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Downtown Temple,NH

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dare Stupid Things!

Last winter I joined acidotic RACING, an adventure racing team founded by Chris Dunn. The motto of the team (and the title of Chris's blog) is Dare Mighty Things, part of a famous quote by Teddy Roosevelt.

And I thought I was joining a snowshoe racing team....HA!

2 weeks ago I responded to a team email from Chris looking for one more teammate for a 24hr relay team. Awesome, I love relay teams, especially 24hr ones. This one was slightly different though, it involved those 2-wheel contraptions that I rarely ride, mostly because I stink at it - the dreaded bike (or more specifically the mountain bike). I'm still not sure what possessed me but I decided to sign up for a 24hr 4-person mountain bike race at Great Glen, at the base of Mt Washington called the 24 hours of Great Glen.

Up until yesterday I was pretty excited about it. I still am, but I got a dose of reality yesterday while practicing my mountain biking skills. You see, I'm not really a mountain biker. I really don't even own one (if you don't count the rusted rigid in the shed from the mid-90's). Thankfully, others in the family have them (come to think of it, everyone but me has one). I do take this event seriously and I'm generally intimidated by the whole thing. I know I won't master mountain biking in 2 weeks but I wanted to give it an honest effort and not let my teammates down. So I've been practicing (aka riding) in Horse Hill (my local stomping grounds). A few days ago I upgraded from plain ole pedals to Shimano SPD clipless (and shoes!). Yesterday I decided to ride again with my new pedals and headed over to Massabesic, armed with a trail map. I clipped in and headed to the first single track I came to (Fireline trail for those familiar). No more than 5 minutes in I got myself stuck on some rocks, failed to unclip in time and down I went (still firmly secured to my new clipless pedals). I successfully split open my elbow on my first try.
&%#$@! did that hurt! I saw a little blood but couldn't really see the damage so after stomping around for a few minutes I got back on the bike and continued. I swear, I didn't go 10 more minutes before I friggin did it again, this time on the other side. Ah, but I was smarter this time, I saw the obstacle, and assumed I'd screw it up and get stuck and immediately looked for an out. An out meaning a place I could fall without causing too much pain. Down I went. I knew I was over matched and I knew part of the reason. The tension was WAY too high on my pedals. Easy fix, head back to the truck, make an adjustment and I'd be back on the trails in no time. My second mistake (wait, maybe it was more than that...) was thinking this trail was only 1 mile long. I'd just ride the rest, grab a fire road and swing back to the truck. Turns out I was mistaken. Fireline is 3 miles long, and in my humble opinion, is not a learning trail, especially with tight pedals.
Well long story short, I made it to the end (after falling no less than 3 more times), started heading back and decided to try ONE more trail first (Ladyslipper), since it was only a mile long (I checked this time). Although slightly better to ride, this mudfest trail still offered enough obstacles to humble me once again, taking me down one more time, conveniently on the same injured elbow from my first spill. As I limped back, lacking confidence and dragging my pride behind me I began to wonder what exactly I got myself into....

I'll shake it off and I'll get back on that horse (after I adjust those stupid pedals). The Wolfe will ride again Bwah Ha Ha!!! Ok, the Wolfe will most likely ride, fall, ride, fall, repeat again.

Kids, don't try this at home.

PS: thanks Mike Wade for my blog title!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pemi Wild Ultra

Lots of folks have done the infamous Pemi Loop in New Hampshire's White Mountains (voted the 2nd hardest day hike in America by Backpacker Magazine in 2005). The 33+ mile loop starting at the Lincoln Woods trialhead, summits ten 4,000 footers with nearly 10,000 ft of elevation gain. Now that's what I call a day hike!

Chris Dunn of acidotic RACING wanted to add a new twist while maintaining a friendly competition so he organized what he affectionately called the Pemi Wild Ultra. Five teams of 2 would head out at 4am on Saturday morning and the first team back wins (and winning means you get to shower, eat and drink beers first).

The teams headed down to the suspension bridge for the start and were told the rules:
  1. teammates must stay together the entire race
  2. have fun and enjoy this epic adventure
At 4:11am (I know, I said it was a 4am start but come on, we all got around 1-2 hrs of sleep and got up at 3am so we were a little slow out of the gate!) we were off....sort of. All five teams started to walk. Wait a second, I thought this was a race?? After about 10 seconds most teams began to run easy. We were officially racing.

As far as I know, only one of the teams (Chris and Ken) had done this loop before, although they had done the clockwise version. Today we'd be doing the counter-clockwise loop. Mike Wade and I had a simple plan: run the runnable sections if possible and walk the climbs (no exceptions). Turns out we'd be doing a lot of walking. Who knew there was so much climbing in the White Mountains!

It had rained during the night and was raining lightly when we started. My the time we got to the first climb the rain had mostly stopped but not before contributing to some of the wettest, muddiest trails I've been on in quite a while. We had traded places with team Jay and Steve a few times since the start and would generally stay together nearly half the loop.

