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Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 Grand Tree Trail Races

The Western Mass Athletic Club (WMAC) announced their race lineup for the 2009 Grand Tree Trail Series. The list includes 14 races in Massachusetts, 5 races in Connecticut, 4 races in New Hampshire and 1 race in New York. You can check out the complete list at:

WMAC 2009 Grand Tree Race Schedule

NOTE: the list doesn't include race #5 or #23.

Next up for the GSSS: Cobble Mt Snowshoe Classic

The second race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series takes place on Saturday (Jan 31) in Gilford, NH. To steal a phrase from the Boston Prep 16-miler, this 'moderately challenging' course has something for everybody: perfectly groomed Nordic trails, freshly cut bushwhack trails, single track snowshoe trails, fast descents and quad burning climbs. My guess is you'll be cursing Chris Dunn and acidotic RACING during the race and thanking him afterwords. It's that kind of course.
Now if you're part of the acidotic RACING team, read on. If you're part of the Dungeon Rock Racing team you can leave now :-)

Course Highlights:
  • The course is slightly longer than last year, probably closer to 6k.
  • The course climbs steadily over the first 2k, with a decent climb right at 2k before turning left for the first of three new bushwhack snowshoe trails.
  • I'd guess 2/3 of the course is on groomed Nordic trails and 1/3 on single track snowshoe or bushwhack trails.
  • For those of you who raced at Pooh Hill, you'd be interested to know that the climb up Cobble Mt is harder (in my humble opinion). It's about 350 ft of climbing in about 1/2 mile. You'll have plenty of time to admire the view off to your right on the way up. As you past by the big boulder at the summit you'll get a nice view of Gunstock off to your left.
  • If you raced Cobble last year you probably remember the icy, straight line descent off the summit. This year the descent takes a right after you cross over the stone wall near the summit and then bushwhacks its way back down to the beautiful Nordic trails below(eventually).
  • The last 1-2k is pretty close to last years course and is 'mostly' downhill and FAST, assuming you have any gas left in the tank.
  • You will hit one little hiccup right before you exit the woods and race to the wide open, groomed finish area.
  • My GPS recorded 1300ft of elevation gain. That's a lot of climbing. For the record, the same GPS recorded about 500ft of elevation gain at the Pooh Hill course.
If you're heading up for the first time the race starts across the street from the Nordic Center (which will be on your right) on the access road to the Gunstock Moutain Resort. Registration takes place in the small Nordic hut on your left, equipped with a wood stove.

I'd recommend members of DDR should 'celebrate' the forming of their new team by indulging in a few adult beverages on Friday night. I read on the internet that drinking alcohol before a race will improve your performance, and if it's on the internet it must be true!

Monday, January 26, 2009

NE Snowshoe Rankings - Great Idea

Always the innovator and always looking to promote snowshoe racing in New England, Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING has just published a rankings system that attempts to compare racers throughout New England.
The top ten list (male and female) can be found at the following link:
2009 New England Snowshoe Rankings

It'll be interesting to see how it pans out the rest of the season.
One thought: maybe a masters ranking for those of us age-challenged (and I'm talking REAL masters, like over 40 masters not that 45 and over made up masters category!)

Wait until JJ finds out DD is ahead of him in the rankings....ouch.

Boston Prep 16-Miler

I headed over to Derry on Sunday for the 14th annual Boston Prep 16 miler. It was my 4th time running the race so I was familiar with the course but as always, I had a tough time (I thought) figuring out what pace to run. I mean, how many 16 mile races are there to compare to? Of course it would also be my longest run of the year (long runs are overrated).
Based on nothing but gut feel I decided I'd try to run between 6:30 and 6:40 pace. If if worked great, if not I'd death march in the last couple of miles. A plan was in place.
Although cold, with temps hovering around the low teens, there was practically no wind so I went with a 2-layer approach. For the most part I was comfortable throughout the race.
After a VERY conservative start (the 1st mile is mostly uphill) I settled into a comfortable pace and was feeling pretty good. Not long after mile 4 I remember getting a little cold and I started to feel some tightening in my lower back. I reached back a few times, trying to massage it as I ran but it didn't seem to help much. About 2/3 up the first significant hill on Kilrea Rd (mile 5 was at the top of the hill) my back went into full spasm which brought me to a screeching halt, bent over in pain, grabbing my back. It was one of those 'take your breath away' spasms, and it was hard to even breath. A group of 4 runners ran by and one asked if I was ok. I could not answer, I was in pain.....and then they kept on running. It was the thought that counts :-)
At the time I really thought I was done for the day. I was seriously looking for a volunteer, someone who could bring me back to the start. Ah but it was not to be. I was in between water stops and there were no volunteers stationed near mile 5. So I did what any runner would do, I started running again. As I would later tell my wife, I have a very high tolerance for pain (or a very small brain).
I tried to relax as best I could and focus on running (and catching the 4 guys who passed me), but it was a challenge. I obviously knew I had 11 miles to go PLUS the biggest hills were yet to come. Did the hill trigger the spasm? Was it the cold? Would the pounding downhills trigger another one? OK, I said I 'tried' to relax. In theory I spent the next 11 miles wondering when my back would spasm again.
I stopped looking at my splits and tried to keep pace with the group in front of me. I wasn't really gaining but I wasn't losing any ground either. The hills were brutal, first just after mile 9 and then a set of them between mile 10 and 12. I couldn't believe how slow I felt going up those *&*^! hills, but I knew once I hit mile 12 it would be mostly downhill all the way to the finish. Shortly after mile 12 I saw Scott Mason (photo credit) and of course picked up the pace for the photo op. Timing worked out well since I had gained on and then passed the group of 3-4 runners I'd been trailing since mile 5. One runner came back and stayed on my shoulder, pushing the pace pretty hard. I was in no mood to race anyone to the finish, especially for 4 miles so I finally asked him his age. Thankfully he wasn't in my age group. If I beat him great, if not, no big deal. He stayed with until the last mile and finally dropped back a bit. The last mile was my fastest of the day at 5:43 pace.
Except for my damn back, I had a great day. I placed 14th overall out of 655 finishers, I was 1st in the 40-49 age group (winning a nice 32oz jug of pure NH maple surup) and I beat my PR by more than 2 minutes.
Yesterday I ran 16 miles (20 if you include the warmup and cooldown runs with JJ)....today I can barely sit because my freakin back hurts so much. The good news is my legs feel great!

Splits for the day:

Mile 1: 6:54 (all up hill)
Mile 2: 6:20
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:21
Mile 5: 6:46 (back spasm)
Mile 6: 6:20
Mile 7: 6:28
Mile 8: 6:01
Mile 9: 6:34
Mile 10: 6:48 (hill)
Mile 11: 6:55 (hill)
Mile 12: 7:16 (hill)
Mile 13: 6:20
Mile 14: 6:08
Mile 15: 6:19
Mile 16: 5:43
Finish Time: 1: 43:35 (6:29 pace)

Complete results can be found here.

Fellow blogger Scott Mason made the trip up from RI to take some incredible photos of the race. Check out his work here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Week in Review

Listing my workouts for the week probably isn't the most fascinating post so I'll try to offer something fresh to keep you awake (unless of course you read this to fall asleep, in which case I'm sorry).

I finally got my weekly mileage up over 40 (44 to be exact) for the first time since early November. It sure 'seems' like I've been running more and that probably has to do with the fact I track my snowshoe mileage separately. So in addition to the road mileage I also had 12 miles snowshoe running. Interestingly (or not), nearly all of my mileage during the week was done at night (snowshoe and roads). I don't do treadmills and I don't like to run at lunch. I like to eat at lunch.

I managed a 14 mile long run on Sunday right in the middle of the snowstorm. It actually wasn't a bad time to run since not a lot of cars were on the roads. Heck, in some towns (like Amherst), not even the plows were out.

We're in week 5 of a 12wk indoor track schedule and the workouts are getting a tad harder these last couple of weeks. This past week we did 3 sets of 200,200,400,400,600 with 1/2 recovery at slightly faster than 5k pace. In my case I probably ran 'slightly faster' than slightly faster than 5k pace, running consistently around 5:15 pace for all repeats. No wonder why I was tired. The Hampshire Dome is a great indoor track (and feels fast with the slightly banked corners) but I have a hard time pacing myself. My guess is it's because we're doing multiples designed for a 400m track and this track is just over 320m (I think) so our start and stop locations always move.

Finally, I had initially planned to do the Beaver Brook 5k Snowshoe race on Saturday but decided to help Chris Dunn layout the new Cobble Mountain Snowshoe course at Gunstock instead. Actually it was Chris, his Dad and Sarah Silverberg. Cobble Mt was my first snowshoe race ever last year. It was an awesome course so I was a little intrigued on what Chris had in mind for this year. Well I'm not going to give away too much (I'll take any advantage I can get) but I will tell you this:
- The course is slightly longer than last year, probably closer to 6k.

- The course climbs steadily over the first 2k, with a decent climb right at 2k before turning left for the first of three new bushwhack snowshoe trails.

- I'd guess 2/3 of the course is on groomed Nordic trails and 1/3 on single track snowshoe trails.

- For those of you who raced at Pooh Hill, you'd be interested to know that the climb up Cobble Mt is harder (in my humble opinion). It's about 350 ft of climbing in about 1/2 mile.

- The 2nd and 3rd of the new bushwhack snowshoe trails are off the summit of Cobble Mt. If you raced Cobble last year you probably remember the icy, straight line descent off the summit. This year the descent is totally different but should be similar to the descent off of Pooh Hill if you know what I mean.

- The last 1-2k is pretty close to last years course and is 'mostly' downhill.

- My GPS recorded 1300ft of elevation gain. That's a lot of climbing. For the record, the same GPS recorded about 500ft of elevation gain at Pooh Hill.

Up next for me will be the 'moderately challenging' Boston Prep 16-miler on Sunday and then the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Race on January 31st.

NOTE: picture is around the 3k mark on the new Cobble Mt Snowshoe course, looking directly at Cobble Mountain. Yes, we need to climb to the top!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pooh Hill?

You'd think a snowshoe race with 'Pooh' in the name (Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble) would be a little different then what it was. Sort of like the bunny slopes of snowshoe courses. Awh, what a cute name for a 'hill'. How tough can it be???

Now....the rest of the story.

The 1st race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series took place at King Pine Resort in East Madison, NH. It was an absolute beautiful day: sunny, not a cloud in the sky, no wind and temps near 5 degrees. I arrived just before 9am after a 2hr-100mile drive from Merrimack. Compared to some of the WMAC races, a 2hr drive was a breeze. Lots of familiar faces (Jim Johnson & Kristin, Scott Graham, Bill Morse and crew) and even a few new ones. Kristin was nice enough to take some great photos of the race which can be seen here, and is credited with the one of me to the left taken around the 8.5k point.
As I was getting ready near my car a guy came up to me (after seeing my license plate HAV2RUN) and introduced himself....by his blog name "NikonRunner". The funny thing is I recognized his blog and thus the person, Scott Mason. Too funny!
I headed out to check the end of the course prior to the race. I like to check out the last mile or so of a snowshoe race to know how much longer I need to suck wind. The end of the race was all on freshly groomed crosss country ski trails and I easily ran the last 2k or so with just my trail shoes. I did note two things: 1) there's a killer (but short) hill about 100yds from the finish and 2) the 8k marker was at least 1/2k or more from the finish line which was surprising considering I thought this was an 8k race :-)
Jim Johnson has a nice write up on the course on his blog. It was an awesome course and thankfully most was on nicely groomed trails but Pooh Hill was a killer. It should have been called Satan's Summit or something more intimidating than 'Pooh'. It was definitely a climb but it went on for EVER. Kevin Tilton and Chris Dunn's dad were at the top and you could hear them talking so at least you knew when you were close. The uncontrolled bushwhack back down was a blast with gravity taking charge then it was back to the groomed trails for the remainder of the race.
I was trying to figure out if this hill was worse than the hill at the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe race last year (and the next race in the Granite State Series). In my mind I think Cobble was a tougher climb but that might be because Cobble was my 1st snowshoe race ever. I guess I'll find out for sure in a few weeks.
Somehow I managed a 2nd place overall with a time of 47:27 and results can be found here. I gave Jim Johnson a run for his money for the first 5 yards but he managed pull ahead in the next 8.499k to squeeze out a win with a time of 44:04. It was the longest I've snowshoed so far and I was definitely hurting at the end. I need to work on pacing a bit more or more importantly, effort. I feel like I go out at 5k effort and I really need to scale it back to a more manageable 10k or 1/2 marathon effort at the start. It is very hard to do since the pace seems so slow but I'm running out of gas near the end.
On a side note I wanted to mention what should be an excellent rivalry in the team competition of this series. The newly formed Dungeon Rock Racing team had a strong showing with 10 racers and was only outdone by the host team of acidotic RACING (which I am a member of) with 16 racers. The winning team takes home a case of Redhook. DRR's motives are clear: they are a drinking team with a snowshoeing problem. They did have nice racing singlets and a scary skull and crossbones team flag though :-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Lampshade Racer

I admit it, I save nearly everything related to races. I can't help myself. This would include t-shirts, BIB's, race medals (if I'm lucky) and assorted other swag items.
T-shirts - I probably have enough t-shirts to clothe a small town and most reside quietly in one of many totes stored around my house. A small, sometimes rotating collection remains within reach for those special occasions. Cotton t-shirts have lost most of their appeal so if last minute entry means no t-shirt then I'll sign up at the last minute. The only real exception would be races that offer tech shirts. I LOVE tech shirts...
Race Medals - Every medal ever earned ends up on my lamp. It's probably a good thing I don't win much. As it is I may have to move onto a second lamp soon. My lampshade has so many medals hanging from it it barely serves its real purpose of providing light.
BIB's - I have every BIB from every race I've ever completed. Two things happen with every BIB I earn: 1) I write the date, time and avg pace on the back of each BIB and 2) I pin it on my cubicle wall(s) at work. I do have some rules. I start fresh each year. So anytime you come into my office you'll only see the races I've done so far this year. It does provide a conversation topic and at least the topic is something I like to talk about :-)
Misc Swag - Anybody need some Rasberry Gu? Chapstick? Bio-Gel? Yeah, me neither but I still keep a box full of the stuff....just in case.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's This...More Snowshoe Races in NH??

I was scanning Coolrunning trying to fill the voids of a few race-free weekends and I stumbled across a couple new additions to the NH snowshoe racing scene. I had heard rumors of these previously but thought the Ice Storm of 2008 wiped out any chance of holding races at these two sites.
I guess all that snowshoe training Michael Amarello has been doing in HHNP must have changed his mind. Michael is the founder of 3C Race Productions in Merrimack, NH and produces a gazillion road and trail races all over NH, MA and ME and has now added snowshoe races to his resume. Along with the Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race on February 14th (part of the Granite State Snowshoe Series ), he's also producing the following NH races:

Beaver Brook 5k Snowshoe Race - Hollis, NH 1/17/09

Feel Good Farm 7k Snowshoe Race - Lyndeborough, NH 1/24/09

Thanks Michael!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Running vs Snowshoeing

So, what is the perfect balance between running and snowshoeing? How do you maintain (or preferably improve) your fitness in both without sacrificing either? Heck, is it even possible to do well in both? I have no idea. Not a very informative post, is it.

I did discover an interesting factoid while doing intensive research on the topic, however. Ok, I stumbled upon it while updating my running log. Without any conscious effort my weekly mileage breakdown over the last 3 weeks was as follows:

Run Miles Snow Miles Total Miles Run % Snow % Weekly Increase
25.1 10.5 35.6 71% 29% -
30.6 12.5 43.1 71% 29% 21%
36.7 14.8 51.5 71% 29% 19%

So without even trying I increased my weekly mileage by about 20% each week and still maintained an exact 71% - 29% split between running and snowshoeing. How about that? I have no idea what it means but I thought it was interesting regardless.
Of course now that I'm onto myself I'll totally skew the data this week, guaranteed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Quick 2008 Recap

Ok, I won't go into excruciating details of what I accomplished in 2008 (hence the title 'quick 2008 recap') but I will summarize what I consider to be the highlights (and sometimes lowlights) and what I came away with in 2008:
  • Probably for the first time EVER, I ran the entire year injury-free. It's not like I took it easy, running my first race on Jan 1st, 2008 and my last race on Dec 28th, 2008. Having no data to back up my theory, I credit snowshoe racing and trail racing early in the year as the main reason(s) for this.
  • Ran a total of 1,811 miles for an average of 5.9 miles per run. I had a secret goal of breaking 2,000 miles but I'll take injury-free over 2000 miles any day.
  • Snowshoed a total of 120.3 miles in my first year on snowshoes. Maybe it's me but the miles never got any easier. Every time out felt just as hard as the previous one.
  • Competed in 16 road races, 10 trail races, 4 snowshoe races and 1 triathlon.
  • 9 races were 10 miles or greater.
  • Completed two 200+ mile, 12-person relays (Madison-Chicago 200 and Reach the Beach) with two different teams. Both teams finished 5th overall.
  • Best performance of the year: Baystate Marathon (2:58). Ran on pace, negative splits and recovered quickly.
  • Worst performance of the year: Mt Washington Road Race (1:30). Started off slow, got slower, finished going backwards I think. For the first time ever I vowed never to run this stupid uphill race again. 7 months later I'm still on the fence.
  • Best overall trail race: Soapstone Mountain 24k. I LOVED this course (dirt roads, single track, hills, river running, mud).
  • Hardest trail race: Seven Sisters 12M (ugh) I was warned not to run this on a rainy day. Now I know why.
  • PR'd in the half marathon (1:23) and marathon (2:58).
Now it's time to figure out what to do for 2009. I've made an early attempt at the 2009 race schedule and will modify as needed. Stay injury free everybody.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Peanut Butter Chip Chase 5k

I headed out to Temple, NH for the 31st annual "freeze your butt off" 5k on New Years Day, or what locals call the Peanut Butter Chip Chase 5k. It's a nice small town race (put on by the local Lions Club) on a somewhat challenging course (on a normal day) but a tad more difficult with snow covered roads and a wind chill waaaaay below zero. At least it wasn't snowing this year...
The race starts on West Rd near the center of town, climbing right from the start and continuing on for about 1.5 miles before turning back onto Hill Rd. Unfortunately for us today, West Rd surprisingly heads due west, right into the nice 20+mph winds coming in from the west. Uphill into the wind is not how I like to start a race! Thankfully we run DOWN Hill Rd for about a mile (with a tail wind), turn left on a dirt road at about 2.75 miles and then left again on RT 45 for a final 400m uphill push to the finish right in the center of town (near where we started).
I scanned the field at the start for familiar faces, spotted a bunch of Gate City Striders including my current arch nemesis Mike Wright. Mike has a habit of passing me in the last few seconds of a race. With a Ready, Set, Go we were off. 5 or 6 young guns immediately got out in front and I settled in close behind, running with local Temple resident Sean Radcliffe (also a masters). We ran side by side for 1.5 miles before I was able to put a little distance between us on the downhill section. I wore my screw shoes which worked great. Unfortuanetly I was not alone so no real advantage was gained.
I generally don't like to look behind me during a race, choosing to run 'scared' instead. I always assume someone is really close. I knew Mike Wright was back there but I didn't know how close. I have to admit I was a little nervous on the last uphill stretch to the finish. I was tired, cold and running out of gas (might have been those black and tans from New Years Eve!). With about 100m to go I finally took a peak and realized today I would win the battle with Mr Wright :-)

I managed a 6th place overall, 1st in the 40-49 division with a time of 19:43.I t was the toughest 19:43 5k I've run in a while, that's for sure...Results can be found here.

In addition to the table full of cookies plus bagels and gallons of soup for post race grub, they also give out unique chocolate chip cookie shaped medals. There seems to be a theme. Heck, the 1st Temple resident (Sean Radcliffe) also takes home a pizza sized chocolate chip cookie. Sweet.