Sunday, December 26, 2010

Till We Meet in Hell and Training 12/19 - 12/25

Week 5 of my official training plan. All systems go...

Onto the numbers...

12/19, Sunday - 10.5 - 1:30:00, Till We Meet in Hell. Trail Monster Valerie had the tremendous idea to host a run/race on some of the trails she runs regularly at USM in Gorham. She mapped out a 1.15-mile course and invited/challenged us to run it as many times as possible. The course was much tougher than I had expected with some steep drops and climbs in and out of some gullies, plenty of twists and turns and some solid climbing. Oh, and really, really fun. My plan was pretty simple: run hard. At the start, I headed out behind Blaine and Andy but could only keep them in sight for about 1.5 laps. I ran mostly alone, except when I was lapping people, which seemed to be mostly on the even numbered laps and barely saw anyone on the odd numbered laps. Strange. After the first lap, I set a goal to keep all the laps under 10 minutes. Mission accomplished, and I was very pleased with my effort. I got in 10.5 miles and finished third overall. Valerie and Jeff also devised a handicap system, which I could not even begin to understand. I liked the system, though, because I also finished third with the handicap and took home some beer. Post-run, we all gathered at Sebago Brewing in Gorham for food and more good times.

Here are my splits:
Lap 1: 9:38
Lap 2: 9:45
Lap 3: 9:30
Lap 4: 9:51
Lap 5: 9:58
Lap 6: 9:51
Lap 7: 9:42
Lap 8: 9:48
Lap 9: 9:29
Final .2: 2:25

12/20, Monday: 5 - 43:45, Brunswick Town Commons. My quads were sore, but despite that my legs will felt springy even with the previous day's effort. Nice, easy recovery run.

12/21, Tuesday: 9 - 1:12:19, Highland Green Gold Course. Crazy, warm weather made me cranky, but the run was solid. Kept a solid pace for two laps of the cart paths of the golf course. This loop would become a staple of my training, if there wasn't so much golf being played out there.

12/22, Wednesday: 4 - 37:09, Powerlines. Some snow finally came to Topshizzum, so I found an excuse to finally use the screw shoes. I wasn't really into this run. Just felt off and disinterested.

12/23, Thursday - Off

12/24, Friday: 18 - 2:25:32, Georgtown, Rowley & Newbury. I had originally planned to go long on Thursday, but weather and scheduling knocked me off that. Thankfully, I was able to get it in while visiting my parents for Christmas. Admittedly, I was not really sure how this run was going to go, but I turned out great. I was a bit creaky for the first two or three miles, but I really found my rhythm after that. Legitimately, felt better at mile 15 than mile 3. Really happy with how this run went.

12/25, Saturday: Off, Christmas

Miles: 46.5
Trail: 28.5
Road: 18

Another good week, but I'm looking forward to a step back week this week. I've been handling the bump in mileage and intensity pretty well, but I know that some rest will be good. I'm also really looking forward to getting out on my snowshoes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dead, Alive or Indian Food?

Ken Ober loves that reference.

Well, the answer to the question is that I am, in fact, alive. Very much so, but life, work and thankfully, training have trumped blogging. On the life end, the kiddo continues to grow, do more things and, generally, be excessively cute...when she's not being...well...a kid. Work And, training is going very well. So, here's a post about it. Maybe now, my wife and Jamie will get off my back about being a bad blogger.

Since I last posted, much has happened on the training front. Initially, things took a turn for the worst as over the span of three weeks, I ran a total of 45 miles. I was ill, and I just couldn't shake it. (See the aforementioned kiddo.) By the middle of November, I was able to get back to our regularly scheduled program, and then starting the week of November 21, everything changed.

That week marked week one of an 18-week training program. This represents a major paradigm shift for me. From my return to running in late 2007 through May of this year, I had a "it's enough as long as I get out the door" mentally. Well, at Pineland, it was evident that that attitude wasn't going to cut it. I adjusted my training somewhat over the summer by upping the mileage and mixing up the type of runs. The results were positive, culminating in my performance at the Pisgah 50k. At this race, I proved that I could complete an ultra, and it was, in reality, a huge relief. But, I was really just flying blind, and upon further reflection, I know I can flat out run stronger. The only way I see to do this is to "train for real." I picked the brains of both Jeff and Jamie after their stellar fall marathon performances, and I picked my next goal race. I'll be racing (not running) the Gator Trail 50k at Lake Waccamaw State Park in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina on March 26. (Doubles as a visit to D's parents.) For a training plan, I'm using Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning, courtesy of Jamie. Hence, the 18-week schedule. And, away I go.

Now, Pfitzinger's plan is great, but it doesn't account for trail running and snowshoe racing. Not a chance I'd be dropping either of those from my schedule, so I'm doing some heavy modification. But, that only makes sense, since I'm training for a trail 50k, not a road marathon. However, I'm confident that the basics of his plan will work for my race and that the schedule of long runs and speedwork will pay huge dividends.

So, how's it going, so far? It's going very well, and I've easily moved past the "just get out the door" mentality. In fact, when I missed a planned run, I get cranky about it. I'm adjusting well to the mileage increase and have been pleasantly surprised with how fresh I've felt.

Here are some highlights:
Week one (32.5 miles): This was Thanksgiving week, and we were actually in North Carolina visiting D's parents. We took a morning to check out the Gator Trail course, which was a great move. I've had something to visualize whenever I've been feeling less than great on a run. For the 50k, we'll run 6 laps of the 5.2 mile course, which is at least 90% trail with a one short road piece and one boardwalk. It's fairly flat, but it does get sandy in a few places, which will be tricky (read: slow and annoying). Unfortunately, this was the only trail run of the week, and my left achilles was sore.

Week two (35.5 miles): I arranged two back-to-back off days to rest my achilles and that was all it needed to feel fine. Long run for the week was 12.5 miles on the Cathance River Trails and beyond, through which I discovered a new trail.

Week three (45.75 miles): Big jump, but with no achilles issues, I went for it. I struggled through a 4-mile tempo effort in the wind and snow on Monday, but the numbers were right what I wanted. Put in a solid 14 miles on the roads later in the week. Unusual for me to run that long, so far out from my goal race, but, like I said, paradigm shift.

Week four (42.25 miles): Missed a day due to work and travel, or I would have been closer to 50. However, all these miles were on trails, so the difficulty quotient more than makes up for it. Again, flexing and stretching the Pftiz Plan. I bookended the week with two very hilly runs, one at Bradbury Mountain State Park and one at the Green Hills Preserve. Highlight of the week was a 14.25-mile "Double" Cathance run.

I'm now in week five and still rolling. The only complaint is my ankles/top of my feet. I have some soreness here throughout the day, but I, generally, don't feel it when I run. This week is my last build up week before an easy step back week, so my hope is that the rest will resolve it.

So, that's the big news. I've set some pretty big goals for myself for this race, and as the training progresses, I'll find out just how much of a reach my "A" goal is. But, no, I'm not divulging those goals here. I may outline them pre-race, but you'll definitely hear how I stacked up in my race report. Right now, I'm just enjoying the training, and looking forward to snowshoe season. And, of course, beyond the Gator Trail 50k, I have a few ideas planned out as well. Those will depend on my training and race recovery...for another post.

In the is the most requested tune in our house:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Training Week 10/17 - 10/26 & Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k Race Report

Two stones with one bird...

Onto the numbers...

10/17, Sunday: 4.25 - ~30:00, MDI Marathon Course. After cheering for Jamie at a couple locations along the course, D dropped me off at mile 22. She took off, so Samantha could get a nap, and I ran along the course. This strategy gave me the opportunity to squeeze an easy run in, cheer for random fast marathon types and wait for Jamie at mile 24.5, a.k.a the middle of the final big hill on the course. Yelled my brains out as he went by and trailed him to the finish. He rocked it and got his BQ!

10/18, Monday: 4.25 - 40:25, Acadia Carriage Roads, Witch Hole Pond Loop. D needed to get in a long run, and what better place than Acadia's carriage roads? We bundled Samantha up, and I pushed her in the B.O.B. for the beginning of D's run. Since I was pushing the stroller, we took it very easy. D went on her way, I drove Samantha around for a nap, then we met her at the end of the run. Off to Two Cats for second breakfast!

10/19, Tuesday: 9 - 1:20:33, Cathance River Trails. Perfect weather. Broad spectrum of leaves on the trees and on the trails. Autumn in Maine is unbeatable. Aside from getting pretty hungry by the end, this was an awesome run.

10/20, Wednesday: 5 - 45:28, Homeplace. My timing was bad again today, so I was pretty hungry by the end once again. Body felt fine, though.

10/21, Thursday: 6.25 - 58:49, Granite State Snowshoe Championships course at Great Glen Trails. The weather was pretty gruesome: low 40's, windy and misty. Plus, it was getting dark. I think my mood was directly affected by the weather as it really took me a while to get into a groove. However, by the time I reached the big climb on the Aqueduct Loop, I was feeling good. This trail just has some kind of good energy. I zipped down the long downhill and was even a bit speedy on the singletrack despite the darkness.

10/22, Friday - Off

10/23, Saturday: Wolfe's Neck Trek 5k

Last year
, I ran this race about a month after Samantha was born with a "let's just see where I am" attitude. In many ways, my attitude was the same this year. Sort of. Last year, I was tentative. This year, I was confident. Well, as confident as you can be when you've done ZERO speed work and haven't done any "real" training since training for a 50k. So, yeah, why wouldn't I do well?

D had to work, so originally, Valerie was going to come to the race and watch Samantha while I ran. Unfortunately, Samantha woke up with the fountain of snot in full effect, so we didn't think it was a good idea to have her out in the cold. D offered to take her to work for the morning, which was awesome. Valerie came to the race anyway to cheer for me, which was also awesome. Well, I'd better be awesome, too. Pressure was on.

Looking around at the field, I saw two kids pull up in a car with a Bowdoin sticker, and they looked young and lean. Hated them immediately. I also spotted a guy I know who is from Gorham, NH, Curtis. He runs the series at Great Glen Trails, and I knew he was faster than me. I assumed there would also be a few other speedy folks. All that being said, I still felt confident. I took my spot on the line and took it out hard. Well, hard for me. One of the Bowdoin kids came right up next to me, and after 100 yards pulled ahead and away. That was really the last I'd see of him. Then at about 400 meters, Curtis came up alongside and moved on by. I shadowed him for a bit, but he was also soon gone. I kept waiting to hear more footsteps, but I never did. It was a time trial for the rest of the race.

The two-lap course is really fun, but it's also definitely longer than 5k. They shortened it a touch from last year, but it's at least 3.25, maybe longer. It's primarily gravel roads with a few sharp corners through a campground, plus one trail section that consists of some very steep, but very short, rooty hills and three wooden bridges. The trail section is probably 200 yards per lap, but it really slows things down. Oh, and it adds to the fun. No real hills to speak of, but with the wind on Saturday it felt like you were running uphill in a couple places, especially on the "main" road that makes up the end of the first lap and the finishing stretch. Chatting with a couple folks post-race, we all had the same thought: when the wind was in our face, we were running into it, but we were sheltered when it was at our backs. We should have lobbied to run it in the opposite direction.

I'd done a slightly longer warmup then I would usually do to ensure that everything was loose, and this was a good decision. Just about the time that Curtis went by me, I thought to myself, "I'm running as fast as I possibly can." It was apparent that my top speed is not actually speed at all. So, there I was alone and trying to run all out for another almost 3 miles. I would have liked a little company, but I got a look back at fourth place shortly into the second lap, and I saw a comfortable cushion. Although near the end of the race, I used that large cushion as motivation because getting run down would have been really pathetic.

So, I pushed it as hard as I could. My only strategy for the race was to never back off. With no speed work coming in, it was really a more a test of suffering. I held it together pretty well. My back cramped along with something in my right shoulder. Every time they twinged, I thought, "Dude, it's a 5k. It's almost over." I started feeling like that and thinking that about 5 minutes into the race.

Crossed the line in 20:53, which was a little slower than I had hoped for, but 1:56 faster than last year. I was third overall and first in my age group. Actually I was my age group.

(Awesome typo in my last name. I'm FATT!!!!)

7.5 total. 5k+: 20:53, third place overall. 2.75 warm up / 1.5 cool down.

Miles: 36.25
Trail: 27.75
Road: 8.5

Very solid, non-serious training week. Onward.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Training Week 10/10 - 10/16

And, we're back...

I haven't written a training post in a few weeks because, well, I haven't really been training. I took the extra/third week to ensure I was fully recovered from Pisgah, and it was the right choice. Plus, I was really recovering from two races: Pisgah and the Bruiser, so that third easy week was just what I needed. I don't feel as if I put enough mileage in the bank prior to the 50k to recover quickly, so it was nice to have the luxury to just cruise for another week. Nothing spectacular, impressive or fast in my training this week, just easy mileage, but I'm just in a rebuilding phase right now.

Onto the numbers...
10/10, Sunday: 5 - 45:42, Brunswick Town Commons w/ D. My parents and grandparents, who were in town for Samantha's birthday party, offered to watch the kiddo while D and I snuck out for a run. Sweet! The weather was nice, and we enjoyed an easy cruise from Bowdoin through the Commons. It felt very appropriate on our 11-year wedding anniversary.

10/11, Monday: 5.5 - 49:24, Pennelville Roads w/ D. 2 barefoot laps around Pennelville soccer field. D had a long run on tap, and we once again had grandparents to babysit! This time it was D's parents, so I was able to join her. I opted to tagalong for the middle miles of her 12-mile run, so I could test out my new road shoes, which felt great. I may have been guilty of pushing D on a slightly faster pace than she needed, but we were having fun, enjoying the scenery and chatting away. The views of the ocean at Simpsons Point, combined with the foliage, were spectacular. Maine rules. The only negative of the run was the wind. As we neared the water it really picked up, so I offered to act as a windbreak for D. I didn't want her to waste any energy. I felt great and really wanted to run longer, but I didn't want to push it in the new shoes, which have less support than "recommended" for my particular gait. So, instead, I tried running barefoot for the first time ever. Yeah, I know, makes zero sense. I did two very easy laps around a soccer field and really enjoyed it. I'm hoping to incorporate a couple easy barefoot/minimal stints each week to build a little strength.

10/12, Tuesday: 5.5 - 48:40, TMR TNR at Twin Brook. A rare TNR appearance for me. In the morning, my ankles felt a touch sore after my barefoot session the previous day, but all was fine by the time I hit the trails in the evening. We had a large group, and I didn't know everyone. But, it was great to get out with the crew, and the sprint lines are a fun addition that I should incorporate into some of my solo runs. Of course, the TNR starts at 6:00, so it was dark about halfway through the run. It was at this point that I realized the batteries in my headlamp were toast. Oops. I just mooched off Jeff's light the rest of the way. This was only an issue during the sprint lines when he attempted to shake his "No Wheels" moniker. Plus, I had to stay behind him, so I could use the light...yeah, that's it.

10/13, Wednesday: 5 - 42:41, Homeplace Loop. Felt a bit sluggish, but the time was pretty quick for me on this loop.

10/14, Thursday: 5 - 43:41, Random loop at Great Glen Trails w/ Eli. Very rare occasion in which my training meshed with Eli's, but it was cool to go for an easy run with him. My right Achilles felt a bit tight, which I'm attributing to the barefoot session and the sprint lines.

10/15, Friday: Off

10/16, Saturday: 8 - 1:01:45, MDI, Carriage Roads from Jordan Pond to Bubble Pond, return to Jordan Pond on the Park Loop Road. D and I headed to MDI on Saturday morning to watch the MDI marathon on if we needed an excuse. My route was completely ill-conceived, but it turned out fine. I took about 4 seconds to scan the map and figured that a loop on the Carriage Roads would be 5 or 6. Well, it was considerably longer, which became clear at what I thought was the one third point, when the Garmin read "4.38 miles." Oops. I opted to take the shorter route back on the Park Loop Road. Running on the Carriage Roads in Acadia is the best thing in the world. Unbeatable. That's all I kept thinking, even though it was cold, rainy and windy. They really are perfect, even in gross weather. Running on the Park Loop Road...not so much. The road is fine, but the shoulder is nonexistent. Not so much fun. Because of the Jekyll & Hyde nature of this run, it turned into a bit of a progression run. I was easily zipping along having fun on the Carriage Roads but just wanted to get it done once I hit the road. The pace was quicker than I normally like for an easy run, but I just went with it. While I was running, D was driving around the island making sure Samantha got a nap (we couldn't check into our room yet), and, unfortunately, she hadn't returned by the time I returned to Jordan Pond. I didn't want to stand in the rain, already soaked, not knowing when she would arrive, so I tacked on another mile. No big deal as I felt good, and she arrived soon after I finished. My Achilles was a little tight at the outset, but never really an issue.

Miles: 34
Trail: 20.5
Road: 13.5

I'm considering that a good "first week" of training, when I'm not training for anything specific and just looking to easily build my mileage back up. I'm playing the next few weeks by ear, just going on good runs and mixing it up. The real focus is just fun. Looking forward to it. Real training begins...well...I'll let you know.

Shout Outs!
Shout Out Number One goes to Jeff for his awesome marathon debut at the Maine Marathon: 3:00:36. The most impressive feat of the day was changing his own shoes and socks post-race. I like to support my friends, but not that much.

Shout Out Number Two goes to Jamie for reaching his goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Mount Desert Island Marathon this weekend: 3:14:33. For those of you that don't know, MDI is probably the toughest road marathon course east of the Mississippi. It's crazy hilly. Now, he'll finally shut up about needing to BQ at MDI...blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Both races were a blast to watch, and I was glad to be a smart part of both of their successes. I've already told them both that I'm not driving around Boston, however. They're on their own.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

More Pisgah Thoughts & Recovery

Despite my Tolstoy-esque race report, I do indeed have more thoughts about my Pisgah experience.

First of all, I'm a bit embarrassed I forgot to mention the race directors. They put on a great show. Everything about the race runs very smoothly and efficiently in a relaxed, low-key atmosphere. Perfect. The trails were very well marked, and I never went more than a minute or so without seeing a marker. The aid stations were placed perfectly, and the volunteers were terrific. The post-race barbecue, included in the very modest race fee, was also great. Just a well-run event all around. I highly recommend it, and I can't wait until next year.

