Thursday, January 27, 2011

Training 01-24 to 1-30

Wrap Up: 70.5 miles. OK week, lower than I wanted, but I can't complain...the way the snow has piled up around here and the way I've felt all week after 2 hard race efforts (including Derry) last weekend, I am good with the mileage this week.  I kind of needed a little bit of a rest I think, and my body was telling me so.  I don't want to get rundown. I had 2 good races this weekend and was taught a lesson by a much stronger runner on Saturday. A wakeup call that I'll hopefully remember when things get tough again in the snow.  I hope to get a little more miles in this week and maybe a long run mid-week if there are any takers out there that would like to join me...Race writeups to come...

01-30 - Sunday: 10 miles as: 4 mile road warmup w/ DD + snowshoe strides and extended warmup due to a late start of the race [32:00] + Race: Curly's Record Run - Pittsfield, MA [30:56] + 2 mile cooldown on roads w/ Tim Mahoney and DD [17:16].

01-29 - Saturday: 8 miles as: 3 mile road warmup and then snowshoe strides and warming up on the Dions - w/ Kevin Tilton, Charlie T. before Sidehiller, Center Sandwich, NH [24:00] + 4 mile race: Sidehiller Snowshoe Race - Center Sandwich, NH [31:53] + 1 mile cooldown on groomed snowmobile trail (but with trail shoes).

01-28 - Friday: 9 miles (roads) in Andover, MA.  First 5 w/ Dan Verrington, Dave Dunham, and Andy King + another 4 with Andy King [1:08:00].

01-27 - Thursday: 14.5 miles (roads) in Andover, MA.  First 25 minutes solo and some with MQ around Merrimack College campus + 11.2 m loop in Andover w/ Dan Vassallo, MQ, and Chris Healey [1:44:08] The amount of snow piled up out there is amazing...

01-26 - Wednesday: 8 miles (roads) in Salem, Methuen. Didn't even feel like getting out the door today...just a really sluggish, awful day and I felt really tired.  I got to bed late and had a busy work day.  By the time I got out the door, it was getting dark and the snow was starting to fly. I wandered around various weird loops and down streets I've never run down before (most were dead ends).  I wanted to go 10-11 but once I got back past my house, I was right at 8 miles and pulled on in instead of continuing onward.  Better than a zero, but I probably needed a rest day anyways. [54:06]

01-25 - Tuesday: 12.5 miles (roads) in Lawrence, MA - around industrial park roads with Chris Healey for 4+ miles, then hopped in a workout group for relatively easy hills (did the workout with my sister)...didn't really keep track of time intervals...I just kept the watch running and went up and down with her in a range of 60-90 second hills and then some shorter continuous repeats (she had close to 10 miles on her Garmin by the time the workout was over but that included her warmup, so the actual time on the hills was probably closer to 7 miles for me) + the cooldown with a large group of GTD folk.  Just what the doctor ordered after this weekend's hard efforts... some steady running and some hills but not a full fledged workout effort.  [1:30:00]

01-24 - Monday: 8.5 miles (roads) in Andover, MA - from Merrimack College w/ Head Track Coach Matt Pimentel and John Hincheon. Calves still really sore/tight from the weekend... Matt asked me how my legs were from the races and when I told him they were hurting, he took off on us... He'll be in 1:08 shape by New Bedford ....(2012).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boston Prep 16 Miler

A few days ago I made the decision to potentially opt out of the WMAC race this weekend (Constitution Hill in Lanesborough, MA) as it was just too much driving between two days, especially for just a 3.6 mile race.  I was already going up to North Conway to run in Kevin Tilton's Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (which is a full day of the event plus driving).  Then trip out to Lanesborough the next day would have meant even longer drives for a shorter race (distance-wise).  I decided to stay local and throw my hat into the Boston Prep 16 Miler (results) in Derry, NH on Sunday instead.  This is about 15 minutes from my house and is over a course I've done many times in the past.  I've only raced this once (back in 2009), but know how difficult this course is, no matter how fast you are going.  Back in 2009, I raced a snowshoe race the day before (like this year) but still ran OK, getting 5th.  This year, I knew that place-wise, I may have trouble duplicating that effort, but time-wise, I wanted to run faster.  I wasn't really feeling the race from Saturday in my legs and felt pretty strong going into Sunday morning.

When I arrived at the school and starting area, I had trouble finding a spot to park and eventually wound up behind the building in a super-secret parking lot that only one car had found so far...unfortunately it was the furthest spot from the actual registration area.  I was surprised to find Mike Quintal there, getting ready for the race.  We walked up to registration, picked up our numbers, and met up with Jim Pawlicki and Andie Colon for a warmup over the first mile of the course.  It was pretty cold out, but not enough to make me want to wear the face mask again.  It would be tolerable...I was just hoping my hands didn't freeze...everything else felt OK.  After warming up, I met up with the infamous Josh Ferenc who was rockin' the sweet half-tights and talking about course records, breaking Pat's spine, etc.  The typical pre-race hype that comes with having him show up to races...  I tried to box him in at the start, but it was no use.

As the gun went off, the 600+ people set out on what has to be one of the tougher courses for road racing in New England...especially at this type of distance.  The hills are pretty much all over this course, but they are especially bad around 5 miles, and 9-12 miles.  Miles 10 and 11 are pretty brutal and typical 5-something per mile paces are reduced (or increased) to well over 6 during this stretch.  Couple that with the wind in the later miles, and the single digit temperatures on almost a yearly basis (and some slick road conditions), and this race gets challenging.  Because of the random patches of ice and snow, I decided to go with my Inov-8 x-talon 212s and it ended up being a great choice.  Even though they are a trail shoe, the big lugs on the bottom, coupled with the sticky rubber and the incredible overall comfort of the shoe made it a great choice.  They aren't that bad even on dry pavement.

The first couple miles were as expected.  Pat Moulton, last year's winner, set out as he usually does, marching to his own drummer and laying down near 5 minute miles...My guess is that the ghost of his brother Casey Moulton's record was looming in his mind during the first parts of the race.  Unfortunately, without a guy like Casey or even a John Mortimer in the race (or a late-90s Dave Dunham), nobody would be helping Pat try to go after that record.  I certainly didn't make any attempts to stay with him early (and sink any chance of having a good race for me)... Ferenc went out with me for the first mile and then started to motor.  I watched him get further and further away, then seem to come back a few steps every once in a while... Once we hit the hills after mile 4,5 or so, he started to pull away from me.  He climbs like there's no tomorrow.  I began thinking that 3rd place would be the best goal to shoot for at this point and just tried to maintain the same distance I had over the next guy, whom I could see every once in a while in the rearview... For the first 3-4 miles or so, it was Ryan Aschbrenner.  He was about as far back of me as I was of Josh for quite a while.  Then, once we hit the hills, I could no longer see anyone behind me due to the nature of the course and it's twisty, hilly roads.

From miles 6-9, you can really motor, as there are some good downhill and flat sections.  This is where I put some distance on the field, which I certainly needed to before the hills kick in at 10+ miles.  I passed the halfway mark (8 miles) in around 44:56 or so, but that was the fastest half of the race by far.  At just before 8 miles, I ran by Krissy K on the side of the road snapping some great pictures and offering some word of encouragement.  A little while later, as you turn past the 8 mile mark, I passed the elder Quintal who gave me some words of wisdom and told me that Ferenc looked to be flailing a bit...but I knew that Josh was losing me the more the race went on.  He may have looked like he was hurting, but he was really just putting the hurt on me!  Just past the 9 mile mark, you have the ungodly misfortune of running into Drew Rd. and a heartbreaker of a hill.  That mile would actually match my slowest of the day (the other being the big Warner Hill Rd. hill).  By the time I got to the top of that hill (which does have the steepest section of climb on the course, but isn't the longest hill), I couldn't really see Josh at all anymore.

Once past that hilly 9th mile, it was down to the 10 mile mark, where I came through in 56:53 (A good first 10 miles for this course I will say). On the long downhill just past 10, I think is the last time I actually saw the yellow of Josh's BAA uniform (if you enlarge the photo above, you'll see him in yellow, way up ahead (just off my left elbow).  From this point on, after you get down the bottom of that hill just after 10 miles, it is all uphill in a series of maybe 4 big climbs from miles 11-12.5 or so.  This is the killer section that can make or break your race.  For Josh, it was definitely a well positioned section of the course..for me, it was probably a wash. I didn't really struggle up the climbs, but I didn't really rock them either. I kind of just went through the motions here and kept the last 3 miles of the course in the back of my mind.  I wanted to have enough left in the tank to work those last 3 miles, one of which (mile 13) is usually horribly windy.

Once I made it up and past the Warner Hill Rd. section of the course and back down to the 13 mile mark, I was actually pretty bummed to see my 13th mile was not under 6.  Yes, there is still some climb, but I figured that 11 and 12 would obviously be over 6 and the rest I would be able to salvage sub 6s on, but it wasn't to be.  13 and 14 were really windy, with 14 being just over the top.  It felt like 2 steps forward, 1 step back. During that mile, it is a long, straight, exposed section of road (with a big open field on the left side of the road) where the wind just rips across and straight at you.  Mile 14 is essentially flat, but I ran my 3rd slowest mile there because of the wind.  The good thing about that section of the course though is the fact that you can see over a quarter mile back at least, at the tail end of that section.  I couldn't make out anyone behind me as I took the turn off of that section and started mile 15.

My 15th mile was my fastest mile and I think most people were in the same boat.  I managed a 5:13 on this section of course w/ some flat and minor downhill sections, coupled with a nice tailwind.  When I went through 15, I had my first thoughts of being able to hold 3rd place, as I couldn't see anyone else behind me.  Little did I know that Tim Catoggio was killing the last 3+ miles and catching me...but my initial lead was a bit too much for him to come into my rearview.  I struggled a bit on the last mile, as the roads were pretty bad on this section.  There was lots of snow and ice, coupled with a couple of small hills.  My right eye also started to actually freeze closed.  I had to keep rubbing my eye to keep it open and my vision was getting blurred.  By this time, my face was just completely frozen and I couldn't feel my lips, nose, etc.  I was just reaching for the finishline at that point. I felt OK otherwise... no cramping, no pain or issues anywhere... I didn't take any water or GU or anything in the race.  I think that was a bad idea, but it didn't come back to haunt me thank goodness.  I think if the race was any longer, I would have needed it for sure.  16 miles is enough where I can get by without it.  It's good to know now, seeing we have a half marathon coming up soon.

In the end, I rolled up to the finish in 1:32:46, which is 3:08 faster than I ran in 2009, so yes I will take it!  I've said it before and I'll say it again, any year I'm faster than the year before in the same race, I'll gladly take it... Also, finishing in the top 3 was a surprise.  A couple guys I know that were planning on going, ended up being sick and didn't go, giving me a better chance to get a top 3 spot.  Patrick Moulton is in a different category when it comes to local racing...he's a national talent and there are only a select few guys that can even run with him for even part of the race, in distances ranging from 5k to the marathon.  It was no surprise that he just went out and ran his race from the very beginning, putting everyone else in their rightful place (and out of the top spot). Josh has represented the USA in the world championships for mountain running and can run uphill better than most people can run down them.  He's also just a really strong runner, no matter what the terrain (snow, trails, mountains, tracks, roads).  I wasn't surprised that he ran up in 2nd the whole time.  I was just thankful to be able to stay ahead of the rest of the guys in this talented top group.

