Monday, May 30, 2011

Pineland Farms 47 Miler

47 miles is a long way to run. Too bad the race was 50 miles. That's 47 more miles than I was planning on this weekend though.

Saturday I woke up and surfed the internet as I usually do before my lovely wife wakes up. This also gives me a chance to hatch hair-brained schemes before she can talk me out of them. I was quite jealous reading various blog posts about people who would be racing at the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival, a race that I have wanted to do, but was always too long and too close to Mt. Washington. What changed this year? Nothing, other than the fact that I've been thinking a lot about ultras for the last year and that my love affair with Mt. Washington has slowly started to wain after years of disappointing results. What better way to mix things up and try and run a 50 miler 3 weeks before my big goal race for the year?!

I packed all my stuff the night before and set my alarm for 3:30AM to allow for the 90 minute drive and ridiculously early 6:00AM start. Later in the day I was grateful for the early start. Arriving at Pineland, the clouds/fog were still blocking out the sun and were keeping things on the cool side. The air was humid, but manageable. After exchanging the usually pre-race pleasantries with racers and race crew, we were off. A group of 5 of us including Ben Nephew, Brian Rusiecki and myself ran easy and relaxed the first 3+ mile loop (23:44). My initial goal was to run 8:00 pace (6:40), but I had no idea what that should feel like and with the undulating terrain, I figured I would run easy with the pack and figure it out as I went. Luckily the pace was manageable and we just clipped along ticking the kilometers away. Brian, Ben and I took turns at the front chatting along, while another guy, Martin, ran with us, often leading, but he seemed to be laboring on the hills. After finishing the campus loop on out first 25k lap, Ben, Brian and I opened up a little of a gap on Martin. At this point I was getting tired of running with my handheld water bottle, so I ditched it at my drop bag and kept running. Pineland is a great race to do this as there are so many aid stations you are never far from food or water. Doing this allowed me to run a more efficient, natural stride. The downside is that I would need to slow down or stop at almost every aid station.

On the Oak Hill side of the 25k loop Ben and I started to open a bit of a gap on Brian on the hills, and just kept running a smart pace. Near the 24k mark Ben was nearly taken about by a flying turkey that took off from the tall grass next to the course! After our adrenaline returned to normal we passed through the start/finish of the first loop in 1:50:51 (7:09 pace). 8:00 pace would have been 2:04. "Looks like I'm all in now" I thought.

Lap 2 Ben and I worked together doing some drafting and taking turns at the front to try to open the gap on Brian. Neither on of us felt like we were killing ourselves, but thought it would be good to put some time on Brian, as he smoked a 6:02 here a few years ago. I was feeling pretty good on the climbs when leading, but lagging when Ben was in front. I have problems with this even in 5k races though. I have a mental problem when it comes to conserving energy. It came back to bite me today.

After entering the Oak Hill side for a second time I was starting to know what an ultra feels like. Ben and I were still running at a good clip, but the legs were tiring. They should have been though, we had been running for over 30 miles. The rolling hills on the Oak Hill side are a bit longer than the ones on the campus loop, and are more my style as I just get in my low gear and go. On the way up the big climb I started to open a gap on Ben and decided it was time to make a move. 32 miles into a 50 miler seemed early, but I was feeling good and the change of pace felt good as I put in a good surge to try and drop Ben. My biggest fear was to be running with Ben at mile 45 then get dropped and have no response.

I kept the pace steady and finished the second loop in 1:54:24, about 3 minutes slower than the first loop, but still a pretty decent pace. 4:09 total (7:13 pace) had elapsed, and I knew if I could scruff out a 2:00 for the last lap I would run a 6:09. Pretty damn fast for a 50 miler, and especially my first one. Unfortunately I still had 15 miles to go.

I knew the last lap would be more of a mental test than anything. I hadn't seen Ben for over 3 miles, hadn't seen Brian for over an hour and just planned on running one kilometer at a time. The k's are marked at Pineland and can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. One foot in front of the other is what I thought. My spirits were still up and I was tired, but still moving at a respectable pace. I just thought "stay ahead of Ben". I took my time at each aid station, knowing that the gap might shrink, but I knew hydration and calories were important at this point. One thing I did not do a good job of was getting sodium into my system. The sun had broke through on the last lap and I was crusted in salt.

