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

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…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Getting to Loon

Finished out June with 10 miles on Sunday and 14 on Monday, giving me 368.92 (Garmin) miles for the month, the most I've run since last July and 6th highest monthly total ever (or at least since I started keeping track).

Monday it got hot here and has stayed pretty warm the past couple days, getting close to 90 on my midday runs. I think Monday was the most uncomfortable, but I've been coming back to my office looking like I just got out of a swimming pool each of the last three days. It's fun putting my shirt, socks and shorts in the bathing suit extractor in the locker room here and seeing the sweat pour out the bottom of the machine.

My recovery drink of choice this week has been orange Sunkist.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I went into the woods, and scrambled just over 12 miles in 1:46. Started out pretty easy with the heat, but worked the last two-thirds pretty well to keep the miles under 10:00. This out and back was pretty good Cranmore prep last year, so I'm hoping I am ready for the 7-mile grind at Loon. I'm actually more nervous about how much distance the younger guys will put on me on the relatively fast lower sections.

Today I got out a little earlier (10:40 am) in the hopes of beating the heat, but it was not to be. Ran from Gordon out past our rival Endicott College and enjoyed the cooling ocean breeze for about 1/2 mile of the 12 I was out there. Just under 6:30's pretty comfortably. I'm getting accustomed to the heat, but still excited that it looks to be much cooler on Sunday at Loon, at least at the start.

Plan for the next three days:
10 tomorrow;
8 Friday (with possibility for a short PM run?)
6-7 Saturday before heading up to Lincoln

Hopefully that's enough of a taper to leave me feeling fresh for Sunday.