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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vermont 50

When I signed up for this race back in May, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. It's incredibly popular (700 mountain bike slots filled in about 40 minutes) but I'm not entirely sure why. It's one of those races I just can't figure out (like Stonecat). Not quite a bucket list race but it was on my radar so fast forward to this past weekend.

VT50 is actually a unique race (at least I think so). They have a 50m mountain bike race and a 50m trail race on the same course, at the same time. To add to the excitement, they also throw in a 50k trail race which runs on the back half of the 50m course. Surprisingly, it seemed to work. Runners and bikers sharing the trail. Who knew?

A forecast of "cloudy, chance of rain late morning, then clearing later in the day" in Vermont apparently means heavy, misty fog to start, followed by rain, heavy at times, ending with more rain. At least it was a warm cold rain. If it wasn't for the non-stop hill climbing to keep me warm, I would have froze to death in some Vermont town that had more cows than people.
The best dirt roads are in Vermont
I'll be honest, I didn't take this race too serious. I had a lot of other races and events between when I signed up and when I had to actually race (it was nearly 5 months!). I kind of lost track (and focus) and it got lost in the weeds. My last bike race (Hampshire 100) was in mid August and since then I've ridden less than 90 miles total. Probably not the best way to head into the VT50. Since I have the excuse book out, I might as well throw in I did zero recon on the course. Didn't look at a course map, didn't have any idea where the aid stations were (or how many), didn't look at previous results, didn't look at previous race reports and didn't know the terrain (although I was confident the race was in Vermont). Yep, I was ready!

A 3am wake up, a little less than 2hrs driving and I was checking in at 5am for a 6:20am start (I think?). All I knew was I was in the last wave (novice, tandems, wheelchairs, Big Wheels and the rest of the less fortunate riders). I opted for a light to start, and I was glad I did. Surprisingly, not many did. With a dark start, overcast skies (aka rain) and dense woods, the light came in handy for the first hour of the race. I'd recommend a light for those considering this race in the future.
Another muddy climb

I don't remember a lot about the course. I have a terrible memory, I didn't have a GPS and I have a terrible memory. Things that I remember:

  • There was a LOT of climbing. Somebody said it was like doing hill repeats for 7+hrs. Pretty much sums it up.
  • Nearly 1/2 the course was on dirt roads. These are some of the nicest dirt roads I've ever ridden on. Some were so smooth, it was hard to tell if they were paved or dirt. 
  • Beautiful country, lots of time to take in the view since you spend so much time in your granny gear.
  • I may have seen 3 rocks on the course all day. Maybe. This course was not technical.
  • Most of the dirt roads were in the first half. Most of the single track was in the second half.
  • Single track sections were mostly smooth, loamy trails. However, with 500 riders starting before me, and a constant rain, these trails became incredibly slick and muddy. 
  • Aid stations seemed well stocked.
  • Volunteers were supportive and friendly.
  • The lead 50m runners passed me about 45 minutes in (and they started 5 minutes after me). I would leap frog the top 4-5 runners all the way to Gavin Hill aid station (about 20m), before they finally dropped me.
  • Passed a ton of Sport riders (who started 5 minutes before me). 
  • Although there were always riders and runners around me throughout the day, passing was never an issue. 
  • I never rode alone. 
  • The first aid station I stopped at was Gavin Hill (~20mi).
  • My quads showed signs of cramping after 3hrs. I slowed considerably to avoid cramping.
  • I bonked around 4hrs. I was dizzy, weak and shaking and had to pull over and rest for a few minutes. Had a Stinger bar and some ClifShots and continued on. Climbing.
  • I stopped at most of the remaining aid stations for PB&J and Coke.
  • Did a lousy job refueling. I was hungry all day.
  • Trail conditions got worse throughout the day.
  • Stayed on my bike all day. No falls.
  • A Camelback is unnecessary. The aid stations are so close a 20oz water bottle would have been fine.
  • My triceps are the sorest muscles on my body today.
  • My drive train was so muddy at times, I had to stop and remove handfuls of mud from my bike.
  • My Trek ex8 worked perfectly. Never missed a shift.
  • After 5hrs I was very cold.
  • Around the same time I was sort of hoping for a major mechanical so I could drop out. It was becoming not fun.
  • Sort of got my second wind after 6hrs and was feeling better (less worse). 
  • Finished fairly strong, had a good last 10 miles or so.
  • Definitely what I'd call a roadie course.
  • If I do it again I'd move up the Sport category just to start ahead of a couple hundred novice riders.
Putting on my best "happy" face after the race.
I can't say it was my favorite race, but part of that I'm sure was related to the crappy weather and part of it was related to me not being prepared. 8 months from now I may consider signing up again. At least I have some idea what to expect next time. I really need to figure out how to fuel up on these longer bike races.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 RTB - Mine Falls Milers Edition

203 miles from Cannan Mt to Hampton Beach NH (it must be downhill, right?). 12 fairly competitive, injury-free (at the moment) 40+ year old guys (most with years of experience running this relay). Defending Super Masters champ (with the runner up team returning with hopes of knocking us off the podium). Near perfect weather. Zero confidence.

I blame the lack of snow last winter. Please explain, you say? Here goes - snow means snowshoe racing. Snowshoe racing means strength and speed work in the winter. Winter strength and speed work means great fitness early in the running season. Great fitness means decent racing results early in the season. Decent racing results leads to more racing. More racing leads to better run fitness. Better run fitness lets me coast through the summer (because I HATE running in the heat), even with less weekly miles (while maintaining decent run fitness). Finally, a late summer ramp up to get in RTB shape is generally quite doable.

