Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weird Week

I'm a little disappointed in my running this week. The weather, for one, did not cooperate. I only remember the sun coming out one day - today (Sunday). Lots of rain here, with some snow showers mixed in. In addition, I had a lot of other things going on. Saturday I went to see the Celtics game in Boston. I had never been before, and enjoyed the event except for the part where the Celtics didn't bother to play with any effort or intensity. I can't believe you can't get pumped up to play in front of a full house. It got a little interesting at the end, but they still managed to lose to a team with only 5 wins by the end of February. Sunday was nonstop busy with a kid's birthday party and two groups of visitors to our house. I was able to get to play outside with my kids for a long time. I can't wait for drier and warmer weather to spend more time outside with them. Thursday night I had a long band practice and then didn't sleep much afterwards - too excited about the prospect of playing our first public show in five years. The rain wasn't too bad on Friday to run, but I was too tired.
My plan for this upcoming week is to run a lot. I'm not sure what this means, but that's the idea. Let's see....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away!

Day three of the rainstorm here. Tuesday the conditions weren't bad, but my body was too tired from the previous two days to drag myself out and run. Wednesday was miserable out - lots of rain and wind - the streets and trails would be a mess, so I took another zero. The combination of the weather and not running for a couple of days really has taken a toll on me mentally. I need to get out today on my lunch break. The forecast is for heavy rains to move in and then ridiculous winds to follow this afternoon. My plan is to say (insert Major League reference here), and either do a long run similar to last week, or do a fast 3 miles. Then I'll return to my office sopping wet, people will look at me crazy, and I'll drink some coffee and prepare myself for my cross training workout tonight - slapping the double bass at band practice.

UPDATE: I ran the 12.5 mile course I did last week and did it in 1:33:29. This was over a minute faster than last time. My pace was 7:28. Not too much rain at first, started as drizzle, then ended as a steady rain. Besides wet feet, I felt pretty good throughout.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Old Photos

Here are a couple of photos from April 2005. These were from a trail run in Pisgah State Park - NH with my brothers Greg and Glenn, BoJo, and Greg's dog Pisgah.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Picking Up the Pace

My runs on Friday and Sunday couldn't have been more different.

Friday, I hit the trails of Ryan Park with my coworker Dan. I thought that the few days of 40+ degree weather would have cleared up the snow and ice from the trails - especially the parts exposed to the sun. Wrong! We started off and instantly the trail looked like a glacier melt. Dan's trail shoes are waterproof - good idea. Mine are meshy - great for ventilation - not for keeping water out. But it wasn't the wet feet that bothered me. Our pace was dreadfully slow - 9 minutes for the first mile. We decided to hit the pavement and loop around to the other side of the park. Surprisingly, the most wooded trails were in the best shape. They were still icy or snow covered. This kept the pace down, but we were enjoying ourselves. I even took a spill on a bridge - I kicked it going up and then "skated" on the other foot until crashing awkwardly - I felt fine after. I was impressed how Dan didn't mind the bad footing - he's a big guy - twice my size - and I was worried he might be angry at me for suggesting trails today over roads. We ended up doing about 7.5 miles in 61 minutes and I'm hoping my shoes dry out by Monday.

I wanted to do a fast, challenging run on Sunday. I didn't have a lot time, so I decided to do the road loop from my house. My house sits atop a hill on one of the highest points around - 220 above sea level. Not very impressive to my more northerly runners, but to most runners around here it is a big hill. The loop is 3.67 miles, which includes a mile uphill near the end. The first mile is mostly downhill, but does have a significant uphill in the middle. My goal was to average 7 minute or less miles. This would require me to push myself physically and mentally the entire time.
My first mile felt good and I clocked in at 6:34. Then I hit an uphill section and was feeling slower. The road levels and then drops which lifted my spirits. I turned the corner for the 1 mile ascent and took off my hat and gloves, and rolled up my sleeves. It may have been 36 degrees, but I was on fire. Half way through, there is a particularly steep section. My body felt horrible and I thought about stopping. I chugged along and as the grade eased I didn't feel as bad. I just tried to keep up a decent pace. I finished in 24:52 - 6:47 miles! The last time I did this workout (mid January), my pace was 7:10. It's nice to see such improvement. I wonder what I could do a 5K on a flat course in?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday's Run

So I decided that I wanted to do a long run. Things were quiet at work. The weather was okay. I hadn't run that much in the last few days. I was itching to do something significant. That morning I planned out a route that could be anywhere from 9.75 to 12.5 miles, depending on how I felt. My longest run this winter was only 9 miles. I was interested to see how pushing myself farther would feel.

I got into my running gear and headed out from my office. The side roads I run are very scenic - great views of Narragansett Bay and the wildlife it holds, and impressive waterfront homes. My plan was to pace myself. At the 1 mile marker I felt like I ran it in 8 minutes. To my surprise I clocked in at 7:02. This was not what I was looking for and I tried to go slower. The first 3.25 miles on the roads I did in 24:21.
The next 3.25 miles I ran the trails of Rome Point. Famous for its seals, but should be known for the incredible number of dogs and their business, this nature preserve has some pretty fun trails. The footing wasn't good as there was a lot of icy sections or melting snow. I kept it to a comfortable pace and did this section in 25:41.
Back on the roads, I was feeling surprisingly fresh. I decided to do the full 12.5 mile version of my plan. About 8 miles in, I got the feeling that my legs were starting to get tired, and I wished that I wasn't wearing my trail shoes. However, this was a fleeting thought, and I soon felt fine again. In fact, I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles and finished the entire run in 1:34:40 - 7:34 minute mile pace. I didn't even feel tired. I could have gone further. I couldn't believe my time. I didn't think I was at that fitness level. I want to do more long runs!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mountain Lions, Coyotes, and Hunters Oh My

Seven years ago my wife and I bought a house in Charlestown on the edge of Burlingame Sate Park. It's a fantastic place to run, hike, bike, and even swim. For the first couple of years, we both spent a lot of time enjoying the park. Our family then doubled, and it was hard to get out like we wanted to. But as time goes by, we are getting the opportunity to get back into the woods.

My favorite trails in Burlingame just happen to feel like some of the most remote places in RI - especially when running alone. Maybe it's all the the coyote activity that was occurring when I first moved in. I could hear them at night, see them during the day in the neighborhood, and follow their footsteps in the snow. One of my (irrational) fears, is stumbling upon a pack of coyotes around a corner on one of these trails. Then there is the recent gossip of the presence of mountain lions. It seems pretty far-fetched that a cougar has found it's way into southern RI. But, when I'm alone, it seems way more realistic, especially when you can sense one peering down at your from a lonely rocky ridge. One final fear I have is crossing the site hairs of a buzzed, trigger happy hunter, no matter how much orange I may be wearing. During the deer season, I may avoid these trails altogether.
The likelihood of one of these scenarios actually happening is minuscule. I don't know why I never worry about things like falling and breaking/twisting/tearing something or running into a tree or off a ledge. Rather than a pack of coyotes or a mountain lion, there's a much better chance I'll step on a bees nest. But worry, nonetheless, is what I do while I'm running these trails alone. The one benefit of this, is that my pace dramatically quickens. I make quick work of hills and rough terrain that are filled with these horrible creatures. And the adrenaline rush makes me not feel the pain.

Monday was the last day of my six day weekend. I was still sore from my Friday snow run and feeling a little tired from the margaritas the night before, but with some encouragement from my wife and motivation from my blog, I headed out for some of these remote trails I hadn't run on in quite some time....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Running in the Snow

After two off days in a row, I was able to go out for a run on Friday. Wednesday we got a good amount of snow and Thursday the roads were not cleared enough (shoulder-wise) to be safe for running, and the snow was too deep to run the trails. A couple of years ago I wanted to get snowshoes for running, but my brother from NH talked me out of it - he told me that I didn't need them in southern RI. Well, six inches of wet, ungroomed snow, is not fun to run in. By Friday, the trails probably had 3-6 inches on them with a couple of boot tracks, so not every step was as tiring as it would have been the day before.
I decided on a run I like to do that is about half road and half trails. My hope was that I was picking a trail that would have the most human use on it, packing it down and making it easier to run on. The roads to the trail are (for my standards) very hilly and challenging. It's mostly downhill to the trailhead and I did this 2.25 miles in 14:58 - sub 7 min. miles. Then the woods - the trail I had been on a hundred times in my life looked different in the snow, and I found it hard to stay on the trail in a couple of places. The snow was tiring, but I worked hard. The snow does make the normal obstacles easy to manage. I made it to the turn around point (4 mile marker) in 30:29. I kept pushing myself as I retraced my steps (literally) in the snow. I got back to the road in almost the exact same time. Then I had the long 1 mile climb up the hilly road ahead of me. I was happy that I could push my pace despite my legs being tired from the snow. Once at the top of the hill, there are a few more up and downs before I reach my house with a killer hill right in front of it. I finished in 1:01:11 and was extremely pleased with my effort. My reward was a night out with my wife sans kids and the chance to see some great live music.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

After two gorgeous February days in a row, today we are getting a snow storm. It started early enough so that I didn't go into work. I already had Thursday and Friday off so now I will have a 6 day weekend. Kind of crazy.
Monday I ran the 7 mile Ryan Park loop with my coworker. We started a little slow, but then picked up the pace and finished in 51 minutes. Tuesday we ran the same course, but added 2 extra miles to make it 9. It was sunny and warm - 42 degrees - and the trails were filled with dogs, horses, and humans. Usually I would be a little annoyed with all the stopping, but this day we were just out for an easy long run. We ran it in 1:09.
So, my hope is to run tomorrow afternoon, but I might be stuck doing roads. We'll see. Today I hoped to hike in our woods with the family and maybe make a snowman. Oh, and I guess I'll be doing a lot of shovelling....

Monday, February 8, 2010

What to do?

Inspired by other running blogs, I decided to start my own. My hope is that by doing this, it will motivate me to run (and explore) more than I ever have.
2009 marked the first year I was able to keep up running year round. With two young kids at home and my belief that child raising should be the most important thing in your life, running was relegated to something I would do if I could fit it in. Luckily, I have a job that gives me the freedom to run on my lunch break. Still, I find it hard to get out and run on a cold and windy day, or a hot and humid one, etc. Last year though, there were 3 other guys in the office who began running pretty regularly. This got me out more and more. They were hesitant about running trails at first - concerns about turning ankles - but I turned them all into trail runners, or at least preferred trails to roads. One guy in particular ran with me the most and despite being twice my size, we run at about the same level. We would push each other at different points in our runs. Also, I was motivated to run through the summer for the first time. And longer distances than ever.
Last September I did my first real trail race - the Pisgah Mountain Trail Race in Chesterfield, NH. I did the short raace - 22K or 14+ miles - there is a 50K version as well. I was really nervous knowing how hilly the course would be. My brother lives right on the course, and I have hiked and run in the park a dozen times before. The race went really well. I was running up hills that others were walking up and never felt too bad. It was a lonely last 5 miles with no other runners in sight. I wish I had pushed it a little harder and finished in 2 hrs 15 minutes. But, I loved it. I definitely want to do this race again this year, as well as a couple other trail races.
In the fall I started pushing myself even harder on my runs and frankly got burnt out by the time late November came around and it was time for the Lil' Rhody Runaround. This trail race is in my backyard, and it is a family tradition to run it, followed by a Thanksgiving dinner. My goal was to run 7:00 minute mile pace for the 8 mile race. I gave it all I had, including my first nasty fall, but finished at 7:17 pace - still I shaved 2 minutes off my previous best total time. I would love to get to 7:00 pace this year.
So, what else to do this year? Maybe see how fast I can do a 5K or 5 miler? I wish there were more trail races in RI. My coworkers are running half and full marathons (road), but that doesn't really interest me. I like running for how it makes me feel mentally and physically. Races stress me out. But I really liked the Pisgah trail race - everyone's friendly, I loved how long I was able to run, and it was a great course. We'll see....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday's Run

It was nice to have some company on the trails today. I ran my 7 mile trail loop in Ryan Park with two of my coworkers on our lunch break. Another gorgeous February day - sunny and 37 degrees. Trails were frozen and therefore fast. We took it easy the first 4.5 miles and then cranked the last 2.5. I'm not sure of the pace as I have a never ending argument over the true distance of the run. One of the guys has a fancy Garmin that depending on the day will record the run as 6.2 to 6.5 miles long. It will tell us our pace on certain sections drops significantly, but in reality that's not the case. I have mapped it on MapMyRun and it comes out to 7.28 miles - which is probably a little over, so I call it 7. Anyway, it was a good workout - even though we were interrupted 3 times because of loose dogs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Calf Pasture Point

Today I decided to run the road, beach, and trails of Calf Pasture Point. Currently managed by the Town of North Kingstown, this area was once part of the Quonset air base. Access is at a new parking lot off of Davisville Road. The "trail" starts as an old paved road. I like to follow it all the way out to the beach (approx 1.25 miles). Then I like to run the length of the beach and turn around at the point of Allen's Harbor and retrace my steps. This totals about 2.5 miles. The beach varies quite a bit with the tide. There are a few streams that drain the wetlands just behind the beach. Most are easy to jump over or not running at all at low tides. High tide is another story. The first, and widest stream, can be too wide to jump, which I found out the hard way one chilly, snowy afternoon in December. I thought I could make it, but I sank in too far when I went to jump and landed right in the water up to my knees. I was soaked, but kept on running anyway. I found an easier crossing point that I could jump on my return. At the tide's highest point, the stream is simply too wide. If I do run here, I make a note to check the tides beforehand. On my return to the road I veer left into the woods down an old dirt road and make a 3/4 mile loop. Finally, I hit the road again and return to the parking lot for a total of 5.75 miles. This can easily be extended by utilizing the Quonset Bike Path which begins (or ends) at the same parking lot.

The weather today was fantastic - sunny and 36 degrees with some wind. I felt really strong and my first mile was fast (for me!) 6:40. I felt a little slow on the beach as I had a hard time finding firm sand to run on. As usual there was a skittish flock of 25 Brant in the bay. Loads of shells on the beach - clam, lady slippers, and razor. No humans. Pretty tough wind heading back. I decided to explore a side trail I noticed two runners coming in on earlier, but it dead-ended into a neighborhood of new gigantic homes. Overall, a nice easy run at a good pace - 43:11 for 6 miles.

Post run, I cooled off to a little Reverend Horton Heat and stopped for a coffee before I headed back to work.