Friday, April 30, 2010

This Weekend on the Trails

There's not a whole lot happening on this weekend's race calendar but here are a few races to consider.

Saturday, May 1

Muddy Marathon, Rockaway, NJ - The trail course is 6.55 Miles with over 1600' of elevation gain and loss which begins inside Craigmeur Recreation Complex, running through wooded paths, old ski trails and open fields. This is NOT a trail race for beginning trail runners. You will run through water, mud, over rocks, possibly over downed trees, on blazed trails and also areas where there is no trail.

Sunday, May 2

Spring Sprint 5k Trail Run, Esopus, NY - A challenging and technical 5k run on Shaupeneak Ridge’s rugged trails. Runners will be rewarded with magnificent views of the Hudson River and Louisa Pond.

Medved Madness 15M Trail Race, Mendon NY - The course consists of three very distinct loops with mud, water and tough terrain.

7 Sisters 12M, Amherst, MA - An out-and-back roller coaster ride along the ridgeline of the Mt. Holyoke Range on a single-track trail. Very scenic overlooks of the Pioneer Valley and the Connecticut River. Extremely hilly with 3,700 feet of climb consisting of many steep hills with hazardous footing in places due to the many sharp basalt rocks the comprise the elevated ridge of Mt. Holyoke.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Running Lockdown

The icing, stretching and anti-inflammatory medication has done little to improve the knee pain I’ve been experiencing the past three weeks. I finally gave up and contacted my doctor. She confirmed the knee pain is being caused by an ITB issue. Her recommendation is to stop all running for several weeks and start physical therapy. Of, course I knew all along that time off was necessary but I was just procrastinating, until the pain got too severe that is.

I set up a few appointments to see the same DC that treated my plantar fasciitis. He used the Graston and Active Release Technique to treat my PF with good results and I’m hopeful it will also be effective in treating this ITB syndrome. I really don’t think I’ll be out of commission for several weeks but I do expect to be idle for 2-3 weeks. At least I hope I’m right and my doc is wrong. So tonight I plan to purchase a foam roller and start beating the crap out of my ITB. Let the fun begin!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blue Hills Trail Race Report

After a very restless night I reluctantly crawled out of bed at 5 am to get ready to run my fourth race in four weeks. This week it would be race #2 in the Eastern New England Trail Race Series, the Blue Hills 10 mile trail race in Milton, MA [results].  My goals for the race were simple.  Run faster than last year and run all but the steepest hills. That sounded easy enough but I felt very sluggish during my warmup and was questioning why I ever got out of bed.

The Blue Hills course is a blend of dirt roads, wide trails and some technical single-track.  There are several climbs, some of them steep but also some flat terrain were you can get into a good running rhythm and make up for lost time on the hills.  The total elevation gain per my Garmin was 1,104 feet.  The first and last 1.5 miles cover the same trails but are run in the opposite direction. The trails were well marked and key intersections and turns were marked with chalk or had a volunteer pointing out the proper direction.

Ten miles close to Beantown.

No monsters hills but plenty of climbing.

The race starts uphill on paved road but shortly thereafter turns onto a dirt fire road.  About 1/4 mile into the race I heard someone call my name.  I looked back and it was my friend Betty who I met last year at the MorFun Wapack race.  She had run Boston, and I a 50K a week earlier, so neither one of us were expecting to run 100% today.  We ran together for the next two miles as we worked our way though the field. A little after the two mile split we hit the first real climb of the day and Betty dropped back  and started to walk.  I kept moving and didn't see Betty again until after the race.

My knee started to bother me about four miles into the race. It wasn't as bad as it was during the 50K last weekend where it affected my stride but still painful enough. Except for the knee, I was feeling good and continued to past several runners between miles four and five.  After mile five I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the race.  I think I only saw and passed about five or six runners in the last five miles.  I pushed hard though miles 8-10 which help me to run the last five miles three minutes faster than the first five. I love running negative splits! 

Overall I was pleased with the race. I ran much faster than last year, ran all the hills and finished strong over the final three miles.  My knee is still and issue but I'll continue to stretch and take Motrin for another week (or two) before I make a doctor's appointment.  I hate going the the doctor!

Until next time....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This Weekend on the Trails

The trail racing scene is beginning to heat up here in the northeast so I thought I would start my weekly posting of area races.

Saturday, April 24:

Whale of a 5k Trail Race  Rye, NH - This cross-country trail run was created by Eastern Mountain Sports' Extreme Team captain, Jennifer Shultis, and will bring you through the forest, rocky shore, sandy beach, and alongside historic military fortifications.

MuddySneaker 20K Trail Run  Naples, NY - The MuddySneaker is a trail run in the high wilderness area in the finger lakes region of  New York State. It has some of the most rapid elevation loss and gain of any trail run in the region. During the MuddySneaker it is possible that you can encounter any or all of the following hazards: Rocks, Roots, Snow, Ice, Crawling under logs, Crawling over logs, Stream Crossings, Oversize chickens and other wild creatures. If you are wishing to do a 20K run and want to compete against the clock and are hoping to set your PR you may want to look elsewhere. If however you want to test yourself against nature and your own will to finish this is the race for you.

Woods & Lakes Trail Run 5K & 10K Mountian Lakes, NY - The course is a scenic, mostly flat loop through woods and around lakes. Running surfaces will include macadam walk-ways, gravel paths and scenic wooded trails. There may be mud, logs, and other challenging obstacles.

Sybil Ludington 50K Run Carmel, NY - The course travels a single loop which follows essentially the route ridden by Sybil on the night of April 26, 1777 as she rode to rouse her father’s militia against the British. The route comprises country roads - some poor surfaces - and some dirt roads. There are three hills each with nearly 500’ net height difference over start and finish.

Sunday, April 25

Blue Hills Trail Race 10M & 3M  Milton, MA - The 10 mile race offers a mix of double and single-track trails with some hilly and rocky stretches. There are three water stops.  The 3 mile course offers easier terrain on wide paths--but this is still a trail race, with plenty of small rocks and tree roots along the way! There is one water stop.

Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug Ultra Marathon 50K, 50M &100K (Roads) New Preston, CT - The course is slightly rolling loops around scenic Lake Waramaug. There is a 2.2 mile out and back at the beginning of the race for all runners. The 50K runners will then do three 7.6 mile laps around the lake followed by a 1.9 mile out and back to the finish at the State Park. The 50 mile runners will complete six laps around the lake and finish at the State Park. The 100K runners will do seven laps around the lake followed by a 2.3 mile out and back to finish at the State Park. All three of the races are USATF certified.

Have fun!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Traprock 50K Race Report

On Saturday morning I drove about 2 hours south to Bloomfield CT to run the Inaugural Traprock 50K trail race held in Penwood State Park. I was anxiously waiting for race day ever since I learned of this new ultra about two months ago. It’s always very exciting to be able to run some previously unexplored trails and even more fun when you can do in the context of a race situation with a group of like-minded trail crazies. The course was a 10.3 mile loop that offered a good mix of gnarly single-track trail, smooth double-track, a short section of paved road that was in very rough shape and enough vertical to make it a challenging 50K.

Plenty of ups and downs along the way.

I arrived at the park only 30 minutes before the start of the race due to a late departure from home and one missed exit off Interstate 84. By the time I got my race number and put on my running shoes there was no time to put together a drop bag for the aid station. I was a little concerned about the lack of a drop bag but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I learned a few things about race day nutrition that I may not have otherwise.

After some brief instructions from RD Steve the go command was given and 50+ runners were off to do battle with the rocks, roots and ridges of the Metacomet trail. After about 50 yards of flat running, the course took a hard left into the woods and immediately up a long, steep climb. Everyone went into a power hike and the long line of runners snaked their way along the twisting trail. I was struck by the silence of the people around me. Most often in a race of this distance people are very chatty early on. Maybe they were all thinking about making the climb two more times during the race and were already conserving energy.

After the long climb the trail opened up into double track that dropped back down to lower elevation. After some very brief flat running the course came to another uphill section that had to be climbed using a long series of stone steps. The locals call this section “The Stairmaster” or the “Stairway to Heaven.” I was thinking more like “The Stairway to Hell” as I counted out 120 steps to the top of the hill. As if that wasn’t enough punishment, the trail continued to climb after the stair section ended. Once the climbing stopped it was onto some gnarly single-track, complete with many slick rocks and roots waiting to take down any runner making a poor foot placement.

"Stairway to Heaven" I would have preferred an escalator.

A runner thinking, "There's no way I'm climbing that two more times!"

Gnarly trail and slicker than slick rocks.

It was around mile five that I caught up to Elaine, a runner from Connecticut that I met two weeks earlier at the Northern Nipmuck trail race. We talked for a while and decided it would be a good idea if we stuck together for as long as possible to make the miles pass more quickly. In a race this long it’s common to run many miles alone so I was happy to have the company. Meeting up with Elaine may have also saved my race as she was quick to point out I should be taking it slower on the uphills and saving some energy for the later stages of the race.

Now with a runner partner, I felt the second five miles pass more quickly than the first. I also thought the second half of the loop was a little easier than the first. The climbs were not as steep and there was also a one mile stretch of pavement from mile seven to eight in the loop that made for some easy running. Even though the asphalt was badly chewed up we were able to get into a good rhythm and make up some time here. After the paved section we hit a very long but not too steep climb on a double track trail. The double track lasted about a mile and then the final mile of the loop consisted of rolling single track with a few steep climbs and descents. Elaine and I coasted into the start/finish aid station in 2:06 for our first loop. We refilled our water bottles, grabbed some food, thanked the volunteers and headed back out for our second loop.

As I mentioned earlier, not having my drop bag available with my electrolyte drinks and gels turned out to be a good thing. I learned something about ultras that my friend Steve L already knew. Ultras are just eating contests with nice scenery!

Nice view from a high ridge.

In the past I relied mainly on liquid calories from my sport drinks and gels. Without them now, I had to rely on the aid stations for fuel. I learned eating ‘real’ food works much better for me than gels alone. I was able to maintain a high level of energy throughout the race and never got that hungry, low energy feeling I usually get when I eat only gels. Drinking plain water also worked fine as I was able to maintain balanced electrolytes by eating pretzel for sodium and bananas for potassium. My total intake for the race was 4 bananas, 10 Fig Newton’s, one PB&J sandwich, 8 handfuls of pretzels, 40 oz of Heed and 120 oz of water. I also had three gels that I ate between aid stations.

I was still feeling great on the second loop but Elaine started to slow down on the climbs. I’m usually the one that has a hard time on hills but not this time. I waited up for her even though she told me a few times to go ahead. When we ended up getting separated along the way I just waited at the next aid station for about a minute and Elaine would show up still smiling. I probably could have improved on my final time if I pushed a little harder on the second loop but I would rather run with someone and have a fun time than to run 10 minutes faster in a 50K. We slowed a little on the second loop running a 2:13 for the 10.3 miles.

Sweet single-track running. (photo credit: unknown)

With 20+ miles down and 10 to go I was surprised how well I was feeling. I figured finishing would not be an issue unless I fell and got hurt. I must have jinxed myself. About a mile later I started getting pain in my right knee. Following the Merrimack River race last Sunday my knee was very sore. Even though I iced it and took Ibuprofen regularly it was still sore on Wednesday. I rested the next two day and when I woke up Saturday morning it felt fine. I thought I was in the clear but now after 21 miles the pain had returned.

The pain continued to worsen to the point where I felt like I was limping. I must have been right about that because when I passed the aid station at mile 25 a volunteer shouted out, “We have Ibuprofen here!” I took two of them and about ten minutes later the pain lessened a bit and I felt like I was running with a normal stride again. Elaine was getting tired at this point and said she just wanted this race to be over. I knew exactly how she was feeling because I’ve been there many times before. I offered some encouragement by letting her know we were almost to the next aid station and it was only three miles to the finish from there. Even though she was tired she kept up a good pace and never complained.

With two miles to go I told Elaine I was getting a little cold and was going to pick up the pace a little and I would see her at the finish line. I decided to push hard, even on the climbs. Now I just wanted this thing to be over! I noticed my knee was hurting again, especially on the downhills but I kept plugging away. The 29th mile was my fastest split of the race and so was my final 10K. When I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end while the RD and volunteers cheered me on. Elaine finished shortly after me with a huge smile on her face.

Sprinting to the finish.  (photo credit: unknown)

It feels great to get the first ultra of 2010 under my belt. I’m pleased with the way I ran and amazed I have NO muscle soreness and NO tightness the day after running 31 miles. My knee is still killing me though and that concerns me. I’ll take a few days off and see how it feels by mid-week. Thanks to RDs Steve and Kevin and to all the volunteers that made this race possible. I had a great time and will be back in 2011.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wakely Dam Ultra. Be Careful What You Wish For.

The past two years I started the race season with a clear goal in mind. In 2008 I returned to running after a long-term injury. My goal was to run my first trail marathon which I successfully completed in the fall. In 2009 I raised the bar and made completing an ultra marathon my goal. I reached this goal in August by finishing my first 50K race. With still a few months of good racing weather on the calendar I decided to push on and attempt my first 50 mile. I finished the Stone Cat 50 in November and ran it fast enough to qualify for the Western States 100M lottery.

I started this year with no real goals in terms of a specific race or ultra distance I wanted to attempt. Many of my ultra friends are looking ahead to their first 100 mile race at Vermont this summer but I don’t have the desire to run that far at this time. I think it would be a huge mistake to enter such a difficult race without making a 100% commitment. I just don’t have it in me right now. I thought I might just end up wandering around aimlessly this year with no goal in sight and nothing to look forward to. And then I checked my email.

The email was from the Race Director of the Wakely Dam Ultra regarding my entry in the 2010 race lottery. It started like this, “Dear Wakely Runner: You have been selected by way of highly randomized and scientific means to participate in this year's Damn Wakely Dam Ultra.” When I entered into the lottery I had no expectation of ever getting into the race. You see, Wakely is a very small race due to permitting regulations and has a cult-like following among its die-hard followers. Runners who have completed Wakely in previous years get an automatic entry into the race. It’s only when the race does not reach capacity that ‘outsiders’ get a chance to enter. I was one of a handful to get invited and needless to say I was very surprised to get in. Then I thought to myself,” Do you REALY want to do this?”

The Wakely Dam Ultra is an unique race. It’s the only race held in the remote wilderness of the Adirondacks. It covers the 32.6 uninterrupted miles of the Northville Placid Trail from Piseco Lake to Wakely Dam. There are no cross-roads, there are no short cuts and there is no way out if you’re having a bad day. Once you start Wakely, you have no other option but to finish. There are no DNFs at Wakely! As if that’s not enough to worry about, there are no aid stations and no supplemental trail markings on the course. Runners are expected to navigate using a map and compass if needed. Runners must carry all their food and any gear they may want or need during the race. The race is held in July’s heat and without aid stations runners must locate drinking water from the streams and brooks along the 32.6 mile route, filtering or treating it to make it safe for drinking. I have no experience in doing this.

This race will be a real challenge for me but one I’m looking forward to with great excitement and some trepidation.

This is one of my favorite videos from Wakely 2007:

Y O U W E R E N E V E R T H E R E from RDJim on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2010 Merrimack River Trail Race Report

This Saturday my race schedule took me north to Andover MA for the 19th Annual Merrimack River 10 Mile Trail Race [results]. The MRTR is race #2 in the WMAC Grand Tree Trail Race Series and coincidently an out-and –back course like last week’s Northern Nipmuck Trail race. I’m not a huge fan of out-and –back courses. For one thing, I dislike covering the same ground twice in a race. It’s also hard to maintain any type of rhythm or consistent pace when you are constantly stepping off trail to let everyone ahead of you pass. On the other hand, it is cool to be able to see the race as it happens and encourage friends as they run by.

Out and Back along the muddy Merrimack.

I got to the race early enough to head out for a three mile warm-up. It was a bit on the cold side with a strong wind along the river but I knew once I got to racing I would be fine in shorts and a short sleeved shirt. I introduced myself to Krissy K who was standing at the side of the trail getting ready to photograph the race. About a mile into the warm-up I was caught by Jim P and his teammate Tom. I had conversed with Jim through email a few times but never met him in person. I ran the remainder of the warm-up with Jim and we had a pleasant conversation. He’s a cool guy, also fast, he finished 5th.

Turning my camera on race photographer Krissy K.

Early, easy warm-up miles.

More easy trail during warm-up.

With about five minutes before the start of the race I made my way to the starting line. I was thinking about my horrible race last week so I decided to go to the back of the pack. I mean WAY back. That turned out to be a mistake and it cost me about a minute in my overall finishing time. When the gun went off I was only able to run about 20 yards before I had to stop. The 221 runners were all trying to squeeze into the trailhead at the same time and those to the rear, like me, had a long wait. I walked a little, stopped again and repeated the process a few more times. By the time I finally got moving I had 1:50 on my Garmin but had only covered 0.10 miles! Talk about going out easy.

A congested start. Pick your poison (photo by Scott Mason).

And the best mud award goes to......(photo by Scott Mason).

The first (and last) three miles are basically flat single-track trail along the bank of the Merrimack River. Passing was difficult here but I was able to slowly work my way up though the field of runners. I had to stop a few times in the first two miles because several runners were very tentative about running through the water and mud on the trail. I guess they didn’t want to get their fancy shoes all dirty ;-). I was feeling very comfortable with my pace but wanted to hold back a little knowing the middle four miles are very hilly and the climbs would take some of the wind out of my sails. Once I hit the hills the fun would begin.

Off to a slow start (photo by Krissy K).

Hill climbing is the weakest part of my running but I managed the hills pretty well at Merrimack. I only stopped to walk some part of two of the longest and steepest hills. Oh, and the power line hill too. How could I forget about that one?! It was very steep but mercifully fairly short. Once over the power line hill it was more flat running to the 5 mile turnaround point. I hit the halfway mark in 46:15, thanked the volunteers at the aid table and headed back the way I came.

Not much elevation in this race.

With five miles already run, the climbs on the return trip seemed longer and steeper than they really were. It was here where I had to take a couple of walking breaks but I was still moving at a brisk pace. I managed to catch a few more runners over the hilly sections of the course. I hit the flats with three miles to go and I steadily picked up the pace and set my sights on the few runners ahead of me. I figured I had a good chance at catching them and that’s just what I did.

Picking up the pace in the final three miles (photo by Scott Mason).

Closing in on the finish. One last water crossing (photo by Krissy K).

The final 3 miles were the fastest of the entire race for me and I made the return trip in 43:51 for a total time of 1:30:06. Not speedy by any stretch of the imagination but I was very pleased that I felt strong throughout the entire 10 miles and didn’t falter too much on the hills. Even taking into consideration the minute I lost at the start of the race I still ran negative splits by over a minute (45:15 vs 43:51). The plantar fascia in my right foot was a little sore after the race. I think it’s because I got up on my toes when climbing some of the hills. I usually try to spare my PF by running flat-footed uphill but it was impossible to do so on some of the steeper climbs on the course.

Post-race I headed over to Dylan’s with Emily, the Tuesday Night Turtle gang and the legendary Richard Busa. We had a great lunch, a beer or two (but who’s counting) and a ton of laughs. The TNT is great bunch of folks and the 80 year old Busa is an inspiration to all runners, but more important to me, a genuine good guy. Keep at it Rich!

The 2010 Merrimack River race had to be the most photographed trail race ever in New England! Check out all the fine pics by the following photogs:

Jamie Doucette
Jim Johnson
Krissy Kozkosky
Scott Mason
Steve Wolfe
Rose W.

And my favorite photo of the race goes to Scott Mason:

Eventual winner Kevin Tilton walking on water.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Boston Marathon - Reflective Perspective

With the arrival of April the city of Boston is a buzz with talk of the upcoming Boston Marathon, and with good reason. Boston is the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the United States. It’s also the fastest according to the latest statistics from the Running USA Annual Marathon Report. Boston’s median finishing time of 3:44:04 in 2009 edged out the Baystate Marathon’s median time of 3:48:42. So Massachusetts goes 1 & 2 for the fastest marathon courses in the country. Sweet!

Back in the day I was a decent short and middle distance road racer placing in the top 5-10% at most races. Even won a few smaller ones outright. But I never had an interest in running a marathon. That was until I got talked into running my first one by a few friends. It was the Cape Cod Marathon in December of 1979. The course was contained entirely within the grounds of Otis Air Force base. I remember running the cold, lonely, wind-swept roads as if it were yesterday. I was woefully undertrained for the distance but after finishing the race I was hooked. I just HAD to run another marathon and I HAD to qualify for Boston. And that’s when qualifying meant something, like running a 2:50 marathon in the open division.
The last chance to qualify for the 1980 race was at the Lowell Marathon, held just five weeks before Boston. The race was run on the rolling back roads of Lowell, not the pancake flat course of the current Baystate Marathon. I met Paul M, an experienced marathoner about 2 miles into the race. He was also gunning for the elusive 2:50 qualifying time so I just stuck with him for as long as I could. He dropped me with a few miles to go but his steady pacing was all I needed to qualify.

Running to the finish at the Lowell Marathon (1979).

Caught up in the excitement of qualifying for Boson in only my second marathon, and being very inexperienced with the distance, I made enough mistakes to guarantee I would have a miserable race at Boston. After qualifying only five weeks before Boston, I went from running 50 miles per week over five days, to running up to 70 miles a week on 6-7 days of training. I was so over trained and exhausted by race day that my Boston Marathon debut was pretty much over by the time I hit mile 10. I staggered to finish and was very disappointed with my 3:12 finishing time. I’d kill for that time now!

Bill Rogers on his way to a 4th Boston victory (1980).

My girlfriend (now wife) snaps a photo of Rosie Ruiz cheating her way to first place (later disqualified).

Me (in white and yellow) looking and feeling like I've been run over by a Green Line trolly car.
I gave up marathons for seven years until I got the itch again. By then the qualifying standard was relaxed to 3:00 for the open division. I qualified again in November 1987 at the Boston Peace Marathon running 2:58 on training of 40 miles a week and no speed work. I again made the same mistakes I made in 1980, increasing my mileage and training intensity in the weeks and months leading up to Boston. I went into the 1988 Boston Marathon with a bad hamstring injury and ran another crappy race. Boston was never good to me, but I didn't deserve it the way I trained. Bombing at Boston was hard to swallow.
When most runners think of Boston they think of the Newton hills, and Heartbreak Hill in particular. They’re not particularly long or steep but they get most of the media race coverage and instill fear in many runners. I never thought they were all that bad. In fact, the first few miles can do more to ruin your race than the hills. The first few miles are downhill. When combined with race day excitement, they cause many people to go out way too fast. Those that do pay a price later, most likely when they hit Heartbreak Hill. I think that’s why most runners struggle on the hills.
As marathon courses go, Boston’s is not a very difficult one. In fact, it’s rated at slightly below average difficulty by The Ultimate Guide To Marathons . On a scale of 1 to 10 for course difficulty, with 10 being extremely difficult and 1 being completely flat, Boston is ranked at 4 minus (average difficulty, rolling) by The Ultimate Guide.  Boston has about 1000-1500 feet of elevation gain from information I could gather online. By comparison, many trail ultras have over 20,000 feet of elevation gain! 

Boston is just a small speck when compaired to many trail ultras.

If you think I’m bashing Boston I’m not. I’m very happy and proud to have been a small part of it. I’m just trying to make a point about human potential. Back when I ran Boston I thought it was hard, very hard. I thought it was the most difficult thing I could ever do. Years later I realized it was not. I found out I was capable of even more. We all are capable of more if we believe in ourselves, if we free our minds of negative thoughts.

I’m beginning to see the hidden potential within myself. It began when I completed my first 50K trail ultra in August 2009. As soon as I crossed the finish line I told my friend Paul, who had finished 2 hours before me, that I would never run a 50 mile race. I suffered badly during the 50K so how could I ever run 19 miles more? But as the weeks passed I began to think, “If I ran 50K why can’t I run 50 miles? It’s not that much longer.” I went on to complete my first 50 mile ultra in the fall of 2009. It was my mind that was holding me back, not my physical capabilities. Yes, I've made progress but I have a way to go. I still don’t believe I am capable of running 100 miles, but by this time next year I’m sure I will have a different mindset. All I’m saying is look beyond your greatest accomplishment to date and set a loftier goal. The reward is great.

So, to all you Boston qualifiers out there, my wish for you on race day is clear, cool weather, a strong wind at your backs and all your race day goals met. To those still chasing that Boston qualifier, keep working at it and it will come. No worthy goal is ever reached easily. Lastly, to those of you that believe there is nothing beyond 26.2 miles, think again. You are capable of so much more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review - Born To Run

I must be the last person in the running community to read Born To Run. I’ve had the book for months but never took the time to sit down and read it. My recent vacation to Cabo San Lucas gave me the opportunity to relax and crack open the book while sitting on the beach with a view of the Sea of Cortez. Since everyone else has probably already read this, I won’t do a full blown review. I’ll just say it’s a must read for runners, especially trail/ultra runners.

Here are some of my thoughts/observations:

Caballo Blanco has lived a very interesting life. He should write a book.

The Tarahumara eat like gerbils and drink like sailors on shore leave but can run like they’ve taken every performance enhancing drug ever invented. I’m thinking of making a life style change.

Rick Fisher is a total A-hole. Nuff said.

How come I never heard of that group that runs naked and has sex parties in the woods? Are they accepting new members?

Executives of running shoe companies are unethical. They claim their shoes will prevent injuries when they have clear evidence to the contrary. The more expensive the shoe, the more likely you'll get injured!

You can’t escape the drug trade even in the remoteness of the Copper Canyon. Having Mexican politicians and military on the drug cartel’s payroll guarantees this will not change.

Scott Jurek is likely the only elite runner in the world that waits at the finish line for the last runner in the race to come in. In a 100 mile race, that’s a long time waiting. How awesome is that?

In the spirit of the Tarahumara Indians, I plan to make my own unsupported ultra run in a remote wilderness location this summer. More on that in a future post.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 Northern Nipmuck Race Report - The Curse Continues

The 2010 Grand Tree Trail Race Series kicked off today in Union CT with the very hilly Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race. The bright sunshine and unseasonable warm temperature coupled with the late (10am) start time made for some tough running during the second half of the race. The heavy rains that fell here early in the week left their mark on the course. There was ample water and mud with several water crossings of varying depths and widths giving runners a chance to cool down and rinse off mud-caked shoes.

Much like the New York Yankees have the Boston Red Sox number, the Northern Nipmuck course holds a curse over me. In 2007, I was in 3:12 road marathon shape yet only managed to struggle to the finish line in, you guessed it, 3:12! That’s 10 mile under marathon distance mind you. In 2009, I had a rough time from start to finish, falling a few times along the way and crawling home in 3:51. This year the curse continued.

Out and back on the Nipmuck Trail.

I was determined to run better this year even though I’m probably in about the same shape I was in at this time last year. As in not very good. After a short warmup, I met Michelle and her friend Tom at the start. It was Tom’s first trail race so I joked with him about picking an “easy” one for his first. We started at the rear of the pack which was a mistake. After about 50 yards the course narrows to single track and heads uphill. This created a huge bottleneck that kept us from doing much running in the first mile. My first mile split was close to 17 minutes as a result of all the single-file uphill walking. Much like the 7 Sister’s start I hear.

Tom, Michelle and Cheri before the race. Some guys have all the luck. Next time, Tom takes the photos.

After the initial climbing, Michelle, Tom and I started to coast along passing several runners ahead of us when the opportunity arose. We stuck together until Tom had to make a bathroom break. Michelle said she would wait up but I kept moving, albeit slowly. As Tom ran deeper into the woods Michelle ragged on him saying, “You’re a man, you don’t have to go THAT deep into the woods.” I responded, “Maybe he does!” I slowed my pace down (yes, I have a slower than slow gear too) and Michelle and Tom were soon on my heels. I guess Michelle was right after all.

Raging river by aid station #1

About six miles into the race the lead runners were already coming back. It made for some congested running on the tight singletrack trail. Greg Hammett was the first to come through with Jim Johnson right on his heels. I put my money on Jim but he ended up taking a bad spill shortly after and ended up finishing second. Ben Nephew was 3rd and Brian Rusiecki placed 4th. The results aren’t posted yet so that’s about all I know for now. Anyway, back to my sad tale of woe. (Update: results have been published)

They don't call it Nip'Muck' for nothing.

We reached the turnaround at mile 8 in about 1:40. I was still feeling good and thought I would have a good chance of holding that pace for the second half. It turns out I was overly optimistic, by a real lot! I left the aid station with Michelle, Tom, our new friend Cheri, our new nurse friend (name unknown) and a few other runners that we grouped up with. I was bringing up the rear as usual. Things were going well until mile 9 when the wheels started to fall off.

I’m not sure what happened to me but all of a sudden I couldn’t maintain the group’s pace on any of the uphills and I was slipping back a little on each climb. I went from feeling good to feeling weak in a matter of minutes. I lost contact when we encountered a water crossing. I was slow getting past it and they disappeared up and over another hill. From then on I knew it was going to be a long, lonely slog to the finish line for me.

Hills, hills and even more hills.

I’m pretty sure I walked as much as I ran in the final four miles. Yes, it true. I had to walk all the hills and even some of the flats. My hamstrings were cramping and I was nauseous. I was in the hurt locker and there was no getting out of it. I kept waiting for a stampede of runners to blow by my sorry arse but it never happened. I think I wasn’t the only one out there having a difficult time with the course and the heat. Much to my amazement I even passed two people in the final miles. They were walking too but not as fast as me. I think I have more experience with walking than they do!

After much suffering I could hear some chatter through the wood so I knew I was getting very close to the finish line. I took baby steps down the last rocky descent not wanting to take a digger so close to the end. I hobbled across the line in 3:40. It took me two hours to run/walk the final 8 miles meaning my 2nd half split was 20 minutes slower than my first! WOW, I stunk up the trail worse than a barn yard cow with the runs. But at least I had fun. Or did I?

On the drive home I noticed an unusual looking passenger riding in the back of the mini-van ahead of me. The hairy beast was giving me the evil eye even though I wasn't tailgating. I would have flipped him the bird but I’ve become mellow in my old age.

This is not something you see every day on the Mass Pike.

Yes, it's real and it's spectacular!

Next up for me is the Merrimack River Trail Race on 4/10. It’s only 10 miles so I should stink only 5/8 as bad as I did today.


Friday, April 2, 2010

March In Review

My training didn't go as well as I had planned.  A severe head cold and a trip to Mexico cut into my training.  I only managed three short runs over the last 11 days in March.  A whopping 11 miles, all on the dreadmill to boot. At least I'm feeling rested.

Total Miles: 121
Best Week: 39
Longest Run: 18
# Of Runs: 19
Avg Run: 6.4

Looking forward to a better April and the start of the 2010 Grand Tree Trail Race Series!
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