My only complaint was the delay in posting the results. They didn't go up until Thursday following the race. I can see Monday or Tuesday, but Thursday is just too long.

Even with time to think about it, I'm still very pleased with my race, but, of course, I've already thought of ways I can go faster. The first that sticks out in my mind is my aid station urgency. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my first 50k was blowing through most of the aid stations. In this race, I did exactly the opposite. I took my time at each aid station. In fact, I took too much time. Conservatively, I estimate that I "wasted" 5 minutes in the aid stations. I didn't have that "get in, get out" mentality. I know that I can be quicker without sacrificing getting what I need. Again, I still have a lot to learn about ultras, but this is definitely an area I can improve upon.

Two weeks later, I'm still in recovery mode. Admittedly, I'm not feeling as good as I would like. The good news is that with no races on the immediate horizon, I don't have plans for any serious training until the beginning of November. I'm certainly not feeling bad, but I'm just not feeling fully recovered. I'm a touch tired and my legs have felt a bit sluggish on my runs. No spring in the step. I'd hoped to feel fine after these two weeks, but that's just not the case. Another very easy week is in order.

With that in mind, I'm not totally surprised. I need to keep reminding myself that I'm actually recovering from two races: Pisgah and the Bruiser, which was just a week prior. That's a pretty tough stretch for me. Additionally, I didn't really have the mileage base to bounce right back. My longest run in my training cycle for Pisgah was 17 miles, and I only had one week at 50 miles. That's not a lot. On top of all that, I also had a bit of a cold last week. Not a great recipe for recovery.

You know what does help recovery? The Church.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pisgah Mountain 50k - Race Report

"I feel so extraordinary /
Something's got a hold on me /
I get this feeling I'm in motion /
A sudden sense of liberty."
- New Order, "True Faith"

As I sit here typing this, I'm sore. Legs, back, arms. They're all sore. And, wow, I ran an ultramarathon yesterday. Me. It was hard. Very hard. I had a lot of support, and even when I was running alone, I wasn't alone. It was an amazing day. Hopefully, I can put it into words.

I left my house after lunch on Saturday for the drive to Chesterfield, NH. Until I looked into this race, I had no idea Chesterfield existed. After a stop to pick up a pizza for dinner, I set up my tent at the end of Horseshoe Road in Pisgah State Park. This "unofficial" campsite was actually right on the course, about 1.5 miles, so there were a few other runners there with me, including Kate and Julie from Maine and 75 year-old Gene from Illinois, who was hoping to convince the race director to let him start early. "I'm pretty slow," he said. The conversation flowed freely until the moon fully rose and it was time to get some rest.

Race day morning arrived cool and foggy. Perfect running weather. But, I wished I had been able to sleep in. I was too nervous to be up at 6:15am for an 8:45 race start. I took my time packing up my tent hoping to keep my mind off the day' activities, but I eventually headed down the road to the race start at about 7:00. On way down the road, I saw figure shuffling up the hill through the mist. It was Gene. He and his huge smile were on their way. I wished him well, and told him I would see him later. At registration, I joked with the volunteers that it was decision time. I slid to the right and picked my number from the pile labeled "50k." Yup, this was real.

This was not my first 50k. My first was at Pineland Farms in 2009. It was a disaster. From that disaster, I can say that I learned a lot, and it served me well on Sunday. Still, though, I was nervous, but I wasn't alone. I chatted with Jim Johnson a bit at the start, and it's good to see that even top guys get just as nervous. (They just beat me by 90 minutes.) I made one final call to D, or as Jim said, "Put the emergency contact on standby," and headed over to the start line.

It was still cool as the race started, and I was glad I had my brand spanking new Nathan running sleeves. I placed myself well back in the pack, since my plan was to go out slowly, very slowly. Luckily, the course lends itself to that plan because after a short downhill, the course climbs up and up and up the road to the actual park entrance. In fact, once the road turns from pavement to gravel one hill is so steep that most of the field, myself included, was walking. A mile into the race, and I'm already walking. Well, I wanted to go out slowly. At about this time, I started chatting with three guys, Jay, Nick and Chris, and a few minutes later Jay and I were swapping new parent horror stories. Diapers are a good way to not think about running 31 miles.

I had two major concerns going into the race: the downhills and my fueling. Well, just after we left the road, I was confronted with the first: a long, fairly steep downhill. I really focused on slowing myself down in order to save my quads for later. I was definitely afraid of the "too much, too fast, too soon" that can lead to disasters in ultras. I'd learned that the hard way last year. Easy, easy, easy. At the bottom of the hill was the last major of decision of the day: straight for 23k, left for 50k. I felt very comfortable turning left and had a sense that I would have a good day.

My time goal for the day was set off of my performance at Pineland last year. Knowing that I was in better shape and better prepared, I was confident that I could PR for the distance: sub 5:17. So, my goal pace was 10:00 per mile with hopes I could remain steady the entire way. After a mix of tricky singletrack and very mellow woods road running, Jay, Nick, Chris and I rolled through the aid station at 4.8 miles in 46:30ish. I was right on pace (OK, slightly ahead) and feeling very comfortable. A quick right, a quick left, and then, Oh my...this is Pisgah.

Turning onto the Dogwood Swamp Trail the real test began. I did not expect this. The trail went up. Steeply. I walked a lot. So much for right on pace. Even when the trail was runnable it was tricky. It became clear that anything that wasn't a woods road in the park received very little traffic. The treadway was uneven, leaf-covered (Is it fall already?), rocky and rooty. Don't get me wrong, it was good, clean, old-fashioned trail running goodness, but it was more than I was expecting. Somehow the difficulty of the course had eluded me in my pre-race research. That being said, all day I kept thinking, "Man, this course is hard," but I never got down about it. It was always more of an observation.

The Dogwood Swamp Trail led us to the aid station at 8.4 miles. I took a little extra time here to refill one of my bottles with HEED. I opted to wear my Nathan Elite 2V Plus (which is awesomely tremendous in every way) since the aid stations were frequent. Plus, the pockets on the front are like lunchboxes—plenty of room for my gels, blocks and bars. As I mentioned, I was very focused on my nutrition for this race. And, in many ways, I felt this race was going to come down to my nutrition. I worked on it a lot this summer and got some great advice from D: eat every 30 minutes. This is exactly what I did, and this plan worked flawlessly. My energy was great all day, and my stomach felt fine. I left the aid station at 1:27ish with 2 fig bars in hand, executing my plan a few minutes early. As it turned out, the timing was perfect because the next half mile or so is nothing but up—a steep, twisty, paved (must have made sense at the time) up. Since I can walk and chew at the same time, I downed the two fig bars and half of a Berries GoMega Odwalla Bar—not a super, hardcore energy bar, but it's all about taste and texture. These puppies are super tasty and easy to chew.

Snack gone, hill finished, it was time to run again, and I soon caught up to Nick and Chris (Jay was far ahead) who were now running (walking, really) with two women on a very rough singletrack section. One of the women (unfortunately, I never got her name) mentioned that she had helped clear this trail and was running the race for the eighth time. That's awesome! It was great to have her course insight for a little bit: "It gets really rugged through here," she yelled from behind. She wasn't lying. It was in this section that Chris pulled off with intestinal issues: "My stomach is doing loop-da-loops around my ass." Easily the quote of the day. I wished him well and set my sights on catching the other woman, Christine. We were moving downhill, and she was making it look easy. I hate people like that. A few moments later I saw a tall figure shuffling along. It was Gene! We greeted each other cordially, but it was the last time I would see Gene all day. Based on spirit alone I know he finished, but I had to hit the road before he crossed the line. At this point, it had taken him 3:45 to cover about 10 miles.

At 2:00, I downed a gel, as was the rule. I put the empty packet in my shorts. Two seconds later on a nondescript, fairly flat piece of trail I rolled my left ankle. Hard. I'd been feeling the urge to pee for a little while, so I took this as a sign to pull over. But, when I started running again, it wasn't pretty. My run was more of a limp, and I stumbled into the 12-mile aid station. I was very worried that my race might be over. All I could think of was my buddy Jamie's heartbreak at Western States in 2009 when one injury lead to another. I asked the aid station volunteers if they had any spare ankles. They did not. Instead, I went with a cup of Gatorade and headed up the trail, leaving the aid station at 2:04:00.

Luckily for me, the next section of trail, the Old Chesterfield Road, was the smoothest running of the whole race. Perfect to get the blood flowing to the ankle and the stride back to normal. Perhaps it would be OK. Nick had passed me while I was peeing, and he and Christine were running together. I soon caught them, and it was great to have some company to keep my mind off my ankle. It worked as I checked it each time the trail got rocky, but it felt fine. It wasn't issue for the rest of the race.

At 13.5 miles, the course takes a sharp left, and I got a bit ahead of Nick and Christine. I was feeling very good and had a notion to just run a bit faster. I was enjoying their company, but I had to run my race. Something inside just told me to get moving. I was alone on Reservoir Trail and enjoying running up the very runnable hills. The trail was still rugged, but I barely noticed. When the trail topped out, there was a terrific view of Mt. Monadnock off to the left. All I could think of was how lucky I was to be out there. It was a total runner's high moment. I was really enjoying this race, and that song was in my head: "I feel so extraordinary..." (It may have been out loud for a little bit, too. Good thing I was alone.)

