Tuesday, June 14, 2016

USATF NE Trail Championship 2016

Earlier this spring I was able to race the USATF NE Trail Championship in Andover, MA aka the Merrimack River 10M Trail Race.  Usually the race conflicts with other things, but I had no excuses this year to skip out.  It is a trail race, but races like a track meet.  Because it is the trail championship, part of the ATR series, and also the first trail race in the established Grand Tree Series, this race attracts a ton of fast runners.  Because the course is easy, it attracts a bunch of fast road runners.  I had no expectations in regards to finishing place, even for just the Masters division.  I instead focused on my overall time, settling for a number I thought made sense based on comparisons to other runners - 64 minutes.  My brother Greg who has experience at this race, set the bar higher for me: 61 or 62.  He was adamant that I could be that fast here.  I had plenty of trail racing under my belt already this year.  I was pumped! 

I made the trek up with Mike Galoob.  We got there early, signed up, and decided to walk the first part of the course.  The race begins in a parking lot, but in a matter of feet, narrows to a muddy single track section (that becomes quadruple track during the race).  I made the note to not bother to try to get across on the bridge and just aim straight through the mud.  The trail then meets the river and is a very pleasant path along the shore.  It was more of a trail than I was led to believe, but still very fast.  After our hike, we then headed back out for a warm up, change into racing gear, and strides in the parking lot and grass.  The vibe was more machismo than friendly trail venue.  Super focused speedsters not messing around.  I was a little underdressed for the chilly start temp, but I knew I would be working hard and never cold during the race.  I snuck into the far right hand side of the starting line.  I didn't want to be up front, but I also didn't want to get stuck behind people tip-toeing through the beginning mud bog. 

The race began and it was a quagmire.  Some people fell.  I remained upright and stuck to my plan. 

Here we go!  Tucked into the left corner. 
 
Straight through the mud I go.  Stink eye from blue shirt. 

Ended up next to Galoob who took the bridge.

Things quieted down.  I was in a decent spot (20th?) of a long single file line, although I felt a little out of place, seeing some of the runners I was with. 

I shouldn't be near that guy in front of me!
 
 
The running felt fast.  I was pushing myself pretty hard, but trying to keep my pace to something I could reasonably maintain for 10 miles.  I thought the sorting out was done after a mile or so, but I got annoyed as people continued to pass me at the two mile mark.  I felt like I was in 50th place (exaggerating).  I decided to increase my effort and stick with a group of three runners who just passed me by.  After 3 miles, I anticipated the hills.  I was told there were three in each direction.  I hoped this would be my strong suit, but honestly I also preferred a slower grind to a fast sprint at that point.  The hills went well, but it was hard to catch my breath at the top and crank down the other side.  There were a few tricky descents.  I was reeling in the group of 3.  Then, on the steep hill at the powerline, I snuck by two of them after the pace dropped to a crawl (they actually power hiked and I ran).  Check out the 2:15 mark of this video for the action. 
 
 

 
I continued to trail the last of the 3 in a yellow SRR singlet.  I figured it was only a matter of time and I remained close.  I definitely had put good distance on the other two behind me.  Then as the turnaround neared, I began seeing the leaders coming in the opposite direction.  I was very wary of making way for them.  I was bummed to see that Galoob wasn't as high up as I thought he would be.  I reached the end and had to ask what I was supposed to do (just turn around and run duh!).  I think my split was 30:40ish.  Running against traffic was a bit nerve wracking.  At first, it was scary to see all the competition not far behind me.  Then it was a bit frustrating to not always get cooperation from slow runners much later.  I wasn't as aggressive as maybe I should have been here.  I let the SRR guy get too far ahead at time during the hills, and missed my opportunity on the powerline hill in the opposite direction as I got very close to him.  Check out footage from the above video at the 6:20 mark. 
 
Honestly I remember thinking that I wasn't giving it my all on my return trip through the hills.  It was somewhat because of oncoming traffic, but really I was tired and I had no pressure from behind.  I couldn't see anybody.  I actually was looking forward to the last 3 miles of flatness.  I knew that I would be able to pick it back up and finish strong.  The SRR guy was putting distance on me and I gave up that fight.  That is until I reached the flat riverbed again.  I clearly was catching up to him.  I found a comfortable gear with quick turnover and just tried to stick with it.  His lead on me was shrinking, but at a painfully slow rate.  My best hope was to make a surge near the finish.  Then I caught a glimpse of someone gaining on me from behind - another SRR jersey being worn by Eric Ahern.  I know him from the TARC 50K (well 40K for me) and few years ago, and that he is a great ultra runner who looks fast.  I wanted to beat him.  There was about two miles left.  Running scared now - I was moving even faster.  With about a half mile to go he caught and passed me.  I tried to hold him off, but I think my speed was pegged.  I could only watch in disappointment as he then battled his SRR teammate the last stretch to the finish.  I made my way gingerly through the mud (almost slipping) and crossed the finish line.  See 9:40 mark of video. 
 
The finish. 
 
1:02:12.  I was really happy with my time.  Greg nailed it!  Turns out that I was 14th overall and 3rd master!  Results here.  It felt good to compete so well on a big stage.  The race was more "traily" than I thought going in.  I enjoyed the sprint-hills-sprint format.  I definitely feel like I need a little more speed (complete lack of speedwork probably didn't help) for the flats, but I really can't complain. 
 

 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wapack 21.5 Mile Trail Race 2016

Saturday, May 7th, I ran my second consecutive Wapack trail race.  Last year I surprised myself with a 2nd place finish that was the third fastest all time on this course.  I led the first 17 miles before fatigue in my lower legs (calf cramps!) set in, and I lost 10 minutes over the final 3.5 miles to the race winner Ryan Welts.  I was determined to finish stronger this year.  I also wanted a rematch with Ryan, but he didn't enter.  I was slightly bummed, but I rallied to still put up good training over the last couple months.  Hill repeats.  Technical trails.  Trail races.  Long trail runs (well not as many 3 hour ones as I hoped for).  I felt ready.  I felt like I could put up a sub 3:30 time just by finishing the last 3.5 miles running.  My goal was to not be too aggressive on the first (and biggest) climbs and descents of the day.  Last year I was definitely pushing it trying to stay ahead of Ryan.  It was very possible that no one would be with me this year anyway. 

Race day.  It was cool (mid 40's) but muggy and overcast.  It looked like there might be some showers during the race, but no major downpours.  The trail would be wet this year.  I opted for my sturdy and extremely sticky Inov8 Roclite 295's that may be from 2009.  I don't wear them much, but they are still very grippy, and my go to choice on wet rocks.  I know I can trust them.  Despite the cool temperature, I just wore a singlet and short shorts.  I carried 7 Gu's (ate one on the bus ride to the start) in my new fancy fanny pack.  It is super comfortable and has 4 small water bottles.  No hat, gloves, or sunglasses.  I stuck to myself and stayed focused on my plan.  After the bus ride to the start (northern end - finish and parking at southern end) I ran some strides and scoped out the competition.  Despite being ranked #1 on ultrasignup.com, I knew there are always surprises.  That were a handful of other guys doing strides as well.  I don't remember anyone doing them last year.  There was a younger friendly guy who introduced himself and asked my name.  He then exclaimed to another runner that he had found Mr. Hammett.  His name was Ben (didn't remember a Ben on the registration list) and he was hoping to run 3:30 and stick with me.  He reminded me of Boj. 

The race began and I took the lead immediately.  Once in the woods, I tried to not rush, but sure enough, Ben was right with me.  The climbing soon starts (almost a 1000' climb) and he continued to stick to my heels.  He said the pace was perfect.  I slipped a couple of times on steep mud sections and he took the lead.  He was moving really well, and I decided to not give chase.  I needed to save my body for later.  Who knows what this kid is capable of?  This first climb is steep and technical.  I felt like I was doing a good job with it (later confirmed on Strava that it was only 7 seconds slower than last year).  No sign of Ben.  I began the tricky descent.  The wet rocks made things dicey, but I thought overall, it would help my race by taking it slower than last year.  No sign of Ben - lots of 50 Milers coming in the opposite direction though.  I then climbed South Pack.  This climb is still long, but not nearly as hard.  I ran every step which I did not do last year.  I wasn't rushing and felt really strong.  No sign of Ben.  Time for the hardest descent of the day.  So many wet boulders!  I fell once.  Eventually I could hear traffic on a road.  I was getting close to the bottom.  Then I heard cheering from the first aid station.  Probably for Ben.  I was anxious to get down, but missed a blaze and descended a bit before realizing my mistake.  I backtracked back up and then found the blazes.  It's hard to look up for blazes when your tiptoeing on wet rocks!  This year I stopped at the aid station.  I drank Coke and had one of my bottles filled with some more.  I was told I was 45 seconds back, but it seemed to me it was more like 2-3 minutes.  Whatever.  I needed to run my own race.  Looking at Strava, my South Pack climb was 23 seconds faster than last year, but my descent was 2 and half minutes slower.  Crazy! 

I crossed the road and began the third climb of the day, which is a rather long one, but up a service road.  Good footing.  I again didn't walk a step (I briefly did last year) - beat my time up by 12 seconds.  Now I was on a fun part of the course.  The trail runs along a treed ridge line, with some small ups and downs for a couple of miles.  You can really crank here.  I felt pretty smooth.  No sign of Ben.  Or humans really.  Eventually, I reached the longer descent down to another road.  Somewhere here I slipped and fell onto my hands and knees.  I had a good puncture would in my left palm, and tore skin off my left pointer finger.  There was a good amount of blood and swearing.  I ran on.  I reached the road, this year knowing which way to go (down the road!).  No Ben.  Felt pretty good though.  I reached a long not-steep double track climb.  I remember being confused by the lack of blazes last year, but this year hey were brightly painted.  Thanks!  I also was climbing really well.  No walking breaks.  I knew I was making up quite a bit of time in this section.  The climbing does seem endless though.  Finally I hit the descent and reached the 2nd aid station.  I was at 2 hours which I thought was close to last year.  The volunteer said I was like 5 minutes back.  Come on!  I grabbed some more Coke and water and headed back out. 

I crossed another road and was now in the Windblown XC trail system.  At first, it is very runnable and fun.  Then you hit this ridiculously steep double track climb into the deep woods.  This is where things turned ugly for me last year.  I tried to have a better time of it, but it is terrible.  I hiked up, purposely trying to get my breathing under control, and not rush things.  I still was focused on being able to run the last few miles in.  Things were not going as planned however.  My running on the flats and downs was slowing down.  On the next climb I felt the twinge of a calf cramp coming on.  Oh no!  I did my best to make positive movement, albeit slower, and not let my race fall apart.  This section has many small climbs and descents.  I kept thinking I was close to dropping back down for good and getting to the final aid station.  Where is the photographer?  Finally, I hit open ledges in the fog and there was the camera.  My face shows how I was feeling here.  Soon after passing by, the trail began descending.  This is what I was waiting for, although the pain going down was awful.  Then I tripped and fell on my side and back.  As I fell my left calf locked up on me.  I shouted in pain as I tried to free my stuck calf.  I wondered if the cameraman could hear me.  I stretched out both calves before commencing running again.  It seemed to help.  I reached the bottom and soon was on the double track to the final aid station.  My spirits were up.  Last year this was my lowest point.  I wasn't hurting as bad this time.  I stopped and the awesome volunteer refilled my bottles with water and Coke while I sat on the ground and stretched some more.  I was ready to rock out the relatively easy double track up the backside of Mount Watatic.  I left the station at the 3:04 mark.  I believed I was 3 or 4 minutes behind last year, but I was going to make up the time.  I was running! 

