Thursday, June 26, 2014

Southern Presi Traverse/Mt. Washington Auto Road Race 2014 Spectating

While we were making our way up the first climb of Mt. Watatic together at the Wapack and Back 50, Eric Ahern mentioned that he was planning on running along the Presidential Range in the White Mts. to spectate at the Mt. Washington Auto Road Race on June 21st. I was thinking about a Pemi Loop around that time, but decided to join him and some friends up on the ridge instead. I figured I could do a Pemi Loop solo later in the summer, and choosing the run across the Presis would give me an opportunity to spend some time in the mountains with a few other people.

The route that I chose was to run was on Saturday with Eric and Mike McDuffie (link to his blog here) was ascending Mt. Pierce from Crawford Notch, over Mt. Eisenhower, Franklin, Monroe past Lakes of the Clouds and up to Mt. Washington and back. It was a variation of a Southern Presi Traverse and the start time was set to be at 6AM. The group was going to meet up with Sam Jurek, Scott Traer, and David Huss as they were running a full traverse from North to South that morning as well. Eric and McDuffie met me right around 6 and we hiked/jogged our way up the Crawford Path up to the summit of Mt. Pierce reaching it in about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Making our way up the Crawford Path towards Pierce

Sunlight coming through the trees

Near the Pierce summit spur and our first views of the ridge. Eisenhower, our next peak, is in the center of the photo.

Eric and McDuffie making their way up to the summit of Pierce
From Pierce's summit, we mostly ran up to Mt. Eisenhower with some short hiking sections on the steeper parts, reaching the summit in about 30 minutes (1:48 elapsed).  This section passes in and out of treeline and there are some open ridges to stop and take in the far-reaching views. I mentioned to Eric and McDuffie that I had a chili dog at the top of Mt. Washington last time I was up here running the Semi-Double Traverse (blog report here), and it really hit the spot. Dreaming of the chili dog at the summit was all I, and apparently Eric as well, needed for motivation to push forward and make it up there.
Looking back towards Pierce and Jackson from a viewpoint near the summit of Eisenhower

Summit cairn at Eisenhower

View towards Monroe, Franklin and Washington

Franklin and Monroe, Oakes Gulf on the right

Mt. Washington's peak in the clouds

Crawford Path below looking into Oakes Gulf from Monroe
Another 45 minutes and we were at the summit of Monroe where we were met with some increasing winds as we climbed in elevation. According to the forecast the temperatures were about 35°-40° with 30 mph winds, which made the windchill around 10-20 degrees. Some of the hikers we ran into, the photographer for the picture below, was genuinely concerned that we weren't warm enough. We assured him we had several other layers in our packs and would use them if necessary. As long as we kept moving the temperatures weren't really that bad.
Summit of Mt. Monroe looking South

Running down towards Lakes of the Clouds Hut
After a quick stop in the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, we made our way up to the summit of Mt. Washington. This section is the rockiest that we encountered all day and also had the most people scattered along the trail. We made it to the summit right around 9:36 with about 15-20 minutes left in the Auto Road Race, so we headed inside the summit lodge to grab our three chili dogs and warm up for a few minutes before going back out to see the finish.
Lakes of the Clouds

Making our way up to Washington, in and out of the clouds that day

View back towards the Southern Presis

Joe Gray winning the Auto Road Race in just under an hour
I ended up staying for the first couple hundred people to come in and left the summit around 10:30am as my companions headed off towards Mt. Jefferson to meet up with Dave, Scott, and Sam on their way through the N-S Traverse. Picking my way through the droves of hikers coming up from the hut and Ammonoosuc Ravine, I made it down to the hut in around 20 minutes. I quickly sucked down some water and refilled my bottles here because I knew that would be the last stop for water until the base of Mt. Pierce. From Mt. Washington back to the car was mostly downhill because I ended up skipping the summits of Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce. I ended up making pretty quick time of the trip down in 2 hours and the total time ended up being around 5 hours 45 minutes of running with about an hour and a half of stops between Lakes and Washington's lodge. The total mileage was somewhere around 17.2 with 6,000 feet of climbing. All in all a good day out in the mountains and a good primer for my next adventure up in the White Mts.

Making my way down from the Mt. Washington summit solo

Crawford Path heading around Monroe's summit

One of the more runnable sections

Looking towards Eisenhower and Pierce

One last look back on the ridge

Interesting section of Crawford Path as it goes around Mt. Eisenhower

Gibbs Falls towards the base of Pierce
Map of our route

Elevation profile with blue pace line

I had a great half day in the mountains with Eric and McDuffie and I'm glad I tagged along with their run. I can't wait to head back there along the AMC Hut Traverse I am planning on doing with Chris Dailey (link to his blog here). We are planning on running the 50 mile, 17,000' climbing traverse from Carter Notch to Lonesome Lake and have targeted a time of 15 hours. This will be my first time, but Chris has been on the route before. A description of a fast running of the route by Adam Wilcox can be found here . He ran it in 13 hours 53 minutes and was racing the sun back to his car similar to what we will be doing. The plan is to start from Carter Notch Hut at first light (around 4-5am) on July 12th and run down 19 Mile Brook Trail to Great Gulf Trail to Madison Hut and then do a Presi Traverse to the Lakes of the Clouds and Mizpah Hut. This section, along with the Garfield Ridge Trail, will be the toughest footing/weather(?) of the trip and it will be good to get that out of the way early.

The week after the traverse I will run the Bear Brook Marathon at Bear Brook State Park, NH which  I ran last year in 4 hours 16 minutes. The goal this year is to hopefully run it in under 4 hours. I am trying to add in more speedwork sessions between now and then to work on my leg speed on hills. I've consistently been to three track sessions in 4 weeks, with one week off, and I'm looking to keep up that rate. I figure if I do one track session, one interval session on trails and one tempo per week on my weekday runs and keep up the mountain repeats, I should be in good shape to run a good race and suffer a little less at the Hut Traverse. 

Here are a couple videos that McDuffie made of a portion of our trip:


Friday, June 13, 2014

Run for the Homeless 2014 5k Race Report & Pleasant Mountain, ME (Shawnee Peak) Training Run

I haven't posted anything since the Wapack and Back 50 Mile Race, so I figured I'd write up something combining a scenic training run I did up in Maine with a 5k race.

Walk/Run for the Homeless 5k
The fundraising walk is in its 29th year with the addition of the run last year. Just prior to last year's race I was working on a project redesigning the St. John's Parish Center which operates a soup kitchen providing food to the homeless and underprivileged in the city, which had me interested in running the race. I ended up winning the race and giving to a good cause. With the lingering fatigue from the prior weekend's Wapack 50 miler, I planned to just see how I felt and sign up for the 5k on race day. I didn't have much for expectations, but as always going into the race I was hoping for a personal best at the distance. I think my training throughout the winter and my attempts to get a little speedwork done was working okay, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Matthew enjoying the snake painting he got from the face painter

Let me start by stating that I despise the 5k distance as it is a sprint for me compared to the typical races I run. I also lack a lot of important pacing knowledge (which I am trying to work on), especially on the flat road races. Maybe it's because I never do them and I feel more comfortable in the mountains and hilly trails, where most of my training takes place, or maybe its the lack of scenery. Whatever the case, I have been trying to expand my racing to the shorter distances in order to make myself faster, keeping my outside goal of someday running a 5 minute mile on the horizon.

Suffering during the last couple hundred yards. Photo courtesy Central Mass Housing Alliance, Inc.
My wife Amanda, two children, and I made our way across the city to Elm Park, where the race and subsequent BBQ was to be held. The course is not bad, very flat and fast, and runs from Elm Park along part of Park Avenue to Pleasant Street, Chandler Street and back along Highland St. to the finish at Elm Park. My plan was, just as I did last year, to take out the first mile hard and hope nobody hung on too close. Unlike last year, nobody was running right with me for most of the race and I rounded the first corner running a faster pace than I knew I could handle for the distance. I ended up going through mile one in 5:50, which I was surprised by but settled into a more reasonable pace (for me) for the next mile at 6:17. I looked behind me and didn't see anyone too close, maybe 30 seconds away and just tried to hold on for the last 1.1 miles. I rounded the last corner towards the finish line and saw that I might break 18:30 if I ran quick. My personal best time at the 5k was at last year's Run for the Homeless 5k, winning in a time of 19:24. Running the last section near Elm Park at a sprint pace, I was able to close out for a win at a time of 18:20 (5:54/mile avg. pace).

Pleased with the effort and glad to be done

I am excited about how this race turned out so closely after my hard effort and second place finish at Wapack, and I have renewed my motivation over the summer to work on my shorter distance pacing and keeping that 5 minute mile as a goal. I have always struggled with increasing my speed which is maybe why I tend to concentrate on the longer distances. The plan is to try to mix in two speed workouts per week if I can, hoping to do one track workout and one run with longer intervals (2-3 miles) on trails and hills. The rest of the weekly runs will be easy and one hill repeat session, as well as a long run Saturdays with a hill run Sundays. Deviations from the plan are common for me as work and family commitments come up, but at least I have something that I can try to accomplish.

Back to the hill training...

Pleasant Mountain, ME training run
I have visited Pleasant Mountain, located in central Western Maine, two other times last year and found that while similar to Mt. Wachusett (my local hill for running), it has slightly lower trailhead elevations. What that means is with 3 or so hours of running I've been able to get in almost 6,000 feet of climbing on the four main trails up the mountain. I had a later start on this trip of about 5AM and missed the sunrise at the top by about 15 minutes, but was instead treated to some great undercast cloud views with lime green vegetation coming out for spring.

I was treated to some wet trail conditions and fog as I made my way up and down the mountain several times, but the scenery was great. This was a fun run and I can't wait to go back there and spend some time on the trails of Pleasant Mountain. Strava (run info) link here.

Instead of getting into a description of the trails, which I have done already in a past blog post, I am just posting photos demonstrating some of the scenery I was treated to up there that day.

Up next I am thinking of running a Presi Traverse or a variation of it with some friends next weekend on June 21st and maybe a Pemi Loop on July 4th weekend, just like last year. As the summer goes on, I really only have two goals so far...a Mahoosuc Traverse and a Hut to Hut Traverse. Neither of these will be for a FKT, but I will try to do them at a decent pace. I plan to train on the hills, both uphill tempo efforts and down, leading up to the runs and just see how it turns out. I might make another attempt at a Double Presi Traverse this year, but that I am not sure of. It will depend on how many times I can get away into the mountains with work and family commitments.