Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12 (Saturday) - Merrimack River Trail Race

Photo by Emily Trespas

April 12 (Saturday) - Headed down to the River Trail in Andover, MA for the Merrimack River Trail race (10 miles) (results).  Despite doing nothing of quality and only near 50 or so miles per week, I decided to race this weekend and not miss another chance to at least get into a race situation and give my brain some exposure to racing again (even if my legs weren't going to cooperate).  I didn't think a 5 miler or 5k on the road would do me much good with the way I was feeling.  So I figured a 6 minute pace (or so) effort on the trails at a longer distance may be better.

The weather was nice and warm and the trail was relatively clear.  I headed out for a warmup with Kevin along the first mile and a half of the course.  The legs felt banged up as usual and I couldn't really fathom how I was going to push them at 'race pace' but I was about to find out.  On the starting line was Brandon Newbould, Kevin, Sam Jurek, EJN, Ethan Nedeau, Tim Cox, and a few others I was worried about.  Looking at Brandon and Kevin, I knew I would be in contention (if I had a miraculous run) for a strong 3rd place.  As the race began, I found myself quickly in around 7th place as I was being elbowed pretty aggressively by a shirtless older (older than me anyways) gentlemen who got a pretty good start.  I got wrangled back into the line that immediately hits the single track about 20 feet from the line.  If I have one complaint about the race course, it's that.  I know it's tradition, yadda yadda, but the course (like any other) should give you just a bit more time to at least play out a little before going immediately into tight single track.  It's like a stair climb race for cripe sakes.  You take 2 steps, then are at a dead stop almost as you go into single track.  Just my two cents.  Everyone has them.

After stretching out the first 100 yards or so you head straight into the underpass of Rt. 93.  Under this on the far side was a mountain of snow and ice.  The flagging went directly over the side of it, which made for a very slow, one at a time, pass through.  There was apparently a bypass to the right of this, on the other side of the bridge support (pictured at the top), but that really wasn't much faster as you had to tip toe along a thin/tight stone path and make sure not to fall in the river in the process.  As I got to the bridge, I saw someone disappear to the right of the bridge support.  Kevin went straight up and over the ice (he was leading).  Behind Kevin was about 4 others in front of me.  I knew that they would have to queue up in front of the ic,  wait for the person in front,  and scramble over.  I took the 'high road' and went up the slope to the very top, and came screaming down the little trail path that was to the far left.  It was probably 'off course' and to the observer, it looks far slower and longer to go that way, but I did it anyways and to my surprise, I came down right behind Kevin, now in 2nd place.  Brandon appeared from the right and ducked behind me in 3rd.

We continued now, in single file, following Kevin. I knew the pace was slow. I could feel it.  I ran 59:08 last year and even that felt slow.  This year, I knew by mile 1 that no one was breaking 60 at this pace.  I figured Brandon would blast on passed us sooner than later.  But he sat.  Mile after mile, I stayed right behind Kevin as we ran 5:30s or so for the first couple miles and then got a little slower as the course played out and got a little tougher.  There were slick bridges (every bridge I had to tip toe over and a couple times I almost went down after losing my footing) and slippery, muddy sections.  I saw Brandon go down once on a climb.  I inadvertently threw my arm out and nailed Brandon in the number (right in the middle of his chest) as I slipped off a slippery board that spans across a muddy section that is muddy all year.  It was a bit rough in spots, but still the course was in great shape compared to what I'm seeing back home.

All 3 of us passed up and over the power line climbs, which are short, but steep.  At about 4.25 miles or so (in the '5' miles out and back course), Brandon made a move.  Kevin didn't go.  I stayed behind him.  I was pretty pumped that I made it to the turnaround without issue.  My legs were bothering me, but no more than usual (even at the 'faster' pace).  I was confident as we turned, that I could eventually go around Kevin and at least get 2nd. I'm not sure why.  I had no basis for thinking that.  He's been training like a mad man this winter/spring.  But I just had a feeling he was slowing and by the way Brandon took off and left us out of view in the span of a mile, I figured it was close to time I went around Kevin and started pushing back towards the finish.

Photo by Michael Quintal - Associated Press - North Andover Division

As we started climbing back up from the turn around, Kevin was moving OK on the ups but he was tip toe-ing on the descents.  He shouted back at me to go around him if I wanted.  He said he wasn't feeling good on the downs.  I let him know that I was content where I was at the time (we still had some climbing left) and that I'd go later on if needed.  We worked together for another half mile or so, up and over all the steep ups and downs.  A couple of stream crossings we had to hop over seemed to take the steam out of his race.  He also rolled his ankle hopping over a log.  I felt he was having a tough time and I felt great (all things considered).

Somewhere around 6-6.5 I decided to go.  I went around him on a down and pushed.  I know every inch of the course and knew I had a little up and down to come, but I was feeling great and decided to go.  In the span of a half mile or so, I had completely dropped Kevin.  On some of the peeks back, I could barely see him. I put a lot of space on him and started to focus on just holding 2nd.  This could have been my big mistake.  I was 100% sure I was at least going to get second.  I had no doubt.  I pushed on and eventually by 7 miles, I could see Brandon!  He looked to be almost jogging up ahead through the woods.  As I passed by some of the runners who were still on the course heading out, they even told me that he wasn't that far ahead.  By 7.5 I thought that I may be able to get close.  By 8 miles I thought I was possibly in contention to win.  By 8.5, that tone changed.  I started to peek back and noticed to my surprise (even as I was still gaining on Brandon) that Kevin was starting to charge and come back to me.  I had been asleep at the wheel and got content at catching Brandon, but not holding off Kevin. I was slowing and had lost momentum.  By the steep uphill near the 2/8 mile marks, Kevin's footfalls were now in earshot.  I could hear the very recognizable clearing of his throat as he was breathing.  It was only a matter of time.  

Right as I hit the 9 mile mark, I moved over a bit and Kevin blew passed me.  I told him that Brandon was just up ahead and he could catch him.  He responded for me to go with him.  I think if I made that decision, I would have maybe finished differently, but hindsight.... I told him I was done and convinced myself that I was.  I am just not in race mode yet and I folded.  I settled and Kevin took off on his torrid pace.  He was killing it over the last couple miles.  Something inside of me was pleased to see it, even though I knew I was throwing in the towel for no reason other than I didn't want to feel the pain that he was obviously feeding off of.  Over the last 5 minutes, I watched as he pulled away and moved closer and closer to Brandon who was almost in arms reach now. In the end, I rolled across the line almost 2 minutes slower than last year in 1:01:01.  38 seconds behind Brandon and 22 seconds behind Kevin.  My prediction of no one under 60 was definitely spot on.  I was pleased about finishing where I thought I would before the race... but had mixed feelings about thinking I was not only going to be 2nd, but also might win, not even 20 minutes earlier... All in all, I was definitely pleased I could actually run faster than a jog, which is what I've seemingly been doing for that was a plus.

Photo by J-Paw

A cooldown on the course again w/ a good pack of guys, mostly talking w/ Sam Jurek (who fell and was all bloodied), for about 2 miles...  15 miles for the day.  I knew that would be my last run until Monday. I was fully planning on not being able to walk on Sunday :).

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11 (Friday)

April 11 (Friday) - Late afternoon 8 miles (57:29) with Kevin Tilton. Yes...Kevin Tilton.  Haven't seen or heard from this guy in ages.  He's been training in secret and getting in monster shape.  At least someone is up here.  We did a nice road loop from the Jr. High.  Eventually made our way up past Tin Mountain and the Darby Field Inn and dropped down onto the Kanc and headed back. I got both town lines (Albany/Conway). It was incredibly warm.  In the low 60s.  Lots of exposed snow took a major hit in the open areas like the fields at the school...

A snow covered Mt. Washington from the Jr. High parking lot.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10 (Thursday)

April 10 (Thursday) - Late run again after work. Almost didn't get out.  Nice weather but slightly chilly when I headed out.  Everything is still snow and mud so I stuck to the roads and went up E.Madison to Maple Grove/Pound/Moddock Hill/Colby Hill and did the loop w/ 1000ft of elevation gain in 8 miles in the 'neighborhoods' near my house.  56:51 for the loop.  Nice and relaxed.  Didn't work it but felt beat up during and after.  Muscles just are not recovering at all.  Feeling my age + 15-20 years.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9 (Wednesday)

April 9 (Wednesday) - Legs still trashed but managed 10 miles on 2 runs just because.  Just feel really banged up even doing slow miles.  Hit up 4 VERY easy miles at lunch on a beautiful day.  Out and back down to Silver Lake.  Then did 6 more miles later on after work in 41:40 (out and back up/down E.Madison Rd.).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 8 (Tuesday)

April 8 (Tuesday) - Raining and crappy out but relatively warm.  Everything is either rotten snow or mud.  The fog from the melting/evaporating snow was crazy-thick.  I headed out aimlessly and found myself parking in the mud off of Potter Rd. in Eaton and doing (or trying to do) and out and back.  I got about 3 miles up Potter Rd. to the point where it really wasn't plowed.  I tried to continue but was punching through snow and deep mud.  I turned and headed back down, then did and out and back to the Eaton Town Hall on the main roads.  8 miles total (57:21).

The infamous Potter Rd. (looking back up towards the entrance and Rt. 153)

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7 (Monday)

April 7 (Monday) - Headed out late after work and didn't have too much time in, but got over to the Lower Nanamocomuck Ski Trail in Albany, NH for a rip on the trails.  I'm not quite sure what I was expecting.  I half expected there maybe to be some 'trails' but instead it was just a ton of rotten snow.  I tried to handle it with the Microspikes but no dice. I had to turn around and head back after about a half mile of postholing.  I threw on the Dions and headed back out for more but it was just too awful.  Postholing and near falling on my face continuously.  Turned back after not too long and called it a day after only 3 miles of torture (and 30:11).

The road isn't quite open yet...

Lower Falls from the opposite side

Maybe the last ride on the Dions until the fall/winter?  Maybe...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6 (Sunday)

April 6 (Sunday) - Worked out in the shed all day building a workbench and organizing the winter mess into a Spring mess.  By the time I finished the project, it was 6pm. My back was killing me.  I still got out for 7 miles easy on the roads. I'm glad I went when I did though...I saw something I've never seen before and I'm not sure I ever will again.  As I was running up E.Madison Rd. near the junction of Granite and Maple Grove, I saw 5 nice white tail deer run about 30 yards in front of me across the street.  They stopped about 20 feet down Granite rd. and turned and stared me down as I went by.  About 400 yards up the road on the other side, stood 7 more...just chillin' and watching me.  When I stopped, they turned and ran into the woods on the other side.  That was cool (so I thought) that I had seen 12 deer in the matter of about a minute or two.  However, that was NOTHING compared to what I saw at the top of E.Madison, in the field just before Goe Hill.  I stopped in awe and at first thought that for some reason there was a ton fake deer standing in the field as they were all staring at me and none were moving.  Then, as I stopped for a moment, one moved.  Then I saw another.  I quickly started counting. 82!  EIGHTY TWO more.  And by the time I had finished, I notice some more in the woods but I could not make them out to accurately count those.  I could not believe how many there were and they were all within 100 yards of me.  Then a couple started to run and the rest got spooked and they all turned almost at once and bolted.  I don't think I've ever seen that many of the same animal like that all together with the exception of maybe birds.... 94 deer in about a half mile span of my run.

In 'running' news, the big item of the day wasn't Bekele's Paris run (where he debuted with a 2:05) no.  It was my course record at the Great Bay Half being challenged but NOT taken down.  It lives another year (as weak as it is).  Northwood NH's Derek Hamel ran seemingly uncontested and won by 3 minutes but missed my CR by 27 seconds.  Whew!  I was kind of hoping Jason Porter was going to show up again this year and finally get his W. :).

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 5 (Saturday)

April 5 (Saturday) - Had a rough night with Tabby being up with a bad stomach ache until real late (we almost decided to make a late night trip to the doctors).  It's very draining emotionally and physically when you see your child in distress like that.  She wouldn't stop crying and flailing's heartbreaking.  We were up very late and finally after some medicine, she calmed down and we were able to put her to bed.  I woke up to the sound of the snow plow, plowing our street first thing in the morning after some wet snow.  By the time I started doing things around the house and eventually got outside, it was very nice out.  After a couple trips to the dump and organizing the winter mess in the shed, I spent some time w/ Tabby while Kristin was out.  By the time I got out the door it was nearly 6pm.  I got in 10.6 miles on the roads down along Silver Lake (out and back), solo. I can not wait until the weather starts behaving itself and acting like April.  It still looks like mid-winter out there...but it is starting to feel just a little bit like Spring...

Tabby feeling better and buried in her animals.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4 (Friday)

April 4 (Friday) - Ran from the house up to meet Darin about halfway up Lead Mine.  Then we turned and ran back towards my house and then turned, ran back to his house, and then I ran home solo.  So basically aimlessly back and forth on E.Madison Rd. and Lead Mine for 8.6 miles total (about 3.5 or so with Darin).  VERY easy recovery day.  1:08:23.  No issues w/ the hamstring/calf surprisingly...
considering it happens more frequently when I'm running easy.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3 (Thursday)

April 3 (Thursday) - My house up 113 into Albany and then around Tabor Circle and back.  About 650 ft of elevation in 10.25 miles (1:09:12).  Started out slow and worked into it but kept it really smooth. My calf/behind the knee popped (feels like tendons or something releasing) again about 3.5 in. I made the decision to push forward and see what happens.  Every time this happens, it doesn't happen again but I stop running because I don't want to have it happen again.  This time I figured I'd see.  It didn't happen again and I didn't ease up on the effort. I just ran through it after hopping a step or two as it first happened.  Admittedly I didn't stretch or roll before I ran today (like I have been) so that could have been part of it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2 (Wednesday)

April 2 (Wednesday) - Down in E.Wakefield again helping my Dad get settled again and brought the girls down.  Had a nice dinner w/ the parents and Tabby got to visit w/ the grandparents after not seeing them since December.  Before dinner I decided to venture out for a run on the back roads of  E.Wakefield / Acton ME.  It was treacherous getting in and out from their place on the private road (which was all ice and snow and mud). Once out on the main road, I headed up Acton Ridge Rd. into Acton and then eventually hooked a right down onto the 'H' road for a bit (5 out and 5 back).  I had digestive distress about half way through and then the rest of the time.  I had to stop twice in the woods and sift through thigh-deep snow to settle into an inconspicuous place to do my business... A solid hilly 10 miles in 1:07:46.  944 feet of elevation gain.  Solid run for the effort I put in, the stomach issues, and the course.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1 (Tuesday)

April 1 (Tuesday) - 2 hours of shoveling, chipping ice, and carrying things.  Cross training.  My parents came back from their winter vacation and were opening up the house...helped my father late in the day down at the lake in E.Wakefield with shoveling snow, chipping away ice, and unloading the truck.  By the time we were finished it was late and I was pretty tired.  It was an amazing day out.  Super warm and sunny and clear.  I thought about stopping on the way out in Ossipee somewhere for a run as I did have my stuff with me, but I decided to bag it.  Good start to April ;).

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31 (Monday)

March 31 (Monday) - Gave Doc Brown a ride to drop off his car in Albany and then we ran from Albany Service Center up 113 to Colby Hill and then up Colby Hill to Moddock Hill and then up and over past Mooney Hill / Glines Hill to Pound. Up and down Pound and then across Maple Grove and back down E.Madison Rd. + a tad at the end to make 10 miles.  A solid 10 with 1038 ft of elevation gain.  We had a couple of slow miles (Darin hates climbing) but worked the downs and flats.  1:12:36 for the hilly 10.  Lots of very soft mud and dirt roads... good effort for sure.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30 (Sunday)

March 30 (Sunday) - Very late getting out the door on an awful day weather-wise.  Light snow, sleet, drizzle, and tons of melting snow and mud.  Just really not an outdoors kind of day...but it was relatively warm (not as warm as previous couple days but not bad).  I headed out the door at about 6:10pm and did the Maple Grove loop I did earlier in the week w/ 1000 feet of climbing over an 8 mile loop in the 'neighborhoods' out behind our area.  It's mostly dirt road with the exception of the E.Madison Rd. stretch.  E. Madison Rd. is basically a big pile of broken and cracked concrete right now.  It's looking almost as bad as my old road in Salem...maybe worse.  The town is redoing the entire road this year, so that is great news... hopefully no sinkholes open up.....but that's kind of what it looks like is happening.  I felt ok on the loop but didn't go too hard, especially on the climbs.  I was nowhere close to the time I ran on Tuesday. I finished up in 56:54, which isn't too bad for taking it 'easy' over 1000 ft of climbing on icy and muddy dirt roads.  3 minutes slower than Tuesday but I wasn't trying to go too hard so I'll take it.  I was just trying to get back before dark.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29 (Saturday)

March 29 (Saturday) - Met up with Kevin Tilton and Peter Haine in the parking lot of UNH Trail / Downes Brook Trail off the Kanc.   I'd already done this loop before with Kevin in April of 2012.  I've done most of the trails in this section already (my heaviest travelled section of the AMC guide for sure) but it was great to get out again and get some climbing in (and some fun descending) on the snowshoes.

The plan was to do the 5 mile loop up to Al Bernier's ledge and then East Ledges and up and over Hedgehog Mtn. and back down.  A pretty tame, short loop, but it's got some good views of Passaconaway and the surrounding area.  The weather was also amazing (nice and warm) but that made the footing pretty soft.  We were constantly crashing through and wiping out (even on the snowshoes).  I had 70 minutes for the 5 miles (stopping the watch).  I think Kevin had about 90 minutes including the stops, on his watch.  It's a great loop for something short and moderately challenging.  Photos below by KT. Video with my GoPro.

Pete and I with Passaconaway in the distance...

Trying to stay on my feet...

Rollin' across the top...

'Stepping in Pete's hole'...

Kevin and I (I outweigh him by 30 lbs now I think)...

Pete and I on the way up...

Rolling across the top ledges...

Pete and I heading down...

Pete on the ascent...

The Ascent:

The Descent: (Good wipeouts at 1:15, 3:45, 6:35, 8:00, 11:05, 12:15, and some others spread out through...)

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28 (Friday)

March 28 (Friday) - Just over 7 miles on snowmobile trails late in the day.  It was relatively warm today and the snow was evaporating for the first time in a while...  The trails were in good shape down in Goodwin Town Forest and the Airstrip.  Did it nice and easy with Orocs on.  No need for snowshoes today as the snow was packed thin on top of ice (with plenty of snow still underneath)... Ran out, across the airstrip, then back around in a nice loop + just a little bit on icy Lead Mine rd.  Weather was pleasant and the rain had stopped by the time I got out.  Leg was OK but I was running really slow.  Didn't see one person or sled the whole time.  Heard a couple of snowmobiles when I got back to the car but couldn't make out where they were coming from.

Trail cutting over to the airstrip.  Running water on both sides...

Trail cutting over to the airstrip.  Usually this is flooded by beaver dams in the summer.

Looking south in the first part of the airstrip.

Looking back north, about halfway down the long strip.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27 (Thursday)

March 27 (Thursday) - Off.  Hamstring/calf was sore and I decided to try to ice, stretch, and rest it rather than chase meaningless slow miles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26 (Wednesday)

March 26 (Wednesday) - Doc Brown swung by for a spin on the roads of Madison and Silver Lake.  The plan was to do the 11 mile loop up High Street but 4 miles out my hamstring/calf tweaked slightly again. I immediately turned and headed back but didn't stop. It didn't reoccur but I wanted to be safe. My legs are trashed...I feel like I just raced Cranmore this past weekend...holy cow. Completely dead legs... We got back to the house and added on a bit for a solid 9 miles in cold, blustery conditions.  I had 2 pairs of tights on...2 shirts and a jacket.  I have had to avoid black ice continuously over the past two days and the snowbanks are still taller than me.  Today the town plows were going by and plowing back the snowbanks on my road (probably in anticipation of more snow)... What the hell is going on?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25 (Tuesday)

March 25 (Tuesday) - Headed out the door after work for a small loop but ended up extending it a bit.  Went from my house, up E.Madison Rd and then hooked left on Maple Grove and went up to Pound, up Pound and down and over to Colby Hill and then back down to 113.  A very hilly 8 mile loop (had to extend just past my house to make 8) in 53:46 .  And by hills I mean 1000 ft of elevation gain...not to mention the icy dirt roads for half of it.  Solid effort, all things considered.  I forgot how little I've done hills this winter until this...

Still, coming home all banged up and sore, I get to smile as I'm greeted by this little one each time...I never thought someone could be so excited to see me and come running every time I open the door!

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24 (Monday)

March 24 (Monday) - Very sore from the weekend.  Just shy of 23 miles on snowshoes total between the two days really beat up the legs.  I worked late and then headed down to the mill for just an easy 5 miles in 45 minutes and called it an evening.  Everything was just very sore.  No real issues other than I felt like I raced. I got to get back into shape!