Monday, September 26, 2011

65 Roses 5k - Race Report

I was fairly reluctant to write a report for this race for three reasons. First, I'm a trail/distance snob. I admit it. Second, it's a 5k. It's so short, what could possibly happen? And, third, my participation was very much an afterthought, and I was only viewing it as a workout. I haven't done any training at years...that would lend itself to being ready for a 5k. So, with all that in mind, what the heck was I doing running a road 5k in the first place?

My goal for running race was to attempt to find/manufacture a little speed for the MDI Marathon. As I mentioned, I'm only good at running slow right now. My hope was to get into a race situation and get dragged along to a fast (for me) time. I actually spotted this race almost two weeks ago, and I figured if I felt good enough after the Pisgah Mountain 50k and a subsequent big week, I'd go for it. Well, I felt good enough, and D was up for watching the kiddo (THANKS, Lady!), so I went for it.

After the usual scramble to get all of us out of the house in the morning, we arrived at the Eastern Prom with plenty of time for me to register and do a warmup on the course. One, I wanted to see exactly what the course was, and, two, I needed all the warmup I could get, since it usually takes me a few miles to feel human. Immediately, the unseasonably high humidity was noticeable, but I figured if I couldn't handle 5k of humidity, I should retire now. That being said, warming up for the race reminded me that I hate races that I need to warm up for. Does anyone ever feel good on a warm up? I felt slow and creaky, but I went to the line drenched in sweat and did a few strides, which felt totally foreign. I saw a few people I knew—Stephen, Kelly, Brian—and they each asked me the same thing, "What are you doing here?" I was very much out of my element.

As I said, I didn't really know anything about the race, which was a benefit for cystic fibrosis. Listening to the race director give her pre-race announcements, story of the race and dedication to a man who lost his life to the disease last month, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. Pretty moving, and I felt a little guilty for wishing they wold get things going so my calves wouldn't tighten up.

Onto the actual race...
The horn sounded, and within a few strides, I settled into third place. First place, was long gone, and second steadily pulled away from me in the first mile. The footsteps behind me also eventually went quiet. I never really looked at my Garmin during the race because I was basically all out the entire time. It wasn't like I could pick it. I was shocked to see a 5:48 first mile split when I eventually downloaded the data.

My only complaint with the race happened just as I turned from the Eastern Prom Trail onto India St. The volunteer at this corner was sure if he was supposed to stop traffic or wave them through. Hence, I needed to weave around/run into an SUV, but it only cost me a few seconds. Traffic volunteers need to be aggressive. He wasn't. I'm sure his job was easier when the masses rolled through.

Mile 2 was mostly uphill on India and Washington back to the Eastern Prom. I was in no man's land, but managed a 6:15 while climbing. The final mile rolled a bit, until a nasty hairpin turn (read: come to a dead stop practically) just before mile 3, which led to the finish. I crossed the line in 3rd place, 1st in my age group with a time of 18:53, 6:05 avg. It was great to get cheers from Jeff in the final mile, and Sam was kind enough to take a break from the playground to wave as I went by.


I didn't get the race situation I'd hoped for, but I'm pleased with the time. My best case scenario was to go sub-19, so no complaints. Jeff gave me a tour of the trails in the area for a 2.5-mile cooldown, I grabbed my age group award, and we headed off for breakfast with the family. Road 5k's are still not my thing, but it was fun to get into a race...well, because I love racing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Training 9/18 - 9/24

My biggest week of the year. I'm tired. My hope was to feel good enough after the Pisgah Mountain 50k to train right on through this week and next. Managed to pull that off for this week, so we'll see how the next seven days go. I've been consuming an alarming amount of food this week. I like that.

Onto the numbers...

9/18, Sunday: Pisgah Mountain 50k - 4:50:19, 16/102. RESULTS. Once again, a pretty shocking and great day for me. Comparing the results to last year, a lot of other folks took off big minutes, too, which is cool to see. My middle toe is also cool to see:

9/19, Monday: 9 - 1:28:11, Cathance River Trails. With the Lookout Mountain 50 on my calendar, I was really hoping I feel not feel too trashed. I headed onto the Cathance trails to attempt to put in some real ultra training. Nine miles was best case scenario if I felt OK with shorter options possible if it wasn't meant to be. Luckily, I felt tired, but not that bad. The first couple miles were pretty rough, especially my quads, but I got into a good groove by the middle. By the end, I could tell I was a bit dehydrated from the 50k, but no complaints. Well, my quads weren't too thrilled with the proceedings.

9/20, Tuesday: Off. What? That's 40 miles in two days!

9/21, Wednesday: 5 - 39:58, Highland Green. Comfortable spin around the neighborhood, and I felt pretty good. Still noticeable fatigue in my quads and calves, but nothing to cause any concern.

9/22, Thursday: 7 - 1:04:31, Dump Loop. Explored a new to me trail that is sadly only 2.25 miles from my house. That just shows how little trail running I've been able to do this summer. In any event, that addition nicely connected the dots on this mellow, but groovy, trail loop. I'd also like to make this loop part of a much larger loop through Topsham. Stay tuned... Legs felt much better today, but I still kept the pace nice and easy. No need to push it. It had rained overnight, so I was good and muddy and very soggy when I finished. Great run.

9/23, Friday: 15 - 1:52:24, Foreside Road + Patriot Commons w/ 12 at MP, 7:19 avg. This run was a test on a couple levels. First, I really wanted to make up for last week's MP run that ended poorly. Second, I wanted to see how my legs would respond on this run in the middle of such a big week. And, third, it was the first real run in my new shoes. Happy to report, the run was a success on all fronts. I was a little smarter with the pacing today, so that certainly helped me stay within myself. Although, after my initial 3-mile warmup, I felt pretty out of it for miles 4-6. I felt like I was pressing and couldn't get into any kind of rhythm. I'd brought a "just-in-case" gel with me, so I popped it at 45-minutes, and it seemed to turn things around. I fell into a really nice groove in the middle miles and didn't feel like I was working at all until about mile 12. I was definitely aware of the fatigue in my legs, but, overall, I felt better than I would have expected, even though it was insanely heavy and humid for mid-September. I was completely saturated by the end. Finally, the shoes felt great. I just hope I have time to get in a few more quality runs in them before the MDI Marathon.

9/24, Saturday: 5 - 42:11, Highland Green. Easy shuffle first thing in the morning. My legs felt very heavy, but that's exactly what I expected. At a couple points, I caught myself dropping the pace to a more normal rate for this loop but held myself in check. I really just wanted to flush yesterday's junk out of the legs and close the week out on a high note. Strangely disciplined on my part.

Totals: 72.5
Trail: 47.5
Road: 25

Yup. 70+. Me. After I got in the 9 on Monday, I thought I'd try to get to 70 for the week, figuring it was perfect a month out from MDI and a good base for Lookout Mountain. I'm a little tired, and I've been eating a ton, but that seems about right. The mileage will drop each of the next 3 weeks leading up to MDI, and I'm going to try to build in some speed. Looking at this week, I'm obviously feeling confident about my strength, but anything under 7:00 pace feels like a full-on sprint. Honestly, though, I think it's pretty hilarious that I ran a 70-mile week and am talking about speedwork for a marathon as if it's a 10k. Clearly, I've made the mental shift into ultra-mode. My five hour run at Pisgah was, yes, hard, but it didn't feel long. I never had a "I can't believe I'm still out here" moment. So, a road marathon should feel downright brief by comparison. I hope. As long as my legs can handle the pavement, it should go OK.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Training 9/11 - 9/17

A bit of backwards blogging, but I wanted to get my Pisgah report done while the elation/suffering was fresh in my mind.

Onto the numbers...

9/11, Sunday: 12 - 1:39:54, Bradbury Bruiser.

9/12, Monday: 5 - 39:01, Highland Green. Good, solid recovery run. Felt a bit tight and creaky but was happy to report no issues with the ankle.

9/13, Tuesday: 5.5 - 49:29, TMR TNR @ Twin Brook. Great, easy run with the crew. Sneakily humid and the mosquitoes had us all scurrying into our cars post-run.

9/14, Wednesday: 11 - 1:21:33, River + Meadow Cross Roads. Plan was for 3 easy, then 8 at marathon pace. In the end, I averaged 7:14 for the MP miles, but that's definitely faster than my current marathon pace. It was a bit of a strange run, though, as the first 5 MP miles felt super easy, but then I felt like I got smacked in the final 3. They were much, much more difficult and painful, and the suffering came on quite suddenly. Not sure what to make of this effort. It was warm and humid, so that could be a factor.

9/15, Thursday: Off

9/16, Friday: 5 - 41:34, Homeplace + .5 around the neighborhood testing out new shoes. A cool, breezy nearly perfect day on the trails around the Homeplace Loop, which I hadn't run since I strained my calf on July 2. Normally a staple loop, it was nice to get back to it. Everything felt good, and I took it very easy. A minute or two after I arrived home, UPS delivered a new pair of shoes: Brooks Racer ST 5. They never made it into the house, and I took them right out for a short test spin. I'm always extremely nervous ordering shoes online, since very few styles/brands actually fit me, but Brooks have been treating me right on both the roads and trails for a while now. I'm happy to report that they felt great and the fit was perfect. My plan is to use these for both training and racing, specifically the MDI Marathon. That being said, I feel a bit dirty for buying road racing flats.

9/17, Saturday: 3 - 23:07, Patriot Commons. This run was my attempt at a taper for Pisgah. Instead of 7+ on Mt. Ararat as I probably would have done, I took the new shoes out for a short spin around the neighborhood. They're snappy.

Totals: 42
Trail: 23
Road: 19

A fairly uneventful, easy week. Aside from the confusion of the marathon pace run, really not much to report. And, frankly, with all my injuries and other maladies, that's a good thing. Looking ahead, the plan is to recover from/train through Pisgah and then build up some speed for MDI. Right now, I'm good at running slowly for a long time. That's not going to get it done in the marathon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pisgah Mountain 50k - Race Report

Where do you begin with a race report that culminates with a 35-minute course PR? (I've been trying to type the next sentence for about 10 minutes.) Honestly, I surprised myself. I hadn't even committed to running until after last weekend's race. I figured that if I made it through the Bradbury Bruiser unscathed, it was worth taking a chance with the ankle at Pisgah. After all, D was running, and if I'm driving all that way...

The success at this race, really starts on Saturday evening when we drove to my parents' house, as they offered to watch the kiddo for the day, while D and I raced. It takes a village to run ultras. So, on Sunday morning, D and I hit the road at about 5:30 after a horrendous night's sleep due to the aforementioned kiddo. I was basically awake from about 3:45 on. Good times. Luckily, the drive was uneventful and after about two hours, we arrived at the epicenter of the universe, aka Chesterfield, NH. I registered, chatted with a whole host of familiar faces, downed a Red Bull, and then it was time to race.

The start wasn't the most organized affair, but I soon fell into a comfortable place and pace running alongside Nick Tooker, whom I met last year at Pisgah. We chatted the whole way up the road that leads to the park, but he soon took off on the first downhill on his way to a 10th place finish in the 23k. Interestingly enough, I met Nick as we walked up that very same road in 2010. I ran it this year. That would be a recurring theme throughout the day.

I rolled along very comfortably passing a couple people in the first few miles until I caught fellow Mainer, Peter Keeney, shortly before the water cache at 5 miles, which we rolled through at around 44:00. I immediately noted what I already knew: that was faster than last year. I tried hard to not compare this year to last because I didn't want to get too up or too down depending on how I was faring, but it was really hard not to. I wanted to make certain the 2011 race was a completely separate experience from the 2010 race. So, I tried very hard in the early miles to stay focused on how I was feeling in the moment. And, I came face to face with that dichotomy as I led Peter along the Dogwood Swamp Trail and the first major climb of the race. Last year, I slowed, dumbfounded by the climb, to a walk. This year, I ran 95% of it, and it felt fairly easy.

Peter and I ran alone chatting the entire time until just before the 8-mile aid station when we caught another runner, and the three of us arrived at approximately 1:15. I downed a cup of Gatorade and started up the long climb that follows. I walked a few of the steeper bits allowing the other two to pull ahead, but I soon reached the top thinking that it wasn't nearly as big of a climb as I remembered. I passed Peter just before the top and soon caught the other runner who introduced himself as Jonathan from Rhode Island. He actually recognized me from my blog, which I found hilarious...someone reads this! He was running his first 50k and asked me what I ran last year and if I knew our pace. "Well, last year I ran 5:25, and we're quite a bit ahead of that now. In fact, 12 minutes ahead at the last aid station." So, there I was comparing again.

As we turned right onto the Chestnut Hill Trail, Jonathan got a bit ahead of me as we climbed, and I downed a package of margarita Clif Shot Bloks. Once you crest the climb, you hit the most technical/unrunnable section of the entire course—very rooty, wet, rocky, uneven, fraught with death. It was the first time in the race that I worried about and was slowed by my ankle. I was cautious, yet still rolled it a couple times. Luckily, the strength has returned fairly quickly, so each time was without incident. I caught Jonathan once things became more runnable, and we chatted all the way into the 12-mile aid station with Peter just behind. I paused to refill a bottle with Nuun, giving Peter enough time to sneak out ahead of me, but Jonathan was behind and I wouldn't see him until after the finish.

In my memory, the stretch after the aid station was flat and really runnable. Not so much with the flat. It climbed a fair amount after the aid station, which I mentioned to Peter as I passed him for the final time. I also caught and passed another runner here shortly before turning left on the Reservoir Trail, which is my favorite section of the entire race. I felt great here last year, and things were no different this time around. I picked up the pace (as much as the terrain allows), feeling relaxed, and ran alone all the way to the 17-mile aid station.

Reaching the aid station in about 2:39, it was now clear to me that my Garmin was coming up a bit short. So, I knew that my pace was a bit better than what it was reading. I also knew that my pace was pretty solid. I was 3 hours at this point in 2010, which was a key moment in the race, because I had hoped to be at mile 20 in three hours. Needless to say, my spirits were high at this point, and I joked with the volunteers about not having hot dogs available as I downed a cup of Gatorade and a few potato chips before taking off. But, before I left, they informed me I was in 23rd place. Hmmm... If the race played out the same as last year, I may be able to pick off a few runners and sneak into the top 20. Let's go climb Pisgah Ridge!

Less that 10 minutes out of the aid station, I looked up and saw 22nd place. I was walking up steep section, but I could tell I was moving faster than he was. As I was getting close, he passed another runner, and I quickly moved by both of them. Hmmm... 21st place. There has to be another guy out there I can get. This was great motivation as I negotiated the Pisgah Ridge, which is probably a nice trail if it didn't come 18 miles into a 50k, and you're not trying to race. However, during the race, it's just hard. The view of Mt. Monadnock is nice...but not that nice. That being said, I rolled into the aid station at 20 miles in 3:09 getting cheers from Nick who had finished and was out to support his 413 peeps. I filled another bottle with Nuun and was off onto the dreaded Kilburn Loop.

The Kilburn Loop: Where dreams go to die.
It starts off so runnable and enjoyable, but soon devolves into the worst place on earth. I passed one runner on the downhill section. Hmmm... That's top 20. This was good. My legs were bad however. I'd been feeling my quads since about the ten-mile mark along with a blister on my left heel just for shits and grins. I was a bit worried how I was going to hold up in the final third of the race. But, luckily, the Kilburn Loop really sums up ultrarunning: just keep moving. Feeling good about getting into the top 20 (keep in mind, I was 28th last year), I hit the "bottom" of the loop which feels like it should be half way around but is really only about a third...of time, anyway...and saw another runner up ahead. He was looking back. "Yup, I'm coming to get you, mofo." I actually said that out loud. Anything to motivate at this point in the race. It took me a while to catch him, and he wasn't too thrilled to let me by, but I was stoked to move into 19th. A few minutes later, I caught a runner who was walking/stumbling. That's 18th. Of course, the numbers mean nothing because I was slowly becoming a walking/stumbling mess myself. Unlike the Pisgah Ridge, I can't think of any time when I'd want to be on the Kilburn Loop. Everyone struggles around this thing. I would find myself inexplicably walking for a few strides on sections that were eminently runnable. At one point, I said out loud, "Get me outta here." There's even a section that looks very similar to the end, but it's not the end. It keeps going. I hate the Kilburn Loop.

In a moderate stroke of genius, I had actually had timed myself the first time through the section of trail that repeats the end of the Pisgah Ridge/Kilburn Loop/into the aid station. (Look at the map, since I've described this poorly.) It was about 6 minutes the first time through, and at the end of the Kilburn Loop, I laughed out loud. I was going to hit the final aid station at 25 miles in exactly 4 hours leaving me with a hour to break 5 hours. "That's cruel."

Along with the joy of the Kilburn Loop, my stomach had also started to turn on me near the end. I was due to take another gel at the final aid station, but food intake was not happening. (I'd taken something every half hour up until then: Gu-Espresso, Clif Shot-Razz, Clif Shot Bloks-Margarita, Honey Stinger Waffle, Clif Shot-Razz, Hammer Gel-Vanilla, Clif Shot Bloks-Margarita) The nausea came on completely without warning, and I've never had a similar feeling either training or racing. Ah...ultras. Luckily, I'd brought along a couple ginger chews with me, and I stuffed one in my cheek for the next couple miles. I really believe this saved me from puking.

I left the aid station in 3:59 and change. While I was gingerly (pun intended) drinking a cup of water, another runner had come in, splashed a couple cups of Gatorade into his bottle and took off. I clearly didn't have that kind of gusto and didn't care that I'd dropped back into 19th. I was feeling kinda barfy. A couple spectators were along this next stretch of dirt road offering encouragement, including a group with small kids, which really lifted my spirits. One adult said, "You're looking great." "I don't fell great," I replied, but I kept moving.

I was somewhat dreading the turn at the parking lot onto the Davis Hill Trail. With good reason, since it was really torn up and uneven last year. I was pleased to find it in slightly better shape this year, and I passed another runner. Back in 18th. Time to suffer. And, that's really what I did for the remaining miles. My left quad was slightly cramping/spasming in these final miles, but every time it did I tried to combat it by running harder. It made me mad more than anything, and I was determined to not let it slow me down. Thankfully, it never locked up and I reached the park gate at 4:40:40. I had already convinced myself that breaking 5 hours had slipped away, and I figured I had about 2 miles to go at this point. Either way, I knew that I was going to run much faster than 2010, so I forced myself to drop the pace as soon as I hit the road knowing how mad I'd be at myself if I either got passed or didn't give it everything I had in the final stretch. After all, I finally didn't have to worry about my ankle like I had been all day. Time to just run.

