Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2014 Race Report

With my main goal of the summer, the AMC Hut Traverse, behind me, I prepared to rest before running the Bear Brook Trail Marathon the following week. When I ran the race last year, I found it to be probably the most fun I've had on trails yet at a race. The combination of it being one large continuous loop, winding singletrack trails, short but challenging climbs and descent, and varied scenery helped to make this "marathon" distance race a great morning out on trails. I use "marathon" in quotes because that term is used loosely, the race is actually between 28 and 29 miles according to whose watch or gps you trust. What's a couple more miles when you've already run 26 anyways? It just means you'll be out there a little longer. The race organization and trail marking were great and I had no trouble following the course this year or last.

The days following the Hut Traverse were spent taking my kids to the beach at Sebago Lake in Maine and only running a short 4 miler to check the legs. Everything seemed fine as far as muscles and joints, so I figured I would still run at Bear Brook the following Saturday. I did one other 4 miler on the Thursday prior to the race with a couple 1 minute on/1 minute off intervals thrown in just to blow out any lingering fatigue. I went into the weekend feeling as good as I could after a hard effort the week before. I figured I would just see what happens and run as hard as my body would let me that day.

My friend Jay offered to drive up with me as he was volunteering, and drive his own car, so I jumped at that opportunity. That just meant I could have a beer or two after the race and rest on the way home. Not a bad deal if you ask me. We arrived a little early and I mentioned that the weather seemed like it would be identical to last year's weather, which was cool in the morning but got a little warm around 10:45 for my finish of the race. The race was to start at 6:30 and I joined some of the guys near the front because I knew there was a short stretch of fire road before the trail took off into the singletrack where it would be harder to pass people. I settled in around 15th place or so and started the ascent up Catamount Hill. Passing a couple people on the uphill and downhill, I ended up somewhere around 10th or 11th, where I would end up staying most of the day.

This year I spent about 27 of the 28.5 miles running by myself, but shared the trail a little with Jeremy Merrit somewhere between miles 8-12. Jeremy went on to have a great race taking ten minutes off his time from last year with about a mile or mile and a half longer distance. When he passed me around mile 14 or so, he was flying up the hill. I was trying to regulate my water intake as the temperatures started to climb and I knew I would be in trouble if I ran low on hydration. This strategy was pretty successful, but there was one stretch between the campground (mile 18) and the next aid station where I got behind and started walking some sections. I felt a little crappy here, but after filling up and getting some calories in, I decided to suck it up and stop being wimpy because I only had single digit miles left to go to the finish.

I felt pretty decent on the last 5 miles or so, running most of the trail except the kick-in-the-ass climb at mile 27 or so that Ryan threw in just for fun. At least it kept the finishing pace pretty honest for the last section of the course. All in all the day went good, I ended up in 9th place for the second year and ran 4:46:32 (results here). Below I posted the pace/elevation chart from the 2013 and this years races, notice the inconsistency of my pace in 2014 with some walking and some 10-12 minute miles through some sections. Was I a faster runner last year, maybe, but I think the hard effort at the weekend prior's activity hurt my climbing and really slowed me down. Whatever it was, I still had fun out on the great trails at Bear Brook and will return next year, which I'm told may happen in the fall instead. I like that idea, the park is probably pretty scenic with the foliage in bloom and there won't be the deer flies to contend with.

Paces started out okay, but dwindled toward the later miles

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2013, a much more even effort across the board

Bear Brook Trail Marathon 2014, notice the inconsistencies of pace after mile 15 and around mile 22
Strava info 2013: http://www.strava.com/activities/70171752

Strava info 2014: http://www.strava.com/activities/168057016

Up next will be a little rest for me. I have been pushing pretty hard through the spring and early summer to try to be ready for the Hut Traverse and I could use a bit of the break from the grind of continuous training. I think I'll take the next two weeks and run just a little, skipping the long runs, then start back up after that. Planning for nothing (yet) but another go at the Midstate Trail Traverse in the fall, I think I could come up with a plan that slowly ramps up the mileage to achieve a bit less suffering than I had at my last extra long run, Ghost Train 100 miler in 2012. Although I am possibly thinking of running the Big Brad Ultra 50 miler in October and/or the Fall Classic 50k, but you never know. I am also thinking of hitting the gym to try to work on my upper body and core strength which is really lacking since I last worked out in February.

Not having any plans for August will also allow me to spend less time away from my family and enjoy the rest of the summer without worrying about a race coming up or trying to fit in my long run before a big day with the kids. My wife has been really supportive of my running and daylong trips in the mountains up to this point and I want to keep the balance between family and ultras in check.

Monday, July 21, 2014

AMC Hut Traverse Attempt #1

During the winter I started planning out my year of races or long runs. Since I had so much fun running the Pemi Loop or the Partial Double Presi Traverse Attempt last year, I wanted to plan some long days in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this year. The main focus run for the year was the AMC Hut Traverse, a rugged route from East to West covering 50 miles and about 17,000' of gain. I was planning to run it at a moderate speed to limit the amount of time away from my family and finish in around 15 hours. There were stretches of the route I had never been on, so I decided to reach out to a few people to see if they were interested in joining me on July 12th. Chris Dailey (link to his blog here and his report here), said he was thinking about attempting his second trip of the Hut Traverse and that a 15 hour time would be a great goal. Little did we know how ambitious the 15 hour time would be for us on this day.

Elevation Profile, mileages are approximate

Attempting to get a few hours of sleep before the run, I headed over in the afternoon to the Old Bridle Path Trailhead in Franconia Notch to meet Chris and make our way to the starting point at 19 Mile Brook Trail along Rt. 16 near Carter Notch. There was no sleeping due to the fact that I was too nervous and excited for what lay ahead of us on the trails. I laid in my makeshift bed in the back of the minivan and stared at the ceiling until 11pm and then decided to get ready. Chris arrived around 11:30pm and we were off to the starting location beginning our journey at 12:30am. We headed up the 19 Mile Brook Trail and I started jogging my way up. Chris mentioned something about maybe waiting until we got to the start of the route which is at Carter Notch Hut about 3.8 miles and 1,900' of climbing up the trail, so I slowed to a hike. We got to the hut at about 1:50am, grabbed some water at the hut, signed the guestbook and quietly made our way out onto the trail. We started our watches right at 2am and we were off running down the trail in the dark.

Obligatory start photo

Carter Notch Hut, around 2am, very quiet up in the notch
The run down the 19 Mile Brook Trail went by quickly in about 45 minutes and we were soon running down a short stretch of Rt. 16 to the Great Gulf Trail. From here there would be about a 3,600' climb up the Osgood Trail to Madison Hut, which went slowly. We arrived at the hut just in time to get some good views of the moon setting over Mt. Adams and the sun rising over towards Gorham, NH.

Moon setting behind Mt. Adams

Star Lake near Mt. Adams

Thunderstorm Junction

Gulfside Trail, looking towards Mt. Washington

Sphinx Col

Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Mt. Monroe behind

Cog Railway tracks

View down towards Lakes of the Clouds, Mt. Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce

Westside Trail around Mt. Washington's summit

Mt. Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the right

Lakes of the Clouds and Mt. Washington summit

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Mt. Washington in the distance from Crawford Path

Looking back towards Mt. Monroe and Mt. Washington

Great section of runnable trail

Mt. Eisenhower

Chris looking down off the Crawford Path on the side of Mt. Eisenhower

Top of Mt. Pierce, one last look at the Presidential Range

Mizpah Hut

The trek across the Presidential Range went pretty quickly and we were back down to 302. The next section was one that Chris had been warning me about all day, a 2.5mile climb up to the Mt. Tom spur that had a few steep sections and was relentless after a good 24 miles or so. His warnings lived up to their promise as the day started to get pretty warm and we made our way up the long climb. Finally we arrived at the saddle between Mt. Tom and Mt. Field and made our way down the A-Z Trail to Zealand Falls Hut. I had been looking forward to this section for quite a while because I had never visited anything past Mt. Tom in this area of the Whites. Making our way downhill (mostly) to the hut, we put in some good running and were able to cover a good amount of the distance relatively quickly.
Rt. 302 Crawford Notch

After the Zealand Falls Hut, there was a pretty tough climb up along the Twinway towards the summit of Zealand Mtn. Just before the summit spur is an awesome view of Zealand Notch, which in my opinion, is one of the best views in the White Mountains. There is a rock outcropping that sticks out and you feel enveloped by the beauty of the notch and the views back to the Presidentials.

Looking back towards the Presidentials and (L-R) Mts. Tom, Field and Willey.

View of Zealand Notch

Trail steepening again

Views from Mt. Guyot

View of South Twin, our next summit, from Mt. Guyot

S. Twin summit
The dreaded Garfield Ridge Trail section had arrived. This is the part of the traverse that I was least looking forward to. The heat of the day had really climbed and there wasn't much relief in the deep woods between Galehead Hut and the Lafayette summit, which is about miles 35 to 42. This section was the worst for me, I was having trouble with the downhills and flat sections at this point and could not snap myself out of a bonk (or heat exhaustion). I tried everything I had, I ate plenty of gels, solid food, trailmix bars, salt tabs and was drinking as much water as I could stand, but nothing seemed to work. Having run several long distance races in the past, I know the "bonk" feeling all too well, but this time it was different. I wasn't just feeling bad, I was feeling terrible and dizzy with a little nausea. I stumbled many times on simple rock-hops that I wouldn't usually have trouble with. I was leap frogging with Chris, I would go past him on the climbs and he would catch up on the downhills, at this point and sometime before the Garfield summit I told him that I would meet him at the Lonesome Lake Hut. We had originally planned (before I really started feeling terrible) that we would meet at the Mt. Lafayette summit and finish the last section together, but in my current state I was feeling like I would be stopping at the car before the last 1.6 mile climb to Lonesome Lake. I am glad we both made that decision as Chris was able to finish the trek.

View down to Greenleaf Hut and a little further in the distance to Lonesome Lake.
The section from Mt. Garfield's summit to the summit of Mt. Lafayette went very slowly as I walked pretty much all of it. I ended up refilling my water bottles at the Greenleaf Hut and headed down the trail slowly and carefully to the base where my car was parked. After sitting in the river for a few minutes, and having a cold water and coconut water at the car I felt fine within about 10 minutes. I think the heat really got to me and I was pushing a little too hard on such a hot day. It also didn't help that neither I nor Chris had slept for about 40 hours. No doubt that this hike/run kicked my butt, much more so than any other mountain run and in a different way but just as much as the Ghost Train 100 miler I ran in 2012.

I will plan to revisit this traverse next June or July with a 15 hour goal (again), but do a few things differently. I will not skip the sleep the night before and probably plan to start around 3-4AM from 19 Mile Brook in order to ensure at least a good 6 hours of sleep. I think choosing an overcast day or slightly cooler day would help as the day goes on. Other than that I think we did things right, it was just that only one of us completed it and I want to give it another shot. Hopefully Chris will join again next year as he was a great companion on the traverse, with his vast knowledge of the trails and preparing me for what is coming up next. I am hoping to get Justin to come out of Virginia to join us as well, as he likes to spend time up in the Whites and I think this one would be right up his alley.

The following weekend after the Hut Traverse I ran the Bear Brook Marathon, a writeup of that race will follow this post. It went okay, I was still a little slow from the previous week's climbing. The past two years I have run it, the race has been a lot of fun.

Carter Notch to Madison Hut: 3:15, 9.4 miles
Madison Hut to Lakes of the Clouds: 5:30 elapsed, 15.5 miles
Lakes to Mizpah: 6:55, 19.8 miles
Mizpah to Crawford Notch: 7:35, 22 miles
Crawford to Zealand Falls Hut: 9:35, 27 miles
Zealand to Galehead: 12:25, 34 miles
Galehead to Greenleaf: 15:40, 43 miles
Greenleaf to Car: 16:45, 46 miles

Total for the day: 49.8, 16,780' climbing, 16 hours 43 minutes to OBP parking, 1 hour 10 minutes hike in (3.8miles)