Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Li'l Rhody Runaround 2016

Official time: 53:12    10th overall.  2nd in Age Group.  Results here.

Ah, the Li'l Rhody Runaround .  I have a love/hate relationship with this race.  On one hand it's a fun local trail race put on by WTAC, five minutes from my house and every year more and more faces are familiar to me.  On the other hand it hasn't been a great race for me over the years.  The first miles are fast and usually leave me spent for the second half of the race.  The last stretch on road hasn't been my cup of tea either.

Nonetheless I arrived in good spirits for this race.  It was cold as hell with the wind coming off Watchaug Pond but I knew it wouldn't be as bad in the woods.  The warm-up along the dirt road showed a lot of puddles and I hope it wouldn't be too wet in the woods.  I didn't think I could match my 2013 PR of 52:51 but I hoped I would be within a minute of it.

I lined up with the usual suspects and made a real effort not to go out too fast.  I backed off and stayed a few paces behind Jeff Walker.  I was surprised there wasn't a glut of people passing me as they have in years past.  Perhaps the water hazards on the first mile were creating logjams and preventing people from opening up.  The lead female went by me just before the singletrack and I fell in behind her.  By the time we reached the playground the lead group was already a ways ahead of us.

Shoving water in my face - Photo by Paul Gray

As we entered the woods the pace felt just right.  At a curve in the trail I could see several people not far behind us.  I stayed behind the lead female until the wood bridges ended and we made the sharp right at Klondike Road.  The trail became a bit more technical and I noticed a slowdown from her so I motored past and put some distance on everyone.  Jeff Walker was long gone at this point and after a few minutes I could hear footsteps behind me.  At around 3.5 miles Leslie O'Dell went past followed by another fellow in red.  Red Shirt then passed O'Dell and I pushed to keep up with them.

I stayed with them for the next several miles.  One or both would put distance on me but I would close the gap on certain sections.  Their pace was manageable and I began looking at my watch to try to figure how close I'd be to my PR.  I thought I was about a minute slower but it was hard to judge.  The last section of trail is fairly technical and I stuck behind them, though in retrospect I should have pushed harder here.  At the last trail incline I went past the two of them and increased the pace in anticipation for the final road stretch.

Rock hopping with a mile to go - Photo by Scott Mason

Finishing up - what am I looking at? - Photo by WTAC

Normally I'm toast at this point but I was feeling good and was managing a low 6 pace.  I heard footsteps behind me with a 1/4 mile to go but I didn't dare look back.  Mike B was at the final corner and said I had a telephone pole length which didn't sound like much so I pushed towards the finish with everything I had.  I finished in a solid 53:12, only 21 seconds off my course PR from 2013.

I'm very happy with this race.  I usually go out too fast and can't hang on but this time it worked out great and I was able to draft off others for most of the race.  It left me with something for the end.  Had I made my move earlier perhaps I could have bested my 2013 time but I'm not going to quibble about that.  Overall I'm feeling fit and healthy and looking forward to competing in the winter trail series that is right around the corner!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Racing

Yes my blog has been pretty quiet this year.  After the stress fracture back in the early months of 2016, I lost my taste for updating it.  Once I began running again, I found it hard to rekindle the interest.  I've managed to eek out a couple race reports at least but that brings me to the crux of this post - my lack of racing this year.

So far I've mustered only four races this year.  Two races of the winter trail series (which led to my stress fracture), Run with the Beavers and the Kismet Cliff Climb.  Trail races one and all.  Even though I'm healthy I haven't had much of an appetite for racing and certainly not on roads.

I pulled the trigger on the Li'l Rhody Runaround with a week to go.  I honestly wasn't really feeling it but felt like I should get back out there.  This race has always been a pain point for me and indeed I would often choose the Mews 5k over it (as much for the beer and the camaraderie of my non-running friends).  But I'm keeping my non-road streak going and hope to put in a good showing.  To that end, let's look at my previous races on this course:

2012 - 1:04:59
A complete shitshow.  I went into the race with a weak ankle and rolled it a mile in.  The rest of the race was slow decay.  One of my better write-ups though.  Perhaps suffering breeds creativity.

2013 - 52:51
Redemption race after the previous year.  I was nearing the height of my trail powers speed-wise and put up a solid time.

2014 - Sidelined with a knee injury due to the NipMuck / Bimbler double team.  I directed traffic in the parking lot instead.

2015 - 56:40
Trying to run this race the week after the Rhode Island 6 Hour Ultra was a silly thing to do.  After a couple miles my legs revolted and I mailed it in the rest of the way.  Looking back I'm surprised I finished only four minutes behind 2013.

So now I enter 2016 healthy and rested.  I'd love to PR but since I've completely neglected workouts I'm not capable of a 6:36 pace for this race.  But I guess you never know.  I ran most of the course last weekend as a refresher and once the race is underway the usual adrenaline will help carry me along.  My basic plan will be to not go out too fast as always (unlikely) and save something for the second half of the race.  We shall see!

Stay tuned for the race report which will perhaps kick this blog back into high gear.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kismet Cliff Climb - The Beast of the East

Official time: 2:40:14   7th Overall    Results here.

I've had my eye on this race up in North Conway, NH for a few years.  What started as a cruel five mile race over Cathedral and White Horse Ledge eventually expanded and added a 13ish mile course that continued on over North Moat Mountain.  A race that involves as much hiking as running, the longer course was dubbed the Beast of the East.  After a few years of not jiving with my schedule, I was finally able to make it work for 2016.

I drove up the day before and did a bit of redlining on the Boulder Loop Trail off of the Kang.  This three mile loop offered some nice ledge views and confirmed that the conditions were primo - the ground/rocks were very dry and my Speedcross seemed to grip well on them.  I hoped I wasn't doing too much the day before the race but it was good to get out on some hilly trails for a (mostly) hike.

The day of the race was cool to start and it was surprisingly windy down by Echo Lake.  Judging by the registration table this race brought in a small field but most of the runners looked very fit.  After a few remarks from the course director we lined up and were off at 10 AM.  I tried to keep the pace fairly easy and let a bunch of people go by.  The trail around the lake has lots of roots to contend with so I focused on footwork.  The trail began to climb easily and the runners ahead were beginning to pull away.

Don't know if I'm ready but here we go

Beautiful spot to start a race, though chilly with the wind
 Photo by Mike Crutchley

Not for long though as at 1.5 miles there was a sharp turn and suddenly we were all hiking uphill.  The climbing was very steep and we went up 500 feet over 1/2 mile.  The going was tough and I fell in behind a couple other guys.  My quads were burning already - that can't be good.  A tall fellow named Lars came up behind and I let him by.  He was a much faster climber.  Finally the trail eased off and we spilled out onto the Cathedral Ledge autoroad for a few hundred feet of pavement.  Then back into the woods as the trail led us over the rocky ledges and into the parking lot where the first aid station was set up.

I was third in a train of four guys as we hit the first significant downhill section.  Technical stuff and the lead guy in grey took off and I tried to follow suit.  I was faster downhill than the other two but grey guy was well ahead by the time the trail leveled off.  Then another 500 feet of climbing began over 1/2 mile.  Lars quickly caught up with me but was content to stay behind.  A few sections offered a chance to get a run going and I was able to close the gap with grey shirt on these sections.  I took the lead but right before we reached the White Horse summit I missed a sharp turn and led us down the wrong trail for about a minute.  By the time I realized the error and we doubled back someone had gone by and now I was at the back of the train again.  I felt bad about leading them on the detour.

At the top of White Horse was the 2nd (and final) add station.  We were only about three miles in at this point.  I was following behind Lars during this fun downhill section - the other two guys had disappeared up ahead.  When we hit the Red Ridge Trail I got ahead of Lars as he almost went the wrong way (this intersection confused several people as there were flags in both directions as the course returns via the same trail.  A couple people ended up taking a right and running the North Moat loop backwards).  The next mile was moderate technical downhill which favored me.  I was able to reel in grey shirt and as the moderate downhill turned to moderate uphill, I was able to catch the first guy in our train.  At this point I was able to put distance on all of them.  After a dry brook crossing it suddenly became a hike again and looking back I saw I was alone.  For the moment.

Now it was just grueling climbs.  There were a few short 10 second spurts where I could run but otherwise I was pulling myself over rocky outcroppings.  As the trail began to turn to ledges, I could hear the other guys chatting behind me somewhere.  Finally the trail spilled out onto the Red Ridge ledges which offered incredible views and false summit after false summit.  I could see racers and hikers much higher up.  Yellow blazes on the rocks and pink ribbons (thanks to Ryan Welts for marking the night before) showed the way.  Maybe halfway up I glanced back and could see Lars and Grey Shirt perhaps a minute behind me.  I passed some hikers who looked at me like I was crazy (probably true).

An example of the incredible terrain/views of the Red Ridge Trail
Photo by Mike Crutchley

Finally I reentered the woods and came upon the intersection with the Moat Mountain trail.  I was nearly at the top and and hoping I could hit the summit in 1:40.  As I turned to the Moat trail there was a blessed section of downhill following by an easy uphill I made sure to run.   Then a couple tricky scrambles.  After these scrambles I could still hear my pursuers in the woods.  Suddenly I was at the top of North Moat, much sooner than expected at 1:37.  I glanced around trying to savor the view but I had no desire to linger.  Time to descend!

Race reports from previous years made me nervous about these rocky ledges but the conditions were bone dry and perfect.  My Speedcross gripped great and I didn't slip once, though I was moving pretty fast.  I passed a bunch of hikers heading up as I flew down - I may have looked like a madman.  The trail reentered the woods and I tried to keep the effort up on these tricky steep downhills.  I was enjoying this part - most of the miserable uphill was now over and I felt like I had a decent lead over the others.  Once Moat Mountain Trail hit the intersection with Attitash trail the trail because a very moderate and smooth downhill.  I was moving well now and able to get my pace into the low 7s for a few minutes.

A woman was at the Red Ridge intersection to direct us and there was a brook in the way.  I didn't see any immediate crossings so I just splashed right through.  Here the trail was uphill and rocky but I was still able to run it until I reached the intersection with the White Horse Ledge trail and then the last climb began.  I had no gumption for this climb and I was pretty much toast but I didn't see anyone behind me so I kept pulling myself up.

After that shitty climb the rest of the race was fairly technical downhill.  I passed a few hikers and my calves began to threaten to seize but they held it together.  I was beat now but knowing I was almost down helped.  As I approached Echo Lake I saw that I was at 2:36.  I pushed it to try to break 2:40 but I came in about 15 seconds short.  Damn that wrong turn!  Still, I'm not going to complain about this one.  2:40 on this course is damn good.  It is a grinder.

Back at Echo Lake - Photo by William Ulvik

A few steps to go - Photo by William Ulvik

A very laid back event but a generous raffle offered sweet prizes

Afterwards I hung out for a couple hours and chatted with the local mountain goats.  I saw Crutchley finish with a couple people - a fine end for him after DNFing last year to help an injured runner.  I also won a pair of Darn Tough socks in the raffle which was sweet.  Overall this race was everything it purported to be.  Climbing up North Moat (not to mention those goddamn ledges) is just as tough as you'd imagine it to be.  The course was marked appropriately in my opinion but this is definitely a race of self-reliance.  You should be prepared to know where you're going and have the proper hydration on your person.  The hydration race vest I picked up this week worked great and I'm glad I had my hands free as there was a lot of scrambling.  I chowed on S-tabs and three gels throughout the race and they did the trick.

If you're looking for a low-key, super tough mountain race - this is your event!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Weekly Log: 8.29.16 - 9.4.16

Monday - Charlestown, RI - 7 miles

Back to work and dealing with a mountain of shit in the form of emails but at least I'm working from home today.  Another heater but after walking the dog in the AM I ventured out at noon for a trail/road mix.  Started from the Browning Woods parking lot and rolled my ankle pretty bad about a 1/2 mile in.  It felt fine soon after though.  After taking the Heart trail to the sand dunes I kept to the ATV trails until I ran out of real estate and bounced over to Sand Plain Trail.  The dirt road now intersects with the development which is pretty big.  All hail progress I guess.

Tuesday - 0 miles

208 push-ups (standard/military/wide) 30/20/25/25/13/35/30/10/20

My cross training has been all over the place this last month but after many months of completely abandoning it I'm on track.  Been a while since I did a straight push-up session and it was tiring.

The ankle was really sore from rolling it yesterday.  I'm not too concerned but I'll probably stick to roads for a few days to make sure I don't roll it again.

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 8.5 miles

I went over to the East Bay bike path to test out the ankle on a flat surface.  Running was no issue which was good to see.  I threw in a couple climbs but mostly stuck to the bike path.  Good run and I'm glad the ankle wasn't an issue.

Thursday - Providence, RI - 6 miles

180 push-ups (standard/wide/diamond) 20/30/15/30/30/10/25/20

It was pouring rain at lunchtime which was fine by me.  Better that than oppressive heat.  I did an easy six mile jaunt over to the East Side and back.  It smelled like sewage along the coast.  Lovely.

Friday - Exeter, RI - 9 miles

Left the house early with plenty of time to run and I wanted to get a decent hill workout in.  Went over to Cuttyhunk to find the parking lot blocked by giant rocks.  What's up with that?  Parked next to the road and ran the Cuttyhunk trails over to the dirt roads of Fisherville.  I ran back and forth on the two big climbs three times which made for a good amount of elevation.  This wasn't a bad run - it was still fairly cool.  It would have been miserable in the heat.  Happy with the amount of climbing I got in (approx 1200' according to Strava).

Saturday - Charlestown, RI - 2 miles

I took the dog for a stroll on nearby streets.  Does this count for mileage?  You're damn right it does!

Sunday - Exeter, RI - 15.5 miles

As with last week, I returned to Arcadia for my week's long run.  The network of trails is vast and they have some sustained climbs which is what I was looking for.  On this run I made a real effort to opt for trails I've not run before.  Took my time and as a result I didn't get over to the Breakheart Pond until 6 miles in.  Learned of some good trails/double track in the meantime though.  Once on the Breakheart Hill trail I opted for a different trail after crossing over a bridge.  This trail was great - it ran all the way to Austin Farm Road and was a fun mix of pine forest and rocky technical stuff.  After that I took Plains Road for an elevation grab and then took trails back towards the car.  Once again the parking lot was filled with mountain bikers about to head out.  Overall a very positive run and I'm feeling pretty good about the Kismet Cliff Climb.

Weekly Mileage: 48 miles
Year to Date: 792.4 miles