I used the runners that I was lapping from the 25k, 50k and 50 miler to keep me moving forward and was pretty confident of holding on and winning the whole thing in my first ultra. The aid station at mile 45 is where things started to unravel though. I stopped for a couple cups of water and a fig newton. I took my time and stretched my quads, which were fatigued, but holding up ok. Local trail racer Paul Young said "Nice job! How long were you leading?" I exclaimed "I'm leading right now!" He informed me that Brian had just blown by the aid station. I looked down the trail and there he was, blasting down the doubletrack ski trail. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. I knew with the way I was feeling and the pace he was moving at that I wasn't going to catch him, but I wanted to finish this thing and try to get a second place finish. I went at it, but my pace wasn't much faster than the runners that I had been lapping before. Before I knew it my stride had shortened and I had to walk for the first time during the whole race. I just tried to keep moving forward to keep my quads from locking up. My breathing was fine, I wasn't lightheaded and my energy levels were up, but my legs were not responding. After a little walking I was able to run again, but after pounding down the steep switchback on Gloucester Hill, my quads reached their limits. I continued to walk until I couldn't stay in a straight line. I sat on the side of the trail and stopped my watch, about 3 miles shy of the finish line in 6:09:25. 47 miles in the book, but no ambition to finish. I could have walked/crawled the last 3 miles, but I wasn't interested in prolonging the recovery that I would have to undertake after this silly idea. I awaited a ride in the sagwagon back to the start area. Many runners kindly offered me assistance while I waited, but I felt fine other than not being able to move my legs.

As I type this I am excited about running another ultra later this year; now prepared with some good and not-so-good experiences. Salt is your friend, especially on a hot day. Don't run away from the lead pack at 32 miles, especially when it is your friend and teammate. The Inov8 X-Talon 212's may seem like a light shoe, but they worked great for me on the mix of packed gravel ski trails and high-mowed grass.

A special thanks to Ian and Erik for putting on a great race. And thanks to all the Trail Monsters, acidotic Racing crew and White Mountain Milers for cheering me on from the sidelines and on the course.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Training Week 5/9-5/15

M- 10.9 miles in Effingham up and over and around Green Mountain with Jim Johnson in 1:27:07. The climb up Green Mt. is only 1.3 miles, but gains 1100 ft. It took us 16:06 to hit the summit. The rest of the run was down the old warden's trail on the back and looping around the mountain on the hilly roads. Solid run. 1600 ft gain.

Tu- 5.0 miles in Whitaker Woods in 46:00. Was planning on doing a 5k tempo then 5x2 min hills. Was not feeling it after the first mile so I decided to save the effort for tomorrow.

W- 11.0 miles on Mt. Washington in 1:50:36. Ended up doing a progression type run up to the 6 mile mark. I tried to slowly pick up the effort each mile. I was planning on going to 5, but I was feeling strong and the weather was nice so I went to 6 to see what I had left in the tank. Pretty happy with this one. Splits: 1= 8:43 2= 8:58 3= 8:56 4 8:46 5= 9:08 6= 9:01. I also wore the heart rate monitor on this one. I noticed that my heart rate peaked (183 just after the 4 mile mark, right as my legs started to feel the effort. After that I was working hard, but the heart rate never go up that high again.

Th- AM: 5.2 miles in 54:24 with Paul behind Wal-mart. We were both pretty dead from Washington so we ran super easy.

PM: 4.5 miles on Downes Brook Trail in 1:01:27. Nice trail that I've driven by a bunch of times but have never run. Saw a pine marten on my way out. 600 ft. gain

F- Aussie Quarters (200m in 50-55 sec, then 400m in 70-71 sec. x8) 16:36 for 4800m (5:32 pace) 45 73 51 73 52 73 50 74 51 74 49 74 53 74 47 72. Pretty good workout. I would have liked the 400s to be a little quicker, but I haven't done a lot of fast stuff yet and I could still feel the downhill from Washington in my legs. 2.0 wu, 1.0 cd.

Sa- 5.2 miles on Carter Ledge Trail in 1:13:28. 38:49 to Carter Ledge. Another cool trail that I have ever run. No view today, but I will definitely go back on a clear day. 1600 ft gain.

Su- 19.6 miles 2:04:50 (6:22 pace) 5 miles down from the top of the Kanc, then 9.6 mile tempo at 6:01 pace, then 5 mile climb to top of Kanc at 7:02 pace. The climb was a 9 sec PR. 1600 ft gain.

Totals: 67.4 miles, 10.0 hours, 9200 ft gain. That is a pretty solid week. 3 good workouts, some good climbing and some good mileage. Not much more to say about that!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Training Week 5/2-5/8

M- 4.0 miles in 39:08. I was running out at Rob Brook and came about 75 ft. from two moose in the swamp. I stood there and watched them for a few minutes. I farted (as I have been known to do on occasion) and two seconds later the bull moose was looking at me with his snout up in the air. I stood still for a few minutes until I was sure he wasn't going to charge me.

Tu- 0 Felt aweful.

W- 7.4 miles in 1:19:04. Black Cap via Kettle Ridge, down Red Tail. Ran easy with Ryan Triffitt. 46:10 to the summit. Felt much better. Neither one of us was in the mood to run when we started, but it turned into a pretty nice run in the rain. 1700 ft. elevation gain.

Th- Spent the day helping my mom move, then officiating my specialty, the triple jump, at the KHS track meet. I didn't start my workout until 6:30. The plan was 6 x 1 mile @ 10k pace, 3:00/0.25 mi rec. 5:09 5:08 5:09 5:10 5:12 5:06 (5:09 avg.) Finally a track workout I'm happy with. The speed still isn't coming very easy, but I'm getting stronger on these. I was really happy to dig in and finish with a 5:06. 2.0 wu, 0.5 cd (9.5 total)

F- 5.4 miles in 1:07:21! on the Great Gulf Trail. This was one of those days where I wanted to run, but needed to do something different. I wasn't up for a ton of climbing, but wanted some views. The GGT is rocky and not the best trail to run on, but I always enjoy my time on it. I love the view from the Bluff looking up towards the Northern Presidentials. 1000 ft. elevation gain.

Sa- 0 More moving.

Su- 0 Hiked 4+ miles with Jess up Mt. Potash and planned on running the Kanc home (18+ miles), but I was pretty wiped by the time we got back to the car.

Totals: 26.3 miles, 4.20 hours, 2700 ft. gain. I needed a down week after Muddy Moose. I wasn't particularly sore, but pretty tired. With all the moving I needed to do, I knew if would be a good week to take it easy. It was good to get a good climb in with Ryan and get in a good track workout.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Training Week 4/25-5/1 & Muddy Moose

M- 6.0 miles up Rattlesnake, Middle and Peaked Mts. 1:13:57. 1800 ft gain. Still feeling a little sluggish, but climbs got better the longer I went.

Tu- 8.0 miles up and down Mt. Washington Auto Road in 1:15:55. Ran first mile (0.9) with Paul in 9:00, then tried to pick up the effort every mile after. Ran 9:31 9:30 9:24. Still some snow on the road after 2.5 miles. It was actually warmer at 4 miles than it was at the base due to a nice temperature inversion. 2300 ft gain.

W- 0 Visited my grandmother in the hospital. She had a heart attack Tuesday night, but it doing much better. She's a pretty amazing woman. Has a heart attack at 90 years old and you would barely know it talking to her.

Th- 6 x 1 mile at 10k pace, 3:00/400m recovery. 5:02 5:06 5:07 5:09 5:11 5:11 (5:08 average). Much better workout than last week, but still concerned that I'm tailing off at the end of the workout. My legs finally feel like they're getting back under me. 3.0 wu, 0.75 cd.

F- 7.4 miles up Black Cap via Kettle Ridge, down Red Tail, 1:24:21. 50:00 to summit. Wow that was slow. I just tried to run easy, and the time showed it. I've never run it that slow even with snow on the ground. It goes to show that I'm not recovering as quick as I was last spring, but I'm putting miles and workouts in the bank and will get there. 1700 ft gain.

Sa- 7.9 miles in 1:12:58 on the Lower Nanamacomuck Ski Trail (one of the top 25 trails in America in the recent Runner's World Trail Guide!) with the Wenunchus, Wenonah and Falls Pond Loops. Great view across Falls Pond that I've never seen. Need to go back with a camera. 6 strides near end. 600 ft of gain surprisingly.

PM: Nice 4 plus mile hike with Jess in the Dry River Valley.

Su - Muddy Moose 14 Mile Trail Race. 1st place, 1:28:51, 29 sec course record, 1:29 PR. I am pretty happy with this one. This was the first trail race I ever did way back in 2004. I didn't believe in trail shoes back then because they were all too bulky at that time, so I went with marathon racing flats. That didn't slow me down at all. I ended up running 1:30:20 though. Flash forward to 2011. My spring racing has been less than stellar, but I knew I wanted to try to crank out a good one at Seven Sisters, so I finally got my ass in gear and got some decent training in. Unfortunately I would not have the time to travel to Western Mass. this weekend, so I opted to head back to Muddy Moose, where I hadn't raced since 2005. I had scanned the results from the last few years and noticed that Olympic nordic skiers Justin and Kris Freeman had run the race. I knew Justin was planning on running the James Joyce 10k after reading his blog, but I hoped maybe Kris would be racing to get in a good workout. I also knew after looking at the old results that Dmitry Drozdov had set a blistering course record of 1:29:20 in 2006, 1 minute faster than my best time. His time was in the back of my mind all week, but I wasn't sure if I would be that fit. I figured I might be able to run in the 1:32-1:33 range right now.

After arriving at the race, RD Fergus Cullen informed us that the course was "relatively dry". Relative being the key term. This race is usually a slop fest, but still very runnable in many spots. I've average 6:30's on a fast day, but the pace probably ranges from low 5's on the gravel road to 10+ on the escarpment.

From the gun I took an early lead and just tried to run smooth. The first 3/4 mile is on road and xc trail, so it's easy to run too fast at the start, but I knew I didn't want to have a repeat of The Rivah by blowing up on the way in, so I just tried to run smart. I came through the 2 mile mark in 12:20 (12:09 in 2005), so I knew I was running a good pace without going out recklessly. I just tried to open it up on the gravel road knowing it is the best opportunity to get some decent running in before hitting the escarpment and the muddy snowmobile trails. I turned onto the escarpment at 20:00, checking my split knowing this would help me on my way back.

Smooth was the name of the game today as I just tried to run hard but smart the whole time. The snowmobile trails were muddy, but it was easy to pick a line that would keep your momentum up. I went through one waist deep puddle a little before the 5 mile water stop, but that was the wettest part of the race. I came through the water stop in 31:00, which gave me another marker for the way back.

The middle third of the race was a lot hillier than I remembered. Luckily I am a mountain runner and I just put it in low gear and tried to be as efficient as possible. Today I was happy with my climbing and my body awareness. I knew exactly where to push and where not to. The beaver dam loop wasn't as flooded as bad and the rocky climb after it wasn't too muddy.

When I came back through the 5 mile water stop again in 58:00 I knew I had 31:20 to equal Dmitry's course record. I knew that would be tough as I ran the first 5 in 31:00 and that would be a near even split on tired legs, returning mostly uphill and running through muddy trails that had already been trampled by nearly 200 people. I had never even or negative split in the past, but I thought I'd try like hell anyways.

I was definitely getting tired, but I still tried to run smooth and my legs were holding up ok. I knew the mile plus gravel road section would be key. As I entered the road from the escarpment I knew I would have to bank some time, as the last two muddy miles are usually trashed. I opened up the stride again just wanting to get to that snowmobile trail. When I finally got to it I looked at my watch and did some mental math and knew I had about 13 minutes to break the record. The 12:20 on the way out was controlled, but I knew this would still be a tall order. I came back form my 12:09 in 2005 with a 14:30! I put my head down anyway.

I was definitely having a hard time staying upright on the muddy stuff, but I knew it would be over soon. I have never been so happy to see a road when I turned onto the gravel near the gold course. When I hit the pavement with a 1/4 mile to go I actually put in a decent kick to cross the line in 1:28:51. I was completely exhausted at the finish, but completely satisfied.

3.0 wu, 2.0 cd.

Totals: 59.3 miles, 8.64 miles, 6400 ft gain. Pretty solid week. Nothing spectacular, but more to put in the log book. As you can tell I am very happy with Sunday's race. I still have some work to do, but now there is at least a glimmer of hope that I am getting fit again.