Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The morning was hot
Dan's race was not
He should have been running
Instead he walked, A LOT
Too many hills for him to climb
They needed a calendar to record his time
The meteorologists forecasted a warm day and they delivered on their prediction. Why did they have to be correct this time? When Kevin and I arrived in the Parking lot at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum around 8 AM you could already feel the heat. The 4th Annual Blue Hills 10 mile Fox Trot Trail Race was going to be a hot one! I'm not a big fan of racing in the heat and this would be my first hot one of the 2009 race season. You expect 80 degree temps for summer races but this way too early in the year as far as I'm concerned.
After picking up our race numbers we headed out on the trail for a quick warmup. Kevin led us to a rocky trail that began an immediate climb. It dumped us onto a narrow, paved road and we continued upward. I'm not sure what the heck we were thinking. Warmups are supposed to be easy. When we realized we were climbing the road to Great Blue Hill, the highest in the reservation at 635 feet, we turned around and ran back to the parking lot. The warmup was enough to work up a good sweat. Gee, thanks Kev!
We saw RunninRob back in the lot and we decided we would start the race together. We made our final preparations and moved to the starting line. When we got to the line Rob was no where in sight. We got some last minute instructions from the RD but I was too far back to hear any of it. I only knew the race had started when the people in front of me began to move.
Start of race on long up hill.
The race started on a paved uphill that climbed for a quarter mile before turning left onto a dirt road. The first 2 miles were easy, running along fairly flat fire roads. Kevin and I were engaged in non-stop conversation and as we passed a woman she asked if we had stopped for coffee before the race. I guess our chatter may have been distracting to her. I couldn’t lie and told her Kevin just had a large Dunkin Donuts!
I felt very good the first two miles. I think the warmup really helped because my legs were feeling fresh with none of the stiffness usually felt at the beginning of a run. I did feel the heat though, as the temp was approaching 80 at this time. I was a little concerned that the 20 oz of water in my handheld would not be enough to get me through the full 10 miles.
Easy running, for a little while!
Around 2 miles we hit our first real climb. Most of the runners ahead began walking so Kevin and I decided to do the same. When we reached the top of the hill the trail narrowed into twisting, rocky single-track. I looked up and saw Rob a short distance ahead. He had gone out a little fast for such a warm day and decided to rein it in a bit when he hit the hill.
One of many hills.
The three of us ran the next 4 or 5 miles together. Kevin took over most of the pacing duties and tried his best to keep me and Rob motivated and moving. I’m not sure were his energy was coming from. He had just finished a grueling 50K in Blue Hills one week ago at the Don’t Run Boston 50K sponsored by the Trail Animals. That race didn’t seem to slow him down, nor the 3-4 hours of sleep he got the night before! Whenever Rob and I would stop to walk a hill, Kevin would get us moving again.
Kevin putting down the hammer.
I ran out of water and was starting to feel the effects of the heat when out of nowhere appeared an aid station stocked with ice cold water. I must have looked like I was in desperate need of water as a volunteer began handing me one cup of water after another. I gulped down two cupfuls and poured two more over my head. This gave me immediate relieve but the feeling wasn’t as long lasting as I would have liked. I thanked the volunteer and began moving again.
Around mile 7 or so the three amigos went their separate ways. Kevin surged ahead on a hill and Rob and I held back. A short time later I moved ahead of Rob. Still, we all finished within a fairly narrow time frame. The last 2 miles of the course were run over some of the same trails as the first 2 miles. The terrain was mostly flat with some gentle slopes and I was able to pick up my pace here. There were two guys running together ahead of me and we traded places back and forth over the final two miles.
A short distance from the finish the two guys I had been running with began to kick. I saw little need for that and just coasted on in. I looked at the finish clock and was pretty amazed with my time. But not in a good way. My prediction of not being able to run anywhere near the time I did 2 years ago came true. But it was even worse than I expected, about 37 minutes slower than before!
Rob bringing it home.
It wasn’t all bad though. I did have a lot of fun running with Kevin and Rob. We shared a lot of laughs and were even able to laugh at ourselves on occasion. Sure, racing to a fast time would have been great, but running with friends at any pace has its own rewards.
Monday, April 27, 2009
My goal for this run was to experiment with pace, nutrition and hydration to get a sense of what might work for me if I throw my hat into the Pineland Farms 50K next month. I haven't committed to it yet but I'm leaning that way right now. I figured a steady 12 min/mile pace for the 50K might be doable, ambitious but doable, so that was the plan for today.
I started out from the Ranger's station and climbed the hill up to Ash Path. From there I took in both lake trails, Silver and Pearse and then over to the Saugus River trail. It was a beautiful morning in the woods. It was a little warm but there was a nice cooling breeze the whole time. I wasn't the only one enjoying the day. The Canadian geese were really whooping it up out on the water. I also saw a few snakes sunning themselves near some warm rocks. They slithered away when I got too close.
On my way to Camp Nihan on the Saugus River trail, I came upon a snapping turtle meandering down the trail. I'm not really sure what it was doing there as it was far from the river. I stopped and picked it up and took it down to the river bank. I'm not sure if that's where the turtle wanted to be but I felt better leaving it there. I stayed a while and watched it eventually move into the river and disappear under the dark water. On my way again I checked my watch. Five miles down in one hour. Exactly where I wanted to be.
Moving out of Camp Nihan I ran about a mile on a busy street and one not so busy one. These two streets took me to the entrance of Lynn Woods. From there I ran along the reservoir to the dam. On this side of Lynn Woods there is some sweet single-track running parallel to busy Route 1 in Saugus/Lynnfield. I'm sure very few of the 100,000 daily commuters realize the beauty they are missing just a stones throw away.
Over here I got into a zone and the miles passed very quickly. I was thinking of the words Stu Mittleman wrote in the book "Slow Burn." He said instead of pushing off from the ground, imagine the earth rotating underfoot, and lift your feet just enough to clear the ground. I practiced this method and the miles felt effortless. There is some danger to running this way on rocky technical single-track. One time I did catch my toe on a rock and was close to going down. My nose must have been about 8 inches from the ground but I never put my hands out and luckily, didn't fall. Excellent recovery if I must say so myself!
I crossed two very well built wooden foot bridges (aka Trail Pixie Platforms) that span the Meeting House Swap area. Don't ask me why you would have a meeting house in a swamp. I don't make the news, I just report it. My trance-like state was interrupted by the alarm on my Garmin. 10 miles in 1:58 and still right on target for the run. I came out of the northern section of the woods and headed up a long hill into the main section of the reservation. More single-track, more sunshine and more cooling breezes. Everything was going well but I kept thinking when will I start to fade?
Well, I didn't fade but I did go off trail without realizing it until I saw a high ledge staring me in the face. I had to scale it hand over hand. I thought how Streph would have loved this stuff! I found my way back to the main trail and continued on my way. I got lost once again and had to bushwhack my way back to a trail. Eventually I located Birch Pond trail that you guessed it, runs along Birch Pond. The single-track here is more technical and my pace slowed as I tried to avoid the many rocks. Still, I hit 15 miles in 3:03 so I wasn't too far off pace.
Right around 15 miles I ran out of fluid. I still had another hour of running to do so I would have to locate water somewhere. I took a trail I never ran before that brought me out of the woods and onto a busy residential street. I ran past several houses looking for a water faucet in which to fill my handheld. No luck! I thought I was going to have a thirsty run to the finish but then I saw a man raking leaves on his front lawn. I saw he had a garden hose attached to the outdoor faucet!
I excused myself and asked if I may have some water. He said I could help myself. He was wearing a tee shirt with Bill printed on it. I asked if he was Bill and he confirmed he was. As I was filling my water bottle he asked me what I was doing. I explained I was training for an ultra marathon. He said "Why are you doing that? You're going to hurt yourself." I said I was taking it slow so I would be OK. I just needed the water because it was a little warm and I still had another hour of running. He then said, "Do you know what happened to the guy after he ran the marathon?" I just looked at him without answering. Bill said, "He died!" I responded, "And still people continue to run." Bill just shook his head disbelief. I thanked Bill for the water and was on my way once again. As I was leaving Bill said I could take his water any time I needed it. A good man that Bill.
I was starting to feel a little fatigued but not too bad as I entered Camp Nihan for the second time. Only a few more miles and I would have 20 in the bank. The short trail between Camp Nihan and the Saugus River is unmarked and unnamed but it's one of my favorites. I like it because it wide, rock free and covered with a thick bed of pine needles. Very easy on the feet. It was here where I got the surprise of my life. As I climbed a small incline I could see what appeared to be a piece of fabric on the opposite, downhill side. I didn't think much of it and thought perhaps a hiker or walker had dropped something on the trail. Well, when I crested the hill I saw a man and woman, let's see how can I say this nicely, engaged in acts only found on pay-per-view. (Sorry folks, I didn't bring my camera today) Yikes! I looked straight ahead and booked it out of there as fast as possible and continued about my business. To the best of my knowledge, so did they! Funny, not a word was said by anyone although I had a strong urge to look back and yell " GET A ROOM PEOPLE!"
One last time around Pearse Lake and I would be close to finishing. I came across another turtle here, even farther away from the water than the first one I saw. I picked up the wayward turtle and carried it over to the lake where I saw 4 of his/her family members sunning on a tree limb floating in the lake. I dropped off my hitchhiker and made my final push to the Ranger Station. I finished the 20 mile run in 3:58, just under my goal of 4 hours. I felt very good except for the last 2 miles when fatigue starting setting in. Not sure how much longer I could have gone today and I don't really care. That's a worry for another day. It was a near perfect day which made up for my not so perfect race yesterday. I'm just not sure who enjoyed the day more, me or Romeo and Juliet!
OK, time for a cold shower........
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Total Miles: 40
Long Run: 15
# of Runs: 5
Avg Miles: 8
Trail Miles: 61%
Friday, April 24, 2009
I'm running again but I'm not able to train with the same intensity I had pre-injury. I have slowed considerably an will be lucky to come within 30 minutes of my previous time in this Sunday's Race. That doesn't deter me though. I'm happy that I'm still able to plod along at any pace. It's not that I've lowered bar for myself, it's just that I have to be realistic with my training and racing goals given my ongoing health problems.
My goals for the race are simple:
- Don't get hurt. Not as easy as it sounds. I trip and fall a lot ;-) plus I am still dealing with a weak/injured right ankle.
- Score some points in the Eastern New England Trail Race Series. The Fox Trot is the 3rd race on the 2009 schedule but it will be my first ENE race this season.
- Have fun. My pals Kevin and Rob with be running as well. I hope our respective running paces will at least keep us running together for some of the race.
- Go for pancakes after the race.
Hey, a man's got to eat!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Next time I am having a difficult time on the trails and thinking about giving up I will remember how these runners never quit, especially the two female triathletes. WOW!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I like having the finger loop as a convenient way of clipping the water bottle to my CamelBak using a carabiner. The additional 20 oz adds another hour of “flight time” to my scouting missions. The kicker valve is made of soft plastic that is easy on your teeth. It also prevents dripping from the valve that is common with the standard valves used on other handhelds. I like this feature the most because I always forget to push down the valve after drinking and end up loosing a lot of fluid and soaking myself in the process. I did notice that I had to suck harder than usual to get the fluid out of the bottle. That was somewhat annoying but I think if I bit on the valve like I do with the bite valve on my CamelBak, the fluid would have flowed better. I’ll try that next time out. The wide, mesh hand strap does a good job of keeping your hand cool and the rounded edges do not cut into your hand like some of the flat narrow straps will. The strap also has a zippered pocket large enough to hold a few gels and your car keys.
The only downside for me is that it feels a little larger in circumference than my GoLite making it more difficult to get a comfortable grip. My hands are on the small side (dainty me) so this shouldn’t be an issue for someone with larger hands. Overall I give the Ultimate Direction FastDraw Plus an A-.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
It's amazing what some sun can do for my attitude. I'm back up here in the cold North but still happy as a clam and looking forward to trading the smell of pizza for the scent of pine! Running in Florida was great but do you know they don't have any hills in Florida? Hey, all of you know how much I love running hills! How can you call yourself a runner if you've never had the opportunity to curse a brutal uphill or tempt injury or death on a steep, rock strewn descent? Oh, the joys of trail running!
Upon my return, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few friends had popped up to say hello and welcome me back home.
Viola odorata - a sure sign of spring.
It's all good....
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Heavy overcast sky and a light mist accompanied me on the 90 minute drive to Bigelow Hollow State Park. Was this a warning sign of things to come? By the time I arrived at the park the mist had stopped but there was chill in the air. I was running a little late so I had to scramble a bit to get to the starting line about a half mile from the park. I opted for a long-sleeved shirt and shorts but in my haste forgot my gloves in the truck. I would pay for that later.
I got to the starting line with a few seconds to spare. I saw Michelle and Dave and we exchanged greetings right before the race began. There was about 30 yards of flat running before we started to climb up Coye Hill. I was planned to run with Michelle and Dave but got stuck behind a large bottle-neck of runners when the trail quickly changed into a narrow single-track causing me to fall behind. I could see them up ahead but not wanting to push the pace so early in the race was never able to make up the distance. As it turned out I never would have been able to stay with them the entire race. I really faded the last 4 miles and finished well behind them.
Seconds before the start.
Nipmuck is an 8 mile out-and back course that is a constant roller-coaster of long climbs and descents with plenty of rocks and roots thrown in for good measure. There were also several water crossings, most of them fairly narrow, with enough rocks conveniently poking their heads above water to serve a stepping stones for the trail runner with a dislike for wet feet. This author included. The second 4 miles of the course has many long stretches of narrow, twisting single-track with brush scratching you the entire way.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Disclaimer: The people in this video are not actors but real trail runners.
As you can see from the elevation profile much of the morning was spent climbing and descending.
A roller-coaster ride.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Steve was planning to preview the full Don’t Run Boston 50K course to get a feel for the terrain before the “official’, unofficial race the day before the 113th running of the Boston Marathon. My plan was to tag along for 3 to 4 hours depending on my energy level and how my injured ankle handled the abuse. Steve assured me he would be taking it slow so I had no fear I would be dropped and lost in the wilderness alone. Ha!
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I stopped in Boston on the way to Blue Hills to pick up Kevin Z who was joining me. We made good time and were the first to arrive at our meeting location across from the Ranger and Police stations. Within a few minutes Emily pulled into the lot. She was actually the first one there but had gone to the wrong parking lot. I was pleasantly surprised to see her. I didn’t think she would be able to make it because of her duties as a track meet official. Discus! Duck!!! The rest of the group began to arrive one by one until we were 10 strong. This run was going to be awesome!
I knew a couple of the guys from some trail races I have run but most of the faces in the group were new to me. Let’s see, there was Steve, Deb, Chris, Jeff, Stephen, Bogie, Emily, Kevin, me and Damon who got the award for longest distance traveled. Damon is from Vermont! All of these people are experienced ultra runners, running races of 100 miles on many occasions. I never felt intimidated though because they were all very friendly and supportive during the run. Oh, and lest I forget, there was an 11th runner by the name of Tucker. This four-legged ultra runner is Steve and Deb’s friendly dog! Tucker seemed to enjoy himself as much we did. After the introductions were completed we all gathered our gear and made our way to the Houghton’s Pond area where the run began.
She's not Italian yet she speaks with her hands. Interesting.
Tucker the wonder dog leads the way.
Navigating your way through Blue Hills is not an easy task. The reservation is 7000 acres with an extensive system of interconnecting trails. Even with a trail map it’s easy to stray from your intended path. Jeff and Damon were keeping a watchful eye on the map and with their expertise we kept on trail. We did make a few stops to confirm we were heading in the right direction but other than that we made good progress. They were also some stops along the way to consolidate the group as it began to string out a bit too long at times.
The beautiful people of trail running.
We climbed several steep, rocky hills along the Skyline trail. To be honest, I have never run on a trail like this before. The trail to the summit was often a collection of jagged rocks and boulders that seemed to be dumped down the side of a granite face, letting the randomness of where they settled determine the trail. Most of the time these had to be attacked more as a power hike than a run, and sometimes more of a rock climb than a hike!
Rugged uphill trail.
Hey Mom look, I'm a rock climber!
The reward for these calf cramping, lung burning climbs were panoramic views for miles in all directions despite the overcast sky. Upon summiting one of the hills the winds turned into strong gusts, the temperate dropped and the rain began to fall. We made haste to get down from our exposed position as quickly and safely as possible. Care had to be taken on the descents as well since many were as hard, or harder, than the ascents. Once off the hill the sun broke through and it seemed as though the heat was instantly turned up.
The rain starts to fall.
It was around here, during a very long steep climb that the group splintered into two camps, the speedy males and the slower men and women. Deb was gracious to hang back and showed us the way back to civilization. Nearing the end of the run we came upon a very large rock. Deb pointed out that the rock resembled a turtle, which it really did! After looking at the rock for a while I thought it also looked like a whale, it just depended on what end of the rock you looked at. Some people didn’t see it that way but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. I’ll let you be the judge. Hmm, a rock with an identity crisis.
Turtle or Whale?
Thanks again Deb and Steve!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
First off, it's very light even though it appears to be more substantial than the REI cap. Second, the CoolMax material is extremely soft making this a very comfortable cap to wear on extended runs. The fit is quite good and the cap has an adjustable strap for fine tuning.
I also like the CoolMax fabric shell which provides good moisture management and maximum air flow. As an eyeglass wearer, the soft, comfortable terry headband is what I appreciate most. It absorbs a great deal of perspiration keeping my glasses dry and my vision unobscured. A very important feature for a trail runner who trips often due to wet glasses! With summer approaching we'll be spending more time on the trails and in the sun. It's a good idea to wear a cap with a visor to protect your face from the harmful rays on the sun.
Put a lid on it....