Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This was my first full week of training since the Stone Cat marathon two weeks ago. I feel as though I have recovered adequately so I bumped up the miles this week.
Total Miles: 37
Long Run: 16.9
# of Days: 4
Avg. Miles: 9.2
Trail Miles: 74%
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I picked up Kevin at the T station and we drove over to the Sheepfold parking lot. Mary was already there waiting for us. The sun was shining brightly but it was a very cold morning with temps in the low 20s. The wind was gusting making it feel more like it was in the teens. As Kevin gathered his gear together I stepped outside to talk to Mary. The wind immediately cut through my light-weight tee shirt. I was definitely under dressed for a day like today. I went back inside the truck and changed into a long-sleeved Techwick shirt that is great for cold weather running.
We headed south from the Sheepfold parking lot down to the Reservoir trail which connects to Skyline. Heading in a southerly direction from the lot the trail begins to climb in the first half mile. I feel the southern half of the reservation is the more difficult because it seems to have more elevation changes. Unlike last weekend, the trail was dry and very hard. The previous week’s rain had frozen the soil causing frost heaves in the ground. When you stepped on one of these heaves they would sometimes collapse making for treacherous footing. There were also patches of ice in the shady locations just to make things interesting.
It became evident fairly quickly that following the trail would not be easy. Without any leaves on the trees or vegetation on the ground the forest floor was varying shades of brown. Following the trail as it weaved through trees and over rocks was a difficult task. Each of us took turns leading the way and leading the other two off trail as well. Each of us missed a turn in the first mile alone. This would be the theme of the day and it continued throughout the entire run.
We had been running for about 20 minutes when the trail started to look familiar to me. I didn't really think much of it at the time and continued on. Soon, and much to the surprise of us all, we were back at the Sheepfold lot. Somewhere along the way we unknowingly missed a turn and got completely turned around. We had reversed direction ran back to our starting point completing a 2.5 mile loop. Far short of the 7-8 miles we were expecting. We laughed when we realize our error, although I don't think any of us thought it was particularly funny. We then made a decision to continue heading north and running the first loop in a counterclockwise direction.
Picking up the trail from this point was difficult. The trail cut across the road, passed through a small wooded section and then opened up into another parking lot. From there it cut into a grass field and onto a paved road. We followed the paved road a short distance as the trail then turned right, and back into the woods. As we climbed the first rocky section we were met by several large unleashed dogs coming down the trail. Fortunately, they were totally uninterested in us and we ran past them without incident. The dog owners weren’t very friendly either and also ignored us.
View Larger Map Terrain View
The wind was not gusting as fiercely in the lower elevations or through thickly forested areas but it was still very cold. Staying warm was only possible while moving so we continued to work our way around the reservation at a moderate pace. Around 8 miles we crested the hill to Wright’s Tower. We stopped here for a short break to refuel and enjoy the views. Here we were exposed to the constant wind and I could feel my body temperature dropping. The entrance to the tower offered some protection from the wind so we huddled there for a short time. It looked like this was a popular hangout for all types of trail trawlers. While Mary, Kevin and I enjoyed Succeed and Roctane, there was evidence that others before us preferred Red Bull and reefer! I wonder if that combination speeds you up or slows you down? I’m sure I’ll never know.
Boston in the background
Don't back up. It's a long way down!
The second loop started out pretty much like the first, I got us lost! Kevin was leading and then let me go by to do the scouting. I seemed to be doing fine finding the faded white blazes but then realized I hadn’t seen one in a while. I was ready to go back but Kevin thought we should just continue on the same trail since it was heading in the same general direction. I was glad I listened to him as it turned out we missed the trail that would have taken us back to Wright’s tower. It was too cold and windy up there anyway.
Once we picked up the Skyline trail again we took turns leading the way since it can be mentally exhausting trying to find the trail in a sea of brown. About half way through the loop Kevin somehow tweaked his knee and it was starting to be an issue for him. I took over lead duty after that so he could focus on his footing without having to look for trail markers. Even with his knee problem we maintained a steady pace throughout the final miles.
The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the wind was still whipping along, making it feel colder than the first loop. By now I was really getting hungry and started thinking about food, real food. I was sick of gels. We passed the time over the next few miles talking about what we would have for lunch. Earlier in the run I was craving pancakes. Three hours in the cold had changed my mind. I was now thinking soup. We started joking about the Badwater movie and the “Where’s my f---ing soup” crisis. We were both happy to see the parking lot for the third time knowing we would be out of the cold and eating soon.
After running the trail in opposite directions neither Kevin nor myself could decide which way is easier. Both directions have some challenging climb and descents so it doesn’t seem to matter how you run the trail. Kevin did make an observation that made sense to me. Run the southern half first because the trail is more technical and it “feels” like there is more climbing at that end on the reservation. This knowledge will be useful when we both attempt to tackle 4 loops (32 miles) at the Fell Trail Race this coming Saturday. I really need to find another sport.
Hey, where my f---ing soup!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Overall male and female winners in the total points standing are Thomas Parker with 1382.00 and Michelle Roy with 1130.55. Michelle also placed 4th overall in total points. Parker finished an amazing 20 races while Roy ran an impressive 18 out of 25 races. They both should receive the "Most Durable" award.
I competed in 5 Grand Tree events this year, my best showing in three years. I opted out of the Groton Town Forest race at the last minute and ran an Eastern New England Trail Race Series race instead. This cost me a Stonehead ranking since 6 finishes in the Grand Tree Series are required for this award. Oh well, maybe next year. I finished the year with 339 points, good enough for 64th place overall. Not a bad placement considering all the problems I've have the past year and a half.
Complete Rankings: Here
Monday, November 17, 2008
What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
That stays one moment in an open flower,
And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?
What is more tranquil than a musk-rose blowing
In a green island, far from all men's knowing?
More healthful than the leafiness of dales?
More secret than a nest of nightingales?
More serene than Cordelia's countenance?
More full of visions than a high romance?
What, but thee Sleep? Soft closer of our eyes!
Low murmurer of tender lullabies!
Light hoverer around our happy pillows!
Wreather of poppy buds, and weeping willows!
Silent entangler of a beauty's tresses!
Most happy listener! when the morning blesses
Thee for enlivening all the cheerful eyes
That glance so brightly at the new sun-rise.
- John Keats
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Monday - No running.
Tuesday - No running.
Wednesday - Lynn Woods night run 5.8 miles.
I went to Lynn woods Wednesday evening for my first ever night run. I was running late for the scheduled 6 PM start so I didn't have time to gather all my gear. I ran out the door with just a long-sleeved T-shirt and shorts. When I arrived at the parking lot on Great Woods road I saw several cars lined up along the roadway. I was surprised to see there were 15 other runners preparing for the night run. The night air was cold and still and I was way under dressed for the chilly temperature. I was happy we didn't linger long and we were soon off on our run.
Running at night in the darkness of the woods was a new experience for me. It felt a bit bizarre not being able to see beyond the bobbing beam of light in front of me. A windless night and the lack of leaves on the trees contributed to the complete silence in the still of the night. The only sound heard was the crunching of the leaves underfoot. We had only gone about a half-mile when we heard some rustling off into the woods. We stopped and turned our headlamps towards the sound. About 10 feet off the trail we could see a lone deer looking back at us. There we stood runners and deer, neither seemingly willing to move on. I wonder what the deer thought of us standing there in the darkness intruding on his nightly wanderings. After a minute or so the deer moved on, and so did we.
We moved along at a casual pace. There was plenty of conversation to break the silence of the forest. About 2 miles into the run the group began to splinter. Faster runners began to move forward slower runners dropped off while a third group remained in the middle. This continued for about another mile when the lead pack stopped and waited for the stragglers. We continued on our fun run for 2 more miles then climbed up the hill to steel tower. We all stopped to enjoy the view of the Boston skyline illuminating the clear dark sky off into the distance. I began to get chilled standing around in the cold air. Thankfully, we were on our way once again descending a long steep hill down to the parking lot.
I had a great time on my inaugural night run. It felt as if I had never run in Lynn woods even though I had been there many times before. I certainly hope I can make this a weekly event.
Thursday - Lunch run 4.0 miles.
Friday – No running.
Saturday – Middlesex Fells Skyline Trail 7.9 miles.
This was part training run and part recon mission organized by Kevin for the upcoming Middlesex Fells Ultra trail race in two weeks. The Skyline is a rugged, technical rock and root covered single-track trail comprised of many steep climbs and descents with an elevation gain of approximately 1300 feet over 8 miles. Kevin and I are shooting to complete 3 to 4 loops for a total of 24 to 32 miles on race day. If it ain't hard, it ain't worth doing!
