Monday, February 25, 2013

Training Round Up

Great Hill Fire Tower in Tamworth, NH
This past week was a pretty good one for me as of late... not crazy high mileage but I got out every day and for the most part things are holding up.  Ran with Kevin every single day this week. Not sure that has ever happened.  60.4 miles for the week.  7:46:46 total training time in the past 7 days.  Solid for me climbing back up the ladder.  2 more 4000'ers, 1 more townbag (Martin's Location).  I'll take it.  Finally got a Garmin and should be able to track these runs better now...

2/18 - Monday - AM: 3 miles (failed attempt at summiting Chocorua).  Hammond Trail from Scott Rd.  Too windy and trail conditions were just too loose for the microspikes and no snowshoes.  Bailed early and only got 3 total miles up and down (33:34).  PM:  8 miles (Snowmobile Trails) - Staples Loop w/ Kevin.  Ran with just the Mudclaws. Good conditions.  (1:00:10).

2/19 - Tuesday - PM: 8 miles. Mineral Site snowmobile trails w/ KT.  Ran w/ the Mudclaws again.  Good conditions.  Snowed the whole time. (1:05:10).

2/20 - Wednesday - PM: 8 miles. Tamworth, Madison snowmobile trails w/ KT. Ran from White Lake State Park in Tamworth, crossed 16 on snowmobile trails and looped out to the Ossipee Pine Barrens and back.  (1:06:50).

2/21 - Thursday - PM: 8.4 miles. Out and back from Kennett Middle School in Conway Village with KT.  Down the snowmobile trail (NH Corridor 19) into Madison and all the way down to Boulder Rd.  Then back.  (1:07:16).

2/22 - Friday - PM: 7 miles.  Snowshoe run on the Lower Nanamacomuck Ski Trails from Albany Covered Bridge in Albany, NH w/ KT.  Out and back.  Slow to moderate conditions. (1:07:46).

2/23 - Saturday - AM: 12 miles.  Snowshoe mountain run with KT up and over Middle and South Carter. Up Imp Trail (lower branch) to North Carter Tr. to Carter-Moriah Tr. up and over Middle Carter to South Carter and then down to Carter Dome Tr. and back down Nineteen Mile Bk Tr.  Then 1 mile on Rt. 16 back to the car.  (2:30:53).

2/24 - Sunday - AM: 6 miles.  Snowshoe run on snowmobile trails and single track with KT.  Hemenway State Forest in Tamworth.  Up to Great Hill Firetower and down. Out and back on snowmobile trails.  OK conditions.  (54:36).

Videos below from Saturday up the Carters...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kingman Farm and Horsehill Races

The weekend doubleheader returned... I was able to get through 2 more Granite State Snowshoe Series races this weekend despite having a few miserable weeks of training (or lack there of) leading up.

On Saturday NIGHT I headed down to Madbury, NH for the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race (results) put on by acidoticRacing and Petzel.  It's a very unique event as it's obviously at night, and it requires the use of a headlamp as the entire course is in the woods with zero lights other than the moonlight (on a clear night, which it was not).  I've done the race a couple times before, winning back in 2009 (skipping in 2010 due to it being a trail race with no snow) and then coming in 2nd in 2011 to Kevin Tilton by a measly 2 seconds.  Last year it was cancelled due to no snow.

I warmed up on the roads w/ DD while it was still light out and felt ok.  I was about to basically just hit the line w/ little preparation, zero quality training, and just hopefully go off of pure stubbornness and muscle memory.... As the gun went off (actually I don't think I've ever had a 'gun' go off at the start of a snowshoe race, but you know what I mean)... I tried to move out into my normal immediate lead but quickly realized I wasn't going to be pulling away in this one. I immediately felt pretty crappy and slow. I also became very quickly aware that my hamstring was getting very tight and sore.  3 minutes in and my hamstring was locked up...great.  I actually though during the first mile that this could be my first snowshoe DNF.  I continued to try to push through it and stretch it out as best I can while still running.

The first part of the race is pretty flat and twisty through some double-wide and then single track.  Running in the dark with only a headlamp to light up the immediate few feet in front is a strange feeling.  Racing is even stranger.  Turning to look only to see lamps behind and not actual runners is the strangest feeling of all.  You can't really accurately gauge how far you are ahead of people when racing at night like that in the pitch dark.  I was pretty keenly aware however that I was not too far ahead of 2nd place for most of the race.

I hit the field, which is probably my favorite section because you can look back and see all the lights weaving through the zig zag of track that was blazed haphazardly by the RD and volunteers earlier in the day.  There was no rhyme or reason to where the course goes here, it just meanders.  You just have to keep looking for the flags periodically and try to stay in the footprints as they wind back and forth across the open field and then along the perimeter and back out into the woods.

As I hit the woods again, I had an ok lead but it was still too close for comfort.  There is a steady climb up and then up and across some switchbacks until you get up to the top of the ridge.  I maintained my lead here but could still see that pesky 2nd place seemingly only a switchback behind.  On my way down the ridge, I just hoped and prayed my leg would hold up.  It did fortunately, and I was able to hold off a charging Bob Jackman (who I didn't know was 2nd until he came across the line less than a minute after I finished).  Good to see Bob return to form after his dog-mauling incident back in 2009 on the same course.  I was vulnerable here, but held off to get the win.

Video of the start below courtesy of Gianina Lindsey

Top 10 Overall:

Place Name Age Town, State Team Time Pace
1 Jim Johnson        35 Madison NH BAA                     23:40 7:24
2 Robert Jackman     30 Warwick RI Tuesday Night Turtles   24:31 7:40
3 Ryan Welts         32 Northwood NH acidotic RACING         25:20 7:55
4 Dave Dunham        48 Haverhill MA CMS                     25:37 8:01
5 David Principe     46 Johnston RI Tuesday Night Turtles   26:25 8:16
6 David Principe Jr  14 Johnston RI Tuesday Night Turtles   26:42 8:21
7 Scott Mitchell     43 New Durham NH acidotic RACING         26:55 8:25
8 Jason Massa        45 Concord NH acidotic RACING         27:15 8:31
9 Phil Erwin         45 Ridge NY acidotic RACING         27:18 8:32
10 Christopher Smith  47 Woburn MA Dungeon Rock Racing     27:31 8:36

108 Total Finishers.

After the race I cooled down just a little bit on the road as my hamstring was really sore and I didn't want to overdo it in hopes of running Horsehill in the AM.  I headed back inside for the awards ceremony at which I won a new Petzel headlamp.  Pretty cool stuff.  Oh yeah, they also had gigantic burritos for the post-race meal!  I must admit I downed one during the raffle/awards and another on the way home... Always good times at the GSSS races.

Then on Sunday I woke up to a snowy early morning and headed 2 hours southwest to Merrimack, NH to run in my 4th Horsehill Snowshoe Race (results) (out of 5 years).  I won this race in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Last year (2012) I didn't go due to injury and horrible weather (raining) so KT was able to shoot down there and interrupt my dynasty.  This year I decided to give it another go and showed up to a rather small crowd of just under 50.  The weather was cold, windy, and snowy.

After a long, slow ride I arrived to get one of the last parking spots in a very small lot at the beginning of the trail into Horsehill.  After registering I headed out to do part of the course as a warmup.  I had spent the previous 2 hours in the car, massaging my hamstring and sitting on a heating pad to try to loosen up the leg.  It felt 'OK' during the warmup.  Definitely better than the previous night.  I ran the first part of the course (which I was very familiar with) and the last part (which was also in play in previous years' versions of this course).  The middle part of the course I didn't go over but found out from Mike Amarello and others that it was a new mountain bike trail and was fairly loose and rough.

As the race started off (on the long, straight access road into the reservation), I moved out to what I felt was a relatively conservative start, but no one was coming with me.  A couple years ago I had to run a sub 15 second first 100 to even get position on Judson Cake.  This year, it was all me early.

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Photo by Gianina Lindsey
I ran well within myself during the first section which includes a pretty steep climb, but it's relatively short.  The footing was very solid and seemingly faster than the night before.  As I hit the single track switchbacks on the way down the ridge, I appeared to be building my lead with what really seemed to be not much effort on my part other than having gravity pull me down the hill.  I kept thinking in the back of my mind that there was another climb near the end and I had to hold back a I really kept it in check and just went through the motions on the single track.  That section was LONG. Then, it seemed we dumped out on some snowmobile trail again for a bit before hitting even more single track (I believe the mountain bike trail).  Again, I didn't kill it in this section, trying to 'save it' for the later climb I thought was coming.  I could see a battle going on with Ryan and Dave behind me, through the single track, but due to the daylight, I could actually figure out how far back they were and knew my lead was OK.

Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Finally I dumped out of the single track and back to the snowmobile trail that led out of the reservation and knew I was within the last mile after I saw the sign for the main road.  I suddenly realized that last killer climb I though existed, really didn't.  There WAS a slight climb up the snowmobile trail before a last downhill section before the main road in, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I remembered. I motored on down the last section and out of the park to the finish in about the same pace I did the race in the previous night... no leg issues sickly feeling...a little larger margin of victory...I'll take it.

After the race I indulged in some more Kale soup from RD Mike Amarello and his family and did a short cooldown with Ryan Welts on the same loops I warmed up on.

Then it was 2+ hours of a slow slog north...snow, wind, slow drivers, stiff legs, and nothing to drink (I almost died of thirst on the way home)... Got home to no power due to the wind knocking something into the power lines right outside our house.  It was down for an hour or so after I got back, which just delayed my ability to take a shower and warm up.. All in all a good weekend of racing for me with one more Granite State Snowshoe Series (unofficially) wrapped up.  With my 5 wins this year (because of the cancellation of Exeter, it's best 4 of 6 instead of 5 of 7), so I already have enough to secure the overall title.  The great thing about that is the fact that each year I win the series, I get free entry into the races the next year!  So far, this makes 5 years in a row now... hope to squeak some more in before some younger, faster guys realize how fun the races are and decide to give me a run!

View full photo set from race here

Top 10 Overall:

PlaceNameAgeTown, StateTeamTimePace
1Jim Johnson    35Madison NH   BAA UNICORNS          27:357:25
2Dave Dunham    48Bradford MA  CMS POLAR BEARS       29:207:54
3Ryan Welts     32Northwood NH ACIDOTIC RACING       29:267:55
4Ryan Proulx    33Portsmouth NH                      31:158:25
5Chris Dunn     44Strafford NH ACIDOTIC RACING       32:148:40
6Scott Mitchell 43New Durham NHACIDOTIC RACING       32:248:43
7Phil Erwin     45Ridge NY     ACIDOTIC RACING       32:268:44
8Kristina Folcik35Northwood NH ACIDOTIC RACING       33:479:05
9Chuck Hazzard  52Freeport ME  TRAIL MONSTER RUNNING 34:069:10
10David Hamilton 29Haverhill MA ACIDOTIC RACING       34:089:11

49 Total Finishers.

Cooling down with Ryan (AKA Kristina's Fiance) - Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Thursday, February 14, 2013


View from one of the balcony's at Adobe HQ... looking down at the BBall court on the lower ROOF....

Well, the last couple weeks haven't gone quite as I would have hoped 'running-wise' but I'm slowly climbing back.  I traveled last week out to San Jose, California for a visit to the company headquarters where I was supposed to work from Sunday night through Friday night.  But the impending doom that was Winter Storm Nemo put a wrench into that.  I ended up scrambling to change my flight home and got a redeye back from SJ on Wednesday night instead...getting back Thursday afternoon.  Flying in and out of Portland Maine.  I was back before the storm, but arrived back with a horrific cold that is still with me now. Not sure it was 'the flu' but it was bad. It knocked me down for days.  I got 1 run in while in SJ and that was about 9:30pm at night on the treadmill in the hotel (there just really is limited time to get any quality in when you are in the middle of that city and you are scheduled with things from dawn to dusk)....  I ran once more that week when I got home on Thursday but felt like hell.  I didn't run again until Tues/Wed. of this week and even then it was short and easy.  My legs have FINALLY recovered from Winter Wild.  Holy crap I was so beat up after that race.  Unreal.  The first 2 days in SJ I could barely walk.  Now I am trying to fight off this cold and climb back up to running every day.  I will continue to try to do some snowshoe racing but just to finish off the series in NH.  I am going to pass on DH Jones and probably New Bedford as well, as there is no way I'll make it to the line in peak condition.  My plan wasn't really to do those races anyways so I don't feel too bad about them.

I need to start focusing on some races I want to do in the Spring time and also the summer, which leads me to this reminder about 'The Hill'... the lotto opened today:  ... I'm already in the race because I completed the Mountain Series this past year, but for anyone out there who is thinking about possibly trying this race this year (ahem, Dan Vassallo, Casey Moulton, Dan Hocking, Patrick Moulton, Matt Pelletier, Ruben Sanca, Brian Harvey, etc... the list goes on and on) this is a good year to give it a shot.... it's a non-Championship year, so it's not the US Mountain Running Championships...  Last year I hit this race pretty unsure about the condition of my legs and after dealing with a winter and spring of injury.... This year I'm hoping that I can hit the starting line with a little more confidence and a little less baggage weighing over my head.  One thing I'm kind of weary about is the scheduling of other things in and around the race this year.  That week (if I was to do all the things I usually do) is a busy week this year.  Every year I run the Market Square Day 10K the week before Mount Washington.  Those are basically my two favorite days of the year 'racing-wise'.  I also always do the entire Mountain Series (well as of the last few years).  This year, the Ascutney Mountain race (which has historically been in mid July) is now the DAY AFTER Market Square Day.  So not only would I have to do back-to-back with the mountain race the day after a fast 10K (I hope).... but then just the very next weekend, is Mount Washington.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the Thursday in between is the 5k USATF-NE Grand Prix at Hollis.  Talk about a horrible week before the big dance.  I guess it could have been worse, in that Ascutney and MSD could have been on the same day, which would have forced me to choose between the two... (in which case I would have stayed with MSD and passed on Mountain Goat status for 2013).... but now I almost wish they were on the same day...because I may end up doing everything and just paying the price.... who knows.  There's a long way to go before I have to commit to anything other than Mount Washington...heck, I could be injured and it wouldn't matter....but I'm not planning on it.

The lottery closes on 3/14 at 11:59pm.  One month to make up your minds...  The race is 121 days away... who's with me?

View from one of the balcony's at Adobe HQ
Looking down one of the streets outside Adobe HQ...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday - 2-2-2013 - Winter Wild

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Photo by Gianina Lindsey

Saturday left me with a dilemma of what to do...since the Exeter Snowshoe race was cancelled again this year due to no snow, I was left with next to nothing to race on Saturday (that was worth any sort of drive). I am leaving for a work trip on Sunday, so I had to either find a race on Saturday or run something interesting in the mountains, but solo because KT is racing up in Quebec today.... I opted to suck it up and go against my better judgement and try one of the Winter Wild races.  I swore I would never do one of these races because they are a combined class event where they allow people to use just about any method to get up and down.  You can run up and run down (with snowshoes, cramp-ons, trail shoes, etc.) or you can ski up and ski down.  You can also run/hike up with your snowboard on your back and then snowboard down....but the rule for skiing is that you need to ascend w/ the skis on.  For folks who telemark ski, unless you completely stink going up, you should be able to beat anyone running as the amount of time you make up on the descent is staggering.  I knew that most likely there'd be a couple skiers that would pass me on the downhill section. Last year a guy won this particular event while running (but apparently barely) and it was supposedly the first time a runner had ever won outright.  I can honestly say that neither of the two skiers who passed me today could have done the event last year because my time was a minute and a half faster than the winning time from last year and 2 skiers were ahead of me...  So needless to say I rather dislike mixed events (although this series and race in particular is super cool and is really well organized)...To my surprise however, it kind of made it fun once I tried it...I knew I wouldn't be able to hold off the top skiers, but it was fun to try.

Warming up... Photo by Gianina Lindsey
I headed out VERY early to Ragged Mountain in Danbury, NH (so a townbagging opportunity!)...left the house at 4:30am as the race started at 7am (because they need to be done before the mountain opens for skiing).  I got there while it was still pitch dark and met up w/ Ryan Welts, Kristina, and the rest of the acidotic crew who were there in lieu of the Exeter race (actually some have made both these Winter Wild races AND the snowshoe races in the past because they are so early in the morning)..  This was the second of 8 events that are spread out across 8 different mountains in the Winter Wild series.  I couldn't get any intel on the course ahead of time other than Sam Wood's comment that it goes 'straight up'.  Well, that was apparent as I was trying to warm up a bit and I was checking out the main trail (under the lift) that goes straight up the mountain (called Exhibition). The conditions seemed super fast and packed (as I imagine ski areas would be in these temps)... I opted for no snowshoes and instead just Kahtoola Microspikes over my Mudclaws (though a lighter demo pair)...Everyone told me that I'd be crazy for wearing snowshoes, so I caved and slapped on the spikes.

I was very concerned about the state of my hamstrings and calves, as I have had an issue crop up with something on either side of my body in just about every run this week. I've been stretching and massaging like crazy...almost overdoing it as my muscles have ached over the last day and a half.  I was just hoping that on the downhill I could hold it together.  That is when my calves tend to give me problems the most.

As the race began, I went out fairly conservative because I could only see so far up the mountain and wasn't sure how much more there was over the crest of the 'false summit' that you can see from the bottom.  I had great grip, but only a minute or two into the climb, things got steep (go figure) and my pace slowed to a borderline hike (as did most peoples')....but I kept running. I never walked once.  I sidestepped a bit as I tried to mix it up and stop the monotony of leaning way over forward and trying desperately to just keep picking up my feet as I went straight up the slope.  I kept looking back, as I normally do and I noticed that the two telemark skiers who were wearing matching speed suits, were skinning up pretty damn fast.  One of them looked to be right with Ryan if not right in front of him.  About half way up, I knew that any small hope of me having enough of a lead at the top to hold off a skilled downhill skier down more than a mile of steep ski slope was out the window.  This kid was not too far behind me ON SKIS on the way up and he looked to be almost gaining on me.  At that point I just focused on trying to make sure I could get the win for the running (OPEN) category.  I held onto the last bit of challenge I had for myself and just kept running. I wanted to make it to the top without powerhiking and just barely made it.

Finally I hit the top and had to yell at a group of about 4 or 5 ski patrol guys who were just standing there, asking them which way to go.  There were a few ways to go it looked like and I wasn't sure. They told me at the bottom that there would be people up telling you where to go. They may have not been ready for me or something, but they seemed confused and didn't answer back the first time. I staggered side to side a bit with my arms in the air (I felt like I was being a jerk, but it was the heat of the moment and I was freaking out a bit)... I had to ask again which way and then said 'Blueberry' as I knew the first trail down was called 'Blueberry'-something (Blueberry Patch). Then one of them pointed in the direction I was already committed to running in fortunately, so I proceeded to bomb down the ski slope, hoping I just didn't slip and destroy myself.  I swear wearing a helmet even for running is probably a good idea in this race.

I heard I was about 45 seconds or so ahead of the 2nd place guy who was skinning up.  That is not enough time (by a long shot).  About a minute into the descent, he screwed by me like I was....well....running and he was skiing :)...  He wasn't just lollygagging down the hill either...he was a skilled downhill skier (probably a racer obviously) and he destroyed me.  Gone....2 seconds and he was out of sight.  He passed me right before a junction where we bear left onto a cut-across trail that connects to the Main Street trail that heads straight down the mountain.  There was a guide standing at the junction, right in the middle of the ski trail that you SHOULDN'T go down.  Fortunately for the skier, he was the skier almost went right....he had to put the breaks on temporarily and one of his skis popped up in the air...I swear he almost lost it as he had to correct and just made it left before going down the wrong way.  Further down the trail were big ice patches that looked incredibly dangerous.  I went around them as best I could as I started to really struggle on the descent.  Running down a ski slope that is that steep, is very difficult.  I really hadn't thought about it.  I had a lot of twinges and pain in my calves and hamstrings and quads as I was on the gas, yet on the brakes as well.  You just really can't go 'all out' because you'll you have to be on the brakes yet still try to run really beats you up.   Another problem I had was that everything was obviously super white with no contrast.  Because everything was groomed perfectly, and there were no bare spots or rocks or anything visible on the wide ski trail, my depth perception was really off.  I remember having this problem when I tried to ski as a kid.  I couldn't really wear goggles because I couldn't tell where the dips were.  Well, needless to say I was constantly finding myself misjudging the dips in the slop and coming down awkwardly on some of my strides.

This is the dude that won....Photo by Gianina Lindsey
Finally as I could see the finish line area near the ski lift at the bottom, the second skier screwed by me like I was standing still (I might as well have been). I wasn't too far off from him at the end, but I'd like to see how fast their descents were compared to mine.  I bet if my descent took 10 minutes, theirs was 2....but then again, they had to slog up the mountain ON SKIS..... I still say it doesn't quite even out if you are a good downhill skier and you are fit enough to hike quickly uphill on skins, then you got it made.  Just after the 2nd skier passed me, my back completely locked up on me. I had a horrendous knot in the middle of my back..never before in a race have I got that.  That is how ridiculous the downhill was on my body.  I cruised into the finish area just behind the other skier and finished up as the first runner.  I talked to the guys afterwards and commented on how fast they climbed w/ those skis.  Then one of them let me hold one of the skis and I could not believe how friggin' light they were.  It was unreal.  They were like holding a pair of shoes.  Still though, it was VERY impressive to see how fast they climbed w/ those on.  The guy who won killed the climb....I was shocked.  And he's obviously a very good skier as well...

All in all, I was pretty happy that I got the race in and it was fun to try it. Everyone has raved about the races and it was good to get over to one and run at a place I'd never been before.  It was a well organized event and everyone there seemed really pumped and into the series.  It is pretty fun to compete against people using all sorts of methods to get up and down (there were no xc skiers there this time I think because this course is really steep).  There was a cool raffle afterwards (I got blanked though) and I got to hobknob with the acidotic crew (why is 'acidotic' not capitalized?).

Full Results - oh and by the way.... 3 miles?  I doubt it.  It might not have even been 2!

Photo by Gianina Lindsey