Sunday, February 7, 2016

Snowy Trails

January was virtually snowless. One of the mildest winters I've seen. The good news is that there was no problem getting out for running especially trails. Normally trails are off limits due to bad weather or deep snow. In early February the snow has returned but has not limited trail running. In January and February I probably have done more trails this than all of last year. I'm exploring the trail system between Nassahegan and Sessions Woods with surprising results. I am very lucky to have so many trails options so close to my home. Most people drive long distances to experience a variety of trail types like these. Plus, the new CT Trailmix running group has opened up many parks and areas I had never heard of before. Today we ran at Millers Pond Park in Durham CT. Deep snow and tough "red" blaze markings on trees made it a challenge but fun. Next week this group will tackle my local trails an 11 mile loop between Sessions and Nassahegan. Looking forward to it.



Nassahegan Trails

Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Burlington Trails

I'm making trail running a more frequent occurance in my daily running. In 2016 I hope to participate in a higher number of trail runs. Lucky for me there are plenty of trails in my neighborhood to practice on so this weekend was all in the woods.

Above is my Saturday run. I went north onto the Blue/orange and Blue/yellow trails. These continue all over the area but intersect and allow for changes in direction. Much of these trails were easy wide paths or even old abandon roads.

Eventually these joined with the main trails at Sessions Woods. Near the end I picked up a small section of the Blue/black trail. Nice run in great weather.

Today, Sunday, I ran on the Metacomet Trail west of the West Hartford Reservoir. This turned out to be better than expected with wide trails that were not too technical. Saw a nice buck with large antlers. My picture doesn't do it justice.
If I continued to head north I would eventually connect in Avon on Route 44. I could see other trails on my run so I'll plan more trail practice runs here in the future.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

3,000 Miles and the Love of Running

People generally think I'm nuts for the amount of running I do. But they also know I love running. Not for speed, weight loss, or other goal....just for the enjoyment. I also like challenges and this year was for "extreme running". What does that mean? I ran in -26f weather for 10 miles....did my first 50 mile race....ran to the top of Mount Washington....did 3 months of 300+ miles....and the biggest extreme was to run 3,000 in 2015. That final goal was achieved yesterday at Sessions Woods.
Obviously I knew which day would be the one to hit 3,000 miles so I timed that last run to be at Sessions Woods at the right time. The picture above was after 5:00 am using the lights at the pavilion for a good shot. It felt good to reach my goal. Won't mean much to anyone else but it does to me. The 5 years of work leading up to the goal allowed me to conquer my bad health, make new friends, and let the stress of work fade away on each run. I doubt I can do another year with such high milage but will always be putting in a lot of miles. Its my therapy.

I'll come up with a new challenge for 2016. Might be easier. Might be tougher. But it will be running.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Endless running?

2015 was my year of extreme running. What does that mean? It started with the Winter Warrior challenge in January put on by Soundrunner. They challenged runners to accumulate maximum miles during the month of January without missing a day. We logged miles on line. I was hooked. I hit 307 for the month and actually came in 2nd place. I was intrigued. That led to my goal of 3,000 miles by the end of 2015. If I could do 300+ miles a month it was easy...right? Not so easy to maintain 60+ miles per week but I did it. As of today I was at 2800 miles with 6 weeks to go. I expect to reach 3100 by12/31. Other extremes this year....completed my first 50 mile race and ran to the top of Mount Washington.
I don't focus on speed but like to experience various types of running. Long distance, trails, odd types of races, etc. Keeps it interesting. My dilema is what to do next year. Maybe all marathons? All trails? who knows? The one race I am almost sure to do first 100 miler! That decision will be made by December 1st.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ghost Run Half Marathon

I'm happy that another big race went down with a decent time. The Ghost Run Half on the Airline Trail was held today and I completed it in 2:02. Same as three years ago. Significant because my recent halfs were creeping up around the 2:10 area. As I learned in Hartford maintaining a realistic pace is key to success at the finish line. I maintained a 9:00-9:30 pace most of the way. Also never went over 10:00.
The scenery was great as always and the weather stayed in the 50's. For a while around mile 9 I thought a sub 2 hour half was possible. I pushed hard but due to the incline of the last few miles I couldn't build up a fast pace.
Saw many 169er and Brickyard friends. The post run food was good as always with hot dogs and chili.
The Roxbury Full marathon is in about 6 weeks so this was a significant part of training. I need one addotional 20ish mile long run which will probably happen in Chicago.
At the finish line. 2:02

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 Hartford Marathon

This was my fourth running of the Hartford Marathon. I was determined to improve over 2014 for two reasons. Last year I didn't train well because of a heel injury and I started off way too fast even though I know better. This year I was injury free and focused on pace during the first 5 miles.

My pre-race routine is solid now with a small breakfast of cereal, a banana, and coffee. I drink some UCAN about an hour before the start and I carry NUNN in my handheld bottle. I also have a power bar of some sort just prior to the start. My goal was to maintain a 10:00-10:30 pace throughout. I had done that consistently on long training runs so it wasn't going to be a problem. As I started I purposely ran as slow as I could without walking. Non-runners would never understand that even with an intentional "slow" effort, I was running my fast 5K pace. Yes...I was in the 8:00/mile range so I had to really force myself to slow down. I did just that. My goal was achieved as after 1 mile I was comfortably maintaining a 10:00 pace. Everything was working and that pace was easy. After 19 miles the pace was the same. At mile 21 I hit the wall. Longer distance than in the past which was very encouraging. Yeah, I struggled in the last 5 miles but overall a good race. I was elated at the finish line which shows in the pictures everyone took.

In the end my time was 4:40 which was my fastest time in two years. I felt good and more positive about future marathons.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Grand Canyon

I now have a new favorite run....the Grand Canyon. Chris, Aiden, and I went on vacation out west which included a stay in the Grand Canyon. The goal was to see the sights and get in a run.
My run along the rim at the Grand Canyon.
After a night at the lodge I woke early to get on the trail before sunrise. On my last visit here I found Maricopa Point where there are great views of the sunrise so I put on my headlamp and headed out. It was about 1.5 miles from the lodge. Tight trails that were heavily wooded. To my surprise I passed several others who were also out to see the sunrise. I met an elk munching on trees as I ran the path.
As the sky lit up I picked a spot to watch the sun peek over the north rim. It was beautiful as expected. I took several shots and headed back out on the trail.
I spent the next hour running east on the rim path stopping occasionally to enjoy the views and take more pictures. I ran a total of 7 miles and didn't want it to end. All the photos in the world can't come close to an actual visit. The sheer size is unimaginable. The colors, scenery, and sounds must be experienced in person. It was quite crowded there as usual but more so because it was a weekend in mid summer. Aiden was amazed and enjoyed the park. This was my 5th visit to the canyon and I plan on many more.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mt Washington Road Race and Nipmuck South Trail Race

Mount Washington Road Race
As part of my extreme year I took on the Mount Washington Road Race. Was I crazy? Maybe, but it was a challenge I couldn't pass up. 7.6 miles up one of the highest points on the east coast. The first time I would run above the tree line. The inclines were from 12% to 22%...daunting.
I won the lottery as part of a team from 169 Towns Society. We went up the night before because of the early start. We met our "rides back down" at the bottom before the race so they could carry our bags up. It was a clear morning with temps in the 40's but crystal clear skies. Standing at the base and looking up was mind boggling. I thought to myself "how are you going to maintain any kind of pace all the way up there?"

There were 1,000 runners ready to go. Many were veterans of the race but many like me were first timers. We started off on flat ground which quickly became a very steep incline. By the quarter mile mark I was sweating but still running. Regardless of the steep road I ran most of the way. After about a mile we felt our first cold breezes. I remember noticing the pine smell in the air. Fresh and clean. The road became even steeper with occasional breaks in the trees where I saw the summit. Just kept my head down and plowed forward. After about 4 miles we started above the tree line.
Above the tree line..runners were showing the stress.
It was surreal. Totally open without any tall vegetation and colder still. We lucked out on the weather and we could see for many miles. Breathtaking is the only word to describe it. I pushed along still surprised I was running a lot. I kept thinking of the 22% grade of the final 50 yards which was legendary. As I rounded the corner near the top I hit that final hill and was stunned. It was like a wall in front of me. I could barely make my legs move but now the crowds were lining the road and cheering. That helped a ton. I made a final push for the finish and crossed the line. Totally amazed and in shock. I was bent over huffing but looked around on top of the world and I thought "what did I just do?". It hits you that you just ran up a mountain...not a hill...but a real mountain.
The final hill-a 22% grade.

After the finish at the peak.
It was an amazing experience. The top was like a big party but the winds made us cold, The fleece blankets each runner was wrapped in at the finish kept us warm.
This race is one I will remember for a long time. Glad I did it and amazed I could finish it. Will I try it again?....probably!

Nipmuck South Trail Race
Today was my 3rd running of the Nipmuck South Trail Race in Mansfield CT. After a rainy night the course was wet, muddy, but cool. Best conditions yet. There were several 169ners there as well as my neighbor, Dave. This was his first real trail run of significant length.
The whole day got off to an odd start as the state did not unlock the gates to the park which resulted in many cars lined up on the main road until a ranger could arrive. After they opened we all piled in the park and the race officials set up quickly.
Pre-race...L-R Dave, John, Marc, David, Bruce
The course is now familiar and I knew how to navigate most of it without markers. Some spots were still confusing and the newly marked trail was easy to follow. The normal wet spots were now soaked deep with standing water requiring either a good jump or just slog through them. Some of the streams were deeper than usual and well above ankle height therefore we got soaked. Compared to previous years the clouds kept us relatively cool throughout the run and with no rain. Couldn't ask for any more than that.
I slowed a bit in the second half which resulted in a time of 2:48. A bit slower than 2014 but OK for me. Glad I decided to run it again as good trail races are not common in CT. Based on my run today I might consider the Nipmuck Marathon in the Fall.

Sunday, May 24, 2015 places to run

This is one of my favorite trail pictures. It's one of the trails at People's Forest State Forest in Barkhamstead CT. Below are a few others from today and yesterday at Sessions Woods. Trail running is slowly becoming an obsession. Compared to street running the trails bring peace and quiet. They are an adventure because of the variety of running surfaces and the unknown. My mind constantly processes information......"where are the roots and rocks?"....."are there any bears?"...."am I on the correct trail?". Definitely not boring. Every so often I stop and listen to the quietness. It's an experience.
Nice bear...too bad its a painting.
Notice the bear in the picture above? As you can see it's a painting of a bear but at a glance as one runs buy it is alarming. Not Funny! But well done. This was on Greenswood Road at the beginning of the red dot trail. That is the Agnes Bowen Trail. I spent time on a blue blazed trail called Robert Ross. This had some very technical running in spots. I had to walk and even that was difficult. In a few sections the trail passed through thick, dark, and tight Mountain Laurel groves. Very scary as if I had encountered a bear there was no where to move or hide.
Robert Ross trail and the steep downhill.
Morning on the White Trails at Sessions Woods.
This was a sttep decline back towards the road.

This excursion was excellent because now I am familiar with the trails and roads. I can plan a more extensive run in the future. People's Forest and the Sessions Woods run yesterday are what I call "sunrise runs". I get out there early which is the best time in my opinion. Each was a positive experience so I definitely will plan more.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Adrenaline is a wonderful thing

Sunday April 26th was my big day. I ran my first 50 mile ultramarathon at Lake Waramaug. The course is repeated loops around the lake of 7.3 miles. Doing 50 miles meant a short out and back to start then 6 loops. I had run 50K races there in the past so this was the year to take it up a notch. In the 4 months prior to the race I trained hard. Many training miles each month with 5 runs of 20 miles or more. Many 15-20 milers as well. I altered my fueling and pacing techniques as well. The thought of running 50 miles was daunting since 50Ks were definitely tough for me. The goal on Sunday was simply to finish and to comfortably achieve that a 12:00/mile pace seemed appropriate.

I started well and actually kept a 11:00/min pace going for a while. Once into the second loop I slowed down to 12:00-13:00 pace. Somewhere during loop 4 I passed 32 miles and started running longer than I ever had before. That meant the real test started because each mile was a new stress on my body. Each loop became a little slower. By loop 5, around 40 miles, I actually wondered if I could do all 50 miles. As I started my final loop it was apparent that I may finish past 12 hours. I couldn't let that happen so I refocused my head on a 13:00/mile pace. I started increasing my speed and felt good so I pushed a little more. About 5 miles from the finish I was down to 11:00 pace. This felt good but concerned me at the same time. I wondered how this could be since I should be dragging. I got my head in a zone, cranked up my music, and stared at the road. It had to be adrenaline. At 45 miles I felt the best I had all day. Very strange.
Smiling at 27 miles but was slowing down
 As I rounded the final two turns I blew by the aid stations and other runners. It started to sink in that I would complete 50 miles and that I would come in well under 12 hours. Lee Bradley was running with and also saw that I was in this crazy zone. I crossed the finish line at 11:07 absolutely thrilled and exhausted. But elated knowing I had just completed my biggest race ever. A wonderful experience. In the end I placed 2nd in my age group.

Running with Lee
Some have asked what my next big race will be. 100K? Another 50 mile? Too early to tell. I have to think about the training requirements. I can't keep up high mileage training runs forever. I'll have to think about it a long time.

Link to results: