Thursday, July 17, 2014

Filling the Void

“Something's missing and I don't know what it is.  No, and I don't know what it is.  At all…”
– John Mayer

Yup, something’s missing from my life. And I don’t know what it is. I do know that I SHOULD feel fulfilled.  I’m healthy.  I’m married.  I have a good job.  And I have four beautiful children.  But somehow, on most days (and even more so now that I’ve reached Mid-Life), I still feel a kind of emptiness inside. A void, if you will. And it scares me.

I know that it’s probably normal and just part of the modern human condition. The never-ending search for something more - a flatter television, a nicer car, a bigger house, etc. However, those things have never held much sway over me. I’ve always prided myself on not getting too caught up in materialistic desires. But, still the void manifests itself in other ways and begs, nay demands, to be filled.

Many years ago I used to eat to fill the void, but after a while, the eating (and the getting fat) just exacerbated the issue. So, I started running instead. Nothing fills my void quite like running. It’s trusty. I can do it every day, without fail, all year long. It’s something I can count on to make me feel "whole" again,
regardless of my location or the weather outside. If I have sneakers and some shorts, I’m good to go.

In my experience, hiking is the ultimate void filler. Alone, in the woods, connecting with nature and pushing my body to the absolute limit. Finishing a good, long, hard hike feeling utterly exhausted, and yet somehow completely fulfilled at the same time. But, unfortunately, it’s not something I can do every day, or even every week for that matter. So running, and now ultra-running, is where I turn to for comfort.

Sadly, I am all too familiar with other, more dangerous, forms of void filling. Running, biking and speed hiking may be considered crazy pursuits by some, but at least they are slightly more healthy than other vices like drugs and alcohol. 

Ultimately, I don’t know if these things I do actually fill the void, or just distract me from its presence. Either way, I’m thankful to have them in my life. Helping me deal with my void    ...until eventually I become one with it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Don't Try This at Home

"Overcoming Fear” was supposed to be title of this Hut Traverse blog entry.

Or at least, that was the working title for the story I was writing in my head at mile 40 of my 50 mile journey. Then the darkness happened - both physical and emotional. And, I realized that fear is a good thing. Fear is healthy. Fear is what keeps us from doing something stupid…

…like climbing a rocky mountain ridge, by yourself, at night, in howling winds, with 40 hours having passed since last you slept…

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Midway Island

As we turn the page on June (and with it the first half of 2014) I wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect upon the high/low lites of my year so far...

  • I’ve Logged 1791 miles this year for a weekly average of 68.6. My highest ever to this point in the season.

  • I’ve not lost even one day of Training due to injury. Any off days I’ve taken so far have been by choice.

  • I’ve lost 7 pounds this year, with just 3 more to go to get back 185 - which is where I was this time Last Year.

  • I’ve raised nearly $1500 for Progeria Research through 100 Miles for Sam. Not a bad start.

  • I’ve had more than just a Little Fun with my friends. Thankfully, they are almost as crazy as I am.

  • I’ve made a ton of new friends. Mostly through the great Trail Animal races I’ve been able to take part in.

  • I’ve visited the "most magical place on earth" with my two yougest kids and lived to tell The Tale. Barely.

  • I’ve watched My Son graduate near the top of his college class, then begin the adventure of a lifetime.

  • I’ve survived being a Single Dad during the work-week. More importantly, so have my two Young Children.

  • I’ve written a couple new stories that I’m happy with, but none more so than the one I wrote Here.

  • I’ve run 8 Races ranging in distance from 5k to 50 miles. And, a couple of those I was even happy with.

  • I’ve set a 50k PR and a 50m PW, in the span of 6 weeks. With race day weather being the primary difference.

  • I’ve run/hiked up 3 Mountains, and each of those I did twice. With Many More to come this weekend.

  • I’ve been inspired by both a brave 17-year old kid and a humble 26-year old trail running phenom.

Despite (or maybe because of) the few tough stretches I’ve had, I feel extremely fortunate that the first half of the year has gone as well as it has.  And, I can only hope that the rest of the year holds the same good fortune.

So, with that, here’s to the road that lies ahead!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

AMC Hut Traverse

In New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest the Appalachian Mountain Club operates a chain of eight High Mountain Huts. They are mainly located along the Appalachian Trail on the highest parts of the range, including the Franconia and Presidential Ridges. The huts are situated roughly 7 miles, or "a day's hike", apart. It's been a traditional challenge since the 1930's for strong AMC "Croo" members to connect all the huts into a single 1-day hike. With roughly 50 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, over extremely rugged terrain, the traverse has also more recently become a fun challenge for hikers looking for something beyond the traditional 18 mile Presidential Traverse or 31 mile Pemi-Loop.

I first heard about the AMC Hut Traverse back in 1998. I had just started running and was talking with a fellow runner who told me he did the hike every year with a friend. They would start at Carter Notch Hut and run/hike the whole route East to West to Lonesome Lake - in under 24 hours. My longest hike to that point had been about 8 miles, to the top of Washington and back, so I couldn't conceive of undertaking that kind of endeavour. Well it's now 16 years later, and I've become a much better hiker. I've done the Presi, the Pemi, the NH 48 and 3 straight days on the AT. So, when I sat down to plan my hiking trips for this summer, the Hut Traverse naturally came to mind.

So, without further ado, here is my grand plan...