Until this year. No snow = no snowshoe racing = no early fitness = awful early results = no racing in spring and summer. Add in what seemed like weeks of 90 degree days and you get a person with zero confidence signed up for a 24hr 200+ mile relay and expected (according to Capt Mike) to avg 6:30 min/mile pace.

2012 Mine Falls Milers at the Finish
Sometimes all you need is a goal (and a van full of nagging masters) to run to your potential. Really, I had no business running anywhere near 6:30 pace. June - 90 miles, July - 55 miles, August 60 miles. These are totals for the month. So 2 weeks before RTB I hung up my mountain bike and got serious about running, hammering out 25 and 30 mile weeks.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the beach. My magic spreadsheet had predicted me to run my 3 legs (15.4 miles total) in 1:40:13, for an average pace of 6:31. In the end, I finished in 1:39:55 with an average pace of 6:30. Well how about that, maybe Capt Mike wasn't so dumb after all!

Overall, we had a great team this year (our 7th, my 6th with MFM) with everyone right around the 6:30 pace +/- 10 seconds. No injuries, no mishaps, nothing. After 7 years this team really does run pretty smoothly and is all business once the race starts. Ok, maybe not all business but we at least take our running serious (not much else though). As the team gets faster, the less time we have to eat, sleep and screw up. 2012 was our fastest year to date as we finished 6th overall (out of 425 teams) and 1st in the Super Masters division (results) with a time of 21:45:48 (avg team pace of 6:26). I guess technically I slowed the team down but I'm still happy with my effort. Next year I really need to train a bit more.

 I thought the tables below were interesting (in a trivial sort of way). Kind of a different way to look at the relay (by van and by leg). Pretty even legs and pretty even vans. Of course, one of the penalties of being a "fast team" is the total lack of downtime between legs. The average downtime we had between legs was about 3hrs and 50min. During this time we had to drive to the next VTA (35+ miles), eat, sleep and get ready for our next run. Needless to say, most of us didn't sleep at all during this relay.
Mine Falls Milers Magic Data

I want to personally thank Mike Wade for being the yearly whipping boy (I mean Captain) for 6 of the 7 years. Sure he had some copilots helping along the way but we generally gave him the crap jobs nobody else wanted. Thanks for picking up the slack. According to Mike, he is retiring from RTB. The Mine Falls Milers will continue without him...unless we're all too lazy to step up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hampshire 100 (Shorty Race)

I headed back to Greenfield NH this past weekend for my 2nd attempt at the Hampshire 100, a challenging 100k single loop mountain bike race. This was my first ever mountain bike race last year, and surprisingly, I managed a 3rd place finish in the Novice VET II class.  My goal this year was to break 8hrs (last year's time was 8:26). Training doesn't creep into my mountain biking routine so the only thing that would make me faster would be riding harder, longer. Simple enough.

This year they also included a 100 mile option (no thanks!), which included a lot of pro's from all over the country. I stuck with the 64 mile option (and they call it the short race?) This race probably doubled in size (entries) from last year, and had over 400 riders on the line for the 6:45am start. They started us in waves (fastest to slowest basically), with the Novice class starting last. The waves were only 1 min apart so it was enough to spread things out but short enough so you could actually catch the tail end of the previous wave if you pedaled real hard!
Waiting for our wave to start
We had absolutely PERFECT weather (near 50 at the start, warming to mid 70's near the end) but there had been some serious rain in the days leading up so there was mud and water out there. I love how this race starts, mostly on dirt roads (downhill) for the first 5 miles, then a mix of trails with minimal climbing for the next 10 before reaching the first real aid station. It gives you plenty of time to warm up and get all that adrenaline out (fast riding). Some new (freshly cut) single track was added around Crotched Mt Ski area which was pretty sweet! I reached aid station #2 in 1hr 24min (16.25m).

My least favorite section was the 5 miles of perfectly flat rail trail between miles 16 and 21. Awful. To add to the misery was a section called the 'beach', a 1-2 mile section of loose sand that drained the energy out of your legs. To add to the joy, some clown drafted me the entire length of trail, staying right on my wheel all 5 miles. I switched sides, slowed, sped up, did everything but stop. Not once did he offer to pull. Whatever. Drafted the novice, must be proud.
The course
Around mile 21 we hit the first significant climb, a ridiculously steep climb up Hedgehog Mt Rd. As with most climbs, they were not only steep but a lot of times fairly technical (loose, rocky, etc..). I tried to ride this climb, and might have cleaned it but there were too many riders (aka walkers) on the trail, and too dug up with cleat marks and loose rocks. I ended up walking the middle section before jumping back on and riding to the top. For whatever reason, my climbing was 10x better than last year. I'm not really any faster, but definitely much stronger.
Somewhere between Hedgehog and the Powerlines
The next major climb would be in just a few miles, a section called the powerlines (mostly because the trail goes up the powerlines, duh). A few short, steep punchy climbs, a few real muddy sections and a steep section near the top that I have never seen anyone ride. I rode what I could, but walked a good deal on this part. I wasn't alone (see pic).
Near the top of the Powerline Climb
A steep technical downhill followed the powerline climb, with more freshly cut single track added just prior to aid station #3 (25.86m, 2hr 30min). At most of the aid stations, I usually just topped off my 40oz Camelback, took 2 Endurolyte pills, had some Coke and was off (1-2 minutes).

