Friday, December 16, 2011

Snowshoe Racing Season Opens Soon

We're only ten days away from the start of the 2012 DION SNOWSHOE RACING SERIES with the "I Love Woodford" 3 mile race in Woodford VT kicking off the season. Five days later the GRANITE STATE SNOWSHOE SERIES begins it's season with Beaver Brook 5K race in Hollis NH. Last year I was only able to make it to one race, the Peak Snowshoe Half Marathon, but I hope to run a few shorter races this year. I only have one question, "Where's the snow?"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run - Appleton Farms Spur

I haven't run on the Bay Circuit Trail since May when I meandered for 30 miles through seven communities, getting lost in the process.  I've been reluctant to return to the BCT and cover the remaining 100 (or so) unfinished miles to the shores of Kingston.  Most of the sections yet to be run are over 20 miles in length and my ailing IT band just wont stand up to the distance.  I decided to run a shorter side spur to quench my thirst for some BCT goodness.

The spur splits off the main BCT in Willowdale State Forest and runs through Bradley Palmer State Park, Pingree Reservation, Harvard Forest, Appleton Farms Grass Rides  and terminates in Appleton Farms.  There is a proposal to extend the trail east from Appleton Farms to Crane Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  That would be sweet.  My plan was to run in an east-west direction, beginning at Appleton Farms. The out and back run would total 16 miles so I cut it a bit short to come in around 12.  I didn't want to push it too far since anything over 10 miles has been causing some serious knee pain.

Course view

It was 21 degrees when I arrived at Appleton Farms but the winds were light and the sky was a clear and brilliant blue.  My decision to run in shorts and a long-sleeved shirt turned out to be a good one. I'm warmed up soon enough once I got moving.  The first two miles though Appleton Farms was on a pleasant dirt road flanked by pastures and meadows.  The few cows grazing in the early morning light seemed uninterested with my presence.  I met another runner coming from the opposite who thought I was nuts for wearing shorts. Hey, it's not winter yet.

A frosty morning.

Some of the easiest running I've done in a while.

Leaving the farm, I entered an area laced with wide carriage roads.  The BCT is not blazed here so I followed the trail description to find my way to a large clearing where six roads met like spokes on a hub.  A pinnacle salvaged during the demolition of the old Harvard College Library in the early 1900s stands in the center of the clearing. There are three other pinnacles on the property.  I departed the clearing and followed a wide, grassy road to Harvard Forest.

Round Point clearing

The Pinnacle

Once I entered Harvard Forest/Pingree Reservation the trails were sparsely marked with the white rectangle blazes of the BCT.  I was never confident I was following the correct trail but only once strayed briefly off the chosen path.  A bridle path built and maintained by the Essex County Trail Association brought me to Bradley Palmer State Park.  I was now on familiar ground having run in BPSP several times over the years. 

Crossing Black Brook which splits Harvard Forest and Pingree Reservation.

A pond on the grounds of Pingree School.

When my Garmin hit six miles in BPSP I was still about two miles from the main BCT trail in Willowdale.  Since I was no longer discovering new trails I decided to turn back now.  Running the additional four miles out and back would only increase the risk of knee pain on the return trip to Appleton. The 12 miles I ran is twice the longest distance I have been running lately.   No need to be a hero, or a dope.  In the end. I never had any pain.  But that could change at any time. It has in the past. Still, I'll take a good day when it comes.

Do I have any other choice? 

More images from my run can be found HERE.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Busa Bushwhack Race (not really) Report

I drove to Framingham MA with every intention of racing this 10 mile classic honoring Richard Busa but "stuff" happened and the race turned into a training run/photo shoot instead.  Not racing was a good decision.  Even though I ran easy and stopped often to take photos, the many ups and downs on the course caused my IT band to tighten up.  I ran the last mile with severe pain and a noticeable limp.

Me with the legend, Mr. Busa 

Me and Trooper Dave checking out the course map.  He kicked ass. I got mine handed to me. (photo credit: Wendy C-A)

I'm taking you down happy man. (photo credit: Wendy C-A)

It's a good thing KZ wasn't running. At 6'5", I don't think he would have made it under.

Busa said the course was dry. He fibbed.  Notice the wimps who went around to the left.  They all must have been wearing clean, new shoes.

80 year old John Parker passing by.  Justin (in the green jacket) is a follower of my blog.  Obviously, he is a discerning reader of all things trail.

