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Downtown Temple,NH

Friday, October 30, 2009

7.6 Miles per day

That's what I would need to average everyday to break 2,000 miles for the year. Probably not going to happen but I bet I get close. Not really a goal, just an interesting number.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tour de Horse Hill

One of my new favorite runs is what I call the Tour de Horse Hill. It is run entirely within the boundaries of Horse Hill Nature Preserve in Merrimack,NH and acts as my primary training grounds for my next race: the Stonecat Trail Marathon in 10 days.

The trails (until yesterday) have been in great shape. A lot of work has been done over the last year to clean up the trails, build bridges and cut new trails around some of the wetter sections of the preserve. It is a HUGE improvement over just a year ago and I'm fortunate to have access to these trails just 3 miles from my house.

The Tour consists of running nearly every trail in HHNP with as little backtracking as possible. Although I've never measured it, my guess is it's in the 10 mile range, good for nearly 1 1/2hrs of trail enjoyment. My new favorite trail (and one of the only ones I need to backtrack on since it's an out and back) is the Quarry Trail. It connects HHNP with Wasserman Park and is probably the most technical single track in HH.

I headed out last night for another tour in my quest to test various gear in all kinds of weather conditions. I want to be sure I make the right gear choices for Stonecat. Turned out to be an abbreviated tour due to the trail conditions. It was cold (low 40's) and raining. Actually, raining really doesn't describe what it was doing. It was more like running in a waterfall. I don't think I've ever run in rain like that before. ALL trails were 100% flooded and most were ankle deep with water.....very cold water. Although my GoreTex shell kept the top half warm and dry, my feet were absolutely frozen, to the point of hurting. If it rains like that at Stonecat I'm staying home. Seriously, it was dangerous out there and I was only running for about an hour and 20 minutes. Dedication or stupidity?

Monday, October 26, 2009

White Mountain Half Marathon

I set my alarm clock for 5am before I went to bed Saturday night. With nearly a 2 1/2hr drive on Sunday I figured I'd get to North Conway for the 24th annual White Mountain Half Marathon (results) with just over an hour to spare. Not Scotty Graham early but good enough for me. As usual I was awake before the alarm went off so I got up, got dressed and headed down stairs. As I walked into the dark kitchen I noticed every digital clock displayed 6:15am, not 5:15am. What the? A check of my watch also confirmed the actual time: 6:15am. Oh crap! I knew immediately what had happened. My alarm clock automatically changes the time for Daylight Savings. Cool feature, except when our government changes the day from the last Sunday in October to a week later. Of course I immediately shift into full stress mode. I envision myself showing up with 15 minutes to spare and even showing up late. I don't like to be late...for anything. I've driven to North Conway a million times, you'd think I'd remember how long it actually took to get there. So for the next 2+hrs I drive a tad above the posted speed limit, stressed out. But wait, there's more! As I get near the end of Rt104 in Meredith I notice a police car parked in the middle of the road. The road is closed! You can't be serious? I look up....nope, the sky isn't falling. The nice police officer directs me down a side road. Have a nice day. No signs, no directions, no idea where to go now. I do my best Jeff Gordon-Watkins Glen impression trying to find a way back to recognizable roads and finally make it back onto Rt3. I'm stressing out so bad now my lower back is starting to seize up. All the time I'm constantly doing math in my head trying to figure out how much time I have. You see, my friends....this is exactly why people like me need to leave and arrive early.

I arrive at 8:30am. Phew. I head over to registration, grab my number and head back to my car to change. I'm back at the start just before 9am, ready to go (except I skipped the warm up). And then I hear the announcement: Walkers start at 9am. Runners start at 9:30am!!!!!!!!!!! You got to be kidding me.

Ok, enough with the back story. Yes, there was a race yesterday as well. At 9:30am I lined up right in front. I've done this race before and it has a strange start. It starts in the side parking area next to the Eastern Slope Inn, runs about 100ft and then turns left 90 degrees onto Main St before heading down West Side Rd. To avoid any bottleneck you need to be in front. Also strange is for the 3rd week in a row I don't recognize anyone in the crowd. There is a CMS guy (John Pajer) and a WMM guy (Tim Livingston) but no other race singlets I could see.

