Monday, December 28, 2009

Bradley Palmer Remix

Last weekend I got together with running mate RunninRob for a 30K training run on the GAC Fat A$$ course. Rob has been dealing with a nagging injury but decided to give the 2010 Fat A$$ 50K a go. Since his longest run had been about 6 miles we decided to incorporate some walking breaks to get him (and me) though the distance. Of course, once we got running (and talking) we sort of forgot to take the walking breaks as often as planned. Still, we made it though the full 30K with relative ease.

This weekend I was supposed to head back to Bradley Palmer again with a few other friends who wanted to preview the race course. When those plans fell through on Sunday in the early morning hours I decided skip the run and go back to bed. Today was my day of redemption so I headed north to take on the course myself. Since I was on my own I decided to skip the walking breaks and run the full 20 miles.

Running the first loop of the 10K course was the driest since the ground was still frozen over. I slipped on the ice a few times and had a few close calls but no falls. As the morning progressed and the temperature increased, the ground began to thaw and I ran thought many areas of shoe-sucking mud and cold, deep water. That made for some slower miles but I still managed to maintain a decent pace overall.

I made a detour off course to check out the trails of Moon and Blueberry Hills. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but never took the time. I was a little disappointed to find nothing but wide carriage road and no single-track. The top of Moon Hill is a very large, open field. I’m not sure why there is such a large clearing here but I suspect it may have been farmed at one time. My reward for circumnavigating the field of clumpy grass was a long, gradual downhill back to the Fat A$$ course and an extra 1.5 miles for the loop.

The weather started to head south but I managed to beat the rain by a few minutes. Overall, I was happy with my run. With the exception of last week’s 30K my longest run since Stone Cat was 9 miles. The fact that I ran a little over 20 miles at a mile pace 50 seconds faster than the 30K means I haven’t lost that much fitness in the past 2 months. I will admit my legs are pretty stiff this evening though.

Keep moving…

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Second Snowshoe Run, Not So Good

I went out for my second snowshoe run for the week. I thought I would have a better run than my last one but I was wrong. Last time the snow was dry and powdery. This time it was wet and heavy. I thought it would be easier going with the wet snow. It wasn’t. About 5 minutes into the run I could feel my shins tightening up. I kept moving thinking I just needed to warm up a little more and the tightness would subside. Wrong again. I finally decided to stop to adjust the bindings thinking they were to tight and restricting blood flow and causing the muscle in my shins to cramp. When I bent down to adjust the straps I tweaked my lower back. It’s always the simplest movements that seem to throw off my back or SI joint.

After loosening the bindings I continued on my run. Still no relief to my aching shins. Then I thought maybe my foot placement was to far back in the shoe. Again I stopped to adjust the binding and slid my foot forward so the ball of my foot was directly above the cleat. This helped a little and the tightness in my shins lessened but didn’t go away completely. Then it started to rain and I wasn’t dress for it. I was beginning to think I should have stayed home and had a huge breakfast and a pot of coffee.

Question to all you experienced shoers out there. Do you think the tightness in my shins was due to tight binding straps, poor foot placement in the shoe or just a general lack of snowshoe specific conditioning? I only had 30 minutes in the shoes before today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Snowshoe Run of the Season

I had some errands to run and also wanted to finish my Christmas shopping today but I still managed to squeeze in a short training run on my Dions this afternoon. Lucky for me I kept it short. The challenge of breaking new trail was made more difficult by the dry, powdery snow. It didn’t give the cleats of the snowshoe anything to grip so progress was difficult. I think my heart rate must have jumped to 200 bpm in the first 30 seconds. Once I backed off a bit and got into a good rhythm with a higher than normal knee lift it wasn’t so bad. Still, I didn’t even break a 14 min/mile pace! I need to spend more time in the snow before the Beaver Brook race or I’m going to get crushed. Then again, do I really care? Nah.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Long, Cold Training Run

I ran 3 easy loops (30K total) with Rob on the GAC Fat Ass course in Bradley State Park this morning. It was 15 degrees when I left my house to meet Rob. I don’t think the temperature increased even one degree during the 3+ hours we were out there. The trails were frozen solid, my finger tips were almost frozen solid, and the liquid in my water bottle was crystallizing. So darn cold but such a fun run.

Sounds like a big snow storm is on the way, 8-15 inches predicted. The next time I hit the trails it will be on snowshoes. Good times!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Funk Buster Recipe

Follow these instructions for a sure-fire way to beat the blues.

Take one sunny, autumn morning
Add a healthy dose of crisp, cool air
Fold in five fleet-footed friends
Mix well with rocks, roots and dirt
Run till you’re done

From Bottom to Top (Stas, Emily, Michelle, Steve and Kevin)

Descending a rocky washout on the Saugus River Trail

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Full Fledged Funk

No question about it. I’m deep into my usual post season funk. I have little motivation to train, especially on these damp, dark days. No sense trying to fight it. I’ll just let it run its course. I’m going to scale back my plans for the GAC Fat Ass next month. There’s no way I’ll run a 50K with the training I’ve done since Stone Cat. My longest run in the past month has been 9 miles. A 30K run for me at the Fat Ass is a more likely scenario. Lasts years frolic through the frozen forest of Palmer with KZ was the catalyst to bump up my training. I’m hoping a low key long run with friends will work its magic once again.

On another note, the first race of the snowshoe season is only three and a half weeks away but with no snow in eastern Mass I haven’t been able to take my Dion’s out for a spin. I’m sure that will change soon enough.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Grand Tree Trail Race Series - 2009 Wrap Up

The Grand Tree Trail Race Series concluded its 15th season with the running of the Stone Cat Ale 50 Mile and Marathon on November 7th. It was a very successful and well attended series with 2100 runners finishing at least one of the 24 GT races during the year. There were 543 runners completing 2 or more races and only 75 runners completed the canonical six or more races. I was one of the 75, with 8 finishes this year. Here’s a re cap of my GT race season.

My season started off with two very poor races for me. I barely survived the rainy 40 degree day and the relentless hills and mud that welcomed 108 runners with the season opener at Northern Nipmuck in Connecticut. My meager training (low miles and no hill work) at that point in the year had not prepared me for 16 very hilly miles and I paid dearly. I hung on to finish but it was damn ugly.

Next up was the MoFun Wapack race in New Hampshire. It was another tough race for me with 21 miles and lots of elevation gain and loss on the Wapack trail. It showered on and off all day so the granite was slick and dangerous slowing the pace. The slow pace didn’t help me much. I still died long before the finish line but met a nice young lady along the way and I managed to crawl across the finish line with her help. Bless you whoever you are!

My second race of the month took me back to Connecticut for the Soapstone Mountain 14.5 mile trail race. It was another cold and wet day but this time it didn’t bother me. This was my first time running Soapstone Mountain but it won’t be my last. I really liked this course, especially running in the rocky stream, DOWNHILL!! I ran well, finishing much fast than expected.

My fourth race of the season brought me to the base of Northfield Mountain. This race is also part of the New England Mountain Series. I’m not a good uphill runner but some of my running friends who were competing in the mountain series applied enough pressure to make me cry “uncle.” It was a super hot and humid day but I still enjoyed it and ran a decent race. It wasn’t all bad. We got to run down the mountain after reaching the summit. I’ll add a few mountain races to my schedule next year.

Over to the Blue Hills Reservation for a tough race on the Skyline trail. This trail is just plain gnarly, nothing but rocks, roots and mucho climbing. A typical hot and humid July day forced me to back off the pace and just run this one for “the fun of it.” I was happy to finish without taking a tumble. I saw several runners during the race that weren’t so lucky. OUCH!

I was looking forward to running my 6th GT race of the year for two reasons. I like the course at Oxford Dam and finishing 6 races in the series would qualify me for the 2010 Nipmuck Marathon. It was a warm day but cooler than expected for August. I ran a good race and had a very strong last 2-3 miles trying to hold off a few guys behind me. As hard as I ran, I just couldn’t shake them. I tripped and fell with less than a mile to go and they went by me. They would have gone by me even if I didn’t fall. I just made it easier for them.

There’s nothing better than running on some fine New England trails in the autumn. The Groton Town Forest race was held on a crisp and clear day, perfect for running a fast time. I decided to race this one from start to finish. I needed the speed work! I ended up beating a few folks I usually don’t so I was pleased with that. Many miles of sweet, twisting single track with roller coaster terrain made this race a joy to run. I’ll be back.

The season finale at Stone Cat! This was the day I had been training for all year, my first 50 mile trail race. The weather was near perfect, clear, cool and not a hint of wind. I ran this race very conservatively so as to give myself the best possible chance to complete the full 50 miles. With the exception of some nausea between miles 25-28 I felt very good the entire race. I really believe I could have run another 5 or 10 miles if I had to so next time I will have to push the pace more. Stone Cat was a great time all around and a good ultra learning experience for me.

I want to offers my congratulations to some of my good trail running friends on their very successful Grand Tree season.

Stanislav Trufanov – 1st place overall with 1249 total points. Stas is a very strong runner on tough technical courses and consistently placed high in all his GT races. He would have been the winner of this year’s MMD (More and More Difficult) 50K if not for a wrong turn in the final few miles.

Michelle Roy – 1st place female and 5th place overall with 1057 points. What makes Michelle’s GT win even more impressive is that she also ran several non-GT races during the year including the Escarpment, MMD and the VT 100. She was the only female in the series to earn over 1000 points. Only six runners broke the 1000 point barrier.

Kevin Zelechoski- 3rd place overall with 1068 points. “KZ” had an excellent year of racing and ran many ultras including 50Ks at the Fells, DRB (Don’t Run Boston), Pineland Farms, Pisgah and 50 miles at Vermont and Stone Cat. Did I forget any?? Oh yeah, he did MMD also!

David Raczkowski (aka “Nipmuck” Dave) – 1st place 50-59 and 11th place overall. Dave is a huge supporter of the Grand Tree Race Series. I got my 6 races this year so I’ll be seeing you in 2010 Dave. I’m not singing though!

Bill Howard – 3rd place 60-69 and 38th overall. Bill ran well in all of his 8 GT races this year. He also competed in snowshoe and mountain races. Lucky for me he’s not in my age group.

Emily Trespas – 3rd place 30-39 and 6th female overall. She wasn’t the fastest in the series but she was certainly the cheeriest! Always a smile and friendly conversation before, DURING and after the race with Emily by your side.

As for me? I’m semi-satisfied with my year on the GT circuit. I finished 36th place overall but only 9th among the 50-59 crowd. Too many fast old guys on the trails these days. I may have to take up knitting. Then again, those old grannies will probably kick my ass at making shawls!

Can't wait until the 2010 GT series begins....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ultra Runner's Obsession

A conversation between me and a co-worker today.

Never tell your non-running co-workers what you do on weekends!
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