Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Patience Practice

pa·tient adjective \ˈpā-shənt\ 1: able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with difficult problems or people. 2: done in a careful way over a long period of time without hurrying.

was not very patient at my previous ultramarathon race – The TARC 50m. And I paid for it …dearly. So, I vowed that the next time out, things would be different. As it turns out, The Bear Brook Trail Marathon would be that “next time” and just like at the TARC 50, the weather would be warm and muggy. Perfect conditions for working on practicing patience!

I’ve run this race twice before and wrote about it HERE and HERE. However, to say that I’ve run “this race” before is not entirely accurate, because Co-Race Directors Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik-Welts have changed the course every year since its inception in 2012. Last year’s changes included reversing the course direction and adding a half mile for good measure. This year’s changes were a bit more drastic. Due to some “alleged” logging along the course, there were two additional re-routes. One which added a mile and another which added a mile AND a mountain!

Below are highlights from my race this year broken down into Aid Station (AS) segments. Please note that all segment distances, as well as the overall race distances, are approximate.

Because, at this race, nobody really knows how long it is…

Start to AS #1 – 3.5m – 40:09 (11:25 pace)
There were 200 runners at this year’s race, which is more than both of the previous two editions. And it seemed to me like all the “new” runners were “fast” runners. Because once the race started, it felt like everyone took off like a shot! I was getting passed left and right on the first (One Mile) trail. And that trend continued as we climbed the trio of Catamount, Cascade and Carr Hills. But, patience was my mantra for the day, so I let everyone who wanted to get by do so without a fight as I glided easily through the early portion of the race.

AS #1 to AS #2 – 4.5m – 44:33 (9:53 pace)
I didn’t stop at Aid Station 1 since it was just 3.5 miles into the race and I had more than enough water/supplies in my Nathan 2014 HPL-028. The Lowland and Lost Trails were wet, but not much worse than usual and I made good time in this section despite still running real easy and still letting people go. I got mildly annoyed when someone chose to pass me (and almost knocked me over) during a technical water crossing - when most of the rest of the section was wide-open double-track! Patience I repeated. Patience.

AS #2 to AS #3 – 3.5m – 34:30 (9:51 pace)
Again, I blew through Aid Station 2 after already having consumed a GU packet (one per hour) and a couple electrolyte tablets (two per Aid Station). But, had to stop shortly afterwards to smooth my socks and tighten my shoes in an attempt to circumvent a “hot spot” that I was feeling on my right heel. Eventually I passed the handful of people who went by me during that un-planned pit stop. And, as it turned out, those would be the last people who would pass me all day. I cranked up Podunk Road, passed the RD’s coming down the opposite way, and pulled into AS 3 feeling good.

AS #3 to AS #4 – 5.0m – 52:07 (10:25 pace)
I stopped briefly at AS 3 to re-fill my nearly empty 1.5 liter hydration bladder before heading to the summit of Hall Mountain at the start of the fourth segment. After coming down off its rocky top I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had pruned back the brush along the Hall Mountain Marsh Trail.  Nice! Then quickly realized that any time gained there would be lost along the very wet, and very overgrown Unmaintained Trail. However, my spirits were raised once again after the “hillbilly hairpin” as I started picking people off on the way up the Hall Mountain Trail.

AS #4 to AS #5 – 6.0m – 59:35 (9:50 pace)
A couple quick splashes of Heed (and a piece of PB&J) at the Aid Station and I was off - onto the longest segment of the day. I passed a few more people coming down the Lynx Trail but started to notice a tightening in my left quadriceps. I must have been sub-consciously over-compensating for my sore right heel by putting more weight onto my left side. It was uncomfortable, but not debilitating. And I cruised through this section. At least until I got to the added portion off of the Hemlock Trail. This seemed never-ending.  Add to that the sun exposure (and the heat of the day) and I was starting to warm up. Big time!

AS #5 to AS #6 – 2.5m – 23:23 (9:52 pace)
After another partial-fill of my hydration pack, a couple cups of Coke, a piece of PB&J and a handful of M&M’s I started down the Pitch Pine Trail. Just 7 miles to go. I passed a couple more people who were struggling along the Bobcat Trail. This section, being the shortest of the day, passed very quickly and before long I was crossing over Podunk again to the new Aid Station at Hayes Field – where a volunteer said, “Just 4 miles to go”! I blew right past while checking my watch which read 4:14 and change. For a brief moment I thought I might have a chance to break 5 hours - if I could just hang on.

AS #6 to Finish – 4.5m – 60:26 (13:25 pace)
I got a bit confused during this section of the race. For some reason, I thought that the Cascade/Catamount re-route meant that we wouldn’t have to do the little rollers along Bear Brook. Now, these “rollers” are not terribly taxing, but after 4 ½ hours and 27 miles of racing they can be rather formidable – especially when you’re not expecting them! So, despite passing a few more people here, I kind of lost it mentally. Which is not a good thing when you’ve got a couple “mountains” directly ahead! Eventually I pulled it together, power-walked the steeper parts of Catamount and hobbled down the other side to the finish – passing more people at nearly every turn.

I finished fairly strong at the end, despite a left quad and right calf who were beginning to cramp badly. I stopped my watch at 5:14:48 (10:40 pace - based on what I believe to be the 29.5 mile distance of the race). My slowest time yet at Bear Brook, and yet, still somehow a new course PR! Thanks Ryan and Kristina!

After finishing the race, and attempting to cool off by the kiddie pool filled with ice and cold drinks, I wandered over to the scoring table to see what place I finished in. 27th I was told – 10 places lower than last year. I was feeling kind of bummed about that until I noticed a piece of paper which listed the runners bib numbers as they came through Aid Station #2 at approximately 8 miles. My bib number - #288 -was listed in 47th place. Which means I passed 20 people during the last 21+ miles of the race!

I’d like to think, despite the mental anguish inflicted upon me by Catamount Hill, that if the race were longer I would have passed even more people. Which is a good thing because, based on my 2014 Race Schedule, Bear Brook will be one of the shorter races I do all year! And, despite being my slowest time, it was the first time in three races here that I actually felt good for the duration of the event! I guess patience IS a virtue.

…not to mention a pretty darned good way to run an ultra!

At the Start - photo courtesy of Jeremy Merritt

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Filling the Void

“Something's missing and I don't know what it is.  No, and I don't know what it is.  At all…”
– John Mayer

Yup, something’s missing from my life. And I don’t know what it is. I do know that I SHOULD feel fulfilled.  I’m healthy.  I’m married.  I have a good job.  And I have four beautiful children.  But somehow, on most days (and even more so now that I’ve reached Mid-Life), I still feel a kind of emptiness inside. A void, if you will. And it scares me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Don't Try This at Home

"Overcoming Fear” was supposed to be title of this Hut Traverse blog entry.

Or at least, that was the working title for the story I was writing in my head at mile 40 of my 50 mile journey. Then the darkness happened - both physical and emotional. And, I realized that fear is a good thing. Fear is healthy. Fear is what keeps us from doing something stupid…

…like climbing a rocky mountain ridge, by yourself, at night, in howling winds, with 40 hours having passed since last you slept…

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Midway Island

As we turn the page on June (and with it the first half of 2014) I wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect upon the high/low lites of my year so far...

  • I’ve Logged 1791 miles this year for a weekly average of 68.6. My highest ever to this point in the season.

  • I’ve not lost even one day of Training due to injury. Any off days I’ve taken so far have been by choice.

  • I’ve lost 7 pounds this year, with just 3 more to go to get back 185 - which is where I was this time Last Year.

  • I’ve raised nearly $1500 for Progeria Research through 100 Miles for Sam. Not a bad start.

  • I’ve had more than just a Little Fun with my friends. Thankfully, they are almost as crazy as I am.

  • I’ve made a ton of new friends. Mostly through the great Trail Animal races I’ve been able to take part in.

  • I’ve visited the "most magical place on earth" with my two yougest kids and lived to tell The Tale. Barely.

  • I’ve watched My Son graduate near the top of his college class, then begin the adventure of a lifetime.

  • I’ve survived being a Single Dad during the work-week. More importantly, so have my two Young Children.

  • I’ve written a couple new stories that I’m happy with, but none more so than the one I wrote Here.

  • I’ve run 8 Races ranging in distance from 5k to 50 miles. And, a couple of those I was even happy with.

  • I’ve set a 50k PR and a 50m PW, in the span of 6 weeks. With race day weather being the primary difference.

  • I’ve run/hiked up 3 Mountains, and each of those I did twice. With Many More to come this weekend.

  • I’ve been inspired by both a brave 17-year old kid and a humble 26-year old trail running phenom.

Despite (or maybe because of) the few tough stretches I’ve had, I feel extremely fortunate that the first half of the year has gone as well as it has.  And, I can only hope that the rest of the year holds the same good fortune.

So, with that, here’s to the road that lies ahead!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

AMC Hut Traverse

In New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest the Appalachian Mountain Club operates a chain of eight High Mountain Huts. They are mainly located along the Appalachian Trail on the highest parts of the range, including the Franconia and Presidential Ridges. The huts are situated roughly 7 miles, or "a day's hike", apart. It's been a traditional challenge since the 1930's for strong AMC "Croo" members to connect all the huts into a single 1-day hike. With roughly 50 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, over extremely rugged terrain, the traverse has also more recently become a fun challenge for hikers looking for something beyond the traditional 18 mile Presidential Traverse or 31 mile Pemi-Loop.

I first heard about the AMC Hut Traverse back in 1998. I had just started running and was talking with a fellow runner who told me he did the hike every year with a friend. They would start at Carter Notch Hut and run/hike the whole route East to West to Lonesome Lake - in under 24 hours. My longest hike to that point had been about 8 miles, to the top of Washington and back, so I couldn't conceive of undertaking that kind of endeavour. Well it's now 16 years later, and I've become a much better hiker. I've done the Presi, the Pemi, the NH 48 and 3 straight days on the AT. So, when I sat down to plan my hiking trips for this summer, the Hut Traverse naturally came to mind.

So, without further ado, here is my grand plan...

The FKT (or, fastest known time) for this route is just a few ticks over 13 hours. I have absolutely no desire to attempt coming anywhere close to that. But, based on my recent training, and the hikes I have done previously, I think I can complete the journey in just under 20 hours - or about 2.5 hiking miles per hour. We'll see. Much of it will be weather dependent. But if all goes well, I'll be starting at Carter at 3:30am on Sunday, July 6th and be cruising into Lonesome some time before midnight that same day.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mountain Interval

Last year at this time, I was just beginning my biggest challenge to date – The Summer of 48. And, although my primary goal for this year has shifted to 100 Miles for Sam, I can still hear the mountains calling me.  So, in this interval between the conclusion of the TARC 50 and the beginning of the build-up for the Ghost Train 100m I’ve chosen to heed their call…

Friday, June 13, 2014

TARC Places

I should have known better …

After almost 18 years of running and racing experience, I know damn well that I have

trouble running in the heat. Throw in some hills (and some stupid decisions) and it’s a down home recipe for disaster. As evidenced two years ago at Boston, last year at Bear Brook and every year at Yankee Homecoming. The TARC 50 was going to be different, however. Why? Because I was approaching this race as a structured training run with friends as I prepared for my first 100 Miler in October. Unfortunately, my competitiveness (and my stupidity) got the better of me and my structured training run turned into a steaming hot mess.

I suspect (and hope) that this story will be amusing to everyone who is not named me…

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Heart Biking

Yup! Believe it or not, I was a biker WAY before I was a runner…

My love affair with biking started 40 years ago when my family moved from a very bike-unfriendly Lawrence, MA and settled in suburban Salem, NH. Back then, I would take my Huffy 3-speed up the street to my friend’s house, or through the woods to an adjoining neighborhood. I beat the crap out of that thing. Doing jumps on built-up plywood ramps and throwing it up (and down) the bulkhead stairs of my cellar.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Redemption Run

I signed up to run the 2014 Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race for one reason. I wanted a shot at redemption.

I first started coming up to New Gloucester, Maine for this trail running festival back in 2010 and have loved it ever since. Unfortunately, the last couple trips to the Pine Tree State have been less than kind to me. Two years ago, this roller-coaster of a course did a number on my knee. Last year it was the mud (and my calf) that did me in. This year, I was determined to avenge my recent losses, conquer the course and once again get back down under that elusive 2-hour barrier.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Give A Little Bit

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of seeing my son Casey graduate from College. It was a bitter sweet moment for me as I am so very proud of the man that he has become. But, at the same time, I know that his path of life will soon be leading him elsewhere.

He and I have been through an awful lot together. So many ups and downs over the years. But we made it through in one piece. I was barely 23 when he was born and most of what I learned about being a Father I learned first with him. He was the trailblazer. And still is.

Congrats Casey!

I love you.

And always will.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back to Pack

This past weekend I ran a 1:24:08 at the Pack Monadnock 10m. That time was good enough for
51st place overall and 11th in my age group. And, beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot more to say about my race. I never really felt all that great and I never really felt awful. I was just sort of …meh.  I was definitely at my limit in terms of overall effort, but never felt comfortable during any of the climbs and never really managed to clock any fast miles, or gain any significant ground.

Going in, I had hoped to get a bit closer to (or even dip under) 1:20, but since I’ve done no speed or hill-specific workouts all year, it’s not terribly surprising that I didn’t meet that goal. I did this race partly because it was in the NH Grand Prix, but mostly because I deferred last years refunded entry fee to this year. So basically, I ran because I paid for it and not because I trained for it. And it showed in the results.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Classic Rocked

I went into this year’s TARC Spring Classic 50k trail race with fairly low expectations.

All I hoped to do was run the 31 mile course in 4 ½ hours, or less. That’s it! And, to do that, all I needed to do was to average 8:42/mile (nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than my road marathon PR), or 54 minutes for each of the five 10k loops.  Easy, Right? I'd run the course twice previously during training. The first time, I ran it in 55 minutes, while navigating and pausing at nearly every turn to look at my map. The second time, I ran it comfortably in 52 minutes. So, 54 minutes per lap seemed more than reasonable. Of course, that was before the rain made a mess of everything!