The FKT (or, fastest known time) for this route is just a few ticks over 13 hours. I have absolutely no desire to attempt coming anywhere close to that. But, based on my recent training, and the hikes I have done previously, I think I can complete the journey in just under 20 hours - or about 2.5 hiking miles per hour. We'll see. Much of it will be weather dependent. But if all goes well, I'll be starting at Carter at 3:30am on Sunday, July 6th and be cruising into Lonesome some time before midnight that same day.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mountain Interval

Last year at this time, I was just beginning my biggest challenge to date – The Summer of 48. And, although my primary goal for this year has shifted to 100 Miles for Sam, I can still hear the mountains calling me.  So, in this interval between the conclusion of the TARC 50 and the beginning of the build-up for the Ghost Train 100m I’ve chosen to heed their call…

Friday, June 13, 2014

TARC Places

I should have known better …

After almost 18 years of running and racing experience, I know damn well that I have

trouble running in the heat. Throw in some hills (and some stupid decisions) and it’s a down home recipe for disaster. As evidenced two years ago at Boston, last year at Bear Brook and every year at Yankee Homecoming. The TARC 50 was going to be different, however. Why? Because I was approaching this race as a structured training run with friends as I prepared for my first 100 Miler in October. Unfortunately, my competitiveness (and my stupidity) got the better of me and my structured training run turned into a steaming hot mess.

I suspect (and hope) that this story will be amusing to everyone who is not named me…

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Heart Biking

Yup! Believe it or not, I was a biker WAY before I was a runner…

My love affair with biking started 40 years ago when my family moved from a very bike-unfriendly Lawrence, MA and settled in suburban Salem, NH. Back then, I would take my Huffy 3-speed up the street to my friend’s house, or through the woods to an adjoining neighborhood. I beat the crap out of that thing. Doing jumps on built-up plywood ramps and throwing it up (and down) the bulkhead stairs of my cellar.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Redemption Run

I signed up to run the 2014 Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race for one reason. I wanted a shot at redemption.

I first started coming up to New Gloucester, Maine for this trail running festival back in 2010 and have loved it ever since. Unfortunately, the last couple trips to the Pine Tree State have been less than kind to me. Two years ago, this roller-coaster of a course did a number on my knee. Last year it was the mud (and my calf) that did me in. This year, I was determined to avenge my recent losses, conquer the course and once again get back down under that elusive 2-hour barrier.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Give A Little Bit

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of seeing my son Casey graduate from College. It was a bitter sweet moment for me as I am so very proud of the man that he has become. But, at the same time, I know that his path of life will soon be leading him elsewhere.

He and I have been through an awful lot together. So many ups and downs over the years. But we made it through in one piece. I was barely 23 when he was born and most of what I learned about being a Father I learned first with him. He was the trailblazer. And still is.

Congrats Casey!

I love you.

And always will.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back to Pack

This past weekend I ran a 1:24:08 at the Pack Monadnock 10m. That time was good enough for
51st place overall and 11th in my age group. And, beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot more to say about my race. I never really felt all that great and I never really felt awful. I was just sort of …meh.  I was definitely at my limit in terms of overall effort, but never felt comfortable during any of the climbs and never really managed to clock any fast miles, or gain any significant ground.

Going in, I had hoped to get a bit closer to (or even dip under) 1:20, but since I’ve done no speed or hill-specific workouts all year, it’s not terribly surprising that I didn’t meet that goal. I did this race partly because it was in the NH Grand Prix, but mostly because I deferred last years refunded entry fee to this year. So basically, I ran because I paid for it and not because I trained for it. And it showed in the results.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Classic Rocked

I went into this year’s TARC Spring Classic 50k trail race with fairly low expectations.

All I hoped to do was run the 31 mile course in 4 ½ hours, or less. That’s it! And, to do that, all I needed to do was to average 8:42/mile (nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than my road marathon PR), or 54 minutes for each of the five 10k loops.  Easy, Right? I'd run the course twice previously during training. The first time, I ran it in 55 minutes, while navigating and pausing at nearly every turn to look at my map. The second time, I ran it comfortably in 52 minutes. So, 54 minutes per lap seemed more than reasonable. Of course, that was before the rain made a mess of everything!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

12 Thangs

12 things I learned while running and vacationing in Florida, at Disney World, in late April.

1. It's pretty much hot and muggy down here all the time. Even in the middle of the night. If I lived in Florida, I would not be a runner. I'd be a diver.

2. For the most part, there are two choices for running surfaces. Concrete (filled with cars) and thick, wet, grass.

3. If you're lucky, you can find an area of well-manicured grass. As long as you don't mind dodging hail the size of ...well balls.

4. If you're not lucky, the thick, wet grass will also contain snakes.

5. The best place to run, if you like trails, is directly below the monorail. Flat, smooth and well draining. Just make sure to stop when the monorail crosses a Lagoon.

6. People in Florida don't seem to mind guys with beer bellies and wearing stretched out (and stained) wife-beater t-shirts.

7. They do however, mind sweaty, shirtless, delirious but fit guys wandering around their hotel lobby muttering "I need electrolytes".

8. Be prepared for the "normal" tourists to look at you (while you are running outside) like you have two heads. Also, smiling doesn't help.

9. Even if you are really, really, thirsty, don't drink the pale yellow Gatorade from the Pepsi bottle that you find on the side of the road.

10. Palm fronds make for poor toilet paper.

11. Thunder / Lightning storms are excellent motivators for running quickly.

12. Walt Disney lied. It's NOT a small world, after all. Disney is freaking massive!