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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Competitive Fire

Probably the biggest thing I missed during my running hiatus this summer was the competition that comes with racing. I don't mean the actual competitors (although I'm sure I missed some of them too!), but the actual act of competing. I love to race. Not because I'm an elite athlete. Not because I need to win. Not because I need another t-shirt or medal. But because I have a constant desire to push myself. To work harder. To get faster. When I sign up for yet another race, Deb usually says "I can't help myself" but I think we're on the same page. I think she know I need to race.
The lack of running didn't bother me nearly as much as the lack of racing. I can always find something else to do to stay in shape or fill the time (mostly). I got used to not running. I mountain biked. I had fun. But I wasn't racing. It's amazing how annoying social media can be when you can't do what you like to do (especially when 90% of my FB friends are runners). Man, did you guys bug me!

I've now been running for about 3 months.  I can't say I've got that competitive fire yet, but at least I have the pilot lit. I've taken it real slow (a little gun shy about getting injured again), maybe even too slow. I generally average about 30 miles a week. That's fine for staying in shape but it's not enough if you want to get faster. I have been racing a bit, which can be tough this time of year. It seems the rest of the running world is winding down and I'm trying to ramp up. Not a lot of races to choose from but I found a few. I ran a couple of 5k trail races in November on the familiar trails of Mine Falls. I ran The Great Gobbler 5k Trail Race on Thanksgiving (only the second time I've ever run a race on Thanksgiving, believe it or not). Finally, this past weekend I had the lead off leg of one of our Mens Masters team at the Mill Cities Relay. Considering I averaged nearly 6:40's for a 5k in September (might be a PW), I guess I should be happy with 6:15's for 5.4 miles. I am not complaining. I'm just happy to be running again and more importantly, racing again. Time to ramp up the miles. Watch your back, I might be right behind you!

RANDOM NOTE: I took some pictures on legs 3, 4 and 5 after running my leg on Sunday. Feel free to share with anyone who ran the Mill Cities Relay.

2011 Mill Cites Relay Pictures

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pinnacle Challenge - Solo Edition

Team acidotic RACING
The Pinnacle Challenge VII in Newport,NH is probably the biggest team event of the year for acidotic RACING (30+  this year!). The unique double duathlon event (5m road run, 5.4m mountain bike, 13.75m road bike, 3.65m trail run) offers something for everyone. For the past couple of years I was on a 4-person men's team, running the 5m road leg and 3.65m trail leg previously. Early on in 2011 (before I got injured surprisingly) I decided to do it solo.

Fast forward to September of this year. I hadn't run in nearly 3 months due to a nagging injury. Thankfully I kept busy with a ton of mountain biking and some tolerable road biking, but no running. So I had roughly one month to ease back into running just enough so I wouldn't embarrass myself at Pinnacle. I needed every day.

Teammate Jason Massa (who has done this race solo every year I believe) offered some advice - do each leg as hard as you can and hope to hang on at the end. Ok, I'm sure I'm paraphrasing a bit but I liked his advice. It is a race after all. My brain doesn't have a 'go easy' gear during a race. I guess the point was you'd probably over-think each leg too much if tried to pace yourself along the way. The other (more important) piece of advice was to make sure you eat and drink, primarily on the road bike. Noted.

I lined up with teammates Liz Hall and Austin Stonebreaker for the 5m leg. I think we all stayed within a few seconds of each other for the entire out/back run. Surprisingly, this was the leg I was most worried about and I was quite pleased with the results. I ran hard, finishing the run in 31:47 (6:21 pace). I quickly swapped shoes, threw on a helmet and headed out on the mountain bike for leg #2.
Finishing the 5m leg

Ok, a couple of things to note if you plan to do this solo. First, it's much harder going from running to biking then biking to running (like in a triathlon). Second, wear gloves. Finally, carrying a 30lb mountain bike up a gazillion stairs on the side of a ski jump (after running 5 miles) is tiring.You've been warned.
Evil stairs

Yes, both the mountain bike and the trail run legs go up these stairs, located about a 1/4 mile into the leg. My legs were burning when I made it to the top with my bike. And it doesn't get much easier, with nearly ALL the climbing located in the first half of the bike (and run for that matter). I could do no better than ride the entire climb in my granny gear but at least I was able to ride the entire thing. A few days of heavy rain had left the course very wet and very muddy. By itself it's probably a fun course. Throw in a 5m run for a warm up and the fun kind of goes away. No complaints. It was a nice course. Tough, fairly technical but rideable. Once over the summit I was pushed pretty hard by another rider and we flew on the way down, eventually teaming up with fellow aR teammates Mike Sallade and Amanda House on the screaming descent. We swapped positions a few times before reaching the transition in 42:49, completely covered in mud.
Heading out on the mt bike
The next transition was easy. All I had to do was swap bikes and go. This would be my least favorite leg. The course was a straight 6 mile shot out, followed by a fairly intimidating 1 mile hill and then back to the transition area. As instructed, I drank and ate as much as I could on the ride. I'm sure I went way easier than I should have on this leg. I never really pushed myself. By this point in the race I was looking at it more like a recovery ride. I battled aR teammate Robin Allen-Burke up the monster hill before she put the hammer down and crushed my on the way back. Overall it was a lackluster performance on my part as I finished up in 45:55, a fairly slow 18mph avg. Glad that's done...
Muddy me on the road bike
Generally I had been transitioning fairly well (although there are probably some improvements I could have made to speed things up a bit). I put my trail shoes on, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out on the run. I was tired but felt pretty good but did walk the evil stairs. Like the mountain bike course, the trail run course is all climbing in the first half. In fact, the run course was about 90% of the mountain bike course. I shuffled up the hills, running behind another runner most of the way up. Near the summit I passed and led for a while as we began the descent. Somewhere near the top I made an attempt to jump over a small tree that crossed the trail. As soon as I jumped my right hamstring cramped severely, stopping me in my tracks. The runner went by, asked if I was ok and then continued on. I tried several times to continue on and couldn't even take a single step. Darn it. I had about 2 miles of downhill to go and I couldn't move. I tried to stretch my hamstring as best I could (I do not stretch very well). After several minutes of stretching I was finally able to slowly walk. Eventually I managed to turn my walk into a slow jog and then into a fairly decent run. I was completely paranoid about my hamstring seizing up again, especially running downhill but it held up enough for me to finish the run in a somewhat painful 32:52.
At the finish line...finally!
My 2:35:51 finishing time was good enough for 8th overall in the solo division, 3rd in the masters division (behind Jason Massa in 2nd). I was more than happy with the results , all things considered. It was hard, it was mostly fun but next year I'm pretty sure I'm going back to team competition!

Photo credits - Gianina Lindsey

Monday, September 26, 2011

FOMBA to Bear Brook Ride

I was talking to a fellow mountain bike rider in Horse Hill a few weeks ago and he mentioned riding from FOMBA in Auburn to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown. I've seen the snowmobile trail signs around FOMBA, some mentioning Bear Brook but I never really paid attention to them. I pretty much just rode the mountain bike specific single track that FOMBA is famous for. After doing a little research and recruiting a few riders (Chris, Brayden and Dan), I put together a rough plan.We'd drop a vehicle at Bear Brook and start the ride at FOMBA. I had planned 3-4hrs of riding based on pretty much nothing. Originally I had planned to ride a few miles of single track at FOMBA first but Chris astutely pointed out we could ride there anytime. Lets save the riding for Bear Brook instead. Shortly before 10am we headed out.

So, how do you get there you ask? Well, turns out those snowmobile folks have quite the trail network, and do a decent job with signage (but lack in posting online maps). Starting from the Depot Rd parking lot at FOMBA, we rode the fire roads northeast until it crosses the Rockingham Rail Trail. The primary reason for this was to check out all the signage at this intersection. It's here that you'll see a sign saying "Bear Brook" this way. Otherwise, if you just ride up Depot Rd for a 1/4 mile or so, the trail actually crosses there, saving some riding time.

FOMBA to Bear Brook Map

 The main corridor (aka trail) going north/south is called Trail 15. We picked it up on the north side of Tower Hill Pond. There were lots of snowmobile trails along the way. The problem was they were just numbers (Trail 6, Trail 12, etc..). Without a snowmobile trail-specific map, they were useless (and like I said earlier, they apparently don't publish their maps online). So we kept riding until we saw the sign for Trail 15N (about 4.5miles in).

Trail 15N would take us all the way into Bear Brook (and Canada if you kept on following it north). For the most part it was very easy to follow. We got hung up for a few minutes when we came across the only paved road we had to cross (Rt27, about 7.5 miles in) because we missed a turn on the powerlines and came out on the road, but not where the trail actually crosses. A little local help got us back on track.

Elevation Profile from FOMBA to Bear Brook
There was some standing water on the trails from a few days of heavy rain but generally the trail offered some great riding (but it does climb steadily going north). Around 9.5miles Trail 15N turned left onto the Chester Turnpike. It was neither in Chester nor a Turnpike (but is on the map). I'd call it a very rugged dirt road at best. After about a mile though we'd finally make the right turn into the southwest corner of Bear Brook (roughly 10 miles into our ride). Although not signed, this section on the Bear Brook Trail Map was called Lost Trail Extension. From there we followed the Ferret Trail around the west side of Bear Hill Pond. After 13 miles of riding, we would finally hit our first section of single track in Bear Brook State Park!

The first trail we hit was the Ledges Hedgehog trail. An excellent, scenic trail through some incredible boulder fields. Seriously technical however. Lots of stone steps to ascend and descend. From there we took a dreadful trail called the Lowland Trail ( I think). Lots of blowdowns, and huge sections completely submerged. It was wet, slow and not much of anything. It eventually brought us around Hayes Marsh (about 15 miles of riding).
At Hayes Marsh we decided on the Carr Ridge Trail. After looking at the map, we came up with a rough plan to head north until we hit the Bear Brook Trail, and then head southeast to our car on Podunk Rd. Up and over what I would guess was Carr Ridge. A somewhat technical but excellent single track trail. The descent was a nicely flowing, fast switchback ride all the way down to the Bear Brook Trail.
Another excellent trail, and as the name implies, the trail followed right along Bear Brook. I think we got off trail a few times near the water but we eventually would pick it up again and continued all the way to the hiker/biker lot on Podunk Rd. It was a solid 2 miles of nice single track riding.
In total we rode for 2hrs 40 minutes, covering roughly 18 miles. This was my first time into Bear Brook and I can't wait to go back!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Running Post...Finally!

Alert the media. I'm running again! After 3 months of nearly no running due to injury, I've finally been able to piece together a couple of decent weeks. It's slow and it's hard but I'm glad to be back out on the roads and trails. I really missed racing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race

When I signed up for this race a few months ago, it seemed like a good way to get my endurance fix in. A 100k single loop mountain bike race through the hills of Greenfield, Francestown and a few other hilly New Hampshire towns. True, I've been cycling a lot (for a runner), but not enough to consider myself a cyclist or biker or whatever they call themselves. So for my first mountain bike race ever, why not go big? Honestly, I never looked at the Hampshire 100 as a race. I just wanted the experience to ride 100k on a mountain bike. Just finishing would be good enough the first time out.

With the venue only about 40 minutes from home, the ability to sleep in my own bed was a huge plus. Deb was nice enough to get up at 4:30am and drop me off (thank you!), and after a quick DD stop for coffee and a sausage-egg-cheese sandwich (breakfast of champions), we arrived just before 6am. We met up with fellow acidotic RACING teammate Andy Corrow, who would be riding in the same class (Novice Veteran II - 40-49) as me. After a brief pre-race meeting, we settled into the 5th wave and waited patiently for our turn. Shortly after 7am we were off.
Waiting for wave 5 to start

We were warned the first 20 miles were fairly easy and fast (whatever that means). Although I generally don't ride very long (my longest ride all year was around 50 miles), I wasn't really worried about the 62.5 miles we had to cover. I was more concerned about how much time it would take. My guesstimate at the start was 8-9hrs based on well, pretty much nothing. My longest ride in the history of riding was probably only 1/2 that. Not to worry, no negative thoughts entered my mind. I would not be fooled into thinking this was a race so at the 'go' command I just rode easy. Probably too easy. Even starting with a huge novice group, I basically got passed by nearly everyone in the first few miles (at least it seemed that way). I rode with Andy for about 10 minutes but then he was gone too. Sure, I could have ridden a lot faster, but on a hot and humid day, on a course with probably 7000ft of climbing, I decided to take it out easy.

The first few miles were mostly on dirt roads before hitting some ATV type trails and eventually riding down the side of some rail road tracks. There's something a bit unnerving about riding single file at 15mph along side exposed RR ties, with your pedal just inches from taking you and everyone behind you down. Soon enough we were back on same real trails again. I rode by the first Feed station around mile 10 since I had my Nathan pack with about 40oz of water. I was adding Gu Brew electrolyte tablets (lemon lime) to my water to hopefully keep the cramps at bay. At about 12 miles we rode into the base of Crotched Mt Ski area. It was a bit intimidating considering I thought we were going to the top. Thankfully after a brief climb we circled back down a fairly steep slope, crossed the parking lot and headed back into the woods. I heard one of the guys near the front crashed hard on this hill (I was told he broke his back, yikes). As of today, he was still in the hospital. Around mile 16 we came into Feed station #2 (which was well stocked). I stopped and filled my pack, had 1/2 a banana and a handful of chips and was off in maybe 2-3 minutes.

In a few minutes (after a screaming tar downhill ride) we jumped on probably the worst section of the entire course (IMHO): 5 miles of flat, straight rail trail. It just wasn't any fun, especially the 3 miles of soft sand in the middle section. Oh, but the fun stuff was just around the corner! Shortly after the rail trail, we turned onto a dirt, loose gravel road that appeared to go straight up (Hedgehog Mt). Steep doesn't do it justice. I rode as much as I could without hurting and then decided to walk. I heard the average grade was >14%, with sections approaching 25%. I figured it was a good time to call home and give an update. About 1/2 was up I saw Emily Trespas hiking down. I think we were both surprised to see each other out there! Andy was already more than 5 minutes ahead.
Hedgehog Hill - photo credit Emily Trespas

22 miles in about 2hrs and I guessed the easy part was done. I was feeling pretty good (as I continued to ride well within my limits) and was drinking plenty. I wasn't eating much though and that would be a problem.
Power Line Trail - photo credit David Alden St Pierre
I saw the fiddler around mile 23, just before the power line trail. I'm pretty sure the entire field walked sections of this trail. Incredibly steep, wet and muddy and that doesn't even include the total exposure to the sun. Needless to say, it was a tough grind up the power lines. From the top it was mostly downhill all the way to Feed Station #3 at approximately mile 25. Again, I refilled my bladder, had a 1/2 a banana, some Coke and some chips. It was one of two drop stations (stations where you could have bags sent in advance with whatever you wanted). I just put a spare tube (in case I flatted early) and a spare pair of socks in case I got wet in my bag. I never even looked for it since it wasn't needed. I was tiring of the Lemon-Lime flavored water and grabbed a coconut water as I left the aid station. The trail immediately climbed again (what a shock). A long slow, steep (but rideable) climb up a dirt road before cutting across some fields at the top and eventually heading back down the trails. The next 15 miles were mostly a blur, good solid riding, more climbing and definitely hot. If I remember, it was also pretty slow, I'm guessing because the course was getting a bit more technical. I was still drinking plenty of GU Brew though and generally felt good.

I arrived at the Feed Station #4 (~40 miles) around 4hrs and 30 minutes. I finally caught up with Andy too. I had another banana, a candy bar, more Coke and refilled my bladder...again. I also called home once again with another update. The next 10 miles went by so slow. The riding was hard, lots of technical single track, lots of climbing. I'm sure the single track would have been more fun if I hadn't been riding for nearly 5hrs already. All in all I was doing well. No pains, no cramps, butt didn't hurt, nothing. Feed Station #5 (and the second bag drop) was around mile 50. I grabbed a couple of Honey Stingers out of my bag, refilled my water (and added a couple of Gu Brew tablets), had some Ginger Ale, M&M's and a couple of Figs. Generally I only stayed at the feed stations long enough to fill my bladder (2-3 minutes). I think I caught up with Andy again and would trade places with him over the next 10 miles. The next 7-8 miles to Feed Station #5 (~ mile 57) were some of the hardest and slowest. More climbing, more single track, more climbing and more climbing. I'm so thankful I didn't go out hard in the first 20 miles. I was beginning to walk more of the hills but even that was hard. It ain't easy pushing a 30lb bike up a hill either you know!. For a while thought I could break 8hrs but this course just gets harder and harder (and slower and slower). I think I may have called home one more time but honestly I don't remember. I do remember I was tired of drinking Lemon Lime flavored water. I also remember my nutritional choices weren't the best. I KNOW I didn't eat enough. I'll have to work on that next time. I also need to mix up the fluids (maybe carry a bottle of Coke). In any case, at some point I switched to just water in my bladder (no GU Brew mix). I think this helped a bit.

Somewhere in the mile 50's the thunderstorms came in. It got very dark in the woods and then it poured. It would pour all the way to the finish. I think I passed Andy around mile 60 for the last time. For 60 miles I've been out for a ride generally  (never considered it racing). However, once I passed Andy and a couple of other riders around mile 60, my demeanor changed. Finally, I felt like I was racing. I picked up the pace, rode hard and generally felt like I was racing for the first time all day. At this point, I was more concerned with not getting passed in the last few miles as opposed to beating anyone in particular. The last 5 miles were mostly smooth flowing single track but the combination of pouring rain and 8+hrs of riding made it not so much fun.

After a very long day, I finally crossed the road by Greenfield State Park and was on the track around the field for the finish. 8hrs 26minutes of riding and I was done. That wasn't so hard (ok, maybe a little hard).
Andy finished just a few minutes back in 8:31 I think. We both did well in our group, finishing 3rd and 4th in the Novice Veterans II category.
So happy to be done!

Novice Vet II Podium
Although I was tired and hungry, I wasn't really sore and I never cramped up. Of course, it helps not riding hard for most of the day. I'm pretty sure I'd do this race again. I learned a lot (I think) and I'm pretty sure I would ride it a bit differently (faster) next time. If I can figure out a better nutrition plan I'm also confident I could ride under 8hrs as well (assuming similar conditions). If it rains, all bets are off.

Friday, August 19, 2011

24 Hours of Great Glen - 2011 Version

I am so thankful I got involved with this race 3 years ago. It is by far the event I most look forward to each year, and that's saying a lot considering I'm more of a runner than a rider. This is as close as it gets to being relaxed and stress-free in a 24hr race (if that's even possible). Most of that is due to my incredible friends and teammates who joined me for 3 days of camping and racing at the base of Mt Washington. Of course it also helps to have near perfect weather once again!
I have to admit, acidotic RACING is pretty close to a well oiled machine when it comes to preparing for this event. From our reserved primo campsite, dedicated camp cook and sponsors galore, we generally have our act together. Everyone is supportive, everyone contributes something to the experience and everyone has fun, no matter how much experience you have riding. With three 4-person teams entered, there were always acidotic riders somewhere on the course and our presence was clearly visible to all.
So if you've never done this race, pencil it in for next year and I promise you won't be disappointed. Ok, I'll step down off my soapbox and put down the acidotic RACING flag for a while.

 I'll start off by saying the only negative thing that I can think of all weekend was my total lack of sleep. When I say total, I mean from Friday when I woke up until Sunday night when I went to bed, I probably slept less than 2hrs (and I think even that is a stretch). Fortunately (I guess), I'm used to very little sleep (4-5hrs per night is typical). Yes, I was tired even before the race began but all things considered, it went pretty well.

My teammates on aR-GOLD were Steve Sprague, Brayden Dunn and Jay Dunn. I was the 4th rider my 1st year, 3rd rider last year so it was only natural I take up the 2nd position this year. (I guess next year I'll ride lead-off?). Of course riding early also increases your chances of riding additional laps (which was ok with me). On paper going into this race, I thought we could squeeze out 26 laps (meaning everyone would ride 6 lap and Jay and I would ride 7).
acidotic GOLD (Steve S, me, Brayden, Jay D)
In the past I've raced the first lap pretty hard (my standards). My goal this year was to ride hard but leave some in the tank. I'd rather have 7 fairly consistent laps than one fast and every subsequent lap slower and slower. I was pleased to be able to ride the entire 8.3 mile lap (with nearly 1,100ft of climbing each lap). No hike-a-bike this year if I could help it. A couple of changes to the course made it a little easier to ride (Blueberry Hill up to the Honeymoon Cabin, Whiplash and the final single track leading to the "plunge"). The key being 'easier to ride', but not necessarily 'easier'. These were hike-a-bike sections for me in the past. I rode Whiplash every lap but it was a slow, rough ride (aka organ grinder). Same with the last single track section. I rode the new switchback section nearly every lap but it was a lot of climbing on tight switchback turns. The rest of the course was in great (albeit dusty) shape with no mud to speak of (until the last lap.....more on that later).

My first lap was 51:23, which turned out to be faster than any lap I've raced in the last 3 years. I was perfectly happy with it until I realized it was the 10th slowest opening lap of our 3 teams! Yikes! These guys are serious!
Exiting the 'plunge'
My second lap was 51:53, with consistency paying off so far and I continued to ride 100% of the course. My next two laps would be the beginning of the night laps. I chose to do my double night laps early because honestly, I was exhausted from a total lack of sleep. I just wanted the chance to lie down and hopefully get some sleep (or at least rest). So for the next 2hrs (and 16.6 miles) I rode in the dark. My first lap was a respectable 59:00 and the second just a tad slower at 1:01:44. I continued to ride 99% of the course, only getting off my bike a couple of times for some short sections.
When I got back to the campsite, I decided to see if I could rest in my truck (as opposed to the camper). The camper was 'base camp' and saw a lot of action, being near the food and fire pit, and was where most folks hung out between laps. I really needed some peace and quiet so I thought the truck would be a good choice. Turns out, not so much. For starters, even my small frame couldn't fit in the backseat. The awkward fetal position turned out to be incredibly painful when both my hamstrings (at the same time) cramped up. As I struggled out of my truck and wobbled around the campground clutching both hamstrings I could only imagine what the other campers were thinking when they saw me. This painful hamstring dance repeated itself for the next 1/2hr or so and there was nothing I could do to stop it. When they finally settled down, I climbed back in the truck to lie down. Unfortunately, now my hamstrings and calves were twitching almost nonstop. I laid there for the next couple of hours waiting for something to cramp up. Thankfully it never happened. At 2am Brayden knocked on the window. I was on deck for my next ride so I got up and got ready. Having just gone through hours of painful cramping, I had no idea how I was going to ride another lap....at night no less.
So at 4am sharp, I headed out on my 5th lap and 3rd night lap. Surprisingly I felt good. Really good. I was riding everything. Blueberry Hill, Whiplash, 'Jeep road', the final single track and even the plunge (which is tough at night). In fact, I rode 100% of the course and finished in a time of 53:49! Heck, I was so fast, Steve S wasn't even ready! Only Austin and David had faster night laps.
The 'race' between aR-BLACK and aR-GOLD was fairly close near the end but we couldn't keep the gap closed. I finished my 6th lap in 51:30, my 2nd fastest lap of the day. Although tired, I was feeling surprisingly well. Not sore at all. Just tired.
For 25 laps we had great weather. All that changed on the last lap. Just prior to me going out for my 7th lap the skies opened up. It poured. Since it was my last lap and Austin had a 9 minute lead and it was raining and I was tired, I decided I wasn't going to kill myself on the last lap. Enjoy it as much as possible, ride as much as I could and don't get hurt. The rain made the course considerably harder. The roots and rocks were slick as ice, the trails turned greasy and the 'plunge' turned into a muddy slip and slide. Thankfully I managed to get around without injury (only wet and muddy) and finished up in 58:38.
Me and Austin waiting for the boys on the 6th lap
In the end team aR-BLACK finished in 34th overall and aR-GOLD a few minutes back in 35th overall (out of 180+ teams). Awesome weekend!!

Here's a few pics, mostly from the start that I took.
Here's some more pics from Gianina.
And here's some pics from Great Glen.

Next up: Hampshire 100 this weekend, a 100k single loop mountain bike race. Yeeha!

photo credits - Gianina Lindsey

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let there be Light!

I had a small glimmer of hope today regarding my running. Ok, technically I haven't run since early June (probably some sort of new injury record but I don't keep stats like DD). In the past week I've been to two doctors; a sports medicine doctor and a physiatrist regarding my side pain while running. Technically it hurts more while running but the pain has been in my side (between the top of the iliac crest to the bottom of my 12th rib) nonstop for over 2 months. So much for rest healing all aches and pains.

The physiatrist was excellent. She was very patient and described in detail the area that's been hurting. She suspects some sort of bursitis with one of the gluteus muscles (medius I think?). I got a cortizone shot in my side and will wait a week before attempting to run.

She also commented that the distance between my bottom rib and the iliac crest is very small (ie they are very close together). This could be aggravating the muscles in my side. Weak ab muscles would lead to a more hunched over running posture which would lead to my rib and iliac crest being even closer. Apparently my 12 pack abs weren't very impressive. So, work on the abs and run with a more upright 'taller' posture. Got it.

I'm far from cured but for the time being I have some hope. Now, back to the bike!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Running (not) and Biking

Quick running update: In the last 28 days I've run exactly 3 miles, and that was a failed attempt during a track workout. 18 Consecutive zero's since then (a new record no doubt).I still have pain in my left hip so I'm afraid any run will produce another setback....so I wait. So far, I've waited patiently. However, I am aware of some key running events on the not so distant horizon (primarily Reach the Beach and the Pinnacle Challenge). My patience is running thin.

On a positive note, I've been able to spend a lot of time on the bike (road and mountain). I can't wait to put all this riding to some good use. Only 5 weeks until 24 Hours of Great Glen! My guess is my cycling miles will eclipse my running miles for the year sometime later this week. I've been able to increase my bike mileage each week for the last 5 weeks, topping out at 142 miles last week. Not bad for 5 days riding!

Yesterday I decided to get some extra miles on the mountain bike since I have a 100k (62 mile) mountain bike race coming up the week after 24 HOGG. 47 miles on the mountain bike was by far my most ever.

Finally,  I like to work on my own bikes and I'm not afraid to take them apart and most times I even manage to put them back together. Well, I finally met my match.  

Consider this a public service announcement. Don't take a part the shifters. I have two road bikes, a 1996 Cannondale R800 and a 2006 Guru Cron Alu (tri bike). Recently my STI shifers (dual control index shifting & brakes) on my Cannondale stopped working, first the left shifter (which I fixed) and then the right shifter. I did some research online (which is hard to come by for 15 year old shifters). I carefully took it apart. Then I gave up. Wow is this thing complicated!
Inside a Shimano STI Shifter
Thankfully I found a guy online who rebuilds these. Really? Whatever floats your boat I guess. Hopefully I'll have it back in a few days. In the meantime I ride the Guru which really wants to go fast, even when I don't.

UPDATE (7/18) - I got my Shimano STI shifter back this weekend - fixed, greased and fully assembled. Installed with 2 new cables yesterday. Works like new and worth the $30 (plus shipping). 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Not to Run Mt Washington

10 The lottery is fixed. To me a lottery implies an equal chance for all. I'm not convinced.
9 Running back down shouldn't be faster than driving down.
8 The weather can be brutal (see horizontal rain, 50mph winds).
7 One year they actually had purple shirts. Really? Sorry, not a good color for race shirts.
6 Too many people are OBSESSED with this race. You know who you are.
5 If you don't finish in the top 20 nobody cares.
4 I don’t care about the endless stats, streaks & records. (see #5)
3 $80 entry fee. Enough said.
2 Walking shouldn't be as fast (or faster) than running.
1 There's only one hill.

With that being said, If you're a runner in New England, I'd still recommend you do this race....once.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Crash and Burn

After 8 days of no running I finally decided to give it a go. Looking back it was a really dumb decision (really?). For some reason I thought doing a 12 x 400 track workout at 5k pace in the pouring rain was a good way to ease back into running.
Two more decisions hopefully limited the damage - 1) I dropped back and decided to run with the cool kids in group 2 and 2) I quit after running 8 repeats. Unfortunately it was probably 8 too many. Too many left turns which didn't help my left side pain.
A major setback indeed. I can't even walk without pain and I can barely make it up stairs. I'll be changing my blog name to HAV2BIKE shortly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Zip, zero, nada. That's how many miles I've run in the last 7 days. Surprisingly I'm ok with it (so far). I had a familiar pain during my last run (which happened to be a 5k trail race). The last time I had a similar pain I didn't run for 5-6 weeks so I decided rest was best.
My self diagnosis, by the way, was some sort of QL (quadratus lumborum) strain. Kind of like a lower back strain...but it's not. A little deeper and off to the side.
On a more positive note, I got a TON of mountain biking in over the last week. Woohoo!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bike Talk

Last year I added a 2010 Trek ex8 full suspension mountain bike to my collection and have been loving it ever since. I consider mountain biking the 'trail running' equivalent for cycling, and for the exact same reasons. I don't care about pace or mileage and I barely consider it 'training'. It's just plain fun!

The one thing I have learned is mountain biking requires you to know and learn a lot more about bike maintenance. These bikes are ridden hard and take a beating (plus I tend to fall off on occasion). Sometimes I learn by trial and error, but mostly I learn by the internet :-)

Deore XT Crankset
As my collection of bike-specific tools continues to increase so does my confidence in maintaining, repairing and upgrading my own bike. Yesterday I finished upgrading my birthday present: a Deore XT crankset and Deore XT 11-34 cassette. Not only are they spanky, but with a 22t chainring up front and a 34t in the back, I can just about climb vertical walls now! The only negative (sort of) was after I installed the rear cassette I noticed a little play in the rear axle/freewheel. After trying the trial and error method the first day (and failing), I went back last night armed with knowledge from the internet and rebuilt my rear hub. Good as new! Bike shop is now open for business.
I think my next upgrade may be converting to tubeless tires.
New bling

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Bow Lake Dam 15k

For the 3rd year in a row I decided to run the Bow Lake Dam 15k (results) in Stafford,NH. I think the course is turning into one of my favorite road courses - scenic and challenging. As a bonus this year the weather was just about perfect for running: 60, with a light rain throughout the race. It never rained hard enough to get your singlet or shoes wet, at least during the race. Of course it poured right after finishing, making the post race food and awards less than pleasant. Other than that, a great day.

A handful of familiar faces at the start, including a 1/2 dozen folks from the Somerville Road Runners.  Their yellow singlets would come in handy during the race. My splits have been a little schizophrenic over the first 5 miles in the past so I was hoping to run a bit more steady this year early on. At the gun a very large group decided to go out pretty fast. I did not get sucked in ran my own race and patiently waited to reel them back in. At the 2 mile mark I was probably 10th o/a and by mile 4 I had probably slipped as low as 14th o/a. No worries....yet. I could see quite a few runners in front of me and most were either holding steady or slowly coming back to me. Around mile 5 I finally began passing runners for the first time all day. The stretch from mile 5 to 7 includes a brutally steep climb for nearly a mile followed by a gradual climb for another 1/2 mile. I ran this section HARD, passing another 4-5 runners on the climb. By mile 7 I was in 6th o/a, trailing a couple of SSR runners. I caught the first one around 7.5 and about a mile later caught the 2nd SSR runner. I continued to pick up the pace all the way to the finish (I did not want to get passed in the last 1/2 mile!!). After dodging a few 5k runners from an earlier race, I crossed the line 4th o/a in 59:10, a 35 second PR.
Next year I might even put this race on my calendar!

Splits from the last 3 years:

Mile 2009 2010 2011
1 6:24 6:19 6:23
2 6:17 6:11 6:22
3 6:29 6:27 6:21
4 6:41 6:36 6:23
5 6:33 6:24 6:20
6 7:58 7:31 7:17
7 6:50 6:36 6:35
8 6:29 6:07 5:52
9 6:07 5:49 5:46
0.3 1:53 1:45 1:51
Finish 1:01:41 59:45 59:10

Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Rye by the Sea Duathlon

This past weekend I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try the Rye by the Sea Duathlon in Rye NH (run-bike-run event). I'm guessing it's been 20+ years since the last time I did one. Back in the mid to late 80's they were fairly popular and I recall doing quite a few, mostly in Vermont. But that was before Al Gore invented the internet so I have no physical proof of this (other than my sharp as a tack memory). In case you were wondering, I haven't been doing any stealth training gearing up for this either. First, I decided last week to do it and second, I have a grand total of less than 150 miles accrued on my road bike over the last 3 years. Oh yeah, I was ready!

Shiny Red bike on the end is mine!
I headed over to Rye fairly early (8am start time). The registration and parking was about 1/3 mile from the actual race site so logistically it required just a bit more time plus I wanted extra time to check out the transition area. Andy Schachat (Announcers on the Run) was setting up and gave me an overview of the transition area. It was a first come first served transition area, meaning you could rack your bike anywhere. Being early has it's advantages. After setting up my bike and gear I met up with fellow GCS runner Joe Rogers and headed out on the 5k course for a warm up. I heard the run course had been poorly marked in the past and we both wanted to make sure we knew what to expect. I guess they've also had multiple variations of the run course and this year would be no different, with a slightly different course from last year. Other than the first turn into the woods, the course was well marked and easy to follow. Roughly 2 miles were on trails and 1 mile on the road. We would run this loop twice during the race, but in different directions each time.

The weather was absolutely PERFECT and you couldn't have asked for a better day (well, maybe a little less wind). A scan of the bikes in the transition area (and the athletes at the starting line) indicated there was a good mix of serious athletes, weekend warriors and average Joes. I tucked into the second row and waited for the gun. At 8am sharp we were off. The first 5k run started with a mile on the road which gave everyone plenty of time to settle into position before hitting the tighter trails of the woods. I was running comfortably hard and hit the first mile in 5:50 (no idea if the markers were accurate), probably in the top 20 or so. I picked off a few more runners and eventually came into the transition area with a time of 18:23 (12th fastest split).

I had practiced my transitions from running shoes to bike shoes (and back) at home so I was generally pleased with my transitions. It took 1:04 to run to my bike, swap shoes, put on my helmet and push my bike to the exit and clip in to the pedals. Once on the bike we headed just about due north for about 6-7 miles before looping back south along the ocean on beautiful Route 1A for another 7 miles, then heading northwest the final 3 miles to the transition area. Generally, head/cross winds for the first 6-7 and the last 3 miles and tail winds for the 7 miles along the ocean. I thought I was riding well until rider after rider flew by, getting passed by 15+ bikes while passing zero. Ugh. Although I averaged just under 20mph, my bike split ranked 49th overall and put me in a huge hole.

I cranked my second transition, racking my bike, changing my shoes and exiting the transition area in 30 seconds. I began reeling in runners immediately on the 2nd 5k run. My legs were obviously tired but I was determined to catch the 'pack' of runners who passed me on the bike. Drafting is illegal in duathlons but I was passed by a peloton of 6 riders about 5 miles from the finish of the bike. Cheaters. It took a few miles but I caught every one of them and then some (12-14 total I think). My second 5k split was 28 seconds faster than my first in 17:55 and was the 7th fastest split of the day.

My 1:29:07 was good enough for 21st overall (183 total) and 4th in my age group (results). Overall I had a great time. This was a lot of fun! Yes, my bike split needs work but I was very pleased with my runs, especially my 2nd 5k. I will definitely try this again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011 Pineland Farms 25k Trail Run

I headed back up to New Gloucester, ME for my 2nd attempt at the Pineland Farms 25k rolling course. I figured having some knowledge of the course and being in decent shape would yield better results. Last year wasn't bad, I just thought I could have run better.

I also brought my family along this year. I know how they enjoy getting up before 6am on a Sunday so it was the least I could do. It really is a great race to bring your family to. The start/finish area (aka 'the Grove') is very active with tons of runners passing by (3 races going on at the same time), music, food and various runner support activities. The overcast skies were appreciated for most of the race but the humidity was a bit much. It really does a number on my hair.
Start of the race
It would appear most folks who run this race break it down into five-5k sections. I'm no different. The 1st 5k is generally fast, slightly downhill, the 2nd 5k gains most of the drop back, the 3rd & 4th 5k's are rollers with the 3rd being more exposed (fields) and the 4th losing some elevation which makes the 5th 5k pretty tough since it's last and there's quite a bit of climbing. My only plan this year was to go out a little slower than last year and hopefully it would pay off in the middle 5k's. Half my plan was successful.

I desperately tried not to line up near the front. I didn't want to get sucked into a faster-than-I-wanted-to-go pace. This was actually hard to do. I was probably 10ft from the start line and I was still second row. How the heck does that happen? Of course I lined up behind the only person in front of me who didn't go out fast and was already frustrated after 25 ft of running. Thankfully things settled down within the first 1/4 mile and I motored along at a fairly relaxed, easy pace. The course had kilometer markers so the 4:16 1st kilometer didn't give me any idea what pace I was running so I waited until the 5k point to find out if things were going according to plan. 21:09 (about a minute slower than last year) felt good, but I was a little nervous watching some of my competitors creep out of sight. The 2nd 5k section is probably the toughest but with fresh legs all it really ends up being is slower than you'd like. I still didn't feel like I was pushing the pace at all but I was catching some of the guys who went out a little quick. I wasn't gaining any ground on my competitors, in fact I had all but lost sight of Denis and Jeff way before the 10k mark.
Water bottle swap!

I never really felt bad during the race but I do remember feeling sluggish, especially during the 3rd and 4th 5k sections. I felt like I was working pretty hard but it wasn't translating into any speed. I was drinking plenty from my handheld and dumping water on my head at the aid stations but the humidity was wearing me down. It's amazing (to me anyways) how slow I actually ran during the 3rd and 4th 5k sections compared to last year. I ran that section nearly 9 minutes slower....in a 10k stretch. Ouch. I can't honestly say what went wrong other than the sauna-like conditions just wore me out.

2011 Splits
5k 5k Time 5k Pace
1st 0:21:09 0:06:48
2nd 0:24:17 0:07:49
3rd 0:25:02 0:08:03
4th 0:24:32 0:07:54
5th 0:20:27 0:06:35
FINISH 1:55:27 0:07:26

2010 Splits
5k 5k Time 5k Pace
1st 0:20:17 0:06:32
2nd 0:24:15 0:07:48
3rd 0:20:52 0:06:43
4th 0:20:54 0:06:44
5th 0:25:23 0:08:10
FINISH 1:51:44 0:07:12

As I came through the Grove I grabbed a fresh (cold) water bottle from my daughter for the last 9k loop. Even though I had apparently crashed over the last 10k I was still passing people and surprisingly don't recall many (if any) runners passing me since very early in the race. Generally I ran alone but I did go back and forth with Christin Doneski (1st female o/a) for most of the race. I came up on Scott Hornney around the 20k mark and apparently put a spark back into his race (and mine). He had been running alone for a while and probably relaxed a bit too much. As soon as I caught up with him his pace increased. Then my pace increased. Well how about that? I was racing again! I made a couple of surges hoping to drop him but he stuck to me like glue (the bum!). Finally, on the last little climb before entering the field I made one last surge and opened up a small gap. Thankfully it was enough to get me to the finish, slightly ahead. Strangely I ran the last 5k nearly 5 minutes faster than last year (even though I ran the previous 10k 9 minutes slower?). I have no idea what that means...I must be some sort of schizophrenic runner or something.
Good news, I placed 13th overall out of 325 finishers. Bad news, almost everyone ahead of me was a masters runner! (results). Next year will be different (I hope).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wapack End to End 21.5m Trail Race

Saturday I headed over to Asburnham,MA for my 2nd attempt at the 21.5 mile Wapack Trail Race (results). I had a fairly successful race last year so my goal this year was to better my time (aim high!). After taking the 45 minute shuttle bus ride to the start, we gathered at trail head and were given the "howl" command at 9am.
My strategy was to go out easy and be patient. No sense hammering the climbs right from the start (and yes, it starts climbing immediately).Not to mention the weather was totally different this year. Last year it was 45 degrees and raining, perfect for a long run. This year it started out sunny and warm and just got warmer. Not so perfect for a long run.
I was going fairly easy (felt like a training run) and was fine early on. A lot of people took off pretty hard and fast and at times I thought maybe I wasn't trying hard enough. Save some for the end I kept telling myself. I also think the first section is less runnable, with climbs up and down North Pack and Pack Monadnock in  5.5 miles. I came through the Miller aid station about 30 seconds faster than last year. I was a little surprised since it felt so much easier (and slower) than last year. A good sign I thought. That's what I get for thinking! I passed a few folks on the way to Miller State Park and came through in 10th o/a I believe.

Miller Aid Station - 5.5 miles
I had a Nathan pack with 40oz of water, some Cliff Shots and a couple of Honey Stinger gels. I figured I could go the entire way without refueling at the aid stations so I had planned to run right through all of them. I hooked up with Scott Patnode early on in the next 7 mile section from Miller to the Windblown XC aid station. Scott was actually ahead of me but went off course climbing Pack. He caught up to me climbing Temple Mt and we stayed together for the next 7 miles. This is probably my favorite stretch of the Wapack. Nice views and very runnable trails. Scott ran a 2:15 at Seven Sisters last week so I knew I was in good company. It was still sunny and still warm and I was heating up, I just didn't realize how much.
10 miles in, still feeling good!
We caught up to Steve Constine about 2 miles from Windblown. Steve was funny. As I ran by him he said something like "Steve Wolfe.....I'm always chasing you!". Apparently he was behind me last year as well. I guess he thought he had me this year. Oh well, maybe next year Steve!
The trail was pretty dry this year and I never got my feet wet. The 2 mile stretch leading into Windblown is probably the wettest section but the water and mud was easily avoidable. It's also a physically draining section, climbing slowly the entire way. I hate this section. I came into the aid station 1:30 slower than last year. The wheels were starting to come off, I just didn't realize it yet. Looking back, I should have stopped at the aid station and fueled up but I didn't. I grabbed a cup of water, poured it over my head and kept going. That was the last time I felt good all day.
Almost immediately leaving Windblown I felt nauseous.I was hot and was feeling very weak. I had plenty of water, and I thought I was drinking enough. I just didn't have any energy. The next 5.5 mile section from Windblown to the Binney Pond aid station was brutal. I walked every climb (and this section probably has the most climbing). Heck, I was walking the flats at times. I was so friggin hot and totally drained. I had zero energy and by this time I was no longer racing. I just wanted to get to the finish and be done. I had another gel and a handful of Cliff shots but nothing worked. Major nutritional malfunction.
As I walked into the Binney aid station I noticed two other runners there, both suffering as well. Nobody was in a hurry to leave. I took off my pack and had 3-4 cups of Coke, some oranges, M&M's and I don't even know what else. I didn't know how much water I had left in my pack so I asked the volunteer to put some more water in it for the last 3.5 mile section to the finish. Of course she filled it with 50oz of water (gee, thanks!). I know I look like heck but I'm pretty sure I don't need 50oz of water for 3.5 miles. Oh well.
I'm guessing I spent 3-5 minutes at the aid station. The three of us all left at the same time, shuffling up the dirt road. We mostly stayed together, chatting a bit, hoping the other would walk so we didn't have to shuffle along. Great fun.
I was feeling a little better and managed to run more than walk. Thankfully the climb up Watatic Mt is a gradual climb (one of the easier climbs all day). Of course, the descent is a quad-seizing event but at least it's a downhill finish! I finally stumbled across the finish in 4:35, 7th overall (a full 20 minutes slower than last year). I'm not disappointed (well, maybe a little). It was sunny and 70's for most of the day and was much tougher than last year. I do need to figure out a better nutritional strategy though....this one clearly did not work.
Comparison splits from last year and this year:

Aid Station Distance 2010 2011
Miller 5.5 miles 1:07:00 1:06:28
Windblown 7.0 miles 1:13:45 1:15:16
Binney 5.5 miles 1:13:35 1:26:10
Finish 3.5 miles 0:40:23 0:47:01
TOTAL 21.5 miles 4:14:43 4:34:55

photo credit - Miriam Wilcox-Barsalou (Miller), Emily Trespas (Burton)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grater Woods Revisited

Last night I went for any easy ride in the Grater Woods Town Forest in Merrimack,NH. My legs were sore from Sundays race so I figured I'd ride for 45 minutes or so to loosen up the legs. I had planned on riding the more familiar trails of Horse Hill but Grater Woods was a mile closer (2 miles from my house as opposed to the daunting 3 mile ride to Horse Hill) and I was feeling lazy even before I started.
It's been a couple of years since the last time I rode there. It was mostly ATV trails, a bit overgrown and buggy as heck. I recalled a short section of single track over on the Amherst side of the forest but that was about it. At the time I was fairly familiar with the confusing network of trails and felt confident I could still find my way around.
Um, not so much apparently. Right from the start the trails looked different. There had been quite a bit of logging and I was confused within 10 minutes. Assuming my incredible sense of direction would get me where I was going I pedaled on. Amazingly I managed to find my way over to the single track on the Amherst side, a nice trail called Salamander. That was the last time I knew where I was for nearly 2 1/2hrs. Turns out there are quite a few new single track trails now (Red Eft, Millipede, Red Maple) and for the next hour I was having a blast. But then I got lost trying to find my way back to the Middle School trail head. Nothing looked familiar as I wandered around a maze of ATV trails looking for a way out. I did manage to get out a few times but didn't recognize the road so went back in for more. After 2hrs I ended up in someones back yard and casually walked my bike out to the road. I was tired and hungry and figured the road would be safer. It took a few minutes to figure out where I was (about 2 miles up the road from the trail head), and eventually made it home....tired. So much for an easy ride to loosen up the legs. The good news is I now have a map. Can't wait to give it another try!

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Muddy Moose Trail Run

I've thought about doing this race for years but for whatever reason I just never made it happen. This year the planets aligned (aka Seven Sisters scheduled for the same day) and the decision was a no-brainer. The only thing that would stop me now would be....well, me. I almost succeeded. A Friday night mountain bike ride (or should I say crash) had me sitting in the waiting room for 2hrs on Saturday in order to get x-rays on both my left index finger and right ankle. Good news, nothing broken except pride. A splint on my finger and ice on my ankle. I needed a rest day anyways...

 Muddy Moose (results) is the aptly named 4m or 14m trail race in Wolfeboro,NH (founded by my long lost relatives no doubt). I scouted a few past race reports, checked out the pics and asked a couple of folks for a scouting report. I even looked at the results over the years. I'd say most of the stuff I heard and read didn't match my version of reality. Yes it was muddy. Other than that they seemed to have left out some of the other course details which 'may' have been helpful. For future note: past results won't tell you anything. This course is all about conditions (and maybe weather) and my guess is they've varied greatly over the years. Thankfully Sunday was a near perfect day with temps in the 50's to 60's, dry (as in not humid) and sunny.

I tested my ankle early with a short warm up and it seemed fine. No worries there. In fact, I was perfectly relaxed and had no expectations at all. No goal time, nothing. Run, have fun, get muddy. Plenty of familiar faces including no less than 8 acidotic teammates, mountain man Kevin Tilton and a couple of fast masters who routinely kick my butt in trail races (Keith Schmitt and Paul Young). RD Fergus Cullen claimed the course was drier than in past years. For the record, even having never raced this course before, I challenge that claim. 8" deep mud and water as opposed to 12" deep doesn't make it 'drier' or less muddy or wet. I'm just saying.....

Both the 4 milers and 14 milers start at the same time and run together for the first 2 miles before departing ways. The course starts on pavement before moving onto a dirt road and heads downhill pretty fast before entering the woods at about 1/2 mile. I'm guessing these trails must have a purpose but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was. Although great for a race once a year, I can't imagine doing anything on them except maybe snowmobile in the winter. I wouldn't drive my skidder on them (if I had one). So for the next 1 1/2 miles we slopped our way through some shoe-sucking ground. I wouldn't even call it mud at times since it looked just like a normal forest floor with grass and such until you tried to run across it. Very deceiving and very tiring to run through. There really wasn't a good line to follow, you were going to get wet and muddy, I was just trying to avoid loosing my shoes. This is what they call dry conditions?? Yeah, ok.

photo credit - Salmon Press Sports
At 2 miles (first water stop) the field had thinned out quite a bit as the 4 milers and 14 milers parted company. The 4's went right, the 14's went left. The next 1 1/2 miles were on a dirt road. It was a welcome relief on the way out but not on the way back for some reason. I had a good solid pace going through this stretch and reeled in a few folks, probably moving up into the top 10. At 3 1/2 miles the trail turns sharply UP a very steep hill. I was running (slowly) about 1/2 of it before I came to my senses. The terrain was so steep, it was easier to walk up the stone wall boundary (which seemed more like steps). This section, called the escarpment was tough but relatively short and was probably the only section of single track all day. A short climb, a nice run along the ridge on top and then steeply down the boulder field on the other side before getting back on the snowmobile trails.

The next mile was dry and runnable before dropping steeply down a sandy hill before flattening out on mildly wet trails all the way to the 2nd water stop at around 4 1/2 miles. As we turned left at the water stop, the trail began a long, relentless climb, hardly noticeable at first but unrelenting at times later one. It wasn't steep, it just went on and on without a break until just about the 6 mile mark (the start of the lollypop loop at the turnaround). Kevin Tilton passed me on his way back about 1/2 mile from the start of the lollypop. He looked like he was on a training run and I was nearly bonking at this point. Although I carried a hand held water bottle, looking back I don't think I drank enough. I was quite fatigued at this point (not even half way) and starving! I had my one gel and hoped for the best. I took my one and only split of the day at the start of the lolly pop loop (50:44) and headed right around the loop. NOTE: you could go either way. Honestly, I'm not sure if it matters. The 2 guys I was chasing went left and I never did catch them. The loop was very rocky, very wet but still fairly runnable without too much difficulty. The water was a relief at times, washing some of the mud off my shoes and socks. The majority of the running from mile 6 to mile 9 was a welcomed gentle downhill. The course goes a different way on the way back to the water stop at mile 4.5/8.5. It was all very runnable and only a little wet and very little mud to be found.

I timed a runner in front of me to gauge how close he was just before the water stop. It appeared he was between 1 min and 1:20 ahead. This gap would stay the same the rest of the way. Occasionally I checked behind me and saw a runner maybe 30-40 seconds back but he didn't seem like he was gaining so I didn't pay too much attention to him. As we made our way back up the sand hill and back up and over the escarpment section I was really getting tired. My legs were borderline ready to cramp up. Thankfully they did not.  Out of nowhere I came across a young runner as I started down the steep escarpment hill. I have no idea where this kid came from but there is NO WAY in heck he ran the entire course. I could see nearly 1/2 mile ahead at times and he was not there but all of a sudden he's right in front of me? And he wasn't walking, he was running fairly strong too. There was NO WAY I would let this kid beat me. Cheater.

Near the finish - photo credit Donna Poirier
Back on the dirt road I purposely picked up the pace, more than I would have normally. I wanted to drop this kid quickly and not worry about it. The 1 1/2 mile section of road was awful. I hated this section. It seemed long and slow and I couldn't wait to get back in the woods and into the mud. At 12 miles I got my wish and the road ended and the trail began. I grabbed a water and knew I had less than 2 miles to go. Unfortunately it would be the muddiest section followed by an uphill road finish but what can you do? My feet were killing me by the time I hit the road with a 1/2 mile to the finish. I had so much mud and muck in my shoes it was painful to run. I glanced one more time behind me and saw a runner fairly close so I tried to finish as hard as I could. Please don't pass me in the last 1/4 mile. I will hate you. I'm sure he was suffering as much as me and decided not to race me to the finish. Thank you. I was exhausted and sore. This was much harder than I expected. I didn't expect the mud to be so tiring. I didn't expect the escarpment section. I didn't expect the relentless climb after the second water stop. Other than that was exactly what I expected. Next year I'll know what to expect....sort of. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Merrimack River 10M Trail Race

I headed over to Andover, Ma on Saturday for the 20th Merrimack River 10m Trail Race, affectionately known as the Rivah (results). This race always draws a strong crowd and is a great early season test. The 10 mile out and back course is 3 miles of flat and fast followed by 2 miles of rollers with a couple of STEEP but short climbs and descents around the power lines. So you run out 5 miles, stop, turn around and head back.

photo credit - Gianina Lindsey
This race has a very tight start. After lining up in a parking lot, the trail immediately funnels down essentially to a single track in about 25 feet. There is always a bottleneck and it can be somewhat frustrating. However, this year my plan was NOT to fight the crowd at the start and just go with the flow. The trail eventually opens up in a field in less than 1/4 mile so I was more than willing to be patient for a couple of minutes. Of course, by the time I reached the field I was already questioning my decision with 35+ runners already in front of me (including Keith Obrien, Jeff Walker, Scott Spence and a gazillion other masters). It was crowded but I slowly started passing folks, and probably caught up and passed Walker just before the 1st mile marker (6:16). Most of the way out was all about patience (something that I usually don't have much of). I felt like I could and should be running a lot faster, but the folks in front were making it a little hard to pass so I essentially ran at there pace for the first few miles. I passed when I could, followed when I couldn't.
I finally caught up to Scott Spence around the 3 mile mark and we would go back and forth for the next 4 miles. As we hit the hills just after 3 miles I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually felt strong on the climbs. What the? That NEVER happens. Heck, I was actually passing people on the hills and for the first time ever at this race, I ran ALL the hills, including the power line climb. Granted, I ran slow, but still, no power walking today!
photo credit - Dave Dunham
I had Keith Obrien in my sights as we approached the 1/2 way point and was definitely gaining. As I hit the turn in 34:30 I was surprised to see Jeff Walker only about 10 seconds back. Surprised only because he seemed to be going pretty easy when I passed him around the 1 mile mark. Apparently I gave him a target to chase down. I eventually passed Keith and Scott for the final time as we headed back up the hills. I never looked back but I listened very closely to see if anyone was sticking with me. I was convinced by mile 7 that no one was near me so I focused my attention on a few runners in front. Of course afterwords I found out I was wrong. Jeff was fairly close most of the way back. Unlike snowshoeing, he was very quiet out there so I had no idea he was behind me.
I felt really good all the way back. By mile 8 I started to think I had a chance of catching a GBTC runner that was way up in front. I was definitely gaining but wasn't sure if I had enough course left. I kept up a good effort and slowly reeled him in, passing him at the underpass with a couple hundred meters to go and eventually finishing in 1:08:30, 15th overall and 2nd masters.

This was my easily my best result in the 3 times I've run the Rivah, and for the first time ever, I ran the 2nd half of the race faster than the first, with a return time of 34:00. Overall it was a very consistent race, with my mile splits almost identical on the way out and back. The only big difference was the 1st/last mile which was 6:16 out and 5:45 back. No complaints for the first trail race of the season (other than I think I could have gone faster!)

Gianina Lindsey's Photos

Dave Dunham's Photos

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Granite State Snowshoe Championship

I almost wasn't going to do a blog post on the GSSS Championship race (results), held on March 13th at the base of Mt Washington. No particular reason other than I wanted to move on from snowshoeing. However, since it was the best race (course and venue) in the Northeast, I figured I should at least mention it. The recent return to winter made me have a change of heart.

Great Glen Center
After a 2 1/2hr drive up through Franconia Notch and down through Jefferson (where it was snowing heavily), I thought for a moment we'd have a repeat of conditions from last year. No such luck, as the temps actually increased by 10 degrees as I approached Great Glen Center, directly across from the Mt Washington Auto Road entrance. It was a balmy 40 degrees and rising, warm for snowshoe racing. However, they were not lacking snow, with feets of it on the ground. The conditions looked pretty good. I checked in, chatted a bit and then headed out for a couple miles on the road to warm up.

Seeing this was the last snowshoe race of the season, all I really wanted to do was get it over with. However, I absolutely wanted to end the season on a positive note no matter what. So with no expectations other than ensuring I had a good time, I headed over to the start line and planted myself a couple of rows back, right in the middle of the line. I was going to race but I wasn't going to kill myself trying.

This was an awesome race last year, definitely one of the best courses all year. The 10k course had something for everyone, groomed trails, single track, climbing, fast descents, you name it. It really is a shame more people won't give it a go. Trust me, you are missing out on a great time. The first 5k is all on groomed rolling nordic trails before heading through the tunnel under Rt16 and over to the Great Glen side which generally had all the climbing and was 100% single track. This years course was very similar to last years, just a couple of slight changes. The snow conditions were also a bit slower this year.

me & Jeff heading up Blueberry Hill
As the gun (go command?) went off I found the first flaw in my plan. The middle was not a good place to be. The entire field slowly migrated towards the middle and a couple dozen snowshoers were kicking up some nice wet snow making it a tad difficult to see where the heck I was going. I survived and eventually settled in to a comfortable pace, doing my best to ignore who and what was going on around me. My plan was to run the first half a little easier than last year and not blow up on the 2nd half climb (like last year). The rolling hills were not taxing at all and I felt pretty relaxed even though I was getting passed by a few folks, including Capt Snowshoe. aR teammate Rich Lavers was right on my shoulder for most of the first 5k and I thought he was still with me as I hit the tunnel in 25:29, nearly 2 1/2 minutes slower than last year. Chris was probably about 1 minute ahead already. As we came by the Great Glen Center and began the climb up Blueberry Hill, I peeked back to see who was behind me and to also make sure I wasn't holding anyone up. Rich had dropped back a bit and Jeff Walker had replaced him. I told him to let me know if he wanted to get by and continued on. We kept this order to about 1/2 way up the Aquaduct trail and Jeff eventually tired of my company and took off without me. Mainers. By the time we hit the top of the climb he was almost out of sight, probably a minute or so up.

Last year I made up a ton of time on the nearly mile long downhill section. This year would be somewhat similar but much slower. I tried my best to open it up but the soft snow and constant threat of post holing (while running with snowshoes at near 5k pace) eventually slowed me down in order to maintain some control (and not break my leg). By the time we turned back on the single track I had closed the gap on Jeff to just about 10 seconds. It didn't last long. He knew I had gained on him and he turned on the jets once again and left me talking to myself once again.

Gnarly downhill near  the finish
The last mile is a great section of single track and has a killer climb along the power lines not too far from the finish. When I got to the power lines I was surprised to see Chris about 50m in front of me. He looked close enough to catch and for a second I thought about it. I soon realized this was 50m on the toughest hill on the course. Time wise I was still 20-30 seconds back. Oh well, time to settle in and at least make sure no one passes. I looked back a few times, just to make sure no one was going to sneak up on me in the last 1/4 mile and just tried to keep my balance over the last little tricky part of the course (thanks DRR!). I finished up in 58:18, 11th overall, 15 seconds back of Chris and 30 seconds back of Jeff.

Even though I was a full 5 1/2 minutes slower than last year, I think I actually had a better time this year. I had fun. Mission accomplished.
Unfortunately I couldn't take part in the festivities afterwords and needed to leave shortly after the race. I'm glad I ran but I'm also glad the season is finally over!