Top 15 Overall (CMS Racing Team Members in Blue):

Place Name Age City/State Time Pace
1 Patrick Moulton     29 PROVIDENCE RI 1:28:31 5:32
2 Joshua Ferenc       29 BELLOWS FALLS VT 1:30:40 5:40
3 Jim Johnson         33 SALEM NH 1:32:46 5:48
4 Timothy Catoggio    25 SOUTH BOSTON MA 1:35:04 5:57
5 Kevin Gravina       32 CAMBRIDGE  MA 1:36:08 6:01
6 Ryan Aschbrenner    33 NASHUA NH 1:36:53 6:04
7 Kyle Powers         21 WATERFORD VT 1:37:36 6:06
8 James Pawlicki      36 BEVERLY MA 1:37:46 6:07
9 Humberto Rodriguez  24 MANCHESTER NH 1:37:59 6:08
10 Andie Colon         29 METHUEN MA 1:39:23 6:13
11 Jeffrey Cole        32 BIDDEFORD ME 1:40:03 6:16
12 Mike Quintal        32 N ANDOVER MA 1:40:17 6:17
13 David Lamoureux     30 LAKEVILLE MA 1:40:26 6:17
14 Jason Dunklee       37 WATERTOWN MA 1:40:41 6:18
15 Patrick Connelly    47 CHESTER NH 1:40:51 6:19

669 Total Finishers.

Splits: 16 Miles - 1:32:46 / 5:48 pace - Very hilly course

Mile 1) 5:53
Mile 2) 5:34
Mile 3) 5:15
Mile 4) 5:30
Mile 5) 6:09 - w/ Kilrea Rd. Hill
Mile 6) 5:23
Mile 7) 5:35
Mile 8) 5:37
Mile 9) 5:38
Mile 10) 6:17 - w/ Drew Rd. Hill
Mile 11) 6:17 - Hills
Mile 12) 6:12 - Hills
Mile 13) 6:03 - wind
Mile 14) 6:08 - ridiculous wind
Mile 15) 5:13 - MY second wind and some downhill/flat/tailwind
Mile 16) 5:53 - Eyes freezing shut...just looking for the finish line at that point.

Photos of the race courtesy of Krissy K! Check out the photoset here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Race

On Saturday I headed up to North Conway, NH to run the Kevin Tilton production of the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (results).  This was a 4 mile trackmeet of a snowshoe race and was Kevin's first snowshoe race as a Race Director.  It is also the second race in the 2011 Granite State Snowshoe Series.  It was held right in downtown North Conway (if there is such a thing) in Whitaker Woods, which has a great combination of groomed ski trails and winding single track (about 3 miles of groomed trails and 1 mile of single track).

I motored on up there in just a couple of hours and was pleased to see some indoor facilities, as it was about 6 degrees out.  More and more usual suspects including a large TNT contingent and the obvious Acidotic crew were in attendance.  This included new Acidotic stud Judson Cake, who has ripped numerous quick marathons under 2:25 including a 2:22 effort at Hyannis last year.  He is getting ready for a big comeback in the snowshoe/trail/mountain scene and will be a force for sure.  Acidotic also picked up another elite guy recently, in Ryan Kelly, and with CMS/Acidotic crossover Tim Cox and Geoff "I actually didn't have to work today" Cunningham both there, it was making me think this could and should be a solid field with anyone contending for podium spots...Couple all this with Kevin Tilton racing as well, and it was anyone's race.  We warmed up with a good crew of guys over the course and realized it was going to be pretty darn fast, with all the groomed trail. Kevin definitely picked out a race that suited my strengths (thanks Kev!).

As the race begun, it was apparent that there were a lot of pretty fast guys here and everyone jumped out pretty good off the line.  I struggled for a few seconds to get my position and clipped a couple of heels, but I finally broke free of being boxed in off the start and moved up to the front.  I turned around and asked the field if anyone was interested in calling it a 6-way tie right away, but I'm lucky there were no takers, but I did get a couple of chuckles.  I continued to press on, with what sounded like Kevin right on my heels.  It didn't take long (maybe even before the start of the first climb) before I started to break free from the field.  As I took the first climb, I opened up a little bit of a lead and started to look back to see who was next.  Expecting to see Kevin, I was surprised to see Judson Cake next in line on the start of the climb and Kevin behind him.  I continued to push forward and felt pretty strong on the climbs, but wasn't killing it early because I wasn't familiar with the later parts of the course.

Eventually, the climbing is over and on the way down the groomed ski trail, you get to see a phenomenal view of snowcovered Mt. Washington right before you quickly dart left into the single track section.  This section was relatively fast and the single track really was kind of more double-track than anything.  The snow was a little loose and sloppy but not bad and there was enough tracks in the snow most times, to be able to settle in and still maintain.  There were mile markers out there, but I missed the first couple.  I was too busy worrying about Kevin and Judson and a slew of other guys in the field to try to get splits.  The course went in and out of groomed trails and single track but was a great mix and made for a very interesting race.  There was a second batch of climbs and then mostly rolling downs and single track.  I continued to glance back and got to a point where I could no longer see anyone behind me.  There were a couple of spots where I started to go the wrong way, getting a little confused with a couple of flaggings that I missed, but I quickly realized after only a few seconds of each mistake, that I was off course.  Surprisingly, I did this in two spots pretty early in the race, where luckily right after you go wrong, you realize it because there are no longer any course markings.  A bunch of people went wrong, later in the race, on more confusing parts of the course.

At one point along the power lines, I came out, down a good, fast descent on groomed trail and then switched back and started running up against the same trail, with only a thin barrier of trees between the two.  Thin enough to see right through and find out how far back people were.  Towards the end of the trail, right before it hooks back into another section of single track, I saw Kevin appear from the other side along with Judson right on his heels.  It seemed like enough distance back, as the switchback section is a long way down and back up.  Over the last stretch of the course, it switches between single track and groomed trail and each time I was back on the single track I'd get a great feeling of strong and confident running...but that quickly went away each time I turned onto the sloppy single track.  Fortunately the last bit of single track is the fastest of the day and nicely packed down.  I eventually came up past a sign that said '1/2 mile to go' and then some people taking pictures and skiing.  I knew I was close.  I came out onto the field and got confused for a few seconds on where to go, but quickly kept saying to myself, as I had the whole race, that the 'flags were always on the left' I started the last big loop around the field and finished up strong in 26:53, which is a great effort for this rolling 4 mile course in close to single digit temps.  Judson Cake and Kevin both emerged from the woods fairly close to each other and once again, for the second week in a row, Kevin was outdueled by his nearest competitor by 9 seconds, as Judson was able to hold him off for 2nd.

Top 10 (CMS in blue):

Place First Last Age Club Time
1 Jim Johnson 33 CMS/Inov8/Dion 26:53
2 Judson Cake 33 Acidotic 28:00
3 Kevin Tilton 29 CMS/Inov8/Dion 28:09
4 Tim Cox 37 Acidotic 28:51
5 Ryan Kelly 29 Acidotic 29:29
6 Dave Dunham 46 CMS 29:39
7 Sean Snow 44 29:59
8 Danny Ferreira 28 Acidotic 30:10
9 Robert Jackman 28 TNT 30:21
10 Scott Hornney 45 30:48

49 Total brave souls...

After the race was done, we all changed and a big group of us including DD, Judson, Tim Cox, Paul Bazanchuk, and Geoff Cunningham all did the course one last time, picking up the flags and ribbons for Kevin.

For my win, I got a $25 gift card to Kevin's personal hangout (Moat Mountain) and a nifty snow-conditions measuring device that his wife Jess made.  Pretty sweet (check it out below)...

Race photos by Gianina Lindsey can be seen here. I used some of these great photos from her photo set in the above entry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Training 01-17 to 1-23

Wrap Up: 81 miles for the week.  2 good races (one snowshoe, one road) and one decent workout (hills and tempo work). I feel pretty good right now. Legs are trashed from the racing this weekend though.  Next couple days will probably be straight mileage at a relatively easy pace to allow me to recover for some more snowshoe activity this coming weekend.  I hope it warms up soon, but I doubt it will...

01-23 - Sunday: 20 miles (roads) - Derry, NH.  2 mile w/up with J.Pawlicki, M.Quintal, A.Colon (15:00) + 16 mile race - Boston Prep 16 Miler - Derry, NH (3rd OA behind Patrick Moulton and Josh Ferenc) (1:32:46) - A BRUISER of a course as anyone who has run it will tell you.  2 mile SLOW cooldown with Andie and Ryan Aschbrenner (16:00).  Legs are beat.

01-22 - Saturday: 11 miles (snowshoes and snow running) - North Conway, NH.  3 mile warmup (including strides) [26:00] w/ Tim Cox and Judson Cake on the course at Whitaker Woods in North Conway + Race: Whitaker Woods 4 Mile Snowshoe Scramble (1st OA) [26:53] + cooldown in shoes but over the course with Tim Cox, Judson Cake, Geoff Cunningham, Dave Dunham, and Paul Bazanchuk, picking up flags and signs.  [45:00].

01-21 - Friday: 8 miles (roads and a snow covered school parking lot) with Matt Pimentel, aka Matt Pimenter, aka Matt Pimental, aka Matt Pimentol - Andover, MA.   [57:56]

For those who haven't seen this on Facebook already... A great video of Bob Dion's racket up in VT:

Snowshoe Maker from WGBY on Vimeo.

01-20 - Thursday: 12 miles (t-mill for 1 mile + walking at my stress test in the morning...all between 12 and 20 percent grade.  The last mile + I was running at a good clip on 20% grade...calling it a mile of total running) + 11 miles (roads) w/ Mike Quintal in N.Andover.  11 by Mike's Garmin. [1:29:02]

01-19 - Wednesday: 12.5 miles (roads). Andover (hill/tempo workout) w/ Merrimack track team. Snowy, icey roads...snowed the entire time.  2 mile warmup + 4 x 4min tempo (5:20 pace) with 1 minute jog in between into 10 x 1 minute hills (90 seconds back down for recovery) + 3 minute run for rest after hills into 4 x 2min tempo (5:20 pace) with 1 minute jog in between + cooldown back to the school. [1:25:21]

Newly posted video from this past weekend's fun out in Albany, NY.

01-18 - Tuesday: 5 miles (snowshoe).  Haverhill (Winni trails) w/ Dave Dunham.  Normally I would be peeved right about now with a 5 mile day, but it was 5 miles on snowshoes in some interesting conditions.  It was basically raining ice and some of the trails were untravelled since all the latest snow we've had... A good solid effort on a horrendous day.  Very tempted to buy a new mill.... [47:00]

01-17 - Monday: 12.5 miles (roads).  1.3 miles (solo) around me casa + 11.2 loop w/ Chris Mahoney - Salem, Methuen, Pelham (Harris' Pelham Inn Loop). COLD! [1:30:00]. Working on race writeups from this weekend, but here's a cool video from some guys out at Greylock on Saturday (not the race footage, but footage of the area).  We saw these guys (and many others) hiking up Greylock with their skis and snowboards....I forget how long they said it took them to get up there, but I think it was LONG.  It seems well worth it though...a good long ride down the Thunderbolt...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greylock Glen and Brave the Blizzard

It's was that time of year again where I travel out west to do the Greylock/Brave the Blizzard double header.  It's two snowshoe races (one in Adams, MA and the other in Guilderland, NY) that are part of the WMAC / Dion Snowshoe series.  I've done this double now, three times.  The first two years (2009, 2010) were with Dave Dunham.  This year, because of his latest injury, I made the trip out solo, but got to spend time with Tim VanOrden at Fay Farm in Bennington, VT between races, which allowed me to save loot on a hotel room as it is in the middle of both venues.

Saturday: Greylock Glen Snowshoe Race - Adams, MA (results).

