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, December 27, 2009

Windham Pipeline Trails

Earlier this year I thought I had run the wettest run ever. Today definitely beat that. Surprisingly for a late December day it wasn't really that cold, which is part of the reason it was so wet. Temperatures had been above freezing for about 16 hours prior to my run this morning, and it had probably been raining for about 6 hours, so that made for a lot of slush, running water and slippery ice.

Blaine had recently mentioned a run on the trails near where he lives in Windham and I wanted to check them out so I met him at 7 this morning for a run. We hoped to get in 15 miles but as soon as we hit the trails it became clear that 15 miles of slush and ice would not be fun. That's not to say that it was all bad running, but I knew that 15 miles would take a very long time in these conditions. I decided I'd be happy to get in a two hour run regardless of the distance.

After about a half mile of road we got onto a gas pipeline trail that had seen a fair amount of snowmobile traffic before the rain and Blaine assured me it was in good condition yesterday. We followed the pipeline trail southeast for almost 6 miles, had we stayed on it we could have gone into Westbrook (the pipeline crosses the Presumpscot River and runs into Portland). There were numerous trails branching off of the one we followed and in better weather it will be fun to explore this area, but for today we stuck to the relatively well traveled path.

I was glad to have some company for the run today, because had I been on my own I surely would have turned back early, gone home and crawled back into bed.

Oh, it's also worth mentioning that I had some pain in my right ankle after yesterdays run. Perhaps a mild sprain. I didn't notice anything during the run but last night it was sore, and then felt pretty tight this morning when I first got up. Everything was fine during the run today but I was in a fair amount of pain after, enough to ice my ankle and take some ibuprofen. Feels like a strain on the Calcaneofibular ligament, I'd never heard of that before but there is a label pointing to exactly the spot that hurts in this picture. I'm not too concerned, hopefully a day off from running tomorrow will help.

time: 1:55:01
distance: 11.63 miles
pace: 9:51

weather: mid 40's, steady rain

conditions: wet ice and slush, sloppy and slippery

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, Smart Wool socks, short tights, t-shirt, jacket, hat, gloves

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bradbury Powerline 10

December is always a weird month for trail running in Maine. We usually get a little snow, not enough for the snowmobiles to get out and create a network of trails for us to run on, just barely enough for snowshoeing, too much for "normal" trail running. We always see a drop in the size of our groups this time of year, and then they pick up again once we've had a few solid snowstorms.

I decided to run at Bradbury this morning, hoping that at least a few people would have been out packing the trails since I last ran there two weeks ago with Erik. Erik was back for more today along with Valerie and newbie Monster Nate. It was cold weather for standing around but once we got moving it felt a nice temperature and the wind we noticed in the parking lot seemed to disappear once we got into the woods. We headed off on the east side trails not really sure what to expect.

There had been good foot traffic on the Link Trail, and once we got to the Snowmobile Trail we followed ATV tracks that eventually lead north out of the park. No snowmobiles, but the ATV tracks did help to create a narrow lane of packed snow. Shortly after we left the park we hit a section of trail that had seen at least one snowmobile, probably two weeks ago, but it helped. With the recent thawing and freezing there was a fair amount of ice, and Nate quickly understood why the rest of us all had screws in our shoes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the trails were in reasonably good shape all the way out to the power lines. It's exactly 5 miles from the park to the power lines, this often serves as the foundation for many of our winter runs and it was nice to be able to get all the way out there today. I really wanted to continue on the power lines but hadn't come prepared for a long run today so we turned around here (although Valerie had turned back a little earlier). It was nice to have Erik out running these trails again, we had done a lot of exploring together two years ago but he missed all of last winter due to injury. I'm glad you're back Erik!

On the way back I decided to pick the pace up just a little bit. i hate running positive splits, even though I do it all the time in races I hope that if I train enough with negative splits maybe one day it will pay off in a race. This is a rather difficult route to run a negative split on because it's mostly downhill on the way out and mostly up on the way back. But Nate and I did manage to run almost two minutes quicker on the way back, and we finished the same time as Valerie who (despite turning back early) took a longer way back to the finish.

Now I can't wait for the next snowstorm to get these trails in better shape, I've got some longs runs to do.

time: 1:32:39
distance: 10 miles
pace: 9:15

weather: low 30's, overcast, breezy

conditions: crusty, not well traveled snow

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 315 with screws, Smart Wool socks, tights, longs sleeve shirt, shirt sleeve shirt, buff, mittens

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Couple Night Runs

Tuesday nights at Twin Brook the group is getting a little smaller, but still a decent turnout. We're getting a bit wimpy these days and are skipping some of the muddiest trails and doubling up on the drier stuff. We're still getting wet feet so I don't know why don't just run the really wet trails.

This week Emma joined Jim, Erik and I for the first time in quite a while. Despite gooey trails we moved along at a good pace for the TNR, no sprint lines though, I think we were all feeling satisfied with the fast running from the weekend.

time: 50:20
distance: 5.55 miles
pace: 9:04

Thursday night I took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures by running in shorts and a t-shirt. Strange for an early December evening. I had one of those days at work where I came home feeling like I really needed a good hard run to work out some aggression. I decided upon the Mountain Loop (up Mountain Road, down Blackstrap). I think I actually went out a little too fast on the uphill side and didn't quite have the fast leg turnover I had hoped for on the downhill side of this loop. I ended up being 20 seconds slower than my best time on this loop despite having the fastest first two miles this evening. My right calf was complaining after the run, so I went for an easy mile cooldown and that helped shut it up.

A good run and a beer, then everything was fine.

time: 40:18
distance: 5.63 miles
pace: 7:12

plus 1 mile cooldown at about an 8:45 pace

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blackstrap Hell II - Race Report

Jeff claims that Blackstrap Hell is "the way running should be". I totally agree. He has managed to capture the essence of Trail Monster Running in an event right in our own back yard. This is a free race, on a course with some of the most varied and difficult terrain you could possibly pack into 10k. To make it even more interesting it's structured as a reverse pursuit where the slowest runners (or those who typically enjoy the trails the longest) start first and the fastest (or those who want to get it over with the quickest) start last based on estimated finishing times that Jeff calculated from previous races.

I have the advantage of being one of the few people who gets a sneak preview of the course since it's just down the road from where I live and I helped Jeff mark the course along with James and his daughter. Actually, I'm not sure that this is an advantage, sometimes it's better going into races like this not knowing how much more difficult things are going to get.

The night before the race Jeff revealed the start order, which predicted my finishing time at 57 minutes and had me setting off with Ryan, Chuck and Bob. This seemed about right to me, Chuck and I were very close at the Mountain Epic race in October, Bob was well ahead of me there but I did finish just ahead of him at the Bruiser, and Ryan has been working on shorter faster runs lately which I thought would help him put up a good fight.

There were 34 runners starting the race this year, up quite a bit from last year. I got to see a little more than 20 other runners set off before me, individually or in small groups. Emma was running today, but because she's still recovering from a long lingering knee issue she decided to help pace Linda through this race and the two of them were the first to set off. Running up and down big hills on technical, slippery trails is not usually considered good for knee problems, but Emma just could pass up the opportunity to run this race.

Shaun making his way up the long first climb

Similar to last year we had a major rain event just before the race, but I was a bit sad to see that water levels had dropped significantly the night before the race and it turned out to be drier than last year. We all still got wet feet just walking to the start line, but the stream crossings were definitely easier this year. Chuck set a quick but manageable pace at the start and I followed along the mostly flat single track. When we got the the first climb, which lasted about 1/2 mile and gained about 350 feet, there was a little back and forth as we negotiated the terrain. Ryan was still right behind us when we reached the "pinnacle" but on the first downhill section of the race, which is technical rocky terrain covered with wet leaves, Chuck and I pulled away. Faith in our feet and a lack of fear helped us open it up on the downhill stretches, Chuck usually gets ahead of me on stuff like this but I managed to stay close this time.

Sara, Erin and Christine demonstrating the correct technique for puddle running

Over the next few miles Chuck and I passed a few other runners, in theory no one should be passing during this race and we'd all finish together. A little more than 3 miles into the race we bumped into Bob who was running down the trail towards us. He was supposed to start with us but couldn't find the start area so he parked somewhere else and set off into the woods, without any idea of where he was going. I'm not sure if it was luck or skill that he managed to find us, but he ran with us for the second half of the race.

Linda on the roller coaster gas line trail

This was my first hard running effort since Stone Cat and I was very happy that everything seemed to be in fine working order. For a variety of reasons (including a messed up right calf) I hadn't been doing much running in the three weeks since my 50 miler, and none of it was fast so I wasn't sure what to expect. Actually what I did expect was for Chuck to run away from me and for a handful of people who started after me to come flying by at any moment but neither happened and I felt great throughout the race.

Erik and Django on the last long uphill

Last year's race finished with about a mile of fast downhill on wide power line trails, but Jeff had recently been building new single track trails off the power lines so he included this as the last mile of the race. Although not as cruel as the O-Trail there was a bit of that flavor about this new trail. Just when you think that you're almost to the bottom of the hill the trail takes a sharp turn and runs you back up again, or when you start thinking you're almost out of the woods you turn around and head back deeper in. Chuck and I passed a handful of runners on this stretch, it definitely felt like everyone was coming together at the end. At some point near the end I managed to sneak past Chuck on a corner, I could see Jim up ahead but he was trying just as hard to stay ahead of me as I was to catch him. Jim crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of me and Chuck was right behind.

The wicked steep course elevation profile

I finished with the fifth fastest time overall, although I'm sure I would have been further back if several other runners hadn't gone off course and ended up runner longer. I was very happy to run well and feel good, especially amongst the good company of my fellow Trail Monsters.


time: 55:59
distance: 6.23 miles
pace: 8:59
place: 5/31 finishers 34 starters

weather: sunny and warm (for November), mid 40's

conditions: slick mud, wet leaf covered rocks, stream crossings, big hills...

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, wool socks, shorts, singlet, Moeben sleeves

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Return to Bradbury

Since hunting is allowed on the East Side of Bradbury Mountain State Park I haven't run there at all during the month of November, although other Trail Monsters have been going on Sundays, I just never go out there. I had been suffering from serious Bradbury withdrawal and decided that I needed to get out there on Saturday, and although it was still hunting season I figured we'd be okay if we stuck to the West Side trails where hunting isn't permitted. I wore some of my most obnoxiously bright colors to be sure I'd be seen just in case.

Given that this was the day before Blackstrap Hell II I didn't want to go out for too long or push the pace so I planned a relatively easy jaunt around one lap of the Breaker course. I say relatively easy because this has to be the most difficult loop within the whole park, no mater what pace you run it at it's never really going to be easy.

Emma came along but instead of running she brought our new Border Collie puppy Bolt for a hike up the mountain. She's only nine weeks old but we figured it wasn't too early to start getting her used to the Trail Monster lifestyle. In case anyone is wondering, she's named after Bolt. Not Bolt. We will wait about a year before taking her out running with us, but until then she'll be spending plenty of time walking in the woods with us.

Jim, Chuck and Lily came along for the run on the very wet trails. I was expecting mud but we were probably the first ones out on the trails since the torrential rain we received the day before so it was mostly puddles of clear water than we encountered. We managed to meet up with Emma on the summit and then headed off onto the Tote Road trail. From here I decided to jump onto Krista's Trail, a nice section of single track that I'd only run once or twice before, but I had forgotten how long it was. When I realized that Emma would probably be finished walking with Bolt long before me I decided to take a shortcut back the parking lot. Chuck joined me but Jim and Lily took the long way back.

It was great to wet my feet again on the trails of Bradbury and I was glad that Bolt made it all the way up to the top, although Emma had to carry her part of the way down. The pace actually felt quicker than the 10:27 that my Garmin reported, so I was glad that I didn't end up going any longer. I've had a lingering tightness in my right calf/achilles ever since Stone Cat and I didn't want to push it too much right before Blackstrap Hell II. I've found it hard to get back into a rhythym with my running since the Stone Cat 50, partly due to being busy at work and at home with a new puppy, but there seems to be a bit of a funk that I need to shake off and hopefully running hard at the race tomorrow will help do that.

time: 47:23
distance: 4.53 miles
pace: 10:27

weather: cool, overcast

conditions: wet, big puddles

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 290, wool socks, shorts, long sleeve shirt, singlet, hat

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pineland 10k

A bit of a delayed write-up here, just trying to get back in the swing of things, and this is still not a race report for Stone Cat.

Following Stone Cat I decided to take a full week off from running to let myself recover. Normally I like to have an "active recovery" but given my work schedule during the following week, and the severely strained right calf muscle I was feeling for several days, taking a full week off seemed like the right thing to do. At about mile 14 of Stone Cat I tripped and manage to catch myself before falling but in the process made a sudden movement that caused my right calf muscle to completely lock up and I ended up falling down anyway. I massaged the muscle, swore a lot and managed to get back on my feet fairly quickly, but for the rest of the race (36 miles) it didn't feel quite right. As soon as I finished it got very tight again and didn't want to be forced into moving right away. It was actually pretty tough to take that much time off, and I almost didn't manage to go the whole week. I really think that a couple of easy runs would have helped.

But the way things worked out I didn't get out for a run until Saturday morning when I met Jim, Shauna, Jamie, Lily, and Dom at Pineland. My plan was to get in as close to 10k as possible. Erik and I are cooking up plans to expand upon the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge and turn it into a multi-day event with the addition of some shorter distance races, so I wanted to check out a possible 10k course. We started the way all the races currently do, basically from the YMCA onto the Campus Loop, up by the Visitors Center, down to the River Loop to the Yurt. This was about 3.5 miles of mostly downhill running, a great fast way to start a short race.

At this point everyone else was running longer and continued onto the Valley Farm Loop. I turned back on the other half of the River Loop and began the long gradual climb back up towards the YMCA. By this point I was starting to feel some tightness in my calf creeping up on me, but everything else was feeling fine. The pace was pretty comfortable, a little under 9's but that felt pretty easy on the mostly dowhill trails. By the time I reached 5 miles on the back side of the Camups Loop (with some steep climbs) I was really feeling some discomfort in my calf but decided another mile or so wasn't going to cause any damage and I really wanted to know how close this route would be to 10k.

It turned out to be just over 10k by my Garmin measurement, which might actually be a little longer than the race course because I started and finished from the YMCA parking lot and not from where the race would actually start and finish. But to be honest, I'm not really concerned if my 10k course is slightly long. Anyone who cares that much about precision course measurement shouldn't be running trails.

Although my calf acted up it still felt great to get out for a run, good weather and good company (at least for half my run).

time: 57:01
distance: 6.3 miles
pace: 9:02

weather: upper 40's, overcast

conditions: mostly dry, leaf covered trails

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, Smark Wool socks, shorts, t-shirt, Moeben Sleeves, hat

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stone Cat 50 Miler - Not a Race Report

Last weekend I ran the Stone Cat 50 Mile Trail Race. This is not a race report. I wish it was but I just can't seem to find the time to say everything that needs to be said about this race. I will summarize by saying two things:

1- This was probably the best race of my life.

2- I couldn't have done as well as I did without the help of a lot of people.

I should clarify that I may have an unusual definition of what makes a good race. The 50k race that I ran three weeks ago was not a good race, despite finishing first. Stone Cat was a good race because I set myself a goal that I honestly didn't think I had any chance of coming close to (breaking 8 hours) and even though I didn't meet my goal I came closer than I thought I really could. I usually go into a race with three goals, one very optimistic, one very realistic and one to cover my ass. Typically I fall in the 'realistic' range, but many of my races so far this year have fallen in the 'cover my ass' category. This is the first time I can remember where I actually came close to my optimistic goal.

