Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fast(ish) 4 this morning

Last night I had a terrible, hot, muggy, tired-legged run, this morning I had a great, fast, comfortable run over the same course on pavement and dirt logging roads. Maybe it was just the humidity yesterday, or maybe it was tired legs from my mountain run the day before, either way I'm glad I felt better today!

I ran just under 8 minute pace for four miles today. This is the first time in a long time I have been able to get the pace under 8:30's without any pain. I know it's hard to believe, but my back problem has been a lot better since running the 100. I can't explain it. Maybe the nerve that has been causing all the problems just burnt itself out after 30 miles in Vermont. I don't know if that is physiologically possible, probably not, but it is the theory I am going with.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Whiteface-Passaconaway Loop

View from Ferncroft. Whiteface is the rocky knob in the left background.

Yesterday I ran/fast hiked over Whiteface and Passaconaway by myself. I left Ferncroft and ran up the Blueberry Ledge Trail. This trail starts out with easy footing and a gradual grade for several miles and is very runnable. Then it gets serious. Just as the trail got steep, I came upon a trail crew putting in big stone steps. They had the trail all dug out for several hundred feet and had strung a rope along the way so hikers could haul themselves up over the loose dirt. They stood back to let me by and instructed, "use the rope." There was no graceful way of hauling my body up that steep incline over loose dirt and I think they thought it was entertaining. A little higher up there are steep smooth open rock faces that you have to claw your way over to reach the top of Whiteface. Over the years there have been various foot holds and ladders and rungs in place on these exposed slopes, but they have all been removed. I would never attempt this part of the trail if it was wet and I avoid descending on this trail in any conditions.

One of the exposed areas hikers have to climb

I met two women at the first good viewpoint after the dangerous part. They said it had taken them 5 hours to get up that far and they were afraid to go back down the same way. They were a little overweight and had struggled to get up the incline. I encouraged them to go with their instincts of not descend the same way they had come up. I pointed out that they could hike over Rollins and down Dicey's Mill, which was what I was doing, but I was also going to add an out and back to summit Passaconaway. They did not have a light and I didn't have one to loan them. It was only noon, but they were very slow and I doubt they made it down before dark. I did think about them a few times in the evening when I was back home. The trails they would be on are very sheltered and the weather was very mild so I think they probably made it down fine.

After a snack and a little breather on the Fake Whiteface summit with the views, I followed Rollins Trail over the real summit in the woods, then continued over to Passaconaway. Rollins is gentle and good for running. It follows the ridge between the two mountains. There was a lot of mud in there yesterday. At the next junction, I hiked over the Passaconaway Loop then descended On Dicey's Mill Trail. Dicey's Mill can be run almost the entire 3.8 mile length.

Mt Passaconaway as seen from Whiteface

This loop is about 12 miles (give or take) and has a surprising amount of trail that is good for running. If you try this loop, just be aware of the open difficult part near the top of Blueberry Ledge Trail and allow plenty of time to be slow and cautious there. Also, don't allow yourself to be lured onto the Tom Wiggins Trail that connects Blueberry Ledge trail to Dicey's Mill Trail. The trail sign warns "rocky and steep, not recommended." Just the sort of warning that tempts a person like me. I admit it, I took the bait once, never again!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I just got back from a fun and relaxing weekend. Saturday, Kevin and I mountain biked at Franklin Falls Dam. The trails there are very winding single track with a lot of short steep ups and downs. These trails are smooth without a lot of rocks and roots. It was very fun riding. Sunday we rode around Lake Massabesic. This ride had fire roads, single track, and a few very short stretches of pavement. My legs were tired and I was pathetically slow and very weak on the climbs. But I just excepted that I'm not any where near fully recovered from Vermont, so I rode slow and enjoyed it. We ended the loop with some rocky single track. This was challenging by my standards, but I did OK. I got through some stretches where I didn't think I could, but I also made a few stupid mistakes which left their marks on my legs. I followed our ride with a short run on fire roads. Kevin kept me company on his bike. It's a good thing he doesn't mind riding slow! My legs were extremely tired by the time I started running, but I thought a slow jog might help stretch them out a little and get those running muscles working. Today my legs are feeling much better and I'll do a short run and a strength workout this evening.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Recovery is Going Well

I got a super-early super-easy 4 miler in this morning on the roads in the pouring, and I mean POURING, rain. Only the right quad feels a little sore. I think my recovery will be fast and easy. I just go by how I feel. I don't feel any great urge to rush back into my training until I'm ready. But at the same time, I'm looking forward to it. I cut back the amount of weight in my strength training this morning. Today I felt like I could have run longer and faster and could have lifted normal weights and reps, but I know from experience that my long term recovery is greatly effected by what I do in this first week after a 100. Sometimes I think there is more discipline involved in taking it easy than there is in pushing ourselves. I know a lot of ultrarunners who brag about running the day after a hundred miler or racing the next weekend or doing some other feat to prove they are tough, but it really isn't that wise in the long run.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here are a few photos from Vermont, courtesy of Jeanne Peckiconis.

Coming into Camp 10 Bear II (mile 70)

Getting ready to work on my feet at Camp 10 Bear II

I took a 3 mile jog on logging roads today and didn't feel bad at all. I don't have any spring in my step, of course, but no pain or stiffness either. I'll do my upper body strength work this afternoon. I have to say, the strength training I have been doing definitely helped at Vermont. Usually my arms and chest get achy and tired toward the end of a one hundred miler. At Vermont, I never got any core or arm fatigue at all. The back/hip problem didn't get worse from running 100 miles. In fact, it stopped hurting completely about 30 miles into the run and has been feeling pretty good since.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vermont 100

This year's Vermont 100 was a blast! It started with a fun and crazy ride down with Jeanne P. and Joe H. We drove from Joe's house in York, Maine to Woodstock, Vermont via Boston (don't ask). There was a lot of conversation and laughter and the trip went by fast. Kevin met me there a little later in the evening.

At 4:00 AM Saturday morning we headed up the gravel road to start our journey. I started out with Joe near the back of the pack. We both had "buckle on the brain," as Joe put it. He thought that in order to pull off a sub 24 hour finish we should be in Camp Ten Bear for the second time at mile 70, by 8:00PM. Anyone who knows Joe, knows that he can be hysterically funny without even trying. So I was snorting and choking with laughter for the first 15 miles of the race, actually weak in the knees at times. I wanted to stay relaxed and enjoy myself and Joe helped set the right tone. At Taftsville, mile 15, we wished each other well and I moved ahead. Joe did stay on his planned pace through mile 70 at Ten Bear, but lost ground in the last part of the race. He finished over 24 hours, but it was still a good run and his 11th finish at Vermont.

It was warm and humid so I really concentrated on drinking. I also took in more food than I normally do. Kevin met me at every crew station. He was a great help by giving me encouraging words and handing me any supplies I asked for. I normally skip having a crew so I felt very pampered! When Kevin helped me get my shoe off, tend to a blister, and put a dry sock on, I almost felt like I was cheating! Both times through Ten Bear I was completely spoiled by friends who were hanging out at that station. Jeanne, Melanie, Damon, Steve P, and others joined Kevin in handing me food, filling my bottles, and giving me advice and encouragement.

I made it to all the crew stations at almost the exact times I had predicted for Kevin. I arrived at mile 70, Camp Ten Bear for the second time at a little after 7PM. I had planned on 7:30 so I was in good shape. Everyone was excited about how I was running, but I warned them that this was where I traditionally started to slow down a lot. I was worried about breaking 24, but Damon did the math for me and pointed out that I had 9 hours to run 30 miles, no problem!

Melanie joined me as pacer at West Winds and was the most awesome pacer I could ever ask for. I asked her to pace because I knew she was focused and serious and wouldn't cut me any slack. She didn't disappoint! When I started getting mentally tired and started to slow down, Melanie announced that I wasn't in bad enough shape to be walking as much as I was and that when I did walk I needed to be walking faster. She kept the pace half a notch faster than I wanted to go and I had to push myself to keep up. She convinced me to run all the flats and downs. Melanie was good at calculating to tell me how fast we were moving and how I was doing in reaching our goal of sub-24. She really was a huge help!

I crossed the line in 23:32! This wasn't my fastest Vermont finish, but it was my best Vermont finish. I had fun, ran at a controlled and steady effort, and proved to myself that I haven't lost much fitness by having to do cross training in place of running miles over the last few months. I'm excited about starting training again and will be picking out a Fall 100 to run.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Well Rested and Ready for Sub 24"

I think all the blog comments, emails, and phone calls are starting to wear away at my doubts. I am starting to hear myself say things like I am "well rested" and "ready for a sub 24". I think they call this being brain washed. I like it.

After talking to my pacer, Melanie on the phone last night I went out for a five miler on dirt roads. According to Melanie, I am "well rested and ready for a sub 24". I have heard it from dozens of people, but suddenly I was believing it. Thanks, Melanie.

Thanks to suddenly being convinced that I actually might be able to miraculously run well at Vermont this year, last night's run felt awesome for the first time in a long time! I can feel a tugging sensation along the back of my right leg with every stride, but it isn't really a pain. It is just a mis-fired message being sent along the nerve. It isn't doing me any harm. I am also very prone to cramping in all the muscles of that leg, I guess just from that wild and crazy nerve. That is a little worrisome, but not something I can't deal with.

Today I'll make up a drop bag or two and pack for the weekend. I am all about low stress, simple fun. That's why I gave up road racing, too much pressure and stress, too little fun! I refuse to make a big production out of a big race so I didn't put a lot of effort onto the logistics for this weekend, but it is all falling into place. Joe and Jeanne have arranged a car pool for me complete with pick up at my mother's house. Kevin has agreed to come witness the fascinating spectator sport we call a hundred miler and be at the ready with the few supplies I might need (we won't scare him by calling it crewing), and Melanie has agreed to pace. This all came together within the last week. Everything always falls into place in all things in my life. I'm very lucky that way.

I'll see a lot of you in Vermont. Since everyone I have talked to says they are shooting for just under 24, we should all be running in an enourmous pack in the last miles of the race. I hope they don't run out of buckles!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mother of all Tapers

With the Vermont 100 coming up this weekend, the only thing I am feeling good about is my taper. It's been an impressive one! I haven't done much running at all this past month. I should be extremely well rested. I can almost always put a positive spin on things if I try hard enough, and I think calling my recent low mileage a taper works for this.

I ran 5 miles on the roads last night and tolerated the pavement better than I have since hurting myself at Massanutten. This is a good thing because there is pavement and hard packed gravel in abundance at Vermont. Worse case, I'll walk the pavement stretches at Vermont.

I think the key for me will be to go in with no expectation other than finishing. I will have to keep an eye on cut off times along the way, not something I've ever worried about in hundred milers except for when I ran Western States under similar circumstances coming off a foot and ankle injury. I will have to let the runners I am used to keeping up with, run ahead. I will have to stay positive and happy and remember to enjoy the journey. If I can do all that I will make it to the finish line in good shape.

This week, my "taper" continues. After Vermont and a few weeks of recovery, I am going back to full training. I believe my back injury is as healed as it is going to get. I'm looking forward to some fun trail miles!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time Management

Yesterday I squeezed in a 1 1/2 hour Yoga session before work, a 1 1/2 run during the work day, and a mountain bike ride in the evening. No wonder I have no time to mow my lawn or weed my garden or rake up all those little green apples that fall incessantly from the two trees near the driveway. I am on the verge of losing control of the yard work, but not quite there yet. I find that by the end of August I usually throw in the towel and let Mother Nature have her way with my little piece of property. In the summer, laundry piles up in my closet (out of sight, out of mind) until I am down to my last pair of running shorts. These days, the dishwasher is usually emptied piece by piece as I need it to eat on. The vacuum hasn't been plugged in for about a month. I am way behind in answering emails and returning phone calls (forgive me if you are someone I owe a call or email to). Strangely, I am not stressed out over any of this. It is all a matter of setting priorities. Let's face it, if it comes down to taking the trash to the dump or taking a bike ride, the bike ride is going to win out every time! I'm lucky that I really don't have anyone I have to answer to, so the summer is mine to enjoy as I want to. Rain or sun, I'm going to keep enjoying it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Waterproof Trail Shoes

Today I took a late afternoon lunch break and ran on extremely wet equestrian Trails in Hollis. I wore a pair of Waterproof Gortex Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Runners that I had never worn before. I think the whole idea of a waterproof trail runner is a little ridiculous, (and the long-ass name of the shoe is a little pretentious). I figure that if I'm going to run on wet trails the water will probably be well over the top of my shoes at some point on the run. I suppose one might suggest I add a waterproof gator to the waterproof shoe, but that gets even more ridiculous. What next, hip waders and a yellow rain slicker?

Back to the shoes...the Waterproof Gortex Salomon XA Pro Trail Runners. They were on clearance from Sierra Trading Post and about the same price as the non-Gortex model so I bought them along with a non-Gortex pair. I love Salomons. I love the fit, the flexibility, and the grip of the sole, especially on wet roots and rocks. I speed laced up my new shoes (yes, I love the speed laces) and took off. It was pouring rain and everything got wet within seconds except my feet, which felt kind of left out of the whole rainy run experience. My feet stayed dry for about half a mile because I made a special effort to avoid deep pools of water, bush whacking out into the black berries instead (you should see my legs, ouch!) Before long I came to a puddle that was like a small pond and I decided to abandon the dry feet idea and splashed through. I have to say, the cold water felt great on my feet! My feet stayed wet and happy for the rest of the run.

The shoes were great, just like all the Salomons I have run in. The Gortex does seem to shed the mud better and they didn't look trashed at the end of my run like any other shoe would look after a run on muddy horse trails. They also seem to be drying out a lot faster than my non-Gortex pair which are still very wet from this morning's short run. I give the shoe a good review, I'm happy with them. If it were up to me I'd shorten the name by leaving out the "Waterproof" part, that word will only encourage tender-feet to take up trail running and no good can come from that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catching Up

Forgive the sporadic blog postings of late, it's summer in Maine and I've been out having fun. I am just finishing up a 5 day LONG holiday weekend off from work. I enjoyed a couple of fun hikes in the White Mountains, a few nice trail runs, and some mountain biking.

I have been trying to run 6-8 miles on level trails 4 times a week. The pain in the butt is there, but usually not too bad. Stride length is definitely limited by the nerve compression at this point. The runs I did over the holiday weekend were fun because I had Kevin as a bicycle escort through the woods. After those runs I got on the mountain bike and joined Kevin for some riding. I am getting more comfortable on the bike which makes it more fun. I have promised to practice and improve over the next few days. OK, I might have said something about riding down railings and doing wheelies, but I meant to say that I'd soon be able to get the front tire up off the ground over obstacles a little more consistently.

I still believe a decent Vermont 100 finish is possible if I keep the right frame of mind. I have to stay positive and just run easy for a finish within the time limit. My last long run will have been the Nipmuck Trail Marathon. I am trying not to count back the weeks to see how long before Vermont that will have been. I am seeing a physical therapist weekly for traction on the spine. This seems to be quite helpful. Also it shows us that the nerve compression and irritation has a good chance of being relieved permanently, since we can do it temporarily with the traction. I'm feeling pretty positive about things, which is always helpful!

I have recruited and lost several pacers for this year's Vermont. Recently, I put my name on the list of runners to be matched with pacers. I hope I get a newbie / hundred-miler-hopeful for a pacer. Pacing is a great way to get introduced to running a hundred miler. I usually have enough fun at these things that I should be able to encourage a new hundred miler runner to give it a try. My own introduction to the hundred mile event was by pacing my friend Anthea at Vermont many years ago. Her last 20 miles were awful and she ended up leaving the finish area in the back of an ambulance. I ran the event on my own the next year, anyway. But I'm a glutton for punishment!