about the photo

Downtown Temple,NH

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thomas Chamberas 6k Cross Country Race

This morning I headed down to Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, Ma for the 7th annual Thomas Chamberas 6k XC Race, part of the NEXC Grand Prix. I think the last time I ran a real cross country race was back in high school, although the only thing that really makes it a XC race is the scoring aspect of the race. From all other appearances this was a trail race, a very fast and relatively short trail race.
It was (and had) been raining pretty good so the trails were going to be wet and muddy. I did a couple of miles of warm up, running the end of the course just to get an idea what to expect. This was my first time running this race so I was totally unfamiliar with the course. Looks like it would be some dirt paths, some single track, fields and even some pavement. There was standing water and puddles (aren't they the same?) everywhere and I'd soon find out there were some shoe-sucking muddy sections to add to the fun.
From what I could tell from previous years (and this year as well), this race attracted a very fast field of some very competitive runners and teams. If I could break into the top 50 I'd be thrilled. After a brief word from the RD (mentioning he'd never seen the trails with so much mud and water on them) we were off! It was probably the fastest sustained start of a race I'd ever run (road or trail) and nobody was letting up. Unlike a typical 5k where you're bound to get a couple of kids who go out like a shot only to be swallowed up and kicked to the side of the road in the first 400yds, this race was ALL fast guys (and girls) up front. There was no risk of being held up by slower runners in this one. Wow. Heck, I was just trying to stay with the mob as we eventually headed up the switchback singletrack (single file). It was amazing to see so many fast runners burning up this trail. You HAD to keep up (there was no passing here) or risk being trampled. It was one fast ascent. The next mile or two had some fairly tough footing. There was mud and water (and roots and rocks) EVERYWHERE. Some was a bit tough, especially the downhills since we were still running in a fairly large pack. It would eventually thin out a bit which at least allowed you to pick your own line. A couple of sections along a corn field, a brief run on the road and a run across a not-recently-mowed field for the finish. Done, with a time of 21:54 (5:55 pace), good for 45th overall. Results are posted here.
Overall my position didn't change much after the first mile or so. I passed quite a few early on, got picked off a couple of times in the middle and maybe picked up a few positions myself near the end. My effort felt hard but not 5k road race hard. I absolutely had a blast and LOVED the course. For some strange reason I tend to like these types of courses when the conditions totally suck (like today). Runners look like they earned it when they finish a race like this in these conditions. The race was VERY well marked, had lots of volunteers and had some nice Adidas freebies at registration. Definitely one to look forward to next year!
(photo credit - Jim Rhoades)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quality workout = tired legs

I'll admit it, I tend to whine a bit whenever the repeats are greater than 800m (just ask Mike W). For some strange reason I just don't like running at max heart rate for more than a couple of minutes. I'm an endurance guy, not a speed guy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

On Wednesday I took my complaints to the track and did the workout anyways, to the joy of Mike Wade, Mike Wright and Jim Hansen I'm sure. For the most part we all ran the workout together, pushing and pulling each other along the way. Definitely easier to do a workout like this with a group.

The workout:
3200m @ 10k pace
800 rest
1600m @ 10k pace
400m rest
1200m @ 10k pace
400m rest
800m @ 10k pace
200m rest
400m @ 10k pace
200m rest
400m @ 10k pace

The result:
3200m @ 6:13 pace
1600m @ 6:01 pace
1200m @ 5:57 pace
800m @ 5:55 pace
400m @ 5:26 pace
400m @ 5:22 pace

Sometimes I wonder when we do a track workout if it has any purpose or is the coach just trying to kill us for his personal amusement. Tonight it clicked. The workout seemed to have a purpose and talking with Coach Jim after the workout confirmed it. The purpose was to simulate race conditions, start out a little more controlled (not slow) and slowly increase the pace, finishing strong (and tired) at the end. The result is much more satisfying than going out like a flash and limping in at the end.

Although tough, it was a quality workout. Unfortunately my recoveries are not as fast as they used to be. I attempted a 9 mile run last night. My legs were tired, sore, fatigued and a slew of other adjectives so I cut my run short (3.2 miles) and headed for home. Another day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Moose on the Loose 10 Miler

Yesterday I headed down to familiar stomping grounds for the Moose on the Loose 10 Mile 'trail' Race in Mine Falls Park. This was the 5th race of the New Hampshire Grand Prix series and our club really needed a boost to get back into the series lead. It is essentially the home turf of the Gate City Striders and the members did not disappoint with 50+ strong toeing the line. GCS took a 188-128 victory over the Greater Derry Track Club and now leads the series by 50 points!

