Sunday, June 27, 2010

Training Week 6/20 - 6/26

I haven't written a training post in three weeks because, frankly, the last three weeks have been crap, crap and more crap. Not a lot to prattle on about besides cracked ribs, sinus infections, a sick child and other excuses. However, this week marked the return, and it went very well.

Onto the numbers:

6/20, Sunday: 0 - I did manage to mope quite a bit, however, after missing Mt. Washington. In reality, I wanted one more day for the sinus infection to clear out.

6/21, Monday: 5 - 41:57, Highland Green Loop. Despite taking a full week off, having been sick and the fact that it was a fairly warm day, I felt pretty good. A little creaky in the hamstring department, but I'll take it.

6/22, Tuesday: 5 - 44:36, Homeplace Loop. Another warm day, but all went well. My upper body felt a bit sore and tired: shoulders, arms, core. Gee, I wonder if even a hint of strength training would help? (See, epiphany #1.)

6/23, Wednesday: 6.25 - 1:00:57, Granite State Snowshoe Champs course at Great Glen Trails. Another good one: that's three for three. This loop is a lot of fun and will no doubt become a staple.

6/24, Thursday: 7.5 total, Great Glen Trails Spring Trail Running Series: 3.7 - 28:33; 2.25 warmup/1.5 cooldown. I felt exactly how I expected to feel: not sharp and a bit tired. The lack of sharpness would be the aforementioned three weeks of crap, and the tired would be the hilliness of Tuesday and Wednesday's runs. That being said, I'll take it.

6/25, Friday: 5.5 - 48:38, Complete random loop. Left the house looking for hills and 5 miles. I started with a climb up Mt. Ararat, then a lap on the Heath Trail, down Tedford Road and back on the powerlines. This probably won't become a regular loop, but it was good recon for building a longer loop. I had never run that particular piece of Tedford Road (all dirt), either, so it was nice to connect the dots. Because of the scouting nature of this trip, I wore the Garmin, but I was disappointed with the numbers, specifically the elevation. I felt like this was a fairly hilly run, but the Garmin data makes it look flat. Can I get a couple opinions on the hill factor of this run? Here's the data:

6/26, Saturday: Off

Totals: 29.25
Trail: 24.25
Road: 5

I'm classifying that as a very good comeback week. Kept the pace easy, except for Thursday, and felt good on each run. All positive steps.

I had many, many other deep thoughts and musings I was going to post, but I've forgotten them. If I could only blog while I ran. I will say this: the plan is to build and roughly follow the Walker method. (Or else, he'll send me to my room.) Additionally, plans are beginning to germinate for the fall...and beyond.

One final note: HOLY CRAP Western States was JACKED this year!!!! Watched Roes and Krupicka finish last night and bunch of the "regular folk" finish today. Awesome, awesome stuff.


OK, so I cheated. Not retro. But, it's a groovy video, and I can't get that flippin' song out of my head. Plus, the facial hair work at the end is stellar.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Three Weeks

Today, I was supposed to be writing my race report from the 50th Mt. Washington Road Race. Things didn't exactly turn out the way I had hoped. Since Pineland, it's been nothing but setbacks, and I've had only three quality runs.

The first was on Saturday, June 5. Somewhat by chance, I was passing by Fort Rock in Exeter, NH. I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it the the Exeter Trail Races, so I was stoked to have a chance to check out the enemy's turf. I heard plenty of good things about these trails. I had taken a peek at the trail maps, so I had rough idea where I thought I might like to run. I was hoping for about 45 minutes. Long story short: I got very, very lost. I was out for nearly an hour and a half. I ended up finishing on the roads after finding myself in a condo complex. Luckily, two very nice, but very perplexed women were kind enough to give a very sweaty, smelly fellow directions. And, the entire time, I was trying to figure out why my chest hurt so much...hmmmm...

After taking a few days off to let my now confirmed cracked rib heal and a couple short, easy runs to test it out, my second quality run came on Friday, June 11. I was looking to get in a solid hour, and being at Great Glen Trails, I decided that the Granite State Snowshoe Championship course would be a good choice: fun trails and plenty of hills. The recipe was just right, and I felt great. Ran very easy and finished in just under an hour.

Two days later on June 13, D and I invited a bunch of Trail Monsters to our house for Cathance and Pancakes. A great crew showed up, and the running was just as good. I led the crew on a 9-mile loop through the Cathance River Nature Preserve and also made sure we had an option for those looking to go a little shorter. Great time on the trails, and I felt very relaxed and comfortable the whole way. I felt more comfortable once we returned to our house and ate a bunch of pancakes and drank a ton of coffee. Be sure to check out Chuck's pics.

That afternoon, I felt a little off, and I knew something was wrong. By Monday, it was clear that my sinuses were in a very bad place. On Tuesday, I had my prescription for antibiotics to combat a pretty nasty sinus infection. I maintained a level of functionality throughout the week, but I was basically a zombie. Running was out of the question. It was compounded by the fact that I barely slept most nights due to aggressive coughing fits. In short, I was a mess. On Thursday night, I decided that running up Mt. Washington was out of the question. In some ways, it was an easy decision. In others, I couldn't believe I wouldn't be toeing the line on Saturday.

So, that's what June has been like. I've actually had fewer days running than not running this month. That's grim. I guess a cracked rib and a sinus infection will do that.

Now, with all that in mind. I actually feeling really optimistic and excited for the rest of the summer. I'm not saying that I'm going to have great race results, but I know that I'm going to enjoy running. And, just running. That will be the key to epiphany #3. It's pretty clear that 10 years away from running (and getting fat) aren't overcome by just a couple years of running. It takes more time than that. And, I've decided that that's OK. Plus, not running has given me time to think about running. (I'm better at thinking about than I am at doing it.) Specifically, I've been thinking about the type of running I want to do: more trails, more fun trails. Perhaps even longer trails...perhaps...

During this crappy month, I've watched this video about 100 times:

It's not new, and it features Coldplay (ugh). However, it makes me want to get out and go. And, if I'm still excited to run after the way the last three weeks have gone, it bodes well for my attitude and motivation once I get back into it. Maybe I'll even run another ult...

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Epiphany

I have a friend who used to have an epiphany every couple days. Every time he thought of something new or heard a differing opinion, he claimed he had had an epiphany. In general, these realizations were not epiphanies and were quite mundane. "You mean, Apple-Z allows me to undo what I just did on the computer?!?!!?" So, in the spirit of epiphanies, here's my post-Pineland epiphany, or perhaps it's three:

1. Strength. I can't recall the number of times that I've vowed to do actual strength work. I do know that whatever the actual number is is the exact number of times I've failed. I even know the reason for my failings. It's a point I've discussed with Mindy (who is on the comeback trail...again!!!), many times. Doing non-running exercises makes me feel injured. When I'm healthy enough to run, I just want to run. And, I'm not go to belabor this point, but based on how my body reacted at Pineland, I need to build up my already impressive (read: not actually impressive) muscles. Running alone isn't getting it done. I've mentally sketched out a routine that I'm going to do three times a week. I mean it this time. I hope...

There is one important caveat to this epiphany: I will not do any upper body work with a cracked rib. This caveat is significant because, well, I do indeed have a cracked rib. Or at least, I'm 96% certain I do. Last Thursday, I was changing a flat tire on my car, when I felt a pop while trying to loosen one of the lug nuts. It's on my right side, near my arm pit. It hurts, especially when I take a deep breath or do any number of other movements or tasks I've yet to discover. Luckily, our ibuprofen stores are full stocked...not for long.

2. Nutrition. This epiphany isn't directly related to Pineland as it's been something I've been thinking about for quite some time. I have only a remedial knowledge of nutrition. For example, I know that I everything I eat shouldn't be deep fried. Beyond that, it's a bit of a crap shoot. I just need to make a better connection with the output from the food that goes in. My diet is fairly healthy now, but not healthy enough to fuel an athlete. If you can't be an athlete, at least eat like one!

3. Training. In short, I need to step it up. My training is fine for a guy just trying to be in reasonable shape. I've accomplished that, but that's really not good enough. Don't look for any triple digit weeks, but it's time for a change. When I started running again in late 2007 after a ten year hiatus, I had hoped to be able to run comfortably for an hour. I managed that and more. In 2008, I wanted to see if I could run a whole year without any major injuries. I not only accomplished that goal, but I also completed my first marathon. Last year, I tried to do to much without adequate recovery and learned a lot. To this point in 2010, I'm averaging 28 miles per week. That's it. And, I may do one hard workout or race per week. That equation is not going to add up to the results I want.

Now, I promise not to overdo it. If, say, I don't know, for example, I have a cracked rib. Well, in that case, I'll back off a little bit. I'll also be paying close attention to my body after races. I will not keep pushing like I did following my 50k at Pineland last year. And, most importantly, I'm going to be really relaxed with my training. If I feel good, I might go longer or harder. If I don't feel so good, I won't. I'll probably do a few race specific workouts here and there, e.g. for Mt. Washington or the Bradbury Mountain Breaker, but I really just want to build up my strength. The 5k's and short races are really fun, but I can do reasonably well in those without training too seriously. If I focus on strength, however, I believe those results can get even better. But, more importantly, my running as a whole will improve. It's a theory anyway.

