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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Weekly Log: 8.22.16 - 8.28.16

Well the weekly logs have pretty much shit the bed here.  No gumption to write them and they were never the most popular of posts so I don't think people miss them (of course, no post will ever topple the king of hits on this humble site - the famous Banana Rice Balls.  It lords over its closest competitor by a three to one margin).

But I digress.  Bottom line is that I haven't had any drive to write new weekly updates.  But I'll give it a shot this week since I'm on vacation and heading up to New Hampshire for a few days - my favorite place!  I signed up for the "Beast of the East" Kismet Cliff Run at the end of September.  It's a half marathon and climbs up over North Moat Mountain.  I'm not sure how much of it I'll actually be running but I've wanted to try this race for a few years so I'm excited.  I've been trying to get in some elevation where I can and this week should provide some opportunities.

Monday - North Conway, NH - 9 miles

We camped for a few days at the Saco River Campground right in the heart of commerce in North Conway.  Once we decided on this place I knew I'd have to get over to the trails in the hills behind Route 16.  I'd seen enough Strava maps to have a general idea and a little web searching provided me with a map and route to the Quarry that I've heard so much about.  I was out of the tent by 6 AM and after less than a mile on empty roads I reached the trail network.  This place did not disappoint, lots of meandering single and double track, some with serious elevation attached.  I checked out the remnants at the quarry before following the powerlines for a while.  I had hoped to make it to the top of Middle Mountain but the trails were farther away then I thought.  I settled for some climbing on the Cardiac Hill trail before making my way back to the campsite.

Tuesday - Carroll, NH - 8.8 miles

I wanted to drag the girls up Mt Eisenhower but the temperature and winds forecast a 20 degree wind chill and we weren't equipped for that.  Instead I picked Mt Hale which I figured would provide more shelter.  It certainly did but the climbing wore Ezri out.  Nevertheless when we reached the top Amanda suggested that we continue on to Zealand Falls Hut and make a loop out of it.  Ezri was game and we made the slow journey to the hut.  It was downhill but with plenty of rocks, mud and water hazards.  After that the trail back to the parking lot was thankfully very flat and easy.  I had to run the last mile to pick up the car at the Hale parking lot but it was downhill dirt road and I enjoyed opening up on it.  This was Ezri's 2nd 4000 footer and the 5th for Amanda.

Wednesday - 0 miles

Our last day in New Hampshire and I should have gone back to the trails and attempted Middle Mountain.  But I chumped out.  My alarm went off at 5:30 AM and I rolled over and went back to bed.  I'm a lame-ass.

Thursday - Carolina, RI - 7.5 miles

Back in Rhode Island.  This was a fun run exploring the trails off of Route 112 and how they connect to the Carolina Preserve.  Once over in the Preserve I tried to hit up the hills as best I could before heading back to the car.  A hot one out there.

Friday - Charlestown, RI - 6 miles

In an effort to punish myself and feast on more elevation, I ran the roads behind my house.  It was hot and gross at noon and I went up and down the small but relentless hills until I had enough.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Exeter, RI - 14 miles

With a month to go it may be too late to really get in shape for the Beast but I figured I'd better at least get in some longer trail runs to give myself a chance.  I woke up early to get over to Arcadia figuring it has enough hills to give me both distance and elevation.  Starting at that big middle parking lot I went over to Breakheart Pond and did the Breakheart trail which led to Ben Utter trail.  At the end of that I ran the big bitch of a hill up to Escoheag Rd.  Then I backtracked and took dirt roads back to the car.  A good run with 1000' of elevation (which knowing my watch means it was probably closer to 1500') and I wasn't completed wiped at the end which I take to be a good sign.

Weekly Mileage: 45.3 miles
Year to Date: 744.4 miles

As always, it's a good week when I'm in New Hampshire.  According to ol' spacewatch I hit about 5000' of elevation for the week but I'm sure it was actually much higher than that.  I probably won't get that high again before the race but I'd like to hit a few thousand feet for the next couple weeks to help my legs out.  It's tough here in RI unless I seek out specific spots so we'll see.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Run with the Beavers Trail Race 2016

Official Time: 1:19:49  11th overall.  3rd in Age Group.

Run with the Beavers is a 10 mile trail race way up in Nowheresville, RI (Chepachet).  Held in the middle of July, it's a two lap race on technical trails/dirt roads that's fun and challenging.  A good cross section of RI trail runners always show up for it.  This would be my first race since the Ryan Park 10k way back in February.  After that I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my leg which derailed my running.  But now I was feeling healthy and ready to return to racing.  I knew I didn't have the fitness and was prepared to not PR at this race for the first time (and it turned out no one was PRing on this day).

It was a hot one and already in the 80s when I pulled in at 8 AM.  I did a short warm-up and then mingled with the guys.  The race was delayed briefly to allow some late arrivals to register.  RD Bob Jackman had a huge turnout at this race which was good to see.  After his usual talk we were off up the long dirt road.  I tried not to go out too fast but there can be a bottleneck when the course enters the woods so I didn't want to fall too far behind.  I probably should have pushed it more because I wound up behind a few people that I ended up passing over the next quarter mile.

I pushed it a bit to draw near the next group comprised of Leslie O'Dell, a guy in a yellow shirt and Jeff Walker.  The pace wasn't too hard and I wanted to just hold on for as long as I could.  At two miles in there was already no one in sight behind us.  The water stop at 2.5 miles was most appreciated with Beth & Company doing a great job.  I doused myself in water which was temporarily wonderful but soon I was very hot again.  The next long stretch of dirt road a good break from the woods but the group began to put a little distance on me.  Up ahead on the dirt road I could see that Jeff Walker had passed Yellow Shirt.

Leslie, Jeff, Yellow Shirt and then me waaay
back there - Photo by Scott Mason

We returned to the singletrack and the distance between myself and the others was slowly growing.  Then I tripped with my left foot.  My right leg went straight as it hit a rock, jamming it in place and producing intense pain in my knee.  I stopped for a moment and the pain let up allowing me to run again.  But the train of runners was now gone.  Almost immediately the urge to pee became great and with no one around I decided there was no point in holding it for another 7 miles.  After a few moments I was running again, much relieved, but there was someone else gaining on me in the distance.

By the time I reached the bridge and the tricky trail along the brook I was feeling pretty exhausted.  Another full lap sounded terrible.  At the last climb to the start/finish Bob Corsi flew by me looking strong.  But I needn't worry as he was only doing the 5 mile option.  I doused myself in several cups of water in the field and continued on.  Now I was really running alone - no one ahead and no one close behind.

I'm always running scared in the second lap and this was no exception.  I figured everyone else was suffering too so I felt good about my place.  I was tired but tried to focus on the trail and eventually I came to the halfway water stop.  Jeff was there getting ice - looks like the heat took a lot out of him.  I continued on and began to pass a few people still on their first lap.  At the last dirt road section I could see Yellow Shirt up ahead.  Could I catch him?  I slowly gained on him over the next mile but once he reached the final section of descents he was able to find a speed that I couldn't match.

A short section of log bridges were added this year.  A little difficult to
navigate but a welcome addition - Photo by Scott Mason

I finished in just under 1:20 and it's been a while since I've been that happy to be done with a race.  I was 8 minutes slower than last year but the heat/humidity is to blame as much as anything.  In fact, only the winner beat my time from last year.  Afterwards I went to the pond to cool off and swap war stories.  I made a poor decision to attempt to swim which led to my calf seizing up for a good two minutes.  It was painful to touch for days.  The knee pain from jamming my leg stuck around for much of the following week but it was fine when I was running and eventually faded.

So a tough race in the humidity but still a lot of fun.  And I'm back to racing which is the important thing.  After several rebellious years, Jonny returned to WTAC for the team competition and helped us repeat as team winners.  Another year, another Beaver race in the bag.  Hopefully this race marks the beginning of a successful second half of 2016 for me running wise!