Saturday, January 29, 2011


I was looking for a place to stop for a run on my way home from work yesterday and decided on Sawyer Mountain off of route 117 in Limington. The Sawyer Mountain trail isn't great running when there isn't snow cover. This is due to the rocky trail conditions. These are not the nice kind of rocks that we New England trail runners enjoy, they are more like piles of loose rolling scree left behind due to erosion and poor water run off. But in the winter the trail is used by snowmobilers and it becomes a wonderful place to run.

The snow was a bit soft as we had warm temperatures during the day, but it was still very enjoyable. To the top of the small mountain and back is about 4 miles. The views from the top are very nice. Coming back down on the soft snowmobile trail was fast and fun! When I got back to my car I crossed the road and followed the snowmobile trails on the other side. I had never been on these before. I was having a great run, but as the sun set and the trails started to firm up, things got even better. I came to an open area and saw 3 or 4 deer at the top of a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, I rounded a bend in the trail and found a brand new wooden outhouse sitting there in the middle of the woods! This thing was a work of fine craftsmanship. It was such an unlikely site that I had to smile. The sign on the door said "Limington Crankers Snow Mobile Club." I continued running well past dark, but finally had to turn around and return to my vehicle. I hope I can return soon to explore further down the trail.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trails, Roads, and Treadmill

Years ago, during my second Ultra, a road fifty miler, I was brought to a walk on a small hill near the end. My legs were just trashed. This was only my second race over the marathon distance and I was pretty disgusted with myself for having to walk so close to the end. As I gimped up the hill, I made apologies to the man (C.W.) I had been battling with for the win for the past 6 hours. He looked at me before he left me behind and said something that sticks with me to this day, "there's no shame in walking as long as it gets you to the finish line." Since then I repeat this to myself often, and it's not usually about literally walking to get to the finish line. To me, it means that sometimes things don't go exactly as planned, but you just do the best you can to make it come out OK. And you shouldn't feel shame or regret or make excuses when you have done your best.

Yesterday, I did about three miles on the snowmobile trails, but was working too hard for so early in a long run. So I moved out to the roads. These were snow and slush covered and I was doing a lot of back-sliding with each step even though I had my screw shoes on. It was better than the snow mobile trails, but still slow and difficult. I kept thinking to myself, everyone else runs on this stuff and doesn't seem to have a problem with it. It's that damned Facebook! I read people posting things like, "10 miles at 10 below on 6 inches of snow this morning. It was awesome!" So why does it feel totally not awesome to me to run in below zero temps or on snowy and icy roads?

I did 12 miles on the trails and roads and then came to an intersection where I was supposed to turn left. Without really thinking about it, my body turned right and headed for home. As much as the treadmill bores me, I decided I would rather finish up on it than keep slipping around on the road and having to jump onto the snow bank every time a car came along on these narrow streets. It wasn't so much the fact that it was really hard work, it was just plain unpleasant!

When I got home I hardly paused to strip off my wet clothes in the kitchen before marching up to the home gym, donning some nice light summer running clothes, turning the music on, and hopping on the treadmill. My pace was much faster and much more comfortable. My stride felt natural and smooth. It felt great to finish up that way! As I stepped off the belt I said out loud, "No shame in walking," although I hadn't walked a step. I meant no shame in using the treadmill if that's what it took to get it done!

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Planning

I am trying not to look too far ahead with my racing/running plans for this year. Last year my plans all fell to pieces with a neck injury early in the Spring. In past years, injuries, work schedule changes, social/family obligations, or better offers have prevented me from doing all the things I had laid out in my long term planning. It is pretty obvious to people who know me that I am a spur of the moment kind of person. Unfortunately, in this day of the ultrarunning boom, a person has to plan ahead and enter early to get into the big events.

Another factor is that for the first time in my life, when I am making plans for myself I am also making plans for another person. In past relationships I have always made plans for fun adventures and events thinking only of myself. I would then offer to take spouse or boyfriend along if he wanted to go. Usually he didn't want to go and he didn't mind having me go off on my own. If he did decide to go, he was off fishing or visiting the bars while I ran. With Kevin things are different. Kevin supports and encourages whatever I want to do. We have only been apart for one entire night the whole time I have known him. That was at an event where we didn't feel there would be a way for him to meet me out on the trail. We worked it out the next year and I did the same event with his midnight send off and his company on the trail at the end of the event. When I run a race it is a team effort for us. Kevin has happily stood out in the cold for hours to see me for about 10 seconds as I hand off a sweaty shirt and a muddy kiss. He has stayed up all night and then driven me home from these things. He's a good sport. So now when I think about events I want to do I also think about the kinds of places that I know Kevin would enjoy. I even look to see if there are good mountain biking trails for him nearby!

With all that in mind, and with my supervisor asking for time off requests for the next eight months and my weekend and holiday work schedule engraved in stone through the rest of the year, I find myself checking out the race calendar while leafing through my 2011 planner. Some events just aren't going to happen for me due to my work schedule. Among those are two of my favorites, the Vermont 100 and the Mt Pisgah 50K. I thought about running Pineland 50K or 50 mile as my goal race for the Spring. This is a non-technical and flattish course, the type of course I suck at. I was thinking it would be good to step outside of my comfort zone. Luckily this race won't fit due to an awesome Grand Canyon Mountain Biking trip we have planned.

So what will fit for 2011? I have entered the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K to be held at Bear Mountain, New York on May 7th. This is a big race with a lot of big names on a technical course. It sounds like fun. I am also considering some of the shorter Grand Tree trail races (stepping out of that comfort zone!) And I am looking for a hundred miler late in the summer or early in the fall. Virgil Crest is the one I am leaning toward, although Grindstone would be a Hardrock qualifier for 2012.

I have never been one to run a race (or two) every weekend. There are so many other fun things to do! But I will get out to run a few this year. My training is going great and I don't want to let it go to waste!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Long, Cold, Hilly Run

I really don't like to run when it is less than 15 degrees out. Call me a wimp, but my muscles often feel cold and sluggish when the temperature is lower than fifteen. I waited until this afternoon for today's long run, thinking it would warm up in the nice bright sunshine. And it did! It went from minus 10 degrees to 10 above. That was as high as it was going to go, so I layered up and headed out.

I started with a hilly loop down Spec Pond Road and through South Hiram. My plan was to stop at my house when I completed this loop for a bathroom break, a drink and a snack. Inevitably, I have to take a pee break on these long runs and I found out yesterday that the four foot snow banks on the side of the road are not conducive to this. So a pit stop at home was part of today's plan.

I felt great on this loop. Yes it was cold, but I was moving fast and smooth anyway. Even the hills felt good! What a difference from the last two weeks' long runs. As I neared my house at the end of the loop I started making a plan in my head as if I was pulling into an aid station in a hundred miler... "use the bathroom, grab a banana and a glass of juice, check to see if the space heater has thawed the pipes in the cellar yet, put a dry shirt and gloves on, check the online pedometer to see how long that loop was and how much farther I have to run to get my 19 miles in." I hadn't run that loop in a long time and had forgotten how long it is. The G-map pedometer told me it was 13 miles when I checked. I did all those tasks on my mental list in less than five minutes and was out the door.

I was cold starting out again because the sun was sinking low in the sky. That was OK because it made me want to run fast. I had to get 3 miles of faster paced running in during this run. I ran hard for the three miles out Spec Pond Rd and then turned and jogged back home. I didn't have a lot left when I returned home, but I was able to run strong and feel good for the whole run.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finishing up the Week

Kevin and I took to the Ossipee River Trails on snowshoes yesterday. The snow was softer than we expected, despite having been packed down by our last few snowshoe trips through. I ran while Kevin fast-hiked the trails. I like it that we can share the trails together even though Kevin doesn't run. I loop around and run out and back, and in this way we are out in the woods together even though we are each doing our own thing. It was interesting to hear from an acquaintance at a social gathering on Friday evening, that she and her husband do a similar thing. He runs while she mixes running and walking. By running back for her now and then they are able to travel together down the trail. Here I was thinking Kevin and I were unique in doing this! (Truthfully, Kevin's fast snowshoe walk isn't much slower than my snowshoe run when we are on that loose stuff!)

