Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winter Running

Contrary to popular belief on FaceBook, real runners do use least when the snow is several feet deep and unbroken!

It's been a good running week and I should hit 65 miles today. Some of it has been in snowshoes and some on pavement, but most has been on snowmobile trails in regular trail running shoes. The nice part about getting out on the pavement briefly was that I saw that my easy pace is getting faster. This is something that isn't apparent when I am running up and down steep hills on snowy trails.

Coach Jack has reminded me a few times that the tough winter conditions just make us stronger and faster for Spring! I hope this is true because I have signed up for Northern Nipmuck in early April and The North Face Endurance 50K at Bear Mt, NY in early May. I'll also get out to Mt Aggie the week before Bear Mt to run a few miles with my friends at their Fat Ass 50K. I haven't really raced (other than a DNF at Vermont 100) since my time off following my broken neck last Spring. It's time to get back at it!

With at least a foot of new snow Friday and a few more inches this morning, today is definitely looking like a snowshoe day. I have some new cheapo snowshoes that I am absolutely loving! They are Yukon Charlies, (Yukon Who???). They cost me about 30 bucks when all was said and done. They are about 110 dollar shoes, but marked 50 percent off for end of season and then I had a coupon for another 30 percent off. I figured that if I wore them just once and they broke it would be no big deal because they were so inexpensive. I also planned to just use them for stomping around in the deep snow in the woods, not running. Well, it turns out that they are awesome to run in, they feel light on my feet, they don't ever click or bump each other, I love the bindings (best ones I've ever had on a pair of snowshoes), and they have great cleats for climbing in the deep powder. The materials are not the top of the line and they might not hold together for long. We'll see.

Do I really need four pairs of snowshoes? Probably not. Kevin and I are going to recondition my Tubbs and my Redfeathers and donate them to the elementary school. Those kids are out waddling around on snowshoes in their phys ed classes all the time. Of course I'll keep my speedy little Dions for faster paced snowshoe running on trails that are already broken.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ossipee Valley Foothill Fun

21 miles of running with 8040 feet of climb and descent on hard packed snowmobile trails in beautiful sunshine makes me one happy woman! The big goofy glasses match the big goofy grin.

It was a gorgeous day to be out on the trails!

There were plenty of "hill ups"...

and plenty of sunshine!

That's where I had just come from...

And that's where I was going.

I had a nice tour of Maine Maple country along the way.

I imagine he was thinking, "why fly when I can run on beautiful trails like these?"

This is looking toward Cornish from the Hiram Hills.

The top of Peaked Mountain in Hiram. Notice the chimney, all that's left of a structure that was hit by lightning years ago.

Almost done with my last little climb of the day, Tower Hill in South Hiram.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ever Changing Winter Conditions

Yesterday I was due for a 24 mile run but I had absolutely no energy. I felt just like I had felt on Sunday... comatose. As I jogged along the snowmobile trail I had to admit it to myself, I was sick with a cold. I decided to go the whole distance anyway. I would just go as slow as I needed to and take walk breaks when necessary. I ran toward Brownfield with my Garmen in hand (the strap is broken.) The plan was to turn around at 12 miles. That twelve miles was mostly uphill, for a total gain of 5045 feet. It took 2 hours and 10 minutes, just under 11 minute pace. I decided to try to make up time on the downhill run back and make my average 10 minute miles when all was said and done. Well, that didn't happen. On the way back the snow was getting mushy because of the warm temperatures and my muscles were feeling pretty mushy, too. I finished in 4:28. It was a good lesson in perseverance and I'm glad I got it done.

This morning I drove over to North Conway for a back country ski in the National Forest off Town Hall Road with Mary. It felt cold, but tolerable until we got our skis on. Suddenly, the wind was ferocious. My nose was frozen within the first mile. Conditions were very icy and I couldn't hear anything except the skis scraping across the icy surface. We climbed and climbed, fighting that cold miserable head wind. Just as I was getting ready to admit I was miserable and beg Mary to turn back, she suggested we go back and change into running shoes. Skiing down was very cold, but quick. We ran into The Doctor when we were almost back to the vehicle. He was walking uphill at a brisk pace. We told him we were "changing gears" and we'd be back in a few minutes.

It only took a few seconds to change shoes and throw the skis in the Jeep. Then we took off at a jog against the wind and uphill. It took us almost two miles to catch up to The Doctor. Man, can he walk! We saw him ahead in the distance and both commented that we weren't closing the gap very fast. When we caught up he was ready to turn around, admitting defeat by the cold wind. There were little branches falling all around us and big ones cracking and creaking beside the trail. He told us, "be careful" and headed back to the cars.

About ten minutes later, the wind suddenly stopped, the sky turned a brilliant blue, and our faces were instantly warm in the bright sun. Mary and I both looked at each other and said at the same time, "Wow!" It was very strange and very beautiful. We ended up running about 8 miles. The wind never started up again and the sun was fantastic! We were both glad that we hadn't just thrown the skis in the car and gone home. We had a great morning!

Monday, February 14, 2011

This is NOT a Political Post!

I have started a consistent routine of getting out and running first thing in the morning on work days. Normally, in these colder and darker months, I start my work day early and then try to take a run on my lunch break (which might happen anytime between 12 and 4). But work is suddenly stressful and these early morning runs are keeping me on an even keel while many of my co-workers are feeling quite stressed. Imagine, what a calm and happy world this would be if everyone took an early morning run!

There have always been difficult situations to deal with and complicated procedures to perform in my line of work, but now there are new pressures. More planned Medicare cuts in home care quietly went into effect in January. It took less than a month for us direct care providers to start feeling it. We are under a lot of pressure to somehow continue to provide quality care to the sickest people in our communities with very limited funding. Don't get me wrong, if people need care at home they are going to get it. But if Medicare doesn't pay for it, the home care agencies will be eating a lot of those costs. Home care is non-profit so there is no surplus to cover these expenses. What this has resulted in is sort of a controlled panic by those in the industry. If we could all just get out for a good hard run first thing in the morning we'd get through it just fine.

Each morning has found me out on the hard packed snowmobile trails. The ones in this area are not heavily trafficked and most mornings I don't see any snowmobilers at all. Sometimes the last tracks through are the ones I left the morning before. The route I have been running is extremely hilly. There are some open fields and some good deep dark woods. This corner of the state is one of the few places left in Southern Maine that a person can venture out into the forest for hours and hours without seeing or hearing another soul.

Saturday, Kevin and I went out on the Ossipee River Trails on snowshoes after my trail run. There was a mom out with her two young girls, all of them on snowshoes. I couldn't believe how much energy those girls had! Kevin and I went about 4 or 5 miles. This is not to be confused with snowshoe running. Snowshoe running is fun, but quite different than snowshoe trekking in deep untouched snow. Believe me, I wouldn't have made any progress at all back there if i was wearing my little running snowshoes. I'd still be out there up to my shoulders in the white stuff! I do a lot of both running and hiking in snowshoes and I can't decide which is more difficult!

Sunday I was wiped out. I don't know if it is this little cold I have, the high mileage running week, the difficult snowshoe trek the day before, or the work stresses catching up to me. It was probably all of those things. I slept almost twelve hours straight through from Saturday night. Sunday, I got up and had a cup of coffee and then slept a few more hours. Finally, late Sunday I went for my run. I was slow, but it was fun and I'm glad I did it.

My training is going very well. Mileage is getting up where it belongs, long runs are feeling good for the most part, and I am enjoying myself.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bread Bag Kind of Day

I was supposed to do my long run yesterday but I had a lot of work to catch up on after our Vermont trip so I put the run off until today. This morning as I looked out the window at the sleet/snow/rain falling gently, the slushy and flooded streets, and the gloomy skies, I was not feeling very good about that decision. I dressed to run, but then hemmed and hawed, putting it off as long as I could. Finally I left the house with a half hearted, "guess I'll see how it goes," to Kevin.

Within a half mile I realized that it wasn't really all that bad. The roads were covered with about 4 inches of slush. But there was pavement, not ice, beneath. After 4 miles of road running I decided to try the snow mobile trails. Again I was surprised. There were a few inches of soft wet slush and snow on the surface, but it was solidly packed beneath that. Despite my bad attitude about getting started I was feeling good and having fun!

I looped back to the house for a drink and a snack about twelve miles into the run. I was soaked and starting to feel cold so i didn't stay more than a few minutes. Kevin offered me bread bags for inside my shoes as I left. This made me smile. I don't know if everyone else did this, but Kevin and I both grew up with leaky boots and both our mothers used to stick plastic bread bags on our feet before we stuck them into the boots. No bread bags were used today, but they might have helped. Eight more miles of snow mobile trails brought me back home from a very nice twenty miler.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kingdom Trails Nordic

East Burke, Vermont was a nice place to be this past weekend! Saturday saw perfect trail conditions on the Kingdom Trails Nordic. I classic skied about 30KM on some of the nicest groomed powder I've ever skied on... and some of the hilliest terrain I've ever skied on. After dropping me off at the Nordic Center, Kevin drove the short distance to the ski slopes for some snowboarding. He later reported those conditions to be ideal as well. We had warm sunshine throughout the day but it never got above the twenties and the powder held up well.

That day, I skied what was probably the steepest and narrowest trail I've ever been on with my skinny little XC skis. I was resting and taking in the views in the Mcgill Fields when I saw a guy ski past faster than I've ever seen anyone ski before. He had a dog chasing him in a full sprint, yet the dog was barely keeping up. I read the back of the guy's suit as he disappeared down the trail and it said "USA National Nordic Team". So I took off in pursuit, just to gage how fast he was moving. I lost sight of him in seconds, but I could see where he had turned off onto the narrow Big Birch Trail and thought, "heck if a national class skier can do it, so can I." It was crazy! There was no stopping or slowing once I started down, I had to just go with it. The old rule about always being in control was just not possible. If I had met anyone coming up the trail I would have had to crash in order to stop. But really, I doubt anyone would try to climb that on skis. It was fantastic! I would have looped around to do it again, but decided not to push my luck (or my limited skills.)

When I was good and done (meaning I could hardly make forward progress due to sore quads,) I jogged down the road in my ski boots for a few miles to Lower Burke. Timing was perfect because when I called Kevin from the parking lot, he said he was done, too... and ready for a beer. We laughed about all the cans of PBR being consumed at Mid Burke (PBR was definitely not cool when we were younger.) Then we moved back down to Lower Burke where we spent the evening in the Tamarak. We were very amused to hear the staff there refer to Mid Burke as "PBR."

We got some nice snow on Saturday night. Sunday morning was cloudy, but warm. The trees were all loaded with snow. After a nice big breakfast at the Miss Lyndonville Diner, Kevin dropped me off at the Nordic center again. This morning he was going to park at Mid Burke as there were rumors about power outages and lifts being down. Kingdom Trails was doing their best with the Nordic grooming, but they don't have a lot of staff or equipment and most of the trails weren't groomed yet. So the skiing was tough and slow, but the woods were just beautiful.

I didn't have anything left after a few hours of this type of skiing, so I started my jog on the road to meet Kevin. But this time I had to jog up the mountain to Mid Burke. The road was very slushy. I saw a Hummer with a Mass. license plate speeding down the narrow road toward me. I put my arm out with my palm down giving the "slow down for God's sake," signal...and he accelerated. I got completely drenched with brown slush from the road. I turned around and screamed profanities at the vehicle (temporary loss of sanity.) Just then a big green pick up with the Burke Mountain logo on the side pulled up and offered me a ride up. Again the timing was perfect because Kevin had broken a strap on his binding as was ready to quit. The drive home was pretty and we stopped at our favorite pub for dinner and beer on the way.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

22 Miles on Snow Mobile Trails (without a snow mobile)

Late yesterday afternoon I ran on the local snowmobile trails. I have been running most of my long runs on the roads lately, so I was excited to be back in the woods. My big convoluted loop took me over a bunch of small mountains in Porter and Hiram for over 7000 feet of elevation gain. I found two mountains I had never been on before, Notch Mountain and Maple Hill. I've looked for Maple Hill before and not found it. I never knew the name of Notch Mountain, but Kevin had seen it from Rte 160 and pointed it out as something we should climb. This run was awesome because I wasn't just out there putting in the miles (which I have been doing a lot of lately). Instead I was doing what I love... exploring, looking at tracks, stopping for the nice views, and enjoying the woods.

I have been having severe and constant jaw pain for the past week due to an unfortunate malplacement of a novacaine injection while having some dental work last week. While I ran yesterday, I was completely without pain. I puzzled about this. Was it endorphins, or the slack and relaxed way I hold my mouth while I run? Maybe I was just being distracted from the pain because I was doing what I love to do. Each time I stopped running for more than a minute or two, the pain came back in full force. I find this fascinating.

The trails had all been groomed either early that morning or the night before, and none of them except for the last 5 miles had seen any snowmobile traffic on them since. This was a wonderful surface to run on. I hardly even left footprints because it was so firm. I made myself run up all the hills even when walking would have been faster and more efficient, just for an exercise in self discipline. Some of those climbs were ridiculously steep! I'm surprised snow mobiles can get up them. I stopped to enjoy the views on every summit. The entire run was 22 1/2 miles according to my Garmen. It took me 4:32.

The last 5 miles were slower going because sleds had been through and loosened the trail up a little. Plus it was dark by then. But I didn't mind because I finished up on the familiar trails beside the Ossipee River. They were the only miles of the entire loop that were flat!