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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Running with Dogs

A few weeks ago Emma and I got a second dog, Kip, to keep Bolt company. Kip is about 10 months old and is full of energy so we've been easing him into running with us. Friday was a very rainy day and although the dogs had been let out a few times during the day they didn't get much exercise so by the time I got home from work they were ready to release some of that pent up energy.

I've only run with both dogs once before, and that was on trails so they were both off leash, but since it was 6:00 PM, dark and rainy I decided to stick to some of the quiet roads in my neighborhood and keep the dogs on leash. I was a bit worried that the dogs would just take off and leave me standing there with two bloody stumps where my arms were once attached, but after the initial yank they settled into a reasonable pace pretty quickly. Since the sprints at the TMR TNR seemed to set me back in my recovery from the Mtn Epic I was hoping this would be a nice slow run, but the first mile was 7:35 which felt a little too quick for recovery, especially after spending all day sitting down. I guess I let the dogs get carried away with the pace too much.

The remainder of the run was at a more sensible "recover" pace and I was impressed that the dogs did a good job understanding that the purpose of what we were doing was to run in a straight line (more or less), at a consistent pace that was dictated by me and that they weren't supposed to be jumping around and playing games. I think we all had fun, but I'm sure it would have been even more enjoyable if we'd been on trails unleashed.

time: 32:09
distance: 3.98 miles
pace: 8:05

weather: mid 50's, drizzly

gear: Brook Cascadia 3, shorts, long sleeve top, reflective vest, hat

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The TMR TNR (Trail Monster Running Tuesday Night Run) is run on a 5.5 mile loop on trails built for X-C skiing at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland. We run the same course every week until snow falls. The trails are wide, non-technical with few natural obstacles, a fairly soft surface and lots of small rolling hills. Apart from one short stretch of a perpetual mud pit leading to a stream crossing the trails are dry. Great for trying out minimalist footwear which is what I was doing tonight, but I can't say too much about that right now...

The hills really aren't that big.

This week I was recovering from the Mtn Epic race at Sunday River, a crazy 12 mile mountain run that absolutely trashed my quads. For that race I wore my Inov-8 Mudroc 290, I needed something with good grip and just a little cushion under the heel for the many miles of downhill running. My plan was to take it easy this Tuesday night, but once I got going things loosened up and I felt good. Our average pace was right around a 9 minute mile until we hit the first of 3 sprint lines. I initially had no intention of sprinting tonight but after about 2.5 miles I felt really good so decided to go for it. I won the first sprint, about 2/10th of a mile up a gradual hill, probably because no one else was trying, I don't usually win sprints.

By the time we reached the second sprint line at 4 miles it was very dark in the woods and I took off despite not having a head lamp. I won this sprint too, this time because I'm probably the only one who knows the trails in the dark well enough to run fast. By the time we reached the third sprint line which finishes up the final 1/4 mile of the run on dirt road I had pretty much run out of quick leg turnover and the others could actually see well enough to run fast so I finished further back in the pack.

time: 49:05
distance: 5.5 miles
pace: 8:56

conditions: mostly dry trails except for the usual mud hole

weather: mid 50's, dark
gear: can't say what I had on my feet, shorts + t-shirt

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Laudholm 5k - Race Report

I don’t know the first thing about Dwarf Tossing Competitions, which is why I don’t organize them.

This was supposed to be a race report on the Laudholm 5k, but it's turned into a bit of a rant. When writing I have often bitten my tongue and held back opinion because I don’t want to piss anyone off. But I’ve decided that I should be able to say whatever I want on my blog, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Or tell me what you think. Whatever. I may not be right, but it’s my opinion. So here's the first in what I hope will be a more open and honest representation of some of my thoughts about trail running.

In the world of trail running I think the 5k distance is totally lame.

1)       5k is just too short
2)       5k is an arbitrary distance
I’d much rather string together a handful of beautiful trails that make for a logical sequence and let the distance be what it is. I hate to see courses that are contrived to meet a specific distance, especially a really short distance. In trail running you can’t really compare times from one race course to another, because of the variety of terrain you’ll find from one course to the next. Coming up with an exact distance matters less when there’s no comparison. Trail runners accept this as part of the sport. There’s no question in my mind that the Vermont 50 is a more difficult race than the Stone Cat 50. I got my 50 miler PR at Stone Cat, but I know it’s an easy course, and I don’t compare the two on an even level. 

There’s also the question of accuracy in trail racing distances, how do you accurately measure down to the 1/10th of a mile on a trail? In my races I like to make sure that the course is at least as long as the advertised distance, and if it’s going to be off it better be long. One of my biggest disappointments in running was finishing a long race, setting a then PR for that distance and later finding out from the RD that the course was short that year. Most runners won’t complain if they find out that they ran 12.5 miles instead of the advertised 12, it just makes you more of a badass. But if you find out that the course was 48 miles instead of 50 there will be a lot of pissed off runners. 

Yet another aspect of the complexities of trail racing distances is how any one course may vary from one year to the next. Things like erosion, fallen trees, beaver dams, flooding, access permission… can all cause a race course to be changed from one year to the next making comparisons within the history of one event difficult. Weather is also a factor in trail conditions, a dry course vs. a wet course can make all the difference in a trail race.

Trail racing is really about you and the course, not so much about the other runners. It’s one person pushing himself against the terrain. Of course in any race runners will find motivation from others, to push a little harder or plan a strategy, but at the end of the day I think most trail runners will agree that it’s a very personal experience based on how you feel you did against the course regardless of how many people finished in front of or behind you. 

My point is that everyone and their mother is putting on a 5k race these days, trying to capitalize on the popularity of running to make money for some worthy cause. While the cause may be worthy I feel like I’m being used. I run because I love to run, I don’t run to support charities. Sure it’s nice to know that a portion of my entry fee is helping to protect the delicate habitat of the arctic tern, but that doesn’t motivate me to run. What motivates me is the thrill of running fast through the woods, splashing through mud, navigating through rocks and roots, feeling my heart pound and my legs burn as I push my way up a big hill, speeding downhill on the verge of losing control… Growing up in Maine I spent a lot of time outdoors and trail running as an adult captures that feeling of the freedom of youth that is often missing from our lives.

But what really pisses me off is when a race is held at a location with miles of great trails, but the course doesn’t take advantage of this, and appears to be set up for the ease of the organizers instead of the enjoyment of the participants. If you’ve got 4 miles of trails, why would you set up a course that’s only 2.5km long, contains more than ½ mile of paved road, and then make runners run the course twice to get in the 5k distance? Because that’s the easiest course to set up. But it’s the least fun to run, especially when you run past half a dozen trail heads that look like they lead to places much more interesting than where you are at the time.

I’m not trying to suggest that every race should be a Bruiser, but part of the joy of trail running is exploring new places and challenging yourself, and I hate to see missed opportunities for this kind of enjoyment. There is definitely room in the trail running world for “shorter” and “easier” races, I have no problem with that. I’d be satisfied if I came away from the race knowing that I saw the best of the terrain that there was to offer, but instead I left feeling like I missed out on the opportunity to really connect with the place, and that I was being used for my willingness to pay to run.

I’m sure that the organizers of this event had no malicious intent, I’m sure they have only limited understanding of the world of trail running, but that’s the problem. I don’t know the first thing about Dwarf Tossing Competitions, which is why I don’t organize them.

If the organizers of the Laudholm 5k don’t lynch me, I’d actually be very interested in talking with them about how to make the best of what they have to offer. They have a spectacular location, beautiful trails, great facilities and infrastructure, plenty of volunteers... It’s clear they know how to organize a fun event, and I think they could have a great race.

So on to the race itself...
This summer Emma has been on the lookout for short distance, small, low key races to help her along the way as she recovers from a seriously long-lasting knee injury. I've come along to a few of these, and the latest of her discoveries was the Laudholm 5k at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. My first impression of the event based on a flier that Emma brought home was not particularly good, they were offering a 5k run and 2.5k walk, "mostly on the trails of the Wells Reserve at Laudholm." I immediately became suspicious that the 5k course might be 2x around the 2.5k course. It was a last minute decision for me, but Emma was already signed up and I do like going to races together, it's something that was missing from our relationship for a while since she was out of commission for many months. 

We arrived at the site of an old coastal farm which is now the headquarters for the WNERR, the location is beautiful and it immediately became clear that this organization knows how to put on an event. We picked up our numbers, used the bathrooms and had time to run a few miles to get warmed up. The course markings were sparse but after about 1/2 mile of exploring we found the start and then followed the course, but before we knew it we were back at the start again. That confirmed that this was going to be a 2 lap course, and my heart sank a little as I realized that I had already seen everything this race course had to offer and I wasn't impressed.

We joined a crowd of about 80 runners and walkers (inappropriately interspersed) at the start line, at the top of a small hill, and tried to listen to the RD give a description of the course as the wind blew his words out to sea. There was one reference to a second lap, but I think what I heard best was other runners saying "we can't hear you back here". 

The first few hundred yards were a gradual down slope on a grass path and I immediately regretted taking a conservative start position as I was weaving through the people who didn't belong at the front of the pack. The course then made a 90 degree turn onto a paved road and continued the downward slope for another few hundred yards before flattening out. I continued to work my way through iPod wearing runners who were already starting to slow down. My original plan was to run the first lap conservatively, then run hard on the second lap, but for some reason I hate running behind people with iPods so I pushed a little harder in that first mile.

We passed a few trail heads along the road and I wished we had been given the opportunity to turn off. My X-Talon's were craving dirt. After about 3/4 of a mile we finally did turn off the pavement and followed a path along the edge of a field. At this point I was probably in 15th place but once we hit the trail I made a little more effort to pick off a few runners who seemed a little less prepared to deal with the slight irregularities of terrain that the trail offered. We passed more inviting trail heads that headed deeper into the woods, but the course kept us on the short cut grass path of the fields. At about 1.25 miles we turned onto a gravel road and made a slight climb back near the start area and began our second lap.
 Top marks for having the biggest carved pumpkin I've ever seen.

I forgot to bring a watch with me so I wasn't able to get my lap split, but no big deal, I knew what lie ahead and I just had to run hard for another 10 minutes or so. I picked up my speed as I headed down the little paved hill and set my sights on the few runners ahead. I could see Christine Reaser up ahead and new better than to try to catch her, but though I may be able to keep her in my sights. I passed the second place woman and another guy just as we hit the 2 mile mark. I attempted to increase my speed as I turned back onto the grassy trail but didn't have much left to give. It didn't help that I was now catching up to the walkers on the course and when you get two double Bobs side by side it doesn't leave much room for anything else on the trail. The few runners ahead of me were getting harder to catch but I continued to make progress passing someone every couple of minutes.

When we reached the gravel road I knew there was only about 1/4 mile left and it was all ever so slightly uphill. Not enough of a slope to justify slowing down, but enough that I felt it hard to pick up the pace for a fast finish. The last thing I wanted was to get passed this close to the end after running a pretty good race, I have no idea what my splits were but no one had passed me yet during the race and I certainly didn't want it to happen here. One final turn onto the grassy trail lead to the finish and then I was done. I heard the RD call out my time as I crossed the finish line, 19:35.

I was really happy with how I ran this race, I have a tendency with a race of any distance to go out too fast and slow down but I don't think that happened today. Even though I don't know what my splits were I think I ran fiarly consistently considering I continued to catch other runners throughout the race. Emma wasn't too far behind me, finishing in 21:01 which was good enough for third place female overall. We haven't seen the overall results yet, and I have a feeling we may never see them but I did find out that I finished in 6th place overall.

Emma and I grabbed a water and headed out for a cool down run, we wanted to check out some of those trails that were skipped during the race. We followed a nice loop, a little over a mile long that followed a field for a short distance before heading into the woods. There were several wooden bridges crossing small streams, enough roots to keep things interesting and a very tranquil atmosphere. It was a shame not to have included these in the race. 

We finished our cool-down and made it back to the finish in time for the awards ceremony where Emma received a medal and coffee mug. Post race refreshments included fruit, bagels and water, all of which was greatly appreciated. On our way out we spent a few minutes checking out some of the other activities going on as part of the larger Eco Sports Day, there were surfing and golfing demos set up, crafts and BBQ and a band was getting ready to play. There is definite potential to turn this race into something special and I hope the folks at the Laudholm Trust can come up with something that takes advantage of all this place has to offer. 


time: 19:35
distance: 3.1 miles
pace: 6:18

weather: overcast, 50's windy

conditions: dry, grass, gravel, pavement

gear: Inov-8 X-talon 190, shorts, singlet


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Is this Fall?

Now that the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series races are over for the year we're mixing things up on our Saturday runs. This week we decided to return to Pineland, I don't think I've run here since competing in the Barefoot 5k back in May. To be honest I could quite happily run at Bradbury every weekend, I can't get enough single track.

I decided to run the 10k course, lots to do this weekend so I couldn't afford to spend too long running, although if I spent as much time running as I did hanging around talking after the run I could have got in another 6 miles. Oh well. We had a good sized group today including Emma, Jeff, James, Blaine, Erin, Mike, Jeremy, Mary, Erik and first-timers Matt and Steve.

It was unusually warm and humid for an early fall day, this pissed me off a little bit, I hate humidity and I thought we were over it for the year. Despite running in humid conditions all summer long I never seem to get used to it. It's fall now, time for the humidity to bugger off.

I started out a little quick and then slowed down, but looking at the elevation profile it's not surprising that would be the tendency. Emma was planning to race on Sunday so we ran together (at least for the second half of the run) and intentionally took it pretty easy.

time: 57:21
distance: 6.32 miles
pace: 9:05

weather: overcast, mid 60's humid

conditions: wet grass, a little slick in places

gear: Inov-8 X-Talon 190, shorts, t-shirt

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FIRST IMPRESSION - Inov-8 X-Talon 190

Some things just look better with a coating of mud. The Inov-8 X-Talon 190 are one of those things. They're maybe just a little too red, but one trip along the TMR TNR took care of that.

This was my first time trying a 1 Arrow shoe from Inov-8, and the 3mm differential was noticable right away. Most of my trail running lately has been in the X-Talon 212 which is a 2 Arrow shoe (6mm differential) and prior to that I was wearing the Roclite 295 which is a 3 Arrow (9mm differential). What I noticed was my achilles being stretched just a little more than usual as I ran, not in a bad way, just an awareness.

Twisty shoes. OK, so my feet don't move like that, is it a good thing that the shoes wouldn't stop my foot from moving like that?

Speaking of awareness, one thing that I love about these shoes is the way you can feel the ground beneath your feet. Not only is there a minimal differential between the heel and midfoot of the shoe, but overall the midsole is very thin and made from a lightweight material that allows for a natural response of your foot to the ground. I've come to realize that there is a reason the human foot has 26 bones, it's to adapt the variable terrain you encounter while running. A shoe doesn't need to control the way you move across the ground, it should allow your feet to do what they were meant to do.

"Sticky Rubber" and wide lug spacing make for a grippy outsole.

Tonight's run was on pretty mellow terrain and at a fairly casual pace. A few small, gently rolling hills, mostly soft trail surfaces, a little mud, a little gravel and some grass, nothing technical. It will be interesting to see how these feel on more technical terrain, with rocks and roots and pointy things to step on, but I suspect they'll feel much like the X-Talon 212 and I haven't had any trouble with them. I wore the 212's at all three of the Bradbury Mountain Trail Running Series races this summer and it doesn't get much more technical than that around here.

This is a seriously flexible shoe. My feet certainly don't bend like that, but if I ever need to roll up my shoes and stick them in my pocket I can.

The uppers of the 190's are mostly a lightweight fabric mesh, which means they should drain well, but since I managed to jump the stream at Twin Brook this evening I didn't get them saturated. These definitely aren't going to be as durable through rough terrain as many Inov-8's are, but that's the price you pay for a 6.7 ounce shoe.

First Run

location: Twin Brook Recreation Area, Cumberland
time: 48:09
distance: 5.5 miles
pace: 8:45

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bradbury Mountain Breaker - 9 Mile Trail Race

Today I ran the Scuffle course and then Blaine helped my shoot some video on the Breaker course:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bradbury Mountain Breaker video

After many months I finally remembered that I had a lot of video footage from last years Breaker that Susannah shot during the race. Last night I decided to put together a little video of the descent on the South Ridge Trail:

Most of my weekend trail running these days has been at Pineland and now I'm starting to suffer from Bradbury withdrawal...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pineland Barefoot 5k

Following a run on the first 10 miles of the 25k race course Blaine and Four helped me shoot this video of the Barefoot 5k course.

Blaine was running proper barefoot, I was in my Vibram Five Finger KSO's.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Summary

February killed my running mojo and as a result March was my lowest mileage month in a few years.

Total Miles: 80.51
Total Time: 12:04:26
Average Daily Distance: 2.6 miles
Average Pace: 9:00

I realized that despite my tendency to offer up advice to others I'm not very good at following it, there's still a lot that I don't know about running smart, avoiding injury and dealing with injury. I'm continuing to learn things about myself and what running means to me. I've often said that I run because it's fun, and when it's not fun I won't do it. Running wasn't much fun in the month of March so I barely did any.

At the end of February I decided that there was no way I could continue to train for the 95 mile West Highland Was Race so I officially withdrew. That was tough. Since 2006 I've been free from any significant injury and my running has consistently improved, so this is the first time in years that I've really had to pull back and rethink how I do things. My achilles problem really isn't a significant injury, but it's an ongoing pain that has definitely been holding me back.

That said, my achilles has started to improve thanks to the help of Dr. Jamie. He got me to the point where I should be able to complete the recovery on my own, my problem is that stretching and doing strengthening exercises isn't fun, and I don't like doing things that aren't fun. So it's my own fault that this has dragged on longer than necessary.

Another thing I've learned is that when I don't do much running I get out of shape. When I'm out of shape running becomes less fun and I'm less inclined to go out and remind myself how out of shape I am. It's a vicious cycle.

At the end of this month I feel like I am definitely making progress with my achilles problem, I'm starting to get more enjoyment out of running again and I am determined to get back to where I was before. It's going to be quite a while before I'm in ultra running shape again, but there are plenty of shorter distance trails to be run around here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Summary

February kinda sucked. I had a few good runs, actually a few very good runs. TMR Saturday runs are the best. But my stupid achilles thing has really messed up my training this month as well as my overall enjoyment of running.

Here are the numbers for February

Total Miles: 111.52
Total Time: 16:54:07
Average Daily Distance: 4.0 miles
Average Pace: 9:06

Much worse than January. My plan for the year was to ramp up mileage each month as I train for the WHW, but things are going in the wrong direction. Early in the month I told myself (and a few other people) that if I wasn't 100% pain free by the end of the month that I didn't think I would have any reasonable chance of training for and running the WHW the way I want to, and would therefore not do it. I only ran once in the last week of February and it wasn't pain-free.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Return to the K9 Loop

I was pleasantly surprised to wake up Sunday morning feeling pretty good, Saturday's run definitely didn't make things worse. I had a busy day and wasn't sure if I'd make it our for a run before sunset but did get out of the house around 3:45, it was just too nice out, I actually wore shorts. Although I had originally thought about getting in 10-15 miles today I didn't want to run after dark and I didn't leave the house prepared for night running so I knew I only had time for about 10. I decided to run the K9 loop, which is a little under 10 but I thought I could bump it up a little.

The ankle was feeling pretty good and wasn't really bothered by the hills. My energy level was good but I didn't want to push the pace too much for fear that I might set myself back if I went out too hard. Apart from an emergency bio-break everything went well. Nice to be wearing shorts, but I honestly hope that winter returns and I'm forced to cover my legs for a few more weeks.

time: 1:16:17
distance: 9.75 miles
pace: 7:49

weather: mid 30's, windy

gear: Inov-8 F-Lite 301, Smart Wool socks, shorts, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, gloves, baseball hat

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bradbury Run Cut Short

Saturday I was a little apprehensive about what I'd be able to run given how I felt on Thursday. Friday night I did a lot of stetching and rolled my calf/achilles, but despite this I woke up feeling pretty tight. By the time I started my run with Jim and Lily I was feeling okay and things loosened up over the first mile. Conditions were pretty rough and I was surprised that my ankle wasn't irritated by the terrain. of the Beautiful Loop.

Things were going well, albeit a little slower than last week, until Lily made the unfortunate discovery of an underground cavern hidden beneath a thin layer of ice. She fell in up to her knee and then things got wrenched around a bit. Not good. We decided to take the shortest way back to the park from here, but we were already 8 miles out and the short way was still over 5 miles. We got off the rough trails as soon as we could and ran the last 4 miles back to the park on the roads.

Although I was the tiniest bit disappointed not to complete the whole 15 mile loop I was relieved to finish the run without causing any additional pain. My ankle felt a lot better than it had on Thursday.

time: 2:03:05
distance: 13.33 miles
pace: 9:14

weather: low 30's, sunny, breezy

conditions: hard packed snow, lots of ice, bare ground

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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Slipping Off The Schedule

Not that I really have a training schedule, but if I did I'm afraid I'd be falling behind. This ankle thing that I didn't think anything of back in December is really starting to hold me back. I had a few good runs last weekend but this week didn't start so well.

Monday was a planned day off, Tuesday I was too busy with work to get out for a run. Wednesday I had a meeting out of town, got dropped off at home after work and then ran back to my office to get my car. There was some definite tightness in my achilles for the first mile, it lingered into the second mile which was all uphill, but then eased off over the next mile which was gradually downhill. After that second mile I had a nice progression of increased speed: 7:47, 7:32, 7:28, 7:22, 7:05. It helped that I had a tail wind.

Unfortunately it seemed that pushing the pace a bit, and then immediately getting into my car and driving home, followed by sitting on my ass eating dinner lead to my achilles tightening right back up again.

time: 46:27
distance: 6.21 miles
pace: 7:29

Thursday I decided that I needed to get in a short/slow run. I realized that there probably isn't enough of that in my training plan. Earlier in the day I had another session with Dr. Jamie Raymond, he identified a long chain of tightness running from my right glutes to hamstring to calf to achilles. I didn't come away from this visit with such a noticable improvement in my ankle, but I did feel like a few related areas were addressed that will help the ankle.

I set off for my run around 6:00, and about 3 minutes into the run I stopped and considered turning around and walking home because the pain in my achilles was so bad. I stretched for a minute or so, walked a little and then resumed thee run, that seemed to be enough to reduce the pain to a very tolerable level, but it didn't make me feel very good about my long term long distance running goals.

time: 34:39
distance: 4.08 miles
pace: 8:29

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Road Miles

I wanted to get in at least 10 miles today, since I wasn't running the race in Cape Elizabeth I wanted to do my 10 mile "recovery" run following yesterday's 15 mile trail run at Bradbury. I opted for roads to give my ankle a break from the abuse of icy/snowy trails.

I couldn't resist picking a route that got in some good hills which did aggravate my achilles a bit, but most of the uphill was out of the way by 3.5 miles.

I had originally planned to do this race, but when I realized I didn't have much of a chance of improving upon last year's time I didn't think it was worth it. Different races have different meanings to me, and this one is about running as fast as I can and trying to improve upon my previous time. If I had really wanted to I'm sure I could have focused on shorter, faster runs over the past few weeks and come close to last year, but I'm trying to stay focused on the big picture here of running 95 miles through the Scottish Highlands in June. I don't need a lot of speed for that.

time: 1:21:22
distance: 10.74
pace: 7:35

weather: mid 20's, windy

gear: Saucony Grid Sinister, Smart Wool socks, tights, 2x long sleeve shirts, buff, gloves, mittens (off/on)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sweatsicle, IceSpikes, Ankle Recovery

After the recent climax in ankle pain last week I was a little skeptical about being able to get in a decent run this weekend but things worked out better than expected. I took three days off after last weekends 21 mile run, then did an easy 4.25 miles on Thursday which felt okay. Not great, but okay. On Friday I went to see Dr. Jamie Raymond, a chiropractor and runner who has treated a handful of Trail Monsters. He did some manipulation, ART, scraping and kinesio taping, just the right combination to get my ankle feeling a lot better. Not 100%, but much better than when I walked into his office. I'll go back for another treatment or two and that should get me back to normal.

So not knowing exactly how I was going to feel today I set off with the goal of completing the 15 mile Beautiful Loop but had prepared myself mentally in case I needed to turn around early. Jamie, Lily, Sara, Blaine and Erin made up today's group, but by 5 miles it was just me and Jamie, and luckily we were both feeling good (Jamie had also been suffering from an ankle sprain). Up to this point the trails were mostly hard packed snow with a little ice, very runnable and we managed to keep most miles under a 9 minute pace. Actually each mile from 2 to 11 was sub 9, that doesn't sound fast but but it felt like we were moving along pretty quickly over the hilly terrain.

Along the 6 mile stretch of power lines we encountered a lot of ice, stretches of 100 feet or more at times and I was grateful for the IceSpikes I was wearing. A few weeks ago Erik hooked up a bunch of Trail Monsters with free sets if IceSpikes he had acquired and I've now had the opportunity to get in some good miles with them. For years I've been a fan of good old fashioned screw shoes and at first was skeptical of what seemed at first glance to be little more than sheet metal screws in a fancy package with a jacked-up price. But God is in the details:

The deep groove in the head of the IceSpike definitely provides better grip than an ordinary sheet metal screw, I found today that I was able to run across ice, up and down icy hills without any worry of slipping. Today's conditions were actually more icy than I'd ever seen before, and for today's conditions I don't think ordinary screw shoes would have been good enough. The only thing I haven't really tested with these is how they hold up on roads, if they can last through a few road miles on a regular basis without wearing down then I really think they'd be worth the money.

It's also worth mentioning that I put the IceSpikes into a pair of shoes that I had screwed last year and the result is that they didn't stay in place quite as well as I assume they would have if I had screwed a virgin pair of shoes. In three runs totaling about 30 miles I think I've lost a total of 12 IceSpikes. That's my own fault, I suspect the same would have happened if I'd used sheet metal screws.

I made the rookie mistake today of not protecting the hose of my hydration pack, within two miles it was frozen and it took another 10 miles for me to get it thawed by shoving the hose down my shirt and wearing my vest over the pack. It was a funny kind of cold today, at times it felt pretty warm and I was sweating pretty heavily, but it was cold enough that my sweat was freezing. Most interesting was the sweatcicle that formed at the edge of my buff, I didn't even notice it until Jamie pointed it out:

It felt like Jamie and I were moving along at a pretty quick pace for this run, and I was surprised to find that it was only a few second faster than when we ran it 3 weeks ago. We did make fewer stops along the way, so while our running pace wasn't significantly faster our overall time was a few minutes better. I was really happy that my ankle wasn't in any significant pain and certainly didn't slow me down today, even with some of the gnarly terrain we came across.

time: 2:13:18
distance: 15.06 miles
pace: 8:51

weather: 9-16 degrees, mostly clear sky, light wind

conditions: crusty packed snow, sheer ice, bare ground

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 295 with IceSpikes, sock liners, Smart Wool socks, tights, 2x long sleeve shirts, windbreaker vest, gloves, mittens, buff, Nathan HPL #20

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