The next 25+ miles were definitely the hardest, most challenging part of the course. This section was a grind with lots of climbs, lots of technical stuff, and generally fairly slow riding. It's hard on the bike and harder on the body. Aid station #4 was a long 15.46 mile ride from the previous aid station, and took nearly 2hrs to reach (41.32m 4hr 27min).
2' deep puddle around mile 50
They made some changes over last year with the aid stations, adding a new one after #4. This section was the slowest part of the course all day so it was a welcomed change. Rolled in to aid station #5 (48.18m 5hr 34min), repeated my routine from previous stops and off I went. Ugh, getting tired but thankfully no cramping. My last stop would be aid station #6 (53.63m 6hr 26min) for about a minute. It was probably the first time I looked at my watch and started thinking about whether I could actually break 8hrs or not. I remembered from last year that part of the last 10 miles was pretty tough, with a long, rocky climb followed by a steep rocky descent. I roughly remembered the last 4-5 miles being mostly single track with a gradual downhill ride to the finish. They may have added a little more single track at the end but it generally seemed the same as last year.

I passed another rider in the last mile or so (even though I was trying not too). I was riding the climbs and he was walking them so it was hard to avoid. However, I really didn't want to pass anyone in the last mile of a nearly 8hr day so I told him I'd wait for him and he could finish first. He seemed generally grateful and honestly, it didn't really change anything. He was in a different class (starting before me) so technically I was still in front of him even though I was behind him (make sense?). It was all good at the end, and I finished right behind him.
64.45 miles in 7hr 53min, good enough for 2nd in the Novice Vet  II class. It was a tough day of riding but I had such a great time. Love this race!

For the second weekend in a row, I had to strip my bike down to its bones to clean the mud and dirt out of every nook and cranny. My clean bike is now hanging out in my shed, taking a break while I do a little running over the next few weeks. Reach the Beach is up next (Sept 14-15).
Trek bones

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

24 Hours of Great Glen (Rain Edition)

This would be my 4th year doing 24HOGG, which is essentially the mountain bike version of Reach the Beach but logistically a bit more challenging. The work is harder but the down time is more enjoyable. In each of the previous three years, the weather over the 3-day weekend has been near perfect. The key being zero rain. The first year there was some serious mud in sections but trail improvements over the years had pretty much eliminated most of the junk stuff. Over the last 2 years I'd say the course has been nearly 100% ridable for a decent novice rider (aka me). The one thing I've said at the end of the race (every year) was if it ever rained this race would blow.
Oh did it blow.

Camp Wolfe

Of course just 'rain' would have been a blessing. What we got on Friday and Saturday was some of the hardest sustained rain I've ever seen. Flash flooding rain. I did manage to get my tent setup within seconds of the first downpour and surprisingly my stuff managed to stay dry all weekend (thanks to a water proof tent, screen room setup over my tent and two 10ft tarps over my screen room).
 A group of us headed out late Friday afternoon to pre-ride the approximately 9 mile course during a break in the rain. The course would be a mix of carriage roads (~60%) and single track trails (~30%) and grass fields (~10%). We were only a couple of miles in when the skies opened up again and it pretty much poured the rest of the ride. The trails went from bad to awful fairly quickly. Very muddy, lots of standing water and extremely slick (and these would be the best conditions all weekend).

My teammates this year would be Brayden Dunn, Kevin Tilton and Scott Mason. Kevin and Scott would be first time 24HOGGers (maybe last time after this weekend). I would lead off with the le mans start (approximately 1/2 run around the pond) before heading out on the bike. A few of us decided to start in the back, run easy and not get caught up in the bottleneck that happens on Blueberry Hill less than a 1/2 mile into the race. I should say we did not want to be the bottleneck. I guess we didn't think about all the other folks willing to step up and take this job from us. Sure enough, no sooner did we mount our bikes and we were all riding a conga line up Blueberry Hill (slowly). A little patience and eventually it opened up and crowded trails would become a non issue.
Heading up Blueberry Hill
Although the rain would hold off (mostly) for the next 24 hours, the presence of hundreds of mountain bikers riding lap after lap for 24 hours did unbelievable damage to the single track sections. By my second lap, most of the single track would be practically unridable. The course became 5 miles of speedy carriage roads mixed in with 3 miles of pushing a 26lb mountain bike through the mud. Serious mud. Fun was done.
Finishing Lap 1
Riding back to back laps at night (to give folks more time to rest) was a painfully long experience. Riding at night, with fog, light rain, slick trails and miles of mud really takes all the fun out things (really?). To top it off I flatted coming down a steep technical muddy section (at night of course) and had to fix a flat with my bike mostly submerged in mud. With all the mud that was inside my tire after I installed the tube, it's amazing I even made it back to the start/finish line. Joy. After a little midnight maintenance, I was off to bed for some much needed sleep.

I wouldn't ride again to nearly 7am, mostly due to my teammates having as much fun as me while riding at night (thanks guys, appreciated the sleep!). My 5th lap would be my last, and surprisingly would be one of my best. Some early morning trail work had removed several inches of mud from a few sections and actually made the course a bit more ridable. I probably rode 95% of the last lap and actually had some fun. Not enough fun to ride another lap but fun still the same.
Last Lap

24 hours of hike-a-bike wasn't really what I was hoping for but now I know what it's like when it rains. For the record, I was right.

Thanks to Gianna Lindsey for most of the pics.
Next up: Hampshire 100 this Sunday (100k mountain bike race).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge

I decided to do the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge pretty much at the last minute. I figured a 50-60 mile endurance mountain bike race would be a good practice race to get the kinks out so I'd be ready for 24hrs of Great Glen and the Hampshire 100, both coming up in August. The only real negative was the 4+hr drive to  nowhere Maine (Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Carrabassett Valley).

Not a lot of intel on the course other than it would be between 50-60 miles with 6,000ft of climbing. Challenging they say! I drove up Saturday afternoon, checked in and setup a tent within sight of the start line. I chatted with a couple of NH folks at the pasta dinner and met up with aR teammate Geoff shortly after. He really wanted to go for a course preview ride, I did not. I should mention before driving nearly 4 1/2hrs to Sugarloaf I had to drive 3hrs to pick up my kids from camp. Needless to say I was tired and in no mood to ride. I opted for a quick mechanical check and setup of my bike and hoped to get to bed early.

Oh sure, I got to bed early. I was exhausted. It was quiet, dark, not hot, pretty much perfect sleeping conditions. The only problem was I wasn't sleeping. Not a wink. I just laid there looking at the inside of my tent. I wasn't stressed or nervous, I wasn't anything, especially not sleeping. This happens from time to time for me, almost always after I stay up past the point of when I should have gone to bed. So I just laid there, waiting for the sun to come up, wondering how the heck I was going to ride 7+hrs (and then drive home). It was a long, boring night.

I finally ended my misery at 5am and got up, got ready and had some breakfast (and coffee) at the Outdoor Center. Although tired, I actually felt ok and was looking forward to a good day of riding (not necessarily racing). I had a 100oz Camelback but would only fill it 1/2 full (with Nuun/water) at the start. I had various snacks in the Camelback and a couple of packages of Shot Bloks in my shorts.

I wisely opted for the Novice class (which started last at 7:15am) and headed off with about a dozen other Novice riders. I rode easy and relaxed and still lead the group right from the start. It was fairly easy riding and social for the first hour before I had dropped all other Novice riders. So, for the next 5+hrs I would ride alone. Occasionally I'd catch a Sport rider (the next class up which started 5 minutes before us). I was expecting more of a mix of trails though. Sometimes you need a break from the technical to semi-technical single track to give your body a break. Double track and dirt roads usually do the trick. They said it was about 30% single track but a lot of the trails (which I'm sure they called double track) were basically single track rails cut through cross country ski trails, or old logging roads or just wider openings in the forest. Single track means there's only one trail. Double track means there's more than one line to take. I'd say at least 60% was single track. Although I LOVE single track, it's not something you want to do for 4 or 5 or even 6hrs of riding. It can be exhausting, and it was.

Overall it was a good course. About 54 miles in the end. Yes, I'd call it challenging but I was able to ride nearly all of it (including some fairly significant climbs up the side of Sugarloaf Mountain). Probably only a handful of hike-a-bike sections, including a few stream crossings. Surprisingly there was a fair amount of mud out there. Kind of shocking actually since it's been so dry everywhere. I still have a hard time calling what I do racing. I probably don't ride much harder than an average daily ride, I just do it longer. I clearly don't take this sport seriously. I love mountain biking and I'd like to keep it that way. I don't want to worry about training or racing. I always ride to have fun. Every ride. Period.

For what it's worth, my 6hr 52min effort was good enough for the top spot in the Novice class. I can only race against the folks who show up so I'm happy with my time and effort. This race was nearly twice as long (time wise or mileage wise) as any ride I've done all year (all of which has been on a mountain bike),so no complaints.  Heck, considering I had zero sleep, it's a miracle I even finished!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hills, Hills and More Hills

Geoff and I were getting a little bored with our regular mountain biking routes so we opted for a couple of new rides this past weekend. First up was Pawtuckaway State Park on Friday night. I had only been to PSP once (and that was to volunteer at the Vulcan's Fury Trail Race) so this definitely qualified as 'new'. We had a good 2hr ride on what I would call fairly technical trails with lots of climbing. I think we followed a good portion of the Vulcan's Fury course if I'm not mistaken. It was a tough ride for sure. Afterwards we drove down to the beach for a little cooling off in the lake. Of course the water temp was probably near 80 degrees so it wasn't exactly refreshing but we did get cleaned up a bit.

Saturday morning we planned to meet up again for a pretty challenging ride in North Conway. Geoff had done a similar ride back in early May (when it was 50-60 degrees) that hit 3 mountain summits with over 5,000ft of climbing. I wasn't exactly looking forward to it but I was up for a challenge. As an added bonus, it was 90 degrees even before we started. Yippie!
Approximate route we took
Summit #1 - We started near the gate on Hurricane Mountain Rd and headed up the Red Tail Trail and then onto the summit of Black Cap. I'd call Red Tail a technical climb to say the least. Lots of switchbacks but plenty of steep sections. I was able to ride 99% of the climb with just a couple hike-a-bike sections near the summit of Black Cap. I think it was around 3 miles to the summit. The trip up to Black Cap took just about an hour of riding and I was already over-heating (as evident by my bright RED face in every picture).
Black Cap Summit
After spending about 10 minutes on the summit (catching my breathe and lowering my body temperature to just under boiling), we jumped on the Black Cap Connector Trail which took us over the entire Green Mountain ridge over to Middle Mountain and back down to the powerlines behind Pudding Pond. The ride over the ridge was a punishing grind of short ups and downs and the eventual descent that tested my brakes and my nerves. My fillings are somewhere up on that mountain. It smoothed out nicely (the bumps, not the terrain) near the end on a section appropriately called Pump Track, which brought us down to a couple of sweet sections of single track. One was called Sticks and Stones and the other one wasn't even on the map but flowed behind Pudding Pond for a couple of miles before kicking us back out on the powerlines again.

Summit #2 - Next up was Cranmore. We rode the powerlines all the way down to the back side of Mt Cranmore and stumbled upon something resembling a dump. In fact, as we rode in we scared off some guy rummaging around the collection of mostly ski resort type stuff. That's when we came across this little gem and couldn't resist the photo op. Looking back, he was probably there to warn us not to climb Cranmore. Too bad I don't speak gremlin.
Gremlin guarding the Cranmore Access Road
We headed over to the base of Mt Cranmore and began the hardest climb of the day (IMHO) up the Cranmore access road. At least Red Tail had switchbacks to recover on. The access road had nothing, just a continuous climb up a loose gravel road. All my distances are guesses (mostly) since our GPS refused to pick up a signal for most of the day. I'm pretty sure this climb was roughly 3 miles too and took nearly 38 minutes if I recall correctly. We spent less time on the summit this time, just enough time to take a couple of photos and add a few ounces of water to my Camelback.
Red face on the Summit of Mt Cranmore
We left Cranmore and headed across the Cranmore Connector Trail which brought us back to Black Cap. I'm pretty sure this entire connector trail went up. Great, more climbing. I came dangerously close to bonking on this trail, barely grinding my way back to the Red Tail junction. I told Geoff it was unlikely I would do the final climb of the day up Hurricane Mt Road. I was out of food, my hands were shaking, my face was still red and we had to pass our cars before heading up Hurricane. There wasn't a chance I would ride past my car. We headed back down the Red Tail Trail, back to the car.

Summit #3 - Well it turns out a 20 minute descent was enough of a distraction to actually get me to ride right past my car and head up the 2 mile climb Hurricane Mt Road. If I had stopped, even for a second I would not have continued, so we rode right by. We'd been riding nearly 4hrs already but I wanted to finish what we planned. Let me just say this ain't an easy climb. There were several sections I just wanted to unclip (or not unclip) and just lay down. I wanted to quit so bad. I kept telling myself around each corner HAD to be the summit. I was wrong about 37 times. Geoff was kind enough to come back down (after reaching the summit) and ride with me the last 1/3 mile or so. I think it took around 27 minutes to ride the 2 miles to the summit, then less than 5 minutes to get back down.
Red face on Hurricane Mt Road
Several people have asked me if I had fun. No, I did not have fun. This was hard, probably the hardest ride I've done. It was somewhat satisfying being able to ride 99% of the climbs (although slowly). For a guy who doesn't particularly like any climbing, I'd say I held my own today. Just don't ask me to do this ride again anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FOMBA - Bear Brook - FOMBA Ride

I was looking for something a little different (and longer) on Saturday so I decided a solo FOMBA to Bear Brook State Park ride was in order. I did this last year (one way) for the first time with a group but felt confident I could find my way back. Plus, I've ridden at BB quite a bit this year and figured I could find my way around once I got there.
A late afternoon start had temps in the low 90's so I loaded up the new Camelback and headed out. The main connector trail from FOMBA (near Lake Massabesic in Auburn) to Bear Brook (Allenstown) is called Trail 15 (or corridor 15), a north/south snowmobile trail that goes all the way to Canada I think. The trail is 'generally' easy to follow (if you pay attention to the arrows). It seems to have more uphill on the way over, was dry as a bone but the deer flies were out in force. I almost turned back a few times in the first 30-40 minutes. Relentless.
You actually hit Bear Brook State Park in less than an hour but it's out on the far edges where most mountain bikers don't actually ride. Mostly snowmobile/ATV type trails (with lots of water). I followed Ferret Trail past Bear Hill Pond, down to Podunk Rd and then went up a ways to jump onto Chipmunk (singletrack). I've come up Chipmunk many times but never rode it down. Totally different trail going down, seemed more technical (if that is possible?). Next up Bobcat, over to Little Bear and 1hr 47min later I was at the Podunk parking lot. Actually ran into a couple of aR riders in the lot (Geoff and Alex).
After chatting for a while (and fueling up) I decided to head back to FOMBA as the sky was getting darker (thunderstorm dark). Decided on a more direct route back (up Podunk Rd) due to the weather. I didn't even make it to the Ferret Trail before the storms rolled in. Steady, heavy rain for about 45 minutes (along with plenty of thunder/lightning). My previously dry trail was almost completely flooded the entire way back. Temps dropped by 20 degrees too! At least it kept the bugs away. 1hr 22min ride back to the car. Nice ride. Guessing total miles around 30-32 miles (I don't use a GPS).
I kind of like this connector trail.

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 Pineland Farms 25k

I  know, Pineland Farms (results) was so 'last month'. What's the point writing about it over a week later? Not sure. I wasn't even going to post anything but I figured since I pay big money for this blog I should at least get my monies worth out of it. It doesn't mean I'm going to put quality effort into it though.
My race report in bullet form:

  • Drove up with Denis Tranchemontagne on Sunday morning. (note, I spelled that without looking it up. I'm not sure what that means) Uneventful 2hr ride.
  • No warm up, no pre-race routine. Someone mentioned it was almost 10 and it didn't even register they were referring to the start of the race. Weird.
  • Averaging 30 mpw with essentially no long runs apparently makes me smarter. I seated myself way back, not tempted by my common foes (who were all in front of me).
  • The first 5k should have felt easy. It did not. I had stomach cramps almost immediately after starting. Only 24k more to go! Yippie.
  • Kept Mike Wade (GCS) and Chris Dunn (aR) in sight (maybe 20 seconds ahead of me) for the first 10k. They weren't falling back and I wasn't gaining. 
  • Stomach feeling better.
  • Kurt Berna (GCS) was literally my shadow for first 15k of the race.
  • Sunny, mid 70's but much drier (humidity wise) than previous years. The breeze was refreshing in the woods. The sun was depressing in the fields. Zero sum game.
  • Caught up to Mike in the 3rd 5k section (before the grove). No Chris though. Chris had 1:30ish on us as we passed by the grove.
  • Tried to separate from Mike as we left the grove and crossed the road. Had a good gap (so I thought) but the bum caught me (and flew by me) on one of the screaming downhill sections. He looked like he got his second wind. I thought he was gone.
  • Feeling better, running better in the 4th 5k section. Caught up to Mike (again). Worked hard on separating from him (again). Dropped the bum (again).
  • Continued to work the last 5k section hard. I know it's either short or fast. I like to think fast but I know it's short. Doesn't matter. It's the same as last year.
  • Caught a glimpse of Capt Dunn midway through the last 5k. He had no idea I was behind him until I was nearly next to him. He was hiding his pain well. I thought he looked good.
  • We were side by side as we entered the last field. I was still pushing the pace but shortly after we entered the field I thought I was done. Dizzy, tired, hungry, legs were heavy. Chris was worse.
  • I separated from Chris just a little in the last 2k, finishing just a head of him with a time of 1:57:37. Totally exhausted. No complaints.
  • Still waiting for Mike to finish.

At the grove - photo credit Gianna Lindsey

Gianna aR pictures located here --> 2012 Pineland Pics

Comparison to last year.
Conclusion - you get slower when you get older OR you get slower when you run less.

2012 2011
5k Split 22:15 21:09
10k Split 24:50 24:17
15k Split 25:04 25:02
20k Split 24:21 24:32
25k Split 21:07 20:27
FINISH 1:57:37 1:55:27

Monday, April 30, 2012

Muddy Moose - Trail Racing has Begun!

I'll be honest. I didn't see that coming.
I went into yesterday's 14m trail race (results) in Wolfeboro,NH a wee bit nervous. I ran just under 100 miles total for the month of March and just over 100 for the month of April. Banging out 20+ mile weeks just isn't the kind of mileage I was hoping for leading into this season.
Last year at this time I was running nearly 50 miles/week and riding 30-40 miles on the bike and ran the Muddy Moose 14m race in 1:51:34. So, being a data-driven guy, I was pretty sure I was in for a 2+hr hurtfest this year. Bring it on!

It was sunny but cool (mid 40's) and windy as all heck. Without the wind I'd go with just a singlet but the wind was COLD standing around at the start. After waffling for a few minutes I finally decided to go with a singlet and what Chris Dunn called "arm pants". I'm sure it's some sort of fashion faux pas but it was just enough to keep from getting frost bite (at least at the starting line). I told Deb I'd probably be around 2hrs, lined up a couple of rows deep with Mike Wade and waited for the start.

The mostly out and back course starts out on the road and heads downhill pretty quickly for about a half a mile or so before heading into the woods. Knowing I had absolutely no long runs under my belt was always on my mind. So, with that little nugget always present, I was very careful not to go out too fast. The initial trail was heavily logged since last year, with lots of branches, sticks and other sharp objects just waiting to impale you if you stumbled. Fancy footwork was a must. Of course one of the problems with going out a little slower is you get caught up in the crowds, which makes it a bit more challenging picking out obstacles (like sticks, rocks, and shoe-sucking mud pits). You tend to get funneled into directions you might not choose on your own (like the middle of a shoe-sucking mud pit). Most of the serious mud is in the first 2 miles (and the last 2 miles) so it's hard to avoid (because there's so much of it) but if you can navigate around it (especially if you're running 14 miles) you'd be better off.  Some sections it's just not possible. I got bogged down (pun intended) pretty early on in the mud and Ian Parlin (TMR) nearly ran me over trying to get by me. He was gone in a flash.
photo credit - Josh Spaulding
 Eventually the crowds thin out around the 2 mile mark (as the 4 milers go right and the 14 milers go left). The course heads down a dirt/gravel road for about 1 1/2 miles and gives you a chance to open up the stride, loosen up the legs and bang off some of the mud collected over the previous few miles. By this time I was running in a small group with Mike Wade & Kurt Burna (GCS) and fellow aR member Leslie Beckwith. The pace felt comfortable but I was still worried about bonking in the later miles. The next section of the course is called escarpment and is the only section of single track we 'run' on all day. It's a very steep (but short) climb and we all walked most of it. The ridge run on top is short and then it drops down quickly on the back side over a boulder field before returning to the more traditional double track. The next mile mostly heads downhill, and I was reminded how bad I am at running downhill. Nearly everyone in my group would go by me on the downhills and I'd catch back up on the ups. Somewhere in this section Mike dropped out with a calf injury but I didn't know it until after I finished. A short while later the 2nd o/a female went flying by (on a downhill) but I would catch her a little while later around the 5 mile water stop. We would trade places for the rest of the race. I was still feeling pretty good so I picked up the pace just a bit as we made a slow climb to the lollypop turn around loop.

The lead runner (Kevin Tilton) passed me on the climb, a few minutes sooner then the place he passed me last year. I assumed I was running slower but in reality he was flying to a new CR. The lollypop can be run in either direction but for the second year in a row I went right (or counter-clockwise). This section, although not muddy, is VERY wet, with deep, cold water everywhere. My feet hurt they were so cold. I got around most of the beaver dam water by running over the top of the dam. I checked my watch for the only time all day at the end of the loop (1hr exactly). By this time my 'arm pants' had turned into 'wrist shorts' as the temperature was quite comfortable.
The next few miles were mostly a gentle down hill. Last year this section was a little wet, this year not so much. I was still feeling strong and tried to stay with the 2nd o/a female. I never looked back but I always assumed Mike, Leslie and Kurt were right there. The course loops back around to the 5 mile water stop (now at mile 9ish) and turns left. The rest of the course is the same as the way out.

