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.