Friday, April 22, 2011

Sawyer Mountain Times Three

Yesterday I ran from Rte 117 in Limington up the old washed out road to the top of Sawyer Mountain. This trail starts at about 100 feet of elevation and climbs to 1200 feet in about 1.7 miles. The trail itself is covered with rolling loose rocks with water running straight down the road. Not ideal for running, but I was tired and wanted to go slow anyway so I figured it would be OK. The wind was ferocious and I got very cold, especially my hands. My feet got soaked early on, so they felt pretty cold, too. At the summit, I paused to enjoy the view. There is a new sign on a pile of rocks that says a stone monument with a whale oil lantern used to stand there to help boats navigate in the Portland Harbor. This is fascinating because Portland Harbor is about 30 or 35 miles from there! From the summit, the harbor was just a faint flat smudge of gray on the eastern horizon. It's hard to imagine a whale oil lantern could burn where I stood and be seen from that harbor.

Using the vague topographical map I had picked up at the trail head, I found my way down the backside of the mountain using the new single track. This was very nice running. I explored the old dirt roads down at the base for a few miles out and back and then climbed back up to the summit on the same single track.

Then i ran back down the backside of the trail again, but used the old Sawyer Mountain Road this time. This road is just as bad as the one I came up to begin with. At the bottom I turned right around and climbed back up again to make three trips to the top on three different trails. I stopped to check out an old burial ground on the way back down to my car. It was kind of creepy with the darkening sky and the howling wind. A branch cracked in the wind and I jumped about a mile. I'm usually not so easily spooked, but the atmosphere was kind of eerie at the time. Thanks to my heebie-jeebies the rest of the trip down went very fast!

It was about twelve miles of good hill work in about 2:15.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speed Work on the Trail

My taper for the Northface 50K at Bear Mountain officially started this week. I've been running my highest mileage in many years, plus mountain biking season is starting, so the thought of cutting back on the running a bit sounds good to me.

Yesterday called for a short speed work session. I started in the late afternoon during a lull between patients, a "lunch break run." I was working near home so I set out from my house and planned to run the mile to the high school track and really do some officially measured and timed laps for my 3 X 3/4 miles. I almost made it there, too. But on the way I ran past the trail head for the Ossipee River trails and unexpectedly veered off there. Give me a beautiful trail over the track any day.

The River Run trail is flat, smooth, and fast...perfect for speed work. I did two of the three repeats on that trail with a half mile jog after each one. This brought me back to the road for the last fast three quarter mile home. All the repeats were run at the same effort, but I only timed the last one because time doesn't mean much on the varying terrain of the trail. The last road 3/4 was in 4:45 (6:05 pace). Ideally I'd do a cool down after this, but it was time to get back to work. Sometimes it feels good to move fast. Yesterday was one of those times!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ossipee River Trails

I almost buckled under the pressure of getting things together for my new job today. I have been winding down on the employment side of my life for the past several years because there are more important things to do with my time! Suddenly, in taking this new job, I have to find copies of certificates, degrees, licenses, and awards. Most people probably have a file with all this stuff in it. I used to, but I don't seem to anymore. I came home late this afternoon after meeting with various nice folks at my new workplace. Kevin tried to say hello, but I pushed him out of the way muttering something about expiration dates and proof of certification, adding, "and I was supposed to get a long run in today, too." Followed by "grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter, mild curse word, F-word, mutter, mutter, grumble..."

Eventually, Kevin coaxed me out the door and onto the trails for my run. After about three strides I turned and called back to him, "hey, I already feel better!" Amazing stuff, this trail running. I looped, zig-zagged, back-and-forthed, back tracked, figure-eighted, and dosey-doed around and around on the Ossipee River trails, which are in awesome conditon and have already seen mountain bike traffic this week. This kind of running is extremely fun. I am never more than three miles from home, but I can easily put in 20 miles or more. I had stowed some GU's and a big bottle of water at the trail head and returned there every 45 minutes or so for a drink and squirt of GU. Interestingly, someone stole my last packet of GU. Kevin saw who did it, so if you read this Blog, watch out, we're onto you! Anyway, this is one instance where the Garmin comes in handy. If I had to calculate how far I was running on these meandering trails I would run out of mental energy long before I ran out of physical energy. I had a great run. I'm glad to see that the Ossipee Trails are ready for biking!!! I'll be sure to get out there on the bike with kevin some evenings this week.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blood, Sweat, and tears in the Newfield Woods...and mud, too.

Coach Jack emailed me something like, "Bear Mt will have more climbing and more rocks than Nipmuck, so you'd better get out on that kind of stuff as much as you can." With that in mind, I set out into the wilds of southern Maine for yesterday's 12 miler. Tote roads, washed out old town roads, and overgrown snowmobile trails brought me west from rte 11 toward the New Hampshire border. Hills? Holy Hell were there hills! Rocks? Absolutely! There were also ice patches, mud, thorns, barbed wire, and water crossings. It was tough going.

At the top of the highest hill on the loop, I paused to catch my breath. Glancing up, I saw 8 or 9 turkey vultures silently circling overhead. I wondered if they could see the blood running down my legs from way up there. Perhaps they had been watching me climb that hill and were thinking, "let's hang out here for a bit. I think she's about to drop." I picked up the pace a little. It can't be a good sign to have turkey vultures circling.

This has been a good week of running so far, all on tired legs from Northern Nipmuck and mountain biking last weekend. My taper for Bear Mountain starts next week and I'm ready for it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Weekend on the Trails

Should a runner look this comfortable a quarter mile from the finish?!

What a wonderful Spring weekend we have just had here in New England! Saturday I ran one of my favorite New England Trail races, the Northern Nipmuck 16 miler put on by Jim Campaformio. Luckily, in this age of trail running boom, this race remains low key. N.N. is rugged and technical and attracts some hard core trail runners. Brian Kusiecki outran Russ Krause for the men while Abby Mahoney beat Deb Livingston for the women's title. Both were close races. Watching these guys and girls glide over and around the rocks, roots, shrubs, and outbound runners on their way back after the turn around was pretty inspiring. I think of myself as sure footed on the technical stuff, but those front runners were amazingly agile.

The weather was warm and the trail was dry. This course has short steep rocky climbs and descents on tight single track throughout. I couldn't ask for more. The first time I ran this event I was told by another runner to expect a finish time of about 15 to 20 minutes faster than my current road marathon time. This seems to be about right.

Until about the four mile aid station I ran in a line of runners. We thinned out leaving the station and I found myself running for the rest of the race with Rob from Connecticut. He pulled for a long time, making continuous small talk and jokes. Normally a chatty runner bothers me on the trail, but I've been running alone all Winter and I enjoyed his company. At the turn around I took the lead from Rob and passed several runners. This put some distance and some runners between Rob and me and I didn't think I'd see him again. But after 10 or 15 minutes I heard his familiar banter from behind. I held a steady effort and felt no signs of fatigue, other than a little clumsiness on some of the rocky sections and a little cramping in my feet. Rob fell silent with a few miles to go, but held onto my pace.

With about a quarter mile to go I found Kevin standing beside the trail and when I paused for a kiss, Rob took the lead and made me chase him to the finish line! I was a little disappointed with my time, seven minutes faster than last year, but still about 20 minutes slower than 2009. I am training hard and I feel fit. I think it's just a matter of getting back into the racing groove. I need to remember how to push past my comfort zone. I can honestly say that when I finished Northern Nipmuck this year, I felt like I could have held that same effort for another ten miles. I will try to run some shorter races this summer to re-learn how to push myself a little.

After the race Kevin and I drove two hours to Barnstable on the Cape. We checked out the beginning of the Trail of Tears on foot. The walk stretched out my legs and felt good. Sunday morning we had a big breakfast and hit the trails on our mountain bikes. I loved it! These trails have the same steep technical ups and downs that I had been running the day before at Nipmuck. My quads were tired from Saturday's race and I had to push the bike up several of the hills. Otherwise I felt great. Trail of tears is a wonderful network of mountain bike trails in the Branstable Town Forest. We can't wait to get back out there for some more riding!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hills and the Hostile Hippie

I'm glad I put off my long run until today. Yesterday, it was 32 degrees with wind and sleet and slippery roads. Also, I was going to have to run alone. Today the temperature was right around 40, there was a very gentle steady rain, and I had my friend, Mary for company. She warned me over the phone that she hadn't been training and wasn't up for a fast pace today. I was fine with that as long as we could cover some long hilly miles.

Our loop took us over the extremely hilly back roads of Intervale and Jackson. There was one icy stretch at the Jackson end of Dundee, but otherwise the roads were just wet. Mary was actually in surprisingly good shape. While we ran we tried to figure out what she has been doing right all this time she thought she has been goofing off. Well, it turns out that she has been running 5 fast miles three evenings a week with her daughter who is getting ready for outdoor track season. She has also been running around with the middle school kids she coaches for track. Add in all the skiing and walking she does on a regular basis and suddenly we see that she has been training after all, but in such a fun and unstructured way that she doesn't even realize it. We were both pleasantly surprised at our pace and at how good we felt on the hills.

Near the end of our run while we were running up the steepest part of Thorn Hill in the rain, Mary started telling me about the Hostile Hippie. She described him as a silver haired man with a pony tail and a beard who skied and walked in the area. Mary and he had had some sort of confrontation regarding unleashed dogs, which they each tend to travel with. Mary didn't go into a lot of detail which leads me to believe that she is as much at fault for the feud as he is. The confrontation seems to have initially started between the two dogs, but over the course of several chance meetings, the feud transferred over to Mary and the Hippie. The dogs are apparently long since over it.

Mary told me she was afraid of the hippie because she always met up with him in remote places and he was always angry and aggressive and hostile. I pointed out that by definition a hippie couldn't be hostile. Hippies are all about peace and love, you know? Mary wasn't buying it. Just then a car came up from behind and slowed down beside us. The window came down and the driver stuck his head out. Mary gasped, "It's him." She tried to hide behind me but she's a lot taller and bigger than me and it didn't work very well. The Hostile Hippie said, "I'd do anything to be doing what your doing. I'd trade my cycling and my skiing and my hiking to be able to run again." He did sound a little gruff, but I think it's just the way he speaks. I smiled and said "I wish you could run, too. Then you could join us." To which he snorted and drove away.

He looked more like a school teacher or an accountant than a hippie. And he didn't seem all that hostile, just a little resentful that for some reason, he isn't able to run anymore. Mary claims he looks scarier when he's on foot, but who knows. The important thing is that all the talk about the hippie, and then our meeting with him, and then the analysis of the meeting took us to the end of Thorn Hill Road without ever even feeling it!

The last mile was another big climb up Dundee. By now we had checked our watches and were feeling good about how well we had covered ground today. As we climbed that last hill, Mary and I fantasized out loud about big come backs and fast races in our near futures. We do this to make each other laugh. I finally got her to laugh hard enough that she had to take a few walking steps by saying, "yes, I think this is the year we are both finally going to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials." It was just the break I needed so I could beat her to the top of the hill.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Early Spring Conditions

Trail running in Southern Maine isn't at it's best right now, but I'm still plugging away at it. Yesterday's few miles was sheer torture (but in a good way) on the slushy slippery mess. Today we had freezing rain and sleet all day. I got dressed to run and ventured out, thinking I'd run twenty miles on the slushy roads... but I ran back home after only a few miles of slipping around. I called Mary to make arrangements to run long tomorrow instead. Next weekend I will be running the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile trail race. It's a good season opener, fun course with fun people. I sure hope the Connecticut trails are bare dirt and rocks!

I am still patiently waiting for the local trails to be suitable for mountain biking. Until then I'll keep goofing around in the driveway. It's all fun.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I don't really know my way around Alfred, Maine...but map 3 in my Delormes Atlas showed a nice big green patch indicating a preserve area, a separate part of the Massabesic Experimental Forest that I run so often in the Waterboro/Hollis area. I pulled the car off the road and set out at an easy running pace. Twice, I entered the woods on trails that looked promising and had to back track due to dead ends. That's how these exploration runs go and I don't mind a bit. It's all good trail miles!

Soon I found a gated unmaintained road that had seen snowmobile traffic through the winter. The surface was mud and gravel in small patches between larger patches of loose granular old snow. Slow going, but runnable. I passed a lot of very tempting side trails that will have to wait until later in the Spring after we have more melting. I stopped to check out a very large cemetery from the early 1800's, a beaver dam, an old foundation, coyote scat, and a deer carcass. If you don't take the time to look, you're not getting the full woods experience!

I was attempting to loop back to my car, but knew I would have to turn back and retrace my steps if the trails and tote roads didn't take me in the right direction. I didn't have my Garmen with me, but I did have my cell phone. I don't use the Garmen very often, I like the fact that I can judge distance and direction and pace so well. If I started relying on the GPS all the time I think I might loose that. A GPS would just take a lot of the adventure out of trail running.

Kevin called at one point to say he was picking up some groceries for dinner. I told him I was running somewhere in the woods of Alfred or Lyman and would be out before dark. He just told me to have fun. I sure would hate to have a worrier for a husband. Kevin trusts my trail sense as much as he trusts his own. We are very alike about being in the woods. Kevin doesn't run, but his passion for moving through the woods is the same as mine. He walks or mountain bikes or snowshoes or snowboards through the trees. A person could pogo stick or cartwheel or hop on one foot, it's all pretty much the same as long as the person is moving under his own power and enjoying the experience.

I ended up retracing my steps and got to see everything from a different point of view, with dimmer light and from the opposite direction. I was pleased to see that the coyotes had been through since I had been. They had walked over and pooped in my footprints. I made it back to the paved road before dark and picked up the pace for the last few miles back to the car. I ran about 14 miles in just over 2 hours. I can't wait to get back out there when the snow is gone! I have more exploring to do.