Trail Monster Running

Visit the official TRAIL MONSTER RUNNING website for information on upcoming group runs, local trails, trail races and more, including the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival and the Bradbury Mountain trail Running Series.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Muddy Moose - Short Report

That was one of my worst performances ever.

After a good first mile at about a 7:24 pace everything fell apart and I suffered for the rest of the race. The good thing is that the race is about a mile shorter than advertised according to my Garmin (and several other peoples) which meant there were only 12 miles to suffer through.

No biomechanical problems, just a lack of readiness for the heat which resulted in no energy.

There were some hills.

And lots of mud, you wouldn't know it to look at this photo of me approaching the finish line, but Erik shot some great video that proves just how muddy it was. I'll post the video when I get around to editing it.

I wish I could say a good time was had by all but those of us standing above all suffered to some degree. Congrats to Jeff for winning his age group in the 14 miler and to Shauna for finishing 2nd female in the 4 miler.

time: 2:14:57
distance: "14 miles" (13.1 miles)
pace: very slow
place: 43/123 - 35%


Thanks to Jim, Shauna and Danielle for letting me reuse and consolidate their photos.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mid-Week Laps

It's the middle of the week so that means laps of Back Cove for me. My weekends are so busy with intense running lately I feel like I need to spend the middle part of the week recovering from one weekend and tapering for the next. I'm falling behind in writing up my weekend runs but I do intend to get to it at some point, so much to say and so little time to write. Last weekend featured the Blackstrap Heaven - The Other Side of Hell "race", which was about as much fun as anyone can expect to have running. Thanks to Jeff for putting this together!

Sunday we headed down to Boston to pace and support John O'Connor during his Quad Boston run. I got in two 13 mile runs in a 10 hour period between 10:45pm and 8:45am during John's middle two marathons. His motivation and determination was truly inspiring to witness and I was honored to play a small part in helping him achieve his goal.

More on those runs later. For the sake of record keeping here's what I got up to recently on the running front.

Wednesday I ran from work for a little more than one lap of Back Cove. I was feeling good enough to go fairly quick but not for very long, still getting caught up from Sunday night's all-nighter.

time: 33:01
distance: 4.44 miles
pace: 7:26 (7:12 fastest mile)

Thursday I went out for the basic two lap run from work at as easier pace.

time: 57:25
distance: 7.47 miles
pace: 7:41

This weekend I plan to do a short (8 mile) easy (9:30 pace) run at Pineland on Saturday and then run my ass off at the Muddy Moose Trail Race on Sunday. I've heard a report that despite the recent rain we got here on the coast of Maine that the trails in Wolfeboro, NH are pretty dry. This comes as a bit of a dissapointment since the main reason for doing this race is the mud, but I guess it means we all should be logging faster times. The one thing that scares me is the potential for hot weather. I haven't run in temps above 52 degrees inthe past 5 months and it looks like it will be in the high 70's on Sunday. Better than the high of 81 that I saw a few days ago...

We've got a good team of Trail Monsters going to the race this weekend which should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blackstrap Heaven - The Other Side of Hell

There was mud, hills and a lot of bacon. A perfect morning of trail running really.

Thanks once again to Jeff for stepping up at the last minute to organize a great run on some gnarly trails with fantastic post-race bacon festival. Well, I guess it wasn't Jeff's intention to have a bacon festival but that's kinda how it turned out. Sorry to James for meating up your vegetarian griddle, I guess we got carried away.

Since the "race" wasn't starting until 9 and it was only 5 miles I decided to run the course early so I met up with Jim and Carter and we tried to find our way around. I knew roughly where the course went but somehow ended up leading the way in the opposite direction from what Jeff intended. Whatever, it was just a warm-up. Okay, it was a little more than a warm-up. With some big hills the ups were a little demanding and the downs were a little fast so it ended up feeling like more of a proper run than a warm-up. We ended up cutting the course a little bit short and got back sooner than we wanted to which meant we had to stand around in the cool morning air letting everything tighten up while we waited for others to arrive.

time: 44:14
distance: 4.9 miles
pace: 9:01

By 9:00 Jeff, James, Jamie, Ryan, Mindy, Dora, Jon and Erik had arrived and Jeff proceeded with a lengthy course description that seemed to have the effect of making it much less clear about where to go. And no laminated maps this time. Randy also came out to help with the event and I found a perfect job for him to do, manning the adult beverage aid station which was to be located at the top of the toughest climb on the course.

What Jeff failed to mention at the time was his strategy for winning the race:

1. Host a race on your home course with lots of turns and hills so you know where to turn and when to slow down and when to hit the gas 2. Have said race on Boston Marathon weekend so that 1/2 the field is away 3. Only invite friends that train for 100 mile runs, but make sure the race is no more than 5 miles. 4. Be sure to encourage entrants to run the course just before the race to "get to know the course".
5. Run hard and hope #1-4 did their job!

We set off on a short uphill stretch of paved road and the pace felt like an ordinary group run. But when we took the first turn onto trail Jeff really took off and it was clear that he was racing. Carter, James and i did our best to hang on but Jeff pulled away. The only time I got close to him after that was when he stopped to adjust one of the course markings and the bottom of a hill, but he then got away on the up. James and I later agreed that he was intentionally doing this just to mess with us.

The course featured some of the most varied terrain you could hope to find in a 5 mile course. There was narrow single-track through the forest, steep grassy hills, sand and gravel, thick black mud, knee deep puddles, and gnarly rocky terrain. The hills were steep enough that going down you felt on the verge of getting out of control and on the way up you realized it was probably quicker just to walk than try to run.

At the top of the famous "Three Sisters" hill (aka "Three Bitches") Randy was waiting behind a row of dixie cups each half filled with thick, black, Allen's Coffee Brandy. Just before we set off on the run I announced that anyone who took a drink from Randy would be rewarded with a 30 second deduction from their race time. Despite gasping for air when we reached the top of the hill almost everyone took the drink, and I think most people came away saying "what the hell was that?" Not true Mainers I guess.

It was going up this hill that Jeff really gained some distance from me and James started to pull away. I thought I was running pretty well but James just took off like he actually expected to catch Jeff going up. Carter and I were pretty much together going up, I think I just barely beat him to the top but when we started the descent he was able to get his legs to turn over faster than mine as we negotiated the loose rubble, sheer rock faces and water crossings.

James and Jeff were long gone but I was able to catch back up to Carter over the last mile until in the final 1/4 when he realized I was right behind him and put in a little extra kick that I couldn't match.

time: 40:42
distance: 5.08 miles
pace: 8:00

Official Results:

Jeff Walker 39:40
James Demer 39:50
Carter Humphreys 40:37
gIANt Parlin 40:42
Ryan Triffit 43:37
Jamie Anderson 44:18
Jim Dunn 46:57
John Whitehead 49:43
Dora Rex 50:41
Mindy Slovinsky 50:42
Erik Boucher 50:43

Following the run we broke out the grills and had a feast fit for people who had run much father than any of us that day. I brought the fixings for peanut butter and bacon sandwiches which were a pretty big hit, but nothing could compare to Ryan's contribution to the post-race feed. Maple glazed donuts topped with crispy bacon. Brilliant.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Good Weekend Coming

I find myself doing a lot of laps around back Cove this spring. I've really developed a strong dislike of roads lately. For quite a while I have preferred to run on trails but always accepted that road running was a necessary part of getting in decent weekly mileage when I don't have time to get to trails during the week. But lately I can't seem to bring myself to interact with the traffic of Portland in the evenings so I find myself doing most of my runs around Back Cove.

Wednesday I ran from my office after work to meet Mindy for 2 laps. I think it's time for her to hit PLAY.

time: 1:10:14
distance: 8.64 miles
pace: 8:08

Thursday I didn't feel like I had a lot of time or energy so I did a short/quick loop right after work.

time: 27:55
distance: 3.86
pace: 7:13

I probably should have done some kind of warm up and cool down since I came away from that one with shin splints. Not a good idea to go straight from 9 hours of sitting at a desk to fairly fast running with nothing in between.

Both runs were in shorts and t-shirt, but I was surprised to see so many people overdressed going around BC. Lots of tights and jackets and mittens and things. On the shoe front I've been getting a lot of use out of my Brooks Cascadias lately, I think they make a great road shoe, which is what I would typically wear on the Back Cove. I just hope they have enough life left in them to get me through the Boston Marathon in comfort.

About 5 months ago I learned that a friend, John O'Connor was planning to run the Boston Marathon 4 consecutive times in under 24 hours. John has a history of running double Bostons a few times in recent years and when I heard about his plans to do 4 I decided to help him in any way that I could. So Emma and I are heading down to Boston this weekend with fellow Trail Monster Carter to run with and support John on his epic adventure. In addition to testing his own physical limitations John hopes to inspire others to redefine theirs, and he is also doing this to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that supports wounded veterans. John hopes to raise at least $5000 for the WWP and he is very close to reaching this goal. Check out his DONATION SITE.

But before I get to stay up all night running on the roads I get to run through Blackstrap Heaven - the Other Side of Hell. Recently a few fellow Trail Monsters suggested that it would be fun to do a spring version of Jeff's Blackstrap Hell run. So with a moment's notice Jeff put together what I'm sure will be another incredibly fun and incredibly challenging course on Blackstrap Hill. The trails are likely to be a lot drier now than they were in the fall for the Hell run, but hopefully we'll get a little rain over night to make things a little more fun!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mud Season at Twin Brook

Following Saturday's race I was somewhat surprised that I felt as good as I did. And by good I mean that nothing hurt too badly. Given that I wasn't feeling top notch in the weeks before I was expecting to feel worse after the race but my plans of taking it easy seemed to have worked.

For the most part I was happy with the way I ran in the race, although now that I look at my splits I wish I had been able to pick up the pace more at the end. I should know by now that this is how I race, I start out fast thinking I have a shot at running really well, then I progressively slow down. On an out and back course with flat first and last miles like Merrimack I should have run a more even (or negative) split. I guess I still have a few things to learn about racing, like how to go out and run a PR without overdoing it in the first half and fading away in the second. I think I'm worried that if I start out slower I won't be able to pick it up in the end, but I always come away form races like this wondering if an easier pace at the beginning would have left me with more of a kick at the end. I suspect I will never know.

Anyway, I felt good enough on Sunday to go for a long run from my home in Portland to my parent's house in Freeport for Easter dinner. With the Boston Marathon coming up in a week (more on that later) I figured I ought to get a few miles in on the roads. I ended up doing about 1/3 of this run on the sandy shoulder, not that the pavement felt that bad, but dirt just feels better.

I wore my Brooks Cascadia, which at 9 months old are much newer than any of my road shoes and therefore much more confortable. I think I'll wear these for Boston.

time: 2:02:55
distance: 15.23 miles
pace: 8:04

weather: low 40's, clear but very windy

gear: Brooks Cascadia 3, wool socks, short tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, hat, gloves, Nathan HPL #020

That run felt good too, but by Monday I was ready for a day off. On Tuesday I was excited about returning to Twin Brook for a muddy run. There was a good turnout that included, Jim, Shauna, James, Chuck, Erik and Jeff. James mentioned that he was in the mood for speed so I said I'd give it a try. We set off at a pretty conservative pace and then stepped it up moderately over the first 2.5 miles. I then had the idea (inspired by James' suggestion a few weeks ago) for an uphill sprint line across one of the fields. This caught everyone by surprise but James and Chuck took the bait. After the short sprint we dropped the pace back a bit but it was still quicker than before and we kept it there for the next 3 miles until stepping it up again with a sprint finish.

Anyone coming out to run with us at Twin Brook for our Tuesday night run can expect a few more of these sprint lines thrown in.

I didn't wear my Garmin, or any other watch so I don't have any stats for this run. The trail conditions were pretty sloppy, the wettest part was the stream crossig which no one was able to jump fully across, the rest of the trails were pretty soft and muddy. It was nice to see that there were only a few very small patches of snow/ice left in the woods.

weather: low 50's, sunny

conditions: sloppy, muddy, fun

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 290, wool socks, shorts, t-shirt, hat

Monday, April 13, 2009

Merrimack River Trail Race - Quick Report

The weather turned out to be better than expected and my race went as well as I had hoped, and better than I expected. I had hoped to beat my previous time but didn't really expect to, but in the end I finished more than a minute faster than the last time I ran this race two years ago so I'm very happy with the way it went. It would have been better if I had been able pick up the pace a little more over the last two, very flat miles of the course but I just couldn't get my legs to turn over quick enough.

I felt good throughout the race, except from the gasping for air part as I tried to run up some of the incredibly steep hills in the middle section of the race. At one point after turning around at the halfway mark on this out and back course I was running uphill while others were coming down towards me and a woman with a horrified look on her face asked me "Are you okay?" Had I been able to speak at the time I would have explained to her that this is what it looks like when you're going all out and she ought to try it some time.

Results and photos on the CMS Men's Open Racing Team site.

photos above by Jim Johnson and video HERE by Dave Dunham

splits: 6:38, 6:33, 7:29, 7:29, 8:39, 8:40, 7:51, 7:53, 6:57, 6:50

Note that the mile markers are not likely to be accurate and I was not wearing my Garmin

time: 1:15:05
distance: 10.0 miles
pace: 7:30
place: 37/228 - 16%

weather: low 40's, overcast

conditions: mostly dry trails with mud holes and puddles interspersed

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, wool socks, shorts, singlet, Moeben (fleece) sleeves, hat, gloves

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Catching Up

Well, I don't think I did anything too stupid last weekend, or in the rest of the week since then. My body seems to have been in a bit of a funk lately. No major problems but just not feeling on top of my game. Not how I hoped to be feeling going into the busy trail racing season. I guess it all started with that stupid 10 mile road race I ran at the beginning February. Now that I look back I can see a few things I could have done differently which would have allowed me to avoid some of that unpleasant funk. Starting with not doing that road race, particularly in those shoes.

I remember feeling pretty bad after the 10 miler, like way worse than I should have felt for just 10 miles. I assumed it was just down to the hard surface. Then last Thusday I did two laps of Back Cove and felt pretty bad afterwards with totally messed up quads. The next morning I was walking down stairs like a 90 year old and sitting on the toilet was no easy task. It turns out that this was the first time since the 10 miler that I ran on those fast looking shoes. I had been dealing with some various tighnesses throughout my legs during the past few weeks but there's no way that 7.4 miles at a 7:31 pace should hurt this bad.

I have decided not to run in those shoes again. I don't really get it, I do most of my running, and all my long runs in Inov-8's which are low profile, leightweight, minimal cushion, so why should I have so much trouble with a road shoe that has a similar build when I'm not actually running on a road? The Back Cove is a funny surface, it's harder than most trails but it's definitely softer than a paved road.

Following that screw-up of a run I decided that I really need to be smart, take it easy and make sure I'm feeling good going into the Merrimack River Trail Race this weekend. This race has the potential to set me up for a good summer of racing, or totally mess me up for a painful summer of runnng.

Here's a summary of how that taking it easy thing played out:

Friday: hobbling around with a puzzled/pained look on my face

Saturday: Pineland, 8 miles at a very slow pace, not sure how slow but it felt good. Quads were still sore but the run felt like it was loosening things up. Inov-8 Roclite 295 with screws, still icy enough to need them.

Sunday: Portland, 11.25 miles at a little slower than an 8 minute pace. Mostly paved roads, some dirt path. Pace felt easy, some minor lingering tightness. Brooks Cascadia 3, nice and cushy feeling on the road.

Monday: Rest day, feeling good.

Tuesday: Ran from work and met Chuck, Jeff and Jim for laps of Back Cove. Pace seemed a bit quick to be considered taking it easy. No Garmin but Chuck reported a few miles in the the 7:40 range which seems about right for all 8 miles that I did. Brooks Cascadia 3.

Wednesday: Ran from work for just one lap of back Cove. Felt strange to only run for half an hour. Everything felt good. 3.8 miles at a 7:45 pace. Brooks Cascadia 3.

Thursday: Same as the day before but 1 minute faster, and everything felt even better.

So I'm very pleased with the way things have gone this week. I was surprised that what felt like an easy pace actually turned out to be fairly quick. I'm used to long slow runs on gnarly surfaces so anything under 8 minute miles seems quick to me. I feel like I should be able to run hard at the race this weekend and not have to worry about setting myself back.

I'm not really sure what to expect for a time at this race. I ran it two years ago in 1:16:32 finishing in 39th place out of 231 finishers. The course was pretty dry that day if I remember correctly, but it looks like things will be different this year:

Of course I would like to beat my previous time, and I think I'm in good enough shape to do that, but the trail conditions will be the determining factor. Given this forecast my shoe of choice will be the Mudroc 280. I've had good luck with the 290's on muddy trails in the past, pretty much the same shoe, and in 2006 4 of the top five finishers were wearing the 280's so I know that they certainly work for some people on this course. I'm sure there's more to it than the shoes though.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not a Fat Ass Report

I still haven't found the time to write a detailed report of gIANt & Gnarls' Excellent Adventure, but since this is pretty much the only place I'm keeping track of my runs these days I'll skip over that and go on to what I've been doing since then. In a roundabout way.

Near the end of our seventh lap of the Fat Ass last weekend Emma and I realized that we should have been picking up the orange flags marking the course as we went. By this point anyone still running had done the course enough times that they could do it blindfolded, and we decided to cut the final lap short to get to 31 miles, no one really wanted to do 32. So this meant that we picked up flags on our 8th and final trip around the mountain, but we left out a 1 mile stretch in the middle and missed a couple flags. By the time we finished there was no way in hell we were going back out to pick up flags so we left them. Sunday we went back out on the course to get those two remaining flags.

I woke up Sunday with achilles tendons like banjo strings and hobbled around for a while until they loosened up. The walk at Bradbury to get the two flags actually felt pretty good and even though it was raining a little bit it still felt nice to be walking in the woods with Emma. I was amazed at the things I noticed while moving at a slower pace, not that we were going particularly fast during the 50k but when walking you defintely take in more of the scenery.

So Sunday and Monday were proper rest days, minimal activity. By Tuesday I was feeling good enough to run again so I went to Twin Brook for the usual run. Jim, James and Chuck were there and we went around the usual summer route minus the first brook crossing, I had a feeling the water was pretty cold. I didn't bring a watch but estimate that we did close to 6 miles at around a 9:30 pace. Whatever, it felt pretty good. The trails were mostly still covered in packed snow and ice, any patches of bare ground were incredibly soft and totally saturated. A nice mix of terrain. It won't be long before Twin Brook is a full blown mud pit, I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday I thought about running. Does that count for anything? In an effort to allow myself to recover from this 50k I decided another day off would probably do me some good. Generally I was feeling fine but didn't want to get back into training mode too soon like I did after the last one. I've got a few races coming up and I want to be feeling fresh when I get there.

Tonight (Thursday) I ran from work and did two laps of back cove. The roads were wet when I biked to work this morning but by midday things were looking bright and I was really looking forward to getting out in the evening spring sun. No such luck. Late in the afternoon clouds rolled in followed by a thick fog. By the time I hit Back Cove I couldn't see across to the other side. Oh well. The path was full of similarly dissapointed people. I set off at what I thought was an easy pace, everything was feeling good but it turned out to be a little quicker than I had planned. I bumped into a few people I know as I went around so my pace was somewhat varried but I was happy to end the run at 7.4 miles at a 7:31 average pace.

Late in the run I noticed a tighness in my right quad which turned into a big knot right after I stopped running and then got worse as I biked home. The foam roller and stick have helped ease the tightness but a little more work is needed before I run again. I must remind myself not to do anything stupid this weekend.