I headed out the door for the 2:30 or so drive to Adams, MA and Mount Greylock (for those of you who don't know, is the highest peak in MA at 3489 ft). The Greylock Glen Snowshoe race is held in the Glen, which is the surrounding area (State Park) around the base of the mountain.  I was one of the first to pull in on this relatively mild day, weather-wise (for this race). After registering and waiting around a bit while others filed in, I started to hear that Tivo may not be making it due to illness.  Tim had told me the night before that he had a stomach bug but thought he'd be fine for Sat.  The closer to racetime it got, the more I started to figure he was not going to show.  Tim Mahoney, Ross Krause, and a few others were in attendance though, which was going to make for a pretty good group upfront.  I warmed up with Tim Mahoney (now sporting the new Dion racing gear) and Paul Bazanchuk on the roads and snowmobile trails around the Glen before heading over to get ready for the race.

As the race went off, I jumped right out to the front and put a decent distance on the field from the very beginning (but would need every inch of that lead later on)... The race started off on some nicely packed snowmobile trails, went over a small footbridge, and up a short, steep incline and crossed the road to the field on the other side.  Once past the road and onto the field (where last year's race had started and finished), the course hooked to the right and across the field in horrifically tough snow. It was more than a foot of deep powder that had only been 'shoed' in by one person (most likely Ed as he flagged the course).  I came to a near standstill on this section, as it was really tough to plow through. I figured it would get a little easier in the woods, and once you got into the single track in the woods, it was only the slightest bit faster, but not much.  It was really deep in the woods too and no one had been using the trails at all other than the RD who trekked through earlier to lay out the flags.

As I wound through the twists and turns, and up and down some challenging hills w/ some small switchbacks, etc. I found myself getting slower and slower and eventually walking on some of the really steep little climbs.  The snow was just too deep for me to keep running through it without slipping backwards.  I had the ice cleats on but it didn't matter.  You'd need 6 inch long deep cleats to get through that stuff in a running stride.  I built up a decent lead on the field, as I couldn't really see them behind me on some of the course due to the twists and turns, so I knew I was still doing alright...UNTIL I hit the major climb near halfway.  Last year, I was able to run the entire thing and out-duel Mark Miller, who ended up having to walk some of the climb.  This year, I almost had to walk the entire thing.  The snow was really deep and the one set of tracks I was trying to land in, wasn't matching my stride at all.  I was all over the place.  I tripped multiple times up the climb, only to land on my hands and chest in the deep snow.  All the while, Ross, Tim, and a couple others were mowing me down.  They were most likely able to step in a combination of my tracks + the RD's, and get by a little bit faster.  It was killing me just to try to stay ahead.  If I didn't have the lead I had, when I hit the hill, I would have been probably 4th or 5th at the top.  Ross was motoring up the hill and by the top, he had almost caught me.

As soon as you hit the top, you empty out onto a snowmobile trail that is just a long steady downhill (maybe a half mile or so).  It is an awesome thing to have after a climb like that.  The course at this point is well packed and you can run close to 6 minute pace on the way down.  I was all out trying to put distance back on Ross and the group.  By the bottom, I couldn't really see anyone behind me anymore and you empty out into a small field/parking lot (with deep snow again and one set of tracks) before dipping back into the woods for an up and down roller coaster of a single track.  The trail was again only one or two tracks in the snow.  I tried my best to keep a running gait through this part.  Eventually it crosses another road area and hits some nicely groomed snowmobile trails, where I was able to open it up.  I never saw anyone behind me during this part, but I kept looking back.  I also kept waiting for one more hill I thought was coming, but it wasn't in this years course (it was in last year's course because of the different start/end areas).  So in the end, I got lucky with no more crazy climbs ahead of me and I came down and through the finish in a relatively tight contest, with Ross not too far back and Chris Taft, who had also been running me down on the climb, right behind him.  Tim Mahoney (CMS) also had a tight finish with Ken Clark and the race for 6-9th place was extremely exciting to watch, as it was a 4 man sprint.  Erik Wight had misjudged the trail right before the last turn to the finish and had to come from behind to pass everyone in that group again to just outlean the guys at the end.

Tivo ended up arriving to watch the race and film it (but we may never see the end product ;) ) just as we got underway.  He was able to get the race as it crossed the road at the beginning and then filmed the finish.

Special thanks to Farmer Ed for putting on another great event 'out west'.  I had a great time (even though it was a bruiser!).

Photos used in this entry by Bob Birkby and Berksire Sports.

Top 10 (CMS in Blue)
Place Name Age Time
1 Jim Johnson 33 35:07
2 Ross Krause 31 36:13
3 Chris Taft 30 36:21
4 Tim Mahoney 31 38:32
5 Ken Clark 48 38:38
6 Erik Wight 51 40:54
7 Richard Teal 32 40:55
8 Jeff Dengate 33 40:56
9 Paul Bazanchuk 56 40:57
10 Eddie Habeck 33 41:13
71 George Boudreau 41 1:13:10
78 Total Finishers.

After the race, Tivo and I headed north to his humble abode in Bennington, VT.  We hung out for the afternoon at 'Fay Farm' (his family's massive c.1790 farmhouse).  I watched Tim eat all sorts of healthy crap as I sat and ate my pretzels and drank my chocolate milk.  It snowed for most of the day and the scenery was beautiful.  A very relaxing afternoon (as opposed to what DD and I usually did between these races the past couple years).

Sunday: Brave the Blizzard Snowshoe Race - Guilderland, NY (results).

Sunday, Tivo and I left Fay Farm and headed over to Guilderland, NY (just north of Albany) which is about a 45-50 minute ride.

We pulled into the parking lot of the school and immediately noticed the impressive number of racers and volunteers at this event.  The Albany Running Exchange puts on a great event here and it is a really fast, normally well groomed course that doesn't suit good climbers like DD very well..but for guys like Tim and I, it's a track meet.  Tim was obviously giving this one a go, despite his stomach issues over the past couple days.  We registered and quickly got out to run over the first and last parts of the course to get familiar with it before the race went off.  This was the third year I've done this race and it's the third time the course has been slightly different (a common occurrence with snowshoe races).  The field where you start and finish was loaded with deep snow, but it wasn't quite as bad as Greylock as far as the footing..but not great.  The trails in the woods however, were well packed by snowshoers already (and most likely Josh Merlis and his crew, who put on the event).  I noticed before we turned around, that the course goes left once you get to the main trail that was the basis for the near out-and-back course of the past couple years.  Tim told me they must have gone back to the course they had a few years ago where it went left and up around another field at the top before heading back down into more of a loop course, using many of the same trails as before.  It sounded good to me, as it meant you aren't passing by people going in the opposite direction, later in the coruse (and on a tight, single track trail). We headed back up to the start for a quick change and got ready to rock.

I had some nerves about this one, I admit.  It is the first race I have the option to 'three-peat' at this year.  I've won this race in 2009, 2010, and now this year was looking like it would be pretty tough. The only other race I had the opportunity to 'three-peat' at was Savoy and I got smoked there by David Herr and Brian Rusiecki in August.  I was hoping this wouldn't be another failed attempt at getting three 'W's in a row at the same race.  Looking around, and seeing Josh and Tivo and some others on the line (including a couple from Greylock, the day before),  I knew it wasn't going to be easy.  It's also a very fast course, so it was anyone's race to take.  Tim told me right before the start that there was a 2:27 marathoner in the field and pointed to one of the Albany guys... I jokingly said back to him 'what do you think I am?'... But I admit, that concerned me.  Anyone that can run that quick in a marathon, obviously has some endurance and could definitely give anyone a run here.  The commands were given and the race was off.

I was out relatively quick but not crazy.  Tivo was right with me and there were a couple others, including one guy who did take a few steps ahead of me before falling back pretty quickly.  By 45 seconds to a minute into the race though, Tivo and I were together up front and there were no takers.  Everyone else was way back.  The course start was different (to me) in that it goes around the entire field once first, dips into the woods a bit, does a small loop, then dumps back on the field, cuts across, and goes up the small, steep hill into the woods for the main section of the race.  By the first little part in the woods, Tivo and I had a huge lead.  Tim asked me how I felt as he was right behind me and I gave him a one word answer, 'awful'.  I did.  I felt sluggish and tired.  I got OK sleep at Tim's house, but the tough race on Saturday really took something out of me.  I actually felt stiffness and heaviness in my legs. Normally I don't feel that way after just a couple of snowshoe races.  As we cut across the field and up the hill into the trails, Tim and I both looked back and Tim said 'No Takers' and he was right.  From that point on, and for the next 5-6 minutes or so, it was Tim and I winding through the trails and then up onto the new field section.

As I made the climb up into the field, I started to put a little bit of distance on Tim and his footfalls and breathing was getting quieter and quieter.  Towards the end of the field loop, I had a decent lead and tried to keep building it from there.  The course is a great mix of fields, wide snowmobile trails, single track, and decent little hills.

From about halfway (the course was 4.16 miles) onward, I could only see Tivo on the very long, straight sections of trail.  I kept plugging away but by about 21 minutes or so, I was really starting to slow down.  I was having trouble staying loose and was just in finishing mode at that point.  There was some pretty strong headwinds on the long, straight trail section before the course heads back to the finish.  I had some problems staying on the trail during this part as I was beginning to run sloppy and the wind was blowing me around.

Once I got up past the volunteers and turned onto the last stretch, it was just some twisty, rolling single track left before you pop down onto the field again for the finish.  As you approach the field, you can begin to hear the music and the announcer.  It's a good indicator you are getting close, but it seems to take a while because of all the switchbacks in the trail.  As I came down onto the field, a photographer from the local paper was there taking pictures.  I flashed the 'three' at him as I went down the hill and across the sloppy last field section to the finish.  I was really happy to have picked up a third win at a race in 3 consecutive years.  It's not really something I think about often, but for some reason, after Savoy, I began to think about it after I figured out what races were left that I had won 2 times in a row.

Tivo came in in a strong 2nd place, even with the bad stomach, and Josh Merlis was just outkicked by a local high school standout (Connor Devine) who had to catch up to Josh and outlean him at the line in really deep, sloppy snow.  It was another exciting finish.  Josh went down face-first as he crossed the line.

Writeup from the Daily Gazette.

Top 10 (CMS in Blue)
Place Name Age City State Time Pace
1 Jim Johnson 33 Salem NH 29:42 7:10
2 Tim VanOrden 42 Bennington VT 31:08 7:31
3 Connor Devine 17 East Berne NY 32:51 7:55
4 Josh Merlis 29 Albany NY 32:51 7:55
5 Gary Fancher 49 Windsor NY 33:47 8:09
6 Thomas O'Grady 25 Latham NY 34:19 8:17
7 Jeff Dengate 33 Brooklyn NY 34:21 8:17
8 Ahmed Elasser 48 Latham NY 34:42 8:22
9 Ken Clark 48 Somers CT 35:02 8:27
10 Brian Northan 35 Guilderland NY 35:37 8:35
155 George Boudreau 41WareMA1:06:5216:07
207 Total Finishers.

After the race, I cooled down for a bit around the school area and then headed in for the awards and to chat with some folks before heading back home.  It took me just 3 hours to get home (including stopping for gas).  Not a bad ride.  I was home in plenty of time to unpack, unwind, and watch the Pats get smoked.  My first full Pats game I watched this year (probably due to all the hype before the game)...that's what I get for watching I guess...maybe I should keep boycotting the Bruins, since they seem like they are doing alright without my attention.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Training 1-10 to 1-16

Wrap Up: 73 miles for the week on essentially 6 days (although I did have 3 during the blizzard, so not officially a zero).  Not quite 80 miles, but no long run, so it's essentially the same type of week just minus the long run and the addition of second race. Had I done my planned 11+ on Wed. I would have hit 80s again, which is fine with me.  Two wins is also a nice way to close out the week. Race write-ups coming soon.

1-16 - Sunday: 10 miles - Guilderland, NY. 3 mile w/up on snowshoes over the course (plus strides) w/ Tim VanOrden  + 4.2 mile snowshoe race (Brave the Blizzard) + 3 mile cooldown (solo) roads.

1-15 - Saturday: 10 miles - Adams, MA. 3 mile w/up w/ Tim Mahoney and Paul Bazanchuk over road and packed snowmobile trails around the Glen + 4 mile snowshoe race (Greylock Glen) + 3 mile cooldown w/ Tim Mahoney.

1-14 - Friday: 14.3 miles on 2 runs.  4.3 miles from my house down to the dealership to pick up my car (snowy sidewalks and roads - Salem, Methuen) [29:02].  Then 10 miles in Andover, Tewksbury, Lawrence w/ Matt Pimentel (roads).  Hit 10 exactly, thanks to a couple of detours for Matt's super active bladder. [1:11:44]

1-13 - Thursday: 11.2 miles (roads and snow). Salem, Methuen, Pelham -  Another sh*tty run on the roads around here. I'm not getting any quality runs in whilst having to hop up into snowbanks and then back down repeatedly...having to shuffle across ice and into snowy slush that just slows me down as cars go whizzing past. [1:15:58]

1-12 - Wednesday: 3 miles (roads...I think there were roads under there).  Wasn't going to be a hero and try to do anything significant today during the blizzard, as it wouldn't really be anything quality anyways.  [21:44]. Not much can be gained from slip sliding all over snowy and slick roads around here.  Instead of taking a zero, I went out around 7:00pm or so and did 3 miles up and down Pond St. just so I could avoid putting a zero in the log, but it might as well be...Don't think I touched any pavement the entire run.  Used the Kahtoola microspikes and I was ok.  Not a huge fan of running in the middle of the street though, especially with people trying to drive on snow and ice.  I should have gotten out for a snowshoe run earlier in the day but had to hit the doctors.  I did spend about 60 minutes in the garage trying to fix my treadmill in a last ditch effort to try to get it working so I could hop on it for a little while... no dice.

1-11 - Tuesday: 13.6 miles (roads) Hill workout - Lawrence, MA.  Warmup 2+ miles w/ Chris Healey + 10 x 45 sec hills + down for recovery into 7 minutes at 5k pace into 7 x 30 second hills + down for recovery into 18 minutes of 40 second hills + down + 20 second hills + down (repeat). 55 min. total hills.  Cooldown 2.6 miles w/ Chris Healey and Caroline Bjune.  Pimentel was a NO SHOW. [1:28:00]

1-10 - Monday: 11 miles (roads) with Matt Pimentel and John Hincheon. After we did 10 x short hills. Felt OK. Dr's appointment tomorrow... [1:14:13]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Turner Trail Snowshoe Race

Saturday, I headed out to Pittsfield, MA with Steve Wolfe (who talked me into racing on Friday afternoon).  The Turner Trail snowshoe race (results) is a great race on the WMAC/Dion series calendar and one in which I won last year in one of my more memorable snowshoe races.  The race is held in Pittsfield State Forest and typically goes up a killer climb, has a relatively flat middle mile (still challenging if there is deep snow), and then has a screaming downhill at the end.  This year, because of the lack of snow, the RD had to come up with a new alternate course, which would be predominantly all at the base of the mountain, around some mountain bike trails, which still had some decent snowcover in the woods.  The restructured course was a good 5.6 miles or so and through the course of the week (after they planned on creating this alternate route), they got dumped on again by a good 8-9 inches more of snow.  This led to the course having plenty of good, new powder on top of a packed base of snow and ice from before.  The conditions were near perfect for a fast race.  The new alternate course also had very little in the way of steep climbs.  There were plenty of ups and downs, but nothing so steep and long that could make or break a race. Because of these changes, Steve Wolfe convinced me on Friday to give this race a go.  I was planning on hitting up the Salem snowshoe race instead of driving out to Pittsfield, but the length of the new course (being a long 5.6) made me think that the Pittsfield race would be a better decision and worth the drive.  It is also part of the WMAC Dion series whereas the Salem race is not part of either series.  The decision was made and I met up with Wolfe in the a.m. and we were off.

On the way to the race, I talked with Wolfie about my confidence and how it was completely shot after last weekend's disaster out at North Pond.  Just one race out of a couple hundred that I've done over the past few years and my head was out of it.  I know that the medication had a lot to do with it, but I also knew that my breathing and cramping/spasming has been awful this past couple weeks and I had no clue about where I was physically when it came to racing anymore.  I knew I could train without much issue, but running fast, going out and taking control of a race, and trying to outrun a top trail/mountain/snowshoe runner in the US is another story. Tivo has been on fire and even without my issues, I think I'm hardpressed to be able to stay with him in these races this year...He's just super fit and a great competitor. He killed North Pond and really put the hurt on....who knows if I would have even been any closer to him, even without my problems...that's how well he ran... After seeing what he did to me last week, I just had no confidence to even race with doesn't matter what happened in the past...I only kept thinking about one week back and that was the only history I needed to think about.  I was dwelling on trying to compete out in these WMAC races again all week and just couldn't paint a positive picture in my head at all.... Once I arrived out there I not only saw Tivo but also Ross Krause who is always a top finisher and really strong snow/trail guy...and some other young looking fast guys...I had no idea what to think or how I was going to attack the race.  I had two options...essentially let Tim go and dictate pace (which would have been his every right, considering he was top dog after last week's beating he put on me) or go out and do what I usually do and lead right away.  The couple times I've let someone else lead out of the gun, I've lost (namely Sidehiller) as the race neared, I figured that I'd do my normal start and if Tim was out harder than I and beat me up to the single track, then I'd go with option 1...if I got up there first by just letting nature take it's course, then I'd go with option 2.... either way, my thought was that I'd last maybe a little while and then run into some issues and my decision to go out to Western Mass again would once again be a mental and physical disaster... talk about being optimistic!

As the race went off, I went right out to the front and figured I might as well run my typical race and see what happens with my breathing and chest muscles...if I rig up again, I rig up again...but if I don't give it a try, I'll never know.  I hit the first hill, climbed, and took the immediate sharp left turn onto the single track. From there, I coasted along as the trail winds down a bit to the road, where you cross and dip back into the woods.  On this section, I noticed Tivo had tucked in behind Ross Krause and I was able to put a little distance on them as Ross gives you a little space (as opposed to Tivo, who essentially jumps on your back when he's behind you)... when we hit the road and dipped back down, there was some good downhill sections and immediately I heard footfalls and breathing as Tim had apparently gone around Ross and came bombing down to get right on my heels.  He was so aggressively catching up to me and now right behind me, that I considered waving him around me for a few seconds...but I then thought about the race, the distance, and the fact that there were no real substantial climbs that would force me to really go into oxygen debt and start breathing super I held my own and figured if Tim really wanted to go past, he would eventually say something or just make a move, so I stayed in front and pulled the JimTim train along for a while.

The course is essentially 100% single track and it winds back and forth constantly.  Enough so, that the entire race was flagged with literally a flag every 10 feet it seemed.  It was probably the best marked snowshoe or trail race I've seen...and for good reason.  The trail weaves in and out of itself so many times it almost overlaps in many spots... The RD's posted a message on the site before the race and stressed before the race began, that the leaders needed to really watch where they were going and stay on course...that way, all others would be able to follow the trail in the snow and know where to go.  It was really easy to go off course if you weren't careful...and it was also really easy to inadvertently cut off a ton of the course if you missed a turn and got back on the trail at a later stage of the race.  The course also had a ton of areas where you would run for a long while in one direction, then turn and run in the other after a switchback.  This happened repeatedly to where you could actually see others behind you through the woods and they looked closer than they actually were, but you may be way ahead.

As I led over the first mile or so of the course, Tivo stayed right tucked in on my heels and I kept thinking to myself, 'ok, this is what you thought about all week...this is it....'.  I knew I was OK as far as having no medication or relaxers running through my system, but I was apprehensive about the potential of my side stitches and cramping in my chest coming back from breathing too hard, so I was taking it relatively steady without killing it.  I was nervous that Tim would catch on that I wasn't really pushing it too too hard at the beginning and just get tired of my pace and shoot on by me...but not too far into the race, we hit this section of snow on a small climb where the snow was actually piled on top of some unstable crustier snow below and I started to punch through a little.  It made this section very slow.  But I knew that if it was slow and difficult for me, that Tim would be having an even tougher time in this section because he outweighs me by just a little bit... He also has a much more powerful stride than I do and figured he'd be punching through worse.  I heard him do just that and no sooner did I finish that section, did I realize that I could no longer hear his breathing right behind me...and his footfalls got quieter and quieter.  I started to put some distance on him and just kept chugging along, but knew that I had to make sure I had enough in the tank for the 5+ mile course that I was estimating would maybe take me around 40 minutes.

The trail for the most part (except for that one section) was pretty darn fast.  It had been packed down by some snowshoers earlier in the day/week so it was pretty easy to follow and not much trailblazing was needed.  The powder that was on top was having no impact on the pace and I was able to continue to cruise along.  I felt nice and comfortable but was definitely getting winded with all the changing gears that you needed to do for the up and down, left and right turns... I got to the 2.5 ish mark, which was over a long wooden bridge and I felt good, but looked at my watch and saw 20 or so minutes and knew I may not be under 40.

By 30 minutes, it was more of the same as I would be able to see Tim through the woods on some of the sections where the course switches back and forth right along itself, but I knew he was a minute + back just by the amount of trail between the sections... I started to ask folks who were in either skiing, snowshoeing with their dogs, or taking pictures, how much race was left when I passed by them... when I got to 32-33 minutes or so I did the same thing, and everyone said the same thing... 'about a mile'.  Sure, that was fine when someone said that to me at 32 minutes..but at 39 minutes when someone said that, I knew that I was pretty much on my own as far as figuring out how much race was really left.  I started to hurt pretty good as the distance and gear changing was beginning to wear on me...  When I got near the last road crossing, I asked a guy standing there about how much was left and I got the same answer 'maybe a mile or so'  :)....  But then going up and across the road, I recognized the course from my warmup and knew I had only a couple minutes left.  I started to hammer this section, which did have a decent little hill on it.  This section's footing seemed to be the best on the course and was super fast and packed.

I came down to the finish in 42:31 and was psyched to have been able to not only finish without any serious pain in my chest, but to also have out-dueled Tivo, who smoked me last week and is in phenomenal shape right now. Tim came in a couple minutes later and then Ross Krause behind him (which I was definitely picking for the top 3 before the race began...just maybe with Tim either winning or coming in 2nd).  High Schooler Connor Devine from NY was 4th in a very strong race and Wolfe-tracks was right behind him in 5th.  CMS Masters runner and race-addict John Pajer was a solid 7th place.

After the race, we changed into some drier clothes and Tim, John, and I headed up the auto road (which is the start of Curly's) on snowshoes for a cooldown.  We ran all the way to the top, where it cuts over to the trail that is the end stretch at the normal Turner Trail course, and then turned and came back down the auto road.  I bonked right at the end...great timing.  We grabbed some hot chocolate, soup, and snacks for the road, changed once again, and headed home.

A huge thanks to Beth and Brad for putting on a fantastic race.  It was perfect conditions and a great long, fast race....well worth the 3 hour drive....and thanks to Steve for convincing me to go, driving out, and having heated seats!

Also, I stole photos from Brad and Steve for this blog entry...

PlaceFirst NameAgeDurationPace
1JIM JOHNSON3300:42:317:52
2TIM VANORDEN4200:44:518:18
3ROSS KRAUSE3100:46:338:37
4CONNOR DEVINE1700:48:088:54
5STEVE WOLFE4600:48:358:59
6CHRIS TAFT4600:50:399:22
7JOHN PAJER4800:50:459:23
8RICHARD TEAL3200:51:279:31
9KEN CLARK4800:51:509:35
10ALAN BATES6200:53:579:59

62 Total Finishers.