I passed the 2nd o/a female on the climbs and held her off until the steep descent on the escarpment where once again she went flying by. During this section I got my first glimpse of another aR runner, Ri Fahnestock. Ri looked like was struggling a bit so I was hoping I could catch him on the dirt road section. About a mile onto the dirt road I could now see Ian Parlin as well. I was slowly closing on both of them but I wasn't sure if I was closing fast enough. Just before the last water stop at mile 12ish I passed Ri and encouraged him to stick with me. I was motoring pretty good and now had my sights on Ian. The mud in the last couple of miles  (with 200+ runners going through it already) was much harder to navigate on the way back. More than once I almost came to a stop as I got stuck in the mud. I got close to Ian but not close enough that I thought I could make a legitimate move as we left the woods and hit the last uphill road section before the finish. I finally made a quick peek over my shoulder to see if  anyone was nearby and then just held my position until the finish, finishing 20 seconds behind Ian and 4 seconds behind the 2nd o/a female.
me and Ian after the race
 I was shocked that my time (1:50:29, 18th o/a) was over a minute faster than last year.  How the heck was that possible? Heck, I actually felt pretty good, probably running the second half faster then the first half. Kids, I wouldn't necessarily recommend running 20 miles a week and then signing up for a 14 miler but maybe this race was the spark I needed to get motivated and hopefully PR at the Pineland Farms 25k this year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Guilt Post

Blogs are more fun when you have something to say, and it probably helps if it's interesting, upbeat or at least moderately useful to one of the 3 readers that I'm aware of. Unfortunately I've been a little frustrated over the last 2-3 months and have not been in a happy place when it comes to my running (and I'm not even injured).
I feel like I've been a human HEPA filter, attracting every virus floating around. Good news for my friends and families (you're welcome, BTW), bad news for me. I've been sick more times than I can count (actually, I can count to 4 but that didn't sound as impressive).
I run a week, I take a week off. I run a week, I take week off. Repeat, often.
The latest round (pneumonia) has been the hardest and longest. It's been dragging on for nearly 2 weeks and doesn't show any signs of clearing up anytime soon. I started running a couple of days ago (mostly because I'm bored out of my mind) and surprisingly it's been slow and difficult. I'm guessing it's not normal for my heart rate to be above 150bpm at 9min+ pace.
On a positive note, mountain biking isn't nearly as taxing on my respiratory system and I've almost enjoyed it the last couple of days. Yippie!
So, if I can stitch together a couple of weeks of running, I might be up for a trail race in the near future. That's the plan anyways.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Smuttynose Palooza Indoor Half Marathon

During the winter months, the Gate City Striders have indoor track workouts at the Hampshire Dome in Milford,NH. I am told it's one of the larger indoor tracks around (roughly a 1/5th mile per lap). Even though it's the only indoor track I've run on, it's my favorite. The 2-lane rubberized track has fairly sharp corners (which are slightly banked), but it doesn't seem to affect your stride too much (at least in track workouts). The banked corners seem to help with the transition in and out of the turns. So why is this important? Well, the track is great for doing 400m or 800m repeats. When we start doing mile repeats it gets a bit repetitive, and becomes mentally tough....and that's only 5 laps.

Last year the folks at Loco Running put on an indoor half marathon at the Hampshire Dome. I thought they were nuts and the runners who signed up even nuttier. Jump forward to this year and I start seeing the ads for the Smuttynose Palooza Indoor Half Marathon (results). This time it intrigued me. It must have been the name change (kudos to the marketing guys). In a year that I'm looking to branch out and try some new things, I decided why not. From the start I figured this was more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. I was mostly right.

Since the track is so small, the race was broken up into two 50-person heats, one at 2pm and one at 4pm. I was in the 4pm heat (as a side note, this might be the only race I've ever done at 4pm). Chip timing was a must (and even that wasn't foolproof). The RD had the track wheel measured this year and determined we had to run 68 full laps plus a little more for the 13.1 miles. Last year they ran 66.5 laps for the same race (more on that later). They also had a flat screen TV setup which displayed the runners lap time and # of laps run. In addition, Andy Schachat was there announcing names, lap times and laps run throughout the race. Thankfully he would do this sparingly and not on every lap.

To me, the best way to run this race would be to figure out my goal pace, convert it to lap time and then run every lap at that pace. I looked at some race reports from last year, and even last years website and found several references to the track being 317 meters. As it turns out, 66.5 laps * 317m = 13.1 miles. Apparently this is what they used last year. So my goal was to run around 6:30 to 6:35 min/mile pace or 1:17 to 1:18 lap times. Unfortunately, I forgot what lap time I was supposed to run by the time I got to the Dome. I thought it was 1:15 laps but couldn't remember. I guess I would have to run on how it felt instead. We were told we'd record 69 laps on the monitor (the first lap recorded was only a few feet based on where we started on the track). Andy would announce when we had a few laps to go so we'd know when we were finished. Seemed pretty straightforward.

Since there was a race going on before our 4pm start, we couldn't warm up on the track (and I wasn't dressed to run outside). I had zero warmup. When we finally lined up a little after 4pm, I went from resting to half marathon pace in one lap and stayed that way for nearly 1 1/2hrs. 

It took a few laps to figure out a comfortable pace. It was pretty clear 1:15 laps weren't going to happen so I backed off ever so slightly and targeted 1:17 laps instead. The race itself was pretty uneventful. I would only get passed by one person (Jason Porter). He would lap me every 4 laps or so. Every once in a while Andy would call out my splits and tell me how many laps I'd run, counting down the last 3-4 laps as I got close to 69 laps. I picked up the pace near the end hoping to finish strong and crossed the line in 1:28:48. What? That doesn't sound right. Oh well, I grabbed a beer and a slice of pizza (no cool down run either), relaxed for a few minutes and eventually went home. Later that evening when the results were posted my time was changed to 1:27:37. Better but still not what I expected.

Lap Split Lap Split Lap Split Lap Split
1 00:11 19 01:18 37 01:18 55 01:17
2 01:14 20 01:20 38 01:18 56 01:17
3 01:13 21 01:17 39 01:17 57 01:16
4 01:14 22 01:18 40 01:17 58 01:16
5 01:16 23 01:18 41 01:19 59 01:17
6 01:16 24 01:18 42 01:18 60 01:16
7 01:15 25 01:18 43 01:17 61 01:17
8 01:16 26 01:19 44 01:18 62 01:17
9 01:15 27 01:19 45 01:18 63 01:18
10 01:16 28 01:18 46 01:19 64 01:16
11 01:16 29 01:17 47 01:19 65 01:16
12 01:17 30 01:16 48 01:18 66 01:14
13 01:17 31 01:19 49 01:19 67 01:17
14 01:18 32 01:18 50 01:17 68 01:15
15 01:21 33 01:17 51 01:18 69 01:13
16 01:18 34 01:16 52 01:15 70 01:10
17 01:20 35 01:18 53 01:18

18 01:17 36 01:20 54 01:19

So what are my thoughts on running an indoor half marathon on a 311m track?
  • Although the weather was better than outdoors, the air is stagnant. A little warm and no breeze. Not awful, just different. Hard to explain.
  • There are 272 turns. Unlike an outdoor track, the corners are square so you notice the turns more. The banked turns helped but the turns do a number on your feet. My feet were constantly sliding in my shoes on the turns and friction created numerous blisters on the bottoms of my feet and between a few of my toes.
  • 50 people running on an indoor 311m track is crowded. Traffic rules were in effect, runners were instructed to stay on the inside lane unless passing. Unfortunately, people don't follow rules. Every lap was spent weaving in and out of people, sometimes even running off the track entirely because of the crowds of runners.
  • I bet I passed nearly 1000 runners throughout the race. That would never happen outdoors.
  • I ran alone the entire race.
  • Here's the deal on the track length. Last year they called it 317m. This year they called it 311m. That's a difference of  nearly 3 laps when running 13.1 miles. So which is correct? Both, sort of.  The 311m is the measurement of the inside of lane 1. The 317m is the measurement of the inside of lane 2. If you run just outside of lane 2 it's 325m around. It doesn't sound like much but when 5 laps make up a mile, the extra distance starts to add up. 
  • They had signs scattered around the track indicating the various mile markers along with how many laps made up each mile. In my opinion, the mile markers were not helpful. It was very hard to keep track what lap you were on (even with a TV monitor and announcer).
  • The TV monitor displayed your lap time and recorded how many laps you had run. However, the distance between the timing mat and the monitor was just a tad too close. The purpose of the monitor was so you could see your lap time and # of laps run. However, as I ran by, my name would show up just as I was running by and I couldn't see my lap time or laps run. Thankfully Andy would call out this info once in a while.
  • I thought miles 5-10 were the hardest. The fun of running on the track had worn off and you didn't have enough laps done to know the end was near.
  • The discrepancy of my initial finishing time to the posted time was because I actually ran 70 laps (instead of the 69 required). It seems the TV monitor was hooked up to a different timing mat then the official timing mat. The TV mat said I ran 69, but the official mat said I ran 70.  Not a huge deal since they corrected it but it did affect the last couple of laps. In fact, it negated my fastest lap of the day, which turned out to be my 70th. 
  • Running a consistent pace is definitely the way to run this race.
  • I don't think running indoors is faster than running an outdoor half. Sure it's flat, but sometimes hills are good. They force you to use different muscles and work harder and they also have downhills which allow you to run faster.
  • You cannot run the tangents indoors.
  • I spent most of the time running in lane 2 (or further out) so there's no doubt I ran further than 13.1 miles. I'm pretty sure my pace was closer to 6:30-6:35 pace, as opposed to my official pace of 6:42. This is not a complaint. I'm ok with the official time. They measured the track correctly (this time). But if you're looking to run a PR, indoor is not the place to do it. 
  • It is truly a mentally tough race. I had fun. I'm glad I did it....once. I probably would not do another indoor half marathon though.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Time to Get Serious!

Time's up. I don't do serious.

It's a new year so I figured I'd blog about running, mostly because I didn't want to change my blog name. I've been in a running funk lately and wasn't really enjoying my runs. Thankfully I seem to be over it now and I'm looking forward to some running (and racing) in the next few months. Contrary to popular belief, I HAVE been running and even managed a couple of races recently.
The most recent was the Peanut Butter Chip Chase 5k in Temple, NH on New Years Day. This was my 9th year running this race (no doubt the most I've run the same race). A nice, low-key, small town race and a moderately difficult course. In eight attempts, I've yet to break 19 minutes. This year was no different. Not a great race (time wise) but I did manage to run negative splits for each mile so that's something positive to take away from this one.
Yesterday was the first day of indoor track practice at the Hampshire Dome. The coached workouts put on by the Gate City Striders goes for 10 weeks and is something I look forward to each year. As I probably mention every year, I LOVE this track. Of course, I don't have much experience with indoor tracks but I do know this is a big one (nearly 1/5th mile per lap). The opening workout was 6 x 800 repeats @ 5k pace. Once I figured out a pace, I managed to run fairly consistent laps (2:52, 2:56, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54, 2:54). Overall, a good, solid workout.
I think last year I skipped the ole "Year in Review" post so I'll think I'll start a trend and skip it this year too. Honestly, there wasn't much to review anyways.
So, what's in store for 2012? Well, I have a few surprises this year. I plan to venture a bit outside my comfort zone and try a few new races and of course stick with a few of my favorites. The first one is coming up in 2 weeks. It's an indoor half marathon (at the Hampshire Dome) put on by LOCO Running. This one seems more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. We'll see if I still like this track after 68 laps.
As far as snowshoe racing: well, I guess the weather speaks for itself. The longer we go without snow, the less interested I become. I'm almost to the point of writing this season off all together, even if it does snow....eventually.