Monday, March 23, 2015

Rudderless

I haven’t written here in a while, because frankly, there hasn't been much going on.

The first two races on my 2015 Calendar were both rescheduled due to weather and each got moved to dates where I was unavailable to attend. So, the last time I ran a step in “anger” was 16 weeks ago at the TARC Winter Classic 50k, in early December. Which is probably the longest non-injury break I’ve ever taken from racing. And, even then, I was kind of going through the motions at that race as I was still recovering from Ghost Train.

In the absence of racing, I’ve been doing my normal amount of training this year. I’ve averaged about 60 miles per week (all outside) during one of the coldest and snowiest winters I can remember. I’m not injured, and I haven’t gotten sick. So, I guess I can’t complain too much. Still somehow, on most days lately, I feel rudderless. Adrift on the training ocean with nothing to steer me or guide me home.



 
One of the things that I’ve tried to do this year to shake things up and help reduce the monotony of training primarily on pavement is something I’m calling my “weekly challenge”. A workout that occurs at least once a week, which is designed to push me out of my comfort zone and help break me out the training rut I’ve seemed to have fallen into.

These weekly challenges have included…

A First Morning run of the Boston Marathon course, a long road run with pick-ups on the hills, a run on the new Gate City Marathon course, a 3-hr run on snowmobile trails, a 20 mile Pack Attack run, a run up Mount Kearsarge North, a run up Mount Monadnock and a tempo run every other week, or so. The tempo runs have improved slowly over the course of the last couple months, but they are still a far cry from where I was 2 years ago and where I need to be if I want to improve my leg turnover and lower my race times this year.

I’ve also been snowshoeing. A lot! At least twice a week and sometimes every day during the week. I’ve done fast stuff and I’ve done long stuff, including a snowshoe half marathon in January and a snowshoe 20 miler last weekend on the TARC Spring Thaw course. 4 ½ hours of running on snowshoes was a great workout and made me feel a little like I did during much of my Ultra Training last year.

However, unlike last year, I don’t feel the same fire I did while gearing up for the 100. It’s almost like the motivation for last year’s goal race burned so hot for so long that it extinguished any and all flammable material in my possession. Leaving a charred and barren motivational landscape. I guess the goal of running shorter races (only faster) just doesn’t hold a candle to the motivation of running a hundred miler for the first time.

I hope to re-kindle a little bit of that flame this coming weekend as I'm gearing up to race for the first time this year at the Eastern States 20m. It’s been 10 years since I last ran this stalwart on the Spring long distance racing calendar. Last time I did it, back in 2005, I ran an out-of-my-mind 2:10 (6:30 pace). This year, if I come within 20 minutes of that time (or about one minute per mile) I’ll be happy.

After that, it’s the TARC Spring Classic 50k where I was originally hoping to follow up last year’s 4:29 with a go at sub-4. However, with the Winter we’ve had (and with just 4 ½ weeks til the race) the trails will probably still be covered in snow and ice.

Oh well. Good thing I’ve been working on my snowshoeing!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Snowshoe Karmageddon

Late in December of last year, Eric at Level Renner put out the call for winter running action shots as part of an on-line contest. Tag a few of your favorite Facebook selfies with the #levelrenner hashtag and get a chance to win a brand new pair of Dion #121 Racing Snowshoes. Always being up for a good, healthy competition (and a free pair of anything) I jumped at it. Tagging every running picture of myself that I could find.

A few days later, while picking up my daughter at the airport after her semester abroad, I found out that I’d won. And before I could even finish responding to Eric’s text message I thought, “Crap! What am I going to do with ANOTHER pair of Dions?” So, rather than have them collecting dust in my basement as a back-up pair for the indestructible #121’s I already owned, or selling them to a friend, I decided to do something fun with them. I decided to raffle them off.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Persistence Hunt

            In his groundbreaking book, “Born to Run”, Christopher McDougall discusses a fascinating, non-weaponized, hunting technique used by pre-historic man. Rather than trying to outrun their much faster prey, hunters would instead attempt to outlast them. Because an animal’s natural instinct is to sprint away if approached, the men would run towards them in an effort to keep them constantly moving.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter of Discontent

Winter running sucks!

There, I said it. And I’m glad I did. Someone had to, really. It’s been far too long in coming.

See, there’s this false sense of bravado that tends to manifest itself around these parts (especially amongst people like myself who don’t run on treadmills) which maintains that running through harsh New England winters makes you stronger, tougher, and better prepared for the racing season to come. And, I’m here today to tell you that line of thinking is total B.S.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Unrequited Love


Have you ever been in a relationship where all you do is give, give, give and get nothing in return? You pour your heart out on a regular basis, and receive little more than a cold shoulder for your troubles?  Well, that’s the way it is between me and Boston. I love the Boston Marathon. But it does not love me.

             I’ve participated in more than a few 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons over the years, but the primary focus of my running career has always been marathoning. More specifically, Boston Marathon-ing. Like many other runners who grew up in New England, Boston has always represented the Holy Grail of running goals. Not just an average everyday goal, but an all-out, full-blown obsession!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Delinquent Blogger

Sorry. It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this space.