The running went well for two miles or so.  I felt like it was taking too long to reach the summit.  Then I began to crash mentally and physically. I had to slowly walk the last 100' or so to the top.  I thought I still was okay.  I could still finish just a tad faster than last year.  No shame in that.  I tried to jog down the mountain - less than a mile to go I hoped.  I couldn't do it.  I was feeling out of it and my calves were screaming at me to not use them anymore.  I hiked down and ate another Gu.  I wasn't hungry, but I thought this would help me get down.  I felt woozy.  Was I going to make it to the finish line?  I passed by a group of 3 hikers.  They asked if I was running a race.  I said I was, but I couldn't run anymore.  They asked how long the race was and told me I was almost done.  Just after passing by them I fell to the ground with a powerful calf cramp in my right leg.  I couldn't get it to release the tension.  I was screaming in pain, and afraid I might pass out.  One of the hikers made her way down to me.  She asked if it was okay if she touched my leg.  She didn't massage it, just held her hands on it.  She told me to breathe slowly.  This grandma figure saved me!  My calf felt better.  I stood up, thanked her profusely, and marched on.  After a minute or so, my energy came back.  I had survived the bonk!  I tried to jog, but my legs wouldn't have it.  I made it to the finish line though.  3:46:36.  12 minutes slower than last year!  I was happy to just have made it off Mount Watatic without medical assistance.  According to the Strava segment for the Watatic descent of .5 miles, it took me about 18 minutes.  That has to be a course worst!  This was 7 minutes slower than my pathetic 11 minutes last year. 

Limping to the finish.  Photo by Jesse Veinotte.


Ben had a very good day.  He was all smiles at the finish.  He just set the course record by 3 minutes!  We chatted for a while and then his friend came in (3rd place in 3:57).  I ate some food, drank lots of water and Coke.  I finally hobble to my car to change.  My calves and quads now were cramping.  This sucked.  I did my best to loosen up and decided to just start driving home.  It wasn't fun, but not terrible. 

Post race chatting with Ben.  Photo by Jesse Veinotte. 




Some time has past since the race.  I'm okay with it.  This course is a known butt kicker.  I climbed really well.  I descended slowly - partly due to conditions, partly due to not being chased.  My body fell apart again.  I'm blaming lack of long runs in mountains.  I felt good on long technical trail runs leading up to this race.  I can't mimic the pounding of 5K of elevation gain and loss.  Fueling and/or hydration played a role.  Even though the weather was cool - never got higher than 48 degrees - it was very muggy.  I'm a novice when it comes to this stuff.  I rarely carry anything on my local long runs.  Oh well.  I now have two top 10 finishing times on this course.

Top Performances


Friday, April 8, 2016

Brrr-lingame 10 Mile Trail Race 2016

Saturday, March 26th, I ran my 5th Brrr-lingame trail race in the very nearby Burlingame State Park.  I was looking forward to pushing myself around snow free fast trails.  Conditions seemed to be very similar to the fast race here two years ago.  I completed the two lap course in 1:06:09 (write up here) and was very pleased with my time at the time.  This year I wanted to PR, but didn't have a strict time goal in mind.  Despite being on local trails that I know well, I never place as high as I'd like.  The fast guys can be fast here, and a bunch had preregistered or showed up on race morning. 

I didn't arrive quite as early as I'd like, but still had plenty of time for a group warm up.  The race field certainly looked fast despite not being huge.  I was feeling well rested (no midweek workout) and ready to rock.  I did a couple of field sprints right before the start. 

I always get carried away at the start of this race.  I just want to hammer the rolling single track and the adrenaline let's me keep up with the leaders.  I really tried to hold back (my current racing theme), but after we crossed the field and enter the woods, I got really itchy to move up.  I settled into 5th place.  The front of the train was already pulling away, and I did my best to just try to keep up with Steve Brightman (in 4th).  We hit the one steep hill during the first mile, and I closed the gap on all the leaders as they didn't seem comfortable with the climb or screaming descent on the other side.  This was short lived and all four of them (Pat Moulton, The Erics (L and N), Brightman)  pulled away from me.  I wasn't surprised by this at all, although annoyed that Brightman is in such good shape these days.  There was no let down in pace after losing contact with the lead pack.  I had Bob Jackman and Muddy close behind me.  My goal was to now discourage Bob, and I really hammered the climbs to create distance.  This didn't work.  I thought he might pass before we reached the ridge at around mile 3.  This is a rather technical section and one that I hoped favored me.  I worked it hard, Bob in tow.  Suddenly as we neared the end, I realized we had caught back up to the lead pack.  This was pretty exciting.  I wanted to blast by all of them, but the terrain wasn't really conducive for that.  Finally, as well spilled off the ridge, all hell broke loose.  Just as I was going to make my move, Bob came crashing around me and most of the others.  I made my way around some of the leaders as well.  It was a great feeling.  I knew this would be short lived as the trail widened and got a lot smoother.  The top 4 again went by, and I found myself trailing Bob as well, with Muddy right on my heels.  I was already mentally feeling drained by the fast race start and racing in this spot for the next 7 miles seemed daunting.  Oh well.  I just kept going trying to keep in front of Muddy and passing Bob on a steep little climb.  After the descent on the other side, the trail opens up to wide double track for quite some time.  Muddy went by me saying he was going to try to reel in Brightman.  I wasn't surprised by this - Muddy crushed this course two years ago, and this distance is right in his wheelhouse.  I then felt someone else pull along side of me, and I made a comment to him assuming it was Bob.  Nope.  A stranger.  Who was this guy?  I picked it up, not wanting this stranger to pass me before entering the famous bog bridge section.  He stayed close though.  Right before the first bridge Muddy (who was a few seconds ahead) took a digger in some mud.  He popped right up and stayed ahead of me.  He seemed to then run angry and increase his lead on me again.  I got away from the stranger.  Now running in and out of the camp roads, I seemed to be heading for no man's land.  I just tried to do my best watching Muddy put distance on me, then he fell again, this time jumping over a high tree obstacle.  It looked bad, but again he popped right up and kept moving.  However, after a few moments he let up and let me go by him, in obvious pain/discomfort from his accident.  I wasn't happy to pass him in this way - I hoped he wasn't too hurt and even wondered if he would drop out after the first loop (that was almost completed).  My first lap was 32:02 - a PR.  I knew I'd have trouble matching this on the 2nd, but I was feeling confident and rejuvenated.  My first mile of lap 2 was lonely, and not as fast as the adrenalinized first time around.  About a mile in I was surprised to hear somebody behind me, and at a corner I could see it was Muddy!  I was happy he was still racing and now concerned for my place.  I picked it up on the rolling hills (both ups and downs).  I reached the ridge and tried to hammer it again, hopefully catching up to whoever was in 4th place (I never could see anyone ahead of me).  No dice, but I did see Muddy closing in by the end.  Ugh. Or was it?  I realized that I was running hard and feeling really good.  I only had 2 miles left.  I had plenty left in the tank.  Time to push.  That's what I did, finally seeing 4th place on the wide double track before the bog bridges - Pat Moulton.  I only know him as a super fast road marathoner (the fastest in RI with Matty P in CT now??).  I've never seen his name in the results of a trail race.  Maybe he was hurting or dejected - another victim of a Mike Galoob course.  He was pretty far ahead, but I was motivated, picking my pace up to almost sprint mode.  Maybe I could catch him on the bog bridges?  It was awesome to feel like the hunter with something left at the end of the race.  At the end of the bridges, I could see that he was only 10 seconds or so ahead now.  One mile left of intermittent single track between camp roads.  He seemed effortlessly fast on the road parts, but I kept closing the gap on the trail sections (which I was absolutely blasting through).  The closest I got was the weird section that goes through thick leaves and berms down to the beach.  I got to within a couple of seconds before he noticed me.  Damn.  Now he knew I was there and stepped it up.  I was still moving fast.  I desperately tried to catch up on the last two short single track sections.  We finally spilled out onto the last stretch of open grass to the finish and it wasn't going to be.  I finished in 5th, 5 seconds behind him.  I did PR, with a final time of 1:04:44.  My second lap was a semi-even split of 32:42. 




This was a great race.  The trails are easy enough to go fast, but challenging enough in spots to keep it honest.  I'm looking forward to racing 10 miles of trails again two weeks later. 

Fun article in Level Renner about the race here

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Catching Up - Last Month of Winter

Insert lack of blogging excuses here. 

The rundown:


The Analysis:

Seems like the February mileage total is a little low, but whatever.  March is shaping up nicely. 

The week of 2/22/16 was spent on the Belleville Pond Trail 10K course (4 out of 5 weekdays) and then the race was on Saturday.  See separate write up here.  I began incorporating yoga into my morning routine.  There is a block of time between when my son gets on the middle school bus and when my daughter and wife get up for school and work.  I could (and have) do short runs to really pump up my mileage, but I'm getting in plenty of miles without it.  Instead, I've begun dabbling in yoga, and I'm finding it a really nice compliment to my running.  I just do easy yoga workouts on You Tube that have the philosophy I like (mix of relaxation, stretching, and strength).  Nothing crazy or fast.  My body has been responding extremely well.  I feel less tightness and soreness from my normal running.  My body feels stronger.  I still like to mix in some morning pushups and planks, but not as often now. 

Week of 2/29/16 recap: the first three days I got in a lot of hill climbing on mostly trails.  Good Wapack prep.  I'm always a little frustrated with the elevation gain on Strava, especially when I run with somebody with a barometer watch and they bag so much more than me.  I need to forget about it and just know that I'm putting in a lot of quality hill work.  Strava had the week as 4,272' of gain.  Easy day on Thursday, followed by an unplanned (but no big deal) rest day. 

Saturday morning I jumped into the Kelley's Pace Hare Hop 5K in Mystic.  It was race #3 in the WTAC Clamshell Series.  The early morning start and close proximity worked best for the family schedule.  I had hoped to travel up to the An Ros Mor 5K (USATF-NE event) with Galoob on Sunday, but it was too much of a time suck.  I also considered jumping in the Ocean's Run Half and trying to run with Muddy.  It was a little pricey and turned out to be a debacle, so I'm glad I skipped it and went with the Hare Hop.  I arrived early, signed up, and then headed out on an early and long warm up along the course.  I saw two fast looking guys also warming up early.  When I got back, I could see that there was going to be a good sized field.  I was impressed with how well the race was organized.  The course was no cupcake.  An out-and-back with a 80' hill climb in the middle and a couple of sneaky hills at the start and finish.  I was feeling pretty good.  I did some strides in the parking lot and lined up.  It was cold, but I knew I'd be fine when racing.  The two guys I saw warming up were there as well as a pack of fast looking teenagers.  You never know what to expect with them.  Oh, and to my surprise, Matthew Walker was there.  Uh oh, there goes my Clamshell win.  Nothing to do now but just race.  I could use it.  It will be good for me.  The start was fast and I tried to keep myself in check.  After we rounded the parking area (1/4 mile?) we had hit a small annoying hill.  At the top I was now in third.  Where's Matthew?  I continued on the flat open road trying to not go too fast.  There was a guy in blue already establishing a clear lead and then 2nd was a few seconds ahead (these were the two guys I saw warming up).  I reached Mile 1 in 5:41.  This was not my plan.  Too slow.  I wanted to not go out too fast, but apparently I went too far.  Then I reached the big hill.   I dug down and climbed hard.  I quickly caught 2nd place and motored by.  I tried to keep pushing myself, but I couldn't wait for the hill to end.  It did, near the cone turnaround, and I made eye contact with the leader (probably 10-15 second lead).  I rounded the cone and then got to see my lead on third (5 seconds) and Matthew gaining in 4th.  I tried to let it fly down the hill.  It was great to get support from my WTAC teammates and others as we passed each other.  It was clear that the leader was going to win.  He significantly increased his lead.  But, based on the cheers behind me, I had put a nice gap on third.  2 Mile split was 5:36.  Not bad considering the hill.  Back on the flat straight for the last mile.  I felt under control and smooth until I hit the small hill before the parking lot finish.  I was excited to still be ahead of Matthew (for Clamshell points), but also scared.  I felt like there was still a good gap, but not big enough for him to out sprint me to the finish line.  I hammered the hill and felt sick to my stomach at the top.  I didn't descend well.  Matthew was coming.  The stupid parking lot took forever to get to the end.  Finally I could see the finish and knew that I was going to hold my place.  I wasn't thrilled with my finish time (17:24 but add 2 seconds for SNERRO again!!), but it wasn't a flat course.  My Mile 3 split was 5:28 and the final .1 was 5:20 pace (this should be way faster).  Negative splits.  I'll take it.  I watched the finish until I got cold and then returned to my car for extra layers.  I then did a cool down mostly on a new to me trail system that Crutchley alerted me to across the street.  I had enough time to get my award: new GPS watch! 
I really enjoyed this event.  Again, very well managed.  Thank you Kelley's Pace.  Results

Sunday I managed to sneak in a long run in three parts during the morning. 

Week of 3/7 recap: huge training week.  Lots of hill work, miles, trails, and even roads.  Thursday I did a combo workout: 2 x road mile (Waldron) and then 2 x trail mile (yellow dot loop in Rome Pt).  My goal was to get used to running fast again, no matter how tired I was. 5:17/5:17 on the road miles - very pleased.  5:44/5:36 (CR) on the trail loops.  This is super fun single track that twists and has a decent climb.  Then on Sunday I got the invite with Muddy to do an organized run on the Boston Marathon course courtesy of Ryan Davenport.  Everything was graciously taken care of for me, all I had to do was run.  After a mile warm up from Ryan's house to the start line in Hopkinton, we met up with many others and headed off.  My plan was to follow Muddy and Ryan's plan.  7 miles easy then 10 at a spicy marathon pace with others at 6:10 pace.  Followed by 2 miles easy to the Newton Town Hall at Mile 19.  The first miles were fun and fast (8 miles at 6:55 average pace).  I talked with different people, but ended up with Ryan and Muddy at mile 8, waiting for the 6:10 group to meet us.  They arrived and we were off.  It became apparent that they were going faster than advertised (my watch was showing 6:07 average pace).  I was feeling good, and since I'm not actually doing a marathon, welcomed the challenge of sticking with these too fast 4.  After a few miles, I decided to take a turn leading (strong headwind) but I got carried away on some hills and we went even faster (and dropped someone in the process).  The road began getting busier and more confusing, and I let the other two take the lead the last couple of miles.  We stopped after 9 miles (for me, 10 for them) in 54:08!  We chatted and then they headed back and told me how to continue on the course.  I had one big hill to contend with (Firehouse Hill?), but I kept a 6:32 average pace for the last two miles which felt slow and easy.  I ended up covering the first 19 miles of the course in 2:02:32 (6:27 ave. pace). 

Week of 3/14 recap: another big week, similar to last week minus the roads, adding in even more hills.  The highlight of the week was a 3 hour out-and-back solo run on the Narragansett Trail.  I kept a steady pace throughout, pushing the pace in a couple of places (Strava segments).  I ran from Ashville Pond to Tom Wheeler Rd where the trail has a road block at the Groton Gun Club.  I instead continued on down the road which turned to dirt and dropped pretty far.  At the 1:30 mark, I turned around and went back.  At the 1:47 mark, I tripped and fell, smashing my left knee on a rock.  It stung.  And hurt.  I stopped for a drink of water and a Gu, feeling sorry for myself.  I regrouped and carried on, pushing the Green Fall ravine trail segment pretty hard.  I was very happy to not have any fatigue issues with my feet or legs.  This is a very technical trail, so that is a good sign! 

So there it is.  Until next time. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Belleville Pond Trail 10K 2016

Very late on this write up so I will keep it relatively brief.  Saturday, February 27th was the fifth annual Belleville Pond 10K in Ryan Park.  I was particularly excited for this year's rendition because there would be no snow on the course.  This has only been the case the first year.  The second year only had an inch or so, but the last two were snowy sufferfests.  I longed to get to race fast on my (one of many) home courses.  RD and training partner Mike Galoob couldn't resist tinkering with the course this year to include some of the many new single track trails that have sprouted up in the park the last couple of years.  This would make a relatively easy course a bit more tricky.  I also hoped this would improve my chances in the race - slowing down the speedy road guys and favoring my trail and hill experience.  Realistically I thought a podium finish might be possible for me.  It was clear by the almost 150 pre-registries that this race would be chock full of competition.  This is was not going to be a walk in the park! 

