Monday, July 28, 2014

Full Circle

In July of 2009 I attempted what was, up until that point, the biggest physical and mental challenge of my life – The Pemi Loop. A 31.5 mile run/hike through the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Up and over eight 4000+ mountains with more than 9000 feet of elevation gain. It was my first ever ultra-marathon and I wrote all about it HERE.

5 years later (to the day, surprisingly!), with many miles and a few ultra-marathons under my belt, I decided it was time to give it another shot. So, I headed back to the Pemi, the headwaters of my ultra-running river, to see what I could do    …and the results were rather stunning!

But first, a little history …

When I ran the Pemi back in 2009, I was in the shape of my life. I was less than 6 months removed from road PR’s in the 5k, 5m, Half Marathon and Marathon. PR’s which were so solid at the time that they still stand for me today. Meaning, I was at the absolute peak of my road running career. Only, I didn’t know it yet! And, I wouldn’t actually realize that fact until a few years (and injuries) later.

I ran the Loop with my good friend SteveWolfe (who was in equal, or better, shape) as part of the Pemi Wild Ultra – an unofficial race in which 5 teams of two tried to complete the 31.5 mile trek in as little time as possible and without breaking our necks! We started at 4:00am and headed in a counterclockwise direction around the loop. Steve and I had a great time and, not surprisingly, ended up coming in first!

Fast forward to 2014 and I’m now 5 years older - and slower than ever! Except, that for the past year I’ve been racing and training for ultra-marathons. So, the big question was: Would that fact alone be enough to turn back the clock? I hoped so, but at 6:15am as I headed out alone across the bridge to start the loop (clockwise this time) I still had my doubts. Doubts that only grew stronger less than a half hour later when I was off the side of the trail. Puking.

I decided to run in the opposite direction as the previous time because I wanted to get the biggest climbs out of the way early - while I was still fresh. Unfortunately, the big climbs also came while I still had a full stomach. So, once I got that all “straightened out” the rest of the way up Osseo went rather smoothly. I hit the top of Mount Flume and headed down the opposite side towards Lafayette under a full head of steam.

The weather was near perfect. Mostly cloudy, very little wind and no rain. And with temps maxing out at around 80, I was a very lucky boy indeed! The trip over to the high point on the course went quickly and before long I had 10.5 miles under my belt and was starting down the Garfield Ridge Trail – my own personal White Mountain nemesis. I hammered it as hard as I could, but it still seemed to last FOREVER. Eventually I hit Galehead Hut and enjoyed a well-deserved bowl of soup.

The “Hut Rally” did me good and I was able to find the legs I’d lost along the GRT. I scrambled up South Twin and started pushing the pace over the very runnable Twinway. At this point a sub-10 hour loop seemed possible and I wanted very badly to make that happen. After popping out of the trees at Guyot I could feel that the day had warmed up considerably. Many of the early clouds had given way and in their place were stunning views across the Pemi – and beyond!

The climbs of Mount Bond and Bondcliff seemed easier than I’d remembered previously and after I crested the last summit I really started putting the hammer down. Flying along the twisty-turny Bondcliff Trail I actually let out a HOWL of sheer and utter joy! Unfortunately, all the jostling on the steep downs was too much for my already queasy tummy and a few moments later I had to stop and puke. Again.

Eventually, I righted the ship, started running once more and felt considerably better as the trail bottomed out on the valley floor. Running along the Wilderness Trail and the Pemigewasset River was truly an amazing experience for me. I had been going for 9+ hours by that point and still felt as strong as when I started. It’s quite something, really! I crossed the bridge and hit my watch. A few ticks over 10 hours and a couple HOURS under my previous best time!

I jumped into the river to cool off and drove home a very happy man. Content in the fact that, while I may not be able to turn back time, I’m certainly going to try and give it a run for its money!

Below are my split times and miles per hour for each segment of the Pemi (not including the 20 odd minutes I spent at the hut) for both the 2009 and 2014 trips.

Pemi Loop Splits:        2009             2014
Start to Osseo                    :13                 :13
1.4m                                    (6.46)            (6.46)

Osseo to Flume                 1:15                1:24
4.1m                                    (3.28)             (2.93)

Flume to Lafayette           2:16                1:45
5.0m                                    (2.20)            (2.86)

Lafayette to Garfield        1:50                1:20
3.5m                                    (1.91)              (2.63)

Garfield to Galehead        1:32                 1:12
3.1m                                    (2.02)             (2.58)

Galehead  to Twinway     1:16                 1:06 
2.8m                                    (2.21)              (2.65)

Twinway  to Bond             :32                   :26
1.3m                                    (2.43)              (3.00)

Bond to Wilderness           1:57                 1:34
5.6m                                    (2.87)              (3:57)

Wilderness  to Finish         :58                   :48
4.7m                                     (4.86)             (5.88)

Total:                                 11:49             9:48
31.5m                                   (2.66)             (3.21)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Patience Practice

pa·tient adjective \ˈpā-shənt\ 1: able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with difficult problems or people. 2: done in a careful way over a long period of time without hurrying.

was not very patient at my previous ultramarathon race – The TARC 50m. And I paid for it …dearly. So, I vowed that the next time out, things would be different. As it turns out, The Bear Brook Trail Marathon would be that “next time” and just like at the TARC 50, the weather would be warm and muggy. Perfect conditions for working on practicing patience!

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.

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.

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.