Thursday, December 30, 2010

York Beach Run

Yesterday at about two in the afternoon I took a break from my work day for an out and back run along York Beach to Nubble Light. It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the thirties. I couldn't wait to get started. I changed in my car and then hopped out, ready to go. I took my first lurching step forward and found I could barely lift my feet off the ground! Within the past week I have had some snow shoe outings, a long cross country ski, strength workouts, and a lot of good running. My body is aching! My hip flexors ache, my ribs ache, my shoulders ache, and my quads ache. Ouch. I stumbled on, trying to ignore the two speedy nimble woman runners that passed me from the opposite direction. I couldn't help muttering a "Damn you," after they had passed and I was sure they couldn't hear me. I pushed on.

Glancing down at my Garmen (which I hate, but use sometimes to keep myself honest) I saw that I was running around 8:30 pace. I could live with that, but shouldn't it feel easier? After a mile or so, my gait finally lengthened and I started feeling a lot smoother. By the time I got to the lighthouse, I was feeling great.

I was scheduled for running drills that day and imagined doing them in the empty parking lots of the Viewpoint. Surprisingly, I found the place packed with winter sight seers. No problem, I'd never see any of them again. I swallowed my pride and did my three sets of drills. One fit looking Japanese tourist actually applauded me as I butt-kicked past. I like to think he knew what I was doing and approved. The other option is that he thought I was hired entertainment.

On my run back to my car I realized why those two women were so speedy and nimble, there was a tail wind! I hadn't really noticed how much of a head wind I was fighting on my way out. Heading back was fast! And wouldn't you know? Those same two women runners ran by going back toward the light house and they were struggling. We smiled at each other and commented on the wind. I guess I am still lacking confidence in my running fitness. Back a few years when I saw runners who were moving faster than me I'd just think, "good for you" and not "Damn you." I'll get there again!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Seasons Greeting from Kezar Falls!

Don't you have a love/hate thing for all those Holiday letters people stick in with their Christmas cards? Well, here's my attempt at a sappy Christmas letter (only available for Blog readers, you poor devils.)

Seasons Greetings From Kezar Falls!

2010 has been a busy year for us newlyweds in Kezar Falls. It's been a year full of fun walking, running, and biking in the woods. We have enjoyed about a hundred meals of steak and greens together. Speaking of Greens, we had a killer garden this year! I have been served coffee in bed over three hundred times in 2010. Morning bacon and eggs on the weekends have been consumed with gusto, only to be burnt up on the trails, calling for further sustenance which we find is best consumed at the Moat Mountain Brewery. There has been lots of fun mountain biking at the Kingdom Trails, Bradbury, FOMBA, Bear Brook, Pudding Pond, and the Moats. I have enjoyed a lot of running on some of those same trails! We've gotten through a broken neck together, but still struggle with Dan's broken truck sitting in the driveway. Last January, this young (at heart) couple enjoyed a winter trip to East Burke with their friend, Zoey. Sledding, walking, fine dining, and beam balancing were some of the activities we partook of while there. May found us having a top secret riverside ceremony involving rings and bubbles and crazy friends. We worked together for a successful completion of the Vermont 80 mile trail race in July. Chafing has never been so much fun! There was a nice little back packing excursion to explore an area we had never been to before. Camping at Acadia was another highlight of the year (I learned to ALWAYS use a flash light to find the rest room after dark!) There was a lot of local trail building, and then a lot of riding and running to be done on those trails! I finally managed to get back into a regular running routine and Kevin has continued to add miles to the local trails for me to run on. But it hasn't been all go-go-go, Porch sittin' has continued to be a favorite evening activity. Our senior citizen dog, Bart continues to amaze us all with his quest to become the oldest and lumpiest dog in Maine. Most importantly, we have been very happy together. In short, It's been a hell of a good year! Hooray for 2010!

What does 2011 have in store for this duo? We plan to continue to enthusiastically enjoy the great outdoors! We plan to raise lots of Kale and Collards again this year. We are going to adopt some laying hens in 2011. There is going to be a great Grand Canyon North Rim Mountain Biking trip in the coming months. We will also enjoy lots of mountain biking here in New England. There is going to be a new local island trail opening in 2011! Of course, we will continue to put in plenty of miles running and riding the existing local trails. I'm sure we'll enjoy a few pints of Iron Mike's Pale Ale at The Moat and a few Hangar Steaks at The Tamarack this coming year. This winter Kevin will get out on the snowboard regularly and I will cross country ski more than last year. Snow shoe stumpin' will be enjoyed by both! I will run a few trail races this coming year and give them an honest effort. I will redeem myself with a good hundred mile finish late in the Summer. And of course, porch sitting will continue to occupy many a warm summer evening. Hooray for 2011!

Happy Holidays and a Very Happy, Active, and Fun 2011 to all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Moat Area Long Run

Yesterday's long run was done on some of the nicest single track in the area. The meandering, hilly mountain bike trails in the Moat area are fantastic for riding and running. The lay out of the trails is smooth and flowing, a little challenging here and there, and quite scenic in places. The White Mountain chapter of NEMBA is responsible for these trails and they do great work there. For late Fall, the trail conditions were remarkable. I only had to climb over two blow downs and these were both on service roads, the single track was clean and clear.
I left the car at the gate and ran up the road a bit before getting on the High School Trail which took me the long way to the Mineral Site Trail. From there I ran what we call the "High Trail." This is a long trail with some rough sections and a ton of climbing. It is very difficult for me on the bike, and nice challenging running! I forgot about the water crossing until I came to it. By then I was a long way in and didn't want to back track. The rocks and edge of the stream were very icy but I found a place I could just wade across without having to climb out onto ice. It really wasn't bad.
Next I ran some service roads, hiking trails, and then did the four nice single track loops. I threw in my two miles at marathon pace effort in the Hundred Acre Woods after setting up my camera on timer to check out my form. I have been trying to open up my stride more and lose that hundred miler's shuffle. I have some shorter faster distances planned for Spring! The photo shows me as a blur, but my form is looking better. Then I repeated the loop to retrieve my camera.
With one loop and the climb back out to the car remaining, I realized it was going to get dark before I finished. I hadn't been able to start my run until about one o'clock due to having work to finish up from the weekend. Not to worry, I had thought to bring my headlamp. But when I checked my pack, I realized that although I had thought to bring it, I hadn't actually brought it. It was still sitting on the kitchen counter. Oh well, I was very familiar with these last trails and there was an option to return on service roads instead of single track. The roads would be just as far in distance, but would be more open and easier to follow. But when I finished the loop I decided to throw caution to the wind and return on the Mineral Site Switchback. I love that trail!
I made it out to the last mile of service road running just as total darkness fell. The service road was easy to run on in the dark and i made it back without incident. I ran somewher between 19 and 20 miles in just over three and a half hours. I felt like I had another two or three hours left in me!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Visit to the Beach

Today I ran a nice ten miler in the middle of my work day. I run where I can during my travels, and today that happened to be in Old Orchard Beach. I ran about three miles on the sand, then moved out to the pavement for the rest of the run. Of note for all you non-heel-striking enthusiasts, I left no heel prints in the wet sand, wore regular old trail shoes, and wasn't even trying! I've never been cool in my life and suddenly here I am, a natural forefoot striker in a time when forefoot striking is cool. :-) The surf was high this afternoon and it was very pretty and enjoyable.

The road running was actually pretty fun too. I ran along the main strip from Ocean Park, through OOB, and into Scarborough. In the Summer months, this stretch is a madhouse. This time of year most of the businesses are closed and the automobile traffic is very light. Also, there was absolutely no foot traffic on the sidewalks. I was afraid I might get a parking ticket because there isn't much public parking on the Ocean Park end. But a police officer watched me park in front of a sign that said "no parking unless you are here to play shuffleboard," and didn't say a word when I took off running. I was prepared to tell him I was there to play shuffleboard, but it didn't come to that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If you've been running for a while, particularly if you have a track background, you have probably done running drills in one form or another at some point in your running career. I have a strong track background and I was coached for some time by an Eastern European track coach, so I am certainly familiar with running drills. They are also sometimes called Plyometric Drills. There are many different forms of these exercises, but they all involve fast explosive muscle movements. They help build strength, speed, and running efficiency (or economy.)

My coach, Jack has Incorporated these drills into my December training schedule. When I read over the exercises he recommended, I was familiar with all of them. Today was the day to get out there and give them a try! Ideally, today would be a cross training recovery day since I ran long yesterday, but my work schedule is busy for the rest of the week and I wanted to be sure to get this workout in so I did it today.

I warmed up with a two mile jog over the trails to the Sacopee Valley Fairgrounds. These fairgrounds provide level paved and dirt roads which are closed to traffic. They aren't scenic or interesting, but I've found they work well for my faster paced running and I knew they'd be perfect for today's drills.

I did sets of 7 different exercises for 30 seconds each with 30 second jogs between each exercise and between each set. I was to do these sets of drills for a total of two miles, which worked out to about 3 1/2 sets of the seven exercises (one doesn't cover much ground hopping or kicking one's own butt.) It's been quite a few years, but they all felt familiar and smooth and fast right from the start. This workout made me feel like there is still a fast young track runner inside this tired old ultra running body! It was a lot of fun, and quite a good hard workout. I didn't feel it so much while I was doing the actual drills, but I was huffing and puffing and staggering on those 30 second recovery jogs!

The drills I did today were as follows:
1. run backwards
2. karaoke step (we used to call them leg criss-crosses before karaoke was invented) in one direction
3. karaoke in the other direction
4. butt kicks
5. skips
6. hops
7. all out sprint with fast turnover (this one doesn't hurt until you stop)

You can do an online search for running drills or plyomtric drills and see descriptions of these and other drills. It's a fun way to break up the monotony and it gives a great workout. Here is a good video demonstrating some of the drills. I'm sure I looked just as crisp, clean, and quick today as this woman looks in the video. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Good Runs

Yesterday I ran five miles on the Ossipee River Trails. Kevin had tweaked his hip the day before and planned to walk at a leisurely pace, so he brought along my extremely old Springer Spaniel, Bart. He gave me a head start before letting Bart off the leash. I felt great and ran at a pretty fast pace. When I was about a mile and a half into my run, I met up with Kevin at an intersection. Right away I saw that he had lost the dog. Kevin told me Bart had taken off after me as soon as he was let off the leash. This was surprising, considering that walking Bart these days usually involves a lot of coaxing and prodding just to keep him moving forward.

I said, "I'll back track and see if I can find him." I knew this wasn't going to be easy since Bart is deaf and doesn't see well. What were the chances he had been able to stay on my trail? Kevin said, "He's probably right behind you, he was moving pretty fast." I thought there was no way that deaf blind dog in his late teens was right behind me. He had been a hell of a good running companion back in his day, but let's face it, he's really really old now! I turned around to back track and there he was, looking happier than he has in years. Goes to show you, once a runner, always a runner! Bart needed to be carried up and down the stairs last night (I've felt that way myself at times), but he seems fine today.

Today, I set out in the rain for a long run on the Standish rail trail. Temperatures were mild in the upper forties and the rain was gentle. I felt very good and averaged about 8:30 pace. I ran an out and back with 6 miles on dirt road and snowmobile trails and the other 12 on paved flat multi use trail. The last mile back to my car was uphill on soft dirt. That was the only time I felt a little tired. Whether I ever get gong ho about racing again or not, it still feels very nice to be in shape!

This is an extremely busy time of year at work for me. Getting my runs in has been a challenge. My toughest work stretch starts on Wednesday with 5 twelve hour shifts in a row and on-call at night. I'll do my best to get the runs in, but I refuse to stress over it. I'm aiming for 53 miles for this week. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Green Mountain

Kevin and I climbed the Dearborn Trail up Green Mountain in Effingham, New Hampshire yesterday. There was a dusting of snow on the trail. I forgot my Stabilicers in the truck, but the snow wasn't problematic. The culprit was the thick layer of slippery, icy leaves that covered most of this trail. Those leaves are always thick on that trail, making for tricky running even in the summer because they hide all the rocks and roots. There were a few patches of ice, but the lone woman hiker in front of us left her slide marks through the snow on the ice to warn us not to step where she had. (Thanks, lady!) The temperature was mild and comfortable. Views weren't all that clear from the fire tower at the top, but we had a great day in the woods today!

Old ceramic tile trail marker with tree growing around it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Long Time on the Trails yesterday for Not So Long Mileage

I wasn't very excited about doing my long run this week, so Kevin suggested running at Bradbury Mountain State Park for a change of scenery. We mountain biked there a lot over the Summer and Fall, but for running I usually head West or North into the mountains if I don't want to run locally. I thought Bradbury was a great idea and I was rearing to go! What I didn't count on was snowy slippery trails. We didn't get a single flake at my house.

I pulled into the parking lot and made the first set of tracks in the snow. There was one other vehicle there, a pickup truck that looked like it had been there over night. Yay, it looked like I'd have the whole place to myself! I got out of the car and walked over to the pit toilet. I slipped and fell on my ass half way there. Hmmm, running might be interesting this day. I hadn't brought any traction device with me.

My plan was to run all the single track on the East side, using the double track as needed to get from place to place. Then I'd stop at the car to refuel before heading over to the West side trails. I wanted about 17 miles total. It was a great theory. What I didn't realize setting out was how looooooong this would take me on slippery trails. It was treacherous! The light coating of snow was over ice, which was over leaves, which were over mud and water. I was careful and only slipped a few times, usually while running onto thin ice without realizing it was there. Bradbury is a very wet area and there is often standing water in the trails. The mountain bikers do an awesome job building bridges and board walks over the worse areas, and keeping other areas drained of water. But, as Kevin points out, they are pretty much done for the season.

Almost two hours into my run, Kevin called to check on me. I was having a good time and was kind of lost in my thoughts at that point. I had finally come across a single set of mountain bike tire tracks and was following them, curious as to who else was out there on these slippery trails on a Tuesday morning. When Kevin called, it brought me back to the moment and I glanced at my Garmen for the first time. I don't remember the mileage I saw, but I remember thinking, "I've been running for almost two hours and have only gone this far!" I also realized for the first time that I was soaked to my knees and it was COLD out! I only stopped running for a few seconds to check in with Kevin then I had to get running again to stay warm!

Back at the car I found that I had run 12 miles in well over two hours. My leg muscles and back muscles were aching from the effort of staying on my feet, but over all I was feeling fine. The length of time this run was taking was a bit discouraging so I turned the Garmen off and set back out for what I guessed was another five miles. I was supposed to do some threshold paced running in the middle of my run but hadn't found any place that I could do it. So I did that on the road before heading back into the woods to finish up. I believe this was the longest amount of time I've spent running since Vermont 100! And I didn't run very far! But that's Okay, I got it done and had fun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Speed Play and Jogging Strollers

Today's assignment was ten miles with the middle miles alternating 1 minute fast and 4 minutes easy. I ran on the paved railway trail from Standish to Windham. It was a beautiful sunny day in the forties, perfect running weather!

My legs felt great on my warm up so I knew I'd have a good workout. The one minute intervals were all between 6 and 6:15 per mile pace according to my Garmen, but I don't put much stock in it's accuracy. Since this was supposed to be Fartlek, the pace didn't matter anyway. At the Windham end I couldn't help but venture onto the Presumpscot River single track for a bit, fitting in one minute of fast running on dirt during that brief foray. Then it was back to the quicker pavement running.

On the way back to the car I was passed by a woman pushing a jogging stroller during one of my four minute slow segments. She was young, fit, and fast, but still, getting passed by a jogging stroller is always a bit of a slap in the face! I caught her on the next one minute fast segment and picked up the pace of my recovery intervals so as not to allow that to happen again. I was once passed by S.F. pushing his kid in a jogging stroller during a one mile road sprint because his child care arrangement fell through. That was by far the fastest moving jogging stroller I've ever seen, he ran around a five minute mile that day. Today's was the second fastest.

All in all, it was a very satisfying and fun run. My legs are starting to remember how to turn over and push off at a faster-than-ultra pace. I think I see a few short snow shoe races in my near future!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Good Fun Long Run

Today's long run took me on the trails along the Ossipee River in South Hiram and across the South Hiram Road into the Durgintown Woods. The trails and tote roads were about 75% covered with ice and the rest was melted down to dirt. I didn't wear my screw shoes because I thought there would have been more melting from yesterday's temps in the high forties. When I left my house this morning it was in the mid twenties and the ice was nice and crunchy under my feet, offering pretty good traction. Near the end of the run it got up into the thirties and things got a little wet and slick, but it still wasn't terrible footing.

I enjoyed the Ossipee River Trails and was happy to see that the deer are back in full force! They seemed to disappear for a week or so at the end of hunting season and I was afraid that they may have been killed or driven out of the area. But the area was covered with deer tracks of all sizes today. I stopped a few times to see where they were going and where they were coming from. I think it's very interesting that they like to follow our mountain bike trails. When we started the White Tail Trail, they started traveling back and forth on it almost immediately. The same thing happened on the Clencher. These trails are meandering winding trails so it's not as if they provide the fastest or most direct route anywhere. Anyway, I'm intrigued by it.

As soon as I entered the Durgintown Woods, I could tell that there was new logging activity going on in there. The gate from the road was open and there were tire tracks on the tote road. A few miles into the Durgintown Woods I came around a bend and came face to face with two guys using chain saws. A pick up truck and a skidder were sitting beside the tote road. I stopped and inched forward, waiting for a sign from the loggers that I could pass. The older of the two stopped his chain saw and walked over to me with a smile. "You still running all around in the woods?" he asked. He looked familiar but I don't remember where I met him before. He was friendly and told me when it was Okay to go through.

I certainly have met a lot of loggers in the woods over the years! This area has a lot of undeveloped forest and the reason it's here is because local logging families own most of it. My son is a genuine "townie" and knows everyone in the area, so it's not uncommon for me to run through a logging operation to an embarrassing chorus of "There goes Danny's Mom! Hey, Danny's Mom!" Thankfully, I didn't get that today. I hope the Durgintown trails stay open and usable. So far it doesn't look like anything extensive is going on and they are doing a good job of keeping the trail clear. We'll see.

I looped around and came back to the Ossipee River Trails. The ice in a slow moving inlet was starting to break up and making some crazy loud snaps and cracks and pops. It was worth stopping and listening for a few minutes. I finished up the run by looking at my Garmen for the first time all day. I wanted sixteen miles, so I zig zagged and criss crossed around the familiar trails to make it work out to be pretty darned close by the time I got home. It turned out to be 15.9 miles at under ten minute per mile pace, not bad for icy trails and a lot of goofing around!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fifty Mile Week (Almost)

This past week, I almost ran my first 50 mile week since before my neck injury last April! I didn't count up my weekly mileage until after my run today and was surprised to come up about a half mile short of fifty. Nice! It has been such a gradual build up that I have hardly even noticed that I've been increasing my mileage and adding a little faster paced running to the mix. This is thanks to taking objective training advice from Jack Pilla for the past few months. I trust Jack, he's well into the Masters age group (like me), winning races outright (unlike me), and not showing any sign of slowing down (again, unlike me). He knows what he's doing!

If left to my own devices I would have been impatient to push the mileage and intensity, gotten disappointed or injured as a result, and fallen back into a half-assed ineffective running routine. I have a lot of years of running behind me so it is sometimes difficult for me to take advice from others, but this arrangement with Jack seems to be working. I'm not second guessing or over thinking things, I'm just doing what I'm told. Pretty simple.

This evening I ran some good fun miles on icy trails in my screw shoes. I picked up the pace and the screw shoes felt like track spikes. There was no slipping or catching at all. While I ran, Kevin walked the woods on the island and found my missing microspike! Now, I just have to find a way to make them stay on my shoes. Other than that small problem, they seem to work as well as the screw shoes but they offer the option of carrying them in my hands on stretches where they aren't needed. Bring on the Winter, I'm ready!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Trails

It was so fun to get out on the snowy and icy trails with the headlamps this evening! The temperature was right around freezing and there was no wind. It was perfect running weather. We wore our screw shoes, so traction wasn't a problem. Kevin walked a few miles while I ran. I caught him about a half mile from the truck and we walked out together.

Yesterday, I lost both of the microspikes Kevin had given me. He said he didn't like them because they fell off his shoes. I tried them on and thought they seemed secure and would work nicely. I ran all over the Ossipee Trails and then crossed some rocks over to an island Kevin was exploring. I looped around the entire island, tracking Kevin. Somehow he came up behind me instead of me finding him as I had planned. A little while later I looked down and saw the spikes were gone from both feet. No wonder things seemed more slippery than they had at the beginning of the run.

We crossed back to the main land and split up to search all the trails. It gave me some bonus mileage, but I didn't find anything. Kevin found one of the spikes, but the other is still at large. I think it must be somewhere on the island. Kevin is going back over to the island tomorrow to do some more exploring while I am at work, so he says he'll keep his eyes open for it.

This evening, Dan came in from a day in the woods and asked, "are you guys the ones making all those trails near the river?" It seems he and his friends stumbled upon them today. His friends thought there must be some crazed trail building kids around. Dan suspected it was Kevin and I. When I asked if he spoke up and said it was probably his mother, Dan looked at me like I was nuts and just shook his head. I asked if he liked the trails and he said he didn't know because he and his friends don't walk on no stinkin' trails, they walk in the woods. I guess he's a bushwhacking snob or something. I swear I saw new boot tracks on the Black Forest Trail this evening, but I'm not calling anyone a liar. I wonder if any of them found that missing microspike. I forgot to ask.

It's been a busy work week, but I have fit in all my scheduled runs. Several of them have had to wait until after work, late in the day. These late runs are hard to get motivated for, but they really help me unwind and relax for the rest of the evening.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Long Wet Run

I didn't set out for my long run today until around 11:30. It is thirty-two degrees, raining, and gloomy so I had a hard time getting myself out the door. I ran the Ossipee Trails and the Durgintown Woods Trails. I didn't see anyone else out on the trails, human or wild animal. It was quite peaceful and nice and I was very comfortable with the temperature once I got moving. The worse part about days like this is getting started! I ran 17.4 miles of wet trails in 2:58.

I had two huge pieces of banana nut bread with butter and a glass of cider before my run and I stashed a bottle of juice and a Power Bar at a four way trail intersection. I took a bite and a few sips each time through. I have been being lazy about hydration and fueling during my runs lately because I haven't been running anything super long. But I had that lousy 16 mile run last week so I decided to pay more attention to it. I felt very good all the way through today, so calories and hydration did help. I know, banana bread before and a Power Bar and Juice during isn't optimal but it was all I had. I'll plan better next week!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Local Trails This Weekend

This has been another good weekend for mountain biking and running. It's been chilly out, so we've stayed close to home, not knowing how long we'd want to stay out. Yesterday morning I was congested and tired, so I was sagging behind on our ride. But I felt better as time went on and I ended up having a great time. After riding all the Ossipee trails, we hit the school grounds to practice skills. We use the curbs, raised sidewalks, playground, and whatever else we can find. We started out at the elementary school, moved on to the middle school and finally made it to high school. I have been practicing doing wheelie step ups and drops. The step ups are going OK, but the drops...well, I think I stuck two out of about 20 attempts. It's all fun.

Back home, we had lunch and a nice cup of hot Egyptian Licorice tea, which cleared my sinuses and made me feel a lot better. We headed back to the trails, me to run and Kevin to do some more trail work. The new White Tail Trail has turned out great and is a lot of fun to run and ride on. Kevin is working on turning a big fallen dead tree into a not-so-skinny "skinny" to ride over. I kept checking his progress as I looped around. I got some good miles in and was happy that I didn't feel as bad as I expected. This recurring "cold" that I have may be an allergy. I am blaming it on White Wine and am going to avoid it to see if that is the culprit. Red wine does not seem to be a problem.

Today is going to be another day spent on the local trails. We're waiting for the sun to warm things up a little. I will do my run later this afternoon. First, I have to get out there and practice my wheelie drops. Maybe Kevin will finally get a successful one on video!

BTW, this is not how a wheelie drop is done. I'm supposed to land on my back wheel.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stalking the Elusive New Hampshire Mountain Lion

My long run was tough today! I ran with Mary on the enormously hilly tote roads in the national forest land outside of North Conway, New Hampshire. My quads were sore and tired from the first step until the last. I think it was residual fatigue from my mountain bike ride and strength training yesterday. Today I didn't utter one word of complaint during the run and practiced positive thinking throughout, telling myself that having a bad run is better than not being able to run at all. I didn't walk a step or cut the distance short so it was a success!

Mary kept me entertained and distracted from my suffering. She is on a kick about mountain lions lately. Someone she knows claims to have spotted one in the White Mountain National Forest land where we run. Every outdoors enthusiast in the North East has heard rumors of mountain lion sightings, but we rarely hear of any real evidence. For example, there have been no confirmed tracks, fur samples, or photographs in recent years. However, once, in 2002 in the Ossipee Hills (near my house!) DNA testing of scat come back as positive for being from a mountain lion. Officials believe it was from a domesticated animal, (some one's illegal pet.) If mountain lions do exist in the Northern New England woods, they are very few and far between.

Anyway, Mary, who doesn't flinch when a black bear bluffs a charge at her or a big bull moose tosses his antlers around and snorts at her, is running scared from New Hampshire mountain lions these days. There is no reasoning with her so I just told her that if she did get killed by a mountain lion in New Hampshire her carcass would give New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife the evidence they have been lacking. Also, she'd be sure to make the national news so it wouldn't be all bad.

Our route started on that same gradual six mile long climb we ran a few weeks ago. I kept telling myself I'd feel better after we finished the major climbing. Unfortunately, when we finally started the down hills and flats I really didn't feel any better. Mary bantered on about mountain lions, cross country championships, home improvement projects, mountain lions, dating, mountain lions, girls nights out, planned ski trips, and mountain lions. I silently trudged along wishing a mountain lion would jump out and put me out of my misery. I persevered and we finally made it through without succumbing to exhaustion, muscle fatigue, or big cat attack. I have to admit, when all is said and done it feels pretty good to push through a tough run.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend Workouts...more like Play Outs

Saturday mountain biking at Bradbury State Park was a lot of fun. Kevin and I have ridden there enough to know which direction each trail rides best in and how to link them together to make a nice long convoluted loop. We continue to find new little stretches of sweet single track here and there. The terrain is a little challenging in places, but I am getting over things that I couldn't ride earlier in the Summer. The weather was warm and sunny, the riding was awesome, and I had my favorite biking partner with me...a perfect day on the trails. On the way home I hemmed and hawed about doing my scheduled run or skipping my scheduled run, I was tired! Kevin jumped in finally and said, "do it, you'll enjoy it." So I got out the car in South Hiram and ran the trails home. I'm glad I did!

Sunday morning, I ran from home while Kevin took his chain saw out to the new White Tail Trail to clean up a few dead falls that were too big or too awkward to mountain bike over. I looped around a few times and them joined him to help. We went back home for a quick lunch and headed back out on the mountain bikes. A group of three teenagers have been making good use of the trails on their mountain bikes lately. They have hit all the trails by the looks of their tire tracks, but didn't get all the way through White Tail yet. It won't take them long to figure out it is cleared for good riding now! Kevin and I both enjoy seeing people out walking and running the trails we have worked on, but it really makes us happy to see people using them for what we intended them for...Mountain Biking!!!

I had one nasty spill on the Clencher. There is a big rounded rock that I got my chain ring stuck on half way over. This brought me to a complete stop. I was able to unclip before falling over to the side, but the banking falls away beside the rock and there was nothing to put my foot down on. I ended up flat on my back with my head at the bottom of the bank and my feet under the bike at the top of the bank. Ugh. The rest of the ride went great. I practiced wheelies in the parking lot of the Sacopee Rescue Building before heading home. I figured if I was going to go over backwards and hurt myself, that was a good place to do it.

I come home from these rides feeling like a happy little kid. There is nothing like playing outdoors! I have a long run in the mountains planned for tomorrow, so today will be my cross train day. I'll get out on the mountain bike during the day and do my P90X strength workout this evening. I am feeling like I'm getting into good shape for the first time in a while, and I sure am having fun doing it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Running and Planning

Originally, I was going to meet my Friend, Mary in North Conway today to run the hilly trails in that area. What we both forget is that today is Veteran's Day and her kids are home from school. So instead of getting involved in child care logistics, I decided to run on my own today. I ran eight miles on the Ossipee river trails and felt great! It's a beautiful Fall day out there. I'm heading back out on the bike this afternoon!

I have been looking for a hundred miler for next year, either late Summer or early Fall. I want to concentrate on some shorter trail races and then a fast fifty early in the Summer.Then I'll move on to hundred mile training. This morning I was reading up about the Virgil Crest 100 (formerly called the Iroquois Trail 100) . It looks like mostly single track with some ski slope and a heck of a lot of climbing. Since inception a few years back, the field has been small, there are a lot of DNFs, and the finish times are on the slow side. This says to me, "difficult, technical, and challenging." I like that! A 50 mile race and 50 mile relay are also run at the same time. The hundred milers do the 50 mile course twice. I like that there are aid stations just about every 5 miles and crew are allowed at all of them. I also like that it is only an eight hour drive from where I live. This one is definitely a contender for my 2011 race calendar.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lowell Preserve

Back in the Spring, Kevin and I were intrigued by an article in the May issue of Single Tracks, the New England Mountain Bike Association's (NEMBA) magazine. It was titled "Places to Ride Near Portland." One of the areas it described was the Lowell Nature Preserve, Atherton Hill, and Blackstrap. But with so many great places to mountain bike, we never made it over there this summer. Today I decided to do a little recognisance of the area on foot during my long run. Last night I printed out a map from the Internet and wrote in details from the Single Tracks article and map. I was ready to go!

The Lowell Preserve is owned by the town of Windham and encompasses about 300 acres. Many of the trails are ATV trails, but there is some quality single track, too. Additional ATV trails wander off the preserve property in all directions. This morning, I parked at the Fire Station on the Falmouth Road and was on my way with no particular plan of attack.

Within the first five minutes I met an angry hunter. He scolded me that "no one should be out in the woods running during hunting season." This occurred directly in front of a sign that identified the trail as being for the recreational use of pedestrians and cyclists. I pointed out that "this is a multi use recreational trail. You should expect to see pedestrians." Then I ran off, and amused myself for the next ten or fifteen minutes by thinking of all the things I could have said, like "You'll never sneak up on a deer with that cloud of cigarette smoke around you," or "If you lost a few pounds and got in shape, you'd cover more territory" or "Real hunters walk through the woods, not on blazed and maintained trails."

Most of the ATV trails are in rough shape. The pooling of water in low spots and the water streaming down the trail on all the hills showed a total disregard to water management and erosion prevention when these trails were built. I didn't have to worry about mud, because there is no top soil left on most of these trails, just water over solid rock and gravel. I don't imagine things are much better in dry weather. The single track, however, is delightful! Winding, hilly, and narrow with interesting rocks, ledges, and streams. It looks like great bike riding on those trails. Unfortunately, the single track trails are few and far between. And they all begin and end on those crappy ATV trails.

After covering all the trails on the map once and some twice, I returned to my car. My Garmen read just under 10 miles. Next, I ran up the busy and unpleasant Falmouth Road for a mile and a quarter to Blackstrap Road. There, directly across the street from me I saw a hiking trail sign. I started off on the "Loop Trail," took a turn onto the "White Trail," and got onto guessed it, ATV trails. This area definitely has a big ATV problem. I think I found Blackstrap Hill, if it is a rocky height of land right under the power lines with good views.

I found the Blackstrap single track. There was one place on a steep downhill where you'd have to drop on the bike from one rock slab to another, drop again to the next one, and then ride down a skinny little ramp that was so steep as to be nearly impossible. I didn't see any bike tire tracks or dead bodies, so I doubt anyone really rides that section. I also saw some excellent rock-reinforced berms and a few nicely built jumps. This stuff is meant for downhill riding. It appears that people ride up the power lines and down the single track. It's not really our kind of mountain biking. We like a few challenging stunts, but prefer it to be in the midst of some good cross country riding.

Back at the car I saw that I had covered a total of 15.89 miles. Not bad for running with no plan and wanting a 16 mile run! The pace was around 11 minute miles, but some of my time was spent standing at intersections, looking at the map, and scratching my head. I enjoyed the running, but wouldn't bother to return with the mountain bike.

I washed and changed in the car, drove to Saco, and just barely made my scheduled meeting with my boss. Everything seemed to go well with the meeting, except when she got really quiet and then reached over and pulled a few pine needles out of my hair saying they were distracting her. Luckily, the tick didn't crawl out onto my face until I was leaving the room and had my back to her.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trail Talk

Hooray, there's a new trail in town! It's not finished yet, but I've run it's length several times already. Kevin worked on it all weekend and it is coming along great. It doesn't take expensive gifts, flowers, or nights out to make me happy. A new trail will do it!

For some runners, it's all about quality of training, for others it's quantity of miles. For a few, it's all about the gear or fashion. Then there are those that focus on race results, competition, or rivalries. At one point or another I have been driven by each of these motivators (except the gear and fashion.) Back a number of years, I had to take my running into the woods due to a bad spine that doesn't tolerate hard surfaces very well. I had already been doing some trail running and a few trail races, and since I was a very young child I had hiked and back packed and back country skied in the woods. But, when I moved virtually all of my running into the woods I found a new running motivator. For me, running has become all about the trails!

Kevin also appreciates a good trail. Before Kevin and I even met in person, we were having lively email conversations and phone calls about trails. On our second date he took me for a long walk in the pouring rain to show me some of his favorite mountain bike trails. It didn't take me long to figure out that he had helped design and build and maintain some of those trails. A week or so later he had me on a borrowed mountain bike, learning a new way to enjoy the trails. It wasn't long after that, that he had me out working on trails with him. He introduced me to his good friends, McCleod and Pulaski. I already knew his friend, Rake.

I'm not the kind of person who can recite the names of every trail in the White Mountains along with their elevation profiles, origins, history, and statistics. I don't keep records about how many times I've been over them and how fast I've run and/or hiked them. I'm definitely not a "peak bagger" or anything else that requires I keep track of the fun I'm having. For example, I think I've climbed all but two of New Hampshire's 4000 footers, but my old white mountain guide says I have hiked those two. Beats me. And I don't really care. All I know is that being on the trails makes me happy.

Most mornings as soon as I wake up I start babbling away to Kevin about the dream I had been having just before awakening. It usually sounds something like this..."I was on this really narrow winding trail and I had to push this wheel barrow full of firewood down the trail as fast as I could. There were jumps and obstacles..." or "I was on this single track trail on a really high narrow ledge driving the Jeep. I'm not really sure how it fit on the trail, but it did..." or "First I was on the bike, but when I got to the narrow high bridge, I was suddenly running. Once I got over the bridge, I was on the bike again, but with a big basket of fruit balanced on my head..." These are happy dreams!

Tomorrow I will be doing my long run. I'm not sure which trails I'll be running on, but I know it's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it! I'll probably run without the wheelbarrow full of firewood. Happy Trails to you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Review, The Lost Cyclist

This is my second day home from work, sick with a cold. Yesterday I did no physical activity at all. But by evening, I was going stir crazy! So this morning I bundled up and went out for an eight mile run on the Ossipee River Trails. Once I warmed up, I felt pretty good! I did about eight flat single track miles at about 10 minutes per mile. Now I am ready to lie down with my book.

I am reading The Lost Cyclist, by David Herlihy. It is a well researched account of the early days of high-wheel bicycle racing and touring in the 1880's. Keep in mind, roads back then were rough and unpaved and bicycles back then were primitive. The focus of the book is Frank Lenz, of Pittsburgh. He discovered a love of cycling. Lenz did well at the short race circuit for a while, but found his true joy in long distance touring just for the fun of it. Eventually, he gave up his accounting job and took to the roads on his bike. I think a lot of us endurance athletes and outdoor lovers can relate to his dream. After two years on the road, he disappeared in Eastern Turkey.

Herlihy's factual, yet entertaining delve into the early days of cycling and into the life of this adventure-seeking young man is good reading! It makes me want to jump on my mountain bike and wander around for days on end...after I get rid of this cold.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bartlett Area Long Run

Mary and Ruby

I ran the trails and tote roads around the East Branch Trail today with my two favorite running buddies, Mary and Ruby. The weather was sunny and cold, hovering right around freezing for most of the run. We all felt good today and enjoyed each other's company and conversation (although, Ruby doesn't actually say much).

Mary and Ruby had a black bear bluff charge at them in this same area last week, but neither of them seemed overly concerned today. I, on the other hand, was jumping every time a branch broke or a squirrel shuffled through the dry leaves at the side of the trail. I have seen black bears in the woods dozens of times and never have felt threatened or afraid. But I recently read a book titled, Bear Attacks, Their Cause and Prevention. This graphic scientific look at bear attacks rattled me a bit. So I am happy to report that I have no bear sightings to report today.

The route we ran involves a steady gradual uphill for the first 6 miles. I do better with steep and short! Today I heard myself whine at one point, "this is too much climbing, you should start coming to my house for our long runs." The next 6 miles is a steady gradual downhill. This changed my tune a little, "what a great area to run in! Isn't this beautiful!" My Garmen shows 4400 feet of elevation gain and loss for that first 12 miles.

Twelve miles brought us back to where we had left the car. Mary drove home with Ruby while I ran the three miles back to Mary's house to make it 15 miles. Mary and I were both happy with how well we handled today's challenging run. It feels good to be getting back into good running shape!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Breif Weekend Update

These were taken on the Fireline trail at FOMBA on Saturday. It was about the most challenging trail I've biked on so far. You've gotta love all those rocks and tight turns and steep climbs!

Sunday, we biked at Bradbury State Park. The ground was wet under the leaves and I had a little difficulty negotiating the slippery roots at times. I only actually hit the ground once, though. It's sad to think that the mountain biking will be coming to an end for the winter in another month or so. But then there will be cross country skiing.

My running is really coming along. I feel good when I run! A good test was my easy four miler yesterday, after two hard days of mountain biking. As soon as we got home from Bradbury I headed out on the trails. Despite being exhausted and achy from riding, the run went well. It's a good feeling to be enjoying my running again!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unexpected Pavement

I was working in a settled area of Southern Maine today. I don't like to run on the roads (no big surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this Blog regularly) and I couldn't think of any good trails in the area. Then I remembered the Standish rail trail. It's not really my kind of trail, too wide and flat and easy. But it is made of dirt and is out of the traffic. I hadn't run there in over a year. Several years back, I used to do speed work there regularly.

I changed clothes in the parking lot and started down the rough dirt road that leads to the rail trail. This road is rolling hills for over a mile before getting onto the flat fast rail bed trail. When I rounded the corner onto the trail I was surprised to find it had been leveled and paved. I was also surprised to see how many people were out running, walking, and biking the path. This is very different than I remembered it, but perhaps not in a bad way. When it was rough and washed out and remote feeling, I never saw many people using it. Strangely, the people I did see on the trail back then were kind of scary looking and acted like they were out there doing something they shouldn't be. Today, the people I saw were exercising and enjoying the fresh air. I also noticed today, that the name of the path has been changed to the "Sebago to the Sea Trail." I like the sound of it.

Out to the Windham parking area and back is about nine and a half miles. I decided I would go all the way to the Windham lot, but walk the last mile back to the car for eight and a half miles. I am trying to be very disciplined about following my training plan. I want to build up gradually and get faster and stronger without getting injured. In other words, I want to be smart about it. I hear you asking, "what's the big deal about an extra mile and a half?" and the answer is that I know myself, one day it's an unplanned extra mile or two and the next day it's an extra thirty followed by an unplanned week off. Give me an inch and I'll take a mile...or thirty. It's easy for me to run really long and really slow. I'm tired of being slow!

It was nice to check my watch at the mile marks and see I was right around eight minute pace. I don't see that on technical single track. It also felt good to stretch out my stride and get up on the balls of my feet. I am naturally a toe runner, but technical trails slow me down enough that I start rolling off my heel more. My lower back was spasming from the hard surface by the turn around point, but not unbearably. I need to build up my tolerance for pavement running anyway, because in the winter I am often forced out onto the roads.

I am not normally a proponent of pavement, but I have to say that this path has evolved into something very nice. I saw several elderly people at the Windham end, a few in wheelchairs and one with a rolling walker. They wouldn't have been able to use the trail a few years ago. I also saw many middle aged couples walking or jogging together, two men commuting home from work by bike, a group of power-walking women wearing business clothes, moms with strollers, and lots of dog walkers. I love the remote wooded dirt trails of Southern Maine, but they aren't appealing to everyone. My mother, who taught me every cliche I know, always said, "each to their own." It sure would be boring if we all had the same interests and preferences. Apparently, a paved bike path is what the Standish/Windham area needed.

This back country runner of the woods has to admit, I really enjoyed my paved bike path run today!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loving the Long Run

I love a nice long run... when I'm feeling good that is. I set out for my long run yesterday and within the first mile I knew it wasn't going to be fun. I kept running anyway, hoping I would start feeling better, but my legs were dragging and my mind wasn't in it at all. I had a whole body fatigue that was making every step a struggle. I decided to call it quits at five miles. I told myself I would try again the next day, which was scheduled to be my weekly day off from running. I felt pretty crappy and unproductive the rest of the day. I pushed the fluids, took my vitamin C, ate a hearty dinner, and went to bed early.

This morning I woke up rearing to go! At the last minute, as I was running down the driveway, I decided to leave the Garmen behind in the mailbox. I find it an annoying distraction. I can't help but keep checking it to see my pace and how far I've run. It's a lot more fun for me to just daydream on the run and check the pace after I'm done. I know the trail mile landmarks well enough from past Garmen-assisted excursions to have a pretty accurate idea of distance.

During the run, the temperature rose into the low sixties and the sun made an unexpected appearance. The trails were clean and fast from my raking last week. I never heard or saw another person for the entire run. It was a perfect, effortless, joyous run in the woods. I'm glad I didn't force my way through it yesterday, hating every minute of it.

My new Montrail Mountain Masochists were waiting for me on the front porch when I got home! Yay! The ones I was wearing are on their last legs and I threw my extra pair in the trash last week. I love the less-is-more feel of these shoes, but they don't stand up to the abuse I put them through for very long. That's OK, the important thing is that they fit well and feel flexible and light on my feet. What's more, the woman's model comes in a wonderful baby blue that turns to a very nice brownish-gray after only a few short runs!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Training Overview

I've been back to a regular running routine for about five weeks now. Looking back, I first got out of that routine last Fall after running too many ultras in too short a time for me. I regained ground over the winter and then fractured a vertebra in my neck in a mountain bike accident in April. After the bike accident I never really found my groove again, mentally or physically. What finally worked for me was to just start getting out there and running regularly, whether I wanted to or not. After a mere two weeks it had become a habit again and I hated to think of missing a day.

In addition to six days of running, I have been doing three mountain bike rides of 1-3 hours and two weight training sessions each week. The weight training is tolerable. The mountain biking is an absolute joy. I love sharing this passion with Kevin. I can't describe how much fun we have riding the trails! My mouth hurts after we ride because I smile the entire time I am on the mountain bike.

Yes, my muscles feel it too. I use my core strength, my arms and shoulders, and all of my leg muscles. Kevin voiced surprise that I tired out before he did while riding at Bradbury yesterday, since "you can run a hundred miles." The truth is that on the mountain bike I have to work to get over those rocks and logs and big roots, while Kevin has enough skill to just roll or hop over very effortlessly. This gives my quads, glutes, and hamstrings a tough workout when we ride on rougher trails like they have at Bradbury. This hard work seems very complimentary to my running fitness. The mountain biking has also vastly improved my balance and coordination and my ability to read a trail and pick a good line. Those last items are very helpful with my trail running. I haven't been falling while trail running anywhere near as often as I used to!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Runnin' and Ridin' on Saturday

Saturday, I chased Kevin around the Ossipee River Trails for my morning run. I was just goofing around, having fun. I was taking pictures and directing Kevin, "ride over that ramp and I'll get a picture," and "ride down that hill and I'll take a video," and "I missed it, go back and do it again." He was a patient photo subject. I put in about 5 miles and never even noticed it.
Back home, we relaxed on the front porch for a while, wondering what was going on at the church, (it involved a lot of dressed up people and a farm tractor). Then we wondered what the heck was up with all the bubbles floating way up in the sky over the river. Kevin even got on his bike to chase down the origin of the bubbles. We never figured out the answer to either of those things. That's what we do when we relax on the porch, watch life go on around us and speculate. It's fun.
Next we both hopped on our bikes and went back down to the Ossipee River Trails. We rode for a few hours and enjoyed another great Fall day on the trails.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chance Meeting on the Trail

Tuesday is now my cross train day and I have been getting out on the mountain bike on that day each week. This week while I was out riding, I unexpectedly met up with an old training partner running the single track Kevin and I built for mountain biking down near the Ossipee River. This runner, R, briefly took a break from road racing many years ago and raced mountain bikes for a while. A crash and serious injury during a race sent her back to running road races. We stopped face to face on the trail and she grabbed my handlebars and said sternly, "Be careful on that thing!" She went on to say that she recognized that these trails "had mountain biker written all over them." I admitted that Kevin and I had something to do with them. We made some small talk and then headed off in opposite directions.

It made me smile to meet up with this old friend on the trail. For the rest of my ride, I reminisced about the tough training we used to do together. R was faster than me at the races. I would always enthusiastically try to beat her and she would stubbornly hold me off each time we raced together. But in our workouts, she pushed me and encouraged me. We did workouts I would never even attempt these days... ladders, mile repeats, quarters, 800's, tempo runs on the track, all at a pace I couldn't even get close to now and with very short rest intervals. I was often light headed and nauseous near the end of those workouts. I vividly recall having tunnel vision during the last few quarter mile repeats on several occasions. I have never experienced that in a race or at any other time in my life. R was one tough ass runner and somehow she was able to bring out a toughness in me that I wouldn't have ever known was there.

When we finished on the track we would head down into the woods onto the snow mobile trails and fisherman's paths near the river for our cool down. We did this so no one would drive by and see how beat up we were from our workout. This was rough running with some bushwhacking involved. It gave us a good excuse to go really slow. These rough trails and informal paths are the same trails that are now the awesome Ossipee River Trails! As I rode it suddenly occurred to me that R is the one who showed me this beautiful area in the first place, so many years ago! Later, I showed Kevin, the trail building fanatic, and the result is this wonderful network of trails used by so many people in the community. Nice!

Near the end of my ride I came face to face with R again. She told me she hadn't been in these woods for many years. She was very impressed with the quality of the single track and wanted me to make sure I thanked Kevin for her. As she sprinted off down the trail she let out a big "Whooooo-hooooooo! This is awesome!!!" It made my day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It Happens

I came down with a bit of a cold over the weekend. I don't mind the congestion or scratchy throat so much, but I hate the sluggishness and nausea that is part of this particular cold. Today I was scheduled for a 14 mile run. I didn't feel up to it, but I forced myself out of the door and onto the trail anyway. Once I started running I felt pretty good. What a beautiful sunny Fall morning it was!

I ran on the nice Ossipee River single track and through the fairgrounds onto snow mobile trails. Then I crossed the South Hiram Road and entered the Durgintown woods. It was here that I just missed stepping into a pile of human poop and toilet paper. Why would someone do that right in the middle of the trail?

The Durgintown woods are very pretty. The footing was rough today because so many fallen leaves are on the ground hiding the rocks and roots. There is quite a bit of climbing and descending, but it is all very runnable. I continued on to the apple orchard then turned around and went back the same way. Suddenly I was back at the poop pile. I couldn't just leave it there. What if someone stepped in it, or worse, rode their bike through it? I'm a seasoned nurse. I handle disgusting bodily substances on a regular basis. I decided I was up to the task. I took two big sticks and did what had to be done. Remember I mentioned the nausea that seems to be a part of this cold I have? Well, as soon as I finished the task I bent over and dry heaved for about 5 minutes. So much for the seasoned nurse thing.

In closing...

Common Trail Etiquette
1. Carrying poop out in a bag is optimal (but not always practical.)
2. Burial is the next best thing.
3. Hole should be only 6-8 inches deep for the best composting.
4. Always go 200 feet from water, trail, or campsite.
5. Use leaves or pine cones to wipe. If you must use T.P. you should bag it and carry it out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Running Gear

I get a kick out of reading about all the gear we runners buy. First we need expensive footwear to run "barefoot". Then expensive compression garments to help our muscles take all that barefoot running. Of course there is fashion to consider as well...skirts, wraps, buffs, fancy gaitors, sunglasses, flashy knee socks, etc. (I might buy a skirt myself after all that chafing at Vermont.) And let's not forget the gadgets. We need our GPS units to measure our runs to the exact milimeter (I have one myself) and special software to record and analyze our training. I could write a whole post dedicated to packs. I have way too many of them and none of them are right for me.

I guess all I really need is a pair of shoes that work for my running form. (I did the whole barefoot thing back in 1979 and ruptured a muscle in my foot. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon this time around.) I don't even need running clothes. I have been known to run after work in my dress clothes because I have forgotten my running clothes. (Hey, I might be the one who invented the running skirt!) Sometimes it's a little awkward feeling and it always draws a lot of looks, but I've put in many miles that way.

A few days ago I looked through my cold weather running clothes and realized that most of my tights are over ten years old and are coming apart at the seams. My long sleeved tops all have a permanent odor. I can't find any gloves (I tend to take them off when I get warm and tuck them under a rock to pick up later, then forget to pick them up.) I do have one hat that is fit to run in still. I think I am the only woman in the world who hates to shop, but it might be time to do some online shopping. Then again, I don't have an office job anymore and I have all those nice skirts and dress pants that are just hanging in the closet begging to be run in.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pawtuckaway Bears Trail Race

About a week ago I received a little post card in the mail informing me about Fergus Cullen's Pawtuckaway Bears Trail Races to be held on Columbus Day. My training plan happened to call for a thirteen mile run that day and I had the day off from work. Kevin had been saying that he wanted to take me mountain biking at Pawtuckaway to show me what a beautiful park it is. So, it seemed like a good idea to run the race and then tour the park on bikes. However, I am definitely not in racing shape. In fact, I have just started the base building phase of my training cycle. Would running there just make me feel worse about my running? I e-mailed J.P. He has been helping me with a training plan to turn myself back into a real trail runner (instead of the half-assed trail slacker I have been of late). He told me to go ahead, so I did.

We left the house around 6:30AM. Kevin teased me asking, "are you having pre-race jitters?" To which I promptly fell asleep and snored for the rest of the drive. I was very relaxed because I was using the race as a training run (I'm just not fit enough to race at this point.) Also, I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew running a race this short and way down in Southern New Hampshire so I figured no one would ever have to even know. But as soon as we arrived I saw Dianne, Brian, and Nathan (who went on to win.) A little while later I saw Bob N. Jeeze, I guess I can't sneak off and run a race secretly after all.

Five and ten milers started together, running down a paved hill for about half mile before turning into the woods. Most of the trails were pretty wide, but that doesn't mean easy. There were also some nice single track trails to run on. All of it was very scenic and very hilly. The footing was tricky at times, but all of it was runnable. I didn't walk a step, very different from the types and distances of races I usually do.

Once the five milers turned off at the 2 1/2 mile mark, I ran mostly alone. At two points, I passed two young guys who looked to be in their late teens or early twenties. Each time one was puking and the other was waiting. The waiting guy told me it was the puker's first race. When he was done heaving they'd pass me back and disappear. After the second time I didn't see them again. In the results, it looks like they moved up in the pack and finished well.

I really loved the run. The turns were well marked and the trails were very enjoyable. I ran relaxed, but slightly faster than I would have run at home. For a long run I usually average from 144 to 148 for a heart rate and my average for the race was 152. So I definitely wasn't killing myself. But it did occur to me that I wasn't going to allow anyone to pass me if I was approached from behind. I guess I do have some competitive spirit left inside of me somewhere!

With four miles to go, I came upon Kevin on his mountain bike. Since there was absolutely no one else anywhere in sight and I definitely wasn't in the running for a win, he biked the rest of the way with me. I wouldn't have him do that if there was any chance of placing. One time at Clarence Demar Marathon, I finished just behind a woman who had her husband bike beside her the entire race. He helped her stay on pace, handed her gels and drinks, and got in my way over and over again. She finished second and I finished third. If she had won, I would have said something to the race officials about it. So I pay attention to this sort of thing. I love to have Kevin's company on the trails so I was happy that there wasn't any reason he couldn't bike with me at Pawtuckaway.

Once Kevin joined me I decided to start pushing a little harder. I warned him that I wasn't going to let anyone pass me so I might have to leave him in my dust (ha!). But no one ever came up from behind so I got to keep my bicycle escort all the way in. We finished by running up that same insanely steep paved hill that we had started the race by running down. I did leave Kevin in my dust on that climb, but I think he let me.

I went for a cool down run to get my thirteen miles in for the day and then jumped on the mountain bike for a tour de park. We biked the easy dirt park roads for a while and then Kevin took me on the Woronoka (sp?) Trail. This is very technical single track. Kevin had helped with the building of this trail and had told me about it. Within the first 100 yards I banged up my knee pretty bad. But I kept plugging away and surprised myself over and over again by getting the bike over or around things that looked impossible. I had to walk the bike over some stretches, but tried to ride anything that looked even remotely possible. This slow methodical plodding along on the bike takes an incredible amount of mental and physical energy. I love it! As soon as we got to the end of the trail I thought, "Phew, I survived," Then Kevin said, "I'm going to take you to Fort Rock next!" Yikes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NEMBAfest at Bear Brook

Kevin and I got a late start this morning, and arrived at Bear Brook State Park at around 12:30. This weekend Bear Brook is hosting NEMBAfest (New England Mountain Biking Association). It looks like they had a great turnout today. The parking lots were full. The event continues tomorrow.

There are many vendors in the main event area. They also have events like the Mountain Bike Olympics. There are a few practice stunts set up there as well. I tried the two teeter-totters (fun!) and a little ramp with a drop off. I did not try the plank that got skinnier and skinnier until you are riding on just a narrow pipe. Led rides leave at 10 and 12. There are marked loops for riders who don't want to ride with a group and ride leader. Bear Brook State park is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, with over ten thousand acres. There are so many trails that even with all the mountain bikers there for NEMBAfest, we didn't meet up with many once we got out on the trails a ways. I have ridden, run, and hiked here several times, but still haven't seen all the trails. It is a beautiful park with a mix of wetland, fields, and forest. There are also a lot of hills.

Kevin knows the trails in the park well as he has put in many hours working on them and riding on them. So we didn't ride with a group or stay on a marked course. We started out following arrows, but Kevin took me off course to show me different trails here and there along the way. The riding is challenging in places, with lots of rocks and roots. We rode pretty hard and were both beat by the time we were done.

Trying to get back into a running habit, I have been following a training schedule. Today called for 4 easy miles. I didn't do it before we left for Bear Brook so I had Kevin drop me off at the Porter-Parsonsfield Covered Bridge on the drive home. I ran over the bridge and then home by climbing over Kezar Mountain. I ran on dirt roads and trails on exhausted legs at a relaxed pace. I think it actually helped my legs stretch out and feel better. I arrived home just as the sun was setting. It was a great ending to a fun day.

Tomorrow we are hoping to mountain bike at the Kingdom Trails, but Kevin seems to be coming down with a cold or something. We'll see.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nice, Cold, Rainy and Windy Run

The weather this morning was perfect for running, a comfortable temperature, a gentle breeze, and just the faintest drizzle of rain. Today was to be the dreaded one day of the year that someone travels with me to see patients to make sure I am doing everything by the book. I am supposed to just go about business as usual but I started worrying about things. For instance, it might not be considered professional to carry my lab draw equipment in a 6 compartment wine bottle carrier (although it works great for the lab stuff and if it had a picture of syringes and vials on its side instead of wine bottles and grapes it would be perfect.) And maybe my extra running clothes (clean, mind you) should be in a different bin than my medical supplies. And should the soft sided cooler that I carry specimens to the lab in have a home care competitor's logo on it? I decided to play it safe and got right to work on tidying up these things. When everything was in order, I had missed my opportunity for a morning run. I dressed up in a matching set of professional looking clothes. Then the supervisor cancelled on me. Damn.

My chance for a run came around 3:30 in the afternoon. I had a break in my day while I was in a remote part of Parsonsfield. I changed clothes in the car and headed out into the woods on an ATV trail. It was pouring rain, icy cold, and windy! I'm talking gusts that almost blew my feet out from under me. Trees were tossing down leaves, acorns, and branches at me as I ran. The water was pooling on the trail and there wasn't much mud at all. I was splashing along with my hair blowing and my (inappropriate for a rainy day) running clothes soaked and slapping at me. I had a big old smile on my face the whole time. It was down right invigorating! I ran 4.23 miles in 39:20, not bad for wet trails!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moats, Pudding Pond, and Local Trails

This past weekend we mountain biked at the Moats and at Pudding Pond. Both are nice mountain biking single track areas in North Conway, New Hampshire. The Riding at the Moats was fantastic. The soil is sandy and gravely so the previous days' rain didn't effect our riding at all. We rode for several hours and I loved it!
There is a long half log that sits near the ground in the Hundred Acre Woods at the Moats. I like to think it's just like the ones you see the pros ride over in those mountain biking videos (Alright, I admit it, this one is only a few inches off the ground instead of fifteen feet.) I rode right over it without hesitating (not as easy as you think because I imagine it is fifteen feet off the ground while I'm doing it .) Then Kevin got his camera out and told me to do it again so he could film it. I must be camera shy because it took four more attempts before I got over it again. These little challenges are what I love about mountain biking. When I do an easy little stunt or hop a log or get the bike over a difficult stretch of rocks, I immediately transform from a adult women into a goofy eight year old tomboy. (some would argue that I am always like a goofy eight-year-old tomboy.)
The trails at the Moats are fun and flowing. But there is always a good bit of work near the end. No matter what order we ride those trails, we finish on exhausted legs with a massive uphill climb. Saturday we finished by riding up the Mineral Site Switchback Trail and I swear I hit my max heart rate. I wasn't wearing my monitor, but I could hear my heart pounding in my ears so I didn't need it.
The riding at Pudding Pond on Sunday was fantastic, too. This area is a little more challenging for me. I tell myself it's good for me to ride stuff that scares me a little. As soon as I got the bike out of the truck, I saw that something was wrong with the front wheel. It turns out the disc brake had gotten bent somehow. So we loaded up again and found a bike shop with the part we needed. Kevin fixed it right there in the bike shop parking lot and we were back in business.
We met two male mountain bikers on the trail and one of them was looking at us in a strange sort of way. I thought maybe he had heard me making the little sounds I was making as I coaxed my bike over the crazy rocky narrow berm we had just crossed. (I don't know why the rest of the mountain bikers out there don't make those little noises like I do. I swear it helps.) But it turned out he remembered us from the Vermont 100. Who would've thought? His wife had run there and he had been hanging out on his mountain bike all that day. Kevin and I remembered him and we chatted for a while before moving on.
We rode for over an hour before Kevin's bike broke. His problem was more serious than mine had been and he had to walk it out of the woods. I rode back and forth over the trail (making a pain in the neck of myself, I'm sure) while he walked. Oh well, the riding we got in was fun! He is hoping to drop it off for repairs tonight. Don't worry, he has a spare bike.
I also got some good running in during the weekend. I am happy to report that my running is starting to feel like something I want to do now, not something I have to do. This morning I ran a wonderful 12 miles of mostly trail, including the Ossipee River Trails, the Durgintown Woods Trails, and loops around the fairgrounds and the elementary school fields. I threw in three miles of hilly pavement to see what kind of pace I am training at these days. I have been running only trails for quite a while now. It's easy to ignore pace when I run on technical and/or hilly single track and snow mobile trails. Since I haven't had a lot of confidence about my running lately, I've been staying off the road so I won't know how slow I am! Today, the road running pace was right where I hoped it would be without increasing my effort or heart rate from what I had been doing on the trails.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I once knew a guy who constantly complained about the weather. It was always too hot, too cold, too dry, or too wet. Sometimes it was too windy. If there wasn't enough snow it was something to complain about. If snow was expected it caused an out right panic.

Comments about the weather are different than complaints. I love hearing people's comments on the weather. The weather this past year has been interesting and worthy of all the comments I have been hearing and reading. This morning, the weather here in Kezar Falls has been all over the place!

I went out for a nice slow recovery run on the local trails. It was warm and humid without a hint of air movement. With a couple of miles to go, an icy cold torrential downpour started. It felt good on my skin! Suddenly it started to hail. This only lasted about thirty seconds. I was in dense enough forest that the hail stones didn't hurt at all. Then it was pouring rain again. When I got out to the road the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The street looked like a stream as all that rain that had just fallen rushed downhill. A stiff wind started up, blowing straight at me. At first it was a cold wind, then it got warmer, and by the time I finished my run it was just a gentle warm breeze.

I love weather! All kinds of it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Speed Play on the Trails

Late this morning Kevin and I went out on the Ossipee River Trails. Kevin is a fast walker and I love to walk the trails with him, but I wanted to run this morning. The Ossipee River trails loop around, criss cross, and over lap each other. There is a lot of trail out there for such a small area. I asked which trail Kevin planned to start on, then headed in a different direction with a plan to catch up with him from behind before he made it to the next intersection and decided where he'd be going next. I didn't want to miss him and not be able to find him, so I had to run faster than normal.

As I passed him from behind I found out where he'd be going next, and planned my next segment of the run so I'd come up from behind again. This time I made it a little more challenging for myself and had to run faster to make it work. I took a short rest each time we met up, then continued to set challenging goals for the upcoming segment. I saw my pace drop as low as 6:40 for a stretch, but spent a lot of time at a pace between 7 and 7:30 per mile. Easy running on these trails usually is about 10 minute pace for me, so I was getting some good speed work in.

This was true Fartlek... No plan, good hard work, and a lot of fun. My goal mileage was reached before we were out of the woods, so I got to walk back out with Kevin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Visiting With an Old Friend

About fifteen years ago I lined up for the start of the Sugarloaf Marathon a few rows back from the front. I looked around, taking stock of the women's field and was happy to see that there weren't any women there that I knew to be faster than me. (You runners who race regularly know what I mean. After a while you can look around at the start and know, more or less, how you will place if everything goes as it normally does.)

A tall, lanky, dark haired woman was standing next to me. She confided that this would be her first marathon and her first race of any distance. I wished her luck and assured her she'd do fine, while wondering to myself why she was lined up near the front. The gun went off and we started running. By the time the runners thinned out and I looked around to see where things stood, that woman was way ahead of me. She gained on me thoughout the race and went on to win. It took a few more ass-kickings (my ass) over the years, but we eventually became friends.

This past week she, D has been in New England visiting from her current home in Virginia. Yesterday I drove over to New Hampshire to visit with D and Mary. This former marathoning champion is in her fifteies now and looks about 40. A fit an active lifestyle sure does pay off! She gave up running a few years back, but is trying to get back into shape, not to compete but to feel good about herself. Mary has had her out running the hilly dirt roads and trails around North Conway almost every day. Yesterday D opted for a hike instead as she was feeling pretty beat up from Mary's boot camp like approach to whipping her back into shape.

We had a great hike in the rain. Before the turn around point, we received a phone call from Mary's young son. The soccer game we had counted on being cancelled due to rain was on! He needed his uniform and shoes brought to him ASAP. We rushed back down, threw his gear together and went to watch a little kids' soccer game in the pouring rain. It was wet and miserable, but in some ways fun. After the game, D and I cooked a very nice dinner while Mary got her run in, (I had already put in my daily 5 on the trails first thing in the morning.) We had a great meal and a fun evening.

I think the three of us did a good job motivating each other to keep up healthy active lifestyles and continue with our running as long as we can. There was some talk about a Reach the Beach team next year. We have all done this event several times before, but never on the same team. We sure had a lot of fun last evening thinking up names for our team. I'm sure running the event together would be a crazy good time!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rainy Morning Run

This morning I ventured out over the little switch back trail where I had run into the bees a few days ago. I wanted to see if they had settled back into their nest and were allowing runners to pass through again. They had not and they were not. I was able to pin point where they are, so the additional sting this morning was worth it... I guess. I don't think we should just leave them there. Runners, walkers, equestrians and mountain bikers are using these trails now. It doesn't seem right to have this nice inviting trail leading these unsuspecting souls right into a yellow jacket' nest! I am hoping Kevin will be the brave one who gets rid of them. Those bees have had a taste of me twice already and they seem to like me, so I'd rather not go near them again.

Kevin spent a lot of time working on trail maintenance this past weekend while I worked so the trails are in great condition. This made for some fast and fun running today. I ran six miles on meandering trails in a light rain. A lot of my run wandered along near the Ossipee River. Watching the rain fall on the river was very enjoyable. The temperature was comfortably cool and I had a good run.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Routine Run (other than getting the wind knocked out of me and getting stung by bees)

This has been a good solid 40 mile week of running, all of it on single track trails. The casual unstructured running I have been doing over the past few months and then a good ten day stretch of no running at all during our vacation has left me feeling rested, healthy, and wanting to run.

This morning I tried to get out early because I had to work today. I ran the half mile down the road and entered the woods. Stepping off onto the single track, my toe got caught under one of those nasty little stumps that are about as thick as a pretzel rod and protrude from the trail for an inch or two. I tripped and landed with my chest on a smooth rounded rock. This knocked the breath out of me and made me suck air in a noisy wheezy painful way while on my hands and knees feeling like I was drawing my last breath. I haven't done that in a long time. Don't you hate it when that happens?! After two or three breaths I got back up, made sure there were no witnesses and continued on, feeling fine.

Kevin was out raking the local trails this morning. I'm sure this is a foreign concept to most people, it sure seemed strange to me the first time I heard of such a thing. But raking or blowing the organic debris off the trail surface and getting down to good mineral soil makes for hard packed trails and fast mountain bike riding. It makes the running more enjoyable and faster, too! It also defines the single track. Bikers, runners, and walkers tend to stick to that cleared path and in doing so, keep the single track single track. So if any of you trail runners wonder why the single track in certain areas is so clear of leaves and twigs and pine needles when the surrounding ground is littered and thick with debris, there are probably mountain bikers to thank for it.

On my return trip I passed Kevin raking. I was surprised at how much progress he had already made. It was nice running back over the trail he had already raked. My pace picked up dramatically without any additional effort. When I started up the switch backed hill to the road, I felt a bee sting on my lower leg, then another on my butt. Yellow Jackets, Yow!!! I ran up the trail and thought I was safe, but when I took the switchback the yellow jackets greeted me with a few more stings. The dirty cheaters had cut across without following the trail!

It was a good run. The best part is that my Garmen says I broke 5 minute/mile pace for a tenth of a mile or so! Thanks for the speed work, yellow jackets.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Midlife Running Crisis

Thanks for putting up with me for the past few months as I've gone through my midlife running crisis. First I just wasn't running well, then I was OK with just running races for the fun of it without worrying about doing well, then I wanted to train and run well, then I didn't want to race at all, then I was completely sick of running altogether. I guess the truth is that I just haven't been running like I used to and it's not a lot of fun for me to race just for the sake of showing up and putting in a mediocre effort. Oddly, while my running has gone all to hell, the rest of my life is better than it's ever been! Kevin claims that this is a big part of my running demise, I have other priorities now. I think this is true. I also think I can get more serious about my running without letting it seem ridiculously important in the whole scope of things.

Although I have been running fairly regularly since the big DNF at Vermont, I haven't been very focused. I have been loving the mountain biking and hiking during this period of running burn out and looking back, I think it has been a good healthy thing for me. I've been able to step back and put the whole running thing into perspective. I read all my friends' Facebook posts and running Blogs and find myself thinking, "Don't you do anything else except run?" and "Where do you find time for your spouse and kids?" and "really now, aren't you boys a little too old to be trash talking and challenging each other?" Sure, I admit it, I spent a good portion of my life with a serious running addiction and sounded just like all those running friends. Now it's time for me to find out if I can start running hard again without blowing it way out of proportion. Can I run, and run well, while partaking of it in moderation? (If my Blog posts or Facebook status remarks start sounding too running related, someone please throw me an intervention.)

I have been getting out for five or six miles on single track every morning. It feels good and I'm enjoying it. I have also been out on the mountain bike and I absolutely love that, but I have no desire to turn it into something competitive. I have canceled all my racing plans for this Fall, but I also have officially taken back my "No More Hundreds Pledge" and my "Done with Racing Vow".

One more positive thought...Since my "midlife" running crisis didn't occur until I was almost 48, doesn't that mean I will live to be at least 96?