Listed as a trail race (and relay), and technically it does run on trails, the race more closely resembles a road race. It is fast and flat and not technical at all. Fast guys win. Period. In fact, it was so not a trail race that I wore my racing flats. Not a complaint, just a fact. It was also one of the bigger Mine Falls races I've ever seen, with something like 388 runners (10 milers and relay runners) taking part. The course was a 2.5 mile loop (x4), with just over 1/2 in the shade with the last mile somewhat exposed along the canal.

Weather once again played a big factor in this race, with temps at or near 90 degrees. It was just plain hot. Thankfully there were TWO water stops on the 2.5 mile loop and I took advantage of each one, taking a small sip and dumping the rest on my head. I had no goal for this race and would run on feel alone (and I felt awful most of the time!). For the first time in a very long time I honestly had no idea what pace I was running and just focused on a comfortably hard effort instead. For the first couple of laps I ran with Mike Wright and maybe 30 yds behind Cathy Merra and 50 yds behind Tim Burke. Mike eventually dropped back but Cathy and Tim held their positions for most of the race. On the 3rd lap I finally noticed I was gaining a bit so they became my targets, I mean goal, for the 4th lap. I finally caught Cathy somewhere in the 1st mile of the last lap and now focused on Tim, catching him just after the high school bridge in the last mile of the race. I made sure to go by with as much authority as I could muster since I didn't want a sprint to the finish. I was hoping I could go by fast enough that he wouldn't try to hang on. Thankfully it worked...this time. I definitely worked hard on the last lap, clocking my fastest lap of the day and finishing 15th overall in 1:05:24. Complete results can be found here along with some pics taken by Ethan Platt.
(photo credit - Ethan Platt)

Lap Splits for the day:
lap 1 (2.5 mile) 16:07
lap 2 (2.5 mile) 16:30
lap 3 (2.5 mile) 16:48 ouch!
lap 4 (2.5 mile) 15:59

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mt Waternomee B-18 Bomber Crash Site

On January 14th, 1942 a B-18 bomber with a crew of 7 was returning from a submarine patrol of the North Atlantic when they made a costly navigational error in poor weather conditions. The result was a crash into the side of Mt Waternomee in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Amazingly, 5 of the 7 crew members survived the crash.

This past week I was camping with my family at our favorite campground when I saw a book on the crash in the campground store, along with some directions to the crash site. Based on the directions, I estimated it would take about 2hrs (one way). I floated the idea to my family and surprisingly (to me anyways) they seemed interested so off we went on Thursday morning, along with Molly, our coonhound.

After parking near the junction of Rt 118 and Rt 112 near Woodstock, NH we hiked up the Walker Brook Road for roughly 1.4 miles of fairly easy walking.

Molly, Ben, Jess and Deb on the Walker Brook Road

The trail then turned right at a cairn and headed into the woods, paralleling Walker Brook for a short distance before crossing and finally heading up the moderate slope of Mt Waternomee. The entire trail was marked with orange flagging tape but was easy to follow. My wife and 2 kids (age 10 and 11) did well on the hike, although it did get steeper the closer we got to the crash site.

Me and Jess on the crash site trail

It took us just over an hour to reach the crash site from Walker Brook Road. Although it was a struggle at times for my family (and dog), I think we all agreed it was worth the effort. It was a fascinating crash site, with much more debris then I expected, and a lot of it recognizable (engines, landing gear, etc.). I don't even think we saw it all (the wings were a bit further off to the sides I think). It took us about 2hrs to reach the site from the parking area, and a bit less to hike back down. My guess is round trip was just about 5 miles.

The hike is highly recommended.

Ben near part of the fuselage (I think)

Jess, Ben and Molly near some of the scattered wreckage

Part of the fuselage (I think)

One of the two engines

Memorial plaque placed in 1992

After getting cleaned up at the campground we then headed to downtown Warren for our reward, ice cream at Fat Bob's.

Fat Bob's Ice Cream

Me with a medium dish!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

24 Hours of Great Glen

Sometimes it's best not to know all the details when you decide to do something different. If I was a little more informed about 24hr mountain bike races I probably would not have ventured outside the comfort of my nice little running world....and I would have missed one heck of a good time!

UPDATE: I've added some random video I took during the first lap of the start, blueberry hill and the boneyard.

This past weekend I headed up to Mt Washington for the 14th annual 24 Hours of Great Glen mountain bike race, part of a 4-person relay team. acidotic RACING had two 4-person teams competing in the Sport Class, but really we were there to compete against each other (in theory). Chris Dunn claims he setup two evenly matched teams, one called acidotic RACING and one called acidotic RACING B. That's right, not an A and B team, just a B team. Let the head games begin. Me thinks me smell a rat!

Chris has an excellent write up on his blog about our 24hrs of head to head racing so I won't rehash that part again. Check it out, it's a great read.

The acidotic RACING B team (shown below) included yours truly, Austin Stonebraker, Nick Pennell and our capt Steve Sprague. The actual racing order would be Steve S, Austin, Nick and finally me.

Now a little perspective from a non-biker about the dark side...I mean this festival called a mountain bike race. Everything (except the riding) takes place in one big area. Most riders come up on Friday night and camp for the entire weekend and we were no different. The actual race starts at noon on Saturday and ends at noon on Sunday.

The start was a Le Mans start, with the riders forced to run (gasp) maybe a 1/2 mile before mounting there bikes and hitting the trails. The course was an 8.3 mile loop, mostly on the trails of Great Glen. Each loop had approximately 1,100 feet of climbing, and was a mix of carriage roads (60%) and single track (40%). Each rider was given a RFID card which was scanned before and after each lap. The race used a fantastic timing system called Realtime Scoring which allowed us to check our overall position, class position, lap time and more importantly monitor where the other acidotic RACING team was at any time during the race via monitors setup in the scoring tent.

Chris' son Brayden and I rode the course on Friday night shortly after we setup camp. This helped a great deal with my nerves since I knew what to expect now. Although I couldn't ride 100%, I estimated I could ride 85% or so and 'hike a bike' the rest. I'll take it!

The Course
Most of the first mile was climbing up through the blueberry fields next to and behind Great Glen, with a lot of it on decent single tracks. A couple of narrow bog bridges would test your ability to ride straight.All but maybe 30yds (steep uphill prior to the cottage) were rideable, even by me. The second mile was a chance to open it up a bit and catch a breather on the mostly downhill carriage road. Miles 3 and 4 were a mix of rideable short single tracks and hilly carriage roads. Miles 5 and 6 got a bit more interesting and challenging for me. First, there was Whiplash, a hellish single track that literally beat the heck out of my legs (from falling/crashing several times on the rocks). Each time through I'd try to ride further than the last but never really managed to ride more than a 1/3 of the trail before bailing ship and pushing my bike the rest of the way. It was way to technical for me to even attempt to ride. After jumping back on some carriage roads again the race jumped back onto the longest section of single track on the course. My guess is most riders were able to ride the majority of this section, at least early on. It had a little bit of everything. It started out as a nice rideable rocky single track, climbed a bit (maybe even a lot), had a fairly technical descent and then went through the muddiest section of trail I've ever seen. This was that thick, black, wheel sucking mud which was nearly impossible to walk through, let alone ride through. I think they buried rocks and logs in the mud just to add to the difficulty. Early on I tried to ride as much as I could. Actually, I tried to ride more than I could. I eventually swallowed my pride and went to the ole standby, hike-a-bike, mostly through the mud sections. Finally it was back on the carriage roads again for some fast downhill riding, sprinkled with some 90 turns at at bottom of most hills. A Couple of short single track sections and we were onto mile 7, the most technical section of the course. Not a single time was I able to ride more than 50yds of this single track. I pushed my bike up and down this difficult trail, ending at the bone yard,

an evil downhill that took out more than a couple riders (including our capt on lap 1). Once past the bone yard, and within sight of our camp area and finish area I was able to get back on the bike and ride most of the remaining mile or so through some nice single tracks, carriage roads and finally the field to the finish line.

Logistically, this race was much harder than a running relay (like Reach the Beach). Most of us were taking approximately an hour per lap so we'd ride every 3 hrs or so. In that 3 hrs you'd have to
  • wash your bike because it was trashed after each lap
  • wash yourself
  • change your clothes
  • eat
  • fix your bike
  • get ready for your next ride
  • sleep?
At night each rider would do back to back laps, riding for 2+ hours which gave us nearly 6hrs of downtime and did allow more time to rest. Once the sun came up we were back to the short rest. In fact, Nick was spent after 4 laps so the last few laps were done with 3 riders, reducing our down time to under 2 hrs.

Although I wasn't the fastest, I never really felt fatigued, staying hydrated, eating as much as I could and popping Endurolytes before and after each lap. I ended up riding the last 2 laps of the day for a grand total of 7 laps, 58.1 total miles, 8,295ft of climbing and 7hrs and 18 minutes in the saddle.

Nick and I took a few photos early on in the race which can be found here. I have a bunch of video from the start that I'll post to Youtube eventually.