My 2:30 snack break came, and I broke out some Clif Shot Bloks, Black Cherry. (YUM!) Normally, I'd eat half the package, but for some reason, I decided to down all 6 pieces. My stomach felt great, so I figured the extra calories wouldn't hurt. The trail was as rugged as ever, and I was alternating running and walking as the terrain dictated. I thought it was strange that I hadn't caught anyone and no one had caught me. It was in this stretch that I understood why people run with music of sort. Granted, I had New Order pounding in my head, which is completely awesome, but I could have gone with the real thing. With that in mind, I was pleased to have some human contact when I rolled into the aid station at 17 miles. "Where is everyone," I asked. It was also at this point that I realized that time goals were out the window. I arrived at the aid station in 3:00-flat when I had hoped to have already covered 20 miles in that time. But, with the terrain I'd been through, I still knew I was running well. No need to start sprinting with 14 miles to go. So, I lingered here enjoying the conversation, the Gatorade and the generic brand Cheez-its. I filled one bottle with Gatorade for variety, and obviously lingered quite a while as Christine and two other runners rolled in. Chomping on an Odwalla bar, I headed out alone only to be passed by one of those runners, Frank, a few moments later. He was moving very well, and I doubted I would see him again. I did not, but he was also the last runner to pass me all day.

The section of trail from mile 17 to mile 20 is the hardest of the entire course. The Pisgah Mountain Trail is serious. Seriously, PUD-filled. A PUD, or pointless up and down, is both physically and mentally demoralizing. "Oh good, I'm at the top of the ridge. Oh, I'm going down. Now, I'm going back up, and now down, and now up, and now down, and OHHHHH COME ON!!!!!" This was the Pisgah Mountain Trail. I did get another great view of Mt. Monadnock, and I laughed at how less grateful I was at this point. This put me in a better place, and I kept pushing. This was the hardest section of trail, and I was anxious to put it behind me. At the time, I didn't know it was the hardest section of trail, but I just knew that it couldn't get any worse. I kept waiting to see the Kilburn Loop enter from the left meaning that I would only have about a .5 mile to the aid station. Finally, that point came, and soon after I caught another runner.

"Dude, what was up with that section?"
"Don't worry, that's the hardest of the entire course."

That was all I needed to hear. My plan/hope going into the race was to feel good when I got to the 20-mile aid station, run the 5.5 mile Kilburn Pond Loop hard, then push as hard as possible/hang on the last 6 miles. When I asked, one of the aid station workers said I could skip the Kilburn Loop for $10, and I was wishing I had some cash. Instead, I headed off on the loop with 3:37 on the watch determined to stick with the plan. And I did. I felt great. The first part of the loop was mostly downhill, and I took full advantage. I passed one runner, and was extraordinary once again. At the bottom of the loop, the trail turns sharply left and begins the climb back out. This part was less fun. I downed a gel at 4:00 (of course), but I was feeling it. I was in a "bad patch." Another runner appeared in front of me, and I focused on trying to catch him. I'd get close, but then as if he could smell me (totally possible), he'd pull away. I did eventually pass him, and he said "I could play a tune on my IT-band right now." Bummer. I wished him well, and I thought, "My body feels great, why should I be down?" A couple minutes later I caught another runner. "Man, I'm looking forward to finishing," he said dourly. I was in a much better place than him. Keep pushing.

I arrived back at the aid station at 4:28. Fifty-one minutes for the Kilbrun Loop. Only 6 miles to go. Just one thing: that had hurt. I figured that water would be enough to get me to the finish, so I dumped the couple ounces of HEED I had remaining, grabbed a couple pretzels and headed out at exactly 4:30. One hour to break 5:30. This is really going to hurt.

My Lemon Lime Shot Bloks, another full package, as I ran out of the aid station were delicious. My stomach was still right there with me, but what was that twinge in my right hamstring? Hmmm... Just after the sharp right turn before Rt. 63, a turn that everyone said was easy to wasn't due to terrific marking, I passed another runner who was hurting. "It's just not my day," he said. I encouraged him to keep moving, hoping I could do the same myself. A couple moments later, they started. My left quad. My right hamstring. My groin. I was cramping. Badly. Cramps hurt. I wanted to punch a tree kind of hurt. I'd cramped before, but only at the end of runs. I wasn't entirely certain what to do, but in my exhaustion all I could think of was "electrolytes." I had another serving of HEED with me, and I dumped it in my bottle with the water. Somehow, I managed to do this without stopping, so it was a small victory. The cramps would come and go for the rest of the race, and each time I was afraid I'd end up dropping to the trail and waiting for the helicopter (or coroner). I'd like to avoid this in the future, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I was now on the Davis Hill Trail, if you could call it that. It was a trail in the sense that the large trees were removed, but the treadway was a mess. Nothing was even. I was no longer thankful to be out there. I was done. I felt far from extraordinary. Amazingly, however, I was still passing people. I caught one runner who was walking (on a flat section), and it encouraged me to know that I was still running. In fact, the cramps subsided when I was running. They'd crop back up when I was walking up the hills. So, 29 miles into the race, I was running up the hills. That hurt less. Ultramarathons are hard.

I spotted another runner up ahead, and it was clear he was really struggling on the downhills. It turned out to be Jay. I hadn't seen him since mile 8. More than 20 miles later, we were back together again. No talk of diapers this time as I moved past him just before the gate that dumped us out onto Winchester Road, aka the most painful downhill ever. I'd left the park and was on the homestretch, but the gravel road was absolutely quad crumbling. I just wanted it to level out. I knew the finish was close, but I really just wanted the road to be flat. I would have gone an extra mile on a flat road. I kept thinking about 5:30, too. If I kept pushing I could make it. I knew that if I walked, I may never start running again. That road was awful.

Then it got worse. Shortly after it turned to pavement, it also went uphill. That was cruel. Then it leveled, but then it went up again. That was twice as cruel. However, I could see the Stop sign. I knew that the race was basically over at the Stop sign. I was about to finish an ultramarathon. My main goal coming into the race was to finish strong, unlike Pineland in 2009. I was doing that. It was ugly, but I was running pretty well. I wasn't stumbling and shuffling. I was running. Then, I was done.

I crossed the line and lost it. I was a blubbering idiot. I was a little girl. The moment I hit the chute, I didn't have to focus, and all the emotions came pouring out. A volunteer took the tag from my number and asked 3 or 4 times if I was all right.

"I'm fine. I'm great. That was really hard. Really, though, I'm great." Then I cried some more. It took me about a minute to pull it together. Then I laughed. It was over.

I congratulated Jay as he crossed the line a couple minutes later. I chatted with other finishers. I called D and barely kept it together. I'm pretty sure all I said was "I'm alive. It was hard." over and over.

My time was 5:25:13. I finished in 27th place.
(Official results aren't posted yet.)

I changed. I ate soup and hamburgers and hot dogs. I watched other runners finish. Christine came in. The guys I'd passed in the final miles came in. Nick and Chris came in together. Kate finished. Julie finished. A lot of other people finished. As I looked around, I saw a lot of regular people. I was in the company of a lot of regular people who had done something extraordinary. These people would pass you on the street, and you wouldn't give them a second look. But, they all completed an ultramarathon. That's amazing. I was very proud to be among them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bradbury Bruiser - Race Report

This race report could be very short: I ran hard. It hurt. I was pleased with the result. That's pretty much how it went. It was another great day at Bradbury Mountain State Park, but, of course, I need to elaborate.

First, a bit of background. In 2007, D and I ran this race after first ruling it out, but then being "forced" to do it when two friends came to stay with us in order to run. I had only been running again for a couple months, and I really surprised myself that day. It all basically snowballed from there, and here I am just a couple days away from my second ultramarathon (more on that later). We missed the race in 2008 due to our vacation schedule, and last year was an utter disaster. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to racing this year, especially on the heels of my successful Scuffle and Breaker.

Race day arrived with the usual early start to get registration and the start/finish area ready to go. Perfect running weather for the race, and we had another strong turnout. Things were going very smoothly, so I had time for a short, 1/2 mile or so, warmup with D. Ian, our fearless leader, flawlessly rolled through the pre-race instructions, and we were off.

My strategy for the race was pretty simple: get out conservatively quick and relax through the Island trail, which is too technical to worry about pacing or place, and many people waste a lot of energy jostling for position and sprinting ahead in this first section. Mission accomplished. I let a number of people go by me in this section while I really used it as a warmup. No one would pass me for the remainder of the race. I felt very easy and comfortable when I exited the Island Trail, surprised to see my watch read just under 15:00—a couple minutes faster than expected.

Part two of the strategy was to use the less twisty sections over the next four or so miles to find my rhythm and start moving along. One of the drawbacks of my plan was that after going into the singletrack one step behind Jamie, he had put a good chunk of distance on me in those first 15 minutes. As I passed Ian shortly after exiting the Island Trail, I wished him well and said, "I need to go catch Jamie." I knew he was out there, but I wasn't sure where. I briefly pulled two guys along through Ginn, but my course knowledge and constant, but subtle, increasing of the pace left me alone by the time I crossed the Snowmobile Trail. I didn't see another runner until just before I reached the aid station. I decided to carry my handheld for the race, so I wouldn't need to rely on the aid stations. It was a good choice as I'd already downed a gel before the first aid station, and I was able to roll right through. Still no Jamie, though.

