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?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quick Five Miler

Today I had a lot of running around to do. We've been busy doing things away from home for the past 9 days of vacation. Kevin went back to work today and I return to my job on Wednesday. So there was a lot of catching up around the house for me to get done today so I can go out and have fun tomorrow, the last day of summer!

Before starting to chip away at my list of chores this morning, I went out on the Ossipee River Trails for a quick and fun 5 miler. I hadn't run a step since Saturday the 11th. Instead I've been mountain biking like a fiend. And I have really enjoyed the break from running! But I got back to it today and my legs and attitude felt wonderful!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We had slightly muddy conditions at the Kingdom Trails in East Burk, Vermont today, but I'm riding better in these types of conditions and it was very fun! It's those slippery sloped roots that will get you every time. It happens when you run, also. They just try to slide you right off the side of the trail.

Kevin and I mountain biked for about 4 hours. My over all energy was great, but toward the end of the ride my legs were begging, "no more." There are a lot of steep short rooty rocky hills that sap the strength out of my legs.

When we started in the morning the temperature was 45 degrees and it was kind of foggy. By the time we finished riding it was close to 70 and nice and sunny. It was great to sit on the tailgate of the truck and soak up the sun after our ride.

Earlier today Kevin asked me if I would like to hike or bike or run tomorrow. I was supposed to be running the Mt Pisgah 50K, but I am totally burnt out on running right now. It's happened to me before and I'm not worried about it. So without any hesitation, I said I want to bike tomorrow. So tomorrow we are planning a mountain bike ride on the trails near the Moats. It'll be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vacation Week Notes...So Far

Don't want to waste much time on the computer so here it is in summary...

Lobsters and steamers at Young's Lobster Pound
Acadia National Park
Camping in style (soft mats, pillows, and a tent that doesn't leak)
My second black eye of the year (play hard, fall hard)
Cool Sunny days
Seafood Newburg at the Quarterdeck
Martinis at Parkside
Hiking North Bubble, around Jordan Pond, Beehive, Gorham Mountain
Biking miles and miles on the carriage trails
Kevin's "secret" beach
Lobster Stew and Popovers at Jordan House
Bar Harbor Real Ale
A nice big thunderstorm while lying in our warm cozy tent
Campfires in the evening
Walking the cliffs overlooking the ocean
Great book finds at a little shop in Bar Harbor
Visiting Kevin's family in Thorndike (on the way home)
Mountain Biking at Bradbury State Park (still on the way home)
Back home for a peaceful evening on the front porch
Portland today
Maybe mountain biking the local trails tonight
Mountain Biking at the Kingdom Trails tomorrow

Whoops, I guess I forgot to run this entire week!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Birthday Run and Ride

For weeks, I had been planning on running the Pemi Loop today. I checked the Mount Washington Observatory forecast before bed last night and saw that a high of forty degrees with 45 MPH winds and rain showers were expected for today. Then when I checked again this morning, the expected winds were slower, but the temperatures were expected to be colder. So I decided that if I was going to enjoy my time out in the woods today, I would have to stay lower. Kevin left the Pudding Pond area mountain bike map out on my desk as a hint, so I took that hint and drove to North Conway.

I ran the mountain bike single track all along both sides of the power lines. My legs felt fantastic! Next I headed off on the newly found single track that goes past Redstone Ledge and up over Rattlesnake Mountain. I continued on over Middle Mountain and meant to find the Black Cap Connector Trail somewhere about half way between Pudding Pond and Black Cap Mt. But instead I ended up on the same crummy washed out logging road as last time I tried this. This took me over Peaked Mountain and out to the Black Cap Connector, but at a point within a half mile of where I had parked my car. I ran across the Black Cap Connector to the top of Black Cap. I was tempted to run down Red Tail, but then I would have had to return on the road. So I ran back the same way. My Garmen read just under 18 miles and 5169 feet of climbing.

Back at the car, I changed my shorts and shoes and took off on the mountain bike. I didn't have much climb left in my legs so I tried to avoid as much climbing as I could. I rode for about 2 hours and really enjoyed it. It was so much fun that I didn't really notice how hard I was working. I finished up with two loops around the fun Sticks and Stones Trail. This has man made rock features to play on with the bike. I avoid any of the difficult ones, but there are a lot of fun little ones that are pretty easy.

I am feeling that good kind of tired that only comes from spending hours having fun outdoors. When Kevin gets home from work I will definitely be ready for a good glass of wine and a nice dinner of grilled Trout!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Week (so far) in Review

After a grueling work weekend, Kevin and I went mountain biking at New Hampshire's Bear Brook State Park on Labor Day. Kevin took me on a wonderful loop of about 20 miles or so. The single track there is rockier than most of the stuff we ride on regularly. It was a good confidence boost for me to see that I could get over a lot of stuff that I wouldn't have been able to a year ago. There are some nice steep climbs, too. I do OK on the uphills unless you throw in a couple of rock step ups during the climb. I just can't get the back wheel to step up after I get the front wheel up. You've gotta love mountain biking, there's always something to work on!

I've been running 5 trail miles with strides every morning. I skipped the long run Tuesday because I will be doing the Pemi Loop tomorrow. My legs feel strong for climbing after all those weekly hill repeats. It looks like there will be some showers with temps in the forties. Not ideal for me, but I'll come down early if I get cold.

Kevin laid out a nice new trail on the town property behind the schools. I've been out there helping with the tread work every chance I get. I love new running and riding trails. I was already running through it before it was even done. Kevin got a lot done on both ends over the weekend and yesterday I finished the area between those two stretches. Then I rode figure eights and loops to incorporate 5 passes over the new trail during my ride! I figure that's part of the tread work, you've got to get it packed down.

Then since I was feeling bold, I rode the entire length of the Clencher for the first time ever. I didn't fall into the river either! I was riding well, so I bit the bullet and rode over the ramp where I had broken my neck back in April. That was the first time I did that since the accident. Yee-hah, that made me happy! Then since things were going so well, I tried to do a big step up onto a rock on the way out of the woods (remember from paragraph one, step ups are a problem). Front wheel went up no problem, back wheel made it half way up and slid back down bringing me to a screeching halt. Ugh. Oh well, it was still a great ride!

Saturday we will be heading to Acadia for some fun riding, running, hiking, and camping. I love the camp fire time after an active day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Looking Forward to Fall

Since deciding I wasn't going to try to make myself run races when I really don't want to, my running has been going really well! My pace is faster and I feel light and smooth on the trails. I picture it like this... Imagine a Mom trying to drag a kid some place he doesn't want to go, maybe into the dentist's office. He is digging his heels in and pulling back from his mother's guiding hand. That is how my running has been. I've been training for a race that I don't want to run. On the trails, during my hill repeats, and during my strides, my mind has been saying "go" but my spirit has been resisting. Now picture a kid going some where he wants to go, like the playground or a candy store. He is chomping at the bits, sprinting with his arms pumping and a big smile on his face. That's how my running has been this past week! Ahhh, just like the good old days. Running is fun!

So, what's ahead?

Up next will be my solo Pemi Loop on my birthday. I love the mountains! For the past 20 years or so, every birthday that I didn't have to work has been spent in the mountains alone or with friends. I'll post pictures and a report after my Pemi adventure.

Kevin and I will be spending a few days in Acadia. We'll be hiking, biking, camping, eating, and drinking. I can't wait.

My running buddy has sent her kids back to school and we would normally resume our Tuesday long runs together in the Conway area. But she has developed Plantar Faciitis and isn't running right now. I had that years ago, not fun. We will hike and bike on a weekly basis until she's running again. She claims she is getting fat, so I'd better help her get moving!

Fall is meant for long runs and fast hikes on the trails. I have some good ones in mind. You'll see.

Strength training! Now that it will be starting to cool down I can be more regimented with this. I sure don't want runners' toothpick arms! Also, it would be nice to see those six pack abs again, I'm not sure where they went but it could have something to do with Kevin's good cooking.

Cross country skiing will be starting in a few short months!

And last but not least...Mountain Biking! Lots of it. I can't think of any other activity I have ever enjoyed so much! (Thanks Kevin, I always thought it was just like road cycling, but a lot slower. I needed to find those narrow winding technical trails to see what it was really all about!)

Life is a lot of fun when you don't have a race hanging over your head!