Current Training Status: not blogging... running.

Friday, December 26, 2008

How Long?

I really wanted to go for a long run today. This one gave me the option of shortening it at several points. I cut out the major hill climb, to lose a couple miles. Then I missed a turn which added some, wound up doing 11.8 as I mapped it afterwards. The right foot got pretty sore. Seems just stiff, all the little foot bones all locked up too tight. It'll probably be fine, and I got a good 1:45 min workout in. Thinking about a snowshoe race on Sunday, would be my first ever, and I needed some running for confidence.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowstorm Before The Solestice

After 2 1/2 months of recovery, I ran my first couple of painless miles. The very next day I dropped another huge box on my foot mashing my ankle. Could be worse, but I'm not entirely out of commission. Cross training at home is picking up, and there is great low-impact snowshoeing weather! The Hanukkah race was postponed and I may expect a decent run there, next Sunday. Meanwhile, I've been making frequent visits to the summit of Mt. Tom to enjoy this winter weather. Yesterday, my son came along for some sledding. Enjoy the photos below, I'll be adding to this slideshow later today after a snowshoe hike to the summit.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One Year Blogging

There goes the milestone. Over 1300 views, over 1000 uniques, thanks for stopping by folks! I returned to school this year and found my writing skills in decent shape, primarily due to posting and writing race reports. The blog serves me well. I used to be someone who exclusively hand-wrote everything, even if it went to the word processor afterwards. A shoulder injury made this very uncomfortable, and I lost the discipline of writing for awhile. Thanks to anyone who showed up here, where I post, and was counted on the little counter I check. There is always the expectation of a reader when writing. Blog visitors add a useful dynamic, even if some percentage is the google-bot.

My foot is still a-hurtin. Work hasn't really given it the best chance to heal, but it is much better. I took 2 weeks off, then ran last week to find some pain afterwards. It will be 10 days since then that I'll run the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton. The big toe and arch of my right foot haven't hurt in days. This morning, I had some random pain in another joint of the same foot. Somehow, this makes me feel more positive about the big toe. The 5k will be on pavement, smooth and cushy in new road shoes. I won't be breaking in the new pair of shoes in, to avoid re-injuring my foot, but I will be racing on Saturday.

Here's my attempt at intelligence and sanity. If I can't expect to return to regular running immediately, based on how my foot feels after the race, I won't. I'll take the next 2 weeks off and run a gentle 5 miles at the last EORC Grand Prix Race, the Hanukkah 5 Miler. At that point, if all is not better, the workload at Fed Ex will allow my foot to heal over an entire month of not running. So this injury will have affected me for most of 4 months. Now, that hurts!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

MMC # 3 - Struggles and Gains

Posts will be sparse. I am officially in a very inactive mode. Things may pick up from here, but it will be a very slow increase. My foot is getting time off, and there are other things to focus on. With the intensity of my summer season, there has to be a period of rest and recovery. Things may pick up with the snowshoe season ahead. I won an entry into a snowshoe race this summer, and may squirrel away some money for snowshoes. The only goal racing ahead is the Turkey Trot, Thanksgiving morning in Monson, and the final EORC Grand Prix race, the Hannukah Road Race in Longmeadow. Trying to bang out a decent half marathon today on the course above sealed the verdict, I'm no longer coasting from the high level of fitness I built up in the summer.
Election Night, last Tuesday, I went for my only run before today's Half Marathon. Once the polls had closed, I headed out into the night and up to the Mt. Tom Range. Four miles up to Whiting Peak and back for 8, and roughly 900' of climbing. The access road that goes halfway up was almost completely washed out by the heavy rains this summer. Between that and the mile long trail to the Summit, my foot was pretty beat up. I didn't run again all week, and felt this was the best choice. So the past week of training consists of that hill run and the 5 mile race on Sunday.
I'm not completly inactive. Loading trucks at FedEx is very demanding, and I continue to count this as a workout. At school, I have to park a half-mile from classes and can take an extended stroll for some movement after siting on my butt doing schoolwork. So today I was able to run a course PR at the Monson Memorial Classic. It could have been a PR for the distance if I was in better condition for that.
Being out of practice in my race preparation and spooked by my sore foot, I ran into some trouble late in the race. My splits in the first 7 miles were between 7:10 and 7:40 over steeply rolling terrain. Here I discovered an empty pocket where I expected my electrolytes to be. After picking up the pace on the steepest downhill of the course, I not only missed my electrolytes at the next water stop, but my plastic cup split in several places while I tried to drink it. This happened earlier too. I kept up a good pace into the final downhill 5k, but dehydration began to take it's toll.
This has happened before, and I recognized the signs. First, while I was working real hard, I felt dry. I wasn't sweating nearly as much as I should have been, and my mouth of course was pretty dry. Into the tenth mile, my legs just became rigid. I could not move fast, and staying upright was becoming a challenge. I was really confused, dizzy and feeling deeply tired. Hard to keep my eyes open, tired and wobbly. Luckily, there was one more unmanned water table at about 11.5 miles. I staggered over to it and drank a couple cups with difficulty. This didn't completely revive me, but allowed me to get to the finish with more stability though I was 'foaming' at the mouth according to some reports. In the last two miles my pace drifted below 9:30 per mile. I probably lost over 4 minutes, but did manage a third consecutive course record for myself.
I'm very glad I chose to run today, despite all of that. My foot is a little sore, but obviously much better for the 5 day break. A big benefit to taking a long run today, was the mental space. I miss the time by myslelf at a steady pace, carrying myslef into the distance. For much of the run, I began to make progress on an assignment for school. While following the course markings, I was reminded of a Geometric Dimensioning symbol used on blueprints, Maximum Material Condition has the same acronym as the race, MMC. The course that applies to is my Metrology course, metrology being the science of measure. The Monson Memorial ClassicI is a certified race course, measured with an incredibly rigorous procedure which follows the same logic as a metrology system which keeps tools and parts in a shop accurate. Taking this appreciation of running and following the use of metrology systems by a specific manufacturing situation, I'll have a decent final paper for this class. This is the type of thing that keeps me running.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Still In The Game

Few posts lately, because I have not been running. Bimbler's Bluff ended for me after only 12 miles, due to the sore right foot. In the doctor's office later that week, my dissapointment at finishing 'only 12 miles' on a sore foot was something I kept to myself. Despite the pain and having to limp the last of those 12 miles, the DNF didn't bother me at all once I'd made the decision. I felt incredibly stupid for having actually believed I could finish this race with my foot as it had been. Recapping, after dropping a huge box of dry ice and chocolate bound for Macy's on my foot, I ran 10+ miles at Mt. Tom with Jay. Boy was my foot sore. I took the rest of the week off until Monroe Trail Race, which went very very well. The race photos were just recently posted at ...

Despite my foot's complaints, I felt I needed to do that Reservoir Tour, turned Reservoir Wander that I posted about. Running on the trails was a problem, so I took to roads. I'd take to roads again for 20 miles the following weekend, and boy was my foot hurting by then! This was a week out from Bimbler's. The foot didn't hurt much at the reservoir, days before the race when I ran on it.
This should have signalled that there was no way I could endure 31 miles on rocky hiking trails. Well, I took the week off after Bimblers, for the most part. I still was on my feet several hours a day at work, and to get in a multi-hour workout I biked 40 miles on Halloween. This did give my foot a chance to heal. On Sunday, yesterday, I ran the 5 mile Dan Barry Memorial Race in Hatfield, to score in my running club's Grand Prix series. My foot was a little sore, but truly a minor problem. I ran a PR and was probably only 5 places out of my potential-un-injured best. My son took a few pictures ...

My plan is to run twice this week. Up to 10 road miles on Tuesday, and up to 8 miles on Thursday at the Reservoir with possible trails. At any point I can throw down some long bikerides, that 40 miles on the bike was a good workout. It really hit my quads hard, but was a good Idea as crosstraining.
This should have me well prepared for the Monson Memorial Classic, on Sunday. That is a road Half-Marathon with tons of hills. I've listed my possible runs as 'up-to's to emphasize that I won't run my foot into further injury. My residual fitness should be just fine for a PR at Monson on Sunday, if I only run once between now and then. I am capable of restraint. For instance, on Saturday, before the 5 mile race, my son and I hiked Mt. Tom (hardly running at all) for a great batch of foliage shots ...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bumbling Towards Bimbler's

Only 6 days till Mr. Bimbler's Bluff 50k, time to start the taper. This is good becuase my foot was killing me this morning. The last two weeks have been run on a sore foot, I dropped a big box on it at work. That afternoon I ran 10+ miles on it at Mt. Tom. I iced and it calmed down, also I took the next four days off. That was my best behavior, then I started running on it again. I attempted the Reservoir Tour. This was one of the three long runs I posted about. The course morphed into something slightly different, but great fun. As it got dark, and my foot didn't agree with my choice to trailrun at night, I opted to switch to the roads for the return trip to McLean Reservoir, like so ...

East Mtn. Road was a great choice over the trails, I'd never run the whole thing before. There was little or no traffic, and the full moon was bright enough to be seen within the beam of my flashlight. Apremont Highway has a great hill, back up to McLean. I picked up the pace nicely back at the reservoir, into sub 8's.
My foot was a bit sore, but not bad enough to earn any therapy. No new ice baths, no problem. I ran on it two days later at the Thursday fun run, with the club. That was obviously a bad idea. It needed more time off. I needed more training for Mr. Bimble too, at least a 20 miler. I was able to push this off till Sunday, yesterday. My foot is pretty sore afterwards, but I can promise some rest time for it and plenty of ice. My son and I did this new course, him on his bike and myself running.

This went really well. My son ran into Stop & Shop for water at mile 7.5, which we stashed. I drank and ate well, but my pace slid markedly. From home on the Bike Path, I was 65:57 to S&S, 8:48 pace, feeling great. Then up to the end of Northampton's Bike Path and back in 50:48, 10:10 pace. This was a long slow uphill that never seemed to end. My foot was pretty sore by halfway and slow on the way down, only 1:32 faster. The end was largely a drag/slog/miserable grind, 72:05 I had a mile to go. That 11:05 pace ended with a water fountain stop, little over a mile left was inspring and I found some speed. I decided to clock the last mile and ran an 8:32. 
My foot was kind of swollen and after icing this morning is alright, but sore. It gets time off till Thursday, I promise. Of course, I'm injured. I'll run Thursday to restart the engines, biking in the meantime. Then, maybe I don't run till the Bluff. After the Bluff I can take a week off, or more. This feels like the equivalent of jamming your finger, sort of a sprained feeling that just needs some chill out time to heal. Worst thing about it, is that every muscle on my right side is tense and shortening becuase of the uncomfortable foot. So, just core and flexibility workouts with cycling this week, until Thursday.

Impulsive Foliage Chase

Thursday, stormclouds were rolling through and breaking close to sunset. Sunshine was pouring through cracks in the dramatic sky, and I just had to get the camera out. Mt. Tom's summit is a great spot to enjoy the weather from. Took close to 100 pictures on the short run, and here is a minimally edited selection ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Twilight Res Tour

This is my best attempt at distance, this week. I'm trying not to worry too much about Bimbler's Bluff, but this prep is much different than my prep for Pisgah. What I can't get my mind around, is that Pisgah IS the prep for Bimbler's Bluff. Ridiculous names. I seem to be running well, despite kind of spraining my foot at work last week and hardly running much at all. Sunday, I showed up at Monroe after 4 days off a sore foot and took my Age Group while the normal competition was mostly hobbled by the technical terrain. I hope they heal up. Despite their obvious injury as I passed, I was pushed hard in the final smooth miles knowing they were back there. It was an idyllic day that I could go on and on about, but daylight is fading fast, and I want to be at Whiting by Dark. It's October, so blaze orange hat and red shirt. Trying out dates as well as the usual gel and dried mango. Going for 4 ish hours, no hurry. Added a mile on the map, up to the Bluff overlooking Hampden Ponds. There won't be sunlight to enjoy the foliage by, but I miss that hill.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Long Runs for Bimbler's Bluff

Since running the Pisgah 50k, there hasn't been anything longer than 10 for me. So, this week is a double header, a 20+ run and a run in the upper teens. Here's what's on the slate for possibilities:
The Mount Tom Madness, marathon distance climbing run ...

A Trip around the Holyoke Reservoirs, with a bonus trip up Mt. Tom past it's Reservoir ...

And/or a shorter extendable trip across the Mt. Tom escarpment and/or the rolling hills of Bray Valley ...

The trees are just beginning to turn, there is a chill to the air, and frost is forecast for tomorrow morning. Fall is here, tomorrow I'm probably going to hit Mt. Tom for at least 12 miles, maybe some combination of the runs above.
Last week's runs went well to prepare me for Conway, yesterday. I had a great run, seconds from a PR on a very tough course. My son got a great hand-made finisher's medallion and won a RoadID gift certificate. The sc enery was great and the course was fun. Next race will be Monroe Dunbar Brook, this Sunday

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Covered Bridge Classic, Conway MA

Empire One Running Club's Grand Prix is contested next on October 5th, at two races. SIDS, in Springfield, was pushed back this year from its usual hot summer date. The Covered Bridge Classic, in Conway, is scheduled later in the year and both races landed on the 5th. We club members are now faced with the choice of running one or the other, with a maximum of 100 points earned by the winner of each race. Both courses are hilly, the Conway Race is 10k while SIDS is 5 miles. There is usually a big shindig after SIDS, with food and music, and Conway's Festival of the Hills also offers great post race entertainment and food. Conway has a little 2k fun run for the kids, which my son will enjoy. That, as well as the scenic unpaved course, seals the deal for me. The Festival of the Hills is where I'll be on October 5th.
After Pisgah, I didn't run for a few days. Life is very busy right now, and it was more a time constraint than anything else that kept me from running. I showed up at the Holyoke Elk's 5k, the following Thursday, and didn't know what to expect. Despite 31 soggy, squishy miles just 4 days before, I was only 4 seconds behind my PR and feeling great. So I've repeated the phenomena for the past week, running rarely and only at the local races.
This idea that distance slows you down is bunk. Next, I ran the Northampton 5k course, a tough and hilly trail race, effortlessly cracking the 20:00 where I thought that was impossible. Returning to the Elks for our last race of the season, I ran my tail off to keep up with Spencer and Kathy. Spencer and I began the season neck and neck, and he's finishing now almost a minute ahead of me. Kathy shows up to set a new age group record each week. Spence took off in the last half mile as usual, and I hung on with Kathy as best I could to peel 23 seconds off my PR with a time of 19:19. I could barely hiss my race number to Dick at the finish, as I'd forgotten to pin it on, never have I been so out of breath. This was a great way to end the season, and I was truly overwhelmed by my accomplishments this week. I felt fast on my feet, and also had a successful week at school. 
Prior to all of this, the top position in the Grand Prix had belonged to me for a few races and by a huge margin. The Series is scored with a handicap involved based on an average race pace from the previous year, so you sort of race against your past success. Racing against myself next year is shaping up to be a real grind, now. I see no reason to back down or ease up though, and will just go for it at Conway. The course is hilly, not a flat spot on it, so I don't know what the pace will wind up being, probably well under 7. Hopefully there will be a crowd and some good race competition in the hills.
Pisgah was a real success, and to pick back up on the short stuff with more speed is a real blast. I know I also need some longer slow stuff, and will try to do that with my son tomorrow, on a bike path, if the weather holds. I need to get out and run, just to be outdoors. With work beginning at 3:45 AM, and the day at school happening in the basement of STCC, it seems I never see the sun. I miss that. The big challenges at Pisgah were keeping my mental focus positive, and that's an issue here across the board over the long haul. For the moment though, and despite looming armageddon, in school, work, and running things are clicking and its a ton of fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tomorrow, I'll run my first Ultra-Marathon. The Pisgah 50k was suggested to me as a good first 50k, 31 miles of rolling singletrack. There shouldn't be much in the way of harrowing cliffs or tumbled boulders, just a lot of roots and cushy pine needles. Tomorrow, there may be rain and fog and darkness. My training is pretty good, for the time if not the distance, and certainly for the terrain. I'm in fairly good shape despite being stressed out after 2 months of a new job and 2 weeks of college. 
This will be the biggest factor, I have been sleeping poorly and not enough. The actual drain of school this past two weeks is incredible. Same thing as it was 10 years ago, but it is 10 years later. The job may actuallly be good conditioning, handling about 400 packages a day for FedEx, but the day starts there at quarter to 4, AM. I've trained through this though and been successfull. I know generally how to feed myself and pace the run.
I have laid out the following supplies: 
     2 handhelds with 20 oz. water.
     2 gel flasks with 5 oz. vanilla gel, these I'll carry on my waist in holsters.
     2 single servings of Orange and 2 single servings of Espresso gel, (with caffine) I'll carry these in the pouches of my handhelds.
     5 slices of dried mango, no added sugar, in a ziplock for one pocket.
     40 Endurolyte electrolyte capsules, in a ziplock for the other pocket.
I'm wearing shorts with those pockets, Inov8 305's with gaiters, and I may wear a shirt. It could be a rainy day and a layer does help with warmth in the wet.
A 9 - 10 minute pace across the gently rolling terrain may slide toward 12 overall in these hills. I don't expect to be out there past 6 hours though. I will be prepared with all of that on my person, in the event that does happen. There is water, at least, every 4 miles. Quite an interesting crowd will be in attendance. I am carpooling with Nick and Amy from Mt. Washington. Bob Sharkey and Sherpa John will be there as well. There was talk from Jay D. and Shin, that they might tackle their first ultras there tomorrow as well. We shall see. All is laid out and so will I, time to hit the hay!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I encourage you to wander onto the sidebar of my website. The tiled images there lead to various non-mainstream points of view on non-running topics, as well as my local running club. Many raise unpopular concerns. Some of these sites deal with the attacks of September 11th, 2001, health problems of our heros, and political problems that persist since that day.
Open dialogue is hard wired into this great country, 'We the People', one button shows the text of our Constitution. Another leads to a video by Ron Paul, instructing his supporters after McCain secured the party nomination. 'What do you think about the United States of America?' My cousin and his friends travelled the world asking people this question and filming the world's response. They created an award winning documentary from the footage, called 'The Listening Project'. It is a great film, about America, in the voice of the rest of the world as common people exercise what we call, 'Freedom of Speech'. This is a new link and I hope you follow it.
Everyone can agree, 7 years ago a terrorist attack aimed directly at our liberty was felt the world over, war soon began. I am posting this in honor of those that fell on that day, to honor those heroes who answered the call and now fight for their own lives, and for those that continue the fight for our Liberty and for Justice. God Bless America!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Five.. Four.. Three.. Two.. One.. PISGAH!!!