A couple of random thoughts to leave with:
  • It gets cold at night
  • Even without rain the trails get greasy at night with the dew
  • Get the best light you can afford. I thought mine was fine until someone rode by with a spanky HID light. Wow. NOTE: Night Rider was renting for $40.
  • Plan your food carefully. Not a lot of time to cook.
  • Bring a generator if you have one. You can use it except between 11pm and 7am.
  • Bring the best bike you can, full suspension if you got it.
  • Where the heck can you wash your dishes?
  • A camp fire is awesome at 3am (although it needs to be contained, no open fires)
  • Take more pictures, further out on the course if possible
  • Need a bigger (or is it smaller?) granny gear. Those hills were tough.
  • Two pairs of shoes would be nice
  • Plan on mechanical failures (chain, flat, etc)
  • Shower early, the hot water runs out
  • Get to the BBQ early. It was terrific. Hot food and plenty of it.
  • The volunteers were great, especially the folks in the timing tent
  • The $5 breakfast was worth every penny.
  • Have a plan between legs, you don't have a lot of time.
Next year we need a camp mechanic and a camp cook! Wait, did I just say next year?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Built in Rest

I have no such rest period built into my training routine. Coulda woulda shoulda but don't. I continue to subscribe to the time tested, often repeated standby....injury.
Even with the best intentions, I still manage to sneak an injury in every once in a while and last week was my latest installment. Enter the big white toe syndrome.
Anyways, after a solid week off with zero running (or 3 miles in 10 days) I finally hit the roads last night for a very enjoyable 5 mile run...and I didn't hurt anything (or should I say nothing hurt)!
Whoo hoo.
Ahh, it's good to be back :-)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Try, Try Again

If at first you don't succeed....
As promised, I got back on that 2-wheeled horse called a mountain bike and headed over to Massabesic again. This time I adjusted the tension on my pedals to make it a little easier to get out of prior to hitting the ground. It's one thing to crash and fall, but it's embarrassing to fall and still have your feet firmly attached to the pedals. Technically, I only fell once in about 1 1/2hrs of riding but had MUCH more fun this time! Lots of new trails, some I could actually ride, what a concept.

With my newly restored confidence I now began to wonder about the difficulties associated with riding a mountain bike at night. With no firm plan yet on what the heck I'd do for lighting I decided to take a trip to my local bike shop. The first light he shows me costs $450! Hey buddy, my bike doesn't cost that much, are you friggin serious? I'm sure these lights are bright and all but I'm thinking my night mountain biking days may come to an end sometime on Sunday. Let's face it, I can barely ride during the day, why would I want to ride at night...on purpose?

I left without a light, but not empty handed. I bought some new cleats for my shoes, multi-directional release cleats. Anything to make it easier for me to get out of is a good thing. When I got home I found out one of my RTB teammates (Douglas) was letting me use his bike light, via NYC. Phew, one less thing to worry about.

Later in the day I decided I really needed to get at least one practice ride in at dark so I duct-taped a flashlight to my bars, a headlamp to the front of my bike and tie-rapped another headlamp to my helmet. At 8pm I headed over to Horse Hill for a ride. Well 50 minutes later I made it back to my truck, unharmed. Imagine that? It ain't easy but it is definitely doable, even with crappy lights. As it turned out, the flashlight pretty much just came along for the ride. My Petzl running headlamp mounted to my helmet was really providing all the light. By the way, my new cleats were awesome!

Confidence fully restored, I'm ready to go!
This might actually be fun after all.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Heebe Geebees

Ok, I'll warn you this isn't a pleasant post and most likely will not add any value to your life today.
Following last weeks 33 mile epic adventure I developed a painful blister under my big toenail. It would fill up with fluid and try to push my nail off my foot and was generally very painful. I eventually popped it with a needle and have repeated this several times a day for over a week. In fact, I could actually stick the needle under my nail almost 1/2 way down my nail, like some sort of Chinese torture technique or something (or was that bamboo shoots?). I was doing it to myself and it was creeping me out!

At times, there was so much pressure on my toenail that I couldn't even put weight on my foot. Ever try to walk without using your big toe? Exactly. In the last week I ran 3 painful miles, all because of my toe. Every runner is familiar with black toenail, but have you ever had white toenail?

I finally went to the doctors on Friday to make sure it wasn't infected and see if there was something I could do to speed up recovery. She said as long as it was draining it was fine but she could do something to help it along - drill a hole in my toenail to let it drain. Are you kidding me? Of course I said no but then reluctantly agreed when she said it wouldn't hurt too much. It wasn't the pain I was worried about, it was the idea of someone sticking something through my toenail. Certain things just creep me out. This happened to be one of them. Anyways, I had it done, it didn't hurt but I was never comfortable during. The nurse tried to relax me by telling a blond joke but totally botched it (no, she wasn't blond but could have been).

Now when I push on my toenail fluid bubbles out the end of my toenail and through the little hole in the top of my nail, like a mini volcano....you know, sort of like KrakaTOEa (sorry, I couldn't resist). So far I haven't seen much relief. It still hurts and I still can't run, but I can bike (for now).