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