Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Beginning

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

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.

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!