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!