As we make the turn onto West Side Rd Tim is running alone out front, followed by a young kid (the eventual winner) and then John Pajer. Then there's probably 5 or 6 of us running in a pack not too far back. And then I notice a bandit join right in front of our pack. For some reason this really bugs me. 1. The race is only $40. 2. It's the White Mountain friggin half marathon. Come on loser...

It was a beautiful day, a great day for running. Temps in the mid 50's and sunny. It was a bit breezy and that would become very noticeable later on. I got into a groove pretty early on and felt great. It was my mission for the day to drop that stupid bandit though. He bugged me. I chased him down for the first 5 miles before finally putting the hammer down in mile 6 (my fastest mile of the day) and dropped him (and the rest of our pack) for good. For most of the first 8 miles or so I was clicking off 6:15's, although at the time I didn't know it. I never looked at my watch and just ran hard. For all of the second half of the race I was in 4th place o/a, all alone. The only hiccup of the race came in miles 9-11. The breezy day turned into a pretty strong head wind and my pace suffered, running 6:31, 6:41 and 6:28 during this stretch. John Pajer maintained a good minute or so on me for most of the race but I managed to narrow the gap in the last couple of miles as I got back on pace. I finished strong, 29 seconds back of John (3rd place) and 4th place overall in a time of 1:22:45 (6:19 avg). So in the 24th annual White Mountain half marathon and my 24th half marathon lifetime, I ran my 2nd fastest race ever. I'll take it!

Now if you've never run this race you're missing out on a great event. For 40 bucks you get a beautiful, mostly flat course, well supported by tons of volunteers. The water stops are manned by some of the loudest, most enthusiastic kids I've seen at any race. A nice, long sleeve tech shirt plus a finishers medal are also included. The Eastern Slopes Inn even opens up a bunch of rooms for runners to take showers after the race. On top of that they serve up one of the best post-race meals anywhere, hosted by the Flatbread Pizza Company. Pizza, pasta, salads, pulled pork, soup, cider, cookies, bread and probably more stuff that I missed. Nothing like good hot foot after a nice fall race. I'll be back next year.

photo credit - Tami C.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Week

Last week was one of my best weeks of training in a long time. I felt great every day. No aches, no pains, no fatigue. I think a lot has to do with the weather. I love to run when it's colder so this time of year is perfect running weather in my book.

I managed to get about 22 miles on the trails with the rest on the roads for a nice weekly total of 63.5 miles for the week. If I'm not mistaken, that's a personal high for me. On Wednesday we had our last track workout of the season (outdoor). Short and sweet: 3 x 1600's which I clicked off at 5:45, 5:39 and 5:26.

I also decided to run the Kelly Mann 5k on Saturday (Nashua) to gauge my current fitness. It was the perfect course to do it on since it was almost pancake flat. The only thing missing was the competition. I led(easily) from start to finish, finishing 1st overall in a time of 18:10ish. I think the next closest runner was nearly 3 minutes back. Oh well, a win is a win I guess. I was generally happy with my time but I know I could have gone faster. I could have used someone besides the pace-bicycle to to push me along. It's actually a very nice race, run on fairly quiet roads behind Rivier College. They had plenty of food and drink, lots of medals and trophies and a pretty impressive raffle, plus it was for a good cause!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Pleasant Climb Trail Race

For the second weekend in a row I found myself in the Lake Sunapee area for a race. This time I headed just east of RT89 and arrived in New London, NH for the 2nd annual A Pleasant Climb trail race (results). The 12.5km trail race was part of the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series and the Eastern New England Trail Race Series. In reality, neither series brought me here, the chance to run something new had more to do with it.

As usual I got there early, registered, chatted briefly about the course with the RD (Chad Denning), changed and headed out for a warm up run. Last week I ran a road race with the first 2 miles actually off road. This week, believe it or not, I ran a trail race with the first 2 miles all on pavement. What are the chances?? It's almost too bad because the trail part of the race was excellent.

I could have done without the first 2 mile section. Not only was it pavement, it was ALL downhill and VERY steep. No kidding, it was like running down Mt Washington (almost). Quad hammering, foot slapping, 2 miles of killer downhill. Talk about getting your quads warmed up. Geesh. I finally hit the woods in 11:30 (5:45 pace), and I was already in 11th place. I would stay in that position for the entire race. The next 3ish miles was the namesake of the race, a Pleasant Climb. We started at Lake Pleasant (the low point in New London) and then gradually climbed up to Morgan Hill (the high point in New London). According to the RD, it was indeed a pleasant climb. After destroying my quads in the first 2 miles, the 3 mile climb wasn't so pleasant, but I did manage to run the entire climb. It was a beautiful trail, following a brook for a good portion of it. It was also what I'd call discretely well marked. Plenty of signs to mark the way but you had to look for them.

Ah, but there's more! Once at the top, the trail jumped back on a road for probably 1 1/2 miles, and the first 1/2 mile or so was pavement...again. This time, it really was Mt Washington steep. More punishment for my already aching quads...great. I think we lost most of the elevation gained climbing in this short 1/2 mile pavement section. After that the road turned to dirt and generally flattened out for the next mile, giving my legs a bit of relief. The last mile or so put us back in woods (more like a swamp). At least it was flat. It was a very strange trail. The first half really was like running through a swamp because it was so wet. The second half was almost totally dry BUT had dozens and dozens of bog bridges. It didn't make any sense at all. Whatever.

57:48 later I was finished. 11th overall, 2nd masters. I actually finished 4 seconds behind the 1st place master. Sounds close (and it was), but in reality he probably had a 2 minute lead over me in the last mile and somehow missed a turn. By the time he got back on course I was right with him but couldn't get by him in the last 1/2 mile or so.

Overall it was a good race and I had a good time. They had a nice raffle after the race, including a couple of pairs of Inov-8's, which unfortunately I did not win :-(
All age group winners also walked away with a choice of 4 different freshly made breads.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pinnacle Challenge

acidotic RACING was out in full force yesterday in Newport,NH for Pinnacle Challenge V, probably the only double-duathlon you'll find (if you were looking!). aR fielded 4 teams plus a solo entry in the 5 mile road run, 5.5 mile mountain bike, 13.75 mile road bike and 3.4 mile trail run event (results). With four, 4-person teams plus a soloist, there was some serious inter-club braggin' rights on the line (not to mention the chance for FREE BEER FOR A YEAR!). Let's just say it doesn't suck to be sponsored by a brewery :-)

Our team included myself on the road run, Chris Dunn on the mountain bike, Geoff Cunningham on the road bike and Brent Tkaczyk on the trail run. I liked our chances! We were ready for some racing!!
Geoff, Steve, Chris, Brent

My day would start early and end early...only because I was doing the 1st leg, the 5 mile road run. Turns out the first 2 miles of the road was more like a cross country run, with the first 1/2m run across a field and the next 1 1/2 miles run on a rail-trail. Nothing overly difficult, just an odd way to start a road run. About the 2 mile mark the course hit the pavement, and the only significant hill on the run. The next 1/2 mile was a series of short climbs. By mile 2.5 the hills were gone and it was either downhill or flat the rest of the way back. Miles 3 and 4 were along a nice country road which even included a run through a covered bridge. We were essentially running around the perimeter of a small grass airfield (Parlin Field). Once around the airfield it was a straight 1 mile shot back to Newport High School and the location of the transition area.

At 9:30am we were off. I settled into a fairly comfortable pace through the fields, trying to find someone to pace off of. By the time we hit the rail trail I was probably in 10th place o/a. Derrick Hamel (acidotic RACING 2) already had a sizable lead, followed by Justin Soucy (one of my GCS track coaches) in a distant second. By the time we left the trail and hit the roads at mile 2 I had picked off a few runners and settled into 7th place behind Eric Williams (Team High Speed Vomit, GSRT runner). Eric and I would essentially run back and forth the rest of the way, never really being more than a few yards apart. His team were the defending champs so I really needed to stay with him if I could.

Eric and me at about 3 1/2 miles
Heck, I wasn't going to catch team aR2 so I had to focus on somebody! Running together helped us close the gap on a few more runners by the time we got back to the final 1 mile straightaway. With 1/2 mile to go I had moved up to 4th but wouldn't look back to see where Eric was. As we turned onto the grass with about 50m to the transition area I found out where he was...going by me! Man do I HATE getting passed right at the finish!!!! I entered the transition at 28:20, 4 seconds behind Eric and Team Vomit and exactly 2 minutes behind Derrick of aR2. Now all I could do was wait (and take pictures!).

Special note: Derrick had the fastest road run split of the day with a 26:20.

After my run I went up into the woods to take some pics of the mountain bikers and some of the early trail runners before heading back to the transition area to catch the finish. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any photos of the road bikers (sorry Geoff!) Chris would hammer the bike (42:34) and not only make up the 2 minute deficit but also tack on an additional 11 minute gap over aR2.

Chris on the descent

Geoff would have a very comfortable cushion to start his ride. He too would not give an inch to aR2 and even managed to pick up 38 more seconds, averaging nearly 22mph on his 13.75 mile ride, with a time of 37:59.

Geoff back from his warm up ride

Interestingly, both the mountain bike and trail run would ascend a wicked set of stairs (yes, Chris had to carry his bike up the stairs), before heading further up the mountain course. The lead solo athlete reached the top, placed his bike down and popped his rear tire on a nail. He managed to repair the flat AND still finish 2nd OVERALL (including teams)....1st solo finisher in 2:11:00.

Brent climbing 100+ stairs up a seriously steep hill

Brent was our more than capable anchor leg to finish up the day. With a nearly 12 minute lead over aR2, only an injury would doom us. Thankfully doom was not in our forecast today and Brent ran the 5th fastest trail split of the day (26:21), and our team finished a strong 4th overall in a time of 2:16:40. Tim Cox of aR2 made a herculean effort, making up 2 minutes and 14 seconds in the 3.4 mile trail run but in the end it was not enough. Team Vomit finished first in 2:09:20.

Brent bringing it home!

Special note: Tim Cox of aR2 had the fastest trail run split of the day with a 23.58.

Final acidotic RACING Results:
  1. acidotic RACING 1 (Steve, Chris, Geoff, Brent) 2:16:40
  2. acidotic RACING 2 (Derrick, Steve, Jay, Tim) 2:26:17
  3. acidotic RACING 3 (Kurt, Brayden, Jay, Austin) 2:48:02
  4. acidotic RACING 4 (Karen, Sarah, Scott, Rich) 2:50:10 (NOTE: 3rd Coed Team)
  5. Steve Sprague - solo racer 3:03:34

Friday, October 2, 2009


For various reasons, I haven't been to track in 3 weeks. Generally speaking I'm fairly satisfied with my running at the moment. I had my highest weekly mileage of the year (56) last week and September was my highest mileage month (180) since last October. Both of those numbers are high for me. The only exception is my speed. I'm not really sure what it is or if I have it. I think most of my doubt is due to my lack of road racing recently. I just don't have anything to go by, so I question it instead.

There was a pretty small group at track on Weds, probably due to there being a NHGP race on Saturday, but it was also cold (near 50). I ran with Joe Rogers and Jim Hansen in group 1, and the workout was fairly easy (800, 800, 1600, 800, 800), all with 400 rest.

Right from the start I just felt off. I had a good stride going for the 1st 400 but then it felt like my stride would fall apart, becoming very choppy. Although I was running consistent laps I just never got into it and relaxed.

Interestingly (to me), I looked up the last time I ran this same workout (Feb 2009) and found I ran almost identical times. The glass half full guy might say I've held my speed all year, the glass half empty guy might say I haven't improved all year.

Feb-09 Sep-09
800m 2:46 2:48
800m 2:43 2:44
1600m 5:40 5:36
800m 2:39 2:45
800m 2:40 2:43