Trail Monster Running
Saturday, May 31, 2008
distance: 10.5 miles
This evening I headed out around 5:20 pm for my long run. From home I headed over to the Fore River Sanctuary trails and then further out Congress Street to the Stroudwater Trail. It was good to get some trail miles in during the dim, overcast evening light. I finished the run with two laps around back cove. I was going to try to keep my pace for this run under 9 minute miles but the trail sections were pretty slow going and set me back.
distance: 20.1 miles
Thursday, May 29, 2008
In the weeks leading up to Pineland I was so busy and stressed with race preparation and hosting my in-laws that I didn't get many quality runs in. When I did find the time to get out for a run I just didn't seem to have the energy to put in many good miles. I should mention that Emma and both her parents were a big help with race duties including making the awards, marking the course, timing the races and cleaning up afterwards, as well as household chores like cooking and dishes. I should also give a shout out to all the people who volunteered to help with the race, it wouldn't have been possible without the contributions of the 80 or so people who stepped up to support this event and I know that the runners all appreciated it. I have been getting e-mails all week (in addition to dozens of comments immediately after the race) from happy runners saying how great the volunteer support was at the race. Thank you to everyone who helped make this year's race the most successful yet.
So after a day of rest on Monday I was determined to kick off what will be 6 weeks of pretty intense training. This will be followed by two very easy weeks right before my first attempt at running 100 miles. That's not to suggest that all my training is going to be done in 6 weeks. I had a terrific winter of long runs which built a very solid base, then a 50 miler in April followed by some more good long runs. Now I'm coming off of two weeks of a low mileage period in my training and am ready to step it back up again.
So far this week...
8.1 miles @ Twin Brook
10 miles @ Pineland
9.1 miles @ Back Cove
This is already equal to my weekly total from last week and I haven't hit the weekend yet. I originally had on my schedule a 6 hour run for this Saturday, but recently found out about a lacrosse game that my nephew is playing in so I decided to break up my long run.
10 miles @ Bradbury
20 miles @ somewhere
15 miles @ somewhere
This will get me up over 70 miles for the week. This is high for me, but if it doesn't kill me it will make me stronger. I figure that this is the time to really push myself.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I began with the more difficult Bradbury Mountain Breaker 9 mile course which covers most of the trails on the west side of the park. The route starts with a very gradual climb on the wide, gravely Northern Loop Trail, then bears right onto the more hilly Boundary Trail. This section of trail is like a root festival, with so many wonderful opportunities to trip. A few hundred yards short of the mountain summit the course makes a sharp right onto the South Ridge Trail and then makes a steep descent to the "lower" parking lot and the lowest point in the race. After weaving through a few picnic sites comes the location of the first aid station at about 2.25 miles. This is a great place to catch your breath because the next 1/4 mile climbs 250' up the Summit Trail to the summit of Bradbury Mountain.
From the summit the course bears left onto the Tote Road trail which descends for about a mile before looping back uphill and bringing you back to the summit again. Just as the trail opens up towards the view from the top the course makes a sharp left and descends steeply down the Switchback Trail which - in typical trail naming obviousness - includes a series of hairpin turns to bring you back down to the starting point of the race and the second aid station. This is only half the race. The second loop of the race is the same as the first until you reach the summit from the Tote Road Trail, this time the course bears left onto the Terrace Trail which makes a pretty straight shot down gradual descent, which can be run extremely fast if you've got anything left in your legs at this point. The last 1/2 mile comes back along the Northern Loop Trail in the opposite direction as the start of the race where you should be able to maintain good speed to the finish.
distance: 9.0 miles
After a few minutes to catch my breath I headed across the road the the east side trails to run the course of the Bradbury Scuffle 6 mile race. This course felt easier right away, mostly because it starts out downhill, but also because it's generally less technical than the Breaker course. I began on the Knight Woods Trail which is mostly double-track. This leads to the wide, gravely Snowmobile Trail that climbs very gradually to about the 1 mile mark. You then make a sharp right onto the Fox East Trail that begins a 2.75 mile stretch of a twisty, somewhat technical, single-track section that is definitely the most challenging part of this course (but still easier than the Breaker). There are some rolling hills and several wooden bridges to cross that make this section a lot of fun.
At about 3.75 miles the course bares left onto double-track trail at the location of the one and only aid station on the race course. From here the course climbs gradually for about 1/2 mile and has some great mud pits in the trail, then opens up to a wider and even less technical downhill section on the Snowmobile Trail that should make for a very fast mile. Just as you're getting sick of the easy running the course turns right onto the Knight Woods Trail for the last 1/2 mile which is a gradual uphill on somewhat narrower trails. The last few hundred yards of the race are the same as the Bruiser, and anyone who ran that race will be glad to bypass the entrance to the O-Trail on their way to finishing this one.
distance: 6.0 miles
Stephen: if you're out there, I could really use the .GPX file from one of your runs on the Bruiser course last fall so I can add the elevation profile. Or maybe I'll go out and run it next weekend.
P.S. Congratulations to Emma for running her fastest time at the Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race today (2:00:00) and finishing 3rd woman!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
17 people showed up in all, and we stuck together pretty well for the first 3 miles. When we entered the Valley Farm loop the hills started to thin out the group and the numerous felled trees that blocked the trail really got everyone spread out. I have been assured that these trees will be removed before the race which is now only two weeks away. We decided to skip the field loops of the race course since the grass was starting to get a little bit longer. This brought us back to the Grove at about 8 miles and we crossed the road to the Oak Hill trail with the goal of tacking on an additional 2 miles to bring our run up to 10. Somewhere along the way we got distracted, missed a turn and ended up running a little over 11 miles.
It was great to see so many people out there running together, I hope everyone had a good time and found their way around o.k. after the group broke up.
distance: 11.25 miles
Monday, May 5, 2008
Week 2: 24 miles at Pineland
Week 3: 7 Sisters Trail Race
I did take 4 days off after the Bull Run Run 50 Miler, but then I remembered that I have a 100 miler to get ready for so I kinda jumped right back into training. The great thing about running really slowly on trails, even for 50 miles, is that the recovery time is a lot quicker than compared to road running.
Going into the 7 Sisters Trail Race this past weekend I was a little apprehensive because I knew I wasn’t well rested, and this has to be one of the most rugged trail races in New England. I know that there are plenty of trail races out there that I haven’t done, but I have never seen a race with more steeply rock infested hills than this. I’m sure Sherpa John will correct me, but mile for mile this has got to be one of the most rugged races around. When it rains all day and night before the race, and the rocks become slick there are fantastic opportunities for injury.
My goal was to beat my time from the only other time I ran this race, back in 2005, and to come away from it without a serious injury. My original plan was to run the first half of this out and back course conservatively and then push hard for the second half. What actually happened is that I ran hard for the first half and struggled through most of the second, pretty typical for me. Not that I’m blaming Jim for my lack of ability to execute a race plan, but his suggestion of starting out near the front of the crowd to make better time up the first climb lead me to run amongst a group that ultimately I couldn’t keep up with. One of the many unique challenges of this race is the start, where there are 250+ runners crowded along the shoulder of a well-travelled road all trying to squeeze into a single-track trail that ascends to the 1010’ summit of Bare Mountain in the first half mile. Jim realized last year that by starting nearer the front he could run most of the first climb without being stuck amongst the masses in the middle of the pack who are forced to walk because of the shear volume of people on the narrow rocky trail.
So the six miles going out went by pretty quickly and without any problems at all. I was working hard but having a good time. I couldn’t help but compare this to some of my recent longer runs, I also wondered how this compared to the course Erik recently ran at the TNF Bear Mountain 50 Miler. In the context of an ultramarathon there is no question that most runners would end up walking hills like those on the 7 Sisters course, but being in a 12 mile race I tried to run as much as I could. I’m glad that I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor, I don’t think I would have wanted to see it go over 200 bpm.
The first 2 aid stations on the course consisted of a few dozen 1-gallon jugs of water placed on the ground. At the turn-around point there was a bigger aid station with water, Gatorade, oranges and some other food items that I didn’t really notice. This is the lowest point of the race in terms of elevation, which means there is more uphill on the way back than on the way out. The second half of the race begins with a climb up from the level of the Connecticut River to the 940’ summit of Mt. Holyoke. If it weren’t for the fact that the sky was cloudy all day, and that it’s a very bad idea to take your eyes off the trail even for a second, there presumably would have been some great views from up on this ridge.
I knew that I was starting to slow down, my legs were getting tired and my form was getting a little sloppy. Every now and then I would get passed by another runner. Sometimes I gave up a good fight, other times I just stepped aside to let them go. One such moment came late in the race when I heard two way too cheerful women approaching: “oh my gawd, this is so much fun!” “I know, this is my first trail race and I love it!” I couldn’t listen to this shit so I gave them room and let them go past.
Coming into the last aid station at about 10 miles, which is the only flat non-technical part of the race, I leaned over to pick up a jug of water off the ground and my ankle rolled. I usually pride myself on the flexibility and resiliency of my ankles, but this time it didn’t roll back and I screamed out a very bad word. I was certain that this race, and perhaps my life as a runner, was over. I tried to walk but couldn’t support my weight, so I went through the list of all the bad words I know. This seemed to help and before I knew it I was off running again, first with a limp but it wasn’t long before I was back into that familiar tired stride.
I was definitely a little more cautious during the last two miles. I realized that I had narrowly escaped an injury on the trail, but the race was far from over and I still had to make the wet rocky descent down Bare Mountain, but not before another mile and a half of rugged ups and downs. Thankfully my ankle held out for the remainder of the race and I even managed to pick a few people off along the way. The fear, adrenaline, and profanity explosion gave me enough of an energy boost to pull out a relatively strong finish. Official results haven’t been posted yet, and I only caught a glimpse of the unofficial results, but it looked like I finished in about 2:32. That’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I did this race and I came away with only a minor injury. Not too shabby.
Official time: 2:33:28 (12:47 pace, that's slower than my 50 mile pace)