Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting Serious about Training (for one paragraph)

This morning I ran 3 hill repeats up Chapel Rd. Each repeat is .6 miles long and has 250 feet of climb. This is a very nice steady hill on a paved road with virtually no traffic. I ran the ups at a hard effort, getting my heart rate into the 170's each time. I am going to do these hill repeats every Thursday leading to the Mt Pisgah 50K. Each week I am going to return to Chapel Rd and try to increase my speed and add one more repeat. This will bring me to 10 repeats the week before the race.

Well, that paragraph reads like something some sort of running fanatic would have written. Maybe I should insert some graphs and charts and a topo map. Forgive me, I'll try not to ever write something like that again. I hate to get all serious about my running and make it seem that I am training. The problem with training for something is that it leads to expectations for a great performance and at the same time it steals the fun from my daily runs. So let's just say I am working on maximizing my running fitness and forget all about the "T" word. I'll make sure I have some kind of witty anecdote to tell about next week's hill repeats.

On a lighter note, tomorrow morning Kevin and I are headed out for a 3 day backpacking trip in the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness. It is one of the few areas in the White Mountain Region that neither of us has hiked extensively. We are looking forward to exploring the area together. I'll try to remember to take some photos to post when I get back home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hiram Hills

Today I ran my first longish run since my 100 mile attempt at Vermont nine days ago. I planned on 16 miles of trails, starting out on relatively easy trails and hitting the Hiram Hills mid run. I made it over Tower Hill and the First and Second Peaks of Peaked Mountain for a total of 4059 feet of elevation gain. There are beautiful veiws of the Ossipee Valley from the Second Peak.

I summited the second peak at almost exactly 8 miles into my run, perfect for an out and back of 16 miles. Unfortunately, I hate out and backs and I have a curious nature. I had noticed a nice looking double track trail heading North between Tower Hill and the First Summit of Peaked. On my way back through I hesitated a moment, knowing this newly discovered trail was going in the wrong direction to get home, but then my curiosity got the best of me and I started down the trail. It was a nice 2 or 3 miles of smooth downhill running (in the wrong direction).

As the trail leveled off, it intersected with a fairly fresh logging road. New logging roads are not ideal for running. There are always a lot of loose rolly little sticks and logs and rocks, and they often dead end at a log yard. But the logging road was heading in a better direction to circle me back towards home so I took it. After a few miles it ended in a dreaded log yard. Ugh, I thought I'd have to back track. But I happened to look through the woods and I could see pavement about 100 feet away. I had never been so happy to see pavement! I bushwhacked the short distance and came out to a narrow road with no traffic and no houses. I knew it had to be one of two roads and I hoped it wasn't River Road in Hiram, because then I'd be a long way from home. I finally came upon a house that I recognized from the cat litter box on a post that they use as a mail box. I was on River Road in Hiram. Boy, did I have a long way to go to get home!

I ran back to Cornish on River Road and then re-entered the snowmobile trails that would take me home eventually. When my Garmen read 20 miles I stopped running, stopped my watch, and took a leisurely 5 or 6 mile stroll home. Twenty miles is plenty for 9 days after my 84 mile DNF. The 20 miles took me 3:36, which is under 11 minute pace on mostly tough trails. I'm happy with that. And I felt fine doing it.

When I got back home I found that my Iodine tablets that I had used to purify stream water with during my run, expired a few years ago. I sure hope I don't get some sort of gut wrenching parasitic illness. Other than that small concern, it was a great run!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saturday Run and Bike

I am not sure why an 84 mile run at Vermont was so much easier on my legs than a 100 mile run, but it was! I have run 30+ miles in the 6 days since my DNF and I feel great. I can't explain it, but I like it!

Yesterday morning I ran with the Rochester Runners gang for a nice 8 miles on dirt and paved roads. We ran around Lovell Pond in Wakefield, NH. I had patients to see in Shapleigh (not far from Wakefield at all) so it worked out great. I took a dip in the pond after the run and changed in my car and I was ready for work. The group is a great one to run with, they are very relaxed and fun.

