Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year in Review

Another year gone.  Not a great year personally or professionally so I'm ready to usher in a new one and a new decade.  In terms of running, I finished fairly strong with a good second half of the year.  As with last year, my focus this year was general training for mountain adventures.  To that end, I avoided roads as much as I could, didn't worry about pace/distance and focused primarily on elevation gains and long inclines whenever I could.

I had set a goal early in the year of hitting 250k elevation gain for the year.  Midday through it was clear that I wasn't going to reach it so I re calibrated to 200k.  I finished with 210k which I'm happy about.  Mileage wise I ended up with just over 1600 miles which is fine.

Once again racing took a backseat as my appetite for it has waned.  I managed a whopping three races this year - two of which were classic events: the Blessing of the Fleet and L'il Rhody.   The third event was the inaugural Bubba's Backyard Ultra which I'll detail below.

Not going to bother with predictions/resolutions/goals for next year.  I want to get up to the Whites and other assorted mountains as much as I can.  I have some plans in mind but nothing I want to talk about yet.  The one tradition I intend to cling to is to list my Top 5 races/adventures of the year - let's get this done so that I post this blog before the year ends.

5. Blessing of the Fleet
Been a while since I ran this race.  Really been a while since I did any road racing at all.  As such I knew I'd be a shadow of what I was only a few years ago.  I went into this race intent on just having a good time.  With no training to speak of I raced based on feel and was happy to find myself running seven minute miles.  Finished in just under 70 minutes which is certainly no PR but faster than I thought I was capable of.  

4. Wildcat-Carter-Moriah Ridge Traverse
A fun traverse I had never done before.  Finished in around 7.5 hours and was happy with how my body held up.  A fine day in the fall season up in the mountains.  Also I stayed for the first time at the Rattle River Hostel which was a cool place.  They were able to shuttle me down to Pinkham Notch to make this a point-to-point journey.

3.  Two Nights at Zealand Falls Hut in March
A great three night trip with my hiking buddies to tag a bunch of winter peaks.  Always a good time to hang with them at the off-season huts.  Went over Hale on Day 1 and Zealand on Day 2.  Attempted to make it to the Bonds but the conditions were too much and we turned around at Guyot.  On Day 3 I went it alone over Mt. Tom and then down to my car at the Highland Center.  A beautiful time to be up in the Whites towards the end of the official winter season.

2. Bubba's Backyard Ultra
The third race I ran this year was an ultra of the Last Man Standing variety.  A fun event that forces participants to run a 3.5 mile lap every hour on the hour, it's not about going fast as much as it is about enduring beyond everyone else.  After 14 hours and 48 miles I was toast and quit in fifth place.  A really fun event that let's you connect with other runners in a way that you couldn't do with distance or timed events.  I hope to do another one at some point!

1. Pemi Loop
In late June I drove up to Lincoln Woods, woke up bright and early and ran a clockwise Pemi loop.  I added all the extra peaks (Galehead, N. Twin, Guyot and W. Bond) which made for a long, arduous day of 35 miles, 10,000' gain and 16+ hours.  Very trashed legs after this one but I managed to reach 12 of the 4000 footers in one go.  Definitely a wake-up call in terms of the work I needed to do to make these adventures sustainable but a great time as always.

Well that's about it for 2019.  As another year ends and this blog continues to fade into obscurity, who knows if this will be the last blog post ever.  Probably not but one never knows.   I'll try to get some more posts up in 2020.  And I hope everyone has a wonderful new year in 2020!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Bubba's Backyard Ultra: Last Person Standing 2019

5th overall.  14 laps.  47.6 miles

Been a long time since I wrote anything but this was a good race.  And an interesting format.  I thought it would be a good one with which to resurrect the blog, albeit temporarily.

Held up in Conway, NH on a freshly made trail loop this race began at 10 am on Saturday, October 5th.  Runners had an hour to complete the loop.  Every hour on the hour, anyone who finished the previous loop in under an hour could line up again for another one.  The race would continue until only one person remained.  They would then need to complete one final loop by themselves to be crowned the Last Person Standing.

I had heard of this format before and found it fascinating.  I thought it could potentially play to my strengths and knew it would be a laid back affair, since the format allows for downtime in between each lap.  Most runners would find themselves with 5-15 minutes to fill before being able to go back out there.

I drove up the night before after work.  Traffic was misery but luckily I was just sleeping at the race grounds, which were the fields behind the race director's parents' house.  My Santa Fe has room for a twin mattress with the back seats down and it's proved a cozy place to spend the night, though I woke up around 3 AM and sleep poorly after that.  As is normal for me I was truly up at 5 AM.  With a few hours to spare before everyone else arrived, I spent a couple hours cozy in my sleeping bag and then got up and made some breakfast on my hiking stove.

Breaking my fast while I have the grounds to myself

The start which we we cross in both directions

It was a cold morning in the upper 30s but it would warm up to the 50s as the day progressed before dropping back down as night fell.  Soon enough the race director Andrew Drummond showed up, then his fellow race staff and soon enough the other runners.  Only 19 people towed the line at the start of the race but everyone was clearly happy to be there and looking forward to the event.

A giant wooden coin was fashioned for a unique aspect to this event - after the first lap every subsequent one would begin with a coin flip to determine which direction we would go.

Early on between laps - Photo by Leslie O'Dell

Soon enough it was 10 AM and we took off at a leisurely pace on the soft pine trails.  Unlike other races there's little incentive to run fast.  Completing the lap in under an hour proved to be an easy task for most of the runners.  I finished in about 44 minutes.  Far too fast I soon realized as it left me with an overabundance of downtime.  I fared better on the second lap, sticking to the back of the pack and walking much of the course.  After that I walked a great deal of each loop - maybe as much as 50% of my time was walking.  It was an interesting challenge to make sure I was going slow enough but I was often following a chain of people, walking/jogging and chitchatting.

In between laps there was time to get refreshment, food from the aid station, change socks, foam roll, etc.  In the early afternoon they took sandwich orders and had them ready for us on the following lap.  For the first few coin flips we alternated direction but then the fates punished us with four laps counterclockwise in a row.

Beautiful day! - Photo by Andrew Drummond

As the day waned I was still feeling good.  Most of the runners were still in it and they started cooking up burgers for us.  I got away without a headlamp for lap 8 which started at 6 PM.  Wore it but didn't use it for Lap 9.  Then but 8 PM the headlamp was necessary.  They put little lanterns on the course and some of the flags had reflectors which worked great.  At night you could see headlamps off in different directions at various switchbacks.  A bonfire was going at the start and runners, spectators and runners who had become spectators all gathered round it.  Now people were beginning to drop.  Two after lap 9.  Two after lap 10.  And three after lap 11.

As we dropped we were added to the list
Finishing lap 12 was a goal of mine and now I was feeling it.  I busted out the hiking poles and used them for the remainder of the race.  Somewhere around this point I barely made it to the start as I lost track of time when I was changing into warmer gear.  Once lap 12 was done I set my sights on lap 14 since that would take me until midnight.  I took a digger on lap 13 and my right calf seized up something fierce.  I had to take a few minutes to massage it, assuring the few other runners that this was a normal part of my ultra experience.  Eventually I started walking and finally could jog again, still finishing with a few minutes to spare.

There were six of us that started lap 14.  Almost as soon as it began I knew it would be my last lap.  I was mentally ready to quit and my leg was sore from the tumble on the previous lap.  I finished with 10 minutes to spare.  People tried to convince me to go back out but I had already quit in my mind.  The impressive thing was watching another runner Justin finish lap 14 with only a few minutes to spare.  He hugged his dad who had been there to support him all day and was also ready to call it quits.  But when he learned that myself and the last woman were dropping, he opted to go back out for one more lap in order to secure 4th place rather than 6th.  Quickly he got what he needed and was there to toe the line with the other three runners.

After that I ate another burger and hung by the fire for awhile.  I watched the runners come back in, watched three go back out for lap 16 and then I crawled into the Santa Fe and went to bed.

6 AM or so I was awake and stumbled over to the bonfire which was still going.  I was surprised to learn that two runners were still going at it.  A young man who looked like death and and older fellow who was slow, steady and appeared to be able to do this forever.  I cheered them on as they came in from lap 22 and cheered them again as they both went out for lap 23.  Then I packed up my stuff and went home.  In then end they both completed 24 laps and then the older gentleman went back out along to complete lap 25 and become the Last Person Standing.

I really enjoyed this race and the only thing I regret is quitting after 14 laps, though it felt right at the time.  The format definitely gives the race a different feel - being fast is not necessary in this one.  In fact the guy who won was often one of the last to finish each lap.  There was a great vibe since everyone keeps starting the laps together.  Most of the runners had planned to camp there on Saturday night so there was still a fun atmosphere come Sunday morning.  One thing I will note is that the downtime between laps didn't really help.  If you look at this race compared to my Kilkenny 50 miler last year, the distance and time are very similar except that Kilkenny had a lot more elevation.  I thought that I'd have no problem going much farther since the elevation was so much less (maybe 4k vs Kilkenny's 15k).  But this race still wore me out even though I wasn't running much of the time.  I think your body is still on the race clock even if you're hanging out between laps.

I'm pleased I did this race and I'm eyeing some similar events in 2020.  I think this race can be great fun for runners of all levels because you can do as much as you're comfortable with and then you can just relax afterwards.  I recommend you all give one of these a shot!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Live Hip Bobsha on the Tubes

My running and general fitness has shit the bed lately.  I'm working on rectifying that but in the meantime let's talk about some music!

My band Hip Bobsha has started broadcasting practices on Twitch. If you're interested in watching our shenanigans then please consider "Following" us on Twitch. Yeah, you'll need to make an account but it's fairly painless and you'll be doing us a huge favor. The more people that follow us, the more cool stuff we can do (broadcast at higher resolution, etc.) It also allows us to get some decent quality performances that we can post on Youtube. Check us out won't you?

And here's one of our tracks from a recent practice - "Empire Blues"

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Zealand Falls Hut - March 2019

This has been planned for a while with the Manchild and his friends and it was exciting for it to finally come to fruition.  We hiked up to Zealand Falls Hut on a bluebird day, taking the longer route that led over Mt. Hale.  

The infamous Manchild actually had to head up on his own as he had religious duties related to his son to deal with earlier in the day.  He actually skied up to the Hut and made good time, too.  

Day 2 was a hike in wintery conditions to Mt. Zealand.  Afterwards we split up as Rob & Derek went back to the hut and Peter, Duncan and myself pressed on.  We had originally hoped to the Bonds but the snow was so high that we spent a lot of time battling the spruce branches that would normally be over our heads.  The landscape on Guyot was bare, unforgiving, awesome.  But non of us wanted to venture back into spruce misery to get to the Bonds so we called it a day.

Getting back to the hut by early afternoon was reward in and of itself as we enjoyed comradery and played board games.

On Day 3 we packed up and headed out.  All the other guys went out via Ethan Pond.  I went solo up to the Tom-Field-Willey ridge.  I had wanted to do the entire ridge but it took longer than I anticipated to get up there.  Once I did, the recent snow had masked the old trail up to Field and I had to turn back, defeated.  I made it to the top of Mt. Tom at least.  But my car at the Highland Center was half-buried in plowed snow so serves me right for parking there.

Despite the peaks that were denied, this trip was excellent!  Hard to beat a wintery trip to the Whites with good people. Here's the video: