Friday, July 15, 2011

MMD Reconnaissance Run

After last year's struggle to stay on course through the night at MMD, I decided to go on a scouting mission in the daylight a few days ago. The night time segment of MMD is run up the Imp Trail, continuing up the North Carter Trail, and then crossing the Carters and Mt Hight by way of the Carter-Moriah Trail. Next comes the steep climb up Wildcat, by which point the darkness has usually begun to lift. I have run this section of trail in the dark for the past two years at MMD, (we had run different courses for MMD each year until a few years ago). It went fine the first time I ran this route because I was traveling with a group of runners and between us we had plenty of lights and plenty of good sense. Last year I was alone through this section and had some difficulties staying on trail, poor night vision and not such good sense I guess.

I started out my recon run feeling great, but smelling a very bad odor coming from my Camelback. I finally stopped to check and found a left over piece of Ham and cheese sandwich that had been in there for about a week, ripening in the 90 degree weather. I consider myself lucky that I wasn't jumped on by a Black Bear while carrying this bear bait. I hate throwing anything on the ground, but I tossed it off the trail figuring something would eat it pretty quickly.

Once free of that foul odor, the run improved immensely. I am always surprised how steep the climb is up the Northern arm of the Imp Trail. And it just keeps going and going! I found the spot where I first wandered off course in the dark last year. It is a stream crossing where hikers have worn paths up and down the stream looking for better crossings in high water, (note to self, go straight across when I come to this point.)

The turn off for the North Carter Trail is easy to see, even in the dark. I remembered this trail leveling off, but I remembered wrong. It continues to climb steeply upwards. It was after turning onto the Carter-Moriah Trail that the running gets easy and a lot of time can be made up. This trail is runnable in the dark for sections, but it is almost entirely runnable until Zeta Pass in the daylight, (note to self, run more/walk less of this section).

Shortly after Zeta Pass, which you can't miss, comes the left turn to climb Mt Hight, which I learned last year, you can miss, (note to self, start looking for this turn as soon as I go through Zeta Pass).

The climb up Mt Hight isn't easy, but it goes quick. At the top it is difficult to see where the trail goes, even in the daylight. People have wandered all over this ledgy peak looking for views so there are paths everywhere. The trail turns sharply to the right just after it reaches the open ledge. I wandered around in the dark up there for a long time last year, (note to self, sharp right!).

There is some good running after the scramble down Mt Hight, followed by a steep rocky descent to Carter Notch. At the pond, you can turn left and go to the hut or turn right onto 19 Mile Brook for a short distance and then left onto Wildcat Ridge Trail, (note to self, turn right then left!)

I would have liked to continue on to the ski slopes so I could chose the best route down. This varies from year to year, depending on if anything has been mowed or traveled recently. But this day I decided I would run down the 19 Mile Brook Trail so I would only have a mile or two to run on rte 16 back to my car. If I had come out at the ski area, it would be 5 or 6 miles of rte 16 running. My run down 19 Mile Brook was delightful. This is very good running, but unfortunately not part of the MMD course. It showered lightly during my run down, although the sun never stopped shining. It was just beautiful!

Chances are I won't remember any of my notes to self as I am jogging merrily through the woods in the pitch black night in a few weeks, but this recon run was still well worth it! I had a wonderfully joyous romp through the mountains and discovered that I am pretty darned fit for mountain running right now! MMD, watch out, here I come!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Painful, Yet Fun, Summer Weekend!

Saturday Kevin and I drove over to the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont to mountain bike on their awesome trails. We have developed the habit of riding the same convoluted long loop each time we go. It works well for us. It is probably about 20 miles of hilly single track, challenging for me in a few spots, but mostly just fun! Saturday, the trails were in great condition. Many improvements have been made. Problem spots that we had noticed last time we were there had all been fixed with slight re-routes, new bridges, and ground work. They get a ton of riders there and this does cause some wear and tear on the trails. It takes work to keep them in good shape for fun riding! As Kevin noted, "it's nice to see our trail fees be put to good use."

After about 3 and a half hours of steady riding we were both starting to feel it in our legs a little, but we were getting to the end of our loop so this was OK. We end our loop with a wonderful downhill roller coaster ride down Kitchel, then have the long climb up Herb's back to where we park the truck. Kitchel is a machine made trail built for fast fun downhill riding. It has big swooping jumps at the top and tight banked curves at the bottom. Each jump and each curve causes the bike to accelerate even more, if I ride it right. I love this trail and usually surprise myself with how much speed I build and how much air I get on some of the jumps. Once over the initial approach, the trail becomes smooth dirt, with no obstacles to worry about. I started down first with Kevin giving me some room before following.

I flew over the first few jumps, feeling brave and confident and riding fast! This is the kind of stuff that makes me yell out little "whoop" noises here and there, whether I want to or not. I think it was on the third or fourth big jump that I messed up. I really felt like I was in complete control, but I wasn't ready for the unexpected. I landed the jump and as soon as both wheels were on the ground, I noticed a single, loose, cannon ball sized rock laying smack in the middle of the trail. Someone must have veered off course a little and kicked it onto the trail with their bike tire. I think I got my front wheel around it, but my back wheel went right up onto it. The rock rolled out, sending my bike off into the bushes to the right of the trail. I continued straight on down, landing on my left side in the middle of the trail. I knew Kevin was right behind me and there were another six riders right behind him. I couldn't move my left arm at all, but believe me, I crawled off that trail in a fraction of a second.

Kevin stopped, of course, and everyone else who rode by slowed down and asked if I was OK. The last rider through happened to be with the Trail Patrol. He stopped and waited to see if I was going to be OK. It took a few minutes (I thought my arm was broken at first,) but finally I announced, "I can ride out." Trail Patrol man was happy to hear this, I think. I may have fractured a rib or two and I have bruising and swelling and soreness in the shoulder and elbow, but considering how fast i was going and how hard I hit, it really isn't bad!

Sunday we went over to Bradbury and I ran (slowly and painfully) while Kevin mountain biked with me. It was nice to give Kevin a chance to ride the few difficult trails that I wouldn't want to ride if I was riding with him. I was pretty impressed watching him ride down the Boundary Trail. Two hikers stopped to express their disbelief that someone would actually ride a bike down that rough stuff. It looked like Kevin enjoyed himself! When we were almost done, I paused to get a good breath (my chest wasn't allowing me to breath very well.) I put my hand on my hips and drew a big painful breath in. Suddenly something shifted on the left side of my chest, I coughed up a huge amount of sputum, and my chest pain and breathing problems were cured!

We have been looking for a touring Kayak for me. I have a small stubby river kayak that tours over flat water like I'm paddling an inner tube. This is not compatible with Kevin's sleek fast touring kayak. So we went over to LLBeans and I painfully, but excitedly, climbed in and out of kayaks on the showroom floor. I picked out a beauty! I couldn't wait to get it in the water!!!

My left arm wasn't working too well, but we paddled around Stanley Pond at a leisurely pace with lots of rest breaks. I love my "Sweet B", named because of the neat little "B" someone scratched into the side of it before deciding to return it to LLBean (I presume). I can't wait until my arm is healed and I can do some serious paddlin' !!!

Oh, and I'll take this opportunity to show you how good our garden is growing...

I love the summer!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Running and Riding the Trails

Summer is in full swing and I've been out running the trails, mountain biking all our favorite New England Trails, and working in the garden and yard. I haven't spent much time on the computer and it shows in the frequency of my Blog posts. I'll try to catch up a little today.

My new job, covering the town of Gorham, has been going great. I've been able to manage my day so I can fit a good run in each afternoon after work. I have been exploring trails! I love exploring trails! I have put a lot of miles in on the trails near Sebago Lake in Standish and Windham. There is one main corridor trail, "Sebago to the Sea", which is OK, but there are many side trails which are wonderful. Some are "multi use" single track, which seem to be primarily used by equestrians. These are fantastic. There are also miles and miles and miles of snowmobile trails and old tote roads. These exploration runs are fun, and I usually end up putting in more miles than planned because I have to find my way back to the car when I'm ready to quit for the day. One memorable run on these trails forced me to cut across a huge field with hay up to my chest. I found 12 or 13 ticks on me at the end of that run. Yuck,

I have also run on the USM/Gorham Trail system. The official trails are good, but I discovered some rogue mountain bike trails that were much more fun. These are not currently being maintained and are getting a little overgrown. I have run all the snowmobile trails in the area, too. I am happy to announce that it is possible to run off road in the Gorham area!

I am excited about the Virgil Crest 100 in September, but haven't felt inspired to run any races leading up to that. I still enjoy low key events so I will run MMD, as usual. I thought about the 100 Mile Wilderness Run, until I started following the online conversations. Way too much machismo and goal setting for me for a wilderness run. I can just picture all us crazed runners dashing through the pristine trails, pushing the weary AT through-hikers out of the way crying, "we're in a race, clear the trail!" I'll do it alone some time instead.

Still Jack strongly suggests that I run something besides MMD and Virgil Crest. I've been training like crazy and am as fit as ever. Shouldn't I use it?! I decided on the Maine Huts 50K. Only 32 runners are allowed so the field should spread out enough to make me feel like I'm on my own. Perfect!

The more I read Blogs and Facebook, the more I realize I am done with the race scene. Don't get me wrong, I was as competitive and gung-ho as anyone up until 6 or 8 years ago. I have pictures of me at 95 pounds running with my tongue hanging out and my eyes rolled up in my head on the verge of collapse, all for the sake of being able to say "I won." Now it just seems kind of silly (sorry). That said, I will always run lots of trail miles. I will probably run a hundred miler or two every year. Hundreds don't feel like races to me once I get a few miles out. It's just me covering a great distance as fast and effectively as I can. Adventure runs (I don't mean eco-challenges, triathlons, Duathlons...I mean just going out into the woods and mountains alone or with a few others and covering some serious distance on foot) still appeal to me greatly!

Mountain biking? I'm still loving it! Absolutely loving it!!! I don't want to race, or even ride fast. I just want to ride well. But as i ride better, I find I am riding faster without even trying to speed up. I love developing my skills and seeing the improvement. Getting over a big rock that has always stopped me, getting to the top of a steep loose rocky climb that has always made me get off the bike, riding over a narrow bridge that I have always been too scared to try, hopping a big slippery log that has always sent me flying...those things give me the same thrill that winning a race used to. I guess I've gotten a lot simpler with age. It doesn't take much to make me happy these days!

Plus mountain biking is something I do with Kevin. I can't tell you how much fun we have on the trails together! We turn into a couple of kids while we are out there. I have to wonder what the folks in the fire department think when they look out and see two middle aged people on mountain bikes jumping the pile of dirt in front, or the people fishing at the river think when they see a grinning 50-ish woman riding over a ramp or jumping a log, or the school kids think when they see folks their grandparents' ages hopping and dropping off the curbs and riding the "skinny" in the playground. Hopefully, they think, "wow, you're never too old to get out and play."

Oh don't worry, I'm putting in almost 70 running miles a week, even with the mountain biking. I'll be ready for Virgil Crest!