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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Summary

For the first time in my life as a runner I've actually documented every run for an entire month. Probably not a big deal to most runners, but I've never really cared that much. So what changed? I'm not sure. It may have something to do with training for a big race (WHW) and wanting to better than just finish. But that doesn't totally explain it.

Whatever the reason, here's my stats for the month

Total Miles: 181.21
Total Time: 28:26:16
Average Daily Distance: 5.8 miles
Average Pace: 9:25

What does this mean? Since I've never tracked a whole month of running before it doesn't mean much, but as go through the year it will definitely give me something to compare to if I keep up with it. For now, it's just a starting point for the year.

A few reflections on the month:

Following a good run at the Stone Cat 50 miler in November I really slacked off for the rest of the month and through December, so in January I was determined to kick off my ultra training with a solid month.

Unfortunately I started the month with a very minor ankle sprain, chose to ignore it and it turned into something a little more significant. Not that it slowed me down or held me back much, but it's just not good to start a year with any kind of injury, even a minor one.

One of my goals for the year is to run a marathon or longer distance run at least once every month, I got it in this month in some very difficult conditions at the GAC Fat Ass 50k.

a few cold runs and a messed up ankle

It seems that all the hills and rugged icy trails I've been running lately haven't been too good for my ankle. I've been having minor pain since rolling my right ankle in late December, didn't think much of it at first but now that it's been 5 weeks and it's not getting better I guess I better do something about it.

Here's a little summary of my last few runs:

Friday night I wanted to get out and make sure the local trails were in good enough shape for the Saturday morning run. I was going to just do about 5 miles (round trip) to the top of Leighton Hill and back home but when I got there I decided to mix it up a little bit and make a loop out of the run. I was feeling good and it wasn't as cold as I was expecting, and the trails were in pretty good shape. There was some running water in a few places and it was interesting trying to find good routes across the thin ice at the stream crossings, but I managed to keep my feet mostly dry.

It was a beautiful night to be out running, full moon and a clear sky, still enough snow on the ground to catch the light and allow me to run without my headlamp on for a little while. My right achilles was sore at the beginning of the run but it loosened up and felt fine for most of the run.

time: 53:19
distance: 6.0 miles
pace: 8:53

Saturday morning Jim was the only one to show up for the group run. It was cold, like 5 degrees or something. I think everyone else was saving themselves for tomorrow's Fat Ass run at Blaine's. I had originally hoped to get in close to 10 miles but neither Jim or I were feeling particularly ambitious so we decided to save the effort for Sunday and just did a short run.

The trails were in okay shape, everything was firmly frozen but there were a lot of icy irregularities that were taking a toll on my ankle. Things never really loosened up and I was glad to stop when we did. No significant pain but it just didn't feel that good to be running.

time: 43:44
distance: 4.59 miles
pace: 9:31

On Sunday Blaine was hosting a Fat Ass 50k to cap off the 1 More Mile For Sunshine challenge he'd been running all month. Each day of the month he was running one more mile than the day before, and made it all the way to January 24th before nasty conditions and the possibility of injury kept him from finishing the last week of the challenge. Luckily Blaine was able to bounce back after taking a few days off and planned to run the whole 31 miles on January 31st, I hoped to join him for the full distance but suspected before I even started that my troubled ankle wouldn't hold up for the more than 5 hours it would take to run 50k.

There was a good turnout of Trail Monsters for the event and we planned to collectively run the 196 miles that Blaine was unable to finish in the last week of his challenge. Between 18 of us we were able to cover 229 miles. Blaine, Jamie, and Danielle wrote up reports of the run, and as i write this (4 days after the run) I don't have the enthusiasm to elaborate. I ended up getting in 21 miles in some very cold weather, on trails that weren't always easy so I was pretty happy just to get the mileage in. I stopped (far) short of the 31 mile mark, mostly because of lack of energy, my ankle wasn't that bad, although it was tight the entire time and I did worry that if i pushed myself much further I would end up doing some real damage.

It was a good run, with great company. Thanks to Blaine and Erin for hosting a great event.

time: 3:28:25
distance: 20.94
pace: 9:57

Following Sunday's long run my ankle and achilles were sore enough that I decided to take three days off and to take a more aggressive path to treatment. I'd also been having some plantar fasciitis-like pain so Jamie let me borrow his night splint. I've been wearing that in the evenings, the strassburg sock overnight, icing, ibuprophen, stretching... I've finally decided to pay a visit to Dr. Raymond to see if he can sort me out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Better than expected

The Leighton Hill Lollipop is becoming my favorite route to run from home these days, tonight was my third time running it in 8 days. I've finally refined it to 1.7 miles of road at the beginning and end with a 4.3 mile trail loop in the middle.

It was still unseasonably warm this evening which made for very comfortable running, and despite the rain we had earlier in the week the trails were in very runnable shape. I knew there was going to be ice on the trails, but the roads were dry so I set off from home wearing road shoes and carrying my screwed trail shoes in a backpack. This was my first time running with Ice Spikes in my shoes instead of sheet metal screws, I must say that I was very impressed. I'll give a full review once I've had a chance to get a few more miles on them, but for the 4.3 miles I ran in them tonight they provided incredible grip on hard ice on steep hills.

Despite postholing a dozen times or more, and having frozen ledges of ice breakaway beneath me I still managed to move along at a pretty good pace. The downhills were very fast, at least for icy night time running, and I was able to run the flats at a consistently quick pace between the convulsive interruptions of postholing. As long as it stays cold enough this loop should remain runnable until we get another decent snowfall and more snowmobile traffic on top of that.

As nice as it is to be able to run with a little exposed skin this time of year and not have to worry about frost bite this springlike weather is a terrible tease, because we're still only in the first half of winter and surely there will be a lot more snow to come.

time: 1:05:50
distance: 7.71 miles
pace: 8:32

weather: upper 30's, cloudy

conditions: dry road, packed snowmobile trails, ice, dirt, puddles, mud

gear: Saucony Grid Sinister, Inov-8 Roclite 295 with Ice Spikes, Smart Wool socks, short tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, buff, gloves, Camelbak (for carrying shoes)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shorts in January?

Yup. It was that warm tonight.

After a crazy amount of rain (for late January) I knew that the conditions would be pretty nasty at Twin Brook, but I hadn't been able to make it to a TMR TNR in many weeks so I wasn't about to let bad conditions hold me back when I finally had the time to make it there. Erik and Jim were the only others to show up, and we tried to make the best of it despite the conditions. We started out by heading towards Val Halla with the intention of running the snowmobile trails, but one of the Brooks was severely flooded and it didn't seem like a good idea to try crossing it. We realized that the ski trails were completely trashed (for skiers) so decided just to run them. Turns out they weren't any good for running either, lots of deep slush and icy water.

About two miles into the run, just after exiting the A loop I looked up and had absolutely no idea where we were. I've run these trails so many times, I always know where I am but for some reason I was completely disoriented. I guess I'd been away for too long. Hopefully I'll be able to get back into making it there every week.

time: 45:15
distance: 4.5 miles
pace: 10:04

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Double

Sunday I decided to join Emma for a run, wrapping up her first week of post "stress reaction" recovery which included four 15 minute runs. Whooppee! Having been injured since Pineland in May I don't know how she has managed to stay sane, and now that she is running pain free I don't know how she manages to hold herself to just 15 minutes at a time. Anyway, it was nice to run with her again, even if it was just a short one around the neighborhood. We did manage to work a little hill into it:

distance: 1.75 miles
pace: 9:08

Later in the day, after it got dark I went out for another run, this time hoping to get in a few more miles on the local snowmobile trails before the rain hit. Although I could have got the run in during daylight hours I purposely waited until after dark, as park of my training for the WHW I want to get in a fair amount of night running on rugged terrain.

I decided to run pretty much the same route as I did on Wednesday, but do the loop portion in reverse so I could run up the Three Bitches. 2 miles of road, 1/4 mile of dirt road then a 3 mile loop on snowmobile trails. On the way back I discovered an alternate route that replaces 1/2 mile of road with more snowmobile trails. Sweet.

There are some excellent hills on this route and a nice variety of terrain, although it's pretty much smoothed out by the snowmobiles. When I reached the top of Leighton Hill on the way out there were three snowmobilers there, just cracking open some beers and I think I caught them by surprise. I thanked them for making such nicely runnable trails, but being dressed in tights I decided not to hang around too long.

The rain started before I finished the run but it was still in the mid-30's and very comfortable winter running weather.

time: 1:06:05
distance: 7.45 miles
pace: 8:52

weather: mid 30's, a few rain showers

conditions: wet roads, nicely packed snowmobile trails

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, Smart Wool socks, tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, gloves, buff

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Second Time Slower

Today I returned to Bradbury with my fellow Trail Monster for a repeat of the 15 mile loop we ran last week. Although the weather forecast called for a rather high temperature today, at 8 this morning it was particularly cold, and it turns out that Bradbury is in a freakishly cold spot. I think my thermometer at home said 17 when I left, but the one in my car said -1 when I got to Bradbury, and Sara's said -2 (thanks for letting me steal your photo).

I was a little worried about being underdressed with just two long sleeve shirts, but figured I'd just run a little faster to keep warm. That actually worked pretty well, especially when combined with the loose snow that was harder work to get through this week. Despite a lot of traffic during the week the snow we have on the ground right now doesn't compress well and we were sinking and slipping a lot more.

Jim, Alan and Blaine joined me on the way out to the power lines, with Erik and Shauna right behind, and Erin, Sara and Christine a little further back. Alan and Blaine were the only ones to continue on with me to do the full 15 mile loop.

When we hit the power lines at 5 miles I decided to take a drink from my hydration pack, but not surprisingly the exposed hose was frozen solid. I usually blow a little air back into the hose after taking a drink but the cold temperature caught me off guard and the hose froze before I ever took a drink. I decided to reposition my pack between my two layers of clothing in hopes that the trapped body heat would thaw the hose but this ended up taking another 5 miles to take effect. Despite the frigid temperature and occasional windy stretch of trail it was a gorgeous day to be outside and we had all warmed up enough to be comfortable.

One interesting feature of today's run was the large number of snowmobiles that we encountered. Over the years I've learned to think of snowmobilers as late sleepers since we rarely see any before noon, but today we must have seen at least 15 of them between 9:30 and 11:00. There was a stretch of about 5 miles that we ran today which had actually been properly groomed by the snowmobilers and looked good enough for skate skiing which made for great running.

But there were also sections that were less-well-traveled and much more difficult to run through, like the last 4 miles. Still fun running, but more work and my hip flexors were a little unhappy. The worst of today's running was still easier than any of the Fat Ass a few weeks ago and my hips didn't feel nearly as bad as they did after that run.

Despite being slower than last weeks time I feel like today's run was a better workout because of the conditions. Although I would like to run this loop faster at some point I'm really not that concerned about speed right now, the long slow runs are good for base building.

time: 2:27:10
distance: 15.08 miles
pace: 9:46

weather: cold, sunny, breezy

conditions: varying degrees of packed snowmobile trails, loose to firm

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, Wright Socks, tights, 2x long sleeve shirts, gloves, mittens, buff, Nathan HPL #20

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snow and Hills

I live next to a hill. Not a crazy big one, but a pretty good sized one. Over the past few days I've explored a few different ways to run up and down it.


I had originally hoped to get out on the local snowmobile trails, but I was running out of time so I opted for a short road loop. I usually run this in 40-45 minutes and that's about all the time I had for running today. 3 miles up, than about 2.5 down. I wasn't pushing the pace, just going nice and comfortable on the way up and cruising on the way down.

time: 42:42
distance: 5.6 miles
pace: 7:38


Again my actual run differed from what I had planned, no Twin Brook for me, for about the 6th week in a row. I did manage to get out for a run after work on the snowy roads around home. I knew that with the recent snow there wasn't much chance of recent traffic on the snowmobile trails, and given the road conditions I didn't want to put myself amongst traffic. So I picked a relatively flat out and back on very quiet roads, of course the quiet roads were also the ones that had received the least attention from snow plows so there was a low of new snow on the roads and it was still coming down. On the way back I was getting bored of the flatness so I did a few repeats up a short road that goes about halfway up Blackstrap Hill. The conditions didn't lend themselves to any kind of quick running but the snow added a little extra difficulty to make the run more of a workout. The first three miles don't look flat on the profile, but they are.

time: 44:08
distance: 5.5 miles
pace: 8:01


I was anxious to get out on the trails, assuming that there would have been snowmobile traffic since the yesterdays snow. My route to the trails included 1 mile clear road, 1 mile of road with about 1" of snow and slush, then 1/4 mile of unplowed dirt road, all uphill. Once I hit the trails it was a short climb to the top of Leighton Hill and then a steep descent down the Three Bitches which is a lot of fun in soft snow. There had been a few snowmobiles out recently but now enough to make the trails well packed. I plodded along a flat stretch of powerlines for a while looking for my turn uphill which seemed to take forever to arrive, this was my first time running this route in the dark and on snow covered trails so everything looked different. Just as I was about to give up and turn back I found the turn that headed uphill through the treefarm. This trail is tough in the best of conditions but in 16" of snow with only one pass from a snowmobile it's damn slow going.

time: 1:10:17
distance: 7.36 miles
pace: 9:33

It's nice living at the bottom of a hill. All my runs have an easy finish.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Beautiful Loop

The most perfect winter running conditions brought out a pretty big group to this Saturday's run at Bradbury. Valerie, Rick, Erin, Christine and Sara did an out and back while Jamie, Blaine, Nate, Lily (+ Echo), Jim, Erik (+ Django) and Randy joined me for a 15 mile loop. This has got to be one of my favorite routes to run, and because of certain rivers that need to be crossed it's only available to run in the winter. There had been plenty of snowmobile traffic lately and despite the warm weather from the day before any potential wet spots were frozen solid.

The temperature was actually colder than most of us expected at the start and I was a little worried about being underdressed, but it didn't take long for the temperature to get up into the 30's and I think it even hit 40 by the time we finished the run. I ran the last few miles with my hat off and sleeves rolled up.

Django leading the way

Tracks across the corn field 3.5 miles into the loop

A piece of machinery trying to fly out of the sand pit

7.25 miles into the loop, Chandler Brook not looking too solid...

"Rock Solid" as Jamie said

Crossing Lawrence Road, 8 miles into the loop

Water break for the dogs

Powerlines paralleling Allen Road

Steep climb at 11 miles after crossing Elmwood Road

We explored a "new" section of trail on the shady side of the powerlines and missed one of my favorite hills :(

We made a "wrong turn" following the well-travelled snowmobile trails heading back into the park and missed a good hill (South Ridge of Bradbury), but we still had plenty of good hills on this run.

time: 2:13:25
distance: 15.11 miles
pace: 8:50

weather: low 20's to upper 30's, mostly clear sky

conditions: the most perfect packed snowmobile trails, snow a bit thin in places

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, Smart Wool socks, short tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, 2x thin gloves, buff (off at end), Nathan HPL #20

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back Yard Hill

Shortly after finishing the GAC Fat Ass on Saturday I started coming down with a major cold that has kept me from running for the past few days. Today was the first day that I felt good enough to get out and I was anxious to check out some of the local snowmobile trails. My hip flexors were pretty sore after the race so taking a few days to let them recover was probably a good idea.

I chose an all uphill route on the way out, about 1.5 miles of paved road, a little dirt road and then onto snowmobile trails to the top of Leighton Hill which is part of Blackstrap Hill. The trails were nicely packed and easy to run in the dark. This was my first time on top of this hill in real darkness and I was surprised at how much of the "bright lights" of Portland were visible, a nice surprise actually.

My right achilles was a little tight/sore on the way out but felt fine on the way back. This has been going on since December 26th, not a major concern but I suppose it's not going to go away on it's own. Perhaps it's time to start addressing it rather than ignoring it so it doesn't turn into something bigger.

time: 53:18
distance: 6:16
pace: 8:39

weather: low 20's, clear sky, light breeze

conditions: mostly dry roads, packed snowmobile trails

gear: Brooks Cascadia 3, Smart Wool socks, tights, long sleeve shirt, windbreaker, buff, mittens, headlamp, belly lamp

Saturday, January 9, 2010

GAC Fat Ass - Marathon

One of my running goals for 2010 is to do a marathon distance or longer run each month of the year. My first opportunity to get things off to a good start this year was at the GAC Fat Ass 50k this Saturday. Based on the relatively low mileage I'd been doing during the month of December I pretty much figured that doing the whole 50k distance would be out of the question, but I hoped to be able to pull off a marathon.

Ever since I got into ultra running a few years ago I've felt that mental strength is as important as physical strength when it comes to long distance running. The problem with taking time away from long distance training is that the mind stays strong while the body gets weak. I knew that I could probably push myself around the 10k course 5 times if I really wanted to, but what kind of damage was I willing to risk putting my undertrained body through? There have been a few times (like at the VT100) when I knew I was hurting myself but decided that the end result was worth it. The limping and vomiting passes, but the buckle lasts forever. This Saturday was not one of those times, and the last thing I wanted to do was come away from a long training run with an injury that would set me back as I get ready for my big race of the year, the West Highland Way Race.

