Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in Review, Looking Forward to 2015

Making a few "strides" in my ultrarunning in 2014, I've decided to write up a review of the past year's running adventures. I feel like I've improved in a couple areas, endurance and climbing, but have lots of room for improvement as I look forward to running in 2015.

One area I would like to improve is speed. I have fought hard the last two years to try to work in more speedwork at various distances and I'm happy where I'm at presently, but looking towards the future I think I can improve on this aspect. Its going to take a lot of work on my part and keeping consistency to work in a faster pace on the longer runs that I gravitate towards. I am not sure how I plan on doing this yet, but I plan to start with making a concerted effort to keep up with my workouts week in and week out.

I feel like my downhill running is adequate in most cases, but my uphill climbing/running could use improvement. Everyone has their strong points and some areas that they could use improvement, but working on this skill will help with my ability to keep a consistent pace on some of the following year's mountain runs, as well as adding strength and breathing control. I feel like if I can work on my breathing on the climbs and get more comfortable with being uncomfortable, this skill can be improved.

A third area I'd like to work on is getting back to a strength training routine that I keep consistent as part of the running training. I have not worked on any strength training at the gym or home on a consistent basis since last February. Some of the longer races or mountain runs that I tend to participate in require added core or muscle endurance to make the later stages a little more bearable. Joining the local YMCA and using their facilities at least two times a week, I will plan to work on core and some of the other muscle groups that don't get exercise in everyday running training. The plan is to work in some of the exercises that work several muscle groups at once (deadlifts, squats, battle ropes, etc.) and hopefully as the year goes on, I will become a more well-rounded runner. In addition to the gym facilities, they have a pool and tons of activities for families which will help to introduce our children to sports and get our son more time practicing swimming.

Here are some of the running highlights from 2014:

Midstate Trail Traverse Attempt with Justin Contois, only made it 40 miles out of 95 - Report here

Wapack and Back 50 miler, 2nd place, 10:42 - Report here

Run for the Homeless 5k the following week, 1st place and PR at 18:20 - Report here

Exceptional light and undercast on Pleasant Mtn. Maine

No running, but celebrated our 10 year anniversary up in Grafton Notch, Maine

Southern Presidential Range run with Eric and McDuffie - Recap here

Hut Traverse Attempt #1 with Chris Dailey - Report here

No photos on the Bear Brook Marathon a week later, but I had a fun time at the race.

Kismet Cliff Run Half Marathon, 5th place - Report here

Pemi Loop with Jerimy and Eric - Report here

TARC Fall Classic 50k, 3rd place in 4:27 - Report here

 No photos, but pacing Michael Wade for a portion of his first 100 mile race was pretty awesome, pacing report here.

Monadnock Fall Run with Eric, Tony, and Jerimy - report here

TARC Fells Winter Ultra 40mi, made it 25 miles before dropping, photo by Douglass Guiliana - report here
Quite possibly the best race of the year, running behind Matthew for his first 1km kids race!

Looking towards plans for 2015, it is always a challenge to put together a race schedule that works within my family's and financial obligations. I plan to run a few of the TARC races, a couple mountain runs, and some of the races I have done in the past (Wapack, MMD) as well as possibly attempting the 100k distance.

Here is a list of next years tentative plans:
  • 1/1/15 - Frozen Five in Sterling MA, 5 miles on flat roads: goal here is to run a PR at the distance. My best time on a relatively flat trail race is 33:26. I am hoping for an outside goal to run sub 30 minutes.
  • 1/24/15 - Cape Cod Fat Ass 50k, 31 miles on Sandy Neck Beach, Cape Cod: goal here is to run for the first time on a beach. Not looking for a PR, just to see how it goes.
  • 1/24/15 through 4/24/15: Studying and hopefully passing three of my AREs (Architectural Registration Exams). A little running as well.
  • 4/25/15 - TARC Spring Classic 50k, 31 miles on relatively flat trails in Weston, MA: goal is to run a better time than at the Fall Classic last year and hopefully end up with a PR (sub 4:27). Outside goal would be to run sub-4 hours.
  • Early May - Wapack and Back 50m, 10,800' climbing on the Wapack Trail: goal is to run sub-10 hours and feel decent the whole time. Last year's race went well, but I am looking to improve on the time and consistency towards the end.
  •  Late June - Hut Traverse Attempt #2: goal is to finish.
  • July: taking this month off from races.
  • August: MMD 50k
  • August: Moosilauke race: Jerimy mentioned putting together a new race that will take place on Mt. Moosilauke.
  • September: Pemi Loop: Trying to make this an annual trip.
  • October: TARC 100k: possibly trying the 100k distance this year.
  • December: TARC Fells Winter Ultra 40 miler: Finishing this race on my third attempt.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 mile - Poor planning

Since last years DNF, I made the TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 miler a goal race for the late fall and planned to trained specifically for it after the Fall Classic 50k in October. A description of the course that runs five times 8 mile loops along the Skyline trail at Middlesex Fells in Winchester, MA would include rocks, short steep sections, and pine forest areas. Last year's race, I dropped out for no real reason and decided to come back and try to complete the course for some personal redemption.

Watching the weather closely leading up to the race, I tried to plan out my gear that I would bring to try to run 40 miles in rain and 45 degree temperatures. What the weather on race day ended up being was rain and 35 degree temperatures which would aid in ultimately leading to my second DNF at this race (the only other being last year's Fells race). Feeling ready on the morning of the race, I dropped my dropbag at the start line with many changes of clothes and an extra pair of shoes. The one thing I did not have which I wished I did, was another pair of gloves.

Start line, photo by Douglass Guiliana

Lining up at the start line, I felt calm and had a race plan in mind: run the first three laps between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1:25, then naturally slow down a bit on the last couple. I planned to stick to the plan and run at my own pace consistently, not worrying about where I was in placement. The goal at this one was just to finish. I started out with a group of four guys, including Tim Connelly who I ran with at the 2012 MMD race. He finished his first 100 mile race at Cascade Crest 100 this year and runs at the Fells course quite a bit. The other two guys, one was running the 32 mile race and a guy named Ben was running the 40 miler, were running right with us for maybe five miles until I dropped back and started trying to be a little more conservative. After leaving them, I ran the rest of the time by myself, sometimes either passing a couple people or seeing others running the opposite direction.

The first two laps went by quickly, I ran the first in 1:16 after a wrong turn and added 1/2 mile then the second lap I ran in 1:20 (2:36 elapsed). By all accounts, I felt strong and felt that I could keep up at least a 1:25 per lap pace for the next couple. At the end of the second lap it began to rain and at 36 degrees, the rain didn't help. I ran okay on the third lap, slowing down considerably and ended up having trouble keeping my hands warm in my soaked gloves.

Somewhere out on the trail, mile unknown, photo by Douglass Guiliana

Coming into the aid station after mile 24 at around 4:08 elapsed time, I felt like I needed to change my upper layers to a dry set of clothes and try to get my hands warmed up. I had a little soup and grabbed some snacks to try to help get a few calories in and headed out for my fourth lap, still running in what was probably second place at that point. After making it out about a half mile and having had numb hands for the last two hours, I stood at the top of a hill for a little while trying to decide whether I should drop or not. I thought about it for what seemed like quite a while and then decided to head back to the start/finish and get my hands warm. I let the volunteers know, who were very helpful, and headed back to my car to crank the heat and change into dry clothes.

Strava info:

After dropping this time, I didn't feel guilty or upset like I did last year. This decision was made for an actual physical reason, part of which came about by my poor planning, but nonetheless had tangibility. I warmed up and went back to the aid station and had some soup to warm me up before the drive home. I'll just have to go back the next year and give this race another shot.

After the run, I have enjoyed a week completely off from running and an easy week as I begin to head into the winter. It has been a good year for me at the various races and runs up in the White Mts., and I figured I should take some downtime before jumping into another training cycle. At the time I have only two races that are on my radar, the TARC Spring Classic 50k in late April and the Wapack and Back 50 mile in early May. Other than that, I may do a low-key Fat Ass style 50k on the Cape and a couple snowshoe races, but not much other than that so running may take a bit of a backseat for a while.

At my present occupation, I am getting some pressure to try to become a registered architect and take the seven exams that I have been dreading since graduating college in 2011. Since I have actually committed out loud to my employers, I will end up studying and taking one exam per month for the next three months. My plan is to hopefully pass those, and take the spring, summer and fall off to focus on getting out into the mountains and training. Then I will do the same next winter for the last four exams and hopefully be done. I am not looking forward to the intensive studying that will have to happen (if I want to pass), but I need to get off my ass and get them done. The longer I wait, the harder it will be to get back into some resemblance of a "school-mode".

I have some plans that I am still trying to materialize for 2015 and I will update my blog with my ideas as I get a little more figured out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Training for the Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 Miler

After I ran the TARC Fall Classic Race in October, I took a few days off and tried to get into some consistent training for the TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 Miler. I had planned for this to be my last long race of 2014, and decided that a few 50-60 mile weeks were attainable given my schedule at work and home. Planning to throw some speedwork in the weekly runs, I wanted to get in as much quality miles as I could.

The chart below shows what I could put together in the limited amount of time before the upcoming race. I don't run very high mileage partly due to the amount of time I have, and partly because I have found that quality works better for me rather than quantity.

Week thru
Key Workout(s)
October 26
No workout, easy recovery week
November 2
November 9
November 16
November 23
November 30

The tapering began last week and I can't wait to get to run the Fells Skyline Trail again to attain some personal redemption from last year's DNF. I shouldn't put too much thought into it, but I feel like I could have done well last year and dropped for purely mental reasons. I'm hoping to perform okay this Saturday at the race and complete the 5 loops of 8 miles each. There is some tough competition out there and my plan is to just run a good consistent pace and hopefully complete it somewhere around 8 hours.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monadnock Fall Run Attempt 2014

A few friends and I decided to try for a late fall mountain run at Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH. The planned route was similar to one that Ryan Welts had done in May, at around 20 miles, 4 summits and 7,000' elevation gain. We were planning on running this in around 5-6 hours and it was to be a good last training run for myself, Eric, and Tony who all had a race coming up on December 6th. Tony, Jerimy, Eric and I started from the Old Halfway House trailhead and the plan was to summit from that angle right around sunrise, down White Cross and up White Dot Tr. to the summit, go down Pumpelly Trail and back up to the summit, down either Dublin or Marlboro trail and back up, then return to the cars.

The main reason that this ambitious plan didn't pan out on this trip was because it had rained and snowed two days prior to our adventure beginning. The start of the trip was fine until we arrived at treeline and were greeted with intermittent ice under a small amount of snow. This made for some slow moving miles up above the trees and by the time we arrived at the summit as the sun rose, we had decided to maybe rethink out plans. Deciding to head down Pumpelly Trail rather than White Cross, we were met with 15-20° temps and 20mph winds. With the long exposure along the ridgeline, we only made it to the Red Spot Trail and decided to head back down and make our way across some of the lower trails.

Instead of calling it a day when we arrived at the cars, we decided to make the best of the trip up there and run some hill repeats as a workout on the Old Toll Road. This is a 1.2 mile, 500' climb on a dirt road. Calling it after three laps, we ended up heading over to a diner for some breakfast before heading home. It was still a fun trip even though we didn't meet our goals of four summits. I think I'll be back attempting the route in the spring or once there is a better snow cover up top.

Trip info:

Monadnock Summit Run: 7.3 miles, 2172' climb, 2:44 time, Strava link (my watch was paused for a bit)
Old Toll Rd. Repeats: 7 miles, 1,644' climb, 1:03 time, Strava link

Arrived at the summit just as the sun was rising

Heading down the Pumpelly Ridge



My favorite photo from the trip. A snow flurry added to the interesting sunlight.

Looking back at the summit

Heading into the light

Tony heading down Red Spot Trail

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ghost Trail Rail Trail Race 2014 - Pacing

When Michael Wade updated his blog asking for pacers for his first 100 mile race, I responded to his request and said I'd be happy to help out. There were a few reasons that pacing someone through the woods at night interested me. He was raising money for Progeria research, a genetic disorder that affects young people with symptoms that resemble accelerated aging, and specifically running in memory of Sam Berns with miles that he put in for the race. Another reason, was that the Ghost Train Race was the race that I first ran the 100 mile distance and it holds a special place in my heart for that reason and I wanted to see it under different circumstances. A third reason is that prior to the race, I had met Michael once at the Bear Brook Marathon this year, and I find him an inspiration through reading his blog about his adventures up in the White Mountains.

The weeks leading up to the pacing I received emails with his pace plan and time that I would need to be there by to start my 15 mile segment from Camp Tevya to the Milford DPW and back. I was planning on getting there around an hour before my time slot to get ready to run for a few hours in the dark. I was looking forward to checking out the trail as an observer and not a participant in the race and see the improvements that had been made. The time that I ran the 100 mile was painful for me after mile 45 or so and it must have been a struggle for my pacer Justin Contois to try to get me to the finish. His plan that year was to pace me for the final 40 miles (pacers were allowed after mile 60 that year, it has since been changed to pacers allowed after mile 30) and get me to the finish no matter what. You can read his report about the day here.

I arrived and found Michael's friends Kurt and Theresa who were there waiting for their turns to pace from miles 67.5 to 90, my 15 mile segment was from 52.5 to 67.5. We chatted for a bit and then Michael ran by looking strong and about an hour before his pace chart for 22 hours showed. I was ready with my pack and headlamp to head out into the night for a few miles and Scott, who was running with him for the previous 7.5 miles, headed back to Milford with us. We discussed our shared career, Architecture, and other races and runs that we had done in previous years. I tried to give advice that helped me on the race specifics and how I felt I went out too hard, running 5 hours 30 minutes for my first 30 miles and really suffered for the last half. This is probably some information that would be good either after or well before a race, but is maybe not good right in the middle of the race. Especially if it is right around the mile that I started suffering that Michael was running at.

We were running at about a 12 to 12.5 min/mile pace and everything was going very well. To be 52 miles into a race and looking/moving as strong as he was, meant to me that he was well trained for the run and by all accounts it looked like he would finish strong. The first 7.5 miles out to the DPW went by quickly and Mike prepared himself a bit at his drop box getting ready to head back out on my last stretch where Kurt would pick him up and lead him out into the night just as I had a few hours earlier. We got back to the midway point aid station and Mike grabbed some food that didn't sit well with his stomach. This ended up in him evacuating the contents of his stomach to massive proportions. Thankfully we stopped right in an area that the echo from his puking noises seemed to carry for miles. After getting rid of that, he started to feel better a few minutes later and began running again. We made our way back to the last aid station in what seemed like a fast loop and Mike was still right on target for a good 22 hour finish. My work was done and I "handed the torch" to Kurt to take over for the next leg. You can read about Michael's 100 miler experience here.

I had a great time at the race and was happy to help out Michael on his first 100 mile finish. He ended up finishing in 22:13:03 for an awesome 7th place overall! Running alongside a 100 mile finisher during the race rekindled some thoughts on my end about entering another 100 mile race sometime next year. I hope to someday run Hardrock, so I am thinking about entering Grindstone 100 in Virginia to get a qualifying race to put my name in the lottery. I ended up calling off the Midstate Traverse attempt this year in favor of resting after a hard year of racing and mountain runs. I am still thinking about running the Midstate, but will wait until April 2015. It is a 95 mile effort that I just didn't feel well trained for this fall and have put all my training into the TARC Fells Ultra 40 Miler at Middlesex Fells December 6th instead. I'm hoping to finish this race this year and it will be good to see a few friends out there that are running it as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TARC Fall Classic 50km 2014 - Race Report

Pre-race sun through the clouds

Even with my inconsistent training in the past few months, I ended up (barely) running to a third place finish at this years race. Going into the race I wanted to do well and possibly run a faster time than last years 4:27:04, but work commitments and general laziness have not allowed me to get as much volume of training in this fall/late summer as I had for the 2013 race. I have had some good weeks, but also some weeks that I didn't do much running at all. Without having a stretch of consistent training and workouts, I really didn't know what would happen at this year's version of the race and decided to just give it what I had.

I hitched a ride with a friend and local running partner, Jay, who was running the half marathon distance at the race as my wife and kids were planning on coming out to spectate for the second half of the race. Race morning started off pretty easy and I chatted with a few people before the race about lap times. I had discussed a plan to run somewhere between 45 minutes to 48 minutes per 10km lap. The race consists of five 10km loops on fire roads and singletrack hiking trails through fields and pine forests at Great Brook Farms in Carlisle, MA. The 50km distance is the longest of the distances as there are also 10km, half marathon, and marathon distances that run concurrently (although the 10km race starts at 8am and we started at 8:15). The terrain is slightly technical in spots along the Stone Row trail towards the end of each lap, but mostly consisted of pine needle covered and dry singletrack with a few rocks here and there. I typically train in central MA along the Midstate trail or up in the White Mountains, so my definition of technical trail may vary from other people's.

A decision was made to go out with Eric Ahern and his fast friend Anthony Lee and just see how long I could hang on, which turned out to be about 3.5 miles as they took it out at a faster pace than I felt comfortable sustaining for 50km (around 6:30/min. miles). It was at that point that I pulled back and ran at a pace that I thought was more reasonable for me at around 7:20 to 7:30 avg. pace. The first lap I ran in 46 minutes and definitely slowed down more and more each lap as you can see below in the statistics. As you can also see from the comparison of 2014 to 2013 statistics, my 2013 race was more consistent and the pace didn't increase too much each lap.

2014 Statistics:
Lap 1(10km): 46 minutes, 7:24/mile avg. pace
Lap 2: 1:35 elapsed, 49 minutes, 7:53/mile
Lap 3: 2:27 elapsed, 52 minutes, 8:22/mile
Lap 4: 3:26 elapsed, 59 minutes, 9:29/mile
Lap 5: 4:27:58 elapsed, 61 minutes, 9:49/mile

Overall: 31 miles at 4:27:58, 8:37/mile avg. pace
GPS data here

2013 Statistics:
Lap 1: 49:30, 7:57/mile
Lap 2: 1:39 elapsed, 49:30 minutes, 7:57/mile
Lap 3: 2:31 elapsed, 52 minutes, 8:22/mile
Lap 4: 3:29 elapsed, 58 minutes, 9:20/mile
Lap 5: 4:27:04 elapsed, 58 minutes, 9:20/mile

GPS data here

The race actually felt more consistent than it looks for the first three laps, then my legs started to feel a little fatigue on the hills and the warmth of the day started to take its toll on me. Although, I did have a better race than I've had in the past, fueling and hydration-wise. I felt consistent energy throughout the entire race due probably to drinking the right amount of water, about one 24 oz. bottle per lap and taking the right amount of calories in. I just recently became an ambassador for Carb Boom gels and have been using those as my gel of choice in all my long runs and races lately. They seem to give me a consistent energy level and have a good taste unlike other gels I have tried in the past. They also don't have a lot of additives and are a fructose based product, getting most of the nutrients from fruit and maltodextrin.

Matthew cheering me on at the finish of the third lap.
Playing with Papa in the barn

As the laps progressed, it helped to have so many people out there running the different distance races because their encouragement aided in fueling my way to the finish. After I finished my third lap, my wife, two children, and father were there to cheer me on which in turn helped to keep my pace up as much as I could to get back to them in a decent time. The last two laps felt like they went by slowly as they lasted about an hour as opposed to the slightly quicker first three laps. I had to force myself to not walk any of the hills although I really wanted to and slowly counted down the time that it would take me to get to the finish line and be able to rest.

Finishing up
Finally I arrived at the finish line about 1 minute ahead of the fourth place person, Dan Hrobak. It felt good to be able to somehow hold onto my third place throughout the entire race and end up finishing two places in the standings better than last year. This was an accomplishment for me this year, because I really wasn't sure going into the race how I would do. I also have figured out fueling a little better in the last year and have moved towards a more "gel-based approach" cutting out some of the food that I used to eat in the past. I believe this allowed me to keep a better pace and stay a little more even with the energy level. Full race results here.

I wore my Inov8 Roclite 295s (old style) which I reserve for races or long mountain runs since they changed the style a couple years ago and the old style is no longer made. These are a light shoe that usually do well on technical or wet trails and ended up handling the terrain at Great Brook Farms well. I also wore my new Darn Tough Light Cushion socks that were sent to me when I became part of the Darn Tough team. I always ran in Darn Tough socks anyways, but it feels great to get some pairs for free and try out some different styles.

The TARC Fall Classic is a well-organized race, as all TARC races are, and has the best volunteers and friendly runners around. It's a fun race to run each year and try to test myself against last year's effort and I'm already looking forward to going back next year.

Next on my radar is the TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 miler on December 6th to get a little redemption from last years (my only) DNF. I did a writeup here. I'm hoping to run a little smarter here and actually finish the race instead of dropping out for no real reason after lap 3 of 5. I was hoping to take another shot at the Midstate Trail Through-Run, something Justin Contois and I attempted in April, but I will wait until I feel I am trained and ready to put in a good effort at the run. Read about our failed attempt here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kismet Cliff Run Half Marathon (Beast of the East) Race Report - 9/21/14

I have been thinking about running the Beast of the East Half Marathon for the past two years and this year I finally pulled the trigger and signed up. One of the main reasons that I wanted to run it was because I love the trails that it takes place on - the Moat Mountains in North Conway, NH. The Moats provide the backdrop for the town and loom over it with their open ridges and winding singletrack trails that offer great views of the White Mountains. I have been up there a few times running in the winter and the summer and it is a great place.

I have been on a couple previous runs up on the ridge, one in the fall and one in the winter. Since I took no photos during the run, here are some of the views from other times I've been up:
Mt. Chocorua

Right around where the packed out snow stopped

View West towards Passaconaway and Whiteface

Looking towards North Moat from somewhere near Middle Moat

Great view of Mt. Washington

The course consists of 4,000 feet of climbing over the 13 or so miles, which makes it relatively hilly and the majority of the terrain is single track/hiking trails with a short (500') section of access road mixed in around mile 1.5. The types of trails and climbing definitely made it a good goal race leading up to some of my fall plans.

I stayed up in Conway with my wife's relatives for the weekend, had a relaxing Saturday and went for hike with my wife, two kids, and Amanda's uncle Dick up Black Cap Mtn. near Intervale. With the luxurious start time of 10am on Sunday, we were able to take it easy in the morning and head over to the race at a more decent hour than other races.

With a short description of the course from Gabe Flanders, the RD, we lined up at the start line and got ready for an adventure on the trails of the Moats. The first mile of the course was flat as it headed around the pond on some soft pine needles. I passed a couple people when we arrived at the short paved access road before heading up the first steep climb to the top of Cathedral Ledge (about 500' in 0.4 miles). I've found lately that I'm better off hiking some of the steeper trails and I tend to use slightly less exertion than if I were to run. After reaching the top, runners descend a short trail to the saddle between Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge before climbing up to the summit. Another descent to get to the Red Ridge Trail, and the longest climb of the day up Middle Moat Mountain (about 1,800' in 2 miles) began. This section consists of large rock slabs on an open ridge, ascending into the clouds while the slabs became wetter and wetter. Unfortunately there were no views on Sunday, because this section is very picturesque.

Leslie Beckwith caught up to me around the base of the climb and helped to make me push all the way to the top. She and I traded places back and forth and then she took the lead about halfway up the climb. As we arrived at the top we took a right along the ridge trail to run across the saddle to North Moat's summit. There was a little hand-over-hand climbing through here and I was glad Leslie gave me some advice about not bringing a handheld bottle for the race. I ended up deciding on using the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek pack for the run and it turned out to be a good choice.  It allowed me to easily carry some of my gels and plenty of water for the whole run.

After reaching the summit of North Moat there is a two mile descent dropping about 2,000 feet on some rocky slabs. My shoe choice turned out to be great, I used the Inov8 Roclite 295s and they handled the slabs very well on the way down. These shoes have become my go-to shoe for races and anytime I am running on wet rocks, as the sticky rubber grip works well and the lightweight sole gives me the right amount of support for technical trails. I also chose some great socks, the Darn Tough Ultralights that kept my feet breathing and cool during the race in the humid weather. Thankfully I had no blisters or hot spots to deal with afterwards. Leslie and I picked our way down the mountain carefully and stayed together discussing our kids and upcoming events we were thinking about running. Somewhere in the middle, I ended up taking a misstep on a angled slab and my foot went out from under me, causing me to fall on my back. I got up and brushed off with no major problems and continued to head down the descent.

I reached the bottom a few seconds before her and started to pick up the pace on the gradual (less technical) downhill run for the next mile or so. She stayed behind me until we got to the last climb and then I ended up taking a gel and slowing my pace. I slowly passed a runner around here as he was making his way up the climb. From this last climb there was only about two miles left in the race and I tried to run as much as I could. Heading down some boulder fields, I ran downhill to close out the race. I am not used to the "shorter" distance races and struggled with some of the steep climbs on this course. Typically at 2.5 hours I would have another hour and a half to go on the races I have been running lately, so this half marathon distance was a great choice and allowed me to not spend the whole day out there. Finishing out the last short section, I ran around the pond to the finish to see my family. My time of 2:44:37 was good enough for fifth place, results here.

Congratulations to all the runners, Leslie lowered the course record by quite a bit with a 2:42 (Old CR was 2:56 and Tristan Williams took four or five minutes off his own course record with a smoking fast 2:14.It was a great race, well marked, with well-placed aid stations and the trails proved to be awesome to run on. The volunteers and race director did a great job and made everything go smoothly, this will be a race that I plan to return to and try to a better job. I think I could take some time off if I work on my climbing a bit over the next year. My downhill running is okay, but I think I could have capitalized on some of the flatter sections with some better leg speed. Hopefully with some training I think I could run 2:30 next year, but you never know until you try.

Glad to be done

Map of the course, note the slow descent around mile 8 down the wet slabs

Elevation profile, altitude figures are off - I need to calibrate my watch
Coming up, I'll be attempting to run a bit faster than last year at the TARC Fall Classic 50km race in Carlisle, MA and I will be trying to decide whether I will run the Midstate Trail through run (95 miles) in November. That one is up in the air at this point and I may skip it due to inconsistent training and go for it at a later time in my life. I might be leaning towards the TARC Fells Ultra 40 miler in December, trying to get some redemption from my only DNF at that race last year. I still beat myself up over it because there was no logical reason why I stopped and didn't finish. It was purely mental. I'm hoping to get in a few more good weeks of training leading up to the 50k race and hopefully I'll do a better job at pacing it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pemi Loop Run Counterclockwise

Planning to do one last mountain run before the winter, I contacted a few friends to see if they were interested in joining me for a Counterclockwise Pemi Loop. Remembering that Eric Ahern had expressed interest, I emailed him with a few dates and we decided it would be best on September 13th to give the loop a shot. This would be my second trip on the route and Eric's first and we decided to email a few others to have them join as well. Just as a ballpark figure, I threw out a goal time of 8 to 8.5 hours to finish. Not race pace, but a moderately paced effort up on the classic standard route. Nobody seemed to object about possibly adding the summits of West Bond and Galehead to bag a couple extra 4,000 footers.

Making our way across the suspension bridge
Made quick work of the flat Lincoln Woods Trail, now the climbing begins

After a little deliberation, I decided my best plan of action would be to head up early Saturday morning, run the loop, then drive back home to minimize the time away from my family. With a planned start time of 7am, Brad, Eric, and Jerimy showed up and we got started just about on time. Heading out the Lincoln Woods Trail at a decent pace, we made it to the junction of the Bondcliff Trail around 41 minutes for the 4.7 miles of gradual uphill railroad grade. Shortly after making the turn to start climbing to the summit of Bondcliff, Jerimy and Eric headed off in front and pushed the pace a little faster than I could handle. It was also about this time that Brad mentioned to me that we should go ahead and he was going to change his plans to just summit West Bond and come back. I wished him luck on his run and tried to catch up to Jerimy or Eric. I eventually caught up to Eric, but Jerimy was nowhere in sight - we would later run into him at the first summit of the day, Bondcliff.

Eric and Jerimy pulling ahead of me

Eric popping out above treeline near the summit of Mt. Bondcliff

Scars on West Bond

Looking back towards Owl's Head

Jerimy on Bondcliff
Eric on Bondcliff

Reaching the summit of Bondcliff at 9 miles in 1:47, we regrouped and threw on some extra layers for the next section was above treeline. This section of the Bonds is one of my favorite trails in the White Mountains, coming through here you are right in the center of the Pemigewasset Wilderness and surrounded by nothing but mountains and forest. Reaching the next peak, Mt. Bond, at 2:13 we checked off our second peak of the day and headed downhill towards West Bond. We ran into a few friends in this stretch that had started at 6am and let them know we were continuing on to the West Bond Spur. This is a 1 mile out and back that gets you to the summit of West Bond, which we reached pretty quickly and took in the 360° views from the top. They mentioned they would bypass that summit and meet up at Galehead Hut.

Looking back at the Bonds ridge from West Bond

Ridge running

Summit of West Bond

Interesting clouds over the Franconia Ridge

South Twin summit

Heading down the South Twin steeps

Overlook near Galehead summit

Deep discussion on Galehead outlook
We made our way downhill to the base of the climb up South Twin, which is gradual bad from this direction and quickly rose to the summit. Going down South Twin from this direction is a bit steep and rocky, but we arrived at the Galehead Hut before we knew it. We collectively made the decision to summit Galehead's peak and then come back and refill our water at the hut and grab a snack. Eric and I grabbed a couple bowls of the potato dill soup that they had cooking and it really hit the spot. Soon after we finished, we made our way down the hill to the base of the Mt. Garfield climb. The section from the Galehead Hut to the peak of Garfield is not usually too tiring, but the following section down from Garfield and all the way up to Mt. Lafayette (the highest point of the trip) always seems long and arduous. I was dreading this all day, but maybe I am just thinking back to the Hut Traverse where I already had about 37 miles on my legs before tackling the section.

Heading up a steep section near Garfield summit

Garfield summit, Eric and Jerimy

Me and Eric on the summit Garfield

Climbing up towards Mt. Lafayette

Mt. Garfield's summit had a few people as they were holding the Flags on the 48 event that day. Flags on the 48 is a memorialization of the September 11, that hikers attend by bringing flags up to each of the 48 4,000 footers in the White Mts. on the same day. This was a great day that we picked to run the Pemi Loop, because we were able to see several groups holding flags on Garfield, Lafayette, and Lincoln. We were up on the Bonds and some of the other mountains a little too early for the flags to be set up.

Making the way up Garfield Ridge Trail up to the high point of the trip, the winds really started to pick up as we arrived towards treeline. We stopped to put on the extra layers of clothing before reaching the real winds and made the decision not to stop until we were in a more sheltered location. We pushed up past the few false summits to Mt. Lafayette to witness the careful taking down of the flagpole in the high winds. I'm no meteorologist, but since the winds were knocking us around I figured they might be around 40-50 mph. The windiness combined with the 40° temperatures, indicated that it was a good idea not to stop until we were back below treeline.

Lafayette summit in the clouds

Final ridge climb up Lafayette

Heading down the Franconia Ridge Trail

Flume summit

Me, Jerimy, and Eric on the final summit of the day, Mt. Flume
This adventure in the mountains was a great time, and our similar paces and abilities matched up pretty well. Unfortunately the last ridge wasn't out of the clouds, but we still had great running weather. I'm glad I got a chance to get out with Eric on his first Pemi Loop, and it was great getting out into the Whites again with Jerimy.

I ended up becoming an ambassador for two companies that I believe in over the last month or so. Carb Boom! energy gels, a natural fruit based energy source, has been giving me some even fueling on the last few long runs including this trip in the Whites and I am excited to be a part of their marketing team of athletes. I have been trying to get away from Gu gels, because I don't like to take extra caffeine on my long runs unless they are overnight and I was running out of flavors that I could use. I used about 12 of the gels to power through the Pemi Loop run and they gave me a good consistent energy level without getting behind on any calories.

I have also joined up with a sock manufacturer that I am excited about representing, Darn Tough. This is the only sock that I run in and I love their craftsmanship and lifetime guarantee that they offer. The Cushion Sock is the type that I used for this run and they drain really well and provide the right amount of cushioning for these long runs on the rocks, avoiding any hot spots or blisters in the process. I think that both of these companies will be great to represent and I appreciate their support of my running.

What's Next
Coming up on September 21st, I am running the Kismet Cliff Run half marathon which takes place up on the Moat Mountains in North Conway, NH and has about 4,000' of vertical. I feel rested and ready for the race after the Pemi Loop. After this race I will give the TARC Fall Classic 50km another shot and hopefully improve on last year's time of 4:27. I think I could run a little more consistent during this year's race if I pace myself correctly. There are 5 laps of 10km each and I ran the first two well, but really suffered on laps 3 & 4. After that race, I will be pacing a friend, Michael Wade, for 15 miles at his first attempt at the 100 mile distance during the Ghost Train Rail Trail Ultra. And the last event I am planning on running this year is making another attempt at the Midstate Trail Traverse. It is a 95 mile trail through central MA that Justin Contois and I tried in April, but failed due to a flooded trail in Barre. You can check out my writeup of the run on Far North here.

After these few events, I am planning on hopefully sitting down to take a few of my architectural registration exams over the winter. This is something I have been putting off for a long time and I figured I will take a break from serious training and put some time into my career. I could use a break after the past two years of putting in a lot of time training for various runs and events and feel that I can come back strong after a short layoff and hopefully set my sights on another Hut Traverse, this time finishing it, Wapack and Back 50 miler, Manitous Revenge 56 miler, and possibly a fall or late summer 100 miler. We'll see how it goes, but those are some initial thoughts.

Bondcliff: 1:47, 9 miles
Mt. Bond: 2:13, 9.9 miles
West Bond: 2:34, 10.9 miles

South Twin: 3:25, 13.8 miles
Galehead Hut: 3:46, 14.5 miles
Galehead: 3:57, 15 miles
Garfield: 5:25, 18 miles
Lafayette: 6:39, 21 miles
Lincoln: 6:55, 22 miles
Liberty: 7:49, 24.6 miles

Flume: 8:11, 25.6 miles
Lincoln Woods Suspension Bridge: 9:11, 32 miles, 10,800' climbing

Socks: Darn Tough Cushion Crew
Shoes: Inov8 Roclite 295
Shorts: New Balance Dri
Shirt: Patagonia Allweather Top longsleeve, Wapack & Back 2013 race t-shirt, Montane Marathon jacket, EMS baselayer
Pack: Golite Rush 40

Carb Boom! Energy Gels: 12
Honey Stinger Gel: 1
Honey Stinger Bars: 3
Kind Bars: 2
AMC Hut Soup: Potato Dill
Salt Pills: about 12