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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Weekly Log: 10.13.14 - 10.19.14

Well here we are: Bimbler's Bluff 50k week.  With minimal running over the last few weeks to rest my janky knee I sort of feel like I'm stumbling towards the finish line.  I did well at NipMuck two weeks ago.  Last year it was my goal race but this year it was merely a waystation on the path to Bimbler's.  I don't have any anxiety about this weekend - like NipMuck I'm rather ambivalent about the whole thing.  Maybe I'm hedging my bets in case the wheels come off the wagon.  When the wheels come off the wagon.   There's no doubt that running Bimbler's two weeks after I scraped out a great race at NipMuck is running hubris.  I may pay a heavy price this weekend but I will pay it all the same.

Monday - 0 miles

I had the day off for Columbus day.  No exercise today.  I helped my dad move some stuff and then did some house putterin'.  Oh and I kegged my first beer in my keezer!

Tuesday - 0 miles

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

I was going to do Yoga today at lunch but I didn't have the gumption.  I feel like I'm encouraging myself to be slothy as these low mileage weeks continue.

Wednesday - East Providence, RI - 4 miles

I wanted to get a short run in to kick the tires, er knee.  Went over the the 10 Mile River Bikepath and did a mix of path and trails.  Beautiful day out there in the 70s - this is October?  My knee didn't hurt but it definitely doesn't feel "right."  Something's amiss in there.  We'll just have to see how long it holds up on Sunday.

Thursday - 0 miles

43 pull-ups (standard/chin-up) 6/8/6/7/6/10

Meeting ran over which put the kibosh on Yoga.  Guess I should have gone on Tuesday.  Really pouring outside.  My coworkers asked, "you're not running today are you?"  No I'm not but I told them that running in warm heavy rain is fun as hell!

Friday - Charlestown, RI - 3 miles

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

Early dog jog on a warm, humid October morn.  Knee felt good - a positive last check-up before the main event on Sunday.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - Bimbler's Bluff 50k - 32.1 miles

Official time: 5:13:09.  9th overall.  Report forthcoming.

Weekly Mileage: 39.2 miles
Year to Date: 1,572.6 miles

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keezer Build - Part 1

For the past few months I have begun assembling the components necessary for a kegging setup for my homebrew.  The biggest question was what type of refrigeration unit.  Kegerators aren't that cheap (even on Craigslist) and an used full-size fridge would not work in my house.  That left a chest freezer, which when converted by homebrewers, is known as a keezer.

First I picked up two kegs, a giant CO2 tank and a CO2 regulator on Craigslist.  The common size for a CO2 tank is 5 lbs and this one is 20.  Still a quick look on the forum assured me that folks with 20 pounders were quite happy with them - less trips to get the tank filled.  However, it is quite large and heavy.

About a month later, I picked up a 5 cubic foot chest freezer on Craigslist.  Amazingly it fit in Amanda's Honda Fit.  The two kegs fit inside no problem but it would haven't a lot of clearance to fit the CO2 tank.

Once I had the chest freezer, I was able to put together measurements and begin the build in earnest.   In order to have taps you either need to go through the lid (via an expensive tower) or attach a wooden collar and drill through that.  You can't go through the walls of the freezer 'cause you'll hit the coils.  I went to Home Depot and got some cheap 2x6 which I had them cut for me.

I knew I wanted this thing on wheels so that I could wheel it into the finished section of the basement if we have a party.  I kept this really basic.  I bought some wheels at Harbor Freight and just used some old 2x4s we had in our creepy trailer.  I added a little ledge on the side of the dolly where I can attach the tank so that it can get wheeled around as well.

One thing I didn't really consider is the height increase from both the dolly and the collar.  It adds another foot to the keezer.  It looks good but I hadn't considered how I'd lift a full 5 gallon keg over the collar.  I filled a keg with water and tried it out.  It was not easy.  A stepstool helped but it's still tricky.  For this reason many people opt to attach the collar to the lid so that when you raise the lid the collar, taps and lines all move out of the way.  That sounds great but it's also more DIY than I want to deal with.  So I'm going to glue the collar down and just deal with the clearance issue.

Another hurdle was temperature control.  Since this is a freezer, I can't just run it or it'll freeze the beer.  So some kind of device is necessary to regulate the temp.  You can buy plug 'n play versions but they veered into the $60-70 range.  This project was up there already and that was way more than I wanted to spend.

The homebrew forums provided a cheaper alternative.  A DIY version could be made using an aquarium temp controller ($13 on Ebay) along with an old computer cord and a wall outlet.  Once I bought the controller I was able to scrounge together all the components from around the house.  I was nervous about the DIY wiring but it proved to be very easy and within an hour I had built a functioning temp controller (I used an old tupperware to contain it all.)

The temperature controller worked!  I set it up so that it would switch on when the temp in the freezer reached 46 degrees and turn the freezer off at 41 degrees.  But my ghetto tupperware case wasn't cutting the mustard - the outlet hung pretty loose in there and I wasn't satisfied.  Another stop at Home Depot and I picked up a hard plastic outlet box.  This one fit the temp controller and the outlet snug as a bug.

I was off to a good start but there was much more to do!  Click here for Part II where it all comes together!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Weekly Log: 8.6.14 - 8.12.14

October is here and my legs are trashed from NipMuck.  I've got two weeks until the Bimbler's Bluff 50k - and that two week window is looking pretty slim now.  The janky knee issue affected me at NipMuck but didn't stop me.  It's going to be low low mileage for the next two weeks as I give my legs a chance to heal up before we enter the fray once again...

Monday - 0 miles

SORE.  My legs are exhibiting the normal soreness associated with a long hard trail race but my knee is definitely more than sore - it hurts.  Going down stairs is tough.  I did walk the dog in the morning which helped loosen up the legs but my knee was aching by the end.

Tuesday - 0 miles

32 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/close grip) 5/7/5/4/6/5

Legs are still pretty sore but movement has returned to normal. Thankfully the knee doesn't feel too bad today.  However today the outside of my left ankle decided to start hurting.  Not sure what that's about - guess more aftershocks from NipMuck.

Wednesday - 0 miles

This ankle thing is annoying.  Definitely doesn't feel good if I twist is certain ways.  Reminds me of how I felt after a couple bad ankle rolls.  Probably will be fine in a few days - I think tomorrow I'll return to the streets for a short run.  As for today, I opted for a 50 minute walk at lunch time.

Thursday - Seekonk, MA - 3 miles

I felt like it was time to get another run in, albeit a short one.  I went over to Caratunk for some easy miles on their trails.  Beautiful windy fall day with a fresh layer of leaves on the ground.  Legs felt alright and while the ankle thing is still present it didn't bother me while I was running.  Almost stepped on a big black snake sunning itself - it took off into the bushes and scared the shit out of me.  I felt like my knee was starting to ache again towards the end which sort of bummed me out.  An hour later I felt determined not to let it get me down.  I'm going to keep the running very sporadic over the next week and I'll be towing the line at Bimbler's, one way or another.

Friday - 0 miles

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

Went over to Providence Power Yoga for a great yoga session!  I left feeling relaxed and energized at the same time.

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - South Kingstown, RI - 5 miles

I wanted to get in a short trail run so around noon I ventured over to DuVal trail in Perryville.  Holy crap it was packed with cars!  I had to park on the street.  I passed lots of people - a family with whiny kids, a large group of older folks, several couples with dogs of various demeanor.  It was a good run and the ankle issue seems to have cleared up.  While my knee didn't hurt it still felt a little "off" during the run.  But I'm confident that another easy week will set me up to grind it out at Bimbler's.

Weekly Mileage: 8 miles
Year to Date: 1,533.4 miles

Monday, October 6, 2014

NipMuck Trail Marathon 2014

Official time: 3:51:59.  4th overall.  1st in Age Group.

Time again for the NipMuck trail marathon.  This would be my third year in a row running it.  I had an incredible race last year and afterwards I was ready to take a break from this race but I netted myself a comped entry so once again I found myself towing the line in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut.  Unlike last year, we wouldn't be running in the chilly rain, though 's Saturday's weather did mean that there would be some slick leaves underfoot.

The previous weekend I had some pain appear in my right knee out of nowhere and I had taken it easy leading up to this race.  Two weeks after NipMuck I was scheduled to run Bimbler's Bluff 50k so I didn't want to completely trash my legs in this race.  And the knee issue had me worried that I might not finish at all.  So while I had great plans to keep it in check and treat this race as a hard training run, I also knew that a race is a race and I'd probably be trying my damndest regardless and that's exactly what happened.

It was clear and cold at the starting line and I thought Jonny, Muddy and I were making a statement standing around in our little singlets until Sam Jurek sauntered up, shirtless and looking like a damn GQ model. Race Director Dave Merkt casually shouted "Go" and we were off.  I was in third entering the woods and Jonny/Jurek took off ahead.  Muddy soon passed me and surged to join them.  By mile 1 I had already put distance on most of the field, save for one guy in a yellow Shenepsit Strider jersey who was sticking right to me.

WTAC well represented - Photo by Mike Crutchley

The newfallen leaves hid the trail well in places and there were a few spots where I had to slow/stop and look up to find the blazes.  For most of the first leg (the course is two out-and-backs which I think of as four legs) I was able to see my teammates' singlets off in the distance which helped me stay on course.  The three frontrunners had just left the aid station turn around and I wasted little time there, only grabbing a banana bite before heading back.  Yellow shirt seemed to linger a moment longer at the station and I found myself alone.

I was surprised how much time was between us and sixth place.  It seemed to take forever before I passed him.  In fact, there was a lot of space between me and the top ten.  I didn't think I was working too hard, my only concern was my knee which was feeling fine so far.  Soon I was passing throngs of runners which is always helpful to keep one's mind off the slow ascent in the second leg.  After passing the last few folks, I missed the blue blazes and followed an old dirt road off course.  I came out on a road and saw the volunteers about 100 yards away.  So I just ran down to them and continued on.  All-in-all the trail section I skipped made a direct line towards the volunteers while I basically just ran a right angle so I don't feel like there was any advantage to my wrong turn.

Crossing the start line at 12.5 miles, I was beginning to feel it.  The volunteers at the start, as with all the aid stations, were great and quick to offer assistance or a kind word.  They commented on my singlet - WTAC was well represented today and all the aid stations noted how we made up 3 of the top 4 spots.  The hills start almost immediately in the third leg and I adopted my usual powerhiking method.  I was looking forward to the downhill dirt road section around mile 15 but as I approached it I realized my knee was beginning to ache from the effort.  The smooth road section was appreciated but as I pulled into the Iron Mine station my knee was pretty uncomfortable and I knew the rest of the race would be unpleasant.  I just hoped I wouldn't completely fall apart.

Post Iron Mine the course is tough with big climbs with reduced me to a walk.  I was moving pretty well on any downhills but I also knew I was slowing down from the knee.  After the last of the painful hills there's a nice gradual downhill towards the aid station.  Here Jurek passed me, looking very strong and with a sizable lead over my teammates.  Jonny and Muddy passed me a couple minutes later - they were still running together which I envied.  I took my time on the stairs heading down to the aid station and grabbed some more bananas and M&Ms before beginning the final leg.

Unlike last year when I felt great (when I passed him I had told Crutchley that I was "running out of my mind") this final seven mile stretch was very tough.  My right leg hurt now - I realized I wasn't extending that knee as much and now my quad began to ache as it attempted to compensate.  I passed yellow shirt followed closely by another guy - I estimated I had about five minutes on them.  Would it be enough?  Soon I passed more and more folks - they were all very supportive and I appreciated their comments.  I tried to give 'em back as best I could.  But now I was in grunt mode and wanted to be done.

I was dreading the climb back up the dirt road and I walked each of the hills.  I was able to keep a jog on the long slow climb next to the llama farm and I was still passing folks heading out on these last few miles.  I didn't feel my knee now - it was all quad pain.  With about a mile to go I made a slight sidestep and my right calf almost seized up.  I stopped briefly to massage it but I could tell that both legs were ready to lock up completely if I made a wrong move.  Tentatively I began running again, hoping my legs could hold together for one last mile.  They did, but it was a difficult mile and there were final hills that I walked slowly up.

I almost took a digger on the final descent down to the finish but managed to avoid wiping out.  This was a very tough race and I was so glad to be done.  There were some impressive performances today with Muddy finishing 2nd in 1:31 and Jonny finishing 3rd, taking four minutes off his time from last year.  At the time I didn't think much of my performance - I was just beat, dog-tired and happy to be finished.  Now a couple days removed, I can look back at finishing 4th and with a near minute PR and I'm very happy with how it all played out. Here's a good breakdown of the four legs:

I wasn't 100% in 2014 but I still shaved almost a minute off last year's time

I knew I wasn't as fast on the last leg as 2013 but a little post-race analysis showed me that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.  I was four minutes slower this year but considering that I was battling the janky knee/quad for the last seven miles I'm very pleased with this time.

After the race I changed into dry clothes and did my old man walk over to the food table where I gorged on vegetarian chili, cookies and twizzlers.  Then we sat around for a while, applauding the runners as they trickled in before we made the drive back to Rhode Island.  Another fine NipMuck adventure was in the books and it was a great day for WTAC as we took 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.  Props to Mike Crutchley for delivering me my new WTAC singlet and for snapping some good pics.  Not to mention finishing his third NipMuck Trail Marathon.  Badass.  Will I be back in 2015 to make it four in a row?  We'll see.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Weekly Log: 9.29.14 - 10.5.14

NipMuck Marathon week is here!  I plan to take it pretty easy but still get in 25 or so miles before the race.  That'll give me 50ish for the week and then after Sunday it's easy peasy until Bimbler's Bluff 50k on the 19th.

Monday - Seekonk, MA - 4.4 miles

The plan was five easy miles in Seekonk Meadows.  I wore my New Balance heavy duty trail shoes to get some practice in 'em before Sunday.  The warmth/humidty of the weekend was still in effect and I'm glad it'll be gone soon.  At about mile four my right knee began to ache (it had happened towards the end of yesterday's long run) and I decided to end the run early.  The discomfort in the knee increased as I made my way back to the car.  Not exactly how I wanted to start this week.  Guess my mileage plan for the week is out the window - now I have to hope a few days of rest will improve things before NipMuck.

Tuesday - 0 miles

50 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/close grip) 5/7/6/5/7/6/6/8

Wednesday - 0 miles

225 push-ups (standard/wide/decline/diamond) 30/40/30/20/30/40/20/15

Went to lunch Yoga and got schooled by all these crazy positions.  The instructor had us on our back for the for the first 20 minutes and our legs were wrapped in all sorts of crazy positions.  Hard.

Thursday - East Providence, RI - 3 miles

45 pull-ups (standard/chin-up/wide) 5/7/4/5/8/4/5/7

Well, it was time to test out this knee.  I almost bailed on today's run, afraid of how it was going to go.  I went over to the Ten Mile River Bikepath and did three easy miles of bike path and trails.  No major discomfort in the knee.  I feel like it felt a little off but that could have just been in my head.  At any rate, the knee felt alright and now I'm feeling better about Sunday.  Of course I only ran three miles and on Monday's run the pain didn't even start until mile 4.  Still, no point in worrying now.  My plan is to rest the next two days and then do work on Sunday.

Friday - 0 miles

I thought about a short run but decided to quit while I'm ahead.  I will run NipMuck and if my knee craps out halfway through, I will shove socks and sticks in there and hobble the rest of the way.

Instead I ventured back over to Providence Power Yoga for the second time this week.  This was a good session with a bit of sped up pace at times which had me sweating.  Feeling good for Sunday.  Let's do this!

Saturday - 0 miles

Sunday - NipMuck Trail Marathon, Ashford, CT - 26.4 miles

4th overall.  Around 3:42.  Report forthcoming.

Weekly Mileage: 33.8 miles

Year to Date: 1,463.7 miles