Wednesday, July 24, 2013

USA Mountain Running Championship at Mt. Cranmore (part two: the race)

After waking up at 5:22 Sunday morning at the Days Inn in Campton, NH, my dad and I quickly packed our stuff into bags and got into the car for the hour and a half ride back to North Conway. I had a number to pick up, and plans to meet my CMS teammate Kevin Tilton for a pair of Inov-8 X-Talon’s to use for the race. My dad had decided he would run up on his own (not race) and find some good spots along the loop to yell encouragement.

We stopped in Lincoln at Dunkin’s for a quality pre-race breakfast: everything bagel with cream cheese, large French vanilla hot coffee with milk and one sugar. The morning was much cooler than the previous day (and week), with temps hovering around 60 on our way to the mountain. This was welcome and awesome, but I was still drinking plenty of water nonetheless. We enjoyed another beautiful ride along the Kancamagus Highway, noting the many trailheads and campgrounds, familiar and unfamiliar.

We arrived at the base of Mt. Cranmore a little before 7:30 am, after gassing up in North Conway. (My dad put about 450 miles on his car on Sat. and Sun. for a trip that is only about 120 miles each way. Oh well.) My dad spotted Kevin Tilton while I was in the bathroom in Zip’s Pub and Grill at the base, and I met up with him to grab shoes and then did a nice, easy warmup for about 15 minutes on the trails around the base of the mountain. When I told Kevin I’d try not to get his shoes too dirty during the race, he told me I could keep them if I liked them. Wow! Thanks, Kevin! I promised him a gift for the little Tilton he and his wife Jess are expecting later this year.

After the warmup, I said bye to my dad and hopped on the triple chair with some time to spare and enjoyed the quiet ride to the summit by myself. I was feeling pretty confident and optimistic about the uphills and the Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s felt great on the warmup, so I hoped I would be liberated to cut loose more on the downhills than I had the day before. At the top, I noted the recognizable US mountain running superstars and legends (Joe Gray, Max King, Tommy Manning, Dave Dunham, etc.) as well as several of the “new” guys (Brandon Birdsong, Zach Ornelas – go blue!, Andy Wacker) I ran around a bit more on the short down/up between the summit and the course and got ready to go. Because the women were still running, the men stayed off to the side of the Kandahar Trail until it was time to go. Even as we got lined up and awaited the command, we left a path open to our left for finishing women to run through.

At 9:15, RD Paul Kirsch said, “Go!” and we were off. I wanted to heed the advice of wiser mountain runners (Thanks, TiVO!) to take it easy on the first downhill and make up ground as I went. I also knew my downhill running has been limited, and I didn’t want to beat myself up too badly in the first few minutes. I felt mostly in control, although at times, I caught myself braking a little too much and I was behind more than 50 people early on in the first descent. As I got comfortable, I started working hard on the flatter sections of the downhill to get by people. I had some split times in the back of my mind, but the unique thing about this event (for me, at least) was that place was going to mean a lot more than time. I think I came through the first mile in 5:34 (I didn’t do a very good job getting splits, mostly because I was more concerned about chasing and catching the vast multitude of people ahead of me.)

I hit the water station at the bottom in about 8 minutes, and figured that was pretty good, since it had taken me ten on Saturday. I think I was around 45th-50th place at this point. Talking to JJ and Eric MacKnight on the cooldown, I think their first mile was around 4:55, so the leaders were probably already a minute or so ahead of me by then. I had passed a few people near the end of the first descent, and powered into the first uphill, determined to catch as many as I could. In hindsight, I probably worked a bit too hard at the beginning of the first climb, but I was feeling inspired at the time.

I caught Todd Callaghan about halfway up and grunted a barely audible greeting. I settled in behind Kevin Tilton and Jim Johnson in their fashionable Inov-8 uniforms (I want one!) and eventually drew near each of them and passed them both before the summit. The sections that had seemed steep but runnable on Saturday’s easy one-loop run-through were more challenging after a hard descent. Also, it was difficult to think about having to cover those same stretches a second and third time. So I didn’t think about it.

My dad cheered just below the glades on the first loop and I tossed him my Native sunglasses, which weren’t necessary, and were just providing an extra sweat point. Mostly I was just looking at the ground or the guy in front of me anyway. The top of the first steep section after we came out of the glade we made a left onto a runnable stretch before climbing a little more, but that section became harder to run each time, because my calves and thighs were so spent from ascending. The downhill before the last climb on Kandahar was welcome every time. The first time up Kandahar was hot, with the sun beating down on us. I was content to tuck in behind the runners in front of me and push by them as we neared the top and the end of the first loop. I think I was around 20:30 for the first 4k loop, and I had moved to around 25th-30th place. 

JJ came screaming by me on the second downhill, and I tried to hold the gap he put on me to help me pass some other people. By the time I caught up with him back in the glades on the second climb, I think I had moved into the top 20. He muttered something about not having the mileage, but I know what a ferocious racer and competitor he is, so I take anything he says during a race with a grain of salt. The second time up Kandahar was rough, but the sun was behind the clouds and I was thanking God for that.

The third descent was my fastest of the day. Whether that was because my legs were too tired to slow me down, or because I was learning how to run it a little better each time, I don’t know. I did feel more relaxed that third time.

The third climb was a real grind and I caught myself slipping into a walk on the two steep sections. Pumping the arms rather than resting the hands on the knees turns a power walk back into a run and as I crested Kandahar someone warned, “There’s two guys coming for you!” I kicked it into whatever gear I had left and closed on the finish line.

Crossing the finish line at Mt. Cranmore felt as good as almost any finish line I’ve ever crossed. My dad greeted me, and we walked (limped and huffed) over to the summit lodge and I dripped sweat profusely. He told me he thought I was 14th overall (turned out I was 15th) and that sounded just great. I also knew I had finished ahead of a number of guys I didn't expect to, like former US Team members, Matt Byrne, Tommy Manning (he fell) and Shiloh Mielke. A lot of experienced mountain runners didn't finish the race. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to race well on that day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

USA Mountain Running Championship at Mt. Cranmore (part one)

Friday and Saturday I more or less stuck to my plan of continuing to run twice a day, while keeping the mileage low.

Friday morning I got out early for four miles out and back on the roads, before it got hot. After it hit 90 degrees again, I did four miles in the woods at Gordon College, over hilly terrain, sweating profusely, but very under control.

Saturday morning at 7:45 I did 3 miles on the road after Heather got back from her early morning run/workout/ocean swim with the Team Gloucester ladies. Then she and our three kids headed down to visit her family in northern New Jersey. I packed a few things up and headed up to NH with my dad around 2:00 pm.

We had booked a room in Campton, not realizing how far it was from North Conway. We drove to the mountain first and each ran a loop of the course in light rain. I was about 14 minutes up and about ten minutes down, trying to take it very easy. The uphills felt manageable with two steep sections, the longer of which was on the Kandahar Trail just before the end of each loop. My dad was beginning to question if he was up for the whole effort, or if he would rather spectate and cheer.

We cleaned off a little and hopped in the Volvo for the hour and a half jaunt back to the Days Inn in Campton. Along the Kanc we stopped off for dinner at the Darby Field Inn. I got creole onion soup (very good and spicy hot), a Mt. Washington burger (bacon, cheese, veggies) and a salad plus a couple of Tuckerman IPA's. Afterwards, we enjoyed the beautiful ride along the Kancamagus and arrived at our lodging just as it was getting dark. After a quick shower, I was ready to turn in, but the rest of the world had other ideas...

First off, my dad and I disagree slightly on the issue of Air Conditioning. I would rather have the AC on, no matter the volume of it, because at least the noise is consistent and the room stays cool. My dad, on the other hand, cannot stand loud air conditioning (and the one in our room was pretty ancient and had two volumes - "fairly loud" and "locomotive"). Since he had paid for the room, I decided to defer to his preference, so we left the window of our second floor room open.

At around 10:30, before I had dozed off, I heard a banging in the hallway. It sounded pretty distant, but after about five minutes, it was getting louder, so I decided to investigate. Turns out our room was right next to the washer and dryer and something was in the dryer making a racket. It sounded like someone had thrown their rock collection in there. I went down to the front desk and talked to a Days Inn employee who said he would put a sign up asking people not to do laundry after 10 pm. Ok.

On my way back to the room, I decided I would turn the machine off on my own. As I walked into the laundry room, I saw two other men, neither of whom was the owner of the laundry, with the machine open, pulling out multiple belts with buckles that were going around inside the dryer. I trusted that the issue was resolved and quietly crept back to bed. I lay down and tossed a bit, uncomfortable in our warm room. Convinced my dad was asleep, I closed the window to our room and cranked the AC. For about five minutes, it ran fairly quietly, and then it hit high volume and I heard my dad start to grumble. Somewhere around this point in the night, he made his decision not to run the race the next day. Eventually, as the temperature in the room dropped into the low 70's, I nodded off.

Around 12:30, my dad got up, unable to take the noise of the air conditioner, shut it off and opened the window back up. By this point, the room had cooled sufficiently, so I figured I was ok. About an hour later a few people returning to the hotel decided to hang out underneath our window and talk and smoke a few butts before calling it a night. Of course, our room (which was probably the only one there with the window open), sucked the smoke and the noise right in. My dad was up again to shut the window and we were pretty good until 5:22, when my alarm went off and it was race day morning.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

today's playlist + tomorrow's agenda

01. "Cath..." - Death Cab for Cutie
02. "Ceremony" - New Order
03. "Automatic (LP Version)" - Rainer Maria
04. "The Ditching Boy" - Solas
05. "Golden Brown" - The Stranglers
06. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift
07. "Blue Boy" - Texas is the Reason
08. "Baby Missiles" - The War On Drugs
09. "Four Provinces" - The Walkmen
10. "Hysteric" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
11. "Our Way to Fall" - Yo La Tengo

Tracks 2,3,5,7,8,9,10 all on regular play while running when listening to music.

Just about perfect mix for today. (I originally created it, in a slightly different order, to accompany a 6 x 1200m workout, which came off without a hitch last Tuesday but without the music.) 6-mile seminary loop. Felt relaxed and somewhat fast. The temps were a bit cooler than yesterday and it felt drier and breezier and much more comfortable. Got to test my "new" pink ipod from the Evans family twice today.

5.63 in 40:09 out and back on the morning loop this AM.

Tomorrow's agenda:
Easy 4 on the roads in the AM
Easy 4 in the woods in the PM in the extreme heat

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

moderately epic trail run

So Cranmore is 4 days out and I have been following the coverage of who is going to be there. Not that I'm intimidated, but there are probably a legitimate 25 (or more) people going who can beat me down and up the mountain 3 times. With that in mind, I headed out into the heat today to maintain fitness, boost confidence and explore some new territory. I skipped out on the morning run today with the race this weekend, (although I'll probably try to run twice tomorrow) and delayed getting out this afternoon until after 2:00. It was in the upper 80's, sunny with a little breeze and I got into the woods and stayed on the same rocky rooty hilly single tracks I've run a few times in the past few weeks. I was on the spruce swamp trail and the cheever commons loop; the pulpit rock and the grassy ridge trails in the manchester-essex woods as well as some of the more technical trails through Gordon Woods. I turned around at 6 miles (52:20) and tried to back track, but made one wrong turn which the Garmin helped me correct (first time I've used it for that). Wound up covering 12.55 in 1:51:58, with lots of ups and downs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hot Tuesday

6:00 am - met Pastor Derek for a 5.5 mile jaunt through Appleton Farms to get the day started

10:58 am - headed up to the track to try some 1000 meter repeats in the heat. The track was pretty warm when I got up there, and had just been vacated by the kids' soccer camp using the turf infield this week. (they must have been dying up there all morning!) I did two miles for a warmup, ditched the singlet a couple laps in and got ready for the all out sweat bath. First 1000 was 3:04 which was okay, given the conditions. I jogged a 600 at about 6:40 pace (2:33) and headed into 1000 #2 - 3:09. Number 3 was the same. The fourth was a 3:10 and the fifth a sobering 3:15 with an 80 second last quarter. The conditions were tough, so I was just glad to get through some kind of a hard effort with three big races coming up in a nine day span (Cranmore, Carver, Yankee Homecoming). I trust that the next time I get up there and conditions are cooler, things will be easier.

Now I need to figure out how much to back off before the weekend without feeling like a total bum.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend Update


7:17 am - After Heather returned from her third Saturday early, early, early morning run with the Team Gloucester ladies, I ran 10 on the roads at 6:40 pace. Soaked as usual. 101 miles for the week, most so far in 2013.
Checked out the NE Running Company Tent Sale with Heather as the first half of our afternoon date. I grabbed a pair of Nike Lunarflys for $20, plus a singlet and a pair of shorts. Heather got two pairs of shoes, two pairs of shorts and a singlet. Grand total = $135 - $50 gift certificate = $85. Not bad. Green tea peach lemonade from Starbucks after standing in the hot parking lot for an hour or so hit the spot. Full NERC crew working the sale - Dave, Wes, Derek, EJN, etc. Also saw CMS teammate Dan Vassallo and his wife arriving as we were leaving.


6:06 am - a lot of internal dialogue going on between the time my alarm went off at 5:15 and the time I got out of bed at 5:57 (yes I should, no I shouldn't kind of stuff). Ended up being a pretty good run on the fourteen mile loop through Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich. Threw in a Sagamore Hill for good measure. Total 14.56 in 1:36:10. Started around 6:45's finished with some 6:20's and faster. Soaked again. Enjoyed running in the lunarflys and other new gear from the tent sale.

Monday morning

5:59 am - full morning loop to kick off the working week. 8.2 miles in 56:28. Ben's first day of Gordon College Little Scots' Soccer Camp started at 8:30, so he came into work with me which was awesome.

Checked out some of entrants for this Sunday's Cranmore race here. With the 18 guys mentioned in the article, plus the best New England mountain runners, it will be a stacked field. Looking forward to trying out the Inov-8 X-Talons thanks to Kevin Tilton!

Monday afternoon

1:34 pm - 85 degrees, mostly sunny; 9.63 miles, mostly in Gordon Woods in 1:14:06

Friday, July 12, 2013

PC/CP (Pastoral Care / Cranmore Prep)

7:00 am - nice run and conversation with Pastor Derek at Appleton Farms. A little stiff at the outset and headed out across the Farms then back through the Grass Rides. (5.68/44:51)

12:26 pm - Tried to stick to the most technical trails, single track, rocks, roots, steep hills, etc. in Gordon Woods to get ready for next weekend's Mt. Cranmore race. I already have much love for the mountain circuit after the gracious treatment RD Paul Kirsch has shown me. If I can procure some X-Talons in time, I will be golden. Did the run today in my Saucony Fastwitch, which will probably be the default shoe if I don't find something better soon.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"the best pair of legs on the north shore"

Maybe it was just because I had extra short shorts on today.

Or maybe I was really looking that good, that someone was inspired, with window down, to yell as they passed that "those (mine) are the best pair of legs on the North Shore!"

So it was a man in his 50's (who I know), whose son used to beat me in 5k's 10 years ago. He isn't a blood relation, so I'll take it. I definitely kicked it in with a little extra vigor.

Sometimes that's all it takes.

12 miles out and back in 1:20 from Gordon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


6:36 am - out the door slowly this morning, still feeling some residual effects from yesterday's track workout. Had an hour to run before the life insurance woman came to draw our blood at the kitchen table over breakfast plus Heather was deferring to the afternoon run since my mom would be able to watch the kids. did the full 8-mile (8.19) morning loop, just holding 7's. Came back and showered, had breakfast and went to work.

2:27 pm - Pretty warm and humid, though nothing like last week. A little bit of an ocean breeze. Decided the woods were the place to be, so headed into Gordon Woods and tried to take a few roads less travelled, especially where they involved steep inclines and declines. Trying to get used to letting go on the downhills and just giving gravity a chance to make me go faster. Stayed in for 10+ in 1:35. Feeling good.

Next steps: sign up for Cranmore, get some shoes to run it in. Any suggestions for footwear would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two-fer Tuesday

Heather (my wife) took the early time slot for the AM run and was back from 10 by 7:20. I headed out and back for 6 miles in just under 40 minutes, with plans for a track workout a little later on.

At 11:30 I jogged up to the outdoor track and warmed up with 2 miles.

The plan was 6 x 1200m @ 3:45 (or faster) with 800m recoveries. I wanted the recoveries longer (relatively) than last week's mile repeats so the quality of the 1200's would be better. The first was 3:45 and that would be the slowest. Followed with a 3:42, 3:41, 3:39, 3:38 and finished with a 3:34. Cooled down for two miles on the track plus the third of a mile back to my office down the hill.

What a difference a week (and 15 degrees cooler, and longer recovery) makes!

I think I got Heather's blessing to head to Cranmore in 2 weeks, so everything will be prep for that now. I would love to get into the mountains early next week...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday pm (coachpphunk 1, flying insects 0)

Nice run in the woods of Gordon this afternoon. Close to 10 miles in 1:15 or so. Swallowed some kind of flying bug (probably a deer fly, based on the abundance of them that were following me most of the time) and did the reflexive gag/hack cough without any success. 10 minutes later it felt like the thing was trying to crawl out my throat. I was just hoping it wasn't a bee, waiting for my air passage ways to close up.

Still warm, still completely soaked, but much more comfortable than last week.

man, I love my wife

Yesterday (Sunday) morning, I had planned to get up early and run before church and the heat, but I wanted the extra rest and recovery, so I stayed in bed until 8, while Heather did her miles for the day. I spent the rest of the morning grumbling and yelling at small children who crossed my path. At my wife's insistence, I packed my running things when we left for church, and (after an especially penitent morning listening to Pastor Greg's sermon) I did 10 miles of the fourteen-mile loop through Ipswich and Hamilton, from church back to our house.

Felt so much better after getting out. Relaxed most of the rest of the day and read about Loon results as the reports trickled in. Nice to see Kevin Tilton pleased with his fifth place finish and writing about it on his long-since-updated blog. I am really thinking about Cranmore now...

This morning, I got in 8.2 miles on my normal morning road loop through Beverly and Wenham. Headed to the woods this afternoon, God willing...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday morning

10 miles at 7:30 am after Heather returned from her second EARLY Saturday am workout with Team Gloucester. Felt better than yesterday, temps around 80 with high humidity. Most miles in the 6:40's.

86 miles for the week, and feeling good. A couple more good weeks and some speed (and a little cooler weather), and I'll be feeling good about Carver and Newburyport..

Excited to hear about how Loon goes this weekend; maybe next year I'll get up there.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Running in the heat

Left Gordon at about noon; it was getting pretty close to ninety degrees, although there was a little breeze. In the sun it was pretty hot, so I tried to find the shady side of the street where there was one. I hoped to do twelve miles, and have been feeling pretty good the last few days with longer single runs (read: too lazy to get out of bed when the alarm went off this morning, so stuck trying to get the days miles in one run). I kept it conservative heading out, knowing I would be out for an hour and twenty minutes or more. Headed down Hull St. to Centerville, then Standley Street over 128, onto the Beverly Homecoming course at Boyles, out to 127. I ran north on 127, which follows the coast through Endicott College and up to Beverly Farms. A couple stretches along here I was treated to an arctic-feeling breeze off the water, which helped delay the overheating. Turned around right by West Beach and slogged my way back. I was more comfortable than yesterday morning, but still got that squishy soaked-foot of sweat the last couple miles.

Just over 12 miles at 6:50 pace.

It looks like tomorrow and Sunday are going to hit ninety, then maybe a little milder next week, which will be nice. I trust that getting out and getting the miles these hot days is going to help during those hot races later this month.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

14 on the 4th

got up early (5:35) and out the door just before 6 to get some miles in for the day. I knew it was going to be hot later and I wanted to spend some time with family, so Heather and I both wanted to be done by breakfast.

My goal was 14, and I had to average 6:40's with an empty stomach to make it happen. I felt surprisingly good, given the humidity and higher recent mileage, which I think I'm starting to adjust to. After a 7:18 opener, I kept them all between 6:20 and 6:45, with some definite focus required to hold on the last few. Glad to have the rest of the day to relax.

Looks like the next few days are going to be hot.

I'm trying to put together the ultimate ipod mix for some 1200's early next week.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


11:12 am - How thankful I am for the freedom to run midday (even when it is hot and humid). Headed out across Wenham and into Topsfield, 8 miles out and back mostly on the roads in 1:51.

Had the best tasting 20 ounces of Sunkist on earth when I got back.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A couple Tuesday runs

6:20 am - just over 8 with about a mile and a half in the woods

10:00 am - coffee with Crystal Anthony; always inspiring to talk with someone who competes on the world stage - she will be competing in the CRAFT bike Transalp - over 600km with 18000 vertical meters later this month!!

1:15 pm - just over 9 with about a mile and a half in the woods - beautiful breeze and much cooler air temps made this one very enjoyable.

(If I could just do this everyday for the rest of my life I would have a running log like DD's.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

4 x mile - BOOOooo.....m (little m).

After figuring out at least part of the reason I have been feeling less than my best the last few days (see previous post), I headed out into the teeth of the heat at 12:30 this afternoon, unafraid of the steam rising off the track and ready to take on all-comers.

I was the only one up there.

I decided on some repeat miles, which are one of my favorite workouts (3-6 of them) on the track. Generally, when I am fit, I can run them right around 5:00. I usually take a longer rest (1200m @ 6:40-7:00 pace, which is just over 4 min.). Today I decided to see if I could do 4 at 4:56 (or faster?) with 800m recoveries (3:30-4:00). It was definitely warm and humid, but I embraced it today, in the spirit of the Yankee Homecoming 10-mile, which is coming up later this summer.

2011 finish pic from Peter McLelland

2012 finish pic from Peter McLelland

Note the completely saturated shorts in both pictures.

Actually, today was a little more like this "fuzzy" shot from the '06 Melody Miles in Hamilton.

Unfortunately, today's workout results don't deserve the full "Boom." of the John Madden / Level Renner vernacular, but were more like:

Mile 1 - 5:02 ("Boom?")
Mile 2 - 5:02 ("Boo..?")
Mile 3 - 5:08 ("Bo..")
Mile 4 - 5:11 ("B-b-b")

(For an appropriate usage of the term, see Mr. MacKnight's workout from last Thursday)

A little disheartening, but then again, I went up there expecting to run 4 miles by myself on the track faster than I ever had before. I will probably try to re-visit this workout in a couple weeks.

figured out the problem, no problem (or maybe there is)

Yesterday's afternoon run was one of the worst/toughest of my life. For no visible reason, I struggled mightily for 4+ miles in the humidity, then took a left turn to shorten my misery from 10 miles to eight. After I turned off the main road, I took off my shirt and started to walk. The four miles home or so, I alternated walking and running, hanging my head and thinking about retiring from the sport completely. No enjoyment at all, which is a rare thing for me on a run. This was the third or fourth day in a row where the humidity seemed to be almost too much for me, even though it hasn't really been that hot. Also had kind of a drag week at work last week, but I had attributed that to travel back from NJ, plus a pretty significant mileage increase the week before.

So, this morning, I slept in a little - Heather did 10 miles before I got up - and then I got up to get going and get breakfast ready. Started to make coffee, and realized that the Caribou Coffee I've been drinking (trusting, relying upon) for the past five days is DECAF!!! I quickly switched the bag with another bag of Caribou from the cupboard, triumphant! Even with the first few sips, I felt like my life was being restored to me. This morning, in my office, I have sent a half dozen emails that I couldn't get together last week. Glad to feel like everything is back in its right place. I'm only slightly concerned about the way my life collapsed into a shambles with five days of decaf... (I did get to enjoy a latte on Saturday afternoon, or I don't want to think what might have happened.)

Today: look out track, here I come!