Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Catching Up

The past 10 days or so have been spent catching up with family, catching up on chores, and catching up on fun activities that have been put off for too long.

After fumbling through the Christmas rush, it was great to get out for a run with my brother, Robert (a.k.a. Bubba, Flood, ....). The Bubster and I have both missed out on a lot of December mileage, so it was good to get out. Robert completed the Marine Corp marathon this year, but had not pulled on his running shoes since the race. We did an easy 5, and spent the rest of the day with our family.

On Friday, Dawn and I ran the Pinnacle Loop plus an added loop to get the mileage to about 6.5. Whew, 2 days in a row...I doubled my mileage for the month! It was a nice run and great to get up the hill again!

On Saturday, we hit the climbing gym and then the Goat and I headed up north to the Adirondack Mountains for some ice climbing. The DAKS are one of my favorite spots year-round, and has some of the best waterfall ice in the country. While the weather was not perfect for climbing, we had some fun. We climbed a waterfall route called Tendonitis on Sunday. It was fun, but the weather was way too warm and the ice was melting quickly. By the afternoon, climbing the fall was like taking a shower. The ice quality was OK, but was quickly deteriorating. We called it an early day and hung out our gear to dry.

On Monday, we climbed a couple short routes in Chapel Pond Canyon, and then headed home. One of our climbing partners was sick, and wanted to get home. There were very few climbable routes anyway based on the thaw, so we were fine with it. It was just fun to get back on the ice after missing ice climbing all of last year. This is a shot of Kevin rappelling off the right side of "Lions on the Beach".This is a shot of Ged (right) and me (left) leading Tendonitis, a Grade 3+ waterfall on the north face of Pitchoff Mountain.Here's a shot (left to right) of me, JDW, Ged, and Goat at the beaver pond below the north face of Pitchoff Mtn.

On Tuesday, the Goat and I scouted out some new running trails and got ourselves lost. We ended up at a quarry. While we knew the it existed, I had never understood the magnitude of the site. It's the 3rd quarry along the Metacomet Trail and it's really sad to see the land butchered. I think people would think twice about all the waste of our natural resources if they could see the quarry. I brought along my new camera, so you can check out the pics below. The wind was so strong that it was hard to make forward progress at times. I have never seen wind that bad. In fact, a large tree fell down behind my house while we were out for the run. Luckily, it missed the house.

Today, I took my daughter, Tara, and her boyfriend, Devon, skiing at Ski Sundown. It started snowing shortly before we arrived there at 8:30, and we had a covering of 1-2" of fresh powder when we got to the top of the mountain. It snowed the entire time we were there, so the conditions just kept getting better. By the time we left, there were at least 6" of powder, and I was loving it. Ski Sundown is a small hill, but it's the best in CT. The conditions we excellent considering the weather we get here in southern New England. This is Tara (right) and me (left) carving some turns.
This is Tara and her boyfriend, Devon, shredding it in the pow!
What a great week and what a great year! When I think back on all the great activities that I have experienced this past year, I am so happy. It's been an amazing year, and I'm looking forward to a great 2009 as well.

I hope you all look back on 2008 with some great memories, and wish you all the best in 2009! I also hope to get out and have some fun with many of you readers over the course of 2009. Running, climbing, skiing, or just sharing some stories and laughs. It's all good!

All the best for 2009!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Joan's Weekend in Vermont

The CT Climbers & Mountaineers started an annual trip to Vermont about 5-6 years ago. Joan, the widow of a past member, Dennis, invited us to her vacation/rental house near Killington, and it has become an annual tradition. I've been on almost all of the trips, and hope we have the opportunity for many more. It's such a great time!

The old farmhouse sleeps about 20 people comfortably, and we usually get about 15 or so in attendance. The weekend goes something like this....Drive up Friday night and arrive in time for drinks and nachos. It's a chance to get reacquainted with folks I haven't seen in awhile. Saturday - After a quick breakfast, we head out for various outdoor activities. I usually ski with my old climbing partner/mentor, Paul (a.k.a. EuroMan) and others. We don't ride the lifts...we use backcountry ski gear (Randonee or Telemark) to "skin" up the mountain and then ski down. Talk about a great cardio workout without the pounding...more on that later. Saturday night is filled with tales of great adventure and an ethnic theme dinner (this year was Ethiopian) followed by a Euroman slide show of past adventures and more drinking. Sunday calls for a more leasurely breakfast followed by clean up/pack up and heading out. Some folks go for more skiing or adventure while others head home.

I talked Dawn into joining the crew this year, so we drove up together Friday night. We arrived around 9:30 to find that the power was out due to the ice storm and we were on generator power. While the beer tasted great, we could not escape talk of the economy, etc. It wasn't a great start, but it was good to be away. Dawn planned to try cross-country skiing with Goat and Dagmar while I headed out to poach some runs at Killington or Pico with EuroMan and others. Generally, the ski resorts don't mind us skinning up the slopes as long as we stay out of the way. It's tough to find non-resort skiing this early in the season as there is usually not enough snow in the woods, etc.

Six of us started up the slopes at a section of Killington that was not open to lift service yet. The snow making equipment was running, but no lifts. Basically, we had the place to ourselves. Four of us stayed together for the 2,000 vertical feet to the summit while Jody and Rick poked along behind us. The conditions were a bit icy, but the skiing down the top half of the mountain was reasonably good. It felt great to be back on the slopes! Unfortunately, our fun was about to come to a screeching halt. One of the resort employees on a snowmobile decided to give me a hard time and asked us to leave. This side of the mountain was not open and we were not paying customers, so we understood the rationale. We complied with his request even though some of the other employees told us it's not usually an issue. I guess this guy was in a bad mood that day. Anyway, we waited in the parking lot for Rick and Jody for awhile to make sure they were safe. Since we had nothing better to do, we started happy hour early.

After Rick and Jody arrived, they decided to head back to the house, and Matt, Jerimy, Paul, and I decided to try to get in a little more vertical at Pico. The resort was not open for paying customers, so we figured we could get a nice run in. On the way up, we saw a skier coming down, so we figured there was no issue with us being there. The skinning was relatively easy because the slope was not very steep for the first 80% of the way up the mountain. Matt decided to take it easy, so it was EuroMan, Jerimy, and me heading to the summit. Jerimy was moving well until we got to the steeper terrain. He did not have ski crampons for biting into the ice, and he was losing the battle with friction. He started sliding down and we couldn't do much to help him. He decided to take off his skis and try boot-packing it to the top. EuroMan and I were within 200 vertical feet of the summit when one of his crampons came loose. Yikes! He worked on re-attaching while I continued to cautiously work my way up the ice covered, steep slope. There were moments of concern to say the least. One false move on this stuff, and you were going for a long ride! Paul had enough at one point and suggested we turn around and ski down. The section I was on was so steep that there was no way I could convert from skinning to skiing. This involves removing the skis, tearing off the skins, re-setting the binding, buckling the boots, and stepping back into the bindings. "No Way!", I yelled. We have to get to the summit! At least it would be level at the summit, we could changeover, and decide on our next course of action. Paul agreed and we pressed on to the top. I managed fine with the ski crampons while Paul and Jerimy cautiously booted it to the summit.

After summiting, we elected to ski down a more gentle slope, but the conditions were not much better. It was "survival skiing" at it's best. We just wanted to get down the mountain before dark. Here's a shot of EuroMan and Jerimy after we managed to get through the steep, nasty stuff. Yes, that is EuroMan's trusty companion, Grover, riding shotgun on the back of his pack. Grover accompanies EuroMan on most adventures. He has earned his wings sky diving recently and has managed to solo rappel. He's quite the ladies man as well.

Anyway, back to our story! After fumbling our way back to the cars, we headed back to the house for the real happy hour, a hot shower, and an incredible Ethiopian feast prepared by Al, Marlene, Dawn, Dagmar, and yours truly. The meal was amazing and Matt provided an amazing selection of dessert goodies. I found out that Dawn, Dagmar, and Kevin tried snowshoeing because conditions were too icy for cross-country skiing. Their day was a bit shorter, but it sounded like they enjoyed themselves. The EuroMan slideshow included his recent adventures to Nicaragua and other far off places, and I truly enjoyed it. What a day!

We awoke to a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning prepared by Rick and Jody, and then the adventure started to wrap up. We cleaned and packed the cars, and said our "goodbyes". Another Joan's weekend was complete.

I had to wonder if this was the last weekend of it's kind. EuroMan is moving west in a week, and he usually coordinates this trip. I hope we continue this event. I love this retreat weekend. It marks the transition from climbing to winter sports season, and is a great opportunity to hang out with friends I don't see very often. I also wonder if I will see EuroMan again. He is a one-man band and goes with the wind these days. I truly miss our days as climbing partners. He taught me a lot and it was a pleasure to watch him climb. We still hold the record for most pitches in a day at the Gunks (at least until someone proves us wrong). We had many great trips together and I hope we get the chance to share more adventures in the future. All the best EuroMan. May you find great adventure and the other things you are seeking!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving in Mexico

Howdy and Buenos Dias! It's good to be back on U.S. soil. This is just a quick post to summarize the trip. A more detailed report will follow. Hope you all had a wonderful Turkey Day and restful weekend.

Our plan was to climb the 3rd highest peak in North America, Pico de Orizaba, at 18,400 feet in elevation. It is not considered a very technical climb although there is some fairly steep snow/ice (50 degrees?) leading up to the glacier and then some areas of near 40 degree glacier near the summit. About half the climb is on the glacier, so it calls for crampons and ice axe.

We did Ixta (7th highest peak in N. America at 17,200 feet) as a warm up, and frankly it seemed harder due to the constant up and down nature of that climb. We probably had more vertical gain on Ixta than Orizaba.

There's so much to cover that I can't possibly do it all now. Let's just say that it was a successful trip, everyone summited and a good time was had by all. I'm still recovering from a nasty cold, so I gotta keep this short.

Here's a few pics to whet your appetite!
Popocatepetl (17,887 feet) is closed to climbing. It looked like she was going to blow at any moment!
Paulina and Victor climbing up to the Knee on Ixta.
You can faintly make out the trail traversing below the first peak and the traversing the ridgeline beyond.

Alex sets out across the glacier towards the summit ridge on Ixta.
One of 3 summits on Ixta (17, 187 feet).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Solos and brotherhood

I've only had 2 runs in the past week. Things are crazy at work, and I've been getting ready for the Mexico trip. The good news is they were both great runs...not great in terms of distance or effort, but just great runs. You know, the type of run where you have an adventure or catch up with friends....

Last Saturday, I decided to run some single track on the Metacomet trail. I ran out to a local crag to check on some of the recent climbing activity there. It had just rained, so there were no climbers out. I was inspecting some new routes that were developed. It was cool. The running was very slippery with all the wet leaves. I tried out a new pair of shoes, and explored some new trails. It was cool to explore... and not be training for a specific event. I wasn't concerned about pace or time or effort. Just out to enjoy the scenery. I love running single track!

Today, I met Tim and Bill at the club. There was a time when I was a regular at the club, but then my work location changed. I miss running with the guys. We did an easy 5 and talked the whole way. The group fluctuates in size from day to day and year to year. Members come and go, but the core group remains the same for the most part. We are getting older though. There's still a group of older/retired guys that run at the club, and we can take solace in knowing that they are still the "old guys". God help us when we become the "old guys". It was good to see some of the old crew. Paulie gave me some meds for my trip to Mexico. His wife is expecting any day now, so I'm guessing he won't be climbing mountains for awhile. It was great to see some of the guys and it's always so much fun to run with others. The miles go by so much faster, and it feels good to laugh with my buds. I hope I can find an excuse to join up with them again soon.

So, two solo and one with friends....two great races, no pressure...just running because it is such a cool thing to do...'nuff said!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Have some turkey and stuffing for me...I'll be climbing Pico de Orizaba on Thanksgiving Day if all goes according to plan. I'll be at 19,000 feet and will likely be higher (in terms of elevation) than anyone else in North America on that day. How cool is that? I was the first to see the sun rise in the U.S. on New Years Day (St. Croix) and now this. What a year it has been! I picked up a new camera, so will be posting lots of great pics when I return! Eat some pumpkin pie for me too :-)



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stone Cat Ale 50 miler

First, I must congratulate my good buddy, Kevin (the Goat), for running his first ultramarathon in great style. Kevin finished 39th in 9:39 having previously never run a race of more than 5 miles or so. Congrats dude!

Stone Cat is a very good race. The weather was perfect for an ultra. The temp was comfortable enough at the start to wear shorts and T-shirts, yet it never go much warmer. It was cloudy all day, but no rain until after we finished. The course was rolling with a lot of single track. I wish I would have trained on single track because my body sure paid the price.

A couple weeks before the race, I started having some right knee issues which I chose to ignore. Since this was Goat's race, I really wanted to be there to support him. Even 2 days before the race, my knee was feeling really bad - pain below the knee cap, ITB tightness, etc. I reminded myself that I usually have some ache or pain before a race, and it is never an issue in the race.

The race started around 6:20AM and it was already light enough to run without headlamps. The course is 4 laps of 12.5 miles. On the first lap, I felt like I was going a bit too fast, but settled in to run with the eventual women's winner, Christine Daly. We finished the first lap in 1:50, and I thought it would be awesome to hold that pace for 4 laps. Unfortunately, I could feel my knee causing problems already. The ITB was starting to ache. From what I could tell, we were in the Top 10 and likely in the Top 5 or so at that point.

On the beginning of the second lap, I saw Mark, Scott, and Keith less than 10 minutes behind me, and then Kevin right behind them. Wow, we're all going too fast, I thought...or maybe I'm just out of shape (yikes!). I ran a good portion of the second lap with Christine, but started to pull ahead after awhile (I should have held back). At the end of the second lap, I was at around 3:50, but I was really feeling beat. My ITB was really hurting and my quads were sore. I felt like dropping, but knew I had to finish. My pace was slowing. I went back out for the 3rd lap, and saw Mark still less than 10 minutes behind me. Damn! He's running strong.

I really struggled on the 3rd lap and started taking ibuprofen for my knee. Mark caught up to me about 7 miles into it. At this point, I was doing a lot of walking especially on the single track. My knee was really getting bad. As long as it didn't lock up, I knew I could deal with it and finish. Mark tried to run with me a bit, but I told him to go ahead. My energy level was not great either. I had taken a minimalist approach to this race to see if it would help my stomach ailments. I used Heed and hammergel on the first lap, and only hammergel on the second lap. I wasn't getting the fuel I needed. Time to start eating some fruit.

I had been wearing a lighter pair of Asics (2100s) for this race because it worked well for me at Pineland Farms. Unfortunately, I think these shoes added to the knee issues. At the beginning of the 4th lap, I changed into the Kayano's and it seemed to help some.

The 4th lap was all about finishing. My energy level was improving since I decided to experiment with different foods to see what tasted good. I ate bananas, cantaloupe, and PB&J. It was all good. I also took some salt pills. Keith caught up to me about halfway through the last lap. We ran together a bit, but I told him to go ahead. He looked strong and I didn't want to slow him down. There were times that I just had to walk due to the knee pain.

He went ahead for awhile, and then I caught up to him with less than a mile to go. I tried to push him to finish ahead of me, but he was having a rough patch. I ended up finishing a couple minutes ahead of Keith in 8:43 (19th and 20th overall). I was just happy to finish.

Mark was waiting at the finish. He placed 10th in 8:07. Amazing run! Scott finished at around 9:15 with a PR. Goat, of course, was 9:39. Everyone seemed happy.

I learned a lot from this race:

1. I didn't respect the distance or the course and paid the price. I need to train more seriously if I'm going to try to run up front.
2. I wore the wrong shoes.
3. I need to train more on single track. I've gotten lazy about running the same old course at the reservoir.
4. I need to pace myself better and hold back during the first half of the race.
5. I do better with some solid food especially fruit.
6. I still need to figure out the right mix of salt for me.
7. Need more strength training for this course.

Lots of good data points from this one. I'm excited about finishing my 3rd ultra of the year. It's another first. It was great to see so many runners out there, and great to see Jamie (The Maine Runner) after each lap as he was volunteering on this day.

I'm heading down to Mexico in a couple weeks to climb 2 of the big volcanoes (Ixta and Orizaba). We'll see how my body handles serious altitude (19,000 feet). It should be fun!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Changing Seasons

They say peak foliage has past. The leaves are falling and it's more cold than not these days. The end of October and the changing of the clocks generally signifies the end of climbing season and the beginning of running with long pants. To be specific, I call it at 45 degrees. Below 45 degrees and I run with long pants....Below 45 degrees and I can't feel my fingers on the cold rock....and so another year starts to wind down.

Like the animals prepping for the long winter, climbers scurry to get in every last pitch of outdoor climbing to help get them through the winter. Sure, there's ice climbing, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, and even ski mountaineering. They are great activities, and I love them all, but it still doesn't change the fact that dancing up the rock is nearly over for the year. Similarly, the racing season is coming to an end. The NYC marathon was run this weekend, and it's usually one of the last of the year. Like it or not, winter is upon us.

This weekend was a weekend to savor. Savor every bit of good weather, and enjoy every bit of sunlight. With the Goat and I tapering for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler next weekend, I was only planning to run for around 90 minutes, so there was time and energy for other stuff this weekend.

I headed to the Gunks on Saturday to meet up with old friend, Scotty, and get in some much needed climbing...possibly the last day at the Gunks this year. The day started out cool, but promised to be a great one. In my excitement to get in some climbing and to team up with Scotty again, I elected to jump on a tough, but moderately rated crack climb. I had climbed it once before and it felt challenging but fairly straight forward. This time, however, I could barely feel my fingers on the cold rock, and I got a couple moves out of sequence. I tried to down climb, but could not feel my fingers, and popped off the rock. I only fell a couple feet, but it was a discouraging and embarassing start to the day. Scotty was my partner when I took my worst climbing fall about 4 years ago, and I was starting to think it was a mental thing for me.

I decided to forget about it and savor the day. Scotty decided to lead a climb called Gorilla My Dreams for which I know an interesting variation. We did my variation, and Scotty enjoyed it thoroughly. We ran into some guys from Montreal who were also trying to savor the last bits if the climbing season. We talked briefly, but knew we all wanted to get back to climbing.

We proceeded to the Mac Wall - one of my favorite parts of the cliff. As usual, it was crowded there with so many great climbs in a 100 foot stretch. There is a very thin face climb called Higher Stannard that I particularly enjoyed when I led it a few years ago. It's very intimidating because the holds are very small and there is very little protection for the first 20 feet or so of climbing. The climb is consistently hard, but I remember really enjoying it. While I didn't feel particularly "on my game" on this day, I love the look and feel of this climb. It's a fairly risky start, but I know I can do it. I'm known as a fairly bold leader compared to others, but I don't feel overly confident. Scotty patiently waits for me to decide, and I say "Let's do it". The entire time we are roping up, I'm thinking about doing an easier climb, but I'm committed at this point. I'm thinking of the fall I took this morning, less than 20 feet from the ground.

No room for error....don't listen to the horde of people around you. Focus on every single tiny crystal of rock that you need to boulder up this face. Do it quickly, but don't you dare make a mistake. Pull, smear, crimp, crimp, get your feet up, move... I get to the first horizontal and get a small nut in for protection. I try to get a tiny cam in and get it stuck with only half the lobes engaged. I can't get it out, and my stance is too precarious to yank on it. I clip it and go...Now, I have to go another 10 feet with questionable protection. I keep my head and press on. I finally get 2 good pieces of protection placed and let out a sigh of relief, but there's a long way to go. Damn, this is one thin climb. I move up and place a very questionable nut, but it's better than nothing. This is the crux, and I'll take any protection I can get. I crimp hard and work my feet up until I can grab something solid. Throw in more pro and now I'm feeling better. I move up further, but now nothing looks familiar. Scotty checks the book, but it doesn't help. I know I'm off route, but don't want to down climb. I decide to hand travers across manky lichen covered rock, but soon I'm back on route. Up and through a couple overhangs and I'm finally at the anchors. Yee haa! Life is good. Time to celebrate.

Scotty cleans the gear from the route, and we move on to easier climbing. We enjoy the weather, talk about life's challenges, inspect the damage from a recent rock fall, and savor every bit of time we have there. Another classic Gunks day!

Sunday brings cooler temps as Dawn and I head out for a morning run. The long pants are on for the first time this year. We're wearing hats and long sleeves. It takes a couple miles to warm up, but the sun is great. The views are wonderful, and you can see what the leaves have hidden all summer. I savor the sun and the run. These temps will soon feel warm when we look back in January.

Goat and I are heading up to run Stone Cat on Saturday. This is his first ultramarathon, and he's never run a race longer than 5 miles. Of course, he paced me for 30+ miles in Vermont, so we know he can do some serious distance. I'm psyched for him and excited to do another race. This will be my 3rd ultra this year (50, 100, 50) which is completely new territory for me. I don't feel like I'm in peak condition, but the 1:25 in the 1/2 marathon shows I have pretty good fitness. It will bring an end to an incredible running year, and give some time to re-group for next year. My plan, of course, will be to savor every mile of it!

All the best!


Monday, October 20, 2008

The Goat, Cheri, and saving the squirrels

Some runs are just runs and some runs are real life experiences. On Saturday, the Goat and I set out to do a 7 hour training run in preparation for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler. I always enjoy these runs because you learn a lot about yourself and anyone who is willing to endure your company for that long. Saturday's run was no exception.

We started out at 8AM sharp with the daunting task to run until at least 3PM. Basically, we started out saying "Good Morning" and finished by saying "Have a nice evening". We also got to have Hammergel for breakfast and lunch! Yummy!

The first 10 miles were uneventful and we actually had a faster than planned pace going. We both felt good after taking some rest days during the week. We stopped at the cars to re-fuel and headed out toward Heublein Tower to get in some vertical. After a couple miles, we started to hit the vertical and Goat pulled up lame. At the same time, a female runner in a pink running skirt came up from behind us and asked where the trail went. Since Goat was having issues, we couldn't do much to help except point her in the direction of the Tower and say, "It's got some great views". Then, off she went.

We worked on stretching out Goat's left foot/ankle, but he was not a happy camper. I gave him 2 Ibuprofen, and we started walking up the trail to see if things would improve. At this point, we were only a bit over 2 hours into the run. A short ways up the trail, we ran into the pink-skirted Athena looking for directions again. So, we offered for her to join us. While trekking to the tower, we learned that Cheri is from NYC, ran her first 50 miler at Vermont this year, and is now a full fledged ultra-head. The more we talked, the more we enjoyed Cheri's company. The miles were clicking by, and all 3 of us ran the complete trail back up to the summit. The weather was absolutely perfect and the views were outstanding. We talked about the ultra that Goat and I are thinking about establishing in CT, and Cheri was psyched to hear about our plans. Goat's foot appeared to be fine now...I'm not sure if it was the Vitamin I or Cheri's company that did the trick, ;-).

We motored back toward the cars where Cheri would meet her ride, and wished she could join us for more. We were only halfway through our 7 hour run. We exchanged blogs and within a flash, she was gone. Just like that! It was a brief encounter, but we truly enjoyed meeting another ultrarunner on the trail.

After another couple hours, we were within sight of our goal. We just needed to do one more trek to the Tower, down the other side, and back. The same route we ran with Cheri a couple hours earlier. This time, however, we were running on fumes. At the tower, we elected to keep running down the other side rather than take in the view. We were on a mission! To keep ourselves in the game, we decided to run to the top again. This would be a tall task, but we decided the world depended on us. You see, we playfully rationalized that the people on the trail would be let down if they saw us walking. Everytime we run up the trail, hikers are amazed. If we walk, they lose hope...we figured. If they lose hope, the economy will completely fail. If the economy fails, all hell will break loose. Goat said, "People will be eating the squirrels just to stay alive." We like the squirrels...poor little, defenseless creatures... We decided that we needed to run the trail all the way to the top to "save the squirrels". Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead!

Onward we ran, picking our way through the day hikers, and made it through the first climb. After hitting a flat section, I saw someone from work. He tried to flag me down, but I had to save the squirrels...We were on a mission! We ran all the way to the tower without walking. The squirrels will live to see another day thanks to the Goat and me!

We were 35 miles in and still able to crank out the vertical. Now, we just needed to coast on back to the cars. We timed it perfectly. After the pleasant trek back, we had bagged 38 miles in 7:05...not bad for a day's work.

I felt better than I did a week earlier. The Goat is running strong, and is ready for Stone Cat. He completed his longest training run ever today. We had a great time running with Cheri and hope to see her on the trail again sometime. The weather and views were great. ...And most importantly, we saved the squirrels... Now, if they would just stop burying nuts in my yard :-)

Have a wonderful running week!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Greater Hartford Marathon

What a day for the 15th running of the Greater Hartford Marathon! I think I've been present for 5 marathons, 2 half-marathons, and once as a volunteer/spectator, so almost half of them. The race has changed sponsorship hands from Aetna to UTC, and now to ING. Temps at the start were around 50 degrees and sunny.

I hadn't planned to run this year since my training had been very inconsistent (to say the least) after the Vermont 100, and I decided to train for the Stone Cat Ale 50 miler on November 8. Dawn signed up for the marathon, her first road marathon, and I wanted to be there for her. I knew she had a good shot at breaking 4 hours, and felt she had a reasonable shot at qualifying for Boston (sub 3:50). While I wanted to be there for her, I really did not feel mentally or physically ready to put out a full effort for the marathon. I ran 3:04 last year and then 3:00 in the Jacksonville marathon in December, so topping that would be a stretch. I have a hard time being a spectator though, so the half seemed like a good option. I figured it was a chance to get in some speedwork and would leave me enough energy for a long run with the Goat on Sunday. My goal was to run 6:40 pace which would give me a half marathon PR.

This event is always fun because it's a chance to see friends and fellow runners in the Hartford area. Dawn and I ran into Matt Estes after picking up our numbers on Friday. Matt and his wife Aimee were doing the full marathon. Matt had a PR last year with a sub 2:45, but hasn't been running much this year. Matt was predicting a possible sub-4:00 for Aimee. Cool!

At the start, we found Paul and Flo Dickie from our Reach the Beach Relay Team, and I gave a wave to Scott Turco across the mass of humanity separating us. It was so great to see some friends. I gave Dawn some words of encouragement, and off we went. Neither of us had slept much Friday night, so I didn't expect much for both of us. We had lined up fairly close to the front, but it still took awhile to pcik through folks in the first mile. After crossing the Founders bridge into East Hartford, I caught a glimpse of the Legend, Rich Fargo, who was running to qualify for Boston. I did a training run with Rich about a month ago, and he was definitely in sub 3:00 shape. We ran together for about 1 mile and he said that 3:10 was his mark. Of course, we were cranking at 6:40 pace at the time. He decided to back off the pace a bit, and we wished eachother well. I was running well for the first 8 miles, but knew that I was hurting. A young guy pulled up behind me and asked if he could run on my shoulder. Sure, no problem. He asked what my goal was and at that point I had no idea...I told him it was a training run and that blew his mind for some reason. He credited me with saving his race...I guess he liked my pace. I told him to relax. Eventually, he pulled away and seemed to be running strong.

I hung with the same group for most of the race, but a few of them past me with 3 miles or so to go. I kept missing mile markers and I think they reversed the 1 and 2 miles to go markers. It was very confusing. Anyway, with 1/4 mile to go, I found my finishing kick and passed a few more folks. I ran 1:25 with a 6:32 pace (53rd overall and 6th in my age group). I think I was within 1 minute of 3rd in my age group, so I was a little disappointed I didn't run harder or prepare for the race. Oh well! It was still a PR for me and I feel much better about my conditioning now.

I saw a bunch of folks at the finish of the 1/2 marathon. Cliff Lane from HS finished around 1:30. Nice run Cliff. Steve Worthington ran well. Paul Dicke finished around 1:40. Great job Paul! Flo took 2nd place in her age group and I think was sub 2 hours. Good job Flo! Paul Shook ran a 1:50. Nice work Paul!

I didn't get to see Matt Estes or Rich finish, but heard that they were both running well. Mark Buongiorno set a PR with a sub 3:13 finish and Scott Turco ran a strong race at around 3:17. After watching them finish, I ran back to the car and changed my clothes quickly. I got back to the finish area to watch the 3:35 pacer go by, and figured I had plenty of time to watch for Dawn. Then, before I knew it, there she was! Holy cow! Dawn finished in 3:39 in her first marathon! Wow! She even looked happy and fresh! Congrats Dawnie!

We were watching for Matt's wife, Aimee, to finish, and then I heard the famous name of "Stanislav Jankowski" announced as he crossed the finish line. "Stan the Man" is a member of our Reach the Beach team and is the guy laying down in the above photo. Well, Stan was almost laying down again after the race. I guess he was a bit dizzy and weak after a big effort to try to run sub 4 hours. Great effort Stan! You left it all out on the course!

After making sure Stan was OK, we walked over to get Dawn's bag and ran into Bill Lutkus, another climber turned runner. Bill ran his first marathon at this race last year, and looked ecstatic to have taken about 1 hour off his time from last year. He ran a sub 3:30 to qualify for Boston. Nice work Bill!

It was so great to see so many friends at the race. My climbing buddy, Quantum (Physics teacher), shouted out my climbing nickname (Pretty Boy) around the 5 mile mark. They say a persons name is the sweetest word(s) they will ever hear. I think that applies exponentially more when running a race at full bore. I didn't see him, but was so happy that he gave a shout out to me. We caught up after the race and chatted a bit.

I must admit that I was not super motivated to run this race, but was so glad that I made the effort. It was a beautiful day, and I was so happy to celebrate with friends. Everyone ran well, and I was so happy for everyone. Of course, I'm especially happy for Dawn. She rocks! What an amazing finish for her first marathon.

For marathons, the Hartford marathon is extremely well run. It's a great time to run in NewEngland, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good race. It's a relatively flat course, but there are a few hills in the finishing miles for both races.

All in all, it was a great day! Congratulations everybody!

Now, I just have to drag myself out there tomorrow for that 6 hour run with the Goat! Yikes!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Full Circle

Big Head Todd and the Monsters, one of the greatest rock bands of all time, has a song called "Circle" with a refrain that goes, "Rise and fall, turn the wheel, 'cause all life is really just circle."

It may be obvious, but it causes me to reflect nonetheless.

As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." For me, that "sameness" includes running. To some that may sound boring, but I take a certain comfort in it. It provides the consistency that I need in a world of turmoil. It's also the dynamic changes around this "sameness" that provides some excitement.

This week, I started to throw down some miles again. I logged a couple 6 mile tempo runs on Monday and Tuesday and then met the Goat for a Wednesday night run at the reservoir. The Goat is training for his first 50 mile ultra (The Stonecat Ale 50 miler). He was disappointed in his long run last weekend, so I wanted to run with him to assess his progress. Well, we ran at a fairly quick pace for awhile and the Goat was stride for stride with me the whole way. Usually, he will start to slow after the first few miles, but he was really hanging strong. Wow! We ran about 10 miles and he pushed me for the first 9 or so. Awesome! I'm psyched for him and can't wait to see how he does at StoneCat.

Dawn is training for the Hartford Marathon and has been getting in great shape as well. She put in about 17-18 miles on Saturday in the rain, and then was 3rd woman in a 5K today. Nice! Congrats to Dawn for getting her first piece of hardware! Imagine how fast she would have run if she didn't have tired legs!

It's so nice to see others excelling and enjoying the benefits of this great lifestyle. Goat and I were doing a 5 hour run in the rain on Saturday, and I asked after 4 hours, "Goat, is there anyplace else you would rather be right now?" Goat muttered something about traveling to a foreign country or something, ...but he understood my point. I said that there was nowhere else that I wanted to be... He asked if this was where I NEEDED to be... I thought about it for a moment and said, "Yes, this is where I NEED to be right now!"

Jobs change, people in our lives change, we get older, people are born and die. We think about our own mortality when we hear that Paul Newman died, etc. The economy is struggling, the country needs a leader, etc., etc., etc.

"It's all good" as the saying goes. WE RUN! We run with our friends. We talk, we share, we celebrate, and "it's all good" until we do it all over again.

I hope you are all enjoying this great Fall weather with every footstep.

Weekly Mileage:

Monday - 6 tempo
Tuesday - 6 tempo
Wed - 10 moderate
Th - rest
Fr - rest
Sat - 24.5, 4:45, 3 Heublein tower trips and one res. hill loop
Total: 46.5

It's nice to have some mileage to log again!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reach the Beach

The Red Eye Runners successfully completed our 4th Reach the Beach Relay covering over 200 miles in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. This was the 10th Anniversary of Reach the Beach, and the race staff deserve a lot of credit. I am always amazed at the logistics involved with safely moving 350 teams from the start in New Hampshire's White Mountains to the coast at Hampton Beach. The conventional RTB team has 12 members to cover 36 relay legs with each leg covering 2.5 to 9.5 miles in length. Most teams have 2 large 12 passenger vans to transport team members with Van 1 covering legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30. Van 2 covers the other 18 legs. The teams are responsible for meeting all safety requirements - headlamps, safety vests, etc. as well as crew support (food, fluids, etc.). It truly is a team effort.

Our team is led by Captain Bill Gaghan who puts countless hours into preparing the team for the race. He's thought of everything from excel spreadsheets with our predicted times to inspirational soundtracks for our vans. The van assignments are critical for our team as each van has developed it's own personality: The F'em van is as you might imagine is comprised of a bunch of professional, married guys that have the weekend away to play. They can be a bit crude and badger the heck out of eachother along the way, but they are really great friends just blowing off some steam. The Serenity Van is made up of the other folks - generally folks that are not associated with the core group of runners. Since they don't know eachother as well, they are generally very polite and enjoy eachothers company for the weekend. I, somehow, have ended up in the Serenity Van. It's fine with me because I get to chat with folks that I don't know or don't see very often.

Our team is not fast in terms of being able to win, but it doesn't really matter. We do it for fun and to see how we can do both individually and as a group. Even if we don't win, it's always fun to see how we place in our group and to try to break our personal records. This year, we were 131 out of about 350 teams overall and we were 5th out of 6 teams on the Male Masters. It's not really fair as we have 4 lovely ladies on our team (you need 6 women for a mixed team), but we don't really run it for competitive reasons. At least I don't anyway...

I think we run for the memories and friendship. The true commraderie that I see is unmatched. It was great fun to have Dawn and The Goat on the team this year. The team welcomed them with open arms. I enjoy running this race because it allows me to stay connected with some good friends...people that I don't get to see on a regular basis. If it wasn't for this race, I fear that I would lose contact with most of them.

The routine has become "old hat" at this point. We meet near work to load the vans, drive halfway to Paul and Flo's place on the lake, and stop for dinner. We arrive near midnight and scramble for a place to sleep. I usually sleep on the porch to enjoy the cool September air. Bill gives his pre-race speech and introduces all the team members, and we talk about the game plan for the next 48 hours.

The next morning we pack up and head for the start. This year, I heard Stan and Pete swimming when I awoke at 6:30AM. I was impressed. Pete said the water was great, so I had to jump in. Yee haa!

The start of the race is always a big party. You see teams clad in all kinds of costumes - the Cavemen/women, the Tutu girls, the Dyno-mite team, the A-team (fashioned after the old TV show with Mr. T), etc. After check-in, we decorate our van with markers, lights, etc. Some teams get very creative. It's so much fun!

Dawn started us off this year. Teams start in groups of 15 every 30 minutes. The start time is based on your expected finish time. Our start was 11AM which put us in the middle of the pack. We were happy to be in the thick of things as last year we were bringing up the rear.

Dawn ran a great leg finishing within 30 seconds of her predicted time and the Goat ran a spectacular leg 2 putting us ahead of our predicted finish time by about 20 minutes. I ran a slower than predicted leg 3 as I had a terrible headwind the whole way. Besides, it was 3.8 miles and I'm no sprinter. Anyway, I won't go through all 36 legs...but suffice it to say we ran according to plan and never missed a hand-off. We had a great time, and I was pleased with my 3 legs. I was able to run a faster pace on my last 2 legs even though they were double the mileage and more hilly - go figure! I guess it takes me awhile to warm up.

At the end, Paul ran us across the finish line and Bill gave us our finisher medals and shirts on the beach as we do every year. Mission accomplished one more time.

Were we uncomfortable at times? yes, did we get on eachother's nerves at times? sure, was there a lot of waiting? of course... Would I trade it for anything else? No Way!

I slept in the van, I slept on the ground...I ate, I swam, I ran, I talked and laughed with new and old friends. Friends...we are all very different and some didn't know eachother at all prior to the race, but one thing brought us all together: running. Running was our common denominator. In fact, it was THE common denominator for everyone in the race. It enabled us to make instantaneous friendships with anyone we cared to chat with during the race. Running is a means to connect despite being a very individual sport. Even the folks that do not run rally around those of us that do. Why is that? I think the effort of running evokes a respect and admiration from others...a respect based on wanting to enjoy life, adventure, and maintain a level of fitness. I always try to encourage the other runners that I pass or that pass me. I think it bonds us momentarily and may give us a needed lift. I made sure to do it with everyone I encountered this year.

Reach the Beach 2008 was a great success. We interview each team member on video after they finish their leg, and Flo and Paul make a DVD for later viewing. After my last leg this year, I was so happy. I looked in the camera and said something to the effect of "Red Eye Runners forever...RTB every year until we die..."

Wouldn't that be something?!!

Happy trails!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Wake Up Call (a.k.a. - A serving of Humble Pie)

"The Legend", a.k.a. Rich Fargo, had asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in doing a weekend run with him as he is training for the Hartford Marathon and wanted to get a few 20 milers in on the roads. I said, yes, as I always enjoy running with people, and he's a really strong runner. In fact, he's more than strong - he's "The Legend". I affectionately call him the Legend because he is truly a legend in the community of trail running. He's won the famed Escarpment Trail race 8 times (recently equalled by Ben Nephew), and has more wins on the trail running circuit than most people have run races. Rich has also been running to and from work everyday for the past 20 years. He carries his clothes, shoes, and 2 cans of Coke in his L.L. Bean backpack, and flies like the wind. I've tried this a few times (minus the cans of Coke), and it's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it feels great to walk into work having just put in 5 miles or so. The run home is a challenge sometimes, but always feels good nontheless.

Anyway, Rich and I both ran the Northern Nipmuck trail race in April and I ran with him for a good portion of the race. I managed to finish a couple minutes ahead of him and really felt good about my fitness level. I think I woke a sleeping tiger though as Rich has been on a tear ever since...

Anyway, I was a bit apprehensive about today's run since I haven't done much since the Vermont 100. The handful of runs I have done have been at a slow pace. In fact, I haven't done a fast training run since early July. "It's OK", I thought, "He's going to do 20 miles and I'm along for 13 or so. No problem. We'll probably be doing 7:45-8:00 pace, and I can do that for 13 on the roads." Famous last words...

I arrived at Rich's house with my bottle of Heed and was ready to roll. Rich was not running with any fluids. Gulp! I took a few swallows and left my bottle. I was running on his terms. How could I carry a bottle for 13 if he was running 20 without anything? Damn, this guy is hardcore.

I asked about pace and he said 7:30-8:00. Then, he took off like a bat out of hell. Yikes!
I hung on for the first 3 miles thinking this pace is insane. My Garmin said we were running around 7:25 miles. We chatted and I started feeling more comfortable. The route was hilly, but the uphills were quite runnable compared to the trails I had run all year. We pushed eachother and I noted that we were doing about 7:15 pace at one point. Damn!

At appr0x. 6 miles we started looping back and Rich said we would split a little before the 9 mile mark. We ran a long gradual uphill which are usually my favorites. I ran it well, but the lack of training and water started catching up to me. I knew I didn't have much left in the tank. Rich, on the other hand, started to put the hammer down. I hung on for dear life, and began to understood how some others may feel running with me at times. I told him to go on ahead if he wanted. It was my way of saying, "Uncle". He eased up slightly, so we could stay together. He was talking about the apple pie his father-in-law was planning to make, and I thought, "I just got served some humble pie".

On the last downhill together Rich asked our pace. The Garmin said 7:17...not bad, but we were flying. I kept re-checking every 100 feet or so and it didn't change. I finally realized that I was looking at "Average pace". Holy shniikees, Batman! We ran 9 hilly miles at 7:17 pace! No wonder I feel like death. I haven't run more than 10 times in the past 7 weeks, and now this! OK, I don't feel so bad now.

We parted ways at the next turn and I slowed the pace quite a bit. I chugged up the hills slowly, but still manged to finish the 13.6 miles at 7:25 pace. Not great, but not bad for not having done much in the past 7 weeks.

As for the Legend, he's primed and ready for Hartford. I think he has a chance to break 3 hours if the weather cooperates. At age 50, he's an inspiration.

It was another great adventure today...running provides so many. I guess it's high time that I get my butt back in gear, and maybe start running to work again.

This Friday the Red Eye Runners will participate in our 4th Reach the Beach Relay in NH. Dawn and the Goat will join the team this year, so I'm excited to see how they enjoy it. It's a great time...stay tuned next week for the race report.

Happy trails!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Musings!

It's been awhile since I last posted as I haven't been running a lot. I have run a total of 5 times since the race due to other priorities. The runs have felt fine and my conditioning is great. I've just been trying to catch up on items that were put "on hold" for the past 8 months, and frankly I was a bit burned out. It was hard to even think about putting on my running gear, but I'm getting the bug again.

It's been nice to catch up on homeowner tasks such as landscaping and home repairs. While things are probably never where we want them, I'm pretty happy with the situation now. During the training, I stressed about certain repairs that were needed, but had no time to address them.

On the fun side, I've been able to get in some rock climbing recently. At first, it felt like I was starting over, but the rust has come off reasonably fast. My strength is coming back faster than I imagined, and the technique is coming along. Dawn and I managed to get a couple trips in to the Gunks and do some local climbing here in CT. She's climbing much better than me right now, so it's giving me motivation to get back in climbing shape.

Yesterday, Tara and I spent a little time in the Gunks. She's a natural climber, but doesn't climb very often. She loves it, but has so many other priorities (a.k.a. boyfriend) that she doesn't get on the rock very often. Anywhoooo, we had a great day. Tara climbed very well considering she hasn't done multipitch climbing in ages. The day was hot, so we cut it short and capped it off with an invigorating swim. I love the Coxing swimming hole as it's a natural wonder. The water flows in via a small waterfall and you swim up a narrow channel to get to it. The water temp is wicked cold, but it feels great on a hot day. Standing under the waterfall feels like you are getting a wonderful back massage. The whole place is such a treat, and it was a pleasure to share it with my daughter for the first time.

It's also been nice to spend some quality time with Dawn. She was so supportive of me in my training, and it's been nice to dedicate some time to her and "us" lately. I think the race pulled us together in many ways, but the training put a strain on everything for awhile. It's been nice to get some balance back in life and make our relationship a priority. Life is good!

As far as the running, it's been fun to watch others get the bug. My hat is off to all my friends and family that are getting into it. My brother is training for the Marine Corp marathon (his first), the Goat has registered for the Stone Cat 50 miler, Sean is running a half marathon in the Fall, Matt Estes running again and his wife, Aimee, is running faster than ever, and Dawn is putting in more mileage than me these days. There are many other folks that are putting in the mileage as well - it's great to see so many people enjoying the roads and trails.

As for me, I'll be doing the Reach the Beach relay with the Red Eye Runners in a few short weeks, and then I'll probably do Marine Corps with my brother or Stone Cat with the Goat (or both depending on scheduling). As for now, I need to get my syllabus ready for next week and help Tara get packed for the ride back to UCONN today.

I've been running for over 30 years now, and it's interesting to see how it has become such an integral part of life.

All the best and happy trails!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 Race Report - We did it!

Where to begin! I suppose at the beginning...I had told anyone that would listen over the past 6 months that Vermont 100 would be hot and humid this year because "hot and humid" seem to follow me to every race. Well, darned if I wasn't right again! Weather predictions were anywhere from upper 80's to 100 degrees with high humidity and possible thunderstorms. Oh goodie, here we go again! Well, here we all are waiting for the race to begin while trying to wait out a storm under the tent. This is the best I will look for the next 24 hours. The first pick is me getting prepped by Dawn with my Mom looking on. Below is a shot of me and my daughter, Tara. My younger daughter, Jamie, decided to sleep in, but would show up later in the race.

I was feeling pretty good about my chances for a better finish than 2 years ago. My strategy is to first set several progressive goals, so this is what I chose for this race: 1. Get family and friends together and attempt to re-create the magical experience from 2 years ago...basically share it with more people. This was a tall enough task. 2. Finish the race. 3. Break 24 hours. 4. Get a PR - sub 19 hours 5. Another Top 10 finish 6. Sub 17:30 and possibly Top 5.

I knew the last one was a stretch for 2 reasons: 1. The weather would slow all times, so sub 17:30 was a challenge 2. The Western States runners definitely made this a tougher field.

At the pre-race check in, my weight was a hair under 136, so I rounded down to 135.5. I had been training at about 132.5 and figured I gained 2 lbs. during tapering. 135.5 or 136 was about right with my shoes on.

The race started and people raced off like it was a 10K once again. I just don't understand it. I settled in at a pace that felt a bit fast - probably around 8:30-8:45 by my guess. My goal was to run around 3:25-3:30 for the first 21 miles. I knew the big dogs would be cruising it at around 3:00, and just wanted to stay within range without blowing up early. I ran with the Fitzpatrick's (Diana would finish 3rd Woman overall) from Northern Cal. for awhile. They are veteran WS100 runners and were a bit concerned about the humidity and gravel roads. One of the great things about these races is meeting good people, and they were no exception.

I used Perpetuem for my first 2 bottles and switched to Heed for No. 3. My goal was 1 bottle per hour and supplement with Hammergel and Endurolytes as needed.

I saw my crew for the first time at mile 21, and got very emotional (as I did last time) running into that Aid Station. I guess the magic was being re-created. My daughter, Tara, screamed when she saw me, and I saw my Dad shooting video.

Dawn had given everyone a task, and they were operating like a well-oiled machine. I think I had cracked the top 20 at this point, and came in right around 3:25. Everything was going according to plan.

I kept a good pace and passed a few more runners, and then the wheels started coming off the bus. Just after passing 2 guys on a long downhill, I got sick and projectile vomited large quantities of liquid. It was nasty. Never having vomited in a race, I wasn't sure what to do. I knew the guys behind me witnessed it, so I decided to act like nothing was wrong. I cruised into the next aid station - dumped the Perpetuem and switched to Heed (hoping it would help). I moved out of the aid station quickly, and those guys never caught up with me.

While I was feeling weak and concerned about the up-coming weigh-in, it was really nice to be running alone for the first time in the race. The views were amazing, and I was just happy to be taking it all in (despite my stomach woes).

At Camp 10 Bear (mile 47ish), I saw my crew and was summoned to the weigh-in before I could eat or hydrate. The scale said, "129 lbs.", and I almost passed out. I didn't say a word. They told me to look at it like a Mom chastising a child for using crayon on the wall. I acted like you do when you are pulled over by a State Trooper, "Who me, ..., speeding?" They asked if I had a crew, etc. The Doctor said I was OK to go on, but to put on sunscreen or a shirt. I had two thoughts: 1. Why aren't you pulling me from the race? 2. Thank God you're not pulling me from the race.

Sean (my cousin) forced grapes and oranges on me, and I reluctantly ate some. The grapes were tasty... Thanks Sean! I whispered to Dawn my concerns about my puking, and she told me to slow down, but don't stop. My crew was really excited, and I didn't want to disappoint them.

I decided that I would go easy the rest of the way and hoped to finish in under 24 hours. I wanted Jamie to see me run, and wanted both girls to see me finish. All hopes of a Top 10 were gone at that point, and I settled in for the long haul.

At the next aid station (Pinky's - mile 51), a young guy caught up to me, and I tried to chat with him. He didn't say much, so I shuffled on down the road. He caught up again and this time we talked more. His name was Brian, and he was a runner from Ca. This was his first 100, and he was looking really strong. I decided to try to hang with him as long as possible. We got into a rythym and worked well together. I knew the course, and offered some info. Our crews got to know each other, and Tara got a good picture of us at the Tracer Brook (57 mile) aid station.

I told Brian I was changing shoes at Margaritaville (mile 62.1), so he should go ahead without me. My crew tried to feed me a lot knowing I had to weigh-in at Camp 10 Bear (70 miles).

After leaving the aid station with Brian and one other guy, Ryan, I quickly proceeded to do the technicolor yawn once again. I told them to go on without me in between bouts of heaving. It was not pretty!

I thought that would be it for me. I drank some water and shuffled along just hoping to keep them in sight. Ryan looked like he was hurting, and I started catching up to him. I passed without saying much and set my eyes on Brian. We worked well together, and I hoped I could still hang with him. Once we got back together, it started pouring rain right at the mile 65 aid station. Brian needed electrolyte pills and I gave him some of mine as they had none at the aid station. I figured they weren't doing me any good at this point. We ran like we were being chased by the giant ball in the first Indiana Jones movie to get through the rain. We were in a wide trail, but the puddles were turning into Lakes. At one point, we had no choice, but to go through the middle. Brian was lucky and found a high spot while I went in up to my knees. Yuck!

We finally made it to a road, and I knew we were within 1-1.5 miles on Ten Bear. It was a long down hill and then short up to hit the aid station. I weighed-in at 135 due to some extra water and mud and other assistance, and all seemed well. Dawn said we were running 10 and 11 at that point, but we passed a couple people at the aid station. I picked up my pacer, Kevin (the Goat), and I explained to him and Dawn that I had another puking fit. By this point, I was operating solely on water, hammergel, and watermelon. I wouldn't touch anything else.

Goat was a welcome companion, and we quickly settled into a nice pace. Brian stayed with us as his pacer was waiting until mile 77 to meet him. The section from 70 to 77 is one of the toughest on the course, and Kevin's experience with it from the last race really helped us. He did such a great job pacing me through the last 30 miles.

We hammered the very technical downhill into mile 75 and I was feeling good. Brian, on the other hand, was at his limit. His quads were shot, and I knew he would be slowing down. I gave him a few words of encouragement and off we went.

At mile 77, we saw our crew again. Brian's folks had donated a watermelon to my cause since it was all I would eat. Thank you! As we left the aid station, we passed John Geesler, the former 24 hour national champ, and I couldn't believe my eyes. Wow! I thought, "We are doing good now!"

At this point, I was running 9th and knew we had a couple folks in striking distance.

We caught up to the first place woman (Devon) as she had made a slight detour. We came into Bill's (mile 88.6) in 8th place and the crew was going nuts. The weigh-in was fine, and off we went with watermelon (I learned later it was from Charlotte's fruit salad) of course.

It was getting dark, so I started using the headlamp. Devon passed us in one of the fields (I hate running through wet fields), and on we rolled.

At mile 95, there was NO WATERMELON! :-) Oh well! Everyone laughed when I asked for it, and I was ready to just take care of business. Goat and I were on a mission and he was the lead dog. I tucked in behind him like a Tour de France racer behind the lead climber. We made sure to avoid the wrong turn we made 2 years earlier and passed Devon again. The fog was so bad that you could only see about 5 feet in front of you, and the trail was very technical. We had to walk most of this section. It was very muddy, and I did not want to chance twisting an ankle.

We hit the last major climb and knew we were almost home. Goat powered up the nasty, muddy slope and saw a headlamp in the distance. We didn't even have to say a word. He put the hammer down and I just hung on. We passed the number 8 man and he looked like he was done. Goat left no question and kept pounding the slope to the top of the ridge. We hit the road and went 200 yards or so with no one in sight behind us. How sweet it is to be in 7th place.

Torches marked the 99.5 mile mark and we followed the glowing gallon markers into the finish. My crew did not react because they did not expect me in 7th place. The fog didn't allow anyone to figure out who I was until I hit the finish line. Dawn yelled out, "Oh my God, it's him!", then grabbed me yelling, "They did it, they did it". My girls quickly joined the hug, and I was smiling once again. My time was 18:29:20, and life was good. Devon finished about 1 minute behind me.

At the medical tent, my blood pressure was fine. I chatted with Joe Kulak (6th place finisher who just completed his 30th 100 miler). The guy is a legend, but was so nice. I couldn't believe he asked me how I did, etc. Really nice guy! Jack Pilla (3rd place) was there and gave me some advice on electrolytes. We chatted a bit and then he recommended I get some mud off of me. Hint, hint! :-)

I started to clean up and then got the shakes really bad. The EMT covered me in blankets and I warmed up quickly. We got the car nice and warm and I jumped in while my brother, Robert, drove back to the hotel.

After a rough nights sleep, we rolled over to our cousins, Charlotte and Steve's, house for breakfast. They were great hosts for the weekend, and I'm so happy we were able to spend some time with them.

At the award ceremony, I looked for Mark and Scott (2 other UTC runners), but could not find them. When I was called up for my Top 10 finish award, I saw both of them wave at me, and it felt great to see them.
After the photos, they told me they had both finished - Mark was around 22.5 hours and Scott was 25.5 hours. Nice work guys!!! I chatted a bit with Mark's pacer, Bruce, and also found Brian. Brian finished under 20 hours and seemed a bit wiped out. He has a great future in ultra running if he hangs with it, and his parents should be proud. He's a great guy!

Many thanks to my family and friends for being there. My cousin, Sean, was a huge help, and it's always fun to spend time with him. My parents have been great supporters and this race was no exception. I was proud to finish strong in front of my girls and glad they could share the experience. As I mentioned, Steve and Charlotte hosted us, and I'm glad they could share in the experience. My brother, Robert, is one of the nicest people in the world and I was lucky to have him there.

The Goat was the man once again, and he is like a second brother to me.

Dawn pulled everything and everyone together as she has for me over the past 6 months, and I am so grateful to her. It was a joy to share the experience with her.

When it comes right down to it, my crew and pacer made the difference between 7th and 9th place. They were amazing and deserve so much credit. Thank you all!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vermont 100: It's show time!

This will likely be my last post before the race. I've got lots to do to get ready for this weekend. I feel really good other than a slightly tweaked left calf. I should be well rested and ready for this Saturday.

For the folks that are not familiar with the Vermont 100 or haven't seen my pics from 2 years ago, I've decided to throw some in here. I was looking at them earlier today and it brought back some great memories.

Here's the start with me and Ultra-mentor Jim Campiformio. Notice the UTC endorsement.Shuffling along the country roads.

This is me and the Goat at Camp 10 Bear (around Mile 68). Mom, Amy, and Pam are in upper left corner.
I was very happy to cross the finish line. Celebrating with the Goat! CCM is our climbing group (The CT Climbers and Mountaineers).

This past week was a bit strange. Work and home life were very busy. I took two rest days after last Sunday's hill work as I wanted to be fresh. On Wednesday, I went fairly hard on a 10.5 mile run, then did about 6.3 miles at work on Friday. The weather is getting warm! Saturday, I surprised the gang by showing up for a Red Eye Runners run in the Colchester area. It's my first run there since Tim has been inviting me for more than 10 years. I'm glad he didn't give up on me. It was a real pleasure to chat with the guys while doing a nice 10 on the very scenic Airline Trail.

I only planned to do 6-8 today, but stretched it into another 10 just because I felt like doing a little more. It was such a beautiful day, and it was good to get some heat training at mid-day.

I know I should not be doing too much, but I couldn't resist catching up on a lot of chores this weekend. It's amazing what you can get done when you are not running all day or recovering from a run. Mentally, I needed to get caught up on some things.

It's been a great 7 months of training. A few weeks ago, I was mentally drained from it all, but now I reflect in a positive way. I've met some new friends, completed runs that I never knew I could do, blew away my previous weekly mileage totals, and am probably in the best shape of my life. Andy Jones-Wilkins recently put up a post that indicated that the race is the dessert. I think he is right. The dessert will be sweet, but the main course was most excellent.

Many thanks to all my friends and family for being supportive and tolerant over these past months. I certainly appreciate it. This weekend, I'll have lots of family and friends at the race. The support is so appreciated. We will have a great time!

Let's go!!!!!!!

Weekly Summary -
Wed - 10.5 hard
Friday - 6.3 moderate
Saturday - 10 moderate
Sunday - 9.7 moderate
Total - 36.5 miles

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Tower Re-visited

Isn't it strange how some of your best runs come on days when you are least motivated? Afterwards, you say to yourself, "I'm glad I got out there, ...that was great!" Well, today was one of those days.

It's been really humid and wet here lately, and I was not into running today. I wanted to get at least 16 miles and 2+ hours on my feet, but was a bit tired of my usually reservoir runs. I needed to get creative and a little adventurous to keep myself motivated. I decided to head up to Heublein Tower to see if I could catch any views today. I felt like 2 trips up to the tower and some loops in the surrounding area would be good. Little did I know that I would end up doing 5 laps up to the Tower. Sure, it was a bit more than I planned, but what a huge boost to my confidence going into this race. My quads feel ready!

I finally made it up the 120 steps to the top of the Tower. The door has only been open one other time while I was up there. The views were good, but a bit hazy. The Tower is quite an architectural marvel. I highly recommend a trip.

On my second trip down on the north side, I came across a woman from work and her family. She just moved here from Egypt, and the hike up was a little more than they had anticipated. I think they thought I was crazy. In fact, I passed many people that were thinking it. I joked with some of them. Others took an interest in it and asked how many times I planned to go up. It was a lot of fun!

I thought I was finished at 4 laps, but then decided to go back up on the east side one more time before heading back. This time it was solo (no spectators), but still very satisfying.

I feel ready. I've done everything I can possibly do to prepare for this race. I'm psyched to be in real taper mode at this point. My body is starting to feel strong again.

I still have lots to do to get ready, but it feels good to be less than 2 weeks away!

Weekly summary:

Monday - rest
Tuesday - 9 easy
Wednesday - 16 moderate (first 8 with Goat)
Thursday - rest
Friday - 19.5 tempo (approx. 2.5 hours)
Saturday - spinning, 4.5 easy on treadmill, weights
Sunday - 18.25 hill training (approx. 3 hours and 7,000 ft elevation)
Total - 77.25 miles

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Taper Time

My sympathy goes out to all the Western States 100 runners who did not get to run this weekend. I think I would be seriously disappointed if I trained for so long and then have the race be cancelled. I'm sure the race organizers did the right thing, but it's still tough. Big props to the Vermont 100 organizers for opening up 40 more slots. This will be one tough field for the race! It's good for the race, and good for Northeast ultrarunning.

Well, the race is less than 3 weeks away. I'm ready to taper both mentally and physically. My body was begging for rest this week.

Tuesday, 6/24 - After a rest day on Monday, I was still not up to my usual 20 miler on Tuesday. I didn't have the time, but secretly was happy to do an easy 10. I ran into the Goat along the way. We picked up the pace for a mile or two around mile 7, and then I stopped for a drink before doing a 2 mile cooldown. My right calf tightened up, and I was concerned. I massaged it quite a bit that night.

Wednesday, 6/25 - Feeling a bit tired at the start. I decided to carry a bottle due to the heat, but still managed to hold a decent pace for the first 9. I ran into Sean, husband of a friend of Dawn's, and we connected for the rest of the run. We had never run together, but I knew he had run a marathon and was a biker. He really has some lungs, and I had trouble hanging with him at the top of the big hill. He is strong, but doesn't have the endurance yet. We pushed eachother, so it was much faster than I had planned. After a 2 mile cooldown, I was feeling good, but wondered what the expended effort would do to the weekly plan.

Thursday, 6/26 - The "Easy 10" I intended turned into a hilly, hard 10 due to the humidity and selected route. I think my body was trying to tell me something.

Friday, 6/27 - Planned to do speedwork at the track, but my body said, "No way". I went to the gym and did some spinning and stretching.

Saturday, 6/28 - Felt a bit better, and did 12 with the Goat. The pace was easy, and I was starting to feel life in my legs again. The weather was warm and humid.

Sunday, 6/29 - Very humid and warm. A good 32 miles at the reservoir in about 4.5 hours. I considered adding a couple more miles to get to 5 hours, but opted to give my body some rest. I'd like to get some speedwork in this week before the serious tapering begins.

Weekly Total - 84 miles. I'm pleased with it considering how my body felt this week. I was feeling overtrained and needed some rest. The next 20 days will be fairly tame compared to the last 4 weeks.

As many have said at this point, "The hay is in the barn". It's a matter of getting myself rested and strong over the next 19 days. There's still lots of prep work to do before heading north.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Big Weekend!

After the Montreal trip, I was exhausted. No running on Friday. I still wanted to get 100 miles in for the week, so it was going to require back-to-back long runs on the weekend.

Saturday, 6/21/08

On Saturday, I met Bill, Tim, Paul, and Pete from our Red Eye Runners Reach the Beach Relay team. It's always good to see the gang, and it was fun to catch up with everyone. Everyone likes to joke on these runs and today was no exception. We headed north from Reservoir 6 and crossed over Rt. 185 into Penwood State Forest. We did a loop through the park that was very pleasant. I usually do the Metacomet trail through there, so it was nice to try something different.

After heading back to the cars, we had logged about 10 miles. Bill was heading out for more, so I connected with him for a couple more miles before heading up to Heublein Tower. At the top, I decided to head down the paved road as I had never been that way. This added some good vertical. At the end of the run, I had covered 21.5 miles in about 3:15 running time (not including the stop at the cars in between). I felt pretty good about the running considering that I was dragging at the start. Now, the key was to follow it up with a big day on Sunday.

Sunday, 6/22/08

The Goat and I planned to meet at 7:30AM, so I figured I would get there early to log some early miles. We parked at Penwood as my plan was to do a lot of hard miles with vertical and single track. Bottom line - this was going to be a punishing run to prep for the big hills in VT. The temp was mild, but the humidity was oppressive. I headed north on the Metacomet trail at approx. 6:25AM to the lookout and looped back to catch the Goat. Goat was running late, so I managed to get 90 minutes in before we connected. We did the paved loop out and the trail back again in Penwood, and then we headed for the Tower. Goat was in good spirits and we were moving well. The conversation was the usual stuff. Goat was planning to do at least 3.5 hours with me, and he was doing great. We managed to make 3 trips up to the Tower and around the reservoir before he called it a day. Wow! Four hours for the Goat! Good stuff. I was at 5.5 hours and really wanted to get to 8 hours for the day. My breaks were getting longer and my body was hurting. I did another Penwood loop, and then convinced myself to do another reservoir loop and then head up to the Tower for trip No. 4. This last trip was brutal and I walked the trail to the top. The downhill was welcome and I cruised into the parking lot at 39.3 miles. I wanted to finish it right, so pushed on to 40 miles in exactly 8 hours. I was soaked to the bone from humidity and some rain, had some serious chafing, and was mentally burnt out. My ability to run the uphills was gone, but I was still fine on the downs and flats. I know I could have gone farther, but I figured 8 hrs was enough for the day. It's 5 miles less than last week, but the terrain was much harsher on this run. Also, I had a rest day before last week's long run compared to a 3+ hr run yesterday.

In review, I'm satisfied with the run. I have one more week of hard training, and then time to taper. Tomorrow will be a rest day to get some life back in this body.

Weekly summary -

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 20 hilly miles fast at reservoir 2:28. Fantastic Run!
Wednesday - 7.6 miles to work - Easy
Thursday - 2.5 hours in Vermont (15 miles?)
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 21.5 miles 3:15
Sunday - 40-41.4 miles (depending on GPS sites), and 12K-17K vertical depending on which site you believe.

Total Mileage - 105ish

If anyone has experience with the Garmin Forerunner 305, please comment. I get different mileage and vertical depending on whether I download to Motion Based or Garmin Training Center. Which is more accurate? I'm liking the Motion Based site better, but who knows?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

I had one of those epiphany-type ideas earlier this week. Do you ever get those...? The idea that just jumps from your brain and you immediately embrace it as "Brilliant!" Well, my brilliant idea popped into my head while I was getting ready for a business trip to Montreal. I was driving up on Wednesday afternoon for a meeting on Thursday. The meeting was scheduled to get out by 3pm, and I would be happily on my way back through Vermont to arrive home by 9 or so. Hmmm, how was I going to get in a run on this trip? Duhhhh! I slapped myself....I'll be driving through the Woodstock, VT area around 6pm...plenty of time for a test run on the VT100 course. BRILLIANT!

I guessed that the meeting might not end by 3 as planned, and traffic might be an issue, etc. I was tired from the previous days run. I had no idea how to find the course, and I remembered very little of it. Dawn had given me a map from Google showing the aid station locations, and I had read a post recently on Sherpa John's cool blog indicating that a group had recently done the 10 Bear loop. It seemed like a good idea. So, if I could find my way to 10 Bear, memory might get me the rest of the way. I packed my new headlamp and Garmin Forerunner as I knew I would need them.

After a crazy morning which required me to drop of my car for some body work (damn deer), and run to work...I picked up a rental car and headed north. I told Dawn about my plan and she quickly emailed me the VT100 course map. Thanks Dawn!

OK, so after hours of driving and sitting in Montreal traffic for more hours and going to the wrong hotel, etc. , I pass out in my room. The next day, I am in a fog and wondering how I am going to survive the meeting. My body is tired from all the training, work, etc. I look at my running gear and think, "Why did I even bring this stuff?".

After surviving a day of meetings, I practically run to the car to get ahead of the Montreal Traffic Madness and get on the road. I drive like a crazy man..only stopping for a couple Clif bars and Powerade. After meandering through Woodstock, I jump on Rt. 106S and start looking for the Camp 10 Bear turnoff. Ten miles pass and there it looked so much different without tents and people and cars everywhere. It was just so nothing special ever happened there. The memories were there though. I remember people cheering as I came into 10 Bear for the first time 2 years ago. I was hurting, but re-grouped with my crew. I weighed-in and then was off. I felt like I should have sprinted away, but just walked up that hill.

So, there I was...I wasn't sure which way the course went as I hadn't looked at the map Dawn sent. OK, I drove up to the T and tried figuring it out. After driving on the wrong road for a ways, I headed back. I asked one guy for course directions and he had no clue about the race. How could you not know about a 100 mile race that passes your front door every year?

So, I head back to 10 Bear, and pull up the map Dawn sent on my laptop while I changed into my running gear. I took a quick look and tried to commit it to memory (yeah, right). I put on the Garmin thinking this will at least get me home if I get lost. It talks back to me, "LOW BATTERY". Great! Well, at least I have my headlamp.

Off I go! I cruise up toward the T, and a couple walking along the road ask, "When's the big race?" YES! Finally, I am in the right Universe. As it turned out, the race was in exactly one month. I smiled and trotted on... turn left at the T and head down a bit, and then recognize the road...I'm back! I can feel it. I was running with the Scottish gent on this section. Cool!

I get down to the bridge and it's out. Yikes! I find a little foot bridge and sketch my way across. Take a right onto 106 and take the first right back onto gravel roads. I get to the end of the road and it's just driveways. Am I on the wrong road? I find a trail into the woods and see a pink marker...Hmm, could this be it? I go up a way and find a yellow plate on a tree...YES! The race markers...The trail seems quite overgrown, but I plug on. I see a few more yellow markers and am happy. The trail dumps out on a gravel road, and I follow it down to an intersection. I don't know which way to go, so try one road that leads to nowhere. I try another road that leads to barking dogs and a scary man that knows nothing about the VT100. By now, an hour has nearly passed, and I decide to retreat back to the T and try doing the course in reverse. I figure I can take the gravel road up to the top of Prospect Hill for some fun. Well, this didn't work too well either as I couldn't figure out which road was right. I ran up a couple hills and eventually onto a trail. It was dark by now and I was getting scared of the creatures in the woods. I figured something was about to jump on my 132 lbs. of weakling and have me for dinner. So, I high-tailed it back to the car. At the car, I wanted to get at least 2:30 on my feet, so tried heading back from 10 Bear to the earlier part of the course. I climbed another big hill and thought, "These hills sure seem a lot bigger than I remember". I headed back to the car with my tail between my legs and a better appreciation for the task ahead.

I was home shortly after midnight. Reflecting on the adventure, I was pleased that I made the effort to re-familiarize with part of the course. It was fun and brought back some memories. I wish I had printed a copy of the course map as it would have helped. My new headlamp works great (Thanks for the tip, Mark!), and I know I need to keep working the hills to get my quads ready. All in all, it was a successful endeavor! Total mileage was probably about 15ish, but it's just a guess. Gotta charge that Forerunner!

Looking forward to being back there in 4 weeks for the adventure of a lifetime! Cheers!