Back to the task at hand. I drove down to Topsfield with Trail Monsters Erik and Jamie, and once down there we met TM's Kevin, Nate, George and Ann, as well as many other friendly faces from the New England ultra scene. The temperature had warmed considerably from when I got up this morning, but was still below 20 degrees. With a bright sunny sky I wasn't concerned about the temperature, and since these trails usually receive a lot of foot traffic I wasn't too concerned about conditions.

Early in the first lap with John (of 4x Boston Marathon fame)

It turned out that there hadn't been much foot traffic since the last snow in the area, and it had been cold enough that the snow didn't compact under what little traffic there had been. Instead of packing the snow as our group of 50 or so runners went along we just churned it up. The consistency was like sugar slipping around under our feet and running required constant attention from all the small muslces that rarely get used in "ordinary" running. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, but more work than I was expecting.

With each successive lap the conditions seemed to get worse and as a result my times for each 10k lap got progressively slower:

Lap 1: 1:01
Lap 2: 1:03
Lap 3: 1:07
Lap 4: 1:11

My original goal was to (just barely) break an hour for each lap, but given the conditions and my level of training over the past 6 weeks I'm not disappointed with the way things turned out. Actually by the 4th lap there were some parts of the trail where the snow, rather than getting packed down, was getting displaced and leaves were getting turned up from below. I suppose the conditions may have been "better" on that 4th lap but I was tired enough that picking up the pace was out of the question.

Somewhere in the middle of the 4th lap I started to think about stopping at the end of this one, at 24.8 miles. That's what I did last year and I regret not extending it to the full marathon at the time. That extra 1.4 miles doesn't really make a difference in terms of physical training but I think it means a lot mentally. As I came into the aid station at the end of that lap everyone there assumed I would be headed out for another 10k loop, and I actually thought about it for a moment. But I knew there would be suffering and a long recovery period after this run so I decided to play it safe and headed out on the short loop to bring my run up to 26.2 miles.

To my pleasant surprise the shin splints that had plagued me during a run just two days before were not an issue at all. This pretty much confirmed that I had been doing too much road running at too fast a pace given my level of fitness right now. On my third lap I could start to feel my hip flexors complaining a little bit, and by the end of the run they were pretty sore. Apart from that everything seems to be in good working order.

time: 4:45:07
distance: 26.2 miles
pace: 10:52

weather: low 20's, clear sky, light breeze

conditions: some packed snow, mostly loose sugar-like snow

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, smart wool socks, tights, long sleeve shirt, t-shirt, Moeben Sleeves, thin gloves, mittens, buff, Nathan HPL #20

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shin Splints

Damn it!

Ever since Stone Cat in early November I haven't been doing much running. Until last week. I didn't really appreciate how little I had been doing until I made a conscious decision to move back into training mode, and even though I didn't run a lot last week - 36 miles - I now find myself with an "overuse injury". WTF?!

Things didn't feel great running home from work last night, minor achilles tightness, minor shin splints. Tonight I ran from work and did just one lap of Back Cove but I was really feeling the shin splints. I tried not to let it slow me down, and my pace was pretty good considering the fairly icy conditions, but by the time I finished my shins were screaming.

I wonder if this has more to do with the road miles I'm doing these days, not enough trail in my life right now. Maybe a snowy trail 50k this weekend will get me sorted out?

time: 28:59
distance: 3.85 miles
pace: 7:32

weather: low 30's, clear sky

conditions: hard packed snow and ice

gear: Roclite 315 with screws, Smart Wool socks, tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, mittens, buff

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

10k Commute

I missed the TMR TNR last night so I decided to get two runs in today by running to and from work. Interestingly (or not) it works out to be exactly 10km from door to door. Despite the fact that I have always felt betting running in the evenings than first thing in the morning every time I have run to and from work I've been slower coming home. This may have something to do with the elevation profile, mostly up coming home. The roads were in pretty crappy shape, lots of ice and gnarly-icy-crusty-snowy irregularities. Screw shoes help but the exposure to clean pavement wears the screws down quickly. As I up my training over the next month I'd like to run to and from work at least once a week. We'll see.

Getting to Work

time: 48:42
distance: 6.2 miles
pace: 7:51

Coming Home

time: 50:15
distance: 6.2 miles
pace: 8:06

weather: low 30's both times

conditions: ice and crusty snow on roads

gear: Brooks Cascadia 3 with screws, Smart Wool socks, tights, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, buff, mittens, EMS Mantis pack (carrying a change of clothes and lunch)