Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekly Training Update - Sep 21 - 27

Last week was fairly productive but still not what I hoped to accomplish. I had to skip my track workout due do some lingering plantar fascia pain from the previous week’s mile repeats on the track. I substituted a tempo run on the stone dust path along muddy river but I forgot my Garmin and don’t know what pace I was running. I just know it was faster than normal training. My long run wasn’t as long as it should have been but I did manage to fit in two 18 mile runs. On Monday I did 18 in Bradley Palmer and then ran the last 18 miles of the Vermont 50 course on Sunday.

Still, I feel woefully unprepared for the Stone Cat 50. I have been running consistently but feel I am lacking in long runs. Not only have I not done enough of them, the ones I have done have not been long enough. Since running a 50K in August I have done a 16 mile and two 18 mile long runs. If I don’t get in two or three 20 – 30 mile runs in October I stand little chance of finishing 50 miles.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong. My training was going well until running the 50K. That race took more out of me than I expected it would and that negatively impacted my training in September. I’m strongly considering skipping the Mountain Madness 50K on October 17th. That race is only 3 weeks before Stone Cat and I don’t think I would have enough time to fully recover for the 50.

Total Miles: 50
Long Run: 18 x 2
# of Runs: 5
Avg. Run: 10
Trail Miles: 72%

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vermont 50 Race Report - Slicker Than Snot!

I’m not sure how many times I heard, “This is a great course in dry weather.” Well, it was far from dry but I still thought it was a great course. At least the 18 miles of it that I ran as part of a 3 person relay team. We finished 4th in the Co-Ed Team category even though me and Trail Pixie were using the VT50 as training run for Stone Cat and “New Jersey” Dave was nursing a knee injury.

Since Dave had a bum knee he decided to run the first leg and shortest leg at 12.1 miles. Trail Pixie (aka Emily) would run the 2nd and longest leg at 19.6 miles. Her leg would also take her to the highest point on the course, Garvin Hill. I would run the final 18.3 miles from Dugdale Aid Station to the finish line. Dave, who has run the VT50 course several times, kept telling me my leg was the most difficult of the three. After hearing that a few times I starting thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” I didn’t see the entire course but I’m sure all 50 miles is hard.

There was a steady mist at the start of the race but it didn’t stay that way. The rain just got heavier as the day progressed, making for some of the sloppiest trail conditions in VT50 race history. Emily and I saw Dave off and then drove over to Skunk Hollow Aid Station to await his arrival. The first three male runners made it to Skunk Hollow in quick succession. The first three females had much more time separating them.

Dave finishing a wet and wild run.

Dave came roaring into the aid station around 9AM beating his prediction for a 2:25 split by 10 minutes. We talked for about 5 minutes and then Emily was off to run the second leg. Dave and I hung around for a while watching more running and bikers pass through. I saw my friend Michelle enter the aid station and walk over to the drop bag area. I ran over to lend a hand and helped her get off a rain jacket that she couldn’t seem to pull over her head. In the meantime KZ came in to the aid station as well. They both looked good here and were soon on their way.

Emily takes to the trail.

Michelle and KZ leaving Skunk Hollow.

Dave and I got into my truck and drove over to Dugdale so I would know where to meet up with Emily later on. On the way to Dugdale we saw two 50K runners coming towards us on a long dirt road. Dave, knowing the course well, told me they were going the wrong way. I opened my window and asked if they were lost. Both just looked at me and kept on running. By the time I turned around and caught up to them they were about a ½ mile off course. We finally got them heading in the right direction then I drove Dave back to the start so he could take a shower.

I went over to Dugdale to wait for Emily. I could tell the trail conditions must have been bad out there based on how much mud was covering the bikers and runners as they arrived at the aid station. They looked like a mud-wrestling contestants. After seeing this, I figured it should take Emily about 4:15-4:30 to complete her leg. Almost on cue, at 1:20 PM, I saw Emily coming down the hill into Dugdale with a huge smile on her face. We chatted for a minute or so and she gave me a good piece of advice. She said, “Watch your footfall and try to run on the side of the trail.” As I was leaving she said, “You’re going to have so much fun.” She was right.

Miles and smiles.

I started off on a flat section of dirt road that lasted about 50 yards before it started going uphill. That was a good indication of what was to come. Hills, hills and more hills as my leg had about 3200 feet of elevation gain. That’s not a ridiculous amount but it’s not the Salt Flats either. The dirt road didn’t last long and soon I turned into the woods for some serious climbing, and some truly serious mud.

I decided before the race that I would run the entire leg except for the longest and steepest sections. The first few miles involved a lot of climbing and I probably took it out a little too fast but this was the Vermont 50 and I was psyched! After much climbing I took a walking break to get my breathing back in check. The trails were getting progressively worse and running even the slightest uphill was difficult. One step forward, two steps back!