I deliberately had a very easy race week.  Sometimes I find it challenging to give up miles during the week of a race.  I hadn't raced in quite some time and I wanted to be fresh.  In the future I hoped to remember the race - I certainly won't care if I ran 50 miles that week or 60.  I spent 4 out of 5 weekdays on the course.  I kept the going easy and the mileage low.  I liked the flow of the new course.  It mixed in some pace changing tight single track and also a bunch of small hills.  Then on Friday, I met Mike in the park to flag the far end of the course.  He was already out when I arrived, so I ran around the course to find him.  I found his pack ditched on the trail in the powerline and I immediately knew what he was up to - tinkering with the course less than 24 hours to race time!  Sure enough he had just scouted an idea and liked it.  I did too, so we went ahead and marked it.  This change mixed in a decent hill on the powerline as well as part of the fun "middle" trail.  I was excited for tomorrow. 

Race day!  My brother Greg was in town and going to race as well.  He was convinced that this would be the race I finally beat him, but I never count him out.  His plan was to stick with me, and the prospect of racing with my brother was a fun and comforting feeling.  I figured he would both push me and make me run smart.  I decided to rep Wild Endurance with him at the race (yet still scoring for WTAC).  The morning was nice - sunny and a bit chilly.  The course was in top shape.  We arrived early and got settled in, chatting with many familiar people.  I led a group warm up on the beginning and finishing stretches of the course.  I then returned to my car for last minute prep and headed off to the starting area.  Besides the competition I already was counting on, there were some surprises as well - namely fit looking fast road guys.  I had no idea what to expect. 

At the siren, I tried to keep it under control.  I watched 20 something people shoot out ahead of me.  I tried to find the balance of conservation and not falling too far behind.  I hoped to be in the mix when things most likely slowed down on the first single track shortly into the race.  I moved up as the sprinters fell back, but honestly, I felt like my body was tight and or working too hard way too early.  I entered the single track in 6th place.  Ahead of me were knowns Eric Narcisi, Eric Lonergan, and Steve Brightman, and unknown fast looking road guys (later figured out to be Geoff Nelson and Christopher Cluett).  Greg was on my heels.  The pace remained fast and the pack did not stick tight as I thought.  Eventually I made a move by Cluett before reaching the rail bed.  Now Geoff and the Erics were pulling away with Brightman doing his best to keep up.  I was not close to them.  Greg moved up along side of me and I could hear more footsteps behind.  Again, I noticed that the hot pace didn't feel great to me.  Shouldn't I feel fresher?  I thought Greg would continue to push on ahead of me, but it didn't happen.  When we reached the end, he let me take the lead again.  I thought it was just a courtesy, but that was the last time I would run with him today.  I ran through the field and up the awkward powerline hill.  For a few moments I forgot what was going on behind me, and focused on a fading runner ahead.  It was Geoff Nelson.  I passed him on the steep incline onto the Rte 4 trail.  4th place now! 

Quickly my focus turned to the runners behind me.  Someone was now "pushing" me.  It didn't take long to realize it was Muddy.  Here we go again!  Does this happen in every trail race we run together?  I knew he was super fit and wouldn't put up with me lollygagging out there.  I had to hammer.  The thought of it was more tiring than the physical act of it.  I pushed hard on the ups and downs of this trail.  On a tight turn I could see that we had put some distance between us and Greg.  The next couple of twisty miles were the same.  Negative mental thoughts as I tried to stay ahead of Muddy.  Sometimes I wished he just went by so I could relax.  Other times I surged hills or obstacles hoping to create space.  No dice.  I was sure he was just biding his time until the end.  It also was frustrating to not see 3rd place (presumably Brightman) in the woods.  How can he be so far ahead? 

I reached the open rail bed again.  I made sure to increase my turnover.  Muddy remained close.  Brightman looked to be a minute ahead.  The battle was for 4th place.  I still felt like Muddy was waiting to make a move.  I thought about the new WTAC Clamshell series and how we would be tied if he beat me or I would have a decent lead if he didn't.  Willing myself to stay uncomfortable for just a few more minutes.  Off the railbed, I hammered the next two small hills before hitting the "roots" trail.  Did I create some space?  Adrenaline was pumping as the end got closer.  I reached the open parking area and now just had to run around the "broken field of dreams".  I began sprinting.  Don't get passed I told myself over and over.  Finally I could see the finish and found yet another gear.  4th place!  Two seconds ahead of Muddy.  One minute 19 seconds ahead of Greg. 

I missed my podium finish by one place, but I was very happy with my race.  I think the early tightness and uneasiness can be chalked up to a lack of racing.  My body was not ready for it.  However, my training let me push hard on the trails and finish strong.  I outsprinted everyone on the Field of Broken Dreams Strava segment - even the race winner Eric Narcisi by 4 seconds. 

The new course was a smashing success.  It still is fast, but way more interesting now.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  I managed a group trail cool down and then stuck around for my cruel 4th place award - a can of O'Doul's!  Thanks again to everyone who makes these 4th Season Trail Race Series events so awesome. 

Results here

Monday, February 22, 2016

Road Running: Week of 2-15-16 to 2-21-16

Another good bye to the snow.  This is how I like winter.  Play in the snow for a couple of days and then have it disappear.  Because of messy trail conditions, I opted to stay out of the woods this week (except on Monday).  This was also a chance to test my fitness on roads.  Slogging around in snow makes me feel exhausted and slow.  It's nice to see it correlate to road speed. 

Monday: 12 miles - Burlingame snow covered trails in the morning.  Presidents' Day.  Just a great run in the woods.  It was cold.  The trails were packed down in most places by fat bikes, 4x4 trucks (north camp), and others.  I wore trail shoes with Yaktrax for just a little extra grip.  Hit up all the fun single track in the NE corner of the park.  My pace felt peppy throughout.  Total time: 1:33:35 with 635' of climbing. 

Tuesday: 10 miles - Saunderstown roads alone.  It was windy, foggy, and wet.  The temperature was in the low 50's - almost 50 degrees warmer than at the start of my run yesterday!  My plan was a normal run with some good hills mixed in, hoping not to get splashed by cars.  My legs felt tired on the climbs, but I managed a good pace overall (7:21), considering I got 1,025' of elevation gain.  Total time: 1:13:30. 

Wednesday: 13 miles - flat roads of NK workout.  Workout Wednesday.  No Galoob (Quebec), so I was going to go solo.  It was too nice out to do the indoor track.  I opted to do a block of marathon pace (T pace didn't seem appealing to me).  My plan was 2 mile warm up, 10 miles @ 6:14 ave., 2 mile cool down.  I parked at the Quonset bike path lot, and ran around Allen's Harbor as a warm up.  Warm with the wind at my back, but cool running into it.  My first few miles would be mostly into the wind and very exposed on Quonset roads.  I began the M block.  I peeked once at my watch near the 1 mile mark to check my pace (6:08 at that point).  I wanted to make sure I wasn't too fast or too slow.  I then ignored my watch for the next 6 miles.  I just ran by feel.  I reached Rte 1 and then ran east on the bike path to Potter Rd.  At the intersection with Quidnessett, I checked my watch - almost 7 miles averaging 6:13 pace.  I was feeling a bit tired at this point, so I tried to pick up my effort so I wouldn't fall off pace.  I reached Mount View and finished on the 10 miles on the far end of the bike path - 1:01:17!  6:08 average pace.  I guess I picked it up too much the last 3 miles, but I feel good about this workout.  I shortened my cool down to just one mile.  Total time: 1:22:46. 

Thursday: 11 miles - roads with hills.  My legs didn't feel beat up at all.  I decided to park on the NLT near Rte 102 and run roads from there (mostly paved).  I began right away with a hill.  I felt sluggish, but it warmed me up fast.  I continued west on Old Ten Rod Rd, hitting the big hill up to Rte 3.  I then ran south on Rte 3 with the wind at my back to Dawley Park Rd.  I continued to Tug Hollow, Hillsdale, Hoxsie, and Gardiner roads.  This included another 3 hill climbs.  Total time: 1:19:59 with 839' of elevation gain. 

Friday: 10 miles - more roads with hills.  I'm still not feeling beat up from Wednesday.  Good sign.  Today I parked on Congdon Mill Rd.  I again began with a brutal hill climb.  I checked my watch at the top and my ave. pace was 7:52.  This was going to be a slow run.  I meandered on down Robin Hollow Rd and back up the other side.  I turned north onto Fry Pond Rd then east on Sharpe Street (soon turning into Weaver Hill Rd).  Eventually I hit Rte 3 and had to run into the wind up a big hill.  I was very surprised at the finish to see that my average pace ended up at 7:07 (total time 1:11:06).  Another 806' of climbing. 

Saturday: 17 miles - long road run/workout with Muddy.  I was happy to get in a quality long run this weekend and not do it alone.  I was nervous about Muddy's plan of 3E, 6M, 1T, 5M, 3E.  I didn't think my legs could hold up to this, but guessed that he was also not feeling fresh after another monster week of training.  It turns out we were in the same boat physically.  After our hilly warm up of 3 miles, we got to work.  Immediately, the pace felt too spicy to me and unattainable.  Muddy soon after was expressing his displeasure as well.  I pushed on the best I could thinking we just needed to get to 5 miles and then reassess.  Somewhere in the 5th mile I began feeling better, and mentally I felt like I may be able to knock out a few more miles at this pace.  The key was to just make it up the hill on Pine Hill Rd in one piece.  At the top of the hill I heard Muddy shout out behind me that he was going to stop.  It was at exactly 6 miles (37:07 - 6:11 ave. pace).  We got moving again, this time at a pace that felt easy (but was in the high 6's).  We then began another undetermined amount of marathon pace work.  We were running into the wind on Pine Hill Rd and I couldn't wait to turn north onto Switch Rd.  I pushed hard, too hard, and had to back off a bit.  We turned down Sandy Pond Rd and my watch began acting up (bad GPS signal in the pines?).  Despite my best effort, my average pace kept showing slower and slower.  I was frustrated.  Another turn onto Woodville Rd with the wind at our back and bright sun.  Unfortunately it was mostly uphill back to Switch Rd.  This was tough, but I felt good about my effort.  We were closing in on 3 miles as I began fighting the strong wind in the turf fields.  I wanted to get to 4, but I noticed I couldn't hear Muddy behind me, so turned around to see he had stopped.  I decided to stop as well (3+ miles @ 6:15 ave. pace).  We then had 4 more miles to go to get back to my house on top of the hill.  I was tired, but ok.  Muddy was bonking, and suffering.  Glad we made it back in one piece.  Total time: 1:53:11 (6:40 ave. pace) with 516' of elevation gain (Muddy's barometer based watch had 816'). 

In the afternoon, I took my son on a long hike (he picked) in Wickaboxet (the blue loop).  It was advertised as 4 miles, but my GPS watch measured it as 4.5+.  We walked clockwise, saving the highlight - Rattlesnake Ledge, for last.  Still snow in the darker spots, but it was a warm day (mid 50's).  Total moving time of 2hrs 8 minutes.  Spirits were high and fun was had on the ledges. 

Top of Rattlesnake Ledge. 

The full ledge from below. 


Sunday: 0 - rest day.  After 73 miles in 6 days, plus over 4 hours of moving time yesterday, I was happy to not run today.  I thought about it a few times, but I just wasn't motivated.  I still spent plenty of time outside working in the yard and also walking for about 40 minutes in Ninigret with my wife as the kids biked.  Good enough.  Thus begins my taper for the Belleville Pond Trail 10K next Saturday. 

Weekly Total: 73 miles
Last Week: 63 miles
Year to Date: 510 miles
February to Date: 197 miles

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cold Week: 2-8-16 to 2-14-16

This week was a mixed bag.  I got in two track workouts, slogged around in snow, braved frigid cold, and dealt with a nuisance head cold.  Ideally, I'd like to be in the low 70's for mileage every week except race weeks, but with winter, you can't be too picky. 

Monday: 8 miles - Burlingame snowshoe run.  Another day home with snow.  This time it was much colder and the snow was light and fluffy.  After a lazy day inside working on a puzzle and checking work emails, I headed out in the late afternoon for a run.  I donned my trusty snowshoes and ran down the road (not plowed at this point) to Burlingame off of Burdickville Rd.  I was breaking trail and the going was slow.  At the intersection with the main loop, there were very fresh 4x4 truck tracks (the gates are open during hunting season).  They were wide enough for me to run in which was a surprise bonus.  I followed them all the way down to the canoe camps where I saw the pickup truck parked on the trail.  I just kept my head down and motored past, not wanting to know what they were up to.  I was now breaking trail again, this time on the hard to follow white dot single track.  Very tough going for a while until I reached the main loop again.  I quickly was passed by the pickup truck (the people were friendly and told me that I was moving fast).  It was nice to climb the hill in the wide tracks again.  At the top of the hill, I encountered a family out sledding (this is the middle of nowhere!).  I was quite impressed.  I pushed on to Buckeye Brook Rd.  I crossed over and ran single track (mostly untouched) to the bottom of my road.  I then ran the road back (now plowed).  I stuck to the sides since I still had my snowshoes on.  I decided to bushwhack the rest of the way to my house.  There isn't a trail yet, but I'm beginning to take the same route every time.  Soon enough, I'll have a trail.  Fun, tough run.  Total time: 1:10:09 with 464' of climbing. 

Look at the pacing!  Slog city up Shumankawall at the end. 

Tuesday: 9 miles - snowy Exeter trails/dirt roads with Galoob.  We met at Cuttyhunk Preserve.  I waited down the road for him to drive into the snowed in lot first, since my car may have gotten stuck.  We decided to just wear trail shoes, even though the conditions looked snowshoe-able.  We ran the trails to Stony Lane, which was snow covered and extremely wet.  We crossed over to Pardon Joslin Rd and then did the very snowy north Fisherville loop.  There was an unbelievable amount of animal tracks here.  No humans.  We then did 3 repeats of Pardon Joslin hill.  Luckily there were 4x4 tracks on it, or the conditions may have been unbearable.  Mike had to shoot home, so I took the long way back down Stony Lane and Cuttyhunk.  I ended up with 1,009' of elevation gain.  Total time: 1:15:51. 

Wednesday: 10 miles - URI indoor track workout with Galoob.  Mike had 3 possible workouts to do, and we agreed to do this one: 2 sets of 6x500 @ 5K pace with a 300 float.  4 minutes rest between sets.  My target was 1:42 (5:28 5K pace), but got into a groove of 1:39's in the first set and 1:38's in the 2nd.  This equated more to my 3K pace (5:15).  The floats were kept to a peppy pace in the low 7's.  This made the workout challenging.  In the beginning, I thought there was no way I could complete 2 sets of this, but my body acclimated and the second set felt way easier.  Confidence booster!  Total time: 1:06:01. 

Thursday: 8 mile double (sort of).  Cold day with a chilly breeze.  First I parked at the RI Desert (part of Big River) to look for my daughter's gloves she left here over the weekend when we went sledding here with friends (best place to sled ever BTW).  I couldn't find them.  I ended up just slogging around in the snow on the dunes on both side of Division Street.  Felt like the arctic.  I should have worn my snowshoes.  Many, many climbs up steep dunes were exhausting.  GPS only gave me 200' of elevation gain however.  Stupid technology.  I stopped after 45 minutes.  I then decided to bag a few more miles, this time doing an out-and-back on the roads.  I began into the wind which was mind numbing.  Very cold.  Way back wasn't much better. 3 miles in 21:11. 

RI Desert map
 
The snowy desert. 

Friday: 10 miles - URI indoor track workout alone.  A really cold and windy day that was perfect for running circles inside.  My goal was a 5 mile block of T pace, but I knew that 40 nonstop speedy laps might be way too much for me to handle physically (legs tired from Wed workout and snow slogging) or mentally.  After a 2 mile warm up, I began the T block (5:52 pace - 44 sec laps).  My legs were feeling heavy and the laps were not going by fast enough.  I willed my way to 3 miles in 17:35 and then jogged for 800.  I decided to shoot for a T workout that I've done in the past (3T, 2T, 1T).  The 2 mile block was much better (11:42).  I was fatiguing the last mile (5:51), but got it done.  1 mile cool down.  Total time: 1:04:29. 

Saturday: 10 miles - local roads in the morning.  Forecasted to be wicked cold all day, I was happy to have a temperature in the high teens when I ran at 8:30AM.  I decided to do an out-and-back on roads from my house, first heading into the wind to get the worst of the cold over with.  I went out Burdickville Rd, down Rte 91 to Rte 216, then up Tomaquag Rd to Tomaquag Valley Rd (snow and ice covered dirt).  The cold wasn't that bad as the sun was out and I was dressed appropriately.  I thought this route was hilly, but it didn't feel like it as I ran.  I was pleased to see that GPS had it at 802' elevation gain when I uploaded it.  Total time: 1:12:24. 

Sunday: 8 miles - mixed road/snow trails run from my house.  I waited for it to warm up to single digits before heading out.  I have to say that my North Face balaclava was a smart purchase last year.  The thing keeps me warm no matter what.  I ran down Buckeye Brook Road before veering off to test trail conditions.  Most places had packed down crunchy snow which made running in just trail shoes nice.  Total time: 1:03:13 with 472' of climbing. 

Weekly Total: 63 miles
Last Week: 61 miles
Year to Date: 437 miles
February to Date: 124 miles