The other part of what made this such a great race for me is related to #2 above and will take a long time to explain, and will eventually appear in my full race report, but for now I want to thank all the people who helped me come close to reaching my optimistic goal. My fellow Trail Monsters have provided amazing inspiration and have been the best training companions, helping push me to places I never thought I could go. I was also grateful to see so many TM's come down to the race to support me and Mindy as we ran. It makes such an incredible difference to have friends lending a hand and providing encouragement during a long race.

This is a photo that Emma took at mile 45 of the race, just before she started pacing me to the finish. I am very lucky to have her as my wife and in many ways I feel like I owe everything I have achieved in running to her. She was my inspiration to start running, she paced me at my first 10k in 2001 and has been there for every milestone I passed since then. If it weren't for a lingering knee injury brought on by her stellar performance at Pineland earlier this year she would have been out there running with me, or more likely in front of me. For now she still holds the 50 mile record in our household, she has set the bar high but I'm still reaching for it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Running the River

For somewhat selfish reasons I decided to have our Saturday run start only a half mile from my home this week. It wasn't entirely selfish because there are some great trails around here and I'm sure other people enjoy running them as much as I do. I realized though that it's tough leading a group run when no one else (apart from Jeff) knows the trails. We did have a pretty good sized group show up today including Emma, Jeff, Mindy (+ Pete on a bike), Tim, BJ, Erik (+ Django), Stephen, Erik, Rachel (+ dog), Don, Jim... I think that's it. Of course I think it helped that we started from Bernie's and planned to have breakfast after the run.

I had hoped to get in 10 miles today but I had never run the route I planned so I wasn't sure how it would work out. Turns out to be only just over 8, and I could have extended it but after almost an hour and a half we were all ready for breakfast. The route we ran started from Hannaford on the North side of the Presumpscot River, we ran down to the river, crossed over to the south side and ran downstream for about 2.5 miles, turned around and came back to the north side, then ran along the Piscataqua River, turned around and headed back to Hannaford.

Although it was overcast it was actually a great day for running, pleasantly warm for a fall morning, and it was great to be running along the river.

time: 1:27:18
distance: 8.24 miles
pace: 10:36

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Here comes the taper!

I'm so glad to finally be tapering now. Not because I'm looking forward to doing less running, but it means that my big race is not that far away. Just over two weeks until Stone Cat!

I just counted, I've done 11 ultra-distance runs so far this year but I haven't raced a trail ultra. My only ultra race was the 50k last weekend and that was more of a training run, and it was on pavement. Yuck. It didn't turn out to be as much fun as I had hoped, mostly because I was in the middle of a bad cold and I ended up running most of the race alone. But I still think it was good training, particularly mentally, for Stone Cat. For the last 12.5 mile lap of the 50 miler I will probably be on my own.

My recovery from the 50k seems to be going well, although my cold is still lingering. It's hard to say if 4+ hours of running had an effect on my cold, it didn't make it any worse but it may have slowed the recovery a bit. Following the race my calves were pretty tight, my right femur felt a bit jammed up into my hip and my right foot was sore from the ankle down to the arch. Two days off from running and everything seemed pretty much back to normal thanks to a little stretching, icing and pulling on my leg.

On Wednesday evening I ran from work and did a lap of Back Cove. It was a beautiful evening, perfectly cool and comfortable shorts and t-shirt weather with a nice sunset. I could have happily run longer but knowing that I'm in taper/recover mode right now definitely didn't want to push it too much.

time: 29:14
distance: 3.85 miles
pace: 7:36

Tonight I ran from home on a "new" loop, mostly roads but got in 2 miles of hilly trails up the back side of the Three Bitches and down the front. I had forgotten that a stretch of the power-line trail that I ran doesn't get much traffic and is very overgrown, it slowed me down for a bit and got my feet wet but it was kinda fun. Once I got going on better trail there were still plenty of wet and muddy spots to jump over or run through. I went up to my knee at one point, which caught me off guard.

The steep downhill of the Three Bitches was a bit treacherous, I was wearing my Brooks Cascadia which aren't very good on wet rock. I wished I'd worn my sticky-rubber Inov-8 295. Interesting to note that this 7.8 mile run had more elevation change than the entire 50k I ran last weekend.
time: 1:04:03
distance: 7.81 miles
pace: 8:12

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maine Track Club 50K

As my last long training run for the Stone Cat 50 miler I decided to run the MTC 50k in Brunswick this morning, another one of Erik's races. Even though it's a road race I thought it would be a good opportunity to get in some relatively fast-paced miles and not have to worry about carrying my own aid or making long stops to refuel on my own.

I had the somewhat foolish notion that I might be able to break 4 hours on this course, which under "normal" circumstances I might be able to pull off, but since I ran my ass off last week at the Mtn Epic race, and then followed that up with a nasty cold I wasn't really at the top of my game. I should have adjusted my race plan accordingly but didn't, and still set off with the intention of averaging a 7:44 pace for the whole run. At 18 miles my average pace was 7:45, pretty much on target, but things went downhill from there and the last 13 miles I averaged a 9:01 pace. Ouch!

The format of this race is a 4 mile loop that you run too many times (especially if you choose to run the 50 miler). To get to 31 miles everyone starts the race with a 1 mile out-and-back, 50k runners do 7x four mile laps, cross the finish line and then have to do a half mile out-and-back. I decided that this race was more about mental training than physical, since my physical race fell apart it was a real test of my mental ability to keep going when things became unpleasant and my goal was slipping away. And it didn't help that every 4 miles I crossed the finish line and ran past my car which provided an easy opportunity to drop out. By 22 miles I had already thought about the title for today's blog post: "My First DNF"

don't be fooled by those little lumps, this is a flat course

Here are my stats from the race, unfortunately my Garmin crapped out just after 25 miles so I guessed at my final lap splits, and I'm not sure exactly what my official finishing time was:

First 2 - 15:54 - 7:57 pace
Lap 1 - 30:43 - 7:40 pace
Lap 2 - 30:26 - 7:36 pace
Lap 3 - 31:17 - 7:49 pace
Lap 4 - 31:26 - 7:51 pace
Lap 5 - 33:05 - 8:16 pace
Lap 6 - 36:00 - 9:00 pace - ESTIMATE dead watch
Lap 7 - 39:00 - 9:45 pace - ESTIMATE
Last 1 - 9:00 pace - ESTIMATE

Total - 4:17:xx - 8:17ish pace

For the first half of the race (I was told) that I had a comfortable lead. No offense to the other runners taking part today but this race is very small, low-key and doesn't attract a lot of really fast runners. And I think most participants choose to run the 50 miler, or at least they set off with that intention. I have no idea how many people ran the 50k today, but at last year's race there were 18 finishers and the winning time was 4:23.

On my 4th lap, around mile 16, I started to slow down. Not significantly at first, but I was definitely starting to feel less good. My watch stopped displaying my mile splits and I couldn't read my total time, which was probably a good thing because it meant I didn't stress about how much I was slowing down. I hoped it was just a passing low spot, but despite consistently drinking and snacking during the run my energy was fading and all the hard road miles were beating the crap out of me. I did try to run as much of the race as possible on the dirt shoulder, and probably managed 1/4-1/3 of the race in the dirt but it was still my longest road run in well over a year.

At the end of lap 5 (22 miles) I was pretty much ready to drop out, but after taking a few minutes at the aid station talking to Erik - "Your races are killing me!" - I thought I'd do one more lap and call it a marathon. Of course when I finished the next lap I knew that I only had 5 more miles to go and figured I could continue on for a bit longer. That last lap was really not fun. My calves were tight and felt on the verge of cramping, my right hip was sore from the camber, my lungs felt like they weren't fully inflating. There's no way a 9:45 pace should have me feeling out of breath.

With about 1.5 miles to go I felt so bad that I decided to walk for a few minutes. Even though I was so close to the finish I just didn't see the point in pushing myself too hard on what was supposed to be a training run. Unfortunately someone else did see the point in pushing it and the woman who right behind me (2nd place in the race) took the opportunity to pass me. I totally lacked the motivation to put up a fight but I did start running again. I stayed about 50' behind her hoping that she was doing the 50 miler, but it didn't make sense. When we got to the 50k turnaround point with 1/2 mile to go back to the finish she turned and it was confirmed which race she was doing. I still lacked the motivation to put up a fight.

With about 1/4 mile to go Ed from GAC who was running the 50 miler passed going the opposite direction and shouted to me: "Don't let her do it to you Ian." This was just the motivation I needed to put on as much of a sprint finish as I could muster. I'm sure it wasn't impressive to look at, but it was just enough to regain the lead that I had held for the first 29.5 miles of the race. With a little guilt I finished about 3 seconds ahead of the first place woman.

While I was pretty excited to win the race I was pretty dissapointed at how much I slowed down over the last 13 miles. I was definitely still recovering from last weekend's race and the nasty cold I had... still have. All good training.

RESULTS and PHOTOS by Don Penta (as well as those above)

time: 4:17:24
distance: 31 miles
pace: 8:18
place: 1/17

weather: uper 30's to mid 40's, overcast, windy

conditions: flat-ass roads

gear: Saucony Grid Sinister, SmartWool socks, 3/4 length tights, long sleeve shirt, sleeveless shirt, hat, handheld bottle

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mtn Epic 8 Peak Race

First of all, congratulations to Erik for putting on a great race. I had a blast and I think most other runners did too. Erik was in charge of organizing three mountain races at Sunday River this past weekend, 1-peak 4 miles, 5-peaks 8 miles and 8-peaks 12 miles. I guess one race just isn't enough for him any more.

On Saturday afternoon after the Wife Carrying Championship Emma, Jim and I helped Erik finish off the course marking for Sunday's races. This was the first time Emma had seen some of these trails and even though she hadn't planned to race, wasn't feeling 100% (lingering knee trouble) and had vowed not to participate in a race until next summer she couldn't resist and signed up for the 4 mile, 1 peak race. I was doing the 8 peak race, Jim the 5 peak, and Shauna the 1 peak. There was a big contingent of other Trail Monsters who came up to compete in each of the races including James, Stephen, Bob, Tom, Jeanne, Chuck, Katy, George, Don, as well as many other familiar faces from the Bradbury Series.

I was feeling good about this race, after a summer of fairly disappointing race performances due to my lack of ability to cope with warmer humid weather I was really looking forward to racing in cooler temperatures. I've learned that 30-50 degrees is my optimum racing temperature range and that's just what we got on race day. I had also done a fair amount of mountain running/hiking this summer, and plenty of hilly trail and road runs that had me feeling confident about this race with about 3,800' elevation gain (and equal descent) over 12 miles.

My race strategy was to go out hard and keep pushing hard the whole way. Not too different than my usual approach to racing, except this time I actually thought I had a better chance of pulling it off without burning out near the end. Given my recent long training runs there certainly wasn't any reason to burn out in a 2-3 hour race. It also helped that I was just about the only person racing who knew the course. I set off fast and was surprised to find myself leading the way with Stephen for the first quarter mile. It wasn't long though before we hit the really steep climbing and the really strong mountain runners picked me off as we made our way up about 1500' in the first 2 miles. I knew that I had no right to be leading this race so I really didn't mind giving up those places early on, I just hoped that after we reached the top of the first peak I wouldn't lose any more.

Chuck was one of the runners who passed on the way up, and I knew that once we got to the long downhill stretch he'd pull away from me so I tried hard to keep close to him. Chuck credits years of downhill skiing for his amazing ability to run fast downhill, I guess when you stop being afraid of killing yourself going down a mountain it really allows for some fast running. Of course it helps having the strength to back it up.

From White Cap it there wasn't much up or down as we summited Locke and Barker peaks, but there was some nice rocky trail and single track. From Barker there was a good steady drop down to North Peak along dirt access road, a short stretch of Scottish looking hillside and then more fast running down dirt road to the base of Jordan Bowl.

Around mile 5 I caught up to Chuck and Stephen, who had gotten away from me on the downhill, now that we were starting our second long climb of the race. James also caught up to us, as well as Billy whom I had met at Bradbury this summer (or did we catch up to him?). The five of us stuck together, more or less, moving up the hill like an accordion, spreading out and then bunching up again. I don't think anyone was modifying their pace for the sake of staying together but as soon as someone fell back a bit there was always the motivation to push the pace enough to avoid getting left behind.

This second climb was easier than the first, covering only about 1000' in two miles to the summit of Spruce Peak, then an easy run on single track to Aurora Peak. We dropped down a little bit and then made a very steep climb up 400' more to the summit of Oz which is the highest point on the course, a little over 3,100'. As we approached the summit of Oz we were passed by another runner coming towards us who had already tagged the turnaround point on this short out-and-back stretch. I hadn't seen him since he passed me early on in the first climb but it looked like we were making up ground on him and I hoped we'd be able to catch him on the long downhill that was coming up. The course took a little dip down, then another very short climb to the final peak of the race Jordan Bowl. 4 more miles to go, 2100' all downhill.

The first 1.5 miles of this descent drop 1300' with an average grade of about 16%. I've decided this is just a little bit too steep to run comfortably for the amount of time it took. But races aren't about being comfortable, so I let gravity do it's thing and tried to keep my legs turning over as fast as I possibly could. Chuck and Stephen quickly pulled away from me and James passed me somewhere near the bottom of this crazy slope. I kept them in my sights and as the dirt road leveled out I began to close back in on them. It felt like I'd dislodged a kidney and perhaps a few other internal organs but my legs were holding up reasonably well to all the pounding.

Most of the last two miles of this race (all three of the races in fact) are on tight single track trails with plenty of tight turns and bumps and a few muddy patches. Based on all the running I've been doing at Bradbury this year I figured this kind of stuff ought to be my strength so I went to work catching back up to James, Stephen and Chuck. Many of the slower 4 mile runners were still on this stretch of trail (they had started an hour after us) which made for an additional challenge trying to get around them. I did end up passing James and Stephen but once we left the wooded single track for the final push on easier trail the order changed again, but we did stick pretty close together. Since none of the others knew exactly how close to the finish we were I instructed the other Trail Monsters to "put the hammer down" when I knew we were about 1/4 mile from the finish.

Of course this race wasn't going to end in an all out sprint, we had to negotiate the obstacle course of the Wife Carrying Championship before reaching the finish line and we all knew that we would be judged on our performance, not just our speed. I hit the log hurdle, planted my hands and did a sideways cartwheel, ran up to the edge of the mud pit and did a somersault flip into the waist deep water, dove over the sand pile and did a barrel roll landing and somehow managed to get back on my feet just in time to cross the finish line. What a brilliant way to end a race!

Jim after executing a perfect "laid out ass flop" into the mud pit

I ended up finishing in 2 hours 3 minutes, coming in 10th place overall. I actually think that this was my best race of the year. I ran hard, felt good, had good company, and turned out a time that I was really happy with. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Oh yeah, Emma finished first place female in the 4 mile race so that was pretty sweet too!

11:21, 17:47, 7:47, 7:20, 9:35, 15:57, 10:30, 14:06, 6:48, 6:56, 8:28, 6:50

time: 2:03:27
distance: 12.04 miles
pace: 10:13
place: 10/54

weather: mid 40's to mid 50's, mix of sun and clouds, windy

conditions: mountains, rocks, gravel, grass, dirt, mud...

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, Balega socks, shorts, sleeveless shirt, Moeben Sleeves, hat, handheld bottle

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 NAWCC

This past Saturday Emma and I took part in the North American Wife Carrying Championship at Sunday River. We beat Joe Decker, "The World's Fittest Man". You can see him eating sand in this VIDEO.

This was our fourth year competing in the wife carrying competition, we traveled up with Jim and Shauna who were competing for their second time (they took most of the photos below). Non-married types are allowed, and of the participants who are married I doubt many have been married as long as we have (10 years). I've noticed that there's something about marriage that makes many wives un-carry-able by their husbands after a few years (or husbands unable to carry their wives), so I've always thought that if they are going to call it the Wife Carrying Championship that participants should be married to each other.

Game face.

As soon as we arrived we heard the buzz going around that "The World's Fittest Man" was here competing this year. After checking in we went to check out the competition and not only did we find "The World's Fittest Man", we also found another team comprised of a guy who looked like he could beat the crap out of the "The World's Fittest Man" with a wife just about as tough. I decided that after last year's performance, and given the apparent level of competition, I'd be happy just to get through this race without dropping Emma.

I don't think out matching tops were going to do anything to help us win today.

Fezzik and Buttercup about to start their race.

We were up against a guy wearing antlers, who didn't look fast but he did look strong, and those are the types of guys that do well in this race. I decided that being a runner does virtually nothing to improve my chances at winning this race.

I ran the first 100 yards at a "comfortable" pace while moose-man sprinted out of the gate incredibly fast. I knew that there would be plenty of opportunity to make up ground once we hit the obstacles on the course.
The first obstacle is a 36" high log hurdle. We had been practicing going over wooden barriers in a local parking lot so we had this technique down pretty good and made up a little time here. (that's not us in this photo)

Moose-man ran into the waist-deep water pit way too fast, did a belly flop and dropped his girlfriend. It was a classic tortoise and hare scene, I just kept a steady pace through the water and passed moose-man while he tried to get his wet and pissed-off girlfriend onto his back.

The final obstacle was a 4' high pile of sand, and we had also practiced traversing similar terrain so we were able to cruise over this without any trouble and "sprint" to the finish. I'm pretty sure this was our fastest time ever, one minute and five seconds. It was definitely our highest place finish, 8th out of 40 teams.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ultra Xtreme Bradbury Badass #2

For a few days last week I had contemplated running the Maine Marathon this weekend, but a few helpful Trail Monsters made me see the error in this way of thinking. I wanted to get another long run in this weekend and the marathon seemed like a convenient option but I realized that racing a road marathon wouldn't really help with my 50 mile trail race training as much as a long trail run. Since it had been a few weeks since I'd run at Bradbury I decided to make another attempt at the Ultra Xtreme Bradbury Badass by running all three courses of the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series races back to back.

Unlike the last time I did this run I didn't expect to have any company for the whole time and given the weather forecast for steady rain all day I wasn't sure who would show up at all. Mindy, Valerie and James decided to brave the weather, which wasn't bad at all when we arrived at the park at 8am and we headed out together soon after on the Scuffle course. It turned out that I hadn't picked up all the course markings from the Bruiser a few weeks ago so as we ran along we found a few flags and arrows along the way to pick up and carry with us. I realized that this picking up was slowing us down a bit so about halfway through the Scuffle James and I picked up the pace a little bit and pulled away from Valerie and Mindy. Running with hands full may have been to blame for slowing us down or it may have been something else (lack of motivation?) but we finished the 6 mile Scuffle course in 1:04, 2 minutes slower than when I had run this with Chuck and Jeremy back in June.

Not that it really mattered but I did hope to run these 27 miles today a little faster than before so after a quick drink stop James and I headed out on the Breaker course and I made a conscious effort to run up all the hills and really let loose on the downs. I wasn't sure if I could manage to run all the way up the summit trail, the hardest climb on the course but I set off with the intention of running as far as I could and would let myself walk if I had to. To my own surprise I managed to "run" the whole way, although at times I'm sure it wasn't any faster than a walking pace and I was just wasting energy.

I can't remember exactly when it started raining, but once it started it didn't stop and at times it was coming down pretty hard, but it was a pleasant temperature and it's always fun to splash though the mud.

Near the end of the first lap of the course, at the bottom of the Switchback Trail, someone has rerouted the trail and extended it slightly. Not that there was anything wrong with where the trail went before IMO, perfectly dry...

Anyway, the second lap of the breaker was much the same as the first, perhaps a little wetter. James was good company but he was running out of time and decided he would have to stop his run at the end of the Breaker. This of course introduced the idea in my head that I might also stop here, go home and get dried off and warmed up. This thought kept creeping back into my mind, like when we were running up the Summit Trail for the second time, but gracious downhills of the last few miles of this course helped to remind me how much fun it is to run at Bradbury and I was determined to finish this run whatever it took. We finished the Breaker in 1:30, 6 minutes faster than the last time.

I said goodbye to James and took a few minutes to refill the bladder in my hydration pack for the long 12 miles of the Bruiser. After standing in the rain I started to feel a bit chilled so I changed my soaking short sleeved shirt for a dry long sleeved shirt and set off alone into the woods.

It wasn't long before I started to feel the effects of pushing the pace on the hills of the Breaker and I started to care much less about beating my time from before and just focused on enjoying the beautiful colors of fall, and enjoying the mud. The miles ticked by and I was reminded of the Bruiser when Bob and Tom were right on my tail for the entire race. I worked hard not to let them pass and that feeling motivated me to keep going when I started feeling tired.

I found a few more orange flags out on the course that I missed from race day and picked them up as I went along. Kind of a pain in the ass, or more literally a pain in the abs. Like doing stomach crunches at the end of a long run. There was an arrow sign out there too, and the last thing I wanted to do was to carry extra crap in my last few miles but it had to be picked up and I felt bad that I had taken me so long to get back out there to do it. There was no way I was going to carry this stuff through the O-Trail so when I got to the entrance I ran ahead to the exit of the trail and dropped everything there, then back up to the entrance for the funnest part of the run.

The rain from today was really encouraging the trees to drop their leaves and the O-Trail was quickly becoming obscured. Even though I know this trail well it's a bitch to follow when it's covered in leaves and there were a few moments when I was convinced I had gone off trail and gotten back on going the wrong direction, but I kept passing familiar landmarks in the right sequence so I knew I was doing okay. Shortly after passing the red bracket fungus indicating 1 mile to go I had the notion of picking up the pace for the final mile, but was quickly reminded that the combination of tired-sloppy-feet and wet, leaf-covered trails leads to close encounters between face and ground. I tripped and I started to fall. I thought I could pull myself out of it, then thought I'd probably give myself a hernia trying so I just let myself flop down in the dirt. Luckily I landed in one of those rare spots on the O-Trail where there aren't any rocks or roots. Except for the one I tripped over. It was actually quite comfortable.

I got up and got back into that 11:30 O-Trail pace, no sprint for me, until I popped out onto the Knight Woods Trail. Of course I had to pick up that pile of flags and signs to carry with me for the final 1/4 mile so my sprint finish was probably lucky to have been under a 10 minute pace. Much to my surprise though I finished the Bruiser in 2:14, which was 5 minutes faster than the previous time. Despite a slow start I ended up completing this run with a new personal best of 4 hours and 48 minutes.

I'll take this over a road marathon any day.

Scuffle: 1:04
Breaker: 1:30
Bruiser: 2:14

total time: 4:48:18
distance: 27.2 miles
pace: 10:35

weather: mid 50's, rain of varying intensities

conditions: wet trails, many puddles, plenty of mud

gear: Inov-8 Mudroc 280, Wright Socks, shorts, t-shirt then long sleeve shirt, hat, Nathan HPL #020

It's a good thing I don't have a training schedule

It's a good thing I don't have a training schedule because I'd never be able to follow it. My midweek runs didn't play out anything like I thought they might, but I still had a pretty good week.


Jeff had the idea of doing 800 meter repeats, so after about 2.75 miles of our regular route we ran the "A Loop" fast and it turned out to be exactly 1/2 mile by our Garmin measurements so we decided to make this our repeat loop with an easy 2 minute recovery in the grassy fields between each rep. I was feeling good after my weekend without a long run so decided to wear my Vibram Five Fingers for this run. This was the first time I've tried speed work in Vibrams and luckily we were on a pretty easy trail so I didn't have to worry too much about stubbing a toe or stepping on a sharp rock. There was the additional challenge of quickly fading daylight, and during the last repeat it was pretty damn dark in the woods but it didn't effect my speed. The "A Loop" has some of the best hills at TB and if I had been wearing shoes with good grip as opposed to the Vibram slicks I may have been a little more efficient and perhaps quicker but since I pretty much never do speed work I wasn't really concerned.

1/2 mile repeats: 3:32, 3:35, 3:25, 3:19

time: 54:39
distance: 6.41 miles
pace: 8:32


I was in Farmington for a meeting in the afternoon and Jeff had suggested I check out the trails at Titcomb Mountain. This sounded like a good idea at first but when I got out of my meeting at 6pm at got to the mountain I realised there was very little daylight left, I didn't have a headlamp and I really didn't want to get lost on unfamilar trails so I headed home without getting a run in for the day.


My boss picked me up at 7:30 am to head back to Farmington which meant that after returning to our office in the afternoon I was without transportation to get home except for my own two feet. Luckily I had brought my running stuff with me so after work I ran a lap of Back Cove and then home. For quite a while I had been thinking that I needed to get in a midweek run over 10 miles but never managed to fit it in, but since I was able to combine the run with getting home I was fianlly able to make it work. Nice cool conditions, lovely evening for a run.

time: 1:20:12
distance: 10.27 miles
pace: 7:48


Since I arranged to meet Emma after work in Portland I decided to run to work in the morning to avoid us each having a car in town. I packed a bag with my work clothes and lunch, and gave myself a little under an hour to get there. Interestingly, I guess, it turned out to be exactly 10k from door to door as measured by my Garmin. It was a nice morning for a run, but the route pretty much sucked because of all the traffic going into Portland and the busy intersections I had to get through. Not the most enjoyable run but it was convenient.

time: 48:11
distance: 6.2 miles
pace: 7:47

I didn't really want to run both Thursday and Friday, Friday is usually one of my days off from running since I usually pack a lot of running in on the weekend. I don't like the idea of running 4 days in a row but that's how it was going to work out this week. I've always been a relatively low-mileage runner and even when I'm running 5 days a week, which it pretty much the most I'll ever do I never run more than 3 consecutive days. Oh well.