At one point early on we put some time on them but they got it all back on Bond when my I haven't been a Boy Scout since the 70's navigational skills totally failed me. In fact, we got so turned around we (ok, me) actually started heading down the same trail we just came up and only stopped after running into Jay and Steve coming UP. Whoops. We were in the clouds with no views but that was a major screw up. Thankfully it would not be repeated (much).

(photo-from the summit of Bondcliff)

We'd get a glimpse of team Chris and Ken and team Kevin and Scott a little later at West Bond. We were returning on the spur trail and they were heading out. We'd do this one more time at Galehead Hut, as they were coming in and we were heading out. Galehead would also be the last time we'd see any of the other teams until the finish.

We rested about 10-15 minutes and refueled at Galehead hut before continuing on the second half of our journey. It was around 9:30am and we'd covered 15.9 miles, knocked off 5 of the 10 4000 footers and been going at it for over 5 hours. I was surprised how little running we'd actually done. If we weren't climbing we were sloshing through wet, muddy trails. I felt great but wished we could run a bit more.

The Garfield Ridge Trail from Galehead to Mt Garfield and Mt Lafayette was easily the hardest of the day. This 6.9 mile hellish section of the Appalachian Trail took roughly 3 1/2 hrs, maybe a bit more. Standing on the summit on Mt Garfield we could see (barely through the clouds) the summit of Mt Lafayette but there is no ridge between the two, we'd have to climb all the way back down Garfield before heading back up Lafayette. Ah crap.

(photo-Garfield Ridge Trail)

The good news was the skies were beginning to clear and Lafayette came out of the clouds just as we got there, offering spectacular views of the Pemi Wilderness. Just after 1pm we reached the summit of Lafayette, chatted briefly with Jim Dunn who was offering support and encouragement to the teams, had a photo op and finally we were off. 22.8 miles down, roughly 10.5 to go!

(photo-Mike and Steve on Lafayette)

Standing on the summit looking down Franconia Ridge was a welcomed sight. We were both looking forward to running....finally. The Franconia Ridge trail at least offered some runnable sections not to mention GREAT views on both sides. Plus, our last peak was in sight (Mt Flume).

(photo-Mike on the Franconia Ridge Trail)

Although I enjoyed the time on Franconia Ridge, mentally (and physically) I was getting tired. I wanted to be done. I had plenty of food and water but my feet were starting to get tired and sore. 9+ hours of wet, muddy trails will do that. As it turned out, the muddiest trails of the day were yet to come (somewhere between Mt Lincoln and Mt Flume). We had no idea where or how close the other teams were. In fact, we started hearing voices behind us around Mt Flume and thought it was the other teams. All this did was make us run faster and harder (gee thanks guys!). We would later find out it wasn't the other teams afterall but at the time we really thought they were close.

I had hiked the Osseo Trail up Mt Flume about a year ago so I had a good idea what the last 4-5 miles were. Once you get past the ladder section, the last 3+ miles to the Lincoln Woods Trail is very runnable. Mike pretty much dragged my down the mountain as my feet were killing me. I ran just to keep him in sight. Near the bottom we started checking our watches a bit more. Initially we figured (guessed) we'd be somewhere in the 12 hr range. That wasn't going to happen this day. However, we did want to keep it under 13 hrs so we ran the final 1.4 mile stretch along the Lincoln Woods Trail and finally rolled into the finish in 12 hrs 53 minutes.

My first thought: never again. A few days removed, well maybe once more :-)

Of course our prize for winning was a shower, followed by Lasagna (thanks Ken!), washed down with a couple of Redhooks (thanks Chris!). Once cleaned up we packed up the cooler with a few beers and headed back down to the trailhead to meet the other teams, offer congrats and of course a cold beer!

Good times.

A few pics from our adventure.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Finally, a long run!

I went for a real long run today for the first time in a long time. I've generally been limiting my runs to not much more than an hour (not counting mountain half marathons of course!). My side-hip-back-previously-injured-but-never-fully-understood area seemed to get irritated if I cranked up the miles too much. I missed the long run so this morning I headed out slow and easy for nearly 16 miles on the back roads of Merrimack and Amherst.

I learned 2 things this morning:
  1. My side is fine, even after 2+ hrs of running.
  2. When the dewpoint equals the air temperature you have 100% humidity. Who knew?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ultimate Runner Night

Last night was Ultimate Runner Night (results) at track, a GCS only event that is both competitive and fun. Ultimate Runner is a multiple event competition which includes the 400m, 800m, 1 mile and finally a 5k trail race. Ah you say, the fast guy wins, end of competition. How is that fun for the rest of us? Well not so fast. On this night we used age-graded timing which is a way of leveling the playing field regardless of age or sex. Runners would be ranked based on their age-graded times for each event and the runner with the highest rank after 4 events would be named the Ultimate Runner.

Although most of us train at these distances regularly, not many of us actually race at these shorter distances. Trying to figure out how fast to run each event without blowing up in the next was a popular topic all night. When you add in the mystery of age-graded timing, all of a sudden how old you were was important again. The problem was I never really knew how close I had to be to the young guns or how far in front (if possible) I had to be to our senior runners, hence the mystery. That was the fun part.

The events:

Due to the record number of participants this year, the 400m was run in 3 heats and I was in the last heat. My heat had a bunch of familar faces so I had an idea where I should fit in, theoretically. I quickly tucked in behind Mark Wimmer and decided to just pace off of him, finishing one second back in 67 seconds. Oooh, this would be a long day. One event down and my hammies were screaming already.

After one event my age-graded time (60 sec) placed my 4th overall. Hmm, not bad.

This time we had 2 heats and once again I ran in the last heat. Same cast of characters though. Half way thru the 800 I could already feel the effects of the previous 400 event and slowed more than I had hoped and couldn't stay with the group in front of me, finishing in 2:31.

My new best friend age-graded timing mercifully adjusted my time to 2:16, 7th overall. This was not a good run. The 800m is my favorite track distance (in training, not racing) and I felt I should have done better. On to the next event!

(photo credit: Rich Blake)

1 Mile
The mile would be a mass start of all participants. This was easily my least favorite distance of the night. I'm a distance man (aka slow and easy!). My mistake on this one was going into the race without a plan. I had no idea what pace I was going to run, had no idea what splits I should check for, nothing. I was all over the board on splits, well not really all over, more like a steady decline as in crash and burn. Did I mention I hated this distance? Finished in 5:35, should have been closer to 5:20 in my little mind.

I placed 7th overall with an age-graded time of 5:05.

5k Trail
Finally, the last event. Going into the 5k I believe I was in 5th overall (combined events) but the top 5 were all pretty close in rankings, or at least that's what Steve Moland had us believe :-)
The 5k was a nearly pancake flat course in Mine Falls along the canal, finishing with one lap on the track. I was actually a little surprised that it didn't suck as much as I thought it would. I had some problems with footing (still had my racing flats on) on the trails but felt reasonably strong considering we'd already raced 3 events prior. My splits were ok as well (for me anyways):
mile 1 5:57
mile 2 6:18
mile 3 6:11
finishing in 19:05.

(photo credit: Dave Delay)

For the 5k my age-graded time was 17:44 placing me 5th overall in this event.

Ultimate Runner
So who was named the Ultimate Runner for 2009? Congrat's to Tim Burke with his come from behind win!

The top 5 runners were:
(Name, age, age-graded %)

1. Tim Burke 46 74.41%
2. Dan Moriarity 40 74.32%
3. John Lewicke 61 73.87%
4. Mark Wimmer 38 73.15%
5. Steve Wolfe 45 73.06%

Note on what the percentages actually mean:
These percentages can be interpreted as follows:
100% = Approximate World-Record Level
Over 90% = World Class
Over 80% = National Class
Over 70% = Regional Class
Over 60% = Local Class
One final note: 3 of the top 5 runners (Tim, Mark and myself) are all on the same Reach the Beach team this year.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How do you get faster?

I have no idea. Well, maybe I have an idea but I'm not sure. My running is ok but not great. I don't feel fast at the moment and it seems to take way more effort to hold a decent pace.

My point of reference is how I felt back in Feb/Mar of this year. Running fast felt easy back then. For whatever reason I was running very well, running a half marathon at a pace that I can barely hold in a 5k today.

So what's different? Good question, but I hope I can figure it out.

My theory: tempo runs.
Back in January, February and a bit of March I was doing a fair amount of snowshoe running. Anybody who has run in snowshoes knows that even an easy run in snowshoes is taxing on the body. In fact, I'd say it closely resembles the effort of a tempo run...comfortably hard. As I recall, I was doing nearly 30% of my mileage on snowshoes which would equate to a heck of a lot of tempo running. So if you want to run faster I guess at some point you need to train faster.

Which brings me to my training today. Except for track once a week, all my runs are generally easy runs. I really think my problem is a lack of tempo running and I aim to change that. I even ran a 5m trail race on Monday as a tempo run (oh the horrors!). Well I ran most of it as a tempo run. Chris B. decided to pick up the pace over the last 1 1/2 miles and I foolishly tried to stay with him, running a bit harder than planned near the end.

So a steady diet of tempo running is on the training menu from now on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back at Track

BioFreeze, a heating pad and the ability to work from home all contributed to my back feeling MUCH better yesterday. Heck, it felt so much better I decided to head over to the GCS track workout last night.

I didn't really plan on doing the workout, really just wanted to get a little easy running in if possible and a little socialization with fellow runners. It seems the older we get the more we all talk about our latest injury. Sometimes it's good to compare notes or just use each other as a sounding board to vent a little.

After an easy 1+ mile run on the track relatively pain free I decided to give the workout a try, but would throttle it back, promising to quit at the first sign of pain or discomfort. No additional setbacks required for me.

After a short run down the street to a moderate 300m hill or so, we jumped right into 5 hill repeats, returned to the track and finished with 2 miles on the track at 5k pace. Generally speaking it was a pretty easy workout, probably because I was running much slower than normal, but at least I was running.