Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

Another year done.  Not the best year running wise, mostly because I spent a goodly amount of the time injured.  Towards the end of 2015 I probably did too much, starting with the RI 6 Hour and continuing as I pushed my body in order to reach 2000 miles for the year.  Well I reached 2000 but then the next week I felt an unpleasant sensation in the lower leg after the Resolution 5k.  So began my bout with a stress fracture.  Like a stubborn fool I continued to run on it until a lackluster performance at the Belleville Pond 10k.  After that I was properly diagnosed with the fracture.  I spent six weeks not running and then I slowly begun to incorporate running into my walks.

I passed the time with some great hikes up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  And by June I was running pain free again.  I felt slow and out of shape so I didn't put any goals on myself other than to enjoy running.  As a result I only raced a total of five times this year.  But all post-fracture races were successful and will appear below in my legendary Top Five.

Cross-training wise I had been diligently doing a daily plank routine but I frigged up my wrist in the process so that got derailed as well.  It also stopped my weekly yoga session which was unfortunate.  I had also tried to get back into P90X but it didn't really take.  I'm hopeful to be more consistent with all these aspects in 2017.

In terms of last year's goals, here's what I wrote and what ended up happening:

  • Set some PRs - Nope, not a one.  But I did only run five races and after the fracture I consider the rest of 2016 a rebuilding year.
  • Run a sub 4 hour 50k - Nope.  The fracture derailed any chance at racing a 50k, let alone running one in under four hours.  However I did eek out a 50k long run this month which was a big step in the right direction
  • A return to cross-training - Let's call it a draw.  I definitely did a lot of different stuff in the few months when I wasn't running.  But then I hurt myself doing planks just in time for the running to start up again.  Every since the mid-year point it's been hit or miss.
  • More mountain adventures - A definite success.  I got up to the White Mountains a lot this year.  While I only checked off three new 4000 footers from my list, I summitted 14 of them in total, most with either friends or family.

And so that brings us to my top five races/adventures of 2016:

I was way off my PR from the previous year but so was everyone else on this humid, oppressively hot day.  After healing for much of the year it was great to race with friends again on this challenging course.

4. Father/Kid Hiking Trip in the Southern Presidentials
In October I took Ezri on a two day backpacking trip up to Mizpah Hut in the Southern Presidentials along with my friend Rob and his boy Robbie.  It was a challenging two days but the kids did great.  Ezri bagged three 4000 footers including Mt. Eisenhower.  She climbed five total in 2016.  I'm very proud of all she's done this year.

A race I've often struggled with, I finished only 21 seconds off my PR this year.  Very pleased with my effort and fitness level afterwards.

2. Group Backpacking Trip along the Bonds
In May I joined Rob and three of his friends for trip over the Bonds to the Guyot campsite.  A fun adventure filled with incredible views and camaraderie.  I had done much of our route solo the previous year but doing it with a group was a completely different experience.  I actually had made a pretty lengthy blog post about our journey but chumped it and never finished.  Perhaps I will get it done in 2017!

I had known about this race for a few years but scheduling conflicts always got in the way.  Now healthy and with a clear schedule, I did as much hill work as I could in preparation.  The course and difficulty did not disappoint.  Neither did the conditions which were cool, dry, perfect.  I finished in 2 hours and 40 minutes, good for 7th overall against some of the best mountain runners around.  A great performance I'm really proud of.

So not a ton of racing but I made the most of my chances.  And my mountain adventures made up for the lack of races.  Amanda and I got our first taste of winter hiking and it was a magical experience.  And throughout the summer Amanda, Ezri and I had several fun camping trips that also featured great hikes.  And lest this blog become all about hiking I did end the year with nearly 1400 miles (1395 actually) so my weekly mileage is back to where I'd like it to be.  I'm feeling healthy and all systems seem go so I'm looking forward to 2017.  In fact, as far as goals go for 2017 I think I'll just recycle the ones from last year as they still seem applicable:

  • Set some PRs
  • Run a sub 4 hour 50k
  • A return to cross-training
  • More mountain adventures
Okay maybe I'll add a couple more crazy ones...
  • Single Day Pemi Loop?
  • 50 miler?

Thanks to everyone who continues to read this blog.  My posts dried up with the stress fracture and the flow of words never really returned.  Maybe consider that one final goal for 2017 - more blog posting!  Happy New Years all!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Impromptu 50k - Arcadia Edition

I had last week sorta off from work (I was at home and sent a bunch of emails but I didn't have to go up to the office).  It occurred to me that this would be a great opportunity to put in a truly long run.  And that I mean a distance of at least 50k.  It's something I've thought about for a while but injuries got in the way and it would have taken up an entire day on the weekend which would have been tough from a family perspective.  I hadn't run an ultra since November 2015 and it felt like this would be good training for long adventures in 2017.

So I planned it out.  Wednesday would have been the better day temp wise (in the 40s) but other obligations got in the way so I went with Thursday. The temp would be in the 20s with a potentially frigid wind gusts as well.  An out and back seemed a waste of the effort - surely 31 miles demanded a loop of some sort.  I mapped out a bunch of variations, some using the beaches and Wakefield and others venturing more towards the Arcadia/Hope Valley area.  Ultimately I decided that running from my house would have involved a lot of dull miles I was already sick of running.  To that end I made my decision to park near the Richmond dump and head into Arcadia via the North/South trail.  I would follow the N/S all the way through Arcadia and then take roads back to the car in a long meandering loop.

I went with cold compression gear and my running vest.  I also carried my 24 oz handheld and refilled it from the two bottles on my vest.  This worked well.  Food wise I didn't have gels so I just grabbed some granola bars and snickers.  I threw an extra pair of gloves in the pack as well as some socks, into which I stuff my phone.  I hoped it would keep the phone warm enough to avoid shutting down (nope).

As I got out of my car heavy snow flurries began which were quite magical.  It quickly covered the trail and was a nice intro to the run.  By the time I crossed under Route 95 and entered Arcadia proper the flurries had ended and the trail was nearly snow free.  The 13 miles of the North/South trail went quickly and the woods helped keep the wind at bay.  I wasn't cold and I enjoyed connecting the North and South sections of Arcadia in one long stretch.  Indeed an impressive course could have been made just amongst the Arcadia trails but I had decided that trying to run all 31 miles on trails would have been too exhausting and time consuming.

Finally I reached Hazard Road and the end of my trails.  I had intended to take the Shetucket Turnpike, which looked like an unmaintained stretch of dirt road/trail that eventually gave way to old pavement.  But I went left instead right and ended up heading down Escoheag Hill Road.  I knew I missed it but at that point I just went with it and made my way towards Beach Pond.  I wanted to use the map on my phone but as soon as I pulled it out of my pack it died.  I wasn't familiar with this area but I could see the pond in the distance and a combination of roads and trails got me to Route 165 soon enough.

I took this picture after finishing the trail section.  Just
as well as the phone died from the cold soon after.

Now I had to look forward to a long stretch of busy road. In retrospect if I did more planning and had more familiarity with the area I would have chosen a different route.  The next seven miles were comprised of two main roads, Routes 165 and 138.  At the time it was an easy way to add miles and avoid getting lost.  However the roads were very exposed to the wind which began to increase in gusts.  This was especially true as I passed Beach Pond.  I was running against the wind on Route 165 and my hands were beginning to chill. I knew of some side roads that would have gotten me to 138 sooner but I didn't want to "cut the course" as I already wasn't even sure if my route was going to hit 31 mile, an admittedly arbitrary goal.

After seemingly forever I reached Route 138 and soon made a detour into the woods to reassess.  I ate the last of my snickers as they were beginning to harden up and were tough to chew as it was.  The nipple on my water bottle was frozen so from this point I had to unscrew it to get a drink.  I donned my second pair of gloves and got back on the road as standing still wasn't doing me any favors.  One good thing was that with my compression top I hadn't had any of the chaffing issues on my neck/chest that I've previously experienced with the vest.  And being able to carry so much in my little pack turned out to be crucial.

I was 20 miles in and beginning to tire.  Luckily much of Route 138 was downhill.  I pushed the pace as best I could in order to generate some body heat.  This seemed to work and I was able to keep the chill at bay.  Finally after four miles of slogging down 138 I turned off onto the dirt Grassy Pond Road.  Here I encountered a hill that made me walk briefly for the first time.  After that I came upon a long flat stretch of dirt road along farmland which was welcome.  The dirt road gave way to pavement and I continued to shuffle my way down the country roads, not entirely sure where I was but with a general sense that it would lead me back to Hope Valley.

And so it did.  I shambled into "downtown" Hope Valley with 29 miles under my belt.  Had I arrived with less I would not have cared a whit about hitting 31 for the day.  The last two were unpleasant and the urge to walk was too great to resist, especially on the very last mile which found me utterly spent.  But of course I had to run past my car to ensure that my watch ticked off 31 miles for the day.

Overall a great success.  I managed a decent pace for much of the run which is very encouraging.  The first half of the run through Arcadia was obviously much more enjoyable.  I grow less and less fond of running on roads especially when I have to deal with wind and cold.  If/when I do something like this again, it'll be comprised of much more trail.  The following day my knees hurt dreadfully going down stairs but the day after that the pain was completely gone.  Very pleased with my recovery from this jaunt and looking forward to 2017!

A good day.  Don't let the time fool you - it was about 5 hours and change
with breaks.