Emily, Paul, Kevin and I met on the Stoneham side of the Fells amidst a steady rain. The plan was to make this a fun, easy run as Emily, Paul and myself were recovering from the marathon and Kevin from 18 miles on the Skyline trail the previous weekend. We started at a trailhead that led us to the Skyline trail. The steady rain had made the going wet and slick. The numerous rocks and roots were covered by a thick layer of wet slippery leaves.
In the beginning we moved at a slow and steady pace all the while engaged in conversations ranging from, training, racing, our jobs and the economy. Paul is a very fast runner and a top finisher at races so I was worried he would be bored running with a middle of the pack runner like me but he seemed content to plod along with us tortoises. We stopped at some of the higher summits to take in the views but most were obscured with the thick, low cloud cover.
On one steep descent I slipped on a wet granite face and fell about a foot to the ground. The impact of landing with locked knees was transferred directly to my lower back and it stiffened immediately. Emily also had a difficult time on this section slipping and landing on her butt. She got up quickly and when asked if she was ok replied, “Yes, I know how to fall”. I need to take a lesson or two from her. Kevin and Paul were more sure-footed and negotiated the rocks without incident.
A short time later on a twisting single-track section Kevin and I starting cranking up the pace trying to generate some body heat. We had gotten chilled while standing around at the stone tower a few minutes earlier. We were moving quickly when I made a bad foot plant and turned my ankle inward. I got a sharp pain in my lower ankle and across the lateral portion of my foot. I slowed up but continued to move forward. The pain dissipated somewhat but never went away. I had the same issue with my lower back. It continued to stiffen up for the remainder of the run. Nothing like trashing yourself on a casual training run!
Kevin did a great job of navigation until we hit the sheep fold parking area about one mile from the finish of the run. The trail was not clearly marked here and we weren’t sure which way to go. We got onto a green marked trail (skyline is white) but it was heading in our intended direction so we followed it to see where it would take us. After cresting a hill we came to a water storage tank. Next to the tank was a stone tower with a metal spiral staircase running up the center. Kevin sprinted up the steps and we all followed. I’m not sure how tall the tower was but we were very high up. It was a shame the weather was not in our favor. I’m sure there must be some awesome views of the surrounding area from this tower. I plan to come back on a clear day to get a better look.
We scurried back down the tower and continued on our way. We descended a short steep hill onto a dirt road and back to the parking area where our adventure began. Emily took some time to show me some material she selected for my custom made gaiters. After looking at all the fabrics I decided to go with the orange and black zebra pattern. These gaiters will be super cool. You won’t miss me out on the trails when I wearing these bad boys!!
After having lunch with Kevin I went home to ice my back and foot. I did this a couple of times throughout the day but it didn’t seem to help much. I hope this doesn’t affect my training for long. I have big plans for the coming two months.
Sunday – Breakheart Reservation 5.1 miles.
I woke up this morning and my lower back was still stiff. My foot felt better but I still iced both after have a little breakfast. I should have gone over the town track for a short run so as not to aggravate the injury any further. That would have been the smart thing to do. But smart is not an adjective often used to describe me. The trails have me in their spell and off to Breakheart I went. What can I say?
I had no real plan for this run so I decided to see if I could scope out some single- track over in the Camp Nihan section of the reservation. I am planning to hold a 10 mile trail race at Breakheart in the early spring or fall of 2009. It will be a fundraiser for the Saugus River Watershed Council and I intend to donate all the net proceeds to this great organization. I have the race course all mapped out but I continue to modify it trying incorporate as much single and double track trail as possible.
Making my way across the footbridge that spans the Saugus River I turned quickly into the woods on a slightly concealed trail. This trail skirted its way along the bank of the river and will make a fitting addition to the course. I think it will also add a little distance to the race by replacing a straighter section of double-track farther from the river.
On my way back to the ranger station I rolled my ankle on a root and got a stabbing pain in the foot I tweaked yesterday. Even though it felt ok this morning it’s obviously a more serious injury than I first suspected. I really should have stayed off the trails today and given it another day to heal. Lesson learned! I’ll ice it and wear an ankle support for the next week and see how it heals. No way am I missing out on the Fells race.
Breakheart Elevation Profile
Weekly Re-CapMiles Run: 23
Long Run: 7.9
# of Runs: 4
Avg Miles: 5.7
Trail Miles: 82%
Hope I heal, and fast.......
Saturday, November 8, 2008
My day began in the early morning darkness. I awoke at 2 AM and had a difficult time returning to sleep. It wasn't that I was nervous about the upcoming race; I was just concerned that it may fall back to sleep and not wake up in an hour as planned. Since I was feeling hungry anyway, I decided to get up and eat a little early. I got the coffee started while I prepared some food for breakfast. I had packed all my gear the previous evening so that there was no need to rush this morning. After finishing breakfast I gathered all my gear and brought it out to my truck. I couldn't believe how much stuff I packed for this marathon! I didn't think I would need everything I had but I would rather have something and not use it than need it and not have it.
It was still very dark at 4:30 when I left for the race. There was a light but steady mist in the air. At least the temperature was pretty mild. I started thinking about all the great weekends we've had in the past two months. Bright sunny skies, with cool temperatures perfect for running. Today would be nothing like that. Driving north on Route 1 virtually alone was in sharp contrast to the daylight hours when tens of thousands of cars pass along this busy stretch of highway. I had a difficult time keeping my eyes open and was yawning constantly. I should have had a second cup of coffee.
I arrived at the Doyon School around 5 AM. Two men in brightly colored vests and waving flashlights were directing traffic. They asked me if I was running the 50 or the marathon. When I told him I was running a marathon I was told I had to drive down the road about a quarter-mile and park at the soccer field. Parking in the school lot was reserved for 50 milers only. The soccer field was pitch black but there were a few other runners gathering their belongings. There was a minivan waiting to shuttle runners back to the school. I hopped into the van with three other runners. It turned out we were all first-timers to Stone Cat and would all be running the marathon distance. We were dropped off at school lot and headed immediately to the gym.
I picked up my race number and was handed a very nice Brooks technical tee shirt. I claimed some floor space along the wall and settled down for a little rest before the race. Stone Cat is as much a reunion as it is a trail race. It was obvious that many people have run this race more than once as they greeted fellow runners like old schoolmates. There was a large contingent of Lynn woods runners as well as other familiar faces from previous trail races. I introduced myself to Ian of Trail Monster Running fame. He's an excellent runner and getting faster all the time. The gym filled quickly and the excitement started to build in preparation for the start of the race. Gilly, the race director gave us some last-minute instructions before we headed out to the starting line. He is certainly a character that lives up to his reputation.
We lined up in the soccer field around 6:15. Darkness had lifted and the mist had almost ended. I wanted to start out slowly so I got near the back of the pack. The command to go was given and the pack slowly moved across the grass field. At the end of the field was a narrow trail head. This created a huge bottleneck as runners tried to funnel their way into the narrow path. My decision to get the back of the pack cost me over two minutes as I had to stand and wait for nearly 300 runners to squeeze their way into the trail. The race course is a 12.5 -mile loop in Willowdale state forest. The 50 mile runners went straight into the woods and to complete four loops. Marathon runners would run two loops. Before the marathon runners could start onto the loop course we were directed to make a sharp left hand turn to first complete a 1.2 mile rectangle route around the front of the school and then back to the soccer field. This was needed to make the race 26.2 miles.
View Larger Map Course Terrain View
First loop past very quickly and soon I was entering the soccer field and heading for the start finish line. I checked the finishing clock and noted the time, 2 hours, 13 minutes. At this pace, I definitely had a shot at running 4:30. I walked over to where I had left a drop bag with a towel, a shirt and shorts and Succeed Ultra electrolyte drink. I refilled my hydration pack with the Succeed and debated whether I should change my shirt, socks and shoes. At this point I was drenched from head to toe. A combination of sweat and humid air made me look as if I had taken a swim while out on the course. In the end I just toweled off. I didn't think it would be worth spending all the time to change my clothes knowing I would be running through that long stretch of water again in 40 minutes. I looked back at the clock before I headed off for my second loop. The time was now 2 hours, 15 minutes. I only lost two minutes in transition which wasn't bad.
I was only about 4 miles into the second loop when I started to feel fatigue setting in. My quads were feeling heavy and my hamstrings and calves were tightening up. I also started feeling a little pain in my right knee and my left hip. I think the sharp left and right turns on the tight single track were throwing off my SI joint and causing the hip pain. The knee pain was probably caused by my IT band tightening up. By mile 18 I was really beginning to struggle. I was a little worried knowing I had another 8 miles to go. I got a little energy boost when I hit mile 20. I'm not sure if this was physical or psychological but I felt good for about 2 miles. By mile 22 I was feeling like crap once again. At this point I could barely get my feet off the ground and tripped over a rock and went down hard on my right knee and elbow. No real damage done but it took the wind out of me.
The last 4 miles were very tough. I resorted to many short, swift walking breaks. I tried to calculate what my finishing time would be but mentally I was too fatigued to do the math in my head. I didn't think I had a shot at 4:30 any longer, and finishing became the only goal. Up ahead I saw a runner and a bright orange shirt. I thought if I could keep him in sight he could pull me to the finish. Unfortunately, he was having difficulty and started taking walking breaks as well. To finish this I would be on my own, as well it should be. The last 2 miles passed very slowly and painfully but eventually I was nearing the finish. I felt a sudden burst of energy and started to kick it in. In the distance I could see the finishing clock but it was difficult to make out the numbers. I kept running hard and soon I could read the time. I was a little surprised to see I would break 4:30. After downing 80 oz of Succeed, 10 oz of water, 4 strawberry-banana gels and 2 S-caps along the way, I crossed the finish line in 4:26:59!!
It's been 20 years and 7 months since I ran my last marathon. I never thought I'd be running one again but my love of trail running got me interested in doing one on trails. All my previous marathons have been on roads. I set three goals for today. The first is the most important, to finish! Sure I am confident I can, but in a race of this distance minor issues can turn into big problems, and finishing can become a major struggle.
Goals number two and three are time goals. Although finishing is my main concern, I believe it's important to place some time limit out there to challenge yourself. Time goal #1 is a time I think I am capable of running based on my training and performances in shorter trail races over the past two months. Time goal #2 is a time I may be able to run if I have a day when everything falls into place and I run a perfect race. I'll know the answer to this in about 7 hours.
Goal #1: Finish
Goal #2: 4:30
Goal #3: 4:20
Good luck to all...
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
View Larger Map
I saw a few familiar faces at the start of the race. There was Paul and Emily, my friend Kevin and Paul C from the Lynn woods. Emily and Paul were running the 5.3 mile race while Kevin, Paul C and myself would do the 9.3. I never felt good from the very start. I was feeling sluggish and it took about 30 minutes for me to finally warm-up and get into the groove.
Emily, Kevin, Paul C and myself all started off together. Kevin was feeling pretty strong and soon he was pulling away from the three of us. Paul and I stayed with Emily until she took the turn-around to complete 5.3 mile loop. We then stayed together for the remainder of the race until I pulled away from Paul with a couple miles to go.
Paul is one crazy dude and he kept me entertained for most of the race. The miles passed quickly with his constant banter, his joke telling, and his constant harassing of fellow trail runners. At one point in the race we came to an intersection and were unsure which way to go. There was a volunteer telling us to turn left, but for some reason we didn't believe him. We were certain we needed to continue forward. So, ignoring the advice of the volunteer, we continued straight down the trail. It wasn't long before we realized we were wrong and the volunteer was right. We really didn't care that we got lost. In fact we thought it was rather hilarious. We were probably the only two runners in the race that thought we knew the course better than the person that marked it! We did feel badly that one female runner following closely behind us took the wrong turn with us. We lost about three minutes by taking this side trip. Thankfully, this was really just a training run for us. As we started passing runners for the second time, some would comment, "Didn't you two pass us already?" "Yeah, we got lost."
Complete Results Here: 9.3 Miles
Following the Busa race I did two short, easy runs this week. My legs are still feeling heavy and slow. I'm not sure why I've been feeling this way, but I sure hope it passes soon. If I feel this way on Saturday, I certainly won't run the race I think I'm capable of. There's nothing I can do now but rest so no running for me the next two days.
Waiting for Willowdale....
Saturday, November 1, 2008
October was a very productive month. I ran over 160 miles for only the second time this year. I did four track workouts, ran two races and completed two long runs over 20 miles each.
Total miles: 161
Long run: 21
# of days: 23
Avg miles: 7.0
Trail miles: 56%