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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

1 More Fat Ass for Sunshine

Today we celebrated the culmination of Blaine's 1 More Mile For Sunshine challenge: part fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, part "let's see if I can run 500 miles in one month." Being the 31st of the month Blaine was looking for company during his 31 mile run (after having run mileage at least matching the calendar date all month long) so he created a Fat Ass 50k event. A lot of people showed up with various distance plans ranging from 10k all the way up to 50k. I hoped to get in the full distance but wasn't feeling 100% and wasn't sure how I'd feel once I put in a few hours of running. The course Blaine came up with was a mix of road, beach, bushwhack, trailer park and hard packed double-track, over generally flat terrain.

Since the course wasn't marked prior to our start most of the group moved along at Blaine's (thankfully slow for him) pace, although the group of slower runners behind us found the sparse marking hard to follow. My plan was to start out slow and easy and try to pick the pace up a bit in the second half of the run. The first lap definitely felt like a very easy pace, especially with a handful of short stops along the way for everyone to regroup. I was carrying my Nathan pack with plenty of food and drink so there wasn't much need for me to take time at the aid station between laps, just graze the table for what looked good.

About 2 miles into the second lap I felt the need for a bio-break, then ran hard to catch up with the group. I was reminded of the importance of eating right the day before, not just quality but also quantity. A few years ago I learned that carbo-loading the day before a long run is more likely to result in extra pit stops than extra energy during the run, but for some reason I didn't follow that plan before today's run. One too many burritos.

On the third lap our group had thinned quite a bit, and we picked up Alan who is notorious for pushing the pace. This resulted in my quickest lap time of the day, but at the time it felt pretty good and I hoped to be able to keep that pace up for the rest of the run. Jeremy and Zak made a very quick transition into lap 4 and Alan and I ran hard to catch up with the two of them. I caught up to Zak and Alan went on to chase down Jeremy, but it wasn't long before I felt the need to make another stop. It was a slow walk to the out-house, and then took me a little while to get back into a rhythm once I started running again. Definitely not feeling right on the inside, but my legs were ready to move. If I subtracted out the pit-stop this probably would have been my fastest lap of the day.

By the time I started the 5th and final lap I was starting to feel a bit tired, overall my energy wasn't great and my stomach still felt a little off. I had brief thoughts about trying to catch up to Zak but I really wasn't in the mood for pushing the pace. I just cruised along at what felt "comfortable" knowing that I was slowing down a bit. At least I didn't have to make any stops during this lap.

Lap splits (excluding stops between laps which ranged from 1-4 minutes):
Lap 1 - 58:00
Lap 2 - 57:00
Lap 3 - 52:00
Lap 4 - 54:30
Lap 5 - 55:00

All in all it was another good long training run. Fun while I had company to run with and a good mental and physical test when I was running alone for most of the last two laps. Congratulations to Blaine for completing the 1 More Mile Challenge!

Enjoying a post-run adult beverage

time: 4:45:21
distance: 30.39 miles
pace: 9:27

weather: low 40's, sunny

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 295, socks, capris, long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, Nathan HPL #020

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Triple Jungle Run

I was a little disappointed that Zak and I didn't manage to get in a full 31 miles last Saturday so I decided to get out in the middle of the week for another long run in what I hoped would be better conditions. I didn't have the whole day free so I headed out in the afternoon from home and planned to attempt three laps of the "Jungle Run". The Jungle run is a loop that James (next door neighbor) came up with from our houses that starts and finishes with about 1.5 miles of road on each end, and has a solid chunk of gnarly trail terrain in the middle. The exact distance of the loop seems to vary each time we run it because there are so many trail options out there, so it ends up being anywhere from 8.5 to 10.5 miles. I planned to shoot for laps that would be about 10 miles each.

This loop also has some pretty decent elevation change, and it's where James did a lot of his training for Barkley (and other ultras) so this run seemed like a good punishing workout. To the best of my knowledge no one had ever attempted three laps, James and I (and Zak and Jeremy) have all done 2 laps. Even though I had my house as an aid station 10 miles is still a pretty long way between stops so I had to carry a fair amount of fluid and snacks to sustain me on the loops. Not knowing exactly what to expect for conditions I wasn't sure how long each lap would take. I had been out on some of these trails at the beginning of the week and found a few icy spots so I planned my route to avoid some of the worst ice that I knew was still out there. I had post-holed early in the week and slightly hyperextended my left knee, another reason I wasn't feeling 100% confident in being able to complete all three laps.

the first trail section from Hillside Ave

the gas line roller coaster
My first lap turned out to be a little less than 10 miles, and for the sake of consistency I decided to keep each of my laps on the exact same route so I could compare my splits for each lap and see how much I slowed down. I was pleasantly surprised to find the trails in pretty good condition, only a few icy spots, plenty of mud, but enough dry stretches to allow for some fairly consistent running. After the first lap I stopped at home long enough to change into dry shoes, pick up another gel and Honey Stinger wafer.

snomo trails in Blackstrap Preserve

the power lines at the edge of Blackstrap Preserve

deep water in some places

Skillins tree farm

nice dry trails along Blackstrap ridge

As I neared the end of the second lap, coming down Blackstrap Road, I saw Nathan running up the road towards me. I had told him I'd be doing this run today and invited him to come along for part of it but since he didn't know the loop I didn't expect him to find me. But luckily his timing was good and he found me not far from home. It was nice to have his company on the third lap and his presence helped keep me slowing down.

the Three Bitches, from the top of Bitch #1

power line mud

big puddles good for washing off the mud

pretty sloppy

I was really happy to be able to keep my pace consistent throughout with only about a 1.5 minute variation in my lap times. I have to admit though that this is partly attributed to stopping to take most of the pictures in the first lap, then running the last one without stopping.

splits: 1:33:28, 1:34:54, 1:34:50

time: 4:55:51
distance: 29.2 miles
pace: 10:12
elevation: 4028' gain

weather: upper 30's/low 40's

conditions: Lots of mud, a few icy spots, plenty of dry spots

gear: Inov-8 Roclite 295 (lap 1), X-Talon 212 (laps 2-3), socks, shorts, long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, Nathan HPL #020

Sunday, March 11, 2012

6 Peaks of Camden

Since Emma was headed up the coast for the Mid Coast Half Marathon on Sunday I decided to get up there a day early and get a long run in with Zak at Camden Hills State Park. We both hoped to get in a 50k, but not knowing what to expect for conditions we had only a loose plan which was to try to hit each of the 6 peaks within the park. We started around 11:30 AM from the Youngtown Rd trail head in Lincolnville and encountered ice almost immediately. This would continue to be the theme of the day.

For some reason neither of use brought screw shoes, I guess we were overly optimistic that the warm weather we'd been having would have melted most of the snow. Actually, there had been a lot of snow melt, the problem is that after the snow melted it got cold enough to freeze all of that water that was running off the hills. I at least had my Inov-8 Oroc 280s with me which have built-in metal studs, but Zak had his X-Talon 212s which have nothing. The Ski Lodge/Multi-Use trail that cuts through the park is at least only a gradual incline so we were able to move across the ice at a reasonable pace.

We dropped down to the main park entrance off Rt 1 and then started to climb up Mt Battie. These  trails were in great shape and it was wonderful to run on dry single-track again. There were a few icy spots but nothing that slowed us down too much. After a quick trip up the stone tower we headed back down a bit before starting to climb up Mt Megunticook.

The Tableland Trail going up Megunticook on the south face was perfectly dry, but for some reason we decided to take the longer way up the Mt Megunticook trail that wraps around to the northeast. BIG mistake. I don't know why we didn't turn back. The entire trail,in fact the entire north side of the mountain was covered in ice. We went off trail so we could at least find more trees to help pull ourselves up, but it was miserably treacherous and incredibly slow going. Once up at the ridge we hoped to find less ice, but no such luck. We pretty much crawled and slid on our asses for the next 1+ mile. We decided to forgo the out n back to Maiden Cliff, and instead take Zeke's to the Sky Blue trail. These trails were actually in pretty good shape and we could run off and on between the nasty icy spots.

RunnignAhead reports over 4,300 feet of elevation gain

We say a few other people out attempting to enjoy the nice weather. Most hand crampons or microspike and trekking poles, and they all looked at us like we were crazy for attempting to tun. Which we probably were. From Sky Blue we headed back along the Ski Lodge Trail until doing an out n back to Cameron Mountain. This was all ice until we got to the base of Cameron Mt. Since Cameron doesn't have any tree cover the short/quick climb on dry trail was a treat.

Back along the Cameron Mt Trail and then straight up to Bald Rock Mt. This climb wasn't too bad, it was icy but not as bad as Megunticook. We took a minute to catch our breath and take in the view. It took three hours to get in the first three peaks of the park, and we hoped we'd be able to get the last three in much quicker. At least the last three were all closer together, we just hoped the trails would be in better shape. And they were. Don't get me wrong, overall the conditions were pretty lousy, but compared to what we experienced on Megunticook they were a lot better. Neither of us had ever been out to Derry or Frohock Mt so it was fun to be seeing some new terrain. Since this section is an out n back without any decent views it doesn't get much traffic and the trails are a little hard to follow in some places.

With dense tree cover at Frohock there was no reason to linger so we turned right back and decided to take the shortest way back to our cars. It was clear we weren't going to get any where near 31 miles in today, not in these conditions and with the daylight we had remaining (we didn't hit the trail until 11:30). We figured we'd be lucky to finish in under 5 hours, that would be long enough in these conditions regardless of what distance we covered. We discovered that despite the slow pace we were getting an incredible workout of off all our core and stabilizing muscles as we fought to stay upright on the ice.

It was such a novelty to see clear trails that's what I took pictures of, but now I'm wishing I had captured more of the ice.

When we finally finished up we'd been out for 4 hours and 40 minutes on "only" covered a little more than 20 miles, but we felt like we'd done 50k. At least we did manage to get in all 6 peaks in the park, the first time either of us has done that, despite several previous attempts in much easier conditions.

time: 4:40:43
distance: 20.18 miles
pace: 13:55

weather: mid 30's, sunny

conditions: crazy ice, or bare ground

gear: Inov-8 Oroc 280, wool socks, tights, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, Nathan HPL #020

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bradbury Blizzard Race Report

The days leading up to the final race of the Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series were an extravaganza of snowshoeing with 6-8 inches falling on Thursday, but by race day we were just lucky enough to be able to pull off the race with minimal snow coverage in a lot of places. On Thursday I got out near the end of the storm for a 5.5 mile snowshoe run on some local trails. I learned that the worn-down-then-sharpened cleats on my snowshoes no longer gripped the deep snow, but at least the trails would be packed before the race. On Friday I met Ryan at Bradbury to check out the trails for the race. Despite what looked like a lot of snow there was virtually no base on the mountain trails so we knew we had to find a course on the east side trails. With Ryan on his skis and me on my snowshoes we each headed out to break trail and see what it was like out there. We both covered 6 miles (hard work breaking trail for that long) and finished up about the same time. We spent a few minutes coming up with a combination of what both of us had seen that took in the best trails and tried to minimize any duplication of the previous race course, oh, and also looked like it would be close to 5 miles. We agreed that I'd go over the course the next day, and then we'd finish the course marking on the morning of the race.

On Saturday I returned to the park with Emma and we planned to walk the course and get as much marking done as possible. When we arrived it had just started raining, and as the morning progressed the rain picked up and was visibly turning the nice new snow to slush. Bastard. It took us 2.5 hours to walk the course, which turned out to be 6.25 miles, and we were soaked, and tired. Luckily there appeared to be a loop we could lop off the course to get it down to 5 miles, but it wouldn't be until race morning that I'd go back out to confirm the distance.

By Sunday morning the rain had really screwed up the snow. Our only hope was that it got cold enough for long enough over night to solidify the course enough that we wouldn't be running through slush and puddles. I got to Bradbury at 7AM and strapped on my snowshoes for the fourth consecutive day, the first time this winter I've been able to do that. I headed out onto the course with a big handful of orange flags to survey the conditions and finish the marking. Things were taking a bit longer than I expected, and in the interest of saving something for the race I decided to skip the Bat Cave, which I know from running it a bazillion times before is just over 0.6 miles long. So when I finished marking the course and my Garmin said I'd run 4.44 miles it looked like the course was going to be pretty much right on 5 miles when we added the Bat Cave in. However, the distance I came up with after running the race was 4.63 miles. I know that the bat Cave is definitely longer than 0.19 miles, in fact when I look at that section of trail on my GPS data from running the race it measured at 0.62 miles. But for some reason I still came up short on the race course. So while I'd like to believe that the race was 5 miles long I have no data to show that it is, and a few other folks also came up with less than 5 miles. Oh well, I doubt that anyone was looking for more after they crossed the finish line.

By the time I met up with Ryan on the course he was about 3/4 of mile from the end with a shovel in hand trying to cover up some of the bare patches of ground. I thought it seemed silly at first, but it actually work great and meant that our snowshoes never had to touch dirt and rocks.

While we got everything else set up for the race I had plenty of time to forget about my own racing strategy, so at about 10:45 Emma and I went out for a short warm-up to get the blood flowing and the mind focused. I had run well at the previous two snowshoe races so I put a little pressure on myself to make this another good one. Since Jeremy couldn't make it to this race due to much better plans out west I knew I had a pretty good chance at taking second place in the overall series standings, but Jeff wasn't that far behind me and I thought he had a chance of catching me if he had a good race. Since I was (once again) the only one who knew the race course I was able to formulate a race strategy and was actually able to execute it.

Race start, photo by Blaine Moore
I lined up next to Judson Cake, which seemed a little crazy, but my plan was to go out hard for the first 1/4 mile on the wider trail and then ease back a bit when we got to the twisty single-track. I did slow a little on the single-track, mostly due to the terrain rather than from a decreased effort. I was pretty sure Andy was right behind me and Jeff, Scott, Peter and Jamie were part of a tight pack that had me running scared. My knowledge of the turns helped a bit but I couldn't put any distance between myself and the pack that was on my heels.

At about the 1 mile mark we turned onto the Snowmobile Trail which was wide and well-packed. This was going to be the first real opportunity for anyone to pass so I really pushed hard on this 1/4 mile stretch to ensure that didn't happen. I was a little surprised that no one made a move, but it was still early. Back onto single-track and I slowed enough to catch my breath back, but the pressure was right back on again. I slowed down a bit more when we entered the Bat Cave, knowing that it would virtually impossible to pass on this tight trail. I think Jeff later mentioned my casual pace through here, but that was part of my plan. When we exited the Bat Cave we had a gradual uphill and I did my best to push the pace again on this stretch. Then back onto the Snowmobile Trail where once again I really had to speed up to fend off any passing attempts.

At 3 miles we turned onto the single-track of Ginn and I slowed a little to catch my breath. The pressure was immediately back on and now I could tell it was Jeff. I had no doubt that he knew exactly what the time differential was between us in the series standings and I was now pretty sure that he was going to try to beat me. I now had to decide if I should push the pace here to try to lose Jeff or relax a bit, hope that he couldn't pass on the narrow trails and save it all for the 1/4 mile straightaway sprint to the finish. Neither option seemed like a good way of ensuring that I would stay ahead of Jeff.

Jeff planning his move, photo by Blaine Moore

At around the 4 mile mark Jeff finally made a bold move and went around me on the left. And he was really moving. I had all I could do to keep up with him and a gap started to open between us. I felt defeated, at the pace he was going it looked like he might have a chance of opening the 1 minute gap he needed to beat me in the series standings. He was breathing like a wounded gnu (his words) and I regained hope for being able to hang on. I closed the gap and got right on his heels. I could have made a move to pass but decided to wait until we got to the Link Trail where I wouldn't have to step off into deeper snow and waste any energy. At one point I heard Jeff mutter "I'm Done" between breaths, and his pace was definitely slowing, but I remained patient. When we finally hit the Link Trail I kicked it in and went past on the double-track trail. I didn't believe that Jeff was really done so I pushed it as hard as I could for final 1/4 mile. Luckily it was enough for a second place finish in both this race and the overall series standing. Sweet. Thanks to Jeremy for not showing up, and to Jeff for making me really work for it.

time: 39:17
distance: 4.63 miles (5 miles?)
pace:8:29 (7:51?)
place: 2/37


weather: high 30's, overcast

conditions: wet, sticky snow, this in places, slushy in others, some ice

gear: Atlas Run snowshoes, Saucony Kinvara, wool socks, leg compression sleeves, shorts, long sleeve shirt, glove, cap