Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 18-23, 2014

Thursday, December 18

15.82 in 1:44:50

Friday, December 19

13.43 in 1:33:03

Saturday, December 20

Heather and I brought the kids into BU for the first mini meet, with both of us entered in the 3000m (first event). I seeded myself at 8:55 and Heather at 11:15. I ended up at the bottom of the first heat, and got to go right at 10:00. Warmup was 8-10 laps around the outside of the track (1.5 miles?). Saw a lot of familiar faces: CMS 'mates Leslie, Mahoney (and family), Dunham, LaPierre, Ryan Collins; plus Scott and Jose from Whirlaway, Doug Deangelis, Greg Englehart.

I started in the barrel along with three other guys, and we were near the back coming off the first turn. I was at the back the first time around in 35s, but it felt quick (in a good way - at the 5k two weeks ago, things started too slowly and I had to work to the front to change that.) I felt appropriately uncomfortable running 35's and came through the first k in 2:57. I worked my way around some folks in the middle k, but slowed to 3:00. The last k, was probably mostly :36's, but I was racing, so not as good with the recall. Closed hard to out kick a fading GBTC guy (thanks to the commentary here, I know he had raced faster in recent weeks). 8:54.44 was my slowest time in a few years for 3k, but I was fine with the outcome, based on the type of training I have been doing the past few weeks.

Heather came in under her seed with an 11:09.

Then she let me get out in the afternoon for an easy 7 to get to 100 miles for the week.

Week Total: 100.24 (second highest week of the year)

Sunday, December 21

14.73 in 1:28:21 (5:59/mi.) out and back around noon; came back pretty hard with a time deadline to meet. Feeling pretty good the day after the 3k.

Monday, December 22

17.25 in 1:52:12 (6:30 pace) before most of my family came to meet up at Gordon. Great dinner with everyone at The Farm in Essex - Plain Jane (fried chicken sandwich with cheddar, bacon and ranch dressing)w/ fries, BBQ Nachos, and 2 Greenhead IPA's.

Tuesday, December 23

9:37 am - set out with my brother, Adam, and good friend Glen Landry for 4-6 easy miles. Adam's knee was acting up right away and he turned back, but Glen and I got in a nice almost seven just under an hour on the roads of Wenham, Beverly, and Hamilton

1:40 pm - former Ipswich runners Greg K. and Kieran K. came by Gordon for 7.6 in 55 minutes
A couple nice holiday reunion runs!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December 12-17, 2014

Friday, December 12
15 miles out and back from Gordon in my new favorite everyday trainers, the Mizuno Wave Rider (6:26/mi.)

Saturday, December 13
18 miles in ten ticks under two hours on the roads from home at 6 am in the adidas adios boost.

Week Total: 97.34

Sunday, December 14
met Scott McGrath and Nate Hausman in Danvers at 6 am for 13 and a half on the rail trails in an hour and 35 minutes

Monday, December 15
for some reason, I decided to go into the woods after three great weeks of training on the roads. I guess I wanted to slow it down a bit, but I was still hoping to put in some significant time on my feet as I train for a possible 50k this winter.

It was about 40 degrees, but there was still some ice in the shady spots in the woods, and I set off at a pretty good pace on the flat trails of Gordon Woods. About three miles in, I came to a sharp right-hand turn on a dirt road and went down really hard, banging my right knee and left elbow badly enough that I was walking around for a couple minutes trying to get the pain under control. There was a thin layer of ice on top of the dirt (basically invisible) and the ground was frozen pretty solid, so it gave me every impression of concrete when I fell on it.

I ditched my iPod after the wipe out, it was beeping at me and telling me "low battery" after the fall anyway and I had a GU in my hand, so I think that prevented me from catching myself a little better. Anyway, here's a couple pics a day later of the damage:

Always a bad idea for me to wear headphones in the woods.

I stuck with it and ran 18 (I think - lost satellite reception just before 16) in a little over two and a half hours. Knee was sore after and still lingering today (Wednesday), but I've been able to run on it without limping.

Tuesday, December 16
Wasn't sure how the knee would be, but it was fine. Also had a meeting cancellation on an otherwise busy day, which allowed me to get out for 10 at 6:30 pace.

Wednesday, December 17
Almost 18 (17.73) on the roads in 1:54:02. Closed pretty hard with a 6:15, 6:14, 6:07, 6:06, 5:58, 5:34 and 5:24 pace for the last .73.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 2-11 (Start Choppin)

Tuesday, December 2
10-mile road loop from Gordon w/ Nate H. at 6:51 pace

Wednesday, December 3
15.71 at 6:50 pace on roads solo at 2:00 pm

Thursday, December 4
11:20 am - seminary loop with Nate (6 mi. in 40:47); 3:30 pm - 7.5 in 49:50 (13.5 total)

Friday, December 5
13 miles in 1:30, first 5.5 with Nate

Saturday, December 6
ran indoor 5k at UMass-Boston Opener (15:26 for third overall)
warmed up and cooled down around Roxbury with Wes (8.5 total)

Week Total:
90.09 mi.

Sunday, December 7
12+ at 6:17/mi. from home

Monday, December 8
15.42 @ 6:43 pace in the snow, 24 degrees and felt like 12, slippery

Tuesday, December 9 (Day 1 "Aquajog")
11:30 am - 11.44 in 1:15:28 in pretty steady rain, low 40's, felt warm compared to Monday, completely drenched, though
(XC team presented me with a new Garmin at the team banquet! My 305 is just beginning its 5th year of faithful service.)

Wednesday, December 10 (Day 2 "Aquajog")
12:30 pm - 5 with Nate in 34:32, overcast; back out at 1:41 pm in a soaking rain for another 7.67 in 54:37

Thursday, December 11
10:36 am - 12.59 mi. in 1:23:19, snowing the last few miles

Monday, December 1, 2014

November 20 - December 1 (Run Riot)

Thursday, November 20
11.44 in 1:31; easy woods recovery

Friday, November 21
8.91 in 1:05:22; from home down to Gabe's Run course, course 2x with Nate H. and Heather

Saturday, November 22
5.67 in 43:59 with Heather at 5:16 am before leaving for NH for my Gordon Discovery class

(Week Total: 76.32)

Sunday, November 23
no run, missed out on golden opportunity to join KT and JJ on the trails around Ossipee and Madison because of class commitments

Monday, November 24
10.93 in 1:12:32 on roads at 3:04 pm, getting dark (sadly) at the end

Tuesday, November 25
7.22 in 49:47 with Nate H. on the roads

Wednesday, November 26
10.15 in 1:07:04; cold, rainy and windy - one of the toughest days of the year to be out there

Thursday, November 27
5.62 in 53:54; met my dad for an early morning run at Crane Beach in Ipswich; our first time running together in a while and his 35th year running on Thanksgiving AM (mostly at Crane); great start to the long weekend

Friday, November 28 (Gabe's Run)
7th Annual Gabe's Run 5k in memory of Gabe Pacione, a Hamilton-Wenham runner who died in a car accident 8/11/08, a couple weeks before he would have begun his freshman year at Dartmouth College.

Gabe was two-time Mass. All-State DII Champ in XC and I had the privilege of being an assistant coach at HW those two years. His senior year (Fall '07) was pretty special, he won every race but one, the Brown Invitational, where he finished second to Robert Gibson of Brookline. He ran 14:03 on a very difficult 2.85 mi. home course, beating Eric McDonald of Pentucket (and then UMass-Lowell) in a dual meet.

He was an extremely committed, hard-working and well-loved teammate and opponent and the Gabe's Run is a colorful and fun celebration of his life among those who knew him and his family. Of course, the best way I can think of to celebrate Gabe, is to go out and run my hardest against a field of mostly younger XC runners some of whom are coming off collegiate seasons.

For the second year, we (Alex Vlahos and I) put together a men's open team which included the two of us, plus Greg Krathwohl (Ipswich High School '10 and Middlebury College '14, DIII XC All-American 2013), Kieran Kinnare (Ipswich High School '11 and Cornell '15), Conor Lyons (HW '10 and Northeastern '15), Ian MacLean (HW '11, Babson '15) and Nate Hausman, my running buddy from Gordon.

The course was completely covered with a couple of inches of snow, but the women ran first and cleared quite a bit of it.

I went with the Inov-8 X-Talon 212's, wanting the maximum grip, and they proved to be the perfect choice. There is only about a quarter-mile of paved road, and the rest is grass/dirt, so I felt like I had the best footing of anyone out there.

I went out a little more conservatively than some years and I was in about 20th place at 800m in; from there I worked my way quickly into the top ten, as those who went out too fast came back. The first mile was around 5:32, which felt about right given the conditions. As we popped out of the woods onto the road (~1.25 miles), I stayed in the road and went around everyone in front of me, so as we headed back into the trails past the halfway point I was in the lead, with at least three runners close in tow.

Just before two miles, we passed the horse jump and I started to turn right, but an official shouted for us to go straight. I got into a brief (5, 10 second) shouting match with him about which way to go, and continued the way I knew to be correct (he apologized after the race) and the rest of the pack behind me came along. One guy, who had been in about 9th, continued a little further out of the way than the rest of us. For the most part, though, I don't think the mix-up cost anyone more than a little time. We went through 2 miles in a little over 11:00, and my Garmin was at 2.04 or so, so I was convinced we had made the right turn (going straight would have added about a quarter of a mile).

We headed up Scilly's Hill, which is the "highlight" of this 5k, a steep, washed out section about 200 or 250m long. (I know it's a Strava segment, too - I'll have to see what the official ascent time was.)

At the top I was pretty gassed, but knew I had to pick it up to hold off all the young legs behind me. The top of the hill is about 1200m from the finish. Just before we came out of the woods, a runner I didn't recognize made a decisive move to go by me and quickly put 15-20m on me. I tried to keep my legs under me on the descent and then made for the long straight 800m in. Along this section, I could hear (at least) two guys right behind me. When one of them said, "Coach", I knew it must be Greg, and I doubted whether I could hold him off in a final kick, so I pressed as hard as I could with about 600m left.

I felt pretty strong over the final 400m and kicked hard to hang onto second place, which ended up being worth $250. The time of 17:19 wasn't what I had hoped for, but I was only 5 seconds out of first and a second up on third and fourth places (fourth is out of the money).

Also, picked up tons of great prizes as second overall and part of first place open team: a couple nalgene water bottles with various goodies inside (sport beans, Balega socks, etc.), a sweet top 25 half-zip from Saucony a heavy-duty medal and a hat. This race has some of the best prizes of any event I have been to, and while I don't necessarily want the word getting out, I know most runners have their own Thanksgiving races they are loyal to. As it was, I was one of only 5 runners in the top 25 over the age of 24.

I quickly put on some layers and headed out to catch up with Heather and my 8-year-old son Benjamin who was contesting his first career 5k (some 10 years younger than his dad's first 5k). He chose one of the toughest 5k's available (terrain and weather) for his debut, but hung in there to the tune of a 34:06 finish (11:00 pace). If he doesn't completely hate it after that experience then I think their is hope for him as a distance runner.

Benjamin leading the charge with 800m to go, with mom, me and neighbor Aaron Ross in tow.

(Heather finished 9th in the women's race, which featured the additional quarter-mile I had argued my way out of in the men's version.)

Saturday, November 29
7.91 miles in 52:18 home from Harris Tree Farm in Ipswich after cutting our own Christmas tree.

(Week Total: 48.33)

Sunday, November 30
9.21 miles in just under an hour at just after noon in shorts and T-shirt

Monday, December 1
in 63 degree December weather, did a slightly shorter version of two Wednesday's ago from Gordon to the rail trail (about 6 miles total on the rail trail); 20.15 miles in 2:08:20 (6:22/mi.)

(averaging 20 miles/day for December so far)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Monday, Tuesday, WEDNESDAY

Monday, November 17
cold and rainy, out and back solo from Gordon - grapevine, rubbly, essex (22), chebacco/pine into manchester, turned around on rockwood (11.17/1:14:05)

Tuesday, November 18
just over 7 miles with Nate H. on the roads and thru Gordon woods at a crisp 6:47 pace (7.1/48:13)

Wednesday, November 19
way out and back, probably my longest mid-week run ever; thankful for the freedom to train - got it into my head that I would go out 75 minutes and then come back, without really thinking how far that might be on the roads. (I've run for 2 and a half hours in the woods a couple times recently.) At 9 miles in under an hour, I realized this was going to end up being pretty far. I ran to the rail trail off of rte. 97 in Wenham and kept following it north until I got to an hour and fifteen at about 11.5 miles just over the tops field town line into boxford; then turned around and came back. It was cool (right around freezing) and breezy, but sunny and I felt really good for the most part. At around 20-21 miles, I started getting a little soreness in my right achilles, but I just tried to keep going and not push off too hard without compromising form. In all it was only about 3 miles shy of a marathon (23.17) in 2:29:22. Made me feel reasonably confident that I could pull off a decent road marathon in the near future if I can find one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thursday - Sunday (11/13 - 11/16)

Thursday 11/13
7.26 in 49:12 with Nate H. on the roads from Gordon; Grapevine, Rubbly/Woodbury, Bridge, Essex, Rubbly

Friday 11/14
12 miles at 6:30 pace on the roads from Gordon on the eve of DIII NE's; headed to Williamstown at 2:30 pm with the team

Saturday 11/15
5:23 am - with the headlamp on from the Cozy Corner Motel in Williamstown, down Rte. 7 into town, Rte. 2 west to Bee Hill Rd. which became (Bee Hill Rd.) - unpaved, little snow/leaf coverage, about 5 and a half miles to the trail up Berlin Mtn.; up the mountain in an inch or two of snow, got to the top right around sunrise, but was clouded in some light snow; ran down (the wrong way) along the Taconic Crest Trail for a little over a mile, then turned around, back to the summit and down the 33' Trail where I was slipping and siding pretty good on the snow-covered leaves; finally got down and out to the road and back to the motel just before 8 am; continental breakfast, then men (28th) and women (33rd) ran well at tough Williams course. DIII NE just keeps getting better!
(16.75 in 2:27:38 with some good climbing - Mt. Berlin summit is 2818')

Week Total: 81

Sunday 11/16
from home in the afternoon, down to Patton Park; 2 x Gabe's Run 5k course (20:37 and 20:25) with :45 jog from finish to start; then home (8.86 in 59:21)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

11/8-12 (officially preparing for an undisclosed ultra)

Saturday, November 8
Travelled to Westfield State for ECAC's with #'s 8-14 men and women. Almost across the board season-bests on the fast Stanley Park course on a beautiful day. Snuck out for a little under 8 and a half on the trails and roads before the meet got going while everyone was warming up.
(81 miles for the week was my highest weekly mileage since August)

Sunday, November 9
Got up early and ran almost 9 on the roads at 7:17 pace before church.

Monday, November 10
13.23 at 6:37 pace from Gordon down into downtown Wenham, around Wm. Fairfield Dr., 97 to Cedar St. and back - nice

Tuesday, November 11
8.88 w/ Nate at 6:51 pace on the roads; our longest run together in a while

Wednesday, November 12
A little over two hours in the woods between meetings; just over 14 miles

Friday, November 7, 2014

The latest

October 23 - 25:

Thurs. 10/23 - 12 on the roads at ~7:00/mi.

Fri. 10/24 - 16 x 400m w/ some loooooong recoveries, until I was "joined" (he was at 65, ahead of me) by Chris Blondin for my last 3, for which I kept the recoveries at 2'; started with a couple 71's, then ended up averaging 67.5 for the full 16; fastest 3 were 65-66; 4-mile warmup; 4-mile cool down (this workout took forever)

Sat. 10/25 - first weekend run in a few weeks; just a quick seven miles at 6:26 pace on the roads
(68 miles for the week on 6 days of running)

October 26 - November 1:

Mon. 10/27 - 6 miles (seminary loop) with Nate H. at 6:52 pace; beautiful fall day!

Tues. 10/28 - 6+ miles with Nate in the woods

Wed. 10/29 - seminary loop with Nate in the am in 40:16; 4 EASY miles in the woods in the afternoon

That was it for the week, or should I say "weak", with meet preparations consuming the rest of my life Thurs., Fri., Sat.

(22.5 total on 3 days of running, 4 runs)

November 2 - Present:

Sun. 11/2 - so awesome, run in vt w/ Josh Ferenc, Greg Hammett, Eric MacKnight and Josh's "girls", Lena and Ellie; just about an hour from Josh's up to the Pinnacle Outlook - took a look at the snow on Sugarbush, Stratton and Mt. Snow, had a salted caramel Gu, courtesy of Josh, headed back to another beautiful outlook, "knife edge", etc. We estimated 14 miles in just over two hours - Lena must have run twice that distance off in the woods, running ahead. Great start to the week with great guys. Enjoyed a couple Long Trails back at the Ferenc homestead with surprise (to me, at least) guest, Justin Fyffe. Looking forward to my next opportunity to get WILD with this crew.

Mon. 11/3 - 5.6 @ 6:58 pace, Grover St. loop with Nate

Tues. 11/4 - 12 @ 6:47 pace, out and back from Gordon in new Mizuno Wave Riders; had to stop and massage right foot which isn't used to the stiff Mizuno feel; this is my first pair of Mizunos ever

Wed. 11/5 - 18 miles @ 6:30 pace; just kind of went for it in the early afternoon - 20:36 (6:52/mi.) for the first 3; 27:04 (6:46/mi.) for the next 4; 32:35 (6:31/mi.) for the next 5; ~37:00 (6:10/mi.) for the last 6+; felt good to go long, equalled my longest road run this year (July 25)

Thurs. 11/6 - 7.6 in 51:50 w/ Nate on the roads, grapevine to end, 127 to bennett in Manchester, then back pine to Gordon woods; 5.6 in 41:00 in the rain at practice with the team

Fri. 11/7 - almost 6 in just under an hour with Greg K. in Gordon and Manchester-Essex Woods; a little over 4 at practice with 6 fast, long striders on the grass that felt good.

(72.8 in 6 days so far this week - best week in a couple months)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another 3 weeks

4 pretty long runs, with 3 x 16-miles on the roads (since my last update) and a 2:38 effort in the woods that was about 14 and a half. I feel like I am prepping for a marathon or longer, so I guess I am. There's a 50k in Springfield on the roads on December 13.

I did one workout on the track:
3 x (2k/1k/500m) @ ~6:40/3:10/1:30 on October 7th that took some extra guts to get through the third set.

Weekly mileage:
64.6 (9/28-10/4)
68.7 (10/5-11)
48.4 (10/12-18)
36.9 this week thru Wed.

Other news:
spent a weekend (10/11-12) camping up near Crawford Notch after hiking Middle Sugarloaf with my Discovery class from Gordon. Cool overnight in the mid-30's.

Trying to collaborate on some musical projects with my two younger brothers:
the nix
Eventually, some of the sounds we are making will make it onto the blog. That way I don't have to annoy Joe with non-running related posts here.

Giving some serious thought to what the 39th year of my life will look like as a runner, etc. Snowshoe nationals? More mountains. Track? Roads. Running with great dudes all over New England hopefully.

Recently confessed a mid-life crisis to my wife, who responded by saying she hoped I lived to be older than 76. I consoled her by telling her that I expect the crisis to last ten years.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lone Gull, etc.

Pardon my current obsession with LCD Sounsdsystem...

But if you need something to listen to while you read this overdue post, please enjoy.

Since last writing, Heather and I traveled to nearby Gloucester, MA for the Lone Gull 10k. We were both poised to improve on road PR's of 32:21 (last year's Lone Gull) and 39:25 (at last year's Tufts 10k). With the deep field for the USATF-NE Grand Prix Championship, there was bound to be plenty of company the whole way out and back on the beautiful Back Shore.

CMS men's team looked good with Nate Jenkins and Dan Vassallo both in attendance. Scott Leslie, who finished ahead of me here last year also made the trip. I had just edged him at the 15k, but also know he is in the middle of some high mileage marathon training and I am not.

IT was a picture perfect day

Thanks to Scott Mason, for capturing the beauty of the day behind Alex Hall and me dueling in the last mile!

Alex and I talked at the start: he had taken Coach Scott McGrath's advice to lower his 33:00 goal and wanted to see how 5:10's felt. I hoped that would be about where I was, so I offered to set the pace early on. After coming through the mile in 4:58, I felt like I had done a poor job of setting Alex up for success, and wondered if I would see him again.

Things got a little more realistic the rest of the way, with mile 2 passing in 10:12 (5:14); mile 3 in 15:18 (5:06); 5k in 15:53 (sub-32:00 pace); mile 4 out of the neighborhood is the slowest and that was a 5:21, which put me at 20:39 for 4. Even with people to chase the last two miles-plus, it was tough to hold onto 5:10 pace with the shifting wind in our face and across the road.

To my surprise, Alex came by me around mile 5 as I was chasing a couple other guys. He gave me a thumbs-up, which I (it turns out correctly) assumed meant he was feeling good. I tried to hang with him, and in the picture above (1/2 mile to go?) I was just making a move to get around him. I was afraid I might have squeezed him entirely out of the shot, but Scott Mason knows what he's doing with the camera.

Mile 5 was 25:50 (5:11); mile 6 was 31:06 (5:16) and I hung on to finish in 32:10 with a new road PR by 11 seconds. At age 38 (I turned in late August), there was noone older ahead of me in the results, although Greg Putnam in 32:38 at age 44 (CMS 5th man) was certainly more impressive. Mike Galoob was first master in 32:24. And, most notably, Pete Hammer, at 48 years young in 32:39!

It was a good day to run fast, and Heather got in on the act, too, knocking nearly a minute off her 10k best, with a 38:31! We both took 4th in age group awards and RD Len Femino was kind enough to go that deep with prizes, so we got to hear our names called and leave with some parting gifts.

70 miles the week after lone gull, with no run on Saturday; I had an all-day ropes course training for a class I'm teaching this fall.

Last week only mustered 48 in 6 days leading up to our home XC meet.

Gonna go dance on some wet rocks somewhere nearby...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Weekly update

Since the GMAA 15k, my training has continued to be spotty, with some good days and some off days.

Monday and Tuesday of last week I spent 17 miles in the Gordon Woods, getting our 5k and 8k courses ironed out for the Pop Crowell Invitational later this month. I'm really happy with the simplicity of the women's course and the fact that I got the start and finish in the woods, eliminating any pavement at all. The first loop of the men's course is a little dodgy.

I still have a 6k to map out for our conference (CCC) meet that we host in early November.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I got in 14, 12 and 15 miles on the roads in the heat at 6:32, 6:21 and 6:43 pace, respectively.

Friday night we (family) headed up to Pawtuckaway State Park in NH for a weekend or a night of camping, depending on the weather and how the kids did all in one tent. I was optimistic that I might meet up with Brandon Newbould for a running tour of the park on Saturday or Sunday or both. Unfortunately, technology failed me and I got the text too late, missing out on a Saturday morning run. As the day wore on, I pushed my plans to run back, and when it became evident that we weren't staying a second night, I decided to wait until we got home. We stopped for dinner, I had a beer, we got ice cream after...needless to say, by the time we made it back to the Grove and had everyone in bed, the last thing I could imagine doing was lacing up and heading out into the dark at the tail end of a thunderstorm to get some miles.

When Sunday rolled around, I lost the drive (or just continued Saturday's lost drive) and never made it out. For whatever reason, I really just didn't want to run.

By Monday, my (mental) health was depending on my getting out, and after the first mile or so, which was an absolute slog-fest nightmare, I got back into it for 12 miles at 6:30 pace.

Yesterday (Tuesday), I had my first run in almost 4 months with my Gordon running buddy, Nate. Nate spent his summer (like every summer) in the Adirondacks, directing Gordon's La Vida program. Even though his runs have been few and far between, he had no problem clicking off 7:03's for 5 and a half on the roads.

Today I did a little over 4 in the morning at 6 am practice with the team, then got out for 10 and a half by myself at 1 pm, out and back to the top of the hill at Gordon-Conwell.

Goal for Lone Gull: improve on last year's 32:21 and help CMS win gold.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Catching up / GMAA 15k report

On the 7th, Heather and I celebrated our 10th anniversary a week early at the Stephen Clay Homestead B + B in Candia, NH and ran 10 miles together from the Inn into Bear Brook State Forest and back the next morning.

I raced the Asbury Grove mile for the only time this summer on the 11th, winning in 4:51.

My training has been a bit spotty, with mileage in the 50's for the past two weeks.

The end of August was fast, with Gordon XC getting started. We had a team trip to the Adirondacks for the first five days of the season, where we spent time training together, getting to know each other, and taking on a couple ambitious hikes.

My group did a 14-mile loop up and over Gothics, Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw. We started a little too late (10:30 am) and didn't get off the trail until almost 10 pm. Hiking in the dark made possible by iPhones. I managed to get 3 miles of running in, too (1.5 at each end of the hike), keeping my streak from May alive. We had left a van in Keene Valley so I had an uphill dog (Vic's mini golf reference) on the way in and a fast flight down hill in the dark on the way out.

Also, set the CR at the La Vida run in Lake Clear, NY, lowering my time from last year by 2 and a half minutes to 46:51 for 8.7 miles (5:23/mi.).

The following Saturday (Aug. 23) I did a Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack hike with Russ Q., Nate B. and Aaron H. A little over 9 miles in about 6 hours. No run, but a good amount of time on our feet.

I had a good 1k/.5k workout in the morning on the 22nd, which became the team's best workout (in 2+ years that I've been here) later that afternoon.

We had our season opener at New England College last Friday, which doubled as my 38th birthday celebration. The women finished 3rd of 10 teams and the men were 6th, although I limited their pace for the first 2 miles of the 5k course, hoping to keep everyone sharp, and reminding them that it is a long season and November is what matters.

On Saturday night (8/30), Heather and I made the drive up to Burlington, VT for the GMAA Labor Day 15k.

We had dinner downtown at the Vermont Pub & Brewery. I took some MacKnight-ish pictures of everything I consumed with my "new" (re-furbished) iPhone:

A cask-conditioned IPA, that barely lasted for the picture;

"Toads in a Hole" - a delicious (if not entirely aesthetically-pleasing) meal consisting of a maple sausage and Vermont cheddar wrapped in pastry, served with fries and apple chutney;

and a cask-conditioned stout with a hint of bourbon flavor that Heather and I shared.

After dinner, we crashed at the La Quinta, which the CMS women's team provided (awesome!) and enjoyed a pretty quiet night of sleep. (I had been worried when we left for dinner and the guys in the room across the hall from us and next door were partying in the hallway.)

I got up around 6 on Sunday, grabbed a Starbucks coffee across the street and a bagel and cream cheese from Dunkin Donuts. Heather utilized the continental breakfast at La Quinta. I caught up briefly in the elevator doorway with Nate J., who had stayed there, too, with his wife, Melissa. (I stayed at the same hotel as Nate Jenkins!) Nate was concerned about the humidity.

Heather and I warmed up to the start (about 2.5 miles from La Quinta), Heather joined by new CMS 'mates Jenn Brooks and Layce Alves.

It was overcast, which was great, but humidity was high, as Nate had warned.

I saw a bunch of familiar faces congregating in the starting area. From CMS: Joe Shairs, Jim Pawlicki, Al Bernier (freshly 40), Scott Leslie, Dave and Dan, Greg Putnam, etc.

I got into the first row at the start, which was nice. I'm not as intimidated of being up front in a Grand Prix event when the distance is longer than 10k, since it tends to scare off some of the younger speedsters. Top 10 was in my mind as I sized up the competition. Down and up the first set of hills, I was in a group of four with Jose Ortiz and Brandon Newbould  of Whirlaway and Justin Freeman of RUN. We were behind an ambitious RUN member I didn't recognize and another foursome which included Nate J. and Ruben Sanca.

The early pace felt relaxed and I was glad to be with Justin and Brandon, who typically beat me, without having to work too hard. The first mile was 5:25, which seemed a little slow, but not cause for concern, and when the next two miles dropped to 5:20, I felt good about a 49:00 for the full distance. A few runners came by our pack during the first few fast miles. Among them were: Jesse Regnier in the WMDP yellow jersey, as well as teammate Jon Joyce who I met at the Marathon Sports 5-Miler last summer, along with a 3-pack of Dirigo guys who looked strong.

After three miles, we turned left and began a series of hills that made up mile 4. This was a tough stretch (5:38 4th mile) and Jose and Justin began pulling away from me. Somewhere in the middle miles a "home-teamer", GMAA's Peter Gurney, came past looking smooth. I tried to hang with him as he moved up through the line of runners ahead of me. When Peter passed (about halfway through the race), I was in 14th place, and I could still ahead to 6th, so I gritted my teeth and decided to catch as many as I could.

Jose was the first guy I caught up to, between 5 and 6 miles, as we turned right onto a road that led to a short section of bike path. He responded briefly, and I thought we might be able to work together, but it was short-lived. Jose and I have run near each other quite a bit over the last couple summers and I feel pretty comfortable in his company during a grand prix event.

On the bike path, I took on a couple more guys (Alex Hall from the BAA, I think, and one of the three Dirigo guys). I think I was 10th or 11th coming off the bike path into the neighborhood section of the course. Mile splits were low-to-mid 5:20's and I was increasingly more uncomfortable in the heat and humidity. I caught one more guy during the final two miles and could hear footsteps between mile 8 and the finish. Down the final stretch a couple WMDP guys who weren't running screamed at their teammate behind me, "That guy's forty years older than you!" (about me). At this point (right around mile 9, which was a 5:11 and my fastest of the day), I was pretty much all-out, and looking at Peter Omea in 9th, who wasn't far ahead, but I certainly took a little inspiration from that comment, and mustered some strength for the final push. I held off Scott from WMDP for 10th place in 50:12.8 (officially), which was slower than my time goal, but met my place goal of being Top Ten.

I cheered in the rest of the CMS-ers: Scott, who was right behind me; Greg and Al; Morgan; Jim; Joe; etc. and then my lovely wife, who wound up 11th woman and 2nd CMS.

The men took 2nd, thanks in large part to Nate's 2nd place, sub 48:00 finish. CMS women were third.

Krissy K. got some great pictures, as usual:

 Up the first hill

 Getting close...c'mon finish!

 Longest stride of the summer - thanks, Kris!

 Gutting it out/Looking old

Finishing 10th

Heather, finishing strong

Afterwards, I did 2 miles easy with Scott McGrath and Alex Hall, grabbed some food and jogged back to the hotel with Heather. Had just enough time for a shower before checkout, which was clutch, except for the stinging right nipple (see pictures above). We stopped for some bacon, egg and cheese bagels and Starbucks beverages, but I made a quick detour for a $6 can of Heady Topper, when I realized I had the opportunity. First time trying this notorious double IPA and it was worth the premium. I saved the can.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Last Two Weeks - Part Two: trip to VT

I followed up the Yankee Homecoming 10-miler with 13 on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday, and 16 on Friday (12 and 4). The 4 was on trails around Bridgewater Corners, VT, where I stayed for 5 days as part of a Gordon Athlete Leadership Retreat.

Saturday I drove about 10 miles south from Bridgewater to Plymouth, VT to meet the one and only Joshua Ferenc for a trail run. After a short time of confusion, driving around looking for each other, we both pulled into the parking lot of the Salt Ash Inn. Somewhere between there and Josh pulling his shoes out of his roof rack, I realized this was going to be a run to remember.

I had stocked up on snacks from NE Running Company and brought a water bottle to carry on my waist. I asked Josh if he was going to carry anything and he told me no. He also admitted that he usually wasn't prepared for runs like this. I abandoned my game plan and left my shirt and all supplies in the car. I figured that Ferenc knew what he was doing, even if he said he didn't.

We were without a map, but eager to get going, so we started up a long dirt road across route 100 from the Inn. (Est. started elev. around 1200') As we neared the top of the dirt road, we asked our first stranger for directions, and were guided across the old Round Top (now Bear Creek) ski area. This dumped us out onto Roundtop Road, which climbed pretty steadily for a mile or so, before becoming Old Plymouth Road (as we entered N. Shrewsbury). We passed a few trails on our right that went into Coolidge State Forest as we sought out the long trail/AT . The "road" was overgrown and dirt and very runnable and Josh and I got to know each other by talking about New England runners we both knew. Josh did a great "JJ during a 50k" impression which I didn't have to use my imagination much to envision. I also heard some great tales throughout the run of legendary Keene St. performances. As a DIII coach, it was pretty exciting to hear about the impressive things that Josh and his teammates accomplished (and that current Owls continue to do under Pete Thomas' guidance). Josh had an awesome perspective on team culture, being a good teammate, etc., all stuff that is critical to team success.

We popped out of the State Forest and checked a sign at the parking lot. Getting our bearings, we continued to the end of the road and took a right on the CCC Road. At a fork, we ran into some more folks with a map and chatted them up while we looked things over. We ended up going right at the fork and finding a trailhead, where we got into the real VT woods for the first time (almost 8 miles/about 1 hour in). We thought we were on the Long Trail, but looking at maps afterward I don't think we were. The terrain got a lot more interesting, and Josh let me lead (as is his custom, he told me) through some beautiful woods as we climbed over both peaks of Shrewsbury (3700ish') and eventually to the summit of Killington. We had a couple great spots to look out over the valley and surrounding mountains. At the top, we chatted with a few friendly hikers and began our descent on the Juggernaut ski trail, which Killington used to advertise as 10 miles long. I wondered if it could actually be 10 miles to the bottom - we were over 2 hours in by now. The mood was light and the conversation was good, even as fatigue and dehydration took hold. Josh was more daring than me (no surprise) and quenched his thirst from a mossy mountain stream near the summit of Killington. This provided giardia conversations that lasted the rest of the run.

After a mile or two of winding down on Juggernaut without getting much closer to the bottom, we hopped on the Great Bear trail and followed that to the Sunrise Trail. It was a long way down. We ended up somehow having to climb back up as we approached the bottom, which neither of us was thrilled about at that point. Finally, we emerged at the (old) Sunrise base lodge, only to discover we had a long 6 miles left on route 100 back to our cars. We had been on our feet for over three hours and covered about 20 miles through the mountains. To add insult to injury, as we slowly started making our way back to Plymouth the road was marked every 100 meters, reminding us just how far we had to go. We were both feeling gassed, and when Ferenc told me he wasn't ashamed to call it quits, I took him up on it.

We decided to try our luck at eliciting some help from the locals and I was the first one up. At the first house we stopped, which was an inn, a woman was outside on her phone when two weary mountain men wandered up. "Could we get a ride or maybe just something to drink?" I asked her. She was without wheels, but she brought out two giant cups of homemade iced tea that hit the spot. Unfortunately, that wasn't helping the dead legs at all.

At the second house, it was Ferenc's turn to try. A guy with a mohawk and his girlfriend had just pulled into the driveway in a big pickup and Josh liked our chances. I let him lead the way while I slowly approached, waiting for a thumbs up or some other indication that we had found our help. Sure enough, Josh waved me over and we piled in the back for the ride to Plymouth. The guy probably didn't save our lives, but he certainly made them a lot less difficult than they would have been. We thanked him profusely at the Inn and he turned to head back.

Josh and I decided we wanted something else cold to drink, and being in Vermont, there was a country store only several miles away. We drove to a store in Plymouth just across the street from the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. It was a very clean and very old country store. As we entered, I noticed a lot of ribbon candy and rock candy but nothing that would quench our thirst. The woman at the counter was counting out her register, getting ready to close the store, so I asked her if she had anything cold to drink. When she replied, "All we have is Moxie," I noticed Josh starting to lose control of his emotions, so I quickly asked for two. We popped those babies open in a couple rocking chairs on the front porch and that pretty well cemented a perfect first date with Josh Ferenc. (Ed. note: He told me I had him at, "Want to go for a run?")

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last Two Weeks - (Part One) Yankee Homecoming

It's been two weeks since my last update and a lot has happened.

The week after Bear Brook was highlighted by a tired 26:49 at the Hamilton Firefighter "5"-Mile road race (Tuesday) and 18 miles at 6:14 pace on Friday.

I ended up with 82 miles for the week.

The following Tuesday, July 29, Heather and I headed north to Newburyport for the 55th Annual Yankee Homecoming 10-Miler. This would be my tenth trip to the race, and seventh consecutive time running.

Previous Results:
2000 - 57:41 (32nd place)
2005 - 1:15:26 (304th - stepped off course around 6 miles, then finished with Heather)
2006 - 56:58 (9th)
2008 - 56:50 (49th - Grand Prix year)
2009 - 55:14 (13th)
2010 - 54:20 (10th)
2011 - 53:34 (5th)
2012 - 54:32 (9th)
2013 - 53:39 (12th)

My goal coming in was to improve on the times I had run here and hopefully get a new 10-Mile PR (53:19 at '06 Apple Harvest Ramble).

This race is also a full-on reunion with seemingly every person from every corner of my life converging on Newburyport High School. We caught up with newly-minted CMS member Layce Alves along with Jim P., and Nick T. for a pre-race photo from Roger Perham. (Before we had a chance to pin our numbers on...)

Warming up, we ran into my best friend growing up, Ben, and his new wife, Megan, who live in Newburyport and were running the 5k.

I bumped into my top incoming Gordon freshman women, Kasey, and her family. She was taking a shot at the 10-Miler for the second time.

I saw a formidable crew of Cape Ann League coaches and alumni - the Keiran sisters (Tina - UVM and Sarah - UNH), a bunch of former Newburyport Clippers (in the 10-Mile and the 5k), Eric McDonald (UMass-Lowell and Pentucket HS) and coaches from Amesbury (Ernie), Triton (Joe), Newburyport (Foley and Hennigar), and North Reading (Spinney). Noticeably absent was Ipswich HS coach Marty Binette, who I always see here.

Also ran into several others during the two and a half mile warmup around town.

Saw Brandon Newbould and my first "Strava-friend" Steve Dowsett at the starting line and then the gun went off.

The plan was to run 5:20's comfortably early on and hopefully have some strength left to close harder than that at the end. Historically, the first few and the last couple miles are the fastest, but I usually struggle from 4-7. Because I had my Garmin set to take splits every measured mile, my splits didn't reflect the course markings. I know I was just under 5:20 for the first and was 10:40 for 2 miles.

I got a kick out of seeing (80-year-old?) Jack Welch at the water stop on High St. just after the mile mark where I always see him. Jack was a Navy Seal, a legendary football coach at Ipswich High School (the stadium is named after him) and now coaches throws there.

Jose Ortiz (who finished just ahead of me last year) and I were working together for the early part of the race. We were about 10 seconds in back of Brandon and Justin Freeman, and I wanted to be up with them, but also wanted to be smart. As we came into the downtown area just after 2 miles, I saw Don Hennigar in front of the running store where he works and he gave me a cheer. I always get so charged up from there all the way through town, with the streets lined with spectators, and I took a breath and tried to stay in control and not get carried away. The next mile or so is always spent weaving through errant 5k runners (can they please just put a rope up some year?) and then between 3 and 4 miles we get sweet relief and it gets lonely out there.

I think the 3-mile split was 16:06 and 4 was in the 21:20's. There are a couple rolling hills up to mile 5, and somewhere in this stretch I got ahead of Jose and into 6th place by myself. I wouldn't pass or be passed again. Halfway split was almost identical to my 5-mile race time from a week before (26:48). I felt good, but not great, and realized I had my work cut out for a PR. I probably ran from miles 5-7 better than I ever have before, but I lost a little more time off of 5:20 pace (about 10 sec in two miles). The climb up Hoyt's Lane to 113 was a grind. As I got onto 113 (High St) which leads all the way back to the finish, I could see Brandon and Justin ahead (45-60 seconds?) and made after them. I always like this stretch, up and over 95 and back to the school because there is almost always someone to chase.

At times over the last two miles I thought I was closing, but I also knew that the two of them working together would be hard to get. My 8 mile split was 43-flat. I would need to run 10:18 for the last two miles to PR. I went for it, for what it was worth, but mile 9 was a 5:19. Mile 10 I dropped down to a 5:10 and came through in 53:29, good for 6th place, my best time at Yankee Homecoming and second-fastest 10-Miler ever.

Krissy K. got some good finish line shots - I liked this one the best:

I caught up with a few of the guys ahead of me, had a pat on the back for Justin Freeman (once again, he was first 37-year-old) and asked Ruben about what had happened up front where I couldn't see. I was really impressed/surprised to see in the results that Brandon had closed to only seconds behind third place and put a lot of time on Justin over the last couple miles.

Full Results

Heather cracked the top ten women for the first time here, finishing 9th, and lowered her PR for 10M by over a minute to 1:05:28!

Cooled down with Mr.'s Pawlicki and Dowsett on the quiet (and quickly darkening) streets of Newburyport.

Then we met up with good friends Russ and Carmen Queen at the Grog in Newburyport for dinner afterwards. They had run the 5k together - Russ' second race of his life (and second in two nights) after making his debut at the Asbury Grove Mile on Monday.

It's been a time to generate a little positive press for Gordon, and I have had a couple cool opportunities to do so. Tuesday morning, before the Yankee Homecoming, I sat down for about 30 minutes with Joel Richardson as part of his program, "Looking Back on Track". We talked about coaching the teams at Gordon as well as my running.

The next day I had an email to do an interview with the Boston Globe for the North section. Hopefully, that will see the light of day and the publicity will do some good for our program.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bear Brook Trail “Marathon” Race Report: My first (baby) Ultra

Finding out/Getting In (to what???)
I was notified by email early last week by race co-director Kristina Folcik that I had been moved from the Bear Brook Trail Marathon waitlist to the list of registered entrants. I was a late entry, having been unaware of the race until some advertising came out after the Loon Mountain Race from RD Chris Dunn. Looking at Bear Brook results from prior years, I saw that my CMS teammate Chris Mahoney had won both of the previous editions, but (with a 2-month old daughter and some nagging injuries) he was not signed up this year (according to Ross Krause’s RunReg.com).

I didn’t see any names I recognized from the New England road racing circuit among the registered runners, but when I stopped into NE Running Co a couple of days before the race to stock up on snacks (Stinger waffles and chews and several flavors of GU Chomps and some citrus Nuun), Eric Narcisi told me that his Whirlaway teammate Brandon Newbould would be running. Instantly, I knew that I would no longer be able to cruise to victory like I had imagined (and which was inaccurate, anyway) and I knew that Brandon would now be the likely favorite.

Help a brother out, Scott?
Having run a few times with Scott McGrath in the past couple weeks, I had gotten some insight into Brandon’s training and racing strategies. On an almost fifteen-mile trail run through Andover on Wednesday of last week, Scott filled me in on what he knew of Brandon’s preparation and race habits.  He would certainly have more mileage and long runs than me coming in, and would be likely to make one or more decisive moves during the course of the race. He was also likely to train through and not taper, according to Scott. Conservative estimates had Brandon at 100-120 miles per week, whereas I had been running 80-90 for the past 6 weeks or so. I also had a long run of 16 miles for 2014, which (for the un-informed reader) is well shy of a marathon.

A brief aside
On our run last Wednesday, I tagged along behind Scott through some beautiful wooded areas in Andover, MA (Ward Reservation, etc.), wearing my water bottle for the first time. It was pretty annoying the way it bounced around on the small of my back for almost two hours, but I knew I would need to bring it with me for Saturday’s “cupless” race. I took one pretty good fall heading into Boston Hill, which was also good practice for Saturday.

…Or two
Scott also turned me on to Strava on Wednesday, so Thursday I took a crack at three 2-mile segments near Gordon. I ended up running about six miles at 5:40-5:55 pace, which I considered marathon-ish effort, even though I knew the pace would be somewhat slower come Saturday.

Just ‘cause
Friday, I ran just under 4 miles in the morning and just under 5 in the afternoon.

Race morning
Saturday, I got up at 3:15 am, which is pretty early for me, had a bagel and coffee in the dark and was on the road a few minutes before 4.

The foreshadowing/predictive/prophetical longer drive than anticipated
It was a good thing, too, because the driving directions I had only got me about 10 minutes away from the start and not quite to the start. Fortunately, I had a newfound friend in fellow marathoner, Illinoisan Jay Marshall, who had driven up from the Cape that morning, and the two of us crept along Deerfield Rd. together until we came to the (quite obvious) start/finish area.

Familiar faces
After parking in the bumpiest, yet most charming race lot I’ve ever visited, I spoke with Loon race director Chris Dunn, who was organizing the attendant half-marathon at Bear Brook. I also bumped into Brandon and we re-introduced ourselves/caught up a bit. Then I headed back to the car to make a few decisions -

What to carry/what to wear
I had purchased two fluid/snack-carrying accessories in the week leading up to the race, having never had occasion before for such equipment. I had a Nathan single-bottle holder, which I ran with on Wednesday (and wasn’t absolutely in love with) as well as a smaller, hand-held mini-bottle (made by Nathan, too) that my wife Heather picked up for me when I whined to her about how sore my back was from wearing the belt.
I opted for both, with the larger bottle spiked with citrus Nuun, and the hand-held filled with pure water.
I also crammed as many Stinger waffles and chews, plus some Gu chomps into the pockets of both. I had already removed everything from original wrappers and had gone with Ziploc snack bags. I was taking the Leave No Trace policy seriously, and hoped I would be able to effectively grab what I needed without being too clumsy about it.

Another familiar face
As I took care of potential chafing concerns, I spotted Coach Karen Giroux strolling to the start area and ran over to say hi. Karen and I worked together at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High school as assistant cross-country coaches under Steve Sawyer. Karen has also run quite a few very long races and so I was curious to see how she was approaching Bear Brook. I also hoped she would be pleased to see that I was trying my luck at something I know she loves – aka, running all day.
After talking to Karen, I decided to ditch the handheld because it didn’t seem like I would be able to access the pouch on my back very well with a bottle in one hand. I dropped it in the car, put on my (well, Kevin Tilton’s) inov-8 X-Talon 212’s, and headed to the start.

I’m laughing; I get jokes.
Race Director Ryan Welts’ opening remarks served to simultaneously calm and terrify me as he alluded to the fact that the course was definitely longer than a marathon, but he didn’t really know how much. He also offered a $10 prize for anyone who could take down his Strava segment on the way back. I had my doubts about being able to do that after 3-plus hours of running. I meekly raised my hand when he asked, “Who’s going to be under 4 hours?” and then we were off.

Getting after it
I felt fairly unrelaxed for the first couple miles, unsure of how to approach a race of this magnitude. I found myself leading the way early on, although Scott Traer’s footsteps came closer on each downhill after we ran up and over Catamount Hill (for the first and unfortunately my only time). At the first aid station I grabbed a piece of a PB + J sandwich and continued to run straight through, before being hollered back the way we came. I briefly got behind Scott and we chatted a bit. I learned that Scott would be unlikely to tire in a race this “short” (?!?) - Scott has won the Around the Lake 24-hr. race, (covering an amazing 140 miles!!) and run multiple races of 50k and longer. Figuring that my only chance against Scott would be to run faster than him while I was still fresh, I pulled away over the next few miles, averaging just under 7:00’s for miles 4-8. (If I can trust my GPS?) I was encouraged when I came through ten miles, which I estimated was one-third of the race, in 75 minutes. I knew Chris Mahoney had averaged right around 8’s the two years he won, and I knew if I could stay in the 7:30-8:00/mi. range, I would finish in 3:45-4:00.

Never a dull moment
Even though I was racing, I was struck by the beauty and artistry of this course (huge props to Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik). We encountered: mountains, boulders, over-grown single- and double-track trails, fire roads, dirt paths, swamps, puddles, meadows, woods of every sort, roots, logs, rocks, flat stretches, straights, curves, rolling hills, sharp descents and ascents – in short, everything you could ask for in a race of this distance to keep it fresh and interesting.

Keeping the tank half-full
Running with the lead, and only an occasional reminding footstep from Scott on the downhills that he was lurking back there, I focused on running steady and remaining fueled. I plowed through two and a half Stinger waffles (150 Cal. Each) and most of my green tea chews before half way. I was trusting in the well-stocked aid stations to sustain me beyond that. Mile 9 passed in 7:50; mile 10 in 7:09; mile 11 in 7:06.

“This is my thing?” (My ignorance shows)
Somewhere between miles 8 and 12, as I ran with a lead, I allowed the thought to enter my mind that “Running ultras might really be what I’m cut out for. After all, here I am, running comfortably, in the lead…” and so on. In (somewhat less ignorant) hindsight, it would have served me better to just enjoy the rhythm of the run and the scenery. A humility check was in the mail, though.

Around 12 miles, we crossed Podunk (yes, Podunk) Rd. and I followed the flags on my right, but immediately began second-guessing my decision, thinking perhaps I should have stayed left to an aid station. I ran for about a half-mile, questioning every step, then turned to go back and check. On the way (about a minute after I turned around), I ran into Brandon and Scott, coming toward me, and they shouted for me to turn and continue with them. We entered a relatively wet stretch of course, and after a mile or so, I let Brandon go by me. My 12th mile was a 7:38.

Falling down (pt. 1)
With Brandon just ahead and Scott now just behind, I struggled to match their pace through the swampy sections. After watching Brandon gracefully skirt by one puddle on a tiny, muddy shoulder lined with small trees, I followed suit. About two steps in, I slipped and went face down in the water. I popped right up and continued, but could tell I was losing some steam.

Bye, guys. (Getting left behind/losing reception/deerflies descending)
Shortly after my lack of co-ordination got the better of me, Scott scooted past and it wasn’t long before I lost sight of him and Brandon completely. Somewhere in here (miles 13-15) the deerflies got bad (as we had been warned), descending on us in my time of weakness. Mile 13 was a 7:58. Mile 14 was 7:35. Mile 15 was a 7:20. Just past 15 and a half miles, after an hour and 56 minutes of running, I lost reception on my watch and wouldn’t regain it.

Carbonated beverages
I don’t like to be a complete slave to my Garmin watch, so I tried to “just run” and not think about how far I had to go or how far I had come, but with the flies and the loss of visible competition, I struggled. I also had run several miles without giving any thought to hydrating or fueling, so when I came into the next aid station (around 16 miles?) I filled my bottle about ¼ full with ginger ale, and the rest water. I grabbed a Vienna finger, said thank you to the life-saving volunteers and trudged on. That ginger ale was like sweet nectar to me, and as I started to settle in, I regularly sipped the bubbly goodness and got into a different mindset about finishing. (I also learned that I am pretty sugar-reliant, which is not necessarily a great thing for someone who wants to run long distances. Note: try to burn fat more efficiently.)

Settling in (16-29)
I knew I had lost touch with the leaders, but wanted to keep an honest pace and give no ground to anyone behind me, and felt like for the most part I did that. I felt strong-ish as we ran through the campground, over-taking kids on their bikes and dads walking to the bathroom to brush their teeth and wash their faces after a night sleeping in tents. I enjoyed my ginger ale and a few chomps and my mind kept drifting to another sugary option that I had seen at aid station 4 – Pepsi! At Aid station 5, it was store-brand cola, but no complaints. I went with a similar 1:3 ratio of soda to water, but didn’t find it as palatable, so I threw a Nuun tablet in to make something that was kind of reminiscent of cough syrup. No mind, I was drinking it.

Falling down (pt. 2)
I spent a lot of time reaching behind me for my bottle and zippered pockets and shuffling bags around to try to find what I was craving. (It was sugar, in case you haven’t gotten that yet.) The whole process became something to occupy my mind as my tired body moved forward. I had found early on in the race that stuffing a partially full bag of snacks (first waffles, later chomps) alongside my bottle kept it from moving around as much, so I developed a routine. (It seemed quite fascinating at the time, so I apologize if it is somewhat less enthralling to the casual reader.) I would remove my bottle to get a drink of something sweet and electrolyte-filled. Invariably, the snack bags would fall to the bottom of the bottle pouch. Then I would reach behind my back with both hands, pulling the bag out with one, and stuffing the bottle in with the other. Once the bottle was in place, and turned just so the handle didn’t hit me in the back, I pushed the half-full bag of snacks in next to the bottle to secure it. The whole process probably didn’t take more than 20 seconds, but that is precious time to be distracted when you are running further than you ever have. During one such procedure, I lifted my right foot a little lower than I needed to, stumbled and went down hard on the dirt. I got my hands out from behind me quick enough to sustain some of the impact, but got to my feet somewhat slower than after my first fall.

Other thoughts
Probably my favorite stretch of the course, scenery-wise, was just before the 5th aid station, where we wound through tall grasses and white birches. We had good visibility of what lay ahead. I thought I might be able to spot Brandon or Scott if they were coming back to me, but they weren’t. It was cool because I could see quite a way in front of me, but couldn’t tell which way the trail went because it twisted and turned. I just kind of scanned the horizon, looking for a sign of another runner, but not sure where they might pop up. Certainly not like staring at someone’s back during the middle miles of a road race.
I also distinctly recall acknowledging when I ran past significant time milestones – at 2:28:55 it was the longest run since the Cape Cod Marathon in 2011; at 2:33:03 it was my longest run since Boston ’07. Most notably, at 2:47:35, I surpassed the time I had spent on my feet in my debut marathon (Baystate) in 2000 and it became my longest run ever.

The finish lie
I reached the “final” aid station in 3 hours, 10 minutes and switched back over to ginger ale and water. RD Ryan was there and I found my sense of humor to admit I wouldn’t be attempting any Strava CR’s in the last 4.5 miles. Saying “Thank you” again to everyone who was sustaining me with their support, I headed into the final stretch. I would have gone the wrong way from the aid station, but the volunteers shouted me right and I was on my way. I allotted myself 40 minutes to get to the finish line, and knew I had to go up and over Catamount Hill before the finish, but wasn’t sure when the climb would begin. I celebrated every four minutes run with a sip of my ginger ale “champagne”. When I passed 20 minutes from the aid station, I was surprised that I didn’t recognize the surroundings more than I did, but I chalked it up to the addled mind of a confused runner, and took some solace in that. I passed two women coming toward me, who were running the half-marathon, just after I made my fatal mistake (I think), but when I asked if they had seen two guys ahead of me, they said yes, about a quarter-mile ago. With that thought in my mind, I continued, until at 3:46:57 I arrived back at aid station #6, where Scott Traer raised his hands in mock triumph and said, “Wrong way!”

Post-race informalities
While Scott and I discussed where we might have gone wrong and race volunteers kindly arranged for a ride out, Brandon finished in 3:37. Second place was just over 4 hours.
Back at the start/finish, Scott and I caught up with Brandon (finally) and I enjoyed a somewhat anti-climactic hot dog and Monkey Fist IPA before heading home.
On the way home, I gave the race recap over the phone to my understanding wife, Heather, and then called Scott McGrath to let him know what had happened. Overall, I felt pretty satisfied with the result, considering there was no finish line crossed, no idea what distance I had covered in the almost 4 hours I had run and no chance my name would show up in the results. As I communicated to Level Renner’s Eric Narcisi in an in-store interview here, I learned something about trail running and ultra-running through my experience and feel like it was undoubtedly worth the trip.

P.S. I did capture a couple Strava segments, so my competitive nature has something to soothe the sting of a DNF.

P.P.S. Recovery has been awesome – I ran 3 miles Sunday afternoon, then was back up to 8 on Monday, and doubled on Tuesday with a tempo at noon and a road race in the evening. I wouldn't have attempted either of those 3 days after a road marathon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"12 and change"; what was I thinking?

Since Loon, I haven't really felt able to go fast, but I have gotten back into consistent decent daily mileage fairly quickly.

Monday after the race we headed home after a nice family hike into Sabbaday Falls off the Kanc, which even 2-year-old Emma enjoyed. I had time/energy for 7 miles in 47 minutes on the roads when we got back to Hamilton.

Tuesday I bumped it right back up to "12 and change", which has been the theme for the past week.

Thursday I was pleasantly surprised to be joined by Scott McGrath (in throwback CMS singlet) and we had a great 14 miles spent on the trails (for about 4) and the roads around Gordon. Furthermore, Scott convinced me that it would be in my best interest as an aging distance runner to undertake some intentional core/hip strength and mobility work. I did about 10 lunges and was sore for three-four days.

Ended up with 80 miles for the week.

Sunday's 9-mile run on the roads was one of the most miserable in recent memory. Ben and I had spent the night before at Lonetree Scout camp in Kingston, NH and were up early after a hot night in the tent which wasn't real restful. It was hot on Sunday, but no hotter than any other day recently and I STRUGGLED home. For the last 3-4 miles I felt like my insides were going to end up on the pavement and I barely made it home. Made sure to refuel with some highly processed foods (mac + cheese, hotdogs, fruit snacks) to help digestion happen easier.

The unlikely dietary choices seemed to help (I think my nitrite levels were low) and I was feeling much better yesterday for another 12 on the roads with Scott. We ran from Gordon through Centerville (Beverly) and out to 127 by Endicott College and the Atlantic Ocean. Followed 127 thru Bev Farms to West Beach where we turned around. Pace was 6:35/mi. which is a little slower than Scott usually runs, but I made him go a little farther than he has been, so it worked out for both of us ok, I think. Followed the run with some lunges, planks and hip raises, under the close guidance of Coach Scott.

Today, I did 13 on the roads with a little excursion into Appleton Farms before turning around. Just over 7:00/mi. for the whole thing.

I signed up for Saturday's Bear Brook Trail Marathon in Allenstown, NH, even though I haven't run more than 16 miles this year. It should be interesting; I've never run a marathon without a long, specific build-up. This will also be (by far) the longest trail race I've ever done, so it might make for an interesting race report early next week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Loon Mountain Race Report

Sunday was the 2014 US Mtn. Running Championships at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH. The top 6 men’s finishers and top 4 women would be automatically selected to the US Mtn. Running Team and have an opportunity to compete in Italy later this year.

This year’s event was also the Collegiate Running Association’s collegiate mountain championships. As a part-time student, I was eligible for a free membership to the CRA and had a shot at the available prize money, which went 5 deep.

Saturday morning, after an easy not-quite-seven miles on the roads before breakfast, we packed up the family truckster, dropped Bear off with my parents (and their golden, Abbie) and headed north.

This was our second trip to Lincoln in the past two weeks, as we had been up last Monday-Wednesday to preview the course.

Our first time in town we stayed at the Kancamagus Motor Lodge, where the kids loved the indoor pool, but this time we were at the Mt. Coolidge Motel on Rte. 3, a little further from Loon and off the Kanc. I was glad as we arrived to be staying where we were, because the Saturday afternoon traffic in downtown Lincoln was pretty slow.

The Mt. Coolidge has awesome hosts – the Riley family – and an outdoor pool, which Ben (age 7), Grace (5) and Heather (my wife, age undisclosed) decided to enjoy, while I dragged Emma, our two-year-old daughter, with me to number pickup.

Upon arriving at Loon, I saw Steve Taylor from Collegiate Running Association, but he disappeared before I had a chance to say hello.

I did get to catch up a bit with the Tilton family – Kevin, Jess and Colin; Kevin provided me with the Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s that I would be racing in.

After a decent dinner, we settled down for what turned into a surprisingly good night’s sleep on Sat. night. I had been having trouble sleeping most of the week leading up to Loon. Whether it was nerves or something else (late night Clash of Clans?) I can’t be sure, but it was good to get 7 or 8 solid hours of rest in the night before.

I was up early on Sunday, finished with breakfast by 6:30 – cinnamon raisin bagel w/ cream cheese on one half, PB on the other half, vitamins, OJ, and a cup of coffee from the motel office. Heather went out for an early run around Lincoln, and I got the kids up and dressed and started on their breakfast. It is always an adventure getting everyone in our family anywhere, but we made good time, piled into the minivan and left the Mt. Coolidge before 8:00 am.

When we got to Loon, we did a little wandering around the base area to figure out the gondola rides. It was noticeably warmer than forecast and the sun felt strong already. There were some clouds around, but they didn’t look like they would be able to offer much relief.

I found Kevin T. around 8:30 and discussed a warmup. At 8:40, after making sure Heather and her posse were all squared away with the logistics of getting up the mountain, I met back up with Kevin, JJ, Sam Wood, Ross Krause, for 2 miles out and back on the mountain condo road. We caught up with DD, Jim P., Dan V., etc. on the way back. Conversation mostly revolved around ultras and how to prepare for them and complete them. CMS was rolling deep, and that didn’t even include our top dog, Nate J.

I found Heather and the kids near the start, gave everyone a kiss down by the river and we were off.

Early shot that Heather got

Immediately, I found myself in a sea of people well behind the leaders, who were showing why they get paid the big bucks right from the opening horn. I assumed Joe Gray, Zach Ornelas (1-2 last year), Eric Blake, Zach Miller and several other young guys from higher elevations were responsible. I didn’t abandon my hope that I might catch any number who paid the price for the early effort, but I had a hard time estimating my early position. (maybe 50th?)

Early on I ran alongside teammate and neighbor, Todd Callaghan, who lives in Beverly, MA. Todd just joined CMS in the past year and was sure to factor in the race for top Master and likely to score on the open team for us. We were back and forth a couple times during the first mile, which was along the service road and featured one significant rise as well as a couple descents.

At the mile, I was with Jim Johnson, and we ascended to the Nordic section of the course together. I think I was ahead of him going into the woods, but was aware of him just behind me, and heard him ask someone (who I think went down in the mud) if he was ok. One guy, who I believe was top Master, Greg Ruckman, slipped and fell in the mud just ahead of me. It was wet everywhere on our way into the woods, and I was feeling really good and starting to work my way around people.

On the only significant climb of this section, along a riverbed, I was working with JJ again, unless my memory deceives me. At the top, we took a sharp right and I took off after Ruckman and a pair of U. Richmond runners who were running side by side. I got around them and kept my eyes on a BAA runner up ahead, who I assumed (correctly) was Alex Hall. I caught Alex just before we got out of the woods and got my first glimpse of Kris Freeman, who I would see a lot of over the second half of the race.

During the race’s first significant climb, up Lower Speakeasy, Kris was catching people left and right, and I tried to maintain my position behind him and move up in the ranks. (Somewhere around Mile 5, I was surprised to pass Scottie Pippen, who was much shorter and paler in person. JJ had said there was an Eastern Conference All-Star team reported to be competing, but Scottie was the only one I ever got near. I think MJ and Pat Ewing must have succumbed to UWB – didn’t see them in the results. Seriously, though, props to Nathan Petesch from Waverly, IA for rocking the NBA gear to a Top 40 finish.)

After a brief reprieve and a short downhill, we were back into the grind, up the Upper Great Bear ski trail, which brought us almost to the top of the gondola and Loon Peak. From there, it was just a fast (long) descent on Haulback to the Upper Walking Boss. I caught former CMS-er and current Inov-8-er and Team Colorado runner Pete Maksimow near the top of Upper Great Bear. I knew Pete had just run very well at Mt. Washington, so I received no small encouragement from being able to overtake him.

Right around 6 miles, before the top of the gondola, courtesy of SNAPAcidotic

After a tough climb up to the gondola, I heard rather than saw my lovely wife (and knew my kids were there, too, although their quiet nature got the better of them, and I was in no shape to lift my head to look around for them) and received some strength from her encouragement. Her “Go, Sweetie!” is something I have heard in countless races, but probably never came at a timelier moment.

Here's a couple pictures Heather got at the top of the gondola:

That's me by the volunteer in orange, trying to chase down Kris Freeman, Olympic nordic skier

The steep downhill after the gondola surprised me a bit, and I didn’t attack it like I probably should have. With Kris, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Drew Best all in sight, I wish I had run with a little more reckless abandon on the long downhill approach to the Upper Walking Boss. Admittedly, I wasn’t looking forward to ‘the Boss’ all that much and had a hard time fully buying in to a downhill sprint, which would only hasten my arrival at its base.

Looking at Krissy K.’s pics from this stretch, I was actually right behind Gabriel Rodriguez at one point, which I don’t ever remember. My thoughts were somewhat consumed with a combination of dread and a will bent on ignoring that dread. Here are some of the great shots Krissy got:

As we started up Upper Walking Boss, I was right behind Kris, and he immediately went into power hike mode. For my part, I continued to “run” (creative license requested), pumping my arms and lifting my knees like I was trying to fool the mountain into thinking I was running up it. I stayed with Kris and kept my head down, looking at the ground in front of me. A couple times I glanced up and I think my deranged mind believed I was gaining some on Drew and Gabriel.

Thank you, Scott Mason, for getting this picture of me doing my utmost to get up UWB:

After two failed attempts to go by Kris, I mustered the strength with under 250m to go (course signage appreciated!) to get around him and ahead of him. 

Thanks to Joe Viger for capturing the moment here:

Unfortunately, when Kris came by me with under 100m left, I was unable to respond and pumped and flailed on the uneven ground, through the finish, happy to be done.

I had dreams of being up with Brandon Newbould, (who I had a chance to talk with briefly at the summit along with Zach Ornelas, a fellow U of M grad, who, unlike me, actually ran there) Josh Ferenc and others who broke 57:00, but it was not to be. The Last Hero has said, “You THINKING you can beat me but me KNOWING I can beat you means the race is over before it starts!” Touché. 

(A quick note to Josh, whose blog is the most confidence-inspiring I read, my one gripe is that you sell yourself too short on the roads. Either you need to come back and destroy some mortals at Lone Gull 10k, Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile, etc. or come out with the real explanation of why the road saps the POWER OF FERENC. I was thinking maybe the petroleum is like a kind of kryptonite for Vermonters, so when you do battle on the roads, you are only at 10% of your potential or something like that. I’m sure the REAL NEOTENY TRUTH is worth reading.)

Tommy Manning was the only guy older than me who finished ahead of me, so that is pretty cool. I mean, he is on Wikipedia.

Miles (according to Garmin):
9:51.6 for last .62, including 8:48 for Upper Walking Boss

Heather trekked up from the gondola with Emma on her back and Ben and Grace in tow, which was at least as physically strenuous as what I endured, and after a few shots (pictures) with most of the CMS guys at the summit, we back tracked to the gondola. 

Some of the CMS men: Dan V. (2nd 50+); Matt V.; Nate J. (12th); Sam W.; Todd C. (2nd 40+); Jim P.; Me; Ross K.

We were able to enjoy a brief time of worship with the Loon Mtn. Ministry at their Sunday morning summit service, and then we took the gondola down together. We arrived after the collegiate awards had been given out, so I missed my fifth place being announced, but my $250 check was still there, so I happily picked that up and caught up with a couple teammates before heading back to the Mt. Coolidge for a swim.

We went for an early dinner at Truants Tavern in Woodstock – 24 beers on tap, including Dogfish Head 60, which went down real easy after a hot day in the mountains. Hope we will be able to get back there if we happen to be in Woodstock another time.

The next morning we grabbed White Mtn. Bagel. I had an interesting honey vanilla latte that I would definitely be willing to try again.

All in all, I felt good about the effort and result at Loon. Although I was 15th at the mountain champs last year, and a little closer to the leaders (6 ½ minutes last year vs. 11 ½ minutes this year), I was closer to 6th place (3:57 in 2014 vs. 4:41 in 2013). The top two finishers, Joe Gray and Patrick Smyth, were just absurdly far ahead of everyone else.

Looking forward, I will probably aim for a good effort at the Firefighter “5” in Hamilton on the 22nd of this month (sub-26) and then look to lower my 10-mile pr at Newburyport the following week (53:19 from 2006).

I am planning on running the Grand Prix 15k and 10k later this summer, but can’t stop thinking about trying a 50-miler. It must have been the pre-race conversation at Loon that planted the seed…