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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, April 28, 2008

Northern End of the Wapack Trail

On Saturday I decided to run the northern section of the Wapack Trail as a warm-up for the Seven Sisters Race next weekend. The Wapack Trail is about 21 miles end to end, starting in Asburnham, MA to the south and ending in Greenfield, NH in the north.
I did an out and back from Mountain Rd in Greenfield to Rt 101A in Temple, crossing over North Pack and Pack Monadnock Mountains...twice. The trail signs indicated a 5.4 mile one way trip but some of the online Wapack Trail info indicated this might be closer to 5 miles.
I planned an early start and was on the trail by 7am. Weather was great, although a little chilly at the start (mid 30's). I wore a 40 ounce Camel Back pack and carried a cell phone (for safety and pictures). The plan was to run as much of the trail as possible although this got a little challenging only after about a mile on the trail. The trail is marked by yellow triangles but it wasn't always easy picking up the trail, especially when running. There was some pretty steep ledge heading up to the summit of North Pack so running wasn't always an option but the view of Mount Monadnock at the summit was worth the climb. After a brief pause to snap a photo, I headed south towards Pack Monadnock. Most of trail to Pack Monadnock was runnable so I continued on at a comfortable trail pace being careful with my footing. I summited Pack Monadnock, looked briefly for the trail and headed done to Rt 101a. This part of the trail had some steep sections which made running difficult at times, including some serious ledge right near the bottom where the trail crosses the auto road at the entrance of Miller State Park. I continued down all the way to Rt 101a, turned around and headed back into the park. I stopped briefly to eat a PowerBar and checked my 1/2 way time (1:36). The elevation gain so far was just under 1800 ft of climbing and I was a little tired but generally felt pretty good and was happy with the effort so far. Although the return trip started with a steep climb up the ledge from the auto road, it was generally a much easier run then the way out. I also passed several large groups of hikers on my return trip, but most were nice enough and moved to the side to let me run by. I'm glad I went with the 40 oz Camel Back, because I sucked it dry after about 2 1/2 hours of running. Thankfully the run back was MUCH quicker, finishing the return leg in about 1:02. Return elevation gain was roughly 1600 ft of climbing.
I have no idea how this will compare with Seven Sisters but I had a good time and was pleased with my effort. I ran somewhere between 10 and 10.8 miles, took 2 hrs and 38 minutes and climbed nearly 3,400 ft. Not a bad days work.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seven Sisters Trail Race

Seven Sisters in next for me on the race calender. This will be the first time running this event. I've talked to a couple of friends and read a bunch of race reports on the web and they all seem to be in agreement on this race: probably the hardest trail race in New England. Now that's the kind of description that gets me excited about a race!
Seven Sisters is an out and back 12 mile race along the ridge line of the Mt. Holyoke range in Amherst, MA. Starting at the Notch Visitor Center it follows the Seven Sisters Trail (part of the longer Metacomet-Monadnock Trail) over Bare Mt, Hitchcock Mt and eventually Holyoke Mt before turning around and repeating the trail back to the finish. I'm still not clear what the reference to Seven Sisters actual is but I believe it has something to do with the seven peaks (hills, mountains, etc) you go up and down along the ridge.
The race states on their website: "Extremely hilly with 3,700 feet of climb consisting of many steep hills with hazardous footing in places due to the many sharp basalt rocks the comprise the elevated ridge of Mt. Holyoke".
Looking forward to this one on May 4th.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Muddy Moose 14M Trail Race Postponed

The next race in the Xterra Trail Series was supposed to be this Sunday (4/20) but was postponed until May 11th due to snow. Yep, mid-April and the trail is 90% snow covered. That's what happens when you get over 10ft of snow for the season I guess.
Of course the new date creates a dilemma for me (maybe). I'll be on the other side of Lake Winnipesaukee on Saturday May 10th running the Big Lake 1/2 marathon. This is one of my favorite races of the year so my focus will be on this one. However, I really, really, really want to run the Muddy Moose as well. It's probably wishful thinking on my part to think I can do both. Obviously if I did the Muddy Moose I'd have to go easy on that one. Being a trail race through the muddy trails of Wolfeboro may help with that as well. Heck, if nothing else it would be good practice for the Jay Marathon in July (50k+ trail race).
For now I'll focus on Big Lake.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Xterra Merrimack River 10M Trail Race

When I got up Saturday morning it was pouring rain and I told myself I wouldn't race in the rain (any excuse to give me a way out since my legs were still tired). A couple checks of the weather though indicated the rain would most likely clear up by race time so I headed on down to Andover.
The race is an out and back 10m race along the Merrimack River. The trail follows the river pretty closely for the first 2-3 miles and is relatively flat. I couple of water crossings (ankle deep stuff) and a little mud but generally decent single track trails. I hit the 3 mile mark at 20 minutes even. The next 2 miles were considerably harder with several water crossings (one which was nearly knee deep for about 20-30 ft), lots of mud and roots and some pretty steep up and down crossings of ravines where brooks and streams feed into the Merrimack. We also climbed a pretty steep section at the power lines which had you sucking for oxygen by the time you got to the top. At the 5 mile mark I snagged a cup of water and made a u-turn and returned on the same trail, trying to avoid the slower runners still coming out. On single track, this isn't always that easy (but it was fun). More than a few runners took some spills. The mud was slick, the hills were slick from the rain and the bridges felt like they were iced over at times. I was able to navigate all the hard stuff but couldn't figure out how to get through a mud puddle without hurting myself. At mile 7 I was running through one of the muddy, wet sections when I stepped on a board and rolled my right ankle all the way over (and yes, this is the same ankle I've been having problems with). I kept on running (with a slight limp) but my ankle was really sore. I managed to complete the last 3 miles in about 20:30 and finished with an overall time of 1:13:49, 28th overall out of 183. It was a good effort and I felt pleased with my results. I ran the 5 mile out and 5 mile back in nearly the same times (+/- 30 sec or so).
Video of the Start

I kept thinking if this was an easy one the other ones must really suck! You definitely have to be sure footed when it comes to trail running, taking much more mental effort than road racing. I was constantly looking where the next step would be, all while running nearly as fast you can go. Overall, it was a good time and look forward to the next trail race. Race summary reports can be found at the Xterra site and on Coolrunning. Time to ice my foot...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tired Week of Running

The 1/2 marathon last Sunday really slowed down my running for the week. I haven't run that hard for that long in a really, really long time and my body reminded me of that fact...often. I was pretty sore for a couple of days but only took one day off from running. My legs were tired and heavy all week.
So, like any sane runner would do I signed up for another race. This time I would enter the crazy world of trail running (finally). I entered the Xterra Merrimack River 10M Trail Race in Andover, MA on Saturday 4/12. By trail racing standards I was told this would be one of the easier ones.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Results from Great Bay 1/2 Marathon

I ran the Great Bay 1/2 marathon yesterday in Newmarket, NH on a cold and windy day. It was my first real test of endurance for 2008 and I was pleased with the results. I finished right dab in the middle of my goal window (listed below), with a chip time of 1:27:05 (6:39 avg).

The race overall was well organized, plenty of signs for parking, registration, course directions, aid stations and mile markers and good food at the finish (pizza, soup, chowder, etc.). It is also well supported, with lots of spectators, musical bands and even a group of belly dancers at mile 10 (now THAT'S different).

I was surprised how challenging the course turned out to be, however. I remember scanning the course map and envisioning a fairly flat course but it was anything but flat. Although there were no big ups or downs there were lots of short steep quad-banging descents and short steep quad (and lung) burning ascents.

Right from the start I knew it would be tough. The wind had the flags blowing straight out and the course headed out into the wind. For the first 3+ miles I ran behind a group of runners trying to get them to block the wind as much as possible. We then headed onto a dirt road for the next 2-3 miles. It turned out to be much slower going on the dirt, with pot holes and puddles everywhere. The wind was not much of a factor during this stretch so that was encouraging. After we left the dirt road we headed back out on pavement along Great Bay for the next 2-3 miles, which provided some outstanding scenery but also some challenging hills. It was very similar to running along Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton....scenic winding roads but steep short hills. Around mile 9 we did an out and back loop down into a nice neighborhood which allowed us to see the lead pack for the first time (and the belly dancers). At least this stretch was flat and I was running with a guy who was pushing the pace a little so I tried to stick with him as long as I could. It was also at this time (around mile 10.5) that I saw Mark Wimmer for the first time since the start (Mark and I drove over together). He was about 200 yds ahead and it looked like I was catching him. I now had a new goal: catch Mark. My pace (and effort) for the last 3 miles definitely increased and it was a little easier going and much flatter, but a TON of turns. I finally caught and passed Mark around mile 12.5 but that seemed to get him motivated again (bad for me). By mile 13 he had passed me again and that's the way we finished.

STATS for the race:
1,111 finishers
33rd overall
8/81 in the 40-44 division

Mile 1 6:31
Mile 2 6:32
Mile 3 6:44
Mile 4 6:47
Mile 5 6:43
Mile 6 6:43
Mile 7 6:28
Mile 8 6:50
Mile 9 6:39
Mile 10 6:43
Mile 11 6:36
Mile 12 6:37
Mile 13 6:35
Finish 1:27:05 (6:39 avg)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Goals for my 1st 1/2 Marathon (4/6/2008)

Normally I would have lots of base miles with a bunch of long runs by this time of year. I'd typically spend the winter working on my distance runs and endurance, sacrificing speed workouts (not a lot of races during the winter months).

This year is almost completely opposite. Although I haven't done any road races yet, I did take up a new sport/activity which sure felt a lot like speedwork every time I went out: snow shoe running. In addition, I've spent a lot more time on the treadmill doing controlled tempo runs (unlike my effort-based tempo runs I do outside). So, lots of speedwork but very little distance work. In fact, my longest run of the year or even the last 6 months or so is 12 miles and I did that last weekend. The biggest factor limiting my long runs has been some nagging foot/ankle issues. I'm not really injured, but there's something wrong with my ankle....and it just doesn't feel right. So, most of my runs have been in the 5-7 mile range, max for quite some time.

So how do I go about setting a goal for a 1/2 marathon? Good question. As a general goal, I'd like to be under 1:30 (6:52 pace). A more aggressive goal would be something closer to 1:25 (6:30 pace). I'd be happy with anything in between though.