Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mt Cutler, A Rugged Little Hill

Mount Cutler is a little mountain in Hiram Maine with an elevation of 1234 feet. I explored this area before and enjoyed the rugged terrain and beautiful views. Yesterday I drove the 10 miles or so to Hiram Village and headed out with Scout. The direct route up is extremely steep with drop offs and ledges, and I didn't want to take Scout over that as I don't know how good his puppy judgement is. Instead we ran down the snowmobile trail for a good long out and back, then started up the Saco Ridge Trail. This trail is blazed in red and leaves the snowmobile trail about a mile or so from the trail head parking. In the Spring I had trouble staying on this trail, but now it has been freshly blazed and appears to have been well traveled over the summer.

The mountain is small, only a hill really, but it is steep and rugged. I alternated running and walking up to the ridge. Along the way there is a little spur that cuts over to the Old Saco Ridge Trail that offers a very nice view of the Saco Valley and Hiram Village. I accidently continued on the Old Saco Trail and found myself going down a slippery slope that was so steep that Scout just wouldn't or couldn't stop! When we got down where it was a little more level I thought things out and realized we shouldn't be heading down already and the blazes had turned to blue. Oh well, we turned around and scrambled back up and found our turn.

Continueing over the red blazed trail we enjoyed views of the Hiram Hills, Baldwin, and the White Mountains. Snow covered Mount Washington was as clear as could be from several overlooks. The Saco Valley still has some nice folliage, very golden and yellow and glowing. All of the ridge is very runnable, but one must be careful because there are a few places where it is easy to loose the trail. One can easily find himself on a different hiking trail, an ATV trail, or in the middle of a bush whack and have to back track. I did this several times last time I was here.
Yesterday I did better.

Instead of completing the loop down the direct steep ledgy trail that we had avoided to begin with, I took the White Flag trail through a gentler, more wooded and longer route down. Strangely, the blazes abruptly changed from white to blue half way down, which caused me to stop and back track to where they changed, just to be sure i was still on the trail. I was, so I continued down.

This trail comes out on Hiram Hill Road, a little distance from the village where the trail head parking is. If you do this loop, and I highly reccomend it, turn right when you hit the paved Hiram Hill Rd and run about 1/4 mile down the road, looking for the rail road tracks on your right. Follow the tracks and they'll complete the loop taking you directly to your car.

The loop isn't longer than 4 or 5 miles at most, but you can easily get 10 or more miles in on the nicely groomed snowmobile trails that circle the mountain. Be prepared for some walking on the climb, no matter which trail you use. This mountain is known for its rugged steepness. And bring a camera (I left my new camera in the car), the views are incredible!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mud, Sweat, and Gears at the KT

Yesterday, Kevin and I had to make the 2 1/2 hour drive back up to East Burke, Vermont to meet with the guy selling us his cabin. We went early so we could spend some time on the Kingdom Trails (KT) first. I expected Kevin to take off on his bike while I ran the trails and we would meet up later. But when I told Kevin I wanted to run the trails nearer the mountain to see what they were like, he decided to escort me on the bike. These trails aren't as well maintained nor as well used as the other single track. They were very slippery due to wet leaves and mud. I was glad to be running and not riding!

We started out with about 5 miles of pretty steady climbing over greasy trails. With these types of conditions, I had an easy time keeping up with Kevin on his bike. It was good hard steady work for both of us and my legs were feeling it at the top. Honestly, if it wasn't for Kevin's company I would have walked some of the climb. After the steady climb, there were a lot of rolling hills. Mcgills fields were flatter and less muddy, but then we entered the woods again. We hit a lot of mud on the Frost Hill Trail. We later learned that this trail isn't maintained for biking any more. That would explain why it was completely churned up with moose prints and the bridges were rotted and dangerous for the bike. I was very careful with my footing, but managed to fall once anyway.