The problem isn’t because of a lack of ideas. Despite not having raced in over a month, I still have at least a half dozen stories that I want to get out there. At some point. The problem is that life just seems to be getting in the way of me carving out the time required to write them. Between the holidays, preparing for my clubs awards dinner, sick kids, my traveling wife, and the work involved in getting a brand new MARATHON off the ground, it’s been a pretty busy few weeks.


The other thing that’s been taking the majority of my “free” time is the writing and editing of my first book. The working title is: “Never Again – Adventures of a Veteran Dad and Newbie Ultra Marathoner”. I’ve been getting some great feedback on it so far, and I’m very excited about how it’s turning out. That being said, it’s been a bit of a grind and it’s seemingly sucking up all my creative juices.


Anyway, the point of this post is to let everyone (who’s still reading) know that I haven’t forgotten about you, or this blog. And, as soon as things start loosening up, I plan to continue to post regularly. My goal, as always, is one new story per week.


My only question is: Does this one count? :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Ends

January Hike
I started 2014, with a January 1st sunrise summit of Mount Monadnock. It was dark - about 6:00am. It was cold – about zero degrees. It was windy – about 40 mph at the summit. And, it was snowy – about 1 to 2 feet of fluffy base to trudge through. It took me about 4 hours to summit and return via the 4.5 mile long Pumpelly Trail off Lake Road in Dublin.

So, when I signed up for a Presentation at Keene State College for the last weekend of 2014 (and my travel plans took me right past the ‘Nock) I figured why not end the year the way I began it? With another Pumpelly trip to the summit. A "bookend" hike, if you will. Well, as it turns out, the conditions couldn’t have been more different!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Drifting Away

With all my goals pretty much met for 2014, the TARC Winter Classic 32m was all about having fun. The 8 mile Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells is no joke, even for just one lap. So, 4 laps would be a pretty sizable challenge. But one which, given my results from this year, looked like something I could handle with ease.

Then the rain came …






Friday, December 12, 2014

Mill City Madness

The Mill Cities Relay is a 5-leg, 27.1 mile foot race from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts. But, that information alone doesn’t even begin to convey what MCR really is. The Mill Cities Relay is quite possibly the biggest, single-day team event in the country!

 
MCR began in 1984 as a way of celebrating the end of the local road racing season and determines bragging rights among 21 participating Merrimack Valley area running clubs. The race kicks off not with a starting gun, but with the drop of a ceremonial mill city brick. The mileage for the five leg distances are 5.6, 4.8, 2.5, 9.4 & 4.8. And, points are awarded to teams in each of 18 different divisions – male and female aged 18 to 80. Teams finishing in the top 3 in their respective division get a trophy brick with a small plaque on it. 

However, the trophy that everyone covets is the one they bestow upon the running club that scores the most overall points in the race. This amazing trophy was painstakingly assembled with a working gear from an old mill building, set upon a finely crafted four-sided wooden base and crowned with a “winged-victory” trophy top. The base of the trophy has engraved upon it the very history of the race! With a running list of the first, second, and third place clubs for each of the 31 years it’s been run. It’s a sight to behold and hold. And, it’s quite possibly the heaviest trophy in all of sports, weighing in at just over 40 pounds! Yes, more than 6 pounds heavier than the Stanley Cup!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rough Draft

Hi there! Sorry, it’s been a little while since I posted anything. I’ve been kind of busy.

Part of what’s been distracting me is the 50k trail race I ran at the Middlesex Fells last weekend. My TARC Winter Ultra race report will be coming soon, but the reader’s digest version is: It was cold, it was rainy, it was slippery, but I survived!

Another thing that’s been on my plate as of late is that I’m in charge of putting together (and keeping together) the Gate City Strider teams for the Mill Cities Relay race. And with 39 teams (and 181 runners) it was a lot more like herding wild cats, than anything else. I’ve been doing it for 10 years now and it’s without a doubt the most fun/stressful job I have with the club. My synopsis of this year’s race is also coming soon (I promise) but long story short: It was cold, it was windy, it was slippery, but we survived! …Actually, we did a little more than survive. We won our 7th straight team title. Setting new point and margin of victory totals in the process!



Finally, what’s been taking the majority of my time lately is my book. Yup, I’m writing my
first book! I know. Crazy, right? Well, it’s going to be a collection of stories that I’m stringing together in (hopefully) a cohesive manner. It’s about friends, family and ultra-running. In short, all the things that currently make my life worth living!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Turn the Page

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four weeks since my 100 Miler and even harder to believe that it’s been one full year since I decided to make it my Goal Race for 2014.

Looking back, it’s been a truly incredible year! And, I can’t really think of anything that I would have changed. My first attempt at a 100 mile training plan exceeded even my wildest expectations. I went the whole year without losing any time to injury. My races, turned out great - with only a couple minor exceptions! I spent a bunch of time having fun in the mountains. And, I was able to add meaning to my miles by helping raise money for a very worthy cause! In fact, the season went so well, I very much doubt that I could ever replicate it. So, I’m not going to.

Instead, for 2015, I’m going to do things just a little bit differently.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lessons Learned

The incredible journey that I was fortunate enough to take, in both training for and running a 100 mile race, taught me many valuable lessons.

Here are 20 of them, in no particular order: