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

Trails....best 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: http://mcmtiming.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/50-Mile-Overall.htm

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lyme Road Race

The group "Run 169 Towns", which I belong to, was able to get a race created in Lyme CT. This was one of the elusive towns that never had a race before. Saturdays are typically my long run days so to get in extra mileage I went out at 5AM for 5 miles. After that "warm up" I headed towards Lyme. The section of town where the race was located is beautiful. Country roads along the Connecticut River with a great variety of old and new homes. Some homes dated back to the early 1700's.
Pre race with some 169ners
The course was a basic triangle without any real hills. Just a double loop around. My time was 24:52 although the distance was just under 3 miles. Not quite a complete 5K. That's OK because it was a fun outing and raised money for a good cause. Some runners instantly headed to a 2nd 5k in Salem CT which was 15 minutes away with a start time 1 hour after the Lyme race. I had to head home to begin yard work on our first real nice day of spring. Tomorrow I will go long in the neighborhood as the big races are coming up fast.
Adam's group "selfie". Big turnout of 169ners.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Busy Running Weekend

Three weeks out from Lake Waramaug and I wasn't sure what to do. But I had options. The Brickyarders decided to hold a long endurance training run around the reservoir in New Britain. Tracy and Joe were shooting for 50 miles. Amazing challenge yet if anyone could do it, they could...and they did. Tracy posted that they completed 50 miles in under 10 hours. Great job. Others joined in for a variety of distances. I had signed up for the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon months ago so a full day at this reservoir was out of the question. Instead I went early and did three miles with the group. Then I headed over to West Hartford for the race. Many "169ners" were there thus the photo below.
Pre race photo of 169ners
Every year my goal for this race is to finish under an hour. It's 6.55 miles so under an hour is a good pace for me. This year was the same with a 58 min time. I left early to head home assuming I was not in contention for a 60-65 year old place but I was wrong. I came in second place. Not too shabby.
Sunday I had planned a long run. As I headed out in the morning the route and distance were still up in the air. Soon after I rounded the corner onto Jerome Avenue the 20 mile target was definite. As I have done many times before the loop through the center of town to Sessions Woods was my choice. That is about 11 miles so I had to decide where to add extra. After a typical stop at Cumberland Farms in the center Johnnycake Mountain popped into my head. This time I ran west on Rt 4 then up to Rock Road. Once back on Rt 69 I went to Sessions Woods for a couple of quick trails. Overall a good 20 and under 4 hours. My understanding of fueling is becoming fine tuned. Ate some Flax cereal before I left, had two gels and a Chocolate Power Bar during the run. It seems that a gel or carbs every 50 mins will be perfect. That will be my eating schedule at Waramaug. Now a slow taper will begin over the next three weeks. Countdown time!
20 mile Garmin map 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

313 miles in March...time to taper?

March 31st is coming to an end which also means my biggest month running also ends. Without really trying I ran 313 miles this month. This year it is easier for me to extend my runs past the typical 5-6 morning miles. Why? How? I really don't know. Most mornings I do plan for a 5-7 mile run. When all things are working in my favor I add 1 maybe 2 miles. Some days 10 just sounds like a good number so I keep going. This could be a subconscious things because of my upcoming 50 mile ultra. My mind and body know I must train hard for it. But I never start out actually thing I must do it for the ultra. My long weekend runs are definitely planned for ultras. Those are for experimenting with fueling, pace, etc, 

In four weeks I will face the biggest challenge since starting to run...the Lake Waramaug 50 mile ultra. Tapering should begin soon but the typical mind games about not slowing down have begun. Common knowledge says I must taper but my mind and body say "just a few more long runs". Endurance runners like to think a little more running must be better. I will force myself to taper this year. Probably after one more long run this weekend. Oh oh..mind games are fighting to take control again!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Getting ready for the big April races

As April approaches my training intensifies. There are two big races that month that require some serious training unlike the usual mix of halfs, 5Ks, 10Ks, etc. The Lake Waramaug 50 mile Ultra and the Traprock 17K race are very different from the norm.

The Traprock Trail race comes in two flavors. A 50K and a 17K. One loop of the trails is a very tough and technical 10 miles. There are some easy trails but for the most part one of the tougher trails I have run. Nice scenery though. Today I went on a training run of one loop. Snow and ice still coat much of the course but I assumed it would be flattened and no too tricky. I was wrong. There were deep sections, hard ice coated sections, and just plain dirt. The late season snowstorm was an added challenge but I was up for it. Started well and I kept a goo pace but after 2.5 miles I broke my left microspike on my shoe. 
Bad luck with my microspikes
 Figured it was not a big deal and continued on but quickly learned my footing was not good. After several falls I decided to turn back. The 10 mile training run became a 6 mile hike with some running thrown in.
The "Stairway to Heaven" section. Very Steep.

At the end of April I will once again take on the Lake Waramaug 50 mile Ultra.  Lake Waramaug is just plain LONG! My first 50 miler(and maybe my only one). I've done the 50K around the lake twice before. This year its time to move up to the next level. In recent weeks I have steadily increased my mile to prepare. I have been able to do several 20+ mile runs with one more on tap. The Garmin map below is from the last long run of 24 miles. Its very weird at the end of these to think this is only half of what I will do on race day.
This race is four weeks away which means one ,more long run and then I will start a gradual taper. 

I'm completing by big races of 2015 early. After May 1st I can just run my usual races and enjoy the summer. But, the fall may bring me one more big challenge if I want to take on Bimblers 50K. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cold Weather Running

The past three weeks have brought brutal cold tempratures due to a "polar vortex"(new catch phrase in the news). Temps have frequently been in the single digits with wind chills well below zero. My previous coldest run day was in Keene NH two years ago where the wind chill was -11f. This year I have run at least three days with wind chills colder than that. The coldest was -20f. Except for one possible little frostbite my 3 layer wrap up keeps me protected and warm. I may have a small patch of frost bite under my chin. I was running for about an hour in -6f temps(not wind chill) and felt a sharp pain under my chin. The scarf I normally wear had a space in it and my skin was exposed. Not sure what the sore is and I guess not much to about it. I assume we have seen the last of real terrible cold spells and hopefully can count on temps in the 30+f range.
2/21/2015 Started at -6f and warmed up to 3f after 13 miles.
As February comes to a close there are some positive developments. First is that my heel pain is gone therefore I stopped using the heel cushions. My stress fracture must be healed. Now, in case it was planter fasciitis, I roll my foot and stretch before each run. Secondly my pneumonia is gone and have very few coughing bouts. All good because I must focus on training for the Waramug 50 mile race and assorted shorter races in between now and April.

My new attitude for running feels good. That is, run for the sake of running and don't worry about speed. Yeah, I try  to run faster but its no big deal if I don't. Keeps me positive about the run and reduces stress each time I go out.  I know I can run a decent race and I also know distances don't phase me so all I do is run.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year and a new plan

Like many people I have been thinking about my running habit as the new year begins. Am I satisfied with my running? Is my training OK? Do I need "goals" for the year and if so what will they be?

My head is in a good place in regards to running. I'm comfortable with my conditioning and results during training and races. I've accepted the fact that  at 61 years old I'm doing OK. Can I be faster or better? Maybe but do I need to? Probably not. Therefore, knowing I can run any type of race, I need to decide what will be most enjoyable. Running to "run" is my new attitude. Just to get out and run...whatever the pace or distance. One thing for sure is that I need to incorporate more trail racing since that is most enjoyable. Today I did just that by joining up with the Shenipsit Striders in Tolland CT. They hold a "Fat Ass 6 Hour Trail Run" every January 1st. It is a 3.1 mile loop in Crandall Park. Perfect for me because you run as many loops as you wish. Due to time constraints I ran two loops.
Pre race group photo. Most are die hard trail runners.
The run couldn't have been better. Great weather and fun people. The trails were not very technical and well marked. I did each loop in about 40 mins which was good for me. But time didn't matter. They barely kept track with a self timing method involving an old beat up and paint covered watch one checked after each loop. Totally an honor system. Perfect for me because the day was about running, not speed, finish, or placing. It was a very nice change from the typical street run.

Need more of days like this!