Since starting to run against the advise of my surgeon, I have continuously drilled into myself that "if I slip or trip I absolutely will not put out my left arm to catch myself!" And I guess this self brain washing worked, because when I went down I let my left arm dangle and flop wherever it wanted to go and I tried to stop myself with my right arm only. I landed mostly on my chest and abdomen, but my right arm did prevent my face from going into the mud. My left arm was sprawled comfortably at my side with my left hand under my hip. I knocked the wind out of myself, which always feels like Hell. I also bruised my left pinky finger. But that was it! I was pretty amazed that conditioning myself to protect my left shoulder worked even though I hadn't had time to give it any thought as I fell.

By the time we crossed the road and started the easier and flatter White School Trail to head back to town, we had already covered about 8 or 9 miles of mud and hills. I was supposed to incorporate 30 minutes at tempo pace on this run, but I started reasoning with myself. "Heck, all that mud and all that climbing has to equal more than thirty minutes of tempo." But now that the trail was not muddy and not technical and not steady climbing, Kevin was starting to ride out ahead and then stop and wait for me to catch up. I didn't want to make his ride completely void of fun, so I picked up the pace and soon found myself running my thirty (plus) minutes of tempo after all.

It really was a great work out. Misery loves company, but with Kevin's company there really wasn't much misery. Despite the messy conditions, hills, and a fall, I enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cabin Fever

Kevin and I spent the past week in Acadia National Park. We had planned the trip before I knew I needed surgery on my shoulder. We had originally hoped to do a lot of biking and hiking there. I am making excellent progress and hope to return to work this week or next, but biking and strenuous hiking are still out of the question. We camped at the Black Woods Campground and enjoyed wonderful Fall weather until Wednesday night and Thursday, when we had heavy rain. Our tent kept us perfectly dry and happy. We did some hiking, some sight seeing, and I ran the carriage trails while Kevin biked beside me. We also over-ate and over-drank in Bar Harbor a few times. It was a nice get away. I've been suffering from a terrible case of cabin fever since being on leave from work, so this was just what I needed!

Speaking of cabin fever, we are very happy to be in the process of purchasing a cabin in Burke, Vermont! We spend a lot of time there in North East Vermont. We love the mountain biking, Nordic skiing, snow boarding, snow shoeing, and trail running in the area. The cabin will make things much easier and nicer for us. We'll be driving there tomorrow to meet with the seller and take another look around. I'm trying not to get my heart set on it until the actual closing occurs, but I'm pretty darned excited. Hopefully Kevin will get a chance to mountain bike and I can run the trails while we are there tomorrow.

Yesterday I ran the local trails with Scout and Kevin. Kevin walks while I run, so we split up and re-join and criss-cross paths while we are out there. Scout gets a little confused and worried when we seperate. He wants us all to stick together in one happy dog pack, but he is getting used to it. I had him run a couple of miles with me and then handed him off to Kevin. Scout is doing really well on the trails and is a joy to run with. He still likes to throw in some good fast puppy sprints here and there. I do my best to go with him on these, but it's hard work.

While I love running the trails, I am really missing mountain biking. Whatever trail I am running on I find myself looking for the best line for the bike, picturing my wheels lifting over obstacles, and jumping off stumps and rocks while holding imaginary handlebars. It's been too long! I am starting to look at things in the trail and think to myself, "did I really used to ride my bike over that?" I sure hope that my skills and confidence come back to me fast when I can start riding again. And I sure hope I can get back on the bike before the snow falls!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting Back At It

This past week I was permitted to start physical therapy on my left arm. This is the first time I have been allowed to actually move it since surgery, and it feels great (in a painful sort of way.) I will follow up with my surgeon next Monday, and ask about going back to work in some sort of limited capacity. I'm starting to go stir crazy at home.

My running is going well. I wrote up a little training plan to get me back to baseline and have been having no problem following it. I have been out on the trails every single day this past week. I'm starting to allow my left arm to swing, just a tiny bit, while I run. This seems to be helping to loosen up the bicep and forearm, which have both been having frequent painful spasms since the original injury. Yesterday I did some hill repeats, which was not as easy as usual with only one arm pumping and the other doing its tiny little whimpy swings. I managed three 100 meter repeats up the steep loose gravel hill. I have a lot of trouble getting my mountain bike up this hill, so running didn't feel so bad.

Scout is doing great with his trail running skills! We had a close call a few days ago when he met up with a leashed Pit Bull on the trail. Scout thinks every dog and every child wants to play with him, so when he sees one of them he charges over with his tail wagging. When he did this to the Pit Bull, the Pit Bull yanked the leash out of its owners hand and took off after Scout, snarling and growling. I though Scout was a goner! But Scout has been training with me, remember? So he was able to change directions and sprint for his life. He dashed past me, knocking my shin with his cowbell hard enough to draw blood, and spun around me in a tight circle. This slowed the pit bull down enough for its owner to catch up and grab her. I told you Scout was turning into a good runner!

Today, we leave for our vacation in Bar Harbor. We planned this trip before I knew I was going to need surgery. There won't be any cycling for me this year, but I can do some hikes and some runs on the carriage trails! We love Bar Harbor after the tourist season is over.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cedar Mountain

Well, now that I am officially not training for anything (thanks to my shoulder injury) I have gotten back to the basics, joyous tromping through the woods for the sake of having fun. Today Scout and I explored a little unmaintained Jeep road off of Merrill Hill Road that I've been eyeing for a while. It turned out to be a nice trail up to Cedar Mountain in North Parsonsfield. I lived in North Parsonsfield and ran the roads and trails around there for about 20 years, but for some reason, I never noticed this road until this past Summer during a run over Merrill Hill.

The climbing was steady and the footing solid. It really was fun running! I was just sorry that it ended after only 2 miles. The good thing was that instead of ending in a log yard, back lawn, or beaver bog (like many of my exploratory runs do) it ended at the ledgy top of Cedar Mountain, elevation 1223 feet. The top provided beautiful views to the Southeast. Scout and I turned around and ran back the same way. This is when I discovered that Scout is a downhill running fiend! He was sprinting and jumping and chasing his tail and crashing into trees and bushes all the way down the hill, all the while letting out his little growls and grumbles that he makes when he is happy. I only have the one functioning arm right now, so I had to be cautious and slow, but he never left me for long. He wears a cow bell in the woods and he never got so far ahead that I couldn't hear him.

When we got back to the car we crossed the road and ran up Merrill Hill and down again. All in all, a great hill work day. After checking the Google map, I think I should be able to find a way to connect this trail to one of the little jeep roads that come up the other side of Cedar Mountain from Middle Rd. I'll save that for another day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Numbers Are In!

Anyone who knows me or follows my Blog knows that I'm not a "numbers person". I usually don't know exactly how far I've run or how long it took. I usually don't know what place I've come in for a race or my finish time. I can't reel off my PR's at various distances without looking them up. I don't know weekly mileage totals, my resting heart rate, or my exact weight. I don't even know my husband's cell phone number! But...the numbers are in for my second week post-op! Last week I ran 33 miles and walked 10 miles. This is better progress than I expected and I'm excited about it.

I did several 3-4 mile trail runs with Scout and a mid-week 6 mile road run with Mary. Friday, I met Brian and Tom for a preview of the new recreational trail from Biddeford to Kennebunk. Coincidentally, Brian's arm is in a plastic splint from a tennis injury. With my arm in a sling and strapped tightly to my side and Brian in his splint, walkers on the trail probably wondered when running became a contact sport. Both men had signed up for the out and back half marathon to be held on this trail next weekend. Neither was in top shape for various reasons so this was a trial run for them. The trail is very nice, both scenic and flat. The surface is packed crushed stone. I enjoyed the leisurely pace and good conversation. I think both Tom and Brian proved to themselves that fit or not, they can both finish the half marathon in good form. I'll be checking the results, so they'd better!

Saturday, Kevin and I drove to East Burke. It was a very busy mountain biking weekend there. They close the trails November first, so riders are taking advantage of the prime trail conditions while they can. I strapped my arm down, put my Nathan pack on, and started out. I ran the familiar trails in the opposite direction we usually ride. Most riders familiar with the trails ride the same direction we usually do, so I didn't meet many cyclists on the trail during the morning portion of my run. When I got to Heaven's Bench I looked for Kevin. I just figured he'd be near there around that time, I reached him by cell phone and he joined me within five minutes. Kevin biked with me and showed me some trails that I usually don't bike due to their very skinny and long bridges! It was fun to run them.

We parted ways and I crossed Darling Hill Road and started back toward the vehicle. These trails were a little congested with mountain bikers, but it is so easy to hear them coming and just step off the trail so they can pass. Not one of them seemed out of control or unable to avoid me if they had to. Throughout the day, many of them gave me praise and encouragement, "Now that's dedication!" "Way to get up that hill!" "Didn't we see you over on East Branch? I can't believe you're still running!" It kept me feeling strong.

With another mile or two to go, I met a Grandma on her commuter bike on the easy Bemis Trail. She had lost her grand kids and her way. We studied the map together and I showed her that she had to turn around and go the direction I was headed, the way she had just come. She came close to tears, "I'm not riding up and down all those hills again! I am not riding over those little bridges again and through all that mud!" I suggested an alternate plan, cut through a hay field and ride back on the road. I was happy to see her riding up the road and reaching the parking area at the exact same time I arrived on foot from the woods. She had a big smile on her face and waved to me. I felt glad that her day was getting better. The grand kids probably got Hell from her later.

Sunday, I was toast. I laced up and tried to do a short trail run, but it turned into a walk. That's OK. Sometimes I just need a walk in the woods. Kevin took his bike out and we worked on training the puppy to run with the bike. Scout did great! He doesn't have any fear of the bike and does a good job staying out of the way... for the most part. There was one scary moment when Kevin was riding over the narrow Clencher behind Scout and Scout suddenly stopped. I wasn't sure which one of them was going to tumble down the steep slope into the river. Luckily, Kevin was able to keep the trail and Scout rolled and slid a very short way down the slope before merrily trotting back up to the trail. No harm done.

After we got home, Scout reminded us that although he is big, he is still just a puppy. He grabbed my camera off my desk and chewed it into pieces when we weren't looking. Enjoy the photos on this post, they are the last ones from the camera!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

North Yarmouth "Flats"

I really hate to draw attention from the general public. I'm not loud, I don't dress with a lot of flare, I don't tell people at work what I do for fun, and I don't need compliments or flattery from anyone but my husband. I'd rather stand back and take it all in. OK, I admit it, I once got a lot of attention when I drank too much at the Tamarack Grill and got way too involved with a name-that-tune competition, at one point almost standing on my bar stool shouting incorrect answers, but that was a rare exception.

Today I took to the streets of North Yarmouth with my running friend, Mary. She has recently relocated there from North Conway. We could have headed over to nearby Bradbury Mountain or even closer, Pineland Farms, but she wanted to show me her new neighborhood. Plus, she's more of a road runner than a trail runner. So I willingly (reluctantly) strapped on my big black Velcro strap over my bulky sling and set out to run for the first time in public with my sling. People out running or walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers looked at me and shook their heads as if to say, "what an idiot." They were the same kind of looks I give people who I see out running in the middle of busy roads in heavy snow storms. Oh well, let them think I'm some kind of running fanatic, Mary and I know better.

At the start of our run, Mary announced, "we are not slow! We just have been running hilly and mountainous routes all this time! You'll be amazed how fast and how far we can run today on the flats of North Yarmouth!" I was not all that amazed and we didn't run all that fast or all that far. But we had a lot of fun.

Mary (a former Maine Marathon winner more than once) has a new scheme. She says, and I quote, "you and I are going to train like we used to and show up at the Maine Marathon next year and blow everyone away!" I looked at her skeptically and she continued, "we just have to find some desire... and some motivation... and some discipline...OK, so maybe we won't blow everyone away, but we can probably finish it." You know, I haven't run a marathon in a long time. Maybe I'm due!