I remembered a down (Hello, quads!) and two ups before the stop sign that marked the final turn/200 yards of the race, and I had the good fortune of seeing another runner up ahead. I was able to focus on trying to catch him as I dropped the pace as best I could. I knew he was too far out to ever catch him, but it certainly motivated me to try. My left quad started twitching on the second climb, but I could see the stop sign. It's the most beautiful stop sign in the world. I rounded that final corner and pumped my fists. It had been a good day on the trails.

I crossed the line in 4:50:19. So, clearly both my Garmin and recollection of the final road section were short. I waddled over to the results board and was thrilled to see myself in sixteenth place. Obviously, two runners had dropped after mile 17, bumping me up in the standings. Again, the time is a 35-minute improvement over 2010. I have no explanation for such an improvement. Going into the race, I thought I had an outside shot of breaking 5 hours but would really have been happy with anything under last year's time of 5:25. Throw into the mix the bad ankle (well, all this spring/summer's injuries/illness) and the fact that I didn't taper, aside from running 3 miles instead of 5 on Saturday, this race is really a mystery. But, I'm not complaining. Guess I'll just have to run 4:25 next year...

The biggest difference this year was that I wasn't afraid of the distance. Last year, I had only one run 50k prior to the race, and that race was a complete mess. I didn't really know if I could run an ultra, and it was a huge relief to do so. Since then, I've had a good result in a 50k. And, because I wasn't afraid of the 31 miles, I ran a lot more. I pushed a lot harder early on. On the long downhill before the mile 8 aid station, I said to Peter and Jonathan, "I'm sure I'm going to feel this downhill later." But, it was a joke when I said it. I knew it was going to hurt later, but I wasn't really worried about it. It's an ultra. It's supposed to hurt. Might as well embrace it. And, really, that was my attitude all day. Even when I was hating the Kilburn Loop, I felt like it was exactly what I expected and exactly what I signed up for. The other takeaway: that course is hard.

Since this was really D's race, I would be remiss if I didn't mention her awesome performance: 5th woman, 33rd overall in 5:34:28. Anyone who claims you need to sleep to be a great runner, needs to take a look at her performances this summer.

I'm starting to think that this race might be a "must do" every year. The course, while hard, is beautiful. The race directors put on a good show with no frills. The course is well-marked, but not over-marked, and all the aid station volunteers are friendly and very helpful. There's a barbecue at the finish. (Oh yeah, my stomach was fine within 10 minutes of finishing, and I downed 2 hamburgers, a hot dog, 2 heaping servings of pasta salad and a coffee milk.) Each entrant gets a loaf of bread. Just a great race. And, face it, you've always wanted to know where Chesterfield is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bradbury Bruiser - Race Report

On Friday morning, I was 90% certain I wasn't going to run the 2011 edition of the Bradbury Bruiser. However, after successfully negotiating five miles at The Brad without hurting my already gimpy ankle, I bumped the odds up to 50%. On Saturday, I felt really fresh running 5 miles pushing the kiddo in the BOB. So, the odds became a bit better. I packed up my gear with the intention of running on Sunday, but I hadn't fully committed even when I arrived at The Brad. Luckily, I was distracted by making final race preparations, helping with registration and setting up the finish area. Before I knew it, the time had come to race, so I just made my way over with the rest of the crew. I guess I'm running.

I lined up a couple rows back, and at the cowbell, I was surprised to find myself taking off at race pace. I was very nervous about completely wrecking my ankle, so I made sure I could see where I was landing at all times. Going into the first section of singletrack, I was right behind fellow Trail Monster Dave Roberts and was feeling very comfortable with the pace. Scott Hornney was just behind, and we chatted as we negotiated the Island Trail. The roots were certainly a concern, and I took all the corners fairly wide since it seemed all the gnarliest pieces were on the inside. My gait was part run, part tiptoe. Cautious doesn't fully describe it.

It was a huge relief to reach the end of the Island Trail. Not that it's much less technical on Lanzo, but it's a bit more open and less twisty. I was also stunned with my time at this point: 14:55, which was nearly identical to last year, when I was in a much better race mindset. And, it was clear on this day that I was not in a race mindset. I remember thinking at one point when I could feel a number of guys behind me, "Ugh...I guess I'm racing." Not a good way to perform at a top level.

