Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Bad Day on the Trails

I met up with some friends this morning to run the Skyline trail in the Middlesex Fells. Much of the trail was covered in ice and the running was treacherous. Somewhere between 4 and 5 miles into the run one of the members of our group fell hard and heard a loud crack. When she got up she was in a lot of pain and couldn't put any weight on her ankle. We were a long way from our cars and there was no way she could run her way out. Thankfully there were four of us to offer assistance.

Kevin had brought a trail map along so we checked it first to see if we could locate a trail that would bring us out to a road. Luckily we were only about a quarter mile from the nearest one. Kevin and Streph had to carry out our injured friend while me and Emily ran back to our cars. It probably took about 45 minutes to get to the cars and back to where Kevin, Streph and M were waiting. M was cold and shivering when we got there so we quickly got her into the car and cranked up the heat. Winchester Hospital was nearby so we drove to the Emergency room.

Unfortunately, an X-ray showed a break in two place. The ER doc said it was a "good" break (if there is such a thing) and the ankle should heal normally. We all feel badly that M got so unlucky today but I'm sure she's feeling even worse. We're all praying she has a speedy recovery. She's young and tough so I'm sure that's exactly what will happen.

A few things I've learned from today's experience:
  • Running in a group is much safer than running in the woods alone. If misfortune strikes, there is immediate help available.
  • If you must run alone,bring your cell phone and a trail map. At least if you have a bad accident you can call for help and inform rescue workers of your approximate location.
  • No matter how careful you are, bad stuff can still happen.
Let's be careful out there people.....

2009 Granite State Snowshoe Series - Final Results

01.10.09 Pooh Hill 8.5K Snowshoe Scramble - Results

01.31.09 Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic - Results

02.07.09 Sidehiller Snowshoe Race - Results

02.08.09 Frosty's Dash for a Cure - Results

02.14.09 Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race - Results

02.21.09 Kingman Farm Moonlight 5K Snowshoe Results

Final Rankings - Men

Final Rankings - Women

Final Rankings - Teams

Friday, February 27, 2009

Granite State Snowshoe Series Final Standings

Well, the 2009 Granite State Snowshoe Series is in the books and the final standings have been posted. I finished 18th out of 165 male racers and my team, Dungeon Rock Racing finished 2nd overall. I guess I don't suck at this as much as I thought I did! In all fairness, many (but not all) of the people I beat ran fewer races than I did. Obviously, you can't score points if you don't race. But that's what I like about race series. A middle of the pack runner can still do well if they have the motivation and determination to push themselves through many races. Some people just aren't willing to pay the price.

My hat's off to Chris Dunn, Race Director Extraordinaire, who made running this series very rewarding. Chris is the RD for 3 quality races in the series and a great ambassador for the sport. He also manages to obtain an unbelievable amount of sponsorship so that almost everyone goes home from his races with some type of award or prize.

Women's Rankings

Men's Rankings

Team Rankings

See you next season.......

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lynn Woods Ice Run

I had today off so I decided to head over to Lynn Woods Reservation to get in a longish run. The wind was blowing about 20 mph with even stronger gusts so I didn't think running in Breakheart would be a good idea. Many of the trails I run there are exposed on high bluffs and I didn't feel like getting hammered from the wind. I planned to run a simple double out and back along a 3 mile stretch of dirt fire road that runs from the Pennybrook Road entrance to the Great Woods Road gate. Unfortunately there wasn't any dirt road. It was still covered in a thick layer of lumpy, uneven ice, with a thin layer of freshly fallen snow on top. Not a problem, I came prepared with my screw shoes.

Despite the ice and snow the running was relatively good. The tall pines lining the road on both sides helped shelter me from the strong wind. After starting out slow for the 1st 2 miles I ran very even splits the rest of the way. I started to fatigue slightly at 10 miles but I expected that. I've only run over 10 miles twice in the past 8 weeks. I pushed the last mile and finished with 12.6 miles in 2:08 for a 10:14 average pace. Yeah, I'm not going to set any records but considering the road conditions it's not so bad.

When I'm running in the woods I never think about getting clocked by a falling branch or anything like that but when I came across this widow-maker it made consider the possibilities!

This pine snapped about 30 feet above the ground. The top half landed on the side of the road.

This tree was massive but the pictures don't show it's true size.

This would have caused a serious headache.

A brief clip taken by a swift running brook.

Now that snowshoe season is over for me I hope we get some melting this week. I am planning a 16 mile run in the Middlesex Fells this upcoming weekend and running without ice would be a treat.

Have a good week.....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kingman Farm Moonlight 5K Snowshoe Race Report

Kingman Farm is the final race in the newly formed Granite State Snowshoe Series, and also the only night snowshoe race in New England to the best of my knowledge. Dungeon Rock Racing fielded their strongest team for this final challenge in an attempt to break Acidotic RACING's vise-like grip on first place finishes. AD won the first five races of the series in convincing fashion with DRR placing second each time. The team race was close and heated as this friendly competition came down to the wire. DRR had a strong showing placing 3 runners in the top 10 and 7 in the top 20. Acidotic countered with 4 finishers in the top 10 and 9 in the top 2o. In the end, Acidotic eeked out a victory by the slimmest of margins, defeating my beloved team by a mere 10 points. OK, Acidotic, wait until next year! At least we outnumbered them this time and won the case of Widmer Hefeweizen for bringing the biggest team. Mmm, Mmm good!

Pirate booty from Kingman Farm Race

There was also a race within the race between top master's runners Patrick S (DRR), Scott G (AD) and snowshoe racing newcomer Danny C (DRR). Scotty G used his road speed to take it out hard like he always does but Patrick kept in contact and used his strength on the hills to reel Scott back in and win by 1:11. The race wasn't over though because Danny C was lurking in the shadows waiting to make his move if either Patrick or Scotty faltered. Danny finished strong but Scott was able to hold him off to take second by oo:09.

There's not much to say about the open competition. Double J was there so we all knew the outcome before the race even started. Jim had already won 4 of the last 5 GSSS races by wide margins and I expected he would do the same at Kingman Farm. Double J claims to be directionally challenged so there was some hope for his rivals if Jim got lost in the darkness and went off the course. Alas, it didn't happen, and Double J cruised to his 5th win in 6 races.

As far as my own race is concerned, I was pleased with my effort at Kingman Farm. My conditioning is still poor having run only 58 miles in December and 87 in January. I never expected to be competitive in any of these races but I have been most disappointed in my lack of mental toughness. I had been giving up way too early in the first 3 races, letting the course, and other racers, defeat me without putting up much of a fight. This was my 4th snowshoe race and I think I finally got my mind in the right place.

The starting line was narrow allowing only about 5 runners across in each row. With approximately 120 shoers toeing the line this had the potential to be a dangerous start. Thoughts of being trampled by many claw-footed psycho-runners convinced me to seed myself near the front. With the command of "GO" the sprint was on! Almost immediately my teammate Eric, who was on my right, went down after someone stepped on the back of his snowshoe. I took a quick look back as people went left, right and OVER him. He got up quickly and seemed to be fine so I continued on. His adrenaline must have kicked in as soon after he blasted past me and went on to run his best race on the series. Geez, maybe I should have gotten stomped on too!

I went out very fast to escape the carnage but I was worried I would pay for it later in the race, and I did to some degree. The first 2 kilometers were mainly flat, double-track with little rollers here and there, but overall the course was gradually losing elevation. I averaged a 5:25 pace for he first 2K and thought I may be somewhere in the top 30. The course started to climb here but it wasn't too bad until it got to a section of switchbacks. I started to struggle a bit here so I took a look back to see if anyone was behind me. There was a long train on my heels!

This is were I usually crack but this time I kept pushing up the hill. I did not want to lose any places not so much for myself but, to protect the team score. Nearing the top of the hill, on some twisting single-track, I finally had to take a walking break. I stepped to the side and asked two runners if they wanted to pass. They accepted, and as they went past, I latched on to them. I vowed not to give up any more places!

After cresting the hill I made a long, screaming descent on perilous switchbacks, dodging trees in the darkness. I could hear the clatter of snowshoes behind me so I poured on the coals. The sounds faded as I descended and then got louder when the trail leveled off. This told me I was a better descender than those following me so I knew I had an advantage. I continued on my kamikaze mission not wanting to give up any places so close to the finish. I reached the bottom of the hill and sprinted the final 200 yards to the finish.

View Larger Map

I finished 36th out of 107 runners but that really isn't important. The thing that matters most to me is that I finally showed some guts in a snowshoe race and pushed myself even though I was feeling like poop! I'm almost sad to see the series come to an end. It's been a lot of fun running as a member of a team and being part of a friendly rivalry. You know who I'm talking about! I've also made some new friends along the way, people I never would have met if not for snowshoe racing. Isn't that what it's all about?

So long for now my new friends. See you on the trails......

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pleasantly Surprised

I went for my routine lunch time run around the park today. I was surprised to see that nearly all the snow from last week had disappeared. Only a few small patches remained in the shady areas. Plenty of soft, squishy soil though. It felt good to finally have some fairly solid footing to run on. The snow and ice had covered the park for weeks making running slow and treacherous. I pushed the pace a bit and ran sub 9 minute miles. Can’t remember the last time I did that!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour de Breakheart

Sunday morning me and KZ made our way to Breakheart Reservation for a planned two hour run. This was KZ's first time to Breakheart so I thought I would take him on a tour and show him most of the park's interesting sites. The trails were covered with snow and ice but we came prepared with traction assistance. KZ had his high-tech Kahtoola microspikes and I had my $2 worth of sheet metal screws secured to the soles of my Cascadia 3s. Both worked well but I have to give the Kathoola's the edge because Kevin was able to fly down icy descents while I had to take a more cautious approach. Not all the run was done over ice and snow. We also got to enjoy stomping through some mud and water as well. Some of the higher elevations were almost completely snow free as we ran across granite ridge lines whipped by the cold winds.

We took your time, stopping to take several photos along the way and bask in the bright sunshine beaming from the clear blue sky. KZ was very impressed with the variety and difficulty of the terrain and thought the run was nearly as difficult as the Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells. My Garmin 205 showed we covered a total of 10.50 miles in 2:16:01 with 1753 feet of elevation gain. This was the first time I ran a double digit workout since running a 30K on January 10th.

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I hope you enjoy our photo journal!

Me running through the trees. I'm really in there somewhere!

KZ on snow covered single-track.

KZ on Eagle Rock - Boston Skyline

Ain't nothin' but trees out there.

Yep, It's a long way down!

Frozen Pearce Lake - Eagle Rock in background.

There's a new life guard in town.

Taking a break at Fox trail head

It doesn't look so tough to me.

I'm the little voice in your head, Kev!

KZ atop Castle Rock, highest point in Breakheart (280 feet)

King of the Hill

Have a good one....

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race Report Update

I ran the Horse Hill Snowshoe race this morning, my 3rd race in three weekends. Great weather, an awesome course and a surprise guest made for a very fun day! Horse Hill is race #5 of 6 in the Granite State Snowshoe Series. Aw, shucks, does that mean I only get to torture myself one more time? For those of you wishing to join me in this foolish endeavor all I can say is sorry folks, Kingman Farm, the final race in the series, is already sold out!

I arrived early for the race hoping to get one of the few parking spots at the trail head. I was happy to see there were still a few remaining and after parking I went to greet Michael A, the RD, and pick up my race number. Even though it was a bright, sunny morning, there was a cold wind whipping through the parking lot so I retreated to my truck, strategically parked in the sun, to relax and warm stay before the race.

As I waited in my truck I could see many of the usual suspects gathering for the race. All the fast guys were there, Jim "
Double J" Johnson, Chris Dunn, Steve W and Scott "PHAT" G. It was shaping up to be another very competitive race but it was doubtful if anyone could stop Double J. He has owned the series winning 3 of the last 4 races by wide margins. Soon, many of my DRR teammates arrived and we went out for a pre-race warm up on the course. The snow was frozen and firm meaning this would be produce some fast times today, with the exception of yours truly.

Back at the parking lot I was pleasantly surprise by the arrival of Emily
"Trail Pixie" ! I have been prodding her all winter the come out for a snowshoe race but other commitments, and perhaps a little fear of the unknown, had kept her away until today. Although Emily got lost and arrived at the race with just a few minutes to spare she was still in her usual cheerful mood with a smile on her face. I was also very happy to finally meet Laurel Valley after the race.

Trail Pixie and me

The race start was flat and fast and the field was strung out in no time at all. I started out near the rear and stayed there throughout the race. After about 200 yards of flat double-track the course turned left onto the wooded single-track. The single track twisted it's way down to a slightly lower elevation where we had to leap over a narrow flow of running water. After that, we hit the first of several climbs.

The hill started out at a manageable grade but then became steeper as the climb progressed. I walked a little on the steepest section and then began running again when the angle eased a bit. I thought I had crested the hill but the the course turned right and began climbing again. This part wasn't too bad and I was able to continue running.

Around 1K I entered a series of switchbacks that descended the side of a steep hill. Flying down the hill along the twisting single-track was a blast. I was really enjoying myself here but my joy was short-lived when I realized I would have to climb this section of trail on the way back to the finish. Shoot me now! At the bottom of the hill the trail continued to snake its way through thickly wooded forest. It was here when I noticed some pain and tightness in my left achilles. It stayed that way for the remainder of the race but it really didn't effect my running in any way.

At the 2K mark I hit Horse Hill, another long and perhaps steepest hill of the race. It was here where I stopped to tighten the straps on one of my snowshoe that was loose from the start of the race. When I pulled off the trail to fix the strap I was passed by three runners. They continued moving quickly up the hill and I never made contact with them again. I fact, I never saw another runner between the 2K and the 6K marks. It was like I was on a training run alone in the woods. Ok, back to the hill, I walked it of course! Were you ever in doubt?

After the long climb there was some easier running as the course made a long, gradual descent along some power lines. Once off the power lines the course made its way though deep woods with a lot of twists and turns along the way. This was my favorite part of the race probably because it was also the flattest! Unfortunately, this is where I also got lazy. Since I was tired and all alone out here, I really didn't have the motivation to push myself. My pace slowed and I just tried to put on foot in front of the other.

I finally made my way back to the Blodgett Hill with its series of switchbacks. This time I had to climb them. I ran a little, walked a little, and repeated that process until I made it to the top. I decided I should at least try to run hard for the last 1K to the finish. I flew down a steep hill and turned onto the final stretch to the finish. This is where I saw another runner but he was too far ahead to catch with only a few hundred yards to the finish line. I continued to push hard and crossed the line in 30th place.

A defeated Dan crosses the finish line.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfe.)

Horse Hill is probably my favorite course in the series so far, mainly for its abundance of single-track trail.
Cobble Mountain is a close second with the insane descent being its highlight.

Double J smoked the field once again winning by almost six minutes.
DRR had another strong showing with Patrick S and Dan C finishing in the top ten and first time snowshoe racer Emily T finishing 3rd female and first in her age group. Great job Emily, Dan and Patrick. Once again, DRR finished second behind acidotic RACING in the team scoring. This is becoming a bad habit.

Wait till next week!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Frosty's Dash for a Cure - Snowshoe Race Report

Have you noticed a theme to my posts lately? They all involve snow. I have to say that winter is my least favorite season in New England but I am learning to cope with it. My introduction to snowshoe racing this year has given me an opportunity to challenge myself in new ways and turn the dreaded winter blues into an appreciation of Mother Nature’s harsher side. I guess it’s something like the expression, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” My new motto is, “When Mother Nature dumps 12 inches of F@#%&ing snow on you, strap on your snowshoes and make tracks.”

This weekend, I was back on the road to New Hampshire to compete in the Frosty’s Dash for a Cure 5K race. Frosty’s is race # 4 in the Granite State Snowshoe Series and race #2 in my long and illustrious snowshoe racing career. HA! I wanted to improve on my performance from the previous week where I had to take several walking breaks because of the difficult terrain. Frosty’s race is run on the grounds of the Atkinson Country Club so I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any mountains to climb. Fingers crossed!

Checking in for the race was a little confusing. Frosty’s is also a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis so there was a lot of activity happening in the function room before the race. A helpful volunteer walked me to the registration area where I got my number and race shirt. After registration I went back to the function room to look for my fellow Dungeon Rock Racing teammates. They were all very easy to locate wearing their bright orange team singlets.

We had several new faces show up this week. Most, if not all of them, were “virgin” snowshoe racers. Matt the triathlete, Kathey the California surfer girl, Eric the strong one, the husband and wife team of Steve and Deb, and Art brought along his two daughters. I wonder, did they volunteer for this or did Art issue a parental directive? Hmm, not sure about that one. After introductions, we sat around for a while just to make sure there weren’t any other later comers. DRR had a good turnout, 11 people, despite the fact that 4 of our top racers couldn’t make it due to other commitments.

Before the race Bill, Matt and I went out for a warm-up run on the course. The course terrain was much easier than last week’s race. It was mostly gently rolling hills with flat sections in between. I was happy to see there were no monster hills. Unfortunately, the warmer than normal overnight and morning temperatures had softened the snow considerably. Even though the track had been groomed with a snowmobile, the snow was still soft and had the consistency of mashed potatoes. The wind was also very strong and because the race was on a golf course there was no hiding from it. This would not be an easy race.

Lining up for the start of the race I met Steve Wolfe, Chris Dunn and Scott Graham from Acidotic Racing. Steve, Scott and I were the only three brave enough (foolish?) to wear shorts. I knew if I was lining up with these guys I was in the wrong place. They are way faster than me but I decided to stay up near the front. There were over 140 shoers in this race and I didn’t want to get trapped in back at the start and lose a lot of time, and places, right from the start.

The race was off and after a 50 yard sprint we turned left down a short hill and onto the golf course. I took it out pretty hard (for me) and was in maybe the top 25 in the first ¼ mile. I wasn’t very far behind teammate Bill M , he’s another fast guy, so I knew this pace would catch up to me sooner or later. I decided to stick with it and hold on for as long as possible.

The footing on the course was very difficult. I couldn’t get any real traction or grip when pushing off. I tried weaving from side to side looking for firmer snow but it was nowhere to be found. I went through the first mile around 9:30 and feeling good. Right after the mile mark I was passed by two guys moving easily over the snow. At least it looked that way to me. Shorty after that I was passed by two female runners. One of these women was Laurel Valley from Maine. She went on to finish 3rd female overall. I later learned that earlier in the week, Laurel had gone on a 20 mile snowshoe run in the woods of Maine covering the distance in 3:45! Seriously, how is this possible? She is one tough lady. This is one reason why it’s never bothered me to lose to a woman. If she trains hard, and races harder than me, she deserves to beat me. Simple as that.

My pace was starting to slow as the course began to get into a series of rolling hills. None of them were particularly large but my poor early pacing, and the softness of the snow were beginning to wear me down. I had to take a couple of short walking breaks over the hills to get my breathing and heart rate back to earth. During these breaks I was passed by two more runners. I was beginning to get a little pissed at myself for walking and letting people go by without a fight. Right now I just don’t have the competitive drive to push myself past the pain threshold and keep driving when the race gets tough. I hope I can get that back before long.

With about a ½ mile to go I could see the finish line after cresting the last hill. I had no desire to pick up the pace so I was hoping no one came up to contest the final ¼ mile of the race. Wouldn’t you know I began to hear footsteps behind me? I glanced over my shoulder and could see a female runner moving up fast. I knew I couldn’t hold her off at my current pace but I didn’t have much left in the tank at this point. I made a half-hearted attempt to kick it in but to no avail. With about 30 yards to go, she went by me like I had cinder blocks strapped to my feet!

I finished 28th out of 140+ runners so I was happy with my placement if not my effort. Once again DRR finished second behind Acidotic Racing in the team competition. Jim Johnson was the overall winner, his 3rd win in four Granite State Series starts. The female winner was fast moving Kim Webster who finished 8th place overall. Next up is the Horse Hill 7K in Merrimack, NH. I always get a little worried when I see the word “Hill” or “Mountain” in the race title. This one won’t be easy, but then again, are they ever?

Make tracks…..

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter Trail Running

The other day I received an email from my friend Streph regarding trail conditions in the Middlesex Fells. Streph does a lot of training on the rugged Skyline trail and completed a 19 mile training run in the Fells last weekend. He told the snow on the trails was compacted by hikers and skiers making running in trail shoes possible. In fact, he said running in the snow was easier than other times of the year because the snow had covered the rock, roots and voids in the trail.

With that in mind I went to Breakheart Reservation on Monday to see if similar trail conditions existed there. I have been itching to get in some trail running, sans snowshoes, all winter. When I got to Breakheart I was pleasantly surprise to see that some of my favorite trails were runable. I took a few short videos along the way. My digital camera isn't made to take high quality video but I think you will still get a feel for the terrain.

This first one was taken from the top of Eagle Rock, a 200+ foot hill, overlooking Pearce Lake:

This one is descending the snow covered Eagle Rock:

This third video was taken along a climb and descent on the Fox Trail near a large ledge:

This one is on the Saugus River Trail:

This is also on the Saugus River trail but taken along the river bank:

With a little luck, I should be able to make the weekly night snowshoe run in Lynn Woods tonight.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Can it really snow that much?

Looking out the window and watching the snow fall I thought “Not again.” This has been a crazy winter. I dislike winter. Then I received an email with some photos taken after a recent storm in Ontario, Canada. Now I’m thinking, “This winter isn’t so bad!”

This is so wrong!
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