Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My 2008 Race Series Rankings

ENETRS - 14th Overall (2228 total runners)

ENETRS - 6th Male 50-59 (246 total in age group)

WMAC GT - 64th Overall (463 total runners w/ 2 races or more)

2008 Race Results

The most complete listing of 2008 trail race results in New England. Ok, how do I know it's the MOST complete? I don't, but you get the idea. There's a lot here and it's all in one place.
Mt Hood 3.5M X Country 12.13.08
Andover Country Club 3.5M X Country- 11.30.08
Fells Trail Race 40M/32M/24M - 11.29.08
WCRC Turkey Trot 5K X-Country - 11.27.08
Stone Cat Race Photos - Courtesy of Emily Trespas
Stone Cat 50 Mile and Marathon - 11.08.08
Busa's Bushwack 15K - GT Race #24, ENE Race #20 -11.02.08 , Race Photos
Busa's Bushwack 15K - GT Race #24, ENE Race #20 -11.02.08 , 5.3M results
Busa's Bushwack 15K - GT Race #24, ENE Race #20 -11.02.08 , 9.3M results
Stone Tower Trail Run 15K/5K - 10.26.08
Groton Town Forest - GT Race #22, ENE Race #17 - 10.19.08
Ravenswood 4.1M - ENE Race #18 - 10.19.08
Bay State Marathon - 10.19.08
Monroe Dunbar 10.5M - GT Race #21 - 10.12.08
Diamond Hill 23K Trail - GT Race #20, ENE Race #15 - 10.11.08
Breakneck 20K Trail - GT Race #19 - 10.05.08
Houghton's Pond Trail Race 6M - ENE Race #13 - 10.05.08
Vermont 50 - 09.28.08
Pisgah Mountain 50K & 23K - GT Race #18 - 09.14.08
Bradbury Bruiser 12M Trail - 09.14.08
Nahant 30K Road Race - 09.14.08
North Medford Club Overlook 7M Trail - ENE Race #12 - 09.07.08
Curly's Trail Marathon - GT Race #17 - 09.07.08
Cape Ann 25K Road Race - 09.01.08
Wapack 17.5M - GT Race #16, ENE Race #10 - 08.31.08
Lynn Woods Handicap 5.75M - 08.27.08
Mt. Toby 14M - GT Race #15 - 08.24.08
Moose on the Loose 10M 8.24.08
Lynn Woods 10M Relay - 8.20.08
Savoy Mountain 20M Trail - GT Race #14 - 08.17.08
Lynn Woods Undercliff Trail - 8.13.08
Bradbury Mountain Breaker - 9M Trail - Photos
Bradbury Mountain Breaker - 9M Trail -8.10.08
Oxford Dam Run 10.5 Trail - GT Race #13, ENE Race #7 - 8.09.08
Tour de Lynn Woods 8.06.08
Around The Lake Races 24 Hour, 12 Hour & Road Marathon - 7.25.08
Woodland Trail Series 5M Race #2 - 7.31.08
Lynn Woods 5.5M - 7.30.08
Yankee Homecoming 10M Road - 7.29.08
Lynn Woods Gate to Gate 6M - 7.23.08
Vermont 100 - 7.19.08
Greenbelt Trail Run 5K, 10K - 7.19.08
Tour de Lynn Woods - 7.16.08
Skyline Trail 7.2M GT Race #11 - 7.13.08
Ascutney Mountain Run 3.8M LaSportiva NE Mountain Running Series Race #6 - 7.12.08
Lynn Woods 5.5M 7.9.08
Mine Falls 5M Summer Trail Race Series #4 - 7.07.08
Loon Mountain 5.7M LaSportiva NE Mountian Running Series Race # 5 - 7.06.08
Lynn Woods Gate to Gate 6M - 7.02.08
Mine Falls 5M Summer Trail Race Series #3 - 6.30.08
Mt. Cranmore Hill Climb 10K La Sportiva NE Mountain Running Series Race #4, GT Race #10 - 6.29.08
Six in the Stix - WNH Trail Series Race #1
Lynn Woods Twin Towers - 6.25.08
Mine Falls Summer Trail Series - Race #2 - 6.23.08
Mine Falls Summer Trail Series - Race #1 -6.16.08
Lynn Woods 8M - 6.18.08
Graylock Trail Race 13.5M GT Race #9 - 6.15.08
Lynn Woods 5.5M & Duathon 6.11.08
North Medford Club Overlook Trail 7M ENE Race #4 - 6.08.08
Great Lincoln Steeplechase 6.7M Trail 6.08.08
Northfield Mountain 10.3K La Sportiva NE Mountain Running Series Race #3, GT Race #8 - 6.07.08
Nipmuck Marathon 6.01.08 - GT Race #7
Pack Monadnock 10M 6.01.08 - LaSportiva NE Mountain Running Series Race #2
Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 25K, 50K, 50M 5.25.08
Mt. Wachusett Road Race 4.3M 5.24. 8 - La Sportiva NE Mountain Running Series Race #1
Soapstone Mountain 24K Trail 5.18.08 - GT Race #6
Trav's Trail Run 3M 5.18.08 ENE Race #3
GAC 6 Hour Run 5.11.08
Muddy Moose 14M Trail 5.11.08 GT Race #3
Wapack 50M and 21M 5.10.08 GT Race #5
Seven Sisters 12M 5.04.08 GT Race #4
Breakheart 6K 5.03.08
Mud-Muck-Moose 5M Trail 4.27.08
Blue Hills 10M 4.27.08 ENE Race #2
EXTERRA Merrimack River 10M 4.12.08 GT Race # 2, ENE Race #1
Northern Nipmuck 16M 4.05.08 GT Race #1
Eastern States 20M 3.30.08
Fells Trail Race 3.29.08

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Granite State Snowshoe Race Series

I've never been a big fan of winter. Short days, less sunlight, the need for extra layers of clothing and a host of other reasons have put the winter months on my "Most Dreaded" list. I needed something to motivate and help me maintain a positive attitude over the long New England winter. I think I may have found my savior in snowshoeing. Now I admit I've only done two, short snowshoe runs EVER, but it was fun and served as a distraction from my normal disdain of snow. And it was certainly more fun than trying to run though a foot of snow while wearing trail shoes. I was considering doing a few snowshoe races last year but injuries prevented me from giving it a whirl. This year will be different. With a little coaxing from a long-time snowshoe racer and runner I know, I committed to run at least three races in the Granite State Snowshoe Series. More to follow on this later.

