Monday, March 22, 2010

A River Runs Through It

With the temperature predicted to hit 70 degrees on Saturday I headed 30 minutes north to Bradley Palmer State Park to meet Emily and Rob for a long trail run. The swollen Ipswich River had receded enough to allow passage along Route One near the Topsfield Fairgrounds but the entrance road to our usual meeting spot was still under water and closed to traffic. We decided to meet at a nearby footbridge but that too was unreachable due to the high and fast-flowing river. We finally found some dry ground near the Pingree School entrance and prepared for fun times.

Our plan was to run the GAC Fat Ass 10K course and get in 18-20 miles. Things didn’t go exactly as planned and we made several detours onto other trails, sometimes unintentionally. There were two areas near the Ipswich River that were still underwater but running through the cool water was refreshing as the temperature increased as the morning progressed. Emily had Sunday plans for a run on the 7 Sisters course so she called it a day around 10-11 miles. Rob and I went on to run a little shy of 18 but not before he went for a dip in the river. It was a super day and a great time to be running with friends.

Fun stuff, another trail underwater.

Squish, squish, squish

It wasn't always fun though. Some of the trails were dry.

"Dan, are we really going to cross over to the other side?"

Taking a break to play in the river.

Later gator...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

To Dreams Yet Fulfilled

I sit here on this dreary day, icing a sore knee and feeling the pain and numbness from the return of symptoms of my cervical stenosis, thinking of the only 100 mile race I would truly like to run some day, while knowing full well I have about a 0% chance of ever being accepted. Yet, I still dream.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Product Review - Nathan Elite 2V Waist Pack

They say the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. I admit I have a problem with hydration systems. My problem is I have too many of them. I own a hand-held water bottle by Go-Lite, a hand-held bottle by Ultimate Direction, two thermal hand-held bottles by Nathan, a single bottle waist pack by Fuel Belt, a double bottle waist pack by Go-Lite, one 70oz Camelbak, and two 100 oz Camelbaks. I promised myself I would seek professional help for this addiction but not before I made one more purchase. This time it’s the Nathan Elite 2V waist pack.

From their website:

The Elite 2V adds extra carrying capacity to get you through those long stretches between aid stations.

• Dual XTS Cradles
• Twin angled, insulated holsters for quick access
• Two 22 oz. BPA free Hydration Bottles
• Twin removable zippered front pockets for small essentials
• Shock Cord with one-pull tension lock for jacket or gloves
• Airmesh moisture-wicking backing
• Fits 26” to 42” waists

Here’s my take on it:

I’ve become a huge fan of Nathan products for their practical, efficient designs and quality craftsmanship. The Elite 2V is a well made waist pack. The holsters are angled to allow easy access to the bottles and return to the holster after taking a drink. The caps have a carbineer so you could attach them to a backpack or belt if you weren’t using the waist pack itself. I don’t think they are necessary so I replaced mine with standard caps to reduce weight. Not that the Nathan is heavy. It only weighs 7.7 oz empty. Of course I never run empty-handed so I also like the storage capacity of the Elite 2V.

There are two zippered pockets on the belt that can hold a fair amount of ‘stuff’.’ I’ve carried a cell phone, camera, three gels, a Cliff bar, S-caps, Chap Stick and a few paper towels at one time. If you don’t need to carry a lot of extras on your run, the pockets are attached with Velcro and can be removed quickly and easily. There’s also a shock cord you could use for securing a jacket or extra top to the pack if weather conditions look iffy. I haven’t used it yet but it’s a good thing to have just in case.

Since this pack fits 26” to 42” waists there’s bound to be some excess belt flopping around. This may be a minor thing to most people but I find it annoying. Nathan must have been thinking of me when they designed the Elite 2V. The excess belt straps can be put through a belt loop and tucked behind the pockets so they’re not dangling in the wind. That’s a nice feature not found on other waist packs. Even when weighted down with two full bottles of fluid and all my extra junk the pack sit securely and does not bounce, not even on down hills. The mesh backing is well padded and very comfortable.

I highly recommend the Nathan Elite 2V. I got a deal on mine at REI for the ridiculously low price of $21.93. The best current price is $37.71 with free shipping on If you decide to purchase from Amazon please use my link to the side. I get a cut of the action!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Long, Shorts Weekend

There’s nothing like three sunny 50 degrees days to improve my attitude. I took advantage of the spring-like weather to get in some very enjoyable miles the past three days. It felt great to shed the winter wardrobe and run with only shorts and a tee shirt. I think the last time I did that was just about three months ago in early December. I’m sure New England will see a return to some winter weather but this was a nice, unexpected break.

I started of the weekend with a TARC run in Blue Hills reservation. I picked up Kevin and we met 16 other trail animals at the Houghton’s Pond parking lot. The plan was to run the first 26 miles of the Don’t Run Boston 50K course. I had no intention of doing the full 26 after coming off a 28 mile run just six days earlier. I was looking to do between 16 and 20 miles depending on how I felt.

The run started out easy enough but there were a few fast runners in the pack today and there was no holding them back. Less than two miles into the run the pack splintered into several mini packs. I got left in no-man’s land and was running on mine own. I caught up to Kevin and Michelle but we soon lost our way. We cut some of the course and by luck caught up to some of the other group coming from another direction. We stayed with them for most of the remaining miles. I called it a day around 15-16 miles. Many others went on to do 20-26 miles.

Summer in March. TARC hits the beach.

I think my hill repeats with Bob Crowley up to the Observation Station and a few hill workouts on the treadmill are beginning to pay off. I felt much stronger on all the big climbs up the Skyline trail and wasn’t falling behind like I did on my previous two runs here. I just need to get more consistent with these hill workouts.

Several photos of the TARC run are here.

My plan for Sunday was to meet up with Rob for a run with Gilly of GAC fame. When I got up Sunday morning I realized I wasn’t exactly sure where I was supposed to meet the GAC group so I ended up skipping the run. Since it was another ‘shorts’ day I couldn’t skip running altogether. I grabbed my iPod and went over to the local school track and banged out five mindless miles. It was nice to just put my mind on cruise control and not have to worry about tripping over rocks and roots. Plus I avoid a big goose egg for the day.

Today, I met up with Emily for a very enjoyable 8+ mile run on the AVIS trails. Emily took me on a fun tour of sections of Ward, Mary French and Skug River Reservations. The trails there are non-technical so it was a nice break after running in Blue Hills. The AVIS trails have a good mix of flat and hilly terrain, some water crossings, several boardwalks and plenty of solitude. I have to say today’s run was my favorite of the three. I’ll have to come back here again very soon although I’ll surely get lost without my tour guide.

Enjoy the sunshine….

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

February In Review

The weather in February affected my running during the month. Whenever it was overcast, raining or snowing my motivation sunk to zero. And there were many days like this in February. Compounding the problem was the lack of snow up north so I didn’t run any of the three GSSS snowshoe races I planned for and entered. I only ran 2-3 days per week instead of my usual four. I only managed to salvage the month to some degree by doing a 28 mile run on the last day of February. Of course running 24% of your total monthly mileage in one day is not a good training program.

February Recap:

Total Miles: 116
Best Week: 43
Longest Run: 28
# of Runs: 11
Avg. Run: 10.6

Yep, I’m ready for spring…

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's My Age Again?

Two or three decades ago I read a story about Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray. What interested me the most about the story was how McGillivray commemorated his birthday every year by running the number of miles that corresponded to his age. He began this tradition at age 12 and to the best of my knowledge continues to follow it. At the time I thought, “How cool is this? I should do that.” Well, the years passed and I never did get out for that Birthday run. The idea faded from my memory bank.

I’m not sure why after all these years the thought of doing a birthday run returned. But it did. I knew there was no way I could run 55 miles on the training (or lack of) I had been doing the past three months. I thought a 55K run would be a big enough challenge. I asked a few friends who I knew were crazy enough, I mean brave enough, to join me in this foolish endeavor. They thought it was a great idea! I’m beginning to wonder about the people I associate with ;-).

Ten enthusiastic ultra-runners....and then there were none.

On Sunday morning it was cold and damp as a group of hearty runners assembled at the entrance to Lynn Woods reservation. Michelle and Kevin were two of the last to arrive. Michelle was driving about 90 miles per hour and I thought she was going to do some donuts in the ice-covered parking lot. Too bad she didn’t. When she got out of the car she said she wasn’t going to run and just was here to drop off Kevin. It seems she partook in an excessive amount of a clear alcoholic beverage derived from potatoes, corn or cereal grains the night before. She was a bit under the weather and not in the mood for a 34 mile run. What’s up with that? She eventually caved to peer pressure and decided to join us. I will now affectionately refer to her as “The Vodka Vegan.”

The trails were a bit messy from the rain and wind storms that lingered in the area all week. We encountered a little snow, a little ice and several areas of mud and standing water. There were also many blow downs on the trails and fire roads. We had to crawl under, climb over, or bushwhack around many large trees taken down by the strong winds on Thursday. This just added to the adventure and difficulty of the run.

Bill, Emily and Steve climbing Cornel Path.

Running along Breeds Pond. (Photo by Steve Latour)

Single file on the boardwalk (Photo by Steve Latour)

Not everyone was planning to go the entire distance and one by one people started to drop out. After 35K, only Christine, Chris, Steve and I remained. After some refueling in the parking lot we headed back out to tackle a hilly (Oh, now I remember them!) 10K loop. The afternoon temperature had dropped and the air felt raw. My pace was slowing and I had a hard time staying warm. I also had a painful, tight groin muscle that was affecting my stride. When Christine mentioned Chris was also a certified CMT I asked if he would massage the affected area. We all had a good chuckle over that but I’m still waiting for my rub down.

Avoiding a wet muddy section of trail. No one likes wet feet when it's this cold.

Back to the cars with 45K in the books and the two “Cs” were still looking strong. I’m sure they could have easily gone out for another loop. I, on the other hand was feeling the cumulative effects of 28 miles of mud, hills and technical terrain. I knew if I went out for the final 10K it would involve a lot of walking breaks. On a warmer day that would have been fine but on this cold day I didn’t see it happening. I was already cold while running and if I starting walking I would only get colder. This was the end for me. Steve asked me if I would regret it later if I bagged it only 10K from the finish. Without hesitation I said “No.” 

Although I came up a bit short I have no regrets. (UPDATE: I sort of regret it now.) I had a great time with many old and new friends. We enjoyed several hours of running, joking and sharing stories in the natural beauty of Lynn Woods. Thanks to everyone for coming out and helping me finish my longest run of 2010. I’m sure there will be more ahead.

More photos from Steve

"I never want to act my age. What's my age again?" - Blink 182
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