Shortly after the aid station, I focused on catching another runner, Dave, who was moving steadily. It took me some time to catch him, but my timing was perfect because I tucked in right behind him just after passing the Bat Cave. I figured I could relax a bit, after having done a lot of work while running alone, and let him pull me along. Admittedly, it was tough to maintain some discipline here because shortly before the Batcave Trail, I had caught a glimpse of Jamie up ahead. My watch told me he had about 25 seconds on me, and I really wanted to catch him. However, I wanted to stick to my strategy, which included a big surge once I turned right onto the Snowmobile Trail. That's exactly what I did.

As soon as Dave and I exited the Fox Trail, I moved around him a dropped the pace. I felt a little bad since I let him pull me along for a mile or so, but no friends on race day. Additionally, I knew that fellow Trail Monster Bob Porier was not far behind me and having never finished ahead of him in a race before, I liked the idea of trying to sneak away. I was moving very well (for me) up the Snowmobile Trail, when I finally saw Jamie just ahead of me. I was only a couple seconds behind him as I hit the aid station, and joked with Trail Monster Erik and the other volunteers to be quiet so Jamie wouldn't know I was there. He heard me, however, and the element of surprise was gone.

It still took me a little bit to fully catch him, but on the first bit of singletrack just after the Snowmobile Trail we were finally running together. In retrospect, I should have passed him immediately. Instead, I was content to sit behind him. First off, I was pretty beat from charging up the Snowmobile Trail and felt the need to regroup. Secondly, his blog totally psyched me out. Have you been reading that thing? DAMN. He has been doing some killer workouts of late. Workouts that I know I couldn't do. Granted, I got him in the Scuffle and Breaker, but, like I said, he's on fire right now. I said to myself, "Jamie's been crushing it lately, so just try to hang with him." So that's what I did. I sat behind him. Instead of trying to make the pass and go, I sat. Not exactly the most aggressive race tactic, but I hoped that I could hang a make a move just before the O Trail—the small intestine-like 2.4 miles of singeltrack that eats your soul at the end of the race. (In hindsight, even if I had passed him, I'm positive he would have stayed with me and gotten me anyway.) We chatted a bit, but then he'd open a small gap. I'd catch back up, then the gap would open again. Then he started offering every spectator and passer-by $10 to trip me. He must have had about $200 on the line.

As we ran the singletrack just after crossing the Link Trail, I suddenly found myself in a world of hurt. Jamie was slowly putting ground on me, and there was nothing I could do about it. Just past the final aid station, I decided to take another gel just to be safe, and, in hopes of having enough juice to catch him in the O Trail. I needed to regroup a bit. And, looking back, my chance to pass Jamie had already come and gone, but he was my carrot.

Coincidentally, chasing and hanging with Jamie had really fulfilled the next phase of my race strategy: go as hard as you can after the surge on the Snowmobile Trail and just try to hang on in the O Trail. My theory is that everyone runs slowly in the O Trail—it's far too twisty, turny and cruel—so even if you try to run it fast, you're not going to gain that much ground. I turned into the O Trail as my watch read 1:15:05. Now, I was chasing something else. "25 minutes to break 1:40," I kept chanting to myself.

The O Trail is the O Trail. I assume "O" is for oxymoron. It forces you to focus, yet you need to detach yourself from it or you'll go crazy trying to answer the question: "When will this end?" Even though it's at the end of the race, you can actually catch your breath because your forced to slow down, all the while, it destroys your legs. It will look smooth for a few seconds allowing you to run normally, then you'll stop short with a 180° turn over a rocky outcropping. It's physically and psychologically damaging. On top of that, I'm racing. I keep seeing Jamie somewhere in front of me, and Bob somewhere behind me. I must have seen Jamie 10 or 12 times in this section, but I had no real way to gauge how far ahead of me he was. I just kept pushing. I actually passed a couple guys as Jamie pulled me along. They didn't seem to be having much fun. After turning the calendar page, I saw the stone wall. Oh, the sweet, sweet stone wall. Only a few more yards until the end of the O Trail. I'd survived, and as a reward it was time to sprint to the finish.

I crossed the line in 24th place with a time of 1:38:23. Jamie ended up a full 50 seconds ahead of me. He crushed me in the O Trail, but I'll take it. There's no way I would have run that fast if he wasn't there. We congratulated each other at the finish, and the 2010 Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series was in the books. Well, almost, we still had to get our Bradbury Bad Ass hoodies!


A quick look at the numbers for the Bruiser is pretty crazy. Kevin Tilton, after I browbeat him into running, took the win in a course record time of 1:22:totallyridiculous, bettering the previous record by 7 minutes. The top 7 guys all beat the previous course record. My time from Sunday would have put me in 5th place in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, that time would have been good enough for the win. So, yeah, the race was stacked this year, and that's awesome! Personally, I PRed on the course by 11 minutes and simultaneously ran 27 minutes faster than last year. Not sure which of those is more impressive. Going into the race I had hoped to run 1:42, but would have been happy with 1:45. I figured if things went really well I could dip under 1:40, hence the chanting. So, obviously, I'm thrilled with the 1:38.

For the series, I finished 6th overall with a combined time for the three races of 3:40:59. That total would have placed me second overall the last two years, but I'm not complaining because at the beginning of the summer, I had silently set a goal of breaking 3:55 for the series. So, yeah, the summer went well.

Speaking of "going well," D was the 4th woman, winning her age group, in 1:47:42 on a bad leg with a "I just hope to break 2 hours" goal. She finished third overall in the series for the women, and we are going to petition Ian to have a "Fastest Household" prize next year. (Hopefully, I can hold up my end of the bargain.)


Now, the race wasn't all rainbows and candy. At some point while chasing Jamie, I could feel a hot spot on the ball of my right foot. In the O Trail, I hit a couple roots or rocks painfully twisting the bottom of my foot on consecutive steps. It was then that I knew I had something ugly on my foot. It turns out that I developed a pretty good sized blood blister. See...

I feel like I've recovered well from the race, and the blister seems to be a non-issue. All good news. I've done a couple very easy runs this week as I now truly taper for the Pisgah Mountain 50k on Sunday. I'm ready.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Training Week 8/29 - 9/4

This week marked the beginning of my sorta taper for the Pisgah 50k. I say "sorta" because I'm racing the Bradbury Bruiser the week before. I don't think you can consider it a taper when you race a hard 12 miles the weekend before the 50k. Time will tell if this is a good idea or not. If it's not, I'm going to have a fairly painful September 19. Wheeeeeee!!!

Onto the numbers...

8/29, Sunday: 17 - 2:54:15, Powerlines, Mt. Ararat, Cathance River Trails and a Suck Loop. My plan for this run was at least 20, but it wasn't meant to be. My legs never really woke up, and it was brutally hot and humid. I took two short sit down breaks by the river at 8 and 11 miles to eat and regroup (mentally and physically). After my second break, I decided that my best course of action was to head for home. The HEED in the bladder of my Nathan HPL 020 just wasn't working for me. Normally, I really like HEED, but today it felt like I was drinking syrup. YUK. I was home after 14 miles, and D offered me water, Gatorade and melon. The melon was amazing. I poured the Gatorade in my bladder and shuffled off for three more miles. So, all in all, it wasn't a very good run, but I pushed through it. The good news was that even in the heat, my stomach was good the whole way—no trouble with the gels, shot blocks or energy bars.

8/30, Monday: 3 - 23:42, Suck Loop. Much to my surprise I felt really good on this run. Cruised right along easily. With my struggles on Sunday, this was very encouraging. My negative feelings from Sunday's run were totally wiped away. In fact, I was encouraged that had I not been dealing with the heat, Sunday would have been totally different. And, it made me realize how much effort and subsequent success I put in and got out of Sunday's run.

8/31, Tuesday: Off

9/1, Wednesday: 3.25 - 29:00, Mt. Ararat Loop w/ D. It was already hazy, hot and humid when we snuck out for our run after D had dropped the Little Lady off at daycare. We had planned on doing the out and back on the powerlines, but that would have left us completely exposed to the sun. So, I suggested we run the twisty loop I devised through the Mt. Ararat trails a couple years ago. I probably hadn't run this run in over a year. The air quality was poor, and we could both feel it. Overall, though, it was a nice, easy jaunt.

9/2, Thursday: 7.75 total, Great Glen Trails Fall Trail Running Series, 3.4 miles - 25:50; 2.25 mile warm up, 2 mile warm down. Forced speedwork is back! Well, I didn't really open it up all the way, but still got in a good workout. It was hot again, but by the time I headed out for my warmup, it wasn't as brutal as I had anticipated. The course this season is excellent—lots of singletrack, especially in the final mile, which also features a stout climb. (I covered that mile in about 9:00, so that should give you an idea of how tough it is.) I ran relaxed but hard, even though I never went full tilt. All in all, a good, comfortable, hard effort. Bumped into Kevin Tilton as I was headed out on my cool down, which coincided with the warm up for his fartlek workout. I tried to kill him on some really tricky singletrack.

9/3, Friday: 3 - 24:52, Suck Loop. Uneventful, easy stroll.

9/4, Saturday: 3 - 24:42, Powerlines. Felt FAN-TAS-TIC. Just a great, fun run. There were a few puddles left behind by Hurricane Earl, which may have fueled my enthusiasm, but either way, my whole body just felt great. Maybe this is a taper?

Miles: 37
Trail: 31
Road: 6

Also notable this week is that I crossed over 1,000 miles for the year. That's not a big deal for a lot of folks out there, but this was the earliest I've hit that number. I barely got there in 2008; hitting the number in week 50. In 2009, it took me until week 47. Best of all, I'd say I'm feeling stronger than ever. In the last couple months (read: since the disaster at Pineland), my focus on strength and hills has really paid off. My notion of a hill is totally different. Hills that I run regularly are feeling smaller, shorter and flatter than ever. Don't worry, my arms are still pathetic.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Training Week 8/22 - 8/28

Another week of rolling with the punches. No major hurdles this week, but I am battling another cold. It's not a bad cold, but it has annoyed and lingered all week. Seriously, do they dip the girl in a vat of virus wash at daycare? I blame that one little boy. He's a little troll. After all, there's no possible way it could be this one's fault.

Can something that cute carry that much disease? (Actually, yes.)

Onto the numbers...

8/22, Sunday: 5 - 44:51, Homeplace Loop. D's parents were up visiting for a few days, and they offered to watch the Little Lady while we went for a run. Thanks! Nice morning on the trails, and especially nice to run with D.

8/23, Monday: 14 - 2:28:16, Bradbury Mountain State Park (Bruiser course, then a small loop on the west side trails.) Once again, with D's parents visiting we took advantage of the babysitting offer. As I said to D, it was great to feel a little "normal" for a couple hours. D wanted to run the full Bruiser as well as a few extra miles, and I was anxious to redeem myself after my poor long run last week. I didn't have a distance or time goal, and just went with the flow. As it turned out, I felt great the whole way, although I could definitely feel my quads by the end. All in all, a great run, even though I thought I felt a cold coming on.

8/24, Tuesday: Off. Precautionary rest day due to the cold, which had become real. That being said, I probably would have taken the day off anyway.

8/25, Wednesday: 5 - 38:39, Highland Green Road Loop. The cold felt much better today, but it was pouring down rain all day. I really debated taking another day off. Glad I didn't, as I actually had a really good run. The rain was mostly a steady wall of mist by the time I headed out, but it was warm so I didn't mind too much. Polished the loop off surprisingly quickly for how easy it felt.

8/26, Thursday: 10 - 1:21:47, There's a Black Fly in My Eye course. Since I'm still feeling a bit lost without my forced speed/work, I decided that a longish tempo run would fit the bill and be even more targeted training. Looking at the race results, I figured that a tempo effort would be around 1:30. Due to the rolling and technical nature of the course, an overall time was a more realistic goal than a per mile pace. Even with the lingering cold, this run went far better than I would have expected. I felt relaxed and comfortable the entire way. This run was a huge confidence booster.

8/27, Friday: 5 - 42:46, Homeplace Loop. Easy shake out run after yesterday. Pretty uneventful, except that it was quicker than normal.

8/28, Saturday: 3.25 - 25:06, Powerlines. Just squeezing in a couple miles in a short time window, and in anticipation of a long run the next day. Nice morning: 58 degrees when I left the house. Fall is around the corner...I hope.

Miles: 42.25
Trail: 37.25
Road: 5

Despite the cold, I managed a really solid week, and felt good on all my runs. A little sluggish and few creaks here and there, but they generally faded away within a mile or two. Another "real" week planned, then my quasi-taper for Pisgah. Well, a taper with a race in the middle. Again, it's a flawless plan.

Just seeing if anyone if paying attention.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Training Week 8/15 - 8/21

The good news: I survived the plague. The bad news: I had a pretty miserable week of training.

Onto the numbers:

8/15, Sunday: Off. My fever was gone, but I was completely wiped out from not eating on Saturday.

8/16, Monday: 5 - 41:43, Highland Green Loop. I felt markedly better when I woke up, so I decided to give it a go. I figured I'd hit the relatively easy 5-mile road loop up the Highland Green Road, which also gave me the option of bailing onto the 3-mile Suck Loop, if I wasn't feeling well. I started out feeling awful, but by a mile or so, I felt pretty comfortable and felt better with each passing mile. So, overall, a good run to get the cobwebs out.

Side note: I wore my road shoes for this run. This was the first time I had worn them in four weeks and for only the third time in seven weeks. They felt so different from my trail shoes, it was incredible, and I don't mean that in a good way. They felt so big and bulky that I could barely feel my feet. It was really strange. They're coming to the end of their life cycle, and I'll definitely be looking for something less bulky and over-cushioned. Maybe I'll even read Born to Run...nah...

8/17, Tuesday: 6.75 - 1:01:50, 11x Mt. Ararat. I hadn't done a Mt. Ararat spin in about a month, so it was nice to incorporate this into the training again. It was hot, but I felt pretty good. A hawk watched me from his perch on a few laps.

8/18, Wednesday: 3.25 - 26:44, Powerlines. This was the worst run ever. My legs felt heavy and weak. I cut it from a plan of 5 miles, and I even considered walking home. The timing of the run could have had a lot to do with it. I headed out the door at around 7:30pm after a long day that included two, 2+ hour car rides. Needlessly to say, I won't be trying to squeeze in the miles like that again.

8/19, Thursday: 14 - 2:42:35, Bradbury Mountain State Park (Full Breaker then a bit of the Bruiser.). My initial plans for the day were to run the Breaker course then the full Bruiser. A touch ambitious, but I did just register for a 50k, after all. I felt tired and sluggish from the get go. In fact, I think I felt good for only a handful of steps the entire run. My Breaker time was 1:41 and change, and I debated just stopping there. Being a stubborn runner, I pushed on, but the Island Trail sucked my will to live. By the time, I hit the Snowmobile Trail, I was very happy to turn right, head in and call in a day. Obviously, I would have liked to have banged out the whole thing, but it just wasn't meant to be. That being said, I'm a bit concerned about not only having the time to get the long runs in, but also the fatigue. I'm hopeful that it is related to the illness and not a bit of burnout. Fingers crossed.

8/20, Friday: Off. With all of that in mind, I decided to play it smart and take the day off.

8/21, Saturday: Off. Ditto.

Miles: 29
Trail: 24
Road: 5

So, it certainly wasn't the week I had hoped for, but I can't do anything about that now. Like I said, I am a bit concerned about being ready for the 50k, but I know that I will at least be mentally prepared to push through it.

In that vein...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Training Week 8/8 - 8/14

Admittedly, I felt a bit lost this week with no "forced speedwork." No race/fun race series (that fit in my schedule) for me to give a go at, but it was supposed to be a recovery week. And, it was a good recovery, but not too easy week. But, more importantly, just another lesson in things don't always go as planned.

8/8, Sunday: 9.5 total. Bradbury Mountain Breaker. Awesome day. Awesome race. This may be the best race I've had since I set my high school 2-mile PR my junior year. Sadly, I'm not joking about that.

Finishing the Bradbury Mountain Breaker. Courtesy of Maine Running Photos.

8/9, Monday: 6.75 - 1:06:21, Pineland Farms with Mindy. Post-Breaker, Mindy mentioned she was planning to run at Pineland on Monday. I had some morning appointments/errands, so she agreed to not only meet me in the afternoon but to also run easy. It was hotter than hell, so we took it very easy and chatted the whole way. Great to catch up with her as she's on the injury-free trail again.

8/10, Tuesday: Off

8/11, Wednesday: 5 - 43:33, Homeplace Loop. Not a great run as I felt a bit sluggish towards the end. Could be because it was surprisingly quick.

8/12, Thursday: 5 - 41:44, Brunswick Town Commons. Great change of scenery run, and real easy, flat trail running. Just cruised and enjoyed a beautiful day. Wanted to run more, but stayed "on plan" with the recovery theme.

8/13, Friday: 11.75 - 2:34:15, Great Glen Trails to 19 Mile Brook Trail to Route 16 Over the Imp and back. This was both an awesome and terrible run. It deserves its own post, which I'll get to later this week. Cliffhanger!

8/14, Saturday: Off - SICK! Fever of 100.8, super achy, and extremely nauseous. Bad, bad times.

Miles: 38
Trail: 34
Road: 4

I could have called it all trail miles, but Friday's run put me on Route 16 for a few miles. Running on Route 16 sucks. Nothing against this particular road, the scenery is quite nice, but it's more the fact that I'm used to driving it at, well, a slightly faster clip than I can run it.

Had planned on an easy run on Saturday to get the week over 40, but it just wasn't meant to be. I was so sick. So, unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure how I recovered from Friday's quasi-mountain run. Not much I can do about that now. Thankfully, whatever disease the Little Lady passed on to both D and I went as fast as it came. But why did it have to hit so hard? In any event, I'm just rolling with the punches.

Here's the exciting(?) news of the week: I registered for the Pisgah Mountain 50k. I'm pretty excited as I've really been looking at this race as a goal for a couple months. However, there are myriad flaws in this plan. First off, it's a 50k. Last time I attempted this distance, it didn't go so well. I'd like to think I'm smarter now, but like I said, myriad flaws. Secondly, I may only get two 20+ mile runs in before the race. That's not a lot. And, on top of that, they need to happen this week and next, so hopefully, I've recovered from the feverish stomach nastiness. Third, the race is the week after the Bradbury Bruiser. Can I run a 50k the week after racing a tough 12 miles? I guess we'll find out. At least it's not a hilly 50k. Fourth issue: it's a hilly 50k. Well, at least the race report should be entertaining. All that being said, I'm confident I can hit my only race goal: finish strong. I want to run the last five miles well. I don't want to limp home. I think I can run smart enough to pull that off.

Where are my Dr. Martens?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Training Week 8/1 - 8/7

As promised, this week was a bit of a mini-taper for the Bradbury Mountain Breaker. (I'd say that it worked.) Combine that with an extra day off due to our trip to Baxter State Park, and the mileage was a bit down this week.

Onto the numbers...

8/1, Sunday: Off. We did get out for a short hike, so I logged about 2.5 miles of strength work with Samantha in the backpack.

OK, I guess it wasn't all work.

8/2, Monday: 5 - 43:37, Nesowadnehunk Tote Road. Just a simple out and back on the main road through Baxter State Park. I felt really flat during this run. Just off. It was a lot more work than it should have been. On top of that, D had done the same run the night before in 40 minutes and change. UGH. I did have some great views, though, of the surrounding mountains and Nesowadnehunk Stream.

8/3, Tuesday: 7 total, White Mountain Milers Inov-8 Summer Series, 5k - 20:17; 2 mile warm up / 2 mile cool down. This was the last week in the series, so I decided to take it seriously once again. Plus, I figured it was another good opportunity for some "forced speedwork." I really wanted to dip under 20:00, but it wasn't meant to be. First mile was 7 seconds faster than last week, 6:14. The second mile was about the same for a 13:25 split, but I paid for those extra seconds in the final mile as could only PR by 3 seconds. Oh well, still a very good effort, and I'll take a 20:00 5k on that type of terrain off of no speedwork.

8/4, Wednesday: 7 - 1:15:50, Cathance River trails. Nope that time for that mileage is not a typo. This was the worst run ever. Not only was I feeling the effects of Tuesday, but it was hot, humid and awful. I felt sluggish from the get go, and it only got worse. Luckily, I was smart enough to bring my 22oz handheld and my Buff. On three separate occasions my hat and my Buff went into the river in an attempt to cool off. It didn't really work. I was cooked. However, I did play it smart. My original plan was to go 9, and I had no qualms about cutting it short. Additionally, I walked a fair amount. I was in survival mode, but, more importantly, I was hoping to not do any further damage by going too hard. Just a bad day, but I weathered the storm. Adding insult to injury: along one of the small ponds a swamp maple had already turned red and shed a number of leaves. This sight was completely incongruous with the heat and how hot I felt. I was really longing for October.

8/5, Thursday: Off

8/6, Friday: 5 - 45:43, Homeplace Loop. I started out feeling really sluggish but felt progressively better with each step. The slightly cooler weather no doubt helped. Saw a deer along the powerlines, bounded right across the trail directly in front of me. I could even smell him he was that close.

8/7, Saturday: 4.5 - 57:56, Bradbury Mountain State Park (One lap of the Breaker to mark the course.) On Friday night, I met Ian and Emma to mark the first half of the course, so on Saturday morning the crew of Ian, Valerie, James and myself had less to handle. James and I marked the Summit Trail, while Ian and Valerie hit the Switchback Trail. We met at the summit, then marked the Terrace Trail. Once back to the parking lot, we each grabbed a handful of flags to mark any leftover spots as we ran a full lap. Even though Valerie was pushing the pace :), we had a pleasant tour of Sunday's race course.

Miles: 28.5
Trail: 28.5
Road: 0

Again, a bit of a down week, but that's not a big deal. I'm averaging 35-40 over the last few weeks, which is right where I want to be right now. Another week of all trail miles, and I'm very happy to be avoiding the roads right now. No interest in the roads at all. I don't have any road races planned, so why pound the pavement?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Bradbury Mountain Breaker - Race Report

Going into this race, I wasn't certain what to expect. My training has been going well, but a really hilly course is just not my forte. Plus, I'd never actually raced this 9-mile course before, and running easy and racing are two different animals. With that in mind, my strategy was pretty simple: Run comfortably on the first lap with the hope that I'd be able to let it rip when I hit the Tote Road on the second lap. Employing that strategy and looking at results from previous years, I felt that 1:20 was a realistic goal, but wouldn't have been surprised to finish in the 1:25 range.

After making certain/hoping that we were ready to roll with all the race logistics, I snuck out for a very short warm up. It was more to shake out any nerves than to actually warm up. Then, after Ian's pre-race announcements, we were off. In what has become a tradition, I was in front of acidotic Racing's Chris Dunn for the start of the race, but he quickly moved past me within the first quarter of a mile. From that point, I focused on staying comfortable, relaxed and upright. The latter being a difficult task on this course as many, many racers ended their days having gotten to know the Bradbury Mountain trails more intimately than they would have liked. As I wound my way along the Boundary Trail, I finally caught Ian, and we ran together into the first aid station at the base of the Summit Trail. With a quick sip and a toss over the head, I scooted past him and started the steep climb to the top. Ian was right behind me, and I could here him cajoling the lead women to go for the "First Summit" prize. And, sure enough, just before the top, Lily Childress, the eventual women's race winner, went shooting by me. I had planned to walk the steepest portions of this section of trail, and I stuck to that plan—only running when the grade allowed. I hit the Tote Road for the first time feeling great and knowing that I'd done a good job conserving energy on that first major climb.

At some point in the first lap, I believe along the South Ridge Trail, I picked up a buddy, TJ. For the remainder of the race, TJ and I would swap positions constantly. We must have leapfrogged a dozen times. It made the race a lot of fun to have someone either just ahead or just behind for good chunks of time, and we chatted constantly when the oxygen levels would allow it. Good times.

The first lap closes with a descent of the Switchback Trail, which is my least favorite part of the course. You have to be disciplined on this section because you really want to run fast, but it's way too early in the race to let it rip. With that in mind, I ran very controlled on this section knowing that my quads would pay me back later. It was also on this section that I realized that Jamie was right behind me. (I guess, the good part about the Switchback Trail is that it's a good chance to see who's either in front or behind you.) We exchanged encouraging yells, but I didn't want too encourage him too much. He's been training very strongly of late, and I didn't think I could stay ahead of him on this type of tough course. He's a monster on the hills.

I hit the field and the aid station marking the end of the first lap feeling pleased with how my body felt. I'd been moving steadily, but not overdoing it. I was even more pleased to feel as good as I did and have my watch read 37:30ish. I had figured that 40:00 would have been a solid split. Another sip and cup over the head, and I was off. As TJ said, "Hey, let's do that again!"

TJ and I continued to leapfrog for the first half of the second lap. It was also at this point that reality started creeping up on a number of racers: Running two laps of this course hurts...ALOT. I passed more than a handful of people along the Boundary Trail, and it was clear that none of them were enjoying their time in sunny and beautiful Pownal, Maine. One of the people I caught was acidotic Racing's Rich Lavers who told me "Go get Dunn." "Hmmm...does this mean that Chris is not far ahead? Perhaps I shall run faster and find out." It was also just a few seconds later that I passed TJ for the final time. It seemed clear to me that he had more foot speed than I do (Who doesn't really?), but I was much more comfortable on the technical sections. In fact, I actually said to him at one point, "You need to invest in some trail shoes," after seeing him slip for the eleventy billionth time. In any event, my thought was that I could out run him down the South Ridge Trail, hold him off on the Summit Trail and disappear on the Tote Road. So, on the final climbs of the Boundary Trail, I found myself picking up the pace, and just like last month at the Bradbury Scuffle I had the "Is this too early?" thoughts. Pushing those thoughts aside, I worked hard on the remainder of the climb, and when I glanced over my shoulder at the sharp right hand turn onto the South Ridge Trail, TJ was no where to be seen. I looked back a couple more times, but I had to snap myself out of it for two reasons: 1.) I needed to focus on the racers in front of me (even though I couldn't see any) and 2.) It's dangerous. The trail is way too rooty and rocky to be stargazing.

I really went for it on the South Ridge Trail figuring that if I was going to fall, it was going to be spec-tac-u-lar. I managed to stay upright, and as I made the left hand turn to begin the climb to the aid station, I spotted two runners in front of me. I had hoped that one was Dunn, but it was not to be. (He was a good 3-4 minutes ahead of me. I think he cheated. Or, he just smoked me again because he's faster.) The other runner was clearly Chuck. His kilt gave him away. I was still feeling strong and got a confirmation of that from Dave at the aid station: "You're kicking ass and looking strong!" Thanks! That's all I needed to hear as the third and final cup of water went over my head. Chuck and the other runner were together now, and I slowly reeled them in during the first part of the Summit Trail. Unfortunately, the Summit Trail does not getting any flatter the second time around. Chuck was chatting with the other runner, and he seemed both pleased and surprised to see me closing on them. I went by them briefly, but they soon went past on the very top (and steepest) part of the climb. The other runner announced to me his intention to "remain upright" for the rest of the run, so he let me by on the summit. Chuck was off like a shot as it was time to execute part two of my strategy: give it everything I had on the Tote Road.

As I ran off the summit, I could feel that I was hurting. The last climb up the Summit Trail had greatly angered my quads and my calves weren't too thrilled either. However, I now had a huge advantage. If I could hang onto to Chuck for even a little bit on the Tote Road, I'd be in good shape. Chuck is a fearless donwhill runner, and, quite simply, faster than I am. So, I just focused on his back and put my head down. What I saw over the next mile-or-so I will never forget. I'm redlined. I'm all out. I'm trying to maintain control of my bodily functions. I'm picking the straightest line. I'm just trying to hang on. Meanwhile, a few strides ahead of me, Chuck is floating down the trail. Avoid a root here. Skip past a rock there. One side of the trail to the next. All the while his kilt bobbing up and down. Tra-la-la. "Isn't trail running fun?!?!" It looked totally effortless. I hated him. But, I was thrilled he was there. I knew that I wasn't racing Chuck, but I was being pulled along against everyone else in the race.

We made the right hand turn to begin the final climb to the summit, and miraculously, I was still with him. I had indeed hung on. Somehow, I was even able to chat with him a bit. I was also grunting, panting and cursing, but I did sneak in a few actual words from time to time. I know that Chuck was holding back a bit on this climb to help pull me to the top, and I truly appreciate it. It was a tremendous help. And, I also knew that no one was going to catch me. I wasn't letting it happen. I was amazed, however, that we weren't catching anyone. Where is everyone? I resisted the temptation to look back and just kept telling myself that the race was in front of me. Chuck gapped me with a few yards to go to the top, and I yelled my thanks as he took off down the Terrace Trail. (He ended up finishing about 20 seconds ahead of me, which is a lot of time to gain in that final stretch. DAMN!)

Chuck was gone, but I still had plenty of race left. I knew I wasn't going to see anyone for the rest of the race, unless I came up on them from behind, but I also had no idea where I was in relation to my goal time. The Terrace Trail was 100% gravity. I had little fear of trashing my legs now, since it's less than a half mile to the finish once you hit the bottom. I did catch one last glimpse of Chuck near the bottom as he was passing another runner whom I recognized as Bob Porier, but my brain failed to comprehend that fact since I'd never been this close to Bob at the end of a race. No matter now, though, as I'd reached the bottom of the Terrace Trail in one piece. Just one right hand turn on the Northern Loop Trail to the finish.

The trail to the finish features two small, uphill bumps, and I'd been dreading the second one. It's just big enough that it could really hurt at the end of a race. I pushed up that hill with everything I had. I no longer cared who else was running. It was me against the course. I basically sprinted up that hill and let out a pretty good grunt at the top. I'd conquered the final uphill this sucker was going to throw at me. It was literally all downhill to the finish.

Since the trails are open to "regular folk" during the race, I'm certain there are a handful of dog walkers who went home and told the story of the crazed runner grunting and frothing at the mouth, Satan face, arms pumping, snot flying, wild eyed...the whole nine yards. I was that guy. I'd gone to a whole other place. The pain was gone. It still hurt like hell, but I didn't feel it. Overly dramatic for a small, trail race? Not for me. This was the best race I'd run in a very, very long time. I turned onto the field for the final stretch knowing this. I was ecstatic. And, I was very relived it was over.

My final time was 1:16:08, 18th place. Honestly, I have no idea how I ran that fast. Seriously, I have no explanation for it. I didn't expect it, and I wouldn't have predicted it. I would have laughed at you, if you had told me I was going to run 1:16. In theory, this is not my kind of course. Then again, maybe my training is coming around.


Of course, while I was feeling all good about myself, D has to come along and win her age group. Topper. Seriously, though, 10 months post-baby. Yup, that's awesome. Just awesome. Even more awesome: she scored a Nathan Elite 2V Plus as a prize and offered to share it with me. It pays to marry up.

A host of other great performances by the Trail Monsters, even though acidotic beat us out for the team prize. Of course, the real victory is the growth of these races: 127 finishers on Sunday, which is a record for the Breaker. That's awesome. Great work by Ian to organize the whole series, and I've really enjoyed helping out with the directing duties. Now, onto the Bruiser!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Training Week 7/25 - 7/31

Mileage is somewhat skewed this week because I technically did two long runs: Sunday and Friday. That's just the way life and the schedule works out sometimes.

Onto the numbers...

7/25, Sunday: 13 - 2:12:33, Homeplace Loop, Cathance River Trails and Mt. Ararat Trails. I figured if I combined runs that are 5 miles and 9 miles from my house into one run, I'd get about 13. Add two summits of Mt. Ararat, and that's exactly what I got. Over 1,000 feet of climbing, too. Felt solid the entire way and really focused on just running easy. I felt a bit tired, but was pleased with the run. Killed 18 deer flies...they were brutal out there. Only bummer was that some of the Cathance Trails were pretty overgrown. They've weedwhacked some in the past, so hopefully, they'll do so again this summer.

7/26, Monday: 5 - 44:42, Brunswick Town Commons. No offense to the Homeplace Loop, but I needed a change of scenery. I've been running that loop ALOT. Nice to get back to some familiar terrain, too. Felt a bit tired again today, but otherwise good.

7/27, Tuesday: 7 total, White Mountain Milers Inov-8 Summer Series, 5k - 20:20; 2 mile warm up / 2 mile cool down. Took it seriously this week as I really wanted to see what sort of time I could run on this course. That being said, 5k's are dumb. Taking it seriously for me basically means sprinting the entire thing. Yay, Captain Slow Twitch! Aside from the sprinting part, I felt great and was pretty happy with the result. I'd love to sneak into the teens, but not likely on this course. The hill that makes up most of the second mile is just way to big. (I'm not mentioning the long downhill that starts right at the 2 mile mark.) Splits were 6:21 for the mile and 13:30 for two miles. Yup, that middle one is a killer, but the downhill in mile 3 evens things out.

7/28, Wednesday - Off. Contracted another cold from the kiddo. Yay, snot!

7/29, Thursday: 5 - 44:53, Homeplace Loop. My legs felt good, but the rest of me felt sick. I was in "let's just get this done" mode the whole way.

7/30, Friday: 15 - 2:40:49, Bradbury Mountain State Park (One lap of the Breaker, one lap of the Scuffle course and another lap of the Brearker). D and I finagled a day off together, which ostensibly was to be used to pack for our trip to Baxter State Park, but we dropped Samantha off at daycare and went for a run. Possibly bad parenting. Who cares, though, because we had a great run! Temps were a bit cooler, which was awesome, and the deer flies were practically non-existent. I felt very comfortable the entire way. Legs were good. Energy was good. I definitely could have run a few more miles with ease, which is a great feeling on that terrain. (More than 2100 feet of vertical.) A great day on the trails. D has a better description here.

7/31, Saturday: 4 - 47:02, Baxter State Park, Kidney Pond Circuit. Our first of three days in Baxter State Park for a mini-vacation. I was stoked to get out for a short run, since the running plans were back-burnered in favor of hanging out as a family. My plan was to just run real easy on the trails around and near Kidney Pond; explore a bit. As you can tell by the time and the pace, things didn't go quite as planned. First off, the trails were WICKED technical. Barely runnable in places. Even though that slowed me down a lot, it was actually really fun to pick my way around the rocks and roots you'd expect from a Maine trail. What I didn't expect was an incorrect sign and some major bushwhacking. After two side trips, one to a cool point on Kidney Pond and the other to a random canoe landing on a stream, I ran a bit further and starting thinking about just turning around, but then I reached a trail sign, which indicated that Kidney Pond Campground was only .7. Perfect, that would give me about 3.25 miles. Left I went. The trail was great for a while, and then it was not so great. In fact, it was gone—totally overgrown. The trail ran right along Nesowadnehunk Stream and almost into it. Actually, I may have been better off wading in the stream because the trail was that bad. I could have tripped over a moose and not realized it. In most place the grass was over my head. Finally, I broke out to a small clearing with another trail sign: "Kidney Pond Campground - 0.7." Crap. More buswhacking ensued until I finally reached the final .25 mile on the access road to the campground, which I hammered at 5k pace knowing that D would be wondering if I was still alive. I'm all for exploring and finding new trails, but this was a bit much. I hate bushwhacking. The welts and hives all over my legs were so pleasant. D took one look at me, and decided she wasn't going to run that loop. Good choice.

We had a great trip to Baxter. It's such an awesome place. A little hiking and a little running for me over the next couple days, which I'll recap next week. D has a terrific post about our trip here.

Miles: 49
Trail: 49
Road: 0

Again, the numbers are a bit skewed, but that's a big week for me. That's not a bad thing, though. Part of me wishes I'd snuck another mile in there somewhere to get to 50. Either way, that's the biggest week of 2010, and the most since one week in March of 2009. The tired legs seem to be working, too, since I've felt good on all my long runs and during my speedwork. Not sure how it works out that way, but I'll take it. I'm very hopeful that these past couple weeks will pay dividends at the Bradbury Mountain Breaker on Sunday.