Monday, April 14, 2014

Doin' Work

Since we’re just past the quarter pole for the year (and for the 100 Mile Training Plan) I thought I’d post a quick progress report this week…

So far in 2014, I have run 1025 miles (in 15 weeks) which works out to be just over 68 miles a week. I have been building miles slowly – both in terms of weekly mileage as well as mileage in my back-to-back weekend long runs. This week I got up to 80 miles total, with 40 of those on the weekend - Saturday (20.5) and Sunday (19.5).

This 40-mile weekend represents my biggest 2-day training session since I did 64 miles last June during my Summer of 48. The biggest difference, however, is that these miles were done at a MUCH faster pace than last years “hiking” miles.  The 64 miles I did last year were covered in just over 20 hours – or 18:45 min/mile. The 40 miles I did this weekend were run in 5 hours and 17 minutes – or 7:55 min/mile. Of course, there was just one mountain this weekend, not eleven like last year!

Saturday’s effort was a repeat of the Pack Attack Run we did a couple months ago. However, instead of turning around in the parking lot at the base of Pack Monadnock, the plan was to continue right up the auto road to the summit - 20.5 miles round-trip! 12 of us started out from the school, but only 5 of us made it to the summit and back – including the “Last Hero Only Hope” Josh Ferenc, the “Duck” Tim Mallard, the “Age-less Wonder” Brian Ruhm, the “Cliff Diver” Emmet Clifford, and myself.

The day was picture-perfect, with bright sunshine and scarcely a breath of wind. Emmet and I hung with the “fast” guys for the first two miles before we wisely decided to back off and let them go. And, GO they went, as they were out of sight by Mile 4. We reached the parking lot in 1:11 (a new training record for me) and headed up the auto road. About half-way up we saw Josh screaming down and then the other two - just a bit later. We reached the summit ourselves in just under 16 minutes (11% average grade) and then climbed the fire tower for a better view!

A couple pictures, then back down to the parking lot (10 minutes) before continuing back down 101. Emmet hit the return trip pretty hard and I foolishly tried to keep up. Many of those early downhill miles were covered in 7 minutes, or less. By Mile 17, my legs had nothing left and he just floated away. I shuffled the last four solo and finished the descent from the parking lot in a “still respectable” 1:07 – for a 2:44 total, or 8:00 per mile. Not counting the summit cone, the trip to the parking lot and back was 2:18, or 7:30 per mile!

The next day, I headed out to Mine Falls Park to do the second part of my back-to-back. I’ve been loving the warmer weather, especially since it’s allowed me to run my Sunday long runs on these wonderfully soft and forgiving trails. My quads were pretty much shot from the run down Pack the day before, so jogging along the dirt and pine straw of Mines was just what the doctor ordered – if, in fact, there was a doctor crazy enough to prescribe double 20’s!

I took it out very slowly, and wondered to myself, if I had bitten off a bit too much this time by trying to squeeze a Pack Run into a 40 mile weekend. “We’ll soon see”, I thought as I shuffled down the trail. Eventually, my legs started to loosen and felt more a bit more normal. I finished the first 6.5 mile loop in 54 minutes (8:18 pace) downed a GU, some Gatorade and an electrolyte tablet before continuing on.

Lap two was a little better and I started pushing the pace a bit more. I came through the start/finish this time in 52 minutes (8:00 flat) and then said. “OK, let’s see what you’ve got left!” I cranked it up again and was soon flying down the trails - 50k into a 40 mile weekend and I was officially “In the Zone”! Not fresh, but certainly not tired. Not asleep, but not fully awake. I had reached some sort of running equilibrium where I was just “there” watching it all effortlessly unfold before me – almost trance-like!

I crested the last little hill, and rounded the corner to the finish - Last lap: 47 minutes (7:13 pace) which is pretty darned fast for me - even on roads, never mind dodging roots, rocks and trees on the trail!

I had said before I left for my Sunday run, that these were the kind of days that would either “make me”, or “break me beyond repair”. And, as I climbed back into my car for the drive home, I felt neither made, nor broken. Just tired. Which could be a symptom of either. But, knowing a little bit about how these things go, in two days I’ll probably feel “broken” but in two WEEKS hopefully I’ll feel “made”!

…which would suit me just fine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cape or Apron?

As a father of a 4-year old boy, I live in a world filled with Cars, Legos and Superheroes.  That’s just the way it is in our house.  If he’s not loudly playing with one, he’s crashing together the other.  Sometimes, when he’s in a particularly boisterous mood, it’s all three going at once!  He’s been both Batman AND Superman for Halloween.  And, his last two birthday party themes have been Spiderman and Ninja Turtles.  So, it’s safe to say that, as a Dad, I have some pretty big (super?) shoes to fill!

Anyway, there is also another side to my son - a softer side.  It’s not always apparent, but in his quieter moments he can be quite caring to his stuffed animals. He cradles, feeds and changes his baby dolls.  And, he absolutely loves playing house.  One day, when he thought I wasn’t looking, he turned his superman cape around and was wearing it like an apron while working away at the play kitchen.   And it struck me, just how deeply symbolic that little gesture was.

Anyone can play superman - flying around town wearing figurative tights and a cape.  Leaping over tall problems in a single bound, defeating evildoers everywhere, righting wrongs, while saving the day (and presumably mankind) from chaos and destruction.  But, it takes a real man to turn that cape around and get down to the true superhero business - caring for your children.  Feeding them, dressing them and tending to their needs.  Listening to them, loving them and making sure that they understand you are there …just for them.

Pretty big lesson to be taught by a pretty small kid. Don’t you think?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mile One

I have run nearly 300 miles this month and I can say, without a doubt, that the hardest of them all is ALWAYS the first one.

During the week, I typically run at lunchtime and you’d think that would make starting easier. Give the body some time to wake up, have breakfast, coffee, mid-morning snack, more coffee, bathroom break, hydrate and go. Easy. Right? Well, not so much. You see, I have a desk job. So, I’m pretty much going from stationary to 7 min miles in the time it takes for me to get dressed. And during that first mile, my legs let me know, quite loudly in fact, that they don’t appreciate the sudden change of pace. Easy does it, desk jockey!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grinding Away

I signed up for the TARC Spring Thaw in early January with the hopes that, come mid-March, the weather would be warmer, the snow would be melted and there would be plenty of lovely dirt trails to run on. Wrong. Wrong. And WRONG! The stark race-day reality was a cold slap in the face courtesy of a brisk 20 degree day (with 15 mile per hour winds) deep snow pack and almost no dirt to speak of. Oh, well. I suppose 6 hours of slipping around on snow and ice must be worth something!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Forgotten

Occasionally, in this space, I’ll write about a topic other than running. Sometimes, something catches my eye and just begs to be explored, or reflected upon.
This is one of those times…

Early one morning, in Pontiac Michigan, Pia Farrenkopf quietly walked to her garage, got into her car, and died. This is not unusual. Approximately 34,000 Americans die every year in their vehicles and over 10 times that many die annually in their homes. So, Pia Farrenkopf’s death in her car at her home was not, in and of itself, unusual. What was unusual about Pia’s death, however, was that she died and no one noticed.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Striving for Perforation

Lately, it feels like everything in my life is a battle.

Battling to get the kids up and out the door in the morning, battling with historically bad winter weather, battling to stay focused at work, battling with cars on the road, battling to get my weight down, battling with sore and tired muscles, battling to find enough time in the day to do it all, battling to feed, bathe and get the kids to bed at night, battling with the wife over honey-do lists, battling with the 7-year old over homework assignments, and battling with the 3-year old over just about EVERYTHING!

It’s WAR! And, it’s damn near exhausting!

Then, yesterday morning, while I’m battling to open the bag containing my (not-at-all card-boardy) low-carb sandwich wrap, I discover that the plastic is perforated - on the opposite end from which I’m
desperately trying to tear.  Flip.  Zip.  And, like that, all that low-carb goodness is suddenly opened up before me! Ahhh!

Of course, this leads me to wonder how many other things in my life are “perforated” for my enjoyment?  How many battles could be won just by looking at the problem in different way?  How many doors, that are blocking my path to success, have a secret key that can only be found by being relaxed and mindful?

Beats me! I’m too tired from all this battling to stop and figure it out.  :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

100 Mile Training Plan

Below is the training plan that I hope will get me to the starting line, and prepare me to finish, my first 100 mile race.  It’s a plan that I’ve adapted from the one in Bryon Powell’s excellent book – Relentless Forward Progress.  I have extended his 24 week program to 36 weeks in order to accommodate a 50 Mile Goal Race which occurs at the end of Week 16.

The precepts of the plan are pretty simple. Build mileage steadily with 1 recovery week for every 3 weeks of building.  Back to back long runs on the weekend to practice running on tired legs.  And some sort of mid-week “speed work”.  Nothing too aggressive, just some fartleks, tempo runs or long hill repeats to get your legs turning over at a more rapid than normal rate.

You’ll notice that I don’t have many “zero” days scheduled.  I do this because, for one reason or another, off days generally happen on their own anyway.  But, I do plan on taking my “easy” days very easy and substituting cross training (or gym time) as the body dictates. Eventually, when the weather decides to cooperate, I will be doing most of my longs runs on the trails.  But, for now, I’m on the roads    ... dreaming of dirt.

100 Mile Training Plan:

Wk. M T W T F S S Tot. Comments
1 6 8 6 8 6 20 10 64
2 6 8 10 8 6 16 14 68
3 6 8 6 8 4 6 34 72 6-Hr Race
4 6 8 6 8 6 16 10 60 Recovery
5 6 8 10 8 6 24 12 74
6 6 8 10 8 6 20 18 76
7 6 8 10 8 6 22 18 78
8 6 8 8 8 6 16 10 62 Recovery
9 6 8 10 4 6 32 8 66 50k Race
10 6 8 12 8 6 24 12 76
11 6 8 10 8 6 22 20 80
12 6 8 6 8 6 18 12 64 Recovery
13 6 8 12 8 4 12 20 70 25k Race
14 6 8 6 8 6 12 4 50 Recovery
16 6 0 6 0 4 50 4 70 50m Race
17 4 6 8 6 4 16 6 50 Recovery
18 4 8 6 8 4 18 10 58
19 6 8 6 8 6 20 10 64
20 6 8 6 8 6 16 6 56 Recovery
21 6 8 6 8 6 20 12 66
22 6 8 8 4 6 28 10 70 28m Race
23 6 8 6 8 6 16 10 60 Recovery
24 6 8 8 8 6 20 12 68
25 6 8 8 8 6 24 12 72
26 6 8 6 0 4 50 4 78 50m Race
27 6 8 8 8 6 16 10 62 Recovery
28 6 8 10 8 6 24 12 74
29 6 8 8 8 6 22 20 78
30 6 8 12 8 4 10 32 80 50k Race
31 6 8 10 8 6 16 10 64 Recovery
32 6 8 6 8 6 22 20 76
33 6 8 6 8 6 26 20 80
34 6 8 6 8 4 20 8 60 Taper
35 6 8 6 8 0 12 6 46 Taper
36 6 0 6 0 4 100 4 120 100m Race

69 weekly avg

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Road Not Taken

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler …”

In stark contrast to my Recent Training sessions with friends, my 2014 Racing Schedule is a decidedly solo endeavor.   While most of my running friends, and training buddies, will be doing both the New England and New Hampshire Grand Prix Race Series, my primary focus for this year will be on longer races. Specifically Ultras!

“… Long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear;  Though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same…”

In previous seasons, my racing schedule (much like my friends) has mostly revolved around My Running Club’s two major race series – the NEGP and NHGP.  In fact, I’ve run over 30 NHGP races and 40 NEGP races in the 16 years since I began my running career.  So, I am certainly no stranger to these great and well-attended race events.

“…And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day...”

This year, instead of running those big races like I've typically done in the past, I’ve decided to attempt something very different.  Building off of the success I had at the Stonecat 50, and the fun I had during last year’s Summer of 48, I’m going to be spending 2014 seeing just how far I can push myself and testing the limits of what I think I can do.

“… Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back…”

Who knows how this little experiment of mine will turn out?  I do know that I love running and racing on trails.  And I do know that I have a certain knack for running great distances without tiring.  So it seems, at least for now, that my immediate running future lies more in long trail races and than it does in short road races.

“… I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence…”

It does make me sad sometimes to know that I’m missing out on spending time with my friends at the races we used to run together.  Particularly on the 16th of March, when 52 of my teamates will be heading down to New Bedford for the Half Marathon and I’ll be up here doing 3.5 mile laps in the Woods of Andover - for 6 hours.

“… Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,  And that has made all the difference.”

But, even in those rare moments of sadness, I still feel like I’m doing the right thing by running a less-traveled path and seeing just how far it will take me.   And, I know that my friends will be there in spirit, every kick-ass step of the way!

~ Poem excepts from "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crazy Loves Company

As I previously wrote HERE, it’s great to have running friends who are just as nuts as you are. So when you decide to jump aboard the “crazy train”, you can probably get a few of them to come along for the ride!

Such was the case two weeks ago when a group of us did our annual “Pack Attack” -  an 18 mile run out-and-back along the first 9 miles of the Pack Monadnock Road RaceOver the course of the 9 mile run up to the base of Pack Monadnock Mountain, the back-country roads of Wilton and Temple, NH rise almost 1500 feet!  As a result, the run out is always a challenge, particularly the last 1 mile stretch where the average grade is close to 10%!  The return trip is much easier, but there are still a few sneaky little hills which can really zap your already tired legs.

When I put out the call for people to join me this year, the response was tremendous.  18 miles on snowy, slushy roads?  Sure.  1500 feet of elevation gain and loss?  OK.  2 extra bonus miles to avoid an un-plowed section of road near the reservoir?  No problem, as long as we still get breakfast!  We started doing this run in 2006 and have done it at least once a year ever since. The first year we ran it, we had 4 people.  This year, we had 26 come out and join in the now 20 Miles of Fun!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Running Log

I've been running for 16 years now and, for all but the first two years, I've kept a running log to track each and every one of my workouts.  Occasionally, I'll crack open some of my old logs to compare training notes from year to year.  See what worked, and more importantly, what didn't. It's kind of fun to look back and look at where you were then, compared to where you are now.  Except, of course,  when you come to the stunning realization that despite the fact that you're working harder than ever, your times are getting slower and slower.

Heck, if I knew that in 2008-2009 I was going to be at the apex of my running career I would have planted a flag at the top of that mountain, or something! :)

Anyway, here are some of the high/low lites from the last 16 years - as seen through the pages of my of running logs.  Each year has my approximate miles per week (mpw) for that year, important race results, life happening, log notes in "bold italics" and current race PR's in RED. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane just as much as I did.

Friday, January 17, 2014

100 Miles For Sam

Last Fall, I became aware of a remarkable young man named Sam Berns.  Sam was a junior at Foxboro High School, loved Legos, loved playing drums in his high school marching band and wanted to be a scientist when he grew up.  Sam also suffered from a rare disease known as Progeria.  But to see him, the word "suffer" would never even have entered your mind - facing his fatal disease with a strength and wisdom few adults will ever know.

In the HBO Documentary Life According to Sam his first words to us all were, "I didn't put myself in front of you so you could feel bad for me; I put myself in front of you to let you know you don't have to feel bad for me."  I watched the whole documentary with my wife.  We both cried and hugged and thanked God all our children were healthy.  Afterwards, I couldn't stop thinking about how brave he was and how strong his parents (both doctors trying to find a cure) were through all of this.  And, I vowed to do something to help.

Late last week Sam died.  He was just 17 years old.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Ice Start

The first stop on my 2014 Ultra Tour was the GAC Fat Ass 50k at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, MA.  This race was originally scheduled for Jan 4th, which just happened to coincide with winter storm “Hercules” - a greek gale that dropped a ridiculous 24 inches of snow squarely on Topsfield.  Knowing the race organizers, I’m sure they would have been happy to hold the race in those conditions, had there been any place for us to park.  However, the park ranger plows (scheduled to clear the lots) refused to intercede and the race was delayed for 7 days.