Wednesday, March 31, 2010

High and Dry in Kezar Falls

I have had a couple of very wet morning runs these past few days! Yesterday when I got back home, I saw on my Internet home page that a dam had broken here in the Kezar Falls area of Porter and a flash flood had resulted. Well, my house sits a few hundred feet from the biggest dam in Kezar Falls. I had just run past the river and it had looked high, but OK. I stood up and looked out my back door. I didn't see any water. It turned out that the flood was in Porter Village, about 5 miles from Kezar Falls. That's what you get for sending city reporters out to cover a story in the country. Anyway, a few people called to make sure we hadn't washed away in the big flood and I was happy to say our house is still high and dry!

I'm giving things a little time to dry out this morning and will run later in the day today. Starting Monday, I went back to twice a day workouts, with a run in the morning and a strength session or cardio session in the evening. This evening workout doesn't usually seem to help my running, but it makes me look and feel a lot better. I do P90X, but don't always do it daily. I'm trying to get back to doing it faithfully each evening. If you haven't tried P90X, it is one tough workout series! And it really makes a difference. When I do it regularly, people start commenting on how fit I look. That is always a good thing to hear! It does take away some strength that could be put to use in the next morning's run, so I probably wouldn't normally recommend it for during racing season. For my goals this year, I think it will fit in nicely.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ponderings about Racing

The truth is, I'm not very motivated to race this year. I'm loving that my level of fitness is allowing me to have some great fun trail runs, but I seem to have lost my competitive drive. I don't care about racing the clock or anyone else at this point. I admit that am looking forward to the Vermont 100, as I think of a hundred miler as more of a personal journey than a race. I plan on running Northern Nipmuck next weekend, but I can't seem to think of it as anything more than a fun trail run on different trails than I usually run on. Am I sad to see my competitive spark leave after 35 years of racing track, cross country, road, and trail? No, I am quite happy! I am as strong and fit as ever. I plan to keep running as long as these legs will carry me, but I am finding different rewards for my efforts now.

I have seen other runners step aside after racing for years. Running friends and I have been heard to ponder, "what ever happened to ...?" Some of these people have reconnected with me and I have seen that they did not disappear off the face of the Earth after all. One former road racing rival of mine has moved on to climbing, which she does amazingly well. Several others have moved into the gentler-on-the-body sport of road cycling. Many have gone the popular route of triathlon. Several have discovered that a strenuous hike or backpack through the mountains is a fun weekend alternative. As long as it keeps you fit and active, do what you enjoy!

Quite a few who disappeared from the racing scene are out there running just as strong and fast as ever, but don't care to race anymore. Driving through a neighboring town, I often see a woman who used to race at a highly competitive level running down the road at what looks like about a six minute pace. She isn't racing anymore, so we can't call this training. I guess she just enjoys running fast for it's own sake!

Of course, hoards of old running acquaintances are still out there hitting the road races and trail races each weekend. I know some who race twice each weekend! I don't check the race results very often, but once in a while I glance at results and I am always happy to see that among the many new names, there are some veterans still taking their sport seriously and still running decent times. Somehow, it has not grown old to them and they are still finding it rewarding and fun, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it!

I am finding that my running is no longer about getting to the finish line as fast as I can. Right now, it seems to be more about the journey. I'll be putting the miles in and showing up at a few trail events this year. But, I am really looking forward to buying a season pass for mountain biking on the Kingdom Trails and spending enough time out there to get my money's worth!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Ossipee Takes to the Woods

The River along my favorite running and riding trails has moved out into the woods. Remarkably, the trails are still open and runnable.

When Kevin laid these trails out last year, he really knew what he was doing! Normally the trail in this photo is much farther away from the river. Notice how the river comes right to the edge of the trail.

Running beside the raging river is very stimulating, much different than the relaxed and meditative feeling I get when the river is slow and calm.

There is one spot on the trail where there is a ramp for mountain biking that goes up and over a huge fallen tree. Now the end of the tree is in the swollen river. So when I stand at the top of the ramp I can feel the power of the river vibrating and swaying the entire tree. It is a very cool feeling! I wasted quite a bit of time standing there in the middle of yesterday's run.

Last evening I rode my bike one quick circuit of the Ossipee Trails alone and then a longer, more meandering circuit with Kevin when he got home from work. He has been a very patient and good instructor. Mountain biking does take a while to learn. And for me it involved a lot of time sprawled on the ground with bloody knees, legs, and arms. This is much different stuff than the easy riding I used to do on fire roads and logging roads before I met Kevin. Now it feels good to easily ride over things that stopped me or made me fall last year.

My biggest thrill last evening was on our return trip. I have been walking the bike over that ramp I talked about earlier. There just isn't any place to put a foot down if I run into trouble climbing the ramp or staying on the ramp. Whenever I thought about riding over the ramp, I had visions of a very nasty fall involving broken bones. But for some reason, maybe because of all the time I spent standing at the top of the ramp that morning, I rode right over without hesitating last evening!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fun Long Run in the Rain

What do you wear when you are heading out into the mountains in torrential rain with temperatures hovering just above freezing? Everything you can find. I was dressed much the same. On a day like today, fashion isn't important. Oh, and that handful of cookies is to provide some calories to produce some extra heat.

Today, Mary and I ran an extremely hilly loop on dirt and paved roads in North Conway and Jackson, NH. This included a relentless climb up the entire length of Dundee Road, a little faster flatter running around Jackson, and a painful return trip over Thorn Hill. There are flood watches out all over the area. Streams look like rivers, rivers look like lakes, and places where there is usually no water at all are raging brooks with waterfalls. It was pretty incredible to see the power of nature today.

What happened to all those layers of clothes Mary started out with? She dropped pieces all along the length of Dundee Rd. Then she stopped in a claustrophobic panic in the middle of Jackson, where she had me yank her soaked outer layer of pants off over her running shoes. It was a struggle and we both almost landed in the mud. The things I'll do for a friend in need.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Being Creative

Phew! My busy work stretch is drawing to a close. 12 hour shifts and on-call nights gives way to a long stretch off at 8AM tomorrow morning! Training of any type has been hard to squeeze in over the last several days, but I managed to do a bit of quality running each day. Where there's a will, there's a way!

Friday evening found me sitting in my car in Sanford waiting for a phone call. For reasons I won't go into, I had to remain right where I was. I could be waiting for hours for all I knew. If there is one thing I hate, it's wasting time! Then I realized the high school track was right there! I could run some laps and still be ready to jump in the car, pull some work clothes on over my workout clothes, and be where I needed to be in a minute!

Well after one mile I was going nuts. Funny, because I have probably logged about a thousand miles on the track in my lifetime and used to actually enjoy it. Then I discovered trails and I guess there is no turning back. I decided to run up and down the bleachers, like I used to do in high school and college. Well, it was a good hard workout when I was in my teens and twenties, but it didn't take me many trips up and down those bleachers to discover that in my late 40's it is not a great workout, it is a suicide wish. Those slippery metal bleachers could kill someone! So I moved on down to a nice 50 yard steep dirt hill on the far end of the track. 25 repeats at top speed up and a slow jog down really felt hard...and good!

I wondered what to do next, then I saw a set of 31 steep narrow cement stairs beside the bleachers. I planned on 20 repeats. they were killers! On my 20th repeat, a runner on the track complimented me on the hard workout I was doing. I never knew I was a show off, but apparently I am. Because instead of stopping at twenty, I did two extra ones and the only reason I can come up with for this is that I was showing off.

By the time my phone call finally came, my thighs were feeling like jello and my calves were cramping. I felt great, knowing I hadn't made any excuses and had managed to fit a good workout in.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Water, Roots, Fallen Trees, and Hills At Vaughan Woods

This afternoon I took a jaunt around the trails of Vaughan Woods in South Berwick, since I was already in the general neighborhood for work. That last wind storm and the recent heavy rains have hit that area hard! I was surprised by all the water in the trails and even more so by all the big pines that were laying across the trail at odd angles. Those pines looked like they had all been snapped off about 3 feet from the ground. Park workers have a big clean up job ahead of them.

The trails there are tricky to run anyway, with lots of short steep hills, sharp curves, and roots sticking out all over the place. This isn't a very big area, but I can get about three miles of criss-crossing trails in before having to repeat sections. Today it was like running the steeple chase. I'd jump over a downed tree, climb under the next, leap across an over flowing stream, sprint up a steep little hill, wind around a sharp curve, and go flying down the next hill, jump another fallen tree at the bottom and land in a knee deep puddle. It was huge fun!

Pace? Let's not even talk about that! I worked hard for 45 minutes with my heart rate up near my lactate threshold. During a lot of that time I wasn't making much forward progress, but it was still excellent training! The high point was when two old guys who were out walking applauded my spectacular puddle jumping abilities. Now I've got to go get some of this mud off me and put my shoes out to dry.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kind of Long Trail Run

Yesterday was a wash out. I was supposed to do my fast paced running but felt lousy and spent all day laying on the couch with my running clothes on (proving that I had good intentions when I got dressed in the morning). Today I stuck to my planned long run, figuring I'll do my pace work tomorrow on my cross train day.

I ran the ossipee River Trails and the Durgintown Woods Trails. After all the rain we had Sunday one would expect the trails to be a mess, but that wasn't the case! The trails Kevin built along the Ossipee are in fantastic shape for early Spring. He has an engineer's eye for mapping out and building single track. He has done a lot of mountain bike trail building and maintenance in Bear Brook and FOMBA in New Hampshire. When he moved to this area, he didn't waste any time getting to work on our local trails here in Kezar Falls. When I accompanied him to a trail day at Bear Brook last Fall, several people jokingly accused me of stealing him from them. Seeing the way the Ossipee trails drain water and stay sturdy and solid, and the way traveling them on foot or bike is such a pleasure, I can understand why they didn't like the idea of Kevin moving to Kezar Falls.

Across the South Hiram Road are the Durgintown Woods. These trails need some work and will be our project for this summer. There was some standing water and some mud on them, but it was still remarkably good running for mid- March. There are patches of ice left in the more sheltered areas, but I would estimate that about 85% of trail is now clear.

At this point in my training, my long run isn't all that long by ultra running standards, but I'm building up to the big runs in a sensible manner. I ran 12.7 miles in 2:05:15. How do I know this? Because I broke down and bought a Garmen to map out my routes through the woods. I didn't want to complicate a simple thing like trail running by adding unnecessary gadgets, but I was beginning to wonder if I was estimating distances correctly. I started thinking maybe I wasn't going as far or as fast as I guessed, since my road runs were so slow and miserable. But after trying out this new toy, I mean training tool, I have found that my 4 mile route is just over 4 miles, my 5 mile route is just over 5, my 8 mile out and back is 8 miles, and last week's 11 miles of repeated sections of River Run was exactly 11.2 miles. It seems I have a pretty good sense of distance on the trails.

The good news is that my run felt fantastic and I felt like I could have easily kept running for another 10 miles. The reason I have cut back on the distance of my long run is so I can build back up slowly and strengthen my muscles and joints and back slowly and steadily. I want to be able to run 5 and 6 hour training runs this summer and feel like I am not pushing my body over the edge. I really want to stay healthy and free of injuries this year!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Easy Time on the Trail Today

When I wrote up my Vermont 100 training plan, I made Mondays and Tuesdays my hard days. I do faster paced work on Monday and a long run on Tuesday. Weekends are light with a 3 or 4 miler Saturday and a cross train day Sunday. This is so i can enjoy other fun activities with Kevin on the days he is off from work. It works out great.

Kevin and I have fallen into the habit of doing Saturday's short easy run together on the local trails. Today we ran and walked for 4 miles on the Ossipee Trails. It was windy! Most of the snow and ice is gone. We didn't see the Pileated Woodpecker today, but we did see an enormous hawk or eagle flying away from us down the river. We hoped we'd see it again to get a better look, but we didn't have another sighting.

Back home, I found my first tick of the season crawling on my arm. Watch out, they're out there already!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Montrail Mountain Masochist Shoe Review...Sort of

Late yesterday I ran up and down Ossipee Hill on the way home from work. The road surface started as mud and then quickly changed to mostly ice as I ascended. I was trying out my new Montrail Mountain Masochists, and I was impressed! I'd love to tell you why I love them so much, but I am just not much of a product reviewer. I had a stint reviewing shoes for Saucony years ago and I needed help from my non-running husband. I have the words, I just don't have much of an opinion about items. I like them or I don't. So he'd tell me what was good and bad about them and I'd put it into good reading. It worked out OK.

Many of my hiking, cycling, skiing, trail running, and snowshoeing friends readily admit they are "all about the gear." They love shopping for it, reading articles and reviews about it, trying it out, and comparing opinions about it with other people. These are the people that will happily talk ski wax for two hours over drinks. They are the ones that will show up on a different road bike each week for 6 consecutive weeks and talk about the bike they are on through the entire ride. They can fast hike 20 miles with me, all the while explaining the merits and the faults of the new pack they are using. They can talk about things I never give a second thought to, like water bottles, gloves, and lip balm... and make it sound interesting! With these folks, I can't drive home from a hike, ride, or trail run without stopping at the bike shop, Pearl Isumi Outlet, or EMS where they educate the salespeople. I'm not sure where this ties in, but I have observed that these types have matching outfits that they partake of their sports in, and they look really good in them!

I would like to be part of that. I would love to talk bike componants, helmets, socks, and glide wax and sound like I know all about it. I'd really like to tell you why I love my new Montrails. Hmmm, I can tell you why I didn't like Montrails years ago when I last tried a pair. They felt like too much shoe for me. I am 5 foot 2 and 105 pounds at my heaviest. I'm a neutral runner and I'm light on my feet. I don't need a hiking boot, I need a shoe that I can feel the trail in! I felt like the last Montrails I tried, the Hardrocks, would be great for through-hiking the AT, but I couldn't run in them. They made me feel like I had cement blocks attached to my feet. Back to the Mountain Masochists... They are everything the old Hardrock isn't. So to wrap up this lengthy, yet useless product review, Wow, what a great shoe!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wear and Tear on the Ossipee Trails

I was scheduled to run 11 miles this morning. Kevin and I rode bikes on the Ossipee Trails a few days ago and I saw that trail conditions were very good for late Winter/early Spring. I normally don't like to run over the same section of trail over and over again because I like variety, but other trails in the area are still snow covered or are wet. The Ossipee Trails are a joy to run on right now. So I did three repeats of the entire length of trail, looping around Polliwog at the far end and climbing the steep banking up to the Rescue Barn at the near end each time. I avoided the snowmobile trails further up the slope which still have snow on them and stayed on the single track close to the river where about 75% of the trail is now melted down to the dirt. I used my antiquated GPS to determine that each repeat was about 3.3 miles. Add the slightly more than half mile to and from the trail and I had a pretty near perfect 11 miles!

I ran for about 1 hour 45 minutes and never got tired of looking at the same stuff over and over again because there was so much to see. The crows that have been heckling me each time I've been out there lately, showed up on my first return trip and stuck around in the trees over my head for the rest of the run. I saw a beautiful huge Pileated Woodpecker on my second return trip. He was right where I had, on an earlier outing, noticed an enormous pile of wood chips under a dead tree. Kevin had told me they were from a woodpecker but I had been skeptical that one bird could do so much to a tree. After seeing this guy close up, I believe it now! I saw ducks floating around near the gravel bar and lots of deer tracks. Before I knew it, my three out and backs were done.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great Skiing Fun on the Hall Trail

My friend, Mary called Thursday asking me to drive over to New Hampshire for a ski Friday. I'm a snow snob, I admit it. If the snow isn't good, if rocks and sticks protrude through the snow, if pine needles and cones litter the skiing surface, if areas are wet or bare, if the base is too thin, I won't ski. I looked around at the bare ground surrounding me as I drove through Southern Maine and told her I didn't think I wanted to. She assured me, "there's good snow in the mountains!" She is a notorious liar, but a good friend, so I agreed to go.

I'm glad I did! There wasn't much snow and a lot of bare ground at the lodge in Jackson, but by driving up a side road and parking at a higher elevation, we were able to ski from the car onto the Hall Trail on about 2-3 feet of good fresh snow! Temperatures were warm and the sky was perfectly blue. The bright sun felt wonderful on our pale winter skin. What a great day for a ski!

I skied with Mary and Gail. In warm temperatures (this is for those of you who aren't classic Nordic skiers) you should use Klister. This is an extremely soft, messy, sticky wax that allows for grip to push off in the slippery, slushy, soft snow. No one likes Klister. It's very hard to remove from your skis once you put it on, it makes a big mess and somehow gets on your hands, clothes, inside your car, floors of your house, dog, hair...OK so maybe I'm exaggerating, but it is messy stuff. Each of the three of us took different approaches to avoiding the Klister issue. I brought it with me, but at the last minute decided to just use the softest hard wax i had and hope for the best. Mary used waxless skis with a modified grip zone. It was the most aggressive fish scale I'd ever seen! Gail didn't have even a smudge of grip wax on her classic skis and used glide wax from end to end. She was going to skate ski in them.

So we took off on the notoriously hilly Hall Trail over Popple Mountain, each with our own approach to the Spring conditions. Gail couldn't climb very well, but had us whipped on the flats. Mary could march right up even the steepest hills, but couldn't glide at all on the downs. It was funny to see her having to use the poles to propel herself down really steep slippery slopes. She said in defense of her modified ski idea, "they don't glide, but I could ski up Mt Washington in these things!" I could ski fine on shaded areas that had less melt, but had nothing on the exposed areas. So we all skied at our own rates, sometimes Mary ahead, sometimes Gail, and sometimes me, depending on the conditions. We usually all ski right together because we are well matched in ability. It made this outing a little different and more interesting. It was a lot of fun to keep passing each other along the way and saying things like, "You'll catch me on the next climb," or "See you next sunny stretch." We really had a blast!

All told we skied about 12 miles I think. It was great hard work and we were all sore and tired when we finished. That little bit of competitive spirited passing back and forth made us all work a little harder than usual. Let me tell you, I'm feeling it today!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just Following the Plan

The training plan I wrote up to carry me to the Vermont 100 is going well I think. This is a strange thing. I have had some very good coaches at times in my running life. No matter how accomplished these people were, I always secretly questioned the training plans. I would think "this is impossible, I can't do all this training!" or "this is ridiculously easy. I've got to add a few workouts of my own." I was always kind of like Goldilocks with the soup too hot or the soup too cold, or the bed too hard or the bed too soft. My coaches' advice never felt "just right." This is probably because I never gave them enough feedback. I never felt confident enough to speak up to those more-accomplished runners.

By thinking things through, asking myself what my current goals really are, and admitting that I am not Superwoman, I have come up with a plan that will work for me. I no longer feel the desire to place in races or run PRs, instead I want to stay healthy and fit and be able to enjoy running for many years to come. The plan I have written up for myself is low mileage, but challenging. It progresses through the season. I look at what I need to do each day and don't question it. I find myself thinking, like Goldilocks, "Ahhh, this is just right!"

Today I thought I had a five miler planned, but checking my spreadsheet I saw that I only had a measly little 3 miles to do. Instead of thinking, "3 miles?! That's nothing!" I thought, "OK, 3 miles. What ever it says made sense when I wrote this thing up so I'll just do it." I'd been out on the roads a lot lately because the mud and ice is pretty bad around here. Today I decided to move it back into the woods for my short easy run. Just for the joy of it I ran the wonderful River Run Trails. It felt great to be slipping and sliding and slogging along in these late Winter/ early Spring trail conditions. Cloudy sky, rotten snow, mud, water, and ice didn't deter my mood at all. I just felt good to be among the trees listening to the river.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

10 Miles of Ups and Downs (Literally and Figuratively)

Last night I mapped out a ten mile loop for today using the on-line G-map Pedometer. I wanted a loop and I wanted it to be ten miles long. Those were my only two criteria. So the loop I came up with started out in the back roads of Porter, crossed over Kezar Mountain in Parsonsfield, and sent me back home down Elm St. It looked good on the map.

The loop started with 3 miles of uphill running. I felt slow and tired and awful. I checked my watch and found I was averaging 10 minute miles. Yikes, that's pretty slow! But next I had two miles of downhill, where I made up a lot of time and started feeling better. Just as I was starting to enjoy the run, I came to a point where I had to climb uphill for a few miles on muddy and icy Kezar Mountain Rd. Before I got to the highest point, I was feeling discouraged and slow and terrible again. My legs were aching and tired. I didn't want to check my watch, but I couldn't resist. I didn't like what I saw. It told me that I was pathetically slow and out of shape. I finally reached Elm street and had just two miles of mostly downhill on clear pavement left to go. This was fast and easy running, life was good again! When all was said and done, I only averaged 9:30 pace and felt like I worked awfully hard to do that.

The loop felt very difficult. It really beat me up today. there's only one thing to do in a case like this, I'll have to run it again next week and see if it feels any better!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Drenching

I just got back from a nice 5 miler on the road. The road I ran on is really in rough shape, with cracks and holes and wash outs. There is a lot of standing water in places from our recent rain. Just as I was running around a huge puddle, a small blue car approached from the opposite direction. He slowed down briefly, then suddenly accelerated and splashed through the puddle sending a big wave of muddy water up my side and into my face and hair. I was soaked! I wanted to give him the finger, but instead I turned and gave him a big sarcastic smile and a wave and yelled out "THANK YOU!"

He turned the vehicle around and came back. I said to myself, "Oh Sh*t! What now?" He stopped beside me and rolled his window down. The driver wasn't the young smart Alec I expected, it was a very old man. He apologized for splashing me and said he didn't mean to. I told him there were no hard feelings. Now I feel bad about my sarcastic "thank you." I am so glad I didn't give him the finger!