Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas From The Trail

Merry Christmas From The Trails! (as they appeared on Dec25th)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From the trails at Trout Brook and surrounding area. Music is Fleet Foxes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another minute or two near the Quinapoxet

Some images from this morning's trail run.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A couple of minutes on the trails I call home...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

From the Trail

A collage of images from this morning's trail run by the Quinapoxet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Catching Up

It's been a while. I've neglected this blog. Neglected all of you. The handful of people that read this. It's just that, I get lost in the woods sometimes.

What's been going on? I've run a couple races, spent a lot of time on the trails, and volunteered at our local Thanksgiving 5k. Bringing you up to speed -

Groton Town Forest Trail Race
Last year, I ran this race one year after the Bay State marathon, and fell in love with trails. Since then, I've relished every chance I get to hit the single-track all around me. There's just something wonderful about it. To be in the moment. Winding around switchbacks and hills in the pine forests and down narrow slopes alongside rushing river waters. I am reborn with every run. Enough rambling.

Final stretch of GTF trail race
This year I found myself rushing to get to the start line, just as last year. As with many trail/ultra events, there wasn't a real start. I don't recall anyone shouting. Certainly no gun. People just start moving. I settled into a nice groove and just ran how I felt. Stopped to tie my shoelaces a couple of times. After the first water stop, I tripped on a root and slid a few feet. Covered in leaves and pine needles. Lost the top to my handheld. Oh well.

Ran at times with another couple in VFFs. When we slowed to walk some of the really steep hills, we exchanged stories about minimalism and trail running. After a while we came to the photographer, and I ran down the final stretch smiling.

It was a great afternoon for a trail run.

Cape Cod Marathon Relay
Earlier this year, I agreed to run as part of a relay team that my friend John was putting together for the Cape Cod Marathon in late October.  As the date drew near, I admit I was planning on bailing out of this relay. But, a couple of people cancelled on him, so off to the cape I went.

Legion Of Stupid Heroes
I left on Saturday, during the start of the freakish Halloween snow storm. I spent the night with a friend on the cape. Had some great dinner and conversation, but of course, a less-than-optimal night's sleep. The night before a race, coupled with being away from home knowing that the family had already lost power and had 8+ inches of snow really wasn't conducive to rest.

Sunday came, and I fully expected it icy, sideways rain and projectile pets. But it was just blustery. The wind was cold at times, but no rain. Sweet. Actually ended up running the first two legs of this race, totaling just over nine miles.

No time for celebration though. After my leg, I hopped in the car and drove home to the snowy powerless family. I think the team finished in around 4:30.

Whose Woods These Are I Think I Know
After the storms, my beloved rail-trail and single-track were littered with downed trees. One weekend, I took a bit of time to explore the trails and assess the damage. While I was out, I ran into a guy clearing some sections by the river with a bow-saw. I thought this was a great idea. Since then, I've gone out twice with the bow-saw to clear out some of the trail that I run most frequently. Even got the 4yo to pitch in one afternoon.

Felt really good to give something back to the single-track. The boy had a great time too - "helping mother nature".

Slattery's Turkey Trot
I wasn't planning on running Slattery's this year, but my brother was hell-bent on running a sub-7:00 pace at this five-miler, so I signed up and figured I go out and have a fun run. I ended up running a bit faster than I thought I would (or could) and ended up posting my 2nd fastest time on the course. My brother finished in just around 34:30. Didn't hit his goal but came damn close and had an awesome race.

Holden Road Race
The last couple of years I've run in this 5k event on Main St. in our town. This year, the race was in danger of not happening after the funds raised during last year's event were never turned over to the Wachusett Food Pantry. Luckily, a great group of volunteers came together to pull of a great race. In it's first year under new management, over 800 people ended up turning out for the new course.  Worcester Telegram Article

I read about the call for volunteers and decided to give something back this year. After attending the volunteers meeting and getting to talk with the race organizers, I was even more excited to be involved. I offered to help wherever I was needed most. As it turns out, this was with traffic before the race.

So, early Thanksgiving morning, I went down to the Big Y (start/finish) and directed traffic until the race began. Then I camped at the final turn, at the end of the last hill, and shouted encouragement to each and every runner and walker. It was great to see such a large turnout. People of all ages and abilities coming out to earn an extra piece of pie or second serving of stuffing.

After the race I hung out and helped break down the tables and clean up. Scored a race shirt and a pair of gloves. You can never have too many gloves.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

VT50: A Bucket Filler

I rarely remember my dreams. When I do, it is a jumbled collection of vagaries. Channel surfing on hallucinogens. Fragments of blurry montages spliced together at odd angles. Often there is no transition from scene to scene. Nine days ago, I lived through one such dream, at the Vermont 50 mile ultra-marathon.

But first, a brief recap of how we got here.

How Did I Get Roped Into This? 
Earlier this year, my buddy Doug was talking up the VT50 to anyone that would listen. After BQ’ing at Smuttynose, our mutual running friend Luau agreed to sign up for this 50 mile behemoth. I also tentatively committed. As Doug mentions in his recap saga - I thought “hey they have a 50k option too, right?”

Over the spring and first part of summer, I was still running everyday, as part of my 200 consecutive days of running streak that ran from November until May. I stopped the streak and rested one day before I ran a 50k at Pineland After the 50k distance, I thought the 50 mile distance in Vermont was a reasonable goal, and started training for the longer distance.

Peaking Too Early and the Terrible Tendons 
July saw me putting up huge mileage. I was excited about ultra training and was feeling fantastic. I logged nearly 250 miles in July alone. It wasn’t too long after this that I noticed my Achilles and posterior-tibial tendon on my right foot really starting to complain on nearly every run. I had made a cardinal mistake and was now paying the price for it. Overuse. I limited the mileage during the week. In the first week of August, I had a monster 32 mile training run. Feet complained the whole way. I was really starting to worry about Vermont. Over the next two months, my mileage fell off. I probably averaged around 35 miles per week. I made sure to get at least a 20 miler in on the weekends, but my mid-week runs dropped significantly. I was constantly battling with ankle and tendon soreness and pain. Constantly worried that I’d get a DNS (did not start) on September 25th.

But as time wore on, my feet started to feel better with the diminished training. As September 25th approached, my feet felt better than they had in weeks. That is to say, they ached about as much as they normally did during training. As the taper wound to a close, I felt as strong as I could about the 50-miler, given the last couple of months of training.

Race Weekend! 
We got up to Claremont, NH late Saturday afternoon. We stayed at the Common Man Inn, which I highly recommend. Renovated old mill building had a ton of charm. Our room, aside from being quite spacious, had a view of the nearby Sugar river - falls cascading outside the window were a soothing sound.

We made our way over to Ascutney Mountain Resort for packet pickup and drop-bag drop-off. My drop-bag strategy was to include some nutrition (gel blocks, honey stinger waffles, some GU) in each bag, and shoes in the 32-mile bag. There were drop-bag aid stations at 12, 32, and 47 miles. After packet pickup, we ran into the rest of our Twitter/Dailymile crowd, all running in the morning - Doug, Luau, Jeremy D., Jeremy B, Sarah S and their respective crew members. We exchanged greetings and a few words and then parted ways.

After a nice dinner, I pinned my number on my shirt, laid everything out for the morning, and tried to get some rest. Pre-race briefing was scheduled for 5:15am, and the four o’clock hour would come quickly.

Sunday Sunday Sunday! 
We awoke early and made our way over to Ascutney in the dark. Port-a-potty by headlamp. The grass was soaked and all of us prepared for a long, muddy day. We found our group, chatted and snapped a few pre-race pics.

L-R:Me, Jeremy B, Sarah, Doug, Luau, Jeremy D

The race started about 10 minutes late, around 6:35. The start of this course was advertised as a few downhill and flat miles. Not so this year. We started climbing just about a mile in, where we greeted with a sign on the side of the road that read “Vermont is not flat!”. This continued until the first aid station, where our first real off-road climb awaited us.

The first climb did not disappoint, and was a perfect encapsulation of what would await us all morning and afternoon - steep climbs through deep, slippery mud. There were something like 800 mountain bikers that left before the runners. They made to sure to leave the course in pristine condition.

The next 8-9 miles were a series of relentless little ups and downs, culminating in muddy descent into what was dubbed the “mud pit” - just before the first aid station where our handlers had access to us. Here’s a photo from just beyond the mud pit.

During this stretch of the race my tendons really started barking. I was having to favor my right foot a bit and just trying to push forward. This had happened on virtually every training run, and usually sorted itself out, or became tolerable as the run progressed. Also during this time, our merry band of six began to thin out. The two Jeremy’s, Doug and Luau pulled ahead, with Sarah and myself trailing behind. At one point, Doug waited at the top of a climb to chat with us for a few minutes, but eventually rejoined the lead group.

Sarah and I entered the first handler station just as the other four left, feeling pretty good. Grabbed some nutrition, refilled water. Ditched the phone. It was way too humid and even though it was in a plastic bag, it was getting wet. Ditched my belt pack too. It was mainly carrying the phone. I moved the endurolytes to my pocket and lost the extra weight.

The next section was about 8 miles of steady climb up to Garvin Hill, the highest point on the course. Sarah and I stuck together and walked the steeper uphills - like everyone else. Up long country roads and over picturesque farmland with gorgeous views. A perfect little slice of country living, complete with old red barns. In the woods surrounded by maple syrup lines. Climbing. climbing, climbing, for what seemed an eternity.

Eventually our hard-work ascending paid off at the top of Garvin hill. You could see for miles, and I was a little bummed I had ditched my phone at the first handler station (it was caked with sweat and stuff) - as these were some of the best views this course had to offer. I was feeling some hot spots on my feet, so I slathered on some Vaseline. Had a few snacks and chatted with the volunteers. At this point, I believe we were still making great time - about an hour ahead of the cutoff time.

Going into the race, I felt that the 12-hour time limit for this difficult course was a bit aggressive. As a comparison, the 50-miler at Pineland Farms has ½ the elevation gain and a 13-hour cutoff time. It became a recurring theme for us - reach an aid station and ask what time they closed, desperately trying to gauge how far we were ahead of the cutoffs.

After mile 20, we went back down the hill on some switch backs. As I had been favoring my right leg and the tendons earlier, I noticed now that my left knee was very unhappy. The downhills were not fun. I was having to alternate between trying to go down a little sideways and just gritting my teeth and letting go on the hills. Did I mention the hills were also caked with mud? Made for an interesting few miles.

The knee pain came and went, and at times I found myself flying down hills, leaving Sarah a little bit behind. During one such period, I recall feeling euphoric. I was moving on single track through the woods, alone, full of energy. In hindsight, I was probably moving way too fast. But no matter, I felt alive and surprisingly good for having been running for 5-6 hours.

At one point, I came out of the single-track and on to some road. There was another guy here, sort of staggering. I slowed up and walked next to him. He was having some major cramping and was feeling a bit sluggish and disoriented. I shared some endurolytes with him and walked for a bit. After a few minutes, I turned and saw Sarah coming out of the woods on to the road. We continued on to the Margaritaville aid station.

After leaving the aid station, we had 4-5 miles (I don’t really recall accurately) until we hit our next handler station at Dugdales. During this section we walked a lot, and ran via landmark. Sarah and I took turns picking out things like trees, streams, telephone poles, etc. “Let’s run until the second big tree”. “Let’s walk at that brook.” The hills just seemed to get harder.

Eventually we reached Dugdales at around the 32 mile mark and saw our crew. Our crews were fantastic! They had some chairs setup for us and all our stuff spread out. I got my socks changed, some duct tape applied to my right pinky toe, which was starting to blister. I ate some fruit and drank a bunch of water. Sarah and I made our way over to the aid table, where they were yet again out of potatoes. This was unfortunately the case at nearly every aid station. The mountain bikers and faster runners consumed every last potato. I ended up learning to love the salty banana.

Leaving our handlers

We left the 32 mile station and started hiking uphill again. The next 5 miles or so seemed to go on forever. There were just a ridiculous amount of winding single-track switch backs. At times we questioned whether or not we had already covered a particular section. I believe it was during this section that Sarah thought she saw a deer on the track ahead of us. I had to let her know it was just a fern.

Each aid station, we asked about the cutoff time. Each aid station, we were creeping dangerously closer to the cutoff time. We’d encounter other runners, and ask them. None of them seemed concerned, so we figured we were doing alright. As we got up over 36-37 miles I was starting to get pretty fatigued, especially on the uphills. There was a stretch where Sarah pulled ahead and was moving with another woman up the hills as I was kind of struggling. At one point on a particularly steep section of hill, I remember going to take a step and feeling as if I would topple over backwards down the entire slope. I was dragging. Eventually we got some downhill and I was able to make up some time and came out on the road behind Sarah leading up to the 40 mile aid station.

We reached the station with precious little time to spare. Again, no potatoes. I grabbed a handful of chips and a piece of orange. Sarah had already started walking. A guy at the station said we had 7 miles to cover in just under 90 minutes. I did some quick math. That was something in the 12-13 minute mile range. Faster than what we’d averaged that day by at least 1:30. I mumbled something to Sarah about it being impossible. She kept pushing forward.

Around this time I also really started to hit a wall physically. Or, maybe it was just mental. Whatever the cause, by the time we were a mile (?) away from the aid station, I urged Sarah to go on without me. I really didn’t think it was going to happen for me. I told her to send one of my brothers when she reached the next aid station. I admired her tenacity, as I was convinced it was not going to be possible for her to beat the cutoff either.

The next 40-45 minutes were a dark funk. Ultra events seem to feature this kind of cycle. You feel good, you feel great, you feel defeated, you feel like you can’t go on and just want to take a nap, then you feel good, etc, etc. In fact, both Sarah and I had experienced this at various points during the race. We agreed to keep each other out of the dark spaces. And it worked pretty well. But she had gone off ahead, and I was trudging through the woods on switch back and up and down the muddy single track alone. And it started to get to me.

I was drained. Felt like I had no energy. I realized I needed to keep running, but it was a non-starter. I’d begin to run, and after about a tenth of a mile I’d “wake up” and realize that I was walking. I’d just stop. Mentally, I wanted to run, but seemingly couldn’t. After all, this was mostly downhill, but my legs were feeling otherwise. My tendons were barking a bit and my knee was acting up again. I started getting down about the whole experience. I was convinced I was not going to make the 47 mile aid station cutoff time of 5:45. That was an almost certainty at this point. But I started to wonder whether or not I’d even make it to see my brothers. The woods started to consume me.

At times I felt like I was stumbling forward. I began to hear things, or at least imagine hearing them. Footfalls around me. I’d pause and listen. No one around. I’d hear voices. Kids laughing, chatter of what sounded like an aid station. I’d stop and listen. Nothing. I ate everything I had left in my pockets and drank a bunch of my water. I kept trudging forward over single track. Small wooden bridges and mud pits. Hills.

After some amount of time, the sweeper caught me on his bike. I told him I realized I wasn’t going to make it, but was going to run it out to 47. He sort of agreed and said “well, you have a lot of ground to cover still...” - That kind of sealed the deal. But I kept on moving forward. I really wanted nothing more than to sit down on a stone and rest, or lie down in the mud and pass out.

The single-track receded and I made my way into a clearing. I figured I had about 25 minutes and somewhere around 2-3 miles to go. I thought for a second - “if I run as hard as I can, I might pull off a miracle”. I talked myself up. Somehow, it actually worked. I took off and ran for about ½ mile at what I thought was a pretty quick pace. My Garmin reported somewhere between 10-11 minute miles and I was dismayed. Slowed to a walk. Caught my breath, ran some more. Walked again.

As I came out onto some farmland, there was an owner sitting on her porch. Amazingly, another guy came out of the woods behind me. As he approached I said “there’s no way man - we’ve got over two miles to go and about 9 minutes to do it”. He said “bullshit, I run these trails all the time and its not that far”. This energized me. He took off, and so did I, winding through the single track and back out onto the road. I looked at my watch however, and realized it was a lost cause. We were already at the cutoff time.

Soon I saw my brothers. I said “it ain’t happening”. They nodded in understanding. We walked and jogged the remainder of the way, probably about another 1-1.5 miles. The sweeper van approached and told me to get in. I refused and told them I was running it out to 47, where my ride awaited. We walk/jogged the final bit to where our wives were all waiting. I was about 20 minutes too late. I said goodbye to my brothers and their wives, changed my clothes, and Jenni drove us back to the finish line. I hobbled down to the finish area with a few minutes to spare.

Moments later, Sarah came into view and came bounding down the final slopes to the screaming chorus of all of us cheering. Somehow, someway, she had made that last aid station cutoff. I have no idea how, but she did it. She collapsed to the ground. Doug made his way over with her medal. As he held her hand, she managed a few words through her tears and labored breathing. “I had to leave Adam.” I made my way over to the edge of the fence and extended my hand to her and told her not to apologize. Not necessary. Jenni snapped this picture and it really captures the emotion of that moment.

Sarah after the race

Congratulations all around for Doug and the two Jeremy’s, who came in just under 11 hours and qualified for the Western States 100 lottery. Luau finished just over 11 hours, and Sarah just under the wire, with 30 seconds to spare.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel where I had an ice bath and a hot shower. Then some of us made our way out to the Skunk Hollow Tavern, where the owners were great enough to keep the kitchen open for us hungry maniacs. A couple of beers, some pizza, some salad, and some good salmon bisque.

On Sunday, I was okay with how the day ended. I have no doubt I could have continued on for another three miles, had there been a 13-hr cutoff time. I estimated around a 12:35 finishing time. I was disappointed but not upset.

Monday, I went down by the river and went for a very slow walk. I sat by the water and tried to figure out exactly what had happened. When at mile 47, I felt as if I could have gone another three. What happened between 40-45? 32-37? Where did I lose those minutes? After ruminating for a bit I began walking back to the trail head. I tried a slow jog. Leg shaped bags of concrete. Tenth of a mile. Return to reality. Ouch.

The rest of the day, and into Tuesday, I entertained this endless dialogue of what-ifs and second-guessing about Sunday. I should have switched shoes at 32. What if I hadn’t stopped to share endurolytes with that guy? Maybe I stayed too long at stations. Damn them for not having POTATOES! The one thing I trained for specifically! I didn’t eat enough. Did I drink enough? My Garmin was off all day because of the switchbacks - maybe my math was faulty - I had been running for 9 hours. I should have trained more uphill power walking. What the hell happened in 42-44? Did I just space out? Did I hallucinate? Did I just give up?

Did I just give up? Maybe that’s it. I just did not want it bad enough. My goals going into this race were simple. I was nursing an overuse injury and I really just hoped to get through the day without further damage. If I finished, I finished. I knew there was no way that I could break 11 hours on my first attempt. I didn’t have anything to prove. In the days approaching the race, I was more excited about running with friends and going on an adventure than I was about covering the 50 miles in an arbitrary amount of time. I didn’t really have an it to drive me.

I started to grow miserable within this little shell of self doubt and rationalization, until a simple moment smashed me in the face.

One night before bed, I was talking with our daughter. She was acting all goofy and I asked her to stop. She said “but I want to make you laugh and smile”. I told her she made me smile every day and she said “that’s a bucket filler”. The second graders have been learning about kindness.

I asked her to explain. “What’s a bucket filler?” “You know, when you do something nice for someone else. That’s a bucket filler. Or when you go do your races like in Vermont.” … “What do you mean?” …

Well, you go out with your friends and you do your best and you help each other and it doesn’t really matter who wins because you are all just going to have fun. That’s a bucket filler.

I thought - I am an idiot. And I nearly cried.

Back at the office, I was sharing the story with one of my biggest supporters. We talked about the cutoff times and how I felt about the day. She said - “you’re forgetting again”.

“Forgetting what?”

“Where you came from! You never give yourself enough credit! Think about who you used to be, and what you’ve been able to do, and what you just did last weekend!”

And indeed, she’s right. Thanks Nanci. Need to focus on what I did do and stop obsessing over what didn’t happen. Begin humming Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. 

* Vermont is not flat
* Covered 47 miles and felt at the end like I could have done the 50 (without dying). This is a huge confidence booster for any kind of distance 50k or under.
* Aid station tips: get the water bottles open as you approach the station, it’s helpful to have someone rip open gel block / waffle packages for quick access later.
* Salty bananas are actually pretty good
* Forget about the Garmin. The switchbacks make it irrelevant. Should have just kept it on clock display.
* Ultras are freaking awesome, and I want to do more.

It would be wrong if I failed to say thank you to the race organizers and to the landowners that grant access to their property for this event year after year. This is truly a great event. I will be back.

Also thank you so much to my wife Jenni. For both supporting this crazy ultrarunner and crewing for me. You were the best!

There’s much more swirling around in my head about this experience. It’s tough to explain everything. One has to experience it. Go through it. Like life. Just keep moving forward. I was watching this video with the kids leading up to the race. It's good stuff. Onwards:

Onwards from AKQA on Vimeo.

Relentless forward motion. Run, run, run.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No Humans

Sunrise. Misting rain. Take the trail to river, the old road into the town forest. New trails to explore. Down the single-track to a river. The Quinapoxet? It's lush here. The sunlight is weak; veiled by rain clouds and the dense dark canopy. Move forward until the green is chest high and the sound of the water rises. Beyond a giant thicket of river fern, a great blue heron springs into action, its majestic flight recalling those of its jurassic ancestors. For a moment, not sure if it's a dream.

Away from the river, climbing the forest road to take more single track on ridge saddling two vast meadows. Farm land. Back to the forest. Squirrel and chipmunk scatter. Birds chatter. The rain is heavier on the return trip home.

No humans, save me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Montrail Rogue Racer Video

Today's a rest day, but I'm already itching to take the rogue racers out on the trails again. Until then, I'll have to settle for watching someone else run in them. Here's a video review of the Montrail Rogue Racer with some pretty technical downhill. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week in Review

Sixteen weeks from now, in the mountains of Vermont is a 50 mile race. Running a race of this distance requires some kind of plan, right? I've reviewed a handful of different plans online, from the Ultimate Ultramarathon Plan to the Mountain Masochist program. I've gotten plans used successfully by other runners for this very race. The most important aspect that each of these plans stress is time-on-feet. I'd like to say that I've a concrete plan in place, but the truth is that I've got a spreadsheet thrown together as a guideline and I'm going to take it slow and see how it goes.

This first week I wanted to get to around 40 miles and reintroduce sunrise runs in the middle of the week.

On Saturday morning, I had a great time sloshing around in the Merrell Trail Gloves in the rain. That afternoon, my brother came up for a visit. We visited the local running shop and then hit the trails. I picked up a pair of Montrail Rogue Racers and wanted to give them a try and he wanted to see some of the spots by the river.

Sunday morning I got out again in the rogue racers again and took the path less traveled. Had a blast.

The Numbers
Distance: 40.11mi
Time: 06:45:38
Elevation Gain/Loss: 2469/2579

In other news, I've been continuing on with the 100-pushups program. At this point I'm repeating week 5 until it feels easy. I'm doing this MWF. The other days I've been hitting core. Starting to notice a difference in both upper body strength / definition and in my posture while running. I've also switched back to low(er) carb eating and I've dropped around 5-6 lbs which is a step back down to where I want to be.

Perhaps the oddest bit for me is Monday and Friday rest days. May have to add in some biking to the mix.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The earth is totally awesome

I found out yesterday that today is National Trails Day. News to me, but I could think of no better excuse for including some trails in my morning run. I slipped on the fingers (KSO) for a short run.

"How far are you going?" - "I don't know. 3 miles. 5 miles. Somewhere in between?"

I really wasn't sure how far I was going to go, or be able to go. Since running Pineland last Sunday, my IT band has been a bit tight/sore. I've been taking it easy and stretching it out, icing, applying heat, and rolling the holy hell out of it with the foam roller and a good old fashioned wooden rolling pin. I highly recommend the latter.

Beautiful morning for a run. I headed toward an unfinished section of rail trail. Truth be told, I wasn't really intending to hit the trails at first. But as I got closer I felt the pull grow stronger. Before long I was climbing the rocky slope to get into the forest. Ran mostly on dirt/pine single track, but there were many sections that were rocky, especially early on.

The trail branches in several spots, some of them leading to open meadows. Again I thought of Pineland, and stayed in the woods. After a half an hour or so I looped back around to the original trail. I thought about how well the fingers actually felt out there, how I was really paying attention and working on foot placement. Just enjoying the time in the woods. It was great. Then I came down on a small rock in just the right way and was forced to emit something that sounded like - "OHHH OW OW OHHHHH". Luckily no one was around.

I got back home and iced the foot, logged the workout, and shared the photo from the trail on dailymile. One comment on the photo got me thinking about how lucky we are to have these trails nearby. I had a thought and ran it by the kids.

Picture it. You're running along the wide gravel section of the rail trail. You see some single track that runs along the hill side and leads down to the river. You take it. Some roots and dirt. Pine and small branches. Leaves crackle beneath you as you make your way down the trail toward the river sound. Turn a corner and come across -

This spot has seen its share of parties.

I talked to the six year old.

"Did you know it's trails day today?"

"NO. Are we going to go for a hike?"

"I was thinking about it. But then I had another thought. You know what really bothers me? When people leave their trash behind in the woods."

"I know! That hurts the earth. I see that litter on my way to school too. People should throw their stuff away and recycle it."

"Do you want to take some trash bags out in the woods and clean up this spot that I know on the trail?"

"YES! Then we can help mother nature and the earth."

So it was decided. We headed to the trail. After about 15 minutes we found the debris and began working. Gloves on hands and bags at their side, the kids (4 & 6) helped me cleanup the whole area. We filled one bag and 3/4 of another. Then we moved down to the river and enjoyed a snack. The kids enjoyed some mountain berry and lemon lime clif bloks.

Soon we heard some people milling about our cleanup site. I went back to find a woman and her two grand kids. I offered to help them down the slippery slope to the river.

"Are you the ones cleaning up out here?" - "Yup" - "Wow, that is wonderful."

The kids were about the same ages so we hung out for a few minutes before I offered to lead them along the trail by the river. I run it at least once a week, and the kids and I have hiked down here so we're pretty familiar with the area. Along the river, across the stream. Over the mossy rocks and up the hill by the uprooted tree. Climb the narrow trail to the switchback, and eventually the gravel trail.

We parted ways with our new friends and went back to grab our full trash bag. Back toward the car. When we got to the trail parking lot, we encountered a woman on a bike.

"You didn't find all that trash out there?!?" - "Yeah, well there's a party site a little bit off the gravel trail." - "You know, it's really great that you did that."

It didn't take that long. It was a nice afternoon. Imagine if everyone simply did their part in taking care of the planet. Now that section in the woods will probably host another party, and will probably need to be cleaned again. Next time, I'll leave a note instructing them to procure some better beer. Keystone Light? Really?

Back at the car....

"I'm really proud of you guys. Great job helping out today in the woods."

6 year old: "Thanks dad. It was really good to help clean up nature."

"Thank you! I will smile every time I run past that area on my runs now. Thanks for helping the earth."

4 year old: "Yeah! Yeah dad. The earth is awesome. The earth is totally awesome!"

Yes son. Yes it is.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pineland Farms 2011 Race Report

Woke up at 5, got ready and made the 2.5 hour drive up to New Gloucester, Maine. I had registered for the 25k, which started at 10. Maps had predicted just under a 3 hour drive, so I had some time to kill before the race.

Dailymile friends Brendan and Maddy were doing the 50-miler. My plan was complete the 25k, and then see if I could find them and keep them company during their final lap (the 50 milers run the 25k loop three times). I saw an update from Brendan that he and Maddy were at mile 15. Did some quick calculations and realized I would see them before the 25k started. This happened about 20 minutes before the 25k start. I joked that I'd catch them and then run the rest of their 50 miler with them.

First 5k

The first 5k of the loop are predominantly downhill. I was excited to get going, and realized about two miles in that I was going too fast. So I slowed down and started to take it easy. Good idea since after the first 5k, the hills really started.

Familiar Faces at 15k

I proceeded to run at a comfortable pace, walking the steeper uphill sections and hitting the downhills as fast as I could. About 9 miles in, I came across Maddy and Brendan at the Valley Farm Aid Station. So I ran with them on what was their second lap of the 25k course. I was impressed with how well they looked for having already run a marathon distance.

25k Done, Time for more fun

While M/B stopped at the final aid station, I ran ahead and finished the 25k. Got my miniature cowbell and jogged to the car. Grabbed another pack of bloks and went back to the start/finish area just in time to see them ready to head out for their final lap. I wasn't really running the 25k for time, but I think I remember the time being around three hours.

Meadow Larks

We moved forward. Walking the uphills and jogging the downs and flats. In the early afternoon, the sun was high, and the humidity and lack of shade made running the relentless meadow hills a bit of a chore. Add some muddy sections and it was a fun time. Coming across the aid stations during these stretches was truly a wonderful experience. Getting into the pine forests was heavenly.

The three of us kept moving forward. I'm not sure how well I "paced" either of these two superstars, but it was great to have the company. Had a blast running through the woods, chatting away. Occasionally there was song. We enjoyed each aid station, and the great food selections. One station had popsicles, which were divine. But by far my favorite aid station food was boiled potatoes with a side of salt. I cannot stress enough how great these are. I was also surprised to find I really enjoyed the pickles too.

Uncharted Territory

Eventually I surpassed the marathon distance. I was really unsure how I'd be feeling at this point, but surprisingly I still felt pretty good. After about 28 miles though, I had to walk a bit more on the hills in the Oak Hill loop section. M/B were still feeling good and continued on to finish their 50 miles. I hung back and walked the hills and jogged the rest. Got to the final aid station and enjoyed some Mountain Dew and pretzels. Finished the final stretch through the meadow and stopped the Garmin at 31.25 as I walked into the start/finish area.

Afterwards, I spent a few minutes with Maddy and Brendan. Got to meet my online running/chess bud Jamie. Enjoyed a beer and a veggie burger. Then I hopped in the car and drove the 2.5 hours back home.

The Data

Garmin reports:

Distance: 31.25mi
Time: 06:58:19
Elevation Gain: 2721ft
Elevation Loss: 2729ft
Overall Average Pace: 13:23
Average Moving Pace: 12:52


First - hats off and thank to the race directors and the volunteers. This is a well organized and supported event, and has grown in popularity each year. Definitely one that I would do again. The course was challenging but fun, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers was spectacular.

The goodies - got a shirt, a pint glass, and because I registered only for the 25k, a cowbell key-chain.

In my Bay State race report, I wrote - "Most things that seem impossible are achievable." After witnessing people run 50 miles, and running 50k myself, I've never believed this more. I can now proudly call myself an ultra-runner.

Thanks again to Brendan and Maddy for the inspiration and opportunity to see how much is possible.

Until next time - run, run, run :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Images from the run

I know, I know. It's been a while. I'll get back here soon. In the meantime, here are some slideshows of recent runs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston 2011

Monday. A perfect combination of beautiful weather and tailwind for one of the most exciting marathons ever run. How a story is told is how it is remembered. Here are some snapshots of my experience.

Sometime around 6pm
On the fifth floor of a parking garage at Alewife Station, prone over a dirty trash can, in the midst of a violent vomiting spell. Mostly liquid. Is that a fig newton? Stand up and move to the awaiting car; feeling better.

10 minutes earlier
On the red line. Outbound. "Excuse me, I ran today, and I feel like I am going to pass out. Can I please have your seat?" - "Oh my god, yes! Please sit down!"

5 minutes earlier
Slumped against a stairwell in the Park street station, waiting for the outbound train. There's a busker playing some music that sounds vaguely Spanish. Not sure. May have imagined that.

8 minutes earlier
Green line. Inbound. Slouched on the steps of the subway car. Falling asleep. My brother gives me more water. Someone offers a seat to another marathoner. He passes. - "I'll take that seat." - Sit down and talk to the other runner, who ran 3:05 earlier. He'd eaten, had a beer, taken a shower and napped. I was happy not to be vomiting into the adjacent stroller.

20 minutes earlier
At a bus stop, sitting on a bench. Wrecked. Need water. Food. Have no appetite. Choke down a fig newton. Jenni and her sister arrive. She's got a protein drink that is hastily consumed.

Sometime just before 4pm
Jog the last tenth of a mile. Stop the Garmin. - "Well, there's no crowd cheering for you, but you did it."

About 5-10 minutes earlier
Stop for traffic. The world comes to a complete halt. - "I need to sit down, NOW." - Crumple to the ground. Take water and gatorade from Jim. Take a tangerine gel from Jeremy. Shake off the dizziness. Garmin reads just over 26 miles.

Mile 26
As Jeremy and I approach Kenmore, we exit left. Across the street, my brother Jim, Jenni and her sister are trying to find a place for Jim to cross. - "I might be able to get to 27" - It's slow going. He finds a place to cross, just before Mass Ave.

Miles 23-25
Met Jeremy (@silentproject) running. Not sure exactly where or when. We jogged for a bit. Achilles and ankle would bark. We'd walk. I keep apologizing to Jeremy for having to take walk breaks.

Miles 20-23
Kind of a haze. Alternated between walking and running. I wanted to slow things down. Couldn't stop thinking about Rebecca. Run into an old timer and chat for a bit. He's done 63 marathons. Start to think about how much more there is to learn.

Miles 18-20
At this point I started to walk/run. At first it was structured (5/1). Eventually broke down into walking whenever I felt like it, or whenever my feet started to complain. I knew I had a few miles until I ran into Jeremy or my brother. I just needed to stay moving forward until the cavalry arrived.

My friend Alett ran up next to me near the 20 mile beer stop. I probably muttered something about what had happened. Honestly, I was in such an upset state, I don't recall the specifics of our brief conversation.

The start of the heartbreak hills
Getting pissed in a port-a-john. I think about how the last four months of training just came to a crashing halt for Rebecca, about how for the first time in 10 marathons, she won't be able to finish, about how I won't get to wish her a happy birthday just before she turns down Hereford and onto Boylston and steps across that hallowed ground. I bound up that first hill, ignoring any kind of pacing, fueled by emotion.

Just over Mile 17
We can see Elise and her friend Hailey. They are screaming for us. Holding signs and so enthusiastically cheering us on. "Go Rebecca! You can do it!" I look over at Rebecca.

It is the saddest moment of my running life.

Miles 16-17
We walk. She repeatedly urges me to go on. To leave her behind. I repeatedly tell her she's crazy. Elise, a former co-worker is waiting for us just over 17. She'll help get Rebecca to her old office, where her husband will come to pick her up. Realizing that I've been neglecting my nutrition, and that the honey-water wasn't going to be enough, I take my first GU.

Sometime in Mile 15
I look back and Rebecca's walking. - "What's wrong? You OK?" - "Something happened to my knee. It went out?!?" - "Can you run?" - She tries to run. A wave of pain washes over her face. She stops. - "No. It hurts to walk. But I can manage."

I urge her to visit the nearest medical tent. She won't. I call her husband. I call our cameraman friend and let him know not to bother going to the finish line. She tries to jog again. She can't. We walk.

Mile 13-14
We're still pacing pretty well, although it had dropped a bit in the these miles. I ask if she's OK. She says her knee is feeling a little funky. My knee was kind of "dry in the socket" earlier in the day, but had sorted itself out, so we figure that some time at a slightly slower pace might let things loosen up or lubricate. So we agree to keep an eye on it and see how things go.

Miles 10-12
Still pacing great as we move through Natick and Wellesley. We're chatting about this that and everything and having a blast taking it all in.

Mile 10
We run into my friend John, who had agreed to give me some water on the course. It was great to see another familiar face on the course.

Miles 6-9 through Framingham
The hottest part of the race, but probably the happiest. We ran into familiar faces - coworkers and friends, including our friend Naor, who was videotaping the whole thing. Ran into Jim and Patti from Dailymile. We were passing the time chatting and taking in all there was to see, from costumed runners to drunk spectators. Having fun and pacing great.

Miles 3-6
Still pacing great. We're gaining minutes in the bank. Garmin pace runner is set to 11:20 and we're ticking off the mileage without any issues. My knee is a little bit tight but loosens up after a mile or so. Loving the downhill grade.

Miles 1-3
Nice and easy start. Ditched the long sleeve tee after a couple of miles. Stashed the gloves. The wind had died down and it was quite comfortable to run. Enjoying the beautiful morning.

It was WINDY at the start of this race. We arrived probably about 90 minutes prior to Rebecca's wave release. We hung out near the side of a building and tried to stay out of the wind, and in the sun. We talked with the other runners nearby, including some bandits that reassured me that there would be little to no issue getting in at the start. They were right. It was surprisingly easy to "sneak in" when the wave was released.

During this time, got to hang out with Megan (@veganrunningmom) for a few minutes before her warm-up. She was super nice in person, just as I expected. :)

Sometime around 7
On my way to meet Rebecca at her house. So excited to run by her side in her 9th Boston marathon and 10th overall. On her birthday no less. The plan is to run with her to about Kenmore, and then meet my brother to log a few extra miles and shoot for a 50k. I'll stop with her at 25 and change, give her a big hug and wish her a happy birthday, and then go off for my extra bit. It's going to be a fantastic day!

Had an awesome time at the expo and the Dailymile Meetup. Got to meet Bart Yasso at the expo and had a blast with everyone at McGreevy's.

Obviously, Monday didn't turn out how I had imagined it. But I learned a ton from the experience. The most important lesson is one that is frequently mentioned during any discussion about the marathon.


I approached this run with a lackadaisical attitude.

"Oh, it's just a training run. Rebecca's pace is so much slower, this'll be easy. I'll just tack on an extra 5 miles. No sweat."

There's a line from Spirit of the Marathon - "Some place in the marathon the distance is greater than the human ability to transcend it." - That needs to be heeded. Lesson learned

I didn't pay enough attention to nutrition, and learned that if you are going to use honey-water, you gotta shake that mix constantly, to make sure aren't just getting water for the first couple of hours. I didn't eat enough before the race, and my post-race recovery nutrition was woefully inadequate. Everything kind of went to hell after Rebecca got injured. I stopped paying attention to pace, stopped paying attention to GU's. I just went on auto-pilot in survival mode, moving toward Boston. I let my emotions overtake me.

At a certain point I realized just how little I know about endurance running. How new I am to this whole world. Rather than feeling discouraged by everything that went wrong in Boston, I'm energized. I want to solve the nutrition puzzle, see what my body can do at higher distances, on different terrain. I'm celebrating the fact that I covered 26.2 miles for the 3rd time, even if it was "unofficial".

I'll never forget the lessons learned this week. Monday afternoon was humbling. But I have so many great memories from the four months of training with Rebecca that one bad afternoon won't taint the experience. The cold, snowy/rainy runs, the pre-dawn runs by headlamp, the time on the single-track trails. Two people sharing the ups and downs that accompany marathon training. The nagging aches and pains, the joy of a beautiful sunrise run. The stories and inside jokes. Our friendship.

The journey itself is the reward. Try to remember this every day.

Someday I will run Boston again. But probably not for a while. In the meantime, I'll be out there as much as I can, taking it a day at a time. Maybe I'll see you on the trails.

Run, run, run.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Running to Boston

Tomorrow I'm going to run from Hopkinton to Boston. Nope, I'm not running the marathon. I won't say that. I'll gather with thousands of other people, behind the corrals, without an official number and wait to run the course. Well, most of the course.