Shortly after the ridiculous mountain bike bridge on Ginn, I passed Dave as I felt like I was moving a little better on the uphills. Jeremy jumped around me a few seconds later looking like he was out for an easy jog. I tried to stay with him for a bit, but he was moving far too well. It was at this point that I realized that acidotic Racing's Dan Dion and Rich Lavers were right behind me. "Ugh...I guess I'm racing." Dan stayed with me as we entered the Bat Cave Trail, but Rich had fallen off the pace a bit. After nearly running into a handful of mountain bikers who seemed confused by the sight of people not biking, Dan and I turned onto the Snowmobile Trail together. He and I had been chatting back and forth sporadically, and I was both pleased to feel very comfortable at my present pace and to have not rolled my ankle. And, to my surprise, I caught a glimpse of Jeremy up ahead. I yelled to him, "Jeremy, come here!" but he didn't oblige. So, I decided to pick up the pace and try to catch him. I was feeling fairly strong on the uphills and was able to drop Dan and come within a few seconds of Jeremy as we turned back onto the singletrack of Ginn.

Ginn and the subsequent turns on Fox West were really my downfall. It's very rooted through those trails, and I was having trouble finding good lines. I never rolled my ankle, but I slowed considerably. Jeremy became a distant memory, and Dan caught me shortly before we crossed Old Tuttle Road and stayed right on me all the way to the final aid station. Physically, I was still feeling pretty strong, and it definitely helped to have him pushing me. Coming out of the aid station and onto the Knight's Woods Trail, I picked up the pace. That hill is my least favorite in the entire park, but I knew that if I had any chance of staying ahead of Dan, I needed the largest advantage I could get before the O Trail. I dug down on this section and felt like I was really pushing hard for the first time all day. I was able to gap Dan and give myself a little cushion going into the O. I made that fateful left-hand turn at 1:14:47 on my watch and totally stunned to see that it was faster than last year by about 30 seconds. I was well-within myself and tiptoeing around the countryside.

Less than a minute into the O, it happened. I rolled my ankle hard. I hobbled for a few steps, said a few choice words, and started walking. I only walked a few strides, though, as it wasn't the complete blow-up I feared, which let me know that it was going to hold up for the rest of the race and beyond. Sure, it's injured, but the strength is returning. "I'm actually going to finish!" Of course, only moments after all these happy thoughts another runner went flying past. "Ugh...I guess I'm STILL racing." I could see that Dan was not far behind and just past the totally unnecessary mountain bike playground bridge, I stepped aside to allow him, another runner and a back-from-the-dead Rich Lavers go past. I soldiered on, but I knew I was being caught again. Fellow Trail Monster, Randy Woods and another runner went by. Well, that's six places lost in the first half of the O. Just keep tiptoeing.

Ian and I marked the O Trail on Saturday morning, and this really helped my mental state. Last year, which was also the last time I was on the O, I struggled with every step of the labyrinth, but this year, I actually enjoyed it. I had a good idea of where I was and how far I had to go. Granted, people were flying by me, but I basically knew what to expect from corner to corner. Of course, I did overrun a few corners and get off course a couple times. It's impossible not to in the O. During our course marking expedition, Ian had pointed out to me a tree that signified one mile to go. Shortly after I passed that tree one race day, I caught Dan, who said something to the effect, "Where the hell am I?" I told him I had a rough idea, but he didn't want to know. Clearly, the O had broken his spirit because physically, he'd been running strong all race. That's why the O is so tough. Of course, I didn't stick around to help and tried to tiptoe a little faster. I hit the final rock outcropping and knew I was almost done.

As I popped out onto the Knight's Woods Trail, my good buddy Nate Alsobrook had walked back to cheer me on. I said to him, "It's hard to run that trail on one leg," and glanced at my watch. I had about 30 seconds to break 1:40:00. "All right, I guess I'll sprint." I was happy to find plenty of pop in the legs and motored across the line with a smile on my face in 1:39:54 for 17th place.


Unlike the Breaker last month, my legs definitely felt race ready. Clearly, the limiting factor was the ankle in both strength and my cautiousness. The care was warranted, though, as I really needed to come out of the race without further injury. Mission accomplished. In fact, on Monday both ankles were equally sore, which is to say, not very. My head wasn't in race mode, but that will come. It's encouraging to feel a little bit of fitness coming back. Without the ankle injury and with a little more focus, I'm confident I would have run at least 3:31 faster. I lost a ton of time and five places in the O, but there really wasn't anything I could do about it. I wasn't really running for a lot of it. But, all in all, a very good race/non-race for me, and I'm stoked I decided to run.

A lot of great races out there and also a lot of blood, bruises and other maladies. People were really going for it this year, apparently! Once again, D had a terrific race, finishing second and wrapping up the series title on the women's side. Really happy for her, even though she thinks it's "silly." And, despite "never" running well at "his races," Ian had a huge PR, and his head has swelled to unheard of proportions. Deservedly so. Trail Monster Running once again took the team title, and 72!!! people earned Bad Ass status for completing all three races. A great way to wrap up the summer series. Now onto the Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Training 9/4 - 9/10

Despite still battling my left ankle, I was able to put in a really solid week of training. Luckily, all my other parts are feeling good. Unfortunately, because of the ankle, most of the miles were on the roads. Then again, I do have the MDI Marathon coming up in a month, so maybe that's not all bad.

Onto the numbers...

9/4, Sunday: 7 - 1:01:05, Mt. Ararat. Even with the ankle roll just two days before, it was feeling good, and I was eager to get some hills. I did alter the route to a more "ankle-friendly" variation, which saw me running the paved, backside road, which was less steep that the other routes to the summit. I traded the elevation for speed and upped the tempo each time I hit this section. I really liked this variation and will probably run it more often when I'm on Mt. Ararat. Just fun to mix it up. Despite being very humid, I felt good the whole way even with my lack of hill training. More importantly, I didn't further injure my ankle.

9/5, Monday: 5 - 38:38, Highland Green. Pretty snappy tour of this loop for me. In fact, it's the second fastest time I've ever put in on it. Granted, it's always an easy/recovery run, so it's not a tough standard. Regardless, this run felt very easy and the miles just flowed. Good stuff.

9/6, Tuesday: 20 - 2:42:13, Cemetery Hill Figure-8. With my aborted long run last week, I was determined to get some miles in. Still wary of the ankle, I resigned myself to the roads. Aside from the lack of shoulder in some sections, the roads I chose were great—read: hilly. I started out in a light rain that had stopped by about 5 miles, and by the time I finished the sun was out. It never got warm, so that was a bonus. This route uses some roads I remember training on in college. In fact, I have distinct memories of being dropped during workouts on these roads during my freshman year. I feel as if I made amends for those workouts today, putting in a solid 8:06/mile average for the loop.

9/7, Wednesday: Off - Planned. Surprisingly not sore after 20 road miles. I'll take it.

9/8, Thursday: 10.25 - 1:20:36, Simpson's Point via Brunswick Commons. Interested to see how I felt after Tuesday, I planned to run a comfortably, quick 10 on mellow trails/roads. Fortunately, the shoulders on the road sections are very runnable for the most part, and this loop probably only included a mile of on-pavement running. Miles flowed very easily the entire run and was even holding myself back a bit in the middle. Oddly, however, my upper body was a bit creaky/crampy. I assume it was a result of Tuesday, but still random. Either way, I'd say this run was a bigger confidence booster than Tuesday's 20. To feel this good after 20 on the roads was awesome.

9/9, Friday: 5.75 - 1:04:35, Scuffle/Bruiser Hybrid w/ Val. After marking half the race course for Sunday's Bradbury Bruiser, Val and I headed out for an easy run. I was very cautious to not roll my ankle. Mission accomplished. I don't think we had more than a second or two of silence the entire run, which was terrific. Very fine morning on the trails. Thanks, Val!

9/10, Saturday: 5.25 - 42:42, Bike Path w/ Sam-BOB. Following a busy morning of final race preparations for the Bradbury Bruiser, including marking the O Trail with Ian, I picked Sam up from D's sister, who was kind enough to watch her for the morning. Sam fell asleep a few minutes into the ride, so I ate some of her snacks and drove around for about an hour and a half while she napped. We made a half hour stop at home, so I could eat some real lunch, and headed for the Brunswick Bike Path around 3:00pm. I hadn't run with her in the BOB in quite some time...well, not since she's been talking. "Daddo running!" "Sammy running!" "Sammy kick!" Needless to say, she is a fantastic running partner, and we had a great time chatting away when the noise from the cars wasn't too loud. "Truck vroom vroom!" Post-run, we played in the fields a bit before headed home. It's great the weather is getting cooler, so, hopefully, I can take her out in the afternoon for runs on the days I watch her. It would be much easier than D and I trying to squeeze our runs in first thing in the morning.

Totals: 53.25
Trail: 23
Road: 30.25

Yup. 53 miles. Big week for me. Pretty comfortably, too. In fact, it's the third longest week of 2011 for me. (Tops being 61.5, which I've done twice.) Nothing but good things to say. Odd, huh? Well, I need to build up the miles because the other big news this week is that I registered for my first 50-mile race: Lookout Mountain 50 Mile on December 17. Needless to say, I'm really excited. More hills. More miles. I'll be ready to go.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Training 8/28 - 9/3

An encouraging, yet baffling week.

Onto the numbers...

8/28, Sunday: Off (planned)

8/29, Monday: 10 - 1:17:25, Bowdoin Fields. Plan was to keep the pace sub-8:00/mile, which I didn't think would be too tough on the level fields/trails. I ended up averaging 7:44/mile, but it was much harder than I would have liked. I'm chocking it up to a strange 24-hour stomach bug, though. Starting Sunday afternoon, I had some low-grade nausea, and it stayed with me straight through the run. D and Sam came to play in the fields after I finished, but I had to shoot straight home a wallow on the couch with a headache and feeling generally out of it.

8/30, Tuesday: 5.5 - 50:28, TMR TNR @ Twin Brook. First time running on any "real" trails since my ankle injury, and it went very well. Ran with Mindy the entire way, chatting and keeping the pace nice and easy. Nausea was gone by the time I went to bed on Monday night.

8/31, Wednesday: 6.25 - 57:47, Mt Ararat x12. With the ankle feeling good, I really wanted to get back to my favorite torture. Shockingly, I could feel my hips and butt from the "hilliness" of Twin Brook the day before, which shows all the flat running I've been doing because Twin Brook only boasts a few small bumps, so I was uncertain how it would go. Thankfully, after I creaky start, I got rolling and felt good by the middle and end of the run. I was cautious and slow on the downhill sections, and it showed in my overall pace. However, still a solid run.

9/1, Thursday: 5 - 39:54, Highland Green. Once again, my legs started a bit heavy and creaky, but no worries by the end. Good, easy recovery run.

9/2, Friday: 13.5 - 2:28:33, Bradbury Snowshoe Bad Ass + 1 mile on Boundary Trail. Plan was for at least 20, but a bad re-roll of the left ankle cut things short. Plan was to run the Snowshoe Bad Ass (all three snowshoe courses from the series) and then assess how my legs were handling the hills. If I was feeling good, I'd tack on the Breaker. If I was feeling mediocre, I'd do a loop on the flatter East side. If I was feeling terrible, I'd still do a loop on the flatter East side, but I'd suffer a lot. Kirk offered to meet me, but didn't arrive until after I'd finished the first course. Timing worked out well as I was just getting back to the lot when he was headed out to meet me, and it was great to have some company for the remaining miles. We chatted the entire way, and the hills just kept rolling past. I was being cautious on the downhills (and flats for that matter) due to the ankle, and felt only a few minor twinges here and there after some odd landings. We rolled through the first 12.5 miles in about 2:19, and it had felt very easy. I was confident the Breaker would be no trouble and was confident we'd get it done it under 4 hours. Unfortunately, less than a mile along the Boundary Trail, on a fairly innocuous section, I rolled my ankle. Hard. I was certain that I'd torn something, as I rolled on the ground yelling at the air. After a few minutes, I got to my feet, and Kirk walked while I hobbled back to the parking lot. Strangely, with each step it began to feel and bit better and was barely noticeable when we reached the cars. I'd expected major swelling and/or a nasty bruise but found neither when I removed my shoe and sock. Odd. I even had thoughts about finishing my 20 miles on the roads...

9/3, Saturday: 5 - 41:08, Highland Green. After a long, but really fun, day, I snuck out before dinner/during Sam's bath time to test the ankle. I wasn't sure if I'd make it a quarter mile or the entire five. Well, I made the entire 5 with ease. No issues at all. Some minor tightness in my shin (outside) and bottom of my foot, but no pain in the ankle. I was a bit low on energy due to the day's festivities, but I'm not complaining. This is the strangest injury ever.

Speaking of the day's festivities, Mindy celebrated her fortieth birthday by running 40 miles at The Brad, which is an amazing way to celebrate and a terrific accomplishment. Sam and I went over in the morning and caught everyone as they were finishing their first ~8-mile lap. Once the crew headed out, I loaded Sam up in the backpack, and we went out on the trails to cheer. Unfortunately, it started to rain once we were out there, but between the backpack's snazzy hood and some solid tree cover, she stayed fairly dry. And, I'm still in the running for father of the year...maybe. We also managed to catch the runners a few times, and Sam even got out for a little trail run of her own. "Muddy shoes!" A middy return home for lunch and a failed nap, then it was back to The Brad in afternoon to see Mindy finish up her 40 miles along with Emma, Ian, Jeremy and Zak. I'm extremely impressed by Mindy's ambition to set such a lofty goal and have the determination to see it through. CONGRATS! How could I not get out for a short run after that?

Totals: 45.25
Trail: 35.25
Road: 10

Like I said, an encouraging but baffling week. Pleased to see that I was able to do another solid week after 50 last week with only a few moments of creaky/sluggishness. And, had I not rolled my ankle on Friday, I would have easily been over 50 this week as well. Encouraging. The ankle injury is baffling because even though I felt like I got shot when I rolled it on Friday, it was fine both hiking with the kiddo on my back and running the very next day. Granted, it's not 100%, but it's not crippling. As much as it's going to kill me, I'm probably going to have to stick to the roads for many of my runs until the strength is back in it. A lot of writing the alphabet in the air with my foot for the next couple weeks.