Five days away, four from tomorrow morning, ahh the anxiety is building before the Pisgah 50k. I've tapered through an injury this past week. My back is acting up and the first weeks of college since I left 7 years ago have exhausted me. This week will be less mileage than the 31.5 at Pisgah. I'll only run a couple times in the next few days. Tonight it is already dusk, but I'll go out for this run. Carrying a flashlight and a water bottle, I'll summit Mt. Tom. This has become my new home, close to home. I used to run primarily around where I worked, but have not scouted any new training grounds in Chicopee and Springfield where work and school bring me. This should be my last hilly run, mountainous run. Mt. Tom is rugged enough to be called a Mountain though it is really a low ridgeline.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Extended Holiday

Fed Ex takes a day off today, it seems. There was no announcement about this and I was pissed off when I showed up for work today at 3:45 AM to find an empty parking lot. Our 3rd shift is operated on a skeleton crew and very informally, but a friggin note with my paycheck would have been nice. So, they'll be geting a firm line from me from now on, I'll take on more responsibility only with more $$. No more reckless, limitless work-ethic enthusiasm for them. For Mt. Tom, however, I will give a couple hours of my time. The sun rises there in 20-30 minutes.

I'm going to start at 141, and run the course backwards. At the windmill, above the ski trail, I'll make a trip down for the awesome view of the sunrise. Not sure if the camera will accompany me but I'll if it's possible shortly. Coming back up to rejoin the M+M on the escarpment at the cell towers, this adds 3 miles to the course and over 1000' of climbing.
My legs feel pretty good this morning. I was very sore yesterday from the Wapack race. That was a very competetive run, the distance is right for me right now. I almost got dehydrated in the last 4 miles and pulled it together with courage to drink my water bottle dry. That was an issue after puking on Mt. Tom due to over-hydration. In any case, only a couple people passed me late in the race. The course seemed so easy compared to 3 months ago, at the MorFun version. I stayed within a minute of the last guy to paas me and noticed he was wearing bib number 1, afterwards. I don't think he was the previous winner, but maybe the record holder and definitely the race-director. This was the guy who gave the pre-race breifing at the starting line, Paul Funch. Well I'd hate to miss much of this sunrise, off I go.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wapack Trail Race

That's right, yet another race on the Wapack Trail. Sunday, we start at the Windblown X-C Ski Area and do an out and back to the Ashburnham trailhead. This is the tougher section of the trail, over New Ipswich's steep hills. As last tempo run before Pisgah, it is a quite a bit hillier but a very good workout. I feel I should run this fast, as the distance is well within my range. On this course, fast would be 3:30:00 and a decent run through bonk or other issues in 4 hours. Knowing the terrain now, the hills are very steep, but there is a nice section to stretch your legs on past Binney Pond, at mile 4, and a long downhill making for a faster return to Binney from mile 11. 
I am psyched to return to this trail after the first pass in May. There is quite a season of running in between which includes some of the toughest races shorter than a marathon in this area. Ed and I covered a longer distance with almost as much climbing last weekend on the M+M, at about an 11:00 pace.  That involved slower terrain than Wapack offers, so maybe I can surprise myself and break 12:00 per mile.  He and I also ran Ecarpment, which is only a little longer but twice the climbing, and that took 4:30:00.  It is very hard to gauge these things analytically, but I feel breaking 4 should be easy.  I'll be wearing my new 30 lap Timex, maybe some exact split times might aid my judgement.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

