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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reach the Beach 2010

This was my 5th time running RTB (results) with the Mine Falls Milers (a mostly Gate City Striders based team), and it could have been really, really stressful. We've been fairly competitive each year (in the top 10 o/a each year), running mostly as a Men's Masters team. This year we seemed to struggle more with finding and holding onto 12 runners all summer long. We even had 4 new runners, 3 of which have never participated in RTB before. In fact, we lost one of our fastest runners in the last week and ultimately ran with just 11. But for some reason it wasn't really stressful (at least for me).
2010 Mine Falls Milers

There were so many unknowns this year, so many new folks that it wasn't possible to have any  real expectation of what our team would do. So, I generally relaxed. In the end, it just didn't matter how anyone else ran. It would have no affect on how I would run my legs. So as long as we all generally got along, we should have another great year at RTB! Bottom line - we had another great year!

The Mine Falls Milers (Men's  Masters) finished in 23:07:00 (6:38 avg), 11th overall (430 teams), and 4th in our division. This was definitely the most competitive field we've seen since we've been running. The winning Masters team finished in 20:52:59 (5:59 avg). That's faster than the Overall winner 3 out of the last 4 years. Even with 11 runners, it was our 2nd fastest avg in 5 years.

Overall Division Avg Pace
2006 8 4 6:54
2007 5 3 6:44
2008 7 1 6:40
2009 8 2 6:30
2010 11 4 6:38

From a personal standpoint, this was probably my best run RTB ever. I felt really good (and strong) on every leg and never experienced any real soreness or muscle cramps. My only issue was a quarter-sized blister that I actually got 4 days earlier when I ran the Nahant 30k. Each run would aggravate it enough that it hurt to walk. After each run I'd take a safety pin from my sweaty BIB and drain the fluid out, throw some Moleskin on it and get ready for my next run.
With only 11 runners to start and having an injury to one of our runners late in the race, our legs were far from traditional. I ended up running 4 times for a total of 23.7 miles with nearly 1800 ft of climbing.

Leg 3 (Easy) was 3.9 miles from Bretton Woods to the AMC Highland Center and was mostly uphill, getting quite steep right near the end.

Leg 14 (Medium-Hard) was 7.8 miles from the Community School in Tamworth to the Center Sandwich School. The first 4 miles climbed steady along Rt25 and then had 2 steep climbs and descents before finishing in downtown Sandwich.

 Leg 25 (Hard) was 8.6 miles from Bear Brook State Park to nearly the Deerfield Fairgrounds. It climbs steadily (and steeply at times) for the first 5 miles before finally heading back down to the finish.

Leg 35 (Easy) was 3.4 miles from the North Hampton School to Winnacunnet High School. No map required. This leg is flat (being only 4 miles from the finish). 

Totals for the day:
Leg Miles Time Pace
3 3.9 24:09 6:13
14 7.8 49:38 6:22
25 8.6 55:06 6:25
35 3.4 20:21 5:58

23.7 2:29:14 6:15

So, after racing long each of the last 3 weeks, I shall take a weekend (or two) off from racing. The Pinnacle Challenge is next on the schedule.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nahant 30k

Yes, my 'training' is probably unconventional. I'll be the first to admit it. Most people probably don't combine their high mileage weeks (training for 2 fall marathons) with back to back weekends of 18+ mile races plus an upcoming 24hr 200 mile relay this weekend (RTB).Who the heck has time to taper anyways?? So with already tired legs, I made a last minute decision on Sunday to head down to Nahunt, MA and run the Nahant 30k Road Race and hopefully work on my marathon pacing. First I had to figure out where the heck Nahant was.

I knew it was on the coast so I assumed it would be fairly flat, making it ideal to run a consistent pace throughout the six 5k's (sounds longer that way), or 18.64 miles (that sounds pretty long too). Nahant is the closest thing there is to an island without it being called an island, and is landlocked by Lynn (city of sin) of all places. Who knew? What I did know was there would be LOTS of turns. How else do you pack in 30k of running on a land mass of 1.2 sq miles?

Lots of familiar (and fast) faces at the start, including the entire GCS men's masters team that will most likely be kicking my butt at Baystate next month but I digress. Jim Pawlicki gave me a quick overview of what to expect (aka it is not flat and you will turn a LOT) shortly before the race and the RD gave a quick overview as well. 15 miles on Nahant and a long run along the beach down and past the start/finish area (on the causeway) before looping back at mile 18. Got it?
 I had heard this race can be a bit confusing if volunteers and signage are not in place. After being assured by the RD that the course was well marked, we were off.
Now I should mention I didn't do any warm up (pretty typical for me) so I went out easy and relaxed hoping to run close to my planned marathon pace (6:40 pace). Good news is my 1st mile was 6:37. Bad news was I had to stop for a bathroom break (yes I know, poor planning on my part). Thankfully there was a bath house right at the 1st mile mark. I still lost about a minute (2nd mile was 7:34) but I didn't panic and didn't try to get it all back in the early miles. I just kept telling myself to be patient and take your time. I did lose about 30 places though and that was frustrating but it gave me lots of targets to track down.
It turns out Nahant is not flat after all. The course can be described with four words: up, down, turn, repeat. In fact the only flat section was the start/finish area along the causeway. The rest of the route was constant rollers (which I actually enjoyed). I've never turned so many times in a race....ever. Run a 100ft, sharp left, run a 100ft, sharp right. Wow. And for the record I was curious how many turns there actually were. The North Shore Striders have turn by turn directions of the course on their website. Count them up: 77 turns. Yikes.

Back to the race. I was feeling great in the early miles. Very relaxed, strong and running fairly easy and totally happy with my pace. After 9 miles I was right at MP (6:41 avg) and continued to catch and pass runners. But there were a few runners I was with in the first mile that were still a ways ahead of me and I was determined to catch them before we finished. Around mile 10 I started to pick up the pace and really focused on tracking down these rogue runners. It was fun, especially watching them glance back on the turns, each time me being a little closer. Bwah ha ha! They were running scared and there's nothing they can do about it. They shall be caught and passed. You can write that in pen.
By the time we reached Nahant beach for the last 3 miles along the causeway I had reeled them all in. Now I had to hold them off. I never looked back but instead just ran harder. It's a tough finish since you run right by the finish line around mile 17, running directly into the wind until finally making a u-turn around mile 18 and heading back to the finish (this time with a tail wind).I finally got a glimpse of where everyone was when I made the u-turn and started heading back. I felt like I had a comfortable lead but didn't slow up at all (running 5:38 pace over the last .64 miles). I cruised in with a time of 2:00:45, 10th place overall (complete results). My legs felt great! For a brief second I thought about the time I lost during my bathroom break and whether I could have broken 2hrs but I got over it pretty quick. I probably would have run the race quite differently if I hadn't stopped. Heck, it was a 30k PR! Ok, so it was my first 30k, whatever.
The best part was running some very nice negative splits. I averaged 6:41's for the first 9 miles and 6:17's for the last 9.6. For the nerdy folks, all my splits are listed below.

Time Total Time Avg Pace
1 6:37 0:06:37 6:37
2 7:34 0:14:11 7:06
3 6:31 0:20:42 6:54
4 6:53 0:27:35 6:54
5 6:40 0:34:15 6:51
6 6:27 0:40:42 6:47
7 6:19 0:47:01 6:43
8 6:33 0:53:34 6:42
9 6:31 1:00:05 6:41
10 6:24 1:06:29 6:39
11 6:29 1:12:58 6:38
12 6:29 1:19:27 6:37
13 6:27 1:25:54 6:36
14 6:11 1:32:05 6:35
15 6:23 1:38:28 6:34
16 6:02 1:44:30 6:32
17 6:13 1:50:43 6:31
18 6:24 1:57:07 6:30
18.6 3:37 2:00:44 6:29

They managed to squeeze 30k into the smallest town in Massachusetts and kept me on course. Nice job!
photo credits - Krissy Kozlosky
Complete photo set can be found here

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wapack Trail Race

Last year I did this race when it was only 17.5 miles and it was hard. I didn't have any long lasting memories of why I shouldn't do it again so I decided to go back for round 2. The race follows the Wapack Trail from Windblown XC ski area in New Ipswich,NH to Asburnham,MA....and back, climbing 4 mountains each way with a total elevation gain of 3500ft. A reroute of the first couple of miles changed the distance to 18 miles this year and changed the start/finish setup dramatically (IMHO). Instead of staring UP the hill, we'd be facing the opposite direction and actually have a fairly long downhill start.
Having run the 'other' Wapack trail race in May (end to end 22 miler), I was familiar with the new trail up the first of 4 peaks (Barrett Mt). For some reason 99% of the runners just wouldn't line up at the starting line, choosing to mingle a good 10-15ft behind it (see picture below). I have no idea why, other than maybe they weren't quite sure which way to go.
At the starting line
Most of the first mile+ is a steady downhill on old logging roads, which led to a fairly fast start for an 18 mile trail race. The new climb up Barrett is much more runnable but still pretty steep. No wimpy switchbacks getting up this one, just a straight shot to the top. I went out fairly easy and climbed steadily, and was probably in my finishing position (10th to12th place) by the time I reached the 1st summit 2 miles in. It doesn't mean there wasn't any racing going on. I traded positions all day with various runners, mostly with Scott Patnode. Scott and I ran together a good part of the day. The Wapack is notorious for being a fairly hard trail to follow, especially when you're running it. Thankfully this year someone went out and marked (with blue arrows) some of the trickier sections (mostly on the summits). It was very easy to follow...for once!!
I was feeling pretty good on the way out and eventually opened up about a 3 minute lead on Scott by the time I hit the half-way point in 1:24 (10th place). If you want to know where your competitors are, an out and back will let you know. Keith Schmitt was about 5 minutes ahead, Jimmie Cochran about 4 minutes behind and the eventual 10th place finisher was right behind me. He would pass me pretty quickly on the steep climb back up Watatic.
Battle wounds for the day
Once you summit Watatic (on the way back) you have a fairly long downhill/flat stretch of about 3 miles on mostly logging-type roads. It's a nice recovery for your feet and legs. Unfortunately I chose this easy section to verify gravity really does exist. While I'm not entirely sure what happened, I'm guessing I was reaching for a gel in my front vest pocket when I crashed and burned, landing on my left shoulder and left side of my face. I went down fast and hard, laying in the middle of the trail for several seconds waiting for the stars to go away before eventually sitting up with a splitting headache. I was somewhere between mile 11 and 12. I sat there for several minutes trying to relax, settle down and make sure I wasn't injured too badly. A couple of runners (still on their way out) eventually came by and asked if I was ok and whether I thought I needed medical attention. At the same time Scott went running by.
That was all the motivation I needed to get running again. I immediately took off, hoping to chase Scott down. I caught him about 1 1/2 miles later, mostly because he was slowing down. Several times I thought about packing it in. If there was a way to get off this stupid trail and get back to my car with very little effort I would have done it.
I'm pretty sure I walked the entire way up Pratt Mt and ran sparingly over to New Ipswich Mt as well. I saw some hikers near the summit of New Ipswich so I decided to get running again and at least make it look like I was racing. Ugh. They were nice enough to cheer me on which I appreciated. However, about 10 seconds after passing them they began cheering someone else on. Who the heck was right behind me? Jimmie C. had caught up to me. Damn. Still 3 miles to go.
 Approaching the finish
If nothing else, the sight of Jimmie got me racing again and I began to push a little harder hoping to stay in front. My pace definitely quickened as I tried to open up whatever gap I could (on the uphills), only to lose it all on the downhills. As we headed down Barrett he was right on my heals but passing was tough on the single track and I wasn't about to step off to the side and just let him pass. When we reached the bottom and turned onto the logging road he made his move and passed. I tucked in behind him and tried to keep him as close as possible. I guess I wasn't really paying attention on the way out because this last section lasted FOREVER and was mostly uphill. Rough guess I'd say it was around 1 1/2 miles from the bottom of Barrett Mt to the finish. We were running it like it was 400m. Around every turn, every corner the trail just kept going. I got close a couple of times but I didn't have any gas left in the tank, and eventually finished 7 second back in 3:00:12, 12th overall (complete results). Not a bad day.

photo credits - Kim Allen & Wapack Website