first 30 yards, caught up to a pack and passed a couple people. I kept pushing all the way to the top and was right behind a pack of 5. Two miles in 14:12, which was very pleasing to the eyes. I love it when a plan comes together. The trail got a bit more technical on the downhill, and I was able to move ahead of all but one of that group. Once on the flat, I was moving surprisingly well, but, let's face it, I have no speed. I held together quite well, though, and actually pulled away from all those I had just passed to finish in 21:32. Not bad considering the slippery conditions. (Did I mention the 8 million slippery roots on the course? Quite slick.) All in all, it was a solid effort. I held together quite well through the finish and stayed within myself—never really hurting all that much. My only limitation was lack of leg turnover...or no turnover whatsoever. Hopefully, my schedule will work out that I can hit a couple more of these this summer.

Post-race I had a chance to catch up with Kevin, who is a really bad blogger but a really good dude...he's also quite fast busting out 16:40ish or something ridiculous tonight. However, I did learn that if our 18-year-old selves raced each other, my 18-year-old self would whoop his ass. That was my ego boost for the day...then I remembered how slow and fat I've become. Oh well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Best. Run. Ever.

Not much to say about this morning's run. It was awesome. D summed it up really well.

In short, it was great to be out there with her, and I'm super-impressed with how well she's handling this whole pregnancy thing. But, yes, I was only out there to make sure she didn't crash or get lost.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hard Rain, Hard Running

Had a nice, easy run on Wednesday. Legs felt pretty good—a touch sluggish—after the previous day's run, which aside from Mt. Washington, had been my longest run since Pineland. That's kind of lame, but it was necessary. As I continued my search for mojo, I also decided on Wednesday to avoid what has become an all too familiar loop and ran out and back on the powerlines. Nice change.

Yesterday was the final week of the Trail Running Series at Great Glen Trails. I needed to run in order to qualify for the prize raffle (6 of 8 weeks), but I was raring to go, anyway. I wanted to put in one last hard effort. It was raining...hard. I warmed up and felt fairly crappy. Well, not crappy, just not sharp. The rain lessened slightly as I started my "race," but increased in intensity as I ran. I was very pleased with 80% of my effort. The mud and the puddles made it treacherous in places...and by treacherous, I mean fun. Since I was soaked instantly, I barely noticed the rain, and generally had a great time just working it! I didn't back off on a single uphill, which was really what I was looking for. I took chances on the downhills and covered a lot of ground. However, the 20% I wasn't thrilled with are the flats. It's pretty clear that I haven't done any speed work. I really just couldn't get up to any kind of "top speed." Well, I did have a "top pace," but it was no where close to "speed." I finished in 27:39, which is only a couple seconds slower than my fastest on that course, which is a pretty tough 3.5 or 3.6 or 3.7 miles. Had the conditions been drier/firmer, I'm certain I would have been about a minute faster...ah trail running. But, I'm not complaining, it was a good run, and I'm pleased with the effort.

I'm thinking about one more 5k workout next week before the Bradbury Scuffle next Sunday. I'm looking forward to the race, but I wish I had more speed under my belt. Oh well, it will just make it hurt more.