Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fun Day in the Woods

Scout, dog tired after his longest run ever.

Late this morning I set off in my car heading South and East in search of runnable trails. For the past week, I've been killing myself running in the soft six to eight inches of wet snow that is covering the local trails. It has been very hard work, kind of like running through sand. Today, I felt I needed a break from it. Scout rode shot gun, peering out the windshield, nose up and sniffing, tail wagging. He knew what we were after and was willing to travel for a chance at fast trails before tonight's storm. My plan was to check out the trails along my southeast route in this order; Massebesic Experimental Forest, Vaugn Woods, then Mt Aggie. If I still hadn't found runnable trails I was going to continue on into New Hampshire and veer back to the West a bit with FOMBA and Bear Brook in mind. It might turn out to be a long drive, but my trusty side kick and I were on a mission.

We hit the jack pot at our very first stop in Waterboro at The Massebesic Experimental Forest. A short recognisance jog revealed a fifty-fifty mix of frozen mud and crunchy ice. I jogged back to the car to text Kevin about where I was running, something he likes me to do so he'll know where to send the search parties. I put on my Yacktrax while Scout ate some old wet newspapers in the parking area, his idea of carbo loading. Off we went.

I hadn't run in this forest in over a year because my work doesn't take me out to the area anymore. It felt good to be back! At some of the trickier intersections I laid out branches making an arrow so I could remember how to get back to the car if I had to back track. It took a while, but I finally realized that the sticks Scout kept running past me with, were my arrows. So much for that idea.

We ran for almost three hours, hitting every ATV trail, Conservation Corps Road, and snowmobile trail we could find. The snow mobile trails were in rough shape because of the lack of snow cover but other than scratching me up with brambles, they were OK. The ATV trails were in awesome shape. For much of my run I followed tire tracks from a lone mountain biker. Some areas had seen heavy foot traffic and a few ATV trails had seen motorized winter traffic, but a lot of our route had only animal tracks and the tracks of our mountain biker guide.

Things had warmed up a bit toward the end of the run and the mud was getting pretty soft in spots. As we approached the car, we passed some guys target shooting beside the dirt road. I found it a bit un-nerving to see that they were shooting at cut outs of humans with big red Xes to mark their hearts. Scout wasn't disturbed by the gun shots, but he didn't like the looks of those guys any more than I did. We made a wide berth around them.

This was Scout's longest run ever and he did great. He's almost a year old now and he has turned into a great running friend. We've built up to this gradually and carefully. He's a bit stocky for a distance man, but don't tell him I said so. We both had great energy today and wore smiles on our faces through the entire run. What a great day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Slow and Tired Today

I started my long run on tired legs today. I ran the Ossipee River trails last evening on ice and on unbroken snow. It was very tiring and I felt it in my legs this morning. The temperature was up to 45 degrees when I set out today. I knew the trails were going to be slushy and difficult, but I couldn't bring myself to run the roads. It was tough going right from the start, but I was still happy to be out in the woods.

I ran the snowmobile trails and single track along the Ossipee, ran around the fairgrounds a bit, and crossed over into the Durgintown Woods. A local logging company has been logging these woods since last Winter and I was curious to survey the damage. I am happy to report that they are selectively cutting, not clear cutting. There are a lot of new rutted logging roads going here and there. There are deep ruts and debris on the original roads. The loggers are cleaning up their slash as they go, so the forest floor is not a big mess. The snow mobile trail through there is definitely salvageable. It reminds me of what Kevin said when he heard that Bear Brook's Hemlock Trail was "gone" due to logging. He had put a lot of time and hard work into building that trail several years back, but he wasn't overly concerned about the news. He said to me "the trail can't be gone, it just needs to be re-built." I understand what he means. The same dirt is still there under the mess, it just has to be re-worked. The same holds true for the Durgintown Woods.

Coming back, I felt like I was running the last few miles of a fifty miler. My legs ached, I could hardly lift my feet from the ground, I was floundering in the slushy snow, and my pace was slowing to a snail's crawl. I stopped to take my YackTrax off in the elementary school parking lot after deciding run the last mile and a half on the road instead of the trail. But instead of running when I started up again, I found myself walking. "Enough is enough," I told myself, "I'm walking it in today."

There were three teen aged girls hanging out near the skating rink. One said, "That lady has been running a long time. I saw her this morning." To which her know-it-all friend replied, "Well she's walking now." I would have gone over there and done some serious ass kicking but I wasn't sure my tired legs had it in them. So I started running again instead. I dragged myself down the last stretch of road to the house hoping no one I knew would see me. It wasn't pretty, but I got it done. This was my first real long run for Vermont 100 training but I'm not discouraged. It can only get better from here!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spring Trail Conditions...

in the middle of February are a pretty nice thing! Oh, I'll take a foot or two of snow if we get it, but if we don't I'll enjoy the trails anyway. Kevin took this photo while he was out walking. Notice how I'm going so fast I just passed Scout like he was standing still?

Tomorrow I have a rare mid-week day off from work and will plan for a long trail run. I'm not sure where, but I'll tell you about it afterwards.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Evening Routine

Work days are tough for running. I have been doing a lot of precepting of new nurses. This makes things take longer at work and this in turn, makes for a long work day. Scout and I have developed an evening routine for most work nights.

I get home and answer a few emails that have come in on my drive home, plug in all my work electronics to charge for the next day on the road, connect to the remote server at work and start exporting the day's work. While all this is happening, I am changing into my running clothes in my office chair in front of my desk (multi tasking). Next, I load Scout into the car for the short drive to the safety complex since he is no fun to run with on a leash and he can't be trusted on the road without one. Finally, we are off and running!

We have been having to run by head lamp again lately. We run the icy snowmobile trails, I wear Yack Trax and Scout wears his cowbell (so I can locate him in the dark). The snowmobile trails are hard and icy right now. They make for fast running, as long as I can keep my feet under me! We've been adding on a little distance each time we go out.

Tonight, I was very happy to see that the elementary school kids have been out in droves in their snow shoes. Hundreds of little penguin feet have made a hard packed trail around the perimeter of the elementary school fields. Each loop is a third of a mile. I know this from my Type A Runner Personality days. I actually measured it out with the phys ed teacher so I could run accurate mile repeats on the grass. What a nerd I used to be! Anyway, that 1/3 mile loop allows me to lengthen my run without venturing from the familiar trails near home after dark.

Some nights I just don't have a run in me. I figure that's OK, my body and mind need a rest now and then. But the nights I do get myself out there on the trail are wonderful. Plus, Scout is a lot less hyper after he's had his running fix.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ice is Nice...

as long as you have the correct traction on your feet. Stabilicers were my device of choice for many years. They are heavy but rugged, and they really grip. I had one pair that lasted me for at least ten years. I even used them instead of my crampons for icy hikes on pretty steep terrain without any problems. I finally lost them somewhere this year. They are probably in one of my numerous packs and they'll probably show up some day. I use my screw shoes for certain conditions and I love them. But some times I just need something more.

This season I tried some no name cheapos. I went through two pair of these, they worked but the rubber that held them together broke. In the past I have tried the Katona Microspikes (too micro for my needs and they tended to fall off my feet) and the original Yacktrax (good traction, but fell off at inconvenient moments). When my second pair of cheapo no-names broke a few weeks ago, I was in a desperate situation. The trails were sheer ice and I was in a small town in Vermont without many shopping options. The one sporting goods store around had one option for traction devices, so that's how I ended up with another pair of Yacktrax.

The more expensive Yacktrax models now have a strap that goes over the top of the shoe so that's what I bought. I'm very happy with them! They did fall off once during a run in absolutely atrocious conditions, but the straps prevented them from being lost. They just kind of rolled off my heel and flopped around on the bottom of my foot for a few miles while I mused out loud, "hmmm, these seemed to be giving me good traction a while ago, now I'm slipping all over the place. And the trail feels all bumpy and funny" It hasn't happened since.

Training Update: Tonight I ran on the packed snow and ice of the Ossipee River Trails. Last night I ran hills on pavement. I have also gotten in a 3 mile treadmill hill climb at 10% grade at an embarrassing 12 minute per mile pace. I had a few trail runs on soft slush since my last post. This past weekend I cross country skied on some rugged terrain out in East Burke and then snowshoed the same terrain the next day. I'm getting out there and putting in some good fun hard work. Oh, and I haven't needed my headlamp in about a week! Days are getting longer!