Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Another year just about done.  And that means it's time for another year end recap!  Looking back at last year's post, I laid out several goals for 2014:

  • Run another road marathon - nope, that did not happen.  I never really found the desire to run 26.2 miles on the road.  
  • Run another 50k - yes, indeed.  In fact I ran two.
  • Run 2000 miles for the year - nope.  I petered out around 1,700.

The year started with another great South County 4th Season trail series and I was happy to be able to participate in all five races.  They were a fun mix of old-school efforts and memorable snow-trudging events.  It culminated with the Big River Half where I ran very well.  I had a steady increase in mileage through the spring as I focused on the Pinelands 50k over Memorial Day weekend.  During the summer I mostly ran what I liked while taking part in a few choice races.  Then I upped the mileage again as I prepared for a big 1-2 punch - the NipMuck Marathon and Bimbler's 50k.

A big change for me this year was a new job in East Providence that began in April.  I left Smithfield, RI and morning access to some great trail networks and became acclimated to mid-day city running.  My mileage went up because I could run during lunch but the variety went way down.  I've found a few trails in nearby Seekonk but they pale in comparison to Wolf Hill or the dirt bike trails behind Fidelity.  Otherwise I'm sticking to city streets, trying to keep things fresh with as many locations as possible.  Also I spend a goodly amount of time on bike paths now.

I didn't keep up with the P90X videos as I had over the last two years.  Instead, I adopted a basic push-up/pull-up regimen that I sprinkle throughout my mornings.  It allowed me to fit in some upper body work while doing morning chores.  I don't know if/when I'll return to P90X - it'll be tough to fit into my new morning schedule and at any rate I think the basic push-up/pull-up regimen is doing the job.

Faithful readers know that I paid a heavy price for NipMuck and Bimbler's.  I pushed through both races with knee pain that had cropped up and ever since I've been battling aches and pains in right knee.  It's on and off and while I can run with the discomfort it's curtailing my enthusiasm for running and skeeving me out from attempting anything longer than 12 miles.  Couple that with a pinched nerve that's radiating down the right side of my body and I've been in a fitness funk lately.  I'm finding that no upper body stuff and scattered shorter runs without purpose makes me feel like I'm loosing fitness left and right.  Pretty funny idea considering that a few years ago I had no fitness and just played video games but there you have it.

Mileage was on pace for 2000 until Janky Knee made itself known

I'm sort of stumbling across the 2014 finish line and harshing the mellow of this review with all the injury talk.  Let's move on to the highlights of 2014 which is always my favorite part of this to write.

Not a race but definitely a fun run/hike up in the White Mountains.  After jealously reading of Adam Wilcox's many solo adventures, it was great to take one of my own while on family vacation.  18 miles of mountain trails definitely gave me all I could handle but the views were spectacular and it was satisfying to cover so much ground in 6.5 hours.

This should probably be higher on the list, considering I took almost a minute off last year's time.  Call it the effect of diminishing returns, I suppose.  It was my third year and was tough going in the second half battling the janky knee.  Still I made up enough time in the first half to account for the decrease on the second leg.  It was a hard race but satisfying in retrospect.  A great showing by Muddy and Jonny as well.

Running 31 miles isn't easy and when the course is actually more like 33 and your knee begins to really hurt at mile 13 it makes for a long day.  This race, which I sort of chose by default, became a really challenge and just finishing as well as I did is quite remarkable, I think.  I ran most of the race by myself in some form of discomfort but I held it together and finished 9th.

I'm very pleased with how I paced myself in this long trail race.  I stayed with the Mighty Gazelle and another runner for much of the race before putting distance on them over the last mile.  A tough battle on what's becoming my favorite Rhode Island course (it's a nice epilogue that the following day I did very well at the Jamestown Bridge 10k.)

Everything came together for what I easily consider to be my best race of 2014.  After death marching the last 12 miles of my first 50k last year, I wanted to make sure that I was better prepared for the distance.  With another year of mileage on my body and a more focused spring ramp-up, it all came together up in Maine.  There were some challenging miles but I didn't fall apart and the course format was a tremendous help.  My second 50k and the first one I raced, not just survived.

So concludes another year.  Thanks to my wife and family for giving me the time to pursue my crazy goals (Amanda was no slouch this year either, among other things completing the 1.7 mile Save the Bay Swim!)  It was another fun year running with the WTAC guys - it was inspiring watching them rack up some impressive performances, especially Masters dominator Mike Galoob.  Thanks to everyone for reading my blog and I hope to catch up with you on the trails in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Weekly Log: 12.22.14 - 12.28.14

Overall I'm feeling much less Doom & Gloom after yesterday's race. My fitness hadn't dropped off nearly as much as I feared and I'm more optimistic about my recovery from this knee injury. I hope to build off that positive experience and have a good week with some decent if short runs.

Monday - 0 miles

I want to run more even if the knee is achey but not the day after Old Mountain. My legs are sore. I guess a hard trail effort after a break will really tax my quads. They're beat up. The knee hurts too of course but nothing major.

Tuesday - Seekonk, MA - 3.5 miles

Last day of work until January 5th! Unlike the last job where time off around the holidays was a pain in the ass to obtain, here the office just closes shop for a few weeks. A major improvement! It was drizzly but not cold so I went over to Caratunk Preserve for one more short run before the break. No one else out there and the trails were in good shape now that the fall leaves had settled/scattered. Knee ached the whole time but it was maneagable.

Wednesday - 0

Christmas Eve and much to do! No time for a run.

Thursday - 0 miles

Merry Christmas! It seems that all my running chums get out there for short Christmas runs in mid-morning. Never really been my thing - I prefer to stay in PJs for as long as possible and shove cookies in my mouth.  At any rate Amanda and I had to make the house ready for both of our families.

Friday - Charlestown, RI - 4.6 miles

I took Oliver out for a noonday run. Driving to the town hall in the morning, I passed Richards Trail on Route 2. It's been awhile since I had been there and I was curious as to if they had expanded the brief trail. They had. They've added a second longer section. Additionally, the trail intersects an unmarked trail heading into Indian territory. We explored it for about a 1/4 mile before returning. I have a feeling it would have eventually led to the Indian church.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Stonington, CT - 11.7 miles

Jeff sent out an email about a run at Barn Island.  I generally don't make the arduous journey to these group runs in Connecticut but this one worked out.  Garvin arrived at my house and we drove over together.  I met Chris in the driveway to avoid exciting the dog but I learned afterwards that Oliver had gone apeshit anyway and woke up my wife.  Sorry honey.

Met up with Jeff, his speedster son Matthew and Mike B as the sun was coming up.  I've never been on these trails and I was surprised at the amount of land and variety of trails.  Plenty of singletrack but also enjoyable doubletrack along the marshes.  The miles went by fast with plenty of conversation and while the knee ached a bit it wasn't that troublesome.  Overall a fun run and I'm glad I finally got to check these trails out.  Thanks to Jeff for showing us around.  Only about 12 miles but I'm calling it a long run because that's where I'm at these days.

Weekly Mileage: 19.8 miles

Year to Date: 1,717.2 miles

A couple good runs this week - looking forward to finishing the year strong.  I've been battling a pinched nerve in my back which has kind of radiated down my right arm.  It's improving so hopefully I can add some upper body stuff into the mix next week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old Mountain 5k Trail Race 2014

Official time: 20:45.  14th overall.  8th in Age Group.  Results here.

Another winter is upon us and with it comes the annual South County 4th Season Trail Series.  This has become of fixture of running here in South County, with races that start at the 5k distance before reaching 1/2 marathon length by the end.  In addition to plenty of individual rivalries, the team competition would hopefully make a big return.  TNT easily took the honors in 2013 and WTAC returned the favor in 2014.  What would 2015 bring?

I went into this race pretty ambivalent.  My janky knee had limited my running considerably and recent back pain had added my woes.  The trails were clear and the temp was in the upper 30s so I knew that besting last year's time in the snow and frigid temps would be no problem.  But would I better my 21:23 from 2012?

I did a brief solo warm-up on the last section of the course in reverse.  Knee felt a little twitchy but otherwise fine.  Made my way back to the start and everyone lined up (over 170 runners this year - a great turnout!)  As usual this race starts with a mad exodus towards the singletrack.  We're all running way too fast, afraid of finding ourselves behind a train of runners in the woods.  I skirted past a kid just after entering the trail and then my position was set for a bit.  I found myself behind Jeff the Gazelle who was behind David Principe.  There were people close behind but once we crossed the bridges and ventured into the muddy section those folks fell back.

This muddy portion had plenty of opportunities for spills and the jumping on the slippery rocks was dicey.  As we left the mud, Principe and Jeff passed a guy in blue and I found myself behind him for a while.  P & J pulled away from us and as we cut across the powerlines I pushed past the blue guy too.  I was breathing hard at this point and wondering when I was going to run out of steam but there was a good gap between us and those behind so I felt pretty good about holding off anyone else.

On the climb up to the cliffs, P & J passed a dude in grey and I caught up to him near the top.  After a few turns he got twisted up and I took the opportunity to pass.  Jeff was long gone but I was hoping that I could hold off grey dude and blue guy.  Now came the awful switchback section - it's hard to run fast here and the turns come fast and furious.  I saw that grey dude was right behind me and now there was an orange guy gaining on us.

After running alongside the parking lot, we ventured up into the woods for one last trail section.  Orange guy passed me here - it was Chris Fox who's something of an adversary of mine.  He passed me with a 1/2 mile to go at Li'l Rhody a few years back.  It seems to be his M.O.  Fox put distance on me quickly and as we hit the field he was already far ahead.  As I made the last turn past the ballfield I looked back and saw I had a decent lead over grey dude.  I crossed the finish line pretty exhausted from the whole thing.

Overall I'm very pleased with this race.  It's a tough one and you have to work really hard on the twisty trails to maintain your pace and position.  The knee wasn't an issue and I didn't feel like I lost as much speed as I did last month at the Mew's.  I suppose you could say that with my recent break from running I did a super-taper for this race.  I didn't stick around as I had to get back to preparations for our winter solstice party but I learned afterwards that WTAC picked up the win.  A good way to start the series!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekly Log: 12.15.14 - 12.21.14

This will be a pretty insignificant blog post (and probably ultimately unnecessary).  I don't plan to do much in the way of running this week.  Hopefully I'll be able to run the Old Mountain 5k on Sunday.  But otherwise I may not run at all.

Monday- 0 miles

Tuesday - 0 miles

I got up intent on getting in a solid P90X workout.  Threw on Chest & Back thinking a good 40 minutes of push/pull-ups would be just the thing.  Well on my first set of pull-ups I felt a neck twinge and abandoned the effort.  By the afternoon it really hurt and my neck rotation was limited.  So much for hitting up the P90X this week.

Wednesday - 0 miles

Pajama day at work.  Boss brought in donuts and I ate three four.  I have no shame anymore.  My fitness days may be over.  The age of Donut Seth may well have begun.  Went down to the WTAC Holiday Party at the Pizza Place in the evening.  Surprised how many folks were there - WTAC is a strong club!

Thursday - 0 miles

My neck twinge still hasn't gone away.  Briefly considered a run at lunch and then laughed at my funny thought.

Friday - 0 miles

Sweet biscuits, my back actual feels even worse today.  The neck pain seems to have moved to my shoulder and now radiates down my right arm.   This is wonderful.

Speaking of biscuits, I could really go for some.  Had our holiday party at work with lots of delicious treats.  This Sunday we're hosting a party which will feature more delicious things.  I WILL EAT THE WORLD AND I DON'T CARE.

Saturday - 0 miles

Yep, back is still all janked up.  Spent the day getting the house ready for our party.  Luckily running doesn't affect janky back much.  I have no goals/preconceptions for tomorrow's race.

Sunday - Old Mountain 5k - 7.8 miles

20:45.  14th overall.  Report forthcoming.

After a great race at OMF I returned to the homestead to prepare for our winter solstice party.  The dog still needed to get walked so we did a quick loop through the woods over to the Narragansett trail before returning on Old Coach Road.  Completely lost the trail early on in the woods and had to bushwack through a maze of Russian Olives before we found it again.  Knee was finally beginning to feel achy by the end.  Had a fun party and was glad a bunch of WTACers could make it.  Props to the Gazelle for scaling my hill in his hunt for fuel for the winter solstice fire.

Weekly Mileage: 7.8 miles
Year to Date: 1,697.4 miles

So only one day of running this week but it was a good one.  I'm feeling much better about things after the race and follow-up dog jog.  Onward and upward!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Log: 12.8.14 - 12.14.14

Monday - Westerly, RI - 11.4 miles

225 push-ups (standard/military/wide/decline) 30/25/35/25/30/20/30/30

The office was closed due to much of the staff returning from Miami the day before.  With the day off, I had originally envisioned a long Arcadia run but the morning began to get away from me and I had shopping scheduled in Westerly for the afternoon.  I had considered Woody Hill but I opted for the Grills Preserve which I'm more familiar with.  Good thing too, as my entire run was accompanied by the sound of gunfire coming from Woody Hill.

It was a little chilly but I warmed up quickly.  I followed the trails along the perimeter of Westerly Grills, before crossing the magical silvery bridge and taking on the technical trail.  I was around five miles at this point and the ol' janky knee was beginning to ache as usual but I bore on and it never got worse.  The miles ticked away and I was pleased to get over ten.  It was nice to finally be out in the woods and get in a decent trail run.  Felt good!

Tuesday - 0 miles

Fuck this knee.  After yesterday's Grills adventure I can barely walk down the stairs today.  You'd think I just ran a 50k.

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 5 miles

Gah, I've got some kind of painful twinge at the base of my neck.  I don't think it's from the push-ups as I had some DOMS yesterday but otherwise felt fine.  Hopefully it'll disappear in a day.  Tomorrow I have an appointment with the sports medicine doc in the office below mine.  Knee is still sore from Grills but I figure I should give it some work today so that it's easy to identify the sore spots tomorrow.  I felt alright during the run - the run itself was unremarkable but the Ten Mile River was impressively high thanks to the recent rains.  I can only imagine was a disaster this area was during the March 2010 floods.

Thursday - 0 miles

Neck still hurts.  Went to the doc who said that according to my X-rays my janky knee looks great.  He thought it's probably just a minor thing brought on by overuse.  He recommended keeping the mileage low and very gradually raising based on how the knee's feeling.  I almost wish he had found something definitive on the X-ray as "staying the course" hasn't done me much good so far.  Guess I'll just keep the mileage very low for a while and see if that helps.

Friday - 0 miles

No running today and now I can't even do upper body stuff because my goddamn neck still hurts.

Saturday - 0 miles

I hate bailing on a group run so close to my house but I'm going to rest my knee considerable for awhile.  On the plus side I did make another 2.5 gallon batch of 15 Minute Pale Ale this morning.  I got the entire prep/brew/clean-up process down to 90 minutes which is not too shabby!  At night I was sitting on the couch and I stretched my other leg too far - my calf seizes up something terrible.  I haven't had one that bad in a while and it took a while before it loosened up.

Sunday - 0 miles

Now not only does my right knee ache but my left calf is extremely sore from last night's seizing.  Had quite a limp first thing in the morning.  It improved over the course of the day but it was still tender to the touch by the evening.  I took Oliver over to Carter Preserve for a dog walk - he's such a spazz when we walk in the woods.  He nearly strangles himself on the leash he's so excited.  It works much better when we run but there would be no running today.

Oliver is either yawning, barking or choking.  Take your pick.

Weekly Mileage: 16.4 miles
Year to Date: 1,683.6 miles

This week started off with a great run and went to shit from there.  Looks like I'm going to have to dial back the running even further in the hopes of besting this janky knee.  I still hope to run the Old Mountain 5k next weekend though I'm not in racing shape.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Adventures in Homebrewing - Fall 2014

Time for another recap of my most recent concoctions. 

Deadringer IPA - 4.9% ABV

I've done this recipe several times as a 1 gallon batch but something went amiss when I attempted it at 2.5 gallons.  I think I added too much water because the ABV was about one percent too low.  That didn't phase me as it would still be a tasty brew.  However after a few weeks in the carboy I detected a distinctive cidery smell from the airlock.  That couldn't be good.  When I finally bottled it I found that the cidery taste was very evident as well.  I was pretty bummed and I'm thinking the cause was simply fermenting too high?  In retrospect my temp control method was jank and the temp hovered around 68% for the most part.  It also took a long time to carb up but thankfully the cider taste/smell has somewhat abated with time.  Certainly not a great Bell's Two-Hearted clone but drinkable.

Not-Quite-Imperial Stout - 7% ABV

Made on the stove at the same time as the Deadringer, this 1 gallon batch was a disaster from the get-go.  It was a last minute decision to attempt it when I realized I had all the ingredients on hand to give it a try.  First of all I used my old canning pot to bring the wort to a boil, but it's waaaaaay to wide for a 1 gallon batch and the evaporation rate was crazy high.  I didn't occur to me until nearly the end of the brew session that I barely had any wort left.  Then my attempt to use a paint strainer bag as I poured the wort into the fermenter just resulted in a big sticky mess.  Finally the messy transfer was done and I was greeted to a much lower than expected ABV.  7% isn't that low but it's definitely not in Imperial Stout territory.

Three weeks later and my plan was to transfer it to secondary and leave it for a while.  I was worried about duplicating my barleywine secondary fiasco but luckily I picked the right wine jug and filled up a 3 liter bottle just so.  There was also enough to sample but sweet Christ it was sweet!  And...weird.  It just tasted strange.  So I dumped 3 ounces of Jim Beam into it and now I'm going to leave it be for many months.  Let's see what time makes of this ugly beast!

Saison - 5% ABV

This was my third all-grain brew-in-a-bag batch and my first outdoor attempt.  I don't have a lot of experience with saisons so I can't so with any certainty how on the mark it is but I fermented it warm in the style and it certainly has a yeasty flavor and a slight tartness.  Overall I'm happy with it and looking forward to another attempt in 2015.

I made sure to dump the yeast in the glass to give it a
traditional cloudy appearance

Ye Olde E.S.B. - 4.5% ABV

This was a 2.5 gallon extract batch using Northern Brewer's basic E.S.B. recipe.  Starting Gravity was a bit low but the beer came out really good.  A malty, easy drinking brew.  This was also the first beer to go into my kegging system.  I'll definitely make another one at some point but I'd like to experiment next time and make it my own.

Last glass of E.S.B. that kicked the keg

Runner's High Double IPA - 8% ABV

My first attempt an original recipe, I previously made this Imperial IPA last December.  That batch was decent enough but I felt it missed the mark in several ways.  It was maltier than I would have liked and the color was darker than I wanted.  That was due to using extract - you can only get it so light.

For round two, I went all-grain and changed the hop bill considerably.  I kept the Cascade, but dismissed the Chinook, Centennial and Falconer's Flight in favor of Summit for bittering and Amarillo for late additions.  The change was noticeable and the new version has distinct fruity notes that were absent before.  The color is also much improved.  The picture below doesn't do it justice - it's very close to the straw color I wanted.  While the first attempt was too malty, I'll admit that this one veers a little too far on the sweet side.  But hey there's always room for improvement!

This was my second kegged beer and I love having a double IPA on tap, dangerous though it can be.  It's just about gone and I'm going to avoid drinking anymore so that we have some left for a winter solstice party we're hosting in a few weeks.

So good

SS Fermenting Bucket

I would be remiss if I didn't mention this awesome stainless steel brew bucket I won on the great They have tons of stellar contests and I couldn't believe it when I won one of them.  Made by SS Brewtech, this thing holds up to 7 gallons and has a conical base to compact the trub.  I'll be able to drain the beer directly into the keg using the spigot at the bottom.  And it has a thermometer to let me know the exact temperature of the fermenting beer.

I will admit that my first attempt at using it didn't work out so well.  There was a slight leak from the spigot and I had to ultimately move the wort to a plastic bucket.  I think I've since got the leak issue fixed so I'll be trying this thing out again soon.  I'll post a more indepth report at that time.


On Deck

I just kegged a vanilla stout but I'll save that for the next AIHB post.  I plan on making another 2.5 gallon batch of 15 Minute Pale Ale to replace the Runner's High once it runs out.  I'd also like to make about 3 gallons of bourbon barrel porter which I'd plan on aging for a while in secondary.   After that I have an eye on another all-grain double IPA recipe that was featured on

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly Log: 12.1.14 - 12.7.14

Time to head off to Miami!  I fly to Florida on Tuesday for my company's annual meeting.  I stay through Friday.  I should be kept very busy during the event but I'm hopeful that I can sneak out for a couple early morning runs.  There's a three mile jogging path that lines the perimeter of the resort which holds a ridiculous amount of Strava segments that go every which way.  Looking at the best times, they would be ripe for the pickin' if I was at 100% (most call for a average speed of just under 6 min/mile.)  However as faithful readers know, I am definitely not 100% thanks to my janky knee.  So we'll see how it goes.

Truthfully I'm starting to really get bummed out by this janky knee.  I had thought that rest and low mileage would have allowed it to heal up.  But it's not any better and has become the worst injury of my running life.  It's frustrating and I was really looking forward to Miami runs which will unfortunately have to be tapered.

Monday - 0 miles

19 pull-ups (standard/chin-up) 6/5/5

Beautiful day in Rhode Island and I had planned to run at lunch.  But I decided to scrap it and rest up so that I can make the most of my attempts in Florida. A pathetic excuse by there you have it.  Oh and I aborted my morning pull-ups when I felt that familiar strain in my elbow.  I'm falling apart.

Tuesday - 0 miles

Woke up at 3:45 for my early drive to the airport.  Spent the day traveling and organizing stuff for the meeting.  78 degrees in Florida - I could get use to that.  And the resort is top notch - my room has a veranda and everything.

Beautiful Course

Pool was open 24/7.  I got in there once.

Despite trees and lights it just doesn't feel like Christmas
in the sub-tropics

Wednesday - Aventura, FL - 3.1 miles

I had to be downstairs to prep for the first day of the conference at 6 AM so I woke up at 4:45 in order to check out the jogging path which circles the resort.  75 degrees and humid out there but a welcome change from northern weather.  The path is well lit but it curves so slowly that I thought I had veered off it and missed a turn.  I decided to turn around at 1.5 miles so as not to be late.  It was only afterwards that I realized that I had never left the path - I was half way around when I turned back.  What a maroon.

Thursday - Aventura, FL - 3.7 miles

I woke up again at 4:45, this time determined to run the full loop.  I went in the opposite direction, exploring a side street as well.  The thing about this town - every "neighborhood" street is gated, which severely hampers exploration.  There's also canals and ponds everywhere.  Still, the warm temp was lovely and this time I was able to complete the whole loop.  Somehow I managed to not hit a single segment on either of these runs.

Wednesday and Thursday were very busy at the convention and we worked from 6 AM to about 7 PM on both days.  We all took turns taking breaks but they were still very long days.  At night we'd go out for food and drinks.  Fun times but it was rough getting up even earlier to fit in these short runs.

A man could get use to this

Friday - Aventura, FL - 10.3 miles

Last day in Florida.  I worked the conference until noon and then I had some time to kill before my flight home.  I wanted to get to the beach at least once on this trip - despite being one mile from the beach it's not easy to get to.  The highway next door is not open to foot traffic and between all the gated communities and water hazards it took five miles to get there.

I ran through a ritzy casino/outdoor mall place and then along a busy road until I finally reached the water.  The beach was narrow due to high tide and recent rains had washed up tons of seaweed and jellyfish.  I ran along it a short ways before turning around and retracing my path.  The midday sun/heat took its toll on the return trip and I took a couple brief rests along the way.  Placed second or third in a couple Strava segments - would've pushed harder had I known they were there.

Back at the hotel, I had already had to check out of my room but I made use of their gym locker room which was as fancy as everything else in this place.

A dozen huge ducks hung out along the jogging path

Along the way: massive statues depicting the age old battle
between pegasus and dragon

Saturday - 0 miles

Back in Rhode Island where it was cold and rainy.  Knee was achy after yesterday's run - my longest since Bimbler's.  Figured I'd take it easy and run tomorrow.

Sunday - 0 miles

Run didn't happen.  I always think I'll fit it in later in the day but of course that never happens.  Need to get it in early before life gets in the way.

Weekly Mileage: 17.2 miles

Year to Date: 1667.2 miles

Monday, December 1, 2014

Weekly Log: 11.24.-14 - 11.30.14

The last week of November?  How did that happen?  With a four day weekend on the horizon I hope to maybe get a decent longish run but we'll see.  Will my endurance be as shaky as my speed?

Monday - 0 miles

My knee was pretty sore from the Mews race yesterday so I decided it was best to just rest it.

Tuesday - Charlestown, RI - 4.8 miles

P90X Chest & Back (25 minutes)

I started off the day with good ol' Chest & Back, figuring the warm-up/stretching routine at the beginning would help since I had tweaked my elbow doing pull-ups a few weeks back.  I was only a few sets in when I felt a twinge in my back doing pull-ups.  Great.  I cut it short and within a few hours it hurt to turn my neck.  This kind of twinge usually abates within a few days and then I'm good to resume but it's frustrating nonetheless (especially on my commute when I need to turn my head to merge.)

I left work early for my yearly physical (hearty as an ox) and then went over to Charlestown beach for a short run before dark.  I battled the wind down to the breachway and then took the dirt road back to the car for my gloves.  Then I followed the beach down to Green Hill.  The waves were huge and with the wind at my back the going was easy.  The return trip - not so much.  But the sky was salmon and pink as the sun set and I found myself smiling as I pushed into the wind.

Wednesday - 0 miles

Nasty noreaster outside - luckily it was mostly rain for my work/home though there was some sleet coming down up in East Providence.  At any rate, between the nasty conditions and the boss letting us go home early to enjoy the four day weekend, there was no running today.

Thursday - Charlestown, RI - 5 miles

I took the dog out on a Turkey Day trail loop.  We parked at Browning Woods, ran the trail clockwise to the Heart trail and took that over to Sand Trail Road.  We explored the trails along the sand pits briefly - I've said it before but it's a shame that everyone uses this like a dump.  There is no hope for people.  Then we followed the dirt road back to Gravelly Hill Rd.  A nice five mile loop.  We encountered two people with dogs on the run and amazingly Oliver did not have a barking freak-out with either one.  I'm going to chalk it up to his being exhausted as he doesn't normally run this far.

Friday - Charlestown, RI - 8 miles

I met up with Jonny, Muddy and Jeff for an early morning Black Friday beach run.  We started at the Breachway Grille parking lot and ran down to the Breachway.  From there we took the beach down to Green Hill.  Pace was good but the knee began to ache as we approached Green Hill.  I opted to bail at this point to give the knee a break.  Plus Amanda was waiting for me at home to take Em to get her driver's permit.  I took the roads back to the car, making a brief detour for the tiny trail loop in Green Hill park.  Turns out the rest of the guys only went a little bit farther and made it a 10 mile loop.  Guess I could have stuck with them after all.  But the knee was plenty sore later in the day so it's probably best I quit when I did.  This was my longest run since Bimbler's.

Saturday - 0 miles

Knee is definitely sore from yesterday's run.

Sunday - 0 miles

190 push-ups (standard/wide/military) 30/40/25/25/40/30

Shame to waste a gorgeous final November day but I wasn't getting up early to run and in the afternoon Amanda and I grinded out several hours of necessary yard work.  The raking was enough to irritate my knee.

Weekly Mileage: 17.8 miles
Year to Date: 1,650 miles

A couple good runs this week but it's clear that my knee just isn't getting better.  I suppose a long rest is needed to make this right.  I have an appointment with a sports medicine doc in a couple weeks but until then I guess I'll just play it by ear and listen to my body.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mews Tavern "Gear and Beer" 6.9k 2014

Official time: 26:10.  13th overall.  2nd in Age Group.  Results here.

This is a favorite local race of mine - my recreational runner friends attend, there's a crazy amount of beer included with your registration and it has a great atmosphere.  In years past it's been a standard 5k but this year apparently they had issues with the town and had to change the course.  Unlike last year's frigid conditions, the temp was in the 50s and conditions couldn't have been better.  But I was nervous going into this race - I had been battling my janky knee and had done nothing speedwise in months.  I knew I wouldn't be in top form but was hopeful that I could still keep the pace under 6 minutes/mile.

Pre-race photo with Crutchley - Photo by Easter Seals

There were fewer runners this year - the effects of last year's cold day and the longer distance perhaps.  There wasn't a huge group towing the line and when the gun went off Pelletier and the Colonel sped off ahead, leaving everyone in their wake.  The race starts up a hill which sucks and by the time it leveled off I found myself around 16th place.  A quick glance at the watch confirmed what I felt - my pace was around 6:15.  Slow compared to what I know I'd be capable at full health, but I was surprised how far up in the field I was.  Last year I finished 25th - it was looking like a lot of fast people sat this one out.

Photo by Easter Seals

Instead of heading down towards the Peacedale rotary, the new course heads up towards South Road, veering onto neighborhood streets along the way.  I traded places with a couple folks on these roads - I thought I was moving well on the slight hills but I was bummed that I couldn't muster anymore speed.  Luckily the janky knee didn't ache or give me any grief.

The long stretch on South Road was a bit of a slog and I was beginning to fatigue.  A couple guys I were hanging with began to put distance on me and I could hear the patter of someone else gaining on me.  I was passed as we moved onto side streets and back towards the Mews.  Some guy up ahead began slowing down.  He looked to be having bad cramps before he stopped and hurled on the side of the road.  Well at least I picked up one place, I thought.  But he caught back up to me within a quarter mile and sped off.

They put a clock at the 5k point and I was dismayed to see it read 19:03 as I passed.  Ugh.  Unlike the monster hill from the old course, the last half mile of this route is downhill.  I was able to push it briefly on the steepest section but there wasn't anyone threatening behind me and while I slowly gained on some guy I knew I wasn't going to catch him.  I crossed the finished not exactly thrilled with my race but happy to be done.

Crossing the finish - Photo by Easter Seals

News Team Assemble!

Post-race libations

My mood improved once the beer began flowing and the camaraderie began.  Amanda ran as well, intent on just enjoying herself as she hasn't been running much lately.  A couple other buddies rounded out the Channel 4 New Team and we finished a respectable 14 out of 50 in the Family/Friends team category.  I was surprised to see that I finished 2nd in my age group!  Psyched to get an award - it turned out to be a $10 Denali gift card though I was hoping for a Mews gift cert.

I knew going into this race that I wasn't 100% and that I had to temper my expectations.  I'm bummed that I seemed to have lost a step in terms of speed but I'm glad the knee wasn't an issue during the race.  I still had a great time as it's the Mews race and the food/beer/friends afterwards is always enjoyable.  Hopefully I'll continue to improve so that I'm in good shape for the 4th Season.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Weekly Log: 11.17.14 - 11.23.14

Last full work for a while before Turkey Day next week and my company's annual conference (in Miami!) the week after.  I was glad to see that everyone did so well at Li'l Rhody yesterday.  Bummed I couldn't be a part of it but everyone was having major PRs and I question whether I would have even bested last year's time.

The janky knee has become a part of me.  It teels okay for awhile before becoming sore after a day of activity.  I hope to hit at least 20 miles this week and also get back into some morning bodyweight stuff.  The week ends with one of the few short road races that I really look forward to - the Mews Tavern Gear & Beer 5k.  Well, this year it's a 6.9k but otherwise it's the same crowded race with friends and beer.  Not sure how I'll do but I'm looking forward to it.

Monday - East Providence, RI - 5.9 miles

It was a day of heavy rain but it relented at midday and I ventured out for a run.  Cold out there!  I had a long-sleeve tech shirt, hat and gloves and warmed up soon enough.  A misty rain fell the whole time.  I ran neighborhood roads north towards Pawtucket, finding myself a bit lost on unfamiliar streets.  I had a general idea of where I was and eventually found my way back to the office.  The pace on this run was good - it took some effort to keep it up at first but got easier as it went on.  I was aware of the knee the whole time but it didn't really hurt.

Tuesday - East Providence, RI - 4 miles

I ran some old dirt roads that run along the Seekonk River and retired train tracks.  I left gloves at the office and my hands were frigid!  But after 1.5 miles they warmed up fine.  A lot of water hazards to avoid after yesterday's rain.  This area technically is off limits and as I returned to the entrance I saw a cop pulling someone over.  I decided to backtrack and found another means of escape.  Short run but I felt alright.

Wednesday - Seekonk, MA - 4.1 miles

200 push-ups (standard/wide/decline) 30/35/30/30/40/35

I wanted some trails so I ventured over to the Caratunk Preserve.  Beautiful cold day in the woods.  Kept the pace easy and relaxed.  I tried to follow the powerlines for a bit since they had recently mowed the grass but there were some muddy low-lying areas and I didn't feel like have filthy cold feet.  My knee was achy by the end of it.

Thursday - Charlestown, RI - 3 miles

50 pull-ups (standard/wide)

Early morning dog jog in the dark.  Then some pull-ups.  Glad I'm able to get back to the push-ups/pull-ups without any arm pain.

Friday - East Providence, RI - 6 miles

Cold!  I didn't have much motivation but I got out there and did sort of the reverse of Monday's run.  I warmed up quickly and had a crisp sub-7 minute which didn't feel like work.  Ran up to and through a nice cemetery before returning to the office on different streets.  I started to feel the knee at the cemetery and while it didn't hurt it remained in my mind, reminding me of its janky-ness.

I plan to take tomorrow off in preparation for Sunday's race.  I hoping to put together a good performance.  I honestly don't know what to expect as I haven't pushed my legs to do any speedwork.  We shall see.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Mews Tavern Gear and Beer 6.9k, Wakefield, RI - 7 miles

Official time: 16:10.  13th overall.  Report here.

Weekly mileage: 30.1 miles

Year to Date: 1631.1 miles

Friday, November 14, 2014

Weekly Log: 11.10.14 - 11.16.14

Li'l Rhody Runaround week is here but I won't be towing the line this year.  With my knee still achy and a dearth of running since Bimbler's, I don't feel like I'm in shape to compete.  Perhaps that's just in my head but whatever.  I'm looking forward to volunteering and seeing all my running friends as it's been awhile.

I'm hopeful that I can get over 20 miles this week and begin to prepare for the 4th Season Trail Series which will be here before you know it.  Looking at my mileage chart so far this year, you can see that I was on pace to hit 2000 (the light blue line) up until Bimbler's.  Now I'm flatlining. I know I shouldn't get worked up over hitting arbitrary mileage goals (that's what janked my knee up in the first place) but it's hard.


Monday - East Providence, RI - 5 miles

18 pull-ups (standard/chin-up) 8/10

Started my morning pull-up routine but something didn't feel right so I bailed.  Now a few hours later and my left elbow really hurts.  Damn it.  Picking up stuff with that arm is painful.  That's all I need.

It was 32 degrees when I woke up but by noon in the city it was 55 and gorgeous.  Ran across the bridge to the East Side and explored the Blackstone Park trails and nearby streets.  Pace was in the mid 7's but I was working hard and it made me feel out of shape.  As I ran back to the office I picked up the pace and felt better about the run after it was over.

Tuesday - Charlestown, RI - 5 miles

Arm really hurts.  Bit of a bummer.  But I took the day off because we threw a surprise party for Em who turned 16 yesterday!  In the afternoon, I went over the Carter Preserve and did a fun loop.  I explored a side trail I had seen before in the grassland loop - it led down to the train tracks.  I hoped to see a train go by but no such luck.  Maybe one day I'll venture across and explore the other side.

Wednesday - Seekonk, MA - 4 miles

Arm still hurts.  This is bullshit!  Guess no upper body work at all this week.  At lunch I did an easy loop around the Turner Reservoir.  I explored a side street to check out the houses that line the pond.  So that's how the other half lives.  Very nice.  Knee was pretty achy by bedtime.

Thursday - 0 miles

I chumped out of a run after work.  I convinced myself that it was because I'm still on the mend from the knee thing but the truth is that it was dark after work and I didn't have the motivation to venture out there.

Friday - 0 miles

No running but I did check out a gentleman's barber shop on the East Side for a beard trim and an old fashioned straight razor neck shave.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - 0 miles

No runs materialized for me this weekend.  Yard work yesterday seemed to aggravate my janky knee.  I got to help out though before the Li'l Rhody race.  It was good to see the familiar folks, however briefly.  Looks like there were some absolutely dynamite performances today!

Weekly Mileage: 14.1 miles

Year to Date: 1,601 miles

Friday, November 7, 2014

Weekly Log: 11.3.14 - 11.9.14

Here we are in November.  Another year almost done.  I've had some great running success this year but I'm a bit bummed that I'm having to take it easy lately due to Janky Knee.  I'd like to increase the mileage this week but I'll have to pay attention to how everything's feeling.  Better to be safe than sorry.

I'm probably going to skip Li'l Rhody this year.  I think it's better if I don't throw in a hard trail effort in two weeks time.  I'd rather continue to slowly get back into running so that I'm good shape for the South County 4th Season Trail Race Series.

Monday - Seekonk, MA - 3.2 miles

42 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/close grip) 6/10/6/6/8/6

Warm day out there!  I ventured over to the trails along the Turner Reservoir.  A lot of the exposed roots had been spraypainted white which I thought was odd - then I realized that the Seekonk High School next door probably uses these trails for their cross country coarse.  Felt good to be out there running and I made a short Strava segment from a loop that juts out into the lake.  Knee felt okay but my quad was extremely sore for the rest of the day.

Tuesday - 0 miles

P90X Chest, Shoulders & Triceps (60 minutes)

It's probably been six months since I last did a full P90X workout.  I put in a good hard effort but I overdid it a bit as my triceps began to hurt by the end of the day.

During the day I both voted and gave blood - double threat guy!

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 5.1 miles

DOMS!  My upper body is super sore all over.  Guess I need to resume the P90X more often.  And I definitely strained my triceps yesterday.  Today I ran along the 10 Mile River bikepath.  I kept the pace very easy and was constantly analyzing every little twitch and ache from my knee.  Explored a few trailish areas of Slater Park before returning to the car.  Overall a good run but my knee was achey that night.

Thursday - 0 miles

47 pull-ups (standard/chin-up) 8/11/6/7/7/8

Friday - Charlestown, RI - 3 miles

The only activity today was an early morning dog jog.  Hopefully I'll get in a 6-7 trail run this weekend.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - 0 miles

Notions of a mid-day trail run vanished as a lazy Sunday took root.  

Weekly Mileage: 12.2 miles
Year to Date: 1,588 miles

Monday, November 3, 2014

Keezer Build - Part 2

Time to conclude the keezer project I started in Part 1.  Last time I had built the dolly, the temperature controller and cut the wood for the collar.  Now it was time to put it all together.

I went to a welding supply shop in Cranston with my empty CO2 tank.  As I figured, the hydro stamp was out of date (basically ever five years the tank has to be tested to verify it's still safe.)  They charged me for the hydro test but swapped out the tank which saved me having to wait about three weeks.  Great guys and they have good deals on filling your propane tank, FYI.

Anyway, with my new full CO2 tank I quickly discovered that it was heavy as hell.  I decided to double the 2x4 base on the dolly to make sure it could hold it.  Then I fashioned some ramshackle chains to hold it in place and it was good to go.  It won't be winning any beauty awards but it'll do the trick.  The tank could have easily just gone on the floor next to the keezer but this will make it easier if I want to move it.

Time for the collar.  First I drilled a couple holes in the front for the faucets and one in the back for the gas line.  After that I sanded it and put on two coats of polyurethane.  You're supposed to add a base later of some other stuff first and then sand between coats and blah blah blah.  I'm not building an mahogany cabinet here.  I slapped a couple coats on it and called it a day.

Time to drill!

Once dry I attached the collar to the freezer using silicone sealant.  I waited most of the day for it to dry.  I probably should have waited longer but I was impatient.  After six hours excitement got the better of me and I attached the freezer lid to the collar.  It worked great.  The faucets were attached and I screwed the air splitter to the back wall.  The red gas line goes into the splitter and then on to the separate kegs.   It was a bitch trying to get the gas line through the hole I made and I had to run my drill bit around the edges which is probably definitely not recommended to get it through.

The keezer was now ready to hold beer!  I had an ESB that was ready and waiting.  Normally I'd have to transfer the beer to a bottling bucket along with priming sugar and then sanitize, fill and cap many a bottle.  Instead I ran some StarSan through the keg and then racked the beer into it.  So easy!

With the keg half full of beer (it was a 2.5 gallon batch) it was time to learn how difficult it was to move it into the keezer.  It wasn't too bad but then I filled the other keg with water - this was a real bear to lift and I had to use a stepstool to help lift it over the collar.  It was not easy but luckily I won't be doing it that often.

In case you're wondering I filled the other keg with water to improve the thermal mass in the keezer.  Liquid holds a temperature much better than air so the more liquid in you have, the better the keezer will hold the temp.  After I added the kegs, I plugged it into the temperature controller and over the next couple days monitored it.  It would take about 30-40 minutes to climb to 44 degrees before turning the keezer on and cooling it down to 42 degrees.

That's not a great amount of downtime and having the keezer's compressor turn on every 40 minutes or so will wear it out sooner rather than later.  Some more online research on the great really helped me out.  First, I added some pink foam insulation around the inside of the collar.  This stuff was easy to cut and proved to be the perfect size.  I cut a couple holes for the faucets and cut a couple smaller pieces to fit around the red gasline.  Then I screwed the air splitter through the foam and into the wood.  The stuff fit so snugly that I didn't even have to glue it.

The other change I made was to cover the thermometer with bubblewrap insulation and tape it to the side of a gallon glass jug filled with water.  Since liquid temp changes slowly, it is much more efficient to gauge the temp of the water rather than the air temp which can fluctuate wildly, especially if I open the lid.  After I made these improvements, it now takes about 2-2.5 hours for the temp controller to rise from 42 to 44 degrees.

Pink insulation and better thermometer placement helped a lot

A few more small projects rounded out the build.  I attached the temp controller to a board behind the keezer so it was out of the way.  It's held in place but some nuts but can easily be unscrewed in order to move the keezer.  Then I attached another board and did some half-assed woodwork in order to hang some of my favorite glasses within arms reach.

At a craft store I found a couple magnetic photo holders which worked great to identify the taps. The labels slide right in and can easily be switched out.  Hopefully it'll encourage me to get creative with each new batch.


There you have it!  Come on over and have a pint!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Weekly Log: 8.27.14 - 11.2.14

Monday - East Providence, RI - 3 miles

210 push-ups (standard/military/wide/diamond) 30/30/30/15/30/30/30/15

Coming off our backpacking journey in the Whites I was feeling pretty good.  I decided to see how a short run felt.  I did three miles in East Providence neighborhoods.  Legs felt alright but the knee still feels "off."  I've no doubt it would have begun to hurt at some point if I had kept running.  A bit frustrating and it looks like I'll be resting it some more.  I'm starting to doubt whether I'll be running Li'l Rhody this year.

Tuesday - 0 miles

My knee definitely feels achey after yesterday's run.  And now I've got a twinge in my upper back.  A delayed pain from the heavy pack over the weekend?  Or perhaps from yesterday's push-ups?  I suspect the former but either ways it's another annoying injury.  Hopefully it clears up quick.

At lunch I drove over to the East Side and then walked up along Wickenden.  The construction over there is abysmal - roads are closed here and there and the smell of fresh asphalt lingers in the air.  Will they ever be finished?

Wednesday - 0 miles

41 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/close grip) 7/8/6/6/8/6

Yesterday's unexpected back pain is gone so that's something.  I walked along the Turner Reservoir at lunch.  Gorgeous fall day with a heavy bed of leaves on the ground.

Thursday - 0 miles

220 push-ups (standard/wide/decline) 35/30/25/25/40/30/35

Push-ups at lunch and then a short walk around the block.  My weekly blog posts are probably going to get duller before they better but I'll keep them up all the same.

Friday - 0 miles

45 pull-ups (standard/chin-up) 7/9/6/9/6/8

Took the dog for an early morning walk.  Stars were incredible.  Saw a really bright shooting star.  Maybe I'll chance a short run this weekend.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - 0 miles

A whopping three miles on the week.  Knee feels good though and I'm hoping that I can start to work runs back into next week.  I'm a bit antsy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zealand Falls Trip Report - October 24 & 25, 2014

Amanda and I really enjoyed our off-season stay at the Carter Notch Hut last October and we booked another Friday evening stay this year at the Zealand Falls Hut.  The last few days had been rainy but I was optimistic that the weather would have moved on by the time we arrived at the Zealand Trail on Friday afternoon.  Perhaps too optimistic.  As we drove through Franconia Notch the visibility dropped and a steady misty rain began.  We arrived at the trailhead prepared for a wet three mile hike up to the hut.

The hike up to Zealand Falls Hut is very easy, the only serious climb coming at the very end.  The misty rain continued throughout but the manageable grade helped.  There were a couple tricky water crossings thanks to the last few days of rain - we had to bushwack a bit to find the best place to cross.  After about two hours we reached the hut, wet, ready to unpack and warm up.  The hut itself is very cool.  The wood stove was heating the main room and the kitchen boasted another massive propane stove which Amanda made great use of.  Unlike Carter Notch where the bunkhouses were separated by a short walk, here they were part of the main building.  Not only did it keep them warmer but they featured some awesome triple bunk beds, the tops of which were their own little room.

A wet and slippery hike

The final steep trudge up to the hut

The recent rains made Zealand Falls extra impressive


It's a little cheaper staying at the hut on Friday as opposed to Saturday.  And less crowded as well.  But unlike Carter Notch where we were the only guests, it was much busier this time.  A couple guys showed up not long after us, identified a mushroom they had found and then set off to locate more before dark.  Two older men also turned up looking for room and over the next couple hours about 10 "hut kids" showed up to throw a birthday party (most of them had just closed up some of the other huts for the year and were about to head back to civilization for the off-season.)  The theme was BYOBeets and every croo kid had to bring a beet dish - I sampled a beet falafel which was solid.

Dry and cozy in Zealand Falls Hut

Why don't all public bathrooms have these?!?

A delightful reminder that the full-season experience just ended

It was a fun night with lots of drinks and conversation.  Too many drinks.  I awoke feeling less than stellar but by the time we set out for our morning hike I had perked up.  Our goal was the summit of Mount Zealand so that I could check it off my 4000 Footer list.  Thankfully during the night the nasty weather had finally moved - it was cool, clear and beautiful on the trails.  All the climbing happened in the first mile, after which we were rewarded with incredible views from the Zeacliff. The trail was very moderate after that, crossing over some cool swamp and shrub regions.



A brief steep section required a ladder

Marshy areas along the ridge

The summit of Mount Zealand is completely wooded and quite unremarkable, save for a pair of Grey Jays who took a keen interest in us and our trail mix.  These large birds had no fear and perched on the branches within two feet of us.  Research showed that they eat almost anything and are used to pestering friendly hikers for food.  They were very polite.

"Food please."

As we made our way back down to the hut we encountered a goodly number of people making their way up - some were peakbaggers like me who wanted to check Zealand off their list.  Others were continuing on to camp at the Bonds.  The last mile of steep downhill terrain finally began to irritate my janky knee, a reminder that it's going to take a while before I can run in earnest again.

When we left the hut at 9 AM it was empty save the caretaker and a couple of her friends.  When we returned at 12:30 it was a completely different scene, packed with people in all manner of gear.  Some looked ready for several nights in the backcountry.  Others wore regular clothes and carried only a bottle of water for the trip.  The caretaker was selling cream cheese brownies at $2 a pop and they were going fast - we snagged two to eat with lunch.  A large contingent of boy scouts arrived (the hut was at capacity that night) as we donned our packs and made our way back down to the car.

Scenic beaver ponds on the Zealand Trail

Long bridge

Stream crossings were more manageable on the return trip

It was easier to appreciate the ponds and beaver dams on the return trip with clear skies and lighter packs.  We definitely misjudged our arrival back in Rhode Island but luckily Amanda and I both have wonderful mothers who looked after our girls.  I would definitely recommend staying at the Zealand Falls Hut in the off-season for anyone who likes outdoor adventures.  The hike up to the hut is not difficult and the laidback people and surroundings make for an excellent time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Weekly Log: 8.20.14 - 8.26.14

Bimbler's Bluff is done with and I survived.  Hooray!  There will probably be zero running this week as I recover and plan for a weekend hiking trip with my lovely wife.  This will be a quiet weekly log.

Monday - 0 miles

Oh my legs!  Sore all over!  Bimbler's Bluff really did a number on them.  Stairs are very hard.  The good news is that my bad knee isn't particularly "bad" this morning so hopefully I didn't frig it up too much more.

Tuesday - 0 miles

Movement in the legs is returning to normal but they are still quite sore.  For whatever reason my left calf has begun to really ache.

Wednesday - 0 miles

36 pull-ups (standard/wide) 6/8/5/7/4/6

That left calf is still very sore.  Strange.  Otherwise the legs are feeling better.  I did some pull-ups this morning so that's something I guess.

Thursday - 0 miles

Went over the Yoga studio for a lunchtime session.

Friday - 0 miles

No running but Amanda and I hiked up to our hut in the Whites.

Saturday - 0 miles

More fun hiking adventures with my lovely wife.  Separate report forthcoming.

Sunday - 0 miles

Zero (running) miles this week and that's fine with me!  Post Bimbler's I plan on taking it easy for a couple weeks and let this knee heal up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bimbler's Bluff 50k 2014

Official Time: 5:13:09.  9th overall.  3rd in Age Group.  Results here.

A few months ago, after hemming and hawing over several options for big fall races, I decided on the Bimbler's Bluff 50k despite the fact that it was held only two weeks after the NipMuck trail marathon.  It was pretty close, pretty cheap and seemed like it would provide a suitably more difficult challenge after the fast trails of Pineland.  On that last point I was definitely correct.

The lead up to this race didn't go as planned.  A knee injury cropped up three weeks ago - I battled it at NipMuck and did little running in the aftermath, hoping it would heal up for Bimbler's.  It didn't, the knee persisted in feeling "off" and I went into this race worried about how it would hold up.  I knew it would be an issue and turn the race into a slog.  I just hoped it wouldn't derail the race in the first few miles.

I left the house at 6 AM and enjoyed the drive west, racing the sunrise as the sky slowly lightened.  I got to the parking lot with about 40 minutes to go, feeling pretty good, until a series of self-inflicted calamities made me question yet again my decision to run this race.   First of all, it was pretty damn cold.  All I brought was a t-shirt.  I hadn't considered hats and gloves (luckily I warmed up quickly on the course.)  I also forgot my powder, useful for keeping my feet blister-free.  Too late now, I thought.  No point in worrying about it.  Let's just put the trail shoes on and have at it.  Wait.  Where were my trail shoes?  I started searching through my bag but I already knew the truth - I had left them at the house.  All I had were my Asics Cumulus - a shoe with 625+ miles on them which had been relegated to my everyday work shoe.  Welp, it was 20 minutes until race time and it was either those or my birkenstocks.  Guess they were getting brought out of retirement.

So finally I'm ready to go and I realize I can't find my car key.  It had fallen between the seats and I spent five minutes looking for it.  15 minutes.  Time to go!

Despite these boner moves I made my way to the starting area in my tractionless Asics and chatted with TNT Pat Quinn who also had just completed NipMuck.  Everyone lined up, we got some announcements and then we were off on a quick loop through the field in order to spread the field out before the singletrack.

Once more unto the breach dear shoes!

My goal was to take it easy from the get go and run my own race.  I wanted to keep my knee in check for as long as possible.  The first couple miles were technical and then the course switched to some wide dirt trails with some big slow climbs/descents.  I did my usual power-hiking the hills and was surprised how compact the 6-10 guys were at mile 6.  We were all within a couple hundred yards of each other.  A few big hills seemed to drop most of them back and by mile 9 I was in 7th with a Yellow Shirt guy up ahead and no one in sight behind me.

The course has a lollipop shape, with about 8 miles north along the "stick" followed by a clockwise loop up around the Bluff before taking the stick back to the finish.  Though a 50k in name, it's actually around 33 miles - a fact I'm glad I was aware of prior to the race.  The aid stations were well stocked but sporadic and race instructions made note of the significant distance between some of them.   I downed a cup of gatorade at each of them, while filling my water bottle and eating some candy and salted potatoes.  Then I'd grab a couple bananas for the trail.  I took a gel every 45 minutes or so.

The climb up the Bluff at mile 10 was very steep and not runnable.  Finally there were a few short flatter sections but then I'd hit another hill and powerhike.  Once it leveled off, I was able to take in the views which were quite impressive.  Yellow Shirt hadn't stopped at the aid station at the base of the bluff but I managed to pass him on one of the these climbs and move off ahead of him.  Unfortunately by mile 12 my knee was beginning to ache and make itself known.  The pain escalated quickly and by mile 13 it really hurt.  It seemed to be coming from the side of my knee and along up my thigh - my IT band?  I began to hike much more moderate hills as the pain was significantly less when I walked and then suddenly a guy in a black shirt passed and quickly put distance on me.  A few moments later I stopped to take a leak and Yellow Shirt went by.  I expected that I'd be passed more and more as the race wore on and I tried not to worry about that.  Realistically I was looking at a very long day on the trail so I took some tylenol and continued on at a run/jog, taking it one foot at a time.

Thankfully miles 14-17 were downhill which seemed to help the leg.  Yellow Shirt was off in the distance but I could still see him here and there.  At one point the trail passed somewhat near a house and a woman and her teenage kids had come out to watch the race.  But they just stared at me with their big dead eyes as I passed.  No clapping or cheering.  Nothing.  It was pretty creepy.  Moving on and I eventually the course came upon an actual paved road and the aid station at mile 17.  I really appreciated the break here and I stayed probably 90 seconds, drinking and snacking.  The volunteers here (and at every aid station) were super friendly and helpful.  Finally I detached myself from the buffet and resumed my run.  I was only halfway done.

The climbs out of this aid station were pretty brutal and I did a lot of walking in this section before resuming my shamble run.  The next few miles were part of a woodland park which was clearly much-used, with lots of nice signs and well groomed trails.  I came upon a goodly number of people here - mountain bikers, couples with dogs and children - all pleasant diversions to distract me from my misery.  Up until now the course, infamous for its dearth of trail markings, had not led me astray.  The course had veered from one trail to the next but the orange flags and banners were used appropriately and did a good job of keeping me on track.    But I was about to finally take a wrong turn when luckily another runner overtook me at just the right time and pointed out the correct one.  Then he sped off ahead at a pace I envied while I resumed my powerhike.

My leg pain had somewhat subsided by now and I found myself in a good rhythm.  My pace was never in danger of breaking 9 minutes and the hills slowed my movement considerably but I was still pushing forward all the same.  10 minute miles didn't seem that bad, considering the discomfort I was dealing with.  When I reached the mile 20 aid station, I was delighted to see they had S-tabs.  I ate one and pocketed one for mile 25.  I also grabbed some gels even though I didn't need them.  Because I am a greedy packrat.

Now began the long lonely return trip on the "stick."  Thankfully this was generally downhill with some wide dirt roads/trails.  A good thing too because my form was going to shit and I was stumbling as it was.  While dirt roads made the running easier, they were very draining mentally.  On the way out I had other runners around me.  Now there was nothing but long stretches of road in either direction.  Only the occasional wispy orange ribbon tied to a branch reminded me that I was still on track.  The course veered back into the woods and I began to covet the last aid station with a deep, dark yearning.  I knew that it signaled two miles to go.  But where was it?  Endless singletrack was wearing me down and my slow plod continued as I slipped and struggled over the rocks.  Finally up ahead I saw people ringing cowbells.  Motivational Signs had been laid next to the trail.  I emerged into a parking lot that had been transformed into a wonderland of people, food and drink.

With more snacks and the enthusiastic crowd cheering for me I was ready to finish this thing.  The last two miles were tough as the dreaded muscle cramps finally made themselves known.  I could feel the quads ready to seize if I looked at them funny.  The last mile was the final test.  At one point I stopped and had to search for about 30 seconds to find the trail.  And then I had to navigate a terrible rock garden which finally caused my left quad to begin the charlie horse dance.  After a moment it loosened enough that I was able to continue.  Finally the road and buildings came into sight beyond the trees.  As I came out of the woods I was surprised to see Yellow Shirt up ahead, crossing the finish line.    I hadn't seen him since mile 17 but I almost caught him again!

Nice swag and the best bib number courtesy of my last name

So I finished in 5:13:09.  An incredible time considering the knee issue I battled for the majority of the race.  I had feared that I was going to end up walking much of it but the discomfort became manageable and the last 10 miles were moderate enough to allow me to finish "strong."  The Asics held up their end of the bargain and I emerged from the race blister-free.  For my troubles I earned an abnormally large pint glass and a voucher for a free beer at a local pub.  I promptly went over for a beer and a burger before making the trip home.

Prior to the race Bimbler's wore heavily on my mind.  I wasn't sure if I was going to even start it, let alone finish it.  I knew that there would be pain and suffering - and there was - but I'm so pleased that I completed what I set out to do.  Now it's time to let my leg heal properly so that I can look forward to beating the hell out of myself again in 2015.