M+M athon Trail Report

In 2006 with a camera in my pocket, I set out to hunt the aftermath of a forest fire in hills behind Ashley Reservoir. Expecting to get some exciting pictures and video, I also discovered trailrunning. I'd return again and again to document re-growth after the fire and map my way along longer and longer trail runs. I soon discovered the white blazed M+M trail. Learning that it followed the Ridgelines from Connecticut to Grand Monadnock Mountain in NH, I was fascinated. Not only did it pass within a few miles of my home and work, but it began in Southwick just a mile from the house I grew up in. My running and mapping activities gradually covered the distance between my childhood home and present address in Easthampton. As my mileage goals increased I began to do the math to map longer runs and made the fateful discovery. The distance between that trailhead near my childhood home and the natural barrier of the Connecticut river was just over 26 miles. 
I had found a marathon. This run would not be possible though, without support to drive end to end. This year I began casting about for people to join me. Fielding the idea around the post-race crowd at the Elks, I found others who had hiked it or ran it for various reasons of their own. My training load seemed to be able to support it this summer, and about mid-August I was ready and able to do it. Ed Buckley was interested and had run this length of trail before with another group of runners. He was familiar with the various challenges of the course, the river crossing, certain challenging and hard to access sections. He would be the only one to answer the call this time around with a definite date. The morning of August 22nd would be the day. With this established, other's interest peaked for a possible repeat later this season. It was exciting to finally have a marathon on my calendar, I almost even tapered for it.
Both Ed and I cross this course on our commutes to work and dropped water at a couple points. We met at the finish end around 9:15 and drove to the start, dropping water off at a couple more points. In hindsight we missed on opportunity to drive water in, down Cherry St. in the WMA, and it would have avoided some dehydration. With the other 4 points covered, we arrived and started shortly after 10 AM. This was a little late, and beginning earlier on this scorcher of a day would again have avoided some dehydration. The course is mostly deep in the woods, but tends to pop out on rocky escarpments after its most difficult terrain and bake you in the sun. Dehydration would figure heavily into the last stage of the run.
The first leg went smoothly. The trails were pretty simple to follow with rolling climbs up to Provin Mtn. I was treated to some recaps of past runs of the trail by Ed. Both of us managed to stay upright while crossing the Westfield river. My split coming into the parking lot at Route 20 was 1:08, which is just under 11:00 pace. Ed remarked after the River that it was just what he needed, after the stinging nettles. I didn't notice the nettles until they were burning a half mile past the river. We were soon climbing steadily on the trail again, headed toward some of the slower terrain of the M+M.
I call the bogs below Bear Hole Reservoir, 'Dagobah', they are a test of character. Luckily the water from our stormy summer has long since run off, this would have been an entirely different run 2 weeks earlier. There was a sort of jungle atmosphere, with bird calls in the stillness and moss covered forest ruin choking the ravines. Across the swamp is a daycamp, and voices of children at play would occasionally drift over. This is one of those sections of the M+M where the terrain and trail condition is very tough, and is criss-crossed by much nicer ATV trails. The whole section around Bear Hole is very overgrown and interrupted by brief briar patches. These absurd demands end abruptly at the Mass Turnpike, and the trail follows right beside the major highway traffic for a quarter mile. We came to Old Holyoke Road at Bush Notch, the next water stop, at 2:02 where we took about 10 mintues to refuel and fill up our bottles. Accounting for time refilling water, etc. we'd kept our pace below 11:00 for the first 11 miles of rolling terrain, now the hills would begin.
The trail climbs to the ridgeline from Bush Notch immediately, dips and climbs again. After two little powerhike, we were running along the rolling ridgeline. The fighters at from Barnes were in the air at a distance from us. This leg of the trail would be the most runnable terrain remaining, and we kept up a steady pace past the half-way mark towards 202. My 47:09 split for this 4 mile section includes the 5-10 minutes at the water stop, so just over 3 hours into the run we were moving at a good clip. The next section is about 5 miles and took well over an hour. Here the trail winds through the broken ridgeline across a slope of boulders, down a ravine choked with blow-downs, and up an exposed escarpment with incredible views. The rocks here reminded Ed of Massanutten. One of the blazed trees had blown down, which was enough to get me disoriented. We searched for an alternate route when I felt lost. Ed wound up heading off where I had turned back, which actually was the 'trail' after all. "The one thing Escarpment is lacking is a section like this", he says. All of that accounts for half the distance to route 141, and brings us to the Holyoke Revolver Club in the Cherry St. Wildlife Management Area (WMA). 
For future reference, a jug of water where Cherry St. dead ends at the gun club would avoid dehydration crossing that tough terrain. After all the pace changes that the terrain had forced upon us, we cambe back to a decent pace through the WMA and over the last hills of the East Mountain range. With a bone-dry bottle in hand, I hauled out the Water Jug I'd stashed behind the stone gates opposite the Whiting Reservoir entrance. We'd reached Route 141 in 1:07, about 13:30 pace. Ed took a seat and caught his breath for a while which gave me too much time to catch up on my hydration. Here I actually ran out of endurolytes, the electrolyte capsules I use. After about 20 minutes I went to top off my bottle before leaving and it was almost empty again. I'd drank about 20 oz. of water. Ed, just 20 minutes ago admitting he was getting his butt kicked, proceeded to leave me behind as we ran up 141 and kept up a very brisk pace toward Mt. Tom. I could not keep up with him at all, but gave it my best effort. About 20 feet into the more serious slope of Mt. Tom, I was brought up short by my stomach. It was evidently time to water the trail, as I puked everything I'd just drank.
The weather was really hot and it was very tough to see all that fluid just drain into the dirt. I felt better than I had, but any attempt to exert myself beyond a brisk walk left me nauseous and dizzy for the next 45 minutes or so. I was determined to get moving again though and try to finish. At the top of Mt. Tom, another call of nature left me glad I carried some TP. Ed really tried to talk me down the road. He was patient as I stubbornly refused to take that route and shuffled along. Before the water stop I had felt a bit dehydrated, and my right ear was popping when I tried to breath through my nose. This are my warning signs of trouble. At our last opportunity on the run to rest and refuel I had done more harm than good.
Sipping and Hiking across the escarpment of Mt. Tom, I felt very wiped out. The problem with my ear and nasal passage was completely obnoxious. Breathing was quite a chore and it was awhile before I could do anything resembling a 'powerhike'. At this pace we were just roasting out on the open rock of Mt. Tom's escarpment. It wasn't until we passed the cell towers on the Deadtop peak that I could run at all. I could drink again, but we faced another problem. We were taking a long time with a short water supply. I remembered the water fountain at the Notch, and this became something to focus on. I was running again, but slowly and with rests atop each major climb. About 23 miles into a tough trail run on a hot day, I had my legs under me again. There wasn't such a need to rest atop Goat Peak and Dry Knoll, but I was obviously holding Ed back. He stayed close by the entire way, until the last downhill. All told, this disastrous last 7.5 mile leg took 2:37, that's almost a 21:00 pace. Reaching Underwood Ave, I was glad it was done. I ran the sunlit areas and walked in the shade to the car.
After re-mapping this, I've logged 27 miles in 7:09. That is my longest run yet by an hour, and first Marathon distance. We climbed at least 4250' and kept up a great pace until Mt. Tom and my stomach problems. I am completely satisfied having finished the course, keeping to the M+M the whole way. A few others expressed an interest in doing this sometime in the future, and despite the tough break I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to run this course. Ed assured me that the Pisgah 50k would be a piece of cake after this run. He's done a bunch of 100's over the years, the toughest, so this comment says a lot about the difficulty of the M+M. The terrain was actually easier to cover than ever any time I've run it, and despite all the walking on Mt. Tom, I am confident in the training benefit. This run cannot be done solo, and Ed gets my sincere thanks for taking it on and having patience with me. A couple days later I'm confident that more water and drinking slowly but steadily would have completely avoided my problems. The whole thing could be done in 6 hours with no stomach issues and quicker water stops. This weekend I'll return to the Wapack Trail and expect to be able to crank up the pace a notch from my effort in May, over the 17.5 mile course, last tempo run before Pisgah on the 14th of September.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The M+M-athon is ON!

Before 9 AM we will rendevous at the finish area, the Oxbow's boat launch, and drive down to the start, dropping what supplies are necessary.  The temps will most likely start climbing soon after we start, into the 80's, from a humid but cool morning.  The skies are foercast to be clear, but we'll be well shaded for 90% of the run so that should not be an issue.  I will be looking at a possible 6 -7 hour experience here.  Late in the run, the terrain will become very slow and wear on the feet. These will be feet that crossed a river, early in the race.  This should present the major challenge, all the fueling and hydration issues should be well supplied by what we drop along the route. 
The one person who answered the call for this run with me is a seasoned ultra runner in my running club.  Everyone has their story about running with Ed.  Our last excursion together was to Escarpment, lightning and hail in the Catskills of NY.  He has run this trail before with friends of his, training for 50 - 100 mile races.  I've run each section multiple times, and will be following the white blazes of the M+M exclusively.  That should prevent a repeat of the other club member's stories, such as  20 mile runs that became 25 ...etc.  Of course, I did wind up with a serious puncture wound the last time I ran one section of this trail, so anything is possible.  Ed and I are well matched for pace and fitness right now, and we should have a great time.  The Metacomet ridgeline's views and unique geology are often breathtaking, regardless of the miles underfoot.
This is still an open event for anyone lurking out there, I have a hit counter and know there are visitors.  I was attracted to this particular run for the opportunity to accomplish a marathon distance trail run and to experience a distinct section of this historic trail in a single effort.  The M+M trial is now a national scenic trail, it has its own rich history.  This is evident when you first put your feet into that 12-18 inch singletrack trench on the ridgeline.  It has given many a runner a unique training opportuntiy to bring to other courses and competitions, the real draw is to be a part of that history.  Anyone who can meet at the Oxbow on Route 5 around 9 AM is welcome to join us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

M+M Trail Marathon, Aug 22

This is an open invitation to run a marathon distance point-to-point run on the M+M Trail. The run is mapped below on 3925' of climbing over 26.25 miles. It is most likely a bit longer and taller than that, there is the Westfield River to cross, and lots and lots of rocks. We'll run across the river at mile 6. My time expectations are to take it slow on the climbs and try to finish in 6 1/2 - 7 hours.

Rising Corner to Westfield River via Provin Mtn.
The M+M begins on the CT/MA state line, midway along Rising Corner Road in Southwick, MA. It crosses a field on a farm road, crosses a marsh on a raised walkway, and follows mixed singletrack / ATV up the ridgeline. Cross a cleared utility corridor at mile 1. Appoaching Route 57, watch the white blazes closely. There is an archery range with many cross trails, and the M+M will actually cross a residential backyard and driveway before reaching the road.
Bear left toward the main road, boulders line the entrance to a quarry where the M+M continues. The quarry gate marks mile 2. After a long rolling climb, the trail emerges on an esposed ridge before the summit and Channel 22 transmitter towers. The trail briefly follows the access road before leaving to the left, for rocky singletrack. The trail emerges from the woods on an ATV trail into a field below the Kelly Hill Reservoir. Follow the worn path and sparse blazes, keeping the retaining wall of loose rocks on your right. After re-entering the woods, a brief uphill on a stone stairway marks mile 5. The trail emerges into a junction of various cleared utility corridors and ATV trails. Follow the utility corridor to the left briefly, white blazes will take you back into the woods after 50 yards or so. Soon the trail crosses Feeding Hills Road.
Blazes along the ridgelline will lead down to the banks of the Westfield River. There is an old wooden box for a hiker's log, mounted on a tree before the river crossing. A tree with a white blaze is visible across the river. Still waters run deep.

Westfield River to Bush Notch, between the Lane Quarry and Bear Hole Reservoir
The possibilities for trail description are amazing. The Google 'Street View' function of their map service actually makes it possilble to see all the trailheads, where they leave the road. So, I've described the last section in detail. This section is riddled with details. Basically, the M+M trail here is an overgrown rabbit run through a briar patch reached by a stretch I like to call 'Dagobah'. It is blazed well, and you will stagger along from blaze to blaze as you bypass several much more runnable ATV trails. Do not run where you can't see the footing, sharp sticks can penetrate amazingly deep into your calf.

Bush Notch to Route 202 via East Mtn. Ridgeline
Spectacular views.

Route 202 to 141 via East Mountain Ridgeline and Cherry Street WMA
Sharp rocks, and lots and lots of blow-downs. 

Route 141 to Oxbow via Mt. Tom Escarpment
September 14th, I'm plannig to run the Pisgah Mtn. 50k. This M+M run would be my only marathon distance run before that Ultra. The terrain gets very slow and challenging, so there is no pressure to run fast. 15:00 average pace is reasonable, 13:00 with inspiration on the downhills. Current plans are to head out early Friday morning, August 22nd. Please post a comment or e.mail if interested or if you have any questions!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ashley Reservoir, Holyoke

I used to call this my home turf. My workplace was just around the corner and I started running here, after discovering it as a good place for a long walk. Now, I no longer work nearby and just show up on Thursdays, for the weekly 5k. That's not entirely true, I show up weekly to run both the 5k and the summit run mapped above. I miss being close by, but the reservoir is only 30 seconds from route 91 and thereby accessible from anyplace. My current part-time work is in Chicopee, at FedEx, by the Westover Air Force Base. At the end of the month, I'll be a student again at STCC, in Springfield. Maybe there is new territory to stake out in that area. I am slowly becoming used to the workload, loading FedEx trucks, and the 4AM start time. Running after work is far, far from my mind these days. 
Almost time to head out for the weekly race. I haven't run since Monday, the long run. I bonked pretty hard, but dealt with it well instead of totally crashing. Experience seems to benefit both physically and mentally in this situation. The PB&J didn't work all too well. The terrain I chose to run was much too tough, too broken up with impossible footing. Running the M+M reversed from normal was really cool, better views. Worse than the bonk and the footing was the spiders, crashing into a dozen enormous nasty webs full of dead bugs and spiders. I freaked out for the first 5-7 of them. I need a long run with sustained RUNNING now, so I'll try to get in another long one next week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Long Mount Tom & Rock Valley M+M Loop

Long run on my day off, from the Oxbow to Rt. 202 and back, for about 22 miles and approx. 4000' of climbing. Unfortunately, the USGS isn't serving up elevations for my new routes, so no exact elevation data. I have to go buy fuel, lame. An ultra-event is officially on my schedule, Pisgah 50K, and I'm going to modify my fueling during training. Instead of this Perpetuem mix I've been using, my fuel will include FOOD! I'm stashing gels and a PB+J on the route today, possibly a banana. Escarpment went well with the perpetuem, but I also used a couple gels and appreciated how easy they were to simply slurp and go. Perpetuem, carried as a dry powder, has to be mixed and drank over a period of time. When I need calories, I want them in my belly immediately.
Also, I'm not convinced anymore by the arguments for protein on the run. What is needed by the body is a complete amino acid supply to build protein from. I was recently reminded of this by one of Tim VanOrden's videos, and plan to incorporate more these ideas into my fueling/eating strategies on long runs. He's run all the Mountain races and there are great posts detailing the courses at that youtube link. For about 6 years, I was vegetarian/vegan. The motivations were purely nutritional and based on my needs as a student getting little sleep and working long sedentary hours. These approaches benefit mostly by keeping digestion simple and efficient, a major issue in distance running.

Incidentally, Escarpment was awesome. Toughest terrain I have encountered, no contest. Half way through the 30k, we had a sudden Thunderstorm, complete with 1/4 inch hailstones, high winds, and flash flooding from the torrential downpour. Lighning struck continuously, and near enough to split your eardrums. A tree was struck yards from an aid station, the volunteers were nearly scared to death. I've been saying, it was a blast. The lightning was so close and so frightening, I just started hooting a sort of 'Yee-haw!' each time it struck to counter-act the fear. This got my adrenaline pumping and I passed several people in the last few miles. Managing my fuel well, I had plenty of energy for a darn good race in some of the worst possible circumstances.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Escarpment Trail Run

Sunday morning, Ed and I roll out in the wee hours for North Lake, in the upper Catskills of NY.  The Escarpment Trail run is 18.6 miles, or 30 K, or however long it really is.  Given Ben Nephew's times, and my Grand Tree scoring, I'll shoot for 4 - 4:15.  There is a massive elevation claim for this course, 10,000' total.  If I subtract 4 miles from my Wapack time, I get about 4 hours, then add a bit more for an extra couple thousand feet climbing and descending ... yeah.  If I'm feeling good coming down from Stoppel Point, I could make a dash at breaking 4, however there is litttle likely-hood that I can anticipate the terrain well enough to know what my time means when I'm at Stoppel Point.  It has been weeks since a great race like this and I'm psyched.
If you follow this  blog, maybe you're noticing I have no concern for my recent injury.  Last night, at the Elks, I ran a darn good 5k with a steady tempo+ effort followed by a fast-paced summit cool-down.  The cool down was with Billy Rowe, who doesn't seem to run slow.  Some left leg soreness compensating for the right, which isn't 100%, but I'm confident in my overall fitness.  The 5k was so easy, I feel my fitness is improved a great deal from the time off and enforced core-strengthening I've gotten during my new job, at FedEx.  Ed just called and the plans are set! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Running Again

There is a great deal of stiffness in my ankle, and entire illiotibial band, so it is time to get it all moving and see what happens. Seems I'll have a knot in my muscles for a while and it will keep me from really pushing things, worst problem is that it throws the mechanics of my knee off. At Escarpment this could translate into an injury if I get reckless, so somehow I have to discipline myself on the downhills.
In any case, this Blog will once again focus on mapping future runs. What a great dumping ground for race-report yammering it has been. The woods drew blood last week, and at the moment this is the only attempt I make to let others know where I'll be. This isn't even close to the level of precaution others take, but it's what I got. Somehow, I will reformat things to make Race Reports more accessible or give my different activities here their own format.
So, today I'll take off for a longer, flat run. Nine miles on the Manhan Rail trail. In all probability it will be cut short because I'll be exhausted by training at 2 new jobs today. I feel I can take a nice slow run at this distance though, and this will be the longest run before Escarpment to jump-start my endurance.

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 Mountain Goat (on a stick?)

