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, February 24, 2008

Nary a Cloud in the Sky

Today was a beautiful day for a run in the snow. In case you didn't already know that we brought our camera along for our run so we could prove it.

We had originally planned to run 16 miles on Saturday, but since the conditions didn't really allow us to get in that many we headed back to Bradbury Mountain State Park on Sunday for an 8 mile out-and-back along the course we worked out for the upcoming Fat Ass 50k to be held at the park on Sunday, March 2nd.

The snowmobiles had been out since our previous run and it looked as though most trails had been dragged with some type of groomer which made the surface great for running, still a little soft underfoot but better than what we were running in yesterday.

With a cloudless sky it didn't take long for temps to warm up, good that we both brought plenty of water and Endurolytes. Emma loves the CamelBak Magic hydration pack she bought at LL Bean last week: great fit, stable while running, plenty of storage for food, gels, camera, extra layers etc.

We arrived at the park about 20 minutes after Blaine and Josh had left for their 20 mile run. We had hoped to be able to get there in time to run a few miles with these fast guys but getting out of bed proved more difficult that we had anticipated this morning. Throughout our run we were following their footprints in the snow, Blaine wears the same Inov-8 shoes as me so it's easy to spot his tracks.

About 7 miles into our run we bumped into Josh and Blaine who were headed on their way back to the park after going out for 8 miles. We stopped and chatted for a while in a nice sunny spot on the power line trail. Josh was still showing evidence of the recently removed wisdom teeth but luckily the drugs he's on keep him running. Blaine warned me about a dangerous area of soft snow that was coming up where he sunk in to his waist. Despite the warning I think I still managed to find it, but at least Emma saw me go down and found a better way around.

At 8 miles we turned around and made our way back the way we had come. By now the sun was getting pretty high and it was really warming up. If I had closed my eyes it would have felt just like running on a sandy beech. We both stripped off some layers, chugged some water and enjoyed the best of winter running.

What fun we had. And we even managed a negative split!

Elevation profile:

time: 2:36:20
distance: 16.16 miles
pace: 9:40
heart rate: 145/174

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Test Run - Bradbury 10 Mile Loop


I was surprised on Friday when I looked out the window and saw snow coming down, I'm usually pretty good about keeping up with the weather forecast before a long run but I guess I missed this one coming. My first thought was: "I hope this stops before dark so the snowmobiles have a chance to get out and groom the trails for us." They didn't. But Pownal only received about 3 inches of light fluffy snow so it turned out to be fine for running in with screw shoes, and not too bad without them either.

My plan for the day was to attempt a 10 mile loop that I worked out this week during my "lunch break" at work. Pretty much all of our runs at Bradbury have been out-and-backs with only a few very short loops thrown in, unfortunately we're restricted to where the snowmobiles go and we haven't found any nice big loops. A handful of us are planning to do a 50k run from the park on Sunday, March 2nd so I wanted to see if it would be possible to do a multi-loop course that would allow us to return to our cars a few times during the run to refill water bottles and take in food that we don't want to carry with us. The loop I came up with worked on Google Maps but there were 3 miles of it that I had never run before and didn't know what to expect.

At about 8:15 Emma, Chuck and I set off from the park heading north on Route 9. A passing truck covered us all in a spray of slush that reminded us why we like to run trails and not roads. Thankfully we were only on Rt 9 for 1/2 mile before turning left onto Minot Road which is unpaved, barely plowed and runs like a trail. Another 1/2 mile uphill and the road ended at a massive snow bank, just like Google said it would. On the other side of the snow bank there was evidence of where the road used to go but it was clear, even with a foot of snow on the ground, that the road that used to be there was severely eroded. I had hoped to find snowmobile tracks along this section but no such luck, we pushed on through the rugged terrain post-holing most of the way for the next half mile down a severe slope (see elevation profile below). At times the snow was up to my knees, occasionally deeper, and a few times Emma had to pull herself out of snowy pits that were waist deep.

At the bottom of the hill we came out on Upper Minot Road, also unpaved, which at one time was connected to Minot Road. There was a noticeable degradation in the standard of living on this part of the road that made me wonder if the discontinuity in Minot Road was a deliberate attempt at keeping a certain type of person out. I hope it wasn't us.

Upper Minot brought us to Lawrence Road at 2.25 miles into the run and it was another 1/2 mile before we reached the familiar power line trail that we have spent so much time running on in previous weeks. We soon came along Chandler Brook, the last time I was here (December 15th) water was flowing freely and I had to find a detour through someone's back yard. The brook was holding snow so I assumed it was frozen but proceeded with extreme caution to test the surface. This is when Chuck came flying past and crossed the ice fearlessly and flawlessly, then Emma and I decided it was safe to cross ourselves.

The next 2.5 miles were fairly flat and very runnable and we followed what looked like coyote tracks on the trail for quite a while. At 5.7 miles we turned off of the power line trail onto the 5 mile stretch of trail that leads back into the park and forms the beginning and end of most of our runs. Not much to say about the next four miles apart from UGH! Four miles uphill in 3 inches of powdery snow starts to wear you down. By the time we run this next week I'm sure the snow will be well packed and the hills will be easier to take, at least on the first two times around. Once we were back in the park there was one last climb and then the last mile of the run was a gradual downhill.

All said and done the loop worked out to be just a bit over 10.5 miles, not too far off 1/3 of a 50k!

time: 1:46:33
distance: 10.58 miles
pace: 10:04
heart rate: 157/181

Next weekend I plan to go out on Saturday with my snowshoes and work on blazing a trail through the Minot Road "connector" to make the trail more runnable on Sunday for the 50k.

So if anyone wants to come along for 10.5, 21, or 31.5 miles join us at 7:00 am at Bradbury Mountain State Park on Sunday, March 2nd.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Messy Twin Brook

For the first time during a run at Twin Brook this year mud made an appearance. This Tuesday Emma and I found some of the most varied trail conditions we've come across in a long time. Despite the recent warm temps we anticipated ice and both wore our screwed Inov-8's, and were later grateful that we did.

The groomed ski trails in the fields were mostly hard packed snow but we came across several long stretches of ice that would have sent the unscrewed runner careening off the trail. When we came out by the baseball and football fields on the northern side we discovered a huge area of construction with deep muddy tire tracks and big ditches half full of water. Determined not to have our run disrupted we romped through the construction site and made our way back onto the snowy trails beyond.

When we arrived at the second of the twin brook crossings we found the concrete bridge that normally spans the brook below had collapsed under the force of high waters. This made crossing a lot more interesting than usual, especially since my headlamp died and the two of us were sharing the light of one. The next stretch of trail hadn't seen much action lately since the grooming machines and most people couldn't get across the collapsed bridge.

Lately I've found that when I'm running in adverse conditions, especially with Emma, my mind turns to the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run where I'll be running this summer with Emma as my pacer. Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation where I doubt my strength or lack motivation I think about how these things are all part of preparing for the challenge of running 100 miles. If I can't get through a 6 mile run how can I run 100? So we grit our teeth and we push on through whatever the trail throws at us.

time: 55:27
distance: 6.0 miles
pace: 9:14
heart rate: 149/172

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bradbury Double

Emma and I returned to Bradbury this morning for our second run of the weekend. Saturday's run left us with enough that we felt pretty good about attempting 10 miles and I wanted to check out some of the trails that we skipped the day before.

We started out on the Northern Loop Trail which had received plenty of snowmobile traffic and was in great shape for running, better than any of the trails we were on yesterday. When we branched off onto the Tote Road Trail we found ourselves on the trail less traveled and really had to work hard for the next mile up to the summit of Bradbury Mountain. The view from the top was well worth the effort and we paused for a moment to soak in the sun and enjoy the view. This was one of the clearest days I can remember on the summit, we could see out to Casco Bay and I think I could make out Moshier Island off the coast of Freeport.

For the descent we took the Northern Loop and Ski Trails which allowed us to clock a good fast mile, then across the road onto the Knight Woods Trail and back into more difficult terrain. From there we came out onto the Snowmobile Trail which was well traveled and provided a more consistent running surface. The hills and varied terrain meant that our mile splits were all over the place from 8:57 to 10:27, but the effort felt pretty consistent throughout.

Emma remarked how great it was to see so many people using the park and the trails that lead out of it. During this run we came across snowshoers, skiers, walkers (with crampons), children, dogs, snowmobilers, and even mountain bikers. The warmer temps (23 average during our run) really seemed to bring people out of the woodwork, it was another great day for winter running.

time: 1:36:45
distance: 10.24
pace: 9:27
heart rate: 146/170

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Black Toe of Honor

Or is that the black toe of poorly fitting shoes? I’ll go with the former. Last weeks run at Bradbury left me with a black toenail which luckily didn’t bother me during the run but was pretty painful afterwards, and today was no different.

Once again we had snow during the week, and then rain followed by a predicted drop in temperature that had me concerned about the conditions for another long run at Bradbury. Emma planned to join us for this run and convinced me to tough it out no matter how bad it sounded. As it turned out the snowmobiles had once again groomed the trails for us, the average temperature was 14 degrees, wind speed of 11.6 mph which made it feel like 0 Fahrenheit. Not too bad.

Emma and I started the run with James, Jamie, Erik, Blaine and Josh and we found the trails to be in great condition for running. I set off in the lead and before long Josh caught up to me and I found myself increasing the pace a little too much. I was relieved when Blaine joined the front of the group and I let the two of them speed off ahead while I settled back into an appropriate pace for the targeted 18 miles (Note: speed means anything faster than 9 minute miles). It was great to find that we were able to run 9-9:30 miles without feeling like we were killing ourselves in the process. Thankfully the first 5 miles of the run were in pretty thick forest which kept out the wind. When we got to the power line trail at 5 miles Blaine, Josh, Jamie and Erik turned back, Emma, James and I headed off under the power lines into the wind.

The rain and warmer temps from the few days before had left a few streams flowing unfrozen which added another challenging element to the run. At the first crossing James discovered a single plank bridge by breaking through the ice immediately next to it resulting in a wet foot. Despite significantly sub-freezing temps James never complained about being cold. Yeah wool! At 9 miles we turned around and made our way back the way we came. About 11 miles into the run we had to re-cross another stream, but this time it was a more difficult uphill jump and both James and Emma ended up soaking their feet. But not once in the 7 miles remaining did either one complain about cold feet. Yeah bad-ass Trail Monsters!

time: 2:49:58
distance: 18.0 miles
pace: 9:25
heart rate: 161/182

After the run Emma and I stopped by Chuck’s house to pick up a pair of Vibram Five Finger “shoes” that he’s letting my try out. I experimented with barefoot running last summer, the wrong way, so I’m anxious to take these things out for a run to see how smart people run barefoot. I think I’ll let it warm up to just above freezing before I try that out though.

Next stop was LL Bean. James had informed us about a sale they are having on winter gear, seems a bit early to get rid of all that stuff since I’m sure there are plenty of cold days ahead, but whatever. Emma picked up a new CamelBak which will no doubt come in handy as she ups her mileage in preparation for the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50 Miler. The Fuel Belt she currently uses really only carries enough water and nutrition for about 2.5-3 hours of running, less if it’s warm out. There’s something great about heading out for a run with 50 ounces of water and few thousand calories strapped to your back. We also picked up a few pairs of running tights that were on sale.

Our final stop on the way home was at Bruce’s Burritos in Yarmouth. What better way to refuel after a long run than a freshly made burrito the size of my foot?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shoe Review - Brooks Cascadia 3

My search for the right shoes to wear for my first 100 mile run coming up this summer has lead me to the Brooks Cascadia 3. Although I love running in Inov-8’s I think that I need something with more cushioning to get through 100 miles, and seeing that a lot of the Vermont 100 course is on dirt roads many people recommend using road shoes. I opted for somewhat of a hybrid shoe, although Brooks calls the Cascadia “100-percent pure trail running shoe” I’d call it “60-percent trail running shoe, 40-percent road running shoe”. I ended up buying a half size larger than I would normally wear, to allow for some foot swelling after running all day in late-July heat in Vermont.

Yesterday’s run at Bradbury left me with a black toenail that was still throbbing when I got up Sunday morning so the idea of running at all wasn’t very appealing at first. But when I remembered my roomy new shoes they seemed like just the thing for a recovery run on the roads and a good way to get them broken in. I had considered wearing them for my long Saturday run but since I’d never worn Brooks before it seemed like too big a risk. I did wear my first pair of Inov-8 Roclite 315’s on a 26 mile trail run fresh out of the box last year and they felt great.

The toe box in the Cascadias is very roomy, but the midfoot and heel feel very secure so my feet feel well connected to the shoe and the ground without exacerbating the swollen toe. I can imagine the potential for toes feeling pretty beaten up after 70 miles of running so this was a good sign that I was able to run pain-free. I also liked the fact that despite being a well-cushioned shoe they still feel pretty flat compared to many road and trail shoes that have built-up heels. Initially these shoes aren’t as flexible as I would like, but I’m sure that will change once I get some more miles on them. I’ve noticed that many trail shoes add rigid “protective” plates in the soles which often make them stiffer than I’d like, but the Cascadias have a fairly simple structure that should allow the foot to work naturally on uneven terrain.

Today I only did about 8 miles on the road in these shoes, but hopefully I’ll be getting in many trail miles with them including 100 in Vermont.

time: 1:04:45
distance: 8.23 miles
pace: 7:52
heart rate: 160/171

Horde of Locusts

I recently wrote out a schedule of long runs leading up to the Bull Run Run 50 Miler that I’ll be running on April 12th. This Saturday I planned to run for 4 hours or 24 miles, whichever would come later. Also in the plan was to try to reach the Androscoggin River from Bradbury Mt. State Park since I discovered that the 21 mile run we did two weeks ago brought us to within two miles of the river. As the weekend approached and the snow piled up I became a bit concerned that I may have to use snowshoes on this run which would slow the pace and compromise our ability to cover the distance in a reasonable time.

I arrived at Bradbury about 20 minutes before 8 to give myself enough time to recce the trails and refine my run plan before anyone else showed up. I could tell right away that the trails within the park hadn’t received any traffic since the snowfall so I strapped on my snowshoes and headed out on the Knight Woods Trail in hopes of finding snowmobile tracks. No luck in the first half of the Knight Woods loop but when I got to the Snowmobile Trail I found that it lived up to its name, there must have been a contingent of sledders out on Friday night after the snow stopped coming down and the trail looked great. I completed a 1.5 mile loop by coming back down the Link Trail (virgin snow) to the parking lot where Jamie, Erik and Blaine were waiting. I removed my snowshoes, strapped on my hydration pack and we headed out with hopes of reaching the Androscoggin.

Even with some snowmobile traffic the trails were noticeably softer than our last run here two weeks ago and we were moving about 1 minute per mile slower in the 10:00-10:30 range, but I was just glad that we didn’t have to break trail through the 10” of fresh powder. At 5 miles we popped out onto the power line trail and paused for a moment to catch our breath and use the bathroom facilities. Blaine announced that he was going out for 4 more miles before he would turn back, I guessed that we had about 7 miles to go before we reached the river. So off we went on the snowmobile superhighway under the power lines that were buzzing in the cold like a horde of locusts.

As we checked off the miles it seemed that the level of snowmobile traffic had diminished thus making the running progressively more difficult. When Blaine turned at about 9 miles into the run we pretty much saw the last of well packed trails. For the next mile and a half we were following the tracks of only one snowmobiler who really sucked at creating running trails, I vowed that if I found the person who created these tracks I would kick his ass. We post-holed along for a while but eventually decided that this energy depleting “running” wasn’t going to leave us with anything for the long run back if we did reach the river, so we turned around and headed back the way we came. Sadly, we weren’t going to reach the river this week. At this point we were clocking splits at over 13 minutes per mile and it wasn’t much fun any more.

When we eventually got back onto the well-packed trails I attempted to pick up the pace but wasn’t capable of doing better than a 12 minute mile. By the time we’d been running for 3 hours (16.5 miles) temps had warmed up enough that the snow was getting even softer underfoot and thus even more difficult to run in. A few times during the run back we were passed by snowmobiles but they seemed to have the effect of fluffing the snow rather than packing it down, which added even more of a challenge to the mostly uphill return route.

Once back on park property I knew I was nearly finished with this run so I really did manage to pick up the pace and came to close to running a few 11 minute miles! Now back on the Snowmobile Trail (that is actually the name of a particular trail in the park) I knew that I would be faced with a decision soon, take the 0.3 mile Link Trail back to the parking lot or the 1.1 mile Knight Woods Trail. Doesn’t seem like a really big difference, unless you’ve been running for more than 4 hours in the snow. I surprised myself by declaring out loud: “Fuck it! I’m going the long way.”

While I was a little disappointed not to have made it to the Androscoggin and not get in a full 24 miles, I did get in well over 4 hours of running in some pretty tough conditions. I was also happy that when faced with the option of a shorter way back to my car I had the mental strength to choose the (slightly) longer way which I wasn’t able to do on December 15th, the last time I was in this situation.

time: 4:22:30
distance: 23.3 miles
pace: 11:15
heart rate: 158/181

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Adventure at Twin Brook

Last night's run at Twin Brook turned into a bit of an adventure, more in just getting there than the run itself.

Before I left work I knew that I was running low on diesel (you can see where this is going already), but since I recently installed a GreaseCar vegetable fuel system in my Jetta I knew that I had plenty of veggie oil to get me from Portland to Cumberland and back. So after a few minutes of driving I flicked the switch to go from diesel to veggie oil and noticed an uncharacteristic and distinct loss of power, this was followed by the feeling that my car was going to stall so I switched back to diesel. I then noticed that my diesel fuel level seemed to be dropping at an abnormal rate. I usually get about 40 mpg with this kind of driving but my gauge had dropped in just the few miles I had driven already. Just after turning from Rt 1 onto Tuttle Rd. the car stalled and wouldn't start. Conveniently there was a police car right behind me who stopped to help me out. Since I didn't have a cell phone on me the police officer called Erik who was already waiting at Twin Brook and he bailed me out with a few gallons of diesel.

After getting going and then filling up my tank Erik and I got a late start to our run. The trails turned out to be in good condition despite the recent rain and snow and we had a good time running and chatting about upcoming races, those that we're organizing and those that were planning to run.

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time: 53:51
distance: 5.8 miles
pace: 9:18
heart rate: 157/173

On my way home my fuel gauge dropping at a noticeable rate and when I tried driving on veggie oil I had the same problems as earlier. I'm guessing that I have a leak or disconnect somewhere in the fuel lines that I was messing around with when I installed the GreaseCar kit which is causing diesel to leak out and veggie oil not to move at all. Looks like the TRLRUNR Grease Car will be out of commission for a while until I can find the problem and fix it.