In the afternoon, during a lull between patients, I took a mountain bike ride with kevin on our local trails. There is a huge Bluegrass Festival going on adjacent to the trails. The festival-goers had found the trails and were out in droves, hiking down to the nice swimming holes in the river. It was very odd to see so many people out on "our" trails. But it was also entertaining. The "Blue Grass" crowd is a very mellow group! I especially liked it when a long-haired young man wearing nothing but his tight black skivies stopped us on his way back from the river. He was concerned about us and wanted to make sure we knew where we were going.

We got to hear a little of the music as we cruised through the festival itself on our bikes. No, we didn't pay admission, but it's not our fault that the festival sits right in the middle of our mountain bike trails!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Looking Ahead

Here I am, about 4 days after my 84 mile run in Vermont and feeling darned good... surprisingly good! Still, I am definitely not inspired to sign up for another hundred miler any time soon, if any time at all. I've finished 6 hundreds and DNF'd 3. Those 3 DNF's have all been very recent. I think my body is trying to tell me something.

With the 2010 Vermont 100 behind me, suddenly I find myself feeling motivated to train for something. I think that "something" will be the Pisgah Mountain 50K. 50K?! Why that's practically a sprint. I'd better start working on getting some leg speed back! Oh yeah, there's also hill work to consider. I'd better write up a plan.

Between all the training for Pisgah will be a Speckled Mountain-Caribou Wilderness backpack trip with Kevin, a solo Pemi Loop, the MMD run, and a lot of mountain biking. August is going to be a very fun and full month!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chafing, Pain in the neck, and Taking the Pledge at Vermont 100

I was determined to finish this year's Vermont 100, no matter how long it took me. The 4AM start was comfortable with a clear starry sky and temperatures in the sixties. I ran slightly faster than I would normally start, hoping to get some miles in before it turned hot and humid. As the temperatures started to soar later in the morning, I slowed my pace and stayed at an effort where I didn't feel like I was over heating.

I drank gallons of water and Heed and sweated enough to stay thoroughly drenched throughout the entire day. Despite all my drinking, I wasn't peeing much. That concerned me, but I was feeling good and moving well. Also, my weight was exactly even at the weight checks at 47 and 70 miles, so I was holding my own. I kept my head wet, using the horse troughs and water from the aid stations to douse myself, and I put ice down the front of my running bra every time it was available. I was uncomfortably hot at times, but seemed to be handling it OK. People were dropping early from the heat and humidity, but I just kept telling myself to not worry about pace and keep moving. I was waiting for sundown when the temperature would drop to a more tolerable level.

Kevin met me at the handler stations and was always a sight for sore eyes! He greeted me with an ice cold smoothie and a baggie of ice at each handler station and sent me off with a kiss. I would start looking forward to the next handler station the minute I pulled out of the one I was at! It helped me break down the race into manageable segments.

I never developed any of my usual foot problems because this year the course was the driest I have ever seen it. But in these hundred milers problems of one sort or another are going to happen and you just have to deal with them the best you can. I started noticing some problems with chafing where the elastic of my shorts lining was rubbing my upper inner thighs as I was coming into Ten Bear at 70 miles. My shorts had been soaking wet with salty sweat for almost 16 hours at this point. Instead of stopping long enough to address the issue while it was still only a minor problem, I grabbed a handful of Vaseline and smeared it in the general area of discomfort and moved on quickly. I wanted to get a few more miles in before it turned dark, so I was in a hurry.

By the time I finished climbing the big rocky hill out of Ten Bear, the discomfort had turned into something more like pain. I stopped and tugged the elastic away from my skin and this tore the skin where the blood had bonded the elastic to the skin. I tried to continue on, walking like Groucho Marx and holding my shorts out away from my legs with both hands. A couple of runners passed me and immediately realized what the issue was. The female runner suggested I cut the liner out of my shorts. I had already thought of that and had been searching the ground for a piece of broken glass or something sharp that would do the trick. But we were in Vermont and there was no litter anywhere that would do the job. As we passed some people loading their horse trailer, the woman asked if they had a knife or scissors that I could use. They asked why and the male runner answered, "so she can kill herself." It gave me a good laugh, but the horse people jumped into the trailer and drove away.

After the two runners moved on, I tried a variety of remedies involving one of my dirty gaiters, leaves and grass, elastic bands, and safety pins. Apparently, I am not a "McGiver" type because none of these things worked. I finally got to a manned aid station and asked for scissors or a knife so I could cut the liner out of my shorts. At this point my shorts were disgustingly grimy with sweat and blood. The man working the station didn't want to give me his Leatherman, but the two women there forced him to. They sent me behind their pickup truck and turned the backup lights on so I could see what I was doing. It worked! When I tried to give the Leatherman back to the guy, he acted like he was afraid to touch it. He gingerly took it between his thumb and forefinger and then dropped it onto a paper towel. He probably threw it in the trash after I left.

I was still sore, but I could move better! By the time I got to West Winds to pick up my pacer Melanie, Kevin and she were starting to worry about me. We headed out of West Winds and Melanie informed me that we were still on pace for a sub 24 hour finish. Unfortunately, I couldn't move very fast because of the chafing. Also, the back of my neck was starting to hurt.The pain in the neck got worse and worse and I had to keep stopping to put my hands on my knees and let my head hang forward to take the weight of my head off. Melanie did great keeping me entertained and distracted with good conversation, but I started getting little spasms down my neck and into my right shoulder. I was not worried about any long term effects because I know my fracture is healed and any pain I get is from muscles and ligaments at this point.

I finally told Melanie that I really needed to lay down on the ground and take the strain off my neck. But I didn't want to do it in the middle of nowhere because I wasn't sure I could get up again. So I struggled on to the next aid station, only to find it was unmanned. By this time I knew I had to drop out of the race, but I also knew we had to get to a manned station before I could do that. Finally we reached the Cow Shed Station at around 84 miles and I announced that I was done and laid down on the ground beside a very nice 15-year-old deaf dog who seemed happy to have me beside him. Melanie did try to keep me going. If anyone could have done it, it would have been her. But there was no doubt that I had to drop.

Kevin was contacted by race workers and came to pick us up. He is very supportive and accepting and wasn't at all bothered by my DNF. He just wanted to be sure I was OK. It felt wonderful to sponge off and then climb into our sleeping bag. Before I fell asleep, I vowed to Kevin that I was done with hundred milers. And I meant it!

In the morning Joe told us he had heard us come in during the night. He and most of my other friends had also dropped from the race. Joe said that when he saw what time it was when we arrived back at the tent he thought to himself, "either Laurel just ran the best hundred miler of her life or she dropped out... Let's be real, she must have dropped out." Kevin told him about my swearing off hundred milers and he said in amusement, "you made the pledge?" He had me say it again so he could record it on his Iphone, presumably so he could play it back to me after my next hundred miler. I'm truly thinking there will not be another. Others don't seem to believe me. I guess time will tell.

On the bright side, I feel good today. Muscle soreness in my legs is minimal, my feet are in good shape, and my chafing is healing. My neck is tired as I type this, but not painful. I'll get out on the bike this evening and do some running/walking tomorrow. I enjoyed wonderful scenery, good running, and great company on the trails of Vermont. I felt good for most of my run and my fitness level wasn't the limiting factor. I enjoyed the journey.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Vermont 100

The Vermont 100 is going to be hot. I finally looked at the forecast and yes, it will reach into the 90's during the day with high humidity. On the bright side, temps in the 60's are expected during the night on Saturday. So all we have to do is get through the day and it will be smooth sailing! How's that for positive thinking?

What is it about the Vermont 100 that draws me (and so many others) back time after time? Vermont doesn't have the technical single track that I love so much. Those dusty gravel roads are killers in the scorching sun and pound the hell out of my legs. The course is constantly up or down and it is difficult to find any sort of rhythm. The parts that are on dirt are often muddy and wet, which when alternated with the gritty gravel roads often makes for some bloody blistered feet. It definitely isn't the most wonderful course out there.

The answer is that the course isn't what makes the race what it is. The race organization is outstanding with attention to every detail. Former race director, Jim Hutchinson took the time and effort to get to know the runners and listen to what they had to say. His daughter, Julia has taken over the reigns and does just as good a job.

Many of the same people return year after year to volunteer or run or spectate. The event always draws a lot of newbies as well, and the veterans are always excited to offer encouragement to them. It becomes a very social event before, during, and after the run. Other runners' crews are quick to offer help and encouragement each time a runner pulls into a handler station. This race has the feel of "we're all in this together." I've run several other hundred milers and the people that run and volunteer are ALWAYS great at these things, but Vermont has an even more special feel to me.

The aid station help is extraordinary at Vermont. They know what they are doing. They are more than willing to help each runner in any way they can. It is amazing how just a few words or a kind gesture from a volunteer can change a runner's attitude from "I can't do this" to "I will do this." They are also experts at the practical stuff, like recognizing when a runner is in trouble, helping out with first aid requests, or recognizing when a runner is getting a little too comfortable and needs to get moving out of the station!

Add the horse race that occurs on the same trails at the same time, the free camping, two great meals (pre and post race), the fantastic veiws, and a good cause (Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport) and you've got a very special event! I'll see many of you there, the rest of you will have to wait for my the race report.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taper Legs

Today I drove over to the Mineral Site in North Conway and ran an out and back on easy trails for 4 miles. I felt remarkably good! Hooray, for the taper! Then I did a very relaxed mountain bike ride for 2 hours on the nice single track out there. OK, it was only one and a half hours of very relaxed riding. I had to climb up a long painful hill to get back to the car at the end of my ride. My heart was beating so fast on that climb, it scared me! I ended up walking the bike for a good part of the climb out.

On the run today, I tried out my new Golite hydration pack. It rides very well and should work well at Vermont. I plan to have a hand held bottle and the waist pack bottle during the daylight running at Vermont, as high temperatures and humidity are expected. I have only had one drop at Vermont, and it was due to heat and dehydration. Not this year! I'll stay hydrated, adjust my pace as needed, and finish the thing! Also of note, the year I dropped, I was extremely sick from the heat, vomiting and dizzy. But after lying in the shade at Ten Bear and re-hydrating for an hour, I felt that I could have gone on to finish the race. Unfortunately, I had already officially dropped out. Lesson learned is I won't pull from a race until I'm sure I can't recover with a little rest.

Now I'm heading out to the back deck with a cold drink and a good book. You've gotta love a good taper!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekend Mountain Biking

Kevin and I got two good mountain bike rides in over the weekend. Saturday we started out on the FOMBA single track in Allanstown, New Hampshire. These trails are challenging for me, with lots of rocks and roots, tight squeezes between trees, short steep technical climbs, and sharp curves and corners. With the addition of a sprinkling of rain to make all those rocks and roots slippery, I was barely creeping along. But I was happy that I was getting through the trails and was enjoying the challenge despite my slow progress. It was very humid with very little air movement on the single track, and I was going so slow I wasn't making much air movement with the bike. So after an hour of those trails, Kevin suggested a change of scenery and we road the fire roads and trails around the lake. This was fast, scenic, and fun riding! Kind of like road riding, without the traffic and pavement.

With a couple of miles to go, I watched Kevin just ahead of me fly down a rocky long downhill stretch. It looked like fun, so I threw caution to the wind and let go of the brakes. The rocks were rolling out from under my wheels, but my momentum was keeping me upright and heading in a straight line. Wheeeee, what fun! Until a big rock bounced up and tore off the pin that was holding my rear disc brake together. I stopped when I felt the clunk, knowing something was broken but not sure what. It's probably a good thing I stopped right then and there, because I probably wouldn't have had a brake left to stop with if I rode on. Kevin eventually came back for me and took what was left of the brake pad out. I rode back with only a front brake, but luckily there were no more long steep downhills. I definitely need to learn more about emergency repairs on my mountain bike. The kinds of things that go wrong on a mountain bike are very different than the things that go wrong on a road bike. Kevin fixed the brake for me that evening and it is as good as new (except for the fact that it is now held together with a bent nail instead of a share pin.)

Sunday we rode on nice single track in Fryberg. We met some riders from the White Mountain chapter of NEMBA on the trail. They were looking for some sort of a connector trail and offered to have us tag along, but we were happy just sticking to the immediate area. Apparently they never found the trail they were looking for, because they left before we did. We ended up finding a new (to us) trail that headed uphill across the street from the trails we knew about. We turned back before we found out where it went because we were out of water and being eaten alive by deer flies. My curiosity will have me back there before the end of the week to see where it goes.

Today will be a hot humid 3 or 4 mile run on the local trails and a leisurely mountain bike ride. I am on vacation from work this week, which is a good thing because I have to get ready for Vermont. Yes, the Vermont 100 is in less than a week. Yikes. I still have to work out the logistics like planning my pacing and eating, deciding what to wear and bring, and convincing myself that I can finish the darned thing. I tend to put this stuff off until the last minute. It just makes me worry.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eastern Sandwich Range Wilderness Run

Several years back while gathering for a run in the parking lot at Lincoln Woods, a promising young ultra distance trail runner asked me where I liked to run in the White Mountain area. He knew the trails inside and out and was ready to talk Presidentials, Pemi Wilderness, Evans Notch, or the Mooslauke Region. I answered that my favorite running territory in the National Forest was the Eastern part of the Sandwich Range Wilderness. And just like that he lost all respect for me as a White Mountain area trail runner. He kind of curled his lip up and squinted his eyes and asked in a disapproving sort of voice, " why? " But before I could give him a good answer he spotted someone worthy of his respect and wandered off to talk to that runner.

Today I ran the familiar Old Paugus, Whiten Brook, Lawrence, Cabin, and Big Rock Cave trails. They are lined with dense wet vegetation and erratic boulders and running water. As I crossed Whiten Brook over and over again, as I climbed over Mt Paugus and Mount Mexico, and as I reveled in the complete solitude and tranquility of the area, I realized that I couldn't have explained it to him anyway. There are no great views, the climbs and descents are gradual by White Mountain standards, and the footing is pretty wet and mushy, even during this time of drought.

Today, the mosquitoes were thick enough to choke me at times. I never saw another soul, except for a moose that I glimpsed through the trees briefly. I sweated gallons. I finally wore out my Nathan pack, pushing my bottle right through the rotted material after a refill at a stream. My muddied running shoes will never smell the same. I scraped the skin off my legs climbing over blow downs on the section of Whiten Brook Trail between the Big Rock Cave and Cabin Trails. I never felt even a hint of a breeze. As always, I had one hell of a good fun run there!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


What can I say about my recent running? heat, humidity, lots of missed days due to work, deer flies, tapering... not too interesting. So instead I'm going to talk about Facebook.

Facebook bugs a lot of us. Yet there we are, reading about other people's fascinating lives, intense training regimes, awesome race results, successful careers, expensive vacations, and exceptionally clever and cute kids. We're reading those witty one-liners and wishing we could come up one once in a while. We are looking at pictures of new cars, new hair styles, and new houses. I thought it was just me that found Facebook irritating at times (yet addictive). Then I started hearing things from friends.

At a race this Spring, a long time running acquaintance who has been doing Ultras for many years stated, "Facebook makes me sick. All these new Ultra runners are so darned enthusiastic. It makes me jealous that I don't have that anymore." At that same race another running friend nudged me and nodded to another woman runner saying, "she is so full of herself on Facebook." At a recent training run several people commented that I was in better shape than they thought I'd be according to my FB posts." I'd better watch what I'm posting, I might be giving the competition a confidence boost!

My sister recently lamented, "I wish I could come up with just one witty remark for FB, but I sit there with my fingers on the keys and I've got nothing." Another running friend half-jokingly (those "half" jokes really aren't jokes) accused me of bragging on Facebook. I'm not sure which post it was that offended her, but I'm a newly wed in love and enjoying life so I'm always gushing about something on FB. I'll try to tone it down a little.

My own peave is all the training everyone else is doing. They run and run and run. And boy, do they race! One or two races every single weekend. Am I a slacker? I never knew I was. I've always done fine at races and always felt as fit as anyone else. Little did I know that I was only half as well trained as everyone else, even the walkers at the back of the pack are training more than me. Thanks a lot Facebook, for showing me how lazy and out of shape I am! I find myself hitting the "hide" button on many running friends because I don't want to know how much more disciplined and focused they are than me.

I can't quite kick the Facebook habit now that I've started. I'm not looking at it very often any more and not posting as much as I used to. But if I ever come up with a witty one-liner you can be sure it will be there for all my Facebook friends to see!