Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cramping my Style, but Still Stylin'

Normally, my lack of posts means all is not well in the land of Ryan. Quite the contrary this time, the running is going runningly (not swimmingly) and things are groovy—just busy. So, tragically, your life is left with a void due to my lack of blogging.

Come with me now in a journey through my training log over the last week or so...

I closed out last week with two short runs. The first on Thursday was an out and back on the powerlines from home in what I logged as "almost hot" conditions. Not sure what that means, but I do remember being low on energy because I ate very little all day. Yes, I'm an idiot. Saturday, I was not only idiotic, but unlucky. I found myself in the big city (Portland) for a chunk of the afternoon, so I decided to tour the famous Back Cove. Unfortunately, I made it there just after it had stopped raining, and the sun was blaring at it's maximum intensity. It was way too hot out there. Had I started 30 minutes earlier, it would have been perfect. Either way, I managed a semi-quick, but comfortable clockwise lap in 27:50. Seemed just right for the effort and the heat.

Sunday started this week off with a bang with a great run at Bradbury with some of the crew, including Jim, Shauna, Mindy, Valerie and Yana. Floyd made a brief appearance, but was quickly lost as the Bradbury trails tend to swallow him up. Mindy, being the uber-motivated over achiever that she is, had already run one lap of the Scuffle course when we headed out, and proceeded to run two more full laps. She is an animal. I ran one full lap, and a slightly truncated second—no Knight's Woods trail on the return, which I'm calling 11.5. I felt great the whole way—nice and relaxed—but the 127% humidity combined with the still-not-fully-recovered-from-roasty-toasty effort on Saturday was taking its toll. So, I decided to cut it short and finish on a high note rather than limp into the finish. All in all, an awesomely soggy two hours on the trails. I also feel like I did a better job with my fueling: more consistent. I think that on long runs I need to make sure I down a gel or Shot Bloks every half hour, regardless. I'd been falling into the trap of "Oh, I feel fine, I can go a little longer," and then not having enough energy in the latter stages of the runs.

The rest of this week has been three shortish runs, and I've felt great on all of them. There's a little bit of the lost spring in my step, and I've felt great afterward. I even spontaneously added a .5 mile section of singletrack to my run last night at Great Glen Trails. I was headed one way, then all of a sudden, I found myself banging a right into Outback. It was just too nice out not to extend the run. Good stuff all around.

The only negative that I've discovered is some cramping on my afternoon runs. Nothing major, but definitely noticeable. No problems on my morning runs, because, presumably, I've eaten much less. The belly has been less happy in the PM. Sympathy cramps? Not a huge deal, but it's happened enough times that it's more than a coincidence. The problem is: I'm always hungry. If I don't eat throughout the day, I'll never have the energy to get through my run. I'm going to start monitoring my food intake, both what and the timing, and see if I can discover a pattern.

The biggest news of the week is my new shoes. I might marry them. Don't tell the missus. More on those later.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Hawt

Well, summer is finally here. Running when the temps are in the 80's has never been my preference. It does remind me of training during summers home from college back in the day, which is kind of fun.

Today, I headed for the Commons for 5 miles. I was a bit sweaty. I did manage to take out 5 deer flies, which eases the heat momentarily each time. But, it was obvious I was feeling the heat. I thought I was running much faster than I was. The loop is about 5.1-5.2, and I clocked 44:16. Felt more like 38:16. Ugh. I wrung out my shirt before I drove home. Yuk.

I've brought water with me on the last two runs. We got D a handheld bottle so she can stay hydrated on her runs now, so I thought I'd try it out. Overall, it's not bad. It does only leave me with one hand to kill deer flies, but the hydration is worth the trade off. I always know it's there, but it's not annoying. The bottle holder we have is only 10 oz, and I'm not sure I'd want to go any larger. No idea how some ultra-types run with two 20+ ouncers. Maybe I need to do some curls.

For all you runofiles out there, are you aware that the World Championships are going on right now? Yeah, I barely was myself. I've watched a bit, but not much. Compare this to my eyeballs being glued to the tube for the Tour de France, and it's a bit sad. But, I have some theories:

1. The coverage: I know I've complained about television coverage of track & field before, but it absolutely kills me. Tom Hammond could be in a coma and be more excited than he sounds. Plus, he's not particularly knowledgeable. Add that to the least imaginative coverage ever, and you get mediocre television. Compare that to the greatest sports commentary team of all time, Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, covering the Tour, and it's no contest. I do have a number of ideas to improve the coverage, but that's for another post.

The one bright spot for me is Ato Boldon. He does a pretty solid job with the sprints. Plus he said this following Bolt's WR: "There's is no one on this planet or any other that we know of..." who has ever gone that fast. That's awesome. He can't pull off those specs, though.

2. Lance: He's a media phenomenon. People are drawn to him. Both positively and negatively. The ratings were up some ridiculous amount this year worldwide. Lance had pretty much everything to do with that. On the flip side, track has Usain Bolt. From a media perspective, he's very similar to Lance in every way. BUT...he's no on the track for very long. If you include the qualifying rounds in the 100 and 200 meters, you can only watch him for less than 2 minutes. He;s absolutely electric in both his perfomance and personality, but he's no where to be found during the women's discus. The closest we've had is Dan vs. Dave. Ooops.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bradbury Breaker - Not Race Report

In light of recent events, I participated in the Bradbury Breaker, but I didn't race. Due to a scheduling conflict, I missed this race last year, so next year, I hope to actually race it. But, this time around, I knew that an easy run would be the best course of action. I convinced Mindy that running easy was better than not running at all, so I had great company the whole way through.

D and I arrived at Bradbury early, so she could help with registration. Since I wasn't racing, I had no need to warm up or sequester myself away from the crowd, so I decided to help, too. Before too long, it was only 3 minutes to the race start, so I jogged over to the start line in time to hear the last half of Ian's pre-race announcements. Then again, I would have heard more of announcements had I not met Chuck and Katy in the crowd. We spent more time making bacon jokes than actually listening. Then, all of a sudden, a cowbell rang, and we were off. Well, we were sort of off. We jogged a couple steps, and then bottlenecked onto the actual trail.

Once we were through the bottleneck, the four of us ran together for most of the first lap. Chuck zipped around taking photos, and we chatted the entire way. At some point on the Tote Road, Katy decided that she wanted to run faster than Mindy and I, and off she and Chuck went. Oh well, no more paparazzi photos. The rest of the run was a mix of serious topics, such as VH1 reality shows, and less serious topics, like running. Mindy and I had perfectly matched pace goals, i.e. none, and aside from the heat and humidity, we had a great time cruising along. Kevin caught us on our second trip down the Tote Road, and he looked really strong as he zipped past. We caught back up to him on the climb up the mountain, but he cruised past us on his way to the finish. Mindy and I joked about elaborate ways to finish, such as backwards holding hands, but opted for the traditional jog and smile. I forgot to stop my watch, which should be the perfect indication of how great a run it was. Thanks, Mindy!

Post-race we had lunch with some friends from the AT: Hairball and Snowbunny, and then it was off to Ian's parents' place on the ocean for a barbecue. Pretty much the perfect day.

As soon as I finished, I knew that running easy was the right choice. I felt great the whole way, and I felt great afterward. That being said, I did feel a little bad about going to a race and not actually racing. A lot of people ran hard, and a lot of work went into putting the race together. The least I could do was hammer. But, I had to do what was right for me long term on this one. I know that if I had gone hard, it probably would have set me back three weeks. If all goes according to plan, I'll be ready to race at the Bradbury Bruiser.

As a follow up, D and I had a great trip over Morse Mountain to Seawall beach on Monday. What a great spot! And, despite the heat, I had a great run today. Just an easy, three mile shake out, but it feels like things are on the right track. Part of that is definitely the dietary change. Apparently, quality not quantity makes a big difference. The secret? Meatball sandwiches:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where Am I?

(If you're reading this through Facebook, you should jump on over to the official blog so you can see the vids. They really tie it all a fine wine.)

Hopefully, you haven't forgotten about me. I'm still alive and kicking. Perhaps, you thought I was deep in mourning over the loss of John Hughes. How could I not be bummed out about that? His movies have pretty much shaped my entire world view. Well, that and fourteen years of Catholic school. It's not the loss of John Hughes that has kept me from blogging. The cause is closer to a lack of running.

In the last mile or so of the Bitch to Bacon, I felt a slight twinge in my right calf. Perhaps, it was karmic for the trickeration I played on Carter. Either way, I didn't think much of it until later that afternoon, when it was tight, lumpy and screaming. Yup, another calf strain. This one didn't pop, so I wasn't overly concerned. Luckily, we headed to Baxter the next day, and I wasn't planning on running. However, I was planning on doing a long run in the park, but scratched that plan. Worked out fine, though, as D and I spent the whole time together, so I wasn't too disappointed. The calf felt OK on our hikes. Not 100%, but not bad. I was hopeful, it would clear up quickly.

I did a short run on Thursday, and it still felt squacky. And, overall, I felt pretty terrible. Then, I took 5 days off. I was really busy at work, including a near all-nighter due to the 24 Hours of Great Glen. That's just an excuse, though, because my motivation was in the toilet...and flushed. Complete and total disinterest in running. I have no idea what happened. Could this still be related to my bruising? Or is this a new funk? I did run today and yesterday, and both runs were...meh. I still feel somewhat unnatural. Nothing is flowing. It's very odd. As much as I've been mentally disinterested in running, it seems that I'm equally physically interested. That being said, I will be participating in the Bradbury Breaker this weekend. Certainly, not racing, but I will be running. It will be my longest run since the aforementioned bruising, so yeah...expect big things.

That being said, I have a plan.

The first part of the plan is to keep running when it's fun. Fun and only fun. And only when I feel like it. No pressure. I might try to squeeze in more hiking. I could tell on our hikes in Baxter that I'm really lacking the strength I had from hiking last summer. We hiked a lot last summer, and I think it was really good cross training.

Speaking of strength, I've been doing push-ups. (Don't ask how many.) I'm hoping they're the gateway drug to actual core work. That's part two.

The third and most important part is a dietary adjustment. No, I'm not going raw. In fact, I'm sort of going the other way: more protein. I gained weight this winter and spring...while training for a 50k! That doesn't make sense, until you realize my can-a-day Pringle habit. OK, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was close. When your diet is 60% Carbs, 35% Fat and 5% protein, you're going to get fat. I'm not overly surprised this happened. I was training a lot, so I was hungry. Of course, my previous experience with this phenomenon was in college.

Typical day:
8:57: Wake up.
9:18: Eat Pop-tart, granola bar, Power bar, cold pizza or whatever wasn't too mashed into the couch while walking to class
9:30: Class
11:00: Lunch
12:00: Still Lunch
1:00: Keep Lunching
1:47: Pry myself away from lunch.
2:00: Class
3:30: Practice, i.e. run a lot
6:00: Dinner
7:00: Keeping dinnering
7:30: Dining hall official closed, but grab whatever was leftover that they didn't plan on serving for lunch the next day.
7:59: Get kicked out of dining hall.
8:00: "Study"
8:23: Get food from one of any number of on campus eateries
9:00: "Study"
9:43: Walk to Dunkin Donuts
10:30: "Study"

Well, you get the idea. I ate a lot. And often. I weighed 135 pounds. Apparently, you metabolism slows in your thirties. Who knew?

Now, this isn't some kind of body image crisis. Although, those women are all airbrushed, you know! My weight is perfectly reasonable for a healthy guy, but not for someone who wants to run slightly faster than slowly. So, I'm making some adjustments. More healthy protein. Fewer fatty snacks. A bit of a carb watch. There is some science behind this, as I've read a number of "Diets for Runners" articles. I've taken what I've liked and adapted it for me. I'm also hoping this will give me more energy. We'll see.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baxter State Park

If you haven't been to Baxter State Park, you need to go. Something is missing from your life. It's that awesome.

D and I were thrilled to be returning this year, and our three days in the park didn't disappoint. Last year, marked the end our of self-imposed ban from Baxter. When we were planning our hike of the Appalachian Trail, one of things we were looking forward to most was walking into Baxter to summit Katahdin. It didn't work out exactly the way we planned. Instead of finishing in 2005, it took us until 2008. But, the culmination of our journey atop Katahdin was no less sweet, but it did delay our return. This time around, we had a mellow trip planned, since D is carrying some extra cargo. Then again, mellow can be a relative term.

We hit the road on Sunday morning—fueled by Tim Hortons, of course. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the park and another half hour to arrive at our base camp, Daicey Pond Campground. It was a cushy trip for us: we were staying in a cabin. Sure, no running water or electricity, but no tent either. Plush. Unfortunately, we couldn't check in right away, so we headed up to Kidney Pond to eat lunch and get in a hike of Sentinel Mountain.

Despite mostly cloudy skies and one pesky plume atop Katahdin, we had terrific views from the ledges of Sentinel Mountain. And, in case you're wondering, D was the only 7-months pregnant woman on the summit that day. We moved a little slower than normal, in other words I could actually keep up with her. I also had to help her maneuver over some tricky spots, but all in all, she trucked right along—even passed a few people. I was pretty impressed. She kept apologizing for how slow we were going. That's D.

It started to rain just as we returned to Daicey Pond, so we scurried to get everything into the cabin. Things stayed mostly dry and we cooked dinner and relaxed on the porch of cabin #7, Loon Lodge. Like I said, plush.

Monday dawned clear, and we traveled to the northern end of the park to South Branch Pond Campground. When I say "traveled," I really mean traveled. The roads in Baxter are "unimproved," and we drove for more than an hour and a half to reach our destination. The mud on the side of the car was epic. (Sadly, D washed it today. Lame.) Our plan was to do a loop hike over both peaks of South Branch Mountain and down around the South Branch Ponds.

In order to reach the trail, we had to cross the outlet of Upper South Branch Pond. It was knee deep...on me. What a way to start! The climb to the north peak of South Branch Mountain was fairly stout. Plus, it was slippery. It was also clear that the trail received little traffic. That being said, the forest was beautiful—lush and green. We eventually reached the summit and stopped for lunch. We briefly debated turning around and cutting the hike short, but that's not her style. In just a short while, we were thrilled with our decision. We reached the south peak of South Branch Mountain and the views were stunning. The summit was akin to an open meadow, and we had clear view of the Travelers, the Peak of the Ridges and the Hamlins and Katahdin in the distant south. It took us a long time to leave. Luckily, the descent was also spectacular. The trail wound through open meadows affording more great views. Not a bad day on the trail.

Eventually, we reached the wooded section of trail, and we took a break. We'd been on the trail for over 4 hours, and D was tiring. A snack break, a regroup, and we were on our way. Slowly, but still moving along. We reached the southern end of Lower South Branch Pond and were once again rewarded with terrific views. But, not until we had waded through the muddy, squishy inlet to the pond. We soon junctioned with the Pogy Notch Trail and began the long 2-mile walk back to the campground. A few more stops along the route, but after five and a half hours, we were done. We cooled off with a wade into the pond, and it was time to eat. Today was a bit tougher, and perhaps we pushed our luck, but D did great. Once again, most impressive.

Another hour and a half drive back to Daicey Pond, and it's time to build a fire. Excessive, yes, but we had to eat. After way too much smoke in my eyes, dinner was served—sausages with veggies. And they are best served on a picnic table, lakeside. And, we needed only walk a few paces to see the day's last rays of light on Katahdin. I told you Baxter was cool.

Our last day was preceded by a very sound night's sleep. Very sound. No hiking on the docket for this day. It would have been a shame to stay at Daicey Pond and not canoe on the actual pond. So, paddle we did. The pond is small, so it only took us an hour, but it was an hour well spent. We packed up the car and slowly made our way out the park. We stopped for a short walk out to Grassy Pond...and more great views. Then, one final stop for lunch at Abol Pond, and we were on our way. Yup, a fantastic three days, and our last vacation together with just the two of us for a very long time. I sure hope the little lady will like her trip to Baxter next year.

Here are our photos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bitch to Bacon Trail Scramble Race Report

Admittedly, I'm a few days behind in my blogging, but it's not for lack of running and adventuring. D and I just returned from three days in Baxter State Park, and it was nice to not open a computer or even turn on my cell phone during that time. More on that trip in a later post. Before that trip, however, along with a few brave souls, I tackled the first annual Bitch to Bacon Trail Scramble.

Jeff put this race together, and it was designed to be everything the Beach to Beacon isn't. In short, he did a great job, and it was way more fun than it should have been. The rules were simple: Find three checkpoints throughout the course, pick up a number at each, and return to the start. The catch: The course wasn't marked. On top of that, recent logging had obliterated some of the trails.

Seven brave souls started shortly after 9:00am, and the race was on. There was one arrow that sent us left a quarter mile into the run, but that was the last of the markings. After running together for a few minutes, I stuck out on my own. After a few minutes, the trail dead-ended. I did see two deer, though. OK, back to the main trail, and try another side trail: another dead end. Back on the main trail, I saw Jeff bounding through a puddle/pond off to my right. Jeff was not only race director, but he was also a roving aid station of sorts. Each time you met Jeff, you could get a map or a clue. Of course, you had to down a shot of Allen's Coffee Brandy to claim your prize. As I saw Jeff sloshing along, my first thought was to catch up to get a map. But, my devious side kicked in, and I quietly followed him for a while. Unfortunately, he stopped and saw me hiding behind a tree, so no more free ride. I took a shot and got a map. Um...hmmm...not much help. However, he did asked me if I found the first flag., but I now had a good idea where it was. Guess, I should have looked right as he came through that puddle. I continued deeper into the woods with Jeff until I decided to explore another side trail: another dead end. When I reached the main trail again, I saw Jeff just ahead, and Ian coming back towards him. I quickly caught up to Jeff for another map...and another shot. OK, two maps, now I should be in good shape. Um...still not much help.

For the next 20 minutes, I wandered aimlessly through a heavily logged section. Everything started looking the same, and I seriously considered heading back to the start and eating the bacon stuffed donuts I'd brought. I came upon Jeff once again, and I think he could sense my growing despondence. I did tell him I was going to check one more trail that I thought just dead ended at a puddle. He suggested that I was on to something, and after a third shot, he told me to head down the trail and turn back once I found the flag. So, three shots and 40 minutes in, I finally found me first checkpoint. Just as I was leaving the checkpoint, Four came running up from the other side. We ran together briefly until, I headed back the way I came, and he headed off down another trail to the right.

One flag in hand, I was back on the main trail and ready to explore another section. I met up with Ian, Emma, Mindy and Valerie who all ended up together, and we headed off onto a trail I hadn't tried yet. Jeff was right behind us, and once we reached the cleared gas line, he offered a clue. The group took a shot—the fourth for me—and we were on the right track to find the next checkpoint. This would be the second number for all of us, but I was the only one who had found the furthest checkpoint. On the way to the checkpoint, we saw Carter and Four running together in the opposite direction. I was pretty certain that both guys had all the numbers, and I figured I was in third place—knowing that I needed to only run back to the start to grab the final flag. After what seemed like a month, we reached the checkpoint. At this point, we started discussing who had what flags. My suspicions were confirmed, as I was essentially ahead of this entire group. Ian tried the "I'll tell you where mine is, if you tell me where yours is," but I crushed his spirits when I informed him that I already knew where the last flag I needed was. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to get back. We "found" Jeff again, and again, we traded a shot for a clue. With my fifth shot rumbling in my belly, I was now armed with the quickest route back to the start.

Have I mentioned the trail conditions? Well, they were ridiculous. Numerous mud puddles. Most ankle deep, but more than one was knee deep. Plus, the logged areas were a mess. On top of that, the deer flies were menacing. I killed a full dozen throughout the run. With that many kills, there's no telling how many were actually around me.

As I parted ways with the group, I knew that I had third place wrapped up, but I didn't want to slack. I ran slightly harder than easily as I headed back down the main trail. It was during this stretch that I figured that the arrow at the start was actually in place to keep us from running straight to the first checkpoint. So, I figured that after I ran through the puddle to the checkpoint, I could just keep going straight and save myself a lot of running. I was 99% sure it was the right call. As I reached the checkpoint, I was stunned to see Carter there as well. "Are we going to have to sprint it out for second?" Apparently, he had also missed the first flag. And, apparently, he hadn't figured out the short cut, as he was wading through the puddle towards me so he could backtrack to the start. Again, my devious side arose, and I told him he was making the safe choice. I was going to go straight, in hopes of running a little less. He kept wading, and I took off. Jeff was right there, and I was laughing as I told him what I'd just done to Carter. It was mean, but this was the Bitch to Bacon! Four was waiting at the finish, and I high-fived him as I came through in second place in 1:24:47. Jeff had called Carter in, and he came in a minute or so later. The rest of the crew arrived a few minutes after that.

Post-race, we headed to Jeff's house for bacon, bacon and more bacon. Tales of the trail were relived, and a good time was had by all. Apparently, the shortest route was 4.2 miles. Ian and Mindy, both had over 7 miles on there GPS units, and I assume I ran at least that much. For my efforts, I won 2 cans of Porkslap Pale Ale. Carter brought the prizes, so it was good to see that he had forgiven me. It was a lot of fun, and I'm already looking forward to next year's anti-Beach to Beacon. We need t-shirts.