On the backside of the climb was a long and winding switch-back descent along some sweet single track. Under drier conditions you could really scream down this section and make up for time lost on the long climb, but not on this day. The trail was so muddy and so slick that running here was detrimental to your health. One bad fall could leave you careening down the steep hill or bouncing off tree trunks. I had to walk or at best, run very slowly for safety sake. It was a little frustrating knowing this should be runnable but wasn’t due to the poor conditions. After seeing two bikers take bad wipeouts I knew I made the right decision to slow down.

Single-track climb with runner and bike in sight. Photo credit: Dave

After 5.4 miles I was feeling good and running strong so I blew past the Fallon Aid Station and just yelled a quick “Thank You” to the race volunteers as I passed. The Goodman aid station was 3.8 miles away and I had enough Heed to get me there. More mud, more rolling terrain and more weary runners and bikers were found along the wide double-track on my way to Goodman’s.

As I pulled into Goodman’s there were several bikers just hanging around the aid table. They didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency and I suspect they were not looking forward to the final 9 miles to follow. I topped of my CamelBak and was off once again after thanking the volunteers. Standing in the cold and rain for all those hours can’t be that much fun, can it?

The next 6.1 miles were tough. The trail was now a quagmire. The terrain was constantly rolling with several big climbs and descents. I could have made good time here but running was difficult in many spots. The only way I could run safely downhill was when I could find some pine needles of leaves on the side of the trail. This would provide enough traction to motor downhill. Without this I found myself unintentionally glissading with every foot plant in the mud. Going uphill was no better and I was constantly slipping sideways and backwards on every hill. I was actually looking for rocks and roots to step on as they provided some traction on the climbs.

I saw a large puddle in front of me with no way around it. I ran straight thought the middle only to go knee deep in it. The water was cold and refreshing and it washed away the 5 pounds of mud clinging to my shoes. But the new found lightness didn’t last long. Within 10 minutes my feet were heavy again with the weight of thick Vermont mud.

This "puddle" tried to swallow me whole. Photo credit: Dave

This is when I started to feel badly about passing the 50 mile runners. Here I was running on fresh legs and they had 40+ miles on theirs. It just didn’t seem fair to me to run these two races together at the same time. I did my best to say something encouraging to each and every one of them as I passed. If they said something nice back I would tell them “I’m only running the relay so my legs are fresh. It’s not that I’m running that well.” If I ever do the relay again I wouldn’t run this leg for that reason.

Not too far out from the final aid station I came to a long section of dirt road that was mostly downhill. I turned it on here and it felt great to be actually running again. The dirt road turned onto about ¼ mile of paved road before turning again up a short dirt road. At the top of the hill the road ended at an open field. There was Johnson’s Aid Station, the last one before the finish line. Only three more miles to go!

I ran into the open field, uphill of course, and followed the markers into the woods. The mud here was the worst yet. I fell three times in one mile and I was walking! There just wasn’t any traction to be had anywhere. Up until now all of the mountain bikers had been friendly and accommodating when I asked to pass. But now with less than 2 miles for the finish I came upon two riders pushing their bikes ahead of me on the narrow single-track. They would not let me pass and there was no way around them. I walked behind them for at least 5 minutes before I could scoot by.

With one mile to go I came up behind Sherpa John who was walking. He said his legs were shot and even though I felt fine I decided to stay with him and help him to the finish. Not that he needed it. John is an ultra veteran and certain didn’t need my help to finish but I thought having company would at least make his final mile pass more quickly. We joked about his bad luck with weather. He’s run several foul weather ultras the past few years. I took another tumble when I turned back to say something to Sherpa. He gave me a 9.0 for the fall and subsequent summersault!

With the finish line in sight I told John to go ahead of me. He deserved the finish more than I did. I asked him if he could do a mud slide across the line and he did. Too funny! My split was 3:40 giving our team an official finishing time of 10:14:47. That sounded like a pretty good time to me until I saw about 40 individuals ran faster than that on their own!

Me finishing as Sherpa slides home. (Photo credit: Emily Trespas)

It was a great time even though the rain obscured the view of the beautiful Vermont country. I’m sure I’ll be back again but only if the sun is shining.

Vermont 50 Race Results

The 2009 VT50 race results have been posted.  My race report should be up some time tonight. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 25, 2009

North To Vermont

I'm off to Brownsville, VT tomorrow to run in the Vermont 50 on Sunday. Well, more like the VT 20 for me since I am running with two others as part of a relay team. I'll be running the 3rd (last) leg of the race which is somewhere between 18 and 20 miles depending on who you talk to and what you read. Either way it will be a tough run with lots of elevation gain. I'm looking forward to running mile after mile of sweet single track though the mountains.

I'm a little concerned about my knee. It's still sore all the time and I'm beginning to think it's not an ITB issue but something more serious. The mountain running will be a good test to see if I can continue to run through this latest injury or if I'll have to make a much dreaded appointment with a medical professional.

Should be a fun weekend meeting up with friends I haven't seen since the Oxford Dam race in early August. I also want to wish the gang from Lynn Woods speedy legs and strong lungs as they tackle the 50 mile and 50K courses.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Trail Race In October!!

There’s a new trail race happening on October 25 in Brookline, NH. It’s a 15 mile out and back run along the rail trail between the towns of Brookline and Milford. Since the course is on an old railroad bed it is pretty flat. That means a potential PR for you seasoned trail runners. It’s also a great opportunity for road runners looking to try a trail race. No need to worry about any cruel climbs or getting lost in the deep, dark forest.

As trail races go, this one is unique. What other trail race gives runners the trill of running over two covered bridges and through a 110 foot tunnel? Hey, it's dark in here! Oh, and I almost forgot about the lighthouse. Yeah, you heard me correctly. You can see these sights and other views of the course here.

All proceeds from the race with be used to maintain the trail so do your best to support this cause. For more information and race details go visit my pal Steve’s website. He’s the Race Director and one of the funniest ultra runners I know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have Pets Replaced Children?

This isn’t a random thought that just popped into my head. This is a question that has been with me for months after hours of observation and running hundreds of trail miles in state parks throughout Massachusetts. In my travels I have crossed paths with runners, walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. Occasionally I see families enjoying the great outdoors together, but what I see most often is couples and their dog(s). I have to say that couples with a dog outnumber couples with a child by at least four to one.

I have no explanation for this. I’m merely sharing my observation. Has anyone else noticed or am I just imagining it? I love dogs but I am not a dog owner. I don’t pretend to know much about them. I probably couldn't tell the difference between a bloodhound and a basset hound and I certainly can’t identify most of the exotic dog breeds I see on the trails. Should dogs be added to the list of status symbols for the upwardly mobile along with Beemers and 6000 square foot homes? Can you really one up the Jones’ by acquiring a Komodor when they “just” have a Chinese Shar-Pei?

I haven’t a clue.....ruff, ruff

Monday, September 21, 2009

GAC Fat Ass Loop and Weekly Training Update

I've made several attempts in the past to run the GAC 10K loop in Bradley Palmer State Park only to go off trail and never run more than 2-3 miles of the course. Today I overlaid my Motion Based data onto a BP Trail Map and made another attempt. Success! I manged to follow the entire 10K loop without missing any turns. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this sooner.

My first loop was slow (12 min pace) as I stopped at several intersections to check the trail map for directions. I felt more comfortable with the course on loop number two and brought my pace down to 11 min pace for the second 10K. My final loop was run at slightly under a 10 min pace with the last mile at 8:40. I felt strong for the entire 30K run. I was a little surprised how well I felt considering I ran 40 miles in the past three days. That's a lot of running for me. The only issue I had during the run was pain in my left knee. Three weeks and counting. It doesn't seem like this pain is going away any time soon.

Last week didn't go exactly as I planned. Although I did get in a good track workout, I was under my weekly mileage goal and totally bonked trying to do a long run in Middlesex Fells on Saturday. It's been a long time since I've run on trails as technical as the Skyline Trail and it showed. My planned 20 mile run ended far short at 12 miles. Lack of sleep and calories in the days preceding the run may have contributed to my demise.

Total Miles: 43
Long Run: 12
# of Runs 6
Avg Run: 7

With 18 miles in the bank and the VT50 mile relay coming up on Sunday, this should be a big mileage week for me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Weekend on the Trails

A very busy weekend coming up with several races to choose from in four different states. Distances vary from 6K to 100 miles so there's something for everyone. Power down the laptop, lace up your shoes and get a move on!

Saturday, September 19 - Broken Boulder 6K Trail Race, Allenstown, NH - A fast course through beautiful Bear Brook State Park. With over 10,000 acres it is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire. Located in the southeast region of the state, there are forty miles of trails through the heavily forested park leading to seldom visited marshes, bogs, summits and ponds.

Saturday, September 19 - Trapp Family 10K Trail Run, Stowe, VT - A 10K loop beginning and ending in the Trapp Family Lodge Meadow. The trail winds through 800 vertical feet of idyllic forest, bubbling streams, and wild flowers with racers reaching the Cabin before turning around for the last half of the run.

Saturday, September 19-20 -Iroquois Trails Ultras 50 & 100 miles, Virgil, NY - Approximately 38/75 miles will be run over hilly single track trail, with 9/19 miles of dirt/gravel forest road and 3/6 miles of asphalt. Elevation gain and loss is roughly 9,000/18,000 feet. The hills are constant and the terrain technical at times.

As an added bonus, "Born to Run" author Christopher McDougall is going to visit the Iroquois Trails Ultras on Friday, Sept. 18 to talk about his book, his travels, and of course, running barefoot. All entrants, their crews, volunteers, friends, and guests are welcome to come listen to his talk for free, which will follow the pasta dinner and the pre-race briefing.

Sunday, September 20 - Kismet Cliff 5M Trail Run, North Conway, NH - Race # 13 in the Eastern New England Trail Race Series. A challenging, five mile race around beautiful Cathedral and Whitehorse Ledges in Echo Lake State Park. Come for the steep climbs and descents, technical singletrack, and stunning views, with approximately 1,100 feet of elevation gain.

Sunday, September 20 - Mad Dash 10K, Waitsfield, VT - The race is located in the nationally recognized Mad River Valley Rural Historic District. The race course is on farm lanes, country roads and the Mad River Greenway, a natural cross country course with scenic views of the Valley and Vermont's Green Mountains.

Sunday, September 20 - Curly's Marathon & 1/2 Marathon, Pittsfield, MA - Race # 17 on the Grand Tree Trail Race Series. The 13.1 mile loop course through Pittsfield State Park has 2200' of elevation gain. The race will be utilizing many new trails, some of which were built by Berkshire NEMBA and will include several miles of singletrack trail and some ATV trails.

If that's not enough to get your competitive juices flowing check your pulse. You could be dead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Track Workout

Today I ran my first track workout in about a year. I wasn’t expecting much after months of long, slow running on technical trails. I set the bar pretty low with a workout plan of 3 x 1 mile at 8:00 pace. I just wanted to take it slow to see how my ITB, knee and PF pain would respond to track work. Hmm, I think that’s a complete list of my current nagging injuries.

I set off on my first repeat at what I thought was an 8 minute pace. The effort felt really easy but when I checked my quarter split I was way under my goal pace. I tried to slow it down on the second quarter but wasn’t very successful. I just couldn’t run any slower. I finished the first mile in 7:37 with little effort. So much for my 8:00 mile workout!

I have an unwritten rule that I can never run any of my repeats slower than the first one. The new goal became 7:37. My second repeat was closer to goal pace but still faster at 7:29. I was feeling strong and still had no ITB/knee or PF pain. My last repeat felt as easy as the first two but it was also the fastest at 7:15. During the cooldown I started to get some knee pain so it was good that I only did 3 repeats.

I’m happy with this first track workout. I’ll just have to see how I feel later today and tomorrow. I hope the knee pain is temporary and I can do this again next week.

Say It Isn't So

I’m still mourning the loss of summer so snowshoe season was not even on my radar screen. That is until I read a recent post by DoubleJ on the approaching 2010 snowshoe race season. That’s right, the WMAC/Dion and the Granite State Snowshoe Series (tentative) schedules are set as well as some non-series races. I’ll soon add links to the schedules but for now you can check it out at Double J Running, home of the 2009 GSSS Champion Jim Johnson.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekly Training Update - Sep 7 - 13

I finished the first week of my nine week Stone Cat 50M training schedule very close to plan. I went a little over the planned weekly total and long run mileage. I also missed my schedule track workout when something came up unexpectedly and I had to be somewhere when I should have be on the track. To make up for the skipped track session I did a 6 mile trail run at an 8:06 pace. The trail run was harder than my track workout would have been so I feel OK about missing it. I know I'm still not fully recovered from the 50K I ran two weeks ago. I'm still feeling a general sense of fatigue most days. No time to rest though. That will have to wait until taper time.

Total Miles: 42
Long Run: 15.6
# of Run: 5
Avg Run: 8.4

Friday, September 11, 2009

** Update to Drymax Sock Review **

OK, It seems I may have written off these socks without using them properly. I can see all of you out there scratching your heads and asking yourselves, "How hard can it be to wear a sock correctly? That Dan can't be very bright". Let me explain.

My practice with all brands of socks I wear is to first sprinkle some foot powder into the sock and shake it up to get even distribution throughout the sock. This helps to keep my foot dry and hopefully prevent blisters. Well, this it totally the wrong thing to do with Drymax socks and it may actually cause blisters by preventing the sock from working the way it was designed.

This afternoon, I received a email from Bob at Drymax regarding my recent review. From his experience and knowledge of the product he knew something wasn't quite right with it. Here is a portion of his email.

"I'm sorry that your experience wasn't the best with our socks. In an effort to continually improve our products, we always encourage constructive and candid feedback from our athletes in order to solve any negative issues. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, may I ask if you were using any lubricants on your feet or using any fabric softener? This is usually when we hear about blister issues with our socks. This is because lubricants and powders clog up the Drymax technology. Also, fabric softeners impart a charge on the Drymax fiber making them attract and hold moisture. We would appreciate any input you would have to improve our socks. We hear so many success stories everyday that when we hear somebody having issues with our products we want to get to the bottom of what may be happening"

So, with this new found knowledge in hand, I'm going to give the Drymax another chance to chase away my blister problem for good. I'll let you know how it played out at a later date.

Product Reviev - Drymax Lite Trail Running Socks

There has been a lot of talk on some of the online ultra forums praising the fit, comfort and performance of Drymax socks. As a long time wearer of Injinji socks I was reluctant to try another sock. I'm a believer in the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", and my Injinji's have worked well at preventing blisters. I can only think of two times in the past two years where I got a blister during a run. Not a bad record.

Well, I finally decided to give them a try but before I bought a pair I checked out their website. It's loaded with technical talk and scientific information related to Drymax Fibers vs. Wicking Fibers and how the Drymax fibers are superior at keeping your feet dry to prevent blisters. It's to voluminous to post here but you can read more about it if you desire. Below is some other information that was pulled from the Drymax website:

Blister Cycle
Foot blisters are most common on the toes, heel, and ball of the foot. Blisters caused by socks usually occur when socks do not fit, their seams irritate the skin, and/or the socks become wet. Wet socks soften and weaken the skin, making feet vulnerable to blisters. Heat, moisture and friction work together to cause blisters, each heightening the severity of the others. This creates a Blister Cycle.

Excess heat normally radiates away from bare feet, but wearing shoes traps heat, elevating the temperature of the skin. Heat generated by physical activity can further raise the temperature inside shoes 20 degrees or more.

With higher than normal skin temperature, the body produces sweat to cool the skin by evaporation. Wearing shoes prevents evaporative cooling from effectively taking place, leaving socks and feet wet.

Moisture significantly increases friction between socks and skin. Higher friction limits skin surface movement, but still allows inner tissue movement. This shearing effect physically separates the two layers, creating a void. This void fills with fluid and forms a blister.

Drymax Socks Actively Prevent Blisters - Drymax technology socks were designed to actively prevent blisters.

1) Drymax socks fit because they come in 5 sizes, and were developed on special 3D foot shaped models which accurately represent the human foot.

2) Drymax socks do not irritate skin because they are soft and seamlessly smooth on the inside.
3) The inner layer of Drymax fibers, along with vents built into the socks, allow liquid & vaporized sweat to pass through to the separate outer layer of the sock, then to the shoe lining. Blisters caused by sweat vapor or liquid sweat are prevented because Drymax fibers stay dry, breaking the Blister Cycle.

Friction Free® Blister Guard® System - Selected Drymax socks incorporate the patented Blister Guard® System.

Chemically known as expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), Profilen® has the lowest coefficient-of-friction of any fiber. This makes Profilen® the best to keep friction low, between the skin and sock. Combining Super Hydrophobic (non-wicking) Drymax fibers with the Friction Free® Blister Guard® System keeps feet drier, cooler and more comfortable, significantly reducing the chances of hot spots and blisters.

All of this technical talk and marketing mambo-jumbo looks and sounds great on the website but how did the socks perform on my feet? Here's the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
These are well made socks that fit and feel great. The material is soft and smooth without extra material bunching up behind my heel or being too tight around the toes like some other socks I've tried. The 1/4 crew sock fits snug to the ankle, but not too tight, keeping debis from getting into the sock. I only paid $11 for my Drymax Lite socks making then are less expensive than SmartWool and Injinji.

The Bad
I haven't been able to find any "brick and mortar" retailers that carry Drymax socks. If you really like them, you'll have to order them online incurring shipping costs. I recommend Zombie Runner. They keep their shipping costs down to a reasonable level.

The sock are treated for "Odor Control" with a zirconium phosphate based ceramic ion-exchange resin which contains silver. The silver antimicrobial is not a topical treatment but is molecularly infused into the Drymax fibers as they are being extruded. This special process is said to be non-migratory and non-toxic but who's checking?

The Ugly
I got blisters!! Not every time I wore them but often enough. I did three 5 mile runs without any problems. When I ran longer, a 10 mile run and a 15 mile run, I developed a minor blister between one of my toes. A different spot both times. Not really a big deal in training but a minor blister during an ultra race can turn into a major issue as the miles wear on.

Just because the socks didn't work for me, it doesn't mean they wont work for you. My friend RunninRob ran the GAC 6 hour race in Drymax socks and he only had a very slight blister when he finished. You just have to experiment to see what works best for you. As for me, I'm sticking with Injini. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Blister boy out...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Weekend on the Trails

Most New England trail runners should find something to their liking with three good races coming up this weekend. Runners looking for a short race have two choices, a 5.5 mile run in NH and 6.5 mile race in MA. For those looking for a greater challenge, you have a 23K and 50K option at Pisgah. Happy racing!

Saturday, September 12 - Farnum Five.5, Lebanon , NH - Race # 6 in the Western New Hampshire Trail Run Series, The Farnum Five.5 begins with a fast class VI road, then challenges you with a short steep climb to the ridge, then cruise along the scenic ridge to a fast downhill finish. All proceeds go to the Lebanon Recreation and Parks.

Sunday, September 13 - Pisgah Mountain 23K or 50K, Chesterfield, NH - Race #16 in the Grand Tree Trail Race Series. A moderately challenging and scenic course consisting mostly of single-track trails through New Hampshire's largest state park. Weather can be unpredictable this time of year so come prepared.

Sunday, September 13 - Overlook Trail Race 6.5M , Fitchburg, MA - Race # 12 on the Eastern New England Trail Race Series this course offers a challenging degree of difficulty including single-track trails, rocky paths and stream crossings. It is run entirely within conservation land managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, North County Land Trust, and the City of Fitchburg Water Division. Some of the highlights on the course include a junk art exhibit, a loop around the Overlook Reservoir, a climb up and over Flat Rock Road, the waterfall at the Chasm, and depending on weather conditions mud and water along the Swamp Trail, pine needle floor trails, and single track through the pines on the Lightening Path. This is one of my favorite races!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stone Cat 50 Training Plan

With only nine weeks to go before my first 50 mile attempt at the Stone Cat trail Races I thought I should devise a training plan to get me to the starting line. Up until now I have be winging it from week to week without any goals or plan in place. That worked fine for my 50K at the Green Lakes Endurance Runs but I don’t feel like it will work for Stone Cat. I think a more structured approach is better for the longer distance.

Of course this is just a plan and subject to change along the way. The biggest question mark I see right know is how my knee feels in the days and weeks ahead. Right now it’s still sore. I can run for about an hour before I feel pain in the left knee. It gets worse when running downhill to the point where I feel as though I am altering my stride. I’ve been icing it twice a day but haven’t tried stretching the IT band yet. I’m not even sure if it is the IT band but I suspect it.

Anyway, here is the plan by week.

  1. 40 miles, 14 mile long run, 3 x 1 mile intervals (50K recovery week #2)
  2. 45 miles, 20 mile long run, 3 x 1 mile intervals
  3. 50 miles, 24 mile long run, 3 x 1 mile intervals
  4. 50 miles, 20 mile long run, 10K trail race
  5. 40 miles, 18 mile long run, 4 x 1 mile intervals (recovery week)
  6. 50 miles, Mountain Madness 50K (as long training run)
  7. 35 miles, 15-18 mile long run or 15 mile trail race (taper week #1)
  8. 25 miles, 3 x 1 mile intervals, 15K race (taper week #2)
  9. 3 days easy running follow by 3 rest days (Race week!!)

I'm just not sure where I will find the time to do all this running!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weekly Training Update - Aug 31 - Sep 6

It's been a week since I finished the Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50K. I didn't do any running the two days following the race. My quads were a little sore but they starting feeling better on Wednesday so I went for a short run during my lunch break at work. My legs felt tired but otherwise OK. On Thursday and Friday I ran a little longer and was still feeling tired but the soreness in my legs was completely gone. I was thinking my recovery was going well until I ran in Breakheart today. About an hour into my run I started to get some pain in my left knee. The same pain I experienced during the race due to the camber of the trail in some parts of the course. I'm guessing it's my IT band but I don't know for sure. I'll just have to monitor it and hope it doesn't get any worse.

Total Miles: 20
Longest Run: 8
# of Runs: 4
Avg Run: 5 miles

Today is such a great day to run. I'm thinking about my friends running the Wapack Trail Race [results] today and wishing I was there now. It was wise for me to past on it, but still can't help feeling like I'm missing out on something good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Product Review - Patagonia Release Trail Shoes With Vibram Sole

I received a pair of Patagonia trail shoes from the good people at Vibram. They wanted me to evaluate how their Vibram Release Sole performed on the trails. I've logged about 60 miles in the shoes so far, with runs ranging from 5 - 15 miles, and feel I can now make an honest assessment regarding the shoe's and soles performance.

Here is some basic information from Patagonia's website.

Built to traverse the Backbone Trail without bonking midway, the Release trail-running shoe keeps your feet well-protected and comfortable on long-mileage runs. The breathable synthetic air-mesh upper is DWR (durable water repellent) treated to seal out water at creek crossings. The Dynamic Fit Lacing System provides a precise and secure fit that custom-wraps around the forefoot. A cushioning Ortholite® X-40 footbed wicks moisture and neutralizes odor; the triple-density EVA footframe (15% recycled) provides stabilization and pronation control. With a Vibram® sole that has embedded track spikes for excellent grip and traction on sketchy terrain.

Here is my take on it from the ground up.

The Vibram outersole is rock solid with an aggressive tread pattern and embedded rubber spikes for additional traction when the going gets rough. I have run over a variety of surfaces including, hard-packed trails, mud, grass, gravel roads and asphalt. The soles provided excellent traction in all situations. They also offer excellent underfoot protection from sharp rocks and gnarly roots so no need to avoid them. I my opinion, the best test of a soles traction is how it grips on wet granite slabs. I haven't had a chance to test the shoe under these conditions but will update you when the opportunity presents itself. I suspect the soles will handle it just fine. The Vibram sole is so durable, I suspect it will outlast the uppers!

The triple density EVA mid-sole offers excellent cushioning without feeling too soft and spongy. If you have to run on paved roads to get to a trail-head then this might be the shoe for you. The Patagonia Release has the most cushioning of any trail shoe I have tried so far, even more than my Cascadias, which I consider to have very good cushioning. If you're into green, the midsole uses 15% recycled materials.

The shoe's upper is treated with a durable water repellent (similar to the repellent used on water-resistant jackets) to help seal out water when you are running in the rain or splashing through puddles. I haven't had a chance to take the shoes through any stream crossing but the shoes should drain well due to the open mesh design of the upper material. This open design also makes the shoe very breathable, great for warm weather running. Rounding out the uppers is a nicely padded tongue and a Dynamic Fit Lacing system with loops that are separate from the instep. The lacing system custom-wraps the upper around the forefoot. I have the say this shoe fits like a glove! Super comfortable.

The Patagonia Release is now my favorite trail shoe for long-distance running over trails with varying surface conditions. I'll be using this shoe on my next 50K in October. On the down side, the shoe is heavy at 14.5 oz but I can't really say I've noticed the weight on any of my runs. It's a well constructed shoe utilizing quality materials and should last a good long time. What else would you expect from companies like Patagonia and Vibram?

This Weekend On The Trails

Only one area race this weekend but it's one worth running if you're up for a challenge.

Sunday, Sept 6 - Wapack Trail Race - New Ipswich, NH -The race is approximately 18 miles. The course is an out-and-back that follows the Wapack Trail between New Ipswich, NH and Ashburnham, MA. There are four major mountains in between: Barrett, New Ipswich, Pratt, and Watatic, from north to south. Total climb is about 4,200 feet. On a clear day, you can see for miles, including stunning views of Mt. Monadnock to the northwest, if you have the presence of mind. This is a very tough trail race. Don’t attempt it unless you are in excellent shape. The Wapack is generally well marked by yellow triangles that you will need to follow using your own powers of observation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

August Training Update

August was my high point for 2009 in terms of training and racing. I topped out at 182 miles in August, my highest monthly total since June, 2007 (the month before my long-term health/injury issues started). I also completed my first ultra, the GLER 50K, where I finished 9th of 25 in my age division. I'll be recovering this week and then slowly building up the mileage for a possible 50K in mid-October or a 50M/Marathon in early November.

Total Miles: 182
Longest Run: 31
# of Runs: 20
Avg Run: 9.1
# of Races: 2
Race Miles: 42
Trail Miles: 74%

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Green Lakes 50K Race Report

Alert: OK, I could make this short and to the point but I wont. If you don't have alot of time or are bored easily, check my previous post. It gets you to the bottom line in a few sentences. This report is long so consider yourself warned!

Note: Since I considered this a serious race effort I didn't stop along the way to take pictures. Any photos of the course used in this post were taken from the race website or the NY state parks website.

This past weekend I drove out to Fayetteville, NY with friend Paul to run the
Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50k [results]. It was raining during most of the drive making the 300 mile journey longer than expected. A sudden micro burst and resulting torrent of water falling from the sky brought visibility down close to zero and caused many drivers to pull of into the breakdown lane to wait it out. We arrived at the EMS store to pick up our race packet, grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby Uno's, checked into the our hotel and settled down for the night.

After a semi-restless sleep we were up at o-dark-thirty for some carbo-loading at the Denny's next to the hotel. The service was super slow but I guess you have to expect that at four in the morning. After breakfast it was back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading over the the Green Lake State Park. It was dark and cool when we arrived at the parking lot where we were directed to the start/finish area by one of the volunteers.

It was getting close to starting time but I had to make one more pee break. I ran over the restrooms by the lake and hurried back as quickly as possible. Nothing like running BEFORE the start of a 50K. It was a good thing I did because the RD said "10 seconds to go" when I made it back to the start. Talk about cutting it close.

course consisted of four loops of 12.5K around Green and Round Lakes and a large upper meadow nicknamed the Serengeti. I planned to use a 5:1 run:walk ratio for the first three loops and then run the last loop without any walking breaks. I really wanted to break 6 hours so my goal was to run close to 1:30 per loop and hope I had enough fuel in the tank at the end to go under the 6 hour barrier.


Easy running on wood chips.

I thought the course would be pretty tame but it was tougher than expected with over 2900 feet of elevation gain. The trails around the lakes were wide, flat and smooth with a fine gravel or wood chip surface. The trails between the lakes to the upper meadow were more technical and steep with plenty of rocks and roots. The trails here had a very high clay content and were super slick with all the rain from the day before. My feet were slipping on the climbs all day even if I walked. The upper meadow, aka the Serengeti is a 5K long stretch of open grasslands. This was the most deceiving part of the course. I had expected this to be flat but it was constantly rolling. There were not any steep hills but there were several small ones and a few long climbs as well.

This hill is much steeper than it appears here.

I started out with my friend Emily but we only got to run together for about 3 minutes. She was using a different run:walk schedule and started her walking break sooner than me. Sadly, I didn't see her again until after the race. I did manage to run with some people for the first loop and some of the second. After that I was running alone for rest of the race except when I was passing people.

Beautiful blue water.

I felt very good during the first loop. I didn't struggle to get into a rhythm like I usually do when I go out for a long training run. I considered this a good omen but I knew it was way to soon to make any predictions regarding the final outcome. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the scenery at this time knowing I would probably have little interest later in the race. The lake was a beautiful blue color similar to the Listerine I use to clean my Camelbak. Not sure how it get it's color, maybe the minerals in the water? The Serengeti was a sea of green, yellow and purple with great views of the city and lakes below.

Grassy meadow with rolling hills.

I finished the first loop in 1:24, six minutes faster than the 1:30 I was aiming for. I took off my Camelbak and grabbed my two Nathan handheld bottles. One was filled with
Heed and the other with Perpetuem. I made a made a quick transition, probably spending a little over one minute at the main aid station, then I was off for loop number two. I was a little concerned I want out too fast and thought about slowing down for the second loop. I was feeling good and decided to just run how I felt and not to worry about the splits.

As I began loop number two I had two runners up ahead of me. I kept up with them while I was running and they pulled away a little during my walking breaks. This yo-yo effect lasted until we were half way through the Serengeti and then I went past them for good. I caught another group of 4-5 runners after the Serengeti, right before a long downhill section though old growth forest. The trail was rock and root filled and plenty slick. The group ahead of me were all taking the downhill cautiously. This was an opportunity to pick up a few places and put some distance on them. I leaned forward and threw myself down the hill passing runners one by one. As long as I didn't try to slow down I figured I wouldn't slip. The last person I passed yelled "Nice downhill running!" and I yelled back,"Thanks, I can't run up them but I'm not too bad coming down." I finished loop two in 1:23 and still feeling strong.

I was now 13 minutes under 6 hour pace and I was optimistic about my chances of running sub-six. I didn't want to waste too much time in transition so I filled my two water bottles with Perpetuem, grabbed two gels, toweled myself off and was on my way in less than two minutes. On the third loop I start to have some issues with my left knee around mile 18. The 3 miles of trails on the Serengeti had a slight camber to the left and it was beginning to cause some lateral knee pain. It wasn't anything too sever, just a dull ache, but I was concerned about it getting worse later on and causing me to slow down.

I was surprised how good I still felt at mile 20. On my training runs I am usually feeling pretty tired by 20 miles but today I was feeling strong. I'm sure the cooler temperature (70s) helped but I think up to now I also had nailed my fueling needs by drinking and eating the proper amount. I was taking in a gel every 45 minutes and drinking around 25oz of Heed or Perpetuem every hour. This provided an addition 120 calories to supplement the 100 calories from the gel. I also took one S-cap every 45 minutes to replace the sodium lost through sweating.

I was very happy to complete my third loop in 1:23. So far I had run very even splits and I was still feeling good except for the knee pain and a blister on one of my toes. I haven't had a blister in two years since I started wearing Injinji socks but I got one about 12 miles into the race. That's weird! It never got to the point where it effected my stride though. Again, I didn't spend much time in transition and got back out on the course in less than two minutes to run my last loop. 23.3 miles down, 7.7 to go!

I was feeling OK until I hit the first steep climb thought the forest. I just didn't have the power in my legs that I had during the first 3 loops. I kept moving at a decent pace but it was getting harder all the time. Up on the Serengeti I had to walk some of the longer hills that I was able to run previously. My knee was feeling worse and then it just buckled around mile 25. That freaked me out and I thought my race could be over at any moment. Fortunately, it didn't give out again and was just sore the rest of the way. I went through marathon distance in 4:47 and just kept plugging away.

After seeing my marathon time I thought I had a good chance of running under 5:45 as long as I didn't blow up. I began to play a mental game with myself. Instead of thinking about how many miles I had run, I started counting down how may I had left. By mile 28 I was really starting to struggle and felt like I was doing the survival shuffle. When I got to the long downhill leading to the lakes my quads were too tired to hammer it like I had been doing on the earlier loops. I just wanted to get down without tripping over a rock or root and messing up my race. I was happy to make it down safely to the flatter ground by the lakes.

I "ran" as best I could, my feet barely clearing the ground beneath them. I kept looking at my watch and thinking sub-5:42 may be possible. When I approached the beach area I knew I had less than a half mile to go so I picked up the pace. This was the first time I was breathing heavy during the race. With about a quarter mile to go I increased my speed even more and with about 200 yards to go I went into an all out sprint. I'm sure it wasn't real fast but it felt like it. I ended up passing a female running about 30-40 yards from the finish. I wasn't trying to out kick her, in fact I was so focused on the finish line clock I didn't really notice her initially. Still, I sort of felt like a jerk passing her so close to the finish line. Then again, I'm not even sure if she was finishing the 50K. She could have had another loop to do or she could have been running the 100K.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I walked over to my friend Paul and told him there was no way I was going to run a 50 mile race in the fall. 50K is far enough! Of course, 24 hours later I was reconsidering. I was so psyched to run 5:41:37 and very happy with the way I ran it. Even though I slowed to a 1:31 split on my final loop, my first three loops were run within a two minute time difference. My friend Paul ran an awesome race finishing 3rd overall and first master. His time of 3:58:32 set a new course record for the master's division. Emily also ran a very strong race on minimal training and no training runs longer than 12 miles!

I highly recommend the GLER 50K for the first-time or experienced ultra runner. The race organization is top notch and the volunteers are friendly and helpful. The course is very well marked and has enough variety so as not to get boring even though it is a multi-loop race.

Did I really run that far for a patch?

What next?....
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