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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Twin Brook 8

I've been trying to work out a good 8 mile route at Twin Brook the past few weeks with little success. So we have to settle for a sloppy 8 mile route. Oh well, it's still fun even if the route is all over the place.

This week Jim had the brilliant idea of moving the partially broken and often washed out bridge that crosses one of the brooks back in place so we could all cross without getting wet. Of course to achieve this a few of us had to wade through the water dragging the bridge into place. But most people stayed mostly dry. I have to say that I'm a little sad to see the bridge in place because I always thought it was fun to surprise people who were new to TB by making them run right into the brook.

The final result was 8.08 miles at an 8:44 pace, quicker than last week I think, although last week's 8 miler was a little different and this week we stopped to move a bridge so it's hard to compare. Whatever.

And something has happened to the colors of links on my blog, not sure what's up with that but I can't change them back. This happened after downloading a new version of FireFox and then copying and pasting something from Word into the blog. Hmmm...

Monday, August 25, 2008

6 Hours of Bradbury

It was actually 6 hours 22 minutes and 27 seconds between two runs at Bradbury this past weekend.

Emma and I decided a few months ago that we would run the Vermont 50 at the end of September and somewhere along the way Emma thought it would be fun to run this race together since all year long we've been doing different races and our training schedules haven't aligned very well. This seemed like a good idea at first but now that the race is less than 5 weeks away I'm getting a bit nervous about trying to keep up with Emma for 50 miles. I have more ultra experience than Emma, but she has always been a better runner than me and this was further proven earlier this year when she ran her first 50 miler and finished more than an hour and a half faster than either of the 50 mile races that I've done. I know that you can't really compare times between ultras because the courses vary so much from one race to the next but I feel like it's going to be hard work keeping up with Emma.

So with this in mind I have made the transition from 100 miler recovery to 50 miler training. I may have made the move a little too quickly, but I feel good and I'm trying my hardest not to be stupid with my training runs. Last weekend Emma had 30 miles on her schedule, and like a true ultra runner Emma planned to bump it up to 31 miles so she could call it a 50k. We met a huge group at Pineland last Saturday, 17 in all! After a few hours the group thinned and by the time we reached 21 miles it was just the two of us. We planned to run two laps of the Oak Hill loop to finish the run but as we finished the first lap I was feeling pretty wiped out. I knew I could continue but could tell that it really wouldn't be a good idea, I was probably at risk of doing myself more harm than good so I decided to call it a day just shy of 26 miles. The marathon distance was tempting me but I was being smartish. Emma continued on a final lap of the Oak Hill trails and actually picked up the pace, running up all the hills including Gloucester (WTF?!) and ended up with an even 32 miles.

Sunday I was pretty busy, and tired so I decided not to run. Monday I did an easy 5.5 miles around Back Cove, Tuesday we had a good 8 miler at Twin Brook and then Wednesday I decided to jump in the Weekly Back Cove 5k race. As a test of my 100 miler recovery I thought I'd see how fast I could go, I never do speed work so I wasn't expecting anything spectacular but wanted to see if I could go faster than what I had been doing before the 100. In near perfect running conditions I managed 20:15 which was indeed faster than I had done before my big race so I was confident that I wasn't being too stupid with my recovery.

Now back to this past weekend. Emma's schedule said 24 miles and I wanted to check out the 12 mile Bradbury Bruiser course now that the trails have had a chance to dry out a bit so running 2 laps just made sense. Well, made sense mathematically if nothing else.

We met a good group on Saturday morning that included Jamie, Stephen, Randy, Jim, Lilly, and for the first time running with us was Kevin. We set off at an easy pace and I expected a faster group to break off ahead but that never happened. Perhaps everyone enjoyed the easy pace, or maybe it was because I'm the only one who knows the Bruiser course, but we all stuck together for most of the run. Finally, after all the rain we've had recently the trails had dried out and conditions were great for us. There were a few muddy spots that resembled tar pits but they were fun too.

At about 8 miles Kevin decided to drop back a bit after we started to pick up the pace, I think Stephen was leading the group at this point. Before entering the O-Trail three members of the group had wiped out, this course gets at least one person every time I've I run it. About midway through the O it was my turn to eat dirt as I took a sharp turn with too much of a lean and I ended up sprawled out in the trail. We finished the complete race course in 2:13 and returned to the parking lot for refreshments.

After a short break Emma and I headed off for another lap with Chris who had arrived late and Lily who was determined to get in 30 kilometers in honor of her birthday. The day was starting to get hot but luckily the single track trails are shady and cool. A few of us were getting sloppy feet this time around but thanks to an even slower pace on this lap no one fell (or not that I can remember). Lily parted ways about halfway through the course and then there were 3. As is often the case when we run for more than 3 hours the conversation starts to dry up a bit, but I was feeling good and still enjoying the run. Second time on the O-Trail was uneventful, although dizzying. We finished this lap in 2:22 and the Garmin says we ran a total of 24.26 miles in 4:35:40.

At some point many months ago I decided that a "recovery" run of at least 10 miles the day after a long run was a good idea. I'm not sure that I can explain how or why I came up with that, but Emma bought into it so we returned to Bradbury on Sunday for at least 10. We forgot to bring the Garmin so had to rely on my sense of distance, which is actually pretty good on these trails since I've now mapped and measured three different race courses here. We started on the west side trails because I wanted to scope out the area where we plan to build a bridge on the Boundary Trail - September 7th, 9am - Come along to help if you can.

We summited the "mountain", ran down the Terrace Trail and then headed across the road to do the first half of the Bruiser course. We ended the run on the Knight Woods trail which encircles the O-Trail. 1:46:47 was our time and it sure felt like at least 10 miles.

Next weekend I think we'll go back to Pineland for a different kind of punishment... I mean training, the Schedule calls for another 24.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Note: I started to write this post 3 weeks ago, but abandoned it. Now it's been resurrected because I like some of the images.

I suppose I was still supposed to be taking it easy and recovering from the VT100 two weeks ago but when you're spending a long weekend in a place like Baxter State Park it's hard not take advantage of the mountains and trails. On Friday morning we packed up our car (with a full tank of vegetable oil), and headed north with my parents, sister and her kids following. We stopped along the way to pick up my cousin Jon in Hampden and then finished the 225 mile drive to Katahdin Stream Campground on the west side of Mt. Katahdin. After setting up our three campsites we had a little time to kill before dinner so Emma and I decided to get a short run in.

We chose the Grassy Pond Loop Trail which is my favorite trail to run in the park. It's only 4.3 miles from the campground round trip, and a mile and a half of it is on the tote road, but the 2.8 miles of trail are spectacular. This is some seriously technical trail running with a plethora of rocks and roots to keep your feet moving quickly and enough hills to switch up the pace and keep your heart rate up.

The trail passes Elbow Pond, Daicey Pond and Grassy Pond.

On Saturday we headed out on a leisurely hike with the whole family up to Katahdin Stream Falls, just over a mile from our campground. From there Emma, Jon and I climbed to the top of the Owl. The Owl is a small mountain, relatively speaking at 3,736 feet, to the northwest of Katahdin. On a good day the views of Mt. Katahdin would surely be incredible, but we were mostly under cloud cover and when the clouds did break we didn't got to see much more than where we had come from below.

I found the most exciting part of this hike to be the vast array of fungi growing along the trail, I'd never seen anything like it and ended up taking about 50 photographs of unusual looking mushrooms.

On Saturday evening the rain began, and it kept up all night in the most ferocious manner. Luckily we were sleeping in a lean-to so we didn't have to worry about getting wet while we slept. I later found out that we got 2.8 inches of rain that night, that sounds like a lot, but it's a lot more when it all comes running down the mountain in the streams and down the trails. We woke up Sunday morning with hopes of getting an early start to climbing Katahdin to find that the little stream that ran through our campground had risen by about 2 feet and it was still raining. After an extended breakfast the rain eventually let up and we decided that it would be "safe" to begin our climb, the ranger reported wash-out conditions on the trails but they were still open!

I told my family we'd be back in 6 hours but Emma and I hoped to be able to break 5 hours up and down the mountain. I knew this was an ambitious goal, especially since it was only 2 weeks after my 100 miler, and now that the trails were soaked/submerged it was going to be even more difficult. But Emma and I agreed to "take it easy" and not push the pace too hard, I didn't want to do more than my legs could take and neither of us wanted to slip and fall to our death.

From Katahdin Stream campground we ran along the Tote Road for 2.4 miles to Abol Campground and from there took the Abol Trail up Katahdin. The first mile of the Abol trail would be runnable in decent conditions and we covered the first half of that mile pretty quickly, but as the slope began in increase we encountered the water running down off the mountain and the wash-out conditions. There was no point trying to keep out feet dry in this. Soon we reached the exposed rock slide that makes up the next 1.5 miles of the Abol Trail and we were no longer in running water. This part of the trail is incredibly steep but doesn't have the large boulders of some of the other trails so we were able to keep a pretty good pace going up the mountain. A few areas of loose footing kept us alert but no major problems. The mountain was completely enshrouded in clouds so there was no need to stop and enjoy the view. At 5 miles we reached the Table Land and I had hoped to be able to run the rest of the way to the summit of Baxter Peak, but the fog was so thick I became concerned about going off the trail. With no sun to give us a sense of direction it would be easy to get disoriented up here (no map and compass either) we decided to move at a slow pace to be sure we stayed on the trail.

We reached the 5,271 foot peak 2 hours and 38 minutes after leaving our campsite. We took a 4 minute break to photograph a couple of thru-hikers who had just completed the AT and then headed back down the way we had come up. The Abol Trail is not recommended for descent, but in these conditions I actually thought it would be one of the safer trails to take. The Hunt Trail would have taken us right to our campground but that trail is mostly large boulders that can get pretty slick when wet. Abol proved to be a good way down for us, we created a few mini landslides as we went but nothing too dangerous to ourselves or any of the few people coming up. The pace going down was actually about the same as going up and I began to wonder if we'd break 5 hours, I certainly wasn't going to push the pace just to make that arbitrary goal though.

When we reached the more gradual (and submerged) section of trail we were able to start running again and we both felt really good. When we finally hit the drier trails we kicked up the pace a notch and had a lot of fun weaving around the rocks and roots in the trails and splashing through the puddles. By now I knew that my legs weren't going to give out and that I wasn't at risk of falling off the mountain so I felt okay about running fast. The last 2.4 mile stretch along the Tote Road was a great way to really stretch out the legs after the pounding of descending nearly 4,000 feet. We made it back to our campsite in time to join the rest of our family for lunch, 4 hours and 48 minutes after we left.

Not much action for the rest of that day.

Monday morning we got up early and ran another loop of the Grassy Pond Loop Trail before breaking down our campsite and heading home. We had hoped to bump into Karl Meltzer over the weekend since we knew that he would be starting his attempt at the AT speed record on Tuesday but it turned out we left a few hours before he arrived. D'oh!

Anyway, the recovery from my first 100 miler seems to be going well and I feel great. One of the best parts of this trip was trying to put back on a few of those pounds that I lost during the 100.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bradbury Trail Running Series Standings

Now that two races in the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series have taken place I have compiled standings for the 8 women and 20 men who have completed both races. Congratulations to Katherine Creswell and Peter Keeney who are currently leading the series.

Congratulations also to Gnarls who is a close second in the womens rankings and the whole slew of Trail Monster men who have performed well in both races.

I still have some details to work out with sponsors but I plan to give a little something extra to everyone who participates in all three races in the series as well as presenting the top overall male and female runners with "champion" prizes.

Thanks to John Rogers from Maine Running Company, Jeremy Bonnett from EMS, and Stephen Wells from LL Bean who have helped support this series and make sure that I have something to give to the runners and something left over to give back to the park.

Buy their stuff!

Breaker Photos

Thanks to Don Penta, Blaine, Jim and Shauna for taking pictures at the Breaker last weekend.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Breaker Results

Results from the Bradbury Mountain Breaker are posted on the race website.

Everyone who ran proved that Maine has a bad-ass bunch of trail runners. The course was difficult and in places pretty treacherous with knee deep puddles, slippery rocks and killer hills, but I didn't hear any complaints and I know I wasn't the only one to take a digger during the race.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped mark the course, work registration, aid stations, timing and clean-up. Trail Monsters are really stepping up to help me put on these races and I am grateful for everyone who lends a hand.

Blaine's report HERE and his photos are HERE