Friday, February 27, 2009

Nice Run, But Longer than Planned

I ran this evening after work. I couldn't run on trails today. With temperatures up near 50, the deep snow on the trails was very wet and soft. I parked at the elementary school in Lyman and did the old work-clothes-to-running-clothes-change-in-the-front-seat-routine (always an awkward process). I checked the Delormes and found a nice eight mile loop to run. I wrote the names of the roads for my turns on the palm of my hand and set out.

The first two turns went like clockwork. When I started looking for my third turn I became uncertain. The map made it look like a main road, but there were only tiny little back roads out there and most of the road signs were missing, there were just naked posts at the ends of the roads. I kept running much farther than I should have. I had expected to be back at my car before dark, but the sun was going down fast and I wasn't where I thought I'd be. I was going to knock on a door and ask directions, but then I saw a man walking on the other side of the road. I stopped him and asked where the elementary school was. It turns out I had missed my turn about three miles back. He suggested I continue the way I was going and gave me directions back to the school using an alternate route. As I left him he called out, "You have a long way to go, young lady!" I liked the "young lady" part.

I wasn't worried. My legs felt good, the temperature was comfortable, and I didn't have anywhere I needed to be. Might as well be out running. This was supposed to be a hill workout and there were plenty of hills on this loop. I ran fast and hard on all the uphills throughout the whole run. It started raining and got very dark before I finished. I didn't have enough reflective gear on so I moved way over onto the shoulder every time I saw a car coming. Luckily, the roads all seemed to have wide firm shoulders that were nice for running. I ran for 1:47:31 and it looks like it was at least 12.5 miles.

This is turning into a nice high mileage training week. It is a good test to see how my body will hold up. Most of my running has been on the hard roads this week and still, my feet and ankles are pain free!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coaching Help

I ran 5 miles on the ice and packed snow on Kezar Mountain Rd this morning. The town has kept this road plowed all the way through, most winters they don't. It was a good surface for running with Stabilicers but would have been tough going in shoes alone. I wasn't particularly fast, about 8:30-8:40 pace, but I felt strong and could have kept it up for a lot longer if I wanted to. I'm pleased with how I'm feeling on the uphills.

I have decided to start working with a coach. The last time I had a coach for more than a very short length of time, was about ten years ago and I did some of my best running during that time. It will help to have some objective guidance in my training. I think coaching help might keep me in check and help me move forward in a sensible way. I'm feeling great right now, I don't want to blow it! I'll be working with Paul DeWitt, past winner at some of the big ultras, including Leadville and Vermont. I'm impressed by what I've read about him and by the correspondence we have had back and forth by email. I'm confident this will be a good thing for me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trying Something New

I've been told that the key to back to back long runs is to do the second one as a relaxed walk/run with a goal of just spending time on my feet. So my plan for today was to go for 2 hours, alternating 15 minutes of running with 5 minutes of walking. My legs were not at all sore from yesterday's 4 hour run, but kind of tired and weak-feeling.

I started with 15 minutes of slow running and didn't feel that great, but after the first 5 minute walk break my next 15 minutes of running felt better. Each run following a walk break felt better than the one before and my last 15 minutes of running felt great. I only did ten miles, we're talking hundred mile pace! But it was actually quite enjoyable and definitely "time on my feet." I feel better after my run than I did before, looser and with less leg fatigue.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

4 Hours on Slippery Roads

With so much new deep snow in the woods, I had to run on the roads for my long run today. The roads are still ice and snow covered and it was slow going. To tell the truth, I'd rather go slow on slippery snow covered roads than move along quick on bare pavement. The pavement usually makes every muscle in my body ache by the time I'm done with a long run, but the snow covering seems to give me more cushioning and I don't feel so beat up at the end of the run. And the tricky footing adds some challenge to make the run more interesting.

I ran through Porter, parsonsfield, Cornish, and South Hiram for a convoluted loop. I avoided all the main roads and had a very scenic and peaceful run. I brought my camelback because I felt dehydrated going into the run today from all the snow shoveling yesterday and then a late evening run last night. I worked on emptying the camelback by the end of the run. I also tried to eat more than I have been on my recent long runs to start getting used to it in preparation for Massanutten.

I ran for 3:57 minutes and wasn't surprised to find it was only 24 1/2 miles when I mapped it out on my computer pedometer when I got home. I told you it was slow going!

Sporting my new Granite State Snowshoe Series cap.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snow Shovel Cross Training Day

Wow, there is a lot of snow out there this morning. This is the kind of snow that involves at least 6 hours of snow clean up, including the dreaded shoveling-off-the-barn-roof. This is a terrifying ordeal that keeps my elderly neighbors glued to their window, watching me with phone in hand ready to call 9-1-1. It's nice to know someone cares.

I don't work on Mondays so I've got all day. The annoying thing is that I like to do my long run on Mondays. With the roads as bad as they are and the time it will take me to clean up what looks like at least 2 feet of snow, chances are I won't get much of a run in today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race

Yesterday's race experience began with me frantically looking for a headlamp. I own 2 of them, but never use them. The halo effect gives me a headache so I prefer hand held lights to run with. The Kingsman Farm race specifically required a headlamp so I had to find one. After searching through 3 boxes of ultrarunning and hiking supplies I gave up. I reluctantly went to look in my 21-year-old son's room so I could borrow his headlamp. He was out ice fishing for the day and wasn't around for me to ask. I waded through the dirty clothes on his floor and scanned his shelves. There it was! Between a stack of girly magazines and a half eaten salami sandwich. See why I cringe at the idea of entering his room? Only minimally tramatized from entering forbidden territory and with headlamp in hand, I was off to the race.

The Kingman Farm race was to be run on UNH property in Madbury, NH. Chris Dunn was race director so it was sure to be a quality event. This would be my last snowshoe race of the season. I have had a blast running them. Snowshoe racing gave me the opportunity to reunite with my long lost friend, Oxygen Debt. I never realized I missed him so much! It has allowed me to meet a different group of runners than I normally rub elbows with. There were so many friendly and fun people at these races. When I run an ultra there is so much invested in it...time, money, training,'s a big deal. In a snowshoe race I pay 10 bucks to register, slap on the snowshoes, and go tromp around in the woods. It feels so relaxed.

So I drove to the race with a light heart and not a care in the world (other than a few flashbacks from my son's room). I took a short warm up in my snowshoes and then lined up for the start. A voice beside me said, "I didn't expect to see you here. This is a 5K you know?" It was ultrarunning extrordinaire, Rich Collins. Rich can handily beat me at a fifty miler and I was psyched that I had been running hard at these races all winter and might be able to beat Rich for a change!

The runners were off fast, the trail turned onto single track about 1/4 mile into the race and people were trying to get into a good position while it was easy to pass. My legs felt great! On the single tack I fell in behind a train of runners and was happy with the pace. Each time the trail widened I picked up a few places. I felt like I was putting in a steady hard effort. At the last two races I had lapses where I lost focus and backed off the pace for short periods. I did better staying on task this time.

I kept picking off runners, and was also picked off myself a couple of times. Finally there were only 3 runners in the train ahead of me. We were probably 3K into the race on narrow climbing trail with switchbacks. Climbing has definitely been my strength in all the snowshoe races. I squeaked by each of them, one at a time. I had just passed the last one when I turned right and led them all off course. I led them down hill following snowshoe tracks and soon saw other snowshoe runners who had been behind us crossing the trail in front of us. Whoops. We turned around and climbed back to the race course. I don't think we lost any places during that short time off trail, but there I was back behind the three runners I had just passed.

Heading down hill in the dark on the switchbacks was tricky but a lot of fun! I got around the guys in front of me again and could hear the finish line comotion off to my right for quite a while before I actually got there. It was a good motivator and I tried to really push through this last part. I felt faster and stronger than I had at the end of any of the previous snowshoe races and I didn't get out-sprinted at the finish line! It was a nice season finale. And next time Rich kicks my butt in a 50 miler, I will innocently ask, "remember that 5K snowshoe race in Madbury?"

I won a 12 pack of Redhook for first woman master and a really nice cap for running each of the series races. During the raffle I won another twelve pack and gave it to Tom for getting me into this crazy sport. I was second woman in the series and Rochester Runners finished as 3rd team with Tom Littlefield, Liz Bowden, Faye Lowrey, Kathy Paradis and Sinthy Kounlasa all racing for Rochester Runners in at least one race, and Diane Levesque, Brian Gallagher, and myself running for Rochester in every race in the series.

Snowshoe racing took me away from some of the winter hiking and skiing I normally do on winter weekends, but I have loved every minute of it. I will definitey be back racing in the snow next year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nice 5

I had a very nice 5 or 6 miler on a back road in Waterboro after seeing my last client today. I was going to run on snowmobile trails, but changed my mind after about 3 steps. It was much too soft to run without snowshoes and I had left my snowshoes at home. When I am working in unfamiliar areas, I have a method of picking my running routes. Half of the equation has to do with finding a place along my drive home where I can safely pull my car off the road. The other half has to do with the look and the feel of the road. You can't go wrong with a winding back road with lots of trees and hills, so that's what I look for.

Today I made a nice choice. I parked at a school on West Rd in Waterboro and took the first side road I saw. It was beautiful, almost no traffic, very few houses, and hilly! I ran against the wind for 25 minutes, turned around, and flew back with the wind at my back (it only took 22 minutes to get back). I have to check a map and see if there is potential for a loop next time I'm in the area. I love running on roads and trails that are new to me. I feel like I am out sight-seeing so the run goes really quick.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thinking Ahead

I did today's threshold run yesterday because I was anticipating messy roads today (I was right). So today was an easy treadmill run while watching the snow fall outside the window. That was followed by some really difficult snow shoveling. The snow was very wet and heavy today. I'm pooped!

I have spent some time this afternoon working on a twelve week training plan leading up to Massanutten. For last year's Massanutten training I was injured so I did very low running mileage concentrating mostly on hill climbs. I ran pretty well there, finishing second woman overall and running just over 29 hours. This was done purely by will power, not on fitness. I want to train hard for this year's race and go into the race confident and prepared.

Thanks to the snowshoe racing and the cross country skiing I have been doing, I have a good base going into this next phase of my training. I'm writing up a tough training plan and I'm looking forward to the hard work. My goal for Massanutten is to break 28 hours. Anything can happen in a one hundred mile race and something could very well prevent me from reaching my goal, but I plan to put in an honest effort and do everything I can to make it happen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sanford Sidewalk Run

I got a good eight mile run in on the sidewalks of Sanford just as it got dark this evening. The snow started about halfway through the run but the sidewalks were just wet, not slippery at all. Normally I would have driven part way home to get out of the city before I ran, but I wanted to get my run in before too much snow fell. Not to sound like a country bumpkin, but I actually had heart palpitations and anxiety as I started out. There were just so many cars on the road with headlights shining in my eyes and people making unexpected turns into and out of driveways and parking lots. I must lead a very sheltered running life to have this stuff bother me so much. But after a mile or so I settled into the run and calmed down.

My legs felt unbelievably light and fast! Not doing a long run this week has left them full of energy. I felt like I had springs in my feet. I did my 3 times a mile at threshold pace going by heartrate, not time. I ran a few miles easy after the threshold pace running and when I was almost back I decided to try some strides. Might as well take advantage of the youthful feel I had in my legs tonight! The strides felt good and smooth. I'll be back to hard training next week, but it sure feels good to be rested!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Run and Ski

Ahhh, I feel better. I finally got my exercise fix. I let Bart ride with me when I went to see a few clients this morning, then parked on the side of Rte 5 and ran with him in the Massabesic Experimental Forest. I had never been out there in the snow, it was very pretty. The trails were rock hard from snowmobiles and it was nice running. There were some icy patches but I had my Stabilicers on and it wasn't a problem. I feel so confident in the Stabilicers that I don't even slow down when I have to run over icy patches. Maybe someday they'll fail me, but I've been using them for a long time and they've always gripped great. Stabilicers are a made in Maine product, by the way.

Bart usually has about 3 miles in him, tops. As I've mentionened in previous posts, he is about 98-years-old in dog years! Today he couldn't get enough. He hasn't had a run on the trails in a few weeks. Like me, road runs just don't excite him all that much. We went out about 2 1/2 miles and I decided that was enough for him and turned back for the Jeep. He wanted to keep going and so did I, but I knew he'd be sore and tired if we did.

I went home and got a few things done, then headed over to BJ's woods for some skiing. We groomed the trails together last night and I couldn't wait to get on them. The skiing was fast and fun. I had gone about 40 minutes when I heard something coming up behind me like a train. It was BJ flying over the hard packed snow. He had gotten home from work in time to get a few kilometers in. I was afraid he'd run me down, but he stopped to say hi before passing me. I skied behind him for about 20 minutes. This was faster skiing than I had been doing alone and my triceps and quads were aching by the time I slowed my pace back down.

I did my abdominal workout after skiing, but decided to skip the upper body weights tonight. I think the skiing worked my upper body hard enough.

Training Week off to a Bad Start

The past few days at work have been busy, there are nurses out sick so I have spent a lot of time in the car trying to cover a lot of territory beginning right after Saturday's race. My back is killing me and I haven't run since Saturday's snowshoe race. I have driven around with my running clothes and shoes in the seat beside me, just waiting for an opportunity for a quick five miles, it never happened. Don't come near me, I am very grumpy right now!

On the up side, I only have a few clients to see today (and a bunch of household chores to catch up on but that's low priority) so I will be able to get some miles in later today.

I have no long run planned for this week because it is supposed to be a low mileage easy week before jumping into the next phase of training starting Monday. I didn't expect it to be quite this low mileage, but it is what it is. Who knows, maybe all this rest will allow me to have a good run at my last snowshoe race of the year on Saturday evening.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race

picture taken by Steve Wolfe

What a beautiful day to be out on snowshoes! There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was very comfortable with just a little cold nip in the wind . The race took place on the trails of Horse Hill Nature Preserve in Merrimack, New Hampshire. I arrived in time for a 3 mile warm up on the road followed by about a mile on the trail in snowshoes. The snow was firm and fast, with just a little loose granular in spots where the sun was beating down. I was happy with the conditions and knew it would be fun running. But I also thought the fast running conditions might be a hindrance to my placing well. I think I have a lot of strength and stamina, but not a whole lot of speed.

I'm guessing about 50 runners lined up for the start. I saw many familiar faces. Rochester Runners' regular snowshoe racers , Brian and Diane were there. It was also nice to see Emily at the start, I think it might have been her first snowshoe race. There was the usual wall of orange Dungeon Rock Racers near the front. Acidotic's Liz Hall stood beside me at the start and introduced herself. I already knew who she was because I have been chasing her for almost two months now. She has the top spot in the Granite State Race Series and I was hoping to gain a few points on her today, or at least not loose too many to her.

I felt good early in the race. I was right in front of Liz for the first 2 1/2 kilometers or so. I tried to push hard on the uphills to put some distance on her so when we got to the second half of the race, which I had been told was the faster half, I might be able to hold her off. But when the course leveled off Liz was right on my heels. It was single track through this part so I asked if she was ready to pass so I could move over for her to go by. Instead of saying what she was probably thinking, "yea, get out of the way poky," she kindly said, "sure, I'll pull for a while." She "pulled" me the same way BJ "pulls" me when we are bike riding, too fast for me to stay on. I stuck for a hundred yards or so and then fell off the back. Liz steadily gained distance on me for the remainder of the race.

I pushed as hard as I could and enjoyed the trail. It was fun with curves and hills and a lot of variety. I could only see one runner in front of me and I didn't hear anyone behind me for most of the second half of the race. It was hard to keep pushing and not just relax my pace. A few times I started getting a little lazy, but then I'd remind myself this was supposed to be hard work and I'd re-focus.

Before the race Diane's friend Bob, who was running his first snowshoe race had asked if our bindings ever came loose during the races. We all said no, we never had that happen. Well he must have jinxed me, because with less than a mile to go my right heel slipped out of the back binding. It only took a second to tighten it up but I thought it was a pretty strange coincidence. I don't think it actually loosened, I think I hadn't tightened the front bindings enough and my foot slipped forward on the downhill.

On the last uphill I passed the guy in front of me. I recognized the trail as the same one we had started on so I knew we were almost home. I pushed hard through here with one goal in mind, I wanted this to be the first snowshoe race where I wasn't out-kicked at the end. I knew I didn't have much of a kick so I decided to get ahead of this guy so he wouldn't be able to race me to the finish line. It was working, I could hear him dropping back and I could see the finish area. I smiled, finally a race where I won't get passed at the end! Suddenly I heard his shoes really digging in and turning over fast. I tried, but he went by me like I was standing still. All I could do was shake my head and keep smiling.

Mike, of 3C Race Productions put on a nice event. The course was nicely laid out and well marked, results were posted very quickly, and the awards were done promptly after the last finishers came in. After the awards, a very nice 3C Race Productions jacket was given away in a raffle. Lucky for me, Brian won the jacket and since he and Diane already each had one he gave it to me!

Next week will be my last snowshoe race of the year. It's time to start concentrating on specific training for Massanutten, including 5-6 hour long trail runs and Green Mountain hill repeats. I mentioned this to BJ on the phone while I was driving back to Maine. He reminded me that I couldn't go into ultra mode yet, I still had to beat Trey at a 5K road race. I haven't run a 5K in about 8 years, but I have to come out of retirement to try to beat Trey. Trey is BJ's 13-year-old nephew and he has beaten all the adults in his extended family at the 5K distance. I am not exactly family, but they are calling me in as a ringer. I hope I'm up to the task.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Threshold Run

Today's plan was for 8 miles with 2 X 2 miles at about half marathon or threshold pace with full recoveries between the efforts. I have been a subject in a few different studies and the most helpful information I received from these is that my lactic threshold occurs at a heartrate of between 168 and 170. So I don't have to worry about pace, I just have to get my heartrate up where it belongs and hold it there for the interval.

There is a loop I can run from my house that is exactly eight miles. I used to know where the mile markers were because I used to do speedwork on this loop, but there are places where I'm not exactly sure now...Is three miles this birch tree or the next one? Hey, someone removed the mile 4 mailbox. Where's that dog that used to be tied up at mile 7? ...that sort of thing. I'll have to re-measure it and find some new landmarks some day if I ever decide I care enough to bother. Anyway, it is a nice loop for speedwork because it is fairly flat. There is a lot of traffic on these roads so I don't do this loop very often. But for today's workout it seemed like a good choice.

I ran early in the morning and it was raining with the temperature right around freezing. There wasn't any ice on the shoulder on rte 25 and my warm up and first 2 mile interval went well. But when I turned onto South Hiram Rd the shoulder was very icy. So I ended up doing a sort of threshold fartlek for my second half of the run. The road itself wasn't icy so I ran threshold pace out in the road until I saw a car coming, then I slowed to a jog and moved onto the icy shoulder until the road was clear of traffic, then back into the road for faster paced running, etc. It worked out OK and it was kind of fun. I honestly don't think I could have held threshold pace for another 2 mile stretch anyway.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Easy 5

I ran an easy 5 today. The warmer temperatures felt nice even though it was sprinkling rain. I ran the first two and a half miles with Bart, who dragged me through every puddle on the street. He seemed to be feeling unusually energetic tonight, must be the spring-like feel in the air. After dropping him off back home, I did another 2 1/2 alone.

On yesterday's 20 miler I noticed that I was feeling very strong on the hills. I think it has to be the snowshoe running. I haven't started doing any hill climbs yet in my training for Massanutten, I planned to start concentrating on that in March and April. Yet, I ran my very hilliest road 20 yesterday and hardly even felt the climbs. Also, the overall pace was faster than I would expect for this time of year.

One more positive supervisor has agreed to let me have Saturday off from work so I will be able to complete the Granite State Series after all. I didn't come up with any elaborate story, I just said I wanted to run a snowshoe race. Who knew something like that could actually work?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hilly 20

I just returned from a beautiful hilly 20 miler on the roads. I thought about Bill the whole run. I cried for the first mile or two, but smiled the rest of the run. I have a lot of happy memories of him. I imagine Bill will be very tired tonight because I think he probably ran with a lot of his friends today.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Remembering my Friend, Bill Paradis

One year ago, on February 10, 2008 the New England running community sufferd a tragic loss. Bill Paradis died of a massive heart attack while running the Hampton Half Marathon. He was 55 years old. When he was in his forties Bill was 50 pounds overweight and was borderline diabetic. He decided to take control of his life and began running and eating correctly. He became fit and healthy, running many road races, marathons and a few ultras. He wasn't slow...I remember a 3:26 at Boston and a 7:50 or so at the Nifty Fifty. He became a bicycling enthusiast, particularly interested in Randonneus. Bill was an active member of the Rochester Runners, Randonneus USA, The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and the Granite State Wheelers. He became an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle and spread his enthusiasm through words and by example.

Bill and I first met many years ago on a long run arranged by our mutual friend, Tom Littlefield. Bill was not a shy man and I recall he kept a lively and entertaining conversation going throughout the run. As with almost everyone who took the time to get to know Bill, I soon considered him a good friend. I had the privilidge of sharing many training runs, races, hikes, and bike rides with Bill over the years.

Bill was my true supporter when I made the transition to ultrarunning. As soon as I announced that I wanted to try an ultra, Bill said he'd do it too. We trained for and then ran our first ultramarathon at Rhode island's Nifty Fifty. A few years later Bill was my patient and tireless pacer at my first 100 mile race at the vermont 100. By the time Bill joined me at mile 68 or so, I was grumpy and tired and wanting to stop. He kept his usual good cheer but also became uncharacteristically tough. Running through that night with Bill, quitting just wasn't an option. He was just what I needed to make it through.

Bill was enthusiastic about tinkering and repairing things. He had a bike shop in his basement that was a sight to behold. Along with an impressive assortment of classic road bikes in various stages of repair, he had some conversation pieces like his "tall bike" and his "sideways bike". You wouldn't catch me on either of those, but Bill could ride them both! When I suffered a back injury that kept me from mountain biking, Bill rebuilt a tiny antique pink woman's Peugeot Racing Bike and presented me with my first road bike. He affectionately referred to that Bike as Miss Pinky. As I became more serious about my cycling I purchased a new road bike and gave Miss Pinky back to Bill. He tuned her up and passed her on to another Rochester Runner and then another. Thanks to Bill and Miss Pinky, there are several new women road cycling enthusiasts in the Rochester Runners Club. Miss Pinky is still on the road today, I believe Amy Lindsay has her at present.

When I was newly divorced, in financial trouble, depressed, and the new owner of a 150 year old home that needed a lot of work, Bill, Tom, and Fay were my first guests. We had a run and then some breakfast. During the tour of my house, Bill noticed that my big heavy Bowflex Revolution was out in the barn and asked about it. I told him that my son and I had been unable to carry it in, so it was just going to have to be stored out there. Bill sized it up with his mechanic's eye and announced, "The four of us can get this into the house." Fay and I added together were about 180 pounds of weakling and Tom was just recovering from a serious heart condition. This piece of equipment weighs about 300 pounds and is very awkward to move. We were skeptical. But Bill expertly disassembled it into manageable pieces and directed us as to where to stand and how to lift. Before long my home gym was set up and ready to use. And nobody was injured! I was feeling so hopeless at the time that this small accomplishment gave me a huge lift. I hope Bill knew how much that meant to me.

Bill and his wife Kathy were the type of couple everyone envied. After thirty-three years they were still so in love that it showed to everyone around them. I remember one outing several years ago where we were cross country skiing on tough black diamond trails with a small group from the Rochester Runners. I was thinking, "Bill must be loving this," because he was quite a dare devil. But when I looked back I saw he had taken off his skis to walk hand in hand with Kathy to easier trails because she wasn't comfortable on those black diamond trails. It was a sight that touched my heart and stays with me to this day. I am so happy to see Kathy is still out there running and snowshoeing and going on with the business of enjoying life. I know Bill would be very proud of her.

Tomorrow on the anniversary of Bill's death, I will be out celebrating life with a long run. Bill will be with me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Frosty's Dash Snowshoe Race

Today I ran the Frosty's Dash for a Cure 5K Snowshoe Race. It was sunny and warm. Temperatures were well above freezing when I left my house in Porter, Maine. I drove down to Rochester, NH to carpool the rest of the way to the race with Brian, Diane, and Sin. It was nice to have company on the ride, instead of driving to the race alone with only my negative thoughts about running back to back snowshoe races to keep me company.

I gave it pretty much everything I had in yesterday's Sidehiller race and didn't think I had much left in my legs for today's race. I really didn't have any soreness in my legs from yesterday, just a tired heaviness. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have tried doubles in road races and it hasn't gone well for me. Both races this weekend are part of the Granite State Race series. I have to miss next week's series race for work which will definitely bump me down on the standings list. So I figured I should try to hang on to my series standing for at least this week by doing both races.

I ran a nice two mile warm up on the roads with Diane and Sin. It was very windy and we noted that there didn't look like there would be much shelter out on the race course. We also noted that we needed to take some layers off, we were all over-dressed for the warm temperatures. It felt like mid to high forties, but I didn't see a thermometer to tell for sure.

Lining up for the start I wondered about the snow conditions. I don't think I had ever run in snowshoes when it was this warm out. It was definitely wet and soft, but how would it be for running? Once we started running I found that the running surface was not bad. Yes, the snow was wet but the trail was sturdy and had a solid feel to it. It felt like fast times could be run today, just not by me. I hate being negative but sometimes it just happens.

Many of the runners in today's race had run in yesterday's race. We were all in the same boat so I told myself to stop whining and get moving. Today I never ran fast enough to feel like my breathing was labored. I couldn't because my legs were so tired. But I ran steady and gave it all I could. In all the other snowshoe races I have run, my cardio fitness has been the limiting factor. Today it was definitely leg strength that told me how fast I could go. We ran through the country club grounds over gently rolling hills. The wind was gusting at times, but not a real hinderence.

Once we got going and I got into my happy running mode, I forgot about my doubts and just ran as hard as I could. I tried to hold my position and measure my performance by the runners around me. I had spoken to Luke from Kennebunkport after the race yesterday and today I found myself behind him for a while and then in front of him and then behind him again. I felt like he was pushing and pulling me along and that helped. Sometimes when I am not moving as well as I'd like in a race, it helps to hitch a ride with someone.

I made it to the finish line and more than met my race goal. If you recall the goal I posted for this race was to survive. I did better than I expected and it was a good experience. I learned that running a double isn't easy, but I can do it. Whenever I doubt myself, it always turns out that I am stronger than I think I am.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sidehiller Snowshoe Race

I thought this was the hardest one yet. There were no major climbs, but the snow conditions made for some very difficult footing and required a lot of leg strength. In the first half mile or so I was thinking that I was a little "off" today. I just couldn't seem to get into a good rhythm and didn't seem to be moving along very fast for the amount of work I was putting in. But I quickly realized it wasn't me, it was the soft snow.

There were short stretches of packed snow at the beginning and end of the race. Even this had a lot of give and was all dug up by the runners in front of me, making for uneven and unpredictable footing. The bulk of the race, the middle portion, was on very soft and challenging snow. I'd like to tell you more about the course, but I only saw the snow directly in front of my feet for the entire race. I didn't dare lift my eyes from the trail. Even so, I fell four times. One of my falls landed me off the trail. I sank in so deep that it took quite a bit of floundering around to get back on my feet.

Near the middle of the race, for a minute or two, I forgot I was supposed to be having fun. I caught myself swearing on one of my stumbles. Then I told myself out loud, "relax and enjoy it". That was all it took to turn things around for me. I think other runners around me heard that and hopefully it helped them in their races today, too. Or maybe they just thought I was weird. Anyway, from that point on I wasn't exactly smiling, but I was enjoying the hard effort. Through this rough middle section I traded places several times with a woman who fell as frequently as me. It's not that I was happy to see her fall, but it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one having a hard time.

When we came to the road crossing for the second time I knew this meant we had the worse part over with and were nearing the finish. I have had a slight cold for the past week and in this last part I found myself wheezing loud enough for the people around me to hear and comment on. I was also coughing a little as I ran. It didn't seem to slow me down any, just made me sound like a smoker.

I didn't have a lot left at the finish. When I stopped running I walked off a short distance and coughed up a lot of unmentionable stuff. A little boy nearby asked his mother, "Is she throwing up?" Thanks to me, there's one little boy who will not grow up to be a snowshoe runner.

Snowshoe racing is a little like giving birth. While you're doing it you are saying, "holy crap, never again." Ten minutes after you're done you are thinking, "well, wasn't that nice." By tomorrow morning I will only remember that I had fun, so I should be rearing to go at Frosty's Dash.

Friday, February 6, 2009

So Happy to be Out There

I ran about 4 miles out and back in Hollis this evening on a hilly side road. I really felt wonderful. Up until a few months ago, every run involved bilateral foot and ankle pain. To be able to run and feel comfortable and smooth is something I will never again take for granted. On Monday's long snowshoe run I started feeling some burning above my right heel a few hours into the run. I thought, "My Achilles, not again!" But then I checked and found it was just a blister starting. But in those few seconds when I thought it might be a relapse, my heart just sank. It was a good reminder for me to enjoy every single running step I take. I have been so blessed by my running all these years. I hope to still be at it when I am 90.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tempo Pace

I took an unplanned day off yesterday because I had a disorganized and chaotic day at work. Today I felt great for my tempo paced running, so I think the day off was a good thing. I hardly ever have a day where I don't do any training at all, so when I do take one of those days it feels like such a nice rest.

Today I did a 2 mile warm up on the treadmill, then 3 repeats of 1 mile at 7 minute pace with a little jog between each, then a nice cool down. I'll do weights and core work tonight.

I'm happy with how my training is going so far. I have to keep building on it in preparation for Massanutten, but I also have to be careful not to get injured or mentally burnt out. So far, so good.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cobble Mountain Race

I just wanted to add this picture of the award ceromony, these are the top Women Masters. In case anyone has been toying with the idea of trying one of these races but worrying that they are all hard work and no fun, I thought you might like to know that there is beer involved. That's my prize for first master on the podium in front of me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Long Snowshoe Run

I went out on snowshoes on the Parsonsfield snowmobile trails for 20 miles today. The snow was firm when I started, but softened up fast as the temperatures rose. I was happy to see that someone had constructed a makeshift bridge over one of the brooks I fell into last time I ran on these trails. When I got to the first road crossing at 5 miles I checked my watch and saw I was right on ten minute pace.

I crossed the base of Merrill Hill on single track trail and entered the Leavitt Plantation. It was nice to see tracks of back country skiers, snowshoers, and even what looked like a studded mountain bike tire. I have been running in these woods for 20 years and only recently have I started to see signs that other people from the community are out there getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors. I have yet to actually see anyone out doing anything that doesn't involve a motorized vehicle, but the signs tell me that they are out there!

I crossed Hasty Road and explored the trails on the other side for a while. When I came to "Mary Brown Road" I knew I had ventured into unknown territory. I thought I knew every road in the area. I guess not. I retraced my steps for a while and then tried to take the trail over Merrill Hill.

A snowmobiler had started up the trail and I followed his track for a few miles. But when the trail got steep, the snowmobiler had turned around, leaving me with 18 inches of untouched snow to wade through in my little racing snowshoes. I figured I would only have to do this for a half mile at the most before I met up with the next snowmobile trail. Leave it to me, I went off trail and ended up totally confused about where I was. I could have retraced my tracks, but I decided to just head down hill. I knew I would end up on Chase Rd, Middle Rd, Merrill Hill Rd, or North Rd. This section of woods was completely boxed in, with those four roads surrounding the hill I was on. I had a feeling I would end up on trails I had been on earlier in the day and eventually I did, but not until I had bushwacked in deep snow for about an hour. I think I only did about two miles in that hour. I didn't count that time or those two miles in my run total for today.

Once I got back onto snowmobile trails I got back to the buisiness of running. It was much slower and more difficult running than it had been earlier in the day. The snow was mushy and sticking to the cleats of my snowshoes. My stomach was growling and my legs were aching by the time I was done. The run (not counting the bushwack) took 3:45.

I have decided to do both Granite State Snowshoe Series races this coming weekend. Running back to back races has never worked out for me. I have tried it twice. Both times I held back in Saturday's race and only had a mediocre performance, then bombed in Sunday's race anyway. So I know it is a bad idea. But I have to miss one of the Granite State races for work already so I think I should do all the others, including the back to back races this weekend. I will push hard on Saturday as if it is the only race I am doing and then just try to survive on Sunday. That's my plan!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Morning Drivers

It has been well over a week since I have done any running on the roads. The snowshoe running, trail running in cleats, and cross country skiing are so much more fun than running on icy roads. But I thought I should do a road run today just to make sure all this off road strength focused running is keeping me in good running shape.

Today I did a five mile out and back on Spec Pond Rd. I usually hate Spec Pond Road in the winter because it tends to be windy and slippery, but today there was no wind and the road wasn't as icy as usual. Other than a crazy minivan driver in a rush to get to church, it was a great run. I noted on the way back that the same minivan that almost ran me off the road on my way out, was parked directly in front of the fire hydrant at the church on my way back. She had kind of skidded in sideways and left the minivan sitting at an odd angle, halfway still in the road. Her front bumper was inches from the fire hydrant. I guess she was pretty desperate to get to church this morning.