This past weekend, I earned my second consecutive Mountain Goat jersey. After the Ascutney race, all of us who ran all six races were handed a congradulatory letter with the following statistics about what we did:
 • Approximately 35 Race Miles over 8 weeks
 • 11,987 Feet of Elevation Ascended
 • 5,100 Feet of Elevation Descended
 • Completed by less than 60 people annually
 • Earned a Mt. Washington Lottery bypass for 2009
Later in the week, when official results were posted, I was honored to find my name among the following 'streakers':
 • Fred Ross III 24 consecutive finishes 2005-2008
 • Ray Boutotte 21 consecutive finishes 2005-2008
Others of note:
 • 18 Consecutive (2006-2008) Todd Brown, Thomas Parker, Richard Stockdale
 • 13 Consecutive (2006-2008) Tim Mahoney, Walter Kuklinski
 • 12 Consecutive (2007-2008) Christopher Corradino, Mike McKenna, James Whitehouse, Joseph McGuigan, Kevin Eaton, Lincoln Cox, Richard Mellor, Lisa Doucett, Kathy Hurst
After the race awards and descending the mountain, we all lined up for several group pictures which I'll try to post if they become available. There was an incredible number of hands in the air, answering the question, 'How many are first time Goats?' I saw how rare it was to have done the last two consecutive series, and was surprised.  Even before finishing 2008, a Mountain Goat Jesey in 2009 has been a goal in mind. It would be a shame to miss the lottery for the 2010 Mt. Washington Road Race, at its 50th anniversary running.
The next race on my personal schedule is the Escarpment Trail Run. This is a treacherous ridgeline course in the upper Catskills of NY. It may be the next race I run. I'll have competed in a race every single day that I have run in July, with one exception. This past Tuesday, rather than run the commute to and from, and race at the Northampton 5K, I decided to get in one last long run. About 6 miles into the East Mountain Complete Course, on the M+M behind Bear Hole Reservoir, I was brought to an abrupt halt by a blown down tree.
The M+M is incredibly overgrown behind Bear Hole Reservoir. Passing through the worst of the ever-present briar patches on that stretch, I rolled my ankle pretty bad and almost stopped the run. I was over-running the visibile footing, just as it's easy sometimes to over-drive your headlights on the road.  A quarter mile later, moving at a good clip through light underbrush, I swung my right leg foward right into the end of a blown down tree. The end of this tree, hidden from view, was very jagged and punctured my shin in sevaral places. This happened beside to the shinbone, in the fleshy muscle along the outside of my leg.  The wood was stopped by the fibula bone, where it is still sore. Blood quickly soaked my sock, and all I had with me were my shoes, shorts, and water bottles. It was a ridiculous situation, 5 or 6 miles from my car, 2 miles at least from any real road, 2 weeks since I was laid off and my health insurance ran out.
It didn't hurt too much, but was obviously a serious puncture wound. While I considered the possibility of using my shoelace as a tourniquet, the bleeding slowed and I chose to make a run back to the car by the shortest route possible.  Via atv trails and closed roads I knew from maps, I was fairly certain of a straight shot back to Ashley Reservoir. Adrenaline and other survival mechanisms of my body must have been in play, as the bleeding stopped within a minute of running again. I brought myself to a walk at the reservoir, three miles later, and the bleeding began again. Also the pain got much worse and I was hobbling by the time I was back at the car. I would have benefitted from a trip to the ER, but decided against it. At Rite Aid, I bought some pressuized sterile saline 'Wound Wash' spray, iodine solution, butterfly strips and krazy glue just in case.
I didn't go crazy (didn't use the glue), and the wound had closed up while butterfly-ed overnight. I could not walk Wednesday morning, and had to cancel my newspaper delivery for the day. The tree had passed through some part of my muscles and the bone was tender. Thursday I was walking with a minimal limp, and today, Friday, I'll do some light work. Hopefully, with a few more days off, I'll be able to return to running and do a enough to prepare me for Escarpment. My training base is pretty solid, and I'll be ramping up my core strengthening exercises in the meantime. The serious worry I have, is that the mechanics of my right leg are going to be worse. It is my weakest leg and my knee bothers me often because of previous injuries and imbalances I already have. This new injury will not improve the situation and might require some focussed recovery work. Only time will tell. The wound itself doesn't look half as bad as it seemed on the trail, 4 miles from my car.  Click this link if you'd like to see an annotated scan of the wound.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Running of the Goats

Tomorrow, at the Ascutney Mountain Run, I will finish my second Mountain Series. What a grueling season it has been. By choice, I've made it tougher and hopefully will see some benefits in two weeks at the Escarpment Trail Run, in the upper Catskills of NY. Granted, a year later I've trained like crazy for these races and only seen a couple minutes come off a couple races. Training like crazy of course is not accurate, choosing a couple clear strategies I methodically stuck to a plan. Looking back just before getting my second 'Mountain Goat' jersey tomorrow, I see that I'm a much different runner. 
Loon Mountain, last week, was a very successful day. After 3 hours in my car, the Whites were rising into the crisp morning air. Finding a rest stop called, 'Beaver Creek', I had a good stretch and shortly thereafter rolled into Lincoln. Passing Loon, I continued on to scout out the Trailhead where the Pemi-Challenge 50k had begun awhile before. The Lincoln Woods trailhead had a parking lot with facilities and a fee, as well as a visitors center. The Mountains were gorgeous, towering spines and ridges. Returning back to Loon, I passed a couple familiar faces. Looking like total tourists, Dave Dunham and Tim VanOrden were taking wide shots of the Loon Mountain signage. They parked right next to me, incredibly talented masters runners with wide smiles and tons of energy. The weather looked great, if a potential scorcher, and I had plenty of shady trail mileage down the road to look forward to later on. 
It was a scorcher indeed. We were all exposed to it while powerhiking the relentless slope of Upper Walking Boss. Turning around for a couple backward steps now and then, I got an eye-full of the Pemi-Loop course. If you'd have told me that I was heading up there next, I'd have to catch my breath so I could laugh in your face. Within the hour though, that is exactly where I was headed. After taking in the views at the top of Loon, more eye candy on a solitary gondola ride down, after grabbing a few bagels I found no reason to linger and was soon settling in at Lincoln Woods. There weren't any obvious runner vehicles, no 26.2 stickers or gear logos. The RD's car was noticeable though, a vanity plate that had to belong to Sherpa John LaCroix. With the heat and the Finger Lakes Ultra races the same day, I wondered if he was the only one running this.
As planned, my entire water-carrying capacity was soon on my person and I swaggered into the Visitor Center. The lady at the desk was very polite and showed me their detailed map, with each leg of the trails measured. Knowing now which way to go (or so I thought), I struck out across the Pemigewasset and toward Osseo Trail. Online forum chatter suggested an easy run here would be 10-13 hours. The race started at 6:30, so I figured I might see someone if I ran about 2 hours in. At that point, if they were in dire need of water or a gel, I'd oblige and follow them back. 
The Osseo trail proved to be very runnable. The sense of remote wilderness was only interrupted by a series of boulder-staircase switch-backs, the gradual incline kept me moving quickly for about 45 minutes. Then began the most grueling ascent of the day. It was hot, and steep. Still sort of in race-mode, I was powerhiking steadily. At about an hour and a half I drank my newest concoction, a rich mix of perpetuem and half a raspberry gel. Very tasty, but I made a total mess. The 'Osseo Ladders' I'd read about were soon passing underfoot, very odd planting my foot on the euclidian shapes of telephone poles atop each staircase 'ladder'. Ascending that, and joining the ridgeline trail, the next climb soon began up a pile of roots and boulders, Loon was nothing compared to this! 
The clock was ticking toward my Mt. Washington Road Race time, as I passed a family on their hike. The young girl actually said, 'That man is carrying a ton of water!', and dad replies, 'Oh, he'll need it alright!' This as I bounded on past up the near vertical slope, sure of a summit ahead. Popping up top between a couple boulders, there were about 20 hikers, backpacks and the whole nine yards greeting me with bemused looks. Having put on my shirt due to the breeze, I was still comparatively naked carrying only water and assorted calories. Looking past the hikers, my jaw hung and eyes gaped in awe at the endless procesion of crests and valleys surrounding me. If there wasn't company I'd probably have cried. 
I was on top of the world. This was my second summit of the whites, but stripped of all the civilized trappings at Mt. Washington this experience was utterly humbling and awesome. Doing some math I now figured these trails were way too technical and the weather too severe for an unsupported run under 12 or 13 hours at the outside. My math may have been way off, but I was correct in assuming I would definitely be running alone. I hung around quite a bit taking in the vista before gazing across the impossible distance to the next peak. People had been discussing the peaks surrounding them, but I couldn't follow being completely ignorant of their names. The thrill of it all had me completely re-juevenated and giddily barreling down the Mountain toward the next summit.
The ridge wasn't too far down and the climb not so bad to the next peak. There I found fewer hikers, but an interesting crowd. There was one dude by himself with his laptop. I watched pick it up and point it toward the surrounding peaks, so I assume he was taking pictures. It was like some weird cafe atop both of these 4000'ers. I sat down, had my second batch of perpetuem and took stock of the situation. Judging by the shape of the ridgeline, Lincoln was 2 summits away. I was halfway through my water supply and couldn't go any further. Lincoln seemed way beyond the reach of my supplies, but not my legs. I couldn't imagine carrying enough water, but it was easy to imagine a case of summit fever taking me there. I sat and pondered, thoroughly stretched out and began to head back.
Where my energy was coming from, I don't know. Obviously this new perpetuem recipe was keeping me moving. I ran where possible, most of the way between summits. Already there was a smaller crowd at what I'd learn was Flume. Everyone was in groups, it seemed awkward to be alone, then really strange to be socially concerned on a wilderness mountain top. Taking in my last views of the day from above 4000', I set off down the boulders at a run. Now, this was over 12 miles into my day and I was still strong enough to discover new technique on the uber-technical descent.
I ran down stuff that was mind bogglingly difficult and then decided to enforce a break back on the Osseo ladders. It is still up in the air to me whether the break was necessary or premature, as my mental focus after relaxing down the stairs was shot. Past the ladders I couldn't run 5 minutes without catching a root. Crashing into a tree, I decided to walk the rest of the technical sections. Calories may have helped, but my water was running low and a gel meant drinking more. I downed a couple endurolytes and high-salt joint supplements, rationing my water the rest of the way.
Once the trail flattened out I ran the rest carefully, breaking for the boulder switchbacks. There was no energy left to acknowledge any of the many groups of people I passed on the old rail trail back to the bridge. It was still quality running, focussed on an efficient stride. Back at my car I was definitely dehydrated. After guzzling some Smart Water and mixing a recovery drink, I went back down to the cool waters of the Pemi and soaked for about ten minutes.
The car with HIKE4KS on the plate was undisturbed, so I knew Sherpa at least was still out there. At the Visitor Center, I was too fried to read the map. With some help I determined I made it as far as Liberty. The mythic significance of this achievement on 4th of July weekend overwhelmed my depleted/elated brain. I decided to chill out for at least an hour before driving home. This would give me a chance to come back down to earth and possibly cross paths with Sherpa and/or others I'd only known on internet forums. I got myself changed, packed up and ready to go, then headed to town for some beer. I brought a 24 oz. handheld of Long Trail and a couple PB+J's to the bridge over the Pemi where I expected any finishers to cross and filled my belly. 
Soon enough, about 5:30 to be exact, three loping runners with camelbacks came along, crossed the bridge and immediately submerged themselvs in the Pemi's current. They admitted to having finished the 50k, and I was stunned. I was even more surprised to learn that they started at about 7:30 am, and had run the loop in less than 11 hours despite heat and humidity. One face I recognized, Bob Mathes and I crossed paths at Wapack 50 (where I ran a paltry 21 miles).
Finishing my PB+J, I started a conversation with another runner wearing a Loon T-Shirt. This was Bob Sharkey, who said he was edged out of his age division by Paul Bazanchuk (though he had a good 8 minutes on me). He seemed to know all these guys, so I was able to get the names straight. It was Bob Mathes, Tim Roy who did the 42 at Wapack, and Joe Holland. Very humbling company.  Also gathered from their chit-chat was the fact that I had run the beginning of the course, so there never was any hope of being any help to anyone but myself. We soon went our separate ways, and I was getting ready to climb in my car when a kid in a red hat began making his way across the parking lot. This was Sherpa John, RD for the event, trailing by about 20 minutes across those soaring peaks and grueling climbs.
Once again, like at Wapack, I knew the terrain these guys had run to some extent, first-hand. Once again I was struck dumb in the face of what they'd accomplished in their day. The more I consider that, the more I feel the need to get out there and find out what is possible. All the while I listened to their account of the day, hikers with big sleeping rolls were heading out onto the trails. To enjoy the landscape these guys had just traversed involves a span of days, for most people. Sherpa John had a whole batch of pictures posted that same night, taken during the run and testifying to just how enjoyable those peaks are, even at their pace. Later in the week, I'd peek into the running log of Bret Sarnquist, who I saw win the Wapack 50. He had stopped by the next day to run the course, unsupported and presumably alone, in a blistering 8:14.
My brief experience of the Pemi-Loop, though it took me 4 hours, didn't seem long enough, these Whites are like Disneyland. Loon was great and I'll be very proud of my accomplishment tomorrow as a 'Mountain Goat', but I can see the training I did to get here carrying me further to new goals. I can imagine, foolishly, running 50 miles. A 50k is definitely in the plans though, and more training runs to explore the demands of 5-10 hours at a steady clip.  This is simply where my interest lies (as I write this, I'm following the Hardrock 100 where Kyle Skaggs leads the field by hours toward a ridiculous CR - by 2 1/2 hours actually, in 23:23:30, check these photos out). The Loon Mountain Race led to an 18 mile day, where Loon Mtn. was hardly the major climb, so my training has carried me a long way along the road to an ultra. This past week, I'm reaching record mileage running only every other day. I've commuted to 2 5k races, running there and back getting a balanced day of long runs and speedwork. Obviously I'll need to take this interest seriously and train in a more structured fashion to avoid injury, and plant both feet firmly on the road to an ultra (hopefully on a trail). 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pemigewasset Valley Reports

The USATF Mountain Series is a point series of six races ranging in distance from 3.8 - 10 miles, on trail and on road, up grades that can reduce most to a power-hike. As an incentive to complete the series, the Mt. Washington RD, Bob Teschek, offers a lottery bypass to anyone completing all 6 races. Last year I ran them all for the first time and got hooked. This year I've almost done it again, with the addition of Mt. Washington. The Mt. Washington course is 7.6 miles and 4,650' of unrelenting climb, with the last couple miles above treeline. This challenge was a big focus of my training this season, also on the slate was entering Escarpment by qualifying with the MorFun Wapack 21 miler. I knew I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I committed to running all of these races, but that was part of the excitement. The Mt. Washington race is behind me now by a couple weeks, Escarpment is 3 weeks away, and I'm slowly beginning to appreciate what I actually did 'get myself into'.
I began logging my vertical climb each week and set realistic goals to avoid going bananas and getting hurt. With snow on the trails, in January I logged 8,050'. During May, a month before Mt. Washington, I logged 26,300' or almost 5 vertical miles. Another strategy to prepare for Mt. Washington was to run each Mountain race twice. At Mt. Wachusett there is a short trail back down to the start to loosen up on before the repeat. This inspired a more agressive, direct route back up and down Northfield Mtn. for my repeat there. At those races I made it back for the award ceremony, not so at Pack Monadnock. This race finished right on the Wapack Trail, where I'd run a race the month before. A perfect opportunity to hit the trails after a grueling road race brought me back at the very end of the awards and the end of the food. Stinking, struggling vehicles and probably some state law put any repeat of Mt. Washington itself out of the question, (though the award ceremony was long enough to allow it). Mt. Washington had inspired this habit, the need for it seemed to have passed. The next race of course, Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb, was itself a hill repeat. With these approaches and several trail runs of 4+ hours and 20+ miles, I've gained a fair idea how to manage dehydration and calories over tough terrain. Knowing I know enough to be dangerous, I simply prepare for the worst (even if it's only 'One Hill').
This brings the summer recap to last weekend and Loon Mtn., the steepest of the Mountain races, an ascent only race with a gondola ride back down. I never had to consider repeating the 5.7 miles and 2,700' of climbing, though the Gondola would make it a cinch. Right next door, at Lincoln Woods, there was a Fat Ass 50k going on. Fat Ass events are unofficial, mostly unsupported, ultra distance races. There is no special reason to use foul language for them, the crazy ultra people simply do. So, at 6:30 am some number of people met to run the 31.5 miles of the Pemi-loop, trails following the White Mountain ridgeline around the Pemigewasset river valley. I could not ignore this coincidence and ready for a long run, the plan was to extend my day with up to 20 more miles there on that course. Since there may be encounters with withered ultra runners, at 4:30 am I piled into the car with all the fluid carrying capacity I owned and headed north for a 3 1/2 hour drive.
Free stuff was in abundance before the race. Picking up my number I was able to grab about 6 Hammer Gels, free fuel for the afternoon. After a thorough warm up, skies were clear and everyone was fleeing the sun at the starting line, crowding into the rare shady spots. For some reason, Smart Water had a tent set up right there. Odd choice, as the crowd typically gathers at a starting line for 15 minutes and is not going to take much away with them. Their bottles of water were popular though, I would see several in racer's hands going up the hill. I myself snagged a case, as that was the mode of distrubution, and stashed it in the cool waters of the Pemi for later.
I situated myself about three rows back of the crowd, which led to an ideal start. An agressive little lady in fireblades and colorful shorts hopped right in front of me at the start, she had finished just ahead of me in a different fancy pair of shorts at Cranmore. I tried to keep up, but she led me by about 50 yards after the first hill. On that hill began a game with a guy in red shorts that had an agressive run/walk pattern where I was content to run it all. Slowly he'd gap me a few times but I'd catch up. After mile 2 I was only passed by a handful of people. There was a tall older guy, a younger guy with curly hair and heavy beard, and a non descript middle aged dude that formed a pack I stuck within 10 paces of for the second half of the race. On the brief downhill at mile 5 I caught the whole group, except for curly guy. I used a visual run/walk strategy for all the vertical stuff. Several stretches are basically straight up, steepest slopes I've ever run. If there was a visible short relief in the grade, I ran it. Cruising by wilpower alone my powerhiking form was much improved. I was the only one who wanted to run the last switchbacks to the top, which allowed me to catch curly dude right at the crest. He seemed wiped out but I ran my tail off down the hill towards the finish to stay ahead anyway. After the vertical 50 yard dash to the finish I crossed the line over 90 seconds faster than the 2007 edition into cool rain clouds.
The exposed ski trails and access roads were brutal. Even drinking as much as possible at the 2 aid stations I was a little bonky and dehydrated. I chalk this one up as a success, and my favorite race of the bunch. The views at the top were breathtaking, and there was a lookout tower with a map of the peaks you could see. I slurped two gels and took stock of the trails I planned to run. Immediately after the gondola ride down, I went and grabbed 3 bagels to add to my growing pile of race schwag. I retrieved my case of Smart Water and was on the road. The Water was awesome, fortified with non -sodium electrolytes. It filled 2 - 24 oz. handhelds, and also my Nathan waist pack's 22 oz bottle. Each bottle was paired with 2 gels. In the waist pack and clipped onto it were 2 - 5 oz. bottles with perpetuem. I had 9 or ten endurolytes and also 6 of these cheap-o-glucosamine chondroitin supplements from Walmart that have 120 mg sodium per pair. I threaded my new Loon Mtn. shirt over the strap at my waist and the load was quite bearable. My route would head in along the Pemi, then up the Osseo trail to Mt. Flume. I would continue on as many summits as possible with Mt. Lincoln as a goal.
to be continued ...

Loon Mtn. Race RD's blog at
Pemi - Challenge RD's blog at

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Loon & The Pemi-Loop

Fifth race in the series, Loon Mountain. This is 90% uphill with a short respite before the last half mile which remains the steepest sustained climb I've seen. I'm going to run the entire thing before this last half mile. Power hiking is still not my strong suit, but I can build up some steam and this time really stick to a run/walk strategy. Strategy being different from resigning to a walk at points. Then it is a gondola ride down, hope it is a clear day for a a good view and an overview of the Pemi-Loop.
There is a Fat Ass 50k race, an unsupported and unofficial 31+ mile run around the Pemi -Loop, beginning at 6:30 am. If I head out reverse on the course, I can get a few/five hours of running in and possibly cross paths with some ultra-runners I follow on the web. I'll be carrying a lot of extra water to share if any of them are in dire need. I'll actually carry as much as possible for the training experience. Escarpment is less than a month away, and after that I'm running a 50k myself somewhere somehow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

2008 Cranmore Hill Climb

One report is linked in the title to this entry, and my report will follow soon ... (really, it was quite a tale to tell)
... I can't keep up with these mountains! Off to Loon and the Pemi - Loop.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mt. Washington Road Race

Mt. Washington defies any attempt to report on it, but here's a brief attempt a week later.  It was as expected, grueling relentless and an unpredictable performance.  I had never run a race with such complicated logistics, it was quite a production at the base of the mountain.  It was a great time, though a poor time on the clock.  The race whittled my goals down to simply finishing without walking, which I achieved at a pace dipping into 15 minute miles.  
The course was severe and the surroundings sublimely beautiful.  I was fascinated by the environment above treeline.  The very peak of the mountain clung to clouds but 50 feet below at the parking lot we could peer below cloudline into the valley  below.  Though I didn't meet my outside time goal, though the expense in gas and qualifying races is astronomical, I cannot wait to return next year to run this harder.  Though the Mountain presents nothing but a heap of lichen encrusted granite slabs for probably a mile, I intend to run down on the trails next year.  
This race seems impossible at every turn, but is a completely runnable race.  Most every physical complaint I've had while running popped up at some point, but I definitely overestimated the difficulty of this race and psyched myself out.  Maybe I can collect all the reflection on how this race unfolded and how I hope to do in the future in a later post ...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mt. Washington Taper

Half the 2008 Mtn. Series is completed, and with double the climb for me.  May was 7 miles shy of a 200 mile month with over 5 miles of climbing.  The heavy training is past.  I'll race a 10k this weekend, hit Mount Toby or Mt. Tom once this week maybe, and keep fresh with nothing more challenging than East Mtn. at the reservoirs.  Mt. Greylock Half Marathon will  have to wait again, and I will resist the urge to do a 20 miler this week though I don't know why.   Wouldn't a hilly road run be perfect?  Nah, I'm good.
I improved at Wachusett, at Pack we were all a little slower in the heat and there were 2 stops to fix the shoes, but Northfield was much quicker and well run.  At each of these races I did a 'cool down' with as much climbing as the race itself for good measure.  I feel that I don't know my strength on the hills.  Really racing and finding that limit will wait until after Washington, which will be beyond my limits without question.  My toughest training run was at Mt. Tom, 7 repeats and then leisurely along the ridgeline for 20 miles and 6600'.  I have completed the application process for Escarpment Trail Run, 30k and 10,000' of gnarly rigeline trails.  For two weeks now, Mt. Washington can loom on the horizon while I run comfortably within my limits.  I will slowly build up my core workouts, and focus on my breathing when I run.  There is obvious strength gained, my 5k pace is 30 seconds quicker, and it seems I could run forever and anywhere.  
Other aspects of my life demand my attention, sooo loudly.  Here I come.  About time I got a new job, before the current one closes its doors.  Sadly, my son will be travelling for the summer, after Mt. Washington he and I will part for a month.  I have been training with him for a mile long race this coming weekend at Granby Charter Days.  He's learned a lot and had a lot of fun along with the hard work.  I'll miss the daily runs with him, but feel glad I can send him off to visit his relatives with this experience.  It is difficult to envision the month of July, the running goals and new employment challenges, with him at a distance while I will need so much focus.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008 Mountain Series Has Begun

On Saturday, May 24, the Wachusett Mtn. Road Race opened the 2008 Mtn. Series.  In one month will be Mt. Washington, not a race in the series, it is the focus of the work I'll be doing in these first 3 Mtn. Races.  There have been a few hilly races already this year.  D. H. Jones and St. Pat's Race in Holyoke were both good training for these Mtn. Races.  They weren't on my mind at Wachusett.  I had a good race though and a great day, running the course twice to tally 2200' of climb for the day in almost 13 miles of running.  
My mindset was fixed on this as the start of the series.  I ran the race as though it had been 9 months since the last race up a mountain.  Last years series ended 9 months ago, but in fact I had run bona-fide Mtn. races at the Summit Run, and those other hilly races that demanded the same strategies and skills.  Well, with that mindset I was very conservative.  When the course began to roll with plenty of flat and downhill in the first 3 miles, I realized I had missed an opportunity.  Holding my ground  though, I kept up with much of the group that had formed at mile one, and gained ground on the long downhill toward mile 4.  I had a lot more strength to give the race, and when Tom Derderian shouldered past me I responded with it.  The last half mile made up some ground and was a furious sprint to keep Tom behind me, and the last quarter mile more furious thinking of Mt. Washington.  I was totally pumped.  It was a good start, with few real regrets despite my mindset.
After chatting with other runners, I shook a bemused Tom D.'s hand just before he took off.  A group of CMS runners and leaders of the field started their cool down, down the course.  I headed for the other end of the parking lot at the top of the Mountain and found the start of my trail run down.  I got lost, got some direction and found the 'Old Indian Trail' which got me right back to my car in less than 20 minutes.  A lot of fun, with plenty of roots and rocks, hikers.  I took a gel, water and more endurolytes, and was down to the start again in time to see Abby Woods, Dave Dunham, and others just getting to the bottom via road.  My second lap was 40:27, lingering to enjoy the amazing sights and views.  I was back to my car this time in 16 mins. and in time for the Awards ceremony.
Doing 'Doubles' will be a cornerstone of my training for Washington.  This is a pretty crude training strategy, but I'll enjoy it while extending my fitness for the big hill.  After the upcoming Pack Monadnock 10 Miler, I'll double the climb with 7 miles on the Wapack Trail.  An out and back to the North Pack trailhead will be a lot of fun, and I can support it with the drop bag that the Race allows at the summit.  I'll run this race all-out. Fast.  It climbs gradually over the first 7 miles and I'll stay under 7:00/mile for them, shooting for a 1:20.  I'd love to introduce Wapack to others, the Trail run is mapped below:

 I also plan to Run Northfield twice, or a more direct summit run on steeper trails after the race.  In my training this week, will be one massive 20ish run at Mt. Tom.  I'll do other speed work on hills as I get into June.  My mileage has been in the 40's for weeks with increasing climbing.  In May, my vertical climbing may be double April's total.  This is a realistic goal, which I'll try to achieve with the big Mt. Tom run.  Thursday is a pasta night  at the Elks lodge, and I'll forgo my Sunset Summit Cooldown for a heaping portion after the 5k. The 'Mt. Tom Madness' run doesn't seem crazy anymore, though I'm still working on the map.  This will be the big focus of my week before Pack, shooting for 7000' of climbing: