Trail Monster Running
Saturday, January 26, 2008
1. 2007's most memorable moment on the trail...
Unquestionably this comes from my first 50 miler, the Stone Cat 50 Mile Trail Race. Although finishing the race was great, the most memorable moment was when I completed the second lap of the race. As I neared the end of the second lap I got a boost knowing that I would be seeing Emma soon and that by this point she would have finished the marathon, I was anxious to find out how she had done. The excitement caused me to pick up the pace a bit, and pick off a runner who I'd been trailing for a while, and I knew that passing this runner in particular would make Jamie very happy. When I turned the last corner at the end of the lap I saw Emma and Jamie waiting for me and I could tell right away that Emma had done well in her race. She ran with me for the last hundred yards of that lap and told me she was the first woman finisher of the marathon. I was so proud of her and so happy for her. My excitement over her achievement and my desire to make her proud of me carried me through the second half of the race, I couldn't have done it without her.
2. Best new trail I discovered in 2007...
The "O" Trail at Bradbury Mountain State Park. I've been running at the park for a few years, but last summer Emma and I stumbled across a new trail, and we stumbled all the way through it. Running this crazy technical single-track you feel like Jackie Chan jumping from rock to rock over roots and fallen trees, around insane hairpin turns, through streams... it's a blast.
3. My best performance of the year...
Escarpment. I did better than I thought I could and came away from it feeling great.
4. I don't know how I previously survived without...
My Inov-8 Roclite 315's. These shoes helped get me through my first 50k, my first Escarpment, my first 50 miler, and tons of other great trail runs.
5. The person I would most like to meet on the trail in 2008...
Emma, at mile 70 of the Vermont 100.
Emma, consider yourself tagged.
We set off on the Northern Loop trail and then took the Tote Road trail to the summit which has become the usual way to start our runs at Bradbury. Erik lead the way, pushing the pace to the summit, and by the time we got there I had to stop and remove the windbreaker I was wearing along with my mittens. Running up this little mountain is a great way to warm up. Back down the Terrace Trail then across Rt. 9 and onto the Knight Woods Trail which leads to the Snowmobile Trail that takes us northeast out of the park.
I had hoped to get in 20 miles today, to make up for a week of pitiful mileage due to a nasty cold, but I wasn't sure if I'd be up for the distance. Jamie was in a similar situation of recovery and determination and agreed to attempt the distance with me. Erik was up for anything and had come prepared to go long, Blaine was without water or nutrition and was happy to "cut it short" at about 15 miles.
On the power line trail at around 10 miles we stopped for a drink and a gel and I struggled with the unique consistency of partly frozen GU. In an uncharacteristic moment of immaturity Jamie made a crude reference to an even cruder episode of South Park that he was reminded of. Just to prove that I can be an immature as the next guy, here's a video clip from that episode:
Check out this video: Red Rocket South Park
We turned at the top of a ridge at 12 miles, knowing that the way back would be shorter since we weren't planning to do another trip to the summit of Bradbury Mountain. We scratched our heads for a moment as we tried to figure out which town we were in. Jamie spotted a low-flying P-3 Orion off in the distance which suggested we weren't too far from the Brunswick Naval Air Station. After getting home and uploading the GPS data from my Garmin 305 I found that we were in Durham, about 2 miles from the Androscoggin River which separates Durham and Brunswick.
Despite a consistent uphill climb during the last few miles of the run I was feeling good and attempted to pick up the pace. What I think I was really doing was just keeping myself from slowing down, either way it felt good and I was glad to be out running. When we got back to the parking lot Jamie's Garmin told him we were just a bit short of 21 miles so we did a lap of the parking lot and a little out and back on one of the trails to get our distance up.
distance: 21.08 miles
heart rate: 161/183
Thursday, January 10, 2008
No Fee, No Awards, No Wimps.
It’s interesting how running 50 miles can change your perception of shorter distances, like when did 50k become a shorter distance? When I ran my first 50k, the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge, in May 2007 I spent months training for it and the race was an epic adventure. Seven months later, here I was doing another 50k with very little “training” and only about 2 weeks of preparation, just long enough to taper. Normally I would plan something like this months in advance. Because of the 50 miler I ran in November the 50k distance was no longer intimidating, and it helped that this wasn’t a real race. The GAC Fat Ass 50k is kind of like a winter picnic with running breaks in between meals. This type of event is what running is really all about, spending all day with friends on the trail, meeting new people, trying new combinations of food items, trying out flashy new articles of clothing. Brilliant.
