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 http://jackpsblog.blogspot.com/ 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) http://www.virgilcrestultras.com/Index.aspx . 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 some...you 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!