Trail Monster Running
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I discovered today that, contrary to what I thought two days ago, I have not fully recovered from last week's 30 miler at snowy Bradbury. Not that I felt too bad during the run, but it was harder work than I was expecting and it left me feeling pretty wiped out. This could also have something to do with the hills we encountered, not that they were particularly big but consistently rolling which required a fair amount of effort. I think the elevation profile tends to over-dramatize the hills, but it is representative of the lack of flatness on these roads.
My average heart rate for the run seems pretty high at 168, a few weeks ago I did a 16 mile road run at a 7:44 pace and my heart rate was only 159. Todays pace was a much easier 8:36 so I would have expected my heart rate to be lower. Perhaps someone out there who has more experience tracking their heart rate can tell me what this means. I suspect it means that I need to take it easy for the next few weeks to make sure I'm feeling fresh for my 50 miler.
At least my ankle felt good.
distance: 22.4 miles
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Trail and ultra running is an interesting thing. When I used to do most of my running on roads I had a few injuries, some minor, but the most serious was a stress fracture in each of my femurs, at the same time. That really hurt. I’ve run two road marathons, one in 2003 and one in 2004, and after each one I took two weeks off from running altogether. Since I started doing the majority of my running on trails, about two years ago, I’ve been injury free and have discovered a love a long distance running. Two and a half weeks ago I did a long run of about 32 miles, and last Sunday a long run of almost 31 miles. In the 4 days since that last long run I’ve run three times, and I feel great. Mostly.
Monday morning I got up at 5am, met a few folks at 5:30 and ran to Ri-Ra for a pint of Guinness to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, then ran back. The hardest part of this run was just getting up that early, my legs were stiff but the beer helped to loosen them up. That was about 4.5 miles with a 10 minute beer break in the middle.
Tuesday I ran at Twin Brook with Emma, Chuck, Jim, Colleen and first timer Nate. Although I started out feeling just a bit sluggish I quickly perked up and was really enjoying the run. The snow on the trails was pretty soft (it was shorts warm) and my right ankle was feeling a bit sore. I really wanted to do 8 miles but Emma encouraged me to stop before the pain in my ankle got too bad so I ended the run at 6 miles. I’m glad she was there to talk some sense into me, the last thing I want three weeks before a 50 mile race is to turn a minor pain into a real injury.
Wednesday I took the day off from running, probably long overdo since I had run 4 days in a row for a total of almost 60 miles. Emma and I went to a circuit training class at the Y, I was relieved to see that our regular ass-kicking Marine of an instructor wasn’t there and a more easy going guy was in his place.
Thursday (tonight) I felt fully recovered from my long run and went out for a medium paced run around the Portland peninsula and Back Cove. I started out at an 8:30 pace and picked it up to 7:30 as I was going around the Back Cove “trail”. 8.7 miles at an 8 minute pace and the ankle felt good. I decided that I should stay away from the snowy trails for the next few weeks to make sure my minor ankle problem doesn’t get any worse. So I’ll be sticking to the roads for now, which I actually find a bit scary since every running problem I’ve even had has come from running on roads. I hope I’m doing the right thing.
Up next: 22 miles Saturday morning.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I then headed out on the same course as I ran yesterday for my 15.5 mile run. I figured that with a few modifications to the route - skip the impossible river crossing attempts and swamp - I could make a 13 mile loop which I could run twice to get in my 30 miles for the day.
The first lap of this loop was great. Snowmobiles had been out yesterday afternoon to get the trails in good condition for me, the weather was nice and I felt really good. No ill effects from the run I did yesterday.
When I set off on my second lap a little after 11:30 it had started to warm up and oddly it also started snowing. The snow coming down wasn't really a problem, it was actually very pretty, but the warmer temps meant that the snow on the trails was getting softer and thus harder work to get through. Surprisingly my second lap was only about 5 minutes slower than the first time around. I think I was getting excited about finishing and picked up the pace for the last few miles, which made up for some of the slowing down I had been doing.
I must have miscalculated the distance of this loop because when I finished the second lap my Garmin told me I had only run 29 miles. It really sucks returning to the starting point of a run and still needing to tack on another mile to get to your planned distance. So in the absence of rational thought I headed off for the summit of Bradbury Mountain to get in that extra mile (note the big spike at the end of the elevation profile below).
I'd write more if I wasn't so damn tired.
distance: 30.78 miles
pace: 10:59 (13:15 for first 4 miles, 10:40 for following 26+)
heart rate: 149/171
Saturday, March 15, 2008
9.5 miles into my run this morning I found myself up to my gonads in snow and both feet were submerged in icy water. I began to understand how it’s possible for someone to die when lost in the woods during winter. But I wasn’t lost, I was just trying to make my way around a formerly frozen river that we usually run across and the route I chose ended up going through a swamp. I have learned that swamps in the winter are incredibly deceptive things. This one looked harmless at first, not like a swamp at all, but I later discovered that the vegetation that grows there, combined with a layer of dead trees and branches, suspends the snow above the wet and muddy layer at the bottom.
I’ll start at the beginning of the run. My plan for today was to run an easy 15 miles at Bradbury Mountain State Park, well, easy in the sense that I hoped to finish feeling good enough to run 30 miles at Bradbury tomorrow. This is the peak of my 50 miler training where I run 45 miles in one weekend, and after this it’s a 4 week taper to the Bull Run Run 50 Miler in Virginia. The route I hoped to follow on today’s run was the same as what I started out doing last week, but I hoped to be able to cross a river and make it all the way to Pineland.
Despite sub-freezing temps, wind, and snow that was pretty heavy at times, I actually really enjoyed the run. The freeze-thaw cycle over the past week actually helped firm up the trails and everything was very runnable even with 2-3 inches of fresh snow on the ground. I was running alone today since Emma decided to do 18+ miles on the roads and no one else showed up at the park to run with me. When I got to the river that stopped us last week, a bit over 4 miles into the run, it was clear that attempting to cross would not be a good idea, especially since there wasn’t anyone else with me to pull me out of the water if I fell in. So at this point I turned back and headed north on the power line trail with the plan of connecting this up to the usual power line trail that we run to make one big 15 mile loop.
The next 3 miles were on trails that I had never run before, and it’s always fun exploring new trails, but the snow and lack of direct sunlight made it hard to judge the surface and I found myself repeatedly being surprised by little dips or rises on the trail. About 7 miles into the run I connected up to our familiar power line trail and figured it would be a little more than 8 miles back to the park on the usual route we take.
Unfortunately I forgot that there was another river to cross on the way. At 8.25 miles I came to Chandler Brook. The fresh snow had accumulated on top of what was likely a very thin layer of ice giving the impression that it might be safe to cross, but I thought better of it and turned around. ¼ mile back up the trail I came to Poland Range Road (which I had just crossed a few minutes before) and headed south long the road back towards the park. About a half mile along the road I saw a clearing to my left and beyond that I could see the tops of the power lines that defined the trail had hoped to be running along. It couldn’t be much more than ¼ mile away so I decided to get off the road and break trail until I got back onto the power line trail.
This is when I discovered the secret swamp from hell hidden beneath two feet of snow. Sonuvabitch. Thankfully I only had to struggle through ¼ mile of swamp before returning to the power line trail. And thanks to my wool socks my feet felt warm as soon as I got back to running a 9:30 pace. When I got to the crossing of Rt 9 I knew that I had about 6 miles to go on the trails to get back to the park, and I’d already run 10.75. This would put me well over my planned mileage for the day and I needed to save something for my long run tomorrow so I turned on to Rt 9 to finish my run along the road leading straight back to the park. It felt good to get a few 8 minute miles in at these later stages of the run, especially after my slow slog through the swamp.
It turns out, not surprisingly, that the road is significantly shorter than the trail and when I got back to the park I was only at 13.75 miles. So I hopped back onto the trails to do a loop of Knight Woods and finish my run at 15.5 miles.
distance: 15.52 miles
heart rate: 159/177
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
We decided to give Colleen the grand tour of Twin Brook by covering virtually all of the trails and even headed over to Val Halla golf course to tack on a few extra miles with a big lollipop loop. After a rough stretch on the dirt road leading to the woods I was surprised to find most of the trails in good condition for running. There were quite a few small patches of ice dotted throughout, but luckily I was wearing my screw shoes and didn't have any trouble. Unfortunately the others had to do a little extra work to weave around the slick spots.
The trails at Val Halla were a bit more work than those at TB since they don't get groomed, but the snowmobile and (some type of) ATV traffic that it gets added for some interesting variety. The collapsed concrete bridge that Emma and I discovered a few weeks ago was still collapsed (not surprisingly, once they go down these things usually stay down) but is was easily crossable. It will be interesting to see when/how this bridge gets replaced.
All in all a very enjoyable run with a pretty good sunset. Feels like spring is right around the corner!
distance: 7.74 miles
heart rate: 153/189
** I SHOULD POINT OUT THAT EVEN THOUGH I REFERRED TO COLLEEN AS A "NEWBIE" THAT ONLY MEANS THAT SHE'S NEW TO RUNNING WITH US, COLLEEN IS AN ACCOMPLISHED TRAIL RUNNER, PROVEN BY THE FACT THAT SHE FINISHED ALMOST AN HOUR AHEAD OF ME AT THE STONE CAT 50 MILE TRAIL RACE LAST YEAR **
Saturday, March 8, 2008
We started out on the east side trails: Link to Snowmobile to Knight Woods. From Knight Woods we took a fork off to the left which then led us back across Rt. 9 on the snowmobile trails. This trail, which none of us had ever been on before, runs along the south side of the park just outside of the park boundary, and I could make out the rocky South Ridge above us. The most noticeable characteristic of this trail was the excellent rolling hills. It’s always fun to run with Erik O because he has big trail running cojones and likes to go exploring, and loves to run fast downhill.
This trail came out next to the Pownal elementary school and then crossed Elmwood Road. By now the sun was out and we wished we had brought our sunglasses. After a little more than a mile of beautiful trail we came out to another road, I didn’t know where we were but just as we emerged from the woods we saw a runner coming down the road and he informed us that this was Lawrence Road. This friendly runner joined us for a few minutes on the trail and we got the opportunity to ask him if he knew anything about the trail to Pineland. He had never gone that way but gave us a few pointers before turning off on the next road we crossed, Leighton Road.
The snowmobile trail led into a big open field where the snow was soft and almost every step had us sinking in to mid-calf. From the high spot in this field we could clearly see the two cupolas atop the Pineland Farms Equestrian Center stables and the unmistakable black orb that is the Gray weather station. We estimated that we were only about a mile away as the crow flies, but knew that trails rarely keep a straight line. The trail led us back into the woods for a short stretch and then came out onto a power line trail running north-south. Erik and I both have a pretty good sense of direction and knew that we really wanted to head due west but this wasn’t an option. We took the advice of the runner we had seen and headed south under the power lines but unfortunately this lead to a river which was only partially frozen and neither of us were in the mood for a swim (or the freezing run back to the park). So we turned back here, 4.5 miles from where we began. The connection to Pineland would have to wait for another day, but we made good progress.
After returning to the park Erik and I decided to punish ourselves some more by running a loop of the mountain on the Boundary Trail, then onto the South Ridge where we found a trail leading off of the mountain and onto the “Pineland Connector”. This would make for a shorter route than the way we started out, but given the current conditions isn’t really worth checking out. Erik referred to the latter part of our run as a “suffer-fest” which is a good way to summarize the conditions.
distance: 11.92 miles
heart rate: 162/186
Sunday, March 2, 2008
The spirit of the Trail Monster Running Fat Ass 50k could perhaps best be captured in haiku:
trail runners trudge through soft snow
fat ass fifty k
21 MILE FINISHERS
31.5 MILE FINISHERS
Thanks to everyone who braved the arduous conditions for a fun run today. More later...
More reports from the run can be found below: