Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shifting Focus

Last year I saw some improvements in my running that started at the approach to training. Trying to be more competitive in the races that I choose to run, I started to push a little harder on my workout days and was pleased with the results from it. I didn't have a running schedule in place, but rather ran similar workouts to target the specific races that were forthcoming. Ending 2013 satisfied with my efforts at races, and after taking a planned break around the holidays I am just starting to get back into something that resembles regular training.

This year I will be training to attempt the following:
  • Get faster and try to run a five minute mile: The 5 minute mile is something that has eluded me as I have always struggled with increasing my speed. Over the past few years, I have mainly focused on building base mileage and have not been concerned with trying to be competitive or running the long distances at a faster rate. By putting in a consistent amount of speedwork and dedicated workout days, I plan to attempt to run a five minute mile someday.
  • April 13 - Midstate Trail Traverse North to South (95mi): My running friend, Justin Contois, and I have always discussed how it would be fun to run the whole Midstate Trail that runs from the end of the Wapack Trail near the MA/NH border in Ashburnham/New Ipswich to the MA/RI border in Douglas. This year we plan to attempt it as a supported run on April 13th. 
Amanda and I after we finished section hiking the Midstate Trail in March 2009, this is where Justin and I will finish in April after the through run

  • May 10 - Wapack-and-Back 50 miler: I ran the 50 mile option of this race last year for the first time and finished the race, but feel like I could improve on my time. I didn't do well after the turnaround at mile 21 and feel with more specific training and some longer back-to-back runs - my time could improve. Here's a link to last Spring's race report.

Jogging the last few hundred feet of last year's Wapack 50 with my son Matthew

Foggy section of the Wapack Trail near Temple Mtn.

  • June 7 - TARC 50 miler:  The venue has changed for this race from Weston to Hale Reservation in Westwood and it sounds like it will be a fun and hillier race (which I prefer). I paced Justin Contois for a few miles and Eric Ahern for a few more miles at the TARC 100 race this year through the mud in Weston (writeup here) and had a great time at the first year race. 
TARC 100 Pacing: with Justin and Eric in the early morning hours

TARC 100 Pacing: One of the mud puddles along the way

  • July - White Mts. MacPhail Hut-to-Hut Traverse (52mi +/-, 18,000'+ climb): This is a run/hike that has intrigued me for a while as it moves through the White Mountains hitting all the AMC huts along the way. I will probably plan on starting at Madison Hut and ending at Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch. Logistically this route seems to make sense since there are many opportunities in the summer to refuel at each hut along the way. Here is a link to more information, or here, and here.

Madison Hut
Lonesome Lake Hut in 2008

  • August - Pemi Loop (31.5 mi, 9,160' climb): I completed this run for the first time last July with Justin, report here. in 9 hours and 30 minutes. I would like to return and try to take some time off, hopefully it will be on a less humid and windy day with some views.

  • September - Double Presidential Traverse (42 mi +/-, lots of climbing): I have some unfinished business on the Presidential Range after we had to abort our trip prematurely. This run I attempted last year in August, although I ended up bailing at Pinkham Notch on the way back. My plan that day was to get to Mt. Pierce and turn around at the summit, making the route sort of a partial traverse. This year, assuming I get the time and weather window, I plan to hopefully complete a full double traverse going from the base of Madison to the base of Pierce and back, making up around 42 miles and quite a bit of climbing.

Summit of Mt. Adams
Ridgeline views

Since the majority of the runs this year will be mountain focused, I plan to visit Mt. Wachusett at least two times a month for some hill repeats. It is a small mountain, but is only a 25 minute drive from my house and I can get most of my running done before the sun comes up and be home for breakfast with the family. I am trying to also hit Mt. Monadnock as a focused workout before the Wapack race and I will be going to Pleasant Mtn. in Maine during our trips to my wife's parents Sebago Lake cabin.

Rather than training just to get the miles in, like last year's training method, I plan to dedicate at least two days during the week on most weeks to focusing on speed. For these runs I am planning on running interval runs on one day and maybe a tempo or progression run on the other - roughly planning on Tuesdays and Thursdays/Fridays. The rest of the miles I will make up with easy/moderate runs and a long run or two on the weekends. We'll see how this goes, as I attempt to go from taking some time "off" during the past few weeks around the holidays to able to run almost 100 miles in less than three months.


  1. Sounds like an awesome year! I'm hoping to do the Pemi Loop this year, too!

    1. Thank you Leah! The Pemi Loop is an awesome run, enjoy it. Hopefully you have some good weather to enjoy the views.

  2. Looks like you got a great year ahead of you!

    1. Should be fun! Not a lot of races, but spending time in the mountains which is more enjoyable to me. I may pick up a race in the fall, but I'm not sure yet.

  3. I should see you at the Wapack and Back, looking forward to that one, should be fun!

    1. Sounds great, Matt! Be sure to sign up as soon as registration opens, it's pretty popular. Hopefully we get to run some miles together again. You are welcome to join on any of the other adventures this year as well.

  4. Hey Jesse,
    Really cool to stumble across your blog amidst the interwebs. It sounds like you're doing the trifecta of White Mountain ultra-distance routes this year, all three of which are some of the most stellar mountain runs around. In my opinion, each one requires a slightly different skill set to run well -- you need to have your technical footwork dialed for the Presis, while the Pemi Loop demands more of a strength-based approach (what with all the little rollers on the Twinway and Garfield Ridge trails, plus the above-treeline sections), and the Hut Traverse is the true mountain ultra of the bunch, requiring a ton of quad seasoning and really strong power hiking abilities. I'll be especially interested to hear what you think of the MacPhail route, considering that it's so rarely repeated. Dealing with Wildcat Range at the beginning of a 55ish-mile day is no mean feat. And make sure to say Hi at Lonesome Lake Hut when you're through.. hope our hospitality can make up for the extra half-mile around the lake that Alex didn't have to do :-)

    Any advice for a first-time Wapack runner?


    1. Hi Scott,
      Thanks for reading and the advice for the runs. I'm looking forward to completing as well as putting in the training for them, especially the MacPhail and hopefully I will get good weather windows. I'll definitely need a little rest at Lonesome Lake, and I'll stop in to recuperate before the walk/run down to the Notch.

      Wapack is a fun and sometimes technical course. I've done the 18 mile Fall race, 21 miler twice and finished the 50 last year. The most technical sections occur on the Pack Monadnocks and depending if you are doing the 21 or the 50, can be somewhat mentally draining (at least that's what I found). They occur twice in the 50 starting around mile 16-18 as you make your way up Pack Monadnock. I found that Adam Wilcox's strategy he used in 2012 (report here: http://adamiata.blogspot.com/2012/05/wapack-n-back-50-mile.html) worked for me. I tried to run all but the steepest uphills and I ended up getting in under the cutoff time and was happy with the effort. I think I can do better now that I know the course and how to plan for running 50 miles of that trail. If you are doing the 50, the out and back that occurs at 42ish miles makes it mentally tough to head back out - starting with the steep climb up Watatic. I found that I wanted to finish the 50 so bad that I needed to tell myself that stopping there was not an option and I went in and out of the aid station without stopping too long. If it's wet the trail can have some slick slab rock and I would suggest a very grippy shoe even if it just useful on those sections. I've used an Inov8 Roclite 295 on the trail in past years and that seems to work best. I used a Montrail Mountain Masochist last year, and while the support was good for the majority of the race, the wet sections were tough with less grip than the Inov8's had. I plan on running in those shoes again this year.

      Hopefully that helps, and good luck on your training.

    2. Thanks for the advice Jesse, I appreciate it. I've been running in the Roclites a bunch this winter, but I don't think my form is good enough to wear a light shoe like that all the way. As it is, I do most of my long runs in the Masochists, so it's good to know that a stickier shoe is advisable.
      Hearing what you say about the technicality of the course, I can't imagine a better spring training run for the Whites traverses than Wapack. I don't know if you're planning to consciously chase Alex's splits on the HT, but it'll be interesting to see whether his run was as strong as it seems. After all, he ran a 2:11 Lakes-Zealand (bypassing Mizpah) in training, which boggles the mind.

    3. Sure thing Scott. You should be fine in the Masochists as long as it isn't raining. The sloped rock slabs are not forgiving in some areas. I agree about the Wapack, great training for the Whites - especially the Northern and Southern ends. Haven't given the splits too much thought, but I will be studying them just to see where he was at.

  5. Jesse,
    What a summer you have planned- including the trifecta of mountain runs! May the weather cooperate with your schedule! Good luck.

    1. Thanks Brad, can't wait to train and complete them.