Think snow! How's that for a change in attitude?

Week of Contrasts

What a difference a week makes. Last weekend I was snowshoeing through 16 inches of snow bundled up to protect myself from the cold, 13 degree temperature and howling winds. This weekend the temperature hit 60+ degrees and I ran in shorts through water, mud and the remnants of the early winter’s snow. These extremes are what make New England trail runners a hearty bunch.

On Friday I took my friend RunninRob on a tour of some of the trails in Breakheart Reservation. There was still a lot of deep snow on the trails. The top layer was crusty but not hard enough to support our weight. This made the run very tiring as we kept breaking through the surface and post-holing our way on most of the run. When we were thoroughly exhausted we got out of the woods and ran on the paved path where the snow had been compacted by runners, walkers and XC skiers.

On Sunday, Rob and I were back in Breakheart to take on the mud, water and remaining snow. The warmer temps and “improved” trail conditions encouraged us to go a little longer this time. It was nearly impossible to avoid getting your feet wet but Rob and I tried very hard by going around puddles, jumping over puddles and using rocks and roots as stepping stones. As the run progressed, and we got wetter, we no longer felt the need to avoid the water obstacles. On one long incline the water was running down the trail like a raging river. Rob and I ran thought the middle of the running water like children playing on a warm summer’s day. Actually, it was a lot of fun and we continued seeking out water to splash through for the remainder on our run. It was a blast!

Weekly Re-Cap

Total Miles: 16
# Of Runs: 4
Avg. Miles: 4
Trail Miles: 100%

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowshoe Running in Breakheart Reservation

I’ve tried to make the best of all the snow that accumulated over the weekend by trading in my Brooks Cascadia 3s for a pair of Tubbs Venture snowshoes. I took the snowshoes for short runs in Breakheart Reservation on Sunday and Monday. As a novice snowshoe runner I found these 3 miles runs very challenging. The Ventures aren’t made for running so I’m sure this made the workout all the more strenuous. I did learn one thing on my second run. A higher than normal knee lift makes the shoeing a little easier. With rain and warmer temperatures forecasted for the remainder of the week, it may be a while before I get to try this again.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Pine tops trail

Ridge trail start

Snow covered pine

Now need to worry about that happening now!

Canopy of snow

Snow Pyramid

Water Crossing

More water on trail

Happy Snowman

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah or whatever else you wish to celebrate.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow and ice, yet I managed to stay upright!

About 12 inches of snow fell here between Friday night and Saturday morning. It was our first measureable snow and time to break out the snow shovels. Thankfully, it was the light, fluffy type and not the heavy, wet stuff. I had a difficult time gripping the handle of the shovel with my splinted, dislocated finger as it was. Trying to lift a heavy load would have been a real chore.

After two hours shoveling and cleaning off the cars I when for a short run around the neighborhood. It was 13 degrees and the wind was howling but I’ve run so little in the past three weeks that I didn’t want to miss another day because of the weather. I dressed for the conditions and laced up my screw shoes. This would be my first run in the screw shoes and I was anxious to see how then worked. It wouldn’t take long to see if these things had any grip as I live on hill. I can only hope so!

Heading from my front door I heard the clicking sound of the screw heads on the porch stairs and the freshly cleared sidewalk. I stepped onto the street, covered with a hard-packed snow and began my run. The shoes gripped well descending the hill so I felt confident about doing the rest of the run. When I hit some patches of loose snow along the run the shoes did not work as well as I hoped. There was a lot of slipping during toe-off. I will modify the screw pattern up front to see if that improves the grip.

During my run I was approached by a woman walking a dog. When we were close she said to me, “And I thought I was crazy for walking my dog! Enjoy your run.” Hey, this is New England. If I only ran in good weather I would be skipping a lot of days for sure. I went happily along my way enjoying the frigid air and the crunching of snow under my feet.

When I got to one of the main streets that runs though town all I could see was blacktop. The side streets were covered with a nice layer of hard-packed snow but this street was cleared down to the pavement. I haven’t been able to do any street running without suffering with PF symptoms. I thought the snow would provide enough cushioning to prevent my PF from acting up (again) but this pavement was a little unexpected. There was no way to avoid it but I cut off to another side street as soon I could.

This street brought me to the middle school where I sometimes run on the synthetic track. I considered running a couple of miles here but when I saw the depth of the snow, and felt the ferocity of the wind whipping across the open field, I changed my mind. Instead, I ran a few laps around the middle school parking lot. It was covered with snow and ice and was a good test for my shoes. The shoes really excelled on the ice as the screw head held my shoe firmly in place all the way though toe-off.

After three laps around the school I headed for home. I had an event to attend and didn’t have much time to spare for a shower and a change of clothing. I managed to squeeze in three miles in 30:36. It seems a little foolish to spend so much time dressing for sub-freezing temperatures for a run on snow and ice covered roads, only to run for 30 minutes, but this is what we runners do. Yes, we are a crazy lot indeed!

