Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Salomon Trail Running Fest at Pineland Farms 50k

Official time: 4:05:56.  7th overall.  2nd in Age Group.  Results here.

Well the Pinelands 50k has come and gone.  What a great race.  I'm still on Cloud 9 after my performance but I'll try not to make this report too long (okay, so that didn't work out.)  Suffice to say it was a great day and I couldn't be happier with my race.

I drove up to Portland on Saturday to stay with my college friend Mike and his family.  I went and saw Mike's band at the Portland Lobster Company and enjoyed a clamcake burger and Maine beers before hitting the hay at a reasonable hour.  Up at 5:30 and enjoyed my usual breakfast of eggs and toast.  However, these were duck eggs fresh from Mike's neighbor!  What a treat! I've never had duck eggs and enjoyed them.  Perhaps they gave me an extra boost?

It was about a half hour to get to Pineland Farms which is a beautiful campus out in the middle of nowhere. I scoped out the Start/Finish where people were making preparations for music and food and then spent the next 45 minutes getting ready, powdering up all my various nooks and putting together a drop bag.  I wore my New Balance 890 v3 since I heard the course was very non-technical.  I carried a handheld water bottle and stuffed five gels in my pockets.  Ready to go!

At 8:00 AM everyone got into the Start corral but nobody was interested in towing the line so I was up front.  After the race director's various announcements, cowbell's filled the air and we were off.  The first mile sloped downward and I tried to reign it in, keeping the pace in the high-7s.  I tried not to get pulled along as others went by me.  There were several open sections that afforded good views of the expanding train of runners.  I guessed I was around 15th place at mile 1.

Their website describe the rolling hills of the course as unrelenting and that sounds about right.  Even during those initial downhill miles there were some steady climbs and I made the decision almost immediately to go into a power-hike on any decent hill.  I'm really happy with this decision.  I wasn't working hard yet I wasn't losing that much ground to those ahead of me.  In fact, I gained on a lot of people.

The yellow box of miles was nearly my undoing in Lap #2

We soon entered open pastures of grassland with stunning views.  The farmland allowed them to mow their own paths and there were a couple instances where the various parts of the course intersected with people running in both directions.  It was always clearly marked which way to go and even in these early miles we began to see the 50 milers who started at 6:00 AM.

I would glance at my watch (somewhat obsessively) and was keeping my pace in the 7:45-8:15 range with no issues.  The open pasture portions were beautiful and a wonderful change from the woods but the ground was uneven with clumps of grass and mud.  The going was slower here.  Overall the course was thankfully mud free but what sloppy sections existed were concentrated in the grassland miles 3-8.   Everyone else was skirting the mud but I figured I'd be getting messy sooner or later so I just charged right through the muck.  I pushed past a group of four on one of these charges.  Gazelle would be proud. 

I avoided stopping at the first few aid stations, opting to wait until mile six to make my first pit stop.  I didn't have a fueling plan in place beyond taking a gel every 45 minutes.  Upon scanning the aid table I quickly decided on my additional foodstuffs - bananas and fig newtons.  I grabbed a couple and continued on.  This would become my fast in-and-out routine at most of the stations.  It worked well and helped avoid lingering.

Past stop #3 at the Yurt aid station, the course began to climb.  I was making good speed with the power hiking and these hills were tough but manageable.  I had overtaken a few more people at aid stations and could see two more up ahead on these long open uphill stretches.  Finally the climbs relented and I could hear the crowd of the festival.

A few miles into the 2nd lap

The course comes out of the woods and skirts the edge of the festival.  I was now 78 minutes into the race.  People were cheering as I ran by.  There was a band playing on the stage.  Under tents, people relaxed at picnic tables but clapped when I passed.  The organizers made a great decision to put the aid station just up the road, rather than at the start/finish.  It kept you moving past the crowds, not giving you a chance to stop and lose momentum.

The last five miles of the course included a lot of gentle downhills and smooth singletrack.  I realized that I was on track to finish the first lap in two hours which would put me on track to hit my A Goal of sub-four hours.  Not that I thought that I'd actually be able to maintain this pace for a second lap.  But if I could pass the Start before the 25k began at 10:00 AM, that would be ideal.   As it turned out I passed at 1:59.  All the 25kers were lined up for their announcements and they gave me a nice applause as I went by.