Now, where's that ibuprofen?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival 25K Race Report

Well, that didn't go particularly well. For the third year in a row, my final miles on Oak Hill were absolutely brutal. In 2008, I had some stomach issues and was completing my longest run ever. Last year, I was struggling mightily in the final miles of my first 50k, for which I overtrained and underfueled. Going into Sunday's 25k, my whole focus had been on running strong around Oak Hill. It didn't happen.

The Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival is now a two-day extravaganza with seven races over the weekend with distances from 5k to 50 miles. On Saturday, I decided to bring the Little Lady over to hang out and pick up our race numbers. As you can see, she had a good time:

Jamie Gemmiti photo

On Sunday, D and I returned, and it was all business...eventually. We arrived at the race shortly after 7:00am, in order to give D enough time to prepare for the 50k, which started at 8:00. And, from the moment we woke up until the cowbells rang to start the 50k, I really only focused on D's race. But, once she was away, I could refocus on my race, which started at 10:00.

My plan for this race was twofold: 1. Run 5 consecutive 24:00 5ks, and 2. Run the race just as I ran the Run for the Border Half Marathon in March: open with easy miles, then hammer the final 5. Part #2 first, that strategy had worked so well in the half marathon, I figured it was a no brainer for the 25k. Plus, I'd done more speedwork since then, so the hammer portion should be even more hammery. Now, Part #1. With the rolling terrain I knew that 24, 24, 24, 24, 24 wasn't exactly realistic, but it was a perfect guideline. Five 24:00 5ks, works out to exactly two hours, which I felt was within reach. That was 7:45's for 15.5 miles, which seemed doable based on the fact that I'd managed 7:19 per mile in the half marathon. Additionally, the McMillian Calculator predicted a 2:02 25k based on my time at the Merrimack River 10 Miler. Now, I know trail races don't exactly translate easily, but it was a good guideline. So, going in I figured that sub-2:05 was very realistic, and if I had a stellar day, I could break 2 hours.

I did a short, easy warmup—mainly to avoid standing in the porta-potty line—of about 10 minutes, and watched the sun get brighter and brighter as start time approached. Even worse, were the large plumes of pollen that would blow through the Grove. YUK. During my final race prep, D came through the Grove at 10+ miles into her race looking great. Perhaps going a bit too fast, but she said all was well. I grabbed my handheld water bottle and headed for the start line.

The first 5k is basically all downhill, and it is very easy to go out too fast. With that fear in mind, I placed myself comfortably in the middle of the corral. This put me behind many, many runners in the first mile, but it was the right move. I went through 5k feeling very relaxed and comfortable in 23:10. A touch fast, but nothing to worry about with downhill—just a little time in the bank. The first time through the yurt aid station was a bit of a madhouse since the course was packed, so I blew right through. This move allowed me to catch up to my buddy Nate, who joined me through 10k. We chatted as we moved comfortably through the fields. Admittedly, I had forgotten how much real climbing there is in this second 5k, and shortly before 10k, I was worried I'd slowed down far too much. Not the case, however, as 10k went by in 48:45. Slightly slower than my goal pace, but still fine. I had expected to be slower on the uphills, since I was really trying to stay relaxed and just take what the course gave me. Mellow on the uphills and comfortably quick on the downs.

Passing someone on the inside for no apparent reason. Maine Running Photos photo.

As I had planned, I grabbed a gel at 10k, and my fumbling with the zipper on the pocket of my handheld allowed Nate to get just ahead of me. This was eerily reminiscent of last year in the 50k, when he pulled away from me at this point on the course in our second lap and proceeded to bury the last 15k besting me by nearly 30 minutes overall. Was I in for a repeat of 2009? I didn't think so because I was still feeling pretty good. I knew I just ran 10k, but nothing to be concerned about. I was still focused on staying relaxed and picking it up upon my return to the Grove and into Oak Hill. My buddy Ian (and his ATV), one of the race directors, was all over the course (see, ATV), and I saw him around 11k, at which point I said, "The race is about to start." I must have seen Ian six times during the race. Home course advantages does have its, well, advantages.

I grabbed more water on my last trip through the yurt aid station, not wanting to make the same mistake as last year, since I was only carrying 10 ounces. The fields, and there are about 3+ miles of open fields on this course (per lap), were hot. Not brutally hot, but hot nonetheless. And, the main, but almost imperceptible problem with the fields is the length of the grass. Yes, they're mowed, but the grass is just high enough to somewhat grab your feet and provide some resistance. It's sneakily draining. And, I was starting to feel it. As I was winding around the "new field" (slight course change this year due to the fact that Pineland Farms is indeed a working farm and one of the original fields was being worked), I knew that I was working. No longer was the race feeling easy. I was not going to be a simple flip of the switch and start hammering when the time came. Nope. This was work. That being said, I was very pleased to pass through 15 in 1:12:58. A touch slower than planned, but that had been a good 5k. I said to myself, "OK, you're still in this." Sub-2:05 was still in the cards.

Just before the 15k point marks the return to the Campus Loop—the bottom of the Campus Loop. The stretch from the bottom of the Campus Loop back to the Grove is essentially all uphill. It rolls a bit through the "cloverleaf" section, but, really, you're climbing. Just past 15k, I saw Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING on a piece of trail above me. I marked the time, and realized he was about 5 minutes up on me at this point. And, based on what I knew he was hoping to run and past results that meant I was having a solid race. Or at least I had been up to that point. The climb took a lot out of me, and I knew deep down that Oak Hill was not going to hurt. I just had no idea how much.

Coming into the Grove. This is the last time I would look alive. Christine Racine photo.

Coming through the Grove, I tossed my water bottle to Valerie's husband Rick, since I'd drained it. (Rick was crew chief extraordinaire for Valerie who was running the 50 Mile.) It was actually my plan all along to kill the 10 ounces in the first ten miles and rely on the aid stations around Oak Hill. I figured that if I was running hard, I wouldn't really need all that much water at this point. It was go time. I picked up the pace crossing the road more to test the waters than anything, since I wanted to grab a drink at the aid station before headed around the final circuit. Things felt cautiously good. Cup tossed aside I picked up the pace again and tucked in behind a pair of guys moving a steady pace. They had passed me on the climb before the Grove, and the pace was one I hoped I could maintain. And, I didn't manage to hold it...for about a half a mile. For much of the race, I had been a few strides behind my friend Jeremy of Atayne, but he disappeared at the last aid station for a "pit stop." I was unaware of this because he soon passed me. After the race, he told me that he said something to me, and my response was less than cordial. I don't remember the details of our exchange, but we were climbing a small hill (just passed the old, now removed, field), and I do remember wasn't good. My legs weren't interested in moving forward, especially on the hills. Any little uphill in the next stretch was tough. Luckily, the majority of the first part of Oak Hill is downhill. But, then you hit Gloucester Hill.

Gloucester Hill is officially were it all went bad. My legs, specifically my quads, literally stopped working. They didn't cramp. They didn't get heavy. They didn't tighten. They just stopped. It was as if I had no quads. More than once in this section, I wobbled and nearly fell over...on the uphills! It was gruesome. I'm estimating at least 30 people passed me in the final 5 miles. One of those people was fellow Trail Monster, Alan, who did his best to bolster my spirits and my pace. He reminded me to use my arms, which was a huge help. Unfortunately, my arms are not exactly, well, strong, so by the time I was circumnavigating the never ending field of sorrow that makes up the very end of the race course, my arms and shoulders were really cramping. I was not enjoying my day. Let's just move on and never speak of this part of the race again.

I crossed the line in 2:13:59, 90th out of 320. If you're crunching the numbers out there that's 1:13 for the first 15k and 1:00 for the final 10k. That's painful...on a number of levels. Remember Nate leaving me at 10k? Yeah, he beat me by over 15 minutes. I'm not running the same race as him here next year. And, to put my epic collapse further in perspective, Jeremy, who passed me with 5 miles to go, finished more than 8 minutes ahead of me.


Jeff (who had an AWESOME race!!!! 1:52 and change!) and Alan met me at the finish, and I was on a mission to clear the finish line, crawl into our tent and try to collect myself in time to help D come through the Grove for her final miles on Oak Hill. A funny thing happened on the way to the tent: I fell over. My legs just gave out. I felt know, as fine as you can feel after all that suffering...but without warning I hit the deck. It was very odd. I did manage to collect myself (with plenty of help from Jeff and Alan) and make it into a chair in our tent. Jeff was nice enough to bring me a couple orange slices, which made me feel like it was halftime of a youth soccer game and much better all at the same time. However, he also informed that D had dropped out of the 50k. Not a good day for Team Snowplug.

After much wound licking, some food and some wonderful, delicious beer things slowly returned to normal. On the positive side, I did PR on this course by over 5 minutes. I guess that's a good thing...right?

Proof that even with awesome facial hair, things don't always go your way. Ian Parlin photo.

Finally, huge, huge props to Ian and Erik for putting on a fabulous weekend of trail running foolishness. The races are first class, and the atmosphere is second to none. Great work, guys.

Oh, one more thing: Valerie kicks ass!!!!! Watching her finish the 50 Mile had to be the highlight of my weekend.

Up next: Mt. Washington. Yeah, with my stellar uphill performance at Pineland, running to the top of the highest peak in the Northeast should be no problem...