Trail Monster Running

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter Running Lessons

This week I signed up for the 2008 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run and I've been watching The Runner, the story of David Horton's 2,700 mile run of the PCT, so I had long running on the brain. I had hoped to do 4 hours at Bradbury but I knew that all the snow we got this week was going to make it challenging, I didn't think there was much chance of snowmobile traffic between the time the last storm ended Thursday night and our run this morning. To complicate matters even more the temperature wasn't expected to get above 20 degrees until the afternoon, it was 13 when I arrived at Bradbury. Erik and Blaine showed up and I made them wait in the cold while I fitted my snowshoes, they both decided to stick with just trail shoes.

Given the potential for freezing water, which has happened to me before, I wore a light jacket over my Source hydration pack. I also planned to try a trick I read about which is to blow a small amount of air back into the tube after taking a drink, thus clearing out any water that might freeze. I learned not to blow too much air otherwise you end up with half air and half water in your pack and it sloshes around, which isn't really a problem, just annoying. About half an hour into the run Blaine asked how my hose was doing, I was happy to report that my hydration pack was functioning well but my other hose was frosty. Luckily I was wearing glove liners and mittens so I tried a trick that Jim taught me, I removed a mitten and shoved it down my pants. This did a great job of warming up one area but left me with a cold hand, and for the rest of the run I kept switching the mitten from one hand to the other.

Apart from the addition of the Knight Woods trail at the beginning of our run we were following the same route that we ran last week. Six miles into the run, when we reached the power lines, Blaine decided to turn back, and Erik was a little ways behind me so I continued on my own towards a nice big hill. When I got closer I was disappointed to find a fork in the trail and the "groomed" path avoided the hill so I decided to stick to following the snowmobile tracks. "I'll get you on the way back" I said to the hill.

The time seemed right for a package of Shot Bloks, which after more than an hour in my pocket were actually flavored ice cubes. I discovered that slipping the package into my mitten (the Shot Blok package and the mitten on my hand, not the other one) did a good job of thawing the Shot Bloks without freezing my hand, and the same is true for packets of GU.

Things were going well until I came to a small river that wasn't frozen enough to cross and the snowmobile tracks turned back. I managed to break trail through 8" of powder into someone's back yard, then on to what I would later discover was Poland Range Road, across a bridge and then back onto the power line trail. Unfortunately from this point on I was breaking trail which is really hard work on hills in small running-style snowshoes. I made it out to Allen Road in North Pownal, did a lap of a huge electrical sub-station and turned back the way I came.

By the time I reached the back side of that hill I had seen earlier I had been running through powder for about 4 miles and I was starting to feel pretty tired, but I decided to attack the hill anyway. It turned out to be a very tough climb and I could see why no snowmobiles had attempted it, but I was glad to be the only one to make tracks up to the top. The view from the top was worth the effort but the 20 mph wind prevented me from lingering and I continued down the other side. By now I was feeling pretty much spent and even returning to the packed snowmobile trails didn't provide much relief.

As I counted the miles on my way back and looked at the time I knew that I was going to have to repeat the Knight Woods loop and maybe a little more if I was going to bring this run up to 4 hours. The problem was that in order to do that I was going to come within 0.3 of a mile from the parking lot where my car was, and the temptation to stop early was going to be there. I have discovered that one of the great challenges of long distance running is being faced with the opportunity to stop but being able to make yourself continue. Today I was weak, I took the opportunity to quit early.

If I'm going to get through this 100 miler I'm going to have to keep putting myself in these situations until I know that I'm strong enough not to give in.

time: 3:47:25
distance: 18.93 miles
pace: 12:00


Anonymous said...

Wow! Nice adventure. Thank you for sharing.

Blaine Moore said...

It was a fun run. I wound up taking the Knights trail back, but looped around differently. Still wound up with the 11.5 that I was expecting it would be.

I'll have to try that 20 mile loop with you in a few weeks or a month, depending upon my training schedule. I'll want to get a few 15 milers in first though.

Gnarls said...

sorry to hear about your frosty hose, good going considering the conditions. Weather is great here, 3C, shorts and t-shirt weather. Planning on doing some hills this week with my new inov-8s, can't wait.

erik boucher said...

The beauty of this route inspires me to go further each time. I ran along the power lines too and was disappointed when the trail went to the right of the big hill. By the time that I hit the road I was missing being with my puppy and turned back. If I didn't have hand warmers in each glove I don't think I could have dealt with that wind. They came in handy too when the tip of my hose froze. While running I cupped the nozzle between both hands like I was making a snow ball and got water flowing pretty quickly.