We worked hard out there yesterday and both felt it last evening. I wasn't sure how my run was going to feel today, but I was determined to get it in. After working on a home improvement project together all morning, we each set out on our own. Kevin hit the trails with his snowshoes again, while I ran a nice out and back on the little trafficked Spec Pond Road. I started out a little stiff and sore, but felt better and better as I went. Hooray, I made sixty running miles this week! And we both fit in some good fun outside time this weekend.

Friday, January 14, 2011

This Week's Training...So Far

Since Monday's miserable long run, my workouts have felt good! Over the last four days I have put in a good screw shoe six miler on packed snowy trails, a cross training day of snow shoveling and P90X, a 12 miler on icy, snowy roads with Fartlek, and a 6 mile snow shoe run. All of them felt great!

OK, I'll admit it. The snow shoe run almost did me in. I did well for the first 4 miles. I ran on snow mobile trails that had seen one snowmobile pass through and then drifted over with powdery snow. It was enough of a base to make running possible, if a bit challenging. But the last two miles were off the snow mobile trails and out into the woods. I followed Kevin's lone set of snow shoe tracks down the River Run Trail. He is about ten inches taller than me, so stepping into his tracks required a fast bounding stride. This part of my run was just about at snow shoe race pace, necessary if I didn't want to have to break my own trail which would have brought me to a walk. After catching up to Kevin eventually, I walked out with him. I was so depleted by then that I almost froze on the way out. I was shivering and my hands were numb. I rode home with my snow shoes on because my hands were too cold to manipulate the bindings. Once we got home, a hot tub soak revived me.

The twelve miler with Fartlek was wonderful! I used Kevin's hand-me-down micro spikes. These are the same ones that both fell off and got lost for a week the first time I used them. This time I modified them with thick elastic bands and they stayed put. As much as I hate out and backs, it was necessary if I wanted to stay off busy roads. I don't appreciate it when I am driving on slippery roads and there are runners out in the middle of the road trying to avoid the deep snow on the shoulder. So if I can run on roads with little or no traffic in slippery conditions, that's what I do. I ran the hilly New Settlement Road using the school parking lots and the fairgrounds for my approach and return. It's pretty awesome to live in an area where I can go out and run for twelve miles on roads and only see one or two vehicles the entire time! Believe me, this is not taken for granted. I started running while living in the Connecticut suburbs. I remember very well what it was like jogging in place waiting for an opportunity to cross at all the intersections!

If things go as planned for the weekend, I will have a solid 60 mile week of running!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What a Difference a Day (and a little honey) Makes

After yesterday's slow and painful slog on the roads, I probably needed my scheduled cross training day today. But with a snow storm predicted for tomorrow and a busy work day planned, I decided I'd better save the cross training day for tomorrow.

Yesterday's run was the longest distance I have done on pavement in ages, but I felt bad right from the first mile so that can't be the whole reason for my terrible run. I think the real reason has to do with not taking care of myself during the preceding days. I was coming off 5 twelve-hour shifts in a row and had been sitting in the car driving for hours and hours each day. I hadn't eaten at regular times or made healthy choices when I did eat. I avoided drinking much water because I didn't have time for bathroom stops. I drank too much coffee coming home in the evenings. You can see how a job that has a person traveling all day can be bad for one's health! Thank God I'm not a truck driver.

I noticed yesterday evening that my legs were swollen and my weight was up a few pounds. I had trouble getting my jeans off over my calves, although I had no problem putting them on! Every muscle in my body hurt, including my chest, arms, legs, back and neck. This is definitely not a normal reaction to a 19 mile run.

So I re-hydrated well, ate a balanced and healthy dinner and breakfast, and avoided salt. I also took a teaspoon of raw honey. Kevin's chiropractor recommended it for him so I (a supplement skeptic) did some research on it. I found that many people from different cultures and different nations believe in it's health benefits. So it isn't just the Americans-gone-crazy-spending-money-on-diet-and-supplement-products-thing. It's inexpensive and sold in it's pure form right at the supermarket. (And yes, the supplement companies are trying to cash in and sell it in pill form. How can that be pure and unfiltered? Or even called honey?) Anyway, even if it doesn't do anything for me I really like the taste of it. By this afternoon my weight was back to normal and my jeans fit over my calves. My run felt awesome! I ran six miles on hard packed and icy snow mobile trails in my screw shoes at sub ten minute miles.

Here's the spiel on raw unfiltered honey. Take it with a grain of salt... (figuratively, not literally!) And never give it to infants, no matter what the honey enthusiasts tell you.

HONEY PROCESSING Most honey sold today has been commercially processed, resulting in enzymes (which help digestion) and vitamins, being destroyed and protein (pollen) being removed. This processing involves heating and filtering through a cloth or fine filter paper.


Raw Honey was and still is credited with marvelous curative powers. A whole book could be written on all the medicinal uses of honey, from thousands of years of folk medicine to the scientific of the present time.

As honey is a pre-digested food (a process done by the bees) it enters the blood stream directly producing energy quickly, unlike refined sugar which has to be digested.*

Proline, an amino acid in Raw honey is the primary component in collagen. Collagen is the main structure in bones. Calcium is also found in two forms in Raw Honey.*

Increases Haemoglobin count and can help with Anaemia. It is rich in iron and copper.*

Is an excellent mild laxative*

It has been shown to be useful in Rheumatic and Arthritic conditions, especially in combination with Apple Cider Vinegar (Dr D.C. Jarvis).*

It has been used successful in the treatment of liver and kidney disorders, diseases of the respiratory and digestive tracts, weak heart action, infectious diseases, colds, insomnia, poor circulation, and bad complexion.*

It is not mere theory, but has been proved that bacteria cannot live in the presence of raw honey, for the reason that raw honey is an excellent source of potassium. The potassium draws from the bacteria the moisture which is essential to the very existence. A bacteriologist who did not believe this, after a series of tests discovered to his amazement that the disease germs he tested (typhoid, Bronco-pneumonia and Dysentery producing germs) were all killed off in the presence of raw honey.*

In this book “Folk Medicine”, Dr Jarvis an ear, nose and throat specialist reveals some startling facts about raw honey and honeycomb. He says the honeycomb is excellent for the treating of stuffy nose, nasal sinusitis and hay-fever. He always says that raw honey can produce healing for skin burns and is essential in the diet of children because it provides the composite of minerals needed for the growing body ( iron, copper, manganese, silica, chlorine, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, aluminium, magnesium, zinc, lead and sulphur ).*

Probably the most beneficial effect of pollen (contained in raw unfiltered honey) is that, taken internally it quickly produces the same anti-putrefactive effect as lactic foods and thus contributes to a healthy digestive system and good assimilation of nutrients—absolute prerequisites for good health and long life.Eating pollen rich raw honey causes rapid combustion, consuming fats which speed up the burning of fat, and continues through the bloodstream at a trickle stimulating the heart without harmful side effects.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tough One, But Got It Done

Today's run was a tough one! It was a hilly road loop through the town of Porter. I added a little out and back along the river near the end to make it an even 19 miles. It took me 3:02, not very speedy! I wanted a loop that would keep me out of traffic and off the icy trails. It was a very scenic and peaceful run, but my back and legs didn't do well on all that pavement. My form was really tightening up near the end and I had to walk one of the hills on Kezar Mountain Road due to leg and lower back pain. I cringed when I saw my short awkward gimpy stride when I looked at my shadow. I made a point to avoid looking at my shadow for the rest of the run.
Yesterday I drove past a woman running in Waterboro and I made fun (only to myself) about her obvious state of fatigue. She was definitely in the last miles of a long run and the struggle was showing in her form and on her face. Her mouth was moving as she muttered to herself, her nose was dripping, and her eyes were at half mast. Her arms had dropped low at her sides and her feet were barely clearing the ground with each step. When I drove by I thought sarcastically, "well there's a woman who is enjoying herself." Well, if there is justice in the world, she should have driven past me today for a good laugh. I can tell you, she looked 100% better yesterday than I must have looked today!
This was the longest distance I've run on pavement in a very long time and it hurt. I'll try to return to the trails for next week's long one.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Bathroom, Wardrobe Problems, and a Hostile Fat Lady

A short time ago I did a nice out and back along East and West Grand Avenues in Old Orchard Beach and really enjoyed it. Yesterday I had time to kill in the Saco/Biddeford area so I decided to re-visit OOB for my run. I had twelve miles planned, but didn't bring a watch or my Garmen so I just guessed at the distance. I ran out from Ocean Park, through OOB, and into Scarborough. Then I turned up route 9 away from the beach because I wanted to find some bushes. I had no luck finding bushes and had to practice self control for the remainder of the run.

I guessed at the turn-around spot and headed back. I was tempted for a minute to return on rte 1 and make a loop, but who wants to deal with rte 1 traffic? I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction on the return trip. For some reason the nice new tights that my son gave me for Christmas started falling down after the half way point. Weird, because they felt fine all the way out. I stopped and tried to figure out a way to keep them up. I ended up gathering all the excess material I could from the two fleece tops I was wearing and stuffing the big bunch of fabric down the front of my tights. It made me look pregnant, but it worked like a charm.

The only other out-of-ordinary occurrence was on East Grand Avenue during my return trip. With only a short distance left to go, a very large lady who was out watching her kids play in the snow bank yelled across the street to me. She said something like this, "You think you look good that skinny? Well you don't! You are way too skinny and no man is going to want you looking like that!" People on the street looked over to see who she was yelling at and it was a little embarrassing, but I just kept running. Just for the information of those of you who don't know me personally, I really am not very skinny for a runner. I'm pretty "solid" (as I like to put it). Plus I had a big paunch from stuffing the bottom of my fleeces into the front of my pants. Oh well, I didn't worry about it too much.

After I was done, I took the long way back to the office so I could use the car's odometer to measure how far I had run. It turns out that I ran eleven and a half miles while trying for twelve. That's pretty good guess work!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

North Conway Long Run

As often happens when I run the North Conway hills and mountains with Mary, a few miles into our long run today I find myself seriously wondering, "can something that feels so awful actually be good for me?" We start at the gated end of Town Hall Road and head up the tote roads, trails, and service roads into the National Forest. This involves steady gradual long climbs and descents. The descents are heavenly, the climbs are pure torture. There is something about the relentlessness of a two or three mile climb that starts sucking the life out of me part way up, no matter how gradual the grade. Then throw in a couple of shorter steeper hills (and by short I mean a half mile or so) and I come close to crying like a baby. Luckily, Mary doesn't notice. She just keeps chugging away and talking...talking, talking, talking. She's not fast anymore, but she is like a locomotive, strong and powerful.

Mary and I talk about the old days..."remember the trip to Quebec for the half marathon? We almost didn't make it to the starting line because the night before you and I..." or "Did you ever beat J.S. in college? I remember I came close once when her shoe came untied..." or "Remember that time you dropped out of the marathon in Rhode Island and C.R. saw you at the finish line and had a fit because she thought you had beaten her?" These are stories we tell each other over and over again, like a couple of old Alzheimer's patients that can't stop reliving the past.

We talk about the present... how to answer her adolescent kids' awkward questions about sex, gossip about neighbors, what our ex-husbands are up to and how glad we are that they aren't ours anymore, our current loves, trips, dates, and food. We often stop dead in our tracks because we get laughing too hard to run. We talk about the future. We both have a positive outlook on life and see only good things ahead. We talk about next week, next summer, and next year. It's all good, as far as we're concerned.

Today we run into the doctor. We have met up with him on many of our outings. I think he was a little scared of Mary the first few times we met on the trail. She has an in-your-face kind of friendly nature. But we have grown on him over time and today he seems delighted to see us. He is very interested in our running and asks a lot of questions. I tend to answer with one or two words, but Mary likes to elaborate. The doctor stands there with his hands in his pockets, nodding his head, and saying, "hmmm, reallllly?" He is a retired psychologist and I think he takes a professional interest in us. He walks a lot, getting ready for his through hike of the A.T. but he doesn't really get the whole running thing.

Today Mary and I see fresh Black Bear tracks in the snow and wonder why he isn't holed up for the winter yet. We see huge pines that have blown down in a recent storm. We stop once so Mary can point out and identify the distant peaks. We try to spot skiers on the far away ski slopes. We explore a new (to us) service road on our return trip. And so the difficult miles pass and another tough long run is in the books. We'll get together in a week or two and do it all over again.