Some flat running early in the race.  A thick layer of oak leaves concealed many rocks and roots.

I brought my personal photographer and cheerleader to the race. Actually, they were there for another guy but I jumped in front of him and stole his glory.

The climb up Pineline trail.

Pipeline pain.

My new trail pal Martha poses her Peace Out gaiters. I don't know how she stayed so clean.

I spent some time running with Hans.  He's very happy running trails.  

Off goes Hans.

I liked this old dude's shirt so much I clubbed him with and oak branch and removed it from his limp body. 

Notice how all the other runners step to the side when I approach.  The one in the gray tee is holding her nose.  Do I smell that bad?  (photo credit: Wendy C-A)

No more racing for me this year.  Time to rehab.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Product Review - Inov8 Roclite 319

The Roclite 319 is one the newer creations from UK manufacturer Inov8 replacing the discontinued 305 and 320 models.  I've put about 100 miles on my 319s and my first impression is very favorable.   Inov8 markets this shoe as a great choice for road runners switching to trail running for the first time who are used to overly cushioned trainers.  I think it's also good for experienced trail runners looking for a long distance training shoe.  Here's my take on the 319s from the ground up.

Outersole:  The sole design is the same as other Roclite models with deep lugs that provide good traction on a wide variety of surfaces and good gripping power on muddy trails.  The hard endurance rubber will last for several hundred miles but the trade off is less traction on wet rocks and roots when compared to Inov8's sticky rubber sole utilized on some of it's other shoes.

Midsole: The single density sole is rated 4 arrows which means it is the most cushioned shoe in Inov8' stable (They use a one to four arrow scale to measure cushioning).  The single density sole (305s had single density midsoles) is softer than the dual density sole of my 320s but still protects the foot from hard, sharp objects. It may break down sooner than a duel density sole but I don't have enough miles on them at this time to make that call.

Uppers:  The uppers are more roomy than the 320s with a higher, wider toe box that is much appreciated by this runner. There is a heavy duty rubber-like material that wraps around the shoe. This helps make the shoe very supportive but also prevents water from draining quickly.  This can become an issue on long training runs/races with many water crossings.  I really like the design of the thin laces.  One pull is all you need to tighten up the shoe and the laces stay tied.  Not something I can say about the laces on my Cascadias.

The 319s are a best suited for long-distance training or racing on techincal trails.  They are not suited for short, fast runs due to their weight and structure.  I like to wear my 295s for the short stuff! Overall, another great shoe from Inov8.

Happy Trails!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stone Cat Marathon Race Report - Season Salvaged (Sort Of)

My 2011 race season started off much like it did in 2010 with a 50K race in April.  And just like last April, I ran this year's spring 50K with a good deal of IT band related knee pain.   I thought a winter of stretching and strengthening had put the issue to rest but I was wrong.  Under trained and hurting, I finished the 50K "Dead F'ing Last" with my running bud Steve L, the original Deal Last Ultrarunner. So went the rest of the 2011 ultra racing season. Poor performances, a few DNSs (Did Not Start), an couple DNFs (Did Not Finish) and bouts of off and on again knee pain. It has been a pretty disappointing year to say the least.

It wasn't all bad though.  In April, I embarked on my journey to run the entire Bay Circuit Trail beginning on Plum Island in Newbury and ending on the shores of Duxbury/Kingston.  The full distance is 200 miles and includes a mix of roads and trails.  I made it half way before my ITB problem forced me to abandon the quest, as least for now.  In July I ran the Wakely Dam Ultra, covering 33 unassisted miles in one of the most remote locations in the Adirondacks.  The stream crossings were a blessing on that 90+ degree day.  And the fresh blueberries!  My friend KZ saved my ass in the final miles. I just wanted to walk. He made me RUN! 

Now on to the Stone Cat.

This GAC race is a fall classic and one of my favorites.  I don't think I'm the only one that feels this way.  The 50 mile race and Marathon both reached their limits in about 36 hours!   Snooze, you lose.  Fortunately(?), all my dorky (in a good way) ultra-running friends were posting all over Facebook that registration was open and I manged to get into the 50.  Yes, I said 50.  My original plan was to run the 50 but decided to drop down to the marathon after experiencing a good deal of knee pain on my final 20 mile "Candy Corn" training run two weeks before Stone Cat. 

Dork Convention (photo credit: lil Roy)

Race morning was cold, about 30 degrees. My kind of weather.  Before the start I decided to go out with the Lynn Woods Crew instead of hanging back and doing my usual slow crawl until I warmed up.  The LWC folks are faster than me but I felt like I needed to prove something to myself after having such a crappy year of running.  I figured I would just hang on to them for as long as I could.  If I crashed and burned, so be it.  I didn't.

Dark and cold. Let's get the party started.

Sarge took it out faster than I was expecting but I said to myself, "Stick to the plan."    The first 45 minutes of the race was run in total darkness and even with a headlamp it was a little difficult to see well in the woods.  Once we hit the single-track it was difficult to stay with the group.  Mike D and I got stuck behind a group of timid downhill runners while the rest of the LWC pulled away.   I was getting a little annoyed with my inability to find a good passing opportunity so I just rode it out until we dumped onto a stretch of carriage road. After getting on the road Mike and I were soon back into the fold.

Deb T (aka Sarge) sets a fast early pace.

Much of the pre-race talk was on the topic of THE water crossing.  This year's race didn't disappoint as it was long and deep.....and COLD!   After plowing right down the middle of the trail turned stream, my feet were numb and it felt like I was running on stumps.  It took a while to get the feeling back but it wasn't as bad as the second time around.  For some strange reason It felt even colder when I passed though there on my second loop.  I wonder how bad it was for the 50 milers who had to negotiate the water four times?

River running? (photo credit: Chip Tilden)
Cold swamp water adds to the fun. (video credit: Rob Mac)  

Hitting Al Cat's aid station around 5 miles into the race, I stopped just long enough to top off my water bottle.  I didn't want to stay too long out of concern my IT band would tighten up in the cold.  The Lynn Woods Crew lingered, enjoying the trail side buffet. Who could blame them. Stone Cat has awesome food and amazing volunteers!  I had to keep moving so we parted ways here. 

Bill M in the pre-dawn darkness.

The first loop went by quickly and without incident except for a fall I took when I slowed down to talk with Karen G who was running the 50.  My toe caught a root and I went down, seemingly in slow motion, kicking Karen in the butt on my way down.  How ungentlemanly. As I regained my composure and pulled away, another runner started up a conversation with Karen.  Then I heard a loud thud.  He too, had fallen.  I'm not sure if Karen was sending us marathon wimps some bad mojo or not but I picked up the pace to get of range as quickly as possible. 

Entering the last section of single-track in the loop I could hear a siren and lots of cheering up ahead.  When I got to the junked Chevy I was greeted by the Stone Cat and his side-kick/bartender/bar patron/cheerleader.  Seeing them really raised my spirits (although I declined the real thing) and I let out a loud trail animal howl.  Before long I was crossing the soccer field, completing my first loop in 2:11, not including the 11-12 minutes it took to run the mini-loop around the school.  After dropping my headlamp and towelling off a bit I headed out for the final 12.5 miles.

Don't mess with the cat.

Don't drink and drive. (photo credit: Rob Mac)

Up until now my IT band was behaving and I had very little discomfort, but I knew things could change in a heartbeat.  I was still feeling strong, running all the uphills as I did during the first loop. Yes, I was breaking a golden rule of ultra running but I was only running 26.2 miles so run I must. Then it hit me on a downhill with about 10 miles to go.  A stabbing pain in my right knee so intense it brought me to an abrupt halt.   I walked a few yards and the pain eased so I began running again. 

The rest of the race when pretty much this way for the final 10 miles.  Intense pain followed by a short walking break, follow by more running and more pain.  Even though my pace was slowing I was still passing many runners.  I'm sure many of them were 50 milers but I know some were not.  Focusing on catching anyone ahead of me kept my mind off the pain.  Well, not really.

During the second loop I hadn't checked my watch so when I finally looked at it with a little over a mile to go I realized I had a chance to break 4:40.  Talk about shocked!  With my lack of training I thought I would be lucky to break five hours.  I tried to pick up the pace but my legs were shot.  I was able to increase my speed a little, but not enough to stay close to the woman ahead of me who was now pulling away.  When I reached the soccer field I put it in another gear but it was too late.  I crossed the finish line in 4:40:27.  My second loop was 2:17 so I didn't slow down as much as I thought. Even with all the walking breaks.

I was super happy with my time and very pleased to later discover I was the first male finisher over 50 years old.  Where were all the fast guys?  This finish definitely helped wipe away some of the bad memories I've had since early spring when the wheels starting coming off.  It may sound crazy but even though I completed three 50K and two marathons in 2011 I'm disappointed with the year I've had.   I was expecting bigger things.

Maybe next year.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catching Up

I haven't posted in a while because I haven't done anything worth mentioning. Ever since I finished running a marathon at the TARC Summer Classic two months ago I haven't felt like training much. I just got tired of running in the summer heat and humidity and dealing with nagging injuries.  I pretty much took the next eight weeks off, running very low mileage 2-3 times per week.  So when it came time to run a 50K I had registered for at the TARC Fall Classic I was almost certain I would be a "Did Not Start."  Then I got an email from my friend Runnin' Rob asking me if I could give him a ride to the race.  That was just the prompting I needed to yet again attempt to finish another 50K under trained.

To my surprise I felt very good during the race despite the unexpected heat.   The course was wedged between Interstate 95 to the south and Route 3 to the east.  The 10K loop was  mostly single-track with a fair amount of rocks and roots and several small hills, all runnable.  I ran three loops with my new-found friend Pam but had to drop at 30K after my IT band tightened up around 13 miles into the race.   The knee pain caused by the ITB continued to worsen over the next five miles and I knew there was no way I could run an additional 20K to finish.  It was definitely a disappointing day.

Urban Ultra

Roller-coaster ride

One week later I ran the 2nd Annual Candy Corn Run.   This is a Stone Cat training along the Merrimack River hosted by Bill Morse, an all-around good guy I've known for a number of years.  Bill has been doing this run for many years but renamed it the Candy Corn Run once he started marking the course with large candy corn signs instead of arrows and awarding bags of candy corn to anyone who can correctly answer his trivia questions.  This run is so much fun!  

Pure sugar goodness

Again, I was feeling great during this run, maintaining a good pace and enjoying the company of fellow trail runners and the well stocked aid stations provided by Bill.  Unfortunately, my IT band starting acting up again around mile 13 just like the previous week.  It was particularly painful on the downhills but I was able to finish the 20 miles I had planned to run.  I really didn't have much of a choice.  Running was the only back to the parking lot.  Oh yeah, I could have walked!

Lastly, I did my final training run for the Stone Cat 50 in Willowdale State Forest this weekend.  This was my third training run on the race course in the past several weeks.  The trails were the wettest and muddiest I have seen them this year.  It made for a fun run, squishing though the mud and splashing through long stretches of deep puddles.  I was getting little twinges in my knee during the run but no real pain until mile 12.  12-13 miles seems to be the limit to the distance I can run right know before the pain starts to increase.  

I wish the causeway was longer!

I'm not sure why my IT band is acting up again.   It was feeling good for three months.  Maybe it was feeling OK because I wasn't running much?   Who know?   All I know is there's no way I can run 50 miles at Stone Cat this year.   I've asked the RD to drop me down to the marathon.  I have a better shot at finishing 26.2 miles but it will still be a challenge if I have to run the last half with knee pain.   I run long distances all the time with plantar fascia pain but ITB pain is something I just can't run through. 

Maybe I'm just not tough enough.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blodgett Hill Fox Run

3C Race Productions is one of the sponsors for the Tuff Ten Trail Race (held on September 25th) so Saturday morning I drove to Merrimack NH to pick up some items Michael (of 3CRP) donated for my race's post-race raffle. I met him at Horse Hill Nature Preserve which is not far from when he lives. Michael was hosting a race there and it was the most convenient time and place for both of us to get together and make the exchange. Since I had driven an hour to get to Merrimack I thought I might as well run the race while I was there. 3C puts on some fun races.  Check out their schedule when you get a chance.

Before the race started I was talking to another runner who told me she was from Juneau, Alaska. Talk about traveling to a race!  And I was complaining about driving and hour?  It turned out she was visiting her dad who is living in NH. As we talked a bit more we discovered we both grew up in the same city in MA but went to different high schools. Small world as they like to say.

The race was advertised as a 7K but it turned out to be a little over 5 miles per my GPS. The course was in the shape of a lollipop, with the stick being about quarter mile long gravel and dirt road and the pop about 1.5 miles of twisting single-track. The loop was run three times which meant runners had to climb 420 foot Blodgett Hill three times. Not an easy thing to do in the heat and humidity. Running the many switchbacks on the course was a blast and made me forget about all the hard climbing. Well, at least for a little while.

Blodgett Hill

Three loops up and over the hill.

All my long, slow training hasn’t prepared me to run short and fast but I finished in the top ten overall and second in my age group. Now before you think I’ve somehow gotten really fast, there was a very small turnout for this race and only three runners in my age group. Statically speaking, I only finished in the top 50% overall and top 67% in my age group. I’m still slow and getting slower. On the plus side, a group of young women spectators told me I was the best dressed runner in the race.

So I have that goin' for me, which is nice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

TARC Summer 12 Hour Race Report - Back To The Drawing Board

First off let me say that the TARC 12 Hour Run in Medfield MA was an awesome race.  Co-RDs Chris and Josh and all of the race volunteers did an amazing job and were as supportive, friendly and helpful as any I have met in my years of running ultras.  Josh was so supportive, he would have convinced me to continue to run another loop even though I felt like a pile of poo.  The only thing that kept me from continuing was a family commitment that necessitated an early exit from the race.  Thanks for trying Josh.  

The second point I'd like to make is this race confirmed what I had been thinking about since running Wakely Dam last month.  My minimalist training just isn't cutting it any more.  Looking over my training log for 2011 revealed how little running I've actually done in the past 32 weeks.  My total so far this year is a paltry 565 miles.  If I back out the 120 miles covered in the four long races/runs I've done, that drops the total to 445.  That's a weekly average of about 14 miles per week!  That training can get me through marathon distance but I suffer greatly once I cross that threshold.  I think it's time to come up with a new plan if I want to continue running ultras.

OK,  now a little bit about the race itself.

The race course was a convoluted loop on the Trustees of Reservation property know as Noon Hill.  Although the course looked confusing on paper, it was very clearly marked and easy to follow.   Many people dislike loop courses for long races but I don't mind them if they aren't too short and the terrain is varied.  The TARC loop was approximately 6.3 miles long with technical and smooth trail sections and a moderate amount of elevation so I never felt bored during my 6+ hours of running.  I never felt good either.

Pre-race meeting of TUG.

TARC mascot.  "What you looking at?"

A "crazy" loop but easy to follow.

About 600 feet of gain per loop.

A long climb up 370 foot Noon Hill on right.  The view was not worth the climb.

Nothing but trees.

I started out by walking the first 15 minutes with Emily and Steve.  This has become somewhat of a tradition since doing this at Stone Cat last year with Em.  It's a good way to warm up and catch up with friends I don't see very often.   During this time I met fellow Blogger "Run Home" Pam from CT.  I've been reading her blog for a couple of years now and it was cool to meet her in person.  I also met two other online friends Wendy and Mark, who were very nice.  But then again, aren't all ultra runners? 

It didn't take long for me to figure out i was going to have a bad day.  I stubbed my toe, tripping about five times ON THE FIRST LOOP!  This is something that usually happens to me in the later stages of a race when I am fatigued.  The trend continued throughout the day until I finally went flying through the air like superman, landing prone on the trail.  I hadn't noticed how humid it was before the race but now I was sweating profusely. Humidity is my kryptonite.  I knew I was in trouble.  The fall just proved it.

These two cute chicks chased me all day. 

And I chased this big dude until he dropped me like a bad habit.  I think he finished in second place.  Was it my whining that made you run so fast?

Steve and I finished the first loop under 1:30 which was just about where I wanted to be.  That turned out to be my fastest of four loops even with the 15 minutes of walking in the beginning.   It's funny because I felt like I was moving much faster on the second loop but that too was about five minutes slower than the first.   My slowest loop was around 1:44.  I guess you could say the wheels came off after loop number one.  I'd like to blame the humidity but I believe the lack of any serious training had finally caught up to me.

So, now I'm standing at the crossroads.  Do I continue to run ultras with insufficient training, suffering at every race and running ever slower finishing times?  Do I find the time to train more, spending less time on other things I like to do?  Or, do I stick with minimal training, avoid ultras and run shorter races like those on the Grand Tree and North Shore Trail Race Series? 

Decisions, decisions.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Unrelenting" - 2011 Wakely Dam Ultra Race Report

After cresting a steep climb around mile 19 Kevin and I saw a runner sitting in the middle of the trail on the downward side of the hill.  He was sitting up and leaning back slightly against a fallen tree limb.  When we asked if he had fallen or was hurt he turned his head slowly and looked back at us.  He did not speak. His eyes were glassy and he looked confused and uncertain of his whereabouts.  Finally he spoke. 

He said he was not hurt but had bonked hard and was very tired and nauseous.  I asked if he needed a drink but he said he still had half a Camelbak of Gatorade.  This led me to believe he was not drinking enough during the race and that his electrolytes were out of balance due to severe dehydration.  I gave him 2 S-caps to take now and a few more for later and told him to start drinking.  After sitting with him for about 10 minutes he was talking coherently and seemed in better spirits.   He said he would be OK and we could leave him now. He said would walk the remaining 14 miles to the finish. 

Welcome to the Wakely Dam Ultra!

Runners who enter the Northville-Placid trailhead on Haskell Road know there are only two ways to get to the finish at Wakely Dam.  Either you get there under your own power on your own two feet, or you take an expensive ride in a Search and Rescue helicopter.   You see, there are no aid stations with helpful volunteers filling your water bottle and handing you snacks.  There are no crossroads to be used as bailout points for the weary runner.  There are no pretty pink ribbons marking your way so you don't get lost. Understand this, there are no DNF's at the Wakely Dam Ultra because the only thing between you and the finish line are 32.6 miles of unrelenting wilderness.

Only one way out. 

Race day was hot and humid.  Not my kind of weather but at least the high for the day was "only" 90 degrees.  It was close to 100 on the drive to the Adirondacks the day before.  As I stood at the back of the pack waiting for the race to begin, one thing was clearly evident to me.  My CamelBak was way too heavy!  With three liters of Heed in the bladder, two 24 oz water bottles in the side pockets, several gels, PB&J crackers and two Cliff bars stowed for fuel, a medical kit, a blister kit, a space blanket and several other assorted items I thought indispensable (but were not), my pack weighed well over 20 pounds.  What the hell was I thinking?

The few, the brave, the crazy Wakely runners! (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

The first mile at Wakely is flat single-track and those who were actually racing this thing were quickly out of sight.  In fact, nearly all the 60 other runners were gone faster than a sailor's cash on shore leave.   No worries here.  Kevin and I weren't planning on racing for different reasons.  He was coming off a fast 30 miles of pacing at the VT 100 for a 21 hour finisher and I was just plain out of shape, running about 60 total miles in the past five weeks. We were just out for a long run in the woods......a bit longer than expected.

Don't get use to this. It won't last. (photo credit: Kevin Z)

The next eight miles or so involved a series of climbs taking us ever higher in elevation.  None of the climbs were extremely long or steep but there were plenty of them.  There were also many, many blowdowns on the course making it difficult to get into a good running rhythm.  This would be the theme for the day, constant changes in elevation and tree hopping with very little flat running until the final 4.5 miles of the race.  Kev and I decided early on to walk most of the uphills because that's what Bill H. would have wanted us to do. We missed you Bill!  And did I mention the bugs?  They were as unrelenting as the hills of the NPT. The deer flies were so bad Keven stopped and put on his mosquito net about two miles into the race. The boy got gear.

This is more like it. (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

If only all the blowdowns were this small. (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

The trail took a beating with heavy flooding this spring. (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

At mile five we saw one of the Wakely runners standing in the trail.  She asked if we were running in the race to which we responded in the affirmative.   She told us she was thinking about going back to the start.  She said she was fine physically but her head just wasn't into it.  Kevin and I went through the pros and cons of turning back vs. continuing forward and even welcomed her to join us if she wished.  In the end she decided to turn around while she was still close enough to the start.  Wakely Dam had claimed it's first casualty. 

I can't fault the woman for returning.  If you're having second thoughts about this race at five miles it's best to go back.  It doesn't get any easier the next 28.  Also, I can see how a woman running alone on the NPT could get wigged-out.  It's very isolated.  Hell, there were a few areas during the race where I would have felt a bit uneasy had I been alone.  I guess I'm not as tough as I look. Or am I? 

WFF?  This is one of the places that freaked me out. (photo credit Kevin Z)

Reaching the Jessup River at seven miles I decided to fill one of my water bottles and treat it with iodine.  While I was filling up, the two course sweeps that left 1/2 hour after the race started arrived at the river.  I can't remember their names but they were cool and we joked around while they filled their bottles too.  The water level was low enough so we could rock hop across without getting our feet wet. We weren't so lucky at some of the larger rivers later in the race.  Some of the bridges were washed out so wading across was the only option.  Soon the sweeps were out of sight and Kevin and I were on our own again.

The water wasn't always this low. (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

More climbing and more blowdowns to maneuver over, under and around and soon (OK, not really soon, more like eventually) we were running along the edge of Spruce Lake.  It was here where I heard a loon call out to me.  It said, " You people are carrying heavy packs in 90 degree weather and running 33 miles over rocks, roots, trees, mud and water, all the while getting eaten alive by deer flies and they call ME a loon?"  OK, Mr. Loon, I get your point.  After passing the second lean-to it was time to eat.  Kev gets cranky when he goes 30 minutes without food.  The man can eat!

Spruce Lake. (photo credit: Kevin Z)

We don't take these "races" too seriously.

I don't remember much about the miles between Spruce Lake and the West Canada Lakes. I do remember stepping off the foot bridge across the bog and sinking ankle deep in mud, nearly losing my shoe. There was a nice cooling breeze when we entered the clearing near the lake and I wanted to stop here to enjoy the beauty of this place. Unfortunately, there was this business of completing a race before darkness so it was time to move on. I felt great when we entered the old caretakers clearing on West Lake which meant we had reached the half way point. My sense of relief was short-lived.

I almost lost a shoe here. (photo credit Rob Jacob)

Cool breeze and beautiful views. (photo credit: Rob Jacob)

Bug man gets his groove on. (photo credit: Kevin Z)

Half way point! (photo credit: Kevin Z)

"Where did the trail go?"

Leaving the caretakers clearing the trail was re-routed due to beaver activity, or was it because of spring storms? I'm old and can't remember.  Anyway, the narrow trail was twisting and turning and badly overgrown.  Our pace slowed to a crawl.  Well, our pace was already at a crawl but it became a slower crawl when we entered this section. This re-route went on for about a mile (at least it felt that way to me) before the trail opened up again and running became a little easier.

Around mile 20 the course starts to lose elevation.  There's still plenty of climbing to be done the the descents are longer and the running gets somewhat easier over the next 10 miles.  Kevin and I didn't talk all that much during this time.  I think the constant ups and downs and climbing over blowdowns had finally worn us down. We alternated pace setting duties with Kevin leading when we wanted to move faster and me taking over when we needed to slow down and rest a while.  I'm good at slow.

At least we had ample warning.

The water level dropped a lot so the rope assist wasn't needed. 

 This was the deepest and widest water crossing. (photo credit: Kevin Z)

"You first." "No, you first!"

With 4.5 miles to the finish the trail dumps onto a grassy dirt road.  Kevin got his fourth wind here and really picked up the pace.  I had a difficult time staying close and would lose sight of him every time the trail would bend or turn.  This was good motivation for me so I continued to run hard to keep Kev from escaping.  The grassy road connected to a wide Vermont-like dirt road and Kevin said we were only one mile from the finish line.  I think he told a white lie in order to light a fire under my butt because that road felt way longer that one mile to me.

Kevin could have easily dropped me here but he stayed with me so we could cross the finish line together.  Kev would run a few steps ahead, turn back and yell at to me get a move on. Oh, and also to ask me to consider running the Vermont 100 next year.  Yeah, I'll have to get back to you on that one Kevin. When I looked back at my splits I saw the last two miles of the race were my fastest!  I was either dogging it for 31 miles or I have an incredible finishing kick!  Thanks KZ for getting these old bones to Wakely Dam.

I saw the finish line about the same time I heard the cheers of encouragement from Co-Race Directors extraordinaire, Kim and Doug who did an excellent job in their first year as Wakely RDs.  I sure ten year RD Jim H. feels his race was left in good hands.  I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment (and immense fatigue) when I crossed the finish line at Wakely Dam.  This race was more difficult than I thought it would be, and more amazing.

The Wakely Dam is what ultra running is all about.  Self-reliance, difficult terrain, hard effort, raw nature and personal victories.  Wakely Dam Ultra is unrelenting.

Note to readers:  Most of you know I like to take numerous quantities of pictures when I'm on these adventures.  This time I stowed my camera in my backpack where it was difficult to reach so I didn't get any photos.  My bad.   KZ was the cameraman on this adventure run and contributed to this post with his fine photographs. Also thanks to Rob Jacob, a multi-time Wakely finisher. I "borrowed" some of your pics.  

If you like flat, don't come here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...