Those of you that read this blog know about Rebecca. Months ago, I agreed to train with her for her ninth Boston. A few weeks into the training, she asked me if I'd pace run part of the course with her. The original plan was for me to jump in somewhere in Wellesley and run the second half. As our training cycle progressed, we talked of our goals for the year. Of course, ultra running and the Vermont 50 came up. We figured that the marathon training was a good base for jumping into ultra training in the spring, so why not make it a full marathon in Boston. So, I agreed to run the whole thing - to bandit.

Race day approached and I started to think a lot about what it means to me to run Boston. What it means to nail a qualifying time after years of hard work. What it means to just miss that qualifying time, and go back to the well, again and again, chasing that mythical unicorn. What it means to run for a cause much bigger than a personal best - to help others through running. Imagined what it would be like to turn down Boylston and move through what must be one of the incredibly intense experiences one can have in their running life.

I thought about all of this, and decided not to do it.

I won't dishonor those that have earned the right to cross that line, by qualifying or through charity, by crossing that line as a bandit. Being in Boston yesterday just solidified my decision. The air is positively electric. There is a tangible energy in the city just waiting to explode as thousands of fans crowd the streets to carry those weary souls across the finish line. Someday, I will proudly count myself among those tired warriors, but tomorrow will not be that day.

Instead, once we approach Kenmore, I will bid farewell to Rebecca as she moves through the final mile toward that special stretch of Boylston street that is the stuff of dreams for many runners, myself included. My brother is set to meet me and we're going to head out toward the Charles and run a few loops along the water. The goal is to hit the 50k mark. Afterwards, we'll make our way back over to find Rebecca, family and friends, to celebrate the day.

Isn't that what it's really about? Celebrating life with the people we treasure?

So in less than 24 hours, I'll be running to Boston. There will be no medal. There won't be a jacket. There won't be help from the aid stations (I plan to carry everything I need). There won't be streets lined with screaming spectators cheering me down Boylston. But they'll be there for her. I smile simply thinking about it. If that makes a bandit, then so be it.

To everyone that I know running in Boston tomorrow, I wish you nothing but the very best. Please know that each and every one of you are awesome. And remember - don't go out too fast.

Run, run, run.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week in Review

The penultimate week. In just eight short days I'll be toeing the line in Hopkinton alongside my friend Rebecca. A pace running bandit. Her goal is to finish faster than last year - beat 4:59. The training cycle has been good, and we're almost there. Just a little bit of taper left.

On Monday, I went out for a nice sort of naked run. Tuesday we had our typical four at five AM. On Wednesday, Rebecca dropped the hammer. Thursday we enjoyed a great sunrise run. I closed the work week out with a nice crisp two miler.

Saturday, we had fantastic weather, and Rebecca and I hit the rail trail for our last long run of the training cycle. It was the first time we had run single-digits on a weekend since the beginning of training. The single-track trails were clear of snow and ice, so we were able to get off the beaten path for a bit.

I am feeling pretty confident about Rebecca's upcoming race. She actually paced faster this week than in most prior efforts. I know she has some nutrition question marks, but as far as pace and time on feet, I feel like she'll be able to hit the mark. Pace bubble will probably sit somewhere between 10:55-11:15. In any event, it looks like it is shaping up to be a great day for a run (if you believe long-term forecasts).

On Sunday, I just got out for a truly mesmerizing run by the Quinapoxet River.

The river. The sound of foot on soft pine, on crackling leaves, on snapping twigs, on rock. The splash of the brook, the muddy path, the pools of water amidst the ice, the river. In the distance, a dog, a child, laughing; a parent calling. Squirrels flee up trees. The sound of the breeze, of breath, of birds. Tweet. The sound of feet. But mostly, the river.

I'll leave you with a collage of images from this weekend.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week in Review

Last week was a bit of a recovery week for me. I went into Monday just two days removed from rolling my ankle during that aborted 20 miler. Wasn't sure how things were going to checkout, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Monday Zap The Zero run. Ankle felt decent. On Tuesday, Rebecca couldn't make our normal 5am wakeup run, so I did a pair just to keep things going. That second mile was smokin fast, and the ankle showed signs of recovery. Wednesday, Rebecca was back at it, and we had a nice and slow hump day run. More of the same recipe on Thursday's Five At Five. Closed out the work week with another sub-8 mile to keep the streak going.

On Saturday, Rebecca chose the course. We opted for a familiar 10k course with another 6 tacked on that would take us through the town center. I tried to warn her about the hills, but she insisted.

Despite her cursing the elevation change for most of the run, the weather was gorgeous and we had a nice Taper 12.

Sunday, I went out for some Sunday Speed. It felt great to really push it after a few days of nice and slow running.

In other news, I got a copy of Chi Running this week. I haven't gotten very far into yet, but I like some of the content already. I've begun to really focus on engaging the core, and getting that slight bend forward. I see how it'll take time to fully adjust, but can tell that there will be some real benefits to doing so.

That's it for now. The taper madness hasn't fully set in yet. Nor do I really expect it to hit that hard, as I don't plan on stopping the streak for some silly taper. Two weeks until Boston baby!

Until next time: run, run, run!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Week In Review

It's three weeks until Boston as I type this. Three weeks! Excitement grows as days pass. My training with Rebecca has been going well. Last week was to include our final long training run - the twenty miler. Unfortunately, we wouldn't complete it. My left foot had some other ideas.

Since Stu's 30k I've had some achilles tendon and lower calf tightness. I iced, stretched, and rested (as much as a person that runs every day rests) it and by Monday it was feeling better. Tuesday morning I met R for our standard Tuesday 5. Wednesday, we pushed the pace (it's all relative) and got in some hump day speed. Evidently, neither of us slept well that night, for we had a tired Thursday morning. I closed out the work week with a nice little Vibram mile, on TGIVFFF.

Heading into Saturday morning I was feeling optimistic; thinking that after twenty, I'd tack on a few more and perhaps end up logging 22-23 miles, finishing with some tough hill work home. This run also gave me an opportunity to try out another handheld with honey water. I picked up another 22-oz Nathan quick draw handheld. To balance out my right hand, I filled this new bottle with a mixture of honey, water, and chia seeds. About 1/4 cup of honey, a heaping tsp of chia, and water.

 1 GU1 handheld
The bottle of honey water provides roughly the same caloric/carb intake. Note the lack of sodium and potassium. When on longer runs, I've got the Endurolyte capsules to take care of this. One capsule packs 40mg and 25mg respectively. Instead of carrying 3-4 GU packs and taking them every 45-60 minutes, I take slow sips from the honey water after every mile or two. The chia seeds are supposed to really absorb water, to prolong hydration and retain precious electrolytes.

Armed with my honey-chia-water, I joined Rebecca on Saturday morning to head out for what I figured to be just under 4 hours. Earlier that week, I'd picked a course that started out downhill and then had some really low rolling hills, but was mostly flat, for the middle of the run. We'd finish up with a few climbs and then a gentle descent. All part of trying to Brad Pitt our training.

The first 10 miles went great. It was a bit windy, but the terrain was favorable, and we were pacing quite well. Then, just after mile 10, I rolled my ankle on some broken asphalt. I cursed at first. Then I swore some more. I walked it out. We ran for a bit. Eventually I decided to call home and get a ride. Better to live to run another day.

After getting home, I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon rehabbing the ankle. This called for a strict regimen of BRICE. You know the standard RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)? Yeah? Just add BEER. This went on for hours. It was excruciating. Putting my foot up, drinking beer, watching basketball and playing Wii. Yup. Rough.

Sunday, Rebecca was going to make up for our aborted mileage. She went down to the WB rail trail for a few out and back on our favorite segment. I went out on the opposite end of the trail for an out and back of my own, to test the ankle. Surprisingly, it felt pretty good, even with the ice encrusted uneven terrain.

So here I sit, foot in a bucket of ice. Lots of preventive icing, "resting", and stretching in the next few weeks, as we taper down to Boston. Despite the minor achilles and ankle woes, this training cycle with Rebecca has actually gone quite well. Three weeks now.

Three weeks. Run, run, run!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week in Review

After the 19 miles on Sunday 9 days ago, I failed to stretch enough. I know this, because my Achilles tendon and calf were tight, tight, tight during Monday's One Mile Streak Preserver. Monday night, I broke out a bucket of ice and an ice cold beer and that seemed to have some positive effects. I ran a nice and easy five miles on Tuesday morning, trying to alternate between rpace (Rebecca pace) and something a little faster. On Wednesday, I wanted to mix it up, so I set out to try the "run 2 miles, walk 2 minutes" technique I had read about on some other DM posts. The achilles tendon, however, had other ideas, as I had to stop short on this planned 8 miler.

No point in getting injured. I decided to scale back the mileage and really concentrate on stretching and icing the foot. Thursday was a surprisingly icy planned 5 miler that I cut back to 3 to rest the foot. On Friday, I managed to get in a quick VFF run. Achilles actually felt pretty good, just in time for a nice dozen on Saturday with Rebecca. We took it nice and slow, in zone 2, and I finished it up with an ice bath. Achilles felt pretty good.

Miles for Miracles
Sunday, I made my way over Doug's house for the 36k For Miracles one-day event. If you hadn't heard, Doug is raising money for Children's Hospital in Boston, and put together a virtual challenge. On Sunday, he set out to run a 5k, 10k and half-marathon. Participants could race against on Dailymile and be eligible for prizes. Almost $1,000 was raised for this awesome cause, but there's always room for more help. If you can help, please visit the donations page here.

I ran the 5k course, in reverse. I ran into Doug about half way and shouted something unintelligible at him - my special form of encouragement. The route was hilly, and I was pretty happy that a) the achilles felt good and b) I maintained even sub-9 splits. After the 5k was over, I went back out to support him during the 10k effort. A great day to be involved with an awesome runner for a wonderful cause. Also got to see Mary and Tom McManus at the house, which was an added bonus.

So...I lowered the mileage, upped my stretching and icing, and I think the tendon and calf are on their way to feeling much, much better. All this without ending the streak, which now sits at 134 days. I'll leave you this week with a couple of Brooks Running videos that I found while surfing around on Youtube one night last week. I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week In Review

Last week was a bit of a tough one. Still hit by the stomach bug I encountered on the morning of Stu's 30k, I struggled to get out for a sore streak preserver of one mile on Monday. Still sore on Tuesday, I met Rebecca for five miles. Wednesday we tackled some hills and Thursday was another nice five miler with warmer weather and less soreness. Friday, I ran a pensive mile after seeing the news from Japan.

Saturday, I was scheduled to run with Rebecca. Her Boston training 19 miler. But the stomach bug had hit me again with a vengeance on Friday night, and I had to postpone it. I was able to get for only a short test run. Spent the rest of the day resting.

Sunday, I went out with Rebecca for her 19 miler. Lots of walk breaks for me during this run, which is fine. I feel like I need to mentally prepare myself, now, for what I'm sure will be many walking breaks while training for and running VT50 later this year. My stomach felt fine during the 19, and afterwards, I met up with some of the other NERTs down at the Armsby Abbey for a fantastic brunch. If you like fine food and beer, I highly recommend checking them out!

For the better part of this week, my stomach was unstable. My achilles tendon and calf continue to bark now and again. I really need to focus more on stretching, especially after the long runs. I opted to skip the ice bath on Sunday, and I was feeling it in the calf today. Right now, I've got my foot plunged into an icy bucket, and I'm enjoying a nice beer. Not a bad way to spend a Monday night for a distance runner.

A couple links this week -

First - if you haven't already, you need to go check out what my friend Doug is doing for Children's Hospital Boston. Less than a week left until the Virtual 36k Challenge. Challenge him in a 5k, 10k, or half-marathon, and help raise money for a fantastic cause at the same time.

Second - if you're a Dailymiler that rocks a headband, you might be interested in showing your DM spirit and helping the Special Olympics by purchasing a custom Dailymile Bondi Band. All proceeds go to charity.

Lastly, as the warmer weather approaches, I am getting antsy for some trail running. Here's another one of those xtranormal clips.

People often ask, why is that guy so awesome? Because he is a trail runner!

Until next week: run, run, run.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week in Review

I've been following Rebecca's training program (Higdon Novice 2). The week was a step-back week, calling for only 13 on the weekend. I got out on Monday in the KSO's for my daily mile. Tuesday, there were signs of spring during five miles as the sun rose. Another five on hump day. Plan called for eight, but I wanted to save some miles for Sunday. Thursday, things changed. Stomach virus in our house.

Thursday's out and back was tough on broken sleep. Friday and Saturday, I got out for the daily mile to keep the streak alive and legs fresh for Stu's.

Stu's 30k

If you don't know Stu's, google it. You can also read last year's race report. Either way, let me put this out there -

Maybe it was the hills that made me sick to my stomach Sunday morning. Maybe it was the virus. The hours leading up to the race were, shall we say, less than ideal. I felt depleted going into the race, but happy not to be running, to the bathroom.

By the time I grabbed my number, ran back to the car, and made my way back into registration, it was nearly time to run. I saw Doug had set up a NERTS/Dailymile corner, complete with sign. It was great to see some familiar faces in the gym. We had a few minutes to chat before walking over to the start.


I like having multiple goals for a race. My primary goal for every race is to run happy and complete the race. Then I set a couple of goals. One that should be doable given where I'm at, and one that should be a bit of a stretch.
  1. Run happy and finish the race
  2. Try to beat last year's time of 3:17
  3. Try to beat 3:00
Last year's time works out to about a 10:33 average. I figured that I could float around the 10:15 pace pretty easily for the distance. If feeling really well, maybe I could take a crack at coming in under three hours. Maybe.

The first 14

I started off running with fellow NERT Alett. We talked a little for the first mile or so and then I drifted back. I'd make up time on the down hills and be back with Alett. The first 14 were mostly like this. Around mile 7, I slowed down in preparation for the longest up hill stretch of the course. I felt surprisingly good after 10 miles, and was even offering up high fives to the kids around mile 11.

East Side Meltdown

I had been consistently around 09:30 for the first 13 (09:13, 09:25, 09:20, 08:59, 09:00, 09:26, 09:18, 09:31, 09:37, 09:51, 09:29, 09:36, 09:23). Mile 14 came in at 09:55.

I was feeling good. Goal #1 met thus far. I was well on pace to beat my time from last year. I started playing with the numbers.
OK, I'm a third of the way there in under two hours. Even if I run a 10:00 flat for the next 10k, I'll still come in under 3:00.

In mile 15, I began to notice that my left achilles tendon and lower calf were really tight. I was also battling a small bout of side stitches. I slowed my pace to try and breathe through it. Eventually I slowed to a walk. Then I had to stretch the leg for a few seconds. Fifteenth mile - 12:29. I started to run again. The calf would bark. I would try to breathe through it. Eventually I decided it smarter to just take some walk breaks. Mile 16, 17: 11:09, 10:21. By the time I got to the last two hills, I was taking my time. No point in injuring myself. Mile 18: 13:40.

The last bit up the hill and to the finish, I was happy to get back sub-10 at 09:45. This was due solely to the fact that I had some NERTs and family cheering me in at the finish. I turned it on and came sprinting across the finish line.

Afterwards, a group of us went to a local restaurant for some post-race food and beer. Guinness was listed as an appetizer at this establishment, which earns extra points in my book.

Thanks to Melody and Sandy for coming out. The kids had fun and it was great to capture some of the great NERT faces. You can see the pictures here.

I finished strong, and ended up with a 10 minute PR over a hilly course on a rainy afternoon with me not feeling 100%. I'm happy with that. Did I mention it was day 118? =) Ran 37 miles on the week. I'll definitely need to watch the achilles and do some better pre/post stretching. But all things considered, not a bad week.

I'll leave you with a funny coincidence. Earlier this week, I shared a joke image -

Notice my number from the race?

Until next time - run, run, run.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week in Review

What's happening loyal readers? Had another great week of just getting out there and running every day. As of today, Sunday, the running streak sits at 111 days!

Let's recap -

Monday - This was a "rest" day. I decided to join Jenni for some Jillian Michaels 6 Week 6 Pack. It's a core-centric circuit training routine. Afterwards, I went for a quick one to keep the streak alive. I thought my core would really feel it Tuesday morning. I was wrong. However, my legs were sore from the lunges and some of other exercises. I took that as a sign that I really need to cross-train a bit more.

Tuesday - Ran a slow recovery run (5 miles), as my legs were still a bit heavy from Sunday's 30k and that DVD.

Wednesday - It was -1 with wind chill and it was time to man up as I headed out for a mid-week 8 miler.

Thursday - I slept in and then ran up a ridiculous hill and enjoyed a nice warm sun. Garmin was a bit wonky though. Reported 229 HR.

Also on Thursday, the dailymile dailymission challenge was to hold elbow plank for as long as you could. I managed 2:21. This encouraged me to add at least 60 seconds plank each day after my run.

Friday - Ran one in the snow with the yaktrax on to preserve the streak.

Saturday - Great little four mile progression run. Sun was high and it was quite enjoyable.

Sunday - Rebecca's schedule called for 18. I tacked on two to make it a very slow, snowy twenty.

Finished up the week with 44 miles. I'll probably run just a mile tomorrow, so that'll bring my monthly total to 166. My highest mileage in a month. Ever. Well ahead of my goal to run 1500 miles this year, as I'll have logged 314 by the end of February. At this rate I might have a shot of cracking 2000 by years end. Crazy...

So aside from another good mileage week, I focused a bit more on core this week. I actually enjoyed the push-ups/plank post-run routine and I'm going to do a bit more core from now on. Even after a few days, I've noticed a difference.

I'll leave you with a video I shared this week on dailymile. One of those xtranormal movies we all enjoy. In this one, "Barefoot Steve" explains his "gorilla feet". Enjoy.

Until next time. Run, run, run.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's A Small Running World

I've been trying to figure out what my approach will be for hydration on long runs this Spring/Summer while training for VT50. I have a CamelBak, but the couple of times I've worn it, I found it somewhat unwieldy. I was going to wear it out for a 20 miler tomorrow, but decided instead to go see what if I could find a nice handheld bottle around 20 oz.

I ventured over to PR Running in Westboro to see what I could find. I ended up picking up a Nathan Quickdraw Plus and can't wait to give it a go.

I wore my KSO's out, which naturally sparked up conversation with both the employees and patrons of the store. One of the guys there asked how I thought the VFFs would stand up against various types of urban debris. He seemed most concerned about discarded paraphernalia -

"We had a lot of needles on the streets in Willimantic when I was growing up."

"Willimantic huh? I grew up nearby in Plainfield."

. . . pause . . .

"I grew up in Plainfield too!"

Turns out that we both grew up in smaller villages in the already small town of Plainfield, CT. We rattled on about marathons; he's run Boston 7-8 times in a row, and generally is around a 3:11-3:15 finisher. We had similar stories regarding how we came to be runners. He used to weigh about 50 pounds heavier and was a pack-a-day smoker until he found running and turned his life around.

Our conversation turned to ultras and the current running streak I'm on. We talked about Derry and Stu's and some of the other local races. Eventually I asked - "Do any of you get online and log your workouts?" You see where this is going.

"Nah, I don't get that fancy about it.", said one guy.

"'Cause there's this really great site..."

I didn't even get to finish. The woman working in the shop this afternoon interjected -

"Oh?! You mean the dailymile?"

I was pleasantly surprised.

"Are you on dailymile?"

"No. But a lot of people talk about how great of a site it is..."

I smiled widely and started talking about how awesome DM has been and what a great community it is. By the end of my visit, I had several e-mail addresses for invites.

I could have stayed there all afternoon and talked running with them, but alas, I had to run to make a very important stop to procure beer. But what would have been an otherwise quick stop to grab a water bottle turned into a great conversation about the hobby we love with some really friendly people, and maybe even added a few members to our great dailymile family.

It's a small running world, after all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Before I was a runner...

As distance runners, we have a jargon all our own. To non-runners, it can sound like a foreign language when we start rattling on about this and that. I thought it might be fun to list some of the phrases or truths that I've come to understand since becoming addicted to running.

Before I was a runner

  • PR meant Puerto Rico
  • Lap Splits sounded like something I'd have to pay extra for at a strip club.
  • Negative Splits sounded like something I paid extra for that went awry.
  • Running in the woods? Not without a bear chasing me!
  • Defecating in the woods? Umm...
  • When someone said "it's freezing outside", I didn't think "oh, that's warm!"
  • Waking up at 4:45am when the wind chill is -1 on a Wednesday morning meant crawling back into bed - NOT getting outside for 80-90 minutes.
  • I never knew my nipples would produce anything, let alone blood.
  • A marathon happened every year, around Christmas time, when TBS would play A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight.
  • The only times I was up to see the sun rise were the nights I hadn't gone to bed yet.
  • If I disappeared for a couple of hours with a woman friend of mine and came home all sore and sweaty, there'd be a few more questions than "So, how was it?"

How about you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week in Review: 100 Days, Daily Mile Team, and the highest mileage week ever!

What a week. Let's get right to it.

Monday, we were blessed with 38F temperatures and I ran the third mile of a progression run in 07:42. Tuesday, on day 99 of "the streak", I ran to the store to get bread at day break. Wednesday - I couldn't have scripted any better.

Wednesday - Day 100. Rebecca and I headed out in the darkness for the mid-week 8 mile training run. By the time we were finished, light was beaming over the pine trees to the east and we were treated to a beautiful sun rise. I went to work in a fantastic mood.

Around lunch I received an e-mail -

"Congratulations, you've been voted by the dailymile community to be a member of the 2011 dailymile team! We're so excited to welcome you, and even more excited to kick off a great year for dailymile!"

I'm honored and humbled and very, very grateful to the dailymile community. But mostly I'm really excited. I can't wait to get involved and help motivate and inspire people. Working with this 2011 team is going to be great. If you haven't seen the team yet, you can see the ambassadors in this Introducing the 2011 Team blog post. There are some seriously awesome people on the team. It's a shame that there were only 30 spots, because all of the applicants this year were amazing.

Thursday - Rebecca and I did our normal 4 miles in the dark. She congratulated me on election to the team, and we joked about the "Power of the 2011 Team" as she posted one of her fastest miles of this training cycle.

Friday - Normally a rest day. But, I had the day off, and it was incredibly nice outside. A freakish 50+ degree day in February. Way too nice to pass up getting out for a nice hour or so. I opted to run a 10 miler with some rolling hills. OK. Some significant hills.

On Monday, I signed up for Stu's 30k. I believe this run contained a climb worse than anything Stu's has to offer, and I felt fairly good the entire run. Low point of 383ft at 3.43mi and then a long climb to 774ft at 6.01mi. y = mx + b and you have a 2.87% grade. Note the particularly nasty section from 5.38mi to 6.01mi, which had a grade of 6.55%! I went back and found an old post on dailymile from last year, in which I ran almost the same exact course. Last year, I remember struggling with the hills. This year I was calm and ran at a comfortably challenging pace, and bested my pace by nearly 30 seconds!

Saturday - wind advisory in effect. I ran a quick mile around the neighborhood to keep the streak intact. The gusts were so strong that segments of the gutters on the house were lifted over the roof and deposited in the back yard.

Sunday - Long slow one with Rebecca. The schedule called for 17. I ended up making this a 30k. Man the wind was BRUTAL. Had a nice brunch and ice bath afterwards.

Checking my weekly totals on dailymile, I see that I hit 49 miles this week. This is my highest mileage week ever! I am aware that this week is a flagrant violation of the 10% principle. So, over the next week I'll be relaxing the mileage a bit on the "off" days.

But it was so much fun. Until next time: run, run, run!