Be safe….

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Water, Ice and another trip to the ER

I haven’t been doing much running the past few weeks. I injured my ankle at the Fells Trail Race in November and had to take some time off. After taking one week of complete rest I did a few short runs the following week for a total of 15 miles. This down time will probably keep me from attempting a 50K in January. I’ll have to wait a bit for my next Ultra.

I went for a short run in Breakheart Reservation on Sunday morning. I was a cold, windy morning but the sun was shining so it wasn’t all bad. We had a very heavy rainstorm all day Friday and the effects were seen on the trails. There was a lot of water in the low areas and the many small brooks and streams were overflowing. The water was running high so I avoided the trails that run along the banks of the river.

About 20 minutes into my run I came upon the first major obstacle on the Saugus River trail. Usually I can make this small water crossing without getting my feet wet. There are many boulders that make good stepping stones across the brook. On Sunday’s run the water level was much higher due to the storm and most of the rocks were submerged.

There were a few rocks barely above the surface of the swift running water. Although they appeared to be wet from spray, at least I could keep my feet dry by using them to leap-frog my way across. I didn’t realize the wet appearance was actually a very thin coat of ice. I jumped onto one and my foot slipped causing me to lose my balance. I reached out to break my fall and my finger got jammed between two rocks.

I got to the other side, wet and feeling some pain in my 4th finger. I continued to run but the pain in my finger wasn’t subsiding. I stopped and took off my glove to get a look at it. The finger was bent inward from the 2nd knuckle and upward from the 1st knuckle. I didn’t think it was broken but I definitely though it was dislocated. I tried to pop the tip segment back into the joint but could budge it. I decided I better turn back and have it checked out by a medical professional.

I drove to the Emergency Department at the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. My second trip in two weeks. Believe me, it’s not a place I like to spend my weekends! Three x-rays and three hours later it was confirmed to be a dislocation, nothing broken. The ER doc injected my finger with a local anesthesia, pushed and twisted my knuckle a few times and I was good to go. I have to wear a split on my finger for three weeks but at least it isn’t anything that will keep me from running. Now if I can only stay out of here for the rest of the year!

It looked much worse in person.

I would worry this could effect my typing and hence my blog postings but I can't really type any slower than I already do. Can I?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eastern New England 2008 Trail Race Series - Final Standings

The first season of the Eastern New England Trail Race Series has concluded with the running of the Middlesex Fells 8 mile race on November 29th. The series was a complete success as trail racing’s popularity seems to increase exponentially every year. Over 2,200 dirt dancers entered at least one of the 23 races in the series.

I’d like to send out personal congratulations to some of my trail running friends on their successful 2008 seasons.

To Paul and Emily, male and female ENE Trail Race Champions! I’ve enjoyed running with and chasing after both you in many races this year. I hope we get to do some (easy) training runs together over the winter.

To Kevin, 7th place male. Great effort in only your first year of trail running. We suffered thought Wapack and the Fells but still kept moving. I know we’ll complete our first ultra together in 2009. Have fun on the slopes!

To Ana, 7th place female. Another Wapack warrior that challenged me to stay strong. We seemed to just keep missing one another most of the year. I hope our paths cross again in the near future.

To Carlene, 17th place female. Why do we only meet on the toughest courses? I still think Wapack is the most difficult race I’ve run. What about you?

I am happy with my 11th place finish and already looking forward to the 2009 season.

Complete rankings: Here

Let it snow…NOT!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Olympic Spirit

Ok, this has nothing to do with running but it's pretty amazing anyway.

My hampsters never did anything like this.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Running

The fall of the season’s first snow this past weekend made me realize how unprepared I am for winter running. I don’t mean it in terms of the clothing I will need to stay warm and dry or that I am lacking the motivation needed to train through a long, cold New England winter. I mean, where the heck I will run when there is snow and ice on the ground?

Trail running has kept my plantar fasciitis at bay for most of the year. I have had a few minor flare-ups but nothing that has stopped me from putting in the miles I wanted to do. I've done a few short road runs this summer and fall but each time I run the roads I have plantar pain for at least a week. I’ve tried different shoes, three in fact, but it doesn’t make a difference. I think my best option for now is to stay on the trails as long as possible.

Of course, I could wish for a snow-free winter but what is the chance that will happen?Another option is to get prepared for running on snow covered trails. To this end, I made a trip to Home Depot to purchase some sheet metal screws. I screwed (no comments please) an older pair of Brooks Cascadia 3s to use for running in snow and ice. I am thinking the screw heads will provide enough traction even on packed snow and ice. I’ve never tried this before but it will be an interesting experiment. If it doesn’t work out I'll switch to snowshoes. The more I stay off pavement this winter, the better chance I have of making a road-running comeback this spring.

Hmm, loose screw or screw loose?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ankle Injury

I injured my ankle badly enough at the Fells Trail Ultra last weekend that I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot. The pain and swelling I was experiencing had me concerned about the possibility of a fracture. I went to the local Emergency Department and had an x-ray taken of the right foot. I’ve had plantar fasciitis for the past year and a half so it was no surprise to me when the x-ray reveled I had heal spurs. Thankfully, nothing was broken, just a bad sprain. I had to get around with the use of crutches this past week but constant ice and heat treatments have reduced the swelling and the pain. I’m off the crutches and pretty much pain free today. I’m going to take a cautious approach and refrain from running for a least one more week. If I’m pain free at the end of the week I’ll take a short run to see if the pain returns. If all goes well I may try to run the GAC 50K in January but it’s too early to commit to it right now.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

November Training Update

November was a very successful month for me. It was highlighted by running my first trail marathon in 4:26:59 at the Stone Cat Ale Marathon in Ipswich, MA. Another accomplishment was running 25 miles on the rugged Skyline trail in the Middlesex Reservation just 3 weeks after Stone Cat. I also ran a 15K trail race earlier in the month. On the down side, I injured my ankle on a training run only to re-injure it (more severely) 2 weeks later. I’ll be taking 2-3 weeks off to see if I can shake the ankle problem for good.

November Re-cap:

Total Miles: 133
Long Run: 26.2
# of Runs: 14
Avg Miles: 9.5
Trail Miles: 80% - highest this year.

Running is more fun than resting........

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Middlesex Fells Trail Ultra - Race Report

I made my first attempt at the 50K distance (actually 32 miles) at the Fells Trail Race this past weekend. The race was held in the Middlesex Fells Reservation just north of Boston. The race course is an 8 mile loop that circumnavigates the park along the Skyline trail and includes lots of single track, many hills and running along rocky outcroppings. Runners had the option of completing 3 to 5 loops for a total of 24 to 40 miles. I was confident I could finish 4 loops but I had no illusions about running it fast.

Packing for race day was almost as challenging as training for it. The unpredictability of the weather this time of year can cause a lot of variables. I didn't want to need something and not have it so I ended up packing a wide variety of items. I packed two long and short sleeve shirts, two pairs of running shorts and socks, arm warmers, an extra pair of shoes, two hats, two pairs of gloves, numerous gels, bars and on and on it went. After spending so much time with packing I decided to skip taping up my injured ankle. It had been feeling pretty good the past week anyway so I didn't feel it would be necessary.

I arrived at the starting area around 7 AM for the eight o'clock race. A few other runners were already there but were still waiting in their cars. It was a cold and clear morning and no one seemed to be in a hurry to stand around the parking lot in the cold air. After 15 minutes or so a steady stream of cars began to pull into the parking lot. Once Bogie (the Race Director) arrived people began to leave their cars and mill around his Honda Element. Bogie posted the names of the 28 runners entered in the ultra race and we picked up our race numbers from the back of his Honda.

Ultra Runners Roster
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)

My race number.
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)
Kevin’s race number.
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)

He explained that we could run the 8 mile loop in any direction. Furthermore, we could change directions during the race running one loop clockwise and then the next counterclockwise and vice versa. Runners were instructed to record their finishing time when completing a loop before heading out for their next loop. This is seemed to generate a lot of confusion among runners. Some recorded their split times; others recorded their accumulated time while still a third group recorded the time of day. This made it difficult if not impossible to determine what place you were in during the race. To complicate matters even further some runners decided to start early leaving between 7:30 AM and 7:50 AM. I, along with most runners left at the eight o'clock start time.

Loop One Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

We all started together from the parking lot on a double track trail. Kevin and I decided to run together for as long as possible but we got split up right from the start. I'm not sure if it was his youthful enthusiasm or pre-race jitters that caused him to start out so quickly but I soon dropped well off his pace. After a 1/2 mile there were markers on the trail indicating right and left hand turns. This is where the group split up, some going left up a steep climb and others turning right onto flatter terrain. I could see Kevin waiting for me at the split in the trail. I knew from previous training runs here that starting in a counterclockwise direction would give us easier running in the first 3 miles. Kevin and I decided to go in this direction since it would give us a little time to warm up from the early morning chill before we hit the bigger hills later on.

The pack heads out for 1st loop.
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)

With so few runners in the race, and seemingly half running in opposite directions, it wasn't long before there was plenty of running room on the trails. There was a woman running behind me talking to another runner. She was telling him how she lives in Arlington and trains on the Skyline trail often. She also wondered how the elevation gain during this race would relate to that of the Wapack trail race that she ran this summer. I immediately made the connection that this was Carlene who I met during the Wapack race this year. We talked for a while and both agreed that today's run SHOULD be a little easier than Wapack.

Skyline Trail Elevation Profile
Elevation gain = 4,291 feet

10 miles up, 10 miles down and 5 miles of flat running.

This was the 6th time I’ve run on the Skyline trail this year. Each time I run here I notice something new and different. What caught my eye in the cold clear air this time was how the frost was clinging to the blades of grass and fallen leaves on the sides of the trail. It gave the earth a silver sheen as it reflected the light of the slowing rising sun. The frost reminded me of granules of sugar sprinkled on a freshly baked cookie. And I wasn’t even hungry yet!

Kevin and I soon got into a good groove following on the heels of Carlene and two other female runners. After following them for a couple of miles I introduced myself to the other women. Their names were Kat and Tamela. I learned both of them are seasoned ultra runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and more. You name it, seems like they've done it. Carlene, Kat and Tamela were setting a faster pace than Kevin and I had planned to run but we were both feeling pretty good and decided to see how long we could hang with them. Following someone is a lot easier than trying to pick up trail markers on your own especially with someone that knows the trail as well as Carlene.

Carlene leading the way.
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)

After some easy running we hit the steeper hills and rocky outcrops at the southern end of the Fells. Here on the hills there was some separation in the group of five but we consolidated again at the top of the climbs. None of us took any time to take in the awesome view from Wright’s tower or any of the other high points. We all seemed to have one thing on our minds today. Cover as much distance as we could in as little time as possible. We continued to maintain a good pace throughout the rest of the eight miles despite the more challenging terrain. Back at the parking lot we recorded our times on the race sheet.

