Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My 2009 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Author's note: I was recently asked what I think about while I run for 24+ hours. After quite a few minutes of deep deliberation I concluded that I really think about nothing at all. This revelation was quite shocking and somewhat depressing; how can I spend that many hours thinking of nothing. I truly believe that success in these races is achieved by cutting off most conscious thought that is not related to managing one's body: how is my breathing, what is that pain in my knee, when did I last eat or drink, is is time for another salt tablet, when is this thing going to end...no, strike that last thought as that is the type of conscious thought that will derail the best run race. Having said that, I must warn the reader that because I am not thinking much while on the course, I have a really hard time remembering exactly where I was at what times during most of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 that I ran on May 16th and 17th of 2009. I do remember experiences, feelings, and strategy. These I can share with you comfortably, but when it comes to the details, I ask for your forgiveness now.

So to begin, let me make one thing abundantly clear: Massanutten is hard. Of this make no doubt. It is rocky, rooty, rutted, rugged. Nasty. But with plenty of great views. And rattlesnakes. And on the day(s) I ran it, plenty rainy.

On to the details. This 100-miler was different in two very important ways from my two previous 100-milers. One, my wife and kids were missing from the cheering section having decided to stay home, and two, I was nervous. The first anomaly was understandable and tangible. While this did not make it okay, I could handle it. The second anomaly, or the nervousness, was much more destructive.

The nerves started weeks before the gun went off at 5 AM on May 16th, race day. The typical questions entered my mind, such as did I get in enough miles, did the difficulty I experienced on a number of training runs mean I was going to suffer on race day, and generally was I ready. Not helping matters was the cold and subsequent sinus infection I acquired a few weeks before race day that resulted in me bagging one of my longer training runs, a Boston Marathon double. And these nerves persisted to race day.

Not once have I lined up for a race wondering if I had what it took to finish. This terribly negative question was swimming through my thoughts early that Saturday morning as I stood around waiting for the annual Massanutten Mountain Trails pronouncement that started the race: "Get out of here!" Once I heard those words, all was okay with the world. The butterflies that had been dogging me for weeks were but mere memories. I was running now, doing one of the most simple things known to us bipeds. One foot in front of the other for no other reason but to have fun.

The Company:
As I am a Virginian, born and raised in Mechanicsville, VA, I felt this race was much of a homecoming of sorts for me. Also, I spent four years at Virginia Tech, deep in the mountains of southwestern VA, so I felt an extremely strong kinship with this race. Making this even more of a reunion was the fact that both my brothers, Chris and Jason, and my father joined me as my crew. None of them had ever witnessed anything like a 100-miler (unless you include Ironman Triathlons in the same class as a 100-miler, which I don't), so this was quite an experience for them. Also joining me was my most excellent buddy, Jamie Anderson, as crew chief and pacer. Jamie joined me at mile 65 at Gap Creek II aid station and spent the next 12 hours with me. The hours with Jamie were both the best and worst of times. Luckily the worse came first and we finished with a big bang.

The Conditions:
The day started as I would have expected from a late spring day in Virginia: humid. When the sun rose the day turned humid and hot. While I am not exactly sure of the temps, around mid-day I would guess it got up into the mid-80s in the sun. The heat forced me to stop at each and every stream crossing for a nearly full body dowsing.

Around 2 PM in the afternoon I felt a nice breeze whip up and noticed the darkening clouds forming over the mountains to my west. As I was exposed on a mountain ridge, I got a little worried about the electricity those clouds were surely to carry so I picked up the pace a bit. But it wasn't enough; the storm caught me as I was still exposed and the clouds let loose violently. Within minutes I was soaked to the bone and cold. Within a matter of ten minutes I went from melting to near hypothermic. There have not been many times in my life that I have felt such a quick shift in my body's thermal capacity. I became even more worried at this time and hurried to the next aid station which luckily had crew access and I was able to add some layers. From that point on the weather alternated between sun and heat to intense rain. There was so much rain in this storm, which did not let up until near 2 AM on Sunday morning, that dry creek beds were turned into raging rapids.

Near mile 60 another thunderstorm let loose as I was climbing one of these "dry creek beds turned into class V rapid" as lightning crashed all around me. I literally felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up at one of these strikes (generally not a good sign, especially if standing in a bunch of water). It was this point in the race that I started thinking that I might make this year's Darwin Awards ("runner struck dead by lightning as he played in a puddle of water during a thunderstorm"). This was another point in the race where I felt my core body temp plummet as I was once more drenched. Luckily I was running with another runner at this time who shared the trash bag he had intelligently picked up at the last aid station. Later in the race I picked up my own trash bag and wore it for good long while through the night. Never will I embark on a long run again without some form of rain cover.

After the storm moved on in the early morning the rest of the race was spectacular. That is with the exception of the incredibly slick conditions the rain had created on the six hundred million rocks that litter this course. The rain, coupled with the lichen that canvassed the rocks, made for many a stumped toe and stumble. It was the culmination of many of these slips that forced me in the middle of the night to sit down and declare that I was "done". My toes had taken such a beaten from every slide into the next rock that they wanted no more pain. This moment lasted all of 30 seconds, and from that point on (around mile 80) I probably ran the best pace I had all day. I chalk this up to the shame I felt at momentarily "quitting" in front of my buddy, Jamie.

The Course:
Without rehashing what is already printed on the MMT website, I will say this course goes up and down a lot. There are many mind boggling ups, downs, and all-arounds. The one brilliant thing about the MMT course is that there are very few climbs which do not reward the runner with spectacular views. Right out of the gate you spend a couple miles on a paved road, but it is dark and the asphalt is unnoticeable. By the time you finish the first ascent, I think it
is called Buzzard Rock, the sun is rising over the Shenandoah Valley, and if there is anyone out there that doubts the existence of some kind of God need only see the sun rise over the Shenandoah Mountains of VA . On race day morning we were blessed with a beautiful layer of clouds that hung just over the valley, right below the mountain peaks. The sun was just glowing off the clouds. Of note was the view of a cool looking fish hatchery from this spot.

The first aid station is at the first of many of the mountain gaps this course trespasses: Shawl Gap. In any race the first view of a runner's cr
ew is a very uplifting experience. Jamie did not disappoint and greeted me before I ever
reached the aid station. My dad and brothers were in aid station and I was happy to see that they all seemed to be excited to be there. At the next gap, Veach Gap, the aid station crew there had taken the time to fix the runner's pancakes and sausage - a breakfast fit for any ultrarunner. There were a couple great aid station surprises during this race, including "take-away" bags for filling with food to carry between aid stations that were separated by particularly long and tough trails and most memorable was the sloppy joe station that I hit sometime around 1 AM. I never thought a sloppy joe could taste that scrumptious and be such a motivator. I credit this sandwich for the remarkable burst of energy I had over the last twenty miles of the race.

There are a few particularly rough spots on the course that I would be remiss if I failed to mention them. The first is Habron Gap at mile 22.4. Preceding this aid station is one of the rare stretches of dirt road that is extremely runnable. While I am not exactly sure how long this stretch is, I would guess it is near 4 miles. I entered the aid station feeling really good, only to be warned that while the stretch to the aid station measured only 11 miles it felt like close to twice that distance. So I filled up at the station in addition to filling a couple goody bags with grapes to munch on during the nasty, sun-drenched ascent that awaited me. The climb was long and dry, and I ended up having to ration my water a bit having emptied nearly both my handheld water bottles climbing to the summit.

Another rough spot for me was the Bird Knob. This is part of a lollipop loop at the southern end of the course. This section of the course goes up, and up, and up some more, and then forces you to scramble over some boulders, and then goes up some more to one of the more spectacular views on the course. I even took the time to enjoy the view, while voiding my bladder. It was during this part of the course that I was dealing with one of my lowest points of the race. I was having a hard time wanting to eat anything as my stomach was very unhappy with me. I did as I always do in these cases and kept hydrating, eating what I could, and just waiting out the low point in the knowledge that a high always follows. The descent of Bird Knob is as challenging as the ascent, especially with quads that have already endured 55 or so miles of pounding. I am a fairly competent downhill runner so I enjoyed the descent but my quads were hurting when I finally got down.

The last point of the race that left a mark on me was the run into the Elizabeth Furnace aid station at mile 96.8 and the climb out of that aid station. This aid station is entered and exited via a series of long - correction - very long, switchbacks. These things felt like they went on forever. Both of these sections (into and out of) are between 5-7 miles but they might as well be 20. Most notable is the last climb. At mile 97 you leave Elizabeth Furnace and climb. Forever. The climb is steep and switchbacks all over the place. If this point in the race wasn't so close (it is actually 5 miles from the finish as the MMT 100 is really 101.8 miles), it would probably crush many runners. On the flip side, the descent is fast!

The Critters:
The mountains of Virginia are full of very cool critters. There were a couple that decided to pay me a visit during my run in their home territory. First up was the ornery timber rattlesnake. I saw this guy around 1 PM, shortly before the storms. He had decided to sun himself in the middle of the trail, although I am guessing he was forced out there by the 30-40 runners that were in front of me at this point. He was quite pissed. I decided I would try to save the runners behind me from a potential snake bite many miles from help by tossing a rock at the snake to "force" him off the trail. Well, he wasn't going anywhere but at me. As the rock landed near him he rattled and struck. Now I have seen these things rattle in cages before (I have actually shared a rock unknowingly with one on a hot summer hike in Douthat State Park in VA many years ago), but I have never had one rattle and strike at me with no glass in between us. Needless to say this helped my pace a bit. To my credit, I did stand there until the next runner caught me so I could warn them of the snake. Good deed for the day done.

The next wildlife experience was courtesy of a curious whip-poor-will (take a listen to the sample call in the link). The call of the whip-poor-will can be heard all night, and is quite the treat. Despite the fact that according to Native American legend the bird's call is death omen (not a good thing to remember during a 100-mile foot race), it is quite a beautiful call. Many descriptions of these birds mention that as nocturnal animals they are infrequently seen. Apparently no one told the whip-poor-will that befriended me and Jamie on the stone steps as Jamie and I were nearing Elizabeth Furnace. Dawn was approaching but we still had our headlamps on as we were climbing and my light caught the eyes of this little guy and the reflection startled me (I was jumpy all day and night after my rattlesnake encounter). After hearing the calls of these birds all night, it was quite cool to see one. He was sitting on a step right in the middle of the trail and let me get nearly close enough to touch him. He then flitted away and as we climbed a few more steps there he was again. So we got two close sightings of this very cool bird.

The Conclusion:
Massanutten was hard. But that is what made the accomplishment of completing the race that much sweeter. My finish time of 26:29 was over 6 hours longer than my best 100-miler (my first, the 2007 VT 100, which I finished in 20:27). I saw two sunrises and suffered countless bumps and bruises. I lost one toenail and a little pride when I sat down to "quit" in the middle of the night. But this race was one of the grandest events of my relatively short running career. The last 20 miles was spectacular. In the middle of the night I came out of one of my lowest lows and entered one of my highest highs (I once more must credit the Edinburg Gap aid station - I think - for the sloppy joe that had to have been laced with some kind of "speed") and for the last 20 miles ran gleefully past over a dozen runners to finish in a very respectable 15th place. While I did not accomplish my "A" goal of finishing in under 24 hours to receive a silver belt buckle, I did qualify for the pewter buckle and left myself with a goal for my next MMT 100!

I had a great crew. The act of crewing is extremely selfless and without any formal recognition (read: No belt buckles.) The crew is required to stay motivated and awake for the same amount of time as the runner without the benefit of the adrenaline rush of racing. And most importantly, they are not granted the luxury of complaining as the runner is when he comes into a aid station all grumpy and sore. The crew must maintain a good attitude and outlook the entire time lest they bring the runner down. So thank you to my father, brothers Chris and Jason, and my adopted brother Jamie!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Countdown to Vermont

More than one month ago I promised a more complete race report for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 shortly. Well, this has yet to happen. I am still trying to compile my thoughts (which I am loosing almost as quickly as I am gathering), but I do promise to compose a race report...at some point. The issue I am running into is that my next 100 is next Saturday (!) after which I will be expected to write a race report for that race...

Next Saturday is the running of my third straight Vermont 100. The course is beautiful and very runnable. My times on this course are around 20:20 in 2007 and 21:20 last year. Last year the weather was hot and humid and I was not in the greatest shape. This year I have addressed most of the issues I had last year and feel much stronger. My A+ goal is to break 20 hours. B goal is to PR and C goal is, as always, just to finish.

After the Massanutten 100 on May 16, my training slowed down dramatically and I went into an extended recovery. This was not out of any desire or plan of mine but rather because I just didn't want to train. My motivation and energy were rock bottom. It was only until about two weeks ago (right before heading off to California to pace Jamie in the WS 100) that I felt completely recovered. It was a remarkably abrupt change; one day it was a struggle to get out the door to run and the next I felt as strong as I had all season. I now feel ready for Vermont and I am happy for it given that it is quickly approaching.

Since Massanutten I have done a few long runs in the 2-3 hour range and this past weekend I did an early morning 4-hour run on the trails at Pineland. I would really have liked to log some more long runs but I just didn't feel like it. Forcing oneself to do too much is a sure way to end up on the bench on race day. At any rate, I feel strong and confident about my chances of PRing in Vermont.

Looking beyond Vermont, I really want to go for a third 100-miler this year. Given vacation and financial restrictions, my choices are limited to east coast races (you guys out West are wealthy with races!), including the Iroquois 100 in New York and the Grindstone 100 in Virginia. Any suggestions would be helpful, and if anyone is interested in pacing/crewing, let me know. Now I am off to work on my MMT 100 race report!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interim Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Race Report

My pacer, Jamie Anderson, has threatened me with bodily harm if I do not post my race report from the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in something less than the three months it usually takes me to get these things done. So here goes...

The race was held on May 16th. I climbed a mountain and then many more that felt just like it. It was blistering hot and then chillingly cold. I went from near heat stroke to near hypothermia during the first thunderstorm of the day. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake who introduced himself with a robust rattle. I witnessed and almost touched my first whip-poor-will. And I finished in 15th place with a time of 26:29:17, right after seeing my second sunrise of the race.

I hope this will satisfy my buddy Jamie until I have the time to properly craft a race report that you, my readers, will find worth your time. Until then, keep running.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tough time at Pineland and the Camden Hills

The antibiotic treatment I was on after Boston took its toll. It wasn't until this past weekend, almost two weeks after Boston, that I started feeling like myself again.

The Saturday following Boston was my planned long run for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (on for next Saturday) - the apex of my training and the doorway to taper. The day started rough as I missed my alarm and awoke an hour later to a call from Jamie wondering where I was. Dohhh. While I consoled myself with the rationale that I needed the rest to get better, I was still frustrated knowing that today's run was all or nothing. After that I was in the inner sanctum of taper and there was no violating the rest rule.

I arrived at Pineland at 20 minutes to 6 AM and headed out for a short jaunt before returning after a couple miles to join up with my buddy, Jim G. We ran for an hour and half before coming upon Jamie and his neighbor and friend, Kate. After running with them for a short bit, we arrived back at the YMCA parking lot to meet up with the rest of the Trail Monsters.

My plan all along was to start at 4 AM and run until noon, regardless of the miles I got in. I was estimating I could get in 50 miles in this time, which is typically the max distance I run in preparation for a100-miler. Well, I started shortly before 6 AM and had promised Kelly I would be done at noon, so 50 miles was not in the cards. This was all the better as I started to feel terrible around 11 AM and the last hour of the run was terribly difficult (good training for the last hour of the 100...). I did not come out of this run with any confidence. In fact, it may have even shattered any hopes I had of doing really well at Massanutten. Now, that is not to say I am not going to attempt to do well. I just know that my training did not go according to plan, starting with my failure at Boston, and continuing on to my inability to go long at Pineland the following weekend. The only solace I take is that I gave Boston my all and then five days later I was able to run 32 miles in 6 hours on very tired legs and week dose of antibiotics. That has to count for something!

The week following the Pineland "long" run found my training back to normal. I was able to run daily and hit my morning workout class for each of the three days it was offered. On Saturday I met Jim G. again out at Pineland at 6 AM and we got in a couple hours of running on the most perfectly idyllic spring morning. We got in about 13 miles at a pretty even and good pace, and I started to feel better. I had finished my antibiotics the day before and I was starting to feel like my old self again. After Kelly met me at 8 AM at Pineland for her run and to hand the kids off to me, I headed home to pack for our trip up to Camden (the pictures included in this post is from this trip).

Last week the Trail Monsters had suggested a run through the Camden Hills. I started formulating plan that would enable me to do this run, somewhat as vindication for the poor training over the prior two weeks. By Friday my plan was cemented and included Kelly and I dropping the kids off with my most gracious and helpful father-in-law, Phil, and his lovely partner, Thea (Boo Boo). After the drop off Kelly I headed up to Camden and took a room at the Camden Windward House B&B in downtown Camden (we would recommend it). We spent a great afternoon shopping around Camden (where amongst other things we found a very excellent Van Gogh action figure for Jamie's 29th birthday) and had a great dinner on the water. A bottle of wine helped us to an early retirement and an equally early placement at the breakfast table on Sunday morning.

After breakfast and finishing John Parker's legendary running novel, "Once a Runner", Kelly and I made the quarter mile trip up the Mt. Battie trailhead to meet the Trail Monsters. Joining us for the run was Jeff "Professor" Walker, Ian "Giant" Parlin, Floyd "Robot" Lavery, Jim "The Mouth" Dunn, Ryan "Sushi" Triffit, and Jamie "The Pacer" Anderson. Kelly joined a group of the ladies for a hike (she ended up doing over 7 miles through the hills, which was quite impressive). The start of the run was straight up Mt. Battie, an 600-700 foot climb in one half mile. Quickly we were sweating while our hearts cursed us for robbing it of its oxygen so quickly and without warning. Once on top of Mt. Battie, where we took in a most marvelous panoramic of Camden and Penobscot Bay, we headed down the trail where we were going to scale Mt. Megunticook. Before we made it to far, Jeff's foot caught under a root and he took a gnarly looking spill. As I was right behind him, I witnessed it in all its gruesome detail. The fall would have been minor if Jeff had not have landed with his mid-section on an erosion break of rocks. In my opinion Jeff came away from this fall very lucky. What should have been a series of broken ribs was nothing more than a little blood and some "road" rash. Lucky dude.

After Mt. Megunticook the run pretty much was just up and down with spectacular views sprinkled in. A couple hours in we all decided that to achieve our goal of 20 miles would require more time than any of us had so we decided to cut out a 2.5 mile out and back to Frohock Mountain. Well, that is except for the hard core among us..."The Mouth" and "Sushi" decided they were going the whole distance, so we separated from those animals I think on Carey Mountain (???) and headed for home, which we guessed would take us another couple hours. (the hard core among us, "Mouth" and "Sushi" ended up calling in the cavalry from Frohock Mountain and almost beat us back to the parking lot, courtesy of the shuttle van!)

The ups and downs, coupled with some harder runs the day before, started wearing on some of us. I for one was getting tired, hungry, and thirsty. On the way out the door Saturday I had grabbed the wrong camelback (an old one) so my water tasted like freezer burn (or as Floyd, "Robot", described it, "an old Swanson" dinner) which made it less than palatable. While I was feeling much better after flushing most of the antibiotics out of my system, I still was a little beat and hopefully tired from the accumulation of effort over the training season. I am hoping my renewed health and a couple weeks rest will make all okay with the world and Massanutten a success. At any rate, after four hours of being on the trails, we made it back down Mt. Battie to our cars. The tally for the day was 15.26 miles and lots of elevation gain/loss. I am expecting Massanutten to be 85 more miles of this same type of terrain. Boy am I in for a hurtin'.

Post run we all headed into town and collectively we consumed an entire cow in the form of hamburgers. Beer was had all around (well, Jim took care of most of it, leaving some for the rest of us), and many laughs shared. To me, this day was what running is all about. Meeting your running buddies, sharing some grueling moments together tackling hard terrain, pushing your limits, and sticking by friends who are hitting low spots. Following these runs is a shared disregard for swine flu while you consume ground beef laced with bacon and drink your weight in beer. These types of shared experiences are hard to come by in this lazy, anti-septic world. Long live the Trail Monsters!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boston 2009: My Comedy of Errors

It started innocently and logically enough; I would do a double Boston on marathon day. This would serve as the defining long run for my upcoming 100-miler in Virginia (Massanutten Mountain Trails) and save me the time I would otherwise spend on the bus ride out to Hopkinton. Also, as a family guy, I am always looking for ways to reduce the time lost with the family. This was an ideal plan and met that criteria. Little did I know of the trouble and heartache this simple plan would cause me.

On Easter Sunday I came down with cold. I was jubilant. This was perfect timing, as it gave me a full week to get rid of the virus and render myself theoretically bullet proof to another virus before the big show on May 16th in VA. Theory does not always pan out. Five days later on the Friday before the race I was actually feeling worse. And to add insult to injury, my wife, Kelly, now had my cold. This consisted of a sore throat (persistent and nasty), headaches, stuffiness, and aches and chills. Our plan was to head down to Boston Saturday, spend a couple days tripping around Boston, and enjoy the pool at the hotel. Well, to add another insult to the injury, my daughter, Riley, seemed to have other ideas Friday night as she started vomitting when I was headed to bed. As of Saturday morning, it looked like the trip was over.

As noon time rolled around and everyone was up and about, we decided to give it a go. As we are a family that shares everything, Kelly and I were sure one of us would get the stomach bug. As luck would have it, we avoided this (at least we have to this point). But better to try and maybe succeed than to doom ourselves to immediate failure by staying home. Once in Boston we hit the expo, did our part to support the profit/loss statement of Adidas, had dinner and were back in the hotel by sunset. As we were all dragging to this point, we hit the sack early.

On Sunday, we took the kids to the Boston Children's Museum (two and a half thumbs up) and did the usual of walking way too much on the day before a race. (In theory, if one was to add up the miles we walked in Boston the weekend before the race, this effort combined with the marathon would probably qualify me for an honorary double Boston.) By Sunday night I was a mess. The cold seemed to have intensified, I was exhausted, and totally stressed out about the run I had committed myself to the next day. It is one thing to run a casual trail run over 50 miles. There are usually no timelines, no directions to worry over, and no roads. In this case I was supposed to run 2.5 miles to the start from my hotel, run 26.2 miles of asphalt, and make sure I did not get off course while ensuring I made it to the start on time for the wave 1 start at 10 AM. I admit in retrospect none of this seems like that difficult of a task, but having carried a cold for the week while thinking through all this had worked me into quite a state.

Kelly had been trying to talk me down from the ledge for a few days before the stunt. I had brushed her suggestions off because I have never bagged a run or race (except Ironman Wisconsin which was held the same week as my son was born and I wasn't allowed to leave home). If I said I was going to do something I did it. Until Monday morning I was still holding out hope that the symptoms would abate and the cold would flee. No such luck.

I awoke Monday morning, race day, at 4 AM and got dressed for a long run. Shortly after waking I received a text from a running buddy, James, who was supposed to meet me on Boylston and join me until Natick. James had been running since midnight with John O'Connor, who was running a quadruple Boston (that's right, four Bostons, or 104.8 miles). The plan was to meet James and Jamie at the start line for company on my way out to Hopkinton. The text read that James had gotten cold waiting and had started the return trip slowly, with the intent of me to catch him. This was the first straw to killing the run. I still headed out to run but had started doubting my ability to complete a return trip given the way I felt. It was then that I received a call from Jamie. He had bailed due to a flare up of plantar fasciitis. This was the second straw. The instructions were written in the heavens: go back to bed, rest, and get healthy. This fool's quest is done. So I obeyed.

I hit the sack at quarter to five for a couple more hours of rest. At that point my teeth and jaw started aching, so much that I couldn't sleep. Not even a bunch of Motrin hid the pain. This was the first sing of the sinus infection settling into place, but I did not know it at this point. Instead, I ignored it. I am lucky enough to have a very supportive wive who loves running as much as I do and who knows how special Hopkinton is on Patriot's Day each year. She and the kids drove me out to the start and hung around until the gun went off at 10 AM.

As with all Boston starts, the first few miles are crazy fast. The course is famously downhill (severely at this point) and the energy that has built up in the corrals needs somewhere to go. My splits for the first 10 miles were roughly 7:10 on average. I felt great. Maybe I was operating on muscle memory and a lot of adrenaline. This is my usual marathon pace and in the beginning I thought "since I am out here, I might as well see what I can do". And then the wheels came off.

A bright point in the race came around mile 10 in Natick when I saw Jamie, James, Ian, and Carter, all fellow Trail Monsters who had come out to help John achieve his quadruple Boston. It was after this that things went south. The first sign that something wasn't quite right was that I kept having to clear my throat. This was due to the post-nasal drip and other "junk" in my upper respiratory. The second issue was the aching in my jaws and teeth had returned. The pace from miles 10-20 slipped a bit to around 7:35. I did go through the half at 1:36, and while not near my best, this is a competent half split for a marathon, for me at least. This pace put me on a qualifying time (3:15 for my age) with time to spare at the end for a beer outside Fenway. By the time I got to Fenway I felt awful and the only beer I got was the one that the crazy dude next to me spilled on me as he smashed a beer can on his forehead.

The walking reprieves began on top of Heartbreak Hill in Newton. I got a nasty stitch in my stomach that was digging in deep up the hill, so I had to slow to try and get rid of it. I walked for about 30 seconds while kneading my side and this helped a ton. I started running again, all the while searching out the statue of Johnny Kelly. I have now run Boston three times and not one time have I seen this damn statue. That streak continues. Despite feeling terrible, I was more pissed of being robbed of a view of this thing again. Maybe next time. The pace at mile 21 was the slowest of the day at 10:04, aided by the hills and walking break. The final five miles were split between walking and running and netted an average pace of roughly 8:45s. To the credit of Boston sports fans, they were very supportive and helpful. Not once was a barb thrown my way for walking, only words of encouragement. I fell in love with Boston again at that point.

The final stretch of the race is down Boylston, and while I have not participated in many grand moments in sporting history, I would have to say that this finish has to be near the top of the most dramatic conclusions available to the average marathoner. The roar of the crowd is deafening and there is so much energy as to make it feel alive and available for all the runners to harness for an almost out-of-body finish. No matter how tired you are as you turn the corner from Hereford Street onto Boylston, the finish feels like that first sprint down the Hopkinton hills. My finish time of 3:29 (average pace of 7:56) qualified this race as my worse ever Boston and worse ever marathon (excluding those that I have done to pace others or with a group). But that did not make it any less meaningful. Boston is special, no matter how fast or slow you run it.

The funny thing with bagging this race is that it seemed that my intent to run a double Boston had captured the imagination of a ton of people. My email and voicemail contained comments from friends and families about how they couldn't believe I had done two Bostons, and run the return trip to Boston so quickly given the fact that I had already run the course once. I received a call from the Portland Press Herald's running columnist, John Rolfe, asking to talk to me about the "crazy thing" I did in Boston. At work an email was sent around to myriad people before I returned announcing my feat and congratulating me. I was now left with the very unenviable position of deflating all these peoples' thrill with what I had (not) done. Even today I had to correct a bunch of people and notify them that I bailed on my double. The interesting thing is that no one has ever been that excited about the 100-milers that I have done. No one gets running 100 miles through the mountains or woods. They don't get the perspective of it. What they do understand is how "big" of a race the Boston Marathon is and to do it twice is "incredible". I can assure them that running the equivalent of four of them in the mountains while covering 20,000 feet of elevation gain/loss is a much tougher.

So on the drive home from Boston I still had not put two and two together that I had a nasty sinus infection. All I knew was that my jaw and teeth ached. I was hurting so much that I was unable to eat dinner on the ride home. I literally called my dentist and scheduled an emergency appointment for him to check my teeth. It wasn't until we were nearly home that Kelly suggested my problem might be my sinuses. As a guy who has been fortunate enough to avoid serious colds and illnesses for a very long time (yeah, except cancer), I haven't dealt with an infection or cold like this for a very long time so I had no idea what the symptoms are. As a test, I doped myself up on sinus medicine and loads of Motrin and felt relief a bit later. The rest is history and antibiotics. While I am still dealing with some pressure, I am starting to feel better. Two and a half weeks to Massanutten so I am hopeful I will be 100% by then.

On a final note, I want to salute and applaud John O'Connor for his courageous accomplishment and for his selfless effort on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project. Four Bostons is amazing and awe worthy. If you would like to donate to John's chosen cause, it isn't too late. Use the links above.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Long Hiatus Redux...Double Boston...About One Month

After this past weekend's run of just under 20 miles I was humbled. I had just run a little shy of three hours and I was wiped. In five weeks I will be racing my first 100-miler of the year, and here I was whipped by less than 20 miles. Of course I talked myself down from the ledge with all sorts of excuses for the tough run...sleet and snow in April is not motivating, lack of sleep, beginning of a cold, no food or coffee before the run nor any during...but I was still humbled.

This coming Monday I will attempt my first double Boston. It isn't a quadruple Boston like my acquaintance John O'Connor is running to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project (you can read about him at his blog, http://www.johnrunslong.com/cblog/), but is still a long run on pavement. I am dreading it a bit, but it will enable me to get in a long training run with little impact to family time (if not running to the start, I would have to leave Boston a few hours before the race anyhow to get to the start). I will post more about my run afterwards. If you want to follow my progress during the run, text message "RUNNER" to number 41234, and once you receive a reply text requesting the runner's bib number, enter 6425. This will let you get updates of my progress at the 10K, Half, 30k, and Finish.

While I am somewhat dreading this paved run, I am looking forward to being joined by my buddy Jamie (www.mainerunner.blogspot.com). Speaking of Jamie, I just booked my flight to California to join Jamie as his pacer at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, to be held smoke free this year at the end of June.

So while I have not posted in awhile, I have been running and living life. I got another tattoo (really enhanced the Tree of Life tattoo on my left arm), celebrated my 35th birthday, watched my kids grow even more and do many more amazing things, and celebrated my 10th Wedding Anniversary. I also got in some great runs, including the Trail Monster Fat Ass 50K at Bradbury Mountain State Park a few weeks ago. The course consisted of 8 loops of 4 miles (the last loop was shortened to get to 5oK) around Bradbury Mountain. The course was very hilly, the trails were wet, snowy, icy, muddy, and generally nasty. As a point of reference as to how slow the trails were, I have averaged roughly a 4 hour, 10 Minute 50K at Pineland during the race there each May. The Fat Ass at Bradbury took me 7 hours...

So, I am now at four and a half weeks to the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Miler. While I am nervous and doubting my training every now and then (as I am oft to do), I am looking forward to getting back home to VA where my soul is strongest and spend a long day and night in the place which I feel is in my DNA. It's gonna be fun!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Big two weeks

Starting Tuesday, Feb 17, I ran 13 straight days and accumulated 120 miles. The week before last my weekly mileage was 67 miles, the most weekly miles I have run since last summer. This is actually the most miles I think I have ever run in a winter week. For me, my weekly threshold is in the 70-80 mile range. With the stress of work and the care of two high energy toddlers (not to mention not enough sleep), my body just can not handle much more. All this is put into perspective when i consider that in just less than 12 weeks, I will run over 80% of my recent 13 day total mileage, non-stop in a bit over 24 hours. All this in mountainous terrain in the blue ridge mountains of VA.

Now if I really want to get technical and all inclusive, I need to consider the impact of the 3x a week workout classes I am doing into my run total. I am now spending 45 minutes, three times a week in the gym doing a combination of plyometrics, core, and weight training, which I have not done in any of my past running seasons. So I could convert the time I spend in the gym to miles I could have run during that time, and add them to an adjusted, or "fully weighted", mileage total, because those 2 hours and 15 minutes I spend in the gym do weigh on my running heavily, forcing my legs (and body and mind) to run more tired than I otherwise would if I wasn't going to the gym. So to put this theory into numbers, last week I ran 67 miles. My fully weighted mileage last week, assuming I would have run five miles in the 45 minutes I spent in the gym (this is conservative, since my typical training road pace is 7:15-7:30), was 82 miles. While this is all fun with numbers, I am definitely doing more than I did last year and my training is more effective than a couple years ago when I was training for my first 100 miler, so I am going to throw out there the statement that I should do really well this year racing. While I can guarantee that I will not break any course records or win any races, I would bet that I will be happier on my long runs and feel stronger from start to finish. That's the real point of all this, isn't it? Winning doesn't account for much in my mind (and not because I am not fast enough to do it). It's the trying and doing that matters.

Last week I was in a training down cycle (for recovery) and will start ramping the miles back up this week. This cycle of training will culminate with another Fat Ass 50K at Bradbury on Saturday, March 28. after that will be a slight taper for the Boston (double) marathon, where I am still planning on running from Boston to Hopkinton for the start of the official marathon, and running back into town for the official finish.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trail Monster Fat Ass 50K, sort of

Yesterday morning I joined fellow Trail Monsters in Freeport for a Fat Ass 50K around Hedgehog Mountain. While I did run 50K+, I did not do it all with at the Fat Ass "fun run". I decided to get part of my run in during my "commute" from Cumberland to Freeport.

I left home at just after 6 AM in a very light drizzle which quickly changed to sleet and then snow. The temps were very pleasant at around 33 F but there was a headwind that stayed with me the entire run. Other than a couple bio breaks, the run went well. I followed the same route to Freeport that I have taken on all my past runs to Freeport: Rte 9 through Cumberland Center to Rte 115 into Yarmouth across Bridge Street to East Main Street to Old County Road to Webster Road and then Desert Road. Instead of turning right on Desert like I do when running to work, this time I hung a left and then the first right onto Merrill to Katy and Chuck's house, who hosted the run.

I arrived just as everyone was suiting up to head out, having already amassed 13.5 miles. The crowd was impressive, more than I expected. It was nice to see some running friends I had not seen for awhile. The course planned for the run had been adjusted from the original 7.8 mile loop due to the warm weather and rain that had visited the day before. The new loop was an almost exact 5 mile loop from Chuck's house out to Hedgehog Mountain, up the mountain, and back the same way we went out.

The group stayed pretty tight during the first loop with very little drama. Once on top of Hedgehog, we paused to take in the the beautiful day from the high vantage point. On the way back, the fun started. There is a field we crossed twice on each loop, once out and once back, that contained a number of tricky spots. First, there were a couple low spots where post holing was nearly impossible to avoid with cold water at the bottom. I deposited my feet in them on the way out, which provided a very frigid wake-up call to my feet. On the way back the group left the main snowmobile route in search of a better way across the field. This search was unsuccessful in every way, leaving the group strung out across the field post holing everywhere. The going was slow (and bloody) for some, but soon enough we were back on the main trail and did not make the mistake again.

Once back at Chuck's house everyone went about refueling and addressing other needs. The first loop and each subsequent loop was taking about an hour. Considering the mashed potato consistency of the snow, this was good going. After a brownie, half a boston creme pie donut and some caffeinated high fructose corn syrup, I was on lap 2. I spent a good part of the day running with my buddy Jamie, who has been suffering from some plantar fasciitis issues. Fortunately, it seems that he is becoming a success story of active release therapy and stretching. He is a source of great inspiration for me, and I am thrilled to see him improving. It is my opinion that he should vanquish from his mind any fear of not running the Western States 100 this year. He is all but there now.

Lap 2 and 3 went by pretty quickly and by the time I knew it I had logged 31.4 miles in just over 5 hours. I felt great this morning and knocked out 10 miles this evening on the treadmill. I think my body is coming around to the long stuff. Bring on the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100!

A final note on yesterday's run. I want to send a big thanks to Chuck and Katy, and Katy's mom, for the great hospitality. The food was plentiful and yummy. Big shouts out to Alan, Emma, Ian, and Floyd for running all six loops (5oK). Great job to Mindy for achieving her longest post-injury run. And two high fives to my boy Jamie. Great run to Danielle and Ryan, Jim "PBR" Dunn, Blaine, and everyone else. Spring running is almost upon us!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Atayne Test, Day 6: Passing Grade

Atayne Test, Day 6. The finale. This morning I headed out the door just after 6:00 AM for a long run to Freeport to start an even longer run. On me was my six day old Atayne shirt. No laundering, no rinsing, nothing. And yet when I threw it on right out of bed this morning I did not even take notice of it.

Without getting into the details of today's run, I will say I run 13.5 miles of roads to meet the Trail Monster's in Freeport to take part in the TMR Fat Ass 50K. I arrived in Freeport with minutes to spare before setting off on a series of five mile loops on snowmobile/snowshoe trails up and around Hedgehog Mountain (really a big hill). After 3.5 loops, I was done. I logged a total of 31.2 miles in just over 5 Hours.

With today's run, the final statistics on my Atayne Test are as follows:

6 Days
9 Workouts
11 Hours
No water or laundry on the shirt
Smell: Unbelievably Unnoticeable and Inoffensive

Throughout this week I fielded a ton of questions and hopefully tons of interest (well, in my small world) in Atayne. The shirt performed remarkably well. I even passed around the shirt today for independent sniff tests and everyone was shocked. I felt like I was in one of those laundry detergent commercials where clothing articles are being passed around to check out the grass stains and smells that are gone after a washing...but my commercial was without the detergent. There were actually people today asking to smell the shirt. How often does that happen?!?!

In summary, the Atayne shirt with the cocona treatment is the real deal. Not only is it natural and promises not to poison you, it actually works better than any shirt I have ever worn. So my hats off to the good people at Atayne. Thank you for giving us runners a shirt that is harmless and works. Even the Buddha approved. That's good enough for me. Now it is off to the washing machine to give my Atayne shirt a bath. It earned it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Atayne Test, Day 5: A lot of huhs

Today was another two-a-day. This morning I threw on my four day, six workout old Atayne shirt for yet another day of incremental sweat. The shirt started making some news in the workout class when people started asking why I was wearing the same shirt every day and if it was a different one. When I provided the answer, that I was putting the shirt's odor neutralization to a test and that I had not washed the shirt for the past four days, I got a bunch of "huhs?". Needless to say everyone was interested to hear about cocona and the fact that it was keeping me from retching as I was wearing it on many consecutive days. I suspect soon there may be a gym full of Atayne shirts!

At noon I wore the shirt for a half hour run around Freeport with my buddy Jim, who is a product developer. While the run was short and easy, it did help me reach workout number eight in this test. While the odor is still manageable, it did start to get a little stiff from the salt, etc. that is the result of many hours in it.

Tomorrow morning I will head out at 6 AM for a run to Freeport to meet the Trail Monsters for some more miles on snowmobile trails. Total mileage hoped for tomorrow to finish my Atayne test is 30+. Final stats of the Atayne test will be provided tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Atayne Test, Day 4: The Kids' Sniff Test

Day 4 of my Atayne test dawned a little smellier than the previous day and much more so than three days ago. But all in all, the shirt that greeted me in my locker this morning was a shirt that really didn't smell all that bad. Kudos to activated carbon from the coconut shell! Now 45 minutes later was a different story. After a hard core and plyometric workout led by the trainer, Josh of the Woodlands, that found me blacked out after the first 15 minutes and sweating to death the next 30, there was an aroma from the shirt. My first thought at this discovery: it's about time. This shirt has continuously impressed me and still does, albeit with a bit of a smell. But what can you expect from a shirt that was just submitted to ungodly amounts of sweat for 45 minutes, much less used for almost four hours over four days? I would hypothesize that if I would have tried this with any of my chemically altered polyester shirts, I would have been asked to leave the gym this morning. (Picture to the right taken after first workout today.)

This evening I wore the shirt for a run on the treadmill. Six miles in a little over 46 minutes in a basement with a 550 lb. soap stone woodstove cranking the BTUs left the shirt a little "damp". Hopefully the thing dries well before the morning when I am back at it at 7 AM. (Side note: 30 minutes later it is dry.)

Before this evening's treadmill run I presented the shirt to my kids and wife, Kelly, for a sniff test. Kelly was reluctant at first but joined in after both Riley and Quinn gave it a shot. Quinn's response to the question, "Does is smell okay?", was a hesitant "Yes". Riley first said "No", but then reassessed her opinion when asked "Does it smell really bad?", to which she replied "No". Kelly's response was a bit more thoughtful, and she thought that while the shirt did have an odor, it really was tolerable considering the sweat that had been created in it. I chalk that up to a victory either to Atayne's ability to create a truly odor resistant shirt or to my superhuman ability to produce "unsmelly" sweat. I will lean towards the former. Two thumbs up for the team at Atayne. (Bottom picture at right taken after workout two.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Atayne Test, Day 3: Like Roses, Almost

The first thing I did today upon arrival at the locker room was grab my Atayne shirt and put my nose to it. The outside of the shirt smelled remarkably fresh; not out of the laundry fresh but remarkably unremarkable. The inside, where the carbon is present, did contain a bit of a smell, but nowhere near the state of repulsiveness that some of my other shirts would have achieve by now. So two thumbs up for Atayne at the start of Day Three.

For Day Three I headed out on the roads of Freeport for a run just shy of 6 miles. I had a post-lunch meeting that I needed to be back for so time was short. The temps today were excellent and the roads excellently cleared of snow and ice, providing a very pleasant running experience. I felt strong today and the shirt finished as well as I felt. No funny looks (except for having a camera in the locker room taking pictures every day). Tomorrow might be a different story when I hit the workout medley class in the morning. The true test for my moss colored "4-R's" Atayne shirt will come when it is asked to perform in the close proximity forced by the gym, surrounded by other freshly laundered shirts!

As for Saturday, I am getting a bit jazzed up for 30+ miles. The Trail Monster Fat Ass 50K is Saturday in Freeport, and consists of 4 loops of a 7.88 mile trail run. Because of family commitments, I have decided that I am going to run from home, leaving around 6 AM, and running two loops of the course with the group, for a total of just over 30 miles. This will enable me to get home earlier and back to my second job of dad to two toddlers!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Atayne Test, Day 2: Doubling Up

Day 2, Atayne test. I hit the shirt for a double workout today. First up was my morning workout medley class which consists of a non-stop 45 minute plyometric/core/strength training butt whipping. As this was the second day in my Atayne shirt I was a little worried about offending my workout mates. But alas, the activated carbon worked wonders and no malodorous off gassing was present. That might have to wait until the next class Thursday morning.

After the morning's workout I set the shirt back in the locker and four hours later I was wearing it again. While there may have been a slight hint that the shirt had been worn before, it was minor. After a 45 minute run it was back to the locker for tomorrow's run. Up next, workout number four and day number three in my moss-colored, "4-R's" Atayne shirt!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Atayne Test: Day 1

Last weekend I received the monthly Atayne newsletter (which if you aren't a Facebook fan of these guys or get their newsletter, please do so right now...after finishing reading this post). In it was the challenge for an owner of an Atayne shirt, who has little in the way of regard for others, to wear that article of clothing for a consecutive eight workouts before washing. The reason for this is to test the odor controlling properties of the cocona (activated carbon from coconut shells) interior of the shirt. So starting today I will wear my moss colored, "4 R's", Atayne shirt for each and every workout (photo to the right is post run, day 1). For this week this includes a run of 35 minutes today on the treadmill (recovery from the long weekend runs), three 45 minute workout medley sessions, four runs in the 45 minute range, and a 25-32 mile trail run on Saturday. There may also be a medium distance run on Sunday, but that depends on the ski plans. After day 1 I can say that the shirt smelled as good coming out as it did coming in. I will see in the morning what a night in the locker room does for it.

As for this past weekend's runs, on Saturday I met a subgroup of the Trail Monsters (Jamie and Blaine) at Bradbury at 7 AM...no, scratch that, it was closer to quarter after since I forgot my running shoes and had to return home for them. Sorry guys. It had been almost a month since I had run with my boy Jamie so it was great to return to the trails with him. Because there were others that were joining us at 8 AM, we had just enough time to head down the trail for about 25 minutes just to turn back. The conversation was light and jovial, aided largely by Blaine's crackpot theory about my favorite drug, caffeine. Please do yourself a favor and head over to his website and enlighten yourself!


At 8 AM, after a little bit over 4 miles on the very soft and slow trails, we returned to the parking lot to join Ian, Lilly, and Echo (her enthusiastic hound). At that point we headed south down Route 9 for a short jaunt on the road to connect with the snowmobile trail that would be our home for the next 2+ hours. The first part of this run is extremely hilly, making it very challenging for the cardiovascular system to get warmed up. Once it is warm, the brain is able to then take in the excellent running that is snowmobile trail running in the white Maine winter. I am generally not thankful of power toys, like snowmobiles, but trail running in the winter up here would be virtually impossible without them. So thank you Mr. and Mrs. Snowmobiler. But next time, take the beer cans with you. There is a five cent deposit on them.

A few miles out Lilly and Echo turned back, followed not too much later by Jamie. I have to throw a big "attaboy" out to Jamie for the spirit he shows when faced with injury. When I first met Jamie, he was bouncing back from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He ran his first 100-miler like 2-3 months later. Remarkable. Now he is overcoming plantar fasciitis with his own brand of shock and awe. It looks like this version might work better than the original copy of this employed by Dubya. A truly impressive work of healing, and his reward will be glory on the Auburn, CA track in June!

Ian, Blaine, and I spent the next 10 or so miles running and chatting, and generally enjoying ourselves in the sun. Although tired at the end, we opted to add an extra mile which gave us just over 19 miles in 3 hours on the day. Other than a sore ankle for the first part of the run (still suffering from the Blackstrap Hell race), I felt great. I am still clipping my ankles numerous times during my long runs, and this trail run left me with a bloody left inside ankle. I think this is partially due to the unsure footing and my lack of strength. This weekend I plan on somehow protecting them. To note a failure, I am still consuming too little food and fluids on my long runs. This was a shortcoming in my training last year that I noticed during the Vermont 100. If I don't train to consume fluids and food, I will suffer on race day. I plan to address this on future runs. To complete the weekend, I got in a 10-mile treadmill run Sunday evening after a full day of skiing with the kids. Not a bad weekend of training.






Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Counting Calendars and Ramping up

I was sitting at my desk today thinking about running (10 hours of immobility will do that to you) and decided to count the days until the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. There are 12 weeks and three days until the gun goes off, so I guess it is time I start thinking more about running. Really, my miles aren't too bad given the workout courses and skiing I am doing (not to mention the daddy duty I am pulling constantly).

Last week I logged about 50 miles, which isn't a great deal, but it is the start to more mileage. Where I am missing out is in the longer run on the weekend and the follow-up middle-long run the next day. This past weekend I joined the Trail Monsters for a trail run from Bradbury to Pineland. The course we took was excellently groomed by snowmobiles and followed all public land with about a mile run on the road at the end. This run was about 14.5 miles with some good undulations. I followed this up Sunday evening with a 10 mile jaunt at a quicker pace on the treadmill.

Now I need to simply increase that Saturday run with a good run on Sunday and I am all set. Saturday I am planning on meeting my pacer, Jamie, at Bradbury for another good trail run. I am hoping to get in a 20+ miler. The following weekend I will be joining the Trail Monsters for a Fat Ass 50K from Chuck's house in Freeport. This will give me a much needed training boost. As for training boosts, very much in the like-to-do category is a couple runs up Pinkham Notch to the base of Mount Washingon. Any takers?

Now I am off to watch the snow fall and daydream about this weekend's upcoming alpine skiing trip with the kids...

Map and profile of the Bradbury to Pineland run. Thanks Ian for leading the charge.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Hiatus of All Hiatus'

After a long and unintended hiatus from LiveStrong Maine, I am back. My apologies to my follower for leaving you without my musings from the trail/road/treadmill. I kind of promise not to leave you out in the wild for this long again...

Having got that off my chest, I must qualify the above by saying my fitness has not been on hiatus. I have established a pretty good running/workout regime that has left me feeling pretty good, but a bit beat up. My 3x a week morning workout medley sessions are really leaving me feeling trashed but stronger for it. I am sure these classes will pay off as I am making my way up and down the mountains of VA in May and the bucolic hills of Vermont in July. My running is about where it typically is at this time of year. While I have not attempted the distance I ran at the GAC Fat Ass 50K back in the middle of January, I have kept a pretty consistent weekly distance of 40-45 miles. Coupled with the workout classes and other cross training I am doing, I should be able to slide into the heavy miles soon enough without a hitch.

So what has kept me from the blog. Kids. Work. Motivation. An addiction to Facebook (become my friend). And my reignited love of downhill skiing that has kept me away from home every weekend this winter. Last winter I could not get enough of XC skiing. While I will admit that XC skiing is much more physical and better training for an early season 100-miler, I can not do it with my kids. Therefore I have devoted this winter to teaching Riley (4 yrs, 3 mos) and Quinn (2 yrs, 5 mos) the excellent sport of alpine skiing. There is nothing better than watching a child discover a love of the outdoors, not matter what it is. So I am willing to sacrifice a bit of fitness for this.

Training has been good. I am enjoying what I have been doing, albeit I have spent a little too much of it on a treadmill. Most of my weekly running has been at night after the kids have gone to bed, so I am sort of forced to hit the treadmill, so much so that I broke it for the second season in a row. But nothing that a few sheet metal screws through the pulley into the front roller couldn't fix. I added a bit of super glue and the thing runs better than the day we brought it home. I am now just about qualified as a treadmill technician, so let me know if you have any problems with yours.

Big future plans include a local Fat Ass 50K at the end of the month and then a double Boston on Patriot's Day. I am tentatively planning on running from Boston with my buddy Jamie and then turning around and running back from Hopkinton as a participant in the big dance. Total mileage that day (you shouldn't need a calculator): 52.4. More on that later.

My thoughts drift daily to the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. Only about 12 weeks to go. Flights are booked and the hay is being pitched into the barn. I can't wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Beginning

Things could not have started off better in the new year. Let's discuss my new beginning.

Prologue...
Last week was the first full week of the new year and the first week of my new training year. In just 18 weeks I will be on the course of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-miler - running 100 miles - in the Shenandoah Valley of VA. That is a pretty hilly and rocky area, so those 100 miles will not be easy gotten...they will be hard fought. So I guess I have to train. Back to last week. I got out each day for a 5-6 mile run with a long run on Saturday and a day off Sunday. The weekend before last I met up with the Trail Monsters and got in a good trail run just shy of 15 miles. Not a bad start to a month that followed a month that witnessed more miles traveled to the bar to get a beer than running on trails.

The Main Story...
The ultimate in laid back races/runs was held last weekend in Ipswish, MA: the GAC Fat Ass 50K. Held at Bradley Palmer State Park on Saturday, Gil's Athletic Club hosted a race that was more group run. Starting at 9 AM, participants could one from one to infiniti loops of the 10K course, although more than 5 was not encouraged. I had traveled down there with my buddies, Jamie and Mindy, in hopes of run all 50K but was satisfied to settle for 3-4. 50K would have been quite debilitating as my longest run since the Maine Marathon back in October was the 15 I ran the prior weekend. The temps at the start had to be somewhere in the upper teens. Cold. I started off a little overdressed and was paying for by the second half of the first loop. The first loop was tough and it took me nearly the entire hour to cover the 10K for my cardiovascular system to settle down and get down to the work of endurance running.

After each loop we (Jamie, Ian, Emma, Ryan and Danielle, Mindy, Jim and Shauna) took a quick break to refresh with the runner-supplied aid station goodies. It is amazing the junk that skinny, endurance runners eat. We are fairly health conscious people but this was not evident in the boxes of donuts, every type of brownie imaginable (well, almost, since I didn't find the magic ones), cookies, and soda). I do believe that I consumed more brownies during this run that I did the prior three years since I have been running ultras!

The second and third loop went better. I fell into a nice groove and the miles flew by. The conversation flowed like sap on a warm March day in Maine (I can not help but think Jamie would be proud of that analogy), as it is prone to do during ultras (or any long trail run). The course itself was for the most part hard packed and easily runnable, but there were sections that were eerily similar to running on a soft, sandy beach. By the fourth loop I was pretty cooked. To have made it 24.5 miles (per my GPS) thrilled me to no end and bodes well for upcoming long training runs. Besides, I don't have much time to git 'er done.

Epilogue...
All told I ran just under 55 miles last week. In my longest weeks of training for a 100-miler, I will not get over 80 miles. I have found through numerous training cycles that this is the point at which my body will not bounce back and that leaves me quite exhausted (besides, I have two other jobs - that of dad and finance dork).

As for injuries, I have heard way too much talk of them recently. I know way too many people suffering running induced injuries, including my MMT 100 pacer, Jamie, who is fighting valiantly against a case of plantar fasciitis. I can honestly say that I feel blessed after each run that I complete injury free. I have been very lucky over the last seven years of running seriously, having suffered only a minor case of patellofemoral pain syndrome after my first marathon. I guess there is nothing I can do but keep doing what I am doing and hope for the best.

And finally, I have enrolled in my first ever fitness class. L.L.Bean offers employees a menu of classes each quarter and I am partaking in this excellent benefit. I am subjecting myself to a "workout medley" three days a week before work. The primary goal of this is to strengthen my body in the places that running does not strengthen but the body needs to stay injury free and to run better. I found that my core strength really failed me (or I failed it) last year during the Vermont 100. I am hoping this class will give me that extra push over the hills of the Shenandoah come May. I know one thing after today's first class - it hurts!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Slow going, but back at it

Things have been going slow (and short) as of late, as far as running goes.  This is partially by design and partially by circumstance.  Christmas week found us all in Virginia visiting family, which limited my running, despite the nice sunny, warm weather.  But all this time off is good, since it gives my body a chance to start the new training season fresh.


The last few weeks my longest runs have been in the 10 mile range, the last couple done on my treadmill.  That is until yesterday.  I got a chance to meet the Trail Monsters out at Bradbury for a run on the hiking, snowmobile, and power line trails.  Included in the group was Jamie, Mindy, Ian, Ryan, Jim, and Randy.  I was shocked at how warm it felt upon leaving my house and at a stoplight in my town I posted a comment on my Facebook page (look me up and become my friend!) that the temps were in the 20s.  I was quickly corrected by Chuck that it was actually a bit colder and I confirmed later that it was actually nearer 11 degrees.  

But it is winter in Maine and this wasn't a bad day to run.  The trails in and around Bradbury State Park were quite packed down by the weather, snowmobilers, some hardy mountain bikers, and other forest critters.  I was lucky enough to spy some sheet metal screws belonging to Ian and he graciously offered them and a screwdriver to me.  So I sat and mad some impromptu screw shoes.  For a good demonstration, check out my boy Blaine's most excellent demonstration on how to do this on his website at runtowin.  I am sure I did not follow Blaine's instructions to the "T", but I must have done something right because I did not find myself slipping and sliding on the trail at any time.  What I did notice was some annoying pressure along points of my foot which I can attribute to the screws.  I will have to work on these, but all in all, these things worked flawlessly.

The start of the run was on trails that had been passed only by foot traffic, resulting in a very uneven surface in the now hardened snow.  This really irritated my ankle, which was injured at the mid-November Blackstrap Hell trail race and has yet to heal.  I think it is about time to get this checked out by a member of the medical profession.  The trail quickly changed to snowmobile trail which was smoother and easier going.  At about the 3-4 mile spot Jamie and Mindy turned back as planned while the rest of us continued on the loop Ian had decided would get us the two hours of running most of us were looking to do.

(I am going to hurry this up now.  We are heading to Saddleback where current temps at the summit are 2 degrees.  They do have the most snow of any Maine resort so the skiing should be okay.)

All told, we got in just under 15 miles in about 2:15.  I forget the GPS on the dash so I did not get a course map.  This was a good step up in training for me from previous weekends and a good start to the New Year.  Next week I am planning on heading to Massachusettes for the GAC Fat Ass 50K.  This is a great race in that it is free (!) and the course is a 5-6 mile loop so you can pull out at anytime.  

Now I want to give a special shout out to my homey, Jamie, at mainerunner.blogspot.com.  Thanks for the scrumptiously delicious Ethiopian donkey beans or whatever their official name is.  Those there were some good smelling coffee beans and the coffee they made was yummy.  Thanks for roasting!