Monday, March 24, 2008

What a week!

Spring is finally here, and I was able to log my biggest mileage week tfor 2008. I pulled in around 73-74 miles on some serious terrain. It was hard work, but also lots of fun.

The most fun was running with two fellow VT100 runners, Mark and Scott, and one of their running buddies, Bruce, on Saturday. We ran the Northern Nipmuck course in about 3:10 or so. Mark headed out for more, but I had to get home. Great guys! I shared some hard earned VT100 knowledge as they'll be running their first 100. It should be fun!

I really wanted to get some serious mileage in on the weekend, so went out for a cool 30 at the reservoir on Sunday. I pushed pretty hard on the first 15 and then met Dawn for the next 7+. I was hoping she would be going easy, but she had other ideas. I was following her and wondering if I could hang with her. She eased up on the hills and on the technical stuff, but let it rip on the flats. You go girl! It was good for me, but I was hurting after 22.5 and cruised the last 8 at a little better than survival pace. It was a beautiful day though, and I was just happy to log a cool 30 after running N. Nipmuck on Saturday. 47 miles for the weekend sounds good to me!

I only logged 3 days during the week, but it was high quality. Tuesday was my hill repeat day and Thursday was speedwork on the treadmill. The hills seemed a little easier, but the time was the same. I was a bit better on the speed workout, but just marginally.

I think I am gaining fitness and endurance, but the speed seems to be an issue. I think I'm in better shape than December, but it's hard to tell at this point. Northern Nipmuck should be a good data point although the only time I ran it was 2002. It should be a good group of runners...even the Legend, Rich Fargo, is reportedly running this year.

I still can't believe it's 2 months to go before Memorial Day weekend (Pinetrails 50) and almost 4 months to Vermont 100. Wow! Can I maintain this level of intense training for 3+ months?

It's been really fun pushing my limits, looking for opportunities to improve in training, diet, etc. It will be interesting to see how this all comes together :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Northern Nipmuck Trail

Well, this past week has been one of my best weeks of training. It seems like winter is finally ending and the trails are accessible again. I took the opportunity on Saturday to check out my old training grounds, the Northern Nipmuck Trail (home to one of the toughest 16 mile trail races around). The course is rolling on single track and very technical. It beats you up! It's also one of the prettiest places to run with beautiful streams, ponds, and forest.

I had not run here since my training for VT100 in 2006. Since I had moved to the Western part of the state, it is a bit of a haul for me to go back. Driving in on Boston Hollow road evoked great memories and I am always in awe of the surrounding nature. It's an unpaved road that gets little traffic and there are no houses for miles. It's probably one of the few places left in CT where you can see untouched natural beauty.

My plan was to run for 5 hours, but I was also curious to how fast I could do the course. I had only raced it once many years ago and did reasonably well (something like 2:30). I'm in much better shape now, so was thinking I might give it a shot this year.

It's always hard for me to hold back on the pace, so I like the technical trails for that reason.
It forces me to slow down. I parked at "2 Pipes" as good friend and Race Director, Jim Campiformio calls it. It's the halfway point of the race, so it's convenient as a re-fueling point. I started on the southern half because I knew it would be less wet this time of year. The course was in much better shape than I expected and the hills were less intimidating than I remember - a good sign. I ran the first 8 miles without seeing another human being in about 1:45 or so. Hmmm, not bad considering I was planning to go long and the footing was a bit sketchy. I maintained a similar pace on the Northern half. This time I came across another runner heading south. He was flying down the hill that I was walking up. I felt old seeing this youg kid bound down the hill. I reminded myself that I was about 10 miles into a long run of at least 24 miles and this guy was about 2 miles into it. He was going downhill and I was going up. OK, no worries. Don't worry about your ego, just concentrate on the plan.

The last 2 miles was covered with about 1/2" of snow which made footing even more tenuous, and the last mile to the turnaround was soaking wet as usual. My feet weighed a ton and I walked most of the way up the big hill from the actual start of the race. It is a monster hill! Once I was back on the ridge, things got easier. I got back to the car in about 3:05 or so as planned. Hmm, not bad at all. I think I could cut that down to 2:30 or less with good conditions. It's not my style of race, but we'll see...

I decided to run the southern section again to see if I could hold the pace and also see if I came across that runner again. I trudged along about the same as the first time except I managed to do a face-plant somewhere along the way. Ouch! I came across the runner about 2.5 - 3 miles into it which meant we were going close to the same pace. His name was Dominick, and he was training for the race. It was his first time on the course and he was surprised with all the ups and downs. Yep! We chatted a bit and then we were off again. I got down to the turnaround and chatted with a couple going for a hike.

On the way back, I realized it was a mistake not to carry any food for this last 8 miles. I started getting fatigued and had to walk more on the uphills. Oh well! The views without the leaves in bloom are amazing. It was clear, and I could see for miles. I wished I had carried the camera.

Back at the car, I realized that I had done each of the 3 sections in about the same time. Great! I ran for about 4:45 or 5 hours with breaks. I toyed with doing more, but I was sore and had enough for one day.

I took a few pictures of the water flowing out of the pond at 2 Pipes, and then the batteries died. Here's one of the shots!

All and all, it was a successful day. I was able to go long (24 miles), stay on my feet for almost 5 hours, test my fitness on the old course, and see nature at it's best!

Weekly Mileage:

Monday: 6.1M Fast 10K route at work
Tuesday: 12M w Matt (1:26) Hilly
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 10.5M Treadmill Intervals
Friday: Weight Training, Abs
Saturday: 24 miles, approx. 5 hours
Sunday: 10 miles, 90 min easy pace
Total: 62.6 miles

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's been a while

Well, I haven't posted in awhile, so thought I'd do a little catching up. Frankly, after 3 weeks of 25+ mile long runs, I was burnt and needed time to recover. After doing 27 miles in about 3:30 last weekend, my body was exhausted and I felt overtrained. I took 3 rest days and felt a bit better. Work kept me from running on those days anyway, but the rest was welcome.

On Thursday and Friday last week, I did 2 easy runs in the 90 minute range in 2 of my old locations. Thursday, I ran a 9.5 mile loop from East Hartford (where I used to work) to Manchester on a paved bike path. It brought back memories of lunchtime runs with my old buddies. I stopped for some water at the community college where I teach a class at night, and bumped into one of my students. Great! She gets to see her Prof with snot hanging out of his nose and drool on his face. Anyway, the run was pleasant enough, but I still did not feel 100%.

On Friday, I had to pick up my daughter, Tara, from UCONN, so took advantage of the opportunity to run a section of the Nipmuck Trail. The Nipmuck is one of the most beautiful trails I've ever run and it's home to a few great trail races: Northern Nipmuck, Nipmuck Marathon, and the Breakneck. The section I ran was in the southern section of trail. I wasn't sure about the trail conditions, but I needed to give it a try. The snow was gone and I needed to get off the asphalt. I parked off Gurleyville Road and headed south on the trail. We used to live about 2 miles from here, but I'm not sure I ever ran this particular section (maybe once perhaps). I decided to try to run to an old climbing crag called 50 footer. After about a 1/2 mile, I came across some ice and a stream crossing. The footing was sketchy, but I managed. Once I got along the Fenton River, the run became very interesting. The water had eroded some of the left bank in spots which made footing tricky. I had to climb over tree branches in spots and go around or through many puddles and icy patches. The scenery was breathtaking. The water was a deep brown from the hemlock tree resin. Running under a canopy of hemlocks is one of the joys that everyone should experience in life.

I skirted around an old bridge crossing and back across the road. The trail was hard to follow near the top of a big hill, so I decided to bushwack for a bit. I knew 50 footer was near and wanted to test my navigation skills. Sure enough, 50 footer was right where I left it. The overhanging cliffs look a little less intimidating, but I know the holds are small and sloping. My friend, Pete, and I used to get pumped out here after a couple pitches. I think Dawn might enjoy a trip here.

I picked up the trail and headed for home. When I got back to the car, I was still short on my intended time, so headed north for a bit. I ran a section of trail that we had hiked once as a family. Today, it was slick with ice and I needed to get in survival mode. Things cleared a bit and I started thinking back. The section I covered in about 10 minutes was a one hour affair with 2 little girls. They must have been less than 5 at the time. It was one of our more pleasant hikes. Who wouldn't enjoy the views here? I got back to the car, changed, and picked up one of those 2 little girls from her dorm room about 1 mile away. She still has that bright, beautiful smile, but now she's a woman. We stopped for dinner on the way home and talked about going to the climbing gym or yoga class together. It was nice to have my daughter least for a little while.