Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Big River Trail Half 2015

Here is my very late recap of the April 4th, 2015 Big River Trail Half - dubbed the unofficial Rhode Island Trail Championship by race director Mike Galoob. 

This is always my favorite and most anticipated race in the South County 4th Season Race Series.  Like all the races in the series, I have an intimate knowledge of the trails and the course.  Further, the longer distance, tougher terrain, and hills all cater to my running strengths.  I couldn't really guess what place I might finish in this year's version, but I knew that I would run well.  Last year I was third - a couple minutes behind my brother Greg and Bob Jackman, and just ahead of Muddy and Steve Brightman.  All four of them would be in attendance, as well as road speedster Eric Lonergan and trail/ultra champ Ben Nephew.  Theoretically, I could run a fantastic race and still finish behind every single one of those guys.  However, it was slightly possible that my trail training since the snow melted, coupled with my winter running miles could propel me to the top, even finishing ahead of my brother (not running much) for the first time.  I was excited to see how the race played out. 

I spent the afternoon before the race helping Mike mark the course with Muddy.  The course had to be rerouted in the places that were still holding a lot of snow.  A lot of the trails were dry and in great shape.  After two and a half hours, Muddy and I called it a day.  Mike spent another few hours out there, and seemed very excited about the new course.  He added more up and down on the technical ridge trails.  I couldn't wait to see what it was like. 

Finally it was race day.  The usual suspects were in attendance including all the guys mentioned above.  The weather was excellent - low 50's, sunny, and windy.  I did a short warm up with Greg, Muddy, and Seth.  I made sure to pay attention to Mike's description of the course, since I wasn't exactly sure where it went.  Mike ended up using about a thousand flags, and numerous signs.  This was going to be great.  I ditched my singlet at the last minute (knowing my body was still not acclimated to "warm" temperatures).  Mike gave me the honor of starting the siren on his command and the race was off. 

Sidebar: By now, you probably know what happened with the race.  There is a great article on Level Renner here explaining the goings on of the day.  Luckily, I was familiar enough with the course to keep some people on track and maintain some semblance of a race. 

At the start, an unknown tall young runner took off way faster than everybody else.  Maybe he was doing the 10K (same start and same course for the first few miles).  No one seemed too threatened, and the rest of us all hung back.  I found myself in second as we jumped onto the single track 1/4 of a mile in. 

Photos by Scott Mason
This is where the only patch of snow remained on the course.  The lead guy was already slowing down, and Greg quickly pushed by to take the lead.  He was not messing around.  He immediately got a lead and no one tried to reel him in.  I also passed the tall young guy and found myself leading the chase pack for the next mile.  As we crested the hill and finished up the trail known as Foster's Folly, I was passed by first Bob Jackman, and then Eric, Brightman, and Ben.  I guess I went out a little too fast and was temporarily paying the price for it.  I stuck with them and continued on.  As we approached the wider double track along the pond (2+ miles in), there was Greg confused by which way he should go.  Oh no!  Sabotage again.  This happened last year.  Mike had run the course right before the start and everything was fine.  This was very recent.  I was furious.  I shouted go left, but because of the confusion, he opted to wait up for us (he had a 30 second lead).  Fueled by adrenaline I led the group along the unmarked course.  I took a left I had helped mark and clear just yesterday, and it was littered with branches and small trees dragged across it.  This was intentional and I was really pissed.  The good news was that the top 7 were all together and going the correct way.  I could only hope that maybe Seth and Jeff were close enough behind to see which way we went. 
I was now leading the way for a very talented group of runners.  I was running hard (hoping not too hard).  Greg was always right on my heels or shoulder.  I knew if he could count on the trail being marked, he would go past me.  No one else made the move to either.  I continued to just push the technical single track, working the hills to the best of my ability.  Finally, we reached the one aid station.  I was thirsty and opted to stop quickly and drink water.  Some followed suit, but others took the sharp icy turn without pausing.  I scrambled to get back with them, sprinting hard on some gnarly terrain.  I was now in 5th or 6th position, but we were still all together.  At the large puddle, Scott Mason was there snapping pictures and little did we know, a fascinating video as well.  You must watch it.  The course goes through it twice (leaders come back through at the 7:30 mark).  

Photo by Scott Mason

After the puddle, we now were on trails that I was unfamiliar with.  Greg and Eric pulled away from the rest of us a bit.  I was feeling winded, and worried that this is where we would get strung out, and I possibly might get left behind.  This also where the many ups and downs on the ridge began.  I hoped that my hill training would pay off, and others would soon get tired too.  As I swiftly descended a twisty trail, again there was confusion at the pond double track.  Greg and Eric didn't know which way to go (no flags), I shouted to go left, and they did, keeping a lead on the rest of us.  But, the course quickly veered left onto a switchback single track and again I had to direct them the right way.  Greg was frustrated, and after some more flag trickery, I again was out front leading the way.  I was on one of my favorite trails in the park.  I again had the adrenaline rush of anger plus the excitement of being in front.  I pushed the pace, hoping this exhausting hill climb would derail the train.  I couldn't tell what was happening behind me however.  Greg was always right with me, which felt comforting in some sort of brotherly way.  I could hear others, but not sure if everyone was still together or not.  The course on this section was super fun.  We ran on ledges, over and through rocks, endless twists and turns, and of course hills.  I understood Mike's excitement about his creation. 

We splashed through the big puddle again and headed towards the beaver dam.  I was nervous because the terrain was getting easier and this would favor the faster guys behind me.  Greg moved up along side of me briefly when we ran into Scott Mason again. 

Hammetts leading the way.  Photo by Scott Mason
We continued on, crossing the tricky beaver dam.  I was still leading the way, although that was to be short lived.  First, I slipped and was about to fall into a large puddle when my brother caught me from behind and kept me upright.  That was cool.  But then, he and Eric went by me, soon to be followed by Brightman.  Jackman was right on my heels too.  The next mile or so was a blur.  It was very hilly, but good footing.  I can't remember if Bob passed me and I passed him back, or if we just stayed close together for a while.  Eventually I was able to create space between us.  Brightman was ahead of me by a few seconds, and Greg and Eric appeared to have disappeared.  Then we hit the craziest trail in Big River - the mtn bikers call it Nutz. 
Bojo had shown me this trail last summer and I had run it again on my own.  It is a faint, seldom used, mountain bike trail that winds its way over exposed rock ledges.  It is ridiculously twisty and technical, with a few very short steep up and downs.  It was getting later in the race.  I was feeling tired, but relatively strong.  I wasn't worried about blowing up anymore.  I caught up to Brightman about halfway on Nutz, and then made a strong move to pass by him.  I was very worried about him countering, so I tried to keep pushing hard on the tricky stuff.  In the meantime, I was also not only seeing Greg and Eric, but gaining on them.  This was very exciting!  After exiting Nutz, the terrain was a little easier to negotiate.  I realized that I wasn't pushing myself hard, and talked myself into not giving in.  I began sprinting, especially when it came apparent that the end of the race was near (I wasn't always sure how much was left).  It appeared that I was creating some serious space between myself and Brightman. 
A little over a mile left.  Photo by Scott Mason
We reached the last single track (Foster's Folly again, but in the opposite direction).  There was some slower traffic (lost 10Kers and halfers) to negotiate as well as the tricky terrain.  Greg and Eric seemed very close (15 seconds ahead?) and I shouted up to Greg for encouragement and to let him know there was only about a mile left (he didn't hear what I said).  Despite not seeing anyone behind me, I was paranoid someone else was finishing strong behind me.  I was recklessly sprinting, falling to my knees twice.  Finally, I made the final turn onto the wide double track. I could see Greg ahead of me and no one behind me.  I sprinted through the finish line in 3rd place, 1:23:52.  Eric Lonergan won in 1:23:17, followed by Greg in 1:23:24.  Confusing results here.  I ended up 14 seconds ahead of Brightman.  We were followed by Ben Nephew 1:24:53, Bob Jackman 1:26:58, and Muddy 1:29:19.  Unfortunately, no one else completed the course correctly I believe.  Luckily, everyone seemed upbeat about a wonderful day in the woods and I was excited to have been able to race with my brother and fast friends.  The new course is an absolute blast!  I hope that everyone will get to experience it next year.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catching Up - The Return of Trails

I'm really having trouble finding time to blog with my current workload, but here is a review of the past few weeks.  I hope to post a Big River Half report as well. 

Week of 3-23-15 to 3-29-15

M 3/23: 10 hilly road miles (snow on Pardon Joslin climb) in 1:09:14. 
T  3/24: 10 miles at Calf Pasture Point.  3 x messy 2.2M loop of beach, snowy trail, and snowy bike path. 5 minute jog between loops. Simulation of possible Brrr-lingame trail race conditions.  Last lap was my 2nd fastest ever.  Total time: 1:15:54. 
W 3/25: 10 miles at Ryan Park.  First real trail run since mid January.  Total time: 1:18:29. 
T  3/26:  6 miles at Rome Point.  Character building.  Miserable conditions. Trails were mostly icy glaciers with some muddy bare spots. I fell hard twice within the first 6 minutes. Almost fell a bunch more times. Cold damp wind on the beach heading south, caught in a shower on the way back. Cut run short, but should be tapering for Sunday anyway.  Total time: 47:39. 
F 3/27:  7 miles in Burlingame from my house.  Snow free trails!  Total time: 53:56. 
S 3/28:  5 miles in Burlingame.  Wet trails, but fun.  Total time: 40:58. 
S 3/29:  14 miles.  Brrr-lingame 10M trail race.  See separate write up here

Comment: The trails are coming back!  Good race.  Feeling confident about fitness at next week's Big River Trail Half.  Low overall mileage because of race. 

This week:  62 miles
Last Week: 78 miles
YTD:        851 miles
March:      263 miles

Making a comeback! 

Week of 3-31-15 to 4-5-15

M 3/30: 9 miles in Big River.  Disappointing amount of snow still around in the lower, darker spots.  The ridge is snow free and awesome.  Total time: 1:11:42. 
T 3/31: 13 miles on hilly roads.  I parked at Cuttyhunk and then ran the Nooseneck 18K course.  The weather was great and I was having fun.  I turned this into a progression.  882' of climbing.  13.1 miles in 1:26:30.  6:27 grade adjusted average pace. 

W 4/1:  8 miles in Ryan Park.  Recovery run in 1:04:16. 
T  4/2:  7 miles in Big River.  Warm, dry, and relatively snow-free.  1 hour.  2 more miles running with the kids (on bike) at night. 

Visiting the horses at Gooseberry Farm
F  4/3: 10 miles in Big River.  Marking the course with Muddy and Galoob for 2.5 hours.  Total running time of 1:23:41. 

Perfect trail conditions for the race. 

S  4/4:  16 miles.  Big River Trail Half Marathon race.  Masterpiece of a course by Mike Galoob thwarted by malicious flag and sign removal.  I kept the lead pack of 7 on course.  So fun and challenging. Surprisingly close to the top 2 at the end.  3rd overall in 1:23:52.  One mile of roads to/from horse lessons with my kids (riding their bikes to the farm up the road). 
S  4/5: 0 - Happy Spring celebration with extended family.  Forced myself not to run, but was tempted! 

Comment: Awesome race and a great workout early in the week.  Lower overall mileage due to the Half and a forced rest day.  Time to focus on Wapack on May 9th. 

This week: 65 miles
Last week: 62 miles
YTD:       916 miles
March:     285 miles

Week of 4-6-15 to 4-12-15

M 4/6: 9 miles in Big River.  Back to repeat some of the fun new course trails.  Total time: 1:13:31 with a good amount of climbing. 
T 4/7: 13 miles of trail hill repeats.  Done in the rain.  Ran repeats on Cuttyhunk trails, loose rock climb on Stony Lane (unimproved dirt rd), and Pardon Joslin Rd (unimproved dirt rd).  Logged over 1,500' of elevation gain in 1:34:29. 

W 4/8: 9 miles on the Quonset bike path.  5K workout.  Wasn't sure I would do this, but wanted to get in some fast miles.  2 mile warm up in 15:51 and then 5K east to west on the bike path.  I purposely didn't look at my watch.  I just tried to run hard but under control while maintaining good form.  Was very happy with the result of 17:16.  It was wind aided, but I wasn't racing.  My grade adjusted pace (couple of tiny hills on the path) was 5:30.  30 minute cool down followed. 
T 4/9: 11 miles on mostly hilly dirt roads.  Fun route on slightly sketchy back roads.  Lots of good climbing in 1:21:00. 

F 4/10: 8 miles of wet technical trails in Big River.  More ridge running and figuring out the new Half course.  Total time: 1:05:05 with more climbing. 
S 4/11: 15 miles in Burlingame.  2 hour long run encompassing the hilly double track of the northern section and the super techy stuff of the eastern quadrant.  Sunny and dry mid afternoon run.  With temps in the 60's I opted for no shirt.  Great run.  Legs got tired near the end, but they should be.  Over 1,100' of climbing.  2 miles in the morning running with my kids on bikes in Burlingame. 
S 4/12: 9 miles.  Clamdigger 5 Mile road race in Misquamicut and Weekapaug.  I got there early to help out my club (WTAC).  I knew I would end up running either the 5M or 5K even though I was dead tired.  Garvin talked me into the 5 Miler and I just ran a steady hard pace.  Strong headwind the last two miles.  I didn't pay attention to my watch as I wasn't concerned with my time.  However, I was a little disappointed with the 29:34 result.  If I hadn't run long on Saturday, my hope was to run about 5:40 pace and finish sub 28:30.  No big deal. 

Comment: Huge week of training for Wapack.  Lots of technical trails and hills.  According to Strava, over 4,500' for the week.  Going to try and keep it up for the rest of April. 

This week:76 miles
Last week: 65 miles
YTD:       992 miles
April:       119 miles

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Brrr-lingame 10 Mile Trail Race 2015

Last Sunday was the fourth annual installment of the Brrr-lingame Trail Race.  The race had already been postponed two weeks because of poor course conditions, and after some good melting, I awoke to a fresh coating of snow on the ground and on the trees.  I wasn't discouraged however, because I had spent the previous four days on trails in southern RI, and knew that the trail conditions were steadily improving, and a new inch of snow would probably disappear by lunchtime.  It helped me solidify my shoe choice for the race - xc spikes.  On Wednesday I had run ten miles in Ryan Park with them and my legs held up very well.  The traction they provided on the mixed bag of mud, snow, ice, and leaves was impressive.  The Burlingame campground trails (where the race was held) have very few stones and no exposed rocky sections, which would be dangerous for the spikes.  I was excited to have my shoe choice. 

Ten miles is a really fun distance on trails.  I just try to go as hard as I can the entire time.  I was hoping that all my winter miles and even the last few days of running on actual trails would help my position in this race.  Despite the smaller than usual crowd (probably due to being rescheduled and also the icy roads the morning of), most of the usual suspects were in attendance.  I wanted to run my own race, but I also wanted to stick with the lead pack if possible, thinking that I had a decent shot at a podium finish.  The team competition was also shaping up to be  a good battle between my club (WTAC) and the Rhode Runners.  Local road speedster Eric Lonergan showed up, and of course Steve Brightman was there.  It seemed that if Chris Garvin and I could run well and keep the team battle (top 3) even, it would come down to our teammate Jeff Walker and Rhode Runner Chris Fox.  Jeff had beat him at the snowy Belleville 10K, but Chris finished ahead of Jeff at last year's Li'l Rhody 8 Miler.  I was excited to race! 

After a warm up with Jeff and Chris and chatting up the usual suspects, it was finally time to strip down to my singlet and short shorts for the race.  Despite the chilly temperature (25 degrees when I first arrived an hour early), the late March sun felt warm.  I also wore a hat and gloves, but probably could have gone without either.  I lined up front next to Brightman behind the starting line drawn in the snow.  The mood was light, even though soon we'd all be running our hearts out trying to outduel one another.  Ready, set, go and off we went across the snowy field. 

Sharing a laugh with Garvin at the start.  Photo by Scott Mason

No one took the race out hard.  I thought that Lonergan or Brightman might do this.  Instead, I found myself in a lead single file pack of five as we jumped onto the single track.  I was fourth behind Lonergan, Brightman, and Bob Jackman.  Garvin was on my heals.  The pace felt pretty good.  Challenging, but not out of control.  After about a mile, the three ahead of me created some space.  Clearly they were picking up the pace, and I wasn't interested in killing myself (yet).  I told Garvin to let me know when he wanted to pass me.  I figured he might get antsy and want to keep contact with the leaders.  He said he was good for now.  The trails were in decent shape - mostly a thin layer of new snow with pockets of older deeper stuff.  For now, the ground was frozen too.  I was happy with my shoe choice. 

The 1.5 mile mark.  Photo by Scott Mason
I continued to lead Garvin as we made our way to the ridge.  The three leaders were usually out of view, but it appeared that Jackman was now falling back from the top two guys.  I tried to just run my own pace, but I did like having Garvin behind me to keep pushing myself.  I wondered when he would pass.  Finally as we left the single track and reached the camp road double track (all old snow with post holes - approx. 3 mile mark), he went by me (politely of course).  I was able to relax a bit, but I wanted to make sure I still ran hard.  I made my way through the muddy bog bridge section, keeping Garvin in my sight.  Then we reached the campground and he turned it up a notch.  He was closing in on Jackman the last time I saw them on this lap.  I took a couple of glances back to see if anyone was close behind me and could see no one.  I tried to keep pushing.  Race Director Mike Galoob had thrown in a new wrinkle on the course (an awkward log and rock descent near the beach) that I as I approached, I wasn't sure how to attack.  Scott Mason was there taking pictures, and captured my indecision and confusion rather well. 
Confusion at the 4.5 mile mark.  Photo by Scott Mason
more Scott Mason photos from this spot here
I finished up lap 1 and Mike announced my time as 35 minutes flat.  I was really happy with my effort, but a bit surprised by the time (last year my first lap was sub 33 minutes).  I guess the snow was making a difference.  I could see across the field that Garvin was now ahead of Jackman, and I felt confident that I would catch Jackman soon (he did run a race the day before).  Honestly, I don't usually start the second lap with confidence.  I'm usually already exhausted and ready to finish.  Not today.  I was feeling strong.  I caught up to Bob on the short steep climb in the first mile, and then passed him on a hill in the exact spot Aaron Rome passed me, Bojo, and Jeff three years ago.  I really didn't want him to stick with me, so I kept sprinting until I created a safe distance between us.  I didn't slow down much after that though, as I was still feeling relatively strong.  I would occasionally look back, but I never saw Bob again. I reached the ridge, and ran it really well.  The new snow was melting fast at this point.  I could now see Garvin again, and by the end of the ridge, he saw me and encouraged me on.  Maybe this would be the race where I would finish ahead of him?  Not this race.  He then took off and created a big gap between us.  At one point I thought he must have gone off course.  Where was he?  I did see him again on the long look on the camp road.  I still couldn't see Bob as I then made my way back into the woods at the bog bridges.  I again ran them well and then consciously made myself push hard through the camp cut-throughs.  No point of saving myself now.  I was moving well, even on the snowier spots.  I navigated the tricky spot near the beach much better this lap.  I kept pushing and pushing.  Maybe Chris was running out of steam just up ahead?  One more Scott Mason photo op: 
Half mile left.  Photo by Scott Mason
I never did see Garvin again, but finished up with a good sprint and final time of 1:09:52.  Negative splits!  35:02 first lap, 34:50 second lap.  After congratulating the top finishers, it was then time to see who would win the Jeff Walker/Chris Fox battle.  Despite Jeff's best effort, it ended up being Chris this time.  Rhode Runners won the team competition.  It will come down to next week's Big River Half to decide the series winner.  The individual series winner is also up for grabs.  Should be very interesting!  Thanks to the Galoobs for putting on another fun memorable race.  I was really happy with my performance in this race and I will be expecting bigger things next week.  Until then....