Loop One Time Sheet
(Courtesy of RD Bogie)

Loop One Transition Time: 6 minutes 33 seconds - Loop Two Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes

The transition between loop one and two was spent refilling my Camelbak hydration pack, restocking my gels and downing an S-cap. I also put on a hat with a visor. The sun was very low in the sky on the first loop and it was constantly shining in my eyes. This made it difficult locating obstacles on the trail and I ran much of the first half of the loop using my hand as a visor. Kat and Tamela’s triathalon and ultra experience showed here and they were ready to head out for loop two before Kevin and I were. They were gracious enough to wait for us and we were on the trail again in six minutes. I was hoping to spend no more than 10 minutes in each transition so I was pleased with six. Kat also said six minutes wasn’t bad so then I felt really good about it. Carlene must have just recorded her loop time and ran back out because I never saw her during the transition.

As we ran the ½ mile to the split I asked Kevin, Kat and Tamela if they wanted to try running this loop in a clockwise direction. Then after running a loop in each direction we could decide which way would be best (aka easier) for the 3rd and 4th loops. Everyone agreed to give it a try so we turned left and began to climb. This first hill was fairly steep and there were large rocks forming steps to make the initial ascent a little easier. I was feeling very strong and took the lead here.

I picked up the pace a little as the climb leveled off. I soon heard Kat yelling at me. She said I was running faster than we did on the first loop and needed to slow down. I knew she was right. If I had any chance of running 50K on this rugged trail I would have to run conservatively in the early miles. I relinquished the lead position back to Kat since she and Tamela had been setting a comfortable, steady pace in the first loop.

After climbing and descending a few rocky hills we crossed a narrow gravel trail. I immediately thought we must have gone off trail because I did not remember crossing this gravel trail on the first loop. Kat was sure we had, so we continued going forward. Soon nothing looked familiar and we all realized we were lost. We backtracked until we found the Skyline trail again. Our little detour added another 3 minutes to our lap time.

Somewhere around 2 – 2 ½ hours into the race I began to feel some pain in my right ankle. This is the same ankle I sprained two weeks earlier during a training run on the Skyline trail. The initial pain was very slight but it worsened as I continued running the second loop. I was still able to maintain pace and stay with K, T and K but each step was getting more painful. The early morning laziness that contributed to my decision not to tape the ankle would haunt me for the rest of the race.

The fact that we changed directions on the second loop also helped me to complete it. We got the hard running out of the way early. The last 3 miles were generally flatter and not nearly as rocky. There were even some sections of trail that was covered in a thick layer of pine needles. This helped to cushion my feet and made running a little less painful. Still, I was happy to see the double track trail that lead us back to the parking lot.

Loop Two Transition Time: 14 minutes 37 seconds - Loop Three Running Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

I really started feeling the pain in my ankle once we stopped running. The entire side of my foot was throbbing and I could not put my full weight on it. My heel and arch was also sore possibly from compensating and trying not the land on the outside edge of my foot. I did my best to put it out of my mind and prepared myself for loop number 3.

We had been running for nearly 3 ½ hours so I decided to switch my drink from Succeed Ultra to Succeed Amino. During long periods of exercise the body requires some protein and will cannibalize muscle to get it if you do not supplement with it. This muscle breakdown inhibits performance is will slow you down in the long run. I was still looking at another 3 ½ to 4 hours of running if my ankle held up so this was a good time to make the change. I was thinking about taping my ankle at this point but I knew that was at least a 10 minute task if I wanted to do it right. I really didn’t want to ask the group to wait around for me while I taped so I decided not to do it. Instead, I loaded up with more gels and swallowed another S-cap before leaving my car to meet up with Kat and Tamela again.

K, T and I were waiting at the trailhead for Kevin. He was still behind his Outback going through his gear. The sun was behind a cloud and the wind was picking up so we started getting cold standing around. K and T wanted to leave so I went to check on Kevin. He was just finishing up his soup and needed a few more minutes. Not wanting to hold up K and T any longer I ran back to them and told them to go on without us.

Tamela and Kat finishing 3rd loop.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

I waited for Kevin, getting colder by the minute and trying to ignore the building pain in my foot and ankle. He finished refueling in a few minutes and we began loop three. I was still feeling confident about my chances of finishing four loops even with the ankle problem. We decided to run this loop in the same direction as the last. This way we would get the hard running out of the way first and have an easier 3 miles at the end.

The first 3 miles of loops three went by quickly as Kevin and I maintained a 13 minute mile pace over the steep, rocky hills. I think Kevin was started to tire as he was getting tripped up a lot on the rocks and roots. By the 4th mile he began to fall behind me as I continued to push though the pain. Then we really started slowing down, running over a 16 minute mile pace on miles 4-6. I was taking a lot of walking breaks because the pain had spread though my entire foot.

Kevin and I were talking and we both agreed 32 miles was not going to happen for us today. He was tired and my foot was throbbing. It would be foolish for us to continue on past the 3rd loop. I suggested we finish the 3rd loop and then go back out and run long enough to get 26 miles and at least finish with the marathon distance. Kevin agreed and that became our new goal.

The decision to go 26 miles instead of 32 must have had an uplifting effect on both of us. We picked up the pace once again. That, along with the flatter terrain in the final 3 miles helped us to maintain a 12 minute pace the rest of the way. When we finally made it back to the parking lot for the third time, two of Kevin’s friends Kate and Brian were there to cheer us on. Kevin went over to the RD’s car to record our time and to mark us as “Done”. It was a relief knowing the official part of our race was over.

Kevin finishing 3rd loop.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

Me finishing 3rd loop.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

Kevin thrilled to finish!
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

It’s official!
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

That’s right Dan, you're DONE!
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

We didn’t spend much time in the parking lot before we left to run the 1 mile out-and-back that would give us 26 miles for the day. We didn’t run the race course but chose to stay on the double track that left the parking lot.

Me and Kevin heading out for our last 2 miles.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

We were running, well I was limping, along the double track when we came upon huge puddle, more like a lake. The trail was flooded for at least 50 yards. The right thing to do would be to plow through it but I was not up for any more challenges. Kevin and I said “screw it” and turned around. We ran back to the parking lot where all the fun began nearly six hours earlier! The puddle, and our desire to stay dry, kept us from getting our marathon finished but we still ran 25.2 miles on a difficult course. We would have to be content with that.

The torture is over.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

Real nice Kevin.
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

The man likes to eat!
(Courtesy of Brian Soudant)

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed about dropping out early. I wanted my first ultra to be a successful one. On a positive note, I felt much better during the Fells race than I did 3 weeks prior at the Stone Cat Marathon. My legs were still feeling fresh after finishing 25 miles. This has never happened to me before. Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon (no pun intended) the right combination of pace, hydration and caloric intake for this distance. On the other hand, maybe I just got lucky. See, I just can’t seem to shake the pessimist in me!

Beaten, but not broken…….

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekly Training Update: Nov 17 - 23

Weekly Recap:

This was my first full week of training since the Stone Cat marathon two weeks ago. I feel as though I have recovered adequately so I bumped up the miles this week.

Total Miles: 37
Long Run: 16.9
# of Days: 4
Avg. Miles: 9.2
Trail Miles: 74%

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fells Trail Race - A Preview

This past Saturday I ventured back to the Middlesex Fells reservation to scope out the Skyline trail once again. I wanted to get another look at the course I will be running in one week at The Fells Trail Races. My plan for the day was to complete two loops of the Skyline trail. The first loop would be run in a clockwise direction and the second one counterclockwise. This would give me a sense of which direction is “easier” if there is such a thing on this trail. Kevin would be joining me once again for the two loops. My friend Mary was taking a break from the roads and willing to get her shoes dirty by running the first loop with us.

I picked up Kevin at the T station and we drove over to the Sheepfold parking lot. Mary was already there waiting for us. The sun was shining brightly but it was a very cold morning with temps in the low 20s. The wind was gusting making it feel more like it was in the teens. As Kevin gathered his gear together I stepped outside to talk to Mary. The wind immediately cut through my light-weight tee shirt. I was definitely under dressed for a day like today. I went back inside the truck and changed into a long-sleeved Techwick shirt that is great for cold weather running.

Satellite View

We headed south from the Sheepfold parking lot down to the Reservoir trail which connects to Skyline. Heading in a southerly direction from the lot the trail begins to climb in the first half mile. I feel the southern half of the reservation is the more difficult because it seems to have more elevation changes. Unlike last weekend, the trail was dry and very hard. The previous week’s rain had frozen the soil causing frost heaves in the ground. When you stepped on one of these heaves they would sometimes collapse making for treacherous footing. There were also patches of ice in the shady locations just to make things interesting.

Elevation Profile

It became evident fairly quickly that following the trail would not be easy. Without any leaves on the trees or vegetation on the ground the forest floor was varying shades of brown. Following the trail as it weaved through trees and over rocks was a difficult task. Each of us took turns leading the way and leading the other two off trail as well. Each of us missed a turn in the first mile alone. This would be the theme of the day and it continued throughout the entire run.

We had been running for about 20 minutes when the trail started to look familiar to me. I didn't really think much of it at the time and continued on. Soon, and much to the surprise of us all, we were back at the Sheepfold lot. Somewhere along the way we unknowingly missed a turn and got completely turned around. We had reversed direction ran back to our starting point completing a 2.5 mile loop. Far short of the 7-8 miles we were expecting. We laughed when we realize our error, although I don't think any of us thought it was particularly funny. We then made a decision to continue heading north and running the first loop in a counterclockwise direction.

Picking up the trail from this point was difficult. The trail cut across the road, passed through a small wooded section and then opened up into another parking lot. From there it cut into a grass field and onto a paved road. We followed the paved road a short distance as the trail then turned right, and back into the woods. As we climbed the first rocky section we were met by several large unleashed dogs coming down the trail. Fortunately, they were totally uninterested in us and we ran past them without incident. The dog owners weren’t very friendly either and also ignored us.

View Larger Map Terrain View

The wind was not gusting as fiercely in the lower elevations or through thickly forested areas but it was still very cold. Staying warm was only possible while moving so we continued to work our way around the reservation at a moderate pace. Around 8 miles we crested the hill to Wright’s Tower. We stopped here for a short break to refuel and enjoy the views. Here we were exposed to the constant wind and I could feel my body temperature dropping. The entrance to the tower offered some protection from the wind so we huddled there for a short time. It looked like this was a popular hangout for all types of trail trawlers. While Mary, Kevin and I enjoyed Succeed and Roctane, there was evidence that others before us preferred Red Bull and reefer! I wonder if that combination speeds you up or slows you down? I’m sure I’ll never know.

Boston in the background

Hungry Runners

Don't back up. It's a long way down!

Kevin, on the other hand was rejuvenated by his blueberry-pomegranate (yuck) gel, or maybe he just wanted to get warm because he sped off after our rest stop with refreshed legs. Mary and I followed close behind. Well, Mary was a lot closer to him than me! The pace quickened the next 2 miles as Mary and Kevin swapped the lead. I know Mary just wanted out of there (she had lots of homework to do) but I don’t know what was going on with Kevin. I just held on and tried to keep them in sight. Wait a minute! Both of them had the blu-pom and I had the tri-berry Gu. Hmm, maybe I need to rethink my flavor choices. Anyway, these 2 miles flew by and soon we were back to the Sheepfold lot.

Kevin having too much fun

Mary means business

Faster than a speeding bullet...HA!

Mary hopped in her Beetle and drove off (lucky her) while Kevin and I sought shelter from the wind in my truck. I ran the heater to warm us up a little before we ventured out for another loop. Kevin ate an Odwalla powerfood bar and I refilled my water bottles. Kevin ate a banana and I changed into a dry shirt. Kevin ate some more and I waited. Kevin ate some more and….Dude, where are you putting all that??? Kevin eventually finished his five course meal and was ready for another loop. Just messing with you Kev!

The second loop started out pretty much like the first, I got us lost! Kevin was leading and then let me go by to do the scouting. I seemed to be doing fine finding the faded white blazes but then realized I hadn’t seen one in a while. I was ready to go back but Kevin thought we should just continue on the same trail since it was heading in the same general direction. I was glad I listened to him as it turned out we missed the trail that would have taken us back to Wright’s tower. It was too cold and windy up there anyway.

Once we picked up the Skyline trail again we took turns leading the way since it can be mentally exhausting trying to find the trail in a sea of brown. About half way through the loop Kevin somehow tweaked his knee and it was starting to be an issue for him. I took over lead duty after that so he could focus on his footing without having to look for trail markers. Even with his knee problem we maintained a steady pace throughout the final miles.

The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the wind was still whipping along, making it feel colder than the first loop. By now I was really getting hungry and started thinking about food, real food. I was sick of gels. We passed the time over the next few miles talking about what we would have for lunch. Earlier in the run I was craving pancakes. Three hours in the cold had changed my mind. I was now thinking soup. We started joking about the Badwater movie and the “Where’s my f---ing soup” crisis. We were both happy to see the parking lot for the third time knowing we would be out of the cold and eating soon.

After running the trail in opposite directions neither Kevin nor myself could decide which way is easier. Both directions have some challenging climb and descents so it doesn’t seem to matter how you run the trail. Kevin did make an observation that made sense to me. Run the southern half first because the trail is more technical and it “feels” like there is more climbing at that end on the reservation. This knowledge will be useful when we both attempt to tackle 4 loops (32 miles) at the Fell Trail Race this coming Saturday. I really need to find another sport.

Hey, where my f---ing soup!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grand Tree 2008 Race Series - Final Standings

Another year has closed on the increasingly popular Western Mass Athletic Club's Grand Tree Trail Race Series. More races were added to the schedule this year bringing the total to 25. It was a long season starting in April with Northern Nipmuck and ending in November with the Stone Cat Ale 50 mile and marathon. 463 runners competed in at least 2 of the races in 2008.

Overall male and female winners in the total points standing are Thomas Parker with 1382.00 and Michelle Roy with 1130.55. Michelle also placed 4th overall in total points. Parker finished an amazing 20 races while Roy ran an impressive 18 out of 25 races. They both should receive the "Most Durable" award.

I competed in 5 Grand Tree events this year, my best showing in three years. I opted out of the Groton Town Forest race at the last minute and ran an
Eastern New England Trail Race Series race instead. This cost me a Stonehead ranking since 6 finishes in the Grand Tree Series are required for this award. Oh well, maybe next year. I finished the year with 339 points, good enough for 64th place overall. Not a bad placement considering all the problems I've have the past year and a half.

Complete Rankings:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sleep Elusive

I've always had difficulty sleeping but the problem has grown worse as I've grown older. Perhaps it's just a family tradition as my mother, maternal aunts and maternal grandmother all battle, or have battled (rest in peace) this affliction.

What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
That stays one moment in an open flower,
And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?
What is more tranquil than a musk-rose blowing
In a green island, far from all men's knowing?
More healthful than the leafiness of dales?
More secret than a nest of nightingales?
More serene than Cordelia's countenance?
More full of visions than a high romance?
What, but thee Sleep? Soft closer of our eyes!
Low murmurer of tender lullabies!
Light hoverer around our happy pillows!
Wreather of poppy buds, and weeping willows!
Silent entangler of a beauty's tresses!
Most happy listener! when the morning blesses
Thee for enlivening all the cheerful eyes
That glance so brightly at the new sun-rise.

- John Keats

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Post Stone Cat Marathon Week - Night Run, Fells Follies and Breakheart Wanderings

Having no experience in running trail marathons, I expected my recovery to be similar to that of the road marathons I ran back in the 80s. Sore quads, hamstrings and calves, difficulty walking down stairs for days and no running for a least one week is what I remember from my road running days. I'm happy to say, that my recovery from Stone Cat has been easier than expected. Of course I was stiff and sore following the race, but the symptoms didn't last for long. I woke up Sunday morning feeling just a little stiffness in my legs. By Monday I was feeling back to normal. Even though I was feeling great on Tuesday I decided to take at least one more day off from running.

Monday - No running.

Tuesday - No running.

Wednesday - Lynn Woods night run 5.8 miles.

I went to Lynn woods Wednesday evening for my first ever night run. I was running late for the scheduled 6 PM start so I didn't have time to gather all my gear. I ran out the door with just a long-sleeved T-shirt and shorts. When I arrived at the parking lot on Great Woods road I saw several cars lined up along the roadway. I was surprised to see there were 15 other runners preparing for the night run. The night air was cold and still and I was way under dressed for the chilly temperature. I was happy we didn't linger long and we were soon off on our run.

Running at night in the darkness of the woods was a new experience for me. It felt a bit bizarre not being able to see beyond the bobbing beam of light in front of me. A windless night and the lack of leaves on the trees contributed to the complete silence in the still of the night. The only sound heard was the crunching of the leaves underfoot. We had only gone about a half-mile when we heard some rustling off into the woods. We stopped and turned our headlamps towards the sound. About 10 feet off the trail we could see a lone deer looking back at us. There we stood runners and deer, neither seemingly willing to move on. I wonder what the deer thought of us standing there in the darkness intruding on his nightly wanderings. After a minute or so the deer moved on, and so did we.

We moved along at a casual pace. There was plenty of conversation to break the silence of the forest. About 2 miles into the run the group began to splinter. Faster runners began to move forward slower runners dropped off while a third group remained in the middle. This continued for about another mile when the lead pack stopped and waited for the stragglers. We continued on our fun run for 2 more miles then climbed up the hill to steel tower. We all stopped to enjoy the view of the Boston skyline illuminating the clear dark sky off into the distance. I began to get chilled standing around in the cold air. Thankfully, we were on our way once again descending a long steep hill down to the parking lot.

I had a great time on my inaugural night run. It felt as if I had never run in Lynn woods even though I had been there many times before. I certainly hope I can make this a weekly event.

Thursday - Lunch run 4.0 miles.

Friday – No running.

Saturday – Middlesex Fells Skyline Trail 7.9 miles.

This was part training run and part recon mission organized by Kevin for the upcoming Middlesex Fells Ultra trail race in two weeks. The Skyline is a rugged, technical rock and root covered single-track trail comprised of many steep climbs and descents with an elevation gain of approximately 1300 feet over 8 miles. Kevin and I are shooting to complete 3 to 4 loops for a total of 24 to 32 miles on race day. If it ain't hard, it ain't worth doing!

Emily, Paul, Kevin and I met on the Stoneham side of the Fells amidst a steady rain. The plan was to make this a fun, easy run as Emily, Paul and myself were recovering from the marathon and Kevin from 18 miles on the Skyline trail the previous weekend. We started at a trailhead that led us to the Skyline trail. The steady rain had made the going wet and slick. The numerous rocks and roots were covered by a thick layer of wet slippery leaves.

In the beginning we moved at a slow and steady pace all the while engaged in conversations ranging from, training, racing, our jobs and the economy. Paul is a very fast runner and a top finisher at races so I was worried he would be bored running with a middle of the pack runner like me but he seemed content to plod along with us tortoises. We stopped at some of the higher summits to take in the views but most were obscured with the thick, low cloud cover.

On one steep descent I slipped on a wet granite face and fell about a foot to the ground. The impact of landing with locked knees was transferred directly to my lower back and it stiffened immediately. Emily also had a difficult time on this section slipping and landing on her butt. She got up quickly and when asked if she was ok replied, “Yes, I know how to fall”. I need to take a lesson or two from her. Kevin and Paul were more sure-footed and negotiated the rocks without incident.

A short time later on a twisting single-track section Kevin and I starting cranking up the pace trying to generate some body heat. We had gotten chilled while standing around at the stone tower a few minutes earlier. We were moving quickly when I made a bad foot plant and turned my ankle inward. I got a sharp pain in my lower ankle and across the lateral portion of my foot. I slowed up but continued to move forward. The pain dissipated somewhat but never went away. I had the same issue with my lower back. It continued to stiffen up for the remainder of the run. Nothing like trashing yourself on a casual training run!

Kevin did a great job of navigation until we hit the sheep fold parking area about one mile from the finish of the run. The trail was not clearly marked here and we weren’t sure which way to go. We got onto a green marked trail (skyline is white) but it was heading in our intended direction so we followed it to see where it would take us. After cresting a hill we came to a water storage tank. Next to the tank was a stone tower with a metal spiral staircase running up the center. Kevin sprinted up the steps and we all followed. I’m not sure how tall the tower was but we were very high up. It was a shame the weather was not in our favor. I’m sure there must be some awesome views of the surrounding area from this tower. I plan to come back on a clear day to get a better look.

We scurried back down the tower and continued on our way. We descended a short steep hill onto a dirt road and back to the parking area where our adventure began. Emily took some time to show me some material she selected for my custom made gaiters. After looking at all the fabrics I decided to go with the orange and black zebra pattern. These gaiters will be super cool. You won’t miss me out on the trails when I wearing these bad boys!!

After having lunch with Kevin I went home to ice my back and foot. I did this a couple of times throughout the day but it didn’t seem to help much. I hope this doesn’t affect my training for long. I have big plans for the coming two months.

Fells Skyline Route

Fells Elevation Profile

Sunday – Breakheart Reservation 5.1 miles.

I woke up this morning and my lower back was still stiff. My foot felt better but I still iced both after have a little breakfast. I should have gone over the town track for a short run so as not to aggravate the injury any further. That would have been the smart thing to do. But smart is not an adjective often used to describe me. The trails have me in their spell and off to Breakheart I went. What can I say?

I had no real plan for this run so I decided to see if I could scope out some single- track over in the Camp Nihan section of the reservation. I am planning to hold a 10 mile trail race at Breakheart in the early spring or fall of 2009. It will be a fundraiser for the Saugus River Watershed Council and I intend to donate all the net proceeds to this great organization. I have the race course all mapped out but I continue to modify it trying incorporate as much single and double track trail as possible.

Making my way across the footbridge that spans the Saugus River I turned quickly into the woods on a slightly concealed trail. This trail skirted its way along the bank of the river and will make a fitting addition to the course. I think it will also add a little distance to the race by replacing a straighter section of double-track farther from the river.

On my way back to the ranger station I rolled my ankle on a root and got a stabbing pain in the foot I tweaked yesterday. Even though it felt ok this morning it’s obviously a more serious injury than I first suspected. I really should have stayed off the trails today and given it another day to heal. Lesson learned! I’ll ice it and wear an ankle support for the next week and see how it heals. No way am I missing out on the Fells race.
Breakheart Route

Breakheart Elevation Profile

Weekly Re-Cap

Miles Run: 23
Long Run: 7.9
# of Runs: 4
Avg Miles: 5.7
Trail Miles: 82%

Hope I heal, and fast.......
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