Saturday, June 25, 2011

Green Mountain

I had every intention of running today's twenty miles at the Mt Aggie 6 Hour Run. I haven't seen my Mt Aggie friends in a long time and I was looking forward to it. But when the alarm went off at 5AM and I heard the rain pouring down outside, I rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up several hours later, angry at myself for skipping the event. I had tweaked my training schedule this week so my long run would fall on Saturday instead of Sunday, so I decided to run long today on my own. Kevin suggested nearby Green Mountain in Effingham, New Hampshire. I thought it was a great idea.

I set out on my own at 11:00. The rain had stopped and the skies were a lighter shade of gray than they had been for the past few days. I parked at the Effingham Elementary School for some additional miles and some additional climb. The school is at 200 feet of elevation and the top of Green Mountain is at 1880 feet. I would gain 1680 feet in about 2.5 miles. Then I'd do it two more times!

After 3 loops around the school's 3/4 mile gravel loop trail (including one loop doing the crazy exercises at the circuit stations...pull ups, sit ups, jumping from log to log, parallel bars...) I started up the old discontinued High Watch Road to the High Watch Trail head. I checked the time on my cell phone here because this 1.5 mile climb is a good marker of how my hill work is going. The fastest I have ever run up this trail is just under 19 minutes. Today I was able to run the entire way up, but it took me 24 minutes. That's OK, I was happy I didn't have to walk at all. I passed a group of ladies about half way up the trail. It's funny, but I found myself thinking how nice it was that these old ladies were out hiking on a wet cloudy day. Then it occurred to me that they were all about ten years younger than me! I had just assumed they were older because of the slow careful way they were moving along in rain coats and inappropriate footwear, carrying umbrellas and gossipping about people who weren't with them. When they saw me coming, they scurried out of the way as if I might bowl them over and send them careening off the mountain.

Without pausing, I went over the summit and down the Fire Warden's Trail (also called the Libby Trail) down to Libby Road, where I turned North. Libby Road is no more of a road than the High Watch Rd. It's just a washed out dirt trail at this point. When the road started looking more civilized, I knew it was time to look for the obscure left turn onto Town Pound Rd. If you look through the underbrush, you can see the high stone walls of the pound on the corner. This road is narrower and more overgrown, but very nice running. I tried to push my pace on this stretch of "road" running. When I got to the trail head for the Dearborn Trail, I turned around and ran back to the Firewarden's Trail on the same two roads. I ran back up the Firewarden's Trail in 26 minutes, with a few short walk breaks. The group of ladies was at the summit and starting to climb up the fire tower.

I breezed right through and ran down the Dearborn Trail, turned around at the bottom and started back up. Ugh, this trail is steep and strenuous. I did a lot of walking on this climb. I had no desire to time the climb this time.

Now came the challenge of the day. Could I catch the ladies before they got back down to their vehicle at the High Watch Trail head? I fearlessly, almost fearlessly, skimmed over slippery mossy slabs of ledge, rolling rocks, loose gravel, and slick tree roots. About half way down I saw the brightly colored rain coats in the distance! I scooted by them with a cheerful, "hello!" which made them all jump. Then came the easy downhill on the High Watch Road, a few loops around the school trail, and there I had it, twenty miles in something over 4 hours with three climbs of Green Mountain! OK, so I was too lazy to get out of bed and make it to Mt Aggie this morning. I still had a great run today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

15 Miles at "Marathon Pace"

Today I had good company on my run! I haven't been able to meet Mary for a run since starting my new job a couple of months ago so I was happy that she agreed to drive over to Kezar falls for a moderately long run today. The plan was 15 miles with Fartlek for 6 miles in the middle. I knew Mary wouldn't go for Fartlek or any type of speed work today because she considers herself out of shape and fat right now. But I thought I could probably sneak in "marathon pace" for those middle miles.

I chose a loop in Parsonsfield of just over five miles. The first four miles are on gently rolling hills on wide dirt ATV trails and the last mile is on pavement for a steep half mile downhill followed by a steep half mile uphill. This is a challenging loop, but with good footing (necessary for my road marathoner friend, Mary.) I figured we could stop to hydrate and fuel each loop.

Neither of us time our runs very often, but today I asked Mary to time our loops, secretly thinking about our 2nd loop being at marathon pace. We ran the first loop at a good clip, talking the whole way about all the big changes coming up in Mary's life...moving to Maine, getting married, selling her North Conway house, etc. The loop went fast and we ran it in 43 minutes with a bathroom break! Yay, close to 8 minute pace (which I'd be damned happy to call marathon pace these days.)

Next loop we started getting hot and tired. But as we talked about racing and PRs and past adventures, our egos kicked in and our pace picked up a bit. We started our usual fantasizing about all the great running we could still do if we got motivated. Mary even went so far as explain her great plan about "getting serious" and "training hard" when we entered our next age groups. And the more excited she got the faster our pace got. Good, this was supposed to be our marathon pace loop. This one went by in just under 41 minutes which was less than eight minute pace since the loop is longer than 5 miles.

The last loop brought us back to reality as we were very hot and tired by now. We told each other we would slow down, but we didn't. The conversation was replaced by panting and an occasional grunt or groan. This loop was almost exactly the same time as the one before, plus I had stopped to pee again. We were both happy with 15.6 miles in right around 2:05. Hey, I'm only 15 months away from being 50, a sub 3:30 marathon would be great

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sandwich Range

Last week I had a wonderful Sandwich Range Run. I do this several times a year, with variations. I almost always park at Ferncroft and climb the Blueberry Ridge trail, which is one of the prettiest trails I've ever been on. And that's how I started this run. Blueberry Ridge is steady climbing, but probably about 90% runnable. It gets steep and scary near the top, but I've developed a system! I found that I can fit two fingers in the holes left behind when the rungs were removed from the sheer rock face. By doing so, I could pull myself up hand over hand. It was quick and easy!

At the top of Whiteface, I got onto the Rollins Trail and ran fast over this beautiful, smooth, gentle ridge trail. This brought me over to Passaconaway. I followed the loop trail over the summit with side trips for the true summit and the veiw point. I felt great. Well, great except for the black fly bites all over my neck and back. Those guys were ferocious last week! So, because I felt good, I ran down the Walden Trail and then over Mt Wonalancet on the Wonalancet Range Trail. Walden is rugged and steep so a lot of it has to be walked. Wonalancet Range Trail brought me to within a stone's throw of Ferncroft, but I turned the opposite direction and did and out and back on the beautiful Kelly Trail.

I didn't see another soul all day. Most of these trails are beautifully maintained by the Wonalancet Outdoor Club. It is a stark contrast to the over-used and under-maintained Presidential Range or Pemi Wilderness. Maybe the AMC should get out of the hotel business and think about working on trails again! My legs hurt for 4 days after this run and my black fly bites are still swollen and itchy, but I can't wait to get out there again!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Running

Yesterday I ran a fast paced five miles on the Ossipee River Trails with Kevin following on his mountain bike. I normally run alone, so company on the trail is always a treat. I really enjoyed the run and ran faster than usual. We spent the afternoon pricing things for home repair projects and then went to the pub for a few beers and some nachos.

Today, I ran loops on the Ossipee River Trails for about 18 miles. The conditions were perfect for running, mid fifties with a light drizzle. Kevin was working on trail maintenance down there and I passed him several times, asking "what time is it?" each time because I felt like I was moving fast today and wanted to confirm it. I also took a few sips out of his water bottle each time I met him on the trail. I have come full circle as far as running gear goes. Up until about ten years ago I ran my long runs with a cheap Casio watch. Suddenly I felt the need to complicate things. I upgraded to better and better watches, added an MP3 player to my long run gear, exchanged my hand held water bottles for expensive hydration packs, added a heart rate monitor, traded watch and heart rate monitor for a Garmen, bought a better Garmen, then just as suddenly decided I didn't need all that crap. I traded the Garmen back for a watch and heart rate monitor, later put the heart rate monitor away, lost the MP3 player, started stowing water bottles in the bushes or carrying the hand held bottles instead of wearing a pack, put the watch away, and stopped carrying anything on runs shorter than 20 miles. Next thing you know, I'll be running naked. But I'll still insist on wearing shoes.

Mid run today I was supposed to do three miles at "marathon pace." This always puzzles me because it has been about eight years since I have run a marathon and I could run one at 7 minute pace back then. Now I'd be hard pressed to put two back to back 7 minute miles together. Plus (remember) I don't wear a watch and I don't know the mile markers on the trail. So for marathon pace I just pick up the pace to what I call, "on the verge of uncomfortable" for about three miles and call it good. And today I get bonus points because I picked up the pace to "beyond uncomfortable" for a couple of miles at the end of my run so I could catch Kevin and get a ride home instead of having to run home on the road.

I was pretty depleted by the time we got home and needed a two hour nap on the couch with the cat. Overall, it was a pretty nice weekend.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting Back into a Normal Routine!

I've been busy settling into my new job. This has interferred with my training routine! I've been getting runs in, but it hasn't been easy. Now I am finally starting to figure out how to organize my work day efficiently so I will be able to get back into a regular routine with my running.

My previous job had me working all over Southern Maine. This allowed me to explore trails in all sorts of little rural towns. I would find them by looking at maps, asking my patients, or just spotting an opening on the side of the road. I sure had some great experiences out there!

My new job has me covering the town of Gorham, Maine. It is a little city just ourside of Portland with a lot of comuter traffic, housing developements, and a University of Southern Maine campus. This is all new running to me. At first I found myself asking in a panic, where are the trails?! But this past week I have begun to find them!

I explored the Presumpscot Preserve area near the Little River (rugged ups and downs with rickety bridges), snow mobile trails (nice rolling hills), and power line ATV trails (not bad). I have my eye on what the hunters call "the brick yard" trails and will explore them next week. There are also the surrounding towns to consider.

I am gearing my training toward the Virgil Crest 100 Miler with the help of coach Jack. I will also try to get time off to run the Maine hundred mile wilderness (AT) with a small group of Maine and New Hampshire runners with record setting aspirations. I have no record setting aspirations and will not be up with the record seekers, I just have a desire to travel the trail in the opposite direction from what I have done before and to do it without the burden of heavy backpack... oh and to get out of the woods in one piece. I would like to hear if anyone knows of an actual record for this stretch of trail. Sue J, if you read this give me your input on this!