About a minute later I heard the cowbells and cheers - the 25k had begun.  Another minute and their race caught up to me.  The first couple guys flew by and then a steady train of runners passed me until equilibrium was reached for a while and my pace matched theirs.  It took some work to avoid getting pulled along with the faster pace of everyone.  Otherwise it was great having a new contingent of runners on the course.  Once we reached the farmland people were running in every direction.  The 50 milers, the 50kers and the 25kers were overlapping and the open fields allowed for the Yurt aid station to be used three times per lap.  It was an awesome sight and a welcome change from the traditional isolation of a long trail race.

6 total stops at the Yurt in the 50k

Most everyone around me was a 25ker with the occasional 50 miler.   However there was one 50ker who was close on my heels.  He was drinking only from the aid stations so I would put distance on him but then he would reel me in before the next aid station.  As I left each one he'd offer me encouragement.  He finally caught up for good around mile 23 when I finally began to feel the effects of my pace.  The trail began to climb again and sudden fatigue hit me.  My legs felt like dead weight.  I watched him and other racers put distance on me as I battled these hills.  I wasn't powerhiking now...I was barely walking!

This was the hardest part of the race.  I felt completely exhausted and was afraid that I'd be death marching the rest of the way.  The encouraging 50ker was long gone and I had no idea if the other runners passing me were in my race.  I didn't really care.  I just wanted to be able to salvage things.  I knew sub 4:00 was a pipe dream to begin with but after the first lap a sub 4:15 finish seemed likely.  How quickly things change!  Negative thoughts clouded my mind as I struggled up these hills.

Finally the climbs subsided.  And just in time.  I don't think I could have taken much more.  The crowds grew louder and I passed the festival again.  Their cheers helped push me on towards the aid station just beyond.  The volunteer seemed to take forever to fill up my water bottle but maybe those few extra moments were just what I needed.  When I started moving I felt a reserve of energy that I thought had been lost on the hills.

This was where running with the 25kers really helped me.  I'd latch onto one and let them drag me along for a while.  Then I'd eventually pass them or they'd gap me.  But soon enough some one else would come up from behind and I'd have a new target.  One thing I love about these long distance endurance events is the We're all in the bullshit together mentality that happens late in the race.  Everyone's in the weeds, trudging up the next hill.  Almost no one has any pep at this point and whether you're passing or getting passed, it's a slow slog for everyone.

With the worst of the hills in the rearview mirror and some much needed easy downhills ahead, I began to put together some sub-9 minute miles near the end.  With two miles to go my hamstrings began to ache something fierce and I was sure they were going to seize up.  I massaged them for a moment before moving on and the cramps subsided.  My legs were completely shot but I knew I was looking at a great time and it helped me push through the final muddy grassland section.

I came back into the festival grounds for the final time.  People were lined up, cheering.  The band was playing.  The finish line had clocks for all three events - I saw 4:05.x x and charged forward as best I could.  A massive PR over last year's 50k by 42 minutes!  It had been a wonderfully overcast day for most of the race but now the sun was shining.  Perfect!


I got a big silver cowbell for my troubles along with some trail socks and a water bottle.  I chatted with the Rowland, the other 50ker who got the better of me around mile 24.  We were both very pleased with our performances.  I hung around and stretched as I watched Bob Jackman finish 2nd in the 50 miler with an incredible 6:29.  Then I shuffled over to the YMCA and took a shower before returning to the festival to enjoy my free beer and food with the Jackmans.  I finished 2nd in my Age Group but wouldn't you know it - the age group awards only went one deep so no maple syrup for me.

So pretty much everything went right on Sunday.  I trained enough and tapered well.  My fueling choices seemed to work - other than the bananas/newtons, I grabbed a cup of Gatorade at two stations (I also took an S-cap at mile 18 as I was sweating up a storm.)  Powerhiking the hills from the get-go was the smart choice and I think helped me keep my pace consistent up to mile 24.  And then after the dark times of miles 24-25, I'm really pleased that I was able to pull it together and finish strong.  A great race and a great festival!  Highly recommended.

The one blemish is that just like last year at the Spring Classic I completely spaced and left my dropbag at the race!  There was nothing too important in it - it did hold my Cascadias but they have 650 miles on 'em so I'm probably due for a new pair anyway.  Whoops!  Considering that I never even used the bag maybe it's time to reevaluate this strategy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Weekly Log: 5.19.14 - 5.25.14

It's finally here - the week of my big Spring race.  I was looking forward to dragging my whole family up to Vacationland to stay with college friends but now that Ezri's infirm, I'll be going up solo.  I'm bummed as I was looking forward to the family getaway.  Anyway, Ez's injury has been the focus of the past week and thankfully she's starting to adjust to using a wheelchair which increases her mobility considerably.  Watching her tool around in it was a welcome sight.

So...Pineland time.  I think about my training.  Was it enough?  I mostly just increased my mileage higher than ever.  Didn't follow any particular training plan.  Just ran a bit more (with a paltry amount of speed work.)  But since my goal is simply to run a strong, consistent 50k I think this approach will be sufficient.  So long as I don't blow up.  I've taken to laying out my goal posts in my weekly log prior to my big races (hell, it worked last fall.)  I feel like it keeps me honest and gives me extra motivation to not screw up.  So with that being said:

A Goal: Sub-4 hours
This is a ludicrously optimistic goal and likely out of my league.  We're talking 7:45 miles here.  When one starts thinking about their potential in a road marathon plus a measly five more miles...why it doesn't seem that fast, does it?  Of course there's a world of difference between road and trail and those five miles will probably feel like a blister on my soul.  Still, I destroyed my A Goal last October at NipMuck so I felt like I should have an appropriately unattainable goal for this race.

B Goal: Sub 4:15
Alright now we're getting into the realm of possibilities.  While sub-4 is probably a pipe dream I think I'm very capable of coming in under 4:15.  That would be a badass time and put me up near the top of the standings (based on previous years' results.)  This would involve low 8 minute miles which I know I have the endurance for.

C Goal: Sub 4:30
The third goal post.  The back-up goal post.  9 minute miles.  I feel that I should easily come in under this time and if I don't, it means I screwed up.

Monday - East Providence, RI - 3.2 miles

I started this very easy week with a quick loop through East Providence to hit up the bank and Cumbies.  Immediately I felt all sorts of twinges and pain in my feet and legs.  I'm falling apart.  What are you doing running you fool!  Rest for the weekend!  After a mile my legs sorted themselves out and the negative voices quieted.  I always become super-paranoid about injury the week of a big race but in the end my body holds itself together (knock on wood.)

Tuesday - 0 miles

260 push-ups (standard/military/wide/decline) 40/30/40/20/40/30/40/20

Another day home with Ezri who woke up angry but mellowed as the day went on.

Wednesday - Caratunk, Seekonk, MA - 4 milesd

More easy miles, this time back at the Caratunk Refuge.  It was hot and it seemed like the plant growth along the trail had increased dramatically from last week.  It wasn't long into the run when the bugs began to swarm.  They weren't too bad but I can see this place being dreadful in a few weeks.  I may have to steer clear for the summer.  Water hazards weren't as bad as last week and I was finally able to run around their muskrat pond with fear of submersion.

Thursday - 0 miles

230 push-ups (standard/military/wide/decline) 40/30/40/20/30/20/30/20

Friday - East Providence, RI -  3 miles

Checked out various trails around the 10 Mile River Bikepath.  There was a nice stretch of singletrack alongside the reservoir (along with a lot of swampy bugs.)  On the other side, dirt bike trails wound their way through the woods and past murky ponds to nearby train tracks.  I found a large section of ATV trails set up for paintball with tarps and blankets tied to trees every which way.  Watch out!

It was humid and I kept the pace easy.  I listened to my body and everything sounds good.  I'm as read as I'm going to be for Sunday.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Pinelands 50k, New Gloucester, ME - 31 miles

4:05:56.  7th overall.  2nd in Age Group.  Great race and great experience.  Report to follow.

Weekly Mileage: 41.3 miles

Year to Date: 841 miles

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weekly Log: 5.12.14 - 5.18.14

T minus two weeks until the Pineland 50k.  Time to start obsessing over the weather report (long range forecast looks wet and I heard the farmland course gets muddy quickly.)  I'll be dropping the mileage into the 20s this week.  Nothing crazy at this point.  I plan to listen to my body and get to the starting line rested and healthy.

The bigger change this week will be helping Ezri recover from the three broken bones in her leg. She'll be spending a lot of time on the couch and I'm sure we're all going to have to adjust to a new normal for awhile.

Monday - Charlestown, RI - 4.2 miles

Extended the dog jog this morning a bit as it would be my only run for the day.   Encountered a few people and dogs and Oliver was surprisingly good when we passed.  Only barked briefly.  I guess Amanda has been training him well.

Went up to work for 1/2 a day and then brought Amanda and Ezri home from the hospital.  She's definitely miserable at times by being bedridden (couchridden) but hopefully she'll adapt to the situation quickly. 

Tuesday - Seekonk, MA - 5 miles

Decided to head back to the Caratunk Sanctuary at lunch time. I wore my MT00s as I knew I'd be in for some wet spots and these things drain well.  The only question was if there's be too many roots/rocks for the minimal shoes.  It was a goddamn gorgeous day and I enjoyed exploring these trails again.  Terrain wasn't too much for the shoes but I was definitely right about the water.  As I got deeper and deeper into the woods I entered a swampy section where getting wet was inevitable.  I did what the Gazelle would have done and charged right through!  Great little place to run - the only downside was that tick season is now in full effect.  Found a big nasty sucker on my leg midrun and another later in the day on my car seat!

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 5.2 miles

Funny how I can drive 10 minutes from work and enter a totally rural Seekonk that harbors gems like Caratunk.  But around the office it's a completely different story.  Left work at lunch with no real plan other than to run some new streets in East Providence.  To that end I succeeded - kept the pace in the low 7s and saw a variety of houses.  It's interesting how some people have crafted little fortified homes of marble and stone in the midst of a sea of houses otherwise sandwiched together.  It was hot out there (72 degrees) and I was sweating pretty good by the end but I really enjoyed this run.

Thursday - 0 miles

Worked from home while I stayed with Ez.  No real window to run and no desire to do any strength training in the morning.  Ezri is up and down throughout the day.  It's very frustrating for a five year old to be immobile and she fluctuates between happy and angry as the day progresses.  She hates being touched so moving her from room to room is unpleasant for everyone.  I can only hope she acclimates to her situation in the coming days.

Friday - Seekonk, MA - 4.1 miles

230 push-ups (standard/military/wide/decline) 40/30/40/10/30/20/40/20

After work I headed to the Seekonk Meadows for a quick four mile jaunt.  It was a brief lull in the rain but very humid.  Legs were feeling full of energy - tapering effects no doubt.  Along the water I scared a frog which made a most unusual sound, like a drowning cat.

Saturday - 0 miles

Rest day # 2 for the week.  Planted some stuff outside though.

Sunday - Carter Preserve, Charlestown, RI - 8.2 miles

Finished off the week with an easy Sunday run in Carter Preserve.  Parked off of Route 112 and ran the Yellow trail over to the Grassland Loop trail.  Then I did a little tune-up for next weekend's race.  I figured the grass trail would simulate a lot of what I'll be running on. I tried to keep it at an 8 minute pace but ended up closer to 7:30.  At any rate running five loops was a good repetitious act and I feel good for next weekend.  Looking forward to seeing what I can do.

Weekly Mileage: 26.9 miles

Year to Date:  800 miles

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Garden Shots: Basement Seedlings 2014

Spring is here and it's time to throw some shit in the ground and hope it turns into food.  As you can tell from the frequency of these posts, my gardening has sort of dropped off as my go-to hobby.  Once I would have been toiling in the basement every night, tending to my precious seedlings.  Now the limited love I have give is directly mostly at my beer.  Wonderful, non-judging beer.  And my plants cry.  So it goes.

Anywho, I still got some stuff going in the basement to share with you.  I started tomato, pepper, basil and coleus seedlings.  Basil did alright, coleus and pepper did not and the tomatoes are getting big.  Here are a few shots.

Tomato babies reaching for the light

Basil and a couple bigger tomatoes

I transplant 'em into solo cups.  Drill a few holes in the bottom and they
work quite well.

I'm about to start a bunch of stuff outside in the garden and soon it'll be time to transplant these tomates.  Stay tuned.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekly Log: 5.5.14 - 5.11.14

With Saturday's epic adventure in the rearview, I'm looking forward to an easier week of running.  I'd like to get about 40 miles on the week.  I don't foresee anything too crazy, just a bunch of lunch runs and maybe a low-teen trail run on the weekend.

Monday - Providence, RI - 6.4 miles

Oh my calves!  I was sore all over yesterday.  Today was better but my calves are still very tight.  I left for my lunch run with no real destination and ended up making my way over the bridge and up to College Hill.  Not sure I wanted to go anywhere near hills today as my body did not like them.  I kept the place slow and towards then end my calves were very angry with me.

Tuesday - East Providence, RI - 6 miles

Ab Ripper X (15 minutes)

Decided to go run around the Turner Reservoir again.  Calves felt much better today than yesterday and the pace reflected that.  I ran the reservoir in the other direction to make sure I didn't miss the trail.  Turns out I missed quite a bit of beautiful lakeside singletrack on my last run.  Spooked a guy with two large angry german shepherds.  Sorry guy, I'll try to announce myself better next time.  Glad the legs seem to be returning to normal.

Wednesday - Charlestown, RI/Seekonk, MA - 8 miles

Dog Jog in the morning was notable in that we managed to find the trail that connects Black Pond Road to the Narragansett Trail.  Oliver was very happy once we got in the woods and began pushing the pace - glad neither of us got tripped up.  This is a fun loop that we'll be doing again.  The trail just needs a little maintenance near Black Pond Road.

At lunch I went back to the Seekonk Meadows behind the library for some easy trail miles.  I ate leftover chinese 1.5 hours earlier which made the run less enjoyable than it might have been.  Another close encounter with a giant dog but at least he was friendly.  Found some new trails too which is always a good thing.  I have to remember to not eat lunch until after I run as it just sits there like a lead balloon.  Especially if it's Chinese food.

Thursday - East Providence, RI - 11 miles

5 minutes of planks (2 x 1 min / 4 x 45 sec) / 180 push-ups (standard/military/wide) 40/30/40/40/30

Decided to try doing some planks in the morning as an additional means of core work.  Also banged out some push-ups and was pleased that I was able to get to 40 reps on a bunch of sets.

After work, I ran over to the Ten Mile River bike path.  It has some fairly long segments and I figured trying to nab them would make for a good workout.  First I tried for a 1/4 mile segment on Pawtucket Ave.  I would've had it but the segment map looks a little wonky and Strava couldn't match it up.  No big deal - it wasn't the focus of this run.

I made my way over to the bike path and picked it up, trying for a 6:00 mile pace.  The first segment is 2.2 miles long and the existing record was a 6:40 pace.  I knew I could come in under that but by how much?  Lots of folks enjoying the afternoon on the bike path.  I paid them no heed and focused on keeping my pace up.  Passed a woman who was rollerblading which was kind of funny.  At first she picked up the pace to pull ahead again but when I caught up to her a second time she let me go.  I got to the end of the segment and was pretty tired - 5:57 pace though!  Then I continued another 0.8 miles to the end of the bike path then turned around.  This last 0.8 was the other segment.  I turned it on and headed back.  This section of the path is hillier and I was wheezing by the end.  But I did it in 5:27 which I'm psyched about.  After that I was pretty spent and jogged the four miles back to my car, exploring a few side trails alongside the bike path as well.

Really pleased with how I ran both of these segments.  The guy I took 'em from is crazy fast and could take 'em back going backwards but it looks like he lives in California.  Safe for now!

Friday - Rest day

Saturday - Burlingame, Charlestown, RI - 14.6 miles

An early morning group run was arranged by Jonny at Burlingame.  I wasn't sure if I was going to make it as Hip Bobsha was playing at Tara's the night before.  But I got home from the gig at 12:30 determined to make it out and I woke up at 5:30 and dragged myself over there.  We had a good crowd - Jonny, Muddy, Mike B & G, a rebuilt Gazelle and myself.  I felt sluggish and tired from the night before and stuck more or less to the back of the train.

After a mile of road we hit up Sammy C's and took all of it before heading down to North Camp.  Then over to Schoolhouse before taking the Secret and others back to Vin Gormley.  At this point debate began as most of us were looking to run less than Jonny & Galoob.  Somehow we all made our way to the North Burlingame entrance and then team Hammett Galoob used their mind powers to convince us that a loop of North Burlingame would somehow shorten our run.  We were now 9 miles into the run and I was feeling the effects of whiskey and little sleep.  The hills in North Burlingame really wore me down and I hung back and suffered through these miles.  I continued to suffer onto Sammy C's but then found a little bit of energy before dying again on the last hill stretch.  Still I was only planning to run 10-12 miles and I'm glad I got a little bit of a longer trail run in.

Afterwards I had considered hitting up the East Farm Festival but opted not to.  Good thing as Amanda called with terrible news - Ezri had broken her leg!  I had to go and pick up the dog before meeting them up at Hasbro.  Spent the rest of the day in the emergency room before she was admitted for the night.  Poor thing was so brave - she ended up breaking her leg in three spots!   But she was so stoic about the whole thing.  Very tough girl!

Sunday - Rest day

I slept at the hospital and Ezri had surgery on her femur first thing in the morning.  By 12:30 she was awake and back in her room.  It was a long day but she was finally starting to perk up by the end.   Not quite the way we had planned out the weekend but I'm glad we're through the worst of it!

Weekly Log: 47.8 miles

Year to Date: 773.4 miles

Good week after doing 60 last week!  Only two weeks until Pineland.  It's really starting to creep up.  Next week will be less miles.  Plus adjusting to Ezri's new immobile situation.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Narragansett Trail FKT - May 3, 2014

I got an email from Jonny and Muddy early in the week.  They were going to attempt to run the entire Narragansett trail from Hopkinton, RI to North Stonington, CT.  Based on their research they couldn't find any evidence of previous attempts so this would be a Fastest Known Time (FKT.)  Ben Nephew had set a FKT on the Connecticut portion but we were incorporating the Rhode Island section which we felt made our run its own beast.  With the Pineland 50k three weeks out I had wanted to get in one more long, hard effort and this would certainly fit the bill.

Muddy knows the way!

I met up with them at Asheville Pond at 5:30 AM.  It was cold to start but I went with just a t-shirt - I knew I'd be working hard right off the bat.  We decided to forgo a drop anywhere - the run would be self-supported.  Muddy and I went with handheld water bottles but Jonny had a vest.  I stuffed three gels and three mini cliff bars in my pockets.  Off we went.

We started in Rhode Island because this first section is extremely rocky with a couple tricky climbs.  Better to deal with them at the start of the run rather than when were were fatigued at the end.  We all had a lot of energy and the conversation was lively.  This section runs around Asheville and Long ponds and it was the only section of the Narragansett trail that I had run before. There's some very steep, technical stuff here but we were in good spirits and got through them quickly.

It's kind of steep

Jonny at sunrise at Yawgoog Pond

We passed a large group of early morning hikers as we reached Old Rockville Road, a brief road section before we entered the woods and headed north along Yawgoog Pond.  The singletrack here was very runnable and while we had to do some fast steppin' with the many muddy sections it wasn't hard to navigate unscathed. I was now on completely unknown trails to me (and would be for the rest of the run.)  Either Jonny or Muddy knew the way at all the intersections - I just followed them.

During these early miles I was constantly doing a mental check.  This was a major run but I hadn't tapered for it - in fact, I had run more this week.  If I finished this run, I'd have 60 miles on the week.  10 more than I've ever had before.  Despite a lethargic short run the day before, I was feeling good.  Plenty of energy.  A nerve issue that had been plaguing the bottom my foot had faded over the last two weeks.  And the day before I tweaked my neck doing push-ups.  It hurt to turn sideways but it was fine for running.  Still I was constantly diagnosing every twinge and tweak as I ran.

The trail continues north along the CT/RI border before turning west at mile 6 towards Green Fall Pond.  Here it descended quickly along the edge of Green Fall and suddenly I was looking down at a dam.  I stopped to take a quick picture - the guys were already down at the road.  I thought we were in for a short road section but no - the guys were gone.  When I got down to the road I realized they had just crossed the road and continued to descend along the river on the other side.  The "trail" was slanted and slippery and up above the river.  Treacherous going - finally we touched down next to to the river.  But the trail continued on the other side.  No bridge or stone crossing here.  It was time to get wet.  It would not be our last water crossing.

Down to the dam...

and along a slick river walk...

and through the river.

After that we followed the trail through muddy flats before coming out on a road.  I was happy for the brief road interlude...until I saw the massive hill straight ahead.  This incline was pavement but it was steep.  Finally the hill ended and I was feeling its effects as we re-entered the woods.  Another mile of trails and then another short road section before we entered gun club land.

The terrain turned to grass and dirt roads. Strange animal targets in the woods.  A clearing deforested for no discernible reason.  Creepy place.  Oh and they don't want you here between October and March.  It wasn't long before we reached the edge of gun club land and made a quick jaunt through briar territory to arrive at a longer road section.  Blessed is he who looks for salvation on the roads, for surely he will find redemption.


Road Salvation at 10.5

Jonny's vest made sloshing sounds like a washing machine and it drove him crazy.  He ditched it behind a stone wall just before we turned left down a long dirt road.  The road section refreshed me and I felt good when we returned to singletrack.  I moved fast and well as skirted a brook lined with skunk cabbage.  Then at mile 12 the trail veered away from the brook and directly uphill.  This ascent was rough and really took a lot out of me.  I needed a second to get going once I reached the top.  And then there was another big goddamn hill!  This one-two punch really signaled a turn in the run for me.

The next couple miles were tough but the location was great.  Streams, big ravines, tough climbs - this was a great place to run.  I'd love to come back in less suffering conditions.  We stopped briefly at Bullet Ledge which had a nice view (and a nicer break.)  Then down around a water hole before it become a very old dirt road with misleadingly slow and hard climbs.  Jonny and I took pictures at the same time and suddenly Muddy was off in the distance.  It took a while before we could reel him in.  Everyone took turns feeling good/awful and trading off the lead throughout the run.

Muddy takes off as Jonny and I snap pictures

High Ledge - Muddy's very proud of WTAC.  Or wishes he had breasts.

We touched asphalt oh so briefly at Wyassup Lake (mile 14) before ducking back into the woods.  Still I was feeling fairly good after surviving the last few hilly miles and I found myself trouncing through the mud/water hazards as much as I was avoiding them.  We ran alongside beaver dams and waded through more streams.  Now it was Jonny's turn to lag behind.  But my turn was right ahead.  As we went up a very steep incline I slipped and slammed both knees into rocks.  Christ it hurt!  I got to my feet and climbed to the top but could barely get moving.  Jonny and Muddy were pretty far ahead at this point and I thought about yelling to them but I finally got going and after a few minutes the pain receeded and my form improved.  I caught them at an overlook which showed signs of civilization down below.  As the trail decended rapidly to a road at mile 18 I had returned to feeling good.

Such positive feelings last only as long as the climbs are absent!  We crossed the road and returned to woods on the way to Lantern Hill - our final objective.  Once the trail began to climb in rapid fashion I was officially done.  I was hiking the hills - I had no run left in me.  And I would throw myself forward at the top to get going again. We then settled into a decent groove as we ran the moderate trail around Wintechog Hill.  Suddenly up ahead we saw a bright shirt - it's Mike Crutchley!  He met us out there and then ran with us the rest of the way.

After a quick pass through the North Stonington dump, the last climb began and it was painful.  I was completely exhausted and hiked my way up Lantern Hill while Jonny took off ahead, energized by being almost done.   Finally I squeezed through this tight rock formation (the Lemon Squeezer I think) and we reached the top.  I was surprised how close we were to Foxwoods.  Crutch snapped some pictures of us at the top and then it was a fast and steep decent down to the parking lot.  We were finished!

From the summit of Lantern Hill, Foxwoods beckons

Only a 1/2 mile of downhill left - Photo by Crutch

Finished! - Photo by Crutch

Filthy, beaten legs - Photo by Crutch

Happy to be done.  Not so happy about the gnats.

It took us 3 hours and 27 minutes to complete the East to West traverse of the Narragansett Trail.  The last ten miles were a real challenge.  The hills became brutal to ascend, reminding me of my first go at the NipMuck marathon.  At the parking lot, Crutch provided us with water which was huge.  We waited for Muddy's Better Half to pick us up as we got our first taste of bugs for the season (literally - these shitty little gnats attacked us by the hundreds.)

All in all it was an awesome adventure and challenge.  And I hit 60 miles for the week for the first time which was another great milestone.  Thanks to Jonny and Muddy for setting it up and making this happen.  I sure couldn't have done this sort of thing alone. Thanks to Crutch for the company, pictures and hydration.  And thanks to Mrs. Muddy for picking us up and bringing us food (sorry we stank!)  Is this a FKT?  Until I hear othewise I'm sure saying it is!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekly Log: 4.28.14 - 5.4.14

This will be my last longest week before the Pinelands 50k over Memorial Day weekend.  I want to get back into the 50s for mileage.  I also want to improve my diet now that April is almost over.  Between my wife's birthday and my own, it seemed like I was eating cake or some other confection goodie every day.  Delicious but deadly.  Not to mention the beer.  Sweet, sweet beer.  Time to reign it in.

Monday - East Providence, RI - 6 miles

205 push-ups (standard/military/wide/decline) 30/30/30/20/30/20/30/15

I decided to head south from the office and scope out the area south of 195.  The streets were crumbling and the buildings old and battered.  The whole scene reminded me of something out of Grand Theft Auto 4 (guess that proves what I noob I am when it come to city living.)  Checked out some "parks" near the harbor where a lot of people were sitting in their cars eating lunch (or doing who knows what.)  From this sketchy waterfront property I ventured over to run a bit on the East Bay Bike Path.  I hadn't been on it since the 2012 Providence Marathon and I could see myself doing a longer run here after work someday.  Pace overall was fairly peppy considering yesterday's race.

Tuesday - Charlestown, RI/Seekonk, MA/West Greenwich, RI - 14 miles

16 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/wide) 3/4/2/2/3/2 (with equal number of assisted pull-ups)

Today I had the opportunity to get some decent miles in, dividing it up into three runs.  First up, 5:30 AM dog jog - we checked out a Narragansett trail near the house and then ran up Old Coach and back.

I'm enjoying my new job but the honeymoon is over and the work is piling up.  Despite having an hour lunch it's tough to get out some days with all the conference calls.  I shot over to the Seekonk Meadows for a quick 4 miles.  I've used the New Balance MT00s both times I've been here.  Really enjoying running these fast trails in the minimal shoes.

After work I hit up the west side of Big River.  First I headed out along the Capwell Millpond.  I had never been on this trail before.  I enjoyed it and took it for a while.  I had hoped it would veer towards the New London Turnpike but I sensed that it was going to just twist and turn and get me lost.  I had to pick up Em in an 45 minutes and didn't want to chance it.  I reversed course and made my way back to familiar territory.  Took the Pine trail which is hilly fun and then explored a bit more before heading back.  Couldn't resist a little extra pavement to make it an even 14 on the day.

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 5.2 miles

195 push-ups (standard/military/decline/diamond) 30/30/20/15/30/25/30/15)

Legs were lifeless from yesterday's miles and I had eaten lunch an hour earlier so today's run was slow and easy.  Kind of just meandered about, checking out roads I was sort of familiar with and connecting them all together.  It was the one point in the day when it wasn't raining so that was a nice bonus.

Thursday - East Providence, RI - 11.1 miles

Band practice night, which means a chance to stretch out a run after work.  Decided to hit up the East Bay bike path and avoid the shitty gridlock leading out of the city.  It had been raining earlier but by 5 PM the sun was out and it was beautiful (if slightly muggy.)  As I mentioned on Monday I hadn't been on the bike path since I ran the marathon in '12 - back then the section over the water was under construction so the course was rerouted on the Veterans Memorial Parkway.  I didn't realize what I was missing.  This is a gorgeous bike path and the views along the water are wonderful.

I wanted to work some speedwork into this run so after about at 3.5 miles I began to run 1/4 mile sprints with 1/4 miles jogs between.  I did three, then briefly explored the trails of Haines Park.  I turned around and churned out another three 400s (I know that a 1/4 is longer than a 400m but whatever.)  Then another break as I navigated a few intersections before I hit the long stretch of bike path that runs along the water.  I gutted out another three intervals and decided to throw in one more for good measure.  After that I took it easy the rest of the way back to the car.  It began to rain pretty heavily with a half mile to go which ended up being refreshing and wonderful.  Good run!

Friday - Caratunk Wildlife Sanctuary, Seekonk, MA - 3.4 miles

P90X Chest, Shoulders & Triceps (60 minutes)

Started off the morning with CS&T - always a fun workout.  A little too much fun.  I overdid it on the clap push-ups and tweaked my neck.  Hurts to turn my head now.  Dumb.  Should be alright in a few days, it's just annoying - especially when I turn my head when driving.

At lunch I checked out the Carahunk Wildlife Sanctuary.  This is actually maintained by the Rhode Island Audubon society even though it's in Mass.  The place starts out as farmland but quickly becomes woodland trails crossing bubbling brooks.  There were a lot of swampy sections and while some sections had bridges others had boards or just a bunch of sticks thrown into the muck.  It was definitely a messy run.  Passed a dude hitchin' up his draws in the woods and then a moment later came upon his girlfriend waiting for him.  Awkward.

The sanctuary crosses over powerlines before another entering another swampy section.  I decided to head back towards drier pastures and was suddenly feeling very tired.  Perhaps all the miles this week were catching up with me.  Ran around a cool muskrat pond getting pretty wet but had to turn around when the water hazards just got too immense.

Fun little place that I'll definitely explore gain.  I'm mad at myself for tweaking my neck and the lethargy that overtook me leaves me feeling nervous about tomorrow's long run but I will persevere.  On the plus side, I'm at 40 miles for the week and the weekend hasn't even started!

Saturday - Narragansett Trail - 20.4 miles

Separate write-up to follow.

Sunday - This will be a rest day


Weekly Mileage: 60.4 miles

Year to Date: 727.5 miles

Lots of runs up at work and discovered some more trails up there.  Got in a good amount of strength training (though I overdid it on Friday.)  And the epic adventure on Saturday was grueling and worthy of it's own blog post.   Also I hit 60 miles for the first time!  All in all a great week.