Despite my attempts to round up a solid crew of Mainers for the trip to Topsfield, MA Jamie was the only one who came through in the end. I think the holiday break from teaching allowed him to focus on running for a while and got him excited about plans to run the Western States 100 this year. We arrived early enough to take a short walk on the trails, set out our drop bags and aid station contributions and mingle with some of the other runners. Registering for the race consisted of having someone write our names on a clipboard, no other information required. As more runners arrived the aid station table that we would return to after each lap was becoming overloaded with goodies.
After hanging around outside for the better part of an hour I felt a bit chilled and threw on an extra layer before the start of the race. The temperature was in the upper 20’s and I knew that the inevitably slow pace wasn’t going to warm me up that much. Even though I knew that dehydration wasn’t going to be much of an issue today I planned to carry my Source hydration pack filled with a weak mixture of Hammer Sustained Energy. The pack also provided me with the opportunity to carry my camera, a few gels, and to stow clothing as it warmed up and I needed to shed layers.
Lap 1: 0-10 km, 58:38
Maybe I was over excited to be running, but despite my best attempt to set out at a sensible pace I found myself unusually far up the field. Although I didn’t think my pace was too fast I didn’t want to run alone so I slowed down a little. Tom Page caught up to me and we chatted for a bit but I could feel the pace creeping up and I knew that I really was going too fast so I let him go. For about two miles I was leading a long line of runners on the snowy single-track. Jamie was right behind me talking up a storm with Ron Farkash, and somewhere back there were John O’Connor and Lori Lebel. I felt a bit out of place leading this pack of runners given their ultra running achievements. I tried to run away from Lori in my previous 50k, it was a mistake then and I suspected still not a good idea today.
In the week before the race Topsfield had received more rain than snow and since it was still below freezing the snow on the trails was pretty crusty. In places where there had been a lot of foot traffic the surface was very irregular and felt a bit like running in scree. Most runners were wearing Yak Trax but thanks to the screw shoes Jamie and I were wearing we were taking icy corners like we were on rails.
Aid Station: 3:10
Lap 2: 10-20 km, 60:13
In our first visit to the aid station, staffed by the friendly folks of GAC, I was introduced to a delightfully tasty treat: ginger snaps and cream cheese. Ron didn’t waste any time at the first aid station snacking and took off without us. I wasted a little more time fussing around with my wardrobe, switching my long sleeved shirt for Moeben Sleeves, and set off on the second lap with Jamie and John. John was attempting his longest run in several months since injuring himself while playing with his son, and was doing a great job running and keeping us entertained.
I don’t know where everyone went but the group we started out with seemed to really get spread out on the second lap. I also couldn’t help but notice that there were quite a few people walking the trails, many with dogs, but thankfully they stayed off the single track and generally were out of our way.
Aid Station: 4:40
Lap 3: 20-30 km, 60:53
Jamie downed a whole can of Moxie before heading out on this lap, not sure why, but as he seemed to question whether or not is was a good idea I reminded him: Moxie Makes Mainers Mighty. I stuck to the ginger snap and cream cheese sandwiches, not sure if they were going to make me mighty, but they tasted damn good.
The temperature was really starting to rise, the sun was getting high and it was a beautiful day. The snow was beginning to soften and there were a few places in the open fields where it felt like we were running through mashed potatoes and I was gravy, but thankfully it was never long before we headed back into the woods and onto firmer snow. Bradley Palmer State Park where we were running is very close to where the Stone Cat 50 Miler was held and the geography, although snow covered, seemed very similar. The big difference was that this course featured a more significant hill, and we got to do it 5 times.
Some time after passing a dead rodent in the trail for the third time our conversation turned to zoology and we came upon the really big question of the day: What is the one mammal besides the duck billed platypus that lays eggs? We planned to ask this of the aid station volunteers but when we arrived our thoughts were immediately distracted by the mountain of food before us.
Aid Station: 5:37
Lap 4: 30-40 km, 63:11
This was our longest aid station break of the day, and not exactly a low point, but this is when I first noticed feeling tired. The fourth was also our slowest lap. Just like the penultimate lap at Stone Cat was the toughest for me the same seemed to be true today. I never wanted to stop running, or questioned whether or not I could finish, but it seemed harder to maintain that 10 minute per mile pace we’d been doing for the previous 3+ hours.
About 2 miles into this lap we passed Sarah Heck who had gotten a late start. When we told her we were on our 4th lap she said “good, you only have 2 more to go!” I panicked for a moment while I double checked the math, thankfully Sarah was wrong and we only had one more lap after this one. Don’t get me wrong, running is fun, but it’s nice to know when you’re going to stop.
There wasn’t a lot of conversation on this lap but we did question the origins of the term “Fat Ass” relative to ultra running. There were a few people we came across during the day that bore a resemblance to the name of the event but we never reached a definitive conclusion.
Aid Station: 5:13
Lap 5: 40-50 km, 62:09
There was a sense of relief that came as we headed out on the last lap, by now we knew the course well and had a sense of how much it would take to get through it. Neither Jamie nor I were taking this run too seriously but we wanted to finish strong and at least maintain the somewhat consistent pace we had been running all morning. We definitely seemed to do a lot of walking on the hills this lap but we were able to keep a good rhythm going and didn’t slow down too much.
With about 2 miles to go we started to close in on a runner ahead. I really didn’t care where we finished in this race, or that’s what I thought until I was confronted with the possibility of passing someone. The racing instinct kicked in with both Jamie and I, and without saying a word we focused on catching him. Just after we passed him Jamie whispered “lets pick up the pace” so we proceeded to roll him up and smoke him. I felt a little bad for doing this, but I was interested to see if we really could pick up the pace this late in the run, it was nice to know we had a little extra left to give and I didn’t feel bad for long.
Although Jamie and I never planned to run the whole race together I was glad that it ended up that way.
Distance: 50 km / 31.1 miles
Heart Rate: 161/183
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Tonight I was lucky to leave work on time and make it to Twin Brook a few minutes before 6. Jeff was there expecting to ski but had broken a binding and had to head home without enjoying the snow. By 10 past 6 no one else had showed up so I headed off in to the darkness alone, splashing through the mud and puddles on the ½ mile stretch of dirt road before getting onto the trails. I was excited to be wearing shorts again. Despite the warm temperatures there was still plenty of snow on the ground which had become very soft and made running pretty slow. I decided to run in my screw shoes, thinking that there may be ice out there, but in hindsight snowshoes might have been a better choice.
Since I was leaving fairly deep footprints on the groomed trails I decided to head over to Val Halla golf course and run on the snowmobile trails. The run there was pretty good but when I got out on the greens I started sinking in well above my shoes and decided that it wasn’t worth the effort so I turned back after less than a quarter mile. I was determined to get in at least 45 minutes of running tonight, which was going to be hard to judge since I forgot my watch, so I ran 2 laps of the north side trails and then headed back towards the parking lot. As I neared the bridge that leads back to the dirt road I met Shauna and Erik who arrived late and had just set out on their run. From there we ran together and completed the rest of the “usual” route. It was nice to have company and even though I had been about to finish my run I enjoyed tacking on a few extra miles with Erik and Shauna.
Judging by the clock in my car I ran for an hour and a half and probably got in about 9 miles.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Even though we don't speak about such things here, I have to admit that I have been running on the roads lately and with all the snow and ice out there I've been making good use of my screw shoes. As I prepare for the GAC Fat Ass 50k this Saturday I've been closely watching the weather forecast to try to figure out what the trail conditions are going to be like in Topsfield, MA. A few days ago it looked like I would need snowshoes, but now it's looking like the trails are going to be icy so I decided that I better screw a pair of trail shoes for the run. I got out my cordless drill, a handful of hex-head sheet metal screws and set to work on an older pair of Roclite 315's.
For this screwing I decided to use two different length screws , 1/2" for the heels and 3/8" for the midfoot. Luckily the lugs on my shoes provide enough depth to receive the screws, anything shorter and I'd risk losing screws during the run. A hex-head driver in my drill made the process of getting the screws in quick and easy. I ended up putting 12 screws in each shoe, a little on the light side actually, I've had as many as 16 in each of my road shoes, but the trails I'll be running on this weekend aren't likely to be as slick as any road would be and the Roclites have great grip anyway.