Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekly Training Update

Re-Cap 10/13-10/19:

This was probably the best quality week I had during my training for the marathon over the past three months. I ran my long run at a faster than usual average pace, did a decent track workout midweek and ran a short trail race to finish the week up with a tempo-like run.

Total Miles: 46
Long Run: 20.5
# of Days: 6
Avg. Miles: 7.7
Trail Miles: 54%

Re-Cap 10/20 -10/26:

This was the first week of my three week taper for the Stone Cat Marathon. I missed my goals for total miles and long run distance, but not by much. There’s not much I can do now to run a faster race but there a lot I can do to mess things up. Better to under train these next two weeks and go into the marathon well rested than to over train and crash mid-race.

Total Miles: 25
Long Run: 10.3
# of Days: 4
Avg. Miles: 6.3
Trail Miles: 62%

The countdown continues…

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Product Review - CAMELBAK Octane XC Hydration Pack

I purchased this pack during the summer when I started doing longer training runs in preparing for the Stone Cat Marathon. I require a lot of fluids in hot weather and the 2-bottle waist pack I had didn’t hold enough fluids to get me past 2 hours of running. I chose the Octane because of its high fluid capacity, light weigh and snug fit.

Camelbak claims the Octane holds 70 oz for fluid but I have never been able to squeeze more than 64oz into the reservoir. That’s still enough to get me through 3 hours of running and beyond depending on weather conditions. The pack does not offer much storage space if that's what you’re looking for, but the two side pockets will keep you supplied with gels, snacks and other food items on most runs. It also has a top pocket perfect for storing keys and a cell phone. The thing I like best about the Octane is that it does not bounce even when filled to capacity. The adjustable sternum and waist belts keep the pack firmly in place.

If you’re looking for a pack that has tons of storage for a variety of extra gear, this is not the right pack for you. But, if you are mainly looking to carry extra water or sports drinks without a lot of extra weight, this is the hydration pack for you.

Drink up!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Merrimack River Long Run and Ravenswood Trail Race

Saturday: Merrimack River Trail – 20.5 miles
Andover, MA

I met some friends Saturday morning at the Merrimack River Trail Race course behind the Wyndham Hotel in Andover, MA. The racecourse is a five-mile out and back along the banks of the Merrimack River. The first three miles are flat and with the fourth and fifth being very hilly. You then turn around and run it again in the opposite direction. This makes miles 4-7 pretty challenging in the ten-mile race. We planned to run a double out-and back giving us 20 miles for the day. This would be my final long training run in preparation for the Stone Cat Marathon in three weeks. The run was organized by Bill M, one of the Lynn Woods regulars.

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I was behind schedule as usual and thought I would be one of the last to show up for the run. I expected to see a few runners from the usual Sunday morning Lynn Woods runs but saw several unfamiliar faces as well. It appeared Bill had done some serious recruiting as cars continued to roll into the parking lot as I gathered my gear. Once everyone was set to go Bill introduced me to the folks I did not know. I met Deb, Steve and Liz, a mother, father, and daughter team as well as Billy S. Their faces looked familiar to me. It turns out they also run the weekly Lynn Woods races held during the summer. I had something else in common with them. We would all be running Stone Cat for the first time. The rest of the group was made up of Liza, Sarah, Jay and Dan C, all runners I know from Lynn Woods.

We all started off together but soon after the group began to split up. Sarah, Jay and Dan were setting a faster pace than the rest of us and soon they were out of sight. Bill M stayed back with the slower group leading us along the leaf covered single-track. He was really great about not allowing anyone to get left behind or make a wrong turn. He would run ahead then double back to pick the slowest of the slow (me) so I wouldn’t get lost. He repeated this several times over the course of the run. I’m sure he must have logged an extra mile with all the back and forth running he did.

Merrimack River Elevation Profile

At five miles we turned around and headed back to the start. About a half-mile later we heard some thrashing in the woods. We weren’t sure what to expect but then we got a look at what was causing all the noise. It was Paul C, another Lynn Woods’ runner. He got a late start but managed to find his way though the trails to locate us. Well, actually we found him. No telling where he would have ended up if we hadn’t seen him and called out to him through the trees.

We took a short break after ten mile to eat, drink and for some, make a change into dry shirts. Things started to get a little interesting in the final five miles. I’m sure it had a lot to do with fatigue setting in but people starting going down all around me. I don’t remember the exact number of falls but I’m pretty sure Deb, Liz, Steve and Billy fell at least once. I know one of them fell twice but I can’t remember which one. The competition for the best fall of the day has to go to Paul. At the time of his fall we were moving at a fast pace. Paul must have caught his toe on a root hidden under the leaves. Suddenly, he was catapulted into the air, rotating forward and landing on his shoulder. He then did a complete summersault, retuning to his feet and continued running like he never even fell. I scored it a 9.75! Paul was unhurt and it was definitely the highlight of the run.

Sunday: Ravenswood Trail Race – 4.25 miles
Gloucester, MA

On Sunday I drove north to Ravenswood Park to run a 4 mile trail race. I wasn’t in the mood for racing after running 20.5 the day before but figured I would just use it as a training run. This was my first time running Ravenswood and I must say I was very impressed with the race organization and with the racecourse itself. The course was a nice mix of narrow carriage roads and single-track trail. With an abundance of rocks and roots it reminded me a little of Breakheart Reservation where I do most of my training.

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My legs were tight at the start of the race so I just settled in near the back of the pack and took it easy. After 1.5 miles my legs loosened up and I started to feel pretty good. Much better than expected after running long the day before. I slowly picked up my pace and started passing a lot of people who had gone out too quickly and were now paying the price. I finished very strong and recovered from the race very quickly. This is a fun race and I will be back next year for sure.

Ravenswood Elevation Profile

Time to taper, finally….

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend Wrap

I finished up the week with two good runs this weekend.

Saturday: Merrimack River Trail– 20.5 miles
Andover, MA

Sunday: Ravenswood Trail Race – 4.25 miles
Gloucester, MA

I wanted to post more detail today but had much to do and never got around to it. I’ll try to fill in the blanks tomorrow, time permitting.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weekly Training Update: Oct 6 - 12

My total miles for the week were a little lower than what I was aiming for but still not a bad week overall. I ran a 13 mile race on the weekend and did another track workout mid-week. These faster track miles have not yet translated into a faster race pace but I think when I start to taper I should (better) get faster.

Weekly Recap:

Miles Run: 42

Long Run: 13.3
# of runs: 6
Avg. Miles: 7.0
Trail Miles: 44%

A big week ahead of me....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Diamond Hill Race Report

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Saturday was a quintessential autumn day in New England. The sun shone brightly in the cloudless, deep blue sky and there was a distinct chill in the air. By 7:30 AM I was on the road to pick up fellow Wapack warrior Kevin for our next challenge, the Diamond Hill-Birchwold 22.5K Trail race in Cumberland, RI. This was my very first trail race in 2006 and I welcomed the chance to return to the place that got me hooked on trail running.

Kevin was pretty psyched as well. He has run a ton of races this year but all of them on his own. He was happy to have company this time, as was I. Kevin and I met a few months ago at a 10K trail race in Hamilton. We later bumped into one another at the Oxford Dam race in August. Later in the month we met for a third time on the Wapack trail. We were both struggling to finish the race. Kevin was dealing with cramping in his quads and I was just plain out of gas. We pulled each other along and made it to the finish line. Kevin even mustered up enough energy to sprint past me in the final few yards. We became “comrades in arms” that day. There’s nothing like mutual suffering to bring people together.

We arrived at Diamond Hill Park with more than an hour to race time. Many people gathered near the starting line soaking in the bright, warm sunshine. I talked with speedster, Paul Young and his wife Emily before the race. I also met Dominic, a triathlete turned trail runner. He was very enthusiastic about his newfound passion for dancing in dirt. Dominic completed the Jay Mountain ultra in July and said it was the most fun he ever had. He said he felt like “Man vs. Wild” star Bear Grylls when he was running in streams and wading through swamps. I thought, “Man, this course will be a piece of cake for him”.

The race was about to begin. Paul took his rightful place up front while Emily, Kevin and myself took to the rear. With a simple command of “go” we were off. We ran on a very short stretch of pavement and then turned onto a meadow and began a climb up a steep, grassy hill. Soon, I found myself in DFL along with Emily and Kevin. We power hiked the hill while most everyone else ran. I wasn’t worried. I knew they would pay for it later.

At the crest of the hill we turned onto a single-track trail that descended and then started to climb again. Emily and I chatted the entire time. Before long we began climbing up the 460 foot high, Diamond Hill along a very steep, rocky, twisting trail. Again I was back to power hiking most of the hill and running when the slope flatted a bit. In front of me a string of runners when up and over Diamond Hill.

Kevin and I were still together at the top of Diamond Hill but I could not see Emily. She had chosen a more prudent pace and dropped back from us. Kevin and I both picked up the pace on the descent passing a few runners in the process. We continued along more single track and then came out to a street in a quite neighborhood. Once I got on the pavement I pulled away from Kevin. I wouldn’t see him again until the finish. After running about ¼ mile on the street the course again turned into the woods.

There was a long gradual hill dropping down to the Diamond Hill Reservoir. The footing was good here so I cranked it up and caught up to two runners ahead of me. Once we got down to the banks of the reservoir the trail was very muddy and there were several sections that were under water. The two runners were hesitant when approaching the water and this gave me an opportunity to pass them. I took a better line around the water and was able to get past them pretty easily. Once I got around them I was running on my own.

I ran the next mile or more trying to catch a group of 3 runners up ahead of me. I would gain on them on the flats and down hills but they would pull away from me on the up hills. This has been a familiar scene in all my races this year. I knew if I could catch them it would be a lot easier to maintain a faster pace than if I continued to run on my own. I finally worked my way up to the group and settled in at the back of the train.

We ran together for the next two miles at a good pace. The guy in the lead was having navigation problems and kept missing the turns. The woman behind him would yell to him that he missed the turn and we would wait for him to backtrack before the 4 of us would head off together again. Things were going well until we caught up to a solo female runner. I guess the woman in my group didn’t like the idea of another female competitor running with us. She downshifted, accelerated and pulled away from female # 2 and the rest of us. The race was on!

I managed to work my way back to female #1 and so to did the other two fellows in the original group. Female # 2 was not as fast and she was left in the dust and debris. We soon came to a small water crossing, maybe 10 feet wide but only ankle deep. I splashed my way through picking up a shoe full of small stones in the process. After the water crossing we ran along single track that crossed several large open meadows. The meadows were pancake flat and it was a nice break from the roller coaster ride we had been on for the past several miles. We encountered another water crossing and unfortunately, more rocks in my shoes.
It seems everyone was having the same issue with their shoes filling with stones. The 3 runners I had been hanging with decided to stop and empty their shoes. I would have done the same if the race was longer but I thought I would take a chance on getting blisters and use this opportunity to pull away from them while they emptied their shoes. It was a good plan but about a minute later I noticed my shoes were untied. I had to stop to lace them up. While I was tightening my laces the “3 amigos” ran past me. Damn it! Catch-up time again.

At the 9-mile mark we turned onto a one mile stretch of paved road. This is where my many years of road racing played to my advantage. I slowly but steadily pulled away from my 3 trail mates. Up ahead I recognized Dominic. He soon became my next victim. We exchanged a few words as I passed and I continued to put the hammer down. I wanted to get a big advantage on the road because I knew the people I had been running with were better trail runners than me and we would soon be in the woods again.

At the end of the road was the second aid station. I knew from running this race in 2006 that there was about 5K of hilly trails remaining in the race from here. I stopped at the aid station to have some water. I had been drinking Succeed during the race but I just wanted some plain, cold water now. It hit the spot. I had another. My thirst became my undoing as everyone I passed on the road was now at the aid station. #$%&!!!!

Female #1 and Dominic took off a few seconds before me. I’m not sure what they drank at the station but whatever it was I need to get me some. The two of them were streaking down the trail like a bullet train. Gone in 60 seconds! That’s the last I saw of them. I, on the other hand, was starting to struggle. I ran the next 2 miles with one of the original “group of four”. He and I exchanged leads and offered encouragement to one another when it seemed one of us needed it.

With about a mile to go I took my eyes off the trail to locate the next ribbon. My toe caught a root and down I went. I was able to get my hands out in front of me so the only damage was a cut on my right hand. A little blood running down my hand was a small price to pay for being able to run on such an incredible day. I think the fall must have knocked the cobwebs out of me and I was able to run strong the last mile. I crossed finish line slightly disappointed in my time but still, it was a great day.

I waited for Kevin to arrive at the finish. I knew from previous races that he couldn’t be very far behind. Minutes pasted and still no Kevin. Soon, across the field came Kevin. He had taken a wrong turn and ran at least an extra half to three-quarters of a mile. I guess he liked the course so much he didn’t want to leave it! We hadn’t even finished our post-race refreshment when we starting planning our next race. It looks like the Middlesex Fells Ultra is a distinct possibility.

Keep your eyes on the trail…

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday Track Workout

I went back to the track for my 3rd workout in the past month. I missed last week’s because I was away on vacation. The plan was to do 3x 1mile repeats around 7:30 with a ¼ mile jog in between. Even though it had rained earlier in the day the cinder track drained well and was in good shape. It was pretty warm out but there was a strong head wind that would make one of the straight-aways tough to run.

After a mile warm-up I started immediately on my first mile repeat. I knew my pace was faster than the planned 7:30 but I couldn’t bring myself to slow down. I could feel some groin pain caused by the weakness of my sacral-iliac joint but it wasn’t bad enough to make me want to quit. The first mile felt pretty easy and I finished in 7:17. I know it’s too fast but I haven’t been able to get a feel for what a 7:30 mile feels like. I run so few (aka none) miles at that pace so it’s difficult to recognize when I’m actually running that fast.

I made a conscious attempt to start out slower on my 2nd mile. It wasn’t long before I picked up the pace and was running too fast again. This mile was a little harder than the first but still fairly easy. I crossed the line in 7:21. There’s really no need for me to run my repeats this fast. I am not going to run a road marathon and my trail marathon pace will likely be between 9:15-10:15 a mile. I could run my track workouts at an 8:00-8:30 pace and still get some benefit on race day. But what fun would that be? It feels good to run fast!

Ok, one more to go and I can get back to work. As I start out for my final mile I feel the “rumbling” of an impending biological interruption. I wanted to get in one last mile but I knew I would be cutting it close. I was a ½ mile away from work and still had to make it back in time or suffer an embarrassing “situation”. Sorry, too much information. Oh well, I cut it short at a ½ mile in 3:40 (7:20 pace) but it was still a good workout overall. I skipped the usual cool-down and hurried back to the hospital where I work as quickly as I could. No time to stop and smell the flowers!

It feels like spring again……

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekly Training Update: Sep 29 - Oct 5

This week was a transition week for me as I returned from Las Vegas late Wednesday night. I did not run for the six days I was there so I figured I would just ease back into it by running a couple short runs before I attempted another long run on the weekend. On Thursday, I did my usual lunchtime 5.6 mile run around “pickle park” (use your imagination). I felt fine but a little sluggish due to the vacation layoff.

Thursday evening I went to The New England Running Company to get a new pair of shoes. Currently, I am training in Brooks Cascadia 3. Usually, when I find a shoe that works for me, I stick with it until it goes out of production. This time I broke my golden rule, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and went with a different shoe. It would soon be evident that this was a bad decision. My reason for changing shoes was to find one with more arch support than the Cascadias have. I thought this might help improve the plantar fascia discomfort I have been dealing with for over a year. I tried on a few pairs and took them on a short run in the parking lot. The Adidas Adizero XT’s felt the best of the bunch.
On Friday, I was back to “pickle park” for another easy run. This time I was wearing my new Adidas trainers. About 3 miles into the run I started to feel the symptoms associated with my sacroiliac joint subluxation. In simple terms, sacroiliac joint subluxation is a twisting of the pelvic joints due to weakness of the ligaments holding them in place. My usual symptons are low back pain, pain radiating into the groin, hip pain and throbbing in the grand toe of the foot. I got all of them, except the hip pain on this run. The symptoms worsened as the afternoon progressed. I was now regretting my decision to try a new shoe. I’ve had this problem with my pelvis since the early eighties and I pretty much know what is good for it and what is not. That’s why I was so pissed at myself for screwing around with new shoes. I applied ice a few times once I got home that evening and hoped I would be feeling better in the morning.

When I awoke on Saturday morning I felt about the same as yesterday but also had some added hip pain for good measure! I wasn’t sure if I should run or take the day off but I had made plans to do a long run with Brenda and Rob and had no way to contact them if I cancelled. I decided to go for the run and hope for the best. I packed up my gear and headed for Willowdale State Park in Ipswich.

I met Rob and Brenda at the fishing bridge at 7:30 am. This was much earlier than my usual 9 o’clock running time but Stonecat starts at 6:15 so I figured I’d better get use to it. Rob is a former college speedster getting back into the running scene after a longer than expected hiatus from the sport. He is preparing for the Cape Cod marathon in a few weeks and will also run the Stonecat marathon two weeks later. Oh yeah, he’s got the fever! You can check Rob’s training and thoughts on running and life at his blog, Tracks of a Trail Runner. Brenda is a five-time Ironman triathlon finisher and will be running the 50 miler at Stonecat in November. The two of them are familiar with the Willowdale trails and would be showing me some of the marathon course on the run.

It was cold standing around and I was ready to get started. I was looking forward to seeing what the terrain was like so I would know what to expect on race day. We headed off into the woods as a cold wind hit us in the face. None of us have ever run together before but it seemed that we were all on the same page with regards to pace. I was surprised by the lack of rocks and roots here. The trails were mostly double track with very good footing and not very hilly. It was much easier running here than at Breakheart Reservation or Lynn Woods.

The trail system in Willowdale is very confusing and I never had a good sense of where I was at any time. Fortunately, Rob and Brenda have run here a few times and we never got lost. We wandered around the woods not really concerned where we were going or how fast we would get there. The three of us just wanted to get some time on our feet and we didn’t want to do it alone. We talked about the usual stuff, training, racing, nutrition etc. but also education, careers, psychology and many other topics. The conversation continued through most of the run, even when we began to get a little tired near the end. I was surprise how quickly the four hours had passed and how easily the 21 miles were covered on this sunny and cool autumn morning. It was only when we finished running that I noticed my back and hip pain had diminished. Go figure! That was a good sign. I’m sure I will improve over the next few days and my training will continue uninterrupted.

This run was a great way to finish up the week.

Weekly re-cap:

Total miles: 35
Long run: 21
# of runs: 4
Avg. miles: 8.8
Trail miles: 60%

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Las Vegas Vacation & September Training Recap

I returned late last night from my vacation in Las Vegas. Taking six days off from running probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do in the height of marathon training but the Sin City made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had plenty of time to run while I was there but cranking out the miles in the concrete jungle offered little appeal. I considered doing some trail running but the nearest trails I could locate were about 15 miles west of the city in the Red Rock Canyon. The drive didn’t deter me but my spouse and the 98 degree temperatures did. My wife reasoned it wasn’t wise to go off running in extreme weather on unfamiliar trails located in a remote area of 197,000 acres within the Mojave Desert. Not to mention the rattlesnakes! Hey, when she’s right, she’s right. Time spent poolside only risked sunburn.

Racking up Zero miles in the last 5 days of the month really hurt my total for September but at least I’m well rested. As rested as one could be on 4-5 hours of sleep per night anyway.

September Re-Cap:

Miles Run: 124
# of Runs: 17
Avg. Miles: 7.3

Trail Miles: 59%

October race plans:

10.11.08 Diamond Hill 23K Trail - GT Race #20, ENE Race #15
10.19.08 Groton Town Forest - GT Race #22, ENE Race #17 or